Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Young American Woodcock

A good friend of this blog, Charles Barnard Jr., brings us the following story and photos. He is an expert birder with decades of experience in Connecticut.

This morning I accidentally flushed a woodcock while walking along a trail in Shelton. It was in a low area near a very small, ephemeral stream which only runs right after or during spring rains. I took a look at where the bird flushed from and saw these 2 young ones. They can't be more than a couple of days old. I didn't get close enough to see if there were still eggs in the nest or not (they are supposed to lay 4 on average) because the mother was nearby and I know that she wanted me away from there. As I walked away, she kept flushing ahead of me to draw me farther away.

The American Woodcock is one of the Connecticut Audubon Society's Conservation Priority Top 20 Species. An excerpt from the CAS conservation matrix in the 2009 Connecticut State of the Birds Report describes the American Woodcock as:

A locally fairly common migrant but uncommon breeder. Uses open
habitats, such as wet meadows, vegetated wetlands, old fields and
forest clearings, for courtship displays but forages and nests in young
woodland. This species has shown a 50% decline over the last 40
years, predominantly due to loss of early successional stage habitat.
Acid rain and pollution may exacerbate this trend. An important game
species, but effects of hunting on the population are thought to be
minimal. Connecticut breeding population may qualify for state listing.

The complete CAS Top 20 list includes:

  • American Black Duck
  • American Woodcock
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Bobolink
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Common Tern
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Least Bittern
  • Least Tern
  • Piping Plover
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Roseate Tern
  • Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
  • Sanderling
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Wood Thrush

Below is a photo of an adult American Woodcock taken on January 14, 2010, in a private yard not long after a snowstorm. This bird and another individual had retreated to a small wetland stream so that they would still be able to feed on earthworms, their primary food source, and other invertebrate species despite the snow and ice.
It is easy to see how well they blend into their surroundings.

Photos 1 and 2 © Charles Barnard Jr.; Photo 3 © Scott Kruitbosch

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