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Photo by: Tom Erdman

Location: Oconto Co., WI

Date taken: ??

Camera: ??

American Woodcock
(Scolopax minor)

If you've been walking around campus in the evening for the past month, you might have heard a strange, almost alien-like, peenting and twittering sound overhead. Those sounds are made by the male American Woodcock as he displays for a potential mate. The male starts by taking off into the air, which produces a rapid, constant twittering sound from his wings. As he reaches the apex of his climb, the twittering starts to sputter and the woodcock starts to spiral to the earth in a series of wide-arcing circles. On the way down, his wings make a series of twittering whistles as they cut through the air. Eventually the male lands in an open area where the female can see him, and he makes a loud peenting call. Soon the dance starts all over again, and will continue throughout the night if there is enough light. On a evening with a full moon, these birds may display into the early morning hours.

You might woodcocks displaying on the Arboretum if you are out walking at night along the Bay shore path. You can hear them at from the parking lots if you listen for the characteristic noise of their wings.

Learn more about woodcocks from the WI DNR EEK website.

Contributed by Andy Paulios, UW Green Bay Graduate Student

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Last updated on March 20, 2015