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American Woodcock (2024)

(Scolopax minor)

The American woodcock is a cryptic bird, spending most of its time slowly walking along the forest floor, probing the soil in search of earth worms. They are a shorebird that can be found in young forests and woody fields. They are a common favorite in the birding community, as their breeding display and song are recognizable and charismatic.

(C) Coy Hill

American Woodcock are a short distance migrant in Pennsylvania. Their presence in late winter and early spring signifies the change of the seasons and for many birders, the start of the spring migration. The species is best known for its nasally “peent” calls it makes while performing its courtship displays in the spring, and its “boogie” as it walks as it forages for earthworms.

According to the United State Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Woodcock has seen declines in its population abundance from 2012 – 2022 across most of its range. In Pennsylvania, the species abundance has been relatively stable in the short term (10 years). The overall goal for the species in the Pennsylvania wildlife action plan is to restore suitable habitat and boost its current abundance to levels recorded in 1980. American Woodcock need a mosaic of landscapes to be successful, including moist soils for foraging, open areas for displaying, and dense stands of shrubs for cover and nesting. This mosaic landscape is threatened by fragmentation, forest succession, and urbanization. Pennsylvania plans to increase population abundance by

(C) Aimee Stout Benitez

improving current habitat through creating a mosaic, create new suitable habitat, and by providing public outreach on keeping pets indoors when they aren’t accompanied, especially during the breeding season.

Sources: American Woodcock Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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