Birds are fundamentally funny. Whether they’re splashing away in a bird bath, poofing up their feathers to impress a mate, or squabbling over territoriy, they add humor and beauty to our world. As a nature cartoonist, I share my love of birds by inserting their hilarious behavior into a comic—a simple way to tell a story using concise words and illustrations.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a nature cartoonist. As a kid I loved watching birds, drawing pictures, and making people laugh, but I couldn’t see a connection between those interests. Then I discovered the world of science cartoons. I read Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I came across funny books like A Field Guide to Little-Known and Seldom-Seen Birds of North America by Ben, Cathryn, and John Sill. I realized that humor and art could spread science facts to new people and new places. I started to make my own comics—and I’m not the only one. Nowadays, there are plenty of funny bird comics. Why not join us and make your own?
Here’s how to get started:
Find Your Idea: First, think of something funny that birds do. I usually begin by reading books about birds, watching videos, or going for a hike and observing nature. It’s important to note the hilarious things you see. For instance, when I’m watching a pair of Yellow Warblers at their nest, I find myself wondering: Does egg laying baffle them? Are they perplexed about why they’re building a nest? I immediately write the funny thought down, like this: Yellow Warbler at the nest, looking at its eggs, confused about what it’s doing: “Why did I make these weird round things? Oh no, they’re breaking open! Aaah, there are loud birds inside!”
Make a Script: When an idea continues to delight me, it’s ready to become a comic. To see if it fits a comic format, I try turning it into a script—a text-based version of a comic. In my script, I describe what happens in each panel, including both images and words. Here’s what a script looks like:
Title: Instinct Is Weird
Panel 1: The mom Yellow Warbler is looking down at her nest.
Mom warbler: “I made this for some reason”
Panel 2: There are eggs in the nest now.
Mom warbler: “these are my smooth round children”
Panel 3: An egg has hatched.
Mom warbler: “oh no now it’s loud”
Panel 4: All the eggs have hatched and the babies are peeping loudly.
Mom warbler: “help”
Sketch It Out: Next, I make a thumbnail. That’s a cartoonist’s word for a rough, scribbly sketch of a comic. The thumbnail helps me figure out how the whole thing will look—where to place the characters and word balloons.
Start Building: Next, I start laying out the comic. I draw the panels and add in the words first, so I can make sure there’s enough space for them.
Add the Art: It’s time to start the finished art. Now you can really get creative! There are many ways to make art for a comic. I usually draw on a computer using a tablet and art software, but you can use pencils, paints, markers, pastels, sparkly pens, or any other art tool. Maybe you don’t feel like drawing at all? Add speech bubbles to funny photographs you’ve taken.
Know Your Subject: While I draw, I do research. I keep a field guide next to me to make sure I’m using the right shapes and colors for plants and animals. Drawing a comic isn’t the same as drawing a detailed illustration for a field guide. The art in a comic can be a lot simpler. But I still try to make sure that it’s as accurate as it can be. Blending accurate art with a silly joke is deeply amusing to me. So, while I’m drawing my cartoony Yellow Warbler, I make sure it has the proper plumage, that its eggs are the correct color and number, and that the legs, bill, and eye are the correct color.
Then the comic is done! It's time to sit back and admire my work, and to share it with friends and family.
When I make a comic about birds or other creatures, I’m filled with love for nature. Comics are a great way to lift your mood and deepen your connection with the world around you. So, join the flock—I can’t wait to see what you create!