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Snow Lark Bunting

Snow Lark Bunting, Plate 15, 1840-1844, John James Audubon (American, 1785-1851), Lithograph, from Birds of America first octavo edition, Philadelphia, Gift of Ardath and Joel Rynning, 1996.5.122.

John James Audubon, the most well-known natural history illustrator of all time, produced first produced a life-size “double elephant folio” edition of the famous The Birds of America. While among the largest and most respected collection of bird illustrations ever published, the book was expensive and struggled to sell well. A tireless entrepreneur, he reduced the original prints to an eighth of their size for the octavo edition, which was manufactured using the inexpensive lithographic printing process seen here.

This print depicts what is now known as the Snow-bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis). In the winter, the birds flock in the hundreds across Canada and the US. They breed in the Arctic in the summer, where their white plumage blends in with the snowy landscape. However, in the winter they acquire rusty tones seen here, which help them blend in with their winter homes of barren fields.