Angry birds!

To continue our theme of birds defending their noms, reader Stephen Barnard sends us yet another food-related alteraction.

House Finches [Haemorhous mexicanus] are quarrelsome birds. They bully the much prettier Goldfinches and Chickadees and fight among each other. Maybe they’re pissed at having such a prosaic name.

The second shot is special, I think. The primaries are vertical to minimize drag on the upward thrust of the wing.

[From a subsequent email]: I forgot to mention that I like the peek-a-boo photo-bomb effect of the  female in the first photo.




  1. gbjames
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Lovely, as always!

  2. Posted February 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The aerodynamics on display in that second shot are pretty remarkable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

    Anybody interested in building an ornithopter would do well to pay close attention to that, methinks. Seems like it should be a fairly simple mechanical design to implement, without any sort of power or linkage to the “feathers.” Design it right, let the feathers pivot freely, and it should naturally open on the upstroke and close on the downstroke.



  3. Ptaylor
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink


  4. Posted February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Yes, the rotated primary feathers are a wonderful feature. It could be done by an aerodynamic effect where they rotate easily in one direction upon encountering air resistance. I wonder if they might actively use subcutaneous muscles to pivot their feathers, but that seems less likely since the response time would probably not be fast enough.

  5. jwthomas
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Great shots!

  6. Larry Esser
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Please accept another compliment on that second shot–wow! One of the best photos of a bird in flight ever.

  7. Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous shots, again! Just wonderful, thanks.

  8. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I’m exploring the limits of my gear. These photos were hampered by poor light. I had good light today. Here’s an American Goldfinch taking off.


    • Susan
      Posted February 10, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      What camera and lens are you using?

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        Canon 5D3, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

    • Chukar
      Posted February 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      The 2nd picture showing the spread primaries is great! May I have permission to include it in a post on our Audubon Chapter website?
      If so, How do I find it directly? I didn’t see in on your Flickr page, and I didn’t see any contact info there, either.

  9. John Crisp
    Posted February 12, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if this is obvious, but how do I send you a photo? Can I do it by e-mail here? I have a wonderful photo of a sacred ibis landing captured last week in Ethiopia, where I live. When I say wonderful, I mean that I am pleased with the photo, but “wonder” at the structure and position of the bird’s wings at the moment of landing.

    • gbjames
      Posted February 13, 2014 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      You can find Jerry’s email address via the “About the Author” link at the top, and then the “Research” link on the following page.

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