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A Bird Medley
by [?]

During any unusual tension of the feelings or emotions, how the note or song of a single bird will sink into the memory, and become inseparably associated with your grief or joy! Shall I ever again be able to hear the song of the oriole without being pierced through and through? Can it ever be other than a dirge for the dead to me? Day after day, and week after week, this bird whistled and warbled in a mulberry by the door, while sorrow, like a pall, darkened my day. So loud and persistent was the singer that his note teased and worried my excited ear.

“Hearken to yon pine warbler,
Singing aloft in the tree!
Hearest thou, O traveler!
What he singeth to me?

“Not unless God made sharp thine ear
With sorrow such as mine,
Out of that delicate lay couldst thou
Its heavy tale divine.”

It is the opinion of some naturalists that birds never die what is called a natural death, but come to their end by some murderous or accidental means; yet I have found sparrows and vireos in the fields and woods dead or dying, that bore no marks of violence; and I remember that once in my childhood a redbird fell down in the yard exhausted, and was brought in by the girl; its bright scarlet image is indelibly stamped upon my recollection. It is not known that birds have any distempers like the domestic fowls, but I saw a social sparrow one day quite disabled by some curious malady that suggested a disease that sometimes attacks poultry; one eye was nearly put out by a scrofulous-looking sore, and on the last joint of one wing there was a large tumorous or fungous growth that crippled the bird completely. On another occasion I picked up one that appeared well, but could not keep its centre of gravity when in flight, and so fell to the ground.

One reason why dead birds and animals are so rarely found is, that on the approach of death their instinct prompts them to creep away in some hole or under some cover, where they will be least liable to fall a prey to their natural enemies. It is doubtful if any of the game-birds, like the pigeon and grouse, ever die of old age, or the semi-game-birds, like the bobolink, or the “century living” crow; but in what other form can death overtake the hummingbird, or even the swift and the barn swallow? Such are true birds of the air; they may be occasionally lost at sea during their migrations, but, so far as I know, they are not preyed upon by any other species.

The valley of the Hudson, I find, forms a great natural highway for the birds, as do doubtless the Connecticut, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, and all other large water-courses running north and south. The birds love an easy way, and in the valleys of the rivers they find a road already graded for them; and they abound more in such places throughout the season than they do farther inland. The swarms of robins that come to us in early spring are a delight to behold. In one of his poems Emerson speaks of

“April’s bird,
Blue-coated, flying before from tree to tree;”

but April’s bird with me is the robin, brisk, vociferous, musical, dotting every field, and larking it in every grove; he is as easily atop at this season as the bobolink is a month or two later. The tints of April are ruddy and brown,–the new furrow and the leafless trees,–and these are the tints of its dominant bird.

>From my dining-room window I look, or did look, out upon a long stretch of smooth meadow, and as pretty a spring sight as I ever wish to behold was this field, sprinkled all over with robins, their red breasts turned toward the morning sun, or their pert forms sharply outlined against lingering patches of snow. Every morning for weeks I had those robins for breakfast; but what they had I never could find out.