One of the most interesting birds with which we share habitat in the Upper Delaware River region is the American woodcock. With its long needle-like beak, plumpish rounded body and peculiar bobbing gait, it is undoubtedly also one of the most adorable birds to behold.
With populations declining in North America, the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative (EWMRC) has launched a project utilizing GPS and satellite technology to track woodcock as they migrate between northern breeding areas and southern wintering grounds, to better understand how conditions experienced during migration might influence the decline.
Coordinated by the University of Maine, but including partners from throughout the United States and Canada, the study’s regional partners include the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Six birds in Maine were fitted with satellite transmitters prior to fall migration in fall 2017. The tags send data on each woodcock’s location and status as it migrates to the southeastern U.S. Project partners tagged additional birds in 2018 to track them throughout their breeding and winter range and to monitor both spring and fall migration.
The primary goals of this project are to determine when migration begins, how long it takes individuals to complete migration, survival rates and the location of stopover sites where the small birds rest and refuel. The data will help to identify migration routes and stopover sites throughout eastern North America, but has already provided interesting examples of woodcock behavior.
One woodcock originally marked in central Maine used a small golf course woodlot in eastern Massachusetts as a habitat during an eight-day stopover. Another bird spent nearly two weeks near the base of a wind turbine in southern Ontario. The bird was thought to be injured and destined to die there, until it flew 230 miles to central Ohio.
The first year’s progress report as well as maps and regular updates about the migration are available on the EWMRC website at www.woodcockmigration.org/. Visit www.ruffedgrousesociety.org/Woodcock-Facts#.W_wQDCdRdR4 or www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ameri can_Woodcock to learn more about this delightful bird.