Identification: The roding Woodcock is fat-bodied and rather round-winged and can look rather owl-like but, of course, owls don't have long pointed bills. A big, bulky, brown bird flushed from a woodland floor is more likely to be a Woodcock than an owl and the rich red-brown plumage, rapid zig-zagging flight and long bill will confirm this. At rest a Woodcock is easily told from a Snipe because the head stripes go across the top of the crown rather than along it.
Habitat: Breeds and winters in woodland with ground cover and damp areas. Feeds in nearby fields after dusk.
Distribution: Localised resident over much of Britain and Ireland. An extremely secretive woodland species, usually only seen when flushed or in spring when the males display at dusk. Large numbers of birds from the continent arrive from mid-October onwards and are often seen at east coast localities.
Roding birds can be expected over woodlands throughout northern Europe. In Britain, Ireland and the Benelux countries, numbers are swollen by migrants from further north. When such birds first arrive, they are often seen in the open at coastal sites, for example on the east coast of Britain.
Population: The population of Britain and Ireland is 8500-21 500 pairs. Wintering figures are much higher but reliable estimates have not been made. Hunter's bags are estimated to be around 200 000 birds each winter. This seems a remarkable figure, the equivalent of 20 000 hunters shooting 10 birds each or forty times-as many as were seen by birdwatchers during the 3 year 'winter atlas' survey!
The population of Europe (excluding Russia) is estimated at between 500-700,000 pairs.