12 Great Writers on 12 Great American Birds

From Thoreau to Whitman to Muir, the Very Best Bird-Related Writing

The following passages are from American Birds: A Literary Companionedited by Andrew Rubenfeld and Terry Tempest Williams.

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur“On the Humming Bird” (1782)

“On this little bird nature has profusely lavished her most splendid colours; the most perfect azure, the most beautiful gold, the most dazzling red, are for ever in contrast, and help to embellish the plumes of his majestic head. The richest pallet of the most luxuriant painter, could never invent any thing to be compared to the variegated tints, with which this insect bird is arrayed.”

John James Audubon, “Ivory-billed Woodpecker” (1838)

“The flight of [the Ivory-billed Woodpecker] is graceful in the extreme, although seldom prolonged to more than a few hundred yards at a time, unless when it has to cross a large river, which it does in deep undulations, opening its wings at first to their full extent, and nearly closing them to renew the propelling impulse. The transit from one tree to another, even should the distance be as much as a hundred yards, is performed by a single sweep, and the bird appears as if merely swinging itself from the top of the one tree to that of the other, forming an elegantly curbed line. At this moment all the beauty of the plumage is exhibited, and strikes the beholder with pleasure.” Continue reading