This elegant Great Egret circled overhead and then flew right past me yesterday afternoon. It seems inconceivable that this beautiful bird, along with other egrets, herons and ibises were once “harvested” in order to make fashionable women’s hats!
In fact, the Great Egret “a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland” (All About Birds), was hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800’s for its stunning white feathers. “Outrage over the slaughter of millions of waterbirds, particularly egrets and other waders, for the millinery trade led to the foundation” of the first Audubon Society, in Massachusetts, in 1896 (Audubon.org) .
Plume hunting was banned in New York in 1910, and the first Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918. The Audubon Society, formed by tireless conservation advocates, uses the Great Egret as its logo to this day.
For more info, see: Hats off to women who saved the birds, NPR, 2015