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Accession Number 5004908

Title Survival of American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) during fall migration

Project Description The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a popular game bird in much of eastern North

America (U.S. Department of the Interior USDI 1990). In several states it is the most important

migratory game bird in terms of total harvest (USDI 1990). The woodcock population has declined

between 1968-2000 at an annual rate of 2.3% in the Eastern region and 1.6% in the Central region

(Kelley 2000). Most estimates of annual survival of woodcock were based on analysis of band

recoveries (Sheldon 1956, Martin et al. 1969, Krohn et al. 1974, Dwyer and Nichols 1982, Dwyer

et al. 1988). Dwyer and Nichols (1982) estimated annual survival of woodcock banded in the

Eastern region to be 0.354 for the period 1967-74. Using this annual estimate and the composite

estimate from the 3 telemetry studies of 0.471, Longcore et al.(1996) estimated that survival

during the fall hunting and migration period would have to be 0.853 if the annual survival estimate

is correct. It seems unreasonable to believe that survival during hunting and migration would be

higher than during the spring and winter periods. Scientists for USGS are currently analyzing data

to estimate survival of woodcock during the fall hunting period. However, estimates for the

migration period, a period when substantial mortality could occur are unknown. Because the cost

of banding adequate samples of woodcock is prohibitive, few woodcock are banded annually. The

annual migration of woodcock from the breeding grounds to their wintering areas has been of

interest to biologists and hunters. Migration corridors along the Atlantic coast, such as, Cape

May, NJ and Cape Charles, VA are well known. Most information about migration during fall is

based on recovery of bands and hunters observations of large groups of flight birds in covers that

previously held few birds. There is little specific information to indicate the speed of migration and

Mendall and Aldous (1943) described it as leisurely. Recovery of locally banded birds provided

some evidence of how long local birds remain on breeding areas, but only 2 studies (Coon et al

1976 and Sepik and Derleth 1993) used radio telemetry to determine when woodcock began

migration, but samples sizes were small. Evidence of differential migration chronology by age and

sex has been supported (Williams 1969 and Gregg 1984) and not supported (Sepik and Derleth

1993), but there are no estimates of mortality during this critical period. Except for information

from band recoveries, there are no data on how long migration takes. We will use telemetry to

determine how long local birds remain on breeding areas, relate weather variables to the timing of

migration, and estimate survival of woodcock during migration from the Northeast to the

mid-Atlantic states.

Keywords american woodcock, maine, migration, migratory birds, new jersey, scolopax minor, species

conservation, survival, telemetry, virginia,

Principal Daniel G McAuley, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: dan_mcauley@usgs.gov; Michael

Investigators Haramis, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: mike_haramis@usgs.gov; Jerry R Longcore,

USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: jerry_longcore@usgs.gov; Bradford Allen, Maine

Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: brad.allen@state.me.us;

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