American Woodcock | Sports | – Greensburg Daily News

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Updated: March 5, 2022 @ 7:51 am

American Woodcock

American Woodcock
You can call it by its formal name, American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) or by one of its more common names which includes timberdoodle, Labrador twister, night partridge and bog sucker.
Regardless of what you call it, the fat, tiny bird with the long beak resembling a waddling Alfred Hitchcock is an all American bigtime hit among bird watchers and upland game hunters.
Superbly camouflaged against the leaf litter, the brown-mottled American Woodcock walks slowly along the forest floor, probing the soil with its long bill in search of earthworms. Unlike its coastal relatives, the plump little shorebird lives in young forests and shrubby old fields across eastern North America. Its cryptic plumage and low-profile behavior make it hard to find except in the springtime at dawn or dusk, when the males show off for females by giving loud, nasal “peent” calls and performing dazzling aerial displays.
The woodcock’s antics in courtship are something of legend. The Cornell Lab relates… the male woodcock’s evening display flights are one of the magical natural sights of springtime in the East. He gives buzzy “peent” calls from a display area on the ground, and then he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. At a height of 200–350 feet the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts to descend. He zigzags down, chirping as he goes, then lands silently (near a female, if she is present). Once on the ground, he resumes “peenting” and the display starts over again.
Watching woodcocks primp and dance on the ground is hilarious. They sway, rock back and forth, and waddle as they “bust a move” trying to impress the ladies!
Some males display at several singing grounds and mate with multiple females. The female often visits four or more singing grounds before nesting, and she may keep up the visits even while she cares for her young. The male gives no parental care, and continues to display long after most females have laid eggs.
Young woodcocks leave the nest a few hours after hatching, but for their first week they depend on their mothers for food. They start to probe in dirt at three or four days after hatching.
The American Woodcock probes the soil with its bill to search for earthworms, using its flexible bill tip to capture prey. The bird walks slowly and sometimes rocks its body back and forth, stepping heavily with its front foot. The action may make worms move around in the soil, increasing their detectability.
The woodcock almost has “eyes in the back of its head.” Their large eyes are positioned high and near the back of the skull. The arrangement lets them keep watch for danger in the sky while they have their heads down probing in the soil for food.
To find a woodcock, they are easiest to find at dusk in the springtime, when the male performs a marvelous display flight, or “sky dance.” It can be hard at first to locate the bird in dim light, so listen for the distinctive, buzzy “peent” sounding call given at fairly short intervals. He intersperses his call, given from the ground, with his spiraling display flights. In the air the bird gives musical chirps and makes a twittering sound as air passes through his wingtips. Displays continue well into the night, so if you hear this noise, be patient, track it to its source, and see if you can catch sight of the male as he plummets back to earth to resume his “peent” calls.
Woodcock are a favorite among upland game hunters. Almost everyone who have eaten woodcock says it is the king of game birds, even greater in flavor than canvasback duck. The flavor of woodcock is said to be strong, gamey-in-a-good-way, and like nothing else. Gourmets say the earth literally moves when you bite into one perfectly cooked rare.
Prized by birdwatchers lucky enough to encounter the odd member of woodland fowl, the woodcock is held in awe. Conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote the woodcock’s mesmerizing sky dances were “a refutation of the theory that the utility of a game bird is to serve as a target, or to pose gracefully on a slice of toast.” His writing helped spur the mid-twentieth century conservation movement.
Woodcock Watch
American woodcocks begin their search for a mate in early spring. As the sun goes down on March 30 on Monroe Lake at the Fairfax State Recreation Area, participants will try to sneak a peek at the male courtship behavior. The combination of a distinct call and an aerial display make it an enjoyable bird to both watch and hear!
One hour in length and recommended for ages 8+, limited to 20 people. Registration is required by March 28 at
Register for Becoming an Outdoors Woman
The annual Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop is April 29 to May 1 at Ross Camp in West Lafayette. The workshop is open to women ages 18 and older and limited to 85 participants.
The program is designed for women to learn outdoor skills in a relaxed, low-pressure environment. Participants will choose four activities from more than two dozen offerings, including fishing, archery, geocaching, wilderness survival, natural gardening, wild edibles, wildlife tracking, shooting firearms, and outdoor cooking.
The workshop is for women who have never tried the activities, but have hoped for an opportunity to learn; who have tried them but are beginners hoping to improve; or who know how to do some of the activities, but would like to try new ones.
Women who enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals and who seek time away to reconnect with nature are also prime candidates for BOW.
Registration, which opens March 1 and runs until there are 85 registrants, can be done online at The cost for the workshop is $250 and includes all equipment, meals and lodging.
‘till next time,
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