Birdo (Catherine in Japanese, and rarely self-referred to as Birdetta or Cathie respectively,) is a boss enemy from the Mario series. She first appeared in the non-Mario title Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, only to be inducted into the series upon its release overseas as Super Mario Bros. 2. Since then, she has become a recurring character in the Mario franchise, featuring especially often in spin-off titles such as the Mario Party and Mario Tennis series.
Like Yoshi, who is often portrayed as her counterpart, Birdo is the definitive character of a wider species of enemies known as birdos. While birdos exist in all colors of the rainbow, the color pink is saved specifically for Birdo. Birdos, and by extension Birdo, have an association with eggs, due to their attacks in SMB2 revolving around shooting eggs (and also fireballs) at the player.
Due to her description in the manual of SMB2, as well as subsequent jokes and inconsistencies, Birdo's gender is sometimes a source of confusion and debate.
In both Doki Doki Panic's manual and Super Mario Bros. 2's manual, Birdo is referred to as a man who believes herself as/wishes to be a woman. Doki Doki Panic refers to her as Catherine, while SMB2 refers to her as Birdo (despite her name mistakenly being swapped with Ostro in most versions,) with some versions of the manual stating that she prefers to be called Birdetta (Cathie in the Japanese manual.)
While nowadays these descriptions would generally be seen as dated whether interpreted as cross dressing or transgenderism, these manuals are often referenced to label Birdo as one of gaming's earliest transgender characters, if not the very first.
While Birdo's design has remained effeminate since her origin, Nintendo's portrayal of her gender has varied significantly between games:
- In most games, Birdo is voiced by a male voice actor, currently in the form of grunt acting provided by Kazumi Totaka.
- Some games refer to her openly as a man, such as Mario Kart: Double Dash!!'s Japanese website, which stated that she looks like Yoshi's girlfriend, but is actually his boyfriend.
- Some games refer to/treat her as a woman, such as her being unfazed by Peach's Heart Swing in Mario Super Sluggers, and being featured on the "Women of Racing" banner in Mario Kart 8's Royal Raceway.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl goes a step further, referring to her as an "it" of "indeterminate gender", while also referencing the name Birdetta. The other games in the Super Smash Bros. series avoid referencing her gender at all.
- Characters sometimes stop and ponder before referring to her gender, such as in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
- In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Birdo sings a brief song which opens with the line "Heart of a woman, heart of a man..."
Birdo's gender is at its most relevant in the Nintendo-published Japanese exclusive, Captain Rainbow. In it, Birdo (Catherine in-game) is portrayed in an over-the-top masculine manner, being temperamental and frequently cursing out those around her. She requests the player help free her from jail, where she has been placed by local police robot Mappo. In a scene notably reminiscent of real-life transphobia, Mappo arrests Birdo after he catches her using the women's restroom, believing her to be a man. Although Birdo insists that she's a woman, Mappo states that she has "XY chromosomes", and refuses to believe her until the player brings him an undisclosed vibrating object from her house, as "proof" of her femininity. Elsewhere in the game, Little Mac states that her gender "depends on one's point of view."