In 1826, when Audubon first began raising funds to underwrite The Birds of America, he exhibited this watercolor in Edinburgh. Although he had probably executed it earlier in Louisiana in 1821–22, he was still proud of his unique, highly experimental representation of this species and also used it as the watercolor model for The Birds of America when he was completing his magnum opus.

In the tableau, the artist portrayed the fully fledged juvenile at the left energetically snapping at a luna moth. In the right middle ground, JJA collaged onto the paper a complacent but watchful adult male that he had painted on another sheet and cut out. The adult lurks half hidden in the vegetation that overlaps his body in a revolutionary and ingenious manner. To create this image, Audubon inventively cut out three sides of the leaf from the support sheet, lifted the flap up, and slipped the cut-out adult bird underneath it for a three-dimensional effect in which the image literally pops.

Stressing his firsthand experience, JJA remarked, “I have given figures of an adult in full plumage, and of an immature bird, to enable you to judge how carefully Nature ought to be studied to enable you to keep free of mistakes.” Unable to resist describing the Green Heron’s mating habits, Audubon added, “During the love-season they exhibit many curious gestures, erecting all the feathers of their neck, swelling their throat, and uttering a rough guttural note like qua, qua, several times repeated by the male as he struts before the female.”

John James Audubon (1785–1851)<br /><em>Green Heron (</em>Butorides virescens<em>), Havell pl. 333</em>, ca. 1821–22

John James Audubon (1785–1851)
Green Heron (Butorides virescens), Havell pl. 333, ca. 1821–22
Watercolor, graphite, collage, pastel, gouache, and black ink with scratching out and selective glazing on paper, laid on card, 18 7/8 x 23 9/16 in. (47.9 x 59.8 cm)
Purchased for the Society by public subscription from Mrs. John J. Audubon,
1863.17.333
[with Joseph Mason?]

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