Coolest Bird of the week: 10 Facts about the American Woodcock

The remarkable visual acuity of the American Woodcock qualifies it for this week’s Coolest Bird feature. Read on for 10 random facts about one of the coolest birds on the PQSPB list!

Day 13 of 100 Days of Blogging

Early Birder Coolest Bird of the Week#2 : The American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) 

#1. Family Ties
Of six species worldwide, The American woodcock is the only one that occurs in  North America. Its closest relative is the Snipe.

#2. Just the Stats Ma’am
The woodcock is  a compact shorebird with long bill and mottled brownish plumage. Its colouring against leaf litter helps it stay well camouflaged. It is very secretive and not the easiest bird to find! Females are larger than males:  27–31 cm vs. 25–28 cm.  It is also a game bird.

#2. Get to the point! What’s so cool about this bird, anyway? 
The American Woodcock has the largest visual field of not only any bird, but of any terrestrial vertebrate! This is because its large eyes are set far back and high on its head. Which means that it can see 360 degrees in its horizontal plane and 180 in its vertical plane, without ever having to move its head at all. Talk about having eyes in back of your head! The only blind spot is directly above it. 

#3. Diet 
Earthworms are its main food source but it will also eat a variety of insects and other invertebrates. It uses its long bill to probe deep into moist earth to search for and extract earthworms, something it does very efficiently thanks to a flexible upper mandible.

#4. Habitat
The deal habitat for this species is young moist forest and abandoned farmland mixed with forest. 

#5. You can call me…
This bird has had many weird colloquial names such as timberdoodle, bogsucker, Labrador twister and the hokumpoke! 

#6. Hello Timberdoodle!
The Woodcock is considered a harbinger of spring by some. It is the earliest arriving of spring migrants (March-April) Fall migration can be as late as October or November. Departure depends on snow cover of food sources.

#7. Can you do the  Hokumpoke?
The male woodcock performs a unique, beautiful courtship flight at dawn and dusk.

#8. It’s time for movin’ on…
When it’s time to move on from breeding grounds, Woodcocks migrate at night individually or in small, loose flocks  In fall, birds from the northeastern states and provinces east of Ontario migrate into the southern Atlantic states and Virginia southward. 

#9 Half the fun is getting there!
Compared to other birds, woodcocks take their time migrating and move at a leisurely pace. Woodcocks also hold the record for the slowest ever flight speed for a migrating bird: 8 km per hour. Although, Usual flight speeds are closer to 25km/hr.

#10 Ouch!
During migration, woodcocks are among the 25 most common birds found dead or injured at buildings in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Toronto.
The video below, fortunately, has a happy ending!