Smew or White Nun by John James Audubon
Mergus Albellus - Mr Audubon describes the Smew or White Nun in Birds of America as follows: The Smew is a bird of extremely rare occurrence in the United States, insomuch that it must be considered merely as a transient or accidental visitor. Indeed I have felt strong misgivings on reading WILSON'S article on this species, and cannot but think that he is mistaken when he states that it "is much more common on the coast of New England than farther south;" and again "in the ponds of New England, and some of the lakes in the State of New York, where the Smew is frequently observed--." Now, although I have made diligent inquiry, not only in New England, but in every part of our country where I thought it likely that the Smew might occur, I have not met with any person well acquainted with birds of this family, who has seen it. WILSON, in short, was in all probability misinformed, and it is my opinion that his figure was made from a stuffed European specimen which was then in Peale's Museum in Philadelphia, and that he had taken the Buffel-headed Duck, seen at a distance, for this species, as I am aware has been the case with other individuals. The only specimen procured by me was shot by myself on Lake Barataria, not far from New Orleans, in the winter of 1819. It was an adult female in fine plumage. How it had wandered so far south is an enigma to me; but having found it, and made a drawing of it on the spot, I have taken the liberty to add one of the other sex from an equally fine specimen. After all, the Smew can scarcely be considered as belonging to the American Fauna, any more than our Fork-tailed Hawk can with propriety be called a denizen of England; and in this I am supported by all the great navigators of our Arctic Seas, such as ROSS, PARRY, and FRANKLIN, none of whom, nor any of their companions, ever met with a single individual of this beautiful bird.
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Inventory #347 - Audubon Bird Prints