Google Doodle Celebrates Audubon: Birds of America Ornithologist

Google Doodle’s are widely enjoyed the world over and often mark special events, birthdays or anniversaries. Recent examples we’ve told you about include one to celebrate Earth Day and another for the inventor of the steam locomotive, Richard Trevithick. Today’s Google Doodle though celebrates what would have been the 226th birthday of John James Audubon, the great ornithologist and naturalist, famous for “Birds of America.”

This accomplished book was a real first, had a huge impact and is regarded today as one of the major literary achievements of the 19th century. In fact as recently as 2010 a copy of this landmark in publishing sold at Sotheby’s in London for around £7.3 million according to Wikipedia, that’s around $12 million. Suffice to say that when I worked in an antiquarian bookshop we often hoped that somebody would walk in with this masterpiece and we could enlighten them as to its true value. Sadly that never happened!

Audubon was a French-American ornithologist born on April 26, 1785 in Saint Dominique (Haiti) and died aged 65 in New York. The Google Doodle itself is a simple design of various birds on branches, and the spaces between the birds spell out the word Google although we admit that’s pretty hard to spot. The 435 life-size illustrations for “Birds of America” were hand-painted by Audubon himself and engraved on copper plates and are world-renowned and the book listed 700 North American birds, according to Wikipedia.

A point of interest is that the book cost over $100,000 to print, that’s a massive $2 million in today’s money, so this was a huge investment to make for a literary work. The time that Audubon invested in the work was also vast, taking 14 years of study and painting, so it seems fitting that Google has chosen to celebrate his life with a Google Doodle. What are your thoughts on Audubon and the Google Doodle tribute? Let us know with your comments.

  • Julia Berkley

    I'd like to know about the Doodle itself — is it assembled Audubon pics (too tiny to tell), or recreated by another artist? A credit line would be useful, unless I missed it somewhere…

    • @themanticore

      To my knowledge they're all Audubon's. The only one I don't know/haven't seen is the blue throated bird next to the kestrels. I looked through highres photos of all the plates in Birds of America, but maybe I missed it.

      From left to right the birds are Red-shouldered Hawk, two American Kestrels, the unknown bird, Harris' Hawk, Western Kingbird (which seems to have grown a crest for the doodle), two Crested Caracaras, and Acadian Flycatcher.

      • @themanticore

        Oops! Forgot the Long Eared owl, second from the right.

  • @themanticore

    Found the blue throated bird, it's a Great Crested Flycatcher.