Harris's Hawk Bird of Prey

Birds of Prey – Raptor Art

Walking around my neighborhood got me interested in birds of prey. I live in an urban area reasonably close to the Atlantic coast. I have a routine that has me taking morning walks around my neighborhood trails on a regular basis. Part of this walk is along a freshwater lake and small stream. As I’ve walked adjacent to these waterways over the past couple of years, I noticed a change one day. A large pile of twigs start to accumulate on top of an electric transmission tower. I then noticed some fairly large birds of prey flying overhead within the vicinity of this stick formation. These birds were different from my usual sightings of Great Blue Herons often see on my walks.

Then I noticed tiny heads bobbing appearing in what I then realized was an Osprey aerie, or large nest. This shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, since I’ve seen many of these aeries on transmission towers on my occasional highway drives.

Osprey – Raptor Bird of Prey

The Osprey is a large raptor also known as a sea hawk, river hawk and fish hawk and generally feed during the daytime. Their diet is almost completely made up of fish, but have been known to eat small rodents, hares and amphibians. I noticed that the adult Osprey pay close attention as I walk under their nest. Mom can’t be too careful. At least she hasn’t swooped down on me yet. These ospreys generally stick around the nest until October and then fly south to South America, but occasionally to California and Florida. It’s great to see such noble creatures relatively close by.

Interestingly, one day I noticed the nest was gone. The electric utility people took down the nest and set up obstacles for future nests. Even though I understand that these nests on transmission lines can be dangerous for the birds, I was sad to see the nest go.

However, the following spring, a new aerie showed up on another utility pole across the road. When you’ve got a great location with lots of fresh water and fish, they’re not giving up so easily!

Osprey Nest
Osprey Nest
Osprey in their aerie

Harris’s Hawk – A Falconer’s Favorite

A while ago, I made a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson in Arizona. One of the incredible sights there was a bird of prey called Harris’s Hawk. They are fascinating to view up close.

Harris's Hawk Bird of Prey
Harris’s Hawk bird of prey

They have a very regal look. Unlike most raptors, Harris’s Hawks are cooperative hunters. Because areas such as the Sonoran desert, where this hawk lives, give lots of cover for their prey, they will act similar to wolves and flush prey out of their hiding places towards other hawks in their group. They are also known to prey on birds as large as the Great Blue Heron, the largest North American heron.

Great Blue Heron by Michael Doyle
Great Blue Heron by Michael Doyle

The Harris’s Hawk is a popular raptor in Falconry. This is primarily because of their intelligence which makes training relatively easy. Falconry is the sport of hunting animals in the wild by means of trained birds of prey. Their prey often consists of squirrels and rabbits. The earliest accounts of falconry date back to around 2000 BC.

Harris’s Hawk Falconry Portrait

After viewing the powerful raptor, Harris’s Hawk, in person, I decided I would dabble in creating a portrait of the noble creature, but in a style different from my usual approach. I thought of cultures such as the ancient Romans and Vikings with their war or parade banners that created a heroic image of birds and various creatures, both real and imagined.

As such, these raptors were definitely noble and in most ways a true predator.

Harris’s Hawk bird of prey by Michael Doyle
Harris’s Hawk bird of prey by Michael Doyle

Steampunk Raptor

After creating my first raptor portrait, I thought I would have fun with my subject. With the popularity of Steampunk fashion and objets d’art, I though the idea of showing a bird of prey in that fashion would be interesting.

Steampunk
Steampunk

Here is an animal with a strong focus and keen capabilities. Let’s mechanize it! Perhaps have it world-weary after many a battle on the feeding front. Hunting prey, but also perhaps being hunted as prey.

Steampunk Hawk by Michael Doyle
Steampunk Hawk by Michael Doyle

Viewing Nature Differently

As I view nature all around me, I have also widened my idea on how I might portray nature within my artistic doodles. Should I be realistic in all nature’s glory, or should I reinterpret what I am seeing. As you approach a subject with its infinite possibilities, how you interpret a subject can change as you grow and mature. It would be a great exercise to continue with the same subject and reinterpret multiple times over the years. How have you evolved over the years?

Have you new insight on an old subject? I might give it a try!


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8 thoughts on “Birds of Prey – Raptor Art”

  1. Harrison’s Hawk is an amazingly beautiful bird. It is quite sad that these birds of prey are being forced to make their nests in dangerous places simply because of urbanization. 

    I love your interpretation of this majestic bird and I can see you truly have an artists eye when it come to creating something. I quite liked the clockwork type breast you gave the bird. What does this symbolize for you?

    1. Urbanization does indeed pose a threat to some of wildlife habitat. At least where I presently reside, developers are being required to maintain a certain portion of their development as natural settings. This will help a little…

      The clockwork hawk is an interpretation of nature that perhaps our encroachment on nature and wildlife is affecting wildlife in ways we perhaps do not anticipate. What we feel is better may actually cause significant issues in wildlife.

  2. Kevin And Jade

    Thank you for this post, Mike. 

    I love reading about birds of prey. I used to live on an island where sea eagles went extinct and then had to be reintroduced. There are currently 25 breeding pairs in the Outer Hebrides and they are re-colonising the islands.

    Stunningly beautiful creatures, I saw one up close and with wings extended, it could easily be bigger than my 2-year-old son at the time. They’re massive. And truly a sight to behold. 

    1. Viewing and hiking through nature allows us to be part of it. Perhaps the more we experience our natural surroundings, the more we appreciate it. This should all be part of our daily life!

  3. hello Mike; you approached an interesting topic. First the birds of prey in nature. Your observations are fantastic and the story line is special. Especially when you say that the following year they made a nest in the same area. And then you make the switch to art and a certain style of stylization. I liked.

    best regards

    1. Wildlife can be resilient! They know where they can meet their life requirements and will do what is necessary to maintain it. 

      Illustrating nature allows me to focus on the natural environment for extended times. As I paint, I reflect!

  4. I love the watercolour of the Great Blue Heron! Always nice to see bird art in an original style: hope to see you post more soon.

    And do Harris’s Hawks really take birds as large as these?

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! Harris’s Hawks have large and strong feet, and long talons, as well as a large, prominent hooked beak which makes successfully attacking Great Blue Heron possible.

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