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The Cheering-Up Birds: Part 3

Digital collage by V. Neblik for The Greatest Minds.Org incorporating public domain and original material

Birds are some of the most remarkable creatures on the planet- in the third part of "The Cheering-Up Birds" Victoria Neblik picks some of her favourite freakish, absurd and amazing avians to brighten your day.

Having evolved from dinosaurs, birds have spread to occupy every continent on earth, not to mention the skies above them and, in many cases, the surface of the oceans between them. Like the previous installations of Cheering up Birds (see Part 1: birds 1-5 and Part 2: birds 6-10 ), today’s selection celebrates some of the Earth’s more absurd birds- the joyous freaks if you will. This time, though, Victoria Neblik is delving into the annals of bird history as well as dabbling into some freaks of the duck pond. From Blue-footed Boobies to exotic Birds of Paradise, The Greatest Minds proudly presents 5 more of the best Cheering-Up Birds we have ever seen-

11. The Firecrest.

First up is the Firecrest, Regulus ignicapilla- a pretty little passerine bird that is found in broadleaved and coniferous woods and gardens in temperate Europe and North West Africa. It is often called the “Common Firecrest”, (as distrinct from the Madeira firecrest Regulus madeirensis and the Taiwan Firecrest/Flamecrest, Regulus goodfellowi ) but, despite the name, it is still less common than some of us might like- even if only for cheering up purposes. Usually cheering up birds have to be a little absurd to make the list, but the only absurdity here is the joyous colours of this beautiful little creature: being a firecrest must be a little like wearing a multicoloured jester’s hat to work every day, even when it’s November and raining

Pictures: , ,




12. Mandarin Duck.

Male Mandarin Duck shown in side view swimming or resting on surface ofpond or lake
Mandarin Duck, (Aix galericulata). [Image taken from, where it is listed (11th Oct 2017) as Royalty free and attribution not required. (screenshots available) Reproduced here in good faith].

For everyday absurdity, you can do a lot worse than the Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata. As its name suggests, this small water-bird was originally native to Eastern Asia, but thanks to enthusiastic importing into private collections followed by (one suspects enthusiastic duck escapees), it is now common in public parks in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and certain other parts of Europe. At the same time, its range in the Far East has decreased. This glorious duck is not exactly a rare gem, therefore, but the mating plumage of the drake certainly scores highly for colourfulness. The fact that it is so common gives it a particular appeal on this list because you don’t have to trek to the rainforest or even the Far East to find it.



As so often in the bird world, the males have a more flamboyant appearance than the females, but in this case, the females are rather pretty, too.

13. Tufted Coquette.

For those who do fancy a trip into the rainforest, cheering up birds like the Tufted Coquette are an excellent reason to make the journey. Native to eastern Venezuela, Bolivia, Trinidad, Guiana, and northern Brazil, this little hummingbird is also found further North, in Trinidad and Tobago. It “eats” nectar from a variety of different flowers, supplemented (as is often the case with hummingbirds) with some small invertebrates. [ ]

Once again, both sexes are pretty, but the male is really a sight to behold, even in black and white…

Black and white historic zoological plate showing female and male Tufted coquette birds on tree bwigs, male with prominent tufts
The Tufted Coquette, Lophornis ornatus- plate from an early French Edition of "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex" by Charles Darwin (1871). Photograph by V.Neblik

In colour he is positively dapper: full colour images can be found online here-,, and

14. The Raggiana Bird of Paradise.

Many years ago, when I was completing my first degree, I wrote a long dissertation on a phenomenon called Lek Mating. Essentially, this is a form of mating that is found in fairly disparate groups of creatures that are dotted about the animal kingdom taxonomically- from reindeer and topi to certain bats, some mosquitos and various toads. Naturally, there are multiple bird species that lek. In a lek mating system, the males contribute essentially nothing to the offspring and therefore the females, who have a high degree of mate choice- pick males on the basis of certain curious displays performed by the males, for the females' viewing pleasure. This has led the males to develop and evolve all sorts of elaborate bodily ornamentation and curious movements. In many ways, it's a lot like one of the world's more avant-garde nightclubs- only just for animals...

In any case, one of my favourite creatures from this whole joyous project was the Raggiana Bird of Paradise- the male is an exceptionally flamboyant animal in both manner and plumage- and in the course of my studies I managed to find an awesome picture of a somewhat bemused-looking female gazing upon an inverted male shaking his feathers at her. You can find some glorious videos of this stuff online-


Still pictures include these-, and

(incidentally, less beautiful, but still rather endearing are the chicks- Cincinnati Zoo has a video of some here- )

Flag of Papua New Guinea- black triangle with 5 stars and red triangle with golden silhouette of  Raggiana Bird of Paradise
The Flag of Papua New Guinea features the country's national emblem- The Raggiana Bird of Paradise

15. The Blue-Footed Booby.

Last on today's list of Cheering-up Birds is The Blue-Footed Booby, Sula nebouxii . Both sexes of this absurdly fabulous sea-bird have bright blue feet and are famously clumsy on land- the name "booby" actually comes from the Spanish word "Bobo", meaning "stupid", "foolish", or "clown", making it a particularly entertaining cheering-up bird to watch.

There are two subspecies-Sula nebouxii nebouxii , which is found on the Pacific coast of parts of California, Central America and Southern America including Peru, and Sula nebouxii excisa, which is known from the Galapagos Islands. Wikipedia states that "The blue color of the blue-footed booby's webbed feet comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish"; this is fairly unusual, as blue colours in the living world come far more often from anthocyanin pigments or structural colouration, whilst carotenoid pigments are usually red, orange or yellow in hue, as their name would suggest. For anyone interested in the science of the booby's blue feet, more details can be found in the scientific paper "Pigment-based skin colour in the Blue-footed Booby: an honest signal of current condition used by females to adjust reproductive investment" by Alberto Velando, Rene Beamonte-Barrientos and Roxana Torres, published in the journal Oecologia. Vol. 149 (3), pages 535–542 in 2006.

For those just seeking pictures, here is a small selection-,, and last, but perhaps most adorable of all-

- "The Cheering-Up Birds: Part 3" by V. Neblik is part of an ongoing series published by The Greatest Minds - Part 3 was originally published on 11th October 2018, based on earlier material. For previous parts, click below-

More work by Victoria Neblik: can be found in The Greatest Minds Book: "Marie Curie and the Ibexes"- coming to kindle soon. Also check out her website [here].



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