AskDefine | Define birdlime

Dictionary Definition

birdlime n : a sticky adhesive that is smeared on small branches to capture small birds [syn: lime] v : spread birdlime on branches to catch birds [syn: lime]

User Contributed Dictionary



From bird + lime.




  1. A sticky substance smeared on branches to catch birds.
  2. (rhyming slang) Time; a jail term.


sticky substance to catch birds
  • French: glu
  • German: Vogelleim
  • Hungarian: madárfogólép, madárenyv
  • Spanish: liga

Extensive Definition

Birdlime is a viscid, adhesive substance used in trapping birds. It is spread on a branch or twig, upon which a bird may land and be caught. Its use is illegal in many countries.
Historically, the substance has been prepared in various ways, and from various materials. A popular form was made from holly bark, boiled for 10 to 12 hours. After the green coating is separated from the other, it is stored in a moist place for two weeks. It is then pounded into a thick paste, until no wood fibres remain, and washed in running water until no small specks appear. After fermenting for four or five days, during which it is frequently skimmed, the substance is mixed over a fire with a third part of nut oil. This is then ready for use.
Other versions with varying success were known to be used. Birdlime from Damascus was supposed to be made of sebestens, their kernels being frequently found in it; this version was not able to endure frost or wet. That brought from Spain was said to have a bad odor. That of the Italians was made of mistletoe berries, heated, mixed with oil, as before; to make it water resistant, they added turpentine. It was said that the bark of the wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana), made birdlime as good as the best.
Nathaniel Atcheson in his 1811 work On the Origin and Progress of the North-West Company of Canada with a history of the fur trade... mentions birdlime (p 14) as an important import commodity for use in the Canadian west in the late 18th century.

Other meanings

  • "Bird lime" is also providentially sticky, hence it may be used to refer to a "sticky-fingered person" or some such.
birdlime in Japanese: 鳥黐
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