A studio for bird study

Tag: lagopus

Juvenile Rough-legged Hawk- Buteo lagopus

by Bryce W. Robinson

IMG_3005I haven’t been taking photos of raptors lately. I think I need to devote my next free day to hitting the open western road, solely in search of raptors.

I took this photo last winter at Farmington Bay, in Utah. I miss that place. Idaho has good raptors, but nothing compares to the close looks that you obtain at Farmington Bay.



Late Changing Plumage of Rock Ptarmigan

by Bryce W. Robinson


Male Rock Ptarmigan- Lagopus muta, still in basic plumage. June 21, 2013. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

My exposure to Ptarmigan this past summer was not limited. Although I haven’t been able to track down the White-tailed Ptarmigan, I have had a lot of experience with both the Willow and Rock Ptarmigan.

Without hesitation I’d say that the easiest way to distinguish the two species is by call. This is very helpful in early summer, when males are traipsing around the open tundra, full of hormones, calling and chasing one another constantly. But what about later in the season, when birds are more cryptic? What about females?

The differences in plumage are subtle, and so far I feel I could only distinguish females in alternate plumage if they were side by side.

Shape is a helpful tool. Richard Crossley asked me how I distinguish between the females of the two species. My response was head shape, but he persisted and exposed my lack of confidence with the parameter. I feel like I have head shape down, but I’ll need more practice this coming summer as I chase the Gyrfalcon around the Seward Peninsula.

I chose to share the above photo as it shows a Rock Ptarmigan in late June. In late may, male Willow Ptarmigan already have full reddish necks, as they have started their pre-alternate molt. Interestingly, male Rock Ptarmigan do not begin their pre-alternate molt until early July. This makes for a simple identification tool. I’ve yet to research any answers to this difference in timing of molt between the two species. I of course, encourage any discussion on the matter.

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.

Rough-legged Hawk Again

by Bryce W. Robinson

Rough-legged Hawk- Buteo lagopus. 11x15" watercolor on paper.

I finally found some time and energy to sit down and paint again. I’ve been working way too much lately, and have lacked the energy and drive to put towards painting. Hopefully I don’t go through another lull like that again. I find so much happiness in painting, it needs to be a regular part of my life.

Even though the last painting was of the same bird, I felt I owed the Rough-legged Hawk another go, this time as a portrait. Often people ask me what raptor is my favorite. I hate this question, because I can never answer it. I feel inclined to say that the Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk is definitely the bird I find most intriguing, but then again, Buteo lagopus always creeps up in my mind. Perhaps I just like Buteos from the great north. Regardless, this will not be the last painting of this bird. The variability in Male and Female birds, and the juvenile, leaves a lot of visual ground to cover. Not to mention that just like the other Buteos, this bird has varying melanistic morphs, including a distinctive and impressive dark morph. The future is plentiful with opportunities to refine my skills and put more portraits of birds into the world. That fact pleases me.