Augury

means properly the function of an augur (perhaps from avium garritus). St. Pierre says: “The first navigators, when out of sight of land, watched the flight of birds, as indications of the shore, and with no other guidance discovered many new islands.” From this custom (he says) arose the practice of consulting birds before entering on any important enterprise. (Studies.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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