Save the Woodcock

There's a great story out of Michigan in which several dozen volunteers with bird dogs are helping biologists locate and band woodcock chicks. It's a win-win for everyone, really: the dogs get a little off-season work on wild timberdoodles; any woodcock chicks present with the adult birds are netted and banded; and biologists study the birds' migration and mortality. One volunteer, Dave Prawdzik, has banded 27 woodcocks with his English setter, Sadie, this spring alone. He's banded more than 1,300 since 1980.

Let's hope their work helps struggling woodcock populations, which sadly have declined 1.2 percent annually since 1968. As Tom Davis notes in his outstanding story, "The Pear-Shaped Paradox," in the May/June 2010 issue of Sporting Classics, that means there are 800,000 fewer male woodcock today than in the early 1970s. Biologists in Michigan and elsewhere across the woodcock's range hope to reverse the trend. Davis writes:

Fortunately, a Woodcock Task Force has been established under the leadership of the Wildlife Management Institute, and with a comprehensive North American Woodcock Management Plan as their guide, they're hoping to stem the tide. In particular, they're hoping to create more of the young, successional forests that are critical to the bird's breeding and nesting success, but are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate.

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