I found YET ANOTHER dead bird card the other day. Here ’tis:
But I’ve got enough now that I need to put them all in once place. Apart from Frog Murder, these are the things people ask about the most, so consider this a public service from yours truly. I’m all about helping the people.
Let’s start with the classics.
These first two are the ones that started it all, and I don’t think anyone had seen them for ages before John Grossman put them in Christmas Curiosities. Classic. Restrained. Evocative. And quite dead:
I’m not a birder, but the first seems like a wren and the second like a robin. I’m very likely wrong, but, it was the first one seeming like a wren that set me on my (still proudly defended) theory that these cards are connected to Wren Day. As I always say, that ideas has been stolen by others, but I had it first. I *dare* you to prove otherwise. But I won’t go there again…
I recently found another version of the robin that makes me wonder about both the identification and/or the original color. The above seems more authentic (especially since Grossman was an ephemera historian and probably wouldn’t have dumbed down the colors). But I won’t know for sure until I actually hold these things in my hands.
Do robins ever have that much blue on them? Could be artistic license. (Seriously, I’d love it if a birder got all angry and sent me a ranting note full of correct identification for all of these cards. Actually, I’m begging: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
There’s one Victorian card that’s not specifically Christmas-themed but very specifically about avian death.
This was actually the third one of these I’d ever found. (And, no, I don’t actually own it, so that’s not my hand. The only other image online I’ve ever found is tiny with terrible resolution.) Every other one is specifically about Christmas. Even the one above that seems vaguely religious is quoting Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” which is a Christmas poem.
But there are still more that are specifically holiday related:
Pretty straightforward. What’s unique is that this one’s hanging by a string. Again…that seems Wren Day-ish, as if it’s being displayed or even paraded around.
The next one actually seems a bit disturbing, gotta admit. Something about the positioning.
To me, it looks like its neck is broken. Dunno. But I love that this one mentions “pleasures of the season” as if watching something’s death is a pleasure. But maybe if you think of life as suffering, then the end of life is the end of suffering. Maybe. Not really jolly, tho. I don’t think Mr. Fezziwig thought of pleasures that way.
The last legitimate new dead-bird-and-nothing-but-dead-bird card is trippy neon.
It’s technically a New Year card, but it serves the same purpose. And, in truth, the Victorians mixed up New Year and Christmas in their sentiments quite a bit, probably way more than we do. But this guy…he’s got the potential broken neck again, even twisted a bit. But the colors just don’t strike me as somber. Again, I’m not sure if they’re original or augmented, but those colors don’t seem somber to me. They’re downright party colors, certainly free from “sorrow and sadness.”
After that, there are a couple others that kinda point in this direction.
This one mentions new year, so those two guys could just be drunk from playing in the punch. But if that cat has anything to do with it, they’re gonna be dead soon.
Then there’s this next thing which doesn’t show a dead bird but kinda flirts in that direction. This one really bothers people when it comes up in the queue during the season.
So is the caption ironic? Sarcastic? Intentionally funny? So hard to tell.
But that’s all of them. I keep looking, and I’m sure I’ll find more as time goes on. This was definitely a trend, even if a small one, so there are bound to be more floating around. One of my life-goals is to actually own these, but the only one I ever found for sale was going for $200. My wife said no, but next time, I’m going to pay whatever marital price is necessary.
So, if you’re a long time reader, this is where I usually put that button to ask for cash on Ko-Fi. I’m not gonna put that here because I may be starting something new pretty soon…just a teaser.