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manner in which the woodcock holds a young one when flying with it from the nest to the feeding ground, One writer, for instance, has told us that the bird places a young one upon her 'spread feet,' and then grips it between the toes and the breast ; another that the young one is held between the bill and the breast; whilst another, only a few years ago, published the statement that the hen removes her chicks one at a time, from place to place, not in her bill nor yet in her claws (as some
" observers of nature" gravely assert), but by placing them between her thighs and pressing them close to her body with her bill. The woodcock, however, does undoubtedly carry
her young in her claws, and does not use her beak at all. Mr. C. B. Moffat, writing in “The Irish Naturalist’ in 1899, says :
On the morning of April 19th the female, as I approached, sat closer than had been her wont, and on rising I was almost immediately struck with a curious yellowish object that seemed to hang from between her legs. The bird's flight was slower than usual, and her long bill was plainly seen to be directed forwards, in the ordinary attitude, and not in any way used to steady or support the object carried.
The late Duke of Beaufort wrote:
In the New Forest, in the year 1850, I came upon a female woodcock watering her three young ones at a
rivulet. She picked up one in each claw and flew off with them. I hid in a high gorse brake close by, and saw her return in four or five minutes and pick up the remaining bird also in her claw.
I believe this is the only instance on record in which the parent bird has been seen carrying two young ones at the same time. The way a woodcock starts is, I fancy, to grasp, say, the left wing of the young bird near the body with, say, the left foot, and then to spring from the ground on the free foot, afterwards using the free foot to grasp the young bird's other wing. The reason why so much misconception has existed as to the way in which the woodcock holds a young one when flying with it is that only rarely is the bird seen persorming the feat except at a time when the light is so dim that accurate observations are impossible.
THE WOODCOCK'S BILL AND HIS VARIOUS SENSES
Many rustics still entertain the old-world idea that the woodcock, and, of course, the snipe too, lives on suction,' in other words, that the bird's diet consists of mud. The form of the beak, so we must assume, and the way in which it is used to probe the soft soil, gave rise to this very unscientific notion. It was seen that where a bird had been feeding there were holes in the ground, and therefore it was supposed that the long bill had been given in order to enable its owner to thrust it deep into the earth and suck up as much mud as happened to be required for a meal.
The beak of the woodcock and other members of the family is a striking example of Nature's beneficent workings, through evolution, on behalf of her creatures, in order to supply them with organs adapted to their especial requirements. The ques
tion of the acquirement of food is at the bottom of most of the schemes of Nature when moulding and developing her handiwork. While age by age she gradually lengthened the neck and fore-legs of the giraffe in order that the animal's reach might be extended and its supply of green leaves thus very largely increased, eventually producing the ungainly, extraordinary looking quadruped with which man, or rather African man, has been familiar since he became a reasoning being, she extended, for utility in the opposite direction, the bill of the woodcock and his circle of relatives, or more probably, perhaps, the bill of the common ancestor of all this family of birds. And well, indeed, has she equipped the Scolopacide in the matter of the organ wherewith they are compelled to gain their livelihood.
This organ, the bill of woodcock and his kinsfolk, has been extended to such lengthiness that the birds are rendered independent of the whims of worms, their principal food, in a way quite unknown to or unimagined by the thrush or the robin. Both these latter, as well as all other worm-eating birds unrelated to the woodcock, are poorly provided for in the matter of the worm-culling implement; a fact which may be taken to show that their struggle for existence has not been nearly so great as that of