Feb 11 2014

Subtle Differences

Published by at 7:10 am under Beyond Bounds

Faces of green-winged and scarlet macaws (photos from Wikmedia Commons)

If you were paying close attention to last Wednesday’s post about scarlet macaws you noticed that I changed the photo on Friday. That’s because Diane Korolog pointed out that the original photo was misidentified.

When I first published the article I used the photo on the left (green background).  It’s a 2013 Featured Photo on Wikimedia Commons that was labeled “scarlet macaw” but Diane said it looks like a green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus).  The scarlet macaw (Ara macao) is on the right.

How can you tell the difference with only a head shot?  Diane explained that the scarlet macaw has a clean all-white face, while the green-wing’s face has red feather lines.  The feather lines are so unique that you can identify individual green-winged macaws by their pattern.  This is as cool as identifying individual tundra swans by the yellow patterns on their bills.

The story doesn’t end there.  On Friday I wrote to Information at Wikimedia Commons, explaining the labeling problem.  A volunteer put me in touch with the photographer in Germany and we discussed the problem online.

Tuxyso photographed the bird at the Muenster Zoo where both scarlet and green-winged macaws live in the Tropical Hall exhibit. He labeled the photo “scarlet macaw” because this bird has the yellow wing feathers diagnostic of Ara macao.  But he isn’t a scarlet macaw.  The Muenster Zoo website held the hint to this bird’s true identity.

I can’t read German so I used Google Translate on the link Tuxyso provided.  The zoo explains that in the wild scarlet and green-winged macaws don’t interbreed but in the exhibit a scarlet and a green-winged secretly paired up and produced a hybrid offspring.  Tuxyso called the zoo and confirmed that the bird in his photograph is the scarlet-X-green-winged hybrid.

Everyone was right. This bird is both.

Subtle differences are important.

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons: on left hybrid macaw by Tuxyso via Creative Commons license, on right scarlet macaw photo in the public domain)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Subtle Differences”

  1. Diane Korologon 11 Feb 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I am so impressed with the amount of research that you put into this story. Thanks so much. It is such a good read.

  2. hello haha harfon 12 Feb 2014 at 11:14 am

    like the commenter above, i also am quite impressed. thanks for going the extra mile!

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