Bird Children

January 30, 2012


I have been extremely busy, so my apologies for the lack of posting recently. I thought I would share these images with you, though. They are from a strange little book a friend was kind enough to lend me. The book was published in 1912, and while the illustrations no doubt have a charming beauty to them, there is also something quite bizarre about them as well.

 What is impressive about the book is the diversity of bird life that it showcases, as well as what some of the little rhymes reveal. I've had the book in my possession for about a week now, and have thought about it quite a bit. It many ways it is intended to be a playful little children's book, but in others, it says so much about our relationship to the natural world then and now.


Bird-of-Paradise: Any colorful, elaborately plumaged species is represented as being female in the book, even though almost always it is the male bird in nature that exhibits this kind flamboyance. We certainly don't want to give any wrong ideas about how men and women should dress and behave ; )



Snowy Egret (Heron): At the time the book was published, so many species of birds were under threat from the hat industry. Birds such as the Snowy Egret (here referred to as a heron) and Carolina Parakeet were prized for their feathers to adorn ladies' hats. Thankfully this trend has gone by the wayside, and the Snowy Egret is no longer on the brink of extinction.


Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Heavy logging in the late 19th, and early 20th century was already leading to massive habitat loss and thus the demise of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It was generally considered extinct by 1920, with a lot of spotty, mostly unconfirmed sightings since then. It was almost shocking to come across this image and rhyme in a 1912 children's book.


I've always perceived House Sparrow to be these Napoleon Complex bullies of the avian world. A species of European sparrow, they were introduced to North America via 100 birds purchased by a Mr. Nicolas Pike for $200 from England and released in Brooklyn, NY in 1851. They have been successfully adapting to our human modified landscapes ever since, but sometimes at the expense of native species such at the Eastern Bluebird. I kind of like the disapproving flower face children in this one. 


I don't have much to say about this one other than: flower face children approve!


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Well, that's it for now, little bird children. I'm hoping to get another post in this week, but we'll see how it goes. Happy Monday to you!

Thanks to Rebecca over at the amazing Storywoods for sharing her book with me!




7 comments:

  1. What an odd little book but so forward-thinking it would seem about protecting the habitat of birds. Love all the bits of information you added.

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  2. @ Kathleen Maunder: Yes! Very forward thinking, it would seem.

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  3. Fascinating ~ how delightfully strange. I really enjoyed that sparrow illustration, too. We have a lot of little fellows like that around here! ;)
    I love old books like this. Thanks for sharing :)

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  4. It's sort of like the 'Flower fairies' and all the little rhymes in those books. But it is a bit odd. I like all your info too, I've just done our big garden birdwatch,but I'm no expert, just interested. Those poor woodpeckers, so sad!

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  5. You reminded me of a chuldren's book my daughter and I used to read over and over, Birdsong by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Robert Forczak. It's really wonderful with beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it. You can see some of the illustrations at Amazon and audreywood.com

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  6. @ IM thanks so much for the tip!

    @Mama Forestdweller I love really old books (esp. children's) too : )

    @Julie Clay congrats on doing a garden birdwatch. Citizen science is so very important!

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