Columnist shares popular poem, ‘The Morning of Christmas’

cardinal in snow
(Metro Creative Services photo)

(When I first wrote a birdwatcher’s version of Twas the Night Before Christmas back in 1988, readers responded enthusiastically, but I hardly expected the requests I get every year to reprint it. So here it is again. When the excitement of Christmas day settles down, or even a few days later, sit down with your younger children and/or grandchildren and read “The Morning of Christmas” aloud. See how many of the featured birds you can spot at your feeders. Who knows, you just might ignite a spark in a curious budding birder.)

The Morning of Christmas
(with apologies to Clement C. Moore)

By Scott Shalaway

’Twas the morning of Christmas,
And all ‘round the house,
The feeders were empty,
Not enough for a mouse.

Each feeder was hung
From its perch with great care,
But on this frosty morning,
The cupboards were bare.

Tubes, trays, and suet bags…
Too many to mention.
In the Christmas Eve rush
They’d escaped my attention.

The rising sun on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Accented the vacuum in the feeders below.
I couldn’t believe it, I’d stayed up too late.
I’d forgotten my friends on this most special date.

A ravenous flock perched in dawn’s early light,
Reminded me clearly of last night’s oversight.
Impatient, they perched in an old apple tree,
Famished and anxious, some scolded me.

Ashamed and embarrassed, I flew down the stairs,
I whistled and shouted like a big angry bear.
“Now Linda, now Nora, and Emma, you too.
The feeders are empty, there’s so much to do!”

I spoke no more words, we all went to work,
We filled every feeder, I’d been a real jerk.

The birds quickly forgave me and flocked to the food,
I knew in a moment, they’d lost their foul mood.

Cardinals and grosbeaks and nuthatches, too,
Were first to arrive at my backyard bird zoo.

The sunflower seed disappeared with great speed,
I smiled contently, I’d fixed my misdeed.

Then finches and siskins sought the feeder with thistle,
They flew so intently, each looked like a missile.

Soon sparrows and juncos ventured onto the tray,
Hungrily joining the late breakfast fray.

Even the water dish pulled in a crowd,
The titmice and chickadees were certainly loud

When woodpeckers finally found the fresh suet,
We were completely forgiven, the whole family knew it.

I began to feel better, I’d made up for my goof,
When suddenly a voice caught my ear from the roof.
(You may not believe this, but I swear it’s the truth.)

From a perch at the top, sang a sassy Blue Jay,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good day!”

The End


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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at or contact him directly at or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.



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