I don’t miss my single days—trying to look just right, the awkwardness of some conversations, disappointing dates, and being pursued by men who just seemed overeager.
Of course, that was a long time ago. And I don’t know for certain if it’s still the case that the men often take the lead—asking for a phone number, or a date, or trying to plan a “perfect” night. For all I know, the women are in complete control now! But, back in the day, I felt for these guys, with such an onus of needing to impress the girl.
Well, I’m here to argue that the American Woodcock (aka Timberdoodle or Bog Sucker) has a much more difficult time of it. For proof, if you are local, get to the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge in Westbrook this Sunday for a repeat of this past Saturday’s American Woodcock event—a brief talk and then watching the male do his elaborate courtship display.
Scientists or other exacting readers, please forgive me if this summary is less than 100% precise. But the male’s courtship job basically involves:
- Calling out for quite some time (can you say PEENT?) while rotating in a 360-degree circle on the ground
- Shooting up into the sky for an erratic (or maybe to the female, it’s erotic) flight while making strange whistling sounds with your feathers
- Zooming back down while making another sound, described by some as “whimpering chirps” (is this desperation setting in?)
- Landing in about the same spot, often to do it all over again (and again) (and again).
All of this is based on the assumption that there must be a female woodcock camouflaged in the brush, just waiting to meet you!
Here’s a good account, complete with audio, from Miracle of Nature.
If you can get to the local event, it is so worth it. It’s led by Patricia Laudano, president of the local Potopaug Audubon Society. She’s been developing her very specialized expertise in this species for many years! (If you don’t hail from Connecticut, it might be worth researching if there’s something like this going on in your area.)
It is a truly a treat to learn about these amazing creatures, their upside-down brains, and the labor-intensive ritual that makes human dating look like a cake walk! Plus, to me they are uniquely enchanting. Bonus: they are an ungainly, endearing, persistent, and often unnoticed sign of spring!