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A Visual Aviary: George Shaw’s Naturalist Bird Prints – In The Public Domain

Dive into the captivating world of avian illustrations with George Shaw’s naturalist bird prints, where art and science converge to celebrate the diversity and beauty of birdlife in the 18th and 19th centuries.

George Shaw was a late 18th-century Oxford-educated English botanist and zoologist. He was among the first scientists to examine a duck pus platypus. He published the first scientific description of it in The Naturalist’s Miscellany in 1799.

The Vintage Bird Prints

The Naturalist prints curated here are a selection from George Shaw’s book The Naturalist’s Miscellany also known as Coloured Figures of Natural Objects.

George Shaw dedicated a significant portion of his life to documenting various species. Among his numerous contributions, his bird prints remain particularly cherished. With incredible attention to detail, Shaw’s illustrations marry scientific accuracy with an artist’s touch.

His work was instrumental in educating his contemporaries and continues to captivate bird enthusiasts and art lovers alike. Through his illustrations, one can embark on a visual journey, exploring the diversity and elegance of birdlife during an era when the natural world was a place of endless fascination and discovery.

Vintage bird naturalist prints

The Naturalist Prints

1. Spike-Crested Peacock

A very colour print of a green peafowl (Burmese). Peacocks must be one of the most colourful birds on the planets, that is why their feathers are so prized.

Peacocks are forest dwelling birds that lay their nests on the ground.

There is a wonderful collection of peacock paintings with Ohara Koson’s bird paintings.

Spike-crested peacock illustration from The Naturalist's Mis

2. Deep Blue Kingfisher

Kingfishers are a family favourite. My father’s first published (1977) ornithological book featured a kingfisher on the cover. The original painting of that cover still hangs in my parent’s home.

The brightness of the blue feathers on a kingfisher is caused by the structure of the feathers, which causes scattering of blue light.  

The kingfishers also have long, dagger-like bills.

vintage bird naturalist prints

3. Naturalist Print of A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

This woodpecker spends more of its time at the tops of tall trees in the woods. The illustration is of a male, recognizable by its crimson crown, brown forehead, black superciliary stripe, and another from the base of the bill to the neck.

Lesser spotted woodpecker illustration from The Naturalist's

4. Indian Lory

A naturalist illustration of an Indian Lory. Lory’s parrots have specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. They can feed from the flowers of about 5,000 species of plants and use their specialized tongues to take the nectar.

Indian lory illustration

5. Pied Roller

Rollers resemble crows in size and build, and share the colourful appearance of kingfishers and bee-eaters.

The term pied describes bird plumage with large, contrasting patches of bold colour, most often in black and white and with clear, distinct edges.

Pied Roller Naturalist Illustration

6. Naturalist Print of a White -headed Kingfisher

Another wonderful naturalist print of Shaw’s, of a kingfisher.

White-headed Kingfisher or Blue-green Kingfisher illustration

7.  Pompadour Chatterer 

Chatterers are a group of perching birds that have a chattering cry, hence their name.

vintage naturalist prints

8. Curved Bill Cockatoo

Cockatoos are a kind of parrot with prominent crests and curved bills. Their feathers are generally less colourful than other parrots, mainly white, grey or black and often with coloured features in the crest, cheeks or tail.

curve billed Cuckoo naturalist prints

9. Lesser Banana Bird – Naturalist Prints

I assume this bird got its name due to the striking yellow colour of its plumage.

10. Short Tailed Crow

This crow inhabits the islands of the Indian Ocean and is only six to seven inches long.

short tailed crow

11. Red- billed Hoopoe

A naturalist illustration print of a red-billed hoopoe. This bird is about 17 inches long and advertises its presence with its loud distinctive kuk-uk-uk-uk-uk call.

Red-billed hoopoe

12. Variegated Finch

A naturalist print of a variegated finch also known as an elegant finch.

Finches are birds with stout conical bills adapted for eating seeds and often have colourful plumage. They occupy many habitats where they are usually resident and do not migrate. 

Variegated finch or Elegant finch illustration f

There is another Shaw illustration in the pelican print collection.

Many of these birds are also featured on this tropical bird series of cigarette cards.

If you enjoyed these bird naturalist prints of George Shaw, don’t forget to check out some of my other wonderful vintage bird illustration collections including these bird nests and eggs.

If you fancy, you can Buy Me A Coffee Here.

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