The White-headed Woodpeckers of the Mt. Adams Community Forest

By Dave Ryan

As the Monitoring and Outreach Coordinator for Mt. Adams Resource Stewards (MARS), I was recently revisiting some plots in the Pine Flats section of the Mt. Adams Community Forest.  These particular stands consist almost entirely of uneven-aged ponderosa pine.  MARS conducted a variable density thin on these stands in the summer of 2017.  A prescribed burn was conducted in the spring of 2018. These actions were taken to reduce overstocking, increase stand health, reduce fire hazard risk, and generate revenue and produce jobs for the local community.  Plots were installed prior to these activities to establish baseline conditions.  I returned to these plots to assess response to our management actions.

While out at Pine Flats, I saw the distinctive flash and flutter of a White-headed Woodpecker.  These unique woodpeckers depend largely upon pine dominated stands in the mountains of western North America from Canada to California.  They excavate nest cavities in snags, stumps, and logs.  Their diet consists of pine seeds, insects, and larvae.  In the state of Washington, White-headed Woodpeckers are a State Candidate for Listing as either threatened or endangered.  These species are adapted to open forests with frequent, low intensity fires and studies have found that they respond positively to thinning of overstocked stands.

Although plot work is a crucial aspect of responsible natural resource management, I believe the presence of this gorgeous female finding lunch in our carefully managed stands seems to be a testament to the multiple benefits of the Mt. Adams Community Forest.

Photo by David Ryan

References:  Kozma, J. M., Lorenz, T. J., Raphael, M. G., Garrett, K. L., & Dixon, R. D. (2020, July 9). White-headed woodpecker (Dryobates Albolarvatus), version 2.0. Birds of the World. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from

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