Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two turtle doves

I have to say up front that I don't really know if these are tourterelles (turtle doves) or not. There are so many variations in the pigeon/dove family that we find around here. If any of you recognize the exact variety, I'd appreciate a confirmation or correction.

Two birds on a wire outside our house.

Still, I have seen swans (a-swimming), geese (a-layin'), colly birds (blackbirds), French hens, and partridges where we live. If only I could get one of those last ones to perch in our pear tree...

Now, I know that there is controversy around this song. Four "colly" birds? I grew up singing "four calling birds." My research (such as it is) suggests that "calling" is a change from the original. Both terms supposedly refer to blackbirds which, in Europe, are known for their songs.

And what about that partridge in a pear tree? When I see partridges, they're on the ground, not usually perching in trees. Well, one explanation derives from the transformation of the song between French and English. Une perdrix is a partridge in French. It's pronounced pear-dree. So, one theory goes that "and a partridge, une perdrix" became "and a partridge in a pear tree."

And lastly, why am I talking about a Christmas song in mid-August? Well, the turtle doves showed up. It won't be long before the Christmas decorations make their appearance in your local department store. They may already be there.


  1. Thay are collared doves - and it appears that the one on the left is having ideas about the one on the right.

    Which is about usual for these birds

  2. I don't know one bird from another, especially within varieties. I do know that I wish we could get rid of the stupid wood pigeons at our condo.

  3. Sounds like Collared Doves would be good served with "collared" greens. All these different doves are called tourterelles in French. That must be where "turtle" dove comes from.

  4. I've always sang "calling birds". I'll never think the same again. Colly, hmmm.

  5. It's not Christmas yet here in Dixieland, but we've got lots of Halloween already. School has started also!

  6. And a partridge in a pear tree.

  7. When I lived in Virginia there was a pair that made their home in a tree by my dinning room window. They were called Ringneck doves.

    Victoria, Bellingham, WA

  8. simon, who puts the collars on?

    starman, you probably could tell a pigeon from a peacock...

    rick, glad I could help.

    bill, do you need a band-aid?

    evelyn, school? In August? That's just not right.

    alewis, exactly.

    judy, I had to write something...

    victoria, I wonder if they're the same?

  9. I can't wait to tell my kids this story! They LOVE to hear stuff like this about the origins of songs and song history. My eldest is a music minor at Clark MA. and he is especially keen. Thanks for the great post!!! I love your blog.

    We only have mourning doves in our yard...they are very small and actually quite beautiful to look at. Smooth very light grey feathers though.

  10. Oh, non, pas déjà Noël !!!!!!!!! Hi, Evelyn ! Over here, we resume school on Sept. 1st (teachers) and students go back to school on Sept. 2nd...

    I've found interesting web sites related to the various species of doves, in English and French, on which one can go and listen to their various "roucoulements"/cooing :


  11. suzanne, we had morning doves when we lived in California. They have a very distinctive way of calling.

    mary, thanks for the links!


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