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Woodcock

The woodcock, a very secretive forest species, has almost completely disappeared from Swiss lowland forests. The causes for the range contraction and the negative trend in population numbers are unknown.

Aims

The project aims at ensuring the long-term persistence of the woodcock as a breeding bird species in all potentially suited forests of Switzerland.

Approach

The Swiss Ornithological Institute is responsible for monitoring woodcock population trends and the species´ range in Switzerland. To verify the presence of the species during the breeding season is not very time-consuming and can be fun (check out the information sheet on the monitoring of the woodcock in German). In the canton Aargau, a project to assess the occurrence of the species was conducted with the cantonal hunting administration and with BirdLife Aargau. The project showed that the woodcock has almost entirely vanished from the canton Aargau.

For the other cantons on the Plateau, no current data are available. Observations are very welcome and are ideally submitted via our standard form. How to assess the occurrence of the woodcock is described in a information sheet.

Woodcock males can be individually identified by their courtship call. Blaise Mulhauser and Jean-Lou Zimmermann have shown in their study on woodcocks in the Jura mountains of the canton Neuchâtel how this works. If individuals can be recognized in the field, population size can be assessed relatively precise using adequate statistical methods, the so-called “capture-mark-recapture-models”. Such a monitoring project is being conducted close to Les Diablerets in the canton Vaud since spring 2013. Project partners are François Estoppey and Frédéric Turin.

Significance

The woodcock is one of 50 bird species requiring specific measures for a continued persistence in Switzerland (see Swiss species recovery programme for birds). It is currently unclear to what extent the negative trends in range size and population numbers are caused by alterations in forest structures, are due to disturbance from people with loose dogs or result from the pressure of ongoing hunting.

Project management

Pierre Mollet

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