28 December 2007

Birds a Dynamic Theme for Cartoonists

By James Ed. Ducey

In many a daily way, birds are expressively shown by cartoons.

A broad array of world birds behave, react and exist in a myriad of distinct ways. Variety of colors, shapes and sizes, habits, and other aspects of bird biology can be a constant source of topics to express, often with a focus on humor, for a cartoonist.

Bird types are readily emphasized and enhanced in an obvious manner, presenting the sketchers perspective.

Cartoonist Steve Ward, drew Buzz the Fly, but would depict other animals upon request, and did some interesting views of birds from Nebraska. There weren't any named birds in the Buzz strips, which were multi-paneled, focused on the life and times of the fly and fellow insects, hither and yon.

[Ward cartoon of a Killdeer] [Ward cartoon Sandhill Crane]

The celebrated BirdBreath theme "is about how birds view life - hence 'Life from a bird's point of view,'" said cartoonist Robert Seymour, of San Francisco Bay, coastal California. "The cartoon looks at all of us from their perspective."

Robert conveys a simplicity with BirdBreath. "I try to generalize birds drawn to commonly recognized species, like pelican, cardinal, quail, bluebird etc. I also occasionally add non-bird characters, like polar bear, brown bear, grey wolves, deer and others, depending on the topic or point being made."

"The focus is on the expressions and situation of the subjects. Most of the time it's all about being funny, but at times more sobering, especially when dealing with animal rights, the environment, and global warming. I try not to make them goofy looking, but rather more humanized. I want the readers to be able to identify with them.”

“Their personalities are still developing and maturing. The main characters are Smarty and Devin, followed by the nemises Harvey, Vinnie and Poody.Hennie appears in work related cartoons, Daryl in dealing with hunting, and Willy appears in a variety of cartoon topics. Some of the others have names and others as yet do not.”

BirdBreath was started in July 1, 2005. Each new cartoon presents “a unique way to approach a variety of topics,” Seymour said in an email interview. “Much of what they do translates well our own experiences. Just about everything they do makes me (and others) laugh.

“My goal is to allow BirdBreath to mature and gain greater depth. It began as strictly slap-stick humor and has grown to include a broader spectrum of humor. I want it not only to be funny but make a positive contribution to society, in terms of humor and morals. At times I also want it to subliminally make a point.

Topical news may become the subject of a cartoon.

One idea being considered for BirdBreath is the "huge oil spill here in the San Francisco Bay recently after a tanker collided with the Oakland Bay Bridge," Seymour commented. "It created all kinds of havoc."

“BB has been very well received. I continually get complimentary emails from people. The email cartoon subscribers continues to grow. Word really seems to be getting out.”

New cartoons are generally featured five days a week at the website of this contemporary cartoon.

Robert began July 1, 2003 with "a cartoon called DuJour which occasionally featured birds. I enjoyed the bird cartoons more, so I spun them off. It grew on me. I now have several bird books and enjoy birding. It's addictive. I still have much to learn."

[Ward cartoon of a hawk] [Ward cartoon of a Northern Cardinal]

26 December 2007

Bird Apparel a Stylish Attire for Native North Americans Since 1500

© 2008 James Ed. Ducey.

An obvious splash of color in the many worlds of people across North America may have also been the material used for a stunning fashion statement in past centuries. The winged ones were prevalent as little songsters, in flocks on land, or as dark skeins moving against the sky. They revealed an infinite variety of sizes and shape ... animal provisions at each of the many places well known to the providers of survival for the tribe. A swan or fat autumn goose would roast well over a day's camp fire. The carcass could provide special things perhaps, a spiritual totem, a small and right-sized water bag, rarely a bird-bone whistle, or just serve to keep the kids warmly dressed during winter's chill.

Explorers of various sorts from across the Atlantic Ocean ventured forth on visits to the new world of America, providing the first descriptions of wild bird material use by local cultures. Sea-faring Vikings saw things and returned with spoken legends of eider birds on the north Atlantic coast, among other things. It was a bit more than 500 years ago for the first account of plumes being worn as decor for the outfits of women on the Bahaman Islands.

Only a few words within the chronicle kept during weeks, months or years reveals a utilitarian and ceremonial variety of uses for different parts of a dead bird. In the exploratory men's writing, when not speaking of gamey grouse or turkeys eaten for dinner, their scrawled inscriptions refer to coats, cloaks, garlands, and a special mantle. Water-shedding skins served well when worn as clothing. Turkey feathers were sewn into a quilted cover for sleeping. Single feathers or wings with color and pattern were an especially important feature for many tribal ceremonies. A feather hat was a distinct bit of grandeur for the rulers ceremonial garb.

Use of bird skins as material for garments reaches a pinnacle in the latter 1770s, with numerous notations from the Pacific Northwest, land of the Eskimos. The Common Eider meant survival for those people.

With an unbeatable style of color and durability, items made from a wild bird are described by writing visitors to Yucatan, New Netherland, New Spain, Carolina, Acadia, Alaska, the Louisiana Territory and elsewhere during the period of exploration in the New World. Most of the known instances of the use of bird material as worn apparel are from the United States of America, but also Canada and Greenland. Panama is also represented.

Various bird material is briefly described, often just the generic term of bird being scribed. Apparent types or species include the parrot, Wild Turkey, Chachalaca, geese, swan, eider, murre, gull, loon, eagle, cormorant and guillemot.

The following summary provides details for bird-motif garments, feather plumes, garlands and other worn objects in history for more than three hundred years. Examples are from oldest to most recent account. The designated placenames typically use the original names given in the chronicles.


Guadeloupe Island, Bahama Islands: women wearing plumes noted; 10 Apr 1496 by members of the Christopher Columbus expedition around the balmy West Indies and Caribbean Sea.

Rio de Grijalva, Yucatan, Mexico: cloak of feathers and its plumes noted in 1518 in account by Las Casas on the expedition of Juan de Grijalva during the discovery of New Spain.

Annunciata, North Carolina: native peoples "dressed in birds' feathers of various colors" noted during Giovanni de Verrazzano voyage in 1524 along the Atlantic coast.

Mouth of Hudson River, New York: garlands of bird feathers, "inhabitants not differing much from the others, being dressed out with the feathers of birds of various colours" by John de Verazzano in 1524.

Colorado River, Bay of California, Arizona, California: "the women goe naked, and weare a great wreath of feathers behind them" and references to certain feathers of parrots. The 1540 exploration by Captain Fernando Alarchon.

[Chief Satouriona]

Chief Satouriona, Fort Caroline at River May, Florida. Drawing on display at Fort Caroline National Memorial.

Fort Caroline at the River May: bird effigy, "At the leave-taking the king gave the captain a plume of egret feathers, dyed red, and a basket ..." During the first voyage of the French to Florida during 1562, under the leadership of Captain Jean Ribault.

Charles-Fort, South Carolina: "being painted and trimmed with rich feathers of divers colours", house hanged about with a tapestry of feathers of diverse colors. During the voyage to establish Fort Caroline and around the River May by Rene Laudonniere in 1564-1565.

San Felipe, New Mexico: especially for sleeping, quilts made of turkey feathers, also feather quilts used in place of cloaks; 2 Feb 1583 in chronicle of Hernan Gallegos during the rediscovery of New Mexico 1580-1594. Includes records from Chamuscado, Antonio Espejo, Castano de Sosa, Morlete, and Leyva de Bonilla and Humana.

Acoma - New Mexico: women wearing Mexican blankets, very elegant with colors, feathers, and other trappings; 6 Mar 1583 account by Antonio Espejo.

Gilbert's Sound, Greenland: "brought their clothes from their backes, which were all made of seale skins and birdes skinnes." By navigator John Davis in 1585.

Pueblo de los Angeles, California: "crownes were made of knit work wrought artificially with feathers of divers colours"; 1597 letter from the pueblo.


Groenland, or Greenland: seal and fowle skins, with the feather side inwards, found in their tents; 1605 James Hall account of Cunningham's Danish expedition.

Georges Harbor, Maine: "other ware the white feathered skins of some fowle, round about their head, iewels in their eares, and bracelets of little white round bone." In James Rosier narrative for Waymouth voyage in 1605.

Itivdlek Fjord, Greenland: "certaine coates of seale and fowle skins, with the feather side inward"; on 12 Jun 1605 by Danish expedition.

Lower Bay, New Jersey: "this day many of the people came aboard, some in mantles of feathers"; 5 Sep 1609 by Henry Hudson, leader of the sailors that discovered Hudson Bay.

Maine, New-England: with rich feathers ladies plume their head; 1625 narrative verse by William Morrell.

Santiago de Guatemale, Guatemala: Bird effigy, feathered banners and headdresses. In summer of 1630 by friar Thomas Gage in the Spanish America.

Bay du Noquet, Wisconsin: "clothed in large garment of Chinese damask, sprinkled with flowers and birds of different colors"; 1634 by Jean Nicolet, exploring the northwest. This is an intriguing notation, since the use of an item of Chinese origin would indicate oceanic trade.

Long Island, New York: "a mantle, a fathom square, of woven turkey feathers or peltries sewed together"; in 1644 from an anonymous author journal of New Netherland.

Manhattan Island, New York: coats made of turkey feathers; 1650 representation report from local officials.

Rendezvous Fort, Minnesota: "they cut some down or swan or other fowl that hath a white feather and cover with it the crown of their head"; Pierre Espirit Radisson narrative in 1662.

Gaspesia, Quebec: "colours ... for representing upon their garments certain figures of wild beasts, birds"; four colours red, white, black and yellow; 1680 by Father Chrestien le Clercq in New Relation.

Isthmus of Darien, Panama: Indians make a sort of apron from back feathers of the chicaly-chicaly, or chachalaca; pelican pouch used to make tobacco pouch by seamen. Surgeon Lionel Wafer in 1681.

Cahaynohoua Nation, Arkansas: sword-blade and calumet adorned with several sorts of feathers; July 1687 in Henri Joutel journal of Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explorations in New France. Explored the Mississippi River.

Villages des Cenis, Arkansas: "plumes of feathers of several colours, on their heads"; Joutel journal in March 1687; turkey feathers on their heads, noted in Apr 1687.

Cappa Village, Riviere de Ommas, Arkansas: "wearing plumes of several colours, wherewith they adorn their heads"; Joutel journal on 1 Aug 1687.


River of the Pounika, Louisiana: men and women have mantles of turkey feathers; 13 Nov 1700 during Father Gravier voyage.

Village of the Houmas, Louisiana: robe of muskrat skins or turkey feathers; December 1700 during Father Gravier's missionary travels in the Illinois territory.

Port Royal, Acadia, Nova Scotia, Canada: papoose wrapped in skins of swans, and wild geese; in 1700, Sieur de Diereville history of the Indians.

Settlement of Santee, South Carolina: "chief doctor or physician, who was warmly and neatly clad with a match-coat, made of turkies feathers, which makes a pretty shew, seeming it was a garment of the deepest silk shag"; 10 Jan 1701 on a new voyage to Carolina by John Lawson.

Adak Island, Alaska: wear on head a hat decorated with various colors and feathers; 9 Sep 1741 in narratives of the Vitus Bering voyages from Kamchatka.

York Fort, Manitoba, Canada: "caps of woollen cloth ... and at the corner which will be upon the crown of the head a bit of rabbits down sewed on, or a red feather"; also noted, Indians will buy laced hats with a dyed feather stuck up in them; also stick feathers in hair; 1747 in notes by a trading company clerk in the store at the fort.

Lower and Upper Louisiana, U.S.A.: in 1758, several uses of bird items were noted in the translated journal of Le Page du Pratz in this territorial expanse west of the Mississippi and beyond the Platte rivers.

  • Swan feathers used to make diadems for hats,
  • Small feathers weaved into coverings for the women;
  • Young people make tippets made of the skin, with down;
  • Sailors make tobacco purse from dried pelican pouch;
  • Natives make fans of the tail;
  • Four tails joined together make the French an umbrella; and,
  • Women weave feathers in their hair.

New Herrnhuth at Balls River, Greenland: eider-fowl skin - Greenlanders and Europeans make their finest warmest under-garments of eider-fowl skin; under-garments made of willock (murre) skins. In 1767, from English translation for David Crantz history.

Presidio of Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bird effigy, "They adorn their heads with bonnets trimmed with feathers in different ways." In September 1767 for Apache Indians, noted by Don Nicolas de Lafora.

Cape Charles at Cape Charles Harbour, Labrador, Canada: Indians were sucking the fat from eider-duck skins, intended for winter garments. In 1771 by Captain George Cartwright at the northern Atlantic coast of Canada.

Port de la Bodega at Point de Arenas in October 1775, or San Francisco Bay, California, by the second pilot, Don Francisco Antonio Maurelle:

"A vast number of Indians now presented themselves on both points, who passed from one to the other in small canoes made of Fule, where they talked loudly for two hours or more, till at last two of them came along side the ship, and most liberally presented us with plumes of feathers, rosaries of bone, garments of feathers, as also garlands of the same materials, which they wore round their head, and a canister of seeds, which tasted much like walnuts. Our captain gave them in return, bugles, looking glasses, and peices of cloth."

This was during a visit by the schooner Sonora in October 1775. There were also large flocks of pigeons noted, and a parakeet like bird. At an earlier temporary port in mid-June, the small paroquet and parrots were mentioned. The locale was given as 41'7o north, though its loation is not certain on the expediton map.

Button-Mole-Bay, New York: Indian war dance; others decorated with a great quantity of feathers; many in nudity, one had tied a blackbird before him. Letter on 24 Jun 1777 by Thomas Anburey on his travels.

[Man and woman at Unalaska]

Samgoonoodha Harbour, Alaska: "jackets of the men are made of the skins of the Uril and Arjen, the former is a kind of water raven"; the uril is the cormorant, and the arjen the Oldsquaw, the editor interprets. On 28 June, an undergarment was noted as being "made of bird skins dressed with the feathers on and neatly sewn together, the feathered side he wore next to his skin; it was mended and patched." In 1778 during Captain James Cook voyages of discovery.

Island of Nawanalaska, Alaska: "dress consists of a bird-skin frock." On 26 Oct 1778 in the David Samwell journal from the Cook voyages.

Nipigon Bay, Ontario: feathers of birds among tribal items, or "pequim" in Chippeway language; wing of birds: "gwimbitch" is the Chippeway word. In 1778, from the journal of John Long among the Indians.

St. Augustine, Florida: "Around their heads they wore folded headbands about four inches wide in which were stuck three or four feathered plumes." On 8 Dec 1784 by Don Vizente Manuel de Zespedes y Velasco, governor of St. Augustine upon a visit by Indian chiefs from the Lower Creek and Seminole towns. A conference was held at the town plaza.

Northern Lands

Greenland: garments made of the skins of the black-backed gull (great black-backed gull) these and other water-fowl. Natives use skins of the northern diver (loon) for clothing, and Indians about Hudson's Bay adorn their heads with circlets of their feathers. North America: Indians make a most elegant clothing of the feathers, they also make fans of the tails. This information dates to ca. 1785 as given in the Arctic Zoology tome by Thomas Pennant.

Chenega, Prince William Sound area, Alaska: image of mans coat made of eagle skins, with down feathers retained, that were used as rain coats by the Chugach Eskimo; 10 eagle, 15 cormorant or 20 guillemot skins were needed for a coat. The flesh side of the skin was worn next to the body. Three eagle skin Chenega coats from this area are in the Museum fur Volkerkunde at Berlin. From the 1785 era of the James Cook voyage.

Prince William Sound, Alaska: "In warm weather they often wear a most beautiful dress made of a bird's skins with the feathers outward. These dresses are shaped like a shirt, and the finest of them are made from the skins of the breasts of swans." From chronicle of Alexander Walker voyage of 1786 in the Pacific Northwest.

District of Nootka, British Columbia, Canada: cap made of matting ornamented with painted representations of birds and other animals, and fastened with a leather thong; in 1788. At Port Meares, British Columbia: the King, Tianna, presented Captain Douglas two long-feathered cloaks. On 10 Dec 1788, from the John Meares narrative, coming from China to the north-west coast of America.

Lake of the Hills, Saskatchewan, Canada. In preparing for war, the men of the Knisteneaux Indian tribe had a ritual. "The next article is his war-cap, which is decorated with the feathers and plumes of scarce birds, beavers, and eagle's claws, &c. There is also suspended from it a quill or feather for every enemy whom the owner of it has slain in battle. ... Their headdresses are composed of the feathers of the swan, the eagle, and other birds. The teeth, horns and claws of different animals, are also the occasional ornaments of the head and neck. ... appearance of the men, whose faces are painted with more care than those of the women." From the general history of the Fur Trade in central Canada, written by Alexander Mackenzie.

Great Bear River Confluence, Northwest Territories, Canada: cap made of leather 1.5 inches wide embroidered with porcupine quills and stuck round with the claws of bears or wild fowls inverted; 5 Jul 1789 by Sir Alexander Mackenzie on his explorations for the trading company. He was the first person known to have traversed the North American continent.

Kightak Kadiak, Alaska: skins used for dresses, 1790 by Joseph Billings to northern Russia region. Oonalashka, Alaska: men wear a parka of birds' skins, sometimes the feathers outward, and sometimes inward; 5 Jun 1790 by Joseph Billings on another expedition to the northern parts of Russia.

[image Billings]

Spicer Islands, British Columbia: skins given to chief; "it being reckoned an uncommon fineness in their dress to have it together with their hair, strew'd over with the down of birds"; 8 Jul 1795 voyage of Captain Charles Bishop about the Pacific Northwest.

Turtle Lake, Minnesota: the beautiful spotted skins of loons make favorite caps for the natives, the Chippaway. On 27 Apr 1798 in the travel narrative of David Thompson in western North America.

Lewis and Clark Expeditioneers

There is a compelling variety of notes in the lengthy and varied journals for the Lewis and Clark expedition across the Louisiana Territory; going across the Rocky Mountains and to the great bay at the mouth of the Columbia River, and coast of the Pacific Ocean. Then back to St. Louis by river.

  • Calumet Bluff, southern bank of Missouri River, several miles west of the River Jacque, Nebraska: "the Warriers are Verry much deckerated with Paint Porcupin quils & feathers, large leagins & mockersons, all with buffalow roads of Different Colours." Capt. Clark wrote; 30 Aug 1804, while at a camp.
  • Bad Humored Island, upriver from Teton River (cf. Bad River), South Dakota: "...men perticularly, they grease & Black themselves when they dress, make use of Hawks feathers about their heads, cover with a Roab..." Clark wrote on 26 Sep 1804. Drums and whistles provided music, Joseph Whitehouse wrote in his entry for the 27th. Perhaps birds were an inspiration for any whistling songs while showy garb was worn at the social celebration of the autumn for the Teton Sioux. There were 80 dancers whooping at the event, held soon after the great battle when 65 Omaha were killed, and 25 women were taken as prisoners.
  • Lemhi Valley, along East Fork Lewis River; Idaho: Shoshone men sometimes add wings and tails of birds as an adornment in their hair, Capt. Lewis wrote on 21 Aug 1805. The Shoshone were especially fond of the feathers of the tail of the beautiful eagle or calumet bird. These feathers also used to adorn the manes and tails of their horses. Clark noted also how they strung the feathers and ornaments of birds.
  • Rapids of the Snake River, near confluence of the Clearwater River, Idaho: "otter skin about their necks hair Cewed in two parsels hanging forward over their Shoulders, feathers, and different Coloured Pints which they find in their country" Clark wrote; cf. 10 Oct 1805.
  • Mouth of the Lewis River or Kimooenim River, eastern Washington: the people wore "trinkets of shells, small bones and curious feathers" Clark wrote on 17 Oct 1805. In the entry for his journal on this Sunday, Patrick Gass mentioned that the Indians about the camp wore robes, some made of loon-skins.
  • Station Camp, coast of the most eastern extent of Haleys Bay, at mouth of the Columbia River, Washington: "men were a roabe of either the skins of __ a small fured animal, & which is most common, or the Skins of the Sea orter, Loon, Swan, Beaver, Deer, Elk or blankets either red blu, or white" it said in Clark's entry for Thursday, 21 Nov 1805.
  • Fort Clatsop, coastal Oregon: Indians decorate their caps and bonnets with the tail feathers of the calumet eagle; discusses the colours as being black and white which which it is beautifully variegated, Clark wrote. Then it goes on to discuss eagle lore, including its importance to tribes on the northern Plains. The journal entry was for 11 Mar 1806, and also discussed how the feathers decorate sacred pipes, or calumets.
  • Camp Chopunnish, along Koos-koos-kee or Flathead River, about a mile from Commearp Creek, Idaho: golden eagle feathers used for head dresses. On 9 Jun 1806 in journal of John Ordway.

Pike Explores

Falls of Pakagama, Minnesota: feather pillow; "On returning to the lodge of the chief, they found a bed prepared for each of them, of good soft bear skins; in addition to which Mr. Pike was furnished with a large feather pillow." Winter of 1805-1806 on Zebulon Montgomery Pike.

Central Canada

During the winter of 1808-1809, Alexander Henry the younger was at Fort Vermilion on a fork of the Saskatchewan River. In his condensed journal for the period, he noted for the Cree men: "Their cap is commonly a piece of leather or Skin, with the hair on, shaped to suit the head and tied under the chin, the top is usually trimmed or decorated with feathers or some other ornaments." The same tribe used feathers to provide trim for a hoop used in a game. Mentioned among the narrative was the Painted Feather Band of the Blackfeet Indians. For the Slave Indians, Henry noted "Their ornaments are few. Feathers, Quill Work and Human Hair, with Red White and Blue Earth constitute the whole apparatus."


When company man Wilson P. Hunt was going westward in 1811-12 to Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River, his notes refer to birds in a few, short instances. He did mention three examples of feathers or skins providing an important element to a local Indians' garb.

  • Arickara villages beyond the Great Bend of the Missouri River, South Dakota: "...they wear gay coronets of plumes, particularly those of the swan, but the feathers of the black eagle are considered the most worthy." On 9 Jul 1810.
  • Camp near a water course along the Snake River; southern Idaho: noted for the Chochonis people at three huts, "each has a garment of the skin of bison, rabbit, badger, fox, or wolf, or perhaps of ducks' skins sewn together" as noted 14 Nov 1811.
  • Akaitchis Lodges near the mouth of the Walla Walla River at the Columbia River, southern Washington on 21 Jan 1812: the inhabitants, "... their clothing consists of only a scanty mantle of the skin of bison, deer, rabbit or fox or else of duck. They sometimes add to this a pair of sleeves of wolfskin."


As Edouard de Montule was on shore from the steamboat Vesuvius heading up the Mississippi River, the journal entry noted an important accessory, than was more than adornment. When at Point-Pleasant, in the Missouri-Territory west of Tennessee, an Indians wife was in a shed built in a courtyard. Other items mentioned that were with her included "a bone needle, ... sacks made of hide, fans of turkey feathers for driving off mosquitoes, and other goods," the Frenchman write in his 15th letter. The actual date was 2 Jun 1817.


With the Stephen Long expedition moving up the Missouri River, there was further contact with the locals. On 22 Aug 1819, near the mouth of the Konzas river, Edwin James wrote: "sometimes a tail feather of the war eagle is attached transversely with respect to the head; this feather is white at base, and black at tip;" but the principal ornament was the tail of the common deer.

During a time of meet and greet, a leading Indian was adorned with a bird skin. James wrote for 3 Oct 1819: "This singular decoration is a large cushion, made of the skin of a crow, stuffed with light material and variously ornamented; it has two decorated sticks projecting from it upward, and a pendant one beneath; this apparatus is secured upon the buttocks by a girdle passing round the body."

When some Siouxian indians visited to view the Western Engineer, the steam boat tied at its winter berth, on November 15th, the narrative says of the Teton, Yancton and Sa-hon-ne warriors: "... as visitors they are clothed in their best attire. They decorate their hair with a profusion of feathers of the war eagle, and of a species of owl, which we have not seen. They also suspend in the head dress an entire skin of the paroquet."

In spring along the Missouri River at the cantonment on 27 Apr 1820, Mr. James recalled in his journal a warrior, about twenty-three, "of the finest form, tall, muscular, exceedingly graceful, and of a most prepossessing countenance. His head dress of war eagles' feather, descended in a double series upon his back like wings, to his saddle croup; his shield was highly decorated, and his long lance was ornamented by a plaited casing of red and blue cloth."

These items were more a bird effigy item than a garment, but in the context given were an important piece of apparel.

Northern Indians

In mid-July 1820, when Henry Schoolcraft was moving along with the Cass expedition through central Minnesota, he noted in his journal, that the northern Indians "possess a great fondness for grosteque ornaments of feathers, skins, bones, and claws of animals."

Parry Expedition

North of Nottingham Island, near Queens Cape and Kings Cape, at the western Hudson Strait, when several canoes came to the ships Fury and Hecla. "Many of the jackets of these people, and particularly those of the females, were lined with the skins of birds, having the feathers inside; and they had, also, in the boat several other skins in a prepared state, taken from the throat of the colymbus glacialis, which splendid bird, though we had twice found its skin in possession of the Esquimaux, we had yet not met with ourselves." This was in the 1 Aug 1821 entry of the narrative for the expedition commanded by Captain William E. Parry.

Columbia River

When John Kirk Townsend, a zoologist visiting from the east was boating along the lower Columbia River, he watched and collected birds. The abodes at the time were trading forts of various sorts. In his catalogue of birds found in the Oregon Territory, he mentioned the use of bird skins in the mid-1830s. It was with the entry for the violet-green cormorant, or Phalacrocorax splendens (Townsend) or P. resplendens (Audubon) of the time: "The Indians of the N.W. coast make cloaks of the skins of this bird sewed together." Audubon illustrated the bird in his tome, Birds of America, plate 412, showing a female in winter.

The Osage

The importance of feather items continued to develop among the peoples. The use of bird material in 1840 is shown for the Charcoal Dance at camp of the Osage Indians, south from the Osage River, in the southeast Louisiana Territory. The visitor from France was 25-year-old Victor Tixier, a medical practioner. He mentioned birds often in his notes, first relating details of accessories during the May part of his visit: "Beads, backbones, snake-skins, stuffed birds, and feathers are also used as finery. The use of eagle feathers is limited to those who have stolen at least a horse from the enemy."

This is an August scene.

"The morning was spent hunting. Several unusual species were seen in the neighborhood: northern buzzards, yellow-headed starlings, Arkansas fly-cathers, a crowd of sparrows and warblers. ... I returned to camp; ... the war chief made the rounds of the lodges, exciting the young men.
"At one of the war fires a great heap of charcoal was pulverized and mixed with fat, and the chaudiere de guerre was put on the fire.
"The costumes of the dancers were very picturesque. Some wore deer tails placed on their heads like the crests of ancient helmets; others had their foreheads crowned with a band made of crows' beaks painted in green. They held now a spear, now a calumet, now a stick, sometimes a tomahawk, a fan, or the old fashioned war hatchet. Tufts of swan's down, eagle feathers, buffalo tails, small calabashes filled with pebbles, skins of white wolf and of panther were also parts of their attire with the wings of calumet bird (the bald eagle) which they used as a fan. The bravest warriors carried the corbeau the Head Chief alone held in his hand the well-known baton croche.
"The corbeau is an ornament made with the feathers of the crow; it is tied to an embroidered sash on the back of the wearer. The head and tail of the animal are the two ends of a waving muss of black feathers, attached to a cushion from which project four curved branches provided with porcupine quills and ending in a cluster of little bells. The side of the cushion which touches the body of the dancer is convex, so that when he jerks the branches violently, the feathers wave and the bells tinkle. The brave who has killed and scalped a man in the midst of his companions is the only one entitled to wear the crow during war dances. This ornament is carefully kept in a case of hardened bison skin; it is never worn on expeditions.
"The baton croche a stick bent to a semicircular shape and ornamented with swans down; little bells and eagle feathers hang to the convex part of its curve. It is the ensign of the red warriors, the flag which has to be brought back in perfect condition. The council of braves alone can designate the one who will carry the baton croche during the war expedition, and the one who obtains this distinction is for this reason acknowledged the bravest among the brave. He must be the first to rush to the enemy and show the road to victory to the Osage."
[Charcoal dance of the Osage Indians]

The Charcoal Dance (Medecine du Charbon). Drawn from life by Victor Tixier.

The dance lasted two days and then the war party set forth. There was anothe final mention of feathers: "A warrior of the Little Osage brought a fragment of a scalp stretched on a wooden ring ornamented with swansdown." This was the last notation as Tixier soon left the tribe.


The value of birds as an effigy continued elsewhere on the plains in the following decades. The war headdress made from calumet eagle feathers would become a predominant icon. There are also examples of the importance of birds in tribal lore and mythology. Other chronicles continued to depict in vivid writings, the broad array of significance of the winged ones to the lives of the people.

Bird items were used for a wide variety of Indian wear during the 350 years considered. Although most of the known records are from the U.S.A., the Bahama Islands, Canada, Greenland, Mexico and Panama are also represented. As the extent of travels with chronicles increased, so does the information recorded on habits expressed in garments.

A summary shows the most different examples are the hat, coat, parka, dress, and jacket items from Alaska (8). Other states are:

  • Washington ~ 4
  • Idaho ~ 4, typically as an effigy adornment
  • Louisiana ~ 4, including robes, a mantle, feather crowns and fans
  • New York ~ 4, a mantle, coat and garlands
  • Nebraska ~ 4, adornments used as effigy items
  • Minnesota ~ 3, as a hat, or as ornamentation
  • Maine ~ 2
  • Oregon ~ 2
  • South Carolina ~ 2
  • California ~ 2
  • Arkansas ~ 2
  • South Dakota ~ 2
  • New Mexico ~ 1
  • New Jersey ~ 1
  • Wisconsin ~ 1
  • North Carolina ~ 1
  • Kansas ~ 1
  • Lower Colorado River, along Arizona and California ~ 1
  • Missouri ~ 1

The rich variety presents a wonderful view of tribal awareness of the local habitants, and how they people adapted resources for their benefit in a functional or symbolic manner. The ceremonial diversity was as varied as the imaginations captivated by the shape, size or color - if not all three - aspects of a wild bird.

Ungava Inuit

[Diagram to sew a garment of bird skins]

Diagram of the pattern for sewing skins to create an eider parka. Illustration by Zarah Chun, in Coats of Eider.

Modern-era research shows how Ungava Inuit at the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay, started using eider ducks in the late 1800s to "meet their basic needs," including "food, medicinal purposes, home, tools and clothing." The skins are also used to make footwear. Wings were trimmed and used as whisk brooms. Feet were used as small containers to carry water. Down collected in small amounts from nests was used to insulate clothing such as parkas, pants, mitts, hats, stockings, slippers and bunting bags.

"Wing feathers had many uses. Secondary wing feathers with pointed shafts were used for toothpicks. Wing feathers wee used to clean out gun barrels and as arrow fletching. They were also jammed into empty rifle cartridges and used by children as projectiles. The secondary wing feathers were peeled off with the skin and used as rags.
"Parts of the eider were also used to create a musical instrument. A secondary wing feather was plucked and the barbs were removed from the lower edge. It was then held loosely in one hand and vibrated next to one's teeth with the other hand. A melodious sound similar to that of a jew's harp was created." (Oakes 1991: 14-16.)

The birds are hunted in late October and November after they have finished molting. Their skin is ideal for clothing since it is thick and strong.

The steps for processing and preparing a skin, and how an item is sewn, are described. Also mentioned is how bags for storing sinew are made from loon skins. Feathers had particular uses.

Jill Oakes. 1991. Coats of Eider. Aboriginal Issues Press. 28 pages.

19 December 2007

Foreigner's Travel Provides Distinct Prose on Birdlife in 1800

By James Ed. Ducey

The notes for birds are from the day-book of a 22-year-old traveling via sloop, stage-coach, horse and otherwise to an overseas adventure. It cost seven guineas for passage on a small brig at Bristol, set to sailing to reach Nantucket and onward to Sandy Hook.

Among the first of the local birdlife recorded in the book, were the Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Bald Eagle, Loggerhead Shrike, and Osprey. Many of the observations were made during the sojourn at Coosohatchie, the plantation of Mr. Drayton and a local village, near Pocotaligo.

Passages in the day-book, kept from 1798-1802 depicts some close encounters with wild birds. There were odes and elligies and poetic endeavours specially scribed.

The first notes are from the plantation.

"... The feathered choir began to warble their strains, and from every tree was heard the song of the red-bird, of which the pauses were filled by the mocking-bird, who either imitated the note with exquisite precision, of poured forth a ravishing melody of its own.

"Of the feathered race, the mocking-bird first claims my notice. It is perfectly domestic, and sings frequently for hours on the roof of a log-house. It is held sacred by the natives. Even children respect the bird whose imitative powers are so delightful.

"I heard the mocking-bird for the first time on the first day of March. It was warbling, close to my window, from a tree called by some the Pride of India, and by others the Poison-berry Tree. Its song was faint, resembling that of birds hailing the rising sun; but it became stronger as the spring advanced. The premices of this mocking songster could not but delight me; and I adressed the bird in an irregular Ode, which Mrs. Drayton did me the honour to approve.

"Ode to the Mocking-Bird.
SWEET bird, whose imitative strain,
Of all thy race can counterfeit the note,
And with a burthen'd heart complain,
Or to the song of joy attune the throat;
To thee I touch the string,
While at my casement, from the neighb'ring tree,
Thou hail'st the coming spring,
And plaintive pour'st thy voice, or mock'st with merry glee.
Thou bringest to my mind
The characters we find
Amid the motley scenes of human life;
How very few appear
The garb of truth to wear,
But with a borrow'd voice, conceal a heart of strife.
Sure then, with wisdom fraught,
Thou art by nature taught
Dissembled joy in others to describe;
And when the mournful heart
Assumes a sprightly part,
To note the cheat, and with thy mocking chide.
But when, with midnight song,
Thou sing'st the woods among,
And softer feelings in the heart awake;
Sure then thy rolling note
Does sympathy denote,
And shows thou can'st of others' grief partake.
Pour out thy lengthen'd strain
With woe and grief complain,
And blend thy sorrows in the mournful lay;
Thy moving tale reveal, Make me soft pity feel,
I love in silent woe to pass the day.

"The humming bird was often caught in the bells of flowers. It is remarkable for its variegated plumage of scarlet, green, and gold. The whip-poor-will is heard after the last frost, when, towards night, it fills the woods with its melancholy cry of Whip poor Will! Whip poor Will! I remember to have seen mention made of this bird in a Latin poem, written by an early Colonist.

Hic Avis repetens, Whip! Whip! Will, voce jocosa, Quae tota verno tempore nocte canit.

"The note of the red-bird is imitated with nice precision by the mocking-bird; but there is a bird called the loggerhead that will not bear passively its taunts. His cry resembles Clink, clink, clank; which, should the mocking-bird presume to imitate it, he flies and attacks the mimic for his insolence. But this only incurs a repetition of the offence; so true is it that among birds as well as men, anger serves only to sharpen the edge of ridicule. It is observable, that the loggerhead is known to suck the eggs of the mocking-bird and devour the young ones in the nest.

"Eagles were often seen on the plantation. The encounter between one of them and a fish-hawk is curious. When the fish-hawk has seized his prey, his object is to get above the eagle; but when unable to succeed, the king of birds darts on him fiercely, at whose approach the hawk, with a horrid cry, lets fall the fish, which the eagle catches in his beak before it descends to the ground."

The Davis sojourn continued, usually less effusive. There were some soft sonnets. Oft the outing was with William Henry, a student that liked to gallop through the woods.

"I generally accompanied my pupil into the woods in his shooting excursions, determined both to make havoc among birds and beasts of every description. Sometimes we fired in vollies at the flocks of doves that frequent the corn fields; sometimes we discharged our pieces at the wild geese, whose empty cackling betrayed them; and once we brought down some paroquets that were directing their course over our heads to Georgia."

In May 1799, the whole family bunch at the plantation went to summer quarters on the Ashley River. Henry and Davis went after wild turkeys during part of the trip. They dispatched a snake while the breeding bird "chattered and fluttered from above."

The new locale meant another ode, focused on the Ashley River. Some sonnets were park of his book of poems. Travel always ensued and a woodpecker was noted along the trace to Charleston.

At one night-fall, a stop was made at Mr. MacGregor's tavern, on the River Santee. People were gathered for a Christmas festival. "They had formed a dance!" Davis scribed.

"Not being for any of their ambling, and finding that amidst such riot no sleep was to be had, I summoned a negro, and was paddled in a canoe, through Push-and-go Creek, to the opposite bank of Santee River. The Whip-poor-will, on my landing, was heard from the woods; and in prosecuting my walk, I meditated a sonnet to the bird.

Sonnet to the Whip-poor-will.
POOR, plaintive bird! whose melancholy lay
Suits the despondence of my troubled breast,
I hail thy coming at the close of day,
When all thy tribe are hush'd in balmy rest.
Wisely thou shunn'st the gay, tumultuous throng,
Whose mingled voices empty joys denote,
And for the sober night reservist thy song,
When echo from the woods repeats thy note
Pensive, at silent night, I love to roam,
Where elves and fairies tread the dewy green,
While the clear moon, beneath the azure dome,
Sheds a soft lustre o'er the sylvan scene,
And hear thee tell thy moving tale of woe,
To the bright Empress of the Silver Bow."

Davis then walked on his way. A bit later: "from the woods was heard the cry of the Whip-poor-will" at a place also filled with rattlesnakes.

Further stops along the route were New York, Washington, D.C., New York another time, and Philadelphia. Then to Occoquan, along the river.

Davis mingled seldom with the people, "shut up in my profound habitation, sought an oblivion of care in writing, reading, tobacco." There was gazing out at the moon-lit night. During one night of solitude, while hearing the "saddened strain" of the mockingbird, the elements became:

"Evening at Occoquan.
An Ode.
SLOW the solemn sun descends,
Ev'ning's eye comes rolling on;
Glad the weary stranger bends
To the Banks of Occoquan!
Now the cricket on the hearth,
Chirping, tells his merry tale;
Now the owlet ventures forth
Moping to the silent gale.
Still the busy mill goes round,
While the miller plies his care;
And the rocks send back the sound,
Wafted by the midnight air.
Lo! the moon with lustre bright,
In the stream beholds her face;
Shedding glory o'er the night,
As she runs her lofty race.
See! the bark along the shore,
Larger to the prospect grow;
While the sea-boy bending o'er
Chides the talking waves below.
Now the mocking-songster's strain
Fills the pauses of her brood;
And her plaints the ear detain,
Echoing from the distant wood.
Hanging o'er the mountain's brow,
Lo! the cattle herbage find;
While in slumber sweet below,
Peaceful rests the village hind.
Now the student seeks his cell,
Nor regrets the day is gone;
But with silence loves to dwell,
On the Banks of Occoquon."

During his stay of three month, Davis wrote another verse of distinct style to convey the day. Following an apparently restful night of sleep at the tavern, he sallied forth to journey leisurely through a beautiful morning. The walk produced:

Morning at Occoquan.
An Ode
IN the barn the cock proclaims
That the East is streaked with gold;
Strutting round the feather'd dames,
Who the light with joy behold.
Sweet! oh ! sweet the breath of morn!
Sweet the mocking-songster's strain;
Where the waving stalks of corn
Bend beneath the ripen'd grain.
Lo! the martins now forsake,
For a while their tender brood;
And the swallow skims the lake,
Each in search of winged food.
See the cottage chimneys smoke,
See the distant turrets gleam;
Lo! the farmer to the yoke,
Pairs his meek submissive team.
Here no negro tills the ground,
Trembling, weeping, woeful-wan;
Liberty is ever found,
On the banks of Occoquan!

"But not the muses, nor walks, nor the melody of birds, could divert my mind from the publication of my Novel, which had been so long in the press at Philadelphia," he wrote for posterity.

"Demanding life, impatient for the skies."

Onward to Philadelphia. Then Delaware. Along the road towards Washington, one day, since he the time, he refreshed himself at Spurrier's, went "carousing at Dent's," and then "sleeping at Drummond's." These were three public-houses along the variable road.

After some political speeches, he went to the Little Falls of the Potomac River, and ended up a cabin in the woods. Upon his departure, with Mary ...

"... I gave the little wood-nymph my arm, and we walked forward together. The mocking-bird was singing; his song never appeared to me so sweet before." They gazed at each other intently, with a background chorus of the woods, and after some minutes of not speaking, said farewell. There were further roads to travel for the young man.

The woods of Virginia was the final muse of the travels. Davis opened an Academy for local school-age children. Natural history was part of one field trip.

"Dick. - ... Master, shall I take it to the school-house? - If you are fond of birds, I know now for a mocking-bird's nest; I am only afeard these young rogues, the school-boys, will find out the tree. The play the mischief with every thing, they be full of devilment. I saw Jack Lockhart throw a stone at the old bird, as she was returning to feed her young; and if I had not coaxed him away to look at my young puppies, he would have found out the nest."

Davis mentioned a poetic variety of species during his tenure in America. Much was said so uniquely in those odes, or sonnets or some variety of verse. There are bird sightings from the traveler's trusty day-book for South Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. The list of bird species has a brief tally:

  • Bald Eagle: "eagles were often seen on the plantation" at Coosohatchie.
  • Carolina Parakeet: "once we brought down some paroquets that were directing their course over our heads to Georgia" Davis wrote.
  • Goose
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Osprey
  • Owl: "the woods, whose solitude was rendered more melancholy from the cry of the owl," Davis wrote at Strangeways Farm.
  • Purple Martin; remember them in "Morning at Occoquan, An Ode"
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Swallow
  • Unidentified birds; the words were on different occasions, "birds again renewed their harmony" then "feather choir began to warble their strain" are written in the precious day-book.
  • Whip-poor-will: near the Santee river, "from the woods was heard the cry of the whip-poor-will."
  • Woodpecker

Mr. John Davis returned to Salisbury, England, to forge a career as a journalist and book-maker.

John Davis. London: 1803. Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America During 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802. Dedicated by Permission to Thomas Jefferson, Esq. President of the United States.

14 December 2007

Western Diary Provides Distinct Birdlore for the 1834 High Plains

By James Ed. Ducey

The diary of William M. Anderson - a mid-20s lawyer from Kentucky - reveals distinct details for the history of birds of the High Plains of the west, and Nebraska.

Notes started on March 13, 1834 with departure from Louisville for a young man on to an adventure.

Departure from St. Louis for the western trails to the Rocky Mountains, was April 20th.

Some of the principals were then delivered by steamboat to Independence. An party of hearty fur-traders being led by William L. Sublette was being gathered. They started west on April 30th, riding along.

"We are encamped at the Sapling grove, about 20 miles from Independence. We are about 37 men strong - 95 horses. I am now out of the US. for the first time," Anderson wrote on May 5, 1834, when nearly daily entries started to be written in his journal.

The force of men and equipment went past tribal lodges and a village near the Kansas River. Vast quiet prairies were traversed. The trace continued along the upper Blue, with the first elk seen, and past the antelope.

In this area, the traders came upon the Nathaniel Wyeth party of 70 men and 250 horses, including zoologist John Kirk Townsend, with his bird watching, and botanist Thomas Nuttall. They were also going to the Green River rendezvous.

Near the Grand Island of the Platte, and the river road, they passed a spot where there had just been 60-70 lodges. The first buffaloe was soon chased, south of the river.

It was beyond the confluence of the South and North Platte where the first notation of a bird was scribed in the journal. Anderson certainly was impressed by the landscape.

"May, 27, 1834 - Of all the landscapes and scenery I ever saw, the view I had this morning was unsurpassed. It is a hill, in the range of those, which skirts the south side of the north fork of the Platte, the appearance of it is that of a castle situated upon a hill & commanding the country for 7 or 10 miles, down the river. The most delightful delusion was kept up until the base was within a very short distance. A most beautiful meadow-like plain was spread out before it. Flowers of every hue & odour bestarred the prairie. It would seem as if some wealthy scotch lord had fixed his aristocratic stronghold in the wilds of the new world. Antelopes and buffaloe were grazing in his extensive parks. To add to the charm and loveliness an active flowing stream broke out from its base and hastened to astonish the Platte with its clear waters. Would to God that I could design or describe well, tho I should then fail to do justice to this fascinating deception, I would nevertheless commemorate this scene for my own gratification! The chimney is a much more notorious point. It is singular truly, rising to an elevation of 150 feet, it is distinctly visible at the distance of thirty miles Tis a pyramid or rather a funnel inverted--"

At Robidoux Springs, beyond this chimney rock, was the night's camp about Scott's Bluff.

"May 29, 1834 - I saw to day, on horse creek for the first time, one manner of disposing of the dead, which was scaffolding - In the top of the tree fastened by chords of buffaloe hide, so firmly as to resist the wind for a long time, a frame upon which the deceased is placed with all of his movables - This body had fallen out, & the vacated place taken possession of by a hawk, who had deposited her eggs in the spot where the head of Sioux warrior lay. At the suggestion of Major Harris, Black H. one of my messmates I record for my future consideration, that on this evening, about 5 o'clock I bestrode a Caiac of my own slaughtering. We are within one days march of Laramy's fork."

In June the men and stuff were at Fitzpatrick's Cache, at the mouth of Sweetwater Canyon. "The different names which the mountain & stream now in sight, are thus translated - Seitski or ka-dee is in the Crow tongue, prairie cock - upon which there are great numbers of that bird," Anderson write in his June 11th diary entry.

The Sublette crew soon joined with men from the Rocky Mountain company. "We are a motley set, Whites, French, Yankees, Nes Perces, Flatheads, and Snakes, or Shoshones," Anderson said.

Everyone then went a few more miles to the confluence of the Hams Fork and the Black River for the grand rendezvous. The journals discuss each day antics, starting with June 19, 1834. On June 26, he mentioned "nothing in the camps, now but drunken songs & brawls night or day -" there on the frontier.

A young eagle then suddenly came on the scene. "My pet, the young eagle grows finely. The young gentleman is possessed of an admirable appetite," Anderson wrote on the 28th in his diary.

Alternate musings are given by a revised narrative for the day.

"June 28,1834 - We moved a few miles up the creek for fresh grass - I believe we have not had even a gentle shower for months - say two - I have a young eagle which I bear about from camp to camp - He rides very majestically on my pack-horse, looking farther into the surrounding prairies than any one else In the company, but whatever he sees or thinks, he sagely keeps to himself - The young gentleman has an excellent appetite and relishes buffaloe meat very much - I commend his taste. It gives me much pleasure to divide my meals with him."

The obvious raptor had to have been a big attraction among the tents, and throng of peoples at the mountain rendezvous. Perhaps it had been bought for a trifle from a voyageur wanting money for gambling games, instead of a needy bird. There was no further mention of the pet eagle.

Onward in the travel miles, notes refer to breeding snowbirds seen on the mountain-side as Anderson debated whether to ascend "Fame's proud temple" to search for horns of the mountain ram. Also the... "bird of the jay species here, resembling strongly the citizen of the states, but of a paler blue - no bands - no top knot - having the head, in front of the eyes & including them above and below, white." They were seen during an outing in the vicinity of the slopes of the Thompson Plateau.

After the Red Buttes, back at the North Platte, Anderson wrote on August 16th: "An anecdote told me to day of the 'blackbird,' chief of the Mohaws - sometime dead, evinces the despotic assuming tyrant as completely as any that history can shew. This chief when asleep, ordered that none should dare awake him save by tickling his nose with a feather. And upon no occasion could his subjects be induced to break this order - even tho an enemy approached." This is Chief Blackbird of the Omaha, upon the Missouri River.

Camp affairs and other affrays were featured in the diary for the interlude the next weeks with stops at Fort William and Fort Laramie. Wolves and wild horses were shot. Many buffalo were shot Ash Hollow, to make provisions. About 30 miles if not 32 or 35, was the average daily distance, typically along Pawnee trails. Anderson wrote that the Grand Island was 90 miles in length, 120 according to the Indians.

"This river, like all natural wonders, is an inscrutable mystery."

The Sublette party eventually reached the Loup Fork on September 8th, then overland a couple of days later, past the ruins of the old Council Bluff. Within two days they were resting at Fontenelle's Belle Vue, a "pretty situation well deserving the name it bears." The locale was on a bluff of the Missouri valley, north from the wide mouth of the Platte.

Sunday. "A large flock of pelicans rose from the river near us, & commenced their spiral ascent, mounting higher & higher as the clouds darkened and the noise increased, until they supposed that their elevation would secure them a passage from the shower of frozen grapeshot - Scarcely had they disappeared from the N.E. horizon when heavens musketry & cannister was fired upon the earth - then I felt indeed grateful that I was not shelterless upon the desert plains of the Platte..."
"September 15, 1834 - Monday. The storm has passed, & our flock of pelicans have returned in increased numbers. Much more numerous than the largest flocks of buzzards in the west."

The remaining party then floated down the Big Water in two canoes, propelled by six rowers.

A final reference to birds was upon a returned to some civilization at Lexington. The scribe mentioned: "the deep mouthed owl in lonely independence hooting to the midnight echoes of these shores, to hear the wolves in rapid discord howling on Missouris avalanching shores."

Anderson reached St. Louis on September 29, 1834, then boated to home, and a marriage to dear Eliza McArthur, the next February. Their first residence was in the mansion at Fruit Hill, outside Chillicothe. Reminiscence of the adventure were published in the American Turf Register in 1937.

After moving to Glen Mary, Mr. Anderson continued his outdoor pursuits, and being a prosperous farmer.

The two items mentioned for Nebraska were not included in Birds of the Untamed West. The History of Birdlife in Nebraska. 1750 to 1875. The lore for the hawk nest is an especially interesting bit of an addition to that history.

09 December 2007

Deaths of Birds at Oil Spills Continue

By James Ed. Ducey

Vivid and graphic images of dead birds continue to dominate the news for birds around the world. The most recent tragedy for migratory fowl is coastal South Korea.

A total of 66,000 barrels (cf. 10.5 million litres; 2.7 million gallons; 15,000 tons) of crude gushed into the sea then spread to reach reknowned Mallipo beach. Extensive pictures of the disaster scene were distributed by world news.

The beach habitat here is an "important stopover for migrating birds, including snipe, Mallards and Great Crested Grebes," according to the news report.

[Oiled bird South Korea beach
Press images courtesy of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement.
[Mallard at South Korea oil spill]

Thousands of people were mobilized to start cleanup efforts on the polluted stretch of an environmentally rich western coast of the Korean peninsula. It is the worst oil spill in the history of South Korea.

There have not been any new reports on the dramatic impact of the oil spill at the Kerch Strait. After the initial dramatic images, and news reports, there has been little reported.

The ecological damage made by the oil tankers wreckage in Kerch strait is an estimated 6.3 billion rubles (USD 250 million) - Russian Ministry of Natural Resources

In California, the bird help shelters have been shut-down, and clensed birds released back to the bay waters.

The impacts known at just a tip of the proverbial iceberg.

"Only a small proportion of birds killed by oil are actually found on shore, because many never reach land, instead being carried offshore or sinking," according to Environment Canada. "Others may reach the shore but are never found, instead becoming buried in the beach, decomposing or being carried off by scavengers."

The Canadian Agency website ascribes efforts to protect seabirds from oil pollutants.

"...About 300,000 seabirds are killed each winter in the waters of Atlantic Canada, by chronic operational discharges of oil at sea," are the results of studies done in the early 1990s.

Their considerations for determining the rate of mortality, included:

  • the number of oiled birds found washed ashore on beaches,
  • the length of time that carcasses of oiled birds remain on a beach,
  • the length of time that an oiled bird carcass floats at sea before sinking,
  • the proportion of those birds that die at sea which drift towards shore, and
  • the size of the ocean area being considered, where ship-source oil pollution and seabirds overlap, resulting in the risk of oiling to seabirds," according to the EC report.

"Thick-billed Murres, Common Murres and Dovekies ... made up over 80% of the oiled birds recorded on the Avalon beached bird survey during the winter months."

Other species of dead birds documented in the region include the Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black Guillemot, Common Eider, Atlantic Puffin, Northern Gannet and Long-tailed Duck. As well as Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-legged Kittiwake and Greater Shearwater.

07 December 2007

Digital Library Surpasses Goal of 20,000 Bird Videos

By James Ed. Ducey

A remarkable collection of videos of wild birds from around the globe recently had a significant achievement.

The Internet Bird Collection had 20,000 videos on 21 November 2007. The new contributions were of species in Brazil and the U.S.A.

Josep del Hoyo, a bird enthusiast from Spain, and also creator of the video library, provided the videos to reach the goal. He noted "that surpassing the goal means that the IBC is growing in a day-by-day process."

Mr. del Hoyo, of Bellaterra at Barcelona, has been an avid bird watcher for two decades. In 1988, according to his web biography, "Josep along with Jordi Sargatal and Ramón Mascort, began the publishing company Lynx Edicions and in 1992 the first volume of Handbook of the Birds of the World appeared."

When he began taking video in 1998, it changed bird watching for del Hoyo.

Mr. del Hoyo realized how videos were too important to remain filed at home. "A project to archive bird videos would give a sense of purpose to the videos taken on trips, and would act as a stimulus for more trips while making the trips themselves more rewarding. Many people nowadays are likely to travel and film what they see."

His home movies taken of birds at ???? became the first contributions to IBC in January 2002.

"I was thrilled to see that soon after others began to contribute to and benefit from this democratic endeavour. The contributions of the other collaborators means the number of species covered is almost twice what it would be if I was just doing this alone," he said. "Although traditional museums are still very valuable, it is time for digital museums with digital specimens. "

The IBC "is an on-line audiovisual library of footage of the world's birds that is available to the general public free of charge," according to the project's website. It is "sponsored by the Handbook of the Birds of the World," which also provides financial support.

There is a wide variety of contributors to the IBC.

"Some are total professionals that make their living from their videos, but realize the value of the IBC project and send their material free of charge since the IBC is a not-for-profit project and does not pay contributors," del Hoyo said. "I imagine they recognize the importance of the project and also because the Contributor's Page that each of them has can be helpful in making their own products and services known to a very appropriate audience. At the other extreme, we have contributors that are amateurs with simple video cameras, but who also take interesting video and play an active role in the project. So, we like all of the different types of contributors that we have and in the future we expect to have even more of them, especially when soon it will be possible for individuals to upload their own videos to the IBC site from home at their leisure."

"During the last six to seven years taking video on my trips," del Hoyo said, "I find it more stimulating, particularly because when I return home I can take videos with me to see the observations as many times as I want and to remember the details very well," he said "The birds that I have filmed are clearer in my mind and I remembered them better than those that I have not filmed. Also, the possibility of contributing to a collective project like the IBC increases the rewarding aspects of travelling as I know that I am doing something positive for others around the world and for the conservation of the birds themselves, all without harming the birds in any way."

Mr. del Hoyo likes "filming birds anywhere and everywhere! I am not really specialized in this manner, probably because of the work that I do as editor of the Handboook of the Birds of the World, which covers all of the birds and areas in the world. So, I am interested in all groups and, in this case, all places. Some places are easy to film and rewarding, perhaps because there are feeders, etc. I would say that South East Brazil and Ecuador would fall into this category. Of course, there are also places where it is difficult to film and you must take a different approach. When you are successful in these cases it feels really good because you know it was hard to get the material. Most recently I had this experience in Sulawesi, Indonesia. So, I like to go wherever there are good birds - from deserts to oceans and from forests to mountains!"

He remembers "the first day that I was using a new camera (previous to my current one) on a trip in Brazil. The first species that appeared was the Critically Endangered Brazilian Merganser, which I was very keen to see, not to say to film. I had to try to take video of the bird without knowing well how the camera worked (I didn't have time to study it before the trip!). I didn't know how to get the manual focus and the auto-focus kept switching between the duck and the vegetation! At the beginning I was filled with a mix of feelings from happy to frustrated to nervous. However, the ducks were very kind and stayed long enough for me to get some reasonable footage, considering the species involved."

After his recent trip to ???, his early December 2007 tally was 8614 videos, of 2588 bird species from 157 families.

As a new contributor to IBC, Ann Hoover, of Fort Worth, Texas, was "fascinated that someone had enough foresight to bring all these videos together in one central place to document the world's birdlife. I am glad they let amateur as well as professional people donate to the website. I like watching the goals they set as well as seeing the percentage of world birds that have been archived. My friend Ken Archambault pointed me to IBC and I noticed I had video of birds that would be new to them. I was very shy about donating as I am very new at this but they were very nice and I hope to donate as I get more." Her first videos were posted in November.

She got her start when a couple of years ago she "noticed a guy at Ramsey Inn in Arizona videotaping hummingbirds. At the time I thought it was different and the wave of the future. I met back up with Ken on the 2007 Texas Ornithological Society Alaska trip and he passed along his excitement of video recording to me. You really get to study the birds. In Alaska I got to see many different aspects of birdlife such as the wing-flashing display of the Baird's Sandpiper and the beauty of the Spectacled Eider in breeding plumage and I wanted to share this with my family and friends (birding and non-birding). I wanted to give people a sense of the bird." Many of her contributed videos were taken in Alaska.

Her camera is small enough to readily carry in a car or while hiking. She is an occupational therapist.

"Having more than one video of a species is very helpful since more subspecies, behaviours, plumages, etc. can be shown," del Hoyo said. "I believe so much in the community factor of this project that my hope for it is that the challenge to document all, or almost all, of the species of the birds of the world acts as a stimulus to people, like a sort of Human Genome Project but where anyone interested can participate.

The sheer variety of the videos on the website is an especial interest to Ann Hoover: "I like seeing birds nesting, feeding and flying. I like seeing a bird in several plumages and in different states or countries, and of course the rare ones in a country I may never get to. I also like the fact that people can arm-chair bird if they are disabled or elderly."

"You cannot conserve what you do not know," del Hoyo said. "Seeing species behave naturally in the videos is an important contribution to conservation because in this way people learn about the birds and want to protect them. The IBC covers a good number of Threatened species, including a fair amount of species that are classified as Critically Endangered, which we hope will raise awareness about these important cases. The IBC also makes specific contributions to conservation. For example, recently we have been approached to donate several videos to BirdLife International to help promote their Species Guardians and Species Champions campaign, whose goal is to save all of the Critically Endangered birds of the world and eventually all of the Endangered birds."

When the 20,000 mark was reached, the next achievement was announced at the same time. The IBC would represent 50% of the birds of the world.

"The bigger challenge is the next target, having material for 5,000 species," del Hoyo said, "meaning for more than half of the species of birds in the world. I think that at that stage the project will really be a useful tool and will grow even more. It is important to keep growing and improving so that the IBC can be a powerful tool for ornithologists and birdwatchers alike.

"If one day the IBC is to cover almost all of the species of birds in the world and in all of their interesting aspects, we will need hundreds, perhaps thousands of people involved."

There are approximately 10,078 species of birds known worldwide.

05 December 2007

Landowner Interest Promotes Efforts to Remove Unwanted Cedars

By James Ed. Ducey

Landowner interest was key to brining funds to the central sand hills for a grassland restoration initiative.

A Private Stewardship Grant of $44,520 will allow the Sandhills Task Force to work with property owners along the Calamus, North Loup, Middle Loup and Dismal Rivers. The area is in Blaine, Hooker, Loup and Thomas Counties.

"Invasive eastern red cedar will be removed and grazing management altered to improve habitat for long-billed curlew, short-eared owl and the threatened western prairie fringed orchid," said the grant award summary. Awards were announced in May, 2007 with the grant a 5-year agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sandhills Task Force.

The landowner contact efforts of the task force were especially helpful.

"There is a list of individuals who have contacted the Service," said Gene Mack, with the Fish and Wildlife Service, and a member of the sandhills' group. The grant was submitted "primarily to improve the grassland landscape" and benefit "common and rare grassland species," Mack said in an email. "Large infestations of cedar are not beneficial to sustaining a native grassland and its associated wildlife."

Reasons for the grant being selected from among many national proposals, explained Heather Johnson, with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in a regional office of the Fish and Wildlife Service, include:

  • "identified specific landowners that would receive the funds through the Sandhills Task Force,
  • "had solid match requirements,
  • "were benefiting a suite of at-risk species, and
  • "and had a solid habitat restoration/enhancement implementation plan to benefit key species."

"Removal of cedar trees will benefit key species such as the Savannah Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Long-billed Curlew, Ferruginous Hawk, Whooping Crane, Trumpeter Swan, Bald Eagle and Bell's Vireo, all identified within the grant application," she said in an email.

"The Service recognizes native grassland as an ecosystem that has been greatly altered over many decades and the wildlife associated with grassland is facing dramatic declines," Mack said. "Large infestations of cedar are not beneficial to sustaining a native grassland and its associated wildlife." Cedar tree growth can also confine water flows to smaller channels and limit the flow into side channels or backwater areas.

Funds of the federal program were obligated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Most projects that were funded for FY 2007 are expected to get underway next spring.

There is no funding for this program in the FY 2008 budget, according to a FWS official.

02 December 2007

Research Evaluates Birds at the Ainsworth Wind Facility

By James Ed. Ducey

Recent research in the sandhills of Brown County, illustrates the features of birds and their response to wind turbines in a prairie landscape.

[Cattle at the Ainsworth wind farm]

Cattle at the Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility. Courtesy of NPPD.

The Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility, and which is atop Ikenburg Hill, a historic local place-name, was surveyed in three ways last year to evaluate the resident species and the response of local species to the wind towers.

The first bird counts done at the site of the potential wind-power facility, had been carried out in 1996 and 1997, when a night-calling monitoring station was setup by a Cornell University researcher, said Rockford G. Plettner an environmental specialist with the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). It was monitored from the fall of 1996 – spring of 1997 to determine the species composition and abundance and height of the flight over the site by migratory birds. Results indicated there were not a large number of nocturnal migrants. The effort was funded by NPPD.

"We had discussed bird kills in association with wind turbines, at meetings with state and federal officials," said Rocky Plettner, environmental specialist with NPPD. "We wanted the facts to present, especially with more wind development to be occurring in Nebraska and the Midwest."

The Ainsworth facility went into operation in October 2005 and is owned and operated by NPPD.

A $60,000 research project evaluating how wind turbines impact birds was conducted by NPPD. It involved searches for bird and bat carcasses were done every 14 days using a standard method in a 200 foot square surrounding each of the 36 wind turbines on the site. The study period lasted from March 13 to November 4, covering spring, the summer breeding season, and autumn.

Common Name

Ikenburg Hill

Ainsworth Wind
Energy Facility

Canada Goose



Wood Duck






American Wigeon






Blue-winged Teal



Northern Pintail



Ring-necked Pheasant



Sharp-tailed Grouse



Greater Prairie-Chicken



Wild Turkey



Turkey Vulture



Swainson's Hawk



Red-tailed Hawk



American Kestrel



Upland Sandpiper



Mourning Dove



Burrowing Owl



Short-eared Owl



Western Kingbird



Eastern Kingbird



American Crow



Horned Lark



Barn Swallow



House Wren



American Robin



European Starling



Spotted Towhee



American Tree Sparrow



Vesper Sparrow



Lark Sparrow



Lark Bunting



Grasshopper Sparrow



Song Sparrow



Dark-eyed Junco



Blue Grosbeak






Red-winged Blackbird



Western Meadowlark



Brown-headed Cowbird



Orchard Oriole



Biologists with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission helped by evaluating the spring display grounds of prairie chickens and prairie grouse. Bird sightings by a local bird watcher also provide dates of occurrence for a different variety of species during the spring months.

The results from the company research were issued in February 2007 in a report titled: "Post-construction Monitoring Report for Avian and Bat Mortality at the NPPD Ainsworth Wind Farm."

Estimated annual total bird mortality would be 148 (calculated by taking annual rate of 4.10 per turbine per year multiplied by 36 turbines), according to Plettner. The annual rate differs from the period of study rates in that the assumption is made that the number of fatalities during the winter is similar to the rest of the year. NPPD’s estimate of 2.49 bird fatalities per megawatt per year is low in relation to other wind power facilities studied throughout the U.S. and comparable or low to those studies in the western and Midwestern portions of the country, he said.

As NPPD has been looking at adding wind generated power, questions have been asked by a small number of landowners about the potential for bird kills at wind power facilities, said Mark Becker, company spokesperson with NPPD. The company study gives a comprehensive look at the answers, at least from what has been experienced at Ainsworth.

Among the 14 species documented during the mortality investigation, the most common represented were local residents such as the Horned Lark, Western Meadowlark, American Kestrel.

Overall, combining all three of the survey efforts, at least 41 species were noted among the site habitats. Most of them were observed during field studies, not found during the mortality study. The value shown in the table is the number of times observed.

Even though the Mourning Dove was present on nearly every bird survey at the hill, they were never noted to have struck a tower turbine. Neither was the Brown-headed Cowbird recorded in this manner.

The Greater Prairie-Chicken and Sharp-tailed Grouse continue to use the prairie grasslands about the towers. There were eight leks within the facility, with five others just adjacent on private property, according to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission report provided to NPPD. Both species were also noted as nesting in early May by a wildlife research scientist from Wisconsin.

The populations of the chicken and grouse were similar to the number of expected birds elsewhere in Brown and Rock counties, the report concluded.

A number of additional species are known for the region with a few miles of the wind farm. Prominent locales where bird surveys were done during 2006. The list has more than 110 species when including the marshes and wet meadows of nearby Paradise Valley, Yellowthroat WMA and Hitchcock Bayou. Waterfowl and waterbirds are well represented.

Birds such as migrant Whooping Cranes, an endangered species, as well as any other threatened or endangered animal or plant species were discussed in consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said Plettner. John Richards, an engineer with the company’s renewable energy development program explained that NPPD must comply with FAA guidelines for placing lights at 24 turbines, FCC and county planning zoning requirements to the list.

Facilities at the Ainsworth wind farm comprise about 50 acres of an 8,300 leased acres of sandhills upland prairie. Much of the grassland area is grazed by cattle during the growing season.

NPPD prefers to "site towers at locale that do not impact native habitats," Plettner said, avoiding wetlands such as those in the Rainwater Basin, and away from refuges.

NPPD plans to add 150 megawatts of wind-turbine generated power to its power mix by the end of 2008, Becker said. This will be done through private developers and Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) programs that have been proposed to the company. NPPD is currently negotiating Power Purchase Agreements for the purchase of electricity from three potential proposals. At the same time, NPPD is studying potential sites for future wind farms throughout the state of Nebraska, which they can possibly construct or utilize a private developer or C-BED organization to construct and operate, he said.

Numerous private developers are currently also looking at possible future locations for wind farms. A sandhill site being evaluated is in northeast Holt County, as well as northeast Nebraska.

A top priority of the power district is to have wind power sites in close vicinity to existing  power transmission lines and studying those lines to determine if additional load can be added. This reduces the cost of project development, and also reduces any associated development that can impact native habitats.

"The Ainsworth study gives us more knowledge about the issue that can be applied to any future wind farm projects," Becker said. "At the same time NPPD continually works towards the protection of migratory birds in all its operations while balancing its mission of providing reliable cost-effective electrical service."

21 November 2007

Name List Update Released for World Birds

By James Ed. Ducey

A list of names used for World Bird Names has just been released after another set of significant revisions.

A committee of the International Ornithological Society developed the list.

“The names are based on a consensus of leading ornithologists worldwide and conform to standard rules of construction,” the World Bird Names website says. "Ten principles guide the choice of recommended English names of birds."

The bird names are within thirty groups, combined among the type of species such as waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, nightjars, bulbuls to Old World warblers, buntings tanagers and allies. A web browser search option can be used to find a particular online entry.

The IOC has specific naming guielines to develop a single accepted name for each taxon of bird. The group promoting the IOC list have worked with other ornithology organisations to rectify bird names. The list has been acepted in Germany and Switzerland. A point of contention with North American taxonomists is the potential for eliminating the hyphen from names, the IOC website says.

The most recent update was November 15th, and now includes revisions from Clements Sixth Edition, released in early October. The website also details any species revisions, corrections made in the list, to revise spelling matters, a few typos.

The names page of the groups' website explains some upcoming changes to the list.

"The next major upgrade, led by Taxonomic Editor David Donsker and scheduled for late December 2007, will include all proposed species splits and taxonomic changes published in peer-reviewed ornithological journals in 2005-2007. Improved alignment of our species taxonomy with that of Birdlife International is one of our goals for that upgrade."

Frank Gill and Minturn Wright were the co-chairs of the IOC Standing Committee on English Names, in April 2007. Participants from around the world have helped with the project, underway since 1991.

The primary goal of the IOC is develop a standard list of names for birds around the world, and allow free use of the resource.

A spreadsheet with the text in spreadsheet format is available for downloading.

18 November 2007

Protection of Playa Wetlands Enhance Ogallala Aquifer

James Ed. Ducey

Efforts to conserve and manage playa wetlands of the southern High Plains provides important sites for recharge of the Ogallala aquifer, according to conservation officials.

More than 60,000 shallow, and seasonal playa wetlands spread across the landscape of the southern High Plains, according to officials of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. The wetlands occur in eastern New Mexico, western Texas, the Oklahoma panhandle, southeast Colorado, southwest Kansas, and to a more limited extent, western Nebraska.

“Playas are the primary source of recharge for the Ogallala,” according to group officials, and “contribute between 85 and 95% of the total water returned to the aquifer” in the southern portion of the region, according to researchers. “This amounts to about 1 to 3 inches per year, depending on their location and depth” to groundwater. The wetlands are also “important wetland habitat for wildlife in the region, supporting millions of ducks, shorebirds and other migratory and resident birds and other wildlife year-round.”

“Whether they are wet or dry depends on the local weather,” according to joint venture findings. “Playas can be wet year-round, or stay dry for months and sometimes years on end. This natural, wet/dry cycle of playas that helps them recharge the Ogallala aquifer. Playa basins are lined with clay soils, so when they dry out, deep cracks form in the basin and along the perimeter of the playa. When water comes into the playa from rainfall or other runoff event, it runs through these cracks and edges and into the underlying water table.”

“Once the connection is made that playas recharge the Ogallala, almost any farmer or rancher will express an interest in protecting it,” said Mike Carter, coordinator for the joint venture. “In fact, in a recent survey of playa landowners, we found that more than 70% are willing to conserve their playas.”

One of the most effective means of conserving these wetlands is to “maintain or restore the native prairie grasses around” the basin, the group has determined. “Grass buffers filter out sediments and contaminants before they get into the playa.”

Landowners involved in wetland management projects typically are enthusiastic if the change is also beneficial to their operation and bottomline, Carter said. “Sometimes, producers do it just for habitat or birds but this is a less common case. Frankly, we would rather they do it for their bottomline and for that opportunity to be pervasive in programs.”

“Buffer strips protect the wetland but there are many species such as the Long-billed Curlew, meadowlarks, sparrows that also use the buffer,” Carter said. “Conservation dollars are so limited that we have to look for 2 for 1 opportunities like buffers that protect wetlands and provide habitat.”

The success of a project for wild birds is measured “against the ability of the change to increase carrying capacity of a habitat for the desired species or group of species.”

Examples of current projects include Drummond Flats and the Jamestown Wildlife Area.

“More than 70 percent“ of playa wetlands ”have been altered from their natural state due to pitting, filling, cropping and road construction, among other threats,” according to findings of the PLJV group. “The biggest threat is sedimentation” which occurs “when rain or irrigation water carries loose soils into the playa, gradually filling it. Playas filled with sediment can no longer hold as much water for the same amount of time, significantly reducing their value for recharge and wildlife. Researchers estimate more than half of all playas are filled with sediment and are effectively ‘fossilized’ and have lost most wetland functions.”

The PLJV, which has a pivotal role in protecting the playa wetland resources in the high plains, is comprised of federal and state wildlife agencies, conservation groups, private industry and landowners. Its mission is to “conserve playas, other wetlands and associated landscapes … for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.” Its general headquarters are in Lafayette, CO.

Incentive programs that can assist in wetland management include the Wetland Reserve Program and Wetlands Restoration Non Floodplain Initiative provided through the Farm Bill, and administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Also, the Farmable Wetlands Initiative is available through the Conservation Reserve Program. The Fish and Wildlife Service, and state and private agencies can also provide funding to conserve wetlands.

16 November 2007

Waterfowl Conservation Group Acquires Platte River Property

By James Ed. Ducey

An important tract of Platte River channel habitat in central Nebraska has been acquired for waterbird management.

"This is Ducks Unlimited’s second largest Nebraska acquisition and DU’s first on the Platte River,” said Steve Donovan, DU’s manager of conservation programs for Nebraska.

Whooping Cranes have already been sighted using riverine habitat at the site, which is also beneficial to waterfowl, including geese and many types of ducks.

The tract was purchased from the Younkin Estate in October, using funds from a grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and other donors. Other grant partners include Prairie Plains Resource Institute, Nebraska Environmental Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several private landowners.

The 400-acre property extends for a mile along the river, just west of Rowe Sanctuary, owned by the National Audubon Society. DU and the Audubon Society are entering into an agreement to allow Audubon to manage this property as an extension of its Rowe Sanctuary.

The Younkin place is also in close proximity to other protected habitats managed by The Nature Conservancy, Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, all partners in the grant.

"DU will be working with partners on a restoration plan for the property over the next six months," Mr. Donovan said. "We have already submitted a proposal to the Nebraska Environmental Trust seeking a grant to assist with the cost of proposed restoration work. If we are successful, habitat restoration actitivities will be completed in late 2008."

Platte River on the Younkin property, during a period of extremely low flows on the river. Looking east from the bridge.

Grasslands on the Younkin property. Looking east from the highway. Images courtesy of Steve Donovan, Ducks Unlimited.

The Big Bend Reach of the Platte River NAWCA grant will protect and enhance about 2,600 acres of some of the most important migratory bird habitat in Nebraska, according to a press release issued by Ducks Unlimited. This bend serves the vast majority of waterfowl that travel through the state, including millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, Sandhill Cranes and several endangered species like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.

The Big Bend Reach of the Platte River is one of North America’s most popular birding areas, and the site of an annual Rivers and Wildlife Celebration of the Sandhill Cranes and other spring fowl.

NAWCA is a federal grant program that funds wetland habitat conservation projects throughout North America.

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan identifies the Platte River as a waterfowl habitat of major concern due to long-term habitat loss and reduced water flows. In addition, aggressive, non-native plant species are choking the river and reducing the river’s ability to provide critically needed habitat for migratory birds.