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Eyes in the back of your head

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The American woodcock (Scolopax minor, although the older name, Philohela minor from the Greek meaning “loving marsh” seems much more appropriate) is a shy upland game bird, which is a member of the sandpiper family. This species and its closely related European counterpart, Scolopax rusticola, has quit the water's edge for marsh or even dense woodlands with a moist forest floor. The European woodcock is a similar, but larger, bird with similar habits, coloration, and ecology. The migratory and secretive American woodcock, now in decline, nests primarily in the northern portion of its range in North America, especially in young forests with scattered openings having swamp-like moist floors. The female is larger, in general, but usually this cannot be determined in the field. The distinctive long tapered bill is used to forage by probing for earthworms in damp soil, soft substrates, or in alder thickets with associated clearings and boggy fens. The bird is difficult, if not impossible, to see because


Cover illustration: Eyes in the back of your head

of cryptic coloration, as can be determined by the photograph on this month's cover. The leaf litter coloration of its feathers allows the bird to settle on the forest floor as a means of camouflage and is is rarely seen unless flushed out. The flight is usually a brief irregular halting one through the surrounding trees until it disappears again upon landing. The bird is

usually active at dusk or into the …

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