Singing American woodcocks announce spring in the north country

May 19, 2012

Every spring, a state Department of Environmental Conservation biologist drives along north country highways at dawn or dusk, stopping every so often to pull over and listen to the nature sounds.

She's listening for the distinctive “peent” of the singing American woodcock, a brown speckled bird a little larger than a songbird with a long, narrow beak for pulling earthworms out of the newly thawed ground.

The game species is one of greatest conservation needs in New York state, and the survey each year is meant to get a handle on what population trends are in this region.

DEC regional spokesman Stephen Litwhiler is happy to host several of the birds in his backyard in the town of Lorraine in southern Jefferson County. He says the birds' appearance each year is his personal “harbinger of spring.”

WRVO's Joanna Richards donned camouflage and hid behind the birds' favorite tree in Litwhiler's backyard to get a close-up look – and listen.