Ornithophobia is a fear of birds. A scary experience with birds may make you fearful of them. Birds are everywhere. If you find yourself staying indoors and avoiding places with birds, a mental health specialist can help. Treatments like exposure therapy can help you gradually overcome this fear and enjoy nature.
People who have ornithophobia have an extreme fear of birds. They may worry that birds will attack them and feel as though they’re in danger when they see birds. “Ornithos” is the Greek word for bird and “phobos” means fear.
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A person with ornithophobia may be afraid of:
When you have a specific phobia (a type of anxiety disorder), it means you’re fearful of something that isn’t likely to harm you. Ornithophobia is a specific phobic disorder focused on birds.
It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like ornithophobia. We do know that about 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers deal with a specific phobic disorder at some point in their lives.
The number of people with ornithophobia may have increased in the 1960s after the release of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds." In the movie, flocks of vicious birds (mostly crows and seagulls) attack the residents of a small beach town. The Edgar Allen Poe poem, "The Raven," also portrays crows as scary. Crows are often made out to be bad or frightening. In fact, a group of crows is called a murder.
Specific phobic disorders affect all ages and sexes, although women and people designated female at birth (DFAB) are more likely to have phobias. You may be more likely to develop a specific phobic disorder like ornithophobia if you have:
People who fear birds may also have:
Many people who develop ornithophobia have had a scary encounter with a bird. For instance, a gaggle of geese may have chased you at a park as a child. Or seagulls may have dive-bombed you as you attempted to relax on a beach. You may also have seen birds attacking or eating an animal like a mouse or rabbit.
Someone with ornithophobia may try to run away and hide when they see birds. Or they may be so afraid that they become unable to move.
Symptoms of ornithophobia may include:
Healthcare providers refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5) to diagnose phobia disorders like ornithophobia. The criteria for a specific phobia disorder diagnosis include:
Mental health specialists like psychologists help people overcome phobias. You may benefit from:
Birds can be everywhere, so it isn’t realistic to avoid them completely. Someone who has an extreme fear of birds may choose to stay home where they feel safe. This can lead to another phobia called agoraphobia.
Phobia disorders also increase your risk of:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Birds are abundant in nature, making them impossible to avoid completely if you go outside. It isn’t healthy or practical to stay inside to prevent bird encounters. If an earlier experience with birds causes ornithophobia, specialists can help you learn to think about birds differently and manage your reactions. In time, you can get out and explore the outdoors without an extreme fear of birds.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/15/2022.
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