Woodcock, a game bird of the snipe family. The American woodcock (philohela minor, Gray) is 11 in. long and 17 in. in alar extent; the body is stout, and the head, bill, and eyes very large; the last are placed very far back; the tibiae are short and feathered to the joint, and the toes cleft to the base; wings short and rounded, with the first three primaries much attenuated, and the fourth and fifth equal and longest; tarsi stout, and nail of hind toe very short; bill 2½ in. long, the upper mandible the longest; tail short. The upper parts are variegated with pale ashy, yellowish rufous of various shades, and black; on the hind head are three transverse black bands, alternating with three others of pale yellowish rufous; a brownish black line from eyes to bill, and one below the eyes; lower parts pale rufous, brightest on the sides. It is found all over eastern North America; it is nocturnal, keeping quiet by day unless disturbed by sportsmen; it frequents fresh-water marshes and the margins of streams, probing the mud and turning over the leaves in search of earth worms and larvae.
The sense of sight is very acute; from the rapidity and irregularity of its flight it is difficult for an inexperienced marksman to kill it; it is a great favorite with epicures, and is generally served with the entrails in. They pair in spring, making a nest of dried leaves and grasses, in the woods, at the foot of a bush or fallen tree; the eggs are four or five, 1¾ by l1/8 in., dull yellowish clay-colored, with numerous patches of purplish brown; the young run as soon as hatched. - The European woodcock (scolopax rusticola, Linn.), la bécasse of the French, found all over Europe, in N. Asia, and in Japan, is about 14 in. long, with long wings, the first primary being the longest; the plumage is like that of the American, being variously mottled with yellowish and ruddy brownish black and gray; the head is grayish in front, yellowish brown with transverse darker brown streaks behind. It is found in dry and high ground in summer, and in the woods and swamps in autumn.
American Woodcock (Philohela minor).