Sunday, February 17, 2008

Birds' Eye View

My new photo venture is focusing on just the head and eyes of the birds I find, and I got some good results. Have you ever seen a bird's tongue before? Now you can say that you have, and what an unusual looking tongue this Black Skimmer has.
When birds are ready to mate and breed, not only do they get beautiful feathers to attract a potential mate, but the the "lores" around the eyes of some birds change colors too. Birds cannot act coy and just flirt without being serious. When your eyes change colors, all the birds of the opposite sex know you are ready to mate. Both male and female Anhingas have turquoise eyes when courting. Is this where people got the idea for eye makeup? Brown Pelicans aren't just brown during mating season. This guy looks like he was partying all night and his eyes are a little bloodshot this morning!
I try to read feelings into the eyes and feathers of the birds too, although I know that is probably not a good thing to do. Birds probably don't even have feelings like people do, but the behavior implies feelings to me. This Osprey had been eating a fish on a branch of the sole remaining pine tree at a Hobe Sound NWR hillside. The wind blew his feathers, and we kept walking closer and closer. Yet he was determined to finish that fish no matter what happened. I imagine him trying to remember where he caught this fish so he can go back again tomorrow. The Green Heron had just been chased out of the lilypads by something, and he was mad about it. He squawked loudly while trying to climb back up out of the water, and his top feathers made these feelings very clear to anyone watching.

The Glossy Ibis looks dark and, well, glossy, from a distance. If they sun shines, it appears iridescent, otherwise a dark brownish-black color. The closeup shows that his head feathers are actually brown and white, and he has a distinct white mark outlining the edges of his beak. Do you notice this from a distance? Usually not. Since I don't have one of those 18 inch, mega-telescopic lenses, I use my converter (Panasonic says it gives the equivalent of 714 mm), set the camera for 8 megapixels, and shoot. When I get home, Photoshop lets me zoom in for those nice head shots, and crop out the excess foliage. I'm content with the results, and really have no desire to carry around 30 pounds of equipment and a tripod every time I go out.

The colors to be found in a bird's eye fascinate me too. Most mammals will have brown eyes, and people of course, have a variety of colors. Some bird eyes are a solid dark color, while others are red or yellow, and the pupil stands out. This Tricolor Heron has red eyes, while the Osprey's eyes are yellow as are the Green Heron. I wonder if there are any studies about this difference? Does it improve the vision? Is there some survival factor to red eyes? And how in the world would any scientist ever be able to come up with a reliable answer to these questions? See, birding can broaden your mind!

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