The Baby Name Buff: Bird Edition

My husband’s Aunt Jean and Uncle Scott are huge birders. They’ve been to every continent, including Antarctic, to see some of the rarest and most unique birds in the world. Whenever we see Scott and Jean after a major birding trip they’ve been on, Jean shows us all their awesome pictures and narrates information about many of the birds they saw. I love these presentations, and it didn’t take me long to realize that birds have a lot of cool names that could work well as baby names. In fact, several bird-based names are already so popular that they’ve broken into the top 1,000, such as Robin, Wren, and Raven. Below are ten of my favorite less common bird-inspired names and some fun bird facts to boot. (And be on the lookout for a future blog post, TBNB: Birds Edition—Part II, which will include ten more of my favorite bird-based baby names!)

Kestrel

The American Kestrel is a member of the falcon family known for its “quick and buoyant” flying style.   And, as these pictures show, American Kestrels are pretty adorable; I especially love the grayish blue coloring on male American Kestrels. Kestrel could work well as a girls’ or boys’ name, though I tend to think of it more as a girls’ name because Kes (one possible nickname) is the name of a female character on Star Trek: Voyager.  Other nicknames besides Kes / Kess include Estre / Ester and Trel / Trell.

Photo credit: Laurel L. Russwurm

Ibis

I first learned about ibises during the single semester of college I spent at University of Miami. While ibises look fairly unassuming, the U of Miami’s Athletics Website explains that they chose the ibis as their mascot because of the strength, speed, and especially courage associated with this noble marsh bird. As a name, Ibis has a similar sound to the name Idris (as in Idris Elba), so I tend to think of this name as a boys’ name. Although, if Ibis was used as a girls’ name, then I think Bee would be a very cute nickname.

Photo credit: michelle galloway


Finch

While there are many types of finches, the finch most common in the American imagination is the American Goldfinch. This past Summer Solstice, my husband and I honored the day with a leisurely walk at our favorite local park. While there, we saw a stunning display of dozens of these small, bright yellow birds darting from tree to tree. As our own little ray of sunshine was due to arrive any day, and actually did arrive just four days later, we took this goldfinch gathering as an auspicious sign. For those of you who were teens in the 90s and enjoyed the American Pie movies, the name Finch could be a reference to these films’ MILF-loving character. Or, if you really love the book To Kill a Mockingbird but want to steer clear of already trending names like Atticus and Scout, Finch could be a great option. This name would work well for a boy or a girl, and I like the nickname option Fin with just one “n” as a neat alternative to the quite popular name Finn.

Photo credit: Frank Boston

Kiwi

Kiwis—the little flightless darlings of New Zealand–are too cute for words! Likewise, I find the girls’ name Kiwi absolutely delightful. Because Kiwis are flightless, it is a bit of a mystery how they ended up in New Zealand (Kiwi Facts and Characteristics). Kiwi would therefore be an especially great name for a little girl who is a pleasant surprise to parents who did not think they would be able to conceive (or adopt) a child. Another interesting fact about kiwis is that “female kiwis lay one of the largest eggs in relation to their body size of any bird in the world,” with a body-to-birth object ratio four times that of humans (7 Curious Facts That Prove Kiwis Are Amazing Little Birds). In other words, birth is even more difficult for kiwis than it is for humans—hard to imagine, am I right, ladies? So, if you want to instill some grit in your girl from the get-go, naming her after these birthing badass birdies would be apt.  And, if the name Kiwi still isn’t unique enough for you, the name of the genus to which kiwis belong is also a super-cool name option: Apteryx (Kiwi).

Photo Credit: Biodiversity Heritage Library


Tanager

Tanagers boast some of the most kaleidoscopically colorful birds you’ll ever see.  But, according to a fascinating study co-conducted by graduate students at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and colleagues at San Diego State University, the tanager with the fanciest feathers is the Paradise Tanager. So, if your child’s in utero activities lead you to believe he or she will have a vibrant personality, Tanager could be a good name choice. Possible nicknames are Tan, Tana (rhymes either with Hannah or Donna), and Nage (rhymes with mage).

Photo credit: Drew Avery


Seriema

There are only two species of this South American bird: the Red-legged Seriema and the Black-legged Seriema (Seriema). The Red-Legged Seriema, in particular, is known for its conspicuous crest and “far-carrying song” (Sariemas: Photo Gallery). The girls’ name Seriema has a couple pronunciation options, as well as multiple nickname possibilities. The pronunciation of the actual bird name is Serry-ee-muh. But you could also change the pronunciation to be similar to the name Serena, with Seriema pronounced Suh-ree-muh. Nickname choices include Seri (pronounced Serry), Erie (pronounced like the city in PA), Rie / Ree / Rhee, or Ema (pronounced Ee-muh). Bonus name option: sariema are also sometimes called Cariama (Car-ee-ah-muh), which I almost like even better as a name than Sariema itself (Seriema).

Photo credit: Rusty Clark – 100K Photos


Starling

While the European Starling seems to be the most easily searchable and oft discussed of the starlings, the member of this group I’m most familiar with is the Red-winged Blackbird. These glossy black birds with crimson wings are so ubiquitous at our local park that I can identify them by their song alone. In keeping with the fact that starlings have “less sexual dimorphism in plumage” than most other birds (Starling), I think Starling could work as a gender-neutral name rather than an exclusively female name. Nicknames include Star, Arli, and Ling.

Photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie (via Neil Mishler/USFWS)


Lark

Among the many different types of larks, melodious singing is one commonality. As Nameberry’s entry for the name Lark discusses, this girls’ name has been used for quite a while, especially as a middle name, and is on the rise as a first name as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lark busted into the U.S. top 1,000 in the next few years.  Related name versions include Larkin, Skylark, Larkia, and Larka.

Photo credit: Brian Ralphs


Aracari

Found in the tropics of Central and South America, aracaris—such as the Collared Aricari—are toucans with bright, colorful plumage. One thing that is common to both aracaris and babies is that they are both known to produce high pitched, squeaky cries, but that commonality doesn’t exactly recommend the name Aracari (pronounced Are-uh-car-ee). However, many aracari are known to be social / travel in groups, so Aracari could work if you’d like your child to be a social butterfly (or social aracari, as it were). And, bird facts aside, Aracari just sounds beautiful, a great possibility for boys or girls. Possible nicknames: Ara, Raca, Rocco, or Cari / Kari (pronounced either Car-ee or like Carrie).

Photo credit: Charles Patrick Ewing



Sparrow

Sparrows are one of the most common bird types in the U.S., particularly in the case of the House Sparrow. These cute little birds are so used to humans and so friendly that you can fairly easily entice them to eat food right out of your hand! So, for those who hope to have a friendly child who loves being around lots of people, Sparrow could be an appropriate moniker. Also, Baby Name Wizard’s entry on the name Sparrow mentions a Bible reference where sparrows are described as worthy birds “not to be forgotten by God,” so the name Sparrow could have a lovely meaning for Christians or others who believe in God.  And while that same Baby Name Wizard entry lists Sparrow as a girls’ name only (which was my initial thought as well), other name sites, including Nameberry, cite Sparrow as a gender-neutral name option. Possible nicknames: Spar / Sparr, Arrow, or Row / Roe / Ro.

Photo credit: Reading Tom

Which of these names has flown to the top of your baby name list? Let me know in the comments!

Featured Photo Credit (Peacock): Tim Green

Author: thebabynamebuff

Hi, I'm Vickie. I'm a baby name enthusiast, and I'm excited to share and discuss with others the unique baby names I find. Besides talking and writing about baby names all day long, I also enjoy spending time with family, hiking, astronomy, reading (mostly science fiction and dystopias), and all things Star Trek. (Are you noticing a theme?) I currently live in Champaign, IL with my husband, Kyle, and my son, Felix.

4 thoughts on “The Baby Name Buff: Bird Edition”

  1. I like almost all of these names, but maybe because I love birds! I think I may take up birding as a retirement hobby. I like Sparrow for a little girl. However, the facts on the Tanager made me think I should have given that name to Evan. In utero I knew he had a strong personality!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know you were a bird lover, Aunt Sally! Sparrow is definitely adorable for a girl! And, you know what, I could see Evan as a Tanager, but then people would definitely give him nicknames, so I don’t think that would work out for you, haha. But yes, Evan does have a strong yet not overbearing personality, which is awesome. Hope that little guy is still having a great time at college! 🙂

      Like

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