Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/155

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127
SONG SPARROW.

well fitted for the reception of a fresh set of eggs as the new nest which the bird constructs. I am unable to understand the reason why a new nest is formed. Can you, reader, solve the question?

I have at all times been very partial to the Song Sparrow; for although its attire is exceedingly plain, it is pleasing to hear it, in the Middle States, singing earlier in spring, and later in autumn, than almost any other bird. Its song is sweet, of considerable duration, and performed at all hours of the day. It nestles sometimes on trees, and sometimes on the ground. I have imagined that the old birds, finding by experience the insecurity of their ordinary practice of nestling on the ground, where the eggs are often devoured by Crows, betake themselves to the bushes to conceal their nests from their enemies. But whatever may be the reason, the fact certainly exists, and the nests of the Song Sparrow occur in both kinds of situation. The nest for the first brood is prepared, and the eggs laid, sometimes as early as the 15th of April. The young are out by the first week of May. The third brood is seen by the middle of September. The nest, when on the ground, is well sunk in the earth, and is placed at the roots of tall grasses. It is made of fine grass, and lined with hair, principally horse hair. The number of eggs is from five to seven, usually from four to six, excepting those for the last brood, which I have seldom found to exceed three. They are of a very broad ovate form, light greenish-white, speckled with dark umber, the specks larger toward the greater end. The male assists in the process of incubation, during which one of the birds feeds the other in succession. At this time the male is often to be observed singing on the top of a neighbouring bush, low tree, or fence-rail.

The flight of the Song Sparrow is short, and much undulated, when the bird is high in the air, but swifter and more level when it is near the ground. They migrate by night, singly or in straggling troops. Some of them remain the whole winter in the Middle Districts, where they are not unfrequently heard to sing, if the weather prove at all pleasant. The greater part, however, seek the Southern States, where myriads of Sparrows of different kinds are everywhere to be seen in low swampy situations, such as they at all periods prefer. It is a fine plump bird, and becomes very flat and juicy. It is picked up in great numbers by the Hen-harriers, which visit us for the purpose of feeding on the different kinds of Sparrows that resort to these States in winter from the Middle Districts. In Louisiana, they are frequently seen to ascend to the tops of large trees, and