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Listen !- from the forest bonghs,
A greater number of birds sing in the night than is commonly imagined. The nightingale has usually engrossed all the praise; but besides it, the reedsparrow, the wood-lark, the sky-lark, the whitethroat, and the water-ousel, sing all night in England. The mock-birds, also, both of our own country, and the celebrated American mimic of the grove, may be added to the number. A species of finch. (loxia enucleator) common in the pine forests of Hudson's Bay, and sometimes seen in the North of Scotland, enlivens the summer nights with its song. We may likewise subjoin to the catalogue the landrail, or corn-craik, the partridge, grouse, and Guineafowl, which utter their peculiar cries in the night, as well as in the day. Perhaps many more species than are here enumerated sing in the night. Captain Cook, when off the coast of New Zealand, says, • We were charmed the whole night with the songs
of innumerable species of birds from the woods which beautify the shores of this unfrequented island.'
That beautiful little bird, the wryneck (jynx torquilla) makes its appearance about the middle of the month, preceding the cuckoo by a few days. The well-known cry of the cuculus canorus is heard soon after the wryneck, and ceases the latter end of June; its stay is short, the old cuckoos being said to quit
this country the latter end of June. See more of the cuckoo in T. T. for 1817, p. 1:13.
The Cuckoo and the SWALLOW.
I see, by toil unawed,
How fare all friends abroad?
A little news is pleasant :
To speak of birds at present ?
Do any praise it now? I fancy not.'
And call them charming, and I know not what.'
The world, then, of my little friend, Tomtit?"
His plumage and his wit.'
• What!--never?' said the Cuckoo, 'Dever!
Talk of myself for ever.' The other summer-birds of passage which arrive this month, make their appearance in the following order: the ring-ousel (turdus torquatus), the redstart (motacilla phoenicurus), frequenting old walls and ruinous edifices; the yellow wren (motacilla trochilus); the swift, already noticed; the whitethroat (motacilla sylva); the grasshopper lark (alauda trivialis), the smallest of the lark kind; and, lastly, the willow-wren, which frequents hedges and shrubberies, and feeds on insects, in search of which it is continually running up and down small branches
of trees. The house-wren destroys many pernicious
BIRDS of SONG
Now as the eastern sun-beam caps the hill,
VALDARNO. In a former volume (T. T. for 1816, pp. 120, 121), in speaking of the superiority of England over America, in respect to birds of song, we have given a slight sketch of the mocking-thrush or mock-bird, the substitute for the nightingale in the New World: we are now enabled to present our readers with a more elaborate description of this wonderful creature, drawn from the “ American Ornithology” of Mr. Wilson.
The plumage of the mocking-bird (turdus polyglottus), though none of the homeliest, has nothing gaudy or brilliant in it; and, had he nothing else to recommend him, would scarcely entitle him to notice; but his figure is well proportioned, and even handsome. The ease, elegance, and rapidity of his movements, the animation of his eye, and the intelligence he displays in listening, and laying up lessons from almost every species of the feathered creation within his hearing, are really surprising, and mark the peculiarity of his genius. To these qualities we may add that of a voice full, strong, and musical, and capable of almost every modulation, from the clear mellow tones of the wood-thrush to the savage scream of the bald-eagle. In the measure and accent he
faithfully follows his originals. In force and sweetness of expression he greatly improves upon them. In his native groves, mounted on the top of a tall bush or half-grown tree, in the dawn of a dewy morning, while the woods are already vocal with a multitude of warblers, his admirable song rises pre-eminent over every competitor. The ear can listen to his music alone, to which that of the others seems a mere accompaniment. Neither is this strain altogether imitative. His own native notes, which are easily distinguishable by such as are well acquainted with those of our various song birds, are bold and full, and varied seemingly beyond all limits. They consist of short expressions of two, three, or at most five or six syllables, generally interspersed with imitations, and all of them uttered with great emphasis and rapidity, and continued with undiminished ardour for half an hour, or an hour, at a time. His expanded wings and tail glistening with white, and the buoyant gaiety of his action arresting the eye, as his song most irresistibly does the ear, he sweeps round with enthusiastic ecstasy-he mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away. While exerting himself, a bystander, destitute of sight, would suppose that the whole feathered tribe had assembled together on a trial of skill, each striving to produce his utmost effect, so perfect are his imitations. He many times deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds perhaps not within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates: even birds themselves are frequently imposed upon by this admirable mimic, and are decoyed by the fancied calls of their mate; or dive, with precipitation, into the depth of thickets, at the scream of what they suppose to be the sparrowhawk.
The mocking-bird loses little of the power and energy of his song by confinement. In his domesticated state, when he commences his career of song, it is impossible to stand by uninterested. He whistles
for the dog; Cesar starts up, wags his tail, and runs to meet his master. He squeaks out like a hurt chicken, and the hen hurries about with hanging wings and bristled feathers, clucking to protect her injured brood. The barking of a dog, the mewing of a cat, the creaking of a wheelbarrow, follow with truth and rapidity. He repeats the tune taught him by his master, though of considerable length, fully and faithfully; he runs over the quiverings of the canary, and the clear whistlings of the Virginia nightingale, or redbird, with such superior execution and effect, that the mortified songsters feel their own inferiority, and become altogether silent, while he seems to triumph in their defeat by redoubling his exertions.
This excessive fondness for variety, however, in the opinion of some, injures his song. His elevated imitations of the brown thrush are frequently interrupted by the crowing of cocks; and the warblings of the blue bird, which he exquisitely manages, are mingled with the screamings of swallows, or the cackling of hens: amidst the simple melody of the robin, we are suddenly surprised by the shrill reiterations of the whip-poorwill; while the notes of the killdeer, blue jay, martin, and twenty others, succeed with such imposing reality, that we look round for the originals, and discover, with astonishment, that the sole performer in this singular concert is the admirable bird now before us. During this exhibition of his powers, he spreads his wings, expands his tail, and throws himself around the cage in all the ecstasy of enthusiasm, seeming not only to sing, but to dance, keeping time to the measure of his music. Both in his native and domesticated state, during the solemn stilness of night, as soon as the moon rises in silent majesty, he begins his delightful solo, and serenades us the livelong night with a full display of his vocal powers, making the whole neighbourhood ring with his inimitable medley.me(American Ornithology, fol.)