Once you have the basic shaped blocked in you are ready to add details on top of that framework. This is the fun part but do not skip the first steps and jump to drawing the beak and eye. Details without structure will get you nowhere.
The beak of these birds is specialized for filtering food from the water. It’s flattened, blunt, and long. The cheeks are big and round, giving the bird a smiling expression. The eyes have a variety of colors, including blue and red.
The beak is simple, sharp and thick. The eyes are usually dark, and in smaller species they look like shiny beads.
The wings follow a clear rhythm; in smaller birds primaries can be almost indistinguishable from secondaries.
This is the biggest group of them all, so we can consider the passerine body a classic bird body. All the songbirds belong here, as well as birds of paradise and ravens. The smaller the bird, the bigger its head in comparison to the body. The long tail makes the whole body seem elongated and slim.
In the process for optimization for flight birds have lost their long tails. Because of this, the center of mass has been shifted closer to the chest, while the hips still stayed in the back. That’s why birds use their knee like a hip joint, and also why the ankle seems like a reversed knee.
Studying bird anatomy will help you draw birds more accurately. Feathers grow from specific regions on the bird’s body with bare skin between them. These feather groups define the shape and contours of a bird and the patterns on the feathers relate directly to the underlying feather group. This animation shifts between a drawing of a Song Sparrow,its shape without feather patterns, and a diagram emphasizing the feather groups.
This order includes the birds specialized for swimming. Their bodies are big, but flattened, with short tails and long necks.
Finally, you can add the feathers. The easiest way to achieve a realistic effect quickly is to sketch the areas of feathers.
This is slightly controversial group, because the newest studies suggest that falcons are more related to parrots than to eagles or hawks. However, their look matters more to us than their genes, so it’s better for us to think of them as one group still. These predatory birds look like passerines, except they’re usually much bigger, with highly specialized beaks.
… and hawks demonstrate a compromise between these both styles.
Let’s simplify the body now, using both bones and muscles for this:
These birds have impressive talons specialized for catching prey. The toes are thick, covered with rows of big scales on top, and spiky scales on bottom (to create more friction).
Wings of these birds are optimized for taking off from the water surface. They’re elongated, with a clear border between the primaries and secondaries.
Once you have the guidelines, you can cover them with body, creating appropriate bums around the joints.
When the ankle bends the tendon automatically drags the toes toward each other.
Because birds from this order don’t fly, their wings are mostly vestigial. In emus they’re indistinguishable from the rest of the plumage, and the common ostrich (shown below) uses them for showing off or to protect its young.
Birds of this group have various shapes of wings depending on their size and style of hunting. Eagles have long, “square” wings…
Here is my step by step process to block in the shape of the bird. These steps are handled as lightly as possible (either with minimal pressure with a graphite pencil or a col-erase Non-photo blue pencil (see equipment list). Teachers may use this page to help their class learn to draw birds. Download high resolution version for printing here: How to draw birds
It can be hard to believe, but not all dinosaurs became extinct. Skeleton A belongs to a very dinosaurs-looking member of theropods (most of them were at least partially feathered!). B belongs to archaeopteryx—another theropod, this time with real wings and the anatomy optimized for flight. And C, finally, is a skeleton of a modern bird (chicken, to be exact), with its anatomy even more specialized for flying.
There are many species of birds, all specialized to their way of living. So many, actually, that it would be impossible to describe them all. That’s why I will show you orders of birds rather than specific species. This way you’ll learn a “general recipe” for each kind of bird, but this theory must be completed with a lot of practice with a photo reference.
Owls have unique wings perfect for silent hunting. Their feathers are wide and rounded.
The beak of these birds is not as smooth as the passerine one, and it may be slightly hooked. The eyes are often bright, gold or orange, though they can be dark as well. There’s often skin visible somewhere on the head, at least around the eye, but it often makes weird fleshy structures, like the comb of the chicken.
Owls are specialized for hunting in the night, so they have keen eyes and great sense of hearing. Their flattened face is supposed to gather sounds efficiently, and it’s made of feathers—there’s a normal round bird skull under them. The body is big, rounded, with almost no visible neck.
Birds are extremely diverse, but their head has a structure universal to all of them. So let’s see how to draw a “universal bird head”.
Take a closer look at the feet now. How many toes does your bird need?
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Drawing birds is a wonderful way to make yourself look more carefully at nature. Here are some resources that I hope will help you draw birds and understand them more deeply. If you understand bird anatomy you will be better at drawing what you see. I have many blog posts giving step-by-step demonstrations and details about drawing birds (see list at right). See the links at the right of your screen. You can find more information in The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds. The most important thing you can do to improve your bird drawing and sketching is to start drawing more frequently. Keep you sketching materials handy. Please leave comments and questions and I will expand these resources based on your input.
Underneath the feathers, a bird looks like a plucked chicken. Note that it’s knee is actually hidden up under its feathers and the joint you sometimes see below the body is actually its ankle! The wing feathers attach to the hand and forearm.
The beak is hooked, like in all birds of prey, but only a tip of it is visible through the feathers. The eyes are huge and placed in the front of the face. They’re usually brightly colored, gold or orange, but they can also be very dark (barn owls).
You can now add all the details. It’s good to use a reference at this point.
Sketch the toes. Their length and arrangement should follow from the styles presented before. End them with curves for claws.
We don’t have to draw bird muscles to draw their bodies realistically, but birds have some other part of visible anatomy that can’t be ignored—feathers. Feathers are grouped into parts of various functions, and these groups can be often distinctively colored, especially on the head. That’s why they’re so important in drawing:
The head and beak of a parrot. Draw a smaller oval for the head. In the center of the oval draw a bird’s eye. All you need for this tutorial – carefully and gently draw the powerful beak of a parrot.
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Birds have wings to fly, but they can’t spend all time in the air (though some definitely try). They still need their feet, but they also need them for various purposes depending on the species. That’s why their toes can be arranged in various ways. Before you draw some species, make sure you know what kind of arrangement they utilize.
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Define the perspective of the skull with some directing lines.
The feather groups are under individual muscular control and can be fluffed up or moved together. Birds fluff themselves up when they are cold and smooth their feathers when they warm up. Birds also fluff their feathers a part of displays. Watch carefully as the bird’s shape changes as different feather groups are puffed out or relaxed.
Bird’s feathers. Drawing out bird’s feathers requires a lot of time because of the detail involved in each individual feather. Each feather must be stretched outwards and become thinner and smaller at the top. Add the soft feathers under the wings. They will look like fluff.
Sketch the general silhouette quickly and loosely, including the position of the wings.
Swimming birds have webbed feet with quite blunt claws. Their scales are arranged neatly in rows.
Add the head and neck. Because the neck is so flexible, you can draw the head basically anywhere you like and then connect it to the body.
Draw a circle on the tip of each stick, and some circles for the ankle.
These birds don’t fly, but they’re most definitely birds. They have huge bodies with ridiculously long legs and necks. Their feathers can even look more like fur than real bird feathers.
These weird birds have weird feet as well. Common ostrich is ditactyl, and emu (below) is tridactyl. The feet are big, with thick toes and claws often blunted by contact with ground.
The front of the jaws is covered with keratin, and that’s the actual beak. Notice it even has a kind of hard “lips”!
Anatomy of birds is well hidden under feathers, but once you think of them as dinosaurs, you should be able to imagine it without problems. For example, look at the jaws of a bird. What we see as a beak is only a part of normal dinosaur jaws.
Birds are fascinating, completely unique creatures, and they require a slightly different approach in drawing than the animals we have tackled before. Why? Because they’re dinosaurs!
How to Draw Birds: Step by Step Instructions with Anatomical Details Skip to entry content
Because these birds walk more than fly, their wings don’t have to be highly optimized. They’re broad and rounded.
Time for the wings and tail! If you haven’t already, check out How to Draw and Animate Wings: Birds, Bats, and More to learn how to do it.
Crown: You can think of it as a cap. Supercilium: It’s like a wide, long eyebrow. Nape: It covers back of the neck kind of like long hair. Lores: Tine feathers cover this area between the beak and the eye.
They can look like hair, and there’s often skin visible under them. Auriculars: This is a very distinctive area. It covers the ear, but you can think of it as a cheek. Malar: It goes along the lower jaw.
Throat: Covers the throat, obviously. Breast: This is the “torso” of the bird, though these feathers are actually attached to the neck. Sides: These fluffy feathers cover the wrist when the wing is folded.
Belly: These feathers don’t really grow from the belly, but from the sides of it. This way the bird can put an egg straight under the warm body, covered with the belly feathers on the sides. Flanks: The long feathers cover the leg above the heel.
Undertail coverts: As the name implies, these feathers cover the base of the tail. Tail Mantle: A “cape” covering the back. Scapulars: Feathers covering the base of the wing. The wrist hides under them as well when the wing is folded.
Wings How to Draw a Bird Head
Draw a long curve defined by the bottom of the upper jaw. The beak is wide near the base and narrows toward the tip.
That was theory, but how to actually draw a bird? Let’s draw a member of each group step by step.
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Parrots have a smooth body elongated by their long tails. The head is quite big and round.
Bird drawing. In this lesson, you will learn to draw birds step by step, in pencil. How to draw a flying parrot. You will be able to draw a parrot properly and learn the techniques for drawing any bird, even a peacock.
Put the rest of the beads in between, following the toe arrangement. The most popular arrangement is anisodactyl, that is 2-3-4-1 (counting from the body).
The first step of drawing a bird. Draw the first oval in the center of your sheet of paper. This will be the bird’s trunk. Then draw a triangle at the bottom of the oval – a bird’s tail. When this is done, you can add two arched lines for the outstretched wings.
Add the sketchy legs. Notice that there’s no need to include the thigh bone.
Birds of this group, especially the small ones, have very thin and flexible toes, arranged in the anisodactyl fashion. The scales covering their top are elongated between the joints. These feet are optimized for perching.
Most parrots are zygodactyl, like owls, but their claws are not near that impressive. The scales start big near the claws, and then they turn into horizontal rows.
Draw the lower jaw now. If you curve it backwards, you’ll create the second guideline for the eye socket.
Bird drawing. Final step. Through several stages, we have almost completed the lesson of drawing a bird. Finish the tail and then draw out legs and claws. Erase the unwanted pencil sketches, which remain from your earlier stages of drawing. Here is our flying parrot!
But don’t stop here! Use your practical knowledge now to draw a lot of various birds from references. Train your hand and brain to make the whole process automatic. Learning is not only about understanding, but also about regular practice!
How to draw bird’s wings. Draw the lower contours of the wings. The wings now resemble two leaves.
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Ostriches have usually a long, flattened beak with a blunt tip, and huge eyes. The head is covered with fluffy, bristle feathers.
Give the beads of joints to each toe according to the arrangement. You don’t need to be super accurate if your drawing is small.
Once you have all these guidelines, you can put the details in their place. The eyes are round and surrounded with thick skin.
Parrots have a rounded, hooked beak that seems to be a part of the face. Their eyes have a variety of colors, sometimes multiple colors in the same eye! The eyelids have rows of little bumps on the edges, and they can be colored as well.
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Parrots have long wings with elongated primaries, similar to those of falcons.
Imagine the toes are wires, and that you slip beads through it toward the base.
These birds have similar feet to the passerines, but they keep their “back toe” higher, and the toes are thicker. There’s slight webbing between the toes. The scales make neat overlapping rows. These feet are optimized for scratching.
Draw all the elements of the head now, following the perspective of the head.
Why am I showing you this? When we draw animals from imagination, we often compare their bodies to ours to “feel” their movement and to create a proper, realistic pose. But birds are so uniquely built that it may be hard to “become” them. Dinosaurs like A, on the other hand, are easier to grasp—they have legs, feet, arms, and hands. So if you only trace its evolution to a bird, you’ll find all these structures in the latter easily.
Tagged with:anatomy, animals, beak, bird, drawing, feathers, head, how to, how to draw, how to draw birds, legs, Monika Zagrobelna, muscles, skeleton, step by step, tutorial
The most important part of the drawing is getting the basic shape right at the start. Instead of focusing on details at the start of a picture, make light sketch lines to capture the posture, proportions, and angles of your subject. Start your bird sketch by noting the posture of the bird or the angle at which it sits with a single line. Over this, add an oval for a body and then a circle for the head. Then stop and check your proportions. It is easy to change the size of the head early in the drawing. In the animated drawings below, you will notice that I initially drew the head too large. I redrew the head circle smaller after my proportion check so that the birds will not have a head with the proportions of a chickadee. Indicate the locations of eye-beak, tail, leading edge of wing, and legs. Carve in angles where you find them around the head and tail coverts. These angles around the head and tail help break the imprint of the two circles that you used to initially build the bird. Without this, it is easy for your drawings to resemble a snowman. Many artists speed past these important initial steps but time spent at the start will pay off in the end. One you capture the posture, proportions and angles of the silhouette, you can add details in heavier pencil over these initial lines, finishing with color.
Draw the curve of the upper part of the upper jaw, and lead it far to the back of the skull. This will be our guideline for the eyes.
The beaks of falcon-like birds are hooked, and they have a special outgrowth around the nostrils. They also have bony eyebrows that give them an angry look. The eyes are located more in front of the face, which is characteristic for predators. Their colors range from golden to brown to almost black in falcons.
That theropod skeleton is covered with muscles… which we never see. So we don’t really need to memorize their detailed look. You just need to understand that under all these feather there is a normal animal with a torso, long neck, thick thigh and calf, and a specialized arm. The body of a bird is simple and bulky, with hips fused with the chest, so you can imagine the whole main body as one element.
This order includes all the chicken-like birds—big, heavy, better at scratching the ground than at flying. They have long necks and often oddly shaped tails (with the peacock as an extreme example).
Notice that the outline of the “torso” includes not only the bones and muscles, but feathers as well.
Start with an oval. Some species will be easier to draw with a circle, others with an ellipse.
Last time we took a close look at wings, their anatomy, and details. But wings are not a separate entity—they’re attached to some animal, and today we’re going to learn about such animal. Birds are fascinating, completely unique creatures, and they require a slightly different approach in drawing than the animals we have tackled before. Why? Because they’re dinosaurs!
Owls are birds of prey, like eagles and falcons, so they have similar feet. There’s one difference, though—they’re zygodactyl. They’re also often quite furry.
The final contours of a bird. Now draw the final forms of breast, back, wings, and tail on both sides. Leave the lower part of the tail to finish at later stage.