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Winter Falcon

Winter Falcon, Plate 35, 1808-1813, hand-colored lithograph, from Alexander Wilson’s “American Ornithology,” 7 volumes. Gift of David Fox. 2009.10.4

Alexander Wilson, born in 1766, grew up in Paisley, Scotland, the child of an illiterate distiller. Wilson’s mother died when he was only ten, and he became a weaver, writer of satirical poems, and political rabble-rouser inspired by the French and American Revolutions. Later, Wilson immigrated to the newborn United States in 1794 and tried several professions before going on to become the father of American ornithology, whose gorgeous 9-volume set was considered a touchstone of every patriotic American library. This hand-colored lithograph from the original edition was of a Winter Falcon, now known as a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a raptor that hunts in dense woodlands and often decorates its nest with sprigs of evergreens.