Quick facts

Common name: woodcock

Scientific name: Scolopax rusticola

Family: Scolopacidae (sandpipers)

Habitat: deciduous or mixed woodland, heathland

Diet: invertebrates

Predators: foxes

Origin: native

What do woodcocks look like?

Woodcocks are somewhat dumpy-looking, with short legs, a plump body and an extremely long, straight bill. They are predominantly mottled brown in colour, with black and greyish markings, which perfectly camouflage them against the woodland floor.

What do woodcocks eat?

The woodcock’s diet is made up of invertebrates. It eats spiders, earthworms, beetles and snails, which it wanders the woodland floor in search of.

Credit: FLPA / Alamy Stock Photo

How do woodcocks breed?

The breeding season for woodcocks takes place from March to July. Males put on a display known as ‘roding’ in order to attract a female. Roding involves the male flying theatrically over the treetops while performing a mating call. Several males will usually compete for airspace during this time.

Nests are built in hollows on the ground using leaves and other vegetation. One or two eggs are laid, hatching after 21-25 days. Chicks fledge just over two weeks later.

Did you know?

Young woodcock leave the nest almost immediately after hatching. Biologically, this is known as precociality - where the young of a species is relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching.

Do woodcocks migrate?

A small and declining number of woodcock breed in the UK. In winter these are joined by a strong arrival of woodcock from the Continent, thought to increase numbers in Britain and Ireland five-fold. These migrants from the east are seeking the milder winter climate of the UK.

Where do woodcocks live?

As the name suggests, these birds live predominantly in woodland, particularly mixed and deciduous. They are also found in heathland areas.

Did you know?

Throughout history the pin feathers of this bird were used in a variety of ways, including for drawing the gold stripe on the side of Rolls Royce cars.

Signs and spotting tips

As woodcocks are nocturnal, spending their days safely tucked away in the dense undergrowth of the forest floor, chances of spotting them are slim. If you do happen to disturb one by accident, watch as it takes off in a zig-zag flight before falling back to the ground for safety.

Threats and conservation

The woodcock population is decreasing, so much so that it is now a listed as Red (highly threatened) under the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern. It is threatened by habitat fragmentation but is also shot for sport.

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