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The Lapwing

This little bird which is often called the Pewit, from its uttering

frequently a cry resembling the sound of this word, builds its nest or

rather lays its eggs, for it builds no regular nest, amongst long grass

or heather on open downs. If any one goes near the nest, the watchful

mother, who knows herself too weak to defend her young, tries by all

manner of artful contrivances to draw away the stranger's attention. She

will hover close to his ear screaming, or else flutter along the ground

as if wounded and unable to fly. And when by this means she has drawn

aside the feet of the passer-by to some distance, she will suddenly rise

in the air and return to her nest. The eggs of this bird are eagerly

sought after as an article of food, so she is naturally driven to try

her utmost to secure her nest from intruders. In Scotland formerly the

Lapwing was very abundant, and there exists a curious old act of the

Scotch parliament passed before England and Scotland were as friendly as

they are now, encouraging the destruction of the Lapwing "as an

ungrateful bird, which came to Scotland to breed, and then returned to

England to feed the enemy." Worms are their favourite food, but being

unable to pierce the ground with their weak, short beaks they are

ingenious enough to have recourse to the expedient of tapping on the

earth with their bills. The earth-worm, who is very sensitive of danger,

comes up in alarm from his quaking habitation, and is instantly pounced

upon by the attentive lapwing.

This bird is easily tamed, and I will conclude with an account of one

kept by a clergyman, that is related by Professor Rennie. "It lived

chiefly on insects, but, as the winter drew on these failed, and

necessity compelled the poor bird to approach the house, from which it

had previously remained at a distance, and a servant, hearing its feeble

cry, as if it were asking charity, opened for it the door of the back

kitchen. It did not venture far at first, but it became daily more

familiar and emboldened as the cold increased, till at length it

actually entered the kitchen, though already occupied by a dog and a

cat. By degrees it at length came to so good an understanding with these

animals, that it entered regularly at nightfall, and established itself

at the chimney corner, where it remained snugly beside them for the

night; but as soon as the warmth of spring returned, it preferred

roosting in the garden, though it resumed its place at the chimney

corner the ensuing winter. Instead of being afraid of its two old

acquaintances, the dog and cat, it now treated them as inferiors, and

arrogated to itself the place which it had previously obtained by

solicitation. This interesting pet was at last choked by a bone which it

had swallowed."

When its eggs are laid, the pewit will fight fiercely with any other of

its species which comes too near it. Mr. P. John saw one attack a

wounded bird which came near his nest. "The pugnacious little fellow ran

up to the intruder, and, taking advantage of his weakness, jumped on

him, trampling upon him, and pecking at his head, and then dragging him

along the ground as fiercely as a game-cock."