When the weather isn’t great for going out and birding – sometimes it’s a great excuse to curl up under a blanket with a cup of coffee and listen to some good music. If you are anything like many people, you sometimes can spend more time searching for something to listen to than actually listening to music!
So, to help you with your search for good music, the team have put together a list of songs that are not only awesome, but also mention birds in some way.
Over the years birds have been used in poetry and the arts as metaphors to show things such as love, freedom, and many other themes. Some of the songs on the list may have a message that spoke to us or it may just be a song that we like.
So here, in no particular order, is our list of the Ten of the Best Songs Ever About Birds:
The Eagle and the Hawk – John Denver (Adam Cruickshank)
This song made my list because it brings back memories of my mother who died of cancer a few years back. She was a huge John Denver fan and I guess over time his music just grew on me. His soothing voice and poetic lyrics are often found on my playlists.
Regarding the song, John Denver said on his radio special The John Denver Show "The mountains aren't the only majestic things in the high country," he said on his radio special The John Denver Show. "There are those incredibly graceful and inspiring birds of prey. 'The Eagle and the Hawk' captures my feelings exactly about these magnificent birds, and the way man threatens their existence."
Just like the birds that the song sings about, my mother too is ‘flying free’ from the pain that affected her body for many years.
Silverchair – Those Thieving Birds Part 1, Strange Behaviour, Those Thieving Birds Part 2 (Tyron Dall)
This song is a seven and a half minute epic, which shows a more mature and emotional Daniel Johns, departing from the bands more cheesy and rage infused early year tracks.
"Those thieving birds
Hang strung from an empty nest
This swan plagued pond
Foresaken and under whelmed"
This song is about the difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship/marriage - a situation that was all too real for Daniel Johns and his wife, who were often separated for long periods of time on opposite sides of the world due to work commitments.
Swans are indeed a species of bird that form life-long pair bonds, therefore the song-title "those thieving birds" is probably a metaphor for others who may have tried to come between the marriage.
In this song, Daniel seems to be saying none of these past indiscretions or lies matter to him anymore, as he's willing to give this relationship one last-ditch effort. (Sadly, in real life, this was not to be).
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley and the Wailers (Chris Flannery)
There are certain songs that always bring a smile to your face, regardless of what may be happening around you, you just have to hear the intro to the song and a smile will come! I have many songs like that – from “Don’t worry, be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin to “That’s what friends are for” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder.
“Three little birds” is one of those songs – I can be having one of the worst days, and then I’ll hear the beginning of the steel drums and all of a sudden it will become that much easier to deal with the situation I am in! So remember – “don't worry, about a thing, 'Cause every little thing, is gonna be all right”.
Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry (Adam Cruickshank)
I have never fully understood the music of Prince – he is regarded by so many as a musical genius. My friend and myself have this ongoing debate about what makes music good and he has always sung the praises of Prince as an artist. I eventually decided to listen to the Purple Rain album, which is rated as one of the top albums of all time. I think just maybe I finally appreciate the musical genius that he is.
When he grew up his father abused his mother, in the lyrics to the song, he expresses his fear of becoming like his parents.
‘Maybe I'm just too demanding,
Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold
Maybe you're just like my mother
She's never satisfied (she's never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry’
The White Stripes – Little Bird (Tyron Dall)
If anyone knows my taste in music then they won’t be surprised at all to find The White Stripes, which is my all-time favourite band.
"I got a little bird
I'm gonna take her home
Put her in a cage
And disconnect the phone
If you give me a look
I'm gonna get the book
I'm gonna preach the word
I want to preach to birds"
It has been suggested that the song is based on St Francis of Assisi, who was the Patron Saint of Animals and whom had a special relationship with birds.
This is about wanting to cage up his girl, even cut her off from communication ("disconnect the phone") all the while with his biblical references, acknowledgement of their power (the book/the word) in maintaining his, and how because he has nothing to lose (he needs her) he is never letting her go.
The Eels – I Like Birds (Adam Cruickshank)
This song takes me back to the beginning of my bird watching journey. My friend who introduced me to birding suggested I watch ‘The Big Year’, a movie about birding. I watched the movie and I fell in love with it – I have probably watched the movie more than 10 times since then – and this song reminds me of the movie.
I tried to see what the song was about, and a few people suggested that the song may be about the singer’s mother who had passed away. She was a bird watcher who fed birds in her garden – apparently after she died, he took her feeders and book books – and put the feeders up in his own garden.
‘If you're small and on a search
I've got a feeder for you to perch on’
Radiohead – Morning Mr Magpie (Tyron Dall)
This song appears on one the bands later albums (The King of Limbs).
"Good morning, Mister Magpie
How are we today?
Now you've stolen all the magic
I turn my back, walk away"
In Britain and Ireland, there are a number of superstitions regarding magpies.
A single Magpie is associated with bad luck.
One should make sure to greet magpies when they are encountered in order to either allay bad luck or encourage good luck as related to the number of birds and therefore their place in the Magpie poem. Common greetings include "Hello Mr Magpie" "How is your wife/where is your wife?", "Good Morning/Evening Sir" and other marks of respect.
Upon seeing a lone Magpie one should repeat the words "I defy thee" seven times.
On seeing a lone Magpie one should pinch the person they are walking with, if they are alone they are to pinch themselves. The custom in Devon is to spit three times to avert ill luck.
If a lone Magpie is seen, one should salute it to show you respect it. This formality can be forgone if the Magpie looks directly in your eyes, which shows it respects you.
A Magpie can also be defined as a collector or hoarder of small objects. It has been suggested that a nice interpretation of the song is about the information age. Tweets, headlines, the corporate media simplifying things and the effect of that on people’s ability to focus, rationalize anything deeper then this cheap level of intellectual existence. It’s killing all his magic and taking his memory.
Blackbird – The Beatles (Adam Cruickshank)
This stripped back song was recorded by one the greatest bands of all time. What makes this even more specials is that apparently Paul McCartney is a birdwatcher.
McCartney has given different meanings to the song over the years. In one account he has said that the song was inspired by hearing the call of a Blackbird in Rishikesh, India. In 2020 after a show in Dallas, Texas, McCartney said that song written about the racial tensions in the United States in 1968:
‘I had been doing some [poetry readings] in the last year or so because I've got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing, and when I would read "Blackbird", I would always try and think of some explanation to tell the people … So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I'd written "Blackbird", you know, that I'd been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of "you were only waiting for this moment to arise" was about, you know, the black people's struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It's not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it's a bit more symbolic.’
Wind Beneath my Wings – Bette Midler (Chris Flannery)
I remember when I was 6 years old, every Sunday morning my parents would put on the radio to listen to the music of yesteryear. It was always a fantastic time for me, because I thoroughly enjoyed each song. But Bette Midler held a special place in my heart. I remember belting out the lyrics as loud as possible whenever her songs came on the radio - not that I knew the lyrics… I just made it up as I went along!
Now that I’m a bit older, I have come to appreciate the lyrics of this song. We all have people in our lives that “…might have appeared to go unnoticed… I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it, I would be nothing without you”. Whether it be a parent, a mentor or a spouse, we all have people in our lives that are “…everything I wish I could be” and “…I could fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings”.
Birds – Coldplay (Adam Cruickshank)
This song was taken off the ‘A Head full of Dreams’ album, much of the album was inspired by a Rumi Poem called ‘The Guest House’ where the poet tells the reader to accept everything as a blessing.
In the song Chris Martin encourages the listeners to ‘ignore their circumstances and enjoy life so that they can be as free as a bird and fly.’ Song is a powerful song that not only express the feeling of freedom in the lyrics, but also in the way that the song builds to its eventual crescendo. This song shows why Coldplay are one of this era’s best bands.
So after going through our list, let us know in the comments section which songs you think should have made the list.