Studying the Distribution and Habitat Requirements of a Declining Shorebird: American Woodcock

The University of Rhode Island (URI) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) are studying the distribution and habitat requirements of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) in order to better understand where breeding populations occur, which habitats are preferred, and the quality of preferred habitats.

The American woodcock is a popular species among the bird watching and hunting communities in the eastern United States.  Since the 1960’s, woodcock populations have been declining as a result of loss and degradation of young forest habitat.

Current research involves using telemetry to follow marked birds to investigate the:

  • Diurnal habitat selection of woodcock around managed areas
  • Survival of woodcock around managed areas
  • Importance of summer nocturnal habitats for woodcock
  • Distribution of breeding woodcock populations at local and state scale

Recent URI journal articles on woodcock in RI include:

In 2020 URI developed a new woodcock tool to identify locations where forest management to create young forest habitat for American woodcock would have the most positive impact on woodcock in RI, and would also benefit a number of other wildlife species that require young forest habitat.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has used this tool to provide technical and financial support to private landowners who are interested in improving woodcock habitat on their properties.

For more information about the URI woodcock research program, contact:
Scott McWilliams, Professor, URI