Foreboding Fleeing Flock
"'Birds flying away to signal something ominous' cliché."
One good sign of impending trouble is a swarm of animals fleeing away from it, especially if they're predators fleeing past or even with their prey. Often people find themselves in front of said fleeing swarm without realizing the reason they're fleeing. Alternatively, they take it as a sign they're getting close to the source of the trouble if they're intentionally investigating it.
Always a Bigger Fish
is a possible cause for this. See also Evil-Detecting Dog
, Portent of Doom
, Bat Scare
, Disturbed Doves
, A Storm Is Coming
, Scared of What's Behind You
, Invading Refugees
, and Follow the Chaos
. Compare Don't Ask, Just Run
. If the animals or birds have already left the area before the protagonists arrive, see It's Quiet... Too Quiet
. If particularly dangerous and aggressive animals flee and ignore everything else, see Why Isn't It Attacking?
Anime and Manga
Films — Animated
- Dragon Ball Z:
- At the beginning of the series, prior to the battle with Vegeta and Nappa, several hordes of animals - including dinosaurs - are shown fleeing the area where the battle will take place.
- While flying to join the fight against the ancient resurrected evil Majin Buu, Goten and Trunks run into a flock of frightened birds coming from the direction of the battle.
- In Pokémon 2000, the wild Pokemon start reacting to the impeding disaster that will summon Lugia. Professor Oak mentions that Pokemon are much more in tune with nature than humans.
- This might be an inversion as the Pokemon were rushing TOWARD the potential scene of disaster and not away from it, in the apparent attempt to prevent/fix the disaster harming their world even though they might lack the power to do anything about it. Curiously though, when the actual major events happen, we don't see any Pokemon other than the major characters become involved. It still plays straight how they were able to apparently predict not only that something was going wrong (although that was becoming more apparent with abberant weather conditions) but also head in the proper direction to do so.
- In Toriko, when the fight between Horse King Heracles and Toriko's Blue Oni gets serious, all of the animals on the entire continent flee in panic.
- Knight's & Magic: Ernesti realizes this when animals and small Demon Beasts run into him and his classmates in the forest. It turns out this was due to a Demon Beast Behemoth.
Films — Live-Action
- Invoked in The Lion King, when Scar has the hyenas cause a wildebeest stampede as a trap for both Simba and Mufasa.
- In the beginning of Dinosaur, a young Parasaurolophus chases a flying lizard into a thicket when he realizes he's not alone in there. He bolts out, drawing the attention of all the other dinosaurs right before a hungry Carnotaurus comes charging out.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, a flock of ratbirds and Flint's pet monkey Steve are seen fleeing just before the big food storm.
- When farmer Fitzgibbons starts up his tractor in Don Bluth's The Secret Of NIMH, Auntie Shrew sounds the alarm: "Run for your lives! It's Moving Day!" All the critters in the east field bug out, as the farmer's plow tends to obliterate anything in its path.
- Finding Nemo: Dory and Marlin are arguing that it's just as good the whale they were trying to talk to swam away, since he might have been hungry. Dory counters that whales only eat krill. Cue a cloud of krill swimming past them with a whale's open maw right behind them.
- In Pinocchio, Pinoch and Jiminy look for Monstro the whale under water, and every time they ask the sea creatures, they swim away in terror. Later, they run into a fleeing school of tuna, with a hungry Monstro close behind.
- Flocks of crows sound the alarm in Bambi whenever Man approaches.
- In Ferngully The Last Rainforest, Crysta flies over the canopy for the first time and sees a plume of smoke over the horizon. She is then overcome by a flock of birds fleeing the source of the smoke - a human logging team.
- While on a field trip in Once Upon a Forest, Cornelius and his young students regard a large flight of birds of assorted species all flying away from Dapplewood, screeching in alarm. This signals to the party that some disaster has befallen Dapplewood, and the young ones need to return home at once to assess the damage.
- In Home, Oh and Tip discover that the Boov are flying alongside them, but are not attacking them. Turns out they were fleeing a Gorg drone.
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico, a pack of wolves runs towards the gang - then past them, away from the chupacabra.
- In The Red Turtle, the characters notice that something is wrong when the birds in the sky start to flock and fly off. Soon after the tsunami wave hits the shore of the island.
- The Day After Tomorrow. When Sam, Brian, and Laura arrive in New York, they're puzzled to find countless flocks of squawking birds flying south. Dissolve to another scene at the zoo where all of the animals are raising ruckus, much to the zookeepers' confusion.
- At the beginning of Dennis the Menace, after Mr. Wilson grabs his morning paper, he can hear the sounds of a bicycle bell dinging and empty cans tumbling behind, which is followed by a squirrel scurrying up a tree, flocks of birds shooting out of shrubs, and cats crashing into each other as they flee... all of which can mean one thing: Dennis is heading this way.
- Earthquake (1975): a seismologist is setting some sensors inside a fault located in a farmer's field. The farm animals all go running just before a tremor causes the fissure to cave in on the hapless scientist.
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The Trade Federation's invasion panics the animals of Naboo, who all race to get away, heedless of the Jedi trying to keep from getting trampled, or the Gungan who just stands there like an idiot.
- A variation occurs in Rogue One when an Imperial Star Destroyer and many smaller Empire ships over the city of Jedha suddenly leave... but only because the Death Star is coming in to obliterate the city.
- Inverted in The Last Jedi: the pack of vulptex vanishing during the Resistance's Darkest Hour isn't ominous, but a sign of hope. After all, they didn't leave through the besieged front door, so there's obviously another way out.
- In the film of The Lord of the Rings, the hobbits are hiding from the Nazgul behind a log, and notice all manner of bugs scurrying away from it.
- Godzilla (2014): In the Golden Gate Bridge scene, a huge flock of sea gulls fly past the bridge, signalling that Godzilla is approaching.
- In Melancholia, as the planet Melancholia is on death course towards Earth, insects, worms and other insects start to surface the ground, signing the disturbances that happen in nature due to the gravitational pull of the approaching planet.
- The protagonists from Cloverfield encounter a swarm of fleeing rats in the train tunnels before they encounter the Proportionately Ponderous Parasites.
- In the film adaptation of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, Our Intrepid Heroes see a mass migration of all sorts of wildlife from their hunting cabin in the middle of the forest. One guy asks where they're all going, and one of his friend asks, "Better question... what are they all running from?"
- Grant and the kids end up getting caught in the middle a stampede of Gallimimus in Jurassic Park. Once the flock passes by them, the Tyrannosaurus comes out from the jungle and ambushes one that tripped.
- In The Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia, the Nasties' introduction is heralded by practically the entire student body running past Bastian.
- Every bird on the mountains in The Wave flee late at night, giving Kristian the indicator that the mountain is coming loose and a Giant Wall of Watery Doom is heading their way.
- In the parody Star Wars Downunder, fleeing fruit bats herald the attack by Darth Drongo and his Sith Troopers on the Brown Mullet pub.
- Sun Tzu, in The Art of War counsels being alert for this as it may indicate enemy movement.
- In the book Methuselah's Gift, the story begins with the animals of the forest — including the family of racoons it centers around — running in unison from the fire.
- In the first chapter of Nomads of Gor, Tarl sees people and animals fleeing in anticipation of the coming of the Wagon Peoples [sic], four fierce nomadic tribes who come together once every few years to discuss the possibility of making war on the city dwellers. Even a larl (a tigerlike animal the size of a small elephant) is seen trotting away.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron find a swarm of spiders leaving Hogwarts by an open window and heading for the forest. They later find out that the castle is home to a monster that spiders consider their mortal enemy: the basilisk.
- The Zombie Survival Guide mentions that all animal life on earth instinctively fears and runs away from zombies, so a conspicuous absence of animals or animal noise might be your first clue that the undead are nearby.
- In one book of the New Jedi Order, Anakin Solo is fleeing a group of Yuuzhan Vong through the jungles of Yavin IV. His Force senses can't detect the Vong directly, but they can pick out where animals are fleeing or raising hell because of the strange creatures in their midst.
- In a docudrama depicting the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, the protagonists finally attain confirmation that an eruption is imminent. One of the scientists tries to play it down, in the hope that it won't be a major eruption. They're shaken by a massive rumbling, and discover a massive herd of bison evacuating the park. Only then does the cast realize how big the impending eruption will be.
- Stranger Things: Inverted in that the creatures are running towards something. When a large number of demodogs run past the heroes without attacking, this is because their master the Mind Flayer is sending them after El.
- Dungeons & Dragons: 1st Edition Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia, Cthulhu Mythos chapter. All natural creatures are sensitive to the presence of Cthulhu Mythos monsters. If they detect any such creatures they will give a warning call and flee at maximum speed. Clever PCs can use this to their advantage.
- In Warhammer 40,000, some of the fluff implies that the Tyranids aren't invading the universe as much as being a much more aggressive example of this.
- BIONICLE: When the Morbuzakh occupied the Great Furnace, it forced out the Furnace Salamanders. The event did not seem significant to Matoran though.
- The fifth level of the original Metal Slug is set in a quiet Italian village. At one point, a pack of stray dogs runs on the street, signaling the arrival of that level's boss. This idea is never used again in the series.
- In FEAR and its sequel, rats can sometimes be seen running en mass down some streets when you're headed towards something unpleasant.
- World of Warcraft: In Duskwood, after helping Abercrombie with his project, he asks you to bring a note to the mayor of Darkshire, after which someone runs in with news that wolves are running out of the woods, as though fleeing something, the abomination you unwittingly helped create.
- At two points on the first level of Sunset Riders, a flock of chickens will suddenly race onto the screen, clucking in alarm. They're followed seconds later by a herd of stampeding bulls.
- Chapter 47 of Drowtales features a fleeing flock of demons. Normally, the release of so many nether beings at once would be an unmitigated disaster, but these demons don't even try to feed on Chel'el'sussoloth's drow. It's deeply unsettling, and with good reason — because it turns out they're fleeing from a demon god.
- In The Legend of Korra, this was done with spirits instead of animals. A bunch of spirits were fleeing from the collateral damage of a fight between Raava and Vaatu.
- Later, the spirits are once again fleeing, though this time they're evacuating from Republic City because of Kuvira's impending assault on the city.
- Looney Tunes:
- Bugs Bunny short "Super-Rabbit": after acquiring super powers similar to Superman's, Bugs flies to Texas to check out a man who hates rabbits and plans to kill all of them. When he arrives in Texas he finds a multitude of rabbits all running in the same direction. One of them tells Bugs "Run for your life! It's Cottontail Smith and he's gone plumb loco!". A few seconds later Smith appears holding a rifle.
- Episodes involving the Tasmanian Devil usually begins with all sorts of animals fleeing.
- The Simpsons "Hurricane Neddy": As a hurricane nears Springfield, Homer sees some animals literally blowing in the wind and he reacts as if they're "magically" able to sense when a hurricane is coming.
Santa's Little Helper struggles to move forward against the wind. Homer
: What is it, boy? Fire? Earthquake? Hippies? The wind overpowers SLH and blows him backwards into the air. Homer
: Somehow, the animals are always the first to know.
- At the beginning of the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow", Babs (as Tinkerbunny) is introducing the show when she gets run over by a swarm of animals, who are running from Elmyra Duff. A minute or so later, the animals run past Buster's burrow. Babs is now part of the swarm and warns Buster that Elmyra is coming.
- Young Samson & Goliath episode "Cold Wind From Venus". As Samson and Goliath ride their motorbike they notice flocks of birds and herds of deer fleeing in the other direction. This is due to two robots from Venus imposing "environmental control" over the area - i.e. reducing the air temperature to below zero.
- Gravity Falls:
- The Manotaurs are introduced when a bunch of forest animals — and Manly Dan the lumberjack — are seen running from one of them.
- When Weirdmaggeddon starts, the flock now includes the same manotaur. And some gnomes.
Gnome 1: Move it, stretch!
Gnome 2: Hey, we're scampering here!