Wild Bird Care Glossary - Popular Wild Bird Terms

Wild Bird Care Glossary


A behaviour or characteristic that is considered unusual for a particular species. For example, a ground feeding wild bird using a traditional hanging feeder, or a wild bird with usually feather patterns or colouring.


A naturally occurring poison found on a variety of foodstuffs produced by a number of species of fungus. Even more toxic than cyanide or strychnine and is impossible to see with the naked eye. If eaten in large doses death is very rapid but if taken in small quantities secondary illness such as damage to the immune system or multiple organ failure will lead to death in several hours or even days.

Alarm Call

A call expresses by a wild bird to signal danger.

Amber List

Term used by birders that describes the status of a wild bird species which has experienced a populated decline from 25-30% in the last 25 years.


A characteristic of birds.


Another work for a bird's beak. The bill or beak is usually shaped to allow a particular species to consume a specific food.


A warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings and a beak.


Another term to described a Twitcher, and relates to someone who does birdwatching as a hobby or for work.

Bird of Prey

A bird with strong talons and a sharp, usually hooked beak. These species are carnivores and prey of other animals.

Bird Watching

Looking at wild birds in their natural environment.

Bogena Softbill Food

Bogena Softbill Food is a high quality, complete feed for the fruit and insect loving species, which thrive on a rich, moist mix

Breeding Season

The time of year that birds mate, build nests and lay eggs in order to raise young


A family of young birds, produced at one hatching or birth


Over 70 years ago this partnership between birdwatchers and professional ornithologists was created and the BTO, a charity, was formed. The main purpose of the BTO is to research and report on Britain's bird populations, species and habitats in order to aid conservation. Today it continues to be a well trusted and respected source for information by members of the public and organisations alike. For more information about the BTO, visit www.bto.org.


A bird call is a sound produced by wilds to signal dangers, irritation or simply to tell other birds where they are or to keep a flock together.


The top of a bird's head which can be a variety of colours and is more prominent in males.


A tuft of feathers on the head of a bird, which are usually larger in males and are thought to be used to attract a potential mate.


The top part of the bird's head. It can be the same colour as the rest of the bird and holds a crest or cap, depending on the species.


An expression given usually to water birds meaning they are looking for food just below the surface of the water.

Dawn Corus

The time of morning when bird song reaches its peak.


A display of movement of which a bird will use to communicate, especially during courtship to impress or to show aggression towards a rival.


A mechanism that is used to hold wild bird feeds such as specialised blends or straights, to allow wild birds to feed in an area of which they can be observed. There are many types of bird feeders from traditional tube shaped feeder to ground feeders.

Feeding Station

A feeding station is an area where food is placed by people to assist and encourage wild birds and wildlife.

Field Guide

A Field Guide is a book which is used to identify wild birds.


The point at which a young bird develops its first set of feathers and muscles which make it capable of flight.


The time in which a young bird will be taught to fly from the nest but will still be dependent on the parent bird or birds for bird food.

Flight Feathers

The long primary and secondary feathers on the wing of a bird used for flight.

Flight Path

The pattern of movement a wild makes in flight.


A group of birds travelling or feeding together.

Game Bird

A bird that is usually bred and hunted for its meat.

Green List

Bird species that are included on this list are not considered at risk and do not currently require conservation attention.


An area which a group of animals and plants live together.

High BTO Alert

Issued when a species' population has seriously declined (usually more than 50%) over a given period of time, it does not specify the reason for the decline.


Juvenile birds which have moulted for the first time but do not yet have their adult plumage.


The period between laying the egg and hatching.


A young bird which has its full plumage. A bird's juvenile plumage is usually different from its adult plumage.


The most popular live food used in Britain for garden birds. The larvae of the Flour Beetle are a good source of protein and fat. You can also feed wild birds Dried Mealworms.


The movement of some bird species from one area to another. This can span just one country or a very large distance across many, at certain types of year and often driven by climate, search for food or to breed.


This is when a bird sheds and replaces its feathers.


The place where a wild bird lays its eggs and raises young.

Nest Box

A box, also spelled nestbox is a man-made box provided for wild bird or other wildlife to nest in.


A baby bird that cannot yet fly and fled the nest.

Nestling Period

The time between hatching and becoming a juvenile.


A term used to describe wildlife and wild birds that are mainly active at night.

Nyger Seed

Nyger Seed is also known as Thistle Seed. It's a tiny, oil-rich seed are full of goodness. A particular favourite with finches.

On the wing

An expression that usually describes a bird 'in flight'.

Peanuts (or Groundnuts)

Peanuts are probably the most popular straight feed to buy. Oil-rich, Peanuts are a high-energy food source and favoured by a variety of species including Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Tits. It is important to remember that if you do want to offer peanuts, they must be contained within a wire mesh feeder, as they can be a choking hazard for small or young birds.

Peanut Granules (Groundnut Granules)

Peanut Granules are a great alternative to Peanuts and are quite safe to be offered in bird feeders, on the ground or bird table on their own or mixed with other feeds.


A compacted parcel of undigested food which can be regurgitated, usually by parent birds for their young.


A resting place above ground or a term often used to describe the area which a wild bird lands to feed from feeders.


A bird's feathers


The process by which birds maintain the condition of their feathers by using the beak or feet to repeatedly stroke the feathers, often spreading oil, or dry powder in some species, from the preen gland, situated at the upper base of the tail.


An animal which is hunted by other animals for food.


Describes birds of prey such as a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard or Owl.


Also known as bird banding is a technique used in the study of wild birds, by attaching a small, individually numbered, metal or plastic tag to their legs or wings, so that various aspects of the bird's life can be tracked and studied.


A place where a bird will sleep usually up high away from predators.

Roosting Pouch

A Roosting Pouch is a woven pouch with an opening for wild birds to roost in during cooler weather to reduce the loss of body heat and precious fat reserves.

Seed Blends

Seed Blends are a mix of different ingredients suitable for feeding wild garden birds. Probably the most common and easily offered, there are hundreds of varieties of wild bird feeds choose from.

Secondary Feathers

Inner wing feathers.


The central part of a bird's feather.


A way of flying which uses up-currents or warm air to gain flight.


A type of plant for animal which breeds with others of its kind to produce young.

Squirrel Proof

Squirrel Proof Feeders are feeders that are designed to deter or detract squirrels from bird feeders or feed.

Straight Seeds

A range from Peanuts, Sunflower Hearts, Sunflower Seeds to Sultanas and Nyger Seeds. Each has its very own special qualities that benefit diet of our wild birds.


Suet Treats are a hard, fat based feed for wild birds. Can also contain seeds, berries, insects and fruits to enhance flavour and nutrition.

Suet Balls

Suet Balls are extremely high in energy-rich ingredients, suet based snack balls are usually packed with nutritious seeds to attract a range of wild birds.


The claw of a bird of prey.


An area occupied by a wild bird or group of wild birds.


When a bird feeds by tipping upside down, so that their head is below the surface of the water and tail is point upwards towards the sky.


A group of wild birds that live close to the water and have longer legs to wade for food.

Waxworms (Galleria mellonella)

Waxworms are the larvae of the Greater Wax Moth and get their name because they are most commonly found in honeycombs of beeswax. Their soft body is easily digestible and very nutritious. They are rich in protein, moisture and fat, making them an even more juicy meal.

Webbed Feet

Some birds have feet that have a layer of skin stretched between the toes, often to help movement on the water.

Wing Bar

A natural mark across a ground of feathers on a bird's wing.