At a party yesterday listening to the omnipresent 12 days of Christmas while drinking hot toddies (partially responsible for the tardiness of this post), I realized that the bird-laden song is devoid of North American species. This makes sense because it's an English song, but for new birders like me, I wondered about which of the species are likely to actually be part of our American 12 days.
Partridge have been introduced to the Americas (although we do have pear trees), turtle-doves are not found here, and French Hens are a specialized breed of domestic poultry, so they don't count.
We do have swans that a-swim and geese that a-lay, and because those laying geese are most likely the domesticated breeds that grace some Christmas tables, let's talk about our own wild swans.
Trumpeters are monogamous species and mate for life after establishing a bond in their first 2-4 years. Birds can live to be over 20 years old, and have one clutch of 1-9 eggs per year. Eggs are large, roughly the weight of 6 large chicken eggs, and take over a month to incubate. Hatching takes 12 hours and is exhausting for the chicks. Because nests are built on the ground they are open to predation, so chicks need to recover quickly to leave the nest and head out onto the water within 1-2 days. These big birds take a long time to grow and develop their feathers and flight abilities- with most chicks fledging after spending over 100 days with their parents.
I've never seen a trumpeter swan, but do remember reading The Trumpet of the Swan by Charlotte's Web author E.B. White. This story of a young boy who helps a swan who can't trumpet learn to write and play a brass trumpet, was one of my favorites growing up and would be a great festive gift for young readers next year. For me, I'd love the opportunity to see and hear a trumpeter swan in real life. Perhaps even seven-a-swimming.
'He's a big-daddy, a handyman, a good cook, and a stud rolled into one'