The Nest of the Goldfinch Birds by Sturm

Letter H.

How curious is the structure of the nest of the goldfinch or chaffinch! The inside of it is lined with cotton and fine silken threads; and the outside cannot be sufficiently admired, though it is composed only of various species of fine moss. The colour of these mosses, resembling that of the bark of the tree on which the nest is built, proves that the bird intended it should not be easily discovered. In some nests, hair, wool, and rushes are dexterously interwoven. In some, all the parts are firmly fastened by a thread, which the bird makes of hemp, wool, hair, or more commonly of spiders' webs. Other birds, as for instance the blackbird and the lapwing, after they have constructed their nest, plaster the inside with mortar, which cements and binds the whole together; they then stick upon it, while quite wet, some wool or moss, to give it the necessary degree of warmth. The nests of swallows are of a very different construction from those of other birds. They require neither wood, nor hay, nor cords; they make a kind of mortar, with which they form a neat, secure, and comfortable habitation for themselves and their family. To moisten the dust, of which they build their nest, they dip their breasts in water and shake the drops from their wet feathers upon it. But the nests most worthy of admiration are those of certain Indian birds, which suspend them with great art from the branches of trees, to secure them from the depredations of various animals and insects. In general, every species of bird has a peculiar mode of building; but it may be remarked of all alike, that they always construct their nests in the way that is best adapted to their security, and to the preservation and welfare of their species.

Swallow Preparing a Wall for her Nest.
Blackbird Building Her Nest.

Such is the wonderful instinct of birds with respect to the structure of their nests. What skill and sagacity! what industry and patience do they display! And is it not apparent that all their labours tend towards certain ends? They construct their nests hollow and nearly round, that they may retain the heat so much the better. They line them with the most delicate substances, that the young may lie soft and warm. What is it that teaches the bird to place her nest in a situation sheltered from the rain, and secure against the attacks of other animals? How did she learn that she should lay eggs—that eggs would require a nest to prevent them from falling to the ground and to keep them warm? Whence does she know that the heat would not be maintained around the eggs if the nest were too large; and that, on the other hand, the young would not have sufficient room if it were smaller? By what rules does she determine the due proportions between the nest and the young which are not yet in existence? Who has taught her to calculate the time with such accuracy that she never commits a mistake, in producing her eggs before the nest is ready to receive them? Admire in all these things the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the Creator!

Sturm.