Russian Language Blog

Can You Name 10 Birds in Russian? Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in language

One of the areas where have struggled to build up my second-language vocabulary has been wildlife. Perhaps because there are so many different plants and animals and because city dwellers only ever encounter a fraction of them, words for flora and fauna tend to fall by the wayside. Let us correct that deficiency by looking at ten popular birds in Russian.


Image from Unsplash

1. Воробей

Sparrows (воробей, pl. воробьи) are probably the most common birds in Russian cities. There are actually a few witty sayings featuring this bird:

  • Слово не воробей, вылетит — не поймаешь: literally, “a word is not a sparrow; you cannot catch it once it’s out.” This refers to not being able to take words back once you have said something or committed to something.
  • Достань воробушка: “Can you grab a little sparrow for me?” said to tease a tall person

2. Голубь

Голубь can refer to either a dove or a pigeon. Historically, messages have been delivered by pigeon post (голубиная почта). You may see people feeding pigeons (кормить голубей), although some cities ban this practice.

3. Ворона

Ворона is a crow (not to be confused with ворон, a raven). A misfit, the odd one out may be called белая ворона (a white crow).

white wagtail

Image by Koshy Koshy on

4. Трясогузка

This probably isn’t the first bird that comes to mind, but because the wagtail (трясогузка) is ubiquitous in Russia, I decided to include it in this list. These birds have a distinct gait where they shake their white tail up and down with each step.

5. Утка

Утка is a duck. A duckling is утёнок; “The Ugly Duckling” is “Гадкий утёнок.” Утка is also a colloquial word for a false rumor. A decoy (either a literal fake duck used in hunting or a body double/bait) is called подсадная утка (sitting duck).

6. Лебедь

Лебедь (masculine) is a swan. The famous ballet Swan Lake is called “Лебединое озеро” in Russian. Someone’s лебединая песня (swan song) is their final act before retirement.


Image from Pexels

7. Гусь

Гусь is a goose. Folk tales may talk about гуси-лебеди (a cross between a goose and a swan?). When someone always gets away with things and never gets in trouble, you can say “как с гуся вода” (“like water off a goose,” compare to the English “Teflon”).

8. Курица

Курица is a chicken (either the bird or the meat). The plural is куры.  If you want to talk specifically about a rooster, use петух. A chick is цыплёнок.

9. Орёл

Орёл (plural орлы) is the word for an eagle. The coat of arms of Imperial Russia and of present-day Russia (and multiple other countries) features a two-headed eagle — двуглавый орёл. Heads or tails in a coin toss are called орёл или решка, орёл being the side with — you guessed it — the eagle. Орёл is also a city in Central Russia.


Image from Pexels

10. Сова

Lastly for this installment, сова (plural совы) is a an owl. A person who likes to sleep in and goes to bed late is called сова (a night owl). A person who gets up early is called жаворонок (skylark).

How many of these did you know? Can you name ten other birds?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Richard:

    Regarding number 7, “Как с гуся вода!”, in English you can say “Like water off a duck’s back!”. Same idea, different bird.

    • samonen:

      @Richard There are both “the back” (of the bird) of the English saying and the particular bird of the Russian one in the corresponding Finnish saying, so I suppose this is pretty much our common European inventory. Maybe even global or universal by universally perceived analogy – it would be great to know.

      • Maria:

        @samonen Great additions! I suppose it’s a pretty vivid metaphor. Interestingly, I recently learned owls don’t have waterproof feathers, so they can’t enjoy the same level of dryness. 🙂

  2. samonen:

    I knew all of these but I could not and never can quite remember тряс…огузка. I can recognize the word in text and speech, though, which is well enough. I guess I’ve learned these through literature and movies. One of my very favorite Russian movies is Летят журавли (The Cranes are Flying).

    Other birds I know are журавль, сокол, соловей, синица, ласточка, зяблик, сорока, глухарь. Oh, and павлин.

    • Maria:

      @samonen Nice list! I’ll be talking about some of these in my next post.

  3. samonen:

    Oh, and of course кукушка! (Also a movie title.)

  4. Andrew Frenkiel:

    Another bird I can add is grif (a vulture) .[sorry I have no cyrillic facility on my computer.] Also soyka (a jay).

    • Maria:

      @Andrew Frenkiel Good ones. I actually had to look up a jay (сойка) — even though I knew the word, I wasn’t sure what the bird looked like.

  5. Elizabeth Roberts:

    Can anyone please help me with the English word for горлинки