Fall movements of Red-headed woodpeckers in South Carolina
Fall migration of Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) can be erratic, with departure rates, directions, and distances varying among populations and individuals. We report fall migration departure dates, rates, and routes, and the size of fall home ranges of 62 radio-tagged Red-headed Woodpeckers in western South Carolina. Rates of fall migration differed among years; all radio-tagged woodpeckers migrated in 2005 (15 of 15), none (0 of 23) migrated in 2006, and 54.2% (13 of 24) migrated in 2007. Of 28 woodpeckers that left their breeding territories, we relocated eight either en route or on their fall home ranges. These woodpeckers migrated short distances (4.3–22.2 km) south along the floodplain forest of a large creek. The variable migration patterns we observed indicate that Red-headed Woodpeckers may best be described as facultative migrants. We determined the home range sizes of 13 woodpeckers in both seasons, regardless of whether they migrated, and fall home ranges were smaller (mean=1.12 ha) than summer home ranges (mean=3.23 ha). Fall-winter movements of Red-headed Woodpeckers were concentrated on mast-producing oak (Quercus spp.) trees, which may have restricted home range sizes. The partial migration we observed in 2007 suggests that factors other than mast crop variability may also influence migration patterns because woodpeckers that year responded to the same annual mast crop in different ways, with some migrating and some remaining on breeding season home ranges during the fall.