Things in the forest


Material Information

Things in the forest
Physical Description:
168 p., 2 leaves of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 17 cm.
Kirby, Mary, 1817-1893
Kirby, Elizabeth, 1823-1873 ( Author )
Thomas Nelson & Sons ( Publisher )
T. Nelson and Sons
Place of Publication:
London ;
Edinburgh ;
New York
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Birds -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Forest animals -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Forests and forestry -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Natural history -- Juvenile literature   ( lcsh )
Prize books (Provenance) -- 1877   ( rbprov )
Bldn -- 1877
Prize books (Provenance)   ( rbprov )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
United States -- New York -- New York
England -- London
Scotland -- Edinburgh


Statement of Responsibility:
by Mary and Elizabeth Kirby.
General Note:
Added title page and frontispiece printed in colors.
Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002232557
notis - ALH2951
oclc - 61442435
System ID:

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Full Text




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The Baldwn Lihbrary

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_tarp anb (Elizabeth Wlirbp,



GS ontitnts.

I. THE BIRD OF PARADISE, ... ... . ... 7

IL THE HUMMING-BIRD, ... ... ... ... ... 19

III. THE PIGEONS, .. ... .. ... .. 32

IV. BEING LOST IN THE FOREST, ... .. ... ... 45



VII. THE MOCKING-BIRD, ... ... .. ... 89


IX. THE OWL, ... ... ... ... ... ... 110

X. THE NIGHT-HERON, ... ... .. ... ... 123

XI THE SNAKE-BIRD, ... ... ... ... ... 133

XII. THE WILD TURKEY, ... ... ... ... ... 138

XIII. THE KING OF THE BIRDS, ... ... ... ... 152



F you live in the country, I daresay you
often go and play in the woods. And
very pleasant it is there. You may find
the bluebell and the white anemone,
and you may see the little squirrel
sitting on the branches of the trees, or else leap-
ing from bough to bough. You may think there
are no woods so deep and shady as these. The
grassy paths may seem like labyrinths; and the
stillness so profound, you may fancy, as the poet
did, that the spirits of the wood wait and hold
their peace while you pass by.
But in hot countries the woods are not like


our woods. They are great dark forests, where
the trees grow so thickly together, and are so tall,
that if you looked up you could hardly see the
sky. Then there are a great many climbing-
plants, that twist themselves round and round
the trunks and branches of the trees. They are
called vegetable cables, because they are so much
like ropes; and they reach from one tree to
another, and almost fill up the spaces between.
The white man has to fight his way with his
hatchet, or else burn himself a passage.
Dangers of every kind lurk in the forest. The
quick subtle Indian dare not venture without his
poisoned arrow, or the white man without the
thunder and lightning of his gun. The venomous
snake may lie coiled among the bushes, or traces
of the savage jaguar be seen upon the path.
"Birds, animals, and insects live undisturbed.
It is their home; and on every side they are at
work, hunting their prey, or escaping from danger.
Man is not there to wage war upon them; but
these wild creatures of the forest wage war upon
each other, and the weak are always using some
contrivance to protect themselves from the strong.
There are a great many curious things to be
seen in the forest.



In the deepest gloom, where the trees shut
out the sun, myriads of lights flit about, and

*, ,, ,
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twinkle like little stars. They flash here
and there, and you might fancy that troops


of fairies were carrying torches in their hands.
But there are no fairies in the case the
lights are only the torches of the fireflies that
live in the recesses of the wood, and every
night make a kind of illumination amongst the
Then there are troops of monkeys, that run
along the vegetable-cables from one tree to the
other, or swing from the branches by their tails,
making a noise all the time as if they were
talking to each other. When night comes they
roll themselves into a ball, all huddled together
as close as may be, to keep themselves warm.
Sometimes it happens that a few little monkeys
have not been alert enough to get into the ball,
and are left shivering outside. They keep up a
pitiful howling the whole night through, telling
the rest how cold and miserable they are, and
begging to be let in. But the others are very
hard-hearted; they pay no attention, and quietly
go off to sleep.
Then there are all sorts of birds, such as we
never see in England; or if we do, only in cages.
There are flocks of parrots, chattering among the
boughs. No birds love the forest more than
the parrots do; and the trees seem alive with


their gay plumes of blue and scarlet and emerald-
"Perhaps you would like to know how the

-,/ .


parrots spend the day, when they are at home
in their native woods. I will tell you.
Very early in the morning they rouse them-


selves from sleep, and be-
gin to chatter and scream,
and make a great noise.
Then they all fly into
the sunshine, and, settling
; on the top of a tree, begin
to dress their plumage,
which is rather damp with the
dews of night. They next look
about for their breakfast; and
this is generally the wild cherry,
or some other fruit. They break
the stones with their strong bills,
and pick out the kernels and
eat them. Then they go in
quest of clear water to bathe
in; and this they seem to en-
joy very much indeed. They
roll over and over, and play
about like children on the edge



of the pool, and dip their heads and wings into
the water, so as to scatter it all over their plum-
age. By this time the sun is getting hot, and
they retire to the deep recesses of the forest,
where it is always cool and shady. They give
over screaming and chattering, and settle them-
selves on the boughs for a nap; and then the
silence is so deep you might hear a leaf drop to
the ground, although the trees overhead are
crowded with parrots.
But the stillness only lasts through the noon-
tide heat. In the evening the parrots wake up
and make as much noise as ever. They sup, as
they breakfasted, upon the kernels of the fruits,
and then go to the water to bathe. Again follows
the business of dressing and pluming their feathers,
and after this they go to rest. But they do not
roost in the branches, where they took their
afternoon's nap; their sleeping-room is a hollow
tree, scooped out by the woodpecker. As many
parrots get in as the hollow will contain, and
the rest hook themselves to the bark, by their
claws and bills, and hang there through the
The parrot lays her eggs in these hollow trees.
She does not make a nest, but lays them on the



rotten wood; and the whole flock lay their eggs
together in the same tree.
The beauti-
Sful woods of
"the Spice Is-
S lands are fra-
S. grant with all
manner of de-
Slicious scents.
fr There lives the
.... ".. I Bird of Para-

it more splen-
did than any
"PAROT'S NEST.n other he has
made; and when I have given you a description
of it, I daresay you will think so too.
In the first place, its head and neck are as soft
as velvet, and of a golden tint, that changes,
while you are looking at it, into all the colours
of the rainbow. Then its tail is a magnificent
plume of fairy-like feathers, partly white and




partly yellow, so that you might think they were
made of gold and silver. This plume is very
much longer than the body, and makes the bird
appear larger than it is, for in reality it is only
about the size of a pigeon.
We can hardly fancy a flock of these beautiful
birds upon the wing, seeming to float at their
ease, or else pursuing the large and gaily-painted
butterflies that serve them for food. But this is
no uncommon sight in that land of flowers and
spices-a land that seems just fitted for the home
of the Bird of Paradise !
But here, as in all tropical countries, there is
a season of rain and storm; and then the birds


disappear, as the swallows do in England, and
seek some sheltered place, or fly to other coun-
tries; but when the rain is over, and the spices
in the woods breathe out fresh fragrance, they
return to their old haunts, and their gay plumes
may be seen glittering amongst the trees.
There is one thing that will rather amuse you.
When the Birds of Paradise are about to take
one of their long flights, they choose a leader to
be king over them; and where he goes they go,
and where he settles they settle, perching on the
same tree. He generally flies high up in the air,
above the heads of his subjects, and takes care to
lead them against the wind, so that their loose
floating plumes may not be blown over their heads.
If it comes a storm, they rise higher and higher,
and keep mounting until they are out of its
reach, and get into a calmer atmosphere. The
natives always know the king, because he has
spots upon his tail, like the eyes upon the
feathers of the peacock. When they go into
the woods to shoot the birds, they try to kill
him first; and they have a cunning way of
hiding themselves in order to get a good shot.
They make a little bower of the leaves and
branches of the trees, within which they can be


hidden, and yet
see all that is go-
ing on. The birds
are perched round
them, suspecting
no danger, but
there comes an ar-
row out of this
leafy bower, and
strikes down first
one, and then an-
other, till the na-
tives think they
have enough. They
cut off the legs, and
stuff the bodies
with spices, and
make a famous
trade of selling
them to Europeans.
People used to
fancy, from the
legs being always
gone, that the bird
had no legs at all,
and the natives





pretended this was the case; and, what was more
miraculous, they said that it had no stomach,
and could not take any food. So, for a long
time, it was thought to feed on the dew, and
never to alight upon the ground. This is why
it has been called the "Bird of Paradise."




N the woods of the tropics the little sun-
bird has its home. It is almost as tiny
as the humming-bird, and is called sun-
bird, because its wings seem to catch
the light, and shine almost as brightly
as the sun. It sucks the juices of the flowers
with its long slender tongue, and passes from
blossom to blossom, uttering a shrill impatient
call. But it does not feed upon the wing, and
hover over the flower, as the humming-bird does.
It settles on the petals; and this it can easily do,
for the flowers of the tropics are gigantic com-
pared with ours. Then it puts in its long bill,
and, darting out its tongue, picks off first one
insect and then another; and when it has had
enough, it takes a sip of honey to finish tho


The sun-bird is very fond of a tree called the
sugar-tree, because at the bottom of the flowers
it is sure to find a great quantity of sugary juice.
The natives of that country gather the flowers of
the sugar-tree, and boil down the juice, and use it,
as we do sugar, for preserving fruit. Numbers of
little sun-birds are always to be seen perched upon
the flowers, sipping honey, or making havoc among
the insects, who, like themselves, are fond of'sugar.
The sun-bird makes her nest of the down of
plants, mixed with a few dead leaves; and the
outside wall is all of moss. It looks, when it is
finished, like a little ball, rather pointed at the
bottom, and the bird makes a cover for- it like a
hood, that hides the hole where she enters, and
prevents it being seen. Sometimes she will build
her nest in the hollow of a tree, or else suspend
it to a twig, and let it hang in the air, as the
tailor-bird does. And what you will think very
strange, she has even been known to fix it to a
spider's web The spiders that live in those hot
countries are very large and strong, and their
webs are more like gauze than cobwebs. So the
tiny nest of the sun-bird, as light as a feather,
may very well be fixed to one of them without
breaking the threads.


,, -









Nothing can be more gaudy than these brilliant
little creatures, that sport about in company with
the gaily-dressed birds of the tropics. And, like
most other birds, they put on their best attire at
that season of the year when they choose their
partners, and begin to think of building their
nests. Then their brightest tints are worn; and
they are ornamented with tufts and crests, that
afterwards disappear. Indeed, on this occasion
they are said to wear their wedding-dress.
The splendid sun-bird* is one of the hand-
somest of the whole tribe. His neck is of golden
green, and varies in colour with every changing
light. His head and throat sometimes look black,
and sometimes of a rich violet. He has a band
of scarlet across his breast, and his tail is jet
black, edged with golden green.
When he is warbling to his mate, his voice is
as sweet as the nightingale's; but it is so low
and soft, you must be very near him to hear the
The humming-bird is a relation of the sun- ,ird,
but is rather different in his habits; for he hovers
over the flower, and sucks the juices, without
settling upon it. Poised in the air, he peeps
Nectarina splendid.


cautiously, with his sparkling eye, into the re-
cesses of the flower, vibrating his wings so rapidly
that you can hardly see them. All the time, he
makes a low humming sound that is very pleas-
ant to listen to, and that seems to lull the insects
within the flower to sleep. Then out darts his
long delicate tongue, and takes them up, one
after the other; and he finishes, as the sun-bird
did, by sipping a little honey.
The humming-bird is as fond of insects as he is
of honey, and besides catching them on the wing,
he has been seen to steal them out of the spider's
web. This is rather dangerous work, for if his wings
were to be entangled he would be taken prisoner,
and then woe betide him He has a wholesome
dread of the great spider I have just told you
about, and if he only shows himself, off the hum-
ming-bird darts like a sunbeam; for the spider
is as large as he is, and a great deal fiercer. But
he can rob the smaller spiders with less danger,
and picks out the insects from their webs, snatch-
ing them away in a hurry, and then darting off,
to come back again the next minute,-and so
on, until the poor spider is left with an empty
All the strength of the humming-bird lies in



his wings, which are large in proportion to his tiny
body. They are a little like those of the swift in
shape,-and everybody knows how rapidly the
swift can dart about, and cleave the air with his
pinions. The feathers on the quills of the hum-
ming-bird's wing are so firmly united that they
are almost like a thin plate of whalebone. No
air can pass through them, and this is why they
make a humming sound, as the bird vibrates his
The humming-bird needs these'strong wings to
support himself in the air, as his feet are too
weak and delicate to perch for any length of
And he depends very much upon his wings for
There will come the season of rain and storm,
and his little nest will be beaten down, and his
home among the trees and flowers be made a
wreck. Before this happens, he must fly many
long miles to get from beneath the clouds. He
looks too fairy-like to undertake such a journey,
but his wings are powerful enough to bear him
out of reach of danger. They will transport him
to other lands, where the storm has passed, and
the trees and flowers are blooming as gaily as ever.



The long bill of the humming-bird has been
given him that he may search to the bottom of
the large tubular flowers, and rifle their sweet
juices. But some
of these flowers
are so bent that
a straight bill
would not be
able to reach the
honey; so the
bird that feed
upon them has
his bill curved
upwards at the
tip, that he may
follow the bend
of the flower,
and not be dis-
Sappointed of his
The tongue is
not unlike the
tongue of the woodpecker, and is darted out in
the same way, and for the same purpose, of
entrapping insects. It is composed of two tubes
joined together nearly the whole of their length,



and ending in a spoon-like point. It is very
sticky, so the insects when touched by it cannot
escape; and it is also fringed with minute spines or
bristles, that still further help to secure the prey.
Some humming-birds are much larger than
others, and one is called "The gigantic hum-
ming-bird,"-a mighty name for such a little
creature, as it is only the size of a sparrow. The
great humming-bird is very plainly dressed com-
pared to the rest of the tribe, that glitter about
in green, purple, and gold, as brilliant as precious
stones. There is one little creature, not much
larger than a humble-bee, with wings like a
butterfly, of snowy white, with large green eyes
upon them. His throat is like an emerald, he
has a crest of orange on his head, and his tail is
purple mixed with green.
Then there is another with two crests upon
his head, of a bright orange colour, that changes
every minute, and sparkles like a gem. Between
the crests, the feathers are of a light blue mixed
with green, the throat is of a rich purple, and the
breast a pure white.
Some of the humming-birds have very long
tails, that make them look all the handsomer.
"In one little bird, the tail opens out into two



long forks, of a deep orange colour. Each feather
is tipped with black, so that when the tail is shut
up it looks as if it were barred across with black.
Some have plumes upon the neck, that they
can set up like a ruff or collar. This ruff is gene-
rally of a carmine-red, often mixed with violet.
The forest, with its great trees covered with
climbing plants and flowers, swarms with these
brilliant little creatures.
"Like fairy sprites, a thousand birds
Glance by on golden wing,
Birds lovelier than the lovely hues
Of the bloom wherein they sing."
No wonder the ancient Mexicans stole the plum-
age of the humming-birds to adorn their mantles;
and very superb these mantles were, sparkling
with the many-coloured tints I have been de-
scribing; and the Mexican youth thought he
could make no more costly present to his bride,
than the gorgeous crest of the humming-bird, to
be worn amongst her hair. Even now, the
Indian women hang the tiny bodies of the hum-
ming-birds to their ears, instead of ear-rings, and
on their head-dresses, instead of jewels.
The humming-bird, though so small, is very
brave, and will attack a bird three or four times
his own size. It is no pleasant thing to come in



the way of his long bill, for he always pecks the
eyes of his assailant.
When he is keeping watch over the nest, he is
particularly fierce, and if another bird happens to
come near, he darts out, screaming with rage;
his throat swells, and his wings expand to their
fullest extent, and he looks like a little fury. He
gives battle to the intruder, and the two birds
fight desperately, until one of them falls to the
ground exhausted, and so ends the conflict.
I am afraid the humming-bird is a very pas-
sionate little fellow. He will even go into a
rage with a flower that does not please him, or
has not so much honey in it as he expected; and
then he tears it to pieces and scatters it with his
bill and claws.
Perhaps the best part of his character comes
out when he is helping his little partner to build
their nest. He brings her all the materials, and
flies about collecting them with the greatest in-
dustry. The tiny nest is generally hung to the
end of a twig of the orange or pomegranate tree,
and is completely hidden by one of the large leaves
that overhangs it, and forms a canopy. The nest
is sometimes made entirely of thistle-down; and
the prickly burs of the thistle are stuck outside to




protect it. But moss and cotton are used quite as
often, with dead
leaves woven in
among them.
The cotton
grows upon a
tree called the
silk cotton tree,
and I must tell
you something
about it. It is a
very large tree
indeed, and is
looked upon by
the black people*
with great ven-
eration. They
never venture to
throw a stone at
it, and when they
are obliged to cut
it down they pour
NEST OF HUMMING-BIRD. some wine at its
root, in order to prevent its being angry, and doing
them any harm. It is one of the few trees that

* Of Africa and the West Indies.


shed their leaves ; for a tropical forest is always
green and full of foliage, as the new leaves come
out before the old ones drop.
But every other year the silk-cotton tree stands
quite bare, and without a single leaf; and then
its trunk and great branches are dotted all over
with seed-pods. As soon as the pods are ripe
they burst, and out comes a quantity of fine silky
down, that is carried away by the wind. It
cannot be used as cotton, for it will not twist or
hold together, and all that can be done with it is
to stuff pillows and mattresses. But, as it floats
hither and thither, it is a rich harvest for the
little humming-birds. Hundreds of them may be
seen darting about, pursuing the tufts of down,
and carrying them away in their bills. When
the nest is made, the mother-bird lays two eggs
in it, no bigger than peas, and of a snow-white
colour, speckled here and there with yellow.
She and her mate sit upon the nest by turns, and
never leave it a moment. At the end of twelve days
the two little humming-birds come out of their
shells, and are about the size of blue-bottle flies. At
first they are unfledged, but very soon are covered
with down; and in time, feathers grow upon them,
and become as beautiful as those of the parent birds.



ESIDES the noisy chattering parrots,
with their gaudy plumage, there is a
tribe of birds in the forest as richly
dressed as they are, and that love
their home in it quite as well These
are the pigeons, who luxuriate amid the thick
foliage of the trees, and are particularly fond of
the banyan, that, as you know, sends down its
myriads of shoots to the earth, and makes a little
forest of its own. Here the pigeons find a safe
and pleasant retreat, and an abundant supply of
food in the figs it bears. They also live upon the
palm, that rears its stately head among the other
trees of the forest. The fruit of the palm is as
unfailing as that of the banyan; for Nature is
prodigal of gifts to her children in those sunny



I daresay you think the pigeon cannot be com-
pared with the parrot in the beauty of its plum-
age, and wonder I should call it richly dressed.
But like everything else in a tropical country, the
pigeons seem to borrow tints from the glowing
sky, the shining foliage, and the brilliant flowers
around them.
Their plumage shines with a metallic lustre,
(428) 3



and glitters, as that of the humming-bird does,
like gold and silver. It has the same property of
varying in colour with every movement of the
bird, as he rustles about among the branches. In
one light, his feathers look blue, in another, green
or violet, or even black, and this adds not a little
to his beauty.
The pigeon* that lives upon the banyan-tree is
green, like the leaf; but his eyes and feet are of a
brilliant red, and he climbs a little as the parrots
do. A flock of these birds, perched in their shady
bower, may escape notice, for their plumage is so
like the foliage that no one can see them unless
they move. And they do not care to leave their
retreat while the small red figs of the banyan are
always within their reach.
The forests of India, and the beautiful woods
of the Spice Islands, about which I have already
spoken, abound with pigeons of gorgeous colours.
They are worthy neighbours of the Bird of Para-
dise, and, like it, feed upon the precious spices that
grow on every hand. The head of one is adorned
with a crest of blue feathers, that always stand
erect, and spread open like a fan. It is larger
than the other pigeons, and is called the crowned
Columba Aromatica.



pigeon, because of the crown upon its head, that
makes it look like a king. It has more than once
been brought to Europe, and people have tried to
rear it; but it cannot live if taken from its native
woods, and pines away and dies.
The nutmeg is a favourite food with some of
the spice-eating pigeons,
or rather its soft cover- -
ing and shell, that you
know by the name of
mace. They thrive amaz-
ingly upon this diet, and
become so fat, that when '.
they are shot they will
often burst as they fall .
to the ground.
And here I must tell
you a rather curiousfact.
The pigeons swallow the
nutmeg, with its cover-
ing of mace; but the
nutmeg, released from NUTMEG.
its shell, passes uninjured through the body of the
bird, and is dropped out as it flies. At certain
times of the year, the pigeon is a great traveller;
so that the nutmeg is dispersed over the islands of



the east, where it would not otherwise have been
planted. And what is more curious still, the nut-
meg could never be made to grow unless it had
gone through this process of being swallowed.
Many attempts were made to rear it, without
success; but in these days, when people find out
everything, it has been discovered that if the nut-
meg is steeped in a preparation of lime it will do
as well.
And I can tell you another thing that is rather
odd. Many of the pigeons, when they are going
to choose partners, and make their nests, have a
round ball, or gristly knob, grow upon the bill,
just where it joins the head. It stands up like a
cherry, or even larger, and when the days of court-
ing are over it disappears, and no one could tell
where it had been.
Perhaps this curious ball may be considered
very handsome among the pigeon tribe, and
render them more attractive in each other's eyes.
The pigeon is a very timid bird, and loves its
home so well that, if taken away, it will fly many
hundred miles to get back to it.
Man has taken advantage of this circumstance
to employ it as a messenger; for he knows that
if it is going back to its native place, no distance,



and no difficulties, will stand in its way. He
knows, too, it will fly as direct as if it were guided
by the compass; and in days of old, when there
were neither railways nor telegrams, the pigeon
was the swiftest messenger that could be found.
One of the Turkish sultans devised a regular
system of carrying news by means of a number of
pigeons, trained for the purpose. He built a great
many high towers, about thirty miles apart, and
at each tower pigeons were kept. They used to
fly from one tower to another, and sentinels were
on the watch to receive them. The letter was
written on a very thin strip of paper, and inclosed
in a tiny gold box, as thin and light as the paper
itself, which was hung round the neck of the bird.
The hour of its coming and going was marked at
each of the towers; and, to avoid any mishap, a
second pigeon was always despatched an hour or
two after the first, and bearing a copy of the letter.
This winged post was very swift, and very punctual;
the bird flew at the rate of forty miles an hour,
and if it had young ones to return to, it would fly
swifter still
I might tell you many stories of the carrier-
pigeon: how, in a besieged city, every avenue
Columba Turcica Vulgaris.



might be blocked up, and sentinels keep guard
round it, day and night; but in some unlucky
moment a carrier-pigeon would hover over it, and


then suddenly drop down, and bear to its master
the glad tidings of relief; and high-born dames,
in the olden days of chivalry, when fighting was


d 1' W
S.'*,* ^


always going on, used to look from their lattices
for the return of the pigeon that was to bring
them tidings of their knights; and the poet, who
never fought except in verse, delighted to send his
sonnets to his lady-love suspended rounr the
neck of the pigeon.
In the East (where things remain much more
stationary than they do in England), and indeed
in many parts of the world, the pigeon still goes
backwards and forwards on its errand; and people
look out for it with as much anxiety as they did
centuries ago.
But, perhaps, I can interest you the most by
telling you about the wild pigeon of America,
that is called the passenger-pigeon.* It is a
handsome-looking bird, with a very long tail, and
a dark red body; while the wings and back are
green and purple, spotted with black.
These pigeons live together in such incredible
numbers that there is nothing like it in nature.
More than forty miles of forest is entirely covered
with them; and if you were to go into one of
these pigeon regions, you might think an army
of soldiers had encamped there. The grass and
underwood are trampled down; great boughs, that
C. Migratoria.



have been broken from the trees by the weight
of innumerable pigeons, lie strewed about; and the
trees themselves are as completely killed as if the
woodman had been there with his axe.



When the pigeons have made one tract of forest
a scene of ruin, and eaten up all the beech-nuts,
they go to another. They fly in a vast army,
several pigeons deep, and high enough to be out
of reach of a gun.
A traveller was once going down the river
Ohio, and went on shore for provisions. While
he was bartering, there came on a sudden dark-
ness, and a loud rushing sound was heard that he
thought must be a tornado. He expected the
houses, and everything in the neighbourhood, to
be overwhelmed; when, to his great relief, the
person he was talking to said quietly, "It is only
the pigeons!"
Another traveller sat and watched one of these
mighty armies passing on its way. The air was
literally filled with pigeons. On they flew, in one
continued column, legion after legion; and very
beautiful they looked, as their plumage glistened
in the sun. At one moment it was a sheet of
azure, then it was a mass of rich purple, changing
every instant with the light. Sometimes they
swept round in circles, as if taking a survey of
the country, to see what there was to eat. Then
they alighted; but in an instant, as if alarmed,
rose again, and the flapping of their wings made



a roaring noise like thunder. Now, they lowered
their flight over the woods, and were lost to sight
among the trees; and then, emerging, glided on-
ward as before.
All this time the noise was so great that horses
on the roads took fright, and people could only
make each other hear by shouting at the pitch of
their voices.
Hawks and other birds of prey were attracted
in great numbers by the scent of pigeons, and
sailed about, trying to attack them in the rear.
Then the pigeon army went through a series of
manoeuvres to escape them, forming itself into a
solid mass, and moving up and down, and from
side to side. Now, it nearly touched the ground,
and then, rising high up in the air, wheeled and
twisted- about, till it looked like the coils of a
gigantic serpent. For three whole days, this
army of pigeons kept on passing; and well it
might, for the traveller calculated it to be a mile
in breadth, and no less than two hundred and forty
miles in length!
The mighty forests of America can never be ex-
hausted, or the supply of food would fail for such
a countless host!
Hunger at length brings the pigeons to the



ground, and they begin to throw about the
withered leaves in quest of beech-nuts. The
pigeons in the rear keep flying over the main
body, and alighting in the front; and this goes
on so quickly that it looks as if the whole flock
were on the wing. Very soon they clear the
ground of acorns and beech-nuts so completely
that not one is left. Then they rise, and pursue
their way, until they reach the tract of forest
to which they are going, and they rush into
it with tremendous noise and confusion. They
beat the trees with their wings to knock
down the nuts, and, in course of time, make
a scene of desolation as complete as the one they
When the people of the country hear that the
pigeons are flying, they turn out to shoot as many
as they can. Besides this, the fowler uses a decoy
to entrap them. He conceals himself in a little
hut of branches; and close by, he fastens four or
five pigeons to a stick, and strews plenty of corn
round them. He has a string tied to the stick,
and keeps pulling it, so that the pigeons flutter
up and down, and seem as if they were alighting
The flock overhead are deceived, and think they
may alight too, especially as they see the ground


strewed with corn. But this is about the worst
thing they can do; for no sooner have they settled,
and begun to pick up the corn, than the fowler
draws his net over them, and takes them

'' *



OUNG people always like to hear ad-
S ventures; and I cannot do better than
devote this chapter to the true story of
a soldier, who was lost for some days in
one of the forests of Ceylon. It will
give you an idea of what the interior of the forest
is; for the poor man, after his rescue, described
very vividly a few of its scenes, and of its inhabi-
tants, such as he little desired ever to have wit-
Now, this soldier was very fond of making
short excursions into the forest; and one evening
he set out, intending, as usual, to keep upon the
outskirts, and to return before it was dark. But
as he was walking along, a peacock ran across the
path, and he was seized with a desire to catch it.
* For the substance of this narrative we are indebted to Lieutenant
Campbell's "Ceylon."


He ran after it, pelting it with stones; and be-
came so much interested in the chase, that he for-
got where he was, and entangled himself in the
mazes of the forest. Then he gave up all wish
for the peacock, as well he might, and thought
only of how to find his way back !
But it was something like getting into a laby-
rinth. No path was to be seen; and the best
thing he could do was to climb a tree, and ascer-
tain in which part of the sky the sun was set-
ting, that it might be a guide to him. But the
trees were tall and thick, and he could not see
anything of the sun, or catch even his faintest
gleams. So he descended in haste, dreading lest
night, with her attendant dangers, should over-
take him in this wilderness.
But, alas an enemy met him at the very out-
set. He was trespassing on the domain of beasts,
and birds, and reptiles, and could expect nothing
less than encounters with them. And so it was
that at this moment a lordly elephant stood full
in his way, listlessly flapping his ears and swing-
ing 'his trunk, as they always do when they stand
still, to drive away the flies.
The elephants lead a very pleasant life in these
great forests, bathing in the rivers that meander


through them, or rolling their gigantic bodies on
the luxuriant grass. The young tender branches
afford them a constant supply of food, and they
can tear them down with their trunks from the
loftiest trees. The other animals treat the ele-
phant with respect; on account of his superior
size. Even the tiger does not care to attack
him; for, if he did, he would be received upon
his tusks, and tossed into the air. The female
elephant has no tusks, and cannot toss her enemy;
but, what is quite as fatal, she has a habit of
throwing herself upon him, and stamping him to
death with her feet.
Man is the most powerful foe the elephant has
to dread. He kindles a fire, and the huge ani-
mal is struck with terror at the mysterious light
that blazes amongst the trees, and flies before it,
trampling down everything in his way; or else
he digs a pit, and covers it over with turf, and
the elephant falls in, and is caught as in a trap.
When he has expended his strength in useless
struggles, he seems to give up the contest, and
becomes the docile servant of his captor. Or he
lets fly his poisoned arrow, and the animal falls,
crashing the trees, and making the very ground
tremble with his weight.



It often happens that, when an elephant is
alone, he has been driven from the herd, and is
not in the best of humours. At all events, the
soldier was afraid to pass him. He had no desire
to feel the tread of his great foot, that would
crush the strongest man as easily as a cat would
crush a mouse. So he slipped out of his way,
and struck off in another direction. This new
path seemed more open than the other; but in
reality it led him deeper and deeper into the
mazes of the forest. He fancied he heard the
elephant coming after him, and ran as fast as the
prickly brushwood would let him. To add to
his alarm, it began to get dark, and he felt that
he should have to spend the night alone in the
forest !
The thought wa& a very terrible one. The
wild beasts would by-and-by come out of their
dens, and roam in search of prey. He had no
blazing fire to keep them at a distance; no
poisoned arrow to shoot them with, no weapon
'of defence. What was to become of him ?
One thing was certain,-he must climb a tree,
and spend the night amongst its branches. But
the trees were not so easy to climb; their stems
were tall and straight, and shot up to a vast



height without a single branch. The natives
often cut steps in the trunk with a hatchet; but
he had no hatchet, and was obliged to wander
about until he found a tree with branches low
enough for him to reach. Then he scrambled up
as high as he could get, and held a stout stick in
his hand, to defend himself against the bears; for
some bears, he knew, could climb as well as
a cat.
He could not go to sleep, nor was it very
likely he should; for, in the clear moonlight, he
saw the elephants and other animals roaming
about, and even passing close by the tree on
which he was perched. He was glad indeed
when morning came, and he could make another
attempt to find his way out of this gloomy forest!
But after several hours walking and running,
he became more bewildered than ever, and at last
sat down upon a fallen tree, completely worn out.
He had scarcely sat two minutes, when a snake
with a curious mark on the back of its neck,
something like a pair of spectacles,' raised its
head, and looked at him in a threatening manner.
It was evidently provoked that any one should
dare to sit down so near it, and it puffed out its
neck like a hood. The soldier knew too well
(428) 4



what kind of enemy he had to deal with; it
was the spectacle, or hooded snake,* and one of
the most deadly of its tribe.
Strange as it may seem, the natives of Ceylon


regard the hooded snake with veneration. They
think it is as powerful as their gods, and that it
belongs to another world, and only comes here as
a visitor. They never kill one if they can help
Cobra de Capello.


it; and when it gets into their houses, they con-
trive to put it in a bag, and carry it away to a
The hooded snake never bites unless it is pro-
voked; and then it gives warning of its intention
by puffing out its neck, moving its head from
side to side, glaring with its eyes, and making
a loud hissing.
All this it was doing at the present moment;
and the soldier, fully expecting it to dart upon
him, took to his heels and ran away.
He continued running until he was out of
breath; and then found himself in a more open
part of the forest. A number of fallen trees lay
upon the ground, as though a hurricane had torn
them up and tossed them there. This was just
the place for snakes, and a great many, of dif-
ferent kinds and colours, were gliding in and out
among the prostrate logs. They made off as fast
as they could, and disappeared among the bushes;
but still the soldier halted, and dared not proceed
a step further. A great brown and yellow snake,
as thick round as his body, and nearly thirty
feet long, lay coiled upon the ground. It did not
attempt to stir, but raised its head, and fixed its
keen eyes upon him. It was the terrible rock


* 'F
-i.1 i


snake,* of which so many marvellous stories are-
told. Its powerful jaws can open so wide as to
swallow a deer, or even, it is said, a buffalo, at
one mouthful. This great snake, strong as it is,



C i--' -4


does not move very quickly, and catches its prey
by cunning. It lies in the track where the deer
are accustomed to pass, and as they go by, it
catches hold of them by two sharp horny spurs
that grow upon its body, near to the tail.
The soldier knew this snake as well as he had
done the other, and felt very anxious to get out
of its way. So he crept cautiously back, tread-
ing as lightly as he could on the fallen trunks,
which crumbled to pieces under his feet, and
dreading every minute to be bitten by the snakes
that lurked inside them.
And now, to his great joy, he came upon the
banks of a river, and the sight was very reviving
to him. He could quench his thirst and bathe
his temples; and he hoped, by following its
course, to meet with natives, or to find his way
out of the forest. He had only gone a few
yards, when he heard a loud chattering over-
head, and looking up, saw a crowd of monkeys
grinning and grimacing at him. They were a
merry group, and seemed to be enjoying them-
selves in their leafy home.
And, indeed, nothing can be more pleasant
than the life of the monkeys in their native
forests. From the tops of the trees they look



securely down on the lion, the tiger, and the
elephant, and even pelt them with cocoa-nuts,
when they are in the humour for mischief. But
they are terribly afraid of the snake. For the
snake will come, wreathing itself up the tree,
when they are least aware of it; and woe be to
the monkey that is taking his afternoon's nap!
He will be snapped up and swallowed before he
has time to make any defence!
In these great forests, the trees are often so
matted together that the monkeys can travel for
miles and miles along the tops of them, without
coming to the ground; and when they come to a
river they have a very ingenious way of getting
over it. There are no bridges, and they can
neither swim nor fly; how do you think they
manage it? They make a chain bridge of their
own bodies! One monkey tightly links himself
to his neighbour, and they let themselves swing.
A third steps on their bodies, and clasping the
second, makes another link in the chain. This
goes on until the chain is long enough to reach
across the river, and then the last monkey swings
himself upwards, and by a violent effort grasps
the tree on the opposite bank. Over this living
bridge the rest of the monkeys cross, and the




danger of falling into the stream does not prevent
them giving each other sundry nips and pinches.



When all are safely landed, the monkey that
made the first link lets go his hold, and the
bridge falls gently down upon the opposite bank.
The trees in which the monkeys were chatter-
ing were loaded with
cocoa-nuts; and, as
the soldier was very
S hungry, he longed to
S get some of them to
eat. He intended to
make the monkeys
throw them down to
COCOA-NUTS, him; and began to
pelt them with stones, knowing very well that
they would pelt him with nuts in return. And so
they did,-pulling them off the trees, and fling-
ing them at him with all their might. He con-
trived to dodge out of the way and escape a
broken head; and then picked up his nuts and
ran off with them.
The forest became wilder and wilder, and the
darkness gave him warning that he should have
to spend another night there. This time, he
thought, he would tie himself into the tree, so
that he might, if possible, get a little sleep with-
out being in danger of falling. The cord he used



was one of the vegetable-cables I told you about
in the first chapter, and that is as tough and
strong as rope. He might have had a better
night, but his clothes were soon saturated with
the heavy and chilling dew that falls in these
tropical countries. And by-and-by he heard a
loud barking and howling that was almost deafen-
ing.. It was the jackals in close pursuit of their
The jackals are more voracious than the
wolves, and will attack
everything they meet
with. All day they
are hidden in their ens,
but when night comes,
they issue forth in
packs, and scour the
forest round. The jackal -
"that first scents the
prey gives notice to the JAUKAL.
rest by a loud howl, and all the pack answer him.
The lion often hears the cry, and follows at a dis-
tance. Then, when the jackals have run down their
prey, and are just going to devour it, in the lion
steps, and the jackals have to give place, and
wait until he has satisfied his hunger.



The poor soldier had no chance of sleep in the
midst of all this noise. As soon as it was light,
he came down from his roosting place, and con-
tinued his way along the river. But very soon
the bank became so covered with jungle and
prickly shrubs, that he was obliged to take to
the water and wade. It was very fatiguing
work; and when he came to a more open place,
he lay down upon a rock, and in spite of the
glaring rays of the sun, that beat full upon him,
he sank into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he
had a terrible fright: close beside him were the
foot-marks of tigers, freshly made upon the soft
mud. They had evidently been there while he
was asleep, and he had been quite at their mercy.
His escape seemed almost miraculous, and he did
not leave the spot until he had kneeled down and
thanked God for it.
He was now very hungry; and seeing the
peacocks feeding on some red berries, he thought
he would venture to try them. But they were
sour and disagreeable, and he did not think it
prudent to eat many of them.
By-and-by he was better off; for he came to
some cocoa-nut trees, growing in a cluster on the
river's bank. Hundreds of parrots, with bright



green, yellow, and red plumage, were flying about
amongst the branches, and kept up such a harsh
screaming that they almost drove him distracted;
and there were numbers of brilliantly-dressed
birds, with bills as large as their bodies, and that
looked so heavy, you wondered how they could
carry them. These were the toucans; and so far
from being incommoded by the weight of their
bills, they were hopping about as nimbly as the
parrots. In fact, the bill is very light, and con-
sists of a delicate network of bone, covered over
with a horny coating. The tongue is long and
narrow, and as stiff as whalebone; it is fringed
on each side with filaments, so as to look like a
feather, and can be darted several inches beyond
the bill.
The toucan feeds upon fruit and spices; but
he is not satisfied with a wholly vegetable diet.
He devours mice and small birds, and has a
great liking for eggs,-cunningly driving away
S the parents, and then regaling himself on the
contents of the nest. When he seizes his prey,
he jerks it up into the air and catches it up
again in his wide bill, and, by a few squeezes,
kills it. Then he dexterously breaks the bones,
and swallows it piece by piece, not even leaving


the beak and legs, if it happens to be a bird.
All the while he makes a hollow chattering
noise with his bill, as if exulting over his meal.
The nest of the toucan is in the hollow of a
- tree; and when he
-: goes to roost he
turns his tail up
T over his back, and
Snestles his great
a. bill on his shoul-
S- der, until it is quite
Concealed among
Ie the feathers.
"-. --- He is as noisy
THE TOUCX. as the parrot, and
altogether they made such a din, that the soldier
was glad to get out of their way. Happily for him,
the elephants had been there before him, tearing
down the branches; and numbers of cocoa-nuts
lay strewed upon the ground. On these he made a
good supper, and tied himself into the tree for the
night. The moon shone in all her splendour, and
he could distinctly see the animals come down to
the river to drink.
And her3 I might tell you that in hot countries
the creatures in the forest have, at all times, an



abundance of food; but every nqw and then there
comes a drought, and the supply of water is cut
off Rivers and lakes dry up under the burning
rays of the sun; and the animals, parched with
thirst, wander a long way in search of something to
drink. When they have found a spring, they all
draw up on its banks, for they must drink or die.
The elephants march, in a long line, from the
depths of the forest; the buffaloes come in a herd,
depending on their numbers for safety. The lion
and the tiger meet each other face to face; and
-the smaller animals, such as the jackal and the
timid deer, venture to the water's edge, though
it is as much as their lives are worth. The snake,
too, is there, taking possession of the bank, and
seizing as much prey as he can get. Like the
rest of his tribe, he sleeps with his eyes open,
and seems for ever on the watch. Fierce battles
take place every hour, and the weak fall victims
to the strong. But the snake is always able to
defend himself; his scales are like armour, and
no animal cares to venture near him and run the
risk of being crushed to death in his coils.
The next day, the soldier lived upon his cocoa-
nuts; dashing them against the trees to break
the shells, though by doing so he was obliged



to waste the milky juice. When he had eaten as
many kernels as he could, he put the rest in his
All at once he thought he heard men shouting,
and made for the place, overjoyed at the prospect
of meeting with human beings. But, alas! the
sound died away, and was not repeated; and
after running about a mile without seeing any
trace of his fellow-creatures, he found himself
more than ever entangled in the forest. He
began to retrace his steps towards the river, but
to his great alarm three elephants were standing
full in his way. One of them was a young one,
and came frolicking up to him as if in play. He
ran back, and looked round for a tree to climb;
but in his haste to get out of its reach his foot
slipped, and he fell from the tree right under
the elephant's nose. The elephant stopped,
touched him, smelled him, and even turned him
over with its trunk. The soldier was very
much afraid it would trample upon him; and,
jumping suddenly up, he gave such a shout
that the elephant was scared, and ran back
to its companions. Then all the three came
rushing towards the soldier, bending and break-
ing everything before them. But fear lent the




A >

fl *
/ .
\ ~ ''***a ^



soldier wings, and he ran so fast that he soon
left them behind him. Unfortunately he had


" .''


left his wallet behind him, with all his cocoa-
nuts in it; and he would have lost his dinner, if
he had not come upon another fruit that did as
well .
This was the fruit of the jack-tree, that is so
large it weighs as much as seventy pounds,
and contains more than two hundred seeds, or
nuts, that are a little like chestnuts. The natives
of Ceylon use it for food, cutting it in slices, and
frying it in oil, or else eating it raw.
The soldier tried to make a fire by rubbing
two pieces of stick together; but he rubbed a
long time, and could not get a spark. So he
loaded himself with jack fruit, and went on in
better spirits at having found such an abundant
supply of food. But just at this minute he heard
a loud grunting, and found that he was almost in
the midst of a herd of wild boars.
The wild boars are very ferocious animals;
while they are young, they form themselves into
a phalanx, the weakest in the middle, and the
strongest facing the danger; and in this way
they defy every other animal. But when the
wild boar has come to maturity, he walks the
forest fearless and alone. Hunting him is the
favourite amusement in Ceylon. The hunter is



mounted on horseback, and thrusts at the boar
with a long spear, taking care not to let it go out
of his hand. But he often gets the worst of it;
for the enraged animal will charge so furiously,
as to drive both hunter and dogs off the field.
The soldier swam across the river, to get out
of the way of the wild boars. When he reached
the opposite bank he was very much exhausted;
and sitting down he began to think over the many
escapes he had had. Then some texts of Scrip-
ture, that his mother had taught him when he
was a child, came into his mind, and comforted
him. They were out of Psalm cxxxix. :-
"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or
whither shall I flee from thy presence ? If I
ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make
my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take
the wings of the morning, and dwell in the utter-
most parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand
lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I
say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even
the night shall be light about me. Yea, the
darkness hideth not from thee; but the night
shineth as the day: the darkness and the light
are both alike to thee."
The soldier continued wandering about in
(42s) 5



the forest some days longer, but did not meet
with any more adventures worth relating. He
became so weak, that at last he could not climb
the trees, but lay down at the foot of one of them,
and sank into a deep sleep. Here he was found
by some natives, who had come into the jungle
to look for their cattle that were gone astray.
They roused him from his sleep; but he was not
able to stand, and seemed as if he had lost his senses.
They carried him away to the hospital, where
every attention was paid to him. He slowly re-
covered his reason and his health; and when he
was quite well, related his marvellous escapes in
the forest, which I have related to you.

- ..s:.' - .



HE birds in a tropical'forest are exposed to
many dangers; and if they were not
"gifted with instinct, they would soon
fall victims to their enemies. The
monkeys are lying in wait for their eggs,
and so is the snake, that glides stealthily amongst
the bushes.
The mother bird knows very well what she has
to expect if either of these cunning foes should
find entrance into her nest; and she generally con-
trives to conceal it so skilfully that neither snake
nor monkey can find it.
The tailor-bird of India is no bigger than the
humming-bird, and has a long slender bill, which
she uses as a needle. She is very timid and
cautious, and will not hang her nest, as many
birds do, to the end of a bough. Even there she


does not fancy it will be safe; so she fastens it
to the leaf itself, and so carefully that no one
can see it.
First of all she picks up a dead leaf from the
ground, and then with her needle and thread (her
needle being her bill, and her thread the fibres of
a plant) she sews the dead leaf to the side of a
living one, and in the space between she makes
her nest. Small as the space is, it is quite large
enough for the tiny eggs she lays; and she lines
it with gossamer, that the little tailor-birds may
feel themselves quite snug and comfortable. The
leaf, with the nest sewed into it, swings about in
the wind as it did before, for the weight of the
bird does not draw it down in the least. It is
hidden from the prying eyes of the forest robbers;
and here the young brood are hatched in safety.
You might see them put out their heads when
they are expecting their mother back with an
insect or a worm for their food. But at the
slightest sound of danger, in they draw them, and
there seems to be nothing but the leaf hanging
with the other leaves upon the bough.
Another little bird, called the Indian sparrow,
is equally ingenious. She builds her nest on the
highest tree she can find, and if it overhangs a




river she is so much
the better pleased. She
makes it of grass, which
she weaves like cloth,
and fashions it into the
shape of a bottle; it
contains several apart-
ments, and the en-
trance is at the bottom.
The oddest thing
about it is that the'
bird is said to light up
her rooms with fire-
flies, which she sticks
to the walls by pieces
of clay. Sometimes
three or four fireflies
have been found in the
nest; and there have
been many conjectures
as to what she does with
them. One naturalist
thinks she must bring
them home for food;
and another supposes
that she places them



-._. ,


there to dazzle the eyes of the bats, who will, if
they can, prey upon her young ones.
This little sparrow is easily tamed, and may
be taught to fetch and carry, like a carrier-
pigeon. Once upon a time, the owner of a tame
sparrow dropped his ring over the mouth of a
well; and the bird instantly flew down, and was
so dexterous as to catch it in her bill before it
had had time to reach the water.
It is very curious to see the pendent nests
hanging from almost every tree in the forest;
and often a great many nests from the same bough.
A tribe of birds called orioles always hang their
dwellings up in this manner. One of these birds
is very common indeed in America, and her nest
is the neatest and best made of any.
She begins by fastening strings of hemp or
flax round the twigs, just as long as she intends
her nest to be. I daresay you wonder how the
bird gets her hemp. I am afraid, not very
honestly. But so great is her desire to make her
nest strong, that she will fly a considerable dis-
tance to the place where the people of the country
are employed in bleaching hemp, and steal as
many of the threads as she can carry. Her
habit of doing this is so well known, that the


women keep constant watch to drive her
When she has stolen her hemp, and fastened it
to the tree, she next weaves it together, mixing
her materials with it; and these materials are
nearer at hand than the hemp was. On almost
every tree there grows a moss-like plant, that
streams from the branches a little like a beard.
T1is serves admirably to work up with the hemp;
afd she weaves it into a kind of cloth. The
nest is in the shape of a pocket, and lined with
down, and is always placed where the leaves
hang over it, and shade it from the sun; and
there is a hole on one side near the top, that
serves as a door.
The oriole does not stay all the year round in
America. When the autumn comes, she flies
away to the south, and generally spends the
winter in Jamaica, or one of the warm islands of
the West Indies. She is known by a great many
different names; and is sometimes called the fire-
bird, because the bright orange colour of the
tail-feathers flashes among the green leaves like
Some birds are styled felt-making birds, because
they press the material of their nest together, by



turning their bodies round and round upon it,
until they have made it as tight and compact as
cloth. They do not hang up their nests as the
orioles do, but fix them firmly into the fork of a
branch; indeed, the branch is imbedded in the
nest, and you cannot pull it away without leav-
ing a part behind.
One of these birds is called the pine-pinc, on
account of her note, and is a native of Africa.
She chooses a thick prickly shrub to build in, and
her nest is rather clumsy to look at. But if you
could see within it you would be astonished at
the workmanship. With no implements except
her bill, her wings, and her feet, she has pressed
and worked up the material into a cloth of the
finest texture and the best quality. An old
lady might well ask the question, "If these birds
could not be taught to mend stockings ? "
The nest has a narrow neck, through which
the bird can pass in and out; and there is a little
porch built outside the neck, and looking like a
small nest resting against the large one. This
smaller nest was supposed to be for the pinc-pinc
to sit and keep watch in while his partner was
hatching her eggs. But this is not the case;
for both the birds sit by turns upon the eggs, and


when one is sitting the other flies away. It is,
in fact, only a resting-place, where the birds may
perch as they pass in and out of the nest; for if
they were to perch upon the nest itself they
might injure it.
Such a soft, comfortable abode as that of the
pine-pine is sure to be envied by the other birds;
and some, that are larger and stronger than it is,
will lie in wait until the dwelling is finished, and
then drive away the owners, and take possession
of it for themselves. It often happens that a
pair of poor little pinc-pincs build one nest after
another, and every time are robbed of their home;
and sometimes they cannot find any place to rear
their young.
A traveller in Africa contrived to tame a pair
of felt-making birds. He enticed them into his
tent with crumbs and tit-bits; and they im-
mediately spied out a heap of cotton and flax
that lay upon the table, and that he was using to
stuff birds with. It was much easier to steal his
cotton than to pick the down from the branches
of plants; and they carried away, in their beaks,
great parcels of it, larger than themselves.
The traveller followed them to the tree where
they were going to build, and sat down and



watched them. They had already laid the
foundation of moss, and the branch was imbedded
in it.
At first the nest looked only like a mass,
rudely put together; but the mother bird kept
steadily working it into shape, while her partner
flew backwards and forwards to fetch cotton and
flax from the traveller's table. When he came
back with his load, he put it down on the edge
of the nest, or else on the branch, where the
mother bird could reach it; and when he was
tired of flying backwards and forwards, he would
help her by pressing it together with his body.
The industry of the two little birds did not
prevent their having a few games at play; and
they would even quarrel in sport, and one would
pull down the work that the other had been
doing. Then the mother bird would take offence,
and fly off, from bush to bush, and her partner
would begin to sing, as if to coax her back again.
This soon put all to rights, and the nest-making
would go on with fresh ardour.
At the end of three days, the bottom of the
nest was made quite firm by being pressed, and
the birds began to raise the walls. They piled
tufts of cotton one upon the other; and pressed


and beat them down, until they were as hard and
firm as cloth. If any piece projected, they would
lace it in, with their beaks, until the wall was
flat again. They also laced in the small branches
that grew near; but contrived to keep the inside
of the nest perfectly round. In about a week
their task was finished; and when the traveller
put in his finger, he found that an egg had been
laid there.




HEN I speak of the forest, you must
Snot always think of the tropical
forest, with its fantastic beauty, its
peacocks, its humming-birds, and its
Birds of Paradise. Nor must you
always picture to yourself the bread-fruit tree,
and the palms, rising in all their dignity.
In the northern parts of America, where the
heat of the tropics does not extend, lie other
forests, vast, gloomy, and profound. There the
loud hammering of the woodpecker and the notes
of summer songsters are heard, and the squirrels
play about, and collect their stores of nuts against
the winter. And sometimes the forest is inter-
sected by a river; and on its margin you would
find patches of green herbage, and myriads of
bright and beautiful flowers. But this does not


often happen; and the forest stretches onward,
and onward, and onward still, in unbroken soli-
tude, and destitute alike of grass and flowers.
The ground is strewed with decaying leaves
and dead branches that keep falling every day.
And though the storm may rage and beat upon
the tree-tops, and in its fury rock them to and
fro, they are so matted together that it cannot
penetrate beneath them. Near the ground, all
is profoundly still; and not a single breath of
wind can enter, to stir the dead leaves that
moulder to decay just where they have fallen.
When winter comes, the trees shed their
foliage, and stand bare and leafless; the birds
of summer are gone, the squirrels retreat to their
holes, and the wild beasts become torpid in their
dens; and the snow lies smooth and unruffled,
except where, here and there, is seen the foot-
print of the elk or of the wolf.
Of these northern forests, the oak woods are
the least dark and gloomy; for the trees stand
far enough apart to allow a golden stream of light
to play upon their pale-green foliage; and the
wild turkeys strut about and feast upon the
acorns. The forests of beech are much darker,
and the sullen pine forest is darker still.



~-~~-~~-~~ -IL~ --


The pines, clad in their heavy foliage, stand
like sentinels to guard every avenue, lest the
bright eye of day should peep into their solitude;
and the winter snow rests upon their evergreen
branches, as on a shield, and rarely touches the'
ground. Here, summer and winter are alike
lonely; and no squirrels are to be found except
they happen to be passing on their annual excur-
sion. But a few birds come, every year, to the
pine forests, and live upon the seeds that they
pick out of the fir-cones; and I must tell you a
little about them.
There is a bird yonder with such a curious bill


you might think it was deformed. The two
parts of the bill, instead of fitting together, cross
each other; and you wonder how he can gain his
living with such a misshapen tool to work with.
He is called the cross-bill; and his odd-looking
beak is given him that he may more easily detach
the seeds from the fir-cones. He grasps the cone
with his foot, and digs into it the upper part of
his bill, which is like a hook, and giving a jerk,
forces out the seed; then with his other foot he
carries it to his mouth, after the fashion of a
If he can get apples, of which he is very fond,
he cuts them in two with his bill, using it like
a pair of scissors, and picks out the pips, and
eats them.
The cross-bills live in the pine forest during
the winter, and when spring comes go further
north to rear their young. But it has happened
that the woodcutters, who have been felling pines
in frost and snow, have found a nest of cross-bills,
with young ones in it; and the poor little birds
have been jerked out as the tree began to fall.
The cross-bills live in flocks; and, though so
hardy, are often pressed for food in very cold
weather. Then they lose all fear, and alight at
(428) 6


the door of the woodman's cabin, and, for want of
better fare, pick out the clay with which he has
plastered his logs. And so intent are they on
satisfying their hunger, that he may go close to
them, and even kill them with a stick.
The plumage of the cross-bill is of a brilliant
crimson; but if he is kept in captivity, he loses
his beauty, and his coat changes to a brownish-
Another very hardy bird, called the pine
grosbeak, visits the forest in the summer, and
will sometimes stay very late into the winter.
He is as gaily dressed as the cross-bill, for his
plumage is of a bright carmine tinged with ver-
milion. The two parts of his bill do not cross
each other, but the upper half projects at the
edges and overlaps the other. He, too, feeds
upon the seeds in the fir-cone; and when he has
insinuated his bill, he uses his tongue to draw
them out with.
One very stormy winter, when the snow was
deep upon the ground, and many birds perished
with hunger, the pine grosbeaks were driven from
the forests, and collected about the houses, and in
the streets of the towns, in search of food. A
gentleman picked up a poor little bird, so thin as


to be nothing but a bundle of feathers. He fed
it, and took such care of it that it soon recovered,
and grew so tame as to eat out of his hand. It
used to fly about in his bedroom; and if he was
not up in time to give it its breakfast, it would
flutter on his shoulder, and as good as ask him
for it. But if he opened his eyes, or showed any
sign of being awake, the bird was pacified, and
flew to the window-seat, and waited patiently
until its master was dressed.
When summer came, the grosbeak wanted to
go back to the pine forest. It grew restless and
unhappy, and did nothing but run from one side
of the window to the other, and try to force its
way through the glass. It could eat as well as
ever; but the house was filled with its piteous
wailing, as if beseeching for its liberty.
At length the window was opened, and it was
let out; but it lingered about for some time,
pluming and dressing its feathers, before it took
its departure.
SThe pine grosbeaks are very sweet songsters;
and pour out their lays at sunset, and even
during the night. When they are travelling in
flocks, they fly at a considerable height above the
forest, and chatter together as they fly. They


alight, now and then, upon the trees, and pick off
the opening buds; but on the branches, or on
the ground, they move by a succession of leaps.
The little pine warbler, also, visits the pine
forest, and, inhabits its deepest recesses, where
every tree is covered with its hanging coat of
moss. He darts about, from branch to branch,
catching flies; and his bill is fringed with bristles,
to enable him the better to secure them. There
are a great many different kinds of these warblers;
and one of them chooses the tallest trees, and
makes its nest amongst the thickest of the foliage.
It is very nimble and lively, and climbs the twigs
in search of insects, examining the under side of
every leaf, to be sure that none escape it; and if
the insect takes wing, the bird will take wing
too and seize it as it flies. Every now and then
it stops to repeat its song, which consists of a few
low sweet notes; and away it darts, or else hangs
from the end of the branch, as the warblers all
have the habit of doing.
It is not easy to find the nest of the pine
warbler, built as it is in the deepest recesses of
the forest. A naturalist took the trouble to
watch one of these little birds for hours, in hopes
of discovering where it lived. At length he saw


it go into a thick cluster of leaves, and he noise-
lessly raised his gun, and took aim at the twig.
When the smoke had cleared away, he saw the
twig whirling to the ground; and pulling open
the leaves he spied the nest, so wrapped up and
hidden, that it was difficult even then to find it.
The parent birds hovered over his head, and be-
wailed the loss of their home with such piteous
cries, that he had not the heart to take their
little ones away, but set them down unhurt upon
a log, and contented himself with stealing only
the nest.
The warblers do not stay all the winter in the
forest; they are driven out by the cold, and seek
a warmer spot. But in the spring they come
back again, and pass over the country iii a little
army. Sometimes they are stopped on their
way by a return of cold weather; and then they
make a halt, and wait patiently until it is gone.
On such occasions they may be seen flitting about
in every gleam of sunshine, and are so tame that
many of them have been caught by the hand.
As soon as the weather changes they take wing
again, and continue their flight until they are
lost in the gloomy shades of the pine forest.
Before we quit the pine forest, I ought to


describe a terrible scene that occasionally takes
place there; I mean a fire.
The sap of the fir-tree is, as you know, of
a resinous nature, and very inflammable. The
lightning will strike a tree and ignite it, or a
dead trunk will fall, and rub against its neighbour
until fire is produced. Then the dry leaves that
cover the ground kindle like tinder; the hanging
moss that streams from the trunk catches fire;
and the flames darting through it climb the tree,
and lay hold upon the branches; and spread from
one tree to another, until a whole tract of forest
is in a blaze, and the heavens glow like a furnace
with the light.
These fires are, as you may well imagine, very
dangerous and destructive; for they sweep on-
ward with tremendous fury, burning up every-
thing that lies in their track. The wild beasts,
and the birds, and all living creatures fly before
them; and man himself cannot always escape
with his life.
The settler who has cleared a space, and built
his hut in the forest, is in great peril. He is
roused from his sleep by the snorting and lowing
of his cattle, who know by instinct the fate that
threatens them. He starts up and snatches his


gun, thinking that some wild beast is causing the
disturbance. Alas it is a worse enemy than the
bear or the wolf. He looks out, and sees,
yonder, a line of flame advancing full upon him;
and he hears the crackling of the burning brush-
wood Not a moment is to be lost. He must
leave everything behind, and, on his swiftest
horse, fly for his life. His only chance will be
to gain the nearest lake or pool, and seek refuge
from the devouring element by lying flat at its
The heat and the smoke are suffocating, and
showers of sparks fly over him. He looks back,
and sees his hut reduced to ashes, and the fire
sweeping towards him with giant strides. It is a
narrow escape, but he gains the pool, and throws
himself down upon its margin.
Many wild beasts are there before him, and
others rush in, and stand in the water, or swim
across to the opposite side. But they are too
intent on their own safety to notice him.
The flames sweep round the lake, and the
ashes fall in a cloud about him. All night he
watches the frightful scene around. The pine
trunks are left standing, like pillars of fire, or fall
against each other, and send up a volume of


sparks. But the fire has passed him by, and he
sees it pursuing its course in the distance. He
has escaped its fury; but he has lost his hut, his
cattle, and all that he possessed, and must begin
the world afresh. He is too thankful for his
deliverance to murmur. As soon as it is safe for
him to venture, he makes his way to a part of the
forest where the fire has not been. He builds
another hut; the settlers in this new place listen
with interest to the recital of his misfortunes,
and give him all the help they can. He is able
to work; and soon gets back his cattle, and the
few possessions he has lost. And the tract of
forest recovers from its desolation. There is a
new growth of trees; and it is an extraordinary
fact, that these trees are of many different kinds,
but not a single pine or fir is to be found amongst
them. This is one of Nature's secrets, and man
has not been able to unravel it.


F you were to ramble into the woods and
thickets of America, you would be pretty
sure to hear a sound a little like the
mewing of a cat; and you might even
look about you, and fancy that a kitten
must have got lost, and be wandering among the
bushes. But presently out would hop a bird,
about the size of a thrush, and of very ordinary
appearance, compared to the brilliant little crea-
tures I have been describing. He has no gaudy
plumage; but is dressed in plain slate colour,
with a little red under his wings, and the upper
part of his head black. This is the cat-bird,
whose mewing note you have just heard; and
his nest is almost certain to be close at hand, at
the foot of a tree, or among the bushes.
You must not despise him on account of his


appearance, and the grotesque tone of his voice.
He has one of the best dispositions in the world;
and when you have heard a little about him, I
am sure you will feel some respect for him. He
is an affectionate parent, and always on the watch
lest any harm should happen to his young ones;
and if he thinks they are in danger, his grief is
quite touching.
A mischievous stranger, passing by, may trifle
with his feelings most cruelly by making a squeak-
ing noise, in imitation of young birds in distress.
This causes a great sensation in the wood; for
all the birds that live there begin to think it may
be one of their little ones crying for help.
The cat-bird, who is easily alarmed, hurries
first to the spot, and throws himself into a violent
agitation. He flies backwards and forwards, with
his wings drooping, and his mouth open; and
screams until he gets quite hoarse and exhausted.
He never attacks any living thing, for he is as
mild and inoffensive as possible; but he uses all
the arts of entreaty, and seems to implore pity
for what he supposes to be his little ones.
The other birds take it a great deal more coolly.
They come to the place, it is true, to see what
is the matter; but they seem to understand the


trick very soon, and go back to their nests, leav-
ing the poor cat-bird still fluttering about in an
agony of alarm.
You may easily imagine that a bird with such


a disposition would not behave harshly under
any circumstances.
A naturalist once took two eggs out of the
nest while the cat-bird was away, and put in
their stead two others belonging to a thrush. He


then stood at a convenient distance, and watched
to see what would happen. In a few minutes
the cat-bird came back, and hopping on the side
of the nest, looked earnestly at the strange eggs.
They puzzled him very much indeed, and he
evidently knew in a moment that they had no
business there. He flew to his mate, who was
not far off, and held a long conversation with
her, as if he were telling her all about it. Then
he returned to the nest, and taking up one of the
strange eggs, he lifted it out, and laid it among
the bushes; he did the same with the other;
and the naturalist was so well satisfied with this
behaviour, that he restored the right eggs to their
place, and the mother bird came and sat upon
Another time the same naturalist took two of
the young cat-birds from their nest, and put them
into the nest of a stranger cat-bird, and then
watched as before to see what would happen.
When the mother came back and found the
little intruders, she turned them out without any
mercy; but as they had not far to fall, they were
not hurt, though they were very likely to die of
cold and hunger-at least, so her partner seemed
to think, for he took pity upon them, and began



to feed them as tenderly as if they had been
his own offspring.
The cat-bird, in spite of his good disposition,
is not a general favourite. He has a great liking
for cherries and pears, and a fatal habit of steal-
ing them wherever he can find them. In the
fruit season numbers of cat-birds leave the woods,
and make sad havoc with the fruit-trees in the
farmer's orchard. As a natural consequence, the
farmer is their deadly enemy, and shoots them
down without any scruple.
The boys, too, look upon the cat-bird with
contempt, on account of his mewing note. His
vocal powers, however, are not confined to this
one note. He tries to imitate the' other birds;
and as he cannot do it with the skill of the
mocking-bird, he only gete laughed at for his
pains. There is very little music in his per-
formance, and it consists of a jumble of all the
notes of the wood songsters, repeated over and
over, as if he were determined to learn them by
The sweetest musician in the forest is the
mocking-bird. His voice is strong, and clear,
and musical, and seems to fill the surrounding
space with a flood of delicious melody. He, too,



imitates the notes of the other birds, but in a
far superior manner; he actually improves upon
nature, and, in his mouth, the song is richer and

; -. :. :.

1 -.'W.j

I 'L.'


more harmonious than when it is uttered by the
original songster.
He is full of animation, as if he were inspired
by his own music. He expands his wings and
tail, and sweeps round and round in ecstacy; he
mounts or falls as his song rises or dies away;



and exerts himself so much that any one, not
seeing him, might fancy a chorus of birds were
singing instead of only one.
Perhaps the best time to hear him is in the
stillness of a moonlight night, when all is silent
in the forest, and every bird-has gone to roost;
then the mocking-bird begins, and, like the night-
ingale, sings the whole night through.
He is an admirable mimic, and very mischievous
withal, and loves to play tricks upon his feathered
neighbours. He will scream like a hawk, and
then they will hide themselves and fancy their
enemy is upon them; or he will imitate the call
of the birds to their mates, and draw them off
their nests. Even the sportsman is often led
astray by him, and goes in search of birds that
are hundreds of miles away, fancying they are
close at hand. In fact, there is no end to the
mimicking powers of the mocking-bird; and
the ancient Mexicans very properly called him
by a hard name, that means "four hundred lan-
Besides being a musician and a mimic, the
mocking-bird is in his way a hero. He fights
obstinate battles with the black snake, the in-
veterate enemy of the forest birds; for the black



snake loves to suck their eggs and devour their
young ones.
Often, when the mocking-bird is watching by
the nest. while his mate is sitting, there will be a
rustling among the leaves at the foot of the tree;
then two bright eyes will glisten through the
foliage, and presently a shining body will begin
to wreathe itself round and round the trunk, and
slowly to ascend. It is the black snake, who
has scented the eggs of the mocking-bird, and is
determined to make a feast off them.
The mocking-bird gets into a terrible passion
at the sight of his enemy. He darts upon him
with the rapidity of an arrow, and, keeping out
of the reach of his fangs, strikes him violently on
the head, the part where he is most easily hurt.
The snake, finding he has met his match, draws
back a little, and the mocking-bird redoubles his
blows. The snake seems to think he had better
get out of the scrape as quickly as he can, and,
descending to the ground, tries to glide away and
hide himself among the bushes; but the intrepid
bird follows him, and continues the battle with
great animation. The snake gets decidedly the
worst of it, and his powers of fascination avail
him nothing. The mocking-bird seizes him by



the body, and lifts him from the ground, and then
lets him drop, beating him all the time with his
wings. Indeed, so fierce is his hatred, that he
never rests until he has pecked him to death.
Then he flies back to the tree, and settling
himself on the highest branch, pours forth a tor-
rent of song, as if in praise of his victory.






VERYBODY knows the woodpecker, and
has, at some time or other, seen him run
up the tree, and tap at it with his long
bill. This is his way of getting a live-
lihood,-the insects that live beneath
the bark serve him for food, and his
bill is made as sharp and strong as a chisel, on
purpose to reach them.
He finds out by instinct which tree is decayed,
for there he knows he shall meet with plenty of
grubs. He runs up the trunk, and holding by
his hooked claws, and supporting himself on his
stiff, strong tail, he gives the tree a tap. Then
he listens; for his sense of hearing is so acute
that he can distinguish the insects running about
within the bark, and trying to make their escape.
But very soon he has sliced off a piece of the