Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday's Foto

Photo by Sean Sime
One of my favorite early northbound migrants is now beginning to show up around Brooklyn and the rest of New York City. This unusual, robin-sized bird with cryptic plumage is considered part of the sandpiper family, although with conspicuously different behavior than most. Preferring young forests and shrubby old fields across eastern North America this chubby, short-legged bird stays concealed in forest thickets during the day, where it uses its long bill to probe in damp soil for earthworms. The American Woodcock has a long list of humorous colloquial names which includes “bogsucker”, “hookum pate”, "Labrador twister", "mud bat", "mud snipe", "night partridge", but most commonly, “Timberdoodle". Found only in eastern North America, they are a short distance migrant overwintering in our southern areas.

This species is legendary for their magically spring courtship displays. Conservationist Aldo Leopold famously wrote about it in his book "A Sand County Almanac". You can read "Sky Dance" online here.

The IUCN Red List lists the woodcock's conservation status as "Least Concern". However, population trends appear to be decreasing and they are included on the The State of the Birds 2014 "Watch List".

The American Woodcock's scientific name, Scolopax minor, means snipe-like; smaller.

Some places to look for courting woodcocks within New York City are Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and The Ridgewood Reservoir.

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