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Audubon - Bird glossary
Category: Animals and Nature > Birds and Habitat
Date & country: 27/09/2013, USA
Words: 217

Atypical; an aberrant bird differs strikingly in some aspect from most individuals of its species.

Air sac
As used in this guide, an expandable, featherless, often brightly colored and textured area on the sides of the neck in some birds; certain grouse and prairie-chickens inflate air sacs in courtship displays. In anatomical usage, the term refers to internal organs connected to the lungs in all birds.

Congenital absence of pigmentation; in birds, results in white plumage and pink eyes.

Having a pH value greater than 7; alkaline lakes in the western United States support many bird species.

Alpine barrens
Areas above the timberline where vegetation is typically low, creeping, and sparse.

Alternate plumage
In most bird species, the plumage worn during the breeding season; often more vividly colored and patterned than the nonbreeding (or basic) plumage, particularly in males.

Altitudinal migration
Seasonal movement of birds along elevational gradients, normally downslope in the cooler months and upslope in the warmer.

In bird songs, composed of phrases sung alternately by males and females.

Informal term for the inner portion of the wing between the body and the carpal joint; often used by hawk-watchers.

In arid regions, a water-carved gulch, deep gully, or small, narrow canyon that is often dry; in the United States, the term is used almost exclusively in the Southwest and California.

Invertebrate of the phylum Arthropoda, which includes insects, crustaceans, and arachnids.

Aspect ratio
In birds, the ratio of wing length to wing breadth.

Asynchronous hatching
Staggered hatching of birds in a single clutch (group of eggs), often over several days.

Offspring resulting from the mating of a hybrid bird with one of its parental species.

Barrier island
Long, narrow island situated parallel to a shore and built by the action of waves and currents; a habitat often used by nesting and migrating waterbirds.

Basic plumage
In most bird species, the plumage worn during the nonbreeding season; often less strikingly patterned or colored than breeding (or alternate) plumage.

Section of a bird's underparts below the breast and before the vent.

Informal term for a distinctly pigmented area of the throat, usually a dark patch (as seen on many chickadees).

Area of soft, spongy, naturally waterlogged ground, typically having an acidic substrate of sphagnum moss and peat, in which characteristic shrubs and herbs and sometimes trees grow.

Borrow pit
Area where soil has been excavated for use elsewhere; these pits often fill with water or are maintained as small ponds and lakes.

Characterized by a mixture of salt and fresh water, as found in tidal areas such as bays, lagoons, and marshes.

Section of a bird's underparts below the throat and before the belly.

Area of continuous, contrastingly pigmented plumage that extends across the breast (as in Semipalmated Plover).

Brood parasite
Bird that lays eggs in another bird's nest (sometimes a bird of another species).

Brow line
Line extending from the eye to the base of the maxilla (as in Razorbill).

Dense thicket of cane, in North America usually of the native species giant or switch cane (Arundinaria gigantea).

Carolina sandhills
A term for the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem that once covered 90 million acres from the coastal plain of the Carolinas to eastern Texas but is now reduced to fewer than 3 million acres.

Raised, fleshy area at the base of the maxilla, naked in diurnal raptors (Falconiformes), feathered in parrots, and covered with an operculum (flap) in pigeons.

Habitat dominated by a dense growth of mostly small-leaved evergreen shrubs that is found mainly in the West and Southwest and is characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters.

Informal term for the area of a bird's head that includes the auriculars and surrounding feather tracts.

Informal term for the uppermost part of a bird's throat, adjacent to the mandible.

Tract of woodland in which all trees have been removed.

Showing gradual change in a character from one end of a species' (or population's) range to the other; this change typically is correlated with an environmental gradient, and forms at the endpoints may appear strikingly different.

Coast Ranges
Mountain ranges that stretch along the western coast of North America from southeastern Alaska to Mexico.

Coastal plain
Area of flatland adjacent to a seacoast; the Atlantic Coastal Plain stretches some 2,200 miles (3,540km) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, southward through the southeastern United States and Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Informal term for a distinctly pigmented area of plumage that encircles the neck and/or breast.

In birds, usually a group of the same species nesting together in close proximity; some birds, especially terns, herons, and egrets, nest in colonies comprised of several species, and some birds nest in widely scattered colonies.

Coniferous forest
Woodland composed of mostly evergreen, cone-bearing trees or shrubs with needlelike or scalelike leaves, including pines, spruces, and junipers.

Contour feathers
Feathers that form the outer layer of a bird's plumage, including remiges and rectrices.

A bird of the family Corvidae.

Having a nearly worldwide distribution.

Contour feathers that lie over (or partly cover) other feathers and serve to protect them and to streamline the bird. Uppertail and undertail coverts cover the base of the tail on the upperside and underside of the body, respectively. Wing coverts are arranged in distinct tiers in many birds, especially larger species: greater coverts are the largest and closest to the remiges, median coverts form the next tier, lesser coverts the next, and marginal coverts are found along the very edge of the wing. Wing covert feathers may be further distinguished according to whether they cover primaries or secondaries and/or the upperside (upperwing coverts) or underside (underwing coverts): greater underprimary coverts are the greater coverts that cover the bases of the primaries (but not the secondaries).

Group of game birds, especially smaller species such as quail.

Informal term for a distinctly pigmented area of plumage that appears to drape from the upperparts to the sides of the breast.

Term for a small rail with a small bill.

Group of crown feathers that show a peak or elongation; adults of some species are always obviously crested, while others may raise a small crest only when alarmed.

Area of feathers between the vent and rectrices that includes the undertail coverts.

In some birds, a saclike area between the throat and esophagus used to store food before regurgitation or digestion.

Ridge of the maxilla from base to tip.

In albatrosses and some tubenose allies, a distinct bill plate that lies along the culmen up to the nail (as in Yellow-nosed Albatross).

Deciduous woodland
Woodland comprising mostly or solely trees that shed their foliage at the end of the growing season, usually autumn or winter.

Curved downward; many birds' bills are decurved.

Desert wash
A usually dry desert streambed that flows only after periods of heavy rain.

In a population or species, occurring in two forms that differ in size, shape, or coloration, frequently involving differences between male and female (sexual dimorphism) or color morphs.

Innate, stylized activity or signal through which birds communicate.

Active by day.

Pertaining to the upperside of the body; in birds, refers especially to the tail, back, and wings.

Dredge-spoil island
Shoal or small island created by the deposition of sediment from dredging operations, usually in connection with the maintenance of ship channels.

Early successional
Referring to the first stages of regeneration of a (usually forested) disturbed habitat, during which grasses, shrubs, forbs, and saplings dominate.

Eclipse plumage
Plumage worn briefly by male waterfowl just after mating or after the breeding season; more muted than the plumage worn through most of the year and sometimes resembling that of the female.

Native to or confined to a certain region and found nowhere else.

Passage of the lower course of a river where its current meets the tides and the water is brackish.

Eye crescent
Narrow area of contrasting plumage above and/or below the eye, of almost even thickness (as in Franklin's Gull).

Eye patch
Area of dark plumage around the eye.

Thick, fleshy growth above the eye in certain galliforms; most noticeable when males are displaying or agitated but also seen in females of many species.

Facial disc
Group of feathers that surround the eyes of certain birds, particularly owls, in which the disc is often clearly defined.

Low-lying, wet land with grassy vegetation; usually a flat, transitional area between land and water.

First-year bird
Bird in its first 12 months of life; a first-winter bird is in its first winter, a first-fall bird in its first fall.

Rear portion of the sides, from about the midpoint of the folded wing to the tail coverts.

To grow a first set of contour feathers (as opposed to a coat of downy feathers), or juvenal plumage.

Flight call
Call used chiefly by flying birds, thought to function as a contact call among members of the same species, especially during nocturnal migration.

To capture flying insects while in flight.

Foremost part of the crown; a smaller area than the forehead.

Front of the head, above the maxilla.

Frontal shield
Featherless, fleshy plate on the forehead, often brightly colored (as in Purple Gallinule).

Small area of distinctly delineated plumage near the foremost portion of the forehead.

Furcular sac
Pouch of skin lying just in front of the sternum that can be inflated to produce sounds in a few species (such as Brown Jay).

Angle of the bill where the maxilla meets the mandible.

To pick small food items singly, usually with delicate movements; warblers glean insects from leaves or needle clusters.

Gonydeal angle
Cusp on the outer portion of the mandible along the gonys; prominent on some birds, such as gulls.

Ridge formed by the fusion of the two outer ridges of the mandible.

Patch of brightly colored feathers on a hummingbird's throat.

Area with extensive grass or grasslike vegetation, such as a prairie or meadow.

Greenland Current
Ocean current that flows from the Arctic Ocean down the east side of Greenland, merging with the Labrador Current at the southern tip of Greenland.

Grin patch
Informal term for the appearance of the contrastingly dark cutting edges (tomia) near the base of the bill in Snow Goose.

Gular pouch
Patch, often colorful, of bare skin on the throat that may be distensible or inflatable (as in Magnificent Frigatebird).

Gular skin
Bare skin that surrounds the throat in some birds.

Tract of forested land that rises above adjacent marshland, usually in the southeastern United States.

Informal term for the outer portion of the wing past the carpal joint; typically used by hawk-watchers.

High Arctic
Area above the Low Arctic, where tundra vegetation is replaced by cushion plants, rock-brake ferns (Cryptogramma), prostrate shrubs, and rosette-forming herbs.

Rear part of the crown, just forward of (above) the nape.

To forage while fluttering in the air; kinglets often hover-glean insect larvae from the outer needle clusters of spruce trees.

Feathers of the inner portion of the wing that lie along the humerus (wing bone nearest the body).

A bird of the family Icteridae.

Body of water, such as a reservoir or marsh, contained by manmade boundaries, especially earthen dams.

Interior West
Area of the western United States south of Canada that lies east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the Great Plains.

Intertidal zone
Area of a shoreline between the low- and high-tide points.

Large-scale movement of a species outside its typical range, usually in autumn or winter; such movements do not occur in regular, predictable patterns, unlike migration.

Juvenal plumage
A bird's first covering of contour feathers; it is often brown or streaked.

Bird in juvenal plumage.