Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/221

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213
BIRDS' NESTS USED FOR WADDING.

er fail to attract the attention of the rhinoceros, who, without waiting to ascertain the cause, almost instantly seeks safety in a precipitate flight. According to Mr. Gumming, these birds also attend upon the hippopotamus.

Another bird (textor erythrorhynchus) is also in the habit of feeding upon parasitical insects, but is said to restrict its visits to the buffalo. In the part of Damara-land of which I am now speaking, that animal is unknown, yet the bird was in very great numbers. It appeared to be very social in its habits, living in colonies, and building its nest, which consists of dry sticks, on lofty trees.

We also made acquaintance with a small, sparrow-looking bird, the amadina squamifrons, which deserves notice on account of its peculiar and interesting nest. According to Dr. Andrew Smith, this is placed on a small shrub, and is constructed of grass. But in Damara-land and parts adjacent, the materials are of a beautifully soft texture, not unlike sheep's wool. I never could discover the plant from which it was procured. The Hottentots use it as a substitute for gun-wadding, and it is by no means a bad makeshift. The nest is so strongly put together that one has difficulty in separating it. When the old bird absents itself, it effectually conceals the opening of the nest from view. Even long after I was acquainted with this peculiarity, I was puzzled to find it out. Just above the entrance is a small hollow, which has no communication with the interior of the nest, but which, by the uninitiated, is often mistaken for it. In this tube the male bird sits at night.

We occasionally fell in with Damara villages. In our journey northward the natives had shown themselves excessively timid and suspicious, but now that they had so many evidences of our peaceful intentions, they approached our camp without the least reserve or hesitation; but we could not induce them to part with any cattle, of which we stood much in need.