Bizarre, Provocative Photos of Birds Caught in Nets

Jonathan Franzen’s got nothing on Todd R. Forsgren. The lifelong bird-watcher and Washington, D.C.-based photographer has traveled the world over in order to shoot countless species as they’re captured in ornithologists’ mist nets in order to be examined; the resulting images of the tangled up creatures — who, it’s important note, are unharmed by the process — provoke a mixed response in the viewer. On one hand, there’s something off-putting about seeing the birds placed in such a compromising situation. On the other, you begin to notice details that you wouldn’t if Forsgren’s unsuspecting subjects were perched in their natural environment.

“I feel there is a unique mystery to the birds in this fragile and embarrassing moment, to take a creature that is the epitome of freedom and bind it,” he explained in an interview with 20×200. “In some way, the birds are still ‘unknown’ during this moment, as it is before they are taken out of the nets, measured and weighed. Gathering this information is difficult. It’s a struggle, as intimacy often is. But I wanted to take photographs about the process of getting to know a bird deeply. Initially, most people think the images are tragic if they’re not familiar with the mist-netting and bird-banding; even a bit difficult to look at. But I hope that, as they consider this moment more carefully, they’ll come to understand and appreciate the valuable information that biologists can collect using these techniques.”

Click through to check out some of our favorite photos from the series, which we spotted thanks to Fast Company, and head over to Forsgren’s website for even more beautiful bird images.


Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Rufous-winged Woodpecker (Piculus simplex), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), 2006. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia), 2012. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), 2011. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren


Puerto Rican Tody (Todus mexicanus), 2009. Photo credit: Todd R. Forsgren