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100 Everyday Avian Idioms and Phrases Inspired by Human Observation of Birds

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Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a particular interest in the expressions, phrases, and idioms that contribute to it.

100 Avian Idioms and Phrases

There is a diverse multitude of terms and phrases sourced from the observance of our feathered friends. Humans have interacted with these beautiful creatures for thousands of years. It would be strange indeed, had so many of their behaviors and quirks not entered into our everyday language.

It is a matter of record that people have observed the behavior of birds for centuries. This infatuation with bird-life is just as real today, as can be evidenced by the world's large contingent of bird watchers or, as those who take their interest more seriously are known, "twitchers" and they continue to further their studies to new heights.

When we start to delve into this world of words, that we discover the true extent of the impact birds have had and continue to have on our everyday vocabulary.

The above bird species are specifically referenced within idioms in this article.

Albatros

Coot

Crow

Cuckoo

Dodo

Duck

Dove

Geese

Hen

Lark

Magpie

Owl

Parrot

Pheonix

Pigeon

Rooster

Swallow

Turkey

Bird Idioms help create cultural and historical meaning in our language.

Bird Idioms help create cultural and historical meaning in our language.

1. A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

Meaning: It is better to take a smaller win or advantage now, rather than risk everything that the next move or the future may hold.

Example sentence: "I decided to take the opening offer on the house sale. I know I may have been able to stick out for a slightly larger offer, but I need the sale, and I figured a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush."

2. Strictly for the Birds

Meaning: Activity or information that is entirely worthless.

Country of origin: United States of America.

Example sentence: "Simon's plan to swim the channel for charity is strictly for the birds; he only learned to swim two months ago."

3. A Bird's Eye View

This idiom refers to a general view of something, usually from above.

Example sentence: "The view from the penthouse is remarkable; it offers a real birds-eye view of the city."

A Birds Eye View Idiom Explained

4. Talk Turkey

Meaning:

  • To talk about business.
  • To speak bluntly.
  • To take something seriously.

Origin: An idiom with its roots in Colonial America. The trade by Pilgrims and native Indians initially involved the Indians giving turkeys. It was not long before this became a regular part of any trading arrangement between them, leading to the term we use today.

Example sentence: "I know you don't want to discuss having to pay more rent. But you can't avoid the issue forever. I'm afraid it's time to talk turkey."

Turkeys are synonymous with the telling of the history of America's pilgrims and their relationship with native Indians.

Turkeys are synonymous with the telling of the history of America's pilgrims and their relationship with native Indians.

5. Cold Turkey

Meaning: Originally, a turn of phrase used to say; the plain truth.

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Today, this expression is more commonly used to describe withdrawing from drug-taking and is now said to represent kicking any bad habit.

Example sentence: "I have gone cold turkey and stopped drinking beer completely."

6. Spitting Feathers

Meaning:

  • Someone in a state of distress or anger.
  • To lose control of yourself.
  • To be agitated.
  • To be dry-mouthed or thirsty.

Example sentence: "I only suggested that it was his turn to pay for the round of drinks, but he gave me such a look. It was clear that he was spitting feathers at the thought of it."