Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/272

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sometimes by the vent of Rochemale, and sometimes, and only when rains are abundant and when the vent is not sufficient for its task, by the river Midroï, constituting affluents to the Ardèche of a special order, many examples of which are known in rivers of the type of the Ardèche and the Tarn.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from La Nature.



THE American mocking bird (Mimus polyglottos), although native to a country which claims to be democratic in principle, is by nature pure and simple a born aristocrat. It is true that at first sight he may be a disappointment to any one anticipating a bird of brilliant color; but the more one studies the mocker the more strengthened becomes the opinion that few birds, if any, can aspire to his dainty, high-bred personality, or to his slender grace and elegance of movement. Indeed, to this unconscious, inborn "Delsartean" ease, poise, and lightness, as well as to his marvelous power of imitation, the mocker owes his attractiveness; for this sleek fellow in his sober coat of gray—tipped with black, and lightened only by a glimpse of white when he spreads his wings—can lay no claim to beauty of feather as an additional charm to win him admiration. The plumage allotted him by Nature serves merely as a background, so to speak, which shall not distract the eye while his listeners pause in wonder as he fills the clear air with his marvelous melody.

The bird lover at the North, who sees the mocker caged, gloomy and despondent or restlessly beating himself against the merciless bars of his prison, knows nothing of the real power of the bird until he hears him singing at full liberty in the brilliant sunshine of his native heath, for the variations in the song of the mocker depend largely upon his surroundings. Thus, in a city he quickly acquires loud, sharp, and unpleasant notes; while in the country, where incessant barn-yard music reigns supreme, he soon adapts himself to his position. Take him, however, free, happy, saucy fellow that he is in the South, in localities where he hears few sounds but the voices of clear-throated birds, and his song is naturally mellow and sweet, standing unsurpassed in its wonderful modulations and gradations, compass, and brilliancy of execution. The mocker seems instinctively to select the prettiest quirks and quavers he can gather from his neighbors. Many of the sweetest notes in his répertoire he acquires from the red or cardinal bird, which has certain liquid, flutelike whistles, all of which our little