“Once upon a time,” the story is told, a covey of grey partridge roamed the plains of Zair. Among them a small, pitiful individual feebly vegetated while her powerful brothers and sisters ridiculed her, keeping the best grain and insects for themselves. To survive, the little partridge was reduced to seeking minute morsels of food in the fissures of rocks and hard-to-get-at places. Unfortunately, her short beak did not always allow her to reach her food, and she grew weaker.
The Virgin Mary, witnessing her misery from paradise, was saddened and called her to heaven. The partridge curled up in her hand and listened as the Virgin said, “Little bird, I am going to transform you, so that you may know the joys of life. Thrown out by your kind, you will now live alone in the serenity of the forests, where along with silence you will also find an abundance of food. You will be the elegant hostess of the underbrush and will generate the admiration of those who love nature. Your capricious flight and your intelligent defenses will allow you to escape your pursuers. I will protect you.”
The Virgin laid three fingers on the little bird’s head, leaving three brown transversal imprints now called the “Virgin’s fingers.” Her beak lengthened, her plumage took on a golden hue, and she flew back to earth as guardian of the forests.
So was born the woodcock, also called “Our Lady of the Woods.”
-Guy De La Valdene’s Making Game: An Essay in Woodcock, pages 95-96. Photo by A.J. Hand.