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
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’
Lore– Small area between the eye and upper bill
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
Malar– A small area behind the base of the lower bill. Birds with ‘malar stripes’ look like they have moustache-like plumage
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
Breast– The ventral surface of the body between the throat and belly
This male rose-breasted grosbeak has a distinctive bright red breast
Flanks– The rear ‘sides’ above the legs
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
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
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)