Young Forests and the American Woodcock

by Lia Biondo, MUCC Policy Intern
The American Woodcock is a well-known upland game species in Michigan. In fact, we rank number one for American woodcock harvest and production, with approximately 35% of the nation’s total harvested birds!
With that popularity and ranking comes a responsibility for conservation and protection of the species. In an effort to further the endurance of the American woodcock as a popular upland game bird species, biologists and conservationists in the Great Lakes Region created the “Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative” in 2008. The initiative was initially drafted by the Wildlife Management Institute, with partner support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Woodcock Minnesota, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as well as wildlife and conservation experts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
The American woodcock is a finicky upland game bird species in that it requires four different habitat types to thrive -small clearings for mating rituals, young second-growth shrubs and hardwoods for cover, rich soils to provide invertebrates for food, and a roosting area with thick, lush vegetation. The Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative works to provide these types of habitat areas through forest management techniques in the Great Lakes Region.
Areas of the Upper Great Lakes Young Forests Initiative Areas of the Upper Great Lakes Young Forests Initiative
Wildlife conservationists have set up several Demonstration Areas in the region that display these forest management techniques on a broader scale. These areas have been identified as high-priority management zones that show the greatest potential for establishing American woodcock populations. Using Best Management Practices for woodcock and other upland game species, wildlife biologists are able to create the unique habitat demands that these birds need to thrive. Funding for these projects is received through a Webless Migratory Game Bird Management Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
These Demonstration Areas illustrate the woodcock’s need for young forests. The woodcock population thrives best for only about twenty years following a forest cutting, at which point another harvest will be required in order to maintain the bird’s interest in that area. The DNR continuously works to manage and produce young forest areas. The timber industry in Michigan also helps to create young forest areas by increasing harvest numbers, which in turn provides more habitat for the woodcock.
The ultimate goal in creating these habitat areas is establishing a steady population of about 500 individuals. At this level, the population is set-up for survival success and ensures the species’ vitality. An area of about 500-1000 acres will support this many birds.
Private landowners need not own 500-1000 acres though in order to help sustain the American woodcock populations on their own lands! Even individual land parcels can host portions of a larger habitat area that will be able to benefit this upland game bird’s populations. Additionally, creating a Forest Stewardship Plan for your private forested property allows you to enroll into additional forestry programs such as the Commercial Forest Program and the Qualified Forest Property Program. From those programs, you can help create habitat for woodcock and other upland game species.
For more information on the Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative, click HERE.
To read more about Best Management Practices for the Woodcock and Other Associated Species, click HERE.

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