Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/23

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which I shall presently give. I am inclined to think that the possession of a territory is of greater importance to the male, and is the direct cause of these struggles, which are consequently presented to us in a somewhat different light. I well remember some years ago in the month of March being attracted by piteous cries which were proceeding from some willows that grew in an old bed of the River Severn. Quietly approaching the spot. I saw a male Blackbird (Turdus merula) hopping about in front of a small clump of dead vegetation, into the middle of which he was at short intervals angrily darting, and from which, as he thus darted forward, there arose the cries referred to. After watching the proceedings for a short time. I examined the dead vegetation and there found another male Blackbird crouching beneath the dead grass, in such a state of exhaustion as to be unable to stand, but only to roll from side to side, the feathers torn from its head, and traces of blood showing how severe a punishment had been administered. Raising it carefully from the ground. I removed it some distance away, hoping that it might eventually recover. Every spring the male Blackbirds can thus be seen engaged in desperate struggles. In like manner male Song Thrushes pursue and fight with one another, bunches of feathers being sometimes left upon the scene of the conflict. Male Chaffinches (Fringilla cœlebs) fight in mid-air and upon the ground. The males of the Coot (Fulica atra), and Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), frequently struggle amongst themselves, the latter both upon water and land. How pugnacious the game birds become at this season is well known. I have seen one cock Pheasant pursuing another in a grass meadow for twenty minutes or more without a momentary pause. But that such small and delicate little birds as the males of the Long-tailed Tit (Acredula cauclata) should engage in violent contests amongst themselves will scarcely be believed; nevertheless it is the case. Walking in the month of April along a country road. I noticed something fluttering a little distance ahead of me, and upon reaching the spot found two