By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - Biologists have released 10 red-cockaded woodpeckers in Martin County as part of an effort to save the federally endangered species.
Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee released the birds in the John G. and Susan H. Dupuis Jr. Wildlife and Environmental Area, which straddles Martin and Palm Beach counties.
They also released three pairs in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, just south of Martin County.
"The goal is to basically boost populations in areas that don't have a lot of birds," said FWC spokeswoman Carli Segelson. "These woodpeckers are very rare, because they require open stands of old-growth pine."
About 25 percent of the country's red-cockaded woodpeckers live in Florida, with the majority living on state-managed land.
The medium-size birds have distinctive white cheek patches and black-and-white barred backs. They get their name from the tiny red patch or "cockade" on males' eyes.
Wildlife officials said the birds live in small family groups with one breeding pair and one or two helpers.
They typically hunt in packs for ants, beetles, caterpillars, wood-boring insects, spiders, cockroaches, fruits and berries.
The helpers, usually males from previous breeding seasons, share responsibility for raising the young. They feed the nestlings and defend them against predators and other dangers.
Biologists working to increase Martin County's woodpecker population relocated the five pairs from Fort Stewart, Ga., where about 300 of the birds make their home.
"They're coming from areas with robust populations that could afford to lose a few and still have healthy numbers," Ms. Segelson said.
For more information about red-cockaded woodpeckers, visit MyFWC.com/Wildlife.