One warm summer evening while enjoying the gentle breeze on the screened porch, my wife and were chatting about birding. I’m a birder and she is not, but the conversation evolved into something she does enjoy; words, and their meanings. Maybe more that any other animal, bird phrases and idioms have entered into our daily discourse to convey meanings in ways that may be quite difficult for those for whom English is not their native language. Literature, from Greek and Roman times to the present have used birds to explain human behavior and traits. Over the next hour or so, encouraged with a glass of wine or two, we came up with many examples. See what you think and feel free to add more.
Some of these are meant to be derogatory, such as a birdbrain, quack, cuckoo, silly goose, stool pigeon, chicken-livered, turkey, hen-pecked, or an albatross around your neck.
Others are quite complimentary; wise as an owl or proud as a peacock. Some are symbols of strength or nobility; the Bald Eagle, the Falcon or the Screaming Eagles, the insignia of the 101st Airborne division.
While others imply weakness and vulnerability; an Ostrich with his head in the sand, a sitting duck, being naked as a jay-bird, getting goosed, squealing like a canary, delivering your swan song, getting your feathers ruffled, or having the need to eat crow. Then there are the religious symbols such as the dove of peace and the Holy Spirit, or Easter eggs connoting a new beginning, vs. the evil Raven or Vulture.
What about the motherly trait of nesting while preparing for childbirth and the expected delivery of the stork. Later those same parents experiences the empty nest syndrome. There are also humorous examples, such as he’s a hoot but really laid an egg with this posting.
There are the signs of contentment such as happy as a lark, the bluebird of happiness, lovebirds, or singing like a nightingale, and being free as a bird. And don’t forget the signs of success such as feathering your nest, the early bird getting the worm, or getting your ducks in a row. There are many that describe action: flying the coop after being cooped up, taking a swan dive, jay-walking, pigeon-holing, getting a bird’s-eye view, or parroting someone else.
And lastly don’t forget the age old conundrum, what came first, the chicken or the egg? At least this immature gull seems to have gotten a charge out of all of this.