From performing impressive aerial acrobatics to stashing cicadas under tree bark, red-headed woodpeckers are curious creatures. Both the birds, along with oak savannas they inhabit, were once very common across the midwest. That’s no longer the case, but both are thriving at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, which boasts the largest known population of breeding red-headed woodpecker pairs in Minnesota. The birds are savanna specialists and Cedar Creek is home to one of the largest remnants of intact oak savanna in Minnesota.
Teasing out what their preferred habitat looks like and what drives their success are questions that Dr. Elena West, a postdoctoral researcher in FWCB, hopes to answer. She leads a dynamic team made up of volunteers, land managers, and community scientists from a range of disciplines. We recently caught up with her to learn more about her ongoing work.