Quiz 37: Bird topography

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Concord, MA. 29 Apr 2009. Copyright David Sibley.

Test your knowledge of bird feather topography with the questions below.

Bird Topography - upperparts and wings

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Question 1
The species is:
A
Baltimore Oriole
B
American Goldfinch
C
Yellow Warbler
D
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Question 2
The feather labeled A are the:
A
Scapulars
B
Secondaries
C
Mantle
D
Greater Coverts
Question 2 Explanation: 
The scapulars grow from the shoulder and cover the base of the wing from front to back. These could be confused with the lesser coverts (so I did not include that as an option here) but the yellow feathers indicated by the arrow look relatively long, arching down from the shoulder like scapulars, rather than the short flat contours of the lesser coverts.
Question 3
The feathers labeled B are the:
A
Scapulars
B
Greater Coverts
C
Mantle
D
Nape
Question 3 Explanation: 
The mantle feathers grow from the center of the back, between the scapulars. On this bird the mantle is still all non-breeding plumage - faded pale gray-brown - while the nape and scapulars have molted to yellow breeding plumage.
Question 4
The feathers labeled C are the:
A
Median Coverts
B
Scapulars
C
Secondaries
D
Greater Coverts
Question 4 Explanation: 
On songbirds the greater secondary coverts always form a more or less rectangular panel just forward of the middle of the wing. On this bird they are mostly black, with contrasting white tips that form a wingbar.
Question 5
The feathers labeled D are the:
A
Greater Coverts
B
Secondaries
C
Scapulars
D
Primaries
Question 5 Explanation: 
The secondaries are the large wing feathers on the "arm" or inner part of the wing. Here they are mostly black, with white edges towards their tips that form a pale panel there and leave a solid black patch at the base of the secondaries, indicated by the arrow.
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4 thoughts on “Quiz 37: Bird topography”

  1. Alexis in Texas

    I would love to see an illustration of the extended wing showing the feather topography and how that corresponds to the folded appearance. Thank you for all the great information you provide!

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