26 NOVEMBER 1937, Page 17

A Bird Controversy An old controversy on a nice point

in natural history has just broken loose again, and by an odd coincidence a corre- spondent sent me—on the eve of the dispute—the best evidence that it has ever been my lot to hear. The duelists are Major Anthony Buxton, who is one of the best of living observers, and Mr. Eric Parker, who is editor of the Field. The bone of the contention is the drumming of the woodpeckers. The common and most attractive green woodpecker, or yaffle, known to every countryman, is not concerned. He shouts properly and is not known to attempt this strange so-called drumming. In the past naturalists have always supposed that the drumming was a real beating of the drum, the woodpecker, with a . vigour and speed far beyond the capacity of any kettle-drummer, striking a bough, often a hollow bough, a succession of blows when a loud peculiar sound, known as drumming, results. It is now argued—and very plausibly argued by Mr. Parker and others—that the sound comes from the throat, is in reality vocal not mechanical. Major Anthony Buxton has achieved the scarcely credible feat of photographing the rapid hammer blows and considers his photographs to be direct evidence that the drumming is real drumming.