. July 1, 1923. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 58(40): 3-W. Period word spellings corrected.
Birds Welcome First Bright Day With Song
By Sandy Griswold.
Jocund as the weather was on that Sunday I was telling you about a week ago, was no more than were the birds - the fact is, it was one of those days when the birds are more in evidence, livelier and more tuneful, than they are ordinarily, and which days occur each year to a greater or lesser extent. This year it can be largely accounted for by the belated season, there being literally no typical spring weather, excepting at short, spasmodic intervals, and when summer did come, it came with a rush, and the birds, the same as people, were impressed and affected.
Anyway, on the day in question, the woods were full of them and the air was vibrating incessantly with the melody of their rejoicing - a regular bird day.
The air was deliciously clear and pure and languorous, as well as full of flying incests, like the feathered mites, celebrating the conditions which had been so abnormally denied them. We noticed particularly a song sparrow running up and down a big bare oak limb that had been stripped of its smaller branches by some ancient storm. Every once in a while, the eager little fellow would flutter up into space and after a convolution or two, return to his oaken limb.
The bird was unquestionably fly-catching, for on diverse occasions we saw it nab an insect in the air, return to its running board, lay it down, peck it once or twice, and then gulp it down with evident relish, and continuing its running backwards and forwards in quest of some or the same sort.
Not True Flycatchers.
It is well known that there are quite a number of birds which are not scientifically recognized as true fly-catchers, but are inordinately fond of varying their menu with these flying-atoms of the air.
The song sparrow is one of the number, as the habit is a common one with most of his numerous kindred, although none of them are primarily real fly-catchers.
You students have no doubt frequently seen one of those little chipping sparrows so common about the grassy borders of all our woods, in pursuit of some gauzy-winged bug it has routed from the grass, and juncos make it a daily sport of springing into the air and capturing many of the aerial little voyagers over our summer fields.
All of these birds have the short, sharp, powerful beak of the sparrow tribe, which was given them for cracking the shells of seeds.
All bird structures are correlated with their diet and their habits, and it is probably the birds mein that determines the structure, more than the latter bears upon their dominant characteristics.
The true fly-catchers, and we saw scores of them that Sunday morn, include the delightful tiny wood pewee, whose sad little plaint is all was greeting you in the quiet of the summer woods; the phoebe, who is prone to build its home beneath some old bridge or about the farms' outbuildings, is another, while the king bird, white-breasted, silvery piped, and bold, defiant and aggressive, is the bonafide monarch of them all. All of these varieties have large heads, bulky shoulders and, broad flat beaks, with hairy bristles, protruding from the base of their mandibles.
Our Busy Bee Bird.
The king bird will sit motionless, but always keenly alert, upon the top-most rail of an old fence, tall mullein stalk or other perch of vantage, until some unwary insectivorous victim comes whirring within the boundaries of his pasturage, when out he darts in pursuit. So adept is he, that it is many seconds before he has overtaken his quarry, seized it in the air, with an audible click of the bill, and in a sweeping curve returns to his watchtower to enjoy the fruits of his prowess.
Between the accuracy of all the operations of the king bird - or bee bird, as he is more commonly called here - and that of the always ludicrous imitations of the false flycatcher, there is almost every intergradation among such as those more or less wholly dependent on their skill in the capture of the all but invisible insects, which fairly blend with the infusoria of the air, for their daily maintenance.