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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/613

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INDUSTRIES OF ANIMALS.

Here are some of the more curious practices followed in such cases.

Sometimes it is a question of carrying off a round fruit which offers no prominence to take hold of. The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) of North America is very greedy with regard to apples, and feeds on them as well as on cherries. It takes him a considerable time to consume an apple, and as he is well aware of the danger he runs by prolonging his stay in an orchard, he wishes to carry away his booty to a safe and sheltered spot. He vigorously plunges his open beak into the apple; the two mandibles enter separately, and the fruit is well fixed; he detaches it and flies away to the chosen retreat.

The combination is complicated, and approaches more nearly the methods employed by man, when the animal makes use of a foreign body, as a tool or as a fulcrum, to achieve his objects. A snake is very embarrassed when he has swallowed an entire egg with the shell; he can not digest it in that condition, and the muscles of his stomach are not strong enough to break it. The snake often finds himself in this condition, and is then accustomed either

PSM V44 D613 The lanius stocking its larder.jpg
Fig. 3.—The Lanius stocking its Larder.

to strike his body against hard objects or to coil himself around them until he has broken the envelope of the egg he contains.

Neither the beak nor the claws of the shrike or butcher bird (Lanius excubitor) are strong enough to enable him to tear his prey easily. When he is not too driven by hunger he installs himself in a comfortable fashion for this carving process, places on a thorn or on a pointed branch the victim he has made, and when it is thus fixed easily devours it in threads.