Sunday, 24 December 2006

Not the twelve days of Christmas

I tried to think of an original and whimsical bird post for Christmas Eve. Of course, I left this until today because, y'know, Christmas was such a surprise. I hadn't seen it coming.

Birds of Christmas Island? Not bad but as I haven't been there, perhaps a little contrived.

Red and green birds? It has potential but I don't have enough photos. When I say enough, I mean any.

So I thought I'd rely on a trusted technique—stealing someone else's idea and giving it enough of a makeover to avoid infringing copyright. (No, that's not contrived at all.)

Mike at 10,000 Birds looked at the species mentioned in the Twelve Days of Christmas. That set me thinking about the Australian equivalents. Which species would fit the bill? (As it were.) What are the closest relatives of the European birds in the song?

A partridge in a pear tree
Australia doesn't have any partridges (Perdix). In fact, we're notably lacking in large numbers of native Phasianidae. So I've chosen one of our three species of quail (Coturnix). Although it's the smallest of the small trio, the king quail (C. chinensis) is the most festive in appearance. It has a black-and-white bib, blue chest and chestnut tum and bum. Sure, you're unlikely to see it in a tree of any sort, but as the same goes for partridges, let's not quibble about the details.

(I initially opted for button quail (Turnix), which are larger and nattier than true quails. But they probably aren't phasianids at all. It seems that they are closely related to rails.)

Two turtle doves
We don't have any native Streptopelia doves either, so I was tempted to propose the bar-shouldered dove (Geopelia humeralis), which looks very similar. But—call me reckless—I'm going to suggested crested pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes), not least of all because I have a photo.

Three French hens
Bugger. We're back to the game birds. Oh, look, the stubble quail (Coturnix pectoralis) has something vaguely Gallic about it. Zut alors!. That will do.

Four colly birds
Mike identified the calling birds as blackbirds (Turdus merula). (Turdus is pretty close to the name I call them as they dig up my seedlings.) They're not native, so I suggest the Bassian thrush (Zoothera lunulata). Although they're not black like coal, they do sing.

Five ring-necked pheasants
Again with the game birds. All right. It'll have to be our last true quail, the brown quail (Coturnix ypsilophora). S'okay, we'll paint it with food dye and stick some long feathers on its tail. No one will know the difference. Especially not if five of them are herded together.

Six geese a-laying
Ah, geese. We don't have any Anser but we do have an answer to this conundrum. In the absence of greylags and other typical geese, we'll use Cape Barren geese (Cereopsis novaehollandiae). They're close enough to greylag to pass muster. And they've got pretty bills.

Seven swans a swimming
Swans. Oh yes, we've got swans. Just the one native species but what a bird it is. When Willem de Vlamingh reported the occurrence of black swans in the southern land, scientists back in Europe thought that the sailors must have gone completely mad. After all, it was well known that all swans were white ...

Season's greetings


Anonymous said...

We still sing this carol you "lifted" and "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" here in my country! The latter carol is worse here in the tropics.
Happy holidays !

Snail said...

Happy holidays to you too!

They were playing 'White Christmas' in the supermarket this morning. It's not completely inappropriate because we might be getting snow in the high country tomorrow. Strange!

jj said...

And Seasons Greetings to you, snail and commenters (commentators?) and thanks for all the smiles while learning.

Mike said...

Festive and original, Snail!

Anonymous said...

*wonders how Pheasant Coucal would taste*

Merry an that to you and huge thanks for the fantastic blgging you've done, soon as I get a bottle of red opened I'l be an that too, you bet! ;)