A lot of my friends have been having babies lately. Being an unmarried lady, I of course have no idea how this could be happening or how to make it stop, but I do feel that I can contribute on one front that often seems to cause trouble and lively debate for new parents: naming.

Obviously, you should name your babies after birds.

It isn’t as simple as I made it sound, though. For example, in the English-speaking world, Robin is a widespread birdy name, just as it is a widespread bird name. Unfortunately, thanks to the jerks at DC Comics, most people are not going to associate this name with the birds so much as with perennial second-fiddlehood and green tights. Likewise, Raven, though a strong and fine name, will need another ten years or so to shake off the teen-goth associations with which I and others of my generation saddled it (sorry about that).

What of going the other direction? I’ve seen baby name lists that propose plenty of seemingly random nouns, but I have to say that unless you want to be the parent of a series of paperback westerns, just slapping a label like Eagle or Teal on your bundle and calling it a day is unlikely to bring you long-term satisfaction.

Thus, the fine art of meeting in the middle – of picking a baby name that is neither too common nor too obscure, and which sounds like a proper baby name when what even is a proper baby name is arbitrary and fraught with cultural baggage. It would probably be easier to give you a list, so here are my top ten bird baby names for the pregnant and perplexed:

10. Skylark – sounds similar enough to Skyler to pass as a real name, but also sounds similar enough to Skyler that your kid will grow up correcting spellings nonstop.

9. Lark – Just plain Lark is in the sweet spot of obscure and old-timey but definitely legit as a name. Get on this before thousands of insufferable hipster moms and their bearded mates ruin it.

8. Magpie – Slightly eccentric, but has all the positive associations of Raven and none of the black lipstick traces. Can easily be shortened to “Mag” or “Meg” for convenience.

7. Avis – The masculine form of Ava, or so I’m told, and anyway who rents cars any more these days? Ridesharing is way more environmentally responsible.

6. Calliope – It’s a hummingbird! It’s a muse! Due to the law of parental irony, your child will grow up to play rugby and serve in Congress.

5. Pitta – Beautiful, just like your baby. Highly desired and sought after, just like your baby. Creeping around on the floor eating bugs, just like your baby.

4. Jay – If your partner is ready to throw your binoculars out the window after you suggested Pitta, this is a good compromise name.

3. Phoebe – Another name that won’t raise too many eyebrows, and you’ll introduce your child to the fact that phonics is a lie early.

2. Wren – Beautiful, concise, easy to spell, and derived from a group of birds that has almost entirely positive cultural connotations. Also, it doesn’t rhyme with, contract to, or even sound sort of like anything rude. Pretty much the perfect name. You can thank me later.

And my absolute favorite bird name:

1. Zenaida – Yes, this is a bit of a cheat, because this was the name of a person before it was the name of a bird. Specifically, for our purposes anyway, it was the name of Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte, Princess of Canino and Musignano, niece of Napoleon Bonaparte, and more importantly for posterity, the wife of the ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte. Yes, yes, this single sentence does in fact sum up everything that’s wrong with the history of Western bird naming vis-a-vis women. So strike back by raising a new Zenaida, an empowered Zenaida who will conquer the birdy world in her own right! Or who is so enlightened that she knows the world doesn’t need conquering, because Zenaida is after all the name of a genus of doves, sleek and unassuming birds who are nevertheless both beautiful and tenacious, spreading all across the North American continent in the form of the adaptable and tough Mourning Dove. Mourning Doves are better role models than princesses, anyway.

And, of course, when it comes to middle names you can do whatever you darn well please.

Written by Carrie
Carrie Laben, after years of writing and birding in New York, moved to Montana to pursue her two great passions more effectively. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana in Missoula. When she is not cranking out essays and speculative fiction stories, or wandering around on mountains failing to see the birds she is looking for, she is likely to be drinking one of the many fine local microbrews or attending a potluck with something from the local farmer’s market in hand. On Mondays from 3 to 3:30 Mountain Time you can find her answering questions about birds on live chat at DaysAtDunrovin.com.