Readers’ wildlife photos

February 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today, we begin a new Sunday series by John Avise: themed collections of bird photos. Given that John has thousands and thousands of pictures, I expect some good themes. Today’s fills the bill (excuse the pun). Click on the photos to enlarge; the captions and IDs are John’s.

Avian Crests, Tufts, and Horns

Many bird species have fancy feathers on their head (such as crests, tufts, or plumes) that in some cases are likely are a product of sexual selection.  Here is a collection of about 20 such species (with the place of the photograph given in parentheses).  Usually, both sexes display the ornate headgear, although (as might be expected) it is often more pronounced in males.  The presence of fancy headgear in females might be due to sexual selection too, or perhaps it is merely a genetic byproduct of sexual selection on males (in analogous fashion as to why male mammals have nipples despite them being non-functional in that sex).  What do you think?

African Hoopoe, Upupa africana (South Africa):

Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri (California):

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata (Florida):

Oak Titmouse, Bacolophus inornatus (California):

Northern Cardinal female, Cardinalis cardinalis (Michigan):

Northern Cardinal male (Michigan):

Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria (Hawaii, introduced):

Red-whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jococus (California, introduced):

Pyrrhuloxia, Cardinalis sinuatus (Arizona):

Phainopepla female (California):

Phainopepla male, Phainopepla nitens (California):

Cedar Waxwing juvenile, Bombycilla cedrorum (Michigan):

Crested Caracara, Caracara cheriway (Florida):

Crested Lark, Galerida cristata (Spain):

Lineated Woodpecker, Dryocopus lineatus (Panama):

White-throated Magpie-Jay, Calocitta formosa (Costa Rica):

Eurasian Scop’s Owl, Otus scops (Spain):

Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula (Northern Ireland):

Great horned Owl, Bubo virginianus (California):

Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris (Montana):

15 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. As always John Avise’s pictures are superb but picture #5 Northern Cardinal female, Cardinalis cardinalis (Michigan): and #11 Phainopepla male, Phainopepla nitens (California): seem to be the same picture. One of the captions or pictures must be wrong.

    1. Yes, something accidentally got messed up in the submission process. There was supposed to be a male Phainopepla, and the Northern Cardinal female was supposed to follow directly after the Northern Cardinal male. Thanks for catching the obvious errors.

  2. I see a book in your future, Doc Avise. Wonderful photos as always! Some of your birds are new to me, like the Upupa africana (what a name!) and the horned lark. Many thanks for the enrichment.

    1. I’m not sure I’ve got another book in me (my previous 32 books may be enough!). But if some publisher came to me with a request for a picture book (or perhaps a set of calendars) with a bird theme, I’d certainly have to give it serious consideration.

      1. Blue tits have no obvious crest – but yes the DO show a sort of crest sometimes. I have not observed them closely enough to say when – if singing perhaps with rivals near…

  3. I’m so jealous of having seen all those birds! Especially, perhaps because of several family trips to Florida that passed tantalizingly close to where they live, the cara cara.

  4. Great pictures. I love crested birds. I used to think the purpose of the crest is to act as a flight control surface, but apparently not. Birds that fly longer distances don’t have crests. Too much drag.

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