Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/29

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respectively to certain parts of the pool, resent any intrusion thereon, and that as the days pass by, the pool, upon which formerly it was no uncommon sight to see eight or more birds in company, will be inhabited by two or three pairs only, each possessing a definite territory, and also that they still jealously guard their respective territories, resisting any intrusion on the part of their neighbours. In order to see the struggles to the best advantage, it is necessary that the pool should be kept under observation from daylight, for, strange as it may seem, the conflicts appear to be of more frequent occurrence at dawn; there are, in fact, some grounds for believing that many a battle is fought and many a territory won or lost during the hours of the night. So strongly implanted is the law of territory in this species, that a young one of not more than ten days old will attack such a bird as a Starling when settled upon the edge of the water, resembling the adults in its method of attack. Coots (Fulica atra) also struggle fiercely for their territories, likewise Stonechats (Pratincola rubicola), and the attitudes assumed by the male of the latter species when another male, or another pair, approaches its property are extravagant and often ludicrous. Both sexes of the Chaffinch are highly pugnacious at this season, and their habits are easily observed. This bird being a very common species, it often happens that some small but suitable wood is inhabited by a number of pairs and divided into adjoining territories. Early in March the males establish themselves in a certain small area, and each morning at daybreak can be heard vigorously pouring out their song. When a female arrives in one of their territories, there is considerable commotion. Sexual excitement takes the form of prolonged flights. Eising above the tops of the trees the female flies away, followed by the male, and often a considerable distance has been thus traversed before a return is made to the territory. As a consequence of this the female, more often than the male, passes the boundary, intruding upon the adjoining territory, and thus it happens