I can always tell that the seasons are changing by the way the birds behave. The other day, while walking my dog in the yard, I saw the trees full of thousands of blackbirds. This has always been exciting to me – how they grow so bold when in such large numbers, how their calls fill the air with a raucous, yet beautiful, noise, how they lift off and resettle in hordes, wheeling across the sky as if connected by invisible cords.
Blackbirds, especially in large flocks, have often been considered bad portent, usually associated with death. In this post, we will see how the awesome sight of a flock of blackbirds means so much more than this.
What are Blackbirds?
The term “blackbird” is a generic term for any of several species of birds, most of which congregate in large flocks, often in mixed species groups. Each continent has its own assortment of types of blackbirds. Here, in New England, common grackles, red-winged blackbirds, crows, and non-native European starlings gather together in groups called murmurations, sometimes numbering in the millions, according to the Audubon Society.
Not all blackbird species ima murmuration are truly migratory. Migratory, partially migratory, and permanent residents alike, will gather together and move in unison to feeding areas, evening roosts, and fresh water. Once, when I lived in Ohio during graduate school, there was even an escaped common parakeet associated with a flock of blackbirds that used to feed in my backyard!
The Symbolism of a Blackbird Flock
Many lean on the raven’s symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem as a harbinger of death and foreboding. Jessica at Symbolism and Metaphor lists several meanings for the sudden visitation of a large group of blackbirds to where you work or live.
1. Sudden Changes
Like the change of seasons that causes the birds to congregate, a flock of blackbirds can mean a sudden transformation or change in your life – positively! As blackbirds are often seen as stepping easily through the veil between this world and the spirit realm, this flock can be seen as a show of spiritual support for you as you prepare for big changes.
As they can send a message of change from the spirit world, a flock of blackbirds can also convey the need to rest, relax, recuperate and recover. I almost always feel cheered by the awe-inspiring presence of thousands of birds around me – how could one not? If you see such a sight, ask yourself, “How am I feeling? Am I taking care of myself? Could I do better at this?”
One reason that blackbirds mass together is for mutual protection from predators. Many of us have seen small blackbirds attacking a hawk or eagle en masse. A flock of blackbirds can be a spiritual protection message for you and your loved ones. Look at your inner circle and notice those “angels” around you. Lean on them!
4. A Reminder that Life is Fragile
While a traditional interpretation of a flock of blackbirds is that of a dark omen of impending death, another view is a reminder that we need to be mindful and recognize the everyday blessings that often go unnoticed in the busyness of our lives. Rather than inciting fear and worry, let these amazing sights refocus your life on the joy of today.
Most blackbird species are highly adaptable and can prosper as easily in a city as they can in rural areas. A flock of blackbirds might be a glorious reminder that you need to be open to change and new experiences and that happiness depends on your willingness to be adventurous and available for the novel.
Emily Dickenson wrote that “forever is composed of nows” (“Forever – is Composed of Nows,” 1914). The next time you see a huge flock of blackbirds, stop and take a moment to be grateful for the now that you are in. Ask the Universe for help in accepting new things, making the most of the time, talent and treasure you have been given and thank the Divine for the reminder to reflect and self-care.
Peace and love to you…