Description of the American Woodcock

BREEDING MALE

The American Woodcock is a short stocky bird of the forest floor. Oddly enough, if you look in your field guides, you will find the woodcock listed with sandpipers and other shorebirds. Typically nocturnal and secretive. Still hunted as a game bird.

Males have an elaborate flight display given at dawn and dusk. Check the Bent Life History section for descriptions of the behavior.

  • Darker upperparts with long, gray stripes.
  • Orange-buff underparts.
  • Barred crown.
  • Pinkish legs.
  • Long, straight bill.
  • Large eyes.

american woodcock

 

Female

Same as male.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Similar to adult.

Habitat

American Woodcocks inhabit moist woods and brushy swamps.

Diet

American Woodcocks eat insects and earthworms.

Behavior

The American Woodcock forages by probing in moist soil, using its flexible and sensitive bill tip to find and capture earthworms.

Range

American Woodcocks breed in the eastern U.S. and winter in the southeastern U.S. The population is not well measured, but appears to have declined in some areas and increased in others.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Woodcock.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

The eyes of American Woodcocks are set far back on their heads, so they can see a complete circle around them, even when their bills are down in the ground while foraging.

American Woodcocks have a dramatic courtship display flight with modified feathers producing sounds during a dive.

Vocalizations

The call is a loud "peent."

Nesting

The American Woodcock’s nest is a depression lined with leaves.

Number: usually 4 eggs.

Color: Pinkish in color with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 20-22 days, and leave the nest shortly after hatching, though associating with the adults for some time.