Woodcock Survey

Woodcock annual monitoring Survey

If you are interested in taking part for 2024, we will be resuming our ongoing annual monitoring surveys (following on from the big national survey in 2023) at a smaller subset of sites across the UK. Please view the interactive map to see if there are any currently available squares near you.

Woodcock - Graham Giddens

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.

The Woodcock Survey encompasses annual monitoring surveys at specific sites as well as a regular national survey, which takes place every ten years.

How to take part in the annual monitoring surveys in 2024

View available sites in the map below.

If a site is available locally, first sign-up for the survey to request it.


Once logged-in, you can also find the survey sign-up for the Woodcock Survey under 'Sign Up for Projects' at www.bto.org/my-bto.

Request a site

Once signed-up, you can request a square via the survey application. Log-in to the survey application using your BTO account details.

2023 National Survey

In a 2015 review of the species' breeding population status, the Woodcock was was added to the UK Birds of Conservation Concern Red List because of a long-term decline in breeding numbers and range. The purpose of the Woodcock Survey 2023 was to provide an updated national population estimate and assessment of range change compared to the previous national surveys in 2003 and 2013. In addition, habitat use was investigated to improve our knowledge of habitat requirements, which can improve future woodland management for Woodcock.

The Woodcock breeding distribution covers much of Britain and Ireland, however, a considerable reduction in range has been indicated by Bird Atlas 2007-11, 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 the UK Red List (having previously been Amber-listed), 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 national 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

  • Four 75-minute visits at dusk between April and end of June each year.
  • Confident identifying Woodcock.
Project Leads
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Project timeline, contributions & findings

Project timeline

  • 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 1 May and 30 June.

Help us continue our vital surveys

The data from our long-standing surveys and monitoring schemes allow us to conduct robust and objective research, which we use to drive positive change for the UK’s birds.

But with unprecedented pressures on funding, we need your support to continue to collect this data.

Donate to the Surveys Appeal today

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