In autumn and continuing through December and January, Britain and Ireland see large influxes of migrant woodcock escaping freezing weather in northern Europe. ‘Falls’ of woodcock are often most noticeable around the full moon in November, commonly referred to as the ‘Woodcock Moon’. As many as 700,000 to 1,200,000 migrant woodcock may arrive from Scandinavia, Finland, the Baltic States, Western Russia and Siberia.
Because their food is inaccessible once the breeding grounds freeze, woodcock are forced to migrate to southern and western Europe where the conditions usually remain mild enough for them to feed. The exact number of migrants that visit Britain will vary depending upon the severity of cold weather elsewhere in Europe.
In winter, woodcock roost in woodland during the day and fly to pasture and arable farmland to feed at night. Woodcock may occasionally be observed feeding in woods or gardens during the day, but this only tends to be during cold periods when a hard frost renders the soil impenetrable at night.
Most migrants will have left Britain by the end of March, though it may be one to two months later before they finally reach their breeding sites.
Find out how we are using satellite-tracking technology to learn more about migrant woodcock >