It might surprise you to know that John James Audubon began his career as a relatively unskilled artist, spending years honing his craft before publishing his masterwork, Birds of America. He destroyed many of his early drawings, but a goodly selection remain in the collections of Harvard’s Houghton Library and the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. These charming works by one of the most important figures in American natural history exemplify the beautifully detailed, scientifically accurate, and lifelike qualities that made his later images so famous. The examples at left and below come from Audubon: Early Drawings, from Harvard University Press. Never before published as a group, the 116 depictions of American, European, and exotic birds date from 1805–1823, and many include Audubon’s own notes. Pictured here are male and female ivory-billed woodpeckers, northern shoveler, male wood grouse, passenger pigeon, osprey, cassowary, blackbird, owl, and red-shouldered falcon.