bird watching

Buteo Hawks of North America

 

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Here’s five of the more common Buteo hawks found in Canada, Mexico, and The United States. All feed primarily on small mammals such as: Rabbits, voles, mice, squirrels, and prairie dogs. Insects, birds, and reptiles are also on their menu. All are frequently found in open areas. Grasslands, desert, and sparsely forested areas. Many have adapted to human habitation impacts and can be found hunting from a perch upon a utility pole along an urban roadside.

For more information about these birds definitely check out www.allaboutbirds.org

It’s one of my favorite online resources for raptors and other birds of North America.

I’d like to credit Floyd Scholz’s book “Birds of Prey” (Stackpole Books 1993.) as an indispensable resource in raptor illustration.

These illustrations are done in Micron pen and watercolor.

Thanks so much for looking at birds with me.

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Hawks of the World: Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii.

We’ve looked at this one here before. I featured the male Cooper’s hawk on this very panel in the spring of 2015. I’ve learned a lot about painting and this species since then. I felt it was time to sand that painting off and start anew. This time featuring the female Cooper’s hawk. I’ve included a few pen and watercolor illustrations to help further illustrate the differences between the male and female plumage as well as one to help differentiate from the Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).

coopers hawk male and female

Females Cooper’s hawks are larger than males and can take larger prey. Males tend to only take small birds, while the females can take birds as well as small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. Nests are made in treetops and laying 3-5 eggs per clutch. eggs are a cobalt blue color.

Cooper’s hawks can be found throughout North America. Preferring woodland habitat where they chase down prey through the treetops. They’re also found in urban environments. Preying on birds and squirrels that frequent bird feeders.

It can be easy to confuse Cooper’s hawks with Sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus). Especially given the size differences between male and female Cooper’s hawks. A male Cooper’s hawk can be the size of a female Sharp-shinned hawk. The tail feathers of the two are the best indicator of who’s who. Here’s an illustration I put together to explain the differences.

coops compaired to sharpie

Thanks for looking at birds with me.

collage 3

Hawks of the World: Jackal Buzzard

Buteo rufofuscus

One of the more interesting colored hawks of Africa. Found in the mountainous and open regions of Southern Africa. Prey includes small mammals like mice, moles, and hyrax. Though reptiles and birds also make up a healthy portion of their menu, and occasionally carrion. The Jackal Buzzard is similar in size to the Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) of North America. Not surprising as they’re related.

Nests are constructed by both the male and female. Utilizing branches, leaves, and grass. The preferred nest spots are high in treetops and on cliff sides.

jackal buzzard1

I have made a couple of pen and watercolor illustrations of this bird, it was fun to make a life size panel painting. Thanks a bunch for looking at birds with me.

jackal buzzard process

Hawks of the World: Shikra

Accipiter badius.

The Shikra or Small-Banded Goshawk. Can be found perched in the open where it still-hunts for bats, small birds, reptiles, and insects. It being a smaller accipiter larger birds and mammals are off the menu. It usually takes prey on the ground or plucks it from tree trunks or foliage.

Preferring a wooded or partially wooded habitat, Shikra nest in trees and build a nest similar to that of crows, lined with grass. The average clutch size is 3-4 eggs.

Their range is quite extensive. Covering parts of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

accipiter range map

I really enjoy illustrating accipiters. This one was no exception. Thanks for looking at birds with me.

shikra process

Sources:

  • Kemp, A., Kemp, M. and Hayman, P. (1998). Sasol birds of prey of Africa and its islands. London: New Holland.
  • Ferguson-Lees, James, et al. Raptors of the World. Princeton University Press, 2005.

Falcons of the World: New Zealand Falcon

Falco novaeseelandiae

A powerful falcon endemic to New Zealand. They vary slightly in size, birds found in grasslands are larger than those found in forested areas. Also like many falcons females are larger than males.

They hunt birds and small mammals from a perch or from circular flight paths. Dropping on unsuspecting prey from above. Hitting prey with outstretched talons then severing the spinal column with a bite to the back of the head with their serrated bill. An effective hunter to say the least.

Aggressive hunters and defenders of their nests. Reports of falcons attacking humans who ventured too close to nesting areas are common. Much like goshawks in the northeast United States.

Nests are made in a variety of places. From on the ground in bushes all the way up high on cliffs or ledges from 20 to 100 feet. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time from September to December.

And if you’re keeping score at home, we’ve already looked at this bird about a year and a half ago. I wanted to go back and make some revisions. Having researched the bird more there were too many inaccuracies and I always love a chance to paint another unique falcon like Falco novaeseelandiae again. Thanks again for looking at birds with me.

 NZ redo strip

Raptors of the World: Harris’s Hawk

Parabuteo unicinctus.

Found in semi-open desert regions. Often among mesquite, saguaro, and organ pipe cactus. This fascinating raptor is one of the few social predators in the animal kingdom. They hunt in groups, from two to six for rabbits, squirrels, and birds. Utilizing strategic methods of flushing and ambushing prey. They also work as a group to defend large carrion from coyotes and other predators.

Not only do they hunt in groups, but they also nest in groups. As many as three adults feeding one nest. Nests are built high in mesquite trees, on man made structures or cliff sides. Laying 1-5 eggs per clutch.

Hariss hawk map

Harris 1 finalTEXT

harris progression

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.

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.

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.
me
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.

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.