American Woodcocks are arriving here and seem surprised to see patches of snow and ice. The zaniness of these small birds has inspired some funny common names for them, including Timberdoodle, Mudsnipe, and Bogsucker.

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But, the Woodcock’s weird looks actually are functional: its extra-long beak is an earthworm probe; Its small head and large eyes allow sight all around when feeding and aid in its nocturnal flights, and its stubby camouflaged body makes it disappear in ground cover.

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At dusk and sometimes dawn, the males court by doing a bizarre “sky dance”: They ascend in fast concentric circles hundreds of feet while making buzzing, cicada-like sounds; Then, they helicopter down fast. The females watch this air show closely, then they work out a prenuptial agreement and nest. Click on image to enlarge it. (Brooklin, Maine; images from a prior year)