The breeding display of the Eurasian woodcock: implications for survey interpretation

The male woodcock’s conspicuous breeding display, known as ‘roding’, provides a practical means of surveying a species that is otherwise rarely seen. Roding surveys have formed the basis of national woodcock surveys in Britain since 2003, providing the most accurate indications of population size and trend to date.

Remote sound recorders provide a new way to census a wide range of species, and a 2018 trial demonstrated the potential value of this technique for the study of woodcock. We are looking for an MSc student to build upon this work. As well as running point counts using sound-recording stations, successful candidates will be involved in the tagging and radio-tracking of woodcock and be responsible for gathering complementary movement data focused on the birds’ breeding displays. Existing roding survey and tracking data gathered in 2018 will also be made available for analysis.

Topics that may be considered using these datasets include:

  • a) improving interpretation of roding survey data by refining existing calibration methods
  • b) increasing our understanding of woodcock movement and activity during the dawn and dusk display periods and/or
  • c) assessing how the characteristics of count sites may influence woodcock activity and detectability.

There may be flexibility with regards to the specific direction the project takes depending upon the chosen candidate’s interests.

The project will provide experience with a range of techniques commonly used by field ecologists, such as the use of sound-recording and radio-tracking equipment. A varied schedule will balance a mix of fieldwork (surveys, radio-tracking and recorder deployment) with some desk-based work (processing recordings). Woodcock catching and tagging will be conducted by a licensed member of GWCT staff, but successful candidates will be expected to radio-track birds, sometimes independently, following initial training. Survey work takes place during the evening, so candidates must be comfortable working at dusk during April-June.

A place is available for one student, based in Hampshire. A driving licence is essential.


Christopher Heward
01425 651051

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