The Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola is a sedentary bird in the Azores archipelago, where it is an important game species. In S. Miguel island, hunting has been forbidden for at least two decades, but this measure seems to have failed in its purpose of increasing population size. Our work aims to determine woodcock distribution and relative abundance during the breeding season in S. Miguel, identify the proximate habitat factors related to the species occurrence and evaluate the role of reminiscent natural Azorean forest for the conservation of its populations. We conducted censuses at 71 observation points, systematically distributed along the island using UTM 1 × 1 km grid cells. During the breeding season, male woodcock performs display (roding) flights. Census consisted in recording the number of contacts with roding birds, during the evening roding period. The species was detected in only 30% of the points and its relative abundance was generally low. The species was mainly distributed in the most mountainous regions of the Eastern part of the island. Several habitat variables were measured at each observation point and their relationship with species occurrence was determined with logistic regression. The presence of roding birds was negatively correlated with the distance to natural vegetation and positively correlated with arboreal vegetation surface. The model had a high prediction success (88.9% for presences, 83.3% for absences and 85% overall, for a 0.3 cut-off point) and explained the distribution of the species well. The observed restricted distribution and overall low abundance supports the maintenance of the hunting interdiction. The preference for natural vegetation during the breeding season is an important aspect. Reforestation with endemic species, control of invasive species and the maintenance of forest edges and small patches of vegetation between pastures would contribute to woodcock conservation in the island.
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Vol. 14 • No. 1