“The Great Speckled Bird”


"What a beautiful thought I am thinking Concerning the great speckled bird." The bird, though attacked by other birds, "is one with the great church of God." The bird's success is promised when God comes on the bird's wings


Usually credited to Roy Acuff (who certainly popularized it); however, a 1936 printing in the Aurora, Missouri _Advertiser_ precedes Acuff's 1937 copyright, and there is a claim that it was written around 1934 by Guy "Uncle George" Smith. And some of Randolph's informants would date the song much earlier.

The image of the "great speckled bird" comes from Jeremiah 12:9 in the King James Bible ("Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her"). This is not, however, a very apt translation of a difficult Hebrew original (which mentions, seemingly as a single subject, a hyena and a bird of prey; the ancient Greek version reads "My inheritance is a hyena's cave"); most modern versions render the verse in a way not parallel to the KJV. - RBW

Same tune

  • Roy Acuff, "Great Speckle Bird No. 2" Roy Acuff & his Smoky Mountain Boys (OKeh 04374, 1938; Columbia 20032, c. 1945; Columbia 37006, 1946; rec. 1937)
  • Roy Hall & his Blue Ridge Entertainers, "Answer to Great Speckled Bird" (OKeh 4771, prob. 1939; recorded 1938; listed as Vocalion 04771/Conqueror 9184 in Lornell, _Virginia's Blues, Country & Gospel Records 1902-1943_)


  • Roy Acuff & his Smoky Mountain Boys (OKeh 04252 [as Roy Acuff & his Crazy Tennesseans], 1938; Columbia 20031, c. 1945; Columbia 37005, 1947; rec. 1936)
  • Hall Brothers, "The Great Speckled Boatman" (Bluebird, unissued, 1938)
  • Holiness Church congregation, "Great Speckled Bird" (on MMOKCD)
  • Jack & Leslie, "The Great Speckled Bird" (Decca 5555, 1938)
  • Charlie Monroe's Boys, "The Great Speckled Bird" (Bluebird B-7862, 1938)
  • Morris Brothers, "The Great Speckled Bird" (Bluebird B-7903, 1938)


  1. Randolph 621, "The Great Speckled Bird" (1 texts plus a fragment, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 435-437, "The Great Speckled Bird" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 621A)
  3. Silber-FSWB, p. 368, "The Great Speckled Bird" (1 text)
  5. Roud #7444
  6. BI, R621


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1936 (Aurora Advertiser)
Keywords: religious Bible bird
Found in: US(So)