Sherpa Guides > Virginia Mountains > American Woodcock

American Woodcock

The woodcock (Scolopax minor), like the camel, seems to have been designed by a committee. The nearly neckless and tailless bird appears off-balance with its extremely long, straight bill. The upper mandible of the beak is flexible at the tip—a useful tool for grasping earthworms beneath the soil without opening the beak. The well-camouflaged "timberdoodle" is so invisible in the ground leaf litter that it sometimes doesn't fly until almost underfoot. Then it bursts from the ground and zigzags away in a whistling of wings.

The courtship flight of the male often takes place at dusk over a field with nearby woods. The male spirals high into the air then plummets toward the ground with a chittering call. Both male and female fly above the field making their "peeent" call. The American woodcock is in trouble throughout its range due to loss of habitat. In Virginia, a 2.5 percent annual decline has led to reductions in hunting season.

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