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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/384

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370
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

dees peeping about the tree trunks asking me to please give them more peanuts. While this was going on I heard a hoarse "Quank, quank, quank!" that sounded very near, and on looking up saw a white-breasted nuthatch, a blue-gray bird with a very distinct black band on the top of his head that extends back across his shoulders. His short tail and legs make him look very funny when on the ground. On a tree, however, he is a regular circus, walking head up or head down on the limbs and trunk, and now and then doing the giant swing, completely circling some twig, just to show what he can do when he tries. He was attracted by the noise and conduct of the chickadees, his winter companions, and was calling for something for himself. His long, slim bill is not made for cracking things as the sparrows can with their short, strong bills, but he punches holes in them very much as the woodpeckers do. When he came down to the path and picked up a peanut he flew off to a near-by tree and hunted up and down until he found a place in the bark where he could wedge the nut in and then proceeded to hatch or crack it into bits to suit his taste. A brown creeper was walking up his tree a short distance away very much as the nuthatch does, poking his long, curved bill into the bark, though I did not see him for some time, as his brown and gray feathers were so like the color of the tree on which he walked. He circles round the trunk or limb, and you have to keep a sharp lookout to get more than an occasional rapid glance at him. A loud rapping and a noise that sounded a good deal like a giggle attracted my attention to a downy black-and-white woodpecker, with a bright-red spot on the back of his head. He was hammering away with all his might, and the limb on which he hung, back down, fairly rattled as he drove his chisel-like bill into the wood. Another woodpecker, the big and beautifully marked flicker, with his brown back barred with black, his spotted breast with its big black crescent and the red band on the back of his head, stopped for a minute or two on a tree a hundred feet away. His cry of alarm rang out shrilly as he flew away. All of these birds are handsomely marked, though none of them compare, in the mere matter of color, with some of the many beautiful summer species. There was one bird there that day, though, whose brilliant plumage and altogether tropical aspect comes as a great surprise to the unaccustomed visitor to the park in winter. As he lighted on the snow-covered ground among a group of feeding whitethroats the cardinal, with his splendid crest, stood out like a jet of flame, and the black spot at the base of his bill only made the rest of him seem the brighter. Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal spend their winters regularly in Central Park, and I hear