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American Woodcox, by Claude Thivierge (2014)

<i>American Woodcox</i>, by Claude Thivierge (2014)


The American Woodcox
Text by David Lank
When the Woodcock’s long, sensitive beak is submerged into the swamp mud, it is easy to see how this beautiful little bird got its nickname, The Bog Sucker. In fact, its previous Latin name, Philohela, literally “swamp lover” is more appropriate than Scolopax, a name used by Aristotle for the bird 2000 years ago, derived from the Greek for a pointed object, probably a reference to its long beak. Through adaptive evolution, the eyes have moved to the back of the head so that even during feeding – or waiting for the sensitive beak to feel the vibrations of a worm in the mud – a watchful pose can be maintained during the most critical moments.

In Colonial times, millions of woodcock were roasted in curved tin reflector oven, six or eight birds at a time, and yet they remain surprisingly common. With their explosive and zig-zag flight, they are a real test for the sportsman. Their cryptic coloration is an equal test for the artist. Returning from their southern wintering grounds to southern Quebec when patches of snow still lie in their wooded habitats, the Woodcock migrate at night: city lights can confuse them. I saw my first woodcock exhausted on the street right beside The Bay in Montreal. More often heard than seen, the Woodcock is one of the most beautiful and haunting of our game birds.
Details
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