The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor), sometimes colloquially referred to as the Timberdoodle, is a small chunky shorebird species found primarily in the eastern half of North America. Woodcocks spend most of their time on the ground in brushy, young-forest habitats, where the birds’ brown, black, and gray plumage provides excellent camouflage.
The American woodcock has a plump body, short legs, a large, rounded head, and a long, straight prehensile bill. Adults are 10 to 12 inches long and weigh 5 to 8 ounces. Females are considerably larger than males. The bill is 2.5 to 2.75 inches long.
The plumage is a cryptic mix of different shades of browns, grays, and black. The chest and sides vary from yellowish white to rich tans. The nape of the head is black, with three or four crossbars of deep buff or rufous. The feet and toes, which are small and weak, are brownish gray to reddish brown. [Wikipedia]
American Woodcock Facts [All About Birds]
- 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, then flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. At the 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.
- Wouldn’t it be useful to have eyes in the back of your head? American Woodcocks come close—their large eyes are positioned high and near the back of their skull. This arrangement lets them keep watch for danger in the sky while they have their heads down probing in the soil for food.
- The conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote that 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.
- The oldest American Woodcock on record was 11 years, 4 months old.