The Bird Study Book
by Thomas Gilbert Pearson
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Fairfield, Conn. (Birdcraft Sanctuary, 10 acres).—Dec. 25, Herring Gull, 4; Red-tailed Hawk, 2; Sparrow Hawk, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Blue Jay, 4; Crow, 8; Starling, flock of 50; Meadowlark, 2; Purple Finch, 10; Goldfinch, 3; White-throated Sparrow, 4; Tree Sparrow, 15; Junco, 30; Song Sparrow, 7; Fox Sparrow, 1; Myrtle Warbler, 12; Brown Creeper, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Chickadee, 10; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5; Robin, 2. Total, 22 species, 181 individuals.—FRANK NOVAK, Warden.

New York City (Central Park).—Dec. 25; 9 A. M. to 1 P. M. Cloudy; ground mostly bare, with some remaining patches of snow; wind southeast, light; temperature 45 degrees to 54 degrees. Herring Gull, 70; Black Duck, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Starling, 24; Junco, 4; Song Sparrow, 2; Cardinal, 2; Chickadee, 5. Total, 8 species, 110 individuals.—MR. and MRS. G. CLYDE FISHER.


Rhinebeck, N. Y.—Dec. 25; 8 A. M. to 1 P. M. Cloudy; deep snow; wind south, light; temperature 40 degrees. American Merganser, 2; Ring-necked Pheasant, 30; Gray Partridge, 5; Marsh Hawk, 1; Barred Owl, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 4; Downy Woodpecker, 8 (drums and utters long call); yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1 male; Blue Jay, 10; Crow, 15; Purple Finch, 15; Goldfinch, 6; Junco, 12; Song Sparrow, 1; Tree Sparrow, 13; Brown Creeper, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 20; Chickadee, 25 (whistles). Total 18 species, 171 individuals.—MRS. J. F. GOODWELL, TRACY, DOWS, and MAUNSELL S. CROSBY.

Hackettstown, N. J.—Dec. 22; 8.30 to 10.45 A. M. and 2.15 to 4.50 P. M. Fair; remains of 16 in. snow, ground partly bare, partly with deep drifts; temperature 20 degrees. Pheasant, 2; Sparrow Hawk, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 4; Blue Jay, 1; Crow, 4; Starling, 11; Meadowlark, 13; Goldfinch, 1; Tree Sparrow, 6; Junco, 14; Song Sparrow, 3; Brown Creeper, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Chickadee, 11; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1; Robin, 1; Bluebird, 2. Total, 17 species, 79 individuals.—MARY PIERSON ALLEN.

Doylestown, Pa.—Dec. 25; 10 A. M. to 2.30 P. M. Fair; ground snow-covered; wind southwest; temperature 40 degrees. Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 3; Blue Jay, 5; Crow, 7; Starling, 10; Meadowlark, 3; Purple Finch, 3; Tree Sparrow, 8; Junco, 42; Song Sparrow, 4; Cardinal, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Tufted Titmouse, 5; Black-capped Chickadee, 16; Robin, 1; Bluebird, 2. Total, 18 species, 117 individuals—DOYLESTOWN NATURE CLUB, per Miss ELIZABETH COX.

Lexington, N. C.—Dec. 27; 9.30 A. M. to 4.30 P. M. Fair to hazy; ground bare; wind southeast to south, light; temperature 44 degrees to 50 degrees. Mourning Dove, 1; Turkey Vulture, 21; Sparrow Hawk, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2; Northern Flicker, 9; Blue Jay, 12; Crow, 15; Purple Finch, 10; Goldfinch, 13; White-throated Sparrow, 50; Chipping Sparrow, 15; Field Sparrow, 30; Slate-coloured Junco, 100; Song Sparrow, 26; Fox Sparrow, 2; Towhee, 4; Cardinal, 20; {98} Mockingbird, 5; Carolina Wren, 12; House Wren, 2; Long-billed Marsh Wren, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 4; Tufted Titmouse, 4; Carolina Chickadee, 20; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 3; Bluebird, 8. Total, 27 species, 391 individuals.—THEODORE ANDREWS.

Columbia, S. C. (Outskirts).—Dec. 27; 11 A. M. to 1 P. M. Clear; ground bare; wind southwest, light; temperature 47 degrees. Black Vulture, 30; Red-tailed Hawk, 2; Red-headed Woodpecker, 6; Flicker, 1; Blue Jay, 12; Goldfinch, 7; White-throated Sparrow, 15; Slate-coloured Junco, 35; Song Sparrow, 6; Red-eyed Towhee, 3; Loggerhead Shrike, 1; Mockingbird, 3; Carolina Wren, 7; Brown Creeper, 1; Carolina Chickadee, 8; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 8. Total, 17 species, 147 individuals.—BELLE WILLIAMS.

Tampa, Fla.—Dec. 26; 9 A. M. to 12 M. and 2 to 5 P. M. Clear; wind northwest, steady; tide out all day; temperature 40 degrees. Laughing Gull, 1; Bonaparte's Gull, 1; Brown Pelican, 9; Lesser Scaup, 75; Ward's Heron, 2; Little Blue Heron, 5; Killdeer, 15; Mourning Dove, 3; Turkey Vulture, 10; Black Vulture, 4; Marsh Hawk, 1; Bald Eagle, 1; Kingfisher, 1; Red-headed Woodpecker, 1; Florida Blue Jay, 5; Towhee, 1; Tree Sparrow, 14; Loggerhead Shrike, 6; Myrtle Warbler, 20; Yellow-throated Warbler, 1; Palm Warbler, 60; Prairie Warbler, 1; Mockingbird, 12; House Wren, 2; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 3. Total, 26 species, about 360 individuals.—MRS. HERBERT R. MILLS.

Rantoul, Ill.—Dec. 25; 11 A. M. to 2 P. M. Cloudy; wind north-west, strong; temperature 22 degrees. Prairie Hen, 40; Mourning Dove, 2; Cooper's Hawk, 2; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; American Rough-legged Hawk, 5; American Sparrow Hawk, 1; Short-eared Owl, 3; Screech Owl, 1; Northern Downy Woodpecker, 5; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2; Northern Flicker, 2; Horned Lark, 60; Prairie Horned Lark, 30; Blue Jay, 15; Bronzed Crackle, 2; Lapland Longspur, 4; Tree Sparrow, 200; Junco, 100; Song Sparrow, 8; Swamp Sparrow, 2; Cardinal, 16; Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 10; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 4; Tufted Titmouse, 30; Chickadee, 24; {99} Golden-crowned Kinglet, 4. Total, 28 species, 575 individuals.—GEORGE E. EKBLAW and EDDIE L. EKBLAW.

Youngstown, Ohio.—Dec. 25; 8 A. M. to 4 P. M. Rain nearly all day; wind southerly, brisk at times; temperature 46 degrees to 33 degrees; walked about 10 miles. Ruffed Grouse, 2; Barred Owl, 1; Great Horned Owl, 2; Hairy Woodpecker, 6; Downy Woodpecker, 30; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 21; Goldfinch, 4; Tree Sparrow, 54; Slate-coloured Junco, 4; Song Sparrow, 20; Cardinal, 25; Winter Wren, 1; Brown Creeper, 4; White-breasted Nuthatch, 50; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Tufted Titmouse, 25; Chickadee, 133; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 29; Wood Thrush, 1. Total, 20 species, 424 individuals. The Wood Thrush was possibly crippled, but could fly quite well.—GEORGE L. FORDYCE, VOLNEY ROGERS, C. A. LEEDY, and MRS. WILLIS H. WARNER.

Westfield, Wis.—Dec. 22; 8.30 to 10.30 A. M. Cloudy; ground covered by light snow; wind south, light; temperature 30 degrees. Ruffed Grouse, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Blue Jay, 3; Goldfinch, 40; Tree Sparrow, 20; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Chickadee, 12. Total, 7 species, 81 individuals.—PATIENCE NESBITT.

Omaha, Neb.—Dec. 25; 10 A. M. to 3 P. M. Clear till noon; 1 inch of snow with bare spots; wind light, south; temperature 20 to 32 degrees. Open woods and parks just west of town, walked north 5 miles. Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 7; Blue Jay, 8; Goldfinch, 2; Pine Siskin, 1; Tree Sparrow, 75; Slate-coloured Junco, 20; Cardinal, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Chickadee, 26. Total, 10 species, 145 individuals.—SOLON R. TOWNE.

Denver, Colo.—Dec. 25; 2.20 to 4 P. M. Partly cloudy; ground with some snow; wind west, strong; temperature 45 degrees to 55 degrees. Ring-necked Pheasant, 11; Marsh Hawk, 1; Orange-shafted Flicker, 9; Magpie, 75; Red-winged Blackbird, 750; Meadowlark, 4; House Finch, 35; Tree Sparrow, 60; Shufeldt's Junco, 3; Pink-sided Junco, 1; Gray-headed Junco, 18. Total, 11 species, 967 individuals.—W. H. BERGTOLD.

Escondido, Calif.—Dec. 25; 9 A. M. to 2 P. M. Partly cloudy; {100} temperature 65 degrees. Killdeer, 30; Valley Quail, 100; Mourning Dove, 20; Western Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Desert Sparrow Hawk, 2; Barn Owl, 2; Burrowing Owl, 3; California Screech Owl, 1; Red-shafted Flicker, 3; Black-chinned Hummingbird, 3; Arkansas Kingbird, 9; Say's Phoebe, 4; Black Phoebe, 2; California Jay, 4; Western Meadowlark, 75; Brewer's Blackbird, 150; House Finch, 200; Willow Goldfinch, 50; Anthony's Towhee, 35; Phainopepla, 1; California Shrike, 8; Audubon's Warbler, 30; Western Mockingbird, 10; Pasadena Thrasher, 3; California Bush Tit, 20; Pallid Wren Tit, 6; Western Robin, 25; Western Bluebird, 10. Total, 38 species, 805 individuals.—FRED GALLUP.




Wild birds are now generally protected by law. Wander where you will through every province of Canada, and almost every nook and corner of the United States, you will find that the lawmaker has been there before you, and has thrown over the birds the sheltering arm of prohibitory statutes. Legislators are not usually supposed to spend much energy on drafting and enacting measures unless it is thought that these will result in practical benefit to at least some portion of their constituents. Legislative bodies are not much given to appropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the enforcement of a law which is purely sentimental in its nature. It is clear, therefore, that our law makers regard the wild bird life as {102} a great value to the country from the standpoint of dollars and cents.

Destructiveness of Insects.—If we go back a few years and examine certain widely read publications issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, we can understand more fully why our legislative bodies have regarded so seriously the subject of bird protection. In one of the Year Books of the Department we read that the annual loss to the cotton crop of the United States by insects amounts to sixty million dollars. We learn, too, that grasshoppers and other insects annually destroy fifty-three million dollars' worth of hay and that two million dollars' worth of cereals are each year eaten by our insect population. In fact, we are told that one-tenth of all the cereals, hay, cotton, tobacco, forests, and general farm products is the yearly tax which insects levy and collect. In some parts of the country market-gardening and fruit-growing are the chief industries of the people. Now, when a vegetable raiser or fruit grower starts to count up the cost of {103} his crops, one of the items which he must take into consideration is the 25 per cent. of his products which goes to feed the insects of the surrounding country.

Not all insects are detrimental to man's interests, but as we have just seen the Government officially states that many of them are tremendously destructive. Any one who has attempted to raise apples, for example, has made the unpleasant acquaintance of the codling moth and the curculio. Every season the apple raisers of the United States expend eight and one-quarter million dollars in spraying, to discourage the activities of these pests. In considering the troubles of the apple growers we may go even farther and count the twelve million dollars' worth of fruit spoiled by the insects despite all the spraying which has taken place. Chinch bugs destroy wheat to the value of twenty million dollars a year, and the cotton-boll weevil costs the Southern planters an equal amount.

Plagues of Insects.—Every now and then we read {104} of great plagues of insects which literally lay waste a whole section of country. History tells of these calamities which have troubled the civilized world from the days of Pharaoh to the present time. During the summer of 1912 there was a great outbreak of army worms in South Carolina. In innumerable millions they marched across the country, destroying vegetation like a consuming fire. In the year 1900 Hessian flies appeared in great numbers in Ohio and Indiana, and before they subsided they had destroyed absolutely two and one-half million acres of the finest wheat to be found in the Middle West, and wheat land dropped 40 per cent. in value.

Closing this Year Book, with its long tables of discouraging statements, we may find more cheerful reading if we turn to another Agricultural Department publication entitled, "Some Common Birds and Their Relation to Agriculture; Farmers Bulletin number Fifty-four." We need peruse only a few pages to become impressed with the fact that our Government Biological Survey has made an {105} exhaustive and exceedingly thorough investigation of the feeding habits of the wild birds that frequent the fields and forests. The reports of the economic ornithologists herein given are almost as surprising as the sad records given by the entomologists in the Year Book. We learn that birds, as a class, constitute a great natural check on the undue increase of harmful insects, and furthermore that the capacity for food of the average bird is decidedly greater in proportion than that of any other vertebrate.

Some Useful Birds.—Most people who have made the acquaintance of our common birds know the friendly little Chickadee, which winter and summer is a constant resident in groves of deciduous trees. It feeds, among other things, on borers living in the bark of trees, on plant lice which suck the sap, on caterpillars which consume the leaves, and on codling worms which destroy fruit. One naturalist found that four Chickadees had eaten one hundred and five female cankerworm moths. With scalpel, tweezers, and microscope these moths were examined, {106} and each was found to contain on an average one hundred and eighty-five eggs. This gives a total of nearly twenty thousand cankerworm moth eggs destroyed by four birds in a few minutes. The Chickadee is very fond of the eggs of this moth and hunts them assiduously during the four weeks of the summer when the moths are laying them.

The Nighthawk, which feeds mainly in the evening, and which is equally at home in the pine barrens of Florida, the prairies of Dakota, or the upper air of New York City, is a slaughterer of insects of many kinds. A Government agent collected one, in the stomach of which were the remains of thirty-four May beetles, the larvae of which are the white grubs well known to farmers on account of their destruction of potatoes and other vegetables. Several stomachs have been found to contain fifty or more different kinds of insects, and the number of individuals in some cases run into the thousands. Nighthawks also eat grasshoppers, potato-beetles, cucumber-beetles, boll-weevils, leaf-hoppers, and numerous gnats and {107} mosquitoes. Surely this splendid representative of the Goatsucker family deserves the gratitude of all American citizens.

Among the branches of certain of our fruit trees we sometimes see large webs which have been made by the tent caterpillars. An invading host seems to have pitched its tents among the boughs on all sides. If undisturbed these caterpillars strip the foliage from the trees. Fortunately there is a bird which is very fond of these hairy intruders. This is the Cuckoo, and he eats so many that his stomach actually becomes lined with a thick coating of hairs from their woolly bodies. The Baltimore Oriole also is fond of rifling these webs.

Another well-known bird that helps to make this part of the world habitable is the Flicker. It is popular in every neighbourhood where it is found and is known by a wide variety of local names, over one hundred and twenty-five of which have been recorded. Golden-winged Woodpecker some people call it. Other names are High-holder, Wake-up, {108} Walk-up, Yellowhammer, and Pigeon Woodpecker. The people of Cape Hatteras know it as Wilkrissen, and in some parts of Florida it is the Yucker-bird. Naturalists call it Colaptes auratus, but name it as you may, this bird of many aliases is well worthy of the esteem in which it is held. It gathers its food almost entirely from the ground, being different in this respect from other Woodpeckers. One may flush it in the grove, the forest, the peanut field, or the untilled prairie, and everywhere it is found engaged in the most highly satisfactory occupation of destroying insect life. More than half of its food consists of ants. In this country, taken as a whole, Flickers are very numerous, and the millions of individual birds which have yet escaped the guns of degenerate pot hunters constitute a mighty army of destruction to the Formicidae.

Let us not forget that any creature which eats ants is a decided boon to humanity. Ants, besides being wood borers, invaders of pantries, killers of young birds, nuisances to campers and barefoot {109} boys, care for and perpetuate plant lice which infest vegetation in all parts of the country to our very serious loss. Professor Forbes, in his study of the corn plant louse, found that in spring ants mine along the principal roots of the corn. Then they collect the plant lice, or aphids, and convey them into these burrows and there watch and protect them. Without the assistance of ants, it appears that the plant lice would be unable to reach the roots of the corn. In return for these attentions the ants feast upon the honey-like substances secreted by these aphids. The ants, which have the reputation of being no sluggards, take good care of their diminutive milch cattle, and will tenderly pick them up and transport them to new pastures when the old ones fail. Late in the summer they carefully collect all the aphid eggs that are obtainable, and taking them into their nests keep them safe during the winter. When spring comes and the eggs hatch, the ants gather the young plant lice and place them on plants. It may be seen, therefore, that the Flicker {110} by digging up ants' nests and feeding on the inhabitants has its value in an agricultural community.

The Question of the Weed Seeds.—The work of the Chickadee, the Nighthawk, the Cuckoo, and the Flicker is only an example of the good being done by at least two-thirds of birds in the United States, and most of the remainder are not without their beneficial qualities. When the coming of winter brings a cessation of insect life, many birds turn to the weed patches for food. Especially is this the case with the various varieties of native Sparrows.

No one has yet determined just how many weed seeds one of these birds will eat in a day. The number, however, must be very great. An ornithologist, upon examining the stomach of a Tree Sparrow, found it to contain seven hundred undigested pigeon-weed seeds, and in the same way it was discovered that a Snow Bunting had taken one thousand seeds of the pigweed at one meal.

Mr. E. H. Forbush, the well-known Massachusetts naturalist, frequently amuses himself by {111} observing the birds near his house as they feed on the millet seed that he provides for them. Speaking of some of the things he saw here, he says, "A Fox Sparrow ate one hundred and three seeds in two minutes and forty-seven seconds; another, one {112} hundred and ten in three minutes, forty-five seconds; while still another Song Sparrow ate one hundred and fifty-four in the same length of time. This Sparrow had been eating for half an hour before the count began and continued for some time after it was finished." It is readily seen that thirty seeds a minute was below the average of these birds; and if each bird ate at that rate for but a single hour each day it would destroy eighteen hundred seeds a day, or twelve thousand six hundred a week. Some day the economic ornithologists under the leadership of Professor F. E. L. Beal, America's leading authority on the subject, may give us a full and exhaustive account of what the various birds do for us in the way of keeping down the great scourge of grass and weeds with which the farmers have to deal. In the meantime, however, we may bear in mind that enough evidence already has been accumulated to prove that as destroyers of noxious weed seeds the wild birds are of vast importance.

Dealing with the Rodent Pests.—In addition to {113} weeds and insects, there is yet another group of pests, some representatives of which may be found in every neighbourhood. It is composed of rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, mice, and the like. They all possess long front teeth for gnawing, and constitute the Order of Rodents. Some species destroy fruit trees by gnawing away the bark near the ground, others attack the grain stacked in the field or stored in the granary. As these little sharp-eyed creatures are chiefly nocturnal in their habits, we seldom see them; we see only the ruin they have wrought. In some of the American ports incoming vessels are systematically fumigated to kill the rats for fear they may bring with them the bubonic plague. In April, 1898, while engaged in field natural history work in Hyde County, North Carolina, I found the farms along the north shore of Matamuskeet Lake were overrun by swarms of large brown rats that burrowed in the ground everywhere, and coming out at night wrought havoc and destruction on the farm lands. The whole country was up {114} in arms and the farmers were appealing for State and Federal aid to help them rid the land of this terrible scourge. In short, the rodents, as a class, are regarded as decidedly detrimental to the interests of mankind.

The Terror That Flies by Night.—Among the chief enemies of rodents in North America are the nineteen species of Owls, untold numbers of which are abroad every night searching through fields and forests for just such creatures as these. The digestive processes of Owls are such that the hard, indigestible portions of their food are disgorged in the form of balls and may often be found beneath their roosting places. One of our most odd-looking birds is the Barn Owl. Being nocturnal in its habits it is rarely seen unless one takes the trouble to climb into unfrequented church towers, the attics of abandoned buildings, or similar places which they seek out for roosting purposes. Some years ago the naturalist, Dr. A. K. Fisher, discovered that a pair of Barn Owls had taken up their abode in one of the towers {115} of the Smithsonion Institution building. He found the floor thickly strewn with pellets composed of bones and fur which these birds and their young had disgorged. He collected two hundred of these {116} and took them to his laboratory. A painstaking examination showed that they contained four hundred and fifty-three skulls. Here is his list made out at the time: two hundred and twenty-five meadow mice, two pine mice, twenty shrews, one star-nosed mole, and one Vesper Sparrow. It is plain to be seen that great good was accomplished in the community by this pair of Owls and their young, for the evil effects of the rodents in life must have far overbalanced the good service of the one useful Vesper Sparrow.

A Seldom Recognised Blessing.—There are some large predatory birds which destroy the lives of many game birds and others of the weaker species. On game farms, therefore, an unpleasant but necessary task is the shooting or trapping of Hawks and Owls. At first thought it might seem best to wage a war of absolute extermination on these offenders, and some game-keepers urge that this should be done. Personally I am opposed to any such course of action, one reason being that this would not {117} necessarily forward the best interests of the game birds it is desired to serve. So important and yet so unexpected is the ultimate effect of the activities of predatory creatures that in a state of nature I am convinced the supply of game birds is increased rather than decreased by being preyed upon. Like all other creatures, birds are subject to sickness and disease, but by the laws of nature it appears that they are not designed to suffer long. Their quick removal is advisable if they are to be prevented from spreading contagion among their fellows, or breeding and passing on their weakness to their offspring. Sometimes the Hawk, dashing at a covey of game birds, may capture one of its strongest and healthiest members, but the chances are that the afflicted member, which is not so quick on the rise or is a little slower on the wing, is the one to be taken. Just as some savages are said to put to death the incompetent and unfit, so do the laws operate which govern wild life. If, therefore, we should destroy all the Hawks, Owls, wild cats, foxes, skunks, {118} snakes, and other predatory creatures, it is an open question whether in the long run our game birds would be the gainers thereby.

Some time ago I visited a large game farm in one of the Southern States, where for several years the owner had been engaged in raising English Ring-necked Pheasants. The gamekeeper stated that there were about six thousand of these brilliantly coloured birds on the preserve at that time. He also pointed with pride to an exhibit on the walls of a small house. An examination showed that the two sides and one end of this building were thickly decorated with the feet of Hawks, Crows, Owls, domestic cats, minks, weasels, and other creatures that were supposed to be the enemies of Pheasants. Two men were employed on the place to shoot and trap at all seasons, and the evidences of their industry were nailed up, to let all men see that the owner of the big game farm meant to allow no wild bird or animal to fatten on his game birds.

A year later I again visited the same preserve and {119} found great lamentation. More than five thousand Pheasants had been swept away by disease within a few weeks. Is it going too far to say that the gunmen and trappers had overdone their work? So few Hawks or Owls or foxes had been left to capture the birds first afflicted, that these had been permitted to associate with their kind and to pass on weakness and disease to their offspring until the general health tone of the whole Pheasant community had become lowered. In the end five-sixths of the birds had succumbed to the devastations of disease.

All birds have their part to play in the great economy of the earth, and it is a dangerous experiment to upset the balance of Nature.




Twelve hundred kinds of wild birds have been positively identified in North America. About one-third of this number are called sub-species, or climatic varieties. To illustrate the meaning of "sub-species," it may be stated that in Texas the plumage of the Bob-White is lighter in colour than the plumage of the typical eastern Bob-White, which was first described to science; therefore, the Texas bird is known as a sub-species of the type. Distributed through North America are nineteen sub-species of the eastern Song Sparrow. These vary from the typical bird by differences in size and shades of marking. In a similar way there are nine climatic variations of Screech Owls, six Long-billed Marsh Wrens, and fourteen Horned Larks. It is {121} difficult to explain why this variation in colour and size is so pronounced in some species and yet is totally absent in others of equally wide range. The Mourning Dove breeds in many localities from the southern tier of Canadian Provinces southward throughout the United States and Mexico, and yet everywhere over this vast range the birds are the same in size and colour. Nowhere do the individuals exhibit any markings suggestive of climatic influences.

Some birds are very rare and are admitted to the list of North American species because of the fact that during the years a few stragglers from other parts of the world have been found on our continent. Thus the Scarlet Ibis from South America, and the Kestrel and Rook from western Europe, are known to come to our shores only as rare wanderers who had lost their way, or were blown hither by storms. Eighty-five species of the birds now listed for North America are of this extra-limital class. Among those naturally inhabiting the country, some are, of course, much more abundant than others, thus every one {122} knows that Bald Eagles are comparatively rare, and that Robins and Chipping Sparrows exist by millions.

The Number of Birds in Different States.—The number of kinds of birds found in any one State depends on the size of the State, its geographical situation, and the varieties of its climate as affected by the topography in reference to mountains, coastlines, etc. The number of bird students and the character of their field studies determine the extent to which the birds of a State have been catalogued and listed. The following list indicates the number of kinds of birds that have been recorded in forty-three of the States and the District of Columbia. The authority for the statement in each instance and the year in which the figures were given is also stated:

Alabama, 275 (Oberholser, 1909). Arizona, 371 (Cooke, 1914). Arkansas, 255 (Howell, 1911). California, 541 (Grinnell, 1916). Colorado, 403 (Cooke, 1912). {123} Connecticut, 334 (Sage and Bishop, 1913). Delaware, 229 (Rennock, 1908). District of Columbia, 293 (Cooke, 1913). Florida, 362 (Thurston, 1916). Idaho, 210 (Merrill, 1898). Illinois, 390 (Cory, 1909). Indiana, 321 (Butler, 1898). Iowa, 356 (Anderson, 1907). Kansas, 379 (Bunker, 1913). Kentucky, 228 (Garman, 1894). Louisiana, 323 (Byer, Allison, Kopman, 1915). Maine, 327 (Knight, 1908). Maryland, 290 (Kirkwood, 1895). Massachusetts, 369 (Howe and Allen, 1901). Michigan, 326 (Barrows, 1912). Minnesota, 304 (Hatch, 1892). Missouri, 383 (Widmann, 1907). Nebraska, 418 (Swenk, 1915). Nevada, 250 (Hoffman, 1881). New Hampshire, 283 (Allen, 1904). New Jersey, 358 (Stone, 1916).


New Mexico, 314 (Ford, 1911). New York, 412 (Eaton, 1914). North Carolina, 342 (Pearson and Brimley, '16). North Dakota, 338 (Schmidt, 1904). Ohio, 330 (Jones, 1916). Oregon, 328 (Woodcock, 1902). Pennsylvania, 300 (Warren, 1890). Rhode Island, 293 (Howe and Sturtevant, 1899). South Carolina, 337 (Wayne, 1910). Tennessee, 223 (Rhoads, 1896). Texas, 546 (Strecker, 1912). Utah, 214 (Henshaw, 1874). Vermont, 255 (Howe, 1902). Virginia, 302 (Rives, 1890). Wellington, 372 (Dawson, 1909). West Virginia, 246 (Brooks, 1913). Wisconsin, 357 (Kumlien and Hollister, 1903). Wyoming, 288 (Knight, 1902).

For the five remaining States no list of the birds has as yet been issued.


Increase of Garden and Farm Birds.—The effect of civilization on the bird life of North America has been both pronounced and varied in character. Ask almost any one over fifty years of age if there are as many birds about the country as there were when he was a boy, and invariably he will answer "No!" This reply will be made, not because all birds have decreased in numbers, but because there has come a change in the man's ideas and viewpoint; in short, the change is chiefly a psychological one. The gentleman doubtless does not see the birds as much as he did when he was a boy on a farm, or if he does, they do not make the same impression on his mind. It is but another example of the human tendency to regard all things as better in the "good old times." Let us turn then from such well-meant but inaccurate testimony, and face the facts as they exist. I have no hesitation in saying that with many species of Finches, Warblers, Thrushes, and Wrens, their numbers in North America have greatly increased since the first coming of the white men to our shores.


It is a fact well known to careful observers that the deep, unbroken forests do not hold the abundance of bird life that is to be found in a country of farmlands, interspersed with thickets and groves. Originally extensive regions of eastern North America were covered with forests wherein birds that thrive in open countries could not find suitable habitation. As soon as the trees were cut the face of the country began to assume an aspect which greatly favoured such species as the Bobolink, Meadowlark, Quail, Vesper Sparrow, and others of the field-loving varieties. The open country brought them suitable places to nest, and agriculture increased their food supply. The settlers began killing off the wolves, wild cats, skunks, opossums, snakes, and many of the predatory Hawks, thus reducing the numbers of natural enemies with which this class of birds has to contend.

When the swamp is drained it means that the otter, the mink, and the Wild Duck must go, but the meadowland that takes the place of the swamp {127} provides for an increased number of other species of wild life.

Effect of Forest Devastation.—Only in a comparatively few cases has bird life suffered from the destruction of forests. In parts of the Middle West the Woodpeckers have no doubt decreased in {128} numbers. There are places where one may travel for many miles without seeing a single grove in which these birds could live.

Passenger Pigeons as late as 1870 were frequently seen in enormous flocks. Their numbers during the periods of migration was one of the greatest ornithological wonders of the world. Now the birds are gone. What is supposed to have been the last one died in captivity in the Zoological Park of Cincinnati at 2 P. M. on the afternoon of September 1, 1914. Despite the generally accepted statement that these birds succumbed to the guns, snares, and nets of hunters, there is a second cause which doubtless had its effect in hastening the disappearance of the species. The cutting away of vast forests where the birds were accustomed to gather and feed on mast greatly restricted their feeding range. They collected in enormous colonies for the purpose of rearing their young, and after the forests of the Northern States were so largely destroyed the birds seem to have been driven far up into Canada, quite {129} beyond their usual breeding range. Here, as Forbush suggests, the summer probably was not sufficiently long to enable them to rear their young successfully.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the largest member of the Woodpecker family found in the United States, is now nearly extinct. There are some in the wilder regions of Florida, and a few in the swamps of upper Louisiana, but nowhere does the bird exist in numbers. It has been thought by some naturalists that the reduction of the forest areas was responsible for this bird's disappearance, but it is hard to believe that this fact alone was sufficient to affect them so seriously, for the birds live mainly in swamps, and in our Southern States there are extensive lowland regions that remain practically untouched by the axeman. For some reason, however, the birds have been unable to withstand the advance of civilization, and like the Paroquet, the disappearance of which is almost equally difficult to explain, it will soon be numbered with the lengthening list of species that have passed away.


The Commercializing of Birds.—With the exceptions noted above the birds that have noticeably decreased in numbers in North America are those on whose heads a price has been set by the markets. Let a demand once arise for the bodies or the feathers of a species, and immediately a war is begun upon it that, unless speedily checked, spells disaster for the unfortunate bird.

The Labrador Duck and Others.—A hundred years ago the Labrador Duck, known to Audubon as the "Pied Duck," was abundant in the waters of the North Atlantic, and it was hunted and shot regularly in fall, winter, and spring, along the coast of New England and New York. Their breeding grounds were chiefly on the islands and along the shores of Labrador, as well as on the islands and mainland about the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Any one over forty years of age will remember how very popular feather beds used to be. In fact, there are those of us who know from experience that in many rural sections the deep feather bed is still regarded as the piece de {131} resistance of the careful householder's equipment. There was a time when the domestic poultry of New England did not furnish as great a supply of feathers as was desired. Furthermore, "Eider down" was recognized as the most desirable of all feathers for certain domestic uses.

A hundred and fifty years ago New England sea-faring men frequently fitted out vessels and sailed to the Labrador coast in summer on "feather-voyages." The feathers sought were those of the Labrador Duck and the Eider. These adventurous bird pirates secured their booty either by killing the birds or taking the down from the nests. The commercializing of the Labrador Duck meant its undoing. The last one known to have been taken was killed by a hunter near Long Island, New York, in 1875. Forty-two of these birds only are preserved in the ornithological collections of the whole world.

Another species which succumbed to the persistent persecution of mankind was the Great Cormorant that at one time was extremely abundant in the {132} northern Pacific and Bering Sea. They were killed for food by Indians, whalers, and others who visited the regions where the birds spend the summer. The Great Cormorant has been extinct in those waters since the year 1850.

Great Auks were once numbered literally by millions in the North Atlantic. They were flightless and exceedingly fat. They were easily killed with clubs on the breeding rookeries, and provided an acceptable meat supply for fishermen and other toilers of the sea; also their feathers were sought. They were very common off Labrador and Newfoundland. Funk Island, especially, contained an enormous breeding colony.

For years fishermen going to the Banks in early summer depended on Auks for their meat supply. The birds probably bred as far south as Massachusetts, where it is known a great many were killed by Indians during certain seasons of the year. However, it was the white man who brought ruin to this magnificent sea-fowl, for the savage Indians were {133} too provident to exterminate any species of bird or animal. The Great Auk was last seen in America between 1830 and 1840, and the final individual, so far as there is any positive record, was killed off Iceland in 1841. About eighty specimens of this bird, and seventy eggs, are preserved in the Natural History collections of the world.

The Trumpeter Swan and the Whooping Crane are nearly extinct to-day. Constant shooting and {134} the extensive settling of the prairies of the Northwest have been the causes of their disappearance.

Diminution of Other Species.—Of the fifty-five kinds of Wild Ducks, Geese, and Swans commonly found in North America, there is probably not one as numerous to-day as it was a hundred or even fifty years ago. Why? The markets where their bodies commanded a price of so much per head have swallowed them up. The shotgun has also played havoc with the Prairie Chicken and the Sage Grouse. Of the former possibly as many as one thousand exist on the Heath Hen Reservation of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, a pitiful remnant of the eastern form of the species. Even in the Prairie States wide ranges of country that formerly knew them by tens of thousands now know them no more.

We might go farther and note also the rapidly decreasing numbers of the Sandhill Crane and the Limpkin of Florida. They are being shot for food. The large White Egret, the Snowy Egret, and the Roseate Spoonbill are found in lessening numbers each {135} year because they have been commercialized. There is a demand in the feather trade which can be met only by the use of their plumage, and as no profitable means has been devised for raising these birds in captivity the few remaining wild ones must be sacrificed, for from the standpoint of the killers it is better that a few men should become enriched by bird slaughter than that many people should derive pleasure from the birds which add so much beauty and interest to the landscape.

Change of Nesting Habits.—The nesting habits of some birds have been revolutionized by the coming of civilization to the American wilderness. The Swallow family provides three notable examples of this. The Cliff Swallow and Barn Swallow that formerly built their nests on exposed cliffs now seek the shelter of barns and other outbuildings for this purpose. The open nest of the Barn Swallow is usually found on the joists of hay barns and large stables and not infrequently on similar supports of wide verandas. The Cliff Swallow builds its gourd-shaped {136} mud nest under the eaves and hence is widely known as the Eaves Swallow. No rest of any kind in the form of a projecting beam is needed, as the bird skilfully fastens the mud to the vertical side of the barn close up under the overhanging roof. In such a situation it is usually safe from all beating rains. The Cliff Swallow has exhibited wisdom to no mean extent in exchanging the more or less exposed rocky ledge for the safety of sheltering eaves. Swallows show a decided tendency to gather in colonies in the breeding season. Under the eaves of a warehouse on the cost of Maine I once counted exactly one hundred nests of these birds, all of which appeared to be inhabited. Examination of another building less than seventy feet away added thirty-seven occupied nests to the list.

The nesting site of the Purple Martin has likewise been changed in a most radical fashion. Originally these birds built their nests of leaves, feathers, and grass, in hollow trees. Here no doubt they were often disturbed by weasels, squirrels, snakes, and {137} other consumers of birds and their eggs. Some of the southern Indians hung gourds up on poles and the Martins learned to build their nests in them. This custom is still in vogue in the South, and thousands of Martin houses throughout the country are erected every year for the accommodation of these interesting birds. By their cheerful twitterings and their vigilance in driving from the neighbourhood every Hawk and Crow that ventures near, they not only repay the slight effort made in their behalf, but endear themselves to the thrifty chicken-raising farm-wives of the country.

If gourds or boxes cannot be found Martins will sometimes build about the eaves of buildings or similar places. They have learned that it is wise to nest near human habitations. At Plant City, Florida, one may find their nests in the large electric arc-lights swinging in the streets, and at Clearwater, Florida, and in Bismarck, North Dakota, colonies nest under the projecting roofs of store buildings.

I have always been interested in finding nests of {138} birds, but I think no success in this line ever pleased me quite so much as the discovery of two pairs of Purple Martins making their nests one day in May, down on the edge of the Everglade country in south Florida. There were no bird boxes or gourds for at least twenty or thirty miles around, so the birds had appropriated some old Flicker nesting cavities in dead trees, that is, one pair of the birds had appropriated a disused hole, and the second pair was busy trying to carry nesting material into a Flicker's nest from which the young birds had not yet departed. Here then were Martins preparing to carry on their domestic duties just as they did back in the old primeval days.

The discussion of this subject could not well be closed without mentioning the Chimney Swift that now almost universally glues to the inner side of a chimney, or more rarely the inner wall of some building, the few little twigs that constitute its nest. It is only in the remotest parts of the country that these birds still resort to hollow trees for nesting purposes. {139} There is—or was a few years ago—a hollow cypress tree standing on the edge of Big Lake in North Carolina which was used by a pair of Chimney Swifts, and it made one feel as if he were living in primitive times to see these little dark birds dart downward into a hollow tree, miles and miles away from any friendly chimney. Some day I hope to revisit the region and find this natural nesting hollow still occupied by a pair of unmodernized Swifts.




The traffic in the feathers of American birds for the millinery trade began to develop strongly about 1880 and assumed its greatest proportions during the next ten years. The wholesale milliners whose business and pleasure it was to supply these ornaments for women's hats naturally turned for their supply first to those species of birds most easily procured. Agents were soon going about the country looking for men to kill birds for their feathers, and circulars and hand bills offering attractive prices for feathers of various kinds were mailed broadcast. The first great onslaughts were made on the breeding colonies of sea birds along the Atlantic Coast. On Long Island there were some very large communities of Terns and these were {141} quickly raided. The old birds were shot down and the unattended young necessarily were left to starve. Along the coast of Massachusetts the sea birds suffered a like fate. Maine with its innumerable out-lying rocky islands was, as it is to-day, the chief nursery of the Herring Gulls and Common Terns of the North Atlantic. This fact was soon discovered and thousands were slaughtered every summer, their wings cut off, and their bodies left to rot among the nests on the rookeries.

War on the Sea Swallows.—During a period of seven years more than 500,000 Terns', or Sea Swallows', skins were collected in spring and summer in the sounds of North and South Carolina. These figures I compiled from the records and accounts given me by men who did the killing. Their method was to fit out small sailing vessels on which they could live comfortably and cruise for several weeks; in fact, they were usually out during the entire three months of the nesting period. That was the time of year that offered best rewards for such work, for then the birds' {142} feathers bore their brightest lustre, and the birds being assembled on their nesting grounds they could easily be shot in great numbers. After the birds were killed the custom was to skin them, wash off the blood stains with benzine, and dry the feathers with plaster of Paris. Arsenic was used for curing and preserving the skins. Men in this business became very skilful and rapid in their work, some being able to prepare as many as one hundred skins in a day.

Millinery agents from New York would sometimes take skinners with them and going to a favourable locality would employ local gunners to shoot the birds which they in turn would skin. In this way one New York woman with some assistants collected and brought back from Cobbs' Island, Virginia, 10,000 skins of the Least Tern in a single season.

In the swamps of Florida word was carried that the great millinery trade of the North was bidding high for the feathers of those plume birds which gave life and beauty even to its wildest regions. It was not long before the cypress fastnesses were echoing {143} to the roar of breech-loaders, and cries of agony and piles of torn feathers became common sounds and sights even in the remotest depths of the Everglades. What mattered it if the semi-tropical birds of exquisite plumage were swept from existence, if only the millinery trade might prosper!

The milliners were not content to collect their prey only in obscure and little-known regions, for a chance was seen to commercialize the small birds of the forests and fields. Warblers, Thrushes, Wrens, in fact all those small forms of dainty bird life which come about the home to cheer the hearts of men and women and gladden the eyes of little children, commanded a price if done to death and their pitiful remains shipped to New York.

Taxidermists, who made a business of securing birds and preparing their skins, found abundant opportunity to ply their trade. Never had the business of taxidermy been so profitable as in those days. For example, in the spring of 1882 some of the feather agents established themselves at points {144} on the New Jersey coast, and sent out word to residents of the region that they would buy the bodies of freshly killed birds of all kinds procurable. The various species of Terns, which were then abundant on the Jersey coast, offered the best opportunity {145} for profit, for not only were they found in vast numbers, but they were comparatively easy to shoot. Ten cents apiece was the price paid, and so lucrative a business did the shooting of these birds become that many baymen gave up their usual occupation of sailing pleasure parties and became gunners. These men often earned as much as one hundred dollars a week for their skill with the shotgun.

It is not surprising that at the end of the season a local observer reported: "One cannot help noticing now the scarcity of Terns on the New Jersey coast, and it is all owing to their merciless destruction." One might go further and give the sickening details of how the birds were swept from the mud flats about the mouth of the Mississippi and the innumerable shell lumps of the Chandeleurs and the Breton Island region; how the Great Lakes were bereft of their feathered life, and the swamps of the Kankakee were invaded; how the White Pelicans, Western Grebes, Caspian Terns, and California Gulls of the West were butchered and their skinned {146} bodies left in pyramids to fester in the sun. One might recount stories of Bluebirds and Robins shot on the very lawns of peaceful, bird-loving citizens of our Eastern States in order that the feathers might be spirited away to feed the insatiable appetite of the wholesale milliner dealers. Never have birds been worn in this country in such numbers as in those days. Ten or fifteen small song birds' skins were often sewed on a single hat!

What the Ladies Wore.—In 1886 Dr. Frank M. Chapman walked through the shopping district of New York City on his way home, two afternoons in succession, and carefully observed the feather decorations on the hats of the women he chanced to meet. The result of his observation, as reported to Forest and Stream, shows that he found in common use as millinery trimming many highly esteemed birds as the following list which he wrote down at the time will serve to show:

Robins, Thrushes, Bluebirds, Tanagers, Swallows, {147} Warblers, Waxwings, Bobolinks, Larks, Orioles, Doves, and Woodpeckers.

In all, the feathers of at least forty species were discernible.

In commenting on his trips of inspection, Doctor Chapman wrote: "It is evident that in proportion to the number of hats seen, the list of birds given is very small, for in most cases mutilation rendered identification impossible. Thus, while one afternoon seven hundred hats were counted and on them but twenty birds recognized, five hundred and forty-two were decorated with feathers of some kind. Of the one hundred and fifty-eight remaining, seventy-two were worn by young or middle-aged ladies, and eighty-six by ladies in mourning or elderly ladies."

This was a period when people seemed to go mad on the subject of wearing birds and feathers. They were used for feminine adornment in almost every conceivable fashion. Here are two quotations from New York daily papers of that time, only the names {148} of the ladies are changed: "Miss Jones looked extremely well in white with a whole nest of sparkling, scintillating birds in her hair which it would have puzzled an ornithologist to classify," and again: "Mrs. Robert Smith had her gown of unrelieved black looped up with black birds; and a winged creature, so dusky that it could have been intended for nothing but a Crow, reposed among the curls and braids of her hair."

Ah, those were the halcyon days of the feather trade! Now and then a voice cried out at the slaughter, or hands were raised at the sight of the horrible shambles, but there were no laws to prevent the killing nor was there any strong public sentiment to demand its cessation, while on the other hand more riches yet lay in store for the hunter and the merchant. There were no laws whatever to protect these birds, nor was there for a time any man of force to start a crusade against the evil.

The Story of the Egrets.—The most shameless blot on the history of America's treatment of the {149} wild birds is in connection with the White Egrets. It is from the backs of these birds that the "aigrettes" come, so often seen on the hats of the fashionable. Years ago, as a boy in Florida, I first had an opportunity to observe the methods employed by the feather hunters in collecting these aigrettes which are the nuptial plumes of the bird and are to be found on birds only in the spring. As a rare treat I was permitted to accept the invitation extended by a squirrel hunter to accompany him to the nesting haunts of a colony of these birds. Away we went in the gray dawn of a summer morning through the pine barrens of southern Florida until the heavy swamps of Horse Hammock were reached. I remember following with intense interest the description given by my companion of how these birds with magnificent snowy plumage would come flying in over the dark forest high in air and then volplane to the little pond where, in the heavily massed bushes, their nests were thickly clustered. With vivid distinctness he imitated the cackling notes of the {150} old birds as they settled on their nests, and the shrill cries of the little ones, as on unsteady legs they reached upward for their food.

Keen indeed was the disappointment that awaited me. With great care we approached the spot and with caution worked our way to the very edge of the pond. For many minutes we waited, but no life was visible about the buttonwood bushes which held the nests—no old birds like fragments of fleecy clouds came floating in over the dark canopy of cypress trees. My companion, wise in the ways of hunters, as well as the habits of birds, suspected something wrong and presently found nearby the body of an Egret lying on the ground, its back, from which the skin bearing the fatal aigrettes had been torn, raw and bloody. A little farther along we came to the remains of a second and then a third, and still farther on, a fourth. As we approached, we were warned of the proximity of each ghastly spectacle by the hideous buzzing of green flies swarming over the lifeless forms of the parent birds.


At one place, beneath a small palmetto bush, we found the body of an Egret which the hunters had overlooked. Falling to the ground sorely wounded, it had escaped its enemies by crawling to this hiding-place. Its appearance showed the suffering which it had endured. The ground was bare where in its death agonies it had beaten the earth with its wings. The feathers on the head and neck were raised and the bill was buried among the blood-clotted feathers of its breast. On the higher ground we discovered some straw and the embers of a campfire, giving evidence of the recent presence of the plume hunters. Examination of the nests over the pond revealed numerous young, many of which were now past suffering; others, however, were still alive and were faintly calling for food which the dead parents could never bring. Later inquiry developed the fact that the plumes taken from the backs of these parent birds were shipped to one of the large millinery houses in New York, where in due time they were placed on the market as "aigrettes," and of course {152} subsequently purchased and worn by fashionable women, as well as by young and old women of moderate incomes, who sacrifice much for this millinery luxury.

There were at that time to be found in Florida many hundreds of colonies of these beautiful birds, but their feathers commanded a large price and offered a most tempting inducement for local hunters to shoot them. Many of the men of the region were poor, and the rich harvest which awaited them was very inviting. At that time gunners received from seventy-five cents to one dollar and a quarter for the "scalp" of each bird, which ordinarily contained forty or more plume feathers. These birds were not confined to Florida, but in the breeding season were to be found in swampy regions of the Atlantic Coast as far north as New Jersey, some being discovered carrying sticks for their nests on Long Island.

Civilized nations to-day decry any method of warfare which results in the killing of women and children, but the story of the aigrette trade deals with the slaughter of innocents by the slow process of {153} starvation, a method which history shows has never been followed by even the most savage race of men dealing with their most hated enemies. This war of extermination which was carried forward unchecked for years could mean but one thing, namely, the rapid disappearance of the Egrets in the United States. As nesting birds, they have disappeared from New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, and also those States of the central Mississippi Valley where they were at one time to be found in great numbers.

Amateur Feather Hunters.—Quite aside from the professional millinery feather hunter there should be mentioned the criminal slaughter of birds which has been indulged in by individuals who have killed them for the uses of their own lady friends. I know one Brown Pelican colony which was visited by a tourist who shot four hundred of the big, harmless, inoffensive creatures in order to get a small strip of skin on either side of the body. He explained to his boatmen, who did the skinning for him, that he was curious to see if these strips of skin with their feathers would not {154} make an interesting coat for his wife. The birds killed were all caring for their young in the nests at the time he and his hirelings shot them.

There was a few years ago, in a Georgia city, an attorney who accepted the aigrette "scalps" of twenty-seven Egrets from a client who was unable to pay cash for a small service rendered. He told me he had much pleasure in distributing these among his lady friends. Another man went about the neighbourhood hunting male Baltimore Orioles until he had shot twelve, as he wanted his sisters to have six each for their Sunday hats. The Roseate Spoonbill of the Southern States was never extensively killed for the millinery trade, and yet to-day it is rapidly approaching extinction. The feathers begin to fade in a short time and for this reason have little commercial value, but the amateur Northern tourist feather hunter has not known this, or disregarded the fact, and has been the cause of the depletion of the species in the United States. Almost every one could cite instances similar to the above, for there are many people in the {155} United States who are guilty of taking part in the destruction of birds for millinery purposes. In addition to the feathers of American birds already mentioned the feathers of certain foreign species have been very much in demand.

Paradise Plumes—One of the most popular foreign feathers brought to this country is the Paradise. There are at least nine species of Paradise Birds found in New Guinea and surrounding regions that furnish this product. The males are adorned with long, curved delicate feathers which are gorgeously coloured. As in the case of all other wild birds there is no way of getting the feathers except by killing the owners. Much of this is done by natives who shoot them down with little arrows blown through long hollow reeds. The high price paid for these feathers has been the occasion of the almost total extinction of some of the species, as indicated by the decreased number of feathers offered at the famous annual London Feather Sales. Travellers in the regions inhabited by the birds speak of the {156} distressing effect of the continuous calls of the bereft females as they fly about in the forests during the mating season. As a high-priced adornment the Paradise is the one rival of the famous aigrette.

Maribou.—The Maribou which has been fashionable for a number of years past comes principally from the Maribou Stork of Africa. These white, fluffy, downlike feathers grow on the lower underpart of the body of the Maribou Stork. These birds are found in the more open parts of the country. Their food consists of such small forms of life as may readily be found in the savannas and marshes. To some extent they also feed like vultures on the remains of larger animals.

Pheasants.—The long tail feathers of Pheasants have been much in demand by the millinery trade during the past ten years. Although several species contribute to the supply, the majority are from the Chinese Pheasant, or a similar hybrid descendent known as the English Ring-necked Pheasant. Many of these feathers have been collected in Europe, {157} where the birds are extensively reared and shot on great game preserves; vast numbers, however, have come from China. Oddly enough in that country the birds were originally little disturbed by the natives, who seem not to care for meat. Then came the demand for feathers, and the birds have since been killed for this purpose to an appalling extent.

Numidie.—This popular hat decoration suddenly appeared on our market in great numbers a few years ago. It is taken from the Manchurian Eared Pheasant of northern China. Unless the demand for these feathers is overcome in some way there will undoubtedly come a day in the not-distant future when the name of this bird must be added to the lengthening list of species that have been sacrificed to the greed of the shortsightedness of man.

Goura.—The fashionable and expensive hat decoration which passes under the trade name of Goura consists of the slender feathers, usually four or five inches long with a greatly enlarged tip, that grows out fanlike along a line down the centre of the head {158} and nape of certain large Ground Pigeons that inhabit New Guinea and adjacent islands. Perhaps the best-known species is the Crowned Pigeon.

There is a special trade name for the feathers of almost every kind of bird known in the millinery business. Thus there is Coque for Black Cock, Cross Aigrettes for the little plumes of the Snowy Egret, and Eagle Quills from the wings not only of Eagles, but of Bustards, Pelicans, Albatrosses, Bush Turkeys, and even Turkey Buzzards. The feathers of Macaws in great numbers are used in the feather trade, as well as hundreds of thousands of Hummingbirds, and other bright-coloured birds of the tropics.

Women's Love for Feathers.—One of the most coveted and easily acquired feminine adornments has been feathers. At first these were probably taken almost wholly from birds killed for food, but later, when civilization became more complex and resourceful, millinery dealers searched the ends of the earth to supply the demands of discriminating women. The chief reason why it has been so difficult {160} to induce educated and cultivated women of this age to give up the heartless practice of wearing feathers seems to be the fact that the desire and necessity for adornment developed through the centuries has become so strong as to be really an inherent part of their natures. It is doubtful if many people realize how strong and all-powerful this desire for conforming to fashion in the matter of dress sits enthroned in the hearts of tens of thousands of good women.

There was a time when I thought that any woman with human instincts would give up the wearing of feathers at once upon being told of the barbaric cruelties involved in their acquisition. But I have learned to my amazement that such is not the case. Not long ago I received one of the shocks of my life. Somewhat over two years ago a young woman came to work in our office. I supposed she had never heard, except casually, of the great scourge of the millinery trade in feathers. Since that time, however, she has been in daily touch with all the important efforts made in this country and abroad to {161} legislate the traffic out of existence, to guard from the plume hunters the colonies of Egrets and other water birds, and to educate public sentiment to a proper appreciation of the importance of bird protection. She has typewritten a four-hundred-page book on birds and bird protection, has acknowledged the receipt of letters from the wardens telling of desperate rifle battles that they have had with poachers, and written letters to the widow of one of our agents shot to death while guarding a Florida bird rookery. In the heat of campaigns she has worked overtime and on holidays. I have never known a woman who laboured more conscientiously or was apparently more interested in the work. Frequently her eyes would open wide and she would express resentment when reports reached the office of the atrocities perpetrated on wild birds by the heartless agents of the feather trade. Recently she married and left us. Last week she called at the office, looking very beautiful and radiant. After a few moments' conversation she approached the subject which {162} evidently lay close to her heart. Indicating a cluster of paradise aigrettes kept in the office for exhibition purposes, she looked me straight in the face and in the most frank and guileless manner asked me to sell them to her for her new hat! The rest of the day I was of little service to the world.

What was the good of all the long years of unceasing effort to induce women to stop wearing bird feathers, if this was a fair example of results? Of all the women I knew, there was no one who had been in a position to learn more of the facts regarding bird slaughter than this one; yet it seems that it had never entered her mind to make a personal application of the lesson she had learned. The education and restraint of legislative enactments were all meant for other people.

Ostrich Feathers Are Desirable.—How is this deep-seated desire and demand for feathers to be met? Domestic fowls will in part supply it; but for the finer ornaments we must turn to the Ostrich, the only bird in the world which has been domesticated {163} exclusively for its feather product. These birds were formerly found wild in Arabia, southwestern Persia, and practically the whole of Africa. In diminishing numbers they are still to be met with in these regions, especially in the unsettled parts of Africa north of the Orange River. From early times the plumes of these avian giants have been in demand for head decorations, and for centuries the people of Asia and Africa killed the birds for this purpose. They were captured chiefly by means of pitfalls, for a long-legged bird which in full flight can cover twenty-five feet at a stride is not easily overtaken, even with the Arabs' finest steeds.

So far as there is any record, young Ostriches were first captured and enclosed with a view of rearing them for profit in the year 1857. This occurred in South Africa. During the years which have since elapsed, the raising of Ostriches and the exportation of their plumes has become one of the chief business enterprises of South Africa. Very naturally people in other parts of the world wished to engage in a {164} similar enterprise when they saw with what success the undertaking was crowned in the home country of the Ostrich. A few hundred fine breeding birds and a considerable number of eggs were purchased by adventurous spirits and exported, with the result that Ostrich farms soon sprang up in widely separated localities over the earth. The lawmakers of Cape Colony looked askance at these competitors and soon prohibited Ostrich exportation. Before these drastic measures were taken, however, a sufficient number of birds had been removed to other countries to assure the future growth of the industry in various regions of the world. It was in 1882 that these birds were first brought to the United States for breeding purposes. To-day there are Ostrich farms at Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose, California; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Jacksonville, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona, and elsewhere.

There is money to be made in the Ostrich business, for the wing and tail plumes of this bird are as popular to-day for human adornment as they were in the {165} days of Sheerkohf, the gorgeous lion of the mountain. Even low-grade feathers command a good price for use in the manufacture of boas, feather bands, trimming for doll's hats, and other secondary purposes. When the time comes for plucking the feathers, the Ostriches are driven one at a time into a V-shaped corral just large enough to admit the bird's body and the workman. Here a long, slender hood is slipped over his head and the wildest bird instantly becomes docile. Evidently he regards himself as effectively hidden and secure from all the terrors of earth. There is no pain whatever attached to the taking of Ostrich feathers, for they are merely clipped from the bird by means of scissors. A month or two later when the stubs of the quills have become dry they are readily picked from the wings without injury to the new feathers.

The Ostrich industry is good and it is worthy of encouragement. No woman need fear that she is aiding in any way the destruction of birds by wearing Ostrich plumes. There are many more of the birds {166} in the world to-day than there were when their domestication first began, and probably no wild African or Asiatic Ostriches are now shot or trapped for their plumes. The product seen in our stores all comes from strong, happy birds hatched and reared in captivity. Use of their feathers does not entail the sacrifice of life, nor does it cause the slightest suffering to the Ostrich; taking plumes from an Ostrich being no more painful to the bird than shearing is to a sheep and does not cause it half the alarm a sheep often exhibits at shearing time.

The call for feather finery rings so loudly in the hearts of women that it will probably never cease to be heard, and it is the Ostrich—the big, ungainly yet graceful Ostrich—which must supply the demand for high-grade feathers of the future.




Laws for the protection of wild birds and animals have been enacted in greater numbers in the United States than in any other country in the world. In a Government Bulletin on American Game Protection, Dr. T. S. Palmer states that the earliest game laws were probably the hunting privileges granted in 1629 by the West India Company to persons planting colonies in the New Netherlands, and the provisions granting the right of hunting in the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Ordinance of 1647. As soon as the United States Government was formed, in 1776, the various States began to make laws on the subject, and these have increased in numbers with the passing of years. For example, between the years 1901 to 1910, North {168} Carolina alone passed three hundred and six different game laws. As various forms of game birds or animals showed indications of decreasing in numbers new laws were called into existence in an attempt to conserve the supply for the benefit of the people. Not infrequently laws were passed offering bounties or otherwise encouraging the killing of wolves, pumas, and other predatory animals, or of birds regarded as injurious to growing crops or to poultry raising.

State laws intended primarily for the protection of wild life may be grouped as follows: (1) naming the time of the year when various kinds of game may be hunted; these hunting periods are called "open seasons." (2) The prohibition of certain methods formally employed in taking game, as, for example, netting, trapping, and shooting at night. (3) Prohibiting or regulating the sale of game. By destroying the market the incentive for much excessive killing is removed. (4) Bag limit; that is, indicating the number of birds or animals that may be shot in a day; for example, in Louisiana one may kill twenty-five {169} Ducks in a day, and in Arizona one may shoot two male deer in a season. (5) Providing protection at all seasons for useful birds not recognized as game species.

Definition of Game.—Game animals as defined today include bears, coons, deer, mountain sheep, caribou, cougars, musk oxen, white goats, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, wolves, antelopes, and moose. Game birds include Swans, Geese, Ducks, Rails, Coots, Woodcocks, Snipes, Plovers, Curlews, Wild Turkeys, Grouse, Pheasants, Partridges, and Quails. Sometimes other birds or animals have been regarded as game. Robins and Mourning Doves, for example, are still shot in some of the Southern States as game birds.

The Audubon Law.—Little was done in the way of securing laws for the benefit of song and insectivorous birds and birds of plumage until 1886, when the bird-protection committee of the American Ornithologists' Union drafted a bill for this specific purpose. This bill, besides extending protection to all useful {170} non-game birds, gave the first clear statutory terminology for defining "game birds." It also provided for the issuing of permits for the collecting of wild birds and their eggs for scientific purposes. The States of New York and Massachusetts that year adopted the law. Arkansas followed eleven years later, but it was not until the Audubon Society workers took up the subject in 1909 that any special headway was made in getting States to pass this measure. To-day it is on the statute books of all the States of the Union but eight, and is generally known as the Audubon Law.

Game Law Enforcement.—In all the States but Florida there are special State officers charged with enforcing the bird and game protective laws. Usually there is a Game Commission of three or more members whose duty it is to select an executive officer who in turn appoints game wardens throughout the State. These men in some cases are paid salaries, in others they receive only a per diem wage or receive certain fees for convictions. License {171} fees are usually required of hunters, and the moneys thus collected form the basis of a fund used for paying the wardens and meeting the other expenses incident to the game law enforcement.

The Lacey Law.—The Federal Government is taking a share of the responsibility in preserving the wild life of the Union.

On July 2, 1897, Congressman Lacey introduced in the House a bill to prohibit the export of big game from some of the Western States. In 1909 amendments were made to the Lacey Law, one of which prohibited the shipment of birds or parts thereof from a State in which they had been illegally killed, or from which it was illegal to ship them. The enforcement of this by Federal officers has been most efficacious in breaking up a great system of smuggling Quails, Grouse, Ducks, and other game birds.

Federal Migratory Bird Law.—Probably the most important game law as yet enacted in the United States is the one known as the Federal Migratory Game Law or the McLean Law. A somewhat {172} extended discussion of this important measure seems justifiable at this time.

When, in 1913, the first breath of autumn swept over the tule sloughs and reedy lakes of the North-west, the wild fowl and shore birds of that vast region rose in clouds, and by stages began to journey toward {173} their winter quarters beneath Southern skies. If the older birds that had often taken the same trip thought anything about the subject, they must have been impressed, when they crossed the border into the United States, with the fact that changes had taken place in reference to shooting.

It is true that in Minnesota, for instance, the firing of guns began in September, as in other years; but those Ducks that reached the Mississippi River below St. Paul found no one waiting to kill them. As they proceeded, by occasional flights, farther down the river there was still a marked absence of gunners. The same conditions prevailed all the way down the valley until the sunken grounds of Arkansas and Mississippi came into view. What did this mean? Heretofore, at this season, hunters had always lined the river. This had been the case ever since the oldest Duck could remember. The Missouri River, too, was free from shooting throughout the greater part of its length, which was sufficient cause for many a grateful quack.


What was the reason for this great change? Had the killing of wild fowl suddenly lost its attraction for those who had been accustomed to seek pleasure afield with gun and decoys? No, indeed, banish the thought, for it is written that so long as man shall live, Wild Duck shall grace his table and gratify his palate.

The remarkable changes which had so affected the fortunes of the wild fowl were due to the enactment of a United States law known as the Federal Migratory Game Law. Let us see something of this law and of what led to its establishment.

History of Game Laws.—When the United States of America became a free and independent nation the lawmakers in various commonwealths soon addressed themselves to the task of enacting protective measures for insuring the continuance of the supply of desirable game birds and animals. But as the years went by, and the game showed every indication of continuing to decrease despite the measures that had been adopted for their benefit, other and more stringent game laws were enacted.


In the fullness of time there came into being in every state in the Union an extensive, complex system of prohibitive measures regarding seasons for hunting, methods of killing, size of bag limit, restrictions on sale, and limiting the kinds of game that might be killed.

Many states also went into the business of rearing, in a condition of semi-captivity. Pheasants, grouse, Hungarian Partridges, Quail, Ducks, and some other species of birds highly esteemed as food, the object of this being to restock covers that had been depleted of bird-life by excessive shooting, or to supply new attraction for field-sports in regions where other game was limited.

Theoretically the methods adopted by the several states were sure to keep the numbers of game birds up to a point where a reasonable amount of sport might be engaged in by those of our citizens who enjoy the excitement and recreation of going afield with gun and dog. It could easily be proven on paper that by judiciously regulating the shooting, {176} and having this conform to the available game supply, every state could at one and the same time preserve the different species, and furnish satisfactory shooting for its sportsmen.

But in practice the theory failed to work as expected; the gunners were on hand every fall in increasing numbers but the birds continued to grow scarcer.

In the vernacular of the sportsman, birds that may legitimately be shot are divided for convenience into three groups, viz., upland game birds, water fowl, and shore birds. It is in reference to the fortunes of the water fowl and shore birds that the greatest apprehension has been felt. Approximately all of the species concerned are of migratory habits. The open seasons when these may be hunted vary greatly in different states and all attempts to get anything like uniform laws in the various hunting territories have been attended with failure.

It became clear in time that the most important action that could be taken to conserve these birds {177} was to prohibit shooting during the spring migration, when the birds were on their way to their northern breeding grounds. Some states adopted this measure and the results bore out the predictions of those who urged the passage of such laws. New York State, for example, tried the experiment, and within two years thousands of Black Ducks were breeding where for a long time they had not been known to occur in summer. So the feeling became general among bird protectors that it would be an excellent thing if spring shooting of all migratory game birds should be stopped everywhere. But the legislatures of many states paid small heed to the little minority of their constituents who voiced such sentiments, and the problem of how to bring about the desired results remained unsolved.

The Theory of Shiras.—In the year 1904 a United States Congressman announced to the country that he had found the proper solution for settling once and for all the question of spring shooting, and for putting to an end the ceaseless wrangling that {178} continually went on in the various legislatures when the subject was brought up. This gentleman, George Shiras, 3rd, planned to cut the Gordian knot by turning over to the Federal Government the entire subject of making laws regarding the killing of migratory game birds.

In December that year he introduced a bill in Congress covering his ideas on the subject. This radical proposition created merriment in certain legal circles. Was it not written in the statutes of nearly every state that the birds and game belong to the people of the state? Therefore what had the Government to do with the subject? Furthermore, were there not numerous court decisions upholding the authority of the states in their declarations of ownership of the birds and game? Others saw in this move only another attempt toward increasing the power of the central government, and depriving the states further of their inalienable rights. This remarkable document was discussed to some extent but nothing was done. Four years later {179} Congressman John W. Weeks reintroduced the bill with slight modifications. Nothing came of this any more than of the bill that he started going in 1909. In 1911 he again brought forward this pet measure toward which Congress had so often turned a cold shoulder. Senator George P. McLean set a similar bill afloat in the troubled waters of the Senate. Nothing happened, however, until the spring of 1912, when committee hearings were given on these bills in both branches of Congress. Representatives of more than thirty organizations interested in conservation appeared and eloquently sought to impress the national lawmakers with the importance and desirability of the measure. Both bills were intended for the protection of migratory game birds only, but the representative of the National Association of Audubon Societies urged that the bills be extended to include all migratory insect-eating birds, because of their value to agriculture. This suggestion was adopted and after a stiff fight in Congress the McLean Bill became a law on March 4, 1913.


This new federal statute did not in itself change any of the existing game laws, but it gave authority to certain functionaries to make such regulations as they deemed wise, necessary, and proper to extend better protection to all migratory game and insect-eating birds in the United States. The Secretary of Agriculture, to whose department this unusual duty was assigned, read the law thoughtfully, concluded that the task did not come within the bounds of his personal capabilities, and very wisely turned the whole matter over to a committee of three experts chosen from one of the department bureaus and known as the Biological Survey.

The Work of the Committee.—This committee at once began the preparation of a series of regulations to give effect to the new statute. Drawing extensively from the records stored in the Survey offices, and seasoning these with their own good judgment and knowledge of existing conditions, they brought out in a period of three months and nine days, or to be more precise, on June 23, 1913, a set of ten {181} regulations which, in many ways, have revolutionized shooting in the United States.

These were printed in pamphlet form and distributed widely; for before they could have the effect of laws it was necessary that they should be advertised for a period of at least three months in order to give all dissatisfied parties an opportunity to be heard.

The whole idea of the Government taking over the matter of protecting migratory birds, as well as the startling character of some of the regulations promulgated by the committee was justly expected to bring forth either great shouts of approbation or a storm of disapproval, and possibly both sounds might be heard. As long experience has shown that it is necessary to have public opinion approve of a game law if it is to be effective, one can well understand that, following the mailing of the circular of rules, these gentlemen of the committee stood with hand to brow and anxiously scanned the distant horizon. Nor did they have long to wait before {182} critical rumblings began to be heard in many directions, for it is always hard for men to give up privileges which they have once enjoyed.

In fact, as the committee waited, the sky began rapidly to fill with interrogation points; for it has ever been the case that the dissatisfied ones of earth are louder in their objections than are the satisfied ones in their commendations.

As a matter of fact, the regulations on the whole were remarkable for their clearness, directness, and fairness. They came nearer being formed for the benefit of the birds instead of for the pleasure and convenience of the hunters, than any general far-reaching bird-protective measure, which has been enacted in this country.

For the purpose of the regulations, migratory game birds were defined as Ducks, Geese, Swans, Rails, Coots, Pigeons, Cranes, and shore birds, which included Plover, Snipe, Woodcock, and Sandpipers. Migratory insectivorous birds were enumerated as Thrushes, Orioles, Larks, Swallows, Wrens, {183} Woodpeckers, and all other perching birds that feed entirely or chiefly on insects.

Having thus conveniently classified migratory birds into two easily comprehensible and distinguishable groups, the way was open to deal with them separately and distinctively. Therefore, after declaring it to be illegal to kill any bird of either class between sunset and sunrise, the regulations went on to state that insect-eating birds shall not be killed in any place or in any manner, even in the daytime.

Among other things this provision, by one stroke, completed the campaign which the Audubon Society had been waging for long years on behalf of the Robin. In Maryland, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee, the Robin-potpie-loving inhabitants must in future content themselves with such game birds as Quail, Grouse, Wild Turkeys, and Ducks. The life of Sir Robin Redbreast has now been declared to be sacred everywhere. He and his mate are to dwell beneath the protection of the strong arm of the United States Government.

{184} Another feature of the Audubon work was also completed by this section of the new regulations. This is the safeguarding of all song and insect-eating birds in the States of Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska, Kansas, and New Mexico, constituting the group of states whose legislatures had thus far withstood the importunities of the Audubon workers to extend protection to such birds.

Regulation Number Four provided for an absolute closed hunting season on sixty-two species of water birds until September, 1918.

The above includes what we might call some of the minor regulations proposed by the Biological Survey Committee. Then comes the big regulation, the one which was of absorbing interest to every member of the vast army of five million hunters in the United States. This is the regulation which divides the country into zones and prescribes the shooting seasons in each. Touching on this point the Government experts already mentioned gave out this statement by way of explanation:


Government Explanations.—"More than fifty separate seasons for migratory birds were provided under statutes in force in 1912. This multiplicity of regulations of zones to suit special localities has apparently had anything but a beneficial effect on the abundance of game. The effort to provide special seasons for each kind of game in each locality merely makes a chain of open seasons for migratory birds and allows the continued destruction of such birds from the beginning of the first season to the close of the last. It is believed that better results will follow the adoption of the fewest possible number of zones and so regulating the seasons in each as to include the time when such species is in the best condition or at the maximum of abundance during the autumn. For this reason the country has been divided into two zones, as nearly equal as possible, one to include the states in which migratory game birds breed, or would breed if given reasonable protection, the other the states in which comparatively few species breed, but in which many winter. {186} Within these zones the seasons are fixed for the principal natural groups, water fowl, Rails, shore birds, and Woodcock. In no case does the zone boundary cross a state line, and except in very rare cases the seasons are uniform throughout the states."

With few changes the regulations were finally adopted. Wherever the federal law conflicted with a state law, the former was regarded as supreme, and to make things more generally uniform the states have since been changing their laws to conform to the Government regulations. After being tried out for three years these rules recently were modified by making five shooting zones and altering certain other provisions. These last regulations which became effective on August 21, 1916, to-day stand as the law of the land affecting migratory birds.

To the United States Biological Survey was intrusted the task of enforcing the law by means of game wardens and other officials. That is, the survey was to collect the evidence in cases of violations, and the prosecutions were to be conducted {187} by the Department of Justice. To enable these officials to execute the law, Congress has appropriated $50,000 annually—which is just about one tenth the minimum amount needed for the purpose. This paltry sum has been expended as judiciously as possible with marked results for good. Trouble, however, soon developed in the courts. One autumn day Harvey C. Schauver went a-hunting on Big Lake, Arkansas, and finding no Ducks handy he shot a Coot, which was against the law. When the case came up in the Federal Court of Eastern Arkansas, the judge who presided declared that the federal law under which the defendant was being tried was unconstitutional, and wrote a lengthy decision, giving his reasons for holding this view. Within the next two months two other federal courts rendered similar decisions.

At this point the Department of Justice decided to bring no further cases to trial until the United States Supreme Court should pass on the constitutionality of the law, the Arkansas case having {188} already been brought before this tribunal. At this writing the decision has not been rendered.

Only Bird Treaty in the World.—Early in the history of the operations of this law the possibilities of an adverse decision by the Supreme Court were considered by those interested in the measure, and a plan was found whereby all might not be lost if such a catastrophe should occur. The first movement in this new direction was made by Elihu Root on January 14, 1913, when he introduced in the Senate a resolution requesting the President to propose to the other governments the negotiation of a convention for the protection of birds. A proposed bird treaty between this country and Canada was then drawn up, and after much effort was brought to a successful issue and was finally ratified by Congress on September 29, 1916.

This treaty broadly covers the provisions of the Migratory Bird Law in this country, so if the Supreme Court declares the latter to be invalid the Government still stands committed to the {189} principals of migratory bird-protection by virtue of the treaty.

So the long fight to stop spring shooting and provide short uniform closed seasons for shooting shore birds and wild fowl is drawing to a glorious conclusion.

To-day, in the history of wild-life conservation, we have before us the unusual spectacle of the United States Government taking a serious hand in a problem which had been found to be too difficult of solution by the different states working separately. Many of us believe this predicts a brighter day for the perpetuation of the wild life of our country.




The creation of reservations where wild birds can be protected at all times is a modern idea, brought prominently to public attention by the efforts of the Audubon Society. The first interest that the United States Government manifested in the subject was about thirteen years ago. On May 29, 1901, the legislature of Florida was induced to enact a statute making it a misdemeanour to kill any non-game birds of the State with the exception of the Crow and a few other species regarded by the lawmakers as being injurious to man's interests.

First Federal Bird Reservation—Shortly afterward the Audubon Society friends employed a man to protect from the raids of tourists and feather hunters a {191} large colony of Brown Pelicans that used for nesting purposes a small, muddy, mangrove-covered island in Indian River on the Atlantic Coast. Soon murmurings began to be heard. "Pelicans eat fish and should not be protected," declared one Floridan. "We need Pelican quills to sell to the feather dealers," chimed in another with a keen eye to the main chance. There was talk of repealing the law at the next session of the legislature, and the hearts of the Audubon workers were troubled. At first they thought of buying the island, so as to be in a position to protect its feathered inhabitants by preventing trespass. However, it proved to be unsurveyed Government land, and the idea was suggested of getting the Government to make a reservation for the protection of the birds. The matter was submitted to President Roosevelt, who no sooner ascertained the facts that the land was not suited for agricultural purposes, and that the Audubon Society would guard it, than with characteristic directness he issued the following remarkable edict: "It is hereby ordered that Pelican {192} Island in Indian River is reserved and set apart for the use of the Department of Agriculture as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds."

The gist of this order, bearing the authorization of the Secretary of Agriculture, was quickly painted on a large sign, and placed on the island, where all who sailed near might read. Imagine the chagrin of the Audubon workers upon learning from their warden that when the Pelicans returned that season to occupy the island as before, they took one look at this declaration of the President and immediately departed, one and all, to a neighbouring island entirely outside of the reservation! Signs less alarming in size were substituted, and the Pelicans, their feelings appeased, condescended to return, and have since dwelt peacefully under the protecting care of the Government.

Congressional Sanction.—In view of the fact that some persons contended that the President had over-stepped his authority in making a bird reservation, a law was drafted, and passed by Congress, specifically {193} giving protection to birds on lands set apart as National bird reservations. The legal difficulties thus removed, the way lay open for the creation of other bird reservations, and the Audubon Society seized the opportunity. Explorations were started to locate other Government territories containing important colonies of water birds. This work was quickly extended over many parts of the United States. Hunters of eggs and plumes were busy plying their trades wherever birds were known to assemble in great numbers, and the work had to be hurried if the birds were to be saved.

Mr. Frank M. Miller, of New Orleans, reported a case in which five thousand eggs had been broken on one Louisiana island inhabited by sea birds in order that fresh eggs might subsequently be gathered into the boats waiting at anchor off shore. No wonder that friends of water birds were profoundly concerned about their future welfare, and hailed with delight Mr. Roosevelt's quick action.

Mr. William Dutcher, President of the National {194} Association of Audubon Societies, was so much pleased with the results achieved by the Federal reservation work of 1905, that he declared in his annual report that the existence of the Association was justified if it had done nothing more than secure Federal bird reservations and had helped to guard them during the breeding season.

That year President Roosevelt established four more bird refuges. One of these, Stump Lake, in North Dakota, became an important nursery for Gulls, Terns, Ducks, and Cormorants in summer, and a safe harbour for wild fowl during the spring and fall migrations. Huron Island and Siskiwit in Lake Superior, the homes of innumerable Herring Gulls, were made perpetual bird sanctuaries, and Audubon wardens took up their lonely watch to guard them against all comers.

Florida Reservations.—At the mouth of Tampa Bay, Florida, is a ninety-acre island, Passage Key. Here the wild bird life of the Gulf Coast has swarmed in the mating season since white man first knew the {195} country. Thousands of Herons of various species, as well as Terns and shore birds, make this their home. Dainty little Ground Doves flutter in and out among the cactus on the sheltered sides of the sand dunes; Plovers and Sandpipers chase each other along the beaches, and the Burrowing Owls here hide in their holes by night and roam over the island by day.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse