Sunday, December 24, 2023

Five golden rings

I took photos the other day of some ring-necked turtle doves on top our blueberry enclosure.

But wait, are these Eurasian doves or ring-necked turtle doves? A comparison between the two species didn't yield much insight. My bird books both favor ring-necked turtle doves.

At any rate, I happened to show these photos to Don. He chuckled and remarked, "Five golden rings." This made me laugh.

Then he mentioned an article he had just read entitled "Are All Gifts Mentioned In ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’ Actually Birds?"

Everyone knows the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas," the final verse of which lists everything:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings!
Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree!

The song lists a lot of birds, but the author of the above-linked article argues that all the gifts were, in fact, birds. Since the song is Medieval in origin, these are birds that were likely commonly seen and/or eaten during those times.

She suggests the "five golden rings" are ring-necked pheasants. These are Chinese in origin, but had been introduced to Europe during the Roman times, and thus were common.

She speculates the "eight maids a-milking" were either pigeons (which feed "crop milk" to their young) or the elegant cattle egrets which, as the name implies, hang around with cows to eat the insects stirred up by their legs.

The "nine ladies dancing" might be the northern lapwing, the cormorant, or the Eurasian common crane, all known for their vigorous courtship dances.

"Ten lords a-leaping" might be grey herons, wading birds with long legs that were frequently eaten. "Eleven pipers piping" could be any number of shore birds in the sandpiper family. "Twelve drummers drumming" could be woodpeckers, grouse, or snipe.

These are all mere speculations; but considering how Medieval songs originated, none of it would surprise me. At any rate, it was certainly a new take on an old song.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!


  1. In southern Idaho we have what looks to be the same. The ones we have are Eurasian collared doves. We rarely see native doves anymore.

  2. That's a nice Christmas story!
    Actually, my eyes are more drawn to the top of your blueberry enclisure. I hadn't noticed when you posted about it quite a while back, that the supporting posts have holes drilled through at the top to thread what looks like a pipe through making it very strong and stable. Very interesting construction.
    Wildlife keeps blowing me away at their beauty, especially birds lately. I love them more all the time.
    Yesterday, coming home from the store, a pair of large birds which I assumed were hawks, flew up the road in front of my vehicle. ( A woodsy road). They split off to the left and right, with the left bird landing immediately on a limb then looked at me. A beautiful owl ! It may have been a barn owl, but it was 9 or 10 am, and it's rare to see any owl here in daytime! I loved it!
    Several years ago on this same road a young eagle flew up the road in the opposite direction right in front of my truck, "leading me" on an on and on! Like it was his own superhighway! This is central Alabama, dirt poor, sparsely populated, but also filled with natural beauty and all sorts of gorgeous wildlife. It never ceases to fill me with wonder what an abundance of beautiful and different forms of living creatures our Creator chose to surround us with ! How can any heart fail to be lifted to Him in gratitude and praise !
    Merry Christmas !

  3. I had always read that the song was written as a way for secret Catholics in England to memories the catechism.