All Birds Wiki

This article describes the various external parts of a bird, also known as topography.

Black-shouldered Kite underupperparts

1. Underparts
2. Upperparts


Size comparison to a kiwi to its egg.


Flight silhouettes of various birds.

Egyptian Vulture

The juvenile and adult's plumages can be vastly different, as in the Egyptian vultures.

General anatomy[]

The two basic parts of a bird are referred to as underparts (ventrum, adj. ventral) and upperparts (dorsum, adj. dorsal).

Size refers to the total length of the bird from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. For example, the Broad-winged Hawk is 16 inches (41 cm) long.[1] However, dead birds may appear longer because they were stretched out with "reasonable force" (e.g. a live Western Scrub-Jay is 10 inches (25 cm) and a dead bird may appear to be 11.5 inches (29 cm).[2]

The wingspan refers to the total length of a bird's wings from wingtip to wingtip. For example, the wingspan of the Bald Eagle is 70–90 inches (1.8–2.3 m) long.[1]

Plumage refers to the bird's feathers.

Parts of the head/bill[]

Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill

An Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill has a casque on its bill.

A bird's bill (or beak or rostrum, adj. rostral) is divided into two parts: lower and upper mandibles. The bill can be curved (e.g. avocets), decurved (e.g. sicklebills), curved to the left as in the wrybill (the only bird known to be like that) or as in the crossbill, their bills are criss-crossed. The top of a bird's bill is known as a culmen.

The bird's nostrils are also called nares. There are specific names for the nares, such as the cere (SEER) - found in parrots, hawks, falcons and owls[3] or operculum (OP-err-CU-lum), which is found in pigeons. Sometimes the nares are see-through which is known perforate. Some seabirds in the order Procellariiformes (pro-sell-ah-rye-ih-FOR-meez [4]) have tubelike nostrils

A casque (CASK) a bony structure found on top of the head (cassowaries) or on the bill (hornbills).

Cinnamon Becard supraloralandlores

1. Lore
2. Supraloral

Lampornis calolaemus-4

The white line behind this hummingbird's eye is a postocular stripe.

The area between the eyes and the bill is known as the lores [3] and the area above that is known as the supraloral [3].

The line of feathers extending from the base of the bill to above and behind the eyes (including the supraloral feathers) is known as the superciliary (is prominent in birds such as orioles) [3]. In some birds, behind the eyes is a postocular stripe found in birds such as hummingbirds [3]. When the postocular stripe and superciliary are the same colour, and set off from the surrounding feathers, it forms an eye line [3].

In birds such as the wattle-eyes, they have an area around their eyes called a eye-wattle, which is brightly coloured red, greenish-yellow (yellow-bellied wattle-eye) blue or purple (female chestnut wattle-eye) [5].

In birds such as owls and harriers, they have a facial disk, it is thought to direct sound to the bird's ears [6].

Parts of the wing[]

The wing is made up of primaries, secondaries and tertials. Above them are coverts. Wing feathers are also called remex (pl. remiges).

Locations of topographic features[]


  1. ^ a b Dunn, Jon L. and Alderfer, Jonathan (2011). National Geographic Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. ISBN 1426200722. 
  2. ^ Zim, Herbert S.; Gabrielson, Ira N. and Irving, James Gordon (1956). Birds: A Guide to the Most Familiar American Birds. Golden Press. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Garrigues, Richard and Dean, Robert (2007). The Birds of Costa Rica. Zona Tropical Publication. ISBN 9780801473739. 
  4. ^ Terres, John K. (1980). The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0394466519. 
  5. ^ Zimmerman, Dale A., Turner, Donald A., and Pearson, David J.; Illustrated by Zimmerman, Dale A., Willis, Ian and Pratt, H. Douglas (1999). Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691010226.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthor= (help)
  6. ^ Clark, William S.; Brian K. Wheeler (2011). Hawks of North America, 2nd Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 12. ISBN 0395670675.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help);

External links[]

See also[]