Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Bird Worth Its Weight in Gold: Snowy Egret at CSU Stanislaus

Fashion can be a horrible thing. Actually it kind of always is a horrible thing, especially as it applies to animals. Beavers were practically eradicated across the western United States because Europe decided beaver hats were fashionable. Ivory became fashionable so elephants have to die. And the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) had to go nearly extinct because someone decided their feathers were valuable in hats a century ago. For a time, the feathers of the Snowy Egret were worth $32 per ounce, a price higher than gold in that era. It just about doomed the species.
Luckily a few visionary people began to work to limit the slaughter, and the egret populations recovered. They've adapted to human wetlands in some cases, such as the individual in today's picture. It does quite well foraging in the pond outside my office at CSU Stanislaus, where I teach a class. It's probably the same bird I've photographed before, given the nearly tame demeanor (it doesn't care all that much when I show up with a camera).

I'm thankful that the value of the bird today is aesthetic, not monetary.

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