Birds can be a sign of many things: nighttime, spring, morning, etc. But in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, birds are generally seen as a bad omen. From swallows to sparrows, birds are a common motif found throughout the whole play. Even in real life, they are often a bad omen., just as they are in Macbeth. Birds such as crows, vultures, and ravens are all signs of death. The birds of prey that hunt at night and the soaring raptors that can kill with one mighty swoop are much like the title character himself: powerful but mortal. Macbeth may have been able to control certain events, but in the end, he didn't see the signs.
From the very beginning of Act I, birds find their way into the analogies and phrases of each character. In Act I, Scene V, Lady Macbeth is told of the King's eminent arrival with her husband and must immediately spring into action, saying "The raven itself is hoarse/That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan/Under my battlements" (1.5.38-40). This kind of foreshadowing leads the reader to easily predict and eventually see that King Duncan is murdered. While there are other signs of his imminent death, the running motif of birds being a bad omen is quite obvious from the very beginning.
As the play progresses, it is easy to see the signs following Macbeth on his bloodthirsty journey for power in the monarchy. "Light thickens; and the crow/ Makes wing to rooky wood:/ Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; While night's black agents to their preys do rouse" (3.2.53). Macbeth boasts this to his wife just hours before he has his best friend, Banquo, killed out of jealousy. He orders Banquo's murder at night, connecting the "night's black agents" to birds of prey, which hunt and kill in the dark. Even after Banquo's ghost haunts Macbeth, he remarks that "Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;/ Augurs and understood relations have? By maggot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth/ The secret'st man of blood" (3.