Skip to main content

Full text of "Bodley Head natural history"

See other formats




Vol. I. Thrush, Blackbird, Ouzel, Redwing, Field- 
fare, Wheatear, Robin, Nightingale, Win- 
chat, Stonechat, Tits, Starling, Wren, etc. 

Vol. II. Whitethroat, Crested Wren, Wood Wren, 
Warblers, Accentor, Dipper, Nuthatch, 
Tree-creeper, etc. 

Vol. III. Stoat, Badger, Weasel and Otter; Seal and 
Walrus ; Squirrel, Dormouse, Harvest 
Mouse, Wood Mouse, etc. 

Vol. IV. Mouse, Rat, Vole, Hare and Rabbit ; Park 
Cattle, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer, etc. 

Vol. V. Eagle, Osprey, Buzzard, Falcon and Kite ; 

Pheasant, Partridge, Quail, Ptarmigan, 
Grouse ; Cormorant, Gannet, etc. 

Vol. VI. Bat; Hedgehog, Mole and Shrew; Wild 
Cat, Fox, Marten, Polecat, etc. 

%• Other volumes will be announced in due course. 














Family : Turdidce. 

Sub-family : Turdince. 


Song Thrush (Turdus Mustcus) 


Mistle Thrush (Turdus Viscivorus) 


Blackbird (Turdus Merula) - 


Ring Ouzel (Turdus Torquatus) 

• 34 

Redwing (Turdus lliacus) 


Fieldfare (Turdus Pilaris) 

• 39 

White's Thrush (T. Varius) 


Black Throated Thrush 

(T. Atrigularis) 

■ 40 

Dusky Thrush (T. Dubius) 


Rock Thrush (Monticola Saxatilis) 40 

CONTENTS— continued. 


Wheatear (Saxicola (Enanthe) - - 42 

Isabelline Wheatear (S. Isobellind) 47 

Black-Throated (S.Stapazina) 47 

Desert Wheatear (S. Deserti) - 47 

Robin (Erithacus Rubecula) - - 48 

Nightingale (Daulias Luscinia) - 54 

Whinchat (Pratincole* Rubetra) - 60 

Stonechat (Pratincole* Rubicola) - 65 

Redstart (Ruticilla Phoenicurus) - 70 

Black Redstart (Ruticilla Titys - 76 

Bluethroat (Cyanecula Suecica) - 78 

Family : Paridce. 

Great Tit (Parus Major) - - - 79 

Blue Tit (Parus Coerulus) - - 87 

CONTENTS— continued. 


Coal or Cole Tit (Parus Ater) - - 92 
Long-Tailed Tit (Acredula Caudata) 96 
Crested Tit (Parus Cristatus) - - 100 
Marsh Tit (Parus Palustris) - - 103 

Family: Panuridce. 
Bearded Tit (Panurus Biarmicus) - 106 

Family: Troglodytidce. 
Wren (Troglodytes Parvulus) - - 116 

Family: Sturnidce. 

Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris) 
Rose-Coloured Pastor 


(Pastor Roseus) 115 


V/f R. SHEPHERD'S illustrations to this 
volume do not aim so much at scientific 
accuracy as at giving a general impression of 
the character, habits, and appearance of the 
animal depicted. It is believed that in this 
respect they will be found certainly more 
artistic and probably more suggestive than 
elaborate plates or even photographs. All 
the studies with the exception only of those 
of one or two very rare birds are drawn from 
life. The design of the book being decora- 
tive as well as instructive it has been found 
impossible in the reproductions to keep the 
sizes of the animals proportionate to one 
another, so that in this respect the studies 
of each animal must be taken as relative 
only to themselves. 



(Turdus Musicus. Linn.) 

^HIS, the most common and most popu- 
lar of British song-birds, is found 
throughout the United Kingdom. The 
great majority of our song-thrushes remain 
with us the year through, but some seek a 
warmer climate in winter, returning with 
the spring to nest. The Thrush is one of 
the earliest breeders ; the nest is built of 
dry grass, bents, moss and like materials, 
with a smooth plaster lining — morsels of 
rotten wood and dung. The usual site 
is in a bush or hedge-row, three or four 
feet from the ground ; but it is often 


placed on the ground under the shelter of 
bushes. It would seem as though the ex- 
ample of one ground builder made many, 
for where one such nest occurs you may 
expect to find others. Occasionally a 
strange site is chosen; in July, 1906, at 
Church in Lancashire, a nest was found 
between the spring and wheel of a goods 
wagon on a railway siding. The eggs, 
from four to six in number are laid during 
the first ten days of March; The normal 
egg is blue, spotted with black or rusty 
brown; sometimes the spots are few or, 
more rarely, quite absent. The cock bears 
some part in hatching the eggs, but he is a 


less devoted parent than the hen who will 
remain on the nest until you might almost 
place a hand upon her. Two, or even three 
broods are reared during the season; and an 
interesting feature of thrush domestic life 
is that the young of the first family are re- 
quired to help in rearing their successors. 
The young Thrush, by the way, excels all 
other young birds in the wonderful fresh- 
ness of his colouring; the golden tints have 
a purity which is unequalled in the plu- 
mage of any other nestling. This peculiar 
brilliancy fades as the bird grows older. 

The Thrush sings on mild days in winter 
and, save in bad weather, continues until 


the moulting season ; often to resume in 
autumn. On fine mornings in early sum- 
mer he sings before daylight. The song 
is less remarkable for range of note than 
for the variety the bird contrives to give 
its music. Young Thrushes begin to find 
their voices about October; there can be 
no mistaking the song of the beginner for 
that of the older bird. 

The food of the Thrush varies with the 
seasons; insects of many kinds, worms 
and snails content him during the greater 
part of the year: the snail-shell is held 
firmly and broken upon some convenient 
stone; fragments of snail-shell in quantity 


betray a favourite anvil. When fruit is 
ripe the Thrush turns vegetarian, and the 
gardener, contemplating the havoc wrought 
on unprotected trees, is prone to forget 
the bird's good services. In winter hips, 
haws, and wild berries furnish a livelihood. 
Coast-dwelling Thrushes resort to the 
beaches and find food to their taste in 
small shell -fish ; those of the outer 
Hebrides, which are smaller and darker 
than Thrushes of less rigorous climates, 
live largely on shell-fish, to which it is 
suggested may be due their darker colour. 
In Scotland they call the bird the Mavis; 
"Throstle" is preferred by writers of poetic 


(Turdus Viscivorns. Linn. 

'yHIS is a larger bird than the Song 
Thrush: it is also to be distinguished 
by the bolder spotting on the breast. 
Resident with us throughout the year, it 
has earned the name '"Storm-cock"' from 
its habit of singing in weather that silences 
all other birds. Like the Song Thrush, 
this bird turns its attention to nursery 
duties very early in the spring. The nest, 
placed out on some bough above reach, is 
£\ conspicuous; it lacks the neatness' of 

"v*^^* careful workmanship; sometimes indeed, 
^ V- it is so slovenly that odds and ends of 


material waving in the breeze compel 
attention. Occasionally a foundation of 
mud is laid and on this is built the nest 
proper of bents, grass, small twigs and, it 
may be, rags, the whole lined with dry 
grass. Nests on the ground have been 
recorded, but these are exceptional. The 
eggs,rfour or five in number, are beautiful 1 ; 
greenish white or palest brown spotted, 
blotched and flecked with red-brown and 
lilac. Two broods are usually reared 
during the season, in the south; but 
the further north, the less frequent do 
two annual broods become. The Mistle 
Thrush is courageous in defence of its 


young or eggs, and should Magpie, Jay or 
other egg-stealer approach, the parents do 
not await the attack. I have watched a 
pair who had their nest near a hollow tree 
containing several Jackdaws' nests, dash 
at the passing Jackdaw guileless of evil 
intent, and drive it off with vigorous 

This bird swallows the evacuations of 
its young. Many birds carry the droppings 
of the nestlings to a distance, to the end 
that these may not show the whereabouts 
of the nest, but it is a little curious that a 
bird which takes no pains to conceal its 
nest should thus get rid of the droppings 



that might betray. The food of the Mistle 
Thrush is the same as that of the Song 
Thrush — worms, grubs, insects and snails; 
wild berries, and fruit when obtainable. 
Sixty or seventy years ago this bird was 
rare in Ireland; its adoption of that 
country is no doubt due to the increase of 
plantations. Great numbers of these birds 
come to us from northern Europe in the 

Authorities differ concerning the de- 
rivation of the name; some hold it an 
abbreviation of " Mistletoe" Thrush, from 
the attributed habit of eating mistletoe 
berries. William Turner, whose De 


Historia Avium, published in 1544, was 
the first attempt to treat ornithology in a 
scientific spirit, says it is " called the 
Viscivorous since it feeds on naught but 
mistletoe and gum." Other authorities 
maintain that, inasmuch as the bird does 
not eat mistletoe berries at all. the name 
can only be derived from the Anglo-Saxon 
word Missel = big: as it is the largest of 
the Thrush family, the latter derivation 
seems preferable. 


(Turdus Merula Linn.) 

"QF Merulae" says Turner, " there are 
two sorts, one black and common 
and the other white, of equal size." 
White, and partly white examples of the 
Blackbird often occur, but we have long 
ceased to regard them as distinct species. 
Like the Song Thrush the Blackbird is 
widely distributed throughout our islands; 
some of those that breed with us migrate 
southward in winter, but their place is 
more than filled by the number of visitors 
seeking refuge from the rigours of winter 
further north. 


The nesting site and outer structure of 
the nest itself are the same as in the case 
of the Song Thrush, but the Blackbird 
prefers a neat lining of dry grass to 
receive the eggs; these are greenish-blue, 
spotted and streaked with varying shades 
of brown : from four to six is the usual 
clutch, but seven and even nine eggs have 
been known. Sometimes the nest is 
built on the ground. This would seem 
to amount to a local habit in some cases, 
as Mr. Boyes states that in the Beverley 
district of Yorkshire such nests are at- 
tributed to " Bank Blackies." Early 
nesting is the Blackbird's rule; and two 


or three broods are reared in the season ; 
the members of the first family help with 
their younger brethren. The young male 
does not assume the yellow bill until his 
second year. The cock shares the work 
of incubation, but to a less degree than 
the Song Thrush ; he is a combative fowl 
and two pairs of Blackbirds rarely build 
near each other ; isolation makes for 
peace, as two cocks may hardly meet 
without fighting, particularly in the pair- 
ing season. He is a shyer bird than the 
Thrush but his loud " pink pink " betrays 

The song is occasionally heard in J anuary , 


but February is the recognised month for 
him to begin : in April and May he is at 
his best : in July he ceases : he has been 
heard to sing in September, but the event 
is so unusual as to deserve a paragraph 
in the Field. A spring shower goes to 
the Blackbird's head and induces his 
finest effort. His voice is easily dis- 
tinguished from that of the Thrush by 
its flutelike quality ; he sings early and 
late, and, unless the appearance of a rival 
turn his energies in a new direction, 
maintains his song for a long time. 

The diet of this bird is much the same 
as *that of the Thrush, but he is less 


partial to snails and more partail to 
fruit. Where Blackbirds are many, their 
services as grub destroyers scarcely atone 
for the havoc committed in kitchen garden 
and orchard : strawberries, raspberries, 
currants — all soft fruits — are one in their 
acceptability to the Blackbird, and when 
the apples and pears are ripening he is 
ready for them. Nor do his misdeeds 
stop there ; he has been known to stoop 
to cannibalism, killing and eating young 
birds ; but such doings, let us hope, are 
peculiar to misguided individuals, and 
not to be written an offence against the 
whole species. 


The occurance of normally coloured 
eggs has led to the supposition that 
Blackbird and Song Thrush may some- 
times inter-breed ; the hens of either 
species are certainly capable of strange 
vagary ; the Blackbird has been known 
to lay in a Thrush's nest which contained 
eggs of the owner and to take up her 
position on a Thrush's nest and eggs with 
intention to perform a mother's part ; and 
the Thrush has been detected doing the 
same thing. Whether such proceedings 
are due to absence of mind, or honest but 
foolish mistake, it is impossible to say. 
Comes one who would have them neigh- 



hourly reproof of neglect ; but we will 
pass by that theory. 

The Blackbird's habit of throwing up 
his long tail as he alights, as if to keep 
his balance, enables him to be identified 
at a distance or in the dusk. 


(Tardus Torquatus Linn.) 

'Y'HIS bird may be described as a 
Blackbird with a white cravat ; a 
somewhat seedy Blackbird, for his coat 
is dull and brownish. The Ring Ouzel is a 
summer visitor ; arriving in April he seeks 
the moorlands and solitude of the hilly 
districts, by whose streams he prefers to 
nest : trie vast majority go south again in 
September and October, but a few remain 
with us the year round, specimens having 
been found in every month of the winter 
in England, while at least one December 
occurrence so far north as Invernesshire 
has been recorded. 


Domestic affairs engage the Ring 
Ouzels' attention soon after their arrival : 
a favourite site for the nest is among 
heather or ling ; it may be placed under 
boulder, in some shallow crevice, or on a 
rock ledge ; often near water. The nest 
closely resembles that of the Blackbird, 
and the eggs, usually four in number, 
might be mistaken for Blackbird's save 
for their bolder markings. In some cases 
a second brood is hatched out in July. 
When rearing their children the parents 
throw aside their natural fear of man, and 
if you approach the nest fly about you 
scolding vigorously ; the " tac tac tac " of 


the Ring Ouzel expresses anger and 

The song is loud but has neither the 
flute-like quality nor the variety of the 
Blackbird's ; the Ring Ouzel's habit is to 
take up his position on some conspicuous 
crag or point of rock and sing at intervals. 
Indulgence itself cannot regard it as 
great music, but it harmonises with the 
bird's wild surroundings. 

His food is that of other Thrushes, 
with such variety as moor and mountain 
berries afford. When he visits the fruit 
garden, to do which he sometimes makes 
up a large party, he is even less welcome 


than the Blackbird : seeming conscious 
that he is a marauder he devours with 
haste and greed, eating much but wasting 
and spoiling more : on these occasions he 
displays singular boldness for so wary 
a bird. 

Like the Blackbird, the Ring Ouzel 
throws up his tail when alighting; both 
on the wing and on the ground his 
movements are very like those of his 
better known cousin ; in some parts of 
the country he is called the "Moor 

^HIS bird, rather smaller than the Song 
Thrush, is a resident of Northern 
Europe, whence it comes in large numbers 
to pass the winter with us. Redwings 
begin to arrive on our coasts in August, 
but the great flocks usually appear in the 
latter part of October, their movements 
being regulated by the advent of winter. 
During their stay they are to be seen in 
flocks : their return to the north begins 
about the end of March. 


(Tardus Pilaris, Linn.) 

JN size midway between Mistle Thrush 
and Song Thrush, this bird is easily 
distinguished by the absence of spots on 
the lower part of the breast. It arrives in 
great flocks from September to October ; 
its stay is rather more prolonged than that 
of the Redwing; if winter lingers it 
remains till May, and has been seen as 
late as June. It is popularly known as 
the " Felt " or " Felfer." 

Neither Redwing nor Fieldfare breed in 
the British Islands. 


White's Thrush (Turdus Varius. 
Pallas), an Asiatic species, larger than 
the Mistle Thrush, is an occasional 
visitor, generally coming in winter. The 
Black-Throated Thrush (T. Atrigu- 
laris, Temminck) ; the Dusky Thrush 
(T. Dubius), also Asiatic species have 
been identified; the first on two occasions, 
the latter once, in winter. The Rock 
Thrush {Monticola Saxatilis, Linn.), a 
central European species, has once been 
identified as a spring visitor. 


(Sdxicola (Enanthe, Litin. y 
'Y'HIS is a summer visitor and one of the 
earliest to arrive in spring. There is 
reason to believe that a few of the birds 
which nest with us remain throughout the 
winter, finding in the southern counties 
climate mild enough. The second week 
in March is the recognised time to look 
for the Wheatear's return; in 1906 an 
example was seen in Richmond Park on 
6th March ; but there is always the doubt 
in these cases whether the bird is a 
migrant or is one of the exceptions which 
have wintered with us. 


Open downs and waste lands are the 
haunts of the Wheatear ; with his white 
rump and nearly black wings he is a con- 
spicuous bird as he takes his short flights 
from stone to mound, from mound to wall, 
uttering the while his sharp "chack 
chack." Nesting begins about mid-April; 
the nest is a loosely constructed piece of 
work, made, we may hardly say " built," 
of dry grass and lined with feathers, hair 
and rabbits' fur ; the last a very favourite 

The normal nesting site is some crevice 
in stone wall or peat-stack, in the mouth 
of a rabbit-burrow or under a large stone 


or clod, but the Wheatear has a soul 
above rule in the ordering of his domestic 
affairs; and like his relative the Robin 
often chooses some such retreat as an old 
kettle, discarded boot, or castaway pot. 
The segment of an exploded shell on an 
artillery range has been turned to account 
as a convenient nesting place. 

The eggs are pale blue, sometimes, says 
Mr. Howard Saunders, minutely dotted 
with purple; the clutch numbers from five 
to seven. The Wheatear is a sagacious 
bird, and when danger threatens is careful 
not to betray the whereabouts of the nest. 
Two broods are reared in the season. The 


bird is a purely insect feeder, and may 
often be seen in the evening hawking 
gnats and kindred small game on the 
wing; the larvae of insects also form part 
of the Wheatear's diet. The song is not 
remarkable for volume but is distinctly 
pleasing ; the bird often sings while on 
the wing. His powers as a mimic are 
respectable, and in this regard he does not 
always confine himself to song; Mr. Butter- 
field, of Wilsden, Bradford, once saw a 
Wheatear trying to emulate both song and 
singing method of the Lark ; the song was 
a masterly achievement but the soaring 
was more than the mimic could manage; 


he rose clumsily to a height of seven or ten 
yards and came down again. Lark-song 
he could accomplish but the characteristic 
flight was beyond him. 

In former days the Wheatear was 
caught in large numbers at harvest-time 
by shepherds and sold as larks are sold 
now, for the tables, says Gilbert White, of 
"all the gentry that entertain with any 
degree of elegance'' at Brighton, or 
Brighthelmstone as the place was called 
in White's time, and Tunbridge. 

The end of September and the first 
days of October see the southward flight 
of the Wheatear. 


Visits to this country of the Isabelline 
Wheatear (Saxicolalsabellina; Riippell), 
the Black-throated Wheatear (S. 
Stapazina, Viellot), and the Desert 


(Ertthacus Rubecula, Linn.) 

JT seems hardly necessary to say the 
Robin is a resident, inasmuch as it is 
in the winter that he is most in evidence. 
A few of those that breed in this country 
go south in autumn, but the places of 
these are more than filled by the great 
numbers that come to us from the northern 
parts of Europe ; for the Robin in summer 
is found as far north as the Arctic circle. 
Nesting begins in March ; the proper place 
for the bird to select is some shallow hole 
in a bank, but Robins are no slaves to 
tradition, and the kind is notorious for the 

ROBIN 49 f 

originality and enterprise displayed in 
choice of nursery. The nest consists of 
moss and dead leaves, lined with hair and 
perhaps a few soft feathers. The. eggs, 
from five to seven in number — six is the 
usual clutch — are white, blotched and 
freckled with reddish-brown; occasionally 
a pure white egg occurs. Two and 
sometimes three families are reared in 
the season. The Robin's practice of 
driving away in autumn the children who 
display inclination to remain in his neigh- 
bourhood is quite in harmony with his 
character. The breast of the young male 
is spotted; after the moult he assumes 


the red breast, the colour appearing from 
the throat down, somewhat paler than in 
the adult bird. Some authorities maintain 
that the Robin pairs for life; but this 
opinion is not shared by all. Attribution 
to him of the grace of life-long constancy 
is perhaps a bye-result of the place he 
holds in legend and popular esteem. 
Stripped by merciless truth of the lofty 
moral qualities with which affection has 
invested him, we find a bird of strong 
individuality, bold, self-seeking and pug- 
nacious with a pugnacity immeasurable. 
Jealous he is also, as he may see who will 
observe two Robins singing within earshot 


of one another; each tries to sing the other 
down ; then dissatisfied with rivalry in 
song they twain cease music to engage in 
the fight for which the Robin is ever 
ready. Nevertheless, it is as a songster 
that the bird appears at his best ; more 
especially in autumn; the October song 
of the Robin has a charm entirely its own; 
it is, as a novelist has said, 4 ' the song of 
sorrow and hope, inspiration surely of 
Chopin's Funeral March." It breathes 
the very spirit of evening in the waning 

The food of the Robin consists largely 
of worms and insects, but, as he is at pains 



to show in winter, his tastes are catholic ; 
when frost and snow hold the world the 
Robins leave the woods and lanes to take 
up his quarters, it may be said, among 
men; there is always marked increase in 
the urban Robin population in severe 

A list of the abnormal nesting places 
chosen by Robins would occupy many 
pages; any likely, or unlikely, situation 
will serve ; an old kettle; an empty jam- 
pot; the rags of a scarecrow; length of 
drain-pipe; basket hanging in shed. The 
nest has been built on the book-ledge of a 
pew in church; behind the false pipes of 



a church organ (the hen sitting through 
the service), and on a library book-shelf, 
access granted by open or broken window. 
These abnormal sites frequently afford 
evidence of the bird's seeming knowledge 
that he enjoys peculiar privileges in the 
sight of man. 

Robert Lovell, who wrote a curious 
work on Natural History in 1601, averred 
that between Robin and Blackbird there 
existed close friendship which found ex- 
pression in roosting side by side. It is 
strange that two of our most quarrelsome 
birds should have been thus paired off as 
sleeping companions. 


(Daulias Luscinia, Linn.) 
HE first half of April is the time when 

the returning Nightingale may be ex- 
pected. The cocks, as in the case of other 
migrants, come first, and, given warm 
weather, announce their arrival in song, 
notably vigorous by day, as though to lose 
no time giving thanks for a safe journey. 
It is rare that the song is heard in wet or 
cold, or when high winds are blowing. 
Contrary to popular belief the bird sings 
by day as well as by night; but the day 
song after arrival is particularly well sus- 
tained. After the arrival of the hens a 


few days later, the song at high noon 
becomes less frequent, the birds devoting 
themselves to the serious affairs of life. 

Sobriety distinguishes the dress of the 
Nightingale; dull russet brown above, 
brightening somewhat in the tail, and 
greyish -white beneath, "quakerish" best 
describes the great singer's attire; it gives 
his figure the appearance of greater slen- 

Nesting begins early in May. The site 
most commonly chosen is on, or quite 
close to, the ground in some dense hedge- 
row or thicket ; the neighbourhood of 
water or swampy soil weighs with the bird 


in making choice of a home. The nest, 
large in proportion to the size of the 
builder, is made of dead leaves (oak pre- 
ferred) and dry grass; the cup is lined 
with finer grass, fibres, and often horse- 
hair. The whole structure is loosely put 
together and depends upon the support of 
the surrounding undergrow th to keep it in 
shape. The eggs, from four to six in 
number, are olive-brown, the shade vary- 
ing in some cases to a bluish-green. With 
the appearance of his young family the 
song of the Nightingale ceases. This 
happens during the first fortnight of June; 
the bird is seldom heard much after the 


middle of the month, and the curious 
rasping croak he utters now comes 
strangely from such a throat. When the 
young birds, which as fledglings much 
resemble Robins of equal age, leave the 
nest, they remain about the vicinity of 
their home under the guardianship of the 
mother; parent and children exchange a 
distinctive note that may be written 

The distribution of the Nightingale in 
England has extended during recent years. 
Aforetime, ornithologists drew a " Nightin- 
gale line" from York to Exmouth, which 
line, roughly speaking, divided the area 


patronised by the bird from the regions 
it ignored. This line, like other frontiers, 
scientific and otherwise, has required 
rectification from time to time; for the 
bird has discovered the amenities of 
Devonshire as far as Torquay, and of 
various parts of Wales — Glamorganshire 
and favoured spots in Cardiganshire. It 
has also been reported in Northumberland, 
but that was in the exceptionally hot 
spring of 1893, and may not be taken as 
a precedent. The real spread of breeding 
area has been westward. The appearance 
and increase of the Nightingale in parts of 
the country where it was formerly un- 


known has been accompanied by a certain 
decrease in some of those counties where 
the bird used to be more plentiful. 
Complaints of neglect have been received 
from Norfolk, Rutland, Bedfordshire and 
Bucks; all of them counties much patro- 
nised by the bird. The southward 
movement begins very early; in August 
the birds of the year take flight, and a 
few weeks later are followed by their 
seniors who have remained to complete 
the moult. Early in September all are 


(Pratincola Rubetra, Linn.) 
HIS daintv little bird arrives on our 

southern coasts during the first half 
of April, and within three weeks or a 
month finds its way practically all over 
England and Scotland, occurring somewhat 
rarely, however, in Cornwall and the 
extreme west. About five and half inches 
long, the cock is easily recognised by the 
sandy-brown back with darker leaf-shaped 
markings ; most readily by the white streak 
running from the base of the beak over 
the eye to the neck; the under parts are 
buff colour merging into fawn on the 



breast, the chin is white, and a white 
streak runs below the dark cheek to the 
side of the neck. The hen is more soberly 
clad, and the streak above the eye is buff 
instead of white. 

The nest is a careless structure of dry 
grass and moss, lined with finer grass; it 
is placed on or nearly on the ground in 
long coarse herbage or, it may be, among 
the shoots of some low bush. The eggs, 
generally six, are greenish - blue often 
dotted or freckled with rusty red. Two 
broods are reared in the season. The 
Whinchat has a weakness for building in 
long grass by the side of path or road, and 


the hen's habit of perching close by, to 
utter for a few minutes her "u-tick, u-tick, 
u-tick, tic, tic" before she flies straight to 
the nest renders it easy to find. The song 
is pleasing but not remarkable for variety 
of note or volume; it is heard both when 
the bird is on the wing and at rest. 

Waste lands, commons and pastures are 
the haunts of the Whinchat; its love of 
the last has earned it the name" Grasschat" 
in some parts of the country, but this 
name is become less applicable now-a-days, 
more especially in the northern counties 
where the hay harvest interferes with the 
bird's domestic arrangements. Mr. F. 


Boyes, of Beverley, Yorkshire, a very 
shrewd and careful observer of bird life, 
attributes the Whinchat's desertion of the 
grass-lands mainly to the mowing machine 
which shaves the ground bare in June 
before the young leave the nest or, it may 
be, before the eggs are hatched out; 
sufficient reason to induce a bird of 
understanding to prefer the wastes where 
it may rear its family undisturbed. 

The food of the Whinchat consists of 
flies and other insects, small beetles and 
worms, more particularly the wire worm. 

About the end of September or early in 
October the bird takes flight southward 


again. There is some doubt whether 
individuals remain with us the winter 
through; Mr. J. E. Harting, to whom 
have been sent specimens believed to be 
Whinchats obtained in the winter months 
has always identified them as Stonechats, 
a nearly allied resident species. In its 
winter dress the Whinchat bears tolerably 
close resemblance to the Stonechat, hence 
the confusion of the two. Similarly young 
Stonechats found in April have been mis- 
taken for their migratory cousins who 
breed quite a month later. 


(Pratincola Rubicola, Linn.) 
HIS near relative of the last species is 

resident in Britain, but there is in 
autumn a well-marked movement from the 
exposed grounds the bird affects in summer, 
towards warmer and more sheltered locali- 
ties, and our native Stonechat population 
is reinforced by arrivals from the northern 
regions of Europe. The cock is a con- 
spicuous bird as he perches on furze-bush 
or thorn ; his black head, bright chestnut 
breast and white neck identify him at a 
glance ; the general scheme of body 
coloration is not unlike that of the 



Whinchat, but the white patch on the 
Stonechat's wing is noticeable and the 
bird himself is stouter, with a self-assured 
air the Whinchat lacks. He is a restless 
little being, always on the move, darting 
and diving among the bushes where he 
makes his home. 

The Stonechat, as becomes a resident, 
begins nesting much earlier than the last 
mentioned species; the beginning of April 
sees this bird at work building on the 
ground among coarse herbage, often under 
a furze bush against the stem, the materials 
being the same as those employed by the 
Whinchat, with the addition of a few 


feathers to the lining. The eggs, four or 
five in number, are very like the other 
chat's, but the ground colour is a shade 

Unlike the hen Whinchat the hen 
Stonechat is wary, and does not betray 
her nest to any but the patient and discreet 
watcher. You may, however, know there 
is a nest in your near neighbourhood by 
the behaviour of the parents who flit from 
bush to bush in manifest alarm, the while 
crying sharply, " chack chack." Two 
broods are reared in the season. 

The song of this bird is pleasing, but 
when man approaches he displays less 


inclination to sing than to scold ; the 
alarm note, syllabised "h-weet, jur, jur," 
is very distinctive. The song may be 
heard from early spring until late in June. 
The food of the Stonechat is very much 
the same as that of the Whinchat, with 
the addition of small moths and butterflies, 
which are often caught on the wing; this 
bird also eats seeds on occasion. 

Although both Stonechat and Whinchat 
affect the same kind of ground, wastes and 
commons, the two species are seldom 
found together in any number. It may be 
added that the Stonechat has none of 
its relative's affection for pasture lands; 


it is essentially an inhabitant of the 

The resemblance of the two in their 
winter plumage has already been noticed. 


(Rutictla Phoenicurus, Linn.) 

^HIS summer visitor usually arrives 
about the middle of April, though in 
particularly mild seasons it may come 
earlier. Mr Howard Saunders, in 1893, 
saw a cock Redstart on the 31st of March, 
this being one of the earliest dates, if not 
the earliest date, recorded. The Redstart 
cannot be mistaken for any other bird; 
his bright chestnut tail and rump betray 
him at the first glance, as he flits from 
spray to spray always near the ground. 
Approach him more closely if you can, for 


he is shy, and you see his white forehead, 
jet black cheeks and throat, in striking 
contrast to the slate grey back and chestnut 
breast. The hen Redstart lacks the brilliant 
body colours of her mate; greyish brown 
above and lighter on the underside, she 
would be inconspicuous but for her chest- 
nut tail, and that is of hue less brilliant 
than the cock's. The length of the bird 
is about 5i inches. 

The Redstart breeds in most parts of 
Britain, but is uncommon in some of the 
extreme western counties. Formerly it 
was known in Ireland only as a rare 
visitor, but during the last twenty or thirty 


years it has been more frequently observed 
and breeds regularly in some parts. 

Nesting begins early in May; a hole in 
some hollow tree within a few feet of the 
ground is the orthodox site, but a hole in 
masonry will serve the Redstart, and it is 
by no means infrequent to find a pair in 
possession of the box which has been put 
up for the accomodation of Tits. The 
nest is loosely constructed of moss, fibres 
and dry grass lined with hair and feathers. 
The eggs, usually six, but sometimes seven 
in number, are blue, paler and a shade 
smaller than those of the Hedge-Sparrow. 
Eggs freckled, especially about the larger 


end with reddish-brown are tolerably 
common, and, what is rather curious the 
clutch may consist entirely of such freckled 
eggs or some may be pure blue while the 
rest are freckled. 

While the hen is sitting the cock is 
much in evidence about the premises, 
raising his voice in modest Redstart song, 
or flitting to and fro in chase of the insects 
on which he lives. His alarm note, an 
almost piteous "wheet," is very familiar. 
The food of the old birds consists for the 
most part of flies, gnats, spiders and the 
like; presumably this diet is too indigest- 
able for the infant Redstart, as when the 


family arrives the outer world is apprised 
of the circumstance by the parents' activity 
in carrying caterpillars. The young Red- 
starts in their spotted dress are very like 
young Robins; but the family badge, the 
chestnut tail, proclaims them. 

The southward movement takes place 
in September. Occasionally a bird sus- 
pected to belong to this species has been 
shot in winter and submitted to authority 
in triumph for a proof that the Redstart 
may remain with us the year round. 
Such specimens have, however, always 
proved to be Black Redstarts, which 


European haunts in winter. Adult males 
of the two species are easily distinguished, 
but the difference between hens and birds 
of the year is much less marked. . 

"Firetail" is the appropriate popular 
name for the bird in many parts of the 


(Ruticilla Titys, Scopoli.) 
HIS species comes to us regularly, 

though not in large numbers, every 
autumn, beginning to arrive about the 
second week of October and remaining 
until March or April. There is no proof 
that the bird has ever nested with us, but 
it is possible that a breeding pair may 
have escaped observation. 

Somewhat larger than the common 
Redstart, it is a slender, graceful little 
bird of restless habit and, by comparison 
with the other species, bold. The cock 
varies a good deal in colour, possibly with 


age; his prevailing hue may be almost 
sooty black, or it may be ashen grey; 
there is a conspicuous white patch on the 
wing. The Black Redstart is most fre- 
quently seen on our eastern and southern 
coasts but it has been observed in York- 
shire, Wales, and also in Ireland. We 
are not concerned with the domestic 
affairs of birds that do not breed in this 
country, therefore the Black Redstart may 
be dismissed with the statement that it 
nests in some sheltered hole, or on the 
roof beam of shed or balcony, and that the 
eggs are glossy white; rarely the eggs are 
freckled with reddish dots as in the case 
of our own species. 


(Cyanecula Suecica, Linn.) 

'Y'HERE are two, or possibly three 
varities of Bluethroat; the only one 
known to visit England is the Redspotted 
Bluethroat; and as this bird is only known 
as an occasional passenger, halting to rest 
on our shores before resuming its south- 
ward flight in autumn, it demands but 
passing mention. The fact that the Blue- 
throats taken in this country are usually 
immature seems to indicate that lack of 
strength to make, in one flight, the long 
journey from the Arctic to southern climes 
is the sole reason for its appearance here 
at all. 


(Par us Major, Linn.) 

^HIS, the largest of the family of 
titmice, is to be found all over the 
British Islands save in the extreme north 
of Scotland and in the Western Isles ; 
where, however, it sometimes appears as 
a visitor. The Great Tit is easily to dis- 
tinguish ; the white cheek and blue-black 
head betray him; the general colour-effect 
is bluish grey above and dull sulphur 
yellow below ; the black of the head ex- 
tending round the neck and continuing 
in a stripe down the breast to the vent. 
Nesting begins in April, — sometimes 


about the end of March ; and few birds 
display greater catholicity of taste in 
choice of site. It would incorrect to say 
that the bird only uses the normal 
situation — a hole in some hollow tree or 
in a wall — if he cannot find a site that 
shall advertise his originality ; but it is 
not far wrong to assert that the normal 
habit of the Great Tit is to build in 
abnormal situations. He has been known 
to nest in the upper part of a hive full of 
working bees ; in letter-boxes ; under a 
flower-pot on a shelf — for eight successive 
years ; inside a pump ; in a drain ven- 
tilator ; under the old nest of a blackbird ; 


in the body of an occupied magpie's 
nest ; and, in sheer impudent recklessness, 
in the base of the nest in which a sparrow- 
hawk was rearing her brood. Choice of 
the beehive may, perhaps, be explained 
by the fact that these birds are fond of 
bees, and haunt hives to pick up the dead 
insects thrown out by the community; 
so fond of bees is this Tit that he does 
considerable damage to the hive by his 
endeavours to enlarge the entrance. Very 
occasionally Great Tits will dispossess the 
rightful owner of a nest they think will 
serve their purpose ; a hen tit was once 
found hatching her own eggs in the nest 


of a Hedge-sparrow who had laid two 
eggs before she was turned out. 

The nest consists of soft moss, lined 
with hair, fur, wool and feathers ; the size 
of the structure depends on the space to 
be filled; that taken from the beehive 
above-mentioned was a solid bed of moss 
measuring 14 inches square and 8 inches 
in depth. 

The eggs, varying in number from six 
to a round dozen, are white spotted and 
blotched with pale red. Two broods are 
reared in the season. This bird like 
other members of the family is said to 
cover up her eggs as she lays them, with 


the soft fluffy feather lining of the nest ; 
but that lining is so loose and plentiful it 
may well be that the eggs are "smothered," 
sinking into their bed by their own 

The spring note, which has been heard 
as early as January, is likened to the 
music produced by sharpening a saw 
with a file : the bird utters a great variety 
of notes ; the call note is best written 


The Great Tit may almost be called 
omnivorous. He eats insects in quantity, 
and works no small mischief in the 
orchard ; it has been said — by a sufferer — 


that he will try every apple on the tree, 
pecking a beakful out of each near the 
stalk ; this single peck in itself would do 
comparatively little harm, but the Tit 
never pauses to reflect that rain will 
enter that small hole and rot the apple 
ere ever it has time to ripen. Pears are 
maltreated in the same fashion. Peas 
furnish another source of misunderstanding 
between Great Tits and gardening man- 
kind, for the bird loves young peas and 
his methods are wasteful. The blackest 
side of his character, however, comes out 
in his carnivorous tastes ; he has been 
known to attack and kill small birds, 


splitting their skulls with his beak to 
reach the brain. His appetite for a meat 
diet is shown by the avidity with which 
he battens on the suet or bone hung out 
for his delectation in winter. Like the 
rest of the family he loves the seed of the 

The muscularity of this bird is well 
shown in the way he penetrates the shell 
of the hazel-nut ; placing the nut in some 
convenient fork or cranny, he converts 
his whole person, five and three-quarter 
inches, into a pick axe, drives a hole, and 
works at it until he can dig out the kernel; 
of course, he can only perform the feat 


while the nut is new ; an old one would be 
too hard for the strongest Great Tit to 
crack. This bird is very commonly called 
the "Oxeye." 


(Parus Ccerulus.) 

'jpHIS is the commonest of our Titmice ; 

and, if colour go for aught, the most 
beautiful. Smaller than the Great Tit — 
he measures only about four inches and 
one third — he gives the general impression 
of green and blue as he flits with short, jerky 
flight from tree to tree ; his white cheek, 
barred across the eye with a blue-black 
line, and blue-black collar distinguish 
him from his relatives. The Blue Tit /^"^V 
breeds in April. Like the Great Tit he v ,4u 
ought to nest in some prosaic hole in 
tree or wall ; but like the Great Tit he is 




notorious for the strange places of his 
abiding, One of the oddest ever selected 
was the throat of a life-size bronze crane, 
fashioned with open beak upraised. The 
nesting box appeals to him and the cocoa- 
nut shell ; all he asks of the box is that it 
be weather-beaten and dirty. The nest 
consists of moss, or moss and wool, lined 
with feathers and hair. The eggs are 
white, finely spotted with pale red ; the 
usual clutch is six or seven, but some 
individuals are prolific, and as many as 
eighteen have been found. The hen 
displays great courage while sitting ; she 
hisses in brave endeavour to alarm, nay, 



pecks with pecks that would intimidate, 
the finger of intrusion ; whence the bird's 
popular nickname " Billy-biter/' The 
note is a harsh and montonous "chee 
chee," heard at frequent intervals. 

Though the Blue Tit shares with his 
larger cousin that regrettable taste for 
green peas, and devotes more attention to 
apples and pears than their owners can 
approve, it may be doubted whether on 
the whole, he does not render services 
that atone. His staple diet consists of 
the scale insects which harbour in the 
bark of trees to their large detriment, he 
preys on the grubs of wood-boring beetles 


and other injurious insects, and rears the 
family on the larvae of such unwelcome 
vermin as the gooseberry and winter 
moths, aphides and their kind. It is to 
be feared that in autumn when he suc- 
cumbs to the temptation of ripening pear 
and apple his good deeds are often 
overlooked ; man was ever prone to view 
austerely bird sins, and prefers the syringe 
and insecticide of the agricultural chemist 
to the uses of the Blue Tit. The bird is 
somewhat capricious in his winter move- 
ments. For years the well chosen meat 
bone or lump of suet shall bring you Tit 
visitors in number; and when you have 


learned to regard acceptance of your 
hospitality as assured, no Blue Tit shall 
appear the winter through. 

As the Great Tit is remarkable for the 
strength enshrined in his tiny body, so 
the Blue Tit is remarkable for his agility ; 
he is one of the leading acrobats of the 
bird world ; he is as much at home 
underneath the bough as upon it, and he 
dines upside down as readily as in the 
position Nature would seem to have 
designed for feeding purposes. 


(Parus Ater, Linn,) 

<^AVE in the north of Scotland, where 
it may be called the representative 
member of the family, this Tit is less 
common than either the Great or Blue 
Tits. It is a very little bird, about four 
and three-quarter inches long; the head, 
sides of neck, throat, and upper parts of the 
breast are glossy blue-black ; and the con- 
spicuous white cheeks and spot on the back 
of the neck, lend momentary resemblance 
to the head of the Great Tit. The back 
is grey, tinted with olive, merging into 
brownish fawn on the rump ; the breast 


white, warming into fawn on the belly 
and flanks. Slight differences between 
the colouring of the Coal Tit found in 
Ireland and that in Great Britain recently 
led to discussion concerning the propriety 
of promoting the Irish bird to the dignity 
of a species ; but the weight of opinion 
was in favour of regarding it as identical 
with the British bird. Local conditions 
of food and climate often produce these 
slight differences in tinge which lure the 
ardent among the ornithological brother- 
hood to creation of new, unnecessary 

The Coal Tit breeds in March or 


April ; the time depending much on 
latitude. The materials used are, as in 
the case of the last two, moss, wool and 
feathers, with such additions as the re- 
sources of the neighbourhood may offer ; 
as deer's hair and rabbit's fur. The site 
varies ; it may be a hole in tree or wall, 
in a bank, on the level ground, or inside 
the burrow of a rabbit or the hole of a 
mouse or mole. The eggs, from seven 
to eleven in number, are white, dotted 
with pale red. 

This member of the family is addicted 
to hunting on the ground. The food 
consists of insects, seeds and nuts, while 


green caterpillars are in request for the 
nursery. Opportunity serving, the Coal 
Tit shows partiality for hemp seed, and 
like his familiar relatives, appreciates 
cocoa-nut. The note is shrill and some- 
what loud for a bird so small. 


(Acredula Caudata, Linn.) 

^HIS also is a tolerably common species 
wherever copse, woodland, or thorn - 
brake offers breeding resort. If there be 
water at hand the bird seems to show 
preference for a nesting site in its vicinity. 
The distinction conferred by the long tail 
renders any detailed description of this 
Tit unnecessary. Five and a half inches 
long, he is a study in black, white, and 
brown, with a pinkish tinge on the lower 
back, belly, and flanks. 

Nesting begins late in March, or early 
in April ; a favourite situation is some 


thick bush, thorn, holly, or furze at from 
three to perhaps eight feet from the 
ground ; but the nest may be hidden in a 
mass of brambles or stick-heap. It is a 
beautiful piece of workmanship, moss, 
wool, spiders' webs closely felted together 
into an oval which is often flattened ; and 
adorned as to the exterior with grey 
lichens for its better concealment. A 
mass of soft feathers forms the lining. 
The recognised style of architecture pro- 
vides for a comparatively small hole in 
the side near the top ; but I have found 
nests with the entrance occupying prac- 
tically the whole diameter and practically 


on the summit ; an arrangement in fact 
which justifies exactly the name " feather 
poke" bestowed upon the architect. An 
old nest is sometimes repaired for re- 
n /\ occupation. 

The Long-tailed Tit lays from seven to 
ten eggs, but as many as sixteen have 
been found under circumstances which 
pointed to their being the property of 
the same hen. For there is some doubt 
concerning the matrimonial system in 
Long-tailed Tit circles ; two hens and a 
cock have been seen working on the same 
nest ; and three birds have been seen 
occupying the same nest ; it is therefore 


an open question whether the bird is 
always strictly monogamous. When the 
young birds leave the nest they remain in 
company until some time after they can 
fly : you may see the whole family un- 
dulating in Indian file from bush to bush 
with their curious dipping flight, or 
perching, a compact row, upon some 
twig. Two broods are reared in the 

The food consists of scale and other 
insects, and their larvae. The note re- 
sembles that of the Blue Tit, but is more 


(Par us Cri status. Linn.) 

rpHIS is the rarest of the Tit family in 
Britain. It is a Scottish bird and 
extremely local at that, breeding in the 
old pine woods of Strathspey and, it is 
believed, nowhere else. A shade smaller 
than the Blue Tit, the black and grey 
crest distinguishes him from others, but 
at a little distance, the general blue-grey 
effect of his plumage lends him curious 
likeness to the Blue Tit. The cock erects 
his crest when he sings, to do which he 
ascends to a tree-top. 

The Crested Tit nests during the latter 


part of April ; any rotten stump or de- 
cayed tree will serve his purpose ; if the 
hole is not quite suitable he enlarges it 
The site may be eight or ten feet from 
the ground, but an attractive hole a foot 
above earth or one twenty feet up may 
harbour the nest. He is a bird of sociable 
disposition and two nests may be found 
in the same branch. The materials are 
moss, wool, deer's hair, and fur, closely 
felted together. The eggs, from five to 
eight in number, are white, boldly spotted 
or belted with pale red. Two broods are 
sometimes reared in the season. I have 
watched this bird in the old forests of 


Normandy where he is fairly common ; 
he is much addicted to hunting among 
the dead pine-needles on the ground for 
the insects and seeds which form, with 
larvae and berries, his staple diet. He 
has a curious habit of twitching his tail 
sideways, a motion which makes it easy 
to identify him in a bad light. In winter 
he frequently consorts with other Tits and 
Golden- Crested Wrens. 


(Parus Palustrts, Linn.) 

^HIS also is a very local species. It 
occurs in various parts of England 
and Wales, and in Scotland south of the 
Forth ; but is nowhere common. A little 
larger than the Blue Tit, this bird is to be 
known by the glossy black head; back 
olive brown, the wings and tail ash-brown, 
and the under parts dull white. He is 
not very happily named ; he has liking 
for a home in the alder or pollard willow 
to be found on swampy soil, but is in 
nowise wedded to marsh-land, affecting 
also orchard, garden, and wood. The 


nest, built from mid-April to May, is 
hidden in a hole in some tree, often en 
larged by the bird who discreetly removes 
the chips that might betray; it has always 
the narrowest of entrances. The materials 
are moss, wool, fur, and hair felted 
together : willow-down is often used as 
lining. The eggs, from five to eight in 
number, are white, dotted with dull red. 

The note may be written "sis, sis, sis, 
seee"; but when alarmed the bird utters 
a rapid and metallic "tay, tay, tay, tay." 
The food consists largely of scale insects 
(Coccidce) obtained from the bark of 
trees. The Marsh Tit is a muscular 


little bird and is in the habit of prising off 
flakes of pine bark in search of quarry. 
Beech-mast is much to his taste, and he 
will hold a beech-nut in his claw, after 
the manner of the parrot, to peck out the 
contents. Berries of various kinds appeal 
to him, and hemp-seed is an attraction 
which will secure his punctual attendance 
at winter meals in the garden. 

HEN is a Tit not a Tit? When it is 

a Bearded Tit. Science investi- 
gating his little inside, finds in his digestive 
organs and other internal arrangements 
evidence which prove him no Tit, but the 
representative of a distant family in no 
way related to the ancient family of 
Titmice. They are of the Paridce; he is 
the one British member of the Panuridce, 
and stands apart. Unfortunately, he 
stands apart in more senses than one; 
aforetime he was fairly common in the 
meres and fen-lands of the eastern counties, 


but drainage has spoiled his old haunts, 
from the Bearded Tit's point of view, and 
now he is not known to breed elsewhere 
than in the Broads district of Norfolk. 
As a visitor, he occurs rarely in some 
other parts of England; thirty years ago 
he haunted the reed-beds of the Hamp- 
shire Avon. 

The Bearded Tit nests in April; the 
site is among sedges on fallen reeds, or 
other water plants, and is built of the dry 
leaves of the common reed, whose flowers 
are used for the lining. The eggs, from five 
to seven in number are cream white, with 
tiny reddish-brown scratches. It some- 


times happens that two hens will occupy 
the same nest and share the task of 
incubation. Two broods are reared in the 
season, the second appearing as late as 

He is a lovely bird, tawny brown from 
his head to the end of his long tail, above; 
dove-grey warming into pink, below. The 
feature that gives him his name is the long 
triangular black patch which from between 
eye and beak tapers to a point well down 
on the side of the neck. The cock is 
easily distinguished by the black cheek 
patches and, when seen upside down 
engaged in gymnastics among the reeds 


by the jet black under tail-coverts ; these 
adornments are lacking in the hen. The 
length is about six and three-quarter 

The note is quite unlike that of any 
Tit, being a clear, musical "ping ping." 
The bird in winter lives on the seed of 
the reeds in which it makes its home ; 
at that season assembling in companies 
of forty or fifty. "In summer," says Mr. 
Howard Saunders, "the crops of in- 
dividuals have been found packed with 
such small shell-bearing molluscs as 
Succinea amphibia." His local name is 
"Reed Pheasant." 


(Sturnus Vulgaris, Linn.) 

^HIS bird just stops short of migration 
in winter. Great numbers of our 
home-bred Starlings move westward in 
autumn, seeking the milder climate of the 
south and west of Ireland; and our own 
stock is reinforced by hosts of birds from 
the north. 

He is one of our commonest birds and 
perhaps the most useful. One authority 
has said of him that he spends his whole 
life in good works; that is the voice of 
the agriculturist; for the Starling con- 
sumes vast quantities of harmful grubs, 


noticeably those of the cockchafer and 
daddylonglegs, and such pests as the 
wireworm. Other birds would speak less 
cordially of him; for he is an inveterate 
egg- stealer, and has a depraved appetite 
for young nestlings. I hesitate to write a 
word in dispraise of a character, by con- 
sent accepted as exemplary; but the 
Starling has been detected eating fruit. 
When first I saw him pecking at apples I 
gave him credit for anxiety to relieve them 
of grub or maggot; but closest examina- 
tion of the fallen fruit failed to reveal sign 
that it had harboured such. Let us not 
insist overmuch on misdeed ; he is, with 


his faults, the best bird-friend of the 

The Starling breeds early. The nest, 
an untidy shapeless mass of straw and 
grass, lined, it may be, with some wool or 
feathers, or both, is frequently placed in 
some hollow tree ; but the site is a mere 
matter of convenience; the chimney is a 
favourite retreat; the cup of water-pipe, 
a hole in the roof, crevice under eaves, or 
beam in barn or outhouse — all have merits 
in the eyes of the Starling. Where trees 
and buildings are few he will nest in a 
turf-stack or on the ground itself. The 
hen lays from four to seven pale blue eggs, 



and she will rear two, three, or even more 
broods in the season. 

After the moult Starlings congregate in 
great flocks, and remain in company 
throughout the winter, roosting together 
in the same wood or shrubbery every 
night. At this time they are much 
addicted to executing, at a considerable 
height in the air, evolutions which advertise 
the extraordinary singleness of mind that 
animates birds in a flock. 

The song of the Starling is pleasing, 
but he is so determined a mimic it is 
really a little difficult to say what his 
natural song is; moreover, his utterances 


often suggest less intention to imitate 
another bird than resolve to strike out an 
entirely new line of his own. No British 
bird is more easily reared by hand and 
few are more easily tamed. 


(Pastor Roseus Linn.) 

'yHIS beautiful bird, arrayed in black, 
white and rose-pink, with long crest, 
is an accidental visitor from Eastern 
Europe. Its occasional appearances 
having, as a rule, occurred in summer. 


(Troglodytes Parvulus, K. L. Koch). 
HIS bird is resident and immigrant. 

There is no reason to suppose that 
any of our British-born Wrens go abroad 
in winter, but the autumn brings large 
flights of their kin to this country from 
northern latitudes. The Wren is every- 
where common, and everywhere restless: 
he seems never to be still; his life is one 
of perpetual motion, hopping, flitting, 
gliding, and creeping mouse-like in the 
hedge-row. He is essentially a bird of 
the hedge-row; he shuns the open and 

WREN 117 

has his being in the hedge, always within 
a foot or two of the ground. 

Nesting begins at the end of March or 
early in April. Wrens have no cast-iron 
prejudices in the matter of site; they will 
build in bush, stump, ivy or hedge; in hole 
in bank, wall, stack, or thatch — almost 
any situation, provided it be tolerably safe 
from observation, will satisfy the Wren. 
The nest, large for the size of the bird, is 
made of moss or dry grass and leaves, and 
the interior maybe furnished with feathers; 
but fine grass is often used for the lining. 
As to shape, we cannot improve upon 
Turner's description: — "The nest has the 

118 WREN 

form of an upright egg, while in the 
middle of one side there is a little postern 
as it were, by which the bird goes in and 
out." The Wren has a peculiar habit of 
leaving one nest half finished and building 
a new one, which may or may not be near 
the abandoned structure. This practice 
has never been explained ; it may be the 
outcome of the particular wariness attri 
buted to the bird; tradition maintaining 
that Wrens will forsake their nests, un- 
finished or complete, if they believe 
themselves observed. Such unfinished 
structures are called "cock-nests," and 
picturesque rural legend has it that they 



are built by the cock bird for his own 
private lodging, removed, we may assume, 
from family cares. This legend has a 
basis of truth in it; inasmuch as such 
nests are occupied on cold winter nights 
by small parties of Wrens seeking warmth 
and shelter; but since nests which have 
been used as nurseries are used in the 
same way we may not assign definite 
purpose to the "cock-nest." This un- 
completed nest is sometimes taken in 
hand and finished for occupation by a 
family in a subsequent year. 

The hen usually lays from six to eight 
eggs; but as many as sixteen young have 

120 WREN 

been found. The eggs are white dotted 
with red. Two broods are reared in the 

The food of the Wren consists for the 
most part of insects, for which the bird 
may be seen hunting in its mouse-like 
fashion among dead leaves; in winter, 
seeds, crumbs and other matters are gladly 

The Wren's voice is loud and powerful 
out of proportion to his size; he sings 
practically all the year round, save during 
the moult. The alarm note is a sharp 
" click." 






Printed 5v 
CBcyles more R-ess 



Family : Turdidce 
Sub-Family : Sylviincz 


Whitethroat (Sylvia cinerea) - - 17 

Lesser Whitethroat (S. curruca) - 22 

Orphean Warbler (S. orphea) - 25 

Blackcap (S. atricapilla) - - 21 

Garden Warbler (S. hortensis) - 32 

Barred Warbler (S. Nisoria) - 36 

Subalpine Warbler (S. subalpina) 37 

Dartford Warbler (S. undata) - 38 

Golden Crested Wren 

(Regulus cristatus) - - 43 

CONTENTS— continued. 


Fire Crested Wren 

(/?. ignicapillus) - - 49 

Yellow-Browed Warbler 

(Phylloscopus superciliosus) 52 

Pallas's Willow Warbler 

(P. proregulus) - - 53 

Greenish Willow Warbler 

(P. viridanus) - - - 53 

Chiffchaff (P. rufus) 54 

Willow Wren (P. trochilus) - - 58 

Wood Wren (P. sibilatrix) - - 64 

Rufous Warbler 

(Aedon galactodes) - - 68 

Radde's Bush Warbler 

(Luscintola schwarzi) - 69 

Icterine Warbler 

{Hypolais icterina) - - 69 

CONTENTS— continued. 


Melodious Warbler 

(H. polyglotta) - - 69 

Reed Warbler 

(Acrocephalus streperus) - 71 

Great Reed Warbler 

(A. turdoides) - - 77 

Marsh Warbler (A. palustris) - 78 

Sedge Warbler (A. phragrnitis) - 83 

Aquatic Warbler (A. aquaticus) 89 

Savi's Warbler 

(Locustella luscinioides) - 89 

Grasshopper Warbler (L. ncevia) - 91 
Sub-family : Accentorince 

Hedge Accentor {Accentor tnodularis) 97 

Alpine Accentor (A. collaris) - 103 

CONTENTS— continued. 
Family : Cinclidce 


Dipper (Cinclus Aquaticus) - 104 

Family : Sittidce 
Nuthatch (Sitta cczsia) - - - 110 
Family Certhiidce 

Tree-creeper (Certhia familiar is) - 117 


(Tichodroma muraria) - 122 


VJR. SHEPHERD'S illustrations to this 
volume do not aim so much at scientific 
accuracy as at giving a general impression of 
the character, habits, and appearance of the 
animal depicted. It is believed that in this 
respect they will be found certainly more 
artistic and probably more suggestive than 
elaborate plates or even photographs. All 
the studies with the exception only of those 
of one or two very rare birds are drawn from 
life. The design of the book being decora- 
tive as well as instructive it has been found 
impossible in the reproductions to keep the 
sizes of the animals proportionate to one 
another, so that in this respect the studies 
of each animal must be taken as relative 
only to themselves. 



(Sylvia cinerea; Bechstein.) 

^HE "Nettlecreeper," to give him his 
popular name, usually arrives from 
the south about the second week in April, 
and loses no time in spreading all over the 
Kingdom, even to the Outer Hebrides; he 
is, however, only a rare visitor to the 

The Whitethroat is easily identified by 
the peculiarity from which his name is 
derived: he is about 5 J inches long: the 
head and neck of the adult male are smoke 
grey; the mantle, back and wings rusty 
brown; tail-feathers the same, save the 
outer pair which are dull white, and the 


next pair which have broad white tips ; the 
chin and throat pure white fading into buff 
on the breast; abdomen brownish white; 
legs pale brown. The hen's plumage is 
somewhat duller. 

Breeding begins in May : at this 
juncture the bird utters a note comparable 
to the sound of a fishing reel and totally 
different from his song. The nest, which 
is commonly placed low down in some 
tangle of bramble and nettles, thorn thicket, 
or overgrown hedgerow, suggests that the 
sprightly, restless builder learned the first 
principles of nest-making and no more. 
It is a fairly deep cup of fine threads of 
hay lined with bents and horse-hair, but 


the structure is of the slenderest; you 
can see through it as through a loosely 
woven basket. Occasionally a Whitethroat 
of unusual forethought, or, let us suppose, 
one which remembers the sufferings of his 
youth in a draughty nest of orthodox 
pattern, appropriates the nest of thrush or 
blackbird as soon as the brood has flown : 
this is relined; or, it were better to say, the 
orthodox nest is built inside it. Young 
Whitethroats reared in such a dwelling are 
fortunate; the practice might with advan- 
tage be more widely adopted. The eggs, 
from four to six in number, are pale 
greenish white, blotched and spotted with 
violet, grey and pale brown : the egg has 



a peculiar translucency ; it is as though 
the shell were a cloudy soap bubble. 
One brood is reared in the season. If the 
hen be disturbed she glides off the nest and 
vanishes stealthily in the herbage, while 
the cock expresses resentment at the 
intrusion after his own fashion, following 
the offender along the hedge or from bush 
to bush, with head feathers bristling, out- 
spread tail quivering, and sometimes, says 
Mr. Howard Saunders, "shooting almost 
perpendicularly up in the air." The song 
is sweet but monotonous; often uttered 
with great vigour for brief snatches and, 
in May and June, to be heard at any hour 
of the twenty-four in mild weather: the 


bird often sings on the wing as he flits 
from perch to perch. The food consists 
of insects, which are often caught flying, 
and their larvae : later in the summer, 
berries and fruit are eaten and soft green 
corn; individuals have been known to eat 
the growing peas. 

The Whitethroat starts for the south 
early in September. 

In some parts of the country the bird is 
called the "Hay-chat" after the most 
conspicuous materials used in the nest. 


(Sylvia curruca ; Linn.) 
HIS species arrives about the same 

time as its larger cousin ; it is less 
common and less generally distributed, 
being rare and local north of York- 
shire, and also in Cornwall. North 
of the Forth it is a very uncommon 
visitor and in Ireland it is practically 

r'p In person the Lesser Whitethroat is 
^-.{ much like the other, but the head is 
^ a much darker grey and the back and 
tail are greyish brown : and while the 
two outer tail feathers are white the 
next pair lack the broad white tips that 



distinguish those of the Whitethroat. 
Also the legs are short and stout, and are 
slate-colour. The bird is only about a 
quarter of an inch shorter from beak-tip 
to tail-end than the last species, and it is 
not easy to distinguish between them 
except in the hand. The nest and nest- 
ing site are much the same as those of 
the Whitethroat ; but a place in a hazel 
hedge is often preferred, whence the 
Lancashire name " Hazel Linnet." The 
five or six eggs are creamy white with 
spots and blotches of grey and brown 
superimposed, principally at the larger 
end; they are a little smaller than the 
eggs of the Whitethroat. The hen is 


braver than the larger bird and will sit 
very closely when disturbed. 

Mr. Charles Dixon says he has fre- 
quently noticed that the Lesser White- 
throat will desert the beginnings of nest 
after nest for no obvious reason, as is the 
habit of the Wren. 

By comparison with the larger White- 
throat he is shy and retiring; he might be 
overlooked but for his song, a succession 
of high notes of the same pitch. As 
Mr. Warde Fowler says; "the smaller 
bird, less seen and less showy, makes his 
presence felt in almost every lane and 
meadow by the brilliancy of his song." 
He sings, as he lives, in seclusion, and, 



unlike the last, continues singing till late 
in the summer. The food is the same 
as the Whitethroat's, but this bird may 
be seen searching the leaves for insect 
prey in a fashion of his own ; he, too, will 
take insects on the wing. 

The Lesser Whitethroat remains later 
in England than the last species : he does 
not start for the south until the end of 
September, and exceptional cases of his 
remaining till November are on record. 

Orphean Warbler (Sylvia orfihea; 
Temminck.) Very rarely a member of 
this south European species finds its way 
to this country. That it has bred in 


England was proved in 1866 by the 
capture of a nestling unable to fly: 
the last of the half dozen authenticated 
occurrences, was that of a hen bird killed 
near St. Leonards on 7th August, 1903. 


(Sylvia atricapilla; Linn.) 

JN this migrant we have a songster only 
second to the nightingale. Arriving in 
mid April, sometimes about the first week 
of the month, the Blackcap takes up his 
quarters in England, Wales and the south 
of Scotland; he breeds as far north as the 
firths of Forth and Clyde, but beyond that 
limit is seldom known to nest; in Ireland, 
his occurrence anywhere as a breeding 
species is a matter for remark, but the 
bird has never been known to nest further 
north than the co. Dublin. In England 
he is tolerably widely distributed, but is 
somewhat local. 


The Blackcap is easily recognised among 
warblers by the jet black head from which 
he takes his name; the neck is ashen grey, 
the back, wings and tail ash-brown ; chin 
greyish white ; throat, breast and flanks 
ash-grey ; legs and feet lead coloured. In 
the hen the black cap is replaced by one 
of bright reddish brown. Nesting begins 
at the end of April or during the first week 
of May; the sight is in thicket, hedge, 
gorse or holly. Mr. Howard Saunders has 
remarked a preference for privet hedges ; 
^ but the tree, bush, or hedge must be in, or 
=, close to, a wood or shrubbery. The nest, 
a small, neat structure of dry grass lined 
with horsehair, is usually within three feet 


of the ground, but it may be found as 
much as ten feet up. The eggs, four or 
five in number, are extremely variable in 
colouration; the commonest are pale 
yellowish brown, blotched and spotted 
with darker brown ; sometimes the clutch 
consists of eggs whose ground colour is 
cream with markings of lilac and grey : the 
most beautiful are the cream suffused with 
pink blotched with warm reddish brown 
and lilac in different shades superimposed. 
The red tinge in this variety lends them a 
distinction of their own. 

Two broods are reared in the season. 
The cock takes a share in the hatching, 
usually doing his turn of duty during the 


day Mr Chas Dixon says he has seen 
the bird in the act of singing as he sat on 
the nest. The young cocks assume the 
black cap after the first moult. 

The bird sings by night as well as by 
day, whereby the song is sometimes mis- 
taken for that of the nightingale; an error 
not to be repeated after the latter has been 
heard. More often and more excusably 
the song of the Blackcap is mistaken for 
that of the Garden Warbler. From the 
last it may be distinguished, as Mr. Warde 
Fowler points out, by the fact that the 
Blackcap's song " is one lengthened 
phrase," whereas the Garden Warbler will 
go on almost continuously for many 


minutes: also it may be added the Black- 
cap's notes are more mellow. The food 
consists of insects, which are often caught 
on the wing, of wild berries and fruit in their 
seasons. Mr. O. V. Aplin noted the con- 
sumption of holly berries for several days by 
a bird which he first observed on 5th April. 
Soft fruit, more especially raspberries, are 
favourites of the Blackcap; also redcurrants. 

The general movement southward takes 
place in September, the time varying in 
accord with the nature of the season. 
The bird has been known to winter with 
us : he has been seen as late in the year as 
the end of November, and as early as the 
5th March after a severe winter. 


(Sylvia hortensis ; Bechstein.) 

T^HIS bird arrives about the end of 
April or beginning of May. It is 
generally, but locally, distributed through- 
out England and Wales, save in the ex- 
treme west; has been known to nest as 
far north as Perthshire, and occurs as 
a breeding species in the south-western 
parts of Ireland. With regard to the fact 
that it is locally common and locally rare, 
it is to be observed that between this bird 
and the Blackcap appears to be antagonism. 
Garden Warblers are often numerous in 
districts where the Blackcap is scarce, and 
scarce where the Blackcap is common. 


The bird is about 5f inches in length. 
The upper parts from head to tail are 
olive-brown ; the quills of the wing some- 
what darker ; the eye is set in a streak of 
buffish white ; the underside is "huffish 
white darkening upwards to the flanks. 
The hen is a little lighter than the cock. 

Nesting begins in early May and the 
eggs are laid from the middle of the 
month onward. The nest is made of dry 
grass or hay rather loosely put together 
round what may be called the inner nest ; 
on the latter the bird bestows much better 
workmanship ; the cup, of finer grass, 
sometimes mingled with a few horsehairs, 
is closely woven and beautifully rounded. 


The site is a foot or two from the ground 
in bramble bushes, thick shrubs, low 
thorns, or sometimes in a large and un- 
cared-for gooseberry bush ; but always 
well concealed. The eggs, four or five in 
number, vary a good deal ; they may be 
white or greenish white in ground colour, 
marbled and blotched with various shades 
of brown often superimposed; the brown 
of the markings may be olive, dark, or 
or buff, but never, Mr. Howard Saunders 
points out, suffused with the red that 
sometimes lends the Blackcap's egg its 
great beauty. The markings very com- 
monly wear the appearance of having 
been burned in with a blunt, thick wire, 


gradually spreading and fading from a 
spot of intense colour. Only one brood 
is reared in the season ; the young birds 
are rather more greenish olive as to the 
upper parts than their parents. 

The Garden Warbler resembles the 
Lesser Whitethroat in his retiring habits ; 
by preference he keeps out of sight and is 
far more often heard than seen, for when 
singing he takes up his station where the 
leaves hide him. Less than any of the 
Warblers does he court public notice ; 
his soft, melodious song conveys the im- 
pression that he is exercising a modest 
talent for the gratification of his mate 
and none other. His food is very much 


the same as that of the Blackcap, but 
liberal use of the caterpillar of the white 
cabbage butterfly for the nestlings has 
been remarked. At the end of September 
Garden Warblers leave for the south; it is 
worth noticing that this species is found in 
Cape Colony during our winter months ; 
but it would not be safe to conclude that 
these are the individual birds which sum- 
mer in England. 

Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria; 
Bechstein). The summer home of this 
bird is south eastern Europe, Persia and 
Turkestan. During the last thirty years, 
or thereabout, some fifteen specimens have 


been identified in the British Islands. The 
fact that all were taken between August 
and November suggests the probability 
that they were birds which had gone 
astray while returning to winter quarters. 

Subalpine Warbler ( Sylvia subalpina; 
Bonelli). The claim of this little bird to 
inclusion in the British list rests on a 
single specimen shot on St. Kilda in June, 
1894. This is a south European warbler 
whose nearest breeding quarters are the 
south eastern parts of France and Savoy. 
A strong southerly gale was held to 
explain its presence in a a spot so remote 
as St. Kilda. 


( Sylvia undata ; Boddaert.) 

^HIS warbler, which owes its name to 
the fact that it was first identified from 
a specimen shot near Dartford, in 1773, 
was for long regarded as rare ; but with 
the increase of competent observers its 
/\ comparative plenty has been established. 
u It is most often found in the southern 
counties where it is resident throughout 
the year, but is apparently extending its 
breeding range northward and west- 
ward. Norfolk is the most northerly 
county in which the bird has been 
known with certainty to nest, but like 
its relatives it is of retiring habit and 


may be easily overlooked in the breeding 

The adult male is about five inches 
long ; his upper parts are dark slate- 
grey ; the short and rounded wings are 
dark brown ; the tail, which is long and 
somewhat sparse, has the two outermost 
feathers margined on the outer edge with 
white and tipped with white. The length 
of the tail feathers increases to the middle 
pair. From chin to breast the colour is 
rufous chestnut during the breeding 
season ; in autumn spots and streaks of 
white appear ; the belly is dull white. 

Nesting begins in April and continues 
until well on in July. The nest, which is 


built in furze or in heather, deep down 
near the ground, is described by Mr. R. 
B. Wilson as something like that of the 
Whitethroat, but smaller ; one found in a 
furze bush consisted of sprays of young 
and tender furze, moss, bents and spiders' 
webs ; its principal resemblance to the 
Whitethroat's nest lies in the method of 
construction ; it is so loosely put together 
that the light can be seen through. A 
little wool is sometimes used for the lining. 
Seemingly the bird distrusts the strength 
of the nest for the second brood which is 
reared in June or July ; since for this a 
new one is built, rather more flimsy than 
the former. The first clutch is laid early 


in May ; the eggs are four or five in num- 
ber, greenish white, with olive or brown 
markings. The food is much the same as 
that of the other Warblers, but moths 
appear to figure more largely in the bill of 
daily fare. 

The Dartford Warbler may be seen 
flitting from bush to bush on the com- 
mons, with quick, undulating flight ; the 
method of alighting is characteristic ; it 
has been described as looking "as if the 
action were the result of an afterthought," 
and this affords the easiest method of 
identifying the bird. The note is syllabised 
as "pit-it-chou" ; when alarmed or angry 
a scolding "cha-cha." When winter 


approaches the Dartford Warbler leaves 
the commons, and resorts to the sea coast 
where it affects fields, gardens and 
orchards. At this season the birds loses 
much of its shyness and frequently falls a 
prey to the cottage cat. In hard winters 


(Regulus cristatus ; K. L. Kock.) 

'yHIS, the smallest of European birds, is 
a resident, and its numbers in winter 
are augumented by swarms, often of extra- 
ordinary magnitude, from Scandinavia and 
the north. The bird breeds everywhere 
in the Kingdom save in the Outer Hebrides, 
Orkneys and Shetlands ; and no doubt 
would do so in those islands did they offer 
the necessary conveniences in the shape of 
fir woods. 

There is no mistaking the Golden 
Crested Wren ; about inches long with 
yellowish olive-green neck and back, we 
need look no further than his brilliant 


head ; the greyish white forehead is sur- 
mounted by a dark brown frontal streak 
which deepens into a black line below 
each side of the adornment from which he 
derives his name — the crest, brilliant yellow 
in front and rich orange further back ; these 
colours being set in high relief by the black 
lines. The hen's crest is lemon colour 
with narrower black streaks on either side. 

The Gold Crest is an early breeder ; 
nest-building begins in the second half of 
March, and the nest is often ready by the 
end of the month. It is one of the most 
beautiful nests built by any British bird, 
and large for the size of the owner; neatly 
, constructed of soft moss, felted with 



spiders' webs, wool and lichens, it is lined 
with soft feathers; deep and almost spheri- 
cal, it is usually hung under the end of 
fir, yew, or cedar branch. Exceptionally 
it is placed on the bough ; cases of nesting 
in ivy against a wall and even in a low 
bush are recorded. The eggs, from five 
to eight— occasionally more — in number, 
are white, faintly dotted, or freckled with 
reddish brown. One brood is reared in 
the season. 

The food consists of insects, seeking 
which the bird spends much time hunting 
the bark of trees, more especially firs ; an 
active restless little fowl, he draws atten- 
tion to his doings as he flits from one to 



another uttering his insect-like " si-si-si." 
His voice is weak, but he uses it incessantly 
on fine days. He is sociable, and frequently 
hunts in company with tits as well as his 
own species, particularly in winter. 

It is in autumn that the Gold Crest 
attracts most notice. The migrating 
hosts sometimes appear on our shores in 
early August, but the usual time of arrival 
is from September to October. A memor- 
able year was 1882; the "migration wave" 
began on the 6th August and continued 
for 92 days reaching from the Channel to 
the Faroes. In 1892, after it had been 
blowing half a gale from the east from the 
early morning of 14th Oct. to the morning 



of the 16th, Mr. John Cordeaux thus 
described the autumn influx: — "During 
this time the immigration was immense; 
greatest in number were the golden-crested 
wrens. First I heard their notes on 
opening my window on the morning of the 
14th and soon saw some in the garden 
below; they swarmed in every hedgerow; 
but on Saturday the 15th the number had 
enormously increased. Gold crests every- 
where, in hedges and gardens, dead thorns 
and hedge-trimming, rubbish heaps, beds 
of nettles, and dead umbelliferse, the reeds 
in ditches, sides of haystacks, and the 
thorn fences of sheds and yards. The 
sallow thorns were densely crowded, many 


found shelter in the long sea-grass, and 
others again crouched on the bare rain- 
swept sands between the sea and the dunes. 
Many might have been taken with a 
butterfly net." 

Inasmuch as exhausted birds sometimes 
settle in swarms on the rigging of vessels 
in the North Sea, it is certain that many 
are lost on the journey over. It is pro- 
bable that the case of the short-eared owl 
which was seen to land on the Yorkshire 
coast carrying a Gold Crest on his back 
was not isolated. The return journey is 
made in April. 


(Regulus ignicapillus : C. L. Brehm J. 
HIS near relative of the last species is 

an irregular but by no mean infrequent 
visitor. Its true home — if the breeding area 
of a migrant be its true home — is south and 
central Europe, Algeria and Asia Minor; in 
the Taurus range of the last named country 
it is commoner than the Gold Crest. 

This bird is a very little larger than 
cristatus but otherwise is so like that 
until you have him in your hand it is 
impossible to distinguish between the two. 
At close quarters the differences are easily 
recognised ; looking at the Fire Crest in 
profile, the black bands on mantle and 



head proclaim him : one black streak runs 
from the corner of the beak to the neck ; 
another runs from the corner of the beak 
through the eye; and above the cheek is 
y <f a wider black band which forms the frame, 
as it were, of the rich orange crest. The 
hen is smaller than the cock, and her 
crest is lemon yellow with narrower black 
streaks on either side. 

Instances of this bird's nesting in Britain 
are few. The last I can trace was recorded 
in 1906 by the Rev. D. D. Mackinnon, 
who saw, near Portree in Skye, the hen 
sitting on her nest in a small fir tree about 
five feet from the ground. 

It was subsequently stated that three 



other pairs were nesting in the same 
neighbourhood. Mr. Mackinnon saw the 
bird sitting on the 19th May. 

The nest is very like that of the Gold 
Crest ; the eggs, seven to ten in number, 
have a much more reddish tinge in the 
ground colour and redder freckling. Mr. 
Howard Saunders, who observed both Fire 
Crest and Gold Crest in the Pyrenees, 
noticed that the former was much more 
erratic and restless in its movements than 
the latter ; "darting away suddenly after 
a very short stay upon the gorse bush or 
tree where it was feeding, and being often 
seen alone or in parties of two or three at 
most ; whereas the Gold Crests, five or 





six together, would work steadily round 
the same bush, and, if I remained quiet, 
would stop there for many minutes." 

Yellow-browed Warbler (Phyllos- 
copus superciliosns ; /. F. Gmelin). 
About a dozen examples of this bird have 
been taken in Great Britain and Ireland 
since it was first identified in 1838. It is 
believed to breed in the pine forests of X.E. 
Siberia. Its rare occurence so far afield 
as our own country invite the conjecture 
that individual birds may on occasion lose 
their mysterious sense of orientation when 
migrating. The specimens taken in the 
British Islands were all recorded in the 


autumn, when Yellow-browed Warblers 
would be moving south. 

Pallas's Willow Warbler (Phyllos- 
copus proregulus ; Pallas.) A single speci- 
men of this, also an east Siberian, species 
has been taken in England — a hen shot 
in October, 1896, on the Norfolk coast. 

Greenish Wi llo w- Warble r ( Phyllos- 
copus viridanus ; Blyth.) The claims of 
this species to mention rest again upon 
the discovery of one hen-bird taken in 
Lincolnshire in September, 1896, after an 
easterly gale. Its summer home is on and 
beyond the Urals. 


(Phylloscopus rufus ; Bechstein.) 

^HIS little bird is the earliest of our 
spring arrivals, appearing, in favourable 
seasons, during the first days of March. 
A Chiffchaff was seen at Penzance on gth 
February in 1906, but as a few of the 
species remain with us the winter through, 
particularly in sheltered corners of Devon 
and Cornwall, this individual, no doubt 
was one of those which had never been 
away. The bird is most frequent in the 
South and Midland Counties; it is scarce 
in the north and is only known as a 
straggler in the Outer Hebrides and 
Orkneys; it is very common in all wooded 



districts of Ireland. The notable thing 
about this bird (the next species also) is 
the slender graceful figure ; in spring the 
upper parts are olive-green, brightening to 
yellowish on the rump ; the wing coverts, 
quills and tail feathers are dull brown 
edged with olive-green ; and the under 
parts are dull white, tinged with greenish 
buff. There is a pale yellow streak above 
the eye which fades into white behind the 
ear coverts. The plumage becomes 
markedly yellower after the moult. 

The Chiffchaff begins to build in April ; 
the rather loosely constructed nest is 
placed close to the ground in some clump 
of rough herbage, ferns, or kindred site ; 


but in exceptional cases it has been found 
at a much higher elevation. The nest, 
built of dry grass, leaves and moss, is oval 
with a rather wide entrance in the upper 
quarter ; there is always a profuse lining 
of soft feathers. The eggs, usually six, 
are white with purplish brown or reddish 
spots which sometimes overlie blotches of 
warm grey. Two broods are reared in 
the season. The Chifrchaff lives entirely 
on insects and their larvae. The speech 
of the bird — for we may not call it a song 
— consists of two loud sharp notes, not 
badly expressed by his name, sometimes 
varied, Mr. A. H. Palmer has remarked, 
by a kind of chirp like that of the grass- 
hopper but less shrill. Gilbert White 


observes that the two notes are " so loud 
in hollow woods as to occasion an echo." 
The note is seldom heard after the end of 
May, but is uttered again in the autumn. 
It is unusual to hear the note in October, 
but in 1893 it was remarked in Kent on 
the 3rd of that month, and in Co. Carlow 
on the 1st. The Chiffchaff does not court 
observation ; his voice may be heard from 
the seclusion of tall trees; groves of elms 
and larches, Mr. Howard Saunders says, 
being peculiarly attractive to him. 

The southward movement begins in 
September. As already said, a few cour- 
ageous individual remain the winter 
through; but courage is akin to indiscre- 
tion in so delicate a bird. 


(Phylloscopus trochilus ; Linn.) 

QTHERWISE Willow Warbler; a 
name to which he has more claim 
than many so-called warblers, but of that 
anon. He arrives about a month later 
than the Chiffchaff, usually appearing in 
the southern counties during the first 
week of April. He is more common and 
more generally distributed than the last 
species, and, by reason of his fearlessness, 
much better known. Sit still and the 
Willow Wren may come within arm's 
length ; I have had one enter the balcony 
and perch on my foot ; but that was in 
Norway where all birds are more confiding 


than in this country, possibly because a 
prolonged winter increases dependence 
upon man. The Willow Wren is common 
on the mainland of Scotland, but only 
occurs as an occasional visitor in the 
western and northern groups of islands ; 
the fact that these strays most often appear 
in the autumn suggests that they may be 
migrants from Scandinavia which have 
been blown out of their southward course. 
The bird is very common in Ireland. 

In size he rather exceeds the Chiffchaff, 
being about 4f inches long ; but otherwise 
the resemblance between the two is so 
close that one may be mistaken for the 
other ; both are slender graceful little birds 


and the colour scheme is much the same ; 
the margins of the tail and wing feathers 
are more yellowish than in the Chiffchaff, 
and the underparts are yellowish white. 
After the moult the general impression is 
of yellow T ; particularly in the bird of the 
year, whose dress recalls that of a canary. 

Domestic affairs are begun in the latter 
part of April ; the nest itself is like that 
of the Chiffchaff but is placed on the 
ground, not clear of it ; and it is very 
hard to find without the owner's guidance. 
Exceptions occur — they always do. In 
1901, Mr. F. Boyes, of Beverley, recorded 
the nest of a Willow Wren built in the 
ivy covering a post in his garden nearly 


five feet above the ground. The eggs 
from six to eight in number, are white, 
spotted and freckled with very pale red. 
Two broods are often reared in the 
season ; the first is hatched out about the 
middle of May, the second a month later. 
The food consists of insects varied by 
occasional incursions upon currants and 
other fruit ; and in the summer of 1907, 
the Rev. H. C. Russell, of Wollaton in 
Notts., commenting upon the unusual 
number of Willow Wrens in his part of the 
county, stated that they ate his young peas. 

Mr. Warde Fowler achieves the difficult 
feat of describing well the song, which as 
he truly remarks, is unique amongst those ^ 


of British birds : — " Beginning with a high 
and tolerably full note, he drops it both 
in force and pitch in a cadence short and 
sweet, as though he were getting exhausted 
with the effort ; for that it is a real effort to 
him and all his slim and tender relations, 
no one who watches as well as listens can 
have a reasonable doubt. This cadence 
is often perfect, by which I mean that it 
descends gradually, not, of course, on the 
notes of our musical scale, by which no 
birds in their natural state would deign to 
be fettered, but through fractions of one or 
perhaps two of our tones, and without 
returning upwards at the end ; but still 
more often, and especially, as I fancy, after 


they have been here a few weeks, they take 
to finishing with a note nearly as high in 
pitch as that with which they began." 
The song is occasionally heard in August. 
It is to be observed that the Willow Wren 
is much less addicted to the retirement of 
lofty trees than the Chiffchaff ; at all times 
he is more at home in comparatively low 
trees and ornamental shrubs. 

The bird leaves for the south during the 
earlier part of September, but late stayers 
have been seen as far north as Yorkshire 
in the first days of October. This is not 
surprising since, as in the case of the 
last species, a few sometimes remain in 
the warmer corners of the country for the 
whole winter. 


(Phylloscopus sibilatrix ; Bechstein.) 
HIS, the largest and least common ot 

the three greenish yellow Warblers 
which come to us regularly, arrives in the 
southern counties during the second and 
third weeks of April ; being essentially a 
bird of the woodlands it is local in its 
distribution, and is familiar only in dis- 
tricts well wooded, more particularly with 
beech and oak. It is not common in 
Scotland, but is said to be extending its 
range ; it has been identified in North 
Ulster. It is fairly common in the co. 
Wicklow, but not elsewhere in Ireland. 
The bird, less slender of form than the 


last two species, is over five inches long ; 
the upper parts are yellowish green ; the 
wings greyish brown, the feathers edged 
with a tinge of yellow ; the tail greyish 
brown ; breast and throat sulphur yellow ; 
belly and under tail coverts white. The 
easiest way to distinguish the Wood Wren 
from either of the last two species is by 
the greater length of the wings which, 
when folded, come within half an inch of 
the end of the tail. 

In May the Wood Wren sets about 
building ; the site chosen is generally a 
wooded bank with a sprinkling of under- 
growth; and if last year's leaves cover the 
ground it is a further recommendation ; 



often a slight natural depression is selected, 
we need not doubt with an eye to the better 
concealment so secured ; and here the bird 
builds a nest of dry grass, in shape the 
same as those of the Chiffchaff and Willow 
Wren, but lacking the lining of feathers. 
The hen sits very closely; I have had one 
fly out in my face while crawling on all 
fours up a bank with no thought of Wood 
Wrens. Many birds sit as closely, but 
none with which I am acquainted shew 
the same indifference to observation under 
these circumstances ; put the bird off her 
nest and wait a few yards away; within ten 
minutes or so she will come back and re- 
enter it, ignoring your presence ; it is as 



though she said to herself, " If he meant 
to steal the eggs he would have done it 
before, and there's no sense in letting 
them get cold. ,, The eggs, from five to 
seven in number, resemble those of the 
Chiffchaff, but are proportionately larger 
and the spotting is more intense and more 
liberal. The Wood Wren does not appear 
to raise a second brood. Insects, some- 
times caught on the wing, and, in the 
season, berries, constitute the food. 

This bird may be recognised by his 
manner when uttering speech ; his wings 
and tail vibrate, recalling Mr. Warde 
Fowler's remark that it is an effort. 
Mr. Howard Saunders' rendering of the 


utterance, "chit, chit, chit, chit, chitr, 
tr-tr-tr-tr-tre," cannot be bettered. 

In some seasons the Wood Wren is 
plentiful in districts where he is normally 
rare; thus in the spring of 1902, the num- 
ber in the Erne Valley and Ivy Bridge 
districts of Devon was the subject of 
remark. In the following year the num- 
ber in Shropshire was noticed to be 

The southward movement takes place 
in September. 

The Rufous Warbler (A'edon galac- 
todes ; Temminck) whose habitat is 
northern Africa and the south of Spain 


and Portugal, has three times been taken 
in England. 

Radde's Bush Warbler (Lusciniola 
schwarzi ; Radde), an east Siberian species 
becomes British in virtue of a single 
capture made in 1898. 

The Icterine Warbler {Hypolais 
icterina; Vielliot), common in central 
and northern Europe, even in Belgium, 
has been identified some eight or ten 

The Melodious Warbler {Hypolais 
polyglotta; Vielliot), whose range, roughly 


speaking, is northern Africa, the south of 
Spain and Italy, has been identified with 
certainty once, and there is reason to 
believe that a pair bred two or three years 
in succession in Sussex. 


(Acrocephalus streperus ; Vielliot.) 

'Y'HIS bird arrives during the second 
half of April, and during the summer 
is tolerably widely distributed in suitable 
localities throughout the south and mid- 
land counties as far west as Devonshire 
and as far north as Yorkshire: it does not 
visit Scotland, and its occurrence in 
Ireland is doubtful. Suitable localities, 
from the Reed Warbler point of view, are 
those where exist beds of reeds high and 
thick enough to afford seclusion for 
nesting; but not every member of the 
species holds a reed bed indispensable: 
nests may be found among the growers of 


willow and alder by the riverside, and 
cases of building in lilac bushes in gardens 
are on record. 

The bird is about 5 J inches long; the 
upper parts are rufous brown with a tinge 
of chestnut which brightens on the rump; 
there is a faint buff streak over the eye; 
the underparts are dull white, tinged with 
buff which darkens on the sides, thighs 
and under tail coverts: the young bird is 
tawny underneath. 

Building begins in May; when reeds 
are the site, the nest is slung or secured to 
two, three or four stems about which the 
dry grass of which the outer structure 
consists is woven; moss, wool, feathers 


and horsehair are worked into the nest 
and used as lining; as the reeds grow they 
lift the nest further above the water. 
Mr. H. S. Davenport has drawn attention 
to a curious habit of this bird, namely the 
removal of the material of an old nest, or 
a storm-damaged nest of the year, bit 
by bit, to build the new one: a practice 
which has economy of labour to re- 
commend it. The nest is deep; a wise 
precaution against the accident which 
might befall when reeds are swept by high 
winds. The eggs, four or five in number, 
vary a good deal in colouration; commonest 
are those of greenish-white, blotched and 
freckled with dark olive, ash-colour and 



black, most thickly at the larger end. 
The eggs are laid about the last week of 

This bird is frequently victimised by the 
Cuckoo; the Rev. James Hale in July, 
1893, found among reeds in the Isisa nest 
which told its own curious story. The nest 
was three storied ; and it was obvious what 
had happened : the owner had laid one egg 
when a Cuckoo put hers beside it ; the 
Reed Warblers, objecting, set to work and 
built a new lining over the two eggs ; the 
hen had laid two eggs on the new lining 
when the Cuckoo arrived again and put 
in an egg; once more the Reed Warbler 
sacrificed her own in order to baffle the 


stranger, and added more material over 
the three eggs: when the nest was found 
there were four eggs of the rightful owner 
in it but no Cuckoo's among them. The 
Cuckoo had evidently given up the idea 
of saddling that particular Reed Warbler 
with her egg. Two Cuckoo's eggs have 
sometimes been found in a Reed Warbler's 

The food consists of insects and their 
larvae, small dragonflies being much in 
request, worms and small slugs; and in their 
season fruit and berries. This bird, the 
Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers are of 
stay-at-home habit, never wandering any 
distance from the spot where they have 


made their summer quarters. Find one 
of the three once and the bird is found for 
the season ; you may return day after day 
assured of seeing him again within a radius 
of a few yards. 

The song — it is a pleasure to deal with a 
Warbler that really warbles — is loud, well 
sustained and distinguished by consider- 
able variety of note. The bird sings at 
any hour of the daylight during the 
summer months, unless it be rough and 
stormy; he is heard at his best on a quiet 
evening after sunset; heard but not seen, 
for he hides among the reeds to sing. 

The southward movement takes place 
in September. 



The Great or Clamorous Reed 
Warbler (A. turdoides; Meyer), common 
from the Low Countries eastward across 
central Europe, has been taken about half- 
a-dozen times in England; as this bird 
nests regularly near Calais, it is rather 
strange that it should be so infrequent a 
visitor to England. In June, 1892, was 
found near Winchester a nest whose 
unusual size gave rise to the conjecture 
that it was not that of the common Reed 
Warbler, but of a member of this species. 


(Acrocephalus palustris ; Bechstein.) 

H^HIS bird appears to be most common in 
the countries of central Europe; but the 
breeding range extends as far north as 
Denmark and as far west as Normandy. 
To England the Marsh Warbler is a 
somewhat rare visitor ; but so nearly 
resembles the Reed Warbler that it may 
be mistaken for that bird. The species 
was first observed in Somersetshire, and 
has since been reported as breeding in 
half-a-dozen or more different counties, 
from Cheshire to Kent. As regards ap- 
pearance it is distinguished by the dis- 
tinctly greenish olive brown on the upper 


parts which are always less rufous than 
the upper parts of the Reed Warbler ; 
also by the fact that the white of the 
underparts is tinged with sulphur buff 
instead of rufous buff. 

Nesting takes place during June. Mr. 
Warde Fowler, who watched the bird 
regularly near Oxford for 14 years, until 
1905, after which season they did not 
return to their old haunts, says what the 
Marsh Warbler " really loves best, and 
rarely finds in England except in some 
parts of Cambridgeshire and Somerset, is 
a large space of flat alluvial ground, with 
convenient bits of cover, such as thick 
bunches of tall plants, scattered here 



and there." He adds that they show 
preference for neglected withy beds. Mr. 
Collingwood Ingram, who was the first 
to observe the bird as a breeding species 
in Kent (1905), gives an account of a nest, 
found in a dense spinney of 2\ acres or 
thereabout, composed chiefly of ash, elder 
and hawthorn, with a few large willows 
on the outskirts. While pushing through 
a clump of unusually tall nettles, at least 
five or six feet high, he found a slight 
cup-shaped nest, slung on two stems of a 
sapling ash, and as a third support a dry 
nettle-stalk was included; it was between 
two and three feet from the ground, 

was built of 


bents and hay 


somewhat loosely, but securely, twisted 
round the saplings ; the lining consisted 
of horsehair and cocoanut fibre, the latter 
obtained from the ties of cocoanut strings 
used in an adjacent hop garden. The 
nest contained five greenish white eggs, 
boldly blotched with lilac and olive 
brown. The young ones when hatched 
out on 26th June were very dark skinned 
and appeared to have no down feathers. 
Another observer describes a nest, found 
in a reed bed of a Cheshire mere, as like 
that of the Reed Warbler, but shallower 
and less neat. The eggs may be dis- 




and the fewer markings which, moreover, 
are principally at the larger end. 

The song of the Marsh Warbler, to 
raise which he takes up his position in a 
tall tree, is particularly beautiful ; so dis- 
tinctive that Mr. Collingwood Ingram 
deems it unlikely that the bird is more 
common than is supposed ; he cannot 
think it could be mistaken for the song 
of any other bird. The food is similar 
to that of the Reed Warbler. The times 
of arrival and departure are not known 
with any exactness, but from the fact 
that nests with eggs are found during the 
latter part of June it is reasonable to 
think that the bird is a somewhat late 


(Acrocephalus phragtnitis ; Bechstein.) 

^RRIVING in the second half of April, 
this bird is thenceforth common 
and generally distributed throughout our 
Islands ; it becomes rather local in the 
extreme north, and is of rare occurrence 
in Skye. 

The adult male is about five inches 
long: there is a conspicuous streak of 
yellowish white above the eye, and the 
crown of the head is streaked with dark 
brown on pale brown; the feathers of the 
neck, back and wing coverts are russet 
brown, darker in the centre, giving a 
mottled or variegated appearance; the 


rump and tail coverts are tawny brown, 
and the tail dark brown with paler edges ; 
the chin and throat are white, the breast 
and under parts buff. Breeding begins in 
May, and the commencement of business 
is marked by much quarreling, arising 
perhaps over choice of nesting sites. 

In suitable localities Sedge Warblers 
are very numerous ; their preference seems 
to be for low-lying damp places with beds 
of reed, rush and osier, in the neighbour- 
hood of water ; but the bird is often found 
remote from stream or pond nesting in 
thick hedges or in shrubs. Mr. Howard 


mentions the case of a nest ten feet up 
in a Leicestershire bullfinch. Asa rule it 
is placed quite low down near the ground 
in coarse herbage, or among the lower 
branches of some shrub ; exceptionally 
on the ground. The foundation of the 
nest is moss over which is a loosely built 
structure of dry grass, moss and bents, 
with a sketchy lining of horsehair and 
seed-tufts of plants, with it may be a few 
feathers. It is to be observed that the 
nest is never slung to supports as is that 
of the Reed Warbler. The colour of the 
eggs, five or six in number, may be com- 
pared with certain among clay marbles, 
faintly mottled brown and greyish brown ; 


and occasionally traced at the larger end 
with a very dark brown line or lines. 

The bird's food consists for the most 
part of aquatic insects, their larvae, 
small slugs and worms ; later in the year 
the birds eat berries. The loud, merry 
chatter — there is nothing of music in the 
Sedge Warbler's voice — may be heard 
both day and night ; it is unmistakeable, 
being kept up for as much as ten minutes 
at a time without pause ; when several 
individuals are rattling away within hear- 
ing of each other there seems to be 
rivalry. Like the Reed Warbler this bird 
remains out of sight while singing. At 
other times he is by no means shy, rather 


the reverse ; he is far more restless, for- 
ward and noisy than the Reed Warbler ; 
and if it be difficult to discriminate 
between the two by plumage it is easy to 
do so by conduct and general behaviour. 
The Sedge Warbler is much addicted to 
imitating other birds, and will interpolate 
imitations in the current of his own 
chatter. Mr. Warde Fowler gives a 
charming instance of this trait : " I was 
looking at a pair or two of Sedge 
Warblers on a bush and wondering if 
they were going to build a nest there, 
when a Blackbird emerged from the 
thicket behind me, and set up that absurd 
cackle we all know so well. Instantly, 


out of the bush I was looking at, came 
an echo of this cackle, uttered by a small 
voice in such ludicrous tones of mockery 
as to fairly upset my gravity. It seemed 
to say 1 You awkward idiot of a bird, I 
can make that noise as well as you ; only 
listen ! 1 " 

The voice of the Sedge Warbler becomes 
less frequently heard as June draws on ; 
presumably the cares of family occupy 
the time formerly devoted to vocal exer- 
cise. During the latter part of September 
the birds take their departure for the 
south ; but individuals remain till late in 
October and occasionally stay the winter 
with us. 


Aquatic Warbler (A. aquaticus ; J. 
F. Gmelin). This south central European 
bird has occasionally been identified in 
England ; the last occurence I can trace 
was the seventh ; a specimen shot at Cley 
Harbour, in Norfolk, in September, 1904. 
It may be a less rare visitor than is 
supposed; its extremely shy and retiring 
nature and close resemblance to the 
Sedge Warbler favour its escape from 

Savi's Warbler (Locustella lusctni- 
oides ; Savi). This bird seems to have 
once been a regular, though never abund- 
ant visitor to the great fens of the eastern 


counties. Drainage of those areas dis- 
qualified the country as a summer resi- 
dence in the eyes of Savi's Warbler, and 
the last English specimen was identified 
at Surlingham, Norfolk, in June, 1856. 


( Locustella ncevia ; Boddaert.) 
HIS bird, which arrives during the 

second half of April, has local names 
derived from his voice ; in some - parts 
they call him the " Reeler," in others the 
" Reel-bird," on the Broads the " Razor- 
grinder." The species is widely distributed 
all over England and Wales and Ireland, 
but is somewhat local ; like his relatives 
he has preferences in the matter of 
country ; he grows scarcer as we go north 
in Scotland. 

Cock and hen are alike in plumage ; 
about 4i inches long, the upper parts of 
the bird are olive brown each feather 


having a darker streak down the middle ; 
the under parts are pale brown with darker 
spots on neck and breast. He is very like 
the Sedge Warbler ; but apart from his 
very different conception of the manners 
becoming in a small bird, the Grasshopper 
Warbler has no light streak over the eye. 

The type of country he prefers is some 
tract of lowland in the intermediate stage 
between swampy fen and well-drained 
marsh, furnished with abundance of fern, 
bramble and undergrowth ; in such a 
region he seeks out a deep ditch overrun 
with rank weeds and smothered with 
brambles ; and if a tall and straggly hedge 
overshadow, so much the better. Here 


he lives and lurks ; the careful watcher, 
taking ordinary precautions, may study 
him at close quarters, for despite his 
retiring habit he is by no means timid. 
Choose a spot where the jungle is not too 
dense, and watch; a little brown some- 
thing comes threading its way smoothly 
among the stems ; now pausing ; now 
gliding "in and out and round about "; 
it stops at a thin grower, rears upright 
and is travelling easily, steadily up to- 
wards the foliage ; the neck lengthens to 
peer about the stem, and illusion fades ; 
but the Grasshopper Warbler remains in 
mind as a veritable mouse in feathers. 
Breeding begins in May, and the eggs 


are laid during the latter half of the month ; 
the nest, a compact structure of moss and 
dry grass lined with threads of finer grass 
is nearly as deep as the Reed Warbler's; 
it is hidden in a thick tuft of coarse 
herbage, or in the undergrowth in the 
bottom of a neglected hedge. The eggs, 
from five to seven in number, are white 
suffused with pink, closely and minutely 
freckled with reddish brown : sometimes 
the freckling at the larger end is so close 
as to conceal the ground colour. Eggs 
may be found at any time from May 
onward to the end of July, or even later; 
whence it would seem that two broods are 
sometimes reared. The food consists of 



insects, among them, dragonflies taken on 
the wing, and their larvae. 

Concerning the voice of this "Warbler" 
— it is a pity some less inapplicable name 
was not chosen for the genus ; the speech 
of the bird has been variously compared 
to (a) grinding a razor; (b) pulling out a 
spring steel tape, now stopping suddenly 
for^a moment, now pulling out quicker and 
quicker, then suddenly stopping ; (c) a 
delicate electric bell, heard at some 
distance while the door of your room is 
slowly opened and again closed; (d) the 
music of a fishing reel rapidly unwound. 
You may also produce an excellent imita- 
tion by drawing the teeth of a comb across 


a knife blade. I think (d) is the best, but 
the human ear receives impressions as 
different as the human eye. The "reel" 
may be heard during the heat of the day 
when all other birds are silent ; but is 
most vigorous in the evening : the bird 
often perches on the highest twig of a 
bush to utter his metallic trill: he does it 
with his beak raised to the skies and puts 
his little soul into it, for all the world like 
a nightingale; his demeanour says: 
" search the whole hedge and you shall 
not find such another songster." Which 
in one sense is true ; you cannot possibly 
mistake him for any other. 

The Grasshopper Warbler leaves for the 
south in September. 


(Accentor tnodularis ; Linn.) 

use the name set above is to invite 
the charge of pedantry: "Some 
well-meaning writers," says a very high 
authority, " name it the Hedge Accentor, 
to shew that it is no relative of the 
obnoxious House-Sparrow." I respectfully 
submit that good intention in this case is 
pardonable. We do not accuse of wanton 
self-advertisement the Thomas J. Smith 
who writes to the Times to say that he is 
not the Thomas Smith who stands charged 
with burglary at the Assizes. Popular 
query to the contrary there is much in a 
name; and too distinct a line cannot be 


drawn between this virtuous fowl and the 
feathered blend of impudence and villainy 
for whose heads the farmer cheerfully pays 
a shilling a dozen, even in these days of — 
but Mr. Lane will warn me that this is no 
place for politics. Why should we call 
the bird a Sparrow when he is not a 
Sparrow ? True, both Accentor and 
Sparrow belong to the same great Order, 
the Passeres; so, for that matter, do 
Song Thrush and Nightingale, but we 
don't call them sparrows. The Hedge 
Accentor is a member of the, in Britain, 
small and select sub-family Accentorince 
which belongs to the Family Turdidce ; 
whereas the abandoned bird with whom 


popular nomenclature would confuse him 
belongs to the sub-family Fringillince 
of the Family FringillidcB. The Accentor 
is perfectly justified in saying he is 
no relation at all. Call him, as does 
Chaucer, " Haysogge " ; call him Dun- 
nock, Dykie, Smoky, Shuffle-wing, or 
as in Surrey — nobody I ever met knows 
why — " Isaac " ; but not, I pray you, by a 
name that connotes villainy ; lest it make 
for his undoing. 

Needless to say this bird is a resident 
and widely distributed; but Hedge 
Accentors come to this country in myriads 
for the winter and leave again in spring 
for the north. Nesting begins as early as 


March and the nest, made of roots, and 
moss with hair and wool lining may be 
found in any and every hedgerow a few 
feet from the ground, also in clumps of 
bush and bramble, and stick heaps. On 
occasion it is built in the ivy covering a 
wall, but this is rather unusual. A curious 
proceeding was reported in 1901 of a pair 
that nested in the ivy on a wall; when 
three eggs had been laid, the birds deemed 
a change desirable ; they set to work and 
built a new nest two yards away against 
the same wall, using the materials of the 
old nest for the new one. 

Few eggs are more beautiful or more 
familiar than the blue eggs of the Hedge 


Accentor ; they number from four to six, 
five being the ordinary clutch : two or 
even three broods are reared between 
March and July. The bird is of solitary 
habit; you rarely see two of the species 
together : his realm is the hedge and his 
manner of gliding along among the twigs 
rather recalls the manner of the Warblers ; 
also he does not wander far from home. 
The food, and this is the point to be borne 
in mind by those who would by misnaming 
confuse him with the House Sparrow, 
consists of insects, as spiders and small 
beetles, and of worms; in less degree, of 
seeds : he may do a little mischief among 
the seeds occasionally, but on the whole he 


is far more useful than harmful. In 
winter he eats crumbs in company with 
other birds. 

His song, short but oft repeated, may 
be heard from February onwards; as a 
rule he is silent in cold weather, but has 
been heard to raise his modest voice at 
midday when the thermometer shewed 
ten degrees of frost. The bird is one of 
the favourite victims of the Cuckoo. 

Like the Thrush and Blackbird the 
Hedge Accentor is sometimes guilty of 
eccentricity in the breeding season. At 
Leven, Fifeshire, in June, 1895, a hen bird 
was found sitting on young Thrushes in 
the absence of their mother. Evidently 


convinced of the mother's incompetence, 
she was found on the nest beside the 
hen Thrush on another occasion. The 
maternal instinct induces strange vagaries 
among birds as well as animals. 

Alpine Accentor {Accentor collaris ; 
Scopoli). This dweller among the moun- 
tain ranges of southern Europe has several 
times been identified in England as a stray 
summer visitor ; it is much larger than the 
last species — seven inches long against the 
Hedge Accentor's five and a half — and is 
conspicuous by its chin and throat, which 
are white speckled with black. It has 
never been known to breed in this country. 


HIS bird, often called the Water Ouzel, 

is resident all over the Kingdom in 
suitable localities; a suitable locality being 
the banks or margin of a rapid brook ; the 
Dipper has no affection for waters sluggish 
and deep, and thus is known in flat 
country only as a rare visitor; for example 
the last of his half-dozen appearances in 
Kent, where the rivers are slow T , occurred 
in December, 1908. He is far more com- 
mon on the brooks and burns of Wales 
and Scotland than on English streams. 

There is no mistaking the Dipper, as 
he — or she, for the cock and hen are 


alike — skims along a foot or two above 
the surface of the water ; dark brown as 
to head, wings and tail, slate grey as to 
back ; the pure white of the breast, 
darkening into ruddy brown on the lower 
part, and that into black on the flanks 
and belly. The length is about seven 

Breeding begins early in March — fully 
fledged nestlings have been found in the 
third week of the month, but that is 
exceptional. The nest, large for the size 
of the builder, is a beautiful ball of moss, 
lined with dead leaves ; sometimes leaves 
are worked in with the moss, and grass 
also is used on occasion. I have called 


the nest a ball, but the shape depends a 
good deal on the crevice it is required to 
fit ; I have found nests that were better 
described as bun-shaped. A hole in the 
woodwork or masonry of a bridge, a 
sheltered crevice in rock or bank, often 
under an apron of falling water, are 
favourite sites ; but the bird has been 
known to build in the boughs of a small 
tree. Wherever placed it is close to a 
stream. The eggs, pure white, vary some- 
what in shape ; you may find them as 
pointed as the plover's, nearly oval, or 
any form between ; they number from 
four to six. Two broods are reared in the 
season, and sometimes a third. The 


young Dipper is greyish brown above and 
white below ; he can swim as soon as he 
leaves the nest, and soon learns to dive 
like his parents. Strictly speaking the 
Dipper does not "dive," a verb that 
indicates effort ; he possesses the faculty 
of sinking quietly as though by discharge 
from his lungs of air that kept him afloat. 
Under water he uses both wing and legs 
to swim, and with luck you may see him 
walking along the bottom of the stream, 
in search, no doubt of the small molluscs, 
which together with aquatic beetles and 
other insects, form his staple diet. 

The Dipper has the good will of the 
angler for that he preys upon creatures 


destructive to trout and salmon ova ; but 
there is some reason to believe that the 
bird has liking for these things himself. It 
has been remarked that when the little 
brook trout ascend the burns to spawn in 
late autumn, the Dipper seeks change of 
air in the same direction ; of course he 
may have an eye on the insect foes of 
trout eggs ; but there be those who 
attribute this autumn excursion to taste for 
trout ova themselves. Save at this season 
the Dipper never strays far from the 
section of the river he has made his own ; 
he has his favourite perches on the stones 
and rocks, and there he stands ducking 
and bowing in a " A fashion that suggests 


continually baulked intention to take 
wing. The sound " chit-it " is often 
uttered by the bird as he flies. The song, 
so-called, low and not unmusical, gives 
the impression that the Dipper is singing 
to himself ; it may be heard in winter as 
well as during spring and summer. 

In the Highlands and parts of Ireland, 
the Dipper is called, and believed by the 
country people to be, the hen Kingfisher ; 
the idea probably takes birth from the 
flight which resembles that of the King- 
fisher. Other names for him are " Water 
Crow" and " Water Colly," the latter 
peculiar to the south-western counties. 


(Sitta ccesia; Wolf.) 
HIS interesting little bird is very local 

in England and Wales ; has been 
reported occasionally in Scotland, and is 
unknown in Ireland. It is fairly common 
in the midland and south eastern districts 
where old timber abounds, for ancient 
trees are indispensable to the "Nut- 
jobber," as the country folk call him. 

The Nuthatch is about 5f inches long 
and of sturdy build ; the upper parts are 
slate-blue, the very short tail somewhat 
lighter and barred with white and grey, 
save the middle feathers which are slate- 
grey throughout ; the chin and cheeks are 


white, the throat and belly warm buff ; a 
strong black streak runs from the corner 
of the straight, sharp bill, through the 
eye and well down the neck ; the feet are 
large. The hen is of duller hue than the 

Breeding begins in April ; the usual site 
for the nest is some old hollow bough to 
which a convenient hole gives access ; and 
if the door be wider than the Nuthatch 
approves he is at pains to build it up 
with mud and small stones. The amount 
of work he puts into this masonry is 
extraordinary considering his size. The 
late Mr. F. Bond presented to the 
Natural History Museum a nest in whose 



construction no less than n lbs. of clay 
had been used. That nest, by the way, 
was found in an unusual situation, to wit, 
the side of a hay-stack. Another curious 
case was the adaptation of an old nest of 
a Magpie in the fork of an oak ; the dome 
was mud-plastered within to make the 
nest accord with Nuthatch requirements. 

The nest in the hollow limb of a tree is 
made some little distance from the entry ; 
it is a mere bed of dry leaves or scales 
of fir. The eggs, from five to seven in 
number, are white, variable in shape, 
spotted and blotched with brownish red 
and, it may be, flecks of lilac and grey, 
principally at the larger end. 


The Nuthatch is not much addicted to 
flight; he spends most of his time running 
about the tree-trunks, on which he is as 
much at home as a Woodpecker, seeking 
the insects on which he lives during the 
better part of the year. He is also to 
be seen industriously searching on the 
ground. In autumn he fares largely on 
hazel nuts, beechmast and acorns with 
other hard seeds. He owes his name to 
the method with which he deals with the 
first ; he fixes his nut in a crevice, takes 
up his position over it, converts his whole 
person into a pickaxe, and hammers with 
his beak until he breaks the shell. He 
has a Magpie-like habit of hiding his 


booty. Mr. O. V. Aplin has more than 
once watched the bird hiding a nut in an 
old thatch ; and Mrs. Gore Brown has seen 
Nuthatches burying nuts in the flower- 
beds and pressing little clods of earth 
on top, exactly as a Magpie hides his 

The Nuthatch is most engaging at the 
courting season ; when he shows off to 
the hen he spreads his tail and wings and 
fluffs out his breast feathers while he 
performs his antics ; at this time too he 
varies his ordinary note, " Tui-tui-tui," 
with curious bubblings and a frequent 
loud shrill whistle. Old Turner says " he 
has pugnacious habits but a cheerful 


disposition ; " as regards the latter, all who 
know him will agree ; but I do not think 
pugnacity has been noticed as a con- 
spicuous failing. Perhaps it was so when 
the bird was commoner than he is now — 
in the days when so much of England 
was forest, and more generally suitable 
for Nuthatches; in the days when "men 
attributed witchcraft to it, since it is 
cunning in knowledge of affairs." 

In May, 1901, Mr. R. W. Calvert found 
the nest of a Nuthatch in a crab tree with 
six eggs ; these had been adopted by a 
Great Tit who had added nine eggs of 
her own. To adjust matters, was found 
in the same locality, Wychwood Forest, 


a Great Tit's nest occupied by a Nuthatch 
who sat on four eggs of the original owner 
and four of her own. The temptation to 
belief that there had been a friendly or 
forcible exchange is strong. 


( Certhia familiaris ; Linn.) 
HIS bird is more common than is 

generally supposed ; his talent for 
keeping out of sight, his inconspicuous 
colouring and the closeness with which he 
hugs the tree-trunk with his small person, 
all render him liable to be overlooked. 
He is to be found all over the United 
Kingdom, save in the Outer Hebrides > 
the one condition of his presence is 

In length about 4f inches, the upper 
parts have a mottled appearance, each 
dark brown feather having the centre dull 
white. There is a light streak over the 


eye ; the tail is deeply forked and the 
feathers are stiff to the tips, to meet the 
bird's requirements, for he uses his tail 
in climbing ; the wings are barred and 
margined with white ; the under side is 
white, which merges into buff on the 
flanks ; the feet are rather large and the 
claws long and curved ; the bill is slightly 

Breeding begins about mid-April ; a 
very usual site is in the cleft made by 
partial detachment of bark from the 
trunk of a tree a few feet above the 
ground, or in some natural crevice in 
the bole ; sometimes the bird chooses 
a cranny in the woodwork of a disused 


outhouse, behind broken plaster; or under 
the eaves of house or outbuilding: more 
rarely in the body of the nest of some 
larger bird, the Rook for instance. The 
nest consists of dry grass, fine straw, bents, 
roots, twigs and moss, or some of these 
materials; with a lining of wool, feathers 
and shreds of soft inner bark. The eggs, 
from six to nine in number, are white, 
blotched, spotted and zoned with reddish 
brown and dull purple, principally at the 
larger end. Two broods are often reared. 
It has been remarked that though the hen 
is very shy while sitting on her eggs, 
flitting unobtrusively from nest while a 
man is still far off, she gains courage when 


the young are hatched out : both she and 
the cock bird remain at hand when their 
children seem to need protection. 

Like the Nuthatch, the Tree Creeper 
lives and has his being on the tree-trunk, 
running up and down and round it with a 
jerky but rapid movement, and keeping 
always the tree between himself and the 
observer. Your abiding impression of 
the Tree Creeper is one of vanishing round 
the corner. Watch him from a distance 
with glasses and you gain the impression 
of tireless activity ; the food consisting of 
the small insects found in bark the bird 
has to work hard for a living. In winter 
the Tree Creeper associates with other 


insect hunters, the Tits and Gold Crests, 
and may be seen pursuing his business in 
their company; but he seems always to 
work lower down on the trunk. The 
voice is shrill but is not often heard 
otherwise than in the warning note, a 
weak " cheep cheep." 

Turner calls the Tree Creeper " a very 
little bird of bold habits ; " he was a good 
observer, so we must conclude that the 
bird has changed in character since the 
middle of the 16th century ; then, as now, 
however, this was a busy little bird;" it 
never rests, but is for ever climbing up 
the trunks of trees after the manner of 
the Woodpeckers." 


Wall Creeper (Tichodroma muraria ; 
Linn). The honour of British nationality 
has been purchased with their lives by 
three Wall Creepers since 1792. The true 
home of the bird is south and central 
Europe, where it is found in the mountain 
regions climbing the rock faces, much as 
the Tree Creeper climbs trees. This is 
not a bird of which it may be conjectured 
that occurrences are overlooked. Though 
he is only six inches long it would be 
difficult to overlook the Wall Creeper in his 
slate-grey dress set off by beautiful crimson 
wings. There was a specimen in the 
Regent's Park Gardens ten years ago, and 
this, the late Mr. Tegetmeier believed, 
f was the only one ever seen in captivity. 


Vol. I. — Thrush, Blackbird, Ouzel, Redwing, 
Fieldfare, Wheatear, Robin, Nightingale, Whinchat, 
Stonechat, Tits, Starling, Wren, etc. 


Guardian. — ''Bidsf air to inaugurate a new era — Mr. Cuming's 
text is good, but Mr. Shepherd's vivid sketches are brillian t. 
He catches his subjects in all their natural poses." 

Tatler.—"Ii the Bodley Head Natural History Books which 
follow are half as fascinating as the first of the series then 
they will be very welcome. In it Mr. E. D. Cuming gives 
a short but very concise account, and the illustrations in 
colour by Mr. J. A. Shepherd are absolutely perfect of their 
kind. He is about the only artist I know who can give 
character and expression to any animal which he draws. 
His birds are the quaintest, most fascinating little creatures 

Outlook. — " If the succeeding volumes of this series maintain 
this high level the success of the series is assured. The 
descriptions . . . are very clear, and the illustrations . . . 
will prove far more useful for purposes of identification than 
more elaborate drawings. A very charming little book." 

Feathered Life. — "The first volume of what promises to be a 
really delightful series, the design of which is decorative as 
well as instructive. If. as the publisher points out, Mr. 
Shepherd has not aimed at scientific accuracy, he has done 
infinitely better. Nearly all the studies — and they are on 
every page — are drawn from life with charming effect and 
the numerous admirers af this artist's work will be glad to 
know of 'The Bodley Head Natural History.' " 

Literary World. — " It is a delightful book — to be followed, we 
are glad to say, by others." 

John Lane, The Bodley Head, London 





3 5002 03308 2137 

Science OH 61 . C85 1313 1-2 
Cuming, E* D. 1362-13-41. 
Bodley Head natural history