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Project partners

British Trust for Ornithology logo
RSPB logo

Woodcock survey results

Annual roding counts: 2003-2020

Thanks to a growing group of dedicated volunteers, we now have good data on the number of roding Woodcock for upto 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. However, in 2016 there was a substantial increase, giving the highest counts since 2008 but numbers then reduced in 2017 and appear to have stabilised, but in 2020 numbers have declined again. .

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 invovle factors in addition to weather, it is essential that we continue to count atleast 100 sites per year in order to more closely monitor future change. 

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

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. 

The first paper examines change in poulation size and distritution in 2013 (view paper here) 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 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 soutwest 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.

The second paper examines the influence of habitat and landscape upon breeding abundance (view paper here) and revealed:  

  • At large landscape scales, breeding abundance was correlated with 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.

Fig 2 - Woodcock presence and

absence at 955 surveyed sites

across the UK (darker shaded =

present, lighter shaded = absent)

(Click to enlarge)

Fig 3 - Woodcock presence and

absence across 11 UK survey regions

(shaded = present, white = absent).

Map data not available for N. Ireland)

(Click to enlarge)

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