The Birdies’ Ball

Spring once said to the Nightingale,
I mean to give you birds a ball:
Pray, ma’am, ask the birdies all,
The birds and birdies great and small.

Soon they came from bush and tree,
Singing sweet their songs of glee;
Each one fresh from its cozy nest,
Each one dressed in its Sunday best.

The Wren and Cuckoo danced for life,
The Raven waltzed with the Yellow Bird’s wife.
The awkward Owl and the bashful Jay,
Wished each other a very good day.

A Woodpecker came from his hole in the tree
And brought his bill for company,
For the cherries ripe and berries red,
“Twas a very long bill, so the birdies said.

They danced all day, ’till the sun was low,
’till the mother birds prepared to go,
When one and all, both great and small,
Flew home to their nests from the birdies’ ball.



43 responses to “The Birdies’ Ball

  1. I really like that song, where can I get an audio recording of it?

    • I don’t know – perhaps at a shop that handles old sheet music? I remember my Dad reciting it when I was young.

  2. I have been looking for the words to this for a long time. My aunt, who was a 4th grade teacher, had the words and melody in her 4th grade music book. Brings back good memories.

  3. Hi Bonnie, been searching for this song for years – my Dad, who passed away a year ago, used to sing it. Now I can sing it for my nephew and niece! Thanks so much

  4. I was going crazy trying to find the words to this. I remembered bits and pieces from my 4th grade class. We sang this for our spring program and it has stuck with me all these years!!

  5. My grandmother used to sing this in West Kentucky when I was small. I didn’t know whether it was a real song or she was making it up. Could only remember the beginning words, so I was very happy to see the whole song. And it is real!

  6. My mother sang this to me and I have been looking for it for years. Do you have the music for it? I cannot member the tune, and have a new grandson I would love to sing it for.

    • I am afraid that I don’t have the music for it. I am working from an old scrap book that my grandmother did. It has words but no music. Perhaps a search on the name, or an older music store can help you.


    While looking for some information about my grandfather, I stumbled across this. It is a folklore recording done for the Library of Congress in the American Folklore section. It is sung by my grandmother, Mrs. James H Fowler from Lancaster, Wisconsin. I intend to send for a reproduction, since there are directions for asking for a copy and the fees are reasonable. My father used to sing me to sleep with this song back in the ’40’s, and now I know where he got it. It’s quite an exciting find for me. Grandma died in the 1950’s and the idea of hearing her voice is thrilling.

  8. Margaret Nowak Stein

    An abbreviated version of this was taught in my 1st or 2nd grade music class in Indiana in the early 60’s. I still remember it and sing it.

    Spring once said to the Nightingale,
    I mean to give you birds a ball.
    Birdies big and birdies small,
    All must come to the birdie ball.


  9. I love this song. My dad sang it to me, and I sang it to my kids, especially when they were quite small and would get cranky riding in the car. This one always soothed them. I used it for when my dogs were in the car too! Some of the words I know are a bit different, but that’s the way it is with folk songs.

  10. I just found information about this song because I, too, was frustrated that I could only remember the first verse-and I do remember the tune. My father sang it to me when I was a very little girl. I now find that the recording listed by Mrs. James H. Fowler of Lancaster, WI, would definitely be the voice of my grandmother. I would have been four years old at the time of the recording, but evidently she never mentioned to anyone that she had made it. At least we did not know. She lived in Lancaster for much of her life, and was the wife of Dr. James H. Fowler, a general practitioner in Lancaster and the surrounding rural area. She was a trained nurse who assisted her husband and raised three children.This is really thrilling. She was a wonderful lady, and while I don’t remember her singing this particular song, I do remember that she loved to sing bits and pieces of songs as she worked. I will send for a recording no matter what the cost since it will be a delightful addition to our family history.

  11. Elizabeth Magness

    My mom used to sing this to us when we were little. She only sang the first verse since she couldn’t recall the subsequent verses. I’m thrilled to find the words. Much Thanks!

  12. My grandmother who came to California in 1908 from east Texas sang this song to me when I was a little girl in the 1950s . I thought it was an old song from her Southern ancestors in Georgia/Tennessee. I’d love to know the origin of the song.

  13. Bonnie, My mother (almost 100 who is sitting beside me) recited this poem
    from memory. I found your entry when i checked the internet as I wanted
    to print the poem, and I thank you……

    I hope you don’t mind, but Mom has a few corrections!

    The Birdies’ Ball instead of The Birdie’s Ball..(It’s plural)

    Verse 1: ” I mean….and small.” need quotes

    Verse 2 ‘Singing sweetest songs of glee’ instead of ..’Singing sweet; their songs of glee’

    Verse 3 ‘Wished each other a very fine day’ instead of ‘good day’

    Verse 4 ‘And brought his bill to the company’ instead of ‘And brought his bill for company’
    “Twas a very fine bill’…instead of ‘Twas a very long bill’

    Verse 5 ‘When one and all’… should be ‘One and all’ (eliminate When)

    Mom has a wonderful memory. She was an elementary teacher for many years and just wanted to make a few adjustments!!! Thanks!

    • I went back and found that I had made a couple of typing errors, the Title being one and I had left out part of one line. I have corrected it and I thank you and your Mom for bringing it to my attention!

  14. Mary, thank you so much for your comments. I am so happy that this was in My Grandmother’s Clippings and that people are able to relate to it. I have entered it just the way I found it in the Boston Globe clipping. As in all old songs there are always variations and that is what makes it fun.

  15. Seems like a lot of us sang this as children….I learned this song in Halifax, Nova Scotia as a fourth grader….and remembered most of the words. And thankful that I’ve found them on line.

  16. I sang this at a Christmas program in rural Colorado about 1944. Seventy years ago I had a clear soprano.

  17. Mary M. Watson

    I found the words to this in “Best Loved American Poems” (1936). The poet is listed as C.W.Bardeen who was an educator, died 1924. When I looked him up there was no mention of this poem.

    I have since found the sheet music at but there is no composer or lyric writer listed. Only Apsley Street.

    My 94 year old friend says her mother sang this song to her.

    Isn’t this fascinating? Mary Watson, July 23, 2014

    • Mary It amazes me – the amount of these ditties that are lost each generation. Perhaps with the internet, we will be able to preserve them forever. I was thrilled to find my grandmothers book of clippings and honored to put them on the net for other people to enjoy. This one, I suspect may go back further than 1924.

      • I am sure it goes quite a way back. My grandmother sang this song to her children, born between 1902 and 1910. I believe she learned it from her mother who emigrated from England in the first quarter of the 1800’s. Great Grandma was forty six years old when my Grandma, her youngest child, was born.

        It is wonderful that these beloved songs and verses are passed along, and fascinating to see that the body of the song remains intact, but little details change as words pass from one generation to the other. When I found the sheet music, I was (ok–a little smugly) happy to see that my memory of my dad’s “fa la, la la-la’s” is the same that is contained in the sheet music. I sang this song to my grandchildren when they were little, and hope that they will remember the lyrics for their own families. We would be able to trace it seven generations in just this one family!

      • it is so much fun for me to hear your stories It makes my posting these old poems and songs worthwhile.

    • Elizabeth Magness

      Thanks Mary! Yes, it is fascinating!

  18. Thank you so much for finding not only all the words, but the sheet music as well. My grandmother (1881-1968) sang this to me when I was a child in the 1940s. She said her mother sang it to her when she was going to sleep. She didn’t say how old she was at the time.

  19. The song was included in The American Singer, Book 2, which was an elementary-music textbook popular in the 1940s and 1950s. [My aunt was one of the authors.] It is listed as a Folk Song sung in Indiana, along with the music. The book is available on eBay for a couple of bucks.

    The words are slightly different as is normal for a folk song:

    The spring bird said to the nightingale:
    “I mean to give the birds a ball;
    Birdies great and birdies small,
    All must come to the little birds’ ball.”.

    Tra la la la la, Tra la la la la,
    Tra la la la la la la.

    The woodpecker came from his hole in the tree
    and brought his bill to the company;
    Berries ripe and berries red,
    “A very long bill,” the little birds said.

    The wren and the cuckoo danced with delight;
    The raven walked with the yellow bird’s wife,
    The awkward owl and the bashful jay
    Bid each other a very fine day.

    They sang and danced till the sun was low,
    Then the mother birds prepared to go;
    Birdies great and birdies small,
    All flew home from the little birds’ ball.

  20. In 8th grade we sand a rendention of this. The tune is always coming back to me even after all these years ! The one frame I know goes like this :I’m sure it’s a conglomeration of partial frames. Thanks for writing out the words.

    Spring once said to the Nightingale
    Birdies Geat and Birdies Small
    All come round to the birdies ball

    Pleasant memories for me in that one school room where one teacher taught a multitude of subjects . Singing was a good get-a-way !

  21. Paul S. Russell

    My mother (died at 93 years old) sang this song to us 6 children when we lived in India 1942 – 1947. When she died I found some of the words on a sheet of paper and now I’m delighted to find the complete song and will teach it to my 3 grandchildren as I still remember the melody. Curiously enough I heard the melody again sung by Indian hill children on their journey in the little hill train to their homes. Taught by the British in the war years?

    • Barbara wilkes

      Would love to have the full song if you please. We did sing a shortened version of the song in Catholic grade school.Some of the words I do remember. The tune through the years has always stayed with me as I recalled in my mind a pleasant picture of birds of all shapes and sizes, having the time of their life flittering around living in harmony and gleefully high fiving their wings ! Thank you for posting your new found word treasure….hope you consider passing on the lyrics..thank you.

  22. Barbara, I am sorry but this is all I have – as from the comments, there have been many variations and many ways it has been presented. There are some changes suggested in the comments but this is all that was in the clipping my grandmother kept from the Boston Globe. If you find other verses please let me know and I will add them.

  23. I am from the Philippines and I heard my mother and uncl try to sing this song but all tha sense is the first line and then comes garbled mad up words.For more than 65 years I and my children try to sing it the best we can with the same garbled, made up words. My mother who died at th age of 109 would have been so happy to sing the words. I showed this post to my children today and they could not believe that there is such a song. My mother attended elementary schools taugh by American teachers who came to the Philippines in the early A1930s and they taught this song. Of course, they being foreign to the English language just made up words for the tune. I have sent a copy of the lyrics to my sister who is 89 and was also astonished. And my Cildren starts singing the song today. Thanks for your post, it meant a lot to me.

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