People bird-watch as a joyful hobby—to connect with nature, listen to the variety of a bird’s song, and observe their patterns and colors.
People who bird-watch are referred to as bird-watchers or twitchers. When I watch for birds, I refer to myself as a twitcher minus the “t,” a witcher (bird witch)!
As a subtle energy medicine practitioner and intuitive mentor, who spends every day encouraging others to embodiment, I see every interaction I have with nature as not only a connection to Earth, but a connection to the greater whole, in which birds play an active part.
My bird symbolism journey started in the summer of 2000 before I left for college, also the last summer I spent with my maternal grandmother. She had not been well and chose to have a risky surgery, which she was aware she might not wake from. We had a lovely, candid, and even somewhat humorous conversation about the possibility of her crossing over and how she would send messages if possible.
At the time, I was young in my intuitive willingness, so I made her promise not to appear in her human form. My 20-year-old self would have been scared to see a “ghost!”
My grandma loved owls and had owl figurines displayed throughout her home. It made perfect sense that she said, if possible, she would send a message in the form of an owl. Appreciating the mystery, needs, and lifestyle of owls, we agreed on a bird, but she promised, when possible, she would send a hello through an owl.
She did pass away a few months later from the surgery, but she kept her promise.
Her ring was passed down to me, and the day of my first marriage, when I put the silver band on for the first time, a seagull came and sat with me. The bird stayed at the whole reception, squawked during the ceremony, and even found her way in the wedding pictures.
A short year later, I divorced. I found myself talking to her, yearning for her compassion and love. Mid-conversation, a barn owl appeared, piercing me with an overwhelming deep gaze. My body chilled, and I knew everything was going to be okay, and it was.
October 2015, owls kept appearing to me. On the afternoon of October 21, 2015, I sat doing work at my kitchen table. An owl swooped down and sat on a tree branch right outside. It sat staring at me through the window for 30 minutes. I kept sensing Grandma’s ring on my finger, and my thumb kept extending to touch it, but nothing was there. Several hours later, my now-husband proposed.
I have always loved the owl for the simple reason they remind me of my grandma. Do I think every bird or owl is my actual grandma? No. But I believe her subtle energy body unites and connects to nature to send hellos from heaven.
I have heard many people share the belief that when we see a particular bird, it’s a heaven-sent message of love. So it goes, “Cardinals/Owls/Robins appear when a loved one is near.”
Either way, nature has a way to connect us to thought, reflection, and the natural flow of life. The in and out motion of the ocean tide demonstrates life’s ebb and flow, and the strong oak tree helps us understand it can take time to grow strong. And birds, birds bring messages and guidance we may not always notice.
Following are four birds who have inspired me to fly higher and the message they share:
Cardinals are known to represent dating, devotion, love, and comfort. Many use the adage I mention above, “Cardinals appear when angels are near,” believing the beautiful red bird sends hellos from heaven. Cardinals are known to defend their territory and fight for what is right, reminding us to do the same.
I moved to the midwest (Missouri) in 2014, a year after the Black Lives Matter movement began, as did my journey in allyship. Before that time, I didn’t connect with the cardinal much; however, I was in awe of their beautiful bright red color. Their color comes from a natural chemical compound involving melanin, which gives our skin, hair, and eyes colors and gives cardinals black, brown, and buff hues.
From my experience and perspective, the cardinal encourages us to look at color, to acknowledge the journey, and to transmute the force known as racism. For me, they also share the following messages:
>> be unique, unafraid, and unapologetic to stand out
>> the situation is safe
>> assess pride
>> do activities to renew energy
>> stay focused on love and devote your attention to what matters
My opening story sums up the whisper of the owl from my perspective. In addition, owls are also symbolic of time, rebirth, and transition. In Feng Shui, owls are seen as supporting health, protection against lower energies, and seekers of truth. In Ancient Greece, owls symbolize foresight and wealth, while in Europe, they are said to represent clairvoyance, change, and detachment. In other parts of the world, owls are believed to be a negative omen and bring the message of death.
One universal message is owls symbolize wisdom and learning. When an owl appears in our lives, we can all benefit by stopping and listening. Other messages the owl may bring are as follows:
>> study clairvoyance
>> study something new
>> release old thoughts and ways of thinking
>> a new phase is beginning, an old one must shed
>> release old habits or an old phase
The name “robin” means “bright fame, honor, shining glory, shining one.” Robins also represent new life. For these reasons, they are known to show up when people want to be known or seen.
For example, my friend and fellow Elephant Journal writer, Rachel Nixon, shared that her family believes, “Robins appear when a loved one is near.” When a robin shows up, they are reminded of her grandma and see the bird as a hello from heaven.
We share this symbolism, as after my uncle passed away, my husband and I not only found a robin’s nest in the front porch chandelier, but there is a robin who continues to visit us in the backyard. We always think of my uncle and say hello back.
In some cultures, the robin symbolizes hope, renewal, and rebirth. The robin is also known to represent new beginnings, new projects, and a sign of good luck. From a characteristic standpoint, robins run, then stop, then repeat, reminding us to pace ourselves! They are also omnivorous animals who feed on both plants and animals and bring a message to balance our diets.
For me, the robin has shown up at times with the following symbolism:
>> follow the song in the heart
>> focus on joy and enjoy life more
>> new beginnings
>> take time to get clear
>> move the body
>> new cycle of life
For my 41st birthday weekend, my husband surprised me with a getaway to a cozy nature cottage with the most serene balcony overlooking the Missouri River. Each morning of our stay, I was serenaded to the sound of birds singing…and knocking and clucking! Two woodpeckers were in the tree right outside.
No coincidence—woodpeckers have been around us at home as well, pecking at the trees and even the rooftops around us! While the experience is still unfolding for me, my heart knows their message is telling me opportunity is knocking and to say yes when called. I did, and I will continue to. I recently took a huge leap I am confident will provide opportunities and open doors.
In many cultures, the woodpecker symbolizes luck, prosperity, and spiritual healing. Some consider the woodpecker to represent hard work, perseverance, strength, opportunity, resilience, kindness, and determination. From a scientific standpoint, a woodpecker’s brain is surrounded by thick, platelike spongy bone, which sends a subtle message to take care of our brain and nervous system.
In my world, woodpeckers have shown up at times with the following symbolism:
>> never give up, keep going
>> rise to the occasion
>> dead energy (like a dead tree) can be valuable
>> be actionable to attract what you want
>> use different forms of communication
>> continue to make progress, and exercise patience
When we bird watch or embrace in witcher-ship as I say, there is always the possibility of a loved one or ancestor saying hello. Or perhaps, it’s a mystical little nudge.
How do we know? We trust ourselves. If we think there may be a message, even if only for a moment, there is.
I would love to hear what birds appear to you and the messages they bring. Please feel welcome to share here in the comments below, or visit me on Facebook or Instagram and share your story and experiences there!
Many loving witcher blessings to you!
The owl who sat with me: