Among 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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