Secretary Bird Symbolism

Secretary Bird symbolism


Secretary Bird

The secretary bird is a large, terrestrial bird of prey native to Africa. With its long crane-like legs, raptor-like body, and distinctive crest of feathers at the back of its head, the secretary bird has a unique and striking appearance.

This unique bird has captivated people for centuries, featuring prominently in African folklore, stories, and mythology. As a result, the secretary bird holds deep symbolic meaning in many African cultures.

This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of secretary bird symbolism, including its origins, cultural significance, common symbolic interpretations, and personal messages this spirit animal may be trying to convey.

Origins and Cultural Significance

Secretary Bird

The secretary bird gets its name from the distinctive crest of feathers on its head and neck that resemble quill pens stuck behind a clerk’s or secretary’s ear.

In many African cultures, the secretary bird is seen as a powerful totem animal representing law, order, and authority. This likely stems from the bird’s snake-hunting abilities – by devouring chaos in the form of snakes, the secretary bird establishes order.

For example, in Tanzania, secretary bird feathers were traditionally worn by elders and chiefs as a symbol of status and wisdom. Among the Kalenjin people of Kenya, the secretary bird represented bravery, rectitude, and strength.

The San people of southern Africa told secretary bird folk tales, portraying the bird as a law enforcer keeping order and justice in the wild.

Common Symbolic Meanings

Secretary Bird

Across Africa, certain symbolic meanings commonly associated with the secretary bird have emerged:

  • Vision – With its ability to spot prey from high in the sky, the secretary bird symbolizes clarity of vision and perception.
  • Fearlessness – Secretary birds bravely face dangerous predators like snakes and cobras. This represents courage and bravery.
  • Strength – From its large stature to its snake-hunting prowess, the secretary bird radiates strength.
  • Leadership – As a predator at the top of the food chain that maintains order, secretary birds represent leadership.
  • Protection – By controlling snake populations, secretary birds historically protected African villages from venomous snakes.
  • Freedom – The secretary bird’s ability to traverse large territories symbolizes freedom and independence.
  • Intelligence – From finding clever ways to flush out prey to remembering migration routes, secretary birds denote wisdom.
  • Balance – With the ability to hunt on land and in the air, secretary birds represent mastery over different realms and the balance between worlds.

Personal Message as a Spirit Animal

Secretary Bird

When the secretary bird appears as your spirit animal guide, it may be trying to impart some of the following messages:

  • Stand your ground courageously and confront your fears head-on. The secretary bird urges bravery.
  • Project strength, pride, and confidence in yourself – maintain high self-esteem.
  • Take the elevated view to assess situations and make perceptive decisions.
  • Balance different realms in your life – career, family, spirituality, etc. Don’t let one throw the others off balance.
  • Lead those around you effectively by maintaining order and justice.
  • Protect yourself emotionally by not internalizing others’ negativity or harmful words.
  • Free yourself from limiting beliefs holding you back from independence and freedom.
  • Strategize solutions intelligently – use your problem-solving skills.

Examples of Symbolism in Culture

Secretary Bird

Here are some examples of how secretary bird symbolism manifests in art, stories, language, and culture:

  • A Maasai legend tells of a secretary bird that kept order in a village by using its wings to sweep criminals out.
  • “The Secretary Bird and the Toad”, a San fable, features the bird as a regal judge mediating a dispute between a toad and a mantis.
  • In a Nigerian proverb, the secretary bird represents foresight: “When the secretary bird forgets to look ahead, its crest gets crushed.”
  • A massive secretary bird statue stands guard at the Zimbabwe High Court, denoting justice.
  • Secretary bird imagery features on the coat of arms of South Africa, symbolizing vigilance and military might.
  • In Kenya, “eyes like a secretary bird” refers to someone extremely observant and perceptive.

Symbolic Interpretations in Dreams

Secretary Bird

Dreaming of a secretary bird can convey the following symbolic meanings:

  • If the bird is hunting snakes, you have the power to overcome challenges confronting you.
  • Seeing it fly means you should be willing to try new approaches to solve problems.
  • Watching it run may signal the need to actively chase your goals and ambitions.
  • If it appears injured or weak, you may be allowing others to undermine your confidence.
  • Seeing it perched high means you should take an elevated, big-picture view of issues before reacting.
  • If it is standing tall and proud, you need to assert yourself more boldly.
  • To see it fighting off a predator denotes you have untapped courage and inner strength.

Key Takeaways

  • In African culture, the secretary bird is a powerful symbol of vision, strength, freedom, balance, protection, and leadership.
  • It appears in folklore as a law enforcer and order keeper, valued for its brave snake-hunting abilities.
  • As a spirit animal, it conveys messages of courage, pride, strategy, and elevated perspective.
  • Dreams of the secretary bird often represent the ability to rise above challenges, lead boldly, or see things.
  • Learning about this bird’s symbolism provides deeper insight into African traditions and spirituality.
Secretary Bird

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What traits does the secretary bird represent?

A: Key traits are strength, bravery, leadership, balance, vision, pride, freedom, protection, and intelligence.

Q: In which cultures is the secretary bird symbolism most prominent?

A: Symbolism is especially strong in Maasai, San, Kalenjin, Shona, and Ndebele cultures of Africa.

Q: Does the secretary bird only symbolize positive things?

A: While largely positive, it can also represent arrogance and intimidation in some contexts.

Q: Can secretary bird symbolism apply to people?

A: Yes, those with the secretary bird as their spirit animal or totem are said to be fearless, disciplined, and authoritative.

Q: What does it mean to dream about a secretary bird?

A: Dreams often signify the ability to rise above challenges, lead boldly, gain clarity, and assert self-confidence.


With its majestic and imposing appearance combined with snake-hunting prowess, the African secretary bird holds powerful symbolic meaning related to vision, strength, leadership, and protection.

By learning secretary bird meanings and symbolism, we gain profound insight into African cultural traditions, folklore, spirituality, and art. Whether as a spiritual guide or inspiring legend, the secretary bird represents the ability to stand tall in the face of adversity and lead with courage, pride, and balance.

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