There’s just something about animal heraldry and wordplay we can’t get enough of in the UK. Combine the two and you’ll win just about any general knowledge pub quiz going. So today we’re gearing up for the mythical animals round with the symbol of Liverpool, the Liver Bird.


Fancy a gander?


Liver Bird on the Liver Building


History

Whether you know it from the football or your walk to work, the symbol of the Liver Bird is everywhere you go in Liverpool. It’s almost as old as the settlement itself, depicted on the ancient seal of the royal borough from as early as 1229, when the people of Liverpool are thought to have adopted the image of an eagle holding a sprig of planta genista from the seal of borough founder King John.


Due to the interpretative nature of medieval art, by the 17th century the true identity of the bird was lost to shaky copies. And with the Cormorant a familiar sight in the area, John’s eagle became a bird of the sea. The name Liver Bird was later coined in the 18th century through some far-stretched wordplay and confusion with another bird called the lever - what we know as the Shoveler duck.


A wild Liver Bird


The city

Today, the symbolic Liver Bird adorns everything from football kits to city institutions. The most famous of the latter are Bertie and Bella, two large statues fashioned in the image of the local Cormorant, found perched atop the Royal Liver Building. If you’re taking the train to Liverpool they’re a fifteen minute walk from Lime Street station towards the docks.


But that’s just part of the flock. With over a hundred to be spotted around the city, a Liver Bird hunt can great plan for a daytrip if you’re not fast enough to spot the real deal. We love the Museum of Liverpool’s Liver Bird trail, which lets you find them even on a rainy day. Just a few minute’s walk from the Royal Liver Building, it’s home to a life-sized replica of Bertie and Bella as well as a variety of others, from the most musical to the cuddliest Liver Bird.


Liverpool Football Stadium


Mythology

Of course, the Liver Bird wouldn’t be a British mythical animal if the locals didn’t have a good story about what they get up to. Bertie and Bella aren’t facing away from each other because of a simple argument: it’s said that Bella looks out to the sea to represent the watchers waiting for sailors to return, and Bertie looks after their families.


And because we love a bit of drama, it’s said that if the birds ever turned to look at one-another they’d mate and fly away, and the city will cease to exist. Let’s hope the chains keep them where they are, then!


Finally, take a sunset cruise on the renowned Mersey Ferry, and take some memorable pictures against the stunning Liverpool skyline.


Pop culture

With Liverpool’s explosive entrance into the counterculture scene in the 1960s, it wasn’t long before the local bird permeated the music and melodies of the city’s talent. Punning on the name and its implications, all-female rockers The Liverbirds brought the Liver to Germany, where they performed the signature Merseybeat sound to clubs across the country throughout the decade.


Taking to TV next, Liverpudlians of a certain age have plenty fond memories of the notorious The Liver Birds sitcom, which featured two young flatmates and their antics when it came to men, the working world, and the newfound independence of women during the Swinging Sixties. Catch it on repeat for a vision of the city at the tail end of Beatlemania.


Speaking of the boys, the Liver Bird has its scaly claws in there too. Paul McCartney’s coat of arms, granted when he became a knight in the late 90s, features a singing Liver Bird clutching a guitar in tribute to his home and heritage.


That’s a Beatles fact not everyone knows. Next time you take part in a pub quiz, whip out the Liver (not literally, that’s quite dangerous in a bar) for a bonus prize.


Plan your day with our Liverpool journey page, which has everything you need from the best fares to what to do when you’re there.

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