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So Which Bird Are You?

August 26, 2011

During my recent trip to the beach, I took many pleasant moments studying the shore birds. From the silly sandpipers and abundant sea gulls to the pesky pelicans and elegant egrets, I took pleasure in their contrasting looks and differing personalities. As I watched their antics, I had to admit – sometimes with a bit of disgruntlement and other times with a smile – that I, myself, had traits similar to these creatures of God’s design.

My mother, who passed away more than thirty years ago, loved the sandpipers, and I can’t watch them today without thinking of her. They only rarely fly. Mostly they bob, their entire brown bodies leaning forward with tails pointing to the sky, as their small, sharp beaks poke for unseen treasures beneath the sand. When disturbed, rather than spreading their wings to escape, they run. They are quite fast on their feet. But then, sidetracked, they begin poking the sand again as if they just can’t take the time to be bothered by danger. They look happy, cute and content, their rather large bellies making clear that they are finding what they need underground.

I, too, often bob around, poking here and there, searching for unseen treasures beneath the surface of life. Easily sidetracked, I’ll begin one project only to move on to another, and then discover the unfinished one later. I have a laugh, then delve into my original purpose once again. As I watched this cute bird perform its life purpose, I said a prayer that I, like the sandpiper, can learn to be content with where I am at any given moment.

Sea gulls have an interesting trait. When working together as a group, they are strong. They stand tall, eat together, and take flight all at once as if by some silent, unseen command. But if you come upon one standing alone, it is skittish and afraid. It could easily take flight as I approach, but instead it looks from side to side as if wondering what to do. It inches to the right and then to the left as if lost. When I finally pass, it stands watching warily. Alone it has lost its courage. Alone it seems to have forgotten how to act.

When I act alone, without the support of others, I, too, am skittish and afraid. I try first one thing, then another, attempting to figure out what I’m supposed to do. I lose my bravery and feel stripped of strength. God knew that we can’t be alone. How grateful I am when I finally remember to take my concerns not only to Him, but also to the friends He has placed in my path.

Raising my eyes upward, I view a beautiful V formation of pelicans, wings spread outward, gliding in the wind, the perfection of grace only rarely disturbed by a gentle flap of wings. But then … what’s this? One bird veers away, takes a sharp turn and nose-dives into the ocean. The others in the air seem undisturbed, filling in the gap of the V with ease. With a large splash and lots of sputter, the diver emerges and sits afloat, the gulping movement of its throat indicating it made its catch. I wondered if it would ever find its friends again, or if it would simply join another group later.

In life we often fly in formation, finding strength in the patterns of others. Yet there are also times we must veer away, spreading our wings in a differing direction, sometimes feeling quite alone in the process. Eventually we will rejoin our original group, or become part of another – or perhaps we will remain with both. I’m reminded of the scouting song, “Make new friends, but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold.” Each person we’ve known, each group we’ve been a part of, touches our lives and helps us find purpose and strength.

The beautiful white coat of the egret gives it an unsurpassed elegance among the shore birds. Were its feathers not blowing gently in the breeze, one might wonder if this bird was truly real. Its body seems perfect, black beak and legs contrasting to its pure whiteness. How does it stay so clean and white in the midst of such raw nature? As my eyes travel down its sleek legs to take in the full picture, I do a double-take. What? Could this be? But yes, there they are … floppy feet, clumsy in appearance, and yellow! Could such a gorgeous creature truly have such strange-looking feet? I had to laugh.

We all have oddities that are not apparent upon first glance. I’m not necessarily speaking of physical traits, though we have those, too.  All of us have habits, struggles, disappointments and failures. None of us are as beautiful as we would truly like to be. And how often we try to hide those parts of us that aren’t quite so nice! Once I saw its feet, I felt a solidarity with this beautiful bird!

So which bird are you? Are you a bobber and a runner? Do you fly in formation and find strength in numbers? Are you mostly beautiful, yet hiding unseen oddities? Are you afraid when alone, or do you stand with elegance? Do you bravely move outward to dive for your catch? Do you stay close to friends, recognizing your need for their strength?

Perhaps we are all of these. We need each other and share traits with others, yet we are unique and can rejoice in our beautiful differences. We can stand alone, yet we know we can’t survive without the friends God has given us. Give thanks today for who you are, for where you are standing or flying, and for those who stay with you and love you just as you are.

      Kathy Byrne has a Master of Pastoral Ministry (M.P.M.) from the University of Dallas, and is a Life Coach in Loganville, GA, area. Visit her website at:


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One Comment
  1. Kathy — this was very informative and insightful. I really like your comparisons. I know my strong tendency is to want to run 🙂 when life gets tough — and as you so eloquently pointed out — it’s the strength and support of my friends that speak the truth to help me alter my perspective if need be.

    You are one of those friends and I am so blessed by it!

    Thanks! I love you — Sheri

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