April 8th is “Draw a Bird Day” so our Tea Time feature this month will be John James Audubon, one of the most famous bird artists in the world.
“Draw a Bird Day” began in 1943, when a 7 year old girl, Dorie Cooper, visited her wounded uncle in the hospital. He had lost his right leg in the war, and young Dorie tried to cheer him up by asking him to draw her a picture of a bird. Her uncle obliged, drawing her a picture of a robin. You can read more about the origins of Draw a Bird Day here. Today, it is celebrated as a way to express joy in the very simplest of things in life and as a way to help soldiers everywhere forget war and suffering even if only for a short time.
John James Audubon was born on April 26, 1785 in the French colony of Santo Domingo, an island in the Caribbean. He then moved to France and was homeschooled by his naval officer father during most of his youth. He preferred learning the ways of nature to sitting at a desk, and spent many hours each day exploring the woods and fields, collecting eggs, nests, or specimen plants, and drawing pictures of his findings. In 1802 John James’ father, Jean, sent him to America, in part to avoid the Napoleonic Wars. There he lived on a 284-acre homestead in Mill Creek, Pennsylvania, a place he considered a paradise with its abundant wildlife. Audubon set about to study birds, record information about them, and draw pictures of them.
Early on, Audubon chose to work primarily with watercolors. He then added colored chalk and pastel. He drew most of his birds life size, and smaller species were usually drawn with branches, berries, fruit and flowers. His illustrations usually included more than one bird, each in a different position to give various views of their anatomy. He frequently depicted the birds’ nests and eggs, and occasionally natural predators, such as snakes. He usually illustrated male and female variations, and sometimes juveniles. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed.
Audubon died in New York on January 27, 1851.
The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies, a lovely picture book about the childhood adventures of John James Audubon. You can see Jen’s complete review here and a Free Unit Study for the book here.
John James Audubon, Wildlife Artist by Peter Anderson, an easy yet informative chapter book filled with photos of Audubon’s homes and artwork.
Free mini book about Audubon excerpted from Children’s Stories in American Literature
Your own drawings of birds!
1. Set up a bird feeder where you can observe the birds without disturbing them.
2. It may be easier to first photograph the birds you see.
3. With sketchbook and pencils in hand, start drawing!
4. Encourage someone near you to draw a bird too.
Record what you learn about John James Audubon on:
To extend your study of birds:
Visit Homeschool Share’s Birds Connections Page for Free Unit Studies, book lists, and project ideas.
For a tea time treat make: