Just a mile or so away from the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, where the American Birding Expo will be held this fall, is the place where ornithology and birding started in America. The site is now called the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. John James Audubon, father of early bird study in America, lived here in the early 1800s, just as he was beginning his career as a naturalist and artist. Audubon’s father purchased Mill Grove as an investment in 1789, and in 1803 at age 18, John James Audubon took up residence. While at Mill Grove (from 1803 to 1806), Audubon made three major discoveries:
1) He conducted the first bird-banding experiment in America by tying small silver threads to the legs of a pair of eastern phoebes. He observed these same “banded” birds a year later, confirming that they were the same individuals.
2) He invented a method of wiring dead birds into lifelike postures in order to paint them in a natural manner.
3) The girl next door: Audubon met and fell in love with Lucy Bakewell. He married Lucy in 1808, then sold his stake in Mill Grove, and he and Lucy set off for Kentucky.
The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove is an Expo partner, the site for morning presentations on birding, and one of the six designated Expo birding sites with free morning bird walks on all three days of the Expo. Expo attendees are encouraged to visit Mill Grove, which will be open for historic tours, an art exhibit featuring works by Julie Zickefoose, and the aforementioned birding activities. Learn more about Mill Grove here.