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Not counting shuttles, transport vessels or bases, Klingon and Romulan ships have a very similar basis in their shapes. They also share the same colors. Is there any canon reason as to why so many Klingon and Romulan war vessels share bird names or similar shapes?

These war vessels all share the name "bird" or are shaped like birds, meaning that they have a bridge (birdhead) at the front and their wings at the back.

Klingon Bird-of-Prey, from the ENT series
Klingon K'T'Inga-Class, from the TOS series
Klingon Bird-of-Prey,
Klingon IKS Negh'Var,
Klingon Vor'Cha, all from the TNG, DS9 series.

Romulan Bird-of-Prey, from the TOS series
Romulan warbird valdore, TNG movie era
Romulan Warbird, TNG series.

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    For the record, a canon is a body of works by a single author or artist. A cannon is a big metal thing that goes kaboom! and kills people. – Valorum Jun 25 at 18:43
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    @Valorum Canon kills (fictional) people all the time and sometimes goes "kaboom!" when the writers decide to do a continuity reset. – Thunderforge Jun 25 at 18:47
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    In-universe, is "Bird of Prey" the name they game their own ships, or a designation the Federation gave to them? – Acccumulation Jun 26 at 17:00
  • @Valorum To be pedantic, no, not always by a single author or artist. – Rand al'Thor Jun 26 at 20:52
  • @Randal'Thor - That's certainly one definition. I prefer to stick with the OED one; "The works of a particular author or artist that are recognized as genuine." – Valorum Jun 26 at 21:01
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Because they traded technology

From the Memory-Alpha write-up for TOS: The Enterprise Incident

Kirk then inexplicably orders helmsman Sulu to take the Enterprise across the Romulan Neutral Zone and into Romulan space, where it is quickly surrounded by the Romulans – who are now using Klingon-style vessels.

An effective cloaking device, meanwhile, was passed from the Romulans to the Klingons at about the same time. The last mentioned episode took place in 2268, while a working Klingon cloaking device was present in the episode TAS:The Time Trap (that is the animated series), which took place in 2269.

A writer for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock explicitly stated that he used the previously Romulan Bird-of-Prey designation for the a Klingon ship on purpose. According to writer 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." (Starlog #103, February 1986, p. 17)

This short-lived Romulan-Klingon alliance was never explicitly stated in the original series, but was evidently supposed to feature more prominently in the never-made Season 4; this is where the writers picked up the ideas that eventually lead to Klingon cloaking devices in the animated series and the movies.

In any case, the swapping of ship designs and cloaking technology lead to some convergence in ship design, particularly around the bird motif.

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    I've always wished there were a more satisfying explanation than this. Cloaking devices seem like a major strategic advantage that the Romulans especially would guard as fiercely as they could. Meanwhile we're never told there's anything particularly special about the Bird of Prey that it would be worth trading cloaking devices for. – Muzer Jun 26 at 9:01
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    Season 3 wasn't all bad, it was a very mixed bag. :-) The obvious horrors are there (Spock's Brain, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, Turnabout Intruder, ...), but there are some decent ones as well. Everyone's list of "decent" will be different, but mine would probably include Day of the Dove, For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, The Empath, Requiem for Methuselah, and All Our Yesterdays. – T.J. Crowder Jun 26 at 9:05
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    @Muzer: "cloaking devices seem like a major strategic advantage that the Romulans especially would guard as fiercely as they could" - perhaps they suspected/knew that the Klingons were close to having the technology anyway, by their own design or through trade/capture/conquest with/of another group or a combination of those paths? This could alter the trade value dynamics considerably. – David Spillett Jun 26 at 10:19
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    @Muzer - You have to realize this was a Cold War show. This was an era where there were basically two geopolitical sides, which shared tech and military hardware extensively within their sides. Think of them as rough equivalents to the 1960's Soviets and Cubans, and it makes more sense. – T.E.D. Jun 26 at 15:02
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    The (non-canon, or possibly distinct canon) Star Fleet Battles game had the Klingons and Romulans only sharing a short section of border, with the Tholians taking up most of the space between them. The two wouldn't see each other as competitors, especially with the Feds empire-blocking them. Of course, the game gave each of them other advantages or special weapons they didn't share -- disruptors, drones, mauler ships... – Rob Crawford Jun 26 at 17:14

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