Eurasian Woodcock

Scolopax rusticola

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The Eurasian woodcock is a shy, solitary bird that keeps itself hidden and is thus rarely seen. These crepuscular birds are cumbersome in appearance. Their legs are relatively short compared with other shorebirds (such as waders and other charadriiform birds. They have a long, straight bill, a steeply-slanting forehead and large, dark eyes. Its eyes, which are actually capable of seeing backwards, are set far back on the head giving the woodcock 360° degree monocular vision. Its wings are short and round. The Eurasian woodcock resembles the common snipe although considerably larger. Although sexually dimorphic, the sexes cannot be distinguished in the field. The plumage is brown to rufous with brown-black to black-grey diagonal stripes and a beige to buff underparts. A black stripe runs down from each eye to the start of the bill and further lateral black bars adorn the top of the head. This cryptic camouflage suits the broadleaved deciduous and mixed broadleaved and coniferous forests they inhabit, which afford them ample space to fly as well as a dense undergrowth of plants and shrubs. The "Schnepfenbart" is a tuft of feathers on the woodcock preen gland and is a prized hunting trophy. Besides this, the 3 cm long pin feather, also known as its "painter's feather" in German, is a much sought after type of fine paintbrush. It is used for delicate paintbrush work, for example for calligraphy or miniatures. The Eurasian woodcock feeds on worms (especially earthworms) and insects as well fruits. During the mating season, the males mark out loose territories in which occasional aerial performances of ritualised aggression take place. The courtship display flight is called “roding” and assists in establishing contact between the two sexes. On average, the female lays a clutch of 4 yellowish-beige, brown patterned eggs in a nest scrape upholstered with leaves, moss and plant parts. The female incubates and raises the chicks by herself. In Germany, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Eurasian woodcock is placed in the "Forewarned" category. In a number of Federal states in Germany, the bird is considered endangered. However, according to the Federal Hunting Act, hunting of this species is permitted from 16 October until15 January. During migration (from October to March), collisions with glass and buildings are not uncommon.

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