Labrador Duck::Camptorhynchus labradorius

April 30, 2012



I was trawling through my Field Museums photos, as I have been in serious withdrawal. My life, currently, just simply doesn't afford me the time to go in to volunteer.

Anyway, I came across this photo I took of a Labrador Duck specimen a while back. I don't know when this specimen is from, but Labardors went extinct in 1871, with the last (known) one shot in Canada by a man named Simon Cheney.

It was one of  the first endemic North American species to go extinct. The decline of this species was so rapid and its habitat so remote, that reliable data from when it was extant is very scarce. Most of what is known is hearsay. Its species name (Labrador) references what was believed to be its breeding area, but even this cannot be confirmed. It could have been that its numbers were never very great, but there again, there is not enough reliable data to really know its former population.

Audubon did a painting of a male and female pair, and it was believed that he collected specimens on an 1833 expedition to Labrador. It's not one of his better paintings, in my opinion. Some of the awkwardness in the positioning of the birds that is apparent throughout his work, and normally doesn't bother me, is more exaggerated in this work. It's a little too obvious that he was working from something that is dead, and far from its natural habitat. It's as if he returned from Labardor and forgot how they move and fly.

Oof. Is this post a little too dreary? It's rainy and overcast here, and I think it's having some effect. I'll cheer up by the next post. Promise!

2 comments:

  1. Well, I think it's rather fitting that history has held on to the name of the hunter who shot the last remaining labrador duck. The scoundrel.

    Without Audubon's painting as a reference, my brain has provided a very silly image of a duck laying on its back with its legs in the air? It's probably not that awkward. We have the opposite weather here today (sunshine for a change) and I think it's made me giddy. :)

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  2. Kathleen, you're not *too* far off of the mark with your visualization of the painting!

    I almost pointed out the man's last name was 'Cheney', but thought my post was already bleak enough!

    Enjoy that sun!

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