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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/140

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MOCKING BIRD.

the old males are heard singing with as much spirit as during the spring or summer, while the younger birds are busily engaged in practising, preparatory to the love season. They seldom resort to the interior of the forest either during the day or by night, but usually roost among the foliage of evergreens, in the immediate vicinity of houses in Louisiana, although in the Eastern States they prefer low fir trees.

The flight of the Mocking Bird is performed by short jerks of the body and wings, at every one of which a strong twitching motion of the tail is perceived. This motion is still more apparent while the bird is walking, when it opens its tail like a fan and instantly closes it again. The common cry or call of this bird is a very mournful note, resembling that uttered on similar occasions by its first cousin the Turdus rufus, or, as it is commonly called, the "French Mocking Bird." When travelling, this flight is only a little prolonged, as the bird goes from tree to tree, or at most across a field, scarcely, if ever, rising higher than the top of the forest. During this migration, it generally resorts to the highest parts of the woods near water-courses, utters its usual mournful note, and roosts in these places. It travels mostly by day.

Few hawks attack the Mocking Birds, as on their approach, however sudden it may be, they are always ready not only to defend themselves vigorously and with undaunted courage, but to meet the aggressor half way, and force him to abandon his intention. The only hawk that occasionally surprises it is the Falco Stanleii, which flies low with great swiftness, and carries the bird off without any apparent stoppage. Should it happen that the ruffian misses his prey, the Mocking Bird in turn becomes the assailant, and pursues the Hawk with great courage, calling in the mean time all the birds of its species to its assistance; and although it cannot overtake the marauder, the alarm created by their cries, which are propagated in succession among all the birds in the vicinity, like the watchwords of sentinels on duty, prevents him from succeeding in his attempts.

The musical powers of this bird have often been taken notice of by European naturalists, and persons who find pleasure in listening to the song of different birds whilst in confinement or at large. Some of these persons have described the notes of the Nightingale as occasionally fully equal to those of our bird. I have frequently heard both species in confinement, and in the wild state, and without prejudice, have no hesitation in pronouncing the notes of the European Philomel equal to those of a