Birds as Omens and Signs
For many centuries, our ancestors looked to nature to bring them important information on their health, love, prosperity, and more. Many civilizations believed in animal totems and relied heavily on the messages that birds brought to them, including Native Americans, the Celts, and many other cultures. Why not use the same methods as our ancestors and listen to what nature has to say to us?
In this article, we will learn how to look at birds as omens and signs and how to listen to the messages they bring us. We will examine the following birds and meanings:
Birds as Omens
- Crows, ravens, and blackbirds bring news of good passage and protection.
- Hawks represent clear-sightedness and vision.
- Owls are birds of ill omen.
- When a hummingbird hovers nearby, it means you are capable of achieving the impossible.
- A bird in the house means different things depending on the type and its behavior.
- When a bird flies in the window, you may encounter an obstacle in your life soon.
- If a bird follows you, it wants to be your guardian.
- Augury is using the flight patterns of birds to answer life questions.
- Dead birds represent metaphysical death and change.
Crows, Ravens, and Blackbirds
What Does It Mean If I See a Crow? Are Black Birds Bad Luck?
There is a superstitious misconception about black birds in much of Western society. Why is this? Is it simply because they are black and that color is often associated with evil? Or is it due to many years of stereotyping the crow or blackbird to be a witch's familiar? Either way, the black bird as death omen seems to be one that sticks out in many people's minds.
I have to disagree and state that the assumption that a black bird is an ill omen is false. Even the Native American medicine man Bobby Lake Thom, who wrote Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies, says that the black bird always has a message to bring and it usually is not a bad one. While the crow or blackbird can play the trickster, they are usually benevolent and bring news of good passage and protection. The black bird's reputation as a bad omen is not based in experience or fact.
The video below is one that I took of a black bird (I believe it's a raven, others tell me it's not) fighting off an attacking blue jay. I took this as a good sign, not bad. I had a great day and an even better week that week that I saw this huge black bird cross my path. I also immediately associated this omen (albeit a good omen) with the god Bran and the goddess Maeve . . . two deities that had been trying to get my attention for quite some time.
What If I See a White Bird? Is It a Curse or a Blessing?
Just as it is overly simplistic to equate black with bad, it might also be a mistake to associate white with good fortune. White doves often symbolize peace, joy, and love, white pigeons are linked to holiness or guardian spirits, and egrets are associated with prosperity. Pigeons and doves were also the only birds the ancient Hebrews believed were appropriate for sacrifice. On the other hand, many cultures equate the color white with death or emptiness.
One of the most powerful birds of prey, hawks have superior eyesight. Because of this, they symbolize vision, clear-sightedness, the big picture, and wisdom.
If a hawk lands near you or appears in dreams, a message is coming to let you know whether you are on the right path. Hawks are a call to take notice. Their appearance is considered to be a blessing.
Owls and Buzzards: Birds of Ill Omen?
As much as I love and adore birds in the wild, is there such thing as a bird of ill omen? I absolutely hate admitting this fact, but I have to. I have personally experienced the owl as an ill omen and read about this in medicine men's writings. That was quite difficult for me to admit, as I am a big fan of owls. I find them to be beautiful and majestic creatures. However, every time my owl familiar has shown up at my home, within a week, one of my neighbors dies. So in my personal experience, the owl (no matter how lovely) is a bird of ill omen because it brings news of impending death.
In Eastern Europe, if an owl lands on a person's roof, it is said to portend a death in the home. Some Native medicine men say that the owl can be work for evil forces to spy on you or perform other evil tasks.
Another bird of ill omen, according to some Native American tribes, is the buzzard. While I have no personal experience with buzzards, many find that they bring news of blockages during travel and other aggravating circumstances. Is the buzzard a bird of ill omen to you? Or have they been a bird of protection? Messages can vary from individual to individual.
Hummingbirds are impossibly strong, fast, and beautiful. They are revered for their speed and energy. If a hummingbird hovers nearby, or especially it one lands near you, it brings a message of joy and love. Native Americans associated hummingbird movement with a dance intended to bring balance to the world.
To learn more, read The Hummingbird Spirit Guide.
Other Types of Birds
There are so many other types of birds that might be trying to say something to you. To interpret the message they're bringing will require careful observation, research, and soul-searching.
A Bird in the House
What Does It Mean When a Bird Flies Into Your House?
An old wives' tales from the Ozarks and superstitions from other regions in the U.S. say that certain birds flying into the house are a bad omen, particularly turtledoves. But I say make your judgment from the situation and the circumstances that take place directly after the bird is in your home. And of course, by all means, set the little thing free!
- Watch the bird. Is it trying to get free or is it looking around your house calmly?
- What kind of bird is it? Could it be a bird that your ancestor or deceased loved one was a fan of? Maybe one of your loved ones is trying to send you a message.
- Is it trying to get out? Maybe it's telling you to free yourself from the box you've put yourself in.
- Not every feathered creature that flies in the house has to be an ill omen. It's similar to the death card in a deck of tarot cards, which can mean both a change or an end, but not necessarily a death. You don't have to take it in the literal sense. Maybe there's an underlying message to it that you didn't see at first.
Some people often wonder if certain actions by birds mean certain things. In my experience and opinion, the meaning may be specific to your life. Birds were known as messengers to the gods. They were said to bring messages to us from the other side. Here are some common bird omens and signs and their potential messages:
What If a Bird Flies in the Window?
When a wild bird flies into your car or house window and is knocked unconscious, it might die from the impact. This may be an omen that you believe you are getting somewhere in life, but that you will hit a wall soon. Don't worry, another window of opportunity will open. It can also be a sign that family turmoil is in store for the near future.
What If a Bird Follows You Home?
This is not necessarily an omen so much as an indication that this particular creature would like to be your friend. The bird that follows you home might actually be what we call your "spirit guide" or "totem." These can be anything from a crow to a pigeon. Research the mythology behind whatever bird is following you home and be open to the fact that this creature might be a guardian of one kind or another.
What Does It Mean If I Find a Feather?
Many regard bird feathers as gifts or signs from the gods. If you find a feather, it may be a message from your spirit guide or a deceased loved one. Read The Magic in a Feather to learn more.
How Can You Use Birds as Omens?
Augury is the process of answering a question by studying the flight patterns and actions of birds. The ancient Celts used this technique, and so did some Native Americans. It involves listening to nature and being receptive to the messages it brings us. There are answers all around us, we just have to be open to hearing them.
To read the flight patterns or actions of a bird, you really have to use your personal intuition. Here's how to get started.
- Be in a relaxed state and gaze up into the sky. Wait for a flock of birds, or any birds at all, to fly by. Don't worry too much about it. Let the birds come to you spontaneously.
- Ask yourself some questions about the birds you see. Do you see a large number of birds, or just one? In what direction are they flying? North, south, east, or west? Are they flying steadily in one direction, or are they swirling about?
- Use your intuition to interpret the movements. What do these motions mean to you?
One evening I was driving home from work when I saw a flock of about 20 birds flying above my car, into the sunset. I had been reading birds' flight patterns for years, so it came naturally to simply look at their swirling flight (in and out of one another). To me, this meant that I was to experience some chaos at home that evening. While I won't go into detail, I most definitely did.
Reading birds' flight patterns is not difficult. You just have to be open-minded and willing to watch and listen, with both your intuition and soul. Augury is a wonderful tool for divination and for everyday life.
To learn more, read Augury: How to Read Birds and Their Flight Patterns.
Finding a Dead Bird
What Does a Dead Bird Symbolize?
If you've seen a dead bird in the road, or perhaps accidentally hit a bird, it may feel like a bad sign. It may actually be a good sign, showing you that an end to turmoil or pain is coming. A dead bird doesn't necessarily portend physical death, but metaphorical death. Perhaps you're going through the heartache of a break-up. Perhaps you are struggling to find a job. This dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.
Questions & Answers
I have been going through a series of bad luck for the last three months. Last night I dreamed of a dead crow and a group of other crows were surrounding it. I was observing the scene with other people. Then I said, "Oh look they even have a ritual!". The ritual was for one of the live crows to take out the dead crow's eyes. Today in the daytime (not a dream) I saw a dead crow hanging from a tree while I was in the car. What could this all mean? More bad luck?
© 2012 Nicole Canfield