moonmaiden65 asked in PetsBirds · 1 decade ago

What are "calling birds" in the christmas carol "The 12 days of Christmas"?

I would like to know what species or common name is given to the reference of "calling birds" in the christmas carol "The 12 days of Christmas".

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The line four calling birds is an Americanization of the traditional English wording four colly birds, and in some places, such as Australia, the variation calling is supplanting the original. Colly is a dialect word meaning black and refers to the European blackbird Turdus merula.

    The line four calling birds in some versions is four coiled birds.

    Religiously, The 'four calling birds' are the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; or their Gospels.

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  • mish
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Calling Birds

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  • 5 years ago

    The song was written in 1780 and used the term "Colly Birds" which is, and was then, an arcane reference to blackbirds, perhaps ravens. The song has been rewritten many times since the and has changed the term, but it wasn't until 1909 that the term "calling birds" was referenced. The ecumenical church, seeking a reason to sing the song in a religious setting, decided the "four calling birds" were the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John carrying out "the Great Commission", that is, to spread the Gospel (it means "good news") to all the world. In a word, they were evangelists. In the second Charlie Brown cartoon called "It's Christmastime Charlie Brown", Linus Van Pelt tries to explain to Sally Brown the meaning of the phrase and relates it to 1 Samuel 26:20 in the Bible. In that story, David, before he was king, was being hunted by Saul, the current king, to be killed. Needless to say, he was a little concerned about that fact and, as a metaphor, said the hunt was like a partridge being hunted in the mountains. So, Charles Schultz used Linus to explain it like so: Linus: A "calling bird" is a kind of partridge. In 1 Samuel 26:20, it says, "For the King of Israel has come out to seek my life, just as though he were hunting the calling bird." There's a play on words here, you see. David was standing on a mountain calling, and he compared himself to a partridge being hunted. Isn't that fascinating?

    Bottom line, it has morphed from when written. Ornithologically speaking, there is no such thing as a "calling bird". Since it was a gift, you'd assume it was a melodious sound, and thus, feel free to ascribe any black songbird you care to imagine. I'll pick a Black Redstart just due to it's rarity, but it seems likely it would be a Crow or a Raven.

    • Michael5 years agoReport

      Wonderful answer, except that it didn't matter if the bird was melodious or not as it was meant to be eaten, perhaps baked in a pie.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The mystery that is the song 'The 12 Days of Christmas'...You've come to the page that is concentrating on the line Four Calling Birds, and here's what our Researchers came up with when we asked them what on earth this line meant.

    For those of you with an interest in etymology, the term 'calling birds' in the song is a deviation from the original term 'colly' or 'collie bird'. 'Colly' means 'black' and came from the old word for coal, so the four colly birds in the carol are in fact blackbirds. This doesn't really explain why anyone should want to give their true love four blackbirds, but there's no accounting for taste...

    One Researcher suggested that this line refers to the quartet of telephone receptionists that you need to respond to all those people who forget to send you a Christmas card, then get one from you on Christmas Eve, feel guilty, and so call you up to wish you a 'Merry Christmas' in the middle of your favourite Christmas TV special. These days, of course, you'd just switch on the answerphone, but this is an old song, remember.

    Another angle is that this is a veiled reference to the dynamic rise of the 'new ladettes', the women who manage to turn the tables on new man and his pathetic foibles by whistling at men on building sites and drinking ten pints of lager before devouring a vindaloo curry... while still remaining attractive. It's the same glorious role reversal that's celebrated in the TV adverts for Diet Coke... or should that be Diet Bloke? We're not sure, but it's certainly worth singing about.

    • Michael5 years agoReport

      This song dates back to the 17th century or earlier, and every line in the song refers to birds that at that time were part of peoples grand feasts. Swans were splendid when presented at the dining table, as were the Golden Ring Necked pheasants that'd been recently introduced from China

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  • 5 years ago

    In the U.S.A,, one usually interprets “calling bird” to mean “song bird.” This could refer to any of the passerines, though most likely a canary or similar caged exotic. However, in this case, a bit of research paid off. It is widely accepted that the original gift was one of four “colly birds,” not four “calling birds.” The word colly means “black as coal.” Thus, the gift on the fourth day could be none other than the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), ubiquitous in the UK. This discovery seems rather unappetizing in light of the realization that these birds as gifts are all meant to be enjoyed in a feast. (ie: four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie refers to food)

    • Michael5 years agoReport

      As an addendum, this song dates back to the 17th century or earlier, and every line in the song refers to birds that at that time were part of peoples grand feasts.
      Swans were particularly grand when presented at the dining table.

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  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    What are "calling birds" in the christmas carol "The 12 days of Christmas"?

    I would like to know what species or common name is given to the reference of "calling birds" in the christmas carol "The 12 days of Christmas".

    Source(s): quot calling birds quot christmas carol quot 12 days christmas quot: https://shortly.im/qIh4X
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  • 1 decade ago

    When they say Calling Birds, they mean birds that can sing. Not just a hen or something like that. It needs to be a bird that sounds pretty. Also it is the fourth day of Christmas.

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  • 4 years ago

    They represent the four apostles - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - calling out the good news of the gospel for all to hear!

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  • 5 years ago

    A caged game bird used to lure birds of the same species within gun range or into a net.

    • Michael5 years agoReport

      it's a good modern interpretation of the line, but the song dates from the 17th century or earlier, at that time using caged birds as lures was not prolific, and the wealthy gave these types of birds as gifts to demonstrate their wealth and generosity.

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  • 5 years ago

    I have always thought of them as mocking birds.

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