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Free Tropical Bird Illustrations from Vintage Cigarette Cards

When I came across these gorgeous vintage tropical bird illustrations, I knew I had to share them.  The tropical bird paintings are beautiful, and I love the background illustrations with each bird.

When I visited my grandparents as a child, they didn’t have any toys, but they did have a big box of cigarette and tea cards.  I would spend hours reviewing the cards, looking at the pictures, reading them, and sorting them into sets.

I loved all the beautiful illustrations printed on the cards and the tidbits of information.  That is maybe where my fascination with vintage images and illustrations began.  The cards were often referred to as  “The Working Man’s Encyclopedia”  as they bought pictures and information to the masses of famous faces, science, and geography.

Cigarette cards originally had a practical use as a stiffener for the packet to stop the cigarettes from getting bent.  Someone had the brilliant idea of printing pictures and information on the cards, making them collector’s items.

Cartophily is the name given to the hobby of collecting cigarette cards.  The cards come in related sets, which document popular culture from the time they are printed. 

Often they featured famous faces of the era, such as actresses and sportspeople, as well as science and natural history.  Some of the most valuable cigarette cards are of US Baseball players.

free tropical bird cigarette card illustrations

The Allen & Ginter Tropical Bird Cigarette cards

These tropical bird illustrations are from the No.38 set of Allen & Ginter cigarette cards. 

Allen and Ginter was an American tobacco company based in Richmond, Virginia.  In 1865 the company produced the first marketable cigarette cards in the US for collecting.  The company merged with others to become the American Tobacco Company in 1890.

You can still collect these graphic cards today; now, they are found in packs of Booke Bond tea, not cigarettes, which is a lot more socially responsible.

These tropical bird illustrations are of a surprisingly high resolution considering they are from small cigarette cards.  They would look lovely framed together or used for decoupage and journalling.

Click on the title above the illustration to print a higher resolution of the tropical bird painting.  The image will open in a new window on your browser.  Right-click your mouse on this image; you will have the option to save or print the image.

1. African Flamingo

This vintage tropical bird illustration refers to what is now called the greater flamingo. The greater flamingo is the most widespread and largest species of the flamingo family. 

There is a further collection of vintage flamingo art prints on Pictureboxblue.

African Flamingo Cigarette card

2. Alexandrine Ring Parakeet

Named after Alexander the Great, who brought many of the birds to Europe from Punjab. They were prized by royalty, nobility, and warlords.

Edward Lear was a famous parrot painter.

Tropical bird illustration Alexandrine ring parakeet

3. Black Swan

Black swans are native to Australia but have been introduced to Europe as ornamental birds.

Whenever I think of black swans, I think back to my training as an applied Psychologist and “black swan theory“.

The theory is summed up by the David Hume quote “No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.”

4. Cassowary

The cassowary is a flightless bird native to the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea.

Cassowaries have a reputation for being dangerous to people and domestic animals. During World War II American and Australian troops stationed in New Guinea were warned to steer clear of them. The birds have a lethal sharp nail on one of their toes, which had been used to kill people.

5. Concave Casqued Hornbill

A vintage tropical bird illustration of a great hornbill, found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family. Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals. 

tropical bird illustration hornbill

6. Fiery-Tailed Sunbird

A vintage tropical bird found mainly in the Himalayas, the fire tailed sunbird.

fire tail sunbird cigarette card

7. Great Bird of Paradise

Vintage cigarette card illustration from the bird of the tropics series of a great bird of paradise.

The birds-of-paradise can be found in the dense forests of Papua New Guinea. They are best known for their plumage, in particular their very long elaborate feathers extending from the beak, wings, tail, or head.  

cigarette card birds of the tropics Great bird of paradise

8. Java Peacock

A cigarette card illustration of the tropical bird Java Peacock better known as the green peafowl. An endangered bird from South East Asia.

Unlike the related Indian peafowl, the sexes of green peafowl are quite similar in appearance, especially in the wild. Both have elaborate and colorful tail feathers distinctive of peafowl.

Peacock cigarette card illustration from the birds of the tropics series

9. King Bird of Paradise

This is the smallest and most vividly colored among birds-of-paradise found in Papua New Guinea.

king bird of paradise

10. New Zealand Parrot

This parrot is native to New Zealand, hence the name. The bird is important to  Maoris, for food, as pets, and they used their feathers for decoration.

Tropical bird illustration New Zealand Parrot

11. Paradise Tanager

Paradise Tanager, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Cards.

The paradise tanager is a brilliantly multicolored, medium-sized songbird. Found in humid tropical and subtropical forests in the western and northern Amazon Basin in South America.

Paradise Tanager, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

12. Quetzal Tropical Bird Illustration

Quetzal, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes cards. These are strikingly colorful birds from Mexico.

Quetzal, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

13. Red and Blue Macaw

This tropical bird illustration is better known as the Scarlet Macaw. A large South American bird with distinctive red, yellow and blue plumage.

Scarlet macaws communicate primarily through raucous honks. Captive macaws are known to be good mimics of human speech.

Scarlet Macaw

14. Sacred Ibis

The sacred ibis is found in Africa and the Middle East. It is especially known for its role in the religion of the Ancient Egyptians, where it was linked to the god Thoth.

tropical bird illustration sacred ibis

15. Sacred Kingfish

An Australasian kingfisher, it is called “sacred” for it was said to be a holy bird for Polynesians,  who believed it to have control over the waves.

vintage tropical bird illustration Sacred Kingfisher

16. Shoe Bill Tropical Bird Illustration

The Shoe Bill is a very large stork-like East African bird. It gets the name from its large shoe-shaped bill.

Shoe Bill bird illustration cigarette card

17. Swindern’s Lovebirds

These small African parrots are also known as black-collard lovebirds. They are very rarely kept as pets due to their particular dietary requirements for a native fig.

Swindern's Love-bird, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

18. Toco Toucan – Cigarette Card Illustration

You might recognize this Toco Toucan, it is the largest of all the Toucans. This is the bird that features on all the Guinness promotions, it is the mascot for the brand.

There are a lot more tropical toucan paintings on Pictureboxblue with more fascinating facts on these striking tropical birds.

Toco Toucan cigarette card

19. Topknot Pigeon

A large pigeon native to Eastern Australia. It got its name due to the large crest on the bird’s head.

Top Knot Pigeon, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

20. Tri-Colored Cockatoo

This cockatoo is also known as Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. With its white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest, it’s often thought of as the prettiest of the cockatoos.

It is named in honour of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who wrote, “Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-colored wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region.

There are a lot more vintage cockatoo prints on Pictureboxblue.

Tri-colored Cockatoo, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

21. Yellow Casque Black Hornbill

The yellow-casqued hornbill is one of the largest birds of the West African forest.

Yellow-Casque Black Hornbill, from Birds of the Tropics series (N38) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes

22. Yellow-Crested Cockatoo

I had to include this tropical bird illustration as it’s my favorite bird. We used to get wild ones in the garden, growing up in Hong Kong.

tropical bird illustration yellow crested cockatoo

I used some of these vintage bird images to make some upcycled jar lid ornaments for Christmas.

There are many more wonderful bird paintings and prints to check out on Pictureboxblue. Such as the beautiful bird illustrations of George Shaw, illustrated bird alphabet and the penguin print collection.

I even have a fun craft for all these wonderful bird illustrations making a display for an IKEA cloche.

cigarette cards birds

Jennifer Watson

Monday 8th of March 2021

Beautiful thankyou! Reminds me of the birds of paradise I saw when I lived in Papua New Guinea!


Tuesday 9th of March 2021

Thank you, wow that must have been an amazing experience.

Laurie at Laurie's Place

Friday 18th of December 2020

The bird cigarette cards are lovely and i enjoyed hearing the history of them. My uncle collected many things when he was alive, marbles, Zippo lighters, Indianapolis 500 paraphernalia, race memorabilia of all sorts. Cigarette cards is not something he ever mentioned as collectable so this is new to me.

I enjoy learning new things, so enjoyed my stop at your blog.



Monday 28th of December 2020

Thank you, Laurie. Yes, there is still an active market in collecting cigarette cards, even though you don't really get them anymore.