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image for Audubon paints the flamingo in the Florida Keys and Key West

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

 

 

 

 

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AUDUBON IN THE FLORIDA KEYS


 

 

INDEX

  
AUDUBON


INDIAN KEY
1832


CORMORANT


ROSEATE
TERN


GRAY
KINGBIRD


REDDISH
EGRET


LOUISIANA
HERON


SANDY KEY


WHITE IBIS


WILLET

 
ZENAIDA
DOVE


WHITE
CROWNED
PIGEON


THE AUDUBON HOUSE IN
KEY WEST


AUDUBON'S
KEY WEST


KEY WEST AFTER
AUDUBON


ROSEATE
SPOONBILL


GREAT
WHITE
HERON


GREAT
BLUE
HERON


KEY WEST
DOVE


FLAMINGOS


BLUE-
HEADED
QUAIL DOVE


FRIGATE BIRD


BROWN
PELICAN


MANGROVE
CUCKOO


TORTUGAS


SOOTY
TERN


BLACK
HEADED GULL


BROWN
NODDY


CAYENNE
TERN


BROWN
BOOBY


SANDWICH
TERN


NIGHT
HERON


GREENSHANK


GREAT
MARBLED
GODWIT


MANGO
HUMMING-
BIRD


TROPIC
BIRD




BIRDING

LODGING


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John Audubon first sees Flamingos near Indian Key  

map of Florida Keys and Key West

 

 Audubon painting of Flamingos from Birds of America
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  

 

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Click Here for information on a 27.5" x 18.8" Flamingo print
Click Here for 24" x 15.8" Flamingo print

 

May 7, 1832 - Audubon first saw Flamingos while sailing near Indian Key, and was anxious to obtain a specimen from which to make a painting. Unable to shoot one he was unable to sketch one while in the Florida Keys.

While in London, England he wrote several times asking his friend John Bachman, a Lutheran minister in Charleston, South Carolina, for a specimen.  In 1838 he obtained specimens from Cuba. The print above is based on that painting.


 Flamingos

The Flamingo is mainly a Caribbean bird but frequents the tropical Florida Keys. Its unusual shaped bill acts as a filtering mechanism for trapping food. The bright red orange color of its plumage comes from consuming carotene in the form of shrimp.

Part of what Audubon writes in his Ornithological Biography, Volume. V, pages 255 to 257 appears below:

"On the 7th of May 1832, while sailing from Indian Key, ... I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. it was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the county, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun now far advanced toward the horizon, still shown with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quiet beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed flakes of snow margined with gold. our bark was propelled almost as if by magic, for scarcely was a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in "Indian Line," with well speard wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast! I thought that I had now reached the height of my expectations, for my voyage to the Floridas was undertaken in a great measure for the purpose of studying these lovely birds in their own beautiful islands. "

 

"When I reached Key West, my first inquiries, addressed to Dr. Benjamin Strobel, had reference to the Flamingoes, and I felt gratified by learning he had killed a good number of them, and that he would assist us in procuring some. As on that Key they are fond of resorting to the shallow ponds formerly kept there as reservoirs of water, for the purpose of making salt, we visited them at different times, but always without success . . . "

" . . . Their walk is stately and slow, and their cautiousness extreme, so that it is difficult to approach them, as their great height enables them to see and watch the movements of their various enemies at a distance. . . . "

"The flamingo's highly specialized manner of feeding is as noteworthy as its dramatic coloring.  The bird plunges its head underwater upside down, then with the upper bill of its sickle-shaped beak serving as a dredge and the tongue as a sieve, it scoops small shellfish from the bottom of shallow lagoons."  

 



FLAMINGOS IN FLIGHT

 

Flamingo photo courtesy of South Florida Water Management District
CLICK on image for larger representation

 

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

 


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