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All kinds of bees seem disconcerted by a sudden onslaught.
Another human trait that seems almost universal among the lower animals is the coyness and reluctance of the female in her relations to the male. Her first impulse is to refuse and to flee. She is negative as the male is positive. Among the birds there is something like regular courtship, there is rivalry and jealousy and hostile collision on the part of both sexes. With the birds, the propagating instinct in the female is evidently not subject to the same law of recurring intervals that it is among mammals. Hence the female must be stimulated and won by the male. He addresses himself to her in a way that is quite exceptional, if it occurs at all, among mammals. His aim seems to be to kindle or quicken her sexual and mating impulses. In the case of mammals, these impulses recur at certain periods, and no courtship on the part of the male is necessary.
Just what part the gay plumes and the extra appendages of the males play in bird courtship I have discussed elsewhere. I think it is highly probable that the bright colors and ornamental plumes of the male react upon him, excite him, and increase his pride, his courage, and the impetuosity of his address. The birds that dance and perform before the females, during the breeding season, seem to show more and more excitement as the dance proceeds, apparently intoxicated by their own ardor. Just
what determines the choice of the male and sets him in pursuit of a particular female is a question that greatly interests me. Does the matter turn upon some complementary variation too subtle for us to perceive? The mating of birds certainly seems like an act of choice; but just what determines it, how shall we find that out? Behold the sparrows in the street, three or four males apparently in a scrimmage with one female, surrounding her and playfully assaulting her, with spread plumage and animated chirping and chattering, while she, the centre of the group, strikes right and left, in a serious, angry mood, at her would-be suitors. What does it mean? Or, the robins in the spring, rushing across the lawn and forming sudden rough-and-tumble groups with a struggling and indignant female in the centre, or gleefully screaming, and quickly and apparently amicably separating? In all such cases the hen bird alone wears an angry and insulted air. What indignity has been put upon her? I know of nothing in human courtship analogous to this tumultuous and hilarious pursuit of the females by the cock sparrows and robins.
The gregarious instinct of birds and mammals does not differ essentially, as I see, from the same instinct in man, except that in man it is often for coöperation or mutual protection, while with the lower animals it seems purely social. Many birds flock in the fall and winter that live in pairs during
the summer. Crows, for instance, have their rookeries, where vast numbers congregate to pass the winter nights, and they usually keep in bands or loose flocks during the winter days. Apparently, this clannishness in winter is for social cheer and good-fellowship alone. As they roost in naked, exposed treetops, they could not, it seems to me, perceptibly shield one another from the cold; while it is reasonable to think that the greater scarcity of food at this season would naturally cause them to scatter. But the centripetal force, so to speak, of the social instinct, triumphs over all else. Many species of our birds flock in the fall-the various blackbirds, the cedar-birds, the goldfinches, the siskins, the snowbirds, the tree and bank swallows, to say nothing of the waterfowl - some to migrate and some to pass the winter here. In similar conditions or similar stress of circumstances, human beings would probably act in a similar way; we should migrate in herds, or face some common calamity in large aggregates.
Indeed, the social instinct seems radically the same in all forms of animal life. The loneliness of a domestic animal separated from the herd, the homesickness of a dog or a horse when removed to a strange place, do not seem to differ very much from the feelings we experience under like circumstances. Attachment to places, attachment to persons, attachment to one another, to home and to
these feelings seem about the same in kind among all creatures. Of course they are more complex, far-reaching, and abiding in man than in the animals below him, but their genesis seems the same.
Among both birds and four-footed beasts, the maternal affection is doubtless greater than the paternal, and this also is human. But how brief and fugitive the affection is, compared with the same attachment in our own species! — of a few weeks' duration among our common birds, and a few months or a year among the mammals, but always as long as the well-being of the young requires it. When they become self-supporting, the parental affection ceases. And in a limited sense this is true in our own case.
If a bird loses its mate during the breeding season, the period of mourning and waiting is very brief, usually not more than a day or two. The need of rearing a family is urgent, and nature wastes no time in unavailing regrets. Just how the bereaved mate makes her or his wants known, I never could find out; but it seems there are always not far off some unmated birds of both sexes that are ready to step in and complete the circle once more. From sparrows to eagles, this seems to be the rule.
With what species, if any, the marriage unions last during life, I do not know. Neither do I know
if anything like divorce, or unfaithfulness, or free love, ever takes place among the monogamous birds - probably not. The riot of the breeding instinct in the males confines itself to gay plumes, or songs, or grotesque antics, while the seriousness and preoccupation of the female, I doubt not, would prove an effectual warning to any gay Lothario among her neighbors, if such there happened to be.
I am convinced that birds have a sense of home, or something analogous to it, and that they return year after year to the same localities to nest. The few cases where I have been able to identify the particular sparrow or robin or bluebird confirm me in this belief.
Hermits among the birds or beasts are probably very rare, and I doubt if voluntary seclusion ever occurs. Sometimes an old male, vanquished and in a measure disabled by his younger rivals, may be driven out of the herd or pack and compelled to spend the remainder of his days in comparative solitude. Or an old eagle that has lost its mate may spend its days henceforth alone. The birds of prey, like the animals of prey, and like prowlers and bloodsuckers generally, are solitary in their habits.
The feeling of hostility towards strangers that all animals manifest in varying degrees, how distinctly we can trace it up through the savage races and through the lower orders of our social aggre