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Birds

  • Healthy parakeets have the nervous energy of tennis players.

  • Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.

  • Then the song of a whitethroat, pure and ethereal, with the dreamy quality of remembered joy.

  • A cardinal in a slant of winter sunlight goes straight to the bloodstream like brandy, and the heart leaps up like a startled stag.

  • I was kept awake half the night by a rather loud inexperienced nightingale, and finally took a sedative (the first time I've used one).

    • May Sarton,
    • 1947, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • Birds that cannot even sing — / Dare to come again in spring!

  • ... swamp sparrows, catbird, bluebird, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, brown thrasher, bobolink, marsh wren, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting hold matins and vespers in the leafy aisles along the brook ...

  • Morning is sweeter / For her voice.

  • Who shall interpret what is meant by the sweet jargon of robin and oriole and bobolink, with their endless reiterations? Something wiser, perhaps, than we dream of in our lower life here.

  • The birds sing louder when you grow old.

  • Few forms of life are so engaging as birds.

  • Magic birds were dancing in the mystic marsh. The grass swayed with them, and the shallow waters, and the earth fluttered under them. The earth was dancing with the cranes, and the low sun, and the wind and sky.

  • ... some things — birds like walking fables — ought to inhabit nowhere but the reverence of the heart.

  • The little birds sang as if it were the one day of summer in all the year.

  • If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages ...

    • Isak Dinesen,
    • "The Deluge at Norderney," Seven Gothic Tales ()
  • The flamingoes are the most delicately colored of all the African birds, pink and red like a flying twig of an oleander bush. They have incredibly long legs and bizarre and recherché curves of their necks and bodies, as if from some exquisite traditional prudery they were making all attitudes and movements in life as difficult as possible.

  • As fog moved to the mainland I heard a flock of birds fly over. They sounded like a dress rustling, a dress being unfastened and dropping to the floor. Fog came unpinned like hair. On the beach cliffs, great colonies of datura — jimson weed — with their white trumpet flowers, looked like brass bands.

  • A black-crowned night heron stood on an apron of wet sand, looking across the channel. The feather plume at the back of his head lifted in a faint breeze. Out there the channel churned its cyclonic eddies counterclockwise. Schools of anchovies, halibut, and sea bass came and went: silver flashes, small storms that well up from the inside of the sea but are short-lived, like lightning.

  • I hope you love birds, too. It is economical. It saves going to Heaven.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1885, in Mabel Loomis Todd, ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 2 ()
  • Some keep the Sabbath going to Church — / I keep it, staying at Home — / With a Bobolink for a Chorister — / And an Orchard, for a Dome — ...

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1860, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • A prompt — executive Bird is the Jay — / Bold as a Bailiff's Hymn — / Brittle and Brief in quality — / Warrant in every line — / Sitting a Bough like a Brigadier / Confident and straight — / Much is the mien of him in March / As a Magistrate — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1865, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • You have only to wait, they will find you. / The geese flying low over the marsh, / glittering in black water. / They find you.

  • No sadder sound salutes you than the clear, / Wild laughter of the loon.

  • Last week, when I went early into my garden, a rose-breasted grosbeak was sitting on the fence. Oh, he was beautiful as a flower. I hardly dared to breathe, I did not stir, and we gazed at each other fully five minutes before he concluded to move.

    • Celia Thaxter,
    • in Annie Fields and Rose Lamb, eds., Letters of Celia Thaxter ()
  • All those golden autumn days the sky was full of wings. Wings beating low over the blue water of Silver Lake, wings beating high in the blue air far above it. Wings of geese, of brant, of ducks and pelicans and cranes and heron and swans and gulls, bearing them all away to green fields in the South.

  • Birds, with short lives, are teaching us what pesticides, herbicides, oil in the ocean, pollutants of many sorts may also be doing to long-lived human bodies. Birds and fish kills wave red flags at us, although we don't often heed them.

  • I didn't feed the peacocks this morning. ... So what happens as I am peacefully reading The Smithsonian and sopping up maple syrup from snowy New Hampshire? Outside each window, on the stovepipe here, grouped on top of the abandoned refrigerator by the shower there, on the trash can of grain, on the chair of the porch, clamber these idiot birds, peering in every window at me; whining, demanding to know What Am I Doing, Why Haven't I Fed Them, When Am I Coming Out?

  • I must say I derive / some satisfaction / from my good looks. / My feathers / are sown with eyes / admiring themselves.

  • ... a certain red cardinal sounded like a little bottle being filled up, up, up with some clear liquid.

  • I heard my little brothers who move by night rustling in grass and tree. A hedgehog crossed my path with a dull squeak, the bats shrilled high to the stars, a white owl swept past me crying his hunting note, a beetle boomed suddenly in my face; and above and through it all the nightingales sang — and sang!

  • ... the loons ... were high-strung birds, and one could believe that love was, for them, a very disturbing experience. During the night, in the lucent twilight, their cries spread without pause over the ice and the tundra. They were cries close to human tones, and sounding as if they expressed wild dismay. ... The night seemed to pulse with grief, hopeless and inconsolable.

  • ... a bird arranges / two notes at right angles.

  • A red-tailed hawk rose high on an air current, calling out shrill, sequential rasps of raptor joy. ... Once she'd seen a pair of them coupling on the wing, grappling and clutching each other and tumbling curve-winged through the air in hundred-foot death dives that made her gasp, though always they uncoupled and sailed outward and up again just before they were bashed to death in senseless passion.

  • Have you ever heard, Hem, why a peacock gives those terrible screams? He has looked down and suddenly seen his feet. He had forgotten he had them because he was so busy admiring his train.

  • Sweet poet of the woods ...

    • Charlotte Smith,
    • "On the Departure of the Nightingale," Elegiac Sonnets ()
  • Sweet was the hour, when Nature gave / Her loveliest treasures birth, / And sent these artless choristers / To bless the smiling earth.

  • A bird is joy incarnate.

  • All at once the silence and the solitude were touched by wild music, thin as air, the faraway gabbling of geese flying at night. Presently I caught sight of them as they streamed across the face of the moon, the high, excited clamor of their voices tingling through the night, and suddenly I saw, in one of those rare moments of insight, what it means to be wild and free.

  • ... the occasional cries of a lost loon, strayed from its flock in northern migration, fill the swamp with sounds of wailing.

  • The Cardinal ... It was as if a pulsing heart of flame passed by when he came winging through the orchard.

  • ... swans ... always look as though they'd just been reading their own fan-mail.

  • Few things are more stimulating than the sight of the forceful wings of large birds cleaving the vagueness of air and making the piled clouds a mere background for their concentrated life.

  • There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in his heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the price of great pain. Or so says the legend.

  • 'He is well behaved, señora,' the old man said when he sold it to me. 'He is not vulgar. He will never embarrass you.' The parrot eyed me slyly and malevolently, like a wrongdoer who hears his lawyer praising him in court.

  • List to that bird! His song — what poet pens it? / Brigand of birds, he's stolen every note! / Prince though of thieves — hark! how the rascal spends it! / Pours the whole forest from one tiny throat!

    • Ednah Proctor Hayes,
    • "The Mocking-Bird," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • Birds! birds! ye are beautiful things, / With your earth-treading feet and your cloud-cleaving wings!

    • Eliza Cook,
    • "Birds," The Poetical Works of Eliza Cook ()
  • Only to the rude ear of one who is quite indifferent does the song of a bird seem always the same.

  • The mocking bird is music-mad tonight, / He thinks the stars are notes; / That he must sing each spattered star, and be / A choir of many throats.

  • The wild geese were passing over ... They marked the beginning and the end of the period of growth.

  • Lind heard the trailing clangor of the wild geese. Their cry smote upon the heart like the loneliness of the universe ... a magnificent seeking through solitude — an endless quest.

  • Far overhead sounded a voluminous prolonged cry, like a great trumpet call. Wild geese flying still farther north, to a region beyond human warmth ... beyond even human isolation ...

  • There was an infinite cold passion in their flight, like the passion of the universe, a proud mystery never to be solved.

  • Never till one gray evening last week, when the world seemed cold and dreary, did I identify the robin as the Beethoven of birds. His cheeriness, his habit of singing when other choristers are abed, are of course familiar; but the sweet reasonableness of that song, noble, true, and strong, had never appealed to me as it did while I stood listening, quite alone.

  • Something told the wild geese / It was time to go. / Though the fields lay golden / Something whispered, — 'Snow.' / ... / Something told the wild geese / It was time to fly, — / Summer sun was on their wings, / Winter in their cry.

    • Rachel Field,
    • "Something Told the Wild Geese," Branches Green ()
  • For many birds May is the most important month of the year, for it is their time of nesting. Their song now approaches its greatest perfection. Early in the month it expresses the rapture of courtship, later the joy of possession.

  • Once or twice I have noticed a flock of juncoes in the city back-yard, driven to town, I suppose, for supplies.

  • But one dawn the swans fell like a yellow cloud on the pond.

  • There are more birds about than usual.

  • Ravens are the birds I'll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens.

  • I decided it would be better to be a bird. Birds are very busy at one period each year caring for babies, but this lasts only a few weeks with many of them, and then their babies are grown and gone. Best of all, they leave their houses forever and take to camping for the rest of the year. No wonder they are happy.

  • ... sometimes I imagined that the wild geese winging through the cloudy sky had chosen the ivy around my worry-filled house to shed their tears on.

    • Lady Nijo,
    • 1284, in Karen Brazell, trans., Confessions of Lady Nijo ()
  • How pleasant the lives of the birds must be, / Living in love in a leafy tree!

    • Mary Howitt,
    • "Birds in Summer," Ballads and Other Poems ()
  • Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. ... Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

  • Oh happy birds! that sing and sing / Down all the windy ways of Spring ...

  • For most bird-watchers, the coming of the warblers has the same effect as catnip on a cat.

  • Butterflies and birds are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.

  • 'Birds are on the decline,' / especially sparrows and larks, / while 'twittering people' / are on the rise — / don't ask this poet why or how. / Dear remaining birds, / if you know a song to sing, / please sing it now.

  • Countless birds seem to be auditioning for their jobs. Large glossy crows sound as if they're gagging on lengths of flannel. Blackbirds quibble nonstop from the telephone wires, where they perch like a run of eighth notes.

  • The kingfisher was a murderous bird, a kind of flying jackknife.