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Thursday, June 14, 2007

American Woodcock

Another photo op while we were at Crane Creek/Magee marsh this spring, was this American Woodcock who was feeding right off the boardwalk. Woodcocks are famous for their early spring courtship flights, where, at dusk, they can up in a spiral to about 300 ft. feet, wings whirring, and at the pinnacle, give canary-like chirping. They then sail down to the ground, give their little, nasal "peent" call, then start the courtship display all over again. It's fairly easy to witness these flights, if you go in spring at dusk, to open fields in the Woodcocks breeding range.

What's more unusual, is seeing Woodcocks walking through the woods feeding. This Woodcock was walking around, rocking its body and stepping heavily. It is thought the vibrations from this may make earthworms, its main food, move in the soil, helping the Woodcock find them. A Woodcock's long bill has a flexible tip, which allows it to open the tip and grasp earthworms, without opening the whole bill, see top photo. Such camouflaged plumage makes it blend into the leaf litter, and those amazing, large, shoebutton eyes perched atop its head help it see potential predators while it's probing in the mud. What a cool bird, and we felt it was such a special treat to have seen it so closely!

Photos © Lillian Stokes, 2007


Mike McDowell said...

Awesome pictures, Lillian!

Mike M.

LNMP said...

This spring I FINALLY got to witness the courtship flight of an American Woodcock. I had a big grin on my face the whole time... it was an experience I won't soon forget!

I stood in one place for so long that when I turned to leave, I discovered that there were about a half-dozen deer behind me, apparently oblivious to my presence.