Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/65

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37
PURPLE GRAKLE.

shell that so long enclosed them; their tottering heads are already raised toward their mother, while she, with intense anxiety, dries and cherishes them. They grow up day after day. The hole becomes nearly filled with their increased bulk. The vigilance and industry of the parents also augment apace. I wish, good-natured reader, you would seek out such a sight: it would gladden your heart, for the rearing of such a family is worthy of your contemplation.

It is with regret that I must turn from this picture. I have already told you that the Grakles are at least as fond of corn as the lords of the land are. Hark to the sound of rattles, and the hallooing of the farmer's sons and servants, as they spread over the field! Now and then the report of a gun comes on the ear. The Grakles have scarcely a single moment of quiet; they are chased, stolen upon, and killed in great numbers, all the country round; but the hungry birds heed not the slaughter of their brethren. They fly in flocks from place to place, and, in spite of all that the farmer has done or threatens to do, continue their depredations. Food must be had. Grubs and worms have already retired to their winter quarters within the earth; no beech-nuts or acorns have yet fallen from the trees; corn is now their only resource, and the quantity of it which they devour is immense.

Now gloomy November brings up its cold blasts from the north, and drives before it the Grakles from the Eastern States. They reach Louisiana and all the Southern States when autumn has not yet retired, when the weather is still mild and serene, and the yellow foliage of the wide woods gives shelter to myriads of birds. The Grakles, congregated in prodigious flocks, alight on the trees that border the vast forests, covering every twig and bough in such astonishing masses, that the most unskilful or most avaricious gunner finds no difficulty in satisfying his wish for sport or game. This is the time to listen to their choruses. They seem to congratulate each other on their escape, and vociferate at such a rate as to make one imagine their number double what it is.

Beech-nuts and acorns are now abundant in the woods, having by this time fallen from the trees, and the Grakles roam in quest of them in immense bodies, rising on wing when disturbed, uttering at the same time a tremendous noise, then making a few rounds, and alighting again. They thus gradually clear away the mast, in the same manner as the wild pigeons are wont to do. As the weather becomes colder, they frequent the farms, and even resort to the cattle pens, where, from among the litter