I heard Crows cawing near by, and then a sound like great flies buzzing, which I really attributed, for a moment, to some early insect.
Turning, I saw two Crows flapping their heavy wings among the trees, and observed that they were teasing a Hawk about as large as themselves, which was also on the wing.
Presently all three had risen above the branches, and were circling higher and higher in a slow spiral.
The Crows kept constantly swooping at their enemy, with the same angry buzz, one of the two taking decidedly the lead.
They seldom struck at him with their beaks, but kept lumbering against him, and flapping him with their wings, as if in a fruitless effort to capsize him; while the Hawk
kept carelessly eluding the assaults, now inclining on one side, now on the other, with a stately grace, never retaliating, but seeming rather to enjoy the novel amusement, as if it were a skirmish in balloons.
During all this, indeed, he scarcely seemed once to wave his wings; yet he soared steadily aloft, till the Crows refused to follow, though already higher than I ever saw Crows before, dim against the fleecy sky; then the Hawk
flew northward, but soon after he sailed over us once again, with loud, scornful chirr
, and they only cawed, and left him undisturbed.
When we hear the tumult of music from these various artists of the air, it seems as if the symphony never could be analyzed into its different instruments.
But with time and patience it is not so difficult; nor can we really enjoy the performance so long as it is only a confused chorus to our ears.
It is not merely the highest form of animal language, but in strictness of etymology, the only form, if it be true, as is claimed, that no other animal employs its tongue, lingua
, in producing sound.
In the Middle Ages
, the song of birds was called their Latin, as was any other foreign dialect.
It was the old German superstition, that any one who should eat the heart of a bird would thenceforth comprehend its language; and one modern philologist of the same nation (Masius declares) has so far studied the sounds produced by domestic fowls as to announce a Goose-Lexicon.
Dupont de Nemours
asserted that he understood eleven words of the Pigeon
language, the same number of that of Fowls, fourteen of the Cat tongue, twenty-two of that of Cattle, thirty of that of Dogs, and the Raven language he understood completely.
But the ordinary observer seldom attains farther than to comprehend some of the cries of anxiety and fear around him, often so unlike the accustomed carol of the bird,—as the mew of the Cat-Bird
, the the lamb-like bleating of the Veery and his impatient yeoick
, the chaip
of the Meadow-Lark
, the towyee
of the Chewink, the petulant psit
of the Red-Winged Blackbird
, and the hoarse cooing of the Bobolink.
And with some of our most familiar birds the variety of notes is so great as really to promise difficulties in the American
department of the bird-lexicon.
I have watched two Song-Sparrows, perched near each other, in whom the spy-glass could show not the slightest difference of marking, even in the characteristic stains upon the