April 9, 2012

What is that sound?

By Jeremy Phillips, Naturalist/ Registrar

Photo courtesy The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Lately, amongst the dusk filled evenings, in the middle of a field near my house I have been hearing the sound of one of the most interesting signs of spring. “Peeent! Peeent!” The sound resonates around the area as this creature makes its call, while turning before each note, circling to allow the sound to carry in each direction. This continues for a short time before it bursts into the air flying to a height of 300 feet in a large circle above its field, and then descending erratically while making beautiful “twiddling” sounds before landing within feet from where it took off.

The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is related to shorebirds, but lives in forests. It has a long beak, which it uses to probe underground for insects and earthworms. The tip of the beak is flexible to give it an advantage while moving through the soil. The woodcock’s eyes are on the back half of its head so that it can see while searching for food. It seems to have vision almost 360 degrees around. It uses its camouflage to hide on the forest floor, rarely being spotted. The greatest chance to see these amazingly strange looking birds is while they are looking for mates throughout spring. Listen and look for the woodcock just before dusk in open to partially open fields.

Learn more about the American Woodcock from The Cornall Lab or Ornithology.

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