Bird Symbolism and Spiritual Gifts

Updated on December 15, 2014

Birds as Spiritual Symbols of the Divine

In many cultures around the world, birds are seen as a supernatural link between Heaven and Earth. In the Middle East and Asia, birds symbolize immortality. In East Indian mythology, birds represent departed souls. In Christian art, birds are often depicted as saved souls.

Some birds appear across cultures as symbols of courage, strength, and fertility. There are references to birds in folklore the world over. Read on to learn more about what birds represent and how humans have used birds and images of birds to attract luck and other virtues.

Eagles: Power, Resurrection, and Courage

Eagles are often associated with the sun and Heaven. They are powerful symbols of resurrection and rebirth.

The eagle is said to have the ability to soar into the sun's light. It symbolizes Christ and embodies faith, courage, and inner reflection. Often a church's lectern is shaped like a winged eagle to highlight these virtues.

  • According to the Bible, the eagle is a sign of God's power over the wicked. Eagles take tender care of their babies, as God cared for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 32:11).
  • Eagles foretell desires that will be fulfilled.
  • They are associated with lightning storms and thunderbolts.
  • In Greek and Roman times, the eagle was the King of Birds. Ancient artists depicted a soaring eagle carrying the soul to heaven.

Cranes: Long Life and Immortality

Cranes are associated with long life, health, happiness, wisdom, and good luck. In Asian culture, a white crane can travel to the heavens and is sometimes called "heavenly" or "blessed." In China, cranes flew the gods to the "Isle of the Immortals," the legendary home of the eight immortals. Crane eggs were also used in magic potions to grant eternal life.

  • Cranes are often regarded as messengers of the gods. An ancient Egyptian legend tells of a two-headed crane seen flying over the Nile to announce the start of a joyful and prosperous new season.
  • Cranes are masters at killing snakes. In Christian symbolism, cranes are seen as natural enemies of Satan. Due to their long migration season, they also became a symbol of endurance and their wings were once used as talismans to aide weary travelers. The spring return of cranes is a symbol of Christ's resurrection.
  • In Roman mythology, the crane was sacred to Demeter, the mother goddess. Demeter was said to renew the earth each spring when her daughter, Persephone, was released from the underworld.

Falcons: Protection

In some cultures the falcon is a protective guardian and companion of hunters. Falcons never close their eyes, even in sleep.

  • Egyptians associated the falcon with the Eye of Horus and the god Ra. Horus was believed to appear in the form of a "falcon-headed god." He could see all, because one eye was the sun and the other was the moon.
  • As the embodiment of Horus, the falcon wears a double crown. When the falcon represents the Egyptian god Ra, he wears a disk on his head. A falcon with a human head symbolizes the human soul.
  • In Christianity, the falcon represents the Holy Spirit.

Owls: Death, Wisdom, and Virtue

In dreams, owls represent wisdom, insight, and virtue. However, the owl can also be an omen of death and darkness.

  • An owl's hoot foretells future heartache and warns that deception or death lies ahead.
  • Finding a dead owl means you recently escaped an illness or even death.
  • Owls are sometimes viewed as the embodiment of the "Prince of Darkness," or Satan, since they are nocturnal.

The owl is sometimes seen in scenes of Christ's crucifixion, due to its positive attributes of wisdom and virtue. As such, the owl represents Christ, who sacrificed himself to save man, "to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. . ." (Luke 1:7).

Nightingales: Love and Longing

The nightingale, with its evening song, is the bird of love, sheltering secret lovers from prying eyes.

Because it sings all night long, the nightingale was once thought to not sleep at all. One legend tells of a reluctant shepherdess who kept postponing her wedding date. This caused her fiancée so many sleepless nights that he finally turned her into a nightingale, condemning her to a life with no sleep.

  • A folktale tells that if a nightingale's eyes and heart are hidden in a drink, the one who drinks them will die of sleeplessness.
  • The nightingale's song is cherished around the world and considered to be a good omen for poets, writers, and singers. Eating the nightingale's heart was once thought to inspire talent in artists.
  • Nightingales teach their offspring to sing and so are often symbols of education and good teaching.
  • Christians once considered the nightingale's song to be the cries of lost souls trapped in purgatory. These souls were expressing their longing for heaven.
  • Early Christians, noting that the bird sang with increasing joy as dawn approached, made the nightingale a symbol of the righteous Christian soul, singing in anticipation of the arrival of Christ.
  • St. Bonaventure believed the nightingale's last song (similar to the fabled last song of the swan) was always its most joyful and most beautiful. According to the Saint, the nightingale sang with greatest happiness as it looked forward to its final release from this earthly life. The nightingale was believed to die during the ninth hour of the day (three o'clock in the afternoon), the same time as Christ's death on the cross.
  • The nightingale is the bird of the month of May.

Peacocks: Birth, Longevity, and Love

Peacocks represent spring, birth, new growth, longevity, and love. They are good omens, signifying successful relationships and careers. Alternatively, the peacock's bold display of beautiful feathers is also seen as a sign of arrogance, pride, and vanity.

  • The peacock's beauty is depicted in temples, royal gardens, and even, according to one Muslim legend, at the Gates of Paradise.
  • The peacock is known as the Bird with One Hundred Eyes. The eye patterns in its tail feathers represent the stars, universe, sun, moon, and "vault of heaven." To Christians, the eyes in the peacock's tail are a symbol of an all-seeing God and are sometimes used to symbolize an all-seeing church as well.
  • In Catholic art, the peacock depicts immortality. This symbolism is derived from an ancient belief that the flesh of the peacock does not decay.
  • In Greek and Roman mythology, the peacock is the favorite bird of Hera or Juno. One tale tells how Hera created the peacock from the eyes of her hundred-eyed guard, Argus.
  • Peacocks dance when rain is coming, according to legend.
  • At one time, peacocks were sacrificed to bring rain and to make women, animals, and the land fertile. The ancient Chinese believed that one glance from a peacock could impregnate a woman.
  • The peacock symbolizes beauty, prosperity, royalty, love, compassion, the soul, and peace.
  • Peacocks were sacred in ancient China and are the national bird of India.
  • According to Hindu beliefs, Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, rides a peacock and the god Indra can transform himself into a peacock.
  • In Buddhism, the peacock symbolizes purity and its feathers are used in purification ceremonies.
  • Ancient lore often depicts the peacock as a symbol of fidelity. A peacock will die of grief or remain forever single if it loses its mate, according to legend.
  • Finding a peacock feather brings good luck, harmony, serenity, and peace of mind.
  • In Europe, however, the cry and feathers of a peacock were once considered a bad omen.

Sparrows: Hope, Fertility, and Resurrection

The sparrow is a symbol of rebirth, resurrection, and the mother goddess.

  • The long battle at Troy was forecast when nine sparrows, representing the nine years of war, were eaten by a snake.
  • As a Christian symbol, the sparrow represents the concern of God for the least among all people. They are always under God's protection.
  • According to the Bible, " . . . even the lowly sparrow was invited to make her home in the Lord's temple." (Psalm 84:3).
  • Sparrows are also symbols of pious families who live humble, lowly lives in obedience of God's will.
  • A lone sparrow upon a roof represents Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was emotionally abandoned by his sleeping disciples (Psalm 102:7).
  • Twelve sparrows represent the twelve apostles. The gospels relate a story of the very young Jesus forming twelve sparrows out of the clay on a riverbank and giving them life.

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    • profile image


      9 days ago


      V-formation means they are flying South to be warmer.

    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      Likewise I would love to know but also oddly curious and comforted. For a few years birds have been landing on me out the blue Last time this happened a wild sparrow flew on to my hand as I was pushing my daughters pram I caught get the little thing to leave until a passer by helped. Nice to know I am not the only person intrigued by similar happenings

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      Wow!!! Craig Brown, what a cool experience!!

    • profile image

      Craig Brown 

      3 months ago

      About 4 years ago i was sitting on a first floor balcony rolling a cigarette when a bird landed on me followed by another and then another until i was covered from my knèes to my shoulders and the top of my head. I will never forget this amazing experience and would dearly love to know what it could have meant.

    • profile image

      Nkosi Joseph 

      5 months ago

      Birds are always in my yard, they build their nests and I love birds especially when they are singing, I throw cooked rise for them and they play around. Beautiful creature.

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      I loved the eagle! Does anyone else like that this bird is what we all want to have, and want to be in life?

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      what about song birds

    • profile image

      Marina Davis 

      7 months ago

      What about pigeons?

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      cool stuff

    • profile image


      12 months ago


    • profile image


      12 months ago

      pink flamingo also related to divinity :)

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      What bird is connected or related to dignity?

    • profile image

      Abby Spates 

      13 months ago

      This article was very helpful.

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      In the last 8 months I have had very strange encounters with a seagul.

      He first appeared on my 6th floor balcony in summer he landed and walked up to the open balcony door and sounded like he was barking I looked at him he looked at me and turned walked back to the other end and sat there I asked him what he wanted he just kept turning his head eventually quietly flew away.

      APROX 2months later 6am it woke me up like someone was banging on my front room window I live on thev6th floor. I eventually went open the blind there was seagul he looked at me then came on the balcony railing just look ing at me making a low calm barking noise and then flew away.

      2 weeks ago 630 am banging on my bedroom window open the curtain it was seagul he looked and flew away

      Today at 4pm the front window that blind was closed banging sounded like a human knocking on the window again 6th floor I went on the second sign or noise of knocking opened blind it's seagul he looked at me then flew away screaming but smiled

      Anyone have insight

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Sometimes on my long drive home from work I feel really tired and am fighting to stay awake. A few nights ago I fell asleep and crashed my car into a ditch on a quiet country lane. No one was hurt but my car was wrecked.

      The following morning I was driving to work in my wife's car and a large light-grey bird swooped down and flew in front of the car for several hundred metres in the same direction; I had to slow down a little so that I didn't hit it.

      I believe in God and I pray to Him every morning on my journey to work and i wondered whether this was some kind of message?

      It was too weird not to have been!

      What does it mean?

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      What does a V-formation of birds signify? It will be great if someone can explain in a bit in detail. Thanks!

    • BJoe profile image


      2 years ago

      Today while I was typing on my computer. I looked up and saw a bird facing me stuck to the glass window starring at me, what in the world do you think this meant? I still can't believe what I saw, anyone ever had this type of experience?


    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Today while I was typing on my computer. I looked up and saw a birdfacing me stuck to the glass window stairing at me, what in the world do you think this meant? I still can't believe what I saw, anyone ever had this type of experience?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I've never seen crucifixion paintings featuring an owl.

      Could you provide some pictures or links?


    • DeniseAlvarado profile image

      Denise M Alvarado 

      6 years ago from Southwest

      Awesome lens. Blessed:)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I did learn that what the Gnostics were saying is very metaphysical. The child Jesus (of course He was the Child of God) made 12 sparrows (apostles) from clay on the riverbank (Jordan River) and made them fly (go out all over the world). The Gnostics just seemed to know how to use symbolism that other people didn't understand.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting lens!!! Thanks for sharing! :))))

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 

      6 years ago from GRENADA

      I learned a lot! Beautiful bird lens monarch13!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting. I am interested in the owl & parrot, having dreamt of them both at different intervals.

    • jlshernandez profile image


      6 years ago

      I have started to bird watch and always have my camera at hand. Hummingbirds never cease to fascinate me. They symbolize rebirth in some cultures.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      lovely lens on birds - I get followed by lots of the crow family - someone somewhere is telling me to walk my talk.

    • HughSmulders LM profile image

      HughSmulders LM 

      7 years ago

      I guess we can find symbols everywhere. Thanks for the lens, it was very interesting to read)

    • nikitakapoor profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens!

    • Beth Buckley profile image

      Beth Buckley 

      7 years ago from Portland, OR

      This is a beautifully done lens on bird wisdom. My favorite bird today is the Robin.

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for doing it. The pictures are beautiful. My favorite bird is the Sea Gull.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The English robin! Thank you for an interesting and attractive lens.

    • Bigdaddyguru profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a superstition that if I see a hawk it's good luck, 2 hawks better luck, but three hawks bad luck.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My favorite birds are the Bald Eagles, but I love them all. Just now as I write this ... there is a flock of Canadian Geese flying over ... HONK!

    • Shorebirdie profile image


      7 years ago from San Diego, CA

      In some cultures, the condor is significant because it is said to carry souls to heaven or the afterlife.

      My favorite bird is a killdeer which is also a spiritual animal in some cultures in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 

      7 years ago from Redcar

      I like the owls...

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image


      7 years ago

      And the dove -- symbol of the Holy Spirit in Christianity and the spiritual eye in meditation.

      Love this lens.

    • Vallygems1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens very informative.

      Thank You


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm partial to songbirds in general; I find birdsong soothing, like a cat's purr.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The Western Bluebird. This was the first bird that I photographed. And that started me on a quest to take more photos of birds. Now, I'm working (playing, really) as a full-time bird photographer.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Right now I'm partial to seagulls. I had to see if they're listed here. They aren't... but a very interesting lens anyhow!

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 

      7 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Lovely lens ~ I did not realize many of these bird's spiritual significance, though it certainly makes sense. Birds are mysterious. I like to play with the mockingbirds in my area by trying to get them to copy my whistle. My husband thinks I'm nuts. They rarely do, but every now and then I can engage one in a song!

    • waldenthreenet profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks so much for a most valuable discussion on birds. As a suggetion , may I suggest you might wish to connect specific birds with some of the "endangered native cultures" who value such birds. Case in point is of course the surviving rememnant "Native American Culutres". There are only about 4 or so Native American "Living Cultures" left in USA. Which Native Cultures associates a specific bird with their heritage ? It would be value added to already wonderful lens. As for me, my favorite bird is OWLs. In the ancient Indian culture, a White Owl is symbolizes presence of Goddesss Lakshmi, and Prospertiy.

    • squidshe profile image


      7 years ago

      I love sparrows. Nice lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks I have a parrot, birds fascinate me, so this was very interesting for me.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      I love so many birds it would be difficult to select just one favorite. Enjoyed learning about the symbolism. Thank you.

    • rangiiria profile image


      7 years ago

      Birds really are amazing - thanks for this lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. Love to find out about bird lore, and anything to do with our beautiful birds. Do you know what a cardinal symbolizes, by the way? That would be fun to find out about.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana

      Amazing lens. I hope you will add more birds one day. I would enjoy that!

    • BSieracki profile image


      7 years ago from Corbin, KY

      need more birds

    • pheonix76 profile image


      8 years ago from WNY

      Wonderful lens. It is fascinating to read about bird lore. My neighbors have peacocks and they call throughout the day and I am not a big fan! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. Though, I believe people are much too biased when it comes to owls. They're beautiful animals and are not associated with any form of bad luck, death or deceit. They come around my family home every night and about every few months we can spy a white barn owl. But, if so, we just got back our peahen who was chased away by dogs 5 years ago. So hopefully, we'll get some good blessings.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Birds, trees and forests, they are a part of nature and spirituality because they do not ask anything in return they just give. Trees only give , they give life sustaining oxygen, a green cover and many reasons for us to take a look at what we are doing when we chop our greenery without thinking. Stunning lens that beings out the best side of spirituality in birds.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image


      8 years ago

      Stunning lens, and fascinating bird lore! I especially love the peacock stories. Have favorited and lensrolled to my raven symbolism and lore lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always enjoyed stories that involve our spiritual side and the birds. 1 - My mom's favorite hymn was "His Eye is On the Sparrow." 2 - Our very young granddaughter can whistlelike a cardinal and whistled to them to tell them about our new birdfeeders and then giggled as she watched them come to eat. 3- I heard my brother's voice through a hummingbird right after his death, such a comfort.

      I know there is a connection and I totally enjoyed this beautiful page.

    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice Lens, well done.Enjoyed my visit thanks.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      8 years ago

      Loved your lens, nicely done & great resource. â¢ââAngel blessedââ⢠by the Bath and Body neighborhood Angel & featured on "My Life with Angel Wings" lens ... :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely lens, I have featured this in my lens about Providence

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice lens. We provide a habitat for birds, but I did not know about the symbolism connected to some species.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Beautiful lens about beautiful birds - great job!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      I paint quite a few birds so found this interesting. I'm working on flamingos right now, but sadly no flamingo lore. Is there any?

    • lemonsqueezy lm profile image

      lemonsqueezy lm 

      8 years ago

      I love birds. We are big chickadee fans.

    • monarch13 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @RinchenChodron: thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      The Buddhist also sees that the Peacock eats poison and transforms it into the pretty colors in its feathers. Great lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I learnt a romantic fairy tale by Oscar Wilde - The Nightingale and the Rose, and touched by the spirit of brave nightingale.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens,loved it! I love birds of all kinds.

    • sheriangell profile image


      8 years ago

      Fascinating to read. Birds and their symbolism have always intrigued me. I believe when we encounter them there is a message we don't often understand. Blessed by a Squid Angel today and featured on Pay It Forward - My Life As An Angel.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Beautiful lens ... and some amazing comments below.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My father died this past Thrusday. He had been declining since early summer and we all knew his time was limited-he lived a remarkable life of ninety years. The Sunday before this past Thrusday a bird crashed into my parent's kitchen window. And while this may or may not seem amazing in itself, the astounding aspect of this event was this very large bird (we suspect it was a crow) left its entire imprint on the pane of glass. From the entire length of its wingspan to its flattened face with its beak, the detail of feathers and even its legs are visible in grey dust on the windowpane! There are several windows in my parent's kitchen, but where this window is located is where my fathers for years came every morning and read the paper. We never found the poor bird on the ground outside and the imprint of this bird after almost a week and following two rains is still quite fresh. I have read that birds flying into windows and houses are ominous signs common in several (ancient) cultures. But what does it specificly mean-impending death, the flight of the soul? Certainly here it would seem so. After Sunday my father took a dramatic dip toward his last day.

      This imprint is so incredibly detailed our family is surprized the window didn't break! I would be very interested in what any of you have to say about the meaning of this, if anything other than a dumb crow with poor eyesight...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      good story on mystic birds, keep posting lenses like that and they are real fun for my spare time.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Please Help! Yesterday after leaving my classes I was getting into my car and discovered a large ziplock baggie...within was a large full grown male robin with it's head and legs surgically removed. police reports filed. (i also have 2 zebra finches)...Im mortified and want to know the meaning of this message. i was stalked terribly two years ago..all ended, until yesterday. Does anyone have info on meaning of this horrible happening...what does it signify..head and legs(actually in half) feet gone...precise..and surgical? Please help.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Beautiful Symbols and Lens

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a wonderful lens. Thank you

    • encouragingwords profile image


      9 years ago

      Beautiful lens; 5 stars and lensrolled at Bird Quotes and Sentiments That Make Your Heart Sing!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Blessed by an Angel (you can add it to the plexo on my angel lens, if you want).

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      ~Angel blessings to you~

    • religions7 profile image


      9 years ago

      great lens, blessed by a squidangel today :)

    • monarch13 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      [in reply to Tiddledeewinks]

      God likes sound, says Mary, "God enjoys the sound of hummingbirds, little babies and pianos."

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 

      10 years ago

      I see lots of birds in my garden, including humming birds. I know there is a scripture that says the birds tell things (about us) to God in heaven, but I can't think of hand which one it is. Maybe some of them are "angels unawhere).

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Awesome lens! Birds are my 'spiritual' animal and I enjoyed your lens! Great info!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Beautiful work! I like the old illustrations.

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent lens, very useful for reference 5*

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      Delightful lens and I do love birds 5*!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      love birds, Lovely lens, 5*****

    • ZenandChic profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens! Welcome to the spirituality group!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      10 years ago from Covington, LA

      Lovely lens. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      10 years ago from Washington KS

      What a wonderful, beautiful lens!! I just returned from experiencing the sand hill crane migration in central Nebraska. My spirit danced and sang right along with them.


    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      Great Lens! Welcome to A Walk in the Woods Group.

      Be sure to add your your lens to the appropriate plexo and visit other lenses in this group.

    • religions7 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Another wonderfilled lens - great illustrations.


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