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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Woodcock -- Scolopax minor

RANGE: Breeds from southern Manitoba, northern Minnesota and south-central and southern Ontario to northern New Brunswick and Newfoundland, south throughout eastern North America to the Gulf States, and southern Florida, and west. Winters from eastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia south to east-central Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida.

STATUS: Common; may be declining in parts of the East.

HABITAT: Inhabits moist woodlands in early stages of succession especially, those with birch, aspen, red maple, alder, or willows under 25 feet tall and having an understory of conifers. Also found in alder swales with surrounding pockets of second-growth mixed hardwoods, old agricultural fields, burned or recently logged areas, areas too wet to support forest growth, hardwoods adjacent to streams and ponds, and brushy edges of woods. Uses open fields, cultivated land, pastures, and clearings at least 1/4 acre in size on relatively flat ground, and with a slight amount of ground cover for singing grounds.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense brushy swales with nearby fields or small forest openings for courtship activities and roost sites, and fertile, generally poorly drained soils containing an abundance of earthworms for feeding.

NEST: Nests in a slight depression on dry ground, usually within a few yards of a brushy edge. Also nests on a hummock in wet areas, in open fields, or in young to middle-aged hardwoods of low to medium density.

FOOD: Feeds in open pastures, cultivated fields, and along stream banks, probing in soft mud and leaf litter for earthworms, which make up 50 to 90 percent of the diet. Also eats insect larvae and adults, crustaceans, spiders, seeds, and berries.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Gregg and Hale 1977, Mendall and Aldous 1943, Owen 1977, Palmer 1967, Sepik et al. 1981, Sperry 1940.

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