• Mating: Polygamous
• Peak breeding activity: April - May
• Incubation period: 20 - 22 days
• Clutch Size: 2-6 eggs; 4 average
• Movement: Migratory, breed in eastern U.S. and Canada, arrive in Ohio late February -early March, winter in southeastern U.S.
• Range: females 103 acres, males 183 acres. Males travel further between singing grounds. Depart Ohio in late October - November.
• Feeding period: During the day in spring and summer, at night during the winter.
• Typical Foods: Earthworms, preferred; also insect larvae, slugs, snails, insects, and some seeds such as sedge, alder, smart-weed, dogwood, raspberry, and blackberry.
Woodcock are short, plump birds with a long bill and large eyes set high, and far back on the head. Their head appears to sit on the body with no neck. The 2.3-to-3.1-inch bill is perfect for probing wet soil in search of earthworms, their favorite food. The female is larger than the male, and has a longer bill. Plumage of both sexes is a “dead leaf” camouflage pattern of mixed brown, buff, gray, and black.
Habitat and Habits
During spring migration woodcock are found throughout Ohio from late February through March. Woodcock probably breed in every county, although highest populations occur in the northeast, north central, and central regions. They are less numerous in the more agricultural regions of west-central and northwestern Ohio. Woodcock migrate at night, alone or in small flocks. They usually head south by mid-November. Woodcock habitat is characterized by moderate numbers of shrubs, seedling and sapling trees, interspersed with weedy or grassy openings. Young hardwood stands and old orchards near pastures or abandoned farmland are good roosting and feeding cover. Courtship dances take place on bare soil or in short grass, close to woody cover. Good quality sites contain moist loam soils with plenty of earthworms, the woodcock’s primary food.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Woodcock are the earliest ground nesting species. Nesting habitat ranges from old fields with little shrubby vegetation to woodlots with an open under story. The female woodcock makes a shallow depression in leaf litter, usually less than three feet from the base of a tree or shrub. Woodcock nests are often placed near the edge of wooded areas, not far from their singing grounds. The male does not participate in incubation or brood rearing. Young begin probing the ground for food at about three to four days. They can fly short distances at 14 days and sustain flight at 18-19 days. Woodcock usually have only one brood per nesting season unless the eggs or brood are destroyed and a renest is attempted. Young are independent at six to eight weeks of age and broods disperse.