Two bright green birds in a dead tree
Africa,  Bird Weekly,  Birds

Bird weekly #52: birds with long tail feathers

Wow, so Lisa has entrusted me as guest host for this week’s Bird Weekly Challenge! It’s an honour, but also a somewhat daunting task. Unlike Lisa I’m no expert bird-watcher; I just like seeing them and trying to photograph them. And while I like to know the name of a species, the main interest for me is the challenge of trying to photograph something so elusive, so constantly mobile, as many birds are.

The great thing is, I’m learning more through doing this challenge; partly because I get helpful comments from Lisa and others, and partly because it encourages me to do more research into the birds I photograph.

This week’s theme

The theme for this week is ‘birds with long tail feathers’. My research for this post taught me that tail feathers help to give the bird stability and control. While wing feathers provide lift, tails serve as a rudder, helping the bird to twist and turn as they fly. By twisting its tail, the bird can change its direction mid-flight.

They also act as a brake when landing. To help the bird slow down, the tail flares out downwards, creating more drag and decreasing the bird’s speed. And if it lands on a branch, the tail helps it to balance while perching.

But why have some birds evolved such long tail feathers? Like many evolutions, this is mainly due to the pressing need to find a mate and ensure the continuation of the species – to make baby birds! Long feathers look beautiful and attract attention. And those birds with the longest tails will have tended to be those most successful in procreating; so the ‘fashion’ for length and beauty in tails will over time have become stronger in certain species.

I’ve trawled through my own archives to find the following examples to share with you. Many of them were taken in Africa, in the Gambia or Senegal, but there are a few from elsewhere, including one very close to home.

Bird with tan wings, white breast and black head
A Senegal Coucal at Ngala Lodge in the Gambia
Brown bird in a dead tree
A Common Bulbul, also at Ngala Lodge
Two brown birds in a tree
Two more Common Bulbuls, this time at Souimanga Lodge in Senegal
White bird with long tail flying overhead
A Caspian Tern flying overhead at Cape Point in Bakau, Gambia
Vivid blue bird with long tail in a tree
A Long-tailed Glossy Starling in the Botanical Gardens in Bakau, Gambia
Beige bird with open red beak in a tree
A Red-billed Hornbill near Mandina Lodge in the Gambia
Brown bird in a dead tree
A Plantain Eater in the grounds of Mandina Lodge
Black bird with long tail on a branch
A Piapiac with oyster shells in a village in the Makasutu Forest, Gambia
Two bright green birds in a dead tree
A pair of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters in the Makasutu Forest
Bird with white and yellow breast and long tail and beak
A White-throated Bee-eater near Mandina Lodge
Bright green and yellow bird on a dead tree
A Little Bee-eater at Souimanga Lodge in Senegal (I do like Bee-eaters!)

And now for a few birds from other parts of the world

Tan bird with a long tail on a roof
A Rufous Treepie in Ranthambore NP, India
Hummingbird with long tail by pink flowers
A Doctorbird at the Blue House, where we stayed in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Green parakeet on a tree trunk
A Ring-necked Parakeet in Kew Gardens, London (just a couple of miles from my home)
Bright green feathers
And finally, a close-up of a very long tail, that of a Peacock at Bachkovo Monastery in Bulgaria

As there may be people reading this who don’t normally follow and participate in Lisa’s challenge, but who are now tempted to do so (please do!), I’m providing a summary of the ‘rules’ below:

Creating a Bird Weekly Post

  • If possible, tell us the species of the bird(s) and/or where you were when you took the photo. If you don’t know the bird species, maybe one of the followers can help you out in their comments. We are all here to teach and learn as well!
  • Then add a link to your blog in my comment box on this post. You might want to share them with Lisa too – I suggest in that case you link to her Bird Weekly birthday post
  • To make it easy for others to check out your photos and post, title your blog post ‘Bird Weekly Challenge’ and/ or use the #birdweekly tag.
  • Create a pingback by copying my URL from this post and link it inside your post.

Remember to follow Lisa’s blog to get weekly reminders of future challenges. And you can read more about the challenge on her dedicated Bird Weekly page. That page also has a list of upcoming themes.

Lisa will be back next week and hosting the week #53 challenge which will be birds beginning with ‘H’. If a bird has more than one word of the name, you can use it as long as it begins with an ‘H’, i.e. Hermit Thrush or Great Blue Heron.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to seeing all your birds with long tails!

Collage of bird photos


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 For some reason the only pingbacks I can get to work on my posts are those from others of my own posts! I almost never see pingbacks and links – they don’t come up for approval, they don’t go into my spam – they just don’t work 🙁 I definitely have the setting to allow them correctly set so I’m stuck for ideas how to resolve the issue! Meanwhile, including a link in your comment is great – thanks!

  • wetanddustyroads

    As always, just beautiful photo’s Sarah.
    But I’ve learned something new today … how important birds’ tails are! While reading your post about the ‘work’ their tails do, I realise it’s actually a no brainer, but never thought about it and was like ‘oh wow, their tails are like a rudder’ – that’s quite amazing 😲.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, it needed approval because it was the first time you’ve commented on my blog I believe. I’ll have to look into why you didn’t get any notification about that. But you should be fine if you want to comment in the future. Thanks for stopping by and thank you for the follow 😊

  • Marilyn Armstrong

    Gorgeous birds! We have some long-tailed birds \by the beach, but I don’t have pictures of them. Most of them I saw back when we used to spend some weeks every year on Martha’s Vineyard and rented a little house on the cove across from Vineyard Haven. But I didn’t have a camera.

    It was that odd interval at the end of film and the beginning of digital. My film camera was old, but digital was not yet reliable or high quality, so there were a few years during which I had some weird cameras that used floppy discs (remember them?). They hadn’t \invented SD cards. It was 2007 before I began to reinvest in cameras. I had some pictures that other people took — on film — but nothing of my own until I retired. That’s a long explanation for why I’ve seen the birds, but have no photographs.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Marilyn and thanks for your comment 🙂 Yes, I remember floppy disks but I don’t think I ever had a camera that used them. I took a while to swap to a digital camera as I was very attached to my Minolta SLR at the time. For a while I had no interest in making the switch and was even a little snobbish about digital versus film. So although I have photos from that period, to use them in my blog I have to scan 35mm slides. It’s fiddly work and the results are less than impressive 🙁

  • SoyBend

    The bee-eaters look like they have a lot of personality to go along with their colorful plumage and long tails. Love the simple elegance of the tern, Sarah.

  • Natalie

    Sarah, You’ve got a wonderful collection of bird images. I have many in my archives but haven’t got time to sort them out (sigh). I agree that birds are challenging to photograph due to their constant mobility. Enjoy hosting 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Natalie 😊 Yes, it’s a bit of a fiddle looking through for suitable photos but I quite like the way that it takes me down memory lane!

  • rosalieann37

    I have some photos Bob took of a wild turkey in our yard and I would think it had long tail feathers but they don’t look that long in the photo. Also of course the peacock we had in the yard for about a year. When he finally grew out his feathers he flew away I don’t know how to post the photos here

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Rosalie – you can’t share photos on someone else’s WordPress blog but you could share them with me on Facebook if you’d like me to see them 🙂

  • Lisa Coleman

    Oh my goodness! I so love this post! You read my mind on what I was planning to write & why the tail feathers are used. I’m glad I didn’t lead you that way and allowed you the creativity to do what you wanted. I knew you would do a great job on hosting this for me! You went over and beyond my expectations. You have a lot of beautiful birds for this challenge. I’m becoming very much in love with those bee eaters myself seeing others post them in the different challenges. I hope to see them someday. Thank you again for doing this for me and I will not hesitate to ask again if I ever need it. I really appreciate it!

    I’m doing good. A little out of it from time to time. Surgery went well and the tendon was torn in the direction the tendon runs so they were able to repair it and not replace it. YAY! I’m in between pain killers right now and will do my post in a day or two when I’m not in so much pain. I’m getting the roundup ready for last week.


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Phew, I’m so glad you’re happy with this Lisa 😌 I was actually surprised at how many long-tailed birds I could find in my archives! I do hope you get to see some Bee Eaters one day.

      And it’s great to hear the surgery went well and that the tear wasn’t as bad as it might have been. Hope you feel much better soon. 😘

      • Lisa Coleman

        It was great! Are you approving the pingbacks? I’m not seeing much on the post itself. Today, I’m trying to catch up on some of comments. I think there might be some that was pinged to the round up. I’ll get to those eventually. Not sure how long I’m going to be up. I still get tired fairly quickly. 🙂

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Annoyingly I’m not getting any pingbacks – not to approve, not in my spam, nowhere 😠 I’m trying to catch posts by searching for the tag but if people haven’t used it, and haven’t commented here with a link, I’m stuck! I seem to have some sort of issue with pingbacks generally – for some reason the only ones I see to approve are the ones from my own posts, everything else just disappears. I’ve been searching online for solutions but not found anything helpful.

          • Lisa Coleman

            I will search and hopefully find them. I’ll visit all the regulars and search their sites too. I haven’t felt good enough to do that. I’m allowing myself a few more days and then start putting the round up together. Even if it takes a few days. I did finally write my post today. 😊

          • Sarah Wilkie

            Thanks for putting in the effort to find them, especially when you’re still not feeling too great. I’ve been in touch with my hosting service trying to resolve the issue. Yesterday I thought they’d fixed it, as I got a pingback, but today I’m not so sure as one failed to materialise 🙁

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