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Birds in Motion

Updated on August 20, 2014

Limitations of Bird Photography Overcome

Birds tend to move around a great deal. They fly, hop, and do other things. They are so quick that for the most part, and because it takes time to prepare a shot, no matter how quick, a photographer can usually only catch them when they are sitting still. So most bird photos are of birds sitting still, not doing much of anything. In this Lens, I will present photos of birds actually doing something, in motion, being interesting, not just posing for the camera.

Needless to say, it is a bit of a challenge to get a clear photo of a bird in motion. It took me quite awhile to learn how to get sharp photos of ducks in flight.

Flying Hummingbirds

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Selasphorus platycercus.Black-chinned Hummingbird. Archilocus alexandri.Calliope Hummingbird. Stellula calliope. On Slipper Plant, Pedilanthus macrocarpus. The plant itself is poisonous, but the nectar is quite good. I speak from personal experience. :)Broad-billed Hummingbird. Cynanthus latirostris.Broad-billed Hummingbird.An early photo. I don't know what species it is. Taken with a 600mm mirror lens.Rufous Hummingbird. Selasphorus rufus. Female.Two hummingbirds having a, um, heated discussion.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Selasphorus platycercus.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Selasphorus platycercus.
Black-chinned Hummingbird. Archilocus alexandri.
Black-chinned Hummingbird. Archilocus alexandri.
Calliope Hummingbird. Stellula calliope. On Slipper Plant, Pedilanthus macrocarpus. The plant itself is poisonous, but the nectar is quite good. I speak from personal experience. :)
Calliope Hummingbird. Stellula calliope. On Slipper Plant, Pedilanthus macrocarpus. The plant itself is poisonous, but the nectar is quite good. I speak from personal experience. :)
Broad-billed Hummingbird. Cynanthus latirostris.
Broad-billed Hummingbird. Cynanthus latirostris.
Broad-billed Hummingbird.
Broad-billed Hummingbird.
An early photo. I don't know what species it is. Taken with a 600mm mirror lens.
An early photo. I don't know what species it is. Taken with a 600mm mirror lens.
Rufous Hummingbird. Selasphorus rufus. Female.
Rufous Hummingbird. Selasphorus rufus. Female.
Two hummingbirds having a, um, heated discussion.
Two hummingbirds having a, um, heated discussion.

Sandhill Cranes

These birds come by the thousands every winter, to stay and raise their young. There can be up to 30,000 of them in southeastern Arizona. During the day, they fly out and look for seeds and other food in the fields, and they return at night to the roosting place. This flock was roosting at Apache Station Wildlife Reserve. They have the most interesting traffic control system I think I have ever heard. Cranes make a noise called "bugling". Two cranes would take turns bugling at different pitches, guiding in the flying birds, until they all landed. Notice, if you can see it, these birds have a red area on the top of their heads. Looked at from the top, it resembles a heart.

Sandhill Cranes in Flight - Grus canadensis

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Flying Ospreys - Pandion haliaetus

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Looking for fish, Patagonia Lake.He got one!Looking for fish, Kennedy Park.He sees one.He got it!
Looking for fish, Patagonia Lake.
Looking for fish, Patagonia Lake.
He got one!
He got one!
Looking for fish, Kennedy Park.
Looking for fish, Kennedy Park.
He sees one.
He sees one.
He got it!
He got it!

Osprey Catching Fish

You can see for yourself what I saw on both occasions I photographed Ospreys. :)

Flock of Flying Ducks - Sweetwater Wetlands, Arizona

Flying Ducks - Sweetwater Wetlands

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All but the last photo are of Northern Shovelers. Anas clypeata. I promise to find some Mallards when I have time.The ones with the dark heads are males, and the mottled brownish ones are usually females.Two guys chasing the lady.Mixed flock of Northern Shovelers and American Wigeons (Anas americana). The Wigeons are the ones with short bills.
All but the last photo are of Northern Shovelers. Anas clypeata. I promise to find some Mallards when I have time.
All but the last photo are of Northern Shovelers. Anas clypeata. I promise to find some Mallards when I have time.
The ones with the dark heads are males, and the mottled brownish ones are usually females.
The ones with the dark heads are males, and the mottled brownish ones are usually females.
Two guys chasing the lady.
Two guys chasing the lady.
Mixed flock of Northern Shovelers and American Wigeons (Anas americana). The Wigeons are the ones with short bills.
Mixed flock of Northern Shovelers and American Wigeons (Anas americana). The Wigeons are the ones with short bills.

Flying Raptors

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Probably a Common Raven. Corvus Corax.Osprey. He sees a fish, and he's about to dive. Pandion haliaetusNorthern Harrier. Circus cyaneus. His face looks like that of an owl.Northern Harrier.Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis. Not all of them display the red tail at all times. The youngsters don't. There is a lot of color variation.Red-tailed Hawk.Harris's Hawk. Parabuteo unicinctus. It was almost dark.Harris's Hawk.Harris's Hawk with Moon. A fortuitous moment.
Probably a Common Raven. Corvus Corax.
Probably a Common Raven. Corvus Corax.
Osprey. He sees a fish, and he's about to dive. Pandion haliaetus
Osprey. He sees a fish, and he's about to dive. Pandion haliaetus
Northern Harrier. Circus cyaneus. His face looks like that of an owl.
Northern Harrier. Circus cyaneus. His face looks like that of an owl.
Northern Harrier.
Northern Harrier.
Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis. Not all of them display the red tail at all times. The youngsters don't. There is a lot of color variation.
Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis. Not all of them display the red tail at all times. The youngsters don't. There is a lot of color variation.
Red-tailed Hawk.
Red-tailed Hawk.
Harris's Hawk. Parabuteo unicinctus. It was almost dark.
Harris's Hawk. Parabuteo unicinctus. It was almost dark.
Harris's Hawk.
Harris's Hawk.
Harris's Hawk with Moon. A fortuitous moment.
Harris's Hawk with Moon. A fortuitous moment.

Hooded Mergansers - Lophodytes cucullatus

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The female is taking off.Ducks and some other water birds like to rear up out of the water and flap their wings. I don't know why. But it's fun to catch them in the act. He's starting to do this.Halfway in between.A full-blown flap!
The female is taking off.
The female is taking off.
Ducks and some other water birds like to rear up out of the water and flap their wings. I don't know why. But it's fun to catch them in the act. He's starting to do this.
Ducks and some other water birds like to rear up out of the water and flap their wings. I don't know why. But it's fun to catch them in the act. He's starting to do this.
Halfway in between.
Halfway in between.
A full-blown flap!
A full-blown flap!

Green Heron in Flight - Butorides virescens

Greater Roadrunner Running - Geococcyx californianus

One leg in motion is almost totally blurred. I didn't tell Wile E Coyote where to find him. Roadrunners can fly well enough, but they prefer to run.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds Congregating - Agelaius phoeniceus

The males will be along in a couple of weeks. I have seen up to 700 blackbirds strung out on the same electric wire, that close to each other. Notice all but two are facing in the same direction. I don't know why birds on wires or branches do this, but they all do, if they sit on wires in large numbers.

Small Murmurations - We don't have millions, but we do have hundreds

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Rock Pigeons. Columba livia. These are the city pigeons you see everywhere.Rock Pigeons. They were flying around and around just for the heck of it. They'd land on something tall, rest a moment, and take off again.Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. After flying around for awhile, they congregated on a nearby electric wire.
Rock Pigeons. Columba livia. These are the city pigeons you see everywhere.
Rock Pigeons. Columba livia. These are the city pigeons you see everywhere.
Rock Pigeons. They were flying around and around just for the heck of it. They'd land on something tall, rest a moment, and take off again.
Rock Pigeons. They were flying around and around just for the heck of it. They'd land on something tall, rest a moment, and take off again.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. After flying around for awhile, they congregated on a nearby electric wire.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. After flying around for awhile, they congregated on a nearby electric wire.

Egrets

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Great Egret fishing. Ardea alba.Snowy Egret with Lunch. Egretta thula.Great Egret. I was going to get the pose, leaning down toward the water, looking for fish, and just as I snapped the shutter, it pounced right out of my lens!Great Egret in flight.Great Egret Landing. Surprisingly, a shot like this is somewhat difficult, because they fold their wings so fast.
Great Egret fishing. Ardea alba.
Great Egret fishing. Ardea alba.
Snowy Egret with Lunch. Egretta thula.
Snowy Egret with Lunch. Egretta thula.
Great Egret. I was going to get the pose, leaning down toward the water, looking for fish, and just as I snapped the shutter, it pounced right out of my lens!
Great Egret. I was going to get the pose, leaning down toward the water, looking for fish, and just as I snapped the shutter, it pounced right out of my lens!
Great Egret in flight.
Great Egret in flight.
Great Egret Landing. Surprisingly, a shot like this is somewhat difficult, because they fold their wings so fast.
Great Egret Landing. Surprisingly, a shot like this is somewhat difficult, because they fold their wings so fast.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennis

Swallows are very difficult to photograph, especially if you have to hand focus like I do. They move very fast, and frequently change direction without warning. This fellow was WAY out there, and the image was a very small part of the total picture. I was amazed at how sharp it was, and I wasn't the only one.

Gila Woodpecker Stealing Sugar Water from Hummingbird Feeder - Melanerpes uropygialis

Gila Woodpeckers have a sweet tooth; I have seen them stealing from hummingbird feeders several times. I have also seen a Ladderback doing that. This is a male. It took him quite a bit of effort to reach the sweet stuff. I have a complete photo essay of his efforts in my lens on the birds of southern Arizona.

Having an Argument

These are probably female House Finches, but I am not positive. They had this big long wire to sit on, but they both wanted the exact same spot!

Dancing Crowned Cranes - Balearica regulorum

When I first saw this pair, my first thought is that they were dancing. I learned that African Crowned Cranes DO dance.

Double-crested Cormorant Drying Wings - Phalacrocorax auritus

Cormorants lack oil on their feathers, so when they dive, they have to dry out their feathers another way. They do it by holding them open and letting the sun dry them. His friends are Red-eared Sliders.Trachemys scripta elegans.

Lots of birds can get their necks into some pretty impossible shapes. This bird is one of them.

American Coot Feet - Fulica americana

This coot seems to be inspecting his feet. I think they look very interesting, so I am showing them to you.

Coot Fight

These coots are arguing about something.

Brown Pelican Yawning - Pelecanus occidentalis

That's what it looks like, isn't it? The cormorant thought it was funny. See, he's laughing!

Birds Enjoying a Bath

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I have no idea what kind of duck this is.White-faced Whistling Duck. Dendrocygna viduata.Same duck.
I have no idea what kind of duck this is.
I have no idea what kind of duck this is.
White-faced Whistling Duck. Dendrocygna viduata.
White-faced Whistling Duck. Dendrocygna viduata.
Same duck.
Same duck.

Black-crowned Night Herons - Nycticorax nycticorax

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It's quite a reach to the water. I have seen these birds try to catch a fish this way a number of times, but I have never observed that they succeeded. These birds' behavior is quite amusing.He didn't get his meal, either. The fish was too big to swallow, and he lost it. It had been left on the beach by a fisherman.Coming in for a landing.
It's quite a reach to the water. I have seen these birds try to catch a fish this way a number of times, but I have never observed that they succeeded. These birds' behavior is quite amusing.
It's quite a reach to the water. I have seen these birds try to catch a fish this way a number of times, but I have never observed that they succeeded. These birds' behavior is quite amusing.
He didn't get his meal, either. The fish was too big to swallow, and he lost it. It had been left on the beach by a fisherman.
He didn't get his meal, either. The fish was too big to swallow, and he lost it. It had been left on the beach by a fisherman.
Coming in for a landing.
Coming in for a landing.

Twitterpated - House Finches - Carpodacus mexicanus

They behaved like they were courting. He did all these fancy aerobatics while she sat on the wire and watched.

Doing a Bittern Impersonation - Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias

Stretching His Legs, er, Wings

Some birds will put their leg up under one wing and stretch both outward and sideways. I have no idea why they do this, either. He's all fluffed up, too.

Missed the Bird and Got the Splash

Better luck next time...

Brown Pelican, Flying - Pelecanus occidentalis

This is a species that dives from the sky into the water to catch its food. He dove several times. Other times, he would just fly around for the apparent heckuvit.

California Gull - Larus californicus

A rarity. I caught this one coming and going, and sitting on the lake water.

He Noticed Me - Mallard

Nobody else did.

Hummingbird Feeding Her Young

Probably an Anna's. The females are nondescript enough I don't always get their identity, but this is the most likely, and other birders told me that was who she was.

Weaving a Nest - Taveta Golden Weaver

Ploceus castaneiceps. Kenya, Tanzania.

Notice he is weaving in a thick cream-colored piece of grass. The male weaves the nest, and the female decides if it is good enough. If it isn't, he starts over. When the nest is finished, it makes a nice apartment with just one opening on the side, otherwise completely enclosed.

Marabou Stork, Preening - Leptoptilos crumeniferus

From Africa. Those birds look so silly!

Ring-billed Gull, Landing - Larus delawarensis

Betcha didn't know we get gulls in the middle of the desert in Arizona, especially from Delaware. This is the most common one.

Great-tailed Grackle, Flying - Quiscalus mexicanus

I was just playing around with my macro lens, and caught this fellow. I was very pleased.

Red-tailed Hawk

Yes, I've shown you Red-tailed Hawks before. But I am excited every time I get a new picture of one in flight. This one was flying over the recharge ponds at Columbus Park outside Tucson, Arizona. There was a total of three in the area. They each perched on a high tension tower for awhile. This one was on his way.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Parkesia motacilla

Louisiana Waterthrush is a rare bird in Arizona. I know of three different ones this year (November, 2013). I chased all three, actually, and got photos of one of them. Getting a decent photo wasn't trivial. This bird is in constant motion. And in my opinion, this is a shy bird. I had to do a fair amount of bushwhacking to reach the spot where I could finally take pictures.

The photo doesn't show the constant tail-bobbing of this bird, so I have included a video below, so you can see for yourself.

The one I finally got.
The one I finally got.

Louisiana Waterthrush in motion

See You Later! - Hawk over Mountains

An early photo, but still a favorite. I'll be back with more interesting bird behavior.

Bird Behavior Books on Amazon

Ignore the stuff about evolution in these otherwise excellent books. Evolution is just fairy tales and imagination.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

by David Allen Sibley

Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird

by Tim Birkhead

Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 3

by Donald W. Stokes, Lillian Q. Stokes

A Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 2 (Stokes Nature Guides)

by Donald Stokes, Lillian Stokes

Why Birds Do That: 40 Distinctive Bird Behaviors Explained & Photographed

by Michael Furtman

Tell us about interesting bird behavior you have seen - Or say anything else you feel like saying

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      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Wonderful photos. Congratulations! it was a pleasure to visit this lens.