I’m a bird watcher. I inherited the interest and the habit from my father. They are fascinating to watch, wonderful to listen to, and can teach you many things about nature. And, since ancient times and across cultures, birds have been thought of as messengers from the gods, and have been actors in story—myth, fairy tale, novels, film, and television.

In Greek myth, Athena’s bird was the owl, representing wisdom.

Snowy Owl In Flight
Snowy Owl in Flight

Other gods and goddesses represented by birds include the crane for Hermes, the cuckoo and the peacock for Hera, and the eagle for Zeus. Ravens are associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy, which makes sense given their ability to mimic speech.

Like ravens and crows, parrots also have the ability to speak. In Hindu mythology, the parrot is associated with Kama, the god of love. In movies and books, however, parrots are associated with pirates. Just ask my grandsons. “Want a cracker?”

Because of how high they fly, eagles are considered by First Nation cultures as the messenger from the Creator, and its feathers are sacred.

One of the earliest of bird stories is of the dove returning to Noah with an olive leaf in its beak to let him know that the flood waters were receding.

Centuries later, a fairy tale tells of the seven (or 12) brothers turned into swans by their stepmother and the sister who spins and knits them sweaters from stinging nettles to break the spell.

A persistent and spooky raven repeatedly quotes “Nevermore,” in Edgar Allen Poe’s narrative poem with it rhyming lines, titled The Raven.

In the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock creepy classic, The Birds, birds gather and attack the residents of a town. The film is based on the story by Daphne du Maurier.

Happy Feet, the 2006 animated musical comedy was about an emperor penguin who can’t sing to attract his mate but dances for her instead.

 In my book, In the Land of the Vultures, the vulture is considered sacred because of its role in helping the spirits of the dead to cross over to the Land of Rivers, the story’s Paradise.

Birds are messengers, actors, and inspiration. Have you read a book or watched a television show or film recently with birds in it? Were they an omen, a messenger, a pet, or all three?

One Response

  1. I am writing a book with pigeons in it. They carry messages between France and Britain during the Regency period. I was thinking of adding other birds (my hero’s name is Hawkwood) but so far have not. It is a five book series with spin-offs (I hope) so there is plenty of time for me to add birds. My grandparents had a farm and had ducks, chickens and pigeons. We raised chickens for food and eggs but one, Mama Hen, had a personality and was smart. When she died we buried her in our pet graveyard with our other pets. She was special. My favorite book when I was a young child was Smoky, the Crow. I read it many,many times.