Y is for Yellowhammer


This photo was taken by Andreas Trepte.

The obvious choice for the letter Y would be Yak as my good friend Andy Bryce suggested, which was one of the early options that I considered, but somewhere in the back of my brain was the niggling feeling that there is a British song bird beginning with Y. And after a quick search, there it was, the Yellowhammer.

It truly is a beautiful bird to look at, and one of our most colourful. For those who are keen twitchers, they would know that it’s song is meant to have the rhythm of ‘A little bit of bread and no cheese’. Though I admit that I struggle to pick that up. The males learn the song from their fathers and there are even regional dialects. I wonder if that then also makes the type of cheese in their song regional too?

Their song has inspired Beethoven, in particular with the first four notes of his fourth piano concerto. They’ve inspired Robbie Burns and John Clare to write poems about them and that dearly beloved children’s author Enid Blyton even got involved too, writing a poem called ‘The Yellow-hammer in her ‘Nature lovers book’.

Believe it or not, there is an old legend that links the Devil to the Yellowhammer.

It’s tongue is meant to bear a drop of his blood, and the the unusual pattern on its eggs was said to carry hidden, and possibly evil messages. Sadly this mistaken satanic association led to the bird been persecuted. This odd pattern on its eggs also gave the Yellowhammer its rather fun other name of ‘Scribble lark’ and they really do look like someone has been on a writing frenzy.

Here is a wonderful example of just how much information you can fit into two minute, with the BBC tweet of the day for this fascinating bird. And a video from Norway showing this bird in all it’s glorious yellow glory.


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