Black-billed Cuckoo, Coccyzus erythropthalmus - John James Audubon

Museums Victoria

This plate illustrated Audubon's ability to fill the frame with drama and beauty, achieved here with the inclusion of the magnificent giant bloom of the Magnolia grandiflora. The Black-billed Cuckoo pictured here were not captured "on one of these trees, but in a swamp near some, where the birds were in pursuit of such flies as you see figured, probably to amuse themselves."

This image (Plate 32) was published life-size in Audubon's first edition magisterial "The birds of America", where the scale and the subtle tones of aquatint etching emphasised both the perils and vigour of nature.

You can see this image in more detail in Google Art and Culture.