Twelve: robin

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So today’s robin inspired me to do a bit of yuletide bird-watching. It was not particularly successful. I blame this largely on my lack of bird-watching get-up.  So instead here’s a run down of the UK’s favourite festive avian friends and where to find them.

Partridges belong to the pheasant family and are still widely eaten. If you’re not feeling the gastronomy, they can be found almost anywhere in lowland arable areas. (Farming land for crops.)

I was never going to sight a turtle dove today because they’re mostly located in the south east of England and parts of southern Wales in woodland. On top of that, they migrate so are only around between April and July. They’re traditional symbols of love and peace, though…so I’ll make an exception for their lacking presence in the yuletide season.

For swans and geese their connection Christmas is actually about royal feasting. A bit grim, but they were popular Medieval dishes. Mute (the most common ones) swans are protected in the UK under the Queen’s ‘ownership’ and they can be found quite commonly. Geese can be found pretty much anywhere as well. Including…my university campus. In annoying abundance, which is only cute in spring when the goslings are born.

Finding out that ‘calling bird’ is just a fancy name for blackbirds is a bit disappointing (sorry) and again, they were once considered a delicacy. This time, in pies: one bushel of flour to every 3.5 blackbirds. And while I’m dishing out the harsh harsh truth about festive birds – French hens are just a kind of chicken. Sozzles.

Yet where’s the robin, the most seasonal bird of all? Their association with Christmas (my research tells me) stems from Victorian postmen who wore red and were nick-named ‘Robins’. Our red-breasted friends are European garden birds although numbers are falling very slightly due to cold winter weather – the irony. But if you sit at your window long enough, you’ll still be able to see one. I, however, did not. #festivefail