Birds are some of the world’s most joyful — and colorful — creatures. Across the world and over centuries, different cultures have ascribed spiritual and symbolic meaning to their bright plumage.
Whether you believe in the symbolic significance of birds or just like to admire their dazzling colors, it can be fascinating to learn how past and present cultures view our colorful feathered friends.
Bird Color Meanings and Symbolism
Here are the most common bird colors and what they mean.
Wherever you are in the world, red birds certainly stand out! So it’s no wonder that different cultures across the world believe that a sighting of a red bird comes with great symbolic meaning.
In some Native American cultures, red birds stand for strength, power, and vitality. Red is a strong, high-energy color and also the color of blood, so that association makes sense. Certain Native American cultures also view red birds as spiritual guides who carry blessings to those who ask for them.
That historical meaning may have informed the New Age view of red birds. In some circles, people view red birds as messengers from the afterlife. They believe that if you see a red bird, a loved one who has passed away is watching over you.
Cardinals, some of the most recognizable red birds, also have special spiritual significance in the Christian world. Because male cardinals (like the one pictured above) are bright red, they are associated with the blood of Christ. That makes them symbols of spiritual rebirth and renewal.
Here are some different types of red birds you might see in the wild:
- Scarlet tanagers
- Vermilion flycatchers
- Scarlet macaws
- Pine grosbeaks
In color psychology, orange is associated with optimism, creativity, cheerfulness, energy, and enthusiasm. And in several different cultures, the symbolic meaning of orange birds parallels those meanings.
Some Native American tribes, including the Cherokee, view orange birds as signs of good things to come. Others (including the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo), consider these birds to be spirit guides bringing joy and abundance.
Orange birds also appear in Celtic mythology, often as guides that help the dead return to the world of the living. And in Christian tradition, these birds are often associated with the Holy Spirit — that’s because their coloration is reminiscent of fire, a common symbol for the Holy Spirit.
However, orange birds don’t just have special significance in the Western world. In many Eastern cultures, they are symbols of good luck. That may be because orange is a color of celebration and good luck in Chinese culture — tangerines and oranges are some of the traditional foods of the Chinese New Year.
Here are a few species of orange birds you might be familiar with:
- Altamira orioles (shown above) and other oriole species
- Guianan cocks-of-the-rock
- Eurasian bullfinches
- Venezuelan troupials
- Orange fruit-doves
In many, if not most, cultures, yellow is a color connected to happiness and optimism. So it’s no wonder that in many cultures, yellow birds have come to stand for happiness, prosperity, and good luck. That’s the primary meaning of the yellow bird in Celtic myth, some African cultures, and in many Native American cultures.
In the Far East, yellow birds have an impressive range of symbolic meanings. If you see one, it may be a sign of prosperity, good luck, friendship, love, happiness, or all of the above.
On a more general level, yellow birds may symbolize creativity. In the world of color psychology, yellow’s vibrance connects it to creative energy. So if you find yourself seeing yellow birds, it may be a sign that you’ll soon begin a creative project.
Here are some of the many species of beautiful yellow birds:
- Silver-throated tanagers (pictured)
- American goldfinches
- Eurasian gold orioles
- Mexican yellow grosbeaks
- Golden parakeets
Green is a color that makes us think of spring and new beginnings. So it’s no wonder that in Celtic mythology and many Native American cultures, green birds are often connected to fresh starts and renewal. If you see a green bird, it may be a reminder that you need to shed old habits and move into a new, healthier chapter of your life.
If we look to the chakras, we can also spot another potential meaning of the green bird. Green is the color of the heart chakra, which is a center of energy located at the heart. This is a chakra connected to spiritual growth, compassion, and love. So if you see a green bird, it might be an indicator that new personal growth is on the horizon.
Here are some of the most stunning green birds around the world:
- Blue-naped chlorophonias (pictured)
- Puerto Rican todys
- Green broadbills
- Green honeycreepers
- Green catbirds
Blue is a gentle, calming color. Many cultures across the world have associated blue birds with peace and harmony. Others associate them with rebirth and renewal.
One of the best examples of the connection between blue birds and renewal comes from the Pima Native American tribe. The tribe has a legend of how the bluebird got his color. In the legend, the bird originally had a very ugly color. But after bathing in a special lake and willing himself to turn blue, he transformed into the brilliantly-colored bluebird we know today.
In addition to being connected to transformation, the bluebird (the specific type of bird, not blue-colored birds in general) is also connected to happiness and contentment. That connection comes from the bird’s tranquil blue coloring as well as its upbeat, melodious song.
Blue birds can be found all over the world.
Here are some beautiful blue bird species you might see:
- Ultramarine flycatchers (pictured)
- Eastern bluebirds
- Indigo buntings
- Florida scrub-jays
- Cerulean warblers
Purple is a rare color across all of nature, and purple birds are especially uncommon. As a result, there’s not that much out there when it comes to the symbolic meaning of purple birds.
As you’ve seen thus far, most colors of birds have been assigned spiritual or symbolic meanings by multiple cultures. But many parts of the world have no purple birds at all.
That said, the various meanings of purple in color psychology can give us a clue as to what spotting a purple bird might mean. Purple has long been associated with spirituality, partially because it is the color of the crown chakra. The crown chakra is a center of energy located at the top of the head, and it’s thought to govern connection to the spiritual realm.
Purple is also a color commonly connected to wealth and royalty. Long ago, purple dye was rare and expensive, so only the very wealthy could afford purple fabrics. If you see a purple bird, it might be a sign that new wealth is headed your way!
Purple birds may be rare, but you can still see them in some parts of the world.
Here are some beautiful species of purple birds:
- Violet-backed starlings (pictured)
- Purple-breasted cotingas
- Purple grenadiers
- Costa’s hummingbirds
- Varied buntings
A white bird is a beautiful sight, and in many cultures, these birds have rich symbolic meanings. The most famous meaning behind white birds (and more specifically, white doves) is peace. In the Biblical story of Noah’s ark, a white dove returns to the ark with an olive branch, indicating that the flood has ended and peace has settled over the world once again.
In Christian tradition, the white dove is commonly used to represent the Holy Spirit, the third entity in the Holy Trinity. Some cultures also view white birds as being more general symbols of the divine. If you see one, it may be a sign of a blessing from above, or a reminder to stay connected to your spiritual side.
Here are some of the striking white birds of the world:
- Snowy egrets (pictured)
- Trumpeter swans
- Snowy owls
- Rock ptarmigans
- Egyptian vultures
Depending on who you ask, seeing a black bird can mean several different things. Ravens and crows, some of the world’s most recognizable black birds, are often connected to death. That’s because they will eat carrion if given the chance. In Native American cultures, ravens and crows are occasionally associated with death, but they more often represent tricksters in folklore.
In Hinduism, black birds tend to be viewed in a more positive light. The Hindu demigod Garuda (a black bird) carries the god Vishnu on his back. Garuda appears in a range of stories in the Panchatantra, an ancient Indian collection of fables. In most stories, Garuda delivers justice when arrogance, tyranny, or other evil forces appear.
As you can see, black birds have many spiritual meanings, some of which are conflicting. Some traditions embrace this multifaceted view — in Celtic myth, blackbirds were divine messengers who frequently brought good luck and bad omens at the same time.
Black birds are fairly common in many parts of the world.
Here are some interesting species of black birds:
- Greater Antillean grackles (pictured)
- American crows
- Black currawongs
- Great cormorants
- Eurasian jackdaws
Of all the bird colors on the list, brown just might be the most common. After all, if you want to camouflage in the natural world, brown is probably the best color to help you do so.
You might think of brown birds as being dull or boring, especially compared to some of the very bright species on the list. But in the world of color psychology, brown has several very positive meanings. That’s a good thing, as you’re fairly likely to see multiple brown birds on any given day.
Brown is a color associated with both stability and strength. This shade has a grounding quality. If you’re going through a difficult time and see a brown bird, you might take it as a sign to keep going — your strength will ultimately prevail.
Thanks to their earthy coloring, brown birds are often connected to Mother Nature. They also are sometimes linked to the world of the divine. For instance, some people claim that if a brown bird flies into your house, it means that a higher power is watching over you.
You can see brown birds just about anywhere in the world, and there’s no shortage of different species to see!
Here are some of the brown birds you might spot in the wild:
- Common nightingales (pictured)
- Scaly-breasted munias
- Various species of sparrows
- Clay-colored thrushes
- Cedar waxwings
Throughout history, both black and white birds have had multiple spiritual meanings attributed to them. Gray birds sit somewhere in the middle, and they don’t seem to pop up in mythology or spiritual traditions nearly as much.
But as with purple birds, we can take a look at color psychology to see what spotting a gray bird might mean. Gray is the ultimate neutral color, resting between the extremes of black and white. As a result, it may be a sign of balance, calm, and serenity. If you see one, it might be a gentle reminder to strive to find balance in every area of your life.
Gray is also a shade that has long been associated with wisdom. Seeing a gray bird may be a reminder to follow your own wisdom or that of someone else.
It might sound like a dull color, but there are plenty of strikingly colored gray birds in the world.
Here are a few different species of gray birds:
- Crowned cranes (pictured)
- Gray catbirds
- Eurasian blackcaps
- Loggerhead shrikes
- Rock pigeons
Birds of the World: There’s More Than Meets the Eye!
As you can see, birds have a special place in history as well as in the present day. The next time you see one of these distinctively colored creatures, you might think of the uniquely symbolic meaning that’s become attached to it over centuries. Or you might simply want to let its cheerful coloration brighten your day. Either way, be sure to keep your eye out for colorful birds the next time you venture outside!