Art. V.—The Sparrow Plague and its Remedy.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 8th September, 1903.]
Sir Walter Buller, in the introduction to “The Birds of New Zealand,” writes, “To my mind the popular outcry against the sparrow is scarcely warranted by the actual state of the case. It is only at one particular period of the year, when the farmers' grain is ‘dead ripe,’ that the bird makes any inroad upon it. In large fields the loss is barely noticeable; but in the case of a small patch of grain—say, an acre or two— at the edge of the forest or in a bush clearing it naturally becomes a serious matter, because the sparrows appear to concentrate their forces on such inviting spots, and leave practically nothing but straw for the reaper. Hence, of course, the outcry and clamour on the part of the small farmer. But if people really knew how much the country is indebted to this much-abused bird I venture to think that there would be a still louder outcry against the sinful practice, now so general, of poisoning sparrows.” He then goes on to assert that the “young birds are fed entirely and exclusively on animal food. Every five minutes or so during the long summer day one or other of the parent birds visits the nest, carrying in its bill a
caterpillar or a grub, a beetle, fly, or worm, but never a grain of corn or fruit of any kind.” In support of his assertions he quotes in a note an anonymous “newspaper record” telling of the examination of the contents of the stomachs of 118 sparrows by an unnamed investigator, which showed that three of the birds had eaten nothing but grain for the preceding twenty-four hours, seventy-five had partaken of little besides insect food, while insects had formed a large part of the diet of the remainder. The value of this quotation would have been enhanced had some clue been given to the identity of the investigator or the locality where the investigation was conducted.
As Sir Walter Buller pleads guilty to being accessory to the importation of the sparrow into the colony, it is possible he may be somewhat prejudiced in its favour. One small inaccuracy may be noted. Sir Walter asserts that it is only when the farmers' grain is “dead ripe” that the mischief is done, but I think most farmers will tell you that the birds begin their depredations when the grain is in the milky stage, and do not desist so long as the grain is accessible.
I dare say there are still a few people who are of the same opinion as Sir Walter Buller, and who will contend that the house-sparrow repays in some measure the injuries it undeniably inflicts by the benefits it confers by destroying injurious insects. Such persons say that, while the evil wrought is manifest to the most superficial observer, the good they do is hidden from most eyes. This latter statement, while true regarding many birds, whose good deeds far outweigh their trifling misdemeanours, is, I fear, a fallacy as regards the sparrow. The assertion made by Sir Walter Buller that the sparrows feed their young entirely upon insects is one which requires confirmation. The idea that because the bills of the young birds are soft they must of necessity be fed on soft food, which I have heard urged as a proof of the statement regarding the food of the young, seems to me most fallacious. As the food is dropped by the parent into the gaping mouth of the nestling, and is gulped down at once, the texture of the nestling's bill can hardly be a factor in determining the nature of its food. That sparrows do destroy a good many insects I readily admit, but I feel assured that any services they thus render are comparatively trifling and would be better performed by other birds, and are unworthy of consideration.
Some few months ago there came into my possession a book published by the United States Department of Agriculture (Division of Ornithology and Mammology, Bulletin 1), entitled” The English Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in North America.” It is a thick pamphlet of about four hundred pages, and bears abundant evidence of the thorough manner
in which the Department referred to performs its work. In reading it I was struck by the judicial manner in which the compilers have marshalled the facts collected, and I think that no unprejudiced person would, fail no concur in the verdict, which is a complete condemnation of the sparrow. I do not purpose following in any detail the various ramifications of the inquiry, but I shall refer to some of the evidence adduced.
The Department dissected at Washington 522 sparrows, of which 338 were obtained in that neighbourhood and 184 were sent thither in alcohol from other places, whilst another lot of 114 were dissected at Westchester by competent men. The birds were obtained from time to time throughout an entire year; the contents of the stomach were carefully examined and the results tabulated. Any which contained, or were suspected of containing, insect-remains—102 in all—were sent to Professor C. V. Riley, of the Entomological Department, who further examined the contents and classified the insect-remains, the horny head of a caterpillar or the leg or wing-case of a beetle being sufficient to enable him to determine at least the genus to which the insect belonged. Out of the 102 stomachs examined by Professor Riley 92 were found to contain insect-remains. In 47 of these noxious insects were found, beneficial insects in 50, and insects which were harmless or of no economic importance in 31. So that out of these 522 sparrows only 47, or a trifle over 9 per cent., had conferred the slightest benefit on humanity.
In a pamphlet entitled “The House-sparrow,” published by the late Miss Ormerod, the well-known entomologist, and Mr. W. B. Tegetmeier, the authors arrive at the conclusion that the sparrow is an unmitigated pest, and support their view by evidence drawn from various sources. Amongst others quotations are given from a publication by Mr. J. H. Gurney, of Keswick Hall, near Norwich, England, also entitled “The House-sparrow,” which contains a table showing the contents of the stomachs of 694 sparrows examined by qualified observers in different places at regular intervals throughout the whole year, and the results are summarised by Mr. Gurney as follows: “It may be said that about 75 per cent, of an adult sparrow's food during its life is corn of some kind. The remaining 25 per cent, may be roughly divided as follows: Seeds of weeds, 10 per cent.; green peas, 4 per cent.; beetles, 3 per cent.; caterpillars, 2 per cent.; insects which fly, 1 per cent.; other things, 5 per cent. In young sparrows not more than 40 per cent, is corn, while about 40 per cent, consists of caterpillars, and 10 per cent, of small beetles.”
In Hardwicke's “Science Gossip” for 1883 it is recorded that Mr. A. Willis, of Sandal, examined eighty-seven sparrows' stomachs in 1882, and found insects in eight only.
Dr. Edward Crisp examined 100 stomachs of young sparrows before the British Association at Birmingham in 1865, and not 5 per cent. of them contained insect food.
Mr. John Cordeaux opened the crops of thirty-five young sparrows of various ages, and found on an average two parts of soft grain and one part of insects.
Colonel Champion Russell, of Stubbers, near Romford, Essex, examined the contents of the stomachs of sparrows shot over a wide extent of country for fifteen years, and he gives the result of his observations in the following words: “On the whole, the deduction from the food test during fifteen years seems to be that sparrows are useless, and that the insects which would be given to their young by them if they were allowed to live in numbers about my premises would be so much food taken when they most want it from better birds, which live entirely, or nearly so, on insects.”
In an essay entitled “Birds in the Field and Garden,” by Champion B. Russell, presumably the same gentleman as the one from whom I have just quoted, there occurs the following passage: “Personally, I consider that only one bird should be shot ‘on sight,’ and that is the domestic sparrow, whose relations to man are on a par with those of rats, mice, and other human parasites.” Now, the essay referred to is the first-prize essay published in February, 1903, by the British Society for the Protection of Birds, and one would expect that coming from such a source the bias, if any, would be in favour of the bird; but the condemnation is unsparing.
Turning again to the American report, I find in the table the birds are, under the beading “Age and Sex,” indicated by the abbreviations “ad.,” which I assume stands for adult, “juv.” for young, and “im.” for immature, which. I take to be nestlings, and, taking a couple of the latter at random, I find that one contained wheat, oats, and grass-seed, and no insects, and another wheat and the remains of one beneficial insect.
But it is unnecessary to pursue this branch of the subject further, as I think that in the face of such evidence it would be difficult for the friend of the sparrow to maintain his defence, and that Sir Walter Buller's assertion that the young are fed exclusively on animal food is disproved.
I may here call attention to the fact I have already referred to—that the American investigators found that, while injurious insects were found in only forty-seven stomachs, beneficial insects were found in fifty and harmless insects in thirty-one; so that even in the matter of the destruction of insects the sparrow does as much harm as good.
In another publication by the Agricultural Department of the United States, dealing with the native insectivorous cuckoos, it is stated that the food of these birds was found to
consist almost exclusively of injurious insects, with but a small proportion of beneficial or innocuous kinds.
Before closing my indictment of the sparrow I shall refer to one aspect of it which the American observers consider sustained—namely, that it drives away from its neighbourhood the purely insectivorous birds, and thus allows injurious insects to increase in such localities. Professor J. A. Lurtner, State Entomologist of New York, writing of the increase of the caterpillar of the tussock moth, which is very destructive to trees in many parts of the States, says, “The extraordinary increase of the Orgyia, cucostigma is owing to the introduction and multiplication of the English sparrow. This may seem a strange statement in consideration of the fact that the sparrow was imported from Europe for the express purpose of abating the caterpillar nuisance in New York and some of the New England cities…. The increase of the Orgyia cucostigma commenced and has continued to progress with that, of the sparrow. A remark made to me that the caterpillars had been observed to be very numerous in localities where the sparrows also abounded induced me to undertake to verily or disprove the idea that had suggested itself to me that the sparrow afforded actual protection to the caterpillars and promoted their increase.” After giving details of the observations, be goes on to say, “That the sparrows decline to eat the Orgyia caterpillar is not a charge against them. They could not eat them with impunity. The diet would doubtless prove fatal to them. The charge to which they are amenable is this: By the force of numbers, united to a notoriously pugnacious disposition, they drive away the few birds that would feed upon, them.” The authors of the English pamphlet from which I have quoted concur in the view expressed by the American investigators that the sparrows drive away more useful birds, and I am by no means' sure that we might not have similar cause for complaint here, as some of our native insectivorous birds, such as the tomtit (Myiomoira macrocephala) and the fan tail (Rhipidura flabellifera), are much less numerous in the neighbourhood of Dunedin than they once were. It is probable, however, that the increase in the number of cats may have been the main cause of the diminution, of the number of the former, though the advent and increase of the sparrow, I am inclined to think, has been a considerable factor.
I shall not take up your time by dwelling on the minor counts of the indictment, such as the injuries to fruit and vegetables, and the damage to and disfigurement of buildings by their nests, as I think I have already made out a strong case against the sparrow, and, having done so, I shall now consider the remedy.
In America there are many checks to the increase of the, sparrow which are lacking here, such as the severe winter and natural enemies, so that it behoves us to take more strenuous measures than our American cousins to combat the existing great and steadily increasing nuisance. Yet I find the following passage in the American report: “The English sparrow is a curse of such virulence that it ought to be systematically attacked and destroyed before it becomes necessary to deplete the public treasury for the purpose.” The pamphlet reviews the various methods of combating the nuisance, such as poisoning, trapping, shooting, paying a bounty for eggs and heads, and even utilising the sparrow as an article of food. Under the latter heading it mentions that the sparrow is excellent eating, equalling the smaller game birds. “In fact,” it says, “at restaurants it is commonly sold under the name of ‘rice-bird,’ even at times of the year when there are no rice-birds in the country.” I do not know that we are advanced enough or possess a sufficient number of gourmets to create a market for sparrows for the table, but in Calcutta a species of lark is caught in large numbers and is so utilised, not merely fresh but also preserved in tins, and they are sold under the name of ortolans, so perhaps some day our preserving-works may be employed in canning sparrows to masquerade under the name of New Zealand ortolans.
Poisoning does not appear to have been so successfully carried on in America as here, while trapping appears to have been conducted on a very limited scale, and the method of destruction most favoured seems to be shooting. Speaking of this mode of destruction, the writers say, “The sparrow is a cunning, wary bird, and soon learns to avoid the means devised by man for his destruction, hence much sagacity must be displayed in the warfare against him. In the wintertime, if food is placed in some convenient spot at the same hour each day for a week, the sparrows will gather in dense flocks to feed, and large numbers of them may be killed at one time by firing upon them with small shot. By spreading the food along a narrow strip of ground which can be raked conveniently from some hiding-place the best results can be obtained.” This mode may be very suitable in a country where the ground is covered for weeks with snow, but it would not, I fear, prove very efficacious in New Zealand.
The bounty system is considered at some considerable length, and is condemned as being unsatisfactory and expensive, a view in which I concur. Time will not permit my discussing this aspect of the question, but one objection is that the young of beneficial birds, such as the hedge-sparrow Accentor modulars), or of the harmless ones, such as the goldfinch Fringilla carduelis), are to the ordinary individual
indistinguishable from those of the destructive sparrow or equally obnoxious green linnet (Chlorospiza chloris), so that the destruction of beneficial and harmless birds is encouraged and rewarded.
Our County Councils have chiefly adopted this method of fighting the pest, and many of them have encouraged in divers ways the killing of sparrows and green linnets by poison, but beyond this and the placing on the statute-book of an Act or two no systematic attempt has been made to combat the evil. I shall therefore proceed to show you what appears to me a more excellent way.
The means the adoption of which I advocate are of two distinct kinds, systematic trapping and the introduction of the natural enemies. It is well known that expert English bird-catchers can capture unlimited quantities of birds of almost any variety. To such an extent has the catching of birds been carried in the Old Country that the Legislature has been compelled to pass a Wild Birds Protection Act. These bird-catchers devote their energies chiefly to the taking of song-birds, and some idea of the extent of the trade may be gathered from the following extract from the Illustrated London News of the 10th January last, when it is recorded that “in a recent London County Court case the defendant stated that he generally bought a hundred dozen linnets, skylarks, and other British song-birds a week. For linnets he paid £2 for ten dozen.” If there was any market for sparrows I am sure that the price would be very much lower. I therefore suggest that each County Council should be compelled by law to employ at least one expert bird-catcher, who would be instructed to devote his attentions to sparrows and green linnets only, with perhaps an occasional raid on the blackbirds, and that they should have power to levy on all municipalities within or on their borders a proportion of the cost of their operations. This, I am certain, would be cheaper and much more efficacious than the bounty system.
My suggestion that the municipalities should contribute to the cost is because the towns are the nurseries in which the sparrows to a large extent multiply. This fact is noted in the American pamphlet, and not long ago I had local confirmatory evidence on the point. A gentleman residing in a suburb of Dunedin had acquired the habit of every morning throwing some pieces of bread to the sparrows, and deriving amusement from their antics in squabbling over the spoil. He continued the practice for some months, but one fine morning no sparrows came, nor when he returned from business in the evening was the bread gone. For some weeks he observed few, if any, sparrows; but after a time they returned, and he resumed his habit of feeding them, and continued it through-
out the year, until again there were no sparrows. This set him thinking, and he realised than the season was the same, and that it was the time of the ripening of the grain. There was only one inference, which was that the absence of sparrows was due to the fact that the little wretches had all gone harvesting. It is therefore only fair that the towns, which, of course, in any case live on the country, should contribute to the destruction of the sparrow; and no doubt every suburban grower of gooseberries or green peas would gladly contribute his quota towards keeping the pest within bounds. Were such a system adopted, coupled with the introduction of their natural enemies, which to my mind is the surer remedy of the two, the small-bird nuisance would soon be a thing of the past.
At the recent conference of the acclimatisation societies held in Wellington Mr. A. C. Begg brought forward a resolution in favour of the introduction of enemies to the destructive small birds, but with the characteristic fear of such bodies of repeating any of the mistakes of the past the conference would have none of it. Such fears, in my opinion, arise from the same lack of knowledge on the part of many of those controlling our acclimatisation societies which led to the introduction in the first place of the sparrow and green linnet.
It only remains to consider what should be introduced to keep the sparrow within bounds, for extermination is not now to be looked for. Various birds have been suggested, such as jays, magpies, and owls, and our local society have already turned out a few barn-owls (Strix flammea), a species I do not consider the best for the purpose, though undoubtedly a useful bird, its favourite food being rats, mice, voles, and such small deer, but it will take small birds also. The long-eared owl (Strix otus) or the tawny owl (Ulula stridula) prey on small animals also, including rabbits, but are, I believe, more addicted to capturing small birds than their barn relatives.
The jay (Garrulus, glandarius) apparently renders good service in America, as Dr. S. M. Hamilton, of Monmouth, characterizes it as one of the sparrow's worst enemies. It is, however, a forest-haunting bird, while sparrows avoid woods. Morris, in his “British Birds,” gives the following account of its habits and food: “The bird,” he writes, “is exclusively addicted to woods and their immediately neighbouring trees for its habitat…. The acorn is the most choice ‘morceau’ of the jay, and for this he even searches under the snow; but he also feeds on more delicate food, such as beans, peas, and cherries, as well as on beech-nuts, grain, garden and wall fruit, berries, corn, worms, snails, cockchafers and other insects, larvæ, frogs and other reptiles, and mice, and is deterred by no scruples or qualms from making away with
young birds, even partridges and eggs.” This extensive menu is a little jumbled up by our author, but apparently from his putting young birds last he does not deem them the most important item on the bill of fare. Probably in the States' during their severe winter the jays may be driven in from their woodland haunts to seek their food, amongst men and sparrows. It appears to me that it would not be desirable to bring the jay here, where the conditions are so different.
The magpie (Pica candata), on the other hand, though shy and wary in the British Isles, where gamekeepers wage a constant war against it, would naturally frequent the habitations of man. It is not persecuted in Norway, and an English writer, speaking of it there, says, “The magpie is one of the most abundant as well as the most attractive of Norwegian birds. Noted for its shy, cunning habits here” [in England], “its altered demeanour there is the more remarkable. It is on the most familiar terms with the inhabitants, picking close about the doors and sometimes walking inside their houses. It abounds in the Town of Drontheim, making its nest upon the churches and warehouses. We saw as many as a dozen of them at one time seated upon the gravestones of the churchyard. Pew farmhouses are without several of them breeding under the eaves, their nests supported by the spout.” As the magpie eats young birds, here is the bird to keep the sparrows' numbers in check, for it will live in towns and close to dwellings—just the localities sparrows frequent. The magpie's appetite is omnivorous, and it is charged with at times killing weakly lambs, and varying its diet by partaking of grain and fruit; but I never at Home heard any complaints of this bird from the farmers, whilst the gamekeepers had not a good word for it. The bird will eat carrion, so if one were disturbed taking a meal from a dead lamb it would probably be blamed for its death, which may have occurred from natural causes. Nor, I think, can there be much in the charge that it partakes of grain and fruit, otherwise it would not be such a favourite in Norway, nor so abundant as it is in France. If, however, it did take a little grain and fruit occasionally, the quantity consumed by it would not approach what would have been eaten by the sparrows, greenfinches, and blackbirds which had been destroyed by the magpie. If it did get too numerous, being a good-sized and conspicuous bird it would not be difficult for the bird-catchers to reduce its numbers. It is, in my opinion, the best bird to introduce to cope with the sparrow plague.
Some one or more of the shrikes would also be desirable acquisitions, and against none of them could even a suggestion of evil-doing be made; the only objection to which some of
the species might be open would be that they might devote too much attention to insects and neglect the sparrows. Nor are they likely to become such familiar friends as do the magpies in Norway. In the American pamphlet already referred to several of the correspondents write in praise of the shrike, of which the following example will suffice: Mr. H. K. Coale, writing from Chicago, says, “The northern shrike (Lanius borealis) feeds on them (sparrows) all winter.” Mr. Barrows, the author of the pamphlet, in writing of natural enemies, says, “Probably the most useful bird in this respect is the northern shrike, which visits most of our northern cities in winter and feeds freely on the sparrow. At one time this shrike became go abundant on the Common, and in the Public Gardens in Boston that it threatened to destroy all the sparrows, but the short-sighted authorities kept a man busy in shooting the shrikes until several dozen had been killed, and the useless sparrows were considered safe.” From the nature of the migrations of the shrike referred, to I fear it would not be suitable for New Zealand. There is another American shrike of less migratory habits, the loggerhead (Lanius ludovicianus), though it moves to the southward in winter; but it is smaller, and, though it eats birds, the greater proportion of its food consists of insects, of which the great majority are of an injurious character. The great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), which is found in almost every European country, a large part of Asia, and northern Africa, and is an occasional visitant to England, would be more suitable. It is also more or less migratory, but as it is found in France at all seasons of the year it would probably find the climate of New Zealand equally suited to its requirements. It, however, frequents woods and forests in the summer, and only visits the more open districts in the winter. It would therefore be more likely to exterminate our native woodland birds than the sparrow. The most likely bird of the shrike family is the red-backed shrike (Lanius colluris). This bird has a wide range, being met with as far north as Norway and as far south as Cape Colony. It rarely visits Britain, It is often known as the butcher - bird, and is very predatory in its habits. It lives largely on insects, as well as small birds and animals. Dr. Brehm says, “It often continues to kill long after it has satisfied the cravings of hunger, and pursues small quadrupeds or birds so incessantly as to drive away or destroy all such as have been unfortunate enough to make their homes in its vicinity.” The woodchat (Lanius rufus) is a summer visitor to southern Europe from Africa, and it is also found at the Cape. Its habits are similar to those of the red-backed shrike, but, apparently its chief diet is insects in all stages, and worms,
and it only captures birds when its ordinary food is scarce. It is also migratory, and does not, on the whole, seem very suitable. I merely mention it as it could be procured from Cape Colony. The range of climate in New Zealand would probably be sufficient for both these two last-named birds, but the grey shrike seems to have the advantage of being the least migratory. The easiest to introduce into this colony would be the red-backed shrike, as; being obtainable from Cape Colony, only a short voyage would be required, and the tropics would not have to be crossed. It makes an interesting cage bird, as it has wonderful powers of imitation.
To sum up, I may say that, while I do not advocate the stoppage of poisoning operations, I think that the money spent in paying for heads and eggs could be laid out to much greater advantage, and I recommend the introduction of the magpie and the long-eared and tawny owls and red-backed shrike, or some of them, but especially the magpie. I may add that I think the long-tailed native cuckoo (Eudynamis taitensis) should be protected by law, as in destroys the eggs and young of other birds, and, as it is a conspicuous object when it visits any populous neighbourhood, it usually falls a victim to some random gunner.
Just a word regarding the existing law, and I have done. “The Birds Nuisance Act, 1902,” imposes on the local authorities in the Middle Island the duty of destroying injurious birds from a day to be fixed by the Governor in Council. The birds to be deemed injurious are to be determined by the same authority. Districts may be proclaimed embracing within their borders the areas managed by several local authorities, and in such case the Act provides for a conference of delegates from each local authority being held for the purpose of recommending to the Governor a suitable day on which the work of destroying injurious birds should commence, and the methods that should be employed by each local body. To my mind there is too much “machinery” about the Act for it to be easily set in motion; and, as the Act provides for the appointment of the inevitable Inspectors and the making of regulations, I fear the amount of red tape about it would clog its action. The suggestion I have already made—that each county should be bound to employ a bird-catcher—would be a very much simpler and less costly method. No Inspectors would be required, as every farmer who suffered from the depredations of birds would complain to the County Council, and take care that the bird-catcher was zealous in the performance of his duties.
The idea in the statute that declaration of war should be proclaimed on a certain day—I assume, in each year—seems to me a very mistaken one. That we shall ever get-rid of the
sparrow or the green linnet is not, I fear, to be expected, but that the plague can be kept under control so as to cease to be a serious matter I firmly believe. Than can be accomplished, however, by no spasmodic efforts, but by waging the war against the small depredators at all times and seasons from year's end to year's end. Bad as things are now, they will become worse unless some really systematic efforts are made to combat the pest., Miss Ormerod and Mr. Tegetmeier, speaking of the extent of the damage done by sparrows in England, say, “The amount of the national loss by reason of ravaged crops and serviceable birds driven away may be estimated without fear of exaggeration at from one to two millions a year.” What our own losses are no one can tell, but they must already amount to a very large sum. As regards the introduction of the natural enemies, that is a matter which would best be undertaken by the Government.
I may, in conclusion, refer to an objection that some will raise to our introducing any predatory birds into the colony. Such people will say, “Look at the introduction of stoats and weasels to kill the rabbits; our interesting ground-feeding birds are gone, while the rabbit still flourishes! So will it be if such birds as you advocate are introduced; our dwindling band of native songsters will disappear, while the perky sparrow will still thrive and multiply.” To such I would reply that none would mourn the loss of our native birds more than I should, but the situation demands the risk. Every schoolboy who has gone bird-nesting knows that the nests of our native birds are much more difficult to find than those of the imported birds, and I doubt not that the magpie or shrike would find enough of the clumsy conspicuous nests of the sparrows or the easily-discoverable nests of the blackbirds and thrushes to supply their requirements with little trouble to themselves, so that the scarcer and better-hidden nests of our native birds would generally escape.
Since the foregoing was written a Proclamation has been issued under the Birds Nuisance Act dividing the South Island into eight districts, and declaring the house-sparrow, yellow-hammer, and greenfinch to be injurious birds. The first and the last named are rightly placed in that category, but the second is not, so far as I am aware, numerous anywhere in the colony; and, if it were, I do not think it would ever become a nuisance—at least, it was not, like the green linnet and sparrow, looked on as an injurious bird in Britain when I was a boy. A few yellowhammers (Emberiza citronella) were turned out here in me early days of acclimatisation, and though they throve for a time they eventually died out. At the same time the cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) was introduced, and increased much
more rapidly than the yellowhammer. It has disappeared from this neighbourhood, but is still to be met with in the country, and as it is a much more active bird, and is destructive in its habits, I believe this to be the bird at which the Proclamation was intended to be aimed. Though the two birds bear some resemblance to one another in plumage, no one with any knowledge of British birds could mistake the one for the, other,’ and the pleasing plaintive little song of the yellowhammer is most distinctive, and it may still be heard in some parts of the colony. This is, however, a trivial matter compared with the failure of the conferences to even forecast any benefits to be derived from the Act. There was abundant evidence of the futility of the whole affair, and the delegates seemed to be fully aware of the fact. Some showed this by abstaining from attending: at Dunedin a delegate characterized the whole affair as “unworkable,” but said “it had to be seen through”; while in some conferences the resolution arrived at was that the destruction of the birds should be left in the hands of the Government. The Timaru conference resolved “that the Government be asked to offer a bonus of £500 for the most effective method of dealing with the small-bird pest,” thereby showing their utter want of confidence in the present Act, and their hopelessness of experiencing any beneficial results therefrom, at the same time indicating their opinion of the importance of the question and the necessity for grappling with the problem in an effective manner.