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Happy Birthday, John James Audubon!

Great egret

John James Audubon’s 224th birthday falls on April 26—just four days after Earth Day. That the two happen within a one-week span seems almost karmic—Audubon spent the better part of six decades making environmental strides long before conservation was trendy. He banded birds, catalogued and drew hundreds of avian and mammal species, even offered early warnings about the dangers of mistreating our planet. Celebrate with us as we look back at the man who lent his name to a movement—and this magazine.

Audubon Illustrations
Click on the images below to see larger versions.


Shooting Audubon,” March-April 2007, by Ken Chowder
Writer Ken Chowder and filmmaker Larry Hott travel to Louisiana to shoot a section of their documentary John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature. Chowder recounts the thrill of being in a place so connected to his subject, and the challenge of keeping the film historically accurate. 

 “Where It All Began,” November-December 2004, by Frank Graham Jr.
In 1803 an 18-year-old Audubon started his American adventures at Mill Grove, a rural farm in Pennsylvania. Today that land is home to an Audubon center and a museum, and more than 175 species of birds have been seen on the site.

Undiscovered Audubon,” September-October 1999, by Les Line
Audubon set out to paint and write about every bird in North America. In the late 1990s a Harvard scholar discovered a never-published Audubon drawing of an eastern phoebe and an Acadian flycatcher, dated 1811.

Books About Audubon

Art of the Wild,” September-October 2008, by Julie Leibach
Audubon: Early Drawings offers more than 100 bird and mammal images from the early stages of Audubon’s career, before he produced his seminal Birds of America.

Portraits of a Legend,” November-December 2004, by Fred Baumgarten
A review of three biographies about Audubon: John James Audubon: The Making of an American, by Richard Rhodes; Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America, by William Souder; and Audubon’s Elephant: America’s Greatest Naturalist and the Making of The Birds of America, by Duff Hart-Davis.

 “New Writings from Old Masters,” January-February 2000, by Christopher Camuto
This short review of Writings & Drawings, a compilation of Audubon writings, includes entries from several of the artist’s journals and his book Ornithological Biography.


Taking Flight,” May-June 2007, by Julie Leibach
From mid-2007 through early 2009 the American Museum of Natural History in New York City displayed oil paintings, watercolors, and lithographs of mammals by Audubon and his two sons. Across the street, the New York Historical Society offered its annual themed exhibit showcasing 40 of Audubon’s watercolors.

Bird Banding in History,” July-August 1998, by Catherine Lazaroff
Early records show that Audubon was the first to band birds in North America. Read about his place in the history of this practice.
Parlez-vous Audubon? May-June 1997, by Mary-Powel Thomas
A group of families in western France try to use the John James Audubon name to win permanent protection for a local marsh frequented by the famous naturalist when he was a young man.

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