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: firstname.lastname@example.org All rights reserved, ©Cherie Pittillo
When a photo shows a bird looking straight into the camera, is the bird angry?
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.
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.
Other species may seem angry because of their feather coloration above their eyes. Check out this adult Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in my backyard.
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.
Other times, I’m fascinated with birds’ eyes. This Black-necked Stilt has red eyes, black and white plumage, and flamingo-colored legs.
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.
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.
Sometimes a bird appears to be aware of the photographer, but in the case of all of these photos, each species hunted for food.
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.
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!
Whether you’re angry or not, explore nature as a great de-stressor.
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