Famous Birds in Literature
Authors have integrated birds into their books for centuries, particularly in fantasy settings. Often, literary birds showcase great courage, intelligence, and loyalty to their friends. Some even take leadership roles among their friends to ensure everyone is happy and safe. The following literary birds include some genuinely remarkable characters beloved worldwide. Make sure to check out any of the works listed below that interest you. Most are among the best books ever written.
Owl From Winnie the Pooh
A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s classic “Winnie the Pooh” includes fun and silly characters. Of these characters, Owl remains the most intelligent and worldly. Owl guides Pooh and his friends and is particularly kind to the easily confused and distracted bear.
That said, Owl is more than just a lofty intellectual. Owl’s quirky sense of humor makes him one of the funniest characters in the book, particularly when he gets something wrong. Milne’s willingness to show Owl’s silly side illustrates how all people have flaws, no matter how smart.
Buckbeak From Harry Potter
Here’s a bird character that likely needs no introduction. Most people have read the Harry Potter books or watched the films, and birding fans like you were particularly enamored with Buckbeak. Owned by Harry, Buckbeak experiences many amazing triumphs and struggles as a character.
Firstly, he avoids execution after being unfairly sentenced to death. Then, he helps Sirius Black avoid persecution after escaping the Prison of Azkaban. Buckbeak also showed great courage during the Battle of Hogwarts, helping to defeat multiple evil soldiers before retiring to live with Hagrid.
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Howard the Duck From the Marvel Universe
Poor Howard the Duck! While his comic series receives heavy acclaim for its quirky and satirical tone, his 1986 adaptation did him no favors. Featuring a bizarre story and a scene that almost becomes sexual, “Howard the Duck” often finds a top spot on “worst movies of all time” lists.
That’s unfortunate because the character deserves far better treatment. Will Marvel make another attempt at adapting this cult classic? With a cameo in the popular “Endgame” film, many fans hoped we’d see a Howard-centered movie. Sadly, no film has yet to emerge.
Dodo From Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s wonderfully bizarre Alice series features many bird characters, but Dodo takes the cake. He appeared early in the first book and was Carroll’s (nee Charles Dodgson) somewhat harsh caricature of himself. Dodo participates in the confusing free-for-all Caucus race.
Alice rewards the participants with her personal belongings at the race’s end. The Dodo then proudly hands her back her thimble as an award. The most famous version of Dodo is likely in Disney’s version of the tale, in which he wears a cloak and smokes a pipe.
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The Snow Goose From “The Snow Goose”
Though Paul Gallico’s novella is less highly read than it was after its publication, it’s a beautiful story of friendship and love. In the book, two young children befriend each other during the horrors of World War II. In addition, the two children help nurse the titular Snow Goose back to health after its injury.
The novella won an “O. Henry Prize” in 1941 and remains a British children’s literature classic. Interestingly, the progressive rock band Camel adapted the book into an instrumental album, “Music Inspired By the Snow Goose.” It was their breakthrough release and remains highly popular.
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Kehaar From Watership Down
Richard Adams’ best-selling book “Watership Down” includes many fascinating animal characters, including fan-favorite Kehaar. Kehaar (a black-headed seagull) befriends a group of rabbits after they nurse him back to health and protect him from danger.
Kehaar helps the rabbits in many ways during their adventures, including scouting the land to find does and fighting off their enemies. He speaks in an exaggerated Eastern European accent and possesses a no-nonsense attitude that many readers love.
Archimedes From The Once and Future King
“The Once and Future King” is a highly-regarded adaptation of the King Arthur myth that inspired Disney’s 1963 film “The Sword in the Stone.” In the book and movie, the owl Archimedes provides Merlin the Magician and Arthur with guidance and help.
For example, Archimedes verbally spars with Merlin to help him make decisions throughout the book and film. More importantly, he teaches Arthur to fly. His grouchy character masks his sincere loyalty to Merlin and his love for Arthur.
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Wise Owl From Little Grey Rabbit
The “Little Grey Rabbit” books gave British children imaginative fantasy reading for over 40 years. While the titular rabbit centers the series, many characters appear on its page. For example, Wise Owl provides Little Grey Rabbit with regular information during his adventures.
Though sometimes a little grumpy, Wise Owl is amiable and caring. When Fox threatens Little Grey Rabbit, Wise Owl finds ways to help. In this way, he’s similar to Owl from Winnie the Pooh but with a more serious personality.
Billina From the Oz Series
Fans of the Judy Garland class “The Wizard of Oz” may not know that the series includes 14 books with many characters. Among the most popular is Billina, a rather spunky chicken who joins Dorthy in “Ozma of Oz.” She accompanies Dorthy, much like Toto in the previous book.
Though sassy, Billina cares about Dorothy and helps her get out of more than one jam throughout the series. Ultimately, she appeared in several Oz books and was one of Frank Baum’s favorite characters. He based Billina’s character on his early research into raising chickens.
The Ugly Duckling From the Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tale
Most people know the story of The Ugly Duckling at this point. Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale teaches essential perception and personal identity lessons. For those who somehow missed it, an adopted cygnet swan is considered ugly by its duck family until maturing into a beautiful swan.
This story remains one of Anderson’s most popular and received multiple adaptations. These include a voice-and-piano piece by Russian Composer Sergei Prokofiev and Disney adaptations in 1931 and 1939. Composers have even adapted it into a few musicals. Not bad for such a simple story!
Albatross From the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s legendary epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” features horrific imagery with an almost hallucinatory tone. It all starts when the poem’s storyteller shoots down an albatross at sea, despite its reputation as a good omen.
Though the albatross barely features in the poem beyond its death, it remains a powerful symbol. Interestingly, French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote a poem about an albatross 50 years after Coleridge, in which he watched a captured albatross struggle on a boat deck.
Many Birds From The Lord of the Rings
Though fantasy literature existed long before “The Lord of the Rings,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic series set the tone for all subsequent stories. In it, he includes multiple beautiful bird characters. These include giant eagles like Thorondor and Landroval.
Tolkien makes each character wise and noble, showing his great love of eagles and birds. Though they only show up sporadically throughout the tale, each appearance includes grand and epic gestures, including saving the travelers more than once from danger.
Chicken Little From the Classic Folk Tale
Chicken Little‘s story comes from European folk traditions stretching for almost 2,500 years. In the story, Chicken Little believes the sky is falling because an acorn falls on her head. She spreads this mass hysteria among her friends, who get tricked by a fox and eaten.
European parents used this tragic ending to warn their children about the dangers of ignorance and hysteria. Over the years, the story received multiple adaptations, including several Disney films. The most bizarre is likely the 1943 version featuring Chicken Little panicking after reading a psychology book.
Poll the Parrot From Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe’s 1719 classic “Robinson Crusoe” remains his most widely read book and is still popular 300 years after its publication. In the book, the titular character gets stranded on an island for 30 years, surviving through his wits and courage. Through his stay, he befriends a parrot he names Poll.
Poll spends most of his time with Crusoe and provides constant companionship when the character gets lonely. While some readers at the time laughed at the idea of Poll surviving for 30 years with Crusoe, the writer knew that parrots could live 50-60 years.
The Raven From The Raven
Edgar Allan Poe’s immortal poem “The Raven” features a mocking creature that taunts the narrator about the loss of his beloved wife, Lenore. Though the bird only says “nevermore,” it’s clear that this word alone is enough to drive the narrator into rage and madness.
This poem’s popularity inspired many adaptations, including a 1063 horror comedy with sorcerers fighting an epic magic battle, which is obviously what Poe intended in the first place. The Simpsons’ more faithful adaptation includes Homer as the narrator and Bart as the annoying raven. Even legendary songwriter Lou Reed pitched in with a concept album based on the poem.
More bird poems and prose in: Famous Bird Haikus in the World
Wrap Up – Most Famous Birds in Literature
Throughout time, birds have been claimed their spot as a favorite for fictional characters. From mythologies to children’s books and stories to comics and even in movies, various bird species have been an inspiration.
We hope you enjoyed our top picks for the most famous birds in literature. Who’s your favorite bird literary character? Do you have other bird characters in mind that fit our list? Let us know in the comments.