AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851)
Spotted or Canada Grouse [Spruce Grouse]
[Pl. 176] London: R. Havell, 1833. Hand-coloured engraving with aquatint and etching. Paper watermarked "J.Whatman/1836." Two very small neatly repaired marginal tears. Fine gilt frame. Sheet size: 37 3/4 x 25 3/8 inches.
A fine image from the Havell elephant folio first edition of Audubon's Birds of America.
A group of two male and two female Spruce Grouse are shown on the edge of undergrowth that includes painted trillium and twisted-stalk. They all look warily about and the male in the foreground takes fright at an imagined danger. Peterson writes: "Audubon went to the state of Maine to observe the habits of this secretive grouse and, although he succeeded, the task, he admitted, was perhaps as severe as any he ever undertook. 'These breeding grounds,' he wrote, 'I cannot better describe than by telling you that the larch forests, which are there called `Hackmetack Woods,' are as difficult to traverse as the most tangled swamp of Labrador. We sunk at every step or two up to the waist, our legs stuck in the mire and our bodies squeezed between the dead trunks and branches of trees, the minute leaves of which insinuated among my clothes, and nearly blinded me. We saved our guns from injury, however, and seeing some of the Spruce Partridge before they perceived us, we procured several specimens'" (R. T. & V. M. Peterson, Audubon's Birds of America, London: 1981, no.118).
Susanne M. Low, A Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, New Haven & New York: 2002, p.113.