Halloween is almost here – as we celebrate, we’ll often see images and portrayals of certain bird species for decorations. Vultures, owls, crows, and ravens are all considered "spooky" birds. How often have you seen them portrayed in a dark forest in an animated movie?
This spooky association with these birds goes back a while, with these birds sometimes being thought to be connected with death and other times thought to be sacred.
Vultures, for example, because they feed on carcasses and aren’t the prettiest of birds, were often feared or considered to be bad luck. In some cultures, it was believed that they guarded Hell’s gates.1 They’ve also been considered symbols of misfortune or future danger. However, they were also closely associated with the goddess Isis and sometimes were thought to be sacred animals that helped carry people’s souls into the next life.2
Crows, meanwhile, have a similar reputation because they will also eat carrion. Some beliefs were held that if a crow landed on a house, bad things would happen to those that lived there – this belief was held for owls, too. In Germany, ravens were closely associated with witches and it was thought that they could search for and find the souls of the dead.1
Owls have an equally divided history. Many beliefs that owls were symbols of death have been around for a long time. But equally as many beliefs of owls being symbols of victory or wisdom exist, too.
But these birds aren’t all bad!
Vultures keep our environment clean by getting rid of carcasses in a timely manner to reduce the spread of disease. Crows are super smart, family-oriented, and seem to “mourn” their dead – a group will gather around the carcass of a deceased crow and make a lot of noise.3 Ravens can pull off amazing aerial tricks and are playful.4
Learn more – check out our resources on owls here!