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Feeding Wild Birds in America

Culture, Commerce, and Conservation

Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, Carrol L. Henderson


List Price: 27.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Today, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, more than fifty million Americans feed birds around their homes, and over the last sixty years, billions of pounds of birdseed have filled millions of feeders in backyards everywhere. Feeding Wild Birds in America tells why and how a modest act of provision has become such a pervasive, popular, and often passionate aspect of people’s lives.

Each chapter provides details on one or more bird-feeding development or trend including the “discovery” of seeds, the invention of different kinds of feeders, and the creation of new companies. Also woven into the book are the worlds of education, publishing, commerce, professional ornithology, and citizen science, all of which have embraced bird feeding at different times and from different perspectives.

The authors take a decade-by-decade approach starting in the late nineteenth century, providing a historical overview in each chapter before covering topical developments (such as hummingbird feeding and birdbaths). On the one hand, they show that the story of bird feeding is one of entrepreneurial invention; on the other hand, they reveal how Americans, through a seemingly simple practice, have come to value the natural world.

Praise For Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce, and Conservation

Feeding Wild Birds in America is much more than the most complete history of the practice and business of feeding birds.  Woven through this rich history are insights about how to set up feeders that are not only safe for birds but also most likely to provide engaging experiences. Such encounters are more important than ever—because birds certainly need more caring friends.” — Dr. Stephen W. Kress, Vice President, National Audubon Society, Bird Conservation Director/Seabird Restoration Project, Author, The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds

— Dr. Stephen W. Kress

“Even after 32 years in the industry, I still learned incredibly interesting information about the history of bird feeding and bird feeding vendors in this book. The authors did a great job researching and organizing the details of the hobby as it has grown over the last 120 years." — Jim Carpenter Founder, Preseident, and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited Inc.

— Jim Carpenter

"Feeding Wild Birds in America is a fine cross cultural narrative, an intersection of natural history, conservation, curiosity, and even entrepreneurship;  A noble work."—Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University

— Douglas Brinkley

"Backyard bird feeding is by far the most popular form of bird watching.  Via strategically placed feeders, our kitchen windows, rec rooms, man caves, and dining rooms have become portals to the natural world.  This information-packed book is your bridge to the history of this thoroughly enjoyable pastime. Your greatest challenge may well be apportioning your time between this engagingly written book and the feathered minions gathering on the far side of your window."—Pete Dunne, Birding Ambassador, New Jersey Audubon

— Pete Dunne

"The book is a fascinating history of our love affair with feeding birds...wrapped with wonderful insights on how bird feeding can be used to connect people to nature right at our doorstep. It's a treasure". —  Josetta Hawthorne, Executive Director, Council for Environmental Education

— Josetta Hawthorne

“This is a lovely book indeed, and it goes far beyond being a simple history of bird feeding. The authors, who represent an exceptional combination of conservation knowledge and passion about nature, have given us a colorful and fact-filled chronicle of our centuries-long love affair with birds.”—John W. Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

— John W. Fitzpatrick

"As you put up a bird feeder, unwrap suet cakes, spread out black-oil sunflower seed, and install a dripping birdbath, you will appreciate how far the bird-feeding hobby has come and the efforts of those who preceded us. As you read this book, those efforts become fascinating connections important to us all." —George H. Petrides, Sr., Chairman and Founder, Wild Bird Centers of America

— George H. Petrides, Sr.

"Thoroughly researched and fun to read, it tells the complete story of bird feeding from the late 1800s to the present day and is full of fascinating details about early advocates and the development of seeds and the various styles of feeders. Perhaps you've wondered, as we have, how people figured out that black-oil sunflower seeds and suet would attract birds, or that safflower would be popular with cardinals. This book has the answers to those questions and many more." -- Bird Watching Magazine

— Bird Watching Daily

“. . . by far the best and most thorough summary of bird feeding as both a pastime and a business.”—Farm & Dairy Magazine

— Farm & Dairy Magazine

“One of the book’s many take-home lessons is how America’s love for nature spawned a new industry. . . by far the best and most thorough summary of bird feeding as both a pastime and a business.”—Vindy

— Vindy

 “. . . a well-researched, copiously illustrated, engaging study of bird feeding practices, personalities, inventions marketing, and companies that developed in the Unites States from the late 19th century to the present day, with a little bit of Canada, Europe, and South America thrown in. It is a serious book with a friendly attitude. . . if you are one of those 58.2 million people who feed wild birds, Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce & Conservation is likely to enhance your enjoyment and expand your knowledge base.”—10,000 Birds

— 10,000 Birds

“. . . there was not a thorough history of birdfeeding until Feeding Wild Birds in America was published. . . One of the brilliant strategies of Feeding Wild Birds in America is that the authors place the evolution of birdfeeding into the larger social and political milieu of America at different eras. . . profusely illustrated with interesting old magazine illustrations of birdfeeding and ads for seeds and feeders. . . an important and vastly entertaining addition to the greater history of human society and wildlife. Most of us know how to feed birds, but this is the first book that tells us where that passion came from and how it evolved.”—Bird Observer

— Bird Observer

". . .incredibly fascinating. . . .if you are interested in bird feeding, the history of bird feeding, or the history of our country’s growing awareness of the importance of the natural world to our lives, you really should purchase a copy of Feeding Wild Birds in America for yourself and/or your local library. It’s an incredibly educational read." — The Crozet Gazette

— The Crozet Gazet

"Baicich, Barker, and Henderson use the history of bird feeding as an analog to trace the rise of environmental awareness in the country. This alone is a valuable contribution to the literature of birds and birding in America. I heartily recommend this volume to all those who enjoy feeding birds and wish to know more about how it came to be one of the Nation’s most widely enjoyed backyard activities."— The Cactus Wren-dition

— The Cactus Wren-dition

“What they don’t know, no one else does either. What they do know is chronicled beautifully in this history of the feeding of wild birds. They have been very active in this industry and are well known as experts by many. Their work in the pages of this book is, and shall be, the definitive statement on the feeding of wild birds.”—Birding Business

— Birding Business

"This is a great book, becuase it is full of stuff you would never have thought important or interesting, but that is, in fact, important and interesting. This book is engaging, compelling, and just plain cool." -- Science Blogs

— Greg Laden

“Thanks to Baicich, Barker, and Henderson, the tens of millions of people who feed wild birds in the U.S. now have a book that richly describes the history of one of America’s favorite hobbies.” — The Condor

— The Condor

Texas A&M University Press, 9781623492113, 320pp.

Publication Date: March 30, 2015

About the Author

PAUL J. BAICICH is a conservation writer and editor and an avitourism consultant. He lives in Maryland. MARGARET A. BARKER, a writer and educator in the Chesapeake Bay area, coordinated the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch. CARROL L. HENDERSON is supervisor of Minnesota’s Nongame Wildlife Program in the Department of Natural Resources.