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Project partners

British Trust for Ornithology logo
RSPB logo

Woodcock survey results

Annual roding counts: 2003-2022

Thanks to a growing group of dedicated volunteers, we now have good data on the number of roding Woodcock for up to 150 sites across 24 counties since 2003.

up to 2013 showed that counts were relatively stable until 2008. The number of roding males then declined steadily until 2015. In 2016 there was a substantial increase, giving the highest counts since 2008 - but numbers then reduced in 2017, stabilised, and declined again in 2020. In 2021 and again in 2022, numbers increased slightly, but the overall trend is for declne. 
Fig 1 - Woodcock annual abundance from 2003 to 2022
Fig 1 - Woodcock annual abundance from 2003 to 2022

It is possible that weather has an influence on annual fluctuations in Woodcock numbers.

  • Heavy rain and low temperatures in April and early May might result in higher chick mortality.
  • In winter, low temperatures and lying snow will reduce food accessibility and could increase woodcock mortality.

Given the general declining trend, which may involve factors in addition to weather, it is essential that we continue to count at least 100 sites per year in order to monitor future change more closely. 

Please do consider re-surveying your 2013 survey site or a new site this summer.

Fig 2 - Woodcock presence and absence at 955 surveyed sites across the UK (darker shaded = present, lighter shaded = absent) 
A map showing distribution of woodcock
Fig 3 - Woodcock presence and absence across 11 UK survey regions (shaded = present, white = absent). Map data not available for N. Ireland) 

2013 Survey Results and Publications

Thanks to the help of our volunteers, over 800 randomly selected sites were surveyed in 2013, which has resulted in two papers being published using the data collected. 

Changes in population size and distribution

The first paper examines the change in population size and distribution in 2013 and found: 

  • Breeding population estimate of 55,241 males - indicating a 29% decrease since 2003 (78,346 males)
  • Woodcock were encountered at just one-third of the woodlands surveyed (Figure 2)
  • Site occupancy declined by 19%, since 2003.
  • Northern England, eastern England and Northern Scotland had the highest levels of occupancy (Figure 3)
  • The lowest occupancy levels were in Wales and southwest England
  • There was a severe decline in site occupancy of 21% in south Scotland
  • There was an increase in site occupancy of 18% in northern England
  • Occupied sites appear to be clustered around areas where large wooded areas remain, such as the New Forest, Thetford Forest, the Forest of Dean and Kielder Forest.

Breeding abundance, habitat and landscape

The second paper examines the influence of habitat and landscape upon breeding abundance and revealed:  

  • At large landscape scales, breeding abundance was correlated with the total woodland area and woodland type.
  • Woodcock were more abundant in woods containing a varied mix of woodland habitat types and in woods further from urban areas.
  • On a smaller spatial scale, Woodcock were less likely to be found at sites dominated by Beech and more likely to occur in woods containing Birch.

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