Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/38

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16
The Passenger Pigeon

same breeding place, where the nests, for more than three miles, spotted every tree; the leaves not being yet out I had a fair prospect of them, and was really astonished at their numbers. A few bodies of pigeons lingered yet in different parts of the woods, the roaring of whose wings were heard in various quarters around me.

All accounts agree in stating that each nest contains only one young squab. These are so extremely fat that the Indians, and many of the whites, are accustomed to melt down the fat for domestic purposes as a substitute for butter and lard. At the time they leave the nest they are nearly as heavy as the old ones, but become much leaner after they are turned out to shift for themselves.

It is universally asserted in the western countries that the pigeons, though they have only one young at a time, breed thrice, and sometimes four times in the same season; the circumstances already mentioned render this highly probable. It is also worthy of observation that this takes place during the period when acorns, beech-nuts, etc., are scattered about in the greatest abundance and mellowed by the frost. But they are not confined to these alone; buckwheat, hempseed, Indian corn, hollyberries, hackberries, huckleberries, and many others furnish them with abundance at almost all seasons. The acorns of the live oak are also eagerly sought after by these birds, and rice has been fre-