There is one specific bird that has long stirred my spirit to move paint across page after page. To call it my muse wouldn’t be completely unfair. Buteo jamaicensis. North America’s Red-tailed Hawk.
Since my youth Red-tailed Hawks have captured my imagination. One of my earliest memories regarding birds was my father pointing out a perched Red-tailed Hawk in the field by our house. Then later a school visit to a wildlife rehabilitation center where I met my first hawk. And years later while I explored California’s central coast seeing them float on thermals inspired me to take all I’d learned from my sister about painting and use it to try and catch their wonder.
“The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master”
-Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead.
Red-tailed Hawks are found across almost all of North America. I’ve been across almost all of North America from one time or another and enjoyed these hawks on my travels. I put together this panel to demonstrate the incredible variety of colors they occur in.
Once again I’m proud to paint on a panel my father made for me. The same man who gave me my introduction to this great world of wildlife puts the pages right under my paintbrush.
We’ve looked at this bird more than any other here. This species has been the epicenter of my fascination with raptors for years. My goal with this panel was to illustrate the variety of plumages found in this species across North America. I’ve read this described as races or subspecies. I’m not sure what the right word is but it really is noteworthy how different the Western Red-tailed Hawk (bottom center) is in colors from a light-morph Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk (top right).
Red-tailed Hawks prefer to hunt in open regions such as prairie, urban, agricultural, savanna, and partially forested areas. They feed primarily on small mammals, reptiles, birds, and swarming insects.
Here’s a look at the painting process for fun. Thanks for looking at birds with me.
A large and powerful eagle found in forested regions of Central and Southeastern Africa. Feeds primarily on mammals including monkeys, forest antelope, hyraxes, mongooses, and bushbabies. Large lizards and snakes are also on the menu, as is the occasional bird.
A medium size eagle found in tropical forests of Central and South America. Aptly named for its unique coloration and head crest of black feathers.
Prefers to hunt from a perch or high glide in thick tropical forests. The dinner menu for Spizaetus ornatus is a variety of small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
My favorite raptor of South America (There’s some solid competition there too). I’ve made a few paintings of this one before but until now I feel I hadn’t captured its nuances. Then again having never been on the same continent as one, it’s hard to say. Thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
North America’s most widespread raptor. Found in open regions of Mexico all the way north to Alaska and just about every point between. They prefer grasslands, fields, deserts, roadsides, parks, farmland, and broken forests. They feed primarily on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and swarming insects. They hunt from a perch like utility poles and trees. They also hunt on the wing, soaring in circles, gliding on thermals. These hawks mate for life, nesting in treetops, cliff sides, and man made structures. They lay a clutch of between 1 and 5 eggs. Incubation time varies from 28-35 days.
It’s no secret this is my favorite bird to study. In the field or in the studio they never fail to capture my imagination. They embody a sense of exploration and beauty to me. They were a common sight in my 20s when I was exploring California by bicycle and have remained a common sight as I enjoy my home near the prairie remnants of Illinois.
I put together these two paintings over the last couple weeks on panels my father made for me in his workshop. I can’t begin to express what a great gift it is to be able to paint on a panel he made, and to have his generous support all my life.
I’m so glad I get to share these birds and art with you all, thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
Here’s an aptly named raptor found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Feeds primarily on mammals, birds, large lizards, and snakes. They often hunt still from a perch then dive down after prey that’s passing by. They are also very strong flyers that can chase down prey that’s escaping.
I first learned about these fine birds from a book when I was in second grade. Every time my class visited the library I went straight to the wildlife section and dove in. Fast forward some 20 some years and I’m still fascinated by these fine falcons.
I’m grateful to have had many different experiences with them in the wild. From California to Illinois in a number of different habitats. There’s really nothing quite like watching them fly, hunt, dive, and dine.
I’ve made a few different Peregrine panels over the last five years. This pose is among my favorites and so I duplicated it. I’m proud to be working on panels my father made for me in his wood shop.
Thanks Dad, and thanks to you for looking at birds with me.
Hawks have been a focus of mine since the beginning of this decade that’s now closing down. Catching a glimpse of a red tailed hawk coasting on the thermals while I rode my bike in the hills of California. That’s where my interest was first peaked. I feel I’ve lived a lifetime since then. Though that same situation still occurs while I’m exploring the shores of Lake Michigan or the very same prairies I did long before my love affair with painting hawks began.
It became important to me to learn how to paint those birds and all the countless others that I’ve crossed paths with. While this decade is coming to a close my journey as an artist is just beginning. I’m proud to share another hawk painting with you.
With this blog as I developed it, I made a point to steer away from the poetic and just share the science and while I still intend to share more species and information with you. Forgive me while I take but a moment to reflect on the miles and years we’ve all come to get to today.
This one is for our friends who can’t be here with us tonight. Thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
I’ve painted plenty of adult Red-tailed Hawks and wanted to do a panel painting of a first year hawk. Even more specifically a light morph. Red-tailed hawks don’t gain their namesake red tail feathers until their second and even sometimes third year.
This was painted on a panel that’s been used for a few different paintings and has been sanded down many times and washed with several different background colors. That’s what gave it the unique coloring you see here.
I’ve probably painted more of these birds than any other. They hold a special place in my heart. Thank you so much for looking at birds with me.
Found in a variety of color morphs across much of North America. Occupying a variety of habitats, open savanna, grasslands, coniferous forest, deserts with cacti, farmlands, and urban areas. Feeds primarily on small mammals like mice, voles, squirrels, and chipmunks. Occasionally preys on reptiles, birds, and swarming insects.
Absolutely one of my favorite birds to paint, photograph, and watch. Here’s a collection of a few of my recent paintings of North America’s lion of the sky as well as a few photographs from the field.