In 2015, the woodcock was placed on the UK Red list as a bird of conservation concern. This status was assigned to the British breeding population as a result of serious declines over the past 40 years. Between 1970 and 2010 site occupancy declined by 56% according to the Bird Atlas.
The total European population consists of 6.9 to 8.7 million pairs. A few of these European populations are undergoing declines but most appear to be stable. The vast majority of woodcock in Europe are migratory, breeding in Northern Europe and Russia and wintering in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
Understanding woodcock ecology is important for the conservation of the species. The initial aim of the Woodcock Watch project was to understand the migrations of the many woodcock which overwinter here in the UK. This is providing information on their origins and migration routes, which in turn will help safeguard the species’ future.
Increasingly, our work is focussing on the ecology of our declining resident population. Knowing more about the breeding behaviour and habitat requirements of our native breeding woodcock is essential to reversing recent declines.
Compared to many other birds, we still know little about woodcock. Learning more is important because the species is potentially susceptible to altered conditions resulting from climate change and habitat destruction and is widely hunted across Europe.