University of Arkansas Scientists Study Woodcock Migration

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Biologists are using a federal grant to continue tracking the migration of the familiar American woodcock, a bird that is slowly disappearing across eastern North America.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded nearly $50,000 to the U.S. Geological Survey Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, housed in the University of Arkansas Department of Biological Sciences, for a woodcock-monitoring project that began in 2013.

American woodcock with satellite transmitter

Biologists attached a satellite transmitter to this American woodcock in Texas in January of 2015./C. Sebright

“We’ve seen long-term declines across the species' range, at a rate of about 1 percent a year since the 1960s,” said David Krementz, a research professor of biological sciences at the university and leader of the fish and wildlife unit. “Understanding woodcock migration is a conservation priority because its migratory period is believed to be a period of high mortality.”

American woodcock have been studied extensively in their breeding grounds – which include the Upper Midwest, New England and Canada – and their wintering grounds in the Southeast and Gulf Coast, but there has been very little research on woodcock during their migratory period, Krementz said.

Joe Moore, a master’s student in biology, will trap woodcock this fall in their breeding grounds in the Upper Midwest, and this winter on their wintering grounds in Texas and Louisiana. Moore will attach special miniaturized satellite transmitters to the birds to track their southward migration.

“We will be able to identify migration routes, regions that are important for migratory stopovers, as well as the habitat types they are using for these stopovers,” Moore said. “These data could then be used to identify priority areas to focus on habitat management and land acquisition efforts, and fine-tune hunting-season dates along the woodcocks’ migration routes.”

In a pilot project that began in the fall of 2013, researchers attached satellite transmitters to woodcock in Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

The research team, which includes the U.S. Geological Survey Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, created a website featuring information about the use of satellite transmitters on woodcock and showing up-to-date locations of tagged woodcock. The website is hosted by the American Woodcock Society/Ruffed Grouse Society.


David Krementz, research professor, Department of Biological Sciences
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations