A Glossary of Ornithological Terms

Race Sub-species Sooty Blackish Colour
Rachis Central shaft of a feather Sub-adult Immature moulting into adult plumage
Range Geographical area or areas inhabited by a species Sub-montane Hills below highest mountains
Raptors Birds of prey and Vultures, excluding owls Sub-song Subdued version of normal territorial song
Record Published, or otherwise broadcast, occurrence Sub-species Distinct form that does not have specific status
Rectrices Tail feathers Sub-terminal band Broad band on outer part of feather
Remiges The primaries and secondaries combined Supercilia Plural of supercilium
Rictal Around the bill Supercilium Streak above eye
Resident Non-migratory and breeding in same place Symbiotic Interdependence between different species
Riparian Along creeks, streams, rivers and waterways Tail Streamers Elongated ribbon-like tail feathers
Roost Resting or sleeping space Talons Strong sharp claws used to seize or kill prey
Rufescent Inclining to redness Tank Water reservoir
Rufous Reddish brown Tarsus Lower part of a bird’s legs
Rump Lower back Taxonomy Science of classifying organisms
Sal Dominant tree of North Indian forests Teak Dominant tree of South Indian forests
Sallies Short flights and returning to perch as in bee-eaters and flycatchers Terai Alluvial strech of land south of the Himalayas
Salt pans Shallow reservoirs for drying out salt Terminal band Broad band on tip of feather or tail
Savanna Open flat land with grass and scattered bushes Terrestrial Ground living
Sedentary Staying in the same area throughout the year Tertials Innermost wing coverts, often covering secondaries
Scalloped Curved markings on edges of feathers Totipalmate All four toes connected to a single web
Scapulars Feathers along edge of mantle Trailing edge Rear edge of wing
Scrape Shallow depression made by birds to serve as nest Underparts Under surface of a bird from throat to vent
Secondaries Inner wing feathers Underwing Undersurface of a wing including the linings and flight feathers
Sedentary Confined with a particular area Upperparts Upper surface of a bird including wings, back and tail
Shaft Central stem of a feather, often hidden Upperstorey Canopy of a tree
Shank Bare parts of a leg Vagrant Accidental, irregular
Sholas Small forests in SW Indian valleys Vent Undertail area
Shoulder Where the wing meets the body Ventral Undersurface of body
Shorebird Long-legged bird living near water Vermiculations Wavy (worm-like) markings
Skins Bird specimens prepared for scientific studies Vinaceous Red wine coloured warm pink
Skulker Bird that mostly remains within vegetation cover Vocal mimicry Imitating the sounds of other birds
Slaty Dull bluish-grey Waders Shorebirds. Usually, the smaller, longlegged waterbirds
Soar Rising flight on still extending wings using thermals Washed Suffused with a particular colour
Speculum Area of colour on secondary feathers of wings Wattle Bare skin, often coloured, on part of head
Streamers Long extensions to feathers, usually of tail Web Skin stretched between toes
Spangles Distinctive white or shimmering spots in plumage Wildfowl Ducks and geese
Species Groups of birds reproductively isolated from other such groups Wing-bar visible line of colour at tip on wingcoverts
Speculum Shiny, colourful patch on secondary feathers of the wing of some ducks Wing-coverts Small feathers on wing at base of primaries and secondaries
Storey Level of the tree or forest Wing-span Length from one wing tip to the other when fully extended
Spur Sharp horny growth on legs of some birds Winter plumage Plumage seen during the nonbreeding winter months
Straw Pale yellow colour Zygodactylous Having two toes directed forward and two backwards
Streaks ‘Lenghtwise’ lines on breasts or tail  
Streamers Long extension of tail feathers  
Striated Marked with fine streaks