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25 Bird Idioms Explained to ESL Students

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Kerlyn is a Filipina writer who has studied English. She wants to share her insights with new learners.

What does "as proud as a peacock" mean? Read on to find out, along with 24 other English bird idioms.

What does "as proud as a peacock" mean? Read on to find out, along with 24 other English bird idioms.

Idioms or idiomatic expressions are word combinations that have meanings that are so different from the separate meanings of their individual words.

They have idiomatic meanings, which are figurative or symbolic.

Many users of English as a Second Language or ESL find idioms very difficult to understand because of their idiomatic meanings.

Below are just some examples of idioms related to birds.

Again, because these examples are idioms, they cannot be taken literally.

1. Swan Song

A piece of work or presentation by an artist can be called his or her swan song if it is the last he or she made before death or retirement.


Her swan song is her award-winning movie portrayal of a legendary queen. After the movie was shown, she retired as an actress.

2. Night Owl

Somebody who often stays up late or is active at night can be called a night owl.


She is a night owl. She gets more things done late at night.

3. Wild Goose Chase

A pursuit or search that is useless is sometimes called a wild goose chase.


The search for the robber in this state is a wild goose chase. He must have gone out of the country.

4. What's Good/Sauce for the Goose Is Good/Sauce for the Gander

What's good for the goose is good for the gander or What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander is an idiomatic expression that means that what is good for one is also good for the other one.


What's good for the goose is good for the gander so whatever will be helpful for one member of the family should also be helpful for other members.

5. Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg

To kill the goose that lays the golden egg is to damage something very helpful or makes a lot of money.


She kills the goose that lays the golden egg each time she stops working on her projects. Those projects are expected to earn lots of passive income for her.

6. Goose Bumps

A person gets goose bumps whenever he or she feels something bumpy on his or her skin. This kind of feeling is often felt when a person is terrified or thrilled.


The opening ceremony of the Olympics was incredible! It was so thrilling I got goose bumps!

7. Ugly Duckling

A person is said to be an ugly duckling if he or she was ugly as a kid but eventually grew up to be beautiful or handsome.


The beauty queen is an ugly duckling. She said that she was teased as a kid for her big lips.

8. Like Water Off A Duck`s Back

Something is like water off a duck’s back if it goes away quickly without any serious effects on anything.


Her harsh comments are like water off a duck’s back. I did not pay attention to them and just moved forward.

9. Lovely Weather for Ducks

A lovely weather for ducks is a rainy weather.


Lovely weather for ducks! Need to bring my umbrella and wear my raincoat!

10. Duck Soup AND As Easy As Duck Soup

Something is a duck soup or as easy as duck soup if it is effortless and unproblematic.


Cooking scrambled eggs is as easy as duck soup. I don’t need to be a chef to make it!

11. Count One`s Chickens Before They`re Hatched

Count one’s chickens before they’re hatched is an idiom that means thinking of using something before actually getting that thing.


Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Remember, you should save cash because you may not get enough money in the future.

12. Chicken Out Of (Doing Something)

To chicken out of (doing something) means to back out of something because of fright.


He chickened out of bungee jumping. He’s actually afraid of heights!

13. Chicken And Egg Situation

A chicken and egg situation is an idiom used to refer to a situation in which there are two events and it is tough to tell which one of the two came first and which one came second.


Doctors don’t know whether sedentary lifestyles lead to bad health conditions or bad health conditions force people to lead sedentary lifestyles. It is a chicken and egg situation.

14. Under The Wings of (Someone)

We are under the wings of (someone) if that someone looks after us.


The daughter is under the wings of her smart and loving mother.

15. Spread One's Wings

To spread one’s wings is to try to work on things independently, allowing oneself to fail, learn, and thrive.


I‘ve spread my wings. I’ve worked on my craft and have learned a lot along the way.

Birds-Eye View

Birds-Eye View

16. Pecking Order

A pecking order is an accepted way of arranging things according to importance.


This is life’s pecking order. People need to first satisfy their needs for foods before they can satisfy their needs for prestige.

17. Lame Duck

A lame duck is an idiom used to describe an official who is almost powerless because he or she is about to be replaced by another official.


He thought that he was already a lame duck so he took a vacation during his last few days as the governor of the state.

18. Kill Two Birds with One Stone

To kill two birds with one stone is to accomplish two things with one action.


She was able to kill two birds with one stone during her trip to Paris. She had a business meeting with her client then went sightseeing!

19. Fly the Coop

Fly the coop is an idiom that means to escape or to leave.


We badly wanted to fly the coop. We could hardly wait for the conference to end because it was so boring!

20. The Early Bird Catches the Worm

The early bird catches the worm is an idiomatic expression that means a person who wakes up early in the morning can do many things during the day and therefore has high chances of achieving something in life.


The early bird catches the worm so I start my day early and make sure I complete my tasks before retiring to bed.

21. Eagle Eye

An eagle eye refers to the ability to closely observe something.


The quality assurance manager checked the products with an eagle eye, making sure each unit is free of flaws.

22. Birds-Eye View

A birds-eye view is a view from somewhere high.


The rescuers got a birds-eye view of the disaster-hit area when they surveyed the place from a helicopter.

23. Birds and the Bees

Birds and the bees is an idiom that means “facts of life.” Usually, this idiom is used when referring to sex or procreation.


We had to learn about the birds and the bees early. It was taught in our grade school science class.

24. As Proud as a Peacock

A person is as proud as a peacock if he or she is self-important or arrogant.


He is proud as a peacock of his job. He works for a very big bank and earns a lot of money.

25. As Free as a Bird

Somebody is as free as a bird if he or she is carefree.


After finally facing her fears, she is now as free as a bird.

Bird Idioms

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


denise on April 12, 2019:

No ruffled feathers here, very useful info thanks

annamack on November 04, 2018:

what does birds twittered; hens were clucking and chicken cheeping'


Henry on September 21, 2018:

A very old English idiom: "One Swallow does not a summer make" meaning: just because something fortuitous happens once doesn't indicate it will happen repeatedly.

goga sher on January 29, 2018: