Thursday, February 25, 2016


Carolina Wren eggs in nest box at Hagerman NWR, 2013

Oology – Wikipedia defines oology as “a branch of ornithology studying bird eggsnests, and breeding behavior. The word is derived from the Greek "oion", meaning egg. Oology can also refer to the hobby of collecting wild birds' eggs, sometimes called egg collecting, birdnesting or egging, which is now illegal in many jurisdictions."

I had not heard of “oology” until recently, when I read that one of the National Wildlife Refuges that has a book group, is reading Oology and Ralph’s Talking Eggs, by Carrol L. Henderson, published by the  University of Texas Press   

I have just begun reading, but I can tell you that the book covers what might be called pre-modern birding, before quality optics and camera were available for the viewing and study of birds in the wild.  Life lists of those days often consisted of carefully documented eggs collected from various species, whether in person or by means of trading and purchase.

Bluebird eggs in nestbox at Hagerman NWR
Ralph Handsaker, named in the title, acquired eggs of nearly 500 species at a time when collecting involved treks over farm, field and forest, not to mention wetlands, and including exploits such as climbing tall trees or traveling by boat to retrieve eggs.  Since 1918, it has been illegal to  sell or trade wild bird eggs; Handsaker's collection has been donated by the family to the Peabody Museum of Yale University.

The author, Carrol Henderson, not only describes the world of egg collectors but the culture that developed along with it, for example, the publication of bird trading cards and the production of books featuring eggs and nests.  In addition, he details the conservation history of a number of species  and the evolution of conservation laws.

Bluebird egg from nestbox at Hagerman NWR, 2015

Finally, from the book:
“In 1863, T. W. Higginson wrote, “I think that, if required on pain of death to name instantly the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird’s egg.”

And the author adds:
"...the real value of the egg is the miracle that lies within."

Current Law:
In the United States, the collection and possession of wild bird eggs is also restricted, and in some cases is a criminal act. Depending on the species, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act or other laws may apply.

No comments:

Post a Comment