Bird Brain

John James Audubon ornithologist
John James Audubon ornithologist

January 27, 1857
John James Audubon Died

When John James Audubon died on January 27, 1851, bird lovers around the world felt the loss. An ornithologist (person who studies birds), artist, and naturalist, Audubon was born in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue (Haiti), in 1785 and began drawing birds when he was very young. Birds continued to fascinate him for the rest of his life.

As an adult, Audubon traveled as far south as the Florida Keys as well as north to Labrador, Canada, studying and drawing birds all along the way. He could draw any bird, down to the tiniest detail. And, lucky for us, he drew and painted hundreds of them.

Audubon liked to draw birds their actual size. He drew a hummingbird as small as a real hummingbird and an eagle as large as a real eagle. Master engravers in England were able to make 435 reproductions of his drawings for the book “Birds of America.” Many of the drawings in the book are life-size. The first edition is known as the “elephant folio” because it is so big. In fact, it’s the largest book in the Library of Congress, at 39.37 inches high. Is there a bird or animal that you would like to draw? If you drew it life-size, would it fit on a single sheet of paper?