Spectrum News: UC study provides window into woodpecker's world

UC geography student says maintaining wooded corridors helps animals survive in fragmented habitat

Spectrum News highlighted a geography study at the University of Cincinnati that examined the unique habitat needs of pileated woodpeckers in southwest Ohio.

UC College of Arts and Sciences Professor Susanna Tong and doctoral student Ruijia Hu compared 10 years of pileated woodpecker sightings with geographic data identifying the mature wooded habitat the birds prefer.

A pileated woodpecker perches on the trunk of a tree.

A pileated woodpecker. Photo/Michael Miller

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America.

They prefer mature woodlands with dead timber that conceals grubs and other preferred food.

While they are listed today as a species of least concern, that hasn't always been the case. The birds declined across the United States as mature forest was cut down for agriculture.

The researchers concluded that the woodpeckers can survive in increasingly fragmented urban forests if there are wooded corridors that help them get from patch to patch.

“For nesting, pileated woodpeckers would like maple trees, hickory trees, and oak trees,” Hu said. “And they really need mature trees to make the nest.”

Hu presented her findings this year to the American Association of Geographers’ conference in Denver.

Read the Spectrum News story.

Featured image at top: UC geography student Ruijia Hu, left, and Professor Susanna Tong look for pileated woodpeckers in Burnet Woods. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

UC doctoral student Ruijia Hu examined the habitat needs of pileated woodpeckers in Hamilton County and found that the future of the species in urban places like Cincinnati could depend on creating ecological corridors linking patches of fragmented habitat. She and Professor Susanna Tong are presenting their study to a national geography conference.

UC doctoral student Ruijia Hu studies evidence of woodpecker activity in the trunk of a tree at Burnet Woods. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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