Myths and Legends

Birds of Ill Omen and Superstition


Photo by [jillyb] morgueFile

Birds are one of the Earth’s most beautiful creatures, soaring high in the clouds with their destination often times a mystery. But birds also come with many superstitions depending on the breed and culture.
Here in Texas we mostly have sparrows and turkey buzzards, they don’t seem too magical and more often are pests rather than things of beauty. But there are other birds, birds of ill omen and superstition that have amazing stories of symbolism and fantasy.

The Amazing Peacock and it’s Loud Call

Peacocks normally originate from southern Asia and they wield a massive set of tail feathers often decorated beautifully with many vibrant colors and patterns. But they are also known for their terrifying scream that is said to be loud enough to wake the dead.


Hindu mythology says the peacock is a magical sacred bird that’s often associated with the god of thunder, Indra. The story says that the peacock will dance when rain comes.


Chinese mythology sees the peacock a bit differently than the Hindus. The Chinese see the peacock as a symbol of dignity and beauty and is often associated with the resurrection of Christ according to Christian art. This is because the peacock will molt their tail feathers only to be re-grown at a later time.


But if you ask the Europeans about the peacock, they will tell you it is an evil bird. They say the “eyes” in the tail feathers are relative to the “evil eye” and it’s a sign of impending doom to look upon them.


Clearly the peacock is looked upon differently from one culture to the other, there again, these are mostly superstition.


The Prowler of the Night

When we think of nocturnal birds, the owl is sure to come to mind. The owl is often associated with death, mourning and even evil. There are many countries that say the owl is linked with witches and sorcerers and they may even use the owl while casting spells. The legends even go so far as to say some evil doers may shape shift into these birds as a way of disguise.


But even though many think of the owl as an evil bird, it’s possible to use this bird as protection against evil forces as well. Contrary to those beliefs, the owl is also thought to be a creature of wisdom and great knowledge, especially so in many well known fairy tales and folklore.


If you’ve ever seen the movie Clash of the Titans, then you’re probably familiar with the golden owl that followed Perseus on his journeys and helped to be his guide. This shows how the owl was thought to be a well loved and trusted bird during the days of Greek mythology. In fact it was said to not only belong to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, but also was the emblem of Athens.


The Mysterious Magpie

The magpie is to the Chinese a bringer of good fortune and terrible misfortune will fall upon anyone who kills one of these birds. Europeans also believe it to be terrible luck to kill a magpie, but strangely enough they also believe this bird to belong to the devil. So I guess their idea of bad luck comes from a different angle than the Chinese.


They say if you see a magpie all by itself, then you’ll be cursed with bad luck. On the other hand, if you see a large group of magpies it’s also a bad sign that they may be plotting to carry out evil deeds. But to see a single pair of magpies is just right, this is a good sign and all is well.


There is one situation that a single magpie may be a sign of good things, and that’s when the single bird is sitting on a roof top. This means the bird is there to protect that house, so you would be quite lucky to have one sitting on your roof. But beware, magpies are also thought to be thieves and their desire to have bright shiny things may cause you to lose the family jewels if you’re not careful.


The Cunning Black Raven

The black raven is a rather mysterious bird with jet black feathers and glaring eyes and is normally associated as an omen of death. There are many stories of these cunning birds doing evil deeds, one in particular were the Turnfalken, these supernatural ravens were said to haunt the Habsburgs for centuries.


As the story goes, these ravens had saved a Habsburg ancestor from being attacked by a flock of vultures sometime around A.D. 1000. As a gesture of gratitude for the raven’s help, one of the Habsburgs built a watchtower in the forest and called it Habichtsburg which stood for hawk’s castle. This tower was built as a sacred place for the ravens to live and feed.


Then about 100 years later one of the Habsburg relatives turned this tower into a huge castle and ran the ravens off, killing some of the birds. Because of this the ravens took revenge and it’s said that the Turnfalken ravens would show up at every battle in which the Habsburgs were defeated.


Ravens are very cunning and vengeful birds and should not be taken lightly. They are very smart and have learned how to work together to accomplish their goals. You can read more about them in my post Crows that Think Like Humans.

Do you know of any more superstitions or ill omens about birds, feel free to share with us in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Birds of Ill Omen and Superstition
  1. Hi,

    Fascinating article. In my native place, Crows are considered as ill omen. However, if it rests on our compound wall, it’s a sign that guests are coming over to our home that day soon.

    1. Excellent Hugh! Thanks for sharing another superstitious view about crows. This is what I love most about the blog is the ability to interact with my readers and learn new things! Thanks for joining in on the experience.

  2. It has long been known that in the tower of London that is the home of many families of ‘ Ravens ‘, that should ever the Raven’s leave their roost, then
    London will Fall.

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