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John James Audubon (1785-1851)

John James Audubon (1785-1851)

Item Description:

John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Ruffed Grous[e] (No. 9, Plate 41), 1828 hand-colored engraving and aquatint, sheet size 25 1/2 by 38 1/2 in. "Drawn from Nature & Published by J.J. Audubon F.R.S.E. F.L.S. M.W.S." lower left "Engraved by R. Havell. Jun. Printed & Coloured by R. Havell. Sen. London. 1828" lower right on J. Whatman Turkey Mill watermarked paper

Audubon writes extensively about the habits and habitats of the Ruffed Grouse, “Although these birds are particularly attached to the craggy sides of mountains and hills, and the rocky borders of rivers and small streams, thickly mantled with evergreen trees and small shrubs of the same nature, they at times remove to low lands, and even enter the thickest cane-brakes, where they also sometimes breed.”

“The shooting of Grouse of this species is precarious, and at times very difficult, on account of the nature of the places which they usually prefer. Should, for instance, a covey of these birds be raised from amongst Laurels (Kalmia latifolia) or the largest species of Bay (Rhododendron maximum), these shrubs so intercept the view of them, that, unless the sportsman proves quite an adept in the difficult art of pulling the trigger of his gun at the proper moment, and quickly, his first chance is lost, and the next is very uncertain.”

“When our mountains are covered with a profusion of huckleberries and whortleberries, about the beginning of September, then is the time for shooting this species, and enjoying the delicious food which it affords.”

Audubon puts forth close observations of their behavior, reporting “The flight of the Ruffed Grouse is straight-forward, rather low, unless when the bird has been disturbed, and seldom protracted beyond a few hundred yards at a time…I have said this much respecting the
flight of Grouse, because it is a prevalent opinion, both among sportsmen and naturalists, that the whirring sound produced by birds of that genus, is a necessary effect of their usual mode of flight. But that this is an error, I have abundantly satisfied myself by numberless observations.”

“The Ruffed Grouse, on alighting upon a tree, after being raised from the ground, perches amongst the thickest parts of the foliage, and, assuming at once an erect attitude, stands perfectly still, and remains silent until all appearance of danger has vanished. If discovered when thus perched, it is very easily shot.”

Audubon was so enamored of the sporting value of the Ruffed Grouse that he proposed introducing it to the United Kingdom, saying, “The size of these birds, the beauty of their plumage, the excellence of their flesh, and their peculiar mode of flying, would render them valuable, and add greatly to the interest of the already diversified sports of that country.”

Provenance: Private Collection, Pennsylvania

Literature: John James Audubon, “Ruffed Grouse,” Audubon Society, accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.


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John James Audubon (1785-1851)

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