Who Goes Peent In The Night

American Woodcock, foraging on forest floor, spring, Magee Marsh Boardwalk, Ohio ©Townsend P. Dickinson All Rights Reserved. Lis#D7F5250

American Woodcock, foraging on forest floor, spring, Magee Marsh Boardwalk, Ohio ©Townsend P. Dickinson All Rights Reserved. Lis# D7F5250

Early spring is the time birders are drawn to fields among the trees looking for a displaying American Woodcock. One of the earliest spring migrants to arrive they are usually not seen as they are secretive by habit. It is in the fields at dusk when the Timberdoodle is likely to perform is courtship activities. You may hear the repetitive nasal peent call long before you see the shadowy blob in the failing light. When conditions are right, the blob will launch into the air and at 200-300 ft. will start to descend in wide circular turns. The air rushing through the wings makes a chittering sound and the Woodcock also makes musical calls in flight. Upon completing of the courtship flight, near the spot he left a short time before and hopefully a receptive female, he will resume the peent calls.

It feeds on earthworm, is cryptically colored and spends its life hidden on the ground. When one is lucky enough to observe the bird in daylight, the first things noticed are the long bill, big feet and eyes on the side of the head. Soon however you will note that the bird has a distinctive bobbing walk as constantly hunts for earthworms. Many including Arthur Cleveland Bent, Olin Sewall Pettingill Jr., Willam H. Marshall and Bernd Heinrich  have commented on this behavior but no one seems absolutely certain of the reason for this. One suggestion is that this bobbing walk helps the woodcock locate earthworms with its feet. Another theory is that the bobbing walk would make it harder for a predator to catch.

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