Photo with 3 notes
Plate 55 of The Birds of America, by John Audubon, the Cuvier’s Regulus. It’s another of Audubon’s birds that is likely non-existent due to mis-identification.
I received a message from a sharp-eyed reader who thought this was a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and indeed it may be. What was interesting about this one is that Audubon himself seemed unsure what it was. Here’s what he wrote-“(in) 1812… I killed this little bird, supposing it to be… the Ruby-crowned Kinglet… and was not aware of its being a different bird until I picked it up from the ground. I have not seen another since, nor have I been able to learn that this species has been observed by any other individual. It might, however, be very easily mistaken for the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the manner of which appear to be much the same.”
So what was it Audubon killed? He was painting The Birds of America in the 1820s and 1830s, so he hadn’t seen another one in close to a decade, at the least. As a naturalist specializing in birds he had to be familiar with the Golden-crowned Kinglet. It’s fairly common. What he painted had a very dark eye stripe, and you’ll see G-c Kinglets with grayish, and not so prominent stripes. So again, we see the dawn of the scientific study of animals. Audubon doesn’t have much to go on other than the looks of a bird. It may be that he found an individual with non-standard colorization/markings and assumed it to be a new species. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.