the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By James O’Connell ’25
Westminster prides itself in how its students work and how in terms of academics, athletics and engagement with the community, they never rest. This is exemplified by the martlet, a mythical bird with roots going back to Old England. It is common knowledge to Westminster students that martlets do not rest because they have no feet to land, and neither should they. However, as inspirational as it is to strive toward being a mythical creature, it is ultimately impossible to be as hardworking as a martlet. The word martlet comes from the word Merle in French, meaning “small blackbird.” Therefore, by comparing a martlet to small birds in our world today, we can estimate how much energy it would take to power a martlet through its day-to-day life.
Small birds like hummingbirds typically burn 6,600 to 12,000 calories per day. This is an extraordinary number and “if a man had the metabolism of a hummingbird, he would have to eat almost 300 pounds of hamburger a day to keep from wasting away.” However, the meager Hummingbird is incomparable to a mythical creature like a martlet in terms of how many calories it would burn. On average, a bird sleeps between 10 to 12 hours per day, a number that many Westminster students would be jealous of. However, the Martlet is a far cry from having a healthy sleep schedule, and if a martlet truly “never rests” it would be awake and presumably flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week (excluding 30-50 minutes of chapel service, the one place a martlet can rest). This would mean that the average Martlet would burn about 13,000 calories to 24,000 calories per day. This is equivalent to 17 Wendy’s Baconators, 111 Snickers bars, or 24 pints of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. This is a number the Armstrong Dining Hall could not reasonably supply. However birds do not typically eat junk food, and a martlet would not indulge in such a high-calorie diet.
The diet of most small birds consists of small, low-calorie meals, which might include options such as raisins, sunflower hearts or peanuts. If a Martlet was to eat like a typical bird, and not find other ways of nourishment, it would have to eat 128 raisins, 62 sunflower hearts, or 40 peanuts on the conservative end just to not wither away. If a Martlet wanted to participate in any afternoon sports, or the highly praised Westminster Olympics, it would have to eat even more than this number.
While it is important to strive to be productive, it is physically impossible for any Westminster student to reach the level of grit a Martlet displays. Rest also has many physical and cognitive benefits, all of which prepare students for the day ahead. For what they already do in a day, Westminster Students are quite impressive in their accomplishments and deserve to give themselves time to unwind.