Amy K. Hooper
Bird aficionados often have their eyes and ears open for anything related to their hobby or passion. This usually encompasses musical tunes old and new.
A dozen or so birders suggested the song titles that appear below. Do you recognize all of them?
A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
Fans of heist movies might recognize the title from a 1979 British film with David Niven, but it debuted about 40 years earlier as a song with lyrics written by Eric Maschwitz and set in London’s Berkeley Square. Elsie Carlisle, a British singer popular in the 1920s and ’30s, sang the above version, and many others followed, including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, The Manhattan Transfer, Harry Connick Jr. and The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Common Nightingales are known to sing during day and night. To hear recordings of Luscinia megarhynchos, click here.
He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and a-singing his song
All the little birds on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet
Many fans of "Rockin’ Robin” might attribute it to Michael Jackson, who released it as a single in 1972, but Bobby Day recorded it first – in 1958. (Curiously enough, the performer’s real name is Robert james Byrd.) Day’s single rose on the Billboard Hot 100 chart to the No. 2 slot, as did Jackson’s cover 14 years later. Before Jackson’s single, other artists sang covers, including Bob Luman, The Hollies and Gene Vincent.
American Robins definitely are songsters in their own right; you can listen to a lot of their tunes here.
The Little White Duck
I’ll wager that more of us know Burl Ives’ voice because of his narration and singing for the 1964 animated "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television program than because of his earlier career as an entertainer – which includes the 1959 album "Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck and Other Children’s Favorites.” The 32-minute album includes 14 tracks with "The Little White Duck” receiving the first slot.
There’s a little white duck, sitting in the water
A little white duck, doing what he oughter…
Well... Everybody's heard about the bird
Bird bird bird, bird is the word
Even if you can’t name the song or the original performers, you most likely recognize "Surfin’ Bird” and its distinctive sound and incredibly simple lyrics. The Trashmen, a surf rock band, released the single in 1963, and the tune climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart to No. 4 that year.
Many bands covered it, including Ramones in 1977 and The Cramps in 1978. The song became a pop-culture favorite in movies and television shows, too. In the 2011 movie "The Big Year” – based on a 2004 book about three birders competing to see the most bird species in 365 days – Jack Black’s character uses the song as his cellphone’s ringtone.
In 1968, The Beatles released a delightful tune featuring Paul McCartney’s voice and guitar skills – with an assist from a male Common Blackbird (you can hear more from the bird here).
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
In a 2002 interview for KCRW, McCartney said he wrote the song while in Scotland as a response to the civil rights movement in the United States’ southern region: "It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”
In the comments, let us know which of your favorite bird-specific songs you’d add to our list!