1. Religion & Spirituality

Birds as Divine Messengers: Animal Angels, Spirit Guides and Totems

How God May Send Messages to You Through Birds


The angel of the birds by Franz Dvorak, 1910.
Public Domain

As the only creature God made who takes flight, birds have inspired human beings throughout history with their ability to rise above the Earth. Something about birds soaring through the air stirs our souls, motivating us to rise above our earthly concerns and learn more about a greater world beyond our Earth: the spiritual realm. Birds and angels share a special bond, as well, since both symbolize the beauty of spiritual growth -– and angels sometimes even choose to appear with wings, like birds.

People sometimes see birds appear before them to deliver some type of spiritual messages. They may encounter angels manifesting in the form of a bird, see images of a beloved bird who has died and now they believe is acting as a spirit guide to them, or catch sight of bird images that symbolize something God wants to communicate to them (known as animal totems). Or, they may receive extraordinary inspiration from God simply through their ordinary interactions with the birds in their lives.

If you're open to receiving spiritual messages through birds, here's how God may use them to send messages to you:

Angels Appearing as Birds

Angels are associated with birds more than any other type of animal, because angels who appear to humans in their heavenly glory sometimes feature wings. Wings symbolize both the spiritual covering of God's care for people and the freedom and empowerment people gain from spiritual growth. Sometimes, angels may even appear in the physical form of earthly birds, if doing so can help them best convey the messages God has given them to deliver to people.

In his book A Small Book of Angels, Eugene Stiles writes: "As with angels, some birds are symbols of uplift and peace (the dove, the eagle) while others function much as the Angel of Death (vulture, raven). ... Surely it is no coincidence that in fulfilling many of the tasks once given to simple birds, angels were perceived to be winged: there seems to be a compulsion to link angels with wings, which, by their very nature, have to do with flight, with freedom and aspiration. ... So we see that the angel is a complex image, a composite of bird, goddess, god, and human. Bringers of messages, comforters, protectors, healers, and guides, they have existed throughout time immemorial to provide solace and inspiration to women and men everywhere."

Angels and birds are symbolically similar, writes Juan Eduardo Cirlot in his book A Dictionary of Symbols: "Generally speaking, birds, like angels, are symbols of thought, of imagination and of the swiftness of spiritual processes and relationships. They pertain to the element of air and ... they denote 'height' and, consequently, 'loftiness' of spirit."

Birds and angels exist in "spiritual harmony," writes Claire Nahmad in her book Angel Messages: The Oracle of the Birds. Birds may actually deliver angelic messages through the songs they sing, she writes: "... it is believed that an intimate link exists between birdsong and the angels: a connecting system of transcendent weaving golden filaments that surpasses the common conception of alchemy to make the angelic Language of the Birds the supreme alchemical ideation that connects heaven and Earth. The magical Milky Way, eternally associated with winged angels and home-going souls, is called in Finland ‘the Birds’ Way.’ It is the mysterious stairway to the spiritual worlds, trodden by shamans and mystics but available to all, if we are taught how to listen to birdsong and recognize the angelic messages that birds deliver to us."

Your guardian angel can help you seek spiritual guidance through a particular bird whose appearance seems like an omen to you, Nahmad suggests: "Ask your guardian angel to link your soul with the soul of the bird, and then ask for the help that the augury [omen] specifies and that you would like to receive. Rest a little while in meditation. ... Ask your angel to enfold you in its wings, seal your crown, forehead, heart, and solar plexus centers with a cross of light within a ring of light, and gently emerge from your meditation. Within a short time, perhaps an hour, perhaps a day, perhaps a week, you will receive a response and guidance will begin to flow to you as if from your own thoughts. It is as well to thank the bird and your angel after you have finished your inner communion."

Departed Birds Who Are Now Spirit Guides

Sometimes, in a dream or vision, you may see an image of a bird with whom you've shared a special bond but has since flown out of your life. When this happens, God could be delivering a message to you through the bird as a spirit guide.

Arin Murphy-Hiscock writes in her book Birds - A Spiritual Field Guide: Explore the Symbology and Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers that "birds can be a rich spiritual resource, both as guides and inspiration. Constructing your own relationship with such a beautiful, omnipresent aspect of the natural world is a rewarding undertaking, one that can enhance your own connection to the world around you as well as allowing you a glimpse into your own soul."

People who were close to you before they died may send you a comforting message through a bird spirit guide, writes Andrea Wansbury in her book Birds: Divine Messengers: Transform Your Life With Their Guidance and Wisdom: "... birds will act as mediators between the departed soul and the people left on earth. ... People in spirit use many means to let us know they are fine, and sending the message via the bird kingdom is just one way."

Birds as Symbolic Animal Totems

Another way that God may deliver a spiritual message to you through birds is by showing you a bird that symbolizes something God wants to communicate to you. A symbolic image of a bird (either a physical bird that you encounter, or the spiritual image of one) is called a totem.

"Is there a bird that you have been drawn to for most of your life, or a bird that has popped up repeatedly?" asks Murphy-Hiscock in Birds - A Spiritual Field Guide. "... This bird may be a personal totem, representing and reflecting part of your spirit. Read about the bird; explore its symbolism...".

In general, birds symbolize several key aspects of spirituality, writes Lesley Morrison in her book The Healing Wisdom of Birds: An Everyday Guide to Their Spiritual Songs & Symbolism: "Not only symbols of freedom, expansiveness, and the flight of the spirit, birds are given high regard cross-culturally for their keen vision."

Specific kinds of birds also convey different, distinct symbolic messages. Wansbury writes in Birds: Divine Messengers of "... the dove bringing its message of peace, the eagle bringing its message of power, and the swan with its message of transformation...".

Birds as Inspiration in Your Everyday Life

Finally, God may send you spiritual messages simply through your daily interaction with birds.

"Throughout history, birds have been a source of inspiration in helping humans to understand the physical and spiritual implications of living life on earth," writes Wansbury in Birds: Divine Messengers. "Birds symbolize the spiritual nature of man by reflecting, among other things, our spiritual aspirations, our intuitive abilities, and our ability to rise above our fears and limitations; in the process, they teach us Divine principles."

Morrison writes in The Healing Wisdom of Birds: "Only the bird can fly above and beyond the earthly realm, thus reaching other planes of existence with effortless grace and purpose. Birds are representatives of spiritual attainment...".

If you're actively seeking to learn from your encounters with birds, you may learn something from every bird that crosses your path. Wansbury writes in Birds: Divine Messengers: "Each bird acts as a messenger for God by bringing to us its own individual message at a time when we most need to hear guidance. These messages are words of wisdom and advice, and they can help us to identify talents we are not using, or the negative beliefs and thought patterns that are holding us back. Once these messages are understood and applied to our lives, they can be a valuable source of direction as we progress on our spiritual journeys."

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.