Avian Terms

The hobby and culture of keeping, breeding, and caring for birds in captivity.

Cere: The flesh area at the top of a bird's beak. A bird's nares are located on their cere.

Nare: The two holes in a bird's cere are called nares. A similar idea to your nostrils.

A stomach-like organ located around the lower chest. Begins the digestion of sugars and carbohydrates.

Dimorphic: Differing in appearance. Species in which the males and females are visibly different are considered as sexually dimorphic.

Monomorphic: The same in appearance. Species which male and female cannot easily and reliably be distinguished by physical appearance alone.

The feathers which cover the bird's ear opening. In some species these feathers are a different colour than the surrounding feathers

Flight Feather: The feathers in the wing that are involved in flight. These feathers are often organized further by function. 

Primary Flight Feather: The flight feathers that are most involved in lift. These feathers are located on the outermost parts of the wing. 

Secondary Flight Feather: The flight feathers involved in drag. These feathers are located right above the primary flight feathers. 

Keel Bone: A keel in bird anatomy is an extension of the breastbone which runs axially along the midline of the sternum and extends outward, perpendicular to the plane of the ribs. The keel provides an anchor to which a bird's wing muscles attach, thereby providing adequate leverage for flight. Not all birds have keels; in particular, some flightless birds lack a keel structure. Without a keel a bird will not be able to fly. Some flightless birds have a keel, such as the penguin; but in the penguin's case, its wings are too small for its body, so flight would require flapping its wings too fast to be practical.

Keel Score: The method of feeling the keel bone and how much or little it protrudes to gauge the bird's physical health.

The feathers on a bird's body, including the down feathers.

Birds preen their feathers to maintain them. Many types of birds have special oil glands which they use to coat their feathers in a protective layer. Preening can also be a social practice for birds as well.

The nails on a bird-of-prey.

Pet Bird Classifications

A bird who is in a breeding program. These birds are generally not fond of being handled but on occasion can be somewhat interactive with humans.

Birds which are housed entirely, or almost entirely in a cage with little human interaction. These birds are typically unfriendly and not handleable. Generally this refers to finches, canaries, and other similar types of birds but can include parrots.

A bird who was handfed and raised by humans from a very young age. These birds will tend to make the best pets and are often very comfortable with being handled and trained by humans.

New World: Regions of North, Central, and South America, as well as some Pacific and Atlantic islands (i.e. Bermuda), and sometimes Oceania, too.

Old World: Regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe, aka Afro-Eurasia

Food & Diet Terms

Also known as vitamin C. An important micronutrient.

Catalysts in the digestive process. Birds possess enzymes specific to their diets. For example, a lorikeet will have very different enzymes than an eagle.

Macronutrient: Nutrients that are required by the body in large quantities daily. These are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Micronutrient: Nutrients that are required by the body in smaller amounts daily. For example, most vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are not less important than other nutrients.

Seeds which are primarily comprised of fatty oils are called oil seeds. For example, sunflower or nyjer.

Breeding Terms


A partnership raising the birds where both the parent birds and the keeper are involved in feeding and caring for the young birds. The babies are left in the nest with the parents typically until they are weaned, but have become somewhat used to and comfortable with human interaction and handling.


A process where the offspring are removed from their biological parents at birth and fostered by surrogate parents, often another species. This process is common in animal husbandry and science, genetic and nature-versus-nurture studies, and conservation. This process has been seen to happen in nature.  

At Exotic Wings we use a similar process to cross-fostering where the offspring are raised by their biological parents for around 3 weeks, then a human takes over the feeding and care responsibilities

The term used to describe the eggs/babies a bird lays/has. The same idea as a "litter" of puppies.


A young bird that is at the age where they are beginning to learn how to fly. 


A young bird that has learned how to fly and is capable of maintained and controlled flight.

The process of caring for eggs before they hatch. A bird will sit on their eggs to incubate them, or sometimes people will place the eggs in a fancy machine called an "incubator".

Weaning: A young bird that is beginning to eat and drink on their own, but still requires additional feeding from the parent birds or a person that is hand feeding them. 

Weaned: A bird that is fully self-sustaining and does not require additional feeding to survive. At Exotic Wings a bird must be self-sustaining for at least one full week to be considered weaned.

Abundance Weaned: A form of weaning a hand fed bird where the desired food is offered in plentiful amounts all the time. Hand feedings are not decreased in frequency or amount and are only stopped when the bird refuses them.

Genetic & Colour Terms

A term used to describe canaries which lack both black and brown melanin entirely and are only one colour, determined by the base colour. These birds are solid yellow, red, or white.

Melanin: The black and brown pigments on a bird are caused by melanin. Darker browns and blacka are generally the result of a higher concentration of melanin pigments. Melanin is produced by melanocytes.

Melanocyte: The cell that is responsible for producing melanin.

A genus that only has one species is considered a monotypic genus.

The result of an individual who has cells with two or more genotypes. This is caused by a mutation in the embryonic cells, not mutated DNA being passed in the gametes.

A genetic mutation which results in a bird that lacks melanin in certain regions of their body. There are many forms of this mutation. Some species have more than one pied mutation.

The colour pigment in almost all parrots. Psittacin is responsible for the red and yellow colour in parrots.

A sort of chart used to determine the possible outcomes when two individuals are bred together. These work best on mutations which fit a more basic Mendelian inheritance.

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