Science Names the World’s Most Instagrammable Bird


A new study finds the owl-like frogmouth is Instagram's favorite bird. ImagePatch / Getty Images

What is the world’s most Instagrammable bird?

It turns out science has the answer. In a study published last week, researchers in Germany analyzed more than 27,000 bird photos posted on the popular social media platform to determine Instagram’s “most aesthetically pleasing bird.”

Researchers concluded the surprising winner is the frogmouth, an unusual-looking nocturnal bird found in Southeast Asia and Australia.

“[This] seems to be a matter of poetic justice, as this nocturnal bird with very distinct facial features was once designated ‘the world’s most unfortunate-looking bird,'” the study authors wrote.

The study is part of Katja Thömmes’ mission to determine what makes a good photo.

“I am convinced that part of the human aesthetic experience arises from objective features of the stimulus,” the post-doctoral researcher told The New York Times in an email. “In the visual domain, there are certain colors, shapes and even more fundamental image statistics that appeal to our perception more than others.”

To this end, she developed a method for comparing photos and their likes on Instagram called the Image Aesthetic Appeal (IAA) score. The score is designed to compare how many likes an image has received based on how many people have viewed it and how long it has been viewable.

“The score is positive for images that receive more Likes than expected given the image’s exposure to viewers, and negative for images where the opposite is the case,” the study explained.

To determine the most aesthetically appealing bird, the researchers awarded IAA scores to 27,621 bird photos from nine popular bird accounts, each with hundreds of thousands of followers. Researchers then excluded photos without identified species from the rankings, leaving 23,818 bird photos.

After the frogmouth, the next highest-scoring birds were colorful pigeons and the turaco, hoopoe and fairywren.

The researchers also studied which bird colors most attracted viewers, and found that blue and red bird photos had the highest IAA scores.

But why did the unusual-looking frogmouth take the prize? The bird often looks disheveled and has bright yellow eyes and a wide beak, The Guardian explained. Its scientific name, Podargus strigoides, is derived from the Latin word for owl-like (strigoides) and Ancient Greek for gout (podargus). This is because the bird is often mistaken for an owl and walks like an old man with gout. It also has front-facing eyes, Tim Snyder, a bird curator at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, told The New York Times. He speculates that makes the frogmouth more personable and humanlike.

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