Bird Watching (UK) - - Id Secrets -

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.

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