Several bird omens foreshadow the final battle between Odysseus's men and the suitors. Early on in the book, two eagles tear each other to death; later, an eagle kills a goose (as in Penelope's dream); and toward the end, an eagle flies by with a swallow in its mouth. As the scene of the revenge draws closer, the birds that symbolize the suitors become smaller and weaker: the suitors' deaths become more and more inevitable. Birds, in The Odyssey, are transient messages from the gods. Athena herself takes the shape of a bird on several occasions; birds represent her sly and gentle take on divine intervention.
Birds Symbol Timeline in The Odyssey
The timeline below shows where the symbol Birds appears in The Odyssey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...their crimes. At that moment, Zeus sends an omen of the revenge Telemachus describes: two eagles that come down from the mountains and tear each other to pieces as they fly... (full context)
...sleep on the ship and leave for another land at dawn; she turns into an eagle and flies away. The king is amazed; he tells Telemachus that he will never be... (full context)
...Telemachus to leave for home with Pisistratus. When Telemachus mentions Odysseus in his good-byes, an eagle with a goose in its claws flies by: a good omen. At Pylos, Telemachus loads... (full context)
...while he goes to Eumaeus farm. As he leaves the ship, they all see a hawk with a dove in its claws. Theoclymenus interprets this omen to mean good things for... (full context)
...resumes his conversation with Penelope. She asks him to interpret a dream in which an eagle flies down from the mountains and breaks the necks of twenty geese in her household,... (full context)
...contest. Odysseus ignores another insult from the goatherd and speaks briefly to the cowherd. An eagle flies by with a dove in its claws, and Amphinomus convinces the suitors to stop... (full context)