By, Marie Dentan
What do Zimbabwe, Dominica, Uganda, and Mexico have in common?
They, like those of a number of other countries, have birds on their national flags.
Why do birds appear on flags?
Let’s discover more…
Birds “Flapping” on Flags
Birds are the only animal that can live on earth and in the sky. They are a link
between the two. They represent freedom, independence, and untamed beauty.
Each bird chosen to be on a flag lives in the country it represents. They are what is
called native or endemic – that is, these birds live in that particular region of the world.
Dominica Has the “Flapping” Sisserou Parrot
The Dominica flag has a Sisserou parrot. This parrot only lives on this tiny Caribbean
island that touches the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west. The
Sisserou parrot symbolizes higher dreams and the realization of those dreams. It is called the “Pride of Dominica.”
Uganda Has the “Flapping” Grey Crowned Crane
The flag of Uganda, a small country in the center of Africa, has a grey crowned crane
in the middle. Living by the Lake Victoria, the crane helps people by eating snakes. It is
represented with one leg up, which means that the country is moving forward.
Papua New Guinea Has the “Flapping” Kumul
The Kumul, the Bird of Paradise, stands on the Papua New Guinea flag. Its feathers were used for ceremonial clothing for women that were passed on from generation to generation. It symbolizes the country’s emergence into nationhood. Papua New Guinea is an island in the Pacific Ocean.
Zimbabwe Has the “Flapping” Bateleur Eagle
Birds on flags also symbolize the great past of the country. This is the case of the Zimbabwe flag, where there is a Bateleur eagle. This bird, also called Chapungu, is a sign of good omen in the ancestral Shona Culture, the most ancient tribe in Zimbabwe. As a good spirit, he is a link to the heavens and brings messages from ancestors and gods to the living. It represents the bird as it was carved in soapstone during the Middle Ages. It is, therefore, a unique icon of the country’s rich past. Zimbabwe is an African country bordering South Africa.
Ecuador Has the “Flapping” Andean Condor
The link between birds and ancient myths is particularly strong in South and Central American countries. On the flag of Ecuador, there is an Andean condor. It represents liberty, and independence. According to the Inca tradition, the Andean condor was one of the three sacred animals. He was the one uniting earth and sky, and his duty was to carry the souls of the deceased to the sky.
Guatemala Has the “Flapping” Quetzal
Guatemala has chosen the quetzal. This little bird with long tail feathers represents liberty. For a long time people believed the quetzal would die if put in a cage. For the Mayas it was a sacred bird. No one was allowed to kill quetzals.
One story related to this bird, is that of Tecùn Umán. He was a Maya warrior who fought the Spanish Conquistadors. During a battle, Tecùn Umán was wounded in the chest. A quetzal flew down, landed on Umán, and dipped its little chest in the brave prince’s blood. That is how the bird acquired its red chest feathers. The Guatemalan love this bird so much that not only is it on their flag, but they have named their money after it. If you go to Guatemala, you will pay in quetzals instead of dollar bills.
Mexico Has the “Flapping” Eagle
In the center of the Mexican flag, there is an eagle on a cactus eating a snake. The
Aztecs, in Central America were nomads. They wandered from one place to another, according to seasons and weather. But one day, the god of sun, Huitzilopochtli ordered them to settle. He told them to go and explore the eastern countries and built a city where they saw an eagle on a cactus, devouring a serpent.
In 1325, the people arrived to a swamp infested by vipers. And there, on an island in the middle of the lake Texoco they saw the eagle. This is where the Aztecs founded, Tenochtitlan the ancient name of Mexico.
Birds on flags reveal not only the natural environment of a country, but also tell us stories about its past, and the legends people believe in. They are the pride of the people they represent.
Test Your “Flapping” Bird Flag IQ
Here are closeups of all the “flapping” birds we discovered on their flags. Do you know which bird goes with which flag?
Test your ‘flapping’ bird flag IQ!
About the Author
Marie Dentan is living in France. A former dancer she now works as a freelance children’s writer. When not writing she enjoys dancing with her kids, baking cakes, and eating chocolate.