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The Chipping Sparrow
by [?]

When the true flycatcher catches a fly, it is quick business. There is no strife, no pursuit,–one fell swoop, and the matter is ended. Now note that yonder little sparrow is less skilled. It is the chippy, and he finds his subsistence properly in various seeds and the larvæ of insects, though he occasionally has higher aspirations, and seeks to emulate the pewee, commencing and ending his career as a flycatcher by an awkward chase after a beetle or “miller.” He is hunting around in the grass now, I suspect, with the desire to indulge this favorite whim. There!–the opportunity is afforded him. Away goes a little cream-colored meadow-moth in the most tortuous course he is capable of, and away goes Chippy in pursuit. The contest is quite comical, though I dare say it is serious enough to the moth. The chase continues for a few yards, when there is a sudden rushing to cover in the grass,–then a taking to wing again, when the search has become too close, and the moth has recovered his wind. Chippy chirps angrily, and is determined not to be beaten. Keeping, with the slightest effort, upon the heels of the fugitive, he is ever on the point of halting to snap him up, but never quite does it; and so, between disappointment and expectation, is soon disgusted, and returns to pursue his more legitimate means of subsistence.

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Last summer I made this record in my notebook: “A nest of young robins in the maple in front of the house being fed by a chipping sparrow. The little sparrow is very attentive; seems decidedly fond of her adopted babies. The old robins resent her services, and hustle her out of the tree whenever they find her near the nest. (It was this hurried departure of Chippy from the tree that first attracted my attention.) She watches her chances, and comes with food in their absence. The young birds are about ready to fly, and when the chippy feeds them her head fairly disappears in their capacious mouths. She jerks it back as if she were afraid of being swallowed. Then she lingers near them on the edge of the nest, and seems to admire them. When she sees the old robin coming, she spreads her wings in an attitude of defense, and then flies away. I wonder if she has had the experience of rearing a cow-bunting?” (A day later.) “The robins are out of the nest, and the little sparrow continues to feed them. She approaches them rather timidly and hesitatingly, as if she feared they might swallow her, then thrusts her titbit quickly into the distended mouth and jerks back.”

Whether the chippy had lost her own brood, whether she was an unmated bird, or whether the case was simply the overflowing of the maternal instinct, it would be interesting to know.