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Cock of the Plains [Sage Grouse]. John James AUDUBON.

Cock of the Plains [Sage Grouse]

[Pl. 371] London: 1837. Hand-coloured engraving with aquatint and etching by R. Havell, 1837, paper watermarked "J. Whatman/1837" Sheet size: 25 x 37 5/8 inches.

From the first edition of "The Birds of America."

One of Audubon's great images: the male sage grouse is pictured in the midst of its extraordinary mating dance while a female looks on quietly, apparently uninterested in the highly stylized posturings of her would-be mate. "Although the Cock of the Plains has long been known to exist within the limits of the United States, the rugged and desolate nature of the regions inhabited by it has hitherto limited our knowledge of its habits to the cursory observations made by a few intrepid travelers...Two of these travelers, my friends, Mr. [J.K.] Townsend and Mr. [T.] Nuttall, have favoured me with the following particulars [with some added]...notes of Mr.Douglas...This bird is only found on plains which produce the worm-wood (Artemesia), on which it feeds...It is very unsuspicious, and easily approached, rarely flies unless hard-pressed, runs before you at the distance of a few feet, clucking like a common hen, often runs under the horses of travelers when disturbed, rises very clumsily, but when once started, flies with rapidity to a great distance" (J. J. Audubon, The Birds of America, New York & Philadelphia: 1840-1844, vol. V, pp.1o6-107). "This, the largest grouse of North America, was called the 'pheasant-tailed grouse' or 'cock of the plains' by Audubon, who in his travels on the upper Missouri did not quite reach the western country where it is found. The sage grouse is noted for its extraordinary dance… The dance in an arena amongst the open bush is a communal affair. A number of males, each one well-spaced, dance with their spiky tails spread and their yellow neck sacs inflated...Originally the sage grouse was found in fifteen of the western states, wherever sagebrush flourished...Overgrazing and drought in the 1930s nearly brought the sage grouse to the status of an endangered species...The survivors started to recover by the 1950s, and today the sage brush population has an estimated total population of 1,500,000 birds" (R. T. & V. M. Peterson, Audubon's Birds of America, London: 1981, no. 126).

Susanne M. Low, A Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, New Haven & New York: 2002, p.189.

Item #4358

Price: $18,000.00

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