Adults have short pinkish legs and a very long straight bill with an articulated tip. The body is patterned cinnamon on top and a lighter brown underneath. They have large eyes located high in the head. The wings are rounded.
Their breeding habitat is wet wooded areas in eastern North America. The northernmost birds migrates to the southern parts of the breeding range in winter. Based on the Christmas Bird Count results, winter concentrations are highest in the northern half of Alabama.
Migrating birds' arrival at and departure from the breeding range is highly irregular. In Ohio for example, the earliest birds are seen in February, but the bulk of the population does not arrive until March/April. Birds start to leave for winter by September, but some remain until mid-November.
These birds forage by probing in soft soil in thickets, usually well-hidden from sight. They mainly eat earthworms and insects, also plant material. They are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk.
The male performs a high spiralling flight during courtship, generating a twittering sound as air moves through its wing feathers. These performances occur over open areas near feeding locations at dawn, dusk, and if the light levels are high enough on moonlit nights. The ritual may be repeated as long as four months running - sometimes continuing even after females have already hatched their brood and left the nest. American Woodcocks nest on the ground in an open wooded location. Woodcock young are precocial.
This species is not considered globally threatened by the IUCN. It is more tolerant of deforestation than other woodcocks and snipes; as long as some sheltered woodland remains for breeding, it can thrive even in regions that are mainly used for agriculture.