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Audubon’s Rifle

Audubon’s Rifle: The story behind the making of Audubon’s bird paintings, drawn from Audubon’s own writings, revealing the path of destruction he and his friends left in the wilderness

People are mesmerized by Audubon’s bird paintings that show seemingly living birds in their habitat. Actually, almost every bird he painted was dead. Audubon shot it, and arranged its dead body on a wire rig to make it look alive. As he reports in his Ornithological Biography books, he shot not only the birds he needed for painting, but many more. He took pleasure in shooting large quantities of birds, and often did so. He shot birds for target practice. The sufferings of birds when shot, or their fierce resistance, left him unmoved. His books freely dispense advice on how to hunt and kill birds. He killed brooding birds, destroyed nests, and stole eggs.  He had trees chopped down to get nests. He killed hatchlings, fledglings, and young birds. He ate large numbers of birds and eggs of many species, including owls, eagles, woodpeckers, herons, Whooping Cranes, songbirds, and sandpipers. He preferred young birds because they were tastier. His own writings render Audubon unfit as a patron saint of bird conservation. His methods were so rapacious that even hunters could not adopt his name today.

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