Bird Words with Cliff Shackelford: Passerine

This black-capped vireo male is a passerine species.

This black-capped vireo male is a passerine species.

This is Passport to Texas

Think of birding as an opportunity to increase your vocabulary. Take the word passerine, for example.

Passerine comes from the Latin, passeriformes—the order of all the songbirds.

Cliff Shackelford is a bird nerd. I mean, an ornithologist.

Passerine is basically a songbird; it’s our perching birds.

And that order includes a big flock of feathered friends.

At least half of the species of birds on the planet belong in this one order of birds. They’re characterized by several things, but the one thing on their feet that’s unique is they have three toes pointed forward and one pointed backwards.

A new word and bird trivia, too? Does it get any better?

Not every bird has that toe configuration. Woodpeckers, for example, have two forward and two back; that allows them to cling to a tree. Some birds have all four digits facing forward, like swifts. Some of the birds that cling to cliff walls and things. And, actually, there is a technical word for passerine’s toe configuration, and it’s called: anisodactyl.

Where else are you going to learn two bird nerd words and avian tootsie trivia? Now go out and impress your friends with your new knowledge.

The Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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