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"Birds [...] are the last of the dinosaurs. Tiny velociraptors with wings. Devouring defenseless wiggly things and, and nuts, and fish, and, and other birds. They get the early worms. And have you ever watched a chicken eat? They may look innocent, but birds are, well, they're vicious."
Spider, Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Leliana: But a bird is a creature of grace, and beauty! They open their mouths and they sing!

Shale: The bard hears music. I hear a wail of banshees that boils my blood.

Leliana: But... what about a nightingale? Or a swan?

Shale: They are not pigeons, it is true. Still? Evil beasts of the sky.

Everybody knows that birds are some of the least scary animals ever, right? After all, they're small, they're pretty, they sing, they have sharp claws and pointy beaks, they fly around in huge flocks, they hang out in battlefields and pick the flesh off of the corpses...

Wait, what?

Monstrous birds aren't that ridiculous, if you think about it. After all, they're the dinosaurs that survived. As mentioned above, even the cutest birds have pointy beaks and claws, and some birds (such as starlings) fly in flocks of thousands, making them seem like hordes of avian locusts. Many of them are voracious predators, and airborne to boot - just imagine if they were big enough to swoop down on humans and carry them off. (It might be worth noting that the extinct Haast's eagle could have occasionally preyed on humans, although it wouldn't have been able to carry them. The giant teratorn could theoretically have carried off a person weighing up to approximately 95 kg/200 lbs, had humans actually been around when it was alive.) One should not forget the TERROR BIRDS, that once roamed (and likely terrorized) the earth.

Feathered Fiends can be divided into four catagories:

Note that this is Truth in Television, as some birds such as cassowaries and swans can be surprisingly vicious and even outright dangerous, while others can be indirectly dangerous by carrying diseases like bird flu and psittacosis. (To say nothing of extinct killer avians like the aforementioned Haast's eagles and terror birds, or dino-birds like Deinonychus.)

See also Giant Flyer, Killer Rabbit, and Morally-Ambiguous Ducktorate. Compare with Bat Out of Hell and Reptiles Are Abhorrent. Owl Be Damned is a subtrope. Related to Giant Flyer. Possibly one of the reasons why Everything's Better with Penguins.

Examples of Feathered Fiend include:


Anime & Manga

  • Wolf's Rain: While looking for a way out of the Forest of Death, the wolves get freaked out by a creepy talking owl that might be a ghost. One of its cryptic pronouncements does does turn out to be a clue to the escape route, though.
    • Confirmed. After the gang discover the bones stripped bare by the bugs, if you watch the next shot of the owl you can see the trees through it as it flies away.
  • The evil Raven from Princess Tutu, and to an extent his daughter Princess Kraehe (Crow), and the flock of carrion birds that are associated with them.
  • The first episode of Pokémon had a rock throwing incident lead to Ash and Pikachu being chased by a flock of Spearow (whose Japanese name means "demon sparrow").
    • The same Spearow returns at the end of that season, evolved and looking for payback...
    • Also, the Taillow, which are also very aggressive if their food sources are threatened. Furthermore, they are able to resist electric attacks (which should be super effective against them) by sheer willpower.
    • Even Pidgey, which is said to be mild mannered, can generate winds strong enough to blow a ten-year-old into the sky.
  • Avirama Redder
  • In Chrono Crusade, Aion first appears by channeling his voice through his familiar--a bald eagle with glowing red eyes. Probably meant to be creepily symbolic, considering Aion constantly cites his motivations as "freedom".
  • Dio Brando's pet falcon Pet Shop is just as sadistic as his master, and even has a Stand (Horus, appropriately enough). He's even capable of flashing a Psychotic Smirk, which even Team Pet Iggy notes is impossible.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie First, The Phoenix Monster of the Week from the original series was replaced with a more demonic monster bird, with horns protruding from its body, claws on its wings, and a jagged beak with tusk-like extensions. Alas, while more fearsome-looking, it lasted as long as the phoenix did.
  • Most Bird-type Digimon are heroic or neutral, but the massive Ultimate-level Parrotmon is definitely a fiend, especially in the first movie.


Comicbooks

  • Matthew is a rare example of a friendly corvid, although the rooks in "A Parliament Of Rooks" are a bit nastier.
  • The Sidri in the X-Men comic book also fit this variant of the trope.
  • Footrot Flats has a turkey as a regular enemy of The Dog, and a goose as a regular enemy of Wal. At one point, they switched foes.
  • If Gaston Lagaffe's seagull is in a bad mood, the whole office runs for cover.
  • Savage Dragon features a villain named Powerhouse who is an avatar of a nature-god. He looks like a humanoid chicken but despite his ridiculous appearance, the hero of the series soon finds that he is Not So Harmless.


Fairy Tales


Films


Literature

  • H. G. Wells wrote a short short called Aepyornis Island, where the titular bird is quite a nasty beastie. The real Aepyornis was herbivorous, but since their still living cousins like the cassowary are among the most lethal birds alive...
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Also a case of Ravens and Crows.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's At The Mountains Of Madness has giant blind albino penguins.
    • Whippoorwills often appear in Lovecraft's stories as omens of impending doom. They don't actually do much, but you know something ugly is about to go down when a bunch of whippoorwills decide to perch near your house in Lovecraft Country.
  • The infamous "Chicken That Was Not A Chicken" from the Sword of Truth series plays type D horribly straight. Much Narm was had by all.
  • There's a children's book called "SQUAAAAWK" in which, if you open a magical book, you allow the Roc magically bound inside to get out and terrorize your town.
  • The later Animorphs books have several instances of flocks of homicidal bird-morphed controllers attacking the protagonists.
    • And the natural version: Tobias hates crows because they mob hawks. And eagles-a group made Rachel slam into a tree and lose her memory
  • In Redwall, birds are generally on the side of good, if often wild and untamed. There are exceptions, however--an army of rooks led by a raven attacks Redwall in Mattimeo and St. Ninian's is home to vicious jackdaws in Pearls of Lutra. And, of course, there's the heron of Martin the Warrior, the Warden. "I am the law!" * GULP*
    • Swans are (somewhat justifiably) treated as giant monsters in one book, where the heroes trick some henchmen into getting close to a swan's nest. Death ensues.
  • The Old Kingdom Trilogy has flocks of Gore Crows, evil and dangerous in large numbers (especially when in a Paperwing); a flock of crows animated by a single Dead spirit.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. Shambler trees are host to over thirty different types of carnivorous tenants that swarm in their thousands when they sense the vibrations of nearby prey.
  • The enormous flocks of sparrows of Stephen King's The Dark Half. "Evil" might be putting it a bit strong, since their ultimate purpose is to put the main character's Evil Twin back where he belongs; then again, "creepy" might not do them justice.
  • Pigeons From Hell
    • Mind you, the pigeons are a harbinger of evil rather than the actual monsters of the story-- not unlike the whipporwills in Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror.
  • The vicious birdlike Shryke race in The Edge Chronicles.
  • In Dragaera, the issola is a sort of crane-like which appears really elegant and graceful, but is also a very competent hunter. This is noted as a metaphor for how the House of Issola has the hat of politeness and grace, but you shouldn't think they are pushovers.
  • His Dark Materials has the tualapi, white swan like birds that are flightless but use their wings as sails...and are carnivorous. Perhaps a subversion however, since they may not actually be birds, but organisms that evolved to resemble them, since they belong to a world were vetebrates aren't the dominant animals, and their wings are positioned one in front of the other instead of alongside each other.
  • Some of the Dark One's servants in Wheel of Time can use crows as spies and messengers, and occasionally use huge flocks of crows to attack people. Crows are regularly included in scenes to give the impression that characters are being watched.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "A Witch Shall Be Born", Conan the Barbarian is crucified, but the villain carefully explains that the vultures will kill him first.
  • Both played straight and averted in Lord of the Rings; while crows are viewed as an ill omen, and a malicious variety called "crebain" serve Saruman as spies and messengers, ravens are noted to be dwarf-friends. And the Eagles are downright Always Lawful Good.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, ordinary birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and owls. Justified, since they're cats, after all, and the birds are very large to them - large enough to carry off a kit, or, with an eagle at least, a full-grown cat.
  • The Pure Ones,St. Aggie's owls and hagsfiends of Guarduans Of Ga'Hoole
  • A flock of giant killer hornbills, of all things, appears in the South Seas Treasure Game from Dream Park. Presumably the Lopezes were going for the unexpected when they chose them as a threat.

Live-Action TV

  • While Walking With Beasts focused mostly on prehistoric mammals, the horse-munching Gastornis in the first episode was one of the scariest animals on the show. Although a bit of Badass Decay occurs when its unhatched chick is eaten by giant ants. Also of note are the Phorusrhacos in another episode, though they don't present any real threat to the Smilodon we're following. Because nothing - except climate change and the giant ground sloth Megatherium - present much threat to a Smilodon.
  • In an episode of Myth Busters, when Adam is placing his hand in a pen of baby ducks, Jamie joked "Don't be fooled, these are actually quite deadly."
  • In the Suite Life on Deck episode "Mean Chicks", Cody deprives a seagull of a french fry Zack attempted to feed it, and spends the rest of the episode trying to escape the bird's wrath.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor", a Provençal village is being menaced by what, when we finally get a look at it, appears to be a giant cross between a chicken and a parrot. From outer space.
  • The titular character of the Avengers episode "The Winged Avenger". A cartoonist who disguises himself as his own bird of prey-like comic superhero and lacerates Corrupt Corporate Executives to death, using magnetized boots to climb walls.
  • The Tales from the Crypt episode "Carrion Death" has the protagonist, a con attempting to escape through the desert, being stalked by a hungry vulture who eventually makes a meal out of him... while he's still alive.
  • One Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy from Saturday Night Live says:
    • I think the international symbol for peace should be the pillow. It has as many feathers as a dove but without that vicious beak.
  • The third season Halloween episode of That 70s Show featured a parody of The Birds.


Myth And Legend

  • While vampires were later associated with wolves and bats, Roman legends portray them as shapeshifting, blood-drinking owls. Several East European words for "vampire" (strigoi, shtriga, strzyga) are derived from "strix", the Latin word for "screech owl."
    • Vampire: The Requiem uses them with the strix, spirits that take the form of owls who brought down the Roman Empire (and with it, the largest body of vampiric government in history) because of an ancient betrayal. They can possess humans as well as sleeping vampires, and the clan books hint they're returning for some reason...
  • Harpies, which are usually portrayed as vulture like.
    • Sirens also originally were depicted as birdlike rather than mermaid-like.
    • Quite few other mix-and-match mythical monsters are at least part bird, although whether or not they're scary of evil tends to vary.
  • One of Hercules' tasks was to kill the Stymphalian birds, which had sharp, metallic feathers and a taste for human flesh.
  • Cockatrices were said to have been born of the egg of a rooster and incubated by a toad or snake. A lizard-like bird (or vice versa), it has the power to turn people into stone with its gaze.
    • Traditional folklore concerning basilisks is almost identical, with the exception that unlike the cockatrice, they are wingless (most of the time anyway).
  • Averted (mostly) in Norse Mythology with Odin's two ravens, Huginn and Munnin.
  • Do you know that stereotypical image of hundreds of hapless slaves being dragged up an Aztec pyramid to have their hearts torn out? That was the festival of the Aztec god of war Huitzilopochtli, the Left-Handed Hummingbird.
  • The thunderbird of Native American mythology


New Media


Tabletop Games


Videogames

  • What is the most feared thing in Ninja Gaiden?
  • Dynablade, the legendary bird from the Kirby series. She's not necessarily evil, but she does serve as the final boss of the (mini)game Dyna Blade, and Kirby fights her in one episode of the anime.
    • Dynablade may count in that she's a giant bird with sword wings. But she's actually on the good side after Kirby feeds her chicks. She even helps him back later in Revenge Of Metaknight.
  • The chickens Cuccos in The Legend of Zelda games. Strike one down, and you shall be overwhelmed by a force more powerful than you could ever imagine.
  • Chocobos in Final Fantasy games. There are few enemies nastier than a flock of them.
    • The Yagudo are one such enemy. I mean honestly, some of them can be called katana-wielding Samurai birdmen. The fact that many Yagudo are religious fanatics doesn't help matters, although they at least have a 'peace' agreement with Windurst (read: give us offerings or we'll overrun the city).
      • There is also the Zuu, ugly, featherless Giant Flyers that tend to do more damage to the party then any other monsters on the map.
        • In Final Fantasy VII birds/flying enemies approach Demonic Spiders territory at times, due to high-damaging skills (the penguin things around Cosmo Canyon early in the game) or the fact that you cannot hit flying enemies without long-range equipment or materia (like the Unknown in the sunken carrier.)
  • "Madre de Dios! Es el Pollo Diablo!"
  • The evil chicken in Runescape.
    • Also, the folk legends of unsuspecting (and supposedly quite powerful) feather hunters being killed by regular chickens, on which the Evil Chicken was based.
  • Vulcan Raven's rather disturbing death in Metal Gear Solid: A flock of his titular birds descend on his body, and when they leave, nothing is left but his weapon.
  • Terror Birds in Tibia.
  • Swarms of small flying creatures have been in Metroid games ever since the first, althogh they are most prevalent in the 3D installments, where they tend to appear as very large flocks, often flying around in circles in large rooms.
  • In Heretic II multiplayer, there is a 10% chance that hitting somebody with a Morph Ovum will turn them into 10 ft tall, 999 hp demonic chicken who's steps shake the ground, and who's peck causes instant death.
  • Although not quite so at first glance, it has been strongly hinted that the Kig-Yar (or, to humans, 'Jackals') of Halo are of avian ancestry. The novels describe them as vicious Space Pirates and Prophet-employed mercenaries who will do anything for money or spoils of war.
  • One of the Dead Apostle Ancestors in Tsukihime is half bird, half vampire and has numerous bird minions and a Reality Marble having something to do with black feathers that kill people. Even the other DAAs don't like him.
  • Evil birds show up quite frequently in the Sly Cooper series. The most prominent is Big Bad Clockwerk, but the second game also gives us sinister parrot Arpeggio, and the third has an evil chicken (General Tsao) and another nasty parrot, the pirate captain LeFwee.
  • The first boss of Rune Factory Frontier is a Type C: a giant Clucky.
  • Mad Duck made something spin around!
    • Spiteful Crow pecked at your eyes!
  • Bobo in Wario Land 1 is type C (although the latter games show it as closer to a pterodactyl/dragon than any bird), as is the true form (after the first half of the boss battle is won) of Cuckoo Condor in the fourth game.
  • Summoner 2 lampshades this; there's a corvid sitting by a fire in an ominous-looking jungle filled with ruins, where a bloody battle had taken place in ages past... however, his name is Matthew, and he's a rather nice fellow. He even loans you his boat.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins has the Holo Holo Bird, a giant, jungle-dwelling That One Boss whose difficulty is exacerbated by its minions, adorable babies who have the obnoxious habit of constantly healing their mother for thousands of damage points.
  • Mystia Lorelei of the Touhou Project qualifies on one angle, being a night sparrow youkai who hunts humans and can strike them blind with her singing. However, she also averts this trope, as The Chew Toy of many a poultry joke in both canon and fanon.
  • There's two in Donkey Kong Country Returns, Savory Stu and Colonel Pluck. The former is a giant bird whose body is in a giant cauldron filled with bombs and the latter is a chicken piloting a giant robot. The latter's stage name and theme is even called "Feather Fiend"!
  • Archeops from Pokémon Black and White has beastly attack and good speed. Unfortunately, it's a Glass Cannon, and its attack and Special Attack are halved if its health gets below half.
  • The Babylon Rogues of Sonic the Hedgehog are a ruthless gang of thieves made up of Jet the Hawk (who looks more like a parrot), Storm the Albatross, and Wave the Swallow.
    • Which is really odd when you realize that Real Life Albatrosses are endangered and swallows and martins have adapted well with humans.
    • The Battle Kukku from Tails Adventure fit Type C as well.
    • Bean the Dynamite is a psychotic, trigger-happy bombardier. However, he's doofy enough to be a Type D.
  • The giant two-headed roc from King's Quest V. Also subverted in that the only way to escape from said bird is with the aid of another bird whose life you saved earlier in the game.
  • Copernicus the Guard Turkey from Little Big Planet 2 is a Type C case.
  • Valve Software loves this. Birds apparently love attacking robots, alerting zombies to your location, and wallowing in peoples' internal organs during surgery. You almost wonder if it's a Running Gag.

 Francis: I hate birds!

Zoey: Yeah, birds are dicks!

  • Malphas, one of the demons summoned by Bayonetta for her boss finishers is a giant bird made of hair.
  • Inverted in Angry Birds where the title birds are the heroes, and they are all very angry because the evil pigs have stolen their eggs.
  • In Portal 2 G La DOS has an amusing relationship likely developed during the game, with birds that makers her look at least some birds like this at least part of the time, including in Co-op mode.

Webcomics


Western Animation

  • While the hero of Don Bluth's Rock-a-Doodle is an avian Elvis Expy, the villains are Always Chaotic Evil owls.
  • Screweyes, the villain from We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, is accompanied by a murder of crows. Which devour him alive at the end of the film.
  • The owl in The Secret of NIMH is a bit of a subversion. The mouse protagonist is naturally terrified of him and we come to find out that he isn't actually evil, although he's still creepy.
    • Jeremy is a subversion - although he's a crow, he's actually a goofy scatterbrain who is nonetheless a valuable ally to Mrs. Frisby.
  • A Bugs Life had Grotesque Cute goldfinches.
    • Which, from the point of view of a bug are probably the equivalent of Godzilla.
  • And Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire had Pyreflies. "These guys are kinda cute when they aren't setting off blazing infernos!"
  • Peter Griffin from Family Guy occasionally gets into epic battles with a giant chicken.
  • The Batman: The Animated Series version of the Penguin had a collection of deadly birds ranging from poison-billed hummingbirds to trained attack-cassowaries.
  • Buzz Buzzard from the Woody Woodpecker cartoons was usually shown as genuinley evil and sinister, as opposed to Woody who was just an obnoxious Screwy Squirrel type.
  • Will Arnett voices a mercenary vulture in Horton Hears a Who. He's the only real bird in the show, but then again he's being paid off by a kangaroo.
  • The seagulls from Finding Nemo. "Mine! Mine!"
  • The main villain of Valiant is a German pigeon-intercepting falcon voiced by Tim Curry.
  • The first act of Rango involved the titular chameleon attempting to protect a Western town called Dirt from a giant hawk (Dirt's inhabitants are all animals, most of which are the hawk's prey).
  • Count Duckula began as a show-biz addicted ditz on Danger Mouse before becoming an actual villain. He became Flanderized on his own show (a hapless show-biz addicted vegetarian) and had to deal with a common foe, vampire hunter Dr. Von Goosewing. Duckula's manservant, Igor, may count as sinister as he prods Duckula into being the evil bloodsucker he was intended to be.
  • In Scooby Doo Mystery Inc, there is the Evil Genius parrot, Professor Pericles.
  • Laserbeak from Transformers.


Real Life

  • Modern swans are already viciously agressive. Imagine facing their giant extinct cousins.
  • Roosters have spurs on their legs. Roosters are apparently territorial. There is a reason why Cockfighting used to be so common. Of course, some Complete Monsters would replace their natural spurs with razors.
  • The vampire finch (Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis) is known for pecking at other birds and giant tortoises until it draws blood, and then drinking it.
    • You know oxpeckers, those cute little birds that perch on animals in Africa and do useful things like eat their hosts' parasites? What they're actually after is blood. They mostly get it from the ticks they eat off their hosts, but sometimes they try to get it from the hosts themselves.
  • The shrike: it looks like your average songbird, but it impales rather large prey (lizards, rodents) on spikes.
  • Never take a swan lightly. If one of those comes towards you hissing, back off.
  • Geese can be very vicious if their brood is threatened. They're sometimes used to guard other poultry from predators.
  • A lot of birds are very protective of their nests. While their protective instinct is entirely understandable, getting swooped at by alternately furious and desperate parents and helpers for walking near the wrong tree is alarming.
    • Seagulls are likable when it's not the nesting season. When it is, seagulls turn into divebombing feathered fiends from hell.
  • The aptly named terror birds took over the role of giant bipedal predators in the Cenozoic, long after non-bird dinosaurs were extinct.
    • Also, Gastornis, which filled a similar role somewhat earlier than the terror birds.
  • The Cassowary is the avian equivalent of a pitbull. They've killed people on more than one occasion.
  • Steamer ducks. They attack and kill other waterfowl for no clear reason.
  • Great tits prey on hibernating bats by ripping their heads off. These birds are definitely not just seed and insect eaters.
  • Whether or not they count as birds is up to you, but the predatory dromaeosaurids and caenagnathoid oviraptorosaurs definitely bore bona fide feathers. Among the dromaeosaurids were Deinonychus and Velociraptor, but the largest of them was Utahraptor, which was at least the size of a grizzly bear and, based on rumored undescribed remains, may have been even larger. Grizzly-bear sized raptors. That might have hunted in packs. The largest oviraptorid was Gigantoraptor, which was almost nine meters long and weighed over a ton, comparable to some tyrannosaurids like Albertosaurus. It would have been the largest feathered fiend known to science if you only count dinosaurs with pennaceous feathers. If you throw protofeathers into the equation things get much more complicated.
    • They were also very tenacious when defending their nests (which was probably done by the males, by the way). It appears that they would even try to shield their eggs from a sandstorm, as many oviraptorid fossils are found crouching over their nests.
    • There's this new theory about how dromaeosaurids went about "preparing" their prey: They used their sickle claws to pin their prey down while flapping their wings for balance. Now put yourself in the prey's shoes: You're lying on your back with raptor claws hooked in your skin, and huge wings flapping in your face, while a raptor eats your guts out. The point is... you are alive when they start to eat you.
  • An ostrich once nearly killed Johnny Cash by gutting him with a kick (he was running a farm of them at the time).
  • There are stories - unconfirmed - of massive eagles carrying off dogs and even in one case a small child (who survived, was found in the mountains miles from where she disappeared, and is the source of the story).
    • There are verified accounts of eagles killing deer and young cattle, however. (Not carrying off, but killing, certainly.) Eagles also appear to have preyed on the young of early hominids (e.g.: our ancestors). In fact, the Haast's eagle from New Zealand was probably large enough to kill humans in recent times. It died out when its main food source (moa, large flightless birds) got exterminated.
      • African Crowned Eagles have been known to launch predatory attacks on children (Up to seven years old!). Also, skulls of human infants have been found in African Crowned Eagle nests. This is also the same species of eagle that killed our hominid ancestors as mentioned by the troper above, and because of their fiercesness and fondness for primate meat they are known as the "leopards of the air" by certain African peoples.
  • Bearded vultures have been known to try and drive large mammmals (including humans) off the edges of cliffs, and black vultures will sometimes swarm young livestock and medium-sized mammals such as skunks and kill them. Keeping in mind that these are "scavenging" vultures, not typical predatory birds of prey such as eagles...
  • Argentavis magnificens is the largest flying bird ever to exist. Its wingspan may have been as much as thirty feet! A bird like that could definitely carry a child off.
  • Pelicans.
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