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Bird Central - Bird glossary
Category: Agriculture and Industry
Date & country: 27/09/2013, US
Words: 121


Scavenger
An animal that eats available food such as garbage, and carrion. Examples include the Black-footed Albatross, the Turkey Vulture, and smaller birds such as the Common Crow, the magpies, and others. Some species will change from their usual food gathering role and become scavengers when the opportunity presents itself. I once watched a Gt. Egret eat parts of fish left from human fisherman that were cleaning their catch.

Scientific Method
The process of establishing an hypothesis and gathering data that either proves or disproves the hypothesis. Scientific method is discussed in Beyond Birding.

Scrape
The most basic form of a nest, the scrape is a small depression in the ground where the eggs are laid. This is usually done by shorebirds including plovers, Black Skimmer, and the Least Tern.

Sexual Dimorphism
When the female and the male of a species have different plumages. The differences in the plumage can range from entirely different as in the Northern Harrier, or more subtle as in the Acorn Woodpecker.

Shorebirds
A term that is vague in its usefulness. It generally refers to birds that are found along the edge of water. This term is used to refer to members of the order Charadriformes which includes members of the families, plovers, sandpipers, phalaropes, oystercatchers, etc. But many shorebirds that spend their non-breeding time around water, will migrate and spend their breeding time in a very different habitat.

Social
The inclination of a species to operate as a group. Some species are very individual and some are very social. Most shorebirds are very social (Western Sandpiper, Dunlin). They feed, roost, breed as a large group. Other shorebirds such as the Wandering Tattler feeds by itself. Other birds feed by themselves (Gt. Egret) but sometimes feed as a group. The Gr. Egret, while it may feed on its own, generally nests in colonies which provide each individual the benefit of protection by the others.

Song
Includes all sounds made by birds including those that are made by their bill, their feathers, etc. Birds use their syrinx to make sounds while humans use their larynx.

Speciation
The process by which new species are evolved. Some of the confusion with this term can be seen in the natural history account of the Bank Swallow, and also the McCown's Longspur.

Species
The term species refers to the smallest classification level. Generally this term is used to refer to a specific member of a family of birds. When we talk about woodpeckers, we are not talking about the species level. When we talk about the Acorn Woodpecker we are talking about a specific species. The concept of the species is difficult to precisely define as our knowledge of the concept keeps changing as we improve our understanding of DNA. Also our understanding of the biology of bird song is teaching us more about the concept of speciation. The difficulty of the term also becomes obvious as we look at name changes that have occurred over the past 50 years. The Oregon Junco and the Slate-colored Junco are now considered one species

Split
The Western Grebe was split into two species, the Western Grebe and the Clark's Grebe. This determination is based on a variety of factors (plumage, voice, distribution, etc.) but now is primarily based on DNA analysis.

Sunning
A type of care behavior. Birds will sit in the sun and move the feather tracts of their body around so the warmth of the sun can get to the rest of their body. Steller's Jay, Roadrunner, Robin, Gt. Blue Heron, Mourning Dove

Superspecies
Species that are very closely related. For example, the Western and Eastern Meadowlarks, the Oak Titmouse and Tufted Titmouse and many other species. These species used to be the same species and then diverged, probably due to geographic isolation. For a list of possible super species in the US.

Sympatric
Closely related species or subspecies, whose geographic ranges overlap as contrasted with allopatric.

Taxonomy
The study of classification.

Territory
The physical area that a bird defends. Generally this is an area that they defend so they are able to acquire a mate and obtain food for their young. I have also watched shorebirds defend beach front during the winter.

Topography
The parts of a bird. One of the main ingredients to describing a bird is being able to name the various parts. Instead of just naming the wing, you are able to tell the primary from the secondary from the tertial feathers of the wings.

Tundra
A barren, treeless area in the arctic area. Despite its character it is the favorite breeding area for many North American shorebirds.

Umbrella species
(From Wikipedia) Umbrella species are species selected for making conservation related decisions, typically because protecting these species indirectly protects the many other species that make up the ecological community of its habitat. Species conservation can be subjective because it is hard to determine the status of many species. With millions of species of concern the identification of selected keystone species, flagship species or umbrella species makes conservation decisions easier. Umbrella species can be used to help select the locations of potential reserves, find the minimum size of these conservation areas or reserves, and to determine the composition, structure and processes of ecosystems.

Upwelling
Cold nutrient rich water in the ocean that comes from the depths to the surface and is responsible as a food source for many seabirds

Xeric
a moderately arid habitat; as opposed to a mesic habitat which is moist

Young Bird
The period of time from when the bird is hatched to the time when it reaches sexual maturity. There is a great variety of ways that different species spend this time. One way to view this variety is through the variations of precocial and altricial. The different levels are outlined in an article by Margaret Nice including examples.