Scolopax minor - Gmelin, 1789
American Woodcock
Other English Common Names: American woodcock
Synonym(s): Philohela minor
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Scolopax minor Gmelin, 1789 (TSN 176580)
French Common Names: Bécasse d'Amérique
Spanish Common Names: Chocha Americana
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105226
Element Code: ABNNF19020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Shorebirds
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Scolopacidae Scolopax
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Scolopax minor
Taxonomic Comments: Formerly included in genus Philohela. See Banks and Browning (1995) for a discussion of why the generic name Philohela should be used over Rubicola if the American woodcock is considered to be generically distinct from the Old World woodcocks placed in Scolopax.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 26Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: This species is estimated to number in the millions still despite the population declines.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (15Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S3B,S5N), Arkansas (S2B,S3N), Connecticut (S5), Delaware (S4), District of Columbia (S3N), Florida (SNRN), Georgia (S5), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4B), Iowa (S4B,S5N), Kansas (S2B), Kentucky (S4S5B), Louisiana (S1B,S5N), Maine (S5B,S5N), Maryland (S4B,S4N), Massachusetts (S4B,S4N), Michigan (S4), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNRB), Nebraska (S3), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S5), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S4B,S4N), North Dakota (SU), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S3), Pennsylvania (S5B), Rhode Island (S4B,S4N), South Carolina (S4), South Dakota (S3B), Tennessee (S4B), Texas (S2B,S3N), Vermont (S5B), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S4B,S3N), Wisconsin (S3S4B)
Canada Labrador (SNA), Manitoba (S4B), New Brunswick (S5B,S5M), Newfoundland Island (S1B,SUM), Nova Scotia (S5B), Ontario (S4B), Prince Edward Island (S5B), Quebec (S5)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: southern Manitoba east across southern Canada and the northern U.S. to Newfoundland, south to eastern Oklahoma, east-central Texas, Gulf coast, and Florida (AOU 1998); mainly in northeastern U.S., Great Lakes states, and adjacent Canada (Keppie and Whiting 1994). NON-BREEDING: southeastern U.S. from eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, Tennessee, northern portions of Gulf states, and southern New England south to east-central Texas, Gulf coast, and southern Florida (AOU 1998); winter use of the northern part of this range in greatest in mild winters. MIGRATION: concentrations of migrants occur in fall at Canaan Valley, West Virginia; Cape Charles, Virginia; and Cape May, New Jersey. May concentrate also on some Mississippi River islands and bottomland areas (USFWS 1990).

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: An estimate given population size estimate of 3.5 million and home ranges of 40 hectares (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013).

Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Found throughout all of eastern United States up to just north of the Great Lakes in the midwest and up to the maritime provinces in the east. Widespread in several states and provinces (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013).

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Morrison, etl al.'s latest estimate (2006) is 3.5 million individuals. Morrison et al. (2001) roughly estimated the total population to be about 5 million individuals. In 1990, 2 million were shot by hunters in the United States (USFWS 1990).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)
Viability/Integrity Comments: An estimate. EOs in state and national parks and national wildlife refuges should be "good" EOs.

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: HABITAT LOSS: The most serious threat is habitat loss and alteration, through urbanization, reforestation, drainage of wetlands, and agricultural development (Owen et al. 1977, Dwyer et al. 1983, Keppie and Whiting 1994, Straw et al. 1994, Krementz and Jackson 1999). The primary cause has been urbanization, which has severe impacts along the east coast (Dwyer and Storm 1982, Dwyer et al. 1983, USFWS 1988, Krementz and Jackson 1999).

As forests in the northern breeding range age, early-successional stands are becoming scarce (Straw et al. 1994). Brooks and Birch (1988) report that as of 1988, young stands made up only 8% of the timberland in New England (Krementz and Jackson 1994). Loss of early-successional habitat is primarily due to changes in forest structure, not from gains or losses in acreage. Changing management objectives and techniques, changing landowner attitudes, slowing farm abandonment, increased fire suppression and the increased pace of urbanization are sources of change (Brooks and Birch 1988; USFWS 1990).

Throughout the southern breeding range, primary threats include water development, including land drainage and impoundments; and conversion of bottomland forests to cropland or forest monocultures (Owen et al 1977, USFWS 1990, Krementz and Jackson 1999, Boothe and Parker 2000). In addition, loss of marginal brush and increasing farm size increase vulnerability to hunting (Brauning 1992).

HUNTING: Hunting may potentially have a significant impact when populations are reduced by adverse weather, but little is known (Sepik et al. 1993). Data do not indicate that hunting has played a major role in declines, but proper management requires better understanding the relationship among regulations, harvest, and populations (Straw et al. 1994). An estimated 2 million were shot in 1990 in the U.S. (USFWS 1990) but harvests have been declining for the last decade (Kelley 2001). In Canada, roughly 84,000 were shot in 1992 (Keppie and Whiting 1994).

POLLUTION, PESTICIDES AND CONTAMINANTS: Acid deposition poses a potential threat through its effect on soil pH and earthworms (Esher et al. 1993). Lead contamination is thought to be widespread in eastern Canada and is likely problematic throughout regions in the U.S. where woodcock is hunted (Scheuhammer et al. 1999). Lead has been measured in woodcock at levels higher than those found in many ducks and may be ingested directly as shot, or it may be spread through the food chain as it dissolves in the soil and ingested through contaminated earthworms.

In the past, high levels of DDT has accumulated in breast muscle, closing the hunting season in New Brunswick in 1970 (Dilworth et al. 1972). Woodcock also accumulate dieldrin, PCBs, mercury, heptachlor epoxide and mirex, though generally at low levels (Clark and McLane 1974). High levels of DDT may have reduced breeding success (Wright 1965), but the effects of other chemicals are unknown. Certainly, pesticides may contribute to declines due to impact on the food chain (Boothe and Parker 2000).

COLLISIONS: Impacts with communications towers are likely as woodcock are nocturnal migrants thought to fly at low altitude; few data are available, however. Construction of communication towers in the United States has been growing at an exponential rate, increasing at an estimated 6 percent to 8 percent annually. According to the Federal Communication Commission2000 Antenna Structure Registry, the number of lighted towers greater than 199 feet above ground level (AGL) currently number over 45,000 and the total number of towers is over 74,000; up to 26,000 additional towers may be unregistered. This increasingly large number of obstacles will likely result in larger numbers of migrating birds killed in collisions (Evans and Manville 2000).

SENSITIVITY TO DISTURBANCE AT NEST: There is concern about the effect of mowing low vegetation and prescribed burning on populations, but little information available (Walker and Causey 1982).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: In the two decades 1980-1999, a non-significant annual decline of -1.6% was recorded (Sauer et al. 2000). Regionally, statistically significant declines have taken place in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region (-6.9%/year), southern New England (-14.3%/year), the Great Lakes Transition (-20.4%/year) and in the Adirondack Mountains (-14.4%/year). However, despite their statistical significance,these trends are problematic statistically because of the low detection rate (Sauer et al. 2000). State and regional results show sharp, but non-statistically significant declines for the period 1980-1999. The most alarming regional declines (1980-1999) occurred in Minnesota (-33.5%/year; p = 0.07 and New York (-10.5%/year; p = 0.07).

Singing ground surveys show similar long-term decreases (1968-1993) in mean numbers of males heard: -1.8% / yr in eastern region, -0.9%/yr, central region (Straw et al. 1994). Singing ground surveys for the period 1991- 2001 indicate that the Eastern and Central breeding populations (northern part of range only) declined 2.6 and 2.5% per year respectively. Data from 2001 showed no significant change in numbers from 2000 levels, however. The number of birds displaying in the central region, however, decreased 12.9% over 1999 levels (Kelley 2001).

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: Long-term declines are apparent; trend data from individual monitoring efforts correlate well. Survey-wide results for the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) indicate a long-term annual decline of -2.3%/year (1966-1999; n = 84). However, because of a paucity of detections (except for the Adirondacks, no region or state record an average of more than 0.1 birds/route), the trend is not statistically significant.
Between 1970 and 1990, singing ground surveys indicated populations declined in the Northeast by 36% and by 19% in the Midwest (Keppie and Whiting 1994). In every state in the Northeast except New Hampshire, the number of males heard declined (Bruggink and Kendall 1995).
Hunting success indices also show that the annual harvest has been declining among hunters participating in the survey for over a decade. These results are consistent with the results of the Annual Questionnaire Survey of U.S. Waterfowl Hunters (Martin 1979, and unpubl. rep., U.S. Fish and Wildl. Serv., Office of Migratory Bird Management, Laurel).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Not intrinsically vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: This species is widely distributed and although its abundance has declined in recent years, there is no evidence its overall range has shrunk. Declines in the eastern part of its range may be compensated by its distribution northward and westward as northern coniferous forests are being opened up by large-scale harvesting (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013).

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Environmental Specificity Comments: This species is not restricted to specific plant species assemblages but prefers young forest and abandoned farmland mixed with forest. Woodcocks primarily take earthworms and are not found where soil conditions are not conducive to good earthworm numbers (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Need better information on the apparent range expansion of this species. Current monitoring schemes may not adequately survey the full breeding range of this species (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013). Determine areas that are important as refuges during severe winter weather; these may be essential to maintaining stable populations (Roberts 1993).

Protection Needs: Protect key wintering habitats.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: southern Manitoba east across southern Canada and the northern U.S. to Newfoundland, south to eastern Oklahoma, east-central Texas, Gulf coast, and Florida (AOU 1998); mainly in northeastern U.S., Great Lakes states, and adjacent Canada (Keppie and Whiting 1994). NON-BREEDING: southeastern U.S. from eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, Tennessee, northern portions of Gulf states, and southern New England south to east-central Texas, Gulf coast, and southern Florida (AOU 1998); winter use of the northern part of this range in greatest in mild winters. MIGRATION: concentrations of migrants occur in fall at Canaan Valley, West Virginia; Cape Charles, Virginia; and Cape May, New Jersey. May concentrate also on some Mississippi River islands and bottomland areas (USFWS 1990).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV
Canada LB, MB, NB, NF, NS, ON, PE, QC

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
MS Bolivar (28011)*, Choctaw (28019), Greene (28041), Lincoln (28085)*, Oktibbeha (28105), Perry (28111)
ND Ransom (38073)
NE Antelope (31003), Boyd (31015), Keith (31101), Keya Paha (31103), Lincoln (31111), Nance (31125), Pierce (31139)
SD Brookings (46011), Clay (46027)*, Day (46037), Deuel (46039), Grant (46051), Gregory (46053), Lincoln (46083), Minnehaha (46099), Moody (46101), Roberts (46109), Sully (46119), Union (46127)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Noxubee (03160108)+, Lower Leaf (03170005)+, Pascagoula (03170006)+, Black (03170007)+, Upper Pearl (03180001)+, Bogue Chitto (03180005)+*
07 Upper Minnesota (07020001)+, Lac Qui Parle (07020003)+
08 Lower Mississippi-Helena (08020100)+*, Lower Mississippi-Greenville (08030100)+*
09 Lower Sheyenne (09020204)+
10 Lower Lake Oahe (10130105)+, Middle Niobrara (10150004)+, Lower Niobrara (10150007)+, Lewis and Clark Lake (10170101)+, Vermillion (10170102)+*, Middle Big Sioux Coteau (10170201)+, Upper Big Sioux (10170202)+, Lower Big Sioux (10170203)+, Lower North Platte (10180014)+, Loup (10210009)+, Upper Elkhorn (10220001)+, North Fork Elkhorn (10220002)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A bird (shorebird).
Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins early January to February in south, to early April in north. Usually ends by early June (Baicich and Harrison 1997). In northern range, nest typically in young, sparse, usually upland, mixed-growth woodlands (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Also in shrubby cover, edges of clearings, in thickets, or under trees in open woodland, with dead leaf cover. Often found in moist areas. Nest a shallow depression into existing leaf and twig litter, usually < 1m from base of tree, shrub. Unconcealed and under bushes, among dead trees and twigs (Keppie and Whiting 1994, Baicich and Harrison 1997). Male performs an aerial courtship display, flying spirally upward while creating a twittering sound with its flight feathers.

Female lays four grayish orange eggs, occasionally 3-5 (Keppie and Whiting 1994, Baicich and Harrison 1997). Female incubates. Young hatch in 20-21 days (Baicich and Harrison 1997). Young are precocial, departing nest within a few hours, feeding with help of parent. Rapidly grow and reach full size at 30 days. Young are tended by female for about 1 month, can fly at 14-15 days, and become independent of parent 31-38 days (Horton and Causey 1979, Sepik et al. 1981, Keppie and Whiting 1994). Single-brooded, but may renest if the nest is destroyed or if the young are lost early during brood rearing (Keppie and Whiting 1994).

Ecology Comments: Population density in a given area tends to be unpredictable, variable in time and space. Low temperatures and snowstorms in breeding areas in spring may reduce food availability and local breeding populations (Sepik et al. 1993). There appears to be a drifting opportunistic male population that promptly takes over abandoned singing sites. This surplus population consists of subadults that function by being able to inseminate late-nesting females, or females attempting to renest (Roberts 1980).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Breeding populations in the north are migratory. A nocturnal migrant, probably flying singly or in loose flocks and at low altitude (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Migrates in broad eastern and central north-south flyways (Coon 1977). Young tend to use coastal routes (Sepik et al. 1981). Cape May, New Jersey, and Cape Charles, Virginia, are major staging areas for woodcock during migration, especially in the fall (Krementz and Jackson 1999).

Most migrate from wintering to breeding grounds in late January and early February, arriving from mid-march to early April (Sepik et al. 1981). Fall migration is more drawn out, typically from October through November or early December. Cold fronts and poor weather may cause large flights, but the driving force is likely day-length.

Male monthly home ranges in summer 17-120 hectares, mean 71 hectares; female home ranges smaller (Sepik and Derleth 1993).

Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Grassland/herbaceous, Old field, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Closely associated with young, second-growth hardwoods and other early-successional habitats that are a result of periodic forest disturbance (Straw et al. 1994). Ideal habitat consists of young forests and abandoned farmland mixed with forested land (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Generally considered an edge species.

Requires a mix of habitats that vary with activity, time of day, and season. These include forest openings or clearings for singing displays in spring, alder or other young hardwoods on moist soils for feeding and daytime cover, young second-growth hardwoods for nesting, and large fields for night-time roosts (Mendall and Aldous 1943, Andrle and Carroll 1988, Boothe and Parker 2000). Should any of these habitats be lacking, the density or productivity of breeding populations may be affected (Gutzwiller et al. 1982).

Display areas (singing grounds) for courtship and roosting sites are provided by forest openings, clear-cuts, fields, dirt roads, blueberry fields, new tree plantations, and pastures and abandoned farmland such as hay fields adjacent to feeding cover (Mendall and Aldous 1943, Liscinski 1972, Owen and Morgan 1975, Keppie and Whiting 1994, Krementz and Jackson 1999). Burned areas or farmland reverting to woodlands often provide favorable habitat (Brauning 1992). In early summer, these areas also start being used for nocturnal roosting areas by many (but not all) woodcock (Sheldon 1971, Dunford and Owen 1973, Wishart and Bider 1976, Owen et al. 1977, Sepik et al. 1981, Sepik and Derleth 1993). In Maine, these fields average 1.2 ha, and typically have short, sparse plant cover (Dunford and Owen 1973). Plant species composition of singing grounds varies throughout range (Dwyer et al. 1982b, Sepik et al. 1993).

In comparison with singing grounds, day (feeding) cover is much less open. Use predominantly second-growth (15-30-year-old) hardwood or mixed woods with shrubs, but also including bottomland hardwoods, upland mixed pine-hardwoods, and mature longleaf pine (PINUS PALUSTRIS) after recent burning (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Dense alder (ALNUS spp.) thickets < 20 yr age are especially important throughout much of range, but young aspen (POPULUS TREMULOIDES) and birch (BETULA spp.) provide appropriate mixture in the north-central range (Morgenweck 1977, Rabe 1977, Hudgins et al. 1985, Keppie and Whiting 1994); hawthorn and dogwood also in the Northeast (Keppie and Whiting 1994, Straw et al. 1994). Typical overstory canopy cover in diurnal sites is 53-64% (Dunford and Owen 1973), but this may vary daily, seasonally, and regionally according to shrub density and soil moisture that facilitate foraging (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Shrub cover is typically quite high (75-87%; Morgenweck 1977) and often adjacent to the display area. Moist (loamy) soils are important to maintain abundant earthworms. At dusk, woodcock move from daytime feeding cover to roost at night in fields of at least 1.2 acres.

Nests in young, open, second-growth deciduous forests with well-drained soils. More abundant in open forest than in denser deciduous sapling or conifer cover (McAuley et al. 1996). Nesting habitat varies geographically, including drier woodland sites, young open woodlands, low shrubby cover, old fields, tall herbage bordering clearings, thickets, scrub oaks or pines, open woodland with dead leaf cover on ground, and flat bottomlands near water. High shrub stem density and presence of edge habitat may be important in nest site selection in some areas (Dwyer and Storm 1982).

On the western edge of its range, may be dependent on moist, wooded, riverine areas and wet meadows in young woodlands (Keppie and Whiting 1994). In eastern Maine, often nests in birch-aspen-spruce-fir (Mendall and Aldous 1943) and aspen (D. McAuley, U.S. Fish Wildl. Ser. unpubl. Data, in Keppie and Whiting 1994). Central portion of range differs. Found predominantly in hawthorn and crabapple fields in Pennsylvania (Licinsky 1972), shrubby old fields in Missouri and well drained ridge tops in Virginia (Murphy and Thompson 1993). In mid-aged, open growth, mixed pine-hardwood forests on lowland flood plains in Virginia (Roboski and Causey 1981). In the Northeast, rarely use conifer stands, except during drought when they may be critical for survival (Sepik et al. 1981). High use of older forest stands has been documented in some areas (Pace and Wood 1993), especially if there is a dense understory (Sheldon 1967, Rabe 1977).

NON-BREEDING: Non-breeding habitat is similar to breeding habitat but typically includes more man-made habitats (e.g. sewage farms, rice fields), upper reaches of estuaries and occasionally coastal meadows (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and is not limited to early-successional habitats. Unlike on the breeding grounds, mature pine-hardwood and bottomland hardwoods are often preferred (Krementz and Pendleton 1994, Horton and Causey 1979). Winter habitats range from bottomland hardwoods to upland pine stands, young pine plantations, and mature pine-hardwoods, though in some pine habitats the birds tend to focus their activities in lowlands dominated by hardwoods (Roberts 1993); generally occupy moist thickets in daytime, and sometimes shift to more open habitats such as pastures, fields (including agricultural), and young clearcuts at night. In Georgia, use of forested habitats at night was extensive whereas use of fields generally was low, though some fields were heavily used (Krementz et al. 1995). See Dwyer and Storm (1982) and Roberts (1993) for detailed information on habitat characteristics.

MIGRATORY: Diurnal habitat during migration similar to breeding habitat. Found in moist areas with young hardwoods and shrubs. In spring, restricted to snow-free sites (Keppie and Whiting 1994).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats mainly invertebrates, especially earthworms (Oligochaeta), obtained by probing into mud or damp earth or from ground surface or under leaf litter (Terres 1980). Earthworms make up nearly 80% of the total diet (Sperry 1940, Keppie and Whiting 1994). When earthworms are unavailable or scarce as in early spring and winter, diet may be broader (Keppie and Whiting 1994). Also eats larvae of beetles, flies and other insects when available, and, more rarely, ants, moths, snails, and seeds from various plants (Ehrlich et al. 1988, Keppie and Whiting 1994,)
Adult Phenology: Circadian
Immature Phenology: Circadian
Phenology Comments: Peaks in feeding activity seem to vary geographically and seasonally. Male courtship acitivities occur at dusk and dawn and throughout the night when the moon is full (Sepik et al. 1981).
Length: 28 centimeters
Weight: 219 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Hunted in many states and five Canadian provinces; leading harvest states are Maine, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. USFWS waterfowl harvest survey in the mid-1980s estimated that 700,000 hunters annually harvest 2 million woodcock (Roberts 1989). Except in Louisiana, there is no strong tradition of woodcock hunting in the southeastern U.S. (Roberts 1993).
Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Associated with young, second-growth hardwoods and other early-successional habitats that are a result of periodic forest disturbance. Requires a mix of habitats that vary with activity, time of day, and season. Most likely threatened by a combination of hunting and habitat loss from reforestation, urbanization and agriculture. Long- and short-term population declines are apparent. Federal management plans have been developed that incorporate habitat conservation and monitoring programs. However, because most habitat is privately owned, further progress needs to be made encouraging timber companies and other private landowners to manage their lands consistent with the needs of woodcock.
Restoration Potential: Responds to habitat management.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: The extent of various habitats and their spatial relationships are important in maintaining or encouraging woodcocks at a site. They require a certain interspersion of diurnal/nesting (forest, shrubland) and display/nocturnal (grassland) cover (Sepik et al. 1993). Day cover is generally not far from the display grounds (Sheldon 1971, Wishart and Bider 1976), usually within 100-180 m (Sheldon 1971, Kinsley et al. 1982). Nests often are within 90 m of an occupied display ground (Sepik et al. 1981). The display grounds themselves can be as small as 0.05 ha (Brauning 1992), as large as 40 ha (Sepik et al. 1981), but should probably be over 1.2 ha (Keppie and Whiting, Jr. 1994). Dunford and Owen (1973) further determined that adults travel a mean distance of 170 m between day and night habitats, as compared with 330 m for young birds.

During the non-breeding season nocturnal field types such as fallow-old fields and clearcuts should be created within 230 m of bottomland swamps. Forest openings should be > 5.5 ha (Breeden and Krementz 1998). Home range size of wintering birds is thought to be about 15-20 ha (Roberts 1993), but varies among cover types (Sepik and Derleth 1993). Wintering birds may move up to at least a kilometer or so between different habitat types used in a single 24-hour period (Krementz et al. 1995).

Management Requirements: Successful management of this species will include habitat conservation and management and careful monitoring of populations and hunting effort. A top priority is implementing a program to help commercial timber companies incorporate woodcock habitat management in their plans and to educate private landowners about potential habitat management opportunities on their lands. Protection and enhancement of important migratory and wintering habitats is also a top priority. Acquisition of these sites may be possible due to their discrete nature (USFWS 1990).

BREEDING SEASON: Successful management must include creation or maintenance of the many types of habitat required. Key factors to manage for are: 1) habitat structure, 2) soil texture, 3) weather factors/soil moisture, and 4) vegetation (Krementz and Jackson 1999). Habitat structure appropriate for feeding cover, display/ roosting grounds and nesting all must be provided in appropriate areas and configuration.

Maintaining habitat for roosting and displays can be accomplished through discing, mowing, use of herbicides, prescribed burns, and encouraging native trees and shrubs. The goal is for fields to appear "patchy," rather than uniform in structure. Moderate use of livestock grazing can accomplish this type of open, patchy environment (Krementz and Jackson 1999), but extensive grazing will destroy bottomland habitats. Boothe and Parker (2000) determined that proper grazing intensity is not more than 30 grazing days per acre. A grazing day is defined as one head of cattle per acre per day.

Fields must be periodically maintained. After roughly 5-10 years, plant succession will change open fields back into a closed canopy forest. As the ground and mid-story vegetation disappear, woodcock will cease using the site (Krementz and Jackson 1999). Application of herbicide is an option for maintaining fields by controlling alder and other vegetation growth and is thought to have little affect on earthworm populations. Boothe and Parker (2000) recommend two applications on calm, cool days over a two-week period when leaves have reached full size.

From Boothe and Parker (2000): Planting shrubs in open fields and around the perimeter of cultivated fields will provide roosting and escape cover but should be kept to a maximum of 6.1 meters. Alder, specifically, can be easily managed to provide good habitat. Forest clearings should be oriented perpendicular to a stream or other water bodies if possible. Alder nearest the stream will grow quickly and more densely, maintaining the moist soil types that are preferred for foraging. On drier ground, alder will grow slowly, maintaining display ground/ roost conditions longer. As the alder ages, it should be periodically cut or burned to maintain its thick, upright structure. Other appropriate shrubs for wet sites are hawthorns, gray dogwood, spicebush, silky dogwood, black haw, and dentate viburnum. Even small amounts of croplands are useful, especially as roost sites. Blueberry fields make excellent roosting and courting areas.

In general, wetter sites such as springs, streams and creeks should be left alone. Fencing off riparian areas will prevent damage from livestock, allowing thickets to grow (Krementz and Jackson 1999). If possible, grassy areas near water sources should be maintained because they make prime nesting and display grounds (Boothe and Parker 2000).

Silvicultural practices can also enhance habitat (Sepik et al. 1981, Rosenberg and Hodgman 2000). While timber-rotations can incidentally result in suitable habitat, targeted management is a more valuable tool. Clearcuts can provide good nocturnal roosting cover. Furthermore, clearcutting small strips and blocks in mature woods in Maine has been shown to increase numbers (Dwyer et al. 1982a); new blocks or strips are cut every 8-10 years on a 40-50-year rotation to provide a continuous supply of young growth. McAuley et al. (1996) recommend maintaining at least 25% of land in early-successional habitat by clearcutting blocks at least 2 ha or 30 m-wide strips in mature forest on a 40-year rotation. Stands of alders and similar shrub species should be encouraged and maintained by strip-cutting on a 20-year rotation. Detailed plans are outlined in Sepik et al. (1981).

The goal is to provide a diverse-age forest canopy. Shelterwood and seed trees that are often left over in partial timber harvests help to retain a patchy structure that woodcock prefer. In a similar way, a dense wood can be improved for woodcock by selectively harvesting a few trees, allowing light to reach the ground and cover plants to grow. Krementz and Jackson (1999) state that there is no correct number of trees to remove when thinning. Woodcock require a relatively thick understory, and growth after tree removal may be poor for woodcock depending on the soil, plant species present, and previous history of the site.

For areas where small-scale timber production is desired, Boothe and Parker (2000) recommend short rotations (roughly 40 years) be used. They further recommend burning slash from clearcuts to enhance these openings for woodcock nesting, courting and roosting. However, a shift away from even-aged management (creating large areas of uniform shrub cover) may be detrimental to populations (Keppie and Whiting 1994, Rosenberg and Hodgman 2000)

Where possible, natural disturbances historically responsible for creation of early-successional habitat should be encouraged. Beavers created extensive habitat, as did fire and possibly windstorms. European settlement and subsequent clearing presumably favored this species (Foss 1994).

NONBREEDING SEASON: Woodcock use a wider variety of habitats during the non-breeding season. At some sites woodcock habitat varies from year to year, making clear management recommendations difficult to make. Krementz and Pendleton (1994) recommend that a wide variety of habitats and age classes be available to meet the preferences of wintering woodcock. This diversity of habitat types may be especially important to survival when severe weather forces woodcock from preferred sites. Burning and mowing can also be used to improve foraging habitat, but appropriate habitat should be maintained for birds that remain to nest. For more information see Roberts (1993).

Prescribed Burns: The use of prescribed burns is a common forest management practice and can be used to set back plant succession. A light, controlled fire can maintain habitat patchiness as well. Burns may also remove pine needle cover, opening the ground to woodcock foraging.

Hunting: Hunting should continue to be managed through the existing regulatory processes with harvest levels commensurate with population status. Because of its habitat requirements and unique behaviors, woodcock may be prone to over-harvest. Research by Pace (2000) and Olinde et al. (2000) suggest that reducing season length or bag limits might influence woodcock population dynamics by reducing total mortality during winter on areas with moderate hunting pressure. Local landowners can prevent over-harvest my monitoring the number of gunners, daily bag limit, timing of the hunting season, and accessibility of woodcock cover (Boothe and Parker 2000). Excessive hunting during courtship and the breeding season are especially problematic.

For more information on managing habitat for woodcock, see Hobson et al. (1993), Sepik et al. (1981; available through the Ruffed Grouse Society at http://www.ruffedgrousesociety.org), Williamson and Langley (1992), and Krementz and Jackson (1999; for copy contact D. Krementz, Arkansas Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, WAAX, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701; available online at: http://www.ces.uga.edu/pubcd/b1183.htm), and "Prescribed Burning: A Management Tool. Georgia Extension Bulletin 838."

See USFWS (1990) for general and specific habitat and population management recommendations. See Williamson (1993) for comments on this plan. See McAuley et al. (1996) for information on habitat evaluation procedures. See Dwyer and Storm (1982), Roberts (1993), and Williamson and Langley (1992) for information on habitat management (generally involves clearcutting of forest, burning or mowing, and/or planting of desirable species such as aspen or dogwoods).

Monitoring Requirements: Under the American Woodcock management plan, populations are monitored through two methods, the singing-ground survey and wing-collection survey. These surveys provide more reliable population indices than more traditional census methods (Bruggink and Kendall 1995, Krementz and Jackson 1999).

Efficient, reliable methods for monitoring wintering populations have not been developed (Roberts 1993). See Wakeley et al. (1990) and Roberts (1993) for a description of an auditory survey technique (including survey form). See also Tappe et al. (1993). See McAuley et al. (1996) for information on capture techniques, aging and sexing methods, telemetric study of populations and habitat use, and use of colored leg bands. See Steketee and Robinson (1995) for information on the use of fluorescent powder for tracking broods. Couture et al. (1993) concluded that Landsat satellite imagery is effective for surveying large areas for habitat and may allow derivation of an index of the total population for different parts of the range.

Management Research Needs: The following research needs relevant to management have been suggested:

1) Examine survival in different habitats under different weather conditions for both adults in winter and adults and broods in summer (Sepik et al. 1991, Roberts 1993).

2) Identify and evaluate silvicultural practices that improve habitat (Roberts 1993).

3) Determine effects of habitat management techniques on other priority, early-successional bird species (Roberts 1993, Rosenberg and Hodgman 2000). For example, management for Golden-winged Warbler (VERMIVORA CHRYSOPTERA) may be consistent with requirements for woodcock, at least in portions of its range.

4) Determine the effects of hunting on populations (Sepik et al. 1991).

5) Develop tools to improve habitat quality on southern ranges, patterned after those efforts at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (ME) (Sepik et al. 1981).

6) Study the causes of range expansion (Keppie and Whiting 1994)

7) Compare early successional habitats resulting from natural disturbances vs. forestry practices with regard to suitability for high-priority species (Rosenberg and Hodgman 2000)

Keppie and Whiting (1994) put priority on investigating the functional interrelationships between habitat structure and breeding success, as well as local and large scale population dynamics. In addition, they identify a need for better population estimates for birds breeding in the southern range. More investigation is needed regarding winter habitat requirements (USFWS 1990).

Biological Research Needs: There is lack of of understanding of the relationship between habitat structure and breeding success of individual woodcock (McAuley, Keppie, and Whiting, 2013).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Shorebirds

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Feeding Area, Breeding Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas of nesting adults and broods. Because separations are based on nesting areas, the foraging areas of different occurrences may overlap if nesting birds are traveling to distant places to feed.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance pertains specifically to nesting areas, not to locations of dispersed foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas.

The separation distance is an arbitrary value; it is impractical to attempt to delineate shorebird occurrences on the basis of dispersal patterns or metapopulation dynamics. Foraging ranges of some nesting shorebird species (see following) may suggest use of a larger separation distance, but this likely would result in occurrences that are too large and less effective for conservation planning.

Separation distance based on larger 'typical' breeding home ranges with diameters of 1.5 to 3 kilometers. Semipalmated Plovers have breeding home ranges up to 3 square kilometers, i.e. a diameter of just under 2 kilometers (Nol and Blanken 1999). Red-necked Phalaropes have a core home range of 1-3 hectares, but occasionally travel 1.5 kilometers to feed (Rubega et al. 2000). Stilt Sandpipers can forage up to 8 kilometers from nest (Jehl 1973). Mountain Plovers have an average home range of 56.6 hectares (Knopf 1996) but broods typically move 1-2 kilometers shortly after hatching (Knopf and Rupert 1996).

Territories: Common Snipe, 6.4-28.6 hectares (Mueller 1999); Long-billed Dowitcher, 100-300 meter diameter (Johnsgard 1981); golden-plovers, average 10-59 hectares (Johnson and Connors 1996); Long-billed Curlew, 6-20 hectares (Johnsgard 1981).

Nesting densities: Black-bellied Plover, 0.3-2.3 pairs per square kilometer (44 ha per pair at latter density; Hussell and Page 1976, Parmelee et al. 1967); Marbled Godwit, maximum density 1 pair/32 hectares (Stewart and Kantrud 1972).

Foraging distances: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, up to 13 kilometers from nest (Elphick and Tibbits 1998, Tibbits and Moskoff 1999).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1.5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a smaller 'typical' home ranges (see Separation Justification).
Date: 25Mar2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Roost, Foraging concentration area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat (minimum can be reduced in the case of rarer species). Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 5 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging or roosting birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Roost, Winter Feeding Area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering flocks (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat. Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 5 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging or roosting birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 25Mar2004
Author: S. Cannings
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 19Sep2014
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Robertson, B; edited by S. Cannings; edited by Jue, Dean K.
Management Information Edition Date: 16Jan2002
Management Information Edition Author: Robertson, B., revisions by S. Cannings and D.W. Mehlman
Management Information Acknowledgments: Funding for the preparation of this abstract was provided by the Department of Defense, Partners in Flight Program, through The Nature Conservancy, Wings of the Americas Program.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 21Apr2004
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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