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Black + White = Grey

Continuing from my previous posting that outlined the depth of black, I’m sharing with you some images of birds that aren’t all black. The most commonly mixed colour with black is well, white. (I’m saying this while using a mousepad that has a Golden-headed Manakin on it)

There’s something about black on white, or white on black – whichever way you see it – that conveys elegance, sophistication and class. Aside from that, sometimes a splash of white can be the defining point of identification of a species. An extremely brief view of a black bird swooping into an adjoining valley only makes it onto the list for that outing because of that white flash at the base of its tail. Mental note “Common Black Hawk”.

common black hawk










The amount of white that’s present on an otherwise black bird helps to identify tricky species as well. Within Trinidad alone, we have a number of species that are mostly black, with a smidgen of white here and there. Whether it’s the white underwing of the White-lined Tanager, the white markings on the wings of White-flanked Antwren or White-winged Becard…yeah, these things can get a bit tricky if you’re looking to ID a bird based on colour pattern alone! A black tanager that’s decidedly more dainty than any other local tanager species (just look at that tail) with tell-tale white markings on its shoulders is the uncommonly seen White-shouldered Tanager.

white shouldered tanager







Coloration is not arbitrary by any means, especially when it comes to raptors. If viewed from above, a White Hawk would seem mostly black. But viewed from below, it’s a different story. Those whites break up its outline against a bright white sky, affording it the opportunity to hide in plain sight.

white hawk







Also hiding in plain sight is this Tropical Peewee, its careful mix of black,white and grey with a little brown thrown in – coupled with its ability to sit motionless – allows it to spring into action at a moment’s notice, targeting some unwary insect.

tropical peewee-2







Almost completely grey, save for the orange tips of its wings – is the Plumbeous Kite. One would think that their long talons and razor sharp beaks are built to end the lives of fuzzy mammals, but insects actually make up the majority of their diet.

plumbeous kite-2







Anyway, back to the topic of black and white. What’s the perfect mix? Perhaps a good look at the 50-50 ratio of a male White-bearded Manakin might sway the vote. Female of the species here, for those of you wondering why I’m specifying gender.

white bearded manakin-2

4 thoughts on “Black + White = Grey

  1. Devan Mulchansingh says:

    Excellent photos! That picture of the common black hawk really speaks to me for some reason, the depth of the image with the mountain side in the background, it almost makes me feel like i can smell the fresh air again!

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