Birds Living II by Richard Stade - RStade

Great Egret – Preening in breeding plumage

Ardea alba

April – Texas

L=39” ...... WS=51” ...... WT=1.9 lb Order: Ciconiiformes (Herons, Ibises, Storks, New World Vultures, Allies) Family: Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, Bitterns

“The treatment which man has accorded the Egret is not only an evidence of his power over weaker animals, but stands as a blot on this country’s history. The long white plumes, which this bird bears on its back in the mating and nesting season, have long been sought as adornments for women’s headwear. The only way to get these “aigrettes” is to shoot the bird, and shoot it at a time it is engaged in the care of it nestlings. At other seasons it is wild, and only with great difficulty can one approach to within shooting distance, before it takes wing. The plumes are acquired early in the year but not until the birds have accumulated in colonies, and laid their eggs, can a hunter hope for success. Even then the wise millinery agents wait until the rookery is ripe. By “ripe” they mean when the eggs have hatched. If the shooting begins in a colony before this time, the birds will frequently desert their nests and eggs. Thus in order to get the most satisfactory results the plume-hunter must be content to wait until the young appear, and the instinct or parental care is so aroused that the old birds will return again and again despite the fact that they see their companions falling all about them before the guns of the inhuman hunters. This method of attack on any species if long continued means its doom. When old and young alike perish no chance remains to perpetuate the species. continued on next page