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Jizz

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Jizz is a term used by birders to describe the overall impression or appearance of a bird.  It includes such features as shape, posture, flight, other movements, size and colouration combined with voice, habitat and location.  While it is thought by some to be a kind of birding alchemy, there may be some physical basis to the idea of jizz.We have probably experienced being on a crowded street, looking for a friend and just a glimpse of that person enables us to pick them out from all the other people around.  How are we able to do that? It may be that being familiar with our friend’s characteristics including their shape and size, the colour of clothes and their movement, in other words their jizz, helps us pick them out.

Similarly, experienced birders can often make reliable identifications in the field at a glance by utilizing what they refer to as the jizz of the bird.  Here is an attempt at an example, although it is difficult to capture jizz in a still photograph.  The illustration is of a crowd of shore birds at a roost at high tide.  There are hundreds of one type plus one of another type.  You can imagine them all moving about.  From what you can see you should be able to pick the odd one out.   Some of you may have the experience, recognise the jizz and be able to identify the single Grey Plover from the crowds of Knot.

The origin of the word jizz is a mystery. There is a theory that it comes from the World War II air force acronym GISS for "General Impression of Size and Shape” of an aircraft, but the birding term was first recorded earlier than that.  The "Oxford English Dictionary Online” indicates that the word jizz was being used in the 1920s as one, all-embracing term: the essence or "character" of the bird.  More likely, jizz is a corruption of gestalt, a German word that roughly means form or shape.  The English word gist .has a similar derivation.

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