In the mid-1800s, John J. Audubon described the red-cockaded woodpecker as abundant in Southern pine forests. Today, 10,000 to 14,000 remain, living in a fragmented range in the southeastern U.S.
Unlike other woodpeckers, the red-cockaded roosts in cavities in live pines. It needs 80 to 120-year-old pines for its cavities, and extensive pine and pine-hardwood forests to meet its foraging requirements. Much of the Southeast has been cleared for agriculture. Many remaining pine forests are unsuitable for the red-cockaded woodpecker. Each year, more areas become unsuitable. Because of the drastic loss and continued decline of habitat, the bird is endangered.
In 1994, 157 active clusters (groups of cavity trees) were found in Arkansas, 121 on private lands, 35 on federal land (primarily Felsenthal NWR) and one on state property. Most are in southern counties.
For the species to survive here, private landowners must take positive steps to aid its recovery. Fortunately, that's beginning to happen. In 1993, the Georgia-Pacific Company established a landmark conservation agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to hall protect the woodpecker on thousands of acres of company land. Other companies have established similar agreements. The species has also responded favorable to artificial cavity and translocation programs.