Of Restaurants, Bird Cages, and Oologists

Nancy Dew Taylor 

                                                                                 1880s – 1890s

Not just quail and pheasant, but robins, red-winged
blackbirds, and ricebirds (bobolinks) could be ordered
at upscale hotel restaurants.

Tableaux of stuffed songbirds, often dozens,
some with babies on the nest, filled glass cabinets
in Victorian homes.  Also hawks, herons, hummingbirds.

One collector boasted of robbing one hundred clutches
of marsh wren eggs in a single day and thirty nests
of the yellow-breasted chat.

An oologist bragged he owned one hundred eighty
peregrine falcon clutches totaling more
than seven hundred eggs.  In his whole collection
he counted twenty thousand eggs.

John Burroughs, nature writer of the time, thought
one bird and one egg of a kind would do:
…the professional nest-robber and skin-collector
should be put down, either by legislation
or with dogs and shotguns.

Nancy Dew Taylor’s poetry chapbook, Stepping on Air, was published by Emrys Press in 2008. Her work has appeared in Appalachian Journal, Kalliope, The South Carolina Review, Timber Creek Review, and Tar River Poetry and in several anthologies, including A Millennial Sampler of South Carolina Poetry and Contemporary Appalachia, volume 3 of The Southern Poetry Anthology. She was named honorable mention in the 2008 Rita Dove Poetry Competition in Salem College’s Center for Women Writers’ National Literary Awards and is the recipient of the 2011 Linda Flowers Literary Award from the North Carolina Humanities Council. She lives in Greenville, SC.