Glossary of Terms

AerationThe process of exposing to air, so as to purify; crucial for bird nests.
Aerial FeederBirds that catch insects in flight, like swallows and swifts.
Aerial predatorA bird that hunts for prey in the air.
AlbinoA bird with a congenital lack of pigmentation resulting in white feathers and pink or red eyes.
AllopreeningWhen one bird preens another, often a sign of bonding or social structure.
AltricialBirds that hatch blind, naked, and helpless, requiring significant parental care. e.g., songbirds.
AlulaA group of feathers on the leading edge of a bird’s wing that helps to stabilize the wing during flight.
AnisodactylThe most common toe arrangement in birds, with three toes forward and one toe backward.
AnthropogenicEnvironmental pollution and pollutants originating in human activity.
AntingWhen birds rub ants or other materials on their feathers, possibly to deter parasites.
ApodiformAn order of birds, the Apodiformes, including swifts and hummingbirds.
AposematicHaving bright colors or markings that warn predators of the bird’s toxicity or unpleasant taste.
AuditoryPertaining to hearing, to the sense of hearing, or to the organs of hearing.
AvianRelating to birds.
Avian fluA highly contagious virus that can infect birds and humans.
AviaryA large enclosure for confining birds. Can be indoors or outdoors.
BandingThe practice of attaching a small, numbered metal or plastic band to a bird’s leg to study its movements and lifespan.
Banding (Ringing)The practice of attaching a small, individually numbered metal or plastic band to the leg or wing of a bird to enable individual identification.
BeakThe hard, projecting front part of a bird’s mouth, used for catching, holding food, and sometimes as a weapon.
BillAnother term for a bird’s beak.
BinocularsAn optical device with a lens for each eye, used for viewing distant objects. Essential for birdwatchers.
BioacousticsThe study of sound production and hearing in animals, including birdsong and call analysis.
BiodiversityThe variety of life in a particular habitat or ecosystem, including bird species diversity.
BioindicatorA species that can give an indication of the bioavailability of pollutants and their impact on ecosystems, birds can be bioindicators.
Bird feederA device that is used to attract birds to a particular location.
BirdbathA shallow basin of water that is used to provide water for birds to bathe in.
BirderA person who identifies and studies birds in their natural habitat.
BirdhouseA small, artificial structure that provides shelter for birds.
BirdingThe observing of birds, either as a recreational activity or as a form of citizen science.
Birding hotspotA location where birdwatchers can easily see a variety of bird species.
Birding trailA trail that is designed for birdwatching.
BirdsongThe musical vocalization of birds, often complex and melodious.
BohemianReferring to species with a non-migratory or erratic lifestyle, typically in non-breeding seasons.
BrachypterousBirds with short wings that are incapable or limited in their ability to fly.
Breeding plumageThe plumage that a bird wears during the breeding season.
Breeding seasonThe time of year when birds mate and raise their young.
BroodA group of young birds all hatched at the same time.
Brood ParasitismWhen a bird lays its eggs in another bird’s nest, leaving the host bird to raise its chicks. E.g., cuckoos.
Brood patchA patch of featherless skin that is visible on the underside of birds during the nesting season.
CacheTo store food for later use; behavior shown by some birds like crows and jays.
CallThe vocalizations of birds, often shorter and simpler than songs.
CallusA hard, thickened area of skin on a bird’s foot.
CanopyThe upper layer or habitat zone, formed by mature tree crowns and including other biological organisms.
Captive-bredA bird that was born and raised in captivity.
CarotenoidsPigments that produce bright colors in bird feathers.
Cavity NestersBirds that nest in holes of trees or man-made structures.
Cedar waxwingA small, North American songbird with a distinctive crest and yellow tips on its wing feathers.
CereThe fleshy area at the base of a bird’s beak.
ChirpA short, high-pitched vocalization made by a bird.
ChlorosisA condition in birds that is characterized by yellowing of the skin and feathers.
CloacaThe single opening for the digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts in birds.
Cloacal ventThe opening at the end of a bird’s digestive tract that is used for both reproduction and excretion.
ClutchThe group of eggs produced by birds at one time and incubated together.
ColumbiformAn order of birds, the Columbiformes, that includes pigeons and doves.
ConservationThe protection and preservation of natural resources, including birds.
ConvectionThe movement of warmer particles to cooler areas.
CoprophagyThe consumption of feces, observed in some bird species for nutritional purposes.
CourtshipBehavior patterns that result in mating, such as singing, displays, or dances.
CrepuscularAnimals that are active during twilight, i.e., dawn and dusk.
CrestA group of feathers on the top of a bird’s head, which can be raised or lowered.
CropA thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion.
DecoyAn imitation bird used to attract birds, often used in bird photography or hunting.
DeterrentAny device or method designed to discourage birds, like a scarecrow.
DichromaticA condition of having two color varieties. In birds, usually males are more brightly colored.
DimorphicHaving two distinct forms, such as males and females.
DiurnalBirds that are active during the day, as opposed to being nocturnal.
Dusk SingersBirds that sing as the sun is setting.
Eclipse PlumageDuller feathers that replace the bright plumage of some male birds after the breeding season.
EcosystemA biological community interacting with its environment.
EctothermAn animal that relies on external sources of heat to maintain its body temperature.
EndangeredA species that is at risk of extinction.
EndemicA species that is native to a particular area and found nowhere else in the world.
EndothermAn animal that generates its own heat to maintain its body temperature.
ExtirpatedThe condition of a species that no longer exists in a specific geographical area.
FeralA domesticated species that has reverted to living in the wild.
Field GuideA book or app with illustrations and descriptions of birds, used to identify species in the wild.
FledgingThe process of a young bird learning to fly.
FledglingA young bird that has grown enough to acquire its initial flight feathers and is preparing to leave the nest.
FlockA group of birds that live and travel together.
FlywayThe migration route used by large numbers of birds.
Food chainThe sequence of organisms in an ecosystem in which each organism feeds on the one below it.
ForagingSearching for wild food resources by birds.
FrugivoreA bird that eats fruit.
FrugivorousBirds that primarily eat fruits.
GizzardA muscular organ in a bird’s stomach that helps to grind up food.
GleaningA feeding technique where birds remove individual items from leaves or branches.
GranivoreA bird that eats seeds.
GuanoThe accumulated droppings of seabirds and bats, often used as fertilizer.
HabitatThe natural environment in which a bird lives.
Homing instinctThe ability of a bird to return to its nest or home range.
HoveringThe ability of a bird to remain stationary in the air, often seen in hummingbirds.
HybridA bird that results from the mating of two different species.
IcteridA family of songbirds that includes blackbirds, orioles, and meadowlarks.
ImprintingThe process by which a young bird learns to recognize its parents or other important figures.
IncubationThe process of warming eggs to hatch them.
InsectivoreA bird that eats insects.
InsectivorousBirds that primarily eat insects.
IridescentA color that seems to change when seen from different angles, common in some bird species.
JizzThe overall impression of a bird’s size, shape, and behavior.
JuvenileA young bird that has left its nest and has usually acquired its first basic plumage.
KeratinA protein which forms the primary component in feathers, beaks, and bird claws.
KleptoparasitismThe act of one bird stealing food from another bird.
LekkingA gathering of males, of certain animal species, for the purpose of competitive mating displays.
Life listA list of all the bird species that a person has seen.
MigrateRegular, usually seasonal, movement of all or part of an animal population to and from a given area.
MigrationThe regular movement of birds between breeding and wintering grounds.
MigratoryA bird that travels long distances between breeding and wintering grounds.
MoltThe process of shedding old feathers and growing new ones.
Molt/MoultThe process of shedding and regrowing feathers.
MoltingThe process where birds shed old feathers to make way for new ones.
MonogamousBirds that have one mate at a time.
NectarivorousBirds that primarily feed on nectar.
NestA structure that is built by birds to lay their eggs and raise their young.
NestlingA young bird that is not yet able to leave the nest.
NicheThe role that a species plays in an ecosystem.
NightjarA nocturnal bird that has long wings and a short tail.
NocturnalBirds that are active during the night rather than during the day, e.g., owls.
NomadicBird species that move around irregularly instead of migrating on a regular schedule.
Nuptial plumageThe plumage that a bird wears during the breeding season.
OcelliRound, eye-like markings on the wings of some birds.
OmnivoreA bird that eats a variety of foods, including both plants and animals.
OmnivorousBirds that eat all kinds of food, including plants and animals.
OrnithicideThe killing of birds.
OrnithologistA scientist who studies birds, usually in the wild.
OrnithologyThe scientific study of birds.
PasserineThe largest order of birds, also known as perching birds or songbirds.
PelagicLiving in the open ocean.
PelletA small, rounded mass of food, especially compound feed for livestock or pet birds. Also refers to the regurgitated mass of undigested material (like bones and fur) by birds of prey.
PerchA place where a bird rests or roosts, often a branch or a bar in a cage.
PestA bird that is considered to be a nuisance, such as a house sparrow or a starling.
Pet birdA bird that is kept as a companion animal.
PhotoperiodismThe physiological reaction of organisms to the length of day or night, e.g., migration triggers.
PlumageThe feathers that cover a bird’s body.
Pollen feederA type of bird feeder that dispenses pollen.
PollinationThe process of transferring pollen from one flower to another.
PollinatorA bird that helps to spread pollen from flowers to flowers.
PolygamousA mating system where a single individual mates with more than one partner.
PredatorA bird that hunts and eats other animals.
PreeningWhen birds use their beaks to straighten and clean their feathers.
PreyAn animal that a bird hunts, captures, and eats.
Projectile feedingA method of feeding in which birds throw food at other birds.
RakeA long, thin feather on a bird’s wing that helps to steer the bird during flight.
RaptorBirds of prey, like eagles, hawks, and owls.
RaptorsAnother term for birds of prey.
RegurgitateThe expulsion of food by a bird, usually a parent feeding its young.
RoostA place where birds rest or sleep. This can refer to individual birds or to flocks of birds.
RoostingThe act of resting or sleeping, usually in a high, safe place.
ScavengerA bird that eats carrion (dead animals), such as vultures and condors.
ScavengingFeeding on dead or decaying animals.
Sexual DimorphismA distinction in appearance between males and females of a species outside of sexual organs.
ShorebirdA bird that lives or feeds near shores.
Sibley GuideA popular and comprehensive guide to North American birds.
SongA complex vocalization made by a bird.
SongbirdA bird that sings a complex song.
SongbirdsBirds belonging to the suborder Passeri, known for their vocal abilities.
SpeciesA group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of interbreeding.
SubspeciesA population of a species that is distinct in some way, often due to geographical separation.
SyrinxThe vocal organ of birds, located at the base of the trachea.
TalonThe sharp claw of a bird, typically a bird of prey, used to catch and hold animals.
TameRefers to birds, especially pet birds, that are gentle and comfortable around humans.
TaxonomyThe science of classification of organisms, used in identifying and naming bird species.
TerritoryAn area defended by a bird or a pair of birds, usually the area where they nest and feed.
Trophic levelThe position an organism occupies in a food chain.
TwitcherA birder who is particularly interested in seeing rare birds.
TwitchingThe pursuit of a previously located rare bird by birdwatchers.
Ultraviolet VisionThe ability of some birds to see UV light, which affects their behavior and perception.
VagrantA bird that appears outside its normal or expected range or migration route.
VentThe external opening of the cloaca in birds, i.e., the combined excretory and genital opening.
WaderA bird that frequents shallow water, especially in pursuit of food.
WarblerA small, songbird that is often found in forests and woodlands.
WaterfowlBirds that live in water, like ducks, geese, and swans.
Wing ClippingTrimming the primary feathers of a bird’s wings to prevent full flight, often done in pet birds.
Wintering groundsThe area where a bird spends the winter.
Year-tickThe first sighting of a bird species in a calendar year by a birdwatcher.
ZoomorphismAttributing animal characteristics or qualities to a deity. Not specific to birds but can be relevant.
Zoonotic DiseasesDiseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, like avian flu.