How to Read Birds as Omens and Signs

Updated on June 8, 2019
EditorAnna profile image

In 2010, I started befriending the crows in my neighborhood. Every year, there's at least one new baby crow to introduce myself to.

I saw a black bird. Is it an omen? What does it mean?
I saw a black bird. Is it an omen? What does it mean? | Source

The Long History of Reading Birds as Omens & Signs

Since ancient times, people have looked to the heavens for signs, and since birds fly, it makes sense that people would perceive birds as messengers of the gods or fates. After all, a bird's-eye-view is significantly more omniscient than an earthbound perspective. Birds know what the world looks like from 30,000 feet high; they have seen the insides of clouds, so looking to birds for perspective makes an odd kind of sense.

Augury—the art of interpreting birds as omens—has been around since before the ancient Romans. An "auspice" is a Latin term for the messages birds might convey. An "augur" (a word that means both omen and one who sees an omen) would "take the auspices" by looking at "aves" (birds) and "reading" their appearance and behavior. Those auspices (bird-signs) were sometimes auspicious (lucky) and sometimes inauspicious.

If you say the words "auspices" and "auspicious" aloud, you can hear their relationship. Language emphasizes the long history of the belief that birds and luck are linked and that one might look to birds for guidance for knowing which steps to take in life.

But it wasn't just the ancient Romans who "read" birds. Ornithomancy, a modern term for augury, has been practiced all around the world, from the earliest recorded times. It's alluded to in many stories and legends of the indigenous people of the Americas and mentioned in the bible's old testament. Countless cultures have myths about clever, wise birds who talk to gods and deliver insight to humans.

Anyway, people have been reading birds for a very, very long time. If you'd like to begin practicing the ancient art of augury, this article will help you get started.

According to the ancient Egyptians, sparrows caught the souls of the recently deceased and carried them to heaven.
According to the ancient Egyptians, sparrows caught the souls of the recently deceased and carried them to heaven. | Source

What Does It Mean If a Bird...

What does it mean if a bird taps at my window?

Birds do this all the time: They see their reflection and freak out, assuming it's some rival bird encroaching on their territory. Usually, it's the territorial types that do it, and usually in springtime when they're feeling really frisky, but tapping on the window is hard to ignore. It's easy to believe that the bird is trying to get your attention.

A bird pecking on a window is definitely an opportunity to stop and pay attention. What have you forgotten or neglected to attend to? What neglected duties need doing? Which loose ends need tying? Take this as an opportunity to sit down and pick your brain to figure out what or whom you've overlooked.

What does it mean if a bird poops on me... or my car?

Most of us would be upset if a bird pooped on us. It's hard not to take this kind of thing personally, especially if you have to clean it up (that's what I call adding insult to injury). You may wonder if this particular bird has a vendetta against you or an angry message from above. Maybe you've insulted the universe in some way, and this is its revenge. Maybe its an angry ancestor trying to express their unhappiness about some mess you're making in life.

On the other hand, you might choose to agree with all the happy optimists who insist that bird poop a lucky sign. This is probably the healthiest interpretation since, after all, s*** happens.

What if a bird smashes into my window?

The awful thud of a bird hitting your window is a sign you just can't ignore. What it might mean:

  • Perhaps you're going to encounter an obstacle of some kind: emotional, mental, or physical.
  • Maybe it's a sign that you're headed in the wrong direction in some aspect of your life: personal, professional, or interpersonal.
  • Maybe you're moving too fast or too rashly and you need to slow down.
  • It could be a reminder of the obstacles you face and a reminder that not all options are open, or that timing is everything.
  • It might represent a rough transition, a trap, or a hidden pitfall.
  • It could represent the end of one reality, relationship, or belief system, and the start of something new.
  • Or it might just mean that the poor bird didn't see the glass. Consider putting up tape strips so it doesn't happen again.

What does it mean if a bird flies into my house?

Most cultures have superstitious beliefs that if a bird in your house, it is a message from above: God, fate, the universe, or your dead ancestors are trying to tell you something. Many believe that it is a bad omen, but many more believe that it is just a reminder to keep your eyes open.

The other day, a blue jay flew into my house looking for food... and then forgot how to get out. It caused a terrifying ruckus flapping around and banging its head into the glass, trying to escape. I grabbed a towel, threw it over the bird, then brought it back outside again. I felt sorry for it because I know how it feels to stumble headlong, unwittingly into a trap you don't know how to escape from, like a dead-end job, a toxic relationship, or some other mistake. You think you're headed towards something great and then all of a sudden, you find yourself in a very wrong situation you can't back out of. I took this situation as a timely object lesson and was grateful for the reminder.

Auspices: Bird Signs and What They Might Mean

In ancient Italy, not all birds in the sky were viewed as meaningful signs or messages from gods. They observed two kinds of birds: oscines and alites.

  • Oscines (ravens, crows, owls, and chickens), whose birdsongs conveyed larger meanings, could be interpreted as either favorable (lucky) or not, depending on where they sang from in relation to the augur.
  • Alites (eagles, vultures, and others) were those whose actions and flight patterns were interpreted meaningfully.

Depending on what time of year the bird was heard or observed, every sound and movement made by these birds had a different interpretation.

Ex tripudiis—the dances of feeding birds—were often read to help guide military expeditions. The troops brought chickens with them to war just for this purpose and would sprinkle food on the ground and release the birds from their cages when guidance was needed. If the chickens didn't come out to eat, crowed, flapped, or flew off, these were seen as bad omens, but if even one came out and dropped some food on the ground, this was a very lucky sign.

So what does this mean for you?

Let the ancient Romans guide you. When reading the skies for omens, consider all of the following:

  • What sounds does the bird make? Would you characterize the sound as mournful, happy, peeved, insistent, scared, sad, or haunting? What emotion or memory is evoked by that sound?
  • What is the bird doing? Is it flying, strutting, watching, flapping, swimming, hunting, or sleeping, and what meaning can you make from this action?
  • What type of bird is it? Is it a waterbird, songbird, predatory bird, or scavenger? What significance can you derive from the type, and does it hold any special meaning for you?
  • What color is the bird? Consult the table of color significance below.
  • How many birds are there? Is it a flock, a family, or an individual bird? Again, what significance can you ascribe to this number?

Many believe that the number of birds you see has special significance.
Many believe that the number of birds you see has special significance. | Source

Is Seeing a Black Bird Bad Luck?

Black creatures get a bad rap. Black sheep, black cats, and black birds (mainly crows and ravens) all have negative associations. Although many people assume black is bad, this consensus is no proof that these things are intrinsically malevolent or dangerous. Rather, the belief that black things are always bad is proof that people are lazy and want easy answers for things.

It would be very nice—and handy!—if all we had to do to find answers and guidance in life were to walk outside, look up at the sky, and "read" the birds flying overhead, especially if black meant always bad and white always meant good (and take a moment to notice the inherent racism of that remark). But of course, nothing is that simplistic.

Seeing a bird is not going to give you a clear answer. It's no magic 8-ball (and who thinks those are really magic?). A bird's color doesn't necessarily make any meaningful difference whatsoever. However, just as reading Tarot cards, studying astrology, and taking personality tests all give people ways to understand themselves more deeply, looking at nature can, too. Think of augury as just one more means of introspection and reflection.

With that in mind and from that angle, maybe a bird's color could be meaningful. Below you'll find a chart of different ways to interpret a bird's color.

What Could the Color of a Bird Symbolize?

White Birds
Black Birds
Red Birds
Blue Birds
Yellow Birds
peace, death, innocence, purity, kindness, forgiveness
The Shadow, secrets, dreams, the unconscious, death
passion, blood, danger, heat, a warning
happiness, sadness, truth, clarity, the unknown
happiness, a warning, joy, freedom (or lack of it)
As with the action and type of bird, the color of the bird you see might have significance. The seer's personal associations with a particular color should always be taken into account, as well.
If I see a white bird, what does it mean?
If I see a white bird, what does it mean? | Source

Questions to Ask to Discover a Bird's Significance

There are two kinds of bird signs: impetrative (sought after, asked for, or requested) and oblative (unasked for; coming out of the blue like a bolt of lightning!). So ask yourself: Is the bird bringing you an unasked-for message from the universe? Or is it answering a question you asked—explicitly or implicitly?

What the Type of Bird You See Might Signify

Type of Bird
Associations to Consider
Historical or Cultural Context
Black birds (crows, ravens, blackbirds)
Black birds are most often associated with death. They are often believed to bring messages from our dead loved ones.
Odin, a Norse God, had two ravens who flew all over the world then returned to whisper what they'd seen into his ears.
White birds (doves, egrets, etc.)
Like black birds, white birds are often associated with ghosts, holy spirits, and the afterlife.
Doves are seen by many as symbols of peace or faith.
Owls
Owls are often associated with wisdom, knowledge, and insight. They're also sometimes associated with female power and fertility.
Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, was always pictured with an owl.
Predatory birds (hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, etc.)
Victory, strength, power, domination, perspective.
Many cultures associate predatory birds with war.
Scavengers (vultures, crows, etc.)
Tenacity, patience, observation, timing.
Most people know that scavengers linger near dead bodies.
Songbirds (finches, sparrows, starlings, etc.)
Domesticity, imprisonment, freedom, cheerfulness.
Miners used to take canaries down into mine shafts as an early warning system for lack of oxygen.
Hummingbirds
Lightheartedness, diligence, the importance of small things.
Aztecs saw them as messengers from the gods and ancestors. They were good luck symbols.
A flock of starlings in a murmuration: What does it mean? These flying patterns are more akin to physics than biology, but scientists still don't know how the birds can do it!
A flock of starlings in a murmuration: What does it mean? These flying patterns are more akin to physics than biology, but scientists still don't know how the birds can do it!

Questions & Answers

What kind of bird did you see? What was it doing, and what do you think it means?

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    • profile image

      Song bird 

      32 hours ago

      Landed near me and slowly walking towards me but then turned and walked away after I walked towards him/her.

    • profile image

      Jeanne 

      2 days ago

      First the cat caught a humingbird and brought it in, I got it out the door. Then she brought in a starling maybe and I chased it around the house thought it left out the door. Then today a bird in the bathroom. Usually I get them at the same window fluttering or pecking when a loved one passes. I figure I have been suffering lately and its help from above.

    • profile image

      jeanine 

      3 days ago

      3 hummingbirds saw by me & my good friend on same day different part of town & 1st time for both seeing so many. Also making sure they were noticed & how they interacted with 1 another. A prince & his guards like. what do you think ???

    • profile image

      Mary Neuhaus 

      5 days ago

      I was reading a book in my back yard swing and a bird landed nearby. I looked and told it it was pretty. It flew nearer and began to chirp, I chirped back. It came right by my head and I started laughing and then it jumped on my shoulder! It sat there pecking near my head. My daughter came out and said, "mom did you know there is a bird on your shoulder?" She got my husband. The bird was completely comfortable sitting on our hands and pecking our fingers. My husband found a worm and fed it, from his hands. There's more but it was so incredibly bizarre.

    • profile image

      Smackdaddy3-6 

      6 days ago

      What does a dead cardinal in my driveway mean?

    • profile image

      Noelene 

      11 days ago

      Ive seen about 4 or 5 dead birds and 2 injured birds all in one week

      I saw the injured one on my way walking home yesterday and tried to help it sat with it for an hour waiting for the ranger but it suddenly flew off then today when I was leaving work it was outside the shop I tied to help it but it kept scuttlu g away

    • profile image

      Janine McMaster 

      12 days ago

      While sleeping at about 1:30 a.m. a dark color (black?) bird suddenly flew at my husband and woke us up. It landed on our bed. My husband quickly turned on the light. He covered it in a towel and brought it outside. It’s crazy, He is not 100% sure he heard it fly away as he did not see it or hear it fly??! We do have cats and a pet door so it is likely the cat could have brought it in. However, at this time of night seems so random and unlikely. Needless to say, I am having a hard time falling back asleep. Anyone have any thoughts??

    • profile image

      JamesTaylor 

      12 days ago

      What does it mean when birds keep flying into me when I'm on my motorcycle

    • profile image

      Adrian 

      13 days ago

      What does it symbolize when a bird approaches you and pecks on your foot?

    • profile image

      B. Clark 

      2 weeks ago

      A bird dont what kind just happened upon my window hanging on to the separation of each part of the window looks like it was eating something off of the window then just flew away. It was strange to me never seen this before.

    • profile image

      Jane 

      2 weeks ago

      I saw a male and female oriole in a dream. They were sitting on the floor next to my bed. I do not know what this could mean. Do you?

    • profile image

      Myrna 

      2 weeks ago

      I have seen 2 grayish dead birds in the last week. What does this mean?

    • profile image

      Janet 

      3 weeks ago

      Last night tree in our yard struck by lighting and fell. This morning a tiny grey baby bird emerged staring at us im close range then disapeared.

    • profile image

      Sabrina 

      3 weeks ago

      2 red birds one chasing the other in flight and chirping

    • profile image

      lisa 

      3 weeks ago

      I gathered my sister family and my family to celebrate my mom's birthday at the cemetery . My mom passed away on March 7th, 2018. I missed her a lot and sometimes wonder if she is up in Heaven with her parents and siblings.

      When I got home and were unloading the bags from the back seat, a bird flew out and landed on the back seat door. I was shocked. I thought the bird will fly away but it didn't. I went to the side where the bird is to grab the bags from the back seat and the bird flew to the other side of the door. I unloaded all the bags. Checked on the bird and it was still on the door. I reached out to touch it and it didn't fly away. It stayed put. I got some rice and water to give to the bird. Nothing. The bird opened it beak but no sound came out. After an hour, I hear the bird chirping. Still it stayed on the door handle and I sat on the back seat with the bird. It was a sparrow. A couple of my friends came over and they came closed to the bird and nothing. We went into the house for an hour, I left the door car and the garage door opened for the bird to fly away. I came out 45 minutes later the bird was still there. I spent 20 minutes with the bird, it chirped and finally, it chirped and I gave it a nudge on the back and it looks at me and finally flew away. It was in the back seat of my car for 3.5 hours.

      What does it mean. It is my mom spiritual soul came home to hang out for a while. I'm not sure what to make of it.

      Any one has any thoughts? Thanks.

    • profile image

      Debi Karpowicz 

      3 weeks ago

      Sitting in chair by window, feedig granddughter,,tuis golden male finch kept coming up and sitting on ledge looking at me. Has been there all day. What meaning do you feel it i?

    • profile image

      Liz 

      4 weeks ago

      I saw 2 red birds on my walk today. One was directly infront of my house on a wire. Watching me step out of my house. Later in the walk, I saw a 2nd red bird on a wire watching me. I was told that these are symbols of loved ones?

    • profile image

      Billy 

      4 weeks ago

      What does it mean when a wood pigeon hit your window

    • profile image

      Esmeralda 

      4 weeks ago

      Lord i always have crows following me ever where i go some times. They circle. My house they be one on my light pole wish i could under stand what the one on my light pole is saying to me

    • profile image

      Karen 

      4 weeks ago

      Last year at my work had a homing pigeon that came and would not leave, would stay outside during the day and fly into the shop at night.

      This year i left my garage door open at home which is 15 miles away from my work and when I went out to get into the car there was a homing pigeon in the garage shooed it out but it kept coming back in. I think it is strange out of all the houses it came to my house.

    • profile image

      Kyleigh-rae Tangaro 

      4 weeks ago

      Although I read tour content and did some of my own interpretations, I just have to ask. What would you say be the reason for getting visited by a white cattle egret that has only her left leg. And missing the right side? The timing of landing was spooky too but idk if that’s anything...

    • profile image

      Joanne Cibelli 

      4 weeks ago

      It fley into my screened in porch...

    • profile image

      Helen Troutt 

      5 weeks ago

      I am puzzled as to why a Robin bird was sitting at the door step. Please enlighten me

    • profile image

      Lynn H 

      5 weeks ago

      I saw male and female goldfinches flying around and chirping together , following each other playfully, happily . Could see and hear them in a yard but then they flew right in front of me, landing in a small bush for me to have a good look.

      Thoughts on meaning?

    • profile image

      Lori 

      5 weeks ago

      A blue bird flew in my pocket and i woke up before I found out if i suffocated it in my dreams? What does it mean?

    • profile image

      Alonso 

      5 weeks ago

      I was watching a youtube video on the blood of Jesus at 2 am and all of a sudden a pigeon landed on my window to rest it is still there. The pigeons color is white with a little grey and it is just resting there with no fear of me. This has never happened. I am not afraid. The pigeon is just looking at me. The window and pigeon are at my backside about a foot i a half. I just do not get it. But I have to tell you that there is a sense of peace in my house at the moment. Please tell me what this means.

    • profile image

      Larry 

      6 weeks ago

      Baby feathered bird was just resting under the patio chair in the shade and did not move when I got close to him

    • profile image

      Donna Page 

      7 weeks ago

      I saw 2 yellow Posterazzi sitting within 3 feet of each other

    • profile image

      HollyG 

      7 weeks ago

      Patio door was open, been seeing pair red birds on deck& tree. This morning one flew into house landed on counter, when I entered it flew out door. I believe in ancient scientific theories

    • profile image

      Alison 

      7 weeks ago

      I had a massive row with my husband and was so upset so I looked to the sky to ask for a guidance sign, later that day a pigeon flew in my hall window into the spare bedroom room, I eventually caught it and put it back out of the window where it’s mare was sitting, it flew away but I can’t help thinking this was a sign does anyone know if there is a meaning behind this?

    • profile image

      Numero Unoma 

      7 weeks ago

      a brown bird with a yellow beak has built a nest on my bathroom windowsill. First one egg, now two...

    • profile image

      Estrella 

      7 weeks ago

      Little yellow with black bird keeps on tapping my windows the whole day yesterday going back and forth morning till dawn ...what's the meaning of that ?Please and Thank You

    • profile image

      Teena 

      8 weeks ago

      A black bird flew into my windshield while driving it died what dose that mean ?

    • profile image

      Nonkululeko 

      8 weeks ago

      Little grey bird hopping from my bedroom then flew out leaving droppings

    • profile image

      house wren 

      8 weeks ago

      Was insude my house perched on my window blind very still

    • profile image

      Annmarie Christopher 

      8 weeks ago

      My husband and I with a few family members and a friend were sitting in a beautiful courtyard, I think it was. Finch, dark body with a bright breast ——not usual to the area I live in flew and land on my husbands head. The bird and my husband were not scared. It was very calm—- as I tried to remove him the bird slowly walked down to his back then flew into a nearby bush and just happily stayed there.

      I love birds and I look for features so to me this bird was a sign of an angel.

      What do you think?

    • profile image

      Iris 

      2 months ago

      There’s was a black brewers bird sitting on top of my pillow and it just stared at me ... I couldn’t help it but I yelled sooo loud. I was so frightened. (I know it’s just a bird) what can this mean?

    • profile image

      Yellow bird 

      2 months ago

      Keep landing on my car window

    • profile image

      Zens 

      2 months ago

      Two small brownish birds. With small sqeek

    • profile image

      Susan 

      2 months ago

      A male baltimore orial pecking and flying ul and dksn my bedroom windowfor a couple days off and on one fay for over one hour i eatcbed him frlm a distance and right ul close. There is a small tree it would lerch kn with.branches touching house also a feme was with him but she just sat back and did nothing

    • profile image

      Kenneth french 

      2 months ago

      Yes im sitting on my back porch and a small black bird with a blueius blak head come keep droping little white feathers in my water filled pool....now my son had passed and i know he wants to tell me something im sure of it

    • profile image

      James 

      2 months ago

      A sparrow fell from the sky and blood splattered all over my car windshield and hood and especially my driveway. A Raven ripped its heart out and flew around a tree near the street and came back and crooked it’s head back and swallowed it. Then flew to the roof puffing it’s chest and stretching it’s legs. 2 other sparrows hovered around him and they seemed to engage the raven in some very animated discussion and then left and he glided back down to pick the entrails clean then he left the are. I went and looked and there were several undigested little red berries from the trees inside it’s broken rib cage.

    • profile image

      Pigeons 

      2 months ago

      I see two pigeons on my back balcony everyday whats that mean

    • profile image

      David 

      2 months ago

      A brown bird hit the top of a glass door just as I was approaching. It fell and twitched and fluttered several times on the ground and died on its back at my feet. I work at a school, so there were many people around and I am disconcerted it happened right in front of me. I went to my office and felt like crying. I hate when things like this happen to me.

    • profile image

      Woe 

      2 months ago

      A birds egg fell into my path .

      I didnt know what it was at first .

    • profile image

      M. Helena V. Collins 

      2 months ago

      For the last few months I have become amazed with some strange experiences. Recently "I've been visited" by strange birds in the following circumstances: (1) white doves have been registered countless times, especially during the night, by my side and front cameras, (2) yesterday I was waiting for one of my patients who was late to session, and decided to take a walk around of the building. Out of the blue a dark color bird came and almost did hit me, and then dropped down on the side walk very near to me. I then tried to approach it, send it a kiss, and asked for God to heal the little creature which appeared to have been hurt somewhere; then out of the blue it did fly away to a short distance from me as IF it had not been hurt. Last night exactly at 9:33PM 3-4 owls started "singing" producing loud scare noises near the window of my bedroom; it last about 4-5 minutes. I finally got upset, jumped form the bed and went outside in the darkness of the night. Then I did hear noises of them flying and hiding in the big toll trees in my back yard. I do fell that through all the above a message appears to be sent to me. WHAT DOES IT MEAN is the unanswered question for me.

    • profile image

      Naomi 

      2 months ago

      Last night at around 10 pm a light colour bird seemed to have flown out of nowhere and headed in an easterly direction. Can you please tell me the meaning if seeing birds flying at night? Thanks

    • profile image

      Joelle 

      2 months ago

      A cardinal has been showing up near me everyday no matter where I am. What does this mean?

    • profile image

      Jack R 

      2 months ago

      A black bird with yellow beak and feet, flew into my lounge, then dropped two droppings before flying out the same door!

    • profile image

      Ashley 

      2 months ago

      So last yr i got fired from sams club lol. I worked midnights. A black crow smacks my front windsheld on the passenger side. I screamed and jump. I know it was damon salvatore ut yes this did happen to me and i still dont know what it means

    • profile image

      Bless-me sylva 

      3 months ago

      Dark brown bird nesting on top of a pillar my font door

    • profile image

      Lisa 

      3 months ago

      I am sitting on my patio, dinner time. I heard crows. A murder of 6 came into my yard. Squabbling in the treetops. Quietly disappearing, then returning. I’ve not seen many in my rural yard before. One crow seems to be the target/ boss? They get physical then disperse, only to return. Early spring maybe mating. I’m currently lonely and wishing for a date/mate.?

    • profile image

      Michelle 

      3 months ago

      American Robin bird kept packing on my daughters bedroom window trying to get in the house that Robbyn kept packing even after he saw me watching it.

      I was just getting home and I heard a noise, I went upstairs where the bedrooms are and tracked the noise to my 30 year old daughters room. She has been staying with my mother for the past year with my 3 grandchildren and also her current boyfriend for about 1year and a few months. My 3 grandchildren are from a previous relationship. The father of my 3 grandchildren is incarcerated and has been in and out of jail for the majority of my grandchildren’s lives and will be released in about a year. My daughter and I parted ways because her and I do not get along very well living together. She came back for a little over a month to stay along with my grandchildren and her current boyfriend at my house. I do not like her current boyfriend because he is the nephew of my deceased boyfriend who passed away last December 2017. They got together against my wishes after my boyfriend of 13 years passed away. My daughter is now 21 weeks pregnant with her current boyfriend’s baby. She’s traveled tremendously with the decision of whether or not to abort her baby because she still has feelings for my grandchildren‘s father and also feelings for her current boyfriend. His family has been extremely mean to her and I never got along with them over the years either. My daughter was told that she could not continue to live and with my elderly grandmother by bringing another child into this world and would have to get a place of her own because it was just too much and my mother. My mother and I are very upset that she has gotten pregnant again and neither one of us like his family. The new boyfriend never offers any rent, money, or any help to my elderly mother and doesn’t even offer to take out the trash. He stays there for free, eats the food that was intended for my daughter and grandchildren. He has worked off and in for the past year. My daughter made a decision to follow through with the pregnancy but is still very unhappy. I don’t know what to do. I was just wondering if there was some sort of message or warning from the Robin that kept pecking on my daughters bedroom window? There are two bedrooms on the back of the house with the exact same window. Please can anyone tell me what does it mean? Help

    • profile image

      American robin 

      3 months ago

      It was singing chirping & watching me

    • Ellison Hartley profile image

      Ellison Hartley 

      3 months ago from Maryland, USA

      I enjoyed this article! I have heard stories or superstitions about seeing certain birds, but never really knew any of the background of it. Cool article!

    • profile image

      itgautam.wbn@gmail.com 

      3 months ago

      Thank you for sharing!!

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