In Louisiana, writes John James Audubon, in the early spring, the White-eyed Vireo
forms a nest of dry slender twigs, broken pieces of grasses, and portions of old hornets’ nests, which have so great a resemblance to paper, that the nest appears as if studded with bits of that substance.
It’s a pretty description, but it needs to be read as Audubon’s gentle correction of a passage in Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology — a passage Wilson intended as humorous. The vireo “builds a very neat little nest,”
constructed of various light materials, bits of rotten wood, fibres of dry stalks of weeds, pieces of paper, commonly newspapers, an article almost always found about its nest, so that some of my friends have given it the name of the Politician.
Audubon, as so often, just didn’t get the joke.