Folklore: Bird Flying Into Window = Portent of Death?

This morning I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when I heard a loud THUD from my window. Thinking some neighborhood kids were up to some shenanigans, I looked outside and saw nothing. Then I looked down, and there it was- a dying bird who had obviously brained himself on my window glass.

At that point I remembered hearing or reading somewhere that a bird flying into your window was an omen of death. I posted jokingly about it on Facebook, and some disagreement arose among my friends about whether or not it’s any bird, or a specific bird (and if so, what bird- raven, crow, etc.)?

Anyone got the scoop?

It’s a bird inside the house that foretells death. However, you can see from the example given in the Snopes article that birds crashing into windows are often included in the superstition as well.

When I was growing up, we had an atrium in our house, and at one point we had birds flying into the glass on a daily basis. I can remember my mother making some joking references to the superstition. I think we finally had to hang some streamers in front of the windows to keep the birds away.

It is an omen of death…for the bird!

A bird hit my office window this past Monday. The weekend before that, facilities had people in the building to wash the windows.

I haven’t died yet. Then again, Tropical Storm Isaac won’t be in the area for another twelve hours or so…

It is hard to accept bird + window = death is old folk wisdom. Large, strong windows are a pretty new innovation, to say 1900 would be generous.

Not all superstitions are of equal age, and new folklore can (and does) arise at any time.

All folklore varies by population, so there’s no definitive answer. In Western Europe and cultures derived therefrom, there are various superstitions where the bird basically equals the soul, and unusual or contrary behaviour in wild birds in relation to human life is often read as an indication that death is immanent. A bird flying into the house is sometimes bad luck, sometimes a death omen. A bird flying into a window is a logical extension of that.

Some death omens restrict the bird to night birds or even just owls; some to black-coloured birds or even just crows or ravens. Domestic birds (chickens, geese, ducks, canaries, parrots, etc.) are usually excluded. Beyond that, there’s too much variation to say.

I will say that if the bird remains on the premises, it kind of invalidates the superstition. I mean, if it’s supposed to indicate your soul winging away to heaven and your soul is just there writhing in pain on the ground, it doesn’t really work.


tell Thad.