TROY, Mich. (Michigan Back Roads) – The dance of the woodcock is as sure a sign of spring as the arrival of the robins. The Stage Nature Center in Troy offers a guided program to enjoy the dance.

The Woodcock is a chubby little bird with a long beak. He lives his life in the forest, protected by an extraordinary blend of colors. Few encounters with this shore bird occur at a shoreline. For the most part the woodcock is found in wooded areas and those encounters are usually by accident due to his natural coloration. Designated the American Woodcock, he has other names like “Timberdoodle” or “Bogsucker.” And, he can dance!

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You don’t have to trek deep into the wilderness to witness the dance of the woodcock. In fact, you don’t even have to head “up north”. The woodcock does his thing every spring, usually in April, at the Stage Nature Center. The Troy Nature Society operates the center on 100 acres of forest that includes meadows, marshes, streams, and the River Rouge. All of it is accessible by a mile and a half of trails. At the far end of the trail system is the Fox Trail. That is the best place to see the dance of the woodcock. Don’t be surprised if deer are on the trail as well. The Fox Trail winds through a number of habitats and a side trip to the marsh tower. From the tower visitors can get a “bird’s eye” view of the headwaters of the River Rouge.

Every spring the woodcock will perform his courtship dance. He comes out into a forest opening, bog or power line cut. Open sky is important because the dance takes place high in the air. Just after sunset, the woodcock begins to circle making a “peeent” sound. Soon he begins to ascend and the “peeent” sound is replaced by a twittering sound. High in the sky the woodcock circles round and round. The twitter becomes faster, as the pace of the dance quickens, and is replaced by a loud chirping. Then the chirping stops and the bird comes sloping back down to his “peeenting” location.