Bird Symbolism and Spiritual Gifts

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.

Bird Poll

Your Favorite Bird Listed Above?

  • Crane
  • Eagle
  • Falcon
  • Owl
  • Nightingale
  • Sparrow
  • Peacock
See results without voting

More by this Author

Did You Enjoy this Article About Birds? 74 comments

RinchenChodron 7 years ago

Another wonderfilled lens - great illustrations.

religions7 profile image

religions7 7 years ago

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

evelynsaenz1 profile image

evelynsaenz1 7 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.

lollyj lm profile image

lollyj lm 7 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.


naturegirl7s profile image

naturegirl7s 7 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.

ZenandChic profile image

ZenandChic 7 years ago

Great lens! Welcome to the spirituality group!

Heather426 profile image

Heather426 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

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

Bellezza-Decor profile image

Bellezza-Decor 7 years ago from Canada

Delightful lens and I do love birds 5*!

ctavias0ffering1 profile image

ctavias0ffering1 7 years ago

Excellent lens, very useful for reference 5*

Kiwisoutback profile image

Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

Beautiful work! I like the old illustrations.

ArtisticMind 7 years ago

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

Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

Tiddledeewinks LM 7 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).

monarch13 profile image

monarch13 7 years ago Author

[in reply to Tiddledeewinks]

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

religions7 profile image

religions7 7 years ago

great lens, blessed by a squidangel today :)

Heather426 profile image

Heather426 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

~Angel blessings to you~

RinchenChodron 6 years ago

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

encouragingwords profile image

encouragingwords 6 years ago

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

anonymous 6 years ago

What a wonderful lens. Thank you

HERBMASTER 6 years ago

Beautiful Symbols and Lens

camala 6 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.

VivekS 6 years ago

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

Emeraldlake 6 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...

Ramkitten2000 profile image

Ramkitten2000 6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

Beautiful lens ... and some amazing comments below.

sheriangell profile image

sheriangell 6 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.

anonymous 5 years ago

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

scar4 5 years ago

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

RinchenChodron 5 years ago

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

monarch13 profile image

monarch13 5 years ago Author

@RinchenChodron: thanks for sharing!

lemonsqueezy lm profile image

lemonsqueezy lm 5 years ago

I love birds. We are big chickadee fans.

WildFacesGallery profile image

WildFacesGallery 5 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?

jptanabe profile image

jptanabe 5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

Beautiful lens about beautiful birds - great job!

rio1 5 years ago

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

MargoPArrowsmith profile image

MargoPArrowsmith 5 years ago

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

Annamadagan profile image

Annamadagan 5 years ago

Lovely lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

dahlia369 profile image

dahlia369 5 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 ... :)

MamaBelle profile image

MamaBelle 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Nice Lens, well done.Enjoyed my visit thanks.

Joan4 5 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.

Missmerfaery444 profile image

Missmerfaery444 5 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.

anonymous 5 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.

LoverofOwls 5 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.

pheonix76 profile image

phoenix76 5 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! :)

BSieracki profile image

BSieracki 5 years ago from Corbin, KY

need more birds

TolovajWordsmith profile image

TolovajWordsmith 5 years ago from Ljubljana

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

grandmapearl 5 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.

rangiiria profile image

rangiiria 5 years ago

Birds really are amazing - thanks for this lens

Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 5 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.

rbc 5 years ago

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

squidshe profile image

squidshe 4 years ago

I love sparrows. Nice lens.

waldenthreenet profile image

waldenthreenet 4 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.

DreamingBoomer profile image

DreamingBoomer 4 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!

anonymous 4 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!

SteveKaye 4 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.

cmadden 4 years ago

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

Vallygems1 profile image

Vallygems1 4 years ago

Great Lens very informative.

Thank You


KamalaEmbroidery profile image

KamalaEmbroidery 4 years ago

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

Love this lens.

Ben Reed profile image

Ben Reed 4 years ago

I like the owls...

Shorebirdie profile image

Shorebirdie 4 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.

anonymous 4 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!

Bigdaddyguru profile image

Bigdaddyguru 4 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.

Alex-45 4 years ago

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

DeniseDurham2011 profile image

DeniseDurham2011 4 years ago

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

Beth Buckley profile image

Beth Buckley 4 years ago from Portland, OR

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

nikitakapoor profile image

nikitakapoor 4 years ago

Great lens!

HughSmulders LM profile image

HughSmulders LM 4 years ago

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

TwilightMania 4 years ago

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

jlshernandez profile image

jlshernandez 4 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.

bert-wells-906 4 years ago

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

Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 4 years ago from GRENADA

I learned a lot! Beautiful bird lens monarch13!

bluedarkart 4 years ago

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

karamoore1967 3 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.

DeniseAlvarado profile image

DeniseAlvarado 3 years ago from Southwest

Awesome lens. Blessed:)

NoYouAreNot profile image

NoYouAreNot 3 years ago

I've never seen crucifixion paintings featuring an owl.

Could you provide some pictures or links?


Bettyjoe 4 months 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?

BJoe profile image

BJoe 4 months 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?


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