A woodcock
A woodcock

What you can do to help the woodcock

Woodcock are found in most parts of Britain except in areas of high ground. However, a combination of its epic woodland camouflage (bill like a stick, feather like a leaf) and secretive, night-time behaviour, the woodcock is surprisingly stealthy given its bottom-heavy, pot-bellied body shape.

This broadly nocturnal bird is often spotted by accident, flushed from scrubby cover in the daytime. At night, and especially in winter, many woodcock move from their woodland cover to open fields, probing the soil for earthworms and other invertebrates with their long, well designed bills. Your best chance to see or hear a woodcock is during late-spring into early summer when ‘roding’ displaying males flying low and straight over treetops at dusk.

So let us step away from our feathered friend for a moment and look at the gardener’s best friend, the humble earthworm.

Earthworms enhance soil conditions by improving the structure and nutrients within it. They need moist conditions: not too dry, not too water-logged, neutral soils, and plenty of decaying plant matter for them to eat. These ‘Goldilocks’ conditions for earthworms, and the hungry woodcock, are found predominantly in grazed meadows, with almost 5 times more earthworms here than cultivated fields.

What you can do

  • Create open spaces within woodland and let more light in, restore some glades and rides that are closing up, or just let some of the woodland edges become scrubby. These spaces will also make your life easier. Rides provide access points to extract timber and firewood. Glades provide good spots for high-seats for deer management and these open spaces are also great for game birds to sun themselves in.
  • Maintain or restore any grazing pasture and grassland you might have, these fields (and their earthworms) are equally as important as the woodland that surrounds them.
  • Help the GWCT with their woodcock research by counting displaying males, providing bag data for shot woodcock and or sending in bodies of shot woodcock.
  • Take part in GWCT’s Woodcock Watch project by sponsoring a satellite tagged woodcock.
  • Send in wings of shot woodcock, ducks, and geese to BASC’s wing survey.
  • Use BASC’s Green Shoots Mapping and Bag Recording website to provide bag data on the woodcock you shoot and record any woodcock you see.