It’s late Spring, which means many of us have been hearing a lot of bird songs. We take a closer look at birds, song, and their symbolism.
Living out in the country, surrounded by fields and forests, I often sense that I am really a guest living among the small creatures and birds who seem preoccupied in their own busy lives. The hares dash across the field like busy parents with too much to do and too little time, the bees travel from flower to flower on important business, and the birds chatter and sing all day, as though they all live in their own little town where everybody knows everybody else, or maybe in a big, bustling city.
So I decided to learn about the songbirds and their calls. If you are someone easily captivated by these sweet, dainty, marvelous creatures as they take flight, build nests, and communicate with one another, you will understand why I really wanted to be able to identify the different species of birds through their calls, and why I loved the movie The Big Year. (I recommend this one. It’s hilarious with lots of heart.)
Where I live, there are many species of songbirds, like Cardinals, Robins, Blue Jays, Gold Finches, Mourning Doves, and Chickadees. I decided to try to learn about the songs and calls of just a few to begin with, and I learned some interesting bits of information, including some about the symbolism of these swift creatures, that I thought you might enjoy, too.
Birds, Song, and Symbolism
The Mourning Dove sings a song of lament, or at least that’s what it sounds like to our ears. Their sound is soft and gentle, and almost ethereal. It’s as though their calls and songs come from a distant place, another realm.
The coo-oo call of a male is his way of attracting a mate. As they call, they perch where they are sure to be seen. Then, when a female mourning dove is attracted by a potential mate’s call, she puffs up her chest and so does he, they begin to preen each other and do a little dance. They stay mates with one another for life, a common characteristic among birds.
The males also use their song to communicate while nest building, coo-OO-oo, and a female will make an oorr sound while sitting in her nest.
If you’ve heard a sharp whistle sound from a mourning dove, it’s actually the sound of their wings taking flight, an adaptation to ward of threats and to communicate with others in a flock.
Mourning doves can symbolize unity and serenity. If you hear the song of a mourning dove or if this bird visits you in a dream, perhaps their gentle call is resonating with your own gentleness and your honouring of peace and friendship.
The joy of spotting the bright red plumage of a cardinal against a snowy backdrop or tucked into the new green leaves of a tree in the springtime can be wonderfully exhilarating.
The story of the Northern Cardinal is one of an everlasting bond between mates. There’s romance and courtship in this love-story, and there is a sense of true partnership amongst mates in building a home and rearing babies.
These birds can be heard singing most often in the Spring and early Summer, mating season. And although a cardinal couple mates for life, they never stop singing songs of courtship and bonding with one another.
The cardinal’s song is often made up of repetitive whistles and trills. Their songs sound a bit like a slide whistle. The call I’ve heard most often sounds like whistles going up a few times, followed by some down-whistles.
It is normally the male who sings to attract the female, though these birds are also known to sing duets, sounding two melodies that are in sync and responsive to one another.
When the male cardinal becomes a father, his bright red feathers transform into more camouflaged reddish-brown feathers, resembling the mother, so that they can both be there to look after their newly hatched babies, and one another. They will often feed each other and make a special took sound in these moments.
It’s no surprise that cardinals are a symbol of love in relationships. As a symbol they can remind us to enjoy moments of bonding and courtship, and maybe even to find a sense of romance in everyday life.
The calls of the blue jay are most often loud and bright. Blue jays can sound a bit like trumpeters in the forest, jeering loudly. But their song is known as the “whisper song.” They click, whir, and sing quiet melodies in close proximity to one another.
This juxtaposition in their call styles is reflective of the complexity of these sprightly birds. Blue jays live within complex social systems, which they use for their protection and survival. They are wonderfully intelligent birds, belonging to the corvid family of birds, which includes crows and ravens. Birds belonging to the corvid family are among the most intelligent of all animals, and certainly are known as the most intelligent of birds. These birds have demonstrated self-awareness and an ability to make tools.
The blue jay uses its intelligence to mimic the vocalizations of other birds. They have also been known to mimic human speech. Their intelligent vocalization abilities have resulted in a creative variety in their calls and songs.
The blue jay is a symbol of intelligence, energy, complexity, knowledge, and communication. If a blue jay crosses your path or visits you in a dream it may be an affirmation of your intelligent adaptability, knowing when to speak up and express yourself or when to lay low, patiently analyzing the situation before you. If this bird resonates with you, you may be a creative communicator with a thirst for knowledge and a love of intelligent conversation… or maybe it just means you’re a sports fan from Toronto.
However you experience the songs of the birds that cross your path, whether or not you can identify their calls, or find resonance in their symbolism, I hope this article has kindled or re-kindled that simple sense of joy that comes from noticing the presence of the songbirds.
Are you a lover of birdsong? Tell us why in the comments below.