American Aviculture 60 Years Ago


[Editor's Note: Tbis article was published in Avicultural Magazine, the journal of the Auicultural Society (England) in May, 1937. It is used here with the kind permission of Mr. Frank Woolbam, its honorary editor, and Professor ].R. Hodges, council chairman of the Auicultural Society (England). Dr. Delacour writes on bis experiences during a visit to California and we learn the extent to which American aviculture bad risen 60 years ago. Tbe number of species then kept is very impressive. The Tahitian, Ultramarine, and Kubl's Lories were kept and the Ultramarine, for one, was even bred. The article identifies many unusual species of birds ranging from parrots and softbill to a California Condor. Delacour mentions hybrids observed in various aviaries and the editors of Watcbbird have left those references intact in keeping with the philosophy of 60 years ago. DR7J

On 14th November I left Chicago at 6:30 a.m. by air, and before 7:30 p.m. I was at the Sacramento Aerodrome, a journey which takes over three days by train. Mr. W. Leland Smith was waiting for me, and took me to his home at Fair Oaks.

Most of the California Pheasantbreeders live in the Sacramento-San Francisco region. In the Sacramento Valley, climatic conditions are similar to those in the South of France: a mild winter, but often damp and sometimes as cold as 15°, and a very hot, dry summer. They seem to suit all sorts of Pheasants, as well as Pigeons and Doves. Mr. Leland Smith has an orange and flower ranch as well as an important bird-farm. He breeds Game birds in large numbers, all sorts of Pheasants -American Quails, Chukor Partridges, many species of wild Pigeons and Doves, including Crowned and Victoria's Gouras, and a few small birds, Parrots, and Waterfowl. He has well over a hundred aviaries, most of them very roomy and without artificial shelters, butshadedbycentury-oldever-. green oaks. The soil is sandy. Like most Pheasant breeders in California, oats,


barley, alfalfa, etc., are sown and grown inside the aviaries during the winter to provide green food. Fruit is always plentiful and cheap in California.

Mr. Smith owns the finest collection of Pheasants in America, where nearly all the rarer species are represented, the gems of which are several pairs of the White Eared-Pheasant and a pair of Chinese Monauls. He also possesses and breeds Koklass, Rheinartes, Argus, Pala wan and Bronze-tailed Polyplectron; and I saw there a pair of the rare Tetroaphasis thibetanus [Tibetan Snowcock] a large Partridge from the high mountains of Western China. The different species of Fire backs do extremely well at Fair Oaks, and breed freely. Although Mr. Smith is endeavouring to make his collection pay through breeding, he is a most genuine and enthusiastic bird lover. I greatly enjoyed the few days I spent in his hospitable ranch.

My host drove me about the district for several days, and we visited together a number of interesting Game farms, without speaking of such wonderful mountain scenery as Lake Tahoe. We saw, particularly, the California State GameFarmatNapa,wherethousandsof Ring-necks and Mongolian Pheasants, Quails, Chukors, some Amhersts, Goldens, and Reeve's, and Mexican Wild Turkeys are reared annually, Excellent results are obtained with electric incubators and brooders, the latter placed in houses connected to small outdoor pens with cement floors covered with a couple of inches of sand. Mr. Bade, the superintendent, was most hospitable, and gave me very useful information, We also visited the aviaries of Mr.]. W. Steinbeck, who has a nice selection of rare Pheasants and Doves at Stockton; those of Mr. H. F. Kangieser, at Menlo Park, where there are some good Pheasants and excellent Doves, including many Mountain Witches and Kubary's Ground Pigeons, and some interesting Pbapitreron [Fruit doves] from the Philippine Islands, among others, as well as hybrids,


Gallicolumba Kubaryi X G. rubescens. We also arrived just in time to see the aviaries, numerous and extensive, and a few remnants of the Pheasant collection of Mr. W. J. Jackson, who has just given up his hobby, a great pity as he was most successful in breeding several rare species, including Satyr, Temminck's and Cabot's Tragopans, Imperial, Edward's, and Mikado Pheasants, different Polyplectrons,Java, and Sonnerat'sjunglefowl.

We paid a visit to Mr. S. H. Levin, who also was selling out his large collection of Pheasants, Parrakeets, Pigeons, Waders, and small birds. There were a dozen Victoria Crowned Pigeons, most of them bred on the spot, as well as several Blue Porphyrios [gallinules and/ or swamphens], a mixture of the African, Indian, and Australian species. There were over 100 Peafowl, Blue, White, Blackwinged, and Specif er, which are most prolific in California, even the last named, and are bred all over this State in numbers, as well as hybrids, which are quite popular.

In the different suburbs of San Francisco one finds many bird stores. Mr. Mori, a Japanese dealer, usually offers a good selection of Japanese and Filipino birds, from Cranes to Finches, as well as Australian and sometimes Indian species. He is now the first importer on the Pacific Coast. The best shops are on the eastern side of the bay, near Oakland, some quite far from the centre. These Californian bird-stores look very nice and different from what we have on this side of the Atlantic. They consist of a house, usually new and nicely built, on the road, with the shop in front; at the back there is an extensive piece of ground where rows of aviaries have been built, usually very neatly. Canaries, Parrots, and some show birds are kept in the shop, as well as cages, food, etc.: but the largest number of birds, including Peacocks, Pheasants, Doves, Parrakeets, etc., live, and often breed, in outdoor aviaries. The whole arrangement is far cleaner and more attractive than what we see in the usual European birdshops. The best that I have visited are those of Messrs. Thierry, Poisal, and Julius, the two first of French origin, while Mr. Brock, a native of Scotland, has several town shops and is very clever with difficult insectivorous birds. He helped me greatly in the packing and care of the birds I brought over.