There are a few species of bluebirds throughout North America, but they’re all easily identifiable. Their blue feathers are so bright that many people find it hard not to feel happy when they see them.
But bluebirds aren’t just a symbol of happiness. They have several meanings in many different cultures, from Chinese myths to American poetry.
Keep reading to learn seven ideas that bluebirds represent.
1. Bluebirds Symbolize Happiness
The popular phrase “bluebird of happiness” has a long history. French fairy tales from the 1600s used the bluebird as a symbol of joy.
These in turn inspired a French play by Maurice Maeterlinck in 1909. Called “The Blue Bird,” the play uses the phrase as the goal of its protagonists.
After a long journey searching, they realize that no one can cage the “bluebird” – the metaphor for happiness. In the end, they find the bluebird back where they started after they give a gift to an ill neighbor.
The play then inspired “Bluebird of Happiness,” a song popular in 1945. This made the phrase even more popular. The bluebird is now synonymous with happiness.
2. They Represent Hope
The bluebird also has connections to the more specific feeling of hope. In some cases, this comes from the bluebird appearing after a long winter, bringing light after a season of darkness.
A general used the bluebird as a metaphor for hope during the Russian civil war. In 1918, his troops got stuck in an open, frozen land. He described their “Ice March” to safety as going “in search of the bluebird.”
Of course, they weren’t literally looking for a bluebird. Instead, the general was invoking the bird’s image as hope for survival.
3. Bluebirds Are A Sign Of Springtime
While the spring arrival of a bluebird is often a metaphor for hope, it’s also very literal. Henry David Thoreau wrote about the bluebird as a “harbinger of serene and warm weather.”
In the U.S., Eastern bluebirds in the northeast fly south for the winter. Residents know the weather is warming when they see the bluebirds begin to come back.
The Iroquois people also use the bluebird as a symbol of spring. In one myth about the stars, Ursa Major depicts a mighty hunter. In order to find his love, he took over the body of a bluebird.
His love took it as a sign that spring had come and cried out in joy. Her excited cry let the bluebird, her love in disguise, find her.
All of these instances tie the bluebird with other figurative meanings, of course. But those meanings are also explicitly tied to the bluebird’s relationship to springtime.
4. Bluebirds Represent Spiritual Messages
Back to more metaphorical meanings, the Chinese view the bluebird as a messenger from beyond. It’s a representative of Xiwangmu, or “Queen Mother of the West.”
She is a mountain goddess that uses bluebirds to hunt for her. She also uses three bluebirds as messengers to the mortal world.
Bluebirds are also messengers between the spiritual and physical worlds in Daoist mythology. They can reach the spiritual plane when humans have too much attachment to the material world.
5. Bluebirds Are Symbols Of The Dawn
Native Americans have other interpretations of the bluebird in their traditions. The Navajo use elaborate songs in their rites, one of which features the bluebird.
The Navajo practice the “Night Chant,” which is a kind of healing ceremony. The entire ritual takes days, beginning at sunset and ending at the sunrise of the ninth day.
In order to welcome that sunrise, they have a song or chant that invokes the “dola,” or bluebird. The bird’s calls are a sign that morning is coming, and the nine-day Night Chant ceremony is ending.
6. They Represent Physical Beauty
“The Bluebird And The Coyote” is a traditional tale among the indigenous Pima people. It’s a sort of myth that explains how both the bluebird and the coyote got their colors.
In the story, the bluebird was once an ugly bird with drab feathers. But after it sang and swam in a certain lake, it lost its bland feathers and grew blue ones.
The bluebird’s new beauty inspired the coyote to also swim in the lake, turning its fur blue. But the new blue coloring distracted the coyote too much. It tripped into the dirt and forever became the color of dust.
To the Pima, the bluebird is a symbol of great beauty.
7. Bluebirds Are Symbols Of Transformation
The Pima story of the bluebird is also one of transformation.
Both the bluebird and the coyote desire to change into better versions of themselves. But the bluebird is the more successful of the two.
It manages to not only change its appearance but also keep the change as a permanent part of itself.
Like other cultures, the bluebird’s Pima change is one of hope and perseverance. So, it stands for positive change in one’s life.
Bluebirds are pretty little birds that can brighten up anyone’s day. But beyond their physical appearance, they can also hold a deeper meaning for some people. Whether they inspire hope or a message from beyond, bluebirds are much more than they appear.