Now by what the Country hath nor, you may ghes at what it hath; it hath no Nightingals, nor Larks, nor Bulfinches, nor Sparrows, nor Blackbirds, nor Magpies, nor Jackdaws, nor Popinjays, nor Rooks, nor Pheasants, nor Woodcocks, nor Quailes, nor Robins, nor Cuckoes, &c.
- 1672. John Josslyn. New England Rarites Discovered. London. MHS ed, 1972, pp. 12-3.
OK – there are North American quails, too.
It was seeing Hamlet that got me thinking of woodcocks. Polonius
mentions them…they’re such easy birds to trap, to be compared to one is to be called a fool.
Josslyn mentions them as NOT being in New England, but he thinks quails aren’t here either. Sparrows weren’t here – yet. They were brought out in the 19th century, with some of every other sort of bird mention by Shakespeare.
There are recipes for woodcocks – and quails – and sparrows - in English cookbooks.
To carve a woodcock you would thie or thigh that woodcock, as you thigh that pidgeon or thie all manner of small birds. And how would you do that? According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
a) [f. THIGH n.]
1. trans. To carve (a small bird): see quots.
c1470 in Hors, Shepe, & G. etc. (Caxton 1479 Roxb. repr.) 33 Alle smale birdes thyed. 1508 Bk. Keruing Aj, in Babees Bk. 265 Thye that pegyon..thye that wodcocke, thye all maner of small byrdes. 1675 H. WOOLLEY Gentlewom. Comp. 113 In cutting up all manner of small Birds, it is proper to say, Thigh them. 1796 H. GLASSE Cookery xxvi. 382 So you thigh curlews, plover, or snipe.
I’ll keep looking for a illustration…..