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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/697

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LAWS OF GOVERNMENT AMONG LOWER ANIMALS.

completed nest and try to remove some of the sticks. But the inmate, reaching over the edge, gave the thief a good peck, whereupon he at once new away without attempting to defend himself or to retaliate. Similar cases may be witnessed among other species of birds which live in communities.

It may here be pertinently asked whether the laws of the lower animals protect persons as well as property, or whether they resemble the criminal code of England, which imprisons the thief and dismisses the ruffian with a paltry fineā€”in fact, a retrospective license. In reply, I must point to the "rogue elephants" of India and Ceylon, and to the outlawed buffaloes of South Africa. The gratuitous malignity of these outlaws has been noted by many travelers, and it has been ascribed to their expulsion from the herd. This is confounding cause with effect: they are banished for being quarrelsome and for repeated breaches of the peace.

But to return to the rookery: "crow courts," or crow parliaments" as they are locally called, have been observed in various districts. These are prolonged meetings in which, after much noise, sometimes proceeding from one bird, sometimes from a small number, and then again from the general assembly, a single rook is attacked by the community and put to death. These executions do not seem to be connected with any inroad upon property, since they are not confined to the nesting season, the great time for robberies. There is hence reason to suspect that we have here proceedings for offenses against the person, or against the general well-being of rookdom.

In districts where carrion crows abound, similar trials and executions have also been observed among these bold marauders.

Among rooks, further, laws of a different kind may be traced, the exact purport of which has not been discovered, but which evidently subserve a public purpose rather than the mere regulation of private disputes. For instance, in a grove tenanted by a flourishing rookery, one particular tree, seemingly eligible enough, was never selected for nest-building purposes. If a pair of young birds made the attempt, they were prevented and the foundations of their house regularly removed until they conformed to the custom of their fellow-citizens and built on some authorized tree. In this one case a clew to the proceedings was furnished by accident. A violent storm suddenly overthrew the tree, which, though apparently sound and vigorous, was inwardly decayed beneath the surface of the ground. How the rooks discovered the untrustworthy condition of the tree is a question interesting, indeed, but beside our purpose.

The existence of such laws proves that the rooks have made some advances in civilization, and deem it a duty to protect the