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A – Z of Birds

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I like making up daft wee poems about birds. The following verses started life as a drinking game, when a friend in an Edinburgh pub challenged me to name a British bird for each letter of the alphabet. As you will see I had most trouble with U, X and Z, but think I managed to find a way round it. Can a bird be British? Do birds have nationalities? Do they carry passports? The truth is they are just passing through.

A is for a Arctic Tern

He wears a mask like Zorro
With considerable flair,
And steals the food from other birds
While dangling in mid-air.
A dancing acrobat
On an invisible trapeze,
The Arctic Tern does everything
With artistry and ease.


B is for Blue Tit

The Blue Tit is a little bird
Who flits from tree to tree
In springtime she will build a nest
And lay an egg or three
I often wish that little bird
Would land upon my shoulder;
I'd feed her nuts and little treats
If only she were bolder!


C is for Cuckoo

Summer is a-coming in
And loudly sings Cuckoo!
The gentle Willow Warbler's nest
She lays an egg into.
Alas, the little hatchling slays
Its helpless foster brother,
And takes the food provided by
An unsuspecting mother.


D is for Dipper

The little Dipper's bib is white
His waistcoat chestnut brown;
His tail is perky like the wren's
And waggles up and down.
He perches by the waterfall
As playfully it gushes,
And dines on grubs and dragonflies
Among the tall bullrushes.


E is for Eider Duck

Eiderdown, Eiderdown
Fill me a pillow;
Nights have grown colder
And winter winds billow.
Fill me a duvet
With down from your breast,
And let me lay down
On an Eiderdown nest.


F is for Fieldfare

The Fieldfare is a kind of thrush,
Of fair and vivid hue;
His rosy breast is speckled
And his crown a livid-blue.
The whole world is his garden
As he travels far and wide,
From the snowy Arctic tundra
To the banks of River Clyde.


G is for Gannet

The Gannet is a greedy bird
I'm sure you would agree -
When other birds eat one sardine
The Gannet gobbles three!
He hurtles through the ether
At one-hundred miles an hour,
And drops into the ocean
With surprising grace and power.


H is for Hooded Crow

If I were a Hooded Crow
The tallest branch I'd seek.
I'd gather lots of twigs and twine
And weave them with my beak.
I'd build my nest securely
To protect me from the storm,
And line my bed with featherdown
To keep me safe and warm.

I is for Icelandic Gull

From the snowy wastes of Greenland
Comes the pale Icelandic Gull;
A grey and slender body
With a rounded, 'dove-like' skull.
She builds a nest of seaweed
On the broad Atlantic cliffs,
And snatches up the herring
As they're thrown from the skiffs.


J is for Jay

The Jay is quite remarkable;
The cleverest of crows!
Things that children learn at school
The Jay already knows.
The sweet refrain of others birds
With ease she can remember,
And acorns buried in the spring
She finds in late November.


K is for Kittiwake

If I were a Kittiwake,
My breast as white as snow,
I'd find a place high on a ledge
Where others dare not go.
I'd trample down some mud and grass
Until it's nice and deep,
Then on a clutch of speckled eggs
I'd lay me down to sleep.


L is for Linnet

Spring comes to the forest
And the trees are decked with flowers!
Two linnets find a shady grove
To while away the hours.
They pledge their troth sincerely
And together build a nest,
Then nestled softly side by side
Sweet nature does the rest.


M is for Mistle Thrush

If I were a Mistle Thrush
With spots upon my breast,
I'd find a golden rowan tree
On which to build my nest.
I'd raid the farmer's orchard
For some apples juicy-sweet,
Then bring them to my lady-love
And drop them at her feet.


N is for Nightingale

Nightingale, Nightingale
Sing me a song!
Summer approaches
And winter has gone.
As buttercups shyly
Appear on the lawn,
Sing a sweet sonnet
To herald the dawn!


O is for Oystercatcher

The Nightingale sings sweetly
How melodious her call! but
The Oystercatcher's kleep kleep kleep
Delights me most of all.
He may not have the talent
Nor the flair for melody,
But his piping call reminds me
Of my childhood by the sea.


P is for Pied Wagtail

Silly Mr. Wag-tail
Like a toy he trots,
In amongst the blue-bells
And 'forget-me-nots'.
Hurry Mr. Wag-tail,
Fly, oh fly away!
Naughty Mr. Tom-Cat
Is coming out to play.


Q is for Quail

The Quail is such a silly bird -
A little ball with legs!
The middle-classes often go
To Sainsburys for her eggs.
They pile them in the basket
With organic cheese and rice,
And when the neighbours come for tea
They all exclaim, 'How nice!'


R is for Raven

A Raven came to court me
Through the wind and driving rain.
His big black beak went
tap tap tap
Upon my window-pane.

He fixed me with a beady eye
As cold and black as sin;
A ragged hole in daylight
Where the night comes keekin' in.


S is for Swallow

If I were a Swallow
I would gather mud and leaves,
And build my nest discreetly
Underneath the cottage eaves.
I'd flit between the chimney-pots
And soar above the trees,
Then whisper through the rushes
Swaying gently in the breeze


T is for Tree Sparrow

Consider how the Sparrow
Has everything he needs:
His beak is short and sturdy,
And good for cracking seeds.

I'll often sit for hours,
And watch him blithely play.
He cares not for tomorrow,
Nor thinks of yesterday!


U is for Umbrella Cockatoo

Spare a thought, dear reader,
For the gentle Cockatoo!
He paces round his cage all day
With nothing else to do.

He spreads his wings in sorrow
But no longer will he fly,
From the gently swaying palm trees
To the limitless blue sky!


V is for Velvet Scoter

This morning as I wandered
By Loch Lomond's peaceful waters,
I thought I caught a glimpse
Of an elusive Velvet Scoter!

But as I watched, my terrier
Disturbed her where she lay-
And with a flap of velvet wings
The Scoter flew away.


W is for Wren

A tiny Wren came down to rest
Upon a thistle-head.
'Sing to me your sweetest song!'
The little thistle said.

And so the Wren began to sing
The sweetest song she knew,
But when her song came to an end
Away the wanton flew.


X is for X-Ray Bird

The strangest thing you've never seen-
The wondrous X-Ray bird!
His virtual transparency
Is patently absurd.

His wings are quite invisible,
His feathers crystal clear;
Observe his tiny breathing lungs,
His beating heart...
...How queer!


Y is for Yellowhammer

Yellow Yorling, Scribble Lark,
Messenger of Old.
Servant of the Serpent,
Deliverer of Gold.

There are many nom de plumes
This little bird can boast,
But Yellowhammer is the name
I think he loves the most.


Z is for Zebra Finch

Brought in merchant ships
Across the Asiatic Sea,
To brighten up our parlours
With their cheerful melody.
But to plunder thus from paradise
And heartlessly encage,
Is an act of savage cruelty
That puts heaven in a rage.

Copyright (c) 2021 Andrew Neil MacLeod

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