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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/523

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COW-PEN BIRD.

to resume their repose. At daybreak, they return to the cultivated parts of the country to search for food. In Georgia and South Carolina, they occur in great abundance every winter. Some also spend the winter in Virginia and Maryland, as well as in the States of Kentucky and Indiana, where I have observed them lingering about farm-houses and cow-pens during severe weather. Great flocks, however, retire much farther south. I have seen many of these birds passing high in the air, at mid-day, in the month of October, pursuing their course steadily, as if bent upon a long journey.

The Cow-pen Bird, after passing the winter in the Southern States, or in regions nearer the equator, makes its appearance in the Middle States about the end of March or beginning of April, arriving in small parties. Their flight is performed chiefly under night; and during the day they are seen resting on the trees, or frequenting the banks of streams in quest of food. They continue to be seen in small flocks until the beginning of June, when they disappear, the various flocks having successively passed northward.

Its flight is similar to that of the Redwing, with which it frequently associates in its rambles. During spring and summer it feeds on insects, larvæ and worms, frequenting the cornfields, meadows and open places.

The males and females arrive together; but contrary to the general practice among the feathered tribes, these birds do not pair. The males seem to regard the females with little interest. The numberless acts of endearment, the many carrollings, joyous flights, and bursts of ecstatic feeling, which other birds display at the commencement of the breeding season, are entirely dispensed with. When a particular intimacy takes place between two individuals of different sexes, it soon ceases, and the same individuals mate with others. The sexual attachment intended for the benefit of the young brood does not take place, because in this species the young are not to be reared by their parents, but to be left to the care of birds of other kinds. The Cow-pen Buntings, in fact, like some unnatural parents of our own race, send out their progeny to be nursed.

When the female is about to deposit her eggs, she is observed to leave her companions, and perch upon a tree or fence, assuming an appearance of uneasiness. Her object is to observe other birds while engaged in constructing their nests. Should she not from this position discover a nest, she moves off and flies from tree to tree, until at length, having found a