Tuesday, 3 March 2015

How To Draw: Bird Behaviour

Birds are always doing something interesting. They never just pose for you, they move around and display an array of behaviours at you and other birds. Drawing things like aggression or nest building gives you a window into the bird's life and you can learn a lot about them if you observe them closely enough. Today on How To Draw, I will draw a male house sparrow flaunting his bib off to rivals and a long-tailed tit building a nest.

Stage One
We start off with the sparrow. As always, begin with a rough circle and oval to measure the size of the bird's head and body. Remember, it doesn't matter if it looks like anything yet.

Stage Two
Next, draw in the basic shape of the bird; triangle for the wing and rectangle for the tail, etc. As we are showing aggression the tail is upwards and the bill is going to be open. Draw a circle for the bill and then draw a sideways 'V' which slightly bent downwards to make the bill open and add a line to mark the other side of it's bill. Mark out in rough shapes where the detailed areas are going to be.

Bib Stage One
Bib Stage Three (pen)
The bib of a male sparrow is like the insignia of a military rank (captains, generals, etc) The larger it is, the higher it is in the social ranking order. The biggest bib is usually the colonel and he gets the best food without any squabble from the others in the flock. All he has to do is show that bib off by puffing it up and call loudly. As the bib is an important feature, I'm working on that first. To make the bib have that puffed up appearance, I work from the edges marking it with small but heavy pencil marks. Then do the same in the centre but with larger marks that gradually turns into blobs. Repeat the process with a pen, but don't forget to leave some spaces inbetween as part of that puffy look. You can also work on the bill and eye.
Bib Stage Two

Stage Three (body)
 Now the bib is delt with, draw the outlines of the other areas of the sparrow in pen. Go lightly on the markings on the wing or don't draw over it at all for now, as we have a bit of work to do on this area. Rub out the pencil lines (but not the wing area unless you drew over with a pen).

A little concentration is needed as you draw in the rows of plumage markings, primary feather and tail feather edges. You can use a photo to see where each marking goes, but it actually isn't too laborious. Simple blobs and lines are all you need to use, just space them out a bit in neat rows. Then go over them in pen. When your doing the tail, start from the centre. It is the largest and widest of all the tail feathers and the others overlap under it from both sides and gradually gets thinner and thinner.

Detail Stage One
Detail Stage Two

Stage Four (colour)
Colour each part in. Chestnut brown for the stripe behind the eye, wing, back and tail. Grey for cap, breast and rump. I lightly blend other colours for texture to the back, breast, wing and tail. And my male house sparrow is complete.

Stage One
For my long-tailed tit, I am not only drawing the bird with nesting material, but also the nest and part of the tree it is in. I start with a rough outline of the tree, a circle for the nest and a small circle for the bird's head, a small oval for it body and a long line for it's tail.

Stage Two
Next, I add a bit of basic detail to the tree and nest using scribbles and heavy markings. I also make a start on the bird's basic structure of it's wings, head stripe markings and it's eye.

Stage Three
More pencil detail work is included on the bird and on the nesting material it is using. The tail, wing edges and head stripes need heavy shading. The breast, head, nesting material and wing needed to be lightly scribbled in for now.


Stage Four
I draw over the drawing again in biro, adding a bit more detail. For the nest, I used a very light and slightly compact scribble to make it look like it was covered in lichen which the bird fixes together in real life with spider silk. The tree was a mixture of light scribble and heavy markings to create the texture of bark.

Stage Five

 Finally, I coloured it in. The tree and nest was a mixture of green, grey and brown lightly shaded in on top of each other. The long-tailed tit was mostly left white, only the eye, breast and part of the wing was a subtle pink (a bit darker on the wing). And thats it. One long-tailed tit filling the inside of it's nest with feathers completed.

What do you want me to draw next time? Comment below. Until then, good luck on your drawing! Hope I have helped you out?


  1. Sean, thank you so much! What brilliant drawings - will have a go with BMG at the weekend and let you see our drawings (if they're not too bad!)

    1. don't worry about if they are good or not, just have a go and keep practicing. thats how you improve by practicing.

  2. Love this Sean, thanks for sharing your top tips! Must make sure I have a go.