Arrivals/Departures, Rituals

February 14, Woodcocks are making their flight displays ‘roding’, to mark their breeding territory.

Woodcock Dating Show

Public Square, Utrecht train station, Netherlands
Commissioned and Produced by Public Works, Utrecht
Photos: Hilde Speet.

Rather than using social media to find a partner, Coates used the courtship ritual of the woodcock bird to help people find and select a partner. In February the male woodcock bird repeatedly flies circular routes at dusk and at dawn just above the forest or woodland. These flights, accompanied by calling, make up a display, termed ‘roding’. The main purpose of roding is to establish territory and find females to breed with. Male birds will fly around a circuit, calling out with low grunts and then very high ‘peeps’. It is thought that the female birds call the males down to them on the ground.

Coates invited singles from all over Utrecht to participate in the first woodcock dating show show on Valentine’s Day. The show took place on the public square outside Utrecht train station. The Presenter of the show invited single people from the public (male and female) to run around the square. Each participant wore a number so that any interested singles watching or running with them could ask to meet them. All participants were given a woodcock broach specifically designed for this event, to signal their participation to others.