Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recognizing Bird Species

There are a variety of ways to recognize bird species when the bird may be too far away to identify by it's unique markings.  Flight characteristics are one way.  Does the bird fly straight, low to the ground, does it's body teeter back and forth (e.g., turkey vulture)?  Wing flaps is another.  Does it constantly pause after flapping a few times, does it never pause, does it flap it's wings unusually slow or fast? Even where it lands can be a means to identity.  A mockingbird will almost always pick the highest point in the immediate area to land on.  Plus, their tails constantly twitch, another means of identity.

A bird's profile can be another way to identify a species.  In this first photo, the size of the bird itself limits the number of possibilities.  The fish in it's talons also limits the choices.  A vulture, for example, cannot carry a fish with it's feet.  Little things like that can help to accurately identify a bird fairly quickly.

I try to identify them when I first see them from a distance to help me decide whether to get ready to film them or just let them pass.  You would be surprised how quickly they can cover the distance and be on you.  Several decisions have to be made about camera settings and such and the time can be used to get ready.

Since we are on the subject of profiles, here is another silhouette of the same osprey (they are both osprey profiles, by the way) that shows something unique to this bird.  It has the ability to cup the inner half of it's wings, which allows them to increase their speed significantly in a dive or when they want to get to another location quickly.  Why this particular bird is doing it in this situation, I'm not sure.

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