Woodcocks are often called forest sandpipers, they are distinguished from other birds by a long beak, black-brown feathers and a stocky body. Of all the species of this bird, two are common almost everywhere, the rest are found only on some islands. The daily routine of woodcocks is simple - they hide or fly all day, fly over food when the sun disappears over the horizon. It is not very easy to notice this bird because of their dark, original plumage.
The main features of the bird are its large body and long beak. The length of the body is 30-40 cm, wingspan - 50-65 cm, weighs differently - from 200 to 500 grams. The color of feathers is mostly brown or dark brown, sometimes individuals with black, gray or bronze feathers are found. The belly is light with a cream or dark yellow shade, with black stripes. Such a special color helps the bird to easily hide among the fallen autumn foliage. The beak is 9 cm long. The eyes are almost at the top of the head and give a good overview around themselves. On the heads near the beak there is a thin black stripe, and several more stripes can be seen on the head and neck of the bird.
The flight of the woodcock is very similar to the owl, and their wings themselves are wide, but short due to the small size of the body. There are no sexual characteristics, only young representatives have slightly different color of the wings.
Woodcocks lead a solitary lifestyle, couples gather only for the breeding season, but also not for long. They live in dense forests of trees with wide green foliage and shrubs. You can recognize them during the flight along the peculiar contour of the body, which stands out due to the small neck, from afar it seems that it is not at all. Woodcock hunting is quite popular and is carried out for meat. Lurking in the bushes or fallen leaves, representatives of this family can easily be overlooked because of their camouflage plumage. Lurking, he waits for the hunter to come as close as possible, and only then he takes off quickly, flapping his wings.
The main diet consists of earthworms, beetles, larvae, spiders and other insects. The main condition for choosing a habitat is the presence of fertile lands with living creatures in it. In addition to insects, can eat grass seeds, grains, berries. During migration they feed on various mollusks, crayfish and their relatives. For food birds fly off in the evening or closer to the night. Usually their lands are located near the place of residence - in the meadows or marshland near the forest. The process of catching food under the ground is quite interesting - the bird inserts its beak into the ground and, thanks to its sensitivity, feels the slightest vibrations of the earth, which makes it easier for them to search for food.
The main place of residence of woodcocks is the forests and steppes of Eurasia, they can be found everywhere, from the Foggy Albion in the west, and in the coastal areas of the Far East. In addition, some species of birds live only on islands in different regions of the planet. Many birds lead a migratory lifestyle; they spend the winter in southern Europe, in northern Africa, in the near and middle East, in India, China, and southeast Asia. Sedentary - only representatives of islands and maritime countries of Western Europe.
Autumn migrations begin with the first frosts and last from October to November, while they can fly to completely random places, even to places where they have never been before. Spring flights begin in February, and by the end of May they return to their nests, many to the place of birth.
Nests are made in dense forests with soft soil and with glades of berry bushes, hazel and ferns. Near potential nests must be a reservoir, preferably swampy with forest edges. There they are looking for food and rest.
- Oakland Woodcock. The main habitat is New Zealand and the nearby islands, the body size of representatives of this species is smaller than that of the others, and they do not differ in the color of feathers.
- American woodcock. It is found on the east coast of North America. This species is slightly smaller than its counterparts, it has significantly smaller legs, the body and head are more round in shape, the beak is just as long and straight. Also, their weight is much less than that of common woodcocks, and females are usually larger than males. Feathers are often quite variegated in color - brown, black, brown and gray. On the sides, the color smoothly changes from white to bronze. There are several black or brown stripes on the head and back of the head. The view has very short small legs.
- Amani woodcock. Very rare species, is found only on two islands near Japan. The main differences from the rest are narrow wings and a dark strip on the tail, as well as white plumage near the eyes (in other species this place has a different color).
Differences between females and males
Woodcocks have only one sex difference - size, depending on the type of females may be larger than males.
Woodcocks rarely make sounds, except for the mating season - at this time in flight, the males make sounds that are vaguely similar to grunts. And they finish their singing with high notes. You can hear them at a distance of 400 meters. Rivals on the female male chases with squeaking sounds.
Woodcock pairs are created only at the time of mating. After the passage of all frosts, the period of current is very special for many birds. Woodcocks have mating flights of males over their females. Males become especially energetic after sunset and before its rise. At this time, they slowly fly with their heads down and make their characteristic sounds, which by the end of the flight turn into whistling and clicking.
Woodcock continues in toking from late spring to summer. Females are waiting for their males on the ground, in dug nests. If two or more birds are encountered in flight, a fight may ensue. When the female makes a sound from the ground, the male flies up to her and for a short time a pair of birds is created. After mating, the male leaves his partner forever and never returns. In one season, each woodcock male, on average, finds 3-4 females.
The nests of these birds are made by females, for this they are looking for empty areas of the forest where they dig holes, or indentations in the ground, sprinkling with branches, leaves, moss and grass. The depth of this nest is 15 cm., And the thickness of the hardwood litter is 20-30 mm. Here the female lays up to 4 eggs. The color of the egg may be reddish-brown with gray or dark specks. If the bird has lost its laying, it makes a new one. Hatch eggs for about 24 days, while the female can leave its nest only in case of imminent danger.
Nestlings are born in down, with pale and large spots. After 10 days as a nestling hatched, he has the first feathers, and after 3 weeks he begins to learn to fly. If a predator comes too close to the nest, the female makes a screaming sound and takes the chicks to a new place.
In the territory of Russia and neighboring countries, woodcocks are hunted mainly in spring, when they just fly to the nests and are fairly easy to find. There is even a separate scheme of hunting at this time - "hunting for dirt." In the spring, woodcocks become easy prey for even the most inept hunter, but in the fall only the best hunters will be able to hunt for this bird, with a faithful gun, trained hound and knowing all the smallest details of such a hunt. Hunting for these birds begins with the discovery of the general hunting season for all forest game.
In the western and southern countries of Europe, where the woodcocks fly in the winter, they are hunted by local hunters almost throughout the winter.
- The eyes of the birds have such an arrangement that allows you to see 360 degrees.
- The name "woodcock" itself comes from the German expression, which means "forest kulik".
- Mentioned in many literary works, including Dahl, Turgenev. In some works of these birds are called - "kings of the game".
- If a predator comes to the nest, the woodcock can pretend to be wounded and try to lead the enemy away from the nesting site or chicks.