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ture as it does,—having a prominence that song-birds have more vivacity and power, we would give only to the bobolink or to and ours more melody and plaintiveness. the wood-thrush,—as witness his frequent In the song of the sky-lark, for instance, mention by Shakspere, or the following early there is little or no melody, but wonderful English ballad (in modern guise) :
strength and copiousness. It is a harsh
strain near at hand, but very taking when “ Summer is come in,
showered down from a height of several Loud sings the cuckoo;
hundred feet. Groweth seed and bloweth mead,
The Honorable Daines Barrington, the And springs the wood now.
eminent naturalist of the last century, to Sing, cuckoo; The ewe bleateth for her lamb,
whom White of Selborne addressed so many The cow loweth for her calf,
of his letters, gives a table of the comparaThe bullock start- tive merit of seventeen leading song-birds
of Europe, marking them under the heads
In the aggregate,
next in compass and execution, and lowest Mayest thou never in the other two qualities. A similar arcease.”
rangement and comparison of our songsters,
I think, would show an opposite result,III.
that is, a predominance of melody and
plaintiveness. The British wren, for inI THINK it will stance, stands in Barrington's table as destibe found, on the tute of both these qualities; the reed-sparrow whole, that the also. Our wren-songs, on the contrary, are European birds gushing and lyrical, and more or less meloare a more hardy dious,—that of the winter-wren being preand pugnacious eminently so. Our sparrows, too, all have race than ours, sweet, plaintive ditties, with but little sprightand that their liness or compass.
The English housesparrow has no song at all, but a harsh chatter that is unmatched among our birds. But what a hardy, prolific, pugnacious little wretch it is! They will maintain themselves where our birds will not live at all, and a pair of them will lie down in the gutter and fight like dogs. Compared with this miniature John Bull, the voice and manners of our common sparrow are gentle and retiring. The English sparrow is a street gamin, our bird a timid rustic.
The English robin-redbreast is tallied in this country by the bluebird, which was called by the early settlers of New England the blue-robin. The song of the British bird is bright and animated; that of our bird soft and plaintive.
The nightingale stands at the head in Barrington's table, and is but little short of perfect in all the qualities. We have no one bird that combines such strength vivacity with such melody. The mockingbird doubtless surpasses it in variety and profusion of notes; but falls short, I imagine, in sweetness and effectiveness. The nightingale will sometimes warble twenty seconds without pausing to breathe, and when the condition of the air is favorable its song fills
a space a mile in diameter. "wrack”; the
voice, then, seem to be charac- cock and cackle like a teristic of the English birds, and mild- hen; the flocks of starness and delicacy of ours. How much the lings make a noise like a thousands of years of contact with man, steam saw-mill; the whiteand familiarity with artificial sounds, over throat has a disagreeable there, has affected the bird voices is a note; the swift a discordant scream, and the question. Certain it is that their birds are bunting a harsh song. Among our songmuch more domestic than ours, and certain birds, on the contrary, it is rare to hear a it is that all purely wild sounds are plaintive harsh or displeasing voice. Even their notes and elusive. Even of the bark of the fox, the of anger and alarm are more or less soft. cry of the panther, the voice of the 'coon, or I would not imply that our birds are the the call and clang of wild geese and ducks, better songsters; but that their songs, if or the war-cry of savage tribes, is this true; briefer and feebler, are also more wild and but not true in the same sense of domes- plaintive,-in fact, that they are softerticated or semi-domesticated animals and voiced. The British birds, as I have stated, fowls. How different the voice of the com- are more domestic than ours; a much larger mon duck or goose from that of the wild number build about houses and towers and species, or of the tame dove from that of out-buildings. The titmouse with us is exthe turtle of the fields and groves. Where clusively a wood bird; but in Britain three could the English house-sparrow have ac- or four species of them resort more or less quired that unmusical voice but amid the to buildings in winter. Their red-start also sounds of hoofs and wheels, and the discords builds under the eaves of houses; their star
And the ordinary notes and ling in church steeples and in holes in walls; calls of so many of the British birds, accord- several thrushes resort to sheds to nest, and ing to their biographers, are harsh and jackdaws breed in the crannies of the old disagreeable ; even the nightingale has a gut- architecture, and this in a much milder clitural, ugly“ chuck.” The missel-thrush has mate than our own. a harsh scream; the jay a note like "wrack," They have in that country no birds that answer to our tiny lisping wood-warblers- | voices about them, why should they be silent genus Dendroica, nor to our vireos, Vireonida. too? The danger of betraying themselves On the other hand, they have a larger to their natural enemies would be less than number of field-birds and semi-game birds. | in our woods. They have several species like our robin; That their birds are more quarrelsome thrushes like him and some of them larger, and pugnacious than ours I think evident. as the ring-ouzel, the missel-thrush, the Our thrushes are especially mild-mannered, field-fare, the throstle, the red-wing, White's but the missel-thrush is very bold and saucy, thrush, the rock-thrush, the blackbird,- and has been known to fly in the face of these, besides several species in size and man when he has disturbed the sitting bird. habits more like our wood-thrush.
No jay, nor magpie nor crow can stand beSeveral species of European birds sing at fore him. The Welch call him master of the night besides the true nightingale—not fitfully coppice, and he welcomes a storm with such and as if in their dreams, as do a few of our a vigorous and hearty song, that in some birds, but continuously. They make a busi-countries he is known as storm-cock. He ness of it. The sedge-bird ceases at times sometimes kills the young of other birds as if from very weariness; but wake the and eats eggs,-a very unthrushlike trait
. bird up, says White, by throwing a stick or The white-throat sings with crest erect, and stone into the bushes, and away it goes attitudes of warning and defiance. The again in full song. We have but one real hooper is a great bully; so is the greennocturnal songster, and that is the mocking- finch. The wood-grouse—now extinct I bird. One can see how this habit might believe—has been known to attack people increase among the birds of a long-settled in the woods. And behold the grit and harcountry like England. With sounds and dihood of that little emigrant or exile to our
shores, the English sparrow. Our birds | character of a murderer under a form as have their tilts and spats also; but the only innocent as that of the robin. Feet, wings, really quarrelsome members in our family tail, color, head and general form and size are confined to the fly-catchers,—as the king- are all those of a song-bird-very much, bird, and great-crested fly-catcher. None of indeed, like that master songster, the mockour song-birds are bullies.
ing-bird—yet this bird is a regular BlueMany of our more vigorous species, as beard among its kind. Its only characterthe butcher-bird, the cross-bills, the pine istic feature is its beak, the upper mandible grosbeak, the red-pole, the Bohemian chat- having two sharp processes and a sharp, terer, the shore-lark, the long-spur, the hooked point. It cannot fly away to any snow-bunting, etc., are common to both distance with the bird it kills nor hold it in continents.
its claws to feed upon it. It usually impales Have the Old World creatures throughout its victim upon a thorn or thrusts it in the more pluck and hardihood than those that fork of a limb. For the most part, howare indigenous to this continent ? Behold ever, its food seems to consist of insectsthe common mouse, how he has followed spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, etc. It is man to this country and established himself the assassin of the small birds, whom it here against all opposition while the native often destroys in pure wantonness, or species is becoming more and more scarce! merely to sup on their brains, as the Gaucho And when has anybody seen the American slaughters a wild cow or bull for its tongue. rat, while his congener from across the It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Apparently water has overrun the continent! Both our its victims are unacquainted with its true rat and mouse or mice are timid, harmless, character and allow it to approach them, delicate creatures, compared with the cun- when the fatal blow is given. I saw an ning, filthy and prolific specimens that have illustration of this the other day. A large fought their way to us from the Old World. number of goldfinches in their full plumage There is little doubt also that the red fox together with snow-birds and sparrows, has been transplanted to this country from were feeding and chattering in some low Europe. He is certainly on the increase, bushes back of the barn. I had paused by and is fast running out the native gray the fence and was peeping through at them, species.
hoping to get a glimpse of that rare sparIndeed, I have thought that all forms of row, the white-crowned. Presently I heard life in the Old World were marked by greater a rustling among the dry leaves as if some prominence of type, or stronger character- larger bird was also among them. Then I istic and fundamental qualities, than with heard one of the goldfinches cry out as if us,-coarser and more hairy and virile, and in distress, when the whole flock of them therefore more powerful and lasting. This started up in alarm and, circling around, opinion is still subject to revision, but I find settled in the tops of the larger trees. I it easier to confirm it than to undermine it. continued my scrutiny of the bushes, when
I saw a large bird, with some object in its
beak, hopping along on a low branch near But let me change the strain and con- the ground. It disappeared from my sight template for a few moments this feathered for a few moments, then came up through bandit,—this bird with the mark of Cain the undergrowth into the top of a young upon him—(Collyris borealis), the great maple where some of the finches had shrike or butcher-bird. Usually, the charac- alighted, and I beheld the shrike. The ter of a bird of prey is well defined; there is little birds avoided him and flew about the no mistaking him. His claws, his beak, his tree, their pursuer following them with the head, his wings, in fact his whole build motions of his head and body as if he would point to the fact that he subsists upon live fain arrest them by his murderous gaze. creatures; he is armed to catch them and The birds did not utter the cry or make the to slay them. Every bird knows a hawk demonstration of alarm they usually do on and knows him from the start, and is on the the appearance of a hawk, but chirruped lookout for him. The hawk takes life, but and called and flew about in a half-wonderhe does it to maintain his own, and it is a ing, half-bewildered manner. As they flew public and universally known fact. Nature farther along the line of trees the shrike has sent him abroad in that character and followed them as if bent on further captures. has advised all creatures of it. Not so with I then made my way around to see what the shrike; here she has concealed the the shrike had caught and what he had
His fore paws
done with his prey. As I approached the
As I approached the adjoining the corn; then back again with bushes I saw the shrike hastening back. I his booty. One morning I paused to watch read his intentions at once. Seeing my him more at my leisure.
He came up out movements, he had returned for his game. of his retreat and cocked himself up to see But I was too quick for him, and he got up what my motions meant. out of the brush and flew away from the were clasped to his breast precisely as if locality. On some twigs in the thickest they had been hands, and the tips of the part of the bushes I found his victima fingers thrust into his vest pockets. Having goldfinch. It was not impaled upon a satisfied himself with reference to me, he thorn, but was carefully disposed upon some sped on toward the tree. He had nearly horizontal twigs—laid upon the shelf, so to reached it, when he turned tail and rushed speak. It was as warm as in life and its for his hole with the greatest precipitation. plumage was unruffled. On examining it As he neared it, I saw some bluish object in I found a large bruise or break in the skin the air closing in upon him with the speed
on the back of of an arrow, and, as he vanished within, a the neck at the shrike brought up in front of the spot, and base of the skull. with spread wings and tail stood hovering a Here the bandit moment, and, looking in, then turned and
went away. Apparently it was a narrow escape for the chipmunk, and, I venture to say, he stole no more corn that morning
He is called a butcher from his habit of sticking his meat upon hooks and points ; shrike is said to catch mice, but it is not further than that, because he devours but known to attack squirrels. He certainly a trifle of what he slays.
could not have strangled the chipmunk, and A few days before, I had witnessed another I am curious to know what would have been little scene in which the shrike was the chief the result had he overtaken him. Probably actor. A chipmunk had his den in the side it was only a kind of brag on the part of the of the terrace above the garden, and spent bird,-a bold dash where no risk was run. the mornings laying in a store of corn which He simulated the hawk, the squirrel's real he stole from Manning's field, ten or twelve enemy, and no doubt enjoyed the joke. rods away. In traversing about half this On another occasion, as I was riding distance, the little poacher was exposed ; along a mountain road early in April, a bird the first cover going from his den was a started from the fence where I was passing, large maple, where he always brought up and flew heavily to the branch of a near and took a survey of the scene. I would apple-tree. It proved to be a shrike with a see him spinning along toward the maple, small bird in his beak. He thrust his victhen from it by an easy stage to the fence tim into a fork of a branch, then wiped his