Be Your Own Birder

The Ninth Day of Christmas

Hopefully as Christmas Day draws near, you’re able to take a bit of time to enjoy the festivities of the season as your own preparations, chores, and to-do lists slowly wrap up. The gift of the ninth day of Christmas might be something to enjoy during the season, depending on how you like to celebrate.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
…Nine ladies dancing.

But what does this have to do with birds?

Birds Dancing

Birds do more than fly and sing – they can be quite accomplished dancers when the mood strikes. And that mood is most often during the mating season, when many different birds strut their stuff with seductive moves to lure a mate. From bowing, weaving, and kicking to wing flaps, neck twists, tail spreads, and other moves, birds can be as graceful and coordinated as any professional dancer. Some birds are most artful in the air, such as the looping, swooping dives of hummingbirds, while others are worth watching on the water as they bob and dive and dance across its surface, like many types of grebes.

Great Crested Grebes Dancing - Photo by Airwolfhound
Great Crested Grebes Dancing – Photo by Airwolfhound

Different courtship displays, such as the fanned and fluttered tail of a peacock in his prime, are also a style of dance. Birds will strike poses, use exaggerated postures, and take great pains to show off their most brilliant plumage, best body form, and finest attributes in order to impress a potential partner.

While many bird dances are led by males, the ladies of the bird world do their fair share of dancing as well. Many female cranes, ducks, grebes, and swans not only watch their prospective mates perform, but join in the ritualized movements and step patterns to complete the bonding ritual. These ladies are indeed dancing, and it is as romantic of a gesture as any couple’s dance duet.

Common Crane Mating Dance - Photo by Gary Leavens
Common Crane Mating Dance – Photo by Gary Leavens

A Gift of Entertainment

Of course, the gift in question for The 12 Days of Christmas isn’t directly about birds, but it is about a gift of graceful entertainment. At this point in the holiday season, festivities are in full swing and attending performances is a tradition for many families and couples. It may be a child’s annual recital, a church’s familiar pageant, or all the artistry of a professional troupe, but having the time and energy to enjoy those moments and make those memories is a true gift during the holiday season.

Ladies Dancing Like Birds

Some performances do relate more directly to birds, and many professional performances incorporate the graceful movements of birds into their arrangements. Swan Lake is the most famous and most bird-like ballet, but several other stunning performances also incorporate birds. A flock of ravens escorts Belle to the castle in Beauty and the Beast, a pair of bluebirds perform at the wedding finale of Sleeping Beauty, and flamingos command the stage in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Chickens, kookaburras, pigeons, larks, canaries, and lyrebirds also feature in different performances, each with stunning costumes and magnificent movements.

Swan Lake Ballerinas - Photo by Cincinnati Ballet / Peter Mueller
Swan Lake Ballerinas – Photo by Cincinnati Ballet / Peter Mueller

Our Own Bird Happy Dances

Of course, birders often have their own dances as well – that spritely, excited, celebratory “happy dance” whenever a new lifer, rare bird, or exciting behavior is seen. These dances may incorporate jumps and hops, arm gestures, whoops or whistles, and always amazing smiles. No matter what gifts – or birds – may be part of your holiday season, I hope that happy dance is part of the celebrations!

Peacock Displaying - Photo by Mathias Appel
Peacock Displaying – Photo by Mathias Appel

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