You know you’re in Liverpool when you see this, 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.
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.
Go on a Liver Bird trail.
They’re everywhere – even on a purple wheelie bin.
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:-
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.