Eurasian Woodcock, Woodcock
IUCN: LC; EUBD (IIA)
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population is estimated to number c.10,000,000-26,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 6,890,000-8,710,000 calling or lekking males, which equates to 13,800,000-17,400,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
Trend Justification: The largest population is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International 2015). Therefore the overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015).
Behaviour The species is sedentary on Atlantic islands (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and in some areas in south-western maritime countries (Snow and Perrins 1998) but is otherwise strongly migratory (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). The spring migration starts at the end of February (Ferrand et al. in prep) (the timing of this movement being closely related to temperature), with the species arriving on the breeding grounds between March and mid-May. In Europe, the species breeds from the end of February to July (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The autumn migration to the wintering grounds is largely governed by the timing of the first winter frosts (e.g. from October to November) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is typically solitary and usually migrates singly or in groups of 5-6 (Snow and Perrins 1998). Individuals may also become aggregated by topography or weather conditions, especially when migrating overland or where food and shelter are restricted (Snow and Perrins 1998). It typically forages nocturnally during the winter (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat The distribution of earthworms is an important habitat characteristic for the species throughout the year (Johnsgard 1981). Breeding For breeding the species requires extensive unfragmented areas (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) of broadleaved deciduous or mixed broadleaved/coniferous forest (Johnsgard 1981) containing a dense undergrowth of shrubs and ground cover (Lutz and Pagh Jensen in prep) (e.g. of brambles Rubus spp., holly Ilex aquifolium, hazel Corylus avellana, gorse Ulex spp., bracken Pteridium spp. or bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Lutz and Pagh Jensen in prep) and with a mosaic (del Hoyo et al. 1996) of dry, warm resting places, moist areas for foraging (Johnsgard 1981, Hayman et al. 1986) (e.g. streams, springs or damp, swampy patches) (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and clearings or other open areas as flight paths (Johnsgard 1981, Hayman et al. 1986). The species may also nest in swampy forests with mossy ground, brooks and other watercourses or alternatively in coniferous forest with moist leaf litter and an undergrowth of broadleaved shrubs and ferns (Johnsgard 1981). Non-breeding The species's habitats requirements during the daylight hours of the non-breeding season are similar to its breeding habitat requirements but are less restricted (del Hoyo et al. 1996). As well as extensive broadleaved or mixed broadleaved/coniferous forest (Johnsgard 1981) the species will also occupy young conifer plantations (del Hoyo et al. 1996), hedges with high densities of trees and shrubs (Duriez et al. 2005b), smaller woods, areas of scrub (Hayman et al. 1986) and coppiced habitats with coppice of between 7 and 20 years old (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It still shows a strong preference for woodlands with rich (e.g. mull) humus types that have high earthworm biomasses, and a dense shrub strata however (Duriez et al. 2005b). At night during this season the species gathers to roost and feed in damp, earthworm-rich, permanent grasslands (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Duriez et al. 2005b) sometimes 3-4 km away from woodland areas used for cover during the day (Hayman et al. 1986), showing a preference for grazed meadows compared to cultivated fields (as the latter contain higher earthworm biomasses) (Duriez et al. 2005b). The species may also feed on intertidal mud during freezing weather (Hayman et al. 1986). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of earthworms, especially during the non-breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1996), but the species may also take adult and larval insects (e.g. beetles, earwigs and millipedes), spiders, slugs, leaches, ribbon worms (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and plant material such as seeds, fruit, agricultural grain (e.g. oats and maize), and grass roots and leaves (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Small freshwater bivalve molluscs and crustaceans are also taken by migrating birds (Johnsgard 1981). The composition of the diet may differ between the sexes (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow depression in the ground concealed by shrubs (del Hoyo et al. 1996) in open wooded sites (Johnsgard 1981), often at the base of a tree or near a dead fallen branch or log (Johnsgard 1981). Management information In France, both wintering and breeding populations have been monitored since the beginning of the 1990s (Ferrand et al. 2006); in autumn-winter, the monitoring is based on indexes of abundance from data collected by hunters (approx. 1,000) and ringers (approx. 400); in spring, the monitoring is based on censuses of roding males in May-June carried out by a network of 400 observers; wintering population seems to be slightly increasing (1992-2007). Annual success of reproduction is estimated from analysis of wings collected by hunters (mainly in France (Ferrand et al. 2006) and Denmark (Clausager 2006)) and from ringing data (5,000 individuals every year in France). Hunting bags are regularly estimated in some Europeans countries, especially in Denmark (Clausager 2006), in the European part of Russia (Blokhin et al. 2006), in Finland, in Sweden (Ferrand and Gossmann 2001) and in Switzerland. The annual European hunting bag is estimated at 3-4 million birds (Ferrand and Gossmann 2001). Bag limits are applied in different European countries, especially in France, Italy and Portugal (Ferrand and Gossmann 2001). In Britain an appropriate method of surveying the species was found using data on seasonal and evening patterns of summer male display (Hoodless et al. 2006). It was found that in Britain the best months for surveying the species are May and June, and that the detection of 83% of male passes at a fixed point should be possible in a survey lasting 1 hour and commencing 15 minutes before sunset (Hoodless et al. 2006). There is evidence from France that hunting reserves may be efficient tools for conserving wintering woodcocks, but only if buffer zones at least 1 km wide where hunting pressures are kept low and under-control are in place around reserves (Duriez et al. 2005a). In France it was also found that forestry management practices should preserve rich humus types and coppices by choosing tree species that ameliorate the soil and by soil tilling (Duriez et al. 2005b). The species may also benefit from set-aside land, grass field-borders and the simplification of farm practices (e.g. by reducing soil tilling and direct sowing) (Duriez et al. 2005b).
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