Birds of the Western Oak Barrens - American Woodcock

I first started birding around 2011, and it became an obsession in 2014 at which point life happened and my obsession had to go away. At the north end of this project area the dog park had yet to be built. That was the stage for a couple of American Woodcocks. If one was able to cut away from chores and daily life (think mealtime with kids), and you got there just around dusk, you would be entertained by these quirky birds with snouts that reminded me of Kiwi birds (why Kiwi birds? that is a different story).

The American Woodcock is an odd bird. Built like a sandpiper that has enjoyed it's chips and beer a little too much, it loves to dance and perform for the ladies in a courtship routine that is certainly a curiosity to us bipedals. Finding a stage where he can be seen and from which he can make his presence known, the performance commences. He stands on stage, makes a wobble and let's out a 'peeent' sound akin to a noisy burst from a grasshopper that is cut off. He makes a quarter turn to the next cardinal point and repeats the announcement to the ladies that a show is about to happen. At some point, guessing once he thinks he has enough lady in audience, he will fly off. It seems at first like the show is over, but in reality he is making a spiraling flight 200-300 feet in the air. You either need really good eyes, or just trust the people that study these feathery friends, because try as you might, you will find it hard in the low light to see much of anything. This is the time to use your ears. From that height he descends with an erratic 'chiruppy', fluttering, canary sound to his stage where he starts the courtship dance once again.

A really good video on this whole process can be seen on YouTube:

As I returned this year from my hiatus from birding, I wondered whether the American Woodcock was still in this area. The dog park had been built on the main stage that one could reliably go to, to witness his performance. I have yet to see him there, but the good news is that I was able to observe one quirky guy prancing on the southern end of the project area. I have made extensive notes on the observation record so please check those out.

I hope to encounter more of these interesting feathery friends in our park. I would love to hear of your encounters with the Woodcock. If you find yourself in the park around dusk, listen out for these most interesting birds and record an observation.

Publicado por saulih saulih, 29 de mayo de 2022


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