Welcome to day four of the Twelve Days of Collections! Throughout this festive season we’re exploring the varied collections cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust with picks inspired by The Twelve Days of Christmas. Now for day four – is it ‘calling birds’, or ‘colly birds’?
Well, it depends on which version of the song you listen to (bad news if you were hoping to settle an argument!). The earliest known version of the lyrics was published in 1780, but subsequent versions include changes such as reordering the later verses and replacing the pear tree of the first day with a juniper tree.
Both ‘calling birds’ and ‘colly birds’ have been used for the fourth verse of the song, and the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (from which we take our version of the lyrics!) says the latter; but what is a colly bird?
The simple answer is: a black bird! ‘Colly’ is a regional expression for ‘coal black’, similar to a collier, or coal miner.
So here are four black birds of our own from the Natural Sciences collections HCT care for. Clockwise from top left: A raven, Corvus corax; a carrion crow, Corvus corone; a black grouse, Tetrao tetrix; a semi albino blackbird, Turdus merula.
Join us tomorrow for day five and catch up with the days so far!
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