The woodcock is a game bird native to Wisconsin, but more than that it is a symbol of the utility of birds beyond their value as hunting targets. During the spring, it performs a mating ritual in the early mornings and late evenings, which Leopold loves to watch. Although Leopold is also an avid hunter, the woodcock brings him so much joy in the spring that he is hesitant to kill as many in the fall. He receives a similar joy from watching its dance as he does from eating its meat, making the woodcock a clear example of the multiple ways that nature can have value to a human beyond its value as a product that is consumed.
Woodcock Symbol Timeline in A Sand County Almanac
The timeline below shows where the symbol Woodcock appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: April
...he calls the “sky dance.” The sky dance is a nightly dance by a male woodcock, who performs in the spring as the suns sets and early in the morning as... (full context)
Leopold sees the woodcock as a symbol of the grand utility of birds beyond their use as hunting targets.... (full context)
Part I: October
...spotted something, but he (Leopold) does not yet know what it is: a grouse, a woodcock, or a rabbit. He advises those who want to hunt with certainty to hunt pheasants... (full context)