Which embarasses me, because there was something I knew about milk maids that I found fascinating.
See, people have heard the phrase "as smooth as a milk maid's skin." What they might not know is that milk maids would catch a disease known as "cowpox," which has no real serious symptoms, but could actually make you immune to smallpox. Milkmaids would typically have none of the "pockmarked" complexion issues common to smallpox survivors.
It was actually that observation that helped lead to the development of the first vaccine.
See, this is what happens when I let myself get distracted by- okay, no, not going back there. Focus, Erik, focus.
Anyway, we're going for something a bit more classy this time. Instead of just sex, we're looking at romance.
We're looking at turtle doves.
Specifically, European Turtle Doves.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "There's more than one kind of turtle dove?" Sure enough, there is, and I didn't know that until I started researching this. I figured turtle doves were turtle doves, like how the common starling is the common starling wherever you go. Or how the common quail is the common quail.
For the record, this is the Asian turtle dove.
Obvious difference, right?
Turtle doves are, of course, a hugely romantic symbol of the holidays because they're not only one of the few birds that actually sticks around when there's snow (provided you keep putting food out for them), but they're also one of the few animal species that mates for life. But a few things you might not have known are:
That sound you hear from them? The coooOOOOO-woo-woo-woo sound? That's (almost) always the male making the sound, and it's a literal "wooing" sound he uses to attract a mate.
When a happy pair are building a nest, the female does all the actual building. However, the male has to go out and collect the nesting material, which he passes to her by... well, based on several sources I've found, he stands on the female's back and passes it over to her. Romantic, I guess, if you don't mind back pain.
Occasionally a female will lay her eggs in another pair's nest, and you'd think they'd notice since turtle doves usually have only two eggs at most, so when there's suddenly four eggs sitting there, they'd go "...wait a moment, we may be birds, but there's more of them then there are me and my mate."
Now that whole "mating for life" thing is the key to their being in the song, of course.
But of course we all know what the real question here is. Just what sound do doves make when they cry?
Well, doves don't really cry, they don't have the vocal chords for it.
But apparently they do make more noises when they're sad. Here's one mourning the loss of its mate.
But at least they don't murder every bird around them like swans do. Jerks.