Mother Bird Symbolism
The mother bird archetype is undeniably heart warming, and the bird world is rife with the symbols of motherhood. Indeed, bird mother symbolism is a language that sings touching, subtle songs that lull each of us into comforting, dreamy thoughts of nourishment, security, and an assurance that (just like mom says) “everything will be alright.”
Sappy? Maybe. But consider the mother bird. Symbolism of this comforting picture is legion. For example, mother birds symbolize:
To wit, here are a few citations of mother bird symbolism linked in nature and culture:
Associated with peace, love and tranquility, the dove is a companion of Venus (Roman goddess of love). The dove is also a common symbol of the Virgin Mother Mary and is portrayed in Christian art as a representation of selfless love and the sacrifice every mother makes for the well-being of their offspring. More about the Dove here.
No discussion of this type can overlook the presence of Mother Goose in nursery rhyme and collective myth. Geese are notorious for protecting their younglings and can be vicious if they feel their brood is in danger. These creatures show strong familial bonds with their entire clan. Indeed, if a mother is struggling, one or two clan members will stay with her even when the rest of the group begins their migration. The members will not leave a family member in need behind. The goose is a beautiful example of how it takes a village to raise the bar on social responsibility within youth and community. Learn more about Goose Symbolism here.
We’ve all heard the expression “mother hen” and those of us who’ve had the experience of observing mother hens with their chicks know why the term was coined. They are diligent in seeing to the needs of their newborns. Furthermore, they are excellent teachers to their offspring. They give their little ones everything they need to know to survive. Then, quite suddenly, the mother hen completely disassociates with the chicks. This back-turning to their young is essential for the survival of these chicks. It might be considered “tough love” but the chick has no choice but to sink or swim.
In Australian Aboriginal lore the magpie is symbolic of provision, motherly love and protection. Legend has it that when the world was created, the sky was pressed too tightly to the land and light of the sun could not shine fully upon the earth. The magpie took pity on humans (fumbling in darkness), and gathered sticks to pry an opening between the earth and sky so that mankind could have light. Here the magpie is the mother of light and allows for the regeneration of mankind. More on the magpie here.
The mother bird pelican is another symbol of motherly self-sacrifice in order to provide for her young. Myth indicates pelican mothers fed offspring on her own blood, assuring their well-being at the cost of her own life. In reality, the pelican regurgitates food for her babies, and in doing so, blood from the macerated fish spots her snowy white breast – hence giving the impression of piercing her own chest to let blood as food for her young.
The sparrow is a symbol of fastidiousness, comfort and simplicity. In European lore, the sparrow is symbolic of domesticity and competent homemaking. The sparrow is also associated with love (motherly and otherwise) as we see her again associated with the goddess of love, Venus. More on the sparrow here..
The swallow is symbolic of hope, fertility and renewal of life. Another symbol of the love goddess, Venus, the Roman’s believed it was extremely unlucky to harm a sparrow. Further, the Roman’s believed the swallow to be a totem bird to mothers in sorrow as it was said the swallow embodied all the young, innocent’s who died during childbirth.
Believe it or not, the vulture is a symbol of motherhood because these (often maligned) creatures are impeccable caretakers of their young. Indeed, the Egyptian hieroglyph for “mother” is the same as vulture. Further, the Egyptian mother goddess, Mut is often depicted with the vulture in ancient art of the culture. The Egyptians observed the vulture as an excellent mother – to such an extent it was thought all vultures were female. More about the Vulture here.