Bald Head Island Conservancy

BHI’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Content Image

by Ben Cotter, Fall 2022 Intern

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

An Osprey in a Marsh Tree

osprey 002 juvenile fall canada brenteades flickrcc by nc 2.0 juvenile
Brent Eades/Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)

(Unlike eagles or hawks, ospreys will always catch and hold its prey head-first to reduce wind resistance as they fly.)

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

2 Mourning Doves

aud gbbc 2016 mourning dove 35427 kk fl photo mark eden adult
Mark Eden/Great Backyard Bird Count

(Mourning doves have been clocked at 55 mph.)

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

3 House Wrens

apa 2015 nickshearman 278234 house wren kk adult
Nick Shearman/Audubon Photography Awards

(House wrens will remove the eggs of other birds and take over their nests. Sounds like another green Christmas character down in Hooville that I’ve heard of.)

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

4 Mocking Birds

apa 2012 24369 190389 kimberlythompson northern mockingbird kk adult
Kimberly Thompson/Audubon Photography Awards

(Mockingbirds can learn over 200 different songs throughout the course of their lifetime.)

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

5 Golden Kings

a1 6996 1 golden crowned kinglet matthew pimm adult female
Matthew Pimm/Audubon Photography Awards

(Kinglets’ golden crown feathers pop up when they are agitated.)

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

6 Great Blue Herons

a1 3213 2 great blue heron christopher grau kk breeding adult
Christopher Grau/Audubon Photography Awards

(Great Blue Herons form rookeries with egrets, cormorants, and other herons, like at the wildlife overlook.)

5 Golden Kings 

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

7 Snowy Egrets

a1 4032 1 snowy egret mark watts kk immature or non breeding adult
Mark Watts/Audubon Photography Awards

(In the 1880’s, these birds’ wispy plumes were literally worth their weight in gold.)

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings 

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

8 Turkey Vultures

vulture2 1
Michelle Maani/Audubon Photography Awards

(Turkey vultures don’t have any feathers on their head to help keep themselves clean when feeding.)

7 Snowy Egrets 

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings 

4 Mocking Birds

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

9 Northern Cardinals

apa 2012 25031 193841 donaldwuori northern cardinal kk adult male and adult female
Donald Wuori/Audubon Photography Awards

(In most North American species, only males sing, but female Cardinals break this rule.)

8 Turkey Vultures 

7 Snowy Egrets 

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

10 Boat-tailed Grackles

apa 2012 25299 196250 robertamoruso boat tailed grackle kk adult male 0
Robert Amoruso/Audubon Photography Awards

(In winter, grackles can roost in late flocks that can include millions of individuals.)

9 Northern Cardinals 

8 Turkey Vultures 

7 Snowy Egrets 

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

11 Piping Plovers

a1 6480 5 piping plover william pully breeding adult
William Pully/Audubon Photography Awards

(Piping Plovers are a near threatened species that nest along the beaches of BHI and weigh the same as a AA battery.)

10 Boat-tailed Grackles 

9 Northern Cardinals 

8 Turkey Vultures 

7 Snowy Egrets

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings 

4 Mocking Birds 

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me

12 Painted Buntings

a1 6801 3 painted bunting don getty adult male
Don Getty/Audubon Photography Awards

(Painted Buntings are considered to be one of the most colorfully diverse species in the world, not to mention a crowned jewel of BHI.)

11 Piping Plovers

10 Boat-tailed Grackles 

9 Northern Cardinals

8 Turkey Vultures 

7 Snowy Egrets 

6 Great Blue Herons 

5 Golden Kings 

4 Mocking Birds

3 House Wrens 

2 Mourning Doves 

and an Osprey in a Marsh Tree!

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