The Quote Garden ™
I dig old books. ™
Quotations about Birds
And from Humming-Bird to Eagle, the daily existence of every bird is a remote and bewitching mystery. ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "The Life of Birds," Out-door Papers, 1868
I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. ~Joseph Addison, 1712
I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. The squirrels also grew at last to be quite familiar, and occasionally stepped upon my shoe, when that was the nearest way. ~Henry David Thoreau
Some birds are poets and sing all summer. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1852 July 5th
Happy who for a season may
Absent themselves on buoyant wing!
The birds that Winter drives away
Will surely come again with Spring.
They of our ills will mindful be,
And when at length the storm has passed,
They will return to this same tree
Which has so often felt the blast.
Then to our fertile vale will they
A more auspicious presage bring!
The birds that Winter drives away
Will surely come again with Spring.
~Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780–1857), "The Birds," translated from the French by Percy Reeve, in Love & Music, 1883
Half the modern drugs could well be thrown out the window, except that the birds might eat them. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)
Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep,
Little sparrows, peep and cheep;
Red breasted robin—So sweet;
T-rill, te-rill, te-te-te-rill.
Little ground thrush, so still...
Trill, peek, tat, tat-a-tat, a-tat,
Such a gay wood cock, a red hat.
A black bird, as sure as can be;
Bobolink, spink, spunk, spee,
Te-rol-e, te-rol-e, te-rol-e,
How happy we birds can all be!
~Ouina (Cora L. V. Scott Richmond), given through her Medium "Water Lily," "Bird Talk," Ouina's Canoe, 1882
You rise early in the morning and go outdoors to make a before-breakfast circuit of the house and snuff the garden air ingrained with gold. But though you think yourself taking the day by the prime, it is already old to the birds. Their airy brawling, reduplicated chirrup and tweetling, their almost crazy jargoneering, has been going on for hours. So it is in the tree-tops of the mind. ~Christopher Morley, Inward Ho!, 1923
Not everything is black or white
Some things are lonely grey
Like windows looking out on rain at dusk
Or the bitter pain in winter skies
when all the birds are gone...
~H. Joanne Hardee, from "Some Things Are Grey," in Our Western World's Most Beautiful Poems, edited and published by John Campbell, World of Poetry Press, 1985
...the OWL has the most rare and unfathomable wisdom in his face of anything on the top side of this green earth. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague
If anything can offset the seductions of the morning nap, it is surely the grand open-air concert with which "our sisters the birds," each June day-dawn, salute the rising sun. ~Sister Mary Blanche (Elizabeth King, b.1852), "A Few Bird Notes," Idyls and Sketches, 1916
Birds sing sweetly, but someone awakened by them at 5 A.M. of a summer morning might dispute the adverb. ~Isaac Asimov
Just then the branches lightly stirred…
See, out o' the apple boughs a bird
Bursts music-mad into the blue abyss...
~Edwin Markham, "At Dawn"
A pretty spectacle indeed is a small bird standing up to his trim body in a clear pool, rapidly fluttering his wings and tail, flinging the spray out on the air in a little cloud, and then, having thoroughly rinsed all his feathers, flitting to a twig near by to preen them one by one until they glisten. One of the daintiest sylvan pictures I have ever seen came one day in mid-August while strolling along an old road through a favorite woodland. I caught sight of a bevy of warblers in brilliant plumage engaging in what might be called a social bath. It was a veritable cluster of gems in feathers. ~Leander S. Keyser, "Bird Baths," 1892
The trills and trickles of song from the birds in the big tree above her seemed in perfect accord with her mood. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915
Dawn-giddy birds chirp as if every morning is a special occasion. Wise, wise birds. ~Terri Guillemets
Grass commence a-comin'
Thoo de thawin' groun',
Evah bird dat whistles
Keepin' noise erroun';
Cain't sleep in de mo'nin',
Case befo' it 's light
Bluebird an' de robin,
Done begun to fight.
~Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906), "Spring Fever"
"Hear! hear!" screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, "winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it," and then the speaker shifted to another tree farther off and reiterated his assertions, and his mate at a distance confirmed them; and now I heard a suppressed chuckle from a red squirrel that heard the last remark, but had kept silent and invisible all the while. ~Henry David Thoreau, 1857
The clouds are my family.
When you cannot find me,
it is because my sisters
and brothers have called me.
We are singing circles of prayers
about the earth...
~James McGrath (b.1928), "Bird," written in the 1970s, published in Dreaming Invisible Voices, 2009 [My favorite poem in the entire book is "Cicada" — but you'll have to read it yourself. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
It was wonderful cycling through the woods this evening. I was deafened with bird song. ~Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit: An Improbable Farce in Three Acts, 1941
The bluejays are by far the fanciest fliers in the woods of Waldeck, working both wings anywhichway like an agile swimmer. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2007 December 13th
The robins were singing vespers in the high tree-tops, filling the golden air with their jubilant voices. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915
Roosters: The cry of the male chicken is the most barbaric yawp in all of nature. ~Edward Abbey [Walt Whitman reference —tg]
I heard the sweet voice of a robin,
High up in the maple tree,
Joyously, singing his happy song
To his feathered mate, in glee!...
If we could be like this tiny bird,
Just living from day to day,
Holding no bitterness in our hearts
For those we meet on our way...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Heaven on Earth" (1940s)
It was a big bird, a sorcerer wearing sleek black robes, its two talons tucked against its body as if each grasped a marble.... ravens, they all look alike... They stay hidden in their cloaks, notoriously intelligent birds, a shrewdness I could sense in this bird's stare. ~Craig Childs, "Raven," The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild, 2007
Birdsong: a branch of music. ~Terri Guillemets
When Nature made the bluebird she wished to propitiate both the sky and the earth, so she gave him the color of the one on his back and the hue of the other on his breast, and ordained that his appearance in spring should denote that the strife and war between these two elements was at an end. He is the peace-harbinger; in him the celestial and terrestrial strike hands and are fast friends. He means the furrow and he means the warmth; he means all the soft, wooing influences of the spring on the one hand, and the retreating footsteps of winter on the other. It is sure to be a bright March morning when you first hear his note... so tender it is and so prophetic, a hope tinged with a regret. ~John Burroughs
My personality can best be described as the sound of ravens in the distance. ~Keith Wynn, @ravens_rhapsody, tweet, 2020
Road Runner, I am curious,
You've got me wondering why
You're always in a foot race,
I've never seen you fly.
You run along the yucca ridge,
And across the desert floor,
You run and keep on running,
And then you run some more...
~Harry Golden, "The Road Runner and I," in Arizona Highways, September 1971
The bluebird carries the sky on his back. ~Henry David Thoreau
All else speaks of tranquility; — not a breath of air, no restlessness of insects, and not a moving object perceptible — except it may happen, that the figure of one of the larger birds, a raven or a heron, is crossing silently among the reflected clouds in the lake, while the voice of the real bird, from the element aloft, gently awakens in the spectator the recollection of appetites and instincts, pursuits and occupations, that deform and agitate the world, — yet have no power to prevent Nature from putting on an aspect capable of satisfying the most intense cravings for the tranquil, the lovely, and the perfect. ~William Wordsworth [a little altered —tg]
My music breathes of art; — hers is the warble
Borne up to heaven, in the morning's blue calms.
~Florence Percy (Elizabeth Anne Chase Akers Allen, 1832–1911), "Two," Forest Buds, from the Woods of Maine, 1855
Birds are beautiful and amazing creatures, until you walk underneath one who had a big lunch. ~Terri Guillemets, "Above & below," 1994
The blackbird and the thrush, indeed, sing the passion and beauty of their love long after the sunset has gilded the evening sky until the lacy trees stand motionless against the pale green spaces of Heaven, and a honey-coloured moon floats from the Eastern horizon. Then at last there is a hush, till the moonlight wakes the nightingales, and their music, unearthly and strangely sweet, troubles the night with beauty. ~Dallas Kenmare Browne Kelsey (c.1905–1970), "The Music of Nature," 1931
Welcome, welcome, little stranger,
Fear no harm, and fear no danger;
We are glad to see you here,
For you sing "Sweet Spring is near."
~Louisa May Alcott, "To The First Robin," 1840
The crow in his purity I believe is seen and heard only in the North. Before you reach the Potomac there is an infusion of a weaker element, the fish-crow, whose helpless feminine call contrasts strongly with the hearty masculine caw of the original Simon. ~John Burroughs, "Winter Sunshine"
Hark, love, while through this wood we walk,
Beneath melodious trees,
How wrens with redbreasts ever talk
What tuneful words they please...
No graybeard linguist, love, could vie
With our large learning, then!
You'd speak to me in Redbreast; I
Would answer you in Wren!
~Edgar Fawcett, "Bird-Language," Songs of Doubt and Dream, 1891
A flock of geese leave their lake and take wing, turning to poems in the sky. ~Dr. SunWolf, tweet, 2011, professorsunwolf.com
Pigeons are people too. ~Author unknown, c.1960s
I hear you, little bird,
Shouting aswing above the broken wall.
Shout louder yet: no song can tell it all.
Sing to my soul in the deep still wood:
'Tis wonderful beyond the wildest word:
I'd tell it, too, if I could.
~Edwin Markham, "Joy of the Morning"
Autumn birds speak cheerful poetry from their berry-stained beaks. ~Terri Guillemets, "Elderberry prime," 2006
Birds of the wilderness!
Ye woodland choristers of many dyes!
Wake ye not in the night at my distress,
Poured forth more deep than all your melodies?
How can ye sleep beneath the boundless sea
Of my soul's grief poured forth in melody?...
Distracting thus the silence of the night
With its deep, fiery, mournful undelight?...
~Thomas Holley Chivers (1807–1858), "The Dying Nightingale"
An indigo bunting, bluer than the sky above him, sang to his dull-colored mate of the beauty of the springtime. ~Angie Kumlien Main, "By the Waters of Turtle Lake," c.1922
Cutting the silence at the sun's first ray...
Poor pretty plagiarist of all that's gay...
~Jean Wright, "To the Mocking Bird"
...yon trim Shakespeare on the tree... ~Sidney Lanier, "The Mocking Bird," 1877
Trillets of humor,—shrewdest whistle-wit,—
Contralto cadences of grave desire...
~Sidney Lanier, "To Our Mocking-Bird," Died of a Cat, May 1878
People who say that an anorexic "eats like a bird" have clearly had no experience with bluejays. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), @Raqhun, tweet, 2008
The meadow hedge hides meadowlarks
Whose voices rise as rise the roses,
Breaking at the top in bloom
Of sound and scent while daytime dozes...
~Mark Van Doren, "The Only World," 1950
Birds of a feather flock together and crap on your car. ~Author unknown
[T]hese flowers, so fragrant, grew
And the birds and bees sipped sweet nectar
From the sparkling, morning dew.
God has blessed all beauties of Nature;
He's set His approval and seal
On all of His small, winged messengers
That fly through the air with such zeal.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "Honeysuckle," 1940s
Enamoured pigeons coo upon the roof... ~Alexander Smith
The crow is as cunning as the average jack-leg, cross-roads lawyer and politician, and almost as much of a dead beat. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague
The crow iz a tuff bird, and kan stand the heat like a blacksmith, and the cold like a stun wall. They bild their nest among a tree, and lay twice, and both eggs will hatch out if they was laid in a snow bank, — thare aint no such thing as stopping a young crow. ~Josh Billings
CROW A bird that never complains without caws. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904
Up there, in the cold empty spaces,
Nebulae of starlings
~Dag Hammarskjöld, 1959, translated from the Swedish by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden, Markings, 1964
The ducks pushed their gold-coloured bills here and there (yet dirty, as gold is apt to be), and they jumped on the triangles of their feet, and sounded out of their nostrils; and some of the over-excited ones ran along low on the ground, quacking. Annie began to cry "Dilly dilly, einy einy, ducksey," according to the burden of a tune they seem to have accepted as the national duck's anthem; but instead of being soothed by it, they only quacked three times as hard, and ran round, till we were giddy. And then they shook their tails all together and went round and round again. I am uncommonly fond of ducks, and it is a fine sight to behold them walk, poddling one after other, with their toes out, like soldiers drilling, and their little eyes cocked all ways at once, and the way that they dib with their bills, and dabble, and throw up their heads and enjoy something, and then tell the others about it. ~Richard Doddridge Blackmore, Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor, 1869 [a little altered —tg]
Warbler, wipe your feet
neatly, if you please, but not
on the plum petals!
~Issa, translated by Harry Behn, 1971
Birds chirping in the trees: the happy sound of freedom. ~Terri Guillemets, "Cageless," 1994
I have looked at an OWL for a solid hour in a shop window to see if he would wink, until I was ashamed of my impudence trying to gaze him out of countenance. I afterwards found that he was stuffed, but I would like for some scientist to tell me if an owl ever did wink; and if so how often? ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague & T. Guillemets
But the most fascinating of the birds in the neighbourhood is not a song-bird but the little owl — that small wildcat of the air... It sits infamously still, and, standing in the darkness of a barn door, you can see the yellow of its eyes twenty yards away. At intervals it jerks nervously around, like a criminal expecting the hand of a detective on his shoulder. Should it see you, and should you not move, it begins to bob its body up and down at you, as though to say, "If you are alive, go away!" ~Robert Lynd, "Knee-Deep in June," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923
If you are going to soar with the eagles in the morning, you can't hoot with the owls all night. ~Author unknown, as quoted in Rewarding Moments: A Treasury of Prose and Poetry, compiled by William Arthur Ward, 1989
Birds, like mammals, have personality as well as individuality, which is to say that a bird has a mind of its own as well as "personal" physical structures, vocalizations and differences that set it aside from all other birds of the same species, including the size and the color and the tones of its feathers. In fact, no matter of what species, whether it is a great horned owl or a hummingbird, every bird differs from its neighbor in looks and in personality. And let there be no mistake: birds have individual personalities. ~R. D. Lawrence, Owls: The Silent Fliers, 2001
Pigeons coo and mutter,
Strutting high aloof
Where the sunbeams flutter
Through the stable roof.
~James Whitcomb Riley, "On the Sunny Side"
There are joys which long to be ours. God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing a while upon the roof and then fly away. ~Henry Ward Beecher
Colder than lunar rainbows, changefuller
Than sleeked purples on a pigeon's neck.
My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather. ~Terri Guillemets, "April morning," 1988
Like pearls fresh-gathered from their glossy shells,
Or tints, that on the pigeon's plumage play...
~James G. Percival, "The Queen of Flowers"
The little owls call to each other with tremulous, quavering voices throughout the livelong night, as they sit in the creaking trees. ~Theodore Roosevelt
Let us be like that unafraid bird
Lighted upon a twig that swings
Feeling it yield but singing on—
For knowing that he has wings!
Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them? ~Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Times to Remember, 1974, decorated version of a proverb
Pink-footed, sleekly white or delicate fawn,
Or darlier plumed, with glossy throat where clings
One soft perpetual ripple of rainbow rings,
How often to your beauty our sight is drawn
When back from roamings wide you suddenly dawn,
A dainty turbulence of fluttering wings,
And light on some brown slanted roof, like Spring's
Pale showers of blossoms on an orchard lawn!...
~Edgar Fawcett, "Pigeons"
Bicycling, furthermore, is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own... Plunging free downhill is like a hawk stooping. On the level stretches you may pedal with a steady rhythm like a heron flapping; or you may like an accipitrine hawk, alternate rapid pedaling with gliding. If you want to test the force and direction of the wind, there is no better way than to circle, banked inward, like a turkey vulture. When you have the wind against you, headway is best made by yawing or wavering, like a crow flying upwind. ~Louis J. Halle, Jr., Spring in Washington, 1947
The best thing on television the other night was a meadowlark on my neighbor's antenna. ~William D. Tammeus, in the Kansas City Star, as quoted by The Reader's Digest, 1981
A poet can translate birdsong much more faithfully than the biologist ever could. ~Terri Guillemets
I catch the rustle of the maple leaves,
I see the breathing branches rise and fall,
And hear, from their high perch along the eaves,
The bright-necked pigeons call.
Far from the parlours with their garrulous crowds
I dwell alone, with little need of words;
I have mute friendships with the stars and clouds,
And love-trysts with the birds.
~Elizabeth Akers (Florence Percy)
It might almost be said that the birds are all birds of the poets and of no one else, because it is only the poetical temperament that fully responds to them. All the great ornithologists have been poets in deed if not in word. The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet — so vehement and intense in his life, large brained, large lunged, hot, ecstatic, his frame charged with buoyancy and his heart with song — the beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds. Indeed, is not the bird the original type and teacher of the poet? Keats and Shelley, perhaps, most notably, have the bird-organization and the piercing wild-bird cry — the sharp semi-tones of the sparrows and larks. The oldest poets, the antique bards, make little mention of songbirds but loved better the soaring, swooping birds of prey, the eagle, the ominous birds, the vultures, the clamorous sea-birds and screaming hawks. These suited better the rugged, warlike character of the times. Homer must've heard the twittering of swallows and the warble of nightingales; but they were not adequate symbols to express what he felt or to adorn his theme. It is not because the old bards were less as poets, but that they were more as men. ~John Burroughs, "Birds and Poets," 1873 [altered –tg]
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~Chinese proverb
Birdsong is a symphony of the skies. ~Terri Guillemets
Last saved 2022 Aug 17 Wed 19:10 PDT