•An ungainly-looking bundle of feathers and beak, the American woodcock (Scolopax minor) is ideally adapted for two things: feeding on earthworms and confounding shotgunners with its startling flush and erratic flight. Come springtime, the male puts on a spectacular aerial courtship dance, an elaborate whirling and whistling display, accompanied by the bird’s distinctive peent call, that drives the ladies wild. –JACK LARSON
1 BILL Adapted for prospecting for earth-worms, the woodcock ‘s needlelike bill is tipped with nerves sensitive to vibration as well as the mucous trail that worms leave behind.
2 EYES The woodcock’s very large eyes are positioned high atop the rear of its head, allowing it to keep watch for predators ahead, behind, and above as it roots for food.
3 WING FEATHERS The stiff, narrow primary wing feathers of the wood-cock whistle in the wind during flight. This serves to startle predators when the bird flushes.
4 BACK The dead-leaf pattern on the wood-cock’s back blends in with the debris on the forest floor, concealing the bird from predators and hunters alike.
5 STOMACH Its digestive system is powerful and rapid, and the wood-cock can eat its weight in worms each day.
6 WINGS Short, wide, rounded wings enable the woodcock to negotiate dense cover while flying.
7 EARS Because its eyes are set so high, the bird’s acutely sensitive ears are set below and ahead of its eye sockets.