how to draw a bird sketch

Today I want to give you a short breakdown of how to get started with sketching birds. I’ve already talked your ear off with reasons to start bird-watching and how to get started with birding, so sketching birds could be the next step!

The short answer to this is: because it’s a lot of fun. If you’re already a birdwatcher, I don’t need to convince you of anything, because you’re probably already enjoying birds simply for what they are. Sketching birds can add enjoyment and increased knowledge to this wonderful pastime – sketching requires you to observe closely, and sketching will help you keep an active memory of what you saw in the field.

If you’re someone who just wants to make a beautiful bird watercolor painting, then you’ll probably end up in the first category soon – because the more you watch birds, the more you will get drawn into their daily activities, and observe details and just enjoy their bird-ness. Having a good understanding of birds will in turn help you to make better drawings of them.

If you’re an artist, birds can be one of the most rewarding and fascinating subjects there is. Sketching birds will bring you constant new discoveries, and it’s a great way to spend time with nature, science and art at the same time. Birds are also a great subject to practice wildlife drawing, since they’re fairly easy subjects, yet so diverse and challenging that you’ll be busy for a long time.

Start with the basic Shape

Getting the basic shape correct from the beginning is the most crucial aspect of the drawing. To capture the posture, proportions, and angles of your subject, lightly sketch lines at the beginning of your picture rather than concentrating on details. To begin drawing a bird, draw a single line representing the bird’s posture or sitting angle. Draw an oval for the body and a circle for the head over this. Then stop and check your proportions. Early in the drawing, it’s simple to adjust the head’s size. You can see that I originally drew the head in the animated drawings below too large. After checking the proportions, I drew the head circle smaller again to prevent the birds’ heads from having chickadee proportions. Point out the locations of the legs, leading edge of the wing, eye-beak, and tail. When you find angles around the head and tail coverts, carve them in. The angles surrounding the head and tail aid in breaking the pattern created by the two circles you initially used to construct the bird. In the absence of this, it’s simple for your drawings to look like snowmen. Many artists skip these crucial first steps, but investing time in the beginning will pay off in the long run. After you’ve captured the silhouette’s stance, dimensions, and angles, you can go over these initial lines with a heavier pencil to add details before adding color.

How do you get started with sketching birds?

Well, you start by watching birds. Before you begin drawing birds, start by observing them, especially the ones you are unfamiliar with. Always have your sketchbook with you, and observe the birds in your immediate vicinity. You can sketch the birds you regularly observe in the park, outside your window, by a lake, or along the coast. A bird bath placed next to a tree will allow you to watch birds as they perch and rearrange their feathers. You can draw birds to your garden by setting up a feeder or bird bath.

Using Photographs to help you Understand Birds

I use high-resolution photographs to help me study bird plumage. The following websites’ photographers have granted me and my students (including you) permission to use their images as drawing references. If you publish a drawing that heavily references one of these photos, please give credit to the photographer. I express my gratitude to these photographers for their exceptional bird photography and their kind support of us and our endeavors.


How do you start sketching birds?

Begin your drawing with large shapes to establish proportions and posture—an oval for the body, a circle for the head, a line to show the angle of the bill and eye. Imagine the point on which the body would balance, and put a vertical line for the feet right there. Draw these lines lightly and use them as a guide.

How do you field sketch a bird?

Start with two circles: a head and a proportionate body. Then move onto the tail, bill, and the edges of the wings to show length and countour. If the bird is being cooperative, you can dig into the biggest feather groupings, including coverts, secondaries, primaries, and face plumes.