Backyard Birds 101; Parts of a Bird

Backyard Birds 101; Parts of a Bird

May 24, '20

Article and Photos (Unless otherwise sited) By: Evan Glynn

When describing a bird’s appearance, a field guide, or fellow birder, may use a series of different terms to refer to different parts of a bird. Additionally, many birds are named for the color(s) of some of these parts. Several terms are fairly obvious while others might require some additional explanation. Here is a list of some of the main terms used with some examples. Note that this list is not all-inclusive and numerous other terms are used for bird identification. However, these are common terms and should help the new backyard birder learn about our feathered friends.

Crown– The very top of a bird’s head

This is a black-crowned antshrike. Unfortunately this isn’t a bird found in Maine, but this photo shows the black crown at the very top of the head nicely.


Cap– Upper part of the head

This black-capped chickadee has a black cap and bib.


Crest– A tuft of feathers on the top of the head that can be raised and lowered

pileated woodpecker

The pileated woodpecker has a bright red crest


Supercilium– A colored stripe running from the top of the bill, above the eye, to the back of the head – essentially an ‘eyebrow’

Carolina wren

Lore– Small area between the eye and upper bill

red-lored parrot

This is a red-lored parrot. While not native to Maine (or the U.S.), this bird’s colorful lores are obvious, and this species provides a good example of a bird named for its colored lores.


Eyering (eye-arcs)– A small colored area immediately around the eye. Can be a full circle, or sometimes just arcs

canada warbler

Malar– A small area behind the base of the lower bill. Birds with ‘malar stripes’ look like they have moustache-like plumage

Northern Flicker

Photo Source:  Warren Lynn |ML29705611| Macaulay Library

This male Northern flicker has a black, moustache-like malar stripe


Throat– Area below the lower bill and above the breast

Black-Throated Blue Warbler 

Breast– The ventral surface of the body between the throat and belly

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

This male rose-breasted grosbeak has a distinctive bright red breast


Flanks– The rear ‘sides’ above the legs

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia warblers have black streaks that extend through their flanks


Belly– The lower ventral surface between the belly and base of the tail


This breeding adult dunlin has a distinctive black belly


Nape– Back of the neck



The male bobolink has a bright straw colored nape patch


Coverts– Small feathers that partially overlay (cover) flight feathers on wings and tails at their bases

summer tanager


Look at the circled area to see the covert feathers on the wing of this summer tanager.


Tail – Generally describing the rear tail flight feathers of a bird

Long-Tailed Ducks

The male long-tailed ducks have long slender tail feathers.


Rump– Describing the area between the end of the back and the base of the tail (Yellow-rumped warbler)

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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