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King-bird One Word In His Favor


The king-bird stands at the head of the list of depredators! With a
fair trial he will be found guilty, though not so heinously criminal as
many suppose. I think we shall find him guilty of taking only the
drones. In the afternoon of a fair day he may be seen perched upon some
dry branch of a shrub or tree near the apiary, watching for his
victims, occasionally darting to seize them. I have shot him down and
examined his crop, after seeing him devour a goodly number; but in
every instance the bees were so crushed to pieces, that it was
impossible to distinguish workers from drones. We are told of great
numbers of workers being counted. It may be so, or it may be thus
represented by a spice of prejudice. I have found the brutal
gratification of taking life so strong with some, that a natural
antipathy is allowed to take the place of justice, and a proper defence
is not allowed in such cases where the suffering party has not the
power to enforce it. If he was satisfied with workers as well as
drones, why does he not visit the apiary long before noon, and fill his
crop with them? But instead, he waits till afternoon for the drones;
and if none are flying, he watches quietly till one appears, although
workers may be out by hundreds continually. If the question is asked,
how they tell the difference in the two kinds of bees, I might suggest
that _instinct_ has taught most animals the proper kind of food, and
might direct the birds in this case. If it was not sufficient, a little
experience in catching bees provided with stings, might impart the
important difference, in one or two lessons. I once had a chicken that
knew the difference by some means, and would stand by the hive and
devour every drone, the moment it touched the board, while the workers
would pass by him in scores untouched!

Now, whether this taking the drones is a disadvantage or otherwise,
would depend entirely upon circumstances. If honey was a little scarce,
the less we had of them the better; it would also save the bees some
trouble in dispatching them. It is probably a matter of so little
moment to our bees, that it will not pay for powder to shoot them.

Martins, and a kind of swallows, are said to be guilty of taking bees
on some occasions; but as they pursue them on the wing (if they do),
the same remarks will apply as to the king-bird.

Next: Cat-bird Acquitted

Previous: Are All The Birds Guilty?

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