Behind the Image: The Gregarious Great-tailed Grackle

Behold the great-tailed grackle! This photograph depicts this mexican bird perched between two intense hues. BMC behavioural and physiological ecology image competition winner, Marco Zenatello, talks to us in this Q&A about the inspiration behind his winning image.

Image: Marco Zenatello
Image: Marco Zenatello

What is your profession:

I am an ornithologist working at the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA).

What type of research are you involved in?

Most of my work focuses on the ecology of gulls and shearwaters (particulary Audouin’s Gull and Yelkouan Shearwater) and on the study of winter distribution of waterbirds.

Why did you become interested in this area of research?

Birds fill our everyday landscape with their colors and sounds! Their colorful feathers, long migrations,  perfect adaptations to terrestrial, aerial and even aquatic habitats have fascinated me since long time.

How did you become interested in photography?

I started taking pictures with a (used) Canon A1 reflex camera for my degree thesis. Almost all my pictures at that time documented my field work on woodpeckers and on birds of alpine habitats. In recent years I turned to bridge digital cameras which were much lighter and handy to carry. Most of my pictures are taken during holiday trips: unfortunately during fieldwork I seldom have enough time and concentration to obtain good shots.

Where and how was this photo taken?

It was taken in the center of Chihuahua, Mexico (just behind the corner of Iglesia San Francisco) at the end of March 2013.

Why were you there at the time?

It was the last day of a (magnificent) 20-days holiday trip through Baja California and Barranca del Cobre (Mexico), which I took with some good friends of mine. We had arrived in town a couple of hours earlier and were taking a relaxing look at the city center soon before sunset.

Can you explain a bit more about the image?

I was attracted by some male Great-tailed Grackles which were loudly calling and displaying on a roof without paying attention to people flowing in the crowded street below. Frankly speaking, I did not know this odd-looking species and simply tried to freeze this encounter in the few shots I took. Within a few minutes the sun settled, and the light abruptly changed.

What about this scene particularly interested you?

The evening light made the birds’ silhouettes stand out against the deep blue sky. The green wall color was strikingly bright and I did my best to to catch this colorful moment.

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