Anatomy: Undertail Coverts

Gray catbird (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

30 April 2010

In this anatomy lesson we’ll move down the underside of the bird, past the belly and brood patch, and are the top of the tail where we find … undertail coverts.

Undertail coverts are the feathers that smooth the transition between belly and tail.  On most birds they’re the same color as the tail (see magpies) or the belly (as in most birds).

Gray catbirds are an exception that proves the rule.  The entire catbird is gray except for his rufous undertail coverts.  They’re so noticeable that I didn’t even draw an arrow to point them out.

And, good news!  You’ll be able to see this for yourself because gray catbirds have just returned from their wintering grounds in Central America.  Yesterday I saw my first of 2010 in Schenley Park.

(photo by Alan Vernon, from Wikimedia, Creative Commons license.  Click on the photo to see the original.)

One thought on “Anatomy: Undertail Coverts

  1. This is the first day I’ve seen cat birds in Prospect Park (Brooklyn, NY) this year. They’re back, arriving with a massive avian fallout (mostly white throated sparrows and hermit thrushes, as well as warblers out the ears) as the winds turned warm from the south last night.

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