US Fish & Wildlife Service



Date of this Version



Wildlife Managament Institute (July 2010) 44pp.


Executive Summary

To achieve the goals set forth in the American Woodcock Conservation Plan, published in 2008, the Wildlife Management Institute and its partnering agencies and organizations have launched four regional habitat initiatives in the primary breeding range of the American woodcock, which spans eastern North America from Atlantic Canada to the Great Lakes.

Since the 1960s the woodcock population has fallen by about 1.2 percent each year, largely because the birds’ preferred habitat – young, brushy forest – has dwindled. Many states now classify the woodcock as a “species of greatest conservation need.” Conservation biologists consider the woodcock to be an “umbrella species,” which means that creating habitat for woodcock simultaneously helps more than 50 other kinds of wildlife – including many species whose populations also have fallen – that need young forest during part or all of their life cycles.

In carrying out the regional initiatives, teams of experienced biologists provide public and private landowners with technical advice on how best to create young forest. They work to build and strengthen partnerships between and among federal and state natural resource agencies, wildlife and land-use organizations, foresters and forest-products companies, and owners of woodlands both large and small. Using the latest scientific techniques, they monitor woodcock, including the response of local populations to improvements and increases in habitat.

More than 50 new Demonstration Areas (described in Part II of this publication) showcase habitatmanagement techniques while providing thousands of acres of young forest where woodcock can feed, breed, and rear their young.

Clearly, the many partners in the American Woodcock Conservation Plan are making progress toward reversing the woodcock’s population decline. The challenges are great: To restore the species’ population to 1970s levels, we must add more than 20 million acres of young forest to the current landscape. In the near future, partners plan to start additional regional habitat initiatives in the United States and Canada within the woodcock’s breeding range, migration corridors, and wintering ranges.

As we work to reverse the woodcock’s population decline, we help wild animals, both uncommon and abundant, that share the habitat: reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals. Some of the many species that benefit from creating and restoring young forest are snowshoe hare, New England cottontail, bobcat, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, whip-poor-will, golden-winged warbler, willow flycatcher, indigo bunting, box turtle, bog turtle – as well as a host of insects and plants.

Meeting the habitat goals set forth in the American Woodcock Conservation Plan requires nothing less than re-educating North Americans to understand that creating and perpetually renewing young forest is necessary for safeguarding our continent’s fascinating and valuable biodiversity.