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wild fruits. In summer insects are abundant, and especially large caterpillars; for which they resort to the hedges, bushes, and groves. The voices of most of the species are loud and shrill ; but many are admired songsters, and some, both in the old and in the New World, are among the most eminent performers in the woodland orchestra. “ The notes of some are pensive and melancholy, while others possess considerable compass of voice, accompanied with great melody. On this account they are universal favourites, and in all countries are listened to with pleasure, and with feelings which recal many recollections and associations of days which had long passed away." The flesh of the species is juicy and savoury; and as they are mostly of a size sufficient to make them worth capturing, and from their gregarious habits may often be taken in great numbers with little cost or labour, very many are killed for the table, particularly in the south of Europe, and in North America; in the latter the destruction of some of the kinds for human food is immense.
Of the seven species which, either permanently or occasionally, inhabit this country, we select for illustration the Song-Thrush or Throstle, or Mavis, (Turdus musicus, Linn.) which, though scarcely extending beyond the geographical limits of Europe, is found in every country within it, and is spread over the British Islands, during the whole year round. On the upper parts of the body, its hue is a yellowish brown, on the breast and sides, buff-orange, and on the belly, white ; the whole under parts marked with triangular spots of dark brown, running in chains.
The name Song-Thrush applied to this species, as by pre-eminence, no less than its scientific appellation, indicates the prevalent opinion of its powers as a musician, in a Family where nearly all the members are musical. Its notes, usually
uttered from the very summit of a tree, and day after day from the very same twig, are loud and clear, with a richness and fulness peculiar to the Thrushes. At morning and evening the woods resound with the melodious chaunt of this charming bird, frequently prolonged into the night; and if the weather be dull, the song is often continued with little intermission through the day. It has been remarked by more observers than one, that a bird's song has not only a character com
mon to the species, but that individual birds may often be distinguished for superior variety, power, and fulness in their notes; there being as much difference in the execution of birds of the same species, as between human voices singing the same air.
We have already mentioned the various fare on which the Thrushes regale; the species before us, while no less omnivorous, feeds with peculiar relish on shelled snails, and especially the common garden-snail, and the wood-snail (Helix hortensis, et H. nemoralis). He breaks the shell against a stone, and extracts the soft animal. Mr. Jesse, in his “ Gleanings," has the following observation:-“ Thrushes feed much on snails, looking for them in mossy banks. Having frequently observed some broken snail-shells near two projecting pebbles on a gravel-walk, which had a hollow between them, I endeavoured to discover the occasion of their being brought to that situation. At last, I saw a Thrush fly to the spot with a snail-shell in his mouth, which he placed between the two stones, and hammered at it with his beak till he had broken it, and was then able to feed on its contents. The bird must have discovered that he could not apply his beak with sufficient force to break the shell while it was rolling about, and he therefore found out and made use of a spot which would keep the shell in one position.”*
The nest of the Song-Thrush is an ingenious structure, for though somewhat rough and loose externally, within it presents the appearance of a smooth, hard, cup, quite water-tight. The author
* Jesse's “ Gleanings,” p. 36.
of “ The Architecture of Birds," thus describes its construction from personal observation :—“The interior of these nests is about the form and size of a large breakfast tea-cup, being as uniformly rounded, and, though not polished, almost as smooth. For this little cup the parent-birds lay a massive foundation of moss, chiefly the proliferous and the fern-leafed feather-moss (Hypnum proliferum et H. filicinum), or any other which is sufficiently tufted. As the structure advances, the tufts of moss are brought into a rounded wall by means of grass-stems, wheat-straw, or roots, which are twined with it and with one another
up to the brim of the cup, where a thicker band of the same materials is hooped round, like the mouth of a basket. The rounded form of this frame-work is produced by the bird measuring it, at every step of the process, with its body, particularly the part extending from the thigh to the chin ; and when any of the straws or other man terials will not readily conform to this guage, they are carefully glued into their proper place by means of saliva, a circumstance which may be seen in many parts of the same nest, if carefully examined. When the shell, or frame, as it may be called, is completed in this manner, the bird begins the interior masonry by spreading pellets of horse or cow-dung on the basket-work of moss and straw, beginning at the bottom, which is intended to be the thickest, and proceeding gradually from the central points. This material, however, is too dry to adhere of itself with sufficient firmness to the moss, and on this account it is always laid on with the saliva of the bird as a cement; yet it must require no small patience in
the little architect to lay it on so very smoothly, with no other implement besides its narrow pointed bill. It would indeed puzzle any of our best workmen to work so uniformly smooth with such a tool; but from the frame being nicely prepared, and by using only small pellets at a time, which are spread out with the upper part of the bill, the work is rendered somewhat easier.
“ This wall being finished, the birds employ for the inner coating little short slips of rotten wood, chiefly that of the willow; and these are firmly glued on with the same salivary cement, while they are bruised flat at the same time, so as to correspond with the smoothness of the surface over which they are laid. This final coating, however, is seldom extended so high as the first, and neither of them is carried quite to the brim of the nest; the birds thinking it enough to bring their masonry near to the twisted band of grass, which forms the mouth. The whole wall, when finished, is not much thicker than pasteboard, and though hard, tough, and water-tight, is more warm and comfortable than at first view might appear; and admirably calculated for protecting the eggs or young from the bleak winds which prevail in the early part of the spring, when the Song-Thrush breeds.”*
The nest of this bird is usually built in a thick bush, often an evergreen, as a holly, or in the midst of a clustering ivy; and these are selected, doubtless, because at the early season at which the Thrush builds, the deciduous trees and hedges have not yet put out their foliage, and consequently do not afford the needful concealment,
* Arch. of Birds, p. 125.