Survival Rates and Stopover Persistence of American Woodcock Using Cape May, New Jersey, during Fall Migration


  • David G. McAuley U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
  • Guthrie Zimmerman U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management
  • Brian B. Allen University of Maine, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology
  • Chris Dwyer U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5 Migratory Bird Program
  • Thomas R. Cooper U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3 Migratory Bird Program



Cape May, New Jersey is an important stopover area for American woodcock (Scolopax minor,; hereafter woodcock) during fall migration along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Previous research has indicated that many woodcock stop at Cape May prior to crossing Delaware Bay; however, little is known about survival of woodcock while using Cape May. To better understand woodcock survival on Cape May during fall migration and to estimate emigration rates for woodcock migrating through Cape May, we captured and marked a total of 271 woodcock with VHF transmitters and radio-tracked them weekly from November through early January 2010-–2013. Of the 271 marked woodcock, our radio-tracking efforts indicated that 131 migrated from Cape May, 57 remained on Cape May, 72 died, and 11 were censored. We used a multi-state model within Program MARK to estimate weekly survival and emigration probabilities for marked woodcock. Our best-supported model indicated that survival rate varied by year, but was constant by week within years. Weekly survival rate estimates ranged from 0.894 (95% CI = 0.834 – 0.934) in 2010 to 0.962 (95% CI = 0.928 – 0.981) in 2011, which equates to a 9-week period survival rate ranging from 0.365 (95% CI = 0.185 – 0.545) to 0.706 (95% CI = 0.541 – 0.870), respectively. The 2010–-2011 field season was marked by several large snowstorms during which a large percentage of marked woodcock died, whereas the other 3 years had more mild conditions and higher woodcock survival rates. Our best-supported model indicated that weekly emigration rates varied by year and week, with each year showing a different pattern of emigration from Cape May. Survival and emigration information will be useful in the development of future demographic-based population models for woodcock migrating along the Atlantic Coast.