US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in The Prairie Naturalist 33(1): March 2001. Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society


Generally, breeding-season observations of American woodcock in North Dakota have been considered noteworthy. Stewart (1975) compiled reports of two unconfirmed instances of breeding prior to 1923. He also reported observations of American woodcock during the breeding seasons of 1923, 1934, 1957, 1969, and 1972 and that a courtship territory was occupied by a displaying male in 1971 and 1972. Smith and Barclay (1978) surveyed individuals in wildlife agencies, universities, and ornithological societies for reports of breeding by American woodcock and obtained four reports of courtship displays in North Dakota, but none of nesting. Faanes and Andrew (1983) banded a male in 1981 and described it as the eleventh breeding-season record for the state.

We observed at least nine American woodcock, including a female with two chicks, in southeastern North Dakota during spring 1998. Our first observation was on the margin of riparian woodland at Clausen Springs (46° 40' 5" N, 98° 2' 41" W) in Barnes County, where we observed at least two males perfonning courtship displays at dusk on 12 April. Later, on May 10, while walking through a 65-ha area of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) parkland on the Sheyenne National Grasslands (46° 26' 43" N, 97° 24' 32"W) in Ransom County, we flushed American woodcock from seven locations (two birds at each of two locations; single birds at four locations; and a female with two fully feathered chicks approximately two-thirds grown). Based on locations of flushes, flight paths of departing birds, and the brevity of our visit (~1 h), we suspect the latter observation involved at least five and possibly as many as nine American woodcock. On 20 May 2000 we searched the Sheyenne Grasslands site a second time. We flushed only one American woodcock and found another dead on the adjacent shoulder of North Dakota Highway 27