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8 Birds With Three Letters 

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 02-21-2024

Learn about birds that start with all 26 letters of the alphabet!

There are thousands of birds that live around the world. Each have a unique name that tells them apart from other birds. This list takes a look at 8 types of birds with three letter names. The etymology behind birds names depends on many factors. Their name might come from the sound they make, their appearance, or who first identified them scientifically. Come along with us on our journey through the world’s birds and learn about birds with names three letters long. 

8 Birds with three letters 

1. Jay 

blue jay at bath
Blue Jay

Family: Corvidae 

Jays are a group of birds that are known for their striking appearance and loud, raucous calls. They are found in many parts of the world, including North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Jays are typically medium-sized birds with colorful feathers, including shades of blue, green, and gray. They have a distinctive crest of feathers on their head, and a strong, sharp bill that they use to crack open nuts and seeds.

Jays are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods, including insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds. They are known for their habit of caching food, or hiding it in various locations for later consumption. Jays are also important seed dispersers, helping to spread the seeds of many plant species throughout their habitats.

Jays are also known for being quite vocal birds. The most common call of jays is a loud, harsh “jay” call, which is often used as a contact call to communicate with other members of their group. Jays also make a variety of other calls, including a soft, whistling “whisper song” that is used during courtship displays, a “squeaky gate” call when alarmed, and they can mimic other birds and animals.

2. Owl

Northern spotted owl
Northern Spotted Owl | image by
Kyle Sullivan, Bureau of Land Management via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Order: Strigiformes

Owls are silent birds of prey that live around the world. They hunt primarily at night by using their massive eyes and keen hearing to find prey animals such as rodents, small mammals and birds. 

Each flap of its wings makes next to no sound. The feathers are specially designed to make their approach as stealthy as possible. Some eat insects while others eat small mammals. Most live in trees, but burrowing owls prefer underground accommodations. Because they spend most of the day hiding in snags or hollowed-out trees, it’s hard to spot them.

Owls can vary widely in size. The largest owl species in the world is the Blakiston’s fish owl, which is found in parts of Russia, China, and Japan. Adult Blakiston’s fish owls can reach a height of up to 2.3 feet and a weight of up to 10 pounds. The smallest owl species in the world is the elf owl, which is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Adult elf owls are only about 5 inches tall and weigh less than 2 ounces.

You’re more likely to hear the call of an owl at dusk or late at night. Most people welcome owls because they take care of prey animals that destroy crops and infest houses. 

3. Auk

Parakeet auklet
Parakeet auklet | image by Lisa Hupp/USFWS via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Family: Alcidae 

Auks are a group of seabirds that are found in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with short wings and a streamlined body shape that makes them well-adapted for swimming and diving. Auks are typically black and white in color, with a stout bill that they use to catch fish and other small prey.

This bird is very gregarious and social. Even though they spend most of their lives on the open sea, auks migrate inland during the breeding season. They form massive breeding colonies on cliffs. Pairs mate for life and usually reuse the same nest area every year. 

Auks are excellent swimmers and divers, and are known for their ability to swim underwater for extended periods of time. They typically feed on small fish, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates, which they catch by diving into the water from the surface. Some species of auks are also known to dive to great depths in search of food.

One type of auk, the guillemot, can dive up to 330 feet under water. Birds in the Auk family include puffins, auklets, murres, and gillemots. They all eat small fish or krill. The type depends on the species of auk.

4. Emu

Emu | Image by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay

Scientific name: Dromaius novaehollandiae 

We can’t forget one of the strangest birds in the animal kingdom. The emu is a large flightless bird native to Australia. It’s evolved powerful legs to run and forage on the open prairies and grasslands of the continent’s arid interior landscapes.

They are smaller than the ostrich. Even though they look similar, most females are bigger than males. The average height is about 5 feet tall.   

Emus are monogamous and form breeding pairs for almost half of each year. They have complex rituals where they dance, preen, and vocalize together. This bird spends most of its life with a partner; an emu will mourn if its mate dies or is captured.

Their eggs are dark turquoise blue. Unlike most birds, the female initiates courtship. She stalks the male she’s interested in, fluffing her tail feathers and looking over her shoulder. They are most active during the daytime when they use their eyesight to pick out seeds, grasses, insects, and spiders from the ground.

Grasses and fruits from farms and lawns make it onto the menu as well. Aboriginal and current Australian residents have used them for meat and feathers for hundreds of years. 

5. Kea 

Kea bird standing
Kea bird standing

Scientific name: Nestor notabilis 

The Kea occupies a one-of-a-kind ecological niche in the mountains of New Zealand. You might be surprised to discover that parrots don’t just inhabit warm tropical jungles. They also live in temperate climates.

For example, keas live in the mountains and gullies of New Zealand’s south island. Here, conditions can be cold and inhospitable as well as warm and mild. Most parrots eat fruit and nuts, but the Kea behaves more like a vulture.

Their beak is similar to that of a parrot, but it has a sharp, raptor-like point that makes it easier to rip flesh. It consumes dead animals and rotting meat along with a healthy diet of nuts, plants, insects, and other birds’ chicks. 

Scientists believe they may be one of the smartest species of birds. They can use tools and solve puzzles like crows and magpies. Unfortunately, their curiosity and friendliness sometimes gets them into trouble.

6. Moa 

Moa Heinrich Harder
Artist impression of a pair of Moa | image by Heinrich Harder via Wikimedia Commons

Order: Dinornithiformes 

No matter where you go, you’ll never be able to see a live moa. These birds probably went extinct by the mid 1400s. They lived on New Zealand’s South Island until Polynesians reached the island by canoe. Like the dodo, they were hunted for food with little understanding of population dynamics. 

Scientists discover facts about the moa from fossils and oral histories from the Maori, the descendants of the people who colonized the island 700 years ago. Skeletal remains show that the moa was taller than today’s ostrich but probably walked more like a kiwi with its neck curved instead of upright. 

Fossilized stomachs reveal that the bird mostly ate leafy greens. This is concurrent with a curved neck posture, which made it easier to graze. We’ll never know the true color of their feathers, but Maori histories report it was called “te kura” in Maori, which can be translated to “the red bird.”    

7. Tui

Tui bird on wood
Tui bird on wood

Scientific name: Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae 

Tuis are rare and exotic birds native only to the islands of New Zealand. Most populations live on the North Island, but there are flocks residing on the southern and western coasts of the South Island. Fortunately, these birds have adapted better than most island species to human habitation.

They are commonly seen in suburban neighborhoods, even Wellington, NZ. Tuis are members of the honeyeater family, meaning they eat sweet substances like nectar. Fruit, insects, and pollen are also on the menu.

The tui performs a vital ecological function by transferring pollen from plant to plant. This ensures the plants can reproduce and form seeds. Most tuis are a combination of turquoise, black, and white.

They have a white throat sac that bulges out like an Adam’s apple. Many a tourist has been startled by the tui’s ability to mimic human noises like car alarms. Their natural calls are more like sound effects than chirping; the birds can laugh, wheeze, whine, snap, and make noises like falling trees. 

8. Tit 

Eurasian blue tit perched
Eurasian blue tit | image by Luiz Lapa via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Family: Paridae 

Tits are one type of songbird in a bird family that includes small, forest-adapted birds that eat either insects or seeds. They live either in sub-Saharan Africa, Eurasia, or North America. The name descends from the Old English word for “something small.”

While tits vary in coloration, they are all gregarious and reliable songsters. Their calls are easily recognized, from the “chick-a-dee” of the chickadee to the “peter-peter-peter” of the tufted titmouse. They rely heavily on sight to find insects and seeds, so they’re most active during the day. 

Attract tits to your backyard by installing a bird feeder or a nest box. These songbirds have met with great success in adapting to suburban and rural areas.

Since they normally nest in holes in tree trunks, a nest box isn’t too much of a change for them. While mating rituals differ among species, most males incorporate bouncing into a dance they use to attract the female.