Birdo, one of the Super Mario Bros. 2 mini-bosses, comes up online every once in a while. Drew Mackie, for instance, has addressed the character a few times. The fascination with the monster is largely due to his/her being transsexual. Well, maybe. The instruction manual describes the creature with, “He thinks is a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called ‘birdetta.'”
This seems to be a pretty close translation of the Japanese manual from Doki Doki Panic, although there the name is Catherine (Kyasarin), who’d rather be called Cathy. I suspect that’s not a common name in Japan, although in parts of the world where it is used, it’s traditionally a female name, so does his preferring to be called by a nickname even relate to gender? With the Western name, an O is typically a masculine ending in Romance languages, while “etta” would be feminine. That doesn’t explain why “birdetta” wasn’t capitalized, though. Also, have you ever known anyone, male or female, who spat eggs from their mouth?
I assume the feminine part is in the generation of eggs, but do they even function like regular eggs? We do see a Birdo egg hatch in Super Mario RPG, but we don’t see whether this egg comes from another Birdo’s mouth. And if they are genuine eggs…well, I believe gender is fluid, but I think you need a second X chromosome to produce ova. Of course, not all Birdos encountered in the game DO spit eggs; some only spit fire. Perhaps these are the males of the species? I doubt it’s that simple, though. How many Birdos are there, anyway? The manual suggests there’s only one, but it uses the singular for most of the enemies, including ones where you can clearly see multiple individuals on the same screen. As with Toads and Yoshis, the name of the species also appears to be that of one particular recurring Birdo. The Satellaview BS Super Mario USA treats the three different-colored Birdos as separate characters, which means there are at least three.
There’s a newly hatched Birdo in SMRPG, and it is immediately able to spit explosive eggs.
Some of the sports games show several Birdos than that at the same time.
So is EVERY Birdo a male that thinks he’s female?
Certainly, the gender confusion surrounding Birdo has become integral to the character in later appearances. The Satellaview game gave all of the Birdos the voices of men with feminine traits. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Popple hesitate before calling Birdo a dame. And there’s a Japan-only game called Captain Rainbow with appearances by several characters from various Nintendo properties. Here, Birdo is arrested for using a women’s bathroom (pretty topical these days), and your character has to find proof that she’s really female, which is provided in the form of a censored item that’s presumably supposed to be a vibrator.
I’m not entirely sure how that’s conclusive proof of anything, but it’s good enough for the police robot. Hey, we all have to learn about the Birdos and the Beezos someday. If Birdo generates eggs from her mouth, I don’t think I want to know what part she stimulates with the vibrator. But really, we know so little about Birdo anatomy that I’m not sure there’s any real reason to assume our ideas of sex and gender even apply to them.
Maybe they’re hermaphroditic, and others who encounter them just assume that they must be either male or female. This page suggests that the snout might actually be a cloaca, with the fire that some Birdos spit being a digestive waste product. It’s also unclear why the translators thought a name containing “bird” was appropriate for these creatures. I guess it’s because of the eggs, although birds aren’t the only animals that lay eggs. The writers of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show took the bird thing to heart, however. In the very first episode’s cartoon segment, “The Bird! The Bird!”, we see a Birdo who flies, lives in a nest, and eats worms.
I’ve seen it suggested that Birdos are dinosaurs, which are related to birds. The scales on their backs do seem reptilian. But then, this is the same franchise that has fire-breathing animals with spiked turtle-like shells, ox horns, and hair on their heads. And Yoshis who are identified as male can lay eggs, although they never seem to produce offspring. We do see plenty of Yoshis hatch from eggs, but not necessarily the same eggs we see others lay. I guess it’s no wonder that Yoshi and Birdo are sometimes shown as a couple.
While we eventually meet friendly versions of most of the enemy species, especially in the Paper Mario series, Birdo shows up as an ally of Toad as early as 1994, in Wario’s Woods.
The young Birdo in SMRPG deems Mario and his allies too cute to kill. In Superstar Saga, she helps out Peach by serving as a decoy, but you later have to fight her when she joins up with the thief Popple because she has a crush on him.
I think this is the first time Birdo is able to use her snout for suction and create egg shields. She’s come to be characterized as glamorous and flirtatious, and aspires to stardom.
I don’t know whether that’s true of every Birdo, though.