A List Of Birds

Eleven years ago, I devoted an episode of Hooting Yard On The Air to reading out a list of 601 birds, plus an astronomer, a newsreader, 2 jazzmen, 5 film directors, and 34 stars of stage and screen. This recording – hugely significant both culturally and ornithologically – has now been made readily available, split into three parts by dint of YouTubeosity. I strongly advise you lot to listen to the whole thing, repeatedly, umpteen times a day, until you have it committed to memory. You will find it invaluable next time you are leaning insouciantly against a mantelpiece at a sophisticated cocktail party and there is a lull in the conversation.

Birds And Bats And The Bible And The BBC

Dear BBC Radio Four

I am a keen and regular listener to Tweet Of The Day, your two-minute programme devoted to birds and birdsong broadcast each weekday morning at the ungodly hour of 5.58. I have grown used to beginning my day having my ears delighted by the various trills, chirps, chirrups, caws, squawks, tweets, etcetera etcetera of our avian pals. Thus I was mightily disconcerted, this morning, to hear not a bird but a bat.

I charged the unpaid interns of the Hooting Yard Ornithological Research Bureau with the task of checking these things for me, and the crippled yet sprightly orphans toiling away in the cellar reported back, toot sweet, that, as I suspected, a bat is not a bird. Unless you have renamed the series Airborne Mammalian Squeak Of The Day, this is simply unfathomable.

Please ensure that your editor studies carefully this diagram of a bird, to avoid committing the same blunder in the future.

Yours peevishly,

Frank Key


Dear Mr Key

Thank you for your peevish complaint. Recent developments at the BBC have clearly escaped your notice. You may know that the inaugural Director General of the Corporation was a God-fearing Scotchman of great rectitude, Lord Reith. Following a conference held in a grim granite chapel perched on a windswept promontory, the senior management vowed to jettison all that leftie politically correct Gramscian Marxist poppycock and return the BBC to stern-jawed Reithian values informed by Christian ethics.

Henceforth Christ is our guide, and the Bible is His Word, and it is abundantly clear from the Bible that the bat is a bird. I refer you to Leviticus 11:13-19.

And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; Every raven after his kind; And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.

I trust this clarifies the matter, and that you will repent of your sins. May the Lord bless you and keep you, or smite you and chastise you, as in His infinite wisdom He sees fit.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Ninian Tonguelash

BBC Ornithology & Theology Inquisitor General

Tippi The Crow

In my experience, it is not often you get a crow for Christmas. Indeed, until last month, I don’t think I had been given a crow on any festive occasion. Naturally, I was duly awestruck when, on Christmas Day just past, I unwrapped from its packaging a splendid crow. I named it Tippi (of course) and, rather belatedly, here is a snap:


I am hoping that in future Tippi will be making corvine contributions to Hooting Yard. However, given that it is a mute, plastic crow, these may be few and far between.

Foreign Parts

Mr Key is off gallivanting in foreign parts, so there will be no postages here for a week or so. You may wish to fill the Hooting Yard-shaped hole in your noggin by traipsing through the archives, or perhaps by just gazing into the middle distance with a look of longing and desolation ravaging your countenance. Either way, I shall be back before you can say

Zozozozozozozozozozozozozo zirrharding
Hezezezezezezezezezezezezezezeze cowar ho dze hoi
Higaigaigaigaigaigaigaigaigaigai, guaiagai coricor dzio dzio pi

which, according to the German naturalist Bechstein, is an accurate transcription of the song of the nightingale.


You lot do not visit Hooting Yard for news of the latest doings in the world of pop culture, but this, I think, is worth noting:

The ballads are seldom the high point of a huge pop show, but in [Miley] Cyrus’s case, a degree of interest is added by the fact that she sings one of them while being pursued around the stage, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, by a giant fluorescent orange fluffy bird.

Alexis Petridis in The Guardian.

Bird Index

Keen Hooting Yardist Ruthie Bosch drew to my attention the Stith Thompson Motif Index of Folk Literature, or more precisely the index to that Index. That was a week ago, and I am still trying to reorient my brain to take account of its existence. The world has changed for me, irrevocably. To give some idea of what I am babbling on about, you lot should listen, immediately, with lugholes alert, to today’s episode of Hooting Yard On The Air, in which I took the opportunity to read (most of) the Stith Thompson Index index for Bird.