Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Birds’-Nests
by [?]

How alert and vigilant the birds are, even when absorbed in building their nests! In an open space in the woods I see a pair of cedar-birds collecting moss from the top of a dead tree. Following the direction in which they fly, I soon discover the nest placed in the fork of a small soft maple, which stands amid a thick growth of wild cherry-trees and young beeches. Carefully concealing myself beneath it, without any fear that the workmen will hit me with a chip or let fall a tool, I await the return of the busy pair. Presently I hear the well-known note, and the female sweeps down and settles unsuspectingly into the half-finished structure. Hardly have her wings rested before her eye has penetrated my screen, and with a hurried movement of alarm she darts away. In a moment the male, with a tuft of wool in his beak (for there is a sheep pasture near), joins her, and the two reconnoitre the premises from the surrounding bushes. With their beaks still loaded, they move around with a frightened look, and refuse to approach the nest till I have moved off and lain down behind a log. Then one of them ventures to alight upon the nest, but, still suspecting all is not right, quickly darts away again. Then they both together come, and after much peeping and spying about, and apparently much anxious consultation, cautiously proceed to work. In less than half an hour it would seem that wool enough has been brought to supply the whole family, real and prospective, with socks, if needles and fingers could be found fine enough to knit it up. In less than a week the female has begun to deposit her eggs,–four of them in as many days,–white tinged with purple, with black spots on the larger end. After two weeks of incubation the young are out.

Excepting the American goldfinch, this bird builds later in the season than any other,–its nest, in our northern climate, seldom being undertaken until July. As with the goldfinch, the reason is, probably, that suitable food for the young cannot be had at an earlier period.

Like most of our common species, as the robin, sparrow, bluebird, pewee, wren, etc., this bird sometimes seeks wild, remote localities in which to rear its young; at others, takes up its abode near that of man. I knew a pair of cedar-birds, one season, to build in an apple-tree, the branches of which rubbed against the house. For a day or two before the first straw was laid, I noticed the pair carefully exploring every branch of the tree, the female taking the lead, the male following her with an anxious note and look. It was evident that the wife was to have her choice this time; and like one who thoroughly knew her mind, she was proceeding to take it. Finally the site was chosen, upon a high branch, extending over one low wing of the house. Mutual congratulations and caresses followed, when both birds flew away in quest of building material. That most freely used is a sort of cotton-bearing plant which grows in old wornout fields. The nest is large for the size of the bird, and very soft. It is in every respect a first-class domicile.

On another occasion, while walking or rather sauntering in the woods (for I have discovered that one cannot run and read the book of nature), my attention was arrested by a dull hammering, evidently but a few rods off. I said to myself, “Some one is building a house.” From what I had previously seen, I suspected the builder to be a red-headed woodpecker in the top of a dead oak stub near by. Moving cautiously in that direction, I perceived a round hole, about the size of that made by an inch-and-a-half auger, near the top of the decayed trunk, and the white chips of the workman strewing the ground beneath. When but a few paces from the tree, my foot pressed upon a dry twig, which gave forth a very slight snap. Instantly the hammering ceased, and a scarlet head appeared at the door. Though I remained perfectly motionless, forbearing even to wink till my eyes smarted, the bird refused to go on with his work, but flew quietly off to a neighboring tree. What surprised me was, that, amid his busy occupation down in the heart of the old tree, he should have been so alert and watchful as to catch the slightest sound from without.