American Woodcock

Calling an American Woodcock a “shorebird” is perhaps a little misleading. Although this bird is related 
to others that do inhabit coastal areas, the American Woodcock is 
an inland bird which often inhabits young forests and abandoned
 fields. During the breeding season, male woodcocks perform courtship displays, which involve the birds spiraling up into the sky
before a rapid, circling descent back to the very field from which they flew. This display produces a chirping, non-vocal sound referred to as “twittering”. On the ground, the woodcock gives a “peent” call similar to the Common Nighthawk, though of a more nasally quality. This call and display can be heard both after sunset and sometimes into the night. American Woodcock nests are typically constructed on the ground in young, mixed woodlands composed of as birch, aspen, and spruce. Incubating females are well-camouflaged to blend into the leaf litter, as are recently hatched young. Young woodcocks are initially fed by the female parent, but quickly begin probing the ground for food on their own. These young birds become independent around 35-40 days after hatching.

Safe Dates: April 15th to July 25th (applicable for only the S or H codes).


Breeding Evidence: If you hear an American Woodcock give its “peent” call within the safe dates, use code S. The simplest way to upgrade this to a “Probable Breeder” is to listen again at the same location 7 or more days later to upgrade the code to S7. If you see or hear the twittering flight courtship display performed by the male, use code C. Males performing court-ship displays from singing grounds can be fairly close together. If 7 or more calling American Woodcocks are heard in these scenarios, use code M. Young American Woodcocks leave the nest and beginning probing for food on their own within just a few days of hatching. If you encounter young woodcocks foraging in your block, as long as they are not capable of strong flight, you can use code FL.

Image courtesy of Dave Ellis. 

Audio courtesy of Melani Sleder and Andrew Spencer

© 2019 Logan Parker

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is a part of the Maine Natural History Observatory