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“ Since the cuckoo builds not for himself,
Remain in't as thou may'st.”—SHAKSPERE.
young cuckoos can be reared. Whilst the aliment upon which the blackbird and the thrush usually subsist is not proper, and in some respects would be injurious.
825. Why does the cuckoo deposit her eggs in the nests of other birds with her foot ?
Because if the cuckoo sat upon the adopted nest while laying the egg, the weight of its body would derange the nest, and cause it to be forsaken ; thus defeating one of the ends of Providence.
826. Why do injuries so frequently occur to the eggs of those birds in whose nests cuckoos lay?
These accidents are chiefly owing to the setting bird attempting to accommodate herself to eggs of different sizes.
If comparatively large and small eggs are placed in the same nest, some of the smaller ones are generally thrown out, or rendered addle, by the hen bird endeavouring to arrange them so that she may distribute nearly an equal degree of warmth and pressure to all : but the larger ones, which chiefly sustain her weight, and consequently are less liable to be moved, usually remain uninjured.
“Harsh your lorp-notes thrill,
When the eggs of birds are exchanged for others of a uniform magnitude, or provided the difference is not so great as to occasion them to be forsaken, no disturbance ensues, whatever their colour may be, the change either not being perceived, or totally disregarded.
827. Why do birds of the cuckoo kind perch upon the backs of oxen while grazing ?
Many of them eat the insects which infest cattle ; and the latter are so well aware of the fact, as well as grateful for it, that they frequently lie down, in order that the bird may devour its prey undisturbed.
828. Why is the bird known as the wry-neck so called ?
Because it has a habit of moving its head in various directions, not unlike a snake ; this is especially the case when discovered in its nest, upon which occasions it writhes its head quickly from shoulder to shoulder, with strange and apparently painful contortions.
829. Why are love-birds so named ?
From the singular degree of attachment to each other which they manifest ; sitting closely side by side caressing each other, arranging each other's plumage, and exhibiting various marks of mutual regard.
830. Why is the oren bird so designated ? From the singular oven-like form of its nest.
831. It is a native of South America, but is occasionally found in Southern Europe. The nest, whence it takes its name, is placed in the most exposed situations, as the top of a post, a bare rock, or a cactus. It is comiposed of mud and bits of straw, and has strong, thick walls : in shape it precisely resembles an oven, or a depressed bee-hive. The opening is large and arched, and directly in front. Within the nest there is a partition which reaches nearly to the roof : thus forming a passage, or anti-chamber, to the true nest.
“ Whilst wheeling round in airy wanton flights,
The glossy pigeons chase their sportive loves."-DO DSLEY.
832. Why is the order gyratores thus designated ?
From the word gyratio, a “turning” or “wheeling round.” It refers to the ordinary mode of flight displayed by the birds included in the order.
833. Why has the pigeon tribe about the breast?
a puffed-out appearance
This arises from the presence of its unusually large crop; an organ which is capable of
some of the uses of the paps in mammalia.
834. By what remarkable process are the young pigeons and other birds of the dove-kind fed by their parents ?
The parents of the dove kind support their young with the curd-like contents of their crops, as the mammalia do with milk in the early stages of the existence of their offspring.
$35. This is performed by the faculty which the parent birds possess of throwing op the contents of their crops, which assume the appearance of a granulated white curd. It would appear that the young pigeon is fed for a little time with this curd-like substance only, for about the third day some of the common food is found mingled with it. As the pigeon grows older, the proportion of common food is increased; so that, by the time it is seven, eight, or nine days old, the secretion of the curd ceases in the old bird, and of course no more will be found in the crop of the young. It is a curious fact, that the parent pigeon has, at first, a power to throw up this curd without any mixture of common food, although, afterwards, both are thrown up according to the proportion required for the young ones.
No young birds are in so forlorn a state as ġoung pigeons, if the parents are killed before the young can provide for themselves. Birds of other species, stimulated by the cries of the helpless young which have been deprived of parental aid, can and do assist the little starvelings; but none except an old pigeon, with its crop in a proper state, can save the life of a nestling dove,
836. Why is the plumage of the rock pigeon very close and compact ?
They are thus furnished to enable them to encounter the severe
“ One silent eve I wander'd late,
And heard the voice of love;
And soothed the listening dove." —COWPER.
storms which they often experience, at those places where they frequent.
837. It does not appear that there is, generally speaking, much food for them in the close vicinity of the rocks—their natural habitations. But, in order to keep up the powerful and long-continued muscular action which they must exert, they require a high degree of action in the vital system, and consequently a copious and frequent supply of food. In order to obtain this, they must range about in all weathers, and consequently they require to be warmly as well compactly clothed.
838. Why is the plumage of the pigeon tribe of a sombre hue ?
Their food consists chiefly of grain, pulse, acorns, beech-nuts, and other seeds, and occasionally the tender shoots of particular plants. These they gather on the ground, and hence the colour of their plumage is so ordered as not to be readily distinguishable from the vegetation among which they feed.
839. The structure of the pigeon tribe manifestly displays the unerring provision of Nature. Their bills are slender, though still of average strength, for they have no nuts or fruits to break. Their tails are generally square, and their wings strong and pointed, thus fitting them for long and ardụous flights.
840. Why does the rock pigeon prefer, among artificial pigeon-houses, one that has been whitewashed ?
There may be two reasons for this : first, the whitened pigeonhouse is a more conspicuous object than the other; and secondly, a considerable quantity of carbonate of lime may be required for the eggs of the female, which, though only two in each batch, are often numerous in the course of the year. This the bird obtains by pecking at the lime.
841. Why is the rock pigeon, which never feeds upon fish, seen to walk and pick upon the sea-beach ?
Probably for the purpose of taking into its crop bits of shell and small stones, as means towards the digestion of its food.
“I have heard her with sweetness unfold
How that pity was due to a dove;
And she called it the sister of love."-SAEXSTONE.
842. Why does the ringdove feed greedily, and get very fat, in the autumn months ?
In order to be better prepared for enduring the severer and less abundant months of winter.
843. In autumn the ring pigeons begin to associate in flocks. At first they feed upon the fruits of forest trees, and particularly the beech-mast, which at that time is strewed upon the ground. The grains and secds left, and small fallen fruits, are their first subsistence; but, as they are ravenous feeders, they, if in great numbers, speedily exhaust these. After this, they migrate farther south, and attack the more succulent green leaves which remain in the fields—such as those of field-greens, turnips, and mangold-wurtzel.
844. Why does the dove tribe seek the vicinity of man, so as to prefer an artificial pigeon-house to its native haunts in rocks, &c.
The feet of the dove, or common pigeon, are walking feet, with very little of the perching character. The external and internal front toes are of equal length, the hind toe is short, and the claws are not hooked, as in the decided perchers, but so placed as that the foot may be wholly planted upon the ground. Hence a regularly formed ground may have a charm for the pigeon, which its wild rocks cannot supply.
845. Why are the notes of the wood-pigeon commonly associated with gentleness and love ?