Hummingbirds have long been admired for their colorful and iridescent plumage. In the second half of the 19th century, they were loved to death as millions of hummingbird skins were shipped from Central and South America to Europe and North America to trim women's hats and clothes. More than 41,000 hummingbird skins were sold at the London feather sale in 1911 alone.
The feathers, or even whole bodies, of hummingbirds, egrets, parrots, and birds of paradise ended up on top of women's heads as they strolled the fashionable avenues of New York, London, and Paris. But not all women were taken with the fashion, and in the 1890s a group of Boston society women organized bird-hat boycotts over afternoon teas. They formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society and like-minded women followed suit and formed clubs across the United States. In 1905 these societies incorporated to form the National Audubon Society we know today. The efforts of these groups, along with those of other wildlife defenders, led to federal legislation such as the Lacey Act of 1900 and the Migratory Bird Act and Tariff Bill, both of 1913, which severely hampered the domestic and foreign feather trade. In London, once described* as the "head of the giant octopus of the feather trade," conservationists introduced a plumage prohibition bill into Parliament in 1908, but didn't succeed in passing one until 1921 (the Importation of Plumage [Prohibition] Act).
*In 1913 by the director of the New York Zoological Park, William Hornaday.