Important Bird Areas

Red Hills Ecosystem

Florida

An IBA shared by Florida and Georgia. The Florida portion encompasses a tiny portion of northeastern Gadsden County, two separate parcels in northern Jefferson County, and all of northern Leon County between Havana and Monticello.

The Red Hills physiographic region encompasses a large area between Thomasville, Georgia and Tallahassee, Florida. The region is so named after its reddish clay soils and rolling topography. The Red Hills Ecosystem IBA contains nearly 250,000 acres (101,175 hectares), with a majority of this area in Georgia. Longleaf pine flatwoods were the original land cover, but these forests were cleared and heavily farmed for cotton and corn during Antebellum times. Today, oldfield pine communities of loblolly and ?shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata) dominate the Florida portion of the Red Hills, and most of the plantations exist for hunting Northern Bobwhites. Despite the lack of their original threeawn (wiregrass) ground cover, these pine forests resemble native pinewoods. Landowners in the region have a strong land stewardship tradition that recognizes the value of biological diversity. Several conservation organizations, led by Tall Timbers Research Station, are encouraging landowners to protect their plantations with perpetual conservation easements that balance consumptive use of resources with sustainable management. At the heart of the easement program is the encouragement of implementing good timber management practices, for both sustainable forestry and ecological values. Hunter use is unknown since the properties are privately owned.

Ornithological Summary

The Red Hills are the last stronghold in Florida for the White-breasted Nuthatch, which largely has disappeared from the remainder of their statewide range. The Red Hills support the sixth largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers remaining in the world, but nearly all of these clusters now occur in Georgia; Florida populations in the Red Hills have declined significantly. Data obtained during the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas Project documented over 100 breeding species, one of the most diverse breeding areas in Florida. A long-term study of birds killed by a television tower adjacent to Tall Timbers Research Station was conducted nearly daily for 28 years, thereby being ?almost unique for its duration and rigorous effort? (+Crawford and Engstrom 2001; see also +Crawford 2001). Diversity for the entire Red Hills is 242 native species, including 92 breeding species.

Conservation Issues

This IBA is entirely in private ownership, but the owners of several plantations have established perpetual conservation easements on their properties, thereby ensuring the preservation of their natural resources. ? The Red Hills support one of the largest populations of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers remaining on private property. Populations in the Florida portion of the IBA are small but management activities are increasing the number of clusters. ? This IBA also contains one of few demographically stable populations of Northern Bobwhites in the state. ? Management includes selective timbering, herbiciding of oaks, and frequent prescribed fires to maintain the open understory of the pinewoods. On some plantations, longleaf pine is being replanted as other pines are logged.

Ownership

private owners (plantations proposed for or under perpetual conservation easements, overseen by the Tall Timbers Research Station, The Nature Conservancy, and other conservation organizations).

Habitat

*oldfield pinelands, Red Hills longleaf pine, pine plantation, fields, non-native pasture, agricultural fields, hardwood swamp, freshwater marsh, cattail marsh, riverine, lacustrine, and artificial

Land Use

*hunting, *timber production, conservation, agriculture, ecological research, environmental education