Endangered Species: Gila Woodpecker
How it works
The Gila Woodpecker is one of many types of woodpeckers. This bird has an average lifetime of 10 years and the females tend to lay 3-5 eggs (1). The highest population density of the woodpecker is in the Sonoran Desert. Their water is scarce, and they are hunted by different types of animals. The main predators include a fox, bobcat, and coyote(2). The Gila Woodpecker is one of the most innovative birds. They use their long beaks to create small cavities in the cactus(5). Inside, there is moisture from the cactus body, so it stays cool. This is important when it is a mating season because the eggs cannot be kept at too hot of a temperature. Unfortunately, the night owl also competes for the same space, and sometimes the eggs can be destroyed by the owls.
Within the last hundred years, an invasive species was introduced to the same community as the Gila Woodpecker(3). The European Starlings have invaded the nesting sites of the woodpecker. Over the last thirty years, the starling population has nearly tripled creating even more competition(3). The starlings are notorious for overtaking habitats. These birds go into the nesting sites of the Gila Woodpecker and take out all of the eggs. The birds are able to thrive so easily because they eat almost any type of food. As well, they are one of the more aggressive birds for their size, giving them an advantage over the woodpecker. According to the California endangered species site, the woodpecker has been on a 1.5 percent decrease per year over the last ten years. In 2010, the Gila Woodpecker was first considered an endangered species, and the two main reasons are habitat loss and natural disasters(1). In the past year, there has been a record-breaking amount of forest fires. Most of California suffered from at least one of these fires and if not more. As well, the climate has been rising in temperature over the past six years. This combination has harmed the Gila Woodpecker population. They rely on big trunks of the Cottonwood Willow, and the lack of water and nutrition for these trees has created a chain reaction. Thus, causing the loss of habitat for the woodpecker. As well, human expansion into the original nesting sites has caused lots of harm to the woodpecker. Humans are a main part of the problem because they also introduced the European Starling(3). Together, humans need to take responsibility for this crisis.
How it works
Fortunately, there are ways to counteract the negative steps that have been taken. One easy step to help the woodpecker would be to not use as much water. The trees and the cacti only get the small amounts of water they can find, and they need to maximize on it. On another note, more slash and burns could be conducted to prevent the spread of a huge fire. A slash and burn are when a controlled fire is set up to burn the fuel for huge fires(4). Also, birds rely on nests and the main reason why they are on the road to extinction is that humans are taking away nests and nesting sites. Thus, creating another way to prevent bird extinction: leave habitats(nests) alone if they are seen in a human environment(2). From this data, we came up with our own idea of how to prevent the extinction of the Gila Woodpecker. We figured that we could recreate their ecosystem, but with a better way to fight off all land predators. We think that if we create a kilometer by kilometer plot of land that is surrounded by cactus, and that has many cottonwood willows on the inside that it could help remove the woodpecker from the endangered species list. Inside the trees would create shade and habitats for the woodpecker, and the cactus would fend off and humans or land predators from invading their new sanctuary. As well, the cactus would provide additional habitat. Unfortunately, this does not stop the European Starlings from invading their space, but we believe that if we give the woodpecker species a headstart on population density then they could outcompete the invasive species. In the end, we believe that if we get rid of at least two of the factors that limit population growth then the population will be able to get back on its feet and will recover faster.