Nov 20 2009
Winter is lousy for field work but it’s a good time to curl up with a book and learn something, so in that spirit I’ve decided to (finally!) learn more about bird anatomy.
Yes, I’ve watched birds for decades but that doesn’t mean I know the scientific names for the parts of a bird. During research on various blogs I’ve encountered many technical names, but what do they mean?
Maybe the names stump you, too. Why not make this a group project? So here’s the first in a weekly series on bird anatomy.
What is a culmen? It sounds vaguely like… ummmm…. “culminate,” a related word.
Answer: It’s “the dorsal ridge of the bird’s bill.” For us laypeople, it’s the top of the beak from the head to the tip, as shown by the green line.
I encountered “culmen” when I looked for the length of the pileated woodpecker’s beak. The answer was “the male’s culmen is 43-56 mm” so I had to look up two things: the meaning of culmen and the conversion from millimeters to inches.
So now you know.
(photo by Chuck Tague with graphics added by Kate St. John)