In March and April one of the best kept secrets on the Cape and Islands is the display of the American woodcock. Woodcock are nocturnal birds, and while rarely seen, they are surprisingly common. They make a living by eating earthworms at night with their ridiculously long bill as a probe.
The easiest way to find woodcock is to proceed to a field surrounded by woodlands just before dusk, when the birds begin their display calling and flights. The male makes a loud call that can be heard a half-mile away in calm conditions. It is a loud “PEENT”, kind of a nasal, rough sound that once heard and recognized is unmistakable.
Often several males will display in the same field, getting airborne, climbing steadily up into the sky, and proscribing a wide high spiral. The outer primary feathers on their wings produces a high twittering noise on take-off and all during the twisting climbing flight.
The display calls and flights of woodcock are truly a wonder and one of the great natural history events to experience anywhere.
This is an excerpt from The Weekly Bird report. The full essay can be heard in the audio post below - give it a listen.