You know Spring is around the corner when the days get longer and the temperatures rise. While the weather has pleasantly been warm this year so far, perhaps my favorite harbinger of Spring is the annual arrival of the American Woodcock, also known as the Timberdoodle. Their unique “peents” and the spectacular arial flights of males looking to attract mates can be very entertaining.
Woodcock are migratory and spend their winters in the southern U.S. They arrive in Indiana in the early spring. This year, they arrived in late-February in the southern part of the state. The Ruffed Grouse Society has a web page with maps of female woodcock and their migration routes for this spring and previous years.
Male woodcock typically set up their singing grounds in open fields and forest openings and recently logged areas. However, they can often be seen in urban areas including parks and even residential communities. Just a couple weeks ago I arrived home just in time to see a male doing his courtship display a block up the road. The best time to observe them is at dusk. They will spend time on the ground “peenting” for a while, then fly high into the air to perform their “dance” only to return to the ground to repeat the process. This will go on until it gets dark. You can sometimes hear them peent in the morning before sunrise. Kyle Daly, a wildlife biologist who has studied them in Minnesota, wrote an excellent article on their spring dance.
Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources