Birds Poems

Poems about birds are incredibly popular in the history of verse writing. They explore birds’ qualities and their symbolic power.

Some bird poems are solely dedicated to exploring the animals, their behavior, appearance, habitat, songs, and more. These poems often praise the natural world and are written to inspire the reader to spend more time analyzing the world around them. Bird poems are often written in order to prompt readers to get outside more and love nature’s incredible inhabitants.

In other bird poems, in fact, the majority of them use birds as symbols. Authors like Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins are well-known for poems that do just this. They are usually depicted as symbols of hope, God, faith, change, travel, light, and peace. More often than not, they are represented positively.

To a Skylark

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

‘To a Skylark’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley is an ode. It celebrates the beauty of nature and the bliss of a skylark’s song.

‘To a Skylark’ is an ode to the “blithe” essence of a singing skylark and how human beings can never ever reach that same bliss. The poem begins with the speaker spotting a skylark flying above him. He can hear the song clearly. The bird’s song is “unpremeditated” it is unplanned and beautiful. Shelley is stunned by the music produced by the bird and entranced by its movement as it flies into the clouds and out of sight.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! 

Bird thou never wert, 

That from Heaven, or near it,

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

by Emily Dickinson

‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’ by Emily Dickinson is a poem about hope. It is depicted through the famous metaphor of a bird.

‘Hope is a thing with feathers’ is one of Dickinson’s most optimistic poems. It focuses on the personification of hope. She depicts it as a bird that perches inside her soul and sings. The bird asks for nothing. It is at peace and is, therefore, able to impart the same hope and peace to the speaker. She can depend on it, and take pleasure from it.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -

The Eagle

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

‘The Eagle’ is a powerful poem that captures the majesty and strength of the majestic bird, inspiring readers to reach for the heights of their own potential.

‘The Eagle’ speaks on the power and solitude of a lone eagle on a rocky cliff. The poem begins with the speaker describing how a solitary eagle is standing on the top of a craggy cliff. From where he is perched, with his “crooked hands” gripping the rocks, he can survey the whole “azure world” around and below him.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 

Close to the sun in lonely lands, 

Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

Ode to a Nightingale

by John Keats

‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ written in 1819, is one of John Keats’ six famous odes. It’s the longest, with eight 10-line stanzas, and showcases Keats’ signature style of vivid imagery and emotional depth, exploring themes like beauty and mortality.

In ‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ which is likely Keats’s best-known work, the nightingale plays an important role. The speaker listens to it sing and feels jealous of its carefree life. Inspired by the song, he considers giving himself over to the woods and trying to discover the same kind of freedom the nightingale has.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

To a Waterfowl

by William Cullen Bryant

In this poem about perseverance and God’s guiding hand, William Cullen Bryant’s ‘To a Waterfowl’ depicts what it means to walk with strength and determination through life.

In ‘To a Waterfowl,’ the speaker addresses the waterfowl and asks it where it’s going and why. He warns the creature that traveling alone is dangerous. But, he soon states, the bird isn’t alone. He’s accompanied by a higher power—God. This poem was inspired by a similar lonely walk the poet took.

Whither, 'midst falling dew,

While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,

Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way?

The Yellowhammer’s Nest

by John Clare

‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ by John Clare describes the beautiful and brutal world in which a yellowhammer makes its nest and lays its eggs.

‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’ describes the beautiful and brutal world in which the yellowhammer lives. The speaker asks his listeners to draw close to a stream and look at a nest nestled there. It contains beautiful eggs with “scribbled” lines on them. He goes on to speak about the beauty of the world of birds and how many things can interrupt it.

Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,

Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down

To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop

And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,

Song of the Owl

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘Song of the Owl,’ a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, describes the hooting of the great black owl. It taps on the themes of silence and darkness.

In this very unusual poem, Longfellow uses very short lines, one to three words in length, to celebrate the nature of the “great black / Owl.” The poem is light-hearted and very much up for interpretation.
Ojibwa The owl,— Au The owl Au  

The Raven

by Edgar Allan Poe

‘The Raven’ is commonly considered to be Edgar Allan Poe’s poetic masterpiece. It details a harrowing night in the speaker’s life that includes incessant knocking and a talking raven that only says one word–“Nevermore.”

‘The Raven’ is a supernatural, dream-like poem that makes use of his most frequently visited themes. There is loss, death, fear, and, and above all else, the haunting presence of the talking raven. The creature cries throughout the text, a single word: “Nevermore.”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

A Bird, came down the Walk

by Emily Dickinson

‘A Bird, came down the Walk’ by Emily Dickinson is a beautiful nature poem. It focuses on the actions of a bird going about its everyday life.

This poem describes the simple, yet beautiful, actions of a bird searching for food and then taking flight. It begins with the speaker describing a bird she sees. She’s nearby, allowing her to look at the bird. It does not immediately notice her, though. From where she is situated, she sees the bird pick up an “Angle Worm” and bite it in half. It moves quickly from place to place, showing the anxiety inherent to most of its species.

A Bird, came down the Walk -

He did not know I saw -

He bit an Angle Worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw, 

The Swan

by John Gould Fletcher

‘The Swan’ by John Gould Fletcher describes the movements of a swan within a body of water and a speaker’s desire to escape his life. 

This is a poem that celebrates the beauty and wonder of birds. Fletcher's use of vivid imagery and sensory language captures the grace and majesty of the swan, inviting the reader to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of all bird species.

Under a wall of bronze,

Where beeches dip and trail

Their branches in the water;

With red-tipped head and wings—

Explore more poems about Birds

The Windhover

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

‘The Windhover’ is an incredibly important poem that Hopkins considered to be his best. It uses symbolism to speak about God and faith.

‘The Windhover’ is Gerard Manley Hopkins’s most famous poem. It’s also the one that he felt most connected to. In the sonnet, he describes a windhover, or kestrel, and compares it to Christ. Hopkins uses his “sprung rhyme” throughout.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

The Nightingale

by Philip Sidney

‘The Nightingale’ is a unique love-lyric that exploits the classical myth of Philomel to morph the personal rue of a lovelorn heart into a superb piece of poetry.

In ‘The Nightingale,’ Sir Philip Sidney describes a nightingale and her song. He makes the traditional allusion to Philomela, and tries to offer the bird some “gladness.” He spends the other lines alluding to the story at the heart of nightingale myth and speaking on mortality and immortality.

O Philomela fair, O take some gladness,

That here is juster cause of plaintful sadness:

Thine earth now springs, mine fadeth;

Thy thorn without, my thorn my heart invadeth.

Indian Weavers

by Sarojini Naidu

‘Indian Weavers’ explores the inevitability of death while celebrating the cycles of human existence and experience.

The birds feature as an important symbol in the poem, with different ones representing the different stages of human life.

Weavers, weaving at break of day,

Why do you weave a garment so gay? . . .

Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,

We weave the robes of a new-born child.

The Flock

by Derek Walcott

‘The Flock’ is a poem that meditates on the cyclical nature of time and the passage of the seasons. Through vivid imagery and a somber tone, the poet reflects on the inevitability of winter’s end, the unchanging nature of the world, and his own place within this cycle of time.

In this poem, Derek Walcott uses birds as a symbol of migration, change, and freedom and explores the human desire to escape from limitations and transcend the constraints of time and mortality.

The grip of winter tightening, its thinned

volleys of blue-wing teal and mallard fly

from the longbows of reeds bent by the wind,

arrows of yearning for our different sky.

Donegal Sightings

by Jean Bleakney

‘Donegal Sightings’ explores how elusive the natural world can feel, even when we are immersed within its beauty.

The birds function as the poem's primary symbol, as they are both familiar yet different, present yet prone to metaphorical and literal flight.

You would need three weather eyes
out here on Dawros Head where the sky,
Atlantic laden, signals its intentions
in airbrushed cliffs and disappearing islands;

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

‘My Mother Would Be a Falconress’ by Robert Duncan explores a son and mother’s relationship through the lens of a falcon breaking free from his handler.

This poem uses an extended simile to compare the speaker to a docile pet falcon and his mother to a domineering falconress. The symbols in this poem, thus, are all centered around the freedom of a bird and a bird's lack of independence when kept in captivity.

My mother would be a falconress,

And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,

would fly to bring back

from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,

The Captive Dove

by Anne Brontë

‘The Captive Dove’ by Anne Brontë is a powerful example of her verse that reminds readers that all living things desire freedom.

The dove is the central figure in the poem and represents all birds kept in captivity against their natural inclinations. The poet's empathy for the captive bird highlights the universal human desire to see birds fly free and unfettered.

Poor restless dove, I pity thee;

And when I hear thy plaintive moan,

I mourn for thy captivity,

And in thy woes forget mine own.

Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter

by John Clare

‘Emmonsail’s Heath in Winter’ by John Clare is a beautiful nature poem that describes a specific area in Northamptonshire in winter. The poem focuses on plants and birds. 

Birds are a very key image of this beautiful poem. Throughout, Clare mentions several species of birds, many of which he names using specific British terms that are likely to be unusual or unknown to readers from other countries.

I love to see the old heath's withered brake

Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,

While the old heron from the lonely lake

Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing,

Evening Hawk

by Robert Penn Warren

‘Evening Hawk’ showcases Warren’s love for rich imagery and metaphysical symbolism. The hawk serves as a powerful vehicle for a series of revelations about our place in the universe.

'Evening Hawk' is, of course, centered on a bird, although it becomes a wider symbol over the course of the poem. Its wings, in particular, are representative of time's progress.

His wing

Scythes down another day, his motion

Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear

The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,’ is a translation of a Greek lyric poem in which the speaker explains that love constantly (and annoyingly) inhabits their heart.

In 'Paraphrase on Anacreon: Ode to the Swallow,' Elizabeth Barret Browning seems to play at the term "love-birds" as she compares her love to a swallow that nests in her heart year-round. While the swallow migrates, the bird that lives in the speaker's heart is constantly there, giving birth to new loves and obsessions all the while.

Thou indeed, little Swallow,

A sweet yearly comer.

Art building a hollow

New nest every summer.

The crow has flown away

by Natsume Sōseki

‘The crow has flown away’ by Natsume Sōseki is a beautifully contemplative haiku about a crow, tree, and the whole natural world

This poem highlights the presence and absence of a bird, the crow, in the scene. Birds often symbolize freedom and the connection between the earthly and the divine. The crow's departure signifies a change or transition.

The crow has flown away;

swaying in the evening sun,

a leafless tree.

A jag of lightning

by Matsuo Bashō

‘A jag of lightning’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful and interesting poem that describes lightning and a heron’s scream. 

Birds hold symbolic significance in many forms of literature, and in this haiku, the mention of a night heron adds depth to the imagery. Birds often represent freedom, grace, and the natural world. In this context, the heron's movement toward darkness may symbolize a retreat into the familiar or a seeking of refuge amidst the intense brilliance of the lightning.

A jag of lightning--

Then, flitting toward the darkness,

A night heron's scream.


by Frederick William Harvey

‘Ducks’ by F.W. Harvey is a charming and interesting poem about the movements and lives of ducks. It looks at their humorous and calming features.

This poem is almost entirely focused on birds, specifically ducks. The speaker is very focused on the lives of ducks and how amusing they can be.

From troubles of the world

I turn to ducks,

Beautiful comical things

Sleeping or curled

Their heads beneath white wings

Each and All

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Each and All’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson depicts nature as interconnected and dependent on all other living and non-living things. The poet uses a few clever examples to demonstrate why he sees the world this way. 

Birds are mentioned as one of the primary symbols in this poem.

Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown,

Of thee from the hill-top looking down;

The heifer that lows in the upland farm,

Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm;

I Ate Too Much Turkey

by Jack Prelutsky

In ‘I Ate Too Much Turkey’ by Jack Prelutsky, humor shines as the narrator hilariously laments their overindulgence during a Thanksgiving feast.

The poem 'I Ate Too Much Turkey' humorously references birds, particularly the titular turkey. It playfully highlights the excesses of a Thanksgiving feast where turkey is a centerpiece. The poem doesn't delve deeply into the topic of birds but uses them as symbols of indulgence, contributing to the lighthearted and comical theme of overeating during the holiday celebration.

I ate too much turkey,

I ate too much corn,

I ate too much pudding and pie,

I'm stuffed up with muffins

The shallows

by Matsuo Bashō

‘The shallows’ by Matsuo Bashō  is a beautiful, traditional haiku about a crane landing in cool, shallow water and the ripples it makes. 

The crane is a central image in the poem, with its grace and elegance reflecting the broader themes of beauty and harmony in the natural world. The crane is an important image in Japanese poetry, as well.

The shallows –

a crane’s thighs splashed

in cool waves

A Hymn to the Evening

by Phillis Wheatley

‘A Hymn to the Evening’ by Phillis Wheatley describes a speaker’s desire to take on the glow of evening so that she may show her love for God.

Birds play a symbolic role in 'A Hymn to the Evening.' Wheatley utilizes their presence to evoke a sense of freedom, grace, and harmony with nature. The imagery of birds in flight serves as a metaphor for the human spirit yearning for transcendence and connection with the divine.

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main

The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain;

Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing,

Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.

Bell Birds

by Henry Kendall

‘Bell Birds’ by Henry Kendall describes the beauty of a local wooded landscape and the passion and inspiration a speaker gains from its depths. 

Birds hold a special place in Kendall's poem, symbolizing freedom and the inherent connection between humans and the natural world. In 'Bell Birds,' the birds are a very important part of the piece and their melodic songs representing the harmonious relationship between nature and humanity.

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,

And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;

It lives in the mountain, where moss and the sedges

Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;

Come In

by Robert Frost

‘Come In’ by Robert Frost is a poem that takes a look at how we as people project ourselves onto nature.

The thrush plays an important symbolic role in the poem even though the speaker never truly sees it and only hears its music. The thrush could symbolize quite a bit in the poem, from the speaker's exploration-inclined spirit to the small bit of hope that keeps them out in search of stars on such a dark night.

As I came to the edge of the woods,

Thrush music — hark!

Now if it was dusk outside,

Inside it was dark.

In Kyoto

by Matsuo Bashō

‘In Kyoto’ by Matsuo Bashō expresses a deep sense of longing and nostalgia for the city of Kyoto through a 3-line haiku.

The mention of the cuckoo in 'In Kyoto' serves as a symbol of renewal and change, reflecting the cyclical nature of life and the beauty of the natural world. The bird's call also adds a sense of excitement and wonder to the poem.

In Kyoto,

hearing the cuckoo,

I long for Kyoto.

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