Man and Wildfowl. By Janet Kear. T. & A. D. Poyser, London, 1990. 288 pages; 103 black-and-white plates; 65 line-drawings. £17.00.
Man has had an involvement with wildfowl since he first collected a few eggs and took them back to his cave for supper. This excellent and thorough account begins by describing how the Chinese and the Egyptians domesticated ducks and geese over 4,000 years ago. In the eighteenth century, thousands of geese would take the long road from the Fens to markets in London, travelling at no more than one mile an hour, and wearing specially made boots to protect their feet. In France, geese are still force-fed to produce the much-desired foie gras. If man was not domesticating wildfowl, he was trapping them in specially built duck decoys and shooting them, originally for food, latterly for sport. Duck-decoys have now virtually disappeared, except for a few preserved for catching and ringing. Wildfowling continues, however, though much better regulated than it once was, even if British wildfowlers still fiercely defend night-shooting, a practice that has long since been banned in North America and almost every other European country for the obvious reasons that quarry identification is at the very least suspect and disturbance of roosts inevitable. Conservation, research and education are the three main planks of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's work and these are covered in the detail they deserve. Aviculture has played an important part in the conservation of some species, and this, too, is treated thoroughly. A more contentious outcome of aviculture has been the release or escape into the wild of alien species, including the Canada Goose.