The Surprising History of Bird Feeding

>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Angel Vu: All right. Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for
coming and joining us here at the Library on this
beautiful day. My name is Angel Vu and I’m
one of the reference librarians in the Business Section
of the Science, Technology and Business Division at
the Library of Congress. Along with my colleague,
Sean Bryant, one of the reference librarians
for the Science Section, we’re pleased to welcome you
to today’s program titled, “Feeding Wild Birds in
America, a Surprising History.” For those who cannot join us today, the Library is recording today’s
presentation and it will be posted on the Library’s website
in a couple of months. Meantime we’d like to
invite you to visit Science and Business Reference Services
web pages, as well as our blog, “Inside Atoms,” to keep abreast of
upcoming lectures and other works. And should you wish to
receive announcements from us, please visit and click on
the orange RSS icon to sign up. So today’s speakers are Paul
Baicich and Margaret Barker. They are going to discuss
their book, “Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture,
Commerce, and Conservation.” This book is the product of years
of research along with co-author, Carrol L. Henderson, which is
a Minnesota wildlife biologist. This book is going to explore
how the simple practice of bird feeding is linked to the
early bird preservation movement of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and how in recent decades
it has become a multibillion dollar business. Thanks to a eureka movement,
and an odd little book on hand taming wild birds, and the Cold War agriculture
espionage today’s standard bird feeding tools such as
tube feeders, Nyjer seeds, and black oil sunflower seed
are on the market today. So the authors are going to
reveal how this popular hobby over the decades have helped change
Americans’ attitudes towards the natural world. Paul Baicich’s teenage birding
days in New York City led to a bird oriented career. Currently he is a bird and
conservation writer and editor, as well as an avid
tourism consultant. Most recently he has led
birding trips to Cuba. Formerly with the American Birding
Association, he is co-author of, “A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and
Nestlings of North American Birds.” He co-edits the popular monthly
“Birding Community E-Bulletin.” Margaret Barker is
a Tennessee native. She is a writer, speaker, and
educator in the Chesapeake Bay area. She interned in the Washington, D.C. office of the National Audubon
Society before joining the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. There she coordinated the
Cornell Lab’s Project Feeder Watch and later worked with Cornell
University’s agriculture outreach gardening program. She is co-author of “The Feeder
Watcher’s Guide to Bird Feeding,” and the “Audubon Bird House Book.” So without further ado I’d like to
introduce you our speakers today, Paul Baicich and Margaret Barker. [ Applause ]>>Margaret Barker: Well,
thank you very much, Angel. And we are so glad to be here at
the Library of Congress and here in the Mary Pickford Theater, wow. And, again, thanks very much
to Angel Vu and Sean Bryant in the Science, Technology,
and Business Division. It has been so great to work with
you guys the past couple of months. You’ve taken care of everything
and thank you very much. And thanks also, and I don’t
know if she’s here right now, but to Rosemary Haynes in
the Motion Picture Division. She helped us with
our research here. And we’ll have more on
that in just a little bit. And thanks to all of you for
joining us for a lunchtime talk. We appreciate it. Well, in the middle of this slide
here you can see our co-author, Carrol Henderson, surrounded
by many, many types of bird
feeders he makes himself. Carrol is the head of
the non-game division for the Minnesota Department
of Natural Resources. And some of you might know his
books, his conservation work, his media interviews
on NPR, and elsewhere. And Paul and I are very
proud to be his co-authors. So our talk is about the
surprising history of bird feeding because when we began our
research for a Wild Bird Centers of America pamphlet we were
surprised by what we found. It turns out that the story of bird
feeding is a conservation story and yet it is also one of big business. Bird feeding is a lot more that
giving wild birds yummy treats like peanut butter pine
cones you see here. Bird feeding today is
important economically but it also helps people
connect to the natural world. It caught on in the late 1800’s
and has grown more popular over the years, even
becoming a family tradition over generations as
in my own family. The reasons to feed
wild birds and the ways to feed them have changed
considerably.>>Paul Baicich: We’re at a
point today where the popularity of feeding birds is pervasive. Well, how many people are
actually feeding birds or watching birds in their backyard? According to the 2011 National
Survey on Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation
from the Fish and Wildlife Service, there are about 41.3 million
people who engage in some level of watching birds in their
backyard and feeding them. It’s a huge, it is impressive,
and it continues to grow. How has it grown? Let’s compare the figures, if you
would, between the 2006 survey on Fishing, Hunting, and
Wildlife Associated Recreation and the 2011 survey. Well, we see here, in terms of the
amount of bird food sold in 2006, it was about 3.35 billion, with a
B, in the United States and even after the Great Recession in 2011
it had increased to $4.6 billion. Using your seventh grade
math you can figure out that that was an increase
of 21.4 percent. Similarly, parallel side in
terms of feeders, bird boxes, and bird baths we went from
$790 million worth of commerce in 2006 to 970 million in 2011. A concomitant parallel
increase of about 22.8 percent. Social scientists, of course,
find this very comforting when the figures seem to correspond. Yes, there are 41.3 million
backyard bird watchers. And it’s significant. What does the backyard
bird yard look like? Well, the birds favor a bird
friendly environment including native plants particularly in the
yard, a broad selection of feeders, nest boxes to supplant missing
cavities in dead branches. Of course if there’s a dead
branch hanging over your home, you don’t want it there
so you take it down. That’s decreasing habitat
for birds, by the way. So you can supplement that
by putting up a bird box so those woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches can
find places to nest. They nest in cavities. There’s a tendency toward
less lawn, less pesticides, and more ground cover when
you’re dealing with this kind of bird friendly backyard. It is important to appreciate that bird feeding is not
necessary for the birds. Bird feeding is not for the birds. It’s for us. They can do well without
our feeding. It is enjoyment for us human beings to bring them closer
to us in the backyard. It is supplemental to what they
get in the native situation, in the natural situation. There are only two exceptions:
If there is a severe drought in a dry area, or if there’s
an increasingly hostile and heavy snow cover and ice where
the birds can’t get to the ground. Then you indeed may have some
impact on the local population. But by and large it’s for
us more than it is for them. So our book, and indeed
our talk, will cover decade by decade coverage, mostly
the twentieth century, basically from the 1890’s
into our twenty-first century. We cover the start of bird
feeding in the late 1800’s, the bird preservation movement which
followed that; the discoveries of and innovations of the
nineteen teens and the 1920’s; experimentation during hard times
in the Depression and World War II; growth of postwar America
prosperity: The backyard, the barbeque, the garden,
the bird feeding scene; trial and error period of the
60’s; growth in the 70’s and 80’s; as well of the development of
a multi-million-dollar industry into the twenty-first century. So we’ll start with the late
1800’s and early 1900’s.>>Margaret Barker: Well, today we
have laws protecting wild birds, importantly the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act signed in 1918. But in the late 1800’s
U.S. birds were in trouble. Backyard birds like cardinals could
be caged and sold as song birds. Birds were killed for their
feathers for women’s hats and more. And species of all
kinds were on the menu. And they were over hunted. Scientists studied birds’
economic value and usefulness. Bird feeding helped teach people
about their bird neighbors. And the case was made that
if you feed good birds, they’ll return the favor and
stay around your home and farm and eat weed seeds
and harmful insects. Professor Beal, in
the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biological Survey
Division, documented what birds ate. His “Farmer’s Bulletin Number
54” was in print for many years. His colleague, Waldo McAtee,
summed up Beal’s importance to birds this way: “He did
more than any other man to reveal the basic facts that were
needed to convince the so-called “practical” men of the
value of bird protection.”>>Paul Baicich: As
Margaret just indicated, this economic ornithology,
as it was called, was connected to agriculture. There were good birds
and there were bad birds. There were birds that
were advantageous to the farmer and disadvantageous. And it’s important to appreciate that primitive attitude
towards science and the economy in comparison to what we do today. And part of the change occurred
during the bird preservation movement, that birds, in and
of themselves, had value. The movement to ban the trade
of birds, and to save them, and to make sure that they were
persistent into the future rotated around the effort to ban the
feather trade in particular. Florence Merriam Bailey is a good
characteristic and representative of that woman’s movement by and
large and representative of the era. In 1886, as a student at Smith
College in Massachusetts, she recruited hundreds of
her colleagues, young women, to form an Audubon Society
to stop the feather trade. By thirteen years later she
had matured to such a level that when she moved to Washington,
D.C., with her brother, here, Washington, D.C., her brother
by the way was C. Hart Merriam, who headed the U.S. Biological
Survey, the predecessor to Fish and Wildlife Service. She was able in 1898 to lead
classes here in Washington, D.C. about the value of
birds and the appreciation. And that very same year she
had published “Birds of Village and Field,” which introduced
many, many people to the interest and curiosity of bird life and
the possibility of feeding them. The same time her female
colleagues such as [Inaudible], Mabel Osgood Wright, and Oliver
Thorne Miller were doing similar and parallel activities. The bird preservation
movement stopped the slaughter with the 1900 Lacey Act. They were successful and, by the
way, this was a woman’s led movement when the women didn’t even
have the right to vote. In this effort to adorn female garb with feathers the entire bird
was killed, in this case, egrets, for one plume of the hat. The destruction of
colonies, because these kinds of feathers only appeared when
birds were in breeding plumage, the entire destruction
of colonies and the death of young were a byproduct of that. But it stopped with the passage
of the Lacey Act of 1900.>>Margaret Barker: So the study
of living birds got a lot easier with the development of
opera and field glasses, cameras, and handy field guides. A 1907 book published by
Massachusetts ornithologist, Edward Howe Forbush,
was widely distributed. “Useful Birds and their Protection”
included his family’s bird feeding practices and reasons
to protect the birds. And also importantly in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count
began and it continues today. Instead of killing as many birds
as possible on Christmas Day, which was a tradition,
people counted them instead. Feeder birds are a
part of these counts. And during our research we kept
coming across the name, Berlepsch. There were Berlepsch food
sticks, Berlepsch food houses and feeders of all kinds. So who was this guy? He was Hans Friar Von Berlepsch. He lived until 1933. He was a German aristocrat
known as “the bird man.” And he managed his family’s
centuries-old estate of Sebock [phonetic]
near Essen, Germany. And he experimented
with wild bird feeding. U.S. Audubon Chapters printed
a book on his practices and in this way spread the bird
feeding word among members.>>Paul Baicich: You can
see here, by the way, an image of one his colleagues
pouring melted suet onto evergreen or blocks, how to make suet blocks. And these are molds in this case. Or this interesting kind of
gravity feeder that he had. In any case, Berlepsch’s ideas
were picked up, as Margaret said, by Americans, translated,
distributed. And one of the people who picked it
up was Waldo Lee McAtee who worked for the Department of Agriculture. In this, probably the first bulletin
done by the United States government on attracting and feeding birds. It’s Department of Agriculture
Bulletin, number 621, entitled, “How to Attract Birds in
Northeastern United States.” And you see the figure, the image of a chickadee coming
to somebody’s hand. It was done in 1914. And he pointed to certain advantages
to putting, say, an edge or a trim around the tray feeder at your
window, or filling up cans, opened at both ends, with
stuffed suet and just birdseed, a combination of that, or, in
this case, in the middle here, a hollowed out coconut opened
at both ends where suet and birdseed would be stuffed. McAtee said that the size of
the hole was very important and it would, in his words, “The size of the hole regulates
the character of the guests.” He worked on even more
elaborate designs: Food hoppers, not unlike those used to feed
domestic birds such as chickens. More on coconuts later. McAtee also, in the discussion
of this standard feeding tray, which we came across multiple times
from the early 1900’s into the 20’s, would be a flat tray,
they all looked the same, a flat tray with a trim,
and a hopper feeder here that was developed out of the
design for feeding chickens. And sometimes it would have a brace which you could lower during the
summertime, non-feeding time. And they would all have de
riguer branch of evergreen which somehow would attract
the birds and keep them happy. He would also design,
suggest designs, for fences to keep cats away,
as you see in the center here. And those things which we
know commonly now for feeders and for bird boxes, predator guards to keep squirrels and
other predators out. By the nineteen teens, late teens,
early 20’s, we have the magazine of the era, of the bird watching
era, “Bird Lore,” as it was called, the predecessor to Audubon. In 1913 we have here some of
the first advertising coming up. This is Joseph Dodson’s bird feeder and his very useful banish the
sparrow, banish the English sparrow, the house sparrow trap to get rid
of them, these invading immigrants that had come over to the United
States and had been released. You’ll notice here in this particular image
the weather vane feeder with these paddles that stick out. They would help rotate the feeder
with the wind, like a weather vane, to keep the seed from blowing out. It was a characteristic
design that appeared at least through the 1940’s. You’ll also see here, speaking of
house sparrows or English sparrows, Saunders’ 1917 anti-house
sparrow feeder. It was attracted to some birds but it would discourage house
sparrows, English sparrows. It would be an upside down
situation with kind of a design that would look like a squared
off wooden frying pan held upside down with the seed in this
little bay area and attractive, the birds that could be
attracted would be more desirable than the house sparrows
that couldn’t get in there. Next we have at the same
period a poster, Margaret.>>Margaret Barker: Well, we had
seen this 1917 poster mentioned in “Bird Lore Magazine,” and
finally found it, finally, in the National Archives. It was printed, no surprise,
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau
of Biological Survey. You can see here there’s that
weather vane feeder again and you see that so
often during this period. There’s some wonderful
quotes on here, too. “If you feed the birds, they will
repay you by destroying thousands of insects that harm
gardens, trees, and crops.” And, this is the one I really like,
“Begin to feed the birds today. The singing laborer is
worthy of his hire.” So of the times. This is an image from the 1917
Edison Studios silent film we found here at the Library of
Congress and wherever you are, thank you again, Rosemary Haynes. The film shows Boy Scouts
helping birds in winter and here is a Boy Scout with a
homemade coconut feeder once again. And we’re excited to
show this rare short film at the end of our talk today. People in hard times, people
had to feed their families but many still could find
the means to feed the birds. This poster is from a Feed
the Birds campaign launched by the Federal Cartridge
Corporation. And here’s is a 1935 “Bird Lore” ad. You can see Berlepsch
inspired feeders as well as some simple suet feeders. But note the little
trolley, or pulley feeder, that would fit onto a clothesline. And a special note, anyone who bought these items might be
interacting with Roger Tory Peterson who ran this Audubon Department
when he was 27 years old and had recently written
his now classic field guide.>>Paul Baicich: Then we
move to another popular crop of the early 1900’s which was hemp. Hemp was a common bird seed. That is cannabis, mentioned even in
that 1917 poster that we just saw, and it was commonly available
at agricultural feed stores. It was used, hemp was used,
to make cloth, paper, rope, today even in some places luggage,
and auto parts, believe it or not. This is not to be confused with
the variety of psychoactive hemp but it was very low in THC and it was extremely desirable
for birds, the seed was. Of course the very effort of
the 1937 congressional action against hemp made this
more difficult to get but it had a revival in World War
II when, if you’re interested, the Department of Agriculture
in the war effort, pushed the increased
production of hemp, particularly for our
United States Navy for making their rope and cordage. It got so great that farmers
in particularly Kentucky and Wisconsin started with about
14,000 acres of hemp being grown in 1942 to 146,000 acres in 1943. The vast increase to
help the war effort. You can Google “Hemp for
Victory,” by the way, under YouTube and see the 14 minute film yourself which I reviewed this
morning before my talk. Also during the war there was
very much activity in the terms of rationing and this had
an impact on bird feeding. People were giving their
extra suet, their beef fat, over to the war industry. For what? For munitions. So you were less than patriotic if
you were feeding suet to the birds but more patriotic is
you were handing it over to the community
collections to help the war effort. Similarly, sugar with hummingbird
feeders was hard to come by because sugar was rationed. So there was some controversy
and some dismay over using sugar for your coffee, what little
you had, for yourself or sharing with the birds in your
hummingbird feeder. Rationing in World War II
however, in the positive side if you could look at it in terms
of the birds view, was peanuts and peanut butter wasn’t rationed. So peanuts and peanut butter
became extremely popular, both in the backyard and in the
lunchbox on the home front, and, by the way, among C-rations with
our boys overseas at the time. It was not rationed and it so became
extremely popular so by the end of the war it was an
established staple, that is to say peanut butter
was an established staple. And those of us who grew up as post-war baby boomers
suffered the consequences. Next.>>Margaret Barker: Arm and Hammer
baking soda bird cards promoted bird feeding and bird study. They were printed from the
late 1800’s until 1938. In 1976 the company printed
a special birds of prey set and I invite you to go and
see Paul’s poster over here where he’s got the entire
collection in one poster. And it’s quite something to see. The cards are very
collectible now, by the way. And what we’re showing here is a
male downy woodpecker on a piece of suet that is simply
tied to a tree which is the way suet was
offered quite often in those days. Well, Duncraft has made bird
feeding products since the 1950’s. And Gildon’s [phonetic] wartime
aviation experience, you can see, inspired this flight
deck window feeder.>>Paul Baicich: By the
1960’s we’re dealing with seeds now being sold away
from the agricultural scene, away from those warehouses
and onto grocery stores. A and P, Safeway, Food
Fair, Kroger’s, and others started actually having
packaged birdseed, mixed seed, not necessarily the best
quality but certainly available to the general public to correspond
with the growth of suburbia. This is an ad from
the November-December “Audubon Magazine” here, Hyde
feeders and it was sponsored by the Hyde Feeder
Company of Waltham, Massachusetts, run by Don Hyde. You’ll notice also in the upper
left-hand corner the characteristic, Flint Stone-esque image here of a
cartoon character watching birds. I also have put in
here the house finch, a bird that was accidentally
released in the New York City area, Long Island in the 1940’s and
spread throughout the east. And I put this in because
its spread in the 1960’s and 70’s was chronicled
by feeder watchers, people who started noticing these
strange birds at their feeder that they hadn’t expected before. We also have here the rise in
the 70’s and 80’s of the first of the franchise companies
of birdseed specialty stores, namely Wild Birds Unlimited, founded
in 1981, and Wild Bird Centers of America, founded in 1985. The first Wild Birds
Unlimited run by Jim Carpenter, the second by George Petrides whom
Margaret mentioned at the beginning of the talk who originally helped
us get our project started. And there are many, many,
many independent stores around the country today
selling lots of seed and products for the backyard bird scene. At the same time we have the
bird seed preference period of the 70’s and 80’s. This is a photo of Dr. Alred Guise at the Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center. He published a bird food
preferred study, a study in 1980. He tested about 15-16
different kinds of seeds and it was the first serious
study of bird preference, whether they liked
oats, wheat, rice, sunflower, milo, millet, whatever. In the words of George Petrides,
who found the Wild Bird Centers of America, “Before Al Guise picked up his pen no one knew what
wild birds really liked to eat.” He did a great job doing that.>>Margaret Barker: Since
the 1980’s, the late 1980’s, Project Feeder Watch has been
a joint citizens-science effort of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Canada’s Long Point
Bird Observatory. A National Science Foundation grant in the early 1990’s expanded the
project and developed this poster for quick feeder bird
ID and tens of thousands of these have been printed. We found in our research that
sunflower, and Nyjer seeds, and hummingbird, and tube feeders
are relatively new arrivals, each with intriguing back stories.>>Paul Baicich: First
story is on sunflower seeds. We’re going to go through
each of these four stories. This is a picture on the
right of Dick Baldwin, who worked in the Minnesota area
for Cargill Corporation, looking up and researching seeds
and certain plants. He was smart enough to ask for
permission to visit the Soviet Union in the 1960’s to examine what
Vasillii Stepanovich Pustovoit, shown here, was doing at his remarkably successful
breeding program of an industrial scale at Krasnodar. What he was doing there was
modifying, and developing, and genetically pushing along the
sunflower seeds, sunflower seeds that were highly rich in oil, much richer than any seeds
available in the United States. In the United States we
had about, oil at the time of the gray stripe
traditional seeds, of about 28 percent oil before
Dick went to visit Pustovoit in the Soviet Union he heard that it
might be 38 or 40 percent richness. And indeed Pustovoit himself
had been recognized but by two of the Soviet Union’s highest
award, the Order of Lenin and the Red Banner of Labor. And Pustovoit was a
national hero of national and international significance. What he had developed, and Dick was
looking at, was this darker oil. When Dick was taken
through the industrial farms at Krasnodar he was shocked to see that these small black seeds
had about 44 percent oil. And as the tour went on he and
his Soviet colleagues were — actually Soviet colleagues
and the translator — were basically chewing and eating
this oil rich seed and spitting out the shells and he was horrified to see this rich stuff
being used so freely. He asked of course if he could
take a sample to the United States and was told that it was essentially
a state secret, he could not do so. He was horrified even more. When he went back to his limousine
[inaudible] with his translator to go back to the railroad
station to take him back to Moscow his translator wrapped up
her package of seeds in her napkin and slipped it over to Dick. Dick went to the embassy in Moscow
and shipped it in a diplomatic pouch to Fargo, North Dakota,
and the rest is history. So much for sunflower seeds. I bet you didn’t know about that. It’s all in the book.>>Margaret Barker: Nyjer seed. Nyjer seed is not thistle seed. Branding it thistle is marketing. Maybe because gold
finches look really good on purple flowers, I don’t know. The spelling was changed
to N-y-j-e-r to avoid pronunciation
of a racial epithet. Alfred Martin’s 1963 book, “Hand
Taming Wild Birds at the Feeder,” described feeding Nyjer,
a caged bird seed at the time, to his
backyard finches. And he said, and he said in print
that, “They absolutely loved it.” So Nyjer was first imported
for wild birds a few years after Martin’s book. It comes mostly from Ethiopia
and India where it is grown for cooking oil, and the
cage, and wild bird markets. It is heat treated for not just
weeds when it enters the U.S., and, in fact, up in Baltimore there
is a small sterilization plant. Maryland ornithologist — some
of you might have known him, John Dennis, promoted bird feeding. And he promoted feeding
Nyjer in his 1975 book, “A Complete Guide to Bird Feeding.” And he clearly states there
that Nyjer is not thistle. Recently many of us have
put up hummingbird feeders because the hummers are back. It has taken decades to
develop hummingbird feeders and sugar water recipes
we use today. Early feeding accounts include
one about John James Audubon at a Louisiana plantation in
1821 watching hummingbirds at flowers filled with
sweetened wine. An 1899 “Bird Lore” article
describes Clark University professor, Clifton Hodge,
entertaining his students by attracting a hummer to flowers
he had sprinkled with honey and hidden in his jacket pocket. In the late 1920’s, retired banker,
Ben Tucker, and wife, Dorothy Mae, started feeding hummers on
their twelve acre property in Orange County, California. Here’s Mr. Tucker in his
shop, building a bird house. But he built hummer feeders, too. The first ones were prohibition
era happy hour glasses with holes in tin lids just right
for hummingbirds. Local birders visited the Tucker’s
famous outside hummingbird bar to sip cocktails and watch as many
as 200 hummingbirds at a time. An improved Tucker design was a
globe shaped chicken water fountain with a wire rail added
for hummer perching. This was a popular design
for a while created in 1928 by the husband of Edith Webster. He used a glass mixing
tube from his lab at MIT an attached
open spouts on the end. Edith tasted all the flowers in
her New Hampshire yard to come up with a one part sugar
to two parts water recipe. Today’s standard mix is one
part sugar to four parts water which is more like nectar flower. And today there are many new and different hummingbird
feeder designs. Here’s Droll Yankees’ classic Little
Flyer or Flying Saucer on the left and Perky Pets’ unique pinched
waist design on the right. Speaking of Droll Yankees.>>Paul Baicich: Yes. We go next to tube feeders. This is a picture from the late
1980’s of a fellow by the name of Peter Kilham who founded
the company, Droll Yankees. Peter was an inventor, an industrial
designer, and nature enthusiast. He had innovations
which later became the, this feeder, the A6F feeder. But he had also worked on teaching
art work, engaging custom design, creating furniture,
high end furniture. He had a number of
industrial machines and received multiple patents. He was a kind of do-it-all fellow. His little company, launched
in 1960, Droll Yankees, was based at his wharf
situated workshop. And it basically had sold records. Some of you may remember
those round objects, records. They were novelty records. It included Yankee
storytelling and the recordings of birds, frogs, and tugboats. One afternoon after working
with a colleague of his at the Rhode Island
School of Design, he was helping his colleague do
some elaborate modern art display of structure. I think it was in a lobby at RISD. There was leftover plastic tubing. Of course he was told by his
colleague who was in charge of the project, “Peter,
just go dispose of these. Get rid of them. It’s extra.” Having grown up in the Depression he
wasn’t going to throw anything away so he brought it back to his shop. He looked at it for about 20
minutes, scratched his head, figured, “If I put a cap on the
top, a cap on the bottom of a foot and a half length, drill some holes,
put in some dowels, hand it up, I can probably stuff
some bird seed in it and it would become a bird feeder.” Indeed, voila, 1968-69
we have the A6F. Here’s the patent, 1969 patent for
the feeder that we see everywhere. It’s probably the most
common feeder. And it is relatively new in
terms of long term history. We’ll go to, very quickly, the
collective wisdom and experience of 120 years, the five major lessons that have been necessarily
accumulated. The story of bird feeding
reduced down to a bouillon cube, or at least five bouillon cubes. Bird feeding in four seasons;
providing water in four seasons; offering a variety of food;
providing protection from predators; and clean feeders and
ground areas regularly. We show old fashioned stuff on the
left and the new stuff on the right. First, in terms of five ways of
feeding success, all four seasons. When we began this narrative it was
mainly feeding in the wintertime and it still is mainly
feeding in the wintertime. But, you know, in Florida, in
Texas, and southern California, and southeast Arizona wintertime
isn’t as tough as it is up here for some reason and they can feed
all year and they do feed all year. And they weren’t just
limited to wintertime feeding, indeed you’ll notice that
the feeding has changed from the old hopper feeder with the
requisite trim and evergreen here, shown from the nineteen teen’s,
to the feeder here in summertime with multiple different kinds of food including fruits
and different levels. Next.>>Margaret Barker: Water of course
is essential for backyard birds and it’s fun to watch
them drink and bathe. Birdbaths go back as far as
the ancient Greeks and Romans. Water attracts more
than feeder species. You might find bathing
warblers, too, for example, especially this time of year. Moving water especially
brings in the birds.>>Paul Baicich: The next way is to
provide protection from predators, in this case — oh, I’m sorry
— the next case is — .>>Margaret Barker:
Carrol’s suggested backyard. This was developed by Carrol
Henderson, our co-author. You can see a black and
white image of a backyard from about the 1920’s on the left. And on the right is Carrol
Henderson’s backyard. He says if you can do it and
you want to get a lot of birds, use a total of twelve to fifteen
feeders of many different types in groups of three to four each
and offer a wide range of foods from different kinds of
seeds to suet, grape jelly, apple and orange slices,
meal worms, and sugar water.>>Paul Biacich: Next indeed is to
provide protection from predators, in this case, in one case, cats. The picture on the left shows Tabby. This is Edward Howe Forbush’s
experiment of putting a bird that Tabby killed, a warbler, a
yellow warbler I believe it was, around the neck of poor Tabby
to teach it a lesson and to keep that dead, stinking bird around
Tabby’s neck for days, if not weeks. Needless to say, it didn’t work. But Forbush, in 1960, wrote the
classic piece, “The Domestic Cat: Bird killer, mouser, and
destroyer of wildlife. Means of utilizing
and controlling it.” Well, there’s decent
ways to control it. One method is to maintain a
ten foot clearance around sites that are hiding place free in
terms of a ten foot clearance around your bird feeders. The opposite is to encircle
the site with wire fencing. That keeps the bird feeder
from becoming a cat feeder. Similarly, the next case
is to provide protection from predators using
good brush piles, offering the birds quick
escapes from sky borne perils, either Cooper’s hawks or Sharp-shinned hawks
visiting the feeders. Birds do take readily
to these brush piles. And if you keep the brush piles,
again, away from the feeders, about ten feet away,
it also keeps them from being hiding places for cats.>>Margaret Barker: The latest bird
feeder designs are easy to clean and this is good news because
people who have been feeding birds for a while know that some of
those feeders were very hard to get really, really clean. Cleaning and disinfecting feeders and bird baths routinely
is a best practice. And remember to change out your
hummingbird sugar water nectar every couple of days. Every few days will do. Bird feeding is important
today for many reasons. It’s a good business. It’s educational and entertaining. And it connects us to nature. Over decades the hobby has taken
surprising twists and turns. Carrol Henderson’s bird feeding tips
build on the past to create safe and successful bird feeding
in the twenty-first century. And we are going to leave you
with what we first sought here at The Library of Congress,
the now digitized silent film, “Caring for the Birds in Winter.” And we are going to find — I might need Dappen’s [assumed
spelling] help again — that start button. There we go. All right. And this was made by
Edison’s Studios. We saw reference to
it, found it here. Made by Edison’s Studios,
produced by Howard Cleaves who was at the Natural History Museum
there in Staten Island. And it’s mostly about Boy Scouts, Boy Scouts caring for
the birds in winter.>>Paul Baicich: You will notice
the almost military doughboy look of our World War I of these Boy
Scouts in the winter putting in a pole, and putting a
feeder on top with the trim. Notice the standard trim.>>Margaret Barker:
Nice sheltered feeder. Now keep your eyes on the kids
who are eating the peanuts. [ Laughter ]>>Paul Baicich: And this
is a string of peanuts which isn’t a common practice
in the United States anymore. It’s very common in Great
Britain to have string of peanuts for the birds. And here they wrapped them around.>>Margaret Barker: We think
that’s a good bird feeder idea. So putting seed on the
platform feeder there.>>Paul Baicich: Guests
arrive for dinner. Okay. Oh, there are that many.>>Margaret Barker:
They’re thinking about it. Oh, there’s one.>>Paul Baicich: Maybe juncos there. I can’t — it’s hard to tell.>>Margaret Barker: Yeah.>>Paul Baicich: Ah. And here comes a chickadee.>>Margaret Barker:
Always the first.>>Paul Baicich: Yeah. Black capped chickadee
on the peanuts. There’s some white breasted
nuthatch I believe coming in.>>Margaret Barker: Mm-hmm.>>Paul Baicich: Upside
down as it’s wont to do. Almost woodpecker like
but upside down.>>Margaret Barker: The
camera liked this bird. And this is interesting to
see how this was put up.>>Paul Baicich: [Inaudible] like
I said, there’s the trim and — .>>Margaret Barker: Mm-hmm.>>Paul Baicich: Another chickadee.>>Margaret Barker: Mm-hmm.>>Paul Baicich: Wish I could
tell what seed they were using.>>Margaret Barker: Yeah.>>Paul Baicich: It’s unclear.>>Margaret Barker: Hard to see.>>Paul Baicich: There doesn’t
seem to be any sunflower in there. Probably some hemp, folks. Coconut, here they’re making, here they’re sawing the
coconut at both ends. And they’re grinding
up the beef fat.>>Margaret Barker:
Looks like a hard job.>>Paul Baicich: At least
they’re not tasting it. Then they’re going
to mix it with seed.>>Margaret Barker:
Suet and ground peanuts.>>Paul Baicich: They
mix, stuffing it there. And hanging it up in the snow.>>Margaret Barker: Yes. This is the image we
used in our book. Ta-da.>>Paul Baicich: And it’s
a red breasted nuthatch.>>Margaret Barker: Mm-hmm.>>Paul Baicich: Coming. The size of the hull regulates
the quality of the guest. And for some reason they tossed
in this: People throwing in — .>>Margaret Barker: Doesn’t fit in. Maybe it’s the benefactors. [ Laughter ]>>Paul Baicich: They
made this all possible. And — . This was very common to
establish bird feeding stations, community stations and run
by communities and Boy Scouts in the woods or in
the village squares, particularly in the New England. We guess that this may have
been from upstate New York.>>Margaret Barker: Now they’re
going to create a snow feeder. Keep your eyes open for some boys
who fight with swords in here.>>Paul Baicich: They’re
packing down the snow so the seed doesn’t
disappear into the — . And here we come — .>>Margaret Barker: Juncos.>>Paul Baicich: More juncos, yep.>>Margaret Barker: And
this is close to the end. Juncos look fed and the
film just kind of ends. [Laughs].>>Paul Baicich: As does our talk. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Angel Vu: Thank you so
much, Margaret and Paul. That was fascinating. And now we’re going to open
the floor up for any questions.>>Margaret Barker: Great.>>Paul Baicich: Yes.>>I vaguely recall, maybe 30
years ago, reading that the spread of feeding had some effect on,
for example, northern cardinals, the winter range as far
as the north [inaudible]. Are there other dramatic
effects like that, the distribution of animals?>>Paul Baicich: Well,
probably feeder-wise, it’s probably not dependent
on but it probably helps. I would include — cardinals
would be among the first which would have been starting
over a hundred years ago when they started moving north. But other southern birds that have
moved north and have been helped by feeders have been tufted
titmouse, red bellied woodpecker, and probably Carolina wren in so
far as that they come to suet. And the Carolina wrens
are an example of blizzard threatened birds. In New England when
it’s a tough, tough, tough winter the Carolina
wrens, having just reached, “just” reached New England
maybe in the 1980’s and 90’s, they’re hammered back when
in very difficult winters and it may take a few years or
half a decade for them to recover. So in that case, you know, a
feeding station might be important for your Carolina wrens if
you live in Vermont or Maine. But otherwise I don’t think there’s
much that we can attribute in terms of northern spread
having to do with feeders. I think there is a western spread when we’re dealing
with house finches. And I think house finches
have really been accelerated and accommodated by feeding
stations as they’ve moved west. Margaret, do you have
anything to add there?>>Margaret Barker: Sounds good. I was going to mention Carolina
wren as really a dramatic example.>>Paul Baicich: Yeah. Anyone else? Yes.>>I was amused to see “Feed
the Birds Now” had been produced by the National Cartridge. I mean, I always think
of cartridges and guns. So I wondered if indeed they
were promoting feeding the birds so they could shoot
the birds [inaudible].>>Paul Baicich: Yeah. Federal Cartridge Corporation
was for many, many years extremely
active in conservation, perhaps mainly due toward
their rural base, their owners, the family that owned the company and that still owns
the company I believe. I’d have to ask Carrol that. And their interest in game birds, mainly that game birds
be they grouse, or quail, or pheasant would survive
through the winter if you fed. They had a whole series
of these PSA’s, public service announcements,
as ads. They even had them, wisely enough
and this was very admirable, they had them not to shoot the
hawks that visit your chicken yard which was quite remarkable. Indeed the arms and ammo
companies in 1911 were instrumental in forming the Wildlife Management
Institute which was deeply committed and has been deeply committed to
conservation from that avenue. And so it’s very interesting. It’s a good question.>>Margaret Barker: And there
was community bird feeding going on so groups of people would
get together and go out and feed the birds,
especially in heavy snows.>>Paul Baicich: And a lot of that
during the Depression was scratch, not necessarily quality seeds, but
seed that was swept up at the mill, on the floor, and put into bags,
and first given away to farmers and community people to spread at community feeders
or in their backyards. Later on they said, “Hey, you know,
we could start charging ten cents or a nickel a bag for
these big bags.” And that’s what they
did and that’s part of the transition into
this bird feeding. Yes.>>Is there anything you can do for
ground cover to ensure that worms and other insects are
available [inaudible].>>Margaret Barker: Yes. We have a lot of insectivorous
birds around right now of course and the best thing that people
can do is to plant for birds. And even if you just have, you
know, some food plants, for example, when I go out of town I don’t
worry about my hummingbirds because I have coral honeysuckle and
that’s there for the hummingbirds. And the health of insects
is going to increase and therefore be available to birds
if you keep nice native plants around and don’t use pesticides.>>Paul Baicich: I highly
recommend Doug Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home.” It’s a fabulous book on the
connection between native plants and native insects, and
concomitantly, connected to birds. I will tell you privately I have a
phobia against insects but I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book. And it’s an extremely important,
an extremely important book. Doug Tallamy, “Bringing
Nature Home.” It’s about the backyard.>>Margaret Barker: But one
thought is to think of a plant as a kind of bird feeder.>>Paul Baicich: Indeed. And cover is good, is important,
not only in spring and summer when it’s blossoming, and
when it’s full of insects and worms underneath, but also
in terms of wintertime to serve as literally cover for
birds, protection from wind, snow, and predators, too. Any other questions
before we — yes, go ahead.>>There was, you showed
a device meant to discourage English sparrows. Are the same little brown
sparrows that we have everywhere?>>Paul Baicich: Yes. The English sparrows are now called
house sparrows, were introduced to Brooklyn, New York, 1850, 1852,
I think two or three releases. And it was thought that
they would eat gypsy moths and gypsy moth worms. It didn’t work. They spread all over the country. They became bullies to other
birds and became undesirable. This was a device not to discourage,
you wisely used the word, or politically correct to
use the word discourage. This was a device to capture so
you could dispose of these birds. Curiously they have been
declining over the last, house sparrows have been declining
over the last 30, 40 years. And that’s particularly because
of the decline of the horse. In urban areas, in cities
house sparrows flourished because of spilled grain and
feeding horses, oats in particular. Also they would recycle the
manure that wasn’t fully, necessarily digested by
the horse on city streets. House sparrows would do very well. They don’t do that well now. They may be in some urban areas
including Washington, D.C., and maybe your backyard but
they are highly reduced. Margaret, did you get
the results from — ?>>Margaret Barker: Also
in Europe they’re declining and it’s remarkable because a lot of
people who put up birdhouses don’t like house sparrows a lot. They can be very aggressive,
especially toward bluebirds. And, but you can go online and
see people in England weeping about the decline in
house sparrow populations. House sparrows are not a
protected bird in this country. They’re not protected under
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.>>Paul Baicich: They’re not native. They’re not native just like
starlings are not native birds. They’re not protected. So they are disposed of and
dispatched accordingly many places. Looks like we’ve run out of time. It’s been a delight to be with
you and an honor to be here. Thank you.>>Margaret Barker: Very much. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at

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