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image for Audubon paints the brown booby in the Florida Keys and Key West

A Guide to John Audubon's visit to the Florida Keys 

 

 

 

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1832


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BROWN
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John Audubon visits the Tortugas
and observes the Brown Booby

 

map of Florida Keys and Key West

 

Booby Island in the Dry Tortugas on May 14, 1832 - Brown Booby


 

Booby Gannet

Audubon painting of Brown Booby from Birds of America

(Brown Booby)

Above image from Historical Museum of Southern Florida - Audubon images at the Historical Museum website were produced from prints of an original Elephant Folio belonging to the museum. http://www.historical-museum.org/collect/audubon/audubon.htm) See Audubon House  

 

Audubon painted the Brown Booby while in the Dry Tortugas on May 14, 1832. The background thought to be Indian Key was painted by Lehman.

 Part of what Audubon writes in his Ornithological Biography, Volume. III, appears below:

 

" As the Marion was nearing the curious islets of the Tortugas, one of the birds that more particularly attracted my notice was ofd this species. the nearer we approached the land, the more numerous did they become, and I felt delighted with the hope that ere many days should elapse, I should have an opportunity of studying their habits."

"As night drew her sombre curtain over the face of nature, some of these birds [boobies] alighted on the top-yard of our bark, and I observed ever afterwards that they manifested a propensity to roost at as great a height as possible above the surrounding objects . . . The first that was shot at, was approached with considerable difficulty: it had alighted on the prong of a tree which had floated and been fastened to the bottom of a rocky shallow at some distance from shore; the water was about four feet deep and quite rough; sharks we well knew were abundant around us; but the desire to procure the bird was too strong to be overcome by such obstacles. In an instant the pilot and myself were over the sides of the boat, and onward we proceeded with our guns cocked and ready. . . . after we had struggled about a hundred yards through the turbulent waters, my companion raised his gun and fired; but the bird flew away with a broken leg and we saw no more of it that day."

"About eight miles to the north-east of the Tortugas Light-house, lies a small sand-bar a few acres in extent, called Booby Island, on account of the number of birds of this species that resort to it during breeding-season and to it we accordingly went. . . . The island was covered with their dung, the odour of which extended to a considerable distance leeward. . . . Their note is harsh and guttural. somewhat like that of a strangled pig, resembling the syllables hork, hork.""

"I am unable to find a good reason for those who have chosen to call these birds boobies. Authors, it is true, generally represent them as extremely stupid; but to me the word is utterly inapplicable to any bird with which I am acquainted. The Woodcock, too, is said to be stupid, as are many other birds; but my opinion, founded on pretty extensive observation, is, that it is only when birds of any species are unacquainted with man, that they manifest that kind of ignorance or innocence which he calls stupidity, . . . A little acquaintance with him soon enables them to perceive enough of his character to induce them to keep aloof. . . . After my first visit to Booby Island in the Tortugas, the Gannets had already become very shy and wary, and before the Marion sailed away from those peaceful retreats of the wandering sea-birds, the Boobies had become so knowing, that the most expert of our party could not get within shot of them."

 

 

 

 

 Additional information about the brown booby may be found by following this link to eNature.com

 

 


 

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