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The Many Names of the American Woodcock

The Many Names of the American Woodcock

A woodcock hunter spreads the wings on a timberdoodle.

5 memorable nicknames of the American Woodcock

While on the road this year, I heard many names for the American woodcock. Some of these I’d heard before before, but others were entirely new to me. That just goes to show how unique cultures pop around this “unlikely species” and only strengthens the allure of this amazing upland bird game species.


Yes, we have all heard the term timberdoodle. Although the history behind that name is a bit elusive, we can theorize on its meaning. The woodcock stands out distinctly from its cousin the snipe, because it’s found in timber rather than marshy areas. That accounts for the timber part, but what about the doodle? In archaic days, doodle meant foolish or silly. Which makes sense. Because (with all due respect), many of us think of the woodcock as a pretty ridiculous creature.


We heard this one while in Wisconsin filming for the 2017 film, Camp Thunderbird. It was new to us. Doods is a very modern and shortened twist on the older timberdoodle nickname. And Camp Thunderbird was certainly a place of hardcore woodcock culture. Birds hung on the cabin walls outside and had been aging for days, guts in. They were probably the best doods I’ve eaten all year. This camp definitely had a profound respect and love for the American woodcock. You might be kicked out of Camp Thunderbird for calling doods this next nickname.


Mudbat, swampbat—if you have ever hunted the American woodcock, you’ll understand the reason behind names like these. This unique bird species relies on soft ground to eat its primary food source of worms. So it doesn’t take much imagination to think of how this lingo came about. A personal favorite of the Project Upland team, the term mudbat has a bit of a rough and hardcore ring to it. The people who don’t care to eat woodcock will probably be calling them mudbats.

Little Russet Fellers

For any Burton Spiller fans or hardcore upland hunters that have read the legendary book Grouse Feathers, you have heard this term. It’s a personal favorite of the Northwoods’r crew out in Minnesota. I even read a more recent reference to this in Why We Hunt Woodcock in the Winter 2016 issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine by modern upland writer Tom Keer. Keer dropped some more inventive names I had never previously heard: whistledoodle, bog snipe, labrador twister, air flounder, and night partridge.

Timber Rocket

This is my personal favorite from this year. The Modern Wild dropped this term while hunting in Minnesota for the upcoming Project Upland film. I asked for an explanation and they gave the most logical definition to date.

“They whistle and fly as unpredictable as a bottle rocket.”

From that point, I was sold on timber rocket as my go-to term for one of my personal favorite upland birds, the American woodcock.

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