The woodcock Scolopax rusticola is a cryptically-camouflaged wading bird that can be found in woodland habitats across northern Europe and Asia, ranging from Britain in the West to Japan in the East.
Across the majority of this range, woodcock are migratory; breeding in the expansive northern forests of Scandinavia, central Europe and Russia and moving south in winter.
At the more temperate edges of the range small resident populations exist, such as those in Britain, France and Northern Spain. There are also small resident populations on the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Woodcock depend on a diet of earthworms and other invertebrates, which are obtained with their long, sensitive bills. Woodcock are nocturnal and generally feed at night, often leaving woodlands to forage on farmland, grassland and heathland. Their cryptic plumage helps them remain inconspicuous during the daytime and their large eyes, placed high on the sides of the head, give them near 360° vision for detecting potential predators.
In spring and early summer, woodcock perform their distinctive ‘roding’ displays. Only male woodcock rode and do so in order to find a female with which to mate. The display is performed at dawn and dusk and consists of slow, straight flight and an accompanying two-part call (a series of three to four low-pitched croaks followed by a high-pitched, nasal whistle). Females move to the edge of clearings and rides and attract a male’s attention by calling and flashing the white tips of their tails.