Ten Top Birds


In this feature, members of the Bird Stamp Society share their particular collecting slants.

David Cox, President, focuses on Federal Duck Stamps.

Postal historians collect stamps on covers and prize the cancellations. For duck stamps, the equivalent is a signed stamp on a hunting licence. The Federal Government issued a special Form 3333 that contained a place for the stamp to be affixed and a separate place for the hunter to sign, all validated by a postmark. The first duck stamp was purchased by J.N.Darling, who was the artist and who also came up with the idea of having sportsmen save the waterfowl they hunted through revenue stamps. This now forms part of the collection at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Darling designed a simple stamp “Mallards dropping in” which depicts male and female birds about to land on a calm surface.

Duck stamp prices started at $1 but have risen to the current $15 rate as shown on this 2010-2011 duck stamp featuring an American Wigeon. Duck stamps have raised more than $600 million for conservation.

Bruce Poulter, Chairman, links his collection to his birdwatching experiences.

For many years I have joined organised holidays around the world in search of birds. Back at home I expand my collection of bird stamps to include those from the country just visited. Sometimes I hoped to see a specific bird; sometimes an unexpected bird 'took the biscuit' - I have chosen one of each of these categories in this article. My 'hoped for' bird is the Resplendent Quetzal, a bird that had fired my imagination for many years and which is considered by many to be the most spectacular New World bird. The males are unique with four uppertail coverts (not true tail feathers) dangling up to 30 inches beyond the tail tip. My 'unexpected' bird is the Erect-crested Penguin. I expected to see a range of penguins in the Falklands - including King Penguins - but there, in the centre of a very big Rockhopper colony sat a single Erect-crested Penguin. This is a vagrant species in the Falklands normally being found in Subantarctic New Zealand waters. What a bonus!!

Julian Dempster, Editor of “FLIGHT” magazine, also chooses two species that he has enjoyed in the field.

I fell in love with albatrosses whilst spending a few days on a ferry in the South of Chile. I would while away the hours on deck watching the albatrosses glide effortlessly in the wind. They have a magic about them and it’s no wonder sailors hold them in great reverence, captured by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the poem the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Wandering Albatross has the largest wingspan of all. Its spirit is captured beautifully on many stamps from UK overseas territories.

Like many bird stamp collectors I combined two of my favourite hobbies, birding and stamp collecting. One of the most threatened birds in the world, only 122 birds left in the wild today, the Kakapo is a parrot but stands 63cm tall and weighs in at 2.5kg. Like many of the endemic birds of New Zealand it is flightless and predation from introduced species now means the Kakapo only lives on two small islands off the South Island. Many of the bird’s features are unique.

Roger Chapman, Website Editor, picks a classic stamp design and one on a different medium.

This image of a pair of Avocets was issued by Sweden in 1978 as part of a booklet set of six stamps celebrating the travels of Carl von Linne´, the 18th century botanist and father of taxonomy. The stamp is designed by V. Olsson to show these charismatic birds in a natural setting. Although only produced in monochrome, the detailed engraving by the late incomparable Czeslaw Slania makes it a classic stamp production.

Franking labels are not everybody’s collecting interest but now that they are often produced to a high quality and other postage stamps appear less frequently on the letters we receive they are worth a good look. This Arctic Tern, shown as a figurehead on the schooner “Tarnan”, was designed by R Jokiranta and issued by the Ĺland Islands on 29th October 1999. This bird breeds on Arctic shores in the northern summer and migrates to Antarctic waters in the northern winter.

Bob Wilks, Membership Secretary, reflects on two tiny but charismatic birds.

The Winter Wren also known as ‘Northern Wren’ or just ‘Wren’ in the British Isles. This widespread diminutive “little brown job” has appeared on 27 stamps, half of them from Britain & Ireland. It is widespread throughout most northern regions of the world from southern Europe to Norway and from California east to China. Most northerly specimens migrate south for the winter. Well known for its very loud song and to older members of the community for its appearance for many years on the now obsolete farthing coin.

The stunning Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds in the south eastern quarter of North America and winters in Mexico, central America and West Indies. Solitary except for mating, its wings beat at about 70 times per second. Not much bigger than a large moth, it always surprises on first sighting. Only the colourful male possesses the red throat and further identification aided by the males forked tail. Easily observable on a nectar feeder especially in autumn.

This feature was produced in response to a commission from ‘Stamp & Coin Mart’ magazine. An abridged version appeared in the December 2010 issue of that magazine and the editors gave permission for the original version to appear in FLIGHT (March 2011) and here on the website.
Roger Chapman
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