Thinking About Birds

I can understand why many people like to photograph birds. It’s a great way to capture some aspects of the visual beauty of birds. Although I have a good camera with a 400 mm lens, I’m a lousy photographer and I tend to leave photography to others. 

But there’s another reason why I do that – to me, a photograph is a poor representation of a bird! Birds are colour and movement, birds are song, birds are characters! In other words, birds are poetry! So, I write poems about birds, rather than photographing them.(That said, where there are poems below with images, it was me who took the photos).

To me, poems must have both rhythm and rhyme and they must tell a story. It’s challenging to write poems like that, which presumably is why so very few people do. Most so-called poetry nowadays is better described as imagery. The poet paints a picture (sometimes a very good one) using words, but with scant attention to the constraints of rhythm and rhyme. Conversely, there are many “bush poets” who usually know how to make a rhyme, and some of whom can tell a good story – but they mostly ignore rhythm completely.

I take great pleasure in constructing “real” poems about birds. So far, they all are about birds I've seen in Australia although some of the species I've picked have a global distribution. Below is my anthology. My current favourite is Dark Master of the Sky, which I wrote after reading John Baker’s compelling 1967 book The Peregrine. Also, I think An Encounter with a Wandering Albatross somehow has captured the rollicking nature of a boat trip out to see pelagic birds. I also am very pleased with A Private Audience, which I wrote in a whirr of euphoria in the evening after I had watched a male Rufous Scrub-bird calling for about 10 minutes from a perch about a metre above the ground in the Gloucester Tops. Scrub-birds usually are extremely cryptic birds that spend most of their time hidden under dense ground cover.

Which is your favourite? Email me telling me why:

Poems about seabirds

On Why I Do Pelagics 

Pelagics Reductum 

An Encounter with a Wandering Albatross

Drifters In The Wind 

High Diver


Poems about shorebirds

How Tattlers Are Special

Sharpies Are Back! 

Haiku Series on Tattlers

In Serried Ranks

What Hope for Shorebirds?

Forever Hopeful


Poems about scrub-birds

Alone With A Scrub-bird

A Private Audience

How to see a Rufous Scrub-bird


Poems about other birds

My Garden Visitor

Magpies, in Black and White

The Firetail

Dark Master of the Sky

Grey Fantail

Bold Willie 

Identifying Thornbills

Azure Kingfisher

Red-caps in the Mulga

Black Thoughts (Corvids of the Hunter)

The Regent

A bristlebird

Miscellaneous other poems

Elements of a Birdwatcher's Armoury

Thoughts Based On Three Days Spent Birding on Broughton Island

An Urban Oasis