Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/95

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
67
BALTIMORE ORIOLE.

of the wolf, or the still more dismal bellow of the alligator. Then how delightful must it be to hear the melody resulting from thousands of musical voices that come from some neighbouring tree, and which insensibly leads the mind, with whatever it may previously have been occupied, first to the contemplation of the wonders of nature, and then to that of the Great Creator himself.

Now we have ascended the mighty river, have left it, and entered the still more enchanting Ohio, and yet never for a day have we been without the company of the Oriole. Here, amongst the pendulous branches of the lofty Tulip-trees, it moves gracefully up and down, seeking in the expanding leaves and opening blossoms the caterpillar and the green beetle, which generally contribute to its food. Well, reader, it was one of these pendulous twigs which I took when I made the drawing before you. But instead of having cut it on the banks of the Ohio, I found it in the State of Louisiana, to which we shall return.

The Baltimore Oriole arrives from the south, perhaps from Mexico, or perhaps from a more distant region, and enters Louisiana as soon as spring commences there. It approaches the planter's house, and searches amongst the surrounding trees for a suitable place in which to settle for the season. It prefers, I believe, the trees that grow on the sides of a gentle declivity. The choice of a twig being made, the male Oriole becomes extremely conspicuous. He flies to the ground, searches for the longest and driest filaments of the moss, which in that State is known by the name of Spanish Beard, and whenever he finds one fit for his purpose, ascends to the favourite spot where the nest is to be, uttering all the while a continued chirrup, which seems to imply that he knows no fear, but on the contrary fancies himself the acknowledged king of the woods. This sort of chirruping becomes louder, and is emitted in an angry tone, whenever an enemy approaches, or the bird is accidentally surprised, the sight of a cat or a dog being always likely to produce it. No sooner does he reach the branches, than with bill and claws, aided by an astonishing sagacity, he fastens one end of the moss to a twig, with as much art as a sailor might do, and takes up the other end, which he secures also, but to another twig a few inches off, leaving the thread floating in the air like a swing, the curve of which is perhaps seven or eight inches from the twigs. The female comes to his assistance with another filament of moss, or perhaps some cotton thread, or other fibrous substance, inspects the work which her mate has done, and immediately commences her operations, placing