The Mystical Liver Birds…

Why are these two mythical birds perched on the clock towers of the Royal Liver Building on Liverpool waterfront?

Reflected in the waters of nearby Princes Dock, the two sculptures, each of which are 5.5 metres (18 feet) high with a sprig of seaweed in their beaks were designed by German artist Carl Bernard Bartels, who won the competition to create the statues for the building,.

According to popular legend, they are a male and female pair: the female looking out to sea – watching for seamen to return safely home – and the male looking in to the city. Local legend suggests the birds are facing away from each other, because if they were to mate and fly off, the city would cease to exist. The reality is that one was designed to face the sea from where Liverpool achieved its prosperity, the other to watch the city and its people, or as the city wags put it, to make sure the pubs are open!

The Liver Bird has been the symbol of Liverpool for eons, with some ancient town seals bearing a representation of the birds and dating back to at least 1350. Apart from appearing on the city’s arms, it’s also been adapted for the crest of Paul McCartney with his Liver Bird holding a guitar.

The Royal Liver Building along with neighbouring Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building, is one of Liverpool’s “Three Graces” within the UNESCO-designated World Heritage site. Situated by the Pier Head on the city’s waterfront, the Liver Building, opened in 1911 was one of the first to be built using reinforced concrete.

And finally, the birds (pronounced Lyver btw) are based on the cormorant, and named Bella and Bertie!


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