Bird Superstitions That'll Make You Think Twice

Bird Superstitions That’ll Make You Think Twice

In the world of mythology and folklore birds get featured pretty heavily. Some are harbingers of doom, whilst others are fortune and good luck. They are of course all based on superstitions of the past, but many have made it into our modern world. Whether you believe them or not, they do make interesting reading, so follow us into the world of bird superstition.

There are some superstitions from different parts of the world, in some cases, from different parts of the same country, where birds feature as either the bringers of good luck or the bringers of bad. So it would seem to depend on your point of view, or your imagination more than on any facts or scientific proof. Take the crow for example, dating back as far as ancient Greece the crow is not the type of bird you want to spot.

What Does It Mean If You See A Crow In A Graveyard?

If you are unfortunate enough to see a crow in a graveyard, you’re in for a spell of bad luck. 

What Does It Mean If You See A Crow At A Wedding

Worse still, if a crow is seen at a wedding reception then the wedding will end in divorce, that’s according to our ancient Greek friends. In another superstition, 2 crows are released during a wedding ceremony and if they fly away together the happy couple are in for a happy and fortunate marriage. But, if the crows flew away in different directions, then a divorce is imminent.

More Crow Superstitions

If you spot a single crow,it is a sign of bad luck, but seeing 2 crows is a sign of good luck. Seeing 3 crows together is a sign that someone in your family will die, but seeing 4 crows is supposed to mean financial gain. If you see 5 crows then you, or someone close to you will get ill, and 6 crows together means death, maybe that’s why a group of crows is known as a murder.

Crows In Different Cultures

In the Hindu culture, crows are believed to be messengers of Yamraj (the Hindi God of death), and if a crow bites you, your death is imminent.

In Celtic mythology, a crow is supposed to be a form of the Goddess of war known as Morrighan, they usually appear in a group of 3 and this is supposed to be a sign that the Goddess is watching, or is about to visit someone. 

In Native American Indian cultures the crow is described as an intelligent creature, and are often used as clan animals.

In ancient Greece the crow was a symbol of the God Apollo during his acts of prophecy.  A crow flying from the East or the South was considered a good omen. This belief was also followed by the Romans.

Crows In Indian Superstition

One of the largest countries in Asia, India has its fair share of superstitions concerning the humble crow. So many in fact, that they can be broken up into 2 groups: good and bad omens.

Indian Good Omens Concerning Crows

  • Seeing 2 crows signifies good luck, success and happiness in the not too distant future.
  • Seeing 4 crows signifies a pending windfall of wealth and possessions.
  • Crows cawing on your balcony signifies unwanted guests to your home.
  • If you are fortunate enough to see a crow dying, or a dead crow, you are likely to be a success at whatever you are trying to achieve.
  • Seeing a flock of crows is a sign to something irresistible and alluring.
  • Seeing 3 crows together is a sign of fitness or the relief of injury.
  • Seeing a crow’s nest or even a crow’s feather signifies wealth and riches to your home.

Indian Bad Omens Concerning Crows

  • Seeing one crow signifies bad luck and misfortune.
  • Seeing 5 crows in a line means bad health is to follow.
  • Seeing 6 crows signifies death or murder, to you or a close family member.
  • Seeing 7 crows signifies good health, wealth and prosperity.

 Why Are Crows Usually Associated With Death?

  • Crows Are Black
    We tend to associate the colour black with either something bad, or something to be afraid of. Think of most stories, the villain of the piece is usually dressed in black.
  • Their Screech Is An Unpleasant Sound To Our Ears
    Most birds have a pleasant sounding song, but crows’ song is alien to our ears.
  • Crows Are Often Aggressive
    Many birds, when approached, move away quickly, but crows tend to stand their ground and in many cases act aggressively towards us.
  • A Flock Of Crows Is Called A Murder
    That makes us think they are harbingers of death subconsciously before we even think about them.

So there are many negative connotations directed at the crow, which goes a long way towards explaining why we associate them with death and bad luck.

What Does It Mean When A Bird Flies In Your House?

This depends on the colour of the bird, birds flying into your home are supposed to signify the arrival of important news. If it’s a white bird, it means good news is coming.  But if it’s a black bird, not only will it be bad news, but it probably means the death of one of your family. They don’t even have to enter your house, if a bird accidentally flies into your window, it means someone will die in the house. 

Why Is It Unlucky To Kill An Albatross?

If you are a sailor,come from a maritime background, or are a fan of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge you’ll probably already know this one. Coleridge referred to it in his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in 1798. Sailors always say it’s good luck if they see an albatross, but in the poem a sailor shoots and kills an albatross with a crossbow. The rest of the crew make him wear the dead bird around his neck as punishment. 

The death of the bird caused the ship to suffer terribly bad luck, until a ghost ship turns up and kills them all.

Why Should You Have Money In Your Pocket When You Hear The First Cuckoo Call Of The Year?

Cuckoos turn up quite a bit in the superstitious world. In parts of Wales it was customary to kiss your hand on hearing the first cuckoo call and ask” how long shall I live?”  Youngsters asked “when shall I marry?” however many times the cuckoo called would give them their answer. Those suffering from a bad back could get cured by throwing themselves on the grass and rolling around 3 times when they heard the first call of the cuckoo.

It was also said that if the cuckoo called before breakfast it was a forewarning of misfortune. Another belief was that if the cuckoo’s call was stuttered during the night, there would be rain the next day.

Another tale speaks of back in the 1860s if a miner heard the cuckoos call for the first time on his way to work, he would straight away go and tell the colliery manager and a holiday was declared as a celebration. They then all went to the pub and “wet the cuckoo” this custom appears to have faded out sometime in the 1860s, what a shame.

Why should you have money in your pocket when you hear the first cuckoo call? Because you had to take it out of your pocket, turn it over and spit on it, according to the legend you would then have good luck and wealth for the following year. There’s another superstition that when you hear the first cuckoo call of the year, you should place a stone on your head, and run at high speed. Wherever the stone falls off you should go back there the following day and you will find money under the stone.

Beware The Magpie, It Carries The Devil’s Blood Under Its Tongue

According to Christian folklore, the magpie is the only bird that never entered Noah’s ark. Instead it sat on the roof and laughed as the world drowned. Another story says, the magpie was the only bird that never mourned at Jesus’ crucifixion because it was the devil in disguise. It was also said that the magpie was a cross between the dove and the raven and the only bird not baptised.

In Scotland it is said that the magpie has a drop of the devil’s blood under its tongue and if you were to cut out its tongue it would be capable of human speech, this was probably dreamed up after a few whiskeys. 

The magpie has been associated with death for centuries, they were often spotted scavenging around battlefields and they often eat other birds eggs and chicks. Which would explain a lot of their bad press especially by groundsmen and gamekeepers.

As they are inquisitive birds, they were often blamed for missing jewellery. It was easier to blame the magpie than look for the criminal.

You are supposed to salute the magpie if it crosses your path, if not your day will be full of doom. Magpies were so feared during the Victorian period that they were nearly hunted to extinction.

The Greeks Revered The Magpie

In ancient Greece the magpie was sacred to the God of wine, Bacchus. The Romans believed that the magpie was an intelligent bird. The native American Indians believed that the magpie was a messenger from God. Other tribes believed wearing a magpie feather meant you were fearless.

It is only a single magpie that causes fear and bad luck, as the old rhyme says…

“One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

And four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret 

Never to be told,

Eight for a wish,

Nine for a kiss,

Ten for a bird

You must not miss.”

There are other versions of this poem that are altogether more dark in their wording, one dating from 1777 goes as follows:

“One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a funeral,

Four for a birth,

Five for heaven,

Six for hell,

Seven for the devil his own self.”

And there’s this one from two years later that goes:

“One for sorrow, Two for mirth, 

Three for a funeral, Four for a birth”.

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter a single magpie, there are a few things you can do to avoid disaster. Firstly salute the magpie. Then say either, “good morning General”, or “Good morning Captain”, or say “Good morning mister magpie, how is your lady wife today?” There are many variations on this, some say “Hello Jack, how’s your brother?” or Good morning mister magpie how are misses magpie and all the other magpies?”

Some even go to the trouble of blinking twice to fool themselves into thinking they’ve seen 2 magpies.

More Magpie Superstitions From Near And Far

It’s safe to say that spotting single magpies anywhere in the UK will bring you bad luck, but there are regional variations worth mentioning too. For instance:

  • In Wales
    If when starting out on a journey you see a magpie moving from right to left in front  of you, you will face a hazardous journey.
  • In Scotland
    If a solitary magpie is seen anywhere near the window of a house it is a sign of certain death.
  • In Ireland
    It is said that magpies are the souls of wicked, evil minded, women who were gossips. The Irish also call the magpie a Frenchman for no apparent reason.

Then in other regions of the UK we get these:

  • In Devon
    If the first bird a fisherman sees is a solitary magpie, he will catch no fish that day.
  • In Yorkshire
    If you spot a magpie, you should make the sign of the cross to ward off evil spirits, because magpies are associated with witchcraft.
  • In Northampton
    If you spot a group of 3 magpies together, be warned, a fire is imminent.
  • In Somerset
    You should always carry an onion with you, to give you protection from the bad luck magpies bring. Just an onion? Not garlic? Magpies are not as bad as Dracula then.
  • In Sussex
    A magpie spotted perched on the roof of a house is considered to be a good sign that the house is unlikely to fall down.

Some More Magpie Superstitions From Around The World

It’s not just Sussex, in other places throughout the world magpies are not always considered to be unlucky:

  • In Korea
    The magpie brings good news and invites good people into your world.
  • In China
    Spotting and hearing a singing magpie brings good luck, it is also the symbol of good fortune and happiness.
  • In Mongolia
    Magpies are clever birds and they have the ability to change the weather.
  • In Scandinavia
    Magpies are connected to Skadi-The Norse Goddess of Winter. 
  • In Norway
    The magpie is the bird connected to the Huldra, a secret, underground group of people with beautiful, seductive females and hideously grotesque males. The magpie is also supposed to be a trickster and very cunning.
  • In France
    Magpies are supposed to be the reincarnation of evil nuns.

Magpies, As Clever As Great Apes

Ornithologists have studied the magpie for many years, and they have concluded that the brain to body mass of a magpie is equal to that of the great ape. It has also been discovered that magpies are capable of using tools, working together in teams, playing games, and in many cases it has been found that magpies can mimic human speech.

So if you do happen to come across a lone magpie today, doff your cap, wave hello and salute because these magnificent birds are more than worthy of our respect.

Great Britain’s Fate As A Nation Is Linked To 6 Ravens

Since the 17th century 6 ravens have been living a spoilt life in the Tower Of London. Named “The guardians of the tower” by King Charles the second, he decreed that if they ever left the tower, the buildings would crumble, and the British Empire would collapse entirely.

This seems like an odd choice, considering ravens are black birds, and traditionally through history, black birds are considered to be linked with bad luck and not good. But it has been taken seriously ever since Charles II’s decree, even now at least 6 ravens have their wings clipped so they can never fly away, with more kept as spares to ensure the number never drops below 6. And it’s a good job they do keep the spares.

Because in 2013 a fox somehow got into the tower and ate 2 of the ravens which are so revered they are even named. These 2 “Jubilee” and “Grip” met their untimely end, but not in vain, as there is now a team of 4 whose sole purpose is to care for these ravens 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

Why Are Ravens Revered By Some And Feared By Others?

In old Christian traditions, ravens used to enjoy plucking out the eyes of sinners, but they also fed sacred hermits. When Cain killed his brother Abel, Allah sent a raven to show him how to bury the remains. According to Swedish folklore, ravens are the ghosts of murder victims.

North American and Canadian traditions have the raven as a creator and a rascal. They say the raven created the world and saved all the animals from a great flood. But he also created a lot of mischief. The raven also created mosquitoes. According to the Jewish tradition, in the Talmud a pair of ravens mated during the great flood and Noah banished them from the ark.

If A Bird Poops On You Rejoice, It’s Your Lucky Day

We know, it doesn’t feel too lucky, but many people believe that it is actually a sign of good luck. Plus, you don’t even have to leave the poop where it is. Cleaning it up does not affect the luck value. That is unless you happen to be on a ship. Sailors believe that bird poop should not be removed until after the next rain downpour (which will probably get rid of most of it anyway). 

While most of the superstitions concerning bird poop are good, some of the older tales from Britain warn that rook poop is a punishment  for not wearing a new suit at Easter.

Killing Birds With Your Car Can Be Very Unlucky

It is obviously unlucky to the bird, and to whoever has to clean the mess up, but according to the superstitious amongst us, it’s more serious than that. Some people believe that hitting birds with your car drains your luck. While some others say that it’s an omen of death. 

Watching Birds Flight Paths Can Predict The Future

Way back in ancient Rome they had a special name for it. They called it “auspicy” which means telling the future by watching the birds. They believed that as birds fly high in the sky, they are closer to the Gods.

 To tell the future, they would stand on a special spot, facing East, and wait to see which way the birds flew. If they flew towards the right, it meant good news, and if they flew left, then they should take care. If a bird flew towards the diviner, it meant good luck, if it flew away from him, it meant they should maybe think again before acting. This could be problematic because it all depended on where the diviner was actually standing.

Birdsong Tells Tales Of Things To Come

According to superstition, if you hear a songbird cry while it’s flying you will get good luck, but if you hear a bird of prey screaming at any time, you’re in for bad luck. If you happen to hear a bird call from the North means serious bad news, but hear the same call from the South, and you’ll get a successful harvest. Hearing a bird call from the West means an all round spell of good luck, whereas a call from the East means luck in love.

The Call Of The Crow

It doesn’t matter which direction a crow calls from, it always means bad news, that is of course, unless the crow is near it’s nest. If you hear 3 caws in a row, death is imminent.

The Peacock’s Feather Brings Good Luck – Or Is It Bad Luck?

Depending on which side of the world you live on, peacock feathers are either good or bad luck. In the Western world, bringing a peacock feather into the home of an unmarried female, will condemn her to become a sad old maid. Anyone else who lives in a home where a peacock feather appears will experience bad luck. 

Actors and actresses will not have peacock feathers on any costumes, or scenery as they are strongly associated with bad luck in thespian circles. 

The Evil Eye

Many superstitious folk believe that the end of the male peacock’s tail feathers represent the “evil eye”, sometimes called the “devil’s eye”. Others just think the eyes are invading their privacy. But there are some that believe that the arrogance that is displayed by peacocks when they spread their tail feathers is somehow transferred onto the wearer and gives them confidence. 

Security In The Home

If you are an occupant of some of the far Eastern countries like China, Japan or India, then having peacock feathers in the home will bring you luck. Not only luck, but the extra eyes will add to the home’s security by helping to keep a watch and protect the occupants from harm or even death.

Why The Most Unlucky Thing To Do Is Kill A Robin?

According to the legend, the robin is the most revered bird in God’s kingdom. Apparently the robin was similar to a sparrow in its markings and colours. But when Jesus was dying on the cross, a little robin plucked the sharpest thorn from the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head and by doing so, the breast of the little bird was dyed red with Christ’s blood and has remained red ever since as a sign of how sacred this little bird is to God and how it should be protected by man.

Why Is The Wren The Most Hated Bird In Ireland?

During the British civil war, the Irish troops were approaching the English position to attack part of Cromwell’s army, a flock of wrens perched on the Irish drums. As they tapped on the drums, it alerted Cromwell’s troops who attacked the Irish troops and killed all of them.

Ever since then, every St. Stephens day the Irish hunt the wrens and kill them, and they teach their children to do the same. A dead wren was tied to a pole and taken from house to house asking for money. If they received nothing, they buried a dead wren under the doorstep which was done to shame the family.

Birds As Divine Messengers


Apart from the robin story from earlier, there are many other mentions of birds as divine messengers these include:

  • Eagles
    The bird of Zeus the Greek God of the sky.
  • Cranes
    Cranes are the sacred bird of Hermes the Greek God of trade, wealth, luck and fertility.
  • Doves
    The bird of Astarte the Egyptian Goddess of war and sexual love, Aphrodite the Greek Goddess of sexual love and beauty and the symbol of the Holy Spirit.
  • Ravens
    Are a part of Morrigan the Goddess of war and the familiar of Odin the Norse God of war.

According to Polish tradition when unmarried girls die they come back as doves, while married girls who die come back as beautiful owls. They also say that beautiful owls only come out at night because if they were seen during the day the other birds would be so jealous they would harm them.

It Pays To Feed The Birds And Give them Water

According to Turkish tradition birds bring news of the living to the dead. So if you want a glowing report to reach your ancestors be sure to feed the birds and make sure you put fresh water out too. In some parts of Turkey people still put small containers of water on the graves of dead relatives to bribe the birds to tell only good things about them.

Other Bird Stories From The British Isles

Old traditions say that the stonechat, chats with the devil, a rooster crowed at the crucifixion, and if there’s a magpie hanging around, the devil’s close by. Also sparrows, starlings and plovers are on good terms with the fairies, and larks and swallows bring good luck, unless the swallow is perching on top of the house.

Are Owls Good Or Bad?

According to many cultures, the owl is considered to be a bad sign in many cases, even a sign of death. The owl is also thought to be wise and all knowing, but to dream of owls represents the approach of death. But according to Australian aborigines the owls are sacred creatures, and in some cultures it is believed that people will come back as an owl after they die. Regardless of all the superstitions and old wives tales, we welcome as many varieties of birds to our garden as would like to come. The more varied the food you put out in your garden, the more varieties of birds you will get to visit your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do 2 Magpies mean?

According to the ancient rhyme, 2 magpies means joy, 1 is sorrow or bad luck and 2 is joy or good fortune.

Should you salute a magpie?

According to old tradition, if you fail to salute the magpie,bad luck is patiently waiting for you around the next corner.

Why is there a magpie tapping on my window?

Birds often see their own reflection in glass and feel they need to fight to protect their territory.

What do you call a bunch of crows together?

A bunch of crows is called a murder. This dates back to old traditions that said that crows were bad luck, bad omens and generally not good for people.