EDGE Coral Reef Species


Please note we have deliberately deviated from grammatical convention on this page and used capital letters wherever we wish to draw attention to a term. For guidance on the construction and spelling of English bird names please refer to the World Bird List provided by the International Ornithological Congress.
Anatomical
Feature
Definition
 
Abdomen (Belly) The area below the Breast that extends to the Crissum. It is bordered by the Flank on each side.
Alula (Alular Quills) A group of three, small, stiff feathers arising from the first digit (the thumb) of the hand and collectively called the Alula. They control the flow of air over the wing during flight.
Alular Quills (Alula) A group of three, small, stiff feathers arising from the first digit (the thumb) of the hand and collectively called the Alula. They control the flow of air over the wing during flight.
Auriculars (Ear Coverts) The patch of feathers just behind and below the eye which cover a bird's external ear opening. They are arranged in concentric bands.
Axillaries The feathers located in the base of the underside of the wing; i.e. in the armpit.
Back The area roughly between the two wings. It is bounded by the Scapulars.
Belly (Abdomen) The area below the Breast that extends to the Crissum. It is bordered by the Flank on each side.
Bill This term is now used interchangeably with the beak. It is composed of a bony framework covered by tough keratin.
Breast (Chest) The area of feathering that covers the musculature of the breast, located above the Belly and below the Throat. Also known as the Pectoral Region.
Cere The fleshy bumps on the base of the Upper Mandible of some birds, such as parrots and pigeons.
Cheek (Malar Region) The side of the head, below the eye and Eye Stripe and stretching to the base of the Lower Mandible.
Chest (Breast) The area of feathering that covers the musculature of the breast, located above the Belly and below the Throat. Also known as the Pectoral Region.
Chin A very small area on the front of the neck, directly below the Bill.
Claws The hard talons at the end of each Toe.
Cloaca The common chamber located at the end of the digestive and urogenital systems. The external opening is referred to as the Vent.
Commisure The base of the Bill, specifically the angle at which the Upper and Lower Mandibles join. The term "Gape" refers to the gap between the mandibles when the mouth is open wide.
Crest In crested birds, the Crown feathers are elongated.
Crissum (Under Tail Coverts) The loose feathers covering the base of the tail feathers and located on the underside are collectively termed the Crissum. They surround the Vent and can be distinctively marked (e.g. the Grey Catbird).
Crown The very top of a bird's head, just behind the Forehead.
Crown Stripe A strip of feathers of contrasting colour along the Crown.
Crural Feathers These feathers cover the thigh and blend in with the feathers of the Belly. In some species they extend all the way to the top of the feet, such as with the Snowy Owl.
Culmen The central midline ridge running from the tip of the Upper Mandible, back to the base of the Bill.
Ear Coverts (Auriculars) The patch of feathers just behind and below the eye which cover a bird's external ear opening. They are arranged in concentric bands.
Eye Ring Two to four tiny concentric bands of feathers surrounding the eye, at the edge of the eyelids. These often contrast in colour with the surrounding plumage, forming a distinct ring.
Eye Stripe (Eyeline) This 'line' of feathers extends 'through' or back from the eye, along the side of the head towards the Nape. For example, the Blue Tit has a black eye stripe.
Eyebrow Stripe (Supercilium) A line of contrasting feathers immediately above the eye and along the side of the head, also called the Superciliary Line. In many species these are distinctly coloured.
Eyeline (Eye Stripe) This 'line' of feathers extends 'through' or back from the eye, along the side of the head towards the Nape. For example, the Blue Tit has a black eye stripe
Flank (Side) The area between the Belly and base of the wings. It's usually covered by the folded wings when not in flight.
Forehead The area extending from the base of the Upper Mandible to directly above the eyes.
Gnathotheca The horny covering of the Lower Mandible.
Greater Wing Coverts A single row of large feathers directly adjacent to and overlying the Primaries and Secondaries. They effectively shield the bases of the Remiges.
Gular Area The gular area is located on the upper part of the neck, directly below the Chin and above the Jugulum.
Gular Sac or Pouch When the skin in the Gular Area is bare and expandable it's referred to as a gular sac or pouch. This can be expanded to accommodate large prey. In male frigatebirds it is dramatically inflated and used during courtship display.
Hallux (Hind Toe) Most birds have four toes, with the Hallux (the first digit) directed backwards. This arrangement is known as anisodactyl.
Hind Toe (Hallux) Most birds have four toes, with the Hallux (the first toe) directed backwards. This arrangement is known as anisodactyl.
Inner Toe The second digit of a bird's foot; the first being the Hind Toe or (Hallux).
Jugulum This is the middle and front part of the neck, sandwiched between the Gular Area and the start of the Breast.
Lesser Secondary Coverts (Scapulars) These feathers arise from the shoulder and cover the shoulder blades or "scapula" at the base of the wing; they are also known as Lesser Secondary Coverts and often cover much of the folded wing on a perched bird.
Lesser Wing Coverts In larger birds, the last few distinct rows of covert feathers lying between the small Marginal Coverts and the Greater and Median Coverts are called the Lesser Coverts.
Lore The area on each side of a bird's face, located between the eyes and the base of the Upper Mandible. In some birds it is fleshy and without feathers. It is also often brightly coloured, particularly in the breeding season.
Lower Mandible The lower part of a bird's Bill.
Malar Region (Cheek) The side of the head, below the eye and Eye Stripe and stretching to the base of the Lower Mandible.
Malar Stripe (Moustache Feathers) These feathers lie between the eye and the Throat, extending down from the Commisure. They can be boldly marked, as in the Prairie Falcon.
Mantle The area encompassing the Back of a bird and its Scapulars.
Marginal Coverts These small, soft feathers cover the front and top surface of the wing, lying adjacent to the Lesser Coverts. The marginal coverts cover a significant proportion of the wing surface in large birds. In smaller birds, they may be reduced to two to four rows of tiny feathers.
Marginal Under Wing Coverts Sometimes collectively termed the "wing lining". Although these very soft feathers do form rows, these are usually difficult to distinguish.
Median Wing Coverts A single row of feathers adjacent to the point of origin of the Greater Coverts.
Middle Toe The third digit of a bird's foot; located between the Hind Toe (or Hallux) and the Inner Toe.
Moustache Feathers (Malar Stripe) These feathers lie between the eye and the Throat, extending down from the Commisure. They can be boldly marked, as in the Prairie Falcon.
Nape The back of the neck.
Nare (Nostril) The external nostrils are located at the top of the bill in all birds except the Kiwi, where they are positioned at the end. The shape varies among different species of bird.
Narial Feathers These are long, dense, stiff feathers that extend forward from the base of the Upper Mandible to partially cover the Nostrils. They are present in some bird groups, such as the crows.
Nictitating Membrane A thin translucent fold that acts as a 'third eyelid', sweeping sideways across the eye, from front to back.
Nostril (Nare) The external nostrils are located at the top of the bill in all birds except the Kiwi, where they are positioned at the end. The shape varies among different species of bird.
Operculum A soft, fleshy structure at the base of the Upper Mandible, that covers the external Nostrils in birds such as pigeons and starlings.
Outer Toe The fourth digit of a bird's foot; located furthest from the Hind Toe (or Hallux).
Pectoral Region The area of feathering that covers the musculature of the breast, located above the Belly and below the Throat. Also known as the Chest or Breast.
Pileum The entire top of the head, including the Forehead and Crown.
Primaries The main flight feathers on the outermost parts of the wings. They attach to the bones of the hand and are strongly asymmetrical. Most birds have ten primaries, though many songbirds have just nine.
Primary Coverts These feathers are located above the Primaries, and may form either Marginal, Lesser, Median or Greater Coverts.
Remiges The flight feathers are collectively called remiges and attach to the bones of the wing. These long, stiff feathers fall into two groups based on their point of attachment: the Primaries and the Secondaries.
Retrices (Tail Feathers) The paired flight feathers that make up a bird's tail. Long and stiff, they provide lift and act as a 'rudder' to steer the bird whilst in flight.
Rhamphotheca The horny sheath that covers the Bill. This can include a knob, such as is found above the bill in the Mute Swan. It also makes up the tip and biting edges of the beak and grows throughout the life of the bird. The Gnathotheca refers to the horny covering of the Lower Mandible, while the Rhinotheca refers to the Upper Mandible.
Rhinotheca The horny covering of the Upper Mandible.
Rictal Bristles Bristlelike feathers around the corner of the mouth. They are present and well-developed in many songbirds, and in groups that feed on flying insects. They may also serve a tactile, sensory function like cat's whiskers, particularly in nocturnal species.
Rump The area above the tail and bounded by the Flanks. This area sometimes contrasts in colour to the Back, as seen in the Northern Flicker.
Scapulars (Lesser Secondary Coverts) These feathers arise from the shoulder and cover the shoulder blades or "scapula" at the base of the wing; they are also known as Lesser Secondary Coverts and often cover much of the folded wing on a perched bird.
Secondaries The smaller flight feathers on the upper part of the wings, located above the Primaries. These feathers are attached to the forearm and provide most of the surface area of large soaring birds' wings. The number of Secondaries varies with wing-length in a species, and ranges from the nine typical of songbirds to 25 in the larger vultures.
Secondary Coverts These feathers are located above the Secondaries, and may form either Marginal, Lesser, Median or Greater Coverts.
Side (Flank) The area between the Belly and base of the wings. It's usually covered by the folded wings when not in flight.
Supercilium (Eyebrow Stripe) A line of contrasting feathers immediately above the eye and along the side of the head, also called the Superciliary Line. In many species these are distinctly coloured.
Supraorbital Ridge The ridge just above the eye, i.e. the brow bone.
Tail Feathers (Retrices) The paired flight feathers that make up a bird's tail. Long and stiff, they provide lift and act as a 'rudder' to steer the bird whilst in flight.
Tail Streamers The elongated, narrow tips of the tail feathers of certain birds, such as the Barn Swallow.
Tarsus Part of the leg, below the thigh; between the foot and the first joint.
Terminal Tail Band Contrasting colouration at the tips of the Retrices can form a terminal tail band.
Tertiaries A group of three or four feathers adjacent to the innermost Secondaries, also called Tertials. True tertiaries are not arranged in the same row as the secondaries.
Throat The area extending down from beneath the Chin to above the Breast. This encompasses the Gular Area and Jugulum, and is brightly coloured in many species.
Toe The digits of the feet.
Tomial Notch The Tomium is the cutting edge of either the Upper or Lower Mandible; tomia are notched in some birds (e.g. falcons) and saw-like in others (e.g. mergansers).
Tomium The Tomium is the cutting edge of either the Upper or Lower Mandible; tomia are notched in some birds (e.g. falcons) and saw-like in others (e.g. mergansers).
Under Tail Coverts (Crissum) The loose feathers covering the base of the tail feathers and located on the underside are collectively termed the Crissum. They surround the Vent and can be distinctively marked (e.g. the Grey Catbird).
Under Wing Coverts The area under the wing has rows of feathers that correspond to the Upper Wing Covets; named according to their location, size, and the specific Remiges they cover.
Upper Mandible The upper part of a bird's Bill.
Upper Tail Coverts These feathers cover the base of the tail feathers, on the top side, and are generally indistinguishable from the Rump.
Upper Wing Coverts Rows of these small feathers overlay the Alula and Remiges, covering the base of the larger wing feathers. They are named according to their location, size, and the specific remiges they cover. Those on the inner wing that overlay the secondary flight feathers are known as the Secondary Coverts, and those on the outerwing that overlay the primary flight feathers are called the Primary Coverts. Within each group, the feathers form a number of rows. The feathers of the outermost and largest row are termed Greater (Primary/Secondary) Coverts; those in the next row are the Median (Primary/Secondary) Coverts, and any remaining rows are termed Lesser (Primary/Secondary) Coverts. The front edge of the wing is covered with a group of feathers called the Marginal Coverts.
Vent The external opening of the Cloaca.
Wattle A fleshy growth hanging from various parts of the head or neck in certain groups of birds.
Wing Bars A stripe of colour on the folded wing, usually yellow or white if present. This effect is produced by the tips of the Upper Wing Coverts or near the bases of the Secondaries and can be useful for identification purposes.