Bird Terminology

Birds of North America


Enter Bird's Name in Search Box:

Google
www.birds-of-north-america.net

accipitor, accipitors, hawks, birds of prey
ABA
The American Birding Association.
ABC
The American Bird Conservancy.
airfoil
Wing-shaped with curve on top rather than beneath.
accipiter
Refers to a certain group of hawks, including the Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk, along with the Northern Goshawk.
aerie
A nest built on the wall or side of a cliff by a raptor.
aery
See "Aerie".
air sac
Any of a system of cavities in a bird's body, which forms part of the respiratory system.
alar bar
A contrasting line running on the front edge of the mid-wing section to the bird's body.
albinism
Occasional and erratic occurrence of white plumage, seen partial or complete in non-white plumage birds, caused by colouring deficiency in the feathers.
albino
See "Leucistic".
alternate plumage
See breeding plumage.
altricial
Condition describing certain young birds when hatched, that have no feathers, eyes are closed and totally dependant on their parents.
anhedral
Downward curve of a bird's wing in flight. ie. Turkey Vulture.
alula
Feathers attached to the thumb or pollex, located mid-wing area.
amniotic
A modern egg's shell having a waterproof membrane.
AOU
The American Ornithologists' Union.
archaeopteryx
First fossilized bird known to exist.
arboreal
A tree dwelling bird.
aerial insectivores
Bird species who feed on insects while flying.
auriculars
Ear coverts or ear patches.
avian
Pertaining to birds.
axillars
Feathers located at the underside base of a bird's wing.
axillaries
See "Axillars".

accipitor, accipitors, hawks, birds of prey
basic plumage
Plumage attained by the prebasic molt.
bars
Rows of distinctly coloured feathers running across the bird's body.
barbs
Are the rows of strands making up a feather.
basal
Refers to outer edges of a bill or the outer primaries.
beak
Is the upper and lower mandibles of a bird.
beard
Line of feathers hanging from a male turkey's breast.
bib
Coloured region seen below the chin of the bird.
bill
See "Beak".
bird taxonomy
The science of the classification of birds into orders, families, genera, species, etc.
beaching
Lightening of the plumage colours, caused by exposure to sunlight.
breast
Area of a bird located between the chin and the belly.
breeding plumage
.Usually the more colourful plumage seen on an individual adult bird during before and after nesting season, also known as alternate plumage.
brood
Offspring of birds and fowls.
brood parasite
Species of birds who deposit their eggs in the nest of other birds, to be fed and raised by other families.

accipitor, accipitors, hawks, birds of prey
calidridine
.Group of closely related sandpipers, primarily, but not exclusively of the same genus Calidris.
carina
Or keel, is the projection of the breastbone.
caruncle
Small fleshly comb-like, seen on a turkey's forehead.
CBC
Christmas Bird Count.
cere
Is a wax-like swelling about the base of the upper mandible containing the nostrils, found mostly in birds of prey, pigeons and parrots.
chick
Name given to fledglings of certain bird species.
classification
Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.
cline
A species of birds, that is spread out over a large distance, to a point, where birds at one end will not associate with the others.
cloaca
Bird's aperture through which eggs, sperm, excrement all exit.
clutch
Refers to all the eggs in a nest belonging to the female bird.
cob
Name given to male swan.
cock
Name given to certain male bird species.
colonial
Describes birds of the same species who build multi-nests in colonies.
comb
Fleshly skin seen on birds crown, i.e. roosters.
congeners
Distinct bird species that are related to one another by being in the same genus.
conspecific
Birds that are members of the same species.
contour feathers
these feathers cover most of a bird, not including the flight feathers.
cooperative breeding
More than two birds from the same species feeding young birds from one nest.
countersinging
Singing of one bird in direct response to another bird singing among the same bird species.
coverts
Or "tectrices" are the smaller feathers covering the bird's wings.
creche
A gathering of hatchlings in a nesting colony, tended to by different adult birds.
crepuscular
Birds that are active at twilight hours.
crest
Feathers located on the crown of a bird's head that are able to be raised to form a peak.
crissum
See "Undertail coverts".
crop
An area where food is stored in the esophagus to be digested at a later time.
crown
Or cap, is the top area of a bird's head.
cryptic
Term used to describe a bird's plumage that is able to blend into the local surroundings or its habitat.
culmen
This is the top ridge line of a bird's upper bill.
cygnet
Name for a young swan.
cycle
Refers to the number of yearly cycles a bird will have to mature before developing into adult plumage.

ducks, teals, waterfowl
dabbling
A method of certain waterfowl, using their bill along the surface of the water, screening for food.
diagnostic
Particular feathers that determine the species of the birds.
dichromatism
The normal occurrence of two different colourations in the same species due to neither sex or age.
decurved
Describes a bill that is curved downward, i.e. whimbrels and curlews.
dihedral
Wings held in a V-shape profile, while the bird is flying.
distal band
See "Subterminal band".
distraction display
Behavior shown by certain bird species by the parent birds to lure predators away from the nest or young.
diurnal
Birds that feed during daylight hours.
down feathers
are the key feathers which keeps the birds warm.
drake
Name given to some male species of birds.
dump nesting
Laying of eggs in the nest of other birds, generally the same species.

breeding plumage, eclipse plumage
ear Coverts
Area of feathers located behind the bird's eyes, that cover the ears.
eclipse plumage
See "Non-breeding plumage"
endemic
Describing particular birds that are only found in certain states, countries or islands.
eye crescents
Contrasting white crescents seen above and below the eye of a bird.
eye ring
Is a distinct line seen around the bird's eye, that separates the eye from the face feathers.
eye stripe
See "Supercilium".
eyrie
See "Aerie".
extant
Not extinct, still in existence.
exotic birds
Non-native or tropical birds to North America.
extirpated
Killed off or destroyed from a certain region, state or country.

pin feathers, fledging, juvenile
fall molts
also known as winter plumage, fall plumage or basic plumage.
family
Is a classification of one of the larger groups of birds having enough mutual resemblances to be classified together and away from other bird species.
fecal sac
Is a sac enclosing the feces of nestling birds, which allows the parent birds to remove and keeping the nest clean.
field marks
Visible signs on a certain bird, which will allow ease in identification.
flank
Visible sides of the bird seen below the wings.
fledge
The act of a young bird leaving its nest.
fledgling
A young bird old enough to leave the nest, but still depends on its parents
flight feathers
Groups of the larger feathers located on a bird's wing and tail, including the primaries, secondaries, tertials and rectrices.
flock
A group of any kind of birds....
frontal shield
An extension running from the upper beak to the forehead.
foveas
Particularly sensitive spots in the retina.
furcula
Is the collarbone or clavicle, which is fused at their ends to form a V-shape.

goose, geese, male goose
gander
Name given to a male goose.
gaggle
Flock of geese or a sound given by a goose.
gape
The mouth lining or margin at the corner where the two mandibles intersect.
genealogy
A history of the descent of a family from an ancestor.
genus
Is a classification of one of a smaller group of birds having enough resemblance to be classified together as one bird species.
gizzard
Expansion of the gut commonly filled with gravel for crushing food.
gonydeal expansion
The point where the two lateral plates of the lower mandible meet near the tip and fuse into the gonys.
gonydeal spot
The reddish spot around the gonydeal expansion on the lower mandible of a gull.
gonys
A ridge location on the bottom edge of the lower mandible of a gull.
gorget
Area of iridescent feathers found about the throat and head of most male hummingbirds and some of the females.
gosling
Name given to a young goose.
guano
bird excrement in the crystalline form of surplus nitrogen known as uric acid.
guild
A flock of birds, including different species, which share the same habitat.
gular pouch
Or gular sac is located below the lower mandible, that allows some birds to hold their food.

flycatchers, kingbirds, pewees, phoebes
habitat
Is an environment which any certain species of birds will live in.
hallux
Bird's hind toe.
hawking
Action of catching insects on the wing.
hatching
The process of producing young birds through incubation.
hemi-parasites
Category of brood parasites who lay eggs in other bird nests occasionally.
hen
Name given to certain female species of birds.
heronry
Where colonies of herons, egrets, and ibises nest as a group.
hindcollar
A band seen above the nape and below the crown on the back of a bird's neck.
homeothermic
Animals, including man, who need constant body temperature.
homologous
Means corresponding to or very much similar in position, structure, value or function, sharing common ancestry.
humeral
Area of feather covering the bone near the upper-wing or shoulder.
humerus
Bone found in the wing of a bird.
hybrid
The offspring of parents of two different species.

juvenile, immature, fledging
IBA
Important Bird Area.
immature
Bird not in adult plumage.
immature plumage
Is the plumage seen on a bird, before it reaches its adult stage.
incubation
Is the lying or resting on eggs, which generates heat, causing the eggs to hatch.
intergrade
The offspring from breeding of two sub-species.
intraspecific brood parasite
birds that lay their eggs in nest of same bird species to be raised by other families.
intraspecific hybrids
When two different races, subspecies, varieties or breeds of same species are crossed, and an offspring is produced.
interspecific brood parasite
birds that lay their eggs in nest of other bird species to be raised by other families
interspecific hybrids
When two yet similar species mate, and offsprings are produced.
irruptive
where certain species of birds may be seen in one year but not in the next, unpredictable.

young male turkey
jake
Name given to a young male turkey.
juvenal
The plumage seen on a fledging.
juvenile
Immature or young birds not fully developed nor into breeding.

beak, talons
keratin
Hardened protein forming feathers, beaks, claws and bills.
kettle
Name given to congregations of migrating birds of prey seen soaring overhead.

ducks, geese, waterfowl
lamellae
Strainer type teeth found in the bills of waterfowl for feeding purposes.
larder
Areas used by shrikes to store their prey.
lek
A determined area where multiple male birds put on courtship displays in order to attract female mates.
leucistic
Is a bird affected by leucism.
leucism
Whiteness of feathers, but does not have red eyes, caused by reduced pigmentation in the bird's feathers by recessive allele.
life list
Number of wild birds seen by one individual birder.
lore
Area on a bird located between the bill and the eye.

face, cheek, side of head
malar
Area defined as cheek on a bird.
mandible
Bird's lower bill, upper bill can be called this too.
mantle
A term covering the back, shoulders, upperwing-coverts and secondaries, especially applied to gulls.
manus
Portion of a bird's wing that supports the primary feathers.
maxilla
Bird's upper bill.
medial bar
Refers to the central portion of a feather, especially the primaries.
melanism
opposite to albinism, it is the occurrence of very dark or black coloured birds, who normally have light coloured plumages.
melanistic
A bird that has a surplus of dark feathers.
mirror
A white spot or patch seen within the dark areas of the subterminal band on the tip of the primaries, i.e., gulls.
mirror band
A group of white spots seen in the primaries, usually in gulls.
mirror tongue
A continuous row of white tips seen throughout the primaries and secondaries.
molt
When a bird loses its feathers, to regrow new ones.
monogamous
Describes certain bird species who only have one sexual mate at one time.
monophyletic
Recognized as one race of birds.
monotypic
Refers to a species of birds that have no sub-species known.
morph
Or phase (poorly used) is a colour variation found among the same species of a bird.
moustachial stripe
A line of different coloured feathers from surrounding feathers, that resemble a moustache.
murder
Name given to a group of crows.

back of neck
nape
An area located between the base of the back of the head and above the wings.
niche
The ecological role played by a bird species within an animal community.
nocturnal
Describes birds which feed at night.
nomenclature
Is a system of names.
nominate
Refers to the term given a bird which has the same scientific genus name as the scientific species name.
non-breeding plumage
Or eclipse plumage is the more dab plumage seen on birds in the seasons outside their breeding periods.
non-passerines
birds such as seabirds, waterfowl, birds of prey and doves.
nuchal collar
Distinct feather markings across the nape of the bird's neck.

brood parasite
obligate brood parasites
Category of brood parasites who lay eggs in other bird nests regularly.
occipital patch
Describes a patch located on the back of the crown, i.e. redpolls.
occuput
An area on the back of a bird's head, located between the nape and the crown.
orbital ring
A ring of naked skin around the eye.
orbital skin
An area of bare skin surrounding the bird's eye.
order
Is a classification of a group of families, who have enough difference to separate them from all other groups.
ornithologist
Professional, who studies birds.
ornithology
The study of birds.
owlet
Name given to a young owl.
owling
Word given to the practice of searching for owls at night by birders.

mating pairs, adult birds, geese
pair bond
The relationship formed between a male and female bird for nesting purposes and maybe for life.
parliament
Name given to a group of owls.
passerines
Known formerly as Passeriformes, sometimes as passeriformes, name given to all perching birds.
patagial
Is the adjective form of patagium.
patagial marks
Feathers associated to the area of the wing joints.
patagial tags
Bird bands attached to the propatagium area of the wing of soaring birds that are visible from the ground.
patagium
Is the elastic fold of skin extending from the shoulder to the carpal join.
peacock
Name given to a male peafowl.
peeps
A general term used to describe shorebirds.
pelagic
Describe ocean going birds that are seldom seen from land.
pen
Name given to female swans.
penile
Applied to nest that is suspended between two forks of a limb, with nothing supporting from below.
petinate
Where the claws on some deep water waders are furnished with comb-like teeth.
philopatry
Refers to birds migrating back to the same regions as they were born.
phylogeny
The actual evolutionary history of any plant or animal species.
piebald
Term describing two colours of feathers.
pinfeathers
.Refers to small and developing feathers emerging from the skin.
pishing
Sound generated by forcing air through lips to attract birds.
pollex
Or "thumb" is located on the bird's wing.
polygynandry
Refer to certain bird species who pair up to more than one mate.
polyandrous
Describes female birds that have more than one mate.
polygynous
Describe birds group which males and females have more than one mate.
polymorphic
Pertains to some species of birds who have different colours of plumage and being in the same race.
polyphyletic
Birds not closely related or share similarities with their most recent ancestors.
postnuptial
Category given to a bird who has one molt per year.
postocular spot
A distinctly coloured spot located behind the bird's eye.
postocular stripe
A distinctly coloured stripe located behind the bird's eye.
poults
Name given to young birds belonging to the game bird group.
prebasic molt
Refers to molt that occurs just after breeding season.
precocial
Describes young birds hatched with eyes open, down-covered feathers, and have the ability to leave their nest in a couple to a few days.
preening
It is the act of spreading oil over the feather from the preen gland, which is located on the bird's lower back, near its tail.
prenuptial
Category given to a bird who has a second molt in one year.
primaries
The longest feather found on a bird's wing, located on the outer wing section.
primary projections
Refers to the projection of the primaries beyond the tertials seen from the side of a standing bird.
promiscuous
Describes bird groups, who join together only for mating purposes and then leave one another after.
pygidium
Collection of a few fused bones making up of the tail of a bird.
pyriform
Describes the pear like shape of an egg.

feather, bird wing, flight feathers
quill
The stout, horny and cylindrical center of a feather.

sub-species, races
race
Used in the same context as sub-species.
rachis
The bar running through a feather forming the quill.
radio-ulna
Bone found in the wing of a bird.
range map
Land images depicting the breeding area, migration routes and winter ground of individual bird species.
raptor
Referring to a bird of prey.
rectrices
Tail feathers.
rectrix
Tail feather.
remex
Flight or wing feather.
remiges
Flight or wing feathers.
rookery
See "Heronry".
roost
A resting site used by a bird or birds.
rump
Area seen between the wings and the tail feathers.

wing feathers, coverts, shoulder
scapulars
Area of feathers seen at the top of a bird's wing.
secondaries
Row of wing feathers located on the first section of a bird's wing.
semi-parasitic
Birds which lays eggs in other bird nests, but also lays eggs in its own nest.
semialtricial
Describes young birds hatched with eyes open, down-covered feathers, and do not have the ability to leave their nest.
semicolonial
Describes birds of the same species who nest fairly close to one another and get along.
semiprecocial
Describes young birds hatched with eyes open, down-covered feathers, and do the ability to leave their nest, but choose not to.
sexual dimorphism
Refers to when the male and the female of the same species have completely different looks.
skein
V flying formation seen in ducks and geese.
skylarking
Flight pattern put on by male birds, where the bird flies high into the sky, fluttering to the ground, while singing and calling.
snood
Skin seen hanging from above a male turkey's beak.
spatulate
description of a spoon-shaped bill.
species
Particular or individual name of bird.
spectacles
Large eye ring connected to the lores, displaying a look of eye wear.
speculum
Row of visible colourful feathers seen on the wings of ducks.
spishing
Using the lips to create sounds, which attract birds into seeing view.
-
squeaking
Artificial sound made by birders, to attract birds or to have them expose themselves.
sternum
Birds deeply keeled breast bone, forming a structure to which the wing muscles are attahed.
stoop
Descending of a bird onto its prey.
streaked
Rows of distinguishing feathers seen on a bird's breast and flanks.
stripes
Distinguishing feather that runs the length of a bird's body.
sub-species
Or races, identifies different birds belonging to the same species, but show noticeable differences among themselves.
subterminal band
A distinct ban seen at the end of the tail feathers.
subterminal spots
Or mirrors are spots seen on the out tip of the primary feathers, seen mostly on gulls.
supercilliary
Feathers outlining the face of a bird.
supercilium
or supercilliary stripe, is an apparent line over the bird's eye, like an eyebrow-line.
superspecies
Refers to races of birds where each has its own geographical location.
supraloral
The area seen above the lore.
sympatry
Refers to the occurrences of species together in the same area.

beak, talons
talons
Elongated claws of a bird of prey.
tarsi
The long foot bones that lead into the bird's toes.
tarsus
The metatarsal bones of the foot fused together into a single bone.
taxa
Plural form for Taxon.
taxon
Refers to a general taxonomic category.
taxonomy
Or systematics is the science of classification of organisms of orders, families, genera, species...etc.
tertials
Or "tertiary" are flight feathers located at the base of a bird's wing.
territory
Is a region determined by breeding pairs and defended from other intruders.
tibia
Birds upper leg bone.
tom
Name given to a male turkey.
totipalmate
All toes are joined by webs.
transient bird
Describes a bird seen in an area located between its breeding and non-breeding zones.
tympani
Vocal organ valve that produces the bird's sound.
type E botulism
A disease that targets waterbirds who feed on fish.

small feathers, rump, vent
undertail coverts
Small feathers that cover the base of the undertail of the bird.
underwing coverts
Small feathers that cover the base of the underwing of the bird.
uppertail coverts
Small feather that cover the base of the upper side of the tail feather and rump.

vagrant
A bird seen outside its breeding zones or its natural habitat.
vent
Area of a bird located between the belly and the base of the underside of the tail feathers.
vermiclation
Description of fine waving lines seen in a bird's plumage.
vestigial toe
Small spur-like toe, seen above the feet and back of the leg of waterfowl.
vinaceous
A peculiar purplish pink shown or suggested in the coloration of some birds.

turkey, wild turkey, tom
wattle
Fleshy skin that hangs from the lower bill, ie turkeys, chickens.
wing-bar
A row of distinct marks distinguished on the flight feathers of a bird's wing.
wing coverts
Feathers covering the base of the flight feathers on a bird's wing.
wing projection
Refers to the projection of the primaries beyond the tail feathers, seen from the side of a standing bird.
wingtips
Refers to the tips of the primaries, seen from the side of a standing bird.
wishbones
See "Furcula".

four toes, woodpecker
zygodactylous
Bird groups have two toes forward with two toes backward.



Return Bird Terminology back to Birds of North America




Classic Collection of North American Birds

CCNAB