Is "bird in the house=death" a common superstition?

I think the movie, “Confidence”, referenced this superstition. My mom has this fear about birds that enter a home is an omen for death. She told a story about a women in church that died few days after a dove or pigeon had perched next to her. Although she had no problems with having our pet cockatiel in the house.
So is different species of birds that are considered an omen? Does it matter if you invite the bird in? Do other cultures have this superstition, or is it the Caribbean region only?

Attested from 1646 (swallows, bad luck); 1792 (bird unspecified, death). Swallows seem to be the most common, but since they nest in eaves that’s not terribly surprising. It’s a common belief in the British Isles, with any non-poultry bird (and sometimes, just images of birds). I think the idea is that if you bring the bird in, no big deal, but if the bird chooses you, watch out.

My grandmother believed this, so perhaps it isn’t too uncommon.


That’s interesting. On several occasions I’ve been at my parents’ place when a bird has come into the house and my mother has suggested that it’s *good * luck.

Many of the common superstitions are also attested with their polarities reversed: (un)lucky black cats, (un)lucky thirteen, (un)lucky to dream of silver money, (un)lucky to dream of the dead, (un)lucky to bring a dove into the house. The last three are from a 1925 collection of Maryland folklore.

Liz Phair has a song called “Waiting for the Bird (The White Bird of Texas)”–its central image is the bird as death omen.

‘The last time I spoke to my aunt before she died
She was describing to me this incredible owl
That was sitting in a tree
It meant nothing to me
But it means a lot more now
Because I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting for the bird
I’m waiting, I’m ready, I know it is my turn
All those cigarettes, alcohol, this body’s through
You’re gone for sure when the bird comes for you
And the last time I spoke to my uncle before he died
It was the very same week, but one year before her
He was sitting alone in his study, on the phone
When a giant hawk flew by
Said, “I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting for the bird,
I didn’t expect to be noticed or heard.
Oh, Elizabeth, help me, I can’t find the room,
You’re gone for sure when the bird comes for you.”’

This is referenced in A.S. Byatt’s Still Life (set in England) in one of the pivotal scenes in the book…

when one of the main characters, Stephanie, tries to rescue a sparrow that has flown into the house and gets electrocuted when reaching behind the refrigerator to pull the sparrow out.

in seems to be true in egypt… i just read an article where a pigeon flew into a hotel room in egypt. the women in the room thought it was funny. not so said another woman, it meant death was close.

later that night they recieved a call that the mil, husband, and son of one of the pigeon room women had been killed.

things like that keep the belief alive.

I had a bird in my apartment once.

I didn’t die.

Yet. But beware: 100% of the people who had birds in their houses before 1880 are DEAD!.

Just don’t put your damn hat on the damn bed!

(from Drugstore Cowboy)

(another harbinger of impending death among superstitious folks)

Back 2000+ years ago, in ancient Rome, it depended on the species of bird. White doves, etc. were OK, but a black colored bird (especially a raven!) was bad luck.