Created By: hawthorn on December 9, 2013 Last Edited By: Zenoseiya on December 13, 2013
Troped

Bird People

A race of bird-headed humanoids

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Trope

The bird equivalent of Lizard Folk: a race of avian humanoids. Specifically this means a coat of feathers, a beak, scaly legs, talons, etc.

They typically have some or all the biological features of birds - hollow bones, good eyesight, fast reflexes, fast metabolism, egg-laying, enhanced vocal power or control, etc. The arms are typically scaly talons like the feet and sometimes wings may be present as a third pair of limbs; less commonly the wings are the arms and the hands are either claws or Feather Fingers. Females may suffer from Non-Mammal Mammaries.

Bird People are found in fantasy and science fiction alike. They are frequently a Proud Warrior Race and often carry a Blade on a Stick. They'll often be called "avians," some derivative of that word, or "tengu" after a similar creature in Japanese mythology. Because of the tactical advantage conferred by avian biology (flight, enhanced reflexes) they're usually balanced by making them physically weak (often due to the hollow bones necessary for flight). In video games, they tend to be Glass Cannons.

Subtrope of Petting Zoo People. Contrast Winged Humanoid (essentially human except for wings) and Harping on About Harpies (half-bird/half-human in varying degrees).

Examples

Folklore and Mythology
  • Sometimes the tengu from Japanese Mythology is depicted as a bird-headed humanoid and other times as a bird-human hybrid, although a confused history and the ability to shapeshift has led to it having a wide variety of different forms.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures stars the Shansheeth, an alien race of vulture people who act as galactic undertakers.
  • The Sixth Xindi race from Star Trek: Enterprise was the Avians, a race of bird people who are extinct by the time of the series. We only see one of their skulls, but given the huge variation in Xindi bodies, it's not too difficult to assume they were birdlike in appearance.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Aarakocra are a humanoid bird species with wings. They're somewhat more on the bird side than the humanoid side, and have claws on their wings instead of separate arms and wings. This prevents them from holding items in their claws while flying, but they have mastered the use of their feet for this purpose. Their preferred weapon is the javelin, which they carry two-at-a-time in their feet, either flinging them at other aerial creatures or diving at ground-based opponents and releasing them at point-blank range into the victim. A group of five Aarakocra can summon an air elemental by chanting and flying through an aerial dance for three minutes.
    • The Dire Corby is a subterranean race of huge black bipedal birds about the height of a human being. They have birdlike heads and feet and their hands end in claws. They hunt in flocks, running down their hapless victims while emitting horrifying shrieks.
    • Kenku, who are birds in a humanoid shape. They wield quarterstaffs or katanas, and some can cast wizard spells.
  • The Aven from Magic: The Gathering are a race of eagle-like humanoids - for example, the Aven Squire.

Video Games
  • Epsilon-Eagle, the protagonist from the Sega Genesis run-and-gun shooter Alien Soldier. He's a wingless birdman, although he has steel wings to compensate for this.
  • Reiji's crow form from the Fighting Game Bloody Roar. An example of a non-Glass Cannon fighter, as Reiji is more of a Lightning Bruiser and battling with him is somewhat like trying to fight a giant blender.
  • Tengu, a playable race in Dungeon Crawl. They possess beaks and clawed feet but no wings, although they gain magical flight after gaining enough experience in the dungeon. Being a Proud Warrior Race, they have excellent aptitudes for all skills relating to combat, but their avian bodies are somewhat frail, making them Glass Cannons. They were originally named Kenku after the bird race from Dungeons & Dragons, but this was changed to Tengu in a recent version.
  • The Ixal from Final Fantasy XIV are vicious race of flightless avian beastmen who worship the mad wind elemental Garuda.
  • Tengu from Guild Wars 2.
  • The Rito * people in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are feathered humanoids with beaks who gain wings on adulthood when they receive a scale from the dragon that acts as their guardian deity. They are descendants of the Zora, a race of Fish People who were transformed by the gods after The Great Flood for unknown reasons.
  • The Alatien in The Longest Journey are roughly humanoid birds with wings for arms.
  • The Raloi in the Mass Effect series are an avian species mentioned in Codex entries, although never seen in-game.
  • Storm Eagle is a recurring character in the Mega Man games, an anthropomorphic eagle with mechanical wings.
  • The Chozo of the Metroid series are a species of bird-like aliens who raised the protagonist Samus. Their name in English "Chozo" is an anglicisation of their name in Japanese, "chojin-zoku" (bird-folk race).
  • Pokémon has a few:
    • Blaziken is the final evolution of the starter Pokémon Torchic (a small Fire-type chick). It resembles a tall humanoid with a beak and clawed hands and feet, but no wings (possibly because of its chicken heritage).
    • Hawlucha is a Flying/Fighting type, a cross between a hawk and a Masked Luchador.
  • The Aviansie (sometimes Aviantese) from RuneScape are a near-extinct race of bird people, recently returned to the world after being discovered frozen in ice.
  • Birdmen are a recurring race in the Shining Force games - Balbaroy & Amon in Shining Force 1 and Luke & Screech in Shining Force 2.
  • Tengu from Shin Megami Tensei (example: [1]).
  • The Avian race from Starbound.
  • The Aracoix in Shadowbane. Unusually, while they are bird-headed, are covered in feathers and have wings, their arms, legs and extremities are like those of humans.

Web Comics
  • According to Word of God, the Furry webcomic Las Lindas has bird people, but they haven't been seen yet in the comic. Technically, they're the same race as all the other anthropomorphic species in the comic: Cat People, Cow People, Lizard Folk, etc. They're stated to all be the same race called the "Primes", living on Neo-Earth alongside humans.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Obviously there are no birdmen in real life, but the hoatzin is unique among birds for being the only species to retain claws on its wings (at least in its juvenile form), in a manner similar to many fictional bird people.
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • December 9, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 9, 2013
    MaxWest
    ^That trope is specifically about harpies. The laconic for this one suggests anthropomorphic birds in general.

    Shining Force had bird people too - Balbaroy & Amon in Shining Force 1 and Luke & Screech in Shining Force 2.
  • December 9, 2013
    arbiter099
    Does Birdman count? He's a human with wings (given to him by the sun god Ra) essentially.
  • December 9, 2013
    Megacles
    The Aviantese from Runescape are one example. They formerly lived in what are now Clan Citadels in the sky, but were largely killed during the God Wars. A small group were actually frozen in one dungeon, and have thawed out recently.
  • December 9, 2013
    Generality
    The Rito note  people in The Legend Of Zelda The Wind Waker are feathered humanoids with beaks who gain wings on adulthood when they receive a scale from the dragon that acts as their guardian deity. They are descendants of the Zora, a race of Fish People who were transformed by the gods after The Great Flood for unknown reasons.
  • December 9, 2013
    xanderiskander
    If we're counting Blaziken in pokemon. Hawlucha would also count. It being a humanoid bird pokemon crossed with a Masked Luchador.

    But you should fix the Zero Context Examples. You need to describe their appearance and what they are for people who don't know the work you're talking about.
  • December 9, 2013
    randomsurfer
  • December 9, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    The Chozo of the Metroid series, a species of bird-like aliens who raised the protagonist Samus. Their name in English "Chozo" is an anglicisation of their name in Japanese, "chojin-zoku" (bird-folk race).

    Here's some Chozo concept art from Metroid Zero Mission that I think could work well for this page.
  • December 9, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • The Aarakocra are humanoid-like birds with wings. Their preferred weapon is the javelin. They either fling them at other aerial creatures or dive at ground-based opponents and release them at point-blank range into the victim. A group of five aarakocra can summon an air elemental by chanting and flying through an aerial dance for three minutes.
  • December 10, 2013
    hawthorn
    I was uncertain whether to include things like the Hawkmen from Flash Gordon, who although they fit the whole 'tribal bird race' thing are still essentially Winged Humanoids.
  • December 10, 2013
    DaibhidC
    Comic Books
    • The Shi'ar in X Men have hollow bones and feathers instead of hair, and some members of the race have claws, feathered forearms, and even wings.
  • December 10, 2013
    ArrowQuivershaft
    Literature
    • The Haspur in Mercedes Lackey's "Bardic Voices" series are six-limbed anthropomorphic eagles with claws, wings, and feathers, who excel at singing.
  • December 10, 2013
    AgProv
    The Bird People of Brontitall, who live in the left ear of the mile-high statue of Arthur Dent, who have vowed never to walk on the ground again after a bad experience with shoe-shopping.

    Radio, TV, film, graphic novel, LP records and novels of h2g2, the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • December 10, 2013
    TrustBen
    Newspaper Comics
    • All the major characters in Shoe are bird people, although they obviously avert the Proud Warrior Race part.
  • December 10, 2013
    hawthorn
    If we're following closely to the Sliding Scale Of Anthropomorphism, Funny Animals might not be considered Bird People. I'm not sure what the policy is there.
  • December 10, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Anime And Manga

    • Ranma One Half has the Phoenix People, once they were normal humans, but after generations of drinking water from the magical Spring of the Drowned Bird they became a race of bird-folk, possessing the bodies of humans, but hands and feet that resemble the scaly talons of birds, fully functional wings on their backs. They can also communicate with birds and use them as their servants. They also have various egg-related gimmicks and motifs.
  • December 10, 2013
    Koveras
  • December 10, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^^ Yes, Funny Animals are just anthropomorphised animals and do not count for a race of their own. This distinction should be made in the description.
  • December 10, 2013
    MarqFJA
    Harping On About Harpies would be a subtrope of this, wouldn't it?
  • December 10, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    can I suggest that to qualify for this trope, it would have to be about a race/species of bird people so individuals like Birdman who got the bird bits from the Superpower Lottery wouldn't count and it has to be more than just a pair of wings on otherwise human people which would just be a Winged Humanoid (sister-trope?). Harping On About Harpies would be a major sub-trope with mythological precedence.
  • December 10, 2013
    hawthorn
    I've been considering distinguishing transformees/mutants from actual races, but I don't know if it's useful to do so. Other pages like Lizard Folk do list transformed individuals like Curt Connors from Spider Man.
  • December 10, 2013
    Antigone3
    Another Mercedes Lackey example would be the tervardi from the Heralds Of Valdemar series. Not warriors, and we don't know how they reproduce (though the young are called "chicks"), but they're incredible vocal musicians.
  • December 10, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced a couple of examples. Also, the Starbound and Shin Megami Tensei examples need context.
  • December 10, 2013
    ArrowQuivershaft
    • Falco in Starfox is an anthropomorphic falcon who is also a member of the core cast.
  • December 10, 2013
    xanderiskander
    • Las Lindas: Is a very odd example. There are Bird People according to Word Of God, that haven't been seen yet, but they're also technically genetically related to Cat People, Cow People, Lizard Folk, etc. They're stated to all be the same race called the "Primes" living on Neo Earth alongside Humans.
  • December 10, 2013
    DelShiftB
    Western Animation:
    • The 1940s Superman cartoon, episode The Underground World, has bird-people attempting to lower Lois and Dr. Henderson into boiling gold. The cavern is spacious, giving the hawk men plenty of room to maneuver during their dance and combat sequence.
  • December 10, 2013
    Lakija
    • Although not completely bird people, the characters in Maximum Ride have been genetically modified and are all 2% bird. They also have wings.

  • December 11, 2013
    hawthorn
    One problem I'm running into is that the description suggests two things which aren't necessarily the same:

    In fiction, it seems quite common to have 'bird people' who really just look like humans, but are, nonetheless, an avian race. I feel like the focus of the trope might be confusing; should I make it about race or about appearance?
  • December 11, 2013
    DAN004
    Not sure if this counts but -
    • In One Piece, there's Pell of Alabasta Kingdom who ate the Bird-Bird Fruit (Model Falcon) which lets him turn into a giant falcon or a hybrid thereof. There's also Marco of Whitebeard Pirates, which eats a similar fruit that turned him into a phoenix-man.
  • December 11, 2013
    izaakren
    The Tengu from Guild Wars 2
  • December 11, 2013
    lycropath
  • December 12, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • The Dire Corby is a subterranean race of huge black bipedal birds about the height of a human being. They have birdlike heads and feet and their hands end in claws. They hunt in flocks, running down their hapless victims while emitting horrifying shrieks.
  • December 12, 2013
    Snicka
    Harping On About Harpies should be mentioned somewhere in the description, either as a subtrope or a sister trope.
  • December 12, 2013
    Zenoseiya
    Harpies don't qualify because they're Mix And Match Critters.
  • December 12, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Wouldn't they qualify because of it?
  • December 13, 2013
    aurora369
    Hagravens from Skyrim have heads of ugly human hags, bird-like feet and bodies covered with sparse feathers. They are voluntarily transformed human witches.
  • December 13, 2013
    meerkatspy55
    Harping On About Harpies is probably going to be a subtrope of this.
  • December 13, 2013
    Zenoseiya
    ^^^No, because Bird People are Petting Zoo People (furries, basically). Not half-human/half-bird Mix And Match Critters. Refer to the Sliding Scale Of Anthropomorphism.

    ^^Same answer

    ^Same answer.
  • December 13, 2013
    Zenoseiya
    I've changed the laconic so that it stops confusing people to "bird-headed humanoids," so they don't add winged humanoids and mix-and-match critters. I'll be going through the examples and removing incorrect ones.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7cji7vpj0md73jka22uzp88x&trope=BirdPeople