There were (and are) people who collected eggs. Not chicken eggs, but eggs from songbirds, raptors, cranes, waterfowl, and they did not collect casually, but voraciously, obsessively. A friend and coworker inherited a collection and he displays it to inform people about the practice and it’s effects. I took a few pictures of a representative sample today.



Shed a tear for Martha, the last of a very gregarious species, as she waited out her time in the Cincinnati zoo almost a hundred years ago. Not her’s, but it is a passenger pigeon’s egg:


I’m prone to wax a little, well, obsessive over bits of nature and outdoor pursuits; I am relieved to report that this mania does absolutely nothing for me, except to make me sad and a little wistful. Others continue the chase – bah!

6 thoughts on “Eggs

  1. Maybe it will slow down the egg collectors a bit to know that taking them from the wild and — for the really uptight — even owning old collections can expose a person to prosecution by the Federal Fish and Game people. It’s a felony offense: that means possibly a 6 months term in jail and a fine for $2,000 PER EGG! This applies to nests and to harassing or displacing birds as well, except for very few species. The interior decorators love nests but the same law applies to them.

    Prairie Mary

  2. I thought one was on reasonably safe ground if it was an old enough collection (like provably pre-MBTA raptor mounts)? I hope I haven’t put my friend at risk – there’s a lot of documentation showing the dates of acquisition to be between 1850 and 1880… As an aside – the box with the warbler eggs once contained (I’m told) shirt collars.
    It seems that for the hard core, very little will stop ’em. Don’t know if you clicked through my last link – but it seems there was a rabid British collector who was only stopped by falling out of a tree last year – though properly speaking, it wasn’t the fall that killed him – it was the sudden stop (I love that old chestnut).

  3. While reading I just had funny images in my head of these obsessed egg collectors scaling cliff faces to retrieve rare eggs, belaying down with prize in hand, some sort of maniacal grin on their face. I’m probably pretty far from the truth (or am I?), but I can imagine it takes a certain type of person to obsessively collect rare bird eggs. I am not that person.

  4. Much of what actually happens in terms of going to court to defend oneself would depend on the local culture and how it interacts with the words of the law. We had a little wildlife museum, well-established over a long period of time, which was suddenly accused when the area Federal Fish & Game warden changed. He was a bit of a fanatic — charged a man whose cat caught a phalarope and brought it into the house for one — and didn’t prosecute for the offense of having a case of storm-killed song birds — BUT he made enough trouble with harassment to cost Bob his taxidermy license for mounting waterfowl and caused a lot of heartache. We had a mounted eagle that had belonged to Bob’s father, who came here in 1903, and the warden took a run at it, then gave up.

    Right now, the Blackfeet tribe gives out eagle feathers to soldiers and others they want to honor. But if one wanted to make trouble, they are vulnerable to arrest for sure if they aren’t Indians and have a weakly defended case if they are.

    It’s interesting that at first the feathers in question were prime tail feathers of adult birds. By now they’re down to small feathers from other parts of the bird.

    It was in print that when Bob died, the Blackfeet put a pretty good eagle tail feather in his coffin with him. Since he had a pet eagle, for much of his life he had an old mayonnaise jar where he stuck her moulted feathers. Dunno what happened to it.

    Prairie Mary

  5. Thanks for the tip. I tried to put it in using the little HTML button when writing the post, but it seems to get all muddled up that way, so I just settled for a link. I think I’ll go back and embed it though.

Comments are closed.