Birdwatching Glossary

Birdwatching Glossary

Birdwatching GlossaryIf you are new to birdwatching, skimming through a field guide can sometimes be a little bewildering. What do all those strange words mean? Lores? Tertials? Wing bars?

Below we have compiled some of the birdwatching terms that you probably don’t use in everyday conversation. Can’t find the word you’re looking for? Let us know so that we can update this glossary.

 

  • Accidental: A bird that is found in a given area very infrequently and with no predictable pattern.
  • Axillaries: The small feathers on the underside of the wing near where it joins the body.
  • Casual: A bird that is not found annually, but still at regular intervals.
  • Crepuscular: Most active at dawn and dusk.
  • Decurved: Curving downward.
  • Endemic: A breeding species restricted to a specific geographical area.
  • Extirpated: Completely eliminated from a particular area, but present elsewhere.
  • Eye line: A line passing over or through the eye.
  • Eye ring: A circle of feathers around the eye, usually lighter than the surrounding feathers.
  • Field mark: A distinctive visual characteristic that is key to identifying a bird.
  • Hybrid: The offspring of parents of two different species.
  • Juvenal: Plumage only seen on juvenile birds.
  • Life list: A list of the species that a birdwatcher has seen in his lifetime.
  • Lores: The area between the bill and the eyes.
  • Malar: The area on the lower half of the face between the cheek and the throat.
  • Mantle: The upper back.
  • Morph: A color variation within a species.
  • Passerine: A perching bird or songbird.
  • Pelagic: Living out at sea, rarely seen inland.
  • Primaries: The long flight feathers near the tip of a bird’s wing.
  • Raptor: A bird of prey.
  • Rare: Found annually, but in small numbers.
  • Recurved: Curved upward.
  • Riparian: A habitat near a stream or river.
  • Scapulars: The row of feathers just above the wing when folded (the bird’s “shoulders”).
  • Secondaries: The medium-length flight feathers in the middle of the wing.
  • Speculum: A colorful stripe, usually with a metallic sheen, running across the secondaries.
  • Supercilium: The bird’s “eyebrow.”
  • Tarsus: The long, scaly part of a bird’s leg.
  • Tertials: The three flight feathers closest to the body.
  • Undertail coverts: Small feathers overlapping the upper surface of the long tail feathers.
  • Uppertail coverts: Small feathers overlapping the lower surface of the long tail feathers.
  • Vagrant: A bird found wandering outside of its normal range.
  • Vent: The area below the tail.
  • Wing bars: Strips of contrasting color running across the upper part of the wing when folded.
  • Wing coverts: Small feathers on the upper surface of the wing overlapping the flight feathers.