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collect not only their food but the materials with which they construct their artless nest; such as dried grass, feathers, silk or linen threads, pieces of muslin, and the like: these are no doubt partly taken by force from the nests of sparrows, which are abundant in old towers and steeples, but also skimmed from off the surface of the ground; though the Swift is seldom observed, like the swallow or martin, to maintain a long low flight, but in general sails in upper air, and sometimes at a prodigious elevation. The nest is placed in a hole or crevice of the masonry, and thus in darkness the female lays her eggs, which are only two in number, white in colour, and oblong in shape, and rears with great assiduity her young.

“ When the hen,”

says White, “has sat hard all day, she rushes forth just as it is almost dark, and stretches and relieves her weary limbs, and snatches a scanty meal for a few minutes, and then returns to her duty of incubation.”

The active existence of the Swift is passed entirely in the air on the wing; it never settles, except during the few dark hours of a summer's night, and that only to repose. “ It is,” says the writer just referred to, most alert bird, and is on the wing in the height of summer at least sixteen hours. In the longest days, it does not withdraw to rest till a quarter before nine in the evening, being the latest of all birds. Just before they retire, whole groups of them assemble high in the air and squeak and shoot about with wonderful rapidity. But this bird is never so much alive as in sultry thundering weather, when it expresses great alacrity, and calls forth all its powers. In hot mornings several getting together in little parties dash round the steeples and churches, squeaking as they go in a

very clamorous manner. These by nice observers are supposed to be the males serenading their sitting hens; and not without reason, since they seldom squeak till they come close to the walls or eaves, and since those within utter at the same time a little inward note of complacency.”

Mr. White notices the pouch full of insects under the tongue, which when these birds are cruelly and wantonly shot is always discovered. We may add that it is the usual


way in which all the British Hirundines store up and carry food to their young. Let the thoughtless triflers who are so much in the habit of displaying their skill as marksmen against these useful unoffending birds reflect that most probably by every successful shot they have doomed a helpless brood to death from hunger, and that merely to gratify a weak and contemptible vanity. Were the mercy of God to man measured by the mercy of man to the creatures beneath him, his hopes would be faint indeed; but it is not so; He is “plenteous in mercy,” “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities;” but even for the vilest has opened a door of reconciliation through the sufferings and merits of his Son. And shall we, then, who have received mercy from our God, withhold it from the creatures He has made to testify of His glory and power ?

When the Swift leaves Europe, on the approach of autumn, (and indeed the same question applies to all our summer visitors,) where does it go ? The answer is, “ southwards.” Most probably it proceeds by stages, with intervals of longer or shorter duration, according as circumstances may invite or compel it to remain stationary, and thus traversing continental Europe passes into Africa across the straits of Gibraltar.

When the powers of flight with which this bird and the family to which it belongs are gifted are considered, migration to almost any distance is but an easy task. It is much more difficult to conceive how birds of less vigour of wing should perform similar journeys; but it should be remembered, that the journey is performed by degrees; and if we place a map of Europe before us we shall see how, without much risk, a bird of indifferent powers of flight may proceed from England to Africa. If we visit the southern coast during autumn, we shall be struck with the multitude of birds gradually collecting together, (such as wheatears, &c.,) and waiting for a favourable night, for night is the time of starting, in which to cross the channel. Arrived on the opposite coast, they either proceed along the western shores of France, or boldly sweep across the Bay of Biscay, and so pass into Spain, which they traverse from north to south, and then enter Africa by the straits of Gibraltar: at that place, and along the southern coast of Spain, are our summer birds of passage first observed ; and it is often several weeks before they have dispersed themselves over Europe ; there too are they last seen, ere they take their final adieu.

With the exception of the throat of the Swift, which is white, the rest of the plumage is of a sooty black. The wings are of enormous length, far exceeding the tip of the tail when closed; the latter is forked. The tarsi are very short, so that the bird cannot walk, but only crawl; the feet, however, have a strong and tenacious grasp

The proportion which the wings bear to the legs prevents the Swift from willingly settling on the ground, as it finds great difficulty in rising, and indeed cannot do so from a perfectly smooth surface until after many ineffectual trials. But this is no defect; the Swift was never meant to tread the earth ; its home is the sky; there it is in its congenial element, into which it launches itself as soon as morning breaks, and from which it retires unwillingly as evening darkens into night.

The Swallow, ( Hirundo rustica, Lin.) This welcome visitor is too well known to need much description. It arrives in our island at the early part of April ; but sometimes a few stragglers appear still earlier, before the spring has fairly opened, while the weather is yet severe, and the frost returns with the close of day: hence the proverb, “ One Swallow does not make a summer.”

The flight of this elegant bird is generally low, but distinguished by great rapidity and sudden turns and evolutions, executed as if by magic. Over fields and meadows, and the surface of pools and sheets of water, all the day may this fleet unwearied bird be seen skimming along, and describing in its oft-repeated circuit the most intricate

The surface of the water is indeed its delight; its insect food is there in great profusion; and it is beautiful to observe how dexterously it skims along, and with what address it dips and emerges, shaking the spray from its burnished plumage, as, hardly interrupted by the plunge, it continues its career. Thus it feeds, and drinks, and bathes upon the wing.


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The Swallow breeds twice a year, and constructs its nest of mud or clay, mixed with hair and straw; the clay is tempered with the saliva of the bird in order to make it tenacious and easy of being moulded ; and dissection proves the magnitude of the salivary glands for the purpose of elaborating this viscid fluid. The shell or crust of the nest thus composed is firmly fixed three or four feet down a chimney on the inside, and lined with fine grass and feathers. This is, however, by no means the invariable situation the Swallow chooses for her nest; she often builds against the rafters of barns or outhouses; and the writer knows that a pair yearly built in the rafters of a wheelwright's workshed, undisturbed by the din of the hammer or the grating of the saw. The propensity which these birds, in common with their family, exhibit to return to the same spot, and to build in the same chimney or barn year after

year, is one of the most curious parts of their history. During their sojourn in foreign climes, they forget not their old home, the spot where they were bred, the spot where they have reared their offspring; but as soon as their instinct warns them to retrace their pilgrimage, back they hasten, and, as experiments have repeatedly proved, the identical pair that built last summer in the barn again take up their old quarters, passing in and out by the same opening.

It is delightful to witness the care which the Swallow manifests towards her brood. When able to leave the nest, she leads them to the ridge of the housetop, where, settled in a row, and as yet unable to fly, she feeds them with great assiduity. In a day or two they become capable of flight, and then they follow their parents in all their evolutions, and are fed by them while on the wing; in a short time they commence an independent career.

The notes of the Swallow, though hurried and twittering, are very pleasing; and the more so, as they are associated in our minds with ideas of spring, and calm serenity, and rural pleasures: the time in which the bird pours forth its melody is chiefly at sunrise, when, in “ token of a goodly day,” his rays are bright and warm.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The Swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,”

unite alike to call man from his couch of rest, to praise “ the God of seasons as they roll.”

After the work of incubation, ere autumn sears the leaf, the Swallow prepares to depart. Multitudes from various quarters now congregate together, and perch at night in clusters on barns or the branches of trees, but especially among the reeds of marshes and fens, round which they may be observed wheeling and sinking and rising again, all the time twittering vociferously ere they finally settle. It was from this circumstance that some of the older naturalists supposed the Swallow to become torpid and remain submerged beneath the water during winter, and to issue forth from its liquid tenement on the return of spring; a theory utterly incompatible with reason and facts, and now universally discarded. The great body of these birds leave about the end of September, but a few stragglers remain till near the middle of October, before they follow their companions.

The Swallow is easily distinguished by its remarkably

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