The vulture is a carrion-eating bird, whose medieval reputation was for greediness and gluttony. It’s characterized by the lack of feathers on its face. The vulture was also called a “gripe” in period blazon [Bossewell II.118]. It’s a period charge, found in the canting arms (German Geier) of Geyer von Osterberg, 1605 [Siebmacher 34]. The vulture is close by default.
The vulture should be drawn as the European form of the bird, and not as the buzzard of the New World. The latter is deemed a step from period practice. For related charges, see eagle.
Serlo of Litchfield bears: Gyronny gules and Or, a vulture close sable.
Edvard Gayer bears: Argent, two vultures rising respectant, wings inverted and addorsed, a chief engrailed sable.
The turkeycock is a large game bird of the poultry family, originally from North America, but brought to Europe in the 16th Century; by the end of our period, it had become a traditional part of English Christmas dinner. It’s a period charge, found as the crest of William Strickland, 1550, who’s credited with introducing the turkey to England [Guide 189], and as the allusive crest of Robert Cooke, 1556 [Bedingfeld 101].) The turkeycock is statant by default; it’s typically shown with its tail erect. See also cock.
David Waxthorn bears: Argent, a turkeycock statant and on a chief azure two quill pens crossed in saltire Or.
The swan is a water bird, both graceful and fierce, famed for its death song; it was said to bring good luck. It’s found in the arms of Dale as early as 1387 [DBA2 153]. The young swan was also called a “cygnet”, especially for canting, as in the arms of Synnot, c.1470 [DBA2 178].
The swan is rousant or rising by default, as in the famous badge of Bohun, later of Henry IV [HB 109]. However, it’s very frequently found naiant in Society heraldry; this too is a period posture, as in the Belgian arms of Lanchals, c.1488 [von Volborth, The Art of Heraldry, 1987, p.90].
The swallow is a speedy bird whose migratory habits were known to medieval naturalists. Its notable feature is its forked tail, which is exaggerated in armorial emblazons. The swallow is a period charge, found in the canting arms of Swalow, c.1395 [DBA3 371]. The illustration shows a swallow volant.
The Society also has examples of the “swift”, an heraldically indistinguishable bird. For related charges, see martlet.
Laurencia of Carlisle bears: Per chevron ermine and gules, a swallow volant argent.
John of Ean Airgead, called the Mad Celt, bears: Vert, a chimney swift migrant palewise argent.
Myfanwy Dolwyddelan bears: Quarterly azure and vert, in bend two swallows volant Or.
The simurgh is a fabulous bird of Persian legend, a repository of wisdom. It is distinguished by its long tail feathers, and for that reason may also be blazoned a “Persian peacock”. This form of the simurgh dates from the 14th Century, in the Shahnama (Book of Kings); it seems to have derived from the senmurv of the 7th Century, and many modern sources equate the two. The legends give the simurgh some of the qualities of the roc (enormous size) and the phoenix (immortality, wisdom); it may have been the precursor of the Russian firebird.
As an heraldic charge, the simurgh is unique to Society armory; its use carries a step from period practice. It doesn’t seem to have a default posture; the illustration shows a simurgh close.
Meara al-Isfahani bears: Or, a simurgh displayed gules within a bordure engrailed sable.
Helena de Argentoune bears: Per bend sable and gules, a simurgh volant bendwise Or.
The sea-mew is an aquatic bird, more modernly called a “sea-gull” or even simply a “gull”. In medieval thought, it was a symbol of hope, because hearing its cry told lost sailors that land was near. The sea-mew is a period charge, found (blazoned semew) in the arms of Sayer c.1460 [RH].
Despite its name, the sea-mew is not a sea-monster in the heraldic sense: the term refers to the natural bird, not a fish-tailed hybrid. The sea-mew is close by default.
The Province of Southern Shores bears: Per bend azure and Or, a sea-gull volant bendwise argent and a laurel wreath vert.
Togashi Kihō bears: Azure, a sea-mew volant argent, on a chief wavy Or three oak leaves sable.
Elsa Taliard bears: Per fess wavy argent and azure, two sea-gulls counterchanged.
Roc volant, wings addorsed, maintaining an elephant (Accepted)
The roc, or rukh, is an immense bird from Persian legend. Tales gave its home to be Madagascar; Marco Polo, in his Travels (III:33) describes the giant roc feather presented to the Great Khan, which modern writers guess was an exotic palm frond [EB XXIII:424]. The roc’s heraldic use appears to be unique to the Society, where it’s drawn essentially as an eagle; it is frequently depicted with an elephant in its talons, to show how large it is. The term is used mostly for canting purposes. The illustration shows a roc volant, wings addorsed. See also simurgh.
Justin du Roc bears: Per bend sinister azure and counter-ermine, in dexter chief an Arabian roc volant to sinister, wings addorsed argent, maintaining in its talons an elephant proper.
Roque Cartelle de Leon bears: Per chevron gules and sable, two lion’s heads cabossed and a roc rising, wings displayed and inverted, bearing in its sinister talon an elephant, all argent.
The popinjay is a brash and flashy bird, which the ancients knew could be taught to talk; it’s also termed a “parrot” in mundane blazons. As a charge, it dates from the earliest heraldry, as in the arms of Thwenge or Tuenge, 1255 [ANA2 401]. The popinjay is close by default, but period emblazons often showed it with one foot raised, even when not so blazoned (as in the illustration). When “proper”, its coloration is vert, beaked gules; frequently it is also drawn with a red ringed neck as well.
Parrot-like birds that were known to period Europeans (e.g., the cockatoo) may be registered in Society heraldry, but their use is considered a step from period practice.
Damian Papyngeye bears: Plumetty argent and vert, a popinjay purpure.
Leonor Alcon bears: Per chevron vert and argent, three popinjays counterchanged.
Rosamund von Schwyz bears: Argent, a popinjay vert within an orle of fleurs-de-lys purpure.
The phoenix is a monster from Greek myth which, after living alone in the desert for half a millennium, consumed itself in fire and rose again from the ashes. It is shown as a demi-bird issuant from flames. Medieval emblazons always gave it a prominent crest atop its head, as in the illustration (taken from the standard of Ralph Verney of Pendeley, c.1510 [Walden 138; cf. Bromley & Child 184]); modern emblazons often show it as simply a demi-eagle.
The phoenix is displayed by default: even when blazoned “rising from flames”, as it often is, its posture is displayed, not the heraldic posture of rising. The flames need not be blazoned (unless their tincture must be distinguished); without flames, the monster wouldn’t be a phoenix. See also firebird.
The Baron of the Sacred Stone bears: Vert, a double-headed phoenix and in chief a laurel wreath argent.
Sarah Davies of Monmouth bears: Or, three phoenixes sable.
Eiríkr Mjoksiglandi Sigurðarson bears: Per chevron gules and Or, three phoenixes counterchanged.
The penguin is a flightless sea bird of the Southern Hemisphere, short and squat, with wings strongly resembling flippers. Breeds of penguin were known in period, described by Sir Francis Drake in 1578 [OED s.v. penguin], but none appear in period armory. The use of a penguin in Society armory is considered a step from period practice.
The penguin is statant and close by Society default, as in the illustration. The “proper” penguin is defined to be sable, bellied and marked argent, in roughly equal proportions; it should be colored as a breed of penguin known to period Europeans (such as the Magellanic penguin, illustrated).
Meghan Pengwyn of Wynterwood bears: Gules, an Emperor penguin close to sinister proper.
Josselyn ferch Rhys bears: Argent, four Emperor penguins statant affronty, one, two and one proper, all within a bordure azure.
Isabella Gase atte Cloude bears: Or, in fess three penguins statant affronty, heads facing to dexter, sable bellied argent.