The Liver Bird

You know you’re in Liverpool when you see this, the Liver Bird.

LiverBird1
The Liver Bird

In fact, there are two.

Made from copper, they stand 18 feet tall with a wingspan of 24 feet and weighing 4 tons each.

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The Royal Liver Building

They even have names, though it is not known how these names originated.  The female, Bella, faces out to sea to guide sailors safely into port, and the male, Bertie, faces out across the city to protect its citizens (or is he waiting for the pubs to open?).  There are numerous legends surrounding the Liver Birds.  It’s said that if they ever turn to face each other, Liverpool will no longer exist.  Football fans have their own speculations too – Evertonions have said that should Liverpool ever win the FA cup, the Liver Birds would leave the Liver Buildings.  Liverpool has indeed won the cup though, thankfully, the birds remain firmly fixed to the clock towers.

I said that there are two Liver Birds but, if you look round the city, you will see many variations of them.

LiverBird2

Go on a Liver Bird trail.

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They’re everywhere – even on a purple wheelie bin.

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There’s a miniature version too.

 

So, what kind of bird is the Liver Bird? It seems to be an ornithological enigma which all began with King John (1166 – 1216) who acknowledged Saint John as his patron saint, the eagle being Saint John’s emblem.  He needed a seal to emboss important documents in his dealings with Liverpool, so he commissioned an artist to design one in the image of an eagle.  This was the result:-

sealKingJohn

What was intended as an Eagle turned out more like a duck, and it is to be wondered if the artist ever knew what an Eagle looked like.  As the years rolled by, confusion has grown as to what the bird was really supposed to be.  It has been likened to the Cormorant, a Dove, Heron and even the Great Auk, provoking much discussion between historians, biologists, ornithologists and just about everyone whose imagination is captured by the Liver Bird.

Whatever species the Liver Bird may be, it has been a part of the fabric of the city of Liverpool for hundreds of years, since the 1350s.  It is unique and inspirational and a wonderful emblem for a spectacular city.

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “The Liver Bird

  1. Great story. All I know about Liverpool is where the Beatles came from.

    Thanks for the history lesson.

    By the way, is King John the king where nobles forced to sign the Magna Carta?

    Michael J, Philadelphia of the USA

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    1. That’s the one, Michael. King John was forced by his barons to sign the charter, which limited royal authority and established the principle that the king was subject to and not above the law. As for Liverpool being the home of the Beatles … yes, I think that’s all it means to many people (I was one of them!) and I’ll be writing in future posts about how it is much more than just a band. Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. When I worked for my local history unit we had the the opportunity to be taken on guided tour up to see the birds, eye to eye so to speak. Guess who never made it due to a serious bout of man flu. I was never able to re arrange the visit but is still on my to do list.

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  3. My Great Uncle Reg worked in The Liver Building all his working life, except for the period of the First World War, he joined up in 1914 and survived all the main battles in the trenches, but many of his friends didn’t. On a Saturday they worked until lunchtime, his best friend was an Everton fan, he was a Liverpool fan, and each week they would walk up after work and watch the game whichever was at home. He had lots of stories of survival and football. I remember visiting him and Aunty Cicely as a child in the 1960’s, they lived just off Penny Lane and those visits made me really like Liverpool. I got to know it well during my working life as I worked for a writers organisation and we held workshops, meetings there and had many member groups.

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    1. Hi Tim. What a blessing that your Great Uncle came through all those battles, and lovely for you to be able to hear all his stories. Thank you for sharing some of your memories.
      Lesley

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