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.

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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. Wow, Cindy, what a great selection of bird shots. And they are all sharp and well-posed (did you bribe the birds πŸ™‚ ). I knew about ravens remembering people’s faces but starlings understanding grammatical rules? How do they even experiment along those lines…fascinating.

  2. This was so much fun to view! There is personality, wisdom, humour, joy in each of your profiles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I really wonder if we are the most advanced species that walk this earth.

  3. There was one particular crow who would squawk at me when I went on my daily walk. One day I stood underneath his perch in a pine tree and squawked back at him. He looked me over in puzzlement and squawked again, but this time it was shorter and somewhat softer – “squawk, squawk” instead of “squawk, squawk, squawk, squawk, squawk!” I returned a single “squawk” and he just looked at me without uttering another sound. From that day forward, he never squawked at me again. I could always recognize the ruffled feathers he had on one wing.

  4. fascinating post Cindy, and wonderful photos! I love birds and that intelligent look in their eyes, our local magpies and king parrots certainly have us figured out πŸ™‚

    1. There has been a historical tradition of assuming birds and other animals are dumb, don’t have feelings, etc. Contemporary science is proving both these assumptions quite wrong! So happy you enjoyed~

  5. Beautiful photos, and I have no doubt that birds are very intelligent. After all, I wouldn’t like my chances of catching a worm for breakfast, or an insect on the wing, not to mention navigating my way across the world like our tiny godwits.

  6. This is a beautiful, yet educational post! Enjoyed reading about their intelligence. I didn’t know that seagulls appreciate silver napkin rings πŸ™‚ Thank you, Cindy! Great weekend!

  7. Good article about bird intelligence. I have seen video (a long time) about bird (crow?) used tool (stick) to get the food of a bottle. That is a problem solving using tool which normally related to high level of intelligence (monkeys and us are most notorious).

    The penguin regurgitates his/her stomach contents might be a sign of affectionate (cat drop a dead mouse at your door step) πŸ™‚

    Those are beautiful pictures!

    1. Yes, different species of birds do give gifts! I think I saw the video you are referring to and I thought it was fascinating too! Interesting comments my friend!

  8. You have captured such comical looks, made me LOL. Except for the raptors, who are far too regal to laugh at. The seagull looks like a professional comedian about to deliver his best line. And, of course parrots are always a delight. Have an enjoyable weekend. πŸ˜€

    1. Seagulls have to provoke more responses in us then any other bird. They can be comical, beautiful in the air, enjoying when they swoop down and steal your picnic sandwich! Laughing…..

  9. What a enjoyable and educational post, Cindy. Nicely done. I must confess that the sea eagle was my favourite.

    I actually walked to within a few yards (or so it seemed at the time) of a bald eagle once, while hiking in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Magnificent.

  10. Wow your bird photos are awesome! I love reading your stories about them too! It’s amazing to me how smart some of them are!! Hugz Lisa and Bear

  11. Amazing shots. I never manage to get close enough for amazing shots like yours. You are so right about the intelligence. The robins in my yard line up along my roof line when I start loosening the soil in my garden. When they figure I’ve exposed enough earthworms for the day they start “yelling” at me to leave. When they finally get to the space to have lunch — if I return too soon — they give me a look like — “could she possibly be any ruder? — we’re still eating!” Keep the happy photos coming — its snowing here again today — they really cheer me up. πŸ˜€

  12. What an incredible close up look at each other – human to bird/bird to human. There is no doubt in my mind that if we listen to our senses, we will see ourselves and more in all the creatures among us.

    1. Very true and important to point out. We are connected to all the living things on this planet. Great point Dor. If people were more aware of this, we might take better care of our fellow living creatures!

  13. I don’t have to study them to know they are smart. They are. Your photographs are amazing, as always. Just beautiful. I wish we would let them alone to live and stop keeping them in cages to learn about them. We should put scientists in cages and try to figure out why they think it’s okay to do what they do. THAT is something i would like to know.

    1. Touche’ It is hard to envision birds in cages when one realizes how intelligent they are, and how social they are, and how much they like to fly everyday. It would be beneficial if we did accord animals a better set of basic rights.

  14. Loved the bird’s eyes. The amber of the owl eyes is so beautiful. What is it about a colored circle with a black dot in it that is so ( can’t even think of a word) ?
    I am fascinated with my own gravatar. lol

  15. These are such delightful photographs of these birds, especially the ones looking straight at the camera. Their eyes seem to warn, “Don’t mess with me.” and with those beaks and claws, I wouldn’t!

    1. I get close to the red tails and their talons are so lethal. In some sunlight they shine silver like knives! They are capable of doing some serious damage to those who do not respect their ways~

  16. I do wonder whether the religious tradition of denying souls to non humans blinded us – many generations on – to their actual capacities and when research started it started with the closest link, the monkeys.

    This was a fascinating post, both for the superb photographs and for the content.
    Many thanks

    1. What a fascinating premise. I know my mother and grandparents bought in to the idea that animals were less than humans in every way. Both generations highly educated, both denying the existence of higher cognitive functioning in animals. My mother probably still believes this and doesn’t much relate to posts like this one! Laughing. I think you are right on accurate. Couple the religious argument with the past generation’s focus on development, human superiority, rational man arguments and scientific progress through animal experimentation, and the stage was set for an animal, and natural world apocolpyse, which is pretty much what has happened.. Sad. I wonder if we can turn it around?

  17. an interesting post as it is arresting. No bird brains there–but featuring the head (almost exclusively) is such a unique perspective. The eyes have it for me; those raptors are seXe birds…:)

    1. No sexe is one thing I never considered!!! Maybe to a raptor of the opposite gender…..but I do admit they are good looking! Laughing……you are hilarious!! I lost my emoticon cheat list so I can’t send you a wink……

      1. Well if you are en-raptor-ed, you should come out to The Holler and see if one will sweep you off your feet……but I afraid you’d be in for a big let down….literally! πŸ™‚

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  19. 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

    1. 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~

  20. 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. πŸ™‚ –Curt

    1. 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.

  21. 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.

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  23. 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

    1. 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~

  24. 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)

  25. 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

    1. 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~

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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 πŸ™

  27. 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!

  28. 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?

    1. 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~

      1. 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.

      2. 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~

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  30. Hi Cindy. Lovely photos. I love the birds until they mess on my car. Thank you for liking ‘Can You, Those Days and Morgue!’ Also for wanting to follow my poetry adventures. Be Save and Well. The Foureyed Poet.

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