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.
How to take part
View available sites in the map below.
If a site is available locally, first sign-up for the survey to request it.
- Have a BTO account? Log-in at www.bto.org/my-bto and then sign-up to the survey.
- Don't have a BTO account? Register a new account and then sign-up to the survey.
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 national Woodcock Survey 2023 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 2023 square in your region using the interactive map. 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 national 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 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
- 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.
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...
Science and our new strategy: why BTO is (and always has been) about more than counting birds
What does our new strategy mean for science at BTO? Director of Science James Pearce-Higgins explains why our data continue to play a crucial role in tackling the twin biodiversity and climate crises...