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The Liver Bird – Alive?

October 24, 2011

A chance snap by a nature photographer has thrown open the debate about which animal was the natural inspiration for the mythical Liver Bird.

The controversial picture, which captures a bird almost identical those which sit on top of the Liver Buildings first began to ruffle feathers after being posted online.

Captured by Canadian photographer Greg Johnston, the perfectly framed still shows the feathered beast in the classic Liver Bird pose, complete with a sprig of vegetation its beak.

Until now, the Liver Birds were thought to have been versions of a King John’s eagle which first appeared on Liverpool’s town charter in 1207.

But the bird in Johnston’s snap, which flies in the face of that theory, is actually a Canadian Blue Heron, giving rise to a debate about whether the original Liver Bird was ever actually an eagle at all.

Ian Wallace is a historical expert at the newly opened Museum of Liverpool, he said that people have tried and failed to identify the original Liver Bird for centuries and that case is still very much an open one.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the #72m museum, Wallace said: “The Liver Birds have been interpreted so many different times over the years, that its definition and interpretation is endless.

“Many people have suggested that they most resemble cormorants and evidence has pointes to their orgins as distortion of King John’s eagle on the city seal.

“But ultimately their charm is in their mystery and I don’t think anyone should try to remove that entirely.”