Birds in Manx Culture Eeanlee Vannin

Manx bird names can tell you a lot about birds, often describing some aspect of their habitat or some characteristics that we associate with them.

The following list is far from exhaustive, but offers a flavour of what can be gleaned from a knowledge of the Manx names for birds:

Brambling Corkan drine (Thorn finch)
Whimbrel Crottag houree (Curved-billed bird of the summer)
Chiffchaff Beealerey (Blabberer)
Meadow Pipit Billy the ‘tweet’
Dunnock Boght keeir (Dark grey poor bird)
Oystercatcher Bridjeen (Little Bridget)
Glaucous Gull Caillagh (Hag)
Barn Owl Caillagh oie (Night hag)
Stonechat Bwoid chonnee (Gorse point)
Grey Heron Coar ny hastan (Crane of the eel)
Lesser Black-backed Gull Foillan saggyrt (Priest gull)
Swallow Gollan geayee (Wind fork)
Blue Tit Jinnee ghorrym (Blue Jenny)
Great Black-backed Gull Juan mooar (Big John)
Goldfinch Lossey ny Keylley (Flame of the forest)
Peregrine Shirragh yn Ree (Sharp hook of the king)
Woodpecker Snoggeyder (Nodder)
Grey Heron
Grey Heron Coar ny hastan


For more information check out Eeanlee Vannin (Birds of Mann) by Paul Rogers and published by Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh.

Birds in Manx folklore

Sophia Morrison

The folklore of the Isle of Man is rich in references to birds.

A good starting point is Sophia Morrison’s Manx Fairly Tales (left), which is available in bookshops throughout the Island, and which has a series of short stories about Manx birds and wildlife.

Wren yn Drean

In Manx folklore, the Wren (yn Drean) plays an important role. Morrison’s book, for example, has the story of ‘How the Wren became King of the birds’.

And today, 'Hunt' the Wren (Shelg yn Drean) on St. Stephen’s Day continues to be popular around the Island. Check out the story of the Wren Pole and the tradition.

One of the best-known lullabies in Manx is Ushag veg ruy (Little red bird) and there is a lovely animation of the song available online.

Female Blackbird
Female Blackbird Lhondoo

Lhondoo (Blackbird), collected from Tom Taggyrt in Grenaby in the 1920s, is available for listening online.

Another traditional tune is Arrane ny Chlean - Hush thee my Dove, also available for listening online.

A couple of the most obvious references in poetry are Mona Douglas’ poem on the Robin, and Cushag’s poem on the Wren.


The Ravens
Raven (Neil G Morris)
Raven (Neil G Morris)

Two Ravens met once, and one asked the other in Bird language:

‘Is there nothing new at you?’

‘The white Horse is dead,’ said he.

‘Is he fat? Is he fat?’ said the other.

‘Delicious, delicious,’ said he.

Then he repented that he had told him that, and called out:

‘Bare bones, bare bones!’

From Sophia Morrison's Manx Fairy Tales.

With thanks to for helping to create this page.