Sky Dance of the American Woodcock

from Wildlife Promise

In the blur of life, I remember most vividly the quiet moments with my kids outside.

My daughter and I went to see the “sky dance of the American woodcock.” Here is a video about our adventure:

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Sky Dance Made Famous by Aldo Leopold

Conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote about the sky dance of the American woodcock in his book, A Sand County Almanac. He called the “meep” sounds “peents.” Here is his description of what we saw:

Up and up he goes, the spirals steeper and smaller, the twittering louder and louder, until the performer is only a speck in the sky. Then, without warning, he tumbles like a crippled plane, giving voice in a soft liquid warble that a March bluebird might envy. At a few feet from the ground he levels off and returns to his peenting ground, usually to the exact spot where the performance began, and there resumes his peenting.

Facts about the American woodcock

  • Flickr photo by Chris Barron.

    Flickr photo by Chris Barron.

    Its Latin name is Scolopax minor and some people call it the timberdoodle.
  • It looks like a sandpiper – very short and round with a very long beak.
  • It lives in swampy areas where it can easily pick out earthworms from the soil.
  • The naturalists said its large eyes are located behind its ears, which allows it to see all around.

Thank you to the Environmental Studies on the Piedmont and the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy for hosting this event! An extra special thank you to naturalist Dr. Tom Wood, who is in this video. He was very patient with the children and made them feel at home in nature.

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National Wildlife Federation’s Storytelling Video Diary Series shares the candid tales of nine NWF staffers from around the country; armed with their cameras in the Great Lakes, California, South Dakota, the Pacific Northwest, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC, these nine staffers will share with you their individual trials, epiphanies and stories as they unfold in their daily adventures.