Funky woodcock courtship

When one thinks of spectacular sexual displays, one thinks of the bowerbirds of Australia or New Guinea’s bird of paradise. But here’s one closer to home. This video, from The Center for Biological Diversity, shows the mating strut of the male American woodcock (Scolopax minor), a cute species that lives in Eastern North America.

This male American woodcock has some glide in his stride and some dip in his hip. Here he is performing an early morning “sky dance” to woo the woodcock ladies in springtime at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Actually, this is only one part of a very complicated courtship. Wikipedia describes it all:

In Spring, males occupy individual singing grounds, openings near brushy cover from which they call and perform display flights at dawn and dusk, and if the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights. The male’s ground call is a short, buzzy peent. After sounding a series of ground calls, the male takes off and flies from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiralling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male’s outer primary wing feathers.

Males may continue with their courtship flights for as many as four months running – sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their broods and left the nest.

Females, known as hens, are attracted to the males’ displays. A hen will fly in and land on the ground near a singing male. The male courts the female by walking stiff-legged and with his wings stretched vertically, and by bobbing and bowing. A male may mate with several females. The male woodcock plays no role in selecting a nest site, incubating eggs, or rearing young. In the primary northern breeding range, the woodcock may be the earliest ground-nesting species to breed.

Of course I had to look this all up. The following two videos show the display flight with the twittering feather sound, and the second video shows the ground call, the “short, buzzy peent.”

10 Comments

  1. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Staying Alive goes better:

    • rickflick
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Perfect.

    • Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      You can tell by the way I use my walk that I’m a woodhen’s[*] man.

      *That’s definitely the word for a female woodcock.

  2. rickflick
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    As a kid growing up in western Michigan, I would see these crazy birds every spring across our road from the house. I would wander over there after sunset, crouch in the bushes and watch and listen. Great memories of the sounds of spring.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I had to look up, the woodcock is just a bit too far east for me. Very interesting bird.

  4. Roger
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    That bird literally has enough beak for five birds.

  5. Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I could get along with the funky music, but it was not needed for the first video.

  6. Ken Pidcock
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Is that all you have to say?

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  8. W.Benson
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Still no theories/explanations as to why woodcocks wobble?


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