The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

The latest on the woodcock breeding season

Update on woodcock


In 2010, French hunting website La Chasse de la Becasse des Bois began a programme of tracking woodcock and monitoring conditions in their breeding grounds to predict the numbers of migrants that would reach France. Over the last 12 years, this methodology has been carefully refined using multiple tagged woodcock and a network of correspondents in the major woodcock breeding countries.

Last week, the site’s owners published their prediction for 2022. They reported generally good breeding conditions in Russia and the Baltic states, where the majority of English wintering woodcock breed and normal to good conditions in Fenno-Scandia where Scottish and Irish birds breed.Crucially, these areas did not experience any severe weather events during the critical breeding period which extends from mid-May to mid-July. The second crucial period runs from mid-July to the end of August, when chicks are young.

During this period, the breeding country monitors: “Did not notice any climatic conditions that could have hindered the good growth of the young. Just a slight lack of rain and soil moisture.” Franck Ricaud and Phillipe Vignac, who run the website noted: “This observation is valid for all the major breeding countries.”

Ricaud and Vignac also noted that the droughts which hit much of Western and Southern Europe did not affect the birds breeding territories as the situation would have been “catastrophic”.

The summer’s droughts are however expected to affect the distribution of birds once they arrive on their wintering grounds, with a much less even distribution than normal expected as birds gather in areas with wetter soil. While the news was generally very good, the report sounded two important notes of cautions. Their first warning was that the effects of climate change were starting to be felt by the birds. As soils dry out in breeding areas the birds are struggling to find food. They also warned that the European harvest of the birds remains too high and called for restraint by hunters.