AMERICAN WOODCOCK – (Scolopax minor)
The American woodcock is a ‘shorebird’ of the forest and fields filled with shrubs. It is well camouflaged with its mottled brown with some white spots. The bill is thin and about twice as long as the head, and specialized to probe the ground for invertebrates, especially earthworms. The neck is very short. Sexes are similar, but females are larger. This bird has large eyes placed high on the head, which allow for a very wide view range. The bird measures approximately 30 cm (12 in.) long.
Because of their color these birds are hard to see, however males are heard easily at dawn or dusk in the spring from their nasal calls, which accompany their spectacular aerial displays (sky dancing).
The American woodcock has a peculiar way of walking which apparently helps detect earthworm movements underground. It is viewed as some form of a ‘dance’ as the bird rhythmically moves its body up and down and back and forth while stepping from one foot to the other. There are lots of videos – some quite humoristic – on YouTube to watch this behavior.
On PEI, the American woodcock is noted as common to fairly common depending on the seasons (except winter), and it breeds on the island. The nest is built on the ground, but the word ‘built’ should be interpreted in its simplest form. This bird is still being hunted in spite of being a shorebird. Its numbers appear stable. The wintering range of this species includes mainly the southeast USA.