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THE SONG OF BIRDS
 BIRDS sing when they are happy, and cry out when they are
frightened, just as children do. Only they have songs
and cries of their own. You can always tell when the
little song-birds are happy, for each one trills out
his joyous notes as he sits on a branch of a tree, or
the top of a hedge.
In the early morning of the spring, you will hear
singing in the garden almost before it is light. First
there is a little chirping and twittering, as if the
birds were saying "good-morning" and preparing their
throats. Then, as the sun rises, there comes a burst of
Robins, Thrushes, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, and Wrens
whistle away merrily, and many other little birds join
in. While they are all singing together, it is not easy
to tell one song from another, though the Thrush sings
loudest and clearest of all.
Then they fly away to their breakfast and, as the day
goes on, you hear one or two at a time. So you can
listen to the notes of each song, and if you go near
very quietly, you can see the throat of the bird
swelling and quivering as he works the little
voice-chords inside, which make the notes.
It is not easy to write down what a bird sings, for it
is like whistling – there are no words in it. But
people often try to imitate their songs in words.
Listen to the Thrush. You can fancy he says
"cherry-tree, cherry-tree, cherry-tree" three times.
Then, after some other notes, he sings
 "hurry-up, hurry-up," and "go-it, go-it." For the
thrush has a great many notes.
The pretty Yellowhammer, with its bright yellow head,
sings "a little bit of bread, and no che-e-s-e." The
Chiff-chaff calls "chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff" quite
distinctly. Any child can imitate the cuckoo, or the
coo-oo-oo of the wood-pigeon.
As the days grow hotter, the birds sing less. They sit
on the branches of the trees, or on the hedges under
the shade of the leaves, or hop about in the wood.
Then when the evening comes, and long shadows creep
over the grass, each bird looks out for his supper.
When he is satisfied he sings his evening song of
content, before he goes to sleep.
What a concert it is! Finches, tomtits, sparrows,
wrens, robins, and chaffinches all singing at once. And
above them all, come the song of the thrushes and
blackbirds, the cooing of the wood-pigeon and the
caw-caw of the rooks as they fly home from the fields.
As the thrushes were the first to begin in the morning,
except the lark, so they are the last to leave off at
night, and often one thrush will go on long after all
the others are quiet.
Then at last all seem to have settled down for the
night. But no! If you live in Kent, or any part of the
south or east of England, you may hear in May or June a
sweet sound, like a flute, coming softly from many
parts of the wood. This comes from the Nightingales,
who, in the warm summer, will sing nearly all night.
They sing in the day as well, but their note is
 so soft that often you cannot hear it when more noisy
birds are singing. In the still night you can hear the
sweet song rising up six notes and then bubbling like a
flute played in water. When you have once heard a
nightingale sing you will never forget it. In Yorkshire
or Devonshire you will not hear him, for he does not go
so far to the North or to the West.
Birds sing most in the spring, for then they are making
their nests, and the father bird sings to the mother
while she is building, and when she is sitting on the
eggs. You may often find out where a Robin's nest is
hidden by seeing the cock-robin sitting on a branch
singing to his mate. Most people too, have seen the
Wood-pigeon puffing out his throat and cooing and
bowing to the mother bird on her nest. For pigeons make
love all the year round.
When the mother bird is sitting, the father bird sings
for joy, and when the young birds are hatched he
teaches them his song. Song-birds have very delicate
throats. They have muscles, which quiver like the
strings of a violin, and the young birds have to learn
to work these muscles.
It is curious to hear a young Blackbird or Thrush
beginning to try a tune. First he sounds one note, then
two or three. They are not always in tune, but he tries
again and again. So little by little he learns his
Listen to the song of birds—robins, thrushes,
blackbirds, larks, nightingales, bullfinches and
others, and try to imitate them by whistling.