Sunday, September 15, 2013

Angry Birds?

Birds' faces are frozen for a lifetime. They cannot grimace or smile or furrow their brows. Yet, a bird can exhibit a certain expression that may or may not appear appropriate to a situation or its personality or demeanor. This can cause us to misinterpret its feelings or intentions.

Can a bird, such as the Mad Bluebird, make an angry face? This photo of mine shows a White-eyed Vireo with an "attitude," and was chosen by the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club  to promote their Climate Change information campaign. 

The "Vehement Vireo"
White-eyed Vireo Poster
This likely is a different bird, photographed a few months earlier within 1/2 mile of the above. What is "Vehement Vireo II" trying to say?
White-eyed Vireo 5-20111024
Can a bird have a "curious" look? Another of my photos was recently featured in an Audubon bird ID quiz. It shows a female Chestnut-sided Warbler looking quizzically at the camera. She did approach me quite closely, but did her facial expression change? Anthropomorphism at its worst?
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2-20120824
Are these two catbirds engaged in an angry confrontation? (Actually, I am quite sure that this was a courtship interaction.)
Gray Catbirds displaying 2-20100516
Many raptors exhibit an eternally fierce countenance. Is this female Bald Eagle mad at the world?
Eagle Face 20090323
Here she is tenderly feeding her young, not killing them.
Bald Eaglet adult 20120309
Up close, this Red-tailed Hawk has fire in its eye. As it is with eagles, the pronounced bony supra-orbital ridge shades its eye, but also causes a permanent frown.
Red-tailed Hawk detail 20121120
Instead of a pronounced bony brow, a dark area under his eyes reduces glare for this American Kestrel. He looks quite gentle, incapable of any evil intent to harm a little grasshopper or mouse.
American Kestrel 20101123
A female House Finch is said to have a "blank" or "innocent" appearance, as her face is unadorned.
House Finch female 20111112
Contrast this with the "expressive" face of a female Purple Finch.
Purple Finch 2-20121025
Of course, owls are said to look "wise," but this Long-eared Owl seems rather surprised to see me.
Long-eared Owl 20121103
These young Great Horned Owls are hardly old enough to be "wise," but they already have that look.
Great Horned Owlets 20120523
Beyond wise, this Burrowing Owl appears to be omniscient.
Burrowing Owl 20130311
The Horned Lark looks like a police inspector who means business.
Who the Devil are You? 20100316
This Yellow-crowned Night-Heron reminds me of a grumpy old man with bushy eyebrows and bearded jowls.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron corel 20130203
What about looking "fearful?" I know it is not possible, but to me this Whooping Crane expresses sheer terror.
Ricardo rushes to assist 20130210
The American Birding Association (ABA) used my Purple Swamphen photo to announce that this introduced species is now "countable" under their rules. It looks like a "Purple Gallinule on steroids," and has an aggressive style that matches its robust appearance.
Purple Swamphen in flight 20110323
Still not "countable," under the ABA rules of the game, the exotic and aggressive Egyptian Geese have spread rapidly up the Florida peninsula during the past five years. (See this video of an intense battle between Egyptian Geese, filmed by StuartDutchmanHQ of the Netherlands.) We just had the first pair on our lake, and the male viciously fought off a competitor, no holds barred! Like a masked gangster, the male (foreground) celebrates victory with his "gun moll." 
Egyptian Geese courting 20130131


  1. laughing at the expressions and your descriptions of them. that female warbler was flirting with you! :) the first two are fabulous!!!

  2. Oh Ken These photographs are absolutely fantastic. You have captured their expressions so well. I am not surprised your photographs are used in many area. Well done

  3. We humans can't help seeing our expressions on other animals. :) Your photos are GREAT!

  4. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  5. There really are some brilliant birds eyes in this blog. From Findlay

  6. Not only some very fabulous images this share, but yes....the ARE emotional expressions indeed. Great post.

  7. Cool post, ken! I love seeing all the "expressions" . The catbird is one of my favorite. Awesome photos.

  8. I love these photos and your descriptions, Ken. What a delightful post. Congratulations on having your 'Vehement Vireo' chosen for the campaign.

  9. These are absolutely marvellous photos Ken! I often wonder what a bird is thinking by the expression of it's face.

  10. I like your angry birds better than the others we see everywhere! Awesome series!

  11. You make some really interesting discussion points Ken, all illustrated with superb examples. I guess most of us would have different interpretations of the "expressions" you feature. A great post.

  12. Very thoughtful post with great images. Thanks!

  13. Eagles definitely have a severe look. And luckily they don't have all that DDT to be angry about anymore.

  14. oh, dear, this is a great psot. Loved every bit of it. :)

  15. I learned so much here, not only painlessly, but beautifully! My favorite way to obtain knowledge! Congratulations on getting those two photos published....they certainly deserve that! Thanks for this post.

  16. Great set of pictures - I would love to be a fly on the wall during the "can we have this on the list yet" meetings!

    Stewart M - Melbourne


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