88 birdwatchersdigest.com • SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER’ 17 • BIRD WATCHER’S DIGEST
all other kingfisher species I’ve
observed, take immediate flight
upon approach, whether on foot
or by boat; their skittishness
seeming extreme and unwarranted. Here, in this passage, may
lay the answer.
“The Kingfisher is generally
branded a fish thief and account-
ed a fair mark for every man with
a gun and, were it not for his
discretion in judging distances
and knowing just when to fly, he
would long ago have disappeared
from the haunts of man…”
In these harsh times, Chap-
man is an advocate for birds we
now would never think of killing:
“Bee-keepers accuse the Kingbird
of a taste for honeybees, but the
examination, made by Prof. Beal,
of two hundred and eighteen
Kingbirds’ stomachs shows that
the charge is unfounded.”
What an image this conjures!
I am glad to live in a world where
the notion of shooting 218 east-
ern kingbirds in order to prove
their innocence as honeybee pred-
ators is not only unthinkable, but
also laughable—and illegal. So,
it must be mentioned, is shooting
any native non-game bird. And
along with the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act, finally passed in 1918,
the destructive attitudes Chap-
man so passionately fought have
changed as well.
In Chapman’s time, terns were
still being slaughtered at their
nesting colonies to be put on
women’s hats; Pennsylvania still
paid a bounty on dead hawks.
Now, tern colonies throughout
New England are maintained
through intensive management,
and hawk enthusiasts perch by the
thousands on windswept Kittatin-ny Ridge in eastern Pennsylvania
just to watch the splendor of
raptor migration, at the very spot
where, until 1934, tens of thousands of these birds were brought
down by sport shooters.
Other things that are looking
up for today’s bird watchers: the
plethora of field guides of every
description, using paintings and G.
Belted kingfisher, male.