Kingsley Village
in the heart of Cheshire

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Old Bird Names

March 2021

Have you ever wondered how birds got their names?

Names given in the past were based on local custom and varied from county to county and even village to village.

So, depending where you lived a Chaffinch could be known as a Flackie, an Apple-bird or Silverwing. The names were so different across the countryside it’s a wonder how the name of Chaffinch emerged as a universal name!

Nicknames were the most common way of naming a bird, but imagine the variety! As the following list (drawn from various sources) suggests it hardly leads us to the names we know today:

  • Blue Tit: Pickcheese
  • Great Tit: Pridden-Prals
  • Long Tailed Tit: Hedge-Mumruffin
  • Starling: Sheep-stare
  • Wren: Stumpy-Toddy
  • Dunnock: Shufflewing
  • Magpie: Meg-Pie
  • Greenfinch: Bighead
  • Goldfinch: Thistlehead
  • Jay: Devil-Scritch
  • Nuthatch: Nut-Jobber
  • Swift: Longwing (Welsh)
  • Kestrel: Hoverhawks/ Wind-Fanner

Country folk had names not only for their fields but also the wild plants that grew there as well the creatures in, on and above the land. These names date back centuries and can still be traced on maps, documents and in oral tradition. Even so, tracing the origins of names whether it be birds, plants, animals, insects, etc., is another matter.

Do old local names for living things still remain in your area?

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