The 13 birds of Christmas

Stephen Moss compiled a list of the 13 birds most associated with Christmas. Most of them are from The Twelve Days of Christmas with a bonus bird:

Like many ancient rhymes, stories and songs, The Twelve Days of Christmas has been the subject of countless explanations of its ‘real meaning’. Some have suggested that it is an ancient version of a wedding list – a series of increasingly lavish gifts presented to a married couple, from a humble partridge to an entire drumming band.

Others have seen a more sinister meaning in the verse, speculating that it was originally written in code during the Protestant Reformation, to teach Catholic children their faith. In this interpretation, three French hens represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; four colly birds, the gospels; 12 drummers drumming the Apostles, and so on.

As a lifelong birder, I have another suggestion: that each of the carol’s 12 lines represents a bird. Given that the first four lines, along with the sixth and seventh, are explicitly avian, I suggest that the whole verse was originally written to celebrate 12 different birds.

Spoiler alert: the 13th bird of Christmas is the robin but the reasons Moss gave for why this is are particularly interesting, from biblical robins to 19th-century postmen.

What was François Mitterrand's final meal and why was it so controversial?

The ortolan is a small bird from the bunting family that lives in Europe and western Asia. It is also the last meal that former French president François Mitterrand ever ate, 8 days before his death. But eating ortolans is illegal in France (even though some chefs will still make it) and it comes with some… unique traditions:

[…] To prepare it, the ortolan is drowned in a glass of Armagnac. This is not a metaphor. It is actually drowned, and then it is cooked in a cassoulet.


You place a white cloth over your head and pick the bird up with your fingers, and then you eat it whole, wings, feet, organs, head, everything except the feet. The ortolan is supposed to represent the soul of France.

The white cloth is to create a closed sensory world of just taste and scent.

The cloth is also, traditionally, to hide the act from God.

via Interconnected

For more on Mitterand’s last meal and the ortolan, read Michael Paterniti’s 1998 piece for Esquire magazine. You can also read this Smithsonian article on the ortolan from 2018 and how it is/was eaten into extinction. (A note that while the ortolan’s global conservation listing is “Least Concern”, in France, it is “Endangered”.)

Bird-related: the 13 birds of Christmas

Waddles the Duck and his new prosthetic leg

A Duck Gets a Prosthetic Leg | Wizard of Paws

The video shows Waddles the duck getting a new 3D-printed leg and his owner, Ben Weinman (formerly of The Dillinger Escape Plan), was thrilled with the results and explained his emotions in the video:

I didn’t think I would be, like, emotional about this. But when you take these animals, all you want to do is give them a good life and do right by them. And you see them struggling, and you think there’s nothing you could do. It’s, it’s really heartbreaking. So yeah, Derrick [Campana] knocked it out of the park.

The aforementioned Derrick Campana is a prosthetic specialist and owner of Bionic Pets who made Waddles’ prosthetic leg.

I won’t front—this made me cry. I love ducks anyway but seeing Waddles waddle with his new leg was so heartwarming. Can I hug the duck? Is that possible?

Conflict in Literature (with Daffy Duck)

Twitter is a dumpster fire but sometimes it can provide humour and escapism.

Conflict in Literature is a meme that started as a comic in 2014:

On May 22nd, 2014, Grant Snider of Incidental Comics published a comic entitled “Conflicts in Literature.” In the comic, stick figures act out the classic conflict scenarios present in narrative art, such as “man vs. nature” and “man vs. technology,” as well as the movement in literature (“modernism,” “post-modernism,” etc.)

From there, a series of unique versions were made including one starring Daffy Duck. The original creator, Instagram user @rad_shiba, posted it on their page but has since been taken down.

I like the concept but adding Daffy Duck to each one is a masterstroke. I wonder what a Nancy version would look like.

(via @johnarmenta)

And the award for Cutest Duck TikTok Goes To...

I’m not on TikTok and have no interest in joining. I prefer to catch the funniest TikToks on Twitter and save myself from the boring ones. That strategy has worked well and I hit the jackpot yesterday when I found this:

Dancing with my Duck! | HartYT_ TikTok Compilation 1#

Let me address each incredible part of this TikTok one-by-one.

1. It features a dancing duck

I love ducks. They’re in my top ten animals list and in terms of cuteness, they’re second only to hippos for me. This duck appears to be a Pekin duck (I’ll wait to be corrected) and Joey and Chandler owned one in Friends.

2. Hart was getting into it

Hart is an animator and memer (seriously, go check out his YouTube) who was ready to bust moves with his duck. And he did not disappoint.

3. That song is awesome

Part of the appeal of this TikTok, besides the dancing and the duck, is the song. Twitter provided as it always does and gave the title: Vibe by Cookiee Kawaii.

By now, I’ve watched this feather-shaking duck about 10 times and I’m ready to watch it some more before the day’s up. Happy Black History Month!

TikTok related: Gav – the huge TikTok baby and Scott Seiss’s retail TikToks