The Crest of Bird
'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, October 2016
Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado
English Translation: Asia Club, a WBSJ Volunteer Group (KATSUMATA Akio and KASE Tomoko)
When asked about my favorite part of a bird, my pinpoint reply is always “I like the napes of raptors, especially when they aim at preys on the ground.” As a matter of fact, I tend to like the nape of any animal – if it is of a bird or not. When a dog is told, “Wait,” for a delicious snack, or when a cat aims at her prey, the muscles of their napes and the back of their heads get strained. They look cute to me then because I could feel their confusions, expectations, and curiosity, without looking at their faces.
I would therefore like to introduce the crest of bird in this issue. The crests, which not all birds have, are made up of longer feathers that grow on the crowns. Unlike the ornamental feathers which a male bird displays during breeding season, the crest grows through a whole year. While dogs and cats sometimes raise the hairs or furs on their back when they get alarmed or frighten their enemies, birds also raise their feathers on napes and necks when they get nervous. This behavior sometimes makes it difficult to tell whether they are crests or not. Like humans who differ from each other as a saying that goes, “No two persons are alike,” birds have an amazing morphological variation, and so many differences exist in the crests, too. The bird which has a crest is not only an interesting target to look at, but its crest serves as a good indicator of the bird’s next behavior because it reveals the bird’s emotion.
When I take photos of a bird with crest, hopefully with a raised crest, I always try to avoid causing fear on the part of the bird. Although the tolerance levels vary with the individual birds, they are generally very nervous especially during the chick-rearing period. We should therefore pay particular attention so that the bird would not give up nesting. Even if the bird looks somewhat uncomfortable by your action, it would probably be all right to take photos as long as it takes only for a short time. The best photo opportunity would be the moment when a crested bird reacts to its conspecific or a raptorial bird.
The top picture of this essay shows a Crested Kingfisher; it holds in the mouth a Japanese dace just caught in a river and is perching on its way to feed nestlings. First, it perched on a branch near its nest to hide the location of the nest, and, after a careful watch around, it quickly swooped into its nest.
The second picture shows a Crested Ibis. Their rather-long drooping plumes look like breeding plumage, but, actually they are crests. The third picture shows one of the top favorite birds, Eurasian Hoopoe. The bird was wandering about in search of food on the ground, occasionally spreading out its crest like a fan. The fourth picture shows a Tufted Duck, a popular diving duck in a park pond. As this particular duck was preening its feathers when I took the photo, it was in a tousled feather condition. Usually the bird keeps a neater feather condition. Lastly, the picture on the bottom shows a Zitting Cisticola with its habitat in farmlands or in riverside reed beds. As the bird has no crest, it is raising the crown feathers claiming to territory.
While writing this essay, I have become aware of the fact that the back of my head and neck gets strained when I am frightened or hear a fearful story. Although we do not raise any hairs, we might, like a dog, a cat, or a bird, be emitting some kind of messages from this part of our body in a certain condition. Like a saying that goes, “Eyes are as eloquent as the tongue,” are the back of our heads telling many things? From our experience that we sometimes feel someone’s eyes on the back of our heads, it could be said that we might also be receiving some messages from others on this part of our body. Now that I have reached the above conclusion, I should try to pay more attention to my back view from now on.