Wonderful Welsh bird names!

Nature Watch with Danielle Rouse

This month DAN ROUSE takes a look at the amusing Welsh translations for bird’s names that can give you a clue as to their identity.

Welsh names for animals and wildlife are really fascinating. The logic applied to the naming of birds really does give an insight into the thought process. Sometimes, they are funnier than intended but for the most part – they are brilliantly named. More often than not, Welsh names either follow the pattern of a literal description of the bird e.g. telor pendu (black headed warbler = blackcap) or a description of the habitat you may find the bird in, if it’s from a large family like waders. Let’s dive into the wonderful world of Welsh bird names!


These two may seem a bit odd to be placed together but they are very similar in some ways. Glas y dorlan is the Welsh name for a kingfisher and pibydd y dorlan is the Welsh name for common sandpiper, so what do these have in common, bar the second part of their Welsh names? It’s the habitat you would likely find these two in! Dorlan in Welsh means hollow river bed, kingfishers and common sandpipers are often found in streams or rivers with muddy banks making their names somewhat fitting. The ‘glas’ from the kingfisher name refers to the colouration of the bird (glas meaning blue in Welsh) and pibydd is sandpiper in Welsh. The kingfisher name as a literal translation doesn’t quite make sense blue of the riverbank but sandpiper of the riverbank is quite fitting


This one is probably my favourite Welsh name for a bird. Sgrech is Welsh for either shriek or scream or screaming depending on the context, coed is woods, tree or wood in general. Translating it literally gives you the woods screaming which sort of hints towards what bird it could be – the Jay. This is an example of how funny and how fitting the Welsh name can be.


The humble red bottom! Tin is the Welsh for either bum or anus and basic Welsh means coch is the colour red so adding the two together gives you red bottom – redstart. As mention-ed before, the Welsh sometimes like to name the birds after their description, so calling a redstart a red bottom makes sense, if not a bit funny. Tin can also mean rump or tail which again fits the redstart very well!


Woodcock! cyffylog has two meanings in the Welsh language, it could either be woodcock or coarse, it’s rather fitting given the woodcock’s flying style or their call, both of which are rather coarse and very inelegant.


This name is more fitting than the English name for this species. coch = red, dan = under, adain = wing – red under wing, it’s fairly easy to guess the species from here, redwing. Another one that is named after a literal description of the appearance of the bird.


Pinc is most commonly known in the Welsh language as the translation for the colour pink, but its other meaning is finch. Pinc y mynydd is one of the names that describes where you are likely to see the bird, pinc meaning finch, and y mynydd meaning the mountain, so finch of the mountains is the transla-tion and the Welsh name for brambling. It’s a name that is somewhat odd in that you don’t often see brambling around the mountains of Wales but per-haps referring to the mountain-like forest they sometimes breed in?

There are many, many more fascinating names for birds, but there are plenty of other great names for other wildlife such as the earth pig (badger) and the little red cow (ladybird).

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