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What is the meaning of this? Birds and their cultural symbols

Post #65

Bird symbolism is found across all cultures and dates to the most ancient of civilizations. Here is a spin-off from yesterday’s post asking what your first bird sighting of the year was, with a look at some of the interesting history and symbolism of those sightings.

10 Facts about Bird Symbolism

#1. Ancient Rome
People often refer to a sighting as auspicious or inauspicious and the meaning of the word has an interesting origin. Ancient Romans practiced augury, which was the practice of interpreting omens from the observed behavior of birds. An individual, known as the Augur, interpreted these signs. This was referred to as “taking the auspices”. The auspices from the gods could be favorable or unfavorable (auspicious or inauspicious).

#2. Using the meanings of flight and song
There were two classes of birds used by the Romans to divine meaning. Oscines, who gave auspices via their singing included birds such as ravens, crows, owls and hens. Alites gave auspices according to their flight pattern and included eagles and  vultures. No important political or military decisions were made without first consulting the augures.  A form of augury was also practiced in China, Tibet and India.

#3. Finches
In Native American mythology, finches are an oracle of celebration. The feathers of the American Goldfinch (and other birds with yellow feathers), can be said to be symbolic of the power of the sun and energy, joy, mental alertness and fertility which is associated with the color yellow.

#4. Blue jay
Among the Chinook people, the Blue Jay is seen as a creator god, as well as a protector of humans. He is also seen as highly mischievous, the clown of the gods. It’s chattering was considered to be warning of approaching enemies.

#5. Chickadee 
The Chickadee features in Native North American culture and is associated with truth and bravery. In Cherokee culture it is believed that a person with a Chickadee “totem” can not tell a lie.

#6. Crow 
Crows have symbolic cultural significance throughout the world. While the dark aspect of their symbolism is familiar, it is interesting the in ancient Egypt they were seen as symbolic of faithful love. In some cultures it’s intelligence leads to its portrayal as a trickster. It is also seen as the creator in a number of North American Native cultures. In Japan the Crow is a symbol of family love.

#7. Sparrow
While generally referring to the House Sparrow, it is a Christian symbol of humbleness. There are references in the bible to sparrows and  St.Francis of Assisi was depicted holding a sparrow. It also represents fertility. In Japan is seen as a symbol of loyalty. Sparrows are also known as the birds of cupid.

#8. Thrushes
The Thrush is associated with writers, singers and poets dating back to the time of Homer. They have been seen as signs of devotion, fertility, peace and abundance.
The American Robin is generally seen as a sign of spring so by extension as a sign of change and renewal. The Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest coast have a strong association with birds in general and are divided into two kinship groups, the Raven and the Crow. As part of their mythology they believe that the Crow created the Robin so that it can please people with its song.

#9. Wild Turkey
The Turkey was called the Earth-Eagle by some tribes and had a strong association to “Mother Earth” as well as being seen as a strong symbol of sacrifice. It is also seen as a sign of motherhood and fertility. The Toltec Indians revered the bird and reserved it as food for festivals and rituals. Nothing was wasted, the feathers were used in adornments and the bones used to make musical instruments. The Pueblo also revered it but only kept it for its feathers not food.

#10. Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers are associated with powers of sorcery and clairvoyance. Its pecking has associated it with thunder and lightning. The Pueblo saw its drumming as forecasting rain. Some Native cultures saw woodpeckers as able to avert lightning and used its feathers in rituals and ceremonies because of this power. Some tribes saw it as having brought fire to mankind.


Birds in Popular Culture: 10 Classic Movies with a Bird Themed Title

Day 48 of 100 Days of Blogging

Need a gift for a bird enthusiast? Or maybe just something to watch the next time you can’t find anything on one of those 500 satellite channels that you keep scrolling through over and over, each time thinking there’s  got to be something  “good” on?  Well then, consider one of these 10 classic movies with a bird themed title that are sure to fit the bill!  While they stretch back a few decades,  these “oldies” still make for great entertainment even today. (Check Amazon for DVDs).

Movies marked with *B*  are those where birds are actually part of the plot.

#1. A Ducking They Did Go (1939)  -The Three Stooges – Con men hire the Stooges to sell memberships to a phony duck hunting club. *B*

#2. The Sea Hawk (1940)  -Starring Errol Flynn –  A buccaneer is hired by Queen Elizabeth I to defend his nation’s interests on the eve of the Spanish Armada The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe (Flynn) surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword. 

#3. The Bluebird (1940) –Starring Shirley Temple –A woodchopper’s children are led by the Fairy Berylune on a magical trip through the past, present, and future to locate the Blue Bird of Happiness. 

#4. Maltese Falcon (1941) –Starring Humphrey Bogart – A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette. *B* – if you count the jewel-encrusted falcon statuette as a bird.

#5. The Pigeon That took Rome (1962) – Starring Charlton Heston- In 1944, two American spies, posing as priests, infiltrate German occupied Rome to relay information to HQ but can only communicate via pigeons due to the imposed radio silence. *B*

#6. Bird Man of Alcatraz (1962) -Starring Burt Lancaster- A surly convicted murderer held in permanent isolation redeems himself when he becomes a renowned bird expert. *B*

#7. The Birds (1963) -Starring Tippi Hedren in this Hitchcock classic A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people. *B*

#8. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – Starring  Jack Nicholson- A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients. 

#9. Three Days of the Condor (1975) – Starring  Robert Redford – A bookish CIA researcher finds all his co-workers dead, and must outwit those responsible until he figures out who he can really trust. 

#10. The Eagle Has Landed (1976 ) – Starring Micheal Caine and Donald Sutherland-  (WWI) A German plot to kidnap Winston Churchill unfolds at the height of World War II.

10 Decades of Songs with Bird in the title

10 Decades of Songs with Bird in the title

Day 28 of 100 Days of Blogging

Today we swerve over to pop culture. Instead of bringing you bird songs, here instead is a collection of songs that have bird as part of the title. 

Bird Protection Quebec was founded in 1917. The first piece of music, likely familiar to many, is Rossini’s Overture to The Thieving Magpie. Composed in 1817, it was exactly a century old when BPQ was founded! We work our way through the 20th century all the way to 2007, with music representative of each decade.

Well almost. The 1930’s seem to be under represented by music that has bird in the title and I skipped the 1990s. This is a listicle of 10 after all, and something had to make the cut – and Neil Young won!.

( Thanks to Sheldon for generously sharing his list of music with me and getting me started on this. I had no idea there were so many songs with Bird in the title!) 

#1. The Thieving Magpie – Gioachino Antonio Rossini  (1817)

#2. When The Mocking Birds Are Singing In The Wildwood – Harry MacDonough (1906)

#3. My Bird of Paradise – Peerless Quartet –  (1915)

#4. When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’  Al Jolson (1926) 

#5. When Blue Birds Fly Over The White Cliffs of Dover  Vera Lynn  (1942)

#6. Les Paul and Mary Ford – Mockin’ Bird Hill (1951 

#7. And your Bird can sing – The Beatles (1966) 


#8. Mockingbird – James Taylor & Carly Simon (1974)


#9. On The Wings Of A Nightingale – Everly Brothers (1984)

#10. Beautiful Bluebird – Neil Young  (2007)  

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