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Parts of the body and plumage

Here a description of the commonly used terms to describe birds' bodies and plumages. For more terms see the glossary.

Lateral view

Below we show the most frequently used terms regarding a bird's body and plumage. This is best done by using a sideways (lateral) view.

Lateral view of a Common Redstart; for a description of the wing plumage see below


The wing plumage can be best seen when birds spread their wings. Here an example of the underwing feathers.

Black Stork in gliding flight


The wing plumage can be best seen when birds spread their wings. Here an example of the upperwing feathers.

White Stork spreading its wings on the point of take-off


Some birds have prominent ceres, i.e. bare, fleshy parts just above their bills, in which the nostrils are located. The cere can sometimes used for identification purposes. Often the ceres of immature birds have different colours compared to those of adult bird or the ceres of males and females can differ.

Lateral view of a male Common Kestrel, with its yellow cere


Many birds have crests, consisting of a number of feathers that can be erected. Some crests are inconspicuous, giving a bird's head a helmet-shaped appearance, others are prominent and colourful.

Inconspicuous crest of a Crested Lark


Four small feathers on a bird's remnant "thumb" are called alula. Often they are inconspicuous, but sometimes they can be seen quite clearly, as shown below.

Alulas on the wings of a Booted Eagle


Some birds have iridescent feathers in their wings. One special kind of such iridescence is a patch found on the upperwings of ducks, called "speculum".

Lateral view of a male Mallard