American Woodcock Watercolor ©2011 Sally Wickham
Very little attention is given to the female Woodcock. While the male is buzzing, whistling, circling, dive-bombing and generally showing off, the female is seldom seen. She is one among several chosen by her polygamous suitor. After mating she scratches a slight hollow among some leaves where she lays 3-4 speckled eggs. The brown and black mottling of her plumage blend with ground cover and she becomes almost invisible.
When visible, the American Woodcock is an adorable bird. It is big-headed with large eyes set back on the top of its head—all the better to see predators while manipulating its long sensitive bill in soft earth probing for worms, grubs, and the like.
A natural environment for any species must supply its basic needs. In the case of the Woodcock, it’s four Ws: Worms, Woods, Wetlands, and an open field nearby for Wooing. Logging and human development have decreased the amount of land that is suitable for the Woodcock and their numbers have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the 1960’s.
Thankfully, conservation efforts are being implemented to restore an ideal community for the woodcock. Habitat management techniques include logging, controlled burning, and planting certain trees and shrubs. Instead of being drained, wetlands are conserved and restored. These efforts simply must be successful because what would we ever do without the American Woodcock?
Read more about the Woodcock (also known as Timber Doodle ) and their habitat management plans at http://timberdoodle.org/
Words by Linda Lunna Copyright 2011