A studio for bird study

Tag: prismacolor

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






Male American Kestrel for Conservation

by Bryce W. Robinson

Male American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11X17" Prismacolor on bristol.

Male American Kestrel- Falco sparverius. 11X17″ Prismacolor on bristol. Copyright Bryce W. Robinson

I illustrated this male American Kestrel for a silent auction to benefit my local National Audubon Society Chapter, Golden Eagle Audubon here in Boise, Idaho. Let’s hope this illustration gleans some monetary attention.


Tribute to a Lost Friend

by Caitlin M. Davis

Art by Bryce W. Robinson

Original Prismacolor Illustration by Bryce W. Robinson

I found out last week that a friend I had met recently died, and I thought it only appropriate to pay tribute. This Northern Hawk Owl, a wanderer from the north, had been hanging out for several weeks at a shopping center in Moscow, Idaho, where he met his tragic fate with a vehicle.

A few weeks ago, Bryce Robinson, Heidi Ware and I made the icy 7 hour trek to see this amazing creature, far away from his home. We were hoping he would give us clues as to why he was lost, and why he had chosen this new city life. Was he dissatisfied with where he lived? Was there no food? Were his parents mean to him? Was he just a dreamy wanderer? Knowing that he is an owl, and probably won’t answer our questions, we were really just excited to spend some time with him.


We found him within minutes of reaching the shopping center, perched on a telephone wire. He almost immediately dove down and landed in a low tree along a trail next to the road, about 5 feet from a pedestrian. Just imagine a bird you never knew existed, an owl no less, landing in arms reach on your afternoon stroll. A crazy story for even a non-birder. The man made very slow, calculated movements to snap a cell phone picture, while a hoard of birders materialized out of the brush. Everyone, including our cohort, rushed over to see this bird, up close for the first time.

The Hawk Owl was everything we had dreamed of and more! He was extremely docile and tolerant of the barrage of squealing fans and cameras. He just kept with his daily routine, actively looking for prey and  flying from perch to perch. He allowed us to study and enjoy his animated antics for a good amount of time. While we were there he crossed the road and almost got hit by traveling soccer moms, rowdy teenagers and cowboys, multiple times. The owl seemed very content in his new home, so it was only a matter of time before he would meet his inevitable fate.


It wasn’t surprising to hear the news that he had been hit by a car, but it was quite sad. The drainages next to the road were too full of delicious food and there was cozy, safe infrastructure for roosting. The fact is, even roads hours away from anywhere create a deadly barrier for birds. Raptors are oftentimes drawn to roads because there are comfortable perches and there is ample prey either already dead, or thriving on an endless smorgasbord of waste. They stoop down quickly for a meal and cannot change direction in time to avoid a speeding 18-wheeler.

So, what do we do? This question is important, and I know that research is being done to help ease yet another impact we, humans, have on the world of birds.

Click here to see an adorable clip of this guy if you missed it a few weeks ago.

RIP little buddy.

Increases in Harris’s Sparrow Reports in Idaho Highlight the Benefits of ebird

by Bryce W. Robinson

Immature Harris's Sparrow- Zonotrichia querula. 9X11" Prismacolor on bristol board

Immature Harris’s Sparrow- Zonotrichia querula. 9X11″ Prismacolor on bristol board. Illustration copyright Bryce W. Robinson

This winter, I’ve personally found five Harris’s Sparrows in the Great Basin. These sightings have been supplemented with about the same number by folks in my birding circle, anecdotally suggesting higher than average reports for Harris’s Sparrows. My friend Jay Carlisle posed the question; Is it a matter of a good breeding year for Harris’s Sparrow and an increased widespread juvenile distribution, or an increase in birding effort and ebird reporting? His conversation with a friend gave him additional anecdotal information that there were higher than average reports for Montana as well.

Obviously these questions are difficult to answer. What the presence of increased Harris’s Sparrow detections illustrates is the importance for birder’s to report their sightings to ebird and state records committees. This way we will be able to more fully trust these resources for historic distributions of any given species.

After reviewing Idaho’s past records of Harris’s Sparrow in ebird, it became apparent that this year stood out. You can review frequency charts on ebird for Idaho here.

But, it is important to consider that there are more participants in ebird as the years progress. What we will be able to see, if the birding effort continues for years to come, is how this winter compares to future years. With ebird, each year we will add to the data set, and incrementally increase the accuracy of range maps for species across the world.

This years Harris’s Sparrow numbers haven’t taught me much about the bird’s place in Idaho, but they have illustrated the benefits and need for filing ebird reports whenever I go birding.