November 16, 2015
This forest green silk turban features tan, black, brown, red and green braided straw accents. Trimmed with an iridescent orange and green plume from an Asian Pheasant.
When Ferdinand Magellan returned to Europe with skins from birds collected in New Guinea, they were so beautiful that people believed they must have come from out of this world. These exotic "Birds-of-Paradise" became so highly sought-after for their richly colored plumes that by the early 1900s up to 80,000 were being killed annually for export.
Birds-of-paradise were not the only victims. Hundreds of millions of birds were killed for women's hats. The plume trade helped drive the Carolina parakeet and tthe New Zeland Huia to extinction and nearly eradicated great crested Grebes, Rheas, Emus, Africa's Ostrich herds and Britain's Gull and Kittiwake colonies.
America's Snowy Egrets and the Great Egrets were especially favored for their beautiful breeding plumes. In 1903, these feathers sold for $32 an ounce, essentially twice their weight in gold.
Small birds were not immune either. On two walks through New York City in 1886, biologist Frank Chapman identified 40 bird species on hats.
In Florida, in an effort to control plume hunting, the American Ornithologists Union and the National Association of Audubon Societies (now the National Audubon Society) persuaded the Florida State Legislature to pass a model non-game bird protection law in 1901. These organizations then employed wardens to protect rookeries, in effect establishing colonial bird sanctuaries.
Such public concern, combined with the conservation-minded President Theodore Roosevelt, who by an executive order of President on March 14, 1903 established Pelican Island as the first national wildlife refuge in the United States to protect egrets and other birds from extinction by plume hunters. These and other efforts began to stem the tide of harvesting bird feathers for fashion. Today, it is (thankfully) illegal to possess many of the exotic bird feathers.
Have a great day today! Thank you for your comments and critiques.