Scientific name: Scolopax rusticola


Woodcock are large, bulky waders with short legs, large eyes and a very long straight, tapering bill.  The upperparts are reddish brown with delicate mottling and the underparts are buff with dark barring.  The top of the head is black with three or four pale lines.  The tail is black with a silver tip.

Habitat and Distribution

Woodcock inhabit woodlands, including deciduous, mixed and young conifer plantations.  They are widely distributed, being found throughout most of Europe and Russia and large parts of Asia.  A few are found in northern Africa.

Global distribution of the woodcock (IUCN 2011)


Woodcock eat a variety of invertebrates, including beetles, worms, larvae, caterpillars, spiders and small snails.  They probe the soil with their long beak and detect prey with the sensitive nerve endings in the tip of the bill.


Woodcock breed in woodland.  The female builds a nest on the ground amongst bracken, dead leaves or brambles.  In mid-late April she lays four eggs and incubates the eggs for 17-24 days.  The young leave the nest quickly and fly at 20 days old.  Males may mate with up to four females in a season.  Most Scottish woodcock are resident year-round, but more arrive from northern Europe in October and November and many may move on south and west in hard winters.

Status and Threats

The Eurasian woodcock is classified by the IUCN as being ‘Least Concern’.  However, the UK breeding population has decreased in recent years, likely due to a decline in suitable habitat as young conifer plantations mature and become too dense for woodcock.

They are listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, Annex 2.1 of the Birds Directive and Annex A of CITES.  Within the UK they are  included on the Amber List of UK birds of conservation concern and listed on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.