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THE COMMON WHITETHROAT.
AR from leading a retired life like the last
named bird, the Whitethroat forces itself into notice by its noisy chattering and repeated sallies into the air. We cannot walk along a country lane in May without being reminded at every twenty yards of the presence of this demonstrative little bird. With crest-feathers erect and half-extended wings, it bustles in and out, gesticulating loudly, and seems to live in a perpetual state of excitement.
The country lads call it the "Nettle Creeper," from its frequenting overgrown ditches and hedgebanks where the nettle is plentiful, amongst the stems of which it builds its nest. It comes to us about the third week in April, and remains until the end of August. It is very generally distributed in the British Islands, and is as common in Ireland as it is in England. In the north of Scotland it is said to be rare; but a correspondent of Mr. More finds it breeding regularly in Mull and Iona.1 It visits Scandinavia in summer, and 1s found also at that season in Russia and Siberia. It is one of the commonest birds in spring and autumn in Malta, and is occasionally observed in Corfu in September and October. In winter it is not uncommon in Asia Minor and North-east Africa. Amongst the birds collected at Aboo, North-west India, by Dr. King, in September, 1868, Mr. Hume found one which both he and M. Jules Verreaux identified at
once as Sylvia cinerea. Unlike the Garden Warbler, the Whitethroat sings a good deal on the wing, sometimes returning to the branch it has just left, after the manner of a Tree Pipit, sometimes re-alighting elsewhere. The song, which is commenced on arrival, generally ceases early in the month of July. Its habits, and as Mr. Thompson says, the grotesquely earnest appearance which the erected crest, feathers, and distended throat impart when singing, render this bird one of the most interesting of our warblers. It seems to prefer the tallest and thickest hedgerows, where there are plenty of brambles and briars, and ditches which are choked with weeds and nettles. It does not keep, however, to the fields and lanes, but visits our gardens and orchards in company with its young to pilfer currants raspberries, and other fruit when ripe. The caterpillars to be found on the currant trees are favourite morsels with this bird, and we should not forget that if it takes a few currants it is also the means of saving a good many.
The nest of the Whitethroat is generally placed near the ground, amongst nettles or other rank herbage, and is constructed of dry grass-stems and horsehair. The eggs, usually five in number, are minutely speckled all over with ash-brown or ash-green, and spotted at the larger end with gray. I have watched an old Whitethroat bringing food to its young, and have been surprised to see in how short a space of time it contrived to find food and return to the nest. Sometimes it was impossible to see even with a glass what this food was, but at other times I could plainly discern a caterpillar wriggling between the mandibles.
THE LESSER WHITETHROAT.
HIS is not nearly so common a bird, nor
so generally distributed in Great Britain, as the last-named. It is confined more or less to the midland and southern counties of England, is very rare in Scotland, and unknown in Ireland. Mr. Rodd, in his <: List of Birds" before quoted, says the Lesser Whitethroat is only seen in Cornwall during the autumn migration, and then only occasionally at Scilly. In Wales it appears to be equally scarce (cf. More, "Ibis," 1865,