If you are a fan of Chinese restaurants, you may know (by the paper placemat) that this is the Year of the Dog. But do you know that for nature lovers, it is The Year of the Bird? Why? Because it is the Centennial celebration of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, one of the oldest and most significant wildlife protection laws ever passed and a precursor of the Endangered Species Act . Before this law, a number of species of birds were sliding towards extinction from overhunting and wanton killing.
In the last decade of the 1800s and the first decades of the 20th Century fashion dictated that women’s hats should be adorned with bird’s feathers – the more extravagant, the better. Egrets were especially prized for their long, filamentous plumes. Market hunters would find the birds in the wetlands of Florida and wipe out entire colonies.
The extinction of the Passenger Pigeons in 1914 was a tragedy and dire warning of where many other birds were
headed if action was taken soon to protect them. This law would make it a crime to shoot songbirds, raptors and wading birds that migrated each year. It did not prohibit the hunting of migratory waterfowl.
Over the past century we have seen more and more environmental threats to birds and it requires constant vigilance on our parts to make sure that the law remains strong. The birds have no one to speak up on their behalf except us. We can all continue to do our best to provide them with the best bird seed at our feeders; we can put up bird houses and plant trees and shrubs to provide habitat; and we can
support conservation organizations who are constantly monitoring legal and illegal threats to their future. You can become even more engaged in this process this year by joining millions of others in this effort. Go to birdyourworld.org and sign up to be part of this great program. You will learn more about current research, community projects, fascinating stories, fabulous photography and much more.
By Kate Crowley