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Listen for the Sound of Spring: Woodcocks

Mar 04, 2008

Before the new green appears, sounds mark the first signs of spring. So when the woodcocks fly up from the south to breed, I know spring is close. If you listen at woodcockdusk, you might hear them at the edge of fields near damp areas. The males make bizarre sounds to attract a mate.

They begin by doing a funny strut and pausing to make a sort of nasal, buzzing “peent” sound. Then they spiral up high (about 300 feet) into the sky and and their wings start making what’s described as a twittering sound. Then they chirp a “dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee” repeated sound and dive back down to the ground to start peenting all over again.

They usually show up when the ground is thawed in late February to mid-March. To eat, they probe for worms in the soil with their bills that have flexible tips. When they’re not doing the breeding displays, they usually hang out in woods. If you want to see when they’re starting to show up in Missouri or add your sighting to the list, an interesting birding site to check out is ebird.org. In the meantime, don’t miss getting out at dusk to enjoy this unique sound of spring.

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