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Marion Larson

Marion Larson

Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife

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American Woodcock“Peent…….peent…….peent!” Pinch your nose, say those words, and you will be mimicking the call of the American woodcock, a brown bird with a very long beak and body size a little smaller than a robin. Each spring I visit a nearby orchard or overgrown meadow to listen for this small, migratory game bird. I'm fortunate that right outside my office at the Westborough Wildlife Management Area, I can hear several woodcocks "singing" at a time! Timberdoodling is a fun, quick (less than an hour) outdoor adventure to share with a friend or family throughout the state at any orchard, local park or conservation area that contains an open field or shrubby meadow.

Sometimes referred to as timberdoodles, woodcocks are engaging in their spring courtship ritual that is almost too bizarre for people to believe until they see or hear it for themselves. About 10-15 minutes after sunset, the male woodcock walks around in a “singing circle” emitting its unmistakable nasal call every 10 seconds or so. Then he launches into the air flying in huge spirals—at this point a series of twitters and whistles can be heard. The noise reaches a crescendo just as he comes in for a landing in nearly the same spot and he starts his singing circle routine.

Here’s the fun part; while the bird is flying, I make my way quickly to where I think the singing circle is located. As the bird descends, I either take cover next to a tree or freeze in a kneeling position and wait. Sometimes the bird lands close and the PEENT can be startling. A few times I’ve gotten close enough to see the bird walking, but by then it is so dark that I can only see movement. One spring, I saw a profile of a woodcock circling about on a patch of snow. “Timberdoodling” is a fun little outdoor adventure to share with a friend or family.

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