May 31, 2021|Reports

“A History of Birds” – Simon Wills

We all have our favourite stories about birds. Simon Wills returned to give a historical context to fifty three Wickham History Society members for the last meeting of the 20/21 programme year on Tuesday 25th May.

As you might expect Christianity gives us many of our stories. Most of us know about the dove sent by Noah to look for land, but did you know he also released the kingfisher, then a small drab little bird, who flew so high that some of the sky’s blue colour rubbed off on his back and, turning over to enjoy the warmth, the sun scorched his chest and belly feathers orange?

Birds were also used as moral exemplars, the lapwing, was (rather unfairly?) castigated for deceitfulness in feigning a broken wing to lure predators from the nest. Crows however, not the farmer’s favourites then or now, were held up as models of good parenting and morality as they paired for life.

Stories about birds pre-date Christianity – swans feature strongly in Greek and Celtic mythology; our words for tern, auk, snipe are of Viking origin, gull is a welsh word, and the partridge is of ancient Greek origin – meaning ‘the farting bird‘: is that what a startled partridge sounds like?

On that elevated note Simon finished his talk, displaying yet again his wide range of knowledge which, combined with his friendly delivery, makes him such a good speaker.

If you would like to know more, Simon has published A History of Birds, a colourful and comprehensive book, among many other publications. Details can be found on the Pen and Sword website.

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