Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/630

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sist on elaborate special preparations extending through years; while for the most complex function, to be adequately discharged not even by the wisest, we require no preparation!

How absurd are the prevailing conceptions about these matters, we shall see still more clearly on turning to consider that more special discipline which should precede the study of Sociology; namely, the study of Mental Science.

 

THE INTELLECTUAL POWERS OF BIRDS.

THE Popular Science Review for July contains some interesting but too brief remarks by Mr. Leith Adams on the "Mental Powers of Birds," which it is interesting to define specifically as distinguished from the mental powers of other animals of the higher order of sagacity. This we will briefly do. First, it would appear from Mr. Darwin's discussions—though Mr. Leith Adams hardly refers to them—that none of the lower orders of creatures have so keen an appreciation of beauty as many kinds of birds, and certainly that none turn this taste for beauty so deliberately to the purpose of social amusement. That great naturalist has described how some kinds of birds really celebrate festivities very closely approaching to our wedding fêtes, balls, and garden parties, in places carefully decorated and arranged by the birds for the purpose of social gatherings, and which are not used for their actual dwelling-places. The best evidence, says Mr. Darwin, of a taste for the beautiful "is afforded by the three genera of Australian bower-birds. . . . Their bowers where the sexes congregate and play strange antics" (at all stranger than our waltzes and quadrilles?) "are differently constructed; but, what most concerns us is, that they are decorated in a different manner by the different species. The satin bower-bird collects gayly-colored articles, such as the blue tail-feathers of paroquets, bleached bones and shells, which it sticks between the twigs, or arranges at the entrance. Mr. Gould found in one bower a neatly-worked stone tomahawk and a slip of blue cotton, evidently procured from a native encampment. These objects are continually rearranged and carried about by the birds while at play. The bower of the spotted bower-bird is beautifully lined with tall grasses, so disposed that the heads nearly meet, and the decorations are very profuse. Round stones are used to keep the grass-stems in their proper places, and to make divergent paths leading to the bower. The stones and shells are often brought from a great distance. The regent-bird, as described by Mr. Ramsay, ornaments its short bower with bleached land-shells belonging: to five or six species, and 'with berries of various colors, blue, red, and black,