When considering the birds, we find God’s care and discover our calling.
In elementary school, I bent toward the bottom of a cardboard box, where a herd of fluffy chicks squeaked a raucous chorus—a representation of Easter to my Christian school teacher. During middle school, I took to heart the story of the ugly duckling, as I personally reckoned with my braces, boney elbows and knees, and pudge around the waist. Vs of geese honked overhead during field hockey games, and I threw French fries at seagulls at the beach. Birds were around, all the time.
But in Sunday school, I began to understand that birds were not merely nuisances or ornamental. The Scriptures describe how God created each species of winged creature (Gen. 1:20) and how God safeguards each bird attentively (Matt. 10:29). Likewise, as created beings tasked with attending to God’s creation, humankind’s continuity with birds—such as in their unique form of consciousness and their interconnectedness to human lives—illuminates our calling to care for birds, both in our backyards and in our world.
Birds appear throughout the Bible. In the story of the Flood, God directed Noah to bring two of every kind of the bird onto the Ark (Gen. 6:20)—the first animal class to be included—and then Noah sent out two birds—a raven and a dove—to find dry land (Gen. 8:6–12). The Israelites ate quail during their desert wandering, and ravens brought food to the prophet Elijah at God’s prompting (1 Kings 17:2–6). And in the Gospels, a dove represented the Holy Spirit’s presence at the baptism of Christ (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32).
Every culture has developed symbolism and made myths around birds. Take Aesop’s fables, for example. The study of birds began …