Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bird n.1

also birdie
[note first use of sense 1 c.1300, meaning a maiden or girl and not sl. until 1900 when it meant a sweetheart or a prostitute; imagery of sense 2a reflects the world of hunting; in sense 2b note WWI RN bird, a man continually in trouble]

1. as a symbol of femininity or, in men, weakness/effeminacy.

(a) (also bird of paradise, bird of youth, dickey-bird) a prostitute, a promiscuous woman.

[UK]Nice Wanton Biiii: I have caught two birds, I will set for the dame, / If I catch her in my clutch, I will her tame.
[UK]G. Whetstone Mirrour for Magestrates of Citties (2nd edn) C4: Lechery was held no sin, nor chastity, vertue: ruffens were honored [...] ruffens, bawdes and suche other brothel birds, were made senators, yea and the basest persons were married to noble women.
[UK]Dekker Belman of London D3: The second Bird of this fether is a Dell, and that is a yong wench, ripe for the Act of generation.
[UK]Jonson Devil is an Ass II ii: O, bird, Could you do this? ’gainst me! and at this time now!
J. Taylor St Hillarie’s Teares 5: Covent-Garden, long Acre, and Drury Lane, where thoses Doves of Venus, those Birds of youth, and beauty (the wanton Ladies) do build their nests.
[UK]Mercurius Democritus 10-26 Aug. 101: He being jealous of his fine Bird (not without cause) was frightned because she sung the tune of Horn-fair most odiously.
[UK]D’Urfey Comical Hist. of Don Quixote Pt 2 V i: Bird, right; thou art the bird of Night: Come, I’ll go with thee; by thy broad Face and toothless Gums I know thee.
[UK]J. Dunton Night-Walker Sept. 3: The third was a Savoy-Bird, well skill’d in Confidence and the depth of Pockets.
Rambler’s Mag. Mar. 119/2: A few days ago, a melancholy accuident happened to the little bird. As she was [...] very snug in her next in Portland -street she was seized by three greater birds of prey, namely catchpoles.
[UK]W. Clarke Every Night Book 163: It is the resort of young bloods on the look out for a spree, and ‘birds of paradise,’ in gaudy plumes, seeking to lure the estrays of the night to their nests.
[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 26 Jan. 25/1: I Saw P—rs, the medical student [...] walking with a dickey bird of the lowest feather.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 36: Many of the finest of the Oxford-street birds flutter in here [...] nightbirds, but very few green ones among them.
[UK](con. WWI) F. Richards Old Soldiers Never Die (1964) 106: There were always young ladies soliciting [...] I was never foolish enough to go with one of those birds.
[UK]F. Norman Fings I i: Rosey and Betty, his particular ‘birds’, are having a hard time on account of the new ‘Street Offences Act 1959’.
[UK]J. Orton Loot Act I: I’d like to run a brothel [...] I’d have two Irish birds. A decent Catholic. And a Protestant. I’d make the Protestant take Catholics. And the Catholic take Protestants.
[UK]‘Derek Raymond’ He Died with His Eyes Open 54: E’s got this sweet little business, pays off better’n any bird and it don’t talk back.

(b) (also bird of paradise) a young woman, a girlfriend; a mistress.

[UK]A. Scott Poems (1821) 40: My lady, Lord, thow gaif me for to hird, W’in myne armes I nureiss on the nycht; Kissing, I say, my bab, my tendir bird, Sweet maitresse, lady, lusse, and lusty wicht.
[UK]Middleton No Wit or Help like a Womans (1657) I ii: This Bird’s my own.
[UK]R. Brome Northern Lasse IV v: Ha my Bird, my Chick! Kiss me.
[UK]J. Shirley School of Complement II i: O my Bird, my Chicke, my Doue.
[UK]C. Sedley Bellamira II i: When I came back the Bird was flown, nor could I learn any News of her.
Rambler’s Mag. Mar. 118/1: Times have been no less prejudicial to the Cyprian sisterhood [...] the Bird of Paradise which used to take its flight in the celestial regions of the Pantheon [...] was seen hopping in the vicinity of Golden-square.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1830) 47: [fancy-piece] A sporting phrase for a ‘bit of nice game,’ kept in a preserve in the suburbs. A sort of Bird of Paradise!
[US]W.T. Thompson Chronicles of Pineville 81: A pretty pair of birds, really.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ G’hals of N.Y. 181: An’ as for that ere Jule, if she isn’t a perfect bird-ee, then I wouldn’t say so!
[UK]G. Lander Little Gerty I ii: Don’t talk like that, my little birdie—my darling!
[US]C.H. Hoyt A Trip to Chinatown Act II: Have a bird and a bottle and go home!
[US]Wichita Dly Eagle (KS) 24 Apr. 4/3: De guy is married, but he gets stuck on a birdie what’s playin’ at one of de t’eaters.
[US]Okolona Messenger (MS) 22 Oct. 3/1: College slang [...] The ‘belt chaser’ walks with a ‘bird’ to the ‘birdcage (a dormitory for women students).
[UK]A. Binstead Mop Fair 84: The young Earl would probably have married the bird.
[US]R. Lardner ‘My Roomy’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 335: ‘I wish you could see this bird!’ he says. ‘What bird?’ I says. ‘This dame that’s nuts about me.’.
[UK]P. Macgill Amateur Army 62: ‘Cup of cawfee, birdie!’ he cried, leaning over the table and trying to grip her hand.
[US]D.G. Phillips Susan Lenox I 395: Don’t look so scared, birdies.
[US]K.H. Day Camion Cartoons [caption in letter] [Internet] I wouldn’t say she was a high flyer [...] but she’s a bird alright!
[Ire]S. O’Casey Plough and the Stars Act II: Didn’t you hear th’ young gentleman say that he couldn’t refuse anything to a nice little bird?
[US]J.T. Farrell World I Never Made 447: ‘Where in the hell does she get such a line of talk?’ ‘She’s a bird, Ned, isn’t she?’.
[US]R. Chandler Farewell, My Lovely (1949) 90: She was a tall old bird with a chin like a rabbit.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Caught (2001) 89: I ’appened to be [...] lookin’ through the near window watching the ladies, the birds, the lovely bits of grub go by.
[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 9: Just a minite [...] Has my bird showed up yet?
[UK]J. Orton Loot Act I: We’ll go to a smashing brothel I’ve just discovered. Run by a woman [...] Very ugly bird.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 84: I lived with a bird once, in Penge it was.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 388: A childish little American bird—and yet it was humiliating.
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] I’ve never been so happy to see a bird. I’ve never been so excited about seeing a babby either.
[UK]Indep. Sport 4 Dec. 16: What you need is a celebrity bird.
[US]Hip-Hop Connection Jan. 74: Those two daft birds whose names always escape me.
[UK]Guardian Guide 9-15 Apr. 35/3: There’s a bird in it [...] She was in the shower.

(c) (US) an attractive (young) woman.

[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 184: ‘Oh, Queen of Sheba!’ exclaimed the Cousin from St. Paul [...] ‘She’s a Bird. Do you know her well?’.
[US]H. Green Mr. Jackson 9: ‘By heck, she’s a bird, maw,’ he chortled, referring to the star with the disobedient eyes.
[US]‘Sing Sing No. 57,700’ My View on Books in N.Y. Times Mag. 30 Apr. 5/4: Trilby [...] Trilby was a bird for fair, a regular pippin.

(d) (US) a male homosexual.

[US]F.S. Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald III (1960) 56: If only that St. Paul’s crowd at the next table would not mistake him for a bird, too.
[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases 26: bird (Sl.) n. A Homosexual.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 43: Male homosexuals also qualify as birds or birdies, and to go on the bird circuit is to make a tour of gay bars across the [USA].

(e) (US black) an experienced, tough female prostitute.

[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].

(f) used in sing. as generic for all women.

[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 30: I used to have lots of rows with Marchmare on the subject of bird.

2. (orig. UK Und.) trapped, controlled, i.e. as a ‘bird in a cage’.

(a) a confidence trickster’s victim.

[UK]Greene Blacke Bookes Messenger 3: A Table of the words of Art lately deuised by Ned Browne and his associates, to Crosbite the old Phrases used in the manner of Conny-catching. [...] The foole that is caught, the Bird.
[UK]Dekker Lanthorne and Candle-Light Ch. 5: The Bird that is preyed upon, is Money. [...] Of Hawking How to catch Birds by the Book. Which is done with five Nets, viz. A Faulconer. A Lure. A Tercel Gentle. A Byrd. A Mongrel.
[UK]W. Perry London Guide 66: ‘tis all up, the bird (pigeon) has flown. The blo—y b—r B—d had taken his place.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Scamps of London I ii: Where the devil are we to bag our bird?
[UK]C. Selby London By Night I i: Suppose the bird shouldn’t come, Mr Hawkhurst?
[UK]Paul Pry (London) 15 Aug. n.p.: He has managed to get hold of a green old Birmingham bird, whose feathers he intends plucking as long as he will stand it.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 252: The trio [...] determined that on the first occasion the ‘bird to pluck’ turned up the game should be straight.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 151: Here was a fat bird, ready to be plucked.
[US]G. Milburn ‘Toledo Slim’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 193: I was an all ’round hustler, I trimmed the birdies right.
[UK]J. Gosling Ghost Squad 116: By this time he [i.e. the confidence trickster] and the landlord are on good terms. The bird is getting ready for the plucking.
[Aus]W. Dick Bunch of Ratbags 194: I was a bloke who didn’t like losing, especially to a rigged-up machine. That was for the birds, not me.

(b) a prisoner; thus a bird has flown, a prisoner has escaped; ext. as Bridewell bird, Newgate bird, penitentiary bird.

[UK]Dekker Honest Whore Pt 2 (1630) V ii: His Larke whom he loued, was a Bridewell bird, he’s mad that this Cage should hold her, and is come to let her out.
[UK]Rowley Woman never Vext 62: ste.: Now, Sir, what makes you here so neere the prison? rob.: I was going, Sir, to buy meate for a poore bird I have, That sits so sadly in the Cage of late. [...] ste.: I shall finde that bird I thinke to be that churlish Wretch, your father, that now has taken Shelter here in Ludgate.
[UK]J. Wilson Belphegor III ii: ser.: Thieves, thieves! [...] The street door, my lord, is open. mon.: Nay, then, the bird is flown.
[UK]W. Toldervy Hist. of the Two Orphans IV 102: I am a Newgate bird, ’tis true; I am generally unfortunate.
[US]N.-Y. Eve. Post 12 Dec. 3/3: STATE PRISON BIRD. 150 Dollars Reward.
[UK]J.B. Burges Riches I ii: I sent the prison-bird, poor Master Luke, / This morning for them.
[US]Commercial Advertiser (N.Y.) 16 Nov. 2/3–4: The jury looked surprised, [until] it was explained to them that they had acquitted the most notorious old Bridewell bird that could be found.
[US]Commercial Advertiser (N.Y.) 9 Feb. 2/3: The deceased gave a card party at the corner of Centre and Anthony streets, at which there were 30 or 40 persons, all colored, and mostly penitentiary birds.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 290: I wish ‘the bird in yonder cage confined’ was here.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. II 84: Your name is Zack Reed, and you’re a states-prison bird!
[UK]Sam Sly 14 Apr. 2/3: It would be a ‘lock-out’ altogether if the old chap was to hear of the trading he is carrying on in the disposal of rosewood, &c, to the prison bird, J—k G—ng.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend 1 312: ‘Come my birds,’ shouted Hodges roughly to the women.
Horace Bushnell ‘California’ New Englander Feb. 29: These are the fugitives from justice, the absconding bigamists, the felons and prison birds who want a new field where they are not known, defalcators, pimps, shoulder-strikers and prize fighters.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Trail of the Serpent 50: Was he to be found? No, gentlemen, the bird had flown.
[US]Congressional Globe Feb. Appendix 129/1: Wife whippers, penitentiary birds, street vagabonds, beastly bloats, and convicted felons [DN].
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service 79: Jake Buck applied to the ex-state prison bird, to know if he could sell him some coney.
[US]Ford County Globe 18 July in Miller & Snell Why the West was Wild 216: He found that his birds had flown, as they had prepared for this break for weeks.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 24 May 31/3: ‘Peter Matthews, ex-penitentiary bird, drew a revolver on Edward Bentley’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 4 Feb. 3/8: George was released from the other ‘birds’ but was kept manacled.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 12 Nov. 103: A party under my command will take possession of the cubicle before our bird has any chance of singing.
[UK]Shields Dly Gaz. 21 June 3/3: He had once before tried to make his escape [...] A rhyme stating that ‘the bird has flown’ was added.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Winning the Rubber’ Sporting Times 25 Jan. 1/3: The motorist, grinning a venomous grin / At thus catching both birds on the hop.
[Aus]L. Esson Woman Tamer in Ballades of Old Bohemia (1980) 66: I fell in. Nine months I done I was dead innocent. [...] Blime, I fell in, a bird.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Guide for Poits’ Backblock Ballads 38: A bloke is ’ardly orf the bottle there / Before ’e’s in the jug – a bird fer sure.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 353: ‘I got one bird, Bill,’ said the man, shoving Andrews roughly in the door.
[UK]Derry Jrnl 6 June 8/1: Supt. Woods replied: ‘One of the birds has flown’.
[US]E.H. Lavine Third Degree (1931) 63: No use, that bird isn’t human.
[Aus]New Call (Perth, WA) 7 Apr. 3/4: A bird that has only Just escaped from his ‘cage’ after doing a ‘stretch’.
[US]B. Appel Plunder (2005) 244: Two stockade birds who could put their clutch on ten thousand pesos.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 74: So you’re the bird that made it off the train the other night. Quite a kid, ain’t you?
[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 50: What’re you doing, admitting that you can’t control these birds? You can’t keep order in your own institution, which was built to keep guys like this from wandering around loose and shooting people.

3. in fig. use, a person, esp. a suspect, an outsider, an eccentric.

(a) a person, usu. male; a ‘bloke’; also as term of address (see cite 1879).

implied in queer bird under queer adj.
[UK]G. Gascoigne Steele Glas Biiii: The stately cowrts, Are no place, for such poore byrds as I.
[UK]Arden of Feversham line 1477: grene.: Wel take your fittest standings, and once more Lime your twigs to catch this weary bird, Ile leaue you, and at your dags discharge Make towards lyke the longing water dog. [...] shak.: Why that thou shalt see if he comes this way. grene.: Yes that he doth Shakbag I warrant thee.
[UK]R. Brome Eng. Moor I iii: mil.: That I will chick, old songs and over old ones, / Old as thy reverend self, my Chick a bird. quic.: She cals me chick and bird: The common names / With wives that Cuckold their cravend husbands.
[UK] ‘An Ancient Song of Bartholemew Fair’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1893) VII:1 227: But the Cut-purses they do bite and run away, but those I suppose are Ill-Birds.
[UK]Greene & Lodge Lady Alimony III iv: Let me advise you, my Birds of the Capital, that you walk not after my Example.
[UK] ‘Cupids Trappan’ in Euing Broadside Ballads No. 35: Once did I love a bonny, bonny Bird [...] But he lov’d another far better than I.
[UK]Vanbrugh Confederacy II i: Speak Bird, do: Don’t be modest.
[UK]J. Addison Drummer IV i: An ungracious bird!
[UK]Sexes Mis-Match’d 195: Sirrah, meddle with your Wive’s Petticoats, and let your Mother alone, you ungracious Bird, you.
[UK]Life and Character of Moll King 14: I love to be in Town, because I shall see what my pretty birds (meaning her Customers) are doing.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Nov. XI 171/2: You tavern-warm’d Birds say, that London the place is, / For superfine wit, and for elegant graces.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff All at Coventry II ii: I was mistaken in my bird, I see – a shy cock, right dunghill, shows a white feather.
[UK]J. Burrowes Life in St George’s Fields 6: He rolled into the Coffee-room to mix with a few of the Surrey birds.
[UK]R. Barham ‘Lay of the Old Woman Clothed in Grey’ Ingoldsby Legends (1842) 267: While she uttered that word, / Which American Bird, / Or John Fenimore Cooper, would render ‘Tarnation!!’.
[UK]C. Kingsley Alton Locke (1850) 75: Na bird is sa merry as Sandy Mackaye.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 54: I suppose the old bird was your governor.
[UK]Trollope Three Clerks (1869) 378: Come and sit down, my birdie.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxford (1880) 57: Then we fell in with a bird in mahogany tops.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 76/2: Here, we want you taw birdies.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 167: The fifty men on his landing all had some wants to be attended to, but he came to look after his new birds first.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 27 Sept. 14/3: The box [...] is slyly opened revealing two ballet girls in pink tights, one of whom says: ‘You look lonely, birdie’.
[UK]Henley & Stevenson Deacon Brodie IV tab.VII iii: Birds caught?
[US]A. Trumble Mysteries of N.Y. 17: [Y]our night-hawk is a thirsty bird with [...] ‘a talent for drinking’.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) VII 1310: I am too old a bird to believe all a woman tells me.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 144: The somewhat hazy and unconventional notions of commercial morality held by the Pelicans [...] were not shared by all the Gerrard Street ‘birds’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Sept. 25/1: Many of them live extravagantly whilst growing steadily richer, because their big business yields them a 50 per cent. or more profit on the annual turnover, after paying top prices (i.e., odds) to those ‘knowing birds’ who get such a great advantage over the ordinary punting public.
[US]Seattle Star (WA) 19 Oct. 2/1: The word goes out that this bird’s one of the warmest babies on the race track.
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 10 Aug. 12/4: ‘You’ll see the sailor and the dark girl’ [...] ‘Which of the birds is I to follow?’.
[UK]Gem 23 Sept. iii: ‘Rummy bird!’ said the boy to himself.
[US]J. Lait ‘The Imp of the Night’ Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 132: He was an inquisitive night owl, this bird. He wrote stories for a newspaper.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 40: Who’s the quaint bird sitting beside the chauffeur?
N.W. Putnam West Broadway 12: That’s the bird! Well-known English playwright, [...] he’s been dead a long time, so there’s no copyright.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 10: I know what I got to say and you birds keep quiet till I’m through.
C.B. Yorke ‘Snowbound’ in Gangster Stories Oct. n.p.: ‘These birds just framed me’.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 247: Nate told Studs that wise guys like that bird needed to be punched full of holes.
[UK]A. Christie Murder in the Mews (1954) 78: Mayfield is too old a bird to fall for her wiles.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 105: That bird must be stupid to fall for a game like that.
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 23: Ulric was a lecherous bird.
[US](con. 1944) L. Giovannitti Prisoners of Combine D 411: You’re a queer bird.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 70: Miss Justice [...] favours the bird with scratch.
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 50: A dreamy old bird of the absent-minded professor type.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 233: Ever seen this bird before?
[UK]Guardian Guide 9–15 Oct. 12: See that bird? Shark food, mate. Black bloke? He’ll be dead before the popcorn bucket’s half empty.
[US]E. Weiner Drop Dead, My Lovely (2005) 52: The lug was Pakistani, or Indian, one of those subcontinent birds.

(b) (US) a dissolute or degenerate person, ‘a fast man, woman or horse’ (R.H. Thornton, An Amer. Glossary, 1912); often ext. as perfect bird.

[US]Spirit of the Times (Phila.) 12 Feb. n.p.: Chippendale slept in the watch-house [...] Chippendale is certainly a bird.
[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) xl Oct. 320: Talking of fast men, that Williams is a bird.
[US]‘Philip Paxton’ Adventures of Captain Priest 319: The Perfect Bird has no wings, yet he is considered ‘fly’ upon all sporting matters. The Perfect Bird carries a brick in his hat, and a stone in his boot. In the language of his class, the Pefect Bird generally tuns out to be a bad egg.
A. Jenks in Lippincott’s Monthly Mag. (Phila.) Aug. 291: There are men in every college, of whom Yale has its full number, denominated in student slang as ‘birds.’ The ‘birds’ are firm believers in the old Epicurean theory that everything in life is subservient to pleasure [DAE].

(c) (US) an animal.

[US]Van Loan ‘Levelling with Elisha’ Old Man Curry 15: What did that bird [i.e. a racehorse] step the three-quarters in?
[UK]E. Waugh Handful of Dust 345: Tricky birds, foxes.

(d) (Aus./US) an eccentric.

[Aus]G.H. Lawson Dict. of Aus. Words And Terms [Internet] BIRD—Quaint person.
[US]B. Traven Death Ship 158: Hey, you bird, [...] leave that plate alone, it’s mine.
[US]L.P. Boone ‘Gator Sl.’ AS XXXIV:2 154: Eccentric students are labeled birds.
[US]Current Sl. VI.

(e) (orig. US tramp) an outsider, an unconventional person.

[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 791: bird – Anyone not moving in the same circle as the speaker or his gang; an outsider; a newcomer.

4. (US) as a representation of a bird, e.g. an American eagle on the dollar.

Quinland Varieties in American Life II 76: Bill [...] put in her soft white hand the ‘bird’ he had received from Morley .

5. a UK sovereign, i.e. £1 (although neither face seems to show a bird).

[UK]Sporting Times 10 Apr. 3/4: Met Blobbs, but failed to borrow half a bird [...] Am compelled to change the bird.

6. (US campus) representative of good or bad qualities.

(a) (US) something unpleasant.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 230: I had an egg this morning and it was a ‘bird.’.
[US]G.V. Hobart Jim Hickey 11: ‘Isn’t this a bird of a place for a show to get stranded?’ Jim Hickey asked, disgustedly.

(b) a term of reproach.

[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 10: Why didn’t you come when you said you would? You’re a bird, you are.
[US]S. Crane in Metropolitan mag. Feb. in Stallman (1966) 212: ‘They’re a pair of birds,’ he said, with supreme contempt.
[US]S.E. White Blazed Trail 43: Be the gate of Hivin! [...] You’re a burrd!

(c) (also dickey-bird) something or someone excellent or admirable; also as term of affectionate address (see cite 1890).

[UK]W.S. Gilbert Engaged in London Assurance and other Victorian Comedies (2001) Act II: And I am to lose my pet at last; my little dickey-bird is to be married today! Well, well it’s for her good.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 25 Oct. 1/2: Her husband called the now nurse ‘birdie,’ / A trifle which was doubtless true.
[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 10: bird 1. n. Something especially nice, beautiful, or admirable. Applied to both persons and things to indicate a high degree of excellence or fitness. ‘That’s a bird of a suit you have on.’ ‘That horse is a bird.’ 2. n. Frequently used in an ironical sense. ‘You’re a bird to let her get ahead of you like that.’ [Ibid.] 11: dickey bird Same as ‘bird,’ q.v.
[US]O. Wister Philosophy 4 68: Oh, Johnnie’s a bird!
[UK]Wodehouse Gentleman of Leisure 117: ‘Dis is a boid of a dude suit,’ observed Spike [...] ‘Glad you like it, Spike. Rather chic, I think.’.
[US]Van Loan ‘Crossed “Signs”’ Lucky Seventh (2004) 265: He’s got a curve ball that skins anything I ever saw [...] he’s a bird, I tell you!
[Can]R. Service ‘The Ballad of Soulful Sam’ in Rhymes of a Red Cross Man 108: When it came down to the Scriptures, say! Wasn’t he just a bird!
N.W. Putnam West Broadway 13: ‘How’s that for an idea, eh?’ ‘Al, [...] it’s a bird, and as you say, a wonderful chance for me’.
[US]C. McKay Banjo 7: The best of all was the bird uvva time I had in San Francisco with three buddies who hed a guitar and a ukelele between them.
[SA]N. Devitt Famous S. Afr. Trials 147: The burglars [...] looked upon the railway station office as ‘a sure bird’.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Wedding Bells Will Ring’ Short Stories (1937) 205: Those fellows that pay you can think up more schemes than Yellow Kid Weil. They’re birds!
[UK]Dundee Courier 21 May 7/1: Now just look at this nice dickey-bird.

(d) a failure.

[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe on the Job 138: ‘If that’s a disguise you’ve got on,’ says I, ‘it’s a bird.’.
[US]W.Y. Stevenson At the Front in a Flivver 4 Sept. [Internet] The next night, the 3d of September, was a ‘bird.’ Pitch black — a fine drizzle of rain — heavy attacks by the French.

7. (mainly US) an aircraft, esp. a helicopter, spacecraft, missile etc.

[UK] in Campbell & Campbell War Paint 168: [aircraft nose art] Pappy’s Birr-die.
[US]B. Stiles Serenade to the Big Bird 17: I over-controlled the throttles, too much, then too little, trying to fly that big bird close.
[US]W.C. Anderson Adam M-1 122: It’s a nice little bird [...] It’s an advanced jet trainer.
[US] in C. Browne Body Shop 84: They were carrying me out to the medevac bird [i.e. helicopter].
[US](con. 1969) M. Herr Dispatches 179: They’ll stay tired until their tours are up and the big bird flies them back to the World.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 187: The Big Bird of Paradise was flying home, straight and true.
[UK]Desperate Dan Special No. 7 31: No stowaways on my bird.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 161: Still a few days till that big bird went home.
[UK]L. Gould Shagadelically Speaking 16: bird, American astronaut slang, apparently, for ‘space shuttle’.
[US]J. Ridley What Fire Cannot Burn 179: An MTac unit rolling on her house [...] A police bird overhead.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] [of a helicopter] This one’s the collective control stick [...] Raises or lowers the bird.

8. see dicky-bird n.1 (5)

In compounds

bird-shop (n.)

(Aus.) a brothel.

[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 7 Apr. 1/1: The Bird shop in William-street is now ‘To Let’ [and] many sirens have vamoosed.

In phrases

bird of the game (n.)

see separate entry.

bird it up (v.)

to pursue women for sex.

[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 90: I’m here on holiday, catch the end of the football season, bitta shoppin and birdin it up.
catching the bird (n.)

(Aus.) picking up a woman while driving one’s car and then persuading her to agree to sex.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn).

SE in slang uses

In compounds

birdbrain (n.) (also B.B.)

1. a fool; thus bird-brained adj., stupid.

[US] ‘Whitman College Sl.’ in AS XVIII:2 Apr. 153/2: birdbrain. A person of low intelligence.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 99: The bird-brain owes me ten bucks.
[UK]Yorks. Post 1 May 7/4: A complete lack of common sense, which has no doubt given rise to the expression ‘bird-brain’.
[UK]J. Osborne Epitaph for George Dillon Act II: Like all these bird-brains who batten off the National Health.
Times (Munster, IN) 19 Jan. 56/1: Slang keeps changing to keep up [...] ‘BB’ — Bird-brain.
[Aus](con. 1944) L. Glassop Rats in New Guinea 18: Handsome Harry, the idol of the bird-brained teenagers.
[US]Hall & Adelman Gentleman of Leisure 43: You can’t be a birdbrain and handle this.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 169: You are a bloody lop-eared, [...] bird-brained [...] fart-faced flip of a fucking galah!
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 144: The bird-brained idiot couldn’t hide a fiver from an income tax inspector.
[US]N.Y. Times 3 Aug. [advert] Bird brain. Nobody knows more about chickens than Frank Perdue [R].
[UK]Guardian Guide 19–25 June 5: Nia, [...] regaled guests like MC Hammer with bird-brained inter-song patter.
[US]Paul Levin 14 Feb. [email] I see that you have written me a letter about birdshit, but the only birdshit I see is from the birdbrain that composed your message.
E. Woolfson Corvus 152: ‘Bird-brain’ has long been a term used to suggest limited intellectual capacity.

2. as a term of address.

[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 61: Use your skull, birdbrain.
[UK]A. Salkey Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover (1982) 161: Scream again, bird brain.
[US]W. Wharton Birdy 15: Listen here, birdbrain!
birdcage (n.)

see separate entry.

bird colonel (n.) [the silver eagles affixed to the uniform’s shoulders denote the rank]

(US) a full colonel in the US marines; thus light bird, a lieutenant-colonel; cite 2006 refers to police.

Science Digest 17 9: On another occasion a bird colonel became so curious that he drew himself up to full height before the guards and demanded to know what was going on .
[US]M. Shulman Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1959) 102: Fixing Guido with a bird-colonel’s glare.
[US]H. Rhodes Chosen Few (1966) 168: It all depends on where they think they need a bird colonel with his MOS.
[US]L. Heinemann Close Quarters (1987) 148: This bald-headed, wrinkle-necked, full bird colonel from the Officer’s Candidate School.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 190: I had to go up in front of a full bird colonel and lie to him about why I had to stay in Vietnam.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 57: A pasty-faced full-bird colonel [...] arrived in Paco’s room.
[US](con. 1969) N.L. Russell Suicide Charlie 66: A little while later, our local ‘light bird’ (slang for lieutenant colonel) swooped down for a gander.
Simon & Burne ‘A New Day’ Wire ser. 4 ep. 11 [TV script] Any cocksucker manages to go from lieutenant to full bird in little more than a year is getting groomed.
[US]Simon & Burns ‘Screwby’ Generation Kill ep. 3 [TV script] He’s trying to get his full bird on our backs.
birdcrap (n.) [SE bird + crap n.1 ]

(US) nonsense, rubbish.

[US]B. Hirschfeld Generation of Victors 35: ‘This is the best-trained, best-equipped army —’ ‘Birdcrap,’ Palidino said.
Newbegin Connection [Internet] I’d like to thank all the nerds out there who helped put together this way cool entity known as the Internet. No matter what kind of loony birdcrap you’re into, it’s there to serve.
bird division (n.)

(US) US Air Force.

[US]H.S. Thompson letter 6 Feb. in Proud Highway (1997) 43: My long-term contract with the ‘bird division’ doesn’t expire until 1959.
birddog/dogger

see separate entries.

bird eater (n.) [SE phr. eat like a bird]

(US) a finicky eater.

[US] in DARE.
birdlime

see separate entries.

birdseed (n.)

see separate entry.

birdseye (n.)

see separate entry.

bird’s eye (n.)

see separate entry.

birdshit (n.) [SE bird + shit n.]

1. (US) a term of contempt.

[US]R. Abrahams Deep Down In The Jungle 150: Go on bird-shit, fight somebody your own size.

2. (US) nonsense, rubbish.

J. Rossner Any Minute I Can Split 27: For this she had left Roger. The same old birdshit dropped from a different tree.
[US]Carbatsos Heroes 5: Don’t pump me with your hero bird shit [HDAS].
[US]Paul Levin 14 Feb. [email] I see that you have written me a letter about birdshit, but the only birdshit I see is from the birdbrain that composed your message.
bird’s nest (n.)

see separate entries.

bird turd

see separate entries.

bird-witted (adj.)

1. foolish, scatter-brained, gullible.

F. Bacon Advancement of Learning Bk II 70: If a Child be Bird-witted, that is, hath not the facultie of attention, the Mathematiques giueth a remedy thereunto.
J. Ussher Annals of the World VI 360: The same Onias, when he came to age, proved [...] but a bird-witted man.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: bird-witted Wild-headed, as hare-brain’d; not solid or stayed, opposed to a sober Wit.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: bird-witted, easily imposed on.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
R.I. Wilberforce Life of William Wilberforce 497: Let me mind this with my children, especially with any who may seem volatile and bird-witted.
M. Milner Englishwoman’s Mag. Jan. 40: It is difficult to reflect upon this German music-master's selection for the instruction of his bird-witted pupils, of times and seasons in which there was neither sight nor sound likely to distract their attention.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Have His Carcase 242: Take off that vulgar and idiotic hat and tell me who this low-down, bone-headed, bird-witted, dissipated murderer is.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Nine Tailors (1984) 151: These girls are very bird-witted.

2. inconsiderate, thoughtless.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: bird-witted, inconsiderate, thoughtless.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

In phrases

bird never flew on one wing, a

used as a formula for accepting a second drink (and pretending that one is doing so more from duty than pleasure); note extrapolation in cit. 1996.

[Ire]D. Purcell Falling for a Dancer 34: Well, a bird never flew on one wing, did it? No point in having only one .
[SA]Sun. Indep. (Dublin) Apr. n.p.: I am on the point of ordering the second wing that birds are supposed to fly on [BS].
bird of passage (n.)

a tramp, a vagrant.

[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 14 Oct. 4/6: It is neither wise nor equitable that the settled and permanent citizens [...] should have no more voice and interest in public affairs than some mere bird of passage. A swagsman, for instance, elects to work for somo few months in Victorin. A little later on he will be in Queensland. If the humour takes him he will bo off to Now Zealand. On what consideration can it be fairly urged that such a man is [...] entitled to decide big questions affecting the destiny of the colony.
[Aus]Clarence & Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW) 6 Oct. 6/1: Jack Carson, of ‘Swagland,’ trudged along the Great Northern road, without a hope, without a room, and without a smoke, in search of employment [...] Truly, this ‘'bird of passage’ realised to-day that the levities of youth may be pardonable, yet if not discontinued in time they form the strongest reproach to maturity and age.
[Aus]Sydney Mail 26 Feb. 9/1: And on consulting a classic work to find synonyms for a Bohemian, we find the following: 'Peregrinator, wanderer, rover, straggler, rambler, bird of passage, gadabout, vagrant, scattering, landloper, waif and stray, wastral, loafer, tramp, vagabond, nomad, Gipsy, emigrant, and peripatetic somnambulist.
Balonne Beacon (St George, Qld) 18 Dec. 2/5: Our Friend the Tramp [...] In America a chain of newspapers recently made a canvass of the big cities to ascertain whether the tramp was increasing or diminishing. The results of this scrutiny indicate that such Yankee birds of passage are fewer to-dav than before the war.
[[Aus]Geelong Advertiser (Vic.) 24 Nov. 3/1: Asked by the magistrate, what he did for a living, and where he slept at night, the defendant replied, [...] 'I am like the swallow, that bird of passage, constantly on the move and asleep when the sun sets.’' The magistrate, who had some difficulty in calling the vagrant to order, imposed a sentence of six months’ imprisonment].
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 13 July 7/6: The net drawn by Detectives Findlay and Triatt through Perth in search of unwanted ‘waifs and strays’ of the local and ‘birds of passage’ genus continues to land in good hauls. Vagrancy charges have become a feature of the day's charge sheet.
Naromine News (NSW) 19 Nov. 4/4: In rememberance of the cheque he had passed over Mrs Flannery's bar, that good woman stuck to him for a couple of days, but as Andy was a bird of passage and there was every chance he would not return once he left the township.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 103: Traveller and commercial traveller, together with food inspector, bird of passage, wallaby tracker, tourist, footman and professional pedestrian, are often applied to itinerants.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
birds of a feather (n.) [pvb birds of a feather flock together]

members of the same gang.

J. Sylvester Schisme in Du Bartas Divine Weeks & Works 218: Reboam, scorning these old senators, Leans to his younglings, minions, flatterers, birds of a feather that with one accord Cry out, importune, and persuade their lord Not sillily to be by such disturb’d .
[UK]Hist. of Edward II (1680) 58: Several Crews of lusty Yeomen, that knew no other way to win their Landlords favour [...] might be known all Birds of a feather.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]N. Ward Wooden World 33: Those Brother-Starlings, are Birds of a Feather that always agree together.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London II i: We have long been birds of a feather, and now we’ve got one nest; we’re both convicted thieves.
[UK]Southey Doctor 138/1: The idle and the dissipated, like birds of a feather, flock together.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 36: Predatory ‘birds of a feather’.
for the birds

(orig. US) trivial, worthless, appealing only to gullible people; ext. as strictly for the birds and coarsely as shit for the birds.

N. Pepper in Indianapolis Star 12 Dec. pt 4 22/6: Strictly for the Birds — Not so hot.
[US] ‘GI Lingo’ in AS XX:2 Apr. 148/1: shit for the birds. Nonsense, drivel, irrelevant matter. (A variant: that’s for the birds. It’s meaningless.).
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 112: Rico always seemed to have a moderate amount of money and he considered work as something ‘strictly for the birds’.
[UK]J. Osborne Epitaph for George Dillon Act II: Strictly for the birds, George! Strictly for the birds!
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 57: I’ve watched you come and go every day, but waiting for you to come across is for the birds.
[UK]R.A. Norton Through Beatnik Eyeballs 83: This be highly scat, likewise strictly for the sparrows, cos Moms been proved wrong.
[US]G. Cuomo Among Thieves 50: I was thinking of shoving it. It’s for the birds.
[US]L. Rosten Dear ‘Herm’ 117: That screwball stuff about ‘Balogna’ and ‘baloney’ is for the birds, which we are not!
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 43: Anything that is entirely irrelevant, worthless, trivial, and more than faintly ridiculous can be dismissed as being (strictly) for the birds. Popularized during World War II, this seems to be a sanitized version of a longer expression, shit for the birds, the allusion being to the practice of birds eating the droppings of horses, cattle, and other animals (American Speech, 10/57).
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall.
Souchou Yao Confucian Capitalism 140: [They] cynically think that every talk of trust is, as they say, strictly for the birds.
go like a bird (v.)

of an automobile, or any vehicle, to go fast and smoothly with no mechanical problems.

[Aus]K.S. Prichard Working Bullocks 6: She [a cart] ought to go like a bird.
go with the birds (v.)

(US tramp) to travel south for the winter.

[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 206: Go with the birds—To go south for the winter.
have a bird on (v.) [seemingly a play on fly v. (4) although earlier]

(US) to be drunk.

[US]Sun (N.Y.) 5 Mar. 4/6: [of a state of drunkenness] He has a beaut on, a bird on.
join the bird family (v.) [to ‘fly’ away]

(US black) to leave fast, to run away.

[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 218: Your boy’s too much, Mezz, but he better join the bird family else I’ll get somethin’ from him.
little bird (n.) [‘a little bird told me’]

a network of information; rumour, gossip .

[UK]J. Keane On Blue Water 202: It has always appeared quite wonderful to me how the ‘telegraph,’ ‘white mouse,’ or ‘little bird’ gets about such ships, but it is a fact that everything that is said and done among the men is known aft nearly as soon as it is forward.