Published On: Wed, Apr 8th, 2015

BACKYARD BIRDING IN MERIDA, YUCATAN AND BEYOND: ANGRY BIRDS?

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Cherie Pittillo, “nature inspired”, zoologist, wildlife photographer, and author, explores nature everywhere she goes. She’s identified 56 bird species in her Merida, Yucatan backyard view. Her column, published on the 7th and 21st of each month features anecdotes about birding in Merida, Yucatan and beyond. Contact: all4birdies@gmail.com All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo

 

When a photo shows a bird looking straight into the camera, is the bird angry?

Male Hooded Warbler looks angry but is looking for insect prey

Male Hooded Warbler looks angry but is looking for insect prey

Birders search for field marks, those key identification points to identify the species to distinguish seasonal plumage variation, possibly male from female, and young from old.  I’m curious why so many of us bird photographers attempt to photograph the entire bird, especially from the side, although side portraits enable us to see those field marks.

This week, I’ve reviewed a few different views, mainly from the bird facing the camera.

For example, I wouldn’t have to see the whole bird to know this is a male Blue-winged Teal if I only saw its head this time of year. Those white feathers form a crescent which birders use to identify this male easily.

Side view of Blue-winged Teal illustrates crescent identification mark

Side view of Blue-winged Teal illustrates crescent identification mark

Male Blue-winged Teal

Male Blue-winged Teal

 

But see what happens when I photograph the bird from the front?  It gives a new perspective. Also I’ve not always slowed down enough to concentrate on how different it appears coming towards the camera.

Front view of Blue-winged Teal

Front view of Blue-winged Teal

Other species may seem angry because of their feather coloration above their eyes. Check out this adult Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in my backyard.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl appears angry due to head position and feather coloration

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl appears angry due to head position and feather coloration

This migrant, the Baltimore Oriole, appears angry with its hunched shoulders, close set eyes, and lowered head. Actually it searched for food as I took the photo.

Baltimore Oriole with hunched shoulders and lowered head appears angry but it is searching for food

Baltimore Oriole with hunched shoulders and lowered head appears angry but it is searching for food

Other times, I’m fascinated with birds’ eyes. This Black-necked Stilt has red eyes, black and white plumage, and flamingo-colored legs.

Black-necked Stilt, side view

Black-necked Stilt, side view

On closer inspection, how often am I close enough to see its red eyes? I used my car as a camera blind to let the bird approach me.

Red eye of Black-necked Stilt

Red eye of Black-necked Stilt

Later, when I brought out the tripod to shoot at a great distance not to scare the birds, I was awestruck at the beauty of the pattern around the birds face and neck. I deliberately waited to photograph it face forward.

Front view of Black-necked Stilt

Front view of Black-necked Stilt

Sometimes a bird appears to be aware of the photographer, but in the case of all of these photos, each species hunted for food.

Green Jay hunts for food

Green Jay hunts for food

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

However, after watching this Vermilion Flycatcher puff out its chest, lift up its head crest, and repeatedly chase another male away from its territory, I will admit it was stressed.  However, sometimes it raises its crest during a breeding display to attract a female.

Distressed Vermilion Flycatcher

Distressed Vermilion Flycatcher

Isn’t it easy to assume anger or other human traits based on feather patterns, and the position of the head and/or shoulders?

As humans we often transfer our traits to other animals, termed “anthropomorphism.” Scientists frown upon this. I think it’s natural for us.  Maybe we’re trying to find a common link with the animal whether we interpret the behavior correctly or not.  Heck, sometimes it’s just funny!

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitates dead tree

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl imitates dead tree

Whether you’re angry or not, explore nature as a great de-stressor.

Mexico Travel Care

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  1. Dianne Weber says:

    What an eye, Cheri! Love your photographs and your column.
    We missed Merida this winter and look forward to returning. Even if it means having to listen to one of those cute, but very annoying, Pygmy Owls.
    Warm regards to you and Greenwood
    Dianne & Roger

    • Cherie Pittillo says:

      Hey, we missed y’all too! I stay amazed that a bird as small as the pygmy owl will attempt to kill parrots. I’ve see it chase them, but don’t know if it ever succeeded. Merida awaits your return!

  2. Laurie says:

    Love your creativity. My absolute favorite shot was your last, and then I’d have to say the blue-winged teal in the front would come second. You shine above all photographers!

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