Tag Archives: ornithology

How To Make Friends With {some} Birds. {How to kill the rest, and some cats, too}

How to Make Friends With Birds

Today I knocked a book off my bookshelf that I hadn’t looked at for a while. It is a strange little book that my grandma sent me more than 10 years ago. Her sister Alta had given it to her and Grandma Hilda (Kurtz Troyer) had gifted it to me, because she knew that I loved animals and was into bird watching. She also loved birds, and always had bird feeders outside of her windows.

How to Make Friends With Birds; What to Do to Make One’s Home Grounds Attractive to Bird Life, by Niel Morrow Ladd of the Greenwich Bird Protective Society, published in 1916, is about 5.5″ x 3.25″, and includes “more than 200 illustrations” (photos and drawings). This insidious mini-book not only promotes bird watching and making your garden an inviting place for birds, with plenty of advice and plans for building various types of nest boxes, it also advocates trapping and killing English sparrows and stray cats!

How to Make Friends with Birds devotes 37 pages to “Bird Enemies,” and in most cases, detailed instruction on how to murder them. It starts with cats:

In order of their importance as menacing the species which use nesting boxes may be mentioned; The English sparrows, starlings (along the Atlantic Coast), cats, red squirrels, gray squirrels, snakes, flying squirrels, and fox squirrels. This order, however, is subject to change due to local conditions.”

First, a modest suggestion to require licensing of cats, so that any non-licensed cats could then be killed. It goes on to give a few example of cat-proof fencing. It then launches into a thorough scouring of the cat:

The cat belongs to the most bloodthirsty and carnivorous family of mammalia. It is as natural for cats to hunt and kill birds as for fishes to swim. There is little evidence offered to prove that they can be broken of this inherent love of hunting, while on the other hand, a great mass of testimony is available to prove that we harbor too many cats.


Briefly reviewing the reasons for reducing their numbers at least four-fifths, we find that: Cats are a menace to health, being subject to ringworm, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and rabies. They carry germs of the commoner infectious and contagious diseases, as well as bubonic plague, and foot -and-mouth disease.

Their reputation as ratters and mousers is both overrated and overstated. They revert to a semi-wild condition, under slight provocation, where their hunting instincts enable them to work havoc among the more timid species of birds which seek the wilder districts in which to nest. It is the semi-wild cat that destroys countless numbers of quail, grouse, pheasant, ducks, woodcock, snipe, and other species classed as game birds.

The cat has few legal rights, being protected, in most states, only against cruelty and abuse. One may, therefore, rid one’s grounds of homeless felines.

Next, plans are given for an “Automatic Cat Trap”:

The cat caught, open the small door and insert a sponge saturated with an ounce of chloroform.

Tree guards are then discussed, then a couple of paragraphs on those crazy “Bird-Loving Cat Owners” and tips on how to keep your own cats from killing all the birds (sans chloroform). Then another diatribe on “Licensing the Cat.” 17 pages follow, devoted to various ways in which to kill the English sparrow, ‘rat of the air.’ The author brags that he has killed more than 7,000 sparrows in less than 5 years by trapping, on less than one acre of his land. Various traps are meticulously detailed and diagrammed. The merits of using the 44-calibre shotgun are discussed, and poisoning methods are advocated.

All in all, a very strange and disturbing way to “Make Friends.”

Birds Are Dinosaurs

Thought we went extinct, did ya?

Thought we went extinct, did ya?

I’m a big fan of Sy Montgomery. I’ve enjoyed several of her previous books, including Walking with the Great Apes, Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Search for the Golden Moon Bear, and The Good Good Pig. Recently, I picked up Birdology from the library after hearing Sy interviewed on a podcast. I really admire birds, especially corvids and parrots, so I was eager to hear her perspective. Sy has such a fascinating way of drawing us into the unexpected aspects of birds – from those we would assume to be the most ordinary – Chickens (“Birds Are Individuals”), to those that are odd and dangerous – Cassowaries (“Birds Are Dinosaurs”), to those small dynamic blurs – Hummingbirds (“Birds Are Made of Air”).

I remember studying zoology a few years back and reading about Archaeopteryx and I remember learning that birds are actually reptiles. But what struck me last night was that Birds Are Dinosaurs. They are ACTUALLY DINOSAURS. Not in theory, not related to dinosaurs, not just reptiles; they are the descendants of the dinosaurs that we were taught as children had gone extinct! I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying enough attention in zoology or if scientific theory has advanced in this area since 2001, but something about the way that Sy explains it in Birdology makes it very clear: “Today few serious paleontologists question that birds arose from dinosaurs. Increasingly they agree on an even more surprising conclusion: that birds, rather than meriting a separate class, Aves, in the scientific organization of life, should be classed in Reptilia, within the Dinosauria, as the very successful surviving dromaeosaurs.”

No wonder I can’t understand what in the heck is going on with my parrot when she screeches intermittently for days on end. She’s not even the species I thought she was. Apparently, I ‘m living with a Pterodactyl. My mind is blown.