Why Birds?

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Red_Wing_Blackbird birds
Red-winged Balckbird

Hopefully you have paid a bit more attention to birds since I suggested that you try to spy them during your daily activities. Humans have paid attention to them for hundreds of thousands of years and incorporated their images into various symbols and art forms. Now look around your environment and see what bird-related objects you see. To give you a start, there are birds on coins, birds on stamps, wine labels, phone cards, etc. What bird-related brand names or auto names are there? Remember the toucan on the Froot Loops cereal box? The Ford Falcon? Here’s a way to keep your kids (or yourself) entertained! You will be surprised at how bird images permeate our life.

Why birds? Why is the Bald Eagle – or any bird, for that matter- our national symbol? (The Bald Eagle was chosen as our national symbol by congress in 1782, although Benjamin Franklin preferred the Wild Turkey.) Why does every state have a state bird? Well, lots of states also have state mammals, flowers, rocks, and insects as well, but the birds are most well known. There are 10,000 kinds of birds but there are 80,000 species of beetles and 25,000 species of fish. Why don’t we have more beetle images on products and fish on state flags?

Not just because birds are all around us – so are insects and trees. But because birds are also obvious as they move, they sing, and they are active all year around during the day. They are truly part of humans’ everyday lives, no matter where in the world one is. It’s hard to miss them. Going back in history and even to prehistoric times, we see carvings of ostriches in Egyptian caves and paintings of ducks in French ones. Royalty all over Europe and Asia were enthusiastic about falconry, symbols of birds are found on coats of arms, national flags, and many myths and folkloric stories involving birds and are part of every culture’s history. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, had an owl as her companion.

And then there are all the sayings and witticisms about birds. “The early bird gets the worm.” “A little bird told me.” “Eats like a bird.” “A little birdie told me.” “Wild goose chase.” “Out on a lark.” And so on. What about movie titles? “The Maltese Falcon.” “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
“Wings of an Eagle.” And of course “The Birds”. We also describe people as being “crazy as a loon”, “wise as an owl”, and “madder than a wet hen.” And songs like “The Bluebird of Happiness”, “Red Red Robin”, and “Free As a Bird”. Some towns are named for birds – like Bird-in-Hand , Pennsylvania; Wren, Oregon; Birdseye, Indiana; Parrot, Kentucky; and Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Of course there are sports teams – Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Eagles, and more. What other bird-related things can you think of?

So keep observing and thinking and you will be amazed at all the bird icons and references in our lives.

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