Anatomical Bird Guide

Not even the most avid backyard birders can necessarily lay claim to being a trained ornithologist. This has the potential to lead to a lot of mistaken identities when telling all your friends what kind of birds you attract, or worse – buying the wrong kind of seed for a bird that you think is actually another bird. Armed with a field guide, however, you can easily make yourself – if not into an ornithologist – into at least someone who is capable of telling one bird from another. That is, assuming you understand the terminology those guides use to describe different parts of the bird. I mean, if a field guide told you that the distinctive part of one bird was to be found in the lore, while another bird was easily identified by its bright wing coverts, how many of you would be able to easily figure that out? Probably not that many – which is why I’m including a handy list of common avian anatomical terms below. That way, the next time a field guide tells you to look for the eyering, you know what it’s talking about.

Crown – The top of a bird’s head

Eyering – A circle of feathers around the eye that is a different color from the rest of the head

Upper Mandible – The upper part of the beak

Lower Mandible – The lower part of the beak

Lore – The area that can be found between a bird’s eye and bill on the side of the head

Wattle – A fleshy flap of skin that hangs around the head or neck

Nape – The back of the neck

Primary Feathers – Located on the outside edges of the wings, these are the feathers that are narrowest and longest

Wing Coverts – These are the feathers that are located on the leading edge of the wings. They cover the bases of the primary and secondary feathers.

Mantle – A bird’s back along with its folded wings

Breast – This area is found right below the front of the neck, and is a normal spot for distinctive color markings

Underparts – Spanning from wing to wing, this denotes a bird’s underside

Tail Feathers – The feathers on the tail

Happy Birding!

By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)

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  • Derex December 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    That’s a smart answer to a dfifiluct question.