Birds of a Feather Flock Together
“Of a feather” means with the same kind of feathers; and “birds of a feather” are birds of the same kind. So birds of the same kind naturally go together and do not live with birds of other kinds. Crows flock together with crows, minas with minas, sparrows with sparrows, and pigeons with pigeons.
But this proverb, although it mentions only birds, is generally used about men and women. Of course, just as all birds are birds, so all men are human beings; but, just as there are many kinds of birds, so there are many different kinds of men. For example, men are divided into different races and nations, each having its own language, manners, and customs. And the people of one nation naturally “flock together”, more than they will with people of foreign nations. Indians associate with Indians, Englishmen with Englishmen, Germans with Germans, and Japanese with Japanese. This is natural, because, speaking the same language and having the same customs and ways of thinking, the men of one nation understand each other better than they do foreigners.
But within the same nation, people are again divided into classes-the rich and the middle class, and the poor. Rich people find most of their friends in their own class; they have little to do with the middle classes, who form their own society; and these again do not mix much with the poor, who keep to themselves.
Again, we may divide people according to their moral characters-some are good and others are bad; some are honest and industrious, while others are lazy and dishonest. These classes will keep us apart. The good find little pleasure in the company of the bad; their friends will be of their own moral class. Pleasure seekers do not make companions of studious scholars, and honest men shun thieves.
Hence this proverb means much the same as another “You can know a man by the company he keeps.” If he is always with bad people, you naturally think he likes such company because he is bad himself. In fact “birds of a feather flock together”.