Description of the American Woodcock
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.
Same as male.
Seasonal change in appearance
Similar to adult.
American Woodcocks inhabit moist woods and brushy swamps.
American Woodcocks eat insects and earthworms.
The American Woodcock forages by probing in moist soil, using its flexible and sensitive bill tip to find and capture earthworms.
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.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Woodcock.
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
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.
The call is a loud "peent."