Bird topography

A head feather survey

Update: 9 March 2012 Thank you! The response to the head feather survey has been fantastic: 95 participants as of 10 AM on March 9th. The survey will be open for a while, and more responses are always better, so please spread the word. So far the preliminary results show that fairly experienced birders have been …

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What is the submoustachial?

The feathers along the side of the lower jaw have a very confusing history of terminology. They’ve been called the malar stripe (in many early and mid 20th century bird books), the submoustachial ((Because this was a British proposal, the spelling is British “moustache” rather than the American “mustache”, and American bird guides have continued …

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Quiz 15: The submoustachial

Regardless of what you call them – submoustachial, malar, jaw stripe, mandibular stripe – the feathers along the side of the lower jaw are important for identification. Being able to distinguish this group of feathers, and confidently describe their color, is one of the trickiest and most useful skills in understanding head feathers. Hopefully this …

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Variation in head pattern

In recent posts and quizzes here I’ve been stressing the head feather groups, and how they provide a consistent structure for understanding the color patterns of birds. It is true that color patterns almost always follow the general arrangement of the feather groups, but there is a lot of variation in the details. The two …

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Quiz 13: Head pattern variations

Here are four more birds with questions about their head feathers. With thanks, again, to Brian E. Small for providing the beautiful photos. You can see lots more at his website, and clicking any photo links there as well.

Quiz 11: Head feather groups and simple color patterns

This quiz is about taking the feather groups you’ve learned in previous quizzes, and applying them to real birds, to see how color patterns follow the basic feather groups. And big thanks to Brian E. Small for allowing the use of his superb photographs for the quiz feature here. You can see more at his …

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Quiz 10: Head feathers – without markings

This quiz features a Dark-eyed Junco, a species with no discernible color pattern on the head. How can you distinguish groups of head feathers with no color patterns? By looking for the subtle creases and shadows at the edges of the feather groups, and differences in the orientation of the feathers.