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The Liver Bird

The legendary tale of the famed Liver Bird

[The Liver Bird] The Liver Bird is the central part of the badge of Liverpool Football Club, although it's prominence is reduced in the latest badge which incorporates the Hillsborough flame and the Shankly gates. The Liver Bird is also the emblem of the city of Liverpool.

There is no such thing as a Liver Bird as far as birdwatchers or ornithologists are concerned - it is a mythical creature. Even so it's origins are rather obscure - most likely it was originally an eagle. The eagle was the ancient symbol of St John and it was adopted by King John of England as his emblem. King John was responsible for the development of the tiny fishing port of Lerpoole, as Liverpool was then known in the early 13th century, as he chose it as a base for his campaigns in Ireland.

However, when Liverpool was made a Borough in 1797 the coat of arms included a bird which was recognisable as a Cormorant (Latin name Phalacrocorax carbo), carrying a piece of seaweed in it's beak. Laver (presumably corrupted to liver in the name of the city) is an old English name for seaweed and Cormorants build an large nest which they line with seaweed or other vegetation. A local tale was already prevalent about the legendary Liver Bird which was found in the area - perhaps Cormorants had nested near the sleepy fishing port in the past, hence the origins of the tale.

The legend of the Liver Bird was spread by the American novelist Herman Melville, most famous for writing Moby Dick. In another novel, Redburn, Melville told the tale of the Liver Bird which he read in a guidebook on visit to Liverpool in 1839, and which he possibly believed to be true. The story now became inextricably linked with the city of Liverpool, although it was still the subject of argument as to whether the bird should look like a Cormorant or an eagle - the current bird shows characteristics of both.

By the time of the formation of the Liverpool Football Club in 1892, the Liver Bird was well established as the emblem of the city, so it was the natural choice as the badge for a club of the same name. Nowadays, other than the "Liver Bird Upon My Chest", the most famous Liver Birds are two huge bronze statues at the Pier Head on the shore of the Mersey, on top of the Liver Building which was completed in 1911. Local legend has it that if they ever fly away then something terrible will happen - like Everton winning the double!


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