Helping Woodcock - And Other Wildlife That Share the Habitat

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor), also known as the timberdoodle, lives in young forest and shrublands. Woodcock breed across eastern North America from Atlantic Canada to the Great Lakes and spend the winter in lowlands mainly in the southern and Gulf Coast states.

In the past, woodcock were abundant because plenty of young forest – also called "early successional habitat" – existed in their range.

Alert woodcock

American woodcock./T. Flanigan

But many brushy areas have grown into mature forest, where woodcock do not live. And human development has destroyed much of the birds' former habitat. The species' population has fallen by about 1 percent each year since the 1960s.

A concerted cooperative effort is underway to restore and expand the places where woodcock can live. In 2001, federal and state wildlife agencies, along with organizations including the Wildlife Management Institute, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the Ruffed Grouse Society, formed the Woodcock Task Force.

Using funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other sources, biologists and land managers developed a Woodcock Conservation Plan. The Plan sets targets for woodcock populations and acres of habitat to be created and restored in the United States and Canada. Scientific research and thorough monitoring provide a foundation for the habitat-creation endeavor.

Partners have created habitat demonstration areas where folks can see woodcock habitat created by different management techniques on nature preserves, commercial forestland, National Wildlife Refuges, state wildlife management areas, state and national forests, and private lands. (To learn about demonstration areas near you, search under Regional Initiatives in the menu bar above.)

We're making progress! Conservation partners "have helped halt the rangewide decline in the population of the American woodcock by making habitat over the last decade," reports Dan McAuley, a woodcock biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Based on Singing Ground Survey data, we've seen no decline during the last 10 to 12 years. Through several telemetry monitoring studies, we've observed a dramatic increase in woodcock numbers in areas where habitat is actively being created."

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler is one of more 60 species of wildlife that use woodcock habitat./T. Berriman

And habitat created to boost woodcock populations provides food and cover for other wildlife, including many species whose numbers also have been falling.

Region by Region

Land managers have set up regional habitat initiatives based on Bird Conservation Regions developed by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Regional initiatives depend on partnerships between agencies, organizations, forest products companies, and private landowners in different parts of the woodcock's range.

Partners work together to create healthy, productive tracts of young forest through timber harvesting, planting native shrubs and trees, controlled burning, and other techniques -- efforts that help woodcock, along with many other wild creatures including birds such as golden-winged warblers, brown thrashers, and whip-poor-wills; mammals including bobcats and cottontail rabbits; and reptiles like wood turtles and green snakes.

Want to make some young forest? At Regional Initiatives on the menu bar above, go to the region where you own or manage land, then click on contacts on the righthand side of the page for folks who can help you plan projects and explore funding. Or visit our sister website www.youngforest.org and check out contacts there to get started.
Read "Woods for Woodcock," published in Northern Woodlands magazine, to learn how public and private landowners are helping bring back the woodcock -- and, in the process, aiding more than 60 other kinds of wildlife.