By By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer
Invasive American minks may threaten the largest woodpecker species in South America, according to new research.
The Magellanic woodpecker — a relative of the extinct ivory-billed woodpecker — lives throughout the Andes of Chile and Argentina. The large birds only produce one offspring per year and maintain broad territorial boundaries of about 1 square kilometer (0.4 square miles) per male-female pair, limiting the density and growth of their population.
Still, the charismatic birds maintain stable populations by holing up in branchless, dead trees that carnivores struggle to climb. Until now, there have been no records of predation on the birds.
But researchers based at the University of North Texas in Denton and the University of Santiago in Chile report they have now found the first evidence of Magellanic predation on Navarino Island — a 955-square-mile (2,473 square kilometers) island off the coast of Southern Chile — by the American mink, a carnivore native to northern North America that was introduced to South America in the 1930s for fur farming. Minks that escaped these farms have since multiplied and have become an invasive species, without any natural predators in the region. [In Photos: The Peskiest Alien Mammals] ...more