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Nature volume 29, page 428 | Download Citation



THERE is a remarkable instance of instinct displayed by the common magpie which I have not seen noticed in NATURE or anywhere else, although it has long attracted my attention and is well known to farmers in the west of Scotland. This bird may be seen each year, on the first Sunday of March (old style), very busily employed carrying small twigs of branches to renew its old nest or form a new one for the approaching breeding season. This particular day appears to be appointed for taking formal possession of the premises, as no more work whatever is done for some weeks after. The instinct which enables a bird to take the sun's altitude on a particular day in March is certainly a very rare gift, but any person who wishes to satisfy himself of its truth, and who lives in a locality where these birds breed, has only to rise early on Sunday, March 16, this year, to see them at work for himself. It would be interesting to know within what degrees of latitude this particular day is observed by these birds.

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