Great Egret fly-by

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. audubon_logo-for-web“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

11 thoughts on “Great Egret fly-by

  1. Fantastic post BJ! I love the success story of the alarming bird feather millinery phase in America. The NPR article link is wonderful, including the outrageous hat photos. The Migratory Bird Act was so crucial. It is a good example that has led many wildlife rallies over the past century.

    • It is great success story, isn’t it? It’s amazing to imagine that the very existence of marvelous birds was in peril only a little more than 100 years ago! I, too, found the NPR history article and photos just fascinating, Jet. Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comments!

    • Thanks, Belinda! I think many birders know this story all too well :-(. But now that I live in Florida, it has an even greater impact. We are so fortunate to see these magnificent birds all the time!

    • Yes, isn’t it incredible how many critically important changes all occurred at that same time…..?! The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the formation of the Audubon Society, and the establishment of the first National Wildlife Refuge here in Florida at Pelican Island.

      • Indeed. The use of feathers in fashion at that time (and the resulting harm it inflicted on bird numbers) seemed to be a catalyst. Many people were waking up to the fact that birds are a limited resource and we have a responsibility to protect them and the environment.

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