Bird words
June 11, 2016 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for bird-related words. Feel free to get as tangential as you like. I'm particularly interested in colloquial names for birds like chickie, robin redbreast, etc.; names of birds in literature/art/film/song; words describing things birds do like chirp, warble, soar, etc. Pretty bird-related words in other languages are good too. But there may be entire categories of bird-related words that I'm not thinking of. Thank you!
posted by HotToddy to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A colloquial name for American Woodcock is timberdoodle. Wikipedia articles on particular bird species often include several colloquial names.
posted by jkent at 1:42 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Birdwords that are other words, which i keep in my mental pun file:

Birdwords that are used as verbs or adjectives in human behavior:

Bird behavior words:
feather one's nest
ruffle one's feathers
larking about
stick one's head in the sand (ostriching)
posted by Cold Lurkey at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Maybe this is more technical when you're after poetic, but Princeton's WordNet and other similar resources can be startlingly good.
posted by supercres at 1:47 PM on June 11, 2016

Chook. Aussie slang for chicken.
posted by wwax at 1:49 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wordnik lists are a good place to explore things like this. Here are a few lists of related words that I found in a few minutes by looking up a few of the words in your post:

Birdsong, One and two sylable bird names, bird related words, more birds.
posted by Ookseer at 1:52 PM on June 11, 2016

love their collective nouns!

Albatross - Rookery
Auk - Colony, Flock, Raft
Birds (Chicks) - Brood, Clutch
Birds (Flight) - Flight
Birds (Game) - Volary, Brace, Plump, Knob
Birds (Ground) - Flock, Dissimulation
Birds (Sea) - Wreck
Bitterns - Sedge, Seige
Bobolinks - Chain.....ok theres a zillion (more here). of course cant forget a murder of crows, bouquet of pheasants or ostentation of peacocks. ooooh and a watch of nightingales. can you imagine just a bucket load of them in one place??
posted by speakeasy at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2016

I like OneLook for stuff like this.

oscine/passerine - other names for songbirds
corvine - relating to crows
fledgling - a young bird
aery - the lofty nest of a bird of prey
raptorial - relating to predatory birds
kite - a type of bird of prey
crested - having a tuft of feathers atop the head
plumage - a bird's feathers
perch/alight - a bird landing on a resting place
preen - a bird cleaning itself with its beak

And onomatopoeia: tweet/peep/coo/chirp/caw/trill/pip
posted by Rhaomi at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


duck hunting slang:

greenhead/greenie (male mallard duck)
sprig (pintail duck)
tealie (blue or greenwing teal)
spoonie (shoveler duck)
deke (duck or goose decoy)
spread (a collection of decoys set out to lure ducks)
highball, lonesome hen, feed, comeback (names for various duck calling sounds)
call shy (ducks that have learned the difference between real ducks and a hunter using a duck call)
flare (sudden spread of wings and rapid change of direction in a waterfowl which has detected danger)
capon (a shot-at duck which inexplicably was missed [he capon flying])
flaps down (duck coming in for a landing)
skybuster (a hunter who shoots at ducks that are well out of range of his/her shotgun. Usually with the barrel pointed nearly straight up)
claimer (a hunter who has built a reputation of claiming s/he hit every duck downed by his/her party of hunters)
posted by jamaro at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2016

Two colloquial names which have recently (last few decades) gone out of use in my part of England: ruddock for robin and ennet for duck.

Also, a curious bit of folklore which some folk still do is saluting magpies and addressing them as 'captain'. They're generally considered the smartest and most (in)auspicious bird and you shouldn't really disrespect a magpie. Which goes hand in hand with the folksong:

One for sorrow, two for joy,
Three for a girl, four for a boy,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
posted by Emma May Smith at 2:06 PM on June 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

British birders call great skuas ‘bonxies’ which is a Shetland word. Other slang: sprog and spadger for sparrow. And thus sproghawk for sparrowhawk. Barwit and blackwit for bar-tailed godwit and black-tailed godwit.

Folk names: poke-pudding for long-tailed tit, peewit for lapwing, throstle for song thrush, windhover or windfucker for kestrel. There are lots of others, those are just from memory.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2016

John Clare’s bird poems are probably relevant to your interests, i.e.

The Cuckoo
The Landrail
The Yellowhammer
Little Trotty Wagtail
The Skylark
Autumn Birds
The Thrush’s Nest
The NIghtingale’s Nest
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:22 PM on June 11, 2016


I love the bird word "whiskeyjack," a common nickname for Perisoreus canadensis (aka gray jay, aka Canada jay). Its etymology is disputed, but here's an article that talks about some of the speculation around where the name came from. The most commonly accepted theory seems to be that it's a take on the Cree word Wesakachak--a trickster figure in Cree mythology.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2016

You might enjoy John Bevis's little book, Aaaaw to Zzzzzd: The Words of Birds:
For hundreds of years, we have tried to write down what we hear when birds sing. Drawing on this history of bird writing, John Bevis offers a lexicon of the words of birds. Consulting it, we find seven distinct variations of “hoo” attributed to seven different species of owls, from a simple hoo to the more ambitious hoo hoo hoo-hoo, ho hoo hoo-hoo; the understated cheet of the tree swallow; the resonant kreeaaaaaaaaaaar of the Swainson’s hawk; the modest peep peep peep of the meadow pipit. We learn that some people hear the Baltimore oriole saying “here, here, come right here, dear” and the yellowhammer saying “a little bit of bread and no cheese.”
posted by verstegan at 2:41 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

The brainfever bird.

A popular haiku bird is the hototogisu, I think b/c it’s a sign of summer and has five syllables. And the uguisu is an important bird in Japanese literary culture; sometimes [badly, imo] translated ‘nightingale’ because both are known for their song.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2016

Birding slang: twitch, string, vismigging, jizz, LBJ. And so on.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:52 PM on June 11, 2016

Phrases people use to describe what bird songs sound like:
Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody (white-throated sparrow)
Cheerio, cheerily (robin)
What-cheer (cardinal)
Birdy, birdy, birdy (cardinal)
Pleased, pleased, pleased to meetcha (chestnut-sided warbler)
Teakettle, teakettle, teakettle, tea (Carolina wren)
Drink your teeee (towhee)
Chip, potato chip (goldfinch)
Teacher, teacher, teacher (ovenbird)
Witchity, witchity, witchity (yellowthroat)
Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all? (barred owl)

Birds named for their call or song:
posted by Redstart at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Goatsucker and fern-owl are traditional names for nightjar.

Onomatopoeic bird names from this side of the Atlantic:
crow (I think)

Some favourite latin names: Hoopoe is Upupa epops, Corncrake is Crex crex, Eurasian Wren is Troglodytes troglodytes.

There are some pretty good common names as well, like Oleaginous Hemispingus, Spangled Coquette, and Ocellated Tapaculo.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:12 PM on June 11, 2016

Eyes like a hawk.
Wise as an owl.
Pretty as a peacock.
Mad as a wet hen.
Crow like a rooster.
Sing like a canary.
Black as a crow.
Raven haired.
Chicken hearted.
Canary in a coal mine.
Water off a duck's back
Fox in a hen house.
Vultures lurking.
Bluebird of happiness.
Crazy as a loon.
Swan Dive.
Silly Goose

Bird house
Life list
Bird of Prey
posted by SemiSalt at 4:09 PM on June 11, 2016


Epopoi popopopopopopoi


--what the birds in Aristophanes' Birds say
posted by mahorn at 4:31 PM on June 11, 2016

I've been to a lovely temple/town in India called Lepakshi.

The town gets its name from the Ramayana: when demon Ravana kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita, the bird Jatayu fought him and fell, injured, at the temple site. Rama then called him to get up; ‘Lepakshi’ derives from the Sanskrit for ‘Get up, bird’.
posted by maya at 5:54 PM on June 11, 2016

Perversely, I propose "martingale" which sounds like it must be a kind of bird but instead means all of these:1. that little fake belt on the back of a ladies' coat 2. a strap connecting a horse's bit and harness 3. a cable connecting a boat's sprit and stem, 4. a betting system in which you double your bet each time you lose.
posted by nicwolff at 6:05 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite gross words: snarge.
posted by dr. boludo at 6:08 PM on June 11, 2016

ctrl+f "cloaca"

0 results.

For shame.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:35 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

When birds stretch the wing and leg of one side (i.e. right wing and right leg) at the same time, it's called mantling. It's cute when my conure does it. Birds of prey have a slightly different move, also called mantling, where they stretch out and droop their wing, making a feather cape to cover over their kill.

I am a bird lover, and I am very excited by this post and its replies!
posted by ElectricGoat at 8:26 PM on June 11, 2016

Piaf, Édith.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:06 AM on June 12, 2016

A little bit of bread and no cheese.


"A dovecote or dovecot /ˈdʌvkɒt/ (Scots: doocot) is a structure intended to house pigeons or doves."

Eyrie: the nest of an eagle.

The Kestrel was once known as windfucker!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:54 AM on June 12, 2016

These replies are all wonderful and wonderfully varied! Exactly the kind of words I was hoping for. If any of you think of any more, please do come back and add them. Thank you!!
posted by HotToddy at 5:03 AM on June 12, 2016

Crow hop. I learned the term in the Army (basic training), and I've come to understand it's a regular thing in sports. Even so, I was surprised that the top Google results were about baseball. Crows really do hop, too.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:10 AM on June 12, 2016

Aquiline - adj like an eagle; (of a person's nose) hooked or curved like an eagle's beak.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:08 AM on June 12, 2016

My college's motto: Ut Aquila Versus Coelum (As an eagle to the sky, or like an eagle towards the sky or like an eagle against the sky.)
posted by SemiSalt at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2016

posted by hydrophonic at 10:02 PM on June 12, 2016

additional birdwords that are other words:

and it's a bit individual, but the name for starling in Polish is szpak , so that whenever i see one of them goofy birds walking around, seemingly aimlessly, i ask them "what's up szpak?"
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2016

« Older Literal Poet Voice   |   Little-Known Terrible Movie for Party Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.