The White headed Eagle.
Original Author: Mark Catesby
Created: 1731
Medium: Hand-colored etching

The White headed Eagle.

This hand-colored etching of a bald eagle is the opening image of the 1731 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 1). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Bird weighs nine pounds … Tho' it is an Eagle of a small size, yet has great strength and spirit, preying on Pigs, Lambs, and Fawns … This Bird is called the Bald Eagle, both in Virginia and Carolina, tho' his head is as much feather'd as the other parts of his body."

Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.