The New York Times – “Her pioneering approach involved quietly examining birds in their natural habitat, rather than shooting them, as people had previously done…A student at Smith College at the time, Bailey decided to start a grassroots effort, with a simple step: She took her fellow classmates outdoors. “We won’t say too much about the hats,” she wrote in Bird-Lore. “We’ll take the girls afield, and let them get acquainted with the birds. Then of inborn necessity, they will wear feathers never more.”
It was the beginning of an animal rights campaign that evolved into a lifelong crusade of ecological conservationism and promotion of what would become modern day bird-watching. Bailey eventually traveled around the country to write about the pursuit. Back then ornithology was generally practiced by examining “skins,” or dead birds preserved in universities or museums. Ornithologists typically trapped or shot birds and then decamped indoors to identify the bodies. Bailey, on the other hand, urged that birds be observed quietly in their natural habitat.
“Florence was one of the first bird-watchers to actually watch birds instead of shoot them,” Marcia Bonta, a naturalist and author of “Women in the Field: America’s Pioneering Women Naturalists” (1991), said in a phone interview. In 1889, at the age of 26, Bailey published “Birds Through an Opera-Glass,” considered the first field guide to American birds. The book, one of many travelogues and field guides she would publish, suggested that the best way to view birds was through the lenses of opera glasses, not a shotgun sight. Her approach, now commonly practiced with binoculars, helped form the basis of modern bird-watching…”