Vol. 2, No. 3 – How The Birds Secured Their Rights

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) by Ray

Song Sparrow by Ray


Deuteronomy xxxii 6-7.—“If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree, or on the ground, young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young. But thou shalt in anywise let the dam go, that it may be well with thee, and that thou may prolong thy days.”


T is said that the following petition was instrumental in securing the adoption in Massachusetts of a law prohibiting the wearing of song and insectivorous birds on women’s hats. It is stated that the interesting document was prepared by United States Senator Hoar. The foregoing verse of Scripture might have been quoted by the petitioning birds to strengthen their position before the lawmakers:

“To the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: We, the song birds of Massachusetts and their playfellows, make this our humble petition. We know more about you than you think we do. We know how good you are. We have hopped about the roofs and looked in at the windows of the houses you have built for poor and sick and hungry people, and little lame and deaf and blind children. We have built our nests in the trees and sung many a song as we flew about the gardens and parks you have made so beautiful for your children, especially your poor children, to play in. Every year we fly a great way over the country, keeping all the time where the sun is bright and warm. And we know that whenever you do anything the other people all over this great land between the seas and the great lakes find it out, and pretty soon will try to do the same. We know. We know.

“We are Americans just the same as you are. Some of us, like some of you, came across the great sea. But most of the birds like us have lived here a long while; and the birds like us welcomed your fathers when they came here many, many years ago. Our fathers and mothers have always done their best to please your fathers and mothers.

“Now we have a sad story to tell you. Thoughtless or bad people are trying to destroy us. They kill us because our feathers are beautiful. Even pretty and sweet girls, who we should think would be our best friends, kill our brothers and children so that they may wear our plumage on their hats. Sometimes people kill us for mere wantonness. Cruel boys destroy our nests and steal our eggs and our young ones. People with guns and snares lie in wait to kill us; as if the place for a bird were not in the sky, alive, but in a shop window or in a glass case. If this goes on much longer all our song birds will be gone. Already we are told in some other countries that used to be full of birds they are now almost gone. Even the Nightingales are being killed in Italy.

“Now we humbly pray that you will stop all this and will save us from this sad fate. You have already made a law that no one shall kill a harmless song bird or destroy our nests or our eggs. Will you please make another one that no one shall wear our feathers, so that no one shall kill us to get them? We want them all ourselves. Your pretty girls are pretty enough without them. We are told that it is as easy for you to do it as for a blackbird to whistle.

“If you will, we know how to pay you a hundred times over. We will teach your children to keep themselves clean and neat. We will show them how to live together in peace and love and to agree as we do in our nests. We will build pretty houses which you will like to see. We will play about your garden and flowerbeds—ourselves like flowers on wings—without any cost to you. We will destroy the wicked insects and worms that spoil your cherries and currants and plums and apples and roses. We will give you our best songs, and make the spring more beautiful and the summer sweeter to you. Every June morning when you go out into the field, Oriole and Bluebird and Blackbird and Bobolink will fly after you, and make the day more delightful to you. And when you go home tired after sundown Vesper Sparrow will tell you how grateful we are. When you sit down on your porch after dark, Fifebird and Hermit Thrush and Wood Thrush will sing to you; and even Whip-poor-will will cheer you up a little. We know where we are safe. In a little while all the birds will come to live in Massachusetts again, and everybody who loves music will like to make a summer home with you.”

The singers are:

Brown Thrasher, King Bird,
Robert o’Lincoln, Swallow,
Vesper Sparrow, Cedar Bird,
Hermit Thrush, Cow-bird,
Robin Redbreast, Martin,
Song Sparrow, Veery,
Scarlet Tanager, Vireo,
Summer Redbird, Oriole,
Blue Heron, Blackbird,
Humming Bird, Fifebird,
Yellow-bird, Wren,
Whip-poor-will, Linnet,
Water Wagtail, Pewee,
Woodpecker, Phoebe,
Pigeon Woodpecker, Yoke Bird,
Indigo Bird, Lark,
Yellow Throat, Sandpiper,
Wilson’s Thrush, Chewink.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) by Kent Nickell

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) by Kent Nickell

Lee’s Addition:

By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:12 NKJV)

Things were tough for the birds back in 1897 and I guess they wanted their rights protected. This was one way to do it. Thankfully, today there is very few of the feathers and birds being stuck on hats for the ladies. Most don’t wear hats these days. Hunters still hunt, but not so much for “Songbirds.” Unfortunately young folks still like to cause problems for the birds instead of enjoying their songs and antics. They fail to realize the beauty of God’s created avian critters. Several groups became concerned and several laws were passed to protect the birds.

See National Council of Women about this hat campaign.

Lacey Act

By the late 1800s, the hunting and shipment of birds for the commercial market (to embellish the platters of elegant restaurants) and the plume trade (to provide feathers to adorn lady’s fancy hats) had taken their toll on many bird species. Passenger pigeons, whose immense flocks had once darkened the skies, were nearing extinction. Populations of the Eskimo curlew and other shorebirds had been decimated. The snowy egret and other colonial-nesting wading birds had been reduced to mere remnants of their historical populations. The Lacey Act (passed on May 25, 1900) prohibited game taken illegally in one state to be shipped across state boundaries contrary to the laws of the state where taken. The Lacey Act has become a very effective tool for enforcing the wildlife protective laws of the States and the Federal government (a detailed synopsis is available). However, in the early years of the 20th century the Act was ineffective in stopping interstate shipments, largely because of the huge profits enjoyed by the market hunters and the lack of officers to enforce the law. These early failures of the Lacey Act led to passage of the Weeks-McLean Law. (The Migratory Bird Program – Conserving America’s Birds – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for September 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Captive’s Escape

The Previous Article – The Mourning Dove

Gospel Message


Birds Vol 1 #5 – National Council of Women

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 – Wikipedia


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