AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax minor) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The American Woodcock is a plump shorebird with a mottled brown plumage with some white spots. The neck is very short, as well as the tail. The thin bill is about twice as long as the head. The bird has large eyes placed high on the head, which allow for a very wide view range. Sexes are similar, but females are larger. The bird measures approximately 30 cm (12 inches) long.
NAME: The English name ‘Woodcock’ refers to the bird’s habitat. The Latin genus name ‘Scolopax’ means ‘Woodcock’, and the Latin species name ‘minor’ means ‘small’.
HABITAT: This species is a ‘shorebird’ of the forest and fields filled with shrubs, also urban areas.
DIET: Probes the ground with its long bill for invertebrates, especially earthworms.
NESTING: The nest is built on the ground, but the word ‘built’ should be interpreted in its simplest form. About four orange-grey eggs are laid, incubated by the female, who is also the one feeding the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range covers the southeast part of Canada and most of the northeast part of the USA. It is a year-round resident of the southeast USA. Wintering populations are found in east Texas and southern Florida.
ON PEI: On Prince Edward Island, the American woodcock is noted as common to fairly common depending on the seasons (except winter). It also breeds on the island.
CONSERVATION: This bird is still being hunted in spite of being a shorebird (which are nomally protected). Its numbers appear stable and they are currently not considered at risk.
NOTES: The bird’s plumage color provides good camouflage. However males are heard easily at dawn or dusk in the spring, with 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 videos – some quite humoristic – on YouTube about this behavior.
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas) (Department of Conservation, New York State)
American Bird Conservancy (American Woodcock) (Missouri Department of Conservation)

American woodcock - Parc nature Pointe-aux-Prairies, Montreal, QC - photo by guizmo_68
American woodcock – Parc nature Pointe-aux-Prairies, Montreal, QC – photo by guizmo_68