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Birds are quite special and significant to me personally as I have two different bird species as my totem. Totem in aboriginal culture is a spiritual emblem that you inherit through members of a clan. It can be passed down through your family or it's an individual totem that you will get, often when your mom is pregnant with you your mom or your dad will have an encounter with an animal. Now it's not always the case that they'll have that interaction but that's often one sign for you to know what your individual totem is.

So mine is, it's the bush turkey to us but the scientific name is a Bustard. And my other totem is the crow. So my skin name is ngari anyone that has the skin name ngari will all share the same totem which is the crow so anytime I hear a cross squawking or I see one up in the trees I always think to myself 'that's my sister' which is the ngari skin which is my totem.

Birds are just more than being our totems or being food that we could potentially eat. Birds can also be seasonal indicators as well. They can let you know when the weather's about to change, or if there's something that's happening in your environment, and it can be a good thing or a bad thing. So it's really important culturally that we understand what each bird's messages are when they're when they're hanging around.

So in each Aboriginal nation different birds are going to have different meanings so one example is if you see the Kookaburra. Often the sign in some parts of Australia in Aboriginal cultures when they see a Kookaburra it's the sign of new life. So it's often a sign that someone in your family or someone that you know is pregnant - so that's the sign of new life there's going to be a new little baby going to be born somewhere.

And there are other times where birds can tell you, or come to warn you something that could be bad. So we have this black bird that hangs around our bush back up in the Kimberley in W.A. and it's called the Jiggity Jig (Willie Wagtail). So when you see this bird hanging around it's often a sign that there's some kind of spirit or something that's actually lingering around you so the spirit can sometimes be good but sometimes the spirit can be bad as well. So if you do see this bird hanging around you need to be wary of that and it might be a sign that you need to move on from that place that you're in.

Here is one I found in my garden. If you know the type of bird's feather you found that's great, if not you can take a guess. For example, if you find a white feather like this, it might be from a White Cockatoo. Now that you've collected your feather it's time for some craft.

For this activity you will need your feather - if you didn't find a feather you can always use a leaf - a piece of paper and something to draw with like crayons, textas, paint, whatever you like or whatever you have available. Now trace your feather or leaf on the paper like this. Once you have your outline you can start to design a cool colorful pattern. It can be like the bird your feather comes from or you can use your imagination and get creative. Here is my design - now don't judge me!

Thanks for watching and the adventure doesn't have to stop here you can keep learning with many games, activities and quizzes on our Australian Museum website. Have fun!


Duration: 5 mins

Ages: 5-12 years

Are birds our new teachers? Look out your window to see what birds are around you and find out what messages they have to share.

Shopping list for this activity:

  • Parent supervision/permission
  • Feather/leaves
  • Paint, crayons, textas and/or colouring pencils
  • Paper
  • Scissors.