Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/736

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736
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

circumstances, and as may be expected, the Bishnoies are a well-to-do community, but are abhorred by the other people, especially as by their domestic and frugal habits they soon get rich, and are the owners of the best lands in the country."

 

Wild Birds in Cities.—About fifty-five species of wild birds make themselves at home in the city of Paris and find their living there. All of the orders, except perhaps the climbers, are represented among them. One bird of prey, a pelerine falcon, established himself on the towers of Notre Dame a few years ago, whence he hunted the pigeons of the quarter, and a fisher martin, leaving the marshes he was accustomed to frequent, when the water became too low for him, came to hunt insects and little fishes in the midst of the city, near the Pont des Arts. A number of woodcocks and rails, a season or two ago, haunted the ponds of la Glacière, and a few pairs of water-fowl made their nests in the same place. But these wading birds will probably soon have to seek another abode, for their domains are being reduced every day, and there will shortly be no trace left of the old marsh. A brace of quails are installed in the same region, whose presence is revealed every June by the well-known call of the male. The pigeons form, during the pleasant season, numerous colonies in the public gardens, where also establish themselves numbers of woodpeckers, linnets, red-tails, blackbirds, green finches, chaffinches, sparrows, and rooks; while swallows, martins, and jackdaws build their nests under the cornices of the houses or conceal them in chimneys, in the holes of old walls, and in church-towers. No species live on terms of closer intimacy with the human inhabitants than the sparrows, which everywhere seek the neighborhood of man. No bird has been more calumniated; but, admitting that they have mischievous traits, it is certain that they are most active and efficient destroyers of noxious insects. The English ornithologist Macgillivray asserts that without them the kitchen-gardens around London would not be able to furnish the market with cabbages; and M. Châtel, of Vire, regards them as the most useful of insectivorous birds. They are noisy and pugnacious, and seem better suited with city than with country life. They have multiplied wonderfully in all the European and in the American cities. M. Nérée Quépat, author of the "Ornithologie Parisienne," believes that there are three times as many sparrows in Paris as there are of human inhabitants, and, in view of the innumerable flocks of them to be seen in all parts of the city, it is easy to credit the assertion. The pigeons also are nearly as well domesticated as the sparrows, but are less constant in their attachment to their home, for they leave the city in the fall, to winter in a southern climate. They are exposed to capture and destruction during their journey by the people of Southern France, and their numbers are diminishing; so that, unless precautions are taken to save them from this persecution, Paris will in time know them no more.

 

Spider-Threads for Economical Uses.— We have already mentioned some of the efforts that have been made to spin threads and weave cloths of spiders' webs. They have so far fallen short of success, on account of the difficulty of getting enough of the fiber, and of the lack of strength of most spiders' threads. A few species of spiders encourage the hope that the manufacture of spider cloth may yet become something more than a dream. Sir Samuel Baker describes a spider in Ceylon, two inches long, that spins a beautiful yellow web two feet and a half in diameter, so strong that a walking-stick when thrown into it is entangled and retained among the meshes. Sir. F. W. Burbridge, in "The Gardens of the Sun," describes a larger spider which spins a web strained on lines as stout as fine sewing-cotton. Dr. Walsh tells from personal observation of a still larger spider, the Aranca maculata of Brazil, whose web, ten or twelve feet in diameter, very sensibly entangled his head and forced him to leave his hat behind when he came out from it. Lieutenant Herndon, of the United States Navy, confirms this account, and estimates the diameter of a web he saw at ten yards. The furnishing of cross-lines for telescope-glasses can hardly be the only use to which these beautiful threads are adapted.