Birds of Life and Death: Changing Meanings for Hummingbirds, Vultures and Condors

SAULT, Nicole - Sally Glean Center for the Avian Arts

Birds are messengers of meaning associated with both death as well as life. While they are airborne with a lightness of being like angels and spirits, their meanings carry great symbolic weight. This paper examines three key birds in the Americas to understand how their roles in life and death vary from one society to the next, how they hold multiple meanings in different contexts, and how these roles change over time within a society. The same bird may be connected with death and warfare in one context, and in another context be a sign of life and fertility. Examples are drawn from hummingbirds in Costa Rica, vultures in Mexico, and Andean condors in Peru.