The Red-cockaded Woodpecker population in Louisiana suffered massive habitat loss in the early 1900s resulting from large-scale clearcutting. We examined post-harvest aerial photographs of Fort Polk, Louisiana, from the 1930s to determine the extent of remnant forest and compared these remnants to current Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters. Additionally, descriptive data—age, dbh, location—were gathered for all cavity trees within our study areas. Analysis of the photographs made it clear that the harvesting of the 1920s did not completely denude the landscape: trees remained in dense stands along streams and in scattered groups on some upland sites. These remnant trees corresponded to current woodpecker nest sites: on the two study areas, 84% and 100% of woodpecker clusters in 1997 were located on sites that contained trees from the 1930s. Over half of the current cavity trees on one site and over three quarters on the other site are remnant trees which survived the clearcutting. Those trees are the foundation of the habitat available to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker population on the sites today, and based on the nesting habits of this bird, the remnants probably provided the needed habitat to support a continuous or near-continuous Red-cockaded woodpecker population in the area through the post-harvest recovery period and up to the present day.
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Vol. 71 • No. 4