Springtime in Baltimore means cherry blossoms — and for American woodcocks, who are entering their mating season and looking for love, what could be more romantic?

They put a new twist on “early birds” as the first birds to migrate to the city for the spring season. Also known as timberdoodles, these brown-mottled birds lay over in the city in March as part of their springtime migratory pattern.

It’s important to have green patches in the city for the birds to rest, said Lindsay Jacks, director of Lights Out Baltimore. The all-volunteer organization monitors the downtown area to collect and rescue birds that collide with windows and glass structures.

Climate change is shifting the birds’ patterns, as the warmer weather likely makes their food source available earlier in the year, said Kathy Woods, executive director of Phoenix Wildlife Center. Woodcocks are the first birds to greet spring, and they are coming earlier and earlier each year, starting in February. Now their fall migration stretches into December, as opposed to November.

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In the past week and a half — which Jacks called “peak season” for woodcock sightings — Lights Out Baltimore volunteers rescued eight of these little birds. Four went to Phoenix Wildlife Center in Baldwin for rehabilitation services, one went to Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in Woodstock, and three died before they could be transported, Jacks said.

Woodcocks are “goofy as hell,” Jacks said. With eyes on either side of their head, they are “dopey” and easy to catch when they need rescue, she said. They can’t fly very high, not over the average rowhome, and walk as if they are shaking their butts.

If you see one of the small birds sitting on the ground in a park or open space, it's safe to leave them be. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Jacks)

American woodcocks dance, too, jumping in the air and flying upward in spirals to find a mate. Males give “buzzy peent” calls, twittering their wings, then descend in zigzag until landing silently near a female. The whole move is called “sky dance.”

“When you see a woodcock, it’s a memorable bird,” Jacks said. “You’ll never forget it.”

The birds often sit on the ground. If they are hanging out at a park or an open area, it’s safe to leave them be, Jacks said. But if an adult bird is sitting still near a building, even as people are walking by, that’s a sign the bird is injured, likely because it collided onto a structure. If that’s the case, it can suffer head trauma and swelling. It’s may have hurt its eyes, too, or could have internal injuries.

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Woodcocks are easy to contain. The best way is to approach them from their front with gloves or a jacket and put them in a paper bag or a box.

“And you can either call Lights Out Baltimore or also animal control,” Jacks said. “They will hold it at BARCS and then they will call us to help transport.”

Alternatively, the birds can be taken directly to a licensed wildlife rehabber like Phoenix Wildlife Center or Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary. Staff will treat them for head trauma and feed them, Woods said, and the birds will stay for a few days. Then they’re released, Woods said.

Woodcocks are usually tagged after rescue, Jacks said, and a transmitter tracks their migration pattern to help determine what happens to birds after they hit glass and whether there are long-term effects.

“Their data is very important to know how many are coming through our area and how they’re impacted by hitting glass or light pollution,” Jacks said.