From lovebirds to doves, our feathered friends are everywhere on Valentine’s Day. But associating birds with this romantic tradition began long before Hallmark: A few scholars suggest that its February date is associated with birds’ mating seasons and some cultures even used birds to predict their marital future. In this vain, Audubon explores the origins of birds and Valentine’s Day, offering our own bird-inspired love predictions as well.
The history of St. Valentine’s Day is elusive at best—some believe the holiday honors Valentinus, an early Christian martyr, while others claim it dates back to Lupercalia, an ancient pastoral holiday observed from February 13-14 in which cities were purified of evil spirits. Still others say the day originated from the assumption that halfway through the second month of the year, birds would begin to choose their mates.
This belief—commonly accepted in England and France during the Middle Ages—is demonstrated in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Parlement of Foules,” written about the marriage of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia in 1382:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
[Roughly translated to: "For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]
In one tradition, birds are even more important: It was believed that a girl’s first bird sighting on Valentine’s Day predicted her future husband.
Some traditional bird predictions:
Sparrow: a poor man or a farmer
Owl: remain spinster
Bluebird: a happy man or a happy but poor man
Blackbird: a priest or clergyman
Crossbill: an argumentative man or an angry man
Yellowbird: a well-off man
Goldfinch: an extremely wealthy man
Robin: a crime fighter or a sailor
Dove: a kind and good man
Flock of doves: you will have a happy marriage
[But, if you see a woodpecker, you will never marry.]
Because the above list is somewhat limited, we can’t help but make our own predictions from other bird sightings (be sure to add your own in the comments section!).
Audubon's bird predictions:
Bald eagle: a government official
Peacock: a vain man
Great egret: a tall man
Penguin: a well-dressed man
Pigeon: a city-dweller
Let us know what your bird sighting today predicts and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!