Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nature Word of the Week: Cere

This week's Nature Word - cere - was pulled from the avian morphology category.

The cere on this Peregrine Falcon is yellow.
Cere is defined in two ways by thefreedictionary.com  (see link for pronunciation):
  • To wrap in or as if in cerecloth (cerecloth being  a type of waxed cloth used for wrapping a corpse)
  •  A fleshy or waxlike membrane at the base of the upper beak in certain birds, such as parrots, through which the nostrils open.
So the cere is as plain as the nose on a bird's beak.  Or at least on "certain birds" which have ceres, such as raptors, owls, skuas, parrots, turkeys and curassows.

The cere can be feathered, but is more commonly bare, and it is often brightly colored.  According to Wikipedia, the cere in raptors "is a sexual signal which indicates the "quality" of a bird".  (Makes you want to look a little more closely at the Raptor Cam, doesn't it?)  Also, the cere can be a good field mark, helpful in distinguishing between the sexes of some species.

The cere should not be confused with the operculum, which is more of a cover for the nares (or nostrils) of some birds.
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