The Art of Birds

image of songbird artArtists have been moved, from at least the time of the Egyptians, to capture the likeness and the magic of birds. Their colors, movements, songs, their mysterious comings and goings with the seasons, have seemed almost supernatural, sacred. The earliest ornithologists in the United States discovered the seemingly endless species of the New World and captured their beauty, traits, and surroundings through paintings, journals, and published volumes. Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon combined their scientific observations with the wonder of bird life through artistic renderings long before the advent of cameras, binoculars, telescopic lenses, film, video, or downstreaming. Woodrow Wilson’s daughters danced as birds in Percy Mackay’s play Sanctuary: A Bird Masque, to benefit the early conservationist movement; At 90, Marian McPartland, host of NPR’s popular Piano Jazz, composed a jazz symphony honoring Rachel Carson that begins with birdsong. You can hear it here. Even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept a pet starling and incorporated parts of its singing into the finale of his Piano Concerto K. 453.

Photos by Ross Feldner

Today, birds delight people from all walks of life. Whether amateurs or professionals, they seek to capture and share their love of birds through paintings and drawings, carvings and sculpture, photographs and films, music and performance. The art of birds stirs our imagination, awe, and wonder; it touches the spiritual and the sacred within us. It is why we wish to preserve and protect these marvelous beings who miraculously appear to us along a sandy beach, in a scarlet sunset, or at our windowsill.

Ross Feldner birding at Chincoteague, VA

Rachel Carson and friends on a bird walk in Glover Archibald Park, Washington, DC.

The Rachel Carson Council seeks to instill and inspire a love of birds through art. You will find here selected images and works gathered from many sources to stir your soul and move you to action. You will also find here a place to send and share your own work and that of others. Many of the photographs that grace our web site are by RCC’s Ross Feldner, a leading nature photographer and avid birder. He and fellow birder, RCC President & CEO, Bob Musil, haunt many of the places where Rachel Carson spotted and wrote about birds from the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Center in Maryland to Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park, Glover Archibald Park, the C&O Canal, Chincoteague Island, VA and more.

RCC contributors, like birds, are found everywhere so we receive paintings, artwork, and photos from across the nation, like this painting of a cardinal in North Carolina by RCC Fellow Kendall Jefferys. Send us and let us share your perceptions, perspectives, and images of birds, in whatever medium, whether you are a beginner, an amateur, or a polished professional.

We will look out for them at [email protected] and share them as widely as possible. Let art take flight.

The Latest on The Art of Birds

This Pay Phone is Free, But You Can’t Make a Call. It Only Plays Birdsongs.
‘The phone attracts a lot of attention,’ said Hatib Joof, who owns a restaurant next to the Bird Calls Phone in Takoma Park, Md.

Hatib Joof sees elementary school students lined up at a pay phone outside of his restaurant in Takoma Park, Md., in suburban Washington, several times a week.

“The phone attracts a lot of attention,” Joof said. “And it’s fascinating to watch people’s expressions when they use it.” Read more


13,000-year-old miniature bird sculpture ‘oldest work of art’ to be found in China
The sculpture is thought to represent a ‘passerine’ – a diverse group of birds that includes the sparrows, finches and thrushes.

A miniature bird statue carved out of burnt bone has been unearthed by archaeologists in Lingjing, China. At over 13,000 years it is believed to be the oldest East Asian work of art ever found. Read more


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Past Issues of the RCC Bird Watch and Wonder

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