This illustrarion of a summer duck is taken from one of the most important early works on the natural history of North America, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, by Mark Catesby. A copy of the two-volume work, published in 1731 and 1743, is in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation collection. It contains 220 copperplate engravings of plants, birds, fish, insects, snakes, and other forms of natural life with accompanying text. Catesby was one of several eighteenth-century individuals who ventured to remote or unknown areas of the world to collect and record information in the interest of advancing knowledge in the arts and sciences. He made two trips to North America, one to Virginia in 1712 and another between 1722 and 1726 to document the natural history of the Carolinas, Georgia, and the Bahama Islands.
Catesby said that summer ducks "breed in Virginia and Carolina, and make their Nests in the Holes of tall Trees . . . growing in Water."