|Conservation status||Probably declining in eastern United States, may be increasing in parts of Canada as coniferous forests are cut and grow up to thickets. Still reasonably common overall.|
|Habitat||Wet thickets, moist woods, brushy swamps. Favors a mix of forest and open fields, often spending day in the forest, night in the open. Mostly in deciduous or mixed woods with much young growth and moist soil, such as thickets along streams. At night may be in open pastures, abandoned farm fields, open swamp edges.|
Feeds mostly by probing with bill in soft soil. Tip of bill is sensitive and flexible, allowing bird to detect and then grab creatures in the soil. Sometimes performs odd rocking motion while standing; possibly the vibration from this will disturb earthworms into moving; it has been suggested that the woodcock can hear sounds of creatures moving underground.
4, sometimes 1-3; rarely 5 or more (possibly resulting from more than one female laying in same nest). Eggs pinkish-buff, blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, 20-22 days. Young: Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching. Female tends young and feeds them. After a few days, young may begin probing in soil, learning to search for food. Young can make short flights at age 2 weeks, fly fairly well at 3 weeks, independent at about 5 weeks.
Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching. Female tends young and feeds them. After a few days, young may begin probing in soil, learning to search for food. Young can make short flights at age 2 weeks, fly fairly well at 3 weeks, independent at about 5 weeks.
Mostly earthworms and insects. Earthworms are major prey at most times and places. Insects also important, especially insect larvae that burrow in soil, such as those of many beetles, crane flies, and others. Also eaten are millipedes, spiders, snails, and other invertebrates. Consumes some plant material, including seeds of grasses, sedges, smartweeds.
Males display at night in spring and summer to attract females. Often several males are close together in meadow, brushy field. Male gives nasal beeping call on ground, then performs high, twisting flight display. In this "sky dance," musical twittering sounds made by certain modified wing feathers, chirping calls made vocally. Female visits area, mates with one of the males. Male takes no part in caring for eggs or young. Nest site is on ground, usually in open woods or overgrown field, in area with many dead leaves. Nest (made by female) is a scrape lined with dead leaves, other debris.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates at night. Fall migration influenced by weather, with many driven south by major cold fronts. Spring migration begins very early, some males moving north during January in warm years.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA loud, buzzy bzeep! similar to the call of a nighthawk and often repeated on the ground about every two seconds during courtship.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the American Woodcock
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the American Woodcock
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.