Ecological research
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    Food and food availability of Eurasian woodcock in the Jura Mountains

    General Outline

    The Eurasian woodcock is a cryptic forest dwelling wader species which has declined in Switzerland throughout the last decades. The decline has been especially pronounced in the Swiss lowlands where woodcocks abandoned many areas. The most important remaining breeding sites can be found in higher altitudes such as the western Jura Mountains. One reason for the decline could be the loss of suitable habitats including the lack of feeding grounds in the Swiss lowland. It is thought that woodcocks heavily rely on soil inhabiting invertebrates on which they can feed by poking in soft ground with their long bills. However, the feeding ecology of woodcocks in the Swiss breeding grounds is hardly understood.

    To shed light onto the ecology of this fascinating species the Swiss Ornithological Institute is hosting a master thesis investigating food and food availability of woodcocks in the Jura Mountains, where a large radio-tracking project took place in the last years. In particular, the thesis aims at identifying the food items of woodcocks in the breeding season and investigating their availability. The factors affecting food availability might be responsible for home-range placement as well as habitat use within home-ranges.


    The field work will take place in the region of the Val de Travers in the Jura Mountains where up to 30 woodcocks home ranges have been determined throughout the last two years. In a first step, nutritional items of woodcocks will be assessed based on faeces samples. In a second step, a design investigating the factors affecting the availability of these food items within forests will be developed.   In a third step, the habitats within (and outside) home-ranges can be analysed in respect to food availability. Since knowledge of the feeding ecology in this species is still scarce the master student can participate actively in establishing suitable sampling designs and methods. Accommodation during field work is provided in Fleurier, Val de Travers.


    Interests in foraging behaviour and feeding ecology, preferably some knowledge about data analysis in R, driving license, enjoying extensive field work, also in difficult terrain, some knowledge of French, and motivation to work in a research team. This master project should be started not later than February 2018.


    Schweizerische Vogelwarte
    6204 Sempach

    Dr. Martin Grüebler
    ++41 41 462 97 22                                                        

    Dr. Benjamin Homberger