Dec 26

You may have heard of the famous festive tune ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. We’ve taken a look at the ARKive collection to find the perfect alternative gifts.

So, here’s a roundup, altogether now!

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . .

♪ Twelve drummers drumming

After locating a suitable nesting site, the male palm cockatoo uses a stick to rhythmically drum on a hollow log to attract a potential mate. He may even try out a few drum sticks before picking his favourite!

Palm cockatoo photo

Male palm cockatoo


♪ Eleven pipers piping

Named after its characteristic whistling song, the piping plover is the perfect substitute!

Piping plover photo

Piping plover in winter plumage


♪ Ten lords a-leaping

This antelope definitely loves to leap! The springbok performs repeated stiff-legged jumps called ‘pronking’ or ‘stotting’ and can reach up to two metres high.

Springbok photo

Springbok pronking


♪ Nine ladies dancing

Verreaux’s sifaka is famous for its outstanding dance moves. Although very well adapted to moving through the trees, this comes as a disadvantage when travelling on the ground and it resorts to hopping on its strong hind legs. Females continue to boogie even with an infant on board – hold tight!

Verreaux's sifaka photo

Verreaux's sifaka leaping with infant


♪ Eight maids a-milking

It may appear harmless but the giant milkweed oozes a milky white sap when it is cut or broken, which is toxic to mammals!

Giant milkweed photo

Giant milkweed in flower


♪ Seven swans a-swimming

In perfect formation, a female mute swan and 6 cygnets. Young leave the nest soon after hatching and are often cared for by both the male and female until the following breeding season.

Mute swan photo

Female mute swan with cygnets


♪ Six geese a-laying

The beautiful kelp goose lays 4 to 7 eggs in a grass nest lined with feathers. The male guards the female for about a month during the incubation period.

Kelp goose photo

Female kelp goose sitting on nest


♪ Five golden rings

The exotic male golden pheasant has an impressive orange and black cape, which it can spread like a fan during displays.

Golden pheasant photo

Male golden pheasant


♪ Four colly birds

Although now commonly known as ‘four calling birds’, the original line describes four colly birds, referring to the blackbird.

Blackbird photo

Male and female blackbird


♪ Three French hens

The capercaillie is distributed across Eurasia, and in France it can be found in forests in mountainous areas, particularly in the Pyrénées. This bird became extinct in Britain in the 18th century but it was reintroduced to Scotland from a population in Sweden in the 19th century.

Capercaillie photo

Female capercaillie


♪ Two turtle doves

The turtle dove is named after its gentle ‘turr turr‘ call, and is often recognised as a symbol of love and peace.

Turtle dove photo

Turtle dove pair


♪ And a partridge in a pear tree!”

Sporting a spectacular maroon mohican is the male crested partridge. Found in the Sundaic lowlands of Indonesia and Malaysia, it feeds and nests on the ground and roosts in trees at night.

Crested partridge photo

Male crested partridge


Can you link any of the twelve gifts with other species on ARKive? Let us know!

Rebecca Goatman, ARKive Media Researcher

  • Homa (December 27th, 2011 at 1:07 pm):

    Merry Christmass!!