Back in grad school we studied the black plague as part of a western civs survey course. I had great fun finding images to illustrate my presentations. This is one of my favorites. Medicine being what it was back then, spices were thought to ward off the plague and doctors wore head-to-toe black rubber costumes complete with spice filled beaks.
Is it any wonder that black birds became a symbol of death?
Breathing the herbs and spices packed into that beak was said to keep the doctors healthy... I don't know that it was really effective in preventing the plague but it probably did help with the smell of tenement sickrooms and the pustuleous unwashed.
I was reminded of this plague doctor image today as I snapped a photo of yet another fledgling bird in my yard -- this one in the thyme bed of my herb garden.
See what I mean...