Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
Flightless Birds: Where do they come up with these names?

Flightless Birds: Where do they come up with these names?

“What kind of bird are you if you can’t fly?

I’m a duck, stupid!”

~ ‘Weird Al’, Peter And The Wolf

“Um, Alfred? Sergei? Ducks can fly.”

~ Me

Not all of birds fly, I admit that, but most do. They’re kind of known for it.

In certain circles.

When I think of Hollywood and comics writers (I don’t really differentiate them. Deal with it), I think of people who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Whatever subject they they cover, they’ll fill it full of mistakes. (Not all writers do that, I admit that, but most do. They’re kind of known for it.

In certain circles.)

In the spirit of these factoids, there’s a surprisingly large number of comic book super characters who are named after birds – but they can’t fly.

There are many who can (Snowbird of Alpha Flight, New Warriors villain team Air Force, and The Vulture spring to mind. Yes, I think of them before I think of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I know what I know), but a surprising number who can’t.

This is just a list I made up on the fly; I’m sure there are many I missed:

Dishonorable mention: Batman. Bats aren’t birds, but they can fly.

Blue Beetle: same; beetles aren’t birds, but most beetles (including, I believe, scarabs) can fly.

Honorable mention: The Penguin. Penguins are birds, but they can’t fly.

Merlyn the archer; is named after the wizard, not the bird. Plus, it’s his actual name, not his superhero name. (Plus it’s spelled a little differently to ‘Merlin’.)

The List

American Eagle

A demonstration of how birds work.
This is what a flying bird looks like. Oddly, this will be the only flying bird photo in the article.

Birds of Prey – yes, there’s a whole team with a bird-themed name, originally made of up characters who can’t fly.

Technically, a bird of prey.
Technically, this isn’t a bird of prey.

Black Canary (a founding member of the above team)

Bluebird I’m not certain about this one, but there’s a Bat family character called Bluebird (Harper Row) who I’m pretty sure can’t fly.

Falcon… “but Le Messor, you magnificent rogue,” I hear you say, “how can somebody clever and charming as you not know that The Falcon can fly? That’s his whole deal!”



But as he was originally introduced? No. Originally, The Falcon, named The Falcon, could not fly.

The Falcon's first appearance.
This is how he originally looked. Note the lack of wings.

Flamebird: While not a specific type of bird, you’d think they could fly. The Bette Kane Flamebird can’t.

Hawk and Dove: This article was inspired by a fight in a Teen Titans omnibus between Hawk and Dove and Robin. I realised I was looking at three bird-themed superheroes, and not one of them could fly.

The picture shows an actual dove.
This is a mourning dove.
What does it sound like when it cries?

Hawk-Owl a Batman expy from Marvel.

Ibis The Invincible He’s magical, but he doesn’t levitate or fly. At least not in his first appearance.

Jackdaw (possibly his actual name, but a Jackdaw is a bird and nothing else, so I’m counting it.)

Ladyhawk from Spider-Girl, and modelled after the original Falcon before he got wings. (Though a ladyhawk isn’t an actual kind of bird, hawks are, and can fly. As can Isabeau, in bird form, in the movie Ladyhawke. I assume that’s where the name came from.)


European magpie. This is what they look like.
The comic-book Magpie is a thief who likes shiny things. The bird is known for liking and stealing shiny things. This one makes some sense.

Mockinbgird (I’m not counting Hawkeye; he was named for the idea that hawks can see really well, not the whole bird.)

A mockingbird sits in a tree.
James Taylor, where are you?

It’s recently come to my attention that there’s also a DC character called Mockingbird (he also can’t fly). Oddly enough, Bobbi Morse originally went by ‘Huntress’, also a DC character. Go figure.

Nighthawk and Nite Owl are more Batman expies; they still count.

The Owl is an obscure Daredevil villain. (Daredevil can’t fly, but that’s irrelevant.) The Owl can only glide, not fly.

An owl gives the reader a sarcastic look.
What you talkin’ about?

Robin might (or might not) be named after the hood, but he’s so often compared to the bird, I’m keeping him.

This whole thing is averted by Jacana; a character in a couple of issues of M.A.S.K. (DC, 1987, I think). She has a rocket pack, which means she probably flies better than a real jacana (“The flight tends to be slow and weak.”, accorting to Wikipedia.)

At this stage, I want to write a comic-book superhero or villain and give them a name like Ostrich or Emu and they can fly.

Ostriches can't fly.
Not all birds.


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