Behavior of radio-marked breeding American woodcocks

Biological Report 16

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Edited by:
Jerry R. Longcore and Greg F. Sepik



During spring 1986-89, we equipped 175 male and 89 female American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) with radio transmitters. Radio-marking had little effect on behavior; within 1 day of marking, 37 of 64 (58%) displaying males were dominant and within 7 days, 138 of 157 (88%) were dominant. All females marked before nesting proceeded to nest, and marked females with broods remained with broods after release. Dominance of males declined from 73% in April to 69% in May and to 26% in June as breeding activity waned. In all years, after-second-year (ASY) males were dominant more often than second-year (SY) males (67.5% vs. 58.9%). ;Most males displayed at more than one (range = 2-12) site. Distances that males moved between the primary singing ground and subsequent singing grounds averaged 775 m in all years and ranged from 618 m (1986) to 966 m (1988). Females visited males at singing grounds throughout the breeding cycle; some females visited more than one site. During prenesting, females remained in daytime covers during the crepuscular period (55%), flew to different feeding covers (22%), visited singing grounds (14%), or flew from daytime covers to unknown locations (9%). During nesting, females left nests during the crepuscular period (72%) and moved to singing grounds (5%), to feeding areas (59%), and to undetermined locations (7%). Females with broods remained with their broods during the crepuscular period (62%), flew to feeding areas (30%), visited singing grounds (1%), or flew to undetermined locations (6%). The woodcock mating system is similar to a resource-based polygyny. Males compete for singing grounds near high-quality nesting areas. The fitness of males is expressed by dominance at more than one singing ground. Woodcocks are not monogamous; females may visit more than three different males during a single courtship period but do not visit males regularly. Most females leave nests during the crepuscular period to feed in a different cover.

Additional publication details

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Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Behavior of radio-marked breeding American woodcocks
Series title:
Biological Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Publisher location:
Washington, DC
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
vi, 139
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title:
Proceedings of the Eighth American Woodcock Symposium
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