Bird Observer - The New England Birding Journal

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

December 2018

Vol. 46, No. 6

Thornton Burgess, Dr. William Hornaday, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Christie Palmer Lowrance


Left: William T. Hornaday, courtesy of the Guilford Township Historical Collection and Greg Dehler; Right: Thornton W. Burgess signing books, courtesy of the Thornton W. Burgess Society and the author.

The 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been a powerful piece of American conservation legislation for 100 years, but few know about the valuable and unique role a children's author played in its origins.

In the early decades of the twentieth century Dr. William Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Society, now the Bronx Zoo, was engaged in a political battle, "warfare" he called it, to secure congressional passage of protective legislation for wildlife, especially migratory birds. One of the most influential men in American conservation, Hornaday was a fiery, often abrasive wildlife activist, author, and lobbyist widely credited with saving the American buffalo.

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