Letter | Published:

Instinct in Birds


MR. GRAVES, who writes on this subject (NATURE, vol. xxix. p. 596), is, I fear, not so accurate an observer as the magpie, for he misquotes the day fixed by the birds for building, and then indicates that the young “mags” are restricted to four in each nest, while the fact is there are often six or seven in a nest. The magpie is too fond of a fresh egg for breakfast to escape the attention of the gamekeeper. I have often seen the greater part of their nest shot down, repaired, and reoccupied by the birds year after year. I know of no bird that begins the work of nidification here early in February, nor any that devotes two months to the work. The rook (Corvus frugilegus) is the first to begin, and I have often been told that it does so early on the first Sunday of March, G.M.T.

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