Plume Hunting

Just as clothing fashions extirpated the beaver from most of their North American haunts, so did a penchant for bird feathers and plumes reduce the populations of North American bird species. A fashion that started as a few feathers for accent led to whole birds adorning hats. An informal survey of hats on a New York sidewalk in 1886 showed that 77% had dead birds on them of some twenty different species.

The roseate spoonbill, great blue heron (and the great white heron color morph ), American, reddish and snowy egrets were heavily predated beginning in the 1880's by plume hunters. The spoonbill and egrets were soon on the brink of extinction.

After the plume birds became rare, attention was turned to gulls and terns. At one time, even the now common herring gull was reduced to one breeding colony on the Atlantic coast.

The arrival of Federal protection as outlined in market hunting defined what we now call non-game birds, halted their destruction and regulated the taking of game birds.