Birdword: An Illustrated Guide to Some Tongue-Twisting Ornithological Terms
September 19, 2018
Birdword is a recurring feature in Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.
They’re sometimes called technical terms, eight-dollar-words, jargon, or just plain gobbledygook. But hidden inside those multisyllabic ornithological utterances are keys to fascinating behaviors, time machines to take you back to ancient Greek and Latin, and sly insights to the minds of scientists at work. In this recurring feature, we break down a few of the “birdwords” we enjoy the most:
Allopreen (v.), allopreening (n.): the grooming of one bird by another of the same species; birds allopreen to clean feathers in hard-to-reach places and to strengthen pair bonds.
Zugunruhe: n. [German] migratory restlessness; when songbirds are ready to migrate, they literally cannot sit still.
Zygodactyl: adj. [Greek zygo (yoked, or paired) + dactyl (toed)] Having two toes facing forward and two facing backward. A feature of several orders of birds, including cuckoos, woodpeckers, and parrots.