Birds - The Mocking-bird
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Mimus polyglottus) Mocking-bird family
Length—9 to 10 inches. About the size of the robin.
Male and Female—Gray above; wings arid wedge-shaped tail brownish; upper wing feathers tipped with white; outer tail quills white, conspicuous in flight; chin white; under- neath light gray, shading to whitish.
Range—Peculiar to torrid and temperate zones of two Americas. Migrations—No fixed migrations; usually resident where seen.
North of Delaware this commonest of Southern birds is all too rarely seen outside of cages, yet even in midwinter it is not unknown in Central Park, New York. This is the angel that it is said the catbird was before he fell from grace. Slim, neat, graceful, imitative, amusing, with a rich, tender song that only the thrush can hope to rival, and with an instinctive preference for the society of man, it is little wonder he is a favorite, caged or free. He is a most devoted parent, too, when the four or six speckled green eggs have produced as many mouths to be sup-plied with insects and berries.
In the Connecticut Valley, where many mocking-birds' nests have been found, year after year, they are all seen near the ground, and without exception are loosely, poorly constructed affairs of leaves, feathers, grass, and even rags.
With all his virtues, it must be added, however, that this charming bird is a sad tease. There is no sound, whether made by bird or beast about him, that he cannot imitate so clearly as to deceive every one but himself. Very rarely can you find a mocking-bird without intelligence and mischief enough to appreciate his ventriloquism. In Sidney Lanier's college note-book was found written this reflection: " A poet is the mocking-bird of the spiritual universe. In him are collected all the individual songs of all individual natures." Later in life, with the same thought in mind, he referred to the bird as "yon slim Shakespeare on the tree." His exquisite stanzas, "To Our Mocking-bird," exalt the singer with the immortals :
Trillets of humor,—shrewdest whistle-wit—