Readers’ wildlife photos

March 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today is Sunday, which means we have a batch of themed bird photos from John Avise. John’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Red Feathers

In avian plumages, red colors come from carotenoid pigments, which themselves are biochemically modified compounds manufactured by the birds’ bodies from ingested foods.  Red colors on a bird can range from small patches of adornment feathers (as in the Ruby-crowned Kinglet or Red-winged Blackbird) to essentially the entire bird’s plumage (as in the Summer Tanager or Northern Cardinal).  Some species show striking sexual dimorphism, with the male typically being the brighter sex.  Especially in such species, it is reasonable to conclude that sexual selection (female-choice, or male-male competition, or both) played a role in promoting the evolution of reddish feathers.  In any event, various shades of red (rufous, scarlet, ruby, rosy, pinkish, orangey, cinnamon, or vermillion) in a bird’s plumage can be beautiful to human eyes, as the following photographs hopefully will illustrate.  All of these pictures were taken in the U.S. (with the state indicated).  This post is a follow-up to an earlier post (see “Blue Birds in North America”) that highlighted blue feathers.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula (California):

Hairy Woodpecker, Picoides villosus (Colorado):

Common Redpoll, Carduelis flammea (Alaska):

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus (Florida):

American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla (Michigan):

Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus (California):

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus (Michigan):

Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus (California):

Summer Tanager, Paringa rubra (Texas):

American Robin, Turdus migratorius (California):

House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus (California):

Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris (California):

Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis (Michigan):

Redhead Duck, Aythya americana (California):

Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana (California):

Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator (Colorado):

Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera (California):

Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus (California):

Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus (California):

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Serious question – where’s the red on the American redstart? (I’m not familiar with birds of the Americas)

    1. The “red” on the redstart (which actually looks more like orange to me) is on the wings, shoulder, and tail.

  2. As a birder, and a retired (from gainful employment) ornithologist, I am very much enjoying this series! And as a bird bander, I immediately noticed the band on the Painted Bunting. Since that species is super rare in California, the site of the photo, I assume this was in an aviary or other captive situation.

    1. It was probably an escaped bird (perhaps from Mexico) that showed up at a neighbor’s feeder. You’re correct that it is not normally native to California.

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