An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

American Woodcock Eggs Hatching

woodcock 019Among ground-nesting birds in the Northeast,  the American Woodcock, also known as the Timberdoodle,  is one of the earliest to lay eggs – usually around mid- to late April.  The female shapes a shallow depression in the leaf litter and then incubates her eggs for about three weeks.  During this time, if she is sufficiently disturbed, the female will flush and feign injury.  She usually lands nearby, runs about with her tail spread, wings drooping and her body quivering, uttering a cat-like sound to distract potential predators.

Upon hatching, the precocial chicks are brooded until their down dries and then leave the nest, usually within hours of hatching.  For the first week or so they are dependent upon their mother feeding them, but soon are finding their own food.  In a little over a month, the chicks become completely independent. (Thanks to Susan Morse and Phillip Mulligan for photo op.)

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6 responses

  1. Rita Pitkin

    Mary – does the male still do the courtship display after eggs are laid? I am up north of you, males are still displaying.

    May 24, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    • Yes, Rita. Males in New England continue to display long after the females have begun laying eggs.

      May 24, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      • Rita Pitkin

        Thank you Mary.

        May 24, 2016 at 7:56 pm

  2. I can imagine it must take a keen eye to spot these well-camouflaged birds. Marvelous photo!

    May 24, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    • You’re right, Eliza – a very keen eye! But I can’t take credit for it – a friend of a friend discovered two nesting woodcock on his land this year, and kindly let me photograph one. I’ve wanted to see one on its nest for years and years – this was a dream come true.

      May 25, 2016 at 7:03 am

      • And we all benefit! Thanks, Mary.

        May 25, 2016 at 5:52 pm

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