If you are a birdwatcher, then you know how important it is to understand the language of the hobby. From identifying species to noting behaviors, birdwatchers need to have a solid grasp of the terminology used in the field. To help make things easier, here is a comprehensive glossary of birdwatching slang that will give you an edge when scouting out birds!
Table of Contents
Glossary of Birdwatching Slang
I. Basic Birding Terms
Albatross: A seabird with long, narrow wings and a large body, known for its incredible endurance and ability to fly for thousands of miles without landing.
Auk: A group of seabirds including puffins, guillemots, and murres.
Avian: Relating to birds.
Beak: The hard, pointed structure at the end of a bird’s bill that is used for feeding, grooming, and other activities.
Bill: The mouthpart of a bird, including the beak and the surrounding skin, that is used for feeding, grooming, and other activities.
Bird: A warm-blooded vertebrate with feathers, wings, and a beak, adapted for flight.
Birding: The observation and study of birds, often as a hobby or recreational activity.
Breeding Plumage: The feathers a bird grows during the breeding season that are often brighter, more colorful, or more distinctive than its non-breeding plumage.
Call: A vocalization made by a bird for communication or territorial purposes.
Cassowary: A large, flightless bird native to northern Australia and the islands of New Guinea.
Chick: A young bird, especially one that has recently hatched from an egg.
Clutch: A group of eggs laid by a bird at one time.
Collar: A strip of feathers or skin around the neck of a bird.
Crest: A tuft of feathers on the top of a bird’s head.
Crown: The top of a bird’s head.
Diurnal: Active during the day.
Down: Soft, fluffy feathers that are found closest to a bird’s skin and are used for insulation.
Drake: A male duck.
Dunlin: A small shorebird with a reddish-brown back and a white belly.
Ear Tufts: Tufts of feathers on the sides of a bird’s head that are used for communication and camouflage.
Egg: A reproductive structure laid by female birds, containing a fertilized embryo and surrounding yolk and albumen.
Endemic: Native and confined to a particular geographic region.
Eye Ring: A ring of feathers or skin around a bird’s eye.
Flight: The movement of a bird through the air.
Flight Feathers: The large feathers on a bird’s wings that are used for flight.
Foot: The appendage at the end of a bird’s leg, used for perching, walking, and grasping prey.
Forage: To search for food.
Fledge: To grow feathers and become capable of flight.
Fledgling: A young bird that has grown its first set of flight feathers and is learning to fly.
Flock: A group of birds of the same species.
Flycatcher: A bird that feeds on insects and other small prey while in flight.
Footpad: The soft, fleshy part of a bird’s foot.
Gape: The opening of a bird’s bill, used for breathing and feeding.
Gizzard: A muscular part of a bird’s digestive system that grinds and grinds food.
Grackle: A large, black bird with a long, slender bill and iridescent feathers.
Grosbeak: A bird with a large, thick bill and plump body, typically found in wooded areas.
Guano: The excrement of birds, often used as fertilizer.
Gull: A bird with a white or gray body, black or yellow-tipped bill, and webbed feet, often found near the coast.
Hawk: A bird of prey with a hooked beak, sharp talons, and keen eyesight, used for hunting.
Head: The front part of a bird’s body, including the beak, eyes, and crest.
Heron: A long-legged bird with a long neck and sharp bill, often found near water.
Hummingbird: A small, brightly colored bird with iridescent feathers and the ability to hover in mid-air.
Ibis: A wading bird with a long, slender neck and bill, often found near water.
Impressionistic: Relating to an art style characterized by loose brushwork and a focus on capturing the atmosphere or mood of a scene.
Incubate: To keep eggs warm so that the embryos inside can develop.
Juvenile: A young bird that has not yet reached maturity.
Kestrel: A small, falcon-like bird with a long, narrow tail and wings and a rusty-brown back.
Killdeer: A plover with a distinctive, broken-wing display used to distract predators from its nest.
Kingfisher: A brightly colored bird with a large head, short tail, and long, pointed bill, often found near water.
Kite: A bird of prey with long, pointed wings, a forked tail, and a hooked beak, used for hunting.
II. Bird Watching Gear and Equipment
Binoculars: A tool used for bird watching that magnifies distant objects, allowing the observer to see details more clearly.
Blind: A shelter or hide used for observing birds without being seen.
Camera: A tool used to capture images, often used by bird watchers to document their sightings.
Field Guide: A book or app used for identifying birds, often with illustrations, descriptions, and songs or calls.
Harness: A device used to secure binoculars to the body, keeping them easily accessible while bird watching.
Lens: A piece of glass or plastic used to magnify or focus light, often used in binoculars and cameras.
Monocular: A single-eyed telescope used for bird watching, similar to a binocular but with only one lens.
Optics: Devices used for observing birds, including binoculars, telescopes, and cameras.
Spotting Scope: A small telescope used for bird watching, often with a tripod for stability.
Tripod: A three-legged support used to hold a camera or spotting scope steady while bird watching.
Field Notes: A notebook used by bird watchers to record information about their sightings, including date, location, species, and other observations.
Rucksack: A large, backpack-style bag used to carry gear and equipment while bird watching.
Camera Strap: A strap used to attach a camera to the body, keeping it easily accessible while bird watching.
Tripod Head: The part of a tripod that holds the camera or spotting scope and allows for tilting and panning movements.
Rain Cover: A protective cover used to protect equipment from rain and moisture while bird watching.
Lens Hood: A device that attaches to the front of a camera lens to prevent lens flare and protect the lens from damage.
Camera Bag: A protective case used to store and transport camera equipment.
Car Window Mount: A device used to secure a spotting scope or camera to a car window for stability while bird watching.
Bird Call: A device that produces bird calls, often used to attract birds for observation.
Teleconverter: An accessory that attaches to a camera lens and increases its magnification power.
Filter: A device that attaches to a camera lens and modifies the light entering the lens, used for special effects or protection.
Flash: A device used to produce additional light, often used in bird photography to fill in shadows or brighten images.
Battery Pack: A device used to provide additional power to cameras or other equipment.
Remote Shutter Release: A device used to trigger the camera’s shutter from a distance, without physically touching the camera.
Memory Card: A small device used to store digital images, often used in cameras.
Lens Cleaner: A solution used to clean camera lenses and remove smudges or fingerprints.
Polarizing Filter: A filter that reduces glare and enhances color in images, often used in bird photography.
Lens Cap: A device that covers the front of a camera lens to protect it from dust, dirt, and scratches.
Strap: A device used to attach a camera or binoculars to the body, keeping them easily accessible while bird watching.
Extension Tube: An accessory that attaches to a camera lens and allows it to focus closer to the subject, useful for close-up photography.
Reflector: A device used to reflect light onto a subject, often used in bird photography to fill in shadows or brighten images.
Diffuser: A device used to scatter light and reduce shadows, often used in bird photography to create soft, even lighting.
Soft Box: A type of lighting device used in photography, consisting of a box with a diffuser on one end that softens and spreads the light.
Tripod Collar: A device that attaches to the lens of a camera and provides a stable mounting point for the camera on a tripod.
Lens Case: A protective case used to store and transport camera lenses.
Lens Shade: A device that attaches to the front of a camera lens to reduce lens flare and protect the lens from damage.
ND Filter: A neutral density filter used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing for longer exposure times in bright light conditions.
Hot Shoe: A device mounted on the top of a camera that holds a flash or other accessory.
Flash Bracket: A device used to hold a flash off-camera, allowing for greater control over lighting.
Shutter Release Cable: A cable used to trigger the camera’s shutter from a distance, without physically touching the camera.
Macro Lens: A lens designed for close-up photography, allowing the photographer to focus on small objects or details.
Zoom Lens: A lens that allows the focal length to be adjusted, providing a range of magnification powers.
Wide-Angle Lens: A lens that provides a wide field of view, allowing the photographer to capture a larger area in a single shot. This type of lens is useful for bird photography as it allows the photographer to capture a wide view of the bird and its surroundings, making it easier to track bird activity.
Telephoto Lens: A lens that magnifies a distant object, allowing the photographer to capture close-up shots of birds without disturbing them. This type of lens is commonly used in bird photography, as it allows the photographer to capture images of birds from a safe distance.
Tripod: A three-legged support used to stabilize a camera or binoculars while birdwatching or bird photography. Tripods are essential for capturing clear and steady images, especially in low light conditions.
Monopod: A one-legged support used to stabilize a camera or binoculars while birdwatching or bird photography. Monopods are compact and portable, making them a convenient alternative to tripods.
Binoculars: A hand-held optical device used to magnify distant objects, making it easier to see birds and their behavior. Binoculars are an essential tool for birdwatchers and bird photographers, as they allow for close-up views of birds without disturbing them.
Spotting Scope: A type of telescope that magnifies distant objects and is mounted on a tripod. Spotting scopes are used to observe birds from a distance and are especially useful for birdwatching and bird photography in open and vast habitats such as fields and wetlands.
Camera: A device used to capture images of birds. Camera equipment can range from simple point-and-shoot cameras to high-end digital SLR cameras. Bird photographers often use specialized equipment, such as long lenses and tripods, to capture clear and detailed images of birds in their natural habitats.
Bird Call Recording Device: A device used to record the vocalizations of birds. Bird call recording devices are useful for birders who are looking to identify birds by their songs or calls, as well as for bird researchers who study bird behavior and communication.
III. Bird Nests, Eggs, and Nesting Behavior
Nest: A structure built by birds to hold their eggs and rear their young.
Nest Box: A man-made structure designed to mimic a natural bird nest.
Nesting Material: The materials used by birds to build their nests.
Nest Site: The location where a bird builds its nest.
Nest Cup: The depression in the center of a bird’s nest.
Incubation: The process by which a bird sits on its eggs to keep them warm and allow them to hatch.
Brood: A group of young birds that are reared by a single set of parents.
Fledgling: A young bird that has grown its flight feathers.
Altricial: A term used to describe birds that are born helpless and naked.
Precocial: A term used to describe birds that are born with a high degree of development.
Clutch: The number of eggs laid by a bird in a single nest.
Egg-Laying: The process by which a bird lays its eggs in a nest.
Egg Tooth: A small, pointed protuberance on the top of a chick’s beak.
Nest Parasitism: The behavior of some birds in which they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species.
Nest Predation: The act of predators eating eggs or chicks from a bird’s nest.
Nesting Colony: A group of birds that nest together in close proximity.
Nesting Territory: An area claimed by a bird as its own for the purpose of breeding and raising its young.
Nest Cup Lining: The material used by birds to line the inside of their nest cup, usually for insulation and comfort.
Nest Flimsy: A weak or poorly constructed nest.
Nestling: A young bird still in the nest and not yet fledged.
Eggshell: The protective outer layer of a bird’s egg.
Egg Coloration: The pattern and coloration of a bird’s eggs, which can vary greatly among species.
Egg Shape: The shape of a bird’s eggs, which can also vary greatly among species.
Egg Size: The size of a bird’s eggs, which can range from tiny to large.
Egg Mass: The combined weight of a bird’s eggs in a single clutch.
Eggsperiment: A study or observation of a bird’s egg-laying and incubation behavior.
Brood Parasitism: The behavior of some birds in which they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, relying on those birds to rear their young.
Nest Building: The act of constructing a nest.
Nest Maintenance: The act of keeping a nest in good condition and making repairs as needed.
Nest Defense: The act of protecting a nest from predators or intruders.
Nest Success: The number of eggs that successfully hatch and produce young.
Nest Failure: The number of eggs that do not hatch or produce young.
Egg Dumping: The act of a bird discarding eggs that are not viable.
Egg-Laying Sequence: The order in which a bird lays its eggs in a clutch.
Egg Shape: The size and shape of a bird’s eggs, which can vary greatly between species.
Egg Color: The color of a bird’s eggs, which can range from pure white to speckled brown, blue, green, or any other color.
Nesting Material: The materials used by birds to construct their nests, such as twigs, grass, leaves, moss, feathers, and other materials.
Nesting Behavior: The actions and habits of birds during the nest-building and egg-laying process, such as incubation, brooding, and feeding young.
Nest Cup: The depression in a bird’s nest where the eggs are laid.
Nest Placement: The location where a bird builds its nest, such as in a tree, shrub, or on the ground.
Nest Site Selection: The process by which birds choose a location to build their nests, taking into consideration factors such as safety, food availability, and temperature.
Nest Defense: The actions of birds to protect their nests and eggs from predators, such as alarm calls, physical aggression, and camouflage.
Nest Parasitism: The practice of laying eggs in another bird’s nest, often by cowbirds or cuckoos, leaving the host bird to raise the young.
Brood Parasitism: The practice of having another bird raise one’s young, as in the case of nest parasitism.
Nest Success: The rate at which bird nests successfully produce fledglings.
Nest Failure: The rate at which bird nests fail to produce fledglings, often due to predation, disease, or other factors.
Fledgling: A young bird that has left the nest but is not yet fully grown.
Juvenile: A young bird that has left the nest and is in the process of developing adult plumage.
Reproductive Success: The overall success of a bird’s reproductive efforts, including nest success and the survival of offspring.
Breeding Season: The time of year when birds are actively reproducing, building nests, laying eggs, and raising young.
IV. Birder Slang Words
Lister – A person who makes lists of birds they have seen in a particular area.
Jizz – The way of identifying a bird by its overall shape and size.
Twitcher – A birdwatcher who travels long distances to see rare birds.
Ticker List – A list of birds seen by a birdwatcher.
Mega – A very rare bird sighting.
Twitchathon – A birdwatching event where participants compete to see the most birds in a certain time period.
Lifer – A bird seen for the first time.
Dip – A bird not seen on a trip.
Skulker – A bird that stays hidden and is difficult to find.
Year-lister – A person who has seen at least one bird each month of the year.
Tick – A bird seen and recorded.
Chase – The pursuit of a bird that is rare or difficult to find.
Stakeout – Watching an area where a rare bird is usually seen.
Pish – Making a sound to entice a bird out of hiding.
Pishing – The act of making a sound to entice a bird out of hiding.
Patch – A birding area, usually near the birder’s home.
Dipper – A bird that swims underwater in search of food.
Flier – A bird that is adept at flying.
Guller – A person who specializes in identifying seagulls.
Hawk – A bird of prey.
Lurker – A bird that prefers to stay hidden and is difficult to find.
Mudlarker – A person who searches for items in mud.
Mudder – A person who wades in mud to search for birds.
Pelagic – A type of bird that lives on or near the open sea.
Scoper – A person who uses a telescope or other optical equipment to view birds.
Seabird – A type of bird that lives in or near the open sea.
Striker – A person who is skilled at identifying ducks.
Swallow – A type of bird that migrates long distances.
Switcher – A person who changes locations often in order to see different birds.
Terner – A person who is good at identifying terns.
Twitch – A sudden movement of a bird.
Twitcher – A person who travels long distances to see birds.
Listee – A person who is just starting to make bird lists.
Luree – A person who uses lures to attract birds.
Patter – A bird’s call or song.
Peeper – A person who enjoys hearing birds sing.
Pheasanteer – A person who is skilled at identifying pheasants.
Pigeoner – A person who is skilled at identifying pigeons.
Plunker – A person who looks for water birds.
Potter – A person who searches for birds near water.
Railer – A person who is skilled at identifying rails.
Rambler – A person who travels long distances to look for birds.
Scanner – A person who uses binoculars to scan for birds.
Scope – A person who uses a telescope to search for birds.
Screecher – A person who searches for birds in the night sky.
Skimmer – A person who searches for shorebirds.
Staker – A person who stands in one spot to look for birds.
Swarmer – A person who looks for large groups of birds.
Swooper – A person who looks for birds in the sky.
Tapper – A person who listens for birds.
Tracker – A person who follows a bird’s movements.
Trapper – A person who sets up traps to capture birds.
Waterfowler – A person who hunts waterfowl.
Wader – A person who searches for shorebirds.
Warbler – A person who searches for warblers.
Watcher – A person who looks for birds.
Weaver – A person who looks for small birds.
Woodpecker – A person who looks for woodpeckers.
Wrenner – A person who is skilled at identifying wrens.
Yarder – A person who looks for birds in their backyard.
Yowler – A person who looks for owls.
Lister: A birdwatcher who keeps a record of all the species they have seen.
Lifer: A bird species that a birder has seen for the first time in their life.
Dip: The failure to see a target bird species during a birding trip.
Listee: A person who is actively working on their birding list and adding to it.
Big Day: A birding competition where participants attempt to see as many bird species as possible in a 24-hour period.
Big Year: A birding competition where participants attempt to see as many bird species as possible in a calendar year.
Twitch: A birding trip specifically to see a rare or sought-after bird species.
Pelagic: A birding trip that focuses on seabirds, typically on a boat or other vessel.
Skulker: A bird species that is difficult to see or observe due to its secretive behavior.
Dabbler: A bird species that feeds in shallow water by tipping forward and using its bill to pick food from the surface.
Flyover: A bird species that is observed flying overhead but not landing.
FOS: First of Season, a bird species seen for the first time during a particular season.
FOY: First of Year, a bird species seen for the first time during a particular year.
Jizz: The overall impression or look of a bird, including size, shape, behavior, and plumage, used to identify species.
Chickadee Run: A group of Black-capped Chickadees moving through the trees, often followed by birders.
Chirper: A bird species that is known for its high-pitched chirping call.
Chuckle: A bird species that is known for its chuckling call.
Scooper: A bird species that uses its bill to scoop food from the water or ground.
Sighter: A person who has seen a target bird species and reports it to others.
Twitchathon: A birding competition where participants attempt to see as many bird species as possible in a set time period, often 24 hours or more.
Yard Bird: A bird species seen in a birder’s yard or local area.
Zoner: A bird species that is found in specific geographical regions or habitats.
Rarities Committee: A group of experts who review and validate reports of rare bird sightings.
Rarity: A bird species that is rare or unexpected in a particular area.
Target Bird: A bird species that a birder is specifically seeking to see or observe.
Ticker: A bird species that is added to a birder’s list.
Vagrant: A bird species that is found far outside of its normal range.
Waterbird: A bird species that is found in or near water, such as ducks, geese, and swans.
Year Bird: A bird species seen for the first time in a particular year.
ABA Area: The American Birding Association’s defined area for birding in North America, including all of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Accipiter: A group of bird species, including hawks and goshawks, known for their rapid, powerful flight and their ability to hunt other birds.
Skulker: A bird that hides in dense vegetation and is difficult to see.
Smudge: A dark, smoky area on the feathers of a bird caused by oil or other contamination.
Snipe Hunt: A practical joke in which someone is led to believe they are going on a hunt for a rare bird, only to find out it doesn’t actually exist.
Soft Plummage: A term used to describe the fluffy down feathers on a bird.
Spoonbill: A type of wading bird with a unique bill shaped like a spoon.
Stakeout: A location where a birder has previously seen a rare or unusual bird, and goes back to look for it again.
Stilt: A type of wading bird with very long legs.
Subspecies: A group of birds that are similar in appearance, but have distinct genetic differences from other subspecies within the same species.
Swallowtail: A type of bird with a distinctive forked tail, often seen in flight.
Tangler: A bird that becomes entangled in vines or other vegetation.
Tern: A type of seabird with a slender bill and narrow wings, known for their agility in flight.
Tick: A term used by birders to record a species they have seen on a checklist or list.
Twitcher: A British term for a birder who goes to great lengths to see as many species as possible.
Upland Game Bird: A type of bird that inhabits grasslands, prairies, and other upland areas.
Wader: A type of bird that feeds in shallow water, such as herons, egrets, and stilts.
Waterfowl: A type of bird that lives and feeds near water, such as ducks, geese, and swans.
Yellowlegs: A type of wading bird with long yellow legs.
Yoke: The band of feathers on the neck of a bird, connecting the head to the body.
Zoner: A birder who focuses on observing birds within a specific geographic area or zone.
Zoon: A term used by birders to describe the distinctive call or song of a bird species.
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