A retired lawyer, I'm fascinated by words, their nuances and meanings. I’ve always enjoyed reading, languages and writing.
English Proverbs and Sayings About Birds
English Is a Language Rich in Similes, Metaphors, Proverbs and Sayings
The English are a nation of animal lovers and this includes birds too. We have strong laws to protect wildlife, and anyone caught stealing birds' eggs or killing a protected specie of birds such as the golden eagle, is liable to criminal prosecution.
But, of course, we still like to eat birds such as chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks and pheasant. There is a pheasant shooting season, and shooting these birds out of season would be much frowned upon.
Because bird-life is such a large part of our lives too, it should come as no surprise that birds have entered our idiomatic language in the form of metaphors, proverbs and expressions.
See How Many of the Following Figures of Speech About Birds You Know
You'll have fun reading this if you are English speaking, and if you are learning English as a second language (ESL or ESOL , TESOL or even TSL), these phrases will help you to improve your English and help you to remember them in an enjoyable way .
Here's a Summary of Expressions About Birds You'll Find on This Page
Below the summary is a more detailed description of each saying, explaining what they mean, with examples of how to use them.
- A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush
- To Chicken Out
- Bird Brained
- A Birdie
- Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch
- A Wise Old Owl
- Eyes Like a Hawk (or Hawk-eyed)
- To Hawk Your Wares
- As the Crow Flies
- To Crow
- To Give (Someone) the Bird
1. A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush
Meaning: It's better to have something of small value rather living in hope for something of higher value but with the risk of getting nothing at all
"I have £50 (dollars, dinars, pesos, rupees or what-have-you) and if I bet that England will win the World Tournament, I could win £400, but I'm not going to gamble, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"
2. To Chicken Out
Meaning: To stop doing something because you are afraid
"He was going to tell his employer that he was leaving his job, but chickened out when he realized he would be short of money"
3. Bird Brained
Meaning: Forgetful or unintelligent
"He's so bird brained that he forgot his keys and his wallet--I'm surprised he even remembered to put his trousers on before he went out!"
4. A Birdie
Meaning: A golfing term for a hole in one
"He hit a birdie in his first round, and was so surprised that he thought someone had been tampering with the ball when he wasn't looking"
5. Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch
Meaning: Don't rely on things which haven't happened yet
"By the year 2025 there will be no more wars, arms dealers will be redundant, and everyone will be kind to each other--but don't count your chickens before they hatch"
6. A Wise Old Owl
Meaning: Somebody clever or street-wise
"Barack Obama may not be President of the USA any more, but he's a wise old owl"
A Wise Owl Watching You
7. Eyes Like a Hawk (or Hawk-eyed)
Meaning: Noticing everything
"I hid my sweets so that I could keep them all for myself, but she's got eyes like a hawk and noticed that there was a sweet paper in the rubbish bin."
8. To Hawk Your Wares
Meaning: To sell your goods
"She hawked her wares from her online website, Glorious Confusion Antiquarian Books"
A Red-tailed Hawk
9. As the Crow Flies
Meaning: Straight and direct
"Travelling by train, London is not far from Brighton as the crow flies but if you are driving there, it will seem much further, because of the complicated route with many deviations"
10. To Crow
Meaning:To boast triumphantly
"It's considered very rude to crow when you win a game of Scrabble"
And Here's One More For the Road (Another Idiom):
11. To Give (Someone) the Bird
This expression has two pejorative meanings:
(i) In the US if you flip or give someone the bird, you are making an offensive or very rude gesture by raising your middle finger upwards whilst keeping the rest of your fingers and thumb down.
(ii) The British meaning if you "give someone the bird" is to laugh, boo or mock them in disapproval. e,g, "They gave the actor the bird when he messed up his lines".
Take This Poll: Globalisation Is Not Going To Go Away
A YouTube Video: Some More Expressions About Birds
Just To Wind Up, Here's A Bird Tongue Twister
But Be Very Careful How You Say It Or It Could Sound A Bit Rude!
I am not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
'cos the pheasant plucker's late
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Diana Grant
Did You Enjoy Your Lesson? Did You Learn Anything New? Can You Think Of Any More English Expressions About Birds?
Diana Grant (author) from London on June 27, 2016:
MY mother was a keen golfer, and I used to be obliged follow her round the course when I was a child - it put me off golf for life - but I'm still a bit vague about golfing terms, so thanks for the info, Gary
Olivia on June 26, 2016:
That was a lot of fun...thanks for all the Birdy sayings....
Gary on June 26, 2016:
A Birdie is one under par in the game of golf. It can happen on any hole.
An Eagle is two under par.
A hole in one is at the worst an Eagle on a par-3 hole. I don't think I've ever heard of any one with a hole-in-one on a higher par hole.
Tonie Cook from USA on June 26, 2016:
Birds of a feather! Wonderful read. Glad you are here.
Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 17, 2015:
Most of these sayings were handed down by the English to us over here on this side of the pond. It's amazing how the ancient wisdom persists through the generations. Great hub!
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 04, 2015:
Birds of a feather stick together,
Don't count your chickens before they hatch,
The early bird gets the worm...
Ducky on January 07, 2015:
This is the perfect way to break down this inrmaoftion.
GrammieOlivia on September 20, 2014:
great hub Diana, I think I got all the sayings and I was trying to think of more, but it's late at night and my brain just doesn't want to work anymore.
Marti Lawrence from Grain Valley, Missouri on September 20, 2014:
This was fun to read!