Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Doherty, K.E., D.E. Andersen, J. Meunier, E. Oppelt, R.S. Lutz, and J.G. Bruggink. 2010. Past patch quality as a predictor of future habitat selection: relating movement behavior of American woodcock to environmental factors. Wildlife Biology 16:379-388.


Quality of recently used foraging areas is likely an important predictor of fidelity to specific locations in the future. We monitored movement and habitat use of 58 adult female American woodcock Scolopax minor at three study areas in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, USA, during autumn 2002 and 2003, to assess the relationship between foraging habitat use decisions and environmental conditions at previously used foraging locations. We assessed whether habitat variables which related to food and weather were related to distance between locations on subsequent days of individual woodcock that choose diurnal foraging locations when they return from night-time roosting locations. We predicted that woodcock would return to foraging locations used on the previous day (i.e. shorter distances between daily foraging locations) when environmental conditions on the prior day were favourable. Woodcock generally made short (i.e. 48%,50mand 91%,400 m) between-day movements, but also occasionally (;7%) abandoned prior foraging areas. The primary determinants of woodcock movements during autumn (prior to migration) were low local food availability and potential for increased food availability elsewhere. The quality of foraging locations was an important predictor of future foraging habitat use for woodcock, consistent with the hypothesis that woodcock movement behaviour balances the risks associated with movement with the potential benefits of increased energy intake in new foraging areas.