Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
American Woodcocks breed from the Atlantic coast west to the edge of the Great Plains and from southern Canada to the Carolinas and Arkansas. They are permanent residents from west Texas through the southeastern United States. Significant populations winter along the Gulf Coast, across the Florida peninsula, and into central Texas.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
American Woodcocks breed in a mixed habitat of open woodland, moist thickets, and brushy fields. Open areas are needed for displaying. Migratory habitats are similar. In the winter, this upland shorebird inhabits a variety of forest types, as well as unused and harvested fields.
The American Woodcock has a long bill with a sensitive and flexible tip, which can detect worms and other creatures in the soil. After probing at various depths, the woodcock pulls its prey from underground. It also picks up items at ground level. American Woodcocks eat large numbers of earthworms, as well as snails, millipedes, flies, spiders, and beetles. Diets vary regionally and are supplemented with seeds.
The American Woodcock male has a spectacular, complex courtship display that thrills many observers. In late winter or early spring, loose groups of males, called “leks,” gather together on display grounds before the females arrive on the breeding grounds. At dawn and dusk, males display by jumping into the air, flying in a wide spiral up to 300 feet high, and then descending in a lazy zigzag on rustling wings. On the ground, males “peent!,” as they rotate in one spot.
American Woodcocks do not form pairs. Males may mate with several females and do not participate in raising the young. The female makes a shallow depression on the ground in dry leaf or grass litter; there she usually lays 4 buff colored eggs, marked with brown. Chicks hatch in about 21 days and can walk shortly thereafter. Very young woodcocks crouch and freeze when frightened. The female cares for the chicks for about a month, at which time the juveniles slowly disperse but remain in the general area until migration.
Within North America, American Woodcocks migrate at night, alone or in small flocks. Birds depart from their northern breeding range from October through early winter. Spring migration sometimes begins as early as January.