The pelican is a marine bird, which in medieval legend would revive its dead young with blood from its own breast. Its most common posture is thus blazoned a “pelican in its piety”: wings addorsed, piercing its breast with its beak to feed its young. (The posture is also sometimes blazoned a “pelican vulning itself”, particularly if no hatchlings are depicted.)
Period depictions of this bird do not show it as found in nature, with a baggy-bottomed beak, but with a long slender beak resembling that of a stork, and with ruffled feathers.
The pelican was used in the canting arms of Pelham as early as 1386 [DBA2 177]. In Society armory, the pelican is reserved to the Order of Peerage of the same name, and its members.
The Order of the Pelican bears: A pelican in its piety.
Dorio of the Oaks bears: Azure, a chevron ployé cotised and in base a pelican in its piety argent.
The peacock is a colorful bird, the medieval archetype of vanity. Its wings are close by default; it is much more important to blazon his tail. By default, the peacock’s tail extends behind him, close and sweeping the ground, as in the arms of the Princes of Wiedt, 1605 [Siebmacher 16]. At one point in the Society’s history, this posture was blazoned as “pavonated [to base]”; but the term is no longer used, the posture being recognized as the default for the bird.
Perhaps the best-known posture for the peacock is “in his pride”: affronty (or turned slightly), head facing dexter, and the tail expanded to display its colors. The peacock in his pride is found in period armory, in the arms of Halle, c.1340 [Zurich 476].
A peacock’s “proper” coloration is a blend of blue and green, which will conflict with either tincture. For related charges, see firebird, simurgh.
The Baron of One Thousand Eyes bears: Or, a peacock in his pride, head to sinister, within a laurel wreath azure.
Eleanor de la Mare bears: Erminois, a peacock proper within a bordure wavy azure.
Eleonora di Gerardo bears: Vert, three peacocks in their pride argent.
Ceallach mac Domhnaill bears: Argent, three peacocks in their pride proper.
The owl is a bird of prey, noted for its stealthy night-time activity. Classically, it was the archetype of wisdom; to medieval Christian moralists, it symbolized the Jews. It’s a period charge, dating from c.1295 in the arms of Seyvile [ANA2 205].
The owl is usually depicted with “ears”, tufts of feathers on either side of the head, to distinguish it from other birds. Its default posture is guardant close, as in the illustration; but even when in other postures such as rising, the owl is guardant unless specified otherwise.
Ostrich maintaining in its mouth a horseshoe (Period)
The ostrich is a gawky, flightless bird, famed for its ability to digest the non-digestible. For that reason, it’s frequently depicted with a bit of iron in its mouth (usually a horseshoe, sometimes a key), even when not so blazoned. The ostrich is a period charge, found in the arms of Robard of Kyrton, c.1460 [RH]. The ostrich is statant and close by default.
Creppin a l’Ostriche bears: Gules, an ostrich statant wings elevated and addorsed Or.
William Crome bears: Argent, an ostrich and on a chief azure, a feather fesswise argent.
Vladislav the Purple bears: Purpure, on a bend sinister between a harp and an ostrich close Or, a decrescent palewise purpure.
The moorcock is a game bird, the male black grouse, characterized in heraldry by its two projecting tail feathers. It’s a period charge, found in the canting arms of Myddylmore c.1460 [RH], and more famously in the arms of Sir Thomas More, 1478 [Wagner 68]. The moorcock is close by default.
Vostroi Ivanov Kievich bears: Or, a pale bretessed between two moorcocks close respectant gules each gorged of a coronet argent.
Lovell Hastings bears: Argent, a fess wreathed vert between three moorcocks in fess and a patriarchal cross gules.
The martlet is an heraldic bird, in many ways a stylized and generic bird. Blazoned as a merle, merlette, or merlotte (“blackbird”), it was found in French armory as early as c.1185, in the canting arms of Mello [Pastoureau 150]. In English armory, the French term quickly became conflated with the martinet, a type of swallow or swift [Brault 241], and soon became highly stylized in form. The martlet is found as early as c.1244, in the arms of the Earls of Pembroke [ANA2 210]. It remained a popular charge through the end of our period: of the birds, only the eagle was more frequently used.
While the martlet’s exact form varied throughout period, by far the most common trait was its lack of legs: small tufts of feathers take their place. (This is due to the legend that the martlet was always airborne, never lighting on the ground.) For purposes of Society blazonry, this lack of legs is the martlet’s defining characteristic. The martlet was sometimes drawn without a beak (especially in France), and sometimes drawn with the forked tail of the swallow (especially in England), but neither of these were common in period. The illustration is taken from the arms of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, in the Luttrell Psalter, mid-14th C.
In the English system of cadency, the martlet is the brisure of the fourth son. The martlet is close by default.
Éadaoin na Slebhte bears: Gules, three martlets Or.
Tamsin Wylde bears: Barry vert and argent, six martlets Or.
Lie de Camurac bears: Per chevron vert and azure, three martlets argent.
The hummingbird is a tiny bird from the New World, whose wings beat so rapidly as to be almost invisible to the unaided eye. Though known to period Europeans, it was not used in period armory; its use in Society armory is considered a step from period practice.
While the hummingbird may be found rising or volant, in Society practice it also has its own unique posture, “hovering”: body upright but embowed, wings addorsed, tail tucked forward under its body, as in the illustration. Hovering is considered equivalent to “rising” for conflict purposes.
Alacya Daveraugh bears: Argent, a bend azure between a ruby-throated hummingbird volant to sinister, wings addorsed proper, and a sprig of three cherries gules, slipped and leaved vert.
Alan of Ockham bears: Gules, on a pile bendwise inverted throughout Or a hummingbird hovering palewise vert, throated gules, tailed sable.
Diane of Carmarthen bears: Purpure, a hummingbird rising to sinister, wings elevated and addorsed, a bordure argent.
The goose is a water bird, noted for its foolishness and credulity; oddly, it was also a symbol of vigilance, due to the legend of the Capitoline geese saving Rome. It’s a period charge, found in the canting coats of Barnak (“barnacle geese”) c.1410 [TJ 1312] and of von Ganse (German Gans), 1605 [Siebmacher 182].
The goose is close by default, as in the illustration. When blazoned “enraged”, its wings are elevated and addorsed, its head is extended for a hiss: functionally equivalent to rising.
The “duck”, a smaller relative of the goose, is also found in period armory: the canting arms (Italian anatra) of di Anedre, mid-15th C. [Triv 50]. It shares the same defaults as the goose. For related charges, see swan.
The Baron of An Dubhaigeainn bears: Azure, a duck naiant to sinister argent, billed, within a laurel wreath Or.
Mathilde Meyer bears: Per pale azure and argent, two geese respectant enraged counterchanged.
Emma of Wolvercote bears: Argent, three geese naiant azure.
The Russian firebird is a fabulous bird from Russian folklore, whose feathers shine with light even when plucked. It has strong parallels with the simurgh of Persian legend; indeed, given the similarities between the 19th Century Russian story of the prince Ivan and the firebird, and the 13th Century Persian story of the prince Isfandiyar and the simurgh, it would seem that the Russian firebird was a direct borrowing. Certainly we have no evidence of the firebird (even in legend) before the 18th Century. For this reason, the Russian firebird is no longer permitted to be registered; those already registered are considered a step from period practice.
All the Society’s examples of firebirds have the wings spread: volant, displayed, &c. The illustration shows a Russian firebird volant bendwise. For related charges, see peacock, phoenix.
Tatiana Ivanovna bears: Azure, a Russian firebird displayed Or, crested and its six tail feathers each charged with a heart gules.
Krzysia Wanda Kazimira bears: Or, a Russian firebird volant gules, a bordure sable.
Giulietta da Venezia bears: Per saltire purpure and sable, a Russian firebird volant bendwise argent.
The falcon is a raptor, a bird of prey, which can be domesticated for use by hunters. It is found as early as c.1295, in the canting arms of Fauconer [ANA2 204]. Heraldically, the falcon category includes “hawks”; there is considerable overlap in their attributes, though, strictly speaking, falcons and hawks are of differing species. In any event, the terms are considered interchangeable in heraldry.
The falcon is close by mundane and Society default (though Society blazons often specify the posture, nonetheless); when blazoned “proper” (and no species is specified), it is understood to be brown.
Falcons are often depicted as “belled and jessed”, with thongs and bells tied to the legs in the traditional falconer’s manner; this may be done even when not explicitly blazoned, as in the illustration. Falcons are also sometimes found “hooded”, with a leather hood over the head; this fact is always blazoned. A few period armories show the falcon atop a perch, as in the arms of Weele, 1610 [Guillim1 161]. The falcon may be found “preying” or “trussing” upon a smaller beast or bird, holding it in its talons while ripping it with its beak. For related charges, see eagle.
Joseph Hawk bears: Per fess embattled sable and argent, three hawks counterchanged.
Eliane Duran bears: Azure, a falcon ermine belled and jessed Or.
Estienne de Condé bears: Argent, three falcons vert.