American woodcock perform aerial dance during Michigan spring
Breeding activities make woodcock more audible, visible
Spring in Michigan is the perfect time to observe the American woodcock.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, breeding activity makes the birds more vocal and visible. Because of this, surveying occurs in the spring.
Woodcock are plump and round. Their bellies are black and tan, and they have speckle-patterned feathers. They have long, pointed bills.
They can be found in forested areas, where they use their bills to pierce the soil to eat earthworms.
Woodcock migrate between Michigan and the southeastern United States.
“For decades, Michigan has helped gather information on woodcock populations, which spend time in numerous states and provinces from Canada to the Gulf,” said DNR upland game bird specialist Al Stewart.
DNR staff members follow established survey routes just after sunset to count “peents,” the noise woodcocks make, as part of a multistate spring singing ground survey.
“Michigan is an important woodcock-production state, meaning they are born here,” Stewart said. “We run more routes in Michigan than any other state or province.”
In 2016, there were a total of 820 woodcock survey routes run in North America. Michigan generally runs 115 survey routes.
Each route is 3.6 miles long, with 10 listening points. In Michigan, surveys run April 20 to May 20. This survey technique was developed in 1960 by Bill Goudy at Michigan State University.
The information gathered helps to guide management of the birds in North America.
According to the DNR, woodcock are a popular game species in the United States, and in Michigan approximately 26,000 upland bird hunters target them, leading the nation in both the number of hunters and birds harvested.
After the “peent,” woodcock will do an aerial display. The birds lift off the ground 200 to 350 feet and perform a spiral dance.
The performance can be witnessed by finding an open country field on a calm evening and listening for the “peent.”
A woodcock walk will be held Thursday at the Lame Duck Foot Access GEMS near Gladwin. Call 989-385-0336 for more information.
This fall, Michigan will host the 11th American Woodcock Symposium, where biologists from different states and continents will gather on behalf of the woodcock.
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