In her classic account of English rural life, Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson records attitudes to wild birds towards the end of the 19th century. At a time when egg collecting was a respectable hobby, country boys would engage in wholesale nest robbing and hunting of small birds. The families were chronically poor, and casting a net over a hedge of roosting sparrows would secure a meal:
One boy would often bring home as many as twenty sparrows, which his mother would pluck and make into a pudding. A small number of birds, or a single bird, would be toasted in front of the fire.
But Thompson notes that the birds in this popular rhyme were left alone: Read the rest of this entry