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Red headed woodpecker 300

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See Red-Headed Woodpeckers at U of M ecology field station

Increasingly scarce birds are famous for bright red heads, contrasting black and white bodies and assertive behavior

Contacts: Peggy Rinard, College of Biological Sciences,, (612) 624-0774
Jeff Falk, University News Service,, (612) 626-1720

April 29, 2010

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Red-Headed Woodpecker up close, you’ll have your chance on Saturday, May 8 at the U of M College of Biological Science’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR), 2660 Fawn Lake Drive, East Bethel. Expert guides will lead visitors on tours through the reserve to observe the state’s largest breeding population of these increasingly scarce birds.

Once very common in the United States and Canada, Red-Headed Woodpeckers have declined by more than half since 1966, partly because their preferred habitats -- dead trees in open, deciduous woods or grassland savannas -- are vanishing. Woodpeckers build nests in cavities in dead trees and need open, grassy areas for swooping down on insects. But the reasons for the dramatic drop in their numbers are not fully understood.

After migrating south for the winter, the Cedar Creek woodpeckers have just returned to the reserve to find mates and set up nesting cavities in trees. According to Mary Spivey, CCESR education coordinator, chances are very high that visitors will see one or more on May 8. “I've never been disappointed when I’ve taken groups out in past years,” she says. Last year, birdwatchers counted nearly 50 of the woodpeckers at Cedar Creek.

The distinctive woodpeckers are noted for their bright red heads, contrasting black and white bodies and assertive behavior. They often make nests in populated areas that provide dead trees and grass (e.g., parks and golf courses) and aren’t as fearful of humans as many birds.

Members of the Redheaded Woodpecker Recovery Project will lead tours from 1 to 3 p.m. Tours will leave from the Lindeman Research and Discovery Center on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are required for groups of five or more and for those who need van transportation to the nesting sites. Please call (763) 434-5131 for reservations or with questions. Walking shoes and binoculars are recommended. Since capacity is limited, it may not be possible to accommodate those who arrive later.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is a 5,400-acre ecology research site about 30 minutes north of the Twin Cities, with natural habitats representing the entire upper Midwest. It is owned and operated by the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences. Ecosystem science was launched at Cedar Creek in 1942, when Raymond Lindeman, a graduate student who conducted his research at Cedar Creek, showed how energy, beginning with photosynthesis, moves through ecosystems. Today, a team of University scientists, including Regents Professors David Tilman and Peter Reich, use Cedar Creek as their living laboratory to understand how agriculture, energy use and other human activities are affecting global ecosystems. On the Web:

Tags: College of Biological Sciences

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Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve