Bird with its head upside.

Looking for “likes”?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

I admit it, I LOVE looking at photos on Instagram. Look at this colorful seashell! This fantastical flower! But wait… Why did my GORGEOUS photo ONLY get three “likes”?

You’d think the prettier the picture, the more people would LIKE it. But Katja Thömmes from Konstanz University, and Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring from Jena University wanted proof!  

They gathered over TWENTY THOUSAND bird photos from Instagram and categorized them by bird species and colors. Then over a hundred bird types were ranked by the number of “likes”. 

Surprise! The most “liked” bird was the FROGMOUTH! AKA “the world’s most unfortunate-looking bird!” Think: startled and grumpy! Among the least “liked”? Vultures, not surprisingly, but also some seabirds, often caught mid-munch with a mouthful of worms or seashells.

Thömmes and colleagues now believe “like-ability” is more about WHAT the birds are doing. Weird or funny looking wins!

So . . . for more “likes”? Try your “unfortunate” face! Either that, or cat on a Roomba. Always a hit!

Reference: Thömmes, K., Hayn-Leichsenring, G. (2021). What Instagram can teach us about bird photography: The most photogenic bird and color preferences. i-Perception, 12(2), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1177/20416695211003585