Timeline Tuesday: Bird Day

School children showing their bird houses

Bird Day was first observed on May 4, 1894, in Pennsylvania, and by 1910 was widely celebrated, often in conjunction with Arbor Day. Observances of the two holidays helped instill conservation training and awareness in the public, especially in school children. Although Bird Day was never recognized as an official state holiday in Nebraska, the observance was supported by J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, and others, such as University of Nebraska entomology professor Lawrence Bruner.

The Omaha World-Herald on January 15, 1899, editorialized in favor of an official Bird Day, noting: “Senate file No. 19, a resolution introduced in the Nebraska state senate by Senator [Isaac] Noyes of Douglas county, proposes to create a ‘bird day’ for the state of Nebraska. This resolution should receive the support of every lawmaker in the state, and certainly will receive the endorsement of every intelligent citizen who will give the subject a moment’s thought. “The ruthless and unwarranted destruction of the field and forest birds of the United States has grown to such an extent that an alarm is being sounded in all parts of the country. Legislatures of many states are being appealed to to protect the birds. Humane societies are directing their efforts in behalf of the feathered songsters. The ornithologists’ union has recommended the passage of a bill in the various state legislatures imposing a fine upon any person guilty of destroying birds. Societies are being organized to discourage the use of feathers of wild birds for dress ornaments.

It is a fact that notwithstanding the myriads of increasing insects that threaten the destruction of our agricultural, horticultural and floricultural industries, thoughtless women of America persist in demanding the wings, the heads and plumage of these little insect destroyers for headgear ornaments. . . . “Professor Bruner of the Nebraska university, who has a world-wide reputation as a naturalist, recently delivered a lecture in Omaha under the auspices of the Humane society. . . . [He] estimated that if destruction of birds’ eggs could be stopped for one year throughout Nebraska the number of birds would double and insects be killed off in proportion; and that in time birds would so multiply that insects could be kept under, and if insects caused annoyance in any particular part of the state the birds would flock there and put them out of the way. . . . “The ‘Bird Day’ for Nebraska will result in educational influences upon the children, influences which will be of inestimable worth. When the schools of the state observe the occasion by suitable exercises in the form of lectures, readings of bird literature, the writing of essays and singing of songs about birds, as well as the recounting of personal experiences with these innocent creatures of the forest and the field, then will the reform so much needed show evidence of educational influence. Save the birds! Their value is inestimable and the rising generation should be taught the importance of this sentiment by an observance of ‘Bird Day’ in Nebraska.”

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