Century-old books for younger children

How was knowledge of natural history conveyed to children in the past? Books can provide insights into the nature of the “environmental education” available to our great- … -grandparents.

In this post I note 3 books for younger children. Only one of these refers specifically to the California condor. As is typical for the time, the other 2 refer to the “condor”, by which they mean the Andean condor. Even in the USA, the California condor was not as well known as the Andean condor a century ago. Nevertheless, I consider all 3 books here because they each take different approaches to conveying understanding to children.

01 Pictures and stories of animals for the little ones

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Are some bird species worth more than others?

My interest in the question posed by this post’s title has to do with how people perceive California condors in comparison to other birds.

When I show an image of a condor to those who are not familiar with them, inevitably I hear reactions such as “gross”, “disgusting”, and “bizarre”. If I tell people that condors make their living eating carrion, these adverse reactions often grow stronger. Articles in newspapers and magazines from the 19th century to the present often describe condors in quite negative terms.

How can California condors possibly compete for favor with elegant swans, regal hawks, and beautifully-colored songbirds?

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Don’t blame us

The factors responsible for the near extinction of the California condor have been debated since the 19th century. Today, the factor considered the greatest threat to condors is the use of lead ammunition by hunters. Condors may be poisoned by lead when they consume “gut piles”, the entrails of deer and other game left behind by hunters.

Among the many other threats to condors that have been reported through the years are the poisons employed to kill agricultural pests and the shooting of condors for their feathers. This has led to defensiveness by trade organizations associated with these activities.

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