Favorite bird poems

He picks his pond, and the soft thicket of his world.
He bids his lady come, and she does, flirting with her tail.
He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes.
He does not enter a house at night, or when it rains.
He is not afraid of the wind, though he is cautious.
He watches the snake, that stripe of black fire, until it flows away.
He watches the hawk with her sharpest shins, aloft in the high tree.
He keeps his prayer under his tongue.
In his whole life he has never missed the rising of the sun.
He dislikes snow.
But a few raisins give him the greatest delight.
He sits in the forelock of the lilac, or he struts in its shadow.
He is neither the rare plover or the brilliant bunting, but as common as grass.
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.
When he is not singing, he is listening.
Neither have I ever seen him with his eyes closed.
Though he may be looking at nothing more than a cloud it brings to mind a several dozen new remarks.
From one branch to another, or across the path, he dazzles with flight.
Since I see him every morning, I have rewarded myself the pleasure of thinking that he knows me.
Yet never once has he answered my nod.
He seems, in fact, to find in me a kind of humor, I am so vast, uncertain and strange.
I am the one who comes and goes, and who knows why.
Will I ever understand him?
Certainly he will never understand me, or the world I come from.
For he will never sing for the kingdom of dollars.
For he will never grow pockets in his gray wings.

-Mary Oliver, “Owls and Other Fantasies

I have a nice collection of poetry relating to birds that I like to dip into and share now and again. This one from Mary Oliver isn’t a favorite, but instead one I came across this evening and enjoyed. Of course, I’m always looking for more. Maybe you have a favorite that comes to mind? Share it here in comments or on your own blog if you like.

13 thoughts on “Favorite bird poems”

  1. Ravens

    The snow builds up quietly as each flake falls, the day slips away, then the raven calls.

    I watch them go, in two’s and three’s as they fly to roost in far off trees.

    Ravens scorn the winter, they play and sing; the snow melts quietly and then it’s spring.

    With spring comes courtships and flying skills; rise up the thermals, then a stoop that chills!

    These bold black dancers of wind and sky I watch and wish that I could fly.

    James R. Scott

    Borrowed from “That I could Fly”, A collection of Bird Song, written by James R. Scott D.V.M. Founder of The Bird Treatment and Learning Center, Anchorage, Alaska.

  2. Perhaps it’s hideously arrogant but . . . so be it. Here is one of my poems.


    The raven calls
    His great wings flapping
    up silent streets

    I loved the Raven poem above, too. Fantastic!

  3. Laura, did you take that catbird photo? I love how the bird shows up so nicely against the misty green background. The poem describes the catbirds in my yard too. I loved this post!

  4. Bird

    It was passed from one bird to another,
    the whole gift of the day.
    The day went from flute to flute,
    went dressed in vegetation,
    in flights which opened a tunnel
    through the wind would pass
    to where birds were breaking open
    the dense blue air –
    and there, night came in.

    When I returned from so many journeys,
    I stayed suspended and green
    between sun and geography –
    I saw how wings worked,
    how perfumes are transmitted
    by feathery telegraph,
    and from above I saw the path,
    the springs and the roof tiles,
    the fishermen at their trades,
    the trousers of the foam;
    I saw it all from my green sky.
    I had no more alphabet
    than the swallows in their courses,
    the tiny, shining water
    of the small bird on fire
    which dances out of the pollen.

    By Pablo Neruda

  5. I finally bought a book of Mary Oliver poetry and the catbird poem is in it. I like it but have found the catbirds in my yard to be very vocal and almost sociable so I didn’t really connect to this poem. I’ll try to find another that I read a while back and post it.

  6. This excerpt grabbed me (the whole poem is truly wonderful):

    “Since I see him every morning, I have rewarded myself the pleasure of thinking that he knows me.
    Yet never once has he answered my nod.
    He seems, in fact, to find in me a kind of humor, I am so vast, uncertain and strange.”

    Thanks, Laura. Mary Oliver is growing on me.

  7. What a beautiful photo Laura. I have a simple little poem that was written by a Catholic saint..it’s simplistic but I love it.

    God of tiny tender things
    a Valentine
    a bird that sings
    God of Bramble bush
    and thorn
    God of tree limb unadorned
    Paint the barren, gray and drear
    Then leave a promise
    ever near…~

  8. We had a pair of catbirds in our back yard until April here in South Florida. They were there for about 6 weeks, and we enjoyed them every day as they flitted through the bushes. One day, they just weren’t there – they went North to you, it seems. We look forward to them returning next season!

  9. “There once was a man from Nantucket…”
    Wait, that one isn’t about birds.

    My favorite, about raptors, of course:
    “The Eagle”

    He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ringed with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls. ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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