Bird People

Image by Kelly Aleshire.

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).


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    Comic Books 
  • The Feitherans, whom the Golden Age Hawkman has befriended and from whom came Norda Cantrell (Northwind) of Infinity, Inc..

  • Batman Returns controversially gave The Penguin this treatment, after director Tim Burton expressed dissatisfaction with the more traditional depiction of "a guy in a tuxedo." Since the template was of a flightless bird, Danny DeVito's costume consisted of a stout, blubbery body; hands shaped almost like flippers; a nose that curved forward like a beak; beady eyes sheathed by dark, avian eyelids; almost-reptilian teeth; and a shock of long, thin, stringy hair (which, with a little imagination, could be likened to feathers) sprouting from an otherwise bald head.

    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.
  • In early Classical Mythology sirens were women with bird-like traits, but because the stories always feature them at the seaside, later depictions tend to make them fish-like instead. Harpies are also a mix of birds and women, with the degree of anthropomorphism varying over time.

  • The Haspur in Mercedes Lackey's Bardic Voices series are anthropomorphic eagles who excel at singing.
  • China Miéville's Perdido Street Station has Yagharek, a member of a race of bird people called the Garuda.
  • In SA Swann's Terran Confederacy universe the Volerans, the second alien species humanity meets and the first with their own FTL empire, are broadly avian, resembling colorful eyeless ostriches.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Han Solo at Star's End included an appearance by a member of the Lafrarian species, who is described as basically being a "bird-man." West End Games (the Star Wars d6 roleplaying-game resource) later clarified that Lafrarians are an avian species who had lost their wings (though their arms are still very wing-shaped) but retained their beaked noses and covering of feathers on the head (which, in their attempt to look more humanoid, they style to look more like '80s Hair).
  • The Edge Chronicles have shrykes, a nasty example of the trope. Both genders are flightless, but female shrykes are larger and more aggressive, usually working as vicious warriors and slavers. The smaller and weaker males are often treated like slaves themselves.
  • The Ythrians in Technic History. They are carnivorous HunterPoets rather like eagles. One of the more notable things about them is an organ designed to pump extra oxygen into the wings to give them more lift.
  • There are a species of bird-like people in Damsels Of Distress stories called pteranthropes. They have avian wings growing out of their lower backs that are fully functional and they have talons in place of humanoid feet. There are three sub-species of pteranthrope with boreads, tengus, and garudas.
  • Dragons, angels, and 'cubi (succubi/incubi) from MW:ADC are all completely avian (and mortal) sentient species.
    • The dragons were the first species to gain sentience and culture. Originally, they had only four limbs (two legs, two wings), but through a combination of scientific knowledge and magical ability, they guided their evolution to give themselves a pair of arms (orginally extra, abnormally small, wings).
    • The angels—despite their insistence on their own divine origin—descended from the dragons, and evolved a more human-like appearance to gain the trust of humans.
    • The 'cubi are closely related to the angels, the main differences being their shapeshifting ability, culture, and skills in the bedroom.
    • Though all three species are capable of using magic, they do not rely on magic for flight (or fire-breathing). This is part of the reason that they're smaller than humans (around four feet tall), as flight is far easier for smaller creatures.
  • Lanmia in Play Places. Feathers, hollowed bones, and a beak? Check.

    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 
  • The Arventine in The Splinter can shapeshift into humanoids with feathers and talons. They can also become giant birds of prey.
  • 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 humanoid birds, present in several planes. Typically they resemble generic birds of prey like eagles and hawks, but owl, vulture and crow like forms are also known; they are typically aligned with White and Blue mana, with the Grixis vulture-like Kathari being an exception, aligned with Black mana instead. Most have six-limbs - two wings, two arms, two legs -, but in some planes they have instead just four limbs, with the forelimbs being both the arms and wings.
  • The Etyri from Fading Suns are an avian species known for morbid attitudes and extreme racial diversity (ie. they have an eagle race, a songbird race and so on). Their homeworld is one of the two known planets that developed six-limbed animal life.
  • In the BattleTech Expanded Universe novel Far Country, the Tetatae are an intelligent species of pre-industrial flightless birds, with claws where wings would be. They're largely pacifistic, avoiding conflict, and are largely hunter-gatherers despite maintaining fields. They never appear in the greater universe, as their system was only found from a malfunction Blind Jump that totaled the JumpShip, stranding the crew in the system.
  • Averted with Warhammer 40K's Kroot: They're descended from a birdlike species, but [[Kroot the standard Kroots]] have no wings or feathers, instead having long quills on the backs of their heads and hollow bones. One of their most unique features is the ability of their Shapers to remodel their DNA based on what they eat, with Kroot eating too much of one species being locked into that state (which is what happened to the wolflike Kroothounds and apelike Krootox). Other subspecies include a feathered Kroot that can glide or the massive Knarlocs, who pretty much only exist to give players an excuse to field a T Rex.

    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 later 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 and Guild Wars 2. In the first game they were scattered across Tyria and Cantha and, due to being harassed by the other races, were almost universally hostile. Between the two games the scattered tribes united and built an isolated kingdom to avoid further abuse.
  • 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 so that the Great Ocean could remain mostly lifeless. Likely as a way to keep the flooded kingdom of Hyrule hidden.
  • 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, due to them collectively throwing their arms up and destroying their tech base, then retreating to their homeworld when the Reapers show up a mere year after they have first contact with the Council races.
    • The Turians (one of the main races) are an interesting case. At first sight, they don't seem to resemble birds much, but they were modelled primarily after hawks and other raptors, and indeed without the armour you can see more obvious avian anatomy, resembling plucked birds.
  • Storm Eagle from Mega Man X, an anthropomorphic eagle with mechanical wings. There's also Overdrive Ostrich, Cyber Peacock, Storm Owl, Blaze Heatnix, Wind Crowrang and Mech Jentra, all of which are anthropomorphic birds.
  • 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). It makes up for it's lack of wings by jumping really high.
    • 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 Talortai, the species of Urai Fen in Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption.
  • 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.
  • Jet the Hawk, Wave the Swallow, and Storm the Albatross from Sonic Riders are wingless bird people.
  • A few of the Halloween-exclusive cosmetic items in Team Fortress 2 turn a few of the mercenaries into bird people. Well, bird-headed people. Note that it's not masks—several of the lines indicate that their heads have actually turned into bird's heads, and that they are now semi-anthropomorphized birds. The Medic even says that he experimented on his own head!
  • The Alkari from the Master of Orion series vary in appearance throughout the series, but they're all obviously based off of avians, and when a playable faction are given a ship defense advantage due to their innate grasp of 3D motion from their species ancestors.
  • The Arakkoa in World of Warcraft. The Arakkoa encountered in Outland are a degenerate offshoot of the main race, having twisted bodies and vestigial wings. The other Arakkoa were wiped out but appear in an alternate version of Draenor, possessing tall and thin bodies with flight-capable wings. The reason two branches of the race exists is the polluted blood of a fallen god which turns any Arakkoa it touches into the degenerate offshoot. The winged Arakkoa worship to sun but are xenophobic and believe themselves a Master Race while the wingless Arakkoa worship the shadows and are generally more amiable.
  • The Crow Demons from Dark Souls 1 are a malicious and semi-sentient form, but Ornifex from Dark Souls 2 shows that they may be capable of higher thought but simply choose not to engage you.

    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 Folk, 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