FORMATION OF THE RSPB
During the late 19th Century there was concern among some visionaries about the mass slaughter of native birds for their plumage. Of particular concern was the trade in ‘grebe fur’ – the soft under-pelt of the breast feathers of the Great Crested Grebe – commonly used as a fur substitute in ladies’ clothing and accessories such as hand muffs. The attractive head frill feathers of adult grebes in breeding plumage also became highly desirable. They could only be taken by killing the birds and, as the grebe’s feathers were more valuable while in breeding plumage, their eggs and chicks were often left to perish. This resulted in numbers of Great Crested Grebes falling to the point where they became almost extinct in Britain and Ireland by 1860. This led to the Sea Birds Preservation Act of 1869 and the Wild Birds Protection Act of 1880. However, the trade in the plumage of birds-of-paradise, egrets and many other finely feathered species continued, leading to the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889. It quickly set to work to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women’s hats. The SPB’S work was very successful and became so popular that it was granted a Royal Charter in 1904, to become the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.