Free History Studies: John James Audubon

John James Audubon’s Birds of America published over a period of eleven years made him a popular naturalist.

Read the current chapters online:

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
  • Please note:  For many years there was a bit of a mystery about Audubon’s birth, and the book incorrectly says that Audubon was born in Louisiana.  He was actually born in Les Cayes, St. Dominigue (now Haiti) and named Jean-Jacques Audubon.  He was raised and educated in France, changing his name to John James when he immigrated to the United States at the age of 18.
  • Audubon “knew more about the birds of this country than any man had ever known before.”  Become a “bird man” yourself!  Learn about the birds in your country, or at least those close to home.  You’ll find many resources in our Audubon unit study.
  • Learn to draw birds.  Choose your favorite bird and, using some of the resources below, draw your own picture of it.
  • Blow your own egg and decorate, using an egg from your refrigerator. (See Activities below.
  • View a few of Audubon’s portraits, including one of Daniel Boone.  Do you think he was better at drawing portraits or birds?  Which did he spend the most time doing?
  • Enjoy looking at Birds of America, the book that contains the pictures the birds Audubon spent so much time drawing (scroll down).
  • Learn more about the panther that Audubon likely chased.
  • View the Florida panther.
  • Narrate the story of the panther.
  • After reading the stories, describe one aspect of Audubon’s character and relate incidents that show that aspect of his character. (Hint: For example, perseverance — “But he did not give up.”)
  • Why do you think the author included so many incidents relating to Audubon’s lifestyle while learning about birds?
  • More about John James Audubon from the Book of Knowledge:

    Three years before his death, [Alexander Wilson, one of the early naturalists in America,] strode into a little store in the frontier village of Louisville, Kentucky, hoping to find a subscriber for his Ornithology. The handsome young storekeeper studied Wilson’s drawings (although he did not buy the book) and then showed Wilson a large collection of his own drawings of birds, drawings far more lifelike than Wilson’s. The storekeeper was John James Audubon, who was to become the most famous of all artists who ever studied birds….

    Audubon came to the United States to look after his father’s farm near Philadelphia. There he started his lifework of drawing birds. By the time Audubon was twenty-one most of his father’s property had been lost. The young man married soon afterward and set up store in Louisville. But he was not made for a business career; his ventures failed, and his wife insisted that he devote himself to his study of birds.

    For the next few years Mrs. Audubon struggled to help support their children while Audubon sold portraits drawn by himself and gave lessons in drawing, dancing and fencing. Whenever he could he roamed the wild new country to find unknown birds. An interview with Charles Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, encouraged Audubon to publish his drawings.

    When Audubon’s great work, the Birds of America, was finally published (over a period of eleven years, from 1827 to 1838) it made a sensation among lovers of both art and science on both sides of the Atlantic. There were 435 hand-colored plates, each about 3 feet high by 2 1/2 feet wide, containing 1,065 pictures of birds, all life size. All the birds were shown in natural poses — flying, catching insects, and so on.

    Presently Audubon’s two sons were helping him, Victor acting as the business man of the family, and John collecting birds and helping with the drawings. The complete work was one of the most costly publications ever issued….

    With the success of this work Audubon because a famous and popular figure…. When Audubon died, in 1851, he was at work with the father-in-law of his two sons, the Reverend John Bachman, on a publication about four-footed animals, The Quadrupeds of America.

    “Some Men Who Loved Nature,” The Book of Knowledge

Our Related Units
Audubon: A Unit Study

Audubon: A Unit Study
Our unit study contains more background information and a wide variety of books, notebooking pages, and other resources not listed below.

Further Investigation

Birds of America
The illustrations from the book.

John James Audubon
Biography from the National Audubon Society.


Pennsylvania Map/Quiz Printout

Mississippi Map/Quiz Printout

Outline Map Research Activity #1 – Haiti
At  Activity #2 and Activity #3 also available.

Interactive Map Maker {Free}
Make your own maps.

Blow an Egg
Complete directions.

Audubon Book Study {Free}

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
A beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Audubon based partly on his own writings.

Audubon's Birds of America Coloring Book

Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by James J. Audubon
46 featured birds with exacting detail.

How to Draw Birds by Raymond Sheppard
In the public domain, this free download not only shows you how to draw birds; the introductory information on bird anatomy, wings, feathers, flight, beaks, and feet is very helpful to the study of birds, whether or not you decide to draw them.

You’ll find many bird-related books in the Books section of our Audubon unit study.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Audubon: A Unit Study
Our own unit study with background information, bird-watching helps, book recommendations, activities, and printables, notebooking pages, and other forms.

The Life and Work of John James Audubon
Wonderful 37-page resource from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office that includes a detailed biography including timeline, several color works, and activities covering observation skills, a virtual field trip, writing, drawing to scale, print making, making a multimedia presentation, and notebooking.  Great resource!

Printables & Notebooking Pages

United States Map map for locating Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

North America Map map for locating Haiti.

Europe Map map for locating France.

Audubon: Swan Coloring Page
At  (Original for reference.)

John James Audubon: White Pelican Coloring Page
At  (Original for reference.)

John James Audubon Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans
Free History Studies: Stories of Great Americans

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