birds in the sky

Birding and Poetry: Let Your Poems Soar

You slowly open your door and gingerly step outside, quietly approaching your backyard birds congregating at a feeder. You snap a few photos, smile at your work, and listen: a raucous chorus of chirps, cries, and yells fills the air around you. The expansive sky is periodically dotted with flying blue jays, cardinals, and crows. Nature is everywhere.


Since the pandemic began, birding, the simple act of observing birds, has increased in popularity, largely due to people spending more time outdoors. This practice is also incredibly healing. Research shows that, for many people, simply being in the presence of birds can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Depending on your access challenges, maybe watching birds makes you feel more grounded. For others, listening to calls might deepen an emotional connection to nature. Rolling or walking on trails and searching for elusive birds, inspires calmness, joy, and creativity.


Birders often find ways to incorporate the activity into other passions, such as through illustration or photography, and poetry should be no exception. Since many poets draw inspiration from the natural world, combining birding with your poetry craft serves as a means of both practicing self-care and gathering material for your poetry. 


Take inspiration from iconic poems.


It’s no wonder these extraordinary, diverse creatures have inspired beautifully written, iconic poetry. From Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” to Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”, birds symbolize strength, freedom, and beauty. Analyzing these poems can help you craft effective metaphors and improve your creative storytelling.


Choose a “sit spot” and write about the birds you observe.


Birders will typically find a place where birds tend to live or fly through and wait to observe them, i.e., a “sit spot.” If your home has a backyard, this is a good place to start. Spend roughly a half-hour a day outside, observing the birds in your immediate environment. Record your observations and insights, creatively interpreting how the birds behave and interact with each other. Consider writing about how people often overlook the beauty of everyday, commonplace facets of nature, such as birds living in your own backyard.


Join a local birding group.


Research birding groups where you live, and attend an outing. Finding a birding community can help you connect with others and expand your knowledge of birds. Learning about bird species, population numbers, behaviors, and habitats can provide inspiration for bird-centric poems. From local Feminist Bird Club to National Audubon Society chapters, join an organization that works for you!


Explore different themes.


How can you compare a bird’s life to your own experiences? How do flocks remind you of familial or community bonds, for example? In your poetry, how can you celebrate the biodiversity among birds, using this characteristic as a metaphor for our society? Furthermore, in what ways can you creatively write about endangered species, bringing attention to their plight? The possibilities are endless! 


Whether you’re a birder searching for a creative outlet or a poet in need of inspiration, these two practices are the perfect pair.