Classic Covers: For the Birds

We’ve all been fascinated, even envious, of our feathered friends, and our cover artists have helped us our with our bird watching. From these beautiful nesting orioles to daunting birds of prey, Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazine covers run the gamut—and the seasons—of bird watching. Come fly with us!

Man Feeding Birds by R. Bolles

An elderly man feeds sparrows
Man Feeding BirdsR. BollesApril 21, 1923

I’m not familiar with artist R. Bolles, but this is the cover that got me started on this quest. I knew there must be more beautiful covers with birds, and there were many. The elderly man feeding the birds with such gentleness reminded me of a better-known cover by Norman Rockwell the same year (below).

Farmer and the Bird by Norman Rockwell

A farmer holds a bird in his hands
Farmer and the BirdNorman RockwellAugust 18, 1923

The “Farmer and the Bird” is a Rockwell favorite. There is a touching contrast between the delicate fledgling and the hard-working ruggedness of the farmer. Rockwell loved old hats and well-worn clothing and kept a supply of such items for his models. If he was going for a strong, rough look, he picked the right model and knew how to make him look even more so.

Harbinger of Spring by John Clymer

Harbinger of SpringJohn ClymerMay 7, 1955

Oh, to be a bird in a beautiful John Clymer landscape! If the two little girls didn’t already know it was spring from the fact that dad’s tractor is running again in the background and from the achingly beautiful apple blossoms, Mr. Robin Redbreast is hailing the season from his perch. If you need a more detailed look, you can click on the cover.

South for the Winter by John Clymer

South for the WinterJohn ClymerOctober 26, 1957

Artist Clymer again, because who did nature better? This time it’s mallards flying south for the winter. The vastness of the sky is beautifully executed with the pastels of dusk (or dawn). You can almost feel that new nip in the air. A family has pulled the station wagon over to observe the feathered flight and if you want a closer look, you can click on the cover. This is a migratory flyway in the lakelands of Alberta.

Snowy Owls by Don Bleitz

Snowy Owls and a pine
Snowy OwlsDon BleitzSeptember 14, 1957

“Through Don Bleitz’s photographic skill let’s go calling on Mr. and Mrs. Snowy Owl in their country home near Edmonton Alberta. That’s the Mr. gazing at you from his living room, and the Mrs., smartly arrayed in her chic polka-dot ensemble, is just getting home from somewhere or other.” –Post editors, September 14, 1957. Yes, in the 1950’s, most Post covers were artist renditions rather than photographic, but happily, this photo slipped through.

Owl and Rabbit by Paul Bransom

An owl swoops down on a rabbit.
Owl and RabbitPaul BransomMarch 24, 1925

Born in 1885, Paul Bransom was a well-known wildlife painter. His Post and Country Gentleman covers boasted everything from leopards to foxhounds. This one shows the wild side of nature with the great owl honing in on a rabbit who senses he is about to become dinner. Oh, and Bransom did great roosters – I have to share one more (below).

Fancy Rooster in Mirror by Paul Bransom

Rooster checking himself out in a mirror.
Fancy Rooster in the MirrorPaul BransomThe Country GentlemanApril 21, 1923

Country Gentleman was a sister publication to the Post, and another great spot for a wildlife illustrator to land. I couldn’t resist this preening rooster checking himself out in a mirror from 1923. Okay, okay – you’re handsome, already. Reprints of Country Gentleman covers, like those from the Post, are available at