Timberdoodles!

The RambleThis is American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) country. Actually, this time of year, practically anywhere is American Woodcock country: backyards, bars, porches, Park Avenue medians, DUMBO parking garages. Yes, I’ve heard cases of them appearing in all these places. I’ve written a poem in which I refer to them bombarding us during the migration seasons; I’d link to the poem if only the swines would publish it already.Scolopax minorKen Chaya spotted this bird in the shade of a tree. Scolopax minorThe two of us circled along the path to try to get a better view, this time with the sun behind us. Success.IMG_1276Soon enough, the Central Park Effect — I believe they use small goat-skin drums to signal the news — had the bird bookended.Scolopax minorBut, considering all the human attention, it was actually a couple of squabbling squirrels that made this bird jump into a better position for our eyeballs and lenses.Scolopax minorThis enormous beak is used to probe in soft damp earth for worms and other delights. Technically shorebirds, they prefer woods and adjacent meadows as their habitat.

The night before, a few of us had gone out to Floyd Bennett Field to witness the courtship ritual of these birds, also known as Timberdoodles. After sunset, the males come out into open meadows and start to vocalize a sound described as “peent” or “beent,” but with more of a wet buzziness to it. Then they fly around twittering, both vocalizing some more and creating sounds with their wings. This is said to really impress the ladies. You can barely see because it’s become so dark, but the sounds are, on a good night, all around. Note the huge eyes on these birds; they do their best work at night.

My friend Gabriel Willow will be doing a field trip for this “sky-dance” on April 18th for NYC Audubon. I’m doing one of my Listening Tours for Brooklyn Brainery this weekend, when we also hope to hear spring peepers (it’s sold out — but check out their other classes and always keep a weather eye out here for other field trips).

3 Responses to “Timberdoodles!”


  1. 1 Ellen April 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    I had one in my backyard in Cobble Hill once after a very windy day. It seemed a bit out of place, but not hurt and did leave after on its own. But no one believed that I found a woodcock in the yard.

    • 2 mthew April 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

      I keep waiting to run into one in the neighborhood (I’m in Cobble Hill as well). I’ve been keeping a sharp eye open at Pier 1 and Cobble Hill Park, etc. A couple were reported in Bryant Park the other day; they seem to show up there regularly on both parts of migration. I suspect there are a lot more all over the city, crouching until night.


  1. 1 Woodcock Sunday | Backyard and Beyond Trackback on October 25, 2015 at 4:42 pm

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