Words of a Feather: Unflappable Avian Vocabulary

Do some bird-related words fly over your head? Don’t wing it — take a quack at this emu-sing list of avian words. You won’t egret it!
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definitions & notes only words
  1. aerie
    the lofty nest of a bird of prey, such as a hawk or eagle
    With two flaps of her muscular wings, Liberty launched herself from the aerie.Washington Post (Mar 10, 2019)
    Though it looks similar to aerial, aerie — also sometimes spelled eyrie — appears to be etymologically unrelated. It comes from the Latin word, with a number of variant spellings, for the nest of a bird of prey.
  2. avian
    pertaining to or characteristic of birds
    From flocks of white pelicans and storks soaring over Beirut’s seafront to diminutive herons nesting in built-up neighbourhoods, Lebanese social media are capturing avian beauty normally witnessed only by astute birdwatchers in remote areas.Reuters (Apr 17, 2020)
    Avis is Latin for "bird."
  3. aviary
    a building where birds are kept
    Specifically, the live views feature their fan-favorite sea otter tank, their kelp forest tank, bird aviary, penguins, open sea tank, jellyfish tanks and live views of the Monterey Bay, which surrounds the aquarium.Fox News (Mar 21, 2020)
    See avian above.
  4. fledgling
    young bird that has just become capable of flying
    Soon his prize appeared: a fledgling South Philippine dwarf kingfisher, about three weeks old.New York Times (Apr 3, 2020)
    Fledge originates in fleugan, the German verb "to fly." Fledgling is often applied to brand new businesses or other ventures that are just getting off the ground.
  5. flock
    a group of birds
    From flocks of white pelicans and storks soaring over Beirut’s seafront to diminutive herons nesting in built-up neighbourhoods, Lebanese social media are capturing avian beauty normally witnessed only by astute birdwatchers in remote areas.Reuters (Apr 17, 2020)
    Flock is an Old English word that refers to a group of birds, or sheep, or some other animals. It's also used to refer to some religious congregations, in keeping with the image of a pastor as a shepherd.
  6. incubate
    grow under conditions that promote development
    From June to the end of July, eggs are pulled from earthen mounds and taken to be incubated.Washington Times (Mar 14, 2020)
  7. migration
    the periodic passage of groups of animals
    The scientists measured the monarchs’ wings, because larger, more elongated wings are known to help with migration.New York Times (Apr 8, 2020)
  8. ornithology
    the branch of zoology that studies birds
    This method “is the gold standard in the field of ornithology to survey birds,” says Valerie Steen, an ecologist at the University of Rhode Island, who was not involved in the new study.Scientific American (Sep 19, 2019)
    Any time you see a word ending in -ology, which you'll see in the names of many scientific and medical fields, you know it has Greek origins. Ornis is Greek for "bird."
  9. perch
    an elevated place serving as a seat
    “It perches quietly and darts invisibly from perch to perch,” Dr. Kennedy’s bird guide warns.New York Times (Apr 3, 2020)
  10. plumage
    the covering of feathers on a bird
    A small, brightly coloured finch with black and buff plumage, a red face and gold flashes on the wings.The Guardian (Apr 16, 2020)
    Pluma means "feather" in Latin. An old-fashioned quill pen was known as a plume, which is still the French word for "feather." This gives us the expression nom de plume, meaning "pen name" or "pseudonym," a fake name used by writers who wish to remain anonymous.
  11. raptor
    a carnivorous bird that hunts other animals
    Spring migration also means raptor migration, and hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and other birds of prey are currently on their way up.Slate (Mar 28, 2020)
  12. roost
    a perch on which birds or bats rest or sleep
    Sandpipers scurry across the soft earth by mangroves, flying in from their high-tide roosts to feed.Scientific American (Apr 5, 2020)
    Roost is a Germanic word, originally meaning the internal framework of a roof. Chickens and other domestic birds would perch on these structures at night, so roost became both a high place that a bird sits and the act of doing so. Rooster comes directly from this.
  13. talon
    a sharp hooked claw especially on a bird of prey
    In a second he was flying upward again, a mouse in his talons.The Old Willis Place
    Talus means "ankle" in Latin, and talonem, meaning "heel" or "hoof," derived from that. In English it refers to the claws of raptors: birds of prey who live in aeries.
Created on April 9, 2020 (updated April 23, 2020)

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