birds


birds
   It is widely said to be an *omen, or even a cause, of death if a wild bird enters, or is brought into, a house, or beats against a window (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 25-6); this does not apply to farmyard fowls or caged birds. Some people even avoid having ornaments, pictures, or wallpaper with birds on (Gill, 1993: 67). Certain species, e.g. *robins and * martins, are regarded as lucky, but even they should not come indoors.
   There were also various mistaken ideas about the physiology and habits of certain birds, for example that *swans sing before they die, that swallows hibernate under water, that *cuckoos and hawks are the same bird in its summer and winter plumage, etc., many of which originally came from learned writers whose ideas were popularized and entered oral tradition.
   See also under the names of particular species, and *Gabriel Hounds, Ratchets.
   ■ Swainson (1885) is the basic reference work. Edward A. Armstrong, The Folklore of Birds (1958), ranges over many periods and cultures, with little English material.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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