Influence of Weather on the Eurasian Woodcock’s Breeding Display

  • December 3, 2019
  • by Heward, C. J., Lowe, A., Conway, G. J., & Hoodless, A. N

Counts of displaying male Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) form the basis for breeding Eurasian woodcock surveys in many regions across Europe and provide the only practical method of assessing the species’ abundance. This paper investigates the effect that weather may have on the results of these surveys, principally considering its influence upon Eurasian woodcock display behavior and detectability by surveyors. We assessed data from an annual Eurasian woodcock survey conducted in the Britain during 2004–2015 and correlated them with a number of weather variables. This is supplemented by tracking data gathered from 19 male Eurasian woodcock to assess how weather might affect each individual’s decision to display. We found that counts of roding Eurasian woodcock were positively related to the amount of rainfall in the 2 weeks preceding the survey and negatively related to wind speed on the evenings that surveys were conducted. The likelihood that tagged male Eurasian woodcock displayed decreased in relation to wind speed and increased in relation to minimum air temperature. To guarantee that counts of displaying males provide a representative measure of abundance, we recommend that surveys consist of at ≥3 visits to each site within each year, that visits are spread as widely as possible across the peak displaying season, and that analyses are based on maximal counts rather than means to reduce the effects of surveys conducted in sub-optimal weather conditions.