Spotlight - On Human Bias

Human Bias

Identification of birds from images as we know doesn't just rely on an understanding of image quality parameters or the ability to use forensic tools to interpret images.  We all bring our individual experiences to the table and we must use our own judgement and skill in the end to make that ID call.  This is all part of the appeal of mystery photo challenges.

Sometimes the less knowledge we have of the circumstances of a photo the better placed we are to make a good call.  The urge to latch on to certain clues at the expense of others can sometimes be overwhelming.  Context can throw an identification way off course.  Non-birders often try to describe a puzzling bird in terms of common birds they know.  The term "like a Sparrow" can mean a small bird or a large bird with sparrow-like plumage.

A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola standing at point blank range out in the open in a farmyard can throw even the most experienced birder, more accustomed to seeing this species in a wetland at far greater distance.  Occasionally those studying photos for the first time can even find themselves at an advantage over those who have spent time actually watching a bird in life!

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