Symbolism in Common North American Birds

I’m continuing my practicing of augury and have been studying up on the symbolism of the different birds that I’ve been seeing regularly. Because my local birds are native to North America, I’ve found that most of the meanings and symbols surrounding them are largely based in Native American lore. I wanted to try to stick with those meanings as the spirits and energies of the local land and nature are tied much closer with their native cultures rather than those from other cultures modern witches often reference.

That being said, I have attributed some of my own meanings to these bird species based on my own observations and understanding of the birds, their behavior, and their color symbolism. Additionally, I want to point out that reading signs and omens from local birds has still been ongoing as most of my current observations are watching the birds in their normal activities outside of my apartment and around the feed I have out for them. The fact that I have bird seed out to attract birds to my balcony negates their significance in divining meaning, so if I were to read signs from birds, it would likely need to either be away from my apartment or focused on unusual behavior.

The following birds are frequent visitors of the trees in front of my apartment, so I have been able to watch their spring activity for a few weeks now. I am hoping there will be a few more species as the season progress, but the abundance of the birds already here lets me get to know them better over time.

Sparrow

Male Sparrow

Sparrows are the most common species around my apartment complex, and pairs have nested in most of the trees and even on the underside of some of the buildings’ roofs. They are very social creatures and will travel and feed in groups. If one sparrow lands on the bird feeder on my balcony, at least two more will inevitably show before long. I love watching them flit around my balcony and play with each other while going to town on the bird seed. Once there are two or three sparrows at the bird feeder, they’ll start to bully away any other birds that show up too!

Sparrows are playful, energetic, and talkative. Their social nature implies strong teamwork and bonds that extend past mating pairs. Some sources point out that these birds tell us to enjoy the simple things in life, but I feel that they have a stronger connection to social relationships and tell us to love and care for our friends and family. They look out for each other and work together for food and protection, and it is only with their social groups that they thrive.

Sparrows tell us that we are not alone, and sometimes we need to rely on others to achieve our goals. If you find sparrows are continuously showing themselves to you or are catching your attention, it may mean that you need to turn your attention to your relationships. Maybe you are needing a renewed connection with others to improve your mental state, or you could use some help and support to progress in your own goals. Additionally, sparrows could be urging you to reach out to a friend or family member who needs some help themselves.

Chickadee

Chickadee in Winter

I have a soft spot for chickadees. These adorable little birds are determined and fearless. They will often travel in pairs, and when one is feasting on the bird seed I put out, their mate is usually not far away keeping a watchful eye. If a sparrow shows up and tries to bully the much smaller bird away from the seed, the other will quick show up and work with their mate to get at the seed. I’ve watched two chickadees team up to distract a sparrow while one goes after the seed, regularly switching off as the sparrow moves its attention to the other bird.

These are also a flock bird that works in social groups for survival, but in my experience, I have only seen them in pairs. Granted, this could be because it is spring, and the birds have largely paired off to nest.

While I would associate these birds with teamwork, I feel like they are better represented with tenacity and determination in the face of larger enemies or obstacles. The tiny birds don’t let their size inhibit them, but rather use it to their advantage. They are experts at acrobatics and hop between branches or up tree trunks with agility and precision.

According to Native American chickadees are associated with good fortune and may be a sign of success and luck. I can easily see where this comes from. These little birds always seem to have luck on their side and are successful in outwitting larger birds to survive. Chickadees may tell us that success is eminent, and we must be determined and work hard towards our goals. It is not always about brute force and immediate results, but tenacity, problem solving, and creativity.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Little yellow goldfinches have always captured my attention with their bright colors and ability to quickly duck in and out of sight. As a child, I would try to keep my eye held fast onto the little birds that darted through my parents’ trees, but they always seemed to just disappear into thin air. Poof!

Whenever I see a goldfinch, it’s often early in the morning or near sunset with the sun’s rays breaking through the dark on the opposite horizon is most intense. Even now, picturing this beautiful bird, I’m imagining a late spring or summer morning when the bird’s yellow feathers reflect the heat from the sun as it warms the dawn landscape.

As the goldfinch zooms through the branches, it’s a symbol of energy and joy. My association of the bird with the sun also makes it a symbol of fair weather and warmth. When I see a goldfinch outside my window, I know sunshine and beautiful weather are on the way. This bird also tells us to find joy in the little things in life and pursue our daily activity and regular lives with the same energy and fervor as those activities that excite us. Maybe it’s time for us to switch our focus on the present moment and remind ourselves what’s important and where the joy in our lives comes from.

Cardinal

The bright red of a cardinal is unmistakable, especially when seen against the white of deep winter. While the males display the telltale red feathers, even the female cardinal has a distinct warmth in her much more neutral brown coloring with hints of red. These birds are active year-round, which is why we always seem to associate them with winter when they stand out the most and give us hopes of spring.

Cardinals typically mate for life, which (along with their color) is why they’re symbols of love and companionship. This is even connected to Native American myth, as the cardinal is shown as a messenger of love and harbinger of a coming relationship. In other cultures, cardinals are also representative of spirits and some view them as messengers that carry word from the dead to their living relatives. I think this could likely be because of their striking appearance and activity year-round. In the dead cold of winter, it can be lonely and seeing the bright warm bird stand out against the snow, it can be easy to feel like a recently passed loved on is telling us that they are watching over us.

Cardinals may be a sign that a romantic interest is in your near future, or that there will be a renewed spark in your love life. Their connection to monogamy and strong pair companionship may mean that the message of love they bring will be a strong, long lasting relationship. Let their fiery warmth open your heart to new possibilities or to renewed romance in your existing relationship.

While cardinals are not a traditional symbol of the dead, I do strongly associate them with messages from spirits, whether it’s spirits of the land or of ancestors/ dead loved ones. They are easy to spot but infrequent enough to be an ideal carrier of urgent messages from spirits. If you keep seeing a cardinal, maybe it’s a sign that you need to open your heart and mind to messages being sent to you. It could be time for a little extra divination with tarot or pendulum reading to help bring the intended message to the surface.