A phobia is an irrational fear about certain objects, features or animals that is out of proportion to the existing circumstances. Thus, Ornithophobia, or the fear of birds makes the sufferers extremely uncomfortable around birds. For some individuals, such fear is only directed towards the birds of prey such as vultures, hawks, and eagles etc, whereas in other cases, even household birds like parrots or parakeets as well as the sight of their feathers are enough to trigger an anxiety attack.
Causes of Ornithophobia
There may be different causes or reasons behind the excessive fear of birds:
- Young children can develop Ornithophobia if they have felt threatened by aggressive birds like vultures, hawks or geese.
- In some cases, the birds might not have shown any violence, but their mere presence at traumatic events such as funerals or accidents can be enough to trigger a phobia in a young child.
- Birds flying inside the homes through an open window and causing upheaval might have made the parents nervous and this can trigger anxiety attack in the child.
- Ornithophobia can also be instigated by folklore or movies. Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, or Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’ also portray birds in negative light or as killing machines.
- Images of carnivorous birds attacking small prey like rabbits seen on TV shows can sometimes develop a fear of birds in young minds.
Most cases of childhood Ornithophobia go away on their own while others may persist even in adulthood.
Symptoms of Ornithophobia
The symptoms of this phobia vary based on the severity of the condition. As with any other type of phobia, Ornithophobia symptoms can be categorized broadly as mental, physical or emotional.
- Some people refuse to eat in places where birds may be present from the fear of having their food stolen by the birds.
- Ornithophobic individuals are afraid of birds preserved by taxidermists and present in museums etc. Still others are afraid of all images, photos or even the feathers of birds.
- Physical symptoms of this phobia typically include breaking in cold sweat, trembling or shaking, screaming or crying, having an increased heart rate, freezing in place or attempting to flee at the sight of birds.
Some individuals are known to experience such anxiety attacks days before an actual confrontation with the birds. Like many other types of phobias, the fear of birds can sometimes be severely debilitating in that; the individual might refuse to leave his home entirely, thereby affecting the day-to-day life.
Treatment for fear of birds
Overcoming Ornithophobia is essential specially if it causing one to be anxious or depressed all the time. A severely crippling phobia needs professional treatment. In milder cases, one can develop and stick to some self help routines such as positive reaffirmations and visualizations, meditation, or controlled deep breathing and so on.
For people with severe anxiety, doctors might prescribe tranquilizers and other medicines to reduce the severity of the symptoms. However, care must be taken when using them. Weaning off such medications can cause withdrawal symptoms and they do not do much for the fear itself rather than providing symptomatic relief.
Since most phobias are defined as “a conditional reflex or learning gone wrong”, psychotherapists also recommend behavior therapy to help the phobic individual unlearn these reflexes. Behavior therapy is known to be effective in nearly 9 out of 10 cases of Ornithophobia.
Gradual desensitization is another effective method of treating the fear of birds or fear of feathers. Ten to thirty sessions (depending on individual cases) may be used for exposing the person to his/her objects of fears. The patient is shown slides or images of birds or their feathers, taught to imagine approaching the birds until s/he gradually learns to cope without distress.
If you or a person you know is suffering from Ornithophobia so much so that it causing great deal of tension or anxiety all the time, then one of the aforementioned psychotherapies is sure to help treat the condition successfully.
Kania moses says
When I was younger, I had three incidents with three different types of birds. I tried to feed a goose popcorn, and it chased me. I was at a beach with my family, and a seagull attacked me and took my sandwich out of my hands when I was about to eat it, as well as I stepped on a pigeon in the train station and killed it by accident. I still remember the squish under my shoe, and it was still making noises afterward. I don’t think I ever jumped so high in my freaking life. Once I realized what I stepped on and moved off to it, I remember thinking it would get up and get me. I just went into full panic mode. Now I can’t walk past and be close to any type of bird. And sometimes, if one startles me on the street, I’ll jump, run away, or scream and look absolutely insane, lol.
I’ve had this since I was 6. Now I’m 13 and I still have this phobia. It’s been 7 years and my parents did nothing.
Even me. My parents thought that I was overreacting to silly things.
Random cat says
When I was in kindergarten my friends and I were playing hide and seek and I went to hide in the little garden my school had. I was trying to peek from the bushes to see if I could find my friends and I put my hand on a tree near me to try to get a better look and I touched something feathery, so I looked over and there was a dead bird slanted over the tree branch (to people wondering why I hadn’t seen it before since it was right next to me, I was looking behind me to make sure I was not followed and just kind of sat down). Ever since then I have been afraid of birds.
I can understand why.
Same. I feel sorry for you.
But remember that birds have carried messages in wars before, and that has saved people’s lives. Not all birds are bad.
I’m mortified of cuckoos and large birds. I just turned 20 and every time I see a picture of a bird I get really bad anxiety. I just start screaming like a possessed person and checking the space I’m in to make sure there are no birds. I sometimes even feel their beaks going against my skin without them really being there.
I dread birds in general but you see, the bigger they are, the more terrified I get. I think I would pass out or just die if I was in the same room as a turkey.
Zarin Subah says
It’s not horrible for me seeing the birds on tv. But when I see them in front of my eyes, I can’t tolerate the fluttering of their wings and then I try to flee away.
I’ve always been scared of birds. Walking in the streets is so stressful for me. I’ve been to psychologist 2 times but I couldn’t feel any release. Sometimes I think that it’s getting worse and worse. Do you have any solution?
When I was a child/teen, my parents would try to force me to go collect eggs from the chickens, and they’d let the chickens just roam freely around the yard and expect me to go outside to play or do chores.. I remember being absolutely terrified and both of them telling me that I was just being ridiculous and I needed to grow up and threatening me if I didn’t do as I was told.. I would literally tell them, “If it takes you whipping my behind with a belt to not have to go around those goddamn birds,.. here, you can use mine!” I would’ve chosen to have my behind blistered with a peach-tree switch or be grounded for a 6 months rather than go anywhere near any birds, Of course, when I’ve mentioned to them now as a grown man, they’re both like, “oh we just didn’t understand..” .. BULL… Anyone with a lick of sense would know by the way I’d react that I was mortified and that forcing me into that situation was absolute cruelty.
I used to think my parents were good parents when I was younger, but as I’ve gotten older and am a dad myself, I look back at all of the stuff like that and how they’d turn a blind eye to bad things or downplay any negative situation, regardless of how bad it was for me.. They were awful parents… more concerned with appearances and obedience than my safety, happiness and well-being. My parenting is the exact opposite and I have three awesome exceptional respectful kids that have been ahead of the curve from the get-go… because I treat them with respect, support and understanding.
What a bad child you are calling your parents awful when they did the best for you, what they understood was right. Shame! What happens if your children say the same about you in the future!
He’s not a bad child when it’s clear that his parents didn’t even try to understand his situation. It might’ve been a bit much to say they were awful parents but still, you have no right to call him out like that when you don’t even know how he grew up.
My gf jumps on me every time a bird takes off nearby.
I have the same issues. I scare even in a picture of a chicken or even in a dead bird. I feel like, going to die instantly if someone or anyone bring a bird in my surroundings. And i dont like to think to be with a bird. Also dont have a plan to treat my phobia because they say they will surely bring you a bird. Scare me to death.
This is me and my thoughts exactly.
I have been afraid of birds since i can remember . The thoughts of a bird or a feather makes my anxiety go really high. When I was a child my pap-paw had chickens and roosters . A hen got after my brother and chased him into the house. My Mom had to chase it out with a broom , im pretty sure thats where my phobia came from
I don’t understand why they can’t give pigeons only birth control seed to stop them from multiplying. Need to get rid of them in towns. I hate when they fly up nearly hitting you in the face or land on your table when eating outside. Noise of feathers too I find very unsettling.
I am relieved to know that I am not the only one with this weird fear. I am scared of many birds but what freaks me out the most is pigeons. Pigeons are just creepy with all of their fat body and creamy coloured feather and the worst thing is their eyes. They look like they have been tortured for days with no food and adding to all this the sound they make. Thinking about being in a room eating with one of those stinky flighty creatures makes me wanna die.
I know right. My parents think I am just overreacting. Btw, the place I live in has thousands of pigeons dispersed around the area, and they are grey, black, white, creamy. I hate them.
Cathy Andrews says
These people are not kidding! I have a parrot who is extremely amiable and easy to hold. About 10-20% of people do not care to hold him or be near him. I just offer that he is “a good starter bird” if they do decide to hold a friendly parrot. BTW, Moishe will let anyone hold him, but he will not let anyone, including me, especially me, pet him! He just has to get away. Know a bird before you approach them. Many are very protective of their cage and will bite any fingers stuck through the bars. I can’t blame them! BTW, I’m not snake phobic, but I choose to not hold or pet them.
To the mother who taught her son at 5y that song… What in the hell is wrong with you?
And furthermore, how did you think posting the disturbing lyrics on a page for those of us who are afraid of birds was helpful?
You need your head examined and you need to be flooded with whatever you’re afraid of to comprehend what you just did to all of us who read that.
Shauna Reimer says
I’m extremely petrified of birds…have been my since I was a kid…not exactly sure why…getting older it seems like it’s worse…went to Vegas almost a year ago…pigeon walking on the strip…hearing the palm birds…freaking me out…2nd last day being there decided we would head down to the stratosphere….pigeons were literally walking on ppls feet…im having anxiety attack…but wanted to keep walking the block or so left…boyfriend tried to get it to fly away…they don’t…i ran into a tattoo shop…he couldn’t find me…totally had a huge anxiety attack…we went bk to the hotel…sweating…cold…shaky…wanted to hide…horrible experience….☹
Austinila Powers says
So I’ve had this phobia for the past 3 years and as I get older it just gets worse. I actually start screaming and my boyfriend does nothing about it. I live in Australia where we have magpies and I think i’d rather be in a room full of snakes and lions than in a room with one magpie, they have red eyes and follow you around and swoop you FOR NO REASON. Everyone laughs at me and no one understands my issues.
I feel the same way, Aust.
My boyfriend is slowly understanding (before I just told him, but he’s now seen a few of my episodes when birds are near). He by no means “gets it” but he knows it’s very real for me even if it doesn’t make any sense.
It is extremely isolating, to feel like you have this very real problem and no one else sees or understands it.
You’re (I’m) not alone.
I get how you feel, my friends want to eat outside during lunch time in school, so I go with them but even when I see a bird I scream and I start shaking, trying not to cry. My friends are just there laughing their butts off, not knowing the pain that the birds give me. (P.S. I don’t want to eat alone).
Sharette D says
I lived in Australia when I was 7 and went to a park with a million and a half birds and my uncles dog wanted to chase them, so naturally I went with. The magpies attacked me and to this day, I still remember the fluttering of their wings. My phobia is so bad that even butterflies scare me since they also flutter their wings. I refuse to go to the beach, I refuse to sit outside in restaurants (this situation has not been good to me), and I am always on the lookout for birds when we’re literally anywhere that’s not indoors. My friends will think it’s funny when a bird comes and used to expect me to start screaming and causing a scene. They now know that it is a serious phobia and just scare the birds away for me without me asking anymore.
Soumi Sarkar says
I don’t know what actually triggered my phobia of birds. As a child, i hated everything delicate, leaves and flowers and of course, birds, feathers actually. But as I grew up, I became more afraid of birds. I flee wherever there is a pigeon or a crow, it feels as if the crows have a special eye for me. the pigeons eyes and their faces look horrible. a shiver went through me while typing this. i cannot even watch the episodes of cartoons with birds (doraemon for eg). once i heard my father telling my mum when i was asleep that there is a bird outside, take it away or she will be afraid. i dreamt of it. this phobia has increased much more in the past decade, everytime i have encountered a bird, it grows in me. i am actually relieved that this is not just my problem.
Swati chinnu says
It’s my problem too
Gina Adams says
I understand the fear of birds. As a child, I was ridiculed and told” I was silly as the birds were so much bigger than I.” I would lock myself in the bathroom when my parents would let their pet canaries or parakeets fly around. I was made to feed the birds and clean their cages. Because the birds would stick their heads out the food holder glass cups, I avoided feeding them whenever possible. One died as a result. It was, of course, my fault. As an adult, I would often ask my family to cage their birds when I visited. It was humiliating. I would not enter their homes if birds were flying freely. When near uncaged birds, such as chickens and peacocks, my heart beats loudly, I sweat, and want to flee. Chickens’ eyes are especially creepy.
Not only chicken, even pigeons eyes are creepy and disgusting.
Laura Wilson says
I’ve had a fear of birds for as long as I can remember, ironic because my favourite animals are owls (as long as they’re kept at a good distance). I was chased by geese when I was about 3, which possibly triggered the phobia, but I have apparently always shown a strong dislike to chickens. Now, I freeze whenever a bird is near and sometimes it feels like an oncoming panic attack. I remember when I was younger my piano teacher had a mackaw and her husband brought it into my lesson, I hid in the corner of the room shaking and crying until he took it out. He kept encouraging me to stroke it but I couldn’t move. My fear of birds has become worse as I’ve grown older and though I have received help for it (and other phobias/anxiety related issues) it has remained a prominent part of my life. It does no help to try and force a person to confront their fear, they need to be ready to deal with it, and even if they are it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be cured. That’s the thing about phobias, your mind thinks that it needs to fear something specific and sometimes no amount of re-training will convince, what has become a basic survival instinct, that it doesn’t need to react this way. So instead, respect and acknowledge a person’s fears, don’t assume they’re making it up because you don’t understand.
Dan Tam Nguyen says
i had nightmares of someone using birds to torture and scare me a few times..the next morning i woke up and realised that i did cry really badly :( im less scared of ducks and geese than pointed beaked birds., but still dont dare to touch and get near to them
Birds are spoopy
It feels refreshing to see I’m not the only person afraid of birds I want to get over it I need help but I’m so scared
D. C. Lawrence says
So am I!!! I’m so terrified of birds (of all sizes)!! I can still go outside, but I don’t want the birds nowhere near me!!! If a bird flies into my house, the bird has the entire house until help is called to remove the little critter from my house!!
D. C. Lawrence says
I’ve never been attacked by bird’s at all! It began as a childhood fear of feathers (pteronophobia), which then, developed into Ornithaphobia (fear of birds). I overcame the fear of feathers, but I’m still terrified of birds! Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds” was not the cause of this fear. This is pretty strange!
Zarin Subah says
Same as you. My mother used to scare me with the Patel of a flower which looked like the feather of birds and tell me if I didn’t listen to her, it would harm me. She knew I was afraid of the wings and the feathers of the birds. Now it has turned into ornithophobia.
Well, I do fear birds, to the extent of screaming and running away by just being near them … am trying not to fear them, and always tell myself that they are fine, they won’t bite .. but no matter how much I tell myself, they look UGLY, and for some reason, SCARY! I even remember when mom went to search for my sister and I was alone .. a dove came landing near me, and I started screaming in fear and jumped on the woman beside me ! I was 20 years old (around a year ago) so mom scolded me telling me that as an adult, this was unacceptable !! but I couldn’t help it … my heart was about to get out of my chest and all I could think about was running away as fast as possible ! sometimes, the fear may extend to include statues or pictures of birds … touching them is scary .. and people like to think it is funny =3= well sorry, birds are evil creatures and are only good when they are on the table to be EATEN!
Its not irrational to have a phobia for birds. The fact that your mom or any other person for that matter scolded you for being afraid is only making the fear worse. My mother has a crippling phobia of birds. I can not stand it when people think this phobia is a joke. When someone scares you with a bird you need to make it very clear to that person that you are scared as this is not a joke (my mother to this date broke two ribs just to get away from birds people were ignorant enough to leave the cages of open.) (I myself adore birds and have two parrots of my own and I am not as careless to let them out when my mother is around, I even go as far as locking the cage with metal locks so the birds cant accidentally escape.Just make sure you have the keys incase an emergency arises and you need to get your bird out of the cage and even then have a carier cage for your birds handy. When we had the earthquake last year this carrier cage was very important. As a last thought to try and get others to relate to your fear … ask them what they fear the most and then ask them if they think it would be funny if someone threw a spider or a snake on them (provided that they are scared of these animals, its just an example). That usually gets them to behave themselves. Also something to think about is, is a fear of birds really that irrational if birds are the closest relatives to dinosaurs to be alive today ? This is just my opinion and although I cannot understand what you feel you do have my deepest sympathy because this fear makes your lives a living hell. I really do hope things go well. If you are young and you see you have a fear of birds please try to look for help as early as possible as the fear tends to root deeper and deeper as you grow older (this was very prominent with my mother as she grews older.
i completely agree. I’ve always been teased by my sisters who will carry the birds and run after me. It’s disgusting how people just don’t understand and take this as a joke.
Yes, some of my peers make sounds of chickens, crows, and other birds. They think it is a joke until I start to cry because of all the sounds.
I have a friend who even saying the word feathers causes her to cringe. She has a terrible fear of feathers and birds. She lets this fear incapacitate her. She is not interested in getting help or trying to get over this fear. She told me of a situation with her sister when they were younger needing help from an accident and she could not help her because there were birds around and she couldn’t move.
Ive had this fear since i was a kid. I cant even look at bird pics in a magazine. I even declined a job because there would be birds hovering around the place, that bad.
Saada Yussuf says
Hi I have a really bad fear of birds and I think I need help, like today, I went to the Topeka zoo and there were birds, ducks, geese, parakeets and my heart started to go up and I was panicking.
Alec West says
When my son was kindergarten-age, he came in from playing one Sunday afternoon and told me he didn’t know what to do for show-and-tell the next day. Earlier, while he was outside playing, I was watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” on TV. And, a thought came to me. I told him I’d teach him a short song he could sing for show-and-tell and he liked the idea.
Remember the song the school kids were singing in the school house before the bird attack? Well, I “revised” the lyrics and taught him to sing:
The birds are coming to bite your cheeks,
Bippity boppity now now now.
And peck you with their pointy beaks,
Bippity boppity now now now.
They’ll eat you from your head to your toes,
Bippity boppity now now now.
Your head by ravens your toes by crows,
Bippity boppity now now now.
The next day in mid-morning, my son’s kindergarten teacher called on the phone. She scolded me for teaching my son such a terrible song, saying it disturbed two girls who’d started to cry. I replied that she was scolding the wrong parent. I told her that fear of birds was not something children are born with – that it’s a fear that needs to be learned or taught. I then mentioned that “The Birds” was on TV the day before, showing scenes of birds attacking children and that terrible zoom-in scene showing a farmer who’d had his eyes pecked out. And I told her she needed to ask the crying girls if their parents allowed them to watch the film. If they did (likely), she should call up those parents and scold them.
Saada Yussuf says
I was not born with it but as I grew I got a really bad fear.
S. Armstrong says
Likewise! I wasn’t born with it either and the older I get the worse it is becoming!
The song IS scary though
D. C. Lawrence says
I had this phobia since childhood and it carried well into my adulthood, as of this day!!!
I know exactly how you feel. I’m a nervous wreck in a town centre because of the pigeons.
God don’t go to Amsterdam. I did and just about freaked out. In the squares they are everywhere.
I traveled to Venice and it was terrible