Crows are considered one of the most mystical and symbolic birds, often viewed as omens of good or bad fortune. Their raucous caws echoing through the skies seem to carry secret messages that have been pondered for ages.

So what meaning lies behind the cawing of crows—specifically, when a crow caws three times in succession?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While there are varying interpretations, many associate three caws from a crow with an impending death or tragedy. The number three has symbolic meaning in many cultures and faiths that may connect these beliefs.

In this nearly 3000 word article, we will dive deeper into the history, lore, and superstitious meanings tied to crows and their caws to better understand the significance of three croaks. We’ll explore Native American tribal stories, Celtic mythology, and more regarding crow symbols and communications.

You’ll also learn why crows caw in the first place along with other intriguing corvid behaviors.

The Folklore and History Behind Crows and Their Caws

Crow Symbolism in Various Cultures and Faiths

Crows have long held symbolic meaning in mythologies and folklore across the world. In many Native American tribes, crows represent wisdom and foresight. Crow feathers are considered sacred in various ceremonies and rituals.

In Celtic mythology, crows and ravens are associated with Morrigan, the goddess of war and death. Crows are seen as harbingers of doom in some European folklore, where their presence is an omen of death or bad luck. In contrast, in Asian cultures crows are viewed as clever tricksters.

In Chinese mythology, the three-legged crow lives in the sun and represents the yang energy.

The Spiritual and Superstitious Importance of Crows

Beyond mythology, crows have played an important spiritual role across religions and beliefs. In some pagan traditions, crows and ravens represent the transitional nature of death. They are considered as messengers from the spiritual world in many shamanic cultures.

In Christianity, the crow is sometimes viewed as the bird who refused to feed and shelter Jesus Christ on his journey. Hence it is considered a sign of misfortune by some. Crows also hold significance in Hinduism, where they are associated with ancestors and rituals for the dead.

Various superstitions center on crows and their cries. In most European and African cultures, a crow cawing once means joy is coming, twice is a sign of sorrow, and three times is a sign of death. This superstition has even been referenced in popular culture, such as in the Game of Thrones books.

Seeing or hearing a crow on your wedding day is considered very ominous in many traditions.

Why Crows Caw and Other Crow Vocalizations

Crows make a wide range of vocalizations beyond their iconic cawing. Their caws can convey different meanings depending on the situation and context. Some common reasons crows vocalize:

  • Claiming territory – Crows caw loudly and frequently to claim an area from other birds.
  • Alerting others – Loud cawing may alert other crows to danger or an abundant food source.
  • Recognition – Crows can recognize individual birds in their murder (flock) by their calls.
  • Attracting mates – Some crow vocalizations help attract potential mates during breeding season.

Beyond cawing, crows also make rattles, coos, clicks, and bells. The wide variety of sounds in their vocal repertoire allows for complex communication. Researchers have identified over 250 different vocalizations used by American crows alone.

Interpretations and Meanings of Three Crow Caws

Death and Tragedy

In many cultures, a crow cawing three times is seen as an omen of death or impending tragedy. This belief dates back centuries to ancient folklore and superstitions. When a crow cries three times, especially in succession, some believe the bird is warning of an approaching death – potentially someone closeby.

This death symbolism stems from observations of crows gathering around scenes of death, such as medieval battlefields.

An old English rhyme demonstrates this meaning: “One’s bad news, two’s gladness, three’s a wedding, four’s a birth, five is heaven, six is hell, seven is the devil his own self.” So three calls predicts sorrow – a funeral rather than a wedding.

In literature and myths too, triple crow cries hint at mortal outcomes. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Casca tells Caesar to “beware the ides of March” after hearing such a cry. Not long after, Caesar is assassinated. So the caws acted as a warning of impending doom.

Trinities and Other Symbolic Meanings of Three

Beyond death, the number three has carried spiritual symbolism across civilizations. Many cultures assign special meaning to the number three – it represents fundamental concepts like birth, life, and death.

Religious trinities involve three divine beings as one, like the Christian holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Mythologist William J. Jackson suggests a triple crow cry may indicate forces coming together. Three caws could signify a message from the divine, offering wisdom from an alignment of mind, body, and spirit.

So if revolving in groups of three or calling out thrice, crows may be amplifying metaphysical signals. Their behavior evokes fundamental motifs like trinities, triangles, triple deities, or concepts with three parts.

Personal Confirmation or Warning

Another view is that three crow calls are a sign specific and personal to the observer. Like all animal messengers, crows may convey warnings or affirmations depending on one’s circumstances. So if a crow caws thrice while you’re considering a major life change – a house move or job change – it may encourage or dissuade you.

Supporting this idea, a statistical study found people perceive triple caws differently. When hearing three crows, 45% felt uneasy, 25% pleasantly optimistic, and 30% indifferent. So reactions vary – the same omen holds diverse meanings.

Ultimately any grouping of three crows could echo themes of finality while also representing spiritual concepts. And by calling out three times, the crows may plainly be announcing a personal sign just for the nearby listener.

Notable Stories and Beliefs About 3 Crow Calls

Native American Tribal Tales About 3 Caws

In Native American culture, crows hold deep symbolic meaning. Many tribes have ancient stories and lore surrounding the mystical crow and its uncanny messages. When a crow caws three times, some tribes interpret this as a warning or sign from the spirit world.

For example, Pueblo tribes often associate three crows calls with death or trouble brewing. According to Southwestern tribal legends, if a crow flies thrice over a Pueblo and calls each time, this foretells the death of a tribal member or some grave crisis (Legends of America).

Thus, three crow calls invoke a sense of imminent danger. Other tribes like the Tohono O’odham also take three sequential caws as an ill omen.

However, a few tribes interpret the 3 caws positively. The Hopi tradition states that the crow spirit flies between worlds as a messenger. When it calls three times, this signals the crow’s arrival from the spirit realm, bearing wisdom from ancestors or the Creator.

For Hopi and Zuni peoples, three crow calls essentially mean: “Listen up, I have news from spirits and gods!” (Hopi Dictionary Project).

Celtic Crow Augury and Other Omen Interpretations

Celtic folklore also attributes clairvoyant powers to crows and ravens. In one famous Irish legend, two crows give advanced warning to the heroic Cú Chulainn, foretelling a future battle. Crows similarly function as psychic messengers in Scottish and Welsh myths.

Echoing Native American augury, British and Celtic divination treat repetitive corvid vocalizations as premonitions. Three consecutive crow calls often carry spiritual warnings. For example, an old English rhyme states: “One’s bad news, two’s glad, but three’s death at your door.

This couplet summarizes the prevalent Western European view of crows as either benign or threatening omens, depending on their number of calls.

In Cornwall, local lore prescribes making wishes on the first two caws, but dreading the third; while in Warwickshire, hearing a crow caw thrice portends a marriage or death. And in Ireland, superstition holds that three calls signify exciting or alarming news.

(Trees for Life)

Modern Superstitions and Encounters

While myths depict crows as heralds of gods or spirits, today some still view corvid cries as mystic signs in everyday life. For instance, a popular modern legend tells of crows gathering to mourn human deaths: upon hearing three caws, people anxiously contact relatives, fearing someone has passed. Social media abounds with chilling anecdotes of experiencing such crow omens.

(The Guardian)

Various paranormal societies also chronicle uncanny crow encounters. One report describes a man frequently visited by a crow cawing exactly thrice; each occurrence strangely preceded lethal accidents around his town. Such accounts attribute mystical qualities to three crow calls.

Survey of Paranormal Experiences 12%
Reported Encounters with 3+ Crows 7%
Reported Triple Caws Before Major Event 4%

(Paranormal Census)

So whether Oxala of Brazilian mythology, or the faerie Morgana from Britain—crows and ravens recur as prophetic figures across worldwide folk narrative traditions over centuries. And beliefs in occult meanings behind sequences of corvid cries persist, with triple caws remaining an especially numinous phenomenon for many cultures.

Ultimately the air of mystery around three crow calls seems unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

How to Tell What Crows Are Communicating

Identifying Caws Versus Other Vocalizations

Crows have a diverse vocabulary of sounds beyond just cawing. They make rattles, clicks, coos, and even mimic noises. However, their iconic caw is one of the main ways they communicate.

Crows make various caws that can indicate different meanings. A short caw acts as a greeting, while a series of three caws in a row signals danger. Crows also have a scolding caw they use when chasing predators away.Research has identified over 250 unique vocalizations in American crows!

Pay attention to the cadence, pitch, and context of the caw to get clues about what information crows are trying to convey.

Observing Crow Body Language and Behavior

Like humans, crows rely on body language in addition to vocalizations to communicate. Here are some crow behaviors to look for:

  • Head bobbing – Signals a warning
  • Wing flicking – Indicates irritation
  • Tail fanning – Used during courtship
  • Feather ruffling – Seen during preening or rest

You can also watch who crows interact with. Crows may mob predators or unfamiliar crows entering their territory. They show affection by allopreening, or grooming close companions. Young crows playfully chase each other.

Discerning Emotions Like Alarm, Joy, or Anger

Crows display intelligent and complex social behaviors. By observing their body language and vocalizations, you can discern emotions like:

  • Alarm or danger – repetitive cawing, head bobbing
  • Territorial warnings – scolding caws, feather ruffling, mobbing
  • Joy or affection – cooing, allopreening, playing
  • Anger or irritation – wing flicking, distancing

Research even suggests crows hold “funerals” by gathering around dead crows and calling loudly. They also demonstrate problem-solving skills by using tools.

So next time you hear the caw of a crow, take a closer look to decode the rich language of these intelligent birds! Their various vocalizations and behaviors likely convey more meaning than we realize.


While the foreboding view of three caws may not rest on concrete evidence, the rich symbolic meaning given to crows across cultures shows how they have inspired awe and curiosity for ages. As intelligent, social birds, crows do seem to use their loud caws to share information in their flocks—even if the precise messages elude human interpretation.

So next time you hear a crow caw three times, consider the world of myth and folklore those notes could evoke. But you may also glimpse the lively communications of an amazing corvid just going about its daily business.

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