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FEEDING Wild Birds in America
By Paul J. Baicich, Margaret a. Barker and Carrol L. Henderson

Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Reviewed by Bill Karnofsky

Who could possibly imagine that there is history associated with feeding wild birds?  Didn’t people always feed our feathered friends?

Today, we all take for granted that people have always put out feed for birds.  We could not be more wrong.  This book chronicles the history of feeding wild birds in the U.S.; a history book about feeding wild birds. 

The book relates the relentless urging of visionaries to get the general population to help the birds, especially in the cold climates of our country.  Most of the time, the drive was altruistic.  In some instances it was for profit.  It was most interesting to read of the various strategies used to convince people to put out food for birds.  Over time these strategies evolved and changed to address the issues of the day.  In the end, the work of so very many dedicated individuals succeeded to the point where today we have about 50 million people feeding wild birds, and not just in the north and not just in the winter.

You will be introduced to many influential visionaries, who, over the years, developed such ideas as the theory of Economic Ornithology and during WW1 created the concept of patriotic feeding because birds were helping us win the war against the Kaiser.  It may sound silly, but it worked.

Not only were citizens the target of these concerned people, they set their sights on the government.  They were successful here as well.  Various governmental agencies joined the fight to protect all birds (except English Sparrows, and later, European Starlings) by publishing booklets, pamphlets and all sorts of other publications to entice people to not only feed, but to protect birds.  Local governments played a big part by introducing the subject into classrooms all across the country to instill in succeeding generations the love of birds in particular and nature in general.  These governments got involved themselves in feeding and protecting birds.

The loosely coordinated efforts of individuals, groups and government agencies were able to shift the national consciousness from hunting birds (almost to the point of, or actually to, extinction i.e. the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeets) to feeding and enjoying them.  Collectively, over a long period of time, they were wildly successful.

 

 

 

 

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