Birds of India

Beginner's Section

Glossary of Bird Terminology
by Bikram Grewal


Adult: Mature, Capable of breeding.
Aerial: Making use of the open sky.
Altitudinal migrant: Moving between high mountains and lower foothills.
Apical: Outer extremities, particularly of the tail.
Aquatic: Living on or in water.
Arboreal: Living in trees.
Axillaries: Underwing feathers at the base of the wings, forming ‘armpits’
Basal: Innermost extremities, particularly of the tail.
Biotope: Area of uniform environment, flora and fauna.
Buff: Yellowish white with a hint of pale brown.
Canopy: Leafy foliage of treetops.
Cap: Upper part of head.
Carpal: Bend of a closed wing, sometimes called shoulder.
Casque: Growth above bill of hornbills.
Cere: Patch of bare skin on upper base of bill of raptors.
Colonial: Roosting or nesting in groups.
Confiding: Not shy.
Commensal: Living together with man for mutual benefit
Coverts: Small feathers on wings and base of tail.
Covey: Small group of partridges and allied species.
Crepuscular: Active at dusk (twilight) and dawn.
Crest: Extended feathers on head.
Crown: Upper part of head.
Culmen: Ridge on upper mandible of bill.
Diagnostic: Sufficient to identify a species or sub-species.
Dimorphic: Having two forms of plumage.
Diurnal: Active during daytime.
Drumming: Rhythmic territorial hammering on trees by woodpeckers
Eclipse: New dull plumage after breeding season, especially in ducks.
Endemic: Indigenous and confined to a place.
Eyestripe: Stripe through eye.
Family: Specified group of genera.
Feral: Escaped, and living and breeding in the wild.
Fledged: Having just acquired feathers and ready to leave nest.
Fledglings: Young birds which have just acquired feathers.
Flight feathers: Primary and secondary wing feathers.
Flushed: When disturbed into flight at close quarters.
Form: Sub-species.
Frugivorous: Fruit-eating.
Fulvous: Brownish-yellow.
Game birds: Pheasants, partridges and allied species.
Gape: Basal part of the beak (mainly for young birds and raptors).
Genera: Plural of genus.
Genus: Group of related species.
Gorget: Band across upper chest.
Granivorous: Grain-eating.
Gregarious: Sociable. Living in communities or flocks.
Hackles: Long and pointed neck feathers.
Hawking: Capturing insects in flight
Hepatic: Rust or liver coloured plumage phase, mainly in female cuckoos
Hunting party: Group of birds usually of different species, seeking food.
Immature: Plumage phases prior to adult
Iris: Coloured eye membrane surrounding pupil.
Irruption: Mass movement of a population from one place to another.
Jizz: Essence or striking characteristics of a species;
Juvenile: Immature bird immediately after leaving nest.
Leading edge: Front edge of wing.
Lobe: Fleshy extensions to side-edges of toes of some birds.
Lores: Area between eye and bill base.
Malar: Stripe on side of throat.
Mandible: Each of the two parts of bill.
Mantle: Back, between wings.
Mask: Dark plumage round eye and ear-coverts.
Migration: Seasonal movement between distant places.
Mirror: White spots in wing-tips, mainly of gulls.
Morph: One of several distinct types of plumage in the same species.
Moult: Seasonal shedding of plumage.
Nape: Back of neck.
Necklace Narrow line round neck.
Nocturnal: Active at night.
Nomadic: Species without specific territory except when breeding.
Nominate: First sub-species to be formally named.
Orbital ring: Narrow ring of skin or feathers round the eye.
Order: Group of related families.
Passerines: Perching and song birds.
Pectoral: Breast area.
Pied: Black and white.
Plumes: Long, showy feathers, acquired during the breeding season
Precocial: Young hatched sighted and down-covered, e.g. ducklings.
Primaries: Outer flight feathers in wing.
Race: Sub-species.
Raptors: Birds of prey and Vultures, excluding owls.
Record Published, or otherwise broadcast, occurrence.
Resident: Non-migratory and breeding in same place.
Rufous: Reddish brown.
Rump: Lower back.
Scalloped: Curved markings on edges of feathers.
Scapulars: Feathers along edge of mantle.
Secondaries: Inner wing feathers.
Speculum: Area of colour on secondary feathers of wings.
Streamers: Long extensions to feathers, usually of tail.
Sub-species: Distinct form that does not have specific status.
Sub-terminal band: Broad band on outer part of feather.
Supercilia: Plural of supercilium.
Supercilium: Streak above eye.
Terminal band: Broad band on tip of feather or tail.
Terrestrial: Ground living.
Tertials: Innermost wing coverts, often covering secondaries.
Trailing edge: Rear edge of wing.
Vagrant: Accidental, irregular.
Vent Undertail area.
Vermiculations: Wavy (worm-like) markings.
Vinaceous: Red wine coloured. Warm pink.
Waders: Shorebirds. Usually, the smaller, long-legged waterbirds.
Wattle: Bare skin, often coloured, on part of head.
Wildfowl: Ducks and geese.
Wing-span: Length from one wing tip to the other when fully extended


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Compiled and created by Sumit K Sen I All rights reserved I Copyright © 2001 - 2017.
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