Birds of the Desert Biome

As promised previously, it is time to start rolling out the birds from the Indianapolis Zoo trip back in 2011.  Now that most of the mammals and the lizards have been sufficiently covered, it is time to feature our feathered friends.  The downside of this is once again I’ve become extremely frustrated with the resources available for bird identification.  It is becoming almost comical how little information I am able to obtain from the web for what seems like the simplest tasks.  For example, there are aviary identification sites out there that allow you to do identification based on attributes.  It will seem promising at first since it lets you pick some easy body geometry but then you become less than enthused when the all knowing database comes back and says it could be … and then shows at best one or two options.  Does it have long longs?  well then you have a Heron.. what about Stilts.. no, you have a Heron.  Does it sit parallel to the tree? then it is a Woodpecker…. what about Flickers … I said it’s a Woodpecker now leave me alone.  This even holds for what appears to be easily identifiable birds which I’ll get to in a bit.  Now, there is blame to go around here.  Clearly this would have been an easier task had I found a resource at the zoo to ask or found a placard on the habitat that gave the name of the contents.  Lesson learned for future zoo trips that might have a collection of birds more rare to the continental Americas.  The counter to that argument, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to ask the Zoo to list the names of their animals on their web page – Indy has a few listed, but again, one of them has gone unidentified.  Sorry for the continual gripe about identification, but it is frustrating to page through thousands of pages or image query results and come up empty on a bird I’ve captured. (feel like my brother and his frustration with Costco!)

The good news is only one of this set is nameless.  One that was identified is the Gambel’s Quail.  Or, as the Indy Zoo website calls it – Gamble’s Quail (link here) – pretty bad when you can’t rely on the zoo to get the names right.  These birds are actually pretty odd looking with their head protruding plumage.  This bird, along with all of them actually, came from the Desert Biome exhibit.  This is the same location all the lizard shots came from in the previous posts.  Apparently birds and lizards tolerate each other pretty well.  There were a few other shots taken of this bird, but it was spending much of its time hanging out in the back-lit windows – not a good setting for getting real detail in a bird.  Eventually I worked myself around to get a decent headshot.

A very distinctly featured bird don’t you think?  This is a male specimen easily identifiable by its blacker beak and eye coloring.  They are a sport bird but Wikipedia does list them as Least Concern on their conservation status.  This may be due to the fact they lay a lot of eggs at once – 10 to 15 eggs at a time giving them a higher survival rate.  Common to the Quail family, the Gambel’s prefer the ground over flight but they can utilize those wings if they choose – short distances.  They do indeed prefer the desert even though that surprised me when I saw this in the biome exhibit.  In case you are curious, they are named after naturalist William Gambel (my apologies for the zoo in screwing up your name).  He died of typhoid back in 1849, but not before discovering this bird, the Mountain Chickadee and the Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The next bird was also easily identified.  The zoo site referenced them by their third name – the Owl Finch, but they are also referred to as the Double-Barred Finch and the Bicheno’s Finch. So loved they gave it three names.  Guessing they have the Owl name thanks to the coloring around their eye mimicking their larger brothers.  It is almost as if an artist took a standard finch and decided to dress it up a bit – kind of like what they do with those cow and pig statues you see littered about larger cities.

That shot gives a really good perspective of the Beast’s depth of field.  The finch (a small bird) is perfectly centered in the band of focus – as any bird photographer will agree, the focus  target is always the eyes so compositions like these tend to extend the focus past the bird.  I had to laugh at the next shot – clearly a day of shooting the mammals had influenced my composition choices on the birds.  Always the sucker for head across the body shots.

You are probably wanting a shot from the front to see what this bird looks like.  That is an easy request because there were a few of these birds in the exhibit.  The one below was a little more active than the one simply hanging out in the rocks.

Hit the jump to read more about the Owl Finch and two more of its colorful brothers.

Continue reading Birds of the Desert Biome