According to biblical stories, the dove is considered one of the most significant symbols in Christianity, representing the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17).

In the modern age, ancient mythologies are gradually fading, but some characters and symbols have transformed into holiday songs and decorations. For instance, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas,' Northern Cardinals on Christmas cards, and seasonal fabric birds with fun costumes all add to the holiday atmosphere while delivering significant messages that vary across cultures and traditions.

For us bird lovers, it's fun to enjoy the change of seasons. With winter on the horizon, some holiday birds with brilliant colors and adorable appearances brighten the season by visiting backyard feeders. Let's take a closer look at these holiday birds and explore their interesting cultural symbolisms together!

1. Northern Cardinal

Characteristics:
This iconic holiday bird, the Northern Cardinal, is easily recognized by the distinctive crest on its head. Their populations exhibit sexual dimorphism: males sport bright red plumage, while females are brownish with red tinges. Besides their brilliant looks, their conical beaks are perfect for cracking seeds. Known for their clear, whistling songs, the Northern Cardinals are one of the most famous songbirds.

Holiday Symbolism:
In Christianity, the red color symbolizes the blood of Christ and is seen as a reminder of Jesus' sacrifice, which makes them vital for Christmas ornaments.
In Native American traditions, the cardinal is often seen as a messenger from the spirit world.
In general folklore, seeing a cardinal is considered a sign of good luck or a visitor from the spirit world.

Holiday dinner for them: Black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn.

2. American Robin

Characteristics:
These feathered buddies have grayish-brown upper parts and reddish-orange breast, which make them easily recognizable. American Robins are known for their melodious songs and distinctive "cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up" call. They are ground feeders and often found hopping on lawns.

Holiday Symbolism:
Often associated with New Year's Eve, spring and renewal because of robin's role as one of the FIRST birds to lay eggs.

Holiday dinner for them: Mealworms, fruit (such as apple slices, raisins, and berries).

3. European Starling

Characteristics:
European Starlings have iridescent black plumage with speckles, which change seasonally. They are highly social birds and often found in large flocks. Moreover, they are excellent mimics, capable of imitating other birds' songs and even human noises.

Holiday Symbolism:
In some European cultures, starlings are seen as symbols of communication and social connectivity. Therefore, they are considered as symbol of reunion, which is part of the essential meaning for holiday seasons.
Due to their aggressive nature and impact on native species in the Americas, they are sometimes seen as symbols of change and adaptation, which coordinate with the atmosphere of New Year's Eve.

Holiday dinner for them: Suet, mealworms, fruit, seeds.

4. Blue Jay

Characteristics:
Blue Jays are favored for their beautiful bright blue plumage with white and black markings. Additional, they are strickingly intelligent with very complex social behavior. They can also mimic the calls of other birds, including hawks, and certainly, their 'greatest hits' are the loud, jay-jay call.

Holiday Symbolism:
Blue Jay embodies the spirit of clarity and truth in Native American culture, so they are often seen as one of the symbols of Thanksgiving. And in some folklore, they are considered noisy tricksters, yet also symbols of persistence and determination.

Holiday dinner for them: Peanuts (shelled and unshelled), sunflower seeds, suet, corn. 

5. House Finch

Characteristics:
Male House Finch have bright red, orange, or yellow plumage on the head and chest, while females are brown and streaked. House Finch can adapt to a variety of environments, so that we can find them in urban areas. They have a cheerful, warbling song, and it is always joyful to meet them at grassland over the streets corners.

Holiday Symbolism:
In some cultures, seeing a house finch is believed to bring happiness and good fortune. They are often associated with joy and positivity due to their bright colors and cheerful songs. So we can find them in holiday decorations even though they do not have legendary tales like cardinals or doves.

Holiday dinner for them: Black-oil sunflower seeds, nyjer (thistle) seeds, millet.

6. Dark-eyed Junco

Characteristics:
Dark-eyed Juncos are often slate-colored or dark brown with a white belly. As one of the song birds, they are known for their sweet, thrilling songs. Dark-eyed Juncos like hopping on the ground, flicking their tails to reveal white outer feathers.

Holiday Symbolism:
Dark-eyed Junco has a cute nickname: snowbird, due to their puffy feathers in winter. Since its appearance is favored by people, it can be seen on many greeting cards for holiday seasons.
In some cultures, they are also seen as symbols of simplicity and satisfaction.

Holiday dinner for them: Millet, cracked corn, sunflower seeds.

7. Mourning Dove


Characteristics:
Mourning doves have soft grayish-brown plumage with a distinctive black spot on their wings. Since they are often seen in pairs, people consider them symbolizing love and peace. They are named for their soft, mournful cooing call.

Holiday Symbolism:
As we talked above, in Christianity, the dove represents the Holy Spirit and is often associated with the soul and eternal life. The dove holds a prominent place in Easter celebrations, especially in church decorations and processions. For instance, in Italy, a traditional dove-shaped cake known as "Colomba Pasquale" is widely welcomed in Easter.
In various cultures, doves are regarded as symbols of peace, hope and love. Additional, the mourning dove's call is seen as a reminder of the presence of the passed away loved ones.

Holiday dinner for them: Millet, cracked corn, sunflower seeds.

In general, birds are often seen as symbols of hope and the renewal of life, especially during the bleak winter months. Many cultures believe birds can carry messages from the spirit world or from loved ones who have passed on. The holiday season also signifies the start of the new year, and seeing certain birds at this time, like cardinals and robins, is often considered a sign of good luck and positive change.

Arranging bird-watching tours or hosting bird-watching parties with your camera bird feeders at home are great ways to share interests and bring people together. These gatherings can foster a sense of community, benefiting our physical and mental health. Engaging in bird-related conservation efforts can also provide meaningful volunteer opportunities, enhancing community involvement and cohesion.

In summary, caring about holiday birds enriches our holiday experience, supports ecological health, and promotes a greater appreciation for the natural world. By recognizing and valuing these birds, we can contribute to a more sustainable and joyful holiday season.
June 07, 2024 — Bitong Lin

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