It’s that time of year for the annual ritual of “leeking” and “timberdoodling” as we head out to harvest wild ramps and watch the early evening heavens for signs of the “Skydancer” – officially, the American Woodcock.
The Woodcock (Scolopax minor) – also known as the Timberdoodle – is a member of the Sandpiper family. The size of a small game bird, this forest dweller is well camouflaged with its brown mottled coloration. The Woodcock’s bill is long to accommodate the hunt for earthworms (its chief diet) and the eyes are placed near the back of the head to allow it to keep a close eye on its surroundings while scavenging for lunch.
It is in the early Spring of the year that this quirky bird begins its mating rituals with the males making a dazzling display in their attempts to woo the gals. Just after sundown, in an open (preferably gravel) area near woodlands, you might hear a male Woodcock “peent”- the sound he makes to signal the ladies he’s about to impress them with his prowess. After a few moments of “peenting”, the male will take off in flight spiraling high in the sky creating a whistling effect with his wings. He circles a bit, then dives down with a kissing-like sound. He often will land almost exactly where the ritual “dance” began.
Head out to an open area near the woods in the evening during the next few weeks of Spring and listen for the tell-tale “peenting”. Then watch the skies above and enjoy one of the most spectacular of bird displays.
Here’s a video showing the air dance and the peenting of the Timberdoodle: