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Meet: American Woodcock

Have you ever noticed how much louder the outdoors gets in the spring? Frogs, birds, insects, everyone starts making noise in the spring. But one sound really stands out in the early spring. If you hear an intermittent sound that sounds a little like "peent!" followed by a whistling sound, you're likely hearing an American Woodcock. These little birds are very hard to spot due to their exceptional camouflage and their preference for brushy thickets near wetlands.

Perhaps the most striking thing about them is their beak! Easily one third or so of their body length, their long long beak is specially adapted to hunting for earthworms and other small insects and crustaceans in the mug and under leaves. The other notable physical feature is the patterns on their feathers. When you say camouflage, you can picture this bird. Browns, blacks and tans are laid out in stripes and checks that blend perfectly with the forest floor. Since these birds spend most of their days on the ground, they need to be invisible to predators. They are often invisible to humans as well and tend to stay still when we walk by. If you can catch a glance of their bright black eye, you might be able to spot one.

If you don't see them, you can certainly hear them in early spring. The males have a springtime courtship display that is based more on sound than sight. The males find an open spot of ground to stomp about and display their prowess. Then they launch into the air, make the 'peenting' sound on the way up and then flutter down with the whistling sound. The female builds her nest on the ground and the chicks are immediately mobile once hatched. The babies are exceptionally adorable with their long beaks and little puffy bodies.

Woodcocks are very hard to spot in the forest but if you're lucky, you will hear them in the spring.

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