In Quest of the Timberdoodle

4 March 2012

In March the timberdoodles perform their sky dance.

Timberdoodles (American woodcocks, Scolopax minor), live in the countryside, are well camouflaged, and dance in the dark. I live in the city so it’s rare that I’m in shrubby fields at night.  Consequently I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a woodcock’s courtship flight.

I do know where and when to find them.

When the weather’s good in early spring the male woodcock picks a suitable shrubby field as his stomping ground.  In the hour before sunrise or the hour after sunset, he lets the ladies know he’s available by stomping around in the dark saying “peeent, peeent, peeent.”  He sounds like a small rhythmic buzzer.

After a bit of peeenting he flings himself into the sky climbing hundreds of feet before circling back down to peeent again.  While ascending his wings make a twittering sound.  As he circles back down he chirps.  You can tell what he’s doing even though it’s too dark to see him.  “Peeent” on the ground, twitter going up, chirping coming down.  He lands where he started and does it again.  Here’s what he sounds like.

I’d like to see a woodcock again this spring but… which scrubby field will a timberdoodle choose?  And is it a place I want to be after dark?

Hence, my quest.

p.s.  For some awesome information on woodcocks, see Chuck Tague’s woodcock blog.

(photo by Bob Greene)

7 thoughts on “In Quest of the Timberdoodle

  1. I heard them down in Frick Park last spring, in the wetlands area next to Nine Mile Run. We get them only occasionally at Beechwood Farms. I agree the Three Rivers Birding Woodcock Walks are good, both for finding birds and being safe.

  2. I went to a woodcock walk in Sewickley Heights park, with the Three Rivers Birding Club, years ago, but now they go somewhere else. I wonder if the Woodcocks still display at Sewickley Heights?

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