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After so much labour is bestowed in erecting a mansion, as Nature seldom works in vain, martins will breed on for several years together in the same nest, where it happens to be well sheltered and secure from the injuries of weather.* The shell or crust of the nest is a sort of rustic-work full of
* Mr. Hepburn, an accurate and minute observer, has noted the building of three nests in detail:-—“On the 3rd of June six martins, H. urbica, arrived at Linton and spent the whole day in examining the eaves of the house and stables. Next morning they commenced a foundation for three nests, each pair worked at a particular part, and by noon it presented a continuous line of mud. By the 13th two pairs had left off, their nests being half finished. The remaining pair brought their labours to a close on the 17th.”. Following Mr. Hepburn's journal, in which he records the proceedings of another pair,—“The first day they began work at day-break, and worked till five, p.m.; second day they work from twelve and disappear at three; third day they work very little, more play than work; fourth day not seen at all; fifth day they build briskly till nine, when much rain and wind drove them away; sixth day cold and cloudy, one pair only at work; seventh day cold and frosty, no building till it thawednest half finished, but the walls and corners are nicely rounded off, giving security to the whole fabric. They finish off the top; they sometimes cling to the outside, using the tail and wings as a fulcrum; eighth day martins work very constantly; ninth day no work; tenth day they build till noon, but with little progress; eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth days built a little; fourteenth to the seventeenth inartive; on the eighteenth they appeared about noon, worked some time, and remained all night. On the 19th of May they finished the nest. But their labours were not ended. On the 23rd of June, during a heavy and continued rain, the nest fell to the ground with the young birds it contained. A little before the catastrophe the old birds were hovering about exhibiting great anxiety and left the place immediately. They returned the following day and spent it in surveying the window, Next morning they commenced repairing the nest, and on the 1st of July they had again completed their labonr. When finished, the outer shell of the nest is of solid clay, in pellats, held together by straws; inside is a layer of decayed matter, lined with a warm thick layer of wool, then one of hairs of horses, and scraps of linen, tape, and feathers, chiefly of the domestic fowl.” --Ed.
knobs and protuberances on the outside: nor is the inside of those that I have examined smoothed with any exactness at all; but is rendered soft and warm, and fit for incubation by a lining of small straws, grasses, and feathers; and sometimes by a bed of moss interwoven with wool. In this nest they tread, or engender, frequently during the time of building; and the hen lays from three to five white eggs.
At first when the young are hatched, and are in a naked and helpless condition, the parent birds, with tender assiduity, carry out what comes away from their young. Was it not for this affectionate cleanliness the nestlings would soon be burnt up, and destroyed in so deep and hollow a nest, by their own caustic excrement.* In the quadruped creation the same neat precaution is made use of; particularly among dogs and cats, where the dams lick away what proceeds from their young. But in birds the re seems to be a particular provision, that the dung of nestlings is enveloped in a tough kind of jelly, and therefore is the easier conveyed off without soiling or daubing. Yet, as Nature is cleanly in all her ways, the young perform this office for themselves in a little time by thrusting their tails out at the aperture of their nest. As the young of small birds presently arrive at their ýmsxía, or full growth, they soon become impatient of confinement, and sit all day with their heads out of the orifice, where the dams, by clinging to the next, supply them with food from morning to night. For a time the young are fed on the wing by their parents; but the feat is
# The excrement of young birds is covered with a thin membrane which permits the old bird to remove it in its bill: a provision for cleanliness not the least among the proofs all Nature presents of Divine Wisdom.-ED.
done by so quick and almost imperceptible a slight, that a person must have attended very exactly to their motions before he would be able to perceive it. As soon as the young are able to shift for themselves, the dams immediately turn their thoughts to the business of a second brood,* while the first flight, shaken off and rejected by their nurses, congregate in great flocks, and are the birds that are seen clustering and hovering on sunny mornings and evenings round towers and steeples, and on the roofs of churches and houses. These congregatings usually
* Mr. Hepburn also describes the entrance of a young brood into the world with great spirit. He had observed on the 19th of August that the young birds were fed nineteen times in the hour. One morning he observed the old birds dash up to the nest, then describing short curves in the air, repeating a note not to be misunderstood : he knew the young were about to take flight; one of them balanced itself on the edge of the nest, looked timidly into the yard, considered the risk for a minute or two, and allowed another to take its place. During all this time the parent birds kept diving about within a few feet of the nest, often fluttering within a few inches of the entrance, and endeavouring by many gestures to induce their charge to follow. The second bird, apparently distrusting its powers, retired also, and the first one again took its place, opening and shutting its wings; he at length summoned up all his resolution, sprung from his perch, and with self-taught pinions winnowed the air. He and his parents, now in ecstasies, returned to the window, and being joined by the other young bird, they sported about the tree-tops till seven o'clock, when they re-entered the nest. The next day the same sporting about occurred; but judgment had gone forth, their nest was pulled down. On their return one evening, each dashed into the corner of the window where it had been fixed, and wheeled back again in silent dismay; again they successively examined the place, shrieking their alarm note. They now darted wildly over the shrubbery, advancing again to examine it, their rage and alarm increasing. A dozen strange swallows now arrived, and joined the injured family in their outcries, After hovering about for an hour or two they disappeared, but frequented the fields for some days, when they disappeared for the season.--ED.
begin to take place about the first week in August; and therefore we may conclude that by that time the first flight is pretty well over. The young of this species do not quit their abodes all together; but the more forward birds get abroad some days before the rest. These approaching the eaves of buildings, and playing about before them, make people think that several old ones attend one nest. They are often capricious in fixing on a nesting-place, beginning many edifices, and leaving them unfinished; but when once a nest is completed in a sheltered place, it serves for several seasons. Those which breed in a ready-finished house get the start in hatching of those that build new by ten days or a fortnight. These industrious artificers are at their labours in the long days before four in the morning: when they fix their materials they plaster them on with their chins, moving their heads with a quick vibratory motion. They dip and wash as they fly sometimes in very hot weather, but not so frequently as swallows. It has been observed that martins usually build to a north-east or north-west aspect, that the heat of the sun may not crack and destroy their nests; but instances are also remembered where they bred for many years in vast abundance in a hot stifled inn-yard, against a wall facing to the south.
Birds in general are wise in their choice of situation : but in this neighbourhood every summer is seen a strong proof to the contrary at an house without eaves in an exposed district, where some martins build year by year in the corners of the windows. But, as the corners of these windows (which face to the south-east and south-west) are
too shallow, the nests are washed down every hard rain; and yet these birds drudge on to no purpose from summer to summer, without changing their aspect or house. It is a piteous sight to see them labouring when half their nest is washed away, and bringing dirt “to patch the ruins of a fallen race"
-“generis lapsi sarcire ruinas.” Thus is instinct a most wonderful but unequal faculty; in some instances so much above reason, in other respects so far below it! Martins love to frequent towns, especially if there are great lakes and rivers at hand; nay, they even affect the close air of London. And I have not only seen them nesting in the Borough, but even in the Strand and Fleet-street; but then it was obvious from the dinginess of their aspect that their feathers partook of the filth of that sooty atmosphere. Martins are by far the least agile of the four species ; their wings and tails are short, and therefore they are not capable of such surprising turns and quick and glancing evolutions as the swallow. Accordingly, they make use of a placid easy motion in a middle region of the air, seldom mounting to any great height, and never sweeping long together over the surface of the ground or water. They do not wander far for food, but affect sheltered districts, over some lake, or under some hanging wood, or in some hollow vale, especially in windy weather. They breed the latest of all the swallow kind : in 1772 they had nestlings on to October the twenty-first, and are never without unfledged young as late as Michael
As the summer declines the congregating flocks increase in numbers daily by the constant accession of the second broods, till at last they swarm in