Bird feeding through time

Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce & Conservation,

by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker and Carrol L. Henderson, Texas A&M University Press, $27.95

This carefully researched book by three leaders in the fields of bird feeding and bird conservation provides a comprehensive look at how Americans have evolved from tossing out some breadcrumbs or corn kernels, as Henry David Thoreau did, to the scene today, when 53 million of us spend $5 billion on birdseed and equipment each year.

The authors chronicle our changing attitudes toward birds, decade by decade, including the horrific feather trade that helped lead to the establishment of the Audubon Society at the turn of the past century. It's fascinating to note how the growing interest in feeding backyard birds has played a role in bird conservation over the past 150 years or so.

We learn about zany tinkerers and their many inventive bird feeders, and how the bird-feeding industry matured. I especially enjoyed the historical notes, and liked the fact that the book speaks out on keeping birds safe around feeders, and the importance of keeping feeders very clean.

Everyone interested in backyard birds will enjoy this book, especially the fact that Minnesota's own Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the Department of Natural Resources' Nongame Wildlife Program, is one of the authors.

Val Cunningham