The life cycle of a bird has so many similarities with important human stages of growth we frequently use birds to represent parts of our own deeply felt experience.
In general the bird in your dream can depict imagination, intuition, the mind, freedom from restraints, thoughts or hidden wishes or hopes, or your longings to move beyond limitations or boundaries, or even love or a lover. Because the word is sometimes used to indicate a woman, it can have that meaning – i.e. a ‘bird’.
The meaning depends on the context in which the bird appears in the dream. So in some dreams, especially if the bird is flying high, or you identify and become the bird, it can show an expanded awareness or a greater insight into your life and the meaning of your life. This type of dream usually appears as a large bird that can fly high. This is because wider – or spiritual – awareness is like a higher, overall view of things.
Meeting this enlarged awareness may be painful or frightening as we approach it. The enlargement of what you experience is a form of growth and brings new possibilities, all of which can strip away old ways of life and relationship. This expansion of our viewpoint, the uplift of our emotions or mind, can be a link between the world we experience with our physical senses, and the deep world of our often unconscious passions, intuitions and insights.
But in some dreams birds are messengers – For instance a swallow is a symbol of spring, a rooster can be symbolic of a new day (or a new beginning), doves can be symbolic of love, a relationship or peace, and so forth. Both crows and vultures are symbolic of a “death” or the ending of something.
A huge bird: The power of the collective mind or unconscious. It may uplift or be felt as threatening; something that can protect or be felt as a threat. If felt as a threat remember that dreams are like computer game, nothing can actually harm you, see Dream as Computer Game.
Bird attacking: Fear of ideas, ideals or opinions; verbal or mental (suggestions or suggestive behaviour) attack by others; fear of going beyond ones narrow boundaries. Be daring and face the restrain that holds you back.
Bird descending: A wider view or experience becoming known to you, or becoming available. In practical terms this may be experienced as inspiration or new insights regarding work or creativity, or a bursting of ones previous views or concepts into a wider insight.
Bird in house: Hope that something interesting or new will enter ones life; a wish for new love; a new idea; an intuition or precognition; a new person or event entering your life; or something trapped in you that seeks freedom.
Black or carrion birds: Because such birds often feed on dead animals, they have the association with death or news of death. This may not be connected with someone dying, but perhaps that some project, love or aspect of yourself is being left to die; feelings or fears about death. Or it could be about something you are unaware of but is on the edge of consciousness.
Bluebird: Especially represents the personality or flight of the soul after death. But it can also show the flight of awareness into new or wider experience. The colour gives it a link with the heavens and it is therefore a symbol of your own ability to reach a wider awareness – the spiritual. See Definition of Spirit.
Useful Questions and Hints:
What way am I relating to the bluebird?
Do I feel anything on seeing the bird?
Have I been meditating or doing something uplifting recently?
Dead bird: Threat to ideals or hopes of freedom; feeling life is only material; ones spirit feeling defeated or crushed. Also a loss of sense of beauty or meaning in life; an ideal or hope has died; a flight of imagination or creativity has fallen.
Feather: See: feathers.
Fighting birds: Family disputes; arguments about viewpoints.
Flock of birds: Sometimes shows you feeling a deeply intuitive sense of connection with thousands of others, all being moved by life itself flowing through you. Describing his recovery from feelings of being ill at ease within herself, Gloria writes:
As this occurred I had a wonderful sense of being a lovely bird that has been in some way ill all its life. This meant it never flew when the flock took flight. Instead, to deal with its own difficulty it felt feelings of not wanting to fly like the others, of not wanting to be like them and do the meaningless things they do. But with the healing came the realisation I could fly, and I took wing and joined the flock. Now I am a creature of spirit, which I have always been, and I asked the Light to help me learn the ways of ‘flying’ in the spirit.
It can also point to how you add your influence to others socially.
Flying: Rising above something; an escape from a feeling of being trapped, or some fear; independence; freedom; self expression; ones love or thoughts winging its way to someone. The sexual act – possibly because during sex we may feel released and uplifted.
In cage: Feelings of being restricted or trapped; holding back love or inspiration; safety in restriction. If there are positive feelings around the caged bird, it might suggest the need to withhold love or freedom, but it could suggest feeling trapped in a relationship, especially if there are two birds in the cage.
Leaving nest: Gaining independence; meeting change or leaving a dependent relationship.
Making nest: Home building; parental urges; partnership if with another bird.
The baby bird: Our own childhood, as in the following example. The old lady in the second example is once more reference to the mother, who the bird is first connected with before moving on to the difficulty of independence.
Freud said the bird represents the male phallus, and flying means the sexual act. Many languages use the word ‘bird’ to mean woman. In Italy it alludes to penis. The bird is also used to denote a sense of death and survival.
The example shows Pauline using the bird to depict her own urge to be independent of her mother’s influence, opinions, likes, dislikes and decisions. Later in the dream her mother hands Pauline the ribbon to hold, suggesting an offer of independence.
Example: ‘I was standing outside the house of my teens, with my mother. She had a very young bird on a long ribbon and the bird was flying very high in the sky. As soon as she lets go the ribbon, a huge black bird attacks the ribboned one.’ Pauline.
The ribbons are a reference to Pauline’s own girlhood. When she lets go of her girlhood, moving toward independent womanhood, she feels threatened by her internal feelings of guilt – i.e. a child feels guilty if it acts differently to what its mother wants. This is the black bird. To become independent we have to find a way of doing what we wish despite this internalised mother. (Internalised means all the standards, self controls she learned from her life with her mother, she now carries within her as her own urges even if absent from her mother.)
Example: ‘An old lady made room for me to sit at the end of one of the three seats of a bus. As we drove away a very large chicken size baby bird flew in. It had short stubby wings and yellow down, but flew expertly. I believe it first landed on the lady and chirped squeakily. But in it’s squeaks it actually spoke, saying it had lost it’s mother. It sounded as if it were crying.’ Andrew.
This dream is clearly about Andrew becoming aware that at some time he felt abandoned by his mother, and this part of him needs helping to grow into greater independence.
blackbird or black bird Unconscious urges. At times we may relate to enormous waves of feeling in an anxious way, and this relationship of anxiety may be represented by a black bird. The bird may be shown attacking something or oneself because that is how we relate to the emotions or energies – i.e. we feel attacked by them. The black bird can also link with feelings about death, the negative aspect of mother, or something unconscious that we are becoming aware of.
chicken If being eaten suggests nourishment. Otherwise a female, or the female in a male; being ‘chicken’ or scared.
Example: A large cockerel was amongst them and to my amused pleasure began immediately to chase the hens. They all ran madly away. My father was there now and said the chickens wouldn’t lay with that chicken chasing them. I said it wasn’t a chicken that a cockerel, and they would soon calm down. My mother now came. I said the chickens would stop running eventually because the cockerel was bigger than they. She said, no, it wasn’t the size, but the manner and attitude of his approach. She meant it caused an instinctive responses them.
When I explored the dream I realised that of course. I am a cockerel that is inwardly a chicken. I am chicken because I won’t see my own homosexuality. I am chicken because I have made myself a passive female. My mother says it is not the size, its the – inner – attitude. Of course, my inner attitude, as a chicken, is changing. I have been the size of a cockerel, but with the soul of a chicken – female.
The cock: a male or the male sexual characteristics; confidence.
The hen: Mother; motherhood; being immersed in motherhood concerns and perhaps not having a life beyond that.
Chicks: This is a reference either to your own babyhood and feelings or events associated with it, or to external baby or babies. This may at times point to vulnerable people or assets.
Idioms: chicken feed; chicken hearted; she’s no chicken; cock of the walk; don’t count your chicks/chickens before they are hatched..
crow rook raven Being carrion birds, and so often seen near corpses, they are linked with death or feelings about death; bad news; fear; unconscious feelings. Some people see them as associated with death, mostly because that is how they are used in films. But crows are a group bird and are supportive of their fellows.
It can at times depict the negative aspect of father. The dark intelligence in underhanded people or animals; forces in life that seem to have intelligent direction yet are not outwardly visible.
cormorant Intellectual ideas that have the power to dig deep and bring up unconscious wisdom. Because the cormorant is used to dive and catch fish, it might suggest you are practising some form of introspection or self examination.
crane Inner feelings about wholeness; good luck. The ability to deal harmoniously with the libido or energy within.
cuckoo Wanting to, or feeling your partner is, having sex outside your relationship; pregnant with child from another man than ones partner.
dove Peace; lacking aggressiveness; awareness of one’s potential; religious experience; relatedness. See: religion and dreams.
duck Because a duck can fly and also dive under water it can represent both your ability to raise your awareness, to expand your mind and horizons, and also to look into what is hidden under the surface of life. And its ability to float and swim on the surface of water shows it can survive in the conscious mind.
Idioms can also suggest other meanings such as sitting duck, like a duck takes to water, dead duck and lame duck.
eagle buzzard hawk Sometimes the hunting, providing parent; dominance; a male figure; an uplifting power of feelings or ideas; a protective influence; a threatening influence. Often the ability to develop an integrated vision or perception out of a wide range of experience. This is because the height of the bird and its steady gaze give it unusual perception and wide awareness.
Idioms: Watch like a hawk; eagle eyed.
feather or feathers See: feather.
goose/geese Freedom; your soul; wanderlust; foolishness or group conformity. In some cases you might use the goose as a symbol for life long relationship.
hawk Often a messenger or a far seeing creature. Because it flies high it had an overview of what it surveys. It can therefore signify the spirit or the flight of the soul.
heron A heron is a very still bird and often stands for ages looking into the water. So in your dream it may signify patience and the ability to look deeply into you. As such it may show you things about yourself that are very important.
It catches fish, meaning it brings up things that are usually hidden and are for your personal growth and nourishment. To explore its deeper meaning see Techniques for Exploring your Dreams
owl Because the owl sees in the dark it represents our intuitive sense that ‘sees’ what is happening in the subtle areas of our feeling and experience. This sense ‘feeds’ by watching or acting as an integrating function with the many dark or hidden aspects of our experience and behaviour. Because this part of our mental process is aware of the hidden activities in the depths of our body and mind, it can initiate our conscious self into the mysteries of life and death. If one can imagine having a council of all living things, we would all have in common the drive to reproduce, and there would be huge links of understanding regarding care and rearing of young and perhaps of love for mate. The unconscious seems to have a sense of this synthesis of all life, and the owl, representing it, speaks with this sort of collective wisdom; a wise advisor.
Because the owl as a dream symbol is an actual doorway to the usually hidden side of life, we may sometimes feel fear or danger in regard to it. In some mythologies the owl was connected with death, and might act as a messenger regarding the death of a family member. For instance in Jewish tradition it is unlucky to dream of an owl, but okay to dream of any other bird.
Example: ‘I was standing with my wife at the end of the garden of the house I lived in as a child. We were looking over the fence to the rising meadow beyond. She said, ‘Look at that bird in the tree there.’ On our right, in a small ash tree, an enormous owl perched. It was at least four feet high, the biggest bird I have ever seen. I recognised it in the dream as a greater hooded owl, which was not native to our country. I was so excited I ran into the house to telephone someone – zoo, police, newspapers? – to tell them about the bird. I cannot remember contacting anyone, but felt the bird was there in some way to meet me. Also it was hungry and looking at next door’s bantams. So I wondered what I could give it to eat.’ David P.
This shows the positive side of David’s relationship with his wife. The garden represents the behaviour boundaries which arose from his childhood. But he is growing – the garden – and looking beyond them through his marriage. The amazing bird is the deep feelings he touches because he has a mate like any other natural creature. Out of his mating he becomes aware of drives to build a home – nest – and give himself to his mate. These are natural and are a part of his unconscious or spiritual nature. The bird is a hooded owl which can see in the dark – the unconscious – meaning David is realising things he had never ‘seen’ before. The bird is masked, because David through loving is learning to put his ego aside, which is a necessity for touching the wider dimension of life or the unconscious. The hunger of the bird shows an intimate detail of what David has learned from his wife. She had been working as a waitress and bringing home pieces of chicken for him, saved from her own meal. The spiritual side of David wants to develop this quality of self-giving, which his wife’s love had helped him see.
parrot Repeating without judgement what others have said; accepting or copying something without evaluating it. Ability to speak.
peacock Pride; self display; vanity; the desire to be more attractive; sometimes the same as phoenix.
In some cultures the peacock represent the soul or psyche – ones sense of self with all ones individual memories and characteristics. Because the peacock could shed all its beautiful feathers and then grow them again, early Christians saw it as a symbol of resurrection and immortality.
As the peacock is a male bird displaying for the sake of a mate, it can also obviously represent male sexuality in its proud, ostentatious or displaying mode.
Example: There were trees and a grassy patch of ground. A dog was having puppies. But a great flock of small black birds emerged running and skimming over the grass. I heard myself remark, “They are smaller than the others and there are more of them.” Then, from among the trees emerged a large peacock, tail half raised. The dream left me feeling that from small things could emerge something large and beautiful. Mrs E. E.
penguin The penguin hardly ever appears in dreams, or in fact in literature generally, so I have not been able to gather from people’s dreams how they use this symbol. From common associations however, it is likely to represent foolishness; a difficult life situation; coldness in relationships. Because of recent studies of the penguin and the major National Geographic film, the penguin might now depict lasting love and wonderful care and survival skills.
It can also represent something the rare and unusual.
phoenix The ability to find a new impulse, new strength, new growth even in death; the power in oneself to transform the dying, depressed, dark and desperate into new endeavour and growth.
sparrow The ordinary but living parts of you that are special.
stork The soul; symbol of birth or babyhood, and perhaps parenthood; the beauty of the wider awareness of the unconscious.
swan Grace; beauty; dignity. In mythology often represents the psyche or soul and its connection with a spiritual world; the side of human nature usually hidden because unconscious, often referred to as the spiritual – meaning the consciousness of connection with all life.
The swan in your dream may be linked with an ending of something due to the association with ‘the swan song’ – a final act. It can also suggest amorousness, or the ideal of love in sexuality, and as such may represent virginity or a blend of male and female.
vulture A relative waiting for you to die – or vice versa; people around you trying to live on you – or vice versa; difficult feelings about dependants; an environment of ill will or hopelessness.
white bird Anything white usually depicts thoughts and feeling that are inspirational or uplifting. They are often shown as similar to the white Pegasus, the lower sexual energies lifted into a power of wider awareness.
Idioms: Charm the birds from the trees; a bird told me; the bird has flown; bird in the hand; bird of ill omen; free as a bird; odd bird.
Useful Questions and Hints:
Is the bird in my dream expressing any of the important stages of growth such as babyhood, leaving the nest, or making a nest?
What quality or attitude is the bird expressing and how does that relate to me?
What is the rest of the dream indicating about the bird?