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W HO does not love birds ? Who does not grieve when they leave us in
autumn, with the bright days of summer, and who does not welcome them back as dear friends when they return to us again from their winter wanderings in the sunnier South? Who has not enjoyed the familiar song of the Bluebird or the first whistle of our Robin, when in early March they come once more to tell us that winter has gone and spring is coming ? Who has not learned to love the gentle little Chipping Sparrow, as he picks up the crumbs at our feet? Or who has failed to admire the bright-colored Baltimore Oriole, as he weaves his curiously-hanging nest over our heads, so safe from snakes or prowling cats ? Certainly not any of our young folks who read the pages of their namesake, if they have ever been privileged to live under the open sky of the country in the bright days of spring and early summer.
Among the many feathered visitors who come back to us in spring, to make their home among us during the few months of summer, there is one bird — not beautiful, for he is dressed from head to tail in dark and sombre slate-color — not always seemingly amiable, for when he thinks you are imposing upon him he will scold you in a very earnest manner — who deserves to be a great favorite with all. He cannot fail to be one when you appreciate all his good qualities. He is a beautiful singer, a wonderful mimic, a confiding and trusting companion when you treat him well, becomes very fond of your company if you deserve it, watches over your fruit-trees, and kills the insects that would injure or destroy them or their fruit. If now and then he does help himself to a nice strawberry, or claims as his share your earliest cherry, be sure he has well earned them. Besides, he is never selfish or greedy. Ten to one he only takes them for his dear little children. Let us then bid him take them, and let us ever extend a warm and hearty welcome to the Cat-bird. Let us give our confiding, social little friend a welcome all the more cordial because he bas the great misfortune of a bad name. Because he is called a Cat-bird he is not so popular as he should be. He is disliked by ignorant people, who do not appreciate his good qualities. He is too often persecuted by thoughtless boys and ungrateful men, who, unmindful of the good he is ever doing in the world, hate him for no good reason, are deaf to his varied song, and heed not his affectionate disposition or his many social virtues.
The Cat-bird is found, in certain seasons, all over North America, from Florida to Canada, and from the Atlantic coast to the Territories of Utah and Washington. He makes his first appearance in spring about the time the pear-trees are in blossom, which, near Boston, varies from the 5th to the 15th of May. He leaves us in the early autumn, towards the latter part of September.
From his first coming almost to his departure, he makes the air about us vocal with his quaint and charming melodies. These are made all the more attractive to us by being so amusingly interspersed with notes mimicked from the songs of other birds. Whether natural or copied, the song of the Catbird is always very varied, attractive, and beautiful.
The Cat-bird is never long in ascertaining where he is a welcome visitor, and there he at once makes himself perfectly at home. You may see him at all times, for he is ever in motion. As soon as he satisfies himself that you are his friend, he will approach you with a familiarity that is quite irresistible. He seems to wish to attract your attention by his great variety of positions, attitudes, and musical efforts. No musical young lady was ever more ambitious of entertaining an audience, however small and select, than our slatecolored songster. He will come down, in the excitement of his musical ardor, to the lowest bough, within a few feet of your head, and devote himself to your entertainment so long as you honor him with your attention.
A few years since a pair of Cat-birds ventured to make their home in our garden, where they secreted their nest in a corner hidden by vines and low bushes. They were at first shy and retiring. Later in the season, when they had become better acquainted with the children, they built a second nest nearer to the house, in a more open place, on the bough of an appletree. Having no time to lose, it was constructed, in haste, of the bleached leaves and stalks of weeds that had been pulled and left to dry in the sun. It was, of course, soon discovered, and the busy movements of the birds watched by the children with great delight, as the last finishing touches were given to the lining by the mother bird. It was about ten feet from the ground, and the little folks could only reach it by means of a ladder. When only the children visited it, the parent birds looked on with no complaints, but apparent complacency, at the children's admiration of their new home.
Though rough and coarse on the outside, it was neatly and prettily lined with fine black roots. If any one else ventured too near, the birds would be nervous and restless, and show their uneasiness by their harsh cry of P-ā-y, p-ā-y ! But soon this passed away. The gentle and loving interest of the children, especially of little Charlie, with his frequent contributions of food, seemed to be appreciated. The birds became very tame and familiar, permitting without complaint their frequent visits to their nest, even when their young were ready to fly.
The next season our Cat-birds, to the great gratification of the younger portion of the family, built their nest in a running rose-bush, under one of the chamber-windows. It was completed and the eggs nearly hatched before the family had moved to their summer quarters. The father-bird seemed to welcome our coming with his best melodies, and the mother showed her confidence by her constant presence on the nest, undisturbed by the opening of the window, or by curious but kind and loving faces within a few inches of her treasures. She soon ceased even to leave her nest when Lucy or Charlie, or even their little cousins, ventured to take a look at her.
The next season their nest was repaired, and again occupied with a brood of four young birds when the family returned. It was interesting to watch the old birds feeding the greedy little fellows, who were just out of their shells. Our gentle, loving little Charlie — two months later so mysteriously recalled to the bosom of Him who had given him - delighted to lean over the window-silland watch the parent birds. Their familiarity and confidence in the little fellow were quite as re- s markable as his patient interest in their movements. One day the parents were missing. What had happened to them we never knew ; but they were gone several hours, and we feared they had been killed.
The children were in great distress; and at last, when the
hot sun had been pouring down on their unprotected little naked bodies, and it was feared the birds would die, permission was sought to feed them. A few worms were cut up and eagerly devoured by the hungry little fledglings, when, to the joy of all, the mother bird appeared. Such a rejoicing as there was on all sides! The children in the house and the children in the nest were equally delighted. The latter for a while kept up an earnest, eager clattering with their mother, telling her — so Lucy insisted — the whole story of their distress, loneliness, and hunger, and of the kind and loving little hands that had fed them with so much care and such affectionate interest.
Our little feathered family soon removed to the garden, where they carried with them their remembrance of their friends in the house. They were tame and familiar; and wherever the earth was dug over, they would come around us with the fearlessness of little chickens, keeping about our feet, perching on the hoe-handle when dropped from our hand, and slipping quietly off when it was retaken.
But clouds gathered over the bright scene. The bright little spirit, whose gentleness and loving purity and goodness had won for him all hearts, in one short week passed from the enjoyments of earth to a heavenly home; and his sister, spared to us but still suffering from the same epidemic, came back again, the following spring, to find that our Cat-birds had for a third time reconstructed their nest, only to be destroyed by a neighbor's cat; and though the garden is filled with their descendants, none of them have equalled their parents in their confiding and trustful disposition. We have missed their welcome in May, when we have revisited our country home; for no spaniel ever manifested more joy to greet its master than our Cat-bird did on the last spring he was with us. He would fly back and forth, overhead, alight on the ground, just a few steps in front, wherever we moved, accompanying our steps, and evincing his apparent desire to greet us by his outpouring of song and antic movements.
The power of mimicry of the Cat-bird, though limited, is often very striking and entertaining. He is very far from being the equal of the Mocking-bird. The more difficult notes he cannot successfully copy, and ludicrously fails when he tries. But the whistle of the common Quail, the clucking of a hen calling her brood, the cries of young chickens for their mother's aid, the notes of the Pewee and the refrain of the Towhee, he will repeat with perfect exactness, so as even to deceive the birds themselves. We were once crossing a swampy thicket, when the sound of “Bob-white !” so like the cry of a quail caused a useless search for that bird, which ended in our espying its author in a Cat-bird snugly hid away, and apparently hugely enjoying the cheat. At another time we have known the Cat-bird call off a brood of young chickens, greatly to the annoyance of the old hen.
To its own family the Cat-bird is devoted and constant in its care and attentions. To each other they are affectionate, kind, and sympathizing in their troubles; and the male bird, with a brood of its own, has been known to bring up another brood, not its own, that had been taken from their mother's nest and placed near that of its kind friend.
We hope we have said enough of the good qualities of our favorite bird to teach our young folks to treat these loving, confiding creatures with kindness, and to cultivate their good-will. They deserve your good-will, and they will repay with their charming songs, and their equally charming and affectionate confidence, your kind treatment of them.
T. M. B.
INSTEAD of returning to the tree, the Indian and Richard swam directly to the dead-wood, where they were quickly joined by the rest of the party. Although the dead-wood was as hard as any other wood, and to sleep upon it would be like sleeping on a plank, still it would give them the feeling of security ; so, as if by general consent, though nothing was said, they stretched themselves along the trunk, and were soon fast asleep.
The old Indian, tough as the sipos of his native forests, seemed as if he could live out the remainder of his life without another wink of sleep ; and when the rest of his companions were buried in profound repose, he was engaged in an operation that required both energy and the most stoical