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Nature's Treasure Chest
By Stuart Goldsby, Regional Hunter Education Coordinator
Life’s little treasures come in many forms. Part of the enjoyment of living an outdoor lifestyle is the ever-present possibility of finding a treasure. Those possibilities are truly endless considering what nature has to offer. Driftwood, gemstones, artifacts, unusual plants, fossils, or enjoyable experiences are all considered treasures by someone. Conservationists, and more precisely hunters, should look at nature as their treasure chest. Because humans are hunter-gatherers, and collectors of a sort, it is only natural to take from nature and use its bounty for our pleasure.
Birds are one if not the most abundant and diverse of all animals. As such, they provide the most plentiful and unique of all my collected treasures, feathers. If you visit the “Watchable Wildlife” section of www.outdooralabama.com you will find a long list of bird species that inhabit Alabama. Each of the many species of Alabama birds has its own unique size, shape, and color, and most birds molt twice a year, providing plenty of little treasures lying around waiting to be found.
Hunters remove feathers from harvested birds for use in interior decorating, fly-tying for fish lures, adorning a hat or walking stick, and for many other varied uses. Turkey, dove, quail and especially duck and geese can provide a spectrum of color and variation to a collection. I use many of the feathers I collect for educating school age kids in wildlife identification.
When collecting feathers you must be mindful that most birds are protected and simply possessing feathers from certain species is a violation of the law. English sparrows, crows, starlings, and collared doves are not protected species and may be taken at any time. Hawks, owls, eagles, osprey, and vultures described as “birds of prey” are all protected from harm and simple possession of feathers from these species is a violation of the law. It is always a good idea to consult the laws and regulations of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries if you are not sure of the rules of collecting and possessing feathers.
History has taught us many facts about taking care of our natural resources. Some species of birds were commercially harvested to near extinction during the early 1900s to be sold in restaurants and for feathers to festoon women’s hats. The decline of those species led early conservationists such as Teddy Roosevelt to emphasize the importance of maintaining healthy wildlife populations. Today, we once again enjoy many of those species in abundance due to the diligence of conservationist/hunters and the laws put in place by legislators who understood the value of our wildlife heritage.
As a hunter-gatherer or birdwatcher we can look forward to outings where we may search for modest treasures that nature has to offer. Picking up a dropped feather or collecting from harvested animals is a hobby anyone can enjoy. With all the diverse resources of Alabama, there is much to discover. We could all slow down and look for the simplest of rewards. Feathers could provide just the enjoyment we are looking for.
For further discussion or information about this subject and programs presented by the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, contact Stuart R. Goldsby at 256-737-8732, or firstname.lastname@example.org.