Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Bird Name
Origins of Name:
The Bird surname was a descriptive name for someone who resembled a bird, either from how they dressed, their activity, their occupation (bird catcher) or their singing voice. The surname derives from the Old English word ‘bridde’ which means bird. The Middle English word bird, brid means nestling or young bird. The surname is most common in central and southern England, although it was first found in Northumbria. Hugo le Bird is guessed to have arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066 during the Norman Invasion.
More common variations are:
Baird, Biard, Birde, Birdy, Buird, Beird, Bierd, Byird, Birdi, Birda, Birds
Although first found in Northumbria, early instances of the Bird surname also came from Cheshire and Staffordshire. The name eventually spread to Lancashire, the Midlands, London, and East Anglia.
The first known recorded instance of the surname Bird is of Earnald Brid in 1193 in the Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire. Ralph le Brid was recorded as a witness in the Fines Court of Essex in 1231, and in 1260 Richard Bird was recorded as a witness in the Assize Court of Cambridgehsire.
John Bride, was the first known instance of a variant of the surname and was recorded in 1332in the Subsidy Rolls of Cumberland. A more similar spelling to the Old English “bridde” was recorded in 1379. Johannes Bridde was recorded in the 1379 Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire.
The 15th century saw the first appearance of the variation Byrd. William Byrd from London was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite composer. The family Byrd owned large amounts of land at Badsey of the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire in the late 18th century.
Henry Bird, an early New World settler, would sail on the ship Amity back to London from Barbados in 1679.
Alfred Bird started a now infamous custard powder in Birmingham in 1840.
The surname Bird is the 240th most common name in Great Britain. The highest concentrations are in Hartlepool, Wiltshire, Carmarthenshire, Bristol Avon, and Bedfordshire.
The bird surname can be traced to the Ulster Province by immigrants from England and Scotland, mainly during the 17th century. In Ireland, Byrd and Bird can be variants of the surnames Heaney, Heneghan, and MacEneany.
One of the first families of Virginia was the Byrd family. William Byrd would arrive in Virginia from London in the 1670’s and was given land on the James river. The city Richmond would later be founded by his son William II. Descendants of these original settlers were Richard Evelyn Byrd, aviator and explorer, Harry F. Byrd, Virginia Governor and US Senator, and Harry F. Byrd Jr., US Senator.
40,000 in the United States (mainly in North Carolina)
27,000 in England (mainly in Wiltshire)
10,000 in Australia
9,000 in Bangladesh
Albert Bird (1867), British cricketer
Alfred Bird (1811), British food manufacturer and chemist
Alfred Frederick Bird (1849), British, chemist, food manufacturer, and politician
Bill Bird (1888), American journalist
Bud Bird (1932), Canadian politician
Edward Bird (1772), English painter
George Bird (1850), American baseball outfielder
Edward Bird (1830), English chess player
Isabella Bird (1831), English writer and historian
John Bird (1709), British astronomer and instrument designer
John Bird (died 1558), British Bishop of Chester
John Bird (1768), American politician
Robert Bird (1839), Welsh politician
Sir Robert Bird (1876), British politician
Montgomery Bird (1806), American playwright, novelist, photographer, and physician
Walter James Bird (1863), organ builder based in Birmingham, England
Will R. Bird (1891), Canadian writer
Bird Coat of Arms Meaning
The two main devices (symbols) in the Bird blazon are the cross flory martlet and martlet. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, azure and argent .
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries . Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone..
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli . Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” .
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) . In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper .
No other symbol appearing in heraldry is subject to as much variation as the cross . Mediaeval Europe was a deeply religious and Christian and many of the nobility wanted to show their devotion by adopting the symbol of the cross as part of the arms. Since no two arms could be identical there arose many variants of the cross, typically involving patterning along the edges , or fanciful, decorative endings to the arms of the cross . The cross flory is typical of these, having each arm end in something very similar to the fleur-de-lys.
The martlett is by far the most common bird to appear in British Heraldry, perhaps only equalled by the eagle, however it is not a species ever to be found in an ornithologists handbook! The word itself is though to have come from the French word merlette, the female blackbird and itself a similar type of charge used in French Heraldry. . Over time the image has become quite stylised, without visible legs or distinctive feathers. Wade suggests that this representation arises from “the appearance of the bird of paradise to ancient travellers” . Other bird species may be named in coats of arms (cornish chough is a frequent example) but in actual execution their appearance is often indistinguishable from the martlet.