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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Life Birds

Friends of ours from Massachusetts just wrote to us and told us they were coming to South Florida and wanted to go birding with us. They like to see all the birds here, but specifically they wanted to get a “life bird”, or “lifer”. For them it would be the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, see photo.

What is a life bird? You hear birders talking about this all the time. A “life bird” is a bird you haven’t seen before, and when you find it you're seeing it for the first time in your life. It's a thrilling occurence and one you won’t forget. Many birders keep a “life list” of all the birds they have seen in their lives. It's a fun game and one anyone can play. Some avid birders will travel far and wide to see life birds.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are rare birds, (so rare they are an endangered species) that many birders would like to get on their life lists. Red-cockadeds live in mature pine forests in the Southeast. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are only about 15,000 birds left. Red-cockadeds have an interesting social structure and live in small groups of usually 3-4 but sometimes up to nine members. They nest as a group and the members incubate the eggs. They will only excavate a nest in a mature, live pine that has a fungus that causes the heartwood to become soft enough to enable the birds to excavate. It can take them 1-3 years to excavate a nest.

We hope our friends get their "life bird".

Photo of Red-cockaded Woodpecker © Lillian Stokes

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