The Bird’s Nest reel

Also known as The Birds Nest, The Thrush’s Nest.

There are 41 recordings of this tune.

This tune has been recorded together with

The Bird’s Nest appears in 2 other tune collections.

The Bird’s Nest has been added to 20 tune sets.

The Bird's Nest has been added to 203 tunebooks.

Download ABC

Four settings

X: 1
T: The Bird's Nest
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Ador
|:cA~A2 GABG|A2AB cded|cA~A2 GABG|1 Aage dced:|2 Aage decd||
|:ecag egcd|ecgc acgc|1 ecag edcd|eage decd:|2 ae~e2 edcd|eage dced||
# Added by shaku .
X: 2
T: The Bird's Nest
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Amin
eA A/A/A GABG|A2AB cded|cA A2 GAcG|Aage dcde|
cA A/A/A GAcG|A2AB cded|cAAc GAcG|Aage dcde||
eaag egdg|ecgc egcg|eaag edcd|eage d2de|
eaag egdg|ecgc egca|gefe dcBG|Aage dced||
X: 3
T: The Bird's Nest
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Ador
cA A2 GABG|AGAB cded|cA A2 GABG|Aage d2ed|
cA A2 GABG|AG AB cded|cA A2 GABG|Aage d2cd||
eaag egdg|ecgc edcd|eaag edcd|eage d2cd|
eaag egdg|ecgc e2ab|afgf edcd|eage d2ed||
X: 4
T: The Bird's Nest
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Ador
c~A3 GAAG|AzAB cded|c~A3 G2BG|Aage d2ed|
c~A3 GAAG|~A3B cded|c~A3 GAAG|Aage d2cd||
eaag egdg|ecgc egcg|eaag edcd|eage d2cd|
eaag egdg|ecgc egcc'|aegf edcd|eage d2ed||

Twenty comments

I declare this a hit & run.

Tee Bird’s Nest

you should be walking on eggs (if you hit them, they’ll run)

The Nird’s Best

Ador with Cmaj ambiguity. Within the Scots pipes range.

Yàn wō

yum yum

…aids digestion and libido, improves focus and the voice, alleviates asthma and is of overall benefit to the immune system…

hum hum

Stop spamming.

Yes, do.

The Bird’s Nest

There are some interesting comments about “The Bird’s Nest” is the The Dungreen Collection (Traditional Celtic Violin Music of Cape Breton, Toronto 1996): Angus Chisholm leasrned this tune from his mother’s Gaelic singing…[It] seems to be a variant of “I Lost My Heart on Friday”, an “old” reel published in the Donald Grant Collection (1790)."

All the notable Cape Breton players recorded versions of this reel (Angus Chisholm, Winston Fitzgerald, Buddy MacMaster, Dave MacIsaac, Jerry Holland, etc).

Key? A technical question

There is no F note in this tune, what makes it A dorian rather than A minor?

So, disregarding the 1 sharp key signature for the moment….

If you were decorating or adding passing notes would you use an F natural or an F sharp?

If you would use F natural (and not F sharp) would this make it A minor? Key signature - no sharps

If you would use F sharp (and not F natural) would this make it A dorian? Key signature - 1 sharp

May, of course, be totally irrelevant unless you are adding harmony that involves an F note (so a D chord, perhaps, of some sort).

Any ideas…

All the best

Peter Jenkins

Hexatonic, innit?

Can’t be Hexatonic - can it?

I don’t think it is Hexatonic (Whole Tone Scale - six notes,a tone apart, in an octave); please see
for an explanation of hexatonic scale.

The Bird’s Nest has B natural and C natural, which are a semi-tone apart - my case rests.

Again, can somebody please explain how we could differentiate between A minor and A dorian in this case?

All the best

Peter Jenkins

The Bird’s Nest - a bit more

The Bird’s Nest is in the Great Highland Bagpipes range, but the instrument would not be able to play all the notes correctly.

The GHB is effectively in B flat mixolydian, having lower A flat to upper B flat (a total of nine notes).

The scale includes D natural.

If you transpose The Bird’s Nest literally from A dorian (or for that matter from A minor) to an equivalent B flat key all the Ds are D flat (which the GHB does not have).

BTW, transposition from A dorian gives a G natural instead of the F sharp; transposition from A minor gives G flat instead of the F natural - not very useful information, as there is no F in Bird’s Nest (if you will excuse the anglo-saxon) - please see my previous posting regarding the key!

Try the transposition for yourself on the folkinfo site at
(such a useful facility!).

All the best

Peter Jenkins

It has six notes - it’s hexatonic. They don’t have to be a whole tone apart. Even that Wiki article suggests that. There is no fixed hexatonic scale - only that it has six notes. It’s in the name.

This tune omits (if you have to relate it to a heptatonic scale) the sixth degree of the scale. It is erroneous to add a sharp on the stave, because the F is not played. Those raised on classical theory seem obsessed in placing the “missing” note in harmonising. It isn’t there. Get used to it. If you need Wiki to define a ‘hexatonic’ scale, you might be better leaving well alone.

You could describe it as an æolian hexatonic tune - it’s centred on ‘A’ and all the notes are naturals. To add an ‘F’ in harmony could be seen as detracting from the structure of the tune. Without entering into the old argument of gracing, whether you add an f natural or an f sharp in the gracing is not relevant to the tonality, as the gracing would be seen as rhythmic more than melodic. It would be up to the player, and it is certainly not part of the structure of the tune.
Hexatonic tunes abound in traditional music. This particular six note scale, with the third degree a semitone above the second and the rest a tone apart, with the big gap between the fifth and sixth degree is relatively common.
There isn’t an F - don’t mess with that.

The Bird’s Nest - thanks


Thanks for the deeper explanation - you have pre-empted a couple of questions I was going to ask about “harmony” & “decoration”.

I am older & wiser, now (shame about the older).

I don’t think I wanted to replace the missing sixth degree, but wanted to understand what was going on - and any theory behind that.

Were my comments regarding GHB anywhere near the mark? or am I opening up a can of worms here?

All the best

Peter Jenkins

Well, the GHB pitch is usually closer to B flat these days, like you say, but it is notated in A (mix) - they don’t put the c and f sharps on the stave though. This tune has a C natural, so it is not within the standard notated scale. There is a cross fingered C natural, but that opens the can of worms.

The Bird’s Nest, X:2

This is the version on the Alasdair Fraser & Paul Machlis album Skyedance. Great tune that’s not played often enough!

Re: The Bird’s Nest

And note that version X:2 does have an f in it, putting the tune definitely in Amin.
(If you play that f as f# it will sound pretty weird, I think.)

The Bird’s Nest, X:4

A slightly different ending to this version, taken from a recording of an unidentified concertina player, who follows it with “The Gladstone”.

Re: The Bird’s Nest

I learned this on the flute in B, from Paddy O’Brien’s album Stranger at the Gate and because I assumed he often plays D tunes in C I assumed this was one of those cases I tuned it up a tone on my Transcribe . So I learned it in Bminor (or whatever). Now, having seen this page I am re-learning it in A minor ( or whatever). Its quite good in Bm (or w) -and I suppose it does give options to play with other Bm or D tunes as a change from Otters Holt (yawn!) I’d put it up in B on here - except I don’t know how to do the dots.