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Photo Quiz: February 2015 Birding

Oh, for crying out loud. What kind of a sick mind would do something like this? You’ll never see “real” birds like these ones.

And that’s the point. This image forces us to look at parts of the bird we might otherwise ignore. As you can see, these two birds are quite different. And their differences become more apparent, I think, when we’re made to look at them, as here, with their distracting heads lopped off. (Also, we’ve cut off the birds’ feet.) And here’s a similarity I’d never noticed: They both have black-tipped alulas. Cool!

15-1-13-01z [sans head and feet]



In a certain sense, I consider this photo to be more realistic than a photo of the undecapitated birds. In this image, the birds aren’t reduced to their field marks–those ingenious human constructs that allow us to bypass reality for the sake of putting a name on a bird. A Killdeer is a double breast band; a Barn Swallow is a forked tail; a Mountain Chickadee is a white eyebrow. That’s efficient, but it so often blinds us to the reality–and the wonder–of the whole bird.

These birds–with their heads and feet restored–appear in Tom Johnson’s “Featured Photo” in the February 2015 Birding, which will be mailing soon to ABA members. In the meantime, I have a question: Did you really know the difference in rectrix and remex patterns between these two birds? I can’t honestly say that I did. Thanks to Tom for this enlightening photo.

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the longtime Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives with the ABA. Ted has written 200+ magazine articles and 5 books, including How to Know the Birds (National Geographic, 2019). He is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and has served on several nonprofit boards. Join Ted at The ABA Blog for his semimonthly spot, “How to Know the Birds,” celebrating common birds and the uncommonly interesting things they do.
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