Famous Bird Haikus translated from Japanese

Famous Bird Haikus translated from Japanese

Many of the following famous bird haikus were written by Japanese haiku masters  Matsura Basho and Kobayashi Issa.

Note that these are translated from Japanese to English, so they may not work out to the standard 5, 7, 5 syllable format.

Autumn Eve

On a withered branch
A crow is sitting
This autumn eve.

-Matasura Basho

Matasura Basho is one of the four Japanese masters of haiku of the Edo period. 

Plum Tree

the bird is singing
but it ain’t blooming…
plum tree

-Kobayashi Issa

Issa is another of the four Japanese great haiku artists.

In this poem, the bird refers to the nightingale, which is associated with plums in Japan. 


cooling under the eaves
and just as cool…


Isn’t the metaphor between birdsong and cool air magical?

Issa is a pen name, and it means “cup of tea.”


colorful birds
set free in the trees…


While the imagery is gorgeous on its own, this haiku also refers to the practice of setting birds free at funerals and memorial services. 

Birds in the clouds

birds in the clouds
people in the sea…
a holiday


An elegant description of everyday life


a bird of prey flies home
into blossoms


Beautiful imagery of spring.


alone he cries
the motherless bird…
autumn dusk


Like the motherless bird, Issa was also an orphan.

Bird Wings 

bird wings
brush against the eaves…
winter cold


I picture birds huddling against a house to stay warm on a snowy night


bird’s nest–
tomorrow the pine by the gate
will be cut down


The bird builds its nest, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. This is an example of Buddhist impermanence.

Perfect spring day

birds singing
butterflies flitting…
old tatami mat


Haiku is traditionally tied to a specific season and observations of everyday life, particularly nature

Thank you

mountain field–
“Nice job of seeding!”
sing the birds


The birds thank the farmers for their feast


autumn heavens–
for one little bird
so vast



migrating birds–
how many of your flocks
have overtaken me?


While Issa walks along on his journey, flocks of migrating birds pass him by. 

You might also enjoy this list of the Most Famous Birds in Literature!

Shy bird haiku

birdsong in bamboo grass–
too shy
for the fence


A fledgling bird sings while hiding in the bamboo grass instead of displaying himself on the fence

First Song

from this bird
the year’s first song



a pretty bird
passes in silence…



caged bird–
watching the butterfly
with envy


Another translation reads:

How sadly the bird in his cage/ Watches the butterflies

-Don’t Tell the Scarecrow and Other Japanese Poems


for the budding trees’ spring
a little bird
gushes song



a bird making a nest
a temple being built…
when will they finish?



“Come live, live
in the mountains!”
little birds call


Red berry

the red berry
catches a bird’s eye too…
on the fence


Who will get the berry, Issa or the bird?


Far, far away,
A bird crosses over
The snow-covered mountains

-Taneda Santōka

Japanese author and poet Taneda Santoka is known for free verse haiku, which does not conform to the formal rules of haiku

The Crow

The crow has flown away:
swaying in the evening sun,
a leafless tree

-Natsume Soseki

Soseki was a Japanese novelist known for haikus and fairy tales.

Tis the cuckoo

Tis the cuckoo—      
Listen well !
How much soever gods ye be.

by Nishiyama Sōin, translated by William George Aston

Japanese poet Nishiyama Soin was known as one of the fathers of haiku. He infused poetry with aspects of freedom making it accessible to common people

Related post: red tail hawk quotes 

Famous bird haikus in English 

Many English-speaking authors take liberties with the format and number of syllables in a haiku.

Birds singing

Famous Bird Haikus

Birds singing
In the dark
Rainy dawn

-Jack Kerouac

American novelist and poet Jack Kerouac was known for his novel On the Road. He also experimented with various haiku formats.

“Above all, a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi pastorella.”

Jack Kerouac

Related post: Famous Bird Paintings Around the World

Owl’s shadow

clouds over the moon
wind and owl’s shadow

-John Knight

Flight of cranes

flight of the cranes
surely just dream but
this white feather

-Elizabeth Searle Lamb

American poet Elizabeth Searle Lamb is known as the American first lady of haiku.


under the bird
unhatched eggs

-Susan Marie LaVallée


my tracks… their tracks…
suddenly face to face
with returning geese

-Leatrice H. Lifshitz


leafless trees
and beyond them leafless trees
and the highway
at the edge
just as I let my hair down
the blue heron flies

-Leatrice H. Lifshitz

You might also enjoy reading: Famous Bird Gods

Four o’clock Bird

Famous Bird Haikus 2

that four o’clock bird–
we share the dawn
the butterfly and I
just in time

-Leatrice H. Lifshitz


song of a greenfinch;
a ray of sun on cold steps
and a few snowdrops…

-Martin Lucas


light rain …
sweeping the moor
the peewit’s cry
seed of the reedmace –
the skylark rising
into a wide sky

-Martin Lucas

Check out these Famous Bird Names in Arts and History!

Ice singing

a moment before sunrise –
ice singing
beneath the swans’ feet

-Martin Lucas


Famous Bird Haikus

whatever it is,
the swallows’ word
for sparrowhawk —
I hear them crying it
over the fields

-Martin Lucas

Tern’s Shadow 

a tern’s shadow
darts across the beach
herring clouds

-Maya Lyubenova

Everlasting Beauty

The mockingbird sings,
Always the same song:
The beautiful does not tire.

-Afrânio Peixoto


A wheat ear
a sparrow rocks itself
with its feast.

-Zvonko Petrović

A song

a song for every direction
mockingbird atop
the weathervane

-Wally Swist

Wally Swist is an American poet known for poems about nature and spirituality 

Voices of geese

out of the blowing reeds
and swirling mist
voices of geese

-Wally Swist


Dry, summer day;
chalk-white plover mute
on a mid-stream rock

-Robert Spiess

Great blue heron

A great blue heron,-
the river’s other bank
white with trillium

-Robert Spiess


Patches of snow
mirrored in the flowing stream;
a long wedge of geese

-Robert Spiess


famous bird haikus

crows caw
never afraid to challenge

-Donna Bauerly

Birds Punctuate the Days

One blue egg all summer long
Now gone

Joyce Clement


Famous Bird Haiku

one lone(ly) mallard
ignored by his own echo
quacks again, hoping

—James Ripley

The Wind

Searching on the wind
The hawk’s cry…
Is the shape of its beak

-James Hackett


Many strains of sparrow
there are, yet the same fall theme
graces them all

-James Hackett

Tall smoke

Tall smoke
from the cabin far below
centers the hawk

-James Hackett

Proud eagle

Proud eagle all set
to leave – stays on to defy
the attacking crows

-James Hackett


Never more alone
the eagle, than now surrounded
by screaming crows

-James Hackett

Sound of fall

All of a sudden
every bird becomes silent
the sound of fall

-James Hackett

Bitter morning 

A bitter morning
sparrows sitting together
without any necks

-James Hackett

Deep winter

Deep winter, and yet
the chickadee still chirps and sings
his cheerfulness

-James Hackett


Slowly emerging
a world of sun and colors
heralded by birds

-James Hackett

Empty the night

Empty the night seems
yet endless flights of birds
calligraph the moon

-James Hackett


Spring! The warbler sings
with an exuberance
that spreads his wings

-James Hackett


Hummingbird teases
then escapes in a straight line
full of right angles

-James Hackett

Mountain wind 

On the mountain wind
the call of an eagle
soaring far beyond

-James Hackett


The more sparrow climbs
to the top of that reed
the lower he gets

-James Hackett


With every gust of sun
a halo of golden down
surrounds the hawk


Spring in the hedgerows
Magpies busy canceling
Fresh twitter accounts

—Sean Hickey

You might also enjoy: Falcons in mythology 

More Famous Bird Haikus

Flashing silver

Flashing silver
The plunging waves
Of feeding terns

Mark Miller, New South Wales, Australia


skim the shimmer
—summer sea

Alison Woolpert, Santa Cruz, California

Swept away

swept away
by the storyline…
wild geese

Bernadette Duncan, Hausen, Germany


crows gather in
the silence

P M F Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota


stillness on the lake
a lone swan
stirs the stars

Irena Szewczyk, Warsaw, Poland

Silent meadow 

silent meadow
the swoop of an owl
etched in snow

Carly Siegel Thorp, Sterling, Massachusetts


the magpies
not yet paired

Jared Del Rosso, Denver, Colorado


the yes of warblers between trees

Agnes Eva Savich, Austin, Texas


backyard gossip
hummingbirds flitting
from feeder to feeder

W. S. McCaleb, St. Louis, Missouri


skateboard park
finches ride the wind
to a tree

Christopher Herold, Port Townsend, Washington


the colour
of this winter morning
a raven’s wind-carried call

John Barlow, Ormskirk, England


coiled sweetgrass
the earthy scent
of a meadow lark’s song

Renée Owen, Sebastopol, California


meandering creek
the soft bend
of the swan’s neck

Marianne Sahlin, Gothenburg, Sweden


wing whistle
of a mourning dove

Carolyn Hall, San Francisco, California


Famous Bird Haikus 6

caught by the tide
what the herons
tried to tell me

Jacquie Pearce, Vancouver, British Columbia

Scalloped edge


the scalloped edge
of the pie plate
blackbird song

Tanya McDonald, Woodinville, Washington


chilly morning
the shorebirds
all on one leg

Alison Woolpert, Santa Cruz, California


cold damp morning
charred wood
in the raven’s call

Dave Russo, Cary, North Carolina


calling on her
to hear me out
spring blackbird

Elmedin Kadric, Helsingborg, Sweden

Let-go garden

let-go garden
nothing but jewelweed
and hummingbirds

Sarah M. Strong, Auburn, Maine


hayfield breeze
a lilt
in the meadowlark’s trill

LeRoy Gorman, Napanee, Ontario, Canada

Baby sparrow

Famous Bird Haikus

baby sparrow
the thin line between
falling and flying

Annette Makino, Arcata, California 

Wrap up- famous bird haikus

While this collection of famous bird haikus may not follow the standard convention of three lines with 5, 7, and  5 syllables, they are enchanting, beautiful perspectives of nature, birds, and everyday life.