Books by Robert W. McFarlane

NON-FICTION
Released: Jan. 13, 1992

Densely packed, adroitly written life history of the red- cockaded woodpecker by McFarlane, a ``woodpecker expert and conservationist.'' Red-cockaded woodpeckers are perfectly adapted to the pine forest—once enormous—that started at the Gulf Coast, ran a thousand miles to the Atlantic, and up to the Chesapeake Bay. Unique among woodpeckers, they are cooperative: Nonbreeding males are ``helpers,'' assisting the breeding pair by incubating the eggs, or by brooding and feeding the nestlings. Their home is a deep cavity drilled in a live pine, with resin wells—a strong snake repellent—ringed around the entry hole. What caused this species to be put on the endangered list in 1968? Their perfect adoption to the longleaf pine forest, McFarlane says, exposed them to timber companies that clear-cut huge acreages for pulpwood (used for making paper). In 1975, the Fish and Wildlife Service convened a five-man symposium (including a timber-company representative and a forester for the Service, neither of whom considered the species endangered) to draft a ``Recovery Plan'' for the bird. The plan emerged in 1979 and was immediately embroiled in proposals and counterproposals, one problem being that listing of endangered species halted during the Reagan Administration. At this time, no new plan has been approved and the woodpeckers continue to disappear. Although the climax here is the ``Peckerwood Politics'' that have led to the woodpecker's imperilment, McFarlane's discussions of avian territoriality, breeding, nesting, and anatomy have great depth, expanding our understanding of a single species into a broad appreciation of ecology. (Photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >