Endangered red-cockaded woodpecker discovered in West End

In a significant conservation win, Southern Conservation Trust (SCT) announced the discovery of an endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on its Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve property in West End, between Highway 211 and Highway 73.

The tract of land was originally slated for development into a golf course and resort community, including residential and commercial uses, with an impressive ~1,760-acre footprint, but was instead given to SCT, allowing it to become a flagship reserve on the Sandhills landscape. The appearance of this bird is remarkable and not only highlights the importance of preserving specific habitats but also underscores SCT’s dedication to environmental stewardship and ecosystem restoration.

The red-cockaded woodpecker, affectionately dubbed “Phoenix” by SCT, is an elusive example of persistence despite adversity. This male woodpecker, whose last documented sighting dates back to 2021 as a hatchling, has now made Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve his home, relocating an impressive three miles from his birthplace.

Native to the Southeastern United States, this small bird has faced numerous challenges due to habitat loss and degradation. However, with its vast expanse of carefully managed longleaf pine forests, Nicks Creek offers an ideal habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers. These birds rely on mature longleaf pine trees with heartwood decay for nesting cavities and ample foraging opportunities. Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve provides the perfect environment for Phoenix to thrive and contribute to the preservation of his species.

“We are thrilled to introduce Phoenix to Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve,” remarked Melvin Ezzell, registered forester and property manager of Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve. “His presence serves as a testament to the success of our restoration efforts and the resilience of endangered species when provided with suitable habitats.”

Bolstered by support from the Sandhills Conservation Partnership and others, SCT has worked tirelessly since 2019, when the property was donated to SCT, to transform the Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve into a model of forest stewardship. Through strategic initiatives such as pine restoration, including thinning and controlled burns, SCT has created an environment conducive to attracting and supporting species like the RCW.

“Our primary objective is the sustainable restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem,” explained Jesse Woodsmith, director of conservation & stewardship for Southern Conservation Trust. “Phoenix’s presence reinforces our commitment to this mission and inspires us to continue our efforts in preserving vital habitats for species of conservation concern.”

After the discovery of Phoenix at Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve, artificial cavities were installed in his “neighborhood” with help from the Sandhills Ecological Institute to offer more move-in-ready nesting opportunities for additional birds. As Phoenix settles into his new habitat at Nicks Creek Longleaf Reserve, SCT anticipates sharing many more milestones with both him and their dedicated supporters. Through ongoing conservation efforts and community engagement, SCT remains steadfast in its commitment to elevating nature through exceptional stewardship by protecting natural resources and fostering biodiversity for generations to come.

For more information about SCT’s conservation initiatives and updates on Phoenix’s journey, visit www.sctlandtrust.org/nicks-creek-longleaf-reserve.

Contributed/Courtesy photo.

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