AskDefine | Define woodcocks



  1. Plural of woodcock
The woodcocks are a group of seven extant very similar wading bird species in the genus Scolopax, characterised by a long slender bill and cryptic brown and blackish plumage. Only two woodcocks are widespread, the others being localised island species. Their closest relatives are the typical snipes of the genus Gallinago (Thomas et al., 2004).
These are woodland birds which feed at night or in the evenings, searching for invertebrates in soft ground with their long bills. Unlike in most birds the tip of the upper mandible is flexible. This habit and their unobtrusive plumage makes it difficult to see them when they are resting in the day. The tiny feathers that are located at the first joint of the woodcock's wings are referred to as "pin feathers" and these are much sought after by artists for fine painting work.
Most have distinctive displays, usually given at dawn or dusk. These are birds with stocky bodies and long bills. They have eyes set on the sides of their heads, which gives them almost 360° vision.
A number of woodcocks have become extinct long ago 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 mya.
  • "Scolopax baranensis" (fossil, Early Pliocene of Hungary) - a nomen nudum
  • Scolopax carmesinae (fossil, Early/Middle Pliocene? of Menorca, Mediterranean)
  • Scolopax hutchensi (fossil, Late Pliocene - Early Pleistocene of Florida, USA)
  • Puerto Rican Woodcock, Scolopax anthonyi (prehistoric)


  • Hayman, Marchant and Prater, Shorebirds ISBN 0-873403-19-4
  • McKelvie, Colin Laurie : Woodcock and Snipe: Conservation and Sport (Swan Hill, 1993)
  • Thomas, Gavin H.; Wills, Matthew A. & Székely, Tamás (2004): A supertree approach to shorebird phylogeny. BMC Evol. Biol. 4: 28. PDF fulltext Supplementary Material
woodcocks in Esperanto: Skolopo
woodcocks in French: Bécasse
woodcocks in Ido: Bekaso
woodcocks in Italian: Beccaccia
woodcocks in Polish: Słonki (ptaki)
woodcocks in Russian: Вальдшнепы
woodcocks in Serbian: Шљука
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