Return to site

Bird Messengers, Bird Messages

· practices,environment,stories and folklore

Bird Messengers, Bird Messages

This morning, I started my day, as I have for the past three, by greeting the Guardians of the east. I do this by facing east, engaging my attention, using my voice and my body, and resting in stillness.


As well as paying attention to what I am doing, and the Great Beings with which I am communicating, I also pay attention to the world around me, alert for any signs and portents. These often come to me as animal visitors — although I am always aware that animals are not primarily here for my edification: they have their own lives and goals to pursue.


This morning, I noticed two birds in particular.


First, a dunnock, which looked at me curiously from the fence during my vocal and bodily prayers.

A dunnock, photographed sitting on a bare branch against a dull, light grey sky.

Dunnocks are what bird-spotters call LBJs (‘little brown jobs’), but despite this, they have their own quiet charisma. The brown line above their eyes makes them unmistakeable.

The one I saw was far more sleek and delicate-looking than the one in this picture: it is summer here, so it didn’t need to puff itself up to keep warm, which is what the one in this photograph is doing.

The folklore surrounding dunnocks is charming. According to Tony Locke:

“By day it is a happy little bird that tries to outdo every other bird with its song. However, at night particularly at midnight their sad and tender songs are said to reflect the cries of unbaptised babies that have returned from the spirit world in search of their parents. The dunnock’s blue-green eggs were regarded as charms against witches’ spells when strung out along the hob. They were especially good for keeping witches and spirits from coming down the chimney.”

I take this as an invitation to me to pay attention to the balance of joy and loss in my life (a constant theme), and to refresh the shields around my home.

After I had finished my prayers and was resting in stillness, a common buzzard flew into view, and proceeded to hover over the hill which stands to the east of my home.

A European buzzard gliding, photographed from below against a clear blue sky.

It glided high in the air for a while, then brought in its wings slightly, took an upright ‘stance’, and fanned out its tail — a pose for selecting prey.

After a moment, it returned to a hover, then glided down a little lower and returned to its hunting pose. It repeated this twice more, before dropping, silently and, to my surprise slowly, onto its selected prey.

There is no folklore around common buzzards, so I derived a message for my life from this encounter purely from the buzzard’s behaviour. What I took from it is this. There is no need to rush. Look at the situation from far away as well as close up. Be still and pay attention. Once you have decided, act calmly and without hurry to achieve your goal.

Of course, another person seeing those exact same birds, in the exact same place, would be bound to interpret them at least a little differently. That is as it should be: no sign, symbol or portent has an entirely fixed meaning; each instance of its arising has a different context, and therefore different significance.

Header image: “Common Buzzard” by John Plumber. Used under Creative Commons license.

Dunnock image: from The Folklore and Traditions of the Irish Hedgerow.

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!