Early Aviculture in the USA


Avirulture has existed in the U.S.A., to at least some limited degree, as long as this country has been inhabited, even before European influence.

For purposes of this essay, I will restrict the discussion to Aviculture and Aviculturists whom· I have personally known.

Pre-World War II, the 1930s and early 1940s, was a time of serious economic depression in the U.S. The unemployment rate was extremely high. It was a time of "bread lines", very high levels of homelessness and wide spread general deprivation. There were of course exceptions. Some lines of business thrived.

Due to this (or in spite of it) prices of everything, including birds, were exceptionally low and most animal imports were still by surface rather than by air. There was little consideration of endangerment at that time. CITES did not exist and none of the world's governments restricted exports of their avifauna, with the exception of South Africa which imposed an embargo on bird exports in the late 1920s. Consequently lots of very spectacular bird species were readily available at what, by present day standards, would appear as "give away" prices. Even at the very low prices, however, they were beyond the financial abilities of most of the avian fanciers.

Many of us kept birds at that time though most, because of financial inability, were required to start with the more common and lowest priced species. This, in my opinion, was not all bad. We gained experience with the more common species and sold our surpluses to obtain the prices of a few of the more desirable species. In this way we learned as our flocks slowly grew in size and quality.

There were of course, some exceptions to the above. Some avian fanciers were owners or managers of businesses which were essential even during the depression and others were able to maintain jobs with steady incomes. Some of these fortunate individuals, together with the smugglers, amassed very large and spectacular collections.

The difficulties and time required for most of us in that time period to build a reasonably nice collection resulted in many of us developing an exceptionally deep seated and long lasting interest in aviculture.

Other problems and obstacles to avicultural advances also existed at that time....