Monday, 30 September 2013

How fast do woodcock fly, where do they go to breed and are they site-faithful?

We now have some fascinating insights into woodcock behaviour and migration after fitting a further 13 birds with satellite tags early this spring.

Tagged at six sites across Britain and Ireland the birds have made it to their breeding sites and have settled in Sweden (1), Finland (1), Latvia (2), north-west Russia (7) and central Russia (2).

Monkey, from the first batch of birds, who astonished everyone by flying to central Siberia to breed last summer, is still alive and back at the same breeding site this year. We estimate that he has now flown at least 38,000 kilometres (km) (23,750 miles) during his life.

This year he has been joined in Siberia by Woody II and Crugith, who have flown 6,980km (4,360 miles) and 7,100km (4,440 miles) respectively. Clearly, this is an important breeding area for some of the woodcock that winter in Britain, a fact that we would never have discovered without satellite tracking.

With information from 24 woodcock, we are now getting close to the sample size required to appreciate individual differences in the behaviour of birds tagged at the same and different winter sites.

We now know that woodcock migration consists of a series of long, fast flights of 600-1,100km (375-690 miles), broken up by stops en route typically lasting 7-15 days. Flight speed averages about 30km/h (19mph), but can reach 93km/h (58mph). Monkey and Rebecca have demonstrated that woodcock can be extremely faithful to the same breeding and winter sites each year.

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