Such an unusual bird as the woodcock was often mentioned in various works of art. One has only to recall the “Notes of a Hunter” by I.S. Turgenev. The woodcock has a rather beautiful and patterned plumage, especially on the wings. We will try to analyze everything related to the life of this bird, starting from the history of its origin and ending with the size of the bird population.
Origin of the species and description
Woodcock is a feathered creature belonging to the snipe family and the order Charadriiformes. In general, there are eight very similar varieties in the woodcock genus. These birds are distinguished by the presence of a thin and elongated beak, a squat body and camouflage brown-black feathers. Among all the species, only a couple has an extensive distribution, while the populations of the rest are localized.
So, among the varieties of woodcocks, there are:
- Amamy Woodcock;
- Malay Woodcock;
- Bukidnon Woodcock;
- Moluccan Woodcock;
- American woodcock;
- Celebes woodcock;
- New Guinea woodcock.
We will consider in detail the first representative from this list of birds. By the sound of the bird’s name, you can hear that it has German roots, and it can be translated into Russian as “forest sandpiper”. They also call the woodcock in a different way, calling it a krekhtun, a red sandpiper, a birch, a boletus, a pine sandpiper, a luk.
Interesting fact: The woodcock is endowed with a pair of feathers used in painting. They have sharp tips and are located on the wings of a bird. Such feathers were used by ancient Russian icon painters, they made the finest strokes and lines. Now they are also used for painting boxes, cigarette cases and other expensive souvenirs.
Appearance and Features
The woodcock can be called a rather large bird, it is similar in size to the rock dove, it is a wader with a fairly dense physique. A distinctive feature is a straight and long beak. The length of the bird’s body varies from 33 to 38 cm, the wingspan can be from 55 to 65 cm, and the weight of the woodcock ranges from 210 to 460 grams.
The plumage of this sandpiper is rusty-brown above, with black, reddish and gray mottles visible on it. From below, a pale color with crossed stripes of a dark color predominates; a gray tint is clearly visible on the paws and beak. In general, the bird’s thin beak has a cylindrical shape and a length of 7 to 9 cm. The highly placed eyes of the woodcock are shifted back, so the bird has an excellent all-round view and can view the space 360 degrees around it. A fairly contrasting dark brown stripe runs from the base of the beak to the eye. And on top of the head, three longitudinal stripes also stand out, two dark and one light colors. The woodcock is the owner of short and wide wings, and in flight it resembles an owl.
An interesting fact: It is very difficult to distinguish a mature woodcock from a young one, this can only be done by a professional who knows what is on the wings of young birds a certain pattern, and their feathers look slightly darker than those of adults.
It is worth mentioning that the woodcock is a genius of disguise, even at a short distance it cannot be detected, it practically merges with the environment, its plumage becomes like last year’s dry grass and withered foliage. In addition, the woodcock will not impersonate with various sounds and rustles, remaining unnoticed in the bushes.
Where does the woodcock live?
It can be said that the woodcock has taken a fancy to almost the entire Eurasian continent, choosing forests and forest-steppe zones for their nesting sites. The bird is common on the territory of the former USSR, it is not found only in Kamchatka and several regions of Sakhalin. Woodcocks are both migratory and sedentary, it all depends on the climate of the particular area where they live. Birds stationed in the Caucasus, in the Crimea, in the coastal region in the west of Europe, on the islands of the Atlantic, do not migrate anywhere in winter, remaining in their inhabited places.
Migratory woodcocks go on wanderings with the onset of the first cold weather, in October-November, everything again depends on the specific area of u200bu200bsettlement. Woodcocks go to winter in the following territories:
- northern part of the African continent.
Birds fly south, both singly and in flocks, then most of them return back to former places of residence.
Interesting fact: The bird flight to the south starts in the evening or early in the morning. Usually, woodcocks fly at night, if the weather allows, and birds prefer to rest during the day.
Birds build nests on the territory of deciduous or mixed forests, where there is moist soil and dense deadwood, the undergrowth consists of raspberry and hazel thickets. Woodcocks live where blueberries, various ferns and other low-level plants grow. Birds love places near small water bodies, settle along the banks of marshy lands, where they seek food for themselves, and prefer to rest on light and dry edges and in copses. Woodcocks shy away from open forests. During the winter, birds keep to the same biotopes, making frequent migrations, looking for food.
What does a woodcock eat?
Mostly, the menu of woodcocks consists of earthworms, to a greater extent during the non-breeding period, so birds look for food where there is a good, humus, soil layer.
Also, the bird’s diet consists of a variety of insects and their larvae, namely:
Vegetable dishes are also included in the menu, but in small quantities, they include: corn, cereals, oat seeds, young grass shoots, berries. During flights, woodcocks can snack on small freshwater inhabitants (crustaceans, bivalves, fish fry and small frogs).
It’s time to reveal the essence of the secret of the elongated and thin bird’s beak, its shape and size help the woodcock to get the smallest snack from the bowels of the tree bark with almost no obstacles. The tip of the beak is equipped with supersensitive nerve endings that are able to detect the crawling of worms in the thickness of the earth by the vibration waves emanating from them. Birds come out in search of food at twilight or at night, they slowly walk along the meadow or the coastal zone of the swamp, looking for something tasty by dipping their elongated beak into the soft soil layer.
Features of character and lifestyle
Woodcocks can be called hermits, they prefer to exist alone, and are grouped into flocks only when they gather in the southern regions. This bird is quite silent, you can hear its voice only in the mating season. During this period, males lek, making quiet sounds similar to grunting, hunters call them “snorting”. After three or four such grunting tunes comes the end of the song, which is distinguished by a rather high whistle “chi-tsik”, which is heard hundreds of meters away. When males have to chase competitors in the air, it is quite possible to hear the heart-rending cries of “lip-lip-piss”, such battles often occur between first-year males.
Woodcocks are quite secretive, their way of life is predominantly nocturnal. It is during the dark time that they go out in search of food, and during the day they skillfully disguise themselves in various bushes, doing this unusually skillfully, thanks to the characteristic color of plumage. The vital activity of woodcocks is similar to an owl, these waders are afraid of attacks by predators and people, therefore they are active when it gets dark. During the flight, woodcocks also resemble owls.
If the predator comes too close to the woodcock, then the bird makes a sharp takeoff. The bright colors of the feathers located under the wings confuse the enemy for some time, giving time for the bird to hide in the tree crown. Woodcocks have real flying skills, so performing the most difficult turns and pirouettes during the flight is common for them.
Social structure and reproduction
It has already been noted earlier that woodcocks are inherently loners, so strong family unions are not their path. Bird pairs are created for a short period in order to reproduce offspring. Males search for partners by making a series of special calling sounds when they fly over any territory. They expect that some female will definitely respond to their trills.
A temporarily formed pair begins to equip its ground nesting site, using foliage, moss, grass and small twigs for its construction. In the laying of woodcocks, there are 3 or 4 eggs, the shell of which is strewn with spots. Hatching offspring lasts about 25 days. After this time, baby chicks are born, decorated with a strip running along the back, which in the future turns into their unique coloring, which is a bird’s calling card.
It should be added that only the feathered mother is engaged in raising the kids, the father does not take part in the life of his offspring at all. The female has a hard time, she needs to look for food and protect the babies from predatory ill-wishers. Protecting the children from danger, the mother takes them with her paws or beak to carry them to a secluded place inaccessible to predators. The babies grow up and become independent quite quickly.
Already three hours after hatching, the chicks stand on their legs, and at the age of three weeks they completely fly away from the parental nest in search of their independent life, which, under favorable circumstances, is birds 10 – 11 years old.
Woodcock’s natural enemies
Although woodcocks are distinguished by an unsurpassed talent for disguise, they still have plenty of enemies. Diurnal raptors practically do not bring harm to birds, because. woodcocks cannot be found during the day; they begin to be active at dusk. But nocturnal winged predators are very dangerous for these waders. For owls and eagle owls, woodcock is a desirable prey, they are able to catch it right in flight. In addition to air attacks, the danger lies in wait for snipes on the ground, here they can become victims of weasel, badger, ermine, marten, fox, ferret. Mustelids are especially dangerous for females hatching eggs and their newborn chicks.
Among the enemies of woodcocks, one can list rodents and hedgehogs that steal bird eggs and feathered babies. The birds also have a dangerous two-legged ill-wisher, called a man. Especially many birds die during flights, and this happens through human fault. A person considers hunting for this species of birds a very prestigious and exciting activity. During the flight, woodcocks often scream, posing as hunters, who often use special decoys in order to get the coveted trophy.
In some states, hunting for woodcocks is prohibited; in the territories of other countries, special periods have been defined for possible hunting. There are also protective measures that allow hunting only males. Anti-poaching and special protection and prohibition measures protect these birds, preventing the bird population from approaching the brink of extinction.
Population and species status
Many negative factors affect the population of woodcocks, but, fortunately, these birds are not endangered, and the territory of their settlement remains, as before, quite extensive. As already noted, the woodcock is a very desirable hunting trophy, often stuffed by amateurs, because the bird looks beautiful and colorful.
An interesting fact: the woodcock can be safely attributed to the “classic” birds, he is often mentioned in the stories of Russian classic writers about hunting (Chekhov, Turgenev, Troepolsky, Tolstoy, etc.)
To protect the woodcock from hunting activities, many countries have long adopted a number of prohibitive or restrictive measures that play an important role in maintaining the bird population at the proper level. For birds, the big threat is not direct hunting, but the ecological situation as a whole and the reduction in the permanent habitats of these birds, so people should think about their harmful and thoughtless activities that harm many of our smaller brothers, including woodcocks.
As for the conservation status of these interesting birds, according to the IUCN, these birds cause the least concern, which is good news. It remains to hope and make every effort to ensure that such a favorable situation regarding bird numbers remains in the future.
In the end, it remains to be added that the woodcock is unusually beautiful, thanks to its patterned plumage. To see him is a real miracle, because the feathered one prefers to hide and is a genius of disguise. Often, we can admire its attractiveness only in a photograph, but knowing that this bird is not in danger of disappearing, our hearts become lighter, brighter and happier.