How to Sex and Age American Woodcock

SEX AND AGE - WING

Woodcock wing diagram
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AGE
Using Feathers 15-18 (secondaries)

JUVENILE ADULT
Juvenile woodcock feather Juvenile woodcock feather Adult woodcock feather Adult woodcock feather
A. Light-colored terminal band
B. Distinct dark band separates light-colored terminal band from mottling below
C. Mottling symmetrical on both sides of feather
A. Lack of distinct dark band
B. Mottling not symmetrical, runs into light terminal band
C. Little or no mottling
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AGE SPECTRUM
Using Feathers 15-18 (secondaries)

Woodcock feathers - age spectrum

   Woodcock feathers - age spectrum

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1. Distinct dark band separates light-colored buffy tip from mottling below. Mottling symmetrical on both sides of feather.
2. Same as above, slightly less mottling.
3. Distinct dark band present, but narrower than #1 and #2.
4. Much less mottling, but mottling is symmetrical. Dark band present.
5. Less mottling, but symmetrical, dark band present.
6. Feather appears more worn, dark band more faint but still separates buffy tip from symmetrical mottling below.
 
1. Dark band less intact, mottling on right side extends into buffy tip. Mottling not symmetrical.
2. Lack of distinct dark band. Mottling not symmetrical and it extends into buffy tip.
3. Asymmetrical mottling, lack of distinct dark band.
4. Asymmetrical mottling, lack of distinct dark band.
5. Much less mottling and it is asymmetric. No dark band.
6. Very little mottling. No dark band.

 
AGE - Retained Juvenile Feathers
Using Feathers 15-18 (secondaries)

Immature Female Adult Female with Retained Feathers 15 and 16 Adult Female
Juvenile woodcock Adult woodcock with retained juvenile feathers Adult woodcock
Feathers 15-18
all juvenile
14 - Adult
15 & 16 - Juvenile
17 & 18 - Adult
Feathers 15-18
all adult
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SEX CRITERIA
Using Feathers 1-3 (primaries)

Male Female
Woodcock primary feathers
A - Measure width of primaries 2 cm from tip
Sum of 3 feather widths:
<= 12.4 mm
Sum of 3 feather widths:
>= 12.6 mm
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If sum of the widths of the outer 3 primaries is between 12.4 and 12.6 mm you must determine sex from wing chord measurement. (See diagram at top for location of wing chord measurement).

Wing Chord Measurements

Measurement Sex Accuracy
< 125mm M 100%
125-127 mm M 95%
128-138 mm Unknown --
139-145 mm F 95%
>= 146 mm F 100%

 
AGE - Adults with Emerging Primaries
Using Feathers 1-3 (primaries)

Male Female
Male woodcock with emerging primaries Female woodcock with emerging primaries
Outer 3 primaries still emerging Outer 3 primaries still emerging
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AGE - Adults and Juveniles
Using Magnified Tips of Feathers 1-3 (primaries)

Adult Juvenile
Male woodcock with emerging primaries
Male woodcock with emerging primaries

Female woodcock with emerging primaries
Female woodcock with emerging primaries
 
Tips of barbs show wear with a persistent rachis Tip of each barb's rachis wears/breaks off leaving a "V" at the end
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An Adobe Acrobat (*pdf) version of this file is available as either a 2' X 3' poster (2.3 MB) or reduced to 8 1/2" X 11" letter paper (181 KB). The information on aging adults and juveniles using wing tips is available as a separate 8 1/2" X 11" document (227KB).

Reference: Martin, F.W. 1964. Woodcock age and sex determination from wings. J. Wildl. Manage. 28:287-293.

Poster design and content: Al Stewart, Melinda Cosgrove, Val Frawley, and Oz Warbach, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources; Jim Kelly, Jr and Greg Sepik, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Dan McAuley, U.S. Geological Survey; Earl Johnson, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.