A football-sized bird, the American woodcock is a shorebird that lives its life in and near woods. On the ground, it looks large bodied, big headed, with large black eyes and a long bill. Its eyes are set far back on the head, allowing it to watch for danger from behind and above as it probes for earthworms.
The male’s elaborate courtship display begins with a series of nasal peent! calls. Then he takes flight, wings whistling too-too-too-too as he flies upward in a spiral. As he tumbles back to earth, he twitters and burbles.
Before you see a woodcock, you may hear the whistle of its wings as it flies past, or you may hear one peenting at night.
Woodcocks favor wet woods for nesting and roosting, with nearby fields or meadows for nighttime foraging. The best time to find this species is in spring and summer, when males perform their “sky dance” display.
The woodcock’s bill has a flexible, sensitive tip that can sense an earthworm and then open up just enough to grasp the worm and extract it from the ground.