John James Audubon was born in 1785 in a little country known as Haiti. As a baby he moved to France, I’m assuming with some help, and lived there until he was 18, when he emigrated to the United States. I’m guessing this is like 1803 due to math.
You have heard of the society named for him, it’s called the Audubon Society, and it has something to do with bird conversation or bird watching or a combination of those two things — I don’t feel like searching for it. I’ve never been a bird person, per se, but I have grown an appreciative fondness for them.
In the year 1835, Audubon wrote an essay called “The Passenger Pigeon” which was about the Passenger Pigeon, a bird that later became extinct. In this piece, he details his experience researching, studying, and following the bird, of which at that time there were hundreds of millions of them in North America.
They have been extinct since 1914. The last one died, coincidentally, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The striking part of his essay, which is truly from another time in history, is the absurdly merciless slaughter of these birds in mind-boggling number. He describes scenes of hundreds of men and boys lining rivers to shoot them down when they fly by, killing “fifty dozens” at a time.
Reading it with the benefit of time I find a sadness just out of his reach — he cannot know that they would be so efficiently eradicated from this earth. Indeed, he ends the piece by sayin they often quadruple in number every year. He underestimates man’s propensity for killing and ruthless extraction of a resource that is easily wrought.
Well. If you want to learn more about a bird that could fly literally sixty miles an hour and would travel hundreds of miles a day, please read “The Passenger Pigeon” by John James Audubon.
I own a little bit of property down in a rural part of Kentucky, and one thing that I have learned while learning about the land and the woods and the animals there is that having a lot of birds is a sign of a healthy natural ecosystem. When you have a good variety of food-producing foliage like trees and bushes, it attracts birds, it attracts small animals, it attracts larger apex predators. I have developed an appreciation for birds in this sense, as having many of them around validates nature in some way.