Ornithophobia (Fear of Birds)

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.


What is ornithophobia?

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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What do people with ornithophobia fear?

A person with ornithophobia may be afraid of:

  • All birds or only certain types like birds of prey (hawks) or household birds (parakeets).
  • Taxidermy birds or bird sculptures on display in homes, museums or other places.
  • Photos or images of birds in movies or shows, including animated birds.
  • Bird feathers.
  • The sound of birds squawking or wings fluttering.

What is a phobia?

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.


How common is ornithophobia?

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.

Symptoms and Causes

Who is at risk for ornithophobia?

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:

  • Family members who are afraid of birds or who have other phobias or anxiety disorders.
  • A gene change (mutation) linked to the development of anxiety disorders.


What other phobias are associated with a fear of birds?

People who fear birds may also have:

  • Ailurophobia (fear of cats).
  • Anatidaephobia (fear of ducks or geese).
  • Biophobia (fear of nature).
  • Dendrophobia (fear of trees where birds build nests).
  • Thanatophobia (fear of death).
  • Zoophobia (fear of animals).

Why do I have a fear of birds?

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.

What are ornithophobia symptoms?

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:

  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Extreme feeling of dread or terror.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Shortness of breath.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is ornithophobia diagnosed?

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:

  • Symptoms that appear when you see or think about a particular trigger, like birds.
  • An ongoing, extreme fear of the trigger (birds) that lasts for at least six months.
  • Extreme changes to behaviors or routines that help you avoid encountering the trigger.
  • Negative effects on your quality of life.

Management and Treatment

What is ornithophobia treatment?

Mental health specialists like psychologists help people overcome phobias. You may benefit from:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): During this form of psychotherapy (talk therapy), you explore the underlying cause of ornithophobia. CBT also teaches you how to use relaxation techniques to manage your fears.
  • Exposure therapy (desensitization): During exposure therapy, you use relaxation techniques while your therapist gradually exposes you to images of birds. Together, you and your therapist may work up to increasing your exposure to real birds. The goal is to gradually make you less fearful.
  • Hypnotherapy: During hypnotherapy, your therapist places you into a hypnotic state to help you overcome memories, thoughts and emotions related to the fear.
  • Medications: Antianxiety drugs or antidepressants can help control symptoms as you go through therapy. Antianxiety medicines can help if you’ll be in a situation, like at a park or zoo, where you expect birds to be present.

What are the complications of ornithophobia?

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:

Living With

When should I call the doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
  • Signs of depression or problems with substance use.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is causing this phobia?
  • What is the best treatment for me?
  • Should I try exposure therapy?
  • How long will I need therapy?
  • Can medications help?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/15/2022.

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