Like the dastardly and/or lovable Klingons themselves, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey has been both foe and friend to various stalwart, spacefaring crews across the Star Trek Universe. Debuting back in 1985's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Bird-of-Prey has appeared in four motion pictures and a whopping 49 episodes of television, showing up as recently as 2021's second season of Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Famously beginning life as a Romulan starship, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey has become synonymous with the warrior race itself, dictating the look of their iconography for decades and becoming one of the franchise's longest lived and most merchandised ships.
Easily Star Trek's most prominent and scrutinized alien vessel, we actually know a great deal about the Klingon Bird-of-Prey; we've visited its bridge (multiple variations, in fact), its living quarters, and even taken a swim in its cargo bays. Still, with all this detail and all those appearances, there are a few secrets left to uncover under its rusted green hull.
Grab your baldric and down a flagon or two of bloodwine, let's explore the Klingon Bird-of-Prey. And yes, before you ask, of course we'll be covering the K'vort, B'rel, and D12 classes, who exactly do you think we are?
Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!
10. Romulan Retcon
As noted in the intro, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey was initially intended to be a Motion Picture-era redesign of the Romulan Bird-of-Prey from Star Trek: The Original Series.
Early drafts of what would become Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, in fact, featured the Romulans as the film's villains and fittingly contained references to their ship as a Bird-of-Prey. However, as the script developed, the Romulans were swapped out for Klingons and the once proprietary Bird-of-Prey became a stolen one.
Ultimately, as seen in the finished film, the Bird-of-Prey in The Search for Spock was simply a Klingon Bird-of-Prey, with any mention of its origin or its theft from the Romulans left completely omitted.
There was, however, an in-universe explanation. According to writer producer Harve Bennett:
I didn't change their ship, because I remembered a piece of trivia that stated there was a mutual assistance military pact between the Klingons and the Romulans for an exchange of a military equipment.
Bennett's explanation became de facto canon for decades, with many fans believing the Bird-of-Prey was simply the product of the Klingon-Romulan alliance, similar to the use of Klingon ships by the Romulans in TOS' "The Enterprise Incident".
Unfortunately, this pretty solid bit of "fanon" was eventually negated when Star Trek: Enterprise established the existence of Klingon Birds-of-Prey operating in the 22nd century, long before the much vaunted alliance. It was a cool idea while it lasted, though.