Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/239

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The Passenger Pigeon

and are but a few weeks in assuming their new dress, but the young in the first molt are much longer. At the time of my visit the birds were all in perfect plumage. The young in the downy state are a dark slate-color.

The pigeons are always timid, and ever on the alert when being watched, and the observer must approach them cautiously to prevent a commotion. They inherit the instincts of their race in a number of ways. On the approach of a storm the old birds will arrange themselves side by side on the perch, draw the head and neck down into the feathers, and sit motionless for a time, then gradually resume an upright position, spread the tail, stretch each wing in turn, and then, as at a given signal, they spring from the perch and bring up against the wire netting with their feet as though anxious to fly before the disturbing elements. Mr. Whittaker has noticed this same trait while observing pigeons in the woods.

It was with a peculiar sense of pleasure and satisfaction that I witnessed and heard all the facts about this flock, inasmuch as but few of us expect to again have such opportunities with this pigeon in the wild state. It is to be hoped that, if Mr. Whittaker continues to successfully increase these birds, he will dispose of a pair to some zoölogical gardens; for what would be a more valuable and interesting addition than an aviary of this rapidly diminishing species?