The woodcock has properties that distinguish it from other birds. It has large eyes located far back and high on its head giving it 360-degree vision. Its nostrils are very high on its long bill. The bill has sensitive nerves near the tip. The bird’s ears are located near the base of its bill, below and in front of its eyes. To accommodate this interesting arrangement, the frontal lobes of the brain are in the back and what would normally be in the back of the brain is in the front.
Why all these changes from what a normal bird has? The reason is diet. Woodcocks eat worms, and they probe the ground with their long bills. The sensitivity of the tip of the bill allows the woodcock to sense the worms. The nostrils high on the beak allow the bird to breathe while its beak is in the ground. The beak is also designed in a way that allows it to open under the ground, and the tongue is sticky to grab slippery worms. The woodcock seems to be ideally designed to find and remove worms from under the ground.
Robins also eat worms, so why don’t they have these characteristics? Robins retrieve worms near the surface. The design of woodcocks allows them to get the worms the robins can’t reach. We see in the design of the woodcock an example of the delicate balance in living things.
© Roland Earnst