Field And Hedgerow By Richard Jefferies




























































































 -  There is no
night-feeding bird to feed the fern owl's young. Does any one think the
cuckoo could herself - Page 270
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There Is No Night-Feeding Bird To Feed The Fern Owl's Young.

Does any one think the cuckoo could herself feed two young cuckoos?

How many birds would it take to feed three young cuckoos? Supposing there were - five - young cuckoos in the nest, would it not take almost all the birds in a hedge to feed them? For the incredible voracity of the young cuckoo - swallow, swallow, swallow, and gape, gape, gape - cannot be computed. The two robins or the pair of hedge-sparrows in whose nest the young cuckoo is bred, work the day through, and cannot satisfy him; and the mother cuckoo is said to come and assist in feeding him at times. How, then, could the cuckoo feed two or three of its offspring and itself at the same time? Several other birds do not build nests - the plover, the fern owl. That is no evidence of lack of intelligence. The cuckoo's difficulty, or one of its difficulties, seems to be in the providing sufficient food for its ravenous young. A half-fledged cuckoo is already a large bird, and needs a bulk of soft food for its support. Three of them would wear out their mother completely, especially if - as may possibly be the case - the male cuckoo will not help in feeding. This is the simplest explanation, I think; yet, as I have often said before, we must not always judge the ways of birds or animals or insects either by strict utility, or by crediting them with semi-supernatural intelligence.

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