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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/154

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Fringilla melodia, Wils.

PLATE XXV. Male and Female.

The Song Sparrow is one of the most abundant of its tribe in Louisiana, during winter. This abundance is easily accounted for by the circumstance that it rears three broods in the year:— six, five, and three young at each time, making fourteen per annum from a single pair. Supposing a couple to live in health, and enjoy the comforts necessary for the bringing up of their young families, for a period of only ten years, which is a moderate estimate for birds of this class, you will readily conceive how a whole flock of Song Sparrows may in a very short time be produced by them.

Among the many desiderata connected with the study of nature, there is one which, long felt by me, is not less so at the present moment. I have never been able to conceive why a bird which produces more than one brood in a season, should abandon its first nest to construct a new one, as is the case with the present species; while other birds, such as the Ospreys, and various species of Swallows, rear many broods in the first nest which they have made, and to which they return, after their long annual migrations, to repair it, and render it fit for the habitation of the young brood. There is another fact which renders the question still more difficult to be solved. I have generally found the nests of this Sparrow cleaner and more perfect after the brood raised in them have made their departure, than the nests of the other species of birds mentioned above are on such occasions; a circumstance which would render it unnecessary for the Song Sparrow to repair its nest. You are aware of the cleanliness of birds with respect to their nests during the whole period occupied in rearing their young. You know that the parents remove the excrements to a distance from them, so long as these excrements are contained in a filmy kind of substance, of which the old bird lays hold with its bill for that express purpose, frequently carrying them off to a distance of forty or fifty yards, or even more. Well, the Song Sparrow is among the cleanest of the clean. I have often watched the young birds leaving the nest; and after their departure, have found it as