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Shoot To Kill or Aim To Embarrass?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Collared Aracari by Todd Forsgren

Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus), 2012. © Todd Forsgren

As I’ve pointed out before on Symbiartic, before the modern naturalist movement, nature lovers would shoot and kill the objects of their fancy to get a better look. Audubon himself would take dead specimens and pin them into life-like poses before drawing them and turning them into the prints that are so treasured today. But today’s champions of the natural world take a different approach. Todd Forsgren, for example, photographs birds moments after they are caught in nets, before they are tagged and released back into the wild by the people studying them.

I imagine these magnificent birds feel much like dogs wearing the dreaded cone of shame after being neutered. Hopelessly tangled in a net, their normally smooth feathers are splayed awkwardly, their limbs are skewed and they’re just plain confused. Organisms normally praised for their beauty and grace are for a moment awkward and goofy, revealing their vulnerability. It’s a moment we can identify with and as such, it gives us pause.

Forsgren’s portfolio

Forsgren is represented by Heiner Contemporary Gallery

Giclée prints of this ornithological series are available at 20×200

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. marcosantiago54 3:41 am 10/6/2012

    I’m just curios about the picture, why is it that bird is on the net ? Is it a cage to that bird?
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  2. 2. Russell Seitz 8:00 am 10/6/2012

    Is it true that Yale’s secret Real Audubon Society requires initiates to create 100 bird prints inked by running as many freshly shot species through a duck press borrowd from Le Cirque?

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  3. 3. Kalliopi Monoyios in reply to Kalliopi Monoyios 1:20 pm 10/17/2012


    Nets like these are used to catch birds in the wild so they may be counted and tagged for scientific research. They get tangled in the nets but are not physically harmed.

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