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Circling Birdies
Why pay ten cents when you can see stars for free?

An animated character who has been stunned, usually by blunt head trauma, will display a "halo" of twittering birds or twinkling stars orbiting his head at or above eyebrow level. Sometimes it's just circles or whirls spinning around. This is a cartoon representation of "seeing stars". Upon recovery, the character will usually brush them away with an impatient or brusque sweep of his hands.

It is not uncommon for circling stars to sound like birds (cuckoo is very commonly added, although it's usually the cuckoo clock variation instead of the realistic version), even if it makes no sense. Similarly, this trope often occurs in live-action instances with just the sound effects of birds.

Occasionally, more idiosyncratic "satellites" will circle the character, usually related to either his personality or the task he was trying to accomplish when he was stunned. Unrelated to Circling Vultures, which foretell a rather worse fate than a mild concussion.

May also go with Non Sequitur Thud. Compare Concussions Get You High. Catching Some Z's is a similar visual effect for characters who went night-night the usual way.

An example of Editorial Synaesthesia.

Example subpages


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • This is a common gag in Astérix:
    • In Astérix and the Great Crossing, a KO'd native American sees american stars. In the same book, another native American sees all the stars from the American flag.
    • In another book, an Egyptian sees hieroglyphs of birds.
  • Archie Comics will sometimes have Archie dazed after a fight, and seeing, not just basic birds, but rather specific ones, such as Red-Winged Blackbird or Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, twittering and circling his head.

    Fan Works 
  • Examples from the Calvinverse:
  • My Little Mages: The Nightmares Return: Fie-Doe sees birds after Roh-Ver beats him up at one point. Then he hits him again, and they change into stars.
  • Earth and Sky: After Soarin' finally kicks Shootin' Star's flanks, the latter sees miniature Soarins circling his head while hitting bells with sledgehammers.
  • To put this straight, Chapter 11 of Carry On, Blissey, there is one part where Matron Blissey mentions imagining seeing stars around her head.

    Literature 
  • Discworld
    • In the novel Moving Pictures, one of the minor side-effects that the motion picture industry has on the Disc's flexible reality level is that tweeting birds appear over the head of a wizard with concussion.
    • In the Science of Discworld, Ridcully mentions a wizard who "died of planets" (which presumably orbited his head).
  • In Search The Sky, by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, there's a scene where Ross is made to Talk to the Fist.
    He brought up a roundhouse right, and Ross saw the stars and heard the birdies.

    Music Videos 
  • A cartoonized version of Cyndi Lauper experiences these when she's thrown from a motorcycle during the animated sequence in "She Bop".
  • Aaron Carter's music video for "That's How I Beat Shaq" uses bird sound effects near the end after Aaron's mother asks him whether he had hit his head.
  • 2-D from Gorillaz sees stars and a few other symbols circling his head twice after being violently shook in the short "Hey, Our Toys Have Arrived."

    Pinball 
  • The playfield for The Champion Pub has these circling elements regarding K.Os.

    Web Animation 
  • In the video "Cucumbers" by Weebl, a cucumber attacked by a panda has stars circling its head.
  • The Annoying Orange: Orange gets hit on the head by Cantaloupe, and has stars flying around his head. Then two cartoon-like birdies turn up complaining that the stars are stealing their jobs. Later, Midget Apple gets hit on the head as well, and the stars turn up again. But this time, the birds get really angry and start beating up the stars.
  • Happens to Strong Bad at the end of the Homestar Runner animation "Marshmallow's Last Stand" as a result of him being tripped by Homestar for ripping up the star on his shirt after a fight. Homestar then takes one of the stars circling Strong Bad's head and places it on his own shirt.
  • RWBY:
    • In the "Yellow" trailer, when Yang knocks Junior across the room with a punch, he has hearts circling his head.
    • In the episode "Players and Pieces" when Jaune collides with Ruby, knocking her against a tree. However, wolves are used instead of birds (complete with barking sounds).

Catching Some Z'sStock Visual MetaphorsConfused Question Mark
Animate Inanimate ObjectThe Silent Age of AnimationDeranged Animation
Celestial BodyStellar IndexConstellations
Bluebird of HappinessAvian TropesCircling Vultures
Cartoon ConductorZany CartoonConspicuously Light Patch
ScampImageSource/Newspaper ComicsNo Name Given
Charged AttackVideo Game Effects and SpellsCombination Attack

alternative title(s): Circling Stars
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