Saturday, April 14, 2012

Woodcock Chick

I’ve faced off with many wild creatures and it’s usually the animal that backs down.  In my most recent encounter, I chose to break contact and withdraw.  Not because I feared an attack, but because I didn’t want to stress my opponent.  I was face-to-face with a very young Woodcock and it was prepared to play the staring game all day.

I was working my way along the old fence row, spraying invasive sprouts, when a Woodcock flushed just inches in front of my boot.  I froze and began scanning the ground at my feet.  It was likely that the bird had flown from its nest and I certainly didn’t want to step on any eggs.  I could find nothing directly in front of me, so I began to expand the search.  A Woodcock nest typically looks like a mashed down spot in the dead leaves.  The brown spotted eggs blend perfectly with the leaves and are nearly impossible to see.  It turns out that there was no nest.  I finally caught sight of a Woodcock chick about three feet in front of me.

Before moving in to get some close-up shots, I began searching for other chicks.  A chick’s defense behavior is to sit quietly and let camouflage do the work, so I was sure the chick wouldn’t run away before I could get my camera ready.  My concern was in the possibility that I might tromp on a chick as I positioned myself for a shot.  I took a quick look beneath each boot and along my approach route to make sure I hadn’t already inadvertently performed an act of aggression against any of the little fellows.  All clear behind.  I found a second chick about three feet farther on from the first, but I knew there could have been a total of four or five, so I was very careful about where I put my feet.

Woodcock incubation takes about three weeks.  Soon after hatching, the chicks are able to follow after the mother.  The bill will elongate as the bird grows, but it’s already an effective device for probing for food.  Chicks begin searching for earthworms just a few days after hatching.  Dirt on the bill indicates that this chick has been actively hunting, so it must already be several days old.

I left the chicks after a few quick shots, so the mother bird could return.  I’m surprised that she didn’t try to lure me away from the chicks by feigning an injury, but I suppose she’s more expert on Woodcock behavior than I. 

A Camera Critters submission.


  1. What a great find...and wonderful you had your camera!

  2. Great camouflage! What nice shots!

  3. What wonderful shots! Very, very nice find. :)

  4. Wow! These are terrific shots. I've never seen woodcock chicks before. Hope mom found them okay.

  5. Hi Karen. It was awfully cute.

    Thanks CameraGirl. I never go out without my camera.

    Thanks Pat.

    Thanks Lois.

    Thanks Cheryl. I got away from there pretty fast, so Mom could come right back.

  6. Fabulous photos. The last shot is particularly wonderful. I really appreciate people who say they don't want to stress the wild critters they encounter.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada

  7. Good eyes Steve, what a fantastic find in the back yard! So cute!

  8. Thanks Kay. In cases like this I'm especially concerned that I might do something that would keep the parent from returning to the young. I always try to leave the scene as quickly as possible, but since I've already blundered in, I take a few seconds for some photos.

    Hi Renee. It's nice to have a back yard where finding something like this is possible. Glad to see you're back.

  9. This is a wonderful post! Lucky you to get photos from this cute baby bird.