THIS diminutive tribe is distinguished by a peculiar sprightliness and vivacity, to which may be added a degree of strength and courage which by no means agrees with its appearance. They are perpetually in motion; running with great celerity along the branches of trees, searching in every little cranny, where the eggs of insects are deposited, which are their favourite food. During spring they are observed to be very busy among the opening buds, in search of caterpillars, and are thus actively employed in preventing the mischiefs that would arise from a too great increase of destructive insects, whilst, at the same time they are intent on the means of their own preservation; they likewise eat small pieces of raw meat, particularly fat, of which they are very fond. None of this kind have been observed to migrate: they sometimes make short flittings from place to place in quest of food, but never entirely leave us. They are very bold and daring, and will attack birds much larger than themselves. Buffon says, "they pursue the Owl with great fury, and in their attacks aim chiefly at the eyes: their actions on these occasions are attended with a swell of the feathers, and a succession of violent attitudes and rapid movements, which strongly mark the bitterness of their rage. They will sometimes attack birds smaller and weaker than themselves, which they kill, and having picked a hole in the skull, they eat out the brains." The nests of most of this kind are constructed with the most exquisite art, and with materials of the utmost delicacy: some species, with great sagacity, build them at the extreme end of small branches projecting over water, by which means they are effectually secured from the attacks of serpents and the smaller beasts of prey.
These birds are very widely spread over both the old and the new continent. They are every where prolific, even to a proverb, laying a great number of eggs, which they attend with great solicitude, and provide for their numerous progeny with indefatigable activity.
All the Titmice are distinguished by short bills, which are conical, a little flattened at the sides, and very sharp-pointed; by which they are admirably fitted by nature to pick up their prey, which consists mostly of the eggs of insects, on which they live all the winter season; the nostrils are small and round, and generally covered by short bristly feathers, reflected from the forehead; the tongue seems as if cut off at the end, and terminated by short filaments; the toes are divided to their origin; the back toe is very large and strong.
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