If the woodcock is a wader, why does it live in woods?

Mike Toms discusses this non-wading woodland wader

Woodcock at nest © Mirceax / Getty

The woodcock is surprising in many ways, not least because of its association with woodland habitats, largely nocturnal behaviour and strange display-flight. Related to the snipes, the woodcock has evolved to take advantage of the small invertebrates found under woodland leaf litter and in damp soil.

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This ground-loving species flies only sparingly, except when on migration or during courtship, and does not usually wade. Such behaviours set it apart from other waders – though there are several other woodcock species globally – and the bird is regarded as something of an oddity.

The beautifully marked plumage provides camouflage against the woodland floor on which it nests, and its short wings and stout legs aid a woodland lifestyle.

Individuals may forage on woodland rides at night or move into surrounding pasture to feed, where they may be joined by common snipe if the ground is sufficiently damp; otherwise they face little competition from other wader species.

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