Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/76

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The Passenger Pigeon

hen birds occupied the nests in the morning, while the male birds went out into the surrounding country to feed, returning about ten o'clock, taking the nests, while the hens went out to feed, returning about three o'clock. Again changing nests, the male birds went out the second time to feed, returning at sundown. The same routine was pursued each day until the young ones were hatched and nearly half grown, at which time all the parent birds left the brooding grounds about daylight. On the morning of the eleventh day, after the eggs were laid, I found the nesting grounds strewn with egg shells, convincing me that the young were hatched. In thirteen days more the parent birds left their young to shift for themselves, flying to the east about sixty miles, when they again nested. The female lays but one egg during the same nesting.

Both sexes secrete in their crops milk or curd with which they feed their young, until they are nearly ready to fly, when they stuff them with mast and such other raw material as they themselves eat, until their crops exceed their bodies in size, giving to them an appearance of two birds with one head. Within two days after the stuffing they become a mass of fat—"a squab." At this period the parent bird drives them from the nests to take care of themselves, while they fly off within a day or two, sometimes hundreds of miles, and again nest.

It has been well established that these birds look after and take care of all orphan squabs whose parents have