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"GASP! My theory was true! Spike can fly! FLY DOG! FLY!"
Rob, Siblings, "Dog Daze of Boredom"

This is a creature that flies using an organic propeller instead of wings. Though some bacterial life forms in Real Life really do move this way, it is impossible in more complex organisms, because such a structure requires at least two separate parts and there'd be no way for their nerves, veins, et cetera to make it from one to the other. It does tend to show up in fiction, though, largely due to the Rule of Cool and because everything is better with spinning.

Often a subtrope of Bizarre Alien Locomotion. See also Helicopter Hair, Ear Wings.

Examples of Heli Critter include:

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

Comic Strips

  • Snoopy from Peanuts is sometimes seen using his ears as a propeller.

 Linus: That's the first time in my life I've seen a whirlydog!

Lucy: You mean whirlybird -- not whirlydog!

(Snoopy zooms by; Lucy looks shocked)

Linus: I think if I had meant whirlybird, I would have said whirlybird!

Films -- Animation

Films -- Live-Action

  • The fan lizard from James Cameron' Avatar. The lizard spins with its fan, so it is slightly more plausible than some other examples.


  • The Billywig, a magic insect from Australia, as detailed in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a defictionalized textbook from Harry Potter.
  • Karlsson-on-the-Roof by Swedish author Astrid Lingren, about a male person of indeterminate age with a propeller on his back and a button on his stomach to turn it on.
  • The biological impossibility of wheels is reconstructed in His Dark Materials, where the wheel are giant seed pods from tree that grow around the animals in question.
  • One of Keith Laumer's Retief novels was all about a planet where basically every living creature had spinning parts as basic anatomy. Flying creatures all had propellers, swimming creatures all had turbines, and land-dwellers all had wheels.
  • Two creatures are seen in Animorphs that use wheels. Actual, biological wheels, that are part of their body. They are owned by Visser Three, and each of them could split into two creatures, one wheeled, one flying. They were like organic 80's action figure accessories. The unlikeliness of such creatures does not pass without mention.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Round the Twist episode "The Whirling Derfish", Bronson swallows a rare whirling derfish and discovers he now has the ability to swim incredibly fast by using his penis as a propellor.

Video Games

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 features a green parrot-like enemy that flies using four spinning blades around its neck. A plant enemy has a similar feature at its underside.
  • Tails the fox from Sonic the Hedgehog uses his two tails to fly and hover like a helicopter.
    • While she usually flies by flapping them, in Sonic Chronicles, Cream the rabbit flies with her ears like the page image.
  • Peahats, a species of monstrous plants from The Legend of Zelda.
    • The Wind Waker introduces the marine Seahats.
    • The Deku Scrubs in Majoras Mask use flowers this way. Link himself gains this power when he transforms into one.
  • One of the abilities Rayman gains in the first game and keeps (averting the Bag of Spilling) in the later ones.
  • The Flying Fowl family of enemies in Shiren the Wanderer have these.
  • Pokémon
    • Hoppip and Skiploom with leaves and a flower, respectively.
    • An aquatic Pokémon named Buizel, partly based on Tails. It doesn't fly, however, but uses its tails as a propeller in water. Though it can create a stream of water to "fly" through when using Aqua Jet. This also applies to its evolved form, Floatzel.
    • An unlicensed game for the SNES lets you play as a Chikorita who can fly using the leaf on its head.
  • Donkey Kong
  • Conker the squirrel uses his tail this way in Conkers Bad Fur Day, in the move he dubbed "Helicoptery Tail Thingy".
  • Possibly the trope namers are flying Critters from Cave Story which move that way.
  • Some of the small ones can be seen in the background of Wii version in A Boy and His Blob on Blob's home planet.
  • Earthworm Jim is able to do this with his... upper body, or whatever would be roughly equivalent to that on a cartoon worm. In the sequel, the manual jokes that due to back strain, he can't do this anymore, and instead he uses Snot to glide.
  • Light-blue slimes in Purple have propellers that pop-out when they leap.
  • The snipes (small, spherical bird-like creatures) in Spiral Knights move by twirling their wings around their midsection.
  • Marisa using the Reisen suit in New Super Marisa Land gains limited flight from spinning her bunny ears. It's more of a double jump technique but because it can be used to reverse a fall it's technically flight.
  • The Really Flying Mouse enemy from Mother 3, which is a Cyborg mouse that has had a propeller and a jetpack grafted onto it by the Pigmasks.
  • Rocket Raccoon in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 can use his tail to hover for a short time.
  • The rabbits in the Jazz Jackrabbit games would use their ears as a propeller to float.

Web Comics

Western Animation

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