Woodcock

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Woodcock
Woodcock earthworm.jpg
Eurasian woodcock
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Charadriiformes
Family:Scolopacidae
Genus:Scolopax
Linnaeus, 1758
Diversity
7–8 living species
 
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This article is about birds. For other uses, see Woodcock (disambiguation).
Woodcock
Woodcock earthworm.jpg
Eurasian woodcock
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Charadriiformes
Family:Scolopacidae
Genus:Scolopax
Linnaeus, 1758
Diversity
7–8 living species

The woodcocks are a group of seven or eight very similar living species of wading birds in the genus Scolopax. Only two woodcocks are widespread, the others being localized island endemics. Most are found in the Northern Hemisphere but a few range into the Greater Sundas, Wallacea and New Guinea. Their closest relatives are the typical snipes of the genus Gallinago.[1][2]

Description and ecology[edit]

Woodcocks have stocky bodies, cryptic brown and blackish plumage and long slender bills. Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, which gives them 360° vision.[3] Unlike in most birds, the tip of the bill's upper mandible is flexible.[1][4][5]

As their common name implies, the woodcocks are woodland birds. They feed at night or in the evenings, searching for invertebrates in soft ground with their long bills. This habit and their unobtrusive plumage makes it difficult to see them when they are resting in the day. Most have distinctive displays known as "roding", usually given at dawn or dusk.[1][5][6]

The range of breeding habits of the Eurasian woodcock extends from the west of Ireland eastwards across Europe and Asia preferring mostly boreal forest regions engulfing northern Japan, and also from the northern limits of the tree zone in Norway. Continuing south to the Pyrenees and the northern limits of Spain. Nests have been found in Corsica and there are three isolated Atlantic breeding stations in Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. In Asia the sites can be seen as far south as Kashmir and the Himalayas.

Hunting[edit]

Some woodcocks being popular gamebirds, the island endemic species are often quite rare due to overhunting. The pin feathers (coverts of the leading primary feather of the wing) of the Eurasian woodcock are sometimes used as brushtips by artists, who use them for fine painting work.[7]

Species[edit]

The following species of woodcocks are extant today:[1][6]

Fossil record[edit]

A number of woodcocks are extinct and are known only from fossil or subfossil bones. Due to their close relationship to the Gallinago snipes, the woodcocks are a fairly young group of birds, even considering that the Charadriiformes themselves are an ancient lineage. Gallinago and Scolopax diverged probably around the Late Miocene some 10-5 million years ago.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Hayman, Peter; Marchant, John & Prater, Tony (1986): Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. ISBN 0-395-60237-8
  2. ^ Thomas, Gavin H.; Wills, Matthew A. & Székely, Tamás (2004). "A supertree approach to shorebird phylogeny". BMC Evolutionary Biology 4: 28. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-28. PMC 515296. PMID 15329156.  Supplementary Material
  3. ^ woodcock (bird) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Britannica.com. Retrieved on 2013-03-10.
  4. ^ Mousley, H. (1934). "The earliest (1805) unpublished drawings of the flexibility of the upper mandible of the woodcock's bill". Auk 51 (3): 297–301. doi:10.2307/4077657. 
  5. ^ a b McKelvie, Colin Laurie (1993): Woodcock and Snipe: Conservation and Sport. Swan Hill.
  6. ^ a b Kennedy, Robert S.; Fisher, Timothy H.; Harrap, Simon C.B.; Diesmos, Arvin C: & Manamtam, Arturo S. (2001). "A new species of woodcock from the Philippines and a re-evaluation of other Asian/Papuasian woodcock". Forktail 17 (1): 1–12. 
  7. ^ Dowden, Joe Francis (2007). The Landscape Painter's Essential Handbook. Newton Abbot, UK: David & Charles. p. 7. ISBN 0-7153-2501-9. 

External links[edit]