Owls of the World: Spotted Eagle Owl

Bubo africanus.

We made it back to Africa. I’m going to be spending more time on African raptors in the coming months.
The spotted eagle owl is found across the southern regions of Africa.
It’s the smallest species of eagle owl, but by no means a small bird. With a height of up to 18-20 inches and a wing span of 30 inches.
It prefers a diet of mice, frogs, insects, and small birds.  Hunting primarily at night but occasionally at dusk. Habitats include open and scattered woodland. They mate for life and lay 2-4 eggs at a time. Nesting on rocky outcrops or cliff sides. Spending daytime in trees close to the trunk, doing their best to blend in and not be disturbed by diurnal birds.
Thanks for looking at birds with me again. Before I get going on all those cool African raptors, we’re heading far north to look at a bird I’m really excited about painting.
Grab your coat, it’s gonna be snowy….

4 orangebreasted falcon TEXT

Falcons of the World: Orange-breasted Falcon

Falco deiroleucus.
This falcon is found from southern Mexico south to northern Argentina. But only in small and sporadic locations.
It’s a medium sized falcon with incredibly strong talons for catching birds in flight.
It prefers tropical lowlands and evergreens. Its plumage resembles that of the smaller relative, Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis). So much that it’s difficult for biologists to confirm reported sightings of the rare bird.
Next up is a trip back to Africa to look at the Spotted Eagle Owl. Bubo africanus.
Thanks for looking at birds with me.
Sooty final TEXT

Falcons of the World: Sooty Falcon

Sooty Falcon, Falco concolor.

This medium sized falcon is found from Northeastern Africa to the Southern Persian Gulf.
It belongs to the Hobby group, sometimes considered a subgenus, Hypotriorchis.
Which is a small group of similar falcons. The Sooty falcon is often confused with the Eleonora’s Falcon. Both are similar in color but vary in build. The Sooty falcon has a shorter tail and is suited to high speed pursuits.
It eats primarily migrating birds. Striking them to the ground and severing the spinal cord with a bite to the back of the head. Sooty Falcons will also take dragon flies, grabbing them with their talons then passing them to their beak, eating on the wing.
They nest on rocky ledges in scattered areas of the Libyan desert and adjacent parts of Egypt. Laying up to four eggs. Long distance migrators, they winter in Eastern Africa as far south as Madagascar.
sooty falcon range map
I really enjoyed this painting. It was a refreshing new challenge. Working with whites and yellows. Learning about shadows and finding their colors.
This painting was another good one for learning what I need to tackle the Snowy Owl.
A challenge I have been putting off until I can see it in my head right. This falcon helped me find that. But before we go that far North, I’m jumping over the Atlantic to look at the Orange-Breasted Falcon in Central and South America.
Thanks a bunch for looking at birds with me.
shorty close

Owls of the World: Short-Eared Owl

Six years ago or so, up on the railroad tracks in rural San Luis Obispo county is where I found my first owl while exploring in California.
The eyes were a striking yellow. We looked at each other for a second that sat like an hour.
It flew away to my left without the slightest sound of wind over wing. More like a ghost than anything I’ve ever seen.

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The Short-Eared Owl, Asio flammeus.
Preferring to live in open prairie and fields, this owl can be easier to find than some of the more reclusive owls like Strix nebulosa.
Their range is much of the top half of North America. They have lost a lot of their range in the south due to loss of habitat.
These owls do most their hunting at dawn and dusk. Locating small mammals by ear while in flight. They kill prey with a bite to the back of the head.
Their smaller ear tufts are often not visible. My model for this painting didn’t  seem to have any at all.
Some research I read said they only show when they feel threatened.
I cant confirm that, as my model was a series of photographs from an excellent book.
“Owls” by Floyd Scholz, photographs by Tad Merrick. Stackpole Books. Over 380 pages of awesome. If you love owls, its a great book for you.
I painted this one all the way through while enjoying the livestream from Dead & Company’s show in Washington. Hard to beat having a band like that in your ear while hanging out with an owl.
Thanks for joining me again to look at birds. There’s some messed up shit happening out there. I’m glad  we could share this together.
Maddy fun times

Falcons of the world: Madagascar Kestrel

This small and mighty falcon is about the same size as the American kestrel. It’s endemic to Madagascar and the atoll of Aldabra.
It prefers open country to forest, and has benefitted from deforestation, nesting under the eaves of homes in populated areas.
They usually still hunt from a perch. While they will take mice and small birds, insects comprise 75% of their diet.

Thank you for looking at and learning about these wonderful birds with me.

NZ falco port

Falcons of the World: New Zealand Falcon

The New Zealand Falcon.
This bird is found across the main north and south islands. However absent from the North Auckland peninsula. The New Zealand falcon shares its environment with only one other diurnal raptor, the Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans). Therefor the falcon has more ecological range. And is more of a generalized raptor in many respects.

Its feather coloration is well suited for the forest environment.
They are typically very defensive of their hunting and nesting areas.
These falcons hunt smaller birds primarily, often hunting from a perch or on the wing. While they’re not as fast as their cousins the Peregrine Falcon, they still don’t waste any time in the air. Moving at terrific speeds with fighter jet-like maneuvers.

Until the last couple months most every bird I painted was native to North America. Due largely to my fondness of them. But as my goal moves towards wildlife preservation and awareness I have broadened my scope. I don’t want to just protect the birds of North America, I want to protect all of them. Birds don’t observe our borders, neither does art.

At the least, all this does is guarantee that I’m not going to run out of birds to paint. At the best, I can share the wonders of the planet with you as they come across my drawing desk.  Wherever that desk goes. Thanks for hearing me out and checking out these Falcons with me.

black process

Black Barn Owl

I still remember the first time I encountered a barn owl. It was a sleepless night in Southern California. I walked outside the house barefoot and walked towards the closest streetlight. I’m not sure why. I found the moon and then walked into the grass. I got close to the large palm tree in the neighbors yard and from within its branches came the most abrasive screech.

And it took off. With not even a whisper.
I couldn’t think of anything to say which was convenient because barn owls don’t speak much English.
Some eight years later that sound brings me so much delight to hear. It only rings in to me in the dead of night. My on going soundtrack to living. Through the window in Oakland or a quiet neighborhood in Berkeley. It’s like a letter in the mailbox from that friend you have that’s always traveling. Or like hearing a song that you listened to once with someone special who later drifted away for one reason or another. So many roads since then.

They still show up though when we break out the paint.

This Barn Owl is a melanistic variation. It has excessive pigments in the feathers making it darker. This occurs in many species in the animal kingdom, not just in birds. The first Barn Owl I saw was not a Black Barn Owl, but rather a white one as is usually the case. Black Barn Owls dont survive well in the wild as they don’t blend in. No camo, no cover.

5 black barn text
Thank you for joining me in looking at the wealth of amazing birds around us.
Learn, Love, Respect, and Protect.
Every day is Earth day, and every day is a good day to draw a bird.


Owls of the World-Australia

The top of my list of places I’d like to go and see. They have all the badass snakes, spiders, jellyfish.

I chose the Southern Boobook owl to paint for my owls of the world collection.
I don’t own the rights to any photos of one, but crack open another tab on your browser and check these birds out. They’re very cool birds.

I used a couple books to guide me on this one.

“Owls” by Marianne Taylor. 2012 Cornell.

“Owls of the World” by Dr. James R. Duncan. 2003 Firefly Books.

You don’t see a lot of Boobook Owls here in Oakland. In fact most owls here are plastic and intended to strike fear in the hearts of the pigeons. It doesn’t do much, nothing fazes them. Though the Peregrine Falcon that lives on the hospital building wrecks shop on them.

This was a very fun painting to make, it closed up my book project. Which is now available here: http://www.blurb.com/b/7086777-owls

But back to the point. Boobooks are native to mainland Australia, New Guinea, Timor, and the Sunda Islands. They hunt from a perch for small mammals like mice. Also taking insects like beetles and moths. Coloration varies widely across their range. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

Thanks for looking at owls with me.



double purp

Rolling in ink.

I’ve been having lots of fun with some little linocut projects. Owls and Hawks mostly plus a few dinosaur sort of creatures. Its a bunch of fun, I really like the carving of the linoleum. It’s a slow but rewarding process. And so far I’ve kept the blade out of places it shouldn’t go, all 10 fingers still attached.

gyrfalcon text

Falcons of the World-Alaska/Arctic Circle

Good golly how about that ride from Santiago, Chile to Anchorage, Alaska eh?
7,890 miles as the Toyota crow flies.
We made it though, but I’m still bummed you threw my “80’s dance hits” mix tape out the window while we were flying over Mexico.
And so now here we are in the great beautiful North. Home of the largest falcon of North America, the Gyrfalcon.
In the summer Gyrfalcons can be found from around 60 degrees to 79 degrees North. Their breeding range covers parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
Winter time ranges of Gyrfalcons is still largely unknown. While some birds remain on their breeding range others winter south. In North America occasionally in the United States and in Asia as far south as Central Asia.
Their favorite meal is Ptarmigan, who can blame them? But studies have found they can take just about any other bird it comes across.
Even short eared owls have fallen prey to a Gyrfalcon. With a bill sharp enough to sever the spine of any bird, the menu is bigger.
They are incredible hunters. Utilizing several different techniques to capture prey. From low fast flight, chasing and tiring the prey out.
To breaking the preys breastbone by forcing it into the ground. They strike prey in the air rather than grab with their talons.
They repurpose Ravens nests and tend to a clutch of 3-5.
Gyrfalcons tend to occur in three different morphs, a dark, a white, and a grey. Shown here is an adult white morph.
I really enjoyed the literature study for this painting. The gyrfalcon is really an incredible bird. I recommend Falcons of the World by Tom J. Cade
It has stunning artwork by R. David Digby and well detailed information on each fascinating member of this incredible group of birds. Falco.
Well The flying Toyota is packed up and I made a new mix tape. “Mo-Town Jams” if you throw this mix tape out the window, were stopping till you find it.
We’re heading to Australia to look at an owl there. I’m not sure which one we’ll decide when we get there.
It’s only 7300 miles.
We got this.
Hold on tight.