The Woodcock's Pilot

by Harry Miller April 16, 2016 2 Comments

An unlikely partnership

Gold crest small birdWith its blazing yellow mohawk, and weighing just half the amount of a Bluetit - the same as a 20p piece - the 6 gram goldcrest isn't just the smallest punk in Britain, it is also Europe's smallest bird!

Being so dainty, it comes as no surprise that the gold crested residents of Scandinavia, Poland, and Russia, would understandably struggle if they were to weather out their long and particularly harsh winter months, so, as with many of Europe's northerly and easterly residing birds, the plucky little goldcrest survives the big annual freeze by migrating to warmer climes; and yes, a lot of them decide to go that extra mile to make the UK their home for winter, where they too can reap the benefits of the Gulf Stream and avoid an odds on white Christmas.

The fact that it is a very long way for such a tiny bird to fly once lead to many a folklorish tale as to how they could physically achieved the flight.  This is where the far less attractive woodcock enters the scene. Woodcocks also make the migratory journey across the North Sea to visit our shores for winter so - fuelled by some extraordinary sightings and rumours - the goldcrest was once believed to actually hop aboard the woodcock, riding on their backs as if they were on board a passenger plane: hence the 'Woodcock's Pilot'! There are even some bizarre accounts of goldcrests piloting other feathered jumbo jets, such as the predatory Short Eared Owl; now that really does sound kamikaze!

Though somewhat removed, there could well be an element of truth hidden in the folklore, as there are many accounts of woodcocks who have carried their own young between their thighs whilst in flight.  And knowing that our winter visiting goldcrests generally arrive a few weeks before the woodcock, another more reasonable interpretation for 'The Woodcock's Pilot' is that they are testing the flight route for the woodcock to follow - not that I want to take anything away from Flight Lieutenant Goldcrest's piloting credentials!

Daniel's Goldcrest design is available as a greetings card.

Shop all the DM Bird Collection

Harry Miller
Harry Miller


2 Responses


May 12, 2016

Thanks – always lovely to hear it’s appreciated. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can sign up for the newsletter (below) – we won’t spam you, honest!


May 11, 2016

I really enjoy the article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged. Odenwald

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