Are You the Early Bird That Gets the Worm?

Image of a Robin looking for a worm

Photo by Ross Feldner

Everyday language includes numerous creative and colorful bird sayings. These idioms demonstrate just how much birds are a part of languages and cultures around the world.

What are idioms? Idioms are figurative expressions that describe a situation in a creative or colorful way, rather than with literal, factual descriptions.

Simply put, idioms are usually catchy phrases that are easily remembered and commonly understood. There are extensive bird-related idioms in different languages and for birders, studying these bird references can help them learn even more about the birds in each expression.

See how many of these 20 birds or bird references you know from their description (idiom). The first one is an example to get you started.

Photo by Mikala Feldner

Idiom: Natural and easy, not needing instruction
Answer: Like a duck to water

  1. Easy freedom or escape without entanglements, escape from troubles, dangers, or complications.
  2. A heavy burden or difficult obstacle
  3. Extinct, no longer existing
  4. Elegant, beautiful, and sophisticated
  5. Arrogant, vain, or prideful
  6. Limited or nonexistent
  7. A straight-line path, the most direct route
  8. A common group of similar members
  9. Watchful, having keen eyesight
  10. The benefits of avoiding procrastination and getting rewards for being first
  11. To eat lightly or be a picky eater
  12. To pad financial gain or collect favors from others
  13. One who is more active or productive at night
  14. One who is unattractive or out of place, though who becomes more beautiful or desirable as they mature
  15. To offer protective guidance or mentoring
  16. To easily shrug off, shed, or disregard
  17. Very slender or thin
  18. Cheerful, optimistic, and joyful
  19. Insane or nutty
  20. A president’s last term


Click here for the answers. Then let us know how you did and send us bird puzzlers, quizzes, or bird lore you’d like to see here in Bird Watch and Wonder at [email protected]

Adapted from The Spruce. “Bird Idioms Explained”

Ross A. FeldnerRCC Board Member

Publications and Web Consultant, Ross FeldnerRoss Feldner is the lead, with Bob Musil, of the RCC Bird Watch and Wonder Program. Ross is a life-long birder and photographer who is the editor of the Friends of Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge newsletter. Ross also serves as a guide at the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, a frequent birding spot for Rachel Carson who first learned about the health effects of DDT at the laboratory there. He is also the owner/art director of New Age Graphics, a full-service graphic design firm in Wheaton, MD.

The Rachel Carson Council depends on tax-deductible gifts from concerned individuals like you. Please help if you can.

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