By Emily Renaud

There are a number of signals nature provides to remind us spring is on its way. Rainy spells, the evening song of the first spring peepers, the first buds of spring flowers, and getting your shoes sucked off in eight-inch-deep muck puddles are all signs that a change in seasons is taking place. One of our favorite ways to tell that spring has sprung, though, is the return of the fascinating American Woodcock.

This bizarre, forest-dependent shorebird species (yes, shorebird!) ranges throughout the eastern half of North America and can be found as far south as the Gulf coast up into Quebec and Ontario. A close relative of the more widespread Wilson’s Snipe, woodcock are stout, tubby birds with huge, dark eyes and plumage that almost perfectly mimics the appearance of dry leaf litter. Their camouflaged appearance allows them to scamper around undetected along the forest floor where they raise their young and use their disproportionately long bills to forage for earthworms in the mud.