American Woodcocks, also known as timberdoodles or bogsuckers, are a unique species of shorebird that inhabits young forests, brushy swamps, and abandoned farmlands in eastern North America.
Woodcocks are odd birds. They have very big eyes in the center of their head, which allows them to see in almost all directions, and in low light, which is important since they are most active at dawn and dusk. They also have a ridiculously long bill, which they use to probe for earthworms. Their bobbing dance may also help agitate those worms to make them easier for the Woodcocks to find.
What Woodcocks are primarily known for, though, is their distinctive courtship displays. In late winter and early spring, males come to open areas to display. From the ground, they utter a series of nasal “peent” and lower “hiccup” sounds. This is a signal to the females that they are ready to display. After a few peents, the male takes to the sky and produces a high-pitched twittering sound with its wings as it flies in a series of erratic loops and dives. As the male comes zigzagging down, he produces a musical whistle that rises in pitch before abruptly dropping off.
This “sky dance” is among the most distinctive and memorable displays of the bird world, so if you have a chance, go out one early morning or late evening to watch them do their dance. It’s magical.
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