Follow TV Tropes


Flying Flightless Bird

Go To

Babs: He must be very important to have his picture taken. What do you suppose he does?
Bunty: Isn't it obvious? He's a professional flying rooster. He flies from farm to farm, giving demonstrations.

Not all birds possess the ability to fly; in fact, there's a good number of birds who can't. The specific reasons vary between each flightless bird, but the most common explanation boils down to their wings are not made for flying.

Despite this, there are plenty of times in media in which a bird that shouldn't be able to fly actually does. It could be just one of its kind, or the entire species. In any case, if you see any birds known to be unable to fly in any source of media showing the ability to fly, they belong on this list.

Note that if the flightless bird is using some sort of tool to fly (like an airplane or a jetpack), then it does not count since without it, the bird would truly be flightless.

While not completely flightless, chickens may also count for this list on account of how their ability to fly only gets them 10 feet off the ground. If the chickens can go any higher than that, they qualify.


Contrast Acrophobic Bird, for when birds who can fly don't fly for one reason or another.


    open/close all folders 

  • "The chicken escaped again". (The line at the end means: "Impossible? With us everything is possible!" Neither line actually has anything to do with the advertised cell phone service; the idea apparently was that the offer is as good as that chicken is at flying.)

    Anime and Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Pebble and the Penguin: On his introduction, Rocko tells Hubie that his wish in life is to fly, despite the fact that he is a penguin. Near the end of the film, he actually does and teaches other penguins how to fly.
  • Madagascar: The opening scene has Marty running through a savannah. However, when the chorus of penguins take off and fly in formation, it's a clue to the viewer it's just a dream sequence.
  • A plot point in Chicken Run is the chickens trying to learn how to fly from a rooster named Rocky after Ginger saw him flying. It turns out Rocky didn't actually fly, he was just shot out of a cannon. In the end, the chickens are able to fly... a plane they created.
  • Ice Age: Collision Course features "dino-birds" which are flying raptors. In real life, no dromaeosaurid is capable of flight, the smaller kinds being able to glide at best.

  • A downplayed pterosaur variant on this trope would be in the Dinotopia series, which featured Dimorphodons as the pterosaurian equivalent of an Instant Messenger Pigeon, thus implying long-distance flying ability; later studies would uncover that Dimorphodon would likely have been about as good at flying as a chicken—that is to say, not very, due to its body being heavy and its wings being short. It still could fly, but likely only for short distances and in emergencies. This is justified due to science marching on, as all this wasn't known at the time the books were published.
  • The Fox Busters by Dick King-Smith (and the animated series loosely based on it) is about a trio of hens with exceptional flying ability, which they use to defend the flock from foxes.

    Live-Action Television 
  • In the second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Buck and the crew meet the character Hawk, a humanoid-evolved bird who was a skilled pilot. At one point, Hawk remarks that other humanoids hunted birds, so much so that the ability to fly was bred out of his kind.

    Video Games 
  • Downplayed by Expresso the Ostrich from Donkey Kong Country, who can't fly but can flap his wings when falling to slow his descent and give the player more control on where he lands.
  • Kirby: King Dedede is a possible example. He looks to possibly be a penguin, and just like Kirby, he can fly by puffing up like a balloon.
  • In Joust, the first player's mount is a flying ostrich.
  • Mega Man X:
    • Implied to be the case with Overdrive Ostrich in Mega Man X2. He used to be able to fly, but an accident robs him of his flying capabilities. He's still good at running fast as an ostrich would.
    • Burn Rooster from Mega Man X8, is capable of flying despite being based on a mostly flightless bird, in contrast to Overdrive Ostrich.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has the Dodo Rider Zombie fought in Frostbite caves. It's normally a grounded mook, but when it encounters some plants like Spikeweed or ice floes the dodo frantically flaps its wings to fly, temporarily becoming an Airborne Mook until it passes the threat.
  • Pokémon:
    • Doduo and Dodrio are based off of an ostrich, which is known for not being able to fly. Its Pokedex entry in Pokémon Sun and Moon even says that it can't fly well. Nevertheless, it is still able to learn the move Fly. Some of the 3D games have them achieve this by running in place.
    • Delibird is also capable of learning Fly even though it is essentially a penguin.
  • Sgt. Byrd from Spyro: Year of the Dragon is a military penguin who has missiles strapped to him. He is also capable of flying by flapping his little penguin flippers. Handwaved by how he's trained by the hummingbirds to flap his flippers fast enough. This is later averted with the use of a jet-pack in Spyro: A Hero's Tail.
  • Levels in Super Mario Odyssey have small birds which look different in each level; they fly away as Mario approaches. The birds in Shiveria are tiny penguins, which fly just as well as the others.
  • Some of the enemy penguins in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island flap around in midair unless Yoshi stuffs them in his mouth and spits them out, after which they'll simply waddle around like the other penguins.
  • ARK: Survival Evolved has a downplayed pterosaur variant. The Quetzalcoatlus is shown to remain airborne constantly (this is reflected by it's low stamina drain when you tame it) and never landing, however fossil evidence seems to indicate that it was much more terrestrial than other pterosaur groups and would likely only take flight to escape larger predators.
    • There's also another downplayed variation with the Terror Bird, it's a fast heavyset runner like it's real counterpart but can use it's tiny wings to glide a considerable distance.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The Foxbusters: This British cartoon features three chickens capable of flight, and they use their unusual power to protect their farm from foxes.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: The Rooster Talisman grants the user the power of levitation and telekinesis, and when combined with the rabbit talisman grants the power of flight. When the talismans are destroyed in season 3, the energies inhabiting them are transferred into the animals they represent. The Rooster Talisman's power is absorbed by a farm rooster named Eggbert.
  • Loonatics Unleashed: Rev Runner is a roadrunner with the ability to fly. Justified as he gained this power from a meteorite.
  • Pocoyo: In the episode "Chicks Dig Me", Pocoyo found three eggs that hatched into little chicken that can't be controlled. When Pato found them, he finally can control them and teaches them how to stay quiet and still, to skate and even to fly for the surprise of all (the narrator included).
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Bart's Comet": When Bart's comet's shadow loomed over the Springfield zoo and over the penguin exhibit, the birds then took flight to escape.
    • "Brake My Wife, Please" has a scene in which Lisa opens the door of a penguin habitat that has been closed for repairs and discovers the penguins flying. When they realize they're being watched, they immediately land and try to act nonchalant.
  • The Critic: Played for Laughs when Franklin discovers his airline pilot is a penguin — who's been drinking.
    Franklin: Wait a minute — penguins can't fly. PENGUINS CAN'T FLY!
  • Bump in the Night: In one episode, when Bumpy and Squishy are chasing after a plucked turkey, they find it flying over their heads. Squishy protests the impossibility of this, even getting out the encyclopedia to prove to the turkey that he can't fly. The moment this sinks in, the bird falls out of the air.

    Real Life 
  • There are some birds that can be considered "semi-flightless"— their wings and flight muscles have degenerated to the point that they are for all intents and purposes flightless, but they can still fly short distances if they absolutely have to. Examples include the Okinawa rail of Japan, the Laysan duck of Hawaii and the Zapata rail of Cuba.
  • Chickens. Domestic chickens are bred to have extremely large and dense breast and thigh muscles, which gives them a low power-to-weight ratio. As such their flying is more "energetic controlled falling", and a commonly quoted figure is that no domestic chicken can fly for much more than 100 metres at a time. The red junglefowl, the ancestor of the domestic chicken, is a much leaner bird and a more capable flier, and routinely nests in trees.
  • Many people only familiar with the domesticated variety that they eat for Thanksgiving may be surprised to discover that wild turkeys are not only able to fly, but also extremely good at it, being agile and fast in the air, capable of covering at least half a mile or more while doing so and often roosting in trees to rest. This is actually why domesticated turkeys are flightless; trying to catch the wild variant was difficult due to a mix of their ability to fly and their camouflaged plumage, so the domesticated turkeys are bred to be nice and plump (both giving them more meat and making them too heavy to fly) and often have noticeable colors (which also comes with the benefit of them having less discolored meat).


Video Example(s):


The Encyclopedia Does Not Lie!

When a Thanksgiving turkey Mr. Bumpy and Squishy are chasing is seen flying, Squishy calls out the impossibility of what it's doing.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / FlyingFlightlessBird

Media sources: