Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/66

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indeed the most persistent of workers, never relaxing his efforts to procure food, which he delivers to his mate or young. When they finally leave the nest the young are approximately eleven days old. During the first few days of their existence they sleep and receive food, but show little signs of activity; about the sixth day their feathers are of a considerable length and show the brown colour upon the back. When about eight days old they stretch themselves, flap their wings, and peck at the insects on their bodies, and a day later they are capable of making considerable noise when the parents bring food, and they also begin to make use of the quiet call note. On the tenth day they can be seen preening their feathers, pecking at the insects both upon their own bodies and upon the heads of one another. The stronger individuals now begin to make excursions from the nest, climbing about the surrounding reeds, only to return shortly, and by the eleventh day they are all, as a rule, sufficiently grown to be able to leave.

For the first few days after the young are hatched, brooding is of great importance, and it is consequently left in a great measure to the male to collect the necessary food; this he seeks for the most part in the reeds immediately surrounding the nest, that is to say, in his own particular territory, hunting amongst the tops or at the base, which, in the drier parts, is a fruitful source of supply. Or if in the vicinity of such trees as alders he resorts thereto in company with members of his own and other species, for the tops of such trees seem to be regarded as neutral ground. When he has thus collected a sufficient quantity of insects he returns to the nest, and upon his arrival the female raises her body while he places the food in an open gape; or sometimes he delivers the whole or part of it to her, and she may then divide it, swallowing part herself and giving part to the young; or, again, she may pass the whole of it on to her offspring. So that for the first few days he is often compelled to find food both for his mate and young. She, however, does not brood continuously, but leaves