American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park

This past month has been a great time to hear and see American Woodcocks at Sylvan Prairie Park. Woodcocks are well known for their spectacular courtship display. On spring nights, males perform very conspicuous displays, giving a buzzy “peent” call, then launching into the air. Their erratic display flight includes a distinctive, twittering flight sound and ends with a steep dive back to the ground. Have you seen or heard this magical event?

American Woodcocks are plump, short-legged shorebirds with very long, straight bills. They are about the same size as a robin. Their light brown, black, buff, and gray-brown mottled feather patterns help them blend in well with their surroundings. You can find them hidden in fields and on the forest floor, where they probe for earthworms. The variety of nicknames for this bird are entertaining and reflect their preferred habitat and their courtship behavior. They include: the timberdoodle, the bogsucker, the hokumpoke, and the Labrador twister, night partridge, big-eye, and mudbat.

Woodcocks migrate back and forth between northern breeding areas and southern wintering grounds. In spring and summer, they breed in the North, from Atlantic Canada west to the Great Lakes area. In autumn they fly to lowlands from the Carolinas west to eastern Texas, with the greatest concentration of birds wintering in Louisiana and Mississippi. Woodcock migrate north again in February, March, and April, homing to the same areas where they were hatched.

Check out these links to learn more about the American Woodcock


Check out the diagram below showing the courtship flight of the American Woodcock. 

Watch a YouTube video of the American Woodcock courtship display: