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University of Connecticut University Libraries

March 12 - May 11, 2007


Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), Artwork by David Allen Sibley

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Artwork by David Allen Sibley


Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Artwork by David Allen Sibley

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Artwork by David Allen Sibley

David Sibley’s Birds of New England, and Beyond

From the age of seven, David Allen Sibley has been drawing birds. First, by tracing pictures from books, then by sketching from life, and finally by drawing on his extensive knowledge of field identification to produce the thousands of paintings that illustrate his field guides and other works.

As the son of ornithologist Fred Sibley, a former curator of birds at Yale’s Peabody Museum, much of his teenage years was spent birding along the Connecticut coast, while also traveling the country on research expeditions. In junior high he planned a field guide to all the living things of Connecticut, and by his 20s had decided to produce a guide to the birds of North America.

After two decades of traveling back and forth across the continent, studying and sketching birds, The Sibley Guide to Birds came out just in time for fall migration in 2000. It immediately appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and has since become the leading field guide to North American birds. It has been followed by two regional guides, Sibley's Birding Basics, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior; collectively the books have sold approximately one million copies.

Working primarily in opaque watercolors, or gouache, he creates each painting by consulting an extensive collection of file folders, each filled with magazine clippings, photographs, ornithological research articles, and his own notes and sketches from many years in the field. Such attention to detail has not only produced some of the most beautiful and accurate paintings of North American birds, but also led to the discovery of many small details that now help birders distinguish one bird from another.

On April 12, 2007, at 7:30p.m., at Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Mr. Sibley will speak on ‘Birds and Bird Guides’ in UConn’s Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series on Nature and the Environment. This exhibit is the first showing of his artwork that focuses primarily on New England birds, many of which Teale would have seen in his day-to-day life. The exhibit brings together paintings from the Sibley guides and from the syndicated New York Times Special Features column that he produced in collaboration with Chris Elphick of UConn’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and Barny Dunning of Purdue University.

The artwork will be displayed in two exhibit spaces -- the Dodd Research Center Gallery and the Homer Babbidge Library Gallery on the Plaza.

To learn more about David Sibley’s art work, visit his web site:

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