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Dec 9, 2014

A blackbird is a blackbird is a blackbird ~ unless it's a Colly bird

Photo by Charlesjsharp / sharp photography
I came across the name Colly bird a couple of days ago.   I had not heard of it before.   I found an entry for it in my copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.   Following is what Brewer's has to say about it. 

Colly bird.   An old popular name for a blackbird.   Colly is a dialect word for coal dust, from Old English col, 'coal'.   The traditional song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' has:

                  The Fourth Day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
                    Four colly birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves,
                    And a partridge in a pear tree.

Modern versions of this Christmas carol have substituted 'calling birds' for 'colly birds'.

I believe there are about 35 blackbird species in the world, but very few in England.   I  also believe the Colly bird in England is the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) a.k.a. the Eurasian Blackbird.   Despite numbering in the tens of millions, the British Trust for Ornithology advises that Common Blackbirds numbers have fallen by over a third since the 1970s.   This ends today's lesson.

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