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The Migratory Bird Act #YearoftheBird

2018 is the centennial celebration of the Migratory Bird Act, an instrumental legislation that makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird. Beginning in the 1800’s with essentially zero regulations in place, hunters destroyed U.S. bird populations, in part so that women could wear hats adorned with ornamental feathers. By the end of the century, Labrador ducks and great auks were extinct, soon to be joined by passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets, and heath hens. Numerous other species stood on the brink. Outrage over these alarming trends leads to the formation of the first Audubon societies, as well as other conservation groups.

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An instrumental proponent of bird protections and regulations was Lucy Bakewell Audubon, John James Audubon’s wife. John James Audubon, the founding father of modern birding, died in 1851 and Lucy was left to preserve his legacy. She, along with other staunch conservationists, worked tirelessly to change the culture around bird hunting and adjust women’s fashion to better protect birds. Together, they began the Audubon Society, which still stands today to protect birds nationally and globally.

How can the Migratory Bird Act be an influential learning tool in your classroom? From learning about the observation and classification of new species of animals, to how legislation can be passed to truly help endangered species, to how even small changes in culture can make a big difference in a global problem, the Migratory Bird Act reaches many levels of learning that can be made real with your students.


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For younger classrooms (grades K-3), a wonderful resource is the book called She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on her Head! By Kathryn Lasky. This book begins the conversation around using animal parts as part of fashion and how the work of a few passionate individuals can change the way people look at their own culture. This is an easy jump to begin the discussion of endangered animals due to human interference such as poaching for ivory trade or rare pelts. It just might inspire some of your students to become advocates for change! 


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 Older classrooms (grades 4-6) can really benefit from the discussion around how legislation can actually make a big difference in the protection of endangered species. A great comeback story of how legislation can change the success of a population is to look at raptors (especially bald eagles) and their return after many years of unsuccessful nesting seasons due to the use of the pesticide DDT. Check out this resource from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more information on the subject. Your class can also embark on a journey through this lesson plan which discusses how DDT travels through the food chain, resulting in bioaccumulation and why it has such a powerful effect on raptors and their fecundity. 

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Lastly, for all ages, a great way to become engaged in the bird world and learn why it is so important to protect our feather comrades is to use bird feeders to attract a variety of bird species to your schoolyard. Through citizen science programs such as Project FeederWatch, your students can be contributors to scientific research in a very real way. Please see the last blog post for more information about feed type, species expected in the area, and how to begin citizen science in your classroom.

 Don’t forget to celebrate the Year of the Bird in 2018 with VINS at all of our bird-related events including Owl Festival coming up on February 24 & 25, 2018! #YearoftheBird #birdyourworld #vinsraptors

​Composed by Emily Johnson

Contact education@vinsweb.org with questions or comments.