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How did you do with our ten-bird challenge last week? Can you name ten additional birds? Here is a list to help you expand your ornithological vocabulary.
Сорока is a magpie. These birds have a reputation for liking and stealing shiny objects, although this perception has been debunked. There is a popular interactive nursery rhyme, where the parent pats their child’s hand in circular motion and says:
Сорока-ворона, кашу варила, деток кормила. [The crow magpie made some cereal and fed her children.]
The parent then folds the child’s fingers starting with the little finger (мизинец), then the ring finger (безымянный палец), middle finger (средний палец), and index finger (указательный палец) and says for each finger:
Этому дала, этому дала, этому дала, этому дала…
And finally the parent gets to the thumb (большой палец) and lightly shakes it without bending:
А этому не дала!
There are multiple variations of this game, one of which is shown below.
Синица is a yellow bird whose name somewhat awkwardly translates to English as “the great tit.” In Russia, they are associated with winter and are often depicted on New-Year-themed postcards. One famous saying is “Лучше иметь синицу в руке, чем журавля в небе” (literally, “It’s better to have a tit bird in your hand than a crane in the sky;” cf. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”).
Снегирь (bullfinch) is the other bird that features prominently on winter-themed stationery. This is probably because they are more visible in Russia during the winter.
Ястреб (plural ястреба or ястребы) is a hawk. This is also used to talk about a belligerent politician, as opposed to a dove (голубь).
Сокол (falcon) is a bird traditionally associated with hunting (falconry). This can be seen in such geographical names as Сокольники (an area of Moscow) and family names like Соколов.
Грач (plural грачи; rook) is a symbol of spring in Russia as they return from the South with the return of warm weather. There is a famous painting by Alexey Savrasov (Алексей Саврасов) called The Rooks Have Returned (“Грачи прилетели”).
Павлин is a peacock. This word can be used to refer to someone dressed or behaving in a loud, gaudy manner.
Страус is an ostrich. When people talk about unwillingness to confront problems head-on, they can say “прятать голову в песок, как страус” (equivalent to “burying your head in the sand”).
Стервятник is an Egyptian vulture. This word is also used to describe people who attack those in a vulnerable situation or take advantage of someone’s weakness.
Соловей (plural соловьи) is a nightingale. This bird is associated in the popular mind with beautiful singing. “Соловья баснями не кормят” (“You cannot feed a nightingale with fables”) is said when inviting the guests over to the table after a prolonged conversation.