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A man who studies birds is called an ornithologist. Mark Twain, the amusing yet kind-hearted American writer, said:

"There are fellows who write books about birds and love them so much that they'll go hungry and tired to find a new kind of bird and kill it.

"They are called 'ornithologers'.

"I could have been an 'ornithologer' myself, because I always loved birds and creatures. And I started out to learn how to be one. I saw a bird sitting on a dead limb of a high tree, singing away with his head tilted back and his mouth open-and before I thought I fired my gun at him. His song stopped all suddenly, and he fell from the branch, limp like a rag, and I ran and picked him up-and he was dead. His body was warm in my hand, and his head rolled about this way and that, like as if his neck was broke, and there was a white skin over his eyes, and one drop of red blood sparkled on the side of his head-and-laws! I couldn't see nothing for the tears. I haven't ever murdered no creature since then that warn't doing me no harm- and I ain't agoing to neither."

Watching Birds

A good Scout is generally a good "ornithologer", as Mark Twain calls him. That is to say, he likes stalking birds and watching all that they do. He discovers, by watching them, where and how they build their nests.

He does not, like some boys, want to go and rob them of their eggs, but he likes to watch how they hatch out their young and teach them to feed themselves and to fly. He gets to know every species of bird by its call and by its way of flying. He knows which birds remain all the year round and which only come at certain seasons, what kind of food they like best, and how they change their plumage, what sort of nests they build, where they build them, and what the eggs are like.

A good deal of natural history can be studied by watching birds in your neighbourhood, especially if you feed them daily in winter. It is interesting to note, for instance, their different ways of singing, how some sing to make love to the hen birds, while others, like the barn-door cock, crow or sing to challenge another to fight. A herring gull makes an awful ass of himself when he tries to sing and to show himself off to the ladies, and an old crow is not much better.

It is also interesting to watch how the young birds hatch out. Some appear naked, with no feathers, and their eyes shut and their mouths open. Others, with fluffy kinds of feathers all over them, are full of life and energy. Young moorhens, for instance, swim as soon as they come out of the egg, young chickens start running about within a very few minutes, while a young sparrow is useless for days, and has to be fed and coddled by his parents.

William Long, a famous author and naturalist wrote:

"Watch, say, a crow's nest. One day you will see the mother bird standing near the nest and stretching her wings over her little ones. Presently the young stand up and stretch their wings in imitation. That is the first lesson.

"Next day, perhaps, you will see the old bird lifting herself to tiptoe and holding herself there by vigorous flapping. Again the young imitate, and soon learn that their wings are a power to sustain them. Next day you may see both parent birds passing from branch to branch about the nest, aided by their wings in the long jumps. The little ones join and play, and lo! they have learned to fly without even knowing that they were being taught."

A good many birds are almost dying out, because so many boys bag all their eggs when they find their nests.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Fishes And Fishing

Back in The Past:

to the previous page: Study Animals At Home

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