Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy – Book Review

Rosalie Edge Hawk of Mercy Book CoverA 1937 photo of Rosalie Edge dressed in a suit and hat with a red-tailed hawk perched on her arm provides a clue to readers they are about to read the story of a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time.

Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists, by Dyana Z. Furmansky, tells the story of Rosalie Edge, a socialite, estranged wife, mother, suffragette, activist, bird enthusiastic and conservationist.

Book Review

How and why did Rosalie Edge become a conservationist and activist? Her background doesn’t shout treehugger. Readers of Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy will learn about Edges’s life and events that led her to become a conservationist at age 52.

Born into a wealthy family in 1877, Rosalie spent her early childhood as the pampered outspoken favorite of her father. She was first exposed to nature while riding in a horse-drawn carriage through New York City’s Central Park where the social elite went to see and be seen.

Rosalie grew up during the last quarter of the 19th century, a time of rapid growth and industrial development. Millions of birds were being killed for fashion; feathers and entire stuffed birds adorned women’s hats. Birds of prey like bald eagles and hawks were reviled by farmers and killed for sport. Forests were managed as commodities. Women did not have the right to vote. They were expected to get married, have children, and manage their households or live quietly as spinsters.

Rosalie received her first taste of activism when she joined the fight for women’s voting rights. She learned about advocacy and running a campaign while working with the New York Woman Suffrage Party.

After reading a pamphlet entitled A Crisis in Conservation, Rosalie attended her first annual meeting of the National Audubon Society and thus began a long contentious relationship with the organization. She formed the Emergency Conservation Committee and through it conducted a formidable information campaign about bird preservation needs.

The annual slaughter of thousands of hawks for sport at a mountain in Pennsylvania, Kittatinny Ridge, caught Rosalie’s attention. She bought the land and founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary which became an international center for the conservation of birds of prey. It is perhaps her greatest achievement.

Olympic National Park in Washington, the Yosemite sugar pines in California, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all benefited from Rosalie’s involvement.

Rosalie’s efforts to improve the conservation efforts of organizations like the National Audubon Society and the U.S. Department of the Interior were often viewed negatively, but she was just ahead of her time. Nowadays these organizations and others embrace her interconnected approach to conservation.

The Bottom Line

Using Rosalie Edge’s personal papers, interviews with her children, and her own research, Furmansky brought Rosalie Edge to life for me. Rosalie was a prolific writer, editor, and distributor of information. She was tenacious, willing to talk with anyone who might help her achieve her goals and seemed immune to criticism.

I recommend Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy to readers interested in birds, wildlife, nature, conservation, or activism. Fans of history or interesting woman will also enjoy the book.

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7 Things You Can Do to Benefit and Protect Birds

Hundreds of millions of birds are killed each year due to man-made structures and human activities. Our actions can benefit and protect birds and bird habitat.

Threats to Birds

  • Collision – windows, cars, power lines, communication towers, wind turbines, and aircraft.
  • Light Pollution – night sky brightness affects the ability of birds to navigate at night and may draw them toward structures.
  • Pets – cats and dogs, mostly cats.
  • Contaminants – pesticides, herbicides, lead, heavy metals, oil, and marine trash.
  • Fishing – some birds end up as unintended by-catch from commercial fishing.
  • Global Warming – causes loss of habitat and food, disruption of migratory cycles.

7 Things You Can Do to Benefit and Protect Birds

Prevent Home Window Collisions

Prevent birds from colliding with your windows by making them visible with decals or window coverings and keeping light inside your house at night.

Buy a Bird Bath

A bird bath is an inexpensive, fun, and easy way to provide birds with water to drink and bathe in. Keep it clean and filled with water.

Author's Bird BathA couple years ago, after a lengthy search, I found a suitable bird bath for our yard. It looks beat up and old. Many different birds visit to drink and bathe in it, from swifts to crows. Once, I saw a green and yellow parakeet (probably an escapee from a nearby home) perched on one side of the bird bath and several larger birds on the other. I wondered if the parakeet felt happy to be free or scared, proud to be different or like the odd one out.

Support Bird Conservation

Support birds by joining a bird conservation organization or making a donation to one. Use your right to freedom of speech to advocate for bird conservation and habitat protection at the local, state, national or international level.

Prevent Pet Predation

For those living with domestic cats, be mindful of your pet’s whereabouts and activities.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Cardinal Flower - Photo: Bill Buchanan, USFWSI like cats and we lived with cats for many years. Our cats lived outside and came in the house to be fed and when they felt like companionship. They left dead field mice and an occasional bird on the back porch. Cats are natural predators so they were just being cats. I admit at the time I did not think about how our cats contributed to the millions of birds killed by cats each year.

Provide and Protect Bird Habitat

Migratory birds need safe places to rest and eat, and all birds need safe places to live. Native plants supply food, cover, and nesting sites for birds. Bird feeders and bird houses can also provide food and shelter.

Dead Tree and Fallen Tree Provide Bird and Insect Habit in Author's YardWe live in a Monterey Pine forest and dead trees can pose a hazard to homes and utility lines (power outages are not infrequent during storms). In our yard, two dead trees near the power lines were cut off below the lines and now provide habit for birds and other wildlife. The woodpeckers seem to prefer them to pecking on our house. Small trees that have fallen down and not hit anything are left to naturally decay and provide food (insects) for birds and other animals.

Buy Bird Friendly Products

Farming methods that protect land from erosion and degradation are good for farmers, birds, and other wildlife. Buy bird friendly products like shade-grown coffee and cacao (chocolate).

Skip Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers

Author's Aphid-Free Lavender BushPesticides, herbicides, and some fertilizers are not healthful for birds or humans for that matter. Eliminate these often toxic products and save money too. Insects provide necessary food for birds. Pulling weeds by hand is good exercise. Compost helps keep soils healthy.

We now offer a toxin free yard. I do not  like creepy crawlies and was amazed at how well birds keep insect pests under control. For instance, a flock of tiny birds make short work of a new aphid colony on a lavender bush.

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
—John James Audubon

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