This week, the results of the 2013 Breeding Woodcock Survey have been published in the journal Bird Study. This project is a collaboration between the GWCT and the British Trust for Ornithology.
In 2013, volunteers across the country made a colossal and-much appreciated effort; managing to survey over 900 woodland squares for woodcock.
Counts of roding males made at dusk have allowed us to calculate the proportion of sites that are occupied and the average number of males present at each site.
We can expand from this national sample of surveys to make an estimate of total population size. Unless you are a subscriber to the journal you are probably unable to view the whole article, but the abstract summarises our key findings:
- Woodcock were estimated to be present at 22% of 1 × 1 km squares containing ≥10 ha of woodland, compared to 35% in 2003.
- The British population estimate fell by 29% between 2003 and 2013, from 78,346 to 55,241.
- The long-running Bird Atlas suggests that presence at the 10 × 10 km scale has declined by 56% between 1970 and 2010.
- Both data sources suggest regional variation in the rate of decline, with losses greatest in the West and South.
Obviously, these represent some rather worrying statistics. Our next paper will use the data from the Breeding Woodcock Survey to assess how abundance varies with climatic and habitat factors. This may provide clues as to some of the causes of decline and inform future measures to reverse it.
We thank all the volunteers that made this survey possible, particularly the BTO regional organisers, the surveyors who conducted annual counts between 2003 and 2013 and those who conducted supplementary counts in Scotland in 2014.
Please help us reverse this decline
We need your help to discover why this startling decline is happening, so we can act before it’s too late. Please support our new British woodcock tracking project.