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Wasted Talent

R. D. Lusk
5 (September-October)
From Field and Study
Online Text

Wasted Talent

Upon laying open a cavity in an oak, in which some time previously I had discovered a pair of olivaceous fly-catchers (Myiarchus l. olivascens) to be building a nest, I found that the occupants had displayed a taste quite unusual in birds that nest in the dark and out of sight.

The cavity was an ancient one, made originally by woodpeckers. It was much enlarged by the shrinking of the walls, which were seamed and furrowed by cut worms or other agents. The most conspicuous of these depressioll,'l were filled in with nest material, mostly feathers, and so well inserted, particularly some coarse feathers, that they were not very easily removed. It was as tho they had been tamped in. All the more conspicuous depressions up to the height of the opening, some five inches above rim of nest were treated thus.

Was the work instigated by that instinct for beautifying their nests displayed by birds that build them where they can be seen by man? It scarcely added to the comfort of the nest, being quite above it, and it stopped the entrance of no light or air.

After removing the material I regretted not having photographed the work.

Afterward, in two other instances, I found the same thing done tho to a less marked degree, so, it seems, it is a characteristic of this interesting bird.

The nest referred to contained four eggs of dimensions as follows: .70 by .55, . 70 by .53, .69 by .56, .68 by .54 inches.

The material of which the nest was composed was less than half hair, which forms almost the sole nest material used by its congener M. cinerasce11s and included ravelings of gunnysack, used by the naturalist as bait to discover the nest, cow hair, and rabbit fur, dried grass, bark-fibers and many feathers.

R. D. Lusk

Tucson, Ariz.

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