Data and Reasons for Decline in Woodcock Numbers
The most recent data from The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust shows a substantial decline in numbers of the native bird from some 78,350 breeding males in 2003 to some 55,000 today; a rate of decline which potentially threatens their long term sustainability.
The long-running Bird Atlas Survey suggests that presence of our native bird 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 South and West.
Contrary to the belief that migrant numbers are stable, The Woodcock Trust believes that the numbers of migrant birds may also have fallen sharply in many parts of the country since the late 1990s. The evidence for such, are the anecdotal records from a number of shoots, which used to “bag” hundreds of woodcock each season on a regular basis and which now, sadly, only see the odd bird each year.
It is clear that there may be several different factors impacting on the decline of our native bird, including changing habitat, disturbance, increased predation and a change in climate and farming techniques, not necessarily just shooting; but clearly shooting is not helping a population already in steep decline.
There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that over shooting European (migratory) birds in December and January (and/or possibly a warming climate) means the migratory lines are broken and such parts of the population become unsustainable and do not return.
On a more positive note, there are parts of the Country in which the woodcock appear to be doing well, but it is important not to shoot the resident birds in such areas, as any meaningful re-population will, at least in part, be reliant on new birds spreading out from such “pockets” of success.
What you can do to help
- Join TWT as a Member, wear you badge with pride and Instead of shooting Woodcock, why not start “doffing” your cap at them and hope to win gin at the same time!
- Please clock our Woodcock Code!
- Encourage your fellow sportsmen and women to refrain from shooting Woodcock for the time being.
- By buying a tray of 20 Badges & 20 Car stickers for £200 and selling them for £10 each to “Guns” on shoot days and get 2 annual Memberships for FREE! This will really help get the message “Out There” and right at the heart of the shooting community.
- Please contact Charlie Pinckney for further information through our “Contact” page.
Member of the Public
- If you regularly walk your dog in scrub or woodland, which would otherwise remain undisturbed, then try and do so on a less regular basis, especially during the breeding/nesting season in Late Spring and Summer
- Do not buy Woodcock from game dealers for consumption.
- Inspire your shooting friends to refrain from killing them!
- Woodcock love boggy, tussocky ground with some cover. Consider setting aside a few patches of boggy ground, creating an attractive habitat for the Woodcock.
- Run cattle in parts of boggy woodland to “poach up” the ground (difficult but effective!)
- Thin out dense woodland, creating small clearings suitable for the male Woodcock’s courtship dance!
- Leave some woods, which are never shot, as “protected holding” areas.
- Leave Woodland as undisturbed as possible in Spring / Summertime.
- Manage deer populations effectively.
- Contact Charlie Pinckney to become involved in Woodcock woodland sponsorship/grants.