You cannot have missed it: the unexplainable fascination which people nowadays have for birds.
Wait, what? You do have missed it?
Let me list some names for you: Jasmine van den Bogaerde, a 19 year old singersongwriter from England, likes to be called by her artist’s name Birdy. Suzanne Collins dedicated one of her books from the trilogy The Hunger Games to a self-created species: the mockingjay.
Still not convinced? Let me call out a classic: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, followed by its sequel Go Set A Watchman last year. Even Eminem dedicated a song to the same species as Harper Lee has written about, namely the mockingbird.
Not your average bird
So, let’s get to the core question here; why have birds, or more specifically, mockingbirds, become such a source of inspiration for various authors and artists (because, besides the people I have named, there are many more artists who have taken the mockingbird as their source of inspiration)?
To figure this out, we need to get to the roots of the subject we are discussing here. What are mockingbirds? A quick scan of the internet gives us the exact details of this special bird species.
The only mockingbird that is commonly found in North America is the northern mockingbird, the mimus polyglottos. Polyglottos is Greek for multiple languages. The other mockingbirds can be found mostly in South America.
Northern Mockingbirds are best known for their intelligence (a 2009 study has proved that the bird is able to identify individual humans) and their extraordinary vocal abilities. They can sing up to 200 songs and mimick the sounds of other birds, insects and sometimes even a mechanical noise. Another bird who has the same abilities is the Lyrebird, a ground living bird that is found in areas of rainforest in Wales and Queensland and also in Tasmania. The bird can make camera noises and can even mimick the sound of a chainsaw and a car. To give you an expression of the sounds a lyrebird (and a mockingbird) can make, check the video below.
Don’t mock with the mockingbird
In To Kill A Mockingbird the said birds are seen as animals that don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy and don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs. Why is it a sin to kill a mockingbird? Because they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
In short, the birds symbolize innocence. In other words: why harm an innocent man? What could he possibly do to defend himself?
In Mockingjay the mockingbird has become part of a mixture. This mixture consists of a fictional bird (the Jabberjay) and a real bird (the mockingbird). The Jabberjay has a skill that resembles that of the mockingbird: he has the ability to mimick sounds in the form of entire conversations. I will not write about the whole history of the origins of the two birds (although, if you haven’t read the books, it can be quite interesting to know something more about their origins); it is enough to know that the Jabberjays and the mockingbirds have created a new species (the Mockingjay) that is able to memorise and repeat bird and human songs. They pick up tunes quickly and spread them to other birds of the same species.
In The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen makes up a tune that is soon taken up by the mockingbirds and spread amongst the other birds. As Katniss starts to rebel against the Capitol (for a short summary of the three books, click here) the tune and the birds themselves become a symbol of rebellion and hope amongst the rebelling districts.
In a lot of songs, for example Mockingbird by Eminem, The Mockingbird by The Four Lads and Mockingbird by Inez and Charlie Foxx, the mockingbird seems to symbolize something valuable.
But not just that; the mockingbird is often seen as a gift that can be given by a lover or a friend and therefore the mockingbird is the ultimate proof of love.
Check the lyrics of Mockingbird by Eminem:
And if you ask me to
Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
I’mma give you the world
Sounds like the true love of a father to me.
In conclusion, the mockingbird is a source of inspiration, because the bird has very distinct abilities that fire the imagination and can therefore be seen as something valuable and innocent. Because who, in his right state of mind, would want to kill such a beautiful bird with such amazing vocal capacities?