This bird is often difficult to see with its cryptic plumage making it almost invisible among the vegetation. However, it usually ventures at forest edge at dusk because it is more active at night, between dusk and dawn.
The Woodcock differs from other birds by living in the woods where the plumage provides the bird an excellent camouflage while walking on the leaf litter.
It performs aerial displays at dawn and dusk during the breeding season, while uttering peculiar sounds.
The Woodcock is a gamebird in many countries, but speed and flight pattern make it a very challenging shot for hunters.
Length: 33-35 cm
Wingspan: 56-60 cm
Weight: 144-420 g
The Woodcock feeds primarily on earthworms found both in fields and woodlands. Also it takes spiders, beetles, insects and their larvae, crustaceans and slugs. It consumes plant matter too, including seeds, fruits, grain, roots and blades of several species of grasses.
Woodcock feeds by probing in damp, soft soil with its long bill, but it also pecks at the surface and under the leaf litter. It may use foot-trembling to disturb invertebrates hidden under the dead leaves. It is almost always solitary.
Outside the breeding season, it feeds mostly at night when earthworms are abundant in pastures and meadows.
During the day, the Eurasian Woodcock roosts in fields with close woodland, and feeds in moist forests with humus where it finds numerous earthworms. It favours areas with dense vegetal cover for better protection.
The Eurasian Woodcock is mostly migratory. The spring migration starts in February and the birds reach their breeding grounds between March and May. Usually, the females migrate first. Young birds and adults return to their usual nesting sites. They migrate at night.
When flushed, the Eurasian Woodcock rises suddenly and silently, or only produces a swishing sound. It performs a zigzagging flight away through the trees, out of the sight of the intruder.
The usual flight action is relatively slow compared to other snipes.
The Eurasian Woodcock usually avoids warm and dry habitats. It breeds in moist forests and extensive broadleaved, mixed or coniferous woodlands with mosaic habitats including undergrowth, open areas, damp patches and streams where it can find its food.
Outside the breeding season, it occurs in the same type of habitats during the day and also in young conifer plantations.
On passage, it may occur in coastal scrub. The weakened birds are much affected by too cold weather and can be found even in urban gardens.
At night, they gather for roosting and feeding in grasslands.
Calls and songs:
The Woodcock utters a strange, weak, high-pitched “pitz” or “tswik” interspersed with low, deep, guttural “aurk-aurk-aurk”. These sounds are given during the display flight called “roding”, and the sequence is constantly repeated.
When flushed, it is usually silent, but it may produce a low “scaap” recalling that of the Common Snipe, and sometimes repeated quickly.
Methods of hunting permitted for use:
- hunting migratory birds (in spring),
- ambush hunting,
- duck calls,
- hunting birds,
- stuffed animals and profiles,
- using hunting dogs
Permitted hunting tools:
Hunting for a woodcock is allowed only with the use of hunting fire smooth-bore long-barreled arms
Hunting for a male woodcock during spring season – hunting fire smooth-bore long-barreled arms; cold bladed hunting weapon
Woodcocks are traditionally roasted with their innards (apart from the hard gizzard) intact. Once cooked, the innards are removed, spread on buttered toast and eaten like a pâté. These little birds will roast in as little as 10 minutes and can be served pink, according to personal preference. It’s a good idea to cover the breasts with a rasher of streaky bacon to keep the meat moist during cooking. As a guide, serve one woodcock per person for a main course, allowing an extra half, for those with a hearty appetite