AUDUBON, John James (1785 - 1851). Plate 89, Rathbone's Wood Warbler

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Hand-colored lithograph by Ralph Trembly for the firm of J.T. Bowen after John James Audubon (1785 - 1851)

From Vol. 2 of the first octavo edition of the The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories. New York: J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier, 1840 - 1841.

Paper dimensions: approximately 10 x 6 ½ inches

Octavo part number: 18

Current name of bird depicted: Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia

Corresponding Havell edition plate number: 65, Rathbone's Warbler 

Audubon described the Rathbone's Wood Warbler as follows:

"Kind reader, you are now presented with a new and beautiful little species of Warbler, which I have honoured with the name of a family that must ever be dear to me. Were I at liberty here to express the gratitude which swells my heart, when the remembrance of all the unmerited kindness and unlooked-for friendship which I have received from the RATHBONES of Liverpool comes to my mind, I might produce a volume of thanks. But I must content myself with informing you, that the small tribute of gratitude which alone it is in my power to pay, I now joyfully accord, by naming after them one of those birds, to the study of which all my efforts have been directed. I trust that future naturalists, regardful of the feelings which have guided me in naming this species, will continue to it the name of Rathbone's Wood-Warbler. 

I met with the species now under consideration only once, when I procured both the male and the female represented in the plate. They were actively engaged in searching for food amongst the blossoms and leaves of the bignonia, on which I have placed them. All my endeavours to discover their nest, or to procure other individuals, having proved abortive I am unable to say any thing of their habits and history; but should I be more fortunate at some future period, I shall not fail to record the result of my observations respecting this delicate little Warbler. 

The bignonia, on which they are represented, grows abundantly in the low alluvial grounds of the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, sparingly in Tennessee, and about the mouth of the Ohio. It twines round the trunks of various trees, and produces beautiful flowers, in which Humming-birds are frequently seen to search for the minute insects which form their food. They are destitute of smell, but are seen both during spring and autumn. 

RATHBONE'S WARBLER, Sylvia Rathbonia, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i. p. 333. 

Wings of ordinary length, the second quill longest; tail nearly even. The general colour of the plumage bright yellow, the upper parts olivaceous; quills and tail wood-brown, the former yellow on the outer web, the latter margined externally with the same. Female similar. 

Male, 4 1/2. 

Mississippi. Only one pair seen. 


BIGNONIA CAPREOLATA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. iii. p. 297. Pursch, Flor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 419.--DIDYNAMIA ANGIOSPERMIA, Linn. --BIGNONIAE, Juss. 

This species is distinguished by its conjugate cirrhous leaves, with oblongo-lanceolate leaflets, which are somewhat cordate at the base, the lower leaves single. The flowers are carmine."

From: AUDUBON, John James: The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories; New York and Philadelphia: J. J. Audubon and J. B. Chevalier, 1840 - 1844.