This past month I’ve been creating art as part of the #Feathruary2023 by @MischievousRedFox on Instagram. Illustrating birds is not only fun, and a great way for me to learn more about bird identifying characteristics, and sharing the finished piece is a good way to increase appreciation and respect for the bird world. Each piece in this series is fully illustrated in Adobe Photoshop using a digital drawing tablet.
This year’s prompts were more abstract rather than prompting individuals to draw species. This allowed the artist to draw different birds based on their unique perspectives and observations. It was so fun to see what other birds fit into prompts such as “Song, Poem, or Tale Inspired”, “Love” (for Valentine’s Day), or “Bird Feeder Friend”.
Below are four of my favorite pieces that I drew for this year’s art challenge, along with their life history and a bit of why I selected that bird for that day’s prompt.
Prompt: First Bird You See or Hear Each Day
When I take my dog out in the morning, we walk overlooking a grassy field lined with Black Walnuts and some thicket area. As our winter has been relatively mild (as it has for the past few years), the ground there is rather squishy and muddy. A lack of frozen layer makes perfect habitat for earthworms and other insects to be crawling around underground! The robins, usually hailed as a “spring” bird due to their iconic behavior of foraging for these worms in recently thawed ground (previously in March or April), are having a field day with the worms even this early in the year! When the ground is frozen, the robins forage for berries and dried fruits in the treetops. Even if I don’t immediately see them, their call is distinctive, listen HERE.
While there is no true black pigment in the natural world (humans have made synthetic black pigments), there are definitely animals that appear black with how saturated they are with dark red or brown pigments! The European Starling strikes me as a black bird, along with the Crow, Raven, or Red-winged Blackbird. Upon observation though, as the light hits their feathers just right (iridescence), they light up with the most beautiful greens, turquoise, and purples!
These birds are invasive here in North America. They were originally introduced because the settlers loved how they looked in Europe and wanted to bring their beauty across the ocean. Unfortunately, the birds adapted very well to the area, lack the predators and diseases that were in their native region, and have outcompeted many native bird species for resources and space. Despite this, it is hard to deny that they are indeed gorgeous birds!
Prompt: Bird Feeder Friend
These spring birds tend to be rather timid around humans, which makes them hard to spot at feeders. In mid-March – April though, if there are feeders bordering wooded areas, you might just be able to catch a glimpse of them flitting back and forth between the feeder and the protective tree line! These birds love seeds, making our Black Oil Sunflower seed feeders a treat for them. During the spring though, they start to transition to a heavier insect diet, since the insects provide valuable protein to help the young birds grow and develop.
While I may not see them often at my feeders, I do always get extremely excited when I spot one enjoying a seed or two before flying off.
Prompt: Biggest Bird Seen in Real Life
During my 2021 trip to Kenya, I had the incredible opportunity to watch a pair of Secretary birds sauntering in the tall grasses of the Maasai Mara. These birds stand at roughly four-five feet (1.22-1.5m) tall and much of that height comes from their long legs. They, as their scientific name implies (Sagittarius is “archer” and serpentarius is “snake” – although the “archer” name may also refer to the large feathers that look like arrows sticking out of a quiver), are predators of snakes. They will eat whatever they can catch if snakes are not easily found, though. The Secretary bird uses their long, powerful legs to lash out and kick the snakes that they come across to stun them or fling them into the air, or to flush them out of their hiding spots before using their sharp, curved beak to eat the prey.
Their long eyelashes help to protect their eyes from dust and debris as they stare at the ground while kicking and stomping. This adaptation is especially helpful in their dry, semi-arid habitat in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa.
By drawing these birds and sharing them with the public, I can encourage people to start falling in love with the incredible world of birds too! As we start to get to know the wildlife around us, even through images, books, or videos, we start to build connections to them. Through these connections, we start to understand them and develop a desire to protect them.
Do you love all things wildlife and want to share that passion with everyone you see? Check out my calendar of events for upcoming illustration classes (both in-person and virtual) or art exhibits that showcase these beautiful animals. Visit my shop to snag some bird stickers, magnets, and more! A portion of the proceeds helps to support wildlife conservation efforts.