The free bird

Kestrel huntingEvery day I watch the birds rest, feed, hunt and soar in the sky and in the valley around our garden.Kestrel hunting on barn roofKestrel flying over roof

There are quiet pauses when they sit on a fence, a branch, an electric wire or a barn roof nearby. Fledglings seeking their parents and each other. As the day approaches dusk their songs become louder.House sparrow on fenceHouse sparrow feeding fledglingsPied wagtail on fence

Swallows on crossed wires

One of my favourite poets, Maya Angelou (1928-2014), wrote a poem called “Caged Bird.” Although Angelou was writing about racism, oppression and freedom – her first autobiography was called “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” – she uses the powerful contrasting images of the free versus caged bird. Here’s an extract from the poem:

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own


But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

Buzzard in flight

Now I no longer can see a raptor with a strap above its claw without wishing it truly was a free bird.  The only time I can understand chains on or bars around a bird is when it’s a rescued animal that no longer can be let loose in the wild.Bird of prey chainedBuzzard chained

I find it odd that I didn’t notice the beauty, the sounds and the freedom of birds before. Yes, I moved to the countryside, but I wonder if I was simply unaware or just indifferent before. Or perhaps it’s been just another step in falling in love with nature and the natural world living alongside us.Jackdaw flock in flight in sky

The images of the free birds in this post – the kestrels, the house sparrows, the pied wagtail, the swallows, the buzzard and the flocks of jackdaws – were all captured by my camera near our home in West Sussex in the English countryside. The falcons were not caged but were brought for display at a fair.

8 thoughts on “The free bird”

  1. That poem is beautiful and poignant whether it is about oppressed people or caged birds. My boys love looking at the caged birds in the garden centre but from an early age I have always explained to them how really these birds should be in the wild. With captive birds of prey they do have more freedom than birds that are always caged and if born in captivity they will know no different. They will also never want for food or safe shelter and will give people the chance to see them close up and learn to love them. It’s a difficult one.

    Thank you for adding this thoughtful post to #AnimalTales

  2. A lovely post. I love watching the birds in our garden too and feel very lucky that they choose to visit us. There is something gleeful about a bird in flight. Caged birds always make me feel sad, particularly all those tropical pet birds shouting their heads off. The poem is beautiful by the way- must read more.

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