Birds are Scary…Think About What We are Doing To Them

Should We Be Scared of Birds, Or More Afraid of What We Do to Birds?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m afraid of many things like needles, lightning, and climate change, but thinking birds are scary never crosses my mind.

Yes, some birds have sharp, powerful talons and strong beaks, but unless I’m a fish or small mammal, I’m pretty safe. But some people don’t share my feelings.

I dropped several orders from our online shop to the UPS Store a few days ago. Big thank you to everyone out there for your support. When the clerk sees the tape on the packages, she traces the Blue Jay logo with her fingers and asks me, “Birds, wow, don’t you think birds are scary?”

Without Birds, the World is a Scary Place

Without giving it any thought, I reply, “No, I’m more scared of what humanity does to birds than afraid of what our feathered friends can do to me. Without birds, the world is a scary place.”

The conversation abruptly ends. Still, I can see the clerk is thinking about what I just said, and anytime you can help people think about something in a new way, consider it a victory.

I see most birds as dainty beings, and I’m afraid I’ll break them if I pick them up the wrong way, so I never think about being scared of birds, probably because I spend so much trying to attract birds to my yard and seeing birds in the wild.

Birds are Scary...Think About What We are Doing To Them
Northern Goshawks are one of the most aggressive and fiercest birds of prey. Anyone who has seen a goshawk up close will tell you, this is a bird that projects power

To Some, Birds are Scary

It’s presumptuous of me to think everyone has the same kind of relationship as I do with birds. So as soon as I get home, I immediately Google “people afraid of birds” and learn that people are scared of birds.

And not just fierce owls, eagles, and hawks, but adorable backyard songbirds weighing just 6 ounces.

Alfred Hitchcock’s memorable horror thriller, The Birds, left a lasting impression.

If you’ve never seen the movie, The Birds, here’s a quick summary. The plot centers around a woman receiving a gift of two love birds that strike up a romance. One day the birds start attacking children at a party, and shortly after that, the birds begin a massive assault on the town.

On a serious note, fear of birds is called ornithophobia. Like most animal phobias, the cause is a negative encounter with the feared animal.

People with ornithophobia experience some of these symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Fear of losing control
  • Panic attacks

All of these symptoms are serious and should never be taken lightly.

Clearly, birds leave a lasting impression on us, and it’s not always pleasant for some.

Birds are Scary...Think About What We are Doing To Them
Red-shouldered Hawks are fairly noisy when courting and building their nests. In our experience, they fly away from humans long before they even get near

Why Birds Are Scary to Some

Some people have unpleasant run-ins with pigeons or seagulls grabbing their fries or PB&J sandwich.

Others have their cars sprayed with bird poop, or even worse, have been pooped on, even though it’s a sign of good fortune to some.

Some witness the tragic sight of a bird flying into a tall building, window, or windshield or encounter a bird of prey grabbing a small mammal.

It doesn’t help that pop culture anoints beautiful ravens and crows as bad omens in movies like The Crow.

And as much as I enjoy waking up to the sounds of a Carolina Wren singing in my backyard, others find birdsong disturbing.

I get it, birds can be scary to some, and these fears are real and leave a lasting impact, but let’s flip this around.

I’m not marginalizing people who are afraid of birds. Still, the advocate in me has to speak on behalf of birds because they are a dwindling group of animals.

Birds are Scary...Think About What We are Doing To Them
Cooper’s Hawks are the reason why our tiny songbirds act so erratic at bird feeders glancing sharply around every few seconds, rushing to the trees at the slightest movement

Why Birds Should Fear Humans

Let’s highlight why birds should be more afraid of humanity instead of us worrying about them banding together to overthrow us as part of some bird coup.

Climate Change

First on my list is everyone’s favorite topic guaranteed to ruin your family holiday dinner, climate change.

Science shows the earth is getting hotter, and the world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history.

As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the earth, they trap the sun’s heat, leading to global warming and climate change.

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns that were natural until the 1800s. Since then, human activities, primarily due to burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas), produce heat-trapping gases.

The Audubon Society predicts two-thirds of U.S. birds face extinction due to climate change and estimates that we’ve lost 2.9 billion breeding adult birds in less than a single human lifetime.

That’s 1 in 4 birds in the last 50 years. And it’s not just threatened species that are declining.

Habitat Loss

Humanity is also to blame for widespread habitat loss and degradation and the broad use of agricultural chemicals that eradicate insects vital to the diet of many birds.

Other Human-made Perils

Also, the use of rodenticides (rat poison) that secondhand poison our birds of prey. Polluting the ocean with straws and plastic, resulting in seabirds and ocean wildlife deaths. Lead poisoning from lead ammunition, and outdoor hunting pet cats.

Cats, both domestic and feral, are one of the most dangerous predators to birds and are responsible for the death of 2.4 billion wild birds every year.

Birds are Scary...Think About What We are Doing To Them
Some birds do look scary, but if you watch them long enough you’ll notice they make goofy faces just like us. Like this this beautiful Peregrine Falcon!

Birds are Scary, But They Share Our Fears

The list goes on, and there are plenty of reasons birds are afraid of humans.

I just never think birds are scary because they’re so beautiful and fly so gracefully far from our reach.

Birds are cautious, want to limit human encounters, and are quick about doing it. 

If you hold your hand out for a wild bird to take a seed from it, the encounter lasts a few milliseconds, and the bird flies off.

They’re wild animals and want to be free. Birds fear captivity and their loss of freedom.

Finally, a fear humans and birds can both agree upon.

Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves. ~Friedrich Nietzsche


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