Be Your Own Birder

The Tenth Day of Christmas

In terms of The 12 Days of Christmas carol, the tenth day’s gift is perhaps one of the most difficult to connect to birds and birding, but savvy birders can always creatively find a way.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
…Ten lords a-leaping.

Why Are Lords Leaping?

The imagery of “lords a-leaping” may seem strange, but it’s a celebratory gift. The lords in question are titled gentlemen, the luxurious elite of society. This may be actual “lords” or men with other official nobility titles, such as dukes, earls, barons, or counts, or could simply mean individuals with higher places in society, such as one’s boss, the head of a family, or a role model to aspire to emulate.

Culzean Castle, Scotland - Photo by Muhammad Younas
Culzean Castle, Scotland – Photo by Muhammad Younas

The leaping could be twofold. On one hand, at this festive time of year, the lords in question may be leaping in celebration and joy as an expression of happiness and goodwill, as befits gift-giving and enjoying holiday festivities with those you care about. The leaping could also be more of an alert status, such as leaping to attention, leaping to complete chores, or leaping to the rescue. Any of these connotations would befit this type of gift from one’s true love, as it indicates that the lords are paying close attention to the gift recipient and are ready to attend to any need or whim.

The Lord God Bird

Of course, very little about lords a-leaping connects to birds in the literal sense, but when birders think “lord” they may in fact be thinking of one specific species, the ultimate gift – the Lord God Bird.

Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers (Audubon Print) - Image by Toronto Public Library
Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers (Audubon Print) – Image by Toronto Public Library

The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is the holy grail of birds, and is nicknamed the Lord God Bird for its rarity, desirability, and the hope it inspires in so many birders. Unfortunately, its story is a tragic one, and despite a near rediscovery and massive relocation efforts in remote Arkansas swamps in 2005, it is likely that this large, distinctive woodpecker is extinct. Yet, hope remains, as the bird is not “officially” classified as extinct, and so long as that hope still exists, birders may yet have their prayers of sightings and the ultimate life list addition answered.

The hope and belief that this bird may somewhere be out there is not unlike the hope of the holiday season, in having faith, whether in one’s religion, the goodness of humankind, or that Santa Claus might visit on one special night. Indeed, for many birders and conservationists, the appearance of the Lord God Bird would be a truly amazing, miraculous holiday gift.

Leaping for Birding Joy

Should the Lord God Bird one day reappear with definitive proof and independent verification, birders would indeed be leaping for joy – no matter what their individual titles or places in society. Until that time, every new lifer, good bit of birding conservation news, successful field trip, or happy time with birds should be cause for a joyful leap, in any season – holiday or otherwise. Happy birding!

Arkansas Bayou Swamp - Photo by Cyndy Sims Parr
Arkansas Bayou Swamp – Photo by Cyndy Sims Parr

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