Audubon’s “Bird of Washington”

July 24, 2018
New Scholarship from Beinecke Library’s Morris Tyler Family Collection of John James Audubon By E. Bennett Jones (Northwestern University), Visiting Graduate Student Fellow at the Beinecke Library, July 2018: The Indians Say’: Settler Colonialism and the Scientific Study of Animals in America, 1722 to 1860.
E. Bennett Jones writes: In 1828 famed artist and ornithologist John James Audubon published a description of the “eagle of Washington” (Falco washingtonii), a new bird species that he was the first to formally name. Despite Audubon’s fame and accomplishments, this discovery was met with controversy. Other leading naturalists questioned if the eagle of Washington truly existed, given that it was allegedly larger than the bald eagle and exceedingly rare. John Bachman, Audubon’s closest friend and scientific collaborator, assured Audubon in an 1837 letter that “I think pretty well established” the eagle of Washington was in fact a new species pointing to “Louis [sic] & Clark,” “the naturalists in the Long Expedition,” and “the Indians” as sources that corroborated Audubon’s claim (John Bachman to John James Audubon, 24 April 1837, Box 3, Folder 84, Morris Tyler Family Collection of John James Audubon. General Collection. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)…READ MORE