Story at a glance

  • German researchers set out to discover “Instagram’s most aesthetically appealing bird.”
  • The surprising winner found in the study was the frogmouth.
  • The frogmouth was once named “the world’s most unfortunate-looking bird.”

If you’re looking for your next Instagram inspiration, look no further. Researchers set out to discover the most Instagrammable bird, and their finding isn’t what you’d expect.

According to a study by researchers Katja Thömmes and Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring of Germany’s University Hospital Jena, the frogmouth is the most popular Instagram bird.


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The study had one goal: to discover “what makes a great bird photo?”

The researchers analyzed close to 30,000 bird photos from nine popular bird photography accounts on Instagram, utilizing an algorithm that compared the photographs that acquired the most “likes,” giving each photo an Image Aesthetic Appeal score in an aim to pinpoint “Instagram’s most aesthetically appealing bird.”

The frogmouth made for an unexpected winner. 

“The surprising winner in this ranking is the frogmouth, which 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 states, referencing a 2004 article from Nature Australia.

At times confused with an owl, the frogmouth are medium-sized nocturnal birds. Appearing a bit bedraggled, the frogmouth have large yellow eyes, long wings, portly beaks and short legs, using their brownish gray and black feathers to camouflage themselves with tree branches and bark.

“The ranking of bird families demonstrates that the IAA score is not necessarily tied to the beauty of the depicted bird,” the study says. “Presumably, interestingness, idiosyncrasy, and the situational context all play their part in the aesthetic appeal of bird photos to the human observer.”

Whatever reason it captures the eye, you just can’t look away.


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Published on Apr 30, 2021