By the age of eight, Fuertes demonstrated a fascination with both birds and drawing. And before he graduated from Cornell University, he had begun what was to be an active career as a bird artist, receiving his first commission from Elliott Coues of the Smithsonian Institution.
Fuertes based his artwork on extensive field research, studying birds in their native habitats and collecting specimens for use in his studio. He was a member of the Harriman Expedition to Alaska in 1899, and traveled to Europe, Africa, Central and South America.
His stated goal was “good, sound, deep and appreciative knowledge as the one fundamental, basic prerequisite of all art, and particularly of naturalistic art.”