Eyes that see behind, a bill like an elephant’s trunk, a magical twilight dance: the weird Woodcock

Eyes that see behind, a bill like an elephant’s trunk, a magical twilight dance: the weird Woodcock

Don’t tell me Porgs are the Star Wars version of puffins.  Puffins don’t have huge eyes and camo brown colors.  Clearly Porgs were inspired by woodcocks.

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“Puffin?  You’re kidding, right?”

In February and March I’m often out tramping in the twilight, where meadows meet woods, in hopes of witnessing what Aldo Leopold called the Sky Dance of the American woodcock.

Here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, by mid-February these Porg-shaped, foot-tall, nowhere-near-a-shore shorebirds are already excitedly deep in spring courtship.

Painting by C. Ford Riley.

In late winter’s milder, tranquil evenings, about twenty minutes after sunset, the woodcock hen strolls to the edge of her woods to judge the males’ seductive song and dance, performed just beyond in an open field.  Her bizarrely huge dark eyes. set near the top of her head. give her an incredible 360-degree view, allowing her to hunt earthworms on the dark forest floor while watching for predators behind.  Equally bizarre is her extraordinary long bill, more elephant’s trunk than bird’s bill, whose tip she flexes to grasp her prey. Continue reading