7 Bird Art Bestsellers: Best Wall Art Selling Guide

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This is a list of the favorite birds the general public like to buy. Don’t confuse it with the most popular or common birds, that’s not the same thing. These are “bird art bestsellers”, the birds people love and collect.

I’ve been making and selling bird art prints for over 20 years and I’ve got a good idea of what people like.

If you are an artist, graphic designer, or possibly a bird photographer, use this guide to target the bird species that have a proven retail market.

This information is hard to find on the web

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1. Owls: My Bestselling Bird Art Prints

There is a great market for raptors in general, but in my experience, owls win hands down. Owls appeal to a female collectors market and that counts big time.

'Night Flight'. A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler. The same drawing with two different backgrounds. One light and one dark
The Barn Owl on the left was too ‘busy’. I darkened the background and the owl drawing popped out. Much better in my opinion.

No other bird looks quite like an owl. They have supersenses:

  • Huge wide eyes,
  • Heads that pivot 270 degrees
  • Heart-shaped faces
  • Low silent flight
  • Pin-point hearing

Look around and there are owl motifs and designs everywhere. That says it all. There is something about owls that resonates with many people.

Owls are symbols of wisdom, age, and experience.
No wonder they’re popular.

It’s good news for artists and illustrators because it’s not only women collecting owls for themselves but it’s their friends and family buying gifts for them too. It’s a win-win.

I know from my own sales experience that Barn Owls are the most popular owls here in the UK. I get asked for Barn owls and no other species

They are the UK’s favorite owl and anyone who’s ever caught a glimpse of a Barn Owl, floating ghost-like across the fields and hedgerows will appreciate why. It’s magical.

I checked on Calenders.com, an American company, and Barn owls appear in all the compendiums of owl species. They are the most common species of owl in the world, so it’s not that surprising.

You’ll find these posts helpful:

If you want more sales, start with Barn Owls. Snowy owls will have a market, and possibly burrowing owls for the US market. You can sell any cute owl species framed within a hole in a tree.

I didn’t get my shot of a Barn Owl in flight from the wild, more’s the pity. It was being flown in South Africa and I managed to get this one shot.

A photographer would’ve binned the image, it was badly composed and the wing tip was cut off. Thankfully illustrators are given a ‘get out of jail free’ card, it’s called artistic license. I removed the tethers and used another reference to figure out how the wing would look. Why not?

I did get this shot. I love it. The little girl was given the glove and the eagle owl was supposed to land on her hand. It had other ideas. Love it.

Girl with an eagle owl on her head
Trying to photograph a flying eagle owl and this was the result.

2. Eagles: Always Have Buyers

Eagles are another iconic symbol that represents, strength, majesty, and power. It’s not surprising that nations adopt eagles as emblems.

'Eagle Eyes' A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler. Portrait of a Bald eagle
‘Eagle Eyes’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler
One for the home office?

The requests I receive for birds of prey usually refer to eagles, and I’ve noticed a few things over the years:

  • Eagle art prints are bought for men
  • Most requests are for eagles with their wings spread
  • Eagles are popular tattoos.

Women will buy an Eagle print as the perfect gift for a man in their life, but rarely for themselves.

My eagle portrait sells pretty well but it could do better, it gets more compliments than it does sales. Why? It’s a perfectly good portrait after all.

Sadly, it’s a bit mean-looking for most women and they are usually the buyers. Plus portraits don’t sell as well an eagle in flight. You can’t get it right all the time. It’s only because I drew this eagle portrait and put it up for sale that I know what people are looking for.

Selling eagle tattoo designs, and Eagle T-Shirts are viable ideas

Bald eagles are the most popular eagles, especially in the North American market. Here in the UK, I suspect Golden Eagles would be popular too but I haven’t tested it out

The biggest issue for me and I suspect for most artists, would be finding the initial reference photos to work from.

I don’t use other people’s photographs, so I visited a bird park for my eagle portrait. They flew their birds and this one was tethered in the holding area with no fence or barrier to get in the way.

If you do visit a falconry show, make sure you have a good enough camera to catch the action. The birds whip by at lightning speed. It’s very hard to get usable shots. My bridge camera wasn’t up to the job. That’s my excuse.

DSLRs have traditionally been the must-have cameras for wildlife photography due to their fast AF systems and lens options. Now many mirrorless cameras on the market offer excellent AF performance and high burst rates, making them suitable for capturing birds in flight.

A good camera costs a fair bit of money, even at the cheaper end, but there is always the 2nd hand market.

Wildlife photographers need a camera with these features:

  1. Fast Autofocus (AF) System: Look for a camera with a fast and accurate autofocus system. Cameras with phase detection AF or hybrid AF (combining phase and contrast detection) are typically faster and more accurate for tracking moving subjects like birds.
  2. Continuous Shooting Mode: A high burst rate (frames per second) is essential. This allows you to capture multiple shots in quick succession, increasing the chances of getting that perfect shot. A rate of 6 fps (frames per second) or higher is recommended.
  3. Large Buffer: A large buffer ensures that the camera can handle several continuous shots without slowing down.
  4. High ISO Performance: Birds in flight are often photographed during the early morning or late afternoon when the light can be low. A camera that performs well at high ISO settings will allow for faster shutter speeds in these conditions without introducing too much noise.
  5. Fast Shutter Speed: To freeze the motion of a bird in flight, you’ll need a fast shutter speed. A minimum of 1/1000th of a second is often recommended, but faster speeds like 1/2000th or 1/4000th can be even better.
  6. Image Stabilization: While not a strict requirement, image stabilization (either in the camera body or the lens) can help reduce the effects of camera shake, especially when using long telephoto lenses.

I realized that I couldn’t hope to get close-up shots in flight, the birds are too quick. The only way to get an image was to pan back and crop the image. Having more megapixels allows for better sharper crops. It’s hard to get it right.

The last bridge camera I bought was only 12MP. You need about 20MP and preferably more.

If you love wildlife as much as I do, read these:

3. Penguins: Bestselling Bird Prints

The public smiles every time they see a penguin. We can’t help ourselves, can we? We project human qualities in our most beloved birds and animals and penguins fit the bill.

They are clumsy, upright, and comical on land. They waddle across the ice, hop over rocks and leap like guided missiles out of the water. Not only that, they have adorable chicks. What’s not to love?

There are so many ways to engage with their lives, especially the long treks of the Emporer penguins that nest deep in the Antarctic interior.

They cradle their eggs and young in their feet to keep them warm, both parents taking turns to care for their young while the other leaves for weeks on end to find fish for the family. These things resonate.

All penguins are hardy, plucky, and endearing on land, but when they hit the water, they transform into avian torpedos with superpowers! We love penguins for good reason.

My penguin art print sells very well. I always put it on prominent display because it makes people stop and comment. If you have ever sold anything from a market stand you’ll know the importance of a sales hook.

You must present images that evoke an immediate response. Penguins fulfill that role. They draw in the public and even if your customer buys something else, your penguin image has served its purpose.

‘Push and Shove’ A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

I saw the two penguins above in South Africa. Yes, Africa has penguins. Needless to say, they are endangered. Overfishing has destroyed fish stocks!

I reconstructed this picture by cherry-picking the most delightful poses from two photographs and merging them together. Their eyes were half closed, so I opened them wider to give the penguins some life. You’ve got to do these things to make a picture saleable.

If you visit Capetown in South Africa, hop on the train (Metro) to Simonstown, and walk down to Boulders Beach. You can see the penguins nesting on the beach and watch them swimming around. There is a public beach and you can share the space. Magical.

I’ve seen many wild penguins in different places around the world, but you don’t have to fly south. Most good zoos have a collection with viewing tanks.

4. Parrots: Bestselling Birds With Brains

Parrots are intelligent, affectionate, and entertaining. They mimic, learn tricks, and bond deeply with their owners. They are also deafening!

I get asked for parrots and most of my inquiries are for African Greys. I chose to draw a cockatoo as I find them far more attractive.

'Ruffled Feathers' A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler
‘Ruffled Feathers’ A pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler
One for the living room?

Many years ago I drew a couple of Hyacinth Macaws but I didn’t print it. Most of the parrot family have wonderful plumage, and black-and-white art doesn’t do them justice.

Hyacinth Macaws a pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler
Hyacinth Macaws a pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler

Parrots have their fans, but parrot keepers are few and far between compared to budgie owners. The most popular pet bird is the budgerigar.

If you start with any member of the parrot family, start with budgies. They are loved across the board. Love birds and cockatiels are also very popular pets. My gran always kept an aviary of budgies in the garden and loved them. She kept love birds too. Bless her.

5. Kingfishers: Charismatic Bird Art Best Sellers

I’ve been asked for Kingfisher prints many times. I haven’t drawn one because they must be colored.

Who hasn’t been excited when seeing a streak of blue dart along a riverbank? Spotting a kingfisher is one of life’s great pleasures.

Small kingfishers tend to be shy and elusive, but very distinctive. They have large heads, long pointed beaks, and short stubby tails. They tend to have striking jewel-like plumage and importantly,  they are instantly recognizable by everyone.

If you are interested in watercolor techniques for birds,
check out Sarah Stokes on Domestika

Artistic watercolor techniques for illustrating birds by Sarah Stokes
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I don’t think I have ever been on a trip where people didn’t call out as soon as a kingfisher was spotted. Everyone knows and loves kingfishers.

It’s a sign of popularity when brands appropriate an iconic species to represent their corporate identity. You’ll see kingfishers on greeting cards, T-shirts, mugs, you name it.

Here in the UK, we are familiar with our own much-loved Common European Kingfisher, although to be honest, similar blue kingfishers would be just as popular. In the States, your most common kingfisher, nationwide, is the Belted Kingfisher.

I think the blues will sell best, mostly because they feature so regularly in wildlife films and in wildlife photography. That may be cultural bias on my part, but I think it will hold true.

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6. Flamingos: Quirky and Fashionable Bird Art

I chose flamingos because flamingo motifs and designs can be found everywhere. One of my early bird art prints featured flamingos and I included it in my portfolio not knowing if anyone would like it. To my surprise, it sold quite well.

'Flamingo Trio' A pencil drawing by Kevin hayler
‘Flamingo Trio’ An Early Bird Art Print by Kevin Hayler

This drawing was very small and very simple. It wins compositionally, but it sold because so many people love flamingos.

Again it’s the collector effect. When friends and family know someone with a soft spot for a favorite bird or animal, anything with that image becomes a potential present.

I photographed these flamingos in a bird park, 30-ish years ago, with a point-and-shoot film camera. The images were tiny and that’s why I could only do a small drawing. There was no detail.

It just shows that you don’t need fancy camera gear to get started. If I came across this scene today, my cell phone would be good enough, and a damn site better than the camera I used in those days.

If you paint flamingos, the striking pink, comical poses, and almost abstract shapes will ensure that your art will attract attention.

7. Hummingbirds: Bird Art With Bling

The first time I saw a wild hummingbird I was like an excited child again. They are the gemstones of the bird world. These tiny birds, with their iridescent feathers, dart through the air, stop to hover, and reverse with an agility that seems almost otherworldly.

A Beautiful White-eared Hummingbird in Costa Rica
A Beautiful White-eared Hummingbird in Costa Rica

It’s impossible to be indifferent about hummingbirds. They are high on the list of most people’s favorite birds. North Americans are so lucky to have migrating hummingbirds visiting their garden feeders.

Any artist able to capture the charm and vibrant colors of these amazing birds will have a ready market.

Here’s a simple guide for an amateur photographer to capture a hummingbird:

  1. Location: Set up a feeder and place it next to the flowering plants they love.
  2. Time of Day: Early morning or late afternoon offers softer light, which is ideal for photography.
  3. Camera Settings:
    • Shutter Speed: Use a fast shutter speed (1/1000 sec or faster) to freeze the hummingbird’s rapid wing movement.
    • Aperture: A wider aperture (like f/4 or f/5.6) will blur the background, making the hummingbird stand out.
    • ISO: Start with a lower ISO (like 100 or 200) for less noise. Increase if the image is too dark.
  4. Use a Tripod: This stabilizes your camera, ensuring sharper images.
  5. Focus: Use tracking focus or manually focus on one known point and wait for the hummingbird to enter that space. The aim is to capture the hummingbird’s eye or head in sharp focus.
  6. Burst Mode: Turn on burst or continuous shooting mode. This lets you take multiple shots quickly, increasing the chance of getting a good one.
  7. Background: A simple or blurred background makes the hummingbird stand out. Position yourself so that the background isn’t too cluttered.
  8. Patience: This is key! Wait quietly and let the hummingbirds come to you.
  9. Practice: The more you practice, the better you’ll get at anticipating their movements.
  10. Post-Processing: Enhance your photos with editing software. Adjust brightness, contrast, and sharpness to make your hummingbird photo pop.

The other way to get shots is to freeze frame 4K video. The wings will be blurred but that’s no bad thing, it creates a dynamic sense of movement.

Painting the iridescence is no small task but if you have the skill to render shimmering light your painting will dazzle the viewer.

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bird illustration with watercolors by Antonia Reyes on Domestika

These top 7 bird art bestsellers have universal appeal to the general public across nations. I don’t suggest that they will be the most popular everywhere, there will be regional variations. These birds will grace any gallery wall and have a good chance of selling. 

Each region and country will have native birds that have local cultural significance. They might be garden birds unique to your part of the world or birds steeped in local folklore.

Here’s a BONUS for you!

10 Popular Backyard Birds in North America

These US backyard birds appear on most compilations on the web. I’ve excluded some of the most common birds if I think they are less commercial.

The following backyard birds are a safe bet:

  1. American Goldfinch
  2. American Robin
  3. Blue Jay
  4. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (East) / Anna’s and Rufous (West)
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Black-Capped Chickadee
  7. Downy Woodpecker / Hairy Woodpecker
  8. Eastern / Western Bluebird
  9. Baltimore Oriole (East) / Bullocks Oriole (West)
  10. Carolina Wren

10 Favorite British Birds to Draw or Paint

We are a nation obsessed with birds. According to the British Trust for Ornithology half of householders in the UK feed wild birds in their gardens and spend between £200 and £300 million on bird-feeding products. The market is huge.

Baby blue tit leaving the nestbox
Baby blue tit leaving the nestbox. I was there just at the right time.
I love the natural world

These are 10 loved British birds that will sell. They are not all garden birds:

  1. Robin
  2. Great tit
  3. Blue tit
  4. Goldfinch
  5. Wren
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Kingfisher
  8. Barn Owl
  9. Puffin
  10. Mute Swan

The Blackbird is loved too, mostly for their beautiful songs and nuthatches are common garden visitors. It’s a judgment call. I’ve omitted, starlings and doves and woodpeckers from the British list too. Maybe there is a market, I restricted myself to a list of 10. It’s arbitrary.

Bird Art Bestsellers: Final Thoughts

I made these lists to guide you in the right direction. You may wonder why certain birds are not included, and that’s because it’s a starter list. If I listed the top 20 and so on, you’d be confused. Too much choice is a bad thing.

If you want to enter the bird niche, these are 7 bread-and-butter subjects. Once you are more experienced with your market you can move on. I haven’t mentioned wildfowl and there is undoubtedly a market for ducks and geese.

Nor have I mentioned the hunting and shooting set. Personally, it’s not an area I wish to enter, but if you are happy to serve that market, game birds are a profitable niche.

So too are raptors. I didn’t even mention hawks. Peregrine falcons and kestrels will sell.

If you are a bird lover, the birdwatching market is an industry, and full of potential. One word of warning, if you choose to go after bird enthusiasts you must do your homework.

If you sit your beautiful bird in the wrong type of tree, or with the wrong number of primary feathers, your potential buyers will notice!

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7 Bird art bestsellers. Use these tips to make money

The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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