Red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) in the Ocala National Forest are located near the southern edge of the species' geographic range in a region that contains the largest contiguous area of sand pine scrub habitat endemic to Florida. We examined nest site selection and nest success of the species in this unique region to determine which habitat characteristics and management activities contribute most to woodpecker productivity. We used data from a single year (2010) to assess the relative importance of forest stand features, landscape features, management activities, and spatial characteristics affecting social behavior of the birds and found fire management practices played the largest role in habitat selection, while understory characteristics were most important to reproductive success. We also used data spanning an entire decade (2001 to 2010) to assess the relative importance of landscape features, management activities, spatial characteristics affecting social behavior of the birds, and environmental factors in habitat selection and productivity. We again found the number of fire events was most influential to habitat selection, whereas the location of clusters relative to the sand pine ecotone was most influential to reproductive success. Results highlight the well-known importance of using fire to maintain quality habitat for the species but also suggest some unique aspects pertinent to managing this southern population of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
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