Identification features of a bird


Back - click to know more Belly - click to know more Breast - click here to know more Chin - click to know more Crown - click to know more Forehead Greater coverts Lesser coverts Lower mandible Mantle Tail or Retrices Undertail coverts - crissum Secondaries Tertials Nape Primaries Tail Tarsus Tail Flank Median coverts Throat Supercilium Rump Vent Ear coverts Upper mandible Undertail coverts Undertail coverts Uppertail coverts Throat Ear coverts Rump - click for more Upper mandible Lower mandible Vent - click for more Thigh Tarsus Nape - click for more Malar area Supercillium or superciliary Crown Forehead or front Mantle Back - click for more Breast - click for more Belly - click for more Lesser coverts Median or middle coverts Greater coverts Tertials or tertiaries Secondary wings or secondaries Primary wings or Primaries Chin Scapulars Flank or Side Scapulars Bird diagram

Glossary and description of bird parts

Auriculars: also called ear coverts, are the specialized feathers related to the ear opening, extending backward and downward from the eye, bounded dorsally by the supercilium and crown and ventrally by the malar area (cheek).

Back: leathering of the thoracic portion of the dorsum, bounded by the nape, bases of the wings (humeral feathering), mantle and rump.

Belly: area below the breast and reaching to the vent. These feathers overlap the bases of the undertail coverts.

Breast: ventral leathering below the throat, extending over the breast muscles. The tips of these feathers reach a bit further.

Cere: a fleshy, often brightly colored, structure at the base of the bill.

Chin: ventral leathering below the bill ending where throat begins.

Crest: a tuft of elongated feathers on the head of some species, such as the Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, and Blue Jay. The feathers are held erect by the bird most of the time or are capable of being erected.

Crissum: also called undertail coverts, are the contour feathers behind the vent and covering the bases of the Retrices.

Crown: behind the forehead, bounded behind by the anterior end of the neck vertebrae and laterally by the supercilium. The tips of the hinder feathers extend somewhat beyond the posterior margin stated.

Culmen: the upper edge or ridge of upper mandible.

Ear coverts: also called Auriculars, are the specialized feathers related to the ear opening, extending backward and downward from the eye, bounded dorsally by the supercilium and crown and ventrally by the malar area (cheek).

Eye-ring: A ring of colour around the eye, also called an 'orbital ring'.

Flank: also called Side, is the lateral portion of the breast leathering covering the side of the body up to the base of the wing and extending back to overlap the bases of the flank feathers.

Forehead (front): the dorsal, anterior portion of the head, bounded posteriorly by a line between the anterior, edges of the eye openings and separated from the eye by the anterior end of the supercilium, below by a line from the dorsal edge of the nostril to the middle, of the eye. The feathers are usually short and do not extend far beyond the given line along the posterior margin.

Gape: area where base of the bill joins the feathered face.

Gonys: the lower edge of lower mandible.

Greater coverts: are a single row of feathers much larger than the median coverts. Their overlap is normal. These coverts fall into two series. The first (Greater primary coverts) cover the base of the primaries. The second series (Greater secondary coverts) usually consists of one covert feather for each of the secondaries (plus tertiaries). In general the greater primary coverts have the structure of quills and each is normally molted when and if the corresponding primary is molted. The greater secondary coverts are structurally contour feathers and are molted nearly simultaneously at molts when the lesser coverts are replaced, regardless of molt of the secondaries.

Gular Pouch: also called Gular Sac, is a skin pouch of the throat found in some species, and most obvious in the pelicans. Nesting pelicans use it for panting, as a means of cooling or lowering body temperature, as well as to hold partially digested fish while the young feed from the pouch. Less conspicuous gular sacs are found in cormorants, owls, pheasants, pigeons and some other groups of birds.

Hallux: Hind Toe

Lesser coverts: these are a few rows of small feathers on the upper surface and largely confined to the anterior patagium. The lesser and median coverts together are popularly called the "shoulder".

Lower mandible: lower half of the bill. The bill is a bony outgrowth from the skull covered with horny sheaths of keratin.

Lores: ventral to the forehead and supercilium, extending from the narials, if present, to the eye, bounded below by the rictal bristles, if present, and posteriorly by a line from the angle of the gape to the anterior point of eye.

Malar area: extending backwards from the hind margin of the nail, ventral to the rictal bristles, lores, eyelid, and auriculars and dorsal to the throat. This area extends backwards as far as the posterior end of the ear coverts.

Mantle: region between the back and the nape.

Median coverts: Also called middle coverts, are on the extended wing a single row of larger feathers following the lesser coverts. They generally cover the base of the secondary feathers. The middle coverts may not be distinguishable from the lesser coverts and are sometimes absent.

Moustachial stripe: A streak extending backwards and downwards from the base of the bill, above the malar region. It is also called a 'whisker'. A similar streak immediately below it is called a 'sub-moustachial stripe', while a still lower one is a 'malar stripe'.

Nail: end of the bill

Nape (hindneck): dorsal feathering of the neck, bounded by the throat and upper breast. These feathers extend, to some extent, over the base of the back feathers. The adjective, meaning 'of the nape', is 'nuchal'. The angle at the rear end of the head is called the 'occiput', for which the adjective is 'occipital'.

Narial leathering: a group of small bristly feathers projecting forward to hang over the nostril, collectively called Narials. This group is absent in most birds except for those belonging to the Corvidae family.

Primary wings: Also called the Primaries, these quills related to the hand and digits segment of the wing.

Remiges: flight feathers (primaries and secondaries).

Retrices: a single transverse row of quills on the margin of the anatomical tail. The rectrices are absent in grebes and some ratite birds and much reduced in penguins. The rectrices are paired and the number is constant within a sex and species and even, sometimes, throughout a whole order. Six pairs are most frequent. This number is found throughout the Passeriformes, except for a few. Trogoniformes, Strigiformes also generally have six. The ostriches have the highest recorded count, 25 to 30 pairs.

Rictal bristles: (not present in all birds) are a row of outwardly directed, bristly feathers extending forward from the gape along the edge of the maxilla and, sometimes, also of the mandible.

Rimal leathering: one or two rows of small feathers on the eyelids. These feathers are absent as a group characteristic in the Columbidae family.

Rump: also called Uropygium, is a leathering of the sacral portion of the back. The most posterior feathers arise in front of the oil gland. This area is bounded laterally, by the flanks and posteriorly by the uppertail coverts. The feathers usually extend far enough to overlap the bases of the tail feathers.

Scapulars: The feathers which cover the shoulder of a bird, namely the area where the upperwing joins the body.

Secondary wings: The secondaries are related to the forearm segment of the wing. There is some debate as to which, if any, of the inner members of the series form a separate set, called the Tertiaries. Some authors restrict the latter term to the posterior humerals, as they are quite certainly not remiges.

Semi-palmated: having half webbing between the toes.

Side: also called Flank, is the lateral portion of the breast leathering covering the side of the body up to the base of the wing and extending back to overlap the bases of the flank feathers.

Speculum: term given to the patch of brightly colored or metallic secondary feathers of the wings, found in most surface-feeding, or dabbling ducks.

Superciliary: narrow band of feathers passing from near the anterior point of the eye; over the eye to near its posterior point. It is separated from the eye by the rimal leathering and the apterlure of the upper eyelid. Also called Supercilium.

Supercilium: narrow band of feathers passing from near the anterior point of the eye; over the eye to near its posterior point. It is separated from the eye by the rimal leathering and the apterlure of the upper eyelid. Also called Superciliary.

Tail: (Retrices) a single transverse row of quills on the margin of the anatomical tail. The rectrices are absent in grebes and some ratite birds and much reduced in penguins. The rectrices are paired and the number is constant within a sex and species and even, sometimes, throughout a whole order. Six pairs are most frequent. This number is found throughout the Passeriformes, except for a few. Trogoniformes, Strigiformes also generally have six. The ostriches have the highest recorded count, 25 to 30 pairs.

Tarsus: region of leg between thigh and toe

Tertiary wings: Also called Tertials or Tertiaries, are the posterior humeral feathers. There is some debate as to which, if any, of the inner members of the remiges form a separate set, called the Tertiaries.

Thigh: The region of leg above the Tarsus and extending to the belly.

Throat: ventral leathering of the neck from the chin to the forking of the ventral feather tract, bounded dorsally by the malar area. The adjective meaning 'of the throat' is 'gular'. The lateral margin of the throat is sometimes distinctively colored and is then called the malar stripe.

Undertail coverts: also called Crissum, are the contour feathers behind the vent and covering the bases of the Retrices.

Uppertail coverts: a single, semicircular row of feathers arising behind the oil gland close to the rectrices, covering the bases of the latter. In some birds, these feathers may extend far beyond the rectrices, as in the Blue Peafowl.

Upper mandible: upper half of the bill. The bill is a bony outgrowth from the skull covered with horny sheaths of keratin.

Uropygium: also called rump, is a leathering of the sacral portion of the back. The most posterior feathers arise in front of the oil gland. This area is bounded laterally, by the flanks and posteriorly by the uppertail coverts. The feathers usually extend far enough to overlap the bases of the tail feathers.

Vent: the area around the cloaca, just behind the legs. Back to identifying diagram

Wing bars: most common in some passerine species, they are the lighter colored tips of the upper wing coverts which appear as narrow bars in the folded wings.


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