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Bird Identification

American Woodcock

Scolopax minor Length: 11"

Look For

A football-sized bird, the American Woodcock is a shorebird that lives its life in and near woods. On the ground, it looks large bodied, big headed, with large black eyes and a long bill. Its eyes are set far back on the head, allowing it to watch for danger from behind and above as it probes for earthworms.

Listen For

The male's elaborate courtship display begins with a series of nasal peent! calls. Then he takes flight, wings whistling too-too-too-too as he flies upward in a spiral. As he tumbles back to earth, he twitters and burbles.


Before you see a woodcock, you may hear the whistle of its wings as it flies past, or you may hear one peenting at night.

Find it

Woodcocks favor wet woods for nesting and roosting, with nearby fields or meadows for nighttime foraging. The best time to find this species is in spring and summer, when males perform their "sky dance" display.


The woodcock's bill has a flexible, sensitive tip that can sense an earthworm and then open up just enough to grasp the worm and extract it from the ground.

This profile is an excerpt from The Young Birder's Guide by Bill Thompson, III. Purchase an autographed copy from our nature store, and check out other BWD titles designed to help you identify backyard birds.

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