Museum birds make me curious.
On a visit to Bird Hall at Carnegie Museum I saw this bird with an unusual crown that opens sideways!
Bird crests typically open front to back so that they’re aerodynamic. Cardinals, blue jays and tufted titmice can fly with their crests up. This bird would have a problem.
The label on the pedestal says Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus), native from southern Mexico to southeastern Brazil. Why does she have a sideways crest? And what is it used for?
Back home on the Internet, I found out that royal flycatchers rarely raise their crowns. They use them in perched displays with their mates and in agonistic encounters with other birds but normally keep them flattened. The birds usually look like this. Pretty boring except for the tail.
And then I found Cameron Rutt’s blog and photos at Nemesis Bird with the gorgeous male shown above. Males have red crowns, females have orange. Wow!
Cameron encountered this flycatcher while banding birds in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. As he held the bird, it opened its crest and beak and silently rotated its head back and forth 180 degrees in a mesmerizing display. See Cameron’s video below.
Read more about this surprising and wonderful encounter in Cameron Rutt’s blog at Nemisis Bird.
I would never have learned this if I hadn’t been curious about the royal flycatcher at Carnegie Museum.
The bird that wears a royal crown.
Male royal flycatcher with red crest raised, still photo and video by Cameron Rutt linked from Nemesis Bird and Flickr.
Female taxidermy mount at Bird Hall, Carnegie Museum, photo by Kate St.John.
Boring royal flycatcher not showing its crest, from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)