Monday, April 13, 2015

Nesting Woodcock

Every Spring, the fields of Blue Jay Barrens fill with male Woodcocks.  Their calls and display flights are a regular feature for several weeks.  I imagine there are just as many female Woodcocks around, but they are encountered with much less frequency.  I discovered this female while I was walking through a field on Saturday morning.  My boot was only two feet from the end of her bill when she caught my eye.

Since the females alone incubate the eggs, finding a woodcock on the nest is the only way I’m sure the bird is female.  These ground nesting birds depend upon camouflage to avoid the eye of a predator and will sit motionless on the nest while an intruder paces around nearby.  After finding myself so close to the nest, I backed off a ways before taking any pictures.  I’ve read that a nesting woodcock will sometimes allow a person to stroke its back without fleeing the nest.  There are also accounts of Woodcock abandoning their nests after being disturbed.  I probably cause enough unintentional disturbance to local wildlife.  I would like to have seen her eggs, but I wouldn’t deliberately flush her because of that. 

Nesting Woodcocks are nearly impossible to see from a distance.  In the above photo, the female Woodcock is centered in the frame, just to the left of the small tree. 

She is even hard to find in a close up shot, if you don’t know where to look.  

Zoom in even more and put her in the center of the photo, and then she’s easy to find.

I checked on her again Sunday and found that she had turned to face away from the little tree.  Incubation takes about three weeks, so these eggs should hatch before the end of the month.  Click HERE to see photos of a recently hatched Woodcock chick that I found a couple of years ago.


  1. Hi Steve.... I just love these birds, and so hard to spot. I saw my first one of the year about a week ago, and it scared the daylights out of me when it went up about 2 feet from me.
    Great picture that show how much they blend in with leaves.
    I have had and eye infection, and now trying to get back posting.
    Gorgeous day here, but still snow in many spots. Grrr!!!!


    1. Hi, Grace. Woodcocks frequently scare me the same way.
      Hope your eyes are OK now. I noticed that Renee came over and poached your birds for her blog.
      No snow left around here. I had to mow the lawn today. Temperature topped out at 82 degrees.