17 OCTOBER 1931, Page 13


A tirade against the motor-car and new highways as cruel enemies to bird life has appeared in the quarterly journal—. alarays a very suggestive productioa—of the R.S.P.B. Pro- fessor Hornaday (the best zoologist on the American con- tinent) calls them a " withering curse," because they transfer pseudo-sportsmen into the wild with speed and comfort. The two are cursed in England for a host of queer little reasons. Birds are deprived of dust baths, of pools of water, of nest- building mud, or quiet hedgerows, and of unpollarded trees ! They are killed by cars that move too quickly and give no warning hoot. With all sympathy for the plea to motorists one must think this an exaggerated, even an untrue, picture. Some birds have been forced by the tarring of surfaces to find other dust-baths ; and personally I have found them selecting, in lieu of the road, the sides of the railway and hard tennis courts ! Motorists ought to be more careful in the breeding season to hoot and not to exceed a decent speed in by-roads at least. But the roads are not enemies to birds. Some of the new cuttings are going to be excellent places for some ground nesting birds, as are the railway cuttings, and a great many roadsides have been wisely and generously planted.

Suppose that while the motor pants you miss the nightin- gale ! " is always a danger to be realized. It is better to saunter (a sainte terre) than speed, to get over a stile than to flash past telegraph poles ; but it is difficult to believe that motor-cars and new roads have seriously diminished bird life, though doubtless modern civilization has encouraged some species at the expense of others. The urban-minded birds have an advantage ! This excellent quarterly journal has some very pertinent information on the oil menace. It deserves a wide circulation. It is sent gratis to all members of the R.S.P.B. who subscribe 5s. or upwards. The address is : 82 Victoria Street, London, S.W. 1.