WOODPECKER TAPPING THE OAK TREE 385
differ in different families; but certain customs and ways of digging are common to them all. Every woodpecker, for instance, when placed in a wooden cage, will instantly set to work to dig himself out of it, and to keep him safe, he needs to be surrounded by wire, against which his bill is utterly useless. In general the male and female work by turns at the hole, which is always begun by the male, and is as perfectly round as if it had been measured and drawn from one point to another. For a while the boring is quite straight, and then it takes a sloping direction, so as to provide a partial shelter against the rain. Sometimes the bird will begin by a slope, and end in a direct line, but the hole is never straight all through, and the depth varies from two to five feet, according to the kind of woodpecker that is digging. The inside of the nest and the passage to it are as smooth as if they had been polished with a plane, and the chips of wood are often thrown down in a careless manner, at some distance, in order that attention may not be attracted to the spot. Often the bird's labours have to begin, especially in orchards, which are favourite nesting places with them, with having to turn out swarms of insects, nestling comfortably between the bark and the tree. These he either kills or eats; anyhow he never rests until they are safely got rid of.
The woodpecker is never still, and, in many respects, is like a mischievous boy; so, as can be imagined, he is not very easy to make a pet of. One adventurous person, however, captured a woodpecker in America, and has left us a history of its performances during the three days it lived in captivity. The poor bird was very miserable in its prison, and cried so like a child that many persons were completely taken in. Left alone for a short time in the room while his captor had gone to look after his horse, he examined the room carefully to see where lay his best chance of escape. His quick eye soon detected the plaster between the window and the ceiling,