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Why do birds sing comparatively louder than man? Because the strength of the larynx, and of the muscles of the throat in birds is infinitely greater than in the human race. The loudest shout of the peasant is but a feeble cry, compared with that of the golden-eyed duck, the wild-goose, or even the woodlark.
Birds of one species sing in general very like each other, with different degrees of execution. In the thrush, however, it is remarkable, that there seem to be no regular notes; each individual piping a voluntary of his own. Knapp.
Why do most of our little songsters, when captured as old birds, become in confinement sullen and dispirited?
Because want of exercise and of particular kinds of food, and their changes, alter the quality of their fluids: they become fattened, and indisposed to action, by repletion; fits and ailments ensue, and they mope and die. — Knapp.
Why is it reasonable to conclude that the notes used by birds, and the voices of animals, are the same as uttered by the earliest progenitors?
Because, could we find a people, from Japan to the Pole, whose progress in mind has been stationary, without increase of idea, from national prejudice or impossibility of communication with others, we should probably find little or no alteration in the original language of that people: so, by analogy of reasoning, the animal having no idea to prompt, no new want to express, no converse with othersfor a note caught and uttered, is merely like a boy mocking a cuckoo; so no new language is acquired. This fact is also corroborated by various little scraps of intelligence scattered through the sacred and ancient writings. With civilized man all is progressive; with animals, where there is no mind, all is stationary. -- Knapp.
Why have birds that feed on grain and seeds a gizzard?
Because the gizzard, being covered with very strong muscles, by its action, comminutes the food. Other birds, that are carnivorous or piscivorous, have a stomach more resembling that of carnivorous quadrupeds; the digestion of such birds being more accelerated by the gastric juice than by the action of the stomach itself.
Why are hedge fruits, as hips and haws, sometimes refused by birds?
Because the summer has been ungenial, the berries have not ripened well, but have been nipped by frost, and hang on the sprays, dark in colour, small, and juiceless in substance.
Why is it best to feed very small birds with meat? Because animal food most readily assimilates with the fluids of their bodies, with the least efforts of the digestive powers.
Why do many birds sleep on trees?
Because the motion of the branches produced by the wind, increases their disposition for sleep. This may be exemplified in the common fowl; for, placing its bill under the wing, even in broad daylight, and swaying it to and fro in the hand for a very short time, will produce sleep; a beautiful proof of the adaptation of birds to the function. - Jennings. Why do not birds fall down in sleeping on their perch?
Because such is the structure of their feet and legs, that the greater the weight upon the muscles, the more firmly the claws grasp whatever they lay hold of.
Why does the signal of danger among birds seem to be of universal comprehension?
Because, the instant that it is uttered, we hear the whole flock, though composed of various species, repeat a separate moan, and away they all scuttle into the bushes for safety. — Knapp.
Why is the eagle and some other birds enabled to bear the strongest light of the sun?
Because it has a membrane (see page 8,) with which the bird can, at will, cover the pupil of the eye, while the eyelids remain open.
Why are aqueous birds better supplied with food than those on land?
Because fish, the food of the former, are probably but little influenced by season; while our poor land birds find theirs to be nearly annihilated in some
Why is the plumage of aquatic birds kept dry? Because the small feathers next the bird fall over each other like the tiles of a roof, and thus throw off the water.
Paley tells us that the lamina or layers of the feathers of birds are kept together by teeth that hook into each other, “as a latch enters into the catch, and fastens a door."'"
Why have birds two united glands on the rump?
Because these glands secrete a mucous oil, which can be pressed out by the bill of the bird, to anoint its feathers, and replace them when they are discomposed. Aquatic birds have their feathers dressed with this oil from first leaving the shell, but the feathers of other birds are pervious to every showThomson thus alludes to this oleous unction:
'The plumy people streak their wings with oil,
Why have birds the pip?
Because the oleous glands just described, become diseased and swollen. It is generally remedied by a single puncture, by which the collected fluid may be discharged.-Jennings' Ornithologia.
Why do dab-chicks, moor-hens, and coots, fly erect, with their legs hanging down, and hardly make any despatch?
Because their wings are placed too forward out
of the true centre of gravity; as the legs of auks and divers are situated too backward. G. White. Why do penguins, and birds of the same group walk nearly upright?
Because the legs are placed farther back than in other birds.
Why is the ancient custom of giving parish rewards for the destruction of small birds as vermin, still continued?
Because it may have been requisite in former times, to keep under or reduce the numbers of many predaceous animals, which, in a thickly wooded country, with an inferior population, might have been productive of injury; and we even find parliamentary statutes enacted for this purpose: but now, however, our loss by such means has become a very petty grievance; our gamekeepers do their part in removing pests of this nature, and the plough and the axe leave but little harbour for the few that escape; and thus we war on the smaller creatures of creation, and call them vermin. An item passed in one of our churchwardens' accounts, was, 'for seventeen dozen of tomtits' heads!' In what evil hour, or for what crime, this poor little bird can have incurred the anathema of a parish, it is difficult to conjecture. The price set upon its head is four-pence per dozen, probably the ancient payment when the groat was a coin. - Knapp.
Why has the existence of migration been denied? Because of the surprise, how migrating birds could support themselves so long on wing, as to accomplish their journeys, and at the same time live without food during their voyage. These difficulties, however, vanish altogether if we attend to the rapidity of the flight of birds. Hawks and many other birds probably fly at the rate of 150 miles an
hour: an eider-duck at 90 miles an hour: Sir George Cayley computes the common crow to fly at nearly 25 miles an hour; and Spallanzani found that of the swallow about 92 miles, while he conjectures the rapidity of the swift to be nearly three times greater. A falcon which belonged to Henry IV of France, escaped from Fontainbleau, and in twenty-four hours afterwards was found at Malta, a distance computed to be no less than 1530 miles; a velocity nearly equal to 57 miles an hour, supposing the falcon to have been unceasingly on the wing. But, as such birds never fly by night, and allowing the day to be at the longest, his flight was perhaps equal to 75 miles an hour. If we even restrict the migratory flight of birds to 50 miles an hour, how easily can they perform their most extensive migrations! Fair winds may perhaps aid them at the rate of 30 or 40 miles an hour; nay with three times greater rapidity. Fleming.
The migrations of the feathered tribes have been the object of popular observation, since the days of the prophet Jeremiah: For the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming.' (ch. viii, v. 7.)
Why are certain migrating birds called Summer Birds of Passage?
Because they arrive in this country in the spring, and depart from it in the winter.
Why are other migrating birds called Winter Birds of Passage?
Because they arrive in autumn, and depart in spring.
Why may the autumnal shifting of birds, with propriety, be termed their Equatorial Migration?
Because all those species in which it is observed, move from the Pole towards the Equator, in search of the temperature congenial to their constitutions, and