Calyptura cristata


I was struck by the descriptive language used to describe both the bird and the lack of knowledge about the species. For example, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this paragraph:

The Kinglet Calyptura is among the most enigmatic and poorly understood species of Neotropical birds. A bizarre bird, it resembles a kinglet (Regulus) in size and shape, but its true taxonomic affinities remain unclear. While a number of specimens were obtained prior to the beginning of the Twentieth Century, it was unrecorded for over a hundred years before its dramatic rediscovery in 1996. Virtually nothing is known of its habits, although it is thought to feed on insects and small fruits.” [viewed 9 April 2019]

How might I show that the language used to describe both the Kinglet calyptura and the lack of information about this species forms a particular (mysterious?) narrative? [phrase this better]


  1. Source articles and fact sheets on Kinglet calyptura:
    – Ohlson et. al. 2012.  ‘Nuclear DNA from a 180-year-old study skin reveals the phylogentic position of the Kinglet Calyptura Calyptur cristata (Passeriformes: Tyrannides)’, IBIS International Journal of Avian Science. 154. pp. 533-541.
    – Kirwan, G.M. and Lambert, F. 2010. ‘The twice-vanishing pardalote: what future for the Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata?’ Neotropical Birding. 6. pp. 4-17
    – Fernando Pacheco, J. and Moreira da Fonseca, P.S. 2001, ‘The remarkable rediscovery of the Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata, Cotinga. 16. pp. 48-51.
    – Cornell Lab of Ornithology n.d. ‘Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata’. Online: <> Accessed 22 April 2019.
    – BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Calyptura cristata. Downloaded from on 21 April 2019.
  2. Extract adjectives (close reading of texts, organise into an excel doc) related to:
    i) characteristics of species
    ii) knowledge of species
  3. Overlay these terms on an image of the species (sourced from Wiki Commons, credited to William Swainson, 1841 from the book A selection of the birds of Brazil and Mexico. [Public Domain].)
    Initial ideas: visualise words as clouds, network diagram? A cage surrounding the bird?   
    Decided to test visualisation software RAWgraphs:

Reflection on action:

  1. Problems with free software.

I have no idea how to prepare Excel spreadsheets to input into RAWgraphs. Even Andrew Burrell found it confusing when I asked for help, which leaves me little hope. Could have invested time figuring it out, didn’t see the value in that, so used the software to create a confusing data visualisation from the adjectives I’d extracted from the readings. This works for the aim – to show that the species is enigmatic and poorly understood. It also taps into my other ‘speculative diagrams’ project and reminds me to look for the person I follow on Instagram making nonsense diagrams. 

  1. Setting a proper grid.

After deciding, in conversation with Timo, that I would do this whole series as digital collages primarily using found images (and he will cross stitch) I feel I need to set a standard size to work from, set up a grid and typesetting styles. 
Clarity of communication?
Enjoyed tooling around with the text analysis / data viz for this one, but wondering if the final image is too difficult to comprehend? Perhaps need to look back to more successful experiments to see how much info was included to make them clearly communicate, or just leave these now and return to them all at the end and layer in more data/information if needed? Will think through more.

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