The hermit thrush isn’t remarkable—until it opens its mouth. Yup, this bird got its alias because of its angelic singing. Birders call the song haunting; it begins as a sustained whistle then transitions to soft, echoing tones.
This berry-loving species got such an unpleasant-sounding nickname thanks to its fondness for cankerworms. (You’ll know them as inchworms—those caterpillars that move in a distinct looping motion, “inching” along.) Gorging on tree pests makes waxwings popular with orchard owners. Well, unless their orchards grow cherries. Because cedar waxwings are also especially fond of cherries.
This shorebird’s bobbing tail—it moves up and down even when the bird is standing still—is the inspiration for the strange moniker. When a teeter peep is nervous, it “teeters” even more. (Picture a bird trying to twerk.)
These friendly, chipmunk-like little jays were familiar visitors to lumberjack campsites, where they’d happily steal any morsel they could stuff in their beaks. Allegedly, the birds are particularly fans of baked beans and cheese. And meat: the Canada jay’s other nicknames include—ew—“meat bird” and “grease bird.”
No mystery here: shrikes impale their prey—mice, other birds—on sharp, pointy twigs or pieces of barbed wire and let them dangle until they die. Gah! They’re the serial killers of the bird world.
Thanks to a prehensile lip, the woodcock, a wetland species, can go beak-first into the mucky ground and scoop up prey. The reason the woodcock’s eyes are set so far back in its head is because that position allows the bird to see danger coming even while it’s face-first in the bog.
This one is self-explanatory. (And “Yellowfanny” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)