16 JUNE 1950, Page 19

The Science of Birds

That most highly skilled and affectionate observer of birds, E. W. Hendy, concludes an otherwise most charming and characteristic book (More About Birds, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 12s. 6d.) with a whole. hearted onset upon the scientific school of bird-watchers or, as they would prefer to say, ornithologists. I cannot help agreeing with him profoundly. Watching birds is first of all an aesthetic occupation enjoyed by the whole populatioli, at least in some measure. Now some writers of late so despise the aesthetic side that they suggest contempt of it. Even more than this, they may succeed even in damaging our aesthetic pleasure. Detailed descriptions of how a robin reacts, sexu- ally and polemically, to a stuffed specimen set up in his territory actu- ally robs the bird of its charm. As for the scientific results of such forms of enquiry, they consist chiefly of rather more dogmatic and therefore more erroneous theories on the origin of song or such foolish- ness. The too scientific observer is as bad as the too scientific oologist.