Habitat selection and foraging behaviour of breeding Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola: a comparison between contrasting landscapes
Article first published online: 23 NOV 2007
Volume 149, Issue Supplement s2, pages 234–249, November 2007
How to Cite
HOODLESS, A. N. and HIRONS, G. J. M. (2007), Habitat selection and foraging behaviour of breeding Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola: a comparison between contrasting landscapes. Ibis, 149: 234–249. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2007.00725.x
- Issue published online: 23 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 23 NOV 2007
- Received 7 July 2006; revision accepted 18 April 2007.
Diet, feeding behaviour and habitat selection of breeding Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola were studied by radiotracking birds from March to July in two contrasting situations: a 171-ha lowland plantation of Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, Beech Fagus sylvaticus and pine Pinus sylvestris/P. nigra in Derbyshire, central England, and an area of c. 900 ha of fragmented, naturally regenerating birch Betula pendula/B. pubescens woodland and hill margin in an upland glen in Angus, northeast Scotland. Earthworms were the most important diet component of adults and chicks in terms of biomass at both sites (50–80%), the rest comprising mainly spiders, harvestmen and beetles. In spring both sexes flew c. 1 km after dusk to feed on fields at night, with up to 94% of nocturnal radiolocations on fields in March, dropping to 18% in July. This behaviour probably reflected seasonal changes in the relative availability of earthworms in fields and woodland. Diurnal home range sizes were similar at both sites and the mean size of 30-day ranges was 62 ± 20 ha (± se), although Woodcock changed locations regularly and areas used for feeding on a daily basis were typically smaller than 1 ha. In the lowland plantation, Sycamore with Dog's Mercury Mercurialis perennis ground cover was highly used relative to availability. In the upland margin study area, the same held for dense sapling-stage birch. These habitats appear to represent a compromise between food availability and protection from avian predators. Recently documented changes in the structure of British woods during the last 30 years, suggestive of reduced management and increased grazing/browsing, are likely to have been detrimental to breeding Woodcock.