Look Me in the Eye: Birds~


I think birds understand more about us than we do about them. This penguin seemed to have me figured out. I had no idea what was on his mind. He seemed quite curious and unafraid. But, if he didn’t like me he is perfectly capable of regurgitating his stomach contents at me to discourage my presence. All I can say is that I am glad he seemed to like me! Birds in the far southern latitudes are less afraid of humans because they see much less of them. Smart birds.

DSC09457 (2)

Owls have stereoscopic vision and incredible hearing. They can detect the vertical location of sound origin by differential recognition in each ear.


Did you know seagulls like this guy in a La Jolla hotel stole silver napkin rings off guest tables for years and flew away with them. Years later, during renovations, a huge pile of the napkin rings was found in an old bell tower.


When I look birds in the eye, I see an uncanny intelligence there. It is especially obvious with the raptors like this Sea Eagle,


Harris Hawk,


Hawk Eagle


and the Red Tail Hawk. There is an IQ scale that has been developed for birds. Hawks are among the most intelligent.


Corvids like ravens, crows and magpies, remember the faces of people who do bad things to them for years. Most wild birds must be quite accustomed to a human before they will let you get anywhere near them. Smart birds. Starlings like this Superb Starling are capable of understanding grammatical rules and are being studied by linguists because their vocal recognition abilities surpass those of Tamarin monkeys.

Who said bird-brained meant dumb?


Must have been some human-brain, who never took much time to get to know birds. The roadrunners have our daily routine down pat! They are surreptitious spies, and like to watch us when they know we won’t see them. They jump on a patio table and spy on Jim when he eats breakfast. They spy on both of us while we sleep. I often crack one eye open in bed in the morning to see the roadrunner staring at me through the French Doors. They let me get close…….when they feel like it.


Parrots are being studied for their logical thinking abilities that are said to be similar to that of a four year old child and the great apes. Birds cognitive abilities currently being studied include their ability to count, distinguish visual and auditory signals, use tools, learn through observation, engage in sophisticated communication and they are even being studied for possessing a “theory of mind,” being able to predict how other animals (read humans) will behave.


Smart birds. This Thrasher in Tortola is taking the measure of me. If you take some time to look a bird in the eye, you may see an intelligent creature looking right back at you.

I wonder what they think of us?

Cheers to you from all the world’s wonderful, and quite clever, birds~

For more info check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_intelligence

177 thoughts on “Look Me in the Eye: Birds~

  1. Pingback: Guest Blog by Cindy Knoke | Domino Park Comics

  2. I enjoy my birds. While away I got to see a few up close – An Ibis with a curved beck that was able to catch flung bread before it hit the ground. I think I also saw vultures resting with their wings open in the everglades, to catch the warmth or to cool off in the morning.

    I am enjoying the gift of birdseed that my son gave me for the holidays. Spring has brought yellow finch, a red wing black (hadn’t seen one in a couple of years) and of course the standard array of both birds that stay all year and the ones that are returning with the warm weather.

    Cheers. ~Jules


    • Oh yes the Ibis are fun to watch and not very timid. We had lots in the lawn of our hotel in El Calafate. Just had a gorgeous orange oriel here. Something killed it’s mate, probably an owl or hawk, I saw the victim and when I came back it was gone. First raptor casuality I have seen near our feeders. The yellow finch and red wing must be beautiful! Cheers Jules~


  3. Fun eye shots, Cindy. I love the way you get up close and personal. BTW, there was recently an article in Scientific American (February 2014) about how intelligent chickens are, which raises ethical questions about how they are treated on chicken farms. One interesting story: Hawk flies over and rooster is around his chickens and chicks. He lets out a very specific squawk that tells his brood to take cover. if a competing rooster is around, he remains silent. 🙂 –Curt


    • This is probably why information about the cognitive capacities of birds was not pursued until recently. It makes it more ethically difficult to abuse them. We live near free range cows now, and I had no idea how intelligent and social they are. We also live several miles from a cage free chicken farm that is beyond disgusting. If this is how they treat cage free chickens, I can’t even imaging the ones in cages. Our domestic anmial agri-big-business is horrible for the animals welfare, and horrible for our health when we eat these animals raised in repulsive conditions. Lose. Lose.


  4. I’ve always believed that animals have an intelligence for which we don’t give them credit. I believe when it’s all said and done here, we’re going to be very surprised. . . . Ah, but these photos, once again, are amazing, Cindy.


  5. Pingback: Post 96 In the Pursuit of Love | Life in the City with a Future

  6. You don’t say whether or not you took these photos but I think they are fantastic and worthy of illustrating a book. Great to read your thoughts. Bird behaviour is so interesting – especially when they are watching one gardening – are they opportunists.
    Made my Monday morning Cindy


    • You are very kind and your comments are very much appreciated. Birds are fascinating. Everyday they do something that intrigues and beguiles me. These photos are from all over the world, The Holler to Patagonia. What an amazing world~


  7. I love all your beautiful photos of these birds, but that first one has to be my favorite! And I enjoyed learning more about all the different birds. (It might be wicked of me, but I actually envy that penguin a bit. Wouldn’t it come in handy to be able to regurgitate our stomach contents at those who annoy us? :P)


  8. I definitely agree with you, Cindy! Birds know more than we give them credit for! Of course, the ones who parrot our speech seem very clever, but the average home pet parakeet usually does know a few things about us. I think that the clever look that birds show us, tilting their heads and chirping so pleasantly, then we respond back in a pleasant tone, it all builds me to assume they are smart! Good post and fun thoughts! Love your photographs! Gorgeous close-ups! Smiles, Robn


    • I just met a Hyacinth Macaw that knocked my socks off. We had a conversation and then he spun and continued the chat upside down! I have photos to prove it! Laughing….birds are amazing. So glad you think so too! Thanks for stopping by & cheers to you~


  9. Your blog is a tremendous find! Your photos and captions are wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking.

    Our crows are migrating back. I hope to remember that they will remember me, or is that only if I do something that harms them?

    I am aware of psychologists studying parrots. I never thought of linguists studying bird language, but when I think of it, of course they do. How fantastic that they are finding it worthwhile: starlings have grammar rules?

    I am very relieved to know that the napkin rings were found in a bell tower, not harming birds.

    I can only imagine the hundreds of photos you must have sifted through to choose these. They are an amazing set. Thanks for sharing them.


    • I have just been over at your blog and wrote you a note. I was impressed by your blog, and then even more impressed by you! The crows know you well as someone who hasn’t harmed them. Try clacking at them, imitating their calls, they will have conversations with you. I guess it would have been more accurate to simply say corvids remember faces of people, people they accept in their environments as non-threatening, and they have proven very long memories for people who try to harm them. Wonderful isn’t it? This intelligence in the animals around us. Thank you for your kind comments and your wonderful blog.


      • What a sweet response, Cindy. I don’t recall how your blog wound up on my “to be read” list, but I’m glad to meet you.

        I will work to see what kinds of relationships I can build with our crow and other bird neighbors. I love imitating cat and owl sounds to converse, so I understand what you mean by imitating crow sounds. I feel sorry for them when I see blackbirds team up against them, though I understand that this happens when the crows raid the blackbird nests.

        I wish the neighborhood woodchucks and mice would remember who we are, and stay away. Mice keep finding ways into our house and finding things to chew up. A woodchuck mama repeatedly mowed our gardens last summer. I barked at a woodchuck 2 days ago, It ran into the snowy woods. I hope that means that it was a male passing by, not a female taking care of young in a burrow by our house. We meant to follow the Humane Society’s recommendations for discouraging any females from nesting here, but it slipped our minds 😦


  10. I clicked on that parrot for a larger look-see and WHOA! That extreme red was powerful for this hour of the morning. Mother Nature has some extreme colors in her paint box!


  11. Cindy, love your pics and comments, and thanks so much for liking my blog posts. This thing says I’m one of your followers, but I don’t seem to get any notification of your posts. Do you know why that is?


    • If you wish to receive email notification of posts you follow, you can go to manage your blog, blogs I follow, and either tick ONE box to receive email notification on ALL the blogs you follow and choose the frequency, either once a day, week etc. Or you can go the individual blogs you follow and pick and choose the one’s you wish to receive notification from.
      This is how it is SUPPOSED to work, However WP notification and reader never seem to work as they are supposed too. Today in my reader for example there were 6 hours of posts available, and then a gap in posts for ONE MONTH!! Eliminating 30 days of posts from my reader, an all time record!
      Good luck and may the force by with you! You will need it with WP!!! Laughing~


      • Well that is quite the compliment. Really your work is beautiful. I was looking at the flowers and the texture of the petals was so real I could almost touch them. Just out of curiosity as I was reading your piece on the roadrunner, do you live in the Southwest? I’m in Colorado.


      • Yes I do. The southern and western most ‘southwest’ in the US at least. I live in a rural, unicorporated part of nothern San Diego County. Definitely some of the last of the wild west out here~


  12. Pingback: Birds, Birds Everywhere | From guestwriters

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