Some time ago I started to create a simple animation of bird wings, just to remind myself how they work. I worked on it in my free time, and it grew from something simple to something quite neat, so I decided to create a mini tutorial out of it. I also created a PSD file that you can use as a template for your own work. Scroll down to find the link and the rules of use.

How to Animate Bird Wings

To animate bird wings you need to know how they’re constructed, and what they do. You can learn both these things in my older tutorial How to Draw and Animate Wings: Birds, Bats, and More. Here’s I’ll focus on the essentials only.


The bird straightens its wings over its back and starts pushing the air down. The wings are like flat planes at this point. The “arm” part is stiffer than the “hand” part.



Everything was obvious until this point. Here the bird starts pushing a little forward. Usually, the bigger the bird, the farther it reaches. So the flight is not really a simple flapping up and down. If the bird has slotted primaries, their tips may be pushed by the moving air.


After the “arms” have nothing more to push (the bigger the bird, the shallower the downstroke) , the bird drags them back up. To stop them from pushing the air on the way up, it keeps them close to the body. But wait, there’s one more thing going onβ€”the “hands” still keep pushing down and forward as long as they can, even as the whole wings are dragged up!

Only when the arms are close to their straightened position the hands go back, slowly expanding over the back. They expand like a fan, to keep them from pushing up.

Spreading the individual feathers can help break air resistance as well.

Finally, the bird straightens the wings up. The smaller the bird, the deeper over the back it will drag them at this point.

Wings Animation Template

Here’s a PSD template that you can use to add animated wings to your own bird or any other creature (just keep in mind these are big to medium size wings). It’s free for non-commercial use:

Download Wings Animation Template Here

Rules of use:

  • Non-commercial use only
  • Credit me with a link to one of my social sites (or this blog)
  • Don’t upload the template anywhere for any reason