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I'm creating a humanoid bird character. In essence, they are still human with the usual four limb package and upright walking. However, they have two wings on the back for flying, and the feathers, beak, etc. I have no problem with naming the anatomy things such as legs, arms, wings, face, and whatnot. Birds have feet and legs, and thus those terms are easily applicable.

But "hands," the gripping tool on an arm's end, are another matter. Birds do not have hands, so using the term "hands" to describe them does not suit me. Birds have three "fingers" in their wings. My plan is for my character to have an opposable thumb and two fingers.

Are there any known or "official" terms for such a "hand"? "Creative" alternatives are limited to only bird-related terminology and biology only, to avoid an open-ended and opinionated question.

If it is any indication, my humanoid wolf characters use the alternative "paws" for their hands.

Addendum 2/22/2021: Per @chasly's extremely helpful suggestion, here is a rough sketch of my character's anatomy. I've labeled it as well.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I would just call it a claw... human hands have been described as claws or claw-like before (albeit rarely), and birds' parts are often called claws, so that is what i would use. $\endgroup$ – Joe Kerr Feb 21 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ Claws are sharp protrusions on a finger/toe/digit, so that term would not work. Sorry. $\endgroup$ – Rewan Demontay Feb 21 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ The autopodia of the forelimbs of birds are actually called hands, as are those of their non-avian dinosaurian ancestors. If anatomists and paleontologists call them hands, I don't see why you wouldn't. For example, "Dinosaur's digits show how birds got wings" by Matt Kaplan, in Nature News, 17 June 2009: "birds' wings are thought to form from the fusion of the second, third and fourth digits on their hands as the embryo develops". $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 21 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ With dinosaurs such as the velociraptor their "hands" are sometimes called a grasping manus. Since dinosaurs and birds are related perhaps this term would work for you. $\endgroup$ – your mom Feb 21 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ I cam confirm what AlexP said the correct term is hands. there are birds with hands. researchgate.net/figure/… $\endgroup$ – John Feb 22 at 3:07
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If you want something that is specific and biologically apt, then go for Latin or Greek (ancient).

"the biological term for the distal portion of the forelimb in tetrapods" (hand).

Whence we get mannerism (to do with gestures).

"From χέριον" (hand).

The Ch is not the familiar sound from "cherry", but an aspirated-K sound (Kh) which is not native to English, but usually gets verbally anglicized to just "K". So "Khy-ron". Whence we get chirality, chiral.

It's rather up-to the writer, but words which might suit are:

"mitt" if the fingers are joined by membranes and covered in feathers, if so, they'd resemble a mitten type glove, which allows some individual flexion, but prevents complete separation of digits (excepting an opposable thumb).

"forelimb" if being descriptive and non-technical.

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  • $\begingroup$ How is "mitt" suitable, in your view? I'm curious to know. $\endgroup$ – Rewan Demontay Feb 21 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not clear if the fingers are joined by membranes and covered in feathers, if so, they'd resemble a mitten type glove, which allows some individual flexion, but prevents complete separation of digits. @RewanDemontay $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Feb 21 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ @RewanDemontay I've edited the answer to include that brief explanation. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Feb 21 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much. for your answer, I like it the best. I think I'll use "mitts"! $\endgroup$ – Rewan Demontay Feb 22 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the pronunciation of Chiron is not the traditional English "Ch" (as in "Cherry"), but rather an aspirated-K sound (Kh) is not native to English, but usually gets verbally anglicized to just "K". So "Khy-ron". $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Feb 22 at 16:13
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Hand

The correct biological term is hand. a hand is the distal portion of a forelimb used for grasping, if the walk on it it is called a forepaw, if they use it to fly it is wing, if they use it to swim fore-flipper or just flipper if they have no hind-flipper.

You are wrong that birds do not have hands, Hoatzin have hands, other birds do not have hands but they don't have mobile fingers either.

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Dorsal-view-of-left-hands-of-late-embryos-of-Hoatzin-Opisthocomus-Neognathae-after_fig4_13078851

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Even though this is the correct term, the point of the question was asking for an alternative. I do appreciate the information, however. $\endgroup$ – Rewan Demontay Feb 22 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @John -- Um. Actually, we're here to help with fictional worlds and settings. Sometimes that involves "official terms", other times it does not. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Feb 22 at 12:32
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Claws.

If the hands of this hypothetical race are constructed similarly to how bird feet are constructed, I think referring to them as "claws" would be within the realm of reason. Bird feet are clawed and covered in scales, so calling the appendage as a whole "claws" is within English idiom, if perhaps somewhat derogatory by indicating connotations of monstrousness. It's not a scientific term, but it would work for colloquial speech.

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Talons or fore-talons

Some birds have feet designed to grasp prey in a manner similar to hands so they would likely generalise this vocabulary.

Talons of the feet are distinctly different things under this nomenclature, however I could see a cat-person calling their hands paws, so I don't think that's a big stumbling block, at worst you'd differentiate them by calling them hind talons and fore talons.

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Manus or digits are used in reference to pterosaurs. See 1 and 2

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You could call your bird's fingers phalanges because that is what they are.

anatomy comparison bird and human

Phalanges is not a bird specific term but a tetrapod term. Our phalanges are our fingers, each one being a phalanx and I presume for your bird too. Your bird does not have a hand because the carpals and metacarpals that make up the human hand are otherwise occupied for the bird. The bird just has the fingers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you read the question? It's about hands, not fingers. I specifically described the anatomy of my creature, and this conflicts with that. The wings are separate limbs from the hand/arms. $\endgroup$ – Rewan Demontay Feb 21 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Our fingers and toes are composed of phalanges, they are not phalanges themselves. The thumbs and big toes are made of two phalanges each, the other fingers and toes are made of three phalanges each. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 21 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ @RewanDemontay: I did read the question, which you know. And here is the relevant part: "Birds have three "fingers" in their wings. My plan is for my character to have an opposable thumb and two fingers.". You do not want "hand" which you state. You do want fingers .I assumed the three were on the wings since you noted birds have three fingers on their wings immediately before you propose your character had 3 digits. If there is a whole other appendage such that your character has 6 limbs that is a different thing altogether and trickier. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 21 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP you are correct as usual. $\endgroup$ – Willk Feb 21 at 23:45
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chiropter

which is Greek for "hand-wing". Notably, the scientific name for bats is the order Chiroptera.

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