Bird Phobia (Ornithophobia) – Definition, Symptoms, Causes And More

The bird phobia also called ornithophobia, is irrational and uncontrollable fear of birds, for some people, that fear just goes to birds of prey like vultures, hawks and eagles, among others, while in other cases Even house birds such as parrots or parakeets, as well as the sight of their feathers, are enough to cause an anxiety attack .

Human beings can develop fear of almost anything, the phobia of birds is one of the particular ones, since it is manifested by an excess of discomfort and anxiety when the person is near birds, or anticipates facing one.

Causes of bird phobia

There may be different causes or reasons behind excessive fear of birds:

  • Young children can develop ornithophobia if they have felt threatened by aggressive birds such as vultures, hawks, or geese.
  • In some cases, the birds may not have shown any form of violence, but their presence at traumatic events such as funerals or accidents may be enough to trigger a phobia in a young child.
  • Birds flying into houses through an open window and causing disturbances could have made parents nervous and this can trigger an anxiety attack in the child.
  • Images of carnivorous birds attacking small prey like rabbits seen on television shows can sometimes develop a fear of birds in young minds.

Most cases of childhood ornithophobia go away on their own, while others can persist even into adulthood.

Symptoms of bird phobia

The symptoms of this phobia vary depending on the severity of the condition. As with any other type of phobia, ornithophobia symptoms can be broadly categorized as mental, physical, or emotional.

Some people refuse to eat in places where birds may be present for fear that the birds will steal their food.

Ornithophobic individuals fear birds preserved by taxidermists and present in museums, etc. Still others fear all images, photos, or even the feathers of birds.

The physical symptoms of this phobia generally include the appearance of a cold sweat, shaking, screaming or crying, increased heart rate, freezing in place, or attempting to flee when seeing birds.

Some people are known to experience such anxiety attacks days before an actual confrontation with the birds. Like many other types of phobias , the fear of birds can sometimes be severely debilitating in that the individual may refuse to leave their home entirely, thus affecting everyday life.

Complications of bird phobia

Birds are extremely prevalent in all populated areas of the world, making it almost impossible to go an entire day without a single encounter.

Therefore, it is not uncommon for people with ornithophobia to gradually restrict their activities, for example, you can:

  • Avoid picnics and other outdoor activities.
  • You cannot visit pet stores.
  • Becoming agoraphobic, afraid to leave your home for fear of facing a bird.

Treatment of bird phobia

Overcoming ornithophobia is essential especially if it causes one to be anxious or depressed all the time. A severely crippling phobia needs professional treatment, in milder cases one can develop and stick to some self-help routines such as affirmations and positive visualizations, meditation or controlled deep breathing, and so on.

For people with severe anxiety, doctors may prescribe tranquilizers and other medications to reduce the severity of symptoms. However, care must be taken when using them, giving up those medications can cause withdrawal symptoms and they don’t do much for the fear itself rather than provide symptomatic relief.

Since most phobias are defined as “a conditional reflex or learning gone wrong,” psychotherapists also recommend behavior therapy to help the phobic individual unlearn these reflexes. Behavior therapy is known to be effective in nearly 9 out of 10 people with bird phobia.

Gradual desensitization is another effective method of treating fear of birds, ten to thirty sessions (depending on individual cases) can be used to expose the person to their fear objects. The patient is shown slides or pictures of birds or their feathers, taught to imagine approaching the birds until gradually learning to cope without distress.

Exposure and relaxation therapy

This is one of the very effective treatment methods used to treat ornithophobia, the therapist exposes a fearful situation in front of the person through an image or a real bird. The person’s reactions are recorded and studied through regular exposure sessions.

The therapist also teaches different forms of relaxation, such as mental visualization and breath control during exposures. Eventually, the person can tolerate the fearsome subject.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

It aims to modify a person’s negative thoughts and behavior. The therapist has regular talk therapy and exchange sessions for the person to relive internal negative thoughts related to birds, help build a positive attitude towards the subject, and regain a normal life.

Read more about cognitive behavioral therapy.


Only in severe cases, medications are used to control anxiety, the ones that are commonly used are those anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. They should be taken under the strict prescription of a doctor only.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.