Woodcock sighting?
December 19, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible I spotted an American Woodcock today in Philadelphia?

On my walk home, I spotted a strange bird sitting on a concrete slab in Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia. My internet searching seems to indicate I saw an American Woodcock. It was sitting facing away from me and at first I thought it was a bunny or a cat because it was brown tabby colored and looked more furry than feathery. Then it turned to me and I saw it had a long, thin beak, small head, and a fat, little body. It flew off a moment after seeing me. I've never seen a bird like it and after thinking it was bunny initially and then seeing its beak, the sighting kind of freaked me out.

Is it possible this is what I saw? Why would a woodcock be in Philadelphia in December? Related questions, is it possible for some birds to get left behind and miss migrating? Does sighting a woodcock portend anything?
posted by Katine to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The woodcock wintering areas in the US range from southern New Jersey to southern Virginia, IIRC, so it might just be late getting with the group.

Woodcock numbers have declined because of diminishing habitat--they nest in thickets and brush. I don't think this is likely to be a symptom of a more severe crisis, though will defer to more avid and knowledgeable birders than I.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:29 PM on December 19, 2010

Certainly, it's a local bird. It's a game bird but doesn't really have to migrate in this area. Eastern PA has been warm enough and the hunting pressure has been so light that some birds no longer migrate. It could be living near any of the brush by the RR tracks or across the river in the woods by the Art Museum.
posted by JohnE at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2010

Did it make any sound when it took off? If you are close enough they sound like little helicopters busting from the ground. Sometimes they will emit a slight peep as they fly.

Go back to the same place near dusk and hoot like an owl hoo hoo... wait a few minutes the woodcock might answer with a chirp.
posted by alfanut at 7:17 PM on December 19, 2010

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