Birds in Mythology

Bird Watching to a Mythic Degree: Mighty Birds in Mythology

Last Updated on July 20, 2023 by Avia

I love birds.  As a fan, I watch them, observe, meditate, and even mimic their language (I’m not good at this, but I still try). Their song, flight patterns, lifestyles (yes, birds have lifestyles!), and variety have enchanted me since childhood.  It’s no wonder.  Birds have always captivated the human imagination with their soaring flights, melodious songs, and vibrant plumage. From ancient times to modern-day pop culture, these feathered creatures have played a prominent role in human society. So, when we crack our mythology textbooks – it’s no surprise that birds in mythology play a big role in the stories we tell ourselves as humans on this lovely blue planet.

So, we all pretty much know that birds feature heavily in mythology from all corners of the world. But what do birds symbolize? What is the spiritual meaning behind them? Join us on a journey through time and space as we explore the myths, legends, and lore of birds in different cultures and religions. Get ready to be amazed by epic tales of exotic birds, wise-winged messengers, and divine fowl deities!

Birds in Mythology

What Do Birds Symbolize?

In many cultures, birds symbolize freedom and grace due to their ability to soar high in the sky. They also represent transformation as our ancestors observed the different stages of growth throughout their lives, such as hatching from an egg and learning how to fly.

Some cultural groups believe that birds act as messengers between humans and the spirit world because of their close relationship with the sky. Birds can also symbolize protection or guidance for individuals on their spiritual journey.

Different types of birds carry different symbolic meanings in various cultures. For example, eagles are often associated with power and strength because of their majestic appearance, while owls are seen as wise animals with illuminating intelligence due to their nocturnal habits.

In any case, birds are powerful symbols that reflect both natural beauty and spiritual connection. Their presence reminds us of our own potential for personal growth and transformation if we allow ourselves to take flight like these incredible creatures.

Birds have been a significant part of myths and legends from various cultures throughout history. From the phoenix in Greek mythology to the thunderbird in Native American folklore, birds have always captured our imaginations with their beauty and grace.

In many mythologies, birds are seen as powerful symbols that represent different aspects of life, such as liberty, enlightenment, peace, wisdom, or even death. They have also been associated with gods and goddesses who possess bird-like qualities or invoke them as messengers.

One common feature among most cultural myths is how humans interact with birds.  Whether it’s through observing a certain bird during an auspicious moment or deferring to them for divination purposes – birds are meaningful. Isn’t it fascinating to see how people view birds differently depending on their culture and beliefs? 

Interestingly, some cultures believe that certain types of birds are sacred creatures that bring good luck or ward off evil spirits, while others consider them bad omens that signify danger is near. 

Given all this, it’s clear that birds play an important role in mythology across the world. Whether they’re depicted as divine beings or simply admired for their beauty, they continue to capture our hearts and minds today just as much as they did centuries ago.

Birds in Mythology

Birds in Mythology, Legend, Lore, Pop Culture, and More

Birds have been featured in mythology, legend, lore, pop culture, and more for centuries. They are often used to represent freedom, power, and wisdom.

In Greek mythology, the owl was associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom. In Native American myths and stories, eagles were known as a symbol of strength and courage. And in Hinduism, Garuda is depicted as a bird-like creature that represents divinity and power.

Birds also feature prominently in popular culture. The iconic bald eagle has become synonymous with America itself, while the phoenix represents rebirth and renewal.

In literature and film alike, birds can be seen as everything from wise advisers to ominous omens. Hitchcock’s The Birds turned seemingly harmless creatures into terrifying baddies while –  Harry Potter’s pet owl Hedwig was both a loyal companion and messenger.

It’s clear that birds hold a special place in our collective consciousness, whether we encounter them in myth or reality. As symbols of elegance, or even fearlessness, they’ll continue to captivate us for generations to come.

Birds in Mythology

Now that we’ve covered the basic low-down of bird symbolism and their prominence in mythology let’s take a look at specific deific birds in mythology from various cultures.  Are you still with me? I hope so! Let’s fly into this beautiful bird footage!

Birds in Mythology Ancient

Birds in Greek Mythology

Birds have always been an important part of human culture, and Greek mythology is no exception. Known for their elegance and vibrant awesomeness, birds have captured the imagination of ancient Greeks. For the Greeks, birds were not only admired for their physical prowess but also associated with powerful gods and goddesses. Each bird had a special significance in Greek mythology that reflected the qualities of its divine counterpart. 


The ancient Greeks believed that certain gods and goddesses were closely associated with birds. One of the most well-known deities linked to these feathered creatures is Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who was often depicted holding an owl in her hand or perched on her shoulder. Owls were seen as symbols of wisdom and intelligence because they are nocturnal animals with sharp eyesight.


Another bird commonly associated with a Greek deity is the eagle, which was sacred to Zeus, king of all gods. The eagle represented strength and power because it could soar high above everything else and had keen hunting skills. In some myths, Zeus transformed into an eagle himself to carry off his lovers or enemies.

Aphrodite & Apollo

Apart from owls and eagles, other birds also played important roles in Greek mythology. For instance, doves were considered sacred to Aphrodite – the goddess of love – because they symbolized peace and purity. Meanwhile, swans were connected to Apollo – god of music and poetry- as he used them for transportation across water bodies.

Many different types of birds held special significance in Greek mythology due to their association with various gods and goddesses. The stories surrounding these divine beings continue to fascinate people around the world centuries later!

Birds in Mythology Greek

Other Greek Bird Mentionables 

Another bird worth mentioning is the Phoenix which symbolized rebirth from its own ashes. The phoenix was also known for its beauty and longevity; it lived for hundreds of years before burning itself on a pyre only to be born again from its remains.

Moreover, Harpies were mythical creatures depicted as half-bird, half-woman hybrids who would abduct individuals or animals deemed unworthy by the gods. They were known to be swift hunters, thus representing power and agility.

Finally, yet importantly, peacocks were considered sacred to Hera- wife of Zeus – due to their splendid plumage, which resonated with her strong sense of pride and dignity.

All these avian creatures acted not just as mere characters but conveyed powerful messages regarding various aspects like power dynamics between humans and gods or goddesses, consequences of disobedience, or respect towards the natural order of the cosmos.

Birds in Mythology Asian

Epic Birds in Asian Mythology

In Asian mythology, birds play an important role as symbols of power and prosperity. Japan’s national symbol is the red-crowned crane, known for its elegance and longevity. In Japanese folklore, cranes are also believed to possess magical powers capable of transforming into humans.


In Chinese mythology, the Fenghuang, also known as the phoenix, is a legendary bird that symbolizes rebirth and immortality. Unlike other mythological creatures with a violent reputation, this bird represents virtue and grace. It was often depicted in ancient art alongside dragons as a powerful pair.


Another epic bird in Chinese mythology is the Kun or “Quin.” This giant fish-like bird is said to have created the world by stirring up mud from beneath the water’s surface with its massive wingspan.


The Garuda (one of my favorite Eastern birds in mythology) also appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism as a divine creature resembling an eagle or hawk. In Buddhist scripture, he serves as Buddha’s protector, while in Hinduism, he acts as Vishnu’s mount.

These epic birds showcase how deeply ingrained avian symbolism has become within various cultures throughout history. The myths surrounding them provide insight into their values and beliefs about life after death, creation stories, and good fortune, among others.

Birds in Mythology

Exotic Birds in Pacific Cultural Mythology

The Pacific region is stuffed with cultural mythology and features an array of exotic birds. 

Tui Bird

For instance, In Polynesian culture, the Tui bird was believed to be a messenger from the gods, possessing supernatural powers. According to legend, Maui transformed himself into a Tui bird to help his people.


The Maori people of New Zealand hold the kiwi bird sacred as it represents their connection with nature and their spiritual world. The kiwi is also considered a protector of the forest and its inhabitants.

Doves and Pigeons

In Fiji, there is a belief that if someone sees a white dove while on their way to do something important or make an important decision, it’s considered good luck. Meanwhile, in Vanuatu culture, pigeons are seen as messengers from ancestral spirits who have passed away.

These exotic birds play crucial roles within Pacific cultural mythology by symbolizing various aspects of life such as protection, communication with deities or spirits along with being bearers of good fortune or messages from beyond.

Bird Myths from the Amazon and Tropical Cultures

Birds have played an important role in the myths and legends of Amazonian and tropical cultures. These stories are rich with symbolism, often using birds to represent powerful deities or natural forces.

Harpy Eagle

One such myth is that of the Harpy Eagle, which is believed by some indigenous groups to be a messenger between humans and the gods. According to legend, if you see a Harpy Eagle soaring overhead, it means that the gods are watching over you.


Another bird commonly featured in these myths is the Macaw. In many cultures, these colorful birds were considered sacred because of their bright feathers and ability to mimic human speech. It was believed that they could communicate directly with the spirits of ancestors.


The Toucan also features prominently in Amazonian mythology as a symbol of fertility and abundance. Its large bill was seen as representative of its ability to bring good luck and prosperity into people’s lives.

Birds in Mythology Native American

Wise Birds in Native American Myths and Stories

Birds are seen as incredibly powerful and known to possess profound knowledge about the world, nature, and spirituality in Native American wisdom. 


One such bird is the owl, which was considered a sacred messenger of wisdom and intuition. In Native American cultures, hearing an owl’s hoot at night was seen as a sign of impending death or sickness. However, seeing an owl during the day brought good luck and fortune. 


The crow was also highly respected by various tribes for its intelligence and problem-solving skills. It was often associated with creation stories where it played a crucial role in shaping the universe.

Buzzards or Vultures

There are several Native American stories that address big issues like aging, death, and the renewal of life – and they do so with the help of buzzards or vultures. These native stories and myths utilize the clever buzzard in death-eating scenarios that I find immensely fascinating. Vultures are also symbolic of renewal, new life and resourcefulness in many Native cultures.

Moreover, many Native Americans believed that birds had supernatural powers that they could use to protect their people from harm or evil spirits. For instance, some tribes would carry feathers from specific birds as talismans for good luck or protection.

Wise birds in Native American myths embody essential values like knowledge-seeking, spiritual enlightenment while also serving as symbols of hope and guidance for those who seek them out!

Bird Myths and Superstitions in Early European Lore

Early European lore is filled with myths and superstitions about birds. One of the most common beliefs was that birds were messengers from the divine or even embodiments of spirit beings themselves.

Birds in Mythology Celtic


In Celtic mythology, crows were often seen as bringing news from the otherworld to humans. The Irish hero Cú Chulainn had a pet raven (or crow, depending upon the telling of the story) who would fly ahead of him into battle to warn him of danger.


However, not all bird myths in early European lore are positive. Some species were considered bad omens or even symbols of evil forces. In medieval Europe, it was believed that owls were witches in disguise and that seeing one flying near your home could mean death or misfortune. This misconception, due to unfortunate ignorance, has maligned the name of “witch” to this very day.

Despite these negative connotations, many bird myths from early European cultures have persisted through centuries and continue to influence our perception of them today.

Spiritual Meaning of Birds

In many traditions, birds represent spiritual insight, transcendence, and higher consciousness. Their ability to soar high in the sky represents our own potential to rise above earthly limitations and connect with something greater than ourselves.

Different species of birds carry different spiritual meanings based on their unique characteristics. For example, eagles are often associated with strength, courage, and vision, while doves symbolize peace, purity, and love.

Moreover, birds can also serve as spirit guides or power animals that provide guidance and support in times of need. By paying attention to their appearances or calls in our lives, we can tap into their wisdom and receive meaningful messages from beyond.

At the end of anything, there’s no doubt that birds hold a profound spiritual significance that reminds us of our connection to the universe and inspires us to embrace our true selves.

Birds in Mythology: Examples in Christianianity

Birds in Christianity

Birds have played a significant role in Christian beliefs, often symbolizing different virtues and illustrating important lessons. 

One of the most well-known examples is the story of Noah’s Ark, where a dove carrying an olive branch represents hope and peace after the flood. Another popular bird in Christianity is the eagle, which is associated with Christ’s resurrection and spiritual growth and strength.

In addition to these stories, birds are also referenced throughout the Bible as messengers from God or symbols of divine protection. For example, Psalm 91:4 states, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge,” depicting God as a mother bird protecting her young.

Birds can also be seen in Christian art and architecture, such as on stained glass windows or perched atop church steeples. These depictions serve as reminders of faith and spirituality for those who view them.

Birds in Buddhism

In Buddhism, birds are often symbolic of various things. The Buddha himself often used birds as metaphors in his teachings, such as comparing a person’s spiritual journey to that of a bird leaving its nest to take flight. In this way, birds can represent the path toward enlightenment.

Furthermore, there are many stories in Buddhist literature featuring birds who have achieved enlightenment or helped others on their paths toward it. One such story is that of the swan who taught King Janaka about impermanence and detachment.

Birds in Hinduism

In Hinduism, birds are considered sacred and symbolize various qualities. Birds like peacocks, swans, and parrots are also revered for their beauty and grace. Peacocks are associated with the goddess Saraswati, who represents knowledge and wisdom. Swans represent purity and spiritual transformation, while parrots symbolize communication and devotion.

The story of Jatayu from the epic Ramayana highlights the bravery of a giant vulture who tried to rescue Sita from Ravana’s captivity but was mortally wounded in the process. This tale depicts how even animals can exhibit selfless love and heroism.

Birds also play an important role in Hindu rituals such as weddings, where they are released as a symbol of good luck, or at funerals, where they represent liberation or moksha from life’s struggles.

Birds in Wicca

In Wicca, birds are highly regarded as powerful symbols of spirituality and magic. They are seen as messengers from the divine realm and have been used for divination purposes since ancient times.

One of the most important birds in the Wiccan tradition is the owl. The owl is often associated with wisdom, knowledge, and intuition. It represents the ability to see beyond what is visible to others and can help guide us on our spiritual journey.

Another significant bird in Wicca is the raven. This mysterious bird has long been a symbol of transformation, magic, and prophecy. It’s believed that working with ravens can help us tap into our own innate abilities to manifest change in our lives. The raven is also associated with deities in the Wiccan religion.

In addition to these specific birds, many other feathered creatures hold their own unique meanings within Wiccan traditions. From songbirds to waterfowl, each species brings its own energy and power to the practice of witchcraft.

Birds in Mythology

At this point in our jaunt through birds in mythology, it should be clear these incredible winged creatures have fascinated humans for centuries, and this fascination has translated into their presence in cultures and myths around the world. 

One reason why birds are so popular is because of their ability to soar freely through the skies. This asset has utterly captured the imagination of humans to the point where birds in mythology have been engraved in history.  It’s that essence of transcendence and liberation from the daily shackles of daily life that make the bird so elevated in cultural stories, legends, and myths. 

Additionally, birds’ unique physical qualities, such as their feathers and beaks, have made them symbols of beauty, sleekness, and power. This is especially true in Native American culture where eagles are revered as spiritual messengers.

Moreover, some cultures believe that certain species of birds possess supernatural abilities or connections to deities. For example, Hinduism associates peacocks with Lord Krishna, while Celtic mythology believes swans possess magical powers.

Birds’ natural behaviors, like migration patterns or mating rituals, may also contribute to their symbolic significance in various cultures. Overall it’s clear that our enchantment by these feathered creatures stems from a mix of cultural beliefs and awe at the wondrous things they can do!

Frequently Asked Questions About Birds in Mythology

Many people have questions about the role of birds in mythology and their symbolism. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand:

What do birds symbolize in mythology?

Birds can represent a wide range of meanings depending on the culture or myth. Some common themes include enlightenment, inspiration, freedom, wisdom, spirituality, transformation, and messengers between the divine and humankind.

Why are birds so popular in myths and legends?

Birds’ ability to fly has made them stand out as powerful symbols throughout history. They also possess unique characteristics, such as diverse colors, shapes, and sizes, that make them interesting subject matter for stories.

How do different cultures view bird symbolism?

Different cultures have varying interpretations of bird symbolism. In Native American culture, for example, birds are seen as spirit animals with varying meanings. Erstwhile, in Christianity, birds often represent resurrection and rebirth.

Can specific types of birds carry specific meanings?

Yes! For example, the owl represents wisdom in Greek mythology, in some Native American tribes, the owl is a sign of foreboding. Furthermore, the crane is considered a symbol of longevity & prosperity amongst Japanese people, yet in some ancient Asian cultures, it is considered a mighty warrior not representing life – but actually threshing life for the purpose of winning in battle.

Closing Thoughts About Birds in Mythology

Whew! Was this article on birds in mythology as good for you as it was for me?  To be sure, these creatures featured in cultural myths and legends are nothing but exhaustive.  My research has taken me far and wide – and this is just the tippy top of the iceberg when it comes to our feathered friends standing in as mighty characters in myth.  

That said, you can do your own research and hunt down alternative meanings of birds in mythology and ancient stories.  I think if you do, you’ll find that these vibrant, valuable creatures are worthy of being hailed on high for all of their resilience, instinct, and beauty.  Ultimately, I hope this article offered value and insight into your spiritual journey with birds in myth. As always, thanks for reading!

Mighty brightly,

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