Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Last night in our field, at dusk, we heard an American Woodcock calling it's peculiar, nasal "peent" sound. I looked through my Stokes DLS 8x42 binocular, (which is extremely bright and "twilight optimized") and could actually see the bird in the dim light. Wow, what a great bird!! Those shoebutton eyes on top of its head allows it to look for predators while it feeds on earthworms with its bill stuck in the ground.
One of the most astounding things about woodcocks is the males's courtship display, which is exactly what our bird was doing. After giving multiple "peents" he rose in the air in a spiral, hundreds of feet high and you could hear his wings making a twittering sound. At the very top of his flight, he made a canary-like chirping for several seconds, as he began his descent. After landing, he began his "peent" calls again.
Male woodcocks do courtship displays, at dusk and dawn, in open fields, hoping to attract as many females as they can. Females go to the fields, mate with a male, then go into the woods and nest and raise the young by themselves. The young are born fully feathered and can walk and soon feed themselves.
Woodcocks nest in much of the eastern part of the country. If you live near open fields you can go and listen for woodcock displays and witness this amazing woodcock behavior for yourself.