Description: This small, round, chunky bird has a very long, narrow bill and eyes set back on the sides of the head. The color is a mottled light-and-dark brown with hints of gray on the sides and chestnut on the tail and a lighter chest and belly. The crown is barred across the top. The sexes are similar, though the female is slightly larger and has a longer bill. Average size of males: 10-11 inches. Average weight of males: 4 ½ ounces. Average size of females: 11-12 inches. Average weight of females: 6-9 ounces.
Science: A forest-dwelling shorebird, the woodcock is known for the male bird’s bizarre and unique mating ritual. It breeds through much of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. The migration takes place at night and begins in October: as freezing sets in, birds move further south. They’re found in moist, boggy woodlands and river and creek bottoms with dense cover; they winter in most of the southeastern United States. Almost exclusively eating earthworms, grubs, and other invertebrates, the woodcock uses its long bill to probe deep in the dirt and mud. The eyes on the sides of the head enable it to see predators while feeding. While it is generally known as a solitary bird, it will form small groups during migration. The population is declining due to logging in areas that serve as the birds’ primary habitat.
Hunting: The woodcock’s pattern blends perfectly into the forest floor and the birds are very secretive and are often not seen until flushed. Pointing dogs are almost mandatory. They are usually hunted at the height of their migration; hunters look for signs that woodcocks leave on the ground in the form of chalk marks or whitewash. These birds are fast, erratic flyers in tight cover and are challenging to hunt. The eating quality is fair: the meat is dark and has a strong liver-like taste.