33 Famous Bird Names Throughout Film, Literature, History, and Mythology (Is Your Favorite Bird Listed?)
Birds are some of the most popular and powerful cultural symbols, with famous bird names existing in just about every culture. These birds include mythological creatures, literary figures, important historical animals, and even modern pop culture birds in movies and television.
In fact, there are so many famous bird names to highlight that we broke them down into four distinct categories. Each category will include multiple listings with a few sentences discussing the bird’s history and importance. So, read on to see if your favorite bird is included on our list!
Famous Bird Names in Movies
Some of the most famous modern bird names come from movies, as television and film took over popular culture from literature. This is likely to be the section where most people find the coolest and most famous bird names that interest them, and we encourage you to read it first.
However, it is also worth diving deeper into the other sections to learn more about famous bird names you might not know. For example, there are many fascinating and worthwhile birds to explore throughout mythology and history that have helped influence pop culture birds in modern times.
Donald and Daffy Duck: Cartoon Favorites
Donald Duck debuted in 1934 and quickly became a favorite Disney character because of his kind personality, occasionally outrageous outbursts, and legendary duck-like speaking voice. Daffy Duck debuted in 1937 as a wild and wacky character who eventually became a more cynical, calculated, and creative duck character. Both of these birds have their many fans, with the Donald Duck comic being particularly praised for its innovative storylines and expansions with Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
Howard the Duck: A Comic Favorite (and Box Office Bomb)
Howard the Duck is mostly remembered by the casual film fan for the poorly received box office bomb, “Howard the Duck,” an attempt by George Lucas to create a new film series as popular as Star Wars. What few people don’t realize is that Howard debuted in Marvel comic books as early as 1973 and is considered a popular and even groundbreaking series. Howard was created as a satirical outside that could comment on society from a uniquely alien perspective and still pops up in Marvel stories.
Hedwig: Harry Potter’s Tightest Companion
Modern fantasy fans probably think of Hedwig first when imagining famous bird names. Hedwig appears in the best-selling Harry Potter book and film series and is the titular character’s mail bird, delivering messages to and from the young man throughout both the books and movies. Hedwig is a minor character at first but eventually becomes one of Harry’s closest companions and even takes part in the Battle of the Seven Potters, where he tragically loses his life fighting to save the world.
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Kevin: An Inspiring Character in Up
“Up” was an incredibly popular and inspiring movie that taught people to never give up on their dreams but also to do the right thing, no matter the cause. Kevin, a fictional giant bird, is discovered by the main characters just before the antagonist, Charles Muntz, has the chance to kill this rare and beautiful creature to add to his hunting collection. Though Kevin speaks no lines in the film, Pixar’s clever plotting and animal give him plenty of character by the end of the film.
Other Famous Bird Names in Movies
There are so many famous birds in film history that we wanted to include a catch-all bullet-point list that could include those we couldn’t discuss in depth:
- The Road Runner: This high-speed bird is constantly chased by Wile E. Coyote in the classic Looney Tunes cartoons: who didn’t root for the coyote to catch him at least once?
- Zazu: A popular bird character from the legendary “The Lion King” animated film, this trusted advisor plays an important role in the film’s plot.
- Woodstock: Snoopy’s best friend (besides Charlie Brown) in the Peanuts cartoons, Woodstock alternates between angry rages and kindness.
- Big Bird: Best known as a character on the “Sesame Street” TV series, Big Bird has appeared in a handful of films over the years to teach kindness and generosity to children.
Related post: Famous Bird Paintings Around the World
Famous Bird Names in Literature
Birds play important roles in many original books and literature series, particularly in classic fantasy and folk tales. These include stories collected by folklorists in earlier centuries, unique stories created to entertain young children, and newer books with in-depth and fascinating stories.
Like with the movies section, we’ll include a concluding sub-section that lists several important birds that we didn’t have time to discuss fully. Do you think that we missed any birds on our list? Let us know in the comments or message us about your favorite literary avian friend.
The Many Lord of the Rings Birds
J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece of fantasy, “The Lord of the Rings,” set a gold standard for storytelling and world-building that modern writers still struggle to emulate, let alone match or top. Tolkien included many fascinating bird characters in his books, including giant eagles like Landroval, Gwaihir, and Thorondor. Tolkien casts these birds as noble and intelligent creatures of good who help the Fellowship of the Ring and the Hobbits throughout the story.
Coleridge’s Albatross: A Herald of Bad Luck
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” poem, a mariner at sea sees a large albatross flying off their ship as they travel. This bird, traditionally seen as a sign of good luck for sailors, is shot down in thoughtless leisure by the sailor. After the bird dies, the sailing crew immediately experiences nothing but bad luck and are trapped in a horrific state that includes the classic line “water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink” as they nearly die of thirst.
Chicken Little: A Classic Folk Tale
There are some stories that entertain generations of children, such as Chicken Little. This folk tale features five birds, including Chicken Little, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey, and Foxy Loxy, silly birds that all live on a farm together. One day, an acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head, and she immediately starts screaming that the sky is falling, only to be calmed by her friends: the lesson here is to avoid crying “wolf” out of ignorance.
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Poll the Parrot: A Classic from Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe’s popular “Robinson Crusoe,” written when the author was 60 years old, remains an exciting and widely read book about being shipwrecked on an island and surviving despite long odds. The titular character has a parrot friend named Poll, who keeps him company throughout his nearly 30 years on the island. Important fact: some parrot species can live 50 to 60 years, meaning that Poll could have survived that whole time with the shipwrecked Crusoe.
Other Important Literary Birds
Classic literature includes many famous bird names and characters that have helped shape modern storytelling for generations. Just a few more birds found in books include:
- Archimedes: This character from “The Once and Future King” is a fascinating and beautiful bird with a classically inspired name.
- Wise: The wisest character in the book “Little Grey Rabbit” gives great advice throughout the book, only to find it mostly ignored.
- Billina: Few people realize that “The Wizard of Oz” was a series of books, rather than a singular movie: in these books, Billina (a chicken) plays a very important role.
- Owl: Most characters in “Winnie the Pooh” are quite silly, but they all know to turn to Owl when they need advice: even if his suggestions aren’t always fantastic.
- The Ugly Duckling: Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale features a cygnet swan considered ugly by his adopted duck brethren before he matures into a gorgeous swan.
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Famous Bird Names in History
History is filled with important birds, and famous bird names that have amazingly helped change the world forever. As bird lovers, we know that our avian friends are amazing, but the birds on this list go above and beyond our wildest dreams and have even saved people’s lives.
Some of these birds were famous because they offered a unique insight into bird science. Others were legendary for helping during World War I and World War II. Others simply like dancing and get millions of likes on social media: the modern world’s equivalence of delivering war messages.
Alex: An Amazingly Intelligent African Grey Parrot
Alex was a well-known African Grey Parrot whose owner focused on teaching him as many skills as possible, including counting, differentiating objects by category, understanding the idea of similarity and difference and communicating via spoken language. While some animal specialists questions the results Alex’s owner, Irene Pepperberg, discovered with Alex, many others use her findings as proof that animals have intelligence and understanding far exceeding our expectations of them.
Miracle Mike: A Literal Chicken With Its Head Cut Off
The story beyond Miracle Mike is almost impossible to believe but has been confirmed multiple times to be real. Mike was one of 20 chickens beheaded by a farmer in 1945 one day for a dinner: unlike his brothers and sisters, though, Mike survived without a head and lived for 18 months with his owner feeding him food and water down his throat. Mike survived because a chicken’s brain is located farther down the spinal cord and, amazingly, remained intact even after Mike was decapitated.
G.I. Joe: A Bird Who Saved Lives
Pigeons have a long history as messengers before and after the invention of more modern communication methods and have, at times, been even better than these methods. For example, during World War II, a British messenger pigeon, G.I. Joe, saved the lives of a village and a British bomber crew by carrying the message that the area had been safely secured and no longer needed to be bombed. Without his message, many would have died that day: Joe lived to 1961 and was awarded for his service.
Charlie: The Hitler-Insulting Pet Bird
Though Charlie the Parrot may not have been as historically important as G.I. Joe during World War II, his story is amusing and worth discussing. Charlie was Winston Churchill’s pet during his years as British Prime Minister and was taught how multiple insults about Hitler that are too harsh to print here. Charlie became a legendary figure and as recently as 2004, an article discussing him was published that posited the bird was still alive and cursing out Hitler (spoiler: he wasn’t).
You might also enjoy this list of the Most Famous Birds in Literature!
Other Famous Historical Birds-books
Here’s a list of a few other important historical birds well worth knowing:
- Martha: Martha was the last known living Passenger Pigeon and died in 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo. Her loss was mourned as a major tragedy.
- Gertie the Duck: Gertie and several other ducks famously nested under a bridge in Milwaukee and became local and later national celebrities.
- Commando: Commando was perhaps the most important message pigeon for the British during World War II carrying out 90 missions and earning a Dickin Medal for these flights.
- Cher Ami: Before Commando or G.I. Joe there was Cher Ami, another British homing pigeon who delivered messages in World War I and helped save the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division.
- Modern Parrots: Social media has been filled with modern parrots who talk (Sarah), dance (Snowball), and even mimic the sound of lightsabers from Star Wars (Einstein).
Enjoy the prose within these Famous Bird Haikus!
Famous Birds in Mythology
We’ve already discussed many famous bird names in mythology, so we won’t devote as much time to them here as we did other birds. However, we want to at least touch on some big names, like
- Quetzalcoatl: This important god in Mesoamerica was a large bird that created (and destroyed) humans and reigned over art, literature, wind, and rain.
- Bennu: This Egyptian deity is a self-creating phoenix that was worshiped by many in early ancient Egypt and is featured in many hieroglyphics.
- Alectryon: This Greek mythological rooster plays an important role in many myths and is often considered an early predecessor to modern rooster characters.
- Bird People: Many mythological traditions feature bird people, a separate human race with bird-like features, wings, and behaviors that either help or harm humanity.