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pendently acting woodcock to leave the same part of the foreign shore at dusk on the same night, and to take the same flight line, is powerful enough to bring them independently of one another to the same point on the British coast, where they are found the next morning within a strictly defined radius; this giving high colour to the supposition that they started together like a pack of swallows.
As woodcock pair before they leave us, there is little doubt that they make the return journey in pairs. There are certain statements on record to the effect that 'cock have been known to assemble on the coast in bodies prior to their departure in the spring ; but such supposed cases are few and far between, and their accuracy may be considered open to some considerable doubt. Enquiries made by me among life-long observers, at the English end of perhaps the most largely used of all the aerial highways of migrating 'cock, have never elicited even a tradition of such an event.
It seems really true that members of the Scolopax family at certain times, and under certain circumstances, develop rough ideas—and carry them outon the subject of surgery. In connection with this I quote the words of Professor Victor Fatio, merely remarking that the reputation of the writer may be
taken as placing the matter beyond doubt. M. Fatio, an eminent ornithologist, has probably a wider and more thorough knowledge of the Scolopacidæ than any other man living. He has for years made a special study of these birds, and has shot them and observed them in every country in Asia as well as in Europe and America. The quotation I give, translated into English by M. Fatio himself, is an extract from the report of a lecture delivered by him before the Geneva Physiological and Natural History Society on April 19, 1888:
Monsieur Victor Fatio relates that when shooting woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) he had often noticed that this bird when wounded manages to make for himself, with the aid of his beak and feathers, a very ingenious dressing ; whichever the case may be, he knows exactly how to apply a plaster to a bleeding wound or to fix a solid ligature round a broken limb. He shot, one day, one of these birds which had an old wound on its breast, and which was covered by a large plaster composed of small, downy feathers plucked from different parts of its body and fixed firmly on the wound by the dry blood. Another time he found another plaster made in exactly the same way on a bird's back. Twice he found woodcocks which had ligatures of feathers tied and twisted round the part where the bone had been fractured. In one case the right leg, just above the cartilage, was strongly but quite recently bound round with feathers which the bird had taken from its back and breast. In the other case the cartilage itself, which
was almost completely healed, still had the band that had maintained it in position. The most curious and at the same time the most unfortunate case was that of a woodcock which had both of its fractured by shot, and which was only picked up the following day. The poor bird had put feather plasters and bandages round both its legs, using one bandage only for one leg, and that was broken in two different places ; but as it was obliged to operate in a most awkward position, and as it was unable to use its claws, it was unable to get rid of some feathers that had stuck and curled round the end of its beak, and which were causing it to die of hunger. Although its wounds were splendidly dressed, and although it was still able to fly, it was terribly thin. This indisputable proof of the intelligence of a bird which has always been considered rather stupid, because people have put a wrong interpretation on its name, appears sufficiently interesting to be inscribed in the annals of biology.
As we have seen, it is the habit of the woodcock to rest by day in the shelter of the wood or copse, to fly to its feeding grounds at dusk, and to return to its shelter at daybreak the following morning. We have also seen that it is a further habit of the bird to lay its eggs and hatch its young in the places, or in similar places, it uses as daytime haunts at other periods of the year—that is, places always remote to some
In France the woodcock is called grand bec, while the same term is used to designate a stupid person.
extent, and often far remote, from the low-lying land where its food is obtained.
Given a hungry brood of young woodcock in the middle of a wood a mile or more from those water meadows which are the nearest ground whereon the parent birds can find soft surface soil and an abundant supply of worms, one can imagine the work that would be entailed upon the parents if they had to make backward and forward journeys the whole night through in order to satisfy the cravings of the youngsters.
But the woodcock has to make no such journeyings for the purpose of supplying its young with food. Far back in its history, the bird adopted the practice of nesting at a distance from its feeding ground, and then there began a habit, which no doubt soon became a fixed instinct, having for its object the avoidance of the labour of feeding a brood at a distance from the spot where the food had to be procured. This habit was that of carrying its young to the feeding ground every evening and carrying them back to the nest or the neighbourhood of the nest every morning. The woodcock is the only bird, or at least the only British bird, which has evolved or been under the necessity of evolving such an instinct.
Opinions have differed greatly as to the exact