Restoring Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Habitat through Forest Management

Jarrell Plantation is participating in a forest management project to improve 175 acres of habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). This robin-sized species was classified as federally endangered in 1970 due to habitat loss of open pine woodlands and longleaf pines. The project will also benefit Bachman’s sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, prairie warblers, and other declining grassland species. If successful, Jarrell will be the first Georgia State Historic Site or State Park to support RCWs.

Habitat loss in this area was primarily due to large-scale land clearing for cotton farming after an 1805 treaty with the Muscogee Nation opened land for farming between the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers. Poor farming practices, soil erosion, and the cotton boll weevil meant an end to large cotton farms like Jarrell in middle Georgia by the 1930s, so exhausted farmland eventually began its journey back to forest. This new project will see Jarrell’s forest restored to open pine woodlands with an understory of grass and native ground cover.

To restore this original habitat, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is partnering with the U.S. Forestry Service and Georgia Ornithological Society. Jarrell is in an important location because it is adjacent to Oconee National Forest and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, places that already have established RCW populations. Once timber management is complete, nesting inserts will be placed in selected trees by the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division to help RCWs build new family clusters. These woodpeckers are cooperative breeders, so they rely on family groups to help raise their young. The inserts provide cavities that are less likely to be used or damaged by other wildlife.

For more information, please contact Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site at 478-986-5172.