THE mother bird sits on the nest and keeps the eggs warm
all the time that the little birds are growing inside.
She never leaves them except to stretch herself and get
food. Sometimes the father bird sits while she is
away, or he brings food to her. Sometimes he only
sings to her.
The first thing that the baby-birds do for themselves
is to get out of the egg. When they are ready you may
hear them crying "cheep, cheep" inside. Then they tap
away at the big end with a little horny tip, which
grows on the top of their beak, and the shell cracks,
and out they come.
If you can catch a chicken as soon as it is out of the
egg, you may see this horny tip. But you must be
quick, for a chicken is a very active baby-bird. It
runs about directly it is hatched, and the horny tip
The next thing young birds do is to open their beaks
and cry for food. Some, like the chickens, ducks, and
partridges come out with downy feathers all over them.
These run about and get food for themselves. Their
mother takes care of them, and they cuddle under her
wing when she calls to them.
Others, like the pigeon, the sparrow, and the thrush,
are naked, blind, and helpless when they are hatched.
They cannot get out of the nest, and their parents have
to feed them.
 If you keep doves in a cage, or if you can climb up to
the pigeon-boxes where the pigeons have their nests,
you may learn a good deal by watching a baby pigeon.
The day it comes out of the egg its eyelids are tightly
closed. It has only a few downy tufts on its naked
body, so you can see its fleshy wing and feel the
bones. Handle it carefully and notice that its wind
has three joints, just like your arm. One at the
shoulder (s) close to the body, one at the
elbow (e), and one at the wrist (w).
BONES OF A BIRD'S WING. (S) SHOULDER. (E) ELBOW. (W) WRIST. (H) HAND. (F) FEATHER QUILLS.
As it lies in the nest, it draws its elbow back and
touches its shoulder with its hand. Then the wing is
shut. But if you take hold of the hand (h)
gently, and pull the arm out straight, then the wing is
open. This is just what a bird does when he stretches
his wings to fly.
Now watch the little ones day by day. By degrees
pimples come out all over the body. Then the middle of
each pimple sinks in and some
 feathers peep out. The first feathers are quite limp.
The little featherlets grow all round the stem like
hairs on a cat's tail. These are the down feathers.
There are not many on a young pigeon.
The nest feathers are quite different. They are flat
and much stiffer. The featherlets only grow on each
side of the stem. They are tinted, and you can see now
whether the pigeon is going to be white or coloured.
It is these "covering" feathers which are so beautiful
in most birds. They do not grow all over the body. If
you push back the feathers of a dead bird you will see
that they grow in places only, and spread themselves
over the rest.
BABY BIRDS— 1.PARTRIDGE 2.KESTREL 3.PIGEON
Meanwhile the long tail and wing feathers have
 been growing. Those for the tip of the wing grow on
the hand, those for the edge of the wing on the
arm, between the wrist and the elbow, and above
these, like tiles on a roof, grow the small feathers
right up to the shoulder, making the wing round
A FEATHERED WING. (S) SHOULDER. (E) ELBOW. (W) WRIST.
Feel one of the long wing feathers. It has a strong
quill down the middle, which tapers away at the end so
that the feather will bend, Now try to pull the
featherlets apart. You will find that they stick
together, as if they were glued. This is because there
are tiny hooks all along each little branch, by which
it is hooked on to the nest one. So when the wings
beat the air, it cannot pass through them, especially
as the small side of each feather lies over the broad
side of the next one.
By this time the young pigeons will have opened their
eyes. But though they can stand up, they are very
weak, and take all their food from their mother.
Then about a month after coming out of the egg, they go
to the edge of the pigeon-house and
 watch the other pigeons. From time to time they
stretch out their wings, and flap them a little. As
they flap them downwards, the air under the front of
the wing cannot get away there, and is driven out
behind just as water is driven by an oar when we row.
But as they lift the wing up again the feathers turn so
that the air can pass through. Therefore, as they flap
their wings they raise themselves a little, and flutter
to the nest ledge, and at last they fly to the ground
and begin to pick up food with their parents.
Compare a young pigeon and a young chicken. Examine
the down feathers, covering feathers, and long quill