Wildfires Helped These Woodpeckers Return to Forests

With the increase of wildfires in states like California and Oregon, it can be hard to find a silver lining, but not for these birds. As it turns out, our ecosystem can actually thrive in spite of these damaging fires. According to an article from National Geographic, "Numerous animals—including several species of woodpeckers, such as the black-backed and the red-cockaded—can’t survive without the fires that create the perfect habitat for them."

Both birds build their homes in the wake of these fires. Red-cockadeds prefer homes made of low-intensity blazes which burn slowly away at the understory. The black-backeds, by contrast, prefer homes made of high-intensity fires. The ones you see on the news in California and other western states are typically better suited for the black-backeds. Of course, conservationists recommend trying to avoid starting forest fires (for all the other birds in the area).

So, while it's still a tragedy that these forests are at high risk in 2020, at least one animal is seeing some positive change. "Twenty years ago, there was no question this bird was going extinct," said Aaron Valenta of the red-cockaded woodpecker. Aaron is also the chief of restoration and recovery programs in the southeastern U.S for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Now, it’s a recovered species. It’s just amazing!”

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