Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/497

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481
A SHORT STUDY OF BIRDS'-NESTS.


7.Pronunciation is acquired without effort by the ear. 7. Pronunciation is acquired with difficulty by reading.
8. We cannot understand the foreign language when spoken. 8. We understand foreigners as well as natives.
9. Nothing is learned by heart. 9. Much time is spent in memorizing lessons.
10. All our processes tend to prevent mistakes. 10. All the processes tend to produce mistakes.
11. We have no need of a master for pronunciation. 11. We cannot learn pronunciation without the help of a master.
12. We are soon able to think in the foreign idiom. 12. We never come to think in the foreign idiom.
 

A SHORT STUDY OF BIRDS'-NESTS.
By CHARLES C. ABBOTT, M. D.

I.

HAVING had many opportunities of examining the nests of those birds habitually breeding throughout Central New Jersey, during the past fifteen years, and so, familiar with the construction and location of such nests, I have, since the publication of Mr. "Wallace's essays on "Natural Selection," in 1870,[1] endeavored to determine if the theory there expressed was applicable to the birds that are common to the locality we have mentioned.

In so studying birds'-nests, I have carefully avoided prematurely arriving at any conclusions that might influence my judgment when subsequently examining a series of nests, and therefore I believe the notes made concerning the construction of each nest, and the inferences drawn, are exact in the former case, and justifiable in the latter.

At the very outset, I found a careful study of the courtship of birds essential to a proper appreciation of their subsequent habits, and learned, not at all to my surprise, that marriage among birds, as among mankind, is not universal, but that both bachelor and spinster birds of every (?) species constitute a fraction of the ornithic population of our woods and fields.

I reached the above conclusion in this way: Having carefully gone over a given extent of ground, and noted every nest, say of the cat-bird (Galeoscoptes Carolinensis), I have then endeavored to learn about or precisely the number of individuals of this species frequenting the same extent of territory. As birds, during the breeding-season, do not wander any very great distance from their nests on the one hand, nor from the locality whereat they halt on their arrival in early spring, on the other hand, it is not very difficult to reach a very

  1. Essays on "Natural Selection," by A. R. Wallace. Macmillan & Co., London and New York, 1870 (pp. 211-263 inclusive).