RCW Translocation

Translocation is the assisted, directed dispersal of juvenile RCWs by biologists within or between populations.  Translocation has become a successful management tool in the recovery of the RCW across its range.  In the North Carolina Sandhills, translocation is used to increase and stabilize RCW groups in the Southern Pines–Pinehurst subpopulation that support the Primary Core Recovery Population, (i.e. , Fort Bragg).  Juvenile RCWs from a donor pool of intensively monitored RCW groups at Fort Bragg are targeted and trapped within their natal clusters at night, placed in a translocation box, and delivered to a recipient recruitment cluster.  Recruitment clusters can be either abandoned RCW territories with suitable habitat or new territories provisioned with artificial cavities close to existing RCW groups.  Strict translocation guidelines are followed and juvenile RCWs are selected to ensure that impacts on family group dynamics or the donor population are minimized. Once they are captured and transported, the young RCWs are placed in high quality cavities within the recruitment cluster and are screened in overnight. These screens are removed the following dawn, allowing the pair to be released simultaneously into their new cluster.  The ultimate goal is for the young birds to meet and pair, creating a potential breeding group of RCWs in currently unoccupied habitat.  All recipient clusters involved in translocation to date have been on privately-owned lands that are enrolled in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) RCW Safe Harbor Program.

The USFWS authorized SEI to pursue intra-population (within population) translocation among Sandhills East clusters beginning in 2012.  From 2012 to 2015, 24 juvenile RCWs were translocated from Fort Bragg to the western Moore County (MOOR) and Southern Pines/Pinehurst (SOPI) subpopulations (see above figure).   Thirteen (13) of the 24 RCWs were retained within Sandhills East private land groups in subsequent years; 9 of the 13 birds produced young as adults in the following years.  In 2016, 6 RCWs were translocated to private lands in Sandhills East and 2017 monitoring will determine the success of the 2016 translocation effort.

Endorsement for translocation also came from the North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership (NCSCP) and biologists from Fort Bragg Endangered Species Branch (ESB), Dr. J.H. Carter III & Associates (JCA) and the (USFWS) have provided field assistance with the translocation effort.