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CHAPTER III. THE MIGRATION OF BIRDS. j]HE general movement of the
birds in autumn leaving their summer home for the winter of another
clime, and known as migration, is also a habit of many of the finny
tribes. The old fishermen on the Delaware called the snipe the
shad- bird, because "southerly winds and a hazy sky," they said,
brought both bird and fish. In both these classes, however, are
species which do not migrate, but stay at or near the old home the
year round. I cannot think with some, who have written quite ably
on this theme, that, given a look-out sufficiently high to take in
the trending of the mountains, or the course of the rivers, and the
bird will have all it needs to know of its migration journey. Nor
do I regard this faculty in birds of-passage as simply instinct,
but an endowment only feebly possessed by man; though, with his
scientific instruments, he extorts many secrets of the skies. It
appears to me that birds of passage are observers of influences, or
impressions, as well as inspectors of direction. Assuredly the
sense of locality and direction must be strong, yet 1 think that
they are better meteorologists than surveyors. If we could question
the bird mind for its motives, it would be easier to feel our way.
The sportsman will say he has seen snipes probing the mud of the
marsh for worms on a mild day, at the breaking of the winter. Then
a snow-storm has come, driving the poor birds into any covert near
by, where they will shiver and almost starve. But, may not this be
simply losing one's head over the fullness of the banquet, and "
the keen demands of appetite." The giddy bird has been feasting
well, and heeded not the signs. In Australia the kangaroos know
when the grass famine is near; and Nature has furnished the animal
with an equipm...
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