Birds have been on earth for over 60 million years. There are debates about birds flying around with the dinosaurs, but either way, fossils prove they’ve been flapping their wings for at least 60. There are approximately 10 thousand species of birds on the planet, so it makes plenty of sense that birds of all sizes have inspired a vast number of great songs over the decades. Here are the best songs about birds that have made their mark in history.
1. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
In the 70s, Lynyrd Skinner gave the world a song about a roaming man who was impossible of change. The song was long and doubted to be a hit single. However, Ronnie Van Zant stood by the song, saying that the song was all about freedom. And isn’t that what the USA is all about. Although Lynyrd Skynyrd’s other singles top the charts, Free Bird became a cult classic in the rock realm. So much so that it’s a guarantee that someone will always call out the words, “Free Bird” during any live music performance.
2. Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day
Rockin’ Robin, written by Leon René and performed by Bobby Day, was an instant hit as it charted at number two on Billboard Hot 100. The song was so peppy, bringing good spirits to teenagers around the country. In 1972, Michael Jackson recorded a cover of the song, which became a sound-round hit for Rockin’ Robin.
3. Skylark by Linda Ronstadt
There are about 40 cover versions of the hit song, which was initially written in 1941. Although Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Bette Milder, Bob Dylan, and many more incredible artists have sung about the beautiful, guiding Skylark, Linda Ronstadt’s version was nominated for a Grammy Award. The song appeared on Ronstadt’s Round Midnight album.
4. Fly Like an Eagle by The Steve Miller Band
The 70s were part of its own kind of Revolution as the movement was preaching freedom and love. The Steve Miller Band sang a song as part of a message for the people to stand up for the people and to clothe, feed and house those in need. The album Fly Like an Eagle hit 445 on Rolling Stones Greatest Albums of All-time.
5. Snowbird by Anne Murray
The Snowbird needs to take the snow and get out of town, so spring and love come back in this complicated lost love song written by Gene MacLellan. Several artists covered Snowbird, but when Anne Murray recorded the track for her Snowbird album, it became a hit worldwide, especially in Canada and the US. Murray re-released the song in 2007 for Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends album.
6. The Bird by George Jones
George Jones has been called the Greatest Country Singer of All-time by fellow artists. His wit and constant use of double entendres paved the way for many future artists in all genres. The Bird is about fading love, an indiscretion, and a literal bird, but it then turns into a possible flipping-off situation with hand gestures. The funny tune hit #26 on the US Country Charts.
7. Mockingbird by Carly Simon & James Taylor
The novelty song based on the children’s nursery rhyme hit number five on the charts when Carly Simon and James Taylor took a crack at the Inez and Charlie Foxx piece. Taylor wanted to recreate it after having memories of him and his sister singing the song when they were children. A fun fact is that a young Carly Simon overcame stage fright to perform Mockingbird with Taylor in 1975. Talk about a mockingbird rescue!
8. Free as a Bird by Beatles
After the band had broken up for 25 years and John Lennon had passed away, Paul, George, and Ringo released Free as a Bird as a single to promote The Beatles Anthology. The song about being free after a meaningful relationship was originally recorded in 1977, but didn’t win a Grammy until 1997 for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
9. I’m Like a Bird by Nelly Furtado
It was the first single released off of Nelly Furtado’s debut album, Whoa, Nelly. The song that tells the story about the fear of love was a popular hit worldwide. It reached number nine in the US and received a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Furtado said after hearing that it is still performed at karaoke and played by cover bands, she’s proud to have a “hairbrush” song.
10. Time for Me to Fly by REO Speedwagon
Time for me to fly was released in the 70s and hit number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. Decades later, it was used in the popular series Ozark and landed back on the charts, reaching number 34. The song is a tragic tale of one-sided love and knowing it’s time to leave instead of enduring it any longer.
11. Golden Lark by Styx
Written by Dennis DeYoung, Golden Lark is a three-and-a-half-minute melodic song about love lost. No matter how much he wishes her to stay, she’s like a mute Lark that flies away. The song was part of Styx’s fourth and final album with Wooden Nickel Records before the band made its leap to label, A&M Records.
12. When Doves Cry by Prince
Coming off the sixth album Purple Rain, When Doves Cry stayed at number one for five weeks. The music video was controversial and deemed too explicit when it showed Prince taking a bath. Millions dissected the song to understand what it meant when referring to crying doves. However, it turns out, it’s just another one of Prince’s deep analogies. Doves signify peace, but as the song tells a story about explosive, toxic love that leads to terrible arguments, doves inevitably cry.
13. Bluebirds Over the Mountains by The Beach Boys
Ersel Hickey originally wrote and recorded Bluebirds Over the Mountains. Over the years, Richie Valens and Robert Plant covered the song, but in the late 60s, The Beach Boys recorded the hit, taking it to number 61 on the charts. The song pleads for the birds to bring ‘his’ baby back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give much of a clue as to why she’s gone, but it’s been assumed ‘she’ might have gone to heaven.
14. Fly, Robin, Fly by Silver Convention
The disco era was more about the sound than the lyrics, and Fly, Robin Fly, is a perfect example of the disco sensation. It was the third single from Silver Connection, and it shot straight to the top on Billboard, hitting number one. Six words were all it took for clubs worldwide to sing along. However, it might have been wordy, considering it won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.
15. When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along) by Bing Crosby
In 1926, Harry Woods wrote this happy little ditty that would go on to be covered at least eight times over the decades. In the mid-fifties, Bing Crosby recorded the catchy bird tune for his radio show. It was included on The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings box set and meshed in with a medley on Crosby’s album On the Happy Side. And happy is what this song brings as it portrays a bopping bird, reminding everyone to embrace their child-like innocence.
16. Bird Set Free by Sia
Sia wrote the song for Pitch Perfect 2, but it got passed over for Jessie J’s Flashlight. Then, she gave the piece to two other female artists, who eventually passed on it. Finally, Sia placed it on her seventh album, This Is Acting. Bird Set Free has been labeled as a ‘self-empowerment anthem’ as a broken soul no longer will stay broken. The song teaches listeners to sing again.
17. Caged Bird by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys, a pianist, writer, and composer, released Caged Bird on her debut album, Songs in A Minor. The album debuted at number one in the US and collected five Grammys. The sad song dives deep into the emotion of living in a fishbowl, or more so, a cage. Keys explains why the bird sings, but it’s profound lyrics for a young Keys and her first album.
18. Hummingbird Heartbeat by Katy Perry
The song was written by Katy Perry and a team of others, which was inspired by Perry’s relationship with actor Russel Brand at the time. It was included on the album Teenage Dream, but never was released as a single. Perry was moved to write this tale while watching hummingbird during breakfast. The story talks about sweet fast love. With a nostalgic 80s sound, Tom Thorogood from MTV called it a grown-up version of the birds and the bees.
19. I Like Birds by Eels
The Eels is a rock band that has been famous for their mishmash of lyrics to construct a valid point. I Like Birds strings together random thoughts that cap off with the title lyric. It could be a slam on the sheep of society or just an observant opinion of people around town. Either way, I Like Birds made it onto Meet the Eels: Essential Eels, Vol. 1, the greatest hits compilation and DVD set that was released in 2008.
20. Dodo by Dave Matthews
Dave Matthews has one solo album, Some Devil, where he still collaborated with Dave Matthews Band guitarist Tim Reynolds, along with other artists. The album went Platinum even though fans were skeptical of Matthews’s choice to release a solo album. Dodo was the first track on the album, where it talks about when the earth was flat and the last dodo bird on the planet. However, in 2021, scientists believe the dodo bird might still be running around.
21. The Eagle and the Hawk by John Denver
John Denver released The Eagle and the Hawk on the album Aerie. It was used for an ABC Documentary named the same, which starred Denver and the pilot side of the singer. The song talks about flying, so it was only fitting to use as Denver flies over the mountain tops and touches the sky.
22. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Three Little Birds was a track on Exodus in 1977 and released as a single in 1980. It hit number 17 on the charts. One allegation is that local canaries motivated Marley to write the song. However, the three backup singers of Marley’s band claim they actually inspired the three birds. Either way, the music is probably one of the happiest songs of all time as Marley tells the tale of the cute little birds chirping outside his door. The moral of the story is no matter what happens in life; everything will work out in the end.
23. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
Wing Beneath My Wings was written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley in 1982. Several artists recorded the song, but no one made it a hit like the Divine Miss M. In 1989, Bette Midler won two Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The song was the track hit for the movie Beaches, featuring Midler and Barbara Hersey. This heart-wrenching beautiful song brought millions to tears as audiences followed the lifetime friendship of two women from completely different backgrounds.
24. Birds by Imagine Dragons
Found on the Deluxe Album and the Japanese Edition, Birds by Imagine Dragons is part of the band’s fourth album, Origins from 2018. The album was considered a ‘sister’ album to Evolve as the band produced the tracks themselves. Birds was released as a single in 2019. It charted in some parts of the world, but it was the animated video that people liked most. The song speaks about the different directions that love can go and how temporary things can be in life.
25. Blackbird by Beatles
The song was placed on the double album, The Beatles, better known as The White Album. Paul McCartney performed the song solo, but it was credited to both him and John Lennon. McCartney stated that the song was inspired by a bird in India and focused on the US racial tensions and Civil Rights. The song’s moral is not only to learn how to fly, but to soar.
26. Skyline Pigeon by Elton John
Elton John had this song on his first album, Empty Sky. It was later re-recorded with the piano and the band, where it originally was recorded as a hymn. The song was used on the soundtrack of a Brazilian soap opera, Carinhoso. It was also found on the B-side of the hit single, Daniel. The song tells the dream of escaping from the monotony of life. Skyline Pigeon was included on the 4-cd box set, Jewel Box.
27. Penguins by Ed Sheeran
This Ed Sheeran song was featured in the movie, Yesterday. It was never released on the 2021 album, = (Equals), but played during the tour edition. The song tells a story in the traditional Sheeran fashion where he shares a loving tale of how ‘she’ knows they’re like penguins who can’t fly. It’s believed that penguins mate for life, so maybe that’s the underlining point. Although, science says that’s a myth. One actual fact for sure is that penguins are excellent swimmers.
28. Disco Duck by Rick Dees
Inspired by the novelty song, The Duck by Earl Lee Nelson, Rick Dees wrote Disco Duck in one day. However, his group took three months to sway into recording it. Nevertheless, the fun song became a hit, peaking at number one. It was assumed that the voice of Donald Duck participated in the hit, but Disney confirmed that was untrue. The tall-tale song talks about a guy who transforms into a duck once he hits the disco floor.
29. His Eye Is on the Sparrow by Lauryn Hill ft Tanya Blount
Lauryn Hill broke barriers for female rappers, but before the Fugees, she was the young rising star of Sister Act 2; Back in the Habit. Having a Baptist background, Hill’s faith was always present. Nevertheless, it was still surprising to audiences when Hill, featuring Tanya Blount, belted out His Eye Is on the Sparrow. This spiritual tune affirms that God is always watching over his children.
Top Songs About Birds, Final Thoughts
There you have the best songs about birds that have made their own kind of history. Some pieces have been featured in movies, while others have won Grammy Awards. Birds have truly inspired tales of freedom, love, lost love, and political stances. As the 70s drummed up a revolution, the next bird movement hit the disco floor. Then, as the 80s and 90s transformed the feather friends into catchphrases, the more modern bird songs equate feelings to birds.
It doesn’t even scratch the surface of how many songs out there talk about birds, nor will it foretell how many future hits will highlight the bird, but whether the tale is happy or sad, songs about birds seem to charm us all.