Bird-Lore/Volume 01/No. 2/The Legend of the Salt

For Young Observers

Boys and girls who study birds are invited to send short accounts of their observations to
this Department.


The Legend of the Salt

BY FRANK M. CHAPMAN

A great many years ago a little boy, whom I knew very well, accepted the advice of an elder, and went out with a salt-cellar to make friends with the birds. But they would not have him, even with a ‘grain of salt,’ and it was not until he was considerably older that he learned he had begun his study of birds at the wrong end. That is, you know, the wrong end of the bird, for it is not a bird’s tail, but his bill, you must attend to if you would win his confidence and friendship.

So, instead of salt, use bread-crumbs, seeds, and other food, and some day you may have an experience which will surprise those people who would think it a very good joke indeed to send you out with a salt-cellar after birds. I have recently had an experience of this kind. It happened in the heart of a great city, surely the last place in the world where one would expect to find any birds, except House Sparrows. But Central Park, New York City, the place I refer to, contains several retired nooks where birds are often abundant. A place known as the 'Ramble' is a particularly good one for birds, and during the past winter, when it was not too cold, I have often gone from my study in the nearby Museum of Natural History to eat my luncheon with the birds in the Ramble. Many other bird-lovers have also visited the Park to study and feed the birds, and, as always happens when birds learn that they will not be harmed, they have become remarkably tame.

This is especially true of the Chickadees, who, under any circumstances, seem to have less fear of man than most birds. When I

Chickadee-Bird-Lore 1 2-0070.png

A BIRD IN THE HAND

Photographed from nature, by F. M. Chapman.

entered the Ramble they soon responded to an imitation of their plaintive call of two high, clearly whistled notes. And in a short time we became such good friends that I had only to hold out my hand with a nut in it to have one of them at once perch on a finger, look at me for a moment with an inquiring expression in his bright little eyes, then take the nut and fly off to a neighboring limb, where, holding it beneath his toes, he would hammer away at it with his bill, Blue Jay fashion.

One day I induced one of them to pose before my camera, and, as a result, I now have the pleasure of presenting you with his portrait, as an actual proof that nuts are much more effective than salt, in catching birds. So, after this, we won′t go out with salt-cellars, but with a supply of food: nor should we forget to take a “pocketful of patience,” which. Mrs. Wright says, is the salt of the bird-catching legend.