AN OBSERVATIONAL DIARY OF THE HABITS—
MOSTLY DOMESTIC—OF THE GREAT CRESTED
GREBE (PODICIPES CRISTATUS), AND OF THE
PEEWIT (VANELLUS VULGARIS), WITH SOME
By Edmund Selous.
(Concluded from vol. v. p. 462.)
Coming, now, to my observations on the Peewit (which have, as I suppose, a bearing upon the foregoing remarks), I will premise by saying that anyone who watches these birds during the early spring will see them going through some curious actions on the ground, which I term "rolling," for want of a better word. A bird thus acting presses its breast into the soil, and, by moving from side to side, or turning upon it a little as on a pivot, makes a round cup of just such a nature as—lined with grass or lichen—the eggs, when found, are seen to repose in. Of this fact, and also that many such cups are made by the same bird—who is, in fact, always thus acting—keepers, or some of them, are aware. Whether anybody else is, I do not know, but I have never in any ornithological work, learned or popular, met with any kind of reference to this habit, which may yet, as I believe, throw light upon the origin of nest-building. What is this rolling? What is its essential character and meaning? I can only quote from my notes which were taken at the time, and so, at least, give a minute, and, I trust, accurate description of what I actually saw.
March 8th.—A Peewit rolling, his breast on the ground, his tail up and moving from side to side in a manner suggestive of the generative organs being in activity. But neither this nor the actual roll is so pronounced as I have seen it. Having acted thus for a short while, he rises and runs forward in a series of very short little precise steps, which have a peculiar character about them. His whole pose and attitude is, also, peculiar.