Glossary of Bird Terms
There are several specialized terms used when discussing birds. Some of the more important terms for hunters to understand include:
Diving Duck: "Divers" usually frequent large, deeper marshes, lakes and rivers. They feed by diving, often to considerable depths. They feed mainly on fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants and as a result are considered by some to have a very strong flavour. They can swim a considerable distance under water to escape danger, and may emerge only far enough to expose their head or bill before submerging again. They are commonly seen in large flocks of no distinct formation, and fly with a faster wingbeat than other waterfowl due to their stout bodies and short wings. They use their large paddle-shaped feet as rudders in flight. These are often visible when they are flying. When launching into flight, most of this group run or patter along the water before becoming airborne. They typically land by gliding over the surface of the water. Diving ducks are rarely seen away from water. Common divers in British Columbia include Canvasback, Redhead, Bufflehead, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Ringnecked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Barrows and Common Goldeneye, and the fish eating ducks, the Mergansers.
Eclipse Plumage: Most ducks shed their body feathers twice each year. Nearly all adult drakes lose their bright plumage after mating, and for several weeks resemble adult females. This hen-like appearance is called the "eclipse plumage". This appearance may last for a few weeks to a number of months depending on the species.
Game bird: A bird which can be hunted according to hunting laws.
Protected: Protected birds are species that are looked after by laws that at all times prohibit shooting, destruction of nests or eggs, and other measures to allow the birds to live and reproduce.
Puddle duck: Also called "Dabblers", puddle ducks usually frequent shallow marshes and river edges rather than large lakes and bays. They usually feed by "dabbling" with their bills on the surface, or by tipping up and ducking their heads to grasp food in shallow water. Puddle ducks sometimes feed on croplands since they are mostly vegetarians and can walk and run on land. They are often considered to have a much milder flavour than the diving ducks. These birds generally have a more graceful shape, longer wings and neck, and fly with a slower wing beat than most of the "divers". They take off and land more directly from the surface than do "divers". They ride high on the water and jump directly upward when taking off. The coloured wing patch, called the "speculum", is generally iridescent and bright. Puddle ducks will occasionally fly in formation much like geese. Common puddle ducks in British Columbia include the Mallard, Pintail, Widgeon or Baldpate, Shoveller, Gadwall, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal and Cinnamon Teal.
Raptors: Raptors are predatory, flesh-eating birds, including hawks, falcons, harriers, eagles, owls, ospreys, and vultures. Once considered vermin, these species are now of interest to many people. Several species may be used under permit for falconry, for example, goshawks, red-tailed hawks, merlins, and gyrfalcon. Some species have declined because of habitat loss and environmental contamination from pesticides. All raptors are protected by the provincial government and may be captured only under specialized permits. See the section on raptorial birds in this chapter for more information.
Sea ducks: Sea ducks are diving ducks that spend most of their time outside of the nesting period on the sea coast. Sea ducks include the Harlequin Duck, Old Squaw, and the Common, White-winged, and Surf Scoters.
Shorebirds: Shorebirds includes sand-pipers, plovers, curlews, craves and snipe. Most occur on shoreline areas near water.
Speculum: The coloured patch on the wing of ducks.
Upland game birds: These birds include the gallinacious birds, doves, and pigeons. The term "upland" simply refers to where the birds are often found and pursued as game. These birds usually have short, rounded wings, short heavy bills, and heavy bodies. They seek cover in brush or woodlands. They stay on dry ground but may live close to water. Typically these birds do not migrate but adapt to seasonal changes, exceptions being the Mourning Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon. Generally, males and females are easy to differentiate. Males have the more colourful plumage to attract a mate, while the female's plumage blends in with the background as camouflage.
Waterfowl: This large group of birds includes swans, geese, and ducks. Waterfowl range in size from very small ducks (such as the green-winged teal) to 20 kg Trumpeter Swans. Waterfowl are found all over British Columbia Waterfowl are migratory birds. They nest in British Columbia or further north each spring and raise their young over the summer, migrating south in the fall.