[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Scolopax rusticola | [UK] Woodcock | [FR] Bécasse des bois | [DE] Waldschnepfe | [ES] Agachadiza Perdiz | [IT] Beccaccia eurasiatica | [NL] Houtsnip

Houtsnip determination

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Thick transverse bars on crown, typical for all woodcock species. Mainly rufous brown and reddish above providing good camouflage. Bill long and straight, but relatively shorter than congeners. Broad wings, in flight recalling owl. Plumage somewhat variable. Differs from very similar, possibly conspecific, S. mira in having area of whitish feathering around eye, rather than bare skin. Rounder head, dark subterminal band on tail, narrower wings and shorter tarsi. Sexes alike. No seasonal variation. Juvenile very similar to adult, but forehend more spotted.

During breeding season in moist forests, where favours mosaic habitats, and ectensive woodland covered by undergrowth of scrub, brambles, holly, gorse and bracken. Avoids warm and dry areas. often feeds along streams or springs, or in damp and swampy patches. Often gathers for roosting and feeding in earthworm-rich permanent grasslands at night.

Scolopax rusticola is a widespread breeder across much of Europe (particularly northern and central areas), which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>1,800,000 pairs), and was broadly stable between 1970-1990. Although trends were stable across most of its European range during 1990-2000, the species declined in its Russian stronghold, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, it is provisionally evaluated as Declining.
This bird is breeding in deciduous and mixed forests of a great part of Eurasia, from the Canary islands, northern Spain and Scandinavia to China and Japan. The birds of north-western and southern Europe are largely sedentary. Those of the north-east are migratory and winter in the west and south of the continent, especially in France, Spain, Italy and the British Isles. This species with crepuscular habits is hard to census, but it seems that its breeding populations of south-western Europe are stable or slightly increasing, e. g. in Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain. The total population of the European Union (12 Members States) is probably amounting to 75000 breeding pairs, which represents only 2-3% of the total European population. Regarding the birds wintering in south-western Europe, a decline has been reported in France (Fadat 1991). This statement is based on very few observations, however, and could be biased by the fact that wintering numbers in this country are strongly fluctuating according to climatic conditions. Nevertheless this species is undergoing a very strong hunting pressure, on top of degradation of its breeding habitats due to modern forestry practices

Mainly animals, with some plant matter. Animals include earthworms, insects particularly beetles, but also earwings, spiders, crustaceans, slugs, leeches and ribbonworms. Plant material comprises seeds, fruits, oats maixw grain and roots and blades of various grasses. Feeds by probing in puddles or damp ground, or by pecking at ground surface, or under leaf litter and twigs, may use foot-trembling. Mostly feeds at night, especially outside breeding season, when earthworms taken on pasture land may predominate.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 15,000,000-16,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Breeding from March to April, polygynous mating system. Male performs self-advertising display flight around dusk and dawn. Nest is a shallow depression in ground concealed by shrubs. Clutch 4 eggs, incubation 22 days, by female only. Chick pale pinkish buff with large, ferruginous brown and chestnut brown blotches and bands above.

Mainly migratory, though many are resident in western maritime countries (Ireland, Britain, probably France) which also receive large influxes of winter visitors. Winter range of west Palearctic birds extends south to Mediterranean region and North Africa. Autumn migration begins first half October in Finland, mid- to late October in Scandinavia; departures closely related to onset of frosts. Majority in winter quarters by end of November, though later movements to west or south can occur in response to cold weather. Return movements begin first half March, with breeding grounds reoccupied during April in Scandinavia, though passage lasts to mid-May in Finland; return well correlated with increasing spring temperatures.