Bird Lore

Date Published: 
September, 1921
Original Author: 
Edwin H. Reiber
West Webster, NY
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention

My friends: I am exceedingly glad to be with you tonight. I had planned on an elaborate program which would take three quarters of an hour. (Laughter) I am not going to impose on your good nature, but ask how many will stick with me for fifteen minutes.

About a year or two years ago I spoke to you about the scientific construction of bird houses. Last year I told you about the economic value of birds in the cemetery; this year, with the addition of a few slides, I am going to try to entertain you for a few moments with the human side of the birds. When I say the human side of birds, I mean by that, that birds have peculiarities and characteristics, parental anxieties and their likes and dislikes very much like human beings; and the more you come in contact with birds, the more you realize how many peculiarities and characteristics they have.

Birds bathe in your garden or in the cemetery, and you soon become intimately acquainted with them; when they come from day to day to take their daily bath or drink, you can single them out and say, "Why, this is friend so-and-so, and this is friend so-and-so," because they bathe different from all the rest of the species.

It has been my good fortune to start in photographing some of these birds while they were doing various acts of feeding, drinking and bathing; and in so doing, I have found they did many things that I never knew of before.

In photographing birds we meet with many difficulties; if you have a photograph gallery and you solicit photographs of individuals you naturally expect that they are going to come and pose for you in your gallery; but when you photograph birds, the invitation to your gallery does not count very much so you have to go out where they are. I don't know whether birds size up the proposition that they do not wish to be photographed. I think some of them do, because they get in such very far-off locations that it makes it quite difficult to get desirable photographs.

I am now going to show you some slides and I hope that I shall be able to keep within the fifteen minutes.


Now, this particular slide is one that I want to show you for one reason: This particular bird, the wood peewee, was one which I have been trying to photograph for a long while; and it concluded that it would get as far out of reach as possible, so it built its nest right up there (indicating).

This picture shows the peewee's nest located in that old dead oak shown you in the previous picture.

In photographing birds many times where they are in shaded locations it is absolutely necessary to cut away some of the branches in order to let in enough light to make an impression on the photographic plate. In doing so I discovered this peculiarity among the parent birds when they have young in their nests. This bird, after the branches were cut away and the sun beating down into the, nest, came and rested on the sunny side of the nest and spread its wings to shade its young. That is a very unusual photograph and it was a thing which I had never seen before. I had heard of its being done, but I questioned it because I had not seen it with my own eyes.

You will remember that in the spring of the year we had a severe snowstorm one Sunday. I guess most of you eastern folks remember it. This jay built its nest and was brooding four eggs with a foot of snow on the ground. These photos were taken before that snow had been brushed off of the bird so it could fly from the nest; but it remained on its nest, guarded its eggs, and brought out the little young just the same, under those trying conditions.

This picture shows one of the nesting material stations erected in one of the cemeteries. I won't call off the names of the cemeteries because these pictures have been taken in many, and it won't be possible in my short time to enumerate all of them; but the material is put into these nesting material stations so, that the birds can select the kind of, material which they really need for building their nests.

In the shrubbery surrounding this station are nests of the warblers, peewees and phoebes, all of whom have used the material from this bird station.

Indeed, there is a nest with the young and the parent bird the chestnut sided warbler, having used the nesting material from one of the stations and nested close by.

Now, in some of these slides showing where, the parent bird is feeding the young, I would like to have you note this one thing; that they are all feeding the young with insects. In a good many cases you can see the kind of insect that the bird has selected to feed its young.

This picture is one of the field sparrow and I am sorry that the light is so poor that you cannot see it distinctly. Anyway, the field sparrow is feeding the young on caterpillars.

The next picture is another picture of the field sparrow cleaning its nest.

You know, the better birds have very cleanly habits and as they feed the young, after they feed the young they generally clean out the nest. Most of the birds of the house-nesting variety are very particular, and they keep their houses very clean.

Again, all these pictures showing nests that you have seen since the picture of the nesting material station have been made from the material found in these stations. This is a little red Iberia which has selected some of the horsehair out of the station to line its nest.

In this particular case, you will find one of the flicker houses away up in the upper portion of that tall tree.

Now, we will have just another view of torn trousers (Laughter) and a few close-up views of that same house. The female flicker feeding its young at the house; there is the male flicker bringing food to the young ones. There is the female bird feeding the young. I am sorry there is not strong enough light there to find those young birds in the nest. There are the young looking out of the entrance. There again are the parent birds cleaning out the nest. There are some of the young birds after they have crept out of the entrance and cling to the outside of the house on that uppermost branch of the tree. Notice how it clings on the tail quills.

One of the young birds on the outside of the tree.

Characteristic of all woodpeckers they cling to the side of the bark and prop themselves on their tail quills.

Some of you will remember my telling you last year about the nesting boxes, and how birds peck out a cavity. In the flicker houses, a reproduction of this cavity, we have also the owls that nest in it. I was quite fortunate in getting a picture of the owls that nest in one of the houses; but as they do not see or fly in the day time it was quite a task to get a photograph of them. They had, therefore, to be taken out of the houses and put on the branch of a tree in order to get a photograph of the birds.

Now, this little screech owl after, it was taken out of one of the houses was set on this branch, and it looked up into the heavens in meditation until the click of the shutter attracted its attention and it looked directly into the "cannon."

The next picture shows one of the bluebird houses among the foliage of one of our cemeteries in the east. It blends softly into the foliage and it is not conspicuous by any means, and is very attractive to the birds; one of the bird houses just protruding up above the cluster of shrubs in which a pair of bluebirds raised their family.

Another house of bluebirds which blends into the landscape as though it belonged there; one of the bluebirds bringing food to its young in the house, there he is on the perch, but as the light is so poor, you do not see the young birds in the entrance. I don't know whether any of you can see it but there is one of the birds in the entrance.

After the broods are raised, they gather but on the trees, and this is one of the little bluebirds right after it left the nest.

There are three of the little bluebirds, before they started to look out for themselves. One of the wren houses in one of the cemeteries.

During the hot summer months when the pools and wayside streams have dried up birds generally puncture fruit for the purpose of obtaining drink. This would not happen if water were provided. Water is as essential to bird life as food itself. The birds seem to take great comfort, and are easily attracted to one's garden or about one's dwelling, or in cemeteries where there is provision made for water.

These just simply show slides of the various baths in various cemeteries; one of the baths in a flower bed. That is in Mount Hope cemetery in Rochester. It is visited daily by many birds.

This is one of the bird baths in front of my own home where constantly this spring I had a camera set that could be operated from the inside of the house taking photographs of the birds as they came there to bathe.

This is one of the robins splashing the water out of the bath.

Many cemeteries throughout the country are making this very provision, supplying the birds with water, and I have had the pleasure of making up a slide from the Fort Plain cemetery of which Mr. Rapp is superintendent. He was kind enough to send me the film and I made up one slide simply to show what some cemetery people are doing for the welfare of the birds.

This is very beautiful in its effect, it is frequented by the birds, and it simply goes to show how much more it beautifies the cemetery by providing water in so simply a constructed bath; and yet how softly it seems to fit into its very surroundings.

This is one of the martin houses for the purple martins. I am sorry I haven't enough time this evening to tell you about the purple martins, but I will show you some of the other slides just the same. This house was photographed with a step ladder on which the birds had congregated;

This particular photograph turned out to be a total failure for the reason that I expected a whole lot more than I really got on a sensitive plate. While I was photographing this bird house there were many martins flying about it, but it seems that they were flying so rapidly that afterwards, when I developed the plate, I did not find them there, with the exception of the two that remained on the perches on the top. That is one of the largest birdhouses or martin houses made by us, and it has 48 nesting compartments, each compartment a separate individual nesting chamber, surrounded by an air cooled space to keep it moist and cool throughout the summer months.

That is the brown thrasher feeding its young, and if you look you will notice that the thrasher has brought a large spider to feed its little ones.

That is the process of feeding. You will notice indigo bunting bringing food for its little ones has a large grasshopper. Some time in between the male bird came along and pulled this grasshopper to pieces so that the whole family could get their portion. There is one of the little song sparrows feeding one of the baby birds a larger caterpillar. There again is the little sparrow feeding a large grasshopper, to its young ones.

Wherever there are flowers in the cemetery they are always attractive to humming birds. This little red throated humming bird built close to a cluster of flowers in which I showed you the bird's bath a short time ago. This is the nest with two eggs. Not in the same nest and eggs, but in another location. I will show you a photograph that I was fortunate enough to get of the parent bird feeding the young. That is the red throated humming bird feeding its little one.

Again, the chestnut sided warbler feeding its young with insects.

These are the red squirrels. I believe a good many of you have some of these pests about your cemetery. Perhaps you consider them real good friends, but we have really concluded that they were the worst enemies of our birds; today we are carrying on the work of trapping these squirrels in on of our cemeteries in the East. There are 100 traps being used daily and they have been set ever since spring. They are filled every day and there is a man that does nothing but trap squirrels and a great quantity of both red and gray squirrels have been taken. This is the red squirrel feeding on pine cones.

There is the same squirrel, or another one of its species coming from the nest of one of the bluebirds with the egg in its mouth. There is the red squirrel with one of the bob white's eggs.

This picture illustrates just one of the tragedies you find in the cemetery. I think you will notice the squirrel sitting in the robin's nest and the robin quite angry, above; but it is really too late. The squirrel has already destroyed the eggs.

This picture does not show up very well on account of the poor light, but I think you can see it. That is the characteristic work of the red squirrel. Whenever you find eggs in your cemetery and they have been destroyed in that way, by the top having been gnawed off, and the contents removed, that is the work of the red squirrel.

There is a nest of eggs destroyed by other rodents, but the red squirrel will always gnaw off the top of the egg to drink the contents.

This last picture takes you away from the summer birds to our winter birds, and these birds learned to come close to a dwelling where cranberries had been stuck on toothpicks to feed them. That is the last one of the slides which I have to show you. I am glad that you saw the pictures. I am sorry I could not put in the three hours, but I thank you for the fifteen minutes.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention held at Detroit, Michigan
September 13, 14 and 15, 1921