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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/273

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OUR SOUTHERN MOCKER.

imitator quickly appropriates, without even the grace of an acknowledgment.

The mocking bird, like all aristocrats, has no humility in his "make-up," and at times this disposition makes him most exasperatingly overbearing—as, for instance, when choice fruit is slowly ripening and the contest begins, to ascertain whether the landowner or Monsieur Mockey shall collect the harvest! Firmly believing himself to be lord of all, the premises resound with the queer, fierce scoldings which he bestows upon all usurpers, and our little gray-coated songster shows a pugnaciousness that is surprising. The sound of a mocker's scolding resembles the sudden splitting of long strips of heavy silk, and, as he has a habit of leaving his voice all along the path behind him as he flies angrily away, fretting and disputing at every step, the sound is so fierce, so long drawn out, and so far extending, that one involuntarily sniffs the air for the sulphurous odor which should, by right, accompany so savage a train of ugliness.

The housekeeping and family cares of a pair of mockers are wearing to themselves and to the entire neighborhood, and attractive as the bird may be in his adult years, as enfant terrible, in all the agonies of the preparatory and freshman year, he is a nuisance of the most tiresome type. As soon as the little ones are coaxed from the nest for their first outing the trouble begins, and the exertion necessary to find sufficient food to fill those never-satisfied, gasping, shrieking throats reduces both parent birds to gaunt and peevish little gray ghosts before the month is out. Indeed, the very sight of this practical, unpoetical side of real life would make many a student of the much-discussed question, "Is marriage a failure?" pause and cry out mentally, "Blessed be single bliss!"

After some four or five weeks of tribulation, these baby mockers—such as escape the sharp beak of the murderous shrike or butcher bird—enter the sophomore class, instinctively assume tall hats, and begin to feed themselves. In spite of the annoyance of their tiresome shrill piping, almost incessant from dawn until sunset, silent only from necessity when their throats are being stuffed with the hard-earned food, they are a funny sight as they sit perched in a row upon a fence-rail, with their tiny feathers fluffed out until the little fellows resemble soft, gray puffballs. There, occasionally flying to some neighboring low-growing shrub for a change, with wings fluttering unceasingly and with heads thrown back to give greater voice room, they will sit for hours, their shrieks arising to squeals of indescribable ecstasy when the old birds approach with the coveted worm. Should a cat chance to stray into their neighborhood, it is very comical to see them all shake, or rather shudder, their tiny wings violently, as they alter