Habitat Selection of American Woodcock and its Implications for Habitat Management Where Young Forests are Rare

  • Roger J. Masse University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science
  • Brian C. Tefft Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife
  • Bill Buffum University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science
  • Scott R. McWilliams University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science

Abstract

American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter woodcock) habitat use or selection has been studied extensively since the mid-1960s; most such studies, however, have taken place when and where young forest habitat selected by woodcock was relatively common. Woodcock population declines have been mostly attributed to loss of young forest vegetation types throughout the species’ range. Thus, understanding woodcock habitat selection and the benefits of habitat management in areas where young forests are rare is important in conserving woodcock and other wildlife that uses young forest. We conducted studies of male radio-tagged woodcock in Rhode Island, USA, when and where the extent of upland young forests in non-coastal areas comprised only 1.4% of the land area and was decreasing by ≥1.5% per year. We determined habitat selection of woodcock, then used the derived resource selection function to assess potential benefits of certain forest management scenarios for male woodcock and non-target birds. Landscapes comprising deciduous wetland forests, wetland young forests with nearby agricultural openings, or patches of upland young forest received relatively high use by woodcock. After integrating habitat management scenarios into GIS, our derived resource selection function suggested that creating fewer, larger patches of upland young forest and herbaceous forest openings may be less beneficial than creating more smaller patches. Openings with early-successional forest were an important component of woodcock habitat because they provided safe nighttime roost sites where mammalian predators were less active. These openings also provided habitat for a more diverse bird assemblage than unmanaged forests. Active habitat management is required to conserve woodcock populations in many landscapes, and managers should highlight the benefits of woodcock habitat management for non-target wildlife.

Published
2019-12-02