We need your help
We need volunteers to take part in a nationwide survey of breeding Woodcock during 2023. Find out more about taking part.
Woodcock is the only species of wading bird in Britain and Ireland that is adapted to breed in woodland, both broad-leaved and coniferous. Its plumage is superbly camouflaged to blend in with dead leaf litter and ground vegetation, where it may roost or make its nest, remaining motionless unless approached at very close quarters.
2023 National Survey
In a recent review of the population status of birds in the UK, the Woodcock was ‘Red Listed’ as a bird of European conservation concern because of a long-term decline in breeding numbers and range. The purpose of the survey is to provide an updated national population estimate and assessment of range change compared to the previous surveys in 2003 and 2013. In addition, habitat use will be investigated to improve our knowledge of habitat requirements, which can improve future woodland management for Woodcock.
You can take part in this survey by selecting a national Woodcock survey square in your region using the interactive map (which will become available from mid-December). In the meantime, you can find out more about taking part or discover more about our breeding Woodcock by reading below
2013 National Survey
Full results have been published for the 2013 breeding Woodcock survey (PDF), which estimated a population of 55,241 males, representing a decline of 29% since 2003. Summary details can be found on the Results page.
The breeding distribution covers much of Britain and Ireland, however, a considerable reduction in range has been indicated by the 2008-11 Breeding Atlas, since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas (Sharrock 1976) and a reduction in abundance, as shown by the results of annual roding counts between 2003 and 2012. In 2015, it was upgraded to Red listed (previously Amber listed) as a bird of conservation concern, due to the decline in breeding numbers and range.
The nocturnal habits and cryptic nature of this species makes it difficult to monitor the breeding population using our traditional survey methods, such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). However, a special survey method for Woodcock has been devised, which uses the counts of the territorial roding flights, undertaken by males at dusk and dawn, to estimate the number of individual males present.
The first breeding Woodcock Survey was undertaken in 2003 estimated a breeding population of 78,000 males in Britain. Thus providing a baseline against which to assess future population change. During winter, it is estimated that up to 1.5 million individuals may be present in Britain and Ireland; mostly originating from northern Europe and western Russia.
Time / skill required
- April: one daytime recce to establish the best place to locate the count point
- May to June: three visits to count point at dusk, at least one week apart, between 1st May and 30th June.
Breeding Woodcock decline in Britain
Results from the 2013 Woodcock Survey show that breeding numbers and breeding range have both declined considerably since the previous survey in 2003. The rate of decline varied regionally but was...