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American Woodcock Habitat Changes in Canaan Valley and Environs

Steketee, Ann K., Wood, Petra Bohall, Gregg, Ian D.
Southeastern naturalist 2015 v.14 no.sp7 pp. 331-343
Scolopax, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, land use, landscapes, microhabitats, monitoring, population dynamics, soil water, urbanization, wetlands, West Virginia
Canaan Valley contains important habitat for Scolopax minor (American Woodcock) in the mid-Atlantic states, especially in West Virginia. Throughout the eastern United States, however, this species has experienced significant population declines since the US Fish and Wildlife Service began monitoring its populations in 1968. Losses of early successional habitats through urbanization and forest-stand maturation have been identified as probable causes for the decrease in population. During 1995–1997, we sampled American Woodcock presence and measured microhabitat and landscape characteristics in a variety of early successional habitats on plots located in and around Canaan Valley. Habitat characteristics related to soil moisture differentiated sites in and outside of Canaan Valley. Sites used by American Woodcock in Canaan Valley generally occurred in or near shrubby wetlands. To identify long-term changes in quality and quantity of American Woodcock habitat, we also compared current availability of appropriate habitat to similar data collected by researchers in the 1970s. We found that almost all of the sites in Canaan Valley that were originally classified as exceptional were still good American Woodcock habitat. Land development and succession, however, have reduced the quality of habitat. Active management and protection are needed, particularly because Canaan Valley is the only place in West Virginia that consistently offers exceptional American Woodcock habitat.