Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 15:27:35 EST
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Rick West <RickLWest@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: A. Woodcocks in NW GA
Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
In a message dated 99-01-21 05:16:32 EST, Jim Greenway wrote describing a
spectacular Woodcock display, asking when this courtship period peaks in NW
I would like to expand a little on Tomer's response that the courtship
season is January and February. Supporting him are a great many observations
of display in these months, and most GA woodcock egg dates are reported for
February and March.
But most of the display seen is done by wintering or migrating birds,
especially yearlings. David Krementz, a wildlife biologist at the Univ. of GA
has published some of his work on radiotagging wintering woodcock in Georgia,
and is probably the authority here. When I questioned him on how to determine
woodcock breeding distribution in Georgia, he clearly said that any inclusion
of January and February observations would invalidate the study because of the
great number of calling yearlings and other males that breed farther north but
still begin displaying in GA.
He says most wintering birds leave by the first full moon in March (by
March 1 this year). Locally breeding birds also begin courtship in January,
and some continue through April. This overlap makes determination of breeding
difficult, and one can even speculate that some males may breed here and then
continue to do so up north. A female was obtained in Delaware in January with
eggs in oviduct, so even some of the females are ready to breed early in the
The night does not even have to be warm, as displays over snow-covered
fields have been observed routinely. A still, bright evening is important,
and a week before full moon, when the first quarter moon is high in the
evening, would be a positive factor for extending the display period. The
USFWS survey for woodcock begins 22 minutes after local sunset and continues
for a half hour with frequent 2-minute stops to listen for displaying birds.
Surveys can continue almost all night when the moon is full and the sky clear.
Predawn observations can also be made up to 22 minutes before sunup -- the
correct amount of light is always required.
Courtship, rather than just displaying males, can be assumed if a female
is present where the male lands.
Beginning March 1, when most wintering birds can be assumed to be gone, I
will be pressing EVERYONE who can recognize a woodcock call to check locally
for woodcock in support of the Breeding Bird Atlas. We now have less than 10
reports of woodcock after March 1, and we need to get several hundred to
adequately assess the breeding distribution. Obviously this is a daunting
task, because most of the activity occurs between March 1 and mid-April, and
the birds can be found mainly during a half-hour period at dusk or dawn -- and
only in calm, dry weather. I unabashedly ask help from the entire birding,
wildlife, [hunting?, farming?], and ornithological communities. So please
plan your field activities during this period to begin with a short wookcock
search at the start of the day.
We will also need some focused help to run specified evening routes in the
priority blocks. Negative reports from these routes will add to our
information since we will not be able to assume that the whole state have been
covered evenly. I suspect that most of the reports will come from NW Georgia,
but displaying males have even been recorded over balds in the NE mountains,
and eggs have been found in several locations in the coastal plain. So,
unfortunately, the whole state needs surveying.
Also, please report winter sightings now, because this is the best key to
where to check again after the wintering birds are gone.
With high hopes for your help,