Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

David G. Krementz

Committee Member

Jason A. Tullis

Second Committee Member

John D. Willson

Keywords

Biological sciences; American woodcock; Migratory connectivity; Scolopax minor

Abstract

American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is a migratory game bird in population decline since the start of monitoring in 1968. Researchers are interested in gaining knowledge of spring migration ecology to improve migration habitat and mitigate population decline. I captured six woodcock with mist and hand nets on nocturnal habitat and marked them with VHF (very high frequency) transmitters in northern Arkansas. I documented the distance they traveled between nocturnal and diurnal habitats (n=27), and documented diurnal vegetation characteristics at sites used (n=25). I found that woodcock moved an average of 370 m (SE 25.31 m) with the longest movement being 651 m. Diurnally, woodcock used mature hardwood landcover types, with an average canopy cover of 89% (SE 2.42), average bare soil of 19% (SE 3.14), ground vegetation density of 2.18 (SE 0.14), and mid story vegetation density of 2.19 (SE 0.14).

I used citizen scientists to conduct crepuscular surveys for woodcock (n=860) in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois and used survey areas to describe woodcock habitat with large-scale LANDFIRE vegetation data layers. Survey areas where woodcock were detected had less agriculture (specifically row crops) and more hardwood cover, especially where tree cover was 70%-80%, than present in the study area. Survey areas where woodcock were detected also had higher patch size coefficients of variance that indicates large ranges of patch sizes and high habitat variability within close proximity to survey locations. My results on woodcock habitat use during spring migration are important for managers to identify areas and habitat types to conserve and manage to improve migration habitat and mitigate further population decline.

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