As spring approaches, the Scarborough Land Trust offers a unique opportunity to witness the mesmerizing courtship display of the American Woodcock. Andrew Mackie, an expert with the Trust, sheds light on this captivating phenomenon.

Springtime is considered a great time to try to observe the mating American Woodcocks. While visual observation may be difficult, the auditory experience is a unique way to identify the American Woodcocks. According to, one of nature’s most captivating spectacles occurs when the male gracefully ascends into the air, emitting a gentle chirping sound while creating a mesmerizing mechanical twittering effect generated by the rush of wind through their uniquely notched outer flight feathers. Ascending into the sky in a wide spiral, their wings emit sound, reaching heights of up to 300 feet before descending in a zig-zag pattern. If a female is present, the male lands nearby, repeating this display.

Mackie said, “We are not guaranteed to hear or see American Woodcocks on any given night. Weather, such as rain or cold temperatures can impact if the males display.”

To catch a glimpse of this natural wonder, enthusiasts must venture out near dusk. “Since American Woodcocks start displaying near dusk, we have to go out around this time to listen and watch this courtship display,” Mackie said. “Once we lose all the light, seeing the birds becomes impossible and we start our walk back to the parking lot. We need to walk into Libby River Preserve for about 20 minutes to reach a clearing that is the perfect habitat for American Woodcock.”

Preparation is key for participants. Dressing appropriately for the weather is essential, with the program proceeding unless heavy rain or snow intervenes. A flashlight is recommended for the journey back, while binoculars may enhance the experience, albeit with challenges in focusing on the  Woodcocks.

“I lead the program and we talk about the natural history and conservation of American Woodcock before the birds start the courtship ritual,” Mackie said. “We also discuss the habitat requirements of the American Woodcock and how the Scarborough Land Trust manages preserves places such as Libby River. ”

The event takes place March 29, at Libby River Farm Preserve, 320 Black Point Road, Scarborough.

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