Be Your Own Birder

Owl Superstitions – Good or Evil?

From Halloween decorations to horror movies to associations with witchcraft or shamanism, there are many superstitions about owls throughout the world. Superstitions might seem like simple fables or fairy tales, but they’re much more. In many cultures, superstitions are so prevalent and widespread that they are viewed as truth and passed from generation to generation. Superstitions are often negative, and as people come to believe owls are evil or unlucky, they may try to harm the birds to avoid the bad consequences they believe owls bring.

Even positive superstitions can be dangerous, since many positive beliefs may revolve around using bird parts – eggs, eyes, feathers, talons, etc. – as amulets or ingredients in potions or brews. Nests could be raided or owls may be killed to provide those ingredients.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl – Photo by joe m devereux

Most Common Owl Superstitions

The exact details of superstitions depend on local religious beliefs and which owls may be part of the legend, but some of the more common, widespread owl superstitions include…

  • Owls as a Symbol of Death
    Their silent nature and predatory behavior often associates owls with death and dying. Dreaming of an owl or hearing an owl’s hoot may foreshadow a death. An owl perched on a roof is often believed to foretell the death of someone living there, and owls are believed to be able to see ghosts, so any house or barn where an owl lives in is likely to be haunted. In the Native American Hopi culture, burrowing owls are believed to be the god of the dead and protectors of the underworld.
  • Owls as Evil Spirits
    Even if owls aren’t directly associated with death, they are often considered evil omens. Many cultures consider owls to be unclean and undesirable, and these birds are frequently associated with witch doctors or shamans. Owls may be seen as spies, and nailing an owl to a door is believed to protect the home or barn from lightning or guard against the bird’s evil spirit. Different cultures believe owls can carry off children, and seeing an owl circling during the day is considered an omen of bad news or bad luck.
  • Owl Parts as Talismans or Enhancements
    Many superstitions involve using parts of an owl for specific purposes. Eating an owl’s eyes is often thought to enhance eyesight or allow a person to see in the dark, and owl broth or meat is believed to cure seizures, alleviate rheumatism, increase wisdom, or  even serve as a potent aphrodisiac. In some cases, just possessing owl feathers or talons is believed to have the same effects.
  • Owls as Feminine Spirits
    Many cultures connect owls with women, even believing owls to be the incarnation of women’s spirits or believing women can turn into owls. The little owl (Athene noctua) was believed to be the companion of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. If the association with women is a positive one, the birds could be seen as sacred, but in many cultures, the owl is believed to be a manifestation of a vindictive woman or a woman’s rage.
  • Positive Owl Beliefs
    Not all owl superstitions are negative. Some cultures believe owls can be protective spirits and embody ferocity and bravery. Owls may offer guidance or be symbolic of great wisdom and intuition. These birds may warn of danger that can be overcome, or may foretell wealth or positive change. In some cultures, owls are even seen as messengers of the gods or liaisons to the spiritual world.
Overcoming Superstitions

Even though some superstitions may be positive and give owls a revered standing, most owl superstitions are more likely to be harmful. Debunking superstitions is a good step toward reducing the impact long-standing legends and irrational beliefs may have, and there are several ways birders can help owls be better understood.

  • Learn true owl facts and trivia, and spread the word about how amazing these birds really are without the need for exaggerated legends or fables.
  • Plan educational programs about owls at local schools or birding festivals, including rehabilitated owl ambassadors to introduce children to real owls.
  • Share owling opportunities and give more people the opportunity to see owls in their native, natural habitat so everyone can learn how beautiful and beneficial owls can be.
  • Support programs from nature centers, raptor interest groups, and owl rescues to spread community awareness about owls and to help with owl conservation.

By debunking owl superstitions, these outstanding raptors can be enjoyed rather than endangered, and everyone who loves owls – birders and non-birders alike – will be able to protect and preserve these birds for generations.

40 thoughts on “Owl Superstitions – Good or Evil?

  1. Leslie

    9 days before my mom passed away an owl sat in a tree very close to me and just stared at me. My mother passed in the morning, and the evening she passed he showed back up again and sat and stared at me. I went inside and he stayed outside. Then 4 nights after that he hooted out by my window for hours. Is the second sighting a message from my mom?

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Hi Leslie! It could well be a message from your mom, depending on your beliefs. What matters most is how you feel about it, and whether it brings you peace. What a wonderful sighting all the same – all the best to you!

  2. James Cartwright

    The day after we got news my nephew hung himself, I was really distraught, and sad and hurting !! I got up to start my day, and went into the kitchen, and knew I was fully awake, I looked above the sink and there it was!! An Owl in my house and in my kitchen!! I called out to my wife, she came in and started taking pictures with her phone!! How in the World could an Owl be in my house? We do have a Doggie-door, two cats and a dog, maybe thats how it got in, but the Owl was not injured!!i got closer to it and it flew in the livingroom!! After about five minutes, I opened the front door and he flew out to a big tree across the street!! Ive heard stories of Owls, but this one has me baffled!!!!

    1. Mayntz Post author

      I’m sorry about your nephew; that’s distressing no matter the circumstances. But what an owl experience you’ve had! If you have a fireplace with an open flue, it’s also possible it got in that way. How amazing!

  3. Jan Phillips

    The first time that I ever heard screech owl was during a September night. I had come into the kitchen,which had the windows open, and a screech owl sounded so loudly that I thought it was a Banshee. On Nov. 9 of that same year, 1997, my Mother died. I have never heard one since,honest truth!

  4. Lisa

    i’ve had an owl fly low over my car twice while i have been driving home and i have seen one sitting on a fence near my house.
    Today at about 10am I saw crows, magpies, minor birds and pee wees attacking an owl in a culvert. I went to rescue it and it flew away but as i watched it it landed not far away so i drove over to have a look and i thought it was dead as it was laying on its back with its feet in the air. it wasn’t so i collected it and took it to a pet shop as i am only new in town and didnt know where else to take it. the strange thing is all the time i was driving an holding it i was talking to it and telling it it was safe i could feel it calming down so mu so that at one stage i thought it had died. when i got it to the Pet shop the young girl got a cage and she tried to put it in the cage and she let go of it but it landed back in my arms and put its head on my chest. i put it back in the cage and we covered the cage with a dark towel. she was going to call wildlife rescue to come and look at it. it was the weirdest thing. i wonder what all that means.

  5. Karen

    My car was taken to the dealer last night, an owl flew and hit the window of the dealer but it flew away and landed on my car so Im kinda worried about it but my first thought was an owl was suppose to be good luck until I read it meant a lot of negative things but hopefull it means wealth

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Let the owl mean what it will for you – seeing an owl is always amazing! (I’m sure it’s fine as well; birds are more resilient than we often realize.)

  6. Mike

    I saw a night owl and due to the fact that I am eager for knowledge and understanding about this world and it’s mystical secrets I took it as a sign of opportunity and guide to a door of wisdom. Evil isn’t always the best superstition but fact is things go wrong daily. Nonetheless the night the owl flew near it only reassured me that my life has greater meaning and since I’m seeking a new world and wealth through wisdom. It’s a possibility that some sort of spiritual growth is in process.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      It is amazing the coincidences that pop up in our lives and lead to growth and understanding just when we need it. Happy birding to you!

  7. Joanna

    Just found a small owl in our mailbox! I automatically assumed it would be good luck, or as others said, wisdom. But now after reading about the superstitions, I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. Nevertheless, I hope this little owl was just getting out of the cold and to take a nap.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Undoubtedly that’s exactly what the bird was doing – just taking advantage of the shelter it could find! What an amazing sighting to have!

  8. katta

    i’ve been hearing an owl hoot for the past week now and it’s usually mornings and it’s loud enough for someone to hear it and since i leave my room window open i can clearly hear it hoot .
    i asked my boyfriend if he could hear it and he said no and i had dreamt about hearing an owl hoot and asking my boyfriend if he hears it and he gave me the same response.
    lately i’ve been thinking really negative and it overwhelms me because when i tell my mom about it she just hits me with these bad superstitions making it worse for me .
    i’ve read that hearing an owl hoot during the day is a sign of bad omen which i hope it’s not please someone give me hope

    1. Mayntz Post author

      I think you’re lucky to be hearing an owl! This is the time of year when most owls are trying to attract mates, which is why they’re a bit more vocal right now. It can mean whatever you’d like it to! As for your boyfriend not hearing it, well, he might be a bit more deeply asleep in the mornings and just not hear it. Happy birding!

  9. Juanita

    I love reading all the comments. I have never seen a owl at my house, but Oct 2020, 5 days before my dad passed a owl was sitting in the tree,, I was kinda amused by it as I know we never see owls around here… then the night before my dads passing he sat on the roof until I came out to see him and when I saw him he flew away.. the next day my dad died. Then in Sep the same thing happened,,, as soon as I came out to look at the owl it just flies away.. as if he wants me to hear and see him, my father in law died that same day, it happened again in December the same story and my uncle passed away. So tonight it happened again so googled and I surely hope it’s not a message of death again.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      What amazing owl sightings you’ve had, though I do hope they’re just coincidental! Owls are such beautiful birds, I hope they can bring you comfort all the same. Happy birding!

  10. Sheryl Duggan

    I found a hurt screech owl outside of my work. So small and sweet he was. I haven’t heard of anything bad happening as of yet and hope nothing bad happens. Meeting him was such a blessing for me and hope it means nothing but good things. A lady came to get him from wild life and recovery so I’m hoping he gets better and back to his sweet self again.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Owls can be so very sweet indeed! I’m glad you were able to get him to proper care to recover well, and I hope he’s brought you nothing but wonderful memories of a wonderful interaction with an amazing owl.

  11. Pankaj jyoti borah

    What did it indicate if an owl with colour black and white dot in its body entered in house at 6.15 pm

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Superstitions about owls are a very personal interpretation; you just want to be sure the bird was able to leave safely and without injury. Enjoy the unusual encounter!

  12. Nuru

    Hi, I live on the third floor of an apartment complex and a few months ago I walked out to get some coffee and when I came back up and noticed the owl was sitting on the steps right below my apartment I went back the other way and I can see the owl from my door so as I observe the owl sit there all day until about 5 o’clock I called the Humane Society just confirmed that it wasn’t hurt but the night before around 1 o’clock I heard a horrific screech I knew it was an animal but I knew I had never heard that before and once I saw the owl put two into together and that must’ve been what I heard the night before it didn’t try to hurt me or anything it was like a little distance but I’m the only one who saw it unless I brought it to somebody’s attention I was walking past. When I went down to look at it up close a red bird flew up and just started talking to the hour while I was there any idea what this could mean? I researched all about owls the day and I really felt like that it was a message from spirit I haven’t really got a full understanding of what I mean like I said this was a few months ago and nobody around me has died but today I was reminded of it and that’s how I came across this thread

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Beliefs about owls are very personal and can be anything you wish. I say, treasure the special opportunity you had to see such a majestic bird up close!

  13. Lisa

    Thank you for wonderful read. Last night I was driving and as I came around the corner straight in front of me was a beautiful owl on the road. I stopped and we just looked at each other… another car scared him and he flew away. I love owls, and have had a few at my house in the past but this one felt different – like we knew each other ? And understood something in the good 40 or even 60 seconds of looking at each other. I am wary of the death message as it has happened in our family … I have always been at ease with owls but last night experience was so different and I know there must be a message in that – just can’t get it tho.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the article! What a wonderful experience you’ve had with this owl, and hopefully you’ll have many more opportunities to see these fabulous birds.

  14. Anum Michael

    This is suspicious and very strange… wherever we go this tiny miniature owl follows us 😳 I’m not being superstitious but I feel like it’s a sign of something good or bad?!

    1. Mayntz Post author

      I’d love to have an owl following me around! Enjoy the interaction (but be sure to keep the owl safe).

  15. Karen

    It’s 11.45am and an owl is perched up on my deck. It was enjoying the sunshine but now it is in the shade. It’s been sitting there for over an hour and not looking like it’s going anywhere soon.
    I’ve read some old wives tales about death and hoping that is not the case
    Any thoughts anyone?

    1. Mayntz Post author

      I think any opportunity to see an owl is an amazing sighting, something to enjoy! Superstitions are what you make of them.

  16. Alex

    i’m honestly really scared after reading this because i was on tiktok and i saw these girls try to help an owl but when i went to the comments of the tiktok a lot of people kept saying it means you’re gonna die so my anxiety sky rocket because i thought that i was gonna die because i saw the video. play let me know if i’m ok or not i am currently panicking a little bit. thanks alot

  17. Rosealee Belzer

    I really do not know if day time owl sightings are good or bad. My Mother always told me an owl ment someone would pass in your family. She saw one outside her window a few days before her Mother past away in 1925. She then seen one on our pouch about 5 days before she past away in 1982. Both had been ill for years.
    Now I have one in my back yard for the past 2 hours in broad open day light. My brother has been ill for 8 years now. So who knows! After being sick for 8 years if he passes its not a bad omen but a blessing. Just maybe giving me a sign that its time.

    1. Mayntz Post author

      There are so many interesting stories related to owls and what they mean to different people; thank you for sharing yours!

  18. Shannon

    We came home from vacation today sunny was going down and we was trying to unload the car fast before the rain, my husband yells for kids look it’s a owl I didn’t go out at first didn’t really care been in the car 6 hours with 4 kids, he said look another one. So of course I start worrying after everything calms down I though my mom always said they meant something but I couldn’t remember then I google it and it’s all bad luck ….one flew away after he sat and stared at us for 5 mins he flew away from us please someone tell me this does mean death or bad luck and is it for the whole house or just 1st person to see it

    1. Mayntz Post author

      An owl sighting is what you make of it – I’d always consider it amazing and lucky to have such a phenomenal encounter with one of these birds!

  19. Sam

    Today morning owl was sitting on my roof we took pic an all but later crows n eagle started attacking and it was still there and then it died there. That made me really sad. Please does anyone know what it means?

    1. Mayntz Post author

      Unfortunately, it can often be a “bird-eat-bird” world and aggressive birds will often attack and even kill intruders. It can be an interesting thing to witness, even if it is sad and distressing!

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