Birds primarily symbolize freedom. Their ability to take flight is envied by us humans pinned down by gravity. We wish we had their ability to take flight in moments of trouble. They also often represent rebirth as they are very active in spring time.
But, there are many different species of birds each with their bird symbolism and meaning.
On this website we have an extensive inventory of the cultural and spiritual symbolism associated with different breeds of bird. Below, we’ve created an A-Z list of the birds we have examined to help you navigate this site. Under each brief description, you can click the links to see our more detailed analyses of each bird.
Bird Symbolism A-Z
While the metaphor of the albatross “around the neck” might suggest the albatross brings bad luck, in reality most sailors believe that an albatross is a rare sign that brings good luck because it’s a sign there is shore nearby. An albatross can also symbolize peace, freedom, navigation and dignity.
The bald eagle is most famously a symbol in modern American nationalist imagery. Here, the eagle’s meanings are intimately entwined with the ideas of the United States of America: freedom, power and independence. As a totem, the bald eagle is said to give you strength in times of need.
Bats generally represent adaptability and intuition. They’re nocturnal animals that have the ability to navigate in complete darkness due to their echolocation skills. These skills are fundamental to humans’ understanding of the bat.
Many people also consider them to be fearful, even foreboding animals. This, perhaps, is due to the fact they are closely associated with darkness.
The black swan is seen as the outcast animal because it is rare and sticks out from the pack. Many bird watchers travel a long way to see them. They’re elegant creatures who populate Australia primarily. When you see a black swan in your dreams, it’s said to symbolize the need for you to reclaim your inner power.
Cardinal birds are charming little chirpy animals. The northern red cardinal is a popular bird to identify for birdwatchers due to its bright color and friendly demeanor. Cardinals tend to symbolize passion, honesty, fertility, loyalty and love. If you see them in your dreams, they’re usually harbingers of good news. Native American lore, for example, tells us they bring good luck and even – potentially – romance.
Dead birds are generally seen as bad omens. They are a warning or sign of death. Seeing them in a dream, therefore, often occurs when someone is experiencing heartache, fear of death, or is living in an unhealthy environment. Seeing a flock of dead birds, however, has its own meaning. It often signifies that you are not a part of a group that you want to join, but you’re finding them inaccessible.
The falcon, above all, is a symbol of freedom and power. They’re generally seen positively, and as a masculine creature. Other symbols you might associate with the falcon are: autonomy, vision, and victory. Thus, you will often see falcons as the emblem for masculine groups, and in particular airplane regiments.
Flamingos are elegant and exotic birds that are often seen to represent positive emotions, inner balance, or teamwork. They’re often used in logos around the world, from hieroglyphics to Hindu gods. They’re also used as logos in luxury goods. In dreams, we consider them to be harbingers of romance, success and love.
Geese symbolize teamwork, family and loyalty. These meanings are given to the goose due to its propensity to live in a close relationship with its flock. Geese are loyal and protective of one another. As a totem, the goose reminds you to remember your roots and always protect what is worth protecting.
Seeing a heron in a dream is a sign you should be resourceful and patient. It can also tell you to seek balance, including to seek to balance your work and personal lives. Other heron symbols include: peace, tranquility and stillness.
Magpies are some of the most intelligent birds. As a result, they often symbolize intelligence and creativity, but also deception. Because of their propensity to attack and steal food, we also consider them to represent opportunism. As a spirit animal, the magpie represents risk taking, adaptability and patience.
Mockingbirds represent imitation, determination, family and intelligence. The symbols of the Mockingbird are also immortalized in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, which represents the mockingbird as a symbol of innocence. When the bird in the movie is killed, it represents the loss of innocence of the protagonist.
Owls typically represent wisdom. They’re seen as intuitive and thoughtful creatures that watch from a distance, ever-knowing. You will often see images of cartoon owls with academic caps on them because we’ll often associate them with academia and the heights of knowledge and wisdom. The owl spirit animal is often associated with quiet, thoughtful people.
Parrots symbolize variety, communication and sociability. They represent variety because there are just so many parrots out there in the world of all different colors. They represent communication because they’re one of the few animals who can speak (or ‘parrot’) human speech. And they also represent sociability because of their chatty personalities.
Sparrows symbolize social harmony and relaxation. Their ability to work as a harmonious group is shown when they fly almost musically as a pack, darting in various angles in unison. But they also represent relaxation. This is partly because of their melodious birdsong. But it’s also because of their peculiar behavior of dust bathing where they cover themselves in dirt for a bath.
Two of the key things vultures represent are death and resourcefulness. You’ll often see vultures circling overhead when an animal has died nearby, so you can imagine seeing a vulture and thinking of death.
The reason vultures are found where freshly dead animals are is that they eat recently killed animals. They will rarely kill an animal, but they’ll eat its carcass. And that’s why we associate them with opportunism.
Thirdly, you might associate them with patience because they’ll sit and wait for a carcass for a long, long time until they feel it’s safe for them to fly down and eat it.
My favorite Woodpecker symbol is ‘new opportunity’. The reason we associate the woodpecker with new opportunity is that the sound of them tapping away at a tree reminds us of someone knocking on the door. This knocking feels like ‘new opportunity knocking’, so we’ll often say if we hear a woodpecker tapping in the woods that a new opportunity is on its way.
The main symbols of the wren are activity and determination. This is because wrens are industrious little animals always working away and never giving up on anything. Their other symbols are similarly related to the ways wrens fly in and out and all around. These symbols include agility, quick-wittedness, activity, free spiritedness, and friendliness.
There are many varieties of bird and each has its own symbolic meaning, but as a general species, birds tend to symbolize freedom.
Birds often appear in dreams. Those intending to interpret these dreams seek out cultural and spiritual insights into what a bird might signify.
Many authors also like to gather together the cultural understandings of birds to weave them into their books. Many books and films – from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Black Swan – use bird symbolism to create compelling narratives.
I’m a Scorpio, I love the outdoors, and I’ve written articles in some major online publications like Medium and The Weekly. My favorite metaphor? Anything that’s got to do with baseball. I’m fascinated by the fact our language has baseball weaved all through it. Read more about me here.