Photo by James Giroux – Austin, TX – August, 2019
Bird of the Week: American Woodcock
By James Giroux
One of the strangest birds in North America is the American Woodcock. At rest, the bird is shaped like a football, and appears to have no neck. Its large, dark eyes are near the top and back of the head, and it has a very long thin beak. It’s in the shorebird family, but you won’t find it on the shore. Instead, this bird spends its time in eastern forests, probing for earthworms under the leaf litter. Those large eyes at the top of the head are useful in preventing aerial attacks. The bird is also extremely well-camouflaged for the forest floor.Many birders in the eastern half of the U.S. have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the dawn/dusk displays that the males perform in springtime. But recently I had the rare opportunity to see and hear this display in the Austin area. The bird begins by making a nasally “peeennt” sound. It then takes off vertically climbing to a height of 200-350 feet. As it climbs, the wings make a twittering sound. The bird descends, and as it nears the ground makes a different twittering sound. It has not been confirmed whether this sound is made by the wings or by chirping.
Other names for the Woodcock include the Timberdoodle, Labrador twister, Night partridge, and Bog sucker. Strange indeed.
Source: All About Birds website – The Cornell Lab