Breeding Woodcock Survey 2021

The woodcock is the only species of wading bird in Ireland that is adapted to breed in woodland. Its plumage provides superb camouflage, blending with dead leaf litter and ground vegetation where  it nests, rears its chicks and roosts during the day. Breeding woodcock were once thought to be widely distributed throughout Ireland, however, recent data from the UK & Ireland Breeding Bird Atlas suggests a significant contraction in range.

Fig 1 and 2: Map on the left shows woodcock breeding distribution from 1968-72 Atlas. Map on the right shows breeding distribution from 2007-11 Atlas. The apparent contraction in range could partially be explained by the change in methodology between Atlases.

The nocturnal habits and cryptic nature of woodcock makes it very difficult to monitor the breeding population using traditional methods. However, a special survey method has been devised in Britain, which uses fixed points within woodlands to count ‘roding’ flights undertaken by woodcock at dusk and dawn. Roding is a unique display performed only by males in the breeding season. Males fly wide circuits above the woodland canopy at dawn and dusk in search of receptive females, calling repeatedly every few seconds. Each call consists of three or four low-pitched croaks followed by a high-pitched whistle. Woodcock are at their most conspicuous when males are roding, therefore this is the obvious time at which to attempt to census the species.

This survey is the first of its kind undertaken in Ireland and will determine the current distribution of breeding woodcock and provide a baseline against which future changes can be compared.


This is an online survey which takes a few moments to complete.

Step 1 – Choose a Survey Location: Click here

Step 2 – Methods for Doing the Survey: Click here

Step 3 – Do the Survey! Click here (if you are submitting your data through mobile phone, keep this link open until you have submitted your data)

This research is funded by the NARGC with the IRC and additional support from GWCT.

For more information on Woodcock Breeding Survey please contact James O’Neill or your local NARGC rep on the details below.

UCC Woodcock Research Group

James O’Neill –

Luke Harman

Prof. John Quinn

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES)
University College Cork
North Mall Campus