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image for Audubon paints the great marbled godwit in the Florida Keys and Key West

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AUDUBON


INDIAN KEY
1832


CORMORANT


ROSEATE
TERN


GRAY
KINGBIRD


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EGRET


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HERON


SANDY KEY


WHITE IBIS


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THE AUDUBON HOUSE IN
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AUDUBON'S
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KEY WEST AFTER
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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
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John Audubon visits Sandy Key
and paints the Great Marbled Godwit

 

map of Florida Keys and Key West

May 31, 1832 - Sandy Key - Great Marbled Godwit


 

Great Marbled Godwit

 

Audubon painting of Great Marbled Godwit from Birds of America

 

The bird in the foreground seen standing on one leg was drawn at Sandy Key on May 31, 1832. The godwit like all shorebirds will rest with a leg pulled up. Records show that the bird viewed preening in the background was previously rendered by Audubon while traveling in Louisiana in 1821. Godwits are similar to Curlews, but their bill is straight or curved upward slightly. Their bird calls are also different making them distinguishable from curlews.

 Part of what Audubon writes in his Ornithological Biography, Volume. III, pages 287 to 288 appears below:

"This fine bird is found during winter on all the large muddy flats of the coast of Florida that are intermixed with beds of raccoon oysters. ... While feeding, it probes the mud and wet sand, often plunging its bill to its whole length, in the manner of the Common snipe and d the Woodcock. It is fond of the small crabs called fiddlers, many of which it obtains both by probing the burrows, and running after them along the edges of the salt meadows and marshes." . . .

". . . Toward the middle,of the day, the separate flocks come together, assembling on some large sand-bar, where they remain for hours, trimming their plumage, after which many of them continue some time motionless, standing on one leg. . . . "

. . . "On the 31st of May 1832, I saw an immense number of these birds on an extensive mud-bar bordering one of the Keys of Florida ( Sandy Key ), about six miles south of Cape Sable. When I landed with my party, the whole, amounting to some thousands, collected .... Four or five guns were fired at once, and the slaughter was such, that I was quite satisfied with the number obtained, both for specimens and for food. ... Those which we killed were plump, and afforded excellent eating. I was much surprised to find these Godwits so far south, but next morning, when none where to be seen excepting those wounded birds which we had not pursued, I concluded that the flock, which was the largest I had seen, had merely alighted there for the day."

Audubon's viewing of "some thousands" of godwits may have been extraordinary. Today the Godwit rarely frequents the East and their migration is toward the Gulf of California. The Godwit nests in the central prairie lands of North America and winters in Central America. From Audubon's description, it would seem during Audubon's time the Godwit population was more extensive and ranged more extensively along the Gulf Of Mexico and Atlantic Coast.

 

 

 

 
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