Birds and All Nature, Vol. VI, No. 5, December 1899 online

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What kind of honey they all came to bring;
Pert and saucy as he can be,
Tail a-flitting, he says, says he -
"Bob-o-link, o-link, o-link."

Wings jet black and glossy as silk,
Waistcoat a-gleaming as white as milk;
Dainty and slender, quicker than light,
First in the morning, last one at night,
Perched on the post of the barn-yard gate,
Singing his sweetest to waken his mate;
Dressing his feathers and winking at me,
Mincing around, he says, says he -
"Bob-o-link, o-link, o-link."


The color photograph is found to be most useful in developing the
color sense in children. The act of recognizing various colors and
shades is educative. When we consider that all the effects of the color
photograph are produced by combinations of the three primary colors we
at once step into a realm of thought and observation that is boundless.
The danger is that we may attempt too much with the abundance of
material at hand and, by forgetting the limitations of the unformed
mind, confuse instead of enlighten.

It is well for the teacher to know the process by which the color
photograph is produced, but young children who know little of the laws
of light are not expected to understand it fully. In advanced classes
the following will be found beneficial:

A natural object is placed before a camera and a water screen is
adjusted so no rays but the yellow may reach the photographic plate.
A negative is thus obtained recording all the yellow that appears
upon the surface of the object, whether it shows as pure yellow or in
combination with other colors. With the camera and object in exactly
the same position and another screen which absorbs all the rays but the
red ones coming from the object, a negative of the red is obtained. A
third negative of the blue in the object is similarly got, and we have
an accurate representation of the form and all the colors of the object
separated into red, yellow, and blue.

From these negatives three half-tone plates are made upon copper. A
half-tone plate is an acid etching produced by photographic process
with fine lines crossing each at right angles so that the picture
appears as a series of microscopic square points which decrease in
size in the lighter portions of the plate.

Red, yellow, and blue inks of the rarest quality are used in printing
from these plates, with great care exercised as to getting the exact
depth of color required for each. By placing a sheet of fine tissue
paper beneath a plate printing red, the red is deepened, another sheet
makes it more intense, and others are placed under the plate, if
necessary, to get the rich red required to blend with the yellow and
blue to make the exact reproductions of nature's colors which appear in
the color photograph.

The order of the printing is yellow first, and when this is thoroughly
dry the red is laid on, and the blue a day later. As the color is
nowhere a solid mass, but a series of points, one color does not hide
another, but the three colors shine through and make the blendings
which appear in the beautiful and delicate shades and tints of the
color photographs.

Do not manifest surprise when you find pupils wholly or partly color
blind. The boy who cannot find a red marble in the grass will show
by his conversation that red and green are the same to him. His is
an extreme case, but there are many who are slow to name the primary
colors and totally fail to recognize differences in tints.

For ordinary purposes there should be little effort given to the
naming of the shades. If the colors are talked about by name, enough
is done in the line of language. But classes become readily interested
in comparing reds, and blues, or greens to say which is the deeper or
the purer. The location of a patch of color often changes its apparent
intensity. Contrast with surroundings may deceive the eye. Whistler
has used Naples yellow so the observer declares it pure white.

A good exercise in color recognition is given in choosing masses of
color on the picture and telling what primary colors are in them; also
in comparing two masses and saying which appears to have the more red
or yellow in it.

Where the class have water colors excellent practice may be had in
selecting and mixing colors to correspond with a given one. The mixing
should be first tried without placing the mixed mass beside the copy.
Very young children often make surprisingly accurate judgments of
color, and no game pleases them more than a mixing contest, having
the game decided in each instance by placing the best work beside the

No pictures have inspired so many young people with a desire to copy
as have the color photographs. Their perfection of detail has not
discouraged such attempts. The more easily copied lithograph has no
such fascination. This shows that the nearer we approach nature in any
presentation the more strongly we appeal to human nature and draw out
its latent powers.



This noble bird may be found in wooded districts of Illinois, but I
made its acquaintance in the Indian Territory, where it is quite common.

In size and beauty of color it is second only to the ivory-billed.

The Choctaw Indians told me it was the "Good God" bird. I asked what
they meant by that designation. The reply was "Only listen and you will

For days I spent much time watching several pairs as they flew about
among the trees on the Shawnee Hills, but the only sound I heard was
the hammering of their strong stone-colored bills on the sides of the
trees, a noise that might easily be heard a quarter of a mile away.
They did not descend to fallen logs for their prey but made the chips
and bark fly from the upright trees.

Naturalists say the pileated will occasionally leave the insect-laden
trees in search of fruit and grain, a thing the ivory-billed never does.

My beautiful, noisy companions eyed me and my opera glass suspiciously,
trying always to keep on the other side of the tree from me, and, for a
time, gave me no hint of the reason for their Indian name.

But at last a hunter appeared upon the scene when the frightened birds
bounded away through the air uttering a cry which did indeed resemble
the words "Good God," spoken in gutteral tones. The marksman brought
down a fine specimen, which he gave to me. With magnificent red
top-knot and wide-spread wings it looks as if it might be longing to
fly back to its home among the Shawnee Hills.


(_Menura superba._)


If Australia were noted for no other thing than the ancient and strange
animal forms which are to be found nowhere else on the earth, it would
still be a wonderful continent. Not the least remarkable of these
forms is the lyre-bird, the subject of the present sketch. Since its
discovery on January 24, 1798, by one Wilson, it has been handed about
among the different orders of birds by different systematists until
its anatomy seemed to give it a more or less permanent place among the
birds of passerine form, in spite of its fowl-like build and strong
legs and large feet.

The appearance of the bird, except the superb tail, is not remarkable;
but paradoxical as it may be, the tail is the bird's crowning glory,
at once giving it a name and fame. Like many other cumbersome things,
the lyre-bird's tail is used for ornament during a part of the year
only, being donned at the mating season and doffed at the close of
the nesting period. It assumes the lyre-shape only when voluntarily
spread, appearing simply as a long, greatly developed tail at other
times. The bird throws up a mound of earth, dome-shaped, which serves
as a raised platform or stage well suited to tail spreading and other
courting antics. Strutting and wing-dragging are accompaniments of
the tail-spreading, and strongly suggest gallinaceous affinities,
especially since the bird is the size of the ordinary barn-yard fowl.

In habits the lyre-bird is lowly, preferring the ground to bushes or
trees, and running from danger rather than flying, the strong legs and
feet permitting a swift retreat. Rarely the bird may mount a tree,
ascending branch by branch instead of flying up at once. They are said
to use the wings to aid them in running, and in hopping upward in
the trees. They are so wary and timid that it is difficult to secure
specimens except by resorting to deception or the use of dogs. The
barking of the dogs drives them into the trees, allowing the hunter a
fair mark. They are inhabitants of the dense brush from which it is
next to impossible to dislodge them.

Authorities agree that the lyre-bird's powers of song are remarkable.
It seems to have the power of mocking almost every other bird, as well
as the barking of the dingo, besides possessing a sweet song of its
own. One author states that for the first two hours of the morning it
repeats over again its own song, then gradually changes it to imitate
other birds, ending its four-hour song period with imitations of all
the other birds within hearing, then remaining silent for the rest of
the day.

The nest is a dome-shaped affair with the opening in one side, made of
"small sticks, interwoven with moss and fibers of roots." "The single
egg laid is of a very dark color, appearing as if it had been blotched
over with ink." The young emerges from the egg a downy white ball,
perfectly helpless, and remains in the nest for several weeks. The food
seems to consist of insects, myriapods, and snails, of which large
quantities must be destroyed to satisfy a bird of this size.

This is another of the world forms which are doomed to complete
extinction. It is to be earnestly hoped that the time of its
disappearance will await a more careful study of its habits than has
been accomplished thus far. A study of these curious forms can hardly
fail to throw much light upon the development of the bird fauna of the

[Illustration: FROM COL. F. KAEMPFER.
1/5 Life-size.



In the latter part of May a pair of Baltimore orioles built a nest in
my maples, from which, eventually, a brood of noisy fledglings were
launched upon the world. A quantity of Hamburg embroidery was woven
into the nest and festooned gracefully from the outside.

This was obtained from my neighbor's washing as it lay bleaching
upon the grass, a task demanding more time and strength than seemed
necessary for useless ornamentation.

To all appearance the esthetic taste of the builders was more
pronounced than was their family discipline.

The children were a clamoring, rollicking group, pushing each other
about and insisting, forcibly, upon a high point of view that
constantly threatened their frail lives. I was in constant fear lest
they come tumbling down and it was not long before my worst fears were

They fell, with a shower, upon the morning of the 23rd of June,
tumbling pell-mell into the strawberry bed, the biggest baby picking
himself up in a hurry, and climbing upon one of the fence wires.

The other nestlings were marched off by the head of the family to other
fields of observation, the first little bird hopping from the fence to
a wild rosebush that grew beside the kitchen door.

There he was fed by his father during the day; as his mother did not
appear I inferred that she had her hands full with the other children.

Neither parent appearing the next morning, the first baby was put into
a grape basket upon the window-sill.

Before noon the old birds came; the wire netting was removed from the
window, both parents coming at short intervals into the kitchen with

To my surprise they did not return the following morning, when I
fully intended to speed the parting guest, though the little one was
placed in a cage outside the door. The helpless infant was left in an
orphaned condition to my care; he could not feed himself, nor did
he understand, under my tutelage, how to open his beak when food was
brought. It was necessary to pry it open, the lunches coming so often
that nearly all my time was spent in attending to his meals. That very
evening the chore-boy brought a lank, long-legged bobolink which was
given into my keeping only because it was threatened with starvation.

Like the oriole he was too young to feed himself and had been for
twelve hours without food.

A more uninviting specimen of babyhood could not be imagined, forlorn,
ragged, with unfeathered spaces upon his homely little body; but,
though he had none of the oriole's commanding beauty, he was sure to
perish unless regularly adopted and his infant wants supplied.

He was placed in the cage while the oriole was taking a nap, the
introduction prefaced by being stuffed till his bare little crop was as
round and full as an egg. Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller, who was with me at
the time, assisted at the christening of the pair.

As the oriole was always peeping we called him "Peepsy;" the bobolink
was named "Robert" with due respect to the Robert-o-Lincoln family.

They were oftenest called "the twins," and troublesome twins they were,
waking me at three o'clock each morning and crying loudly for their
breakfast, which was prepared the previous evening.

Peepsy was first taken in my hand and given a few mouthfuls, then
Robert's turn came, after which Peepsy was thoroughly fed and when
Robert's demands were appeased, both birds were returned to the cage
for another nap.

After sleeping innocently for another hour they awoke, insisting with
emphatic protest upon an immediate supply of rations.

There were times when they jerked their heads from side to side
and not a morsel was safely lodged or appropriated, persisting in
the clamor until, after patient effort, both little creatures were
satisfied at last.

As may be surmised this was no enviable task, though the twins went
promptly to bed at dusk leaving me free for the evening.

Peepsy was far the brighter bird. He took the lead at first, helping
himself to his meals at times, twinkling the soft brown wings at my
approach with most flattering evidences of favor.

Robert was a different bird; he scratched and bit, flopped about and
hissed out his disapprobation.

The last was not without compensations. Whenever his beak was opened
wide in disapproving hisses the opportunity was seized to fill it with

Sometimes his tactics changed; he would throw back his head and refuse
to swallow. In a short time he took on prettier ways, now and then
coaxing a little while receiving his meals with dainty baby eagerness.

From first to last their tastes diverged; Peepsy was high-born,
Robert was of low degree. These low-born instincts preferring the
cage floor he was given a sod to stand upon, the oriole's decided
preference for higher stations culminating in the swing, his both by
right of preference and forcible possession. In ten days Peepsy began
to believe himself a full-grown bird. Then began an investigation of
the cage and its appointments, diving into every corner, thrusting
himself into the drinking cup as far as its size would allow, playing
with the food, and throwing the earthworms given him to the top of
the cage before attempting to swallow them. He would thrust his beak
into Robert's feathers or catch hold of his legs, while the bobolink
with ruffled plumage drew back with becoming indignation. He certainly
_was_ a homely baby which did not excuse the other twin for putting on
airs, regarding him with lofty condescension, or stepping on his big,
sprawling feet when they came too near. This unseemly behavior may have
accounted for Robert's despondent hours from which he emerged to sing
low and tentatively with the tinkling music of falling raindrops. Then
they tried to stand upon one foot, balancing with great difficulty
meanwhile, crowding into the swing and tumbling out upon the floor

In utter indifference to his own toilet Peepsy insisted upon preening
Robert's plumage, calling his attention to the matter by vigorous pulls
at his tail, or jerking some truant feather that beauty or tidiness
required to be smoothed into place.

This unappreciated service was resented with many hisses, darting at
the persecutor with wide-open beak and dire threatenings of vengeance,
after which they cuddled up lovingly together for a nap.

For several days this self imposed helpfulness was so officious that
the twins were separated lest Robert's temper, not over-good at the
best, be permanently spoiled.

On this account Peepsy had the liberty of the house and went oftenest
abroad. What with a better disposition and more enticing manners there
was no resisting, whether it was coaxing to sit upon my finger or happy
as bird could be when admired and caressed.

He would fly to my shoulder, pull a stray lock of hair lying against my
throat, dodge skillfully when the hand was raised in protest, only to
reappear and bite my lips as they moved in cautioning words.

He followed me to my chamber morning by morning, hopping up the stairs
one at a time till we reached the top, when he flew to my shoulder and
entered the room master of ceremonies.

As the clothes were replaced upon the bed he darted down upon sheets
and blankets on purpose, seemingly, to be "shooed" away. Too much
notice was spoiling the child, though his reign, poor baby, was short!

He was quite independent as to feeding himself when Robert first began
to pick up cracker crumbs. What was stranger still, when the bobolink
was well-versed in such matters, his memory was so unreliable that he
forgot how to eat over night and had to be taught all over again for
several mornings, nor would he swallow till the egg or cracker was
thrust clear down his throat.

After the first month, in which the oriole took the lead, the order was
reversed. Robert was first thereafter, coming to the front and taking
entire charge of the establishment, chaperon, servant, adviser, nor
was he above making sarcastic remarks at the expense of the faithful
companion who followed closely at his heels.

He pecked at the little blue kid shoes on the perch above, pulled the
tiny toes, tweaked the feathers and tried to pull them out, and behaved
generally, I regret to say, most impolitely. With this increased
assurance there was a marked gain in song.

He sang while we breakfasted or dined, the same ideally happy bobolink
medley, a new discovery of the joy of living, lifting his voice in
rainy days in rhythm with the shower, Peepsy joining with sundry
encouraging notes but no real song.

After the first month both birds were fond of the bath; water in bowl,
pitcher, or tumbler, was a challenge seldom ignored.

Robert's short memory and inexperience were liable to mistake the dish
of cracker and milk for a bath tub, crowding into and flirting the
contents over chairs and floor. He was specially fond of my mother,
planting his feet in her soft, wavy hair and jerking her locks in utter
disregard of all threatening.

The door to the next room, left ajar, was a ceaseless fascination. When
the cage door was opened they started promptly, Robert leading, Peepsy
following meekly, till they reached the crack in the door, stretching
out their necks and peering with curious eyes into the room beyond;
then, as if confronted with some terrible ogre they turned quickly
about and hopped back to the cage.

The hidden possibilities were too great. In a moment back they came,
repeating the search over and over, till the door was thrown open and
they were at liberty to explore the terrors and resources of the room
beyond. After one of these excursions Peepsy was found fast asleep in
the narrow space between the door and the wall!

Both birds were very curious over the sweeping, Robert superintending,
keeping just in front of the broom, hopping straight into the dust-pan,
bristling his feathers when reproved, or flying, in frigid terror,
if pursued. They helped also in preparing the meals, following from
kitchen to pantry, from pantry to kitchen, till a too generous
attendance was checked for the time by compulsory return to the cage.

Ignorant of all fear they became my constant companions from room to
room, from house to garden and orchard, when wild birds looked down in
wonder, coming from the higher branches to peer and question, Peepsy
answering politely, fluttering the brown velvet wings in unavailing
winningness, while Robert silently ignored their inquisitive ways.
During the intense heat of midsummer I saw less of the twins than
usual, the house being darkened as much as possible to exclude the
heat. Opening my door I heard the patter of little feet as they crossed
the hall; Peepsy stood upon the threshold and, with a welcoming chirp,
flew towards me, coaxing and nestling against my cheek with many
evidences of gladness.

The heat of the day was waning; the sun had withdrawn from the valley;
the heights were radiant still, the peaks of the mountain range
dazzlingly lit with golden light. I carried the bird out-of-doors and
across the way where children were playing, the tiny guest enjoying
the call thoroughly, lunching upon raspberries, exploring the rooms,
"trying on" each nook and corner, and regarding with astonished
interest a huge feather duster that lay upon the carpet.

Advancing and retreating before the huge monster, ruffling his feathers
in rage, he hopped around it several times before his courage was
equal to an attack. Then, with wide-spread wings he charged upon the
savage enemy, striking it with his beak, trampling upon and biting the

When we returned Robert's indignation knew no bounds; he was furious.

He might have been jealous that Peepsy went abroad while he stayed at
home; anyway, he pounced upon his brother in angry passion, caught his
foot and jerked him off the perch, pulled out his feathers and tumbled
him over upon the floor, when I interfered promptly.

As it was past their bedtime I saw them safely asleep, both little
heads laid snugly against their wings, and thought by morning the
quarrel would be forgotten. When I saw them next poor little Peepsy lay
dead upon the cage floor. I strongly suspect that Robert rose early to
help him out of the world; at least there was no appearance of suicide!

The remaining twin sang freely for a few hours; he had vanquished an
imaginary foe and was singing the song of him who overcometh.

After that he seemed preyed upon by remorse, nor was he ever himself
again, refusing food and pining away gradually through the few
remaining weeks of his short life, when, in spite of all his faults, he
died, as the storybooks say, much loved and lamented.

[Illustration: FROM COL. F. NUSSBAUMER & SON.
1/2 Life-size.


(_Molothrus ater._)

C. C. M.

"Buffalo-bird" was formerly one of the names applied to this bird of
strange habits, and Major Bendire, who was long an observer of all that
took place on the plains, states that one will rarely see a bunch of
cattle without an attending flock of cowbirds, who perch on their backs
searching for parasites, or sit with "lazy ease," their familiarity
with the cattle suggesting their name of cowbird. They also follow the
freshly plowed furrows and pick up worms and larvæ. Mr. P. M. Silloway,
who has made a very extended and careful study of the cowbird, says
that its strange behavior and stealthy movements at certain seasons
have prevented the acquisition of full data concerning many features
of its life, and a few unfounded speculations about its habits have
become current. It occupies a parallel place with the European cuckoo.
It never builds a nest, but deposits its eggs in the homes of other
birds, usually those of the smaller species. It is, therefore, a
homeless creature, and its young are all orphans or adopted children.
"It is, indeed, a peculiar bird, having no attractiveness of color,
no beauty of voice, and no home. No wonder that, when in the haunts
of other species, it hides and skulks as it seeks a suitable and
convenient habitation to house its unborn orphan." Major Bendire gives
a list of ninety-one birds in whose nests she has been known to leave

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Online LibraryVariousBirds and All Nature, Vol. VI, No. 5, December 1899 → online text (page 3 of 7)