Tag Archives: Owl Omen

“Cuando el Tecolote Canta, el Indio Muere”

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican
  • Residence: San Diego
  • Primary language: Spanish/English

Text and Context:

M.W grew up in a small rural town in Mexico, where superstitions are dominant in everyday life. From a young age, her parents instilled in her the belief that owls are a bad omen. She says, “Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere.” This translates to,  “When the owl sings, the Indian dies.” Basically, if you were to hear the owl sing, it was thought that someone known or close to you is about to die. M.W says there are lots of superstitions involving owls, and all are negatively associated. She recalls once when it was night, an owl sang and then something unexpected happened right after. A bird hit itself on a wall shortly after, and then in the morning it was known that her neighbor passed away around the time the owl sang. M.W recalls that every time she heard the owl, someone died, ended up in the hospital, or very sick. In her culture, the owl was feared and when seen, it led to an eerie sensation. 


When talking to M.W, what stood out was when she told me, “Something about the owl had always unsettled me. In the night time, the eyes are so spooky and the fact that they can move their head 270 degrees is just creepy.” After doing some research, I found that the association between owls and bad luck runs beyond just Mexican culture. Amongst many cultures, owls are also seen as omens of death and are avoided. For example, in Native Cherokee culture, the owl is believed to be an embodied spirit of the dead. In my Mexican culture, I was also told that owls are also called “lechuzas” in spanish. Lechuzas are typically referring to barn owls or larger owls. There are lots of myths associated with owls, another one being that witches can transform themselves into owls. 

The Owl: A Native American Bad Omen


My grandmother M is Native American and would often tell me stories about her life on a reservation in Arizona. I asked her about any stories that she carried with her as a child or even in adulthood that relate to her cultural background. She shared this story with me about her experience with an owl.

Main Piece:

The story I remember most is not of her life on reservation however a story that happened to her as an adult. My grandmother once told me that the owl is considered a negative omen in Native American culture. She also told me that she experienced this negative omen first hand and has since hated owls. Molly had seven sons and one of her eldest had purchased a motorcycle. He was in his twenties and was of age to purchase the bike but had never ridden one before. My grandmother told me that one day she had noticed an owl out during the day perched on a tree near her bedroom window. She found this very odd because of the time of day, and because she lived in East Los Angeles where seeing owls would be rare. The owl spoke a name to her, and she was very unsettled. The owl had spoken her son’s name. Her son had been home but was about to leave on his bike to hang out with his friends. My grandmother stopped him and told him to stay home because she had a bad feeling about him leaving. She didn’t tell him about the owl for fear that he wouldn’t believe her and would probably think she was crazy. That night, my uncle was in an accident on his motorcycle and died. To this day, my grandmother regrets having kept the owl from him.


Stated by Native-languages.org, many Native American tribes consider the owl an omen of death. Hopi however, consider the owl a symbol of authority and wisdom. It is interesting that my grandmother didn’t look at the owl as a sign of wisdom given that her own tribe sees them that way. Possibly it was a sign of wisdom in that it gave her the warning signs and she was left to her own devices to solve the problem. My grandmother has never shared stories with me regarding anything supernatural. I don’t think that was something that they talked about because I don’t think they believed in it. Given that my father also had an experience regarding the death of my uncle and he is very logical and not easily swayed without proof, I believe there is truth to it.



For more on Owls in Native American folklore: