1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birdsnesting

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BIRDSNESTING, a general term for the pursuit of collecting and preserving birds' eggs, with or without the nests themselves. The nests and eggs of wild birds are nowadays protected by local laws almost everywhere in both Great Britain and the United States. By law they may be taken for scientific purposes only, by special licence. In order not to interfere seriously with breeding it is customary to take but one egg from a nest, and, if the nest itself be taken, to wait until the young birds have left it. Every egg, unless "hard-set," should be blown as soon as removed from the nest. This is done by opening a small hole in its side by means of a drill with a conical head, manufactured for the purpose, a minute hole for the insertion of the drill-head having first been made in the shell with a needle, which is then used to stir up the contents, so that they shall flow easily. A blow-pipe with a curved mouth is then inserted, the egg is held hole downwards, and the contents blown out. The old-fashioned method of making two holes in the egg is thus superseded. Should the egg be "hard-set" a somewhat larger hole is made and its edges reinforced with layers of paper pasted round them. Minute forceps are then introduced and the embryo cut into pieces small enough to pass through the hole. The inside of the egg is then rinsed out with clean water, and also before being placed in the cabinet, with a solution of corrosive sublimate, which prevents decay and consequent discoloration of the inner membrane. Finally the egg is placed with the hole downwards upon a sheet of white blotting-paper to dry. The authentication of the eggs is the most important duty of an egg-collector, next to identifying the specimens. According to some the best method is to mark with a fine pen on the egg itself the variety, scientific name, locality of nest, date of taking and the initials of the collector, as well as a reference to his note-book or catalogue. Others advocate keeping the authentication separate with only a numbered reference on the egg itself. Eggs should not be transported in bran or sawdust, but in strong wool-lined boxes. The best cabinets are fitted with drawers, pulled out to inspect the eggs, but at other times closed to preserve them from the light, which is injurious to their delicate colouring. When an entire nest is taken it should be disinfected with hyposulphite of soda or insect-powder.

See Birdnesting and Bird-Skinning, by E. Newman (London, 1888); The Young Collector's Handbook of British Birds' Nests and Eggs, by W. H. Bath (London, 1888); Birds' Nests, Eggs and Egg-Collecting, by R. Kearton (London, 1890); British Birds' Eggs and Nests, by J. C. Atkinson (London, 1898); Nests and Eggs of North American Birds, by Ernest Ingersoll (1880-1881).