Piney Grove Preserve harbors one of Virginia's last breeding populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers and the northernmost population in the U.S. Listed as endangered in 1970, this charismatic black-and-white woopecker gets its name from a barely visible speck of red on each side of the male's cap.
Nesting exclusively in live pine trees, the bird requires mature trees with soft heartwood for excavating nest cavities. Red-cockaded woodpeckers once numbered in the hundreds of thousands throughout the Southeast and up into New Jersey, but the loss of old-growth pine habitat led to a dramatic decline.
What TNC is Doing
At Piney Grove and all along the Virginia Pinelands, we work to conserve southeastern Virginia’s historic loblolly and longleaf pine forests and the variety of life they support.
TNC acquired the first tract for the preserve in 1998 from the Hancock Timber Resource Group, and several additional purchases brought Piney Grove to its current size.
Beginning in 2001, red-cockaded woodpeckers captured from stable populations in the Carolinas were released at Piney Grove to boost the number of breeding colonies.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia had a record-breaking breeding season in 2019, taking another step along their path to recovery. The population included a record 18 breeding groups for the second consecutive year, a number not documented since the 1970s. 14 of those breeding groups were recorded in Piney Grove by William and Mary's Center for Conservation Biology
By investing in our forest restoration efforts, TNC supporters have helped us to enhance habitat and expand the preserve's breeding groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Protecting and restoring Piney Grove's special resources require active management. To maintain and expand the pine-savanna habitat upon which the red-cockaded woodpecker and myriad other species depend, we conduct frequent prescribed burns. Our science staff works closely with state and federal agencies and highly trained volunteers to implement safe, effective fire management.