Woodcocks are a funny-looking bird

Here is a funny-looking little bird; hard to see, hard to shoot, and with a lot of its sense organs out of place.
The woodcock is a mottled brown colour, much like that of dead leaves. You almost can step on him before he roars up in your face and disappears through the bushes in a matter of seconds.
Even if you are hunting these birds, you can miss a lot of them. People who know about such things say you need to have a good pointing dog with you when you hunt for woodcock.
The principal food of this bird is worms. That’s why it always hangs out in low, moist places—where the worms are.
Here is one of the rare peculiarities of this bird. It has a long beak (2.5 inches), which it shoves right into the ground. The top part of this beak can be opened up so he can get hold of the worm right in the ground.
This is a special adaptation for the woodcock, and almost no other bird.
Since it spends so much of its time with its head stuck in the ground, it has some other peculiarities, as well. Its eyes, for instances, are away towards the back of its head so it can watch for enemies while feeding.
The eyes also are big so the woodcock can see in the part-light.
But since the eyes are back where the ears usually are on most birds, its ears are forward—ahead of the eyes. And to accommodate all of these changes, the brain is almost upside down compared to other birds.
The woodcock is truly well-adapted to its way of life.
In the spring, the male bird establishes his ground by “peening.” This call, a nasal “peent,” is repeated for quite a while. Then he suddenly takes off into the air about 150 feet, with his wings making a strange whirring sound.
All this is part of his courting ritual.
The nest is practically nothing, just a depression in the ground. The young can run as soon as they are dry, and in about five weeks are fully feathered out, can fly, and look a lot like their parents.
I am told woodcock are very good to eat. Between 100,000 and 150,000 are shot in Canada every year, and many times that number in the United States.
This harvest seems to have no bearing on the population, which is holding its own—and even increasing in some areas.
As you walk through the damp undergrowth, that sudden explosion under your feet—and the fast getaway on whirring wings—will tell you that you have just frightened a woodcock.

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