Photo by Fyn Kynd
Scientific Name: Scolopax minor
Classification: Game Species
Abundance: Found throughout most of the state.
American Woodcock (Photo by: Andrea J. Smith)
Amercian Woodcock chick (Photo by Troy Nemitz)
The American Woodcock is a remarkably well-camouflaged bird that inhabits moist forests across the eastern U.S. and Canada but is categorized as a shorebird. Unlike their coastal relatives such as the Red Knot and Dunlin, these secretive birds live far from any beaches. During the night, they spend their time probing the soil with their long bills to feed on earthworms and other invertebrates. The American Woodcock’s nocturnal lifestyle, inconspicuous plumage and low-profile behavior make it typically quite difficult to find. However, at dawn or dusk in springtime, the males can be found showing off with their stunning aerial displays – what Aldo Leopold termed a ‘sky dance’. The American Woodcock is also known colloquially as the timberdoodle, bogsucker and mudbat or mudsnipe and is a popular game bird throughout eastern North America.
American Woodcock are chunky and short-legged, roughly the size of a robin. They have large heads and short necks and tails, giving them a bulbous appearance. Their wings are broader and more rounded than most other shorebirds. Their feathers are a mottled mix of brow, black, buff and gray tones, providing excellent camouflage on the ground. Their underparts vary from yellowish white or buffy to almost orange. The bird has a plump body, short, weak legs, a large, rounded head and a long, straight bill. The bill, which looks too long for the body, is 2.5-2.75” long and has a unique feature that allows woodcock to open and close the tip of their mandible while it is in the ground. Large, round eyes are set far back in the skull, allowing a very large visual field; the woodcock is able to see 360° in the horizontal plane and 180° in the vertical plane. Learn more by reading the American Woodcock species profile.
American woodcock is a game bird and has regulated seasons and limits.
Extended Falconry Seasons for Migratory Game Birds
Migratory Game Bird Regulations
Additional information (including public hunting opportunities and various reports)
There are no reported problems with this species.
2011-12 Survey of Woodcock Hunters in North Carolina (PDF - 962 KB)
2011 Woodcock Status Report (PDF)
Priority Information Needs for American Woodcock (PDF -2.48MB)
2017-2021 Woodcock Hunting and Harvest Maps (PDF)
1949-2021 Woodcock Harvest and Hunter Trends (PDF)
Webless Migratory Game Bird Information for American woodcock
American Woodcock Species Profile