A studio for bird study

Tag: ferruginous

Maintaining a Creative Outlet is Necessary for Study

by Bryce W. Robinson


Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis. 8×11″ Prismacolor on bristol

I’m currently in the midst of my first semester of graduate school. I’m pursuing a degree in raptor biology, which entails loads of technical study and analytical understanding. While I’ve saturated myself with technical thinking, I often feel the urge to exercise creativity. This urge has come to conflict with my current aspirations and responsibilities, but after some reflection, I’ve settled on a solution to this conflict by accepting the urges and managing my time in a way that allows me to embrace and express my creativity. I really believe that in the end, maintaining a creative outlet will ultimately strengthen my study of raptors, and strengthen my critical thinking.


Rough-legged Hawk- Buteo lagopus. 8×11″ prismacolor on bristol.

I’ve featured two Illustrations that I’ve done since I started classes. I am going to continue with the raptor illustrations, but I’ve decided to start focusing on painting again as well. If anyone has a request of something they would like to see me illustrate or paint, feel free to let me know. I always appreciate a little direction.


Moving West for Migration

by Bryce W. Robinson

Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis

Tomorrow morning I head west from Salt Lake City, across the salt flats, to a desert mountain for the fall migration raptor count. The island in the sky is lush for its location, and is one of the most spectacular places I have ever been. For the next three months, I will be living on the mountain, in a tent, counting migrating raptors. I will have my camera with me, as I plan to come away with as much video and photographs as possible. My posting will lull as I will not have internet connection, but when the opportunity arises, I will be sure to share as much of my experiences as I can.

A Bounty of Summer Buteos

by Bryce W. Robinson

“Intermediate” morph Swainson’s Hawk- Buteo swainsoni.

Yesterday I ventured out to find some raptors with Jerry. We found found an area covered with “summering” Buteos, in densities unprecedented in my young and limited experience with the raptor world. I am enthralled with the ecology of wintering birds of prey, primarily for the interspecies interactions that occur in high density hunting grounds. Yesterday, I found the same densities and something of the same diversity. I have never seen so many Swainson’s Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks in one area. I was very delighted to observe numerous interactions between each species. Surprisingly, the bully seemed to be the Swainson’s Hawks. The Ferruginous didn’t seem to mind the Swainson’s, but a few times I observed Red-tailed Hawks being bullied by the summer migrants.

One particular incident made my day, and provided me with a glimpse of something I’ve never seen, and actually was unaware existed. A Swainson’s hawk and Red-tailed Hawk soared together rather high in the noon sky. The Swainson’s began buzzing the Red-tailed Hawk, resulting in some dramatic arial displays as they twisted to push the other away. Finally the climax of the interaction came when the two birds latched talons and began tumbling through the air. After multiple rolls, the birds broke, sending the Red-tailed Hawk fleeing from the scene. I have seen tumbling between Red-tailed Hawks as they engage in talon clasping to reinforce pair bonds, but never as an aggressive territorial interaction between two different species. The birds were some distance away, so the photos I came away with are not ideal, but interesting nonetheless.

Red-tailed Hawk (top) and Swainson’s Hawk (bottom) engaged in an aggressive tumbling interaction.

Birds blanketed the valley. Every other telephone pole supported a perching buteo, and the irrigation lines were covered with ravens and buteos as well. On one particular raven-less wheel line I counted eleven birds, comprised evenly of Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawks. Not only was there interspecies diversity, but within each species, variation in plumage was present as well. I love dark morph Ferruginous Hawks, and a few flew around. These birds were leery of our intrusion, so I was unable to get any good photographs. I did photograph a very interesting adult Ferruginous. I assume it to be something like a rufous morph, perhaps in the midst of body molt, however its present state gave it a tiger like appearance. This is by far the most spectacular Ferruginous I have found to date.

“Tiger” Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis

“Tiger” Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis

I’m a plumage enthusiast when it comes to buteos, so this day was all that I could hope for. The diversity in Swainson’s Hawks was a treat. These birds vary immensely. I found the typical light morph birds, rufous birds, dark birds, and even some that exhibit mottling, perhaps intergrades between the morphs or showing body molt. I remember one particular bird near the end of the day that was nearly black, but it had extensive mottling not unlike a dark Harlan’s. Regrettably, I failed in my attempts to photograph this bird.

Intermediate Swainson’s Hawk- Buteo swainsoni

Light morph Swainson’s Hawk- Buteo swainsoni

It was surprising to find an area so devoid, relatively, of Red-tailed Hawks. There were few hanging about, most likely due to the attention they received from the gangs of Swainson’s Hawks. Still, we found a few birds and were able to come away with some photos.

Light morph Western Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis calurus

Juvenile light morph Western Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis calurus

The above birds was found sitting in a tree with a nest, and another young bird. Given their behavior, Jerry thought this bird to be very young, which is surprising given that most birds fledge early in the year. A late nest is peculiar, but it is highly probable that these birds have only recently taken to the air.

I have a few qualms about the photos I have shared. Although they are the best I have taken thus far, I failed to capture the catch light in most images, and for whatever reason many of the wings are blurred. I resolve to figure out how these problems can be corrected, but I feel great about my successes thus far. My homelessness and beatnik birding lifestyle continues for little longer, but in the small amount of time much will be chronicled. Let the good times soar.







Ferruginous Hawk Headshot

by Bryce W. Robinson

Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis. Watercolor on paper

Due to the number of experiences I have had with Buteo regalis this winter, I thought it appropriate to take a break from packing today and paint a headshot of the fierce looking bird. Listening to music and enjoying the mood of the last snow storm I will endure for a time, I created this large portrait of what is now a very familiar bird. I have difficulty accomplishing my goals with watercolors, and this exercise was no different. Still I was pleased enough with the outcome to share. If the bird intrigues, please take the opportunity to easily see the bird as it occupies farmlands for winter. It truly is a regal as its name implies, and I will miss the regular interactions I have had with the bird. Still life goes on and there are others out in the wide world to find and know, and so I will go.