Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/279

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275
THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

numbers. In four states, and to them commendation is due, the number of birds has increased. They are Kansas, Wyoming, Washington and Utah.

What has become of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), prairie chicken (Tympanums cupido), the Carolina paroquet (Conurus carolinensis); and why are the following so nearly extinct: blue bird (Sialia sialis), the white heron (Ardea candidissima)? In every case the answer is one or all of the following conditions: indiscriminate hunting, wanton slaughter, and the collection of plumes or of eggs. None of these are natural conditions, and therefore it is not beyond the power of man to better them.

The birds which are affected most by the indiscriminate hunting are the gallinaceous birds, such as the grouse, quail, partridge and turkeys. The wild ducks and shore birds are also considerably affected. The wading birds, among which are the various forms of heron and bittern, have found their worst enemies among the plume collectors, or plume thieves. The men who collect feathers from these birds are not content to pluck the feathers and release the birds, or to confine their depredations to the males; but they kill the female herons, for the plumes and egrets that they furnish, while they are on the nest. It is only during the mating season that the feathers are in a suitable condition for plucking, hence the annual raid made upon the nesting herons.

It seems strange that women, who by nature are supposed to possess so much gentleness and sympathy, and who shrink from anything that savors of cruelty, should be content to adorn their hats with feathers, the procuring of which necessitates so much wanton cruelty and murder. But Dame Fashion has decreed that feathers shall be worn; regardless of how they are secured, they have been worn, and a study of the following figures will give some idea of the effects thereby produced on the colonies of herons and egrets. Within the past twenty years the snowy heron has practically disappeared from China, where it was once so plentiful. Twenty years ago, there was in the region about Charleston, S. C, at least three million of these birds; to-day less than one hundred remain. There is but one small colony of the American egret left in this country, and that one is on the coast of South Carolina. This colony was fired into last year, and again this year, so that now less than twenty birds remain. It will be but a few years, unless some drastic measures are taken, before the history of this bird will be the same as that of the passenger pigeon. Our grandparents tell us of the times when the skies were darkened by the millions of pigeons which were seen in the middle west. Last year a reward of four hundred dollars was offered by a college professor to any one who could furnish accurate proof of a single nesting pair of passenger pigeons. I am of the opinion that no one applied for the reward.