The Piney Grove IBA contains one of only a few remaining mature longleaf pine forests in the region, consisting of moderately-aged pine stands interspersed with pockets of old growth trees (80-140 years old). Pine savannahs once occupied hundreds of thousands of acres of the Virginia coastal plain but, since the arrival of colonists 400 years ago, these forests have been virtually eliminated. The remaining mature stands, much of which are protected by the Nature Conservancy in the Piney Grove Preserve, are under active management to produce and maintain the structural characteristics of old-growth pine forest.
Piney Grove harbors the last known breeding population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Virginia and represents the northern extent of their current range. This population is actively managed and has grown significantly since establishment of management activities in the late 1990s. Six clusters of woodpeckers are now active in the IBA totalling 36 individual birds. The IBA also supports a community of breeding bird species characteristic of pine savannah habitat, such as the Brown-headed Nuthatch, Chuck-will's Widow, Prairie Warbler, Eastern Wood-pewee, and Pine Warbler.
The greatest threat to the Piney Grove IBA is habitat limitation. Very little habitat is available in the short-term that can support expansion of Red-cockaded Woodpecker populations beyond the boundaries of Piney Grove Preserve, although additional habitat may become suitable in the next 20-30 years if properly managed. The woodpecker population here is small and is therefore always susceptible to disease outbreaks, weather events, or other influences that could affect the entire population.
The land within this site is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. Surrounding privately owned lands also provide similar habitat and should likely be included in the IBA.
Piney Grove contains a mix of pine habitats including managed pine-savannah of moderately-aged to old growth loblolly and shortleaf pine, younger working forests of loblolly pines interspersed with hardwood swamps, woodlots, and agricultural fields. In managed areas, the understory contains warm-season grasses, hardwoods such as red maple, and shrubs such as gallberry and blueberry.
The Nature Conservancy's Piney Grove Preserve is managed for conservation to maintain populations of red-cockaded woopeckers and other species dependent on this habitat. Other habitats within the IBA are managed as working forests for timber production or for agriculture.