Interesting ornithology, you say
Birding terminology to impress your friends
By profession, ornithologists study birds. They may or may not be keen birders.
You go birding with birders. Birdwatching is an acceptable term, but birdspotting is not. Birders are not fanatical. They have a keen interest in birds and may have a list or two of confirmed species sightings.
Twitchers are fanatical birders and list-keepers. Their readiness to jump at any rare sighting is described as twitching.
Birders and twitchers keep lists of the birds they have seen. Well-travelled birders may have country lists or a world list.
Amateur birders are more likely to have a life list. Fanatical twitchers will have regional lists. When a bird is identified and verified, it gets a tick on the list.
A rare bird, or a mega, gets a megatick.
Birders use bins (or binoculars).
A BOP is a bird of prey; an LBJ is a little brown job – a small, brown bird that resembles many other small, brown birds, mostly an immature or female bird.
Dimorphism is the difference in appearance and form between female and male individuals of the same species. In most cases the males of the species that display dimorphism are bright and colourful, while the females are drably dressed.
Collective nouns for birds
- A kettle of hawks
- A murder of crows
- A paddling of ducks
- A congregation of eagles
- A charm of finches
- An ascension of larks
- A parliament of owls
- A knot of sparrows
- A gulp of swallows
Of the world’s 10 000 bird species, around 2 500 are endemic. If you want to see these birds, you’ll have to travel to where they live, since they don’t live anywhere else.
When approaching a possible sighting and the bird flies away, it’s called flushing. As in, “You flushed that bird out by driving too close to that tree.”
A pish is an imitation birdcall used by birders to attract species that they may not otherwise see. Pishing is when you make a “pish” sound through pursed lips. The call attracts other birds in the vicinity that come to see what the sound is about, or why the threatening calls are being made.
A scrape isn’t a scratch – it’s a type of bird’s nest. Simple in construction, a scrape is a shallow dent in the soil or vegetation that has a rim deep enough to keep eggs from rolling away. Sometimes lined with bits of leaves, feathers and shell, scrapes also camouflage the eggs. So who builds a scrape? Ostriches, duck species, shorebirds, falcons and sand grouse, among others.
Birds that eat fruit are frugivorous.
The lores is the space between the eye and the upper part of the bird’s bill, sometimes used to verify an identification in the event of an inconspicuous sighting.
By contrast, the poll describes the part of the head between the ears, or the top of the head.
A bird’s need to travel is known as zugunruhe. It’s best described as seasonal restlessness and most aptly applied to birds that migrate.