Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Woodcock - working to provide the shooting community with more facts

by Andrew Hoodless, Head of Wetland Research

Following Katrina Candy's piece in The Scotsman (Watch the birdie and help to save woodcocks - 9th December 2014) we'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the work we're doing to help understand the impact of shooting on woodcock populations.

We believe that the woodcock population in Europe as a whole is stable and numbers of birds wintering here have been stable for the last 20 years. Hence, we believe that the shooting of winter migrants is currently sustainable.

We are concerned about declines in our resident breeding population. While we think that these are likely to be driven primarily by other factors, such as reduced woodland management, increasing deer numbers, increased predation and changing climate, we cannot rule out shooting as a contributory factor.

We therefore advise landowners with breeding woodcock to delay shooting until migrant birds have arrived in good numbers, typically after the November full moon, and to give careful consideration to the numbers they shoot.

We currently have a PhD student investigating patterns of decline in our breeding woodcock and the possible causes. As part of the outputs of our programme of research on woodcock migration, we aim to provide the shooting community with better facts to enable them to make informed decisions. We are working on understanding the impact of shooting on woodcock populations, with a view to producing guidelines on the levels and circumstances where shooting is sustainable.

We plan to analyze our data sets to look for an impact of shooting (or not) and submit the evidence for peer review. But this has not happened yet!

To find out more about our woodcock research please click here >

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