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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Woodcock



Awaiting image for this species




(Eurasian Woodcock)

Scolopax rusticola



  • Woodcock (Eurasian Woodcock)
  • Scolopax rusticola
  • Gaelic: Coileach-coille
  • UK: Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • UK: AMBER LIST (in decline) 8800 pairs (Summer) BTO
  • WI: Fairly common winter visitor (occurs in small numbers). Some breeding records pre-1990
  • Breeds: Ground nester. Needs undergrowth. Open areas in deciduous & conifer woodland. North Europe & North Asia
  • Winters: Goes South to Africa & Asia. Most birds in UK residents (plus in autumn some birds come from Finland & Russia to over winter)
  • Habitat: Heath, damp woodland
  • Diet: Probes damp ground for earthworms at dawn, dusk or night. Also insects, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, fly larvae, small snails, some plant material,
  • Large (33-38cm) stocky wader. Short pinkish legs, long (6-7cm) straight, slender bill. Brown & blackish patterned above, grey below - superb camouflage. Eyes set on sides of head (nearly 360° vision!). Wings rounded.
    Hides in dense cover by day.
  • Maximum lifespan: 15yrs 5mths, typical age: 4yrs
  • Listen to a Woodcock (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: Snipe


Some collective nouns for woodcocks: A fall, covey, plump, flight of woodcocks

There are tiny feathers at the tip of the Woodcock's wings called "pin feathers". They are still used as fine paintbrushes.

It is rare to see a Woodcock. You may disturb one from its where it hides. When it flies off, it zigzags then drops back to cover. (Common Snipe zigzags then flies off high). Woodcock are still hunted in the UK.

The distinctive courtship flight of the male Woodcock is called "roding" and is usually performed in the twilight just before dawn and at dusk. The bird flies circles with a flickering flight 3-30m above the canopy with it's bill held pointed downward and accompanies this with several croaking sounds ending with a sharp squeak. The sounds can be heard up to 300m away.


Woodcock records in the Western Isles

Fairly common winter visitor (occurs in small numbers)
Some breeding records pre-1990
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)


On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the bird is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)


Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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