American Woodcock



CAmerican Woodcock





Species:Scolopax minor




The American Woodcock is from the Order Charadriiformes, which contains a wide range of small to medium-large shorebirds. It is in the Family Scolopacidae, which also entails many species of sandpipers, snipes, woodcocks, and turnstones.

The American Woodcock is a medium sized bird, with a typical length of about 28 centimeters and an average mass of about 200 grams. Females are often larger than males. There is a vast assortment of colors on the head and mantle for the bird, including brown, gray, black, tan, yellow, and white in a sort of camouflage pattern. There is much less variation on their breast and flanks, with only shades of tan/brown and white. They have a long beak and black patches on the back of the head. Their eyes are solid black with a white eye-ring surrounding. The color of their feet resembles that of their beaks, but lighter in color.


The American Woodcock is typically found in forests containing openings, so young forests and old farmland with forests in the surrounding area is ideal habitat for the Woodcock. Males prefer the open areas for singing in the spring. The bird tends to be found close to water or near moist, wet areas, making a river or stream surrounded by forest a good place to look.

Eighty percent of their diet is comprised of earthworms, however, they also consume other invertebrate insects and a small amount of plant material such as seeds.




The American Woodcock is polygynous, where a male may have one or more female mates, so no pair bonds are formed. Males sing in open display areas, producing a song that sounds like “peent.” They tend to use the same peenting grounds year after year because this may lead to less conflict between males over territories. Wing and tail feather displays are also an important part in the male’s efforts to attract a mate they will routinely during their display fly upwards in a loose spiral giving chirping calls and making whistling sounds with their wings and then descend in a tight spiral back to their peenting grounds. Females may visit several different males/territories before deciding upon a mate. After mating males do not give any paternal care to offspring; in fact, they will continue to try and attract mates after the female has left the peenting grounds.When searching for food, American Woodcock tend to walk along the ground, keeping their bills close to the soil. The bird tends to flush vertically when inside a wooded area, producing a whistle-like sound similar to the sound they make while attracting a mate.




Woodcocks are difficult to find in the daytime hours, but the best locations to search for them would be in wooded areas or shores along Lake Erie, particularly near the Pennsylvania border. They are found here in WNY in the summer months, as they migrate south in the fall and return back north in the spring.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.