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Victorian Fashion Included Hummingbirds as Ornament

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Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. I wonder how many more hummingbird feeders we’ve added to our gardens since the pandemic started as birding resource sites report there’s been a huge interest in ornithology recently. Sadly, there was an equal fascination with hummingbirds during the times when features and even entire birds were used as adornments in the world of fashion. There was a massive use of hummingbird bodies mounted on Victorian fans. Their beautiful heads were often fashioned into dangling earrings. In the tropics, hunters would hold poles covered with glue near flowers to capture the birds before killing and shipping them to market. Catalogue entries for only three feather sales in London in 1911 give the horrifying figure of forty-one thousand hummingbird skins offered for sale; the estimate is that 223,000 birds were killed just these three events.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.