Some birds don’t have it

Isn’t it obvious?

A few posts back, I bolded stated the obvious – life is not fair. I am back to tell you that not all birds are created equal. You really shouldn’t be shocked.

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The Great Grey Owl scores a leading 35 points on my brand new likeability system. That is information not available anywhere else.

Since I occasionally post photos of birds, people sometimes call me a birder. I’m sure the real birders who know me collectively gasp in disbelief. The best that I can tell from a distance is that real birders are intrigued by most every little bird that wanders into their yard. They keep track of which birds they’ve seen and can rattle off any number of complicated bird names with adjectives. Me? Not so much … in every category. My confusion only begins with the names.

I’m also a little fussy about the birds I like … actually quite fussy. It might be good taste or a complete lack of it. I can guess what the birders are thinking.

Since I tend to analyze things, I decided to figure out my internal system for bird likeability. It turned out to be quite simple. For every attribute listed below, a bird gets the corresponding number of points.

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Colour can make a five point difference in terms of appeal. Imagine if this bird was only black and white?

Predators                     20 points

Larger                          5 to 10 points

Quirky                          5 points

Cute                             5 points

Exceptional colour       5 points

Common                      minus 10 points

According to my calculations, here are a few examples of point totals:

– hawks 35
– sandhill cranes 15
– grouse 10
– magpies minus 10

If I’m faced with the luxury of a hawk to my left, a sandhill crane to my right and some common little birds above me, it greatly simplifies the decision about where to point the camera. This works so well I may have to patent the system after giving it a fancy name.

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Even the lowly mapie surprised me with the interesting pattern on its wings.

Of course it’s far more likely that wildlife is in short supply and I photograph whatever living, breathing creature I can find. That’s how I ended up with magpie photos in my camera card despite my fool-proof system. (Maybe I won’t mention that in the sales brochure.)

To add insult to the fact I was chasing a bird with a minus likeabilty rating, the magpies were extremely skittish.

When I finally got some magpies in flight, they turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thot. But don’t worry, I’m not getting soft and changing the magpie’s points. Too many exceptions would destroy a perfectly good system. And I see a great future for it.

Now I wonder if people have a likeability rating … 

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I wonder what a magpie would look like in colour?

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They all look better in a sunset but there are no points for that.

 





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Latest Comments

  1. Dina says:

    Great reading, we like your rating system! 🙂

    Like

  2. donna213 says:

    Oh this was a funny post. I know I have yet to admit to being a birder, although I am in two birding clubs and finally get the jitters seeing something new with wings, but might agree a magpie is a common bird. We don’t have them and understand we just might be lucky because they are not “nice” birds and they make a lot of noise. I do think they are very pretty though, love the Windex commercial with the clueless bird hitting the window. As for your scale – cuteness only 5 points? All predators 20 points? I have to agree I like seeing them more too, but those little warblers are just so darn adorable. I was a little less strict with -1 for common. You killed off our robins in your likability rating index -10 for common and another minus for not cute of very colorful. I have to show your likability index to my birding friends and see what they think. They don’t even stop for hawks. That bugs me since I like photographing them. Is that a Mountain Bluebird? It is very pretty.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Driving by a hawk?? How could they??? I got some amusing reaction to this post. It was fun. At the end of the day I think we all have our own index and it may even change. I think I might have to go back and look at those points again and give them a few tweaks. I think it is a mountain bluebird but remember you’re asking the wrong guy.

      Like

  3. 1107photography says:

    Ha-loved your post! It’s great to keep a sense of humor–even about doing something you love. I do think at least a point or two should go to environment, tho. Even a common sparrow could look awesome at the golden hour. 😉

    Like

    • 1107photography says:

      By the way, if you haven’t seen The Big Year with Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, you ought to. They take birding to a whole new level–hilarious.

      Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you liked it. You do have a point about the golden hour. I think I like the idea of taking photos at that time more each year.

      I’ll have to check out the movie – the premise definitely works.

      Like

  4. dweezer19 says:

    Hi,
    Well, Im going to put a kink in your cataloguing system for people when I say that not all bird lovers are necessarily ” birders”. 🙂 Since I started avidly photographing birds, beginning in Florida and exploding in Costa Rica, I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing so many lovely winged creatures I could die tomorrow with no sense of lack. However. I couldn’t tell you squat about their habits, other than my observations, nor their genus, fav nesting grounds, etc. Its more like watching living art for me, and Im afraid I don’t have a point system for it. But I do like your point system idea for people. Haha. Very lovely photos, as always.
    Cheryl

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      People are often unique so it doesn’t surprise me that birders come with different approaches. I like your description of living art – that’s neat.There’s so much of it around. Glad you liked the photos.

      Like

  5. westerner54 says:

    Brilliant! I’ve been away from magpies for some weeks, and thought that the absence might increase their likability, but…no. Better get working on a patent for your system – it’s the best.

    Like

  6. Elsa Naumann says:

    I like your system 😀 I think quirky and colourful would get a higher score if I were to make one though.

    Like

  7. northerndesert says:

    I never organized it in my mind the way you have but I agree with your logic. 🙂 Wonderful captures. The owl is out standing.

    Like

  8. mflahertyphoto says:

    Interesting post as always Lyle. Never thought about it, but I guess I’ve always rated them without realizing it. I wouldn’t take more than 5 points away for being common. And behavior is too contextual, so I agree not including that criteria. Of course some birds have more interesting behavior than others, but any bird can behave in a boring or interesting manner. I would rate color the same as size, so maybe 10 points. You’d have to judge color I suppose in their best plumage (which is nearly always breeding plumage – and come to think of it that’s sexist). For size, I would rate them on departure from medium-sized (robin). I love both huge birds and very tiny ones. When I’ve mist-netted I really liked holding the real tiny ones in my hand. The biggest one we netted was a woodpecker, and that was a little scary. By the way, last year in Africa I was driving along and suddenly saw this very strange bird pop up and stride away slowly, turning to stare at me with wild eyes. It was a few days later when I got to a place with internet &I found out it was a secretary bird. I also loved grey-crowned cranes, Pel’s fishing owls and of course fishing eagles over there.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Once again you have more amazing stories to draw from and, interestingly, you are the second person to mention the Secretary Bird. That seems like a special bird. There’s so many ways that people choose the birds and the photography opportunities they like that the options are almost unlimited. It’s fascinating to hear what people think is important even if it borders on sexist!

      Like

  9. toughlittlebirds says:

    Both of my favorite birds get zero points on your scale, and even that pitiful score is just ‘cos I’m giving them the full “cute” and “quirky” points; and I’m not sure other people would really call a House Wren or a Dark-eyed Junco quirky. Come on, man, common birds are the best! There’s just more of them to love!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I did warn you I was fussy:) Maybe if you devise your own points system, you’ll put it upside down and give the most points for common birds. In any case, you certainly have a whole lot more birds to enjoy!

      Like

  10. Janet says:

    Ok, I’m googling names now too. Totally intrigued with the whole point system you developed…..love it. My all time favorites are the hummers though as you can see at http://thenextreststop.com/2013/02/16/haven-for-hummingbirds-priest-gulch-co/
    Thank for the rating system……I will be reciting it while observing birds from this point forward….LOL.

    Like

  11. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I never thought much of birds until I went to the everglades. The variety of huge birds that had seemingly no fear of humans with cameras made for many enjoyable days.

    My highest rated bird in your system: the Secretary Bird with 45 points.

    And yes, the Magpie is my lowest also, a solid -10.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      The comments in this post have sent me googling birds I have never heard of before like the Secretary Bird – that looks like a remarkable creature.

      It would be nice to be able to photograph birds that hung around. The everglades seem like an intriguing place.

      Thanks for playing!

      Like

  12. Phil Lanoue says:

    I like your points system and I suspect I employ something similar without realizing it.
    But in general I suppose I use a variation of your system. There are definitely birds I like better then others.
    Raptors generally do get top billing.
    But I have a sliding scale often based on activity of the bird. If any birds are doing one (or all) of the three Fs…Feeding, Fighting, or Flying, those actions would take precedence and my attention away from a bird just standing there.
    So although I may like great blue herons more then snowy egrets, I’ll drop the GBH in a heartbeat and direct my camera toward a group of snowys fighting with one another.
    A bald eagle swooping in to scoop a fish out of the marsh trumps everything I think.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Well that makes sense. It’s like there are points categories – bird likeability, bird activity and maybe setting which would include light. If you add the points from each category you end up with your eagle scooping fish at sunset.

      Like

  13. artsifrtsy says:

    I like the idea of a scale. I think you are onto something but have some concerns – I think that rating something higher for being large or a predator and assigning so few points for color and personality is the big flaw in your system. If you applied this system to people then your top point winner would be someone like Rush Limbaugh (Predator, Larger) would take the maximum points while your adorable redheaded toddler niece (quirky, cute, colorful) barely gets any love on the likability scale – she would never be able to garner enough points to overcome Limbaugh’s size 🙂

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Yes my bird preferences cross over quite badly to people. For that reason and a bunch more I would never tackle the people likeability scale. Though it was fun to throw it out there.

      I expect everyone has their own bird attributes that they value more highly than others. I am absolutely fascinated by predators like owls that continually need to hunt in order to eat. It really is amazing to me that they can survive. I imagine others would redistribute their points dramatically different. What would top your list?

      Like

      • artsifrtsy says:

        I have a weakness for color – I am always after that redbird – the bluebirds too. But I don’t find either likable. I shoot a lot of simple birds that have more hutspa than I ever imagined. I totally get the allure of predators – I have hawks and owls at the house but the tree cover makes it tough to get a clear shot. It would certainly be more of a thrill and accomplishment to get that owl than it is to capture my very likable goldfinch. I had a titmouse get into the house last week – he was pretty likable.

        Like

        • lylekrahn says:

          It’s interesting you separated likeable from liking to shoot. The titmouse in the house could be amusing.

          Like

          • artsifrtsy says:

            I guess I find certain birds more likable because they are nice to be around or are approachable – they can be pretty ordinary to shoot. There are moments though, when even the titmouse is exceptional. I would feel more accomplishment getting a shot of that hawk that circles overhead though.

            Like

            • lylekrahn says:

              That makes sense. Even though the deer are common around here, when I find one in exceptional light it still makes a great photo. Of course I would rather have had a grizzly standing there …

              Like

              • artsifrtsy says:

                Exactly – Last year I was in Colorado and we were in a small town outside a national park – the elk were majestic – but they were everywhere. Driving through the park on the last scenic pull out I spotted a moose nearby – the highlight of my trip.

                Like

  14. Deb W. Trotter says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. You made me laugh, and your photos are always a treat. Even the magpies (because they do have pleasing plumage patterns!).

    Like

  15. caleephotography says:

    Fantastic pictures as usual!! 🙂 I like your system, but I would add extra points for birds (any kind) who cooperate with the camera. And penguins should get extra scores just for being penguins. 😉

    Like

  16. doraiswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle , The pictures are very soothing except that of the owl. Somehow the face has not come out clearly. I simply adore the sunset background. I myself do not know the reason. Regards, Ganesh.

    Like

  17. Sue says:

    I think you should add points for unusual behavior, e.g., egret in the act of grabbing a fish or male displaying to a female or the like. Subconsciously, I apparently have been using your system for some time and just didn’t know it.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I am pleased to have been able to reach into your subconscious! I am thinking that the points I allotted under quirky may not be enough for unusual behaviour. More changes!!

      Like

  18. rachel bar says:

    Interesting rating system, interesting that you’ve decided to create a rating system, and I love the pictures. The sunset would score the most.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thank you. I didn’t know I was going to create a rating system but I didn’t know what to do about those magpie photos. Yes the sunset has an appeal all its own.

      Like

  19. Pam says:

    Love it! And I like all the birds, no matter what they look like!

    Like

  20. Gunta says:

    I like it. Not only functional, but funny,too. Though I’d make an exception for the gulls… they may be common, but they’re so goofy that they’re fun to shoot.

    Like

  21. Stephen G. Hipperson says:

    I don’t use a scoring system, indeed it would be useless at the moment, as I don’t get a lot of time to do the birding thing. However, one area that I would include that you omit – and that’s behaviour. Most of my pictures tend to be ‘birds on sticks’, so if I can get a bird actually doing something then I’m very pleased.

    Like

  22. Mike Powell says:

    Often I find myself agreeing with you, but this time we might have to agree to disagree. I do not consider myself a birder and am much more interested in photographing birds than merely seeing them, but my own scoring system is a bit simpler. It is similar to the one used by one of my friends when I was in the Army to judge whether a beer was good. There is only one criteria, “Is it present?” That’s it. There is a never ending amount of happiness when you can get excited about photographing sparrows, among the drabbest, plainest, and most ordinary birds. With the bar is set at that height, I would be ecstatic to get photos of a bird like a magpie (and your magpie photos are wonderful).

    As for a people likability index, I sure hope that you scoring system uses different criteria.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I knew we had different approaches – you are much more flexible more easily intrigued. It turns out your life is a lot simpler and it’s far easier to enjoy bird photography.

      Your comment on the people likeability index is funny. I don’t think I dare come up with that one!

      Like

  23. Fotografin Thee Ballmer says:

    funny way to make your own categories:-) I could tell you about a real birder. He is always in the Sanctuary, close to my place. Himself, he is dressed in a camouflage suit. He has a 600mm lens and a 800, of cours on a tripod. He is sitting there for hours. He has a second mobile phone with an app and hundreds of birds noises to attract them. He hates people who are talking while being close to these places:-) He likes all birds, doesn’t matter how ugly they are. And of course he knows all biological facts about them. But I think there are levels less fancy, eh. I like colored birds like the Blue Jay in Canada:-) We don’t have that guy here in Switzerland.
    have a nice day, Thee

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s a great story. I haven’t seen anyone quite that extreme but I do know that true birders like all sorts of birds. Truth be told they have a much easier life since they can happily take photos of everything! You have a great day too!

      Like

  24. itchierfeet says:

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more, except the Australian magpie is my favourite bird – because it is so smart. Does that come in to your calculations?!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks – glad you liked the post.

      You posed an interesting question. I was thinking about likeability from a visual perspective so didn’t factor it in. Would smarts ever translate into a better photo? Perhaps that’s a question for version 2.0:) Though I must admit I’m not terribly predisposed to magpies of any nationality. There’s that fussiness again!

      Like

  25. vanbraman says:

    Why not add points for sunset. I am sure you haven’t finalized the rating system yet :-).

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Well I thot about it initially but decided that it would add another unnecessary layer since every bird could be in a sunset. But the system is still pretty fresh so refinements are possible:)

      Like

  26. Kyle Kuns says:

    I like your bird likability system and even agree on the points.

    Like

  27. figtree23 says:

    I would be interested in seeing where you would rate the Kookaburra and Kingfisher. The Kookaburra is Australia’s national bird and a fearsome hunter of snakes. My downstairs neighbour likes to feed birds including rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, rosellas and budgerigars but my favourite is the pair of kookaburras that fly up to my kitchen ledge when I am preparing meat for the BBQ. They watch and wait patiently for me, knowing that they will always score a good two inches or so of raw meat off me.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I’ve never seen one but any fearsome hunter of snakes would be up at the top of my charts! There is something fascinating about the predators. Watching it go after snakes must be quite the photo opportunity.

      Like

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