Bird Anatomy

Attract wrens and shop birdhouses at

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 you think is another bird. Armed with a field guide, however, you can easily make yourself into, if not an ornithologist, 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 manywhich 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 the guide book’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 bill.

Lower Mandible – The lower part of the bill.

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.

Enjoy the birds in your backyard. Happy Birding!

Written by Guest Writer Sean Peick

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