A studio for bird study

Tag: female

Female American Kestrel Illustration- A Symbol to Spread Research and Conservation

by Bryce W. Robinson

Female American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11x17" prismacolor on bristol

Female American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11×17″ prismacolor on bristol

I’ve been on an American Kestrel binge lately, as I’ve illustrated three birds this winter. I’d like to utilize this binge to promote some great work happening concerning this species here in the western U.S. I illustrated the female Kestrel shown above for one of my peers, Alexandra Anderson, who just completed her master’s project studying the wintering habits of this common falcon. Congratulations on a great project well done Allie.

Here in Boise, Idaho, there is no shortage of research being conducted on our local sparverius population. Dr. Julie Heath at Boise State University has been researching this population for the past 15 years. She has multiple students working on various projects detailing the effects of system change on the kestrel, and for good reason. A recent publication from Dr. Heath’s research reports shorter migration distances resulting in an advancement in timing of nesting due to rises in average winter temperatures (Heath et al. 2012). The game is changing for the kestrel in the west, lets just hope we can understand this change, and how we can manage any negative implications.

The Peregrine Fund, also located here in Boise, has a project devoted to American Kestrel conservation. The American Kestrel Partnership is a network program focused on nest box establishment and rehabilitation to help facilitate a future for this colorful bird. I encourage those interested to get involved by first visiting their website here. On the homepage, you’ll see a revolving screen featuring many incredible Kestrel photos, including images by my friend Mia Mcpherson. She takes amazing photographs of kestrels, and more. Take a look at her website as well.

HawkWatch International in Salt Lake City, Utah has a Kestrel Nest box program, which contributes to The Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership, with some added angles. I appreciate HWI, as they involve the public through their citizen science program. Their kestrel project is a great place to get involved, and be a part of an important movement to further our understanding and the future of the colorful and charasmatic American Kestrel.


Heath, J. A., K. Steenhof, and M.A. Foster. 2012. Shorter migration distances associated with higher winter temperatures suggest a mechanism for advancing nesting phenology of American Kestrels Falco sparverius. Journal of Avian Biology 43(4) 376-384






Female Lapland Longspur- Calcarius lapponicus

by Bryce W. Robinson

IMG_5955 copy

If you understand tundra topography, then you’ll know what I’m speaking of when I refer to polygons. As everything in the tundra is a ground hugger, photography has presented a challenge. If you look at the other photos of shorebirds I’ve posted so far, you’ll notice the overwhelming presence of grass. I’ve resorted to lying on my belly, elbows on the ground, to get the low angle of the birds that creates the image I most desire. A problem has arisen, as I get low, the grass between me and my subject obscures the image. Frustrating…

I do have one ally, in polygons. The polygons are caused by water freezing and thawing on the surface soil of the tundra. When the water collects and freezes, it splits the soil, causing interesting patterns all across the tundra. Each time it thaws, the result is water troughs surrounding small, risen, dry land. Polygons… Each time the process happens, it increases the polygon effect. When I fly out of the area, I’ll try and take a photo of the polygons from above. It is an interesting sight.

There is an area near one of my survey plots that lacks the thick layer of grass typical of the tundra. It is mostly bare soil, with lichens and moss as ground cover, and some flowers. It is a beautiful area, but the main reason I like it is the deep polygon troughs that the lack of vegetation has allowed. The bare ground also allows a clear view between me and my subjects.

Today I was making my way through this area, and I came upon a group of Lapland Longspurs. The birds were very vocal, and excited. Soon I found the reason, a small but able fledgling, doing its best to avoid me. With the female nearby and very attentive, I took my opportunity and utilized the low troughs of the polygons to my advantage. The result was a collection of the best female longspur photos I have to date.

I’ve been trying for decent male longspur photos, but I keep coming away empty handed. Hopefully soon.

Female Juvenile Northern Harrier- Circus cyaneus

by Bryce W. Robinson

Female Juvenile Northern Harrier- Circus cyaneus. 11x15" watercolor on paper.

In honor of the delicate beauty of everything female, I painted the Northern Harrier. Although common, I find myself enamored and entranced with every view of this bird. The young females seem especially vivacious, with the teetering wander to hunt for prey and the dainty image while perching to preen. My goal with the female juvenile harrier was to capture the youth and liveliness in  character, portraying femininity common to all creatures, yet remaining true to the birds identity and wild nature. Perhaps a lofty goal, but worthy of the effort nonetheless.

Adult harriers are sexually dimorphic, but differences can also be seen in juvenile birds as well. Typically, a juvenile Northern Harrier is a cinnamon brown with a beautiful reddish breast. The difference between the male and female is seen in eye color. It becomes a challenge to sex juveniles in the field, as you often see harriers on the wing, and hardly perched. When the chance arises that you find a tolerant youngster, take note of the eye color and any other differences that stand out. I remember a day while photographing harriers with Jerry Liguori, when we were taking shots of what we thought to be an adult female. After reviewing the photos and seeing a few key details, namely eye color, Jerry recognized that the bird was in fact a young male. These particulars can add more fun and excitement to the challenge of raptor ID.

This painting was created while listening the musician Lisa Hannigan. I suggest coupling the visual with a like artist. It is sure to enhance the experience. Enjoy.