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American Woodcock

Silhouette ShorebirdsShorebirds
American WoodcockScolopax minor
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Scolopacidae

Basic Description

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, this 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.

More ID Info
image of range map for American Woodcock
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Woodcocks 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 call given at fairly short intervals. He intersperses this 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.

Other Names

  • Chocha Americana (Spanish)
  • Bécasse d'Amérique (French)
  • Cool Facts