Small parties of Chiffchaffs pass through a district on their way to other breeding grounds, flitting from hedge to hedge as they move in a definite direction with apparently a definite purpose; Reed-Warblers settle in a garden or plantation, eminently unsuited to their requirements, and disappear; Wood-Warblers arrive in some old haunt, and finding it no longer suitable for their purpose, seek new ground.
Our American wood-warblers are all to be classed among the minor songsters; standing in this respect in strong contrast with the true Old World warblers, of whose musical capacity enough, perhaps, is said when it is mentioned that the nightingale is one of them. But, comparisons apart, our birds are by no means to be despised, and not a few of their songs have a good degree of merit.
We have one parasitical bird, the cow-bird, so-called because it walks about amid the grazing cattle and seizes the insects which their heavy tread sets going, which is an enemy of most of the smaller birds. It drops its egg in the nest of the song-sparrow, the social sparrow, the snow-bird, the vireos, and the wood-warblers, and as a rule it is the only egg in the nest that issues successfully.
It is one of the commonest of the mnio-tiltidæ, or wood-warblers, though more properly a bird of the copse and shrubbery than of the woods. This nest is a beautiful piece of bird architecture. In a walk in search of one only a day or two ago I procured one, which is now before me.
Their redstart also builds under the eaves of houses; their starling in church steeples and in holes in walls; several thrushes resort to sheds to nest; and jackdaws breed in the crannies of the old architecture, and this in a much milder climate than our own. They have in that country no birds that answer to our tiny, lisping wood-warblers, genus Dendroica, nor to our vireos, Vireonidoe.