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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Woodcock- No Snipe Hunt

dead woodcock

I decided that I did want to come back and talk about the woodcock again. Most people never get to see one of these birds, so even though this one is dead, rather beat up, and not terribly appealing to look at it's pretty interesting. It has a long bill, that is flexible at the tip for rooting around in the mud for worms and larvae.

woodcock feathersHere is the closeup of the feathers from the game a couple of days ago. These feathers are from the bird's side.

The American woodcock is a game bird. It's actually a kind of sandpiper. So where does the snipe hunt come in? Remember that pseudo-hazing ritual of summer camp where the older kids took the newbies on a "snipe hunt?" The innocents usually had to run through the bushes in the dusk with a bag and a stick to thrash the weeds, calling "here, snipe, snipe, snipe!" (or some similarly silly invocation!) Well, there really is a snipe. It's a very similar bird, also a sandpiper. Now look at the woodcock's head. Even though this specimen is beat up, you can see that the stripes go across the top of its head. On a snipe, the stripes are longitudinal.

woodcock tail feathers

These lovely feathers are from the woodcock's short tail. Although you may not have seen a woodcock, you may have heard one. Their call is very distinctive, and is often heard just at dusk and on into the time just after sunset. They make a loud, nasal, buzzy "Peent." Just one note, one syllable, and they say it over and over.

woodcock wing This fluffy section is from the shoulder, just where the wing attaches to the body.

dead woodcock

Finally, the woodcock's belly is very light colored. I have only seen one woodcock live in the woods. Even though it had begun to decompose, I was very happy to be able to study this one more closely. I've actually had a better look at a live snipe. Once I was able to follow a snipe for about 20 minutes as it wandered through a small area of open woods.

Hear the woodcock at e-nature


bemused26 said...

That was a great post- I don't really know much about woodcocks or snipes for that matter, but I enjoyed learning!
Thanks :)

Lin said...

Oh, the things you find on your hikes. I'm like you, I like to look at the things I find--gross or not.

rainfield61 said...

Learning on a dead specimen, what an odd experience.

Sharkbytes said...

Bemused- You have great pics of live animals... I seem to do well with dead ones! They do hold still well...

Lin- I should have known you would like this, although it doesn't hold a candle to the paper bag with fish!

Rainfield- Well, most of the great naturalists did so... they didn't have wonderful electronic camera equipment... mostly they killed things to study them.

Rick (Ratty) said...

Interesting stuff. I've heard of woodcocks before, but I never knew snipes were real. I'll have to take my nephew on a snipe hunt one of these days. :)