Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/51

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
41
THE BIRDS OF THE ADIRONDACKS.

nest begins. The robin lays four eggs, and frequently raises three broods of young in a season, never, so far as I know, using the same site or the same nest twice in one season, or more certainly never using the same nest or site for two consecutive broods. Year after year the same corner in the porch or the same crotch in the apple tree will be used as a nesting place by the robin, and we have all wondered if the same robins came back every year, or if the young birds returned and used the nest in which they were hatched. The birds look and act wonderfully familiar when the old site is occupied, and many people are sure they remember the birds from the year preceding. I have never seen a statement from any ornithologist throwing light on this interesting question, and I twice made an attempt, without success, to obtain the information for myself.

All thrushes except the robin are mottled on the breast, and the breast of the young robin is mottled for the first season, so the young can be readily told from the old birds. The robin is a great lover of angleworms. The young follow the mother while she gathers worms to feed them, and about the time for weaning the young birds I have frequently seen the mother bird pick up straws and sticks and offer them to her young instead of food. This may be done to discourage them from following her any longer, but I think it is more probably caused by a return of the nest-building instinct to the mother.

Some years ago I put a small bird box on a post in our yard, which was soon occupied by a pair of summer wrens, and all went nicely with them until a pair of English sparrows concluded to drive the wrens away and take the house for themselves, and for three or four days the wrens and sparrows were constantly fighting, but the wrens finally won and held possession of the house, although at a great sacrifice, for after the fight was over I raised the lid of the box and found the young birds dead, the fight evidently taking so much of the time and attention of the old birds that they allowed their young to starve. I removed the dead birds, and in a short time the wrens rebuilt the nest, and this time they closed the hole for entrance until it was scarcely large enough to admit my thumb.

The box was occupied by wrens for several years, but the entrance was never closed afterward, and I kept the sparrows from any further interference. In this connection I would say that, at least so far as the English sparrow is concerned, the male selects the site for the nest. When I shot the female the male soon returned with another mate, but when I shot the male the female did not return. The wren builds a very coarse nest, and fills the