Black-and-White Birds

The combination of the colors black and white is considered elegant and classy, not only with regard to fashion, but also when it comes to feather arrangements, as many posts by fellow bird-loving bloggers attest. When I assembled my avian portraits a few months back, my only intention was to share a selection of Colorado’s bicolored resident and migratory birds. I hope you will enjoy their beauty with me. But when I finally scheduled this post a few weeks ago and realized how close to an eagerly awaited yet at the same time anxiously dreaded event it would be published, my mind took me into directions altogether different, and it is also my hope that you will allow me to digress.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover the cursor over it.

The bird in the topmost photo is a Black-throated Gray Warbler (Trauerwaldsänger).

I stay away from politics as much as possible because most of the time nothing good comes from discussing it. Only with some trepidation did I allow my pen and keyboard to follow my mind in this instance. All of us have strong convictions and are reluctant to have them questioned. Polarization and radicalization have increased not only in this country, but across the globe, whereas nuanced discussion and civil discourse have gone the opposite way. What does it say about our societies that people are not only ostracized, but are sent hate mail, death threats—or even poison—merely for expressing their opinions, or for stating scientifically accepted facts? It’s so bewildering it beggars belief.

I know one thing. While black-and-white fashion or plumage might be beautiful, black-and-white thinking is not. Polarizing is not. Claiming that white is better, smarter, or more superior than black is not. Asserting that every human being has the same potential and that people who don’t succeed didn’t try hard enough is ignorant at best, cruel at worst. To declare that systemic racism doesn’t exist is to wear blinders, is to deny that many humans don’t grow up on a level playing field or with the same privileges.

Indigenous lives matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. It should go without saying that ALL lives matter, but this self-evident statement has been misappropriated and distorted in the most insidious way. A clarification: While feathers may be black or white, human skin is not. It might be pink or brown or countless other shades. But because we have reduced the world to black and white, I am manacled by reductive language.

Each day we see where prejudice and polarization have brought us—to a dead end. It will take all of us to correct centuries-old and deep-seated misconceptions and biases. To return to the birds which started this train of thought, we need to acknowledge and affirm that, while black and white might stand alone, they complement one another and become more beautiful when they exist side by side.

A selection of signs I have recently come across in people’s yards.

51 thoughts on “Black-and-White Birds

  1. Ich stimme Dir von Herzen zu und ich liebe Vögel mit schwarzweißen Federkleid! Tolle Bilder!
    Aber was wäre die Welt ohne die vielfältigen Zwischentöne?
    Ich bin überzeugt, dass der überwiegende Teil der fast 8 Milliarden Menschen diese Vielfalt schätzt. Warme Grüße Simone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said, Tanja. Like you I normally steer clear of politics, and like you I broke my own rule with today’s post because some things are too important not to be said…a strange coincidence! Your final sentence is spot on…the greatest of all beauties is to be enjoyed when black and white stand together, side by side. Let’s all be kind to each other today, and every day, and celebrate diversity in all its forms…human, animal and avian.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The birds do all look as if they’re smartly dressed for a formal occasion! 🙂 I never comment on politics (not publicly anyway) and like you, I’m dismayed to see the degree of polarisation it brings these days. It worries me – somehow we have to be able to live together, calmly and considerately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dressed for the opera, right?! Definitely better dressed than I on most days, Ann. 🙂

      Thank you for your thoughts. I also hope that we can coexist calmly and considerately, though if that was ever the case is questionable.
      Peaceful wishes,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A resounding “Yes!” to all that you wrote. Beautifully put! For me, the days approaching the election are booming like the drums of doom in “Lord of the Rings.” So hoping that this country changes its course and starts caring about all people, not just those at the top.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let me stick to the safe (I hope) subject of etymology. It’s interesting that the Indo-European root *bhel- has led on the one hand to English black, and on the other, via Germanic, to French blanc and Spanish blanco, which mean ‘white.’ Also on the white side are English bleach and German bleichen. You can see find plenty of other offshoots of the same root if you go to

    https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/indoeurop.html#IR008600

    and scroll down to the entry for bhel-1.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How interesting, Steve. It would be fascinating to retrace why one language family went with white, the other with black, despite the same roots. But the apparent randomness of the decision only serves to support one of my points–that the assignation of color is somewhat random and that no color is “better” than the other.

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      • My sense of it is that the original meaning of ‘shine, flash’ led to words signifying ‘bright’ and ‘white.’ Some speakers also associated the shining and flashing with fire, and then the connection to fire would eventually have led to words being used for things burned by fire, which typically are black. It’s not unusual for the semantics of a word to drift like that, especially over the thousands of years since Indo-European gradually changed into the many languages that evolved from it.

        An example strictly within English is the word nice. The word went through so many meanings that if you find it in an old text you may well have a hard time deciding what the writer intended. You can see a lot of the meanings at

        http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/nice

        Liked by 1 person

      • One could spend a lifetime following the circuitous paths of words, Steve. It was only recently that I read about the original “silly” and “foolish” meaning of nice. As far as a word, I think it is overused and I try to employ it as little as possible. Isn’t that nice? 🙂

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  6. Well written, Tanja, and I agree with you on every word. I suppose black and white thinking is something most of us have done at some point, but what troubles me are those dichotomous ones who never ever can admit that there are (50) shades of grey in between. 😦
    Today, the whole world is holding its breath, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that you, the American people, can act as a giant broom and sweep Trumpty Dumty out of the White House for good.
    Last but not least, among your beautiful birds there are for once some that also appear around our cottage, the magpie, the black-capped chickadee and the common goldeneye (in the lake).
    Best wishes,
    Meggie

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great pics of birds with black & white feathers. You are absolutely correct about all lives matter. It is how I think too. As the election has shown, we are a nation divided in many aspects of social & financial issues. Sad what has become. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, as you know, that event has passed and many of us got the result we had been hoping for. That said, the drama is not over and who knows how much damage is being done as a result. It certainly is not lessening the divide. There is a meme going around telling us that, on a bird such as those you have beautifully photographed, the left and right wings work together to keep the bird flying. If only we took that to heart in our politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Steve. You summarize the current distressing state of affairs very well. But I am grateful for at least the potential of some change for the better. And I absolutely love the bird wing metaphor, thank you for sharing.
      Best wishes,
      Tanja

      Like

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