JoN JAMZ oDUBoN
oLMOST eVuREWuN iZ FuMiLYuR WiX xu NasuNuL oDUBoN SOSIeTE, u BeNeVOLeNT
ORGaNIZAsuN xaT PROMOTS BuRDWoCing aND WILDLIF KoNSuRVAsuN. SuRPRIZingLE,
oLMOST NO WuN iZ FuMiLYuR WiX xu MaN FOR HUM xiS ORGaNIZAsuN iZ NAMD. WuN MIT
XinK xaT HE WuZ u KIND aND JeNTL MaN WiX u SPesuL uFeKsuN FOR BuRDZ. NuXing
KwD BE FuRxuR FRuM xu TRUX. iN REaLiTE, JoN JAMZ oDUBoN WuZ u RUXLeS KiLuR HU
WuZ RESPoNSiBL FOR xu BRUTuL SLAingZ uV HuNDReDZ, MABE EVeN XQZaNDZ, uV
Almost everyone is familiar with the National Audubon Society, a benevolent
organization that promotes birdwatching and wildlife conservation.
Surprisingly, almost no one is familiar with the man for whom this
organization is named. One might think that he was a kind and gentle man with
a special affection for birds. Nothing could be further from the truth. In
reality, John James Audubon was a ruthless killer who was responsible for the
brutal slayings of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of innocent birds.
iN HiZ BwK, BuRDZ uV uMeRiKu, oDUBoN sAMLeSLE REKQNTeD HORiFiK aKTS uV
KRULTE COMiTeD uGeNST eVRE KiND uV BuRD iMaJiNuBL. HE OPeNLE aDMiTeD TU
TORCuRing aND KiLing eVREXing FRuM SPeROZ aND WwDPeKuRZ TU SWoNZ aND EGLZ.
EVeN xu NasuNuL eMBLeM uV xu YUNITeD STATS, xu BoLD EGL, KwD NoT eSKAP
oDUBoNZ VisuS KiLing SPREZ.
In his book, Birds of America, Audubon shamelessly recounted horrific
acts of cruelty committed against every kind of bird imaginable. He openly
admitted to torturing and killing everything from sparrows and woodpeckers to
swans and eagles. Even the national emblem of the United States, the bald
eagle, could not escape Audubon's vicious killing sprees.
SuM MIT oRGYU xaT oDUBoN KiLD FOR u LeJiTiMuT REZuN: TU KOLeKT SPeSiMeNZ FOR
HiZ PANTingZ. HQeVuR, oDUBoN KuMPLAND xaT MeNE BuRDZ CANJ KuLuR aFTuR DeX,
MAKing xeM PwR SuBJeKTS FOR PANTing. iT iZ MOR LIKLE xaT oDUBoN KiLD FOR
PLezuR aND u PuRVuRS FELing uV PQuR. HE REPETeDLE BRaGD uBQT xu NuMBuR uV
BuRDZ HE WuZ ABL TU sUT iN u DA. SuMTIMZ HiZ ORJEZ uV KoRNuJ WwD KLAM DuZeNZ
uV LIVZ iN u SinGL MORNing. iN WuN iNSTuNS, u MuxuR BuRD TRID TU KeRE HuR
YunG TU SAFTE aFTuR oDUBoN HaD soT aT xeM. oDUBoN KLAMD TU FEL KuMPasuN FOR
xeM, BuT HiZ XuRST FOR BLuD WuZ SO GRAT xaT HE KiLD BOX xu MuxuR aND HuR
Some might argue that Audubon killed for a legitimate reason: to collect
specimens for his paintings. However, Audubon complained that many birds
change color after death, making them poor subjects for painting. It is more
likely that Audubon killed for pleasure and a perverse feeling of power. He
repeatedly bragged about the number of birds he was able to shoot in a day.
Sometimes his orgies of carnage would claim dozens of lives in a single
morning. In one instance, a mother bird tried to carry her young to safety
after Audubon had shot at them. Audubon claimed to feel compassion for them,
but his thirst for blood was so great that he killed both the mother and her
WeN oDUBoNZ ViKTiMZ WuR uNFORCUNuT ENuF TU SuRVIV, HE WwD TORMeNT xeM WiX
DIuBoLiKuL eKSPeRiMeNTS aND MeTiKYULuSLE REKORD xu DETALZ uV xeR SuFuRing.
WUNDeD BuRDZ WuR RUTENLE PRoDeD WiX STiKS TU SE HQ xA WwD REaKT. BuRDZ HU
TRID TU eSKAP xiS TORCuR WuR LABuLD aZ "KQuRDLE" iN HiZ NOTS. KaPCuRD BuRDZ
WuR oFeN SToRVD TU SE HQ Long xA KwD LiV WiXQT FUD. SuMTIMZ BuRDZ uV DiFuReNT
SPESEZ WwD BE KuNFIND TUGexuR iN u SMoL KAJ uNTiL xA BEGaN TU KiL WuN uNuxuR.
oDUBoN TwK SuC DELIT iN xEZ uBYUSeZ xaT HE iZ PRoBuBLE BeST DESKRIBD aZ xu
JOSeF MenGeLu uV ORNiXoLOJE.
When Audubon's victims were unfortunate enough to survive, he would torment
them with diabolical experiments and meticulously record the details of their
suffering. Wounded birds were routinely prodded with sticks to see how they
would react. Birds who tried to escape this torture were labeled as
"cowardly" in his notes. Captured birds were often starved to see how long
they could live without food. Sometimes birds of different species would be
confined together in a small cage until they began to kill one another.
Audubon took such delight in these abuses that he is probably best described
as the Josef Mengele of ornithology.
PuRHaPS xu MOST QTRAJuS KASeZ uV uBYUS iNVoLV xu REVERD eMBLeM uV xu YUNITeD
STATS, xu BoLD EGL. oDUBoN KuNFeST TU KiLing SeVuRuL uV xEZ MaGNiFiSeNT
BuRDZ. HE soT WuN FEMAL WIL sE WuZ KeRing FOR HuR PResuS eGZ. aFTuR BLaSTing
HuR FRuM xu NeST, oDUBoN PROSEDeD TU BRAK OPeN HuR eGZ aND KiL xu DEFeNSLeS
CiKS. uNuxuR BoLD EGL WuZ soT iN xu Wing aND KaPCuRD. xiS WuN WuZ TID TU xu
DeK uV oDUBoNZ BOT FOR HiZ uMYUZMeNT. iT LanGWisT xeR FOR XRE DAZ, aND WeN iT
BEKAM TU MuC uV u NUSuNS, iT WuZ KiLD aND uNSeReMONEuSLE ToST OVuRBORD.
oDUBoN oLSO KaPCuRD XRE BoLD EGL CiKS BI HaKing DQN xu ANCeNT TRE iN WiC xeR
NeST WuZ FQND. xu FAT uV xEZ XRE iZ uNON, BuT xA WuR MOST LIKLE TORCuRD aND
KiLD LIK xE uxuRZ.
Perhaps the most outrageous cases of abuse involve the revered emblem of the
United States, the bald eagle. Audubon confessed to killing several of these
magnificent birds. He shot one female while she was caring for her precious
eggs. After blasting her from the nest, Audubon proceeded to break open her
eggs and kill the defenseless chicks. Another bald eagle was shot in the wing
and captured. This one was tied to the deck of Audubon's boat for his
amusement. It languished there for three days, and when it became too much of
a nuisance, it was killed and unceremoniously tossed overboard. Audubon also
captured three bald eagle chicks by hacking down the ancient tree in which
their nest was found. The fate of these three is unknown, but they were most
likely tortured and killed like the others.
xEZ oR ONLE xu KASeZ REPORTeD BI oDUBoN HiMSeLF. iT iZ PRoBuBL xaT MeNE MOR
BuRDZ WuR SLAN, PoSiBLE uNDeR EVeN MOR HORiFIing SuRKuMSTaNSeZ xaN xOZ
DESKRIBD HER. iN u SiKeNing FwTNOT TU xEZ STOREZ, oDUBoN DEKLeRD xaT xu BoLD
EGL HaD BiN u PwR CqS aZ xE eMBLeM uV xu YUNITeD STATS, BEKoZ iT WuZ, iN HiZ
OPiNYuN, u KQuRDLE BuRD.
These are only the cases reported by Audubon himself. It is probable that
many more birds were slain, possibly under even more horrifying circumstances
than those described here. In a sickening footnote to these stories, Audubon
declared that the bald eagle had been a poor choice as the emblem of the
United States, because it was, in his opinion, a cowardly bird.