Bird Names: Avian options beyond Robin and Raven

Bird names are flying onto baby name lists, and guest blogger Kristen Gregg, of the popular blog marginamia, finds a flock of rare species to add to the aviary.

I am absolutely chirping with delight to be here today on Nameberry! I’m almost equally delighted to watch an ever growing trend in the world of babynames. Nameberry wrote on the trend in 2008, and since then there have been some noteworthy babes named from within this alluring category of nature-inspired names.  Yes, bird names are definitely ones I expect to see much more of.

We may have little Agnes Lark Bettany to thank for making bird names seem more approachable, but Agnes Lark isn’t the only lovely chirper in our midst. Popular blogger Miss James, of Bleubird Vintage has a Gemma Bird.  And who could forget Sparrow James Midnight–is his name sounding a little less out there to your ears yet?  The rockn’ Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes really freshens this one up for a little boy, and I love the aptness of his sweet name. If you envision a sensitive, bearded son, with the voice of a songbird, this might be a great choice for your baby boy!

Lady Bird Johnson was the first to bring my focus to bird names. While this was her nickname only (she was born Claudia), I think it puts even more interesting choices for middle names on the table. Bluebird, Bluejay, Bellbird, Meadowlark, Songbird, Sunbird and Snowfinch are options with a definite kinship to Mrs. Johnson‘s. These may also appeal to those with an affinity for the smoosh; I think they hit a nice sweet spot in-between the more popular -belle smooshes and the Puritan sounding Hopestill and Lovejoy.

As a young girl, I had a neighbor named Birdie. Though I never asked her, I always wondered if Birdie was a nickname for Bertha. If you aren’t keen on Bertha, there are plenty of other lovely names that yield the adorable nickname Birdie: Albertine, Bernadette, Berenice, Bertilde, Berdine, Bergit, Bridget and even Beatrice can reasonably take you there.

I also like the sound of Nest as a nickname, and there are some truly beautiful names that lead right to it: Ernest, Nestor , Agnes, Nesta, and Ernestine. While my thoughts are on the things-associated-with-birds category, I can also imagine some parents opting for the middle name Feather with something traditional and more buttoned-up for a first name. With word names growing ever more popular, we might even expect to see Plume pop up, perhaps from those who are writers as well as bird lovers. Nom de plume would certainly take on a more literal meaning!

Some may love the idea of honoring birds, but want to make it a little less obvious to the English- speaking ear. Bird names from other languages might be an enticing option for this flock. Nido, the Spanish word for ‘nest’, is right on trend with its -o ending, and Zumaya (barn owl) feels like it’s long been a name. Sulka, the Finnish word for ‘feather’, is one that appeals to me. From Japan we have: Tori (bird), Taka (hawk), Hiyodori (brown eared bulbul), Uzur a (japanese quail) and Suzume (sparrow). I like the idea of calling a little Suzume ‘Zuzu‘, ‘Zumi’, or ‘Sue‘ (a nickname I predict will make a comeback in the middle spot with almost as much frequency as Joy.)  Harval (Czech), Alala (Hawaiian), and Corvo (Itallian) may be options for you if love the Rook, but not the sound of the word ‘crow’.

For those looking for more established names, there are those that link to birds in their meanings or accompanying stories. Nydia means ‘nest’, and with Lydia growing ever more attractive, this feels an obvious choice.  Paloma, Jemima, YoninaColumba and Culver all link to ‘dove’.  More of this sort to look out for: Eder, Efron, Fowler, Derora, Zippora, and Philomela (the princess turned nightingale).

Still, for as many ways as there are for looking for roundabout routes to bird names,  I have a feeling there will be many more people seeking something much more direct in the form of actual names of birds, such as:

Girls

Besra

Dove

Galah

Lark

Linnet

Rhea

Rosella

Swan

Willet

Boys

Apalis

Finch

Gannet

Gull

Heron

Koel

Maleo

Oriole

Partridge

Starling

Unisex

Kestrel  

Weaver

Wren

And for more daring middle name options, these could work on either gender:

Swift

Seagull

Songlark

Nightingale

Goldcr est

Hillstar

Tinamou

Warbler

Whimbrel

Whistler

From the swift, bold and strong to the soft and dainty, birds host a vast range of attributes with which to entice us when considering names for our children.

So, what are your favorite bird names? Would you use them up front, leave them for the middle, or save them for nicknames? What sort of names would you suggest pairing with these winged names? I find the idea of something like Dorothy Meadowlark or Oriole George quite pretty. I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with!

Kristen Gregg is a mother of two, freelance writer, name consultant and aspiring designer, living in the northeastern U.S. with her family.  She earned her B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Memphis, where she met her husband and they began their globe-trotting pack of four.  She can be found pondering the intersection of names and design on her blog, marginamia and she would love to hear from you there.

 

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33 Responses to “Bird Names: Avian options beyond Robin and Raven”

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CountryLizB Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 3:06 am

I like Owl for a middle name.

Abby Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 6:19 am

LOVE these lists! But then, I’m biased. My sister’s nn is Bird and one of our daughters’ middle names is Wren. Right now I’m loving Lark, Linnet, and Kestrel. Philomela is gorgeous, too.

bluedahlia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 8:05 am

Fabulous blog, (I adore marginamia too).
I love bird names. My parents are avid bird-watchers so I was always intrigued by the idea of honoring them this way.
Right now I love, Lark, Birdie, Sparrow, FInch, Starling, Magpie, Wren, Rosefinch, Tinamou, Falcon, Peregrine, Meadowlark, Kestrel and my favorite is probably Nightingale (middle spot).
I have always loved Heron as I grew up surrounded by them.
Another bird name I like is Tanager inspired by the Sufjan Stevens song ‘The Owl and the Tanager.’

ellieberry Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 8:28 am

I love avian names! Starling, Lark, Weaver, and Heron appeal to me. I wonder if Hummingbird or Blackbird might work along the same lines as Nightingale or Bluejay? Rhea or Crane seem highly useable, & Finch doubles as a literary name from To Kill A Mockingbird.

I thought these could work, too: Falcon, Eagle, Condor, Cardinal, Teal, Petrel, Prion, or Ibis.

Some avian names I don’t see working for anyone: Cuckoo, Woodpecker, or Bushtits.

Avian name I wish someone would use: Flamingo!!

Marginamia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Country Liz, I like it, too! And owls are absolutely one of the favorite birds in my house.

Abby, that’s a lot of bird goodness in one family! I so love Wren.

Blue dahlia, thank you, and fantastic additions! Rosefinch is too lovely. I’ve also thought of using Nightingale to honor my mother! We’re also big Sufjan fans here-lovely song!

pdxlibrarian Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 9:35 am

Just a note: A ladybird is not a bird at all, but rather a term for ladybugs. I’ve always assumed that Lady Bird was a play on this (just looked it up on Wikipedia and it agrees).

Anyhow, I love bird names. What about Pia — the noise birds make in Spanish? I also like Ariel because it sounds like the word aerial. Or Jay for blue jay? Also, I’ve heard Phoebes refereed to as Phoebe Bird (not sure why). And Teal, in addition to being an awesome color, is a kind of duck.

alicia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 9:47 am

Hi, here in Mexico the names Alondra (Lark) and Paloma (dove) are really cool. Alondra is pretty stylish and people think it’s very beautiful, those are the only bird names in spanish I heard.

name-obsession Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 10:23 am

I love the idea of nicknaming a little girl Feather, or Sulka. Is it pronounced sull-kuh or suel-kah? Or neither?

i.heart.nerds Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 10:59 am

I love the idea of using Nightingale as a surprise middle name for a boy. I read a book with the main male lead named North Nightingale….swoon!

name-obsession Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 11:21 am

@i.heart.nerds North is fabulous! I agree with your swoon!

Marginamia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 11:24 am

Pdx librarian, thank you for the clarification! So interesting, isn’t it? I count any name with ‘bird’ in it as a suitable homage to birds, but Lady Bird is certainly a bug name, which I rather like. My own sister went by ‘Bug’. Hmm, bug names– and the wheels are turning again! I’m a huge fan of the name Pia, too; I’m even more partial to it now that I know it links to birds. Phoebe is absolutely a type of bird, and a very cute one, so that would explain the nickname Phoebe Bird, yet another great choice for those who want to use a more established name to honor birds! And Teal is lovely; I’m fond of names that pack multiple meanings.

Alicia, those are lovely names, in deed. I’m particularly partial to Paloma.

Name-obession, SULH-kah or SOOL-kah are acceptable pronunciations, and yes, Feather would make a lovely nickname.

Marginamia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 11:35 am

i.heart.nerds, I’m with you, both in your love of nerds and the name, North Nightingale. There’s also the interior designer, David Nightingale Hicks, father to India (who is mother to Domino.) Now there’s a nicely named family! What do we think about a little boy, Nightingale, called ‘Night’?

detailsgirl Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 11:46 am

One of my closest friends in HS was a boy named Avian.

KrisMichelle Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I love pretty much anything relating to birds. Nightingale, Wren, Dove, Sparrow, Lark, Skylark, Meadowlark, Bluebird, Partridge, Swan, Starling, Paloma, Jemima, Jonah (also means dove) are all favorites. Most would be in the middle spot for me, with the exception of Wren, Paloma, Jemima, and Jonah. Also, I prefer the actual names of birds (on my list, at least) for girls.

Lola Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Well, Jemima & Peregrin(e) are first name options for me, but I’d consider Birdie for a Beatrix and Linnet to honor my SIL: Linda
I like Finch & Jay too!

hollylane Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I knew a girl named Dovie in college. I had never heard it before but sounded super sweet to me.

i.heart.nerds Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Marginamia:
I do live Night. It is really hyper masculine without being Stone, Gunner or War.

linda Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Nice to hear all these shout-outs for Finch, which is my married surname. A lot of people–including his wife–called my father-in-law Finchie. Actually, it just dawned on me recently that my husband has two bird names-(Christopher) Robin Finch.

lemon Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Linda, your husband is Christopher Robin Finch? Forget the two bird names, he’s got a fantastic character appellation! Oh, Winnie the Pooh. What a classic.

So, I adore bird names! My family nickname is Birdie, my great-grandma was Birdie (which we recently discovered WAS short for Bertha), and I definitely want to name a future daughter Eliza Wren – Wren for (1) the bird connection, (2) the architecture connection, and (3) the fact that it shares the last three letters of my name (-ren). I’ve also toyed with bird-inspired nicknames for vintage names, as in Magpie for Margo and (my new favorite) Chickadee for Charlotte.

Wren and Phoebe are probably my favorite bird names, but I do like Lark, Skylark, Sparrow, Finch, Linnet, Whistler, and even Nightingale. I’m definitely going to have to check out Rosella and Swift after this post, though! Thanks.

‘Beatrix/Beatrice Has No Decent Nicknames’ « Mer de Noms Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

[…] mentioned on her guest post over at Nameberry today the possibility of using Birdie as a nickname for Beatrice, and one could take things further […]

Marginamia Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Avian, Skylark, Dovie, Magpie– this list is growing ever more interesting. I like the notion of using Magpie and Chickadee as nicknames for Margo and Charlotte!

Linda, your husband really lucked out with all those lovely names! And Finch ‘Finchie’ on a sweet little boy is so great.

corsue Says:

November 9th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Not my taste, at all! Ech!

onelove19 Says:

November 10th, 2011 at 12:55 am

I had a girlfriend who dated a Dov (boy). I do like Paloma, Lark and Wren a lot and think Finch would be a cute mn as would Starling, Sparrow, Peregrine.

Marginamia Says:

November 10th, 2011 at 9:54 am

Ellieberry, somehow I missed your comment yesterday, and I’m so happy to find it today. Ibis and Flamingo are great. I like Blackbird, too; there are so, so many more like this. I think it’s my favorite aspect of using a bird name, really-the two for one that comes with names like Meadowlark.

Corsue, not everything is for everyone, for sure. Thank goodness there are so many different styles of names!

Onelove19, Dov is a favorite of mine for it’s simple sound and association to bears.

Thank you all for your comments; this was an absolute blast!

LCMpdx Says:

November 11th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I LOVED both Heron and Robin for our son, but they were both vetoed by my fiance. He said Robin was a girls name, and just plain didn’t like Heron

mariahsweet Says:

December 11th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Kestrel, Peregrine, and Wren should all definitely be on this list! I know babies named Kestrel and Wren, and am considering Peregrine for a middle name for our next child.

Birdie11 Says:

January 10th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Just found this site, love it! Husband are I are trying and we love coming up with interesting names and then I stumbled upon this!

My name is Robyn, and have always disliked it, waiting tables in college, friends started calling me Birdie and it stuck, now to all my nieces and nephews I’m “Aunt Birdie” but all adults except for one call me Robyn.

I’m loving all these bird names, so interesting and never even thought of this!

Birdy « Mer de Noms Says:

January 28th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

[…] recently held a bird week over at her blog, Marginamia, which included a superb guest post over at Namberry, and Elea has also got in on the act to talk about bird names. As for me, […]

iwillpraise Says:

February 4th, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I couldn’t resist commenting about another name that fits in the bird category…Corbin! It means Raven or, for obvious reasons, black-haired. It is a name I have long loved, but have given up since its style veers too far from my husband’s and mine combined. And for us, who are looking for something that reflects our love of God and Christian upbringing, it’s meaning is somewhat lacking. Not that this is a bad choice at all! It is a lovely name to promote on this bird loving blog, though. Feel free to steal it for your little boy, as it is an extremely note-worthy name 🙂

Thinking about Songbird, I will also offer the name Heartsong

P.S. The name Beatrice, as commented about earlier, can be shortened to “Bea”.

fluffamun Says:

February 19th, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I love the name Myriad, nn My. As in a Myriad of songbirds? You Berries don’t know a thing. 🙂 I’m joking

msbreeze Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Please, don’t call your child “Galah”! In Australia it is well known and often-used slang for “idiot”. The poor kid will never be able to travel here in comfort!

EmmaF Says:

June 10th, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I love the name Starhawk, and the namesake. Probably best for a middle, though.

28 Gorgeous Girls’ Names that Berries Love – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

November 18th, 2015 at 10:40 pm

[…] borrowed from flowers. But now one of the hottest nature names is the gentle Wren, leading a new flock of possibilities like Sparrow and […]

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