These are a group of wading birds consisting of eight different species. The different species of Woodcock are the Eurasian, American, Amami, Moluccan, Javan, Sulawesi, New Guinea and Bukidnon Woodcocks.
They are rather stout birds, with long beaks that they use for probing into mud and dirt in search of invertebrates. All of the various species are mottled brown, which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Read on to learn about the Woodcock.
Description of the Woodcock
Though they are different species, and live in many different regions, each of these birds are quite similar in shape, size, and color. Most are around a foot long, and weigh about half a pound or so.
In comparison to the rest of their bodies, their bills are quite long, at about three inches. Their plumage, or feathers, is usually brown or tan, and has mottling of various shades of brown. This helps them to blend in with the surrounding bushes and shrubbery.
Interesting Facts About the Woodcock
Woodcocks are curious little creatures. They each have their own behaviors and adaptations to help them survive. Learn some interesting facts about these interesting birds below.
- Hop to It – One of the most interesting things about Woodcocks is the way that they move when they are searching for food. Most species love eating worms, and they walk heavily along the ground, often rocking back and forth. Researchers believe that this behavior helps them feel earthworms moving beneath the soil.
- Bug-Eyes – When you look at this bird, something seems just a little “off.” That’s because these birds have abnormally placed eyes. Their eyes are set rather high and far back on their heads, and while it might look strange, this actually helps them spot potential predators above them. In fact, they can even spot predators while their heads are down foraging!
- Roding – Many Woodcock and snipe species make some interesting vocalizations. Roding, or drumming, is the most common mating display for several different species. Unlike most vocalizations, these birds use modified tail feathers to produce this noise!
- Odd Function – These birds are quite popular as wild game, and hunters frequently target them in different parts of the world. Outside of sport hunting, one of the stranger uses for these birds is in painting. Artists use certain wing feathers of the Eurasian Woodcock in their paintbrushes.
Habitat of the Woodcock
As their name suggests, these birds often live in woodlands or forest habitats. They like to live in regions with a variety of shrubs and bushes on the ground. Their primary habitat is deciduous forest, but they also live in meadows and fields.
While feeding, it is important that the soil is moist enough for them to push their bills into, so they often forage near streams or rivers. Each species varies slightly in their habitat choice.
Distribution of the Woodcock
The different species have different ranges and distribution. A few species live across vast expanses of land, while the others live only in a small region or on a specific island.
The American species lives across portions of southeast Canada, and the eastern United States. The Eurasian species lives across Eurasia, primarily in Europe. The rest of the species live on various islands, and are usually named after the islands they live on.
Diet of the Woodcock
Most Woodcocks are primarily carnivores, though they do sometimes eat seeds or berries. Their favorite foods are invertebrates, and they eat quite a variety of different kinds. Depending on the species, they feed on a variety of flies, worms, insect larvae, beetles, spiders, centipedes, and more.
They feed by poking their long bill into soft soils or mud. Some species even have flexible bills, so that they can move them around in the soil to better grab their prey.
Woodcock and Human Interaction
Human interaction varies from species to species. Many species are gamebirds, and hunters target them for sport or sustenance. This activity is expounded by habitat destruction, and in the case of island species, invasive or feral animals like rats and cats.
The extent of damage that these factors cause varies from species to species. The widespread Eurasian and American Woodcocks are both common. The other species vary, and the IUCN lists the Moluccan Woodcock as Endangered.
Humans have not domesticated these birds in any way.
Does the Woodcock Make a Good Pet
No, Woodcocks do not make good pets. They are shy and secretive birds, and do not enjoy human interaction. In most places, it is also illegal to own, harass, capture, or kill them.
In zoos, these birds all share similar enclosure needs. They usually live in wooded habitats with a variety of shrubs and low bushes, so their enclosures need a variety of hiding places.
They also need soft soils to forage for insects in, but their diet varies from species to species. Most zookeepers feed a variety of mealworms, crickets, and other insects, as well as a pelleted insectivore diet.
Behavior of the Woodcock
Though their exact behavior varies from species to species, these birds are usually solitary. Most are nocturnal or crepuscular, which means that they are active at night or during sunrise and sunset.
Some species do congregate in large numbers while migrating, but this varies. These birds do congregate during the breeding season, usually in relatively large numbers.
Reproduction of the Woodcock
During the breeding season, most Woodcock species are polygynous. The males establish a breeding territory, and females choose the best mate based on their displays and courtship rituals. Males mate with multiple females, and females move off to build their nests and care for their young.
The females then lay a handful of eggs, about three or four, and incubated them for around three weeks. When the chicks are about a month old they are mostly independent.