The flight of the timberdoodle should continue through April and can be witnessed at dawn as well as dusk.
Woodcock are funny looking birds. A big head brandishing a three inch stiletto beak sits atop a squat, rotund body that appears decidedly unfit to fly. But fly they do and with much panache.
Woodcock, also tagged with the delightful name “Timberdoodle”, and the less mellifluous “bogsucker”, are masters of aerial acrobatics. You can experience their flying prowess right now in fields throughout the headwaters.
At dusk, male woodcock welcome Orion and the Big Dipper by inscribing ascending spirals on the darkening skies, topping out at two or three hundred feet above ground. As they perform this display, air passing through wing feathers produces a twittering sound.
Then they drop like stunt planes in free fall, while voicing calls that have been compared to lip-smacking kissing sounds. (Apt sounds to be sure, because the amorous males have lady timberdoodles on their minds!)
The male woodcock pull out of their tumble before crashing into terra firma and land gracefully. For a minute or two, they strut about their staging grounds producing a third distinctive sound, this one a buzzy “peent” repeated every few seconds. Recently, at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park I counted from 19 to 49 of these repetitive notes between aerial displays.
Anyone can enjoy the timberdoodles’ crepuscular display. You can sneak up on a male’s staging ground when he is twittering high above. Then, if lucky, the male will land nearby and reveal himself in a flashlight beam.
The best places to find displaying woodcock are fields adjacent to woodland. In the Headwaters the aforementioned Forks of the Credit is the staging ground for several males. Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is likely productive as well.
The flight of the timberdoodle should continue through April and can be witnessed at dawn as well as dusk. Happy timberdoodling!