You know the names Roger Tory Peterson, David Allen Sibley, and National Geographic. All are responsible for the books many of us use to identify birds.
The other side of this pastime — bird feeding — also has its list of pioneer names and major contributors. Chances are you’ve not heard of them. These people have done as much or more than our authors/artists to bring birds into our lives.
Recognition is finally theirs.
Authors Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson give us a look way back to the bread-crumb beginning of bird feeding. Henderson is local, the superintendent of the non-game division of the Minnesota DNR.
(Both he and Baicich will be the Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds May 14-17 to speak about the book and its subject. The festival will be held at the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area. This is one of Minnesota’s oldest and finest bird festivals. For information see http://www.visitdetroitlakes.com/events/festival-of-birds.)
The pioneers in this field included Florence Merriam Bailey, Elizabeth Davenport, Anne Botsford Comstock, and Mable Osgood Knight. Note that it is women, many women, who led the way at this point in the bird conservation movement. They persisted until bird conservation became the law of the land and the pleasure of millions.
Bird feeding grew in popularity as people in the U.S. gradually developed a conscience about birds, realizing that these animals had value beyond being gunnery targets. People who contributed to the growth of feeding were some of the same who campaigned to stop slaughter of large wading birds for plumes, to stop sport shooting of hawks.
A birding magazine, “Bird-Lore,” appeared more than 100 years ago. It joined books on animal conservation, on bird identification, and on feeding methods. This book is amply illustrated with magazine advertising from the turn of the century and beyond showing how surprisingly little has changed in bird-feeding gear in over 100 years.
Bread crumbs and soup bones (fat and suet) soon fell to grain and other products developed specifically for the bird market. Some of the first manufacturers continue today under new names. I particularly enjoyed the photo of Peter Kilham, a New England feeder inventor. He looks to be the epitome of a droll Yankee, and indeed began a feeder company under that name. His creations of 50 years ago draw birds to our yards today.
There is much more to the bird-feeding subject. It has a history as bright and varied as a fallout of warblers. It’s an entertaining read.
Published by Texas A&M University Press, the book is Flexbound (with flaps), price $27.95.
Go to http://www.tamupress.com/product/Feeding-Wild-Birds-in-America,8161.aspx
Or, Buteo Books has it: http://www.buteobooks.com/product/14477.html
And, of course, Amazon: