It’s for the Birds – Pondering Bird Idioms

It’s for the birds. Where did that phrase come from? Why is it something we consider worthless to birds? According to the almighty internet, birds generally eat seed that isn’t worth much, so we think something that isn’t worth much is considered “for the birds.”

Have you ever called someone a bird brain? A bird brain is a person considered stupid or to have a short attention span. The birds flutter from here to there and from there and from there and from there. Whether birds are stupid is up for debate. Anatomically, a bird has a relatively large brain compared to the size of its head. How well that brain works, I’m not so sure.

She eats like a bird. Have you ever been told that? The meaning of that statement is that she doesn’t eat much and just pecks at her food. The birds peck a lot, but from my observation, they eat a lot. If the bird poop on my property is any indication, she’s doing well in the feeding and digestion departments. I’ve read that birds actually eat quite a bit for their body size.

How do I know that? A little bird told me. We use that saying when a secret source tells us something about another person. The origin of that phrase could have come from a bible verse in Ecclesiastes about guarding your words because a bird in the sky might carry your words to the king or something. Some say a little bird told me it refers to homing pigeons that were used to deliver messages in the past.

It’s interesting that we don’t think much about the idioms we use. We just accept them, just like we accept the birds and our fantasy about them. Certainly many of us have wanted to be free as a bird. And all of us, at one time or another, have been naked as a jay.

Why a jay? Bluejays are born with very little down, so that could be an assumption. Most birds are born equal, as naked as a bird works that way. Blue Jays when mature are quite lovely and do not appear naked. Not sure what a naked bird looks like though. None of the birds in my garden wear clothes.

What about the blue bird of happiness? A song written in 1934 has given us that icon, but bluebirds have been revered for years before that. Native American legends refer to bluebirds as a spirit associated with the rising sun. “Bluebirds fly over rainbows, why oh why can’t I?” sings Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.

Birds of a feather flock together. We understand that species stay together, and we say that people who have similar traits or similar interests often choose to spend time together. Bird lovers, for example.

We all know that the early bird gets the worm. We call early risers early risers and those who like to stay up late are considered night owls. The birds rise at dawn, pecking at insects, seeds, and maybe that famous worm. We woke up to the tweets and songs of the birds.

You may be wondering why I don’t explain how to flip the bird. You can search for that yourself. I started today with the plan of simply writing about my fascination with the birds in my garden, and how I watch them from my sun room, almost from a bird’s eye view.

I got distracted by these idioms and wanted to share them with you. Now my column space is full. Maybe you could say that I just killed two birds with one stone.

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