Birdwatching Slang and Terminology • Free Guide to 189 Birding Terms

Birdwatching Slang and Terminology • Birding 101

Birdwatching slang and terminology covers every aspect of birding, from gear, to location, to types of birders, and of course, slang names for different bird species. 

Like any hobby, birdwatching has its own slang words, and different areas, countries, and groups, use different terms for the same thing.

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Birdwatching Terms and Slang

This section covers birdwatching slang that isn’t about a particular type of bird. These terms cover birding lists, types of birders, birdwatching locations, bird watching events, and so on.

Big Day

A big day is an event where a birder tries to see as many unique species as possible in a 24 hour period 

Big Year

A big year is an event where birders try to see as many unique species as possible in 365 days. It is often limited to a certain area or region. You might know this term from the movie The Big Year.

Bino, Bins

birdwatching slang- bins or binos is short for binoculars

Bino or Bins are short for “binoculars”

Burn out

To do so much bird watching that it’s no longer desirable

Burn up, Bushwhack, Flog

Bushwhack, burn up, and flog are verbs. They refer to searching dense brush for sparrows, warblers, and other small birds that like to hide and flushing them out. 


The acronym BVD means “better view desired” and is used to note that you saw a bird but would like a better look in your bird journal. 


Christmas bird count


CFW is used in the northeast US and Canada and refers to confusing fall warblers. They often have dull, non-distinct plumage and are difficult to identify. 


Chase means to undertake a long trip to see a specific bird for a year list or life list.


Australian birders use this term to describe common birds. 


CMF stands for Cosmic Mind F*** or F***er. It refers to a really good bird, as good as, or better than, a crippler.


The slang crippler is used in the UK to describe a rare and spectacular bird.


birdwatching slang- crush is slang for getting a good picture of a bird
Crushed it!

In the US, to crush a bird means to get a high-quality photo of it.


A dip is a rare bird that a birder missed seeing.

Dip Out

If you went to see a rare bird but missed it, you “dipped out.”


A dude is a slightly derogatory term for a casual bird watcher. They prefer to birdwatch in good weather, easy to access places, and are happy to find common birds. A dude usually isn’t skilled at bird identification. 


An elitist is an experienced birder who doesn’t believe what you saw!


birdwatching terminology- a fake bird actually refers to a domesticated bird
This bird is also fake! 

A fake bird refers to a domesticated bird. This could be an escaped pet bird or one from a zoo or similar facility. 


Fallout happens in the US along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Florida when migrating birds are forced to land due to adverse conditions. 


A first is the first sighting of a species in a defined area, such as a county. 


The overall appearance, behavior, shape, and movement of a bird. Experienced birders can identify birds by their giss, or “vibe” alone.

Grip (or grip off)

In the UK, to grip or grip off is to see a bird another birder missed and tell them about it.


In the US, a hammer is a high quality photo of a bird (see crush).

Jinx Bird

If you’re looking for a relatively common bird for your life list, but haven’t been able to find it, it’s a jinx bird.


birdwatching slang kack

Kack refers to thick, brushy places where you might find winter birds, like sparrows.


A lifer is a bird you’ve never seen in your life and can add to your life list.


As a noun, a list is a catalog of all the birds a twitcher has seen. Often, birders keep multiple lists, like year lists, country lists, and life lists.

As a verb, it means to compile a bird list.


A lister obsesses about how long their life list is. You can use this term to describe how passionate someone is about birdwatching. 

Or it can be a demeaning term about someone who is overly fixated on their lists.

Mega, Mega Find, Mega Rarity, Mega Tick, Meguh

All of these words refer to a very rare bird.


MOB, M.ob, and mob all stand for “many observers.”


A mostly is a bird that forms hybrids that are difficult to identify. 


migratory 4858086 1920
A mudpecker getting ready to peck some mud. 

A mudpecker is a shorebird that looks for food in the mud along a shore.


An elusive bird that a birdwatcher hasn’t been able to spot, despite multiple attempts. 


NFC stands for nocturnal flight count. During an NFC, birders survey birds migrating at night, and often use a special microphone. 


birdwatching slang nottabird
From a distance, I thought I saw two barn owls. But once I put my bins on them, I realized it was nottabird.

When you see something that looks like a bird, but once you put your bins on it, it isn’t actually a bird. 

Patagonia Picnic Table Effect

This bird watching term indicates a phenomenon when a rare bird is sighted and attracts birders to a remote area. They then find more rare and interesting species nearby. 

This is actually named after a rest area outside of Patagonia, Arizona. 

These phrases have the same meaning- Asian bird flu


A patch is an area frequented by birdwatchers. 


black browed albatros 4821022 1920
I saw a black-browed albatross on that pelagic last week! 

A pelagic is a boat trip where birders look for open-ocean, or pelagic, species, like the albatross


North American bird watchers may make a “pish” sound to attract nearby birds. It imitates the alarm call of a chickadee and may cause nearby birds to investigate. 


In UK birdwatching slang, a “plastic” bird is a bird that escaped captivity, and not a true wild bird.


A protobirder is a new birdwatcher who thinks they know more than they actually do.


A pseudobird looks like a bird and moves like a bird, but isn’t a bird.


Rack is a verb that means to add many birds to your list in a short time.


Scope is a verb that means “to look over an area with a spotting scope.”


Seawatching means birdwatching near the sea. 


In US birdwatching slang, a Sibe is a bird from Siberia or Asia that wound up on the west coast. It was probably blown to Alaska during a storm.

Siesta, or Doldrums

In North America, this is the time in the afternoon when birds are less active.


An activity where birders remain stationary to observe migrating birds. 


SOB stands for “spouse of birder.” In particular, this term is used when the spouse is not into bird watching.

Spark Bird

The bird that ignited a birder’s passion for birdwatching. 


Spuh refers to birds that can only be identified by their genus and not their species. Species is abbreviated sp. which is how this term originated. 

Stringy, Stringer

When a birder misidentifies a common bird as a rare bird. Someone who does this frequently is known as a stringer. It’s typically used for people who knowingly misidentify birds.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, this is also known as LC.

Sum Plum

Sum plum stands for summer plumage. Many birds are much easier to identify by their sum plum, as their winter plumage is more drab and less distinctive from other species.


yes 4584231 1920

Tick can be a noun or a verb, as in “I saw a rare bird (tick) and checked (ticked) it off my life list.”

Trash bird 

A trash bird is a common bird.


The verb twitch means “to chase a rare bird on your life list.” See chase.


Someone who twitches often

Usual suspects

The normal birds you expect to see in an area.


A bird that’s outside its normal ecological range.

Vis Mig

key birds 3123831 1920

A vis mig is a visible migration where you see a group of birds that are obviously migrating. Most commonly, you can use this to refer to geese or ducks.

Warbler Neck

US birders use this slang after their necks are sore from looking for warblers in the treetops.


UK birders use this term to refer to North American vagrants seen in Europe.

Slang names for birds and bird species in birdwatching

Birders have hundreds of names for birds that they use as slang during birdwatching. Many of these terms are regional.

Four and Six Letter Alternative Names for Birds

Other slang bird names come from the AOU, or American Ornithological Union’s (now the American Ornithological Society) 4 and 6 letter alphabet or “alpha” codes.

The 4 letter codes come from the bird’s English name, and the 6 letter codes come from their latin or scientific names. A few examples:

  • American Robin (turdus migratorius): AMRO, TURMIG
  • Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum): CEDW, BOMCED
  • Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias): GBHE, ARDHER
  • Northern Goshawk (accipiter gentilus): NOGO, ACCGEN
  • Red-tailed hawk (buteo jamaicensis): RTHA, BUTJAM
  • Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher (poecilotriccus sylvia): SHTF, POESYL

Alternate Bird Names A-B

bird 1596885 1920
Accentor is birdwatching slang for ovenbird
  • Accentor – (US)-  Local name for the Ovenbird, for its two-syllable song that accents the first syllable: TEACH-er, TEACH-er, TEACH-er
  • Arctic Roll (US, Europe) – Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll
  • Audubon’s Warbler (Western US) – Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Baldpate (US) – American Wigeon – its white forhead makes this bird look bald! 
  • Barwit – Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Basketbird (US)  –  Baltimore Oriole or Northern Oriole, for their basket- shaped nests 
  • Bearded Parrotbill, Bearded Tit (UK) – Bearded Reedling
  • Bee Martin (US) – Eastern Kingbird
  • BHG (UK) – Black-headed Gull
  • BIFCUS (Australia) – Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 
  • Bimac (Europe) – Bimaculated Lark
  • Blackwit (Europe) – Black-tailed Gotwit
  • Bogbumper (US) – American Bittern, this name is probably based on its call
  • Bogsucker (US, Europe) – Woodcock
  • Boney/Bonie (US)- Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Bonxie (UK) – Gaelic name for Great Skua 
  • BOP – The acronym BOP means “Bird of Prey.” It’s the perfect term for when you see a distant raptor but can’t identify it.
  • Burgomaster (UK) – Great Black-Backed Gull, due to its large size
  • Butterbum (Australia) – Yellow-rumped Thornbill
  • Butter butts (US) – birdwatching slang for yellow rumped warblers. Not to be confused with butterball turkeys.
  • Buzzard – Vulture

Slang bird names C-F

spotted towhee 5837678 1920
The towhee is also known as the chewink
  • Canarycrest (Europe) – Canary Islands Goldcrest
  • Cans (US) – birdwatching slang for canvasback ducks
  • CCC (Europe) – Cream coloured courser
  • Chewink (US) – Towhee, this name is based on its call
  • Chimney Swallow – old term for Swallow (unladen)
  • Chuffer – Chaffinch (UK)
  • Commic Tern – a tern identified imprecisely as a Common or Arctic Tern
  • Coop (US) – Cooper’s Hawk
  • Crested Pig (Australia) – Crested Pigeon
  • Culls – refers to “common gulls.” Like BOPs, they can be tricky to identify. 
  • Curly Sand – Curlew Sandpiper
  • Cutwater (Americas)- Black Skimmer, for how its bill is cutting through water as it feeds
  • Dabchick – Little Grebe 
  • Dark Lark – bird watching slang for European starlings.
  • Dartboard Warbler (UK) – Dartford Warbler- because that’s what autocorrect turns it into!
  • Dickypit (UK) – Richard’s Pipit
  • Dove (US) – Mourning Dove
  • Elsie or LC–  Lesser Crested Tern
  • Empid (US) – a flycatcher of the Epidonax genus. North American birders use this term because empids are difficult to identify visually, especially in the winter and during migration. Empids include the yellow-bellied flycatcher, acadian flycatcher, alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher, white-throated flycatcher, least flycatcher, Hammond’s flycatcher, American gray flycatcher, American dusky flycatcher, pine flycatcher, Pacific-slope flycatcher, cordilleran flycatcher, yellowish flycatcher, buff-breasted flycatcher, and the black-capped flycatcher
  • Erne- Erne is Gaelic for sea eagle
  • Fink – bird watching slang for finches
  • Fudge Duck (UK) – Ferruginous Duck
  • FYM –  Farmyard Mallards

Slang names for birds G-J

  • GBB (UK) – Great Black-backed Gull
  • GBH (US) – birdwatching acronym that refers to the great blue heron
  • GND – Great Northern Diver
  • Goat sucker – Nightjar
  • Gobbler (US) – Turkey, based on the sound they make
  • Gos – Northern Goshawk
  • Greasy Grebe UK, Australia) – In birdwatching slang, the Great Crested Grebe is called the GC Grebe. This is sometimes pronounced as “greasy grebe”
  • Great Spot (UK) – Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Greg (US) – great egret
  • Gropper (UK) – Grasshopper Warbler
  • Growl (US) – slang for great horned owl.
  • Gubbie (UK) – Great Black-Backed Gull is sometimes abbreviated as GBB, which can be pronounced as “Gubbie”
  • Gun Diver – bird watchers may call a Great Northern Diver a GN Diver, which they might pronounce as “Gun Diver”
  • Guillie UK, US) – Common Guillemot (UK), Common Murre (US)
  • Hedge Sparrow (UK) – Dunnock
  • Hell Diver (US) – Grebes, particularly the Pied-Bill Grebe
  • Hippo – a warbler of the genus hippolais. These include Upcher’s warbler, olive-tree warbler, melodious warbler, and the icterine warbler, 
  • Homer (US) – Hooded Merganser
  • Hoodie (UK) – Hooded Crow
  • Hoodie US) – Hooded Merganser
  • Hoot Owl (US) – Great Horned Owl
  • Hudwit (US) – Hudsonian Godwit
  • Icky – Icterine Warbler
  • Jaybird (US) – Blue Jay
  • John Craven (UK) – Raven
  • Junks – Junks refers to juncos in birdwatching. 

Alternate bird names K-O

canada geese 55211 1920
  • Keddie (UK) – Black-headed gull
  • Lancy (UK) – Lanceolated Warbler
  • Lawn Carp (US) – Canada geese who inhabit lawns, golf courses, and parks are known as lawn carp
  • LBB, LBJ (US, UK) – LBB and LBJ stands for Little Brown Bird/ Job. UK birders use it for small brown birds that are difficult to identify, like female and immature sparrows. See also SBB below.
  • LBB (UK) – Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Leasties (US) – Least sandpipers are sometimes called Leasties.
  • LEO (US) – Long-eared Owl
  • Lesserlegs (US) – Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Lesserpecker (UK) – Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Lesser Spot (UK) – Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Log Cock (US) – Pileated Woodpecker
  • Lord God Bird (US) – Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Supposedly its rare sighting and large size caused people to exclaim, “Lord God, the bird!”
  • LRP, Lurp (UK) – Little Ringed Plover
  • LSW (UK) – Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Manxie (UK) – Manx Shearwater
  • Masher – Marsh harrier
  • Med UK) – Mediterranean Gull
  • Merg – usually Common Merganser, could be Red-breasted Merganser
  • Mipit (UK) – Meadow Pipit
  • Mo Do (US) – Mourning Dove
  • Mocker (US) – Mockingbird
  • Moo tweet (US) – A moo tweet is a cowbird.
  • Mud Hen (US) – A coot. Also the name of a minor league baseball team in Toledo, Ohio. On M*A*S*H, Klinger wore one of their jerseys. 
  • Myrtle Warbler (US) – Yellow-rumped Warbler (in the Eastern US)
  • OBP – Olive-backed Pipit
  • Oldsquaw – Long-tailed Duck
  • Oyk – Oystercatcher

Slang for birds P-R

pileated woodpecker 6610630 1920
  • Parakeet (US) – Budgerigar
  • Parrotbill (UK) – Parrot Crossbill
  • Pec, Peck (US) – refers to pectoral sandpipers.
  • Peeps (US) – refers to all the different North American Calidris sandpipers. These are the least, semipalmated, Western, white-rumped, and Baird’s sandpipers.
  • Peewit (UK) – an old name for the Lapwing
  • PG Tips (UK) – Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler
  • Phal – Phalarope
  • Pheasant – Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Pi (US) – (pronounced “pie”) Pileated Woodpecker
  • Pibble (US) – The birdwatching term pibble refers to pied-billed grebes.
  • Pie – Magpie
  • Pied Wag (UK) – Pied Wagtail
  • Pig – Pig is birdwatching slang for pigeon
  • Pigeon, Barn Pigeon, Rock Dove – Rock Pigeon
  • Pine swine (US) – slang for pine siskins
  • Pom – Pomarine Skua
  • Pond Pigeons (US, New England) – non-migratory Canada Geese in New England
  • Pond Poodle (US) – black-neck stilts. They earn this name from their incessant “yapping” whenever humans or other sources of disturbance are around
  • Purple pooper (US) – Gray catbird
  • Purps (UK)  – Purple Sandpiper
  • Quail (US) – Northern Bobwhite
  • Rain Crow – Cuckoo
  • RB Flicker (UK) – Red-breasted Flycatcher- because it flicks its tail a lot
  • RB Merg (US) – Red-breasted Merganser
  • Redbird (US)- Northern Cardinal
  • Redwing (US) – Red-winged Blackbird
  • Reed Bird (US) – Bobolink, since they like to congregate in reeds in the Middle Atlantic states before fall migration
  • Ringo (UK) – Ring Ouzel
  • Rockpecker – A rockpecker is a shore bird that lives in rocky areas.
  • Rumps (US) – Birders may call yellow-rumped warblers “rumps” for short.
  • Ropit (UK) – Rock Pipit
  • RT Diver, Arty Diver – Red-throated Diver, or Red-throated loon. The acronym RT sounds like “arty,” which inspired the second nickname!

Bird Slang S-T

anhinga Copy
Can you see why the anhinga is sometimes called the snake bird? 
  • Sab – Sabine’s Gull
  • Sarnie Tern– Sandwich Tern. Sarnie is British slang for sandwich
  • Sawbill – Mergansers (or divers) for their serrated bills
  • SBB (US, UK) – Small brown bird. See LBJ above.
  • Semi, Semi-p (US) – Semi and semi-p refer to semi-palmated plovers
  • Sharpie (US, UK, Australia)- A sharpie is a sharp-shinned hawk (US). In the UK and Australia, it refers to the sharp-tailed sandpiper
  • Shevy (UK) – Starling
  • Shin – Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Sibe US, UK) – any species, rare in Britain or the US, from Siberia
  • Sibechat (UK) – Siberian Stonechat
  • Skemmy (UK) – feral rock dove or street pigeon
  • Sky rat (US) – Sky rat usually refers to rock pigeons but is also used to describe European starlings and house sparrows.
  • Slurry surfer (UK) – Herring gull
  • Snad – Snad is a birdwatching term that means “sandpiper.”
  • Snake Bird (US) – Anhinga, for its sinuous neck 
  • Snatcher – Oystercatcher
  • Snog (UK) – Snog refers to song sparrows (see Snog Thrush below)
  • Snog Thrush (UK) –  Song Thrush. This nickname comes from a misprint in a British newspaper 
  • Spadger, Sparrer, Spadgick, Spuggie, Sparr – (UK) Local names for the sparrow. Spager, Sparrer, and Spadgick are used throughout the country. Spuggie’ is used in Northern England, and Sparr in Southeast England  
  • Spotshank (UK) – Spotted Redshank
  • Spotty (US) – Spotted Sandpiper
  • Spotty Fly (UK) – Spotted Flycatcher
  • SPRAWK (UK) – Sparrowhawk
  • Sprog – House Sparrow (Australia)
  • Sprosser (UK) – Thrush Nightingale
  • Spuggie – (House) Sparrow (Northern England)
  • Stormie – Storm Petrel
  • Tail (US) – Tail refers to red-tailed hawks
  • Tart’s tick – common bird that you haven’t seen
  • Throstle (UK) – Song Thrush
  • Thunder Pumper (US) – American Bittern, for its call
  • Timber Doodle -Yet another nickname for the Woodcock
  • Tip Scrambler (UK) – herring gull
  • Tripit (UK) – Tree Pipit
  • Trystie (UK) – Black Guillemot, this name comes from the Galic name for the Black Guillemot 
  • Tufty (UK, US) – Tufted Duck (UK), Tufted Titmouse (US)
  • Tubenose – A tubenose has tube-like nostrils or nares, like an albatross, shearwater, or storm petrel.
  • TV, Tee Vee (US) – A Tee Vee is a turkey vulture 

Bird name slang U-Z

  • Ugly gull – Any gull that is difficult to identify. 
  • VG (US) – Violet green swallows.
  • Wa-Haa (US) – Birdwatching slang name for cedar waxwings
  • Water Hen – Moorhen
  • Water Turkey (US) – Anhinga
  • Wapit (UK) – Water Pipit
  • Wedgie (Australia)- Wedge-tailed Eagle (Australia)
  • Whisky Jack (US) – common name for the Canada Jay
  • Willowchiff (UK) – a warbler identified imprecisely as either Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff
  • Woodie (US) – Wood Duck
  • Wren (US) –  House Wren
  • X-Bill – A crossbill
  • Y-Front Goose (UK) – A journalist made a typo in Britain’s newspapers and accidentally called the White-fronted Goose the Y-Front goose!
  • Y- Wag, Why Wag (UK)- Yellow Wagtail
  • Yaffle (UK) – Green Woodpecker 
  • Zonos (US) – Zonos are sparrows from the Zonotrichia genus. These include the white-crowned sparrow, white-throated sparrow, golden-crowned sparrow, Harris’s sparrow, and the rufous-collared sparrow.

Books about Birdwatching Slang and Alternate Names for Birds

Learning birdwatching slang also involves history, science, and folklore. Many alternative names for birds arose from folk tales and legends. And others come from their scientific or latin names.These books are a unique blend of all those, with a naturalist spin on bird identification.

British Birds- Their Folklore, Names, and Literature

British Birds – Their Folklore, Names, and Literature, by Francesa Greenoak was initially published in 1997. It provides an interesting discourse on regional names of birds from the UK.  Sadly, it’s out of print. But you may be able to find a copy on Ebay.

The Dictionary of American Bird Names

The Dictionary of American Bird Names explains the common names of birds, their scientific names, and etymology behind them both. It’s an indispensible book for both birders and writers.

More resources for birdwatching slang

Wrap up- Birdwatching Slang

I know I’ve missed some bird watching slang on this list. It’s impossible to capture all the terminology from such an in-depth passion that spans every country around the globe.

Instead, I hope this acts as a resource and tool for new bird watchers who come across unfamiliar terms and phrases.

I certainly had fun researching and writing this piece on birdwatching slang as I learned a lot about different birding cultures and species I haven’t encountered yet!

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