Melchior d'Hondecoeter (born in Utrecht in 1636) came from a highly artistic family. His grandfather Gillis was a landscapist, and his father Gijsbert a celebrated bird painter (particularly waterfowl and poultry). He studied under his father until the latter's death in 1653, and then entered the Utrecht studio of his uncle, Jan Baptist Weenix whose oeuvre included many paintings of birds. Hondecoeter subsequently based himself in Amsterdam, and became the pre-eminent specialist of this branch of painting. Large-scale decorative game-pieces were popular amongst wealthy Amsterdam merchants to adorn the walls of their town houses and country mansions.
Hondecoeter's mature style owes much to Frans Snyders, whose work he collected. From him, Hondecoeter borrowed a compositional formula that he used consistently from the late 1660s: birds and animals seen close up in the centre of the canvas, others entering from the left or right, their bodies sometimes cropped by the frame, the middle ground blocked by a wall, fence, tree or architectural ruins across one half of the canvas, the remaining side opening to a distant vista.