Mr. Camberlain lectured in Sever Hall last night on the "Song-birds of New England." He said: Nearly all of our common birds are included in the division of Oscines or singers. Oscines stand at the head of the classified list of birds as naturalists have decided that they are the most perfectly organized physiologically. We have about 350 species of birds in New England, which may be divided into five classes; first, those that remain with us all the time; second, those that come to us from the south in summer; third, those that come from the north in autumn; fourth, those that pass through in the migrations; and fifth the stragglers. Naturalists have never been able satisfactorily to explain the regular migrations of birds. It does not seem probable that they are influenced by cold as they are so well protected by their thick covering of feathers and fat, and by a very rapid circulation. Then many of the most delicate birds spend the winter in the north and suffer no ill effects. Some naturalists explain it by saying that these migratory birds originated in the north and were driven south by the cold waves of the glacial period. Others say that all birds originated in the south and soon some were compelled to migrate to the north by lack of room. Neither of these theories seems very probable.
Of all our birds about 110 are Oscines. This means only that their vocal organs are of the same kind as the true singers' - it does not follow that they can all sing, and there are many that cannot, as the crow and the blue jay, while there are several sweet singers among the non-oscines. We have about 40 good singers. English critics say that our bird chorus is not to be compared with their own. It may be true that there is no one American songster like the skylark, but England can show only 23 song birds to our forty. Our birds are rather more retiring than English birds and usually sing only in the morning, while English birds of necessity haunt open fields and moreover sing all the day long.
Our 40 singers are members of twelve families, but most of them are included in the finches, warblers, thrushes, and vireos. Of these the thrushes are by far the best singers, and best of all perhaps is the song of the hermit thrush. The hermit's song is not intrusive or passionate but is like some grand hymn, rising pure and clear from the depths of the forest. Other fine singers are the brown thrush, the purple finch, and the winter wren. Most of the singers are finches. As a rule these are small and insignificant, but there are some brilliant exceptions, as the goldfinch and the rose breasted grosbeak. Next in rank come the warblers. These are very little known as they are chiefly forest birds and all go under the name of "the little gray birds," though some of them have the most gorgeous red and yellow plumage. Two of the warblers are fine singers, the water thrush and the golden-crowned thrush.