©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION


Scientific name: Scolopax rusticola
Sometimes known as the snipe of the woods, the exquisitely camouflaged woodcock is mainly nocturnal, hiding in the dense undergrowth of woodlands and heathlands during the day.

Species information


Length: 33-35cm
Wingspan: 58cm
Weight: 280g
Average lifespan: 4 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


A fairly large, short-legged wading bird, the woodcock lives in woodlands and on heathlands where its mottled plumage provides it with excellent camouflage as it probes around the ground for earthworms and beetles to eat. If you happen to disturb one, it will fly off in a zig-zag pattern between the trees before dropping back to the ground and the safe, dense cover of the undergrowth. The woodcocks that breed in the UK are mostly residents, but they are joined by wintering birds from Finland and Russia.

In spring and summer, male woodcocks perform a display flight known as roding. At dusk, and just before dawn, they take to the air and patrol over large areas of their forest and heathland homes, calling in a series of grunts and squeaks, competing with other males to attract females.

How to identify

Woodcocks are chunky, pigeon-sized birds with short, greyish-pink legs and a very long, straight bill. They're mostly brown, with an intricate pattern of black and grey barring, and broad, dark bars across the crown.

The woodcock is larger than the similar-looking snipe and is a bird of woodlands, rather than grasslands and moorlands.


Widespread; a fairly common, but shy, breeding bird of damp woodlands and heathlands.

Did you know?

The woodcock's pin feathers were highly prized by artists as fine brush tips for use on exquisite works, and were also used to remove fine particles, such as dust, from people's eye.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers, landowners and foresters to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.