The Dead Birds

Comments 41
She lies dead on my back deck. This pretty female cardinal. Perhaps a sign of things to come. But, what?
I found her dead on my back deck. This pretty female cardinal. Perhaps a sign of things to come. But, what? Photo by: Me

I have never stumbled on a dead body even though there are more than seven billion people on the planet.

But I’ve never thought that was strange.

We don’t know how many birds exist. Their vast numbers and migratory habits and lack of census data cooperation make it impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure. Experts estimate between 100-400 billion. (Not a typo. That’s how varied the estimates are.)

Unlike people, most birds live outside. In the trees. Flying the friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly skies.

Small birds don’t live long. Typically just two or three years if they die of old age or “natural causes.”

Statistically, about 150,000 people die daily.

If we extrapolate that number out to birds, based on the bird-to-human ratio, we can roughly estimate that about four million birds die every day.

Yet, we almost never see dead ones.

They perch on our houses. In our trees. They shit on our cars and serenade us throughout the day in almost every hospitable nook of our world.

But still, dead birds are rare.

Which is why some people find meaning in seeing them.

I found a dead female cardinal on my deck yesterday. Just as you see her in the photo above.

I don’t really believe in signs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t signs. I’m wrong about all kinds of things. The thing I’ve become most sure of as I’ve aged is that I don’t really know or understand anything.

I try to ask more questions and make fewer definitive statements.

What does it mean to find a dead bird?

Maybe nothing.

Maybe something.

No one can know for sure.

Still. I wondered what people believed it to mean.

But, I’m Not…

“So keep on walkin’ that road and I’ll follow
Keep on callin’ my name I’ll be there
And if a mirror should break it’s easy to take
Cause deep down I know that you care
I’m not superstitious.” 
– Europe

Those lyrics have almost no bearing on anything I’m thinking about, but I’ve been singing them in my head all morning and if you’re someone who knows the song, I wanted it to be stuck in your head, too.

Only the last line matters. I’m not superstitious.

Not really.

I don’t intentionally seek out ladders to walk under. I do note when black cats cross my path. Or when Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders brave a green bike. Or when people aren’t afraid to use yellow lighters.

I’m not afraid of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

I’ve seen no direct evidence that I should be superstitious. But I also see no reason to needlessly “tempt fate.”

I don’t pretend to know anything at all. Not anymore.

But maybe finding dead birds does mean something. Especially one as beautiful as this.

A New Life

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

A quick Google search questioning what it means to find a dead bird yielded many responses. The consensus among the New-Agey community seems to be the following, which I read here. It succinctly sums up what I kept seeing:

“If you’ve seen a dead bird, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually, death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death. Just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up. Perhaps you are struggling to find a job. This dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.”

I don’t really believe things like that.

But I don’t know.

I don’t think finding a dead bird is necessarily a sign that things are turning.

But I don’t think it matters.

I think it can mean whatever we want it to mean. I think sometimes—not always, but sometimes—we can create truth.

Because it’s spring.

Because the sky is blue.

Because the sun shines.

Because the air is warm.

Because my favorite tree is going to flower soon.

Because we see beauty.

Because we choose hope.

Because the worst thing that ever happened to us, happened.

And we’re still alive.

Or maybe we died. And came back to life.

Either way, there’s a dead bird outside my door.

A dead bird. Reminding us to breathe.

A lifeless bird. Compelling us to live.

A beautiful creature. Encouraging us to fly.


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41 thoughts on “The Dead Birds”

  1. you don’t always have to believe to find a little truth in something you’re not so sure about. I probably wouldn’t have given a dead bird much thought, i probably would not have stopped to take a photo. Very likely i would have said ‘eeeuw’ and given the bird a wide berth while shouting at my dad to come and get rid of it.

    1. I’m trying to slow down and notice the little things. 🙂

      Hope you’re well! Thank you for the note.

      1. that’s always good. i sometimes get distracted by the strangest little things.. like i’d find myself staring at a buddle of water and how a building reflects in it. Another time, i was completely gobsmacked by the fact that i could read!!! there’s so many things we take for granted you know

  2. OK, this is just TOO weird! I just heard a clunk on the kitchen window. Sure enough, a wee goldfinch lay dead on the deck outside. The daylight must be different this time of year and the poor things are confusing the reflection in the glass as safety. It’s the third one this week. So interpret that if you like, LOL!

    I don’t go too deeply into meanings of these unusual events, but if they trigger a response, then perhaps that response is worth some investigation, playing with it, like you did here. Death = change = new life = hope. Works for me.

    1. Works for me too, Maggie. 🙂

      RIP, Trés Finches.

      I knew someone would have a story like this. I just didn’t think it would be so present-tense.

  3. completelyinthedark

    Spooky reading this now, today. On the way in to my PT gig nearly ran into the ex, pulling out of her parking space. First I’d seen her since fall. No chance to chat, much less exchange waves, but BOOM, there she be. As real as a dead bird. 😉

      1. completelyinthedark

        Actually wouldn’t have minded a chance to catch up with her. Been thinking generous and kind thoughts about her. She’s just a person, like all of us, trying to make her way toward better things. 🙂

    1. I knew I was going to write this when I read your previous comment, which I WILL get to. Promise. There was just a lot there, and it will be easier later.

      I was smiling while reading that, earlier.

      Thank you for reading, and caring, and making requests. Hopefully, we’ll tackle the others.

  4. I love that you found a dead bird and immediately hit up Google! That was awesome man! And I love that what we think is going to be an awful omen turns out to be the exact opposite. It’s amazing how much life is like that, sometimes what we think is just as awful as awful can get, ends up being okay and putting us in a much better place!

    1. It’s kind of nerdy. But I’m always looking for writing material. This fit the bill. 🙂

      Appreciate your thoughts on all this, Kate. I do think life has a way of getting us to a good place in unexpected ways. As always, I’ll look forward to all of the good things that are coming.

  5. I know this is a serious post, but I find an odd sense of humor in it. As a vet tech at an emergency hospital, I see dead things everyday. When I first started, I used to stare at them thinking they would start moving again, or get creeped out about moving them too quickly or something. Now, I bag them up without a second thought.

    I am one of the people in the world that works hard to put on the illusion that dead things disappear. Just like the morticians that pick up dead people and even the animals that eat all the dead birds before we can stumble upon them. I almost find it a little humors just how hard we work to keep the veil lowered to the general public on something that is so ever present in life. But, because of my profession, dead is dead. Their heart stopped beating. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Try not to get too creeped out by your dead bird 😉 I assure you, if dead birds were bad luck, I would be pretty cursed. And, on a brighter note, dead birds are much easier to bag up than dead Great Danes, so be happy you didn’t find one of those on your back deck this morning 🙂

  6. Poor momma cardinal 🙁 I hate to see dead animals. I would probably be less upset to see a dead person on my back deck than a dead animal. I don’t know why, but I guess I think of animals as being innocent and driven by instinct, doing only what they need to survive. Whereas humans are flawed creatures often driven to their deaths by greed, jealousy, or just downright stupidity. Animals have never given me a reason to dislike them. People on the other hand… 😉

    1. Yeah. I don’t necessarily share your view on the dead-body thing, but I promise I know where you’re coming from. I didn’t like finding her. But it got me thinking at least. I like doing that.

  7. Wow I never knew a dead bird was thought to be a sign of something. At the end of last year there were millions and millions of dead mutton birds on beaches on the east coast of Australia, it was like something out of a movie about the end of the world, there was a dead bird every few metres on the beach, it was creepy!

  8. Your idea of just because I don’t believe or know something doesn’t mean it’s not true or possible reminds me of something I read very early this morning.
    Something James Altucher said “Whenever you think you know something, leave an open box inside your head so other people can put new things in there.”

    Yay for learning new things.

        1. He’s my fave. But you probably have read me say that a dozen times.

          Thank you for checking him out. He’s hilariously honest and thought-provoking.

          1. Yeah I picked up on that.
            I agree based on the very little bit of his stuff I’ve read so far. I’m always interested in finding new things to learn & think about and new perspectives.

  9. I believe in signs although I am not superstitious. (Is that possible? ) I am always looking for “something” to guide me; give me answers. I think you had a big sign land on your deck. A big, but unfortunately, dead sign. Cardinals are also seen as spirits of loved ones that have passed on….hmmm interesting!

  10. I believe in signs. Come on…the “meaning” of seeing a dead bird could have been anything. It meant the end of struggle. That’s pretty profound. Although, you could argue that we see what we want, believe what we want, and I would agree…but I believe we see what we want when we NEED to. I ask for signs…show me something, and when I’m open, I see it. It’s the opening up of our subconscious mind and allowing ourselves to receive the message, even if it’s a song on the radio that you’ve heard 100 times, or a chance meeting, or and unexpected comment. They are all around us…all the time. We aren’t always open to it.
    It’s a like religion…you just need to have a little faith.
    That’s my opinion anyway.

  11. I like to pick and choose my superstitions. 🙂

    your dead bird? HECK YES! I BELIEVE!!!!! (black preacher man voice)

    …and you’re right. it’s down-right CRAZY we don’t see dead birds more. I bet there’s a conspiracy theory out there about what’s happening to birds when they die. . . and I’ll Probably believe it. 😉

  12. Pingback: October 14th, 2015 | Brave Natives

  13. Today as I parked at the court house parts of a bird feel onto my car. First the chest hit my window, then a leg and foot hit my sunroof..what is that all about ?????

    1. ? Whoa.

      Maybe a bird hit an airplane propeller or something and you just happened to be in the landing spot.

      OR maybe some crazy flying rage monster no one knew existed is up there eating birds mid-air and spitting out the tough bits.

      Both seem equally possible!

      Awesome story, though. Thank you for sharing. Definitely the best “dead bird” story I’ve heard.

  14. Lorie L Gates

    I honestly just wanted to know if there is a meaning that today that male cardinal who stayed with us everyday was found at the front door of my house dead??? There is someone very sick living in the house.

  15. I found a dead female cardinal on my back deck this morning and found this post in my search for a meaning. This was so spot on- thank you.

    1. Thanks for taking a moment to share, Dari.

      It feels like a lifetime ago that this happened. But it mattered. I’m glad you found this, and cared.

  16. My husband died almost 9 months ago. A cardinal appeared shortly after he died. I told myself, it was his spirit to give me comfort. Today, I found the cardinal laying on a large stone in my back yard. It takes 9 months to have a baby. To me, this was a sign that this cardinal has moved on since my grief has healed to give solace to someone else who is experiencing a recent loss. As bad as I hated to see this beautiful dead creature, I have to make peace with it and came to this conclusion.

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Matt Fray

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