Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/65

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

REED WARBLER

emotional periods, is as nothing when compared with that of many others at corresponding periods. I cut away the reeds, and even make a clear opening of some few feet in length so as to be able to have the nest in full view, and the female takes but little notice, hesitating only so long as there is any appreciable movement, but if I remain motionless for a few minutes she quietly approaches the nest and attends to the young. Testing her patience still further. I take up a young one, hold it in my hand, and remain with it near the nest, but still she does not respond actively after the manner of the Blackcap or Whitethroat, travelling only from reed to reed whilst uttering her quiet purring note. On referring to my notes taken while watching the nests of various pairs during the last few years. I have been astonished to find that in no single instance is there any record of the male brooding the young. This fact "seems so curious that I am almost persuaded that it is an oversight on my part; yet the notes seem to accurately record the actions of the male at the time. It is the more curious when we remember that he takes his share in keeping the eggs at the proper temperature before incubation commences, and that he also shares the duties of incubation equally with the female. If it is really the case, it is somewhat difficult to explain, for if competent to incubate, surely he must be competent to brood, unless there is a difference in the bodily temperature of the sexes; possibly the parental instinct is stronger in the female than in the male.

Brooding occupies the greater part of the time of the female, and is clearly the more important consideration in the early stages of the growth of the offspring, since warmth and sleep, the latter dependent upon the former, are then the necessities of life, food supply being of less importance. But correspondingly with their growth these conditions become gradually reversed until food supply is the greater necessity and warmth of minor importance, a stage which is reached when their bodies are more or less covered with feathers. During these few days the male is by no means idle; he is

47