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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/616

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

face. In most cases the cliff above overhangs the site. At the end of February or the beginning of March the needful repairs to the nest are attended to, and the universal branch of evergreen is laid upon the nest, seemingly for any purpose save that of utility. This feature has been present in all the nests I have examined myself, or have had examined by others; it would seem to be employed as a badge of occupancy."

It is scarcely necessary to recall the skillful art with which the stickleback, which inhabits all our streams, plaits its nest and remains sentinel near it. (Fig. 4.) This fish has indeed monopolized our admiration, and is considered as the most skillful if not the only aquatic architect. Yet, besides those which I have already mentioned, there is one which equals the stickleback in the skill it displays in constructing a shelter for its spawn. This is the Gobius niger, met on our coasts, especially in the estuaries of rivers. The male interlaces and weaves the leaves of algæ, etc., and when he has finished his preparations he goes to seek females, and leads them one by one to lay in the retreat he has built. Then he remains in the neighborhood until the young come out, ready to throw himself furiously with his spines on any imprudent intruders.

Dwellings Woven with Greater Art.—Without doubt the class of birds furnishes the most expert artisans in the industry of the woven dwelling. In our own country we may see them seeking every day to right and left, carrying a morsel of straw, a pinch of moss, a hair from a horse's tail, or a tuft of wool caught in a bush. They intermingle these materials, making the framework of the construction with the coarser pieces, keeping those that are warmer and more delicate for the interior. These nests, attached to a fork in a branch or in a shrub, hidden in the depth of a thicket, are little masterpieces of skill and patience. To describe every form and every method would fill a volume. But I can not pass in silence those which reveal a science sure of itself, and which are not very inferior to what man can do in this line. The Lithuanian titmouse (Ægithalus pendulinus), whose works have been well described by Baldamus, lives in the marshes in the midst of reeds and willows in Poland, Galicia, and Hungary. Its nest, which resembles none met in our own country, is always suspended above the water, two or three metres above the surface, fixed to a willow branch.[1] All individuals do not exhibit the same skill in fabricating their dwelling; some are more careful and clever than others who are less experienced. Some, also, are obliged by circumstances to hasten their work. It frequently happens that magpies spoil, or even altogether destroy with blows


  1. Baldamus, Beiträge zur Oologie und Nidologie, 1853, pp. 419-445.