A Bird Is Not Just a Bird

Christine Alfery

Posted on June 09 2022

A Bird Is Not Just a Bird

Featured image: Scarlet Tanager

The scarlet tanager’s habitat is huge. If you draw a straight line through the Dakotas down to the southeastern tip of Texas and then draw a line easterly to include all the mid-west, eastern coastal states, and the southern tips of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, you would then have its habitat.

The scarlet tanager is a medium-sized American songbird. Until recently, it was placed in the tanager family, but it and other members of its genus are now classified as belonging to the cardinal family. Wikipedia

Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
Black wings: Male Scarlet Tanagers allaboutbirds.org
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cardinalidae
Kingdom: Animalia

I love birds, I love painting birds. I love identifying birds and what they are called how they are classified. Taxonomies are defined in an online dictionary as: the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms; systematics.

  • the classification of something, especially organisms.
          "the taxonomy of these fossils"
  • a system of classification.
          plural noun: taxonomies
           "a taxonomy of smells"


It seems to me that the classification system, the taxonomies created by scientists, is a problem, for things aren’t just what they are classified. They aren’t just a sparrow, they are unique each and ever one of them. Just like I am not just a white female…. I get so very very upset every time I am asked that question – it identifies the ‘other of me’…. Which is ok but when it classifies the two of us, man, that upsets me. There is more to me than the color of my skin as is there is more to my ‘other’ than the color of their skin. I dislike being plugged into a taxonomy of human beings. As an artist that has never set well with me. I would rather rewrite the rules of classifying. I think of art as a useful example for reference. And I think of birds the same way.

I never look at a bird as just a sparrow, just like I don’t look and think about an individual as just….

But I think about all living things as unique, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind. Classifying a bird is one thing, but classifying human beings is totally different and divisive.



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