FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) — Scientists studying the red-cockaded woodpecker in Georgia forests say the rare bird is making a comeback.
The bird was likely common long ago, but has been considered endangered in recent years, WABE Radio reported .
Habitat loss was the main challenge for the bird. It’s homes — the longleaf pine forests of the South — were rapidly disappearing.
“People recognized that if we lost all of our mature longleaf forests, then we’d lose the red-cockaded woodpecker along with it,” said Larry Carlile, acting chief of the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield fish and wildlife branch. Fort Stewart is home to a large population of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Now, the small black and white bird could be on the verge of becoming an environmental success story in Georgia and across the South. It is doing well enough that there have been discussions about downgrading its protections.
The population at Fort Stewart is so strong that researchers catch red-cockaded woodpeckers on the base and move them to other places that need help building up their populations of the endangered birds, the radio station reported.
There’s also concern that the bird isn’t ready to lose its protections.
“The red-cockaded woodpecker is still working on recovering. It’s still being managed,” said Ramona McGee, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. She said the woodpeckers can’t survive without controlled burns and artificial cavities.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the bird can be found in nearly a dozen states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.