Shorebirds: American Woodcock

Photo of American Woodcock

As someone who enjoys listening to birds as much as watching them, I eagerly await the arrival of American Woodcocks in early spring, or late winter as was the case this year. If you're familiar with the male's showy behavior, you probably understand. If you're not, I encourage you to seek out this inland-dwelling shorebird. You'll need appropriate habitat (a large lawn or field bordered by forest) and twilight timing (say 20-40 minutes before sunrise or after sundown).

For a description of what you could witness and an excerpt of their intriguing courtship displays, check out this short video by Doug Hitchcox, a fellow Maine birder and the Staff Naturalist at Maine Audubon.

If you're having trouble locating birds, this eBird range map shows where American Woodcocks have been observed in the months of March, April and May, in recent years. Just zoom in to your location.

Though I've most often observed American Woodcocks during their twilight displays, I've also bumped into them (sometimes almost literally) during the day. Most of my encounters have been brief, and have occurred when flushing a bird by unknowingly approaching too closely. On rarer occasions, I've spotted them from a distance without flushing them. Below are photos of one such bird I found hiding among fallen leaves in the spring of 2015. Learn more about the life cycle of these earthworm-eating shorebirds at All About Birds. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

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