Avian Terminology



Any feather which still has a blood supply to it.


A male bird has two Z(sex)chromosomes and a female one Z and one W. These can be seen under a microscope and are used in chromosome analysis to determine the sex of the bird.


(C)onvention on (I)nternational (T)rade in (E)ndangered (S)pecies. This body regulates trade of parrots throughout various countries. Most parrots are on CITES Appendix 2, which means that the country that is exporting the birds may only issue export permits if the exportation of the bird does not endanger the survival of the species. Extremely rare and threatened species go on appendix I, which means any sort of exportation is explicitly forbidden and illegal. Palm Cockatoos and Hyacithine Macaws are an example of CITES Appendix I birds. As of this last FAQ update, importation of Amazon parrots has stopped completely (Appendix I status).

A completely closed ring of metal that can only be put on a bird within a certain time, usually from 8-10 days in a small bird and up to four weeks in the larger species of birds. The bands are usually imprinted with hatch date and place of origin. They are generally accepted as proof of domesticity and age. However, some unscrupulous people may force a closed-band onto an imported bird. Look for a band that seems too big. (See OPEN-BAND)

Any male bird of a species. (See HEN)

A species is said to be dimorphic when there are distinct visual characteristics between the sexes. Gray Cockatiels are an example of this; the male bird has a bright yellow head. Eclectus are also dimorphic, the male bird is green, and the female, red. Eclectus are unusual in that the female is more colorful than the male. This is called "Reverse Dimorphism". (See MONOMORPHIC)

A bird that has been bred within the country. (See IMPORTED)


A baby bird that is out of the nest, but not eating by itself.

Also "Hand-reared" or "Hand-raised". The babies are taken from parents at about two weeks, and then fed by people, using spoons, pipettes or syringes and a special baby-bird formula. This results in a bonding of the bird to people, and a friendlier, more tame bird.

Female bird of any species. (See COCK)

A bird brought in from another country. An imported bird will have an open-band on its leg. (See DOMESTIC)

A method of sexing which is non-invasive. A drop of blood is taken from the bird, usually by pulling out a blood feather. The pulp and blood from the feather is then cultured until there are enough cells to do a chromosome preparation. The number of chromosomes then is looked at to determine the sex of the bird. (See SURGICAL SEXING)

Both sexes of the bird appear identical. (See DIMORPHIC)

This type of band, which is squeezed shut around the bird's leg is indicative of an imported bird. (See CLOSED-BAND)


(P)sittacine (B)eak and (F)eather (D)isease. A serious viral disease which is highly contagious. There is no cure. PBFD causes deformed feathers which eventually fall out, the beak softens and becomes misshapen, and affects many of the internal organs. Birds usually die from a secondary infection. The virus can be spread through the feces and feather dust and can be found in the birds' crop as well. It can affect several different species of birds, but is most common among Cockatoos.

A curable bacterial disease that can affect BOTH humans and birds. It's also called "Parrot Fever", "Chlamydiosis", and "Ornithosis". Psittacosis is spread through inhalation of feather and fecal dust. Bacterial tests are used to detect it. The disease manifests itself with flu-like symptoms in people. Infected birds are quarantined (isolated) and treated with Tetracycline or another broad-spectrum antibiotic.

A period of isolation required for new or imported birds. A quarantine period for imported birds was started by the government in the early 1970's. This policy was put into effect to try to reduce the chance of introducing Exotic Newcastle disease to the poultry industry. It is also recommended that sick and/or newly acquired birds be held in quarantine before being introduced to an existing flock of birds (either pets or breeders).

Also abbreviated as S.S. or S/S. Since many bird species are monomorphic, one way to tell one bird from the other is to do it surgically, using a method called laproscopy. The bird is anesthetized, and a small slit is cut into the bird's abdomen. The laproscope is inserted, allowing the vet to view the reproductive organs, thus sexing the bird.

The bird is out of the nest, and eating on its own. In hand-fed birds the bird is no longer on baby formula and eating seeds and other solids.

A zoonosis (singular) is any disease of animals that can be contracted by a human being. There are over 100 known diseases of this type. One of the most widely publicized is Psittacosis (See PSITTACOSIS).


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Copyright 2004 [Southeast Texas Avian Rescue, Inc.]. All rights reserved. Revised: 12/10/11