Plume hunting is the hunting of wild birds to harvest their feathers, especially the more decorative plumes which were sold for use as ornamentation, such as aigrettes in millinery. The movement against the plume trade in the United Kingdom was led by Etta Lemon and other women and led to the establishment of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The plume trade was at its height in the late 19th and was brought to an end in the early 20th century.
By the late 19th century, plume hunters had nearly wiped out the snowy egret population of the United States. Flamingoes, roseate spoonbills, great egrets and peafowl have also been targeted by plume hunters. The Empress of Germany's bird of paradise was also a popular target of plume hunters.
Victorian era fashion included large hats with wide brims decorated in elaborate creations of silk flowers, ribbons, and exotic plumes. Hats sometimes included entire exotic birds that had been stuffed. Plumage often came from birds in the Florida everglades, some of which were nearly extinguished by overhunting. By 1899, early environmentalists such as Adeline Knapp were engaged in efforts to curtail the hunting for plumes. By 1900, more than five million birds were being killed every year, including 95 percent of Florida's shore birds.
In Hawaii, Kāhili are feather standards worn by the chiefly class. Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) did not hunt and kill the birds. Birds were captured and a few feathers were collected from each individual, which was then released. Native American war bonnets and various feather headdresses also feature feathers.
At the turn of the 20th century, thousands of birds were being killed in order to provide feathers to decorate women's hats. The fashion craze, which began in the 1870s, became so widespread that by 1886 birds were being killed for the millinery trade at a rate of five million a year; many species faced extinction as a result. In Florida, plume birds were first driven away from the most populated areas in the northern part of the state, and forced to nest further south. Rookeries concentrated in and around the Everglades area, which had abundant food and seasonal dry periods, ideal for nesting birds. By the late 1880s, there were no longer any large numbers of plume birds within reach of Florida's most settled cities.
The most popular plumes came from various species of egret, known as "little snowies" for their snowy-white feathers; even more prized were the "nuptial plumes", grown during the mating season and displayed by birds during courtship. So-called "osprey" plumes, actually egret plumes, were used as part of British army uniforms until they were discontinued in 1889. Poachers often entered the densely populated rookeries, where they would shoot and then pluck the roosting birds clean, leaving their carcasses to rot. Unprotected eggs became easy prey for predators, as were newly hatched birds, who also starved or died from exposure. One ex-poacher would later write of the practice, "The heads and necks of the young birds were hanging out of the nests by the hundreds. I am done with bird hunting forever!"
Egrets, including the great egret, were decimated in the past by plume hunters, but numbers recovered when given protection in the 20th century.
In 1886, 5 million birds were estimated to be killed for their feathers. They were shot usually in the spring, when their feathers were colored for mating and nesting. The plumes, or aigrettes, as they were called in the millinery business, sold for $32 an ounce in 1915 — which was also the price of gold then. Millinery was a $17 million a year industry that motivated plume harvesters to lay in wait at the nests of egrets and other birds during the nesting season, shoot the parents with small-bore rifles, and leave the chicks to starve. Plumes from Everglades water birds could be found in Havana, New York City, London, and Paris. Hunters could collect plumes from a hundred birds on a good day.
In 1885, 15-year-old Guy Bradley and his older brother Louis served as scouts for noted French plume hunter Jean Chevalier on his trip to the Everglades. Accompanied by their friend Charlie Pierce, the men set sail on Pierce's craft, the Bonton, ending their journey in Key West. At the time, plume feathers—selling for more than $20 an ounce ($501 in 2011)—were reportedly more valuable per weight than gold. On their expedition, which lasted several weeks, the young men and Chevalier's party killed 1,397 birds of 36 species. Bradley eventually became a warden protecting birds from the plume hunting trade.
In Florida, in an effort to control plume hunting, the American Ornithologists Union and the National Association of Audubon Societies (now the National Audubon Society) persuaded the Florida State Legislature to pass a model non-game bird protection law in 1901. These organizations then employed wardens to protect rookeries, in effect establishing colonial bird sanctuaries.
Such public concern, combined with the conservation-minded President Theodore Roosevelt, led to his executive order of President on March 14, 1903, established Pelican Island as the first national wildlife refuge in the United States to protect egrets and other birds from extinction by plume hunters. This resulted in the initial federal land specifically set aside for a non-marketable form of wildlife (the brown pelican) when 3-acre (12,000 m2) Pelican Island was proclaimed a Federal Bird Reservation in 1903. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is said to be the first bona fide "refuge". The first warden employed by the government at Pelican Island, Paul Kroegel, was an Audubon warden whose salary was $1 a month. Plume hunter guide turned game warden Guy Bradley was shot and killed after confronting plume hunters.
Following the modest trend begun with Pelican Island, many other islands and parcels of land and water were quickly dedicated for the protection of various species of colonial nesting birds that were being destroyed for their plumes and other feathers. Such refuge areas included Breton National Wildlife Refuge in Breton, Louisiana (1904), Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge in Passage Key, Florida (1905), Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge in Shell Keys, Louisiana (1907), and Key West National Wildlife Refuge in Key West, Florida (1908).
Bird City is a private wildfowl refuge or bird sanctuary located on Avery Island in coastal Iberia Parish, Louisiana, founded by Tabasco sauce heir and conservationist Edward Avery McIlhenny, whose family owned Avery Island. McIlhenny established the refuge around 1895 on his own personal tract of the 2,200-acre (8.9 km2) island, a 250-acre (1.0 km2) estate known eventually as Jungle Gardens because of its lush tropical flora in response to late 19th century plume hunters nearly wiping out the snowy egret population of the United States while in pursuit of the bird's delicate feathers.
McIlhenny searched the Gulf Coast and located several surviving egrets, which he took back to his estate on Avery Island. There he turned the birds loose in a type of aviary he called a "flying cage," where the birds soon adapted to their new surroundings. In the fall McIlhenny set the birds loose to migrate south for the winter.
As he hoped, the birds returned to Avery Island in the spring, bringing with them even more snowy egrets. This pattern continued until, by 1911, the refuge served as the summer nesting ground for an estimated 100,000 egrets.
Today, snowy egrets continue to return to Bird City each spring to nest until resuming their migration in the fall.
The Empress of Germany's bird of paradise was one of the most heavily hunted birds of paradise in the plume-hunting era, and was the first bird of paradise to breed in captivity. It was bred and observed by Prince R.S. Dharmakumarsinhji of India in 1940.
The American Museum of Natural History (abbreviated as AMNH), located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Located in Theodore Roosevelt Park across the street from Central Park, the museum complex comprises 28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library. The museum collections contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time, and occupies more than 2 million square feet (0.19×10^6 m2). The museum has a full-time scientific staff of 225, sponsors over 120 special field expeditions each year, and averages about five million visits annually.The one mission statement of the American Museum of Natural History is: "To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe."Bachman's warbler
Bachman's warbler (Vermivora bachmanii) is a small passerine migratory bird that is probably extinct. This warbler was a migrant, breeding in swampy blackberry and cane thickets of the southeast United States and wintering in Cuba. The last sighting (unconfirmed) was in Louisiana, in August 1988.Egret
Egrets are herons which have white or buff plumage, and develop fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons and have the same build.Emily Williamson
Emily Williamson, née Bateson (17 April 1855 – 12 January 1936), was an English philanthropist. She was co-founder of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) with Eliza Phillips in 1891. The society started as the Plumage League; it became the Society for the Protection of Birds, and was granted 'Royal' status in 1904. In 1891 she also established the Gentlewomen's Employment Association in Manchester.Empress of Germany's bird of paradise
The Empress of Germany's bird of paradise, Paradisaea raggiana augustavictoriae, is a large, up to 34 cm long, maroon brown bird in the family Paradisaeidae, one of three families of birds known as birds of paradise. The male has a dark emerald green throat, yellow crown, pale brown below and narrow yellow throat collar. It closely resembles the crimson-plumed Raggiana bird-of-paradise, but has apricot orange rather than crimson flank plumes. The female is an overall brown bird with yellow head and dark brown face.
The Empress of Germany's bird of paradise is distributed and endemic to upper Ramu River and Huon Peninsula of northeastern Papua New Guinea. The male is polygamous and displays in communal lek. The diet consists mainly of fruits, insects and arthropods.
One of the most heavily hunted birds of paradise in the plume hunting era, the Empress of Germany's bird of paradise was the first bird of paradise to breed in captivity. It was bred by Prince K. S. Dharmakumarsinhji of India in 1940.The name commemorates the German Empress and queen consort of Prussia, Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.
In the wild, the Empress of Germany's bird of paradise is hybridized with the emperor bird-of-paradise, with at least six specimens known. Thought to be a new species, the hybrid was named Maria's bird-of-paradise, Paradisaea maria or Frau Reichenow's bird-of-paradise.Everglades
The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large drainage basin and part of the neotropic ecozone. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades experience a wide range of weather patterns, from frequent flooding in the wet season to drought in the dry season. The Seminole Tribe gave the large body of water the name Okeechobee meaning "River of Grass" to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.
Human habitation in the southern portion of the Florida peninsula dates to 15,000 years ago. Before European colonization, the region was dominated by the native Calusa and Tequesta tribes. With Spanish colonization, both tribes declined gradually during the following two centuries. The Seminole, formed from mostly Creek people who had been warring to the North, assimilated other peoples and created a new culture after being forced from northern Florida into the Everglades during the Seminole Wars of the early 19th century. After adapting to the region, they were able to resist removal by the United States Army.
Migrants to the region who wanted to develop plantations first proposed draining the Everglades in 1848, but no work of this type was attempted until 1882. Canals were constructed throughout the first half of the 20th century, and spurred the South Florida economy, prompting land development. In 1947, Congress formed the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, which built 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canals, levees, and water control devices. The Miami metropolitan area grew substantially at this time and Everglades water was diverted to cities. Portions of the Everglades were transformed into farmland, where the primary crop was sugarcane. Approximately 50 percent of the original Everglades has been developed as agricultural or urban areas.Following this period of rapid development and environmental degradation, the ecosystem began to receive notable attention from conservation groups in the 1970s. Internationally, UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention designated the Everglades a Wetland Area of Global Importance. The construction of a large airport 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Everglades National Park was blocked when an environmental study found that it would severely damage the South Florida ecosystem. With heightened awareness and appreciation of the region, restoration began in the 1980s with the removal of a canal that had straightened the Kissimmee River. However, development and sustainability concerns have remained pertinent in the region. The deterioration of the Everglades, including poor water quality in Lake Okeechobee, was linked to the diminishing quality of life in South Florida's urban areas. In 2000 the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved by Congress to combat these problems. To date, it is the most expensive and comprehensive environmental restoration attempt in history, but its implementation has faced political complications.Guy Bradley
Guy Morrell Bradley (April 25, 1870 – July 8, 1905) was an American game warden and deputy sheriff for Monroe County, Florida. Born in Chicago, Illinois, he relocated to Florida with his family when he was young. As a boy, he often served as guide to visiting fishermen and plume hunters, although he later denounced poaching after legislation was passed to protect the dwindling number of birds. In 1902, Bradley was hired by the American Ornithologists' Union, at the request of the Florida Audubon Society, to become one of the country's first game wardens.
Tasked with protecting the area's wading birds from hunters, he patrolled the area stretching from Florida's west coast, through the Everglades, to Key West, single-handedly enforcing the ban on bird hunting. Bradley was shot and killed in the line of duty, after confronting a man and his two sons who were hunting egrets in the Everglades. His much-publicized death at the age of 35 galvanized conservationists, and served as inspiration for future legislation to protect Florida's bird populations. Several national awards and places have been named in his honor.Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard
Major Hesketh Vernon Prichard, later Hesketh-Prichard (17 November 1876 – 14 June 1922) was an explorer, adventurer, big-game hunter and marksman who made a significant contribution to sniping practice within the British Army during the First World War. Concerned not only with improving the quality of marksmanship, the measures he introduced to counter the threat of German snipers were credited by a contemporary with saving the lives of over 3,500 Allied soldiers.
During his lifetime, he also explored territory never seen before by a European, played cricket at first-class level, including on overseas tours, wrote short stories and novels (one of which was turned into a Douglas Fairbanks film) and was a successful newspaper correspondent and travel writer. His many activities brought him into the highest social and professional circles. Like other turn of the century hunters such as Teddy Roosevelt, he was an active campaigner for animal welfare and succeeded in seeing legal measures introduced for their protection.History of the National Wildlife Refuge System
The National Wildlife Refuge System in the United States has a long and distinguished history.Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge located roughly 30 miles (48 km) south of the city of Burns in Oregon's Harney Basin. Administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge area is roughly T-shaped with the southernmost base at Frenchglen, the northeast section at Malheur Lake and the northwest section at Harney Lake.
The refuge was created in 1908 by order of President Theodore Roosevelt to protect habitat for diverse waterfowl and migratory birds, and grew to encompass 187,757 acres (760 km2; 293 sq mi) of public lands. A popular site for birding, fishing, hunting and hiking, the refuge gained widespread attention in early 2016 after its headquarters complex was occupied by armed anti-government protesters.Montagu Sharpe
Sir Montagu Sharpe KBE DL (28 October 1857 – 23 August 1942) was an English politician, lawyer, amateur archaeologist, antiquarian, and ornithologist. He came from an old Middlesex family that owned Hanwell Park. He was a member of the Middlesex County Council from its founding in 1889 and a justice of the peace for Middlesex. He was knighted in 1922 and also became a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex. Sharpe served as chairman of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds from 1896 to 1942. He was very active in the introduction of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Bill and involved in framing initial drafts, see Plume hunting.
Sharpe was born at Hanwell to Lt Cmdr Benjamin Sharpe of the Royal Navy and his wife Marianne Fanny Montagu. Marianne was the daughter of the Rev. Montague of Swaffam, Norfolk. Sharpe studied law and was called to the bar, Gray's Inn, in 1889. Sharpe wrote a local history, Middlesex in British, Roman and Saxon Times (1919), in which he suggested that the Roman system of centuriation could be seen in the layout of old manors, but his idea was viewed skeptically by other historians of the period. Later studies have pointed out that his evidence was weak.Sharpe was a Freemason, serving as Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England. He was the founder of Haven Lodge in Ealing, Horsa Dun Lodge in Middlesex and Hanwell Lodge, Ealing.Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather
Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change is a 2018 book by Tessa Boase (Aurum: ISBN 978-1781316542) about Etta Lemon and her campaign against the use of feathers in millinery which led to the foundation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This campaign is compared and contrasted to Emmeline Pankhurst's campaign for women's suffrage in Britain, which it pre-dated. Ironically Etta Lemon was an anti-suffragist and anti-feminist.Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and part of the Everglades Headwaters NWR complex, located just off the western coast of Orchid Island in the Indian River Lagoon east of Sebastian, Florida. The refuge consists of a 3-acre (12,000 m2) island that includes an additional 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of surrounding water and is located off the east coast of Florida of the Indian River Lagoon. Established by an executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903, Pelican Island was the first National wildlife refuge in the United States. It was created to protect egrets and other birds from extinction through plume hunting.Plumage
Plumage (Latin: plūma "feather") refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage differ between species and subspecies and may vary with age classes. Within species, there can be different colour morphs. The placement of feathers on a bird is not haphazard, but rather emerge in organized, overlapping rows and groups, and these feather tracts are known by standardized names.Most birds moult twice a year, resulting in a breeding or nuptial plumage and a basic plumage. Many ducks and some other species such as the red junglefowl have males wearing a bright nuptial plumage while breeding and a drab eclipse plumage for some months afterward. The painted bunting's juveniles have two inserted moults in their first autumn, each yielding plumage like an adult female. The first starts a few days after fledging replacing the juvenile plumage with an auxiliary formative plumage; the second a month or so later giving the formative plumage.Abnormal plumages include a variety of conditions. Albinism, total loss of colour, is rare, but partial loss of colours is more common. Some species are colour polymorphic, having two or more colour variants. A few species have special types of polymorphism, as in the male ruff which has an assortment of different colours around the head and neck in the breeding season only.
Hen feathering is an inherited plumage character in domestic fowl controlled by a single gene. Plumology (or plumage science) is the name for the science that is associated with the study of feathers.Robert Porter Allen
Robert Porter Allen (24 April 1905 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania) – 28 June 1963 was an American ornithologist and environmentalist. He achieved worldwide attention for his rescue operations of the whooping crane (Grus Americana) in the 1940s and 1950s.
Allen helped save the Roseate Spoonbill from extinction. He set up a tent on Bottle Key in the Florida Bay in 1938 so that he could observe the nesting Spoonbills up close. He was the first ecologist to do this work with Roseate Spoonbills.Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a charitable organisation registered in England and Wales and in Scotland. It was founded in 1889. It works to promote conservation and protection of birds and the wider environment through public awareness campaigns, petitions and through the operation of nature reserves throughout the United Kingdom.The RSPB has over 1,300 employees, 18,000 volunteers and more than a million members (including 195,000 youth members), making it the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. The RSPB has many local groups and maintains 200 nature reserves.T. Gilbert Pearson
Thomas Gilbert Pearson (1873–1943), was an American conservationist and one of the first faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was a founder of the National Association of Audubon Societies, which became the National Audubon Society.
Pearson grew up in the woods of central Florida, having moved there at the age of 9 from Dublin, Indiana. He lived in a log cabin with his family of 3 brothers, 3 sisters, and his parents. The Pearsons were members of the Society of Friends. Encouraged by an older friend, Pearson began egg collecting. This hobby caused him to play truant from school, which was one of the reasons for his bad school record.
At 13, he bought a gun, which he had long desired to own. He learned that he could earn .90 to $1.25 by killing egrets to sell their plumes. He also made money by selling many birds' eggs.
After learning how to mount birds, he gathered quite a collection. He wrote to many schools and colleges, hoping to secure admission and pay for his education with his collection. At the age of 18, in 1891, President Lyndon Hobbs of Guilford College accepted Pearson's offer. In return, Pearson received board and tuition for two years if he would also collect and mount birds for the College. At the end of 2 years of college, Pearson was given a scholarship to continue his studies at Guilford. During his years at Guilford, he became editor of the college magazine, president of his literary society, manager of the baseball team, and captain of the football team.
After graduating from college, Pearson decided to devote his time and energy to arousing the people of North Carolina to the idea of protecting their fast-declining bird life. He then became a biology teacher at Guilford College. He also met Elsie Weatherly during this time. The two married in 1902.
In 1901, Pearson accepted the chair of biology and geology at the State Normal and Industrial College in Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). He took his classes on walks in the outdoors, believing this to be as important as laboratory work with a microscope. During this period, he published his first book, Stories of Bird Life. The founder and first president of the National Association of Audubon Societies, William Dutcher, saw this book and encouraged Pearson to organize an Audubon Society in North Carolina. This he did in 1902, launching himself upon a course that would lead to influential work in state and national legislation.
Pearson used the platform of the society created in North Carolina to encourage the legislature to pass a law that would be the states' first step towards wildlife conservation. That law passed in 1903 and was known as the "Audubon Law." It gave the Audubon Society the power to enforce wildlife laws in North Carolina and authorized the Society to hire game wardens to carry out the enforcement. These efforts were funded by donations from individuals as well as the sale of non-resident hunting licenses for $10 each. The non-resident licenses were wildly unpopular even though most non-resident hunters at the time had the means to pay the fee associated with the license. It was their belief that the license went against the tradition of Southern hospitality.
Pearson also went up against the fashion industry in the hopes of putting an end to plume hunting. These plumes were often used in the clothing of the day. The millinery industry was particularly resistant to this change, as hats featuring fine feathers were very popular. Milliners feared the demand for their products would plummet without the feathers. Pearson, a great orator, convinced an audience of fashionably attired women by educating them about the plumes featured in their hats. He detailed for them how each species of bird represented had been slaughtered on its breeding grounds.
Upon returning from a trip to Mexico in 1911, Pearson was greeted with claims that the Audubon Society was making money off license fees and fines and that the Society was spending taxpayer's money on wildlife protection. Both of those claims were untrue. The effects of those claims, however, were detrimental to the Audubon Law passed in 1903, as counties were now allowed to exempt themselves from the law. At year's end, only 46 of the State's 100 counties remained under the law. From that time on, they advocated for a State Game Commission that would not come about until 1927 when a State Division of Game and Inland Fisheries was created as part of the N.C. Department of Conservation and Development. It would not be until 1947 with the help of the N.C. Wildlife Federation and other agencies that North Carolina would see an independent wildlife agency run by a professionally trained staff—the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
In 1924, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of North Carolina. He received the medal of the John Burroughs Association, the National Order of the Oaken Crown from Luxembourg, and the medal of the Societe National d'Acclimatation from France.
Pearson became secretary of the National Association of Audubon Societies and later served as president for 14 years starting in 1920 with the death of William Dutcher.