Ruff

Ugh. I’m so ashamed of this bird. He is hurried and deflated and nowhere near as refined and elegant as the model. He should look more like an aristocrat looking down his long nose at us peasant viewers.

The ruff is a strange bird. Apparently, the male birds start growing extra large head and neck feathers right around mating time. And the ruff can vary greatly in color and shape, so no two birds look the same. After the spring is over, and baby birds are everywhere, the male ruffs lose their namesake ruffs, and they look just as plain and boring as the females.

Black Headed Gull

I think the guys who named this bird needed a color wheel. These birds mostly do not have black heads. They mostly have brown or even reddish heads. But apparently, the name stuck, despite being totally inaccurate. Science. Go figure.

California Sage Grouse

This is one of my new favorite weird birds. And it’s a California native! (Yes, CA is the home of the freaks – and proud of it!)

I was inspired to draw this bird from a visit to the Natural Sciences Gallery at my very own Oakland Museum of California. They were trying out new video displays to accompany some static dioramas. The video of the sage grouse’s mating ritual in action is not to be missed. They have two featherless air sacs which they inflate like giant moobs (man boobs). The inflating process makes little popping noises, and while they’re working up to inflating, the dudes make little whooping noises (technically frequency modulated intonations.) The whole thing looks just so bizarre, but apparently, the lady grouses love it.

I chose a male grouse in full inflated moob mode. But they look pretty silly at every point in the dance.

Ostrich

I had so much funĀ using the brush tipped markers on this bird. Ostriches have the most bizarre faces. With those huge eyes and tiny hair-like feathers sticking out everywhere, they manage to be moth awkward yet beautiful at the same time.

I visited my grandparents in Kansas two years ago, and one day I just needed to stretch my legs, so I took a walk down to the main street. I found a junk shop, and in addition to some vintage 80s era knock-off Strawberry Shortcake dolls (wish I had gotten those, too!) I found two ostrich eggs. I thought it was so random and funny that I bought one. And the whole plane ride home, I was nervous that it would get crushed, even though I had it in my carry-on. I shouldn’t have worried. Apparently, ostrich eggs are fairly hardy, for eggs.

I have it on display in my curiosity cabinet, next to some porcupine quills and a fairy I sculpted out of clay in 1998.

Update 4/13/13 This bird is sold. Thanks, Jeff & Julie.

Hoopoe

Weird looking bird, little v-shaped crowns, bright red bodies and striped wings. On any other type of creature (insect, amphibian, or plant) such bold colors would say “Eating me will make you sick, for I am poison.” But I don’t think it works like that for birds. For birds, it says, “Hey, ladies…”

Snowy Owl

I’m proud of this little guy. Like the snowy egret, I created this bird by using white chalk on a black charcoal background. But I’m more proud of his eyes than his feathers.

Isn’t he charming?

Owls always make me think of the “give a hoot, don’t pollute” slogan. But this guy has a far more inquisitive look on his face. He might be saying something like, “Were you going to eat that mouse?”

California Condor

What a beautiful hideous bird. Who knew that such lovely colors as purple, red and orange could look so ugly if you just paint them next to each other and throw in lots of skin wrinkles?

The California Condor is an amazing bird, with a six foot wing span. Endangered for many years, this species is one of our state’s conservation success stories. Thanks to hard work of scientists and naturalists across the state, the condors numbers are up. Yay, more ugly birds to eat carcasses!