Doctoral Research

GPS transmitter successfully deployed at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, October 2017.

The GPS transmitter we use weigh only 4 g and will transmit a minimum of 75 locations.  The backpack style transmitters we use sits on the center of gravity, and most birds resume normal activity within a few days post capture. 

Dissertation: American Woodcock population ecology and migration ecology throughout eastern North America

American woodcock (Scolopax minor) have experienced long-term population decline of 1.1% per year between 1968-2015 in eastern North America.  This prolonged trend has raised concern from conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, and public stakeholders.   Traditionally, the majority of woodcock research has focused on the breeding- and wintering-grounds, with migratory stopover sites receiving little attention.  My dissertation focuses on woodcock migration ecology to build full annual cycles population models to evaluate how various demographic and landscape factors influence population decline.  The four chapters of my dissertation research will focus on 1) quantifying migratory survival of woodcock, 2) describing migratory phenology, 3) quantifying survival of immature woodcock during the breeding season, and 4) building an Integrated Population Model (IPM) to identify causes of woodcock decline. 

Update: In the fall of 2017, we deployed six GPS transmitters enabled with the Argos satellite system to remotely track four hatch year males and two after after hatch year females throughout migration.  All six woodcock initiated migration, with four establishing winter residencies, and two likely dying during migration, however we cannot differentiate tag loss from mortality events currently.  As of March 2018, one male woodcock is still transmitting GPS locations and is migrating north. 

We are working hard to prepare for fall of 2018, where we will begin deploying GPS transmitters in Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and possibly North Carolina.


If you are interested in joining the Eastern Woodcock Migratory Research Collaborative (EWMRC), please feel free to contact me at  

This after hatch year female woodcock's transmitter took one location every day and she successfully migrated south before ending transmissions in January 2018.  She successfully migrated from Maine to the east-central North Carolina and moved to coastal North Carolina during a winter storm.  Inset maps show pre-migration (A), stopover (B), and overwintering (C) locations. 

This hatch year male woodcock's transmitter takes one location every fifth day and he is the only woodcock transmitting as of March 2018.  The male successfully migrated from Maine to the Alabama/Florida state line and has currently embarked on spring migration.  Inset maps show stopover (B) and overwintering (C) locations. 

Migratory routes and GPS locations for six woodcock marked with GPS transmitters in central and Eastern Maine.  It appears woodcock either migrated along the coast, or inland along the Appalachian Mountains.  I am eager see what patters emerge after we mark birds across eastern North America.  Map updated March 2018. 

Alexander Fish

PhD Candidate

The University of Maine

5755 Nutting Hall

Orono, ME 04469


© 2020 by Alexander Fish

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