Print Edition - 2014-12-28  |  Free the Words

heads and tails: Flights of fancy

  • In almost all cultures, birds have long been linked with good and bad omens
heads and tails: Flights of fancy

Dec 27, 2014-

Now that the birds are going and there is nothing we can do to stop them, it is time to think of the relationship our ancestors had with these winged messengers. Birds have always been considered both symbols and forecasters of events. The following eight birds, from every part of the world, have been especially important.

Eight special birds

Cranes are revered in Asia as symbols of long life. Cuckoos are welcomed as a sign of spring in Europe and considered omens of a happy marriage. Doves symbolise love and peace. To dream of doves means happiness is at hand. Eagles are considered sacred by Native Americans. The claws and bones of the birds are believed to drive illness away. As the symbol of the US, the bald eagle stands for endurance, independence, and courage. The eagle has always been an important representative of power and might. Warriors and nations have always adapted this bird as an emblem.

Owls are considered prophets of doom. From ancient Rome to American folklore, a hooting owl warns of death. In many cultures, owls represent the spirits of the dead. In India, owls are found in groves near streams and ponds, sites then considered sacred groves. In Nepali and Hindu legends, owls are thought to be spirits of departed ancestors and are associated with occult powers.

Folklore has it that the raven’s sense of smell is so acute that it can smell death before it comes. Observing a raven perched on the right or flying away on the right is regarded as an auspicious sign. Storks are symbols of good luck and fertility. In several countries, the stork is actually encouraged to nest on the roof of the house. In Sweden, the stork is considered a sacred bird because they believe that when Christ was being crucified, a stork flew round emitting cries of distress.

Omens of foe and fortune

Here are also some omens that have stood the test of time. If you spot birds on your right, it is considered an auspicious sign. To see birds flying from the left to the right, across the path of the observer, is considered fortunate. Should the bird fly straight at you, it will bring you good luck. If a bird sings or utters a cry as it flies, it is regarded as an auspicious omen. The height at which the birds are flying is also significant; the greater the height, the more favourable the outcome. If a bird or flock of birds suddenly changes direction in mid-flight as you watch, you must be on your guard against danger or surprise attacks by your adversary.  If the bird hovers while on wing, be alert against perfidy.

If a single girl hears a cock crowing at the same time as she is thinking of her sweetheart, it is good luck. To hear a duck quacking is a most fortunate omen, indicating the coming of prosperity. If you see a duck fly, it is also a good sign, particularly for those who are troubled or sad. Goose calls have been synonymous with danger or of the advent of secret enemies.  So if you hear them be cautious for the next few days. If sea-gulls settle on any part of a ship in which a person is travelling or about to travel, they may anticipate a happy and fortunate journey.

To see a peacock is a happy omen. If the peacock spreads out its tail before you, happiness and prosperity is assured. On the other hand, it is considered unlucky to bring a peacock’s tail feathers into the house. A white pigeon spotted flying around a house foretells an impending engagement or marriage in the near future. To see on either side or to hear a quail calling is considered fortunate.

A robin sighted near a house or in a garden presages good fortune for the inhabitants. The swallow symbolises spring and renewal, revival, rebirth and awakening. To spot a swallow in the early springtime is considered a most fortunate sign. If swallows build their nest in the eaves of a house, it forecasts success, happiness, and good fortune for all who dwell within. Spotting a wagtail is a lucky omen, especially if the bird is advancing towards you from the left side. The woodpecker is an auspicious bird. Encountering one foretells definite success. Sighting the little wren brings a promise of good fortune.

A bird flying into the house indicates that turmoil is coming in some form within the family.

A bird flying into your car or house window being knocked unconscious is an omen that you will hit a wall sometime in life soon. It can also be a sign that family turmoil is in store for the near future. When a bird quickly flies away from you, take it as a warning to approach your plans with caution and delay making any important decisions until your mind is settled. A bird that flies horizontally means you may reach your goal but you should prepare yourself for the possibility of rough times. When a bird lands and takes off several times (or is flying erratically), check your life for hidden problems. Some people believe that when a bird is flying against the wind, it is a sign that you may have a friend in your life that doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

Coloured avians

Red is seen as a sign of good luck. Orange birds symbolise excitement and bliss. Yellow birds mean you should keep your guard up. Green-coloured birds mean that adventure is in your future. Blue birds are linked to joy and love. White colours signify happiness and joy, and are seen as good omens. Peace and contentment is associated with grey colours. Brown birds are linked to healing and good health. Birds that are black and white in colour mean that trouble will be avoided. Birds with brown and white colours symbolise a happy home. Black birds should keep you on alert for unseen dangers.

When I go to my constituency Pilibhit, sometimes I see a pair of Sarus cranes. They lift my mood and make me believe that all might be well.


- To join the animal welfare movement contact,

Published: 28-12-2014 10:30

User's Feedback

Click here for your comments

Comment via Facebook

Don't have facebook account? Use this form to comment