Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/340

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As a household pet the mocking bird is simply delightful. If taken young and reared in a cage he becomes very tame. He will fly to your knee, eat from your fingers, perch on top of your head, jump down to your shoulder, pull your whiskers, if you have whiskers, give you little love taps on your cheek, and in a hundred cunning ways evince his sociable and friendly disposition. He loves to get out of his cage and fly about the room, and if there are no cats about seldom attempts to fly out of the window. One caution, however, is necessary. A bit of cloth or a thread is a great find for a mocking bird. He will spread out his wings, flirt his tail, cock his eye, twist and turn his quick little head, and shrug his shoulders in a comical pantomime of astonishment. Then he will dart to some desk top or chair round, and the first you know he is swallowing it. A few such experiences are disastrous.

In New York there is one of these wonderfully gifted little pets named Peter. He is just four months from the nest, and was taken from Florida with several others before the stringent laws protecting song birds were promulgated. He has already his Maltese coat and new tail, and is in every respect a precocious bird, not only equaling in song many a full-grown singer, but rivaling the best of them in amusing antics and in genuine intelligence. He takes the end of a piece of thread tied to a spool, jumps over his perch to the floor, and keeps this up till he has wound all of the thread on the perch, and has the spool suspended in the air. Then that game is done. He next takes a corner of the clean white paper that is put into his cage to cover the floor every morning after his bath, and with his beak persistently rolls it up like a carpet, and leaves it at one end of his cage. He opens the latch of his door and walks out whenever he pleases.

Here in Orlando, Florida, the mocking birds are far the most numerous birds. They are now protected by the most stringent laws. To kill, catch, or even keep one in a cage, is an offense punishable by heavy fine and possible imprisonment. In a short space of time the result is that they have multiplied wonderfully, and are just about as tame as chickens. They frequently fly into the kitchen, and have been known sometimes voluntarily to enter a cage in pursuit of food.

One of the most interesting traits of these birds is their fearlessness. In defense of their supposed rights, and especially in protecting their young, they will fight anything from a dog to an elephant. One reason probably why the English sparrow has never obtained much of a foothold in the South is because some mocking-bird congress has passed "bird immigration laws," which positively shut out this pestilent and aggressive European intruder. "Bob whites,"