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the silent hour of midnight, its plaintive song steals most sweetly amid the stillness of the tranquil night. At such times the soft song of the redbreast may be thought by some to equal that of the nightingale. This opinion is, of course, an exaggeration; but the song of the bird is, beyond doubt, of first-rate qualities, whether we consider its sweetness, strength, or plaintiveness; for in all these respects the notes of the redbreast are highly esteemed by those best acquainted with the wild birds of our island. The robin's song is especially prized in autumn, when, amidst the rustling of millions of dying leaves, we hear the plaintive melodies of this late songster. Then it is that the young birds answer each other from the hedgerows or from the farmyards with melodies rendered more impressive by the decay of the summer splendours, and the approach of the winter solitudes. Even in the depth of the snowy season, when storms are abroad, making the forest oaks creak and groan, the sprightly and unconquerable spirit of this bird breaks out in gushing song, making the leafless woods utter in many echoes its rejoicing notes.
Few persons ever imprison this bird in cages; but those who happen to retain it in captivity must bear in mind our remarks on the food of the warblers. The robin requires an insect diet; for in its wild state feeds principally upon the numerous swarms of winged and other insects which crowd around the leafy shrubs in summer. A little fruit will, however, now and then be pleasing to the caged robin ; the gaoler of such a bird may therefore sometimes vary his captive's diet by such an expedient.
No Englishman, however much of an epicure he may be, ever makes a dinner of roasted robins; but we have heard that in France even superstition cannot save these birds of ballad and tradition from the oven.
We here close this chapter on the wild song-birds of Britain, and with it this volume on the birds and beasts of many lands and climates. From the thousands of species which crowd the various divisions of the zoological kingdom, we have selected a few examples to illustrate the habits of various quadrupeds and birds. The survey over so wide a field must have necessarily been rapid, but not, we trust, indistinct; and to the reader's tastes, sympathies, and reflections, we now commit these sketches of Natural History.
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