| Birds of the Air|
|by Arabella Buckley|
|Fourth volume in the Eyes and No Eyes series, introduces the youthful reader to bird life, beginning with birds of home and garden and ending with water birds and birds of prey. Children learn how to identify birds, why birds sing songs, how they build nests, lay eggs, and raise their young, where they sleep, and how they feed in summer, migrate in autumn, and survive the winter. Eight color illustrations and numerous black and white drawings complement the text. 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Ages 8-10 |
WHERE DO BIRDS SLEEP?
 WHERE are all the birds at night? In the daytime we see them
in the fields, on the trees and hedges, or on the
cliffs. They feed in the garden, the orchard, and the
wood. But in the evening, when the sun sets, we hear
them singing as if they were saying "good-night," and
then they disappear. Only the night birds are about
after sunset. Owls hoot and fly after dark,
nightingales sing all night in warm summer weather, and
if there are any corn-crakes about, you will hear their
tiresome cry, "craake, craake," long after you want to
go to sleep.
But the other birds are nowhere to be seen. Where are
they? It is not easy to find them, for they hide
themselves, from fear of the owls, the weasels and the
stoats, and they wake and flutter away very soon if you
come near them.
The small birds sleep chiefly in the hedges. You will
be surprised how difficult it is to see them, even in
winter when the leaves are off the trees; for the twigs
and branches crossing each other hide them well. No
owl or hawk could seize a bird in a hawthorn hedge.
But how do they keep themselves upon the twigs when
they are fast asleep? If you or I tried to sleep
standing up we should fall. For our muscles would grow
slack, our heads would nod, and our knees would give
way under us.
 It is different with a bird. He sits on a branch, and
grasps it with his claws. Then he squats down and
bends his legs. As he does this, a muscle round his
knee-joints pulls the muscles of his tows quite tight,
so that his claws are kept clasped round the branch.
He cannot move till he had raised himself up and
straightened his legs, and thus set his claws free. So
the more soundly he sleeps the tighter he grasps the
bough, and the less likely he is to fall.
Birds sleep out of doors both summer and winter, and
they have a curious covering to keep them warm. It is
made of air. When a bird goes to roost, he tucks his
head under the plumage of his shoulder, and puffs out
his feathers, so that the air gets in between them, and
settles all among the soft down which grows close to
his body. This air soon becomes warm, and, as it
cannot get out, it prevents the bird's warm body from
being chilled by the cold air outside.
Still, in bad weather birds often like to find warm
nooks to sleep in. House-sparrows, tits, wrens, and
other small birds sometimes make holes in hay-stacks
for their beds. The owls keep themselves warm in
barns, church towers, and sometimes in holes in the
trunks of trees. The blue-tit loves to sleep under a
thatched roof, and Wrens often hunt up old nests in
winter, and huddle together in them to keep themselves
BLUE TITS AND YOUNG.
Swallows and swifts do not want to be kept warm, for
they fly south in cold weather. In
 summer they perch on the rafters in the barns, and if
you go into a barn after dark, you may often hear them
flitting from one rafter to another if they are
Wood-pigeons roost on the fir-trees in the wood, and
hawks on the branches of the taller trees. Pheasants,
too, roost in the trees of the wood, and it is curious
that they always tell you where they go to bed. For
they call "crok, crok," as they settle down to sleep.
But partridges sleep on the ground in the fields. They
lie in a circle with their heads outwards and their
tails together. The father generally sleeps a little
way off as a sentinel. Then if a fox, or a weasel,
tries to catch them in their sleep, any one that is
awake and sees the enemy can give the alarm to the
All these birds sleep inland in the woods and fields.
But if you can go to the sea-shore some summer evening
and lie on the beach under the high cliffs, you may see
other birds coming home to roost. Just as the sun is
setting many little birds from the fields perch in the
bushes at the top of the rocks. Next come any
jackdaws, which happen to live near the sea, cackling
and chasing each other over the cliffs. They creep
into holes to sleep. Then a few big cormorants sail in
from the sea, followed by the gulls, and settle on the
ledges half-way down the face of the cliff. Some
croaking ravens come flying from the land, and twist
and tumble about, before they too sit down for the
night. The sand-martins disappear into
 their holes in the sandstone-rocks, and perhaps a
falcon will come circling round in the air and swoop
down in some quiet nook.
Then after a time the cackling and the croaking cease
and as the moon rises all is quiet. But if you look on
the silvery water you will see that many of the gulls
are still floating on the waves, and they may remain
there all the night.
Watch the birds going to roost at night, and notice
their special haunts.
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