Sunday 21 February 2016

Knowing Birds by their First Names

I was watching an episode of QI recently and they were talking about how, in the past, many birds were actually given first names.  Some survive today, in various forms, so I set off to see what names I could find .... and came up with these:

Birds where the first name survives today:

Magpie -  a Magpie was originally known as a Pie (and still is une pie in French) and the Mag refers to Maggie or Margaret


Birds now know by their first name:

Robin (redbreast )
(House/Sand) Martin
Jay - previously called a Jaypie - Magpies and Jays are in the same family.


Birds still know colloquially with a first name:

Tom Tit (Blue or Great Tit)
Jenny Wren


Old first names now no longer used:

Bob Robin
Bessie Ducker - Dipper
Jack Runner - Water Rail
May Fowl - Whimbrel
Martin Snipe - Green Sandpiper
Jack Nicker - Goldfinch
Rose Muffin - Long Tailed Tit
Martin Oil - Storm Petrel
Tom Harry - Great Skua
Jacksaw - Goosander
Jenny Owlet - Tawny Owl
Ralph - Raven
Nan-Pie - Magpie
Willy Wicket - Common Sandpiper
Yellow Molly - Yellow Wagtail
Mavis - Song Thrush
Kitty Wren


Can you think of any more birds who have a first name? 



  1. That's quite a collection, I'd never thought about it before but bird names have quite a place in our society

    1. Nor had I until I heard in on QI and was amazed how many I found.

  2. Hi Rosie, my Dad is a bit of a bird lover, so I'm going to test his knowledge as I've not heard of many of these old names (he used to try and teach us about birds, much of which I have forgotten). Although a wren will always be a little Jenny Wren (to me). Very interesting.


  3. Ooh I like this, I'd never even thought of it before although of course I was aware of robin redbreast. You've got me thinking now, I'll let you know if I think of any others. Was a Jay ever known by a longer name?x

    1. I did find a link -

  4. I love these bird facts and didn't know any of them except for Jenny Wren. Must have been fun finding all of these out, thank you for sharing :)

  5. Willie in Ireland

  6. Yes just watched that episode of QI too, most interesting, thanks for posting the others.

  7. With inspired my search too. Which led me here. Thank you for all the other names you found.
    I love learning about the origins of words and names; and Qi is the starting point for lots of my googling. I love it fòr that and many other reasons.

  8. In Australia I just learned they have Willie Wagtail and Bob White. Fascinating!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.