2020—The Elegant Egret

What a beautiful sight to see Great Egrets perched in the moss-draped Bald Cypress trees on Caddo Lake far above the shallow water where they wade and search for fish to eat. The massive trees and the pendulous Spanish moss dwarfed these large birds with 5 their foot wingspans. One hundred years ago, these magnificent birds with their elegant plumes were threatened with extinction primarily because of the fashion of the day. Women’s hats were decorated with plumes from Great Egrets and other birds — sometimes even entire birds would decorate a hat. Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets had the most valuable feathers and plume hunters went to great lengths to supply the millinery trade with feathers killing thousands of birds in the process. The Audubon Society and other conservation groups fought the trend for nearly 50 years as they saw entire species of birds hunted to the brink of extinction merely for women’s fashion. When the governments of the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty that protected birds from people in 1916, the fashion trend, with its demands for the slaughter of countless birds, ended. In 1918, the United States codified the treaty into the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Now, one hundred years later, we can appreciate the beauty and elegance of these gorgeous birds alive and in full feather. Sadly, many species were not so lucky.