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Title: British Birds in their Haunts
Author: Johns, Rev. C. A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "British Birds in their Haunts" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


  By the late
  REV. C. A. JOHNS, F.L.S.
  Author of _Flowers of the Field_

  Edited, Revised, and Annotated by
  J. A. OWEN
  Author of _Birds in their Seasons, etc._
  Collaborator in all Books by a 'SON OF THE MARSHES'

  Illustrated with 64 Coloured Plates (256 Figures) by







  |                                               |
  |            UNIFORM WITH THIS WORK.            |
  |                                               |
  |   _Each with a series of Coloured Plates and  |
  |              Text-illustrations._             |
  |                                               |
  |   FLOWERS OF THE FIELD. By C. A. JOHNS,       |
  |      F.L.S., revised by CLARENCE ELLIOTT.     |
  |                                               |
  |      By Dr. W. E. KIRBY.                      |
  |                                               |
  |      By C. T. DRUERY.                         |
  |                                               |
  |   BRITISH FUNGI. By GEORGE MASSEE,            |
  |      of Kew Gardens.                          |
  |                                               |
  |   BRITISH TREES AND SHRUBS.                   |
  |      By C. A. JOHNS. Edited by E. T. COOK.    |
  |                                               |
  |      By ERNEST PROTHEROE, F.Z.S.              |
  |                                               |
  |       With 64 coloured plates.                |
  |                                               |
  |                --------------                 |
  |         GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LTD.         |
  |                                               |


  _First Edition_, February, 1909; _Reprinted_, July, 1910;
      _Reprinted_, December, 1915; _Reprinted_, November, 1917;
      _Reprinted_, June, 1919; _Reprinted_, January, 1921;
      _Reprinted_, October, 1922; _Reprinted_, March, 1925;
      _Reprinted_, August, 1928; _Reprinted_, December, 1931;
      _Reprinted_, January, 1935; _Reprinted_, January, 1938.

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome and London


This admirable work by the late Rev. C. A. Johns, F.L.S., which is now
offered in a new form, has already proved the making of many a
naturalist and it will be a delight and help to many more nature
lovers who wish to determine a species without recourse to bulky
scientific works.

In editing the present edition I have carefully preserved all Mr.
Johns' delightful personal stories and his descriptions of the birds
and their daily life in their haunts, but I have brought the
scientific arrangement of the species up to date, as well as altered
the nomenclature, in accordance with present-day knowledge and use.

We begin with the Passeres because modern ornithologists are now
nearly all agreed that this order attains the highest Avian

I have rectified statements as to the local distribution of various
species which, with the progress of time and local changes, no longer
apply, and have added facts here and there which I considered of some

The faithful and beautiful presentments made by Mr. William Foster for
this new edition have no need of our commendation to the public.

                                                           J. A. OWEN.


(_Numbered in accordance with the Plates and Descriptions in this


Bill various; feet adapted for perching on trees or on the ground (not
for grasping, wading, or swimming); toes four, all in the same plane,
three before and one behind; claws slender, curved, and acute. Food,
various; that of the nestlings, perhaps in all instances, soft insects.


Bill as long as the head, compressed at the sides; upper mandible arched
to the tip, which is not abruptly hooked, notch well marked, but not
accompanied by a tooth; gape furnished with bristles; feet long, with
curved claws. Food--insects, snails and fruits.


Young in first plumage differ from adults in having the upper and under
parts spotted.

  Genus 1. TURDUS (Thrush, Blackbird, etc.) Bill moderate, compressed at
    the point; upper mandible notched, bending over the lower one; gape
    furnished with a few bristles; nostrils basal, lateral, oval, partly
    covered by a naked membrane; tarsus longer than the middle toe;
    wings and tail moderate; first primary very short or almost
    abortive, second shorter than the third or fourth, which are the
    longest.                                                       _Page 1_

  2. SAXÍCOLA (Wheatear). Bill straight, slender, the base rather
    broader than high, advancing on the forehead, compressed towards the
    point; upper mandible keeled, curved, and notched; gape surrounded
    by a few bristles; nostrils basal, lateral, oval, half closed by a
    membrane; first primary half as long as the second, which is shorter
    than the third, third and fourth longest; tarsus rather long; claw
    of the hind toe short, strong and curved.                     _Page 10_

  3. PRATÍNCOLA (Chats). Bill shorter and broader than in Saxicola;
     bristles at the gape strongly developed. Wings and tail rather short.
                                                                  _Page 12_

  4. RUTICILLA (Redstarts). Bill slender, compressed towards the point,
    a little deflected and very slightly emarginate; gape with tolerably
    large bristles. Nostrils basal, supernal, and nearly round. Wings
    moderate; the first quill short; the second equal to the sixth; the
    third, fourth and fifth, nearly equal, and one of them the longest.
    Legs slender, the tarsus longer than the middle toe, and covered in
    front by a single scale and three inferior scutellæ.          _Page 14_

  5. ERÍTHACUS (Redbreast). Bill rather strong, as broad as it is high
    at the base, where it is depressed, slightly compressed towards the
    tip; upper mandible bending over the lower and notched, nostrils
    basal, oval, pierced in a membrane, partly hid by bristles diverging
    from the gape; first primary half as long as the second, fifth the
    longest; tail slightly forked.                                _Page 16_

  6. DAULIAS (Nightingale). Bill rather stout, straight, as broad as
    high at the base; upper mandible slightly bent over at the tip; gape
    with a few short bristles; nostrils basal, round, pierced in a
    membrane; first primary very short, second and fifth equal in
    length, third and fourth longest; tail somewhat rounded; tarsus
    elongated.                                                    _Page 17_


Bill strong and broad at base; upper mandible overlapping lower and
slightly notched at tip.

  7. ACCENTOR (Hedge-sparrow). Bill of moderate length, strong, straight,
    tapering to a fine point; edges of both mandibles compressed and
    bent inwards, the upper notched near the tip; nostrils naked, basal,
    pierced in a large membrane; feet strong; claw of the hinder toe
    longest, and most curved; first primary almost obsolete, the second
    nearly equal to the third, which is the longest.              _Page 20_


Young on leaving nest differ slightly in colour from adults.

  8. SYLVIA (Whitethroats, Blackcap, Warblers). Bill rather stout,
    short, not very broad at base; upper mandible decurved towards
    point, which is slightly emarginate; nostrils basal, lateral, oval,
    and exposed; gape with bristles. Wings moderate, first quill very
    short. Tail with twelve feathers, generally rounded. Tarsus
    scutellate in front and longer than middle toe; toes and claws
    short.                                                        _Page 21_

  9. ACROCÉPHALUS (Reed, Marsh, Sedge, and Aquatic Warblers). Bill
    nearly straight, with culmen elevated, wide at base, compressed
    towards tip, and slightly emarginate; edges of lower mandible
    inflected; nostrils basal, oblique, oval, and exposed; moderately
    developed bristles at gape. Forehead narrow, depressed. Wings rather
    short, first quill minute, third usually longest. Tail rounded,
    rather long. Legs long; feet large and stout, hind toe strong; claws
    long and moderately curved.                                   _Page 25_

  10. LOCUSTELLA (Grasshopper Warbler). Differs from other _Sylviinæ_
    chiefly in its more rounded tail and longer under tail-coverts. The
    late Professor Newton found the tendons of the tibial muscles
    strongly ossified in this genus.                              _Page 28_

  11. PHYLLÓSCOPUS (Chiff-chaff, Willow and Wood-warblers). Bill slender,
    rather short; upper mandible decurved from middle and compressed
    towards tip, which is very slightly notched; nostrils basal,
    lateral, oblong, partly operculate, membrane clothed with small
    bristle-tipped feathers, internasal ridge very thin; gape beset with
    hairs. Wings rather long, first quill comparatively large, third or
    fourth longest. Tail slightly forked, twelve feathers. Tarsus scaled
    in front, rather long. Toes long, claws curved.               _Page 30_


Arboreal. Each nostril covered by a single stiff feather.

  12. RÉGULUS (Gold and Fire-crested Wrens). Bill very slender,
    awl-shaped, straight, compressed; cutting edges bent inwards about
    the middle; nostrils partly concealed by small bristly feathers,
    directed forwards; first primary very short, second much shorter
    than the third, fourth and fifth longest; tail moderate; tarsus
    slender, rather long.                                         _Page 33_


Bill short, straight, conical, sharp-pointed, destitute of a notch;
nostrils basal, concealed by reflected bristly hairs. Small birds,
remarkable for their activity, not highly gifted with musical power,
constantly flitting and climbing about trees and bushes, which they
examine for small insects, suspending themselves in all attitudes,
feeding also on grains and fruits, and not sparing small birds when
they are able to overpower them.

  13. ACRÉDULA (Long-tailed Tit). Bill much compressed, both mandibles
    curved, upper considerably longer than lower. Eyelids with wide bare
    margins. Length of wing quills increases to fourth and fifth, which
    are longest. Tail very long, narrow, graduated, outer feathers
    one-third length of middle pair. Tarsus long, feet moderate.  _Page 35_

  14. PARUS (Great, Blue, Cole, Marsh, and Crested Tits). Bill slightly
    compressed, upper mandible hardly longer than lower. First wing
    quill short, fourth or fifth longest. Tail moderate, even or
    slightly rounded. Tarsus moderate, feet strong.               _Page 37_


  15. PANÚRUS (Bearded Tit or Reedling). Bill short, subconical; upper
     mandible curved at tip and bending over lower one, which is nearly
     straight; the edges of both somewhat inflected and not notched.
     Nostrils basal, oval, pointed in front and partly covered by reflected
     bristly feathers. Wing with ten quills, first almost obsolete, third
     longest, fourth and fifth nearly equal to it. Tail very long and, much
     graduated. Tarsus long and scutellate in front; feet stout; claws not
     much hooked.                                                 _Page 42_


  16. SITTA (Nuthatch). Bill moderate, strong, and slightly conical;
     lower mandible ascending from angle to point. Tongue short, horny tip
     abrupt and furnished with strong bristles. Nostrils basal, rounded, in
     deep hollow, covered by short feathers and hairs. Wings rather long;
     first quill much shorter than second, fourth or fifth longest. Tail
     short, flexible, broad, nearly square. Legs short, stout, tarsi
     scutellate; toes long, strong, hind toe especially, outer toe joined
     at base to middle toe; claws large, much hooked.             _Page 44_


Bill either straight and subulate or slender, long, and curved;
nostrils basal; tail never emarginate; fourth toe coalesced at first
phalanx with middle toe. Principally insectivorous.

  17. CERTHIA (Creeper). Bill rather long, slender, compressed,
    decurved, pointed; nostrils basal, lateral, elongate, partly covered
    by membrane. Wings moderate, rounded, first feather short, fourth
    and fifth longest. Tail of twelve feathers, long, stiff, pointed,
    slightly decurved. Feet large, tarsus slender; fore toes long,
    united at base as far as first joint; claws moderate, but much
    curved; hind toe short, but with long curved claw. Plumage soft and
    thick, especially above.                                      _Page 47_


  18. TRÓGLODYTES (Wren). Bill moderate, compressed, slightly curved,
    not notched, pointed. Nostrils basal, oval, partly covered by
    membrane. Wings short, concave, rounded; first quill rather short,
    fourth or fifth longest. Tail generally short; its feathers soft and
    rounded. Tarsus rather long and strong, middle toe united at base to
    outer but not to inner toe; hind toe as long or longer than middle
    toe; claws long, stout and curved. Plumage long and soft.     _Page 48_


  19. CINCLUS (Dipper). Bill moderate, slightly ascending, angular,
    higher than broad at base, straight, compressed, and rounded near
    tip; upper mandible slightly decurving at point. Nostrils basal,
    lateral; in depression, cleft longitudinally, partly covered by
    membrane. Gape very narrow, without bristles. Wings short, broad,
    convex; first quill very short, second not so long as third or
    fourth, which are nearly equal. Tail short. Legs feathered to
    tibio-tarsal joint; tarsus longer than middle toe; lateral toes
    equal in length, outer toe slightly connected with middle. Whole
    body closely covered with down.                               _Page 51_


Bill with notch in upper mandible; nostrils placed well in front of
base of bill and quite bare.

  20. ORIÓLUS (Oriole). Bill an elongated cone, depressed at the base;
    upper mandible keeled above, notched near the point, bending over
    the lower one; nostrils basal, lateral, naked, pierced horizontally
    in a large membrane; tarsus not longer than the middle toe; wings
    moderate; first primary very short, second shorter than the third,
    which is the longest.                                         _Page 53_


Bill nearly straight, short at the base, diminishing regularly to a
sharp point, which is not distinctly notched; the ridge of the upper
mandible; ascends upon the forehead, dividing the plumage of that
part; nostrils placed low in the bill; planta tarsi entire; wings
moderate, not reaching to end of tail. An extensive and widely
diffused family, comprising species for the most part above the
average size of Passerine birds, yet inferior to the Crows. They are
in general social, feeding much on the ground; their legs and feet are
robust, their gait stately, their plumage, though commonly of dark
colours, is lustrous, with reflections of steel-blue, purple, or

  21. STURNUS (Starling). Bill straight, forming an elongated cone,
    depressed broad at the base, bluntish; upper mandible broader than
    the lower; nostrils at the base of the bill, partly closed by an
    arched membrane; first primary very short, second longest.    _Page 54_

  22. PASTOR (Rose-coloured Starling). Bill slightly arched, forming an
    elongated cone, compressed; nostrils at the base of the bill partly
    covered by a feathery membrane; wings with the first primary very
    short, second and third longest.                              _Page 56_


Bill powerful, more or less compressed at the sides; upper mandible
more or less arched to the point without distinct notch; gape nearly
straight; nostrils concealed by stiff bristles. Hallux very strong,
but with its claw not as long as the middle toe and claw. Birds of
firm and compact structure; their wings long, pointed, and powerful;
their feet and claws robust. In disposition bold and daring, extremely
sagacious, easily tamed and made familiar. Most of them have the power
of imitating various sounds, but their natural voices are harsh. They
evince a remarkable propensity for thieving and hiding brilliant and
gaudy substances. In appetite they are omnivorous.

  23. PYRRHÓCORAX (Chough). Bill longer than the head, rather slender,
    arched from the base, and pointed; nostrils oval; feet strong,
    tarsus longer than the middle toe; wings rounded, first primary
    short, fourth and fifth the longest; tail even at the end.   _Page 56_

  24. NUCÍFRAGA (Nutcracker). Bill about as long as the head, straight,
    conical, the base dilated, and dividing the feathers of the
    forehead; mandibles blunt, the upper somewhat the longer; nostrils
    round; wings rather long and pointed; first primary shorter than the
    second and third, fourth longest; tail nearly even.           _Page 57_

  25. GÁRRULUS (Jay). Bill shorter than the head, conical; both
    mandibles equally curved, the upper notched near the tip; crown
    feathers forming a crest; wings rounded, fourth, fifth, and sixth
    primaries nearly equal, and the longest; tarsus longer than the
    middle toe; tail moderate, slightly rounded.                  _Page 58_

  26. PICA (Magpie). Bill, nostrils, and feet as in Corvus; wings short
    and rounded; tail long, graduated.                            _Page 59_

  27. CORVUS (Raven, Crows, Rook). Bill not longer than the head,
    strong, straight at the base, cutting at the edges, and curved
    towards the point; nostrils oval; feet strong, tarsus longer than
    the middle toe; wings pointed, first primary moderate, second and
    third shorter than the fourth, which is the longest; tail moderate,
    rounded.                                                      _Page 61_


Bill strong, arched, and hooked, the upper mandible strongly notched
after the manner of the FALCONIDÆ; claws adapted for capturing insects
and even small birds. Sylvan. Young barred below.

  28. LÁNIUS (Shrike, or Butcher Bird). Bill short, flattened vertically
    (compressed) at the sides; gape furnished with bristly feathers
    directed forwards; wings with the first three primaries graduated,
    the third and fourth being the longest.                       _Page 73_


Bill stoat, approaching, especially in the form of the lower mandible,
to that of the Corvidæ; the upper mandible is however somewhat broad
at the base, flat, with the upper edge more or less angular and
ridged, and the tip distinctly notched. Feet usually stout, with the
outer toe united to the middle one as far as, or beyond, the first
joint. They feed principally on berries and other soft fruits,
occasionally also on insects.

  29. ÁMPELIS (Waxwing). Bill as above; nostrils oval, concealed by
    small feathers directed forwards; wings long and pointed; first and
    second primaries longest, some of the secondaries and tertials
    terminating in wax-like prolongations of their shafts.        _Page 76_


Bill broad, flattened horizontally (depressed), slightly toothed and
adapted for catching small flying insects; nostrils more or less
covered by bristly hairs; feet generally feeble.

  30. MUSCÍCAPA (Flycatcher). Bill moderate, somewhat triangular,
    depressed at the base, compressed towards the tip, which is slightly
    curved downwards; gape armed with stiff bristles; tarsus equal to or
    longer than the middle toe; side toes of equal length; wings with
    the first primary very short, and the third and fourth longest.
                                                                  _Page 77_


Beak short but broad, and more or less flattened horizontally; mouth
very deeply cleft; feet small and weak; wings with nine visible
primaries, long and powerful, and thus adapted for sustaining a
protracted flight in pursuit of winged insects, which form the sole
sustenance of these birds; tail long and usually forked; plumage
close, smooth, often burnished with a metallic gloss. Migratory birds,
spending the summer in temperate climates, but being impatient of
cold, withdrawing in winter to equatorial regions.

  31. HIRUNDO (Swallow). Bill short, depressed, very wide at base,
    commissure straight. Nostrils basal, oval, partly closed by
    membrane. Tail deeply forked, of twelve feathers, the outermost
    greatly elongated and abruptly attenuated. Legs and feet slender and
    bare; toes rather long, three in front, one behind; claws moderate.
                                                                  _Page 80_

  32. CHELÍDON (Martin). Bill short, depressed, very wide at base,
    commissure slightly decurved. Nostrils basal, oval, partly closed by
    membrane and opening laterally. Tail forked, of twelve feathers,
    outermost not abruptly attenuated. Legs and feet slender, closely
    feathered above; toes rather long, three in front, one behind; claws
    moderate, sharp.                                              _Page 83_

  33. CÓTILE (Sand-martin). Bill short, depressed, very wide at base,
    commissure straight. Nostrils, wings and tail as in Chelidon. Legs
    and feet slender, and bare except for tuft of feathers on tarsus
    just above hallux; toes moderate, three in front, one behind; claws
    strong.                                                       _Page 84_


Remarkable for the shortness, thickness, and powerful structure of the
bill; the upper and lower mandibles are usually equally thick, and
their height and breadth are nearly alike, so that the bill when
closed presents the appearance of a short cone, divided in the middle
by the gape. By its aid they break open the hard woody capsules and
fruit-stones containing the seeds and kernels which form their chief
food. At nesting-time many species live on insect larvæ, with which
the young are almost exclusively fed. The wings have nine visible
primaries. This family is one of immense extent, consisting of
relatively small birds.

  34. LIGURINUS (Greenfinch). Bill compressed towards tip, with scarcely
    perceptible notch at point; nostrils basal, concealed by stiff
    feathers directed forwards; wings rather pointed, first quill
    obsolete, second, third and fourth nearly equal and longest. Tail
    rather short, slightly forked. Tarsus scutellate in front; toes
    moderate; claws arched and laterally grooved.                 _Page 86_

  35. COCCOTHRAUSTES (Hawfinch). Bill tapering rapidly to point, culmen
    rounded; mandibles nearly equal, edges inflected and slightly
    indented. Nostrils basal, lateral, oval, nearly hidden by projecting
    and recurved frontal plumes. Wings with first quill obsolete, third
    and fourth primaries nearly equal, sixth, seventh, and eighth curved
    outwards. Tail short, and nearly square. Tarsus scutellate in front,
    covered at sides with single plate, stout and short; claws
    moderately curved, rather short and strong.                   _Page 87_

  36. CARDUÊLIS (Goldfinch and Siskin). Bill a rather elongated cone,
    compressed at the tip, and finely pointed; wings long, pointed;
    first three primaries nearly equal and the longest; tail slightly
    forked.                                                       _Page 88_

  37. PASSER (Sparrows). Bill somewhat arched above; lower mandible
    rather smaller than the upper; first three primaries longest.
                                                                  _Page 92_

  38. FRINGILLA (Chaffinch and Brambling). Bill straight, sharp,
    pointed; mandibles nearly equal; first primary a little shorter than
    the second, much shorter than the third and fourth, which are nearly
    equal and the longest.                                        _Page 95_

  39. ACANTHIS (Linnet, Redpolls, Twite). Bill a short straight cone,
    compressed at the tip; wings long, pointed; third primary somewhat
    shorter than the first and second, which are equal and the longest;
    tail forked.                                                  _Page 98_

  40. PÝRRHULA (Bullfinch). Bill short and thick, the sides tumid; upper
    mandible much arched and bending over the lower one; first primary
    nearly equal to the fifth, second a little shorter than the third
    and fourth, which are the longest.                           _Page 101_

  41. LOXIA (Crossbill). Bill thick at the base; both mandibles equally
    curved, hooked at the tips, and crossing each other at the points.
                                                                 _Page 103_

  42. EMBERIZA (Buntings, Yellow-hammer). Bill with upper mandible not
    wider than lower, edges of both inflected and those of latter
    gradually cut away (sinuated); the palate generally furnished with a
    hard bony knob; wings moderate, first primary obsolete, second,
    third and fourth nearly equal. Tail rather long and slightly forked.
    Claws considerably curved, that of hind toe of moderate length.
                                                                 _Page 106_

  43. PLECTROPHENAX (Snow Bunting). Bill with upper mandible narrower
    than lower, otherwise as in Emberiza. Wings long and pointed, first
    primary obsolete, second and third nearly equal and longest in wing,
    fourth considerably longer than fifth. Tail moderate and slightly
    forked. Front claws rather long and curved; hind claw considerably
    curved and elongated.                                        _Page 110_

  44. CALCARIUS (Lapland Bunting). Bill with considerably inflected
    cutting edges (tomia); claws of front toes short and slightly
    curved; hind claw nearly straight and elongated; other characters
    much as in Plectrophenax.                                    _Page 111_


Wings with nine visible primaries. Inner secondaries nearly as long as

  45. MOTACILLA (Wagtail). Cutting edges of both mandibles slightly
    compressed inwards; nostrils basal, oval, partly concealed by a
    naked membrane; first primary acuminate and nearly obsolete, second
    and third nearly equal and longest; one of the scapulars as long as
    the quills; tail long, nearly even at the end; tarsus much longer
    than the middle toe.                                         _Page 111_

  46. ANTHUS (Pipit). Bill and nostrils very much as in Motacilla; two
    of the scapulars as long as the closed wing; first primary acuminate
    and nearly obsolete, second shorter than the third and fourth, which
    are the longest; hind claw very long.                        _Page 116_


Wings with nine or more visible primaries. Planta tarsi scutellate.
Granivorous birds, frequenting open spaces, and singing during their
flight; nesting on ground and seeking their food there by running;
they are 'pulverators', i. e. they shake dust or sand into their
feathers instead of bathing.

  47. ALAUDA (Lark). Bill moderate, slightly compressed at edges; upper
    mandible more or less arched from middle. Nostrils basal, oval,
    covered by bristly feathers directed forward. Gape straight. Wings
    long; first primary short but unmistakably developed; second, third
    and fourth nearly equal, but third longest. Tail moderate, slightly
    forked. Tarsus longer than middle toe; claws slightly curved and
    moderate, except that of hind toe, which is generally elongate and
    nearly straight.                                             _Page 119_

  48. OTÓCORYS (Shore-lark). Bill rather short, subconic; upper mandible
    slightly arched. Head--in adult male--with tuft of long, erectile
    feathers on either side of occiput. Wings long; first primary so
    small as at first sight to seem wanting, second longest but third
    nearly its equal, fourth decidedly shorter, outer secondaries short
    and emarginate at tip. Tail rather long, slightly forked. Tarsus
    shorter than middle toe; claws moderate and very slightly curved,
    that of hind toe being comparatively straight.               _Page 122_


Opposed to the Passeres. The feet are relatively weaker and smaller.


Tail of ten feathers (swallows have twelve). Gape very wide.

  49. CÝPSELUS (Swift). Bill very short, flattened horizontally,
    triangular; upper mandible curved downwards at the point; gape
    extending beyond the eyes; legs very short; toes all directed
    forwards; wings extremely long; first primary a little shorter than
    the second.                                                  _Page 123_


The bill in this family resembles that of the Swallows, but is shorter
and weaker; the gape is enormous and its sides are, for the most part,
furnished with long and stiff bristles, which point forwards; the
wings are long, and formed for powerful flight; the feet are small,
and feathered to the toes; plumage soft and downy, and beautifully
mottled with black, brown, grey, and white, varying in colour with the
soil of their habitat; the claw of the middle toe is dilated on one
side and toothed like a comb. Tail of ten feathers. Nocturnal birds,
feeding on large insects, which they capture in their flight.

  50. CAPRIMÚLGUS (Goatsucker or Nightjar). Bill very short, somewhat
    curved, broad and flattened at the base; upper mandible curved
    downwards at the tip; gape extending beyond the eyes, and armed with
    strong bristles; wings long; first primary shorter than the second,
    which is the longest.                                        _Page 125_


Feet short, but of unusual strength; the rigid toes diverge from a
centre, two pointing forwards, and two backwards; claws large, much
curved, and very hard and sharp; breast-bone shallow; flight weak and


Tail feathers stiff and pointed: nostrils covered with bristles.

  51. DENDROCOPUS (Spotted Woodpeckers). Bill about as long as the head,
    robust, straight, irregular, compressed, pyramidal, laterally
    bevelled at the tip; tongue long and extensile, the tip barbed;
    nostrils basal, oval, concealed by reflected bristly feathers; wings
    with the first primary very short, fourth and fifth longest;
    tail-feathers graduated, stiff and pointed. Fourth toe much longer
    than third. Prevailing colours of the plumage black and white, or
    black and red.                                               _Page 127_

  52. GÉCINUS (Green Woodpecker). Bill hard, broad at base, compressed
    at tip; upper mandible slightly arched, ending abruptly with shallow
    groove on each side running parallel to and near the culmen, and
    longer than lower mandible, which is pointed and has the gonys
    nearer the tip than the base and the tomia rounded. The fourth toe
    equal to the third. Prevailing colour greenish, otherwise much as in
    Dendrocopus.                                                 _Page 129_


Nostrils partly covered by a membrane.

  53. IYNX (Wryneck). Bill shorter than the head, straight, conical;
    tongue long and extensile; nostrils without bristles, partly closed
    by a membrane; wings with the second primary somewhat the longest;
    tail-feathers soft and flexible.                             _Page 131_


Bill long, stout, and pointed, with angular sides, not serrated; feet
small and feeble, the outer and middle toes united to the last joint;
wings rounded and hollow, ill adapted for protracted flight; form
robust, with a large head and usually a short tail. Predatory birds,
feeding on fish, insects, and even reptiles, birds, and small
quadrupeds. Scattered over the world, but Australia and South America
contain the greatest number of species.

  54. ALCÉDO (Kingfisher). Bill long, straight, quadrangular, sharp;
    wings short with the third primary the longest; tail very short.
                                                                 _Page 132_


Bill corvine in shape; culmen rounded; nostrils near base of upper
mandible and hidden by bristly feathers; tail feathers twelve.

  54. CORÁCIAS (Roller). Bill compressed, straight, with cutting edges;
    upper mandible slightly hooked at the point; sides of the gape
    bristled; tarsus short; wings long; first primary a little shorter
    than the second, which is the longest.                       _Page 134_


Bill long; culmen with sharply defined ridge; toes joined for part of

  55. MÊROPS (Bee-eater). Bill long, compressed, slightly curved,
    slender, with cutting edges, broad at the base; upper mandible
    keeled, the tip not hooked; tarsus very short; wings long, pointed,
    second primary the longest; centre tail feathers elongated.  _Page 135_


  56. UPUPA (Hoopoe). Bill longer than the head, slender, slightly
    arched, compressed; feathers of the head long, forming a two-ranked
    crest; tail even at the extremity.                           _Page 136_


Bill moderate, rather deeply cleft, both mandibles compressed, and
more or less curved downwards; nostrils exposed; wings for the most
part short; tail of ten feathers lengthened; toes four, two pointing
backwards and two forwards, but the outer hind toe of each foot is
capable of being placed at right angles with either the inner or outer
front toe. A tropical family of birds, many of which migrate to the
temperate regions in summer. Not so decidedly climbers as the
Woodpeckers and Creepers, yet having great power of clinging. Their
flight is feeble, their food soft-bodied insects, varied in many
cases with berries and other fruits, and some of the larger species
will occasionally prey on mice, reptiles, and the eggs and young of
birds. Most, perhaps all of the migratory species, lay their eggs in
the nests of other birds.

  57. CÚCULUS (Cuckoo). Bill shorter than the head, broad, depressed at
    the base, with the ridge curved and the sides compressed towards the
    tip, which is entire and acute; nostrils in a membranous groove, the
    opening rounded and exposed; wings pointed, third primary longest;
    tail long, graduated; tarsi very short, feathered below the heel.
                                                                 _Page 137_


Head large, feathered; eyes large, dilated and projecting, each
surrounded by a concave disc formed of stiff diverging feathers,
concealing the cere and nostrils; ears large, and of elaborate
construction; plumage lax and downy, adapted for slow and quiet
flight; outer toe reversible; tibia more than double the length of
tarsus. Food, small quadrupeds, birds, and insects.



Bill somewhat elongated, bending at the tip only; head-tufts wanting
nostrils oval, oblique; facial disc large and complete; ears large,
covered by an operculum; wings long, the second primary longest; tarsi
long, feathered to the toes, which are strangely furnished with
hair-like feathers; claws long, the middle one serrated beneath.

  58. STRIX (White Owl). Characters given above.              _Page 142_


Bill bending from the base; tufts more or less conspicuous or wanting;
facial disc complete; ears large, covered by an operculum; legs
feathered to the claws.

  59. ASIO (Eared Owls). Nostrils oval, oblique; tufts more or less
    elongated; wings long, second primary the longest.           _Page 144_

  60. SYRNIUM (Tawny Owl). Nostrils round; egrets wanting; wings short
    and rounded; fourth primary longest.                         _Page 146_


Bill short, strong, stout at base, culmen strongly curved. Feet
strong, armed with powerful talons which are capable of being bent
under the feet, inner one stronger and more curved than others. Outer
toe usually not reversible.


Head covered with feathers, though sides of face are more or less


Bill rather small and weak, bending from the base; cutting edge of the
upper mandible nearly straight, or but slightly festooned; cere
large; nostrils oval; wings long; the first four feathers deeply
notched on their inner webs; tail not forked. Hinder aspect of tarsus

  61. CIRCUS (Harriers). Head surrounded by a circle of feathers; tarsi,
    long and slender, feathered a little below the joint; wings long
    third and fourth primaries the longest; tail long, somewhat rounded.
                                                                 _Page 147_

  62. BUTEO (Buzzard). Lore without feathers; tarsi short and strong,
    naked or feathered; wings large, the fourth primary the longest.
                                                                 _Page 150_

  63. PERNIS (Honey Buzzard). Lore with feathers; tarsi short and
    strong, naked or feathered; wings large, the fourth primary the
    longest.                                                     _Page 151_


Bill stout, convex or slightly angular above, straight at the base,
much hooked at the tip, commissure simply festooned; cere bristly;
nostrils rounded or oval; wings long. Hinder aspect of tarsus

  64. AQUILA (Eagles). Upper mandible with the cutting edge nearly
    straight; tarsi feathered to the toes; claws unequal, grooved
    beneath; wings with the fourth primary longest.              _Page 152_

  65. HALIAËTUS (Sea-eagle). Bill very long; edges of the upper mandible
    slightly prominent near the hook; tarsi half-feathered; claws
    unequal, grooved beneath; wings with the fourth primary longest;
    nostrils transverse, with bony margin all round.             _Page 153_

  66. PANDÍON (Osprey). Bill short, cutting edges of the upper mandible
    nearly straight; tarsi naked; outer toe reversible; claws equal,
    rounded beneath; wings with the second primary longest.      _Page 154_


Bill short, strong, curved from the base; edge of the upper mandible
with a prominent festoon beyond the middle; nostrils oval; wings
rounded, short, reaching only to the middle of the tail; middle toe
much the longest.

  67. ACCÍPITER (Sparrow-hawk). Tarsi long and slender; fourth and fifth
    primaries equal in length and the longest. Ridge of bill measured
    from margin of cere is less than half middle toe (without claw).
                                                                 _Page 156_


Bill of moderate length, slightly curved from the base, upper mandible
with a slight festoon; nostrils oval, oblique; wings long; tail long
and forked.

  68. MILVUS (Kites). Tarsi feathered a little below the knee; fourth
    primary the longest.                                         _Page 158_


Bill short, strong, curved from the base, upper mandible strongly
toothed, lower notched; nostrils round; tarsi strong and short; hinder
aspect reticulate; wings long and pointed, with the second primary
longest, the first and third equal in length and having the inner web
notched near the extremity.

  69. FALCO (Falcons, Merlin, Hobby and Kestrel). Characters given
    above.                                                       _Page 159_


Hind toe articulated on the inner surface of the tarsus, united to
other toes by a web.


Bill strong, edges of the mandibles minutely toothed; wings long; legs
short; toes four, all connected by a membrane.

  70. PHALACRÓCORAX (Cormorant). Bill straight, longer than the head,
    compressed; upper mandible much hooked at the point; face and throat
    naked; inner edge of the middle claw serrated; tail rounded, rigid.
                                                                 _Page 165_

  71. SULA (Gannet). Bill straight, longer than the head, compressed,
    tapering to a point, which is but slightly curved; face and throat
    naked; inner edge of the middle claw serrated; tail graduated.
                                                                 _Page 168_


Hallux free, not united to other toes by a web.


Hind toe on same plane as others. Bill rounded or ridged; notched,
with no hook at end. Outer toe with broad basal web, obsolete at base
of inner toe; middle claw pectinated, loral space bare; powder down
patches present.

  72. ÁRDEA (Herons). Edges of mandibles distinctly serrated; head
    crested; nape feathers elongated and ornamented; plumes of fore-neck
    not disintegrated; no dorsal train.                          _Page 173_

  73. NYCTÍCORAX (Night Heron). Bill scarcely longer than the head, much
    compressed; neck rather thick and short; crest of three very long
    tapering feathers. In other respects resembling Árdea.       _Page 173_

  74. BOTAURUS (Bittern). Bill scarcely longer than the head, much
    compressed; neck thick, clothed in front with long and loose
    feathers. In other respects resembling Árdea.                _Page 173_


Hind toe elevated above plane of others; no powder down patches; bill
not hooked at tip.

  75. CICÓNIA (Stork). Bill much longer than the head, stout, tapering
    to a point; nostrils near the base, pierced in the horny substance
    of the bill; tarsi very long; claws not pectinated; wings moderate,
    third, fourth, and fifth primaries longest.                  _Page 175_


Bill flattened, narrow in middle, and widening out into a spoon-shaped

  76. PLATALÉA (Spoonbill). Head partly bare, auricular orifice covered
    with plumes. Nostrils elongated and in a shallow depression.
                                                                 _Page 176_


Tarsus about length of femur, reticulate at back and generally in
front. Bill straight, always with distinct nail at tip of upper
mandible. Young covered with down, and able to run or swim in a few
hours after hatching.


Bill thick, broad, high at the base, covered with a thin membranous
skin and ending in a nail-like horny tip; edges of the mandibles cut
into thin parallel ridges, or toothed; wings moderate; legs placed not
very far behind; feet, four-toed, palmated; hind toe free, placed high
on the tarsus. Food, grass and aquatic weeds, worms, insects,
molluscs, and small fish.


  77. ANSER (Geese). Bill nearly long as head, elevated and covered with
    cere or skin at base; conspicuous nail at tip; under mandible
    smaller than upper; nostrils lateral, near middle of bill; tail of
    sixteen feathers; legs under centre of body; hind toe free,
    articulated upon tarsus.                                     _Page 176_

  78. BERNICLA (Brent and Bernicle Geese). Bill shorter than head,
    higher than broad at base; culmen slightly convex, outline of lower
    mandible decidedly so, leaving elliptical space displaying lamellæ;
    nostrils sub-basal; neck feathers less furrowed than in Anser_;
    tail short, rounded; tibia feathered to joint; hind toe short and
    elevated.                                                    _Page 180_

  79. CYGNUS (Swans). Bill of equal length throughout, furnished with
     knob at base; nostrils medial; legs short; neck exceedingly long.
                                                                 _Page 181_


Bill of equal width throughout, or broader at the top than at the
base, of about the same width as the head; legs short, placed rather
behind the middle of the body; hind toe without a pendent membrane;
tarsi somewhat round.

  80. TADORNA (Sheldrake). Bill with an elevated tubercle at the base,
    depressed in the middle; nostrils large, pervious; lower portion of
    tarsus in front with a row of transverse scutellæ.           _Page 184_

  81. ANAS (Mallard, Gadwall). Bill long as head, broad, depressed,
    sides parallel, sometimes partially dilated, both mandibles with
    transverse lamellæ on inner edges; nostrils small, oval, lateral,
    anterior to base of bill; wings rather long, pointed; tail
    wedge-shaped; legs rather short; hind toe without lobe. Sexes differ
    in plumage.                                                  _Page 185_

  82. SPATULA (Shoveller). Bill much longer than head, widening towards
    end, lamellæ projecting conspicuously; no soft membrane on sides of
    bill towards tip; wing pointed, first and second quills longest;
    tail short, graduated; legs very short.                      _Page 189_

  83. DAFILA (Pintail). Bill long as head, edges nearly parallel,
    widening a little to end, lamellæ not strongly defined; neck long,
    slender; tail sharply pointed, central rectrices considerably
    elongated in male; margin of web to anterior toes slightly
    emarginate.                                                  _Page 190_

  84. QUERQUÉDULA (Teal). Bill long as head, lamellæ exposed along
    projecting edge of upper mandible; tail of sixteen feathers, short
    and rounded; hind toe very small, outer shorter than third, centre
    rather long; interdigital membrane emarginate.               _Page 191_

  85. MARÉCA (Wigeon). Bill shorter than head, higher than broad at
    base, depressed and narrowed towards point; tail short, pointed;
    tibia bare for short distance; hind toe with very narrow lobe.
                                                                 _Page 192_


Hind toe with lobated membrane; tarsi compressed.

  86. FULÍGULA (Pochard, Tufted Duck, Scaup). Bill not longer than head,
    slightly elevated at base, broader towards tip; edges of upper
    mandible enclosing edges of lower; nostrils near base.       _Page 193_

  87. CLANGÚLA (Goldeneye). Bill much shorter than head, depressed
    towards nail, which is elliptical and decurved at tip; lamellæ
    hidden; nostrils near middle of bill.                        _Page 195_

  88. HARELDA (Long-tailed Duck). Bill much shorter than head, tapering
    rapidly to broad, decurved nail at tip. Lamellæ slightly exposed;
    nostrils sub-basal. Feathering at base of bill forming oblique line,
    advancing furthest forward on forehead. Wings rather short, pointed;
    scapulars elongate and lanceolate in adult male; tail short,
    graduated except for two central feathers, which are long and
    tapering in adult male.                                      _Page 196_

  89. SOMATERIA (Eider Duck). Bill swollen and elevated at base,
    extending up the forehead, there divided by angular projection of
    feathers; nostrils medial.                                   _Page 197_

  90. OEDEMIA (Scoters). Bill short, broad, with an elevated knob at
    the base, the tip much flattened; nail large, flat, obtuse, slightly
    deflected; lamellæ coarse, widely set; nostrils oval, medial; tail
    short, graduated, acute.                                     _Page 199_


  91. MERGUS (Smew, Merganser, Goosander). Bill straight, slender,
    narrow, approaching to cylindrical; upper mandible hooked; edges of
    both mandibles armed with sharp teeth directed backwards; legs
    short, placed far backward.                                  _Page 201_


Bill swollen at tip, convex; the upper mandible covered at the base
with a soft membrane in which lie the nostrils, with a valve over
them; tarsi covered fore and rear with hexagonal scales.

The birds of this order have considerable powers of flight, and perch
freely on trees or rocks. Their food consists principally of grain,
seeds, and the leaves of herbaceous plants. The young are fed on a
milky fluid secreted in the crop of the old birds.


Tail with twelve feathers; hind toe with the skin prominently expanded
on the sides.

  92. COLUMBA (Wood-pigeon, Stock-dove, Rock-dove). Bill moderate,
    straight at base, compressed, point deflected; tail nearly even;
    first primary much larger than _sixth_.                      _Page 203_

  93. TURTUR (Turtle-dove). Bill rather slender, tip of upper mandible
    gently deflected, that of lower scarcely exhibiting the appearance
    of an angle; tail rather long, graduated.                    _Page 209_



  94. SYRRHAPTES (Sand-grouse). Bill small, gradually decurved; nostrils
    basal, hidden; wings long, pointed, first primary largest; tail of
    sixteen feathers, cuneate, central pair long; tarsi short, strong;
    feathered to toes; three toes, all in front; hallux obsolete; soles
    rugose; claws broad and obtuse.                              _Page 211_


Bill short and stout; culmen arched, and overhanging the mandible.


  95. TETRAO (Black Grouse, Capercaillie). Bill strong; eyebrows naked,
    adorned with scarlet papillæ; tarsi feathered, without spurs; front
    toes naked, with pectinated margins; hind toe larger than the nail.
                                                                 _Page 212_

  96. LAGÓPUS (Red Grouse, Ptarmigan). Front toes feathered, nearly
    smooth at the margins; hind toe shorter than the nail; in other
    respects like the last.                                      _Page 215_


Nostrils never hidden by feathers; toes never pectinated.

  97. PHASIÁNUS (Pheasant). Cheeks naked, adorned with scarlet papillæ;
    tail very long, of eighteen feathers.                        _Page 219_

  98. PERDIX (Partridge). Bill strong; orbits naked; tarsus naked, male
    with a knob on the tarsus behind; tail of sixteen feathers, short,
    bent down.                                                   _Page 222_

  99. CÁCCABIS (Red-legged Partridge). Tail of fourteen feathers; tarsi
    armed with blunt spurs in male.                              _Page 225_

  100. COTÚRNIX (Quail). Bill slender; orbits feathered; wings with the
    first primary longest; tail very short; almost concealed by the
    tail-coverts.                                                _Page 226_



  101. CREX (Corn-crake). Bill shorter than the head, thick at the base,
    compressed, pointed; front toes entirely divided, not margined;
    second and third primaries longest. Tail pointed, rectrices narrow.
                                                                 _Page 228_

  102. PORZANA (Spotted and Little Crakes). Bill shorter than head;
    wings shorter than in Crex; second quill longest; secondaries
    shorter than primaries by length of hind toe and claw.       _Page 229_

  103. RALLUS (Water-rail). Bill longer than head; wings moderate, third
    and fourth quills longest.                                   _Page 230_

  104. GALLÍNULA (Moor-hen). Bill shorter than the head, stout,
    straight, compressed; upper mandible expanding at the base and
    forming a disc on the forehead; toes entirely divided, bordered by a
    narrow entire membrane, middle toe longer than tarsus.       _Page 231_

  105. FÚLICA (Coot). Bill shorter than the head, straight, robust,
    convex above, much compressed; upper mandible dilated at the base,
    and forming a naked patch on the forehead; all the toes united at
    the base, and bordered by a scalloped membrane.              _Page 233_


Angle of the mandible always truncated, hind toe generally raised
above level of others.


Nasal depression more than half as long as maxilla; rectrices twelve.

  106. GRUS (Crane). Upper mandible deeply channelled; nostrils medial;
    wings moderate; third primary longest.                       _Page 234_


Bill flattened and obtuse; no hind toe; tarsi unarmed; wings very
short; rectrices sixteen to twenty.

  107. OTIS (Bustard). Legs long, naked above the knee; wings moderate,
    hind quill longest.                                          _Page 236_


Leg and tarsus long, the lower portion of the former generally
destitute of feathers; bill long or moderate; toes three or four, more
or less connected by a membrane at the base, sometimes lobated.
Primaries eleven; fifth secondary wanting; after shaft to contour
feathers present.

Adapted by structure for feeding in marshes, on the muddy or sandy
sea-shore, or on the banks of lakes and rivers. Some, which feed on
fish, have unusually long legs and powerful bills; others, owing to
their length of bill and legs, are able to search muddy places for
worms and insects, without clogging their feathers; and others, again,
are decidedly aquatic, and have considerable swimming powers, thus
approaching the next order; the majority have great power of flight,
and lay their eggs on the ground.


  108. GLARÉOLA (Pratincole). Bill short, convex, compressed towards the
    point; upper mandible curved throughout half its length; nostrils
    basal, oblique; legs feathered nearly to the knee; tarsus long;
    three toes in front, one behind, the latter joined on the tarsus;
    wings very long; first primary longest.                      _Page 238_


Hind toe absent in most species; tarsus usually reticulate, sometimes

  109. OEDICNÉMUS (Thick-knee). Bill stout, straight, longer than the
    head, slightly compressed towards the end; nostrils in the middle of
    the bill, narrow, with the aperture in front, pervious; toes three,
    united by a membrane as far as the first joint; wings as in the
    last.                                                        _Page 239_

  110. CURSORIUS (Courser). Bill shorter than the head, depressed at the
    base, slightly curved, pointed; nostrils basal, oval, covered by a
    little protuberance. Legs long, slender; toes three, very short,
    divided nearly to the base, inner toe half the length of the middle
    one; its claw serrated; claws very short; wings moderate; first
    primary nearly as long as the second, which is the longest in the
    wing.                                                        _Page 240_

  111. CHARÁDRIUS (Plover). Bill shorter than the head, slender,
    straight, compressed, somewhat swollen towards the tip; nasal
    channel reaching from the base through two-thirds of the bill,
    covered by a membrane; nostrils basal, very narrow; tarsi moderate,
    slender; toes three, the outer and middle connected by a short
    membrane; wings moderate; first primary longest.             _Page 240_

  112. SQUATÁROLA (Grey Plover). Bill shorter than the head, straight,
    swollen and hard towards the tip; nostrils basal, narrow, pierced in
    the membrane of a long groove; legs slender; outer and middle toe
    connected by a short membrane, hind toe rudimentary, jointed on the
    tarsus, not touching the ground; wings long, pointed; first primary
    longest.                                                     _Page 242_

  113. EUDROMIAS (Dotterel). Bill shorter than head, slender,
    compressed; nasal channel reaching about half length of bill. Wings
    moderate; inner secondaries much longer than in Charádrius.
                                                                 _Page 244_

  114. ÆGIALITIS (Ringed and Kentish Plovers). Bill much shorter than
    head, slender, straight to end of nasal channel, which extends
    beyond middle of bill, then slightly raised, but decurved at tip;
    wings long, pointed.                                         _Page 245_

  115. VANELLUS (Lapwing). Wings large, quills broad and rounded, the
    fourth and fifth primaries longest. In other respects resembling
    Squatárola.                                                  _Page 247_

  116. HÆMÁTOPUS (Oyster Catcher). Bill longer than the head, stout,
    straight, forming a wedge; legs moderate, stout; toes three,
    bordered by a narrow membrane; wings long; first primary longest.
                                                                 _Page 248_

  117. STRÉPSILAS (Turnstone). Bill short, thickest at the base and
    tapering; nostrils basal, narrow, pervious; legs moderate; three
    front toes connected at the base by a membrane, fourth rudimentary,
    jointed on the tarsus, touching the ground with its tip.     _Page 250_


Bill long and slender; toes four, the hind one weak and elevated, very
rarely wanting.

  118. RECURVIROSTRA (Avocet). Bill very long, slender, weak, much
    curved upwards, pointed; legs long, slender; front toes connected
    as far as the second joint; hind toe very small.             _Page 252_

  119. PHALÁROPUS (Phalarope). Bill as long as the head, slender, weak,
    depressed and blunt; front toes connected as far as the first joint,
    and bordered by a lobed and slightly serrated membrane; hind toe not
    bordered.                                                    _Page 253_

  120. SCÓLOPAX (Woodcock). Bill long, compressed, superior ridge
    elevated at base of mandible, prominent. Legs rather short, anterior
    toes almost entirely divided.                                _Page 254_

  121. GALLINÁGO (Snipe). Bill very long; legs rather long and slender;
    anterior toes divided to the base.                           _Page 256_

  122. CALIDRIS (Sanderling). Bill as long as the head, slender,
    straight, soft, and flexible, dilated towards the end; nostrils
    basal, narrow, pierced in the long nasal groove which reaches to the
    tip; legs slender; toes three, scarcely connected by a membrane;
    wings moderate; first primary longest.                       _Page 260_

  123. TRINGA (Sandpiper, Knot, Dunlin, Stint). Bill as long as the head
    or a little longer, straight or slightly curved, soft and flexible,
    dilated, and blunt towards point; both mandibles grooved along
    sides; nostrils lateral wings moderately long, pointed, first quill
    longest; legs moderately long; three toes in front, divided to
    origin; one behind, small, articulated upon tarsus.          _Page 361_

  124. MACHÉTES (Ruff). Bill straight, as long as the head, dilated and
    smooth at the tip; nasal channel reaching to nearly the end of the
    bill; nostrils basal; first and second primaries longest; toes four,
    the outer and middle connected as far as the first joint; neck of
    the male in spring furnished with a ruff.                    _Page 266_

  125. TÓTANUS (Redshank, Sandpiper). Bill moderate, slender, soft at
    the base, solid at the end; both mandibles grooved at the base,
    upper channelled through half its length; nostrils pierced in the
    groove; legs long, slender; toes four.                       _Page 267_

  126. LIMÓSA (Godwit). Bill very long, slender, curved upwards, soft
    and flexible throughout, dilated towards the tip, and blunt; upper
    mandible channelled throughout its whole length; nostrils linear,
    pierced in the groove, pervious; legs long and slender; toes four,
    the outer and middle connected as far as the first joint; wings
    moderate; first primary longest.                             _Page 272_

  127. NUMENIUS (Curlew, Whimbrel). Bill much larger than the head,
    slender, curved downwards.                                   _Page 273_


Front toes entirely connected by webs. Primaries, ten large and
visible, one minute and concealed.



Bill straight, rather slender; mandibles of about equal length.

  128. HYDROCHELIDON (Black, White-winged, and Whiskered Terns). Tail
    feathers rounded or slightly pointed; tail short, less than half
    length of wing.                                              _Page 275_

  129. STERNA (Other Terns). Outer tail feathers longest, pointed;
    tarsus short; tail at least half length of wing; bill compressed
    and slender; tarsus never exceeds length of middle toe with claw.
                                                                 _Page 276_


Bill with upper mandible longer and bent over tip of under one.

  130. LARUS (Gull). Bill moderate, strong, sharp-edged above,
    compressed, slightly decurved; hind toe high on the tarsus; first
    primary nearly equal to the second, which is longest; tail even, or
    but slightly forked.                                         _Page 281_

  131. RISSA (Kittiwake). Bill rather short and stout, considerably
    decurved; hind toe minute and usually obsolete; first primary
    slightly exceeding second; tail perceptibly forked in young, nearly
    square in adult.                                             _Page 287_


Bill with a cere; claws large, strong, hooked.

  132. STERCORARIUS (Skua). Bill moderate, strong, rounded above,
    compressed towards the tip, which is decurved; nostrils far forward,
    diagonal, pervious; hind toe very small, scarcely elevated; the
    middle tail-feathers more or less elongated.                 _Page 288_


Wings short


Bill much flattened vertically (compressed); wings short; legs placed
at the extremity of the body; feet three-toed, palmated; tail short.
Food, mostly fish, and captured by diving.

  133. ALCA (Razor-bill). Bill large, sharp-edged, the basal half
    feathered, the terminal part grooved laterally; upper mandible much
    curved towards the point; nostrils nearly concealed by a feathered
    membrane; tail pointed.                                      _Page 291_

  134. ÚRIA (Guillemot). Bill strong, nearly straight, sharp-pointed, of
    moderate length; nostrils basal, partly covered by a feathered
    membrane; first primary longest.                             _Page 292_

  135. MÉRGULUS. (Little Auk). Bill strong, conical, slightly curved,
    shorter than the head; nostrils basal, partly covered by a feathered
    membrane; first and second primaries equal.                  _Page 294_

  136. FRATERCULA (Puffin). Bill shorter than head, higher than long,
    ridge of upper mandible higher than crown; both mandibles much
    curved throughout, transversely furrowed, notched at tip; nostrils
    basal, almost closed by a naked membrane.                    _Page 295_


Bill slightly compressed, not covered with a membranous skin; edges of
the mandibles unarmed, or but slightly toothed; wings short; legs
placed far behind; tarsi very much compressed; toes four. Food, fish
and other aquatic animal substances obtained by diving. Females
smaller than males.

  137. COLYMBUS (Diver). Bill forming a pointed cylindrical cone; front
    toes entirely palmated; tail very short.                     _Page 297_


Hallux raised above level of other toes; toes with wide lateral lobes,
united at base. Tail vestigial.

  138. PÓDICIPES (Grebe). Bill forming pointed cylindrical cone;
    secondaries, if any, very little shorter than primaries.     _Page 300_


External nostrils are produced into tubes; anterior toes fully webbed;
hallux small or absent.


Nostrils united exteriorly above culmen.

  139. FULMARUS (Fulmar). Bill not so long as head; upper mandible of
    four portions divided by indentations, the whole large, strong,
    curving suddenly to point; under mandible grooved along sides, bent
    at end; edges of mandibles sharp; nostrils prominent, united,
    enclosed, somewhat hidden in tube with single external orifice;
    wings rather long, first quill longest; tarsi compressed, feet
    moderate.                                                    _Page 304_

  140. PUFFINUS (Shearwaters). Bill rather longer than head, slender;
    mandibles compressed, decurved; nasal tube low, both nostrils
    visible from above, directed forwards and slightly upwards; wings
    long, pointed, first quill slightly the longest; tail graduated;
    tarsi compressed laterally.                                  _Page 305_

  141. PROCELLARIA (Storm and Fork-tailed Petrels). Bill small, robust,
    much shorter than head, straight to nail, which is decurved; wings
    long, narrow, second quill longest, slightly exceeding third, first
    shorter than fourth; tail moderate, slightly rounded; legs moderate,
    claws rather short.                                          _Page 307_

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *





    Upper plumage ash brown; space between the bill and eye
    greyish white; wing-coverts edged and tipped with greyish
    white; under parts white, faintly tinged here and there with
    reddish yellow, marked all over with deep brown spots, which
    on the throat and breast are triangular, in other parts oval,
    broader on the flanks; under wing-coverts white; three lateral
    tail feathers tipped with greyish white. Length eleven inches;
    breadth eighteen inches. Eggs greenish or reddish white,
    spotted with brownish red. Young spotted on the head and back
    with buff and black.

The largest British song bird, distinguished from the Song Thrush not
only by its superior size, but by having white under wing-coverts, and
the whole of the under part of the body buffish-white, spotted with
black. It is a generally diffused bird, and is known by various local
names; in the west of England its popular name is Holm Thrush, or Holm
Screech, derived most probably, not, as Yarrell surmises, from its
resorting to the oak in preference to other trees, but from its
feeding on the berries of the holly, or holm; the title 'Screech'
being given to it from its jarring note when angry or alarmed, which
closely resembles the noise made by passing the finger-nail rapidly
along the teeth of a comb. Its French name, 'Draine', and German,
'Schnarre', seem to be descriptive of the same harsh '_churr_'. In
Wales, it has from its quarrelsome habits acquired the name of Penn y
llwyn, or, master of the coppice. Another of its names, Throstle Cock,
expresses its alliance with the Thrushes, and its daring nature; and
another Storm Cock, indicates 'not that it delights in storms more
than in fine weather, but that nature has taught it to pour forth its
melody at a time of the year when the bleak winds of winter roar
through the leafless trees'. The song of the Mistle Thrush is loud,
wild, and musical, Waterton calls it 'plaintive', Knapp 'harsh and
untuneful'. I must confess that I agree with neither. This note,
generally the earliest of the Spring sounds (for the Redbreast's song
belongs essentially to winter), is to my ear full of cheerful promise
amounting to confidence--a song of exultation in the return of genial
weather. The bird sings generally perched on the topmost branch of
some lofty tree, and there he remains for hours together out-whistling
the wind and heeding not the pelting rain. This song, however, is not
continuous, but broken into passages of a few notes each, by which
characteristic it may be distinguished alike from that of the Thrush
or the Blackbird, even when mellowed by distance to resemble either.
The Mistletoe Thrush is essentially a tree-loving bird. During winter
its food mainly consists of berries, among which those of the Mountain
Ash and Yew have the preference, though it also feeds on those of the
Hawthorn, Ivy, Juniper, and the strange plant from which it derives
its name.[1] Towards other birds it is a very tyrant, selfish and
domineering in the extreme; to such a degree, indeed, that even when
it has appeased its appetite it will allow no other bird to approach
the tree which it has appropriated for its feeding ground. I have seen
it take possession of a Yew-tree laden with berries, and most
mercilessly drive away, with angry vociferations and yet more
formidable buffets, every other bird that dared to come near. Day
after day it returned, until the tree was stripped of every berry,
when it withdrew and appeared no more.

As soon as the unfrozen earth is penetrable by its beak, it adds to
its diet such worms and grubs as it can discover; and, if it be not
belied, it is given to plunder the nests of other birds of their eggs
and young. It may be on this account that Magpies, Jays, and other
large woodland birds, robbers themselves, entertain an instinctive
dislike towards it. Certainly these birds are its better enemies; but
in the breeding season it eludes their animosity by quitting the
woods, and resorting to the haunts of man. Its harsh screech is now
rarely heard, for its present object is not defiance, but immunity
from danger. Yet it takes no extraordinary pains to conceal its nest.
On the contrary, it usually places this where there is little or no
foliage to shadow it, in a fork between two large boughs of an apple,
pear, or cherry tree, sometimes only a few feet from the ground, and
sometimes twenty feet or more. The nest is a massive structure,
consisting of an external basket-work of twigs, roots, and lichens,
within which is a kind of bowl of mud containing a final lining of
grass and roots. The bird is an early builder. It generally lays five
eggs and feeds its young on snails, worms, and insects. The range of
the Mistle Thrush extends as far as the Himalayas. In Great Britain it
is a resident species.

   [1] That this thrush feeds on the berries of the mistletoe was
       stated by Yarrell, but it is not now generally believed to
       be a fact.


   Missel Thrush Song Thrush



      [_face p. 2_]]


   Blackbird [M] _imm._

      Blackbird [F] [M]

           Ring Ouzel [M] [F]]


    Upper parts brown tinged with olive; wing-coverts edged and
    tipped with reddish yellow; cere yellowish; throat white in
    the middle, without spots; sides of neck and breast reddish
    yellow with triangular dark brown spots; abdomen and flanks
    pure white with oval dark brown spots; under wing-coverts pale
    orange yellow; bill and feet greyish brown. Length, eight
    inches and a half, breadth thirteen inches. Eggs blue with a
    few black spots mostly at the larger end.

The Thrush holds a distinguished place among British birds, as
contributing, perhaps, more than any other to the aggregate charms of
a country life. However near it may be, its song is never harsh, and
heard at a distance its only defect is, that it is not nearer. It
possesses, too, the charm of harmonizing with all other pleasant
natural sounds. If to these recommendations we add that the Thrush
frequents all parts of England, and resorts to the suburban garden as
well as the forest and rocky glen, we think we may justly claim for it
the distinction among birds, of being the last that we would willingly
part with, not even excepting its allowed master in song himself, the
Nightingale. Three notes are often repeated: Did he do it? Shut the
gate, Kubelik.

The food of the Thrush during winter consists of worms, insects, and
snails. The first of these it picks up or draws out from their holes,
in meadows and lawns; the others it hunts for among moss and stones,
in woods and hedges, swallowing the smaller ones whole, and extracting
the edible parts of large snails by dashing them with much adroitness
against a stone. When it has once discovered a stone adapted to its
purpose, it returns to it again and again, so that it is not uncommon
in one's winter walks to come upon a place thickly strewn with broken
shells, all, most probably, the 'chips' of one workman. As spring
advances, it adds caterpillars to its bill of fare, and as the summer
fruits ripen, it attacks them all in succession; strawberries,
gooseberries, currants, raspberries, cherries, and, on the Continent,
grapes suit its palate right well; and, when these are gone, pears and
apples, whether attached to the tree or lying on the ground, bear, too
often for the gardener, the marks of its beak on their ripest side.
During all this period it relieves the monotony of its diet by an
occasional repast on animal food; as, indeed, in winter it alternates
its food whenever opportunity occurs, by regaling itself on wild
berries. Yet, despite the mischief which it perpetrates in our gardens
by devouring and spoiling much of the choicest fruit--for your thrush
is an epicure, and tastes none but the ripest and best--the service
which it renders as a devourer of insects more than compensates for
all. So the gardener, if a wise man, will prefer the scare-crow to the
gun, the protecting net to that which captures.

I know two adjoining estates in Yorkshire. On one the gardener shoots
blackbirds and thrushes in fruit time. On the other they are
protected. The latter yields always more fruit than the former.

The Thrush holds a high rank, too, among birds as an architect. Its
nest is usually placed in a thorn-bush, a larch or young fir-tree, a
furze-bush, an apple or pear tree, or an ordinary hedge, at no great
elevation from the ground, and not concealed with much attempt at art.
Indeed, as it begins to build very early, it is only when it selects
an evergreen that it has much chance of effectually hiding its
retreat. The nest externally is composed of feather-moss, intermatted
with bents, twigs, and small roots, and terminates above in a thicker
rim of the same materials. Thus far the bird has displayed her skill
as basket-maker. The outer case is succeeded by a layer of cow-dung,
applied in small pellets, and cemented with saliva. The builder, with
a beak for her only trowel, has now completed the mason's work. But
she has yet to show her skill as a plasterer; this she does by lining
her cup-like chamber with stucco made from decayed wood, pulverized
and reduced to a proper consistence, kneading it with her beak. With
this for her sole instrument, except her round breast, to give to the
whole the requisite form, she has constructed a circular bowl
sufficiently compact to exclude air and water, as true and as finely
finished as if it had been moulded on a potter's wheel, or turned on a

The Thrush lays four or five eggs, and rears several broods in the
season, building a new nest for each brood. During incubation the
female is very tame, and will suffer herself to be approached quite
closely without deserting her post. In the vicinity of houses, where
she is familiar with the human form, she will even take worms and
other food from the hand.


    Upper plumage olive brown; lore black and yellow; a broad
    white streak above the eye; lower plumage white, with numerous
    oblong dusky spots, middle of the abdomen without spots; under
    wing-coverts and flanks bright orange red; bill dusky; feet
    grey. Length eight inches, breadth thirteen inches. Eggs
    greenish blue mottled with dark brownish red spots.

The Redwing (called in France _Mauvis_, whence an old name for the
Song-thrush, 'Mavis') is the smallest of the Thrushes with which we
are familiar. It is, like the Fieldfare, a bird of passage, reaching
us from the north about the same time with the Woodcock, in October.
It resembles the Song-thrush more than any other bird of the family,
but may readily be distinguished even at some distance by the light
stripe over the eye, and its bright red under wing-coverts. In some
parts of France it is much sought after by the fowler, its flesh
being considered by many superior to that of the Quail and Woodcock.
It owes perhaps some of this unfortunate distinction to the fact of
its arriving in France in time to fatten on grapes, for in this
country it is often too lean to be worth cooking. Being impatient of
cold, it is less abundant in the north of England than the south; but
even in the mild climates of Devon and Cornwall, where it congregates
in large numbers, it is so much enfeebled by unusually severe weather,
as to be liable to be hunted down by boys with sticks, and a Redwing
starved to death used to be no unfrequent sight in the course of a
winter's ramble. As long as the ground remains neither frozen nor
snowed up, the open meadows may be seen everywhere spotted with these
birds, but when the earth becomes so hard as to resist their efforts
in digging up worms and grubs, they repair to the cliffs which border
the sea-coast, where some sunny nook is generally to be found, to
woods in quest of berries, or to the watercourses of sheltered
valleys. At these times they are mostly silent, their only note, when
they utter any, being simple and harsh; but in France they are said to
sing towards the end of February, and even in this country they have
been known to perch on trees in mild weather, and execute a regular
song. Towards the end of April or beginning of May, they take their
departure northwards, where they pass the summer, preferring woods and
thickets in the vicinity of marshes. Mr. Hewitson states that while he
was travelling through Norway 'the Redwing was but seldom seen, and
then perched upon the summit of one of the highest trees, pouring
forth its delightfully wild note. It was always very shy, and upon
seeing our approach would drop suddenly from its height, and disappear
among the underwood. Its nest, which we twice found with young ones
(although our unceasing endeavours to find its eggs were fruitless),
was similar to that of the Fieldfare. The Redwing is called the
Nightingale of Norway, and well it deserves the name', and Turdus
Ilíacus because it frequented in such great numbers the environs of


    Head, nape, and lower part of the back dark ash colour; upper
    part of the back and wing-coverts chestnut brown; lore black;
    a white rim above the eyes; throat and breast yellowish red
    with oblong dark spots; feathers on the flanks spotted with
    black and edged with white; abdomen pure white without spots;
    under wing-coverts white, beak brown, tipped with black.
    Length ten inches, breadth seventeen inches. Eggs light blue,
    mottled all over with dark red brown spots.

The Fieldfare is little inferior in size to the Missel Thrush, with
which, however, it is not likely to be confounded even at a distance,
owing to the predominant bluish tinge of its upper plumage. In the
west of England, where the Thrush is called the Grey-bird, to
distinguish it from its ally the Blackbird, the Fieldfare is known by
the name of Bluebird, to distinguish it from both. It is a migratory
bird, spending its summer, and breeding, in the north of Europe, and
paying us an annual visit in October or November. But it is impatient
of cold, even with us, for in winters of unusual severity it migrates
yet farther south, and drops in upon our meadows a second time in the
spring, when on its way to its summer quarters. Fieldfares are
eminently gregarious; not only do they arrive at our shores and depart
from them in flocks, but they keep together as long as they remain,
nor do they dissolve their society on their return to the north, but
build their nests many together in the same wood. In this country,
they are wild and cautious birds, resorting during open weather to
watercourses and damp pastures, where they feed on worms and insects,
and when frost sets in betaking themselves to bushes in quest of haws
and other berries; or in very severe weather resorting to the muddy or
sandy sea-shore. They frequent also commons on which the Juniper
abounds, the berries of this shrub affording them an abundant banquet.
Unlike the Blackbird and Thrush, they rarely seek for food under
hedges, but keep near the middle of fields, as if afraid of being
molested by some concealed enemy. When alarmed, they either take
refuge in the branches of a high tree in the neighbourhood, or remove
altogether to a distant field. The song of the Fieldfare I have never
heard: Toussenel doubts whether it has any; Yarrell describes it as
'soft and melodious'; Bechstein as 'a mere harsh disagreeable warble';
while a writer in the _Zoologist_ who heard one sing during the mild
January of 1846, in Devon, describes it as 'combining the melodious
whistle of the Blackbird with the powerful voice of the Mistle
Thrush'. Its call-note is short and harsh, and has in France given it
the provincial names of Tia-tia and Tchatcha. This latter name accords
with Macgillivray's mode of spelling its note, _yack chuck_, harsh
enough, no one will deny. 'Our attention was attracted by the harsh
cries of several birds which we at first supposed must be Shrikes, but
which afterwards proved to be Fieldfares. We were now delighted by the
discovery of several of their nests, and were surprised to find them
(so contrary to the habits of other species of the genus with which we
are acquainted) breeding in society. Their nests were at various
heights from the ground, from four to thirty or forty feet or upwards;
they were, for the most part, placed against the trunk of the Spruce
Fir; some were, however, at a considerable distance from it, upon the
upper surface and towards the smaller end of the thicker branches:
they resembled most nearly those of the Ring Ouzel; the outside is
composed of sticks and coarse grass and weeds gathered wet, matted
with a small quantity of clay, and lined with a thick bed of fine dry
grass: none of them yet contained more than three eggs, although we
afterwards found that five was more commonly the number than four, and
that even six was very frequent; they are very similar to those of the
Blackbird, and even more so to the Ring Ouzel. The Fieldfare is the
most abundant bird in Norway, and is generally diffused over that part
which we visited, building, as already noticed, in society; two
hundred nests or more being frequently seen within a very small
space.' Oddly enough two hundred was just the number of a colony of
nests in Thüringen on the estate of Baron von Berlepsch, which were
those of Fieldfares he had induced to come by trimming the trunks of a
long row of Black Poplar trees so as to afford good sites for the
nests. The present editor visited these in 1906. Some few instances
are on record of the Fieldfare breeding in this country, but these are
exceptional. In general they leave us in April and May, though they
have been observed as late as the beginning of June.


    _Male_--plumage wholly black; bill and orbits of the eyes
    orange yellow; feet black. _Female_--upper plumage sooty
    brown; throat pale brown with darker spots; breast reddish
    brown passing into dark ash brown; bill and legs dusky. Length
    ten inches; breadth sixteen inches. Eggs greenish grey,
    spotted and speckled with light red brown.

With his glossy coat and yellow beak the Blackbird is a handsomer bird
than the Thrush; his food is much the same: he builds his nest in
similar places; he is a great glutton when gooseberries are ripe, and
his rich mellow song is highly inspiriting. But he is suspicious and
wary; however hard pressed he may be by hunger, you will rarely see
him hunting for food in the open field. He prefers the solitude and
privacy of 'the bush'. In a furze-brake, a coppice, a wooded
watercourse, or a thick hedgerow, he chooses his feeding ground, and
allows no sort of partnership. Approach his haunt, and if he simply
mistrusts you, he darts out flying close to the ground, pursues his
course some twenty yards and dips again into the thicket, issuing most
probably on the other side, and ceasing not until he has placed what
he considers a safe distance between himself and his enemy. But with
all his cunning he fails in prudence; it is not in his nature to steal
away silently. If he only suspects that all is not right, he utters
repeatedly a low cluck, which seems to say, 'This is no place for me,
I must be off'. But if he is positively alarmed, his loud vociferous
cry rings out like a bell, informing all whom it may concern that
'danger is at hand, and it behoves all who value their safety to fly'.
Most animals understand the cry in this sense, and catch the alarm.
Many a time has the deer-stalker been disappointed of a shot, who,
after traversing half a mile on his hands and knees between rocks and
shrubs, has just before the critical moment of action started some
ill-omened Blackbird. Out bursts the frantic alarum, heard at a great
distance; the intended victim catches the alarm, once snuffs the air
to discover in what direction the foe lies concealed, and bounds to a
place of security. A somewhat similar note, not, however, indicative
of terror, real or imagined, is uttered when the bird is about to
retire for the night, and this at all seasons of the year. He would
merit, therefore, the title of 'Bellman of the woods'. Neither of
these sounds is to be confounded with the true _song_ of the
Blackbird. This is a full, melodious, joyful carol, many of the notes
being remarkable for their flute-like tone--'the whistling of the
Blackbird'--and varying greatly in their order of repetition; though I
am inclined to believe that most birds of this kind have a favourite
passage, which they repeat at intervals many times during the same


  1. A nest and eggs.

  2. The young just emerged from the egg and an egg (June 1).

  3. The day after hatching (June 2).

  4. Four days later (June 4).

  5. Sixth day out (June 5).

  6. Ninth day out.

  7. Eleventh day out.

  8. Fourteenth day out.

    We would draw attention to the extraordinary size of the bird
    just out as compared with the egg. On the sixth day the
    feather shafts with the tips of the encased feathers sticking
    out of them are quite formed, although two days earlier they
    were hardly more than indicated. On the ninth day feathers
    nearly cover the whole of the skin--on the eleventh day they
    do this completely. In No. 8 the bird was drawn after it had
    flown from the nest.


   Blackbirds Nest and Eggs Just Hatched.

      Day after.

      4th Day.

      6th Day.

      9th Day.

      11th Day.

   Blackbird, 14th day.

                              [_face p. 8._]]


      Stonechat [F] [M]

   Whinchat Black Redstart [F] [M]

   Redstart [M] [F]]

The song of the Blackbird does not meet the approbation of
bird-fanciers: 'It is not destitute of melody,' says Bechstein, 'but
it is broken by noisy tones, and is agreeable only in the open
country'. The art of teaching the Blackbird is of old date, for we
find in Pepys' Diary, May 22, 1663, the following passage: 'Rendall,
the house carpenter at Deptford, hath sent me a fine Blackbird, which
I went to see. He tells me he was offered twenty shillings for him as
he came along, he do so whistle. 23d. Waked this morning between four
and five by my Blackbird, which whistled as well as ever I heard any;
only it is the beginning of many tunes very well, but then leaves them
and goes no further.'

The song of the Blackbird is occasionally heard during the mild days
of winter, but it is not until spring sets in that it can be said to
be in full, uninterrupted song. It then repairs to some thick bush or
hedge, especially at the corner of a pond, and builds its nest, a
bulky structure, the framework of which is composed of twigs and
roots; within is a thin layer of mud lined with small fibrous roots,
bents, and moss. The nest contains four or five eggs, and the young
birds are fed with worms. In the breeding season Blackbirds are far
more venturesome than at any other time, as they frequently select a
garden in which to build their nest, with the double object, perhaps,
of procuring plenty of worms for their nestlings, and of launching
them when fledged where they will have great facilities for regaling
themselves on summer fruits. In such localities the appearance of a
cat near their nest greatly excites their wrath. From being timid they
become very courageous, scolding with all their might, darting down so
near as almost to dash in her face, and generally ending by compelling
her to beat a retreat.

The female Blackbird differs materially from the male, its plumage
being of a dingy brown hue, the breast light and spotted, the beak
dark brown with yellowish edges. White and pied specimens of both
sexes are occasionally met with. In a district of France not far from
Paris they are very numerous, and here the title to a certain estate
used to be kept up by the annual presentation of a white Blackbird to
the lord of the manor. Large flocks from the Continent visit us in the
autumn and winter.


    Plumage black edged with greyish white; a large
    crescent-shaped pure white spot on the throat; bill and legs
    dusky. _Female_ with the gorget smaller and tinged with red
    and grey, and the rest of the plumage greyer. Length ten
    inches. Eggs greenish white, spotted with reddish brown and

Ring Ouzel is hardly an appropriate name for this bird; for in reality
it does not wear a ring round its neck, but a white gorget on its
breast, the contrast between which and its black plumage is very
striking. It frequents the mountainous parts of Scotland and hilly
parts of Derbyshire, and other wild parts where moors and hills are.
Though never so abundant as the Blackbird and Thrush are in the
plains, it is far from uncommon. It is a migratory bird, arriving in
this country in April, and returning to its southern winter
quarters--Corsica and other islands of the Mediterranean--early in
autumn; not so early, however, as to miss the vintage season of the
south of Europe. In summer it travels as far north as Sweden and
Norway, where, on the authority of Mr. Hewitson, it is often seen
'enlivening the most bleak and desolate islands with its sweet song.
It shares with the Redwing the name of Nightingale, and often
delighted us in our midnight visits amongst the islands.' Its habits
and food while it remains with us are very similar to those of the
Blackbird, and its nest, generally built among stones and bushes, near
the ground, is constructed of the same materials with the nest of that
bird. Towards the end of their sojourn in Britain, Ring Ouzels descend
to the level countries, and are not unfrequently met with in gardens,
whither they repair for the sake of feeding on fruit and berries. In
form and movements the Ring Ouzel is a more elegantly shaped bird than
the Blackbird.


    Upper parts, in autumn reddish brown, in spring bluish grey;
    wings and wing-coverts, centre and extremity of the tail, legs
    and feet, bill and area which comprises the nostrils, eyes and
    ears, black; base and lower portion of the side of the tail
    pure white; the chin, forehead, stripe over the eyes, and
    under parts are also white, and in autumn the tail-feathers
    are also tipped with white. _Female_--upper parts ash-brown,
    tinged with yellow; stripe over the eyes dingy; all the
    colours less bright. Length six and a half inches; breadth
    twelve inches. Eggs pale bluish green.

During a considerable portion of its stay with us, open downs near
the sea are the favourite resort of this lively bird, to which it
repairs from its transmarine winter quarters towards the second week
of March. Here it may be seen for several weeks flitting from rock to
rock, and occasionally soaring to the height of about twenty yards
into the air, warbling from time to time its pleasant song, now aloft,
and now restlessly perched on a rock, or bank, or low stone wall,
calling _chack-chack_--and making itself all the more welcome that few
others among our summer visitants have as yet recovered their voices.
We need not suppose that Wheatears prolong their stay on the coast in
order to rest after their voyage. More probably they make marine
insects (for these are abundant even in early spring) the principal
portion of their food, and are taught, by the same instinct which
guided them across the sea, to remain where their wants will be fully
supplied until land insects have emerged from their winter quarters.
As the season advances many of them proceed inland, and repair to
barren districts, whether mountainous or lowland, where they may enjoy
a considerable expanse without any great admixture of trees. A wide
common studded with blocks of stone, a rabbit-warren or sloping
upland, is likely to be more or less thickly peopled by these shy
birds. Shy we term them, because, disposed as they are to be social
among themselves (especially in spring and autumn), they are with
respect to other birds most exclusive. Travelling through the waste
lands of England, one may sometimes go on for miles and see no winged
creatures but an occasional Wheatear, which, with dipping flight, made
conspicuous by the snow-white spot at the base of its tail, shoots
ahead of us some thirty or forty yards, alights on a stone, and, after
a few uneasy upward and downward movements of its tail, starts off
again to repeat the same manœuvre, until we begin to wonder what
tempts it to stray away so far from home. It does not ordinarily sing
during these excursions, but utters its occasional note, very
different from its spring song. It builds its nest of grass, moss, and
leaves, and lines it with hair or wool, selecting some very secret
spot on the ground, a deserted rabbit-burrow or cavity under a rock,
where, beyond the reach of any but the most cunning marauder, it lays
five or six eggs. Early in August, when the young are fully fledged,
the scattered colonies of Wheatears assemble for emigration on open
downs near the sea. We have seen a good many of them on the sandy
coast of Norfolk and of North Hales; but it is on the extensive downs
of Sussex that they collect in the largest numbers, not in flocks, but
in parties of six or eight; each party perhaps constituting a family.
They here retain their shy habits of flying off at the approach of a
human being, and are often seen to drop suddenly, where they may
remain concealed from sight behind a stone, furze-bush or bank. The
shepherds and others, whose vocation lies on the downs, used to take
advantage of the habit of these birds to conceal themselves, and
construct a multitude of simple but efficacious traps in which they
capture large numbers. The method which they adopted was to cut out
from the sward an oblong piece of turf about the size of a brick,
which they inverted over the hole from which it was taken so as to
form a cross. Beneath this are placed two running nooses of horsehair,
in which the poor bird, when it takes refuge in one of the open ends
of the hole for concealment, is easily snared. The birds being in fine
condition at this season--having, in fact, fattened themselves
previously to undertaking their long sea voyage--are highly prized as
a dainty article of food. It was formerly the custom for persons who
wanted a dish of Wheatears to supply themselves from the traps,
placing a penny in every hole from which they took a bird; but
afterwards the influx of visitors to the neighbouring watering-places
so much enhanced their value, that the shepherds allowed no such
interference. We once tried the experiment of releasing a bird and
depositing the penny-piece in the trap, when, from a neighbouring
eminence, we were assailed with such a torrent of abuse, that we
declined repeating the experiment. In September, all who have escaped
the sportsman and fowler wing their way to southern lands. It is
thought that the autumnal flocks are partially composed of birds on
their way from high latitudes, which stop to recruit their strength on
the South-downs previous to final emigration.

   [2] Stone-smatch in Yorkshire--from the Saxon, Steinschmätzer
       in German.


    Upper plumage dusky brown, edged with reddish yellow; over the
    eye a broad white streak; throat and sides of the neck white;
    neck and breast bright yellowish red; a large white spot on
    the wings and base of the tail; extremity of the latter and
    the whole of the two central feathers dusky brown; abdomen and
    flanks yellowish white. _Female_--yellowish white wherever the
    _male_ is pure white; the white spot on the wings smaller; the
    red parts dingy. Length five inches; breadth nine inches. Eggs
    bluish green, often minutely speckled with light brownish red.

A great deal that we have said of the Stonechat, will apply equally to
the Whinchat, as the two birds much resemble each other in character,
size, and habits. There is this difference, however, between them,
that a considerable number of Stonechats remain in Britain during the
winter, whereas the Whinchats, almost to a bird, leave our shores in
the autumn. The latter is by no means so common, and is rarely seen
except in wild places where the shrub is abundant from which it
derives its name of Whinchat, or Furzechat. For a small bird to have
black legs is, it seems, considered in France an indication of
peculiar delicacy of flesh. Both of these birds, therefore,
notwithstanding their diminutive size, are much sought after for the
table. Both are of restless habits, delighting to perch on the summit
of a furze-bush, where they keep the tail in constant motion,
occasionally spring into the air after an insect, and then dart off
with a dipping flight to another post of advantage. They repeat the
call of ü-_tick_! and their short and simple song, both while at rest
and on the wing; but they are not musical, and 'their flesh is
generally more esteemed than their song.' The Whinchat may be
distinguished at a considerable distance by the white streak over the
eye. Both nest and eggs of the two species are very similar.


    Head, throat, bill and legs, black; sides of the neck near the
    wing, tertial wing-coverts and rump, white; breast bright
    chestnut-red, shaded into yellowish white towards the tail;
    feathers of the back, wings and tail, black, with reddish
    brown edges. _Female_--feathers of the head and upper parts
    dusky brown, edged with yellowish red; throat black, with
    small whitish and reddish spots; less white in the wings and
    tail; the red of the breast dull. Length five and a quarter
    inches; breadth eight and a half inches. Eggs pale blue, the
    larger end often faintly speckled with reddish brown.

We can scarcely pass through a furze-brake during the spring and
summer months, without having the presence of the Stonechat almost
forced on our notice. I am acquainted with no small bird whose habits
are more marked, or more easily observed. Not even does the Skylark
build its nest more invariably on the ground, and 'soaring sings, and
singing soars', than does the Stonechat build its nest in a
furze-bush, and perch on the topmost twigs of shrubs. In the breeding
season, too, it seems not to wander far from its home: we know
therefore where a pair are to be found at any time; and they allow us
to approach so close to them, that we can readily distinguish them by
the tints of their plumage.

The nest of the pair may be within a few yards of the spot on which we
are standing; but the exact locality no one knows, nor is likely to
know but itself. The male is a beautiful creature, with a black head,
red breast, and several patches of pure white on its wings, the female
much more sober in her attire. Their purpose is evidently to distract
our attention from their nest. One is clinging to the top of a
Juniper, where he fidgets about uttering his _twit-click-click_, which
you can easily imitate by whistling once sharply and knocking two
stones together twice in rapid succession. The other is perched on the
top spine of a furze-bush--they are aspiring birds and must settle on
the _top_ of whatever they alight on, be it only a dock. Now one dips
down and is lost for a few seconds, to appear again, however, directly
on the summit of another bush; now they are on our right hand, now on
our left; now before us, and then behind. Are they describing a circle
round their nest for a centre, or are they trying to trick us into
the belief that they are better worth caring for than their young
ones, and may be caught if we will only be silly enough to chase them?
I do not know; but whatever their thoughts may be, _we_ certainly are
in them, and as certainly they are not delighted at our presence. We
walk on, and suddenly they are gone; but presently we encounter
another pair of the same birds, who if we loiter about will treat us
in exactly the same way, but, if we pass on steadily, will take little
notice of us.

We have little more to say of the Stonechat. It is not often heard to
sing; the reason probably being that, when listeners are in the way,
it is too anxious about its nest to be musical. Its food is
principally insects, which it often catches on the wing. In winter
(for they do not all leave us at this season) it feeds on worms, etc.
Its nest is remarkable more from its size and position (usually in the
centre of a furze-bush), than for neatness of structure. It lays five
eggs. Its name Rubícola denotes a dweller among brambles, and is by no
means inappropriate, as it rarely perches on any bush exceeding a
bramble in size. Its names Stonechat, Stoneclink or Stonechatter, are
evidently to be traced to the similarity between its note of alarm and
the striking together of two pebbles.


    Forehead white; throat black; head and upper part of the back
    bluish grey; breast, tail-coverts and tail (except the two
    central feathers, which are brown), bright rust-red; second
    primary equal to the sixth. _Female_--upper parts grey, tinged
    with red; larger wing-coverts edged with yellowish red; throat
    and abdomen whitish; breast, flanks, and under tail-coverts,
    pale red. Length, five inches and a quarter. Eggs uniform

Although of no great size this summer visitor is pretty sure to
attract attention by its peculiar colouring; its red tail and white
crown being sufficient to distinguish it from every other British
bird. It is familiar, too, in its habits, commonly resorting to
gardens, and searching for its favourite food, worms and insects, on
the lawn, and in orchards. It is local rather than rare, for while
there are some places to which it regularly resorts every year, there
are others in which it is never seen. Redstarts arrive in this country
about the end of April, and soon set about the work of building their
nest. This they generally place in a hole in a wall or hollow of a
tree, but sometimes by the mossy stump or amongst the exposed roots of
a tree. Occasionally they select a quaint domicile, a garden pot, for
example, left bottom upwards, or a sea-kale bed. A still stranger
instance is that of a pair of Redstarts, who, themselves or their
descendants, were for twenty years located in the box of a wooden
pump. On one occasion, the pump being out of order, the owner
employed workmen to repair it. This proceeding offended the birds, who
deserted it for three years, and then, forgetting or forgiving the
intrusion, returned to their unquiet home. Another pair constructed
their nest for ten successive years in the interior of an earthenware
fountain placed in the middle of a garden. But though not averse to
the haunts of men, the Redstart shows much anxiety when its nest is
approached, flitting about restlessly and uttering a plaintive cry. I
happened once to be walking in a friend's garden, and heard what I
supposed to be the chirping of two birds proceed from a large
apple-tree close by. As the notes were not familiar to me, I went
round the tree several times in order to discover whence they
proceeded. One of the notes was like the noise which may be made by
striking two pebbles together, the other a querulous chirp, and they
seemed to come from different parts of the tree. The author of the
music, however, allowed me several times to come very near him, and I
satisfied myself that both sounds proceeded from the same bird, a male
Redstart, whose nest, I afterwards heard, was built in an adjoining
shed. This singular power of ventriloquizing, or making its note
apparently proceed from a distant place, is possessed also by the
Nightingale, as any one may assure himself who will quietly creep up
to within a few yards of one of these birds when singing. The song of
the Redstart is short but pleasing, and it is emitted both while the
bird is at rest and on the wing, principally in the morning, and only
during two months of the year. Its food consists of small worms and
insects, which last it is very expert at catching on the wing; and in
summer, it regales itself on the soft fruits. Its nest is composed of
fibrous roots and moss, and is lined with hair, wool and feathers. It
lays about six eggs, which closely resemble those of the
Hedge-sparrow, only that they are smaller. In autumn, the Redstarts
retire southwards. On the African shores of the Mediterranean they are
very abundant, and are caught by the Arabs in traps of the simplest
construction. On the continent of Europe, notably in Italy, in spite
of their diminutive size, they are highly prized for food. The number
of Redstarts (both kinds), Redbreasts Fly-catchers and Nightingales
taken in traps is inconceivable. These birds being of about the same
size, and equally excellent in delicacy of flesh, are sold together in
all the market towns and are sent to the great cities. Thousands of
dozens are thus annually despatched; but this number is as nothing
compared with that consumed on the spot. In France Bird Protection has
done much to stop this cruel traffic. In the schools there the boys
and girls are now being taught to know and to care for the wild life
about them more than in our English Council Schools.


    Upper plumage bluish grey; bill, cheeks, throat, and breast,
    black, passing into bluish beneath; tail as in the last;
    greater wing-coverts edged with pure white; second primary
    equal to the seventh. _Female_--upper plumage duller; lower
    bright ash, passing into white; wings dusky, edged with grey;
    red of the tail less bright. Length, five inches and three
    quarters. Eggs pure shining white.

A much less frequent visitor to this country than the preceding, but
by no means ranking among our rarest birds, specimens occurring in the
winter of every year in some part of England or another, especially in
Devon and Cornwall. Its habits are much the same as those of its
congener; but it generally chooses a loftier situation for its nest,
which is placed in the walls of buildings, at an elevation varying
from a few feet to eighty or ninety. Its plumage differs in being much
darker in the fore part of the body, while the tail is of a brighter
red. The eggs are white. It generally arrives in England about the
first week in November, and remains with us all the winter. Its nest
has never been found in this country.


    Upper parts brownish grey tinged with olive; forehead, lore,
    and breast red, the red edged with ash-grey; abdomen white.
    _Female_ like the _male_, except that the upper parts are
    ash-brown, the red less bright, and the grey surrounding it
    less conspicuous. Length, five inches and three quarters. Eggs
    yellowish white, spotted with light reddish brown.

The Redbreast is everywhere invested with a kind of sanctity beyond
all other birds. Its wonted habit of making its appearance, no one
knows whence, to greet the resting traveller in places the most
lonely--its evident predilection for the society of the out-of-door
labourer, whatever his occupation--the constancy with which it affects
human habitations--and the readiness with which, without coaxing, or
taming, or training, it throws itself on human hospitality--engender
an idea that there must be some mysterious connexion between the
two--that if there were no men, there would be no Redbreasts. Trust on
one side engenders confidence on the other, and mutual attachment is
the natural result. There is something, too, beyond the power of
explanation in the fact that the Robin is the only bird which
frequents from choice the homes of men.

The habits of the Redbreast are so well known, that to describe them
would be simply to write down what every one has seen or may see.

It generally builds its nest in a hole, near the bottom of a hedge or
under the stump of a tree, in an ivy-clad wall, or amidst the creepers
trained round the veranda of a cottage. I have seen it also placed in
a niche in a wall intended for the reception of a vase, in a bee-hive
stored away on the rafters of an outhouse, and under a wisp of straw
accidentally left on the ground in a garden. It is usually composed of
dry leaves, roots, bents, and moss, lined with hair and wool, and
contains five or six eggs. The young birds are of a brown tint, and
have the feathers tipped with yellow, which gives them a spotted
appearance. Until they acquire the red breast, they are very unlike
the parents, and might be mistaken for young Thrushes, except that
they are much smaller. They may be often observed in gardens for many
days after they have left the nest, keeping together, perching in the
bushes, and clamorous for food, which the old birds bring to them from
time to time. It is said, that only one brood is reared in a year, but
this I am inclined to doubt, having observed in the same locality
families of young birds early in the spring, and late in the summer of
the same year. Towards the end of August, the young birds acquire the
distinctive plumage of their species, and are solitary in their habits
until the succeeding spring. The call-notes of the Redbreast are
numerous, and vary beyond the power of description in written words;
the song is loud, and it is needless to say, pleasing, and possesses
the charm of being continued when all our other feathered songsters
are mute. The red of the breast often has a brighter tint, it is
occasionally almost a carmine red. The late Lord Lilford told the
editor such were often birds that had been bred on the Continent.
Numbers of young birds come across the sea to us each autumn.


     Wheatear [F] [M]


   Hedge-sparrow Robin

                              [_p. 16._]]


   Whitethroat [M] [M] Garden Warbler [F]

     Lesser Whitethroat [M]

        Blackcap [M]]


    Upper plumage russet brown; tail bright rust-red; under
    plumage buffish white; flanks pale ash colour. Length six and
    a quarter inches; breadth nine and a half inches. Eggs uniform

The southern, eastern, and some of the midland counties of England,
enjoy a privilege which is denied to the northern and western--an
annual visit, namely, from the Nightingale. It is easy enough to
understand why a southern bird should bound its travels northwards by
a certain parallel, but why it should keep aloof from Devon and
Cornwall, the climate of which approaches more closely to that of its
favourite continental haunts than many of the districts to which it
unfailingly resorts, is not so clear. Several reasons have been
assigned--one, that cowslips do not grow in these counties; this may
be dismissed at once as purely fanciful; another is, that the soil is
too rocky; this is not founded on fact, for both Devon and Cornwall
abound in localities which would be to Nightingales a perfect
Paradise, if they would only come; a third is, that the proper food is
not to be found there: but this reason cannot be admitted until it is
proved that the portions of the island to which the Nightingale does
resort abound in some kind of insect food which is not to be found in
the extreme southern counties, and that the Nightingale, instead of
being, as it is supposed, a general insect-eater, confines itself to
that one; and this is a view of the question which no one has ventured
to take. My own theory--and I only throw it out for consideration--is
that the Nightingale is not found in these two counties on account of
their peculiar geographical position. The continental Nightingales are
observed to take their departure in autumn, either eastward through
Hungary, Dalmatia, Greece, and the islands of the Archipelago; or
southwards across the Straits of Gibraltar, but none by the broad part
of the Mediterranean. Hence we may infer that the bird dislikes a long
sea voyage, and that when in spring it migrates northward and
westward, it crosses the English Channel at the narrowest parts
only,[3] spreads itself over the nearest counties in the direction of
its migration, but is instinctively prevented from turning so far back
again to the south as the south-west peninsula of England. From
Scotland it would be naturally excluded by its northern position, and
from Ireland by the Welsh mountains and the broad sea.

For the dwellers in these unfavoured districts alone is my description
of the Nightingale intended; for, where it abounds, its habits are too
well known to need any description. Twenty-four hours of genial May
weather spent in the country with a good use of the eyes and ears,
will reveal more of the life and habits of the bird than is contained
in all the ornithological treatises that have been written on the
subject, and they are not a few.

No great amount of caution is necessary in approaching the Nightingale
while singing at night. One may walk unrestrainedly across the fields,
talking in an ordinary tone of voice, and not even find it necessary
to suppress conversation when close to a singing bird. Either he is
too intent on his occupation to detect the presence of strangers, or
he is aware of the security in which he is wrapped by the shades of
night, or he is actually proud of having listeners. In the
neighbourhood of my present residence in Hertfordshire, Nightingales
are numerous. They arrive about the seventeenth of April, and for the
first few days assemble year after year in the bushes and hedges of a
certain hillside, the position of which it would be unsafe to indicate
particularly, and taking their station two or three hundred yards
apart from each other, set up a rivalry of song which is surpassingly
beautiful. At this season, one may hear five or six chanting at once;
every break in the song of the nearest being filled up by the pipings
or wailings of the more distant ones. The male birds arrive several
days before the female, and employ the interval, it is fancifully
said, in contending for the prize in a musical contest. This period is
anxiously watched for by bird-catchers, who have learnt by experience
that birds entrapped before they have paired will bear confinement in
a cage, but that those captured after the arrival of their mates pine
to death. The Nightingale being a fearless bird and of an inquisitive
nature is easily snared; hence, in the neighbourhood of cities, the
earliest and therefore strongest birds fall ready victims to the
fowler's art.

It must not be supposed that this bird sings by night only. Every day
and all day long, from his first arrival until the young are hatched
(when it becomes his duty to provide for his family), perched in a
hedge or on the branch of a tree, rarely at any considerable height
from the ground, he pours forth his roundelay, now, however, obscured
by the song of other birds. But not even by day is he shy, for he will
allow any quietly disposed person to approach near enough to him to
watch the movement of his bill and heaving chest. At the approach of
night he becomes silent, generally discontinuing his song about an
hour before the Thrush, and resuming it between ten and eleven. It is
a disputed point whether the Nightingale's song should be considered
joyous or melancholy. This must always remain a question of taste. My
own opinion is, that the piteous wailing note which is its most
characteristic nature, casts a shade of sadness as it were over the
whole song, even those portions which gush with the most exuberant
gladness. I think, too, though my assertion may seem a barbarous one,
that if the Nightingale's song comprised the wailing notes alone, it
would be universally shunned as the most painfully melancholy sound in
nature. From this, however, it is redeemed by the rapid transition,
just when the anguish of the bird has arrived at such a pitch as to be
no longer supportable, to a passage overflowing with joy and gladness.
In the first or second week of June he ceases his song altogether. His
cataract of sweet sounds is exhausted, and his only remaining note is
a harsh croak exactly resembling that of a frog, or the subdued note
of a raven, _wate-wate_ or _cur-cur_. On one occasion only I have
heard him in full song so late as the fourth week in June: but this
probably was a bird whose first nest had been destroyed, and whose
song consequently had been retarded until the hatching of a second
brood. From this time until the end of August, when he migrates
eastward, he may often be observed picking up grubs, worms, and ants'
eggs on the garden lawn, or under a hedge in fields, hopping from
place to place with an occasional shake of the wings and raising of
the tail, and conspicuous whenever he takes one of his short flights
by his chestnut brown tail-coverts.

The Nightingale's nest is constructed of dead leaves, principally of
the oak, loosely put together and placed on the ground under a bush.
Internally it is lined with grass, roots, and a few hairs. It contains
four or five eggs of a uniform olive-brown.

   [3] This is the opinion of Gilbert White.



    Crown of the head ash colour, with brown streaks; sides of the
    neck, throat, and breast, bluish grey; bill strong and broad
    at base; wing-coverts and feathers on the back reddish brown,
    with a tawny spot in the centre; middle wing-coverts tipped
    with yellowish white; lower tail-coverts brown, with a whitish
    border; middle of abdomen white. Length five and a half
    inches. Eggs greenish blue, without spots.

Inveterate custom has so attached the name of Hedge Sparrow to this
bird, that in spite of all the efforts of ornithologists to convince
the world that it is no sparrow at all (a hard-beaked, grain-eating
bird), but a true warbler, it is still more frequently called by its
popular name than by any of those that have been suggested. The
gentle, innocent, confiding, little brown bird, which creeps like a
mouse through our garden flower-beds, picks up a meagre fare in our
roads and lanes, builds its nest in our thorn hedges, and though dingy
itself, lays such brilliant blue eggs, has been known to us from our
infancy as a 'Hedge Sparrow', and we decline any innovation: the name
is a time-honoured one, and no one will mistake us. Hedge Accentor,
Hedge Warbler, and Shuffle-wing, are names open to those who prefer
them, but we adhere to the old-fashioned designation of Hedge Sparrow.
This bird is a genuine Warbler, and one of the few belonging to the
tribe who remain with us all the winter; we should suppose, indeed,
that he never wandered far from the place of his birth. At all seasons
his habits and food appear to be the same. All day long he is
shuffling about on the ground picking up minute atoms, whether seeds
or insects, who knows? Every day, nearly all the year round, he
repairs at intervals to the nearest hedge, where he sings a song, soft
and gentle like himself; and every evening, when the Blackbird rings
his curfew bell, he fails not to respond with his drowsy _cheep_,
_cheep_, as he repairs to the bush he has selected for his night's
rest. Very early in spring, before his brother warblers have arrived
from the south, he has chosen his mate, built his snug nest, and too
probably commenced a second; for unsuspicious in nature, he does not
retire to solitary places for this purpose, and the leafless hedges
but ill conceal his labours from the peering eyes of all-destroying
ploughboys. Such are nearly all his "short and simple annals". He
quarrels with no one, he achieves no distinction, throwing no one into
ecstasies with his song, and stealing no one's fruit; unobtrusive and
innocent, he claims no notice, and dreads no resentment; and so,
through all the even tenor of his way, he is, without knowing it, the
favourite of children, and of all the good and gentle.



    Head ash-grey; rest of the upper parts grey, tinged with rust
    colour; wings dusky, the coverts edged with red; lower parts
    white, faintly tinged on the breast with rose colour; tail
    dark brown, the outer feather white at the tip and on the
    outer web, the next only tipped with white. _Female_ without
    the rose tint on the breast, but with the upper plumage more
    decidedly tinged with red; feet brown. Length five inches and
    a half; breadth eight and a half. Eggs greenish white, thickly
    spotted with reddish and greenish brown. Young, leaving nest,
    differ very little from adult birds.

The Whitethroat is in England the most common of all the migratory
warblers, and is generally diffused. It is essentially a hedge-bird,
neither taking long flights nor resorting to lofty trees. Early in May
it may be detected in a hawthorn or other thick bush, hopping from
twig to twig with untiring restlessness, frequently descending to the
ground, but never making any stay, and all the while incessantly
babbling with a somewhat harsh but not unpleasant song, composed of
numerous rapid and short notes, which have but little either of
variety or compass. Occasionally it takes a short flight along the
hedge, generally on the side farthest from the spectator, and proceeds
to another bush a few yards on, where it either repeats the same
movements, or perches on a high twig for a few seconds. From time to
time it rises into the air, performing curious antics and singing all
the while. Its short flight completed, it descends to the same or an
adjoining twig; and so it seems to spend its days. From its habit of
creeping through the lower parts of hedges, it has received the
popular name of 'Nettle-creeper'. From the grey tone of its plumage,
it is in some districts of France called '_Grisette_', and in others,
from its continuous song, '_Babillarde_', names, however, which are
popularly applied without distinction to this species and the next.
While singing it keeps the feathers of its head erected, resembling in
this respect the Blackcap and several of the other warblers. Though
not naturally a nocturnal musician, it does not, like most other
birds, when disturbed at night, quietly steal away to another place of
shelter, but bursts into repeated snatches of song, into which there
seems to be infused a spice of anger against the intruder.[4] Its food
consists of insects of various kinds; but when the smaller fruits
begin to ripen, it repairs with its young brood to our gardens, and
makes no small havoc among raspberries, currants, and cherries. It
constructs its nest among brambles and nettles, raised from two to
three feet from the ground, of bents and the dry stems of herbs, mixed
with cobweb, cotton from the willow, bits of wool, and horsehair. It
usually lays five eggs.

   [4] This night song is rarely heard except in the months of May
       and June.


    Head and lore dark ash-grey; rest of the upper parts greyish
    ash, tinged with brown; wings brown, edged with ash-grey; tail
    dusky, outer feather as in the last, the two next tipped with
    white; lower parts pure silvery white; feet deep lead colour.
    Length five inches and a quarter. Eggs greenish white, spotted
    and speckled, especially at the larger end, with ash and

Gilbert White in his charming history says, "A rare, and I think a new
little bird frequents my garden, which I have very great reason to
think is the Pettichaps; it is common in some parts of the kingdom;
and I have received formerly dead specimens from Gibraltar. This bird
much resembles the Whitethroat, but has a more white, or rather
silvery breast and belly; is restless and active, like the
Willow-wrens, and hops from bough to bough, examining every part for
food; it also runs up the stems of the crown-imperials, and, putting
its head into the bells of those flowers, sips the liquor which stands
in the nectarium of each petal. Sometimes it feeds on the ground like
the Hedge-Sparrow, by hopping about on the grass plots and mown
walks." The little bird of which the amiable naturalist gives so
interesting a description, was, there is little doubt, that which is
now called the Lesser Whitethroat, then a 'new bird', inasmuch as it
had not been made a distinct species, and necessarily a 'rare bird',
not because a few only visited Britain, but because, until his time
set the example, competent observers of birds were rare. It differs
externally from the preceding, in its smaller size, and the darker
colour of its beak, upper plumage, and feet, and resembles it closely
in its habits, though I have never observed that it indulges in the
eccentric perpendicular flights, which have gained for its congener,
the Greater Whitethroat, the quaint sobriquet of 'singing skyrocket.'
It feeds, too, on insects, and is not found wanting when raspberries
and cherries are ripe. But no matter what number of these it consumes,
it ought with its companions to be welcomed by the gardener as one of
his most valuable friends. For it should be borne in mind, that these
birds, by consuming a portion of a crop of ripe fruit, do not at all
injure the trees, but that the countless aphides and caterpillars
which they devoured at an earlier period of the year, would, if they
had been allowed to remain, have feasted on the leaves and young
shoots, and so not only have imperilled the coming crop, but damaged
the tree so materially as to impair its fertility for some time to
come. Those birds, therefore, which in spring feed on insects and
nourish their young on the same diet, may be considered as necessary
to protect from injury the trees which are destined to supply them
with support when insect food becomes scarce. Consider what would be
the result if the proper food of birds were leaves, or if insects were
permitted to devour the foliage unchecked! our woods would be
leafless, our gardens would become deserts.


    Upper parts greyish brown, slightly tinged with olive; orbits
    white; below the ear a patch of ash-grey; throat dull white;
    breast and flanks grey, tinged with rust colour; rest of the
    under parts dull white. Length five inches and three-quarters;
    breadth eight and a half. Eggs greenish white, speckled with
    two shades of greenish brown.

Though tolerably well dispersed throughout England, this bird is by no
means so abundant as the Blackcap, which it resembles in size and
habits, but it arrives later, coming early in May. It is very local.
Its song is little if at all inferior to that of the bird just named,
and it is far from improbable that some of the sweet strains for which
the Blackcap gets credit, particularly late in the summer, may be
produced by the Garden Warbler; I have heard its song so late as the
fifth of October. By some authors it is called the Greater Pettychaps,
by others the _Fauvette_, which latter name is by some French
ornithologists applied to the group containing this bird and several
allied species. Its nest and eggs are so like those of the Blackcap as
to be discriminated with difficulty.


    Top and back of the head black, in the _female_ chocolate
    colour; upper parts, wings, and tail ash-grey, slightly tinged
    with olive; neck light grey passing into greyish white; bill
    and feet black. Length five inches and a half; breadth eight
    and a half. Eggs pale greenish white, variously mottled with
    several shades of brown; sometimes pinkish, mottled with light
    purple, and speckled with dark purple.

Whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the character of the
Nightingale's song--whether it partakes more of joyousness or of
melancholy--the gladsomeness of the Blackcap's warble is beyond all
dispute. Conceding to the Nightingale the first place among the
warblers which visit England, we do not hesitate to claim the second
for the Blackcap. Its song is inferior in power and compass to that of
the bird of night, but there is about it a delicious eloquence which
makes it irresistibly charming. White of Selborne describes it as
"full, sweet, deep, loud and wild"; high but not unmerited praise. If
there are no vocal efforts to astonish, there are no piteous wailings
to distress, and though the bird retires to rest at a reasonable hour,
it continues its song until a late period of the season, long after
that of the Nightingale has degenerated to a croak. It has been
compared to that of the Redbreast, but it is more mellow and
flute-like; to that of the Thrush, but it is softer and of more
compass; to that of the Lark, but it is more varied. A practised ear
will confound it with neither of these, though, strange to say, many
persons who have lived all their lives in the country and who take
much interest in its pleasant sights and sounds, habitually confound
it with the song of one or other of these birds, not knowing to whom
they are indebted for one of the principal charms of their gardens.
The Blackcap, like several other of the migratory warblers, returns
again and again to its old haunts. For six successive years it has
been known to build its nest in a bramble which hung down from a rock
in a public garden; and for even a longer period my own garden has
been annually visited by a pair who, from unfailingly resorting to the
same bushes, must, I have little doubt, be the same pair, though I
cannot say that I have found or even searched for their nest. On its
first arrival in April, the Blackcap is in the habit of what
bird-fanciers call 'recording'--that is, practising over its song in a
low tone. During this season of rehearsal it does not care to be seen,
but hides away in a thick bush. It is nevertheless by no means shy of
being heard, as it will allow the listener to approach within a few
yards of its hiding-place without stopping its song, and if disturbed
will remove to a very little distance and recommence. After a few days
it acquires its full powers of voice.

Its song is now remarkable among the full choir for sweetness,
loudness, and long continuance. Its food at this time consists of
aphides, caterpillars, and other small insects which infest roses and
fruit-trees; it rarely captures flies on the wing or descends to feed
on the ground. In June it begins to sing shorter strains, but with no
diminished power. It may then be observed flying from branch to branch
of an apple-tree, resting for a few seconds only in the same spot, and
busily occupied in collecting grubs or aphides, then indulging in a
short strain. In July, when the raspberries ripen, the Blackcap
becomes chary of its song, and introduces its young brood to the
choicest and juiciest fruit; in their attentions to which both old and
young birds are exceedingly pertinacious, holding scarecrows in
extreme contempt, and heeding clapping of hands or the discharge of a
gun as little. The young of the first year resemble the adult female
in having a chocolate-coloured crown. The song of the Blackcap may be
heard occasionally late in the summer; in September or October both
old and young take their departure, and the Redbreast is left without
a rival to assert his superiority as a warbler, until the return of
spring. The nest is usually placed in a hedge or low bush, a few feet
from the ground, and is constructed of bents, and lined with fibrous
roots and hair. The male bird assists the female in performing the
office of incubation, and is said to relieve the monotony of his
occupation by singing, thus often betraying a well-concealed nest.


    Upper parts blackish brown; under, purplish red; middle of the
    abdomen white; tail long, dark brown, the outer feather tipped
    with white; wings very short; quills ash-grey on the inner
    web, dark brown on the outer; feet yellowish; bill yellowish
    white, with a black tip. Length five inches and a half. Eggs
    greenish white, speckled all over, and especially at the
    larger end, with brown and ash-grey.

This species received its name from having been first shot on Bexley
Heath, near Dartford in 1773. It has since been observed on furzy
commons in several of the southern and western counties, but is local
and nowhere abundant. In its habits it resembles the Stone and Furze
Chats, perching on the upper sprays of the furze and whitehorn, but
never still for a minute, throwing itself into various attitudes,
erecting its crest and tail at intervals, frequently rising into the
air with most fantastic movements, catching insects on the wing, and
either returning to the same twig, or making a short flight to some
other convenient bush. The syllables '_cha cha cha_' are several times
repeated when the bird is irritated. Its note is commonly _Pitchou_,
hence its French name. It keeps quite aloof from human habitations,
and is so timid that on the approach of an observer, it creeps into a
bush, and remains concealed until the danger is past. The nest of
goose grass and soft bits of furze, wool and moss is placed in the
fork of a furze-bush selected for its thickness and difficulty of
access. It is somewhat wandering, but may be called a resident in the
South, gradually extending northwards. Many specimens have been
observed in mid-winter, and Rennie states that he has seen one as
early as the end of February hovering over furze and singing like a


    Upper parts of a uniform reddish brown, without spots;
    wing-feathers brown, edged with olive; a white streak between
    (not over) the eye and bill; throat white; under plumage
    yellowish white, the sides tinged with reddish; tail long,
    rounded. Length five and a half inches; breadth seven and a
    half. Eggs dull greenish white, speckled with olive and light
    brown, especially towards the larger end.

Both the Sedge and the Reed warblers are _jaseuses_, or chatterers,
with rounded tails; but the Sedge Warbler has its upper plumage
spotted with dark brown, and a white line above its eye, while the
upper plumage of the Reed Warbler is of a uniform pale brown, and the
light mark is absent from above the eye. The haunts and habits of the
two birds are precisely similar, but the Reed Warbler is by far the
less common of the two; for while the Sedge Warbler is sure to be
found wherever the Reed Warbler has been observed, the converse by no
means follows. The parts of England in which it appears to be most
frequent, are East Riding of Yorkshire, Essex, Surrey, Kent, Suffolk,
and Norfolk. In the reed-beds on the banks of the Thames, between
Erith and Greenwich, it is common.

"The nest of the Reed Warbler is often elegantly built, and generally
fixed to three or four reed-stems. It is composed of slender blades of
grass, interwoven with reed-tops, dry duckweed, and the spongy
substance which covers many of the marsh ditches; and, here and there,
a long piece of sedge is wound securely around it; the lining is of
the finer flowering stems of grass, intermixed with a little
horsehair. It is a deep and solid structure, so that the eggs cannot
easily roll out; it is firmly fastened to the reeds in tidal ditches
and rivers, at the height of three or four feet from the water, but in
still ditches often not more than a foot. In windy weather, when
wading through the reed-beds, I have seen nests, with both old and
young in them, blown nearly to the surface of the water; but the birds
fix their claws firmly to the sides of the nest, with their heads to
windward, and thus ride as securely in their cradle as a sailor does
in his cot or hammock."[5] The Cuckoo occasionally chooses the Reed
Warbler's nest to lay its eggs in, for the same writer remarks--"At
the latter end of July, 1829, while reading in my garden, which
adjoins a market garden, I was agreeably surprised to see a young
Cuckoo, nearly full-grown, alight on the railings between the two, not
more than a dozen yards from where I was sitting. Anxious to see what
bird had reared this Cuckoo, I silently watched his movements, and had
not waited more than a minute, when a Reed Warbler flew to the Cuckoo,
who, crouching down with his breast close to the rail, and fluttering
his wings, opened wide his orange-coloured mouth to receive the insect
his foster-mother had brought him. This done, the Reed Warbler flew
away for a fresh supply of food. The difference in the size of the two
birds was great; it was like a pigmy feeding a giant. While the Reed
Warbler was absent, the Cuckoo shuffled along the rail, and hopped
upon a slender post to which it was nailed, and which projected about
eight inches above the rail. The Reed Warbler soon returned with more
food, and alighted close to the Cuckoo, but on the rail beneath him;
she then began to stretch herself to the utmost to give him the food,
but was unable to reach the Cuckoo's mouth, who, like a simpleton,
threw his head back, with his mouth wide open, as before. The Reed
Warbler, by no means at a loss, perched upon the Cuckoo's broad back,
who, still holding back his head, received in this singular way the
morsel brought for him." The song of the Reed Warbler is loudest and
at its best during the evening twilight.

   [5] Mr. W. H. Thomas, in the _Zoologist_, p. 97.


    Upper parts olive-green without any reddish tinge; legs and
    feet pale brown.

The Marsh Warbler is local in its occurrence, in the south of England.
It nests in drier places than the Reed Warbler and its song is
different, being much more melodious, and uttered more boldly. Close
to low bushes, or among meadow-sweet, nettles and cow-parsnip, you may
find its nest, which is made of fine rounded stalks of grass and lined
with horsehair. There are five to seven eggs, whiter in ground colour
than those of the Reed Warbler. The Marsh Warbler comes each spring to
the neighbourhood of Taunton, but it is still a somewhat rare species.


    Upper plumage olive-grey, the centre of each feather tinged
    with brown; above the eyes a broad yellowish white stripe;
    under, yellowish white, more or less tinged with red; throat
    white; tail rounded, of moderate length, of a uniform
    ash-brown. Length four and a half inches; breadth seven and a
    half. Eggs dirty white, mottled all over with dull yellowish

On the banks of reedy and bushy rivers, in marshes, withy holts,
wherever, in fact, there is fresh water associated with enough
vegetation to shelter and conceal, this bustling little bird is a
constant summer visitor; restless in its habits, and courting notice
by its twittering song, from the time of its arrival to that of its
departure. It is usually first detected by its rapidly repeated note,
which it utters while performing its short flights from bush to bush,
and while creeping in and out among reeds and rushes. The fisherman
knows it well, and is often tempted to withdraw his eye from his fly
or float, to watch its movements on the opposite bank. From its
unceasing babble, ploughboys call it a 'chat', a name which
exactly answers to the French name of the group to which it
belongs--'_Jaseuses_'. Its note is remarkable neither for volume nor
sweetness, and, like that of unfeathered chatterers, seems to carry
more noise than meaning. To a certain extent the bird is a mimic, as
it imitates such notes of other birds as are within the compass of its
little throat. I was walking one morning in May by the banks of a
canal not far from a village, when I remarked the exact resemblance
between a portion of its song and the chirrup of a House Sparrow.
Intermixed with this, I detected the note of some other bird; but,
familiar though it sounded, I ransacked my memory in vain to discover
from whom it was purloined. Pursuing my walk towards the houses, I
heard the note of some Guinea-fowls; not the 'come-back' cry, but the
'click-click' which every one knows so well. Of this the Sedge
Warbler had caught exactly both the key and the time; the two notes
were in fact identical, except that they were performed on instruments
of different calibre. Like other chatterers, who, when they have
finished their song, are easily provoked to begin again, the Sedge
Warbler, if he does occasionally retire to a bed of reeds and there
holds his peace, may be excited to repeat his whole story over again,
with variations and additions, by flinging a stone into his
breathing-place. And not content with babbling all day, he extends his
loquacity far into the night; hence he has been called the Sedge
Nightingale, but with doubtful propriety, for, with all the will
perhaps to vie with that prince of songsters, the _zinzinare_ of the
Nightingale is far beyond his powers. Yet in spite of his
obtrusiveness, he is an amusing and a pleasant companion to the
wanderer by the river's side: his rivalry is devoid of malice, and his
mimicry gives no one pain. While at rest--if he is ever to be detected
in this state--he may be distinguished from all other birds
frequenting similar haunts by his rounded tail, and a light narrow
mark over each eye. His food consists of worms, insects, and
fresh-water mollusks, for which he hunts among the stems of aquatic
plants. As an architect, he displays great skill, constructing his
nest among low bushes, never at any great distance from the water,
about a foot from the ground. It is composed of stems and leaves of
dead grass, moss and fine roots, and lined with hair, wool, feathers,
and the down of various marsh plants. The structure is large, compact,
and deep, suspended from, rather than built on, its supports. The eggs
are usually five or six in number, though as many as seven have been
sometimes found.


    Upper parts light brown, with a tinge of green, and presenting
    a spotted appearance, owing to the centres of the feathers
    being darkest; tail long, rounded at the extremity and
    tapering towards the base; under parts whitish brown, the
    breast marked with darker spots; feet and toes light brown.
    Length five and a half inches; breadth seven and a half. Eggs
    reddish white, closely speckled with darker red.

As long ago as the time when a stroll of five-and-twenty miles
fatigued me less than a journey of ten does now--when I returned from
my botanical rambles with tin boxes, hands and pockets, laden with
stores of flowers, ferns, and mosses, my homeward path often led me
through a certain valley and wood on the skirts of Dartmoor, known by
the names of Bickleigh Vale and Fancy Wood. It often happened that
twilight was fading into gloom when I reached this stage in my
wanderings--the last of the evening songsters had hushed its note; for
this county, beautiful as it is, offers not sufficient attraction to
the Nightingale; yet I never passed this way under such circumstances
without feeling myself compelled to stop once and again to listen to
the monotonous whir of what I had been told, and what I believed to be
the note of the large green grasshopper, or locust. Monotonous is,
perhaps, not the right word to use, for an acute ear can detect in the
long unmusical jar a cadence descending sometimes a semitone, and
occasionally almost a whole note; and it seemed besides to increase in
loudness for a few seconds and then to subside a little below the
ordinary pitch; this fall is chiefly at the breeding season. Whether
the difference was produced by a rising and lulling of the breeze, or
whether the musician actually altered its note and intensity of noise
(or must I call it music?), I could never decide. As long as I fancied
the performer to be an insect, I was inclined to believe that one of
the first suppositions was correct; for it seemed hardly possible that
the purely mechanical action of an insect's thighs against its body
could produce variety of sound--as well expect varied intonations from
a mill-wheel or saw-pit. Attentive observation, and the knowledge that
the noise in question proceeded not from the exterior of an insect,
but from the throat of a bird, has led me to form another conclusion.
I am not surprised at my having fallen into the error; for the song of
this bird is but an exaggeration of the grasshopper's note, and
resembles the noise produced by pulling out the line from the winch of
a fishing-rod, no less continuous is it, nor more melodious. Many
years afterwards, when the memory of these pleasant wanderings had
faded away, I happened one evening in May to be passing across a
common in Hertfordshire, skirted by a hedge of brushwood, when the old
familiar sound fell on my ear like a forgotten nursery melody. The
trees not being in their full foliage, I was not without hope that I
might be able to get a sight of the performer, whom I now knew to be a
bird, and I crept quietly towards the spot whence the noise proceeded.
Had it been singing in a copse-wood instead of a hedge, I should
certainly have failed, for there is the same peculiarity about its
note that there is about that of the insect--you cannot make up your
mind exactly whereabouts the instrument which makes the noise is at
work. The note, when near, is continuous, monotonous, and of equal
loudness throughout; it might be a minute spinning-wheel revolving
rapidly, or a straw pipe with a pea in it blown with a single breath
and then suddenly stopping. But whether the performance is going on
exactly before you, a little to the right, or a little to the left, it
is hard to decide. I approached to within a few yards of the hedge,
and peered through the hazel rods, now decorated with drooping tufts
of plaited leaves, but all in vain. I went a step or two nearer; the
sound ceased, and the movement of a twig directed my attention towards
a particular bush, on which I saw a little bird, about as big as a
Hedge Sparrow, quietly and cautiously dropping branch by branch to
the ground. In a few minutes I observed it again a few yards off,
creeping with a movement resembling that of the Nuthatch up another
bush. Having reached to nearly the summit it became motionless,
stretched out its neck, and keeping its mandibles continuously open
and slightly elevated, commenced its trill again; then it shuffled
about for some seconds and repeated the strain. It now seemed to
descry me, and dropping to the ground as before, reappeared a few
yards off. I fancied that while actually singing its feathers were
ruffled; but in the imperfect twilight I could not decide positively.
That it kept its mandibles motionless while singing, I had no doubt.
Half an hour afterwards, at a quarter to eight, I returned from my
walk, and observed it several times go through precisely the same
manoeuvres. On no occasion did it make a long flight, but even when
I scared it by throwing a stone into the hedge near it, it merely
dropped to the ground, and in a minute or two was piping from another
bush. I have not found, as some authors say, that it resorts only to
the vicinity of watery places. The one which I saw on this occasion
had located itself for the summer several miles from a stream; and
others which I have heard night after night had settled down on the
skirts of a dry common, watered only by the clouds. Its nest I have
sought for in vain.


   Wood Warbler [M]

      Willow Warbler [F]

   Grasshopper Warbler

      Chiff Chaff [M]

                              [_p. 30._]]


   Reed Warbler

      Marsh Warbler

   Sedge Warbler [M]

      Dartford Warbler [F] [M]]


    Upper parts olive-green tinged with yellow; above the eyes a
    narrow, faint, yellowish, white streak; under parts yellowish
    white; feathers of the leg dirty white; second primary equal
    to the seventh; third, fourth, fifth, and sixth with the outer
    web sloped off at the extremity; under wing-coverts
    primrose-yellow; feet slender; legs nearly black. Length four
    inches and a half; breadth seven and a quarter. Eggs white,
    sparingly spotted with dark purple.

Whatever question there may be whether the name of Willow-warbler be
appropriately applied to the last species, there can be no doubt that
the Chiff-chaff is well named. Let any one be asked in the month of
May to walk into a wood and to hold up his hand when he heard a bird
call itself by its own name, 'Chiff-chaff', he could not possibly fall
into an error. The bird is so common that it would be difficult to
walk a mile in a woodland district without passing near one or more,
and having little to say, it seems never weary of repeating its tale,
'Chiff, chaff, cheff, chiff, chaff': the syllables have a harsh sound
pronounced by human lips, but when chanted in the silvery notes of a
little bird, in the season of primroses and wild hyacinths, and
accompanied by the warble of the Hay-bird, the full song of the
Thrush, and the whistle of the Blackbird, they contribute not a little
to the harmony of the woods.

For two successive years a little yellowish bird, scarcely bigger than
a wren, has established himself in my garden about the middle of
April, and sedulously devoted himself to clearing away the aphides
which infested some China roses trained against the walls of my house.
Occasionally he would flutter against the windows, and give his
attention to the spiders and gnats which nestled in the corners of the
panes. The first year I took him for a Hay-bird, but, only too
grateful for his kind offices, I was careful not to molest him. When,
however, he appeared a second year, exactly at the same season, and
performed a series of manoeuvres so precisely similar that it was
impossible to doubt that the bird was not merely of the same species,
but the same individual, I watched him more closely. The dark colour
of his feet, as observed from within the house, as he was fluttering
against the glass, decided the point that he was not a Hay-bird, and
when he retired to an apple-tree hard by and treated himself to a song
after his repast, no doubt remained that he was a Chiff-chaff. It is
not often that the Chiff-chaff is thus familiar in its habits. More
frequently it makes its abode in woods and groves, resembling the
Hay-bird so closely in size, colour and habits, that to distinguish
the two is very difficult. The difference of note, however, is
decisive; and the colour of the feet (when the bird is near enough to
admit of being thus distinguished) is another certain criterion. The
two birds frequent the same trees without rivalry or jealousy. The
Chiff-chaff is the earliest of our spring visitors, arriving the
middle of March, and it sings all through the summer; I have heard it
as late as the thirtieth of September. The nests, popularly called
'wood-ovens', are alike and placed in similar situations; their eggs
are of the same size and shape, but those of the Chiff-chaff are
spotted with very dark purple instead of rust colour. A few
occasionally remain with us all the year, feeding on winter gnats and
the pupæ of small insects, but remaining wholly silent. Other names by
which it is known are 'Chip-chop' and Lesser Pettichaps.


    Upper parts bright olive-green; a narrow streak of yellow over
    the eye; under parts yellowish white, palest in the middle;
    feathers of the leg yellow; second primary equal to the sixth;
    third, fourth, and fifth with the outer web sloped off at the
    extremity; feet stoutish; legs light brown. Length nearly five
    inches; breadth eight. Eggs white, more or less speckled with
    rust colour.

There seems to be no sufficient reason why this bird should be named
Willow-warbler or Willow-wren, as it shows no special preference for
willows, nor does it frequent watery places. The popular name,
'Hay-bird', is, I think, the better of the two; for, except in the
extreme west of England, wherever there are hayfields and trees these
birds are to be found; they build their nests principally of hay, and
very frequently place it in the border of a hay-field. But, by
whatever name it is known, it is a cheerful and active little bird, to
which our woods and groves are much indebted for their melody. It is
abundant and generally diffused, arriving in England early in April,
and remaining until the middle of September. During the greater part
of this period, it may be seen fluttering about the tops of trees,
hunting the twigs and leaves for insects, and occasionally catching
flies on the wing. It often, too, descends to the ground, and picks up
insects among the herbage. I have never heard it sing on the ground;
but while employing itself aloft, it rarely allows more than a few
minutes to elapse without going through its short and sweet song.
This, though very agreeable, possesses no great variety, and is
composed of about twenty or thirty notes, the latter ones of which are
repeated rapidly, and form a natural cadence. For many years this
pleasant little melody, or the simpler song of the Chiff-chaff, has
been the first sound I have heard to announce the arrival of the
summer birds of passage; perhaps it is on this account that it is with
me, at all seasons, a favourite rural sound.

Ornithologists seem well agreed that the Willow-warbler's food
consists entirely of insects. This may be so, but I am much mistaken
if a brood of this species annually hatched in a bank of furze
adjoining my garden, do not, in conjunction with Blackcaps and
Whitethroats, pay daily visits to a certain row of red raspberries in
my garden. It may be that they come only in quest of aphides, but I
have certainly seen them in dangerous proximity to clusters of the
ripest fruit, which, when they were scared away, bore evident marks of
having been pecked by birds. The nest of the Hay-bird resembles that
of the Wood-warbler, but it is lined with feathers. The eggs are
usually from five to seven, and of the same size and shape, but the
spots are rust-coloured and limited in number.


    Upper plumage bright yellowish green; a broad streak of
    sulphur-yellow over the eye; sides of the head, throat,
    insertion of the wings and legs bright yellow; rest of the
    under plumage pure white; second primary equal to the fourth,
    third and fourth with the outer web sloped off at the
    extremity; legs pale brown. Length five inches and a half;
    breadth eight and three quarters. Eggs white, speckled so
    thickly with purplish brown as almost to conceal the ground.

The Wood-warbler, Willow-warbler, and Chiff-chaff resemble each other
so closely in size, colour, and habits, that except by a practised
observer, they are likely to be mistaken for one another. In song,
however, they differ materially, and as this is begun early, and
continued till very late in the season, it affords ready means of
discriminating the species. The Wood-warbler, or Wood-wren as it is
now called, arrives in England towards the end of April, and betakes
itself to woodland districts, where it spends the greater portion of
its time among the upper branches of lofty trees, constantly moving
from place to place with rapid irregular flight, and frequently
repeating its short and peculiar song. It feeds exclusively on
insects, which it occasionally catches on the wing. Its song is
difficult to describe. The name by which it is popularly known in some
parts of France, _Touïte_, is derived from the syllable '_tweet_',
which, rapidly and continuously repeated many times, constitutes its
song. These notes are uttered in a sweet tone, and with a tremulous
accent, and are unlike those of any other bird. Gilbert White, who
appears to have been the first who noticed the bird, describes it as
"joyous, easy, and laughing". The last notes of its strain are
accompanied by a quivering of the wings and tail, which accounts for
their tremulous sound.

The Wood-warbler is much less frequent than either the Willow-warbler
or Chiff-chaff, and on a close inspection may be distinguished by its
superior size, by the pure white of its under tail-coverts, and by the
bright yellow line above the eye. The nest is composed of grass,
ferns, and moss, and lined with fine grass and hair; it is covered
with a dome, an entrance being left sufficiently large to allow its
contents to be seen, and is placed on the ground, in or near a wood,
among thick herbage, or against the stump of a tree. The eggs are from
five to seven in number, almost round, and so thickly spotted with
purple-brown that the ground is almost invisible.



    Upper parts olive, tinged with yellow; cheeks ash colour,
    without streaks; wing greyish brown, with two transverse white
    bands; crest bright yellow, tipped with orange and bounded on
    each side by a black line; under parts yellowish grey. In the
    _female_ the crest is lemon colour, and the other tints are
    less brilliant. Each nostril is covered by one buff feather.
    Length three inches and a half. Eggs cream colour, minutely
    mottled at one end.

The Gold-crest, Golden-crested Regulus, or Golden-crested Wren, though
not exceeding in dimensions some of the larger humming-birds, and
though decorated with a crest equalling in brilliancy of colour the
gay plumage of tropical birds, is a hardy little fellow, able to bear
without shrinking the cold of an English winter, and to keep his
position among the branches of high trees in the stormiest weather.
Even during a heavy gale I have watched Gold-crests fluttering from
branch to branch, and busily hunting for food, though the trees were
waving like reeds. They are most numerous in winter, as a considerable
number migrate southwards in October, but a great many remain with us
all the year, preferring those districts where there are
fir-plantations. Their whole life is spent in the air; I at least have
never observed one on the ground. Their food consists of the insects
which infest the leaves and twigs of trees; and I have seen them
capture small moths on the wing. While hunting for food, which appears
to be all day long, they are never still, fluttering from branch to
branch, hanging in all attitudes, and peering in all directions. From
time to time they utter their thin and wiry call-note, which is by
some compared to the cry of the Shrew. It might be mistaken for the
jarring noise made by two branches which cross one another, or that of
a damp finger rubbed lightly along a pane of glass. Early in spring
the song commences; it is composed of about fifteen short notes,
rapidly uttered at an exceedingly high pitch, and ending with a yet
more rapid cadence. By the call-note or song the vicinity of the bird
is far more frequently detected than by its actual appearance; for the
branches of firs in woods are mostly at a considerable height from the
ground, and our 'little king' (saving his majesty) is hard to be
distinguished from a fir-cone, except when he is in motion.
Gold-crests are eminently social birds; they generally hunt in parties
of half a dozen or more, and do not often change their hunting-ground;
at least I infer as much from the fact that on various occasions I
have observed the same bird on the same clump of trees, at intervals
extending over several weeks. I could scarcely have been mistaken in
the identity of the bird, as it had lost a leg, by what accident I
know not; but the loss did not at all interfere with its activity or
spirits. Their sociability extends sometimes to birds of other kinds,
as the Creeper and the Tits of several species have been seen hunting
in company with them. The habits of these birds being similar, they
perhaps associate from a feeling of mutual protection, just as
Sparrows, Buntings, and Finches make common cause, when they invade
our rick-yards. The Gold-crests are, however, naturally less wary than
any of the Tits. These last will at once decamp if disturbed, but
Gold-crests will continue their hunting without taking any notice of a
spectator. In autumn large flocks sometimes arrive on our east coast
extending across England and on into Ireland. In April a return
migration takes place. The nest of the Gold-crest is a beautiful
structure. Its external form is nearly that of a globe, with a
contracted opening at the top. It is composed of moss and lichens,
interwoven with wool and lined thickly with feathers. It is usually
placed among the boughs of a silver-fir or spruce-fir, in such a
manner as to be partially suspended from one branch and supported by
another. The bird seems neither to court nor to shun the vicinity of
human beings; as I have found nests in the most lonely woods, and I
have seen one in the branches of a spruce-fir, so close to my house
that I could look into the nest from my bedroom windows, and watch the
old birds feeding their young. The eggs vary in number from five to
eight, they are almost globular, and smaller than those of any other
British bird. This is scarcely surprising, seeing that the weight of a
recently killed adult male which I have before me is eighty-seven
grains; so that five and a half full-grown birds weigh but an ounce.


         Great Tit [M]

   Fire Crested Wren [M]

      Long Tailed Tit [M]

   Gold Crest [M]

                              [_p. 34._]]


      Blue Tit [M]

   Crested Tit [M] Marsh Tit [F]

      Cole Tit [M]]


    Upper parts olive-green; a dark streak passing through the
    eye, and another white one above and below; crest brilliant
    orange, bounded in front and on each side by a black streak;
    in other respects resembling the last. _Female_ with all the
    colours less brilliant. Length four inches. Eggs cream colour,
    tinged with red and dotted.

This species both in size and habits resembles the last, from which it
is best distinguished by three dark lines on each side of its head.
Hence it is called in France '_Roitelet à triple bandeau_'. It is far
less common than the Gold-crest, and has not been observed in the
winter, when birds of the other species are most abundant--in fact, it
is only a rare straggler. Its call-note is shorter than that of the
Gold-crest, not so shrill, and pitched in a different key. The nests
of the two birds are much alike.



    Head, neck, throat, breast, and a portion of the outer
    tail-feathers white; back, wings, and six middle feathers of
    the tail black; a black streak above the eye; sides of the
    back and scapulars tinged with rose-red; under parts reddish
    white; tail very long; beak very short. Length five inches and
    three-quarters; breadth six inches and three-quarters. Eggs
    white, minutely and sparingly speckled with light red or plain

All the Tits, of whatever species, are more or less sociable in their
habits, hunting about during autumn in parties of half a dozen or
more; but some of them are given to be quarrelsome, not only towards
other birds--like the Great Tit, who actually murders them for the
sake of picking out their brains--but among themselves, as the Blue
Tit, who has been noticed so intently engaged in combat with another
bird of his own kind, that the observer caught them both in his hat.
The Long-tailed Tits, however, are sociable after another sort. From
the time that a young brood leaves the nest until the next pairing
season, father, mother, and children keep together in irreproachable
harmony. Exploring the same clump of trees in society, perfectly
agreed as to whither their next flitting shall be, no one showing any
disposition to remain when the rest are departing, molesting no one,
and suffering as far as it can be ascertained no persecution, they
furnish a charming example of a happy family. Nomad in their habits,
save that they indulge in no questionable cravings for their
neighbours' property, they satisfy their wants with the natural
produce of any convenient halting-place, when they have exhausted
which they take their flight, in skirmishing order, but generally in a
straight line, and strictly following the lead of their chief, to some
other station; and when overtaken by night, they halt and encamp where
chance has left them. Their only requisite is, in summer, the branch
of a tree; in winter, some sheltered place where they can huddle
together, and sleep until the next day's sun calls them to resume
their erratic course.[6] Their food, during those journeys, consists
of caterpillars, small beetles, and the pupæ of insects generally, and
this diet they seem never or very rarely to vary.[7] The ripest fruits
do not tempt them to prolong their stay in a garden, and insects that
crawl on earth are in two senses beneath their notice. Their rapid
progress from tree to tree has been compared to a flight of arrows.
Singular as is their flight, they are no less amusing while employed
in hunting for food, as they perform all the fantastic vagaries of the
Tits, and their long straight tails add much to the grotesqueness of
their attitudes. Seen near at hand, their appearance may be called
comical. Their abundant loose feathers, the prevailing hue of which is
grey, suggest the idea of old age, and, together with the short hooked
beak, might give a caricaturist a hint of an antiquated human face,
enveloped in grey hair. Many of the provincial names of the bird are
associated with the ridiculous; thus, Long-tailed Mufflin, Long-tail
Mag, Long-tail Pie, Poke-pudding, Hack-muck, Bottle Tom, Mum-ruffin,
and Long-pod, pet names though they are, are also whimsical, and
prepare one beforehand for the information that their owner is 'just a
little eccentric'. But whatever be their name, I never hear the
well-known '_zit, zit_', the pass-word which keeps them together, and
which always accompanies their journeyings, without stopping to watch
the little family on their flight.

The nest of this species is of most exquisite workmanship and
beautiful texture. Its form is that of a large cocoon broadest at the
base, or that of a fir cone. It is sometimes fastened to the stem of a
tree, sometimes placed in a fork, but more frequently built into the
middle of a thick bush, so that it can only be removed by cutting away
the branches to which it is attached. The outer surface is composed
principally of the white lichen which is most abundant in the
neighbourhood, and so is least likely to attract attention. All the
scraps are woven together with threads of fine wool; the dome is
felted together, and made rain-proof by a thick coating of moss and
lichen, wool and the web of spiders' eggs. The walls are of moss. The
interior is a spherical cell, lined with a profusion of feathers. A
softer or warmer bed it would be hard to imagine. At the distance of
about an inch from the top is a circular opening scarcely large enough
to admit one's thumb. In this luxurious couch, which it has cost the
female bird some three weeks of patient industry to complete, she lays
ten or twelve eggs, which all in good time are developed into as many
Bottle Tits; but by what skilful management the ten or twelve long
tails are kept unruffled, and are finally brought to light as straight
as arrows, I can offer no opinion. Nests are occasionally found
containing as many as eighteen eggs. In these cases it has been
affirmed that two or more females share a common nursery, and incubate
together. Certainly it is difficult to imagine how a single pair can
manage to supply with food so many hungry young birds, but there is no
direct evidence of their being two distinct broods.

   [6] The name proposed for the Long-tailed Tit, by Dr. Leuch,
       _Mecistura vagans_, is most appropriate. "Long-tailed
       Wanderer," for such is its import, describes the most
       striking outward characteristic of the bird, and its
       unvarying habit.

   [7] A young friend informed me that he had once shot one, with a
       beechnut in its mouth. This it must have picked up from the
       ground, as the season was winter.


    Head, throat, and a line passing down the centre of the
    breast, black; back olive-green; cheeks and a spot on the nape
    white; breast and abdomen yellow. Length six inches; breadth
    nine. Eggs white, speckled with light rusty.

As this bird is no larger than a Sparrow, its surname 'Great' must be
understood to denote only its superiority in size to other birds of
the same family. It is, however, great-hearted, as far as boldness and
bravery entitle it to this epithet, being ready to give battle to
birds far its superiors in size, foremost to join in mobbing an
intrusive Owl, and prepared to defend its nest against robbers of all
kinds. Its powers of locomotion are considerable, as it is strong in
flight, active on the ground, and as a climber is surpassed by few
rivals. Its stout and much-curved hind claw gives it great facility in
clinging to the twigs and branches of trees, sides of ricks, and even
the walls of houses. Such situations it resorts to in quest of its
favourite food, caterpillars and pupæ of all kinds, and it is most
amusing to watch it while thus engaged. Attitude seems to be a matter
of no consequence; it can cling with perfect security to anything but
a smooth surface. On trees it hangs from the branches, with its back
either downwards, or turned sideways, and explores crevices in walls
with as little regard to the vertical position of the surface to which
it clings, as if it were examining a hole in the level ground. Its
efforts to disengage a chrysalis from its cocoon are very
entertaining. One scarcely knows which most to admire, the tenacity of
its grasp, the activity with which it turns its head and body, or the
earnestness and determination with which it clears away every obstacle
until it has secured the prize. It does not, however, limit its food
to insects; it is accused of feeding occasionally on the buds of
fruit-trees, but it is doubtful whether the bird has any other object
in attacking these, than that of hunting out the insects that infest
them. It is said also to be very fond of nuts, which it sticks into
crevices in the bark of trees, and cracks by repeated blows of its
beak. Whether it has this power, I do not know; but that it will _eat_
nuts of every kind, it is easy to prove by fastening the kernels of
filberts or walnuts to the trunks of trees by means of stout pins.
Tits, great and little, and Nuthatches, if there be any in the
neighbourhood, will soon discover them, and if once attracted may thus
be induced to pay daily visits to so productive a garden. A Great Tit
of unusual intelligence, which frequents my garden at the present
time, has been frequently observed to draw up by its claws a walnut
suspended by a string from the bough of an apple-tree, and to rifle
its contents, being itself all the while leisurely perched on the
twig, and keeping the nut firm by a dexterous use of its claws. A
charge, amounting to a grave accusation against the Great Tit, and one
which cannot be palliated by the plea that he has accomplices, is,
that when driven by hunger and he has the opportunity, he attacks
other small and weakly birds, splits their skulls by means of his
strong, sharp beak, and picks out their brains. One story in
particular I find, of a Great Tit having been placed in a well-filled
aviary. In the course of a single night, he had killed every one of
his companions, with the exception of a Quail, and when he was
discovered, he was in the very act of dealing to this the _coup de
grâce_. His skill and discrimination in pecking holes in the sunniest
side of ripe apples and pears are well known; but to this reward for
his services in destroying caterpillars he is justly entitled.

The Great Tit builds its nest generally in the hole of a tree,
employing as materials moss and leaves, and, for the lining, hair and
feathers; but as its habits lead it to our gardens, it comes into
close contact with human beings and becomes familiar with them. Hence
it occasionally builds its nest in quaint places, which bear ever so
distant a resemblance to its natural haunts. An unused pump affords it
an excellent harbour; and the drawer of an old table, left in an
outhouse, has been found thus occupied.

The notes of the Great Tit are various, but not musical. Its spring
song must be familiar to every one; though not every one who hears it
knows who is the musician. It consists of but two notes, repeated
frequently, and sounding as if made by a bird alternately drawing in
and sending out its breath; both together give a fair imitation of the
sharpening of a saw. Besides this, it indulges in a variety of chirps,
twitters, and cheeps, some angry, some deprecatory, and some pert,
which a practised ear only can refer to their proper author.


    Crown of the head blue, encircled with white; cheeks white,
    bordered with dark blue; back olive-green; wings and tail
    bluish; greater coverts and secondaries tipped with white;
    breast and abdomen yellow, traversed by a dark blue line.
    Length four inches and a half; breadth seven inches and a
    half. Eggs as in the preceding, but smaller.

The Blue or Tom Tit so closely resembles the Great Tit in its habits,
that, with trifling exceptions, a description of one would be equally
applicable to the other. Though much smaller than his relative, the
Tom Tit is equally brave and pugnacious, and is even more quarrelsome,
for he will fight with birds of his own kind; and the Great Tit, if
obliged to contest with him the possession of a prize, retires from
the field. His food, too, consists principally of insects, but he is
also very partial to meat. This taste leads him much to the
neighbourhood of houses and other places where he can indulge his
carnivorous propensities. A dog-kennel, with its usual accompaniment
of carrion, is a favourite resort, and there are probably few
butchers' shops in country villages which he does not frequently
visit. A bit of bacon suspended from the branch of a tree is a great
attraction. He evinces little fear of man, and will hunt about the
trees in our gardens without seeming to notice the presence of a
stranger. He frequently pays visits, too, to roses trained against
cottages, and will occasionally flutter against the glass to secure a
spider or gnat that he has detected while passing. His power of
grasping is very great. I have seen him cling to the moulding of a
window for several minutes, without relinquishing his hold, though the
projecting surface was merely a smooth beading. All this while he was
engaged in tearing to pieces the cocoon which some caterpillar had
constructed in a crevice; and so intent was he on his occupation, that
he took no notice of the tenants of the room, though they were only a
few feet distant from him. He is more frequently seen on the ground
than either of the other species, and where it is the custom to throw
out crumbs and the scrapings of plates, for the benefit of little
birds, the Blue Tit rarely fails to present itself among Sparrows and

The Tom Tit builds its nest of moss, and lines it with hair, wool, and
feathers. This it places in a hole, either in a wall or tree, and is
at so great pains to combine comfort and security for its brood, that
it has been known to excavate, in a decayed stump, a chamber large
enough for its nest, and to carry away the chips in its beak to some
distant place, lest, we may suppose, they should betray its retreat.
More frequently, however, it selects a natural hollow, as, for
instance, the stump of a small tree in a hedge, of which all the inner
part is decayed; nor does it despise human appliances if they will
answer its purpose; a disused pump, a bottle, or a flower-pot, have
all been known to serve its turn. It lays seven or eight eggs, but a
nest containing eighteen is on record; and in defence of its family,
shows great courage. If a nest be molested, the bird, instead of
endeavouring to escape, retains its place and makes an unpleasant
hissing noise, and if this be not enough to deter the intruder, pecks
his fingers with great vigour. Hence it has received the popular name
of 'Billy Biter'. As a songster, it does not rank high: yet it has
some variety of notes, which it utters in short snatches, expressive
rather than musical, as if the bird were trying to talk rather than to


    Crown of the head, throat, and front of the neck black; cheeks
    and nape white; upper parts grey; wings bluish grey, with two
    white bands; under parts white, tinged with grey. Length four
    inches and a half; breadth nearly eight. Eggs like the last.

This and the following species resemble each other so closely in size,
habits, general hue and note, that at a distance it is difficult to
distinguish them. There are, however, strong points of difference; the
head and neck of the present species being glossy black, with a patch
of pure white on the nape of the neck and on the cheeks, while the
head of the Marsh Tit is of a dull sooty black, without any admixture
of white, nor is there a white spot on the cheeks. The Cole Tit is in
many districts a common bird, inhabiting woods and hedgerows, and
feeding on insects, for which it hunts with unceasing activity among
the branches and twigs of trees. Its note is less varied than that of
the Blue Tit, but sweeter in tone. It builds its nest in the holes of
trees and walls, of moss, hair, and feathers, and lays six or seven


    Forehead, crown, head, and nape black; upper parts grey; wings
    dark grey, lighter at the edges; cheeks, throat, and breast
    dull white. Dimensions and eggs as in the last.

As has been said, the Marsh Tit and Cole Tit are so much alike that it
requires a sharp eye to distinguish them at a distance. On a closer
inspection, however, the characters mentioned in the preceding
paragraph become apparent, and there can be no question that they are
distinct species. The Marsh Tit is a bird of common occurrence,
resident south of the Forth, being in some places less abundant, in
others more so than the Cole Tit, while in others, again, the two are
equally frequent. In those districts with which I am myself most
familiar, it is hard to say which kind preponderates. Though it freely
resorts to woods and plantations remote from water, it prefers,
according to Montagu, low, wet ground, where old willow-trees abound,
in the holes of which it often makes its nest. Its note, I have
already observed, is very like that of the Cole Tit, being less harsh
than that either of the Blue or Great Tit. The peculiar double note,
which I know no other way of describing than by comparing it to the
syllables '_if-he_', rapidly uttered, and repeated in imitation of a
sob, characterizes, in a more or less marked degree, the spring song
of all four. Another characteristic of the same species is, that all
the members of a brood appear to keep much together for several months
after they are fledged. At the approach of winter, they break up their
societies, and are for the most part solitary till the return of
spring. The Marsh Tit, like the Tom Tit, has been observed to enlarge
the hole which it has selected for its nest, and to carry the chips in
its bill to a distance, and it is equally courageous in defence of its
eggs and young.


    Feathers of the crown elongated and capable of being erected,
    black, edged with white; cheeks and sides of the neck white;
    throat, collar, and a streak across the temples black; all the
    other upper parts reddish brown; lower parts white, faintly
    tinged with red. Length four inches and three-quarters. Eggs
    white spotted with blood-red.

'The Crested Tit', is a solitary retired species, inhabiting only
gloomy forests, particularly those which abound with evergreens. On
the European Continent it is found in Denmark, Sweden, Russia,
Switzerland, and some parts of France. In the large pine tracts in the
north of Scotland, it is said to be not uncommon, and it used to be
found also in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, but has been seldom
observed in England. Its food consists of insects, berries of the
juniper, and seeds of evergreens. It builds its nest in hollow trees,
or in the deserted nests of squirrels and crows, and lays as many as
eight eggs.



    Head bluish grey; between the bill and eye a tuft of pendant
    black feathers prolonged into a pointed moustache; throat and
    neck greyish white; breast and abdomen white, tinged with
    yellow and pink; upper parts light orange-brown; wings
    variegated with white, black, and red; tail long,
    orange-brown, the outer feathers variegated with white and
    black. In the _female_ the moustache is of the same colour as
    the cheek, and the grey on the head is absent. Length six
    inches. Eggs white, with a few wavy lines of dark red.

This pretty bird is of very local occurrence, being found in
considerable numbers in several marshy districts where reeds abound,
but in others being totally unknown. Their habits resemble those of
the true Tits, but instead of spending their lives in trees, they
confine themselves to the marshes, and are constantly employed in
running up and down the stems of the reeds, hunting for their food,
which consists of small molluscs (or water-snails) and the seeds of
the reeds. Like the Tits, too, they are sociable, always being
observed in pairs or families; not congregating like Sparrows for the
sake of mutual protection, but seemingly from the pure love of each
other's company. A writer in the _Magazine of Natural History_ gives
the following account of their habits:--'I was told that some of these
birds had been seen in a large piece of reeds below Barking Creek; and
being desirous of observing them in their haunts, I went, accompanied
by a person and a dog, to the above-named place, on a cold and windy
morning; the reed-cutters having commenced their operations, I was
fearful of deferring my visit, lest my game might be driven away.
Arrived on our ground, we traversed it some time without success, and
were about to leave it, when our attention was roused by the alarm-cry
of the bird. Looking up, we saw eight or ten of these beautiful
creatures on the wing, just topping the reeds over our heads,
uttering, in full chorus, their forcibly musical note, which resembles
the monosyllable _ping!_ pronounced first slow and single, then two or
three times in a more hurried manner, uttered in a clear and ringing,
though soft tone, which well corresponds with the beauty and delicacy
of the bird. Their flights were short and low, only sufficient to
clear the reeds, on the seedy tops of which they alight to feed,
hanging, like most of their tribe, with the head and back downwards.
After some time, we were fortunate enough to shoot one, a male, in
fine plumage. I held it in my hand when scarcely dead. Nothing could
exceed the beauty of the eye; the bright orange of the iris,
surrounded by the deep glossy black of the moustaches and streak
above, receives additional brilliancy from the contrast, and struck me
as a masterpiece of colour and neatness.' These specimens were
observed in the month of December. Towards the end of April the
Bearded Tit begins building its nest. This is composed externally of
the dead leaves of reeds and sedges, and lined with the feathery tops
of reed. It is generally placed in a tuft of coarse grass or rushes
near the ground on the margin of the dikes, in the fen; sometimes
among the reeds that are broken down, but never suspended between the
stems. Two nests, described by Yarrell, were composed entirely of
dried bents, the finer ones forming the lining; and others, increasing
in substance, made up the exterior. The eggs were from seven to eight
in number, rather smaller than those of the Great Tit, and less
pointed, white, and sparingly marked with pale red lines or scratches.
The same author observes that 'it is very abundant in Holland; and
numbers are brought alive from that country to the London markets for
sale; the birds being attractive in confinement from the beauty of the
plumage, their graceful form and general sprightliness.' I have seen
it stated that the moustaches, from which the bird takes its name, are
movable, and that their play gives a peculiar animation to the
expression of the bird's face, but I have never had an opportunity of
verifying this remark. They have been increasing in the Norfolk Broads
of late years.



    Upper plumage bluish grey; a black streak across the eye;
    cheeks and throat white; under plumage dull orange red; outer
    tail-feathers black, with a white spot near the end, tipped
    with grey, the two central ones grey; beak bluish black, the
    lower mandible white at the base; feet light brown. Length six
    inches. Eggs white, spotted with two shades of purplish red.

Standing, one winter's day, by the side of a pond, near a row of tall
elms, and watching some boys sliding, I heard the few short twittering
notes of a Nuthatch overhead, and it at once occurred to me how I
should describe the note in such a way that it should be infallibly
recognized. It is precisely like the sound made by a pebble thrown so
as to bound along ice. This is the winter note. On fine sunny days in
February it begins to add to its simple call a more musical sound,
approaching a whistle. Further on in the season, the twitter is heard
no more, and is exchanged altogether for a not unmelodious whistle,
several times repeated, rarely protracted into a bubbling sound, such
as it might be supposed to make if it were rattling a pea in its
throat. On these occasions it is usually perched in the branches of a
tree, and may be distinguished by its bluish grey back, dull red
breast, and short tail. The Nuthatch is not an accomplished musician,
and claims, therefore, to be pointed out by other characteristics.
This is no difficult task to undertake; for no British bird is more
decidedly marked in its habits. In the first place, it has strong
clasping claws, which admirably adapt it for climbing; and though it
does not possess the rigid tail of the Woodpeckers to aid it in this
operation, it has a short tail which never comes in the way. In most
counties of England where old timber is (except the extreme western
and northern, where it is rare) any one walking through a woodland
district and keeping a sharp look-out may observe a bluish bird,
somewhat larger than a Sparrow, creeping by starts up the trunk of any
rough barked tree. It is so intent on its occupation--that of
searching for insects in the crevices of the bark--that it takes no
notice of the observer, but pursues its course after a method of its
own, but according to no rule that we can detect. Now it disappears on
one side of the trunk and then shows itself a few inches higher on the
other; now it is lost to sight for a longer interval--one would think
it was hiding, or had taken its departure--but no, there it is again,
creeping, back downwards, along a horizontal branch; arrived at the
extremity it utters a double twitter, perhaps, and flies either to a
new tree or to another branch of the same. This time it creeps from
the extremity of a branch towards the hole of the tree, equally at
ease whatever may chance to be its position, and no more affected by
gravity than a fly. Arrived at the main stem it keeps on its course,
still advancing by starts, and accompanying every movement, as,
indeed, it has been doing all along, by an almost imperceptible
twinkling of its wings, something like that which has gained for the
Hedge Sparrow the sobriquet of 'Shuffle-wing'. That no other bird but
the Nuthatch has the power of creeping down a tree I cannot say, for I
once observed a Tree-creeper descend for a few inches but no other
British bird does habitually hunt after this method; by this habit
consequently it may be discriminated. Equally comfortable in all
positions, if it has any choice, or desires to rest, it clings to the
upright trunk of a tree, head downwards.

The Nuthatch is singular, too, in its mode of nidification. The only
nest which I have thoroughly examined was built in the hollow of an
apple-tree, and was composed entirely of scraps of birch-bark. The
_Naturalist_ contains a description of one made of beech-bark, though
probably here, too, _birch_ is meant; others are described as being
made of dry leaves and moss: but, whatever the materials may be, the
nest itself is invariably placed in the hole of a tree. There are good
reasons for believing that in case of necessity the bird enlarges the
cavity to make its dwelling sufficiently commodious, chips of wood
having been sometimes found in the vicinity; but what makes the
Nuthatch singular among British birds is, that it not only enacts the
carpenter when occasion arises, but adds the vocation of plasterer.

In the case above alluded to I do not know that its powers were called
out in either of these capacities. As a plasterer it had no occasion
to work, for the opening to the hole was so small that it required to
be cut away in order to admit a boy's hand, but many instances are
recorded when it selected a hole with a large orifice which is
contracted by lining it with a thick coat of mud and gravel. This
parapet, constructed either to keep out bulky intruders or to keep in
the young birds, if injured or destroyed will be found restored after
a short lapse of time; and so devoted a mother is the hen bird that
she will suffer herself to be taken rather than desert her brood. I
have rarely noticed a Nuthatch on the ground during winter, but in
spring and summer it adds to its diet terrestrial insects and worms
and is said also to be partial to red currants--not a singular taste.
But the fruit which has an especial charm for the Nuthatch is that
from which it derives its name.[8] Its keen eye detects the ripening
filbert in the garden or orchard before the hazels in the wood are
beginning to turn brown, and it then despises less dainty food. One by
one the clusters are pecked open and their contents purloined,
carried, perhaps, to some convenient storehouse for future
banquetings. At any rate the owner of filbert trees where these birds
abound has need to keep a daily watch, or his share in the produce
will prove exceedingly small. I have seen trees bearing a fine crop of
husks but nearly all empty. The proprietor had suffered them to remain
till they were ripe, the Nuthatches had taken a different view of the
case and preferred them unripe rather than not at all. But what, it
may be asked, can a bird little larger than a Sparrow find to do with
a filbert, or even a hazel-nut? Here we have a fresh distinctive
feature in the biography of the Nuthatch. The bird carries off its
prey in its beak, and when in want of a meal wedges the nut in the
crevice of some rough-barked tree, such as an oak, an elm, or a
walnut. This done, he takes his stand, head downwards, above the nut,
throws back his head to gather force for a blow, and then brings it
violently forwards many times in rapid succession, aided, too, by the
weight of his body and a clapping of the wings in exact time with each
stroke. By dint of repeated blows thus dealt by his strong beak, even
the hard shell of a filbert at last gives way; a small hole is the
result, which is soon enlarged, and the kernel becomes the
hardly-earned prize. Any one who will take the trouble to examine the
trunks of old oaks and elms will be sure to find shells still
remaining wedged into the bark, and if during a ramble in the woods in
autumn or winter, or even in early spring, he should happen to hear a
smart tapping, let him follow the direction of the sound, and he will
stand a fair chance of discovering the clever little nutcracker at
work. If in the course of his operations the bird happens to dislodge
a nut, so nimble is he that before it reaches the ground he will have
caught it in his beak. Acorns and the nuts of yew-berries, and
probably other hard seeds, are similarly treated by the Nuthatch;
cherrystones, I suspect, are beyond his powers, yielding only to the
massive beak of the Hawfinch. The Nuthatch may easily be induced to
visit gardens by wedging hazel or Spanish nuts into the bark of trees;
a walnut fastened on by a pin is equally effectual. But no more
enticing bait can be set than a lump of fat meat, which should be tied
tightly by a string to the horizontal branch of an apple-tree or any
other tree, a good view of which can be commanded from the house. If
the weather be severe and the ground covered with snow, it is
surprising what a variety of birds will come to partake of the unknown
food. Robins, Sparrows, Tits of several kinds, Chaffinches, and others
flock for a share, not without sundry bickerings, alarms, and
semblances of fighting. But should a Nuthatch happen to appear, all
retire until his highness is satisfied. He enters upon the scene in a
way of his own. Other birds alight on a bough or twig at some little
distance from the banquet and make gradual advances. Not so the
Nuthatch; he darts forward in a horizontal line, as if propelled by a
missile, sticks by his claws to whatever part of the branch he happens
to touch, not caring in what attitude he alights, stops for a second
as if to assure himself in what direction his head is pointing, creeps
nimbly round to the morsel, takes his stand on it and hammers away
until he has separated a large lump. This he then seizes in his beak
and retires to a place of seclusion, leaving the inferior animals to
squabble to their hearts' content over the crumbs which he has
dislodged, and presently he discomfits them again by a reappearance.
What his powers as a combatant may be I cannot say; great, it may be
supposed, for no one is inclined to do him battle, and he is not
sociably disposed even towards those of his own kind.

   [8] From the French _hacher_, 'to chop'; hence also 'hatchet'.


   Tree Creeper [F] Nuthatch [M]

   Bearded Reedling [M] [F] Wren

                              [_p. 46._]]


   Rose coloured Starling [F] Dipper [M]

    Starling [M] Golden Oriole [F] [M]]



    Upper plumage mottled with yellowish brown, dark brown, and
    white; a pale streak over the eyes; throat and breast
    buff-white, becoming dusky towards the tail; wings brown
    tipped with white and barred with white brown, and dull
    yellow; tail-feathers reddish brown, stiff and pointed. Length
    five inches, breadth seven inches. Eggs white, with small
    yellowish red spots.

The Tree Creeper, though a common bird, is less familiarly known than
many others of much rarer occurrence, yet, if once observed, can be
confounded with no other. In size it ranks with the Tits, Willow Wren,
etc., but is less likely to attract notice than any of these, as it
never alights on the ground, nor perches on the small twig of a tree.
Its note, too, is weak, simple, and unpretending, amounting to no more
than an occasional '_cheep_', which it utters from time to time while
hunting for food, and while performing its short flights. Any one,
however, who wishes to see the bird, and knows what to search for, can
scarcely fail of success if he looks well about him during a stroll
through almost any wood of full-grown trees. Half-way up the trunk of
a rugged elm or oak he will observe a small portion of bark, as it
were, in motion; the motion, and not the colour, betrays the presence
of a small brown bird, which is working its way by a succession of
irregular starts up the trunk. Frequently it stops for a few seconds,
and is evidently pecking at some small insect, quite noiselessly
however. Its beak is not adapted for hammering; it confines its
attention therefore to such insects as live on the surface of the
bark. It utters a low '_cheep_', and proceeds, not in a straight line
up the tree, but turning to the right or left according as it descries
a probable lurking-place of its prey: presently it disappears on the
other side of the trunk, and again comes in view a few feet higher up.
Now it reaches a horizontal branch; along this it proceeds in like
manner, being indifferent whether it clings sideways, or hangs with
its back downwards. Arrived at the smaller subdivisions of the bough
it ceases to hunt; but, without remaining an instant to rest, flies to
the base of another bough, or more probably, to another tree,
alighting a few feet only from the ground, and at once beginning a new
ascent. This mode of life it never varies: from morning to night, in
winter and in summer, it is always climbing up the boles of trees, and
when it has reached the top, flying to the base of others. On one
solitary occasion I observed one retrace its steps for a few inches,
and stand for a second or two with its head downwards; but this is a
most unusual position, as indeed may be inferred from the structure of
its tail, the feathers of which are rigid, and more or less soiled by
constant pressure against the bark. It frequently visits orchards and
gardens in the country, displaying little fear of man, preferring
perhaps to hunt on the far side of a tree when any one is looking on;
but not very particular even about this, and certainly never thinking
it necessary to decamp because it is being watched. To this
indifference to the presence of human beings, it owes its name
'_familiaris_', and not, as it might be imagined, to any fondness for
their society, which, in fact, it neither courts nor shuns. It is a
quiet inoffensive creature, congregating with no other birds, and
being rarely, except in spring, seen in company with even its own
species. It builds its nest of small roots and twigs, scraps of bark
and grass, and lines it with wool and feathers. A hole in a pollard
willow is a favourite place for a nest; in default of this a hollow in
any other tree is selected, or the space between the stump of a tree
and a detached portion of bark; and it chooses the straw eaves of some
shed. It lays from six to nine eggs, which are exceedingly like those
of the smaller Tits.



    Upper plumage reddish brown with transverse dusky bars; quills
    barred alternately with black and reddish brown; tail dusky,
    barred with black; over the eyes a narrow light streak; under
    parts light reddish brown; the sides and thighs marked with
    dark streaks. Length three inches and three-quarters; breadth
    six inches and a half. Eggs white with a few yellowish red
    spots towards the larger end, sometimes without spots.

Throughout the whole of England the Wren is invested with a sanctity
peculiar to itself and the Redbreast. In the west of England I was
familiar, as a child, with the doggerel rhymes:

    Whoso kills a Robin or a Wran
    Shall never prosper boy nor man.

In the north it is protected by a similar shield:

    Malisons, malisons, mair than ten,
    Who harries the queen of heaven's Wren.

In the Isle of Man a legend exists that there 'once on a time' lived a
wicked enchantress who practised her spells on the warriors of Mona,
and thereby stripped the country of its chivalry. A doughty knight at
length came to the rescue, and was on the point of surprising her and
putting her to death, when she suddenly transformed herself into a
Wren and flew through his fingers. Every year, on Christmas Day, she
is compelled to reappear in the island under the form of a Wren, with
the sentence hanging over her, that she is to perish by human hands.
On that day, consequently, every year, a grand onslaught is made by
troops of idle boys and men on every Wren which can be discovered.
Such as are killed are suspended from a bough of holly and carried
about in triumph on the following day (St. Stephen's Day), the bearers
singing a rude song descriptive of the previous day's hunt. The song
is preserved in Quiggin's _Guide to the Isle of Man_, as it was sung
in 1853; and, strange to say, it agrees almost word for word with a
song which was current twenty years ago, and is so perhaps now, among
the rustic population of Devonshire, though the actual hunt has in the
latter case fallen into disuse.

In several parts of Ireland, especially the south, there still exists
a legend to the effect that a party of Irish soldiers were on the
point of surprising their enemies (either Danes or Royalists, for the
story varies) who lay fatigued and asleep, when a Wren perched on the
drum and awoke the sentinels. An unhappy legend for the poor bird. For
some weeks previous to Christmas, peasants assemble to revenge the
treachery of the offender in the persons of his descendants. Every
Wren that is seen is hunted to death, and the bodies are carefully
saved till St. Stephen's Day, when they are suspended from a decorated
holly-bough and carried from house to house by the captors,
accompanied by a song of which, in Connemara, this is the burden:

    The Wran, the Wran, the king of all birds,
    St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze;
    Although he is little, his family's great;
    So come out, kind ladies, and give us a trate.

The version of the song in Hall's _Ireland_, as it is sung in the
neighbourhood of Cork, scarcely differs from the above, and a similar
one may be heard on the same day within twenty miles of Dublin. That a
custom so absurdly singular should exist in places so remote, is in
itself evidence that it is of ancient origin, though whence derived it
would be idle to inquire.

The true story of the Wren is simple enough. It is a minute bird of
unpretending plumage, distinguished easily by its erect tail and its
habit of hiding in bushes and hedges, not clinging like the Creeper to
the perpendicular or horizontal bough of a tree, but hopping from twig
to twig, and occasionally taking a short direct flight to another
place of concealment, but rarely exposing itself by doing more than
this. When hunting for its food, which is considered to be almost
exclusively insects, it searches diligently holes and crannies of all
kinds, and in all substances. I have known one make its way habitually
through a zinc pipe into a greenhouse, and do much service there by
picking aphides from the slender stalks of herbaceous plants, which
bent into the form of an arch under even its trifling weight. While
thus occupied it has suffered me to come within arm's length, but has
taken no notice of me. Generally, it displays little fear of man; but,
though in winter it resorts to the neighbourhood of houses in quest of
food, it shows no disposition, like the Redbreast, to enter on terms
of intimacy, nor is it sociable either with its own kind or other
birds. Its call-note is a simple '_chip_, _chip_', which often betrays
its vicinity when it is itself concealed from sight. Its proper song
is full, loud, clear, and powerful, rapidly executed and terminating
in a trill or shake, followed by two or three unimportant notes. This
it utters occasionally in autumn and winter. About the middle of March
the song of the Wren is among the most frequent sounds of the country.
At this season one may often hear in a garden the roundelay of a Wren
poured forth from the concealment of a low shrub; and, immediately
that it is completed, a precisely similar lay bursts forth from
another bush some twenty yards off. No sooner is this ended than it is
answered, and so the vocal duel proceeds, the birds never interfering
with each other's song, but uttering in turns the same combinations
and arrangement of notes, just as if they were reading off copies of a
score printed from the same type.[9]

But the season is coming on when the Wren has to be occupied with
other things than singing down a rival. Nest-making is with this bird
something more than the laying of a few sticks across one another. It
is not every one who has at once the time, the inclination and the
steadiness of purpose to watch, from beginning to end, the completion
of a Wren's nest. To most people, one or other of these qualifications
is wanting, and to not a few all three. A friend of Mr. Macgillivray,
however, performed the task, and furnished him with a most
satisfactory detailed account of what passed under his observation.
The nest was commenced at seven o'clock in the morning of the
thirtieth of May, by the female bird's placing the decayed leaf of a
lime-tree in the cleft of a Spanish juniper. The male took no part in
the work, but regaled his busy partner by singing to her all day long.
At one period of the day she brought in bundles of leaves four, five,
and even six times in the space of ten minutes. At other times, when
greater care was needed in the selection of materials, she was
sometimes absent for eight or ten minutes, but such was her industry
that at seven o'clock the whole of the external workmanship was
finished, the materials being dry leaves, felted together with moss.
On the following day both birds joined in the work, beginning as early
as half-past three o'clock in the morning, the materials being now
moss and a few feathers. So the work proceeded, day after day, until
the eighth of June, when the structure was completed, being a compact
ball of dried leaves felted with moss and thickly lined with finer
moss and feathers, domed over and having a small circular opening on
one side. Dried leaves form the exterior of most Wrens' nests, unless
they are placed in situations where such an appearance would attract
the attention of a passer-by. On a mossy bank, the outside would
probably consist of moss; under the root of a tree, of twigs; in a
hay-stack, of hay, and so on, the bird being guided by its instinct to
select the least conspicuous material. The number of eggs laid is
usually six, but as many as fifteen or sixteen have been observed. Any
one residing in the country, who has given his attention to birds'
nests, must have remarked what a large proportion of the Wrens' nests
which he has discovered are in an unfinished state and contain no
eggs. These are called 'cock' nests. In winter wrens resort in numbers
to old nests and to holes in walls for mutual warmth and shelter.

   [9] I have heard the same musical contest in August.



    Upper plumage dark brown, tinged with ash; throat and breast
    pure white; abdomen brownish red; bill blackish; feet
    horn-colour. _Female_--colours nearly the same, but of a dingy
    hue. Length seven inches. Eggs pure white.

Any one who has wandered by the mountain rivers of Scotland, North
Wales, or Derbyshire, can have scarcely failed to notice a bird,
somewhat less than a Blackbird, black above, with white throat and
breast, dart with rapid and direct flight from a low rock on the
river's bank, and alight on a wet mossy stone rising but a few inches
above the water, where the stream runs swiftest and the spray sparkles
brightest. But for the roar of the torrent you might hear his song, a
low melodious strain, which he often carries far on into the winter.
His movements while he is thus perched are peculiar; a jerking upwards
of the tail and dipping forward of the head remind us of the Wren, a
bird with which he has, however, nothing really in common. Water
Thrush is one of his names; but he is better known by the names,
Dipper and Water Ouzel. Though neither furnished with web-feet like
the Ducks, nor with long legs like the Waders, the Dipper is decidedly
an aquatic bird, for he is never seen at any distance from a stream or
mountain tarn; in his habits he resembles no other of his tribe--a
water bird with a song--a song bird that wades, and swims. That he
should be so far only singular in his habits is not enough. Although
he is a wader he wades differently from other birds; and he uses his
wings like oars. The Dipper uses both legs and wings in search of
prey, examining the pebbles, feeding on molluscs and the larvæ of
insects. Mr. St. John is of opinion that it commits great havoc among
the spawn, 'uncovering the eggs, and leaving what it does not eat open
to the attack of eels and other fish, or liable to be washed away by
the current'. Mr. Macgillivray, on the contrary, states that he has
dissected a great number of individuals at all seasons of the year,
and has found no other substances in their stomachs but insects and
molluscs; he is therefore of opinion that the charge of destroying the
spawn of fish is unfounded. The latter opinion obtains now.

I might greatly extend my sketch of this interesting bird, but I have
space only to add, that it builds a compact nest of moss, felted so as
to be impervious to water, and lined with dead leaves, under a bank
overhanging a stream, in the hole of a wall near a mill-dam, or
between two rocks under a cascade, but always in such a situation that
both old and young birds can throw themselves into the water
immediately on being alarmed. I have read of one instance in which a
nest was built under a waterfall in such a position, that the bird
could not go to and fro without penetrating every time a vertical
sheet of water. The nest is domed, and can be entered only by a small
hole in front. It contains usually five or six whitish eggs, somewhat
smaller than those of the Thrush.



    Plumage golden yellow; lore, wings and tail black, the tail
    yellow at the tip. _Female_:--olive green above, greyish white
    tinged with yellow beneath, and streaked with greyish brown;
    wings dark brown, the quills edged with olive grey; tail
    olive, tinged with dark brown. Length ten inches. Eggs white
    with a few isolated dark brown or black spots.

This brilliant bird, resembling the Thrushes in form and habits, but
apparelled in the plumage of the Tropics, would seem to have no right
to a place among British birds, so little is its gorgeous livery in
keeping with the sober hues of our other feathered denizens. There
can, however, be no doubt of the propriety of placing it among our
visitors, though it comes but seldom and makes no long stay. It is a
visitor to the southern sea-board counties and often seen in Cornwall
and the Scilly Isles. Were it left unmolested, and allowed to breed in
our woods, it is probable that it would return with its progeny, and
become of comparatively common occurrence; but though there are on
record one or two creditable exceptions, when real naturalists have
postponed the glory of shooting and adding to their collection a
British specimen, to the pleasure of watching its ways on British
soil, yet its biography is not to be written from materials collected
in this country. On the European continent it is a regular visitor,
though even there it makes no long stay, arriving in the beginning of
May, and taking its departure early in autumn. It is most common in
Spain, Southern France, and Italy, but is not unfrequent in many other
parts of France, in Belgium, and the south of Germany, and Hungary.

'His note', says Cuthbert Collingwood, 'is a very loud whistle, which
may be heard at a great distance, but in richness equalling the flute
stop of a fine-toned organ. This has caused it to be called _Loriot_
in France. But variety there is none in his song, as he never utters
more than three notes consecutively, and those at intervals of half a
minute or a minute. Were it not for its fine tone, therefore, his song
would be as monotonous as that of the Missel Thrush, which in
modulation it greatly resembles.'

The nest of the Oriole is described as a marvel of architectural
skill, excelling in elegance of form, richness of materials, and
delicacy of workmanship combined with strength. It is overlaid
externally, like that of the Chaffinch, with the silvery white lichen
of fruit trees, which gives it the appearance of being a part of the
branch which supports it. But the mansion of the Oriole is more
skilfully concealed than that even of the Chaffinch. The latter is
placed _on_ a branch, of which it increases the apparent size, and so
attracts attention. The nest of the Oriole, on the contrary, is
suspended between the two forks of a horizontal branch, which
intercept the side view of it. The materials employed are the lichen
above mentioned, wool, cobwebs, and feathers, but all of a white hue.
When not placed in a fruit tree, it is attached by a kind of cordage
to the twigs of a poplar or birch tree, or even to a bunch of
mistletoe, hanging in mid-air like the car of a balloon. A cradle thus
sedulously constructed we should expect to find watched with unusual
solicitude. And such is the case; it is defended most valiantly
against the attacks of marauding birds, and so devoted is the mother
bird that she has been known to suffer herself to be carried away
sitting on her eggs, and to die of starvation. Surely a bird so
beautiful and so melodious, so skilful an architect and so tender a
nurse, deserves rather to be encouraged than exterminated. Nests have
been found in several of our counties, more especially in Kent. The
plumage of the female bird differs considerably from that of the male
in richness of tint, and the young of both sexes resemble the female.



    Plumage black, with brilliant purple and green reflections,
    the upper feathers tipped with cream-colour; under
    tail-coverts edged with white; beak yellow; feet flesh-colour,
    tinged with brown. _Female_--spotted below as well as above.
    _Young_--uniform ash-brown, without spots. Length eight and a
    half inches; width fifteen inches. Eggs uniform pale greenish

The Starling is a citizen of the world. From the North Cape to the
Cape of Good Hope, and from Iceland to Kamtschatka, he is almost
everywhere at home, and too familiar with the dealings of man to come
within a dangerous distance of his arm, though he fully avails himself
of all the advantages which human civilization offers, having
discovered, long ago, that far more grubs and worms are to be procured
on a newly-mown meadow than on the bare hillside, and that the flavour
of May-dukes and Coroons immeasurably excels that of the wild cherries
in the wood. That dove-cots, holes in walls, and obsolete water-spouts
are convenient resting-places for a nest, appears to be a traditional
piece of knowledge, and that where sheep and oxen are kept, there
savoury insects abound, is a fact generally known, and improved on
accordingly. So, in suburban gardens, where even the Redbreast and
Tits are unknown, Starlings are periodical visitors and afford much
amusement by their shambling gait, and industrious boring on the lawn
for larvæ--in cherry orchards they are regarded with terror, on
account of the amount of mischief they will accomplish in a short
space of time; and in the sheep-fold they are doubtless most cordially
welcomed and their services thankfully received, as they rid the poor
tormented animals of many an evil 'tick'.

The Starling is a handsome bird; seen at a distance it appears to be
of a uniform black hue, but on closer inspection its sable coat is
found to be lustrous with reflections of purple and green, and every
feather is tipped with white, or cream-colour--a mantle of shot-silk
garnished with pearls.

Except during the nesting season, a Starling is rarely seen alone;
most commonly perhaps they are observed in parties of from six to
twelve, hunting in orchards or meadows for whichsoever article of
their diet happens to be in season. Wherever a colony of Rooks,
Jackdaws, or Rock Pigeons has established itself, there most probably,
or somewhere in the neighbourhood, a large party will assemble to
roost, and will attend the others on all their foraging expeditions.
In spring the flocks, small and great, break up into pairs, each
withdrawing to a convenient nesting place, which is sometimes a hole
in a tree, sometimes a building, a cliff, or a cave. The nest itself
is a simple structure, being composed of dry grass and roots, and
contains generally five eggs. At this season the male bird adds to the
chirping and twittering notes of both sexes a soft, and not unmusical
note, which resembles more closely than any other sound with which I
am acquainted the piping of a boatswain's whistle, and it is not
uncommon to hear a party of choristers thus engaged, perched meanwhile
on some high tree, even while incubation is going on. Starlings, also,
mimic the notes of other singers. The breeding season over, they
become nomad in their habits. Many families unite into a flock, and
explore the country far and wide for suitable feeding places, their
diet being, up to this time, exclusively worms and insects. But no
sooner does the fruit begin to ripen in the cherry districts, than the
flocks, now assembled in countless multitudes, descend on the trees,
and, if not observed and scared away, appropriate the whole crop.

Newly-fledged Starlings are so different from their parents, that they
might be mistaken for a different species. The plumage is of a uniform
greyish brown, lighter beneath. It is not till the end of July or the
beginning of August that the adult plumage begins to show itself, and
then the young birds present a singular appearance, as the glossy
black feathers, tipped with pearl, appear in irregular patches on
various parts of the body. Starlings do not usually roost near the
scene of their depredations, but from this season and thence until
late in autumn they repair, as if by some preconcerted scheme, to a
rendezvous common to many detachments. A writer in the _Zoologist_
states that there were formerly, near Melbourne In Cambridgeshire,
some large patches of reeds, which were rented at a certain annual
sum, and which the tenant sold to builders to use in making
plaster-floors and ceilings of rooms. Towards autumn, Starlings
resorted to them in such numbers to roost, that unless scared away,
they settled upon the reeds, broke them down and rendered them
completely useless. It required a person to keep watch every evening
for some time, and fire at them repeatedly with a gun as they were
settling down; but as the spot was a favourite one, they showed
considerable reluctance in quitting it.


    Head crested; crest and neck black, lustrous with violet
    reflections; back and lower parts rose-colour; wings and tail
    lustrous brown. Length eight inches.

A very beautiful bird, partaking the characters of the Starlings and
Crows. It is an inhabitant of Syria, Asia Minor, and Africa, where it
is gregarious in its habits, and does much mischief to the grain
crops. It comes as a straggler to our country from spring to autumn;
only, unfortunately, to be shot as a 'specimen'.



    Plumage black, with purple and green reflections; beak and
    feet coral-red; claws black. Length sixteen inches; width
    thirty-two inches. Eggs yellowish white, spotted with ash-grey
    and light brown.

Continental authors state that the bird which we call the Chough or
Red-legged Crow frequents the highest mountain regions and the
confines of perpetual snow, and that hence it is sometimes known by
the name of 'Jackdaw of the Alps'. Like the rest of its tribe, it is
omnivorous, and lives in societies, like the common Jackdaw and Rook,
but rarely deserting, and then only when pressed by hunger, the place
of its birth. With us it is never seen inland, confining itself to the
rocky sea-coast, where it builds its nest in inaccessible cliffs, and
leads the same kind of life with its sable relatives the Crows and
Jackdaws, though it never ventures, as they do, far from its sea-side
strongholds. The name Chough was probably in ancient times used as a
common appellation of all the members of the family Corvidæ which have
black plumage, this one being distinguished as the 'Cornish Chough',
from the rocky district which it frequented. The famous lines in _King

    The Crows and Choughs that wing the midway air
    Show scarce so gross as beetles:

point probably to the Jackdaw, which is abundant on the rocky coast of
Kent, where the Chough has not been observed, though there is a
traditional account of a pair which many years ago escaped from
confinement and bred there. By its flight it is scarcely to be
distinguished from the Jackdaw; but if it comes near enough to the
observer to betray the vermilion colour of its legs, it may be known
at once, and, seen on the ground, its long curved bill, and more
slender form, sufficiently distinguish it from all others to which it
assimilates in colour and size.

Not many years since, the Chough was far from uncommon in several
parts of the coast of Devon and Cornwall. It is now much less
frequent, though it still lingers about the Lizard in the latter
county, and is said to breed in the high cliffs near Combe Martin in
Devonshire, in both of which places I have often looked out sharply
for it, but have never been quite satisfied that I have seen one. It
is said also to haunt the precipitous coast of several other parts of
Great Britain, and to be found also in many parts of Ireland; in the
Channel, especially in Guernsey, it is fairly common, but always
preferring the least frequented localities. The peculiar habits of a
bird so uncommon and secluded are little known, so far at least as
they are characteristic of the bird in its wild state. In captivity
its ways differ little from those of the rest of its tribe. It is
inquisitive, intrusive, captious in temper, disposed to become
attached to those who treat it well, fond of attracting notice; in a
word, it surpasses in intelligence most other tribes of birds, ranking
among those members of the brute creation whose instinct amounts to
something more than a formal compliance with certain laws which the
rational creation has arbitrarily set down for their government.
Insects and the _rejectamenta_ of the sea-shore and occasionally grain
form its diet. It builds its nest of sticks, and lines it with wool
and hair, preferring a cleft in a rock, but not refusing any old ruin
conveniently situated for its purpose. It lays four or five eggs.


    Plumage sooty brown, spotted on the back and under parts with
    white; tail black, barred with white at the extremity; beak
    and feet horn-colour; iris brown. Length thirteen inches. Eggs
    light buff, with a few greyish brown spots.

The Nutcracker Crow, a rare straggler, must not be confounded with the
Nuthatch, which we have already described; the former is a large
bird, as big as a Jay, and is only an occasional visitor in this
country, and whose habits partake of those of the Crows and
Woodpeckers. The propriety of its name is questionable, according to
Yarrell, who says that 'it cannot crack nuts'. Here perhaps there may
be some little mistake. Its name is evidently a translation of the
French _Cassenoix_. In England we mean by 'nuts' filberts or
hazel-nuts; but the French word _noix_ is applied exclusively to
walnuts, our nuts being _noisettes_, or 'little nuts'; and French
authors are agreed that its food consists of insects, fruits, and
walnuts; that is, the ordinary diet of its relative, the Rook, whose
fondness for walnuts is notorious. It lays its eggs in the holes of
trees, and, except in the breeding season, is more or less gregarious
in its habits.


    Feathers of the crest greyish white, streaked with black; a
    black moustache from the corners of the beak; general plumage
    reddish grey, darker above; primaries dingy black; secondaries
    velvet-black and pure white; inner tertials rich chestnut;
    winglet and greater coverts barred with black, white, and
    bright blue; upper and under tail-coverts pure white; iris
    bright blue; beak black; feet livid brown. Length thirteen and
    a half inches; breadth twenty-two inches. Eggs dull green,
    minutely and thickly-speckled with olive-brown.

There exists among gamekeepers a custom of selecting a certain spot in
preserved woods, and there suspending, as trophies of their skill and
watchfulness, the bodies of such destructive animals as they have
killed in the pursuit of their calling. They are generally those of a
few stoats or weasels, a Hawk, a Magpie, an owl, and two or three
Jays. All these animals are judged to be destructive to game, and are
accordingly hunted to the death, the Jay, perhaps, with less reason
than the rest, for though it can hardly resist the temptation of
plundering, either of eggs or young, any nest, whether of Partridge or
Pheasant, that falls in its way, yet it does not subsist entirely upon
animal food, but also upon acorns and various other wild fruits. Its
blue feathers are much used in the manufacture of artificial flies.
Nevertheless, owing to their cautious and wary habits, there are few
wooded districts in which they are not more or less numerous. Their
jarring unconnected note, which characterizes them at all seasons, is
in spring and summer varied by their song proper, in which I have
never been able to detect anything more melodious than an accurate
imitation of the noise made by sawyers at work, though Montagu states
that 'it will, sometimes, in the spring utter a sort of song in a soft
and pleasing manner, but so low as not to be heard at any distance;
and at intervals introduces the bleating of a lamb, mewing of a cat,
the note of a Kite or Buzzard, hooting of an Owl, or even neighing of
a horse. These imitations are so exact, even in a natural wild state,
that we have frequently been deceived.' The Jay generally builds its
nest in a wood, either in the top of a low tree, or against the trunk
of a lofty one, employing as material small sticks, roots, and dry
grass, and lays five eggs. There seems to be a difference of opinion
as to the sociability of the family party after the young are fledged,
some writers stating that they separate by mutual consent, and that
each shifts for itself; others, that the young brood remains with the
old birds all the winter. For my own part, I scarcely recollect ever
having seen a solitary Jay, or to have heard a note which was not
immediately responded to by another bird of the same species, the
inference from which is that, though not gregarious, they are at least

When domesticated, the Jay displays considerable intelligence; it is
capable of attachment, and learns to distinguish the hand and voice of
its benefactor.


   Great Grey Shrike [M]

      Woodchat Shrike [M]

   Red Backed Shrike [M]

      Nutcracker [M]

                              [_p. 58._]]


      Raven [M]

   Jay [F]


      Magpie [F]]


   Head, throat, neck, and back velvet-black; scapulars and under
   plumage white; tail much graduated and, as well as the wings,
   black, with lustrous blue and bronze reflections; beak, iris,
   and feet black. Length eighteen inches; breadth twenty-three
   inches. Eggs pale dirty green, spotted all over with ash-grey
   and olive-brown.

The Magpie, like the Crow, labours under the disadvantage of an ill
name, and in consequence incurs no small amount of persecution. Owing
to the disproportionate length of its tail and shortness of its wings
its flight is somewhat heavy, so that if it were not cunning and wary
to a remarkable degree, it would probably well-nigh disappear from the
catalogue of British Birds. Yet though it is spared by none except
avowed preservers of all birds (like Waterton, who protects it 'on
account of its having nobody to stand up for it'), it continues to be
a bird of general occurrence, and there seems indeed to be but little
diminution of its numbers. Its nest is usually constructed among the
upper branches of a lofty tree, either in a hedgerow or deep in a
wood; or if it has fixed its abode in an unwooded district, it
selects the thickest thorn-bush in the neighbourhood and there erects
its castle. This is composed of an outwork of thorns and briers
supporting a mass of twigs and mud, which is succeeded by a layer of
fibrous roots. The whole is not only fenced round but arched over with
thorny sticks, an aperture being left, on one side only, large enough
to admit the bird. In this stronghold are deposited generally six
eggs, which in due time are succeeded by as many young ogres, who are
to be reared to birds by an unstinted supply of the most generous
diet. Even before their appearance the old birds have committed no
small havoc in the neighbourhood; now, however, that four times as
many mouths have to be filled, the hunting ground must either be more
closely searched or greatly extended. Any one who has had an
opportunity of watching the habits of a tame Magpie, must have
observed its extreme inquisitiveness and skill in discovering what was
intended to be concealed, joined, moreover, to an unscrupulous habit
of purloining everything that takes its roving fancy. Even when
surrounded by plenty and pampered with delicacies it prefers a stolen
morsel to what is legally its own. Little wonder then that when it has
to hunt on its own account for the necessaries of life, and is
stimulated besides by the cravings of its hungry brood, it has gained
an unenviable notoriety as a prowling bandit. In the harrying of
birds' nests no schoolboy can compete with it; Partridges and
Pheasants are watched to their retreat and plundered mercilessly of
their eggs and young; the smaller birds are treated in like manner:
hares and rabbits, if they suffer themselves to be surprised, have
their eyes picked out and are torn to pieces; rats, mice, and frogs
are a lawful prey; carrion, offal of all kinds, snails, worms, grubs,
and caterpillars, each in turn pleasantly vary the diet; and, when in
season, grain and fruit are attacked with as much audacity as is
consistent with safety; and might, whenever available, give a right to
stray chickens and ducklings. The young birds, nurtured in an
impregnable stronghold, and familiarized from their earliest days with
plunder, having no song to learn save the note of caution and alarm
when danger is near, soon become adepts in the arts of their parents,
and, before their first moult, are a set of inquisitive, chattering
marauders, wise enough to keep near the haunts of men because food is
there most abundant, cautious never to come within reach of the
fowling-piece, and cunning enough to carry off the call-bird from the
net without falling themselves into the snare. Even in captivity, with
all their drollery, they are unamiable.

Magpies, though generally distributed, are far more numerous in some
districts than others. In Cornwall they are very abundant; hence I
have heard them called Cornish Pheasants. In Ireland they are now very
common. It is stated that they are in France more abundant than in any
other country of Europe, where they principally build their nests in
poplar-trees, having discovered, it is said, 'that the brittle nature
of the boughs of this tree is an additional protection against
climbers!' 'In Norway', says a writer in the _Zoologist_,[10] 'this
bird, usually so shy in this country, and so difficult to approach
within gunshot, seems to have entirely changed its nature: it is there
the most domestic and fearless bird; its nest is invariably placed in
a small tree or bush adjoining some farm or cottage, and not
unfrequently in the very midst of some straggling village. If there
happens to be a suitable tree by the roadside and near a house, it is
a very favourable locality for a Norwegian Magpie's nest. I have often
wondered to see the confidence and fearlessness displayed by this bird
in Norway; he will only just move out of your horse's way as you drive
by him on the road, and should he be perched on a rail by the roadside
he will only stare at you as you rattle by, but never think of moving
off. It is very pleasant to see this absence of fear of man in
Norwegian birds; a Norwegian would never think of terrifying a bird
for the sake of sport; whilst, I fear, to see such a bird as the
Magpie sitting quietly on a rail within a few feet, would be to an
English boy a temptation for assault which he could not resist. I must
add, however, with regard to Magpies, that there is a superstitious
prejudice for them current throughout Norway; they are considered
harbingers of good luck, and are consequently always invited to
preside over the house; and, when they have taken up their abode in
the nearest tree, are defended from all ill; and he who should
maltreat the Magpie has perhaps driven off the _genius loci_, and so
may expect the most furious anger of the neighbouring dwelling, whose
good fortune he has thus violently dispersed.' Faith in the prophetic
powers of the Magpie even yet lingers in many of the rural districts
of England also.

   [10] Vol. viii. p. 3085.


   Crown of the head and upper parts black, with violet
   reflections; back of the head and nape grey; lower parts duller
   black; iris white; beak and feet black. Length thirteen inches;
   breadth twenty-seven inches. Eggs very light blue, with
   scattered spots of ash-colour and dark brown.

This lively and active bird, inferior in size as well as dignity to
the Rook, yet in many respects resembles it so closely that it might
be fabled to have made the Rook its model, and to have exercised its
imitative powers in the effort to become the object of its admiration.
A vain effort, however; for nature has given to it a slender form, a
shriller voice, a partially grey mantle, and an instinct which compels
it to be secretive even in the placing of its nest. Its note, which
may be represented either by the syllable 'jack' or 'daw', according
to the fancy of the human imitator, sounds like an impertinent attempt
to burlesque the full 'caw' of the Rook; it affects to be admitted
into the society of that bird on equal terms; but whether encouraged
as a friend, or tolerated as a parasite whom it is less troublesome to
treat with indifference than to chase away, is difficult to decide.
Most probably the latter; for although It is common enough to see a
party of Jackdaws dancing attendance on a flock of Rooks, accompanying
them to their feeding-grounds, and nestling in hollow trunks of trees
in close proximity to rookeries, they are neither courted nor
persecuted; they come when they like and go away when they please. On
the other hand, no one, I believe, ever saw a flock of Rooks making
the first advances towards an intimacy with a flock of Jackdaws, or
heard of their condescending to colonize a grove, because their
grey-headed relatives were located in the neighbourhood. On the
sea-coast, where Rooks are only casual visitors, the Jackdaw has no
opportunity of hanging himself on as an appendage to a rookery, but
even here he must be a client. With the choice of a long range of
cliff before him, he avoids that which he might have all to himself,
and selects a portion which, either because it is sheltered from
storms, or inaccessible by climbers, has been already appropriated by

The object of the Jackdaw in making church-towers its resort is pretty
evident. Where there is a church there is at least also a village,
and where men and domestic animals congregate, there the Jackdaw fails
not to find food; grubs in the fields, fruit in the orchards, and
garbage of all kinds in the waste ground. Here, too, it has a field
for exercising its singular acquisitiveness. Wonderful is the variety
of objects which it accumulates in its museum of a nest, which,
professedly a complication of sticks, may comprise also a few dozen
labels stolen from a Botanic Garden, an old tooth-brush, a child's
cap, part of a worsted stocking, a frill, etc. Waterton,[11] who
strongly defends it from the charge of molesting either the eggs or
young of pigeons, professes himself unable to account for its
pertinacious habit of collecting sticks for a nest placed where no
such support is seemingly necessary, and, cunning though it is,
comments on its want of adroitness in introducing sticks into its
hole: 'You may see the Jackdaw', he says, 'trying for a quarter of an
hour to get a stick into the hole, while every attempt will be futile,
because, the bird having laid hold of it by the middle, it is
necessarily thrown at right angles with the body, and the Daw cannot
perceive that the stick ought to be nearly parallel with its body
before it can be conveyed into the hole. Fatigued at length with
repeated efforts, and completely foiled in its numberless attempts to
introduce the stick, it lets it fall to the ground, and immediately
goes in quest of another, probably to experience another
disappointment on its return. When time and chance have enabled it to
place a quantity of sticks at the bottom of the hole, it then goes to
seek for materials of a more pliant and a softer nature.' These are
usually straw, wool, and feathers; but, as we have seen, nothing comes
amiss that catches its fancy. In addition to rocks, towers, and hollow
trees, it sometimes places its nest in chimneys or in rabbit-burrows,
but never, or in the rarest instances, among the open boughs of a
tree. It lays from four to six eggs, and feeds its young on worms and
insects, which it brings home in the pouch formed by the loose skin at
the base of its beak. When domesticated, its droll trickeries and
capability of imitating the human voice and other sounds are well
known. By turns affectionate, quarrelsome, impudent, confiding, it is
always inquisitive, destructive, and given to purloining; so that
however popular at first as a pet, it usually terminates its career by
some unregretted accident, or is consigned to captivity in a wicker

   [11] _Essays on Natural History._ First Series, p. 109.


   Plumage black with purple reflections; tail rounded, black,
   extending two inches beyond the closed wings; beak strong,
   black as well as the feet; iris with two circles, the inner
   grey, the outer ash-brown. Length twenty-five inches; width
   four feet. Eggs dirty green, spotted and speckled with brown.

The Raven, the largest of the Corvidæ, and possessing in an eminent
degree all the characteristics of its tribe except sociability, is the
bird which beyond all others has been regarded with feelings of awe by
the superstitious in all ages. In both instances in which specific
mention of it occurs in Holy Writ, it is singled out from among other
birds as gifted with a mysterious intelligence. Sent forth by Noah
when the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, it perhaps found a
congenial home among the lonely crags strewed with the carcases of
drowned animals, and by failing to return, announced to the patriarch
that a portion of the earth, though not one fit for his immediate
habitation, was uncovered by the waters. At a subsequent period,
honoured with the mission of supplying the persecuted prophet with
food, it was taught to suppress its voracious instinct by the God who
gave it. The Raven figures prominently in most heathen mythologies,
and is almost everywhere regarded with awe by the ignorant even at the
present time. In Scandinavian mythology it was an important actor; and
all readers of Shakespeare must be familiar with passages which prove
it to have been regarded as a bird of dire omen.

   The sad presaging Raven tolls
   The sick man's passport in her hollow beak.
   And in the shadow of the silent night
   Doth shake contagion from her sable wing.


In the Judgment of others, its friendly mission to the Tishbite
invested it with a sanctity which preserved it from molestation.

Apart from all traditional belief, the Raven derives its ill-omened
character as a herald of death from the rapidity with which it
discerns, in the vicinity of its haunts, the carcase of any dead
animal. In the coldest winter days, at Hudson's Bay, when every kind
of effluvium is greatly checked if not arrested by frost, buffaloes
and other beasts have been killed when not one of these birds was to
be seen; but in a few hours scores of them have been found collected
about the spot to pick up the blood and offal. 'In Ravens', says a
writer in the _Zoologist_,'the senses of smell and sight are
remarkably acute and powerful. Perched usually on some tall cliff that
commands a wide survey, these faculties are in constant and rapid
exercises, and all the movements of the bird are regulated in
accordance with the information thus procured. The smell of death is
so grateful to them that they utter a loud croak of satisfaction
instantly on perceiving it. In passing any sheep, if a tainted smell
is perceptible, they cry vehemently. From this propensity in the Raven
to announce his satisfaction in the smell of death has probably arisen
the common notion that he is aware of its approach among the human
race, and foretells it by his croakings.' The same observant author,
as quoted by Macgillivray, says again: 'Their sight and smell are
very acute, for when they are searching the wastes for provision, they
hover over them at a great height; and yet a sheep will not be dead
many minutes before they will find it. Nay, if a morbid smell
transpire from any in the flock, they will watch it for days till it

To such repasts they are guided more by scent than by sight, for
though they not unfrequently ascend to a great height in the air, they
do not then appear to be on the look-out for food. This duty is
performed more conveniently and with greater success by beating over
the ground at a low elevation. In these expeditions they do not
confine themselves to carrion, but prey indiscriminately on all
animals which they are quick enough to capture and strong enough to
master. Hares, rabbits, rats, mice, lizards, game of various kinds,
eggs, and the larger insects, all of these enter into their diet, and,
wanting these, they resort to the sea-shore for refuse fish, or
ransack dunghills in villages, before the inhabitants are astir, for
garbage of all sorts. Pliny even relates that in a certain district of
Asia Minor they were trained to hawk for game like the noble Falcons.
Few of these qualifications tend to endear them to mankind; and as
they are dreaded by shepherds on account of their being perhaps more
than suspected of making away with sickly lambs when occasion offers,
and of plundering poultry yards, Ravens are become, in populous
districts, almost unknown birds. I have only seen them myself on the
rocky sea-shore of Devon and Cornwall, in the wilds of Dartmoor, and
the Highlands of Scotland. There was for many successive years a nest
built on a ledge of granite near the Bishop Rock, in Cornwall, a huge
mass of sticks, and what appeared to be grass, inaccessible from
below, but commanded by a venturous climber from above. Where it still
continues to breed inland, it places its nest, constructed of sticks
and lined with the wool and fur of its victims, either on an
inaccessible rock, or near the summit of a lofty tree, the ill-omened
'Raven-tree' of romances. In the north of Scotland, in the Orkneys and
Hebrides, where it is still abundant, it builds its nest in cliffs
which it judges to be inaccessible, both inland and on the sea-shore,
showing no marked preference for either. Two pairs never frequent the
same locality, nor is any other bird of prey permitted to establish
itself in their vicinity. Even the Eagle treats the Raven with
respect, and leaves it to its solitude, not so much from fear of its
prowess, as worn out by its pertinacious resistance of all dangerous
intruders. Hence, in some districts, shepherds encourage Ravens,
because they serve as a repellent to Eagles; while in others, where
Eagles are of unusual occurrence, they allow them to build their nests
undisturbed, but when the young are almost fledged, destroy them by
throwing stones at them from above. Nevertheless the original pair
continues to haunt the same locality for an indefinite term of years,
and it is not a little singular that if one of them be killed, the
survivor will find a mate in an incredibly short space of time.

The geographical range of the Raven is very extensive. Throughout all
the zones of the Northern Hemisphere it is to be found; and having
this wide range, its physical constitution is strong, and it lives to
a great age, amounting, so the ancients tell us, to twenty-seven times
the period of a man's life. The note of the Raven is well described by
the word '_croak_', but it is said by those who have had the
opportunity of observing it under various circumstances, to utter
another sound, resembling the word '_whii-ur_'. With this cry it very
commonly intermixes another, sounding like '_clung_', uttered very
much as by a human voice, only a little wilder in the sound. From the
cry _croak_ the Raven no doubt derives its Latin name _Corvus_ the
French _Corbeau_, and its common Scotch appellation _Corbie_.


   Black, with green and violet reflections; tail slightly
   rounded, extending an inch and a quarter beyond the closed
   wings; iris dark hazel; lower part of the beak covered with
   bristly feathers; beak and feet black. Length nineteen inches;
   breadth three feet. Eggs bluish green, spotted and speckled
   with ash-grey and olive.

Breeding early in the year, like the Raven, the Carrion Crow builds
its nest in some tree which, from its loftiness or other reason, is
difficult of ascent, where its young ones are hatched about the time
that most other birds are laying their eggs, and when the lambing
season is at its height. Then, too, its habits are most fully
developed. Its young are clamorous for food, and will not be satisfied
with a little. So the old bird sallies forth to scour the districts
least frequented by man, and makes every living thing its prey,
provided that by force or cunning it can overpower it. If Grouse are
plentiful, it is said that one pair, what with stealing the eggs and
carrying off the young, will in a season destroy more of them than the
keenest sportsman. It will pounce on the leveret and bear it screaming
from the side of its mother. It watches sheep which have strayed from
the fold, and mangles the newly-born or weakly lambs, carrying them
piece-meal to the young ones at home. If mowers are at work, the wary
birds alight on some lofty tree, taking care to keep at a safe
distance, and when a nest has been laid bare by the scythe, their
incredibly sharp eye discerns the prize which, whether it consist of
eggs or callow young, is borne off in triumph. Lest their depredations
should be discovered by the accumulation of egg-shells, feathers and
bones, which are the natural consequence of these raids, they
carefully carry to some distance everything that would tend to betray
them, so that one might pass directly beneath the scene of these
enormities unsuspicious of the evil existing overhead. Keen as this
bird is in pursuit of such delicate fare, he can be, when occasion
serves, as unclean a feeder as the Vulture, and he can, on the other
hand, make a meal off corn. Mr. Knox states that in the Weald of
Sussex, where the Raven is common, it resorts to the brooks and ponds,
which abound in fresh-water mussels (_Anodon_), and feeds on them most
voraciously, especially after floods, when they lie scattered on the
mud. The same author states that in winter it resorts to the
sea-shore, and feeds on the oysters, mussels, small crabs, marine
insects, worms, and dead fish which are cast up by the waves during
the prevalent south-westerly storms. It has been frequently observed,
he adds, to ascend to a great height in the air with an oyster in its
claws, and after letting it fall on the beach, to descend rapidly with
closed pinions and devour the contents. A similar instance of apparent
reasoning is recorded of the same bird by Pliny, but with the
substitution of walnuts for oysters.

With such wandering habits, it seems at first sight strange that the
phrase 'as the Crow flies' should be adopted to mark distances in a
straight line across the open country; yet when it is borne in mind
how many persons confound the Crow with the Rook, and even talk of the
'Crows in a rookery', the suggestion will at once occur to the mind
that the term owed its origin to its far gentler and more respectable
relation, the Rook, whose evening flights from the feeding-ground are
among the most familiar sights of the country, and are invariably
performed in a line so straight, that if a whole flock could be
tracked through the air on any one evening it would be found scarcely
to deviate from that of the preceding or the following. It is to be
feared that this inaccurate application of names has done the Rook ill
service; yet the two birds are totally distinct; Crows are solitary
birds, rarely being seen in more than pairs together; Rooks are
eminently sociable. Crows shun the haunts of men; Rooks court the
vicinity of his dwellings. Crows are carnivorous; Rooks feed
principally on the grubs of beetles, worms, and noxious insects,
rewarding themselves occasionally for their services by regaling on
corn and fruits, but rarely touching carrion or molesting living
animals. In appearance the two birds are much alike; the Crow,
however, is somewhat smaller, the beak is stouter at the point and
encircled at the base with numerous short feathers, while the bill of
the Rook is encroached on by a white membrane which is almost bare of
feathers. Both are noted for their intelligence; the Crow has been
known to remove its eggs from its nest when apprehensive of danger; it
was held in high consideration in the days of augury, and certain of
its movements were considered to be indicative of changes in the
weather. It builds its nest of sticks, and lines it with moss, straw,
hair, and wool, and lays from four to six eggs. Like the Raven, it is
a widely-diffused bird, and attains a great age, outliving (the
ancients said) nine generations of men, showing great attachment to
any spot in which it has once fixed its home, and suffering neither
its own progeny nor any other large birds to nestle in its vicinity.

This Crow is becoming more numerous of late in the close vicinity of
London. It comes constantly to some of our suburban gardens.


   Head, throat, wings and tail black, the rest of the plumage
   ash-grey; tail rounded; beak and feet black; iris brown. Length
   nineteen and a half inches; breadth three feet two inches. Eggs
   bluish green, mottled with ash-grey and olive.

The Hooded Crow closely resembles the Carrion Crow, scarcely differing
from it in fact except in colour. They are, however, perfectly
distinct species, and for the most part exercise their calling in
separate haunts. In Norway Hooded Crows are very abundant, to the
almost total exclusion of the Carrion Crow and Rook, and, though not
congregating so as to form a society like the last-named bird, they
may be seen simultaneously employed in searching for food in groups
which collectively amount to a hundred or more. Though numerous in the
winter at Newmarket Heath and Royston (where they are sometimes called
Royston Crows), and annually resorting to many parts of the sea-coast,
they rarely breed so far south. In the Isle of Man, the Orkneys,
Hebrides, and in all but the south of Scotland they are of more
frequent occurrence than any other of the tribe, essentially belonging
to the 'Land of the mountain and the flood'. It is on the increase in
Ireland and very unwelcome there. One can scarcely traverse the shores
of the salt-water lochs of Scotland without seeing a pair, or, in the
latter part of the year, a small party of four or five of these birds,
gravely pacing the shingle and sand in quest of food. As far as my own
experience goes, I should consider the Hooded Crow as 'half sea-bird',
but it is said to be met with, in summer, in the very centre of the
Grampians and other inland districts. Its proper diet consists of the
smaller marine animals, such as crabs, echini, and molluscs, alive or
dead, fish and carrion. At high-water it retires inland, and skulks
about the low grounds in quest of the eggs and young of Moor-fowl,
thereby gaining the execrations of gamekeepers; takes a survey of any
adjacent sheep-walks, on the chance of falling in with a new-born
lamb, or sickly ewe, whence it has but an ill name among shepherds;
and returns when the tide has well ebbed, to finish the day's repast
on food of a nature light and easy of digestion. It is less wary of
man than the Carrion Crow, and often comes within shot, but, being far
too numerous to admit of being exterminated, is but little assailed.
In the comparatively mild climate of the Scottish sea-coast, these
birds find an abundant supply of food all the year round and as there
is no sensible diminution of their numbers in winter, it is supposed
that those which frequent the English coast from October to March have
been driven southwards by the inclement winters of high latitudes.
They are then frequently observed on the coast of Norfolk and Sussex
in parties of thirty or more, and it has been remarked that the
hunting grounds of the two species are defined by singularly precise
limits, the neighbourhood of Chichester being frequented by the
Carrion Crow, that of Brighton by its congener. It is abundant on the
sea-coast of Norfolk in the winter, where I have seen it feeding with
Gulls, Plovers, etc. In musical capabilities it is inferior even to
its relative, its solitary croak being neither so loud nor so clear.
The nest of the Hooded Crow is large, composed of twigs, sea-weeds,
heath, feathers, and straws, and is placed on rocks, tall trees, low
bushes, and elsewhere, according to circumstances.



   Jackdaw [M]

            Crow [M]

   Hooded Crow [F]

                              [_p. 68._]]


   Pied Flycatcher [M] _imm._ [M] Spotted Flycatcher [F]

      Waxwing [M] [M]

   Greenfinch [M] _young_ [F]]


   Plumage black, with purple and violet reflections; base of the
   beak, nostrils; and region round the beak bare of feathers and
   covered with a white scurf, iris greyish white; beak and feet
   black. Length eighteen inches; breadth three feet. Eggs pale
   green, thickly blotched with olive and dark-brown.

As the Hooded Crow is essentially the type of the Corvidæ in
Scandinavia and the Isles of Scotland, where the Carrion Crow and Rook
are all but unknown, so in England the representative of the tribe is
the Rook, a bird so like the Crow that it is called by its name almost
as frequently as by its own, yet so different in habits that, instead
of being under a perpetual and universal ban, it is everywhere
encouraged and indeed all but domesticated. There are few English
parks that do not boast of their rookery, and few proprietors of
modern demesnes pretending to be parks, who would not purchase at a
high price the air of antiquity and respectability connected with an
established colony of these birds. Owing to their large size and the
familiarity with which they approach the haunts of men, they afford a
facility in observing their habits which belongs to no other birds;
hence all treatises on Natural History, and other publications which
enter into the details of country life in England, abound in anecdotes
of the Rook. Its intelligence, instinctive appreciation of danger,
voracity, its utility or the reverse, its nesting, its morning repasts
and its evening flights, have all been observed and more or less
faithfully recorded again and again; so that its biography is better
known than that of any other British bird. It would be no difficult
task to compile from these materials a good-sized volume, yet I doubt
not that enough remains untold, or at least not sufficiently
authenticated, to furnish a fair field of inquiry to any competent
person who would undertake to devote his whole attention to this one
bird for a considerable period of time. Such a biographer should make
himself master of all that has been recorded by various authorities,
and should then visit a large number of rookeries in all parts of the
kingdom, collecting and sifting evidence, making a series of personal
observations, and spreading his researches over all seasons of the
year. Such an inquiry, trivial though it may seem, would be most
useful, for the Rook, though it has many friends, has also many
enemies, and, being everywhere abundant, its agency for good or evil
must have serious results. The following account being imperfect from
want of space, the reader who wishes to know more about this
interesting bird must refer to our standard works on Ornithology, and,
above all, record and compare his own personal observations.

In the early spring months Rooks subsist principally on the larvæ and
worms turned up by the plough, and without gainsay, they are then
exceedingly serviceable to the agriculturist, by destroying a vast
quantity of noxious insects which, at this period of their growth,
feed on the leaves or roots of cultivated vegetables. Experience has
taught them that the ploughman either has not the power or the desire
to molest them; they therefore approach the plough with perfect
fearlessness, and show much rivalry in their efforts to be first to
secure the treasures just turned up. During the various processes to
which the ground is subjected in preparation for the crop, they repeat
their visits, spreading more widely over the field, and not only pick
up the grubs which lie on the surface, but bore for such as, by
certain signs best known to themselves, lie concealed. I need not say
that in all these stages the wisdom of the farmer is to offer them
every inducement to remain; all that they ask is to be let alone. Not
so, however, when the seed-crop is sown. Grain, pulse, and potatoes
are favourite articles of diet with them, and they will not fail to
attack these as vigorously as they did the grubs a few days before.
They are therefore undeniably destructive at this season, and all
available means should be adopted to deter them from alighting on
cultivated ground. About the second week in March they desert the
winter roosting places, to which they had nightly congregated in
enormous flocks, leave off their wandering habits, and repair as if
by common consent to their old breeding places. Here, with much cawing
and bustling, they survey the ruins of their old nests, or select
sites for new ones, being guided by their instinct to avoid all those
trees the upper branches of which are too brittle for their purpose
either because the trees are sickly or in an incipient state of decay.
Hence, when it has occasionally happened that a nestless tree in a
rookery has been blown down, the birds have been saluted as prophets,
while in reality the tree yielded to the blast before its fellows
because it was unsound, the Rooks knowing nothing about the matter
except that signs of decay had set in among the upper twigs while as
yet all seemed solid beneath. How the birds squabble about their
nests, how they punish those thievishly disposed, how they drive away
intruders from strange rookeries, how scrupulously they avoid, during
building, to pick up a stick that has chanced to drop, how the male
bird during incubation feeds his mate with the most luscious grubs
brought home in the baggy pouch at the base of his bill, how every
time that a bird caws while perched he strains his whole body forward
and expands his wings with the effort, all these things, and many
more, I must pass over without further notice, leaving them to be
verified by the reader with the help of a good field-glass. I must,
however, mention, in passing, the custom so generally adopted by
sportsmen, of shooting the young birds as soon as they are
sufficiently fledged to climb from their nests to the adjoining twigs,
or to perform their first tentative flight over the summits of the
trees. It is supposed to be necessary to keep down their numbers, but
this is a disputed point. I have, however, little doubt that Rooks
during the whole of their lives associate the memory of these
_battues_ with the appearance of a man armed with a gun. Many people
believe that Rooks know the smell of powder: they have good reason to
know it; but that they are as much alarmed at the sight of a stick as
a gun in the hand of a man, may be proved by any one who, chancing to
pass near a flock feeding on the ground, suddenly raises a stick. They
will instantly fly off, evidently in great alarm.

While the young are being reared, the parent birds frequent
corn-fields and meadows, where they search about for those plants
which indicate the presence of a grub at the root. Such they
unscrupulously uproot, and make a prize of the destroyer concealed
beneath. They are much maligned for this practise, but without reason;
for, admitting that they kill the plant as well as the grub, it must
be borne in mind that several of the grubs on which they feed
(cockchafer and daddy-longlegs) live for several years underground,
and that, during that period, they would if left undisturbed, have
committed great ravages. I have known a large portion of a bed of
lettuces destroyed by a single grub of _Melolontha_, having actually
traced its passage underground from root to root, and found it
devouring the roots of one which appeared as yet unhurt. Clearly, a
Rook would have done me a service by uprooting the first lettuce, and
capturing its destroyer.

I must here advert to a peculiar characteristic of the Rook which
distinguishes it specifically from the Crow. The skin surrounding the
base of the bill, and covering the upper part of the throat, is, in
the adult birds, denuded of feathers. Connected with this subject many
lengthy arguments have been proposed in support of two distinct
opinions: one, that the bareness above mentioned is occasioned by the
repeated borings of the bird for its food; the other, that the
feathers fall off naturally at the first moult, and are never
replaced. I am inclined to the latter view, and that for two reasons:
first, if it be necessary (and that is not at all clear) that the
Rook, in order to supply itself with food, should have no feathers at
the base of its bill, I believe that nature would not have resorted to
so clumsy a contrivance, and one so annoying to the bird, as that of
wearing them away bit by bit: and, secondly, the bare spot is, as far
as I have observed, of the same size and shape in all birds, and at
all periods of the year, a uniformity which can scarcely be the result
of digging in soils of various kinds, and at all seasons. I cannot,
therefore, but think that the appearance in question is the result of
a law in the natural economy of the bird, that the feathers are not
_rubbed_ off, but _fall_ off, and that they are not renewed, because
nature never intended that they should grow there permanently; if not,
why is there no similar abrasion in the Crow? The number of lambs
eaten by Crows is very small after all, and birds' eggs are not always
in season, nor is carrion so very abundant; so that, during a great
portion of the year, even Crows must dig for their livelihood, and the
great distinction between a Crow and a Rook is, that the former has
actually no bare space at the base of his bill. But the question is
still open, and the reader may make his own observations, which in
Natural History, as well as in many other things, are far better than
other people's theories.

In very dry summer weather, Rooks are put to great shifts in obtaining
food. Grubs and worms descend to a great depth to get beyond the
influence of the drought, and the soil is too parched and hard for
digging; they then retire to the sea-shore, to marshes, fresh-water
and salt, to cabbage and potato gardens, and in the last-named
localities they are again disposed to become marauders. To fruit
gardens they are rarely permitted to resort, or they would commit
great ravages. As the season advances, ripe walnuts are a very
powerful attraction, and when they have discovered a tree well
supplied with fruit, a race ensues between them and the proprietor as
to which shall appropriate the greater share, so slyly do they watch
for opportunities, and so quick are they in gathering them and
carrying them off in their beaks. In long winter frosts, or when the
ground is covered with snow, they are again reduced to straits. Some
resort to the sea-shore and feed on garbage of all kinds, some to
turnip-fields where they dig holes in the bulbs. They have also been
observed to chase and kill small birds, which, as near starvation as
themselves, have been unable to fly beyond their reach, and I have
even seen a Rook catch a small fish.

I must not conclude this imperfect sketch without noticing a peculiar
habit of Rooks, which is said to portend rain. A flock will suddenly
rise into the air almost perpendicularly, with great cawing and
curious antics, until they have reached a great elevation, and then,
having attained their object, whatever that may be, drop with their
wings almost folded till within a short distance of the ground, when
they recover their propriety, and alight either on trees or on the
ground with their customary grave demeanour. Occasionally in autumn,
as White of Selborne remarks,

   Sooth'd by the genial warmth, the cawing Rook
   Anticipates the spring, selects her mate,
   Haunts her tall nests, and with sedulous care
   Repairs her wicker eyrie, tempest torn.

Similar instances of this unseasonable pairing are recorded by modern

Efforts are sometimes made, and not always unsuccessfully, to induce
Rooks to establish a colony in a new locality. One plan is to place
some eggs taken from a Rook's nest in that of some large bird which
has happened to build in the desired spot, that of a Crow for
instance, a Magpie, Jackdaw, Jay, or perhaps a Mistle Thrush. If the
young are reared, it is probable that they will return to breed in the
same place in the following year. Another plan which has been tried
with success is to place several bundles of sticks, arranged in the
form of nests, among the highest branches of the trees which it is
desired to colonize. Stray Rooks in quest of a settlement, mistaking
these for ruins of old nests, accept the invitation and establish
themselves if the locality suits them in other respects.

During 1907-1908 the economic rôle played by the Rook has been
thoroughly investigated by ornithologists and farmers all over
Hungary, with the results that this bird stands as a friend rather
than a foe to agriculture.



   Head, nape, and back, bright ash grey; a broad black band
   beneath the eyes; under plumage pure white; wings short, black;
   base of the primaries and tips of the secondaries white; tail
   with the two middle feathers black, and the outer on each side
   white with a black spot at the base, the rest black and white;
   bill and feet black. _Female_ of a more dingy hue above; below
   dull white, the proportion of black in the feathers increasing
   as they approach the middle; each feather of the breast
   terminating in a crescent-shaped ash grey spot. Length ten
   inches; breadth fourteen inches. Eggs bluish white, spotted at
   the larger end with two shades of brown. Sylvan. Young barred

The family of Shrikes, or Butcher-birds, would seem to occupy an
intermediate station between birds of prey and insectivorous birds.
The subject of the present chapter especially, though little
resembling a Hawk in appearance, has, on account of its habits, some
pretension to be ranked among birds of prey; from which, however, it
differs in the essential particular that, as well as the rest of the
family, it seizes and carries off its prey with its beak and not with
its claws. Although a fairly common visitor from autumn to spring this
Shrike does not breed with us, and is rarer in Ireland. It derives
its name _excubitor_ (sentinel) from its favourite habit of posting
itself on the topmost twig of a poplar or other lofty tree, whence it
keeps up a watchful look-out, not only for its prey, but for any bird
of the Hawk tribe, against which it wages incessant and deadly
hostility. When it descries one of these birds, which it does at a
great distance, it utters a shriek, as if for the purpose of giving an
alarm, a cry which is instantly repeated by all birds of the same
species which happen to be within hearing. This antipathy against
birds of prey is taken advantage of by fowlers in France, who, when
setting their nets for hawks, take with them a 'sentinel' Shrike and
station it near the living bird, which they employ as a lure. So rapid
is the swoop of the Falcon that but for the warning cry of the Shrike
it would descend and carry off its victim before the fowler had time
to close his nets; but the keen eye of the sentinel detects, and his
shrill cry announces, the approach of his enemy, and the fowler has
time to prepare. The principal food of this bird appears to be mice,
frogs, lizards and insects, especially the stag-beetle and
grasshopper, though in its natural state it will capture and destroy
any birds inferior to itself in strength and courage. Its name
_Lanius_ (Latin for butcher) and Butcher-bird were given to it from
its habit of impaling beetles and small birds on thorns in the
vicinity of its nest. Its flight is peculiar, being composed of a
series of dips, like that of the Wagtail; and when it quits its perch
on the summit of one tall tree to fly to another, it drops and rises
again so as to form a curve like that of a loose rope hung from two
tall masts. Another peculiarity of the Shrike is a remarkable power of
imitating the song of other birds, which it is said to exercise in
order to obtain its food more easily, by beguiling the nestlings of
the smaller birds into answering it by a chirrup, and so betraying
their retreat. The notes which it has been observed to imitate are
those of the Nightingale, Robin, Swallow, and Stonechat. Its proper
note is harsh, resembling somewhat that of the Kestrel, _Shake-shake_!
the call note is _truii_! Of the Lesser Grey Shrike, _Lanius minor_,
there have been few occurrences in these Islands.


   Grey above: breast and flanks roseate; wing-bar white.

Of this species only four occurrences recorded until recently--in
Scilly Islands, Norfolk and Devon.


   Head, nape, shoulders and upper tail-coverts ash-grey, a black
   band reaching from the gape to beyond the ears; back,
   scapulars, and wing-coverts reddish brown; throat white,
   passing into rose-red on the breast and flanks; wings blackish,
   edged with reddish brown; tail nearly even at the end, four
   middle feathers black tipped with reddish grey, the rest white
   from the base through two-thirds of their length, the other
   third black with a white tip; second primary longer than the
   fifth. _Female_--upper plumage rusty brown, tinged near the
   nape and tail with ash-grey; lower white, the sides barred
   transversely by narrow curved lines; outer webs and tips of the
   outer tail feathers yellowish white, four middle ones uniform
   dusky brown. Length seven inches; breadth eleven inches. Eggs
   cream-coloured, greenish, or delicate grey variously mottled
   and spotted with light brown and ash-grey.

The Red-backed Shrike, though not generally diffused throughout
England, is to certain localities a far from uncommon wanderer, but
for some reason it has been scarce in 1908. In the wooded districts of
the midland and southern counties many specimens may be annually
observed, and the nest is of frequent occurrence. This is usually
placed a few feet from the ground, in the middle of a thick bush or
hedge; and, very unlike that of the rapacious birds, is a massive,
well-built structure of twigs, dry grass, and moss, lined with hair
and fine roots. This bird is called in France _l'êcorcheur_ (the
flayer), from the custom ascribed to it of skinning the bodies of its
victims before devouring them. Its habits and food are similar to
those of the last species, and it is said also to possess the same
imitative power. That it impales insects and even young birds on
thorns there can be no doubt as it has been watched by a competent
observer in the very act of thus dealing with the carcase of a

A professional bird-catcher told how a Red-backed Shrike once pounced
on one of his call-birds (a linnet), and attempted to carry it off;
but being prevented from doing so by the linnet being fastened to the
ground by a string and wooden peg, the Shrike tore off the head of its
victim, with which it made its escape. The bird-catcher then drew out
from the ground the peg which held down the linnet, and left the dead
bird lying in the net. In about half an hour the Shrike again
appeared, pounced upon the body of the dead linnet, and carried it off
in its beak, with the string and peg hanging to it; the weight of the
latter was probably the cause of the Shrike not carrying its prey
quite away, as it dropped it after flying about fifteen yards, when
the bird-catcher again picked up the dead linnet, and replaced it in
the net. The Shrike in the meantime retreated to some neighbouring
bushes, from which it soon made a third pounce upon the nets, this
time attacking the second call-bird, which was a sparrow. On this
occasion, however, the bird-catcher was on the watch, and, drawing his
nets, captured the Shrike, which proved to be an adult female. This
daring act was observed late in the month of June, when, perhaps, the
courage of the mother bird was unusually excited by the cravings of
her brood at home, and further stimulated by the impression that the
call-birds were in trouble, and consequently offered an easy prey.

An amiable trait in the character of this Shrike is its attachment to
its mate and young. A female has been known to approach so close to
the cage in which her captured lord was confined, that she was herself
easily taken; and when a nest of young birds is molested, both parents
defend their offspring with astonishing intrepidity.

The Red-backed Shrike is known to us only as a summer visitor,
departing early in autumn. Its note is a harsh _chuck!_ but the song
of the mate is somewhat pleasant.


   Forehead and cheeks black; nape bright rust colour; back and
   wings variegated with black, white, and reddish brown; under
   parts white; outer tail feathers white, with a square black
   spot at the base on the inner web, the two next with the black
   spot larger, and on both webs, the two middle ones wholly
   black, the rest black tipped with white; tail slightly rounded;
   second primary equal in length to the fifth. _Female_--all her
   colours dingy; breast marked transversely with fine brown
   lines. Length, seven and a half inches. Eggs bluish white,
   spotted at the larger end with brown and ash-grey.

The habits of this bird, which is a very rare visitant to the British
Isles, differ in no material respect from those of the foregoing
species. On the Continent it is more frequent in the south than the
north, where it frequents trees rather than bushes, and generally
places its nest, which it constructs of twigs, moss, and white lichen,
in the forked branch of an oak. Like the rest of the family it is
migratory, coming and departing at the same time as the other species.



   Feathers of the head elongated, forming a crest; upper plumage
   purplish red; lower the same, but of a lighter tint; throat and
   lore black; greater wing-coverts black, tipped with white;
   primaries black, with a yellow or white angular spot near the
   extremity, six or eight of the secondaries and tertiaries
   having the shaft prolonged and terminating in a substance
   resembling red sealing-wax; tail black, tipped with yellow.
   Length eight inches. Eggs pale blue, with a few streaks of
   brown and lilac.

The Waxwing is an elegant bird, of about the size of a Thrush. It
visits this country, and in fact every other European country where it
is known at all, at irregular intervals, generally in flocks, which
vary in number from eight or ten to some scores. Thus it is everywhere
a stranger; and little was known till recently of its nesting habits.
It is perhaps on account of this ignorance of its natural history,
that it has borne a variety of names which are as inappropriate as
possible. Temminck describes it under the name Bombycivora, or
devourer of Bombyx, a large moth, a name quite unfit for a bird which
lives exclusively on fruits and berries. This was softened into
Bombycilla, which means, I presume, a little Bombyx, though the bird
in question is far larger than any known moth. Its French name
_Jaseur_, equivalent to the English one, Chatterer, is quite as
inappropriate, as it is singularly silent. In default of all certain
information, then, I venture to surmise that, coming in parties no one
knows whence, and going no one knows whither, they may have received
the name Bohemian, because they resemble in their habits the wandering
tribes of gypsies, who were formerly called indifferently Egyptians
and Bohemians. Taken in this sense, the Bohemian or _Wandering_
Waxwing, as it used to be called, is a name open to no exception. The
plumage of the bird is silky, and that of the head is remarkable for
forming a crest, and being capable of being elevated, as in the
Cardinal. Its black gorget and tiara, the patches of white, yellow,
and black described above, make it very conspicuous for colouring, and
the singularity of its appearance is much increased by the appendages
to its secondaries and tertiaries, which resemble in colour and
substance red sealing-wax. In very old birds these waxen appendages
are also to be found at the extremities of the tail-feathers, being no
more than the shafts of the feathers, condensed with the web. In its
habits the Waxwing resembles the Tits. It feeds on insects, fruit,
berries, and seeds. Its call-note is a twitter, which it rarely
utters, except when taking flight and alighting. The Waxwing is a
northern bird, and Dr. Richardson, the Arctic traveller, informs us
that he one day saw a flock, consisting of three or four hundred
birds, alight on one or two trees in a grove of poplars, making a loud
twittering noise. One of its German names, _Schneevogel_ (snowbird),
was evidently given in this belief. It is sometimes caught and caged,
but has nothing but its beautiful colouring to recommend it. It is a
stupid lazy bird, occupied only in eating and reposing for digestion.
Its song is weak and uncertain.


  MUSCICAPIDÆ.--Nostrils more or less covered by bristly hairs


   Upper plumage ash-brown; feathers of the head marked with a
   central dark line; under parts white, the sides marked with
   longitudinal brown streaks; flanks tinged with red. Length six
   inches; breadth ten inches. Eggs bluish white, mottled with
   reddish spots, which are deepest in colour towards the larger

There are few birds with whose haunts and habits we are more familiar
than those of the common Flycatcher. In the wooded parts of England
there is scarcely a country house, perhaps, which has not in its
neighbourhood at least a single pair of these birds, who, though their
stay with us is but short, become as necessary appendages of the
garden during the summer months as the Redbreast is in winter. They
have neither song to recommend them nor brilliancy of colouring; yet
the absence of these qualities is more than compensated by the
confidence they repose in the innocent intentions of the human beings
whose protection they claim, by their strong local attachments, and by
their unceasing activity in the pursuit of flying insects. At any time
during the months of June, July, and August, in most country and
suburban gardens, one may observe perched on a railing, standard rose,
or the low branch of an apple-tree, a small brownish bird, with a
speckled breast, about the size of a Sparrow, but more slender in
form, taking no notice of human beings, but nevertheless evidently on
the look-out for something. Suddenly it darts from its position, flies
rapidly forwards for a few yards, performs an evolution in the air,
and returns either to the exact spot which it had previously occupied
or to a similar one hard by. After a rest of a few seconds, it
performs the same manœuvre, and always with the same object and
success. Every time it quitted its perch, some ill-fated fly or beetle
was discovered, winging its way through the air, and captured to be
devoured on the spot, or to form part of a pellet of insect food for a
hungry nestling. The nest, composed of moss, straws, and hair, and
lined with feathers, is usually placed either against a wall, hidden
by the leaves of a trained fruit-tree, or on the horizontal bough of a
standard apple-tree. During the year 1859, a pair of these birds had
taken up their quarters in my own garden in a situation such as that
first described, but becoming dissatisfied with the locality even
after the nest had received its complement of eggs--five--deserted it,
and built another nest in an apple-tree a few yards off, choosing a
position on a short branch, where their workmanship was concealed from
the sight of passengers by a cluster of large apples. The bough
overhung a path by which many persons passed to and fro every day; but
the nest was built, and the old birds hatched their eggs, neither
noticed nor noticing, until one day when I happened to stop
underneath, upon which the bird took flight, and so revealed her place
of retreat. I do not mention this incident as anything remarkable, but
simply to exemplify the habits of the bird when it has taken up its
residence in a frequented garden, and in contrast with its treatment
of intruders when it has chosen a more secluded spot for a home. A few
days after, I happened to be fly-fishing on the bank of a stream close
to which grew some tall elm-trees. Under one of these I was pursuing
my amusement, when a flycatcher darted from a tree on the opposite
side of the stream, and flew so close to my face that to dip my head
out of the way was unavoidable. The same movement was repeated again
and again, making it impossible for me to persist. Suspecting that
there was a nest somewhere very near me, I looked up and discovered,
within a few inches of my head, a nest built against the hole of the
tree, and containing four or five nearly fledged young ones, whose
heads and breasts projected considerably beyond the edge of their
mossy cradle. As I moved away, the parent bird hopped about uneasily
in a neighbouring tree, uttering its monotonous and unmusical chirrup,
but molested me no further. It would seem then that the garden bird,
grown familiar with the human form, was unsuspicious of danger, while
the other, who had not been accustomed to see her sanctuary
approached, immediately took alarm. It is supposed that the same birds
are in the habit of returning annually to their old resort. Both the
above incidents tend to give weight to this opinion: one of the birds
having been reared, probably in the garden, and so having been
accustomed to the sight of men from the first; the other having been
always a recluse. The fact which fell under my own notice, that a nest
was built, and a brood reared for three successive years in exactly
the same spot, is, I think, conclusive evidence that either the same
birds or their immediate descendants were the architects, it being
scarcely credible that three several pairs of birds should have fixed
on the same spot by accident. Mr. Denham Weir has observed that the
Spotted Flycatcher consumes only a day and a half in the construction
of its nest, and that a pair of birds which he watched fed their young
no less than five hundred and thirty-seven times in one day, beginning
at twenty-five minutes before four o'clock in the morning, and ending
at ten minutes before nine in the evening. The young birds assume the
adult plumage in their first year, and soon learn to hawk for their
prey as well as their parents. I have recorded elsewhere an instance
in which the parent birds contrived to feed a disabled young one after
it had left the nest. The Flycatcher arrives in England about the end
of April, and leaves about the end of September.


   Upper plumage and tail black, the wings black, with the central
   coverts white; scapulars edged with white; under plumage white.
   In the _female_ the black is replaced by greyish brown, the
   white is dingy, and the three lateral tail feathers are edged
   with white. Length five inches. Eggs pale blue, generally
   without spots.

The Pied Flycatcher, so called from its feathers being varied with
black and white, is a smaller bird than the preceding, and by no means
so common, being very local as a breeder. It appears, indeed, to be
mainly confined to the northern counties of England, where it arrives
about the middle of April, and builds its nest of dry leaves, small
roots, grass, and a little hair, loosely put together, in the hole of
a tree. There it lays from five to seven pale blue eggs, very like,
both in size and colour, those of the Redstart, which it also much
resembles in habits. It has more claim to be considered a songster
than the Spotted Flycatcher. In places where it is frequent it is
often observed to settle on the decayed stump of a tree, constantly
repeating its short, little varied, but far from unpleasing song,
every now and then interrupted by the pursuit and capture of some
passing insect. It is said also to be very noisy and clamorous when
its nest is approached. It quits our shores in September.



   Forehead and throat chestnut-brown; upper parts, sides of the
   neck, and a bar across the breast black, with violet
   reflections; lower parts dull reddish white; tail very long and
   forked. _Female_--with less red on the forehead and less black
   on the breast; under parts whiter; outer tail-feathers shorter.
   Length six inches and a half, width thirteen inches and a
   quarter. Eggs white, spotted with brown and dark red.

There are many features in the life of the Swallow so prominent, that
no undomesticated bird is more thoroughly known. Like the Sparrow, it
accompanies man wherever he fixes his dwelling; but, unlike the
Sparrow, it is liable to be mistaken for no other bird; its flight is
peculiar and all but ceaseless; at least, it is rarely seen except in
motion; and it is absent during the greater portion of the year, so
giving to itself a twofold notoriety, being regretted at the season of
its departure and welcomed at its return. These three circumstances,
its migratory habits, its mode of flight, and attachment to the
dwellings of man, have been the cause why, in all ages, it has been
invested with especial interest. Its return is universally greeted as
prophetic of summer weather; the very proverb that 'one Swallow does
not make a summer', only indicates a popular belief; and its departure
is among the first intimations of approaching winter. The Swallow
consequently is the type of migratory birds; if the Swallow is come,
all take it for granted that the other summer birds have arrived, and
when its twitter is no longer heard, we know that all the other birds
of passage are gone or going. Of the Swallow, therefore, it is said
pre-eminently, "God sends us the Swallow in the first days of summer,
to relieve us of the insects which the summer suns are calling into
life. The home of the Swallow is all the habitable earth; it knows
nothing of winter or winter's cold." In remote ages the Swallow was
considered to be endowed with supernatural intelligence; it refused to
build its nest in a certain town because it was polluted with crime;
in another, because it had been frequently burnt down; it foretold
tempests; and, above all, it was noted for having taught men the
healing properties of a certain herb,[12] by employing it to give
sight to its young. Not only was it thus skilled in the healing art,
but was in itself a medicine of no ordinary virtue. Even in the time
of our countryman Ray, not two hundred years ago, its efficacy in
various complaints was seriously believed: the whole body burnt was
considered a specific for weak eyes, quinsy and inflamed uvula; the
heart was prescribed in epilepsy and in quartan ague, it was good also
for strengthening the memory; the blood was good for the eyes,
especially if drawn from under the right wing: a little stone
sometimes found in the stomach of young birds, called _chelidonius_,
tied to the arm, or hung around the neck, was a remedy against
children's fits. This was to be searched for before or at the August
full moon, in the eldest of a brood. Even the nest had its virtues,
being, if applied externally, good for quinsy, redness of the eyes,
and the bite of a viper.

A century later 'good old White' published his account of the Swallow,
to which the reader is referred as an admirable model of
bird-biography, not only for the age, but as an authentic history full
of fresh interest to the reader in all ages. The only point on which
White had doubts was whether Swallows all migrate, or whether some of
the young do not occasionally stay behind, and hibernate in hollow
trees, holes of rocks, and the banks of pools and rivers. Individuals
are said to occasionally remain, perhaps in consequence of having been
disabled by accident at the season when the migratory instinct was in
its active force, or from some other cause unknown to us. Several
instances of such have been recorded by authors who, whether accurate
observers or not, certainly believed that they were reporting truly.
That they were seen only on warm days is of course no evidence that
they had been roused from a state of torpor by the unusual warmth.
Sunny days in winter tempt people to walk abroad and to resort to the
same places which winter-gnats would choose for their gambols. Here,
too, the stray Swallow would be found; but in dark stormy weather the
gnats and the Swallow would stay at home, and the ornithologist would
have little temptation to do otherwise. I happen to be myself among
the number of those who on personal evidence believe that individual
Swallows do remain in England long after the period of general
migration. I was walking through a limestone quarry at Saltram on the
bank of the Plym, in Devonshire, many years ago, on the twenty-fourth
of December, when I saw a Swallow, whether a Chimney Swallow or
Martin, I cannot positively affirm, wheeling about, and evidently
hawking for gnats near the face of the cliff. The season was a mild
one, the air still, and the sun shining brightly against the limestone
rocks, from which much heat was reflected. That the bird had been kept
in captivity until the migratory season had passed and then released
is not probable. On any other supposition it must have remained either
of its own free will, which is not likely, or from incapacity to
accompany its congeners. Left alone it probably found a sheltered
retreat in the face of the cliff, and sallied forth whenever the
weather was inviting, making the most of the short days, and, on the
finest, contenting itself with a scanty meal. The temperature of the
west of England in winter it is quite able to bear; in fact, it is
not uncommon there for a whole winter to pass without any weather so
severe as that which has characterized the whole of the present April
(1860), though Swallows have returned, and contrive to find food
enough to keep themselves alive. If, therefore, the bird which I saw
managed to live on till Christmas Eve, there is no reason why it
should not survive the whole of the winter. But as 'one Swallow does
not make a spring', so neither is one sufficient to upset a theory.
There remains, therefore, the rule with the one exception to prove it,
that Swallows do migrate. A full account of all that has since been
learnt of the Swallow's history will be found in Yarrell's _British
Birds_. For the sake of reference only I will add a short summary of
what I may term its statistics. The Swallow is a migratory bird
wherever it is found, that is in most of the countries of Europe,
Asia, and Africa. The first Swallows arrive in this country about the
eleventh of April, and are followed by others at various intervals,
until the middle or end of May. On their arrival, they resort to those
places which, being most sheltered, abound most in winged insects,
these being frequently the courses of rivers and canals. As the season
advances, they spread themselves more generally over the country,
still, however, being most numerous in the vicinity of water. In May
they build their shallow open nests of mud and straw lined with
feathers, a few feet down a chimney, in an outhouse, a bell-tower, the
shaft of a deserted mine, or any other place which is at once dry and
dark, rarely in more exposed places. They lay four or five eggs, and
rear two or three broods in a season. The young being, from the usual
situation of the nest, unable to leave their nursery until they are
fully fledged, require to be fed a long time, but they continue to be,
partially at least, dependent on the parent birds for many days after
they have learnt to hawk for themselves. The process of feeding is
carried on while both old and young are on the wing; or the young,
perched on the top of a house or the branch of a tree, receive in turn
the morsels which their more skilful parents have caught for them. In
autumn, many days before migration is actually about to take place,
Swallows, old and young, assemble in large flocks, especially towards
evening, and roost on trees in the vicinity of water. At this season
they seem to be more socially disposed, even during the day, than at
any other period of their sojourn with us. In October they take their
departure collectively, and so strongly is the migratory instinct then
in force, that it overcomes parental affection, powerful though this
feeling is in the Swallow; some of the late broods being left behind.

   [12] Chelidonium: Celandine or Swallow-wort, from
        [Greek: chelidôn], 'a Swallow'.


   Head, nape and upper part of the back, black with violet
   reflections; lower part of the back, and all the under parts,
   pure white; feet and toes covered with downy feathers; tail
   forked, moderate. Length five inches and a half. Eggs pure

The swallows and the Martins are so much alike in their leading
habits, namely, migration, mode of flight, and food, that a
description of either will in many respects be applicable to the
other. The House Martin generally arrives a few days after the
Swallow, and resorts to similar localities. In the early part of the
season the most sheltered places are sought out, and the two species
may frequently be seen hawking for flies in company. Later in the
season its numbers are observed to be greatly increased, and it is
joined by the Swift and Sand Martin. Not that any society is entered
into by the different species, or that they even sport together; but
one may often stand on the bank of a canal, or by the margin of a
pond, and see all four kinds glance by in varied succession, and in
proportions which differ according as one or the other is most
abundant in the neighbourhood. Acute listeners can, it is said, hear a
snapping noise made by the bird as it closes its beak on a captured
insect, but I must confess that though I have often tried to detect
this sound, I have never succeeded. Swift as their passage is, and
similar though the flight of all the species, no difficulty is found
in distinguishing them. The Chimney-Swallow is sufficiently marked by
its long forked tail and red chin; the House Martin by the snow-white
hue of its abdomen and lower part of the back, and by its shorter
tail, which is also forked; the Sand Martin by its smaller size, its
greyish brown back and dirty-white under plumage, as well as by its
shorter, slightly forked tail; and the Swift can be distinguished at
any distance by its shape, which resembles a bent bow, with the body
representing an arrow ready to be shot. On a nearer view, the Swift is
marked by its general black hue relieved only by a spot of white on
the chin, which it requires a sharp eye to detect. All the species
have the power of suddenly, and with the greatest rapidity, altering
their course by a slight movement of the wings and tail.

Immediately on its arrival in this country, the Martin pays a visit to
its old dwelling, clings to its walls, peeps in or even enters many
times a day. It has been proved by several experiments, that the same
birds return year after year to their old nests, and it is hard to
believe, so thoroughly delighted do they seem, that they are guided
simply by an impassive instinct. If so, why should they hang about the
'old house at home' so many days before they begin to set in order
again the future nursery? No elaborate plans of alterations and
improvements are to be devised; last year's family are launched on the
world, and are quite equal to building for their own accommodation. No
collecting of materials is requisite. The muddy edge of the nearest
pond will provide plaster enough and to spare to carry out all
necessary repairs; shreds of straw are to be had for the picking up,
and farmyard feathers are as plentiful as of yore. It would seem then
a reasonable conclusion, that a bird endowed with an instinct powerful
enough to guide it across the ocean, and a memory sufficiently
powerful to lead it to the snug window corner of the same cottage
where it reared its first brood, may live in the past as well as the
present, and that its seeming joyousness is a reality, even mixed
perhaps with hopeful anticipations of the future.

As the reader may, if he will, have ample opportunity of watching the
habits of a bird that probably builds its nest under the eaves of his
own house, whether he dwell in a town, a village, or a lonely cottage,
it is unnecessary to enter into further details of its biography.


      Swift [F]

      Sand Martin [F]

   Swallow [M] House Martin [M]

                              [_face p. 84._]]


   Tree Sparrow [M]

      Linnet [M]

   House Sparrow [M]

      Brambling [M]]


   All the upper parts, cheeks, and a broad bar on the breast,
   mouse-colour; throat, fore part of the neck, abdomen, and under
   tail-coverts white; legs and feet naked with the exception of a
   few small feathers near the insertion of the hind toe; tail
   forked, rather short. Length five inches. Eggs pure white.

While all the other British species of Swallow resort from choice to
the haunts of man, the Sand or Bank Martin is indifferent about the
matter. Provided that it can find a convenient place for excavating
its nest, other considerations are omitted. It is said to be partial
to the vicinity of water, but even this selection is rather to be
attributed to the accidental circumstance that perpendicular cliffs
often have rivers running at their base, than to any decided
preference shown by the bird for such situations. Railway cuttings
carried through a sandy district offer, perhaps, equal attraction; and
it is probable that a majority of the colonies planted within the last
twenty years overlook, not the silent highway of the river, but the
unromantic parallel bars of iron which have enabled man to vie almost
with the Swallow in rapidity of flight. The word colonies is
applicable to few British birds besides the Sand Martin. Others of the
tribe not unfrequently construct their nests in close proximity with
each other, and, when thus associated, are most neighbourly--hunting
in society, sporting together, and making common cause against an
intrusive Hawk; but still this is no more than a fortuitous coming

It so happens that a certain district offers good hunting-ground, and
the eaves or windows of a certain house are peculiarly well adapted
for sheltering nests; so a number of Window Martins, not having taken
counsel together, but guided each by independent choice, find
themselves established sometimes so close together that their nests
have party walls, like the houses in a street. They accordingly make
acquaintances, and are sociable to a limited extent. But Sand Martins
go beyond this, they are comrades banded together by municipal laws,
which no doubt they understand and obey, inhabiting dwellings which
constitute a joint settlement, returning without fail to the familiar
haunt after every annual migration, or if they desert a station,
leaving no stragglers behind, and pitching their camp anew in some
locality which common consent has pronounced to be an eligible one.
They are not, however, exclusive in their fraternization; as they hunt
in society with their relatives the Swifts and Swallows, and even
accompany them in distant flights. I have repeatedly observed Sand
Martins flying about with others of the same tribe many miles away
from their homes. They may readily be distinguished, as I have stated
before, by their dingy mouse-coloured hue, smaller size, and less
forked tails. I have never had an opportunity of watching a colony
engaged in their mining operations at the busy period of their year,
that of nidification; but from the description by Professor Rennie
(_Bird Architecture_) and that by Mr. R. D. Duncan, quoted by
Macgillivray, the sight must be most interesting. The task of the
older birds must be a light one; not so, however, that of the younger
members of the flock. The former have neither walls nor roofs to
repair; the holes which served them as nests the previous year afford
the same accommodation as before. All that is needed is, that the
remains of the old nest should either be removed or receive the
addition of a few straws and feathers to protect the eggs and young
from direct contact with the cold sand; their labours then are over.
But the new colonists have a toilsome work to perform before they can
enjoy the gratification of bringing up a family. The settlement is
fixed probably in the perpendicular face of a bank of sand, gravel, or
clay, at an elevation from the ground which varies from a few to a
great many feet. Their claws are sharp and well adapted for clinging,
the beak short, rigid, and pointed, no less well suited for
excavating. Grasping the perpendicular surface of the bank with their
claws, and steadying themselves by means of their tails they commence
operations by pricking a small hole with their bills. This hole they
gradually enlarge by moving round and round, and edging off the sand
with the side of their bills, which they keep shut. Their progress is
slow at first, but after they have made room to stand on the
excavation, they proceed rapidly, still working with their bills, and
carefully pushing out the loosened sand with their feet. At one time
the male, at another the female, is the excavator. When their
burrowing is impeded by the resistance of a stone, they either dig
round it and loosen it, or, if it prove so large as to defy removal,
they desist and begin another cell. The form of the hole varies both
in size and shape, but it rarely exceeds three or four inches in
diameter, and more or less approaches the circular form. The depth
varies from a few inches to three feet, and the direction seems to
depend on the nature of the soil encountered. In all, however, the
extremity of the hole is enlarged to a diameter of five or six inches,
and is situated above the level of the entrance, so that no rain-water
can lodge. The work is performed only in the mornings, and is
consequently carried over several days. The nest itself consists of
straws of grass and feathers, and is placed in the terminal chamber.
The eggs are five or six in number, pure white, and of a rather long



   All the plumage yellowish green, variegated with yellow and
   ash-grey. Length six inches. Eggs bluish white, speckled and
   spotted with purplish grey and dark brown.

The Greenfinch, or Green Linnet, is one of our most generally diffused
birds. No bird is a more frequent inhabitant of country gardens during
the summer than this, being attracted, it would seem, not so much by
the prospect of abundance of food, as by its fondness for building its
nest in evergreens and the thick hedges of shrubberies. The lively
greenish yellow tint of the plumage on its throat and breast
sufficiently distinguish it from any other British bird; and its note,
when once identified, can be confounded with no other song. Let any
one who wishes to obtain a sight of one, walk anywhere in the country
where there are trees, on a bright sunny day in May or June, and
listen for a monotonous long-drawn croak, trying to pronounce the
syllable '_twe-e-e_' or '_bree-eze_'. No matter what other birds may
be tuning their lays, the harsh monotone of the Greenfinch, if one be
near, will be heard among them, harmonizing with none, and suggestive
of heat and weariness. In a few seconds it will be repeated, without a
shadow of variation either in tone or duration; and if it be traced
out, the author of the noise (music I cannot call it) will be
discovered perched among the branches of a moderately high tree,
repeating his mournful ditty with extreme complacency for an hour
together. Very often he takes advantage of the midday silence of the
groves, and pipes away without any other competitor than the Yellow
Hammer, whose song, like his own, is a constant accompaniment of
sultry weather. The Greenfinch has another note which is heard most
frequently, but not exclusively, in spring. This is a single plaintive
chirp which may be easily imitated by human whistling; it resembles
somewhat one of the call-notes of the Canary-bird or Brown Linnet,
and, being full and sweet, harmonizes with the woodland chorus far
better than the monotonous croak described above. Another of the notes
is a double one, and closely resembles that of the 'Peewit', hence it
is called in some places 'Pee-sweep'. The Greenfinch builds its nest,
when not among evergreens, in some tall thick bush either in a hedge
or coppice. Less neatly finished than that of the Chaffinch, it is
nevertheless a beautiful structure. It is composed externally of a
framework of light twigs and roots, interleaved with moss and wool, to
which succeeds a denser layer of the same materials lined with hair.
It lays five eggs, which are of a light grey colour, almost white,
variously speckled with purple, and of a long shape. In winter,
Greenfinches congregate in large numbers, and feed together on the
seeds of various weeds in stubble fields, or not unfrequently they
descend on newly-sown fields of wheat, where they are very
troublesome. If disturbed, they rise simultaneously, fly rapidly only
a few feet from the ground to another part of the field, but before
they alight wheel about several times with singular precision of
movement, disappearing from the sight and reappearing according as the
dark or light portion of their plumage is turned towards the
spectator; and by this peculiarity they may be distinguished from
flocks of other small birds at a great distance. If repeatedly
disturbed, they alter their tactics, and take refuge in the top
branches of the neighbouring trees until their persecutor has turned
his back, when they return to the charge with the same perseverance
which they display in the repetition of their summer song. These
flocks, probably, are composed of individuals which have banded
together in some more northern climate, and emigrated southwards in
quest of food; for smaller parties, either unmixed, or associated with
Sparrows, Chaffinches, and Buntings, frequent our farmyards and
gardens in undiminished numbers.


   Lore, throat, and plumage at the base of the bill black; crown
   and cheeks reddish brown; nape ash-grey; back dark reddish
   brown; wings black, great coverts white; some of the quills
   truncated at the extremity; under parts light purplish red;
   tail short. Length seven inches. Eggs light olive-green, with a
   few brown spots and numerous irregular lines of a lighter tint.

Judging from its conformation, one would, without knowing anything of
the habits of this bird, pronounce it to be a professor of some
laborious occupation. Its short tail and wings unfit it for long
aërial voyages, and its thick neck and ponderous bill denote the
presence of great muscular power, and such, indeed, it both has and
requires. It is not a common bird, and was until within the last few
years considered to be migratory; but so many instances have occurred
in which its nest has been found, that no doubt is now entertained of
its being a constant resident. In Berkshire I have several times seen
two or three together busily occupied in picking up the seeds which
had fallen from the cones of a spruce fir. On one occasion a nest was
brought to me by a man who had found it built on some twigs which grew
from the trunk of a tall oak-tree; it was built of the tangled white
lichens which grow on trees, on a foundation of a few roots, and
contained five eggs. I afterwards discovered another nest of exactly
similar structure, which I believed must have been built by the same
bird, but it was empty. In Hertfordshire a single Hawfinch visited my
garden one winter for several days in succession, and diligently
picked up and cracked the stones of laurel cherries, from which
Blackbirds had, a few months before, as busily stripped the pulp. In
the cherry orchards in the neighbourhood they are not uncommon, where,
even if not seen, their visits are detected by the ground being
strewed with halves of cherrystones, which these birds split with
their powerful beaks as cleverly as a workman with the chisel. Their
note I have never heard, but the proprietor of the orchards assured me
that he had often detected their presence by the low twittering noise
which they made, a description the truth of which a writer quoted by
Yarrell confirms. I have never seen a nest in Hertfordshire, but on
several occasions have observed their eggs among the collections made
by the country boys in the neighbourhood. Besides cherrystones,
Hawfinches feed on hazel-nuts, hornbeam seeds, the kernels of the fruit
of the hawthorn, seeds of various kinds, and, when they can get them,
green peas, for the sake of which they often venture into gardens.
They usually build their nests in trees at an elevation varying from
twenty-five to thirty feet, and the nest is composed of dead twigs,
intermixed with pieces of grey lichen; this last material varying
much in quantity in different nests, but being never absent.


   Back of the head, nape, and feathers round the base of the bill
   black; forehead and throat blood-red; cheeks, forepart of the
   neck and lower parts white; back and scapulars dark brown;
   wings variegated with black, white and yellow; tail black,
   tipped with white. Length five inches. Eggs bluish white,
   speckled with pale purple and brown.

This little bird, as sprightly in its habits as it is brilliant in its
colouring, is perhaps a more general favourite than any other British
bird. Though in its natural state less familiar with man than the
Redbreast, and inferior as a musician to the Lark, the Thrush, and
others of our resident birds, it is more frequent as a caged bird than
either, and thus is known to tens of thousands of city folk who never
heard the wild song of the Thrush, nor saw a Redbreast under any
circumstances. In a cage it is attractive from its lively movements,
its agreeable song, and yet more from its docility, as it not only is
readily tamed, but may be taught to perform various tricks and
manoeuvres utterly repugnant to the nature of birds. Its affection,
too, for its owner is not less remarkable. Of this many instances are,
I doubt not, familiar to the reader; but the following is not so well
known. There was some years since in a small town, about twelve
leagues from Paris, a tame Goldfinch, which belonged to a carrier, and
which for many years regularly accompanied his master twice a week to
and from the metropolis. At first it used to content itself with
perching on the driver's seat, and from time to time flying a short
distance ahead, or gambolling with other birds of the same kind that
it encountered on the way. By and by it seemed to grow dissatisfied
with the slow pace of the wagon, and took long flights in advance,
still returning from time to time to its accustomed perch. At length,
becoming more enterprising, it would leave its master in the lurch,
and fly in advance the whole of the way, and announce his approach at
the house in the city where he put up. If the weather was stormy, it
would quietly await his arrival, taking up its quarters by the
fireside; but if the weather was fine, it would, after making a brief
stay, return to meet him. At every meeting, caresses and
congratulations were exchanged, as fondly as if they had been
separated for years. This romantic attachment was at length terminated
by the disappearance of the bird, but whether through the
instrumentality of a cat, a Hawk, or some mischievous boy, was never

Whatever doubt may exist as to the services rendered to man by the
Sparrow and Chaffinch, about the Goldfinch there can be no difference
of opinion. The farmer has no better friend, and yet an abundance of
Goldfinches on an estate is anything but a welcome sight; for it
denotes abundance of its favourite food, the seeds of thistles. Where
these weeds flourish, there, for the most part, Goldfinches are to be
met with in considerable numbers. The French name, _Chardonneret_,
denotes 'a frequenter of thistles', and the ancient Greek and Latin
name for it, _Acanthis_, is of similar import; the _Acanthis_, Pliny
tells us,[13] bears animosity against no living creature but the
donkey, a beast which eats the flowers of thistles, and so deprives it
of its food. To this dietary it adds the seeds of dandelions, centaury
and other weeds, but shows a decided preference for the seeds of the
compound flowers. Its nest is among the most beautiful that birds
construct. One now before me is placed among the terminal branches cut
from the bough of a Scotch fir which grew at an elevation of about
twenty feet from the ground. It is encircled by upwards of a dozen
leafy twigs which unite beneath its base, and form both a firm support
and effectual shelter. The substance is composed of tufted white
lichens (_Usnea_ and _Evernia_), and a few fine roots and wiry stems
of garden-thyme, felted together with wool so securely, that it is
scarcely possible to remove one of them without damaging the whole.
With these is intermixed a piece of worsted, and a thread of sewing
cotton; a few horsehairs succeed, and the whole of the interior is
thickly matted with the white silky down of the coltsfoot. Other nests
vary in the materials employed, moss being sometimes used instead of
white lichen, and willow-cotton or feathers instead of the down of the
coltsfoot. Thistle-down is sometimes named as the material of the
lining; but this must be under unusual circumstances, that substance
being generally unattainable in spring. Besides fir-trees, the apple
and elm are often selected by Goldfinches to build their nests in, and
they not unfrequently resort to any low tree in a hedge or shrubbery,
also to young oak-trees. In autumn, Goldfinches assemble in flocks of
from ten to twenty or more, and resort to waste places, or the borders
of fields, where thistles abound, and it is hard to imagine a prettier
sight than a party of these innocent and brilliant hunters, perching,
all heedless of spines and prickles, on the thistle heads, plucking
out the seeds with the pappus attached, and cleverly separating the
former from their appendage. While thus employed, they seem to take it
for granted that no one will molest them, but continue their useful
labour, twittering pleasantly all the while, until the spectator comes
within a few yards of them, when they fly off like butterflies to
another prickly bed.

Owing to more efficient bird-protection the Goldfinch, which was
decreasing largely in numbers, is now on the increase again.

   [13] _Nat. Hist._, lib. x., cap. lxxiv.


   Crown black; behind the eye a broad yellow streak; all the
   plumage variegated with grey, dusky, and various shades of
   yellow and yellowish green; wings dusky, with a transverse
   greenish yellow bar, and a black one above, and another black
   one across the middle of the tertiaries; tail dusky, the base
   and edge of the inner web greenish yellow. _Female_--all the
   colours less bright, and no black on the head. Length four and
   a half inches. Eggs greyish white, speckled with purplish

The Siskin, or Aberdevine, is best known as a cage-bird, as it is only
a very occasional breeder in Great Britain, and during the period of
its stay is retiring in its habits. Siskins are more frequently met
with in the northern than the southern counties of England, but they
are common in neither, and will only nest where pine woods abound.
They are generally observed to keep together in small flocks of from
twelve to fifteen, and may be heard from a considerable distance, as
they rarely intermit uttering their call-note, which, though little
more than a soft twittering, is as clear as that of the Bullfinch, to
which it has been compared. Their flight is rapid and irregular, like
that of the Linnet. They leave their roosting-places early in the
morning, and usually alight on the branches of alder-trees, where they
remain all day. The seeds of the alder, inclosed within scales
something like those of the coniferous trees, form the principal food
of these pretty little birds, who are obliged to hang at the
extremities of the twigs in order to explore the seed-vessels on all
sides. Occasionally, but less frequently, they are seen visiting heads
of thistles and burdocks, and not unfrequently they descend to the
ground for the sake of picking up scattered seeds. During the whole of
their feeding time, they never cease twittering and fluttering about
joyously from twig to twig. Now and then, as if by preconcerted signal
given by a leader, they all take flight to another tree or, after a
short evolution, return to the same from which they started. Should it
happen that, while one little band is occupied in despoiling a tree,
another is heard in the air, the latter is immediately invited by
general acclamation to take part in the banquet, and rarely fails to
accept the invitation. Owing to this sociability of character they are
easily entrapped, provided that one of their own species be employed
as a decoy bird. They soon become reconciled to captivity, and are
valued for their readiness to pair with the Canary-bird, the note of
which the joint offspring is thought to improve. The nest, which in
some respects resembles those of the Greenfinch and Chaffinch, is
concealed with great care in the fork formed by two branches of a fir,
with which it is so skilfully made to assimilate, that it is almost
impossible to discern it from below. In France, Siskins are most
numerous from the middle of October to the beginning of December. They
are then supposed to travel southwards, and appear again, but in
greatly diminished numbers, in spring, at which period they are
considered to be travelling towards their summer quarters in Russia
and Scandinavia.


   Crown and back of the head dark bluish ash; lore, throat, and
   front of the neck black; above the eyes a band of uniform
   reddish brown, intermixed with a few small white feathers;
   upper feathers dark brown, edged with reddish brown; a single
   transverse white bar on the wing; cheeks, sides of the neck,
   and under parts greyish white. _Female_--head, nape, neck, and
   breast ash-brown; above the eye a light yellowish brown streak;
   rest of the plumage less bright. Length five inches and
   three-quarters. Eggs white, spotted and speckled with dark grey
   and brown.

What were the haunts of the Sparrow at the period when men dwelt in
tents, and there were neither farmhouses nor villages, much less towns
and cities, it were hard to say. Certain it is now that thoroughly
wild Sparrows are not to be met with in districts remote from human
dwellings and cultivation; they have left the hillside and forest as
if by common consent, and have pitched their tents where man builds,
or ploughs, or digs, and nowhere else. In the city, the seaport town,
the fishing village, the hamlet, the farmhouse, nay, near the cot on
the lone waste and by the roadside smithy, they are always present,
varying in the amount of confidence they place in their patrons, but
all depending on man to a certain extent. And not only do they court
his society, but they have adopted his diet. Whatever is the staple
food of a household, the Sparrows that nestle around will be right
pleased to share it; bread, meat, potatoes, rice, pastry, raisins,
nuts, if they could have these for the asking, they would not trouble
themselves to search farther; but obliged, as they are, to provide for
themselves, they must be content with humble fare; and so skilful are
they as caterers, that whatever other birds may chance to die of
starvation, a Sparrow is always round and plump, while not a few have
paid for their voracity by their lives. Much difference of opinion
exists as to whether Sparrows should be courted by man as allies, or
exterminated as enemies. The best authorities on this point have come
to the conclusion that their numbers must be lessened, and that the
most humane way to do this is to tear down nests before the young are
hatched out. The fact that great efforts are at the present time being
made to introduce them into New Zealand, where the corn crops suffer
great injury from the attacks of insects, which the presence of
Sparrows would, it is believed, materially check, leads to the
conclusion that their mission is one of utility. That Sparrows consume
a very large quantity of corn in summer there can be no doubt; as soon
as the grain has attained its full size, and long before it is ripe,
they make descents on the standing corn, and if undisturbed will clear
so effectually of their contents the ears nearest to the hedges, that
this portion of the crop is sometimes scarcely worth the threshing.
During harvest they transfer their attention to the sheaves, while the
reapers and binders are occupied elsewhere; as gleaners they are
indefatigable; they participate, too, in the joys of harvest home, for
their food is then brought to their very doors. The most skilful
binder leaves at least a few ears exposed at the wrong end of the
sheaf, and these are searched for diligently in the rick; and the
barns must be well closed indeed into which they cannot find
admission. At threshings and winnowings they are constant attendants,
feeding among the poultry, and snatching up the scattered grains under
the formidable beak of Chanticleer himself. At seed-time their
depredations are yet more serious, as they now come in not simply for
a share of the produce, but undermine the very foundations of the
future crop. I once had the curiosity to examine the crop of a Sparrow
which had been shot as it flew up from a newly-sown field, and found
no less than forty-two grains of wheat. A writer in the _Zoologist_,
who professes himself a deadly enemy of the Sparrow, states that he
once took 180 grains of good wheat from the crops of five birds,
giving an _average_ of thirty-six for a meal. Now if Sparrows had the
opportunity of feeding on grain all the year round, they would be
unmitigated pests, and a war of extermination against them could not
be waged too vigorously; but during the far greater portion of the
year they have not the power of doing mischief, and all this time
they have to find food for themselves. Against their will, perhaps,
they now hunt for the seeds of various weeds, especially the wild
mustard; and these being smaller than grains of corn and less
nutritive, they consume an immense number of them, varying their
repast with myriads of caterpillars, wireworms, and other noxious
grubs; also they devour small beetles (called hay-chaffers) when the
hay lies in swathes on the field. They thus compensate, certainly in
part, perhaps wholly, for the mischief they do at other seasons; and
it is even questionable whether, if a balance were struck between them
and the agriculturists, the obligation would not be on the side of the

It is scarcely necessary to say much of the habits of a bird which
stands on such familiar terms with the human race as the Sparrow.
During no period of the year do Sparrows live together in perfect
amity; if half a dozen descend to pick up a handful of scattered
crumbs, each in his turn will peck at any other who comes too near his
share of the feast, and, with a peculiar sidelong shuffle or hop, will
show his intention of appropriating as large a portion of the
feeding-ground as he can. In spring, this bickering assumes a more
formidable character. A duel is commenced among the branches of a
tree, obstinate and noisy; all the Sparrows within hearing flock to
the scene of combat, joining at first with their voices, and finally
with their beaks; a general riot ensues, with as little object
seemingly as an Irish 'row'; for suddenly the outcry ceases, and the
combatants return to their various occupations. A writer in the
_Naturalist_ gives an account of a fray of this kind, during which
three male birds fell at his feet one after another either dead or
dying; but cases of this kind are very rare.

Sparrows build their nests at a considerable elevation from the
ground, but are by no means particular as to the locality. At the
period when most farmhouses and cottages were thatched, the eaves were
their favourite resort, and here they hollowed out for themselves most
comfortable dwellings. The general employment of tiles or slates has
interfered with this arrangement; but they will fix upon any
projection, niche, crack, or hole which will hold a nest, and if these
are all occupied, content themselves with a tree; but, as far as my
own observation goes, the number built in trees far exceeds that to be
found in other localities. Very frequently they appropriate the nest
of the House Martin. The nest itself is a rude structure, composed
mainly of straw and hay, and lined with feathers and any other soft
materials which they can find. Two or three broods are reared every
year, the number of eggs being usually five. The young are fed on
worms, caterpillars, and insects of various kinds.


   Crown and back of the head chestnut-brown; lore, ear-coverts,
   and throat black; neck almost surrounded by a white collar;
   upper plumage resembling the last; wing with two transverse
   white bars. The _female_ scarcely differs from the _male_.
   Length five inches and a half. Eggs as in the last.

The Mountain Sparrow seems scarcely to deserve its name, as it is by
no means confined to mountainous districts. It is abundant all over
the European continent, and is to be met with here and there in many
parts of England in the east of Scotland and of late years in Ireland
and in the Hebrides; but it is nowhere so abundant as the House
Sparrow, which it resembles in all respects, except that the head is
of a bright chestnut colour, and the neck wears a white collar. I have
never seen it except in society with the common species, and could
never detect any difference either in flight or note; but other
observers state that the flight is slow and constrained, and the note
assumes more the character of a song. The nest is placed in soft
rotten wood of pollard willows and other trees, in hollow trees and
under the thatch of buildings.


   Forehead black; crown and nape greyish blue; back and scapulars
   chestnut, tinged with green; rump green; breast wine-red,
   fading towards the abdomen into white; wings black, with two
   white bands; coverts of the secondaries tipped with yellow;
   tail black, the two middle feathers ash-grey, the two outer on
   each side black, with a broad oblique white band.
   _Female_--head, back and scapulars, ash-brown, tinged with
   olive; lower parts greyish white; the transverse bands less
   distinct. Length six inches. Eggs greenish purple, streaked and
   spotted with purple-brown.

'Gai comme Pinson', as gay as a Chaffinch, is a familiar French
proverb, which describes not only the character of the bird, but the
peculiar temperament which in France is an essential part of gaiety.
The Chaffinch is a smart, lively, active bird, always in a bustle,
flitting here and there incessantly and staying long nowhere, always
wearing a holiday look, so trim and spruce is he, and rattling through
his song with wondrous volubility. It received the name _cælebs_,
bachelor, from Linnæus, who observed that the flocks in winter are
composed for the most part either exclusively of males or of females.
Large flocks arrive on our east coast each year from the Continent,
and others coming from the north spread themselves over the country to
the southward. During the open weather of autumn and early winter,
Chaffinches frequent stubble and ploughed fields, where they busily
collect grain and the seeds of various weeds, and are not, I fear,
very scrupulous whether they are engaged as gleaners of what is lost,
or robbers of what is sown. In severe weather they resort to farmyards
and homesteads, where, along with Sparrows, Buntings, and
Greenfinches, they equally consider all they can find as provided for
their own especial use. On the return of spring, they feed upon the
young shoots, and for a few weeks show themselves great enemies to
horticulture. Their visits to our flower-gardens, paid very early in
the morning, are attested by scattered buds of polyanthuses, which
they attack and pull to pieces as soon as they begin to push from
between the leaves. In the kitchen-garden they are yet more
mischievous, showing a strong inclination for all pungent seeds. Woe
to the unthrifty gardener, who, while drilling in his mustard, or
cress, or radishes, scatters a few seeds on the surface! The quick eye
of some passing Chaffinch will surely detect them; so surely will the
stray grains serve as a clue to the treasure concealed beneath, and so
surely will a hungry band of companions rush to 'the diggings', and
leave the luckless proprietor a poor tithe of his expected crop. Yet
so large is the number of the seeds of weeds that the Chaffinch
consumes, in the course of a year, more particularly of groundsel,
chickweed, and buttercup, that he, without doubt, more than
compensates for all his misdeeds; and as his summer food partially,
and that of his young family exclusively, consists of caterpillars and
other noxious insects, he is in reality among the gardener's best
friends, who should be scared away at the seasons when his visits are
not welcome, and encouraged at all other times. The Chaffinch, though
a wary bird, does not stand greatly in fear of man; for if disturbed
at a meal, he is generally satisfied with the protection afforded by
the branches of the nearest tree, on which he hops about until the
danger is past, uttering his simple but not unpleasing note, '_twink_'
or '_pink_' or '_spink_, _spink_, _spink_' as it is variously
translated. To this cry it adds the syllable '_tweet_', frequently
repeated in an anxious tone and with a peculiar restlessness of
manner, which always indicate that its nest is somewhere very near at
hand, and by which indeed it is very often betrayed.

Its proper song commences very early in spring, and is continued until
June or later. This must be the song which the poet had in view when
he sang:--

   Then as a little helpless innocent bird,
   That has but one plain passage of few notes,
   Will sing the simple passage o'er and o'er,
   For all one April morning, till the ear
   Wearies to hear it.                       --TENNYSON.

It consists of from ten to twelve notes of the same tone, and about
the same length, with the last but one elevated and accented, uttered
rapidly at short intervals, and without the least variation.

In Germany, this bird is so great a favourite that not a single tone
of its voice has escaped the experienced ears of bird-fanciers. In
some parts of Holland and the north of France, the passion for song
Chaffinches amounts to a frenzy. Philharmonic societies are formed,
whose exclusive object is to educate Chaffinches, and to organize
vocal combats. The combatants, each in his cage, are placed a few
yards from each other. One of them utters his strain, which is replied
to by the other; strict silence is imposed on the spectators, lest the
attention of the birds should be distracted by their remarks or
applause. The contest proceeds as long as the birds continue to utter
their notes of defiance, and the victory is adjudged to the one who
has the last word. The price paid for a bird of mark, and the pains
bestowed on the capture of any bird which in its wild state holds out
promise of being an apt pupil, are past belief, and the cruelty
practised in producing a perfect songster I cannot bring myself to
describe. After all, Bechstein's translator says that the notes of the
wild Chaffinches in England are finer than any cage ones he has heard
in Germany. English bird-fanciers, without going so far as their
German brethren, profess to distinguish three variations of song in
the Chaffinch.

The nest of the Chaffinch is an exquisite piece of workmanship,
composed of moss, dry grass, fine roots felted together with wool,
decorated externally with scraps of white lichens, and lined with hair
and feathers. It is placed sometimes in the fork of a tree, sometimes
against the bole, but more frequently than anywhere else it is built
in among the twigs of an apple-tree; but in every case it is attached
to its support by wool interwoven with the other materials. The
Chaffinch usually lays five eggs.


   Siskin [M] [F] [F] Goldfinch [M]

   Chaffinch [M] [F]

      Hawfinch [F] [M]

                              [_p. 96._]]


      Mealy Redpoll [F] [M]

   Redpole [M] Twite [M] [M]

      Bullfinch [M]]


   Head, cheeks, nape, and upper part of the back, black, the
   feathers (in winter) tipped with light brown or ash-grey; neck
   and scapulars pale orange-brown; wings black, variegated with
   orange-brown and white; rump and lower parts white, the flanks
   reddish, with a few dark spots. _Female_--crown reddish brown,
   the feathers tipped with grey, a black streak over the eyes;
   cheeks and neck ash-grey; all the other colours less bright.
   Length six inches and a half. Eggs yellowish white, spotted and
   streaked with dark red.

In winter this bird occurs over the whole continent of Europe, and not
unfrequently in enormous flocks. Pennant mentions an instance in which
eighteen were killed at one shot--a statement which I can well
believe, having seen in the winter of 1853 by far the largest flock of
small birds I ever beheld, and which was composed entirely of
Bramblings. They were employed in searching for food on the ground in
a beech wood, and, as I approached, flew up into the branches in
thousands. The Brambling, called also the Bramble Finch and Mountain
Finch, is a fairly regular autumn and winter visitor to many parts of
Scotland. Its presence in our country in any numbers depends on the
severity of the weather on the Continent. Sometimes it is fairly
numerous with us, especially where there are many beech woods. Few
visit Ireland. It resembles the Chaffinch in habits, size, and general
tone of colour; and as it often feeds in company with it, is probably
sometimes confounded with it by an inexperienced eye. It arrives in
this country in November, and takes its departure early in spring,
never having been known to breed here. Its song is said to be
something like that of the Chaffinch, and its nest, built in
fir-trees, to be constructed with the same marvellous art.


   _Winter_--head ash-brown, the feathers dusky in the middle, those of
   the forehead more or less tinged with crimson; back chestnut-brown,
   becoming brighter towards the scapulars and duller towards the tail;
   tail-feathers black, edged towards the tip with reddish grey, the
   outer ones bordered with white; primaries black, the first five with
   very narrow, the next five with broad, white edges, the rest of the
   wing-feathers tinged with red, all tipped with ash-grey; under
   parts--breast-feathers dull crimson or brown, edged with yellowish red;
   abdomen dull white; flanks reddish yellow; beak brownish horn colour;
   feet and toes brown; tail moderate. In _summer_ the beak is of a bluish
   lead colour; feathers of the forehead and crown greyish brown, tipped
   with crimson; upper plumage uniform rich chestnut-brown; breast
   crimson, with a few pale brown feathers intermixed. Length five inches.
   Eggs pale bluish grey, speckled with deep red.

It is not unusual in the country to hear mention made of the Brown,
the Grey, and the Rose or Red Linnet, and the Common Linnet, as if
these were all different birds. Such, however, is not the case. The
Linnet is a bird which varies its plumage considerably at different
seasons of the year, in consequence of which, at a period when little
attention was paid to Ornithology, the same individual was known by
whichever of these names best described its characteristic colouring.
Even by the earlier ornithologists there were supposed to be two
species, one of which was called Linota, probably from its having been
observed feeding on flax-seed (_Linum_); the other Cannabina, from
having been seen to feed on hemp seed (_Cannabis_). Linnets offer
themselves to our notice in the evenings of autumn and winter more
than at any other time. Large flocks of them may then be observed
making their way, with rapid and irregular flight, towards tall trees
which happen to stand in the vicinity of a common or a furze-brake. On
the summits of these they alight, with their heads, in stormy weather,
always turned towards the wind, and after keeping up a continuous
twittering for a few minutes, suddenly drop into their roosting-places
among the furze and thick shrubs. At the return of dawn, they issue
forth to their feeding-grounds, still congregated in large flocks, and
spend the whole of the day in hunting on the ground for food. This
consists principally of the seeds of various weeds, especially
wild-mustard or charlock, wild-cabbage, and other plants of the same
tribe, thistle and dandelion; chance grains of corn no doubt are not
passed by, but any injury which may be done by these birds, either to
standing crops or newly-sowed lands, must be far outweighed by their
services as destroyers of weeds and insects, which latter also enter
into their dietary. At this season their only note is a simple call,
mellow and pleasant, which they utter both while flying and when
perched. In spring, the flocks break up, and the members betake
themselves in pairs to the commons and heaths, which afforded them
night-lodging during winter. Here they build their nests at a moderate
distance from the ground, more frequently in a furze-bush than
anywhere else, but occasionally in other shrubs or an adjoining hedge.
The nest is constructed of small twigs, moss, roots, and wool; and is
lined with hair, feathers, and sometimes vegetable down. The Linnet
lays four or five eggs. The spring and summer song of the Linnet is
remarkable neither for compass nor power; it is, however, very sweet,
and on this account the Linnet is a favourite cage-bird.


   Throat and lore black; forehead and crown blood-red; breast and
   rump rose-red; under parts white; nape reddish white, with
   dusky streaks; shoulders and back with dark streaks, edged with
   white; quills and tail feathers greyish brown, edged with
   white. Length five and a half inches.

A northern species of Linnet, closely resembling the Lesser Redpoll,
but larger. It visits Great Britain only in the winter and at
irregular intervals, being in some seasons tolerably abundant, and in
others not seen at all. Little appears to be known of its habits.


   Forehead, throat, and lore black; crown deep crimson; under
   parts light crimson tinged with buff, fading towards the tail
   into white; upper parts reddish brown, with dusky streaks;
   wings and tail dusky, edged with pale reddish brown.
   _Female_--all the colours less bright. Length five and a
   quarter inches. Eggs bluish white, speckled at the larger end
   with reddish brown.

The Lesser Redpoll so closely resembles the Siskin in its habits and
temperament, that a description of either of these birds would serve
well for the other. Like that bird it congregates in small flocks; it
frequents damp valleys where alder-trees abound; it feeds on the seeds
of the same trees; like it, hangs at the extremities of the twigs to
explore the catkins, twitters merrily as it flies, and is quite as
easily reconciled to captivity. But for the yellow plumage and larger
size of the Siskin, they might well be mistaken one for the other. The
Redpoll, however, is a much more frequent bird, as its annual visits
to the southern counties of England in winter are as regular as those
of Swallows in summer. Though a northern bird, it does not
unexceptionally repair to high latitudes, but in summer remains to
breed in Scotland and the northern counties of England. As far south
as Yorkshire it is not unfrequent, and its nest has been occasionally
found in the midland counties; some eggs were recently brought to me
in Hertfordshire. Meyer relates, that having one confined in a cage he
placed it in his garden in fine weather, in the hope that other birds
of the same species might be attracted by its note to visit it in its
confinement. His expectation was realized, for several wild Redpolls
not only came into his garden and twittered their notes of recognition
from the neighbouring trees, but actually alighted on the bars of the
cage. This took place in the county of Surrey, and during the month of
June, thus proving that some at least of the species remain with us
all the year round. The nest, which is remarkably small, is described
as being placed in the fork of an alder-tree, loosely constructed of
dry grass and weeds, and lined either with the cotton of the willow or
the pappus of some compound flower, stated by some to be dandelion, by
others, thistle, but perhaps, in reality, coltsfoot. In captivity,
Redpolls are prized for their liveliness and remarkable affection for
each other, and, indeed, for all little birds who do not disdain their
attentions. They can be taught many little tricks also.


   Upper plumage dark brown, edged with light brown; no crimson
   either on the forehead or breast; rump of the _male_ tinged
   with red; throat tawny brown, without streaks; breast and
   abdomen dull white, streaked on the flanks with dark brown;
   beak yellow; feet and claws dark brown; tail long. Length five
   inches and a quarter. Eggs pale bluish white, speckled with

Another northern bird, inhabiting the Arctic Regions, Scandinavia, and
Russia, and travelling southwards in autumn. In the Orkney and
Shetland Islands it is the most common, if not the only, species, and
builds its nest among the corn or heath. It breeds from Derbyshire and
northwards, but is very local; at one time it was very common on the
Lancashire moors. Yellow-neb Lintie is a Scotch name given to it. In
the countries where it is resident all the year round, it is very
destructive to wheat in winter, and to turnips in summer. As soon as
the latter plants appear above ground, the bird pulls them up, nips
off the seed-leaves, and the field remains strewn with the fragments
of the young plants. In winter, Mountain Linnets assemble in very
large flocks, and in their habits resemble Common Linnets, from which
they are best distinguished (at a distance) by their longer tails.
During severe weather I have observed them in Norfolk, flocking to the
salt marshes, and feeding on the seeds of saline plants, especially
those of the shrubby sea-blite. At this season their note resembles
the twitter of the Common Linnet, but is less mellow. The nest is
placed among heath, grass, or young corn, and invariably on the
ground--in this respect differing from all other birds of the same
family. It is constructed of dry grass, moss, and roots, and lined
with various soft substances. The Mountain Linnet is generally called
the Twite, a syllable which its simple note is thought to resemble. It
is more shy as a rule than the Lesser Redpoll.


   Crown, throat, plumage round the bill, wings and tail lustrous
   purple-black; upper part of the back bluish ash; cheeks, neck,
   breast and flanks red (in the _female_ reddish brown); rump and
   abdomen pure white; a broad buff and grey band across the
   wings. Length six and a quarter inches. Eggs light greenish
   blue, speckled and streaked with light red and dark purple.

'The Bullfinch', said Macgillivray, usually so accurate an observer,
'is not very common anywhere.' From this last remark I infer that the
author in question was never either proprietor or occupant of a
fruit-garden in a wooded district, or he would have reported very
differently of the frequency of the Bullfinch. During winter the food
of these birds consists exclusively of berries of various kinds and
seeds, especially of such weeds as thistle, rag-wort, duckweed,
plantains, etc., either picked up from the ground or gathered from
herbs and shrubs. In spring, unfortunately for the gardener, their
taste alters, and nothing will satisfy them but the blossom-buds of
fruit-trees, especially those which are cultivated. They attack,
indeed, the buds of the sloe and hawthorn as well; but of these, being
valueless, no one takes note. Still keeping together in small family
parties, all uninvited, they pay most unwelcome visits to
gooseberries, plums, and cherries, and, if undisturbed, continue to
haunt the same trees until all hope of a crop is destroyed.
Gooseberry-bushes are left denuded of flower-buds, which have been
deliberately picked off and crushed between their strong mandibles,
while the leaf-buds, situated principally at the extremities of the
branches, are neglected. Plum and cherry trees are treated in like
manner, the ground being strewed with the bud-scales and rudiments of
flowers. Some persons endeavour to deter them by whitewashing the
trees, and are said to find this plan effectual. Others wind a straw
rope round the gooseberry-bushes, so disguising their natural
appearance. This plan I found perfectly successful one year, but the
next it was entirely without effect. A new one which I have adopted
this year is somewhat more complex. In addition to the straw bands, I
have stretched long strings, with feathers attached here and there, so
as to resemble the tail of a paper kite; and, by way of offering them
an inducement to stay away, I have sprinkled peas on the ground in an
adjoining lane, in the hope that they will partially, at least,
satisfy their hunger on these. A bird with so strong a beak as that of
the Bullfinch is evidently designed to crush its food, not to swallow
it whole; accordingly, I find my peas disappearing, but the
parchment-like rind is left on the ground, a substance too
indigestible even for the gizzard of a Bullfinch. This bird has,
however, justly many friends, who assert that the buds he attacks are
infested with concealed insects, and that the tree he strips one
season will be heavily laden the following year. When not occupied in
disbudding fruit-trees, Bullfinches are most frequently observed in
tall and thick hedges, either in small flocks as described above, or
in pairs. They are rarely met with singly, and yet less frequently
associated with birds of another species. Occasionally a pair may be
seen feeding with Sparrows and Chaffinches in the farmyard; but this
society seems one of accident rather than of choice. When disturbed in
a hedge they are singularly methodical in their movements: first one
flies out, bounds, as it were through the air in a direction away from
the spectator, perches on a twig in the thick part of the hedge, and
is followed by the rest of the party in single file. When the
passenger has approached within what the bird considers a safe
distance, the same manoeuvre is repeated, each bird following, with
dipping flight, the line marked out by its predecessor.


   Head and upper parts of the neck reddish orange, streaked on
   the back with dusky; wings and tail black, the former with two
   white bars, the primaries and tail-feathers edged with orange,
   the secondaries with white under parts orange-yellow. Length
   seven and a quarter inches. Eggs white.

A large and handsome bird, inhabiting the Arctic regions during the
summer months, and in winter descending a few degrees to the south in
both hemispheres. It is of very rare occurrence in the pine-forests of
Scotland, and a still more unfrequent visitor to England. The Pine
Grosbeak, or Pine Bullfinch, is a bird of sociable habits, and an
agreeable songster.


   Bill equalling in length the middle toe, point of the lower
   mandible extending beyond the ridge of the upper mandible;
   plumage variegated, according to age and sex, with green,
   yellow, orange, and brick-red. Length six and a half inches.
   Eggs bluish white, speckled with red-brown.

The beak of this bird was pronounced by Buffon 'an error and defect of
Nature, and a useless deformity'. A less dogmatic, but more
trustworthy authority, our countryman, Yarrell, is of a different
opinion. 'During a series of observations', he says, 'on the habits
and structure of British birds, I have never met with a more
interesting or more beautiful example of the adaptation of means to an
end, than is to be found in the beak, the tongue, and their muscles,
in the Crossbill.' No one can read the chapter of _British Birds_
devoted to the Crossbill (in which the accomplished author has
displayed even more than his usual amount of research and accurate
observation) without giving a ready assent to the propriety of the
latter opinion. Unfortunately the bird is not of common occurrence in
this country, or there are few who would not make an effort to watch
it in its haunts, and endeavour to verify, by the evidence of their
own eyes, the interesting details which have been recorded of its
habits. I have never myself succeeded in catching a sight of a living
specimen, and am therefore reduced to the necessity of quoting the
descriptions of others. Family parties of this species visit--1907--a
small wood of pine trees in the valley of the Kennet near Theale some
winters, as well as other scattered pine-forest lands in the southern
counties, and across the Solway and northward it nests in suitable

The Crossbill is about the size of the Common Bunting, and, like it
and the Hawfinch, is a remarkably stout bird, having a strong bill, a
large head, short thick neck, compact ovate body, short feet of
considerable strength, rather long wings, and moderately large tail.
Its plumage, in which green or red predominates, according to the age
of the bird, is much more gaudy than that of our common birds, and
approaches that of the Parrots, a tribe which it also resembles in
some of its habits. Though only occasional visitors with us,
Crossbills are plentiful in Germany, Bavaria, Sweden, and Norway all
the year round, and are occasionally mischievous in orchards and
gardens, on account of their partiality to the seeds of apples, which
they reach by splitting the fruit with one or two blows of their stout
bills. Food of this kind, however, they can only obtain in autumn; at
other seasons, and, indeed, all the year round in districts remote
from orchards, they feed principally on the seeds of various kinds of
fir, which they extract from the cone by the joint action of their
beak and tongue. The alder and other trees are also sometimes visited,
and they have been noticed to resort to thistles and pick the seeds
from them. 'In the autumn of 1821', says Macgillivray, 'when walking
from Aberdeen to Elgin, by the way of Glenlivat, and along the Spey, I
had the pleasure of observing, near the influx of a tributary of that
river, a flock of several hundreds of Crossbills, busily engaged in
shelling the seeds of the berries which hung in clusters on a clump of
rowan (mountain ash) trees. So intent were they on satisfying their
hunger that they seemed not to take the least heed of me; and as I had
not a gun, I was content with gazing on them without offering them any
molestation. They clung to the twigs in all sorts of positions, and
went through the operation of feeding in a quiet and business-like
manner, each attending to his own affairs without interfering with his
neighbours. It was, indeed, a pleasant sight to see how the little
creatures fluttered among the twigs, all in continued action, like so
many bees on a cluster of flowers in sunshine after rain.' A writer in
the _Zoologist_ thus describes the manoeuvres of a flock which he
observed in 1849, in the county of Durham: "On the fifteenth of July
when taking a drive in the western part of the county, where there are
many thousand acres of fir-plantations, I had the good fortune to see
a flock of birds cross my path, which appeared to be Crossbills; so,
leaving the gig, I followed some distance into a fir-plantation,
where, to my great gratification, I found perhaps thirty or more
feeding on some Scotch firs. The day being fine, and as they were the
first I had seen in a state of wild nature, I watched them for about
twenty minutes. Their actions are very graceful while feeding, hanging
in every imaginable attitude, peering into the cones, which, if they
contain seeds, are instantly severed from the branch; clutched with
one foot, they are instantly emptied of their contents, when down they
come. So rapidly did they fall, that I could compare it to nothing
better than being beneath an oak-tree in autumn, when the acorns are
falling in showers about one's head, but that the cones were rather
heavier. No sooner are they on the wing than they, one and all,
commence a fretful, unhappy, chirl, not unlike the Redpoll's, but
louder.' Another writer, in the _Magazine of Natural History_, thus
records his experience: 'From October, 1821, to the middle of May,
1822, Crossbills were very numerous in this county (Suffolk), and, I
believe, extended their flight into many parts of England. Large
flocks frequented some fir-plantations in this vicinity, from the
beginning of November to the following April. I had almost daily
opportunities of watching their movements; and so remarkably tame were
they, that, when feeding on fir-trees not more than fifteen or twenty
feet high, I have often stood in the midst of the flock, unnoticed and
unsuspected. I have seen them hundreds of times, when on the larch,
cut the cone from the branch with their beak, and, holding it firmly
In both claws, as a hawk would a bird, extract the seeds with the most
surprising dexterity and quickness. I do not mean to assert this to be
their general habit; but it was very frequently done when feeding on
the larch. I have never seen them adopt the like method with cones of
the Scotch or other species of pine, which would be too bulky for them
to manage. Their method with these, and, of course, most frequently
with the larch, was to hold firmly on the cone with their claws; and,
while they were busily engaged in this manner, I have captured great
numbers; many with a horsehair noose fixed to the end of a
fishing-rod, which I managed to slip over their head when they were
feeding, and, by drawing it quickly towards the body, I easily secured
them; others I took with a limed twig, fixed in such a manner in the
end of a rod that, on touching the bird, the twig quickly became
disengaged, adhered to the feathers, rendered the wings useless, and
caused the poor bird to fall perfectly helpless on the ground. In this
manner, in windy weather, I have taken several from the same tree,
without causing any suspicion of danger. On warm sunny days, after
feeding a considerable time, they would suddenly take wing, and, after
flying round for a short time, in full chorus, alight on some lofty
tree in the neighbourhood of the plantations, warbling to each other
in low pleasing strains. They would also fly from the trees
occasionally for the purpose of drinking, their food being of so dry a
nature. To captivity they were quickly reconciled, and soon became
very familiar. As, at first, I was not aware what food would suit
them, I fixed branches of the larch against the sides of the room in
which I confined them, and threw them a quantity of the cones on the
floor. I found that they not only closely searched the cones on the
branches but, in a few days, not one was left in the room that had not
been pried into. I gave them canary and hemp-seed; but thinking the
cones were both amusement and employment, I continued to furnish them
with a plentiful supply. I had about four dozen of them; and
frequently, whilst I have been in the room, they would fly down, seize
a cone with their beak, carry it to a perch, quickly transfer it to
their claws, and in a very short time empty it of its seeds, as I have
very many times witnessed to my surprise and amusement.' These
accounts are most interesting, yet they are all equally defective in
failing to describe the mode in which Buffon's 'useless deformity',
the crossed bill, is employed in the work of splitting open a cone
This defect is supplied partially by Mr. Townson's description, quoted
by Yarrell, and partly by the latter author in his own words. 'Their
mode of operation is thus:--They first fix themselves across the cone,
then bring the points of the mandibles from their crossed or lateral
position, to be immediately over each other. In this reduced compass
they insinuate their beaks between the scales, and then, opening
them--not in the usual manner, but by drawing the inferior mandible
sideways--force open the scales.' "'At this stage', Yarrell proceeds
to say, 'the end of the tongue becomes necessary; and this organ is no
less admirably adapted for the service required.... While the points
of the beak press the scale from the body of the cone, the tongue is
enabled to direct and insert its cutting scoop underneath the seed,
and the food thus dislodged is transferred to the mouth; and when the
mandibles are separated laterally in this operation the bird has an
uninterrupted view of the seed in the cavity with the eye on that side
to which the under mandible is curved.'"

The beak of the Crossbill then, far from being a defect in the
organization of the bird, is a perfect implement always at its owner's
command, faultless alike in design and execution, and exquisitely
adapted to its work, not an easy one, of performing, by a single
process, the office of splitting, opening, and securing the contents
of a fir-cone, and he must be a bold man who could venture to suggest
an improvement in its mechanism.

It has been observed that young birds in the nest have not their
mandibles crossed, and at this period such an arrangement would be
useless, as they are dependent for food on the parent birds. It has
also been observed that the side on which the upper mandible crosses
the lower varies in different individuals; in some it descends on the
right side of the lower mandible, in others on the left. The bird
appears to have no choice in the matter, but whatever direction it
takes at first, the same it always retains.

The nest of the Crossbill is constructed of slender twigs of fir and
coarse dry grass, and lined with fine grass and a few hairs, and
concealed among the upper branches of a Scotch fir.

The Two-barred (or White-winged) Crossbill (_Loxia bifasciata_) is
only a rare straggler in winter to this country.


   Upper parts yellowish brown, with dusky spots; under parts
   yellowish white, spotted and streaked with dusky. Length seven
   inches and a half. Eggs dull white, tinged with yellow, or
   pink, and spotted and streaked with dark purple brown.

Though called the Common Bunting, this bird is by no means so abundant
in England as the Yellow Bunting; its name, however, is not
misapplied, as it appears to be the most generally diffused of the
family, being found all over the European continent, in the islands of
the Mediterranean, in Asia Minor, and the north of Africa. In the
latter district it appears as a bird of passage in November; and about
Martinmas it is so abundant as to become a staple article of food. At
this season, all the trees in the public roads and squares of the
villages are literally covered with these birds. Macgillivray informs
us that it is more abundant in the outer Hebrides than in any other
part of the country he has visited; and that it is there generally
known by the name of Sparrow. In England it is a constant resident;
but as it is much more abundant in autumn and winter than in summer,
it probably receives accessions to its numbers from the north. From
its habit of congregating in large flocks in the winter and alighting
on arable land to feed, after the manner of the Skylark, it is
sometimes called 'Lark Bunting', and, from its favourite food, 'Corn
Bunting'. It builds its nest in a tuft of grass, often under the
shelter of briers or a low bush, constructing it of dry grass with a
lining of hair. Its song, which is harsh and unmelodious, consists of
a number of short repetitions of the same note, terminating with a
long one lower in tone, and is generally uttered by the bird perched
the while on some slight elevation, such as a stone or the topmost
twig of a furze-bush. On first rising, it allows its legs to drop as
if broken.


   Head, neck, breast, and lower parts bright yellow, more or less
   streaked with dusky; flanks streaked with brownish red; upper
   parts reddish brown spotted with dusky. _Female_--the yellow
   parts less vivid, and spotted with dull reddish brown. Length
   six inches and a quarter. Eggs purplish or yellowish white,
   speckled and lined with dark purple brown.

This familiar and pretty bird appears to be generally diffused
throughout all parts of the country, except the mountains. With its
bright yellow head and breast it can scarcely fail to attract the
attention of those even who are least observant of birds, and being by
no means shy it will allow itself to be examined from a short
distance. It may often be detected by its bright yellow plumage among
the leaves of a hedge, neither fluttering nor hunting for food, but
apparently waiting to be admired. As we approach within a few yards it
darts out into the lane with rapid flight, displaying the white
feathers of its tail, with tawny tail-coverts, perches on another twig
some fifty yards in advance, and, after one or two such manoeuvres,
wheels away with rapid flight uttering two or three short notes as it
passes over our head. In summer, especially during the hot afternoons
of July, when most other birds have closed their concert for the
season, it loves to perch on the top of a furze bush or other shrub,
and repeat its simple song. This consists of about a dozen short
notes, rapidly repeated and closed by a longer note, which I believe
to be a musical minor third below. Sometimes this last note is
preceded by another which is a third above. The effect is in
some measure plaintive, and gives the idea that the bird is
preferring a petition. In Devonshire it goes by the names of
'Little-bread-and-no-cheese', and 'Gladdy'. Of the latter name I do
not know the origin; that of the former is clear enough; for if the
words 'A little bit of bread and no cheese' be chanted rapidly in one
note, descending at the word '_cheese, chee-ese_', the performance,
both in matter and style, will bear a close resemblance to the bird's
song. It has been noticed that the song of the Yellow Hammer may
always be heard about three o'clock in the afternoon.

In winter, Yellow Hammers assemble in large flocks, often mixed with
other hard-billed birds, and resort to ploughed fields, or rick-yards.
Macgillivray describes with singular accuracy their movements on these
occasions. "When the ground is covered with snow, they congregate
about houses, and frequent cornyards along with other birds, retiring
to the trees and hedges in the vicinity when alarmed. Their flight is
undulated, light, strong, and graceful, and they alight abruptly,
jerking out their tail-feathers. It is indeed surprising to see with
what velocity they descend at once from a considerable height, to
settle on the twigs of a tree which had attracted their notice as they
were flying over it, and with what dexterity all the individuals of a
flock perch in their selected places."

The nest and eggs of the Yellow Hammer resemble those of the Common
Bunting, but are smaller. The nest is most frequently placed close to
the ground, or actually on the ground, among grass on the skirt of a
meadow. Yarrell suggested that the name 'Yellow Hammer' should be
written 'Yellow Ammer'--the word Ammer being a well-known German term
for Bunting.

Collectors of eggs should carefully avoid cleaning the eggs of the
Buntings, as the dark colouring matter with which they are blotched is
easily rubbed off with a damp cloth.


   Cirl Bunting Lapland Bunting

      Reed Bunting [M] [F]

   The Common Bunting [F] Snow Bunting [M] [F]

                              [_face p. 108._]]


      Yellow Wagtail [M]

   Grey Headed Wagtail [M]

      White Wagtail [M]

   Grey Wagtail

      Pied Wagtail]


   Crown dark olive, streaked with black; gorget and band above
   and below the eye bright yellow; throat, neck, and band across
   the eye, black; breast olive-grey, bounded towards the sides by
   chestnut; abdomen dull yellow; back brownish red, with dusky
   spots. _Female_--the distinct patches of black and yellow
   wanting; the dusky spots on the back larger. Eggs greyish,
   marked with ash-coloured and black blotches and lines.

With the exception of its black chin and throat, this bird closely
resembles the Yellow Hammer. Its habits, too, are much the same, so
that little can be said of it which does not equally apply to its
congener. It appears, however, to be much less patient of cold, and is
consequently mostly confined to the southern counties of England, from
Cornwall to Kent, and in the valley of the Thames. In the south of
Europe, in the islands of the Mediterranean, and in Asia Minor, it is
said to replace the Yellow Hammer, which is far less common. It is in
the habit of perching higher than the Yellow Hammer, and is said to be
partial to elm-trees. The present editor knows of its nesting recently
in Hertfordshire.


   Head, throat and gorget black (in winter speckled with light
   brown); nape, sides of the neck, and a line extending to the
   base of the beak on each side, white; upper parts variegated
   with reddish brown and dusky; under parts white, streaked with
   dusky on the flanks. _Female_--head reddish brown, with dusky
   spots; the white on the neck less distinct; under parts reddish
   white, with dusky spots. Length six inches. Eggs purplish grey,
   blotched and lined with dark purple brown.

Wherever there is water, in the shape of a lake, canal, or river,
lined by bushes and rushes, there the Black-headed Bunting is pretty
sure to be seen at most seasons of the year. The male is strongly
marked by his black head and white collar; the head of the female is
of the same colour as the body; but the white collar, of a less bright
hue, she shares with her mate. 'Reed Bunting' and 'Reed Sparrow' are
other names for the same bird. In summer it rarely quits the vicinity
of water. At this season its food consists of various seeds and
insects; but on the approach of winter it either forms small parties,
or joins itself on to flocks of Yellow Hammers, Sparrows, and Finches,
and visits the stack-yards in search of grain. It builds its nest in
low bushes, or among aquatic plants, very near the ground, employing
bents, bits of straw, reeds, etc., and lining it with hair. The eggs
are four or five in number, of a dull, livid purple colour, marked
with irregular curves or blotches of darker purple, which remind one
of the figure of the lines, so often seen on bramble leaves, made by
leaf-eating grubs. Its note resembles that of the other Buntings, and
is pleasant from its association with walks by the river's side rather
than for tone or melody. In Scotland the Reed Bunting is migratory,
repairing southwards in October and returning in March.


   Head, neck, portion of the wings, and lower parts white; upper
   parts black, tinged here and there with red. Length six inches
   and three-quarters. Eggs pale reddish white, speckled and
   spotted with brown and pale red.

This, though a northern bird also, does not confine itself so closely
to the Arctic regions as the preceding species; but is of common
occurrence in many parts of Scotland during autumn and winter and
later in the season in various parts of England. Macgillivray, whose
acquaintance with British birds, especially those of Scotland, was
very accurate, was inclined to the opinion that the Snow Bunting or
Snow-flake breeds on the higher Grampians, having observed a specimen
on a mountain of this range so early as the fourth of August, while
the migratory flocks do not appear until two months later. "About the
end of October it makes its appearance along the coasts or on the
higher grounds of the south of Scotland, and about the same period in
the south of England, although it is there of much less frequent
occurrence. Assembled in large straggling flocks, or scattered in
small detachments, these birds may be seen flying rather low along the
shore, somewhat in the manner of Larks, moving in an undulating line
by means of repeated flappings and short intervals of cessation, and
uttering a soft and rather low cry, consisting of a few mellow notes,
not unlike those of the Common Linnet, but intermixed at times with a
sort of stifled scream or _churr_. When they have found a fitting
place, they wheel suddenly round, and alight rather abruptly, on which
occasion the white of the wings and tail becomes very conspicuous.
They run with great celerity along the sand, not by hops, like the
Sparrows and Finches, but in a manner resembling that of the Larks and
Pipits; and when thus occupied, it is not in general difficult to
approach them, so that specimens are easily procured. At intervals
they make excursions into the neighbouring fields, alight in
cornyards, at barn-doors, or even on the roads, where they obtain
seeds of oats, wheat, and weeds, which I have found in them. In the
villages along the coast of Lothian, they are sometimes, in spring,
nearly as common as Sparrows, and almost as familiar. About the middle
of April, or sometimes a week later, these birds disappear and betake
themselves to their summer residence." Its habits, as observed in
England, are similar; but the flocks are generally smaller. In the
Arctic regions, it is abundant from the middle or end of April to the
end of September. Its nest is composed of dry grass, neatly lined with
deer's hair and a few feathers, and is generally fixed in the crevice
of a rock or in a loose pile of timber or stones. In spring it feeds
principally on the buds of _Saxifraga oppositifolia_, one of the
earliest of the Arctic plants; during winter, on grass seeds. Peculiar
interest attaches to the Snow Bunting, from the fact that it is
(according to Linnæus) the only living animal that has been seen two
thousand feet above the line of perpetual snow in the Lapland Alps.
Mention of it frequently occurs in books of Arctic travels. I must not
omit to state that the specimens obtained in Great Britain vary so
considerably in the proportions of white and tawny in their plumage,
that there were at one time considered to be three several species. In
Norfolk, I have seen them in severe weather flocking with Larks, among
which they make themselves so conspicuous by the white portion of
their plumage, as to be popularly known by the name of 'White-winged


   Crown of the head black, speckled with red; throat and breast
   black, a broad white band extending from the eye down the sides
   of the neck; nape bright chestnut; back, wings, and tail
   variegated with brown, white, and black; under parts white,
   spotted at the sides with dark brown. Length six inches and
   three-quarters. Eggs pale ochre-yellow, spotted with brown.

This bird, as its name denotes, is an inhabitant of high northern
latitudes; and its occurrence in this country is very rare. A few only
have been shot, in places remote from each other; and in the year
1843, a female was captured by a bird-catcher near Milnthorpe, in
Westmoreland, and kept for some time in an aviary, where it soon
became friendly with its companions and took its daily meal of rape,
canary, or hemp seeds, and now and then a sprinkling of oats, with
apparent satisfaction. In the Arctic regions it inhabits hilly and
mountainous districts, and spends most of its time on the ground,
where it runs in the manner of Larks, and where also it builds its
nest. The male is said to have a pleasing song, combining that of the
Skylark and of the Linnet.



   _Summer_--head, breast, wings and tail variegated with black
   and white; chin, throat, and neck black; back and scapulars
   pearl-grey; side of the neck as low as the wings white.
   _Winter_--chin, throat and neck white, with an isolated black
   gorget. Length nearly seven inches and a half. Eggs bluish
   white, speckled with black.

This species has bred in England more frequently than has been
supposed. It is not uncommon in Cornwall in spring, and indeed it
visits many of our English counties. Its nest has been found in such
odd places as a Sand Martin's burrow and the middle of a strawberry
bed. The present editor has seen it nesting among the spraying
branches of a Virginian creeper growing over trellis work. A beautiful
little bird it is.


   _Summer_--all the plumage variegated with white and black; back
   and scapulars, chin, throat, and neck black; a small portion of
   the side of the neck white. _Winter_--back and scapulars
   ash-grey; chin and throat white, with a black, but not entirely
   isolated, gorget. Length seven inches and a half. Eggs bluish
   white, speckled with dark grey.

The Pied Wagtail or Dishwasher is a familiar and favourite bird, best
known by its habit of frequenting the banks of ponds and streams,
where it runs, not hops about, picking insects from the herbage, and
frequently rising with a short jerking flight, to capture some winged
insect, which its quick eye has detected hovering in the air. Its
simple song consists of but few notes, but the tone is sweet and
pleasing, and is frequently heard when the bird is cleaving its way
through the air with its peculiar flight, in which it describes a
series of arcs, as if it were every instant on the point of alighting,
but had altered its mind. While hunting for food, it keeps its tail in
perpetual motion. It shows little fear of man, and frequently
approaches his dwelling. It may often be noticed running rapidly along
the tiles or thatch of a country house, and it not unfrequently takes
its station on the point of a gable, or the ridge of the roof, and
rehearses its song again and again. Very frequently, too, it perches
in trees, especially such as are in the vicinity of ponds. Next to
watery places, it delights in newly-ploughed fields, and hunts for
insects on the ground, utterly fearless of the ploughman and his
implements. A newly-mown garden lawn is another favourite resort; so
also is a meadow in which cows are feeding, and to these it is most
serviceable, running in and out between their legs, and catching, in a
short time, an incredible number of flies. The country scarcely
furnishes a prettier sight than that afforded by a family of Wagtails
on the short grass of a park, in July or August. A party of five or
six imperfectly fledged birds may often be seen scattered over a small
space of ground, running about with great activity, and picking up
insects, while the parent birds perform short aërial journeys above
and around them, frequently alighting, and transferring from their own
mouths to those of their offspring, each in its turn, the insects they
have just captured. They are at all times sociably disposed, being
seen sometimes in small parties, and sometimes in large flocks. It has
been noticed that when one of a party has been wounded by a discharge
from a gun, another has flown down as if to aid it, or sympathize with
it. Advantage is taken of this habit by bird-catchers in France. It is
the custom to tie Wagtails by their feet to the clap nets, and make
them struggle violently and utter cries of pain when a flight of the
same kind of birds is seen approaching; these stop their flight, and
alighting are caught in large numbers for the spit, their flesh, it is
said, being very delicate. They share, too, with Swallows the praise
of being among the first to announce to other birds the approach of a
Hawk, and join with them in mobbing and driving it away.

About the middle of April, the Pied Wagtail begins to build its nest.
This is usually placed in a hole in a bank or hedge, among stones, or
in the hollow of a tree; it is composed of dry grass and withered
leaves, mixed with moss, and lined with wool, hair, and a few
feathers. It is a compact and solid structure, capable of protecting
the eggs and young from the damp soil, but is not generally concealed
with much art; and hence perhaps it is frequently selected by the
Cuckoo, to lay an egg in.

Towards autumn, Pied Wagtails for the most part migrate southwards. In
the midland counties they may be often observed in large companies, in
October, halting for a few days wherever food is abundant, and then
suddenly disappearing; after which only a few stragglers are seen
until the spring. They return northwards about the beginning of March.
In the extreme south of England they are numerous all the year round;
but as many instances have occurred of their alighting on a ship at
sea, it is probable that the majority migrate to some southern
climate, where the ponds do not freeze and gnats gambol at Christmas.


   _Summer_--head and back bluish grey; a pale streak above the
   eyes; throat black; under parts bright yellow; tail very long.
   _Winter_--chin and throat whitish, passing into yellow. Length
   seven inches and three-quarters. Eggs bluish white, speckled
   with dark grey.

Grey Wagtail is not a very happy name for this bird, as the bright
yellow of its neck and breast are far more conspicuous than the more
sober grey of the head and back; yet, as there are other claimants for
the more appropriate names 'Yellow', and Greyheaded, the young
observer must be cautious while reading the descriptions of the
several members of the family, or he may possibly fall into error. The
Grey Wagtail is among the most elegant and graceful of British birds,
and in delicacy of colouring is surpassed by few. Its habits are much
the same as those of the Pied Wagtail, but it is even lighter and more
active in its movements. It is less frequently observed away from
water than that species, and though, like it, not altogether a
permanent resident in England, it visits us at the opposite season,
coming in autumn, and retiring northwards in spring. It does not seem
often to go so far north as Inverness-shire, but is regularly seen
about Edinburgh in winter; and, on the other hand, it breeds yearly in
the southern counties of England during summer, as on the streams
which flow from Dartmoor. This partial migration seems to be
characteristic of the family, and is difficult to account for. Why out
of a certain number of birds of the same species, some should annually
travel southwards, to supply the place of individuals belonging to an
allied species, who have travelled yet further to the south, and why,
on the reappearance of the latter in spring, the first should return
to their northern haunts, are questions more easily asked than

The Grey Wagtail has been repeatedly observed to indulge in a fancy
which might well obtain for it the name of 'window-bird'. The first
recorded instance occurs in an early number of the _Zoologist_, where
it is stated, that every morning for a period of between three and
four months, from the beginning of October to the end of January, a
Grey Wagtail came to the window of a country house as soon as the
blinds were drawn up, and darted against the panes of glass, pecking
with its beak as if it saw some object. It would then retire, and
after a pause repeat the operation, but from what motive no one could
conjecture. A lady writes to me from Dewlish House, Dorsetshire: 'We
are constantly being disturbed by a yellow-breasted Water-Wagtail,
which comes tapping at the windows or skylights, from the first streak
of light till evening. What may be his object no one can say. It is
too cold at present (March) for flies or spiders, and, had there been
any hybernating there he would have eaten them long ago, he comes so
frequently. When, on going upstairs, or when sitting down in my room,
I hear this loud repeated tapping, it is vain for me to open the
window and try to entice him in with crumbs; he does not even notice
them. This morning he woke me at about four o'clock. You would have
said, 'Some one rapping at my window as a signal that I must get up.
An old servant tells me, "Ah, 'twere just the same last spring, when
the family were in London; they say that it do mean something."'

The Grey Wagtail does not commonly build its nest in the southern
counties of England, although instances have occurred. It prefers
hilly and rocky districts. More frequently it repairs in spring to the
north of England and south of Scotland, and builds its nest on the
ground, or in the hole of a bank, or between large stones, and never
at any great distance from the water. It is composed of stems and
blades of grass, mixed with moss and wool, and lined with wool, hair
and feathers.


   Top of the head, lore, and nape lead-grey; over the eye a white
   streak; scapulars, back, and upper tail-coverts greenish olive,
   tinged with yellow; chin white, in the young male yellow; under
   parts bright yellow. Length six inches and a half. Eggs mottled
   with yellow, brown, and grey.

This, one of the common Yellow Wagtails of the Continent, is a rare
visitor in this country. Its habits, nest, and eggs, closely resemble
those of the next species. It is the _Bergeronette printanière_
('Little shepherdess of the Spring') of the French, a pretty name,
suggested by the habit, common to all the genus, of resorting to
sheepfolds for the sake of feeding on the flies with which such places


   Top of the head, lore, nape, back, and scapulars pale olive;
   over the eye a streak of bright yellow; chin yellow; lower
   parts of the same colour. Length six inches and a half. Eggs
   whitish, mottled with yellow, brown, and grey.

Ray's Wagtail, the third of the Yellow Wagtails placed on the list of
British birds, is, next to the Pied, the best known species, being a
regular summer visitor, and everywhere tolerably common. It is said by
most authors to frequent the water rather less than the other species,
and to prefer fields of peas and tares, open downs and sheep pastures;
but, as far as my own observation goes, I have seen it far more
frequently near water than elsewhere, and if I wished to observe its
habits, I should repair to the nearest canal or river, in the certain
expectation of seeing a pair hunting among the aquatic weeds for their
food, running along the sandy or muddy shore, perching on the broad
leaves of the water-lily, and chasing each other with dipping flight
through the air. I am inclined to believe that, though it may have
often been noticed in dry pastures and stony places, yet that when so
circumstanced, it is only engaged on an exploring expedition from its
watery haunts; for it is scarcely possible that a bird so thoroughly
at home in a weedy pond, can ever be long absent from such a locality
from choice. Its habits are precisely similar to those of the Pied
Wagtail, except that it visits us in the summer exclusively, retiring
southwards in autumn. It may often also be seen in company with that
species. Besides its call-note, which consists of two shrill notes,
the second of which is a musical tone lower than the first, it has a
short and exceedingly sweet song, something like that of the Redbreast
when at its best. This I have heard it utter whilst it was perched on
a low bush overhanging a pond. Its nest was probably somewhere in the
neighbourhood, for when disturbed it flew to a short distance only,
alighted on another twig and repeated its warble again. This was in
the first week in May, and is the only occasion on which I ever heard
it really sing. The nest resembles that of the Pied Wagtail, and is
placed on the ground, usually in pea-fields. The popular name
Washerwoman belongs to the whole family. The corresponding term,
_Lavandière_, is also found in France, and was given from the fanciful
similarity between the beating of the water with its tail by the bird
while tripping along the leaves of a water-lily, and the beating of
linen in the water by washerwomen, a custom still existing in France,
and some parts of England and Ireland.


   Hind claw shorter than the toe, and curved so as to form the
   fourth of a circle; upper parts ash, tinged with olive, the
   centre of each feather dark brown; a double band across the
   wing, formed by the yellowish white tips of the lesser and
   middle wing-coverts; throat and region of the eye dull white;
   breast reddish yellow, spotted, and at the sides lightly
   streaked with dark brown. Length six inches. Eggs dull white,
   variously mottled with purple brown.

The name Titlark is popularly applied to three common species of birds
which were formerly placed in the same family with the Skylark. Modern
ornithologists now place them in a distinct genus, the characters of
which differ from those of the true Lark in that the beak is more
slender and slightly notched near the point, the first three quills
are nearly of the same length and the outer toe is united with the
middle one as far as the first joint. In colouring, however, in
general form, and, to a slight extent, in habits, namely, in the mode
of feeding and nesting, there is much similarity between the genera;
but in the power of soaring, the Lark, though imitated by one species,
is unrivalled. The old name Titlark, then, must be understood to be
merged in the more distinctive title, Pipit, given to three common
kinds which severally frequent trees, meadows, and the sea-shore.
Pipits are more allied to the Wagtail family than with Larks. The Tree
Pipit alone is a migratory species, arriving in this country towards
the end of April, and leaving us in the autumn. It is common in most
of the wooded counties of England, except the extreme west and north,
but attracts little notice, being unostentatious in size and colour,
while its song, except by the practised ear, is likely to be lost in
the general melody of the woods. Yarrell's succinct account of its
most characteristic habit is so comprehensive and accurate, that the
observer who wishes to make its acquaintance can scarcely fail by its
help to identify the bird on its very first occurrence. 'The male has
a pretty song, perhaps more attractive from the manner in which it is
given, than the quality of the song itself. He generally sings while
perched on the top of a bush, or one of the upper branches of an
elm-tree standing in a hedgerow, from which, if watched for a short
time, he will be seen to ascend with quivering wing about as high
again as the tree; then, stretching out his wings and expanding his
tail, he descends slowly by a half-circle, singing the whole time, to
the same branch from which he started, or to the top of the nearest
other tree; and so constant is this habit with him, that if the
observer does not approach near enough to alarm him, the bird may be
seen to perform the same evolution twenty times in half an hour, and I
have witnessed it most frequently during and after a warm May shower.'
Its descent to the ground is generally performed in the same manner.
Its food consists of insects and small seeds, for which it searches
among the grass or newly-ploughed ground, with the walking and running
gait of the Wagtails, but without their incessant waving movement of
the tail. The nest, which is placed on the ground, under a tuft of
grass or low bush, and very frequently on the skirt of a wood or
copse, is composed of dry grass and small roots, and lined with finer
grass and hair. The eggs are usually five in number, and vary so much,
that extreme specimens would scarcely seem to belong to the same bird.
In the predominating brown hue a tinge of red is, however, always
perceptible, and by this it may be distinguished from the egg of the
Meadow Pipit.[14] The Tree Pipit is not seen in Ireland, or it is as
yet unrecorded there.

   [14] 'Amongst our land birds', says Hewitson, 'there is no
        species the eggs of which present so many, or such distinct
        varieties, as those of the Tree Pipit. No one would at first
        believe them to be eggs of the same species; and it was not
        till I had captured the bird upon each of the varieties, and
        also received them from Mr. H. Doubleday, similarly attested,
        that I felt satisfactorily convinced upon the subject.'


      Tree Pipit [M]

   Yellow Hammer [M]

      Rock Pipit [M]

   Meadow Pipit [M]

                              [_face p. 116._]]


      Woodlark [M]

   Shore Lark [M]

      Skylark [M]]


   Hind claw longer than the toe, slightly curved; upper parts
   ash, tinged with olive, especially in winter, the centre of
   each feather dark brown; under parts reddish white, streaked
   with dark brown. Length five inches and three-quarters. Eggs
   dull white, variously spotted and mottled with brown.

It may be thought at the first glimpse that a difference in the
comparative length of the hinder claws of two birds so much alike as
the Tree and Meadow Pipits is scarcely sufficient to justify a
specific distinction; but when it is considered that a short and
curved claw enables a bird to retain a firm grasp of a small twig,
while a long and almost straight one is best adapted for perching on
the ground, it will appear at once that, however similar two birds may
be in all other respects, yet the slight one in which they differ is
the point on which hinges a complex scheme of habits. So the Tree
Pipit frequents wooded districts, and passes a large portion of its
time aloft among the branches, while the Meadow Pipit finds its
happiness on the ground. It is not, indeed, confined to the unwooded
country, for no bird is more generally diffused, and the nests of both
species, constructed of similar materials, may frequently be found in
the border of the same field, yet it often finds a home in wild,
barren districts, frequented by no other small birds but the Wheatear
and Ring Ouzel. I have even more than once seen it alight on a tree,
but this was apparently as a resting-place on which it perched
previously to descending to roost among the heath on a common. Had I
not been near, it would most probably have dropped at once to its
hiding-place as some of its companions did. From its attachment to
commons and waste lands, the Meadow Pipit has received the names of
Ling-bird and Moss-cheeper. In winter it is more abundant in the
plains, where it may often be seen in small parties searching for
seeds and insects in recently-ploughed lands, well marked by its
running gait and the olive tinge of its upper plumage. Its song, which
is not frequently heard, is a short and simple strain, sometimes
uttered on the ground, but more generally, while rising or falling, at
no great height in the air. Its nest is only to be distinguished from
that of the Tree Pipit by the dark brown hue of the eggs which are
somewhat similar to those of the Skylark, only smaller. 'The egg of
the Cuckoo is more frequently deposited and hatched in the nest of the
Meadow Pipit than in that of any other bird,' says Yarrell. It is
interesting to know, now, that this bird--an immoral creature we might
call it--which never keeps to one mate, deposits its eggs in the nests
of about 145 species, taking the world over.


   Hind claw about equal in length to the toe, much curved; upper
   plumage greenish brown, the centre of each feather darker
   brown; a whitish streak over the eye; under parts dull white,
   spotted and streaked with dark brown. Length six inches and
   three-quarters. Eggs dull white, mottled with dingy brown.

Except that it is somewhat larger, the Rock Pipit is very similar in
form and colour to the last species. It is, however, far more local,
being confined exclusively to the sea-shore, but there of very common
occurrence. Every one familiar with the sea-coast, must have observed
it moving through the air with a jerking flight, occasionally
alighting on a rock or on the beach near the line of high-water mark,
searching busily for marine insects. In spring, it frequently takes
little flights inland, never to a great distance, repeating its simple
song all the while, and chasing as if in sport some one or other of
its companions. In winter, it seems to act as a guide to the smaller
land birds, who, finding their supply of food diminished or altogether
cut off by the frost, are attracted by its movements, and join it in
searching for insects among the unfrozen

                    'ridge of all things vile,'

left on the shore by the receding tide. Montagu says, that it has
never been observed to be gregarious; his editor, however, Rennie,
states that he has noticed it to be, if not quite gregarious, at least
very nearly so, on the wild rocky shores of Normandy; and, from my own
acquaintance with its habits in Devon and Cornwall, I am inclined to
agree with the latter. If not gregarious, it is at least sociable, and
that too at seasons when the flocks could hardly have been family
gatherings only. The same remark holds good of the Meadow Pipit. A
migration southwards takes place in October along our east coast.



   Upper parts reddish brown, the centre of each feather dark
   brown; a faint whitish streak above the eyes; throat white;
   neck and breast whitish, tinged with yellow and red, and
   streaked with dark brown; tail moderate. Length seven inches
   and a quarter. Eggs greyish, thickly speckled with dark grey
   and brown.

The Skylark, a bird whose flight and song are better known perhaps
than those of any other bird, needs but a simple biography. The
favourite bird of the poets, its story might be told in extracts
compiled from various authors whose muse has led them to sing of
Nature. Much, however, that has been written is but an amplification
of the golden line, 'Hark, the Lark at Heaven's gate sings!' and not a
little is an exaggerated statement of the height to which it ascends,
and the time which it remains suspended in mid-air. But the Skylark
needs no panegyrists, so, with all due deference to those who have
struck the lyre in its honour, I will endeavour to describe its habits
and haunts in humble prose.

The Skylark is a generally-diffused bird, adapted by the conformation
of its claws for perching on the ground, and by its length and power
of wing for soaring high in the air. Accordingly, its food consists of
small insects and seeds, which it collects among the herbage of
stubble-fields, meadows and downs, or in newly-ploughed fields. To
this fare, it adds in winter and spring the tender stalk of sprouting
corn. Hence it is regarded with deadly hostility by farmers, and
hence, too, the quiet of the country is much disturbed at these
seasons, by boys employed to frighten it away by screaming and plying
a peculiar kind of rattle.[15] During autumn and winter, Larks
congregate in large flocks, and occupy their time principally in
searching for food on the ground. If disturbed, they rise in a
scattered manner, wheel about in the air until the flock is formed
again, chirping from time to time, and then withdraw, not in a compact
body, but at unequal distances from the earth and from each other, to
a new feeding-ground, over which they hover with circling flight for
some time before alighting. On trees they never perch; though one or
two may occasionally be seen settled on a quickset hedge or a railing.
In North Britain, at the approach of severe weather, they flock
together and migrate southwards. Great numbers also visit England from
the Continent, arriving in November, when they used to be caught in
nets and traps for the table. Early in spring the flocks break up,
when the birds pair, and for three or four months, every day and all
day long, when the weather is fine (for the Lark dislikes rain and
high winds), its song may be heard throughout the breadth of the land.
Rising as it were by a sudden impulse from its nest or lowly retreat,
it bursts forth, while as yet but a few feet from the ground, into
exuberant song, and with its head turned towards the breeze, now
ascending perpendicularly, and now veering to the right or left, but
not describing circles, it pours forth an unbroken chain of melody,
until it has reached an elevation computed to be, at the most, about a
thousand feet. To an observer on earth, it has dwindled to the size of
a mere speck; but, as far as my experience goes, it never rises so
high as to defy the search of a keen eye. Having reached its highest
elevation, its ambition is satisfied without making any permanent
stay, and it begins to descend, not with a uniform downward motion,
but by a series of droppings with intervals of simple hovering, during
which it seems to be resting on its wings. Finally, as it draws near
the earth, it ceases its song and descends more rapidly, but before
it touches the ground it recovers itself, sweeps away with almost
horizontal flight for a short distance and disappears in the herbage.
The time consumed in this evolution is at the most from fifteen to
twenty minutes, more frequently less; nor have I ever observed it
partially descend and soar upwards again. A writer in the _Magazine of
Natural History_ maintains that 'those acquainted with the song of the
Skylark, can tell, without looking at them, whether the birds be
ascending or stationary in the air, or on their descent; so different
is the style of the song in each case'. Mr. Yarrell is of the same
opinion, and I have little doubt that they are correct, though I am
not certain that I have myself attained the skill of discriminating.
In July, the Lark ceases its soarings and song together, but in fine
weather, in October, it receives a new inspiration and is musical
again. From time to time, during winter, if the season be mild, it
resumes its aërial habits, but it neither ascends so high nor sings so
long, two or three minutes becoming now the limits of its performance.
Like most other birds, it sings least about noon and the first two
hours of the afternoon; but it begins before sunrise, having been
heard at midsummer as early as two o'clock in the morning, and it
sometimes continues its song till late on into the night, having been
heard at ten o'clock when it was quite dark. Occasionally, too, it
sings on the ground; and, in a cage, as all the world knows, it pours
out its melody with as much spirit, as if its six inches of turf could
be measured by acres, and the roof of its little cage were the vault
of heaven. The following stanza in French is equally successful in
imitating the song of the Skylark and describing its evolutions:

   La gentille Alouette avec son tirelire,
   Tirelire, relire et tirelirant, tire
   Vers la voûte du ciel; puis son vol en ce lieu
   Vire, et semble nous dire: Adieu, adieu, adieu.

The Lark builds its nest in a hollow in the ground, the rut of a
cart-wheel, the depression formed by a horse's hoof, or in a hole
which it scrapes out for itself. The nest is composed of dry grass,
and lined with finer fibres. It lays four or five eggs, and rears two
broods in the year. It displays great attachment to its young, and has
been known, when disturbed by mowers, to build a dome over its nest,
as a substitute for the natural shelter afforded by the grass while
standing, and to remove its young in its claws to another place of
concealment. In a cage, even the male is an excellent nurse. Mr. Weir
mentions one which brought up several broods entrusted to its care,
and a similar instance has fallen under my own notice. Larks
frequently become the prey of the Hobby and Merlin, which pounce on
them as they are on the point of leaving the ground, and bear them off
with as much ease as they would a feather. But if an intended victim
discovers its oppressor in time, it instantly begins to ascend with a
rapidity which the other cannot follow, carried on as it is by the
impetus of its horizontal flight. The Hawk, foiled for this time,
renews the chase and endeavours to soar above its quarry; if it
succeeds, it makes a second swoop, sometimes with deadly effect; but
if it fails a second time, the Lark folds Its wings, drops like lead
to the ground, and, crouching among the herbage, often escapes

   [15] Farmers would effect a great saving if they sowed their
        wheat deeper than is the usual practise. The only part of
        the young plant which the Lark touches is the white stalk
        between the grain and the blade. In its effort to obtain
        this it frequently destroys the whole plant, if the grain
        has been lodged near the surface; but if the young shoot has
        sprouted from a depth of an inch or more, the bird contents
        itself with as much as it can reach without digging, and
        leaves the grain uninjured and capable of sprouting again.


   Upper parts reddish brown, the centre of each feather dark
   brown; a distinct yellowish white streak above the eye passing
   to the back part of the head; lower parts yellowish white,
   streaked with dark brown; tail short. Length six inches and a
   half. Eggs greyish white, speckled and sometimes faintly
   streaked with brown.

The Woodlark is much less frequent than the Skylark, and is confined
to certain districts, also it is only resident northwards up to
Stirling. It is distinguished by its smaller size, short tail, a light
mark over the eye, and by its habit of perching on trees, where the
Skylark is never known to alight. It builds its nest very early in the
season, sometimes so soon as the end of March, and probably rears
several broods in the year, as it has been found sitting as late as
September. It is consequently among the earliest songsters of the
year, and among the last to bid adieu to summer. It sings on until
the occurrence of severe frosts, and its note is among the sweetest
and most touching sounds of nature. The song, though of less compass
and less varied than that of the Skylark, is superior in liquidness of
tone, and is thought to resemble the syllables '_lulu_', by which name
the bird is known in France. When soaring it may be distinguished from
the Skylark not only by its song, but by its ascending in circles,
which it describes, poets tell us, and perhaps correctly, with its
nest for a centre. Sometimes, especially during sunshine after a
summer shower, it alights on the summit of a lofty tree, to 'unthread
its chaplet of musical pearls', and its simpler _lulu_ notes may be
heard as it flies from place to place while but a few feet above the
surface of the ground. In autumn, Woodlarks assemble in small sociable
parties (but not in large flocks), and keep together during the
winter. Early in spring these societies are broken up into pairs, and
the business of the season commences. The nest is composed of bents
and a little moss, and is lined with finer grass, and, though built on
the ground, is generally concealed with more art than that of the
Skylark, the birds availing themselves of the shelter afforded by a
bush or tuft of grass.


   Throat, forehead, and ear-coverts yellow; over the forehead a
   black band; lore, moustache, and gorget black; upper parts
   reddish brown; breast and flanks yellowish white; abdomen
   white. Length nearly seven inches. Eggs greyish white, spotted
   with pale blue and brown.

The Shore Lark, like the last, is a very rare visitor of Britain, and
appears to be equally uncommon In France. A few have been shot in
Norfolk, and in the high latitudes both of the Old and New Worlds it
is a common resident on the rocky coasts. It builds its nest on the
ground, and shares in the great characteristic of the family, that,
namely, of soaring and singing simultaneously. In colouring, it is
strongly marked by its black gorget and crest.




   General plumage sooty brown; chin greyish white; tarsi
   feathered; bill feet, and claws, shining black. Length eight
   inches; width seventeen inches. Eggs pure white.

The Swift is, perhaps, the strongest and swiftest, not merely of the
Swallow tribe, but of all birds; hence a voyage from Southern
Africa[16] to England is performed without overtaxing its strength. It
stands in need of no rest after this prodigious flight, but
immediately on its arrival starts with a right good will on its
pursuit of food, as if its journey had been but a pleasant course of
training for its daily vocation. With respect to temperature, however,
its powers of endurance are limited; it never proceeds far northwards,
and occasionally even suffers from unseasonably severe weather in the
temperate climates where it fixes its summer residence. Mr. F. Smith,
of the British Museum, related in the _Zoologist_,[17] that, at Deal,
on the eighth of July, 1856, after a mild but wet day, the temperature
suddenly fell till it became disagreeably cold. The Swifts were
sensibly affected by the atmospheric change; they flew unsteadily,
fluttered against the walls of the houses, and some even flew into
open windows. 'Whilst observing these occurrences', he says, 'a girl
came to the door to ask me if I wanted to buy a bat; she had heard,
she told me, that I bought all kinds of bugs, and her mother thought I
might want a bat. On her producing it, I was astonished to find it was
a poor benumbed Swift. The girl told me they were dropping down in the
streets, and the boys were killing all the bats; the church, she said,
was covered with them. Off I started to witness this strange sight and
slaughter. True enough; the children were charging them everywhere,
and on arriving at the church in Lower Street I was astonished to see
the poor birds hanging in clusters from the eaves and cornices; some
clusters were at least two feet in length, and, at intervals, benumbed
individuals dropped from the outside of the clusters. Many hundreds of
the poor birds fell victims to the ruthless ignorance of the
children.' Being so susceptible of cold, the Swift does not visit us
until summer may be considered to have completely set in. In the
south it is generally seen towards the end of April, but it generally
brings up the rear of the migratory birds by making its first
appearance in the first or second week in May, in the north.

Early in August it makes itself, for a few days, more than ever
conspicuous by its wheeling flights around the buildings which contain
its nest, and then suddenly disappears. At this period, too, its note
is more frequently heard than during any other part of its visit, and
in this respect it is peculiar. As a general rule, birds cease their
song partially, if not entirely, when their eggs are hatched. The new
care of providing for the wants of a brood occupies their time too
much to allow leisure for musical performance, so that with the
exception of their call-notes, and their cries of alarm or defiance,
they are for a season mute. An early riser, and late in retiring to
roost, the Swift is always on the wing. Thus, whether hunting on his
own account or on behalf of his mate and nestlings, his employment is
unvaried, and the same amount of time is always at his disposal for
exercising his vocal powers. These are not great; he has no roundelay;
he neither warbles nor carols; he does not even twitter. His whole
melody is a scream, unmusical but most joyous; a squeak would be a
better name, but that, instead of conveying a notion that it results
from pain, it is full of rollicking delight. Some compare it to the
noise made by the sharpening of a saw; to me it seems such an
expression of pent-up joy as little children would make if
unexpectedly released from school, furnished with wings, and flung up
into the air for a game of hide-and-seek among the clouds. Such
soarings aloft, such chasings round the pinnacles of the church-tower
and the gables of the farmhouses, no wonder that they cannot contain
themselves for joy. Every day brings its picnic or village feast, with
no weariness or depression on the morrow.

The nest of the Swift is constructed of any scraps that the bird may
chance to find floating in the air, or brought to it by the wind, for
it literally never perches on the ground, whence it rises with
difficulty. These are rudely pressed together in any convenient
aperture or moulding in a building, and cemented together by some
glutinous secretion from the bird's mouth. Two eggs are laid, and the
young, as a matter of necessity, remain in the nest until quite

Another name for the Swift is Black Martin, and in heraldry it is
familiarly known as the Martlet, the figure of which is a device of
frequent occurrence in heraldic coats of arms, and denotes that the
original wearer of the distinction served as a crusader pilgrim. In
Arabia it is still known by the name of Hadji, or Pilgrim, to denote
its migratory habits.

   [16] Livingstone mentions his having seen in the plains north
        of Kuruman a flock of Swifts, computed to contain upwards
        of 4,000 individuals.

   [17] September, 1856, p. 5249.



   General plumage ash-grey, spotted and barred with black, brown
   and reddish brown; first three primaries with a large white
   patch, on the inner web; two outer tail-feathers on each side
   tipped with white. Length ten inches and a quarter; breadth
   twenty-two inches. Eggs whitish, beautifully marbled with brown
   and ash.

This bird used to be described as a nocturnal robber who finds his way
into the goat-pens, sucks the dugs of the goats, poisoning them to
such an extent that the animals themselves are blinded, and their
udders waste away. This fable we notice in order to account for the
strange name Goatsucker, by which it was formerly so well known. The
bird has, indeed, strangely enough, been known all over Europe by an
equivalent for this name from the earliest times. The bird itself is
perfectly inoffensive, singular in form and habits, though rarely seen
alive near enough for its peculiarities of form and colour to be
observed. Its note, however, is familiar enough to persons who are in
the habit of being out late at night in such parts of the country as
it frequents. The silence of the evening or midnight walk in June is
occasionally broken by a deep _churr-churr-err_ which seemingly
proceeds from the lower bough of a tree, a hedge, or paling. And a
whirring of the wings comes often from their being brought in contact
as the birds twist in insect-hunting.[18] The churring is nearly
monotonous but not quite so, as it occasionally rises or falls about a
quarter of a note, and appears to increase and diminish in loudness.
Nor does it seem to proceed continuously from exactly the same spot,
but to vary its position, as if the performer were either a
ventriloquist or were actually shifting his ground. The bird perches
with its feet resting lengthwise on a branch, its claws not being
adapted for grasping, and turns its head from side to side, thus
throwing the sound as it were in various directions, and producing the
same effect as if it proceeded from different places. I have
repeatedly worked my way close up to the bird, but as I labour under
the disadvantage of being short-sighted, and derive little assistance
from glasses at night, I have always failed to observe it actually
perched and singing. In the summer of 1859 a Nightjar frequented the
immediate neighbourhood of my own house, and I had many opportunities
of listening to its note. One evening especially, it perched on a
railing within fifty yards of the house, and I made sure of seeing it,
but when I had approached within a few yards of the spot from whence
the sound proceeded the humming suddenly stopped, but was presently
again audible at the other end of the railing which ran across my
meadow. I cautiously crept on, but with no better success than before.
As I drew near, the bird quitted its perch, flew round me, coming
within a few feet of my person, and, on my remaining still, made
itself heard from another part of the railing only a few yards behind
me. Again and again I dodged it, but always with the same result; I
saw it, indeed, several times, but always on the wing. At last a
longer interval of silence ensued, and when I heard the sound again it
proceeded from a distant hedge which separated the meadow from a
common. Here probably its mate was performing the domestic duty of
incubation cheered by the dismal ditty of her partner; but I never saw
her, though I undertook another nocturnal chase of the musician,
hunting him from tree to tree, but never being able to discover his
exact position, until the cessation of the sound and the sudden
rustling of leaves announced the fact of his having taken his

In the dusk of the evening the Nightjar may commonly be seen hawking
for moths and beetles after the manner of the Swallow-tribe, only that
the flight is less rapid and more tortuous. I once saw one on the
common mentioned above, hawking seemingly in company with Swifts and
Swallows during the bright glare of a summer afternoon; but most
frequently it spends the day either resting on the ground among heath
or ferns or on the branch of a tree, always (according to Yarrell and
others) crouching close down upon it, in the line of the limb, and not
across it. When perched on the ground it lies very close, 'not rising
(a French author says) until the dogs are almost on it, but worth
shooting in September'. The poet Wordsworth, whose opportunities of
watching the Nightjar in its haunts must have been numerous, knew that
the whirring note is an accompaniment of the chase:

   The busy Dor-Hawk chases the white moth
   With burring note----

   The burring Dor-Hawk round and round is wheeling:
     That solitary bird
     Is all that can be heard
   In silence, deeper far than deepest noon.

One point in the economy of the Nightjar is still disputed (1908) the
use which it makes of its serrated middle claw. White, and another
observer, quoted by Yarrell, have seen the bird while on the wing
capture insects with the claw and transfer them to the mouth. Wilson,
on the other hand, states that the use of this singular structure is
to enable the bird to rid itself of vermin, to which it is much
exposed by its habit of remaining at rest during the heat of the day.
As he has actually observed a bird in captivity thus employing its
claw, it would follow that the same organ is used for a twofold

The Nightjar is a migratory bird and the last to arrive in this
country, appearing not before the middle of May. It is found more or
less sparingly in all parts of England, especially those which abound
most in woods interspersed with heaths and brakes. In the wooded
valleys of Devonshire it is of frequent occurrence, and here it has
been known to remain so late in the season as November, whereas from
most other localities it migrates southwards about the middle or end
of September. It builds no nest, but lays its singularly beautiful
eggs, two in number, on the ground among the dry herbage of the

Other names by which it is locally known are Fern Owl, Wheeler, and

   [18] Mr. Bell informs me that it is so like the croak of the
        Natter-Jack Toad, that he has more than once doubted from
        which of the two the sound proceeded.




   Crown and upper plumage black; a crimson patch on the back of
   the head; a white spot on each side of the neck; scapulars,
   lesser wing-coverts, and under plumage white; abdomen and under
   tail-coverts crimson; iris red. _Female_--without the crimson
   on the head. Length nine inches and a half; breadth fourteen
   inches. Eggs glossy white.

In habits this bird closely resembles the Green Woodpecker. It is of
less common occurrence, but by no means rare, especially in the wooded
districts of the southern and midland counties. A writer in the
_Zoologist_[19] is of opinion that it shows a decided partiality to
fallen timber. 'In 1849', he says, 'a considerable number of trees
were cut down in an open part of the country near Melbourne, which
were eventually drawn together and piled in lots. These lay for some
time, and were visited almost daily by Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Their habits and manners were very amusing, especially whilst
searching for food. They alighted on the timber, placed the body in a
particular position, generally with the head downward' [differing in
this respect from the Green Woodpecker], 'and commenced pecking away
at the bark. Piece by piece it fell under their bills, as chips from
the axe of a woodman. Upon examining the bark, I found that the pieces
were chipped away in order that the-bird might arrive at a small white
grub which lay snugly embedded in the bark; and the adroitness of the
bird in finding out those portions of it which contained the greatest
number of grubs, was certainly very extraordinary. Where the birds
were most at work on a particular tree, I shelled off the bark and
found nearly thirty grubs in nine squares inches; but on shelling off
another portion from the same tree, which remained untouched, no grub
was visible. Yet how the bird could ascertain precisely where his food
lay was singular, as in both cases the surface of the bark appeared
the same and bore no traces of having been perforated by insects.
During the day one bird chipped off a piece thirty inches long and
twenty wide--a considerable day's work for so small a workman.'
Another observer states that this bird rarely descends to the ground,
and affects the upper branches of trees in preference to the lower.
Its note is like that of the Green Woodpecker. Both species are
charged with resorting to gardens and orchards during the fruit
season, not in quest of insect food; but no instance of this has come
under my own notice. It is said, too, that they eat nuts. This
statement is most probably correct. I myself doubt whether there are
many birds of any sort which can resist a walnut; and I would
recommend any one who is hospitably disposed towards the birds which
frequent his garden, to strew the ground with fragments of these nuts.
To birds who are exclusively vegetarians, if indeed there be any such
indigenous to Britain, they are a natural article of diet, and as from
their oily nature they approximate to animal matter, they are most
acceptable to insectivorous birds. They have an advantage over almost
every other kind of food thus exposed, that they are not liable to be
appropriated as scraps of meat and bread are, by prowling cats and
dogs. A walnut, suspended from the bough of a tree by a string, will
soon attract the notice of some inquisitive Tit, and, when once
detected, will not fail to receive the visits of all birds of the same
family which frequent the neighbourhood. A more amusing pendulum can
scarcely be devised. To ensure the success of the experiment, a small
portion of the shell should be removed.

   [19] Vol. viii, p. 3115.


   Wryneck [M] Greater Spotted Woodpecker [F]

   Green Woodpecker [M] Lesser Spotted Woodpecker [M]

                              [_face p. 128._]]


           Hoopoe [M]

   Kingfisher [M]


           Bee-eater [M]]


   Forehead and lower parts dirty white; crown bright red: nape,
   back, and wings black, with white bars; tail black, the outer
   feathers tipped with white and barred with black; iris red.
   Length five inches and a half; breadth twelve inches. Eggs
   glossy white.

This handsome little bird resembles its congeners so closely, both in
structure and habits, that it scarcely needs a lengthened description.
Resident in England but rare in Scotland and Ireland, owing to its
fondness for high trees and its small size it often escapes notice. It
lays its eggs on the rotten wood, which it has either pecked, or which
has fallen, from the holes in trees; they are not to be distinguished
from those of the Wryneck. Lately (1908) a Scottish newspaper recorded
the shooting of "that rare species, the Spotted Woodpecker!" "The man
with the gun" is incurable.


   Upper plumage green; under, greenish ash; crown, back of the
   head, and moustaches crimson; face black. _Female_--less
   crimson on the head; moustaches black. Length thirteen inches;
   breadth twenty-one inches. Eggs glossy white.

One of the most interesting among the natural sounds of the country,
is that of the

   Woodpecker tapping the hollow beech tree:

yet one may walk through the woods many times and hear no tapping at
all, and even if such a sound be detected and traced to its origin, it
will often be found to proceed from the Nuthatch, who has wedged a
hazel-nut into the bark of an oak, than from the hammering of a
Woodpecker. Yet often indeed it may be observed ascending, by a series
of starts, the trunk of a tree, inclining now a little to the right,
and now to the left, disappearing now and then on the side farthest
from the spectator, and again coming into view somewhat higher up. Nor
is its beak idle; this is employed sometimes in dislodging the insects
which lurk in the rugged bark, and sometimes in tapping the trunk in
order to find out whether the wood beneath is sound or otherwise. Just
as a carpenter sounds a wall with his hammer in order to discover
where the brickwork ends and where lath and plaster begin, so the
Woodpecker sounds the wooden pillar to which it is clinging, in order
to discover where the wood is impenetrable alike by insects and
itself, and where the former have been beforehand with it in seeking
food or shelter. Such a canker-spot found, it halts in its course,
tears off piece-meal a portion of bark and excavates the rotten wood
beneath, either as far as the fault extends or as long as it can find
food. It is, then, by no means a mischievous bird, but the reverse; as
it not only destroys a number of noxious insects, but points out to
the woodman, if he would only observe aright, which trees are
beginning to decay and consequently require his immediate attention.
This aspect of the Woodpecker's operations is the right one and not
the old idea that 'it is a great enemy of old trees in consequence of
the holes which it digs in their trunks', as some old writer states.

But with all his digging and tapping, the sound by which the vicinity
of a Woodpecker is most frequently detected, especially in spring and
summer, is the unmistakable laughing note which has gained for him the
name of 'Yaffle.' No more perhaps than the mournful cooing of the dove
does this indicate merriment; it is harsh, too, in tone; yet it rings
through the woods with such jovial earnestness that it is always
welcome. On such occasions the bird is not generally, I think,
feeding, for if the neighbourhood from which the sound proceeded be
closely watched, the Yaffle may frequently be observed to fly away,
with a somewhat heavy dipping flight, to another tree or grove, and
thence, after another laugh, to proceed to a second. It is indeed
oftener to be seen on the wing than hunting for food on the trunks of
trees. Very frequently too it may be observed on the ground,
especially in a meadow or common in which ants abound.

The admirable adaptation of the structure of the Woodpecker to its
mode of life is well pointed out by Yarrell. Its sharp, hooked toes,
pointing two each way, are eminently fitted for climbing and clinging.
The keel of the breast-bone is remarkably shallow; hence, when
ascending (its invariable mode of progress) a tree, it is enabled to
bring its body close to the trunk without straining the muscles of the
legs. Its tail is short, and composed of unusually stiff feathers,
which in the process of climbing are pressed inwards against the tree,
and contribute greatly to its support. The beak is strong and of
considerable length, and thus fitted either for digging into an
ant-hill or sounding the cavities of a tree; and the tongue, which is
unusually long, is furnished with a curious but simple apparatus, by
which it is extended so that it can be thrust into a hole far beyond
the point of the bill, while its tip is barbed with small filaments,
which, like the teeth of a rake, serve to pull up the larva or insect
into its mouth. The Woodpecker builds no nest, but lays five or six
glossy white eggs on the fragments of the decayed wood in which it has
excavated its nest.

Other names by which this bird is known are Popinjay, Wood-sprite,
Rain-bird, Hew-hole and Woodweele.



   Upper plumage reddish grey, irregularly spotted and lined with
   brown and black; a broad black and brown band from the back of
   the head to the back; throat and breast yellowish red, with
   dusky transverse rays; rest of the under plumage whitish, with
   arrow shaped black spots; outer web of the quills marked with
   rectangular alternate black and yellowish red spots;
   tail-feathers barred with black zigzag bands; beak and feet
   olive brown. Length six inches and a half; breadth eleven
   inches. Eggs glossy white.

The note of the Wryneck is so peculiar that it can be confounded with
none of the natural sounds of the country; a loud, rapid, harsh cry of
_pay-pay-pay_ from a bird about the size of a lark may be referred
without hesitation to the Wryneck. Yet it is a pleasant sound after
all--'the merry pee-bird' a poet calls it--and the untuneful minstrel
is the same bird which is known by the name of 'Cuckoo's Mate', and so
is associated with May-days, pleasant jaunts into the country,
hayfields, the memory of past happy days and the hope of others to
come. This name it derives not from any fondness it exhibits for the
society of the cuckoo, as it is a bird of remarkably solitary habits,
but because it arrives generally a few days before the cuckoo. Not
less singular than its note is its plumage, which, though unmarked by
gaudiness of colouring, is very beautiful, being richly embroidered as
it were with brown and black on a reddish grey ground. In habits, it
bears no marked resemblance to the Woodpeckers; it is not much given
to climbing and never taps the trunks of trees; yet it does seek its
food on decayed trees, and employs its long horny tongue in securing
insects. It darts its tongue with inconceivable rapidity into an
ant-hill and brings it out as rapidly, with the insects and their eggs
adhering to its viscid point. These constitute its principal food, so
that it is seen more frequently feeding on the ground than hunting on
trees. But by far the strangest peculiarity of the Wryneck, stranger
than its note and even than its worm-like tongue, is the wondrous
pliancy of its neck, which one might almost imagine to be furnished
with a ball and socket joint. A country boy who had caught one of
these birds on its nest brought it to me on a speculation. As he held
it in his hand, I raised my finger towards it as if about to touch its
beak. The bird watched most eagerly the movement of my finger, with no
semblance of fear, but rather with an apparent intention of resenting
the offer of any injury. I moved my finger to the left; its beak
followed the direction--the finger was now over its back, still the
beak pointed to it. In short, as a magnetic needle follows a piece of
steel, so the bird's beak followed my finger until it was again in
front, the structure of the neck being such as to allow the head to
make a complete revolution on its axis, and this without any painful
effort. I purchased the bird and gave it its liberty, satisfied to
have discovered the propriety of the name Torquilla.[20] I may here
remark that the name Iynx,[21] is derived from its harsh cry. Besides
this, the proper call-note of the bird, it utters, when disturbed in
its nest, another which resembles a hiss; whence and partly, perhaps,
on account of the peculiar structure of its neck, it is sometimes
called the Snake-bird. Nest, properly speaking, it has none; it
selects a hole in a decaying tree and lays its eggs on the rotten
wood. Its powers of calculating seem to be of a very low order.
Yarrell records an instance in which four sets of eggs, amounting to
twenty-two, were successively taken before the nest was deserted; a
harsh experiment, and scarcely to be justified except on the plea that
they were taken by some one who gained his livelihood by selling eggs,
or was reduced to a strait from want of food. A similar instance is
recorded in the _Zoologist_, when the number of eggs taken was also
twenty-two. The Wryneck is a common bird in the south-eastern counties
of England and to the west as far as Somersetshire; but I have never
heard its note in Devon or Cornwall; it is rare also in the northern

   [20] From the Latin _torqueo_, 'to twist.'

   [21] Greek [Greek: iynx] from [Greek: iýzô], to 'shriek.'



   Back azure-blue; head and wing-coverts bluish green, spotted
   with azure-blue; under and behind the eye a reddish band
   passing into white, and beneath this a band of azure-green;
   wings and tail greenish blue; throat white; under plumage rusty
   orange-red. Length seven inches and a quarter; width ten
   inches. Eggs glossy white, nearly round.

Halcyon days, every one knows, are days of peace and tranquillity,
when all goes smoothly, and nothing occurs to ruffle the equanimity of
the most irascible member of a household; but it may not be known to
all my younger readers that a bird is said to be in any way concerned
in bringing about this happy state of things. According to the ancient
naturalists the Halcyon, our Kingfisher, being especially fond of the
water and its products, chooses to have even a floating nest. Now the
surface of the sea is an unfit place whereon to construct a vessel of
any kind, so the Halcyon, as any other skilful artisan would, puts
together on land first the framework, and then the supplementary
portion of its nest, the materials being shelly matter and spines,
whence derived is unknown; but the principal substance employed is
fish-bones. During the progress of the work the careful bird several
times tests its buoyancy by actual experiment, and when satisfied that
all is safe, launches its future nursery on the ocean. However
turbulent might have been the condition of the water previously to
this event, thenceforth a calm ensued, which lasted during the period
of incubation; and these were 'Halcyon days' (_Halcyonides dies_),
which set in seven days before the winter solstice, and lasted as many
days after. What became of the young after the lapse of this period is
not stated, but the deserted nest itself, called halcyoneum,
identical, perhaps, with what we consider the shell of the echinus, or
sea-urchin, was deemed a valuable medicine.[22]

The real nest of the Kingfisher is a collection of small fish-bones,
which have evidently been disgorged by the old birds. A portion of one
which I have in my possession, and which was taken about twenty years
since from a deep hole in an embankment at Deepdale, Norfolk, consists
exclusively of small fish-bones and scraps of the shells of shrimps. A
precisely similar one is preserved in the British Museum, which is
well worthy the inspection of the curious. It was found by Mr. Gould
in a hole three feet deep on the banks of the Thames; it was half an
inch thick and about the size of a tea saucer, and weighed 700 grains.
Mr. Gould was enabled to prove that this mass was deposited, as well
as eight eggs laid, in the short space of twenty-one days. In neither
case was there any attempt made by the bird to employ the bones as
materials for a structure; they were simply spread on the soil in such
a way as to protect the eggs from damp, possessing probably no
properties which made them superior to bents or dry leaves, but
serving the purpose as well as anything else, and being more readily
available, by a bird that does not peck on the ground, than materials
of any other kind.

The wanderer by the river's side on a bright sunny day, at any season,
may have his attention suddenly arrested by the sight of a bird
shooting past him, either up or down the stream, at so slight an
elevation above the water, that he can look down on its back. Its
flight is rapid, and the colour of the plumage so brilliant, that he
can compare it to nothing less dazzlingly bright than the richest
feathers of the peacock, or a newly dug specimen of copper ore. After
an interval of a few seconds it will perhaps be followed by a second,
its mate, arrayed in attire equally gorgeous with emerald, azure, and
gold. Following the course of the bird, let him approach cautiously
any pools where small fish are likely to abound, and he may chance to
descry, perched motionless on the lower branch of an alder overhanging
the stream, on some bending willow, or lichen-covered rail, the bird
which but now glanced by him like a meteor. If exposed to the rays of
the sun, the metallic green of its upper plumage is still most
conspicuous; if in the shade, or surrounded by leaves, its chestnut
red breast betrays its position. Not a step further in advance, or the
fisherman, intent as he is on his sport, will take alarm and be off to
another station. With beak pointed downwards it is watching until one
among a shoal of minnows or bleaks comes within a fair aim; then with
a twinkle of the wing it dashes head foremost from its post, plunges
into the stream, disappears for a second, and emerges still head
foremost with its struggling booty. A few pinches with its powerful
beak, or a blow against its perch, deprives its prey of life, and the
morsel is swallowed entire, head foremost. Occasionally, where
convenient perches are rare, as is the case with the little pools left
by the tide on the sea-shore (for the Kingfisher is common on the
banks of tidal rivers as well as on inland streams and lakes), it
hovers like a Kestrel, and plunges after small fish, shrimps, and
marine insects. It once happened to me that I was angling by a river's
side, quite concealed from view by a willow on either side of me,
when a Kingfisher flew down the stream, and perched on my rod. I
remained perfectly still, but was detected before an opportunity had
been afforded me of taking a lesson from my brother sportsman.

The Kingfisher is a permanent resident in this country, and may be
observed, at any season, wherever there is a river, canal, or lake,
those streams being preferred the banks of which are lined with trees
or bushes. Like most other birds of brilliant plumage, it is no
vocalist; its only note being a wild piping cry, which it utters while
on the wing. Happily the Kingfishers are again on the increase in our

   [22] Plin. _Nat. Hist._ lib. x. cap. 32. xxxii. cap 8.



   Head, neck, and under parts tinged with various shades of light
   blue, varied with green; back and scapulars reddish brown; tail
   blue, green, and black. Length twelve inches and a half. Eggs
   smooth shining white.

About twenty specimens in all of this bird have been observed in
England, the one of most recent occurrence being, I believe, one which
was shot close to my garden, on the twentieth of September, 1852. The
winter home of the Roller is Africa, and it is said to be particularly
abundant in Algeria. About the middle of April it crosses the
Mediterranean, and seems to prefer the north of Europe to the south as
a summer residence, being more abundant in Germany and the south of
Russia than in France, though many proceed no further than Sicily and
Greece. Its food consists mainly of caterpillars and other insects.
The name Roller, being derived directly from the French _Rollier_,
should be pronounced so as to rhyme with 'dollar'.



   Forehead white, passing into bluish green; upper plumage
   chestnut; throat golden yellow, bounded by a black line; wings
   variegated with blue, brown, and green; tail greenish blue.
   Length eleven inches. Eggs glossy white.

This bird, which in brilliancy of plumage vies with the Hummingbirds,
possesses little claim to be ranked among soberly clad British birds.
Stray instances are indeed met with from time to time, but at distant
intervals. In the islands of the Mediterranean, and in the southern
countries of Europe, they are common summer visitors, and in Asia
Minor and the south of Russia they are yet more frequent. They are
gregarious in habits, having been observed, both in Europe, their
summer, and in Africa, their winter residence, to perch together on
the branches of trees in small flocks. They also build their nests
near each other. These are excavations in the banks of rivers,
variously stated to be extended to the depth of from six inches to as
many feet. Their flight is graceful and light, resembling that of the
Swallows. Their food consists of winged insects, especially bees and
wasps, which they not only catch when they are wandering at large
through the air, but watch for near their nests. The inhabitants of
Candia and Cyprus are said to catch them by the help of a light silk
line, to which is attached by a fish-hook a wild bee. The latter in
its endeavour to escape soars into the air, and the Bee-eater seizing
it becomes the prey of the aërial fisherman.



   Crest orange-red tipped with black; head, neck, and breast pale
   cinnamon; back, wings, and tail barred with black and white;
   under parts white. Length twelve inches; width nineteen inches.
   Eggs lavender grey, changing to greenish olive.

Little appears to be known of the habits of this very foreign-looking
bird from observation in Great Britain. The season at which it is seen
in this country is usually autumn, though a few instances have
occurred of its having bred with us. In the south of Europe and north
of Africa it is of common occurrence as a summer visitor, but migrates
southwards in autumn. Its English name is evidently derived from the
French _Huppe_, a word which also denotes 'a crest', the most striking
characteristic of the bird. It is called also in France _Puput_, a
word coined, perhaps, to denote the noise of disgust which one
naturally makes at encountering an unpleasant odour, this, it is said,
being the constant accompaniment of its nest, which is always found in
a filthy condition, owing to the neglect of the parent birds in
failing to remove offensive matter, in conformity with the laudable
practise of most other birds. In spite of the martial appearance of
its crest, it is said to be excessively timid, and to fly from an
encounter with the smallest bird that opposes it. It lives principally
on the ground, feeding on beetles and ants. On trees it sometimes
perches but does not climb, and builds its nest in holes in trees and
walls, rarely in clefts of rocks. It walks with a show of dignity when
on the ground, erecting its crest from time to time. In spring the
male utters a note not unlike the coo of a Wood-pigeon, which it
repeats several times, and at other seasons it occasionally emits a
sound something like the shrill note of the Greenfinch. But it is no
musician and is as little anxious to be heard as seen. The nest is a
simple structure composed of a few scraps of dried grass and feathers,
and contains from four to six eggs. It would breed here annually if
not always shot on arrival.



   Upper plumage bluish ash colour, darker on the wings, lighter
   on the neck and chest; under parts whitish with transverse
   dusky streaks; quills barred on the inner webs with oval white
   spots; tail-feathers blackish, tipped and spotted with white;
   bill dusky, edged with yellow; orbits and inside of the mouth
   orange-yellow; iris and feet yellow. _Young_--ash-brown, barred
   with reddish brown; tips of the feathers white; a white spot on
   the back of the head. Length thirteen inches and a half,
   breadth twenty-three inches. Eggs varying in colour and

No bird in a state of nature utters a note approaching so closely the
sound of the human voice as the Cuckoo; on this account, perhaps,
partially at least, it has at all times been regarded with especial
interest. Its habits have been much investigated, and they are found
to be unlike those of any other bird. The Cuckoo was a puzzle to the
earlier naturalists, and there are points in its biography which are
controverted still. From the days of Aristotle to those of Pliny, it
was supposed to undergo a metamorphosis twice a year, appearing during
the summer months as a Cuckoo, "a bird of the hawk kind, though
destitute of curved talons and hooked beak, and having the bill of a
Pigeon; should it chance to appear simultaneously with a Hawk it was
devoured, being the sole example of a bird being killed by one of its
own kind. In winter it actually changed into a Merlin, but reappeared
in spring in its own form, but with an altered voice, laid a single
egg, or rarely two, in the nest of some other bird, generally a
Pigeon, declining to rear its own young, because it knew itself to be
a common object of hostility among all birds, and that its brood would
be in consequence unsafe, unless it practised a deception. The young
Cuckoo being naturally greedy, monopolized the food brought to the
nest by its foster parents; it thus grew fat and sleek, and so excited
its dam with admiration of her lovely offspring, that she first
neglected her own chicks, then suffered them to be devoured before
her eyes, and finally fell a victim herself to his voracious
appetite."[23]--A strange fiction, yet not more strange than the
truth, a glimmering of which appears throughout. We know well enough
now that the Cuckoo does not change into a Merlin, but migrates in
autumn to the southern regions of Africa; but this neither Aristotle
nor Pliny could have known, for the common belief in their days was,
that a continued progress southwards would bring the traveller to a
climate too fierce for the maintenance of animal life. Now the Merlin
visits the south of Europe, just at the season when the Cuckoo
disappears, and returns northwards to breed in spring, a fact in its
history as little known as the migration of the Cuckoo. It bears a
certain resemblance to the Cuckoo, particularly in its barred plumage,
certainly a greater one than exists between a caterpillar and a
butterfly, so that there were some grounds for the belief in a
metamorphosis, strengthened not a little by the fact that the habits
of the bird were peculiar in other respects. Even so late as the time
of our own countrymen, Willughby and Ray (1676), it was a matter of
doubt whether the Cuckoo lay torpid in a hollow tree, or migrated
during winter. These authors, though they do not admit their belief
of a story told by Aldrovandus of a certain Swiss peasant having heard
the note of a Cuckoo proceed from a log of wood which he had thrown
into a furnace, thought it highly probable that the Cuckoo did become
torpid during winter, and were acquainted with instances of persons
who had heard its note during unusually mild winter weather. A Cuckoo
which had probably been hatched off too late to go away with the rest
remained about the tennis ground of a relative of the present editor
until the middle of November, getting very tame. Then, unfortunately,
a cat got it. The assertion again of the older naturalists, that the
Cuckoo is the object of hatred among birds generally, seems credible,
though I should be inclined to consider its habit of laying its eggs
in the nests of other birds as the cause rather than the consequence
of its unpopularity. The contrary, however, is the fact, numerous
anecdotes of the Cuckoo showing that it is regarded by many other
birds with a respect which amounts to infatuation, rather than with
apprehension. The statement that it lays but one egg is erroneous, so
also is the assertion of Willughby that it invariably destroys the
eggs found in a nest previously to depositing its own. Pliny's
assertion that the young bird devours its foster brothers and sisters
is nearer the truth, but his account of its crowning act of impiety in
swallowing its nurse, is, I need not say, altogether unfounded in
fact. Having disposed of these errors, some of which are entertained
by the credulous or ill-informed at the present day, I will proceed to
sketch in outline the biography of this singular bird, as the facts
are now pretty generally admitted.

The Cuckoo arrives in this country about the middle of April; the
time of its coming to different countries is adapted to the time of
the foster-parents' breeding. During the whole of its stay it leads a
wandering life, building no nest, and attaching itself to no
particular locality. It shows no hostility towards birds of another
kind, and little affection for those of its own. If two males meet in
the course of their wandering they frequently fight with intense
animosity. I was once witness of an encounter between two birds who
chanced to meet in mid-air. Without alighting they attacked each other
with fury, pecking at each other and changing places just as one sees
two barn-door cocks fight for the supremacy of the dunghill. Feathers
flew in profusion, and in their passion the angry birds heeded my
presence so little that they came almost within arm's length of me.
These single combats account for the belief formerly entertained that
the Cuckoo was the only sort of Hawk that preyed on its own kind. The
female does not pair or keep to one mate. It is, however, frequently
accompanied by a small bird of another kind, said to be a Meadow

The Cuckoo hunts for its food both in trees and on the ground. On its
first arrival it lives principally on beetles, but when caterpillars
become abundant it prefers them, especially the hairy sorts. In the
months of May and June, the female Cuckoo lays her eggs (the number of
which is variously estimated from five to twelve), choosing a separate
locality for each, and that invariably the nest of some other bird.
The nests in which the egg of a Cuckoo has been found in this country
are those of the Hedge Sparrow, Robin, Redstart, Whitethroat, Willow
Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Wagtail, Pipit, Skylark, Yellow Bunting,
Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Blackbird and Wren; the Pipit being the
most frequent. It has now been ascertained that the nests of birds in
which the Cuckoo lays its eggs in different countries number 145
species.[24] In some of these instances, the position and structure of
the nests were such that a bird of so large a size could not possibly
have laid an egg in the usual way. Hence, and from other evidence, it
is pretty clear that the egg is in all cases laid at a distance from
the nest and carried by the bird in her bill to its destination. The
bird can have no difficulty in accomplishing this seemingly hard task;
for the gape of the Cuckoo is wide, and the egg disproportionately
small, no larger in fact than the egg of the Skylark, a bird only a
fourth of its size. The period during which a nest is fit for the
reception of a Cuckoo's egg is short; if a time were chosen between
the completion of the nest and the laying of the first egg by the
rightful owner, the Cuckoo could have no security that her egg would
receive incubation in good time, and again if the hen were sitting
there would be no possibility of introducing her egg surreptitiously.
She accordingly searches for a nest in which one egg or more is laid,
and in the absence of the owner lays down her burden and departs.
There are certain grave suspicions that the intruder sometimes makes
room for her own egg by destroying those already laid; but this, if it
be true, is exceptional. If it were very much larger than the rest, it
might excite suspicion, and be either turned out, or be the cause of
the nest being deserted; it would require, moreover, a longer
incubation than the rest, and would either fail to be hatched, or
produce a young Cuckoo at a time when his foster-brothers had grown
strong enough to thwart his evil designs. As it is, after fourteen
days' incubation, the eggs are hatched simultaneously, or nearly so,
the Cuckoo being generally the first. No sooner does the young bird
see the day, than he proceeds to secure for himself the whole space of
the nest and the sole attention of his foster-parents, by insinuating
himself under the other young birds and any eggs which may remain
unhatched, and hurling them over the edge of the nest, where they are
left to perish. 'The singularity of its shape', says Dr. Jenner, 'is
well adapted for these purposes; for, different from other
newly-hatched birds, its back from the shoulders downwards is very
broad, with a considerable depression in the middle. To the question
which naturally suggests itself, 'Why does the young Cuckoo thus
monopolize the nest and the attentions of its foster parents?' the
solution is plain. The newly-hatched bird must of necessity be less in
size than the egg from which it proceeded, but a full-grown Cuckoo
exceeds the dimensions of a whole brood of Pipits; its growth
therefore must be rapid and cannot be maintained without a large
supply of food. But the old birds could not possibly with their utmost
exertions feed a brood of their own kind and satisfy the demands made
by the appetite of the voracious stranger as well. The latter
consequently saves them from this impossible task, and, by
appropriating to his single use the nourishment intended for a brood
of four or five, not only makes provision for his own well-being, but
helps them out of a difficulty. So assiduously is he taken care of
that he soon becomes a portly bird and fills his nest; in about three
weeks he is able to fly, but for a period of four or five weeks more
his foster-parents continue to feed him. It is probable that the young
Cuckoo actually exercises some fascination over other birds. There is
a case on record in which a pair of Meadow Pipits were seen to throw
out their own young ones to make room for the intruder. In another
instance, a young Cuckoo which had been taken from the nest and was
being reared by hand escaped from confinement. Having one of its wings
cut, it could not fly, but was found again, at the expiration of a
month, within a few fields of the house where it was reared, and
several little wild birds were in the act of feeding it. The Bishop of
Norwich[25] mentions two instances in which a young Cuckoo in
captivity was fed by a young Thrush which had only just learnt to feed

In the days when omens were observed, it was considered a matter of
high import to hear the song of the Nightingale before that of the
Cuckoo. Thus Chaucer says:

               it was a commone tale
   That it were gode to here the Nightingale,
   Moche rathir[26] than the lewde[27] Cuckowe singe.

So, when on a certain occasion he heard the Cuckoo first, and was
troubled in consequence, he represents the Nightingale as thus
addressing him:

               be thou not dismaied
   For thou have herd the Cuckow erst than me,
   For if I live it shall amendid be
   The nexte Maie, if I be not afraied.

More recently Milton thus addresses the Nightingale:

   Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day,
   First heard before the shallow Cuccoo's bill,
   Portend success in love.

Whether any traces of this popular belief yet linger in our rural
districts, I do not know; but I can recall my childish days in the
west of England (where there are no Nightingales), when I looked
forward with implicit faith to the coming of the Cuckoo, to 'eat up
the dirt', and make the Devonshire lanes passable for children's
spring wanderings.

The song of the Cuckoo, I need scarcely remark, consists of but two
notes, of which the upper is, I believe, invariably, E flat, the lower
most frequently C natural, forming, however, not a perfect musical
interval, but something between a minor and a major third.
Occasionally two birds may be heard singing at once, one seemingly
aiming at a minor, the other a major third; the effect is, of course,
discordant. Sometimes the first note is pronounced two or three times,
thus 'cuck-cuck-cuckoo', and I have heard it repeated rapidly many
times in succession, so as to resemble the trilling note of the
Nightingale, but in a lower key. The note of the nestling is a shrill
plaintive chirp, which may best be imitated by twisting a glass
stopper in a bottle. Even the human ear has no difficulty in
understanding it as a cry for food, of which it is insatiable. Towards
the end of June the Cuckoo, according to the old adage, 'alters its
tune', which at first loses its musical character and soon ceases
altogether. In July the old birds leave us, the males by themselves
first, and the females not many days after; but the young birds remain
until October.

Referring to the young cuckoo's manner of ejecting the eggs of its
foster-parents, and the reason for this apparently cruel action, the
editor refers our readers to Mr. W. H. Hudson's interesting chapter in
_Idle Days in Hampshire_.

   [23] Plin. _Nat. Hist._ lib. x. cap. ix.

   [24] Mr. Wells Bladen, of Stone, wrote an interesting brochure
        on this point.--J. A. O.

   [25] _Familiar History of Birds._

   [26] Earlier.

   [27] Unskilful.


        White Winged Crossbill [M] [F]

   Crossbill, _imm._ [F] [M]

       Cuckoo [M]

                              [_face p. 138._]]


      Brown Owl.

   Short-eared Owl [M]. Long-eared Owl [M] young.

     Barn Owl and Egg.]





   Beak yellowish white; upper parts light tawny yellow minutely
   variegated with brown, grey, and white; face and lower plumage
   white, the feathers of the margin tipped with brown. Length
   fourteen inches; breadth nearly three feet. Eggs white.

Returning from our Summer-evening's walk at the pleasant time when
twilight is deepening into night, when the Thrush has piped its last
roundelay, and the Nightingale is gathering strength for a flesh flood
of melody, a sudden exclamation from our companion 'What was that?'
compels us to look in the direction pointed at just in time to catch
a glimpse of a phantom-like body disappearing behind the hedgerow.
But that the air is still, we might have imagined it to be a sheet of
silver paper wafted along by the wind, so lightly and noiselessly did
it pass on. We know, however, that a pair of Barn Owls have
appropriated these hunting-grounds, and that this is their time of
sallying forth; we are aware, too, how stealthily they fly along the
lanes, dipping behind the trees, searching round the hay-stacks,
skimming over the stubble, and all with an absence of sound that
scarcely belongs to moving life. Yet, though by no means slow of
flight, the Barn Owl can scarcely be said to _cleave_ the air; rather,
it _fans_ its way onwards with its down-fringed wings, and the air,
thus softly treated, quietly yields to the gentle force, and retires
without murmur to allow it a passage. Not without meaning is this
silence preserved. The nimble little animals that constitute the
chase, are quick-sighted and sharp of hearing, but the pursuer gives
no notice of his approach, and they know not their doom till they feel
the inevitable talons in their sides. The victim secured, silence is
no longer necessary. The successful hunter lifts up his voice in a
sound of triumph, repairs to the nearest tree to regale himself on his
prize, and, for a few minutes--that is, until the chase is
resumed--utters his loud weird shriek again and again. In the morning,
the Owl will retire to his private cell and will spend the day perched
on end, dozing and digesting as long as the sunlight is too powerful
for his large and sensitive eyes. Peep in on him in his privacy, and
he will stretch out or move from side to side his grotesque head,
ruffling his feathers, and hissing as though your performance were
worthy of all condemnation. Yet he is a very handsome and most amusing
bird, more worthy of being domesticated as a pet than many others held
in high repute. Taken young from the nest, he is soon on familiar
terms with his owner, recognizes him by a flapping of wings and a hiss
whenever he approaches, clearing his premises of mice, and showing no
signs of pining at the restriction placed on his liberty. Give him a
bird, and he will soon show that, though contented with mice, he quite
appreciates more refined fare. Grasping the body with his talons, he
deliberately plucks off all the large feathers with his beak, tears
off the head, and swallows it at one gulp, and then proceeds to devour
the rest piece-meal. In a wild state his food consists mainly of mice,
which he swallows whole, beetles, and sometimes fish, which he catches
by pouncing on them in the water.

The service which the Barn Owl renders to the agriculturist, by its
consumption of rats and mice, must be exceedingly great, yet it is
little appreciated. "When it has young", says Mr. Waterton, "it will
bring a mouse to the nest every twelve or fifteen minutes. But in
order to have a proper idea of the enormous quantity of mice which
this bird destroys, we must examine the pellets which it ejects from
its stomach in the place of its retreat. Every pellet contains from
four to seven skeletons of mice. In sixteen months from the time that
the apartment of the Owl on the old gateway was cleared out, there
has been a deposit of above a bushel of pellets."

The plumage of the Barn Owl is remarkable for its softness, its
delicacy of pencilling on the upper parts and its snowy whiteness
below. Its face is perfectly heart-shaped during life, but when the
animal is dead becomes circular. The female is slightly larger than
her mate, and her colours are somewhat darker. The nest of the Barn
Owl is a rude structure placed in the bird's daily haunt. The eggs
vary in number, and the bird lays them at different periods, each egg
after the first being hatched (partially at least) by the heat of the
young birds already in being. That this is always the case it would
not be safe to assert, but that it is so sometimes there can be no
doubt. The young birds are ravenous eaters and proverbially ugly; when
craving food they make a noise resembling a snore. The Barn or White
Owl is said to be the most generally diffused of all the tribe, being
found in almost all latitudes of both hemispheres, and it appears to
be everywhere an object of terror to the ignorant. A bird of the
night, the time when evil deeds are done, it bespeaks for itself an
evil reputation; making ruins and hollow trees its resort, it becomes
associated with the gloomiest legends; uttering its discordant note
during the hours of darkness, it is rarely heard save by the benighted
traveller, or by the weary watcher at the bed of the sick and dying;
and who more susceptible of alarming impressions than these? It is
therefore scarcely surprising that the common incident of a
Screech-Owl being attracted by a solitary midnight taper to flutter
against the window of a sick room, and there to utter its melancholy
wail, should for a time shake the faith of the watcher, and, when
repeated with the customary exaggerations, should obtain for the poor
harmless mouser the unmerited title of 'harbinger of death'.



   Beak black; iris orange yellow; egrets very long, composed of
   eight or ten black feathers, edged with yellow and white; upper
   parts reddish yellow, mottled with brown and grey; lower parts
   lighter, with oblong streaks of deep brown. Length fifteen
   inches; breadth thirty-eight inches. Eggs white.

Though not among the most frequent of the English Owls, this species
occurs in most of the wooded parts of England and Ireland, as indeed
it does in nearly all parts of the world where woods are to be found.
It is more common than is usually supposed in France, where it unites
in its own person all the malpractises which have been popularly
ascribed to the whole tribe of Owls. It is there said to be held in
great detestation by all the rest of the feathered tribe; a fact which
is turned to good account by the bird-catcher, who, having set his
traps and limed twigs, conceals himself in the neighbourhood and
imitates the note of this Owl. The little birds, impelled by rage or
fear, or a silly combination of both, assemble for the purpose of
mobbing the common enemy. In their anxiety to discern the object of
their abhorrence, they fall one after another into the snare, and
become the prey of the fowler. The Long-eared Owl is not altogether
undeserving of the persecution which is thus intended for her, her
principal food being field-mice, but also such little birds as she can
surprise when asleep. In fact, she respects neither the person nor the
property of her neighbours, making her home in the old nests of large
birds and squirrels, and appropriating, as food for herself and her
voracious young, the carcases of any that she finds herself strong
enough to master and kill.

The cry of this bird is only occasionally uttered--a sort of barking
noise. The note of the young bird is a loud mewing and seems to be
intended as a petition to its parents for a supply of food. A writer
in the _Zoologist_[28] who has had many opportunities of observing
this species in its native haunts, says that it does not confine its
flight entirely to the darker hours, as he has met with it in the
woods sailing quickly along, as if hawking, on a bright summer day. It
is curious to observe, he says, how flat they invariably make their
nests, so much so, that it is difficult to conceive how the eggs
retain their position, even in a slight wind, when the parent bird
leaves them. The eggs are four to six in number, and there are grounds
for supposing that the female bird begins to sit as soon as she has
laid her first egg.

   [28] Vol. ii. p. 562.


   Face whitish; beak black; iris yellow; egrets inconspicuous, of
   a few black feathers; eyes encircled by brownish black; upper
   plumage dusky brown, edged with yellow; lower pale orange,
   streaked with brown. Length sixteen inches; breadth
   thirty-eight. Eggs white.

From the name, Hawk-Owl, sometimes given to this species, we should
expect to find this bird not so decidedly nocturnal in its habits as
the preceding; and such is the case; for, though it does not
habitually hunt by day, it has been known to catch up chickens from
the farmyard, and has been seen in chase of pigeons. If attacked
during daylight, it does not evince the powerless dismay of the last
species, but effects a masterly retreat by soaring in a spiral
direction until it has attained an elevation to which its adversary
does not care to follow it. Unlike its allies, it frequents neither
mountains nor forests, but is found breeding in a few marshy or
moorland districts; later in the year it is met with in turnip fields
and stubbles. As many as twenty-eight were once seen in a single
turnip-field in England; from whence it has been inferred that in
autumn the Short-eared Owls are gregarious, and establish themselves
for a time in any place they fall in with, where field-mice or other
small quadrupeds are abundant. In England this bird is not uncommonly
started by sportsmen when in pursuit of game. It then flies with a
quick zigzag motion for about a hundred yards, and alights on the
ground, never on a tree. By some it is called the Woodcock-Owl, from
its arriving and departing at about the same time with that bird; it
is not, however, invariably a bird of passage, since many instances
are on record of its breeding in this country, making a rude nest in a
thick bush, either on the ground, or close to it, and feeding its
young on mice, small birds, and even the larger game, as Moor-fowl, a
bird more than double its own weight. The Short-eared Owl affords a
beautiful illustration of a fact not generally known, that the
nocturnal birds of prey have the right and left ear differently
formed, one ear being so made as to hear sounds from above, and the
other from below. The opening into the channel for conveying sound is
in the _right_ ear, placed _beneath_ the transverse fold, and directed
_upwards_, while in the _left_ ear the same opening is placed _above_
the channel for conveying sound, and is directed _downwards_.

In the severe weather of January, 1861, I had the gratification of
seeing three or four of these Owls among the sand-hills of the coast
of Norfolk, near Holkham. I imagined them to be in pursuit of the
Redwings and other small birds which had been driven by the intense
cold to the sea-coast, since they flew about as Hawks do when hunting
for prey, and occasionally alighted among the sand-hills. I even fell
in with several heaps of feathers, showing where some unhappy bird had
been picked and eaten. A few days afterwards, however, I inquired at
another part of the coast whether there were any Owls there, and
received for an answer, 'No, because there are no Rabbits'; from which
I inferred that these birds have the reputation of hunting larger game
than Thrushes, a charge which the size and power of their hooked
talons seem to justify.


   Beak greyish yellow; irides bluish dusky; upper parts reddish
   brown, variously marked and spotted with dark brown, black, and
   grey; large white spots on the scapulars and wing coverts;
   primaries and tail feathers barred alternately with dark and
   reddish brown; lower parts reddish white, with transverse brown
   bars and longitudinal dusky streaks; legs feathered to the
   claws. Length sixteen inches; breadth three feet. Eggs dull

This bird, the Ulula of the ancients, took its name from the Latin
_ululare_; the word used to denote, and partially to imitate, the cry
of the wolf; it enjoys also the doubtful honour of giving name to the
whole tribe of 'Owls', whether they howl, hoot, or screech. This
species is much more common than the Barn Owl in many districts,
although it is decreasing in others. Owing to its nocturnal habits,
and dusky colour, it is not so often seen as heard. It has many a
time been my amusement to repair, towards the close of a summer
evening, to a wood which I knew to be the resort of these birds, and
to challenge them to an exchange of greetings, and I rarely failed to
succeed. Their note may be imitated so exactly as to deceive even the
birds themselves, by forming a hollow with the fingers and palms of
the two hands, leaving an opening only between the second joints of
the two thumbs, and then by blowing with considerable force down upon
the opening thus made, so as to produce the sound hoo-hoo-hoo-o-o-o. I
have thus induced a bird to follow me for some distance, echoing my
defiance or greeting, or whatever he may have deemed it; but I do not
recollect that I ever caught sight of the bird.

Squirrels, rats, mice, moles, shrews, and any small birds that he can
surprise asleep, with insects, form his principal food. These he hunts
by night, and retires for concealment by day to some thick tree or
shrubbery, either in the hill country or the plains. The nest,
composed principally of the dried pellets of undigested bones and fur,
which all the Owls are in the habit of disgorging, is usually placed
in a hollow tree: here the female lays about four eggs, from which
emerge, in due time, as many grotesque bodies enveloped in a soft
plush of grey yarn: destined, in due time, to become Tawny Owls. The
full-grown females are larger than the males, and, being of a redder
tinge, were formerly considered a distinct species. The old birds
utter their loud _hoo-hou!_ or _to-whit, in-who!_ chiefly in the





   Head, neck, and breast yellowish white, with numerous
   longitudinal brown streaks; wing-coverts reddish brown; primary
   quills white at the base, the rest black; tail and secondaries
   ash-grey; lower plumage reddish brown; beak bluish black; cere,
   irides, and feet yellow; claws black. Length twenty inches.
   Eggs white.

The Harriers are bold predatory voracious birds, having somewhat of
the appearance and movements of the Hawks. On a closer inspection,
however, they are seen to approach nearer in character to the Owls. In
the first place, they hunt their prey more in the morning and evening
than at any other time of day. In the next place, these twilight
habits are associated with a large head, and a somewhat defined face
formed by a circle of short feathers; while the plumage generally is
soft and loose, and their mode of hunting resembles that of the
nocturnal predatory birds, rather than that of the Falcons. They are
remarkable for the great difference which exists between the plumage
of the two sexes, which has made the task of discriminating the number
of species very difficult. Less active than the Falcons, they yet
carry on a formidable war against small birds, reptiles, and mice. The
Harriers or Harrows are so called from their _harrying_ propensities.
Of similar import is the etymology of the English word 'havoc', which
may be clearly traced to the Anglo-Saxon _hafoc_, or hawk. The habit
of the Marsh Harrier is not to station itself on a tree or rock,
thereon to explore the country; but while hunting, it is always on the
wing, skimming along the ground, and beating about the bushes with a
noiseless, unsteady flight, and always taking its prey on the ground.
Rabbit-warrens afford this bird a favourite hunting-ground, where it
either pounces on such living animals as it can surprise, or performs
the office of undertaker to the dead bodies of rabbits killed by the
weasels, burying them in the grave of its craw. In this ignoble office
it is said to be sometimes assisted by the Buzzard, and both birds
have been accused of setting to work before their unhappy victim has
breathed its last. On the sea-shore, the Marsh Harrier commits great
depredations among young water-fowl, and is often mobbed and driven
from the neighbourhood by the assembled old birds. The Partridge and
Quail often, too, fall victims to its voracity, so that the Marsh
Harrier receives no quarter from gamekeepers. It places its nest
generally near water, in a tuft of rushes, or at the base of a bush,
constructing it of sticks, rushes, and long grass, and lays three or
four eggs.

The Marsh Harrier is a widely dispersed species, being found, says
Temminck, in all countries where there are marshes. It occurs now but
sparingly in most parts of Great Britain and Ireland. It is better
known as the Moor Buzzard.


   Tail longer than the wings; third and fourth primaries of equal
   length; upper plumage of the _male_ bluish grey; lower white.
   Upper plumage of the _female_ reddish brown; lower, pale
   reddish yellow, with deep orange brown longitudinal streaks and
   spots. Beak black; cere greenish yellow; irides reddish brown;
   feet yellow; claws black. Length, _male_, eighteen inches;
   _female_, twenty inches. Eggs white.

The Hen Harrier and Ringtail were formerly considered distinct
species; and no wonder; for not only are they different in size, but
dissimilar in colour, one having the upper parts grey, the lower
white; and the other the upper parts reddish brown, and various parts
of the plumage of a light colour, barred and streaked with deep brown.
The experienced ornithologist, Montagu, suspecting that they were male
and female of the same species, undertook to clear up the matter by
rearing a brood taken from the same nest. The result was that at first
there was no great difference except in size, all having the dark
plumage of the Hen Harrier; but after the first moult, the males
assumed the grey and white plumage, while the larger birds, the
females, retained the gayer colouring, and the latter was the
Ringtail. In habits both birds resemble the Marsh Harrier, but do not
confine themselves to damp places. They frequent open plains,
hillsides, and inclosed fields, hunting a few feet above the surface
of the ground, and beating for game as skilfully as a well-trained
spaniel. The moment that the Harrier sees a probable victim he rises
to a height of twenty feet, hovers for a moment, and then comes down
with unerring aim on his prey, striking dead with a single blow,
Partridge or Pheasant, Grouse or Blackcock, and showing strength not
to be expected from his light figure, and slender, though sharp
talons. Not unfrequently he accompanies the sportsman, keeping
carefully out of shot, and pouncing on the birds, killing them, and
carrying them off to be devoured in retirement. He preys exclusively
on animals killed by himself, destroying a great quantity of game
small mammals, birds and reptiles. It is a generally-diffused bird, by
no means so common as the Kestrel and Sparrow-hawk, but is met with
occasionally in most countries of Europe and Asia, and in various
parts of the British Isles. It is far from improbable that this bird
may frequently be seen, without being recognized as belonging to the
Hawk tribe; indeed, the beautiful form and light blue and white
plumage, might cause it to be mistaken for a Gull. It builds a
flattish nest of sticks, just raised above the round, in a heather, or
furze-bush, and lays four to six eggs.


   Montagu's Harrier [F]

       Kestrel [F] [M]

   Peregrine Falcon [F]

       Hen Harrier [F] [M]

                              [_face p. 148._]]


   Rough-legged Buzzard [F] Kite

   Common Buzzard Honey Buzzard]


   Wings a little longer than the tail; third primary longer than
   the fourth and second; upper plumage bluish grey; primaries
   black, secondaries with three transverse dark bars; lateral
   tail-feathers white barred with reddish orange; under plumage
   white, variously streaked with reddish orange. _Female_--upper
   plumage brown of various tints; under, pale reddish yellow,
   with longitudinal bright red streaks. Beak black; cere deep
   yellow; irides hazel; feet yellow; claws black. Length
   seventeen inches. Eggs bluish white.

This bird, which is of rare occurrence in Britain, resembles the Hen
Harrier very closely, both in appearance and habits, although it is
smaller and more slender, and the wings are longer in proportion. On
the Continent, especially in Holland, it is more frequent. It received
its name in honour of Colonel Montagu, who was the first to ascertain
the identity of the Hen Harrier and Ringtail, and to separate the
present species from both.


   Upper plumage, neck and head, dark brown; lower, greyish brown,
   mottled with darker brown; tail marked with twelve dark
   transverse bands; beak lead-coloured; cere, iris, and feet
   yellow. Length twenty to twenty-two inches. Eggs white,
   variously marked with pale greenish brown.

The Buzzard, though ranked very properly among birds belonging to the
Falcon tribe, is deficient in the graceful activity which
characterizes the true Falcons. In sluggishness of habits it
approaches the Vultures, and in its soft plumage and mode of flight
the Owls; but differs from the former in feeding on live prey as well
as carrion, and from the latter in its diurnal habits. In form indeed
it resembles neither, being a bulky broad-winged Hawk, with stout legs
and a short much-curved beak. It can fly swiftly enough when occasion
requires, but its favourite custom is to take its station on some
withered branch, or on the projecting corner of a rock, whence it can
both obtain a good view of the surrounding country, and, when it has
digested its last meal, sally forth in quest of a new one as soon as a
victim comes within its range of observation. It pounces on this while
on the ground, and pursues its chase with a low skimming flight,
keeping a sharp look-out for moles, young hares and rabbits, mice,
reptiles, small birds and insects. At times it rises high into the
air, and, soaring in circles, examines the surface of the ground for
carrion. It has neither the spirit nor daring of the noble Falcons,
submitting patiently to the attacks of birds much less than itself,
and flying from the Magpie or Jackdaw. As an architect the Buzzard
displays no more constructive skill than other birds of its tribe,
building its nest of a few sticks, either on a rock or in a tree, and
not unfrequently occupying the deserted nest of some other bird. It
has, however, a redeeming point, being a most assiduous nurse. The
female sits close, and will allow the near approach of an intruder
before she leaves her eggs. In captivity, strange to say, though by
nature having a strong inclination for the flesh of chickens, she has
been known to sit on the eggs of the domestic hen, to hatch a brood,
and to rear them with as much solicitude as their natural mother could
have shown, distributing to them morsels of raw meat, not
comprehending, of course, their repugnance to such fare, and bearing
with extreme patience and good humour their unaccountable preference
for barley and crumbs of bread. The male bird is scarcely less
affectionate as a parent: an instance being recorded of one, which, on
the death of his partner, completed the period of incubation and
reared the young brood by himself. The Buzzard rarely molests game,
and more than compensates for the mischief it does work, by the
destruction of undoubted vermin; yet the hostility shown by
gamekeepers against all birds except those which it is their business
to protect, has so thinned its numbers that the Buzzard, though once
common, is now become rare.


   Lores or spaces between eyes and bill are covered with
   feathers. The head of _male_ is ash-grey, his upper parts
   brown; three blackish bars cross the tail; upper parts
   white-barred and spotted with brown on the breast. Length
   twenty-two to twenty-five inches; _female_ slighter the larger.

This species visits us during May and June, and a few stay to nest,
placing the nest upon the remains of that of some other large bird.
Wasps, wild bees and larvæ form their food in summer, but other
insects are eaten, and sometimes mice, birds, other small mammals,
worms and slugs. From two to four eggs are laid, both male and female
taking part in the incubation. The sitting bird is regularly fed by
the other.

The Honey Buzzard has bred from the New Forest up to Aberdeenshire.
Unfortunately, as much as £5 having been offered for a couple of
well-marked eggs of this species in the New Forest by collectors,
their numbers have become very few. Nearly £40 has been offered by
extravagant collectors for a good pair of the birds. By the year 1870
nearly all were driven away from that district.


   Tarsi feathered to the claws; plumage yellowish white,
   variegated with several shades of brown; a broad patch of brown
   on the breast; tail white in the basal half, the rest uniform
   brown; beak black; cere and irides yellow; feathers on the legs
   fawn-coloured, spotted with brown; toes yellow; claws black.
   Length twenty-six inches. Eggs whitish, clouded with reddish

This bird, which is distinguished from the preceding by having its
legs thickly clothed with long feathers, is a native of the colder
countries of both Continents, being only an occasional visitor in
Great Britain during autumn and winter. It is sometimes seen in large
flights on the Yarmouth Denes in October and November, at the same
time with the Short-horned Owl. It mostly frequents the banks of
rivers, where it feeds on vermin, reptiles, and the carcases of
animals brought down by the floods. In softness of plumage and mode of
flight, it resembles the Owls even more than the preceding species,
and often extends its hunting expeditions until far into the evening.
When not alarmed, it flies slowly and deliberately, and seemingly has
neither the inclination nor the power to attack living birds, unless
they have been previously disabled by wounds or other cause. The
Rough-legged Buzzard builds its nest in lofty trees, and lays three or
four eggs; but there are no well-authenticated instances of its
breeding in this country.


   General colour reddish brown; tail brown above; legs feathered
   in front of the toes. Length twenty-six inches.

This species is only a rare straggler to Great Britain.


   Osprey Golden Eagle [M]

   Sea Eagle. Spotted Eagle. [M] _imm._

                              [_p. 152._]]


   Marsh Harrier [M] Hobby

   Merlin [M] Sparrow Hawk [F]]



   Tail longer than the wings, rounded; plumage of the head, back
   of the neck and legs, lustrous reddish brown, of the rest of
   the body dark brown; primaries nearly black; secondaries
   brownish black; tail dark grey, barred and tipped with brownish
   black; beak bluish at the base, black at the extremity; iris
   brown; cere and feet yellow; claws bluish black. Length of the
   _male_ three feet, that of the _female_ more; breadth eight
   feet. Eggs dirty white, mottled with pale reddish brown.

The fable of the Eagle soaring to a great height in order to enjoy a
gaze at the sun in his unclouded brilliancy, is founded probably on a
belief of the ancients, thus stated by the naturalist Pliny:--'Before
its young are as yet fledged, the Eagle compels them to gaze at the
rays of the sun, and if it observes one to wink or show a watery eye
casts it from the nest as a degenerate offspring; if, on the contrary,
it preserves a steady gaze, it is saved from this hard fate, and
brought up.'

'The Golden Eagle', says Macgillivray, 'seems to prefer live prey to
carrion, and easily secures Grouse, in searching for which it flies
low on the moors, sailing and wheeling at intervals. Hares, roes, and
even red deer, it also attacks, but it does not haunt the shores for
fish so much as the Sea Eagle does. There seems very little
probability that Eagles have the sense of smell very acute, but that
their vision is so is evident. I am not, however, inclined to think
that they perceive objects from the vast height to which they
sometimes soar, because I never saw one descend from such an elevation
in a manner indicating that it had observed a carcase or other eatable
object; whereas, on the other hand, I have very frequently seen them
flying along the sides of the hills, at a small height, obviously in
search of food, in a manner somewhat resembling that of the
Sparrow-hawk, but with much less rapidity.'

The Golden Eagle breeds only in the Highlands, but it is not an
unfrequent visitor to the Lowlands of Scotland in the cold season.
Those birds which have been recorded as visiting England were
generally not this species but the White-tailed or Sea Eagle in
immature plumage. It prefers mountains or extensive forests, building
its eyrie either on rocks or lofty trees. In France, Sweden, Spain,
and Switzerland, it is frequently observed. Its note, called in the
Highlands 'a bark', is sharp and loud, resembling at a distance, as,
on the only occasion I ever heard it, it seemed to me, the croak of a
Raven. It lays two or sometimes three eggs, and feeds its young, which
are very voracious, on birds and the smaller quadrupeds.


   Tail not longer than the wings; upper plumage brown, that of
   the head and neck lightest, lower, chocolate brown; tail white;
   beak, cere, and feet yellowish white; claws black. In _young
   birds_ the tail is dark brown, and the beak and cere are of a
   darker hue. Length of the _male_, two feet four inches; of the
   _female_, two feet ten inches. Eggs dirty white with a few pale
   red marks.

The White-tailed Eagle, known also by the name of the Sea Eagle, is
about equal in size to the Golden Eagle, but differs considerably in
character and habits; for while the latter has been known to pounce on
a pack of Grouse and carry off two or three from before the very eyes
of the astonished sportsman and his dogs, or to appropriate for his
own special picking a hunted hare when about to become the prey of the
hounds, the White-tailed Eagle has been observed to fly terror-struck
from a pair of Skua Gulls, making no return for their heavy buffets
but a series of dastardly shrieks. The ordinary food, too, of the
nobler bird is living animals, though, to tell the truth, he is always
ready to save himself the trouble of a chase, if he can meet with the
carcase of a sheep or lamb; but the White-tailed Eagle feeds
principally on fish, water-fowl, the smaller quadrupeds, and offal,
whether of quadrupeds, birds, or fish. On such fare, when pressed by
hunger, he feeds so greedily that he gorges himself till, unable to
rise, he becomes the easy prey of the shepherd's boy armed but with a
stick or stone. The Eagle is sometimes seen on the southern sea-board
of England in autumn and winter when the younger birds that have been
reared in the north of Europe are migrating south; but its eyries are
now only on the west and north coasts, and especially the Shetland
Islands. It inhabits Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, and
the north of England, where it frequents the vicinity of the sea and
large lakes. In winter it appears to leave the high latitudes and come
farther south, not perhaps so much on account of cold as because its
ordinary prey, being driven to seek a genial climate, it is compelled
to accompany its food. Consequently it is more abundant in Scotland
during winter than summer, and when seen late in autumn is generally
observed to be flying south, in early spring northwards. It builds its
nest either in forests, choosing the summit of the loftiest trees, or
among inaccessible cliffs overhanging the sea. The materials are
sticks, heath, tufts of grass, dry sea-weed, and it lays two eggs. The
young are very voracious, and are fed by the parent birds for some
time after they have left the nest, but when able to provide for
themselves are driven from the neighbourhood to seek food and a home


   Wings longer than the tail; feathers of the head and neck
   white, with dark centres; on each side of the neck a streak of
   blackish brown, extending downwards; upper plumage generally
   deep brown; under white, tinged here and there with yellow, and
   on the breast marked with arrow-shaped spots; tail-feathers
   barred with dusky bands; cere and beak dark grey; iris yellow.
   Length two feet; breadth five feet. Eggs reddish white,
   blotched and spotted with dark reddish brown.

'Endowed with intense keenness of sight, it hovers high in the air,
and having descried a fish in the sea, it darts down with great
rapidity, dashes aside the water with its body, and seizes its prey in
an instant.' So says the ancient naturalist Pliny, describing a bird
which he calls _Haliaëtus_, or Sea Eagle. Eighteen centuries later,
Montagu thus described a bird, which, when he first observed it, was
hawking for fish on the river Avon, near Aveton Gifford, in
Devonshire: 'At last', he says, 'its attention was arrested, and like
the Kestrel in search of mice, it became stationary, as if examining
what had attracted its attention. After a pause of some time, it
descended to within about fifty yards of the surface of the water, and
there continued hovering for another short interval, and then
precipitated itself into the water with such great celerity as to be
nearly immersed. In three or four minutes the bird rose without any
apparent difficulty, and carried off a trout of moderate size, and
instead of alighting to regale upon its prey, soared to a prodigious
height, and did not descend within our view.' There can be no
reasonable doubt that the bird thus described at such distant
intervals of time is the same, and that the Sea Eagle of the ancients
is the Osprey of the moderns. Wilson thus eloquently describes its
habits under the name of the 'Fish Hawk': "Elevated on the high dead
limb of some gigantic tree, that commands a wide view of the
neighbouring shore and ocean, the great White-headed Eagle seems
calmly to contemplate the motions of the various feathered tribes that
pursue their busy vocations below. High over all these hovers one
whose actions instantly arrest all his attention. By his wide
curvature of wing, and sudden suspension in air, he knows him to be
the Fish Hawk settling over some devoted victim of the deep. His eye
kindles at the sight, and balancing himself with half-open wings on
the branch, he watches the result. Down, rapid as an arrow from
heaven, descends the distant object of his attention, the roar of its
wings reaching the ear as it disappears in the deep, making the surges
foam around. At this moment the eager looks of the Eagle are all
ardour; and, levelling his neck for flight, he sees the Fish Hawk once
more emerge struggling with his prey, and mounting in the air with
screams of exultation. These are the signals for our hero, who,
launching into the air, instantly gives chase, soon gains on the Fish
Hawk: each exerts his utmost to mount above the other, displaying in
the rencontres the most elegant and sublime aërial evolutions. The
unincumbered Eagle rapidly advances, and is just on the point of
reaching his opponent, when, with a sudden scream, probably of despair
and honest execration, the latter drops his fish; the Eagle, poising
himself for a moment, as if to take a more certain aim, descends like
a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches the water, and
bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods."

The Osprey has been observed on various parts of the coast of Great
Britain and Ireland, especially in autumn, and in the neighbourhood of
the Scottish Lakes, not merely as a stray visitor, but making itself
entirely at home. It is known in Sussex and Hampshire, as the Mullet
Hawk, because of its liking for that fish. It may be considered as a
citizen of the world, for it has been found in various parts of
Europe, the Cape of Good Hope, India, and New Holland. In America, we
have already seen, it is abundant. It builds its nest of sticks on
some rock or ruin, generally near the water, and lays two or three
eggs. It has not been known to breed in Ireland.



   Upper plumage dark bluish grey, with a white spot on the nape
   of the neck; lower reddish white, transversely barred with deep
   brown; tail grey, barred with brownish black; beak blue,
   lightest at the base; cere, irides, and feet yellow; claws
   black. _Female_--upper parts brown passing into blackish grey;
   lower, greyish white barred with dark grey. Length, _male_
   twelve inches, _female_ fifteen inches; breadth, _male_
   twenty-four inches, _female_ twenty-eight inches. Eggs bluish
   white, blotched and spotted with deep rusty brown.

Since the introduction of firearms, the Goshawk and Sparrow-hawk have
lost much of their reputation, every effort being now made to
exterminate them, for carrying on, on their own account, the same
practises which in bygone days they were enlisted to pursue on behalf
of others. For hawking, it must be remembered, was not exclusively a
pastime followed by the high and noble for amusement's sake, but was,
in one of its branches, at least, a very convenient method of
supplying the table with game; and that, too, at a period when there
were not the same appliances, in the shape of turnips, oil-cake, etc.,
for fattening cattle and producing beef and mutton in unlimited
quantities, that there are now. The produce of the fish-ponds, woods,
and fields was then a matter of some moment, and much depended on the
training of the Hawks and diligence of the falconer whether the daily
board should be plentifully or scantily furnished. In recent times,
even, some idea of the intrinsic value of a good Hawk may be gathered
from the fact that, in Lombardy, it was thought nothing extraordinary
for a single Sparrow-hawk to take for his master from seventy to
eighty Quails in a single day. In the Danubian Provinces and in
Hungary, the practise of hunting Quails with Sparrow-hawks is still in
vogue; but with us, the agile bird is left to pursue his prey on his
own account. And right well does he exercise his calling. Unlike the
Kestrel, which soars high in air and mostly preys on animals which
when once seen have no power of escape, the Sparrow-hawk is marked by
its dashing, onward flight. Skimming rapidly across the open fields,
by no means refusing to swoop on any bird or quadruped worthy of its
notice, but not preferring this kind of hunting-ground, it wings its
easy way to the nearest hedge, darts along by the side, turns sharply
to the right or left through an opening caused by a gate or gap, and
woe to any little bird which it may encounter, either perched on a
twig or resting on the ground. Unerring in aim, and secure of its
holdfast, it allows its victims no chance of escape, one miserable
scream, and their fate is sealed. And even if the prey detects its
coming enemy, and seeks safety in flight, its only hope is to slip
into the thick bushes and trust to concealment: resort to the open
field is all but certain death. Nor is it fastidious in its choice of
food--leverets, young rabbits, mice, partridges, thrushes, blackbirds,
sparrows, larks, pipits, and many others are equal favourites. It
resorts very frequently to the homestead and farmyard, not so much in
quest of chickens, which, by the way, it does not despise, as for the
sake of the small birds which abound in such places. There it is a
bold robber, little heeding the presence of men, suddenly dashing from
behind some barn or corn-rick, and rapidly disappearing with its
luckless prey struggling in its talons, pursued, perhaps, by the
vociferous twitter of the outraged flock, but not dispirited against
another onslaught. This coursing for its prey, though the usual, is
not the only method of furnishing his larder pursued by the
Sparrow-hawk. He has been known to station himself on the branch of a
tree in the neighbourhood of some favourite resort of Sparrows,
concealed himself, but commanding a fair view of the flock below. With
an intent as deadly as that of the fowler when he points his gun, he
puts on the attitude of flight before he quits his perch, then
selecting his victim, and pouncing on it all but simultaneously, he
retires to devour his meal and to return to his post as soon as the
hubbub he has excited has subsided somewhat. At times he pays dear for
his temerity. Pouncing on a bird which the sportsman has put up and
missed, he receives the contents of the second barrel; making a swoop
on the bird-catcher's call-bird, he becomes entangled in the meshes;
or dashing through a glazed window at a caged Canary bird, he finds
his retreat cut off.

As is the case with most predaceous birds, the female is larger and
bolder than the male, and will attack birds superior to herself in
size. Though a fierce enemy, she is an affectionate mother, and will
defend her young at the risk of her life. She builds her nest, or
appropriates the deserted nest of a Crow, in trees, or if they be
wanting, in a cliff, and lays four or five eggs. The young are very
voracious, and are fed principally on small birds, the number of which
consumed may be inferred from the fact that no less than sixteen
Larks, Sparrows, and other small birds, were on one occasion found in
a nest, the female parent belonging to which had been shot while
conveying to them a young bird just brought to the neighbourhood of
the nest by the male; the latter, it was conjectured, having brought
them all, and deposited them in the nest in the interval of nine hours
which had elapsed between their discovery and the death of his

The Sparrow-hawk is found in most wooded districts of Great Britain
and Ireland, and the greater part of the Eastern Continent.



   Upper parts reddish brown; the feathers with pale edges; those
   of the head and neck long and tapering to a point, greyish
   white, streaked longitudinally with brown; lower parts rust
   coloured, with longitudinal brown streaks; tail reddish orange,
   barred indistinctly with brown; beak horn coloured; cere,
   irides, and feet yellow; claws black. _Female_--upper plumage
   of a deeper brown; the feathers pale at the extremity; head and
   neck white. Length, twenty-five inches; breadth, five feet six
   inches. Eggs dirty white, spotted at the larger end with

'The Kite', Pliny informs us, 'seems, by the movement of its tail, to
have taught mankind the art of steering--nature pointing out in the
air what is necessary in the sea'. The movement of the bird through
the air indeed resembles sailing more than flying. 'One cannot' says
Buffon, 'but admire the manner in which the flight of the Kite is
performed; his long and narrow wings seem motionless; it is his tail
that seems to direct all his evolutions, and he moves it continuously;
he rises without effort, comes down as if he were sliding along an
inclined plane; he seems rather to swim than to fly; he darts forward,
slackens his speed, stops, and remains suspended or fixed in the same
place for whole hours without exhibiting the smallest motion of his
wings.' The Kite generally moves along at a moderate height, but
sometimes, like the Eagle, rises to the more elevated regions of the
air, where it may always be distinguished by its long wings and forked

In France, it is known by the name 'Milan Royal', the latter title
being given to it not on account of any fancied regal qualities, but
because in ancient times it was subservient to the pleasures of
princes. In those times, hawking at the Kite and Heron was the only
kind of sport dignified with the title of 'Chase Royal', and no
one--not even a nobleman--could attack the Kite and Heron without
infringing the privileges of the king.

Though larger than the noble Falcons, it is far inferior to them in
daring and muscular strength; cowardly in attacking the strong,
pitiless to the weak. It rarely assails a bird on the wing, but takes
its prey on the ground, where nothing inferior to itself in courage
seems to come amiss to it. Moles, rats, mice, reptiles, and
partridges, are its common food; it carries off also goslings,
ducklings, and chickens, though it retires ignominiously before an
angry hen. When pressed by hunger, it does not refuse the offal of
animals, or dead fish; but being an expert fisherman, it does not
confine itself to dead food of this kind, but pounces on such fish as
it discerns floating near the surface of the water--carries them off
in its talons, and devours them on shore.

The Kite is more abundant in the northern than the southern countries
of Europe, to which latter, however, numerous individuals migrate in
autumn. It is of very rare occurrence in the southern counties of
England, where no doubt it has gained discredit for many of the evil
deeds of the Sparrow-hawk. It builds its nest of sticks, lined with
straw and moss, in lofty trees, and lays three or four eggs. A few
still breed in some districts in Scotland, also in the wilder parts
of Wales, but their eggs are, unfortunately, soon taken.



   Tail not longer than the wings; upper plumage dark bluish grey
   with darker bands; head bluish black, as are also the
   moustaches descending from the gape; lower plumage white;
   breast transversely barred with brown; beak blue, darker at the
   point; cere yellow; iris dark brown; feet yellow; claws black.
   _Female_--upper plumage tinged with brown, lower with reddish
   yellow. Length fifteen inches; _female_ seventeen inches. Eggs
   dull light red, spotted and blotched with deep red.

The Peregrine Falcon occupies among the 'noble' birds of prey a place
second only in dignity to the Gyr Falcon. Indeed, from its being more
generally diffused and therefore more easily obtained, it is a
question whether it was not considered, in England, at least, the
special bird of falconry. In France it appears to have been used
almost exclusively as the Falcon of the country; and as the number of
Gyr Falcons imported to England must have fallen far short of the
demand when the gentle science was in full vogue, here also the
Peregrine must be considered the bird of falconry. The 'noble' Falcons
were those which flew fearlessly on any birds, no matter how much
larger they were than themselves, and at once deprived their prey of
life by pouncing on a vital part, devouring the head before they
lacerated the carcase. The name Peregrine (foreigner) was given to
this bird on account of its wide dispersion through most regions of
the globe, and for the same reason it has long borne in France the
name of _Pélerin_ (pilgrim), and not on account of its wide range in
search of quarry. It is a bird of haughty aspect and rich colouring,
sagacious, powerful, and daring; a type of the chivalry of the Middle
Ages, a veritable knight-errant, always armed, and ready to do battle
in any cause against all comers.

In France the Peregrine Falcon is most abundant in the marshy
districts of the north, which are much frequented by Snipes and Wild
Duck; with us it is most commonly seen in those parts of the sea-coast
where sea-fowl abound. The high cliffs of the Isle of Wight, Beachy
Head, North Wales, and the Scottish coast have been favourite haunts,
and there it once reigned supreme among the feathered tribe, but it
becomes more scarce, alas! of late. It makes its eyrie in the most
inaccessible part of the cliff, constructing no nest, but laying two
to four eggs in a cavity of a rock where a little loose earth has been
deposited; sometimes in the deserted nest of the Raven or Carrion
Crow. If either of the old birds happens to be shot during the period
of breeding, it is incredible in how short a space of time the
survivor finds a new mate. Within a short distance from their nest
they establish a larder well supplied with Puffins, Jackdaws, and
above all, Kestrels; while the immediate neighbourhood is strewed with
bones. Remarkable as are both male and female bird for muscular power
and high courage, the latter, which is also considerably larger, is by
far the superior. The female was, consequently, in the days of
falconry flown at Herons and Ducks, and she was the falcon proper
among falconers; the male, termed a Tiercel or Tiercelet, was flown
at Partridges and Pigeons. In their native haunts they seem to cause
little alarm among the Puffins and Razor-bills by which they are
surrounded, but the sudden appearance of a pair in a part of the cliff
frequented by Jackdaws, causes terrible consternation; while any
number of intruders on their own domain are driven away with
indomitable courage. When pressed by hunger, or desirous of changing
their diet, they condescend to attack and capture birds so small as a
Lark, and it is remarkable that however puny may be the prey, the
Falcon preserves its instinctive habit of dealing a deadly blow at
once, as if afraid that under all circumstances the natural impulse of
its quarry were to stand on the defensive. Even in ordinary flight the
movement of its wings is exceedingly quick, but when it stoops on its
prey its rapidity of descent is marvellous, accompanied too, as it is,
by a sound that may be heard at a distance of two hundred yards.
Perhaps no bird has had more written about it than this Falcon,
numerous treatises have been composed on the art of 'reclaiming' it,
or training it for hawking, and the proper method of conducting the
sport. We have at present space only to add a few words on the latter
subject. The art of the falconer is to intercept the Herons when
flying against the wind. When a Heron passes, _a cast_ or couple of
Falcons are thrown off, which dart into the air, flying in a spiral
direction to get above the Heron. As soon as the first has attained
the necessary elevation, she makes a stoop, and if she misses, a
second stoop is made by the other in her turn. When one has succeeded
in striking its prey, the other joins in the attack, and all three
birds come to the ground together, buoyed in their descent by their
expanded wings. The falconer now comes to the rescue, for though the
Heron makes no resistance in the air, as soon as it reaches the ground
it uses its formidable beak in defence, and unless prevented may work
much mischief to its pursuers.

   As when a cast of Faulcons make their flight
   At an Heronshaw that lyes aloft on wing,
   The whyles they strike at him with heedlesse might
   The wary foule his bill doth backward wring.
   On which the first, whose force her first doth bring,
   Herselfe quite through the bodie doth engore,
   And falleth downe to ground like senselesse thing,
   But th' other, not so swift as she before,
   Fayles of her souse, and passing by doth hurt no more.

                                             _Faerie Queene._

In France the 'cast' consisted of three Falcons, which were trained to
perform particular duties, the first to start the game in the
required direction, the second to keep guard over it, and the third to
deal the fatal swoop.

The 'Lanner' of Pennant is a young female Peregrine.


   Wings longer than the tail; upper plumage bluish black;
   beneath, reddish yellow, with longitudinal brown streaks;
   moustaches broad, black; lower tail-coverts and feathers on the
   leg reddish; beak bluish, darker at the tip; cere greenish
   yellow; iris dark brown; feet yellow; claws black.
   _Female_--all the colours duller, and the streaks below
   broader. Length twelve to fourteen inches; breadth about two
   feet. Eggs yellowish white, speckled with reddish brown.

The Hobby is a less common bird in England than in France, where it is
said to be a constant companion of the sportsman, and to be endowed
with enough discrimination to keep out of shot. Not satisfied with
appropriating to its own use wounded birds, it pursues and captures
those which have been fired at unsuccessfully, and not unfrequently
even those which have been put up but have not come within shot. It is
frequently taken, too, in the nets spread for Larks, or inveigled into
the snare of the fowler who pursues his craft with limed twigs and the
imitated cry of the Owl. It is a bird of passage, both on the
Continent and in England, arriving and taking its departure at about
the same time with the Swallow. In form and colouring it somewhat
resembles the Peregrine Falcon, but is much smaller and more slender;
the wings, too, are larger in proportion, and the dark stripes beneath
are longitudinal instead of transverse. Its natural prey consists for
the most part of Larks and other small birds, beetles, and other large
insects. It is said also to prey on Swallows; but swift as its flight
undoubtedly is, it is somewhat doubtful whether these birds are not
sufficiently nimble to elude it, unless, indeed, it attacks
individuals exhausted by cold or other cause. It has been trained for
hawking small birds; but owing, perhaps, to its migratory habits, it
was found to be impatient of captivity, and was not much prized.
Hobbies frequently hunt in pairs, and an instance has been recorded
where one hunted a Lark in company with a Hen Harrier; but the latter,
a bird of heavier flight, was soon compelled to give up the chase. It
builds its nest, or appropriates a deserted one, in high trees, and
lays three or four eggs.


   Tail longer than the wings; upper plumage greyish blue; lower
   reddish yellow, with longitudinal oblong dark brown spots; tail
   barred with black; beak bluish, darker at the tip; cere yellow;
   irides dark brown; feet yellow, claws black. _Female_--above
   tinged with brown; below, yellowish white. Length eleven to
   twelve inches; breadth two feet. Eggs mottled with two shades
   of dark reddish brown.

The Merlin, or Stone Falcon (so called from its habit of alighting on
stones to watch the flight of the small birds which it intends to make
its prey), is a beautiful little bird, but notwithstanding its small
body ranks among the 'noble' Falcons. Associated with the
Sparrow-hawk, it was, on the Continent, anciently trained to hunt
Quails--and the old falconers are loud in its praises. In England, it
was accounted especially the Ladies' Hawk. In a state of nature, it
has been observed to attack the Partridge, Magpie, Starling,
Blackbird, etc., but its favourite prey is the Lark; and it was to fly
at this bird principally, that it was formerly trained. In hawking
with Merlins, three of these birds were assigned to the Magpie, two to
the Lark, and in the chase of the Quail and Land-rail, the
Sparrow-hawk was associated with it. The Merlin is more frequent in
the northern than in the southern part of Great Britain, and is seen
more frequently in winter than in summer, but is nowhere common. In
Norfolk, many are caught at the autumnal equinox in the fowlers' nets.
It occasionally, perhaps generally, breeds in Northumberland,
Cumberland, and North Wales, placing its nest upon the ground amongst
the heather, and laying four or five eggs.


   Wings shorter than the tail; upper plumage, neck and breast,
   dark-lead grey; sides, under tail-coverts and thighs,
   light-yellowish red, with longitudinal narrow dark streaks;
   beak blue, lighter towards the base; cere and feet yellow;
   irides brown; claws black. _Female_--upper plumage and tail
   light red, with transverse spots and bars of dark brown; lower,
   paler than in the _male_. Length fifteen inches; breadth thirty
   inches. Eggs reddish white, blotched and mottled with dark

The Kestrel being the most abundant and by far the most conspicuous in
its habits of all the British birds of prey, is probably, in most
instances, the bird which has been observed whenever the appearance of
'a Hawk' has been mentioned. Though rapid in flight whenever it
chooses to put forth its full powers, it is more remarkable for the
habit which has acquired for it the name of 'Windhover'; and there can
scarcely be any one, however unobservant, who makes even but an
occasional expedition into the country, but has stopped and gazed with
delight on its skilful evolutions. Suspended aloft, with its head
turned towards the wind, but neither advancing against the breeze, nor
moved by it from its position, it agitates its wings as regularly and
evenly as if they were turned on a pivot by machinery. Presently,
impelled as it were by a spirit of restlessness, it suddenly darts
forwards, perhaps ascending or descending a few feet, and making a
slight turn either to the right or the left. Then it skims on with
extended, motionless pinions, and once more anchors itself to the air.
But on what object is it intent all this while? for that some design
is present here is indubitable. Not surely on the capture of birds,
for at that slight elevation its keen eye would detect the movement of
a bird at a mere glance; nor has it the dashing flight one would
expect to see in a hunter after game furnished with the same organs of
motion as itself. But, if intent on the capture of small animals which
creep out of holes in the earth and hunt for their food among the
grass, surely no method can be conceived of exploring the field so
quickly and so completely. The Kestrel, then, though stigmatized by
game keepers with an evil name, does not merit the reproaches heaped
on it; while to the farmer it is an invaluable ally, destroying
countless beetles, the grubs of which would gnaw away the roots of his
crops;, caterpillars, which would devour the foliage; and, above all,
mice, which would fatten on the grain. For such food its appetite is
enormous, and its stomach capacious, an instance being recorded of a
specimen having been shot, the craw of which contained no less than
seventy-nine caterpillars, twenty-four beetles, a full-grown field
mouse, and a leech. To this varied bill of fare it adds, as occasion
offers, glow-worms, lizards, frogs, grasshoppers, and earthworms. In
the winter, indeed, when these animals have withdrawn to their
retreats, it is compelled by hunger to provide itself with what my
readers would consider more palatable food; for now it preys on any
birds which it is swift enough to overtake, and strong enough to
master. The skill with which it plucks the feathers from birds before
tearing them to pieces, certainly argues in favour of the theory that
a bird-diet is not unnatural to it, or, that the habit, if an acquired
one, came to an apt learner. But in autumn and winter, game-birds are
fully fledged and being quite able to take care of themselves are by
no means liable to fall a prey to the Kestrel. Thus, admitting, as we
fear we must, that if, while hovering for mice, it detects a young
Partridge in the hay-field, it is unable to withstand the temptation
of carrying it off as a delicate repast for its young, yet an
occasional trespass of this kind far from counterbalances the
advantages it confers as a consistent destroyer of vermin.

The Kestrel appears to be generally distributed over the country,
showing no marked predilection for upland or lowland, heath or marsh.
It is very frequently seen near the sea-coast, to which in winter it
habitually resorts, finding there, no doubt, greater facilities for
obtaining food. Like others of its tribe, it possesses little
architectural skill, placing its nest in a hole in a cliff, in ruins,
or on lofty trees, often appropriating the deserted dwelling of some
more industrious builder than itself. On the Continent it resorts to
buildings in towns and cities, as, for instance, the Louvre in Paris,
and the towers of cathedrals. During summer it hawks principally in
the gardens and orchards near the town, and when harvest is gathered
in, repairs to the corn-fields to hunt for mice among the stubble.
When taken young from the nest, it is easily tamed, and becomes one of
the most amusing of pets. Even after being fully fledged and allowed
its liberty, it will remain in the neighbourhood of the place where it
was reared, coming regularly to be fed, and recognizing the presence
of its master by repeating its wild note, _klee_, _klee_, _klee_, and
flying to meet him. An anecdote is recorded in the _Zoologist_ of a
male Kestrel having, in the second year of his domestication, induced
a female bird to join him in his half-civilized life, and to assist
him in rearing a joint family. 'Billy' still continued to make himself
quite at home at the house where he was brought up, coming fearlessly
into the nursery and making friends with the children; but his mate
never threw off her wild nature so far as to do this, contenting
herself with waiting outside, and asserting her right to her fair
share of whatever food he brought out. Tame Kestrels have been
observed to have the habit of hiding their food when supplied with
more than they can consume at the time. I have often noticed, too, in
the case of tame Kestrels, that the Chaffinches and other small birds
which frequent gardens show no instinctive dread of them, as if they
were their natural enemies, but perch on the same tree with them,
fearless and unnoticed.

The Kestrel was formerly trained to hunt small birds, and in the court
of Louis XIII was taught to hawk for Bats.



Feet entirely webbed, or all four toes connected by webs.


   Tail of fourteen feathers. _Winter_--head, neck, and all the
   under parts, black, with green reflections; close to the base
   of the bill a broad white gorget; on the neck a few faint
   whitish lines; feathers of the back and wings bronze-colour
   bordered with black; primaries and tail black; beak dusky;
   orbits greenish yellow; irides green; feet black.
   _Summer_--feathers of the head elongated, forming a crest; on
   the head and neck numerous long silky white feathers; on the
   thighs a patch of pure white. _Young birds_ brown and grey, the
   gorget greyish white. Length three feet. Eggs greenish white,

Phalacrocorax, the modern systematic name of the genus Cormorant, is
given by Willughby as a synonym of the Coot, and with much propriety,
for translated into English it means 'Bald Crow'. Applied to the
Cormorant, it must be considered as descriptive of the semblance of
baldness produced by the white feathers of the head during the
breeding season. The Cormorant Willughby describes under the name of
_Corvus aquaticus_, or Water Raven. The English name,'Corvorant', is
clearly _Corvus vorans_, a voracious Raven; and 'Cormorant' perhaps a
corruption of _Corvus marinus_, Sea Raven.

Sea-side visitors are pretty sure of seeing more than one specimen of
this bird, if they care to look for them, for the Cormorant frequents
all parts of the coast as well as lakes and rivers, and does not leave
us at any period of the year. Often we may see two or three of these
birds flying along together at a slight distance above the surface of
the sea, distinguished by their black hue, long outstretched neck, and
rapid waving of the wings. They fly swiftly in a straight line, and
seem to be kept from dipping into the water by making ahead at full
speed. There is no buoyancy in their flight, no floating in the air,
or soaring; their sole motive for using their narrow but muscular
wings is clearly that they may repair to or from some favourite spot
with greater speed than they can attain by swimming or diving.
Occasionally, while engaged in a boating expedition, we may encounter
a party of three or four occupied in fishing. They are shy, and will
not allow a near approach, but even at a distance they may be
distinguished by their large size, sooty hue, long necks, and hooked
beaks. They sit low in the water, often dipping their heads below the
surface, and in this posture advancing, in order that their search for
food may not be impeded by the ripple of the water. A sheltered bay in
which shoals of small fish abound is a choice resort, and here they
make no long continuous stay in the swimming attitude, but suddenly
and frequently dive, remaining below a longer or shorter time,
according to the depth which they have to descend in order to secure
their prey, but when successful, occupying but a very brief space of
time in swallowing it. Not unfrequently they may be discerned from the
shore similarly occupied, floating or diving in the midst of the very
breakers. Sometimes, but rarely, one settles on a rail or stump of a
tree close to the water in a tidal river. The capture of fish is still
its object, and it is quite as expert in securing its prey from such a
station as when roving at large on the open sea.

All along our coast there is at various intervals a rock popularly
distinguished in the neighbourhood by the name of 'Shag rock'. Such a
rock is generally low, isolated, and situated at a safe distance from
land; or, if near the shore, is close to the base of a steep cliff.
Hither the Cormorants, when their hunger is appeased, repair for the
threefold purpose of resting, digesting their food, and drying their
wings. The process of digestion is soon completed, but the time
consumed in drying their thoroughly drenched wings depends on the
amount of sunshine and air moving. Of these, whatever they may be,
they know how to avail themselves to perfection. They station
themselves on the highest ridge of the rock, wide apart, and in a row,
so as not to screen one another, raise their bodies to their full
height, and spread their wings to their utmost extent. No laundress is
more cunning in the exercise of her vocation. Indeed, they can hardly
fail to recall the idea of so many pairs of black trousers hung out to
be aired.

Cormorants do not confine their fishing expeditions to the sea, but
frequently ascend tidal rivers, and follow the course of streams which
communicate with fish-ponds and lakes, where they commit great havoc;
for the quantity of fish which they devour at a meal is very great.
Pliny has observed that the Cormorant sometimes perches on trees; and
the truth of this remark has been confirmed by many subsequent
writers. They have been even known to build their nest in a tree, but
this is a rare occurrence.[29] They generally select exposed rocks,
where they collect a large quantity of sticks and rubbish, and lay
three or four eggs in a depression on the summit.

Most people are familiar with a representation of a fishery with the
help of Cormorants conducted by the Chinese; but it is not so
generally known that a similar method once was practised in England.
Willughby quoting Faber's _Annotations on the Animals of Recchus_,
says: 'It is the custom in England to train Cormorants to catch fish.
While conveying the birds to the fishing-ground the fishermen keep the
heads and eyes of the birds covered to prevent them from being
alarmed. When they have reached the rivers, they take off the hoods,
and having first tied a leather strap loosely round the lower part of
the neck, that the birds may be unable to swallow down what fishes
they catch, throw them into the water. They immediately set to work
and pursue the fish beneath them with marvellous rapidity. When they
have caught one they rise to the surface, and, having first pinched it
with their beaks, swallow it as far as the strap permits, and renew
the chase until they have caught from five to six each. On being
called to return to their masters' fist, they obey with alacrity, and
bring up, one by one, the fish they have swallowed, injured no farther
than that they are slightly crushed. The fishing being brought to an
end, the birds are removed from the neighbourhood of the water, the
strap is untied, and a few of the captured fish, thrown to them as
their share of the booty, are dexterously caught before they touch the

   [29] A pair hatched two young in the Zoological Gardens in
        Regent's Park in 1882.


   Shag [M] Brent Goose [F]

   Bernacle Goose [F] Cormorant [M]

                              [_face p. 166._]]


      Gannet [F]

   Whooper Swan

      Bewick's Swan [M]]


   Tail graduated, of twelve feathers. In _winter_, general
   plumage deep greenish black; feathers of the back glossy with
   black borders; orbits and pouch greenish yellow; bill dusky;
   irides green; feet black. In _summer_, head crested. _Young
   birds_ greenish brown above; light grey below. Length
   twenty-eight inches. Eggs greenish blue, chalky.

Except in the smaller size and differences of plumage mentioned above,
there is little to distinguish the Shag from the Cormorant. Both, too,
are of common occurrence, and frequent the same localities; except
that the Shag is more disposed to be gregarious: it does not, however,
commonly resort to tidal rivers, and is still more rarely found on
inland lakes; its food and method of obtaining it are precisely
similar, so that a description of one bird will suit the other almost
equally well. The Shag is called sometimes the Green Cormorant, from
the tint of its plumage; but this name is not in common use. Another
of its names is the Crested Cormorant; but this is vague, inasmuch as
both species are crested in spring. In Scotland a common name for it
is Scart, applied also to the Great Cormorant.


   Crown buff-yellow; general plumage milk-white; quills black;
   bill bluish grey at the base, white at the tip; orbits pale
   blue; membrane prolonged from the gape and that under the
   throat dusky blue; irides yellow; feet striped with green, the
   membranes dusky; claws white. _Birds of the first year_,
   general plumage dusky brown, beneath greyish. In the _second
   year_, greyish black above, marked with numerous triangular
   white spots, whitish below. Length three feet. Eggs dull
   greenish white.

It would not be difficult to compile, from various sources, a
description of the Gannet and its habits which would fill more pages
than my readers, perhaps, would care to peruse. To avoid this
contingency, I will limit myself to a statement of my own personal
acquaintance with the bird and its ways, and a transcript of notes
kindly furnished me by a friend who visited the Bass Rock, one of its
favourite haunts in the breeding season.

_Extract from my own Journal._--'August 27th. I lay for a long time
to-day on the thick herbage which crowns the splendid cliffs, "the
Gobbins", near the entrance of Belfast Lough, watching through a
telescope the proceedings of some Gannets, or Solan Geese. This bird,
which is allied to the Pelicans rather than the Geese, is of a large
size, much bigger than a Gull, from which, also, it may be
distinguished at a distance by its greater length of neck, the intense
whiteness of its plumage, and the black tip of its wide-spreading
wings. But apart from all these distinguishing characters, its mode of
fishing is, by itself, sufficient to mark it. In flight it is
eminently wandering; it circles round and round, or describes a figure
of eight, at a varying elevation above the water, in quest of
herrings, pilchards, or other fish whose habit is to swim near the
surface. When it has discovered a prey, it suddenly arrests its
flight, partially closes its wings, and descends head foremost with a
force sufficient to make a _jet d'eau_ visible two or three miles off,
and to carry itself many feet downwards. When successful, it brings
its prize to the surface, and devours it without troubling itself
about mastication. If unsuccessful, it rises immediately, and resumes
its hunting. It is sometimes seen swimming, perhaps to rest itself,
for I did not observe that it ever dived on these occasions. My
companion told me that the fishermen on the coast of Ireland say that,
if chased by a boat when seen swimming, it becomes so terrified as to
be unable to rise. The real reason may be that it is gorged with food.
He was once in a boat on the Lough, when, a Gannet being seen a long
way ahead, it was determined to give chase, and ascertain whether the
statement was correct. As the boat drew near, the Gannet endeavoured
to escape by swimming; but made no attempt either to dive or to use
its wings. After a pretty long chase, the bowman secured it in spite
of a very severe bite which it inflicted on his hand, and carried it
home in triumph. It did not appear to have received any injury, and
when released, in the evening of the same day, swam out to sea with
great composure. A fisherman in Islay told me that in some parts of
Scotland a singular method of catching Gannets is adopted. A herring
is fastened to a board and sunk a few feet deep in the sea. The sharp
eye of the Gannet detects the fish, and the bird, first raising itself
to an elevation which experience or instinct has taught it to be
sufficient to carry it down to the requisite depth, pounces on the
fish, and in the effort penetrates the board to which the fish is
attached. Being thus held fast by the beak, and unable to extricate
itself, it is drowned. Gannets are frequently caught in the
herring-nets, at various depths below the surface. Diving after the
fish, they become entangled in the nets, and are thus captured in a
trap not intended for them. They perform good service to fishermen, by
indicating at a great distance the exact position of the shoals of

Gannets breed in great numbers on several parts of our rocky coast;
from the extreme north to Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. The two
most important stations are St. Kilda and the Bass Rock, in the Firth
of Forth. On this rock stand the ruins of the once formidable
stronghold of the Douglas family, the Castle of Tantallan. In
circumference the island is about a mile; on the northern side it
rises to an elevation of eight hundred feet, whilst towards the south
it shelves almost down to the sea. The isolated position of this rock,
and the difficulty of landing on it, have rendered it a fit retreat
for sea-fowl of various kinds; and as the proprietor 'preserves' them,
they flourish without sensible diminution. The discharge of a gun
causes the whole of the colony to take wing; and as they rise into the
air, the eye of the spectator is dazzled by the mazy intercrossings of
white wings, the ear bewildered by the discord of confused screamings.
A visit paid at sunrise, when flocks of various kinds are wheeling
about in all directions, will more than reward the early riser for his
activity, for Scotland scarcely offers a more interesting sight. Of
all the numerous birds which frequent the rock, the Solan Goose is the
most abundant and most profitable, as almost the only revenue of the
island accrues from the sale of these birds to the country people of
the mainland, and at the Edinburgh market, where they have fetched,
for the last century and a half, the unvarying price of two shillings
and fourpence a head. The size of the Gannet is somewhat larger than
that of the domestic Goose.

'The only parts of the island where they can be approached are on the
south and west sides. They sit lazily and stupidly on and about their
nests, which are composed of a mass of weeds and grass, and will
suffer themselves to be stroked, patted, or knocked on the head, as
the case may be, with a most philosophical gravity. They are
frequently shot; but as they then generally fall into the sea, a boat
has to be on the alert, or they are soon washed away. The plan of
lowering a man by means of a rope held by the others, is also adopted;
but this is most dangerous. The Frigate Pelican [The Skua?] often
chases a successful Gannet till the terrified bird disgorges its prey,
which the pursuer seizes before it reaches the water.'

'A Solan Goose to most people would not afford a delicious meal, being
a rank, coarse, fishy dish; but many of the poorer classes eat them
with a relish--nay, as a delicacy--and during the winter would fare
ill had they not these birds for food.'

The Gannet lays but one egg; and the young bird is nourished on
semi-liquid food disgorged by the parent. On its first exclusion from
the egg its skin is naked, and of a bluish black hue, but is soon
covered with a white down. Through this the true feathers appear,
which are black, the adult plumage being pure white.

For an interesting account of the capture of these birds at St. Kilda,
the reader is referred to Professor James Wilson's _Voyage round the
Coast of Scotland_. From a calculation once made of the number of
Gannets consumed by each family in a year, on this island, it appeared
that the total secured, not taking into account a large number which
could not be reached for various reasons, was 22,600: and this number
was considered to be below the average, the season being a bad one.




   A crest of elongated bluish black feathers at the back of the
   head; similar feathers of a lustrous white hanging from the
   lower part of the neck; scapulars similar, silver grey;
   forehead, neck, middle of the belly, edge of the wings, and
   thighs, pure white; back of the head, sides of the breast, and
   flanks, deep black; front of the neck streaked with grey; upper
   plumage bluish grey; beak deep yellow; irides yellow; orbits
   naked, livid; feet brown, red above; middle toe, claw included,
   much shorter than the tarsus. In _young birds_ the long
   feathers are absent; head and neck ash-coloured; upper plumage
   tinged with brown; lower, spotted with black. Length three feet
   two inches. Eggs uniform sea green.

The Heron, though a large bird, measuring three feet in length from
the point of the beak to the extremity of the tail, and four feet and
a half in breadth from the tip of one wing to the other, weighs but
three pounds and a half. Consequently, though not formed for rapid
flight, or endued with great activity of wing, its body presents so
large a surface to the air, that it can support itself aloft with but
a slight exertion. It is thus enabled, without fatigue, to soar almost
into the regions assigned to the Eagle and Vulture; and when pursued
by its natural enemies, the Falcons, to whom it would fall an easy
prey on account of the largeness of the mark which its body would
present to their downward swoop if it could only skim the plains, it
is enabled to vie with them in rising into the air, and thus often
eludes them.

The Heron, though it neither swims nor dives, is, nevertheless, a
fisher, and a successful one, but a fisher in rivers and shallow
waters only, to human anglers a very pattern of patience and
resignation. Up to its knees in water, motionless as a stone, with the
neck slightly stretched out, and the eye steadily fixed, but wide
awake to the motion of anything that has life, the Heron may be seen
in the ford of a river, the margin of a lake, in a sea-side pool, or on
the bank of an estuary, a faultless subject for the photographer.
Suddenly the head is shot forward with unerring aim; a small fish is
captured, crushed to death, and swallowed head foremost; an eel of
some size requires different treatment, and is worth the trouble of
bringing to land, that it may be beaten to death on the shingle; a
large fish is impaled with its dagger-like beak, and, if worth the
labour, is carried off to a safe retreat, to be devoured at leisure.
If observers are to be credited, and there is no reason why they
should not, a full-grown Heron can thus dispose of a fish that exceeds
its own weight. A frog is swallowed whole; a water rat has its skull
split before it discovers its enemy, and speedily is undergoing the
process of digestion. Shrimps, small crabs, newts, water beetles, all
is fish that comes to its comprehensive net; but if, with all its
watchfulness, the look-out be unsuccessful, it rises a few feet into
the air, and slowly flaps itself away to some little distance, where
perhaps, slightly altering its attitude, it stands on one leg, and,
with its head thrown back, awaits better fortune. While thus stationed
it is mute; but as it flies off it frequently utters its note, a
harsh, grating scream, especially when other birds of the same species
are in the neighbourhood. On these occasions it is keenly on the
alert, descrying danger at a great distance, and is always the first
to give notice of an approaching enemy, not only to all birds feeding
near it on the shore, but to any Ducks which may chance to be paddling
in the water.[30]

During a great portion of the year the Heron is a wanderer. I have
frequently seen it at least fifty miles distant from the nearest
heronry; but when it has discovered a spot abounding in food, it
repairs thither day after day for a long period.

In the month of January, if mild, but as a rule in February, Herons
show a disposition to congregate, and soon after repair to their
old-established breeding-places, called Heronries. These are generally
lofty trees, firs or deciduous trees in parks, or even in groves close
by old family mansions. One at Kilmorey, by Loch Gilphead, has long
been frequented, though within a hundred yards of the house. The
nests, huge masses of sticks, a yard across, lined with a little
grass, and other soft materials, are placed near each other, as many,
sometimes, as a hundred in a colony,[31] or, more rarely, they are
placed among ivy-clad rocks, ruins, or even on the ground. Each nest
contains three to four eggs, on which the female sits about three
weeks, constantly fed by her partner during the whole period of
incubation. Two weeks later a second clutch of eggs is sometimes laid
and hatched off whilst the first young are in the nest. The power of
running would be of little use to a young bird hatched at an elevation
of fifty feet from the ground; the young Herons are consequently
helpless till they are sufficiently fledged to perch on the branches
of the trees, where they are fed by their parents, who themselves
perch with the facility of the Rook. Indeed, the favourite position of
these birds, both old and young, is, during a considerable portion of
the day, on the upper branches of a lofty tree, whither, also, they
often repair with a booty too large to be swallowed at once.

By a statute of Henry VIII the taking of Herons in any other way than
by hawking, or the long bow, was prohibited on a penalty of half a
mark; and the theft of a young bird from the nest was visited with a
penalty of ten shillings.

Not to be acquainted with the noble art of Falconry was deemed
degrading: so that the saying, 'He does not know a Hawk from a
Heronshaw', was a common expression of contempt, now corrupted into
the proverb, 'He does not know a Hawk from a handsaw'.

   [30] A Heron in captivity has been known to perch on an old
        carriage-wheel, in the corner of a courtyard, and to lie
        in wait for Sparrows and Martins. One of the latter it was
        seen to pierce while flying, and immediately descending with
        outspread wings to run to its trough, and, having several
        times plunged in its prey, to swallow it at a gulp.

   [31] Pennant counted eighty in one tree.


   Head, back, and scapulars, black, with blue and green
   reflections; on the back of the head three very long narrow
   white feathers; lower part of the back, wings, and tail,
   pearl-grey; forehead, streak over the eyes, and all the lower
   parts, white; beak black, yellow at the base; irides red; feet
   yellowish green. _Young birds_ have no crest; the upper plumage
   is dull brown streaked with yellow; wing-coverts and primaries
   marked with fish-shaped streaks, which are yellowish; under
   parts dull white, mottled with brown and ash; bill greenish;
   irides and feet brown. Length twenty-one inches. Eggs pale

The Night Heron is a bird of wide geographical range; but, on account
of its nocturnal habits and the rarity of its occurrence in this
country, it has been little observed. It is, however, not uncommon on
migration. A specimen was brought to me at Helston, Cornwall, about
the year 1836, which had been shot in the dusk of the evening, on
Goonhilly Downs. Its long and delicate crest had been stupidly tied
into a knot, and by the bruised condition of these feathers the
specimen, if it still exists in any museum, may yet be identified.

The Night Heron is said to be not uncommon on the shores of the
Baltic, in the wide marshes of Bretagne and Lorraine, and on the banks
of the Rhone. It passes the day concealed among the thick foliage of
trees and shrubs, and feeds only by night. It builds its nest in
trees, and lays four or five eggs.


   Moustaches and crown black; upper plumage yellowish rust-red,
   spotted with dusky; the feathers of the neck elongated, marked
   with brown zigzag lines; primaries barred with rust-red and
   dusky grey; plumage beneath paler, marked with oblong dusky
   streaks; upper mandible brown, edged with yellow; lower,
   orbits, and feet, greenish yellow; irides bright yellow. Length
   two feet four inches. Eggs dingy green.

Macgillivray, who was as well acquainted as most ornithologists with
birds haunting moors and swamps, admits that he never heard one, and
thinks that a brother naturalist, who describes what, no doubt, he
heard, mistook for the booming of the Bittern the drumming of a Snipe.
Lord Lilford tells us that a lady of his acquaintance told him that as
a young wife, living near marshes, she often was kept awake by the
booming of Bitterns.

In Sir Thomas Browne's time, It was common In Norfolk, and was
esteemed a better dish than the Heron.

Willughby, who wrote about the same time, 1676, says: 'The Bittern, or
Mire-drum, it is said, makes either three or five boomings at a
time--always an uneven number. It begins to bellow early in February,
and continues during the breeding season. The common people believe
that it thrusts its beak into a reed, and by the help of this makes
its booming. Others maintain that it imitates the lowing of an ox by
thrusting its beak into water, mud, or earth. They conceal themselves
among rushes and reeds, and not unfrequently in hedges, with the head
and neck erect. In autumn, after sunset, they are in the habit of
rising into the air with a spiral ascent, so high that they are lost
sight of. Meanwhile they utter a singular note, but not at all
resembling the characteristic 'booming'.

It is called Botaurus, because it imitates _boatum tauri_, the
bellowing of a bull. Of 'Botaurus', the names 'Bitour' and Bittern are
evident corruptions; and the following names, in different languages,
are all descriptive of the same peculiar note: Butor, Rordump,
Myredromble, Trombone, Rohrtrummel, Rohrdommel, and Rordrum.

Of late years, so unusual has the occurrence become of Bitterns
breeding in this country, owing to collectors, that the discovery of
an egg in Norfolk has been thought worthy of being recorded in the
transactions of the Linnean Society; and even the appearance of a bird
at any season finds its way into the provincial newspapers or the
magazines devoted to natural history: Stuffed specimens are, however,
to be seen in most collections, where its form and plumage may be
studied, though its habits can only be learnt, at least in England,
from the accounts furnished by naturalists of a past generation. It
comes now only to be shot.

The Bittern is a bird of wide geographical range, as it resorts, more
or less, to all countries of Europe and Asia. Specimens are said to
differ much in size, some being as large as the Heron, others
considerably less; but there is no reason to suppose that they are of
different species, a similar variation having been observed in other
birds, as in the Curlew, for example, of which I have had in my
possession at once four or five specimens all of different dimensions.

The Bittern builds its nest on the ground, and lays four brown eggs,
which are tinged with ash or green. The old bird, if wounded, defends
itself in the same way as the Heron.



   General plumage white; scapulars and wings black; bill and feet
   red; orbits naked, black; irides brown. _Young birds_ have the
   wings tinged with brown and the beak reddish black. Length
   three feet six inches. Eggs white tinged with ochre.

Sir Thomas Browne says, in his _Account of Birds found in Norfolk_:
'The _Ciconia_, or Stork, I have seen in the fens; and some have been
shot in the marshes between this [Norwich] and Yarmouth.' His
contemporary, Willughby, says:--'The Stork is rarely seen in England;
never, in fact, but when driven hither by the wind or some accident. I
have received from Dr. Thomas Browne, the eminent naturalist, a figure
drawn to the life, and a short description of one which was captured
in Norfolk.' Yarrell records instances of a few others which have been
killed, at distant intervals, in various parts of England; but the
Stork is so rare a visitor with us, that I have no scruple in
referring my readers, for a full account of the habits of so
interesting a bird, to some more comprehensive work on the subject.
The White Stork was, over 350 years ago, only an irregular visitor to
Great Britain.


   Upper plumage black, with green and purple reflections; under
   white; bill and orbits red; irides brown; feet deep red. In
   _young birds_ the bill, orbits, and feet, are olive green; and
   the upper plumage is tinged with rust-brown. Length nearly
   three feet. Eggs dull white, tinged with green, and sometimes
   sparingly spotted with brown.

A still rarer visitor in Great Britain than the White Stork, from
which it differs quite as much in habit as it does in colour; for
whereas the one is eminently sociable with birds of its own kind, and
devoted in its attachment to human dwellings, the other is a solitary
bird, shy and wary, avoiding at all times the sight of men and their
habitations. It is a rare bird in most countries of Europe, but is
common in several parts of Asia and the whole of the known regions of
Africa. It builds a large nest in a lofty tree, and lays from two to
five eggs.



   General plumage white; a large patch of reddish yellow on the
   breast; a crest of long narrow white feathers pendent over the
   neck; lore, orbits, and naked space on the neck, pale yellow;
   bill black, tipped with yellow; irides red; feet black. _Young
   birds_ want the yellow patch on the breast and the occipital
   crest; portions of the wing black. Length thirty-one inches.
   Eggs white, spotted with light red.

Spoonbills do not appear to have been common at any time; for though
Sir Thomas Browne enumerates them among the birds of Norfolk and
Suffolk, where they build in heronries, his contemporary, Willughby,
knew them only as natives of Holland. This bird is not unfrequent in
East Anglia, and it is met with now and again along the south coast,
and has wandered up the Thames valley.

The Spoonbill is a migratory bird, building its nest and rearing its
young in the north of Europe and Asia, and retiring in autumn to the
shores of the Mediterranean or to Africa. It is remarkable not only
for the singular conformation of its bill, but for 'being one of the
very few which have been found to possess no true muscles of the organ
of voice; and no modulation of a single tone appears to be possessed
by the bird.'[32]

It builds its nest in high trees, or, when these are wanting, among
reeds and rushes; and lays four eggs.

   [32] Yarrell's _British Birds_.




   Folded wings not reaching to the extremity of the tail; bill
   strong, orange-yellow, the nail whitish; upper plumage
   ash-brown, many of the feathers bordered with greyish white;
   under plumage, in front, light ash-grey, barred on the flanks
   and belly with brown, behind pure white; irides deep brown;
   legs dull flesh-colour. Eggs ivory white. Length two feet ten

The Geese characterized by having a large, ovate body, a long neck, a
short and stout beak, high at the base and bent down at the tip,
adapted for cropping vegetable food; the wings are large and powerful;
the legs, placed under the centre of the body, afford some facility in
walking, and the webbed feet are eminently fitted for paddling, but
rarely employed in diving. They spend the greater portion of the year
in high latitudes, where their arrival is celebrated with great
rejoicings, as an indication of returning summer. They are eminently
gregarious, flying generally in the form of a half-opened pair of
compasses, with the angle in front, or in an irregular wavy line, and
uttering a loud harsh cry, which may often be heard some time before
the birds themselves are in sight.

The present species, which is supposed by some to be the origin of the
domestic Goose, was formerly of common occurrence in Great Britain,
but is now much less frequent. It breeds in northern Scotland, coming
south from autumn to spring. On their arrival in autumn, they resort
to marshes and swamps, meadows, corn-fields, and turnip-fields,
especially such as are remote from human dwellings. There they feed by
day on such vegetable substances as fall in their way, but they are
said to prefer the young shoots of corn to any other kind of food. So
wary are they and difficult of approach, that a 'Wild Goose chase' is
a proverbial expression for an unsuccessful enterprise. At night they
retire to the broad flats near the sea, or to the mouths of rivers,
where they roost on the ground. Yarrell is of opinion 'that the term
"lag", as applied to this Goose, is either a modification of the
English word "lake", the Latin _lacus_, or perhaps an abbreviation of
the Italian "lago", from which latter country it is even probable that
we may originally have obtained this our domesticated race.'


   Folded wings reaching a little beyond the tail; bill
   orange-yellow, the nail white; a large space on the forehead
   pure white, surrounded by a dusky band; upper plumage
   ash-brown, varied with grey, dull white, and bluish black;
   under plumage in front brownish white, with patches and bars of
   black; behind white; irides dark brown; feet orange. Length two
   feet three inches. Eggs white, tinged with buff.

A regular visitor to the British Isles, coming late in the autumn to
stay till spring, usually seen in small flocks of from eight to twenty
birds; it is entirely graminivorous, and, when undisturbed, usually
rests at night in any grass-field where it may have been feeding in
the afternoon.

Its habits, during its stay in these latitudes, are similar to those
of the other species, but it is said by Mr. Selby to 'vary from the
Bean Goose in preferring low and marshy districts to the upland and
drier haunts of that bird, and in these localities subsists on the
aquatic grasses, being very seldom seen to frequent corn or stubble
fields'. In Norfolk it has frequently been seen associated with the
Bean Goose. It has never been observed to remain with us after April,
when it betakes itself to the regions bordering on the Arctic circle.
In Lapland it is very abundant, and in the fur countries of North
America it was seen in spring by Dr. Richardson in large flocks
travelling northwards. It breeds in the woody districts skirting
Mackenzie's River, and in the islands of the Arctic Sea.

The white forehead of this bird tends to confirm the opinion
maintained by some authors that the common Domestic Goose owes its
origin to this species.


   Folded wings exceeding the tail in length; bill long, orange,
   the base and nail black; upper plumage ash-brown; the wings
   darker, edged with greyish white; under plumage in front dirty
   white, behind pure white; irides dark brown; legs orange; beak
   yellowish white. Length thirty-four inches. Eggs white.

The several species constituting the group to which the Bean Goose
belongs resemble each other very nearly in all respects. All are
gregarious, fly high in the form of a V, or in an undulating line,
uttering repeated cries, which no one who has heard a domesticated
Goose can fail to recognize; they pass the night for the most part on
broad flats near the sea, and at early dawn repair inland to their
feeding-grounds. The Bean Goose is, on the authority of Yarrell, next
to the Brent Goose, the commonest and most numerous as a species among
our Wild Geese. In Scotland it is far more abundant than in England,
being seen in large flocks from October to April, especially at the
periods of migration to and from its summer quarters. But it does not
altogether desert the British Isles during the intervening months. A
few are said annually to remain, and breed in the lakes of
Westmoreland, and in the Hebrides. In Sutherlandshire, also, many
remain all the year--a fact thoroughly ascertained by Mr. Selby, who
gives an interesting account of several young broods which he saw on
the lochs, some of which he captured. They construct their nests among
the tussocks of sedge or grass hillocks on the islands, and lay from
three to four eggs, smaller than those of the Common Goose, but of a
similar shape and colour.


       White Fronted Goose

   Pink-footed Goose

       Grey Lag Goose

   Bean Goose [M]

                              [_p. 178._]]


   Sheldrake [M]

       Shoveler [M]

   Gadwall [M]

       Wild Duck [M] [F]]


   Folded wings not reaching to the extremity of the tail; bill
   shorter than the head, narrow and much contracted towards the
   tip, pink, with the nail and base black; head and neck reddish
   brown; rest of the upper plumage ash-grey, edged with greyish
   white; under plumage in front fawn-colour, behind white; irides
   dark brown; feet pink, tinged with vermilion. Length two feet
   four inches. Eggs dull yellowish white.

It is said that most, if not all the various species of wild Geese
have strong local attachments; that flocks composed of one particular
kind are in the habit of visiting, year after year, the same spot, to
the exclusion of other species, which may, nevertheless, be found
frequenting places of like character at no great distance. Of the
truth of the statement I met with signal confirmation in the severe
winter of 1860-1. I then spent several days on the coast of Norfolk,
for the purpose of watching the habits of Waders and sea-fowl. Without
indulging in the chase of wild Geese, I heard and saw a great many
flocks, of which some were unmistakably Brent Geese; others, of a
larger size and a different colour, I was obliged to include under the
comprehensive name of Grey Geese. The Brents, I found, regularly
repaired to the salt marshes adjoining Thornham Harbour, which, I was
told, was their usual place of resort. The others were known to alight
only in the meadows near Holkham. Having heard that several had been
shot at the latter place, I procured one, and on examination it proved
to be the present species, up to that time entirely unknown to me. On
consulting Yarrell, I found the following passage:--'In January of the
present year, 1841, I was favoured with a letter from the Hon. and
Rev. Thomas Keppel, of Warham Rectory, near Holkam, informing me that
a Pink-footed Goose had been killed by his nephew, Lord Coke, at
Holkam. This bird was shot out of a flock of about twenty, but nothing
particular was observed in their flight or habits.' The bird brought
to me had been shot, along with many others, out of similar flocks, in
exactly the same place, at an interval of twenty years; and I have no
doubt that the many other specimens which have been shot there between
the above two dates, belonged to the same species, the characters
which distinguish it from the common Bean Goose being not sufficiently
striking to attract the notice of sea-side gunners. The habits of the
species appear not to differ from those of its congener; it arrives
and departs about the same time, and it frequents the marshes and
uplands of Norfolk, and in winter the east coast of Scotland.


   Head, beak, neck, breast, feet, quills, and tail, black; on
   each side of the neck a patch of white with a few black
   feathers intermixed; upper plumage dingy; all the tail-coverts
   white; belly brownish grey, barred on the flanks with greyish
   white. Length twenty-two to twenty-three inches. Eggs greyish

The Wild Geese which we have hitherto been considering feed on grass,
clover, and grain, in quest of which they resort to inland marshes,
meadows, and arable land; but the Brent is a decidedly marine bird.
During its annual visits to our shores it stays out at sea by night,
cradled by the billows, and at early dawn repairs to the muddy flats
and sand-banks, where it feeds exclusively on marine plants,
especially laver and zostéra. As soon as these are left bare by the
ebbing tide, the Brents are taught by their instinct that they have no
time to lose, and hasten in 'skeins' or 'gaggles' making in their
flight a trumpet-like noise which, heard at a distance, resembles that
of a pack of harriers or fox-hounds in full cry. They prefer to take
their stand on those parts of the ooze which are least intersected by
creeks, and there, if left undisturbed, they continue to feed without
intermission till the rising tide lifts them off their feet. Then,
away to sea again! or, if the weather be boisterous, they seek for
shelter in the rivers and estuaries. They are local in their
attachments, returning annually to the same feeding-grounds. They do
not associate from choice with other species, for though they may be
frequently seen feeding in the vicinity of various Waders, they form
no society with them, and are, indeed, in quest of different food.
Sea-side fowlers are well acquainted with the peculiarity of their
habits, and not only know where to look for them when they are
settled, but at what points they can most easily be intercepted, going
and returning. It is the custom of the fowler to conceal himself
behind some lurking-place, natural or artificial; or, if this be
wanting, to stretch himself on the ground. Then, as a skein,
unconscious of danger, approaches, he suddenly shows himself; the
birds, panic-struck, huddle together before they alter their line of
flight, and the sportsman fires into the midst of them.

They are the most abundant of all the Geese which frequent our shores,
and are killed in great numbers and sent to market. They come to us in
November and remain till late in February, when they begin to migrate
in successive flights, the youngest bird staying until April. It is
not believed that they ever remain to breed, but that they repair to
the Arctic regions, and make their nests of withered herbage in marshy


   Forehead, sides of the head, and throat, pure white; a dark
   streak between the eyes and bill; head/neck, quills, and tail,
   black; rest of the upper plumage undulated transversely with
   ash-grey, black, and dull white; lower plumage white, tinged on
   the flanks with grey; irides dusky-brown; bill and feet black.
   Length two feet one inch. Eggs greenish white.

This beautiful bird occurs chiefly on the west side of Great Britain
in winter. 'It then more frequently retires to the sea than to the
lakes during its periods of repose, or when driven from its
feeding-grounds. A large flock then presents a beautiful spectacle, as
the birds sit lightly on the water, and when advancing elevate their
necks. Not less beautiful do they seem when on wing; now arranged in
long lines, ever undulating; at one time extending in the direction of
their flight; at another obliquely, or at right angles to it,
sometimes in an angular figure, and again mingling together. Their
voice is clear, and rather shrill, and comes agreeably on the ear when
the cries of a large flock come from a considerable distance'. In
England it is far less common, but occasionally resorts to marshes
both on the eastern and western coast. The mythical fragment of
ancient natural history, that the Bernicle is the product of a tree,
is too trite to require repetition here.


   Whole plumage pure white, the head and nape sometimes slightly
   tinged with yellow; lower half of the bill quadrangular,
   yellow, upper black; lore and a great portion of the edge of
   the upper mandible yellow; irides brown; legs black; tail of
   twenty feathers. _Young birds_ have the plumage grey; lore
   flesh-colour. Length five feet; breadth seven feet ten inches.
   Eggs dull white, tinged with greenish.

The ancient fable that Swans sing most sweetly before their death did
not survive the age which invented it. Pliny disbelieved it, and,
though the assertion may have been resuscitated from time to time as a
poetic fiction, it has found no place in works on natural history.

The Swan is not musical; it rests its claims to our admiration on
other grounds, unchallenged and indisputable; the unsullied white of
its plumage is an apt emblem of purity, and the elegance of its
movements in the water has become proverbial. The present species,
which owes its name to its powerful voice, is said to be not quite so
graceful as the tame Swan, but on land it is far more active. A bird
which has been winged by a sportsman, and has fallen on the land, can
only be overtaken by smart running. In Iceland, the summer resort of
these birds, they are much sought after for the sake of their down. In
the month of August, when the old birds, having cast their
quill-feathers, are unable to fly, the natives assemble in bodies in
the places where the Swans collect, and mounted on small but active
horses chase them through the marshes, and ride many of them down; but
the greater number are caught by the dogs, which always seize the
birds by the neck, and so encumber them that they are then easily
overtaken. But it is not the habit of Swans to remain much on land;
the perfect ease with which they float and swim indicates that the
water is their element, and a glance at their long necks tells at once
that their nature is to feed in shallow water or on the margin of deep
lakes, where with their strong bills they either tear up the stems and
roots of aquatics from the bottom, or crop at their pleasure from the
banks. To this kind of food they add such insects, molluscs and worms
as come within their reach; and (when sailing in salt water)
sea-weeds, and especially the long, ribbon-like leaves of zostéra.
During summer they frequent the most secluded swamps and lakes in the
wooded districts of the north, and build a very large nest in a spot
unapproachable by human feet. A few go no farther north than the
Orkneys and Shetlands, but their headquarters are Siberia, Iceland,
Lapland, and Hudson's Bay.

After they have recovered from their summer moult, they migrate
southwards, and arrive in Scotland, sometimes in large flocks, early
in October. Mr. St. John, in his _Wild Sports of the Highlands_, gives
an interesting account of their habits while in this country. He went
in pursuit of a flock which had selected for their winter
feeding-place some fresh-water lochs about half a mile from the sea.
They passed the day mostly on the salt water, and in the evening came
inland to feed. He found them on one of the smaller lochs, some
standing high and dry on the grassy islands trimming their feathers
after their long voyage, and others feeding on the grass and weeds at
the bottom of the loch, which in some parts was shallow enough to
allow of their pulling up the plants which they fed on as they swam
about, while numbers of wild Ducks of different kinds, particularly
Wigeons, swarmed round them, and often snatched the pieces of grass
from the Swans as soon as they had brought them to the surface, to the
great annoyance of the noble birds, who endeavoured in vain to drive
away these most active little depredators, who seemed determined to
profit by their labours. 'I observed', he says, 'that frequently all
their heads were under the water at once, excepting one--but
invariably _one_ had kept his head and neck perfectly erect, and
carefully watched on every side to prevent their being taken by
surprise; when he wanted to feed, he touched any passer-by, who
immediately relieved him in his guard, and he in his turn called on
some other Swan to take his place as sentinel.'

Swans, like wild Geese, are in the habit of returning every year to
the same district of country, and in passing to and from their
feeding-ground keep closely to the same line of flight, a peculiarity
of which fowlers take advantage by lying in ambuscade somewhere
beneath their aërial road.

When disturbed on the water they generally huddle together and utter a
low cry of alarm before they take flight. Owing to their great weight
they have not the power of rising suddenly into the air, but flap
along the water, beating the surface with their great wings, some
twenty or thirty yards. The flapping noise made while this process is
going on, may be heard at a great distance.

In severe winters, flocks of Whoopers, Whistling Swans, or Elks, as
they are variously called, come farther south, and may be observed
from time to time on different parts of the coast.


   Whole plumage pure white; bill black, orange-yellow at the
   base; irides dark; feet black; tail of eighteen feathers.
   _Young birds_ greyish brown; immature specimens tinged on the
   head and belly with rust-red. Length three feet nine inches;
   breadth forty-six to fifty. Eggs dull white, tinged with brown.

Bewick's Swan is distinguished from the Whooper, not only by the
characters given above, but by strongly marked anatomical features,
which were first pointed out by Mr. Yarrell, who, with the modesty and
generosity for which he was noted, gave it its present name; 'Thus
devoting it to the memory of one whose beautiful and animated
delineations of subjects in natural history entitle him to this

In severe winters it is fairly frequent on the coasts of England, and
even abundant in Scotland. In the case of distant flocks the only
criterion is size; and as this species is one-third less than the
Whooper, there is little probability of an experienced observer being
mistaken in the identity.

In their habits they closely resemble their congeners, but are less
graceful in their movements on the water, and spend a larger portion
of their time on land.


   Head, throat, and upper back black, with green reflections;
   lower parts of the neck and back, flanks, rump and tail (except
   the black tip) white; from the shoulders a broad band of bright
   chestnut, which meets on the breast, passing into a broad,
   blotched, black band, which passes down the abdomen nearly to
   the tail; under tail-coverts pale reddish yellow; scapulars
   black; wing-coverts white; secondaries chestnut; primaries
   black; speculum bronzed green and purple; bill, and
   protuberance at the base, red; irides brown; feet crimson-red.
   The _female_ wants the red protuberance on the bill, and the
   colours generally are somewhat less bright. Length twenty to
   twenty-two inches. Eggs white, tinged with green.

The Sheldrake is the largest and among the handsomest of the British
Ducks, and if easy of domestication would be no doubt a common
ornament of our lakes and rivers. It is, however, in Great Britain at
least, a marine bird; though from one of its French names, _Canard des
Alpes_, it would seem also to frequent the large continental lakes.
Numerous attempts have been made to familiarize it with inland
fresh-water haunts to which some other species readily take, but they
have rarely succeeded, while to induce it to breed at a distance from
its sea-side home has proved yet more difficult.

It differs from the majority of the Duck tribe in remaining on the
coast of Britain throughout the year. In South Wales, for example, it
is seen in winter and early spring, but about the breeding season it
disappears for a few weeks. During this interval it is employed in
incubation, but when its brood is hatched it is seen again,
accompanied by a troop of ducklings, feeding in the creeks and marshy
places. When thus discovered, the young broods are commonly hunted
down by sea-side idlers for the sake of being sold to any one who cares
to try the experiment of rearing them.

On the coast of Norfolk it is more usual to search for the nests, in
order to secure the eggs and place them under a tame Duck or domestic
Hen. The male and female keep together, not only during incubation,
but until the young are able to provide for themselves. It derives the
name 'Burrow Duck', by which it is also known, from its custom of
making its nest either in the burrow of a rabbit or in a hole hollowed
out by itself. The nest is constructed of such herbage as abounds in
the neighbourhood; it is lined with down plucked from the breast of
the parent bird, and contains from ten to twelve eggs.

Pennant (vol. ii, p. 257) says of these birds: "They inhabit the
sea-coasts and breed in rabbit-holes. When a person attempts to take
their young, the old birds show great address in diverting his
attention from the brood; they will fly along the ground as if
wounded, till the former can get into a place of security, and then
return and collect them together."

From this instinctive cunning, Turner, with good reason, imagines them
to be the _chenalopex_, or _Tox-Goose_, of the ancients; the
natives of the Orkneys to this day call them the _Sly-Goose_, from an
attribute of that quadruped.

Sheldrake are more numerous during the summer in North Britain than in
the South, but in winter they are driven by the freezing of their
feeding-grounds to more temperate climates. Here numbers of them meet
the fate of wild fowl generally, and specimens are often to be seen
exposed in the English markets, though their flesh is held in little
estimation as food.

Sheld means parti-coloured. 'Shelled' is still current in the eastern
counties of England. Shelled duck is the more proper appellation.
Howard Saunders calls it Sheld-duck always.


   Head and neck dark green; at the base of the neck a white
   collar; upper parts marked with fine zigzag lines of ash-brown
   and grey; breast chestnut; lower parts greyish white, marked
   with fine zigzag ash-brown lines; speculum dark blue with
   purple and green reflections, bordered above and below with
   black and white; four middle feathers of the tail curled
   upwards; bill greenish yellow; irides red-brown; feet orange.
   Length twenty-four inches. _Female_ smaller; plumage mottled
   with various shades of brown and grey; throat whitish; speculum
   as in the _male_; all the tail-feathers straight. Eggs greenish

Its size, abundance, and value as an article of food, have given to
the Wild Duck an importance which belongs to few other British birds;
and the modes of capturing it are so varied and interesting that they
are often to be met with described in works not exclusively devoted to
natural history. For this reason I shall in great measure confine my
notice of this bird to such particulars in its history as the reader
may probably have an opportunity of verifying by his own observation
in the course of his rambles among places which it habitually

The term Wild Duck', properly applicable to the female bird only
('Mallard' being the distinctive name of the male), is generally
employed to include both sexes. The difference in the plumage of the
two is very great, as, indeed, is the case with all those varieties
of the same bird which, under the name of 'Tame Ducks,' have altered
the least from their natural wild type. Yet in the summer months, when
both sexes moult,[33] the Mallard puts off the whole of his
characteristic gay plumage, and appears in the sober brown garb of the
Duck. It is only, in fact, from October to May that the Mallard can be
distinguished from his partner by his markings. At this season, too,
young birds, so far as they are fledged, are of the same tone of
colouring. Domesticated birds are subject to the same change; but a
reason for this singular metamorphosis no naturalist, as far as I am
aware, has ventured to assign.

Wild Ducks hold a prominent place among birds of the most extensive
distribution, being 'indigenous to the greater part of the northern
hemisphere'.[34] In consequence of this wide range they must of
necessity frequent many districts highly favourable to their
preservation; they are therefore numerous. Equally well adapted for
travelling by sea and through the air, and capable of enduring great
variations of heat and cold, their presence may be expected wherever a
tract of country occurs calculated to supply them with food and
opportunities for nidification. As long as England abounded in
marshes, and her rivers ran through wastes rarely frequented by man,
Wild Ducks were numerous in many counties where they are now but
rarely seen. Many have retired before draining and civilization, yet
they never totally desert us. In most districts where there are rivers
lined with reeds, even not so very far removed from the sound of the
steam-engine, one may, by cautiously and quietly guiding one's steps,
fall in with a brood of active ducklings sifting the ooze, with the
instinct of their kind, for minute insects; flapping along the water
in chase of a fly, or paddling among the reeds on the look-out for
anything good to eat. The matron of the party, with a proud
consciousness of her dignity as sentinel and protector, preserves a
more stately demeanour, but, with this slight difference, is similarly
occupied. As you approach she is the first to descry you; with a
homely 'quack', differing in no respect from the note of the
domesticated bird, she sounds an alarm, and the whole family, mother
and children, are quickly concealed among the reeds. It is possible,
by long-continued persecution, to induce her to rise, but she does so
reluctantly, and even then, unless you are such a barbarian as to
shoot her, all is yet safe. The young will hide themselves securely
until danger is past, and she, not far off, though unseen, is circling
round her helpless brood. In an islet, probably, of the river; in a
tuft of reeds surrounded by quagmire; among thick bushes near the
bank; under the stump of an alder, or even high up among the branches,
she formerly had her nest, composed of grass, and lined with down from
her own breast; and at no great distance from this her offspring are
yet lingering. The latter could swim immediately that they left the
egg, but their bodies are large and heavy in proportion to the size of
their wings, so that they will be unable to fly until nine or ten
weeks old, when they will be thoroughly fledged, and only
distinguishable from their parent by their smaller size.

From the rapidity with which young Ducks 'scutter' along the surface
of the water, using both feet and wings, they are called by sportsmen,
'flappers'; and from the same habit, no doubt, the children's game of
'Ducks-and-drakes' was named. The word is one with which I have been
familiar, like most other people, from my earliest years, yet I never
thought of its etymology until I was passing, a few weeks since, in a
steamer down Loch Tarbet. The boat disturbed a party of 'flappers'
which were feeding near the shore, and as they half flew, half paddled
away at a rapid rate, the sport and the name suggested themselves to
my mind together. It is mostly absent from the northern districts of
Scotland in winter.

In marshy districts, both in England and Scotland, these birds remain
all the year round; but their numbers are greatly augmented in winter
by the arrival of large flocks from the north. These fly mostly by
night, in long lines, and proceed to the fens and salt marshes, where
they feed until daylight. They then put out to sea, and rest, floating
on the water, until dusk; and it is while they are on their way to and
from these feeding-grounds that the sea-side gunners do the greatest
execution among them. They fly mostly in small parties, and utter no
note; but if after dusk a shot be fired in the vicinity of a marsh or
of a piece of reclaimed land intersected by ditches, it is followed by
a concert of 'quacks' from all sides, which proves that however small
the parties may have been, the number of Ducks collectively must be
very great.

In the neighbourhood of the salt marshes in the eastern counties, one
may meet, in severe winter weather, just before dusk, little knots of
men setting out on ducking expeditions. Each is furnished with a
spade, a bag of straw, and a gun. Experience has taught these men that
the line of flight usually taken by the birds is along a narrow creek
or arm of the sea, which has on either side a high muddy bank. For
such a point the gunners are making. The use of the spade is to dig a
hole for concealment in the mud, and the straw is intended to furnish
a dry seat. It must be a wearisome occupation to sit here hour after
hour, with nothing to do but to hope that birds are coming; and when
they come matters are not much mended; for if the shot be successful
it will never do to leave the hiding-place in order to pick up the
booty, or another chance may be missed. Three or four hours are thus
spent, and on moonlight nights a longer time. The slain birds are then
collected, a few hours are given to rest, and in the morning twilight
the same scene is re-enacted.

When it is desired to construct a decoy,[35] a quiet, shallow pond is
selected, edged with reeds, and having an extent of from two to fifty
acres or more. From the edge of this are dug, at various points,
curved creeks, called 'pipes', broad at the mouth, and contracting
till the banks meet. Over each of these pipes is thrown a net,
supported on arches made of hoops; the first about ten feet high, the
others diminishing in size, and the whole ending in a bag-net, or
'purse'. On each bank of the pipes are erected screens made of reeds,
high enough to conceal a man. Previously to commencing operations the
decoy-man has let loose on the pond a few tame Ducks, closely
resembling wild birds in plumage, who are familiar with his person and
have been trained to come at his call. Accompanied by a little dog,
'a piper', he stations himself behind a screen, near the mouth of a
pipe which faces the wind, choosing this position because Ducks prefer
to swim against the wind and to feed on a lee shore. When the pond is
well stocked with birds he throws some corn on the water near the
mouth of a pipe, and makes a low whistle. At the familiar sound the
'coy-ducks' hasten to the spot, and, if all be well, are followed by a
portion of the wild birds. The piper is then let loose, and
immediately runs to the water's edge. The Wild Ducks, either from
curiosity, or some unknown motive, paddle towards him. The ruse
succeeding so far, the piper is made to appear for a moment beyond the
next screen, and so on until a party of Ducks have been lured so far
up the pipe as to be out of sight of those remaining in the pond. The
decoy-man, who has all the while been lying hid near the first screen,
then shows himself to his intended victims, who, in their flight,
hurry on to the 'purse', and are caught and dispatched at leisure. All
this time the coy-ducks, if well trained, have remained at the mouth
of the pipe, feeding, and unconsciously enticing new-comers into the

That this method of capturing wild-fowl is effective, may be inferred
from the fact that decoys of a precisely similar kind have been worked
ever since the time of Willughby (1676), who describes them at length.
A Son of the Marshes gives a fuller account of Duck decoys in
_Wild-Fowl and Sea-Fowl_.

   [33] Formerly spelt 'mute', from the Latin _muto_, to change.

   [34] Yarrell, vol. iii. p. 273.

   [35] Decoy, a corruption of Duck-coy, from the Dutch _kooi_, a
        cage or pen. See _Ray and Willughby's Ornithology_, p. 286,
        where, mention being made of a method of capturing wild-fowl
        which had been introduced into England from Holland, the
        following passage occurs: 'Piscinas hasce cum allectatricibus
        et reliquo suo apparatu _Decoys_ seu _Duck-coys_ vocant,
        allectatrices _Coy-ducks_.'


   Head and neck light grey, speckled with brown; back and breast
   dark grey, the feathers ending in crescent-shaped whitish
   lines; belly white, speckled with brown; small wing-coverts and
   tip of the wing chestnut; greater coverts, rump, and
   tail-coverts black; speculum white; bill black; irides brown;
   feet orange. _Female_ less distinctly marked. Length twenty
   inches. Eggs buffy white, tinged with green.

This species of Duck now breeds in Norfolk and Suffolk. Its food and
habits closely resemble those of the other Ducks; it is active, and
both swims and flies rapidly, preferring fresh-water lakes to the sea,
and resorting principally to such pieces of water as afford it ready
concealment. Meyer states that when flocks of Gadwalls 'fly about,
they keep close together in a ball, but not in a line, and may
therefore be very soon distinguished from the common wild Duck'. By
day they mostly swim about in the open water, and come near the shore
to feed in the evening. They breed in the great northern marshes of
both hemispheres. The Gadwall is a surface feeder and not a diving


   Head and neck glossy green; breast pure white; belly and flanks
   chestnut; back brown; lesser wing-coverts pale blue; scapulars
   white, speckled and spotted with black; speculum brilliant
   green; bill lead colour; irides yellow; feet reddish orange.
   _Female_--head pale reddish brown, streaked with dusky; upper
   plumage dusky brown, edged with reddish white; under plumage
   reddish with large brown spots; the blue and green of the wings
   less bright. Length twenty inches. Eggs greenish buff.

The Shoveler is well distinguished among all the British Ducks by the
form and structure of its bill, which in old birds is dilated near the
extremity into a form approaching that of a spoon, and is furnished
with a fringe of slender lamellæ, resembling a comb. Towards the end
of the bill these are not conspicuous as long as the mouth of the bird
is closed, but along the narrower part they are prominent under all
circumstances. So singular an apparatus obviously indicates that the
habit of the Shoveler is to sift water and mud for the sake of
securing the insects and worms which they contain. It resorts,
therefore, to the margins of fresh-water lakes, ponds, and ditches,
and is rarely seen at sea, nor does it ever dive after its food in
deep water, but frequently comes to land in quest of slugs, snails,
and worms. It is met with from time to time in many parts of England;
a tolerable number remain to breed with us, especially in the eastern
counties. Its distaste for the sea disqualifies it for inhabiting the
Arctic Regions; consequently it breeds in temperate countries, and
flies farther to the south in winter, having been observed on both
shores of the Mediterranean, and in some of the warm parts of India.
The extensive drainage of our fens and marshes has made it less
frequent in England than it formerly was; but in Holland and other
continental countries it is abundant. The nest, usually placed in a
tuft of grass, is made of dry grass mixed with down which the female
plucks from her own body, and contains eight or nine eggs.

The Shoveler is not sufficiently common in this country to claim any
importance as an article of food, but its flesh is said to be superior
in flavour even to that of the famous Canvas-backed Duck of America.

The male annually undergoes a moult, or change of feathers, similar
to that described as taking place in the Mallard.


   Two central tail-feathers much elongated, black; head and neck
   rich dark brown; back and flanks marked with zigzag black and
   grey lines; front of the neck, and a line on each side, white;
   speculum lustrous with green and purple, bounded above by
   reddish brown, below by white; bill lead colour and black.
   _Female_--central tail-feathers scarcely elongated; head and
   neck reddish brown speckled with dusky; upper feathers dusky
   edged with reddish white; lower plumage reddish yellow spotted
   with brown; speculum dull yellowish brown; no white line on the
   side of the neck. Length twenty-six inches. Eggs dull greenish

The Pintail Duck is a northern bird which visits our shores in small
parties, during severe winters, and it nests sometimes in Ireland. In
form it is the most elegant of all the Ducks, and its movements are
described as being active and graceful. I have never myself had the
good fortune to see one alive, the only specimen I ever possessed
having been sent to me from Newcastle-on-Tyne, near which it was shot
at sea. It is not, however, considered a very rare species, as the
fishermen on the Norfolk coast, and perhaps elsewhere, are well
acquainted with it. Yarrell states, that on the coast of Dorsetshire
and Hampshire it is so well known as to have acquired a local name,
'Sea Pheasant'.[36] For this it is indebted to the length of its tail,
in which respect it differs from all the common Ducks. It arrives
early in autumn, and remains either on the coast or in the inland
marshes, until the return of spring; differing, indeed, little in its
habits from the common wild Duck. It is occasionally taken in decoys
in Norfolk, and has often been observed to associate with Wigeons. Its
note is described by Montagu as being 'extremely soft and inward'.

The Pintail Duck has a wide geographical range, as it either breeds in
or pays winter visits to the greater part of the northern hemisphere.
The male annually assumes in summer the plumage of the female,
resembling in this respect the Mallard, to be described hereafter. The
flesh is considered excellent, on which account it is much sought
after by wild-fowl shooters, both on the coast and in the fens.

   [36] Willughby calls it the 'Sea Pheasant', or 'Cracker'.


       Garganey [M]

   Teal [M] [F]

       Wigeon [M]

   Pintail Duck [M]

                              [_p. 190._]]


   Pochard [M] [F]

       Tufted Duck [M]

   Scaup [M]

       Golden Eye [M] [F]]


   Head and neck bright chestnut; on each side of the head a broad
   green band edged with buff, inclosing the eye and extending to
   the nape; lower part of the neck, back, and flanks, marked with
   numerous black and white zigzag lines; breast reddish white,
   with roundish black spots; speculum black, green and purple,
   edged with white; bill dusky; irides brown; feet ash.
   _Female_--upper plumage dusky brown mottled with reddish grey;
   throat, cheeks and a band behind the eyes yellowish white
   spotted with black; speculum black and green. Length fourteen
   inches and a half. Eggs yellowish white.

The Teal is the smallest, and by no means the least beautiful, among
the British Ducks. It is decidedly an indigenous species, as it breeds
in many parts both of Great Britain and Ireland, especially in the
eastern counties, in Welsh bogs, and northern mosses. It is
domesticated, too, without difficulty, and is generally to be found on
artificial and other pieces of water where the breed of water fowl is
encouraged. Its favourite summer resorts in England are lakes which
are lined with rushes, boggy places on the moors, and sedgy rivers. It
is an active bird, rising from the water with great facility, and
having a rapid flight. The few Teal which remain all the year with us
pair early in spring. I have observed them in couples on the Kennet,
in Berkshire, before winter had well departed. They appear to have a
strong attachment to any place on which they have once fixed to build
their nest, and return to the same locality year after year; and the
young brood remain in the neighbourhood of their birth-place until
pairing time in the following year. The nest is usually placed among
coarse herbage by the bank of a lake or river, and is constructed of
decayed vegetable matter, lined with down and feathers, and contains
from ten to fifteen eggs. The number, however, of these birds to be
found with us in summer is as nothing compared with the immense flocks
which visit our inland lakes and swamps in winter. They are then much
sought after for the table, being considered more delicate eating than
any others of the tribe. In some parts they repair to salt marshes and
the sea-shore, where they share the fate of the Wild Duck.

Willughby tells us that in his time the Teal and Wigeon, considered as
marketable goods, were classed together as 'half-fowl', their value
being only half that of the Wild Duck. In the fen counties they are
still ranked together as 'Half Ducks', and for the same reason.

The Teal has two notes, one a kind of quack, the other, uttered by the
male only during winter, which has been compared to the whistle of the
Plover. Its food consists of water insects, molluscs, worms, and the
seeds of grass and sedge. It is widely distributed in Scotland.


   Crown dusky; over the eye a white band extending down the neck;
   throat black; neck chestnut-brown streaked with white; breast
   pale yellowish brown, with crescent-shaped black bars; back
   mottled with dusky grey and brown; speculum greyish green
   bordered above and below with white; bill dark brown; irides
   brown; feet grey. Length sixteen inches. Eggs buff.

This elegant little bird visits us in March and April, being at that
time, it is supposed, on its way to the south. Though not among the
rarest of the tribe, it is now of unusual occurrence, but was formerly
so regular a visitor in the eastern counties, that it acquired the
provincial name of 'Summer Teal'. Young birds are commonly seen on the
Broads of Norfolk in July and August, distinguishable from young Teal
by the lighter colour of their plumage, more slender habit, and
greater length of neck. The nests are built among the thickest reed
beds, and owing now to protection their numbers are increasing. In
Ireland it is the rarest of the well-known ducks.


   _Male_--head and upper part of the neck chestnut, the cheeks
   and crown speckled with black; a broad cream-coloured band
   extending from the bill to the crown; throat nearly black; a
   narrow collar of white and black wavy lines extending over the
   back and flanks; lower part of the neck and sides of the breast
   chocolate colour; scapulars velvet-black edged with white;
   wing-coverts white; quills ash-brown; speculum glossy green,
   with a black band above and below; tail wedge-shaped, two
   middle feathers pointed, and the longest, dusky ash; under
   tail-coverts black; bill bluish grey, the tip black; irides
   hazel; feet dusky grey. _Female_--head and neck reddish brown,
   speckled with dusky; back and scapulars dusky brown, the
   feathers edged with rusty red; wing-coverts brown, edged with
   whitish; speculum without the green gloss; flanks reddish
   brown. Length twenty inches. Eggs brownish white.

The name Whew Duck, or Whewer, by which, this bird is known in some
parts of England, was given to it on account of its emitting a shrill
whistle while flying. The name is an old one, for Ray and Willughby
describe it under the name of 'Whewer'. Its French name _Siffleur_,
'Whistler', has reference to the same peculiarity, and by this note
the bird may often be distinguished from others of the same tribe,
when so far off that the eye fails to identify it. The Wigeon ranks
next to the Teal and Wild Duck as an article of food, and, being more
plentiful than either of these birds, it is among the best known of
all the Ducks which frequent our shores. It breeds over most of
Sutherland, and sparingly elsewhere in the north; a few pairs are said
to nest also in various parts of Ireland.

Flocks of Wigeons repair to our shores in autumn, and either betake
themselves to inland lakes and morasses, or keep to the coast,
especially where there are extensive salt marshes. In winter their
numbers are greatly increased, especially in the south; and as they
feed by day as well as by night, they offer themselves a ready prey to
the fowler. Their food consists of marine and fresh-water insects,
small shellfish, sea-weed, and grass. Their nidification differs
little from that of the Teal.


   Head and neck bright chestnut; breast, upper part of the back,
   and rump black; back, scapulars, flanks, and abdomen greyish
   white, marked with numerous fine wavy lines; no speculum; bill
   black, with a broad lead-coloured transverse band; irides
   bright orange; feet lead colour, the membranes black.
   _Female_--smaller; head, neck, and breast, reddish brown;
   throat white, mottled with reddish; large brown spots on the
   flanks; wavy lines on the back less distinct. Length nineteen
   inches. Eggs greenish white.

A hardy northern bird of wide geographical range, with considerable
power of flight, a skilful diver, and not particular as to diet, the
Pochard is an abundant species. It breeds in some districts: But it
is principally as a winter visitant that it is known in the south of
Europe. In Norfolk 'Red-Headed' Pochards are perhaps more numerous
than any other kind of Duck which falls to the gun of the sea-side
fowler. Small parties of these birds may frequently be seen by day
flying over the sea, or swimming securely in the offing; and in the
evening great numbers resort to the fens and salt marshes, where they
feed on various kinds of animal matter, and the roots and leaves of
grasses and aquatic plants. As they are considered good eating, and
command a ready sale, they contribute to the support of the sea-side
population, who, when thrown out of work by the severe weather, wander
about the shore by day and lie in wait by night, armed with guns of
various calibre, for the chance of securing in one or two Ducks the
substitute for a day's wages.

They are variously known in different places by the name of Pochards,
Pokers, Dunbirds, and Red-eyed Pochards. On some parts of the coast of
Norfolk I found that they are included with the Wigeon under the
common name of 'Smee-Duck'.

The Pochard builds its nest among reeds, in Russia, Denmark, and the
north of Germany, and lays twelve or thirteen eggs.

The Red-crested is a different species from the 'Red-headed.'


   Feathers on the back of the head elongated; head, neck, breast,
   and upper plumage black, with purple, green, and bronze
   reflections; speculum and under plumage white, except the
   abdomen, which is dusky; bill blue, nail black; irides bright
   yellow; feet bluish, with black membranes. _Female_--smaller,
   the crest shorter; upper plumage dull black, clouded with
   brown; under plumage reddish white, spotted on the breast and
   flanks with reddish brown. Length seventeen inches. Eggs
   greenish white spotted with light brown.

The points of difference in habit between this and the preceding
species are so few that it is scarcely necessary to say more than that
it is a regular winter visitor to the British Isles, and is
distributed, generally in small flocks, never alone, over our lakes
and marshes, arriving in October and taking its departure in March or
April. Its food is less exclusively of a fishy nature than that of the
Scaup Duck, consequently its flesh is more palatable, being, in the
estimation of French gastronomists, _un rôti parfait_. The Tufted Duck
now breeds in a good many districts here.


   Head and upper part of the neck black, with green reflections;
   breast and rump black; back and scapulars whitish, marked with
   numerous fine wavy black lines; belly, flanks, and speculum,
   white; bill blue, the nail and edges black; irides bright
   yellow; feet ash-grey, with dusky membranes. _Female_--a broad
   whitish band round the base of the bill; head and neck dusky
   brown; breast and rump dark brown; back marked with fine wavy
   lines of black and white; flanks spotted and pencilled with
   brown, irides dull yellow. Length twenty inches. Eggs

The Scaup is so called from its feeding on 'scaup', a northern word
for a bed of shellfish.[37] It is a northern bird, arriving on our
coasts in October and November, and remaining with us till the
following spring. During this time it frequents those parts of the
coast which abound in shellfish, mostly diving for its food after the
manner of the Scoters. On the coast of Norfolk, where Scaups often
appear during winter in large flocks, they are called 'Mussel Ducks',
a name no less appropriate than Scaup; for mussels, and indeed many
other kinds of shellfish, as well as insects and marine plants, seem
equally acceptable to them. Selby records a single instance of the
Scaup having bred so far south as Sutherlandshire, a female having
been seen in the month of June, accompanied by a young one. They have
paired on Loch Leven. It is generally distributed along the shores of
Great Britain, excepting on the south coast [of Ireland]. In August,
1861, I observed two birds swimming sociably on a small fresh-water
loch in the island of Islay, which, upon examination through a
telescope, appeared to me to be, one, a kind of Goose, the other
decidedly a Duck of some kind. On inquiry I found that the former was
a Bernacle Goose, which had been caught in a neighbouring island in
the previous winter, and had been given to the laird's keeper, who
pinioned it and turned it out on the loch to shift for itself. Of the
Duck nothing was known, nor had it been observed before. It eventually
proved to be an adult male Scaup Duck, but what had induced it to
remain there all the summer in the society of a bird of a different
tribe, is a question which I did not attempt to solve.

The Scaup Duck is very abundant in Holland during winter, covering the
inland seas with immense flocks. It is found more sparingly in other
continental countries. It breeds in the extreme north, both in the
eastern and western hemispheres.

   [37] 'Avis hæc _the Scaup Duck_ dicta est quoniam _scalpam_,
        i. e. pisces testaceos fractos seu contritos,
        esitat.'--WILLUGHBY, p. 279.


   A white patch under the eye; head and neck black, lustrous with
   violet and green; back black; scapulars, great wing-coverts,
   speculum, and under parts, white; bill black; irides golden
   yellow; feet orange, with black membranes. _Female_--all the
   head and neck dark brown; feathers of the back dusky bordered
   with dark ash; greater wing-coverts white tipped with black;
   speculum and under parts white; tip of the bill yellowish,
   irides and feet pale yellow. Length eighteen and a half inches.
   Eggs buffy white.

This pretty, active little Duck is a regular winter visitant to the
British shores, from autumn to spring, resorting to most of the
localities frequented by other species, and frequently falling to the
sportsman's gun, though little prized for the table. Females and young
birds, called Mormons, are most numerous in England. They are very
strong of flight, and are remarkable for making with their wings as
they cleave the air a whistling sound, thought to resemble the
tinkling of bells, whence the German name _die Schelle Ente_, Bell
Duck, the Norfolk provincial name Rattle-Wing, and the systematic name
_Clangula_. The young male does not make this noise, and having also
dissimilar plumage from the adult, has been described by some authors
as a distinct species under the name of Morillon.

The food of the Golden Eye varies with its haunts. In estuaries it
feeds on crustaceous and molluscous animals and small fish, which it
obtains by diving. In rivers and lakes it feeds principally on the
larvæ and pupæ of insects, for which also it dives in clear deep
water. The call-note is an unmelodious quack or croak.

The Golden Eye breeds only in high latitudes, and builds its nest in
holes of trees, often at the height of twelve or fifteen feet from the
water, into which it has been seen to convey its young one by one,
holding them under the bill, and supported on its neck. The Lapps, in
order to supply themselves with eggs, are in the habit of placing in
the trees, on the banks of the rivers and lakes frequented by these
birds, boxes with an entrance hole, which, though invariably robbed,
are visited again and again.

The Golden Eye is found in many countries of Europe, in Northern Asia,
and in North America.


   _Winter plumage_--head, neck, elongated scapulars, under parts,
   and lateral tail-feathers white; a large patch of
   chestnut-brown on each cheek; flanks ash-grey; rest of the
   plumage brownish black; two central tail-feathers very long;
   bill black, with a transverse orange band; irides orange; feet
   yellow with dark membranes. Length, including the tail,
   twenty-two inches. The _female_ wants the white scapulars and
   elongated tail; head and neck dark brown and greyish white;
   below the ear-coverts a patch of brown; neck in front light
   brown, clouded with darker brown; upper plumage generally dark
   brown, under white. Length sixteen inches. Eggs greenish white,
   tinged with buff.

Though a few specimens of this beautiful bird are obtained from time
to time in various parts of England, especially on the coast of the
eastern counties, it cannot be considered other than a rarity. 'Among
the northern islands of Scotland, and along the coasts of the
mainland', Macgillivray tells us,'these birds make their appearance in
October, in small flocks, which gradually enlarge by the accession of
new families. In the Bay of Cromarty, where they are very common, it
is pleasant to see them in small flocks scattered over the water. They
are most expert swimmers, and live on bivalve shellfish and crustacea,
which they obtain by diving in shallow or moderately deep water. The
male in swimming raises his tail obliquely, in rough water almost
erects it, and is remarkable for the grace and vivacity of his
movements. Their flight is rapid, direct, and generally performed at
the height of a few feet. They rise easily from the water, especially
when facing a breeze, and alight rather abruptly. Sometimes during the
day, but more frequently at night, they emit various loud and rather
plaintive cries, as well as cacklings of shorter guttural notes.' Mr.
Hewitson, who met with many of them in Norway, considers their note to
be strikingly wild and most interesting. Farther north the Long-Tailed
Duck is yet more abundant. Mr. Dunn says, 'This species (Calloo) is
very abundant in both Orkney and Shetland, arriving about the middle
of October, and departing again in the month of March. It is to be met
with in all the inlets or voes, generally in large flocks, never far
from the land, feeding upon small shellfish and star-fish. When on the
wing it utters a musical cry, something like "Calloo", which may be
heard at a great distance. From this cry it derives its provincial
name.' In the Arctic regions of both continents these birds are so
numerous as to be known by the name of 'Arctic Ducks'. They build
their nests among rushes near the shore of fresh-water lakes, and line
them with down from their breasts, like the Eider Duck. Iceland
appears to be the extreme southern limit of their breeding-ground.

The Long-Tailed Duck is described by Willughby under the name of _Anas
caudacuta Islandica_. by the natives called _Havelda_. Selby and
modern ornithologists have preserved the Iceland name in _Harolda_.


      Eider Duck [M] [F] [M]

         Long Tailed Duck [M] [F]

   Velvet Scoter [F] [M]

      Common Scoter [M] [F]

                              [_p. 198._]]


       Smew [M] [F]

   Merganser [M]

       Dabchick [M] [F]

    Goosander [M]]


   Prolongations of the bill flat; upper part of the head
   velvet-black, with a central whitish band, lower greenish
   white; neck and back white; breast ringed with red; lower
   plumage black; bill and feet greenish grey; irides brown.
   _Female_--general plumage reddish brown, with transverse black
   bars; wing-coverts black, bordered with dark reddish brown; two
   whitish bars across the wing; belly brown barred with black.
   Length twenty-five inches. Eggs shining greenish grey.

The Eider Duck differs from all the birds of the same tribe hitherto
described, in being essentially and absolutely a sea-bird. Rarely
found on inland waters, it does not even visit the fresh-water lochs
which, in many places in the north, are only separated from the sea by
a bar of sand and shingle. It spends the greater part of its time on
the water, and feeds on fish, molluscs, and other animal matter which
it can obtain by diving. In the latter art it is very expert, and when
pursued by the fowler generally manages to escape, as it can remain a
long time under water, and on rising to the surface is ready to
descend again almost instantly. Though a northern bird, it is
subjected to no privations by the freezing of lakes and marshes, since
it finds its rest and food on the open sea. Consequently it is not
migratory, and stray specimens only visit the southern shores of
England. Where it was bred, there, probably, or not far off, it
remains all the year round. The Farn Islands, off the coast of
Northumberland, are considered to be the extreme southern limit of
its breeding-ground. In the Hebrides, the Orkneys and Shetland
Islands, it is quite at home, but in none of these places is it found
in sufficient numbers to give it importance. It is rare on the Irish

In the Arctic regions, in Iceland, and on the rocky coasts of Norway
and Sweden, Eider Ducks are very numerous. In Labrador, Audubon
informs us, they begin to form their nests about the end of May or the
beginning of June. 'For this purpose some resort to islands scantily
furnished with grass; others choose a site beneath the spreading
boughs of stunted firs, and, in such places, five, six, or even eight
are sometimes found beneath a single bush; many are placed on the
sheltered shelvings of rocks a few feet above high-water mark. The
nest, which is sunk as much as possible into the ground, is formed of
sea-weeds, mosses, and dried twigs, so matted and interlaced as to
give an appearance of neatness to the central cavity, which rarely
exceeds seven inches in diameter. In the beginning of June the eggs
are deposited, the male attending upon the female the whole time. The
eggs, which are regularly placed on the moss and weeds of the nest
without any down, are generally from five to seven. When the full
complement of eggs has been laid the female begins to pluck some down
from the lower part of the body; this operation is daily continued for
some time, until the roots of the feathers, as far forward as she can
reach, are quite bare. This down she disposes beneath and around the
eggs. When she leaves the nest to go in search of food, she places it
over her eggs to keep up their warmth.'

Sir W. J. Hooker, in his interesting _Journal of a Tour in Iceland_,
describes the nests as he saw them in the little island of Akaroe,
where, as on other uninhabited islands, the Eider Ducks breed in great
numbers. "On our landing on the rocky island, we found the Eider fowls
sitting upon their nests, which were rudely formed of their own down,
generally among the old and half-decayed sea-weed, that the storms had
cast high up on the beach, but sometimes only among the bare rocks. It
was difficult to make these birds leave their nests, and so little
inclined were many of them to do it, that they even permitted us to
handle them, whilst they were sitting, without their appearing to be
at all alarmed. Under each of them were two or four eggs; the latter
is the number they lay, but from many of them two had been taken for
food by the natives, who prefer those which have young ones in them.
_June 24th._" A few days later (June 27,) he visited the island of
Vidöe, the residence of the ex-governor, where, he says, 'we were
shown the immense number of Eider Ducks which lived on Vidöe, and
which were now sitting on eggs or young ones, exhibiting a most
interesting scene. The ex-governor made us go and coax some of the old
birds, who did not on that account disturb themselves. Almost every
little hollow place between the rocks is occupied with the nests of
these birds, which are so numerous that we were obliged to walk with
the greatest caution, to avoid trampling upon them; but, besides this,
the ex-governor has a number of holes cut in the smooth and sloping
side of a hill in two rows, and in every one of these, also, there is
a nest. No Norfolk housewife is half so solicitous after her poultry
as the ex-governor after his Eider Ducks, which by their down and eggs
afford him a considerable revenue; since the former sells for three
rix-dollars (twelve shillings) a pound. Cats and dogs are, at this
season of the year, all banished from the island, so that nothing may
disturb these birds.' I need scarcely add that the Eider down of
commerce is taken from these nests, not in a pure state but mixed with
fragments of plants. Pennant says that if the nest and eggs be taken
'the Duck lays again, and repeats the plucking of her breast, if she
is robbed after that, she will still lay, but the drakes must supply
the down, as her stock is now exhausted; if her eggs are taken a third
time, she wholly deserts the place. The quantity of down found in one
nest weighs about three-quarters of an ounce, and may be compressed
into a ball two inches in diameter, but on being shaken out will fill
a large hat.

The young brood take to the water immediately on being hatched. To
effect this they are often obliged to travel a considerable distance,
and if difficulties present themselves, insurmountable in any other
way, the parent bird carries the young in her bill. Once clear of the
rocks, they are liable to no further molestation from land robbers.
But the sea is not without its dangers, for the rapacious Black-backed
Gull frequently attacks them, and, but for the self-devotion and
bravery of the mother bird, would commit great havoc among them. At
his appearance the young dive in all directions, while the mother
counterfeits lameness to distract his attention from them to herself,
or springs from the water and attacks the Gull until he is compelled
to retire from the contest.


   General plumage deep black; quills dusky brown on the inner
   web, glossy grey beneath; disk of the upper mandible
   orange-yellow; protuberance at the base black; no speculum on
   the wings. _Female_--general plumage brown of several shades;
   bill without the protuberance; nostrils, and a spot towards
   the tip, yellowish. Length eighteen inches. Eggs pale buff.

This bird is well known along the eastern coast of England under the
name of Black Duck. Although a few scattered specimens have been
observed from time to time during summer, in most parts it must be
considered as a winter visitant only. Being the only entirely black
Duck which frequents our shores, it is distinguished among other
species by its colour alone. Small parties of these birds may
occasionally be seen on different parts of the coast, swimming and
diving at a short distance outside the surf, or flying, three or four
together, at an elevation of a few feet above the surface of the sea.
Large flocks visit the sea between us and Holland at times. They fly
rapidly in a straight line, and when diving remain a long time under
water. Their food consists of mussels and other shellfish, in quest of
which they often ascend the creeks and arms of the sea, but they are
rarely seen in fresh water.

The flesh of the Black Duck is said to be oily and fishy; on this
account it is in some Roman Catholic countries classed with fish, and
allowed to be eaten during Lent. In some parts of the Continent, where
it is consequently in demand, fishermen take advantage of its diving
propensities, and spread their nets over the mussel banks to which
they have observed that these birds resort, and capture them in large
numbers. The nest of the Scoter is described as being like that of the
Eider Duck, and similarly located. The female also covers her eggs
with down from her own breast, but in smaller quantities. A few of
this species remain to breed in the north of Scotland.


   General plumage velvet black; below the eyes a white crescent;
   speculum white; bill orange, protuberance at the base, nostrils
   and edge of mandibles, black; irides and feet red, the
   membranes of the latter black. _Female_ smaller; upper plumage
   sooty brown; under parts light grey, streaked and spotted with
   dusky brown; between the bill and eye a whitish spot, and
   another over the ear; bill dusky ash; irides brown; feet dull
   red. Length twenty-three inches. Eggs buff.

The Velvet Scoter, an inhabitant of the extreme northern regions of
Asia and Europe, appears in the British Isles as a winter visitor
only, being sometimes seen on the eastern coast of Scotland, in large
flocks, but not generally extending its migration to our southern
shores except in the severest weather. It may be distinguished from
the Common Scoter by its larger size, and yet more strikingly by the
conspicuous white bar across the wing.

The habits and food of the Velvet Duck differ in no material respect
from those of the Common Scoter, or Black Duck.


   A bony protuberance on each side of the bill near the base; no
   speculum; general plumage black; on the forehead and nape a
   patch of white; bill yellow, with a square black spot on each
   side near the base; irides white; feet red, the membranes
   black. In the _female_ the black is replaced by dark ash-brown,
   and the white by light grey; bill dark olive; feet brown, with
   black membranes. Length twenty inches. Eggs white.

Only a few specimens of this bird have been obtained in Europe, and
these probably had been driven eastward by storms from North America,
where alone they are found in any numbers. In habits and food the Surf
Scoter resembles the common species, deriving its name from the
pertinacity with which it selects, as its feeding-ground, a sandy
beach over which surf rolls. It rarely or never visits the salt


   Head and crest greenish black; back black; speculum (not barred
   with black), under parts, wing-coverts, outer scapulars, and
   some of the quills, buff; bill red, the ridge and nail black;
   feet vermilion. Length twenty-four to twenty-eight inches.
   _Female_ and _young_--head and crest reddish brown; breast and
   flanks pale buff; upper plumage dark ash; bill and feet dull
   red. Eggs dull white.

The Goosander is a regular winter visitor to the shores of Great
Britain and Ireland, frequenting bays and estuaries, but preferring
fresh-water rivers and lakes, where it makes great havoc among trout
and other fish. It is far more abundant in the north than in the
south, and, according to Macgillivray, is sometimes seen even in
summer in the Scotch lochs. It has been known to breed in the outer
Hebrides, and of late years in several parts of the Highlands, but the
general summer residence of this species is much farther to the north,
both in the eastern and western hemispheres. The habits of the
Goosander and Merganser are so much alike that further detail is

The females and young birds of the Goosander and Merganser are
popularly called Dun-divers.


   Head, crest, and neck black, with greenish reflections; a white
   collar round the neck; breast reddish brown, spotted with
   black; near the insertion of the wing several white spots,
   edged with black; speculum white, divided by two transverse
   black bars; back black; belly white, barred on the flanks and
   rump with wavy grey lines; bill and irides red; feet orange.
   Length twenty-two inches. _Female_ smaller; head and crest
   reddish brown; breast mottled with ash and white; upper plumage
   and flanks deep ash-colour; speculum with one black bar; bill
   and feet dull orange; irides brown. Eggs whitish ash.

This large and handsome bird is not uncommon in the estuaries and
rivers of Great Britain, but is most frequent in the north. It is
resident in Scotland and Ireland. The adult male is less frequently
seen than females and young males, which closely resemble one another
in size and plumage, both being inferior to the first in brilliancy of
colouring. Their food consists of fish, especially sand-eels, and,
when they find their way into fresh-water lakes and rivers, of eels
and trout, which they capture by diving, and retain with ease by the
help of their strong bills notched throughout like a saw.

In birds of the first year the tuft of feathers on the head is barely
perceptible, and there is but a slight tinge of red on the lower part
of the neck. Most of the Mergansers which resort to our shores during
winter visit us from high latitudes; but a few remain to breed in the
Scotch and Irish lakes, making their nests of dry herbage and moss
mixed with down from their own breasts.

The name Merganser, that is, 'Diving Goose', has reference to the size
of the bird and its habit of diving for its food. Its flight is strong
and rapid, but differs somewhat from that of the Ducks, the neck being
not stretched out to its full length, but slightly folded back. After
the young are hatched the male deserts the female and leaves her to
bring off her brood without assistance.


   Crest, neck, scapulars, smaller wing-coverts, and all the under
   parts white; cheeks and back of the head greenish black; two
   crescent-shaped marks advancing from the shoulders on each side
   to the breast black; tail ash coloured; bill and feet bluish
   grey, the membranes black; irides brown. Length seventeen
   inches. _Female_ smaller; head and cheeks reddish brown; under
   parts white, clouded on the breast, flanks, and rump, with
   ash-grey; upper plumage and tail greyish black; wings
   variegated with black, white, and grey. Eggs whitish.

The birds of this genus, though placed among the Anatidæ, or Duck
tribe, are so strongly marked by the conformation of the bill that a
simple examination of the head alone will enable the student to
distinguish either of the species from the true Ducks already
described. On the coast of Norfolk the popular name 'Smee Duck'
includes several kinds of Ducks, and I presume the present species;
but the bill, in the form of an elongated and almost cylindrical cone,
with the edges of both mandibles furnished with saw-like teeth pointed
backwards, cannot fail to distinguish the genus _Mergus_.

The Smew, or Smee, properly so called, is a winter visitor with us,
more impatient of cold than the Duck-tribe generally, and consequently
frequenting the southern more than the northern parts of the island.
In open weather it resorts to our rivers and fresh-water lakes, where
it feeds on small fish and other aquatic animals, which it obtains by
diving. In severe frosts it either flies farther south or repairs to
tidal rivers and harbours. Though not a rare bird, it is sparingly
distributed. It is found on many of the continental rivers, even those
which are far distant from the sea, but is not often killed, as it is
shy of being approached, readily takes wing, flies swiftly, and as a
diver is most rapid and expert. It is, however, little sought after,
for, in spite of its relationship, its strong fishy flavour prevents
it from passing muster as a Duck. Of its nesting little or nothing is
known. In the north of Devon it is called, according to Montagu, 'Vare
Wigeon', from the supposed resemblance of its head to that of a 'vare'
or weasel. I have also heard it called the 'Weasel Duck' in Norfolk,
and on the south coast the 'Weasel-headed'.




   Head, cheeks, neck, and upper part of the tail, bluish grey;
   back and wing-coverts darker; a white crescent-shaped spot on
   each side of the neck surrounded by scale-like feathers with
   green and purple reflections; primaries grey towards the base,
   white in the middle, and dusky towards the extremity, with the
   outer web white; tail barred with black at the end; abdomen
   whitish; bill orange, powdered with white at the base; iris
   light yellow; feet blood-red; claws brown. Length sixteen and a
   half inches. Eggs pure white.

Two hundred and fifty years ago the taste for keeping different sorts
of Pigeons was as strong as it is in the present day, and the popular
names of Runts, Croppers, Shakers, Carriers, Jacobins, Turbits,
Barbaries, Tumblers, Horsemen, Spots, etc., modern though they may
sound, were then applied to the very same varieties which are
described under these names in recent _Guides to the Poultry-yard_.
Many of these were of foreign origin, and were known at a remote
period in various eastern countries, so that there can be no doubt
that the custom of keeping tame Pigeons is of very ancient date.

The Pigeons in some of their habits approach the gallinaceous birds,
with which accordingly they are classed. They are furnished with long
and powerful wings, by help of which they can sustain a rapid and
continuous flight. They seek their food mostly on the ground, but do
not scratch with their feet, and are more given to bathe in water
than to flutter in a bath of dust, though in this habit also they not
unfrequently indulge. They are furnished, moreover, with a large crop,
in which the food supplied to their young is partially macerated and
reduced to a kind of pulp before the latter are fed. This process is
carried on more by the agency of the receiver than of the giver, as
the young birds, instead of opening their mouths and allowing the food
to be dropped in, help themselves by inserting their bills into the
sides of the old bird's mouth. Their mode of drinking differs from
that of the true gallinaceous birds; they do not take short sips,
lifting the head after every draught, but satisfy their thirst by one
continuous immersion of the whole bill. They build their nests of a
few sticks, and lay two white eggs.

Some of the foreign species are distinguished by their brilliant
plumage. Those inhabiting Britain are unmarked by gaudy tints, but
redeemed from plainness by the metallic glossy lustre of their neck

The Wood Dove, called also Wood Pigeon and Ring Dove, is the largest
British species, exceeding in dimensions most varieties of the
domestic Pigeon. The summer wanderer through a wood in almost any part
of the country can scarcely fail to have been disturbed in his
meditations by the sudden flapping of wings of some large bird, which,
without uttering any note, dashes through the foliage of a
neighbouring tree, and makes off with hurried flight for some distant
part of the wood. Seen through the openings of the trees, its
predominant tint is blue-grey, but a large patch of white is
distinctly perceptible on each wing. It might be mistaken for a hawk,
so rapidly does it cleave its way through the air; but birds of prey
are too wary to betray their movements by the sound of their wings;
they, too, rather launch into the air, than start with a violent
clapping of their pinions. A Jay might make a similar noise; but when
alarmed it always utters its harsh scream, and, if it comes in sight,
may at once be distinguished by the striking contrast of its white and
black feathers. The bird just disturbed can scarcely, then, be
anything but a Wood Dove, perhaps frightened from its nest, perhaps
attending on its mate, or it may have been simply digesting its last
meal, or waiting until sent forth by the cravings of hunger in quest
of a new one; for the bird, though exemplary as a spouse and parent,
has a large crop which is never allowed to remain long empty. The food
and habits of Wood Pigeons vary with the season. In spring and summer
they are most frequently seen alone or in pairs. They then feed
principally on the tender leaves of growing plants, and often commit
great ravage in fields of beans and peas. Spring-sown corn is attacked
by them both in the grain and the blade, and as soon as young turnips
have put forth their second pair of leaves, they, too, come in for
their share of devastation. As the season advances, they visit the
corn-fields, especially those in the vicinity of their native woods,
preferring, above all, those parts where the corn has been laid, and
where a neighbouring grove or thicket will afford them a ready retreat
if disturbed. They are very partial also to oily seeds of all kinds,
and it is said that since colza has been extensively grown in the
south of France, Wood Pigeons have become a scourge of agriculture,
and that consequently war is waged on them unsparingly. It has been
remarked also, that they have become much more abundant in Scotland in
consequence of 'the great increase in the cultivation of turnips and
clover, which afford them a constant supply of food during winter, and
the great increase of fir woods, which are their delight both for
roosting and rearing their young'. At the approach of autumn they
assemble in small flocks, and resort to oak and beech woods,
especially the last, where acorns and beech-mast, swallowed whole,
afford them an abundant and generous diet. They are now in great
demand for the table, but, being very cautious and shy, are difficult
of approach. A good many, however, are shot by men and boys, who
discover beforehand in what particular trees they roost, and, lying in
ambush to await their arrival, fire at them as they drop in small
parties. In winter, the small flocks unite and form large ones. So
large, indeed, are these sometimes in severe seasons, that it is fair
to suppose that their numbers are considerably augmented by subsidies
from colder climates, driven southwards perhaps by scarcity of food.
In districts abounding in oak and beech woods, they find abundance of
food during the greater part of the winter; but when this supply is
exhausted, or the ground is covered with snow, they repair once more
to the turnip-fields, and feed on the green leaves. Hunger, however,
does not rob them of their shyness, nor make them confiding; for let a
human figure appear in ever so large a field where a flock is feeding,
the alarm is at once caught and communicated to the whole party, who
lose no time in displaying the white bar on the wing, and are soon
beyond the reach of fowler and gun.

Among the first woodland sounds of spring and the last of autumn is
the note of the Ring Dove, often continued for a long time together,
always monotonous, but never wearisome. It is generally considered to
be tinged with melancholy, and on this account the bird itself is
supposed to have been named the Queest or Cushat

                           Deep toned
   The Cushat plains; nor is her changeless plaint
   Unmusical, when with the general quire
   Of woodland harmony it softly blends.

Wordsworth celebrates it under a name generally given to the next

   I heard a Stock Dove sing or say
   His homely tale, this very day;
   His voice was buried among trees,
   Yet to be come at by the breeze.
   It did not cease; but cooed and cooed,
   And somewhat pensively he wooed;
   He sang of love with quiet blending.
   Slow to begin, and never ending;
   Of sorrows, faith, and inward glee;
   That was the song, the song for me.

And again, still more happily:

   Over his own sweet voice the Stock Dove broods.

The note may be imitated by attempting to whistle, in a very deep
tone, the syllables 'cooe-coo-roo-o-o-o'; or still more closely by
clasping the hands together, so as to form a hollow, open only between
the second joints of the thumbs, and blowing the same words over the
orifice. With a little practise so close an imitation may be produced,
that a genuine cooer may be beguiled into giving an answer. I may add,
too, that with the same natural instrument and with a greater
expenditure of breath the hoot of the Owl may be imitated; with a
gentler effort and a quiver of the tongue the coo of the Turtle Dove
may be nearly approached.

The Wood Dove has never been considered to be the origin of the
domestic Pigeon, nor will it breed in captivity. There is no
difficulty, however, in rearing birds taken young from the nest; and
birds so brought up will alight with perfect confidence on the person
of their foster nurse, and feed from his hand or mouth. The nest of
the Wood Dove is an unsubstantial structure, composed of sticks so
loosely put together that the eggs or young birds are sometimes
visible from below. It is placed in a fork or among the branches of a
tree; a thick fir is preferred; but nests are to be met with in ivy
and thorn bushes either in a wood, coppice, or, more rarely, in a
hedgerow. The number of eggs is always two. The male bird assists in
the office of incubation.


   Head, throat, wings, and lower parts, bluish grey; the lower
   parts of the neck with metallic reflections, no white spots;
   breast wine-red; a black spot on the two last secondaries and
   some of the wing-coverts; primaries grey at the base, passing
   into dusky; tail grey barred with black at the extremity, the
   outer feather with a white spot on the outer web near the base;
   irides reddish brown; bill yellow, red at the base; feet red;
   claws dusky. Length twelve and a half inches. Eggs white.

The Stock Dove is by some persons supposed to be so called from its
having been believed at one time to be the origin of the domestic
Pigeon; but as it bore the name before the above question was mooted,
it is more reasonable to suppose that it derived its name from its
habit of nestling in the _stocks_ of trees, and not on the branches
like the Ring Dove, nor in caves like the Rock Dove. Ray and
Willughby, who treat the domestic Dove as a distinct species, gave it
the name of Oenas (from the Greek _oinos_, wine), and Vinago (from
the Latin _vinum_), from the purpled or wine-red hue of its breast and
wings. Temminck does not hesitate to identify the domestic Pigeon with
the Rock Dove, without even hinting the possibility of its having
derived its origin from the Stock Dove. Since, therefore, the two
birds have no marked resemblance, it may be reasonably supposed that
the relationship between them rests solely on the narrow foundation
that there exists a wild Pigeon, popularly called a Stock Dove, and
that the word 'stock' has among other meanings that of 'parentage' or
'origin'. Thus the name gave rise to a theory which, having a
plausible show, was hastily assumed, and was then employed to prove a
fact which will not bear the test of examination. The Stock Dove in
its habits closely resembles the Ring Dove, from which it cannot
easily be distinguished at a distance. When tolerably near, a sharp
eye can detect the absence of the white patch on the wings and of the
ring round the neck. Its flight is more rapid, and it rarely perches
on a slender bough, preferring to alight on a main branch or stump.
Its note is softer, and approaches that of the tame Pigeon. But the
great mark of distinction is that on which I have supposed its name to
be founded; that it does not build its nest among the branches of
trees, but in the side of a stump, or other locality, where no one
would even think of looking for a Ring Dove's nest. Yarrell states
that 'in the open counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, this species
frequently makes its nest in holes in the ground, generally selecting
a rabbit's burrow'. It has greatly increased in the south of England
of late, and it nests along the Moray and Dornock Firths. White, who
had never seen its nest, says that it used to be abundant at Selborne
'from November to February'. Yarrell saw two old birds exposed for
sale with Ring Doves, in London, on January 4. It resorts in spring to
the neighbourhood in which it was bred, as a convenient place for
rearing its own young, and at the end of summer repairs to woods and
groves better adapted for supplying it with its favourite food, acorns
and beech-mast. There it flocks together with Ring Doves, vast numbers
of which assemble in winter in some districts, and when the fowler
plies his occupation, shares their fate. It is, however, by no means
so common a bird as the Ring Dove at any season, nor is it so
generally distributed. In the North it is certainly only a summer
visitor; and, on the other hand, it is most abundant in the south of
Europe and in Africa during winter.


      Turtle Dove [M] [F]

   Stock Dove [F] Rock Dove [M]

      Wood Pigeon [M]

                              [_face p. 208_]]


      Red-legged Partridge [F]

   Grouse [M]

      Partridge [M]

    Black Grouse [M] [F]]


   Plumage bluish ash, lighter on the wings; rump white; neck and
   breast lustrous with green and purple reflections, without a
   white spot; two transverse black bands on the wings; primaries
   and tail tipped with black; rump white; outer tail-feather
   white on the outer web; irides pale orange; bill black; feet
   red. Length twelve and a half inches. Eggs white.

The Rock Dove, though a bird of extensive range, is less generally
known in its natural condition than either of the other British
species. As its name imports, its favourite place of resort is the
rocky coast; but this it frequents, not because it has any predilection
for the sea-shore and its productions, but that its instincts
teach it to make lofty rocks its stronghold, just as the natural
impulse of the Ring Dove is to find safety in the forests. If this
species is the original of all the numerous varieties of tame Pigeon,
it must inhabit most countries of the eastern hemisphere; for a
pigeon-fancier's dove-cot, to be complete, must contain several
sorts which were first brought from remote regions; and we know
that in Egypt, Phoenicia, and Persia, Pigeons had a mythological
importance at an early date. It is said that the Pigeons which
have established themselves in various public buildings of continental
cities, as Saint Mark at Venice, and Pont Neuf at Paris,
are exclusively Rock Pigeons; and I have seen it stated that they
frequent the towers of Canterbury Cathedral; but it is possible
that these may be in all cases derived from tame birds escaped
from domestication, and resuming, to a certain extent, their wild
habits and original plumage. That they resort to ruinous edifices
near the sea in retired districts is beyond question, as I have seen
them flying about and alighting on the walls of an old castle in the
island of Kerrera, near Oban, in the Western Highlands, indifferent,
seemingly, whether they nestled in the lofty cliffs on the
mainland, where they are numerous, or on the equally secure ruins
of masonry in the opposite island. That they are truly wild here
there can be no doubt. Indeed, the precipitous shores of Scotland,
the Hebrides, and Orkneys, afford them exactly the kind
of retreat that suits their habits; and here among inaccessible
rocks they build their nests and on their return from their inland
marauding expeditions, pass their nights. Their attitudes, mode
of flight, progression when on the ground, note, and manner of
feeding, are the same as those of the common tame Pigeon; and,
as might be expected, both wild and tame birds agree in declining
to perch on trees.

Macgillivray, who had opportunities of watching them in their native
haunts at all seasons, informs us that they leave their caves in the
crags at early dawn, and, proceeding along the shore, unite with other
parties on their way till they reach the cultivated grounds, where
they settle in large flocks, diligently seeking for grains of barley
and oats, seeds of wild mustard and other weeds, picking up also the
small snails[38] which abound in sandy pastures near the sea. In
summer they make frequent short visits of this kind, returning at
intervals to feed their young. In winter they form much larger flocks,
and, making the best use of their short day, feed more intently, thus
holding out a temptation to the fowler, who, if sufficiently wary, can
sometimes approach near enough to kill a large number at a shot. They
are supposed to pair for life; and this, I believe, is generally the
case with tame Pigeons. They lay two eggs, and sit for three weeks.
The male and the female sit, alternately relieving each other. They
breed twice a year, but the number of eggs never exceeds two. Hence
the old Scottish saying, 'a doo's cleckin', for a family of only two
children--a boy and a girl. They may be distinguished from the other
common species while flying, by showing a large patch of white between
the back and the tail.

   [38] _Helix ericetorum_, a flattish, striped shell; and
        _Bulimus acutus_, an oblong, conical shell, mottled with
        grey and black.


   Head and nape ash, tinged with wine-red; a space on the sides
   of the neck composed of black feathers tipped with white; neck
   and breast pale wine-red; back ash-brown; primaries dusky;
   secondaries bluish ash; scapulars and wing-coverts rust-red
   with a black spot in the centre of each feather; abdomen and
   lower tail-coverts white; tail dusky, all but the two middle
   feathers tipped with white, the outer feather edged with white
   externally; irides yellowish red; feet red; bill brown. Eggs

Nearly three thousand years ago the Turtle Dove had the distinction of
being enumerated among the pleasant things of spring: 'Lo, the winter
Is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the Turtle
is heard in our land.'[39] Less sweetly, but to the same effect, sings
a poet of the last century:

   The cuckoo calls aloud his wand'ring love.
   The Turtle's moan is heard in ev'ry grove;
   The pastures change, the warbling linnets sing.
   Prepare to welcome in the gaudy spring!

There is no melody in the song of the Turtle, as it consists of a
single note, a soft, sweet, agitated murmur, continued without pause
for a long time, called a 'moan'[40] both by Latin and English poets,
not from its being suggestive of pain, but because there is no other
word which describes it so nearly. I have already had occasion to
remark how unsatisfactory are most of the attempts which have been
made to represent the songs of birds by combinations of letters, but
the Latin name of the Turtle-dove, _Turtur_, is a notable exception.
Pronounced 'tur-r-r tur-r-r', it will instantly recall the note to any
one who has once heard it. The French name also, _Tourterelle_, can
belong to this bird alone.

The Turtle Dove is found in all the southern countries of Europe, in
Palestine, and many other parts of Asia, including the islands south
of China. In England it is a visitor in the southern and midland
counties only, arriving in spring and remaining with us until the end
of September. Its favourite places of resort are groves, belts of
trees, and tall hedgerows in cultivated districts. Here it builds its
unsubstantial nest of a few sticks, and lays two eggs. Its food
consists of seeds of various kinds, and it has the discredit of
resorting to fields of green wheat for the sake of feeding on the
milky grain. I am doubtful whether this charge can be sustained. Often
enough when walking through a cornfield one may see two or three
Turtle Doves rise suddenly from the thick corn with a rustle and low
cry of alarm, rapidly dart away in the direction of the nearest grove,
disappearing in the shade, all but a white segment of a circle, formed
by the tips of their tail-feathers; but on examining the spot from
which they rose, I have been unable to detect any ears of corn rifled
of their contents, though the ground was thickly matted with weeds,
which might have furnished them food. I am informed by a young friend
that he has often shot them while in the act of rising from such
situations and has invariably found their crops distended with the
green seed-vessels of a weed common in corn-fields, the corn-spurrey
(_Spérgula arvensis_). This being the case, the Turtle Dove is more a
friend than an enemy to the farmer, even if it sometimes regales on
ripe grain or interferes with the occupation of the gleaner. It is
also very partial to vetches. I have met with an instance where a
Turtle Dove paid daily visits to one particular spot, under a hedge in
a field, and though fired at by the owner of the field many times,
under the idea that it was a rare bird, it soon returned; and when at
last shot, its crop was found to be full of vetch seeds which had been
accidentally spilled from a bag.

The Turtle Dove is smaller than any of the other British Doves. When
flying, it seems scarcely larger than a Missel Thrush; but it is more
slender in shape, and its wings are much longer. It beats its wings,
too, more rapidly, and moves through the air with greater velocity.
The tints of its plumage are more varied than in the other British
species, but far inferior in brilliancy to many foreign ones.

The Turtle Dove so frequently kept in a cage is the Collared Turtle
Dove (_Columba risoria_), a native of India and China. This species is
distinguished by a black crescent on the back of the neck, the horns
of which nearly meet in front. Turtle Doves are much kept in Germany,
owing to a strange popular superstition that they are more predisposed
than the human species to nervous disorders and rheumatism, and that
when any of these complaints visit a house, they fall on the birds
rather than on their owners.

   [39] Cant. ii. 11, 12.

   [40] 'Nec gemere aëria cessabit Turtur ab ulmo.'--VIRGIL.
        Nor shall from lofty elm the Turtle cease to moan.




   Legs and toes feathered to the claws; no hind toe. Length
   sixteen to twenty inches.

This species was not known with us till 1859. Great flights visited
this country in 1863, in 1888, and in 1889 when a few pair bred




   Feathers of the throat elongated, black; head and neck dusky;
   eyes with a bare red skin above and a white spot below; wings
   brown speckled with black; breast lustrous green; abdomen black
   with white spots; rump and flanks marked with undulating lines
   of black and ash colour; tail black with white spots; beak horn
   white; eyebrows naked, red, beneath the eye a white spot.
   Length thirty-six inches. _Female_--a third smaller, barred and
   spotted with tawny red, black, and white; throat tawny red,
   unspotted; breast deep red; tail dark red with black bars,
   white at the tip; bill dusky. Eggs dull yellowish white
   speckled with yellowish brown.

The Capercaillie, Wood Grouse, or Cock of the Woods, was a rare bird
in Scotland in Pennant's time (1769), and was found only in the
Highlands north of Inverness. It became extinct in the eighteenth
century, but was re-introduced in 1837 in Scotland, and it is now
common in firwoods there, especially in Perthshire. In the pine
forests of Sweden and Norway it is still indigenous, but, being a
large and beautiful bird, is much sought after, and is annually
receding from the haunts of men. It is also found in some of the
central countries of Europe, as Poland and the Jura mountains, where
it is said to be rather common. It is not only an inhabitant of woods,
but passes its time for the most part in trees, and feeds in great
measure on the young shoots of the Scotch fir. In summer it adds to
its dietary berries, seeds, and insects, for which it searches among
bushes or on the ground, returning to the woods to roost. The male
bird has obtained great celebrity for his marvellous performances when
serenading the hens during the morning and evening twilight in spring.
"During his play, the neck of the Capercaillie is stretched out, his
tail is raised and spread like a fan, his wings droop, his feathers
are ruffled up, and, in short, he much resembles in appearance an
angry Turkey Cock. He begins his play with a call something resembling
the words _peller_, _peller_, _peller_; these sounds he repeats at
first at some little intervals, but, as he proceeds, they increase in
rapidity, until, at last, and after perhaps the lapse of a moment or
so, he makes a sort of gulp in his throat, and finishes by drawing in
his breath. During the continuance of this latter process, which only
lasts a few seconds, the head of the Capercaillie is thrown up, his
eyes are partially closed, and his whole appearance would denote that
he is worked up into an agony of passion." This performance, however
attractive it may De to those for whose benefit it is intended,
exercises a fascination over himself which is often dangerous; for the
sportsman, well acquainted with the sound, is thus guided to his
perch, and, shy though the bird is at other times, is able to get near
him unperceived or unheeded, and summarily closes his performances.
The Capercaillie hen makes her nest upon the ground, and lays from six
to twelve eggs. She is said to sit for four weeks. The young keep with
her until towards the approach of winter. The size of the full-grown
bird varies considerably according to the latitude in which it is
found. In Lapland the male weighs about nine or ten pounds, but in the
southern provinces of Sweden as much as seventeen pounds. The hen
usually weighs from five to six pounds.


   Throat-feathers not elongated; plumage black with violet
   reflections; a broad white band on the wings; secondaries
   tipped with white; lower tail-coverts white; tail much forked,
   the outer feathers curved outwards. Eyebrows naked, vermilion;
   beneath the eye a white spot. Length twenty-three inches.
   _Female_--smaller; head and neck rust-red barred with black;
   rump and tail-feathers black barred with red; belly dusky brown
   with red and whitish bars; tail slightly forked. Eggs dull
   yellow spotted and speckled with reddish brown.

The Black Grouse is a native of the northern countries of Europe and
of the mountainous districts of the central part of the Continent. In
the south it is unknown. Of a hardier nature than the Pheasant, and
less fastidious in its dietary, it braves the most inclement seasons,
and is never stinted in its supply of food. Moreover, as it rarely
wanders far from its heath-clad home, it would probably, if it enjoyed
the privilege of insignificance, be abundant in all the extensive
waste lands of Britain. But its large size, the excellent flavour of
its flesh, and the excitement of the sport which it affords all tend
to keep down its numbers, so that a moor well stocked with Black
Grouse is a possession not to be thought lightly of by the highest and
wealthiest. The male bird is, in sporting phraseology, a Black Cock,
the female a Grey Hen; and it is the etiquette of the field to shoot
Cocks only, the Hens being left for breeding. The Black Cock
resembles, in one of its most striking peculiarities, its near
relative, the Capercaillie. 'During the spring', says Mr. St. John,
'and also in the autumn, about the time the first hoar frosts are
felt, I have often watched the Black Cocks in the early morning when
they collect on some rock or height, and strut and crow with their
curious note, not unlike that of a Wood Pigeon. On these occasions
they often have most desperate battles. I have seen five or six Black
Cocks all fighting at once; and so violent and eager were they, that I
approached within a few yards before they rose. Usually there seems to
be a master-bird in these assemblages, who takes up his position on
the most elevated spot, crowing and strutting round and round with
spread-out tail like a Turkey Cock, and his wings trailing on the
ground. The hens remain quietly near him, whilst the smaller or
younger male birds keep at a respectful distance, neither daring to
crow, except in a subdued kind of voice, nor to approach. If they
attempt the latter, the master-bird dashes at the intruder, and often
a short _melée_ ensues, several others joining in it, but they soon
return to their former respectful distance. I have also seen an old
Black Cock crowing on a birch-tree with a dozen hens below it, and the
younger Cocks looking on with fear and admiration. It is at these
times that numbers fall to the share of the poacher, who knows that
the birds resort to the same spot every morning.'

The food of these birds is abundant in quantity, and though simple,
yet partakes of an extensive assortment of flavours. Twigs of the
fine-leaved heath (_Erica cinerea_), and heather (_Calluna_); buds of
the willow and birch; the tender shoots of cotton-grass, sedge, and
grass; and whortleberries, cranberries, and crowberries, are the
principal items of their bill of fare, varied according to the season.
In the months of February, March and April, they do much mischief to
plantations by destroying the tender shoots of Scotch and Silver Fir.
'In searching for food, the Black Grouse frequents the lower grounds
of the less-cultivated districts, not generally removing far from the
shelter of woods or thickets, to which it betakes itself as occasion
requires. It sometimes makes an excursion into the stubble-fields in
search of the seeds of cereal plants, and in summer and autumn
includes those of the grasses and rushes. While thus employed, it
walks and runs among the herbage with considerable agility, and, when
apprehensive of danger, flies off to a sheltered place, or settles
down and remains motionless until the intruder passes by. It perches
adroitly, and walks securely on the branches; but its ordinary station
is on the ground, where also it reposes at night. It may often,
especially in spring, be seen on the turf-top of the low walls
inclosing plantations. Its flight is heavy, direct, and of moderate
velocity, and is capable of being protracted to a great distance.'[41]

The Grey Hen constructs a rude nest of withered grass and a few twigs
in the shelter of some low bush, and lays from five to ten eggs. The
male bird takes no part in the bringing up of the brood, but leaves
the duties of incubation and attention to the wants of his family to
the hen, who devotes herself wholly to the careful nurture of her
little ones. While the poults are in their nonage, she assiduously
leads them about where food is most abundant; and if surprised by an
intruder, leaves them to hide among the heath and ferns, creeps
rapidly herself to some distance, and then rises in a fluttering
manner, so that a stranger to her habits would suppose her to be
wounded. By August 20, the young are supposed to be fully fledged, and
the sportsman is expected not only to show his skill as a marksman,
but his quickness of eye in discriminating between males and females
as the covey rises. The former are to be distinguished by their richer
colouring, and by the more strongly marked white on the wings. At this
season the old Black Cocks club together.

The Black Cock is found in greater or less quantities in the moorland
districts of many of the English counties, but is most abundant in the
north of England and Wales, and in Scotland.

   [41] Macgillivray.


   Plumage chestnut brown, marked on the back with black spots and
   beneath with black lines; a fringe of small white feathers
   round the eyes, and a white spot at the base of the lower
   mandible; a crimson fringed band above the eyes; some of the
   feathers of the abdomen tipped with white; tail of sixteen
   feathers, the four middle ones chestnut with black bars, the
   rest dusky; feet and toes covered thickly with grey hair-like
   feathers. _Female_--the red eye-lid less conspicuous; colours
   not so dark and tinged with reddish yellow, the black spots and
   lines more numerous. Length sixteen inches. Eggs reddish ash
   colour, nearly covered with blotches and spots of deep

The diminution of the number of Pheasants in France, owing to a
relaxation of the efforts formerly made to protect them, and the
abundance of the same birds, in those parts of England where unceasing
care is taken of them in severe or protracted winters, tend to prove
the great difficulty of preserving a foreign bird in a country which
is not in every respect adapted to its habits and constitution. On the
other hand, the undiminished abundance of Red Grouse in Great Britain,
in spite of the absence of all artificial protection, and
notwithstanding the vast quantity which annually fall a prey to
vermin, poachers, and sportsmen, proves as satisfactorily that where a
bird has become abundant, in a country in all respects suited to its
constitution and producing an inexhaustible supply of its natural
food, it is impossible to extirpate it. If we ever had occasion to
adopt a bird as a national emblem, the choice might for one reason
fall on the Red Grouse. It is a native of the British Isles, and is
found in no other country. On the moors of Scotland, the hilly parts
of the north of England, the mountains of Wales, and the wastes of
Ireland, it is as wild and free as the Gull on the sea-cliff. It
frequents extensive heaths where man could not protect it if he would,
and finds no stint of food where few living things can exist but
insects and some of the larger rapacious animals which make it their
special prey. Eagles, Falcons, Buzzards, Crows, Foxes, Martins, and
Polecats, all wage against it incessant war; it is wholly without
armour, offensive or defensive; yet its numbers are undiminished. And
we may confidently say that, as long as there are large tracts of land
in Great Britain unreclaimed, there will be Grouse.

Red Grouse must, occasionally, fall in the way of the wanderer over
the Scottish moors, whatever may be the object of his rambles; but a
sportsman alone is privileged to make the bird his study at all
seasons. My sketch, therefore, of the Grouse is to be considered as
taken, not from the limited observation which I have been enabled to
make, when I have chanced to start a bird on the hills of Westmoreland
or the Highlands, but to be compiled from the notes of others who have
had more ample means of observing its habits.

"The Brown Ptarmigan, generally known by the name of Red Grouse, as
compared with the Black Grouse, is met with in Scotland on all kinds
of surface, provided it be covered with heath, whether _Calluna
vulgaris_ (Ling) or _Erica cinerea_ (Common Purple Heath), from the
level of the sea to the height of about two thousand feet. The low
sandy heaths of the eastern counties of the middle division appear to
be less favourable to it than the more moist peaty tracts of the
western and northern districts, where the shrubs on which it feeds
attain a great size."

Its food appears to be much the same as that of the Black Grouse, to
which it is similar in many of its habits; but it never perches on
trees. It has, moreover, a decided predilection for the national grain
of Scotland. Hence the cultivation of small tracts of land with oats
in the neighbourhood of moors where it abounds is an unprofitable

Its name, _Lagópus_ (Hare-footed), is equally appropriate as
descriptive of its thickly-clothed foot and its fleetness as a runner;
by some French ornithologists it is enumerated among _Velocipedes_,
for the latter reason. On ordinary occasions it does not fly much, but
keeps concealed among the heath, seldom choosing to rise unless its
enemy comes very near. Red Grouse pair early in the season, and build
their nests generally on the borders between heath and lea ground,
with a view to providing their young with an open nursery-ground, on
which to learn the use of their legs, as well as a safe retreat on the
approach of danger. The nest is loosely constructed of straws and
twigs which may chance to lie about near the selected spot. The number
of eggs is usually eight to ten; the hen sits very closely, allowing
the shepherd almost to trample on her before she springs. The period
of hatching is a perilous one for the chicks, for, as they break the
shell, they utter a small but shrill chirp--a certain signal to some
watchful Hooded Crow that a prey is at hand; he traces up the sound,
drives the mother from her nest, and destroys the whole brood.

Once fairly hatched, the danger decreases; the young birds, while
still quite small, show great readiness in concealing themselves. When
disturbed they separate in all directions, crouch on the ground,
squeeze between objects that seem to defy all passage, work their way
through the cover, or, if they fancy that an eye is fixed on them, lie
as motionless as stones. When so far grown as to be able to fly, they
still prefer the shelter afforded by the cover; but if hard pressed
the old cock usually rises first, with a cry which some compare to the
quack of a Duck. The hen and young birds show no hurry in following
his example, but take wing singly, and at unequal intervals--not like
Partridges, which always rise in a covey. This is the period when they
afford the easiest shot to the sportsman, who often puts them up
almost beneath his feet, or under the very nose of his dogs. Later in
the season a great change takes place, and this, it is said, whether
the birds have been much harassed or not. Become cautious and wild,
they no longer trust to concealment or swiftness of foot, but,
discovering from a great distance the approach of danger, they rise
most frequently out of shot, so that it requires skill and patience to
get near them. A slight and early snow sometimes makes it more easy to
approach them, at least for a few hours; but ordinarily, not even
extreme cold, or a covering of snow a foot thick, appears to tame them
at all. Under such circumstances, they collect in enormous 'packs',
and betake themselves to some particular part of the moor from which
the snow has been more or less drifted. These packs keep together
during winter, and at the beginning of spring separate and pair, not,
however, without some previous altercations; but these are soon over,
and they lose much of their shyness, venturing close to the roads, and
being little disturbed by the passage of the traveller.


   _Winter plumage_--pure white, a black line from the angle of
   the beak through the eye; outer tail-feathers black; above the
   eyes a scarlet fringed membrane; bill and claws black; tarsi
   and toes thickly clothed with woolly feathers.
   _Female_--without the black line through the eyes. _Summer
   plumage_--wings, under tail-coverts, two middle tail-feathers,
   and legs white; outer tail-feathers black, some of them tipped
   with white; rest of plumage ash-brown, marked with black lines
   and dusky spots. Length fifteen inches. Eggs reddish yellow,
   spotted and speckled with deep reddish brown.

This beautiful bird is the Schneehuhn, 'Snow-chick', of the Germans,
the White Partridge of the Alps and Pyrenees, and the Gaelic
_Tarmachan_. Whilst most birds shrink from cold, the Ptarmigan, on the
contrary, seems to revel in it, and to fear nothing so much as the
beams of the sun. Not even when the valleys rejoice in the livery of
spring does it desert the snowy regions altogether, and, when the
mist-wreaths clear away, it avoids the rays of the sun by seeking the
shady sides of the mountains. Only when the northern regions or lofty
mountains are so thickly covered with snow as to threaten it with
starvation does it repair to districts where the cold is somewhat
mitigated, but never lower into the valleys than where it may quench
its thirst with snow. 'The male bird', says a field naturalist, 'has
been seen, during a snow-storm in Norway, to perch himself on a rock
which overtopped the rest, and to sit there for some time as if
enjoying the cold wind and sleet, which was drifting in his face; just
as one might have done on a sultry summer's day on the top of the
Wiltshire downs, when a cool air was stirring there.'[42] The same
writer observes: 'I have generally found the Ptarmigan concealed among
the grey, lichen-coloured rocks on the summits of the fjelds, and so
closely do they resemble these rocks in colour that I could scarcely
ever see them on the ground; and sometimes when the practised eye of
my guide found them, and he would point out the exact spot, it was not
until after a long scrutiny that I could distinguish the bird within a
dozen yards of me. Frequently we would find them on the snow itself,
and many a time has a large circular depression in the snow been
pointed out to me, where the Ptarmigan has been lying and pluming
himself in his chilly bed. He is a noble bird, free as air, and for
the most part uninterrupted in his wide domain; he can range over the
enormous tracts of fjeld, seldom roused by a human step, and still
more seldom hunted by man. When the winter clothes his dwelling in a
garb of snow, he arrays himself in the purest and most beautiful
white; when the summer sun melts away the snow, and the grey rocks
appear, he, too, puts on his coloured dress, and assimilates himself
once more to his beloved rocks. But the young Ptarmigans are my
especial favourites: I have caught them of all ages; some apparently
just emerged from the egg, others some weeks older; they are
remarkably pretty little birds, with their short black beaks and their
feathered toes; and so quickly do they run, and so nimble and active
are they in escaping from you, that they are soon beneath some
projecting stone, far beyond the reach of your arm, where you hear
them chirping and calling out in defiance and derision. The call of
the old Ptarmigan is singularly loud and hoarse; it is a prolonged
grating, harsh note, and may be heard at a great distance.' This has
been compared to the scream of the Missel Thrush; but Macgillivray
says it seems to him more like the croak of a frog.

Ptarmigans pair early in spring, and build their nest of grass, bents
and twigs in a slight hollow behind a stone or bush, and lay from
seven to twelve eggs. The young are able to run about as soon as they
are hatched, and, as we have seen, are most expert and nimble in
concealing themselves. The hen bird when surprised with her young
brood counterfeits lameness, and runs about in great anxiety, as if
wishing to draw attention from her chicks to herself. Their food
consists of the fresh green twigs of heath and other mountain plants,
seeds, and berries. While feeding they run about, and are shy in
taking flight even when they have acquired the use of their wings, but
crouch on the approach of danger, and remain motionless and silent.
When at length they do rise, they fly off in a loose party, and mostly
in a direct line, for a distant part of the mountain, the movement of
their wings resembling that of the Grouse, but being lighter in
character. Early in the season, a long time before Grouse, the coveys
of Ptarmigans unite and form large packs, and it is while thus
congregated that they perform their partial migrations from the high
grounds to what they consider a milder climate, the Norwegian valleys.
There, while the ground is covered thickly with snow, they, to a
certain extent, modify their habits, and perch on trees, sometimes in
such numbers that the branches seem to be altogether clothed in white.
It does not appear that any of these flocks make long journeys or
cross the sea. In Scotland they are no more numerous in winter than in
summer, nor have they been observed to take refuge in the woods. In
the comparatively mild temperature of Scotland there occurs no
lengthened period during which they cannot find their simple food
somewhere in the open country; they consequently do not leave the
moors, but only descend lower.

The Ptarmigan is neither so abundant nor so generally diffused in
Scotland as the Grouse. It is resident on high mountains. It is said
to have existed at one time in the north of England and in Wales; if
so, it has totally disappeared, nor is it known in Ireland.

   [42] Rev. A. C. Smith, in the _Zoologist_, vol. viii. p. 2977.


      Great Bustard [M]

   Pheasant [M]

      Nightjar [M]

   Capercaille [M]

                             [_face p. 220._]]





    Three-toed Sand-grouse. [M] [F]]



   Head and neck glossy, with metallic reflections of green, blue,
   and purple; sides of the head bare, scarlet, minutely speckled
   with black; general plumage spotted and banded with orange-red,
   purple, brown, yellow, green, and black, either positive or
   reflected; tail very long, of eighteen feathers, the middle
   ones longest. _Female_--light brown, marked with dusky; sides
   of the head feathered; tail much shorter. Length three feet.
   Eggs olive-brown.

This climate suits the Pheasant pretty well, and at most seasons of
the year it finds abundance of food; but in hard winters the supply
diminishes, or fails altogether; and were not food specially scattered
about for it in its haunts, it would either die off from being unable
to withstand cold and hunger together, or become so weak that it would
fall a prey to the smaller rapacious animals, who are not a match for
it when it is strong and active. A healthy cock Pheasant has been
known to beat off a cat; a sickly one would be unable to compete with
a Magpie or Jay. It is, in fact, an exotic running wild, and enabled
to do so only by the care of those who help it to surmount the
inconveniences of a life spent in a foreign land.

The Pheasant is said to have been brought originally from Colchis, a
country on the shores of the Black Sea, and to have derived its name
from the river Phasis, the famous scene of the expedition of the
Argonauts, bearing date about 1200 years before Christ. From this
epoch it is said to have been known to the Athenians, who endeavoured
to acclimatize it for the sake of its beauty as well as the delicacy
of its flesh. The Romans received it from the Greeks; but it was
little known, except by name, in Germany, France, and England, until
the Crusades. The custom was then introduced from Constantinople of
sending it to table decorated with its tail feathers and head, as a
dish for kings and emperors--a special honour until that time confined
to the Peacock. Willughby, in the seventeenth century, says of it
that, from its rarity, delicacy of flavour, and great tenderness, it
seems to have been created for the tables of the wealthy. He tells us,
too, that the flesh of Pheasants caught by hawking is of a higher
flavour, and yet more delicate than when they are taken by snares or
any other method.

The kings of France greatly encouraged the naturalization of the
Pheasants in the royal forests, both as an object of sport and as an
acquisition to the festive board, and were imitated by the nobles and
superior clergy. In the fourteenth century, all the royal forests, the
parks of Berry and the Loire, all the woods and vineyards of the rich
abbeys, were peopled with Pheasants. The male bird was protected by
the title of 'Royal game of the first class', and the killing of a hen
was forbidden under the severest penalties. During the period between
the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XVI its estimation increased. During
the revolution royal edicts were little heeded. Pheasants, no less
than their owners, forfeited their dignity, which, however, rose again
somewhat under the empire. Waterloo, and succeeding events, brought
desolation to the Pheasantries as well as to the deer-parks of France;
and now the royal bird, French authors tell us, is likely to disappear
from the country. Already, the space which it occupies is reduced to a
thirtieth part of the national territory. The centre of this
privileged province is Paris; its radius is not more than
five-and-twenty leagues, and is decreasing every year. Pheasants have
disappeared from the districts of the Garonne and Rhone, while in
Touraine and Berry a few only are to be found in walled parks.

If the Pheasant should ever, in this country, lose the protection of
the Game Laws, it will probably dwindle away in like manner. Under
existing circumstances, it offers an inducement to poaching too
tempting to be resisted. Gamekeepers engage in more affrays with
poachers of Pheasants than of all the other game birds taken
collectively; and if the offence of destroying them were made less
penal than it is at present, they would doubtless diminish rapidly.
Next to Wood Pigeons, they are said to be the most destructive of all
British birds; so that farmers would gladly do their utmost to
exterminate them; their large size and steady onward flight combine to
make them an 'easy shot' for the veriest tyro in gunnery, while the
estimation in which they are held for the table would always secure
for them a value in the market.

The places best adapted for Pheasants are thick woods in the
neighbourhood of water, where there is abundance of shelter on the
ground, in the shape of furze-bushes, brambles, tall weeds, rushes, or
tussock grass; for they pass their lives almost exclusively on the
ground, even roosting there, except in winter, when they fly up in the
evening, and perch on the lower boughs of middling-sized trees. In
April or May, the female bird scratches for herself a shallow hole in
the ground under the shelter of some bushes or long grass, and lays
from ten to fourteen eggs; but not unfrequently she allows might to
prevail over right, and appropriates both the nest and eggs belonging
to some evicted Partridge. The situation of the nests is generally
known to the keepers, and all that are considered safe are left to be
attended to by the owner. Such, however, as are exposed to the
depredations of vermin or poachers are more frequently taken, and the
eggs are placed under a domestic hen.

Pheasant chicks are able to run about and pick up their own food soon
after they have escaped from the egg. This consists of grain, seeds,
an enormous quantity of wireworms, small insects, especially ants and
their eggs, and green herbage. When full grown, they add to this diet
beans, peas, acorns, beech-mast, and the tuberous roots of several
wild plants. A strip of buck-wheat, of which they are very fond, is
sometimes sown for their special benefit along the skirt of a
plantation. In seasons of scarcity they will enter the farmyard, and
either quietly feed with the poultry, or, less frequently, do battle
with the cocks for the sovereignty. A story is told, in the
_Zoologist_, of a male Pheasant, which drove from their perch, and
killed in succession, three fine cocks. The proprietor, with a view to
prevent further loss, furnished a fourth cock with a pair of steel
spurs. Armed with these, the lawful occupant was more than a match for
the aggressor, who, next morning, was found lying dead on the ground
beneath the perch. Another has been known to beat off a cat; and a
third was in the habit of attacking a labouring man. The female is a
timid, unoffending bird, as peaceful in her demeanour as quiet in her
garb. The tints of her plumage, far less gaudy than in the male, are a
protection to her in the nesting season, as being less likely to
attract the notice either of poachers or vermin. Indeed, were she
always to lie close, her nest would not be easily discovered, for the
colour of her feathers so closely resembles that of withered leaves,
that she is, when sitting, less conspicuous than her uncovered eggs
would be.

Common Pheasants are occasionally found having a large portion, or
even the whole, of their plumage white. These, though highly
ornamental when mixed with the common sort, are not prized, owing to
their being a more conspicuous mark for poachers. The 'Ringed
Pheasant' occasionally shot in English preserves is not, as some
maintain, a distinct species; it differs from the typical form of the
bird only in that the neck is partially surrounded by a narrow white
collar passing from the back of the neck to the sides, but not meeting
in front.


   Face, eyebrows, and throat, bright rust-red; behind the eye a
   naked red skin; neck, breast, and flanks, ash colour with black
   zigzag lines, and on the feathers of the flanks a large
   rust-red spot; low on the breast a chestnut patch shaped like a
   horseshoe; upper parts ash-brown with black spots and zigzag
   lines; scapulars and wing-coverts darker; quills brown, barred
   and spotted with yellowish red; tail of eighteen feathers, the
   laterals bright rust-red; beak olive-brown; feet grey.
   _Female_--less red on the face; head spotted with white; upper
   plumage darker, spotted with black; the horseshoe mark
   indistinct or wanting. Length thirteen inches. Eggs uniform

Very few, even of our common birds, are more generally known than the
Partridge. From the first of September to the first of February, in
large towns, every poulterer's shop is pretty sure to be decorated
with a goodly array of these birds; and there are few rural districts
in which a walk through the fields will fail to be enlivened by the
sudden rising and whirring away of a covey of Partridges, in autumn
and winter; of a pair in spring. At midsummer they are of less
frequent appearance, the female being too busily occupied, either in
incubation or the training of her family, to find time for flight; and
at this season, moreover, the uncut fields of hay, clover, and corn
afford facilities for the avoiding of danger, by concealment rather
than by flight. The habits of the Partridge, as of the Grouse, are
especially terrestrial. It never flies, like the Lark, for enjoyment;
and as it does not perch in trees it has no occasion for upward
flight. Still, there are occasions when Partridges rise to a
considerable distance from the ground, and this seems to be when they
meditate a longer flight than usual.

A friend, to whom I am indebted for many valuable notes on various
birds, tells me that when a covey of Partridges are disturbed by a
pack of hounds, they lie close at first, as if terrified by the noise
and bent on concealing themselves; but when the pack actually comes on
them they rise to a great height, and fly to a distance which may be
measured by miles--at least, so he supposes, as he has watched them
diminish and fade from the sight before they showed any sign of
preparing to alight.

The Partridge, though decorated with no brilliant colours, which would
tend to thwart it in its habit of concealing itself among vegetation
of the same general hue as itself, is a beautiful bird. Its gait is
graceful, its feet small and light, its head well raised; and its
plumage, though devoid of striking contrasts, is exquisitely
pencilled, each feather on the back and breast being veined like the
gauzy wings of a fly. The most conspicuous part of the plumage of the
male bird, the horseshoe on its breast, is invisible as it walks or
crouches, and the general tone approaches that of the soil.

Partridges pair early in the year; but the hen does not begin to lay
until May, nor to sit until towards the beginning of June. The nest is
merely a depression in the ground, into which a few straws or dead
leaves have been drawn. It is sometimes placed among brushwood under a
hedge, but more frequently in the border of a field of hay, clover, or
corn, or in the wide field itself. The mowing season, unfortunately,
is not noted in the calendar of Nature; so the mother-bird, who is a
close sitter, is not unfrequently destroyed by the scythe, or, at all
events, is driven away, and returns to find her eggs carried off to be
entrusted to the care of a domestic hen. In unusually wet seasons,
nests which have been fixed in low situations are flooded, and the
eggs being thus reduced to a low temperature become addle. When this
has taken place, the Partridge makes a second laying, and a late brood
is reared.

Notwithstanding this, however, Partridges are exceedingly prolific,
and are said to be increasing in numbers in proportion as new lands
are reclaimed from the waste, although the Red-legged Partridge has
lessened its numbers in some districts. It must certainly be admitted
that, in bad seasons, they are treated with a consideration that would
scarcely be shown towards them if they were simply destroyers of grain
and had nothing to recommend them as objects of sport or as delicacies
for the table. When abundant, they fall freely before the sportsman's
gun; but when the coveys are either small or few, they are treated
with forbearance, and enough are left to stock the preserves for the
ensuing year.

While the hen is sitting, the male bird remains somewhere in the
neighbourhood, and gives timely warning of the approach of danger;
when the eggs are hatched, he accompanies his mate, and shares in the
work of teaching the young to shift for themselves--a lesson which
they begin to learn at once. The food both of old and young birds is,
to a great extent, insects. The young are especially fond of ants and
their pupæ or larvæ. During the year 1860, in which there were no
broods of Partridges, I was much struck by the fact that
stubble-fields abounded, to an unusual degree, with ant-hills. In
ordinary seasons, these are found torn to pieces and levelled. This
year, scarcely one was touched; and even at the present time, the end
of October, winged ants are far more numerous than they usually are at
this time of the year. Besides insects, Partridges feed on the seeds
of weeds, green leaves, grain spilt in reaping, and on corn which has
been sown. This last charge is a serious one; yet, on the whole, it is
most probable that Partridges do far more good than harm on an estate,
the insects and weeds which they destroy more than making amends for
their consumption of seed-corn.

I might fill many pages with anecdotes of the devotion of Partridges
to their maternal duties--their assiduity in hatching their eggs,
their disregard of personal danger while thus employed, their loving
trickeries to divert the attention of enemies from their broods to
themselves, and even the actual removal of their eggs from a
suspectedly dangerous position to a place of safety; but with many of
these stories the reader must be already familiar if he has read any
of the works devoted to such subjects.

The number of eggs laid before incubation commences varies from ten to
fifteen, or more. Yarrell says, 'Twenty-eight eggs in one instance,
and thirty-three eggs in two other instances, are recorded as having
been found in one nest; but there is little doubt, in these cases,
that more than one bird had laid eggs in the same nest.' This may be;
but I find in a French author an instance in which no less than
forty-two eggs were laid by a Partridge in captivity, all of which,
being placed under a hen, would have produced chicks, but for the
occurrence of a thunder-storm accompanied by a deluge of rain which
flooded the nest, when the eggs, which all contained chicks, were on
the point of being hatched. The average number of birds in a covey is,
I believe, about twelve; quite enough to supply the sportsmen and to
account for the abundance of the bird.

The character of the Partridge's flight is familiar to most people.
Simultaneously with the startled cry of alarm from the cock comes a
loud whirr-r-r as of a spinning-wheel: away fly the whole party in a
body, keeping a horizontal, nearly straight line: in turns each bird
ceases to beat its wings and sails on for a few yards with extended
pinions; the impetus exhausted which carried it through this movement,
it plies its wings again, and if it have so long escaped the fowler,
may, by this time, consider itself out of danger, for its flight,
though laboured, is tolerably rapid.

The call of the Partridge is mostly uttered in the evening, as soon as
the beetles begin to buzz. The birds are now proceeding to roost,
which they always do in the open field, the covey forming a circle
with their heads outwards, to be on the watch against their enemies,
of whom they have many. They feed for the most part in the morning
and middle of the day, and vary in size according to the abundance of
their favourite food. In some districts of France, it is said, the
weight of the Partridges found on an estate is considered as a fair
standard test of the productiveness of the soil and of the state of
agricultural skill.

Most people are familiar with the distich:

   If the Partridge had the Woodcock's thigh,
   It would be the best bird that e'er did flie;

but every one does not know that the saying was in vogue among
epicures in the reign of Charles II.


   Throat and cheeks white, surrounded by a black band, which
   spreads itself out over the breast and sides of the neck in the
   form of numerous spots and lines, with which are intermixed a
   few white spots; upper plumage reddish ash; on the flanks a
   number of crescent-shaped spots, the convexity towards the tail
   rust-red, the centre black, bordered by white; beak, orbits,
   and feet, bright red. Length thirteen and a half inches. Eggs
   dull yellow, spotted and speckled with reddish brown and ash

The Red-legged Partridge, called also the French and Guernsey
Partridge, is a stronger and more robust bird than the common species,
which it also greatly surpasses in brilliancy of colouring. As some of
its names indicate, it is not an indigenous bird, but a native of the
south of Europe, whence it was first introduced into England in the
reign of Charles II. To Willughby, who lived at that period, it was
unknown except as a native of the continent of Europe and the islands
of Guernsey and Jersey. Towards the close of the last century it was
re-introduced into Suffolk, where it has become numerous; so much so,
indeed, in some places, as to have gained the better of the common
species for a time.

Its flight is rapid, but heavier and more noisy than that of the
Common Partridge. It is less patient of cold, and less able to elude
the attacks of birds of prey. It is quite a terrestrial bird, very
slow in taking flight, and never perching except when hard pressed,
when, on rare occasions, it takes refuge among the thick branches of
an oak or pinaster; here it considers itself safe, and watches the
movements of the dogs with apparent unconcern. Sometimes, too, when
closely hunted, it takes shelter in a rabbit's burrow or the hole of a
tree; but under ordinary circumstances it runs rapidly before the
dogs, and frequently disappoints the sportsman by rising out of shot.
The Grey or Common Partridge frequents rich cultivated lands; the Red
Partridge prefers uncultivated plains, 'which summer converts into
burning causeways, winter into pools of water--monotonous _landes_,
where skeletons of sheep pasture without variation on heath and the
dwarf prickly genista. It delights, too, in bushy ravines, or the
steep sides of rocky hills covered with holly, thorns, and brambles;
and when it resorts to vineyards, it selects those situated on the
sides of steep slopes, where marigolds and coltsfoot are the principal
weeds, rabbits and vipers the most abundant animals.'[43] Red
Partridges are consequently most numerous in the least cultivated
districts of France, especially those between the Cher and the Loire,
and between the Loire and the Seine. Towards the east they do not
extend beyond the hills of Epernay, and do not cross the valley of the
Meuse. The flesh of the Red Partridge is considered inferior to that
of the Grey, and the bird itself is less esteemed by sportsmen as an
object of pursuit. In England it seems to retain its natural taste of
preferring bushy heaths to inclosed land. In the mode of incubation
and rearing the young the two species are much alike.

   [43] Toussenel.


'This species', says a French naturalist, 'is probably the most
productive of all winged creatures; and it could not well be
otherwise, or it would be unable to withstand the war of extermination
declared against it by human beings and birds of prey. One may get an
idea of the prodigious number of victims which the simple crossing of
the Mediterranean costs the species by two well-known and often quoted
facts. The Bishop of Capri, a wretched islet scarcely a league in
length, which lies at the entrance of the Bay of Naples, used to clear
a net revenue of 25,000 francs a year (£1,000) by his Quails. This sum
represents 160,000 Quails at the lowest computation. In certain
islands of the Archipelago, and parts of the coast of the Peloponnese,
the inhabitants, men and women, have no other occupation during two
months of the year than that of collecting the Quails which are
showered on them from heaven, picking and cleaning them, _salting
them_ ('they spread them all abroad for themselves') and packing them
away in casks for transportation to the principal markets of the
Levant; that is to say, the migration of Quails is to this part of
Greece what the migration of herrings is to Holland and Scotland. The
Quail-catchers arrive at the shore a fortnight in advance, and every
man numbers his ground to avoid disputes. The Quail arrives in France
from Africa early in May, and takes its departure towards the end of

Another French author says, 'Like Rails, Woodcocks, Snipes, and many
of the waders, the Quail, when it travels towards the sea-shore, flies
only in the night. It leaves the lands, where it has passed the day,
about the dusk of the evening, and settles again with the dawn of the
morning.' Not unfrequently, while performing their transit, they
become weary, and alight on vessels, or fall into the sea, and are
drowned. 'Being at a small town on the coast, in the month of May',
says M. Pellicot, 'I saw some boats come in with ten or a dozen
sharks. They were all opened before me, and there was not one which
had not from eight to twelve Quails in its body.' 'Enormous flights
are annually observed at the spring and fall, after crossing an
immense surface of sea, to take a brief repose in the islands of
Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Crete, in the kingdom of Naples, and about
Constantinople, where, on these occasions, there is a general shooting
match, which lasts two or three days. This occurs always in the
autumn. The birds, starting from the Crimea about seven at night, and
with a northerly wind, before dawn accomplish a passage of above sixty
leagues in breadth, and alight on the southern shore to feed and
repose. In the vernal season the direction of the flight is reversed,
and they arrive in similar condition on the Russian coast. The same
phenomena occur in Malta, etc.'[44]

On its arrival, the Quail betakes itself to open plains and rich
grassy meadows, especially where the soil is calcareous, and avoids
woody countries. During the early part of summer it frequents
corn-fields, saintfoin, and lucern. In September it is found in
stubble and clover fields, and among the weeds growing in dry ponds,
or it finds shelter in any crops which may yet remain standing. In
warm countries it resorts to vineyards, attracted, it is said, not so
much by the grapes as by the numerous small snails with which the
vines are then infested; for the crops of the late birds are generally
found filled with these molluscs. In locomotion it makes more use of
its feet than its wings, and when put up is never induced to perch on
a tree. Its flight resembles in character that of the Partridge, but
it rarely flies far, and when it alights makes awkward attempts to
conceal itself, but often fails, and may sometimes be captured with
the hand. In June or July, the female lays from eight to fourteen eggs
in a hole in the ground, and brings up her young without the
assistance of the male. Towards the end of August the old birds
migrate southwards, and are followed by the young. Before the end of
October all have disappeared, though instances have occurred of their
being shot during winter, especially in seasons when the harvest has
been a late one.

The flesh of the Quail is considered a great delicacy, and many
thousands are caught, imported to the London markets, for the table.
They are placed in low flat cages, scarcely exceeding in height the
stature of the bird, for the reason that in confinement, the birds, in
their effort to escape, would beat themselves against the upper bars,
and destroy themselves. These are said to be all old males.

Quails inhabit the eastern continent, from China--where they are said
to be carried about in winter by the natives, to keep their hands
warm--to the British Isles. With us they are nowhere plentiful, but
are occasionally shot by sportsmen in most parts of the country. In
corn-fields, on the shores of Belfast Lough, in the north of Ireland,
they are of frequent occurrence.

In Palestine the Quails still come up in the night, as of old, and
"cover the land."

   [44] Colonel C. H. Smith.




   Upper feathers dusky brown bordered with reddish ash; over the
   eye and down the side of the head, a streak of ash;
   wing-coverts rust-red; quills reddish brown; throat, belly, and
   abdomen, whitish; breast pale yellowish brown; flanks barred
   with white and rust-red; upper mandible brown, lower whitish;
   irides brown; feet reddish brown. Length ten inches. Eggs
   yellowish brown spotted and speckled with grey and reddish

Few persons can have spent the summer months in the country, and
enjoyed their evenings in the open air, without having grown familiar
with the note of the Corn Crake; yet, strange to say, among those who
have heard it on numberless occasions, not one in a hundred (leaving
sportsmen out of the account) have ever seen one alive. Its whole
life, while with us, seems to be spent among the long grass and stalks
of hay or corn, between which its long legs and slender body give it
peculiar facility of moving, and it is only when hard pressed that it
rises from the ground. Its flight is low, with its legs hanging down;
and it usually drops into the nearest hedge or cover which presents
itself, and from which it is not easily flushed a second time.

The Corn Crake used to be found, during summer, in all the counties of
England, but is less frequent in Cornwall and Devonshire than in the
counties farther east, and increases in abundance as we advance
northwards. In the north of Ireland it is to be heard in every meadow
and cornfield, and here its incessant cry in the evenings is
monotonous, if not wearisome; in many parts of Scotland it is also
very common, and here it is much more frequently seen. In waste lands,
where it can find no continuous corn, it takes refuge in patches of
flags, rushes, or tall weeds, and if watched for, may be seen leaving
its place of concealment, and quietly walking along the grass,
lifting its feet high, and stooping from time to time to pick up its
food, consisting of worms, insects, snails, and seeds.

The Land Rail is considered a delicate article of food, and has long
been prized as such. In France it used to be termed, in old sporting
phraseology, 'King of the Quails', the Quail being a bird which it
much resembles it colouring.

The Corn Crake places its nest, which is composed of a few straws, in
a hollow in the ground, among corn or hay, and lays from eight to
ten, or rarely, twelve eggs. The young birds are able to accompany
their parents in their mazy travels as soon as they have left the
shell. The note of the old bird is heard much later in the season than
the song of most other birds, and is probably employed as a call-note
to the young, which, but for some such guidance, would be very likely
to go astray. In the still evenings of August, I have, while standing
on the shore of the island of Islay, distinctly heard its monotonous
_crek-crek_ proceeding from a cornfield on the opposite shore of Jura,
the Sound of Islay which intervened being here upwards of half a mile
wide. On ordinary occasions it is not easy to decide on the position
and distance of the bird while uttering its note; for the Corn Crake
is a ventriloquist of no mean proficiency.


   Forehead, throat, and a streak over the eye, lead-grey; upper
   plumage olive-brown, spotted with black and white; breast and
   under plumage olive and ash, spotted with white, the flanks
   barred with white and brown; bill greenish yellow, orange at
   the base; irides brown; feet greenish yellow. Length nine
   inches. Eggs yellowish red, spotted and speckled with brown and

The Spotted Crake is smaller in size than the Corn Crake, and far less
common. It is shot from time to time in various parts of Great
Britain, especially in the fen countries, to which its habits are best
suited. It frequents watery places which abound with reeds, flags, and
sedges, and among these it conceals itself, rarely using its wings,
but often wading over mud and weeds, and taking freely to the water,
in which it swims with facility. The nest, which is a large structure,
composed of rushes and reeds, is placed among thick vegetation, near
the water's edge, and contains from seven to ten eggs.

The drainage and improving of waste lands has driven this Crake away,
but its eggs have been found in Roscommon, and a nestling in Kerry.


   Head brown; upper plumage olive-ash, the feathers black in the
   centre; middle of the back black, sprinkled with white; throat,
   face, and breast, bluish grey, without spots; abdomen and
   flanks indistinctly barred with white and brown; wings without
   spots, reaching to the extremity of the tail; bill green,
   reddish at the base; irides red; feet green. Length seven and a
   half inches. Eggs yellowish, spotted with olive-brown.

This species appears to be generally diffused throughout the eastern
and southern countries of Europe, but is very rare in England, coming
now and again from spring to autumn. It is a shy bird, like the last
species, confining itself exclusively to reedy marshes, and building
its nest close to the water's edge. It lays seven or eight eggs.


   Upper feathers reddish brown, with black centres; under plumage
   in front lead-colour, behind and on the flanks barred with
   black and white; bill red, tinged with red above and at the
   tip; irides red; feet flesh-colour. Length ten inches. Eggs
   yellowish, spotted with ash-grey and red-brown.

The Water Rail is a generally diffused bird, but nowhere very common,
haunting bushy and reedy places near the banks of rivers and lakes,
and especially the Norfolk Broads, where it feeds on aquatic insects,
worms, and snails. Like the Crakes, it makes more use of its legs than
of its wings, and places its safety in concealment. Rarely does it
take flight, and then only when closely hunted; still more rarely does
it expose itself outside its aquatic jungle. I recollect on one
occasion, during an intense frost, when every marsh was as
impenetrable to a bird's bill as a sheet of marble, passing in a
carriage near a stream which, having just issued from its source, was
unfrozen; I then saw more than one Water Rail hunting for food among
the short rushes and grass on the water's edge. Its mode of walking I
thought was very like that of the Moor-hen, but it had not the jerking
movement of body characteristic of that bird, which alone would have
sufficed to distinguish it, even if I had not been near enough to
detect the difference of colour. Either the severity of the weather
had sharpened its appetite, and made it less shy than usual, or it had
not learnt to fear a horse and carriage, for it took no notice of the
intrusion on its privacy, but went on with its search without
condescending to look up. The Water Rail, then, unlike the Corn Crake,
remains with us all the winter. When forced to rise, this bird flies
heavily straight forwards, at no great elevation above the rushes,
with its legs hanging loose, and drops into the nearest thicket of
weeds. A nest and eggs of this bird are thus described in the _Annals
of Natural History_: 'The bird had selected for her nest a thick tuft
of long grass, hollow at the bottom, on the side of the reed pond; the
nest, about an inch and a half thick, was composed of withered leaves
and rushes; it was so covered by the top of the grass, that neither
bird, nest, nor eggs could be seen; the entrance to the nest was
through an aperture of the grass, directly into the reeds, opposite to
where any one would stand to see the nest.' The number of eggs is
about ten or eleven. Its note during breeding is a loud, groaning


      Spotted Crake

   Little Crake

      Corn Crake or Land-Rail [M]

   Water Rail [M]

                              [_face p. 230._]]


   Spoonbill [M]

      Moor Hen.

   Coot [F]

      Bittern [M]]


   Upper plumage deep olive-brown; under tail-coverts and edge of
   the wing white, the former with a few black feathers; under
   plumage slate colour, the flanks streaked with white; base of
   the bill and a space on the forehead bright orange, point of
   the bill yellow; irides red; feet olive-brown; a red ring round
   the tibia. In _females_ the colours are brighter than in the
   _males_. _Young birds_ have the front of the neck whitish, the
   belly grey, the base of the beak and legs olive-brown. Length
   thirteen inches. Eggs buff, spotted and speckled with

Of the two common names of this bird, 'Moor-hen' and 'Water-hen', the
former is that which is more generally in use, though the latter is
the more appropriate. The bird frequents moors, it must be admitted,
but only such as are watery; while there is scarcely a river, lake,
canal, brook, or even pond, of moderate dimensions, which Moor-hens do
not either inhabit all the year round or occasionally visit. The name
is objectionable on other accounts; the male bird is called a Moor-hen
as well as the female, while the terms Moor-fowl and Moor-cock have
long been applied to the Ptarmigan. For these reasons, I suppose, many
recent ornithologists Anglicize the systematic name, and call it the
Gallinule, which means 'little fowl', and is suggestive of the
half-domestic habits of the bird, under certain circumstances.

The Gallinule being a common bird of some size, conspicuous colours,
and active habits, is an interesting appendage of our rivers and
pieces of artificial water. Its note, something between a bark and a
croak, is as well known in watered districts as the note of the
Cuckoo, and is often uttered when the bird has no intention of being
seen. Any one who may happen to be walking on the bank of a reedy pond
may perhaps hear its strange cry and see the bird itself at some
little distance, swimming about with a restless jerky motion, often
dipping its head, and with every dip turning slightly to the right or
the left. If he wishes for a nearer view, let him advance quietly,
concealing himself as much as he can; for if he proceeds carelessly,
and takes off his eyes for any considerable time from the spot where
he observed it, when he looks again it will have disappeared, taken
wing, he may imagine, for some distant part of the water. Not so; the
cunning bird, as soon as a stranger was perceived within a dangerous
proximity, steered quietly for the nearest tuft of reeds, among which
it lies ensconced till he has passed on his way. Or it rose out of the
water, and, with its feet trailing on the surface, made for a similar
place of concealment; or dived to the bottom, where it still remains
clinging to the weeds. Perhaps it lies close to his feet, having sunk
beneath the water, and, aided by feet and wings, rowed a subaqueous
course to an often-tried thicket of rushes, where, holding on with its
feet to the stems of submerged weeds, it remains perfectly still,
leaving nothing above the surface of the water but the point of its
beak. If the observer suspects the whereabouts of its concealment, he
may beat the rushes with his stick and produce no effect; the bird
knows itself to be safe where it is and will make no foolish attempt
to better itself. A water spaniel or Newfoundland dog will be more
effective. Very often an animal of this kind is an overmatch for its
sagacity, and seizes it in his mouth before the poor bird was aware
that the water itself was to be invaded; but more frequently it
discovers an onset of this nature in time to clear itself from its
moorings, and dashing out with a splashing movement of feet and wings
skims across the pond to another lurking-place, and defies further

The Gallinule, though an excellent swimmer and diver, belongs to the
Waders; it has, consequently, free use of its legs on land, and here
it is no less nimble than in the water. When induced to change the
scene it steps ashore, and, with a peculiar jerking motion of its
tail, showing the white feathers beneath, and very conspicuous by its
bright red bill, which harmonizes pleasantly with the green grass, it
struts about and picks up worms, insects, snails, or seeds, with
unflagging perseverance, making no stay anywhere, and often running
rapidly. If surprised on these occasions, it either makes for the
water, or flies off in a line for some thick hedge or patch of
brushwood, from which it is very difficult to dislodge it.

Its mode of life is pretty much the same all the year round; it is not
a traveller from choice. Only in severe weather, when its haunts are
bound up with ice, it is perforce compelled to shift its quarters. It
then travels by night and searches for unfrozen streams. At such times
it appears occasionally in pretty large numbers in places where
usually a few only resort. When the south of Europe is visited by
severe frosts it is supposed even to cross the Mediterranean, it
having been observed in Algeria, feeding in marshes in half-social
parties, where a day or two before none had been seen. To the
faculties of swimming and running it adds that of perching on trees;
this it does habitually, as it roosts in low bushy trees; and it has
besides the power of walking cleverly along the branches.

In the neighbourhood of houses where it has long been undisturbed, it
loses much of its shy nature, and will not only allow itself to be
approached within a short distance, but, becoming half-domesticated,
will consort with the poultry in the farmyard, and come with them to
be fed. It is fond also of visiting the kitchen-garden, where it is
apt to make itself unwelcome, by helping itself to the tenderest and
best of the vegetables. Bishop Stanley, in his entertaining _Book on
Birds_, gives some highly amusing anecdotes of the Gallinule.

It builds its nest on the stump of a tree, or in a bush among wet
places, or in the roots of alders, but often it is placed on the
low-lying branch of a tree overhanging the water. The nest is a large
structure, made of rushes and dry flags, and is easy of detection. It
is very liable, too, to be swept away by any sudden rise in a river.
Added to which, the young frequently fall a prey to pike. But as the
bird has two, and sometimes three, broods in a year, each consisting
of from six to eight, it remains undiminished in numbers. The nest is
sometimes placed in a tree at a distance from the water. When this is
the case, as the habits of the young birds are aquatic, immediately on
their breaking the egg, the old birds convey them in their claws to
the water. An instance is recorded in the _Zoologist_ of a female
Gallinule being seen thus employed carrying a young one in each foot;
it has been observed, too, that in such cases the male bird builds a
second nest, near the water's edge, to which the young retire for
shelter during the night, until they are sufficiently fledged to
accompany their parents to their ordinary roosting-places in trees.


   Upper plumage black, tinged on the back with grey; under parts
   bluish grey; frontal disk large, pure white; bill white, tinged
   with rose-red; irides crimson; feet grey, tinged with green;
   part of the tibia orange-yellow. Length sixteen inches. Eggs
   brownish, speckled with reddish brown.

The Coot, seen from a distance, either on land or water, might be
mistaken for a Gallinule, flirting up its tail when it swims, jerking
its head to and fro, and when on land strutting about with a precisely
similar movement of all its members. On a nearer examination, it is
clearly distinguished by its larger size and the white bare spot above
the bill, in front, from which it is often called the Bald-headed
Coot. It is only during the summer season that the two birds can be
compared; for while the Gallinule remains in the same waters all the
year round, the Coot visits the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries,
North Africa and Egypt in winter, and gets as far south as the Blue
Nile. Their note, in summer, is a loud harsh cry, represented by the
syllable _krew_, as it would be uttered by a crazy trumpet. In winter
they are nearly mute. During the latter season, Coots are confined to
the southern parts of the island; but in the breeding season they are
more generally diffused.

When seen on the sea-coast, they are readily distinguished from Ducks
by the different position in which they sit on the water, with their
heads low, poking forwards, and their tails sticking high above the
body. When flying in large coveys, they crowd together into a mass,
but when swimming scatter over a wide space.

They have the same power of concealing themselves by diving among
weeds that has been already said to be possessed by the Gallinule. I
have seen a female Coot and her brood, when disturbed by a party of
sportsmen, paddle for a small patch of rushes, and defy a
long-continued and minute search conducted by keepers and clever
water-dogs. The latter appeared to traverse, again and again, every
square foot of the rush bed; but not a single bird was dislodged.

Owing to drainage the Coot is less plentiful than it was, although the
late Lord Lilford said it had increased much on the river Nene of
recent years.


      Stork [M]

   Common Crane.

      Night Heron.

   Heron [F]

                              [_face p. 234_]]


   Kentish Plover [F] [M]

      Grey Plover [M] (Summer and Winter)

   Golden Plover [M]

      Ringed Plover, young and [F]]




   General plumage ash-grey; throat, part of the neck, and back of
   the head, dark blackish grey; forehead and cere covered with
   black bristly hairs; crown naked, orange red; some of the
   secondaries elongated, arched, and having the barbs of the
   feathers free; bill greenish black, reddish at the base,
   horn-coloured at the tip; irides reddish brown; feet black.
   _Young birds_ have the crown feathered, and want the dark grey
   of the neck and head. Length five feet. Eggs pale greenish ash,
   blotched and spotted with brown and dark green.

From the fact of nine Cranes being recorded among the presents
received at the wedding of the daughter of Mr. More, of Loseley, in
1567, it would appear that these birds were tolerably common in
England at that date.

Willughby, whose _Ornithology_ was published about a hundred years
later, says that Cranes were regular visitors in England, and that
large flocks of them were to be found, in summer, in the fens of
Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. Whether they bred in England, as
Aldrovandus states, on the authority of an Englishman who had seen
their young, he could not say on his own personal knowledge.

Sir Thomas Browne, a contemporary of Willughby, writes, in his account
of birds found in Norfolk: 'Cranes are often seen here in hard
winters, especially about the champaign and fieldy part. It seems they
have been more plentiful; for, in a bill of fare, when the mayor
entertained the Duke of Norfolk, I met with Cranes in a dish.'

Pennant, writing towards the close of the eighteenth century, says:
'On the strictest inquiry, we learn that, at present, the inhabitants
of those counties are scarcely acquainted with them; we therefore
conclude that these birds have left our land.' Three or four instances
only of the occurrence of the Crane took place within the memory of
Pennant's last editor; and about as many more are recorded by Yarrell
as having come within the notice of his correspondents during the
present century. It would seem, therefore, that the Crane has ceased
to be a regular visitor to Britain. It is, however, still of common
occurrence in many parts of the Eastern Continent, passing its summer
in temperate climates, and retiring southwards at the approach of
winter. Its periodical migrations are remarkable for their
punctuality, it having been observed that, during a long series of
years, it has invariably traversed France southward in the latter half
of the month of October, returning during the latter half of the month
of March. On these occasions, Cranes fly in large flocks, composed of
two lines meeting at an angle, moving with no great rapidity, and
alighting mostly during the day to rest and feed. At other seasons, it
ceases to be gregarious, and repairs to swamps and boggy morasses,
where in spring it builds a rude nest of reeds and rushes on a bank or
stump of a tree, and lays two eggs. As a feeder it may be called
omnivorous, so extensive is its dietary. Its note is loud and
sonorous, but harsh, and is uttered when the birds are performing
their flights as well as at other times.

The Crane of the Holy Scriptures is most probably not this species,
which is rare in Palestine, but another, _Grus Virgo_, the Crane
figured on the Egyptian monuments, which periodically visits the Lake
of Tiberias, and whose note is a chatter, and not the trumpet sound of
the Cinereous Crane. In the north of Ireland, in Wales and perhaps
elsewhere, the Heron is commonly called a Crane.

A certain number of Cranes have been noticed in the Shetland Isles,
and some in the Orkneys. The latest seen in Ireland was in 1884,
County Mayo.


   No hind toe.


   Head, neck, breast, and edge of the wing ash grey; on the crown
   a longitudinal black streak; bill with a tuft of elongated
   loose feathers on each side of the lower mandible; upper
   plumage reddish yellow, streaked transversely with black; lower
   whitish; tail reddish brown and white, barred with black.
   _Female_--smaller, without a moustache, the streak on the crown
   fainter. Length nearly four feet. Eggs olive-brown, irregularly
   blotched with dull red and deep brown.

The Great Bustard was formerly not unfrequent in Britain, but of late
years it has become so rare that it is now impossible to describe its
habits on the testimony of a living eye-witness. In several parts of
the Continent it is indeed still to be met with; but I find so many
discrepancies in the various accounts which I have consulted, that it
is hard to believe all the writers who describe it to have had the
same bird in view. Some of these the reader may examine for himself.

The earliest mention of it which I find occurs in the Anabasis of
Xenophon, who describes a plain or steppe near the Euphrates full of
aromatic herbs, and abounding with Wild Asses, Ostriches, and Bustards
(_Otis_). The latter, he says, 'could be caught when any one came on
them suddenly, as they fly to a short distance like Partridges and
soon give in. Their flesh is delicious.' Pliny's description of the
Bustard is very brief. He says it approaches the Ostrich in size; that
it is called _Avis tarda_ in Spain, _Otis_ in Greece; its flesh is
very disagreeable, in consequence of the strong scent of its bones.'
Our countryman Willughby, who wrote in the middle of the seventeenth
century, gives a longer account. 'The Bustard has no hind claw, which
is especially worthy of notice; for by this mark and by its size it is
sufficiently distinguished from all birds of the tribe. It feeds on
corn and the seeds of herbs, wild cabbage, leaves of the dandelion,
etc. I have found in its crop abundance of the seeds of _cicuta_, with
but a few grains of barley even in harvest-time. It is found on the
plains near Newmarket and Royston, and elsewhere on heaths and plains.
Bustards are birds of slow flight, and raise themselves from the
ground with difficulty, on account of their size and weight; hence,
without doubt, the name _tardu_ was given to them by the Latins. By
the Scotch, on the authority of Hector Boethius, they are called

M. Perrault, who wrote in 1676, gives an account of a tame Bustard
which was kept for a while in summer in a garden, and died of cold in
the winter. 'He killed mice and sparrows with his bill by pinching
their heads, and then swallowed them whole, even when of considerable
size. It was easy to observe a large mouse going down his throat,
making a moving tumour till it came to the turn of the neck; it then
moved backwards, and although out of sight, yet its progress was
traced by the feathers between the shoulders separating, and closing
again as soon as it passed into the gizzard. He was fond of worms, and
while the gardener was digging, stood by him and looked out for them.
He ate the buds of flowers, and particularly of roses; also the
substance of cucumbers, but not the outside. From these observations
the Bustard is evidently fitted more particularly to live on animal

The average number of Bustards annually supplied to Chevet, the great
game-dealer of the Palais Royal, Paris, about fifty years ago, was
six. Its principal place of resort in France was the wild country
between Arcis-sur-Aube and Châlons, in most other districts it was as
little known as with us.

Several authors of undoubted veracity state that the adult male
Bustard has a capacious pouch, situated along the fore part of the
neck, the entrance of which is under the tongue, capable of holding
several quarts of water--it is said not less than seven. Montagu, in
his _Ornithological Dictionary_, expresses his doubt whether the bird
could carry as much as seven quarts, or fourteen pounds, while flying;
he admits, however, that 'it is large, as may be seen in the Leverian
Museum'; and he adds, 'that it is only discoverable in adults, as it
is most likely intended for the purpose of furnishing the female and
young in the breeding with water.' Of this pouch a figure is given by
Yarrell, copied from Edwards' _Gleanings of Natural History_, and
there inserted on the authority of Dr. James Douglas, the discoverer.
Some doubts having arisen in Mr. Yarrell's mind as to the accuracy of
the statement, he took much pains to ascertain the truth by dissecting
several adult males, and found no peculiarity of structure--a result
which was also arrived at by Professor Owen, who dissected one with a
view of obtaining a preparation of the supposed pouch for the Museum
of the College of Surgeons. A paper by Mr. Yarrell,[45] read before
the Linnean Society since the publication of his admirable work on
Ornithology, contains many other interesting particulars respecting
this bird, to which the reader is referred.

Bustards have been seen in England at various intervals during the
last eighty or a hundred years, sometimes in small flights and
sometimes as solitary specimens, more frequently in Norfolk than in
any other county, but they have ceased to breed in this country. I
lately met a gentleman in Norfolk who well recollected the time when
Bustards were to be met with in that county. On the lands near
Flamborough Head there used to be droves of them. They were
occasionally seen in the middle of the large uninclosed plains with
which Norfolk formerly abounded, and in such situations he had himself
seen them. When disturbed they move off rapidly, employing both their
feet and wings, rising heavily, but at an angle so acute that they
advanced perhaps a hundred yards before they attained the height of a
man. When once on the wing, they flew swiftly. They formerly bred in
the parish of Deepdale, and he could himself recollect an instance
when an attempt was made to rear some in captivity from the eggs, but
failed. The Bustard is now only a very rare visitor to Great Britain.
Its last fertile eggs were taken in Norfolk and Suffolk about the year

   [45] _Lin. Trans._, vol. xxi. p. 155.




   Crown, nape, back, scapulars, and wing-coverts, greyish brown;
   throat and front of the neck white, tinged with red, and
   bounded by a narrow black collar, which ascends to the base of
   the beak; lore black; breast whitish brown; lower wing-coverts
   chestnut; under parts white, tinged with brownish red;
   tail-coverts, and base of tail-feathers, white; the rest of the
   tail dusky, much forked; beak black, red at the base; irides
   reddish brown; orbits naked, bright red; feet reddish ash.
   Length nine inches and a half. Eggs pale stone colour, spotted
   with grey and dusky.

The Pratincole, called on the Continent, but without good reason,
_Perdrix de mer_, or Sea Partridge, is a rare visitor to Great
Britain, inhabiting for the most part the northern part of Africa, and
the countries in the vicinity of the Don, the Volga, the Caspian, and
the Black Sea. It has been observed also from time to time in several
of the countries of Europe.

In some of its habits it resembles the Plovers, as it frequents open
plains and runs with great rapidity. In nidification, also, and in the
shape, colour, and markings of its eggs it is associated with the same
tribe; while in its mode of flight and habit of catching flies while
on the wing, it approaches the Swallows. Hence it was named by
Linnæus, _Hirundo pratincola_, and under this designation it is
figured in Bewick. Its true place in the system is, however,
undoubtedly, among the waders, several of which not only feed on
insects, but are expert in catching them on the wing.



   Upper parts reddish ash with a white spot in the middle of each
   feather; space between the eye and beak, throat, belly, and
   thighs, white; neck and breast tinged with red, and marked with
   fine longitudinal brown streaks; a white longitudinal bar on
   the wing; first primary with a large white spot in the middle;
   second, with a small one on the inner web; lower tail-coverts
   reddish, the feathers, except those in the middle, tipped with
   black; beak black, yellowish at the base; hides, orbits, and
   feet, yellow. Length seventeen inches. Eggs yellowish brown
   clouded with greenish, blotched and spotted with dusky and

Though a citizen of the world, or at least of the eastern hemisphere,
this bird is commonly known under the name of Norfolk Plover, from its
being more abundant in that county than in any other. It is also
called Thick-knee, from the robust conformation of this joint; and
Stone Curlew, from its frequenting waste stony places and uttering a
note which has been compared to the sound of the syllables _curlui_ or
_turlui_. Like the Cuckoo, it is more frequently heard than seen, but
that only by night. In some of its habits it resembles the Bustard,
and is said even to associate, in Northern Africa, with the Lesser
Bustard. Its favourite places of resort are extensive plains; it runs
rapidly when disturbed, and when it does take wing, flies for a
considerable distance near the ground before mounting into the air. It
frequents our open heaths and chalk downs and breeds in Romney Marsh
and in the uplands of Kent and Sussex.

By day the Thick-knee confines itself to the ground, either crouching
or hunting for food, which consists of worms, slugs, and beetles,
under stones, which it is taught by its instinct to turn over. After
sunset, it takes flight, and probably rises to a great height, as its
plaintive whistle, which somewhat resembles the wail of a human being,
is often heard overhead when the bird is invisible. It is singularly
shy, and carefully avoids the presence of human beings, whether
sportsmen or labourers. Yet it is not destitute of courage, as it has
been seen to defend its nest with vigour against the approach of sheep
or even of dogs. Nest, properly speaking, it has none, for it contents
itself with scratching a hole in the ground and depositing two eggs.
The males are supposed to assist in the office of incubation. The
young inherit the faculty of running at an early age, being able to
leave their birth-place with facility soon after they are hatched; but
the development of their wings is a work of time, for their body has
attained its full size long before they are able to rise from the
ground. Before taking their departure southwards in autumn, they
assemble in small parties, numbering from four to six or seven, when
they are somewhat more easy of approach than in spring. In the chalky
plains of La Marne in France they are very numerous; and here, by the
aid of a light cart, fowlers in quest of them have little difficulty
in shooting large numbers, the birds being less afraid of the approach
of a horse than of a human being. But when obtained they are of little
value, as their flesh is barely eatable.

The Thick-knee is migratory, visiting us in the beginning of April to
stay till October. His flights are made by night.


   Plumage reddish cream colour; wing-coverts bordered with
   ash-grey; throat whitish; behind the eyes a double black bar;
   lateral tail-feathers black towards the tip, with a white spot
   in the centre of the black; abdomen whitish. Length nine
   inches. Eggs unknown.

Though the specific name Europæus would seem to imply that this bird
is of frequent occurrence in Europe, this is not the case. Not more
than three or four have been observed in Great Britain, at various
intervals, from 1785 to 1827; and on the Continent it is an equally
rare visitor to the plains of Provence and Languedoc.

It is a native of Syria, Egypt, and Abyssinia, frequenting pools and
other moist situations. It is singularly fearless of man, and when
disturbed prefers to run, which it does very swiftly, rather than to
take flight. Its winter residence is supposed to be the central lakes
of Africa, from which it returns to the countries named above early in
autumn, and disappears at the approach of winter. Nothing is known of
its nidification. About the autumn of 1868 one was shot in


   _Winter_--upper plumage dusky, spotted with yellow, cheeks,
   neck, and breast mottled with ash-brown and buff; throat and
   abdomen white; quills dusky, white along the shafts towards the
   end; beak dusky, feet deep ash-colour; irides brown.
   _Summer_--upper plumage greyish black, spotted with bright
   yellow; forehead and space above the eyes white; sides of the
   neck white, mottled with black and yellow; lore, throat, neck,
   and lower parts deep black. Length nine inches. Eggs yellowish
   green, blotched and spotted with black.

The Golden Plover is a common bird in the south of England during the
winter months, and in the mountainous parts of Scotland and the north
of England during the rest of the year; yet so different are its
habits and plumage at the extremes of these two seasons, that the
young naturalist who has had no opportunities of observing them in
their transition stage, and has had no access to trustworthy books,
might be forgiven for setting down the two forms of the bird as
distinct species.

In the hilly districts of the north of Europe, Golden Plovers are
numerous, sometimes being, with Ptarmigans, the only birds which
relieve the solitude of the desolate wastes. Though numerous in the
same localities, they are not gregarious during spring and summer, and
are remarkable for their fearlessness of man. So tame, indeed, are
they that, in little-frequented places, when disturbed by the
traveller they will run along the stony ground a few yards in front of
him, then fly a few yards, then stand and stare and run along as
before. On such occasions they frequently utter their singular
cry--the note so often referred to in Sir Walter Scott's poems--which,
like the Nightingale's song, is considered simply plaintive or
painfully woe-begone, according to the natural temperament or
occasional mood of the hearer. This bird builds no nest; a natural
depression in the ground, unprotected by bush, heather or rock, serves
its purpose, and here the female lays four eggs, much pointed at one
end, and arranges them in accordance with this.

At the approach of autumn, no matter where their summer may have been
passed, Plovers migrate southwards in large flights, those from
Scotland to the southern counties of England, where they frequent wide
moist pastures, heaths, and reclaimed marshland. From the northern
parts of the continent of Europe they take their departure in October,
either to the European shores of the Mediterranean, or to the plains
of Northern Africa. In these migrations they are not unfrequently
joined by Starlings. They travel in close array, forming large flocks
much wider than deep, moving their sharp wings rapidly, and making a
whizzing sound which may be heard a long way off. Now and then, as if
actuated by a single impulse, they sweep towards the ground, suddenly
alter the direction of their flight, then wheel upwards with the
regularity of a machine, and either alight or pursue their onward
course. This habit of skimming along the ground and announcing their
approach beforehand, is turned to good purpose by the bird-catcher,
who imitates their note, attracts the whole flight to sweep down into
his neighbourhood, and captures them in his net, a hundred at a time,
or, when they are within range, has no difficulty in killing from
twelve to twenty at a shot. Not unfrequently, too, when some members
of a flock have been killed or wounded, the remainder, before they
remove out of danger, wheel round and sweep just over the heads of
their ill-fated companions, as if for the purpose of inquiring the
reason why they have deserted the party, or of alluring them to join
it once more. This habit is not peculiar to Plovers, but may be
noticed in the case of several of the sea-side waders, as Dunlins and
Sanderlings. In severe winter weather they desert the meadows, in
which the worms have descended into the ground beyond the reach of
frost, and so of their bills, and resort to the muddy or sandy
sea-shore. In the Hebrides it is said that they do not migrate at all,
but simply content themselves with shifting from the moors to the
shore and back again, according to the weather. In the northern parts
of France, on the other hand, they are only known as passengers on
their way to the south. From making their appearance in the rainy
season they are there called _pluviers_, whence our name Plover,
which, however, is supposed by some to have been given to them for
their indicating by their movements coming changes in the weather, in
which respect indeed their skill is marvellous.

The Golden Plover, sometimes called also Yellow Plover, and Green
Plover, is found at various seasons In most countries of Europe; but
the Golden Plovers of Asia and America are considered to be different


   _Winter_--forehead, throat, and under plumage, white, spotted
   on the neck and flanks with grey and brown; upper plumage dusky
   brown, mottled with white and ash colour; long axillary
   feathers black or dusky; tail white, barred with brown and
   tipped with reddish; bill black; irides dusky; feet blackish
   grey. _Summer_--lore, neck, breast, belly, and flanks, black,
   bounded by white; upper plumage and tail black and white.
   Length eleven and a half inches. Eggs olive, spotted with

Many of the Waders agree in wearing, during winter, plumage in a great
measure of a different hue from that which characterizes them in
summer; and, as a general rule, the winter tint is lighter than that
of summer. This change is, in fact, but an extension of the law which
clothes several of the quadrupeds with a dusky or a snowy fur in
accordance with the season. The Grey Plover, as seen in England, well
deserves its name, for, as it frequents our shores in the winter
alone, it is only known to us as a bird grey above and white below.
But in summer the under plumage is decidedly black, and in this
respect it bears a close resemblance to the Golden Plover, with which,
in spite of the presence of a rudimentary fourth toe, it is closely
allied. My friend, the Rev. W. S. Hore, informs me that he has seen
them in Norfolk wearing the full black plumage in May. The occurrence
of the bird, however, in this condition, in England, is exceptional;
while in the northern regions, both of the Old and New World, it must
be unusual to see an adult bird in any other than the sable plumage of

The Grey Plover is a bird of extensive geographical range, being known
in Japan, India, New Guinea, the Cape of Good Hope, Egypt, the
continent of Europe, and North America. In this country, as I have
observed, it occurs from autumn to spring, frequenting the sea-shore,
and picking up worms and other animal productions cast up by the sea.
Grey Plovers are less abundant than Golden Plovers; yet, in severe
seasons they assemble in numerous small flocks on the shores of the
eastern counties, and, as Meyer well observes, they are disposed to be
"sociable, not only towards their own species, but to every other
coast bird. When a party either go towards the shore, or leave it for
the meadows and flat wastes, they unanimously keep together; but when
alighting, they mix with every other species, and thus produce a
motley group." They fly in flocks, varying from five to twenty or
more, keeping in a line, more or less curved, or in two lines forming
an angle. Their flight is strong and rapid, rarely direct, but
sweeping in wide semicircles. As they advance they alternately show
their upper and under plumage, but more frequently the latter; for
they generally keep at a height of sixty or a hundred yards from the
ground, in this respect differing from Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, etc.
Occasionally one or two of the flock utter a loud whistle, which seems
to be a signal for all to keep close order. Just as Starlings
habitually alight wherever they see Rooks or Gulls feeding, so the
Grey Plovers join themselves on to any society of birds which has
detected a good hunting-ground. During a single walk along the sands I
have observed them mixed up with Dunlins, Knots, Gulls, Redshanks,
and Royston Crows; but in no instance was I able to approach near
enough to note their habit of feeding. They were always up and away
before any other birds saw danger impending. In autumn they are less

The people on the coast describe the Grey Plover as the shyest of all
the Waders, and could give me no information as to its habits; but
Meyer, whose description of this bird is very accurate in other
respects, states that "its general appearance is peculiar to itself;
it walks about on the ground slowly and with grace, and stops every
now and then to pick up its food; it carries its body in a horizontal
position on straight legs, and its head very close to its body,
consequently increasing the thick appearance of the head."

The Grey Plover breeds in high latitudes, making a slight hollow in
the ground, and employing a few blades of grass. It lays four eggs, on
which it sits so closely that it will almost be trodden on. When thus
disturbed its ways remind one of the Ringed Plover.


   _Winter_--head dusky ash; over each eye a reddish white band,
   meeting at the nape; face whitish, dotted with black; back
   dusky ash, tinged with green, the feathers edged with rust-red;
   breast and flanks reddish ash; gorget white; beak black; hides
   brown; feet greenish ash. _Summer_--face and a band over the
   eyes white; head dusky; nape and sides of the neck ash;
   feathers of the back, wing-coverts, and wing-feathers, edged
   with deep red; gorget white, bordered above by a narrow black
   line; lower part of the breast and flanks bright rust-red;
   middle of the belly black; abdomen reddish white. Young birds
   have a reddish tinge on the head, and the tail is tipped with
   red. Length nine inches and a half. Eggs yellowish olive,
   blotched and spotted with dusky brown.

The Dotterel, Little Dotard, or Morinellus, 'little fool', received
both the one and the other of its names from its alleged stupidity.
'It is a silly bird', says Willughby, writing in 1676; 'but as an
article of food a great delicacy. It is caught in the night by
lamplight, in accordance with the movements of the fowler. For if he
stretch out his arm, the bird extends a wing; if he a leg, the bird
does the same. In short, whatever the fowler does, the Dotterel does
the same. And so intent is it on the movements of its pursuer, that it
is unawares entangled in the net.' Such, at least, was the common
belief; and Pennant alludes to it, quoting the following passage from
the poet Drayton

   Most worthy man, with thee 'tis ever thus,
   As men take Dottrels, so hast thou ta'en us
   Which, as a man his arme or leg doth set,
   So this fond bird will likewise counterfeit.

In Pennant's time, Dotterels were not uncommon in Cambridgeshire,
Lincolnshire, and Derbyshire, appearing in small flocks of eight or
ten only, from the latter end of April to the middle of June; and I
have been informed by a gentleman in Norfolk that, not many years
since, they annually resorted also in small flocks to the plains of
that county. Of late years, owing most probably to their being much
sought after for the table, they have become more rare; and the same
thing has taken place in France.

The Dotterel has been observed in many of the English counties both in
spring and autumn, and has been known to breed in the mountainous
parts of the north of England; but I may remark that the name is
frequently given in Norfolk and elsewhere to the Ringed Plover, to
which bird also belong the eggs collected on the sea-coast, and sold
as Dotterel's eggs.


   Forehead, lore, sides of the face, gorget reaching round the
   neck, black; a band across the forehead and through the eyes,
   throat, a broad collar, and all the lower parts, white; upper
   plumage ash-brown; outer tail-feather white, the next nearly
   so, the other feathers grey at the base, passing into dusky and
   black, tipped with white, except the two middle ones, which
   have no white tips; orbits, feet and beak orange, the latter
   tipped with black. _Young_--colours of the head dull; gorget
   incomplete, ash-brown; bill dusky, tinged with orange at the
   base of the lower mandible; feet yellowish. Length seven and a
   half inches. Eggs olive-yellow, with numerous black and grey

On almost any part of the sea-coast of Britain, where there is a wide
expanse of sand left at low water, a bird may often be noticed, not
much larger than a Lark, grey above and white below, a patch of black
on the forehead and under the eye, a white ring round the neck, and a
black one below. If the wind be high, or rain be falling, the observer
will be able to get near enough to see these markings; for sea-birds
generally are less acute observers in foul weather than in fair. On a
nearer approach, the bird will fly up, uttering a soft, sweet,
plaintive whistle of two notes, and, having performed a rapid,
semicircular flight, will probably alight at no great distance, and
repeat its note. If it has settled on the plain sand or on the water's
edge, or near a tidal pool, it runs rapidly, without hopping, stoops
its head, picks up a worm, a portion of shellfish, or a sand-hopper,
runs, stops, pecks, and runs again, but does not allow any one to come
so near as before. The next time that it alights, it may select,
perhaps, the beach of shells and pebbles above high-water mark. Then
it becomes at once invisible; or, if the observer be very
keen-sighted, he may be able to detect it while it is in motion, but
then only. Most probably, let him mark ever so accurately with his eye
the exact spot on which he saw it alight, and let him walk up to the
spot without once averting his eye, he will, on his arrival, find it
gone. It has run ahead with a speed marvellous in so small a biped,
and is pecking among the stones a hundred yards off. Its name is the
Ringed Plover, or Ringed Dotterel. Fishermen on the coast call it a
Stone-runner, a most appropriate name; others call it a Sea Lark. In
ornithological works it is described under the former of these names.

The Ringed Plover frequents the shores of Great Britain all the year
round. It is a social bird, but less so in spring than at any other
season; for the females are then employed in the important business of
incubation, and the males are too attentive to their mates to engage
in picnics on the sands. The nest is a simple hollow in the sand,
above high-water mark, or on the shingly beach; and here the female
lays four large, pointed eggs, which are arranged in the nest with all
the small ends together. The young are able to run as soon as they
break the shell; but, having no power of flight for a long time, avoid
impending danger by scattering and hiding among the stones. The old
bird, on such occasions, uses her wings; but not to desert her charge.
She flies up to the intruder, and, like other members of the same
family, endeavours to entice him away by counterfeiting lameness or
some injury.

The Ringed Plover sometimes goes inland to rear her young, and lays
her eggs in a sandy warren, on the bank of a river or the margin of a
lake; but when the young are able to fly, old and young together
repair to the sea-shore, collecting in flocks, and for the most part
continuing to congregate until the following spring. Their flight is
rapid and sweeping, consisting of a succession of curves, while
performing which they show sometimes their upper grey plumage, and at
other times the under, which is of a dazzling white. Occasionally,
too, as they wheel from one tack to another, every bird is lost sight
of, owing to the perfect unanimity with which, at the same instant,
they alter their course, and to the incapacity of the human eye to
follow the rapid change from a dark hue to a light.

Not unfrequently one falls in with a solitary individual which has
been left behind by its companions, or has strayed from the flock.
Such a bird, when disturbed, utters its whistle more frequently than
on ordinary occasions, and, as its note is not difficult of imitation,
I have often enticed a stray bird to fly close up to me, answering all
the while. But it has rarely happened that I have succeeded in
practising the deception on the same bird a second time.


   Forehead, a band over each eye, chin, cheeks, and under parts,
   white; upper part of the forehead, a band from the base of the
   beak extending through the eye, and a large spot on each side
   of the breast, black; head and nape light brownish red; rest
   of the upper plumage ash-brown; two outer tail-feathers while,
   the third whitish, the rest brown; beak, irides, and feet,
   brown. _Female_ wants the black spot on the forehead, and the
   other parts black in the male are replaced by ash-brown. Length
   six and a half inches. Eggs olive-yellow, spotted and speckled
   with black.

The Kentish Plover differs from the preceding in its inferior size, in
having a narrower stripe of black on the cheeks, and in wanting the
black ring round the neck. It is found from time to time in various
parts of the country, breeding in Kent, Sussex and the Channel
Islands, but is most abundant on the shores of the Mediterranean. Its
habits resemble closely those of the allied species.

On the authority of the Greek historian Herodotus, a little bird is
found in Egypt called the Tróchilus, which is noted for the friendly
and courageous office it performs for the Crocodile. This unwieldy
monster, having no flexible tongue wherewith to cleanse its mouth,
comes on shore after its meals, opens its jaws, and allows the
Tróchilus to enter and pick off the leeches and fragments of food,
which, adhering to its teeth, interfere, with its comfort. This story
was long believed to be a fable; but the French naturalist Geoffrey de
Saint Hilaire has, in modern times, confirmed the veracity of the
father of history, and pronounces the Tróchilus of the ancients to be
the _Pluvier à Collier interrompu_, the subject of the present
chapter. The Cayman of South America is also said to be indebted for a
similar service to the kindly offices of a little bird, which,
however, is not a Plover, but a Toddy.


   Curlew [M]

      Peewit [F]

   Dotterel [M]

      Norfolk Plover [F]

                              [_face p. 246._]]



      Grey Phalarope [F]

   Red-necked Phalarope

      Bar-tailed Godwit [F]]


   Feathers on the back of the head elongated and curved upwards;
   head, crest and breast, glossy black; throat, sides of the
   neck, belly and abdomen white; under tail-coverts yellowish
   red; upper plumage dark green with purple reflections; tail,
   when expanded, displaying a large semicircular graduated black
   patch on a white disk, outer feather on each side wholly white;
   bill dusky; feet reddish brown. _Young_--throat dull white,
   mottled with dusky and tinged with red; upper feathers tipped
   with dull yellow. Length twelve and a half inches. Eggs
   olive-brown to stone buff, blotched and spotted with dusky

The Peewit, or Green Plover, as it is sometimes called, is among the
best known birds indigenous to the British Isles. This notoriety it
owes to several causes. The lengthened feathers on the back of its
head, forming a crest, at once distinguish it from every other British
Wader. Its peculiar flight, consisting of a series of wide slow
flappings with its singularly rounded wings, furnishes a character by
which it may be recognized at a great distance; and its strange note,
resembling the word 'peweet' uttered in a high screaming tone, cannot
be mistaken for the note of any other bird. In London and other large
towns of England its eggs also are well known to most people; for
'Plovers' eggs', as they are called, are considered great delicacies.

Peewits are found in abundance in most parts of Europe and Asia from
Ireland to Japan. They are essentially Plovers in all their habits,
except, perhaps, that they do not run so rapidly as some others of the
tribe. They inhabit the high grounds in open countries, the borders of
lakes and marshes and low unenclosed wastes, and may not unfrequently
be seen in the large meadows, which in some districts extend from the
banks of rivers. They are partially migratory; hence they may appear
at a certain season in some particular spot, and be entirely lost
sight of for many months. Individuals which have been bred in high
latitudes are more precise in their periods of migration than those
bred in the south. In Kamtschatka, for instance, their southern
migration is so regular that the month of October has received the
name of the 'Lapwing month'. In Britain their wanderings are both more
uncertain and limited; for, though they assemble in flocks in autumn,
they only migrate from exposed localities to spots which, being more
sheltered, afford them a better supply of food.

In April and May these birds deposit their eggs, making no further
preparation than that of bringing together a few stalks and placing
them in a shallow depression in the ground. The number of eggs is
always four, and they are placed in the order so common among the
Waders, crosswise. Lapwings are to a certain extent social, even in
the breeding season, in so far that a considerable number usually
frequent the same marsh or common. It is at this season that they
utter most frequently their characteristic cry, a note which is never
musical, and heard by the lonely traveller (as has happened to myself
more than once by night) is particularly wild, harsh, and dispiriting.
Now, too, one may approach near enough to them to notice the winnowing
movement of their wings, which has given them the name of Lapwing in
England and Vanneau in France (from _van_, a fan). The young are able
to run as soon as they have burst the shell, and follow their parents
to damp ground, where worms, slugs, and insects are most abundant.
When the young have acquired the use of their wings, the families of
a district unite into flocks. They are then very wary, and can rarely
be approached without difficulty; but as they are considered good
eating, many of them fall before the fowler.


The plumage of this species is entirely black and white; head, neck,
scapulars and terminal half of the tail black; rump, upper
tail-coverts white; legs and toes pink; eyelids crimson. Length,
sixteen inches. The young have the feathers of the back and wings
margined with brown. The Oyster Catcher inhabits the shores of Great
Britain and Ireland throughout the year. The first time I came upon a
flock of these birds I was able to approach them nearer than on any
other occasion. They frequently uttered a harsh note in a high key
which, though unmusical, harmonized well with the scenery. I had many
other opportunities of observing them on the shores of the Scottish
lochs, and I was once induced, on the recommendation of a friend, to
have one served up for dinner as an agreeable variation from the bacon
and herrings which mainly constitute the dietary of a Scottish
fishing-village inn. But I did not repeat the experiment, preferring
fish pure and simple to fish served up through the medium of a fowl.
The nature of its food sufficiently accounts for its strong flavour.
Oyster Catchers frequent rocky promontories or the broad banks of mud,
sand, and ooze, which stretch out from low portions of the coast. Here
they feed on mussels and other bivalves, limpets, worms, crustacea,
and small fish; mixing freely with other birds while on the ground,
but keeping to themselves while performing their flights. In their
mode of using their wings they remind the spectator of Ducks rather
than of Plovers, and they advance in a line, sometimes in single file,
one after another, but more frequently wing by wing. When they alight,
too, it is not with a circular sweep, but with a sailing movement.
When the mud-banks are covered by the tide they move to a short
distance inland, and pick up slugs and insects in the meadows, or
betake themselves to salt marshes and rocky headlands. They have also
been observed many miles away from the coast; but this is a rare
occurrence. Their nest is generally a slight depression among the
shingle above high-water mark; but on rocky shores they make an
attempt at a nest, collecting a few blades of grass and scraps of
sea-weed. They lay three or four eggs, and the young are able to run
soon after breaking the shell.

In high latitudes Oyster Catchers are migratory, leaving their
breeding grounds in autumn, and returning in the spring; consequently,
those coasts from which they never depart afford an asylum in winter
to vast numbers of strangers, in addition to their native population.
On the coast of Norfolk, for example, they are to be seen in small
parties all through the summer; but in winter, especially if it be a
severe one, they may be reckoned by thousands. They here seem to have
favourite spots on which to pass the night. One of these is what is
called the "Eastern point" of Brancaster Marsh, a place of perfect
security, for it is difficult of access under any circumstances, and
cannot be approached at all with any chance of concealment on the part
of the intruder. Towards this point I have seen line after line
winging their way, all about the same hour, just before sunset, all
following the line of the coast, but taking care to keep well out at
sea, and all advancing with perfect regularity, every individual in a
company being at the same height above the water. They are very wary
at this season, insomuch that though I must have seen many thousands,
and examined upwards of twenty species of sea-shore birds, which had
been shot in the neighbourhood, not a single Oyster Catcher was
brought to me.

A common name for this bird is Sea-pie, another appropriate one is
'Mussel picker'; and it is thought that 'Catcher' comes from the Dutch
_aekster_ (magpie). The note is a shrill _keep_, _keep_. It swims
well, and sometimes it will take to the water of its own accord.
Although the nest is commonly on shingle or among sand-hills, or a
tussock of sea-pink on a narrow ledge of rock, Mr. Howard Saunders has
seen eggs of this bird in the emptied nest of a Herring-gull and on
the summit of a lofty 'stack.'


   Crown reddish white, with longitudinal black streaks; upper
   part of the back, scapulars, and wing-coverts, rusty brown,
   spotted with black; rest of the plumage variegated with black
   and white; bill and irides black; feet orange-yellow. Length
   nine inches. Eggs greenish-grey, blotched and spotted with
   slate and brown.

The Turnstone is a regular annual visitor to the shores of Great
Britain, and indeed of almost every other country, having been
observed as far north as Greenland, and as far south as the Straits of
Magellan; but it is rarely inland. It arrives on our coasts about the
beginning of August, not in large flocks like the Plovers, but in
small parties, each of which, it is conjectured, constitutes a family.
It is a bird of elegant form and beautiful parti-coloured plumage,
active in its habits, a nimble runner, and an indefatigable hunter
after food. In size it is intermediate between the Grey Plover and
Sanderling, being about as big as a Thrush. The former of these birds
it resembles in its disposition to feed in company with birds of
different species, and its impatience of the approach of man. For this
latter reason it does not often happen that any one can get near
enough to these birds to watch their manoeuvres while engaged in the
occupation from which they have derived their name, though their
industry is often apparent from the number of pebbles and shells found
dislodged from their socket on the sands where a family has been
feeding. Audubon, who had the good fortune to fall in with a party on
a retired sea-coast, where, owing to the rare appearance of human
beings, they were less fearful than is their wont, describes their
operations with his usual felicity: "They were not more than fifteen
or twenty yards distant, and I was delighted to see the ingenuity with
which they turned over the oyster-shells, clods of mud, and other
small bodies left exposed by the retiring tide. Whenever the object
was not too large, the bird bent its legs to half their length, placed
its bill beneath it, and with a sudden quick jerk of the head pushed
it off, when it quickly picked up the food which was thus exposed to
view, and walked deliberately to the next shell to perform the same
operation. In several instances, when the clusters of oyster-shells or
clods of mud were too heavy to be removed in the ordinary way, they
would not only use the bill and head, but also the breast, pushing the
object with all their strength, and reminding me of the labour which I
have undergone in turning over a large turtle. Among the sea-weeds that
had been cast on shore, they used only the bill, tossing the garbage
from side to side with a dexterity extremely pleasant to behold.[46]
In like manner I saw there four Turnstones examine almost every part
of the shore along a space of from thirty to forty yards; after which
I drove them away, that our hunters might not kill them on their

A writer in the _Zoologist_[47] gives an equally interesting account
of the successful efforts of two Turnstones to turn over the dead body
of a cod-fish, nearly three and a half feet long, which had been
imbedded in the sand to about the depth of two inches.

For an account of the habits of the Turnstone during the breeding
season--it never breeds with us--we are indebted to Mr. Hewitson, who
fell in with it on the coast of Norway. He says, 'We had visited
numerous islands with little encouragement, and were about to land
upon a flat rock, bare, except where here and there grew tufts of
grass or stunted juniper clinging to its surface, when our attention
was attracted by the singular cry of a Turnstone, which in its eager
watch had seen our approach, and perched itself upon an eminence of
the rock, assuring us, by its querulous oft-repeated note and anxious
motions, that its nest was there. We remained in the boat a short
time, until we had watched it behind a tuft of grass, near which,
after a minute search, we succeeded in finding the nest in a situation
in which I should never have expected to meet a bird of this sort
breeding; it was placed against a ledge of the rock, and consisted of
nothing more than the dropping leaves of the juniper bush, under a
creeping branch of which the eggs, four in number, were snugly
concealed, and admirably sheltered from the many storms by which these
bleak and exposed rocks are visited.

   [46] From this habit, the Turnstone is in Norfolk called a
        'Tangle-picker'.--C. A. J.

   [47] Vol. ix. p. 3077.



   General plumage white; crown, nape, scapulars, lesser
   wing-coverts, and primaries, black; bill black; irides reddish
   brown; feet bluish ash. Length eighteen inches. Eggs
   olive-brown, blotched and spotted with dusky.

This bird has become so rare, that having recently applied to two
several collectors in Norfolk, once the headquarters of the Avocet, to
know if they could procure me a specimen, I was told by one that they
were not seen oftener than once in seven years--by the other, that it
was very rare, and if attainable at all could not be purchased for
less than five pounds. In Ray's time it was not unfrequent on the
eastern maritime coasts. Small flocks still arrive in May and now and
again in the autumn, but collectors never allow them to breed. They
used to rest on the flat shores of Kent and Sussex. Sir Thomas Browne
says of it: '_Avoseta_, called shoeing horn, a tall black and white
bird, with a bill semicircularly reclining or bowed upward; so that it
is not easy to conceive how it can feed; a summer marsh bird, and not
unfrequent in marsh land.' Pennant, writing of the same bird, says:
'These birds are frequent in the winter on the shores of this kingdom;
in Gloucestershire, at the Severn's mouth; and sometimes on the lakes
of Shropshire. We have seen them in considerable numbers in the
breeding season near Fossdike Wash, in Lincolnshire. Like the Lapwing,
when disturbed, they flew over our heads, carrying their necks and
long legs quite extended, and made a shrill noise (_twit_) twice
repeated, during the whole time. The country people for this reason
call them _Yelpers_, and sometimes distinguish them by the name of
_Picarini_. They feed on worms and insects, which they suck with their
bills out of the sand; their search after food is frequently to be
discovered on our shores by alternate semicircular marks in the sand,
which show their progress.[48] They lay three or four eggs, about the
size of those of a Pigeon, white, tinged with green and marked with
large black spots.' Even so recent an authority as Yarrell remembers
having found in the marshes near Rye a young one of this species,
which appeared to have just been hatched; he took it up in his hands,
while the old birds kept flying round him.

The Avocet is met with throughout a great part of the Old World, and
is said to be not unfrequent in Holland and France. A writer of the
latter country says that 'by aid of its webbed feet it is enabled to
traverse, without sinking, the softest and wettest mud; this it
searches with its curved bill, and when it has discovered any prey, a
worm for instance, it throws it adroitly into the air, and catches it
with its beak'.

   [48] It is not a little singular that the Spoonbill, a bird
        which strongly contrasts with the Avocet in the form of
        its bill, ploughs the sand from one side to another, while
        hunting for its food.


   _Winter_--plumage in front and beneath white; back of the head,
   ear-coverts, and a streak down the nape, dusky; back
   pearl-grey, the feathers dusky in the centre, a white
   transverse bar on the wings; tail-feathers brown, edged with
   ash; bill brown, yellowish red at the base; irides reddish
   yellow; feet greenish ash. _Summer_--head dusky; face and nape
   white; feathers of the back dusky, bordered with orange-brown;
   front and lower plumage brick-red. Length eight inches and a
   half. Eggs greenish stone colour, blotched and spotted with

The Grey Phalarope, without being one of our rarest birds, is not of
irregular occurrence. Its proper home is in the Arctic regions, from
whence it migrates southward in winter. It is a bird of varied
accomplishments, flying rapidly like the Snipes, running after the
fashion of the Sandpipers, and swimming with the facility of the
Ducks. In all these respects it does not belie its appearance, its
structure being such that a naturalist would expect, _à priori_, that
these were its habits. During the breeding season, the Phalarope quits
the sea, its usual haunt, and repairs to the sea-shore, where it builds
a neat nest, in a hollow of the ground, with grass and other weeds,
and lays four eggs. The usual time of its appearance in Great Britain
is autumn; sometimes it comes then in numbers; but specimens have been
obtained in winter. On all these occasions it has shown itself
singularly fearless of man.


   Head deep ash-grey; throat white; neck bright rust-red; under
   plumage white, blotched on the flanks with ash; back black, the
   feathers bordered with rust-red; a white bar across the wing;
   two middle tail-feathers black, the rest ash, edged with white;
   bill black; irides brown; feet greenish ash. Length seven
   inches. Eggs dark olive, closely spotted with black.

The Red-necked Phalarope, or Lobefoot, is, like the preceding species,
an inhabitant of the Arctic regions, but extends its circle of
residence so far as to include the Orkney Islands, in which numerous
specimens have been obtained. It builds its nest of grass, in the
marshes or on the islands in the lakes, and lays four eggs. The most
marked habit of these birds seems to be that of alighting at sea on
beds of floating sea-weed, and indifferently swimming about in search
of food, or running, with light and nimble pace, after the manner of a
Wagtail. They are often met with thus employed at the distance of a
hundred miles from land. They are described as being exceedingly tame,
taking little notice of the vicinity of men, and unaffected by the
report of a gun.


   Back of the head barred transversely with dusky; upper plumage
   mottled with chestnut, yellow, ash, and black; lower reddish
   yellow, with brown zigzag lines; quills barred on their outer
   web with rust-red and black; tail of twelve feathers tipped
   above with grey, below with silvery white; bill flesh-colour;
   feet livid. Length thirteen inches. Eggs dirty yellow, blotched
   and spotted with brown and grey.

The history of the Woodcock as a visitor in the British Isles is
briefly as follows: Woodcocks come to us from the south in autumn, the
earliest being annually observed about the twentieth of October. On
their first arrival, they are generally found to be in bad condition;
so weak, in fact, that I recollect many instances of flights having
reached the coasts of Cornwall, only able to gain the land. Their
condition at these times is one of extreme exhaustion; and they become
the prey, not only of the sportsman, but are knocked down with a
stick, or caught alive. In the course of a very few days they are
enabled to recruit their strength, when they make their way inland.
They have been known even to settle on the deck of a ship at sea, in
order to rest; or actually to alight for a few moments in the smooth
water of the ship's wake. Their usual places of resort by day are
woods and coppices in hilly districts, whither they repair for shelter
and concealment. Disliking cold, they select, in preference, the side
of a valley which is least exposed to the wind; and though they never
perch on a branch, they prefer the concealment afforded by trees to
that of any other covert. There, crouching under a holly, or among
briers and thorns, they spend the day in inactivity, guarded from
molestation by their stillness, and by the rich brown tint of their
plumage, which can hardly be distinguished from dead leaves. Their
large prominent bead-like eyes are alone likely to betray them; and
this, it is said, is sometimes the case. So conscious do they seem
that their great security lies in concealment, that they will remain
motionless until a dog is almost on them or until the beater reaches
the very bush under which they are crouching. When at length roused,
they start up with a whirr, winding and twisting through the
overhanging boughs, and make for the nearest open place ahead; now,
however, flying in almost a straight line, till discovering another
convenient lurking-place, they descend suddenly, to be 'marked' for
another shot. About twilight, the Woodcock awakens out of its
lethargy, and repairs to its feeding-ground. Observation having shown
that on these occasions it does not trouble itself to mount above the
trees before it starts, but makes for the nearest clear place in the
wood through which it gains the open country, fowlers were formerly in
the habit of erecting in glades in the woods, two high poles, from
which was suspended a fine net. This was so placed as to hang across
the course which the birds were likely to take, and when a cock flew
against it, the net was suddenly made to drop by the concealed fowler,
and the bird caught, entangled in the meshes. Not many years ago,
these nets were commonly employed in the woods, near the coast of the
north of Devon, and they are said still to be in use on the Continent.
The passages through which the birds flew were known by the name of
'cockroads', and 'cockshoots'.

The localities which Woodcocks most frequent are places which abound
in earthworms, their favourite food. These they obtain either by
turning over lumps of decaying vegetable matter and picking up the
scattered worms, or by thrusting their bills into the soft earth,
where (guided by scent it is supposed) they speedily find any worm
lying hid, and having drawn it out, swallow it whole, with much
dexterity. When the earth is frozen hard, they shift their ground,
repairing to the neighbourhood of the sea, or of springs; and now,
probably, they are less select in their diet, feeding on any living
animal matter that may fall in their way. In March they change their
quarters again, preparatory to quitting the country; hence it often
happens that considerable numbers are seen at this season in places
where none had been observed during the previous winter. They now have
a call-note, though before they have been quite mute; it is said by
some to resemble the syllables _pitt-pitt-coor_, by others to be very
like the croak of a frog. The French have invented the verb _croûler_,
to express it, and distinguish Woodcock shooting by the name _croûle_.
Some sportsmen wisely recommend that no Woodcock should be shot after
the middle of February; for it has been ascertained that increasing
numbers of these remain for the purpose of breeding in this country;
and it is conjectured, with reason, that if they were left undisturbed
in their spring haunts, they would remain in yet larger numbers. As it
is, there are few counties in England in which their nest has not been
discovered; and there are some few localities in which it is one of
the pleasant sights of the evening, at all seasons of the year, to
watch the Woodcocks repairing from the woods to their accustomed

The nest is built of dry leaves, principally of fern, and placed among
dead grass, in dry, warm situations, and contains four eggs, which,
unlike those of the Snipes, are nearly equally rounded at each end.

There have been recorded numerous instances in which a Woodcock has
been seen carrying its young through the air to water, holding the
nestling between her thighs pressed close to her body.

During its flight, the Woodcock invariably holds its beak pointed in a
direction towards the ground. Young birds taken from the nest are
easily reared; and afford much amusement by the skill they display in
extracting worms from sods with which they are supplied. The Woodcock
is found in all countries of the eastern hemisphere where trees grow;
but it is only met as a straggler on the Atlantic coast of the United


   Crown black, divided longitudinally by a yellowish white band;
   a streak of the same colour over each eye; from the beak to the
   eye a streak of dark brown; upper plumage mottled with black
   and chestnut-brown, some of the feathers edged with
   straw-colour; greater wing-coverts tipped with white; under
   parts whitish, spotted and barred with black; tail of sixteen
   feathers; bill brown, flesh-coloured at the base. Length eleven
   and a half inches. Eggs brownish olive, spotted with reddish

The Great Snipe, Solitary Snipe or Double Snipe, is intermediate in
size between the Woodcock and Common Snipe. Though not among the
rarest of our visitants, it is far from common. It is, however, an
annual visitor, and is seen most frequently in the eastern counties in
the autumn. Its principal resorts are low damp meadows and grassy
places near marshes, but it does not frequent swamps like its
congeners. This difference in its haunts implies a different diet, and
this bird, it is stated, feeds principally on the larvæ or grubs of
Tipulæ (known by the common name of Father Daddy-Long-legs), which are
in summer such voracious feeders on the roots of grass. It breeds in
the northern countries of Europe, and in some parts of Sweden is so
abundant that as many as fifty have been shot in a day. When disturbed
on its feeding-ground, it rises without uttering any note, and usually
drops in again, at no great distance, after the manner of the Jack
Snipe. It may be distinguished by its larger size, and by carrying its
tail spread like a fan. In the northern countries where it breeds it
is found most commonly in the meadows after hay-harvest, and as it is
much prized for the delicacy of its flesh it is a favourite object of
sport. It is remarkable for being always in exceedingly good
condition, a remark which applies to specimens procured in this
country as well as those shot in Sweden. The nest, which has rarely
been seen, is placed in a tuft of grass, and contains four eggs. The
_Zoologist_ once mentioned the fact of four solitary Snipes being
killed in the county of Durham in August, and two of these were young
birds, scarcely fledged.


   Great Snipe

      Jack Snipe [M]

   Common Snipe

      Woodcock [M]

                              [_face p. 256_.]]


      Knot [M]

    Wood Sandpiper.

         Sanderling [M]

     Whimbrel [M]]


   Upper plumage very like the last; chin and throat reddish
   white; lower parts white, without spots; flanks barred
   transversely with white and dusky; tail of fourteen feathers.
   Length eleven and a half inches. Eggs light greenish yellow,
   spotted with brown and ash.

The Common Snipe is a bird of very general distribution, being found
in all parts of the eastern hemisphere, from Ireland to Japan, and
from Siberia to the Cape of Good Hope. It is common also in many parts
of America, especially Carolina, and is frequent in many of the
American islands. In Britain, Snipes are most numerous in the winter,
their numbers being then increased by arrivals from high latitudes,
from which they are driven by the impossibility of boring for food in
ground hardened by frost or buried beneath snow. In September and
October large flocks of these birds arrive in the marshy districts of
England, stopping sometimes for a short time only, and then proceeding
onwards; but being like many other birds, gregarious at no other time
than when making their migrations, when they have arrived at a
district where they intend to take up their residence, they scatter
themselves over marsh land, remaining in each other's neighbourhood
perhaps, but showing no tendency to flock together. Their food
consists of the creeping things which live in mud, and to this, it is
said by some, they add small seeds and fine vegetable fibre; but it is
questionable whether this kind of food is not swallowed by accident,
mixed up with more nourishing diet. The end of their beak is furnished
with a soft pulpy membrane, which in all probability is highly
sensitive, and enables the bird to discover by the touch the worms
which, being buried in mud, are concealed from its sight. Snipes when
disturbed always fly against the wind, so when suddenly scared from
their feeding-ground, and compelled to rise without any previous
intention on their part, they seem at first uncertain which course to
take, but twist and turn without making much progress in any
direction; but in a few seconds, having decided on their movements,
they dart away with great rapidity, uttering at the same time a sharp
cry of two notes, which is difficult to describe, but once heard can
scarcely be mistaken. When a bird on such an occasion is fired at, it
often happens that a number of others, who have been similarly
occupied, rise at the report, and after having performed a few mazy
evolutions, dart off in the way described. At other times they lie so
close that between the sportsman and the bird which he has just killed
there may be others concealed, either unconscious of danger, or
trusting for security to their powers of lying hid. This tendency to
lie close, or the reverse, depends much on the weather, though why it
should be so seems not to have been decided. But the movements of
Snipes generally are governed by laws of which we know little or
nothing. At one season they will be numerous in a certain marsh; the
next year perhaps not one will visit the spot; to-day, they will swarm
in a given locality; a night's frost will drive them all away, and a
change of wind a few days after will bring them all back again. If
very severe weather sets in they entirely withdraw, but of this the
reason is obvious; the frozen state of the marsh puts a stop to their
feeding. They then retire to milder districts, to springs which are
never frozen, to warm nooks near the sea, or to salt marshes. Perhaps
the majority perform a second migration southwards; for, as a rule,
they are most numerous at the two periods of autumn and spring--that
is, while on their way to and from some distant winter-quarters. After
March they become far less frequent, yet there are few extensive
marshes, especially in Scotland and the north of England, where some
do not remain to breed. At this season a striking change in their
habits makes itself perceptible. A nest is built of withered grass,
sometimes under the shelter of a tuft of heath or reeds, and here the
female sits closely on four eggs. The male, meanwhile, is feeding in
some neighbouring swamp, and if disturbed, instead of making off with
his zigzag winter's flight, utters his well-remembered note and
ascends at a rapid rate into the air, now ascending with a rapid
vibration of wing, wheeling, falling like a parachute, mounting again,
and once more descending with fluttering wings, uttering repeatedly a
note different from his cry of alarm, intermixed with a drumming kind
of noise, which has been compared to the bleat of a goat. This last
sound is produced by the action of the wings, assisted by the
tail-feathers, in his descents. One of its French names is _Chèvre
volant_, flying goat, and the Scottish name 'Heather-bleater', was
also given to it as descriptive of its peculiar summer note. The
female sits closely on her eggs, and if disturbed while in charge of
her yet unfledged brood, endeavours to distract the attention of an
intruder from them to herself by the artifice already described as
being employed by others of the Waders.

'Sabine's Snipe', which was at one time thought to be a distinct
species, is now admitted to be a melanism, a dark variety of the
Common Snipe, recent examination of specimens having proved that its
tail contains fourteen feathers and not twelve only, as was supposed.
It is seldom found outside Great Britain.


   Crown divided longitudinally by a black band edged with reddish
   brown; beneath this on either side a parallel yellowish band
   reaching from the bill to the nape; back beautifully mottled
   with buff, reddish brown, and black, the latter lustrous with
   green and purple; neck and breast spotted; belly and abdomen
   pure white; tail of twelve feathers, dusky edged with reddish
   grey; bill dusky, lighter towards the base. Length eight and a
   half inches. Eggs yellowish olive, spotted with brown.

As the Great Snipe has been called the Double Snipe, on account of its
being superior in size to the common species, so the subject of the
present chapter is known as the Half Snipe, from being contrasted with
the same bird, and being considerably smaller. The present species is
far less abundant than the Common Snipe; yet still it is often seen,
more frequently, perhaps, than the other, by non-sporting observers,
for it frequents not only downright marshes, but the little streams
which meander through meadows, the sides of grassy ponds, and the
drains by the side of canals, where the ordinary pedestrian, if
accompanied by a dog, will be very likely to put one up. Its food and
general habits are much the same as those of the Common Snipe; but it
rises and flies off without any note. Its flight is singularly crooked
until it has made up its mind which direction it intends to take;
indeed it seems to decide eventually on the one which was at first
most unlikely to be its path, and after having made a short round
composed of a series of disjointed, curves, it either returns close to
the spot from which it was started, or suddenly drops, as by a sudden
impulse, into a ditch a few gunshots off. I have seen one drop thus
within twenty yards of the spot where I stood, and though I threw
upwards of a dozen stones into the place where I saw it go down, it
took no notice of them. It was only by walking down the side of the
ditch, beating the rushes with a stick, that I induced it to rise
again. It then flew off in the same way as before, and dropped into
the little stream from which I had first started it.

From this habit of lying so close as to rise under the very feet of
the passenger, as well as from its silence, it is called in France _la
Sourde_, 'deaf'. In the same country it is known also as 'St. Martin's
Snipe', from the time of its arrival in that country, November 11;
with us it is an earlier visitor, coming about the second week in

A few instances are recorded of the Jack Snipe having been seen in
this country at a season which would lead to the inference that it
occasionally breeds here; but no instance of its doing so has been
ascertained as a fact.


   _Winter_--upper plumage and sides of the neck whitish ash;
   cheeks and all the under plumage, pure white; bend and edge of
   the wing and quills blackish grey; tail deep grey, edged with
   white; bill, irides, and feet, black. _Summer_--cheeks and
   crown black, mottled with rust-red and white; neck and breast
   reddish ash with black and white spots; back and scapulars deep
   rust-red, spotted with black, all the feathers edged and tipped
   with white; wing-coverts dusky, with reddish lines, and tipped
   with white; two middle tail-feathers dusky, with reddish edges.
   _Young in autumn_--cheeks, head, nape, and back variously
   mottled with black, brown, grey, rust-red and dull white.
   Length eight inches. Eggs olive, spotted and speckled with

The early flocks of Sanderlings often consist of old as well as young
birds, which is not the common rule with Waders. They are plentiful on
our sandy shores, and they sometimes visit inland waters. By April the
return passage begins. The note is a shrill _wick!_ They arrive on our
shores early in autumn, keeping together in small flocks, or joining
the company of Dunlins, or Ringed Plovers. In spring they withdraw to
high latitudes, where they breed; they are not, however, long absent.
Yarrell mentions his having obtained specimens as late as April and
June, and I have myself obtained them as early as the end of July,
having shot at Hunstanton, on the coast of Norfolk, several young
birds of the year, on the twenty-third of that month; and on another
occasion I obtained a specimen on the sands of Abergele, in North
Wales, in August. This leaves so very short a time for incubation and
the fledging of the young, that it is probable that a few birds, at
least, remain to breed in this country, or do not retire very far
north. Little is known of their habits during the season of
incubation, but they are said to make their nests in the marshes, of
grass, and to lay four eggs.

Like many other shore birds, they have an extensive geographical
range, and are found in all latitudes, both in the eastern and western


   Bill curved downwards, much longer than the head.
   _Winter_--upper tail-coverts and all the under parts white;
   upper plumage ash-brown, mottled with darker brown and
   whitish; breast the same colours, but much lighter; bill
   black; iris brown; feet dusky. _Summer_--crown black, mottled
   with reddish; under plumage chestnut-red, speckled with brown
   and white; much of the upper plumage black, mottled with red
   and ash. Length seven and a half inches. Eggs yellowish, with
   brown spots.

This bird, called also the Pigmy Curlew, is of about the same size as
the far commoner Dunlin, from which it is distinguished not only by
the difference in the colour of its plumage, but by the greater length
of its beak, which is curved downwards. Pigmy Curlews are observed
from time to time in this country at the periods of autumn and spring,
and it is said that a few remain with us to breed, but their nest and
eggs have never been detected. In their habits they resemble the
Dunlins, from which they may readily be distinguished, even when
flying, by their white upper tail-coverts. They are of wide
geographical range, but nowhere abundant, and visit us on passage in
spring and autumn.


   Beak straight, a little longer than the head, much dilated
   towards the tip; tail even at the extremity; a small part of
   the tibia naked. _Winter_--throat and abdomen white; breast and
   flanks white, barred with ash-brown; upper plumage ash-grey,
   mottled with brown; wing-coverts tipped with white; rump and
   upper tail-coverts white, with black crescents; bill and legs
   greenish black. _Summer_--streak over the eye, nape, and all
   the under plumage, rusty-red, the nape streaked with black;
   back streaked and spotted with black, red, and grey. The upper
   plumage of _young birds_ is mottled with reddish brown, grey,
   black, and dull white; legs dull green. Length ten inches. Eggs

The Knot, Willughby informs us, is so called from having been a
favourite dish of King Canutus, or Knute. It is a migratory bird,
visiting the coasts of Great Britain early in autumn, and remaining
here till spring, when it retires northwards to breed. During the
intervening months it keeps exclusively to the sandy or muddy
sea-shore, assembling in small flocks, and mixing freely with Dunlins,
Sanderlings, and Purple Sandpipers. Some authors state that it feeds
principally early and late in the day, and during moonlight nights;
but I have seen it on the coast of Norfolk in winter feeding at all
hours of the day in company with the birds mentioned above, and
differing little from them in the mode of obtaining its food. But I
remarked on several occasions that, when a flock was disturbed, the
Knots often remained behind, being less fearful of the presence of
man; in consequence of which tardiness in rising they more than once
fell to our guns after their companions had flown off. On their first
arrival, they are said to be so indifferent to the vicinity of human
beings that it is not difficult to knock them down with stones. Their
provincial name in Norfolk is the Green-legged Shank, the latter name,
Shank, being applied for shortness to the Redshank. Dr. Richardson
states that 'Knots were observed breeding on Melville Peninsula by
Captain Lyon, who tells us that they lay four eggs on a tuft of
withered grass, without being at the pains of forming any nest.'

Flocks of young make their appearance early in August, the adults
arriving a little later.


       Dunlin [F] [M]

   Little Stint.

       Temminck's Stint [M]

    Cream-coloured Courser.

                              [_face p. 262._]]


   Green Sandpiper [F]

       Purple Sandpiper [M]

   Common Sandpiper [F]

       Curlew Sandpiper.]


   Bill a little longer than the head, slightly bent down at the
   tip; two middle tail-feathers the longest, dusky and pointed; a
   small part of the tibia naked. _Winter_--throat and a streak
   between the bill and eye white; upper plumage ash-brown
   streaked with dusky; upper tail-coverts dusky; lateral
   tail-feathers ash, edged with white; breast greyish white,
   mottled with brown; bill black; feet dusky. _Summer_--most of
   the upper plumage black, edged with rust-red; belly and abdomen
   black. _Young birds_ have the upper plumage variously mottled
   with ash-brown, dusky, and reddish yellow; the bill is shorter
   and straight. Length eight inches. Eggs greenish white,
   blotched and spotted with brown.

The name _variabilis_, changeable, has been applied to this species of
Sandpiper on account of the great difference between its summer and
winter plumage. It was formerly, indeed, supposed that the two states
of the bird were distinct species; of which the former was called
Dunlin, the latter Purre. It is now known that the two are identical,
the bird being commonly found to assume in spring and autumn colours
intermediate between the two.

Except during the three summer months, May, June, and July, the Dunlin
is common on all the shores of Great Britain, where there are
extensive reaches of sand or mud. I have obtained specimens on the
coast of Norfolk as early as the twenty-fifth of July; but, generally,
it is not until the following month that they become numerous. From
this time until late in the winter they are reinforced by constant
additions; and in very severe weather the flocks are increased to such
an extent that, if it were possible to number them, they would be
probably found to contain very many thousands. Such a season was the
memorable winter of 1860-61, when, during the coldest part of it, I
made an excursion to the coast of Norfolk for the purpose of observing
the habits of the sea-side Grallatores and Natatores which, in winter,
resort to that coast. Numerous as were the species and individuals of
these birds which then flocked to the beach and salt-marshes, I have
no doubt, in my own mind, that they were all outnumbered by Dunlins
alone. Of nearly every flock that I saw feeding on the wet sand or
mud, fully half were Dunlins; many flocks were composed of these birds
alone; while of those which were constantly flying by, without
alighting, the proportion of Dunlins to all other birds was, at
least, three to one. Added to which, while the parties of other birds
were susceptible of being approximately counted, the individuals which
composed a flock of Dunlins were often innumerable.

At one time, we saw in the distance, several miles off, a light cloud,
as of smoke from a factory chimney: it moved rapidly, suddenly
disappeared, and as suddenly again became visible. This was an
enormous flock of Dunlins, consisting of many thousands at least. They
did not come very near us; but smaller flocks which flew about in our
immediate vicinity presented a similar appearance. As the upper
surface of their bodies was turned towards us, they were of a dark
hue; suddenly they wheeled in their flight as if the swarm was steered
by a single will, when they disappeared; but instantaneously revealed
themselves again flying in a different direction, and reflected
glittering snowy white.

Dunlins, while feeding, show a devoted attention to their occupation,
which is not often to be observed in land birds. They run rapidly,
looking intently on the ground, now stopping to pick up some scrap of
animal matter which lies on the surface of the sand, now boring for
living prey where they detect indications of such prey lying hid.
Occasionally an individual bird appears to suffer from lameness, and
halts in its progress as if its legs were gouty. Frequently they chase
a receding wave for the sake of recovering a prize which has been
swept from the beach: never venturing to swim, but showing no fear of
wetting either feet or feathers. While engaged in these various ways,
they often keep up a short conversational twitter, in a tone, however,
so low that it can only be heard at a very short distance. While
flying, they frequently utter a much louder piping note, which can
readily be distinguished from the call of the other sea-side birds. I
observed that a small detached flock, when disturbed, generally flew
off to a great distance; but if other birds were feeding in the
neighbourhood, they more frequently alighted near them, as if assured
by their presence that no danger was to be apprehended.

Dunlins have bred in Cornwall and Devon; but in many parts of
Scotland, in the Hebrides and Orkneys 'they frequent the haunts
selected by the Golden Plovers, with which they are so frequently seen
in company, that they have popularly obtained the name of Plovers'
Pages. Sometimes before the middle of April, but always before that of
May, they are seen dispersed over the moors in pairs like the birds
just named, which, at this season, they greatly resemble in habits.
The nest, which is composed of some bits of withered grass, or sedge,
and small twigs of heath, is placed in a slight hollow, generally on a
bare spot, and usually in a dry place, like that selected by the
Golden Plover. The female lays four eggs, and sits very assiduously,
often allowing a person to come quite close to her before removing,
which she does in a fluttering and cowering manner.'[49]

In a few specimens which I obtained, the bill was considerably curved
downwards throughout its whole length, thus approaching in form that
of the Pigmy Curlew; but the dusky upper tail-coverts sufficiently
distinguished it from its rarer congener.

   [49] Macgillivray.


   Bill longer than the head, slightly bent down at the tip,
   dusky, the base reddish orange; head and neck dusky brown,
   tinged with grey; back and scapulars black, with purple and
   violet reflections, the feathers edged with deep ash; breast
   grey and white; under plumage white, streaked on the flanks
   with grey; feet ochre-yellow. Length eight and a quarter
   inches. Eggs yellowish olive, spotted and speckled with reddish

The Purple Sandpiper is described as being far less common than the
Dunlin, and differing from it in habits, inasmuch as it resorts to the
rocky coast in preference to sandy flats. The few specimens of it
which I have seen were associated with Dunlins, flying in the same
flocks with them, feeding with them, and so closely resembling them
in size and movements, that a description of the one equally
characterizes the other. It was only, in fact, by the difference of
colour that I could discriminate between them; and this I did, on
several occasions, with great ease, having obtained my specimens
singly while they were surrounded by other birds. According to Mr.
Dunn, 'The Purple Sandpiper is very numerous in Orkney and Shetland,
appearing early in spring, and leaving again at the latter end of
April; about which time it collects in large flocks, and may be found
on the rocks at ebb-tide, watching each retiring wave, running down as
the water falls back, picking small shellfish off the stones, and
displaying great activity in escaping the advancing sea. It does not
breed there.'

This species has a wide geographical range. It has been often observed
in the Arctic regions, where it breeds. It is well known in North
America, and is found in various parts of the continent of Europe,
especially Holland.


   Bill slightly bent down at the tip, much shorter than the head;
   tail graduated. _Winter_--upper plumage brown and dusky; breast
   reddish; lower plumage and outer tail-feathers white; bill and
   feet brown. _Summer_--All the upper feathers black, bordered
   with rust-red; breast reddish ash, streaked with black. Length
   five and a half inches. Eggs unknown.

Temminck, in whose honour this bird was named, states that it
'inhabits the Arctic Regions, and is seen on its passage at two
periods of the year in different parts of Germany, on the banks of
lakes and rivers; probably, also, in the interior of France; never
along the maritime coasts of Holland; very rare on the Lake of Geneva.
Its food consists of small insects. It probably builds its nest very
far north.' A few have been killed in England, and it occurs in many
parts of Asia and in North Africa, but it is nowhere abundant, being
an irregular visitor, only on migration.


   Bill straight, shorter than the head; two middle and two outer
   feathers of the tail longer than the rest ('tail doubly
   forked'); tarsus ten lines; upper plumage ash and dusky; a
   brown streak between the bill and the eye; under plumage white;
   outer feathers of the tail ash-brown, edged with whitish;
   middle ones brown; bill and feet black. Length five and a half
   inches. Eggs reddish white, spotted with dark red-brown.

A rare and occasional visitant, appearing from time to time in small
flocks on the muddy or sandy sea-coast. My friend, the Rev. W. S. Hore
(to whom I am indebted for many valuable notes, incorporated in the
text of this volume), obtained several specimens of this bird in
October, 1840, on the Laira mud banks, near Plymouth. In their habits
they differed little from the Dunlin. They were at first very tame,
but after having been fired at became more cautious. In their food and
mode of collecting it, nothing was observed to distinguish them from
the other Sandpipers. They come on passage in spring and autumn.


   _Male in spring_--face covered with yellowish warty pimples;
   back of the head with a tuft of long feathers on each side;
   throat furnished with a ruff of prominent feathers; general
   plumage mottled with ash, black, brown, reddish white, and
   yellowish, but so variously, that scarcely two specimens can be
   found alike; bill yellowish orange. _Male in winter_--face
   covered with feathers; ruff absent; under parts white; breast
   reddish, with brown spots; upper plumage mottled with black,
   brown, and red; bill brownish. Length twelve and a half inches.
   _Female_, 'The Reeve'--long feathers of the head and ruff
   absent; upper plumage ash-brown, mottled with black and reddish
   brown; under parts greyish white; feet yellowish brown. Length
   ten and a half inches. _In both sexes_--tail rounded, the two
   middle feathers barred; the three lateral feathers uniform in
   colour. Eggs olive, blotched and spotted with brown.

Both the systematic names of this bird are descriptive of its
quarrelsome propensities: _machetes_ is Greek for 'a warrior',
_pugnax_ Latin for 'pugnacious'. Well is the title deserved; for Ruffs
do not merely fight when they meet, but meet in order to fight. The
season for the indulgence of their warlike tastes is spring; the
scene, a rising spot of ground contiguous to a marsh; and here all the
male birds of the district assemble at dawn, for many days in
succession, and do battle valiantly for the females, called Reeves,
till the weakest are vanquished and leave possession of the field to
their more powerful adversaries. The attitude during these contests is
nearly that of the domestic Cock--the head lowered, the body
horizontal, the collar bristling, and the beak extended. But Ruffs
will fight to the death on other occasions. A basket containing two or
three hundred Ruffs was once put on board a steamer leaving Rotterdam
for London. The incessant fighting of the birds proved a grand source
of attraction to the passengers during the voyage; and about half of
them were slain before the vessel reached London. Ruffs are
gluttonously disposed too, and, if captured by a fowler, will begin to
eat the moment they are supplied with food; but, however voracious
they may be, if a basin of bread and milk or boiled wheat be placed
before them, it is instantly contended for; and so pugnacious is their
disposition, that even when fellow-captives, they would starve in the
midst of plenty if several dishes of food were not placed amongst them
at a distance from each other.

Many years have not passed since these birds paid annual visits in
large numbers to the fen-countries. They were, however, highly prized
as delicacies for the table, and their undeviating habit of meeting to
fight a pitched battle gave the fowler such an excellent opportunity
of capturing all the combatants in his nets, that they have been
gradually becoming more and more rare. The fowler, in fact, has been
so successful that he has destroyed his own trade.

Another peculiarity of the Ruff is, that the plumage varies greatly in
different individuals--so much so, indeed, that Montagu who had an
opportunity of seeing about seven dozen in a room together, could not
find two alike. These birds are now become rare, but occasional
specimens are still met with in different parts of Great Britain, and
at various seasons; but if they are ever served up at table, they must
be consignments from the Continent.

The female builds her nest of coarse grass, among reeds and rushes,
and lays four eggs. The brood, when hatched, remain with her until the
period of migration; but the males take no interest in domestic
affairs. The few that have not been caught become more amicably
disposed during the latter portion of the year. They lose the feathery
shields from whence they derive their English name, and, assuming a
peaceful garb, withdraw to some southern climate. The Ruff is about
one-third larger than the Reeve; and the latter is, at all seasons,
destitute of a prominent collar. Formerly these birds bred in the east
of England.


   Upper plumage olive-brown, with greenish reflections, spotted
   with whitish and dusky; lower plumage white; tail white, the
   middle feathers barred with dusky towards the end, the two
   outer feathers almost entirely white; bill dusky above, reddish
   beneath; feet greenish. Length nine and a half inches. Eggs
   whitish green, spotted with brown.

This bird, which derives its name from the green tinge of its plumage
and legs, must be reckoned among the rarer Sandpipers. In habits it
differs considerably from most of its congeners, in that it is not
given to congregate with others of its kind, and that it resorts to
inland waters rather than to the sea. It is seen for the most part in
spring and autumn, at which seasons it visits us when on its way to
and from the northern countries in which it breeds. Specimens have
been killed late in the summer, from which it has been inferred that
the Green Sandpiper sometimes breeds in this country; but the fact
does not appear to have been confirmed by the discovery of its nest.
While migrating it flies very high, but when scared from its
feeding-ground it skims along the surface of the water for some
distance, and then rises high into the air, uttering its shrill
whistle. In its choice of food, and habits while feeding it resembles
the Common Sandpiper. It lays its eggs in deserted nests and old
squirrel dreys--and breeds probably in wild parts of Surrey, Sussex
and Hampshire. The Son of the Marshes considers that it does so.


   _Winter_--a narrow dusky streak between the bill and eye; upper
   parts deep brown, spotted with white; breast and adjacent parts
   dirty white, mottled with ash-brown; under plumage and
   tail-coverts pure white; tail-feathers barred with brown and
   white; two outer feathers on each side with the inner web pure
   white; bill and legs greenish. _Summer_--head streaked with
   brown and dull white; the white of the breast clearer; each of
   the feathers of the back with two white spots on each side of
   the centre. Length seven and a half inches.

This species closely resembles the last both in appearance and habits.
It received its name of Wood Sandpiper from having been observed
occasionally to resort to boggy swamps of birch and alder, and has
been seen even to perch on a tree. Its most common places of resort
are, however, swamps and wet heaths. Like the last, it is a bird of
wide geographical range, nowhere very abundant, and imperfectly known,
coming only on passage in spring and autumn.


   Upper parts ash-brown, glossed with olive; back and central
   tail-feathers marked with fine wavy lines of rich dark brown; a
   narrow white streak over each eye; under plumage pure white,
   streaked at the sides with brown; outer tail-feathers barred
   with white and brown; bill dusky, lighter at the base; feet
   greenish ash. Length seven and a half inches. Eggs whitish
   yellow, spotted with brown and grey.

To this bird has been given not inappropriately the name of Summer
Snipe. In form and mode of living it resembles the Snipe properly so
called, and it is known to us only during summer. Unlike the last two
species, it is a bird of common occurrence. One need only to repair to
a retired district abounding in streams and lakes, at any period of
the year between April and September, and there, in all probability,
this lively bird will be found to have made for itself a temporary
home. Arrayed in unattractive plumage, and distinguished by no great
power of song--its note being simply a piping, which some people
consider the utterance of one of its provincial names, 'Willy
Wicket'--it may nevertheless be pronounced an accomplished bird. It
flies rapidly and in a tortuous course, likely to puzzle any but the
keenest shot; it runs with remarkable nimbleness, so that if a
sportsman has marked it down, it will probably rise many yards away
from the spot; it can swim if so inclined; and when hard pressed by a
Hawk, it has been seen to dive and remain under water until all
danger had passed away. It has never been observed to perch on the
twigs of trees, but it has been noticed running along the stumps and
projecting roots of trees. Its favourite places of resort are withy
holts (where it searches for food in the shallow drains), moss-covered
stones in rivers, the shallow banks of lakes, and the flat marshy
places intersected by drains, which in low countries often skirt the
sea-shore. Its food consists of small worms and the larvæ and pupæ of
the countless insects which spend their lives in such localities. It
may be presumed, too, that many a perfect winged insect enters into
its dietary, for its activity is very great. Even when its legs are
not in motion, which does not often happen, its body is in a perpetual
state of agitation, the vibration of the tail being most conspicuous.

Sandpipers do not congregate like many others of the Waders; they come
to us generally in pairs, and do not appear to flock together even
when preparing to migrate. The nest is a slight depression in the
ground, most frequently well concealed by rushes or other tufted
foliage, and is constructed of a few dry leaves, stalks of grass, and
scraps of moss. The Sandpiper lays four eggs, which are large, and
quite disproportionate to the size of the bird. Indeed, but for their
peculiar pear-shaped form, which allows of their being placed so as to
occupy a small space with the pointed ends all together, the bird
would scarcely be able to cover them. The parent bird exhibits the
same marvellous sagacity in diverting the attention of an intruder
from the young birds to herself, by counterfeiting lameness, which has
been observed in the Plovers. The young are able to run within a very
short time after exclusion from the egg, there being an instance
recorded in the _Zoologist_ of a gentleman having seen some young
birds scramble away from the nest while there yet remained an egg
containing an unhatched chick. Early, too, in their life they are
endowed with the instinct of self-preservation, for Mr. Selby states
that if discovered and pursued before they have acquired the use of
their wings, they boldly take to the water and dive.

The Sandpiper is found in all parts of Europe and Asia, but not in


   _Winter_--upper plumage ash-brown; throat, sides of the head,
   streak over the eye, neck, and breast, greyish white; rump,
   belly, and abdomen, white; tail marked transversely with black
   and white zigzag bars, tipped with white; feet and lower half
   of both mandibles red. _Summer_--upper feathers ash-brown, with
   a broad dusky streak in the centre; under parts white, spotted
   and streaked with dusky; feet and lower half of both mandibles
   vermilion red. Length ten to eleven inches. Eggs greenish
   yellow, blotched and spotted with brown.

The Redshank is a bird of frequent occurrence on all such parts of the
coast as are suited to its habits. Nowhere, I suppose, is it more
abundant than on the coast of Norfolk--at least, on those parts of
the coast where it can have access to muddy marshes. It does not,
indeed, confine itself to such places, for it is not unfrequently to
be seen on the sea-shore, feeding in the neighbourhood of Dunlins,
Knots, Grey Plovers, and other Waders; or, when its favourite haunts
are covered by the tide, a solitary bird or a party of three or four
meet or overtake the stroller, by the sea-side, taking care to keep at
a respectful distance from him, either by flying high over his head or
sweeping along, a few feet above the surface of the sea, in the line
of the breakers or in the trough outside them. They may easily be
distinguished from any other common bird of the same tribe by the
predominance of white in their plumage. Other Waders, such as Dunlins
and Sanderlings, present the dark and light sides of their plumage
alternately, but the Redshank shows its dark and white feathers
simultaneously, and if seen only on the wing might be supposed to be
striped with black and white. Keen-sighted observers can also detect
its red legs. Its flight, as accurately described by Macgillivray, 'is
light, rapid, wavering, and as if undecided, and, being performed by
quick jerks of the wings, bears some resemblance to that of a Pigeon'.
During its flight it frequently utters its cry, which is a wild shrill
whistle of two or three notes, approaching that of the Ringed Plover,
but louder and less mellow. At low water, it frequents, in preference
to all other places of resort, flat marshes which are intersected by
muddy creeks, and in these it bores for food. It is very wary, flying
off long before the fowler can come within shot if it happens to be
standing exposed; and even if it be concealed under a high bank, where
it can neither see nor be seen, it detects his approach by some means,
and in most cases is up and away before any but the most expert shot
can stop its flight. On these occasions it invariably utters its alarm
note, which both proclaims its own escape and gives warning to all
other birds feeding in the vicinity. Scattered individuals thus
disturbed sometimes unite into flocks, or fly off, still keeping
separate, to some distant part of the marsh. On one occasion only have
I been enabled to approach near enough to a Redshank to watch its
peculiar movements while feeding, and this observation I was much
pleased in making, as it confirms the account of another observer. A
writer in the _Naturalist_, quoted by Yarrell and Macgillivray, says:
'I was very much struck with the curious manner in which they dart
their bill into the sand nearly its whole length, by jumping up and
thus giving it a sort of impetus, if I may use the word, by the weight
of their bodies pressing it downwards.' This account Macgillivray,
with an unamiable sneer too common in his writings when he refers to
statements made by others of facts which have not fallen within his
own observation, considers to be so inaccurate that he pronounces the
birds to be not Redshanks at all, and calls them 'Irish Redshanks'. On
the occasion to which I have referred, I saw at a distance a largish
bird feeding on a bank of mud close to an embankment. Calculating as
nearly as I could how many paces off it was, I cautiously crept along
the other side of the embankment; and when I had reached what I
supposed was the right spot, took off my hat and peeped over. Within a
few yards of me was an unmistakable Redshank, pegging with his long
beak into the mud, and aiding every blow with an impetus of his whole
body. In my own mind I compared his movements with those of a
Nuthatch, with which I was quite familiar, and, the surface of the mud
being frozen hard, I imagined that the laborious effort on the part of
the bird was necessitated by the hardness of the ground. Perhaps this
may have been the case; but, whether or not, it is clear enough that
the bird does, when occasion requires it, lend the weight of his body
to the effort of his beak in searching for food. I should add that I
did not know, at the time, that any similar occurrence had been

The food of the Redshank consists of worms, marine insects, and any
other animal matter which abounds on the sea-shore. In small
communities it builds its nest of a few blades of grass in the
marshes, in a tuft of rushes or long grass, never among the shingle
where that of the Ringed Plover is placed, but often under a shrub
(popularly known on the coast of Norfolk by the name of 'Rosemary'),
the _Suæda fruticosa_, Shrubby Sea Blite, of botanists. It lays four
eggs, which are considered delicate eating.


      Redshank [M]


      Black-tailed Godwit [F]

   Ruff & Reeve.

                              [_face p. 270._]]


      Sandwich Tern.

   Black Tern.

      Arctic Tern.

   Roseate Tern.]


   Bill strong, compressed at the base, slightly curved upwards.
   _Winter_--forehead, all the lower parts, and lower back, white;
   head, cheeks, neck and sides of the breast, streaked with
   ash-brown and white; rest of the upper feathers mottled with
   dusky and yellowish white; tail white, middle feathers barred
   with brown, outer white with a narrow dusky streak on the outer
   web; bill ash-brown; legs yellowish green, long and slender.
   _Summer--_feathers of the back edged with white, breast and
   adjacent parts white, with oval black spots; middle
   tail-feathers ash, barred with brown. Length fourteen inches.
   Eggs olive-brown, spotted all over with dusky.

An unusual colour and disproportionate length of leg are characters
which sufficiently distinguish the Greenshank and account for its
name. It is far less common than the Redshank, but seems to resemble
it in many of its habits. It is sociably disposed towards birds of its
own kind and allied species, but utterly averse to any familiarity
with man, insomuch that fowlers rarely come within shot of it. It
frequents low muddy or sandy shores and brackish pools, the oozy banks
of lakes, ponds, and rivers, preferring such open situations as allow
it a clear view of threatening danger while there is plenty of time to
decamp. In the course of feeding it wades unconcernedly through pools
of shallow water, and, if so minded, hesitates neither to swim nor to

Its visits to England are paid most commonly in spring and autumn,
while it is on its way to and from the northern climates in which it
breeds. 'In Scotland it is seen', says Macgillivray, 'in small flocks
here and there along the sea-shore, by the margins of rivers, and in
marshy places breeding there in the north, but it is nowhere common,
and in most districts of very rare occurrence. By the beginning of
summer it has disappeared from its winter haunts, and advanced
northwards; individuals or pairs remaining here and there in the more
northern parts of Scotland, while the rest extend their migration.'
The same author describes a nest, which he found in the island of
Harris, as very like those of the Golden and Lapwing Plovers, with
four eggs, intermediate in size between the eggs of these two birds.
Another nest was also found by Selby, in Sutherlandshire. There can be
therefore no doubt that the north of Scotland is within the extreme
southern limit of its breeding-ground. During the winter it is to be
seen in the west of Ireland only.


   Beak slightly curved upwards; middle claw short, without
   serratures. _Winter_-upper plumage variously mottled with grey,
   dusky, and reddish ash; lower part of the back white, with
   dusky spots; tail barred with reddish white and dusky; lower
   parts white. _Summer_--all the plumage deeply tinged with red.
   _Young birds_ have the throat and breast brownish white,
   streaked with dusky, and a few dusky lines on the flanks.
   Length sixteen inches. Eggs unknown.

On the coast of Norfolk, where I made my first acquaintance with this
bird in the fresh state, it is called a Half-Curlew. In like manner, a
Wigeon is called a Half-Duck. In either case the reason for giving the
name is, that the smaller bird possesses half the market value of the
larger. It resembles the Curlew in its flight and the colour of its
plumage; but differs in having its long beak slightly curved upwards,
while that of the Curlew is strongly arched downwards; and it is far
less wary, allowing itself to be approached so closely that it falls
an easy prey to the fowler. It appears to be most frequently met with
in spring and autumn, when it visits many parts of the coast in small
flocks. In Norfolk it is met with from May, the twelfth of that month
being called 'Godwit day,' by the gunners, although it is almost
unknown up north at that season.

The specimens which were brought to me were shot in the very severe
weather which ushered in the year 1861. These birds have nowhere been
observed in England later than the beginning of summer, from which
fact the inference is fairly drawn that they do not breed in this
country. Their habits differ in no material respects from the other
sea-side Waders, with whom they frequently mingle while feeding, not,
seemingly, for the sake of good fellowship, but attracted by a motive
common to all, that of picking up food wherever an abundance is to be
met with. Their note is a loud, shrill cry, often uttered while on the
wing. The female is much larger than the male.

This bird is sometimes called the Sea Woodcock. Its flesh is good
eating, but is far inferior in flavour to that of the true Woodcock.


   Beak nearly straight; middle claw long and serrated; upper
   parts ash-brown, the shafts of the feathers somewhat deeper;
   breast and adjacent parts greyish white; tail black, the base,
   and the tips of the two middle feathers, white; beak orange at
   the base, black at the point; feet dusky. _Summer_--much of the
   plumage tinged with red. Length seventeen and a half inches.
   Eggs deep olive, spotted with light brown.

This bird is, in outward appearance, mainly distinguished from the
preceding by having two-thirds of the tail black, instead of being
barred throughout with white and black. Like its congener, it is most
frequently seen in autumn and spring, while on the way to and from its
breeding-ground in the north; but it does not stay with us through
winter, though occasionally a few pairs used to remain in the
fen-countries to breed. It is by far the less common of the two, and
seems to be getting annually more and more rare. Its habits, as far as
they have been observed, approach those of the other Scolopacidæ. In
its flight it resembles the Redshank. Its note is a wild screaming
whistle, which it utters while on the wing. It builds its nest in
swamps, among rushes and sedges, simply collecting a few grasses and
roots into any convenient hole, and there it lays four eggs.


   General plumage reddish ash, mottled with dusky spots; belly
   white, with longitudinal dusky spots; feathers of the back and
   scapulars black, bordered with rust-red; tail white, with dark
   brown transverse bars; upper mandible dusky; lower,
   flesh-colour; irides brown; feet bluish grey. Length varying
   from twenty-two to twenty-eight inches. Eggs olive-green,
   blotched and spotted with brown and dark green.

Dwellers by the sea-side--especially where the tide retires to a great
distance leaving a wide expanse of muddy sand, or on the banks of a
tidal river where the receding water lays bare extensive banks of soft
ooze--are most probably quite familiar with the note of the Curlew,
however ignorant they may be of the form or name of the bird from
which it proceeds. A loud whistle of two syllables, which may be heard
for more than a mile, bearing a not over-fanciful resemblance to the
name of the bird, answered by a similar cry, mellowed by distance into
a pleasant sound--wild, but in perfect harmony with the character of
the scene--announces the fact that a party of Curlews have discovered
that the ebb-tide is well advanced, and that their feeding-ground is
uncovered. The stroller, if quietly disposed, may chance to get a
sight of the birds themselves as they arrive in small flocks from the
inland meadows; and though they will probably be too cautious to
venture within an unsafe distance, they will most likely come quite
close enough to be discriminated. Not the merest novice could mistake
them for Gulls; for not only is their flight of a different character,
but the bill, which is thick enough to be distinguished at a
considerable distance, is disproportionately long, and is curved to a
remarkable degree. Curlews are in the habit of selecting as their
feeding-ground those portions of the shore which most abound in worms
and small crustaceous animals; these they either pick up and, as it
were, coax from the tip to the base of the beak, or, thrusting their
long bills into the mud, draw out the worms, which they dispose of in
like manner. When the sands or ooze are covered, they withdraw from
the shore, and either retire to the adjoining marshes or pools, or
pace about the meadows, picking up worms, snails, and insects.
Hay-fields, before the grass is cut, are favourite resorts, especially
in the North; and, in districts where there are meadows adjoining an
estuary, they are in the habit of changing the one for the other at
every ebb and flow of the tide. From the middle of autumn till the
early spring Curlews are, for the most part, sea-side birds,
frequenting, more or less, all the coast; but at the approach of the
breeding season they repair inland, and resort to heaths, damp
meadows, and barren hills. Here a shallow nest is made on the ground,
composed of bents, rushes, and twigs of heath, loosely put together.
The eggs, which are very large, are four in number. During the period
of incubation the male keeps about the neighbourhood, but is scarcely
less wary than at other seasons. The female, if disturbed, endeavours
to lure away the intruder from her dwelling by the artifice, common in
the tribe, of pretending to be disabled; and great anxiety is shown by
both male and female if any one approaches the spot where the young
lie concealed. The latter are able to run almost immediately after
they are hatched, but some weeks elapse before they are fledged. It
seems probable that an unusually long time elapses before they attain
their full size, for the dimensions of different individuals vary to a
remarkable degree. Eight or nine specimens were brought to me in
Norfolk in the winter of 1861, and among them about half seemed
full-grown; of the others some were so small that, at the first
glance, I supposed them to be Whimbrels.

The Curlew is found on the sea-coast over the whole of Europe and
Asia, and along the northern coast of Africa.

The flesh of this bird is said by some to be excellent eating. This,
perhaps, may be the case with young birds shot early in autumn before
they have been long subjected to a marine diet. My own experience of
birds shot in winter does not confirm this opinion. I have found them
eatable, but not palatable.


   General plumage pale ash-colour, mottled with white and dusky
   spots; crown divided by a longitudinal streak of yellowish
   white; over each eye a broader brown streak; belly and abdomen
   white, with a few dusky spots on the flanks; feathers on the
   back, and scapulars deep brown, in the middle bordered by
   lighter brown; rump white; tail ash-brown, barred obliquely
   with dark brown; bill dusky, reddish at the base; irides brown;
   feet lead-colour. Length not exceeding seventeen inches. Eggs
   dark olive-brown, blotched with dusky.

Though by no means a rare bird, the Whimbrel is of far less common
occurrence than the Curlew, and is seen only at two periods of the
year, in May and August, when performing its migrations. It resembles
the Curlew both in figure and habits, though much smaller in size; its
note, too, is like the whistle of that bird, but somewhat higher. It
is gregarious, but unsociable with other birds. The extreme southern
limit at which the Whimbrel breeds is considered to be the Orkney and
Shetland Islands. It is known to visit most of the countries of Europe
and Asia in spring and autumn, but is nowhere very abundant.





   Bill black; feet purple-brown, the membrane short; head and
   neck black; upper parts lead-colour; under parts dark ash-grey;
   under tail-coverts white; tail not much forked, shorter than
   the wings; irides brown. In _winter_, the lore, throat and
   breast are white. Length ten and a quarter inches. Eggs dark
   olive-brown, blotched and spotted with black.

The Black Tern is a common bird in most temperate countries which
abound in extensive marshes. In its habits it is scarcely less aquatic
than the preceding species, but differs from them all in preferring
fresh water to salt. It was formerly of frequent occurrence in
England; but draining and reclaiming have, within the last few years,
given over many of its haunts to the Partridge and Wood Pigeon; and it
is now but rarely known to breed in this country.[50] A few, however,
are not unfrequently seen in spring and autumn, when on their way from
and to their winter quarters, which are the warmer regions of the
globe. In Norfolk its name still lingers as the 'Blue Darr', a
corruption, probably, of Dorr-Hawk (another name of the Nightjar), a
bird which it closely resembles in its mode of flight. Like the
Dorr-Hawk, the Black Tern feeds on beetles and other insects, which it
catches on the wing, but adds to its dietary small fresh-water fish,
which it catches by dipping for them. While in pursuit of its winged
prey, it does not confine itself to the water, but skims over the
marsh and adjoining meadows, sometimes even alighting for an instant
to pick up a worm. Black Terns are sociable birds among themselves,
but do not consort with other species. They lay their eggs in the most
inaccessible swamps, on masses of decayed reeds and flags, but little
elevated above the level of the water. The nests are merely
depressions in the lumps of vegetable substance, and usually contain
three or sometimes four eggs. They are placed near enough to each
other to form colonies; and the birds continue to flock together
during their absence in warmer climates. Large flocks have been seen
in the Atlantic, midway between Europe and America. In Holland and
Hungary they are said by Temminck to be numerous. This author states
that the Black Tern commonly lays its eggs on the leaves of the

   [50] The Rev. R. Lubbock states in his _Fauna of Norfolk_,
        1845, that it has ceased to breed regularly in Norfolk,
        but that eggs had been recently obtained at Crowland Wash
        in Lincolnshire.


   Bill long, black, the tip yellowish; tarsus short (one inch);
   tail long; head and crest as in the last; nape, upper part of
   the back, and all the lower parts brilliant white, tinged on
   the breast with rose; back and wings pale ash-grey; quills
   deeper grey; tail white; feet black, yellowish beneath. _Young
   birds_--head mottled with black and white; back, wing-coverts,
   and tail-feathers varied with irregular lines of black; bill
   and feet dark brown. Length eighteen inches. Eggs greyish
   green, blotched with brown and black.

The Sandwich Tern, which takes its name from the place where it was
first seen in England, is not uncommon on many parts of the coast
during the summer months. In some places it seems to be abundant. A
large colony inhabits the Farne Islands. They breed as far north as
the Findhorn. Upon this coast it is called _par excellence_ 'The
Tern', all the other species passing under the general name of 'Sea
Swallows'. Its habits are so like those of the Common Tern, to be
described hereafter, that, to avoid repetition, I purposely omit all
account of its mode of fishing, and content myself with quoting, on
the authority of Audubon and Meyer, incidents in its biography which I
have not noticed in the Common Tern. The former author says: 'Its
cries are sharp, grating, and loud enough to be heard at the distance
of half a mile. They are repeated at intervals while it is travelling,
and kept up incessantly when one intrudes upon it in its
breeding-ground, on which occasion it sails and dashes over your
head, chiding you with angry notes, more disagreeable than pleasant to
your ear.' Meyer, writing of the same bird, says: 'The Sandwich Tern
is observed to be particularly fond of settling on sunken rocks where
the waves run high, and the surf is heavy: this being a peculiar fancy
belonging to this species, it is sometimes called by the name of Surf


   Bill black, red at the base; feet orange, claws small, black;
   tarsus three-quarters of an inch long; tail much forked, much
   longer than the wings; upper part of the head and nape black;
   rest of the upper plumage pale ash-grey; tail white, the outer
   feathers very long and pointed; cheeks and under plumage white,
   tinged on the breast and belly with rose. Length fifteen to
   seventeen inches. Eggs yellowish stone-colour, spotted and
   speckled with ash-grey and brown.

Of this Tern Dr. M'Dougall, its discoverer, says, 'It is of light and
very elegant figure, differing from the Common Tern in the size,
length, colour, and curvature of the bill; in the comparative
shortness of the wing in proportion to the tail, in the purity of the
whiteness of the tail, and the peculiar conformation and extraordinary
length of the lateral feathers. It also differs from that bird in the
hazel-colour and size of the legs and feet.'

Roseate Terns have been discovered on several parts of the coast,
principally in the north, as in the mouth of the Clyde, Lancashire and
the Farne Islands. They associate with the Common Terns, but are far
less numerous. Selby says, 'the old birds are easily recognized amidst
hundreds of the other species by their peculiar and buoyant flight,
long tail, and note, which may be expressed by the word _crake_,
uttered in a hoarse grating key.' They rarely nest in Great Britain.


   Bill slender, red throughout; under plumage ash-grey; tail much
   forked, longer than the wings; legs orange-red, in other
   respects very like the last. Length fifteen inches. Eggs as in
   the last.

This bird, as its name indicates, frequents high northern latitudes,
to which, however, it is not confined; since in the Orkneys and
Hebrides it is the common species. It breeds also on the coast of some
of the northern English counties, but not farther south than the
Humber, though several instances are recorded of large flocks making
their appearance in different places at the season when they were
probably on their way from their winter quarters--far away to the
south--to their breeding-ground. In the rocky islands, which they
frequent from May to September, they form colonies and lay their eggs,
generally apart from the allied species. The eggs closely resemble
those of the Common Tern, but are somewhat smaller. In its habits and
general appearance the Arctic Tern comes so close to the last-named
species, that the birds, even when flying together, can only be
distinguished by the most practised eye.


      Lesser Tern [M]

   Common Tern

   Turnstone [M] _imm._

      Oyster Catcher [F]

                              [_face p. 278_.]]


      Glaucous Gull [F]

   The Common Gull.

    Lesser Black-backed Gull.

      Greater Black-backed Gull [M]]


   Bill moderate, red with a black tip; head and long feathers on
   the back of the head black; upper parts bluish ash; quills
   ash-grey, brown at the tips; tail much forked, not longer than
   the wings, white, the two outer feathers on each side dusky on
   the outer webs; under parts white, tinged with grey on the
   breast; irides reddish brown; feet coral-red. _Young birds_
   have a good deal of white about the head, and the feathers on
   the back are tipped with white; tail ash-grey, whitish at the
   tip. Length fourteen inches. Eggs olive-brown, blotched and
   spotted with ash and dusky.

On those parts of the coast where the Common Tern is abundant, no
sea-bird is more likely to attract the notice of the visitor than the
Common Tern. It is less in size than any of the common species of
Gull, with which, however, it is often confounded by the unobservant.
It is more lively and active in its motions, not ordinarily flying in
circles, but, if I may use the expression, 'rambling' through the air,
frequently diverging to the right or left, and raising or depressing
itself at frequent intervals. These characters alone are sufficient to
distinguish the Tern from any of the Gulls; but it presents yet more
striking features. Its tail is elongated and forked like that of the
Swallow, and from this character rather than from its flight it is
commonly known as the Sea Swallow. Its mode of taking its prey is
totally different from that of the Gulls. Very frequently a single
Tern may be observed pursuing its course in a line with the breakers
on a sandy shore at the distance perhaps of from fifty to a hundred
yards from the beach. Its beak is pointed downwards, and the bird is
evidently on the look-out for prey. Suddenly it descends
perpendicularly into the water, making a perceptible splash, but
scarcely disappearing. In an instant it has recovered the use of its
wings and ascends again, swallowing some small fish meanwhile if it
has been successful, but in any case continuing its course as before.
I do not recollect ever to have seen a Tern sit on the water to devour
its prey when fishing among the breakers. Often, too, as one is
walking along the shore, or sailing in a boat, when the sea is calm, a
cruising party of Terns comes in sight. Their flight now is less
direct than in the instance just mentioned, as they 'beat' the
fishing-ground after the fashion of spaniels, still, however, making
way ahead. Suddenly one of the party arrests its flight, hovers for a
few seconds like a Hawk, and descends as if shot, making a splash as
before. If unsuccessful it rises at once, but if it has captured the
object on which it swooped, it remains floating on the water until it
has relieved itself of its incumbrance by the summary process of
swallowing it. I do not know a prettier sight than a party of Terns
thus occupied. They are by no means shy, frequently flying quite over
the boat, and uttering from time to time a short scream, which, though
not melodious, is more in keeping with the scene than a mellow song
would be.

In rough weather they repair to sheltered bays, ascend estuaries, or
follow the course of a river until they have advanced far inland. They
are harbingers of summer quite as much as the Swallow itself, coming
to us in May and leaving in September for some warmer coast. They
usually breed on flat shores, laying two or three eggs on the ground,
in marshes, or on sandy shingle. The eggs in my collection were
procured on the coast of Norfolk, but I have seen the birds themselves
in the greatest numbers in Belfast Lough and in Loch Crinan. They have
bred as far north as Sutherland.


   Bill orange, with a black tip; feet orange; forehead, and a
   streak above the eye, white; crown black; upper parts
   pearl-grey; under, white; tail much forked, shorter than the
   wings. _Young birds_ have the head brownish, with darker
   streaks; upper plumage yellowish white and dusky; bill pale
   yellow, with a dark tip; legs dull yellow. Length eight and a
   half inches. Eggs stone-colour, spotted and speckled with grey
   and brown.

On the sandy and marshy shores of Norfolk, the Lesser Tern is a bird
of common occurrence in summer, either single, or in small parties of
three or four. Not unfrequently, as the sea-side visitor is sauntering
about on the sands, one of these birds seems to take offence at its
dominion being invaded. With repeated harsh cries it flies round and
round the intruder, coming quite close enough to allow its black head
and yellow beak to be distinguished. Its flight is swift, something
like that of a Swallow, but more laboured, and not so rapid. If fired
at, it takes little notice of the noise; and, knowing nothing of the
danger, continues its screams[51] and circling till its pertinacity
becomes annoying. When feeding it presents a far pleasanter
appearance. Then, altogether heedless of intrusion, it skims along the
surface of the drains in the marshes, profiting by its length of wing
and facility of wheeling, to capture flying insects. At least, if this
be not its object, I can in no other way account for the peculiar
character of its flight. At other times, either alone or in company
with a few other individuals of the same species, it is seen flying
slowly along, some fifteen or twenty feet above the surface of a
shallow tidal pool, or pond, in a salt marsh. Suddenly it arrests its
onward progress, soars like a Kestrel for a second or two, with its
beak pointed downwards. It has descried a shrimp, or small fish, and
this is its way of taking aim. Employing the mechanism with which its
Creator has provided it, it throws out of gear its apparatus of
feathers and air-tubes, and falls like a plummet into the water, with
a splash which sends circle after circle to the shore; and, in an
instant, having captured and swallowed its petty booty, returns to its
aërial watch-post. A social little party of three or four birds, who
have thus taken possession of a pond, will remain fishing as long as
the tide is high enough to keep it full. They take little notice of
passengers; and if startled by the report of a gun, remove to a short
distance only, and there resume their occupation. Sometimes they may
be seen floating about in the open sea, resting their wings, perhaps,
after a long flight, or simply idling, certainly not fishing; for
although they plunge from a height, with great ease and elegance,
diving proper is not one of their accomplishments.

To the stranger who visits the coast of Norfolk, the Lesser Tern will,
perhaps, be pointed out under the name of 'Sea Swallow', or, more
probably, as a 'Shrimp Catcher'. Either of these names is appropriate.
Its mode of progress through the air is more like a Swallow's than
that of the Common Tern, and in size it does not so very much exceed
the Swift as to make the comparison outrageous. A shrimp it can
undoubtedly catch; and it exercises its vocation in shallow water,
such as shrimps alone inhabit or small fish no larger than shrimps.

Like the other Terns it is migratory, repairing year after year to low
flat shores on various parts of the coast, arriving in May, and
departing in September for some climate subject to no cold severe
enough to banish small marine animals to deep water. The Lesser Tern
makes no nest, but lays its eggs, generally two, among the shingle.

   [51] I have been beset in this manner by a Lesser Tern, so far
        on in the summer that I could not attribute its actions to
        any anxiety about either eggs or young. I am inclined to
        think it is, on such occasions, taught by its instinct to
        accompany a traveller for the sake of the insects disturbed
        by his movements. During the summer months, the shingle, on
        a sunny beach, is haunted by myriads of sluggish flies,
        which rarely take wing unless thus disturbed. That the
        Chimney Swallow often accompanies the traveller for this
        object, I have no doubt; as I have seen them fly to and fro
        before me, darting in among the swarming flies, and so intent
        in their chase, as to pass within a few yards of my feet
        every time they crossed my path.



   _Summer_--head and neck black; lower part of the neck, tail,
   all the under plumage, white; upper plumage pale ash-grey;
   primaries white at the end; bill reddish brown; irides dark;
   legs vermilion. _Winter_--forehead, front and sides of the neck
   white; nape and cheeks white, streaked with greyish black.
   Length eleven inches.

This, the smallest of the Gulls, comes sometimes in numbers to the
British coast. It is said to be remarkably active and graceful in its
movements through the air, and to associate with Terns. Its food
consists of marine insects and small fish. Its breeding-place and eggs
are unknown. As a rule it leaves us in September or early in October.


   _Summer_--head and upper part of the neck deep brown; lower
   part of the neck and all the under plumage white, slightly
   tinged with rose; upper plumage bluish ash; primaries white,
   edged with ash, and broadly tipped with black; irides brown;
   bill and feet red, with a purple tinge. In _winter_ the head
   and neck are white; bill and feet bright vermilion. In _young
   birds_ the hood is pale brown; the upper plumage dark brown,
   mottled at the edges of the feathers with yellowish; bill livid
   at the base, the tip black; feet yellowish. Length seventeen
   inches. Eggs olive, spotted with brown and dusky.

Black-headed, Blackcap, Brown-headed, Red-legged, and Pewit, are all
common distinctive names of this Gull, to which may be added that of
Laughing Gull. The latter name is, indeed, often given to the next
species, a rare bird, and might with equal propriety be applied to
several other species, whose harsh cry resembles a laugh. The
systematic name, _ridibundus_, which has the same meaning, is by
general consent confined to this. The reader, therefore, must bear in
mind that though the term _ridibundus_ will bear no translation but
'laughing', the name of the Laughing Gull is _Larus atricapilla_,
which can mean only 'Black-headed Gull'; a paradoxical statement,
perhaps, but one which it is necessary to make, or the young student
will probably fall into error.

Brown-headed Gull is the most appropriate of all the above names, at
least in summer, for at this period both male and female are best
distinguished by the deep brown colour of the head and upper part of
the neck.

This is one of the most frequent of the Gulls, to be sought for in the
breeding season not on the rocky shore among cliffs, but on low flat
salt marshes on the coast and in fresh-water marshes far inland. Early
in spring large numbers of Brown-headed Gulls repair to their
traditional breeding-grounds and wander over the adjoining country in
search of food, which consists of worms and grubs. From the assiduity
with which they resort to arable land and follow the plough, they have
been called Sea Crows. In April and May they make their simple
preparations for laying their eggs by trampling down the broken tops
of reeds and sedges, and so forming a slight concavity. The number of
eggs in each nest is generally three, and as a large number of birds
often resort to the same spot, the collecting of these eggs becomes an
occupation of importance. By some persons they are considered a
delicacy, and, with the eggs of the Redshank, are substituted for
Plovers' eggs; but to a fastidious palate they are not acceptable, and
far inferior to an egg from the poultry yard. Willughby describes a
colony of Blackcaps on a small island in a marsh or fish pond, in the
county of Stafford, distant at least thirty miles from the sea. He
says that when the young birds had attained their full size, it was
the custom to drive them from the island into nets disposed along the
shore of the lake. The captured birds were fattened on meat and
garbage, and sold for about fourpence or fivepence each (a goodly
price in those days, 1676). The average number captured every year was
1200, returning to the proprietor an income of about £15. In _The
Catalogue of Norfolk and Suffolk Birds_, it is stated that precisely
the same sum is paid for the privilege of collecting the eggs from
Scoulton Mere, in Norfolk. Towards the end of July, when the young are
fully fledged, all the birds, old and young, repair to the sea, and
scatter themselves in small flocks to all parts of the coast,
preferring a low sandy shore, or the mouth of a tidal river, as the
Thames and the Clyde, where they are of common occurrence. They also
accompany shoals of herrings and other small fish, often congregating
with other species in countless numbers.

Before winter the distinctive character afforded by the brown plumage
of the head and neck has entirely disappeared. These parts are now of
a pure white, and the red legs afford the best distinguishing feature.
Persons residing on the coast, who are familiarly acquainted with the
habits of the bird, but are unaware of the periodical change in its
colour, consider the two forms of the bird as distinct species. Thus I
have received from a marsh on the coast of Norfolk the eggs of the
'Black-headed Gull', and have had the same bird pointed out to me in
winter as the 'Red-legged Pigeon-Mow' (Mew). One flock of about thirty
thus pointed out to me presented a very pretty sight. They had
detected either a shoal of small fishes, or a collection of dead
animal matter floating among the breakers, and were feeding with
singular activity.


   In _spring_ the head and neck of this species are white and the
   mantle is a pale grey, a little darker in _summer_, the head,
   tail and under parts white; primaries comparatively long, and
   the three outer pairs dull black on the lower portions, with
   large white 'mirrors' near the tips in mature birds--in the
   rest the predominant tone is a pale grey, the black only
   forming a bar, and all but the first primary broadly tipped
   with white; bill a rich yellow towards the point; legs and feet
   greenish yellow in _summer_, darker in _winter_. In _winter_
   the head and neck are streaked and spotted with ash-brown.
   Length eighteen inches.

This is a species resident in Great Britain, but it is not known to
breed south of the Solway. It nests, however, in the west of Ireland;
grassy sides and islands of lochs or slopes that face the sea, not far
often above high-water, are its favourite resorts, where it breeds in
colonies, the nest of sea-weeds, heather and dry grass being fairly
large. In it will be, as a rule, three eggs, an olive-brown, spotted
and streaked with a blackish tone; but pale blue, light green and
straw-coloured varieties are found often. This Gull is the first to
seek the shore on the approach of 'coarse' weather; and it may often
be studied in the fields as it picks up grubs among the furrows in the
company of Rooks, or by the town-tied Cockney, from his own standpoint
of Westminster Bridge.

The 'Blue Maa', as this species is called in the north, breeds in
abundance on the Scottish coasts as well as the moors of the
fresh-water lochs, including the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands. The
Black-headed Gull is generally the Common Gull of the peasantry in
Ireland, but the underside of the wing in the young of the Common Gull
is mottled with brown, whereas it is greyish-white in the Black-headed

Gulls are, moreover, of material service, for they perform for the
surface of the sea the same office which crustaceous animals do for
its depths. Most of their time is spent in either flying or swimming
about (they are no divers) in quest of food, which is of that nature
that, if suffered to accumulate, more than one of our senses would be
offended. All animal matter which, when life is extinct, rises to the
surface, it is their especial province to clear away. To perform this
necessary work, they have need of a quick eye and a voracious
appetite. That they have the former in an eminent degree, any one may
convince himself who, when taking a sea voyage, sees the vessel
followed, as he often will, by a flock of Gulls. Let him fling
overboard, into the foaming track of the ship, where his own eye can
distinguish nothing, ever so small a portion of bread or other kind of
food. That some one individual at least among the flock will have seen
it fall and be able to descry it is certain; now, probably, a general
scramble will ensue, and the prize will be secured by the swiftest.
Having tried this several times with the same result, let him throw
over, instead of meat or bread, a bit of wood. Not a bird will come
near even to examine it. I have often tried this experiment, and have
met with but one result. To prove that the Gull is capable of
consuming a large quantity of food, as well as quick-sighted, a single
anecdote will suffice:--"A man who was shooting on the banks of the
river Yare, seeing something, which had the appearance of an eel
half-swallowed, hanging from the mouth of a Gull which was flying
overhead, fired at the bird, and on taking it up, found, not an eel,
but--five tallow candles attached to a piece of thread, to the other
end of which was fastened a sixth, the latter having been _almost
entirely swallowed_. The candles were about twelve inches in length,
with cotton wicks, such as are used on board the fishing boats, from
the deck of which he had probably taken them". The Gull, then, is not
choice in its diet; it is, in fact, omnivorous. It skims the deep for
dead animal matter, follows the ship for offal thrown overboard, paces
the shore in quest of molluscs and marine insects, flies inland in
stormy weather (a specimen was once brought me which had been shot in
Hertfordshire, twenty miles from the nearest navigable river) in
winter and spring, and follows the plough along with Rooks and
Jackdaws, alights on fields which have been manured with decomposed
fish, resorts to marshes for frogs and worms, and after an inundation
repairs to the lately submersed ground, and picks up the small
quadrupeds which have been drowned. It usually flies at no great
elevation above the water, but when repairing inland and returning it
frequently rises to a very great height.


   Head and neck white, streaked in summer with light brown; tail
   and lower parts white; back and wings bluish ash; primaries
   dusky, passing into black, the shafts black and extremities
   white; secondaries edged and tipped with white; bill, orbits,
   and irides, yellow; feet flesh-colour. In _young birds_ the
   white is mostly replaced by dark grey, mottled with brown;
   wings and tail brown, the latter reddish yellow towards the
   end; bill dusky; irides, orbits, and feet, brown. Length
   twenty-three inches. Eggs olive-brown, spotted with dark brown
   and dusky.

If, among a flock of Common Gulls, seen either following a vessel at
sea or attending on the movements of a shoal of fish, one be observed
which greatly surpasses the rest in size, it will probably be this
species, provided that it have a grey and not a black back. In the
latter case it may either be the Great or Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The Herring Gull is a large and powerful bird, thoroughly competent to
dispose of a herring or even a more bulky fish. It is common on most
parts of the British coast, and remains with us all the year, building
its nest on steep cliffs, or rocky islands. In the south of England it
is very abundant, and is more frequently seen inland, in
newly-ploughed fields, than any other species. Like the other Gulls,
it may easily be tamed if taken young; and, when kept in a garden,
earns its maintenance by keeping down slugs and other vermin.


   Wings reaching two inches beyond the tail; head and neck white,
   streaked (in _winter_) with brown; lower parts pure white; rest
   of the upper plumage blackish grey; primaries black, the first
   two with an oval white spot near the tip; secondaries and
   scapulars tipped with white; bill, irides, and feet, yellow;
   tarsus two and a quarter inches long; orbits red. In _young
   birds_ the white plumage is mostly replaced by grey mottled
   with brown, and the black by dusky edged with yellowish; the
   primaries have no white spots, and the bill is dusky. Length
   twenty-three inches. Eggs brownish grey, spotted with brown
   and black.

This is a generally diffused species, occurring in considerable
numbers, not only on various parts of our coast, but in the Baltic,
the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, and the northern parts
of America. It repairs in spring either to rocky islands, steep
cliffs, or sometimes to inland lakes, where it builds a rather large
nest of tufts of grass, and lays two or three eggs. When the young are
hatched it is very impatient of having its stronghold invaded, and
resents molestation by darting at the head of the intruder. The Lesser
Black-backed Gull breeds habitually on many parts of the coast,
especially such as are frequented by the Herring Gull. Its food and
habits are much the same as those of the Common Gull. In the South of
England, the nesting-places are confined to Devon and Cornwall, but
there are colonies on the Farne Islands, the Isle of Man and Wales.


   Wings extending but little beyond the tail; legs pale
   flesh-colour. Length thirty inches; breadth about five feet
   nine inches. In most other respects resembling the Lesser
   Black-backed Gull. Eggs stone-buff, blotched and spotted with
   dusky brown.

Of the two Black-backed Gulls, the Greater, or 'Cobb', is by far the
less frequent on our coasts, and when seen generally occurs in pairs.
It remains with us all the year, but is most frequent in the south
during winter. In spring, Great Black-backed Gulls for the most part
withdraw to cliffs and rocky islands far north, as, for instance, the
Orkneys and Hebrides, where they are numerous, a few only nesting
southwards. Unlike most other Gulls, birds of this species are
unsociable even in the breeding season. They build their nests on the
most inaccessible parts of the rocks, and reserve the situation
entirely to themselves, not even permitting birds of their own species
or any other intruders to settle there. They are exceedingly wary, and
give notice of the approach of danger to other animals. Consequently,
they are held in dislike by the gunner, whether in pursuit of
sea-birds or seals. Like the rest of the Gulls, they are omnivorous,
but are, more than any others, addicted to carrion, in quest of which
they often wander inland; hence, they are sometimes called Carrion
Gulls. 'If a floating prize presents itself', says Mr. St. John, 'such
as the remains of a large fish or dead bird, it is soon discovered by
one of the large Gulls, who is not, however, allowed to enjoy his
prize alone, for every one of his fellows within sight joins in
tearing it to pieces. When I have winged a Duck, and it has escaped
and gone out to sea, I have frequently seen it attacked, and devoured
almost alive, by these birds.'

Stations occur here and there on the coast of England in which the
Great Black-backed Gull builds. It sometimes resorts to a marsh at the
breeding season, but retains its habit of driving away all intruders.
Its eggs are prized as dainties, being thought to resemble Plovers'


   General plumage white; back and wings bluish grey; tail and
   terminal portion of the quills white; bill strong, yellow; legs
   livid flesh-colour. _Young_ mottled with white, grey, and light
   brown; shafts of the quills white; in other respects like the
   last, but the bill is longer and stouter. Length about
   twenty-nine inches; breadth five feet two inches. Eggs as in
   the last, but of a greener hue.

The Glaucous Gull, a large, handsome, and powerful bird, resembles in
many of its habits the species last described, but it has not been
known to breed in even the most northerly of the British Isles. It
pays occasional visits to our shores in winter. A few specimens only
have been shot in the southern portion of the island, and no large
number in Scotland; but in the neighbourhood of the whale fishery it
is common enough. It is very voracious, and not only eats fish,
whether dead or alive, and shares with the whale-fisher in his booty,
but pursues other sea-fowl, compels them to disgorge their prey, robs
them of their eggs, and, if they resist, kills and devours them.[52]
In short, it is the very tyrant of the Arctic Ocean. Its predatory
habits were noticed by the early navigators in these waters, who gave
it the name of Burgomaster; but as no accurate description of the bird
was brought home, and as some of our other large Gulls are open to a
charge of similar rapacity, the name was naturally transferred by
Willughby to another species, which he calls the Wagel (probably the
Great Black-backed Gull in immature plumage). This was in 1676. A
hundred years later Brunnich gave it the name of Glaucous Gull; but it
is still called Burgomaster by the Dutch, and by Arctic voyagers

Mr. St. John gives the name of Wagel to the Great Grey Gull.

   [52] A specimen shot in Norfolk was found to contain a
        full-grown Golden Plover entire.


   Hind toe represented by a small knob without a claw. _Summer
   plumage_--head and neck pale bluish ash, a few fine dusky
   streaks before the eyes; forehead, region of the eyes, and all
   the under parts, pure white; upper plumage bluish ash; first
   primary with the outer web black, four first tipped with black,
   two or three of them ending in a small white spot, fifth having
   the tip white bordered with black; bill greenish yellow; orbits
   red; irides brown; feet dark olive-brown. In _winter_, the
   whole of the head and neck is white. _Young birds_ have the
   head white, mottled with grey and dusky; upper feathers tipped
   with brown; bend and upper edge of the wing black; primaries
   black; tail black, towards the end tipped with white; bill,
   orbits, and irides, black; feet pale brown. Length fifteen and
   a half inches. Eggs stone-colour, spotted with grey and two
   shades of brown.

The Kittiwake Gull takes its name from the cry with which in the
breeding season it assails any intruder on its domain. It is a
beautiful bird, especially in its variegated immature plumage,
remarkable for its delicacy of colouring and the easy grace of its
flight, frequenting high cliffs in summer, while engaged in the duties
of incubation, and at all other times preferring the open sea to
estuaries, and feeding on such small fish as swim near the surface. It
is very abundant in the Arctic regions of both hemispheres during
summer, and extends its southern limits so far as to include the
British Isles, but is most numerous in the north. Its nest, built of
sea-weed or bents, is placed high up in the face of a precipitous
cliff, generally on a narrow ledge, and in close proximity with others
belonging to birds of the same species. It contains three eggs, and
the young birds remain in their airy nest until fully fledged, when,
as well as their parents, they disperse over the neighbouring seas,
rarely venturing either to perch on land or fly over it. The young of
the Kittiwake, previous to its first moult, is sometimes called the
Tarrock. Colonel Irby says that the Kittiwake is a partially resident
species. Marked birds have been known to follow vessels across the
North Atlantic.


   Herring Gull.

      Little Gull, _imm._

   Kittiwake [M]

      Brown-headed Gull [F]

                              [_face p. 289._]]


   Twist Tailed or Pomatorhine Skua

      Richardson's Skua

   Great Shearwater

      Great Skua]



   Upper plumage brown, of several shades; shafts of the quills,
   basal half of the primaries, and shafts of the tail-feathers,
   white; under, reddish grey, tinged with brown; two central
   tail-feathers but slightly elongated, not tapering; tarsus two
   and a half inches long, somewhat rough at the back. Length
   twenty-five inches. Eggs olive-brown, blotched with brown.

The Skuas, called also Skua Gulls, are sufficiently distinguished from
the true Gulls by their strong hooked bills and talons, and by the
habits of daring and voracity founded on these characters. The
present species, though called common, is only to be so considered in
high latitudes; for it is very rarely seen on the coasts of England,
and has become scarce even in the Shetland Islands, where it was at
one time frequent. Mr. Dunn[53] says: "I never saw this bird in
Orkney, and there are only three places in Shetland where it
breeds--viz. Foula, Rona's Hill, and the Isle of Mist; in the latter
place it is by no means numerous, and is strictly preserved by the
landlords, on whose property it may have settled, from a superstition
that it will defend their flocks from the attacks of the Eagle. That
it will attack the Eagle if he approaches their nests is a fact I have
witnessed: I once saw a pair completely beat off a large Eagle from
their breeding-place, on Rona's Hill. The flight of the Skua is
stronger and more rapid than that of any other Gull. It is a great
favourite with the fishermen, frequently accompanying their boats to
the fishing-ground, or Haaf, which they consider a lucky omen; and in
return for its attendance, they give it the refuse of the fish which
are caught. The Skua Gull does not associate in groups; and it is
seldom that more than a pair are seen together. During the breeding
season it is highly courageous; and will strike furiously at, and will
even pursue, any one who may happen to approach its nest, which is
constructed among the heath or moss; the female laying two eggs."

Some authors state that the Common Skua obtains its livelihood by
levying contributions on the White Gulls, compelling them to disgorge
their prey, and catching it before it reaches the water; but Dr.
Edmonston, who had great opportunities of watching the habits of these
birds, says that they do not adopt the practises correctly attributed
to the Arctic Gull, or Richardson's Skua. The voice of the Common Skua
is said to resemble that of a young Gull, being sharp and shrill; and
it is from the resemblance of its cry to that of the word Skua, or
Skui, that it obtains its popular name. That it is remarkably
courageous and daring, all accounts agree. Mr. Low says that, when the
inhabitants are looking after their sheep on the hills, the Skua often
attacks them in such a manner that they are obliged to defend
themselves with their cudgels held above their heads, on which it
often kills itself; and Captain Vetch, In the _Memoirs of the
Wernerian Society_, says that it not only drives away Ravens and
Eagles, but that the larger quadrupeds, such as horses and sheep,
which venture near its nest, are immediately put to flight. Its
northern name is Bonxie.

   [53] _Ornithologist's Guide to Orkney and Shetland_, p. 112.


   Upper plumage uniform dark brown; feathers of the nape long,
   tapering lustrous; sides of the face and under plumage white; a
   collar of brown spots on the breast, and similar spots on the
   flanks; shafts of the quills and tail-feathers white, except at
   the tip; two central tail-feathers projecting three inches, not
   tapering; tarsus two inches long, rough at the back, with
   projecting scales. Length twenty-one inches. _Young
   birds_--upper plumage dusky brown, mottled with reddish yellow;
   under, yellowish white, thickly set with brown spots and bars.
   Eggs ash-green, spotted with dusky.

The habits of this bird vary but little from those of the other
species. Its home is in the Arctic seas, from which it strays
southwards in winter, and has been occasionally seen on our coasts.
The following account of the capture of one of these birds, in 1844,
indicates a bird of unusual daring and voracity: "About the beginning
of last October, a Pomarine Skua was taken in the adjoining village of
Ovingdean. It had struck down a White Gull, which it would not quit:
it was kept alive above a fortnight, and then died. The very first day
of its captivity it (is said to have) devoured twenty-five Sparrows.
Once it escaped, and immediately attacked a Duck, which it held till

   [54] _Zoologist_, vol. iii. p. 880.


   Crown dusky; cheeks, neck, and under plumage white, tinged with
   yellow or brown; rest of the plumage dusky, the wings and tail
   the darkest. Two central tail-feathers tapering from the base,
   pointed, and projecting six inches; tarsus less than two
   inches. Length twenty-one inches. Eggs olive, with a circle of
   brown spots near the larger extremity, the rest speckled with
   the same colour.

This species of Skua, most familiarly known, perhaps, as the Arctic
Gull, received its distinctive name, 'Richardson's', in honour of the
eminent Arctic naturalist. It is distinguished from the species
already described by its longer tail, but the habits of all are much
alike; indeed, the names of 'Arctic Gull', 'Boatswain', 'and
Man-of-War', appear to be sometimes employed indiscriminately.
Richardson's Skua, like the rest, inhabits the Arctic seas, but
extends its wanderings southwards in far greater numbers than either
of the other species, so that its occurrence on the east coast of
England is not unusual. According to Mr. Dunn, 'numbers of this bird
breed in Orkney and Shetland, appearing regularly in May and leaving
in August: it is confined to a few situations and is strictly
preserved, from the same motive as the Skua Gull. It constructs its
nest on low, not mossy, heaths in exposed situations. The female lays
two eggs, and has recourse to the same stratagems that the Plover
employs to decoy you from the nest; but when a person approaches near
to the place where the nest is built, becomes bold and fierce, and
strikes severely with the feet and bill.' The following account is
taken from Mr. St. John's _Wild Sports of the Highlands_: "I was much
amused the other day by the proceedings of a pair of the Black-toed
Gull or Boatswain. These two birds were sitting quietly on an elevated
ridge of sand, near which a number of other Gulls of different kinds
were fishing, and hovering about in search of what the waves might
cast up. Every bird, indeed, was busy and employed, excepting these
two black robbers, who seemed to be quietly resting, quite
unconcerned. When, however, a Gull had picked up a prize, these birds
seemed instinctively to know it, and darting off with the rapidity of
a Hawk (which bird they much resemble in their manner of flight), they
attacked the unfortunate Gull in the air, and in spite of his screams
and attempts to escape, they pursued and beat him till he disgorged
the fish or whatever he had swallowed, when one of them darted down
and caught the substance before it could reach the water. The two then
quietly returned to their sandbank, where they waited patiently to
renew the robbery, should an opportunity occur. As the flock of Gulls
moved on with the flow of the tide, the Boatswains moved on also,
hovering on their flank like a pair of plundering freebooters. I
observed that, in chasing a Gull, they seemed perfectly to understand
each other as to who should get the spoil; and in their attacks on the
largest Gulls (against whom they waged the most fearless warfare),
they evidently acted so as to aid each other. If another pair of
Boatswains intruded on their hunting-ground they immediately seemed to
send them further off; not so much by actual battle, as by a noisy and
screaming argument, which they continued most vigorously till the
new-comers left the neighbourhood.

"I never saw these birds hunt for their own living in any other way
than by robbing the other Gulls. Though not nearly so large as some of
the birds which they attack, their Hawk-like swoops and great courage
seem to enable them to fight their way most successfully. They are
neatly and powerfully made, their colour a kind of sooty dull black,
with very little gloss or shining tints on their feathers."


      Black Guillemot [M] [F]

   Puffin [M]

      Guillemot [F]

   Razor-bill [M]

                              [_face p. 290._]]


   Red-throated Diver [F] Winter and [M] Summer.

      Black-throated Diver _imm._ and [M]

   Little Auk [F]

      Great Northern Diver [M]]




   Wings reaching to the origin of the tail; head and upper parts
   black; a band across the wing; an interrupted line from the eye
   to the base of the bill, and all the under parts white; bill
   black, with three or four furrows, of which the middle one is
   white; irides hazel; legs dusky. In _summer_ the line from the
   eye to the bill is pure white, and the whole of the throat and
   neck is black, tinged with red. Length seventeen inches. Eggs
   white, blotched and spotted with two shades of brown.

In general habits, the Razor-bill closely resembles the Guillemot and
Puffin. Indeed, in some parts of the coast, the Razor-bill is called a
Puffin, and the latter a Sea Parrot; and in Cornwall both Guillemots
and Razor-bills are known by the common name of Murre. At a distance
the birds can only be distinguished by a practised eye; but on a close
inspection they cannot be possibly confounded.

Razor-bills are common on many parts of our coast during the later
summer months. They are more frequently seen swimming than flying, and
if pursued by a boat are little disposed to take alarm until they are
approached to within twenty or thirty yards, when they dive, but soon
reappear not very far off. If two birds be in company and one be
killed by a shot from a gun, its companion, instead of taking
measures to insure its own safety, seems to lose the power of
self-preservation. It paddles round its companion as if unable to
comprehend the reason why it neither dives nor flies, and if pursued
suffers itself to be overtaken and knocked down by an oar. This
sympathetic feeling is not confined to birds which have paired, or to
members of the same family; for in an instance which came under my own
notice, both birds were only a few months old, and, as the Razor-bill
lays but one egg, the birds could not possibly have grown up together.
Towards winter, Razor-bills migrate southwards, either to avoid cold
or to find waters where their prey swims nearer to the surface than in
our climate. In spring they return northwards, and repair, like
Puffins, to places of habitual resort for the purpose of breeding. At
this season, also, they are eminently social, laying each an egg in
close proximity on a ledge in the rocks, lower down than the Puffins,
but above the Guillemots, all of which birds flock to the same portion
of coast, often in countless multitudes. The egg differs from that of
the Guillemot not only in colour but in shape, being less decidedly
pear-shaped. It is much sought after as an article of food, and is
said to be very palatable.

The 'Auk' of Arctic voyagers is this bird. The Razor-bill is one of
the best known of the Auk family, or Alcidæ, although less plentiful
than the Guillemot or the Puffin.


   Bill much compressed, longer than the head, greyish black;
   upper plumage brownish black; the secondaries tipped with
   white; a whitish patch behind the eye on each side; under
   plumage white; feet dusky; iris brown. Length nearly eighteen
   inches. Eggs greenish or bluish, blotched and streaked with

This is one of our common sea-birds during a great portion of the
year, though little known to ordinary sea-side visitors, owing to its
habit of keeping well out to sea and having nothing ostentatious in
its habits. Yet, during a cruise in a yacht, on almost any part of the
coast, a practised eye will often discover a few stragglers,
distinguished among other sea-birds by their black and white colours,
short neck, and sharp beak. They swim low in the water; and when
disturbed do not invariably dive like the Grebes and Divers, but
readily take wing. They are essentially marine birds, never resorting
to fresh water, and living exclusively on fish, which they capture by
diving, an art in which they are scarcely less skilful than the true
Divers, and which they practise in the same way--by the means, namely,
of both wings and feet. Occasionally, a small party may be observed,
flying in single file near the surface of the water. On the eastern
coast of England, the Guillemot is best known by the name of Willock.
It is also called Tinker's Hue, or, as Yarrell gives it,
'Tinkershere'; and in the west of England it is often called a Murr.
The old writers describe it under the name of Greenland Dove, or Sea
Turtle-Dove; and in Scotland it has a variety of other names. Tinker's
Hue is, I presume, the sobriquet of a white bird with a smutty back;
Murr is clearly a corruption of Mergus, or 'diver'. Yet more commonly
it is known as the 'Foolish Guillemot', a term of reproach analogous
to that of 'Booby', given to it from the indifference which it
evinces, in the breeding season, to one of its few, but that one the
most formidable of its enemies, man. Early in spring Guillemots throng
together from all parts of the open sea, and repair to some lofty
cliff, where, on a narrow ledge of rock, which in their folly they
deem inaccessible, they lay each a single egg. As the bird holds the
egg between her legs, she could not well cover more than one; and
though a concave nest is very needful to keep eggs together when there
are several, no such contrivance is necessary when there is one only;
so the Foolish Guillemot builds no nest, but lays a solitary egg on
the bare rock. The egg, which is large, is thick-shelled and rough, so
that it receives no detriment from the rock; and it is not likely to
roll off, for at one end it is thick, and at the other tapers almost
to a point; consequently, if accidentally moved by the parent bird
when taking flight, it turns as if on a pivot, but does not fall off.
At this season, the cliffs to which Guillemots resort are frequented
also by myriads of other sea-birds, such as Razor-bills, Puffins, and
Gulls, each congregating with its own species, but never consorting
with another. In Iceland, the Faroe Islands, St. Kilda, the Orkneys,
and many parts of the coast of Scotland, the breeding season of these
birds is the harvest-time of the natives. Either by climbing from
below, or by being let down with ropes from above, the egg-collectors
invade the dominions of these literally feathered 'tribes'. The
Foolish Guillemots, rather than leave their charge, suffer themselves
to be knocked on the head, to be netted, or noosed. Although stationed
so close to each other that a Foolish Guillemot alone could know its
own egg, they learn no wisdom from the fate of their nearest
neighbours. They are captured in detail for the sake of their
feathers; and their eggs are taken for food. In St. Kilda and,
perhaps, elsewhere, young birds are also taken in large numbers, and
salted for consumption in winter. Such as escape this systematic
slaughter flounder, as well as they are able, into the sea when nearly
fledged, or are carried thither by their foolish mothers. There they
learn to swim, to dive, and to fish, and about the middle of August
old and young disperse.

Huge baskets of their eggs are sometimes brought to the markets of
seaport towns (I have seen them so far south as Devonport), and sold
for a price exceeding that of domestic fowls, for they are much
larger, and are said to afford good eating. Wilson, in his _Voyage
round the Coasts of Scotland_, says that the natives of St. Kilda
prefer the eggs of these, and other sea-fowl, 'when _sour_; that is,
when about ten or twelve days old, and just as the incipient bird,
when boiled, forms in the centre into a thickish flaky matter, like
milk.'[55] Great quantities are used in the neighbourhood of
Flamborough Head early in the nesting season.

   [55] Vol. ii. p. 45.


   Upper plumage black; middle of the wings and under parts white;
   iris brown; feet red. Length thirteen and a half inches. Eggs
   whitish grey, blotched and speckled with grey and two shades of

   The Black Guillemot, is a resident species breeding on the Isle
   of Man, and on the Irish coasts. In Scotland it is common. Its
   mode of life, as described by Macgillivray, who was familiarly
   acquainted with it, differs in no material respect from that of
   the species already described. It is, however, much smaller,
   and lays two or sometimes three eggs. Macgillivray says that,
   on those parts of the coast which it frequents, attempts are
   often made to rear it in captivity; but always unsuccessfully.
   In summer, these birds may be readily distinguished from other
   sea-fowl, by their black and white plumage and red feet: the
   predominant tint of the plumage in winter is white, with a
   tinge of grey; and in high latitudes the proportion of white


   Head and upper parts black; two bands across the wings; a spot
   above the eye and all the under parts white. In _summer_ the
   throat and front of the neck are also black. Length about seven
   inches. Eggs uniform pale blue.

The Little Auk is essentially a northern sea-bird, coming to us in
winter, and is described by Arctic voyagers under the name of Rotche.
It is an indefatigable swimmer, and has considerable powers of flight;
but it does not possess the faculty of diving to the same degree as
the Divers and Grebes, as it generally stays but a short time under
water. Hence it must find its food near the surface; and this is
supposed to consist of the small crustaceous animals which are so
abundant in the Arctic waters. Little Auks are eminently social birds,
and have been observed occasionally in such numbers on the water and
floating masses of ice as almost to hide their resting-place. They
rarely travel far south; and when they visit our shores, which is in
winter, and after tempestuous weather, they are supposed to have been
driven hither against their will. Instances are recorded of specimens
having been found far inland, disabled or dead. It lays only a single


   Crown, collar, and upper parts, black; cheeks, region of the
   eyes, and throat, greyish white; under parts pure white; bill
   bluish grey at the base, yellow in the middle, bright red at
   the tip; upper mandible with three transverse furrows, lower,
   with two; iris whitish; orbits red; feet orange-red. Length
   twelve and a half inches. Eggs whitish, with indistinct
   ash-coloured spots.

Unlike the majority of sea-birds which have been passing under our
notice, Puffins visit the shores of the British Isles in summer, and
even in winter they are not absent. They make their appearance about
April or May, not scattering themselves indiscriminately along the
coast, but resorting in vast numbers to various selected
breeding-places, from the Scilly Islands to the Orkneys. Their home
being the sea, and their diet small fish, they possess the faculties
of swimming and diving to a degree of perfection. They have, moreover,
considerable powers of flight; but on land their gait is only a
shuffling attempt at progress. Their vocation on shore is, however,
but a temporary one, and requires no great amount of locomotion. Soon
after their arrival they set to work about their nests. Fanciful
people who class birds according to their constructive faculty as
weavers, basket-makers, plasterers, and so on, would rank Puffins
among miners. Building is an art of which they are wholly ignorant,
yet few birds are lodged more securely. With their strong beaks, they
excavate for themselves holes in the face of the cliff to the depth of
about three feet, and at the extremity the female lays a solitary
egg--solitary, that is to say, unless another bird takes shelter in
the same hole, which is not unfrequently the case. Puffins generally
show no overweening partiality for their own workmanship; sloping
cliffs which have been perforated by rabbits are favourite places of
resort; and here they do not at all scruple to avail themselves of
another's labour, or, if necessary, to eject by force of beak the
lawful tenant. If the soil be unsuited for boring, they lay their eggs
under large stones or in crevices in the rock. The old bird sits most
assiduously, and suffers herself to be taken rather than desert her
charge, but not without wounding, with her powerful beak, and to the
best of her ability, the hand which ventures into her stronghold.
Myriads burrow on Lundy Island. _Lunde_ means Puffin, and _ey_ Island,
the name being given by the old Scandinavian rovers who settled there.

The young are fed by both parents, at first on half-digested fish, and
when older on pieces of fresh fish. At this period they suffer their
colonies to be invaded without showing much alarm, and are either
shot, knocked down with a stick, or noosed without difficulty. As soon
as the young are fully fledged, all the Puffins withdraw to southern
seas, where they pass the winter, and do not approach land until the
return of the breeding season. "A small island near Skye, named
Fladda-huna, is a great breeding haunt of Puffins, a species which
arrives in the earlier part of May, literally covering the rocks and
ledgy cliffs with its feathered thousands. Although these have no
concern with our Grouse-shooting season, they almost totally disappear
on the twelfth of August."[56] It was just about this period (August
7) in the present year (1861) that I observed several large flocks of
Puffins, floating with the tide through the Sound of Islay, and was
told by an intelligent gamekeeper that "these birds habitually _swim_
through the sound at this season, but always _fly_ when returning".
The reason probably is that the young are not at the former period
sufficiently fledged to undertake a long flight, though they find no
difficulty in swimming. By spring they have attained their full
strength, and are able to adopt the more rapid mode of progress. In
Scotland there are many large colonies, also in the cliffs by
Flamborough Head, and on the Farne Islands.

Puffins and some other sea-birds appear to be either liable to a fatal
epidemic or to be surprised by some atmospheric disturbance, being
unable to resist which, they perish in large numbers. I have seen a
portion of the sea-shore in Cornwall strewed for the distance of more
than a mile with hundreds of their remains. All the softer parts had
been apparently devoured by fishes and crustaceous animals, and
nothing was left but the unmistakable parrot-like beaks. A friend
informs me that he witnessed a similar phenomenon in Norfolk, in
September, 1858; but in this instance the carcases of the birds were
not devoured, and the birds were of different kinds. He estimated that
about ninety per cent. were Guillemots, and the remainder Puffins,
Razor-bills, Scoters, and a sprinkling of Black Throated Divers. A
similar mortality among sea-birds is recorded in the _Zoologist_ as
having taken place on the coast of Norfolk, in May, 1856. On this
occasion they were so numerous as to be thought worth collecting for

Other names by which the Puffin is known are Sea Parrot, Coulterneb,
Mullet, Bottlenose; and, in Scotland, Ailsa Parrot, Tammie-Norie, and

   [56] Wilson's _Voyage round the Coast of Scotland_.



   Bill, with the upper mandible, nearly straight, upwards of four
   inches in length; head and neck violet-black, with a double
   gorget white, barred with black; upper parts black, spotted
   with white; under parts white; bill black; irides brown; feet
   dusky, the membranes whitish. _Young_ very like the next, but
   distinguishable by their superior size and the direction of the
   bill. Length thirty-three inches. Eggs dark olive-brown, with a
   few spots of purplish brown.

The name Divers is, on the sea-coast, loosely applied to a _tribe_ of
sea-birds, including the Grebes, Cormorants, and other birds, which,
when pursued, place their safety in diving rather than in flying. In
works on natural history the term is, however, employed to designate
the genus COLYMBUS, and with great propriety; for, however skilled any
of the above birds may be in this mode of progression, the true divers
surpass them immeasurably. First among these in size and dignity is
the Great Northern Diver, a native of high latitudes in both
hemispheres, never perhaps coming farther south than the Shetlands for
breeding purposes, and visiting our waters only during winter.[57] The
Northern Diver, or Imber or Ember Goose, appears to be tolerably
frequent in British waters. In Scotland it prefers salt-water lochs and
sandy bays to the open sea, though occasionally seen some miles from
land. It swims deep in the water, but advances rapidly. When in
pursuit of prey it sinks beneath the surface without plunge or splash,
the head disappearing last, and it traverses perhaps two or three
hundred yards of water before it rises again. Montagu says that it
propels itself by its feet alone; Audubon, on the contrary, states
that it uses the wings under water. The latter author is most probably
correct, for it dives more swiftly than the Grebes, and these birds
undoubtedly make a vigorous use of their wings. Where shoals of small
fish, such as sand-eels and sprats, abound, or where fish even of a
much larger size are numerous, the Northern Diver finds a rich
harvest. Occasionally while thus engaged it meets its death by dashing
into the herring nets, and there getting entangled. A fine specimen
was recently shown to me in the island of Islay, which had been thus
captured. Though it has never been known to take wing in attempting to
elude pursuit, it is often seen flying with strength and rapidity,
outstripping even the Grebe, which, in proportion to its size, is
furnished with far larger wings than itself.

The adult male, which is a very handsome bird, is of rare occurrence,
most of those which visit our shores being young birds.

The nest is usually placed near the edge of a reedy lake or large
river, having a well-beaten track leading to it from the water's edge.
This is formed by the bird in its clumsy effort to walk, a feat which
it only performs on such occasions. The nest itself is bulky, and is
formed of the vegetable substances found in the immediate vicinity,
such as grasses and other herbaceous plants. It contains two, and
sometimes three, eggs. The young are able to swim and dive very soon
after they are hatched, and are fed for about a fortnight by their
parents, at the expiration of which time they have to hunt for

   [57] Mr. Yarrell, vol. iii. p. 426, quotes Sir Thomas Browne as
        an authority for the fact that Divers formerly bred in the
        Broads of Norfolk. A careful examination of that author will
        show, however, that Sir Thomas Browne had seen only a single
        specimen of the Northern Diver, his 'Divers', or 'Dive-fowl',
        being the Crested and Lesser Grebes, etc., which, as we have
        seen above, continue to breed in the Broads.


   Bill slightly curved upwards, with the middle of the lower
   mandible equal in width to the base, exceeding three inches in
   length; head ash-grey; throat and front of the neck black,
   lustrous with violet and green; beneath the throat a narrow
   band streaked with white and black; sides and front of the neck
   streaked with white and black; back black, with a longitudinal
   patch of white and black bars on the upper part; scapulars with
   twelve or thirteen transverse white bars; bill dusky; iris
   brown; feet dusky, with whitish membranes. _Young birds_ have
   the head and back of the neck greyer and the upper plumage dark
   brown, edged with bluish ash; under plumage white; cheeks
   white, spotted with ash; upper mandible ash-grey, lower dull
   white. Length twenty-four to twenty-eight inches. Eggs dark
   olive-brown, spotted with purplish brown.

This Diver differs from the preceding species principally in being of
inferior size. The predominant tints of the plumage are the same, and
the habits of the two are so similar that a separate description is
unnecessary. The present species is, however, far less common, though
it breeds in the Outer Hebrides and in Scotland, where both eggs and
young birds have been observed, and migrates southward in winter. It
lays two eggs, near the edge of a fresh-water loch; and Mr. Selby
observed that a visible track from the water to the eggs was made by
the female, whose progress upon land is effected by shuffling along
upon her belly, propelled by her legs behind. In the breeding season
the old birds are often seen on the wing, at which time also they have
a peculiar and loud cry, which has been compared to the voice of a
human being in distress.


      Red Necked Grebe.

         Black Necked or Eared Grebe.

   Slavonian Grebe.

      Great Crested Grebe [F] Winter [M] Summer

                              [_face p. 298_.]]


      Manx Shearwater [M]

   Stormy Petrel

         Fork Tailed Petrel [F]



   Bill slightly curved upwards, with the edges of both mandibles
   much incurved, not exceeding three inches in length; head,
   throat, and sides of the neck mouse-colour; crown spotted with
   black; neck both above and below marked with white and black
   lines; on the front of the neck a large orange-coloured patch;
   back dusky brown; lower parts white. _Young birds_--upper
   plumage mouse-colour, darker on the back, where it is marked by
   longitudinal white lines; wings dusky; feathers on the flanks
   dusky, some of them edged with white; all the under plumage
   pure white. Length twenty-six inches. Eggs chestnut-brown,
   spotted with darker brown.

The name 'Loon,' given in some districts to the Crested Grebe, is
elsewhere given to the Red-throated Diver. The term is an old one, for
our countrymen, Ray and Willughby, quoting yet more ancient
authorities, describe the Northern Diver under the name of 'Loon', and
the Black-throated Diver under that of 'Lumme', the latter being the
name of the bird in Iceland and Norway, and the former probably an
English corruption of the same word, which in the original signifies

On no part of our coast must we expect to hear this bird popularly
called by the name of 'Red-throated', for, though common on many parts
of the coast, almost all the specimens observed are young birds of the
year, which have the throat pure white. Several were brought to me by
the sea-side gunners on the coast of Norfolk. In May birds with red
throats are noticed. A writer in the _Zoologist_[58] says that they
are very numerous in winter off the coast of the Isle of Wight,
passing and repassing in small flocks and in two lines about a mile
apart. Of the hundreds which fell under his notice one only had a red
throat, and this was captured under singular circumstances. On April
24, 1839, some fishermen observed an object floating which they
imagined was a keg of spirits, but which proved to be a large fish of
the kind known as the Fishing Frog, or Angler. On hauling it on board
with their boat-hooks, the fishermen discovered that the animal had
nearly choked himself by swallowing, tail foremost, an adult
Red-throated Diver. The head of the bird protruded from the throat
into the mouth of the captor, and, strange to say, it had not only
survived its imprisonment, but was unhurt. It was extricated and
presented to the Zoological Gardens, where it lived for six months.
Another writer in the same magazine[59] says that he saw a large
number in Norway during the breeding season, but not one without the
dark red throat.

This species, like the rest of the genus, obtains its food by diving;
when pursued it rarely tries to escape by taking wing, though it has
the power of flying with great rapidity. During the breeding season
especially, it often flies about over the water with its long neck
outstretched, and uttering a wailing scream.

I am informed by a friend, that while fishing in a boat in calm water
off the coast of North Devon, he has many times seen Divers pass
through the water, at a considerable depth below, propelling
themselves by a free and active use of their wings.

From October to May only these Divers frequent our coast. Towards the
end of spring they withdraw northwards and build their nests, of
coarse grass and other herbs, close to the edge of a fresh-water loch.
They lay two eggs, and the male is said to take his turn in the office
of incubation. Many stay to breed in the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides,
and in Ireland.

   [58] Vol. iii. p. 974.

   [59] _Zoologist_, vol. ix. p. 3084.



   Bill longer than the head, reddish, the tip white; distance
   from the nostril to the tip seventeen or eighteen lines; cheeks
   white; crest and ruff dark brown and chestnut; upper plumage
   dark brown; secondaries white; breast and under parts silky
   white; bill brownish red; irides red; feet dull green.
   _Female_--crest and ruff less conspicuous, colours generally
   less bright. _Young birds_ have neither crest nor ruff. Length
   twenty-one inches. Eggs white.

The Great Crested Grebe is thus described by Sir Thomas Browne, under
the name of Loon: 'A handsome and specious fowl, cristated, and with
divided fin-feet placed very backward. They come about April, and
breed in the broad waters; so making their nest in the water, that
their eggs are seldom dry while they are set on.' Fifty years ago the
Loon continued to be so common on the Broads of Norfolk that eighteen
or twenty might be counted together. It is more or less resident in
England and Wales--in the meres of the Midlands and the lakes of
Breconshire, and has lately bred in the vicinity of the Clyde.

The movements of this bird in the water are described as most
graceful; in swimming it vies with the Swan, and it is a skilful
diver. As seen perched up in a museum its form is ungainly, but in its
native element it might serve as the standard of perfection among
water birds. The legs, compressed so as to present a sharp edge, cut
the water with a minimum of resistance; the webbed feet are placed so
far backwards that they fulfil at once the office of propellers and
rudder; the body is conical and covered with satiny plumage, which
throws off water as perfectly as the fur of the otter; the long neck
tapers to exceedingly narrow dimensions and terminates in a small head
produced into a slender bill. The conformation of the greyhound is not
better adapted for fleet running than that of the Grebe for rapid
diving. The chase, I need scarcely add, consists of fish; but the
Loon will feed on frogs, tadpoles, and any other small animals which
fall in its way. It frequents fresh water during the summer months,
but on the approach of winter repairs to the sea, not, it would seem,
from any desire of varying its food, but to avoid being frozen up. It
builds its nest among rushes or decaying weeds, but little above the
level of the water, and lays four eggs, the male assisting his partner
in the office of incubation.

The young can dive and swim immediately that they are hatched; but if
the mother be suddenly alarmed while they are with her, she takes them
under her wing and dives with them.

The name Loon is supposed to be a corruption of the Finnish
designation, Leomme or Lem, 'lame', given to several of the
_Colymbidæ_ on account of the awkwardness with which they advance on

The Loon is found in lakes throughout a great portion of both the
eastern and western hemispheres, but not very far to the north. It
rarely flies, except at the period of migration, when it passes
swiftly through the air, with neck and feet extended to their full


   Bill as long as the head, black, yellow at the base; distance
   from the nostrils to the tip eleven lines; crest very short;
   head and crest lustrous black; cheeks and throat mouse-colour;
   a black band along the nape; breast bright rust-red; lower
   parts white; flanks spotted with dusky; feet black, greenish
   yellow beneath. _Young birds_ have the head, neck, and back,
   dusky; throat, cheeks, breast, belly, and abdomen, silky white;
   sides of the breast spotted with grey. Length sixteen inches.
   Eggs dirty greenish white.

The Red-necked Grebe is smaller than the Loon, from which it differs
also in wanting the elongated crest, in having a more robust bill in
proportion to its size, and is further distinguished by the grey hue
of its cheeks, on account of which last character it is known in
France under the name of _Grébe Jou-gris_. It is a native of the
north-eastern parts of Europe, and is fairly common along the eastern
coast of Great Britain from autumn to spring. In habits it differs
little from the last described species, but is less common, occurring
both in fresh-water lakes and along the sea-coast.


   Bill strong, shorter than the head, compressed throughout its
   whole length, black, with the tip red; eyes with a double iris,
   the inner yellow, the outer red; distance from the nostrils to
   the tip of the bill six or seven lines; head and bushy ruff
   glossy black; two horn-like crests orange-red; lore, neck, and
   breast, bright chestnut; upper plumage dusky; secondaries and
   under parts white; bill black, rose-coloured at the base and
   red at the tip. _Young_--crest and ruff wanting; upper plumage
   and flanks dusky ash, under parts white; irides white,
   surrounded by red. Eggs dirty white.

The Slavonian, or Horned Grebe, approaches so closely in habits to the
two preceding species that it is unnecessary to say more than that it
inhabits the northern parts of America and Europe, visiting us from
autumn to spring. Audubon describes its nest as a rude structure of
weeds, situated at a distance of about twelve feet from the water's
edge; but other authors state that though it constructs its nest of
these materials, it disposes it among weeds in such a way that it
rises and falls with every alteration in the level of the water. It
lays from five to seven eggs, and the male is supposed to assist in
the office of incubation.


   In summer the head and neck of this species are black, with a
   triangular patch of long golden-reddish feathers on the
   ear-coverts. Breast and belly white--flanks a dull chestnut,
   bill black, upcurved slightly. In winter it resembles the last
   named Grebe in plumage, excepting that it is white on the
   primaries. Length twelve inches.

This is essentially a bird of the south, visiting us in spring and
summer, but also now and again in autumn and winter, but this more
rarely. It is said to have bred occasionally in the southern counties,
and more often in Suffolk and Norfolk. To the north it becomes more
scarce, although it has been observed up to the Orkneys. Just a few
instances are recorded from Cumberland, but the bird is rare on our
western side. Very few have been met with in Ireland. In Algeria it is
said to nest in "societies more densely crowded than any rookery," the
nests being raised on islets with stout foundations constructed by the
bird. In Denmark the nests observed were on tussocks at the edge of
the lake, and they were made of moss, part of which the female used to
cover her eggs with on leaving them.


   Bill very short, shining, compressed; no crest or ruff;
   distance from nostrils to tip of the bill five lines; tarsus
   with a double row of serratures behind; head black; cheeks
   bright chestnut; breast and flanks dusky, mottled with white;
   upper parts dark brown, tinged with green; primaries ash-brown;
   secondaries white at the base and on the inner web, under parts
   dusky ash, tinged on the thighs with reddish; bill black,
   whitish at the tip and base of the lower mandible; irides
   reddish brown; feet externally greenish brown, beneath
   flesh-colour. _Young birds_ are ash-brown above, slightly
   tinged with red; breast and flanks reddish white; belly pure
   white; bill brown and yellowish ash. Length nearly ten inches.
   Eggs dirty white.

The Lesser Grebe, or, as it is more commonly called, the Dabchick, is
the only species with which it is possible to become familiarly
acquainted in Britain. It frequents rivers, ponds, and lakes, in all
parts of the country, rarely flying, and still more rarely coming to

Rambling by the side of a sluggish river, the sides of which are lined
with reeds or bulrushes, one may often descry, paddling about with
undecided motion, what appears to be a miniature Duck no longer than a
Blackbird. It does not, like the Moor-hen, swim with a jerking
movement, nor when alarmed does it half swim and half fly in a direct
line for the nearest bank of weeds. If you are unobserved, it swims
steadily for a short distance, then suddenly disappears, making no
splash or noise, but slipping into the water as if its body were
lubricated. It is diving for its food, which consists of water
insects, molluscs, small fish and worms. As suddenly as it dives so
suddenly does it reappear, most likely not far from the spot where you
first observed it:

   A di-dapper peering through a wave,
   Who, being looked on, ducks as quickly in.

Another short swim and it dives again; and so it goes on, the time
spent under the water being far in excess of that employed in taking
breath. Advance openly or make a noise, it wastes no time in idle
examinations or surmises of your intentions, but slips down as before,
not, however, to reappear in the same neighbourhood. Its motives are
different: it now seeks not food, but safety, and this it finds first
by diving, and then by propelling itself by its wings under water in
some direction which you cannot possibly divine; for it by no means
follows that it will pursue the course to which its bill pointed when
it went down. It can alter its line of flight beneath the water as
readily as a swallow can change its course of flight through the air.
But wherever it may reappear, its stay is now instantaneous; a trout
rising at a fly is not more expeditious. You may even fail to detect
it at all. It may have ensconced itself among weeds, or it may be
burrowing in some subaqueous hole. That it has the power of remaining
a long while submerged, I have no doubt. There is in the parish of
Stamford Dingley, Berks, a large and beautiful spring of water, clear
as crystal, the source of one of the tributaries of the Thames. I was
once bending over the bank of this spring, with a friend, watching the
water, some five or six feet down, as it issued from a pipe-like
orifice and stirred the sand around like the bubbling of a cauldron,
when there suddenly passed between us and the object we were examining
a form so strange that we were at first doubtful to what class of
animals we should refer it. In reality, it was a Dabchick, which,
alarmed probably by the noise of our conversation, was making for a
place of safety. As it passed within two or three feet of our faces,
we could distinctly see that it propelled itself by its wings; but it
appeared not to have observed us, for it kept on in a direct course
towards the head of the spring. We searched long in the hope of
discovering it again, but failed; and as there were no weeds among
which it could possibly hide above water, and we could examine the
bottom of the spring almost as thoroughly as if it contained air only,
we could but conclude that our apparition had taken refuge in a hole
under the bank.

Early in spring, when Dabchicks leave the small streams and
watercourses for broader pieces of water, they have been observed to
fly; and during the building season also they have been seen circling
round in the air near the locality of their intended nest. The nest
itself is constructed of weeds of all kinds, forming a thick mass
raised but a few inches above the surface of the water, and invariably
far enough from the bank to be inaccessible except by wading. The
Dabchick lays five or six long-shaped eggs, pointed at either end, of
a chalky white colour. These the bird, when she leaves the nest,
covers with weeds for the purpose of concealment, and on her return
continues the work of incubation without removing the covering, so
that the eggs soon lose their white hue, and before the period of
hatching have become very dirty. The young birds can swim and dive
immediately on leaving the egg. I have never myself seen a Dabchick
fly through the air or walk on land, neither have I ever heard its
note. The latter, a low clicking and chattering sort of noise, it is
said to utter in spring. It breeds even in St. James' Park. Females
smaller than males.




   Head, neck, under plumage, and tail, white; wings bluish ash,
   the primaries brownish grey; beak, irides, and feet, yellow.
   _Young of the year_ grey tinged with brown, mottled on the back
   with deeper brown; bill and feet yellowish ash. Length nineteen
   inches. Eggs white.

In some of the Outer Hebrides Fulmars breed; but the great station,
to which tens of thousands annually resort, is the remote island of
St. Kilda. To the Fulmar indeed, and in a less degree to the Gannet
and two or three other sea-birds, the island is indebted for its being
able to boast of human inhabitants. Eggs and birds, fresh or salted,
furnish them with food; the Fulmar with oil: and feathers pay their
rent. In the Shetlands it is said to be increasing.

Professor James Wilson says: 'The oil is extracted from both the young
and old birds, which, however, they must seize on suddenly and
strangle, else, as a defensive movement, the desired (and pungent) oil
is immediately squirted in the face and eyes of their opponent.' This
oil is ejected, not, as it is sometimes said, through tubular
nostrils, but directly through the throat and open mouth. The flesh of
the Fulmar is also a favourite food with the St. Kildans, who like it
all the better on account of its oily nature.

The Fulmar is essentially a sea-bird, and never comes to land except
in the breeding season, when it builds its nest of herbage on the
grassy shelves of the highest cliffs, and lays a single egg, if which
be taken, it lays no more. The young birds are fed with oil by the
parents, and on being molested spurt out through the throat and open
mouth the same fluid, which, being of a rank smell, infects not only
the nest, but the whole neighbourhood. The young birds, which are
taken early in August, are boiled, and made to furnish a large
quantity of fat, which is skimmed off and preserved for winter use.
The old birds are considered great dainties.

In the Arctic regions the Fulmar is well known for its assiduity in
attending on whale ships, keeping an eager watch for anything thrown
over; and when the operation of cutting up a whale is going on,
helping itself most greedily to stray pieces of offal, and venturing
so near as to be easily knocked down by a boathook or to be taken by

Owing to the rankness of its food, the smell of the Fulmar is very
offensive. A specimen recently shot was brought to me in Norfolk,
early in January, 1862, and being a great rarity, was carefully
preserved and set up; but on being sent home from the bird-stuffer's
it was banished to an outhouse, where it has remained for three months
without losing anything of its offensive odour.


   Bill two inches long; tail pointed; upper plumage dusky; under,
   deep ash grey. Length eighteen inches.

The Great Shearwater is far less abundant than the preceding species,
and may indeed be considered a rarity. A few solitary specimens have
from time to time been shot on various parts of the coast, and they
have occasionally been noticed in considerable numbers off the coast
of Cornwall. In the Scilly Islands, where they are called 'Hackbolts',
they are said to be yet more frequent. The Great Shearwater differs
little in habits, as far as they are known, from the other species.


   Bill an inch and a half long; tail rounded; upper plumage
   brownish black lustrous; under white; sides of the neck barred
   with grey; sides spotted with grey. Length fourteen inches.
   Eggs nearly round; pure white.

That a bird whose generic name is _Puffinus_ should sometimes be
called a 'Puffin' is not surprising; and the reader who meets with the
name in books should satisfy himself whether the subject of his study
be an Auk or a Shearwater, before he admits as facts any statements
about the 'Puffin' which may fall in his way. Yarrell, for instance,
gives the name of Puffin to the bird already described under the name
of _Fratercula Arctica_, while by Montagu that bird is described under
the name of 'Coulterneb', 'Puffin' being given as a synonym for the
Shearwater. Off Cornwall it is called _skiddeu_ and _brew_.

The Shearwater is so called from its mode of flight, in which it
'shears' or skims the water; and its distinctive name, Manx, it owes
to its having been formerly very abundant in the Calf[60] of Man, a
small island lying south of the Isle of Man.

The Manx Shearwater is, during the greater portion of the year, an
ocean-bird, and only ventures on shore during the breeding season. It
then repairs to some island, or portion of the coast little frequented
by man, and in society with other birds of the same species there
takes up its summer quarters. A sandy or light earthy soil, scantily
furnished with vegetation, is preferred to any other station. Its nest
is a hole in the ground, either the deserted burrow of a rabbit or a
tunnel excavated by itself, or less frequently it lays its one egg in
the crevice of a rock. During the day Shearwaters, for the most part,
remain concealed in their holes, and lie so close that they will
suffer themselves to be dug out with a spade and make no attempt to
escape. Towards evening they quit their hiding-places, and paddle or
fly out to sea in quest of food. This consists of small fish and other
marine animals which swim near the surface, and are caught by the
birds either while they are floating or 'shearing' the water. No nest
ever contains more than one egg, but that one and the chick which it
produces are objects of the greatest solicitude.

Unfortunately for the poor Shearwaters, their young, though fed on
half-digested fish oil, are delicate eating; consequently, some of the
stations of these birds have been quite depopulated, and in others
their numbers have been greatly thinned.

Willughby tells us that in his time 'Puffins' were very numerous in
the Calf of Man, and that fully fledged young birds, taken from the
nests, were sold at the rate of ninepence a dozen. He adds, that in
order to keep an accurate reckoning of the number taken, it was
customary to cut off, and retain, one of each bird's legs. The
consequence was that the state in which the birds were sent to market
was supposed to be their natural condition, and the Puffin was
popularly believed to be a 'monopod' (one-footed bird).

This station is now nearly, if not quite, deserted; but colonies still
exist in Annet, one of the Scilly Islands, on the south coast of
Wales, in the Orkneys, and in the Shetlands. In the Scilly Islands the
Shearwater is called a Crew, from the harsh note uttered by the bird
when its burrow is invaded; in the north, a Lyrie or Scrabe.

   [60] 'Calf', on many parts of the coast, is a name given to the
        smaller of two rocks in proximity, of which the larger is
        called the 'Cow'.


   General plumage like the last; tail even at the extremity; legs
   moderate; membranes black. Length scarcely six inches. Eggs

Under the name of 'Mother Carey's Chickens' the Petrels must be known
to all readers of voyages. According to the belief popular in the
forecastle, these birds are invisible during calm or bright weather;
but when the sky lowers, and a storm is impending, suddenly, no one
knows whence, forth come these ill-omened heralds of the tempest,
inspiring more terror than would be caused even by the hurricane which
they are supposed to commence. In reality, the Petrels are scarcely
birds of the day; they love to hide themselves in holes and behind
stones. It is not, therefore, surprising that when the sea is calm,
and the sun bright, they lurk in their hiding-places, if near enough
to land; or, if on the open ocean, lie asleep on the surface of the
water, unnoticed, because still and of small size. An overcast sky,
however, awakes them as twilight would, and they leave their
hiding-places, or rise from their watery bed, not because a storm is
impending, but because the cloud which accompanies the storm brings
them the desired gloom. When in motion they are more conspicuous than
when at rest, and they follow the wake of a ship for the same reason
that other sea-fowl do, for the sake of the offal thrown overboard.
They will sometimes accompany a ship for days, showing that they have
untiring power of wing, and to all but the superstitious greatly
relieving the monotony of the voyage.

The Petrel builds its nest, a rude structure of weeds and rubbish,
either in the hole of a cliff or under stones on the beach, and lays a
single egg. It rarely comes abroad by day, and if disturbed ejects
from its mouth an oily matter, after the manner of the Fulmar. Towards
evening it comes forth from its stronghold, and skims the sea in quest
of food, which consists of floating animal matter of all kinds. Its
name, Petrel, or Little Peter, is derived from its habit of
occasionally skimming along so close to the surface of the sea as to
dip its feet in the water, and present the appearance of walking; but
its ordinary flight is very like that of the Swallow.

The Storm-Petrel breeds in the Orkney, Shetland, and Scilly Islands
and a few on the Welsh coast, also in the Channel Islands, but a
genuine ocean-bird quits the land as soon as its young are able to
accompany it. It is frequently seen in the Atlantic and Mediterranean,
and is not an uncommon visitor to our shores, especially during severe

Its note is only heard during the season of incubation, when its
retreat is often betrayed by a low twittering.

Storm-Petrels are gregarious birds; they breed in colonies, and skim
the sea in small flocks. The French steamers which sail between Toulon
and Algiers are said to be regularly accompanied by these birds.


   General plumage like the last; tail forked; legs moderate;
   membrane dusky Length seven and a quarter inches. Eggs white,
   marked with small rusty spots.

The Fork-Tailed Petrel, a native of North America, does not differ
materially in habits from the other species. It is met with almost
annually on our east coast, and is common off Cornwall. In Ireland it
is frequent. This species was first declared to be a British bird by
Bullock, who found it at St. Kilda in 1818.


 [M]: male     [F]: female

  Aberdeen Sandpiper: a name for the Knot
  Aberdevine:  a name for the Siskin
  Accentor, Hedge: Sparrow, Chanter or Warbler
  Alk: the Razor-bill
  Allamotte: the Petrel
  Allan: the Skua
  Alp: a name for the Bullfinch
  Annet: the Kittiwake Gull
  Arctic-bird: the Skua
  Arctic Skua
   " Tern
  Assilag: the Petrel
  Awl: the Woodpecker

  Badock: the Skua
  Bankjug:  the Chiff-chaff and Willow Warbler
  Bargander: the Sheldrake
  Barley-bird: the Siskin and Wryneck
  Barred or Lesser-spotted Woodpecker
  Bar-tailed Godwit
  Basal: at or near the base
  Beam-bird:  the Spotted Flycatcher
  Bean Crake: the Land-Rail
   " Goose
  Bearded Reedling
  Bee-bird:  a name sometimes given to the Flycatcher;
     sometimes to the Willow Warbler
   " -eater
   " -hawk: the Honey Buzzard
  Beech-finch: the Chaffinch
  Bergander: the Sheldrake
  Bernicle Goose
  Billy: the Hedge Sparrow
  Billy-whitethroat: the Whitethroat
  Black-a-top: the Stonechat
  Black-billed Auk: a name given to the Razor-bill in the winter plumage
     of the first year
  Blackcap: a name sometimes given to the Black-headed Gull, the Marsh
     Tit, and Coal Tit
  Black Duck: the Scoter
  Blacky-top: the Stonechat
  Bloodulf: the Bullfinch
  Blind Dorbie: the Purple Sandpiper
  Blue-backed Falcon: the Peregrine Falcon
   " -bird: the Fieldfare
   " -cap: the Blue Tit
   " Darr: the Black Tern
   " Hawk: the Peregrine Falcon
   " -headed Wagtail: the grey-headed Wagtail
   " -tailed Bee-eater
   " Tit: the Tom Tit, the Blue-cap
   " -winged  Shoveler:  the Shoveler
  Boatswain:  the Skua
  Brake-hopper: the Grasshopper Warbler
  Brambling, or Bramble-finch
  Bran: the Crow
  Brancher: the Goldfinch in its first year
  Brantail: the Redstart
  Brent Goose
  Broad-bill: the Shoveler
  Bronzie: the Cormorant
  Brook Ouzel: a name given to the Dipper, and incorrectly to the
  Brown Owl, or Tawny Owl
   " -Leader  Gull:  Black-headed Gull,  Red-headed Gull or Hooded Gull
   " Starling: a name sometimes given  to the young of the Starling
   " Tern: the Tern in its immature plumage
  Budfinch: the Bullfinch
  Bullfinch, Common
   "  Pine, or Pine Grosbeak
  Bunting, Lapland, or Finch
  Burgomaster: the Glaucous Gull
  Burrow Duck: the Sheldrake
  Bustard, Great

  Cackareer: the Kittiwake Gull
  Caddaw: the Jackdaw
  Calloo: the Long-tailed Duck
  Cargoose: the Crested Grebe
  Carinate: in the form of a keel
  Carrion Crow
  Car-swallow: the Black Tern
  Cere: the wax-like membrane which covers the base of the bill in the
  Chaldrick or Chalder: the Oyster-catcher
  Chanchider: the Spotted Flycatcher
  Channel Goose: the Gannet
  Chanter, Hedge: Sparrow, Accentor or Warbler
  Charlie Miftie: the Wheatear
  Chank, and Chank-daw:  the Chough
  Chepster: the Starling
  Cherry-finch: the Hawfinch
  Cherry-sucker,  Cherry-chopper, and Cherry-Snipe: the Spotted
  Chevy Lin: the Redpoll
  Chickell: the Wheatear
  Chickstone: the Stonechat
  Chippet Linnet: the Redpoll
  Church Owl: the White Owl
  Churn Owl: the Nightjar
  Churr: the Dunlin
  Cirl Bunting
  Clack Goose, Clakes: the Bernicle Goose
  Clatter Goose: the Brent Goose
  Clee: the Red Shank
  Cleff: the Tern
  Clinker: the Avocet
  Cloven-footed Gull: the Tern
  Coal-and-candle-light: the Long-tailed Duck
  Coal Goose: the Cormorant
  Coaly Hood: the Bullfinch or Coal Mouse
  Cob: the male Swan
  Cob: the Great Black-backed Gull
  Cobble: the Great Northern Diver
  Cobbler's Awl: the Avocet
  Cobweb: the Spotted Flycatcher
  Cockandy: the Puffin
  Cock-winder: the Wigeon
  Coddy Moddy: the common Gull in its first year's plumage
  Coldfinch: the Pied Flycatcher
  Colk: the King Duck
  Colin: a name in New Spain for  Quail
  Compressed: flattened vertically
  Coot-foot: the Phalarope
  Copperfinch: the Chaffinch
  Corbie: the Raven
  Corndrake: the Land-Rail
  Cornish Crow, or Daw: the Chough
  Cornwall Kae: the Chough
  Coulterneb: the Puffin
  Crake, Little
   " Spotted
  Crank bird: the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  Craw: part of the stomach in birds
  Cream-coloured Plover: Swiftfoot or Courser
  Courser Gull: the Glaucous Gull
  Creeper, Creep-tree, or Tree-creeper. These names are in some places
     given to the Nuthatch
  Crested Cormorant: the Shag
   " Heron, Common or Grey
  Cricket-bird: the Grasshopper Warbler
  Cricket Teal: the Garganey
  Crooked Bill: the Avocet
  Crossbill: Common
  Cuckoo's Leader or Mate: the Wryneck
  Cuhnen: the ridge of the upper mandible
  Cultrate: in the form of a billhook or pruning knife
  Curlew-Jack: the Whimbrel
  Curwillet: the Sanderling
  Cushat: the Ring Dove
  Cutty Wren: the Common Wren
  Cygnet: the young Swan

  Daker Hen: the Land-Rail
  Danish Crow: the Hooded Crow
  Darr, Blue: the Black Tern
  Depressed: flattened horizontally
  Deviling: the Swift
  Dick Dunnock: the Hedge Sparrow
  Dippearl: the Tern
  Dirty Allen: the Skua
  Dishwater: the Wagtail
  Diving Pigeon:  the Guillemot
  Dobbler and Dobchick: the Lesser Grebe
  Door Hawk and Dorr Hawk: the Nightjar.
  Dorbie: the Dunlin
  Doucker: a popular name for a Grebe or Diver
  Doveky: the Black Guillemot
  Dove-coloured Falcon: the Peregrine Falcon
  Draine: the Missel Thrush
  Duck Hawk: the Marsh Harrier
  Ducker: a popular name for a Grebe or Diver
  Dulwilly: the Ring Plover
  Dunkir and Dunair: the Pochard
  Dun Crow: the Hooded Crow
  Dundiver: the female and young of the Merganser
  Dung Hunter: the Skua
  Dunnock: the Hedge Sparrow

  Earl Duck: the Red-breasted Merganser
  Easterling: the Smew
  Ebb: the Bunting
  Ecorcheur: the Shrike
  Egret: a tuft of long narrow feathers found on the lower part of
     the neck of the Herons. The name is also sometimes extended to
     the two tufts of feathers, resembling ears or horns, in some of
     the Owls
  Elk: the Hooper Swan
  Emmer or Ember Goose: the Great Northern Diver
  Emmet Hunter: the Wryneck
  Erne: the Eagle

  Falk or Falc: the Razor-bill
  Faller: the Hen Harrier
  Fallow Chat, Fallow Finch, Fallow Lunch, or Fallow Smich: the Wheatear
  Fanny Redtail:  the Redstart
  Fauvette: the Garden Warbler, also applied to others of the Warblers.
  Feather-poke: i. e. "sack of feathers" is the Chiff-chaff, so called
     from the materials and form of the nest
  Felt and Feltyfare: the Fieldfare
  Fiddler: the Common Sandpiper
  Field Duck: the Little Bustard
  Field Lark: the Skylark
  Fiery Linnet: the Common Linnet
  Finch, or Lapland Bunting
  Fire-crested Regulus or Wren
  Fire-tail: the Redstart
  Flapper: a young Duck
  Flopwing: the Lapwing
  Flusher: the Butcher-bird
  Foot: The foot of a bird consists of four, never less than three,
     toes, with their claws, and the joint next above, called the
  French Linnet: the Redpoll
   " Magpie: the Red-backed Shrike
   " Pie: the Great Spotted Woodpecker.

  Gaggle: a flight of Wild Geese
  Gairfowl:  the Auk and the Razor-bill
  Gallinule: the Moor Hen; this name is sometimes applied to the Crakes
  Gallwell Drake: the Land Drake
  Gannet: the Skua
  Garden Ouzel:  the Blackbird
   " Warbler
  Gardenian Heron: the young of the Night Heron
  Gaunt: the Crested Grebe
  Gidd: the Jack Snipe
  Gillhowter: the White Owl
  Gladdy: the Yellow Hammer
  Glaucous Gull
  Glead, Gled, or Glade: the Kite
  Goat Owl and Goatsucker: the Nightjar
  Golden-crested Regulus, Warbler or Wren
   " Oriole or Thrush
   " Plover
  Gorcock: the Moor Cock
  Gorsehatch: the Wheatear
  Gorse-duck: the Corn Crake
  Gorse Linnet: the Common Linnet
  Goud Spink: the Goldfinch
  Gouldring: the Yellow Hammer
  Gourder: the Petrel
  Gouk: the Cuckoo
  Graduated: a term applied to the tail of a bird when the middle
     feathers are longest and the outer ones are shorter in gradation
  Greenwich Sandpiper: the Ruff
  Grey: the Gadwall
  Grey-bird: the Thrush
  Grey-Duck: the Gadwall
   " Coot-footed Tringa:  the Phalarope
   " Crow: the Hooded Crow
   " Falcon: the Hen Harrier
   " Heron: common or Crested Heron
   " Lapwing, or Sandpiper: the Grey Plover
   " Linnet: the Common Linnet
   " Owl: the White Owl
   " Partridge:  the Common Partridge
   " Shrike, Lesser: the Ash-coloured Shrike
   " Skit: the Water-Rail
   " -lag: Fen, Stubble, or Wild Goose
  Grisette: the Whitethroat
  Ground Lark: the Pipit and Bunting
   " Wren: the Willow Warbler
  Guldenhead: the Puffin
  Gull-tormentor: the Skua
  Gunner:  the Great Northern Diver
  Gurfel: the Razor-bill
  Gustarda: the Bustard

  Hackbolt: the Greater Shearwater
  Hadji: the Swift
  Hagdown: the Greater Shearwater
  Haggard: the Peregrine Falcon
  Hagister: the Magpie
  Half-Curlew: the Whimbrel and Godwit
   " -Duck:  the Wigeon, Pochard, etc.
   " -Snipe: the Jack Snipe
  Harle: the Red-breasted Merganser
  Harpy: the Marsh Harrier
  Hawk Owl: this name is sometimes given to the Short-eared Owl
  Hay-bird, or Hay-Tit: the Willow Warbler
  Hay-Jack: the Garden Warbler and Whitethroat
  Heather Bleater: the Snipe
  Heath Throstle: the Ring Ouzel
  Hebridal Sandpiper: the Turnstone
  Heckimal: the Blue Tit
  Hedge-Chicken: the Wheatear
   " -Jug, the Long-tailed Tit
  Hegrilskip: the Heron
  Helegug: the Puffin
  Hellejay: the Razor-bill
  Hern, Hernshaw, Heronshaw: the Heron
  Heronsewgh: the Heron
  Herring-bar: perhaps a corruption of Herring-bird, Diver
  Herring Gant: the Gannet
   " Gull
  Hew-hole: the Woodpecker
  Hickwall: the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  High-hoo: the Woodpecker
  Hiogga: the Razor-bill
  Hissing Owl: the White Owl
  Hoarse Gowk: the Snipe
  Hoddy: the Crow
  Holm Cock and Holm Screech: the Mistle Thrush
  Hoop: the Bullfinch
  Hornfinch: the Petrel
  Horniwinks: the Lapwing
  Horra: the Brent Goose
  Horsefinch: the Chaffinch
  Horsmatch:  the  Red-backed Shrike, the Wheatear and Whinchat
  Howlet: the Brown Owl
  Howster: the Knot
  Huckmuck: the Long-tailed Tit
  Hullat: the Owl

  Icebird: the Little Auk
  Imber, or Great Northern Diver
  Isle of Wight Parson: the Cormorant
  Iris (_plural_, Irides): the coloured circle of the eye surrounding
     the pupil
  Isaac: the Hedge Sparrow
  Ivy Owl: the Barn Owl

  Jack Curlew: the Whimbrel
  Jack-nicker: the Goldfinch
   " Saw: the Goosander
   " Snipe
  Jar Owl: the Night Owl
  Jay, Jay Pie, or Jay Pyet
  Jenny: the Wren
  Jid or Judcock: the Jack Snipe

  Kadder and Kae: the Jackdaw
  Kamtschatka Tern: the Black Tern
  Katabella: the Hen Harrier
  Kate: the Hawfinch
  Katogle: the Eagle Owl
  Kiddaw: the Guillemot
  King-Harry: the Goldfinch
  Kip: the Tern
  Kirktullock: the Shoveler
  Kirmew and Kirmow: the Tern
  Knee: a name often given, though inaccurately, to the junction of
     the tarsus and tibia of a bird.

  Lamhi or Lavy: the Guillemot
  Land Curlew: the Great Plover
  Lary: the Guillemot
  Laughing Goose:  the White-fronted Goose
  Lavrock: the Skylark
  Leg-bird: the Sedge Warbler
  Lesser wing-coverts: the feathers which overlie the greater
     wing-coverts, or those next the quills
  Ling-bird: the Meadow Pipit
  Linlet: a young Linnet
  Lobefoot: the Phalarope
  Long-tongue: the Wryneck
  Loom or Loon: the Diver
  Lore: the space between the beak and the eye
  Lough Diver: the Smew
  Lum, Lungy: the Guillemot
  Lumme: the Diver
  Lyre: the Manx Shearwater

  Madge Howlet: the White Owl
  Maglowan: a name for the Divers
  Magpie Diver: the Smew
  Malduck, or Malmarsh: the Fulmar
  Mallemoke: the Fulmar
  Mandibles: upper and under, the two portions of a bird's bill
  Man-of-war bird: the Skua
  Manx Shearwater: the Manx Petrel
  Marketjew Crow: the Chough
  Marrot: the Guillemot and Razor-bill
  May-bird, or Mayfowl: the Whimbrel
  Mavis: the Thrush
  Meadow Crake, or Drake: the Gallinule
   " Pipit, Titlark or Titling
  Meggy-cut-throat: the Whitethroat
  Merlie: the Blackbird
  Mew or Mow: a Gull
  Millithrum: the Long-tailed Tit
  Minute Gallinule: the Little Crake
   " Merganser: the young Smew
   " Tringa: the Little Stint
  Mire Snipe: the Snipe
  Mistle Thrush, or Mistletoe Thrush
  Mitty: the Petrel
  Mock-bird: the Sedge Warbler
   " Nightingale: the Blackcap and Garden Warbler
  Monk: the Bullfinch
  Moor Blackbird, or Ouzel: the Ring Ouzel
   " Hen, or Water Hen
  Morrot: the Guillemot
  Moss-cheeper: the Meadow Pipit
  Mother Carey's Chickens: the Petrels
  Mountain Linnet: the Twite
   "  Ouzel: the Ring Ouzel
  Mouse Hawk or Owl: the Hawk Owl
  Mow: a Gull
  Mud-plover: the Grey Plover
  Muggy: the Whitethroat
  Mullet: the Puffin
  Mum-ruffin: the Long-tailed Tit
  Murdering-bird: the Butcher-bird

  Nape: the upper part of the neck behind
  Neck-a-pecker and Nickle: the Woodpecker
  Night-crow, or Night-hawk: the Nightjar
   " Heron
  Nope: the Bullfinch
  Norfolk Plover: the Great Plover
  Norie: the Cormorant
  Northern Crow: the Hooded Crow
  Norway Lark: the Snow Bunting
  Nun: the Blue Tit

  Oke: the Auk
  Olive: the Oyster-catcher
  Olive-tufted Duck: the Goldeneye
  Operculum: a lid or covering
  Orbit: the skin that surrounds the eye, and in some birds is
     destitute of feathers
  Ouzel, Water, or Dipper
  Oven-bird: the Chiff-Chaff, Willow Warbler, and Wood Warbler
  Owl, Long-eared or Horned
   " Short-eared or Little-horned
   " Tawny or Brown

  Padge and Padge Owl: the Barn Owl
  Palmipedes: Web-footed Birds
  Pandle-whew: the Wigeon
  Parasitic Gull: the Skua
  Parrot, Ailsa: the Puffin
   " Sea: the Puffin
  Parson Mew: the Black-backed Gull
  Passerine: belonging to the order Passeres
   " Warbler: the Garden Warbler
  Pea-finch: the Chaffinch
  Pearl: the Tern
  Pease Crow: the Tern
  Peck: the Bar-tailed Godwit
  Pectinated: cut like a comb
  Peese-weep: the Peewit, also sometimes given to the Greenfinch
  Peggy: the Wren, Whitethroat and the Garden Warbler
  Peggy cut-throat:  the Whitethroat
  Petrel: the name Petrel is in some places given to the Godwit
  Pettychaps, Greater: the Garden Warbler
   "  Lesser: the Chiff-chaff
  Philomel: the Nightingale
  Pianet: the Magpie, and Oyster-catcher
  Picarini: the Avocet
  Pick-cheese: the Tom-Tit and Great Tit
  Pickmire: the Black-headed Gull
  Picktarney and Picket: the Tern
  Pictarn: the Black-headed Gull
  Pie, Sea: the Oyster-catcher
  Pied Diver: the Smew
   " Wagtail
   " Wigeon: the Garganey, and Goldeye
  Pie-finch: the Chaffinch
  Pienet and Piet: the Magpie
  Piet, Water: the Water Ouzel
  Pigeon Hawk: the Sparrow Hawk
   " Mow, Red-legged: the Black-headed Gull in its winter plumage
  Pigmy Curloo, or Sandpiper
  Pine Bullfinch, or Pine Grosbeak
  Pink: the Chaffinch
  Pink-footed Goose
  Pinnock: a Tit
  Pint: the Laughing Gull
  Pintail Duck
  Pirenet: the Sheldrake
  Plover's Page: the Purple Sandpiper
  Pocker, or Poker: the Pochard
  Poke-Pudding: the Long-tailed Tit
  Pomarine Skua, or Gull, Twist-tailed
  Poor-willie: the Godwit
  Pop: the Redwing
  Pope: the Puffin
  Popinjay: the Green Woodpecker
  Port-Egmont Hen: the Common Skua
  Post-bird: the Spotted Flycatcher
  Primaries: the quills, usually ten, of the terminal joint of a
     bird's wing.
  Provence Furzel: the Dartford Warbler
  Proud-tailor: the Goldfinch
  Puckeridge: the Nightjar
  Pudding-poke: the Long-tailed Tit
  Puffinet: the Black Guillemot
  Purple Sandpiper
  Purre: the Dunlin
  Puttock: the Buzzard and Kite
  Pywipe: the Lapwing

  Quaketail: the Wagtail
  Que: the Night Heron
  Queest or Quest: the Ring-dove
  Queet: the Coot and Guillemot
  Quills: the large feathers of the wing, called primary, or digital;
     secondary or cubital; and tertiary, or humeral; according as they
     arise from the terminal, middle, or inner joint
  Quill-coverts: a row of feathers immediately covering the base of
     the quills above and below, and therefore called upper and under
  Quinck: the Goose

  Rafter-bird: the Spotted Flycatcher
  Rail, Land
  Rain-bird:  the Green Woodpecker
   " -Goose: the Red-throated Diver
  Raptores: Birds of Prey
  Rasores: Gallinaceous Birds
  Rattle-wings: the Goldeneye
  Redcap: the Goldfinch
  Red Godwit: the Bar-tailed Godwit
   " Grouse
  Red-headed Linnet: the Common Linnet and Redpoll
   " Pochard: the Common Pochard
   " Wigeon: the Common Wigeon
   " Hoop: the Bullfinch
   " -legged Crow: the Chough
   "    " Godwit: the Spotted Sandpiper
   "    " Gull, the Black-headed Gull
   "    " Partridge
   " -necked Coot-foot, Lobefoot, or Phalarope
  Red Sandpiper: the Knot in its summer plumage
  Redstart, Common
   " Black
  Red-throated Diver
  Red-winged Blackbird: Maize-bird, or Starling
  Reed-bird: the Sedge Warbler
  Reed Bunting: the Black-headed Bunting
   " Fauvette: the Sedge Warbler
   " Pheasant: the Bearded Tit
   " Sparrow: the Black-headed Bunting
   " Warbler or Wren
  Reeve: the female of the Ruff
  Richardson's Skua
  Richel Bird: the Lesser Tern
  Rind-tabberer: the Green Woodpecker
  Ring Blackbird: the Ring Ouzel
   " Dove
  Ringed Dotterel, or Plover
   " Guillemot
   " -necked or Great Northern Diver
  Ring-tailed Eagle: the Golden Eagle in its second year's plumage
  Rippock: the Tern
  Rochie: the Little Auk
  Rock-birds: the Auk, Puffin, and Guillemot
   " Dove, Rocker Dove, Rockier Dove
   " Hawk: the Merlin
   " Lark, or Pipit
   " Ouzel: the Ring Ouzel
   " Sandpiper: the Purple Sandpiper
  Rodge: the Gadwall
  Rood Goose, or Brent Goose
  Rose-coloured Ouzel, Pastor, Starling or Thrush
   " Linnet: the Redpoll, and Common Linnet
  Rotck, or Rotcke: the Little Auk
  Rothermuck: the Bernicle Goose
  Ruddock: the Redbreast, Robin
  Ruddy Goose, or Sheldrake
   " Plover: the Bar-tailed Godwit
  Ruff (female Reeve)
  Runner: the Water-Rail
   " Stone: the Ringed Plover

  St. Cuthbert's Duck: the Elder
  St. Martin's Snipe: the Jack Snipe
  Sandcock: the Redshank
  Sandsnipe: a Sandpiper
  Sandwich Tern
  Sandy-loo: the Ring Plover
   " Poker: the Pochard
  Sarcelle: the Long-tailed Duck
  Saw-bill: the Merganser
  Scale Drake: the Sheldrake
  Scallop-toed Sandpiper: the Phalarope
  Scammel: the Bar-tailed Godwit
  Scapulars: the feathers which rise from the shoulders and cover
     the sides of the back
  Scar Crow: the Black Tern
  Scarf and Scart: the Shag
  Scaurie: the Herring Gull
  Scooper: the Avocet
  Scotch Goose: the Brent Goose
  Scout: the Common Guillemot
  Scurrit: the Lesser Tern
  Scrabe: the Manx Shearwater
  Scraber: the Black Guillemot
  Scraye: the Tern
  Screamer and Screecher:  the Swift
  Screech: the Missel-Thrush
   " Martin: the Swift
   " Owl: the Barn Owl
  Scull: the Skua
  Scuttock: the Guillemot
  Sea Crow: the Cormorant, and Black-headed Gull
   " Dotterel: the Turnstone
   " Hen: the Guillemot
  Sea Lark: the Rock Pipit and Ring Plover
   " Mall, Mew, or Mow: the Gull
   " Parrot: the Puffin
   " Pheasant: the Pintail Duck
   " Pie: the Oyster-catcher
   " Sandpiper: the Purple Sandpiper
   " Snipe: the Dunlin
   " Swallow: the Tern
   " Titling: the Rock Pipit
   " Turtle-dove: the Guillemot and Rotche
   " Wigeon: the Scaup
   " Woodcock: the Godwit
  Seaford Goose: the Brent Bernicle
  Secondaries: the quill-feathers arising from the second joint of
     the wing
  Sedge-bird, Sedge Warbler, or Sedge Wren
  Selninger Sandpiper: the Purple Sandpiper
  Serrator: the Ivory Gull
  Serrated: toothed like a saw
  Serrula: the Red-breasted Merganser
  Sheldapple: the Crossbill This name and "Shelly" are sometimes given
     to the Chaffinch
  Shepster: the Starling
  Shilfa: the Chaffinch
  Shoeing-horn: the Avocet
  Shore-bird: the Sand Martin
   " Pipit: the Rock Pipit
  Short-eared or -horned Owl
  Shrieker: the Black-tailed Godwit
  Shrimp-catcher: the Lesser Tern
  Shrite: the Missel Thrush
  Silvery Gull: the Herring Gull
  Skart: the Cormorant, and Shag
  Skein: a flight of Geese
  Skiddaw: the Guillemot
  Skiddy Cock, Skilty, or Skit: the Water-Rail
  Skite: the Yellow Hammer
  Skitty: the Spotted Crake
  Skrabe: the Black Guillemot
  Snake-bird: the Wryneck
  Snite: the Snipe
  Snow-bird: the Ivory Gull
   " -Bunting: Flake, or Fleck
  Snuff-headed Wigeon: the Pochard
  Solan, or Solent Goose: the Gannet
  Solitary Snipe: the Great Snipe
  Song Thrush: the Common Thrush
  Sparlm-fowl: the female Merganser
  Spectacle Duck: the Goldeneye
  Speculum: the bright feathers which form a kind of disc of the wing
     of the Ducks
  Speckled-bellied Goose: the White-fronted Goose
   " Diver: the young of the Great Northern Diver
  Spider-diver: the Dabchick
  Speney: the Petrel
  Spink: the Chaffinch
  Spoonbill, White
  Spotted-necked Turtle Dove: the Turtle Dove
  Sprat Loon, the young of the Great Northern Diver
   " Mew: the Kittiwake Gull
  Spurre: the Tern
  Standgale, or Stannel: the Kestrel
  Starling, Common, Stare, or Starenil
  Staynil: the Starling
  Steel Duck, Larger: the Goosander
   "     " Lesser: the Merganser
  Stint: the Dunlin, or any similar bird, is often so called on the coast
  Stonechacker or Stoneclink: Stonechat
  Stone Curlew: the Great Plover
  Stonegale: the Kestrel
  Stone Hawk: the Merlin
   " -smirch: the Wheatear
  Stork, White
  Storm Cock: the Missel Thrush
   " Petrel, or Storm Finch
  Straney: the Guillemot
  Summer Snipe:  the Sandpiper
   " Teal: the Garganey
   " Duck, or Sheldrake: the Long-tailed Duck
  Sweet William: the Goldfinch
  Swiftfoot: the Courser
  Swimmer, Little: the Phalarope
  Swine-pipe: the Redwing

  Tail-coverts: upper and under, feathers covering the basal portion
     of the tail feathers above and below
  Tailor, Proud: the Goldfinch
  Tammie Cheekie and Tammie Norie: the Puffin
  Tang-waup: the Whimbrel
  Tangle-picker: the Turnstone
  Taring, Tarrot: the Tern
  Tarrock: the young of the Kittiwake Gull
  Tarse: the male Falcon, a name used in falconry
  Tarsus: the bone of a bird's foot next above the toes. In a domestic
     fowl the tarsus is the portion between what is called the
     "drumstick" and the toes; the shank
  Tatler: a Sandpiper
  Teal Cricket: the Garganey
  Teaser: the Skua
  Teewit: the Peewit
  Tertiaries: the quills which spring from the third or inner joint
     of a bird's wing
  Thistlefinch: the Goldfinch
  Three-toed Sand-grouse
  Thrice-cock: the Mistle Thrush
  Throstle: the Thrush
  Tibia: the joint of a bird's leg next above the tarsus;
    the "drumstick."
  Tick: the Whinchat
  Tidley: the Wren
  Tinkershere, or Tinker's hue: the Guillemot
  Tippet Grebe: the Crested Grebe
  Titlark, and Titling: the Meadow Pipit
   " Sea: the Rock Pipit
  Tom Harry: the Skua
  Tom Pudding: the Dabchick
  Tommy Norie: the Puffin
  Tomtit: the Blue Tit
  Tonite: the Wood Warbler
  Tony Hoop: the Bullfinch
  Tope: the Wren
  Tor-Ouzel: the Ring Ouzel
  Towilly: the Sanderling
  Tree Pipit, or Lark
   " Sparrow
   " Sheeler: the Tree Creeper
  Tuchit: the Lapwing Plover
  Tufted Duck
  Tuliac: the Skua
  Turkey-bird: the Wryneck
  Turtle, Sea: the Guillemot and Ricke
  Twink: the Chaffinch
  Twit Lark: the Meadow Pipit
  Tystie: the Black Guillemot

  Ulnia: the Tawny Owl
  Under tail-coverts: the feathers which overlap the base of the
     tail beneath
  Under wing-coverts: the feathers which cover the wings beneath
  Upper tail-coverts: the feathers which overlap the base of the
     tail above
  Upper wing-coverts: the feathers which overlap the base of the quills
  Utick: the Whinchat

  Vare Wigeon: the Smew
  Velvet Runner: the Water-Rail

  Wagell: the young of the Great Black-backed Gull
  Wall Hick: the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  Wash-dish and Washerwoman: the Pied Wagtail
  Water-hen: the Moor-hen
   " Crow, the Dipper
   " Junket: the Common Sandpiper
   " Ouzel or Dipper
   " Sparrow: the Sedge Warbler
   " Tie: the Wagtail
   " Wagtail: the Pied Wagtail
  Waxen Chatterer or Waxwing
  Wease-alley: the Skua
  Weasel Coot: the young Smew
   " Duck: the Smew
  Weet-weet: the Common Sandpiper
  Wellplum: the Red-headed Pochard
  Whaup: the Curlew
  Whautie: the Whitethroat
  Wheel-bird, or Wheeler:  the Nightjar
  Wheety-why: the Whitethroat
  Winthrush: the Redwing
  Whewer: the Wigeon
  Whey-bird: the Whitethroat
  Whilk: the Scoter
  Whim: the Wigeon
  Whimbrel or May-bird
  Whin Linnet: the Common Linnet
  Whistling Plover: the Golden Plover
  Whistling Swan: the Whooper Swan
  White Baker: the Spotted Flycatcher
  White-breasted Blackbird: the Ring or Water Ouzel
   " -faced Duck: the Pochard
   " Tinch: the Chaffinch
   " -headed Goosander:  the Smew
   " -headed Cormorant: the Common Cormorant
   " -headed Harpy: the Moor Buzzard
   " Nun: the Smew
   " -spot Cormorant:  the Common Cormorant
   " -tail: the Wheatear
   " -winged Black Duck: the Velvet Scoter
  Whit-ile, i. e. Whittle: the Green Woodpecker
  Whitterick: the Curlew
  Whitty-beard: the Whitethroat
  Whitwall and Witwall: the Green Woodpecker
  Wierangel: the Ash-coloured Shrike
  Willock and Willy: the Guillemot
  Willow-biter: the Tomtit
  Willywicket: the Common Sandpiper
  Windhover and Windfanner: the Kestrel
  Windle, Winnard, and Wind-thrush: the Redwing
  Wing-coverts: several rows of feathers covering the basal part of
     the quills above and below, and called the upper and under
     wing-coverts; the feathers outside these are called the lesser
  Winglet: a process arising from near the base of the terminal joint
     of the wing, answering to the thumb in the human hand
  Winnel and Windle-Straw: the Whitethroat
  Winter-bonnet: the Common Gull
   " Duck: the Pintail Duck
   " -Gull, or Mew: the Common Gull in its winter plumage
   " Wagtail: the grey-headed Wagtail
  Witch: the Petrel
  Witwall: the Green Woodpecker
  Woodcock Owl: the Short-eared Owl
   " Sea: the Godwit
   " -Snipe: the Great Snipe
  Woodcracker: the Nuthatch
  Wood Grouse: the Capercaillie
  Woodpie: the Green Woodpecker
  Wood Sandpiper
  " Shrike Woodchat
  Woodspite, Woodwall, and Woodwele: the Green Woodpecker
  Wood Warbler, or Wren
  Writing Lark: the Bunting, so called from the markings of the eggs

  Yaffil, Yaffle, Yaffler, Yappingale: the Green Woodpecker
  Yardkeep and Yarwhip: the Bar-tailed Godwit
  Yarwhelp: the Stone Plover and Godwit
  Yeldrin and Yeldrock: the Yellow Hammer
  Yellow legged Gull: the Lesser Black-backed Gull
  " Sandpiper: the young of the Ruff
  " Owl: the White Owl
  " Plover: the Golden Plover
  " Poll: the Wigeon
  " Warbler:  the Willow Warbler
  " Yeldock, Yoit, Yoldrin and Yowley, the Yellow Hammer
  Yelper: the Avocet


   _The first numeral refers to the text, the second to the
   illustration facing the page named._

  Auk, Little: 294; p. 291
  Avocet: 252; p. 247

  Bearded Reedling: 41; p. 46
  Bee-eater: 135; p. 129
  Bittern: 173; p. 231
  Blackbird: 7; p. 3
  Blackcap: 23; p. 17
  Brambling: 97; p. 85
  Bullfinch: 101; p. 97
  Bunting, Cirl: 108; p. 108
   "  Corn (or common): 106; p. 108
   "  Lapland: 111; p. 108
   "  Reed: 109; p. 108
   "  Snow: 110; p. 108
   " Yellow (Yellow Hammer): 107; p. 116
  Burgomaster: _see_ Gull, Glaucous
  Bustard, Great: 236; p. 220
  Buzzard, Common: 150; p. 149
   " Honey: 151; p. 149
   " Rough-legged: 151; p. 149

  Capercaillie: 212; p. 220
  Chaffinch: 95; p. 96
  Chiff-chaff: 30; p. 30
  Chough: 56; p. 59
  Coot: 233; p. 231
  Cormorant, Common:  165; p. 166
   "  Green: 167; p. 166
  Courser, Cream-coloured: 240; p. 262
  Crake, Corn: 228; p. 230
   " Little: 230; p. 230
   "  Spotted: 229; p. 230
  Crane: 234; p. 234
  Crested Tit: _see_ Titmice
  Crossbill: 103; p. 138
   "  Two barred (White-winged): 106; p. 138
  Crow, Carrion: 65; p. 68
   "  Hooded: 67; p. 68
  Cuckoo: 137; p. 138
  Curlew, Common: 273; p. 246

  Dabchick: _see_ Grebe, Little
  Dipper: 51; p. 47
  Diver, Black-throated: 298; p. 291
   " Great Northern: 297; p. 291
   "  Red-throated: 299; p. 291
  Dotterel: 244; p. 246
  Dove, Ring (Wood Pigeon): 203; p. 208
   " Rock: 208; p. 208
   " Stock: 207; p. 208
   " Turtle: 209; p. 208
  Duck, Black: _see_ Scoter, Black
   "  Eider: 197; p. 198
   " Goldeneye: 195; p. 191
   " Long-tailed: 196; p. 198
   " Pintail: 190; p. 190
   " Scaup: 194; p. 191
   " Tufted: 194; p. 191
   " Wild: 185; p. 179
  Dunlin: 262; p. 262

  Eagle, Golden: 152; p. 152
   " Sea, or White-tailed: 153; p. 152
   " Spotted: 152; p. 152

  Falcon: _see_ Peregrine Falcon
  Fern Owl: _see_ Nightjar
  Fieldfare: 5; p. 2
  Flycatcher, Pied: 79; p. 69
   "  Spotted: 77; p. 69
  Fulmar: _see_ Petrel, Fulmar

  Gadwall: 189; p. 179
  Gallinule: _see_ Moor-hen
  Gannet: 168; p. 167
  Garganey: 192; p. 190
  Godwit, Bar-tailed: 272; p. 247
   " Black-tailed: 273; p. 270
  Gold Crest: _see_ Wren
  Goldfinch: 88; p. 96
  Goosander: 201; p. 199
  Goose, Bean: 178; p. 178
   " Bernicle: 181; p. 166
   " Brent: 180; p. 166
   " Grey Lag: 176; p. 178
   " Pink-footed: 179; p. 178
   " White-fronted: 177; p. 178
  Grebe: black-necked: 308; p. 298
   "  Great-crested: 300; p. 298
   "  Little: 302; p. 199
   "  Red-necked:  301;  p. 298
   "  Slavonian: 302; p. 298
  Greenfinch: 86; p. 69
  Greenshank: 271; p. 270
  Grosbeak, Pine: 102
  Grouse, Black: 213; p. 209
   " Red: 215; p. 209
  Guillemot, Common: 292; p. 290
   "  Black: 294; p. 290
  Gull, Black or Brown-headed: 281; p. 282
   " Common: 283; p. 279
   " Glaucous: 287; p. 279
   " Great Black-backed: 286; p. 279
   " Herring: 285; p. 282
   " Kittiwake: 287; p. 282
   " Lesser Black-backed: 285; p. 279
   " Little: 281; p. 282

  Harrier, Hen: 148; p. 148
   " Marsh: 147; p. 153
   " Montagu's: 149; p. 148
  Hawfinch: 87; p. 96
  Hawk, Sparrow: 156; p. 153
  Heron, Common: 170; p. 234
   " Night: 173; p. 234
  Hobby: 161; p. 153
  Hoopoe: 136; p. 129

  Jackdaw: 61; p. 68
  Jay: 58; p. 59

  Kestrel: 163; p. 148
  Kingfisher: 132; p. 129
  Kite: 158; p. 149
  Kittiwake: _see_ Gull, Kittiwake
  Knot: 261; p. 257

  Lapwing: 247; p. 246
  Lark, Shore: 122; p. 117
   " Sky: 119; p. 117
   " Wood: 122; p. 117
  Linnet: 98; p. 85
   " Mountain: 100; p. 97

  Magpie: 59; p. 59
  Martin, House: 83; p 84
   " Sand: 84; p. 84
  Merganser: 202; p. 199
  Merlin: 162; p. 153
  Moor-hen: 231; p. 231

  Nettle-creeper: _see_ Whitethroat
  Nightingale: 17; p. 16
  Nightjar: 125; p. 220
  Nutcracker: 57; p. 58
  Nuthatch: 44; p. 46

  Oriole: 53; p. 47
  Osprey: 154; p. 152
  Owl, Barn or White: 142; p. 139
   " Long-eared: 144; p. 139
   " Short-eared: 145; p. 139
   " Tawny or Brown: 146; p. 139
  Ox-bird: _see_ Dunlin
  Ox-eye: _see_ Great Tit
  Oyster-catcher: 248; p. 278

  Partridge, Common: 222; p. 209
   "  Red-legged: 225; p. 209
  Penguin: _see_ Razor-bill
  Peewit: _see_ Lapwing
  Peregrine Falcon: 159; p. 148
  Petrel, Fork-tailed: 308; p. 299
   " Fulmar: 304; p. 299
   "  Storm: 307; p. 299
  Phalarope, Grey: 253; p. 247
   "  Red-necked: 253; p. 247
  Pheasant: 219; p. 220
  Pipit, Meadow: 117; p. 116
   " Rock: 118; p. 116
   " Tree: 116; p. 116
  Pigeon, Wood; 203; p. 208
  Plover, Cream-coloured: 240
   " Golden: 240; p. 235
   " Green: 247
  Grey: 242; p. 235
   " Kentish: 246; p. 235
   " Ringed: 244; p. 235
   " Stone or Great Norfolk: 239; p. 246
  Pochard (or Dunbird): 193; p. 191
  Pratincole: 238; p. 221
  Ptarmigan: 217; p. 221
  Puffin: 295; p. 290

  Quail: 226; p. 221

  Raven: 63; p. 59
  Razor-bill: 291; p. 290
  Redbreast: _see_ Robin
  Redpoll, Lesser: 99; p. 97
   " Mealy: 99; p. 97
  Redstart: 14; p. 9
   "  Black: 16; p. 9
  Redshank; 269; p. 270
  Redwing: 2; p. 2
  Reedling, Bearded: _see_ Bearded Reedling
  Reeve, Female of Ruff: 266
  Ring Ouzel: 10; p. 3
  Ringtail: _see_ Hen Harrier
  Robin: 16; p. 16
  Roller: 134; p. 129
  Rook; 68; p. 68
  Ruff and Reeve: 266; p. 270

  Sanderling: 260; p. 257
  Sand-grouse: 211; p. 221
  Sandpiper, Common: 268; p. 263
   "  Curlew: 261; p. 263
   "  Green: 267; p. 263
   "  Purple: 264; p. 263
   " Wood: 268; p. 257
  Scaup: 194; p. 191
  Scoter, Black (or Common): 199; p. 198
   " Surf: 201
   " Velvet: 200; p. 198
  Shag: 167; p. 166
  Shearwater, Great: 305; p. 283
   "   Manx: 305; p. 299
  Sheldrake: 184; p. 179
  Shoveler: 189; p. 179
  Shrike, Great Grey: 73; p. 58
   " Lesser Grey: 74
   " Red-backed: 74; p. 58
   " Woodchat: 76; p. 58
  Siskin: 90; p. 96
  Skua, Great: 288; p. 283
   " Richardson's: 290; p. 283
   " Twist-tailed: 289; p. 283
  Smew: 202; p. 199
  Snipe, Common; 257; p. 256
   " Jack: 259; p. 256
   " Great or Solitary: 256; p. 256
  Sparrow: House: 92; p. 85
   " Hedge: 20; p. 16
   " Tree: 94; p. 85
  Spoonbill, White: 176; p. 231
  Starling: 54; p. 47
   "  Rose-coloured: 56; p. 47
  Stint, Little: 265; p. 262
   " Temminck's: 265; p. 262
  Stonechat: 13; p. 9
  Stork: 175; p. 234
   " Black: 175
  Swallow: 80; p. 84
   "  Night: _see_ Nightjar
  Swan, Bewick's: 181; p. 167
   " Whooper or Wild: 180; p. 167
  Swift: 123; p. 84

  Teal: 191; p. 190
  Tern, Arctic: 278; p. 271
   " Black: 275; p. 271
   " Common: 278; p. 278
   " Little: 279; p. 278
   " Roseate: 277; p. 271
   " Sandwich: 276; p. 271
  Thick-knee: _see_ Plover, Great
  Thrush, Song: 1; p. 2
   " Mistle: 1; p. 2
  Titmouse, Great: 37; p. 34
   " Blue: 39; p. 35
   " Cole: 40; p. 35
   " Marsh: 41; p. 35
   " Bearded: 42
   " Crested: 42; p. 35
   " Long-tailed: 35; p. 34
  Titlark: _see_ Pipit, Meadow
  Tree-creeper: 47; p. 46
  Turnstone: 250; p. 278
  Twite: _see_ Linnet, Mountain

  Wagtail, Blue-headed: 115; p. 109
   "  Grey: 113; p. 109
   "  Pied: 112; p. 109
   "  White: 111; p. 109
   "  Yellow: 115; p. 109
  Warbler: Dartford: 25; p. 31
   " Garden: 23; p. 17
   "  Grasshopper: 28; p. 30
   "  Marsh: 27; p. 31
   "  Reed: 25; p. 31
   "  Sedge: 27; p. 31
   "  Willow: 31; p. 30
   "  Wood: 32; p. 30
  Water-hen: _see_ Moor-hen
  Water Rail: 230; p. 230
  Waxwing: 76; p. 69
  Wheatear: 10; p. 16
  Whimbrel: 275; p. 257
  Whinchat: 12; p. 9
  Whitethroat: 21; p. 17
   "   Lesser: 22; p. 17
  Wigeon: 192; p. 190
  Windhover: _see_ Kestrel
  Woodcock: 254; p. 256
  Woodpecker, Green: 129; p. 128
   "  Great Spotted: 127; p. 128
   "  Lesser Spotted: 129; p. 128
  Wren, Common: 48; p. 46
   " Gold-crested: 33; p. 34
   " Fire-crested: 35; p. 34
  Wryneck: 131; p. 128

  Yellow Hammer: _see_ Bunting, Yellow


Transcriber's Notes

The illustration captions have been rearranged so they are listed in
order of picture layout.

There were quite a few minor punctuation corrections made that are not
detailed here. Several words were shown both with a hyphen and without
(ex., seaside and sea-side) and with diacritical accents and not. For
each the most frequently used variation was usually adopted. Some quoted
passages have words that appear to be typos (ex., Dottrels p. 224); but
were left unchanged as that was or may have been the way they were
originally spelt in the text from which it is quoted. In the Glossary,
several entries were out of alphabetical order and were moved to the
correct location.

The PODICIPEDIDÆ section (Page 300) was missing the word FAMILY from the
title unlike every other listing. As most of the species names in the
text are shown in ALLCAPS, those few shown as small caps were converted
to ALLCAPS. The listings for the Sub-Family Iynginæ and the species Iynx
show a diaresis (double dots) above the letter y. This was converted to
the letter y. Formatting of references to similar Family or Genus names
were standardized to the most prevalent form.

Typographical Corrections

  Page  Correction
  ====  ========================
    xx  bind => hind
     2  cheery => cherry
   234  Neue => Nene

Emphasis Notation

  _Text_  -  Italic

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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.