Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: flight

An Illustration of Some Members of the Genus Buteo

by Bryce W. Robinson

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18×24″ Gouache on watercolor paper. From top left: Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), and Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis). Purchase limited edition prints here.

I’ve been illustrating raptors in flight for some years now, which really took off when I met Jerry Liguori. Jerry took me under his wing, so to speak, and filled my head with everything he himself has learned over his many years studying the identification of raptors, particularly in flight. His tutelage accelerated my skills and knowledge in raptor identification, and I can confidently say that without his selfless teaching, my illustrations wouldn’t be the same.

I’m currently focused on tuning in my raptors in flight. I am about to start some large illustration projects focused on these taxa, so I am working to develop my technique and process as well perfecting relative shape and sizes. It’s a challenge, because illustrating each correctly involves so much more than the obvious differences in plumage. What makes each unique are shape, proportion, and posture. I’ve found posture to be the most challenging aspect to capture, since this seemingly simple factor has so much power over whether the bird looks real or not. Furthermore, in flight postures and shapes are influenced by the direction and motion of a bird in that moment in time. For instance, a bird soaring has a unique shape but because of the position of the viewer, that shape may be different for each wing because of the birds posture and how wind or resistance bends the outer primaries. To understand and master this effect is going to take repeated sketching and exploration.

Purchase an 18×24″ limited edition archival print (30 available) of this illustration in the shop. Your support helps me continue to refine my illustration, so thank you ahead of time! Also, be sure to add Jerry Liguori’s unique guidebooks to your library. Jerry has taken raptor identification to the next level, and his guidebooks are a wealth of information for mastering in-flight identification. You can find his books here: Jerry Liguori’s Hawk’s From Every Angle and Hawks at a Distance

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Juvenile Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in Flight

by Bryce W. Robinson

I’ve included two photos of in-flight juvenile Whimbrel that I took in the first week of August 2016. I’m sharing these images for the simple reason of illustrating how a young juvenile differs from an adult. The age of these birds is told by the overall fresh, clean plumage and relatively short bill. It’s that simple in August. In a few months the bills will grow to a length comparable to the adults and determining age will become more difficult.

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Short-eared Owl Wing-clap Flight Display

by Bryce W. Robinson

Breeding flight displays in birds are a blend of the bizarre and the fantastic, a show of a birds talent and specialty in communicating it’s unique ability to portray fitness. The Short-eared Owl is no exception, as a low consistent hoot softly settles on the sky, while the bird flies with deep, moth-like wingbeats. Then, as if in suspense, the bird begins to clap its primaries in rapid motion, falling from the sky. After multiple claps and an appreciable loss of altitude the bird spreads its wings and continues its deep wing beats as before. The wing-clap is displayed in seeming desperation, as if the bird is throwing all caution to the wind to produce the most excellent round of claps for onlooking (or listening) females, and intruding males.

I rarely post videos back to back, but I’m making an exception this time because in the same evening I was privy to both Long-billed Curlew and Short-eared Owl flight displays. Both were “on my list” of behaviors to capture on video, and my excitement for capturing both in one evening is too difficult to quell. So I share…

This bird flew tirelessly. For near an hour, the owl flew in the sky performing wing clap after wing clap, all the while letting out a low consistent hooting barely audible to my ears. What a scene, and such a scene that I encourage anyone in the area of breeding Short-eared Owls to search out the chance to observe this behavior in real time. It’s bizarre, but it is at the top of the list for must see in behavior birding, and for good reason.

In the future I’ll be refining my camera skills and upgrading my lens, all in hopes of getting a more clear documentation of this behavior. For better video quality, click through the video link and watch on Vimeo in HD.

Long-billed Curlew Flight Display

by Bryce W. Robinson

The Long-billed Curlew has a bizarre courtship flight display, not unlike many other members of the family Scolopacidae. The male flies tirelessly in broad undulating circles, broadcasting a mournful whine into the sagebrush strewn hills. Having always been enamored by the spectacle, I made it a goal and was extremely pleased to capture the display on video.

If you haven’t heard of the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Long-billed Curlew Project, I’d like to use the above video to make an introduction. Long-billed Curlews are facing threats in the west, on multiple levels. For many years now the impacts of landscape change have added stress to nesting curlews. Habitat loss from development, degradation from grazing, ATV recreation, etc. are all causing added stress to the birds ability to reproduce. On top of that, IBO has found that there is an issue with folks shooting curlews. What reasons there could be for shooting a curlew escape me, but it is an issue nonetheless and one that IBO attempts to overcome through education and outreach.

On top of these issues, these birds are facing threats off their breeding grounds as well. Contaminants on the wintering grounds add yet another stress to these birds. IBO has deployed satellite telemetry units on a handful of birds to fully understand their year round distribution and where particular populations may face threats.

Stephanie Coates, an all-star of bird biology, recently started her pursuit of a master’s degree in biology at Boise State University. She is working with IBO on their curlew project, and has started a website to chronicle her work and the work of the field crew. Follow along and check out live viewing of curlew movements via satellite imagery, great photos from the field crews, and more.

Visit curlewcrew.com