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Title: Reptiles and Birds - A Popular Account of Their Various Orders, With a - Description of the Habits and Economy of the Most - Interesting
Author: Figuier, Louis
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 "Reptiles and Birds - A Popular Account of Their Various Orders, With a - Description of the Habits and Economy of the Most - Interesting" ***

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  Edited and Adapted by





In presenting to the public this English version of LOUIS FIGUIER'S
interesting work on Reptiles and Birds, I beg to state that where
alterations and additions have been made, my object has been that the
style and matter should be suited to the present state of general
knowledge, and that all classes should be able to obtain useful
information and amusement from the pages which I have now the honour and
pleasure of presenting to them.

On commencing my undertaking I was not aware of the immensity of the
labour to be done, and fear that I must have relinquished my arduous
task but for the kind encouragement of FRANK BUCKLAND, Esq., Inspector
of Salmon Fisheries, and HENRY LEE, Esq., F.L.S., F.G.S., &c., to both
of whom I take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks.


_December, 1869._



  INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER                            1



  Structural Distinctions                         8
  Intelligence                                   13
  Characteristics                                15
  Historical Antiquity                           18
  Distribution                                   19
  Frogs                                          19
    Habits of Life                               21
    Development of Young                         22
    Green                                        23
    Common                                       23
    Green Tree                                   24
  Toads                                          25
    Natterjack                                   26
    Surinam                                      28
  Land Salamanders                               31
    Spotted                                      32
    Black                                        33
  Aquatic Salamanders                            33
    Crested                                      34
    Gigantic                                     34
    Transformations and Reproduction             35



  Snakes                                         38
    Burrowing                                    42
    Ground                                       43
    Tree                                         43
    Fresh-water                                  43
    Sea                                          43
    Innocuous                                    46
    Blind                                        46
    Shield-tail                                  47
    Black                                        49
    Rat                                          49
    Ringed                                       49
    Green and Yellow                             52
    Viperine                                     52
    Desert                                       53
    Whip                                         54
    Blunt-heads                                  56
    Boas                                         56
    Diamond                                      59
    Carpet                                       59
    Rock                                         61
    Natal Rock                                   61
    Guinea Rock                                  61
    Royal Rock                                   61
    Aboma                                        62
    Anaconda                                     65
    Cobra                                        70
    Asp                                          75
    Bungarus                                     76
    Pit Vipers                                   78
    Fer-de-lance                                 79
    Jararaca                                     80
    Trimeresurus                                 80
    Rattle                                       82
    Copperhead                                   82
    Tic-polonga                                  88
    Puff Adders                                  89
    Common Adder                                 92



  Lizards, Distribution and Division             99
    Grey                                        109
    Green                                       110
    Ocellated                                   110
    Ameivas                                     112
    Iguanas                                     117
    Basilisk                                    127
    Anoles                                      129
    Flying                                      132
    Gecko                                       134
    Chameleons                                  136
  Crocodiles                                    141
    Jacares                                     145
    Alligators                                  145
    Caiman                                      147
    True                                        149
    Gavials                                     153



  Formation                                     155
  Distribution and Classification               157
  Tortoises                                     158
    Land                                        158
    Margined                                    159
    Moorish                                     159
    Greek                                       160
    Elephantine                                 160
    Genus Pyxis                                 161
    Ditto Kinixys                               161
    Homopodes                                   161
  _Elodians, or Marsh Tortoises_:
    Mud                                         162
    Emydes                                      163
    Pleuroderes                                 164
  _Potamians, or River Tortoises_:
    Trionyx                                     164
  _Thalassians, or Sea Tortoises_:
    Green                                       177
    Hawk's-bill                                 177
    Loggerhead                                  178
    Leather-back                                178



  Anatomy                                       181
  Plumage                                       184
  Beaks                                         189
  Digestive Organs                              191
  Powers of Sight                               193
  Vocal Organs                                  195
  Nests                                         197
  Reproduction                                  201
  Longevity                                     203
  Utility                                       205
  Classification                                207



  Divers                                        212
    Great Northern                              213
    Imbrine                                     216
    Arctic                                      216
    Black-throated                              216
    Red-throated                                217
  Penguins                                      218
  Manchots                                      219
  Grebes                                        221
    Castanean                                   222
    Crested                                     223
  Guillemots                                    224

  Chapter II.


  Mallard                                       232
  Golden-eyed Garrot                            242
  Poachard                                      243
  Shoveller                                     244
  Shieldrake                                    246
  Eider Duck                                    247
  Common Teal                                   250
  Velvet Duck                                   253
  Scoter, Black                                 253
    Great-billed                                258
  Goosander                                     259
  Smew                                          260
  Goose                                         261
    Wild                                        262
    Bean                                        266
    Domestic                                    266
    Bernicle                                    269
    White-fronted Bernicle                      269
  Swan                                          270
    Whooping                                    273
    Black                                       277
  Frigate Bird                                  277
  Tropic Bird                                   279
  Darter                                        281
  Gannet                                        283
  Cormorant                                     285
  Shag                                          289
  Pelicans                                      291
    White                                       294
    Crested                                     295
    Brown                                       296
    Spectacled                                  297



  Tern                                          299
    Little                                      301
    Noddy                                       302
    Silver-winged                               302
    Arctic                                      302
    Whiskered                                   303
    Gull-billed                                 303
    Roseate                                     303
    Sandwich                                    303
    Caspian                                     303
  Scissors-bills                                303
    Black                                       304
  Gulls                                         304
    Large White-winged                          306
    Great Black-backed                          306
    Herring                                     306
  Sea Mews                                      304
    White, or Senator                           307
    Brown-masked                                307
    Laughing                                    307
    Grey                                        308
  Skua                                          308
    Parasite                                    309
    Richardson's                                309
    Pomerine                                    309
    Common                                      310
  Petrels                                       310
    Giant                                       311
    Chequered                                   311
    Fulmar                                      311
    Stormy                                      311
    Blue                                        312
  Puffins                                       312
    Grey                                        312
    English                                     312
    Brown                                       312
  Albatross                                     312
    Common                                      314
    Black-browed                                314
    Brown                                       314
    Yellow and Black-beaked                     314



    Flamingo                                    317
    Avocet                                      320
    Stilt Bird                                  321
  Water Hens                                    322
    Common                                      323
    Purple, or Sultana Fowl                     324
  Rails                                         325
  Coots                                         326
    Bald                                        328
    Crested                                     328
    Blue                                        328
  Glareola                                      328
  Jacana                                        328
  Kamichi                                       330
    Horned                                      332
    Faithful                                    332
  Sandpipers                                    332
    Brown                                       334
    Greenshank                                  334
    Redshank                                    334
    Pond                                        334
    Wood                                        334
    Green                                       334
    Common                                      334
  Turnstone                                     334
  Ruff                                          336
  Knot                                          338
  Sanderlings                                   339
  Woodcock                                      339
  Snipe                                         343
    Common                                      344
    Great                                       345
    Jack                                        345
    Wilson's                                    345
  Godwit                                        345
  Curlew                                        346
  Ibis                                          348
    Sacred                                      348
    Green                                       351
    Scarlet                                     351
  Spoonbills                                    352
    White                                       352
    Rose-coloured                               352
  Storks                                        353
    White                                       353
    Black                                       357
  Argala                                        357
  Jabiru                                        359
  Ombrette                                      359
  Bec-ouvert                                    359
  Drome                                         359
  Tantalus                                      360
  Boatbill                                      360
  Herons                                        361
    Common                                      362
    Purple                                      364
    White                                       364
  Bitterns                                      366
  Crane                                         366
    Ash-coloured                                366
    Demoiselle                                  371
    Crested                                     371
    Hooping                                     371
  Caurale                                       373
  Cariama                                       373
  Oyster-catchers                               373
  Runners                                       376
  Lapwings                                      376
  Plovers                                       378
    Great Land                                  379
    Doterel                                     379
      Ringed                                    379
    Kentish                                     380
    Golden                                      380
  Pluvian                                       381
  Bustard                                       381
    Great                                       381
    Ostrich                                     383
    Rhea                                        390
    Cassowary                                   392
    Emu                                         393
    Apteryx                                     395
  _Extinct Brevipennæ_:
    Dodo                                        397
    Epiornis                                    397
    Dinornis                                    397



  Habits, origin, &c.                           399
  Capercailzie                                  401
  Grouse, Black                                 402
    Pinnated                                    402
    Ruffed                                      403
  Cock of the Plains                            402
  Gelinotte                                     403
  Ptarmigans                                    404
    Common                                      404
    Red Grouse                                  405
  Gangas                                        405
  Pin-tailed Sand Grouse                        406
  Heteroclites                                  406
  Quails                                        406
  Partridges                                    410
    Grey                                        415
  Partridges, Red-legged                        417
    Gambra                                      417
  Colin, Virginian                              417
    Californian                                 418
    Solitary                                    419
  Francolins                                    419
    Chinese                                     419
    European                                    420
    African and Indian                          420
  Coturnix                                      420
    Turnix tachydroma                           420
  Tinamides                                     420
  Chionidæ                                      421
  Megapodidæ                                    421
  Pheasants                                     422
    Common                                      422
    Golden                                      425
    Silver                                      425
    Ring-necked                                 427
    Reeves's                                    427
    Lady Amherst's                              427
  Argus                                         427
  Gallus                                        427
    Common                                      427
    Bankiva                                     429
    Jungle-fowl                                 429
    Bronzed                                     429
    Fork-tailed                                 429
    Kulm                                        429
    Negro                                       429
  Tragopans                                     435
  Pintados                                      435
  Turkeys                                       437
    Wild                                        437
    Domestic                                    440
    Ocellated                                   441
  Peacocks                                      441
    Domestic                                    442
    Wild                                        444
  Polyplectrons                                 444
  Impeyan Pheasants                             444
  Alectors                                      444
    Hocco, or Curassow                          444
    Pauxis                                      446
    Penelopes, or Guans                         446
    Hoazins                                     446
  Colombi-Gallines                              447
  Pigeons (Colombes)                            448
    Ring or Wood                                450
    Wild Rock                                   450
    Common Domestic                             450
    Pouter                                      451
    Roman                                       451
    Swift                                       452
    Carrier                                     452
    Tumbler                                     452
    Wheeling                                    452
    Nun                                         452
    Fan-tailed                                  452
    Turtle Dove                                 453
    Ring Dove                                   453
    Passenger                                   453
  Columbars                                     456



  Parrots                                       457
    Macaw                                       464
    Parrakeets                                  465
    Tabuan                                      465
    Parrot, Grey                                466
      Green                                     466
    Cockatoos                                   466
  Toucans                                       467
    Proper                                      468
    Aracaris                                    469
  Cuckoos                                       469
    Grey                                        469
  Indicators                                    472
  Anis                                          473
  Barbets                                       474
  Trogons                                       475
    Resplendent                                 476
    Mexican                                     476
  Woodpeckers                                   476
  Wry-necks                                     479
  Jacamars                                      480



  Hornbills                                     482
    Rhinoceros                                  483
  Fly-catchers                                  483
  King-fishers                                  484
  Ceyx Meninting                                486
  Bee-eaters                                    486
    Common                                      488
  Momots                                        487
  Hoopoes                                       488
  Epimachus                                     490
  Promerops                                     490
  Colibri                                       491
    Proper                                      491
    Humming-birds                               491
  Creepers                                      495
  Picumnus                                      496
  Furnarius                                     496
  Sucriers                                      497
  Soui-mangas                                   497
  Nuthatches                                    498
  Birds of Paradise                             499
    Great Emerald                               500
    King Bird                                   500
    Superb                                      500
    Sifilets                                    501
  Crows                                         502
    Raven                                       502
    Carrion                                     502
    Royston                                     502
    Rook                                        502
    Jackdaw                                     502
  Magpies                                       507
    Common                                      508
    Brazilian                                   509
    Chinese                                     509
  Jays                                          509
  Nut-cracker                                   510
  Rollers                                       511
  Starlings                                     512
    Common                                      513
    Sardinian                                   513
  Baltimore Oriole                              514
  Beef-eater                                    514
  Crossbill                                     515
  Grosbeak                                      516
  Bullfinch                                     517
  Siskin                                        517
  House Sparrow                                 518
  Goldfinch                                     519
  Linnets                                       519
  Chaffinch                                     520
  Canary                                        521
  Widow Bird                                    523
  Java Sparrow                                  523
  Weaver Birds                                  523
    Republican                                  524
  Buntings                                      524
    Reed                                        525
    Cirl                                        526
    Ortolan                                     526
    Snow                                        527
  Tits                                          527
    Great                                       528
    Long-tailed                                 528
  Larks                                         529
    Crested Lark                                531
  Swallow                                       531
    Salangane                                   537
  Goatsuckers                                   538
    Night-jar                                   540
  Guacharos                                     541
  Manakins                                      542
  Cock of the Rock                              542
  Warblers                                      542
    Nightingale                                 543
    Sedge Warbler                               545
    Night Warbler                               545
    La Fauvette Couturière                      546
    Garden                                      547
    Robin                                       547
    Wrens                                       547
      Golden-crested                            548
      European                                  548
      Wood                                      548
    Stone Chat                                  549
    Wagtails                                    550
      Pied                                      551
    Quaketail                                   551
    Pipits                                      552
    Lyretail                                    552
    Orioles                                     553
      Golden                                    553
    Mino                                        554
    Honey-sucker                                555
    Ouzel, Rose-coloured                        555
      Water                                     556
    Solitary Thrush                             556
    Blackbird, Common                           557
      Ringed                                    559
      Solitary                                  559
    Thrush, Polyglot                            559
      Song                                      560
      Redwing                                   561
    Tanagers                                    561
    Drongos                                     562
    Cotingas                                    563
    Caterpillar-eater                           563
    Chatterers                                  564
    Fly-catchers                                565
    Tyrants                                     567
    Cephalopterus ornatus                       567
    Shrikes                                     568
    Vangas                                      571
    Cassicus                                    571



  Horned Owls                                   576
    Great                                       576
    Virginian                                   579
    Short-eared                                 579
    Ketupu                                      581
    Scops                                       581
  Hornless Owls                                 583
    Sparrow                                     583
    Small Sparrow                               584
    Pampas Sparrow                              584
    Burrowing                                   585
    Tawny                                       585
    Barn                                        585
    Canada                                      588
    Hawk                                        589
    White                                       589
    Caparacoch                                  590
    Harfang                                     590
    Lapland                                     591
    Ural                                        591
  Eagles                                        592
    Royal                                       602
    Imperial                                    602
    Bonelli's                                   602
    Tawny                                       602
    Booted                                      602
    Reinwardt's                                 602
    Vulturine                                   602
  Sea Eagles                                    602
    European                                    603
    American                                    604
    Marine                                      604
    Piscivorous                                 604
    Caffir                                      604
    Mace's                                      604
    Pondicherry                                 604
    Indian                                      604
    Osprey                                      605
    Huppart                                     606
    Falco urubitinga                            606
    Harpy                                       606
    White-bellied Eagle                         607
  Falcons                                       608
  Gyrfalcons                                    608
    White                                       609
    Iceland                                     609
    Norway                                      609
  Falcons                                       610
    Lanier                                      610
    Sultan                                      610
    Peregrine                                   610
    Hobby                                       613
    Merlin                                      613
    Kestrel                                     613
    Bengal                                      613
  Goshawk                                       622
  Sparrow-hawks                                 623
    Common                                      623
    Dwarf                                       623
    Chanting Falcon                             624
  Kites                                         624
    Common                                      624
    Black                                       625
    Parasite                                    625
    American                                    625
  Buzzards                                      626
    Common                                      627
    Honey                                       627
    Rough-legged                                627
  Harriers                                      627
    Hen                                         628
    Moor                                        628
    Frog-eating                                 628
    Pale-chested                                629
    Jardine's                                   629
    Ash-coloured                                629
  Caracaras                                     629
    Brazilian                                   629
    Chimango                                    629
    Long-winged                                 629
    Chimachima                                  629
    Funebris                                    631
  Vultures                                      631
    Griffons                                    632
      Bearded                                   632
    Sarcoramphi                                 634
      Condor                                    634
      King Vulture                              638
    Cathartes                                   639
      Urubu                                     639
      Turkey Buzzard                            641
      Common Vulture                            641
  Percnopterus                                  641
    Vulture, Pondicherry                        642
      Kolbe's                                   642
      Yellow                                    642
      Sociable                                  645
      Chinese                                   646
      Oricou                                    646
  Serpent-eaters                                646
    Secretary Bird                              646


_Phasianus cristatus indicus_, in page 448, should be attributed to
Brisson, not Latham.

The synonym for Ring Pigeon, in page 448, should be _Columba palumbus_.

Woodcut 182 represents the Stock Dove, erroneously named Wood Pigeons in
page 450.



There is little apparent resemblance between the elegant feathered
warbler which makes the woods re-echo to its cheerful song, and the
crawling reptile which is apt to inspire feelings of disgust when the
more potent sensation of terror is absent--between the familiar Swallow,
which builds its house of clay under the eaves of your roof, or the
warbler whose nest, with its young progeny, carefully watched by the
father of the brood in the silent watches of the night, is now
threatened by the Serpent which has glided so silently into the bush,
its huge mouth already open to swallow the whole family, while the
despairing and fascinated parents have nothing but their slender bills
to oppose to their formidable foe. "Placed side by side," says Professor
Huxley, "a Humming-bird and a Tortoise, or an Ostrich and a Crocodile,
offer the strongest contrast; and a Stork seems to have little but its
animality in common with the Snake which it swallows." Nevertheless,
unlike as they are in outward appearance, there is sufficient
resemblance in their internal economy to bring them together in most
attempts at a classification of the Animal Kingdom. The air-bladder
which exists between the digestive canal and kidneys in some fishes,
becomes vascular with the form and cellular structure of lungs in
reptiles; the heart has two auricles, the ventricle in most is
imperfectly divided, and more or less of the venous blood is mixed with
the arterial which circulates over the body; but retaining their gills
and being therefore transitional in structure, they are also
cold-blooded. In birds, the lungs are spongy, the cavity of the
air-bags becoming obliterated by the multiplication of vascular
cellules; the heart is four-chambered, transmitting venous blood to the
lungs, and pure arterial blood to the body; the temperature is raised
and maintained at 90° to 100° Fahr.

Thus Reptiles, like Birds, breathe the common air by means of their
lungs, but respiration is much less active. "Although," remarks
Professor Owen, "the heart of Birds resembles in some particulars that
of Reptiles, the four cavities are as distinct as in the Mammalia, but
they are relatively stronger, their valvular mechanism is more perfect,
and the contractions of this organ are more forcible and frequent in
birds, in accordance with their more extended respiration and their more
energetic muscular action." It is true, as Professor Huxley informs us,
that the pinion of a bird, which corresponds with the human hand or the
fore paw of a reptile, has three points representing three fingers: no
reptile has so few.[1] The breast-bone of a bird is converted into
membrane-bone: no such conversion takes place in reptiles. The sacrum is
formed by a number of caudal and dorsal vertebræ. In reptiles the organ
is constituted by one or two sacral vertebræ.

    [1] _Vide_, however, p. 8.--ED.

In other respects the two classes present many obvious differences, but
these are more superficial than would be suspected at first glance. And
Professor Huxley believes that, structurally, "reptiles and birds do
really agree much more closely than birds with mammals, or reptiles with

While most existing birds differ thus widely from existing reptiles, the
cursorial or struthious genera, comprising the Ostrich, Nandou, Emu,
Cassowary, Apteryx, and the recently extinct Dinornis of New Zealand,
come nearer to the reptiles in structure than any others. All of these
birds are remarkable for the shortness of their wings, the absence of a
crest or keel upon the breast-bone, and some peculiarities of the skull,
which render them more peculiarly reptilian. But the gap between
reptiles and birds is only slightly narrowed by their existence, and is
somewhat unsatisfactory to those who advocate the development theory,
which asserts that all animals have proceeded, by gradual modification,
from a common stock.

Traces had been discovered in the Mesozoic formations of certain
Ornitholites, which were too imperfect to determine the affinities of
the bird. But the calcareous mud of the ancient sea-bottom, which has
hardened into the famous lithographic slate of Solenhofen, revealed to
Hermann von Meyer, in 1861, first the impression of a feather, and, in
the same year, the independent discovery of the skeleton of the bird
itself, which Von Meyer had named _Archæopteryx lithographicus_. This
relic of a far-distant age now adorns the British Museum.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Archæopteryx lithographicus.]

The skull of the Archæopteryx is almost lost, but the leg, the foot, the
pelvis, the shoulder-girdle, and the feathers, as far as their structure
can be made out, are completely those of existing birds. On the other
hand, the tail is very long. Two digits of the manus have curved claws,
and, to all appearance, the metacarpal bones are quite free and
disunited, exhibiting, according to Professor Huxley, closer
approximation to the reptilian structure than any existing bird. Mr.
Evans has even detected that the mandibles were provided with a few
slender teeth.

On the other hand, the same writer points out certain peculiarities in
the single reptile found also among the Solenhofen slates, which has
been described and named _Compsognathus longipes_ by the late Andreas
Wagner. This reptile he declares "to be a still nearer approximation to
the missing link between reptiles and birds," thus narrowing the gap
between the two classes.

While we think it proper to point to these structural resemblances of
one class of the animal creation to others very different in their
external appearance, it is necessary to guard ourselves and our readers
from adopting the inferences sometimes deduced from them; that "these
infinitely diversified forms are merely the final terms in an immense
series of changes which have been brought about in the course of
immeasurable time, by the operation of causes more or less similar to
those which are at work at the present day." Domestication and other
causes have no doubt produced changes in the form of many animals; but
none from which this inference can be drawn, except in the imagination
of ingenious men who strain the facts to support a preconceived
hypothesis. In spite of the innumerable forms which the pigeon assumes
by cross-breeding and domestication, it still remains a pigeon; the dog
is still a dog, and so with other animals. Nor does it seem to us to be
necessary, or calculated to advance our knowledge in natural history, to
form theories which can only disturb our existing systems without
supplying a better. Systems are necessary for the purpose of arrangement
and identification; but it should never be forgotten that all
classifications are artificial--a framework or cabinet, into the
partitions of which many facts may be stowed away, carefully docketed
for future use. "Theories," says Le Vaillant, "are more easily made and
more brilliant probably than observations; but it is by observation
alone that science can be enriched." A bountiful Creator appears to have
adopted one general plan in the organization of all the vertebrate
creation; and, in order to facilitate their study, naturalists have
divided them into classes, orders, and genera, formed on the differences
which exist in the structure of their vital functions. The advantages of
this are obvious, but it does not involve the necessity of fathoming
what is unfathomable, of explaining what is to man inexplicable in the
works of GOD.[2]

    [2] This, however, is a subject upon which naturalists of the
    highest rank hold different opinions, many of those most highly
    qualified to form a correct judgment advocating the tenets
    propounded by Mr. Charles Darwin.--ED.

In previous volumes of this series[3] we have endeavoured to give the
reader some general notions of the form, life, and manners of the
branches of the animal kingdom known as Zoophytes, Mollusca, Articulata,
and Pisces. We now continue the superior sub-kingdom (to which the
fishes also belong) of the Vertebrated Animals, so called from the
osseous skeleton which encircles their bodies, in which the vertebral
column, surmounted by the cranium, its appendage, forms the principal

    [3] "The Ocean World," from the French of Louis Figuier. "The
    Insect World," from the French of the same author.

The presence of a solid frame in this series of animals admits of their
attaining a size which is denied to any of the others. The skeleton
being organized in such a manner as to give remarkable vigour and
precision to all their movements.

In the vertebrated animals the nervous system is also more developed.
There is, consequently, a more exquisite sensibility in them than in the
classes whose history we have hitherto discussed. They possess five
senses, more or less fully developed, a heart, a circulation, and their
blood is red.

We have now to deal with a class advanced above that of fishes, that of
Reptilia, which is divided as follows:--


Animals having ribs or processes, or short, slight, and free
vertebræ, forming a series of separate centrums, deeply cupped at
both ends, one of which is converted by ossification in the mature
animal into a ball, which may be the front one, as in the Surinam
Toad, _Pipa_, or the hind ones in the Frogs and Toads, _Rana_. The
skin is nude, limbs digitate, gills embryonal,--permanent in
some, in most lost in metamorphosis,--to be succeeded by pulmonary
respiration,--or both; a heart with one ventricle and two auricles.
They consist of:--

  Cæciliadæ or Ophiosomæ.

  Proteidæ or Sirens, Proteus, Newts, and Salamanders.

  _Aglosa_      Pipa or Surinam Toads.
  _Ranidæ_      Frogs.
  _Hylidæ_      Tree Frogs.
  _Bufonidæ_    Toads.


Distinguished by the double shield in which their bodies are enclosed,
whether they are terrestrial, fresh-water, or marine.

  The Turtles, _Chelonia_, have the limbs natatory.
  Mud Turtles, _Trionyx_,   } limbs amphibious.
  Terrapens, _Emys_,        }
  Tortoises, _Testudo_, limbs terrestrial.


Having a single transverse process on each side, single-headed ribs, two
external nostrils, eyes with movable lids; body covered with horny,
sometimes bony, scales.

  _Lacerta_--the Monitors, Crocodiles, Lizards; having ambulatory limbs.
  _Anguis_--Ophisaurus, Bimanus, Chalcides, Seps; limbs abortive; no


Having numerous vertebræ with single-headed hollow ribs, no visible
limbs, eyelids covered by an immovable transparent lid; body covered by
horny scales. It includes:--

  _Viperinæ_--the Vipers and Crotalidæ.
  _Colubrinæ_--the Colubers, Hydridæ, and Boidæ.


Teeth in a single row, implanted in distinct sockets; body depressed,
elongated, protected on the back by solid shield; tail longer than the
trunk, compressed laterally, and furnished with crests above. The
several families are:--

  _Crocodilidæ_--the Gavials, Mecistops, Crocodiles.
  _Alligatoridæ_--Jacares, Alligators, Caiman.[4]

    [4] By some naturalists the _Amphibia_ are considered as a
    distinct class, by other as a sub-class either of _Reptilia_ or
    of _Pisces_. Of the reptiles proper (at present existing), the
    arrangement into the orders _Testudinata_ (or Tortoises), _Sauria_
    (or Lizards), and _Ophidia_ (or Snakes), is the one most generally
    adopted; but De Blainville elevates the _Loricata_ (or Crocodiles)
    to the rank of an order, and others have adopted a division of
    corresponding rank, _Saurophidia_, for the _Anguis_ series above
    referred to; but the latter are merely limbless Lizards (or with
    abortive limbs) akin to the Scinques.--ED.



Those geographers who divide the world into land and sea overlook
in their nomenclature the extensive geographical areas which belong
permanently to neither section--namely, the vast marshy regions on the
margins of lakes, rivers, and ponds, which are alternately deluged with
the overflow of the adjacent waters, and parched and withering under
the exhalations of a summer heat; regions which could only be inhabited
by beings capable of living on land or in water; beings having both
gills through which they may breathe in water, and lungs through which
they may respire the common air. The first order of reptiles possesses
this character, and hence its name of Amphibia, from +amphibios+,
having a double life.

The transition from fishes to reptiles is described by Professor Owen,
with that wonderful power of condensation which he possesses, in the
following terms:--"All vertebrates during more or less of their
developmental life-period float in a liquid of similar specific gravity
to themselves. A large proportion, constituting the lowest organised and
first developed forms of this province, exist and breathe in water, and
are called fishes. Of these a few retain the primitive vermiform
condition, and develop no limbs; in the rest they are 'fins' of simple
form, moving by one joint upon the body, rarely adapted for any other
function than the impulse or guidance of the body through the water. The
shape of the body is usually adapted for moving with least resistance
through the liquid medium. The surface of the body is either smooth and
lubricous or it is smoothly covered with overlapping scales; it is
rarely defended by bony plates, or roughened by tubercles. Still more
rarely it is armed with spines." Passing over the general economy of
fishes we come to the heart. "The heart," he tells us, "consists of one
auricle receiving the venous blood, and one ventricle propelling it to
the gills or organs submitting that blood in a state of minute
subdivisions to the action of aërated water. From the gills the aërated
blood is carried over the entire body by vessels, the circulation being
aided by the contraction of the surrounding muscles."

The functions of gills are described by the Professor with great
minuteness. "The main purpose of the gills of fishes," he says, "being
to expose the venous blood in this state of minute subdivision to
streams of water, the branchial arteries rapidly divide and sub-divide
until they resolve themselves into microscopic capillaries, constituting
a network in one plane or layer, supported by an elastic plate, covered
by a tesselated and non-ciliated epithelium. This covering and the
tunics of the capillaries are so thin as to allow chemical interchange
and decomposition to take place between the carbonated blood and the
oxygenated water. The requisite extent of the respiratory field of
capillaries is gained by various modes of multiplying the surface within
a limited space." "Each pair of processes," he adds, "has its flat side
turned towards contiguous pairs, and the two processes of each pair
stand edgeway to each other, being commonly united for a greater or less
extent from their base; hence Cuvier describes each pair as a single
bifurcated plate, or 'feuillet.'"

The modification which takes place in the respiratory and other organs
in Reptilia, is described in a few words. "Many fishes have a bladder of
air between the digestive canal and the kidneys, which in some
communicate with an air-duct and the gullet; but its office is chiefly
hydrostatic. When on the rise of structure this air-bladder begins to
assume the vascular and pharyngeal relations with the form and cellular
structure of lungs, the limbs acquire the character of feet: at first
thread-like and many jointed, as in the _Lepidosiren_; then bifurcate,
or two-fingered, with the elbow and wrist joints of land animals, as in
_Amphiuma_; next, three-fingered, as in _Proteus_, or four-fingered, but
reduced to the pectoral pair, as in _Siren_."

In all reptiles the blood is conveyed from the ventricular part of the
heart, really or apparently, by a single trunk. In Lepidosiren the veins
from the lung-like air-bladders traverse the auricle which opens
directly into the ventricle. In some the vein dilates before
communicating with the ventricle into a small auricle, which is not
outwardly distinct from the much larger auricle receiving the veins of
the body. In Proteus the auricular system is incomplete. In Amphiuma the
auricle is smaller and less fringed than in the Sirens, the ventricle
being connected to the pericardium by the apex as well as the artery.
This forms a half spiral turn at its origin, and dilates into a broader
and shorter bulb than in the Sirens.

"The pulmonic auricle," continues the learned Professor, "thus augments
in size with the more exclusive share taken by the lungs in respiration;
but the auricular part of the heart shows hardly any outward sign of its
diversion in the Batrachians. It is small and smooth, and situated on
the left, and in advance of the ventricle in Newts and Salamanders. In
Frogs and Toads the auricle is applied to the base of the ventricle, and
to the back and side of the aorta and its bulb."

In the lower members of the order, the single artery from the ventricle
sends, as in fishes, the whole of the blood primarily to the branchial
organs, during life, and in all Batrachians at the earlier aquatic
periods of existence. In the Newt three pairs of external gills are
developed at first as simple filaments, each with its capillary loop,
but speedily expanding, lengthening, and branching into lateral
processes, with corresponding looplets; those blood-channels
intercommunicating by a capillary network. The gill is covered by
ciliated scales, which change into non-ciliated cuticle shortly before
the gills are absorbed. In the _Proteus anguinus_, three parts only of
branchial and vascular arches are developed, corresponding with the
number of external gills. In _Siren lacertina_ the gills are in three
pairs of branchial arches, the first and fourth fixed, the second and
third free, increasing in size according to their condition.

The AMPHIBIA, then, have all, at some stage of their existence, both
gills and lungs co-existent: respiring by means of branchiæ or gills
while in the water, and by lungs on emerging into the open air.

All these creatures seem to have been well known to the ancients. The
monuments of the Egyptians abound in representations of Frogs, Toads,
Tortoises, and Serpents. Aristotle was well acquainted with their form,
structure, and habits, even to their reproduction. Pliny's description
presents his usual amount of error and exaggeration. Darkness envelops
their history during the middle ages, from which it gradually emerges in
the early part of the sixteenth century, when Belon and Rondiletius in
France, Salviani in Italy, and Conrad Gesner in Switzerland, devoted
themselves to the study of Natural History with great success. In the
latter part of the same century Aldrovandi appeared. During fifty years
he was engaged in collecting objects and making drawings, which were
published after his death, in 1640, edited by Professor Ambrossini, of
Bologna, the Reptiles forming two volumes. In these volumes, twenty-two
chapters are occupied by the Serpents. But the first arrangement which
can be called systematic was that produced by John Ray. This system was
based upon the mode of respiration, the volume of the eggs, and their

Numerous systems have since appeared in France, Germany, and England;
but we shall best consult our readers' interest by briefly describing
the classification adopted by Professor Owen, the learned Principal of
the British Museum, in his great work on the Vertebrata.

The two great classes Batrachians and Reptiles, include a number of
animals which are neither clothed with hair, like the Mammalia, covered
with feathers like the birds, nor furnished with swimming fins like
fishes. The essential character of reptiles is, that they are either
entirely or partially covered with scales. Some of them--for instance,
Serpents--move along the ground with a gliding motion, produced by the
simple contact and adhesion of the ventral scales with the ground.
Others, such as the Tortoises, the Crocodiles, and the Lizards, move by
means of their feet; but these, again, are so short, that the animals
almost appear to crawl on the ground--however swiftly, in some
instances. The locomotive organs in Serpents are the vertebral column,
with its muscles, and the stiff epidermal scutes crossing the under
surface of the body. "A Serpent may, however, be seen to progress,"
says Professor Owen, "without any inflection, gliding slowly and with a
ghost-like movement in a straight line, and if the observer have the
nerve to lay his hand flat in the reptile's course, he will feel, as the
body glides over the palm, the surface pressed as it were by the edges
of a close-set series of paper knives, successively falling flat after
each application." Others of the class, such as the Tortoises,
Crocodiles, and Lizards, move by the help of feet, which are generally
small and feeble--in a few species being limited to the pectoral region,
while in most both pairs are present. In some, as in various Lizards,
the limbs acquire considerable strength.

There is one genus of small Lizards, known as the Dragons, _Draco_,
whose movements present an exception to the general rule. Besides their
four feet, these animals are furnished with a delicate membranous
parachute, formed by a prolongation of the skin on the flanks and
sustained by the long slender ribs, which permits of their dropping from
a considerable height upon their prey.

Batrachians, again, differ from most other Reptilia by being naked:
moreover, most of them undergo certain metamorphoses; in the first stage
of their existence they lead a purely aquatic life, and breathe by means
of gills, after the manner of fishes. Young Frogs, Toads, and
Salamanders, which are then called _tadpoles_, have, in short, no
resemblance whatever to their parents in the first stage of their
existence. They are little creatures with slender, elongated bodies,
destitute of feet and fins, but with large heads, which may be seen
swimming about in great numbers in stagnant ponds, where they live and
breathe after the manner of fishes. By degrees, however, they are
transformed: their limbs and air-breathing lungs are gradually
developed, then they slowly disappear, and a day arrives when they find
themselves conveniently organized for another kind of existence; they
burst from their humid retreat, and betake themselves to dry land. "The
tadpole meanwhile being subject to a series of changes in every system
of organs concerned in the daily needs of the coming aërial and
terrestrial existence, still passes more or less time in water, and
supplements the early attempt at respiration by pullulating loops and
looplets of capillaries from the branchial vessels." (Owen.)

Nevertheless, they do not altogether forget their native element; thanks
to their webbed feet, they can still traverse the waters which sheltered
their infancy; and when alarmed by any unusual noise, they rush into the
water as a place of safety, where they swim about in apparent enjoyment.
In some of them, as _Proteus_ and the amphibious _Sirens_, where the
limbs are confined to the pectoral region, swimming seems to be the
state most natural to them. They are truly amphibious, and they owe this
double existence to the persistence of their gills; for in these
perennibranchiate Batrachians, arteries are developed from the last pair
of branchial arches which convey blood to the lungs: while, in those
having external deciduous gills, the office being discharged, they lose
their ciliate and vascular structure and disappear altogether. The skull
in Reptiles generally consists of the same parts as in the Mammalia,
though the proportions are different. The skull is flat, and the
cerebral cavity, small as it is, is not filled with brain. The vertebral
column commences at the posterior part of the head, two condyles
occupying each side of the vertebral hole (Fig. 2). The anterior limbs
are mostly shorter than the posterior, as might be expected of animals
whose progression is effected by leaps. Ribs there are none. The sternum
is highly developed, and a large portion of it is cartilaginous; it
moves in its mesial portions the two clavicles and two coracoid bones,
which fit on to the scapula, the whole making a sort of hand which
supports the anterior extremities, and an elongated disk which supports
the throat, and assists in deglutition and respiration. The bone of the
arm (_humerus_) is single, and long in proportion to the fore arm. In
the Frogs (_Rana_), the ilic bone is much elongated, and is articulated
in a movable manner on the sacrum, so that the two heads of the thigh
bones seem to be in contact. The femur, or thigh, is much lengthened and
slightly curved, and the bones of the leg so soldered together as to
form a single much elongated bone.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Skeleton of a Frog.]

The respiration of Reptiles and some of the Batrachians, like that of
Birds and Mammals, is aërial and pulmonary, but it is much less active.
Batrachians have, in addition, a very considerable cutaneous
respiration. Some of them, such as Toads, absorb more oxygen through the
skin than by the lungs. Their circulation is imperfect, the structure
of the heart only presenting one ventricle; the blood, returning after a
partial regeneration in the lungs, mingles with that which is not yet
revivified: this mixed fluid is launched out into the economic system of
the animal. Thus Reptiles and Batrachians are said to be _cold-blooded_
animals, more especially the former, in which the respiratory organs,
which are a constant source of interior heat, are only exercised very
feebly. Owing to this low temperature of their bodies, reptiles affect
warm climates, where the sun exercises its power with an intensity
unknown in temperate regions; hence it is that they abound in the warm
latitudes of Asia, Africa, and America, whilst comparatively few are
found in Europe. This is also the cause of their becoming torpid during
the winter of our latitudes: not having sufficient heat in themselves to
produce reaction against the external cold, they fall asleep for many
months, awakening only when the temperature permits of their activity.
Serpents, Lizards, Tortoises, Frogs, are all subjected to this law of
their being. Some hybernate upon the earth, under heaps of stones, or in
holes; others in mud at the bottom of ponds. The senses are very
slightly developed in these animals; those of touch, taste, and smell,
are very imperfect; that of hearing, though less obtuse, leaves much to
be desired; but sight in them is very suitably exercised by the large
eyes, with contractile eye-balls, which enables certain reptiles--such,
for instance, as the Geckos, to distinguish objects in the dark. Most
Reptiles and Batrachians are almost devoid of voice: Serpents, however,
utter a sharp hissing noise, some species of Crocodiles howl
energetically, the Geckos are particularly noisy, and Frogs have a
well-known croak. In Reptiles and Batrachians the brain is small, a
peculiarity which explains their slight intelligence and the almost
entire impossibility of teaching them anything. They can, it is true, be
tamed; but although they seem to know individuals, they do not seem to
be susceptible of affection: the slight compass of their brain renders
them very insensible, and this insensibility to pain enables them to
support mutilations which would prove immediately fatal to most other
animals. For instance, the Common Lizard frequently breaks its tail in
its abrupt movements. Does this disturb him? Not at all! This
curtailment of his being does not seem to affect him; he awaits
patiently for the return of the organ, which complaisant nature renews
as often as it becomes necessary. In the Crocodiles and Monitor Lizards,
however, a mutilated part is not renewed, and the renovated tails of
other Lizards do not develop bone. In some instances, the eyes may be
put out with impunity, or part of the head may be cut off; these organs
will be replaced or made whole in a certain time without the animal
having ceased to perform any of the functions which are still permitted
to him in his mutilated state. A Tortoise will continue to live and walk
for six months after it is deprived of its brain, and a Salamander has
been seen in a very satisfactory state although its head was, so to
speak, isolated from the trunk by a ligature tied tightly close round
the neck. There is another curious peculiarity in the history of
Reptiles and Batrachians: each year as they awake from their state of
torpor, they slough their old covering, and thus each year renew their
youth; so far as the skin is concerned, it is certain that they retain
their youth a very long time. Their growth is slow, and continues almost
through the whole duration of their existence; they are, moreover,
endowed with remarkable longevity. This is not very astonishing, if we
consider that (at least in our latitudes) they remain torpid for several
months yearly; thus using up less of the materials of life than most
animals, they ought, consequently, to attain a more advanced age. The
activity of organization in Reptiles and Batrachians is so slight that
their stomachs feel less of the exigencies of hunger; hence they rarely
take nourishment; they digest their food with equal deliberation. With
the exception of the Land Tortoises, whose regimen is herbivorous, most
reptiles feed on living prey. Some, such as Lizards, Frogs, and Toads,
prey on worms, insects, small terrestrial or aquatic Molluscs; others,
such as Ophidians and Crocodiles, attack Birds, and even Mammalia. Large
Serpents, owing to the distensibility of their oesophagus, swallow
animals much larger than themselves. The Boa-constrictor darts upon the
Deer, binds him in its snaky coils, breaks his bones, and little by
little swallows him entirely.

Reptiles, whether Batrachians, Ophidians, or Chelonians, are mostly
_oviparous_, sometimes _ovo-viviparous_, and some of them are very
prolific. The eggs of some are covered with a calcareous envelope, as in
the Turtle. Sometimes they are soft, and analogous to the spawn of fish,
as in the Batrachians. They do not hatch their eggs by sitting upon
them, but bury them in the sand, and take no further care of them,
trusting to the heat of the sun, which hatches them in due course. To
this the Pythons form a partial exception. Batrachians content
themselves with diffusing their spawn or eggs in the marshy waters or
ponds, or they bear them on their backs until the time of hatching
approaches. On leaving the egg the young Tortoises have to provide
immediately for their own wants, for the parents are not present to
bring them their nourishment or to defend them against their enemies.
This parental protection, so manifest among the superior animals, does
not exist in oviparous species; that is, in those whose eggs are not
hatched in the body of the mother. The young are, so to speak, produced
in a living state, and fully prepared for the battle of life. The loves
of these animals present none of that character of mutual affection and
tender sympathy which distinguishes the Mammalia and Birds.[5] When they
have ensured the perpetuity of their species, they separate, and betake
themselves again to their solitary existence.

    [5] Birds, however, are oviparous, and nevertheless manifest the
    strongest parental affection.--ED.

Some reptiles attain dimensions truly extraordinary, which render them
at times very formidable. Turtles are met with which weigh as much as
sixteen hundred pounds, and the carapace of one of these measured as
much as six feet in length. The size of an ordinary Crocodile is from
eight to nine feet, but they have been seen twenty-four and even thirty
feet long, with a mouth opening from six to eight feet wide.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Skeleton of a Turtle.]

In Chelonians the surface of the skull is continuous without movable
articulations. The head is oval in the Land Tortoises, the interval
between the eyes large and convex, the opening of the nostrils large,
the orbits round. The general distinguishing characteristic of Tortoises
is the external position of the bones of the thorax, at once enveloping
with a cuirass or buckler the muscular portion of the frame, and
protecting the pelvis and shoulder bones. The ribs are inserted by means
of sutures into these plates, and united with each other. A
three-branched shoulder and cylindrical shoulder-blade are
characteristic of the Tortoises.

In tropical regions enormous Serpents are found, which are as bulky as a
man's thigh, and are said to be not less than forty feet in length.
Roman annals mention one forty feet long, which Regulus encountered in
Africa during the Punic wars, and which is fabulously said to have
arrested the march of his army. These gigantic reptiles are not,
however, the enemies which man has most cause to fear; their very size
draws attention to them in such a manner that it is easy to avoid them.
It is quite otherwise with Vipers twenty or thirty inches long; they
glide after their prey without being seen, strike it cruelly with their
fangs, leaving in the wound a venom which produces death with startling
rapidity. Doubtless this fatal power was the origin of the worship which
was rendered to certain reptiles by barbarous nations of old, and these
animals are indeed still venerated by many savage races. The whole class
of Reptiles are, for the most part, calculated to inspire feelings of
disgust, and such has been the sentiment in all ages. Few people can
suppress a movement of fright at the sight of an ordinary Snake, Lizard,
or Frog, notwithstanding that they are most inoffensive animals. Several
causes concur to this aversion. In the first place the low temperature
of their bodies, contact with which communicates an involuntary shudder
in the person who tries to touch one of them; then the moisture which
exudes from the skins of Frogs, Toads, and Salamanders; their fixed and
strong gaze, again, impresses one painfully in thinking of them; the
odour which some of them exhale is so disgusting, that it alone
sometimes causes fainting; add to this the fear of a real or often
exaggerated danger, and we shall have the secret of the sort of
instinctive horror which is felt by many people at the sight of most
reptiles. Nevertheless, the injurious species are exceptional amongst
reptiles, and there are not any amongst the Batrachians, for it is
altogether a mistake to take for venom the fluid which the toad
discharges.[6] It is true that these animals are repulsive in
appearance, we can nevertheless recognise their services in the economy
of nature. Inhabitants of slimy mud and impure swamps, they make
incessant war upon the worms and insects which abound in those
localities. In their turn they find implacable enemies in the birds of
the marshes, which check their prodigious multiplication. In this manner
equilibrium is maintained.

    [6] The _Necturus_, a Siren-like animal inhabiting the lakes of
    North America, has a series of small, fang-like teeth above and
    below, which are stated to give an envenomed bite.--"Proceedings
    of the Zoological Society" for 1857, p. 61. For poison-organs in
    certain fishes, _vide_ the same publication for 1864, p. 155.--ED.

Some of the animals which now occupy our attention render more direct
service to man by the part which they fulfil at his table. Frogs are
eaten in the south of France, Italy, and many other countries; and in
some parts of the south of France, Adders are eaten under the name of
Hedge-eels. We know the favour in which Turtles are held in England,
where turtle-soup is considered a dish only fit for merchant princes. In
some countries Iguanas, Crocodiles, and even Serpents are eaten.
Viper-broth, which was known to Hippocrates, is discontinued as an
article of food.

As we have already remarked, the peculiar nature of their organization
leads Reptiles and Batrachians to seek the warmer regions of the earth.
It is in those regions that they attain the enormous dimensions which
distinguish certain Serpents; there, too, they secrete their most subtle
poisons, and display the most lively colours--which, if less rich than
those of Birds and Fishes, are not less startling in effect. Many
Serpents and Lizards glitter with radiant metallic reflections, and some
of them present extremely varied combinations of colour. Chameleons are
found in the same localities, but in the Old World only; these and some
other Lizards are remarkable for changing their colour, a phenomenon
which is also seen among the Frogs, but in a smaller degree.

Reptiles and Batrachians were numerous in the early ages of our globe.
It was then that those monstrous Saurians lived, whose dimensions even
are startling to our imagination. The forms of the Reptiles and
Batrachians of the early ages of the earth were much more numerous,
their dimensions much greater, and their means of existence more varied
than those of the present time. Our existent Reptiles are very
degenerate descendants of those of the great geological periods, unless
we except the Crocodiles and the gigantic Boas and Pythons. Whilst the
Reptiles of former ages disported their gigantic masses, and spread
terror amongst other living creatures, alike by their formidable
armature and their prodigious numbers, they are now reduced to a much
lower number of species. There are now but little more than 1,500
species of Reptiles and Batrachians described, and only 100 of those
belong to Europe.[7]

    [7] _Vide_ subsequent notes on this subject, in p. 31, &c.


Animals which compose this class have long been confounded with
reptiles, from which they differ in one fundamental peculiarity in their
organization. At their birth they respire by means of gills, and
consequently resemble fishes. In a physiological point of view, at a
certain time in their lives, these animals are fishes in form as well as
in their habits and organization. As age progresses, they undergo
permanent metamorphosis--they acquire lungs, and thenceforth an aërial
respiration. It is, then, easy to understand that these animals hold a
doubtful rank, as they have long done, amongst Reptiles, which are
animals with an aërial respiration; they ought to form a separate class
of Vertebrates.[8]

    [8] They are regarded by some naturalists as a sub-class of Fishes
    rather than of Reptiles, as _piscine_ forms certain of which
    develop to a parallelism with the ordinary _reptilian_ condition of
    advancement; their reproduction especially favouring this view or

Batrachians establish a transitional link between Fishes and
Reptiles--they are, as it were, a bond of union between those two groups
of animals. In the adult state Batrachians are cold-blooded animals with
incomplete circulation, inactive respiration, and the skin is bare. In
the introductory section to this chapter we have given the general
characteristics which belong to them. The Frogs--Tree Frogs, Toads,
Surinam Toads, Salamanders, and Newts--are the representatives of the
principal families of Batrachians of which we propose giving the

The Frogs, _Rana_, have been irreparably injured by their resemblance to
the Toads. This circumstance has given rise to an unfavourable prejudice
against these innocent little Batrachians. Had the Toad not existed, the
Frog would appear to us as an animal of a curious form, and would
interest us by the phenomena of transformation which it undergoes in the
different epochs of its development. We should see in it a useful
inoffensive animal of slender form, with delicate and supple limbs,
arrayed in that green colour which is so pleasant to the eye, and which
mingles so harmoniously with the carpeting of our fields.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--The Edible Frog (_Rana esculenta_).]

The body of the Edible Frog, _Rana esculenta_ (Fig. 4), sometimes
attains from six to eight inches in length, from the extremity of the
muzzle to the end of the hind feet. The muzzle terminates in a point;
the eyes are large, brilliant, and surrounded with a circle of gold
colour. The mouth is large; the body, which is contracted behind,
presents a tubercular and rugged back. It is of a more or less decided
green colour on the upper, and whitish on the under parts. These two
colours, which harmonize well, are relieved by three yellow lines, which
extend the whole length of the back, and by scattered black marbling. It
is, therefore, much to be regretted that prejudice should cause some at
least of us to turn away from this pretty little hopping animal, when
met with in the country; with its slight dimensions, quick movements,
and graceful attitudes. For ourselves, we cannot see the banks of our
streams embellished by the colours and animated with the gambols of
these little animals without pleasure. Why should we not follow with our
eyes their movements in our ponds, where they enliven the solitude
without disturbing its tranquillity. Frogs often leave the water, not
only to seek their nourishment, but to warm themselves in the sun. When
they repose thus, with the head lifted up, the body raised in front and
supported upon the hind feet, the attitude is more that of an animal of
higher organization than that of a mean and humble Batrachian. Frogs
feed on larvæ, aquatic insects, worms, and small mollusks. They choose
their prey from living and moving creatures; for they set a watch, and
when they perceive it, they spring on it with great vivacity. A large
Indian species (_R. tigrina_) has been seen to prey occasionally upon
young Sparrows. Far from being dumb, like many oviparous quadrupeds,
Frogs have the gift of voice. The females only make a peculiar low
growl, produced by the air which vibrates in the interior of two vocal
pouches placed on the sides of the neck; but the cry of the male is
sonorous, and heard at a great distance: it is a croak which the Greek
poet, Aristophanes, endeavoured to imitate by the inharmonic consonants,
_brekekurkoax, coax_! It is principally during rain, or in the evenings
and mornings of hot days, that Frogs utter their confused sounds. Their
chanting in monotonous chorus makes this sad melody very tiresome. Under
the feudal system, during the "good old times" of the middle ages, which
some people would like to bring back again, the country seats of many of
the nobility and country squires were surrounded by ditches half full of
water, all inhabited by a population of croaking Frogs. Vassals and
villains were ordered to beat the water in these ditches morning and
evening in order to keep off the Frogs which troubled the sleep of the
lords and masters of the houses. Independent of the resounding and
prolonged cries of which we have spoken, at certain times the male Frog
calls the female in a dull voice, so plaintive that the Romans described
it by the words "ololo," or "ololygo." "Truly," says Lacépède, "the
accent of love is always mingled with some sweetness."

When autumn arrives Frogs cease from their habitual voracity, and no
longer eat. To protect themselves from the cold, they bury themselves
deeply in the mud: troops of them joining together in the same place.
Thus hidden, they pass the winter in a state of torpor; sometimes the
cold freezes their bodies without killing them. This state of torpor
gives way in the first days of spring. During the month of March, Frogs
begin to awake and to move themselves; this is their breeding season.
Their race is so prolific that a female can produce from six to twelve
hundred eggs annually. These eggs are globular, and are in form a
glutinous and transparent spheroid, at the centre of which is a little
blackish globule; the eggs float, and form like chaplets on the surface
of the water.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Development of the Tadpole.

1. Egg of the Frog. 2. The Egg fecundated, and surrounded by its
visicule. 3. First state of the Tadpole. 4. Appearance of the breathing
gills. 5. Their development. 6. Formation of the hind feet. 7. Formation
of the fore feet, and decay of the gills. 8. Development of the lungs,
and reduction of the tail. 9. The perfect Frog.]

All who have observed the small ponds and ditches in the country at this
season, will have seen these light and elegant crafts swimming on the
surface of the water. After a few days, more or less according to the
temperature, the little black spot which is the embryo of the egg, and
which has developed itself in the interior of the glairy mass which
envelops it, disengages itself and shoots forth into the water: this is
the tadpole of the Frog.

The body of the tadpole is oval in shape, and terminates in a long flat
tail, which forms a true fin; on each side of the neck are two large
gills, in shape like a plume of feathers; the tadpole has no legs. These
gills soon begin to wither, without aquatic respiration ceasing,
however; for, besides these, the tadpole possesses interior gills like
fishes. Soon after, the legs begin to show themselves, the hind legs
appearing first; they acquire a considerable length before the fore feet
begin to show themselves. These develop themselves under the skin, which
they presently pierce through. When the legs have appeared, the tail
begins to fade, and, little by little, withers away, until in the
perfect animal it entirely disappears. About the same time the lungs
become developed, and assume their functions. In Fig. 5 may be traced
the successive phases of its transformation from the egg to the tadpole,
till we finally reach the perfect Batrachian. Through these admirable
modifications we see the Fish, little by little, become a Batrachian. In
order to follow this strange metamorphosis, it suffices to gather some
Frog's eggs, and to place them with some aquatic herbs in an aquarium,
or in a globe with Gold and Silver Fish; it there constitutes a most
interesting spectacle, and we advise our readers to give themselves this
instructive and easy lesson in natural history.

At present, there exist two species of Frog in Europe: the _Green_ or
_Edible Frog_, and the _Common Frog_. The Green Frog is that which we
have described, and of which we have given a representation in Fig. 4.
They are found in running streams and stagnant waters. It is this
species to which La Fontaine alludes in one of his fables. Common Frogs
are smaller than the preceding: they inhabit damp places in fields and
vineyards, and only return to the water to breed or to winter.

The flesh of the Edible Frog is very tender, white, and delicate. As an
article of food, it is lightly esteemed by some, but undeservedly so.
Prepared in the same manner, Green Frogs closely resemble very young
fowls in taste. In almost all parts of France Frogs are disdained as
articles of food; it is only in the south that a taste for them is
openly avowed, and there Frogs are sought for and brought to market.
Therefore, I never could comprehend how the notion popular in England,
when it is wished to express contempt for Frenchmen, should be to call
them Frog-eaters. It is a reproach which might be addressed to
Provençals and Languedocians like the author of this work, but not at
all to the majority of Frenchmen.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Green Tree Frog (_Hyla_).]

The Green Tree Frog is easily distinguished by having little plates
under its toes. These organs are a species of sucker, by means of which
the animal is enabled, like the house-fly, to cling strongly to any
surface, however smooth and polished it may be. The smoothest branch,
even the lower surface of a leaf, forms a sufficient hold and support to
these delicate organs.

The upper part of the body is of a beautiful green, the lower part,
where little tuberculi are visible, is white. A yellow line, lightly
bordered with violet, extends on each side of the head and back, from
the muzzle to the hind legs. A similar line runs from the jaw to the
front legs. The head is short, the mouth round, and the eyes raised.
Much smaller than the ordinary Frog, they are far more graceful. During
the summer they live upon the leaves of trees in damp woods, and pass
the winter at the bottom of some pond, which they do not leave till the
month of May, after having deposited their eggs. They feed on small
insects, worms, and mollusks; and in order to catch them, they will
remain in the same place an entire day. During the glare of the sun,
they remain hidden amongst the leaves; but when twilight approaches,
they move about and climb up the trees. We must repeat of these Green
Tree Frogs what we have already said of Frogs. Get rid of all prejudice
towards their kind, and then you will examine with pleasure their lively
colours, which harmonize so well with the green leaves; remark their
tricks and ambuscades; follow them in their little hunting excursions;
see them suspended upside down upon the leaves in a manner which appears
marvellous to those who are not aware of the organs which have been
given to enable them to attach themselves to the smoothest bodies: and
it will give as much pleasure as can be derived from the consideration
of the plumage, habits, and flight of birds. The croak of the Green Tree
Frogs is like that of other Frogs, although less sharp and sometimes
stronger in the males; it can be pretty well translated by the syllables
_caraccarac_, pronounced from the throat. This cry is principally heard
in the morning and evening; then, when one Frog begins to utter its
croak, all the others imitate it. In the quiet night the voice of a
troop of these little Batrachians sometimes reaches to an enormous

Toads, _Bufo_, are squat and disagreeable in shape: it is difficult to
comprehend why nature, which has bestowed elegance and a kind of grace
upon Frogs and Tree Frogs, has stamped the Toad with so repulsive a
form. These much despised beings occupy a large place in the order of
nature: they are distributed with profusion, but one cannot say exactly
to what end; their movements are heavy and sluggish. In colour they are
usually of a livid grey, spotted with brown and yellow, and disfigured
by a number of pustules or warts. A thick and hard skin covers a flat
back; its large belly always appears to be swollen; the head a little
broader than the rest of its body; the mouth and the eyes are large and
prominent. It lives chiefly at the bottom of ditches, especially those
where stagnant and corrupt water has lain a long time. It is found in
dung heaps, caves, and in dark and damp parts of woods. One has often
been disagreeably surprised on raising some great stone to discover a
Toad cowering against the earth, frightful to see, but timorous, seeking
to avoid the notice of strangers. It is in these different obscure and
sometimes foetid places of refuge that the Toad shuts itself up during
the day; going out in the evening, when our common species moves by
slight hops; whilst another, the Natterjack Toad, _Bufo calamita_, only
crawls, though somewhat fastly. When seized, it voids into the hand a
quantity of limpid water imbibed through the pores of its skin; but if
more irritated, a milky and Venemous humour issues from the glands of
its back.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--The Common Toad (_Bufo vulgaris_).]

One peculiarity of its structure offers a defence from outward attacks.
Its very extensible skin adheres feebly to the muscles, and at the will
of the animal a large quantity of air enters between this integument and
the flesh, which distends the body, and fills the vacant space with an
elastic bed of gas, by means of which it is less sensible to blows.
Toads feed upon insects, worms, and small mollusks. In fine evenings, at
certain seasons especially, they may be heard uttering a plaintive
monotonous sound. They assemble in ponds, or even in simple puddles of
water, where they breed and deposit their eggs. When hatched, the young
Toads go through the same metamorphosis as do the tadpoles of the Frogs.

Their simple lives, though very inactive, are nevertheless very
enduring; they respire little, are susceptible of hibernation, and can
remain for a considerable time shut up in a very confined place.

It is proper, however, to caution the reader against believing all that
has been written about the longevity of Toads. Neither must implicit
faith be given to the discovery of the living animal (Fig. 7) in the
centre of stones. "That Toads, Frogs, and Newts, occasionally issue from
stones broken in a quarry or in sinking wells, and even from coal-strata
at the bottom of a mine," is true enough; but, as Dr. Buckland observes,
"the evidence is never perfect to show that these Amphibians were
entirely enclosed in a solid rock; no examination is made until the
creature is discovered by the breaking of the mass in which it was
contained, and then it is too late to ascertain whether there was any
hole or crevice by which it might have entered." These considerations
led Dr. Buckland to undertake certain experiments to test the fact. He
caused blocks of coarse oölitic limestone and sandstone to be prepared
with cells of various sizes, in which he enclosed Toads of different
ages. The small Toads enclosed in the sandstone were found to die at the
end of thirteen months; the same fate befell the larger ones during the
second year: they were watched through the glass covers of their cells,
and were never seen in a state of torpor, but at each successive
examination they had become more meagre, until at last they were found
dead. This was probably too severe a test for the poor creatures, the
glass cover implying a degree of hardness and dryness not natural to
half amphibious Toads. Moreover, it is certain that both Toads and Frogs
possess a singular facility for concealing themselves in the smallest
crevices of the earth, or in the smallest anfractuosities of stones
placed in dark places.

This animal, so repulsive in form, has been furnished by nature with a
most efficient defensive armature; namely, an acrid secretion which will
be described farther on. It is a bad leaper, an obscure and solitary
creature, which shuns the sight of man, as if it comprehended the blot
it is on the fair face of creation. It is, nevertheless, susceptible of
education, and has occasionally been tamed; but these occasions have
been rare. Pennant, the zoologist, relates some curious details
respecting a poor Toad, which took refuge under the staircase of a
house. It was accustomed to come every evening into a dining-room near
to the place of its retreat. When it saw the light it allowed itself to
be placed on a table, where they gave it worms, wood-lice, and various
insects. As no attempt was made to injure it, there were no signs of
irritation when it was touched, and it soon became, from its gentleness
(the gentleness of a Toad!), the object of general curiosity; even
ladies stopped to see this strange animal. The poor Batrachian lived
thus for six and thirty years; and it would probably have lived much
longer had not a Crow, tamed, and, like it, a guest in the house,
attacked him at the entrance of his hole, and put out one of his eyes.
From that time he languished, and died at the end of a year.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Surinam Toad (_Pipa monstrosa_).]

Nearly allied to the Toads, _Bufo_, the Surinam Toad, _Pipa_, holds
its place. Its physiognomy is at once hideous and peculiarly odd:
the head is flat and triangular, a very short neck separates it from
the trunk, which is itself depressed and flattened. Its eyes are
extremely small, of an olive, more or less bright, dashed with small
reddish spots. It has no tongue. There is only one species of Pipa,
viz. the American Pipa (Fig. 8), which inhabits Guiana and several
provinces of Brazil. The most remarkable feature in this Batrachian
is its manner of reproduction. It is oviparous, and when the female
has laid her eggs, the male takes them, and piles upon the back of
his companion these, his hopes of posterity. The female, bearing the
fertilized eggs upon her back, reaches the marshes, and there
immerses herself; but the skin of the back which supports the eggs
soon becomes inflamed, erysipelatous inflammation follows, causing an
irritation, produced by the presence of eggs, which are then absorbed
into the skin, and disappear in the integument until hatched.

The young Pipa Toads are rapidly developed in these dorsal cells, but
they are extricated at a less advanced stage than almost any other
vertebrate animal. After extrication, the tadpole grows rapidly, and the
chief change of form is witnessed in the gills. As to the mother
Batrachian, it is only after she has got rid of her progeny that she
abandons her aquatic residence.[9]

    [9] The same phenomena occur, with certain variations, in some
    other American Batrachians, as the _Nototrema marsupiatum_ of
    Mexico, and the _Notode'phys ovifera_ of Venezuela. In the _Alytes
    obstetricans_ of France, Switzerland, and the Rhine district, the
    ova (about sixty in number) adhere to the hind-legs of the male

The Batrachians differ essentially from all other orders of REPTILIA.
They have no ribs; their skin is naked, being without scales. The young,
or _tadpoles_, when first hatched, breathe by means of gills, being at
this stage quite unlike their parents. These gills, or branchiæ,
disappear in the tailless Batrachians, as the Frogs and Toads, in which
the tail disappears, are called. In the tadpoles the mouth is destitute
of a tongue, this organ only making its appearance when the fore limbs
are evolved. The habits also change. The tadpole no longer feeds on
decomposing substances, and cannot live long immersed in water. The
branchiæ disappear one after the other, by absorption, giving place to
pulmonary vessels. The principal vascular arches are converted into the
pulmonary artery, and the blood is diverted from the largest of the
branchiæ to the lungs. In the meantime the respiratory cavity is
formed, the communicating duct advances with the elongation of the
oesophagus, and at the point of communication the larynx is ultimately
developed. The lungs themselves extend as simple elongated sacs,
slightly reticulated on the inner surface backwards into the abdominal
cavity. These receptacles being formed, air passes into and expands the
cavity, and respiration is commenced, the fore limbs are liberated from
the branchial chambers, and the first transformation is accomplished.

The alleged Venemous character of the Common Toad has been altogether
rejected by many naturalists; but Dr. Davy found that Venemous matter
was really contained in follicles in the true skin, and chiefly about
the head and shoulders, but also distributed generally over the body,
and on the extremities in considerable quantities. Dr. Davy found it
extremely acrid, but innocuous when introduced into the circulation. A
chicken inoculated with it was unaffected, and Dr. Davy conjectures that
this acrid liquid is the animal's defence against carnivorous Mammalia.
A dog when urged to attack one will drop it from its mouth in a manner
which leaves no doubt that it had felt the effects of the secretion.

In opposition to these opinions the story of a lad in France is told,
who had thrust his slightly wounded hand into a hole, intending to seize
a Lizard which he had seen enter. In place of the Lizard he brought out
a large Toad. While holding the animal, it discharged a milky yellowish
white fluid which introduced itself into the wound in his hand, and this
poison occasioned his death; but then it is not stated that the boy was
previously healthy.

Warm and temperate regions with abundant moisture are the localities
favourable to all the Batrachians. Extreme cold, as well as dry heat,
and all sudden changes are alike unfavourable to them. In temperate
climates, where the winters are severe, they bury themselves under the
earth, or in the mud at the bottom of pools and ponds, and there pass
the season without air or food, till returning spring calls them forth.

The species of this family are very numerous. MM. Duméril and Bibron
state that the Frogs, _Rana_, number fifty-one species; the Tree Frogs,
_Hyla_, sixty-four; and the Toads, _Bufo_, thirty-five. They are found
in all parts of the world, the smallest portion being found in Europe,
and the largest in America. Oceania is chiefly supplied with the Tree
Frogs. There are several curious forms in Australia, and one
species only is known to inhabit New Zealand. The enormous fossil
_Labyrinthodon_, of a remote geological era, is believed to have been
nearly related to these comparatively very diminutive Batrachians.[10]

    [10] In Dr. Günther's Catalogue of the _Batrachia Salientia_ (as
    Dr. Gray terms them) in the collection of the British Museum,
    published in 1858, and which includes all the ascertained species
    up to the time of publication, as many as 282 are enumerated,
    which are arranged under twenty-five groups holding the rank of


Sometimes called Urodeles, from +oura+, "tail," +dêlos+, "manifest."
The constant external character which distinguishes these Amphibians
in a general manner is the presence of a tail during the whole stage
of their existence. Nevertheless they are subject to the metamorphoses
to which all the Amphibians submit. "The division, therefore,
of reptiles," says Professor Rymer Jones, "into such as undergo
metamorphoses and such as do not, is by no means philosophical although
convenient to the zoologist, for all reptiles undergo a metamorphosis
although not to the same extent. In the one the change from the aquatic
to the air-breathing animal is never fully accomplished; in the tailed
Amphibian the change is accomplished after the embryo has escaped from
the ovum."

Salamanders have had the honour of appearing prominently in fabulous
narrative. The Greeks believed that they could live in fire, and this
error obtained credence so long, that even now it has not been entirely
dissipated. Many people are simple enough to believe from the Greek
tradition that these innocent animals are incombustible. The love of the
marvellous, fostered and excited by ignorant appeals to superstition,
has gone even further than this; it has been asserted that the most
violent fire becomes extinguished when a Salamander is thrown into it.
In the middle ages this notion was held by most people, and it would
have been dangerous to gainsay it. Salamanders were necessary animals in
the conjurations of sorcerers and witches; accordingly painters among
their symbolical emblems represented Salamanders as capable of
resisting the most violent action of live coal. It was found necessary,
however, that physicians and philosophers should take the trouble to
prove by experiment the absurdity of these tales.

The skull of the Land or Spotted Salamander, _Salamandra maculosa_, is
well described by Cuvier as being nearly cylindrical, wider in front so
as to form the semi-circular face, and also behind for the crucial
branches, containing the internal ears. The cranium of the aquatic
Salamander differs from the terrestrial in having the entire head more
oblong, and they differ also among themselves.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Land Salamander.]

In the Land Salamander the body is black and warty with large irregular
yellow spots distributed over the head, back, sides, feet, and tail.
They affect obscure and moist places, and only issue from their retreat
in the night or morning, walking slowly, and dragging themselves with
difficulty along the surface of the ground. They live upon flies,
beetles, snails, and earth worms. They remain in the water to deposit
their eggs; the young are born alive, and furnished with fully-developed
gills. Moreover Salamanders are gifted with a power which causes them to
be much dreaded by other animals: it has the power of discharging an
acrid and milky humour, with a very strong odour, from the surface of
its body, which serves as a defence against many animals which would
otherwise attack it. It has been proved by experiment that this liquid,
when introduced into the circulatory system by a small wound is a very
active poison, and causes certain death to the smaller animals. This
species is found in most parts of Europe, but not in the British

The Black Salamander, _Triton alpestris_, has no spots; it is found on
the highest European mountains, in the regions of snow, and principally
on the highest Alps.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Newts, or Aquatic Salamanders.]

Newts, or Aquatic Salamanders, have not a round conical tail like the
terrestrial species, but have that appendage compressed or flattened
laterally. The males (during the breeding season only) are recognised
chiefly by the membranous serrated ridge or crest which extends along
the whole length of the back, from the head to the extremity of the
tail, as represented in Fig. 10. Newts are highly aquatic; they are
found in ditches, marshes, and ponds, which after the breeding season
they leave for moist places on land, often then finding their way into
drains and cellars. They are carnivorous, feeding upon different insects
and on the spawn of Frogs, not even sparing individuals of their own
species. The females deposit their eggs singly, fixing them on the under
surface of the leaves of aquatic plants. "Some Newts," says Professor
Owen, "deposit their eggs upon aquatic plants, such as _Polygonum
persicaria_, folding the leaf by means of the hind feet in such a way
that its under surface is turned inwards and the fold made to stick by
the adhesive coating of the egg, which she inserts in the fold." The
young are hatched fifteen days after. These animals give utterance to a
very peculiar noise, and when touched emit an odour quite

It has been ascertained that Newts can live for a long time, not only in
very cold water, but even in the midst of ice, being sometimes taken in
blocks of ice which are formed in the ditches and ponds which they
inhabit. When the ice-flakes melt they seem to awaken from their torpor,
and betake themselves to their accustomed movements with their recovered
liberty. Lacépède states that he found Aquatic Salamanders even during
summer in pieces of ice obtained from the ice-dealers, where they had
remained without movement or nourishment from the time when the ice had
been gathered from the marshes.

Newts present another remarkable feature in the facility with which they
repair any mutilations they may have undergone. Not only do their tails
grow again when broken off, but even their feet are reproduced in the
same manner, and the process may be many times repeated.

The Crested Newt, _Triton cristatus_, is frequently found in the
neighbourhood of Paris; the skin of its back is rough and warty, of a
brownish colour, with large black spots and white projecting points; the
belly has black spots upon an orange ground.

The Dutch traveller, Sieboldt, has introduced a species of Aquatic
Salamander, which inhabits the mountain lakes and marshes of Japan. This
species is remarkable for its gigantic growth. Instead of being the size
of a finger, as is the case with those indigenous to Europe, this
Batrachian is four feet and a half in length, and weighs fifty pounds.

Magnificent specimens of this gigantic Salamander, the _Sieboldtia
maxima_, may be seen by the visitors to the London Zoological Gardens.
The largest of them measured and weighed as above (March 3rd, 1869). An
analogous large fossil species was described as the _Homo diluvii

The transformation of the tailed Batrachians, from the _tadpole_
condition to the air-breathing and four-footed state, is one of the most
interesting exhibitions of Nature, and one which everyone may verify
for himself. We cannot in our brief description have a more trustworthy
guide than Professor Rymer Jones, who selects the Water Newt, _Triton
cristatus_, as an example:--

"Immediately before leaving the egg," he says, "this tadpole presents
both the outward form and internal structure of a fish. The flattened
and vertical tail, fringed with a broad dorsal and oval fin; the shape
of the body and gills, appended to the side of the neck, are all
apparent; so that were the creature to preserve this form throughout its
life the naturalist would scarcely hesitate in classing it with fishes,
properly so called.

"When first hatched it presents the same fish-like body, and rows itself
through the water by the lateral movement of the caudal fin. The only
appearance of legs as yet visible consists in two minute tubercles,
which seem to be sprouting out from the skin immediately behind the
branchial tufts, and which are, in fact, the first buddings of anterior
extremities. Nevertheless, to compensate to a certain extent for the
total want of prehensile limbs, which afterwards become developed, two
supernumerary organs are provisionally furnished in the shape of two
minute claspers on each side of the mouth; by means of these the little
creature holds on to the leaves which are under water.

"Twelve days after issuing from the egg, the two fore-legs, which at
first resembled two little nipples, have become much elongated, and are
divided at their extremity into two or three rudiments of fingers. The
eyes, which were before scarcely visible, being covered by a membrane,
distinctly appear. The branchiæ, at first simple, are divided into
fringes, wherein red blood now circulates; the mouth has grown very
large, and the whole body is so transparent as to reveal the position of
the viscera within. Its activity is likewise much increased; it swims
with rapidity, and darts upon minute aquatic insects, which it seizes
and devours.

"About the twenty-second day the tadpole for the first time begins to
emit air from the mouth, showing that the lungs have begun to be
developed. The branchiæ are still large. The fingers upon the fore-legs
are completely formed. The hind-legs begin to sprout beneath the skin,
and the creature presents, in a transitory condition, the same external
form as that which the _Siren lacertina_ permanently exhibits.

"By the thirty-sixth day the young Salamander has arrived at the
development of the _Proteus anguinus_; its hind-legs are nearly
completed; its lungs have become half as long as the trunk of the body,
and its branchiæ more complicated in structure.

"At about the forty-second day the tadpole begins to assume the form of
an adult Newt. The body becomes shorter, the fringes of the branchiæ are
rapidly obliterated, so that in five days they are reduced to simple
prominences covered by the skin of the head; and the gills opening at
the sides of the neck, which allowed the water to escape from the mouth
as in fishes, and were, like them, covered with an operculum formed by a
fold of the integument, are gradually closed; the membranous fin of the
tail contracts, the skin becomes thicker and more deeply coloured, and
the creature ultimately assumes the form and habits of the perfect Newt,
no longer possessing branchiæ, but breathing air, and in every
particular the Reptile."

But however curious the phenomena attending the development of the
tadpoles of the Amphibian Reptiles may be to the observer who merely
watches the changes perceptible from day to day in their external form,
they acquire tenfold interest to the physiologist who traces the
progressive evolution of their internal viscera; more especially when he
finds that in these creatures he has an opportunity afforded him of
contemplating, displayed before his eyes, as it were, upon an enlarged
scale, those phases of development through which the embryo of every
air-breathing vertebrate animal must pass while concealed within the
egg, or yet unborn.[11]

    [11] In the British Museum Catalogue (1850) these Amphibians
    are styled _Batrachia Gradientia_, and are distributed under
    three families, comprising fifty-two recognised species. The
    class _Amphibia_ is divided by Dr. Gray into five orders--viz.
    _Batrachia_, _Pseudosauria_, _Pseudophidia_, _Pseudichthyes_, and
    _Meantia_. Of these the first, or the _Batrachia_, are divided
    into the sub-orders _Salientia_ and _Gradientia_, the latter
    consisting of three families, _Salamandridæ_, _Molgidæ_, and
    _Plethodontidæ_. The second order, _Pseudosauria_, comprises the
    families _Protonopsidæ_ (which contains the _Sieboldtia maxima_)
    and _Amphiumidæ_. The third order, _Pseudophidia_, consists of only
    one family, _Cæciliidæ_. The fourth order, _Pseudichthyes_, also
    contains one family only, the _Lepidosirenidæ_. The fifth order,
    _Meantia_, comprises the two families _Proteidæ_ and _Sirenidæ_.
    Twenty-four ascertained species are distributed amongst the last
    four of these orders; but the limits of this work do not permit
    of a more detailed notice of these various groups of _Batrachia
    Gradientia_. More recently, Dr. Günther, in his work on the
    reptiles of the Indian region, has pointed out certain structural
    characters connected with the generative system which show that
    the _Pseudophidia_ do not properly belong to the _Batrachia_;
    nor is their place in the system as yet quite satisfactorily
    determined. They seem rather to be a very humble form of reptile;
    while the _Pseudichthyes_ should rather be subordinated to the
    class _Pisces_: though, as we have seen, there are naturalists
    who would refer all of the _Batrachia_ to the fish class, certain
    forms amongst them rising to a parallelism of development with
    _Reptilia_, but still not constituting true reptiles. The mode
    of reproduction especially is in favour of this view. Both
    _Pseudophidia_ and _Pseudichthyes_ are intertropical or subtropical
    animals, whereas the rest of the _Batrachia Gradientia_ belong
    almost exclusively to the northern temperate zone; any exceptional
    case occurring probably in very elevated regions. Of sixty-six
    ascertained species, forty-nine are American, and there are five
    from Japan, inclusive of the _Sieboldtia maxima_. But more species
    have been discovered since the catalogue cited has been drawn
    up, and of course there must be many yet to be discovered. Five
    species are referred to the _Pseudophidia_, and three only to the



Reptiles are, as has been said in the preceding chapter, Vertebrated
Animals, breathing by lungs, having red and cold blood; that is to say,
not producing sufficient heat to render their temperature superior to
that of the atmosphere. Destitute of hairs, of feathers, of mammary
glands, and having bodies covered with scales.

Snakes, properly so called, have the tympanic bone, or pedicle of the
lower jaw, movable, and nearly always suspended to another bone,
analogous to the mastoid bone, which is attached to the cranium by
muscles and ligaments, a conformation which gives to these animals the
vast power of distension they possess. Their trachea is long, their
hearts placed far back, and the greater number have one very long lung
and vestiges of a second. They are divided into non-Venemous and
Venemous; and the latter are subdivided into Venemous with maxillary
teeth, and Venemous with isolated fangs.

The Snakes prey almost exclusively on animals of their own killing; the
more typical species attacking such as are frequently larger than
themselves: and the maxillary apparatus is, as we have seen, modified so
as to permit of the requisite distension. According to Professor Owen's
clear and intelligible description, the two superior maxillary bones
have their anterior extremities joined by an elastic and yielding
fibrous tissue with the small and single intermaxillary bone; the lower
maxillary rami are similarly connected. The opposite extremity of each
ramus is articulated to a long and movable vertical pedicle formed by
the tympanic bone, which is itself attached to the extremity of a
horizontal pedicle formed by the mastoid bone, so connected as to allow
of a certain yielding movement upon the cranium. The other bones have
similar loose movable articulations, which concur in yielding to the
pressure of large bodies with which the teeth have grappled.

The class of Reptiles is divided into three orders:--the OPHIDIANS,
comprehending the Snakes; the SAURIANS, the Lizards and Crocodiles; and
the CHELONIANS, the Turtles and Tortoises.


In Ophidians, commonly known under the name of Snakes, the body is long,
round, and straight. They have neither feet, fins, nor other locomotive
extremities. Their mouths are furnished with pointed hooked teeth. In
the Boas and Pythons the teeth are slender, curved, bending backwards
and inwards above their base of attachment. In others each maxillary
bone has a row of larger ones, which gradually decrease in size as they
are placed further back. These teeth are not contiguous, being separated
by considerable intervals. The smaller non-Venemous Serpents, such as
the _Colubridæ_, have two rows of teeth in the roof of the mouth. Each
maxillary and mandibular bone includes from twenty to twenty-five teeth.
In the Rattlesnakes and some other typical genera of poisonous Snakes,
the short maxillary bone only supports a single perforated fang. Their
lower jaw is highly distensible; the opening beings longer than the
skull. They have no neck; their eyelids are immovable; their skin is
coriaceous, highly extensible, and scaly or granulous, covered with a
thin caducous epidermis, which detaches itself in one entire piece, and
is reproduced several times in one year. Their movements are supple and
varied. In consequence of the sinuosity of their bodies,--for, though
scale-clad, Snakes are without apparent means of progression,--they make
their way with the utmost facility, by walking, leaping, climbing, or

According to the genus chiefly, the very numerous species inhabit either
arid or moist places, the ground, or bushes and trees. Some pass much of
their time in the water, and one family (that of the _Hydrophidæ_) is
exclusively aquatic--even pelagic in the instance of one very widely
diffused species, the _Pelamis bicolor_. In the Arboreal Snakes the tail
is very long, and highly prehensile; in others, as the Vipers, it is
short and without any prehensility. In the Sea Snakes (_Hydrophidæ_), it
is laterally much compressed. Like other true reptiles, Snakes abound
more especially in warm climates, and there are many kinds of them in
Australia; but the order has not a single representative in New Zealand.

Most of the Snakes feed on living animals, only a few on birds' eggs.
Several kinds of them prey habitually on other Snakes, as the genera
_Hamadryas_, _Bungarus_, and _Elaps_, even _Psammophis_ occasionally;
and there are rare instances of non-Venemous Snakes preying upon
poisonous ones. The Venemous kinds first kill their victim by poisoning
it; various others by smothering it between the coils of their body. As
they do not possess organs for tearing the prey to pieces, nor a
dentition fit for mastication, the prey is swallowed entire; and in
consequence of the great width of the mouth, and of the extraordinary
extensibility of the skin of the gullet, they are able to swallow
animals of which the girth much exceeds their own. The Sea Snakes prey
mostly upon fishes, and the ordinary Water Snakes (_Homolopsidæ_, &c.)
on frogs and other Batrachians. Certain swallowers of birds' eggs have
peculiar spinous processes proceeding from the vertebræ of the neck,
the object of which is to fracture the shell of an egg during the
process of deglutition.

Most of the Ophidian Reptiles are oviparous, but many are
ovo-viviparous. The Pythons alone (so far as ascertained) perform a sort
of incubation, which has been repeatedly observed of captive specimens
of these huge Serpents.

Many Snakes are remarkable for their great beauty of colouring, or of
the pattern of their markings; but on account of the poisonous property
of so many of them, the whole order is popularly regarded with horror
and apprehension, and the most foolish tales are current respecting
various species of them. Thus many people suppose that there are Snakes
which rob cows of their milk; and the skeleton of a child being found in
the same hollow with a number of harmless Snakes (the North American
_Coryphodon constrictor_), it was concluded, as a matter of course,
that the Serpents must have both killed the child and stripped off its
flesh, which latter is what no Snake could possibly do. People are prone
to exaggerate, and commonly evince a fondness for the marvellous, which
induce those of hot countries more especially, where the species of
Ophidians are numerous, to declare every Snake met with as usually the
most Venemous one in their country; and thus travellers often come away
with exceedingly erroneous impressions on the subject. The Indian region
surpasses every other part of the globe in the number and variety of its
Ophidians, and almost every investigation of a limited but previously
unexplored district, is tolerably sure to add largely to our previous
knowledge of them. What, however, the late Sir J. Emerson Tennent
asserts of those inhabiting Ceylon, is equally applicable to other parts
of the Indian region. "During my residence in Ceylon," he remarks, "I
never heard of the death of an European which was caused by the bite of
a Snake; and in the returns of coroners' inquests made officially to my
department, such accidents to the natives appear chiefly to have
happened at night, when the reptiles, having been surprised or trodden
on, inflicted the wound in self-defence. For these reasons the
Cingalese, when obliged to leave their houses in the dark, carry a stick
with a loose ring, the noise of which, as they strike it on the ground,
is sufficient to warn the Snakes to leave their path."

In some parts of the vast Indian region the natives regard the innocuous
Chameleon as Venemous; in other parts various Geckos, or other Lizards.
In Bengal there is a current notion regarding a terrifically poisonous
Lizard, which is termed the _Bis-cobra_, but which has no existence
except in the imagination of the natives--who bring the young of the
Monitors and occasionally other well-known Lizards as exemplifying the
object of their dread. Again, the little harmless Burrowing Snakes
(_Typhlops_), which, superficially, have much the appearance of
earth-worms, are there popularly regarded as highly poisonous, though
not only are they harmless, but physically incapable of wounding the
human skin. Strangers who are little versed in zoology are commonly led
astray by such errors on the part of natives of those countries, and,
unfortunately, there is a number of stock vernacular names which are
applied to very different species in different localities. Thus
Europeans in India are familiar with the appellation "Carpet Snake," as
denoting a very deadly reptile, but nobody can there point out what the
Carpet Snake really is; and the one most generally supposed to bear that
name is a small innocuous Snake (_Lycodon aulicus_), which is common
about human dwellings. In the Australian colony of Victoria, however,
the appellation Carpet Snake is bestowed upon a terribly Venemous
species (_Hoplocephalus curtus_); while in the neighbouring colony of
New South Wales, a harmless and even useful creature (_Morelia
spilotes_) is habitually known as the Carpet Snake.

With regard to the poison of Venemous Snakes, attention has lately been
directed to the virtue of ammonia or volatile alkali. This should be
administered internally, mixed with alcoholic spirit and water, in
repeated doses; and it should also be injected into a vein--about one
drachm of the _liquor ammoniæ_ of the shops being mixed with two or
three times that quantity of water. The patient should be kept moving as
much as possible, and the effects of a galvanic battery should also be
tried in cases where animation is nearly or quite suspended. By these
means it is asserted that quite recently, in Australia, some very
remarkable cures have been effected.

The _Ophidia_ have many enemies, as the well-known Mongoose among
mammalia, also Swine, and various ruminating quadrupeds, as Deer and
Goats. In the bird class, the famous Serpent-eater, or Secretary-bird of
South Africa, is one of their chief destroyers; and there are various
other Snake-devouring birds of prey, besides the great African Ground
Hornbill,--even the Pea-fowl and sundry Storks and other waders.
Comparatively large birds of the King-fisher family prey chiefly upon
Snakes and Lizards in Australia; and of reptiles, besides those Snakes
which prey upon other Snakes, the Monitor Lizards frequently seize and
devour them.

The series of Ophidians is arranged by our most eminent herpetologist,
Dr. A. Günther, into five subordinate groups, which he characterises as

I. _Burrowing Snakes_, living under ground, only occasionally appearing
above the surface. They are distinguished by a rigid cylindrical body,
short tail, narrow mouth, small head not distinct from the neck, little
teeth in small number, and by the absence or feeble development of the
ventral shields. They feed chiefly on small invertebrate animals. Not
any of them are Venemous.

II. _Ground Snakes_, or species which live above ground, and only
occasionally climb bushes or enter the water; their body is more or less
cylindrical, very flexible in every part, and of moderate proportions.
Their ventral shields are broad. They feed chiefly on terrestrial
vertebrate animals. By far the greater number of Snakes belong to this
category, and it is represented by many variations in all of the three
sub-orders to be noticed presently.

III. _Tree Snakes_, or species passing the greater part of their life on
bushes and trees, which they traverse with the utmost facility. They are
distinguished either by an exceedingly slender body, with broad,
sometimes carinated, ventral shields, or by a prehensile tail. Many of
the species are characterised by their vivid coloration, of which green
forms the principal part. We shall see, in the sequel, that the first
and third sub-orders offer numerous instances of Tree Snakes; the Tree
Snakes of the second sub-order being confined to Tropical Africa. They
feed on animals which have a mode of life similar to their own; only a
few species on eggs.

IV. _Fresh-water Snakes_, distinguished by the position of the nostrils,
which are placed on the top of the snout, and by a tapering tail. They
inhabit fresh-waters, and are, therefore, excellent swimmers and divers;
only a few species (which also in external characters approach the
following group, that of the true Sea Snakes) venture out to sea. They
feed on fishes, frogs, crustaceans, and other water animals, and are
viviparous. Not any of them are Venemous.

V. _Sea Snakes_, distinguished by a strongly compressed tail, and by the
position of the nostrils, which are placed as in the last group. They
live in the sea, only occasionally approaching the land, feed on marine
fishes, are viviparous and Venemous. One genus only (_Platurus_) has the
ventral shields so much developed as to be able to move on land. No
Oceanic Serpent is known of gigantic dimensions, such as is currently
alleged to have been seen by unscientific observers.

"Although these five groups," remarks Dr. Günther, "are not separated
from each other by defined lines of demarcation, and frequently pass
into one another by intermediate forms, yet a family and genus which
should be composed of species of several of these groups would be a very
unnatural assemblage of heterogeneous forms."

It is also remarked by the same naturalist that there is no sharp
boundary line between the order of Snakes and that of Lizards. There are
various limbless Saurians of Ophidian appearance, but the systematic
position of which is decided by the structure of their jaws. The Common
Orvet, or Slow-worm, is a familiar instance. On the other hand, certain
Ophidians remind us, by several characters, of the Saurian type,--as the
Snakes constituting the families _Typhlopidæ_, _Tortricidæ_,
_Xenopeltidæ_, and _Uropeltidæ_, which are distinguished by polished,
closely adherent, rounded, sub-equal scales, much resembling the smooth
scales of various Scincoid Lizards; most of them have a very narrow
mouth, unlike the enormous gape of the typical Serpents, and some are
without that longitudinal fold in the median line of the chin which is
so characteristic of most Ophidians; moreover, most of them have
rudiments of the bones of a pelvic arch. "The reason," alleges Dr.
Günther, "why we adopt the view of those systematists who refer such
reptiles to the Ophidians, instead of associating them with the limbless
Scincoid Lizards, is the loose connection of the jaw-bones, a character
which must be considered as peculiar to the Ophidians, and which is only
somewhat less developed in the families mentioned than in the typical
forms. The two halves of the lower jaw in Ophidians, namely, are not
united by a bony symphysis, but by an elastic ligament. The peculiar
mobility of the jaw bones enables the Snakes to extend the gape in an
extraordinary degree, and to work their prey down through the collapsed

The same naturalist classifies the _Ophidia_ into three sub-orders, in
which the Venemous Snakes are separated from the others; but to some
herpetologists this arrangement must appear rather forced, as his
_Venemous Colubrine Snakes_ have certainly a much nearer resemblance in
other respects to the _Colubridæ_ than they have to the _Viperine
Snakes_. For the most part, these reptiles are provided with numerous
teeth, which are lengthened, conical, thin and pointed like a needle,
and more or less bent backwards.

In Dr. Günther's _first sub-order_, that of _Non-Venemous Snakes_, the
teeth are either entirely smooth, or only the last of the maxillary
series is provided with a faint longitudinal groove, which is not
intended to convey a virus into the wound, the groove appearing rather
to increase the strength of the tooth. Many of them have long teeth in
front of the jaws or of the palate, but these are never grooved or
perforated, and only serve to afford a firmer hold on the living and
struggling prey.

"The structure of the venom-tooth is not the same in all poisonous
Snakes: in some it is fixed to the maxillary bone, which is as long or
nearly as long as in the non-Venemous Snakes, and generally bears one or
more ordinary teeth on its hinder portion. The venom-tooth is fixed more
or less erect, not very long, and its channel is generally visible as an
external groove. The poisonous Snakes with such a dentition have
externally a more or less striking resemblance to the non-Venemous
Serpents, and on this account they are designated as _Venemous Colubrine
Snakes_, forming our _second sub-order_." Two very distinct families are
here brought together--viz. the _Elapidæ_ (which comprises the Cobras
and many others), and the _Hydrophidæ_ (or Sea Snakes).

"In the other Venemous Snakes, composing the _third sub-order_, the
maxillary bone is extremely short, and does not bear any teeth except an
exceedingly long fang, with a perfectly closed externally invisible
channel in its interior. Although this tooth also is fixed to the bone,
the bone itself is very mobile, so that the tooth, which is laid
backwards when at rest, can be erected the moment the animal prepares to
strike. This tooth or fang, like all the other teeth, is not only
occasionally lost, but appears to be shed at regular intervals. From two
to four other venom-fangs in different stages of development, destined
to replace the one in action, exist between the folds of the gum, and
are not anchylosed to the bone." The more characteristic Venemous Snakes
appertain to this sub-order--viz. the two families _Crotalidæ_
(comprehending the Rattlesnakes, the Fer-de-lance, &c.) and _Viperidæ_
(comprising the Vipers, Puff-adders, &c.).

Let it be particularly borne in mind that the supposed distinguishing
characters of all poisonous Snakes, as assigned by sundry mischievously
ignorant writers, are those of the third of the foregoing sub-orders
almost exclusively. Even the broad, flat, and lanceolate form of head is
exemplified in certain Tree Snakes of the non-Venemous genus _Dipsas_,
and not in the Cobras and others that are quite as deadly--e.g.
_Hoplocephalus_, _Bungarus_, _Naja_, _Elaps_, and others constituting
the Colubriform family _Elapidæ_.


_Ophidii Coluberiformes_ (Günther), Innocuous Snakes.

These are distributed by Dr. Günther under numerous families, of which
we can only notice the more prominent, and some of the more conspicuous
species, in a popular exposition.

The _Typhlopidæ_, or Blind Snakes, comprise forms which are the most
remote from the true Ophidian type. They live under ground, their rigid
body and short curved tail being adapted for burrowing. After showers of
rain they occasionally appear above ground, and then they are tolerably
agile in their serpentine movements. The eye, which is scarcely visible
in many species, can give to them only a general perception of light.
They feed on worms and small insects, the tongue being forked, and, as
in other Snakes, frequently exserted. They are oviparous. The smallest
species of Snakes belong to this family, some of them being only half
the size of a common earth-worm, to which they bear a superficial
resemblance. Such, indeed, are the small vermiform Snakes already
referred to, as being foolishly considered Venemous by most natives of
India. Species of this family inhabit almost every country within and
near the tropics.

The _Tortricidæ_ are akin to the _Typhlopidæ_, and have rudiments of
hind limbs hidden in a small groove on each side of the vent, also a
longitudinal fold at the chin. The "Coral Snake" of Demarara (_Tortrix
scytale_) appertains to this family; and the genus _Cylindrophis_,
different species of which inhabit the great Asiatic archipelago, with
the island of Ceylon.

The family _Xenopeltidæ_ consists of a single species only, so far as
hitherto known, the _Xenopeltis unicolor_, which is common in the
Indo-Chinese and Malayan countries. It grows to three or four feet in
length, and when alive is uniformly steel-blue, most beautifully
iridescent, beneath white; but the blue fades to brown after long
immersion in spirits. Young examples have a white collar. Mr. W.
Theobald remarks of it that "this Snake is common in Lower Pegu and the
Tenasserim provinces, and is very malignly beautiful, though of
repulsive physiognomy. The skin is loose and thick, and its habits are
nocturnal. The following illustrates its ferocious nature:--I once
remarked a Colubrine Snake (_Ptyas mucosa_), some five feet in length,
in the hedge of the Circuit-house of Bassein. On running downstairs, the
Snake had vanished, but on searching for it I saw its tail sticking out
of a hole beneath a wooden plant-case. Do what I might I could not drag
it out, as it seemed held fast within. I therefore, with some trouble,
overturned the plant-case, and then saw that the unlucky Colubrine Snake
was firmly pinned by a large _Xenopeltis_, into whose hole it had
unwittingly entered. The _Xenopeltis_ seemed about four feet in length;
but, on perceiving itself uncovered, released its hold of the _Ptyas_
and made its escape." The _Xenopeltis_ preys chiefly on small mammalia,
which it hunts for in their subterranean holes; and in some respects it
approximates the _Pythonidæ_.

The _Uropeltidæ_, or Shield-tails, constitute a very curious family of
Burrowing Snakes, which bear considerable resemblance to the
_Typhlopidæ_, but have a very peculiar, short, strong, posteriorly
shielded tail, adapted for working their way below the surface. The
species are mostly small, and hitherto they have been found chiefly in
Ceylon, but a few also in the peninsula of India. They are by no means
scarce, but escape observation from their peculiar mode of life. Dr.
Kelaart remarks that "they are timid creatures, seldom making their
appearance above ground; living chiefly in ant-hills or dunghills,
sometimes also several feet deep in rich loamy soil. They feed on ants,
small earth-worms, and the larvæ of insects, and at least one species
has been ascertained to be viviparous. Five genera and eighteen species
of them are recognised."

The _Calamaridæ_ form an extensive family of diminutive slender Snakes,
from one to two feet in length, many species of which inhabit both the
Old World and the New, though the same kinds are not found both East and
West. They keep to the ground, beneath stones, fallen trees, &c.; and
their food appears to consist chiefly of insects. They are gentle, and
never attempt to bite, and themselves very commonly become the prey of
the smaller _Elapidæ_, certain of which indeed bear considerable
resemblance in appearance to the _Calamaridæ_, but are readily
distinguished by possessing the poison-fangs.

The _Oligodontidæ_ are another extensive family of small ground Snakes,
which are peculiar to South-eastern Asia and its great archipelago. They
conduct to the terrene genera of the great family _Colubridæ_.

The _Colubridæ_ are divided by Dr. Günther into ground Colubrines
(_Coronellinæ_), true Colubrines (_Colubrinæ_), bush Colubrines
(_Dryadinæ_), and fresh-water Colubrines (_Natricinæ_); and he remarks
that "they are found in every part of the temperate and tropical
regions, but are only scantily represented in Australia and in the
islands of the Pacific. The species are so numerous and show such a
gradual passage between extreme forms, that, although genera can be
easily characterized, it is almost impossible to distinguish wider
groups by definite characters." Among them the _Coronellinæ_ approximate
the immediately preceding families, and, like them, live on the ground,
and are not generally of brilliant colouring, though a few species which
frequent grassy plains are of a bright green colour. The _Colubrinæ_
"form, as it were," writes Dr. Günther, "the nucleus of the whole
sub-order of innocuous Snakes: they are typical forms, not characterized
by the excessive development of some particular organ, but by the
fairness of the proportions of all parts. Yet some of them have a more
slender body than others which always live on the ground; they are land
Snakes, but swim well when driven into the water, or climb when in
search of food. They are of moderate or rather large size." In the
_Dryadinæ_ the form is elongate and somewhat compressed, indicating
their climbing propensities; they have the body not so excessively
slender as in the true Tree Snakes, to which they lead off. They are
much more numerous in the New World than in the Old, and their
ground-colour is very commonly green. The _Natricinæ_ are generally not
very elongate or compressed, and most of them have keeled scales. They
freely enter the water in pursuit of their food, which consists chiefly
of frogs and fishes. All the Snakes of the preceding three sub-families
overpower their prey by throwing some coils of the body round or over
it, and commence to swallow it only after it has been smothered, or at
least exhausted; but the _Natricinæ_ swallow their prey immediately
after they have seized it.

Of the sub-family _Coronellinæ_, one species of the typical genus
_Coronella_ is widely diffused over Europe, and has only of late years
been recognised as an inhabitant of the British Islands, the _Coronella
austriaca_. Another, _C. girondica_, occurs in Italy. Others are found
in Africa, America, and Australia. The _C. austriaca_ has somewhat the
appearance of the common Adder, for which it is often mistaken; but it
is non-Venemous, though rather a fierce reptile, which bites and holds
on; and as it occurs in Malta (where no Venemous species is known to
exist), it is doubtless the supposed Viper which seized upon the apostle
Paul. Several other genera are recognised.

Of the _Colubrinæ_, _Rhinechis scalaris_, _Coluber æsculapii_, _C.
quadrilineatus_, _Elaphis quater-radiatus_, and three species of
_Zamenis_ inhabit Europe: there are five of _Coluber_ in North America,
and the well-known "Black Snake" of the Anglo-Americans is the
_Coryphodon constrictor_. Other species of _Coryphodon_ or _Ptyas_
inhabit South-eastern Asia, as the different "Rat Snakes" of
Anglo-Indians, of which _Ptyas mucosus_ is particularly common in India,
where it is encouraged by reasonable people as a destroyer of the far
more troublesome Brown Rat (_Mus decumanus_).

The _Dryadinæ_ are chiefly American, and do not call for particular
further remark; but the _Natricinæ_ are very numerous, and
there are three species in Europe of its most prominent genus,
_Tropidonotus_--viz. _T. natrix_, _T. hydrus_, and _T. viperinus_. [Dr.
Günther gives as many as twenty-one species of this genus as inhabitants
of the Indian region alone, and there is reason to believe that that
number is far from being complete. Others inhabit North America and
North-western Australia, and some generic groups have been detached that
are not very conspicuously separable.]

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Ringed Snake (_Tropidonotus natrix_).]

The Ringed Snake, _Tropidonotus natrix_, is often found in fine seasons
near human habitations. It deposits its eggs, which are fifteen to
twenty in number, commonly in dunghills, in one agglutinated mass.
Exposed to the air, these eggs soon shrivel and dry, and the embryos
within them perish. The Ringed Snakes are also found near rivers and
meadows, by the side of water-courses, into which they love to plunge;
hence they are sometimes called Water Serpents, Swimming Serpents, Hedge
Eels, and other provincial synonyms. They sometimes attain to as much as
and more than a yard in length. The summit of their head is covered with
nine large scales, disposed in four rings. The upper part of the body is
of a more or less darkish grey colour, marked on each side with
irregular black spots. Between the two rows of spots are two other
longitudinal rows, which extend from the head to the tail. The belly
varies from black to a bluish white. Upon the neck are two whitish or
pale yellowish spots, which form a kind of half collar or ring, from
which its name is derived; these two spots become much more apparent
from being contrasted with two other very dark triangular spots placed
near them. They prey upon lizards, frogs, and mice, and they even
surprise young birds, and devour the eggs in their nests, for they climb
trees with facility. Towards the end of the autumn they seek the warmest
places, approaching near to houses; or they retire into subterranean
holes, often at the bottom of some hedge, which is almost always in an
elevated place, secure from inundations. The Ringed Snake is found in
nearly all European countries, and can be handled without danger.
Lacépède gives some interesting details, showing the gentleness of its
habits. They are easily tamed, and can be kept in houses, where they
soon accustom themselves to those who have the care of them. At a sign
from their keeper, they will twist themselves round his fingers, arms,
and neck, insinuate their heads between his lips to drink his saliva,
and to hide and warm themselves they creep under his clothes. In their
wild state, the adult Ringed Snake lives in the fields; and, when
full-grown, shows great irritation when attacked. When exasperated, they
move their tongues, erect themselves with great vivacity, and even bite
the hand which tries to seize them; but their bite is quite harmless.

[This Ringed Snake is the _Natrix torquatus_ of Ray, well known to
naturalists. The female is larger than the male. Its food consists a
good deal of frogs, which are generally caught by the leg, and swallowed
alive, in spite of resistance and very distressing cries.

When the skin has just been cast, the Ringed Snake presents beautiful
markings, especially when seen swimming across some clear running
stream, its head and neck raised above the limpid water, and the sun
shining on its bright enamelled skin. It has been supposed, not
unnaturally, that the Snake casts its skin at fixed intervals; this, Mr.
Bell considers to be a mistake. He has always found that it depended on
the temperature of the atmosphere and on their state of health and
feeding. "I have known the skin thrown off" he adds, "four or five times
during the year. It is always thrown off by reversing it, so that the
transparent covering of the eyes and that of the scales are always found
in the exuviæ. Previous to this curious phenomenon, the whole cuticle
becomes somewhat opaque, the eyes dim, and the animal is evidently
blind. It also becomes more or less inactive, until at length, when the
skin is ready for removal and the new skin perfectly hard underneath,
the animal bursts it at the neck, and creeping through some dense
herbage or low brushwood, leaves it detached, and comes forth in
brighter and clearer colours than before."

The Ringed Snake begins to hybernate, in some warm hedge or under the
root of some tree, or other sheltered situation, about the end of
autumn; and there they coil themselves up, sometimes in numbers, till
the spring again calls them forth. Many instances are told of this Snake
being tamed. Mr. Bell had one which knew him from all other persons; it
would come to him when let out of its box, and crawl under the sleeve
of his coat, and every morning come to him for its draught of milk.]

The Green and Yellow Snake is also about a yard in length, and is common
in the south and west of France; they have been taken in the forest of
Fontainebleau. The beautiful colours in which they are clothed causes
them to be easily distinguished from the Viper. The eyes are edged with
golden-coloured scales; the upper part of the body is of a very dark
greenish colour, upon which is extended a large number of radiating
lines, composed of small yellowish spots of different shapes, some long,
others lozenge shape, giving it a chequered appearance. These chequers
extend from the head to the tail. The belly is yellowish; the large
plates which cover it have a black spot at each end, and are bordered
with a very thin black line. This inoffensive reptile is extremely
timid, and generally hides itself from observation, taking to flight at
the least alarm. They are said to be easily tamed.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--_Tropidonotus viperinus._]

The Viperine Snake (Fig. 12) has the body of a greyish or dirty yellow
colour, having on the middle of the back a series of blackish spots so
close to each other as to give the idea of one small continuous wavy
line from head to tail. The sides are covered with isolated spots,
forming lozenge-like figures, the centres of which are of a greenish
tint. This is the smallest of all the European _Colubridæ_, and, like
the others, it is found in most parts of Europe.

[The _Psammophidæ_, or Desert Snakes, are akin both to the _Colubridæ_
and to the Tree Snakes of the next family; but the latter, remarks Dr.
Günther, may always be distinguished either by their green coloration,
by the horizontal pupil to the eye, or the absence of a long, anterior,
maxillary tooth. In the _Psammophidæ_ the pupil of the eye is round or
vertical. Most of the species of this family belong to the fauna of
tropical Africa, which also produces a slender form (in _Psammophis
elegans_). The other species are of a stouter habit, frequenting plains,
or at all events living on the ground. Of the Indian _Psammophis
condanarus_, Dr. Jerdon procured one which had killed and was swallowing
a small Viper (_Echis carinata_), this being one of the few instances in
which a non-Venemous Snake has been known to overpower a poisonous one.
We have heard the same of a small Boa-like Serpent (_Chilabothrus?_) in
the West Indies, which is said to prey upon the formidable _Crotalidæ_.
The _Psammodynastes pulverulentus_ has a wide geographical range over
South-eastern Asia and its islands. Although innocuous, it has the
aspect of a Venemous species.

In a kindred African family, the _Rachiodontidæ_, the species of
_Dasypeltis_ have the maxillary teeth minute and few in number (four to
seven); but they have also some remarkable gular teeth, which are formed
by the elongated inferior spinous processes of the hinder cervical
vertebræ. The object of the latter is to crush the shells of birds'
eggs, upon which the Snakes in question habitually feed.

Of the more characteristic Tree Snakes, the _Dendrophidæ_ have the body
and tail much compressed, or very slender and elongated; the head
generally lengthened, narrow, flat, and distinct from the slender neck;
the snout rather long, obtuse or rounded in front; cleft of the mouth
wide; and the eye of moderate size, or large, with round pupil. These
are Diurnal Snakes, which live entirely upon trees, where they prey
chiefly on arboreal lizards and frogs. Species of them inhabit all
tropical countries. They are mostly of great beauty, and the Indian
_Chrysopelea ornata_ is excessively so, being variegated with yellow and
crimson upon a black ground; but the crimson soon fading when a
specimen is immersed in spirit. Others are very variable in their
colouring, as the African _Bucephalus capensis_ and the Indian
_Dendrophis picta_.

The next family of _Dryiophidæ_, or the Whip Snakes, have a still more
slender and elongated body, which has been aptly compared to the thong
of a whip. The head is very narrow and long, with tapering snout, ending
in a protruded rostral shield, which is sometimes modified into a
flexible appendage; eyes of moderate size, and all the Asiatic species
have the pupil of the eye horizontally linear, and a long fang-like
tooth in the middle of the maxillary. The whole of this group are
provided with a posterior grooved tooth. They are chiefly nocturnal, and
their movements are wonderfully rapid and graceful among the branches of
trees. They are numerous almost everywhere in tropical countries. In
general the various Whip Snakes are of a bright leaf-green colour, with
two white stripes on the belly, so that they are difficult to discern
among the foliage. In the genus _Langaha_, which is peculiar to
Madagascar, the muzzle is elongated into a fleshy appendage, which is
covered with small scales, constituting about one-third of the total
length of the head. This appendage is dentated in one species (_L.
crista-galli_), and not so in another (_L. nasuta_). In the Indian genus
_Passerita_ the snout is long and pointed, terminating in a flexible
appendage. The name of Whip Snake is applied by Anglo-Indians to all of
the species of _Dendrophidæ_ and of _Dryiophidæ_, and the erroneous
notion prevails that they are highly Venemous, and that they spurt venom
into people's eyes. The same is believed in South Africa of the
_Bucephalus capensis_. Even Gordon Cumming asserts that one night a
Snake which his servant had tried to kill with his loading-rod flew up
at his eye, and "spat poison into it. Immediately," he adds, "I washed
it well at the fountain. I endured great pain all night, but next day my
eye was all right."[12]

    [12] "A Hunter's Life in South Africa," vol. ii. p. 133. _Vide_
    also Chapman's "Travels in the Interior of South Africa," vol. ii.
    p. 34. We have personally captured or assisted in capturing various
    species of both families in India, and it is no easy matter to
    do so sometimes, from the rapidity of their movements among the
    branches of trees and bushes; but most assuredly we never saw one
    of these most beautiful reptiles attempt to dart or to spurt at
    anybody, and as they have no poison fangs the latter must needs be
    an error.--ED.

Of a beautiful green species (_Philodryas viridissimus_), appertaining
to the family of _Dendrophidæ_, in Brazil, Dr. Wurcherer writes:--"I am
always delighted when I find that another Tree Snake has settled in my
garden. You look for a bird's nest, the young ones have gone, but you
find their bed occupied by one of these beautiful creatures, which will
coil up its body, of two feet in length, within a space not larger than
the hollow of your hand. They appear to be always watchful; for at the
instant you discover one, the quick playing of the long, black, forked
tongue will shew you that you too are observed. On perceiving the
slightest sign of your intention to disturb it, the Snake will dart
upwards through the branches and over the leaves, which scarcely appear
to bend beneath the weight. A moment more, and you have lost sight of
it." Some of the true Whip Snakes attain to six or seven feet in length,
or even more; and with reference to the vague application of vernacular
names (_vide_ p. 42), it may here be remarked that the "Little Whip
Snake" of the Australian colony of Victoria denotes a poisonous Snake of
a very different family (the _Hoplocephalus flagellum_).

The _Dipsadidæ_ are a numerous family of tropical Tree Snakes, which
also have a much compressed body, but short and triangular-shaped head,
which is broad behind; the eye large, having generally a vertical pupil.
Some of them attain to six or seven feet in length, and all live on
warm-blooded animals. It is remarkable that certain of the species prey
on birds solely, whilst others attack only mammalia. Their coloration
varies a good deal, and species of them inhabit most tropical and
subtropical countries.

The _Lycodontidæ_ are an extensive family of small Ground Snakes,
inhabiting Africa and tropical Asia, which have the body generally of
moderate length, or rather slender, and the head also of moderate length
and width, with generally a depressed, flat, and somewhat elongated
muzzle; maxillary with a fang-like tooth in front, but without a
posterior grooved tooth. The African species feed on Mice and other
small nocturnal mammalia; while the Indian species (which have a
vertical pupil) prey chiefly, if not wholly, on the smaller Scincoid
Lizards, which they would appear to follow into the place of their
retreat. _Lycodon aulicus_ is one of the commonest Snakes of the Indian
region, and is quite harmless, though often ignorantly supposed to be
dangerously poisonous.

The _Amblycephalidæ_, or Blunt-heads, comprise a few species of moderate
or small size, akin to the _Dipsadidæ_, but the narrow mouth of which
necessitates their feeding on insects, and they live on trees and
bushes, or under the roofs of huts. Of the Indo-Chinese and Malayan
_Amblycephalus boa_, Dr. Günther remarks that "the head of this most
singular Snake resembles much that of a mastiff, the lips being arched
and tumid. It climbs with great facility, frequenting the roofs of the
natives' huts in pursuit of its insect food. It attains to a length of
three feet, the tail being a third." Of a second genus, _Pareas_, three
species inhabit the same region.

The _Pythonidæ_, or Pythons, and Boas, are celebrated for the
enormous magnitude to which some of the species attain. These are
emphatically the great constrictor Serpents, to all of which the name of
_Boa-constrictor_ is popularly applied, although this appellation refers
properly to one only of them which is peculiar to South America. Various
genera of them inhabit Africa, South-eastern Asia and its islands,
Australia, and South America, with the West Indies.]

The Pythons are large Serpents of Asia and Africa. They live in marshy
places, and near the margins of rivers. They are non-Venemous, but
possessed of immense muscular power, which enables some of the species
to kill, by constriction, animals of much larger circumference than

Aristotle tells us of immense Lybian Serpents, so large that they
pursued and upset some of the triremes of voyagers visiting that coast.
Virgil's Laocoon, so vividly represented in the well-known marble group,
owes its origin, no doubt, to the descriptions current of constricting
Serpents. Quoting Livy, Valerius Maximus relates the alarm into which
the Roman army, under Regulus, was thrown by an enormous Serpent, having
its lair on the banks of the Bagradus, near Utica. This Serpent Pliny
speaks of as being a hundred and twenty feet long. But, without
multiplying instances to which time has lent its fabulous aid, and
coming to more modern times, Bontius speaks of Serpents in the Asiatic
islands as beings so various that he despairs of even enumerating them
all. "The great ones," he says, "sometimes exceed thirty-six feet, and
have such capacity of throat and stomach, that they swallow entire
Boars." Adding that he knew persons who had partaken of a Hog cut out of
the stomach of a Serpent of this kind. "They are not poisonous," he
adds, "but they strangle by powerfully applying their folds round the
body of their prey." Mr. M'Leod, in his interesting voyage of the
_Alceste_, states that during a captivity of some months at Whidah, on
the coast of Africa, he had opportunities of observing Serpents double
this length, one of which engaged a negro servant of the governor of
Fort William in its coil, and very nearly succeeded in crushing him to
death. There can be no doubt that the length is here much exaggerated.
About thirty feet is the utmost length attained by the most gigantic
Serpents of which we possess accurate knowledge.

The body of the PYTHON is large and round. They live on trees in warm
damp places, on the banks of streams or water-courses, and attack the
animals which come there to slake their thirst. Hanging by the tail to
the trunk of a tree they remain immovable in their ambush until their
opportunity comes, when they dart upon their prey, fold their bodies
round it with amazing rapidity, and crush it in their monstrous folds.
Animals as large as Gazelles, and even larger, thus become their
victims. Their jaws are extremely distensible, as we have seen; for,
having neither breast-bone nor false sides, they can easily increase the
diameter of the opening, so as to swallow the most voluminous prey.

The Ophidians (as we have seen) surpass all other Reptiles in the number
of their vertebræ, with incomplete hæmal arches; these constitute
the skeleton of the long, slender, limbless trunk. All these
vertebræ coalesce with one another, and are articulated together by
ball-and-socket joints. Besides this articulation to the centrum, the
vertebræ of Ophidians articulate with each other by means of joints
which interlock by parts reciprocally receiving and entering one
another, like the tenon-and-mortise joint in carpentry. "The vertebral
ribs have an oblong articular surface, concave above and almost flat
below, in the Python. They have a large medullary cavity, with dense but
thin walls, with a fine cancellated structure at their articular ends.
Their lower end supports a short cartilaginous membrane, closing the
hæmal arch, which is attached to the broad and stiff abdominal scute.
These scutes, alternately raised and depressed by muscles attached to
the ribs and integuments, aid in the gliding movement of serpents."

The peculiar motion of Snakes was first noted by Sir Joseph Banks, and
commented on by Sir Everard Home. Sir Joseph was observing a _Coluber_
of unusual size, and thought he saw its ribs come forward in succession,
like the feet of a caterpillar. To test this, he placed his hand under
the animal, the ends of the ribs were distinctly felt pressing upon the
surface in regular succession, leaving no doubt that the ribs formed so
many pairs of levers, by means of which it moves its body from place to

The muscles which bring forward these ribs, according to Sir Everard,
consists of five sets. One from the transverse process of each vertebra
and the rib immediately behind it, which rib is attached to the next
vertebra. The next set goes from the rib near the spine, and passes over
two ribs, sending a slip to each, and is inserted into a third, a slip
connecting it with the next muscle in succession. Under this is a third
set, issuing from the posterior side of each rib, passing over two ribs,
and sending a lateral slip to the next muscle, and is also inserted in
the third rib behind. And so on throughout the five sets of muscles.

On the inside of the chest there is a strong set of muscles attached to
the anterior surface of each vertebra, and passing obliquely forward
over four ribs is inserted into the fifth one only in the centre. From
this part of each rib a strong flat muscle comes forward on each side,
before the viscera, forming the abdominal muscles and uniting in a
middle tendon, so that the lower half of each rib which is beyond the
origin of this muscle, and which is only laterally connected to it by a
loose cellular membrane, is external to the belly of the animal, and is
used for the purpose of progressive motion, while that half of each rib
which is next the spine, as far as the lungs extend, is employed in

These observations of Sir Everard Home apply to all Snakes; but the
muscles were compared with a skeleton of the _Boa-constrictor_ in the
Hunterian Museum, which is thirteen feet nine inches in length. The
habit of attaching themselves to trees, and holding on by the tail,
their heads and bodies floating listlessly on some sedgy river, is
explained by the structure of the tail. Dr. Meyer has minutely described
the manner in which they hook themselves on to a tree, which gives them
the power of a double fulcrum. The apparatus which gives this power is a
spur or nail on each side of the vent in the _Pythonidæ_, in which the
anatomist discovered the elements of an unguinal phalanx articulated
with another bone much stronger, which is concealed under the skin.

Following the arrangement of the _Pythonidæ_, adopted by Dr. J. E. Gray
in the Catalogue of the British Museum, we find:--

I. _Morelia_, having a strong prehensile tail, distinct head, truncate
muzzle, crown of the head with small shield-like plates. Of this genus
there are two species. The Diamond Snake (_M. spilotes_), a native of
Australia, and of a bluish-black colour; and the Carpet Snake (_M.
variegata_), from Port Essington and Swan River. It is whitish, with
irregular black-edged olive spots, and an olive head, with two or three
white spots in the centre of the crown.

II. _Python_, having the crown shielded to behind the eyes.

Of this genus there are two species, which have sometimes been referred
to the Boas. The Pythons bear the same general appearance. Upon their
bodies is traced a sort of blackish-brown chain, presenting nearly
quadrangular links upon a clear yellowish ground, extending from the
nape of the neck to the extremity of the tail. The suscephalous region
is partly covered by a large brownish-black spot. Upon each side of the
head is a black band, which frequently extends from the nostril, passing
by the eye, as far as, and up to, the commissures or corners of the

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Natal Rock Snake (_Hortulia natalensis_).]

_P. reticulatus_, the Ular Sawad of the Malay countries, found also in
Burmah and Siam, has the four front upper labial plates pitted; the
frontal plate simple; the head has a narrow, longitudinal, brown stripe.
This is one of the most handsomely marked species of the whole family,
its body being covered with a gay lacing of black and golden yellow. It
is said to attain the great length of thirty feet, and is stout in
proportion. In its native wilds the powers of this gigantic reptile are
said to be enormous, being able to subdue a full-grown Buffalo; and even
a Man has been said to fall a prey to its fury. A Malay prao had
anchored for the night under an island of the Celebes. One of the crew
had gone ashore in search of the favourite betel nut, and is supposed on
his return to the beach to have fallen asleep. In the dead of the night
his comrades were roused by his screams; they pulled ashore with all
expedition, but came too late; the cries had ceased, and the wretched
man had breathed his last in the folds of one of these enormous
Serpents. They killed the creature, cut off the head, and carried it,
together with the lifeless body of their comrade, to the vessel. The
right wrist of the corpse bore the mark of the Serpent's teeth, and the
disfigured body showed that the man had been crushed by the constrictive
folds of the reptile round the head, breast, and thighs. The Ular Sawad
arranges its eggs by placing them in a group, which is covered by the
body. This statement, first made by Mr. Bennett, has been confirmed by
the observations of M. Lamare Picquot, and by observations on other
species of Python in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, and in the London
Zoological Gardens.

The Rock Snake of India and Ceylon (_P. molurus_) is another species to
which the name of Boa-constrictor has been given. It has the two pairs
of front upper, and three hind lower labial shields pitted, and the
frontal plates double. Of this gigantic Serpent several specimens are
generally to be seen in the Zoological Gardens.

III. _Hortulia_, having the upper and lower labial shields deeply
pitted; muzzle and forehead with symmetrical shield; nostrils lateral.
They are natives of Africa, and three species are known, namely, the
Natal Rock Snake, having the lower labial shields deeply pitted, the
muzzle and forehead with symmetrical shields, the nostrils lateral; the
Guinea Rock or Fetish Snake (_H. Sebæ_), closely resembling the last in
many structural points; and the Royal Rock Snake (_H. regia_), having
the four pairs of the upper front labials pitted, the upper ocular plate
single, the lower labial shields four in number and broad.

The Royal Rock Snake inhabits Western Africa. It is black in colour,
marked on the middle of the back with a series of oblong white spots,
the sides being marked by another series of large white spots, with one
or two black spots in the upper part; the head black, with a streak over
the nostrils and the top of the eyes, another from the lower edge of the
eye, the lips and chin beneath are white.

The Natal Rock Snake (_H. natalensis_, Fig. 13) is described by Sir
Andrew Smith as being gigantic in size, he having seen a skin measuring
twenty-five feet, although part of the tail was absent. "It feeds," he
says, "on small quadrupeds; and for some days after swallowing one it
remains in a torpid state, when it may be easily destroyed." Of this
opportunity, however, the South Africans never avail themselves; they
have a horror of the reptile, but believe that it has an influence over
their destinies, and affirm that no one has ever been known to kill one
and prosper.

The Guinea Rock or Fetish Snake (_H. Sebæ_, Fig. 14) is typical of the
genus, and has also been referred to the Boa-constrictor, and closely
resembles the Natal Rock Snake. It is a native of the warmer parts of
Africa. A living specimen at the Zoological Gardens is estimated to
weigh a hundredweight.

Of the genera _Liasis_ and _Nardoa_ there are five species, very
imperfectly known.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Guinea Rock Snake (_H. Sebæ_).]

IV. _Epicrates_, an American and West Indian species, having the crown
scaly; the forehead with symmetrical shields.

The Aboma (_E. cenchria_) is one of the largest of the group, sometimes
attaining dimensions quite gigantic. It is yellowish in colour, with a
row of large brown rings running the whole length of the back, and
variable spots on the sides; these are generally dark, with a whitish
semi-lunar mark. This formidable Reptile has all the habits of its
congeners; it is found in the marshy swamps of tropical America, and
near the rivers, where it lies in wait for its prey.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Aboma (_Epicrates cenchria_).]

The Boas, properly so called, have the scales smooth; labial shields
smooth, not pitted; the body compressed, tapering to the tail, which is
long and prehensile; the head is comparatively small, being enlarged
behind, and contracted towards the muzzle, which is rather short. The
crown is covered with scales; the nostrils lateral, between two plates.
Four species of this genus are recognised by naturalists, all of which
have been described by travellers as the true Boiguacu, or
_Boa-constrictor_ of Linnæus. This species has the scaly circle of the
orbit separated from the upper labial plates by one or two series of
scales. A large chain consisting of blackish hexagonal spots,
alternating pale oval stains, notched and jagged, extending the whole
length of the back, and forming a very elegant design. This species
seems to be strictly confined to tropical America. Humboldt found it in
Guiana, and the Prince de Wied observed it in Brazil. All the specimens
in the British Museum are from that part of the New World. This is
supposed to be the Tlicoatl and Temacuilcahuilia (the words meaning
"fighting with five men"), described by Hernandez, the latter name being
derived from its size and strength. "It attacks," he says, "those it
meets, and overpowers them with such force, that if it once coils itself
round their necks, it strangles and kills them, unless it bursts itself
by the violence of its own efforts." The same author states that he has
seen Serpents as thick as a man's thigh, which had been taken when young
by Indians and tamed. That this Boa attains an immense size is a
well-established fact. Shaw mentions a skin in the British Museum, in
one of his lectures, which measured thirty-five feet in length.

Three other species--the Lamanda (_B. diviniloqua_), from Santa Lucia;
the Emperor (_B. imperator_), a native of Mexico; and _B. eques_, the
Chevalier Boa of Peru--are all to be occasionally seen in the Zoological

The _Boa anaconda_, more properly _Eunectes murinus_, is also a native
of tropical America. The name of Anaconda has become well known through
Mr. Lewis's celebrated tale, so called, in which its predatory habits
are displayed in such a manner as to enthral and fascinate the reader,
as the author makes the reptile fascinate its victim. The name, Mr.
Bennett tells us, is of Cinghalese origin, and is popularly applied to
all very large Serpents. This species is of a brownish tint, with a
double series of colours extending from head to tail; the sides are
covered with annular spots with white disks surrounded by blackish
rings. Seba has represented this creature lying in wait for Mice; but
this is probably the prey of the young Anaconda. Another provincial
name, "El Troga Venado" (the Deer Swallower), is probably applied to the
matured Reptile.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.--Anaconda (_Eunectes murinus_).]

The following description of the actions of one of these large
non-Venemous Serpents, which accompanied a specimen sent to the United
Service Museum, by Sir Robert Ker Porter, is probably a fair description
of the habits of all the large _Pythonidæ_:--"This species is not
Venemous, nor is it known to injure man (at least not in this part of
the New World); however, the natives of the plain stand in great fear of
it, never bathing in waters where it is known to exist. Its common
haunt, or rather domicile, is invariably near lakes, swamps, and rivers;
likewise close and wet ravines produced by inundations of the periodical
rains. Fishes, as well as other animals which repair there to drink, are
its prey. The creature lurks watchfully under cover of the water, and,
while the unsuspecting animal is drinking, suddenly makes a dash at its
nose, and with a grip of its back-reclining range of teeth, never fails
to secure the terrified beast beyond the power of escape. In an instant
the sluggish waters are in turbulence and foam. The whole form of the
Serpent is in motion; its huge and rapid coilings soon encircle the
struggling victim, and but a short interval elapses ere every bone in
the body of the expiring prey is broken." Sir Robert then describes the
manner in which the prey is swallowed, being previously lubricated by
the Serpent's saliva; but Professor T. Bell, after carefully watching
the constricting Serpent's mode of swallowing its prey, asserts that
this is a delusion. "The mucus is not poured out till it is required to
lubricate the dilated jaws and throat for the seemingly disproportionate

[The small, but very distinct family of _Erycidæ_ have the body of
moderate length, cylindrical, covered with small and short scales; the
tail very short, with only a single series of subcaudal scales; head
somewhat elongate; eye rather small, with vertical pupil. Adult
individuals have, like the Pythons, a short conical prominence in a
groove on each side of the vent; this being the extremity of a
rudimentary hind limb. "The Snakes of this family," remarks Dr. Günther,
"shew great similarity to the Pythons and Boas, with regard to their
internal structure as well as to their external characters. But their
tail is very short, not flexible, and much less prehensile; and whilst
the Serpents just mentioned are more or less arboreal, frequenting
marshy places with luxuriant vegetation, the _Erycidæ_ inhabit dry,
sandy, or stony plains, burrowing with the greatest facility below the
surface, and entering crevices and holes in search of their prey, which
consists of Mice, Lizards, and other burrowing Snakes. Probably they are
semi-nocturnal, and able to see in dark places as well as in the night.
They are found in Northern Africa, in the islands of the Mediterranean,
in the arid parts of India, and probably in Arabia; two species are
known to have been brought from Sikhim."

The _Cursoria elegans_ is said to be from Afghanistan; _Eryx iacalus_
inhabits Greece and Egypt; and there is also _E. thebaicus_ in the
latter country, and _E. Johnii_ in India. Another Indian species is the
_Gongylophis conicus_, which the natives erroneously persist in
declaring to be Venemous. The _Eryx Johnii_ is frequently found in the
possession of the serpent-charmers of its native country, who mutilate
the end of its short, thick tail in such a manner that the scarred
extremity somewhat resembles the form of the head. Such specimens are
shewn as deadly Two-headed Snakes, and, as such, are occasionally
brought alive to Europe. An example of this species lived in the London
Zoological Gardens for about eight years, and fed regularly on young
Mice. The keeper assured Dr. Günther that it frequently covered its prey
with saliva. It always kept itself hidden below the gravel at the
bottom of its cage. This species attains to a length of nearly four
feet, the tail measuring but four inches.

The _Acrochordidæ_ constitute a very remarkable small family, of which
one genus is terrene, and another highly aquatic in its habits. Whether
a third genus, the Javanese _Xenodermus_, should be referred to it, is
doubtful in the opinion of Dr. Günther. These Snakes have the body of
moderate length, rounded, or slightly compressed, and covered with small
wart-like, not imbricate, tubercular or spiny scales; tail rather short,
prehensile; head rather small, not distinctly separated from the neck,
and covered with scales like those of the body; nostrils close together,
at the top of the snout; teeth short, but strong, of nearly equal size,
and situate both in the jaws and on the palate. These serpents are
viviparous. One of them, _Acrochordus javanicus_, inhabits Java and the
Malayan peninsula, where it is considered rare. It grows to a length of
eight feet, and its habits are terrene. The late Dr. Cantor justly
compares its physiognomy to that of a thorough-bred bull-dog; a female
in his possession brought forth no fewer than twenty-seven young in the
course of about twenty-five minutes; they were active, and bit fiercely.
Hornstedt found a quantity of undigested fruits in the stomach of this
Serpent! Upon which Dr. Günther remarks that no opportunity of making
further observations on the habits of this remarkable Snake should be
lost. The aquatic member of this family, _Chersydrus granulatus_,
inhabits from the coasts of India to those of New Guinea and the
Philippine Islands. Sometimes it is met with at a distance of three or
four miles from the shore. Mr. W. Theobald remarks that it is plentiful
in the Bassein River (in British Burmah), in salt water below Gnaputau,
and, with various other Sea Snakes, is frequently swept by the tide into
the fishing baskets of the natives. The ebb-tide, running like a sluice,
sweeps various Fishes, Crustaceans, Snakes, and even Porpoises
occasionally, into the broad mouths of those baskets, where they are at
once jammed into a mass at the narrow end of the creel. "The
_Chersydrus_," he adds, "is more nearly connected with the _Hydrophidæ_
than with the next family, being as essentially aquatic as any of the
former, to which, save from its wanting the poison-gland, it might be
appropriately referred. Indeed, it has been erroneously asserted by
some authors to be Venemous."

The _Homalopsidæ_ are an extensive family of Snakes, of thoroughly
aquatic habits, which are only occasionally found on the margins of
rivers; several of them enter the sea, and in some parts of their
organization they approximate to the true marine Snakes. They may be
easily recognised by the position of the nostrils on the top of the
snout, which enables them to breathe by raising only a very small
portion of the head out of the water; an arrangement which is likewise
seen in the Hippopotamus, the Crocodile, the Sea Snakes, and other
aquatic animals. Many of them have a distinctly prehensile tail, by
means of which they hold on to projecting objects. Their food consists
either entirely of Fishes, or, in some species, of Crustaceans also. All
appear to be viviparous, and the act of parturition is performed in the
water. Not any of them attain a large size-about three or four feet in
length, or considerably less; and in captivity they refuse to feed. All
the Asiatic species of this family have a grooved fang at the hinder
extremity of the maxillary bone. The species are numerous, and are
arranged into many generic divisions. The majority are from the grand
Indian region, extending to China and to Australia, but there are also
several from the New World. The _Herpeton tentaculatum_, of Siam, is
very remarkable from its snout terminating in two flexible, cylindrical,
scaly tubercles, which are supposed to be employed as organs of touch
under water--perhaps to discern its food, which as yet has not been
ascertained. The largest known example of this curious Snake is only
twenty-five inches long, of which the tail measures six inches.

We now proceed to the first family of Poisonous Snakes, that of

THE SEA SNAKES (_Hydrophidæ_),

which are very distinct from all that follow, though less so from
certain of the harmless species appertaining to the two families last
treated of. Some of their distinctions have been already noticed (p.
45), but they are especially characterised by their highly compressed
tail, indicative of their thoroughly aquatic habits. According to Dr.
Günther, there is no other group of Reptiles the species of which are
so little known, and the synonymy of which is so much confused, as that
of the Sea Snakes. Most naturalists who have worked at them have been
misled by the idea that the species were not nearly so numerous as they
actually are. Mr. W. Theobald makes out as many as twenty-five
inhabiting the Bay of Bengal and the adjacent seas, to which area this
group of Reptiles is mainly confined, a few species extending to
northern Australia, and one, the most emphatically pelagic, the _Pelamis
bicolor_, even to the Pacific Ocean. One genus only, _Platurus_,
approaches the Land Snakes in several of its characters; having much the
physiognomy of an _Elaps_, with the cleft of the mouth not turned
upwards behind, as in other Sea Snakes; the eye also is rather small,
nor is the tail at all prehensile. There are two species of this
particular form, one of which, _P. scutatus_, is rather common, and its
geographic range extends from the Bay of Bengal and the China seas to
the coasts of New Zealand; the distribution of the other, _P. Fischeri_,
being nearly as extensive. The great genus _Hydrophis_ has the posterior
part of the body highly compressed, and most of the species are more or
less of a bluish lead-colour, like that of the sea, or black, banded
with white or yellowish white. They are so abundant in the Indian seas
that some of them are taken with every haul of a fishing-net, and they
are helpless and seemingly blind when out of the water; the fishermen
commonly seizing them, one after the other, by the nape and throwing
them back into the sea. Some of them (_Microcephalophis_ of Lesson) have
the head very small and the neck exceedingly slender, while the
compressed body is large and thick.


These are comprised under the one family, _Elapidæ_, all of which have
an erect, immovable, grooved, or perforated fang in the fore-part of the
maxillary bone. There is little in their external appearance to
distinguish them from the harmless Colubrine Snakes, to which they are
more nearly akin, in all but their poison-fangs, than they are to the
Rattlesnakes and Vipers; yet some of the most poisonous of Ophidians
appertain to this family, as exemplified by the well-known Cobras of the
Indian region and of Africa, and also by some of the worst Snakes that
inhabit Australia. In the colony of Victoria alone as many as ten
species of Snakes are known, one only of which, _Morelia variegata_, is
harmless; and one only of them, the formidable Death-adder (_Acanthopis
antarctica_), belongs to the sub-order of the Viperine Snakes. The rest
are included among the Colubriform Venemous Snakes, and most of the
accidents from poisonous Snakes in that colony are due to what is there
known as the Carpet Snake, _Hoplocephalus curtus_, while the Snake that
bears the same name in the adjacent colony of New South Wales is the
innocuous _Morelia spilotes_, which is a small Serpent of the family of
_Pythonidæ_. Of the total number of Snakes known in all Australia, by
far the greater number are Venemous, which is the reverse of what occurs
elsewhere. Only about five species, however, are really dangerous
throughout the great island-continent, for in many of them the poison is
by no means virulent. Thus, of _Diemansia psammophis_, which sometimes
exceeds four feet in length, Mr. Krefft remarks that "its bite does not
cause any more irritation than the sting of a bee." Also, that "the bite
of _Hoplocephalus variegatus_ is not sufficiently strong to endanger the
life of a man. I have been wounded by it several times," writes Mr.
Krefft, "and experienced no bad symptoms beyond a slight headache; the
spot where the fang entered turning blue to about the size of a shilling
for a few days." Again, of _Brachysoma diadema_, "this very handsome
little Snake is Venemous, but never offers to bite, and may be handled
with impunity." Far otherwise, however, is the venom of _Hoplocephalus
curtus_, and also of some others. _H. curtus_ is one of the worst Snakes
of Australia, where it inhabits the more temperate parts of the country
from east to west. Its bite is almost as deadly as that of the Indian
Cobra, to which it is, indeed, considerably allied. "A good-sized Dog
bitten became paralyzed within three minutes, and was dead in fifty
minutes afterwards; a Goat died in thirty-five minutes; a Porcupine
Ant-eater (_Echidna hystrix_) lived six hours; and a common Tortoise, an
animal which will live a day with its head cut off, died in five hours
after being bitten." The _H. superbus_ replaces it in Tasmania.

The Cobras (_Naja_) are widely known, alike from the virulence of their
poison, and for their remarkable dilatable disk or "hood" on the nape,
the ribs which support this hood being much elongated. Two species are
commonly recognised, the Cobra di capella of Southern Asia (_Naja
tripudians_), and the Asp (_N. haje_) of Africa; but there are marked
local varieties of both species, and the _N. sputatrix_ of the Malay
countries should probably be recognised as a third species. Those of
India, with Ceylon, have a mark like a pair of spectacles upon the hood,
while those of Burmah and the neighbouring countries eastward have only
an oval black spot upon it. In India the commonest colour of this
formidable reptile is uniform brown, though many are of a pale yellowish
straw colour, and there are others of every shade between that and
black. It grows to a length of about five feet, seldom more. "Almost
every writer on the natural productions of the East Indies," remarks Dr.
Günther, "has contributed to the natural history of this Snake, which
has been surrounded by such a number of fabulous stories, that their
repetition and contradiction would fill a volume." It is very generally
diffused over the Indian region, though, as Mr. Theobald notices, from
its nocturnal habits it is less often seen than many harmless species.
"This Snake is, I believe," he adds, "of inoffensive habits, unless
irritated, but is, of course, a dangerous neighbour to have in a
house.[13] Not only in Burmah, where the respect for animal life is
greatest, but in India also I have known a Cobra enticed or forced into
an earthen jar, and then carried by two men across a river, or some
distance from the village, and liberated. Dr. Günther remarks that,
'singularly enough, it has never been obtained in the valley of Nepâl.'
This is very easily accounted for," continues Mr. Theobald, "since few
would venture to kill a Cobra, even for scientific purposes, in the
rigorously Hindu state of Nepâl. In British India, decent Hindus will
not kill a Cobra; and if one has taken up his abode in a house, he is
permitted to remain, or else carefully inveigled into an earthen-pot,
and carried away as described. Of course only the orthodox Hindu is so
careful to abstain from injuring the Cobra, and their reverential
feeling is now perhaps rather the exception than the rule, though
probably as strong as ever in Nepâl." A fine example of the still more
formidable gigantic Cobra (_Hamadryas elaps_), to be noticed presently,
was obtained from an earthen pot which had floated out to sea.

    [13] Although the _Cobra di capella_ is so plentiful in India, we
    could never hear of one instance of a European being stung by one
    during a residence of more than twenty-one years in that country.
    They prey chiefly on Rats, the presence of which is the attraction
    which brings them about human habitations; and they also prey
    occasionally upon young chickens, and commonly upon Toads.--ED.

The late Sir J. Emerson Tennent mentions that "the Cinghalese remark
that if one Cobra be destroyed near a house, its companion is almost
certain to be discovered immediately after--a popular belief which I had
an opportunity of verifying on more than one occasion. Once, when a
Snake of this description was killed in a bath of the Government House
at Colombo, its mate was found in the same spot the day after; and
again, at my own stables, a Cobra of five feet long having fallen into
the well, which was too deep to permit its escape, its companion, of the
same size, was found the same morning in an adjoining drain.[14] On this
occasion the Snake, which had been several hours in the well, swam with
ease, raising its head and hood above water; and instances have
repeatedly occurred of the Cobra di capella voluntarily taking
considerable excursions by sea" (or by rivers, as the writer has
personally witnessed).]

    [14] "Pliny," remarks Sir J. E. Tennent, "notices the affection
    that subsists between the male and female Asp (or African Cobra);
    and that if one of them happens to be killed, the other seeks to
    avenge its death"--lib. viii. c. 37.

Cobras are much dreaded, for they instil the most subtle poison into
their bites. Their manners are very singular. When at rest the neck of
the animal is no larger in diameter than the head; but when under the
influence of passion and irritation the neck swells at the same time
that the animal raises the front part of his body vertically, holding
this part straight and rigid as an iron bar. The lower part of the body
rests upon the ground, and serves as a support to the upper part, which
is movable and capable of locomotion. This faculty of dilating the neck
is as striking a trait in the organization of the Cobras, as the rattle
is in _Crotalus_. The ancient inhabitants of Egypt adored them; they
attributed to their protection the preservation of grain, and allowed
them to live in the midst of their cultivated fields. The Cobra is no
longer an object of adoration in the East, but is held sacred by many
people, and it serves in nearly every country of Asia as a very
curious spectacle; being the Serpent chiefly used by snake-charmers in
these countries, terrible as it seems to us.

[Illustration: Fig. 17.--Snake-charmers.]

[Illustration: Fig. 18.--Hooded Snake.]

The action of the snake-charmer is as follows: he takes in his hand a
root, the virtue of which is supposed to preserve him from the Venemous
effects of the bite of the Cobra. Drawing the reptile from the cage in
which he keeps it confined, he irritates it by presenting a stick to it;
the animal immediately erects the fore part of its body, swells its
neck, opens its jaws, extends its forked tongue, its eyes glitter, and
it begins to hiss. Then a sort of battle commences between the Serpent
and the charmer; the latter, striking up a monotonous sort of song,
opposes his closed fist to his enemy, sometimes using his right hand and
sometimes his left. The animal fixes its eyes upon the fist which
threatens it, follows all its movements, balances its head and body, and
thus simulates a kind of dance. Other charmers obtain from the Cobra an
alternating and cadenced movement of the neck by the help of sounds
which are drawn from a whistle or small flute. It is said that these
mysterious jugglers are able, by some sympathetic action they possess,
to plunge these dangerous enemies into a sort of lethargy and death-like
rigidity, and to bring them at will out of this momentary torpor. It is
certain, at any rate, that they handle these animals, whose bite is
extremely dangerous, with considerable impunity, and without having in
any way neutralized or intercepted the venom. It is supposed by some
that these charmers take the precaution of exhausting the venom of the
Cobra every day by forcing it to bite something several times before
exhibiting it. It is also certain that they more frequently draw the
poison fangs--a wound from which can kill in the course of two or three

The Asp (_Naja haje_) has a less dilatable neck; it is of a greenish
colour, and marked with brownish spots. It is smaller than the former;
is found in the west and south of Africa; and is especially common in
Egypt. It was said to have been this Reptile which caused the death of

[The genus _Hamadryas_ of Cantor (_Ophiophagus_ of Günther) differs very
little from the true Cobras, but has a less developed hood, and a single
small tooth placed at some distance behind the fang. The only species,
_H. elaps_, attains to thirteen feet in length, and is proportionately
formidable, being much less timid and retiring in its habits than the
Cobras of the genus _Naja_. It preys habitually on other Snakes, and
seems to be more plentiful eastward of the Bay of Bengal than it is in
India. In Burmah it is styled the Gnán, and Mr. Theobald tells us that
its venom is fatal in a few minutes. "One of these Snakes," he adds,
"was brought in alive, and a snake-charmer came up to display his
command over the animal. At first (as I am told) the Snake seemed cowed
by the authoritative 'Hah' of the man; but suddenly, through some
carelessness on his part, the Snake struck him on the wrist. The poor
fellow at once ran off home to get an antidote, but fell down before
reaching his own door, and died in a few minutes. When at Tonghu,"
continues Mr. Theobald, "I heard a case of an Elephant being killed by
one of these Snakes, which I have no reason for doubting. The Elephant
was a fine powerful male, and was pulling down with his trunk some
creepers or boughs, when a large 'Gnán,' which was disturbed in the
tree, struck the Elephant on the trunk between the eyes. The Elephant at
once retreated, became faint, and died in about three hours." This
terrible Snake would appear to be not uncommon in the Andaman Islands,
and its range of distribution extends through the Malay countries to the
Philippines and to New Guinea.

The genus _Bungarus_ is so called from the vernacular appellation of
Bungarum, which is applied to one of the species on the Coromandel
coast. Some of them are very like Cobras without the hood, as the
"Kerait" (_B. cæruleus_), which is a much-dreaded Snake in India, but
the geographic range of which extends neither to the countries eastward
nor to Ceylon. The Snakes of this genus have a row of broad hexagonal
scales along the middle of the back. The Kerait grows to four feet and a
half in length, and has the upper parts of a bluish or brownish black,
either uniform or more generally marked with numerous narrow white
cross-lines, which mostly radiate from a white vertebral spot. In its
habits it resembles the Cobra, preying on small Mammalia, Lizards,
Toads, and probably other Snakes occasionally. The "Raj-sámp" (literally
Lord Snake) is a larger and thicker species than the Kerait, beautifully
marked throughout with alternate broad rings of black and golden-yellow.
This one is found almost generally throughout the Indian region, and
would seem to prey entirely on other Snakes, especially of the
_Tropidonotus_ genus. It is of very sluggish habits, and frequents moist
places and the vicinity of water. A species, or local variety (_B.
ceylonicus_), takes its place in Ceylon, and there is also a kindred
species (_B. semifasciatus_) in China and Formosa. According to Cantor,
the Bungarums are capable of darting nearly the anterior half of the
body. Their bite is very dangerous; but "the magnitude of the danger,"
remarks Dr. Günther, "depends, as in other Venemous Snakes, on many
circumstances--chiefly on the size and energy of the individual Snake
and on the place of the wound. As the fangs of the Bungarums are
comparatively short, the wound is always superficial, and can be easily
excised and cauterised; also, experiments made on some of the lower
animals show that the general effect on the whole system becomes visible
only after a lapse of time."

Of poisonous Snakes akin to the Bungarums, there are the _Xenurelaps
bungaroides_, founded on a single specimen received from the Khásya
hills (north of Sylhet); and the _Megærophis flaviceps_, which inhabits
the Indo-Chinese and the Malayan countries, but not India. The latter
attains to more than six feet in length, and when alive or fresh the
head and neck are vivid blood-red, which soon fades to a pale buff hue
in specimens immersed in spirit, and hence the faulty name of
_flaviceps_. As many as seven genera--_Glyphodon_, with two ascertained
species; _Diemansia_, with four; _Hoplocephalus_, with eight;
_Pseudechis_, with one; _Pseudo-naja_, with one; _Brachysoma_, with
three; and _Vermicalla_, with one--are peculiar to Australia with
Tasmania, making twenty known species of Colubriform Venemous Snakes in
that range of territory, where others doubtless remain to be discovered;
and there is one described as _Pseudo-elaps superciliaris_, which is
suspected to be a second species of _Pseudo-naja_. The _Cyrtophis
scutatus_ of South Africa is a sort of hoodless Cobra, without any small
teeth behind its fangs. In America there is only the genus _Elaps_, with
numerous species, which are mostly of small size, and in some instances
are very brightly coloured, as one of the Coral Snakes[15] of Brazil
(_E. corallinus_), which is beautiful coral-red, with the body encircled
by equidistant black rings. The genus _Elaps_ in America is represented
in Africa by _Homorelaps_, in the Indian region by _Callophis_, and in
Australia by _Vermicalla_. In general, these are small and slender
Snakes, too much so to be held in much dread. What Dr. Günther remarks
of the species of _Callophis_ will apply, as we believe, equally to the
others:--"They appear to prefer hilly countries to the plains, live
constantly on the ground, and are slow in their movements. In their
habits, in their form, and in their powerless muscular organization,
they show the greatest similarity to the _Calamariæ_; and this is why
the _Callophides_ feed almost entirely on the latter, the Venemous Snake
being able to overpower the non-Venemous. Both of these genera have also
the same geographical distribution; and Ceylon, where we do not find the
_Calamariæ_, is not inhabited by a single _Callophis_. If we are allowed
to judge from the number of individuals of both genera brought to Europe
in collections, the _Calamariæ_ are about twice as numerous as the
_Callophides_." Cantor, who had opportunities of observing them, states
that they are generally seen lying motionless, with the body thrown into
many irregular folds, but not coiled. Although they are diurnal, their
sight, from the minuteness of the pupil, appears to be as defective as
their sense of hearing, and they may be closely approached without
apparently being aware of danger. He never observed them to strike
voluntarily, even when provoked, and he had difficulty in making an
adult _C. gracilis_ bite a Fowl; although, of course, the venom of these
Snakes is as virulent as that of a Viper, the animals used for the
experiments having died in the course of from one to three hours after
they had been wounded. Therefore the greatest caution should be observed
in catching or handling these Snakes. The shortness of their fangs and
the small quantity of their poisonous fluid, however, will always give a
very fair chance of recovery if the proper remedies be applied, should
an accident occur. Two or three species of this genus inhabit India, and
the rest are found in the Indo-Chinese and Malayan countries, one of the
most common of them (_C. intestinalis_) having likewise been received
from the Philippines. The _C. nigrescens_ of the mountains of southern
India attain to four feet in length, but they are mostly about half of
that size, or even smaller.

    [15] This name being also applied to the harmless _Tortrix scytale_

Lastly, we arrive at


which have a long, perforated, erectile fang on the maxillary bone,
which is extremely short and bears no other teeth. This is described in
greater detail subsequently (pp. 93, 94). They are arranged under the
two families _Crotalidæ_ and _Viperidæ_.

The _Crotalidæ_, or Pit Vipers, have the body robust, the tail of
moderate length, or rather short, sometimes prehensile; head broad,
sub-triangular, frequently scaly above or imperfectly shielded; a deep
pit on the side of the snout, between the eye and nostril; the eye of
moderate size, with vertical pupil. They are viviparous. The Pit Vipers
are found only in Asia and America; those of the New World surpassing
the Asiatic species in size, and therefore they are much more dangerous.
Some live in bushes, others on the ground. A rudiment of the curious
caudal appendage of the American Rattlesnakes is found as a simple
spine-like scale in the Asiatic species, constituting the genus _Halys_.

Some have the head covered with scales, having small shields on the edge
of the forehead and brows; the cheeks are scaly, and the tail ends in a
spine. Of these, the American genus _Craspedocephalus_ and the Asiatic
genus _Trimeresurus_ have the subcaudal plates two-rowed to the tip.

The genus _Craspedocephalus_ comprises the terrible Fer-de-lance of
certain islands in the West Indies, which occurs on the mainland of
South America, where four other species are recognised--one of them
being found as far north as Mexico.]

[Illustration: Fig. 19.--Fer-de-lance (_Trigonocephala mycalæ_)]

The Fer-de-lance (_C. lanceolatus_) is met with in Martinique, Santa
Lucia, and in the little island of Boquin, near St. Vincent. It attains
to a length of nearly six feet; its colour is not always yellow,
sometimes it is greyish, and even marbled with brown; the head, which
is large, is remarkable for a triangular space, the three angles of
which are occupied by the muzzle and the two eyes.

This space, raised at its front edge, represents the head of a lance,
large at its base and slightly rounded at the summit. On each side of
the upper jaw, one, sometimes two, and even three, fangs are visible;
all of which the animal makes use of for the purpose of wounding and
discharging his venom. Of the poison fangs of the Fer-de-lance,
Professor Owen remarks, "that they (in common with the Rattlesnake and
Viper) are coated with a thin layer of a sub-transparent and minutely
cellular cement. This disposition of the dentinal tubes is obedient to
the general law of verticality, and the external surface of the tooth
can be exposed to no other pressure than that of the turgescent duct
with which it is in contact." It feeds on Lizards and the smaller
Mammals, especially Rats, but it is capable of killing large animals,
such as Oxen. The Negroes working among the sugar-cane, and soldiers in
the Martinique service, often become victims to the Fer-de-lance. This
Snake is, unfortunately, very prolific, and its venom is so subtle, that
animals stung by it die three hours, twelve hours, one day, or several
after the accident; but their death is certain. The wound produces
extreme pain, and is immediately followed by more or less livid
swelling; the body becomes cold and insensible, the pulse and
respiration become slower, the head becomes confused, coma appears, and
the skin turns bluish; sometimes extreme thirst and spitting of blood
are experienced, and paralysis attacks the whole system.

Another species is known in Brazil as the "Jararaca" (_C.
brasiliensis_), and there is a third in the same country, the _C.
bilineatus_; a fourth, _C. elegans_, is believed to be from the west
coast of South America; and a fifth, _C. atrox_, inhabits from Demerara
to Mexico. All of them are most highly formidable and dangerous Snakes,
which are held in especial dread.

The ten or more species of _Trimeresurus_ occupy their place in the
woodland districts of tropical Asia and its islands. In them the hinder
labial shields are the smallest. The head is triangular, covered above
with small scales, except the foremost part of the snout and the
superciliary region, which generally are shielded; body with more or
less distinctly keeled scales, in from seventeen to twenty-five series.
Body and tail of moderate length, prehensile. These reptiles are more or
less arboreal, as is indicated by their prehensile tail, and by their
green or varied coloration. "In general," remarks Dr. Günther, "they are
sluggish, not attempting to move out of the way, and as they very
closely resemble the branch on which they rest, they are frequently not
perceived until they prepare to dart, vibrating the tail, and uttering a
faint hissing sound, or until they have struck the disturber of their
rest. Accidents caused by them, therefore, are not of uncommon
occurrence, and it is a fortunate circumstance that comparatively few of
them attain to a size of more than two feet, so that the consequences of
their bite are less to be dreaded than that of various other poisonous
Snakes. Indeed, numerous cases are on record which show that the
symptoms indicating a general effect on the system were of short
duration, extending only over from two to forty-eight hours, and
confined to vomiting, retching, and fever. After the pain and swelling
of the bitten member or spot have subsided, the vicinity round the wound
becomes discoloured, mortifies, and is finally thrown off as a black,
circular slough, after which health is speedily restored. The bite of
larger specimens, from two to three feet long, is more dangerous, and
has occasionally proved fatal; so that the greatest care should always
be observed in the immediate treatment of the patient. When roused,
these Snakes are extremely fierce, striking at everything within their
reach; and Cantor states that in the extreme of fury they will fix their
fangs in their own bodies. Frogs, small mammalia, and birds form their
food, and I have never found a Lizard or Snake in their stomach."

Three or more of the species inhabiting India and Burmah are of a
beautiful leaf-green colour, which changes to dull blue after long
immersion in spirit. The commonest of them, _T. carinatus_, varies
remarkably in colouring, however, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands;
if, indeed, the species be quite the same. These grow to over three feet
in length, of which size they are sufficiently formidable. The kindred
genus, _Peltopelor_, is founded on a single species inhabiting the
mountains of Southern India, _P. macrolepis_, which is remarkable for
the very large scales with which its head and body are covered.
_Lachesis_, with two species, is another kindred genus in South America,
in which the end of the tail has four rows of scales underneath. The
_Calloselasma rhodostoma_ is a very formidable reptile of this same
series, which inhabits the Malay countries. It has a remarkably broad
head, and grows to three feet or more in length. Dr. Günther states that
"it is one of the most beautiful and most dangerous of Venemous Snakes.
Feeding on frogs, it frequents grassy plains, and approaches gardens and
human dwellings. Kuhl was eye-witness to a case where two Men, bitten by
one and the same Snake, expired five minutes after." Another Malayan
species is known as the _Atropos acouba_. The genus _Halomys_ is
characteristic of the fauna of Central Asia, the species being found in
Tartary, on the northern side of the Himalayas, in China, in Japan, and
in Formosa. One of them occurs in the Western Himalaya, at an altitude
of 9,000 feet, and another has been referred to this genus from the
mountains of Southern India. The "carawalla" of Ceylon (_Hypnale nepa_)
is likewise found on the mountains of Southern India. It is a small
species, but a good deal dreaded, although, remarks Dr. Günther, "its
bite is but exceptionally fatal to Man, and in such cases death does not
occur before the lapse of some days. There is always every hope of
restoring the patient by a timely application of the proper remedies."
Its crown is more shielded than is usual with Snakes of this family, and
it varies much in colouring.

The rest of the _Crotalidæ_ are American, and consist of the famous
Rattlesnakes and their immediate kindred. In the genus _Cenchris_ the
tail ends with a spine, and the tip of the tail has several rows of
scales beneath. The well-known "Copperhead" (_C. contortrix_) belongs to
this genus, and the black "Water Viper" (_C. piscivorus_). The last has
bred repeatedly in the London Zoological Gardens, and is rather a large
species, of very aquatic propensities. "The Copperhead," according to
Dekay, "is a vicious reptile, and its venom is justly dreaded, being
considered as deadly as that of the Rattlesnake; and an instance is
recorded in which a Horse, struck by one of these reptiles, died in a
few hours. Its motions are sluggish, and when approached it assumes a
threatening aspect, raising its head and darting out its tongue. It
chiefly occurs in pastures and low meadow grounds, feeding on
Field-mice, Frogs, and the smaller disabled birds." The poison of the
black Water Viper is equally to be dreaded.

The true Rattlesnakes have the tail furnished with the extraordinary
appendages at its tip which will be described presently. According to
differences in the shields and scales covering the head, Dr. Gray
arranged them into three genera--_Crotalophorus_, with three species;
_Uropsophus_, with one; and _Crotalus_ also with one, _C. horridus_,
which appears to be the only one known in South America. Of the common
Northern Rattlesnake (_Uropsophus durissus_), Dekay remarks that,
"although furnished with such deadly weapons, the Rattlesnake can
scarcely be termed a vicious animal, for he rarely strikes unless almost
trodden upon. When suddenly disturbed, he throws himself into a coil,
and warns the aggressor by rapidly vibrating his rattles, which,
however, can scarcely be heard beyond the distance of a few yards. This
is most usually the case, but they occasionally strike without the
slightest warning. At the moment the Snake strikes, he ejects the venom
forcibly into the wound. In an instance of a very large Rattlesnake from
Florida (_C. horridus_), which was irritated, he struck violently
against the iron wire on the side of the cage, and spurted the venom to
the distance of three feet."[16] The fibulæ, or rattles, seldom exceed
fifteen in number, and are rarely so many.]

    [16] We have seen a Cobra thus spurt its venom against the
    plate-glass cover of the box in which it was kept.--ED.

The common Northern Rattlesnake sometimes attains to six feet in length,
the middle being about the size of a man's leg; the colour of the back
is grey, mixed with yellow. Upon this foundation extends a longitudinal
row of black spots, bordered with white; towards the muzzle the flat
head is covered with six scales larger than the others, and disposed in
three transverse rows, each formed of two scales. The males are smaller,
much more brightly and less darkly coloured than the other sex. The very
long and visible fangs are situated in front of the upper jaw. The
scales on the back are oval, and raised in the middle by a bone which
extends in the direction of their greatest diameter. The underpart of
the body is furnished with a single row of large plates. The Rattlesnake
owes its name to a remarkable peculiarity in its structure; the
extremity of the tail is furnished with small horny cells, articulated
one into the other. When the animal advances these little capsules
resound slightly, like the dry husks of beans which still retain their
seeds, thus giving notice of the approach of this terrible enemy. The
sibilant rattle of these appendages is not very loud, but it may be
heard about thirty paces off, and announces the approach of the reptile
while it is still at that distance.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.--Northern Rattlesnake (_Uropsophus durissus_).]

Rattlesnakes feed on small mammals and upon other reptiles, waiting
patiently for their approach; when close to them, the Rattlesnake throws
itself upon them. They are oviparous; and for some time after they are
hatched, the young are said to seek a refuge in the mouth of their
mother. During summer Rattlesnakes remain in the midst of stony
mountains, uncultivated places, or places covered with wild wood; they
generally choose those parts most exposed to the heat,--the sunny shores
of a fountain or stream where small animals come to drink. They like
also to place themselves under the shadow of an old fallen tree.
Audubon, the celebrated ornithologist, says that he has often met with
Rattlesnakes rolled up in a state of torpor when the temperature was
low. Rattlesnakes are revered by some of the American natives, who know
how to lure them from their houses without killing them; for it is a
singular fact that this terrible animal is not insensible to the sound
of music. Chateaubriand's remarks will be read with interest: "In the
month of July, 1791," says this celebrated writer, "we were travelling
in Upper Canada with some savage families of the Ounoutagnes. One day,
when we had stopped in a plain on the banks of the river Genedie, a
Rattlesnake entered our camp. We had a Canadian amongst us who played on
the flute; wishing to amuse us, he approached the animal with this new
kind of weapon. At the approach of his enemy, the splendid reptile at
once coiled itself up spirally, flattened its head, puffed out its
cheeks, contracted its ears, and showed its envenomed fangs, while its
forked tongue moved rapidly, and its eyes burned like red-hot coals; its
body became inflated with rage, rose and fell like a pair of bellows;
its dilated skin bristled with scales; and its tail, which produced a
sinister sound, oscillated with lightning rapidity. The Canadian now
began to play upon his flute. The Snake made a movement expressive of
surprise, gradually drew its head backwards, closed its inflamed mouth,
and, as the musical sounds struck it, the eyes lost their sharpness, the
vibration of its tail relaxed, and the noise which it made became
weaker, and finally died away altogether; the coiled-up line became less
perpendicular, the orbs of the changed Snake opened, and in their turn
rested in wider concentric circles on the ground. The scales of the skin
were also lowered, and immediately recovered their wonted brilliancy,
and, turning its head slowly towards the musician, it remained immovable
in an attitude of pleased attention. At this moment the Canadian walked
away a few steps, drawing low and monotonous tones from his flute; the
reptile lowered his neck, opened a way among the fine grass with its
head, and crawled in the steps of the musician who thus fascinated him,
stopping when he stopped and following him when he began to move away.
The Snake was thus conducted from our camp in the midst of a throng of
spectators--as many Red-skins as Europeans--who could hardly believe
their eyes."

It is generally agreed that Rattlesnakes only attack Men in
self-defence, but it is at all times a dangerous neighbour, and it is
important to know how to keep them at a distance in countries where they
abound. The Pig is an excellent auxiliary in obtaining this result. In
the west and south of America, when a field or farm is infested by these
ferocious reptiles, it is usual to put a Sow with its young brood there,
and the Snakes, it is said, will soon be eaten up. It appears that owing
to the fatty matter which envelopes the body of this animal, it is safe
from the Venemous bite. Besides, it likes the flesh of the Snakes, and
eagerly pursues them. According to Dr. Franklin, when a Pig sees a
Rattlesnake, it smacks its jaws, and its hairs bristle up; the Snake
coils itself up to strike his enemy; the Pig approaches fearlessly, and
receives the blow in the fold of fat which hangs upon the side of its
jaw. Then he places a foot on the tail of the Snake, and with his teeth
he begins to pull the flesh of his enemy to pieces, and eats it with
evident enjoyment.[17] The Pig is not the only animal employed to
destroy Rattlesnakes. Dr. Rufz de Lavison, who has long resided in the
French Antilles, and who has since been manager of the Jardin
d'Acclimatation, of Paris, has published a highly interesting work, in
which he relates the very important services which certain birds,
especially the Secretary-bird, or Serpent-eater (imported from South
Africa), render by destroying Rattlesnakes in the West Indies. We have
said that the _Crotalidæ_ are some of the most dangerous of any Snakes;
let us mention some facts which show the frightful power of their venom.
A _Crotalus_, about three feet in length, killed a Dog in about fifteen
minutes, a second in two hours, and a third in about four hours. Four
days after he bit another Dog, which only survived thirty seconds; and
another, which only struggled four minutes. Three days afterwards it bit
a Frog, which died at the end of two seconds; and a Chicken, which
perished at the end of eight minutes.

    [17] Dekay, in his "Natural History of New York," remarks that
    it is a popular belief that Hogs are particularly destructive
    to Rattlesnakes; but neither their bristly hide nor their thick
    teguments afford them perfect immunity from the stroke of this
    reptile. I was informed by a respectable farmer that he lost three
    Hogs in one season by the poison either of the Copperhead or

An American, named Drake, arrived at Rouen with three live Rattlesnakes.
In spite of the care which he had taken to preserve them from cold, one
of them died. He put the cage which contained the other two near to a
stove, and excited them with a small stick, to assure himself that they
were alive and in health. As one of the Snakes made no movement, Drake
took it by the head and tail and approached a window to see if it was
dead; the animal turned its head quickly, and bit the unfortunate man on
the back of his left hand; as he replaced it in the cage he was bitten
anew in the palm of the same hand. "A doctor! a doctor!" cried the
unhappy man. He rubbed his hand upon some ice which was close by, and
two minutes after, he bound the wrist tightly with a cord. Four hours
later a doctor arrived, and cauterized the wound, but alarming symptoms
soon appeared. Syncope, noisy respiration, scarcely any pulsation, and
involuntary evacuations followed; the eyes closed, their pupils
contracted; the limbs became paralyzed, and the body cold. Drake died at
the end of nine hours.

Some experiments made by a friend of Dr. Bell seem to present different
results. This gentleman had received a living Rattlesnake from America,
intending to try the successive effects of its bite upon some Rats. He
introduced one into the cage with the Snake: it immediately struck the
Rat, and the latter died in two minutes. Another that was placed in the
cage ran to the farthest corner, uttering cries of distress. The Snake
did not attack it immediately; but after about half an hour, on being
irritated, it struck the Rat, which, however, exhibited no signs of
being poisoned for several minutes; nor did it die for about twenty
minutes after the bite had been inflicted. A third Rat, remarkably
large, was then introduced into the cage, and exhibited no signs of
terror, nor did it seem to be noticed by its dangerous companion: after
watching some time, the gentleman retired to bed, leaving the
Rattlesnake and Rat in the cage together. In the morning the Snake lay
dead, and the Rat had supped on the muscular part of its backbone.
Unfortunately, Dr. Bell does not remember at what season this experiment
took place, but thinks it was not in very warm weather.

The climate of France differing only slightly from that of the United
States, it is consequently well adapted for the production of
Rattlesnakes. If a living male and female of these dangerous _Crotalidæ_
were to escape from a menagerie, they would soon infest the country
with their terrible progeny. It is for this decisive reason that public
exhibitions of Rattlesnakes are forbidden in France. Nevertheless, two
or three may be seen in the collection of the Museum of Natural History
at Paris, miserably installed in a chest, which is quite unworthy of
this establishment. The Rattlesnakes are enclosed in a double cage, and
every measure of precaution is taken which prudence demands.

It is a remarkable fact that the poison is secreted after death. Dr.
Bell, in his "History of British Reptiles," adduces the following as
evidence of the facts:--He was dissecting very carefully and minutely
the poison apparatus of a large Rattlesnake, which had been dead some
hours; the head had been taken off immediately after death; yet, as Dr.
Bell continued his dissection, the poison continued to be secreted so
fast as to require to be dried up occasionally with a sponge or rag: and
his belief is, that there could not be less than six or eight drops of
the poison. It is obvious that such experiments require the utmost
caution, seeing that preparations are not without danger.

[The family of the _Viperidæ_, or true Vipers, are peculiar to the Old
World, inclusive of Australia, with the sole known exception of one
species in Peru. They have generally a robust body, with non-prehensile
tail; the head broad or thick, generally scaly above or incompletely
shielded; the eye of moderate size, with vertical pupil, and they are at
once distinguished from the _Crotalidæ_ by the absence of the pit below
the eye. The scales are keeled except in one genus (_Acanthopis_). For
the most part, these reptiles inhabit exposed and arid situations,
though perhaps all of them will take to the water on occasions, as does
the common British Adder.

They are divided, firstly, into those which have a depressed head,
rounded on the sides, and covered with acutely-keeled scales. Some of
these have large nostrils in the centre of a ring-like shield, edged
with a large scale above. Such are the genera _Daboia_ in the warmer
parts of Asia, and _Clotho_, which is peculiar to Africa--both genera
are terrifically Venemous.

The famous _Tic-polonga_ of Ceylon (_Daboia elegans_) is also widely
diffused over India and Burmah. It is beautifully marked with three rows
of white-edged, oblong, brown spots. Occasionally the spots forming the
middle row are connected like the beads of a necklace, whence the name
_Cobra monil_ (literally _Coluber moniliger_), applied to the young of
this Viper by the Indo-Portuguese, and now corrupted into "Cobra de
Manilla," which bears the reputation of being a highly poisonous Snake
of diminutive size; it attains, however, to a length of nearly five
feet, the tail then measuring about eight inches, with considerable
thickness of body. It is nocturnal, and preys chiefly on Mice. In Burmah
this formidable Viper is dreaded almost as much as the _Hamadryas_. It
has been obtained in the Himalayas at an elevation of 5,500 feet, at
Almorah, and elsewhere. Mr. Theobald has known one to kill a
Bull-terrier in twenty minutes. The _D. xanthina_ is a second species of
this form inhabiting Asia Minor.

[Illustration: Fig. 21.--The Horned Puff-adder (_Clotho cornuta_).]

The genus _Clotho_ consists of the terrible Puff-adders of Africa, of
which there are at least four or five species. Among the best known of
them are the ordinary Puff-adder (_C. arietans_), and the Berg-adder
(_C. atropos_), of the Cape colonists. The Rhinoceros Puff-adder, _C.
nasicornis_, of Guinea, has the scales over the nostrils of the male
produced into a long recurved spine; and in the Horned Puff-adder, _C.
cornuta_, of South Africa, there is a group of small horn-like scales
over each eye. Examples of the Common and of the Rhinoceros Puff-adders
may generally be seen in the reptile house of the London Zoological
Gardens. The last mentioned is a huge Viper of wondrous beauty, both of
colouring and in the complex pattern of its markings, especially as
seen when it has newly shed its epidermis; but the aspect of its
surprisingly broad, flat, and triangular-shaped head unmistakably
betokens its terrific powers. Its head is remarkably massive. One
peculiarity of the Puff-adders is that they sometimes hold on to their
victim by their long fangs. Thus, of the common _C. arietans_ Sir A.
Smith remarks that "although generally inactive, it is by no means so
when attacked--its movements are then bold and energetic, and when once
it seizes the obnoxious object, it retains its hold with great
determination, and some considerable exertion is often necessary to
detach it."[18] The traveller Burchell remarks of this Snake that "its
venom is said to be most fatal, taking effect so rapidly as to leave the
person who has the misfortune to be bitten no chance of saving his life,
but by instantly cutting out the flesh surrounding the wound. Although I
have often met with this Snake," he adds, "yet, happily, no opportunity
occurred of witnessing the effects of its poison; but, from the
universal dread in which it is held, I have no doubt of its being one of
the most Venemous species of Southern Africa. There is a peculiarity
which renders it more dangerous, and which ought to be known to every
person liable to fall in with it. Unlike the generality of Snakes, which
make a spring or dart forward when irritated, the Puff-adder, it is
said, throws itself backwards, so that those who should be ignorant of
this fact would place themselves in the very direction of death, while
imagining that by so doing they were escaping the danger. The natives,
by keeping always in front, are enabled to destroy it without much
risk. The Snakes of South Africa, as of Europe, lie concealed in their
holes in a torpid state during the colder part of the year. It is,
therefore, only in the hottest summer months that the traveller is
exposed to the danger of being bitten." Dr. Gray refers doubtfully to
this genus both the _Echidna inornata_ of Sir A. Smith, and the _E.
mauritanica_ of Duméril and Bibron, from Algeria; likewise a Peruvian
species named _Echidna ocellata_ by Tschudi, which is the only known
instance of a member of this family inhabiting the New World. The
appellation _Echidna_, however, belongs properly to the Porcupine
Ant-eaters of the class Mammalia.

    [18] In Chapman's "Travels in the Interior of South Africa" (vol.
    ii. p. 59), we read--"May 19th. I lost my best Dog, Cæsar. He had
    seized a large Puff-adder by the tail, and shook it. When the
    Snake was released it darted at the Dog's face, and having fixed
    its fangs in its cheek, stuck there like a Bull-dog until it was
    killed. The Dog only survived ten minutes."--ED.

[Illustration: Fig. 22.--The Unadorned Puff-adder (_Clotho inornata_).]

The species of _Cerastes_ and of _Echis_ have the nostrils much smaller
than the preceding, and are Vipers of less formidable size. In the two
species of _Cerastes_, or Horned Viper, the eyebrows of the male bear
commonly a sort of horn. _C. Hasselquistii_ is common in Egypt, and the
other, _C. Richii_, inhabits Tripoli. Of _Echis_ there is one species in
Egypt and North Africa--_E. arenicola_, and another in India--_E.
carinata_. The latter grows to about twenty inches long, of which the
tail measures two inches and a third. These Vipers commonly lie
half-buried in the sand, which they much resemble in colour. They feed
upon Centipedes (_Scolopendra_), and no case is known of their bite
having proved fatal.

The remaining _Viperidæ_ have the head more or less shielded. They are
divided by Dr. Gray into _Vipera_ (with two European species, not found
in Britain--_V. aspis_ from the Alps, and _V. ammodytes_ from the
countries bordering on the Mediterranean);--_Pelias_, which contains
only the Common British Adder, _P. berus_; _Sepedon_, with one species
only, from South Africa, _S. hæmachates_; _Causus_, with also only one
African species, _C. rhombeatus_; and finally, _Acanthopis_, founded on
the Death-adder of the Australian colonists, _A. antarctica_, which is
the only member of the family _Viperidæ_ known to inhabit Australia,
where the Poisonous Colubrine Snakes are so numerous. It is also the
only known species the scales of which are smooth or not keeled. It
seldom exceeds thirty inches in length, and varies a good deal in
colour. Like other _Viperidæ_ it is sluggish in its movements, but when
irritated it flattens itself out generally in the form of the letter S,
turning round to one side or the other with astonishing rapidity, but
never jumping at its enemy or throwing itself backward, as the
Puff-adders are described to do. The Death-adder is found in almost
every part of Australia northward of the thirty-sixth parallel of south

The Common Adder (_Pelias berus_), is not improbably the +Echis+ of
Aristotle, and the _Vipera_ of Virgil, as it is the _Manasso_ of the
Italians, the Adder of the country-people in England and Scotland, and
the Vipère of France. It is found in all these countries, and in Europe

[Illustration: Fig. 23.--The Common Adder (_Pelias berus_).]

The Common Adder varies in length, from thirteen or fourteen inches to
double that length; and from two to three or even four inches in girth.

Its general colour varies considerably: in some it is olive, in others
reddish-brown, varying sometimes to an ashy-grey; at other times it is
greyish-black. A waving brown or blackish line runs along the back. A
row of unequal spots of the same colour is observable on the flanks; the
belly is slate-coloured; the head nearly triangular, a little larger
than the neck, obtuse and truncated in front, and covered with
granulated scales. Six small plates cover the muzzle, two of which are
perforated for the nostrils, which are lateral, forming a blackish spot.
Above is a sort of V shape, formed by two black bands. The upper jaw is
a white ground, spotted with black; the lower jaw is yellow. The eyes
are small and sharp, edged with black. The tongue is long, grey, and

Adders are met with in the wooded, stony, and mountainous regions of
southern and temperate Europe--in France, Italy, England, Germany,
Prussia, Sweden, Poland, and even Norway. They are met with in the
heaths near London and in the neighbourhood of Paris; they are met with
at Montmorency, and in the forest of Fontainebleau. They feed upon
Lizards, Frogs, mollusks, worms, insects, and small mammalia, such as
Field-mice, Shrews, and Moles. They pass the winter and early spring in
a state of torpor in deep hollows, where they are sheltered from the
cold. It is not unusual to find several Adders coiled up together in one
heap, entwined and intimately interlaced together.

The movement of Adders is abrupt, slow, and irregular. They appear to be
shy and timid creatures, shunning the day, and only seeking their food
in the evening. The young come into the world naked and living: so long
as they are maintained within the mother, they are enclosed in eggs with
membranous shells. Soon after their birth the young Vipers, whose length
does not exceed six or seven inches, are abandoned by the mother, and
left to shift for themselves. They do not, however, acquire their full
development till they are six or seven years old. Adders are justly
considered objects of fear and horror both to Men and to other animals.
They carry with them a formidable apparatus, of which it is important
that both the structure and the mode of action should be known. This
Venemous apparatus is composed of three parts--the secreting glands, the
canal, and the hooked fangs.

The gland is the organ which secretes the venom; it is situated upon the
sides of the head, behind and a little beneath the globe of the eye; it
is formed of a number of inflated bladders, composed of a granulous
tissue, and disposed with great regularity along the excretory canal,
not unlike the barbs of a pen-feather. This arrangement, however, is
only visible through a microscope. The tube destined to conduct the
secreted venom through the gland is straight and cylindrical; after
being filled, in its short journey it ends in two peculiar hook-like
teeth, called fangs, tapering to a point, and in shape horn-like. They
are much longer than the others, and placed one to the right, the other
to the left of the upper jaw. The Adder, then, is furnished with two of
these poison-fangs; they are curved and sharp-pointed, convex
anteriorly, and furnished with a straight duct which commences in one
part by a slit placed at the anterior part of its base, terminating by a
second and smaller cleft towards its point, and on the same side. This
last cleft is like a little trench or fine furrow, which extends the
whole length of the convexity. These hooked teeth are surrounded by a
fold of the gums, which receives and partly hides them, like a sheath,
when they are at rest or hidden. They are attached to the upper
maxillary bones, which are small and very mobile, and are put in motion
by two muscles. Behind them are dental germs, intended to replace them
when they fall out. The other teeth in the roof of the mouth belong to
the palate, where they form two rows.

[Illustration: Fig. 24.--Fangs and Tongue of a Poisonous Colubrine

Such are the terrible weapons of the Viper group. It is not, therefore,
as many persons still believe, with the tongue that the Adder inflicts
its wound; the forked, projecting tongue serves them as a feeler, and to
drink with, but cannot inflict a wound. We have said that when in a
state of repose the hooked teeth are hidden; when the animal wishes to
use them, they issue from their fleshy sheath, somewhat in the same
manner as a man draws his knife, when attacked, to defend himself, and
in this case the knife is poisoned.

Adders use their fangs to seize the small animals which serve as their
prey. They do not voluntarily attack a Man; on the contrary, they flee
at his approach. But if he imprudently places his foot on or attempts to
seize them, they defend themselves vigorously. Let us see how an Adder
conducts itself when it hunts its prey and takes it. In this case it may
be supposed to act without passion, merely seizing its prey for food; it
simply bites, sinking its fangs into the body of its victim. In
proportion as the fangs penetrate the body of the animal the poison
flows into the canal, which again conducts it to the fangs under the
influence of the contracting muscles, by which they are raised and made
to press upon the gland; but this movement causes the Adder to close its
mouth, and the venom is injected into the wound.

Adders bite in much the same manner when seized by the tail or middle of
the body; but when they think themselves attacked and become irritated,
they _strike_ rather than bite. At first they coil themselves up into
several superposed circles, then they will uncoil themselves to their
whole length with excessive quickness, extending their bodies like a
spring, drawing it out with the rapidity of lightning, and gliding over
a space equal to their own length; for they never leave the ground. They
will now open their jaws wide, erect their fangs, and strike, first
throwing back their heads, by which means they contrive to strike as
with a hammer.

Dr. Bell expresses doubts, in his "History of British Reptiles," of the
existence of any well-authenticated case in this country of an Adder
bite terminating fatally.[19] At the same time he cautions all persons
against exposure to them in the heat of summer and autumn, when the
poison is most virulent. The remedy applied to such a bite is to rub the
part with olive oil, over a chafing dish of coals, and to take a strong
dose of ammonia (spirit of hartshorn) internally.

    [19] A few cases have been known.--ED.

Open copses, dry heaths, new woodland clearings, and sandy wastes are
the usual haunts of the Adder; and in such places its hibernaculum is
usually found in winter, where several of the same species lie
intertwined in a torpid state.

It was long supposed that Adders, and Snakes generally, exercise a sort
of magnetic action from a distance--a power which has been called
_fascination_. This impression has been denied, and attributed, not
without reason, to a less mysterious cause; namely, the sentiment of
profound terror which these creatures inspire. This terror manifests
itself in animals by tremblings, spasms, and convulsions. The sight of a
Venemous Snake sometimes renders its victims immovable, incapable of
flight, and as it were paralyzed, and they allow themselves to be
seized without opposing the slightest resistance. Others give themselves
over to confused movements, which, far from saving them, only make their
capture easier. M. Duméril, while pursuing experiments in the Museum of
Natural History, demonstrative of the sudden and mortal action of the
bite of a Viper on little birds, saw a Goldfinch, which he held in his
hands, die suddenly, merely at the sight of the Viper.

In warm countries, wounds produced by the larger species of these
terrible reptiles are extremely dangerous--they swell, become red and
ecchymose, and sometimes livid; the wounded person is seized with
syncope, fever, and a series of morbid symptoms, which often terminate
in death. The remedy is to bind immediately a ligature above the wound
with a band, such as a rolled handkerchief, a cord, or a string, so as
to stop all communication of the blood with the rest of the body, and
thus prevent the absorption of the venom into the system till more
effectual means can be adopted. It is well to suck the wound and make it
bleed; it is necessary also to make an incision, so as to expose the
internal parts, and then to cauterize the wound immediately, either with
a red-hot iron or by means of a caustic agent. For this purpose the
following composition may be employed:--

  Perchloride of iron       60 grains.
  Citric acid               60   "
  Hydrochloric acid         60   "
  Water                    144   "

A few drops of this is poured on the wounded part, which is then covered
with a small piece of lint. Iodine or iodinet of potassium can also be
employed. M. Viand-Marais has substituted the following composition for
this compound with great success:--

  Water                     50 grains.
  Iodinet of Potassium      50   "
  Metallic iodine           50   "

To facilitate the introduction of caustic into the wound, the same
naturalist has invented a little bottle closed with emery; the stopper,
which is long, and conical at the lower end, plunges into the liquid.
By means of this stopper the medicated substance can be made to
penetrate by drops as far as the bottom of the wound, which has been
previously enlarged by the bistoury. This little apparatus will replace
with advantage the bottle of volatile alkali with which Viper-hunters
are usually furnished. But all these means are only useful when applied
immediately. The limbs and round about the wound must besides be rubbed
with ammoniacal liniments. Afterwards emollient poultices should be used
to lower the swelling and reduce the chances of congestion; while
tonics, sudorifics, and sometimes ammoniacal potions should be given

It is a remarkable fact that this venom, which is one of the most
virulent poisons known, can yet be swallowed with impunity. It is
neither acrid nor burning, and only produces a sensation on the tongue
analogous to that caused by greasy matter. But if introduced into a
wound in sufficient quantities, it enters into the blood, and causes
death with frightful rapidity. This is a characteristic common to all
morbid and Venemous virus.

The strength of the venom varies according to the species of Snake, and
likewise the condition of the animal. The same species is more dangerous
in hot than in cold or temperate regions. The bite is serious, according
as the poison is more or less abundant in the glands, and probably with
the degree of rage experienced by the animal, as Professor Owen

[Of Snakes in general it has been remarked that "all strangers in
countries where these reptiles abound are apt to exaggerate their
danger; but in a year or two they think as little of them as we do in
England. I never knew an instance of a Snake attacking a person unless
it was trodden upon or molested, and even then they almost always give
warning by hissing, or endeavour to effect their escape. During my
residence in the Cape colony, I have at different times trodden on them
or kicked them in the grass unintentionally, but was never bitten."[20]
This writer, however, could hardly have accidentally placed his foot
upon a Puff-adder.[21]]

    [20] Moodie's "Ten Years in South Africa," vol. i. p. 318.

    [21] Subsequent experiments with the virus of the Indian Cobra
    have conclusively proved that ammonia is not a sufficient antidote,
    as alleged in p. 95.--ED.



This is the second order of the great section of Scaly Reptiles
(_Squamata_), as distinguished from the Shielded Reptiles
(_Cataphracta_). The name Saurian, +Sauros+, given by Aristotle to the
genus of Lizards, has been more comprehensively applied to a group of
Reptiles which have the body elongated, covered with scales, or having
the skin rough like shagreen. They have, for the most part, four feet,
the toes of which are furnished with hooked claws; their eyelids are
movable, and their jaws armed with encased teeth; they have a distinct
tympanum, a heart with two auricles and a single ventricle, sometimes
partially valved, having sides and a sternum. They are not subject to
metamorphosis, and, finally, they are furnished with a tail.

["By far the greater number of the Saurians," writes Dr. Günther, "are
easily distinguished from the other orders of reptiles by their
elongated form, by their movable thorax covered with skin, by the
presence of legs, and by their general integuments, which are either
folded into scales, or granular, or tubercular, or shielded; still,
there are many Saurians which, at a superficial glance, might easily be
taken for members of the preceding order--that of the Snakes; and it
cannot be denied that there is a gradual transition from one of these
orders to the other. On the part of the Saurians, we allude to those
which have no externally visible limbs, and which combine with a greatly
elongate, cylindrical body, the peculiar kind of locomotion we observe
in Snakes. Yet the greater affinity of these reptiles to the ordinary
Lizards is indicated by another character, which is in intimate
connection with their mode of life. The Snakes, having movable
maxillary bones, and mandibles not joined by a symphidis, are enabled to
swallow other animals of apparently greater bulk than their own. In the
Saurians the maxillæ are fixed and immovable, and the mandibles are
joined by an osseous suture, so that the cleft of the mouth can be
dilated only in the usual vertical direction. Moreover, in these
limbless Saurians we always find bones of the shoulder hidden below the
skin, whilst no trace of them can be discovered in the true Snakes. The
motions of some Lizards are extremely slow, while those of others are
executed, with very great, but not lasting, rapidity. Many of them have
the power of changing their colours, which depends on the presence of
several layers of cells loaded with different pigments; these layers the
animal compresses by more or less inflating its lungs, whereby the
changes in the coloration are effected."

Dr. Günther does not follow Dr. Gray in arranging all true reptiles into
the two grand divisions of Shielded Reptiles (_Cataphracta_) and Scaly
Reptiles (_Squamata_), but he includes the _Crocodilidæ_ among the
Saurians as a first grand division of them--_Emydosauri_, and the other
Lizards constitute his second grand division of them--_Lacertini_. These
latter are again primarily divisible according to the structure of
the tongue. Thus, in the series of _Leptoglossa_, the tongue is
elongate, forked, and exsertile, much as in the Ophidians; in that of
_Pachyglossa_ the tongue is short, thick, attached to the gullet, and is
not exsertile; and in the _Vermilingues_ it is Worm-like, club-shaped in
front, and very exsertile.

The various genera of Saurians which have either not a trace of external
limbs, or have them more or less diminutive and rudimentary--either the
usual two pairs or one pair only, and in the latter case sometimes the
fore and sometimes the hind pair being deficient--are included among the
_Leptoglossa_, or the series which have a forked and protrusile tongue;
and, so far as is practicable, we will commence by noticing the
different serpentiform genera; only, in a classification which is not
confessedly superficial, it will be found that the various Snake-like
Saurians appertain to several distinct natural families, most of the
other genera belonging to which have, in sundry cases, limbs that are
well developed. Some of them, therefore, will have to be noticed as the
different families to which they belong are successively treated of; and
there will yet remain the curious serpentiform family of _Amphisbænidæ_,
which Dr. Gray refers to his grand series of Shielded Reptiles

The same naturalist divides the _Leptoglossa_ into two tribes, which he
styles _Geissosaura_ and _Cyclosaura_; and, as constituting particular
division of the former, he includes under it the family _Typhlopidæ_,
which Dr. Günther refers--as we have seen--to the order of Ophidians. In
the series of _Geissosaura_, the scales of the belly and (almost always)
of the back and sides are quincuncial, rounded, and imbricate; the
tongue is narrow, short, flat, and but slightly forked; and the head is
of a conical shape, and is covered with regular shields.

Of the families thus characterised, some only have distinct eyelids, as
the families _Acontiadæ_, _Ophiomoridæ_, _Sepsidæ_, and _Scincidæ_;
while others have the eyelids rudimentary and the eyes exposed, as the
families _Lialisidæ_, _Aprasiadæ_, _Pygopodidæ_, and _Gymnopthalmidæ_.
In the _Acontiadæ_ the nostrils are placed in the enlarged rostral
plate, with a longitudinal slit behind. The form of the body much
resembles that of our common Orvet, or Blind-worm, and their limbs, when
present, are so rudimentary that they can aid little in locomotion. One
genus, _Acontias_, is without limbs, and the eyes are furnished with a
lower lid, while the upper eyelid is rudimentary. Of this, one species,
_A. meleagris_, inhabits South Africa; and another, _A. Layardii_, has
been discovered in Ceylon. The genus _Nessia_ has four rudimentary
limbs, and the rostral shield is large, sub-conical, and depressed. In
one species, _N. monodactyla_, the limbs are diminutive, the posterior
placed far apart from the anterior, all being very short, weak, and
undivided into toes. In another, _N. Burtoni_, each foot is divided into
three minute toes. Both species are peculiar (so far as known) to
Ceylon, and the habits of this family are much the same as those of our
common Orvet (_Anguis fragilis_).

The family of _Ophiomoridæ_ is founded on a single genus and species,
_Ophiomorus miliaris_, which inhabits North Africa. As remarked by Dr.
Gray, this reptile seems to be intermediate to the _Acontiadæ_ and the
_Scincidæ_, and makes it appear as if the large rostral shield of the
former was formed of the united rostral, supra-nasal, and nasal shields
of the present family, and of the _Scincidæ_. It has an elongate,
cylindrical body, without external limbs, and the ears are hidden under
the skin; the eyes are distinct, with valvular eyelid; and the scales of
the body and somewhat elongate tail are hexagonal.

The _Sepsidæ_ differ from the preceding, and also from the great family
of the _Scincidæ_, by having the nostrils placed in the front edge of a
small shield, in a notch at the hinder side of the rostral plate, which
latter is rather large and square. The eyes are distinct, the lower
eyelid scaly, or with a transparent disk. Body fusiform or
sub-cylindrical, elongate. These reptiles burrow in dry sand, and are
peculiar to the anciently-known continents and certain islands. Some
have a wedge-shaped head, with prominent rostral plate. Of these the
genus _Sphenops_ has more developed limbs, each dividing into four toes;
and the only species, _S. sepsoides_, inhabits Egypt and other parts of
North Africa. _Sphenocephalus_ has a more slender and elongate shape,
and the limbs are placed more distantly apart; the anterior minute, and
fitting into a groove, the posterior as large as in _Sphenops_, and each
of them having but three toes, of which the innermost and next are
sub-equal, and the outer much shorter. The only known species, _S.
tridactylus_, is common in Afghanistan. In _Scelotes_ the anterior limbs
disappear altogether; and the only known species, _S. bipes_, inhabits
South Africa. Other genera have a pyramidal head, with the rostral plate
erect, and rounded in front. Such are the five following, each founded
on a single species:--_Gongylus ocellatus_, from North Africa and the
borders of the Mediterranean; _Thyrus Bojeri_, from the Mauritius;
_Amphiglossus astrolabi_, from Madagascar; _Seps tridactylus_, from the
south of Europe and north of Africa; and _Heteromeles mauritanicus_,
from North Africa. The last has only two toes to the fore-feet, three to
the hind; and _Seps_ has three toes to each foot, while the other three
genera have five to each foot. In general these animals are found in dry
and elevated spots, where they hide themselves in the sand or under

[Illustration: Fig. 25.--Seps tridactylus.]

The _Scincidæ_ have the head covered with shields, which are
symmetrically arranged. Tongue slender, free, extersile, terminating in
two pointed lobes. Scales on the back rounded, quincuncial, imbricate;
those on the belly similar to those on the back and on the sides. No
fold across the throat or along the side; no femoral or inguinal pores.
Tail generally long, rounded, fragile. Eyes and eyelids well developed.
Nostrils in a separate plate, between the frontal and labial shields.
Generally four limbs, moderately developed, sometimes feeble or hidden
below the skin. The species of this family are exceedingly numerous, and
inhabit almost every part of the tropical regions, some extending into
the temperate zones. They are thoroughly land Lizards, preferring dry
ground, and hiding themselves in the sand, under stones, fallen leaves,
&c., very few of them entering the water. They do not attain to any
considerable size, only a few species of Australia and the West Indies
growing to the thickness of a man's wrist, and exceeding a foot in
length. Some of them are viviparous, others deposit from eight to twelve
globular eggs. Dr. Gray divides them into the sub-families of
_Scincinæ_, or those which have the scales thin, smooth, and neither
striated nor keeled; the nostrils in a single smooth plate, without any
lunate groove behind; and the tail round, tapering, unarmed; and
_Tropidophorinæ_, or those which have the scales thick, bony, rugous,
striated, and with one or more keels upon each of them; the rostral
plate rounded in front, and the body fusiform, with well-developed
limbs, which terminate always in the full complement of toes. A few
species of the _Scincinæ_ have no external limbs, thus approximating in
their appearance to certain of the burrowing Ophidians.]

The Orvet, or Blind-worm, _Anguis fragilis_, is small, cylindrical in
shape, about eleven or twelve inches in length, and having the exterior
appearance of Snakes. The scales which cover the body are small, smooth
and shining, being red in the middle, and edged with white, of a silvery
yellow on the upper part, and dusky beneath; the sides somewhat dusky
brown, and the throat slightly marbled with white, black, and yellow.
Two larger spots appear, one above the muzzle, the other upon the back
of the head; from this point two blackish longitudinal rays start, which
extend to the tail, as well as two other nut-brown rays, which start
from the eyes; the markings vary, however, in different countries, and
probably with age and sex.

[Illustration: Fig. 26.--Orvet, or Blind-worm (_Anguis fragilis_).]

The Orvet is found in woods and dry, sandy, and stony wastes. They are
timid, harmless creatures, retiring into holes and concealing themselves
in moss at the foot of trees to hide themselves from observation. They
feed upon worms, insects, and the smaller mollusks. Although perfectly
harmless, the country-people are strongly prejudiced against them,
believing their bite to be a deadly poison. This animal is extremely
brittle. Laurenti and others assert that when captured it throws itself
into a position of such rigidity that it sometimes breaks in two, and
that a smart blow of a switch will at any time divide it.

[There are little-known species of _Anguis_ in India and South Africa,
which are at least provisionally so considered, and certainly do not
differ essentially; and next we come to forms in which the limbs are
successively more developed. Such are the _Ophiodes striatus_ of Brazil,
which has two short, flattened, undivided, and one-pointed limbs,
corresponding to the usual hind pair; the _Brachymeles bonitæ_ of the
Philippines, in which there are two pairs of short and rudimentary
limbs, the fore bearing two minute claws, while the hind are undivided;
_Venira bicolor_, of the same archipelago has very short limbs, the fore
and hind being placed distantly apart, but in this genus all have five
distinct toes; _Chiamelea lineata_, from some part of India, and _Hagria
Vosmaërii_, from Bengal, are kindred forms which conduct to the genus
_Eumeces_, the species of which are very numerous, and spread over
nearly all the different countries between or near the tropics, and in
certain of them (as the Burmese _E. anguinus_) the limbs are still
remarkably diminutive, and (as in _E. isodactylus_ of Cambodia) the fore
and hind limbs are placed very far apart, the body and tail being long
and anguiform. In various other species of _Eumeces_, however, the
proportions are more those of an ordinary Scink, as again in the kindred
genera _Mabonia_ and _Plestiodon_, which are widely distributed.

In other series of Scinks, the distinctions of which are far from being
conspicuous, we again have limbless genera, or nearly so, as the
Australian _Soridia lineata_, which has one pair of small, posterior,
undivided extremities; while in another Australian form, the _Rhodona
punctata_, the anterior pair of limbs are simple and undivided, while
the hinder divide into two unequal toes, and the two pairs of limbs are
situate as distantly apart. And thus we may continue to trace the
successive gradations, in sundry genera, until we arrive at the _Scincus
officinalis_ of North Africa, a well-known reptile, the geographical
range of which extends eastward into Afghanistan, and which was formerly
in considerable request for its supposed medicinal properties. Indeed,
this notion still prevails in Hindustan, into which country dried
specimens of both this reptile and of _Sphenocephalus tridactylus_ (p.
101) are brought by Afghan traders, and are sold in the bazaars. Both of
these are Sand Lizards, which burrow into the sand with great rapidity.

We now come to the _Tropidophorinæ_, or second sub-family of Scinks
indicated by Dr. Gray (_vide_ p. 102), which have always well-developed
limbs, the body only moderately elongated, and the scales variously
keeled. Several species of larger size appertain to this series, as the
_Cyclodus gigas_ of Australia, and the curious Stump-tail Lizards,
_Trachydosaurus rugosus_ and _T. asper_, of the same insular continent,
which latter have most prominently rugous scales, and the tail literally
appearing like the short and abrupt stump of one. _Egernia Cunninghami_
and _Tropidolesma_ (of different species) are other comparatively large
Australian Lizards; and examples of most of those that have been
mentioned may generally be seen alive in the London Zoological Gardens,
where the _Cyclodus gigas_ has bred and proves to be viviparous. Of the
species of _Euprepes_, of which several inhabit the Indian region, some
(as the very common _E. rufescens_) are viviparous, and others (as _E.
multicarinata_) are oviparous. These have three more distinct, though
not prominent, keels upon each scale; and the different species inhabit
both the Old World and the New, as well as Australia. The Galliwasps
(_Celestus_) of the West Indies, and sundry other genera, do not greatly
differ. Of _Tropidophorus_, which has exceedingly rugged scales, the
species inhabit the Indo-Chinese countries, and one (_T. cocinsinensis_)
is found likewise in the Philippines; while of another (_T. Berdmorei_),
in Burmah, Mr. Theobald remarks that "its scales are dull and
lustreless, and the coloration peculiar for a Scink. It harbours under
half-immersed stones, and enters the water and gravel freely." In
several of this family of Lizards the scales are beautifully iridescent,
and many of them show longitudinal pale or white lines, or are otherwise

Nearly akin to the extensive family of _Scincidæ_, there are three small
families (as classed by Dr. Gray), the species of which are peculiar to
Australia. They have small, undivided, posterior limbs only, or are
quite limbless. These families are the _Lialisidæ_, founded on three or
more species of a single genus, _Lialis_; the _Aprasiadæ_, founded upon
one species only--_Aprasia pulchella_, which is limbless; and the
_Pygopodidæ_, comprising the two genera _Pygopus_ and _Delma_, the
former containing two, the latter only one ascertained species. The
_Gymnopthalmidæ_ constitute still another small family, quadrupedal, but
with the limbs small and weak. Of seven genera referred to it, five are
Australian, one is European, and one belongs to South America.
_Ablepharus pannonicus_ is a small Lizard of this family, inhabiting
Eastern Europe, with a congener, _A. bivittatus_, in the Caucasus; and
_Gymnopthalmus lineatus_ inhabits Brazil and the Island of Martinique.

In the second tribe of _Leptoglossa_, entitled _Cyclosaura_, the scales
of the belly are square, in cross bands; those of the back and tail are
rhombic and imbricate, or circular and subgranular; the tongue is
lengthened, and more or less conspicuously furcate; and the eyes are
diurnal, having two valvular lids. The limbs are generally well
developed; but in several genera they still are more or less
rudimentary, or even absent.

There are four small families in which the sides are rounded and covered
with scales like the back. Of these, that of _Chamæsauridae_ is founded
upon the South African _Lacerta anguina_ of Linnæus, now _Chamæsaura
anguina_, which has the limbs quite rudimentary. In the American
families of _Cercosauridæ_, _Chirocolidæ_, and _Anadiadæ_, the limbs are
moderately developed, and have each five toes. The two last-mentioned
families are founded each upon a single species, _Chirocolus imbricatus_
and _Anadia ocellata_; and the other contains the two genera
_Circosaura_ and _Lepisoma_--of which the first comprises some two or
three species only. All of these reptiles have exceedingly long tails,
though not so inordinately long as in the _Lacertidæ_ of the genus

Certain other families have a distinct longitudinal fold, covered with
small granular scales on each side. These are the families _Chalcidæ_,
_Holaspidæ_, and the more extensive one of _Zonuridæ_. The _Chalcidæ_
have the head covered with regular many-sided shields, and the lateral
fold is indistinct; limbs small and rudimentary, and the hind feet are
undivided in the genera _Chalcis_ and _Bachia_, with three tubercles in
place of toes in _Microdactylus_, and with four clawed toes in
_Brachypus_. Each of these genera is founded on a single species, and
all are doubtless peculiar to the New World. The _Holaspidæ_ is also
founded on one species only, the _Holaspis Guentheri_, which again is
supposed to be South American. It has four well-developed limbs, a
double row of plates along the back and upper surface of the tail, and
the latter organ is curiously serrated laterally.

The _Zonuridæ_ constitute a considerable family, to which some eighteen
or twenty genera are assigned, and which present considerable
modification of form. The ears are distinct, whereas in the _Chalcidæ_
they are hidden under the skin. The head is pyramidal, or depressed, and
covered with regular many-sided shields; eyes with two valvular lids.
Limbs mostly well developed, but short in some, and rudimentary, or even
wanting in the so-called "Glass-snakes" which constitute the sub-family
_Pseudopodinæ_. There is no external trace of them in the North American
Glass-snake, _Ophisaurus ventralis_; and in the Old World genus,
_Pseudopus_, there is only one pair, posterior, rudimentary, and
undivided. These reptiles are long, and serpentiform in shape: whilst in
other Saurians the whole skin of the belly and of the sides is
extensible, the extensibility is limited in the "Glass-snakes" to a
separate part of the skin; and, as Dr. Günther remarks, "the scaly
covering of the upper and lower parts is so tight that it does not admit
of the same extension as in Snakes and other Lizards; and the
_Pseudopus_, therefore, could not receive the same quantity of food in
its stomach as those animals, were it not for the expansible fold of the
skin running along each side of its trunk." One species of _Pseudopus_,
the _P. Pallasii_, inhabits Asia Minor and the south-east of Europe; and
there is another, _P. gracilis_, in the Indo-Chinese countries (or
those lying eastward of the Bay of Bengal). A second sub-family,
_Gerrhonotinæ_, is peculiar to America, and consists of more
ordinarily-shaped Lizards, which are ranged in four genera. Together
with the _Ophisaurus_, or American Glass-snake, they are the only known
_Zonuridæ_ that inhabit the New World. The great mass of this family and
all of its most characteristic species are African, and these are
arranged by Dr. Gray under the sub-families _Cicigninæ_ and _Zonurinæ_.
In the first of these sub-families the tail is smooth, or unarmed, and
in the second it is spinous. The Cordules, _Cordylus_, _Zonurus_, &c.,
are very characteristic Lizards chiefly of Southern Africa, several
species of which have been figured by Sir Andrew Smith. They are mostly
of shortish form, and the neck is more or less spinous; the body-scales
in some (as _Zonurus cataphractus_) being extraordinarily rugous. These
Lizards squeeze themselves into crevices in the rocks, in which they
hold on so firmly by their nuchal spines that it is next to impossible
to dislodge them, the tail commonly giving way at once if it be
attempted to pull them forth by means of it.

The family of _Lacertidæ_, comprising our ordinary European Lizards,
have no longitudinal fold along the sides, but generally one across the
throat; the tail is very long, rounded, with its scales arranged in
rings, being also fragile; the head is covered with shields, which are
symmetrically arranged; scales on the back granular or rhombic; on the
sides granular; on the belly largely quadrangular or rounded, and
arranged in cross-bands; eyes diurnal, with eyelids; the tympanum
distinct; limbs always four, and well developed. This group of Lizards
has no representative in America or (so far as known) in Australia.

The sub-family of _Tachydrominæ_ is included by Dr. Gray in the family
_Zonuridæ_. These are Asiatic Lizards, with a most inordinate length of
tail, the fore and hind limbs being not placed distantly apart, as in
the various anguiform Lizards already treated of--there is an indistinct
collar, and the toes are not serrated or keeled. Two genera have been
distinguished, _Tachydromus_ and _Tachysaurus_, the latter founded on a
Japanese Lizard, _T. japonicus_. At least three species are known of
_Tachydromus_, two of which inhabit China, _T. septentrionalis_ and _T.
meridionalis_; the third belonging to the Indo-Chinese countries, _T.
sex-lineatus_. In an example of the last, measuring fourteen inches
long, the tail occupies eleven inches and a half. It is the
longest-tailed creature that we have any knowledge of, in proportion to
its other parts; indeed, something quite wonderful to behold and muse

The rest of the _Lacertidæ_ are chiefly from Africa and the south of
Europe; there are probably more of them to be discovered in Middle Asia,
and only three or four species are known to inhabit the Indian region.
Fifteen or more genera are recognised. In temperate Europe (inclusive of
the British Islands) two species are common--the _Zootica vivipara_ and
the _Lacerta agilis_. The former, as its name imports, is viviparous,
whereas the other genera belonging to the family are (so far as known)
oviparous. Others occur in the south of Europe.]

The common Grey or Sand Lizard (_L. agilis_), sometimes attains the
length of from eight to ten inches, of which the tail occupies more than
half. These little inoffensive creatures, so common in Southern Europe,
are slender and active; their movements are so rapid that they escape
the eye as quickly as a bird. They require a mild temperature, and seek
shelter among ruins. When the sun strikes with its meridian force upon a
wall, they may be seen basking in its rays, enjoying themselves
delightedly upon the heated surface. They seem to be pervaded with the
blessed warmth, and mark their pleasure by soft undulations of the tail.
It is commonly said that the Lizard is the friend of Man, since far from
flying at his approach, they seem to regard his appearance with great
complacency. They pass the winter at the bottom of small holes which
they have hollowed out of the earth, where they become torpid. At the
commencement of spring they issue from their hiding-place, and each
seeks its mate; they go in pairs, male and female, it is said, living in
faithful union for many years, sharing between them the domestic
arrangements, which comprise hatching the young and nursing them in
their helplessness, carrying them into warm and sunny places, and
sheltering them from cold and damp.

Lizards feed chiefly upon insects, and especially flies. All who have
watched the actions of the Grey Lizards must have observed that the
caudal vertebræ are so extremely fragile that they separate on the
slightest touch, the tail remaining in the hand of any one attempting to
seize it. These tails sometimes grow again. When an attempt is made to
seize a Grey Lizard on the wall it lets itself fall to the ground, and
remains there a moment immovable before attempting to run, evidently
simulating death.

Grey Lizards are easily tamed, and appear happy in captivity. From their
extreme gentleness they soon become familiar with their keepers, and
return caress for caress, approaching mouth to mouth, and suck the
saliva from between their lips with a grace that few people would allow
them to display.

In the Green Lizard, _L. viridis_, the scales of the temple are
many-sided and unequal, with a central layer; back granular and oblong,
with shelving sides; throat fold distinct. Nothing can be more brilliant
than the variegated colouring with which it is ornamented. Its favourite
locality is a slightly elevated woody place, where the sun's rays
readily penetrate. It is also found in sunny meadows. It feeds upon
small insects, and shows no alarm at the presence of Man, but stops to
look at him. Snakes, on the contrary, they seem to fear much, but when
they cannot avoid them they fight courageously. In length they are about
eighteen inches.

[Illustration: Fig. 27.--Green Lizard and Ocellated Lizard.]

Green Lizards are found in Jersey and Guernsey, and other warm countries
of Europe, on the African coast of the Mediterranean, and they are not
rare in France.

How often have we admired their magnificent colours in the neighbourhood
of Montpelier, where they rival the green of the meadows, and glitter in
the sun like so many living emeralds!

In the Ocellated Lizard, _L. ocellata_, the upper part of the body is
green, variegated, spotted, and reticulated or ocellated with black,
having large round blue spots upon the flanks; the underpart of the
body is white, frosted with green; in size it is about twenty inches.
They are found at Fontainebleau, in the south of France, and in Spain.
They establish themselves in hard sand, often between two beds of
calcareous rock, upon some steep declivity, more or less directly
exposed to the south; they are also found between the roots of old
stems, either in hedgerows or vineyards. They feed almost exclusively on
insects; but are said to attack Mice, Shrews, Frogs, and even Snakes,
and to destroy the eggs of the Partridge. They have sometimes been tamed
by feeding them on milk.

[In the genus _Ophiops_, two species of which inhabit Asia Minor, and
one of them the shores of the Mediterranean, the eyelid is rudimentary
and the eye exposed, whence the name, signifying "snake eye." So far as
known, the habits of the various Lizards which constitute the family of
_Lacertidæ_ are much the same.

The family of _Teidæ_ is peculiar to the New World, and some of the
species attain to the length of several feet. In these Lizards the head
is pyramidal, and is covered with regular many-sided shields;
supra-orbital plate horny; the teeth solid and well rooted; tongue
elongate, flat, free (rarely slightly sheathed at its base); the scales
of the back are regular and keeled, and of a rhombic shape; sides flat,
and covered with small granular scales; the throat scaly, with a double
collar, rarely indistinct.

In some the throat has two cross-folds, with large six-sided scales
within; and of these some have the ventral shields small, long, and
smooth, while others have them much broader. The former are known as the
Teguexins (_Teius_ and _Callopistes_), and the latter as the Ameivas
(_Ameiva_, and three other genera). One species of Teguexin, _Teius
teguexin_, may commonly be seen alive in the London Zoological Gardens.
This is a large and powerful Lizard, exceeding five feet in length when
full grown, and extremely active. It feeds on small living animals of
any kind, and will even devour poultry, and especially their eggs, for
which latter it manifests an especial liking, as observed in captivity.
Sometimes it has been known to prey on other and kindred Lizards, as the
Ameivas. The teeth of this species are strong, and the reptile can bite
with great force. It is a bold and determined combatant when attacked,
and if it succeeds in seizing its foe, retains its hold with
pertinacity. Its flesh is eaten by some people, who consider it
excellent. Together with a second species, _T. nigropunctatus_, it
inhabits Brazil, and the two species of _Callopistes_ are also South
American, one at least of them occurring in Chili. The species of this
family, although strong and agile, never ascend trees, but range at will
the hot sandy plains or the dense and damp underwood on the margins of
lakes and rivers, into which they plunge when alarmed, and remain below
the surface until the danger has passed away, their capacious lungs and
imperfect circulation permitting them to endure a very long immersion
without inconvenience.

The Ameivas have a long whip-like tail, and peculiarly elongated toes on
their hind feet. The species of _Ameiva_ and _Cnemidophorus_ are
numerous, and the genera _Dicrodon_ and _Acrantus_ are founded each of
them upon a single species. In general these are Lizards which
correspond with the ordinary _Lacertidæ_ of the Old World. One species
only, _Cnemidophorus sex-lineatus_, inhabits the Southern States of
North America; there are at least four others in Mexico, and the rest
belong to South America and the Antilles. "The _Ameiva dorsalis_,"
writes Mr. Gosse, "is one of the most common of the reptiles of Jamaica,
and is as beautiful as abundant. Its colours are striking, but not
showy, and its countenance has a very meek expression. All its motions
are elegant and sprightly; when it is proceeding deliberately, its body
is thrown into latent curves the most graceful imaginable; but when
alarmed its swiftness is so excessive that it appears as if it literally
_flew_ over the ground, and the observer can scarcely persuade himself
that it is not a bird. It is very timid, and though its toes are not
formed as in the Geckos and Anoles, for holding on against gravity, I
have seen a large Ameiva run with facility on the side of a dry wall,
along the perpendicular surfaces of the large stones."

A second series occurs in those _Teidæ_ which have a collar of large
shields on the throat. As many as five genera of them have been
established, each upon a single species, and all are from intertropical
America. In _Crocodilurus lacertinus_ the two rows of crests along the
tail recall to mind the Crocodiles, whence the name bestowed. Others
have been styled Dragons, as the Great Dragon, _Ada guianensis_, and the
Smaller Dragon, _Custa bicarinata_. All bear a certain amount of
superficial resemblance to the Crocodiles, and the Great Dragon grows to
six feet in length, and is found in many parts of South America. This
large reptile runs up the trunks of trees with facility, is quick when
on the ground, and it also swims, though not particularly well. It preys
upon such small animals as it can manage to seize, and chiefly frequents
the inundated savannahs and marshy localities, where it is seen basking
in the sunshine; but there is considerable difficulty in taking this
Lizard, as it makes generally for its burrow in some raised spot, and
bites desperately in self-defence. Its flesh is eaten, and is considered
a delicacy. Its eggs, also, are considerably esteemed at Cayenne and
other places, and each female lays some dozens of them.

The family of _Helodermidæ_ is founded on a very remarkable Lizard from
Mexico, the _H. horridum_, which is of the same size as the Great
Dragon, and in some respects approximates the following Old World family
of _Varanidæ_. Its back and sides are covered with oblong, hexagonal,
very convex and shield-like scales, and the belly with oblong, rather
convex plates; tail cylindrical, with oblong, convex scales above, and
flat, elongate, thin plates beneath. The head is somewhat flattened, and
is covered with polygonal, convex shields; the muzzle is rounded; and
the teeth are on the inner side of the jaws, incurved, with a groove on
the front of their inner side. The bite of this reptile is said to be

The family of _Varanidæ_ inhabit South-eastern Asia and its islands,
Africa, and Australia. In this family are comprised the largest of
existing Lizards, with the exception of the _Crocodilidæ_. They are very
commonly miscalled Iguanas by Europeans and their descendants, in the
countries where they are found. These reptiles have a pyramid-shaped
head, more or less elongated, and covered with small and scale-like, but
not imbricate, shields. Their teeth are acute and compressed. The tongue
is elongate, slender, terminating in a long fork, and is retractile into
a sheath at its base. Their scales are small, equal on the sides and on
the back, and arranged in cross rings; those on the belly and tail are
square, in cross bands. Tail long, and generally more or less
compressed. The feet are well developed, with five toes on each, which
are armed with strong claws. Most of them live near water, and they are
excellent swimmers, their long and compressed tail serving as a
propeller. Their movements on land are not much less rapid than in the
water. Several of the species climb trees, and they are more or less
nocturnal in their time of action, though also about by day. They are
exclusively carnivorous, feeding on the different water animals, and on
the eggs of birds, and likewise on those of other large reptiles; some
of them are also destructive to ducklings, and to various Snakes. Dr.
Günther remarks that "their external nasal opening leads into a spacious
cavity situated in the snout; when the animal dives, it closes the nasal
aperture, and retaining a certain quantity of air in that pouch, or
rather in the two pouches, it is enabled to remain under water for a
prolonged period without the necessity of rising to the surface in order
to breathe. It is the same plan of structure as that with which a large
northern Seal (_Cystophora borealis_) is provided." In like manner, the
air-bag connected with the one developed lung of the Ophidians retains
the necessary supply of air during the tedious process of deglutition or
swallowing. The nostrils are variously placed, either mid-way between
the eye and muzzle, or nearer to one or to the other; and according to
this and some other differences, Dr. Gray divides the _Varanidæ_ into as
many as seven genera, but Dr. Günther would seem to admit not more than
two genera. When the tail of these Lizards is mutilated, the lost
portion is never renewed; whereas in the preceding families of the
_Zonuridæ_, _Lacertidæ_, and _Teidæ_ a new tail or portion of one soon
sprouts forth--but this renewed portion contains no bony vertebræ, and
it remains smooth externally; when the fracture is cleft, as sometimes
happens, two new tails are put forth. Another family of Lizards in which
the tail is thus commonly renewed is that of the Geckos; but never in
the _Iguanidæ_, the _Agamidæ_, and the _Chameleonidæ_, any more than in
the _Varanidæ_. The species of this family defend themselves vigorously,
when attacked, by lashing forth smart blows with the tail, as do also
the Crocodiles and the larger _Iguanidæ_.

In the genus _Varanus_, the nasal apertures form an oblique slit, in,
or nearly in, the middle, between the eye and the tip of the snout. The
scales are elliptic and small; those on the back and on the sides are
not imbricate, each of them being surrounded by a small, circular,
granular fold. Tail with a low crest, formed by two or four series of
strongly keeled scales. Throat with a transverse fold. One very common
in India and Ceylon is the _V. dracæna_, which grows to a length of five
feet, the tail being longer than the body. These reptiles live in holes,
and in mid-day they steal out of their cells to seek their food, which
consists chiefly of the smaller reptiles and of insects. In many parts
of India, and in Ceylon, the flesh is much eaten by the natives. The
late Dr. Kelaart states that he once tried some excellent soup made from
it, which tasted not unlike hare-soup. At Trincomali, he tells us, they
are hunted down by Dogs, and sold in the market for sixpence each. This
species climbs walls, and holds on so firmly with its strong claws,
wherever these can be inserted, that it is actually used by
house-breakers in India to help in raising themselves up a wall or
building, the man grasping the tail, while the reptile affords a lift by
endeavouring to escape from him upwards. It lays twenty or thirty eggs,
which in texture and appearance resemble those of many Snakes, being
similarly agglutinated together by a viscid mucus. Sir J. E. Tennent
remarks that "one of the earliest, if not the first, remarkable animal
to startle a stranger on arriving in Ceylon, whilst wending his way from
Point de Galle to Colombo, is this large Lizard, which may be seen at
noonday searching for Ants and other insects in the midst of the highway
and along the fences. When disturbed, but by no means alarmed, by the
approach of Man, it moves off to a safe distance; and the intrusion
being at an end, it returns again to the occupation in which it had been
interrupted. It lives in any convenient hollow, such as a hole in the
ground, or the deserted nests of the Termites; and some small ones,
which frequented my garden at Colombo, made their retreat in the heart
of a decayed tree."

Of another species, _V. flavescens_, which inhabits Lower Bengal, and to
the eastward in Burmah, &c., Mr. Theobald remarks that "large specimens
are not often procurable by Europeans, as they are much sought after by
both Burmese and Karéns as choice articles of food. They are chiefly
hunted with Dogs, whose scent enables them to discover the Varans in
the hollow trees in which they habitually shelter themselves. A Burman,
though ordinarily a lazy man, will think nothing of cutting down and
breaking up a large tree in which one of these creatures has sought
refuge. The _Varanidæ_ deposit their eggs in the ground, usually
selecting a deserted White-ant's nest. The eggs are cylindrical, with
tapering ends, of a dirty white colour and leathery texture (those of
_V. dracæna_ are two inches long), and, being esteemed an uncommon
luxury by the Burmese, sell dearer than fowls' eggs. They are oily and
feculent-looking, though devoid of any nauseous odour, and some
Europeans eat them with pleasure."

A well-known African species, the _V._ or _Psammosaurus scincus_,
extends (without the slightest difference) to the extreme desert region
of the north-west of India, and more habitually frequents dry localities
than others. In this species the nasal apertures are placed very near
the eyes.

In the genus _Hydrosaurus_, the nostrils are more or less rounded, and
are situate near the extremity of the snout. These animals are more
decidedly aquatic than the preceding, and some of the species grow to
seven or even eight feet in length. Such is the _H. giganteus_ of
Australia, where three, if not four, species inhabit. In all
south-eastern Asia and its islands, its range extending to Lower Bengal
but not to India proper, although found in Ceylon, the _H. salvator_ is
a common species, which, according to the late Dr. Cantor, is "very
numerous in hilly and marshy localities of the Malayan peninsula. It is
commonly, during the day, observed in the branches of trees overhanging
rivers, preying upon birds and their eggs and smaller Lizards, and when
disturbed it throws itself from a considerable height into the water; it
will courageously defend itself with teeth and claws, and by blows with
its tail."

We have now to treat of the


which are those Lizards which have the tongue short, thick, attached to
the gullet, and not exsertile. These fall under two very distinct
tribes--the _Strobilosaura_ and _Nyctisaura_ of Dr. Gray, or the tribe
of the Iguanas and their kindred, and that of the Geckos and their
kindred. The tribe of


Have the scales of the back and sides imbricate, generally rhombic, and
those of the lower parts imbricate and of small size. Tail with more or
less distinct whorls of scales. The eyes diurnal, with round pupil, and
valvular lids. Feet with toes of very unequal length. Many of these
reptiles have a row of spines or spine-like scales along the back and
tail, which in some are very long, while others have high dorsal and
caudal crests, an expansile gular pouch, or other adornments. Like the
Varans among the _Leptoglossa_ (p. 114), these Lizards do not renew the
tail, or a portion of it, after mutilation. There are two great families
of them--one peculiar to the Old World with Australia, the other to the
New World; but as families they do not differ much, and might very well
be retained as divisions of the same extensive family.

In the family of _Iguanidæ_, all of which inhabit America or its
islands, the teeth are round at the root, dilated and compressed at the
tip, and toothed at the edge; they are placed in a simple series on the
inner side of the jaws, just below the edge, and are covered on the
inner side by the gums; as they fall out they are replaced by others,
which grow at the base of their predecessors, and gradually cause the
absorption of their roots. Probably not fewer than a hundred and fifty
species are now recognised, which are distributed under more than fifty
genera. We can only notice a few of the most remarkable of these
Lizards, some of the larger of which attain a length of five or six
feet, with proportionate bulk of body. As a general rule, the larger
species are mainly herbivorous, while the smaller are chiefly
insectivorous, though many of the latter also devour fruit. As most of
them are remarkable for their rapid changes of colouring, the name of
Chameleon is often misapplied to them, in the supposition that the
Chameleons are the only Lizards in which that curious phenomenon is
observable. In one remarkable species, the _Sphærops anomalus_,
inhabiting Brazil, it is stated that the eye nearly resembles that of
the true Chameleons, and it is also one of those which are particularly
celebrated for its changes of hue.]

[Illustration: Fig. 28.--Iguana tuberculata.]

The name _Iguana_ was given by Laurenti to a heterogeneous group of
Saurians, various forms being included which were first separated by
Daudin. The Iguanas, as thus restricted, are characterized by a very
large thin dew-lap under the neck, a double row of small palatal teeth,
and a crest on the back and tail; the latter long, slender, compressed,
and covered with small imbricated and carinated scales. Messrs. Duméril
and Bibron describe the genus, thus modified, as principally remarkable
for the cutaneous prolongation which constitutes the deep and thin
dew-lap, or pouch, the free border of which describes a curved line, and
is dentated at the part nearest the chin. The head is moderately long,
and has the form of a pyramid with four faces. The neck is slightly
compressed, the limbs long, the toes unequal and sometimes denticulate
on the edge. The five toes of the posterior feet are graduated; the
tail, which is long and slender, is slightly flattened from right to
left. The Iguanas live chiefly on trees, but they take readily to the
water, swimming with great facility.

There are numerous species, all of which are found in South America and
the Antilles. In the Island of Isabella, Sir E. Belcher found swarms of
them which he had reason to consider omnivorous, feeding voraciously on
birds' eggs and the intestines of birds and insects.

The Common Iguana, _I. tuberculata_, which inhabits a great part of
South America, is one of the best known species of this family. These
reptiles are easily recognised from the large pouch underneath the neck,
and the dentated crest which extends from the head to the extremity of
the tail. The tail, feet, and body are covered with small scales. On the
upper part, their colour is a more or less decided green, sometimes
becoming blue, at others slate-coloured; the lower part is of a
yellowish green. The sides present zigzag, roundish, brown scales, edged
with yellow; frequently a yellow line is traced obliquely in front of
the shoulder, and some individuals are sprinkled with brown; others have
the limbs spotted with brown on a black ground. The tail is surrounded
with brownish rays alternating with others green and yellow. When full
grown it attains the length of four feet, but the more ordinary length
of the animals is about thirty inches. They are very gentle creatures,
and perfectly harmless, feeding almost exclusively on vegetables. They
are hunted in America for their flesh, which is excellent; and they are
especially common at Surinam, in the neighbourhood of Cayenne, and in

[Of a kindred species, _Metopoceros cornutus_, which also is common in
the Antilles, an excellent description has been published by Lieutenant
Tyler,[22] which we must endeavour to condense. This reptile attains a
length of five, and sometimes even of six feet, the tail being about
twice and three quarters the length of the body. When first hatched it
measures four inches. The mouth is large, and is armed with two rows of
maxillary and two of palatal teeth, which appear simply to be intended
to crop leaves and to provide the stomach with vegetable food. Each
maxillary tooth is a little double-edged saw, and they are so lapped
over each other that the reptile, in closing its mouth upon a leaf,
cuts through it completely. The tongue is curiously used by the animal
to draw food into the mouth, and to forward it down the gullet, or to
repel it at will, and the only use of the palatal teeth appears to be to
secure the food while the tongue moves forward to afford fresh
assistance in its journey down the throat. The tongue is always covered
by a glutinous secretion, which is perceptibly appended to the jaws when
the mouth is open. Between the lower jaw and the chest is a pouch, which
the animal draws in or extends simultaneously with the compression or
swelling out of the body when enraged or excited. The portion of the
gular pouch attached to the jaw is inflatable, and food is sometimes
retained in it for a considerable period, but the lower part is merely

    [22] "Proceedings of the Zoological Society" for 1850, p. 106.

"Whilst always retaining the same colours, this Iguana has the power of
considerably changing its hues; but these changes are gradually
performed. The colours become more dull as the period of the change of
cuticle approaches--which is not, however, very frequent. Each scale has
its own tint, and the colours being thus irregularly blended, an
appearance is given, particularly to the younger reptiles, very much
like that of worsted-work.

"These Iguanas live principally on trees, and near the windward coast of
the island" (of St. Lucia). "They are not much seen, excepting in the
months of February, March, and April, when they quit their
hiding-places, and repair to the sea-shore or other sandy places to lay
their eggs in the sand. The older females lay a great number of eggs. I
have known an instance of one in confinement laying five in one day, and
thirty-two within the space of ten minutes five days afterwards, making
thirty-seven in all. Younger females are much less prolific, according
to their size. The eggs are very liable to destruction by Ants, which
fact probably accounts for their being usually deposited in sea-sand.
They are soft, and without any white, and their shell resembles the most
beautiful kid leather used for French gloves, of a very light
straw-colour. They are about the size of those of a domestic Pigeon, but
rather longer; but they vary in dimensions according to the age and size
of the Iguana.

"This Iguana is not averse to water, when not too cold, taking to it
only when the sun is shining; in fact, not moving about much at any
other time. Its mode of swimming differs from that of other Lizards,
inasmuch as it places its four legs close by the side of its body, and
swims entirely with its tail. It dives with great facility, and remains
sometimes for a considerable time under water. I believe that it never
ventures into the sea. The tail is a very valuable limb; for, besides
being the sole means of swimming possessed by the animal, it is of great
use in climbing trees, although not prehensile; and it is a most
important weapon of defence, a blow from it being frequently sufficient
to inflict a severe wound. In fact, this reptile is rather formidable
when brought to bay in the woods. It is hunted by the natives with Dogs
trained for the purpose. The Dog, immediately upon scenting it, gives
tongue, and, if on the ground, the Dog seizes it by the back, and either
kills it or maims it, which makes its capture easy; if in a tree, the
Iguana is either shaken down--a matter ordinarily of no small
difficulty--or the branch is cut off. It is almost useless to attempt to
find these reptiles without Dogs, as the resemblance of their colour to
that of the trees which they inhabit prevents them from being easily
seen. Few Dogs but those accustomed to the sport will touch them, as, in
addition to the blows which they inflict with the tail, they bite and
scratch furiously; and when once they lay hold of anything with their
teeth, they can only be made to let go by an inducement to bite some
other attractive object being offered to them. They run into holes when
chased, if an opportunity offers, and when their eyes are hidden from
view, they fancy that their whole body is safely covered. The flesh,
particularly of the female, is a great delicacy; it is cooked in various
ways, sometimes in a fricassee, with the eggs whole, sometimes roasted
or stewed. The eggs have a very glutinous consistence. The flesh is said
to disagree with some constitutions.

"Unless when caught young, it is very difficult to induce these reptiles
to feed in confinement, and particularly when watched. Their disposition
is sulky and savage, and I have known some of them," continues
Lieutenant Tyler, "to die in confinement from starvation, rather than
feed. This has caused me to try the following plan, which I find very
successful, of affording them nourishment:--I hold them by the lower
part of the body with one hand, and with the other I irritate them until
they open their mouth and attempt to bite, when I insert food; and by
annoying them in this way, I have not only made them eat their natural
food, but I have killed some of them by forcing them to eat corn and
leaves, which appear to have disagreed with them. By some of the natives
this Iguana is said to eat Lizards and insects; but I have opened
several, and I have never succeeded in finding any but vegetable matter
in the stomach."

Of the habits of a kindred species of Iguana, the _Cyclura lophura_,
inhabiting Jamaica, Mr. Gosse has given an elaborate description; and he
tells us that the gular pouch in the _Iguanidæ_ "is _extensible_, but
not _inflatable_," as is the current opinion. Holbrook and others have
remarked the same; and Professor Thomas Bell describes the fold of skin
as being drawn down by a peculiar arrangement of the lingual bone, and a
singular cartilage fixed to it and attached also to the skin. These
parts are moved by delicate muscles, so that, when the cartilage is
drawn down, the skin of course is distended, and follows it "in the same
way that the silk is stretched over the whalebone of an umbrella." "In
fact the skin," writes Professor Holbrook, "when distended in life by
the animal, does not resemble the inflated vocal sacs of the Frogs and
Toads, which are round, but looks like a fold of the skin, pinched and
drawn down, the two portions of it being in contact, like a dew-lap." It
appears that the _Cyclura_, also, is exclusively herbivorous; and Mr.
Gosse remarks upon the severe wounds which it inflicts upon Dogs with
its sharply-serrated tail. In general, the larger species of this family
are solely vegetable-feeders, while the smaller kinds (such as the
Anoles) are more or less insectivorous; and there are some, of
intermediate size, which even prey occasionally upon the kindred Anoles
and other small animals. The genera of these reptiles are exceedingly
numerous, as we have seen, and amongst so many there must be
considerable variety in the habits; but we can only notice a very few of
them. Within the limited area of the small archipelago of the
Galapagos, situated on the equator about ten degrees west of South
America, there are two remarkable species of _Iguanidæ_, of which the
habits have been described and commented upon by Mr. Darwin in his
volume of the "Voyage of H.M.S. _Beagle_." One of them is particularly
so, because, as that naturalist observes, it is the only existing
Saurian which can properly be said to be a maritime animal. In the whole
of that group of islands, as he tells us, there is only one rill of
fresh water that reaches the coast; yet this reptile frequents the
sea-beaches, and no other parts of the islands. He adds that it is the
only known existing Lizard that feeds exclusively on aquatic
productions. Although he refers both species to the genus
_Amblyrhynchus_, the aquatic sort now constitutes the genus
_Oreocephalus_ of Dr. Gray, and it bears the name of _O. cristatus_.
This Lizard, according to Mr. Darwin, "is extremely common on all the
islands throughout the archipelago of the Galapagos. It lives
exclusively on the rocky sea-beaches, and is never found--at least, I
never saw one--even ten yards inshore. It is a hideous-looking creature,
of a dirty black colour, stupid and sluggish in its movements. The usual
length of a full-grown one is about a yard, but there are some even four
feet long. I have seen a large one which weighed twenty pounds. On the
island of Albemarle they seem to grow to a greater size than on any
other. These Lizards were occasionally seen some hundred yards from the
shore swimming about; and Captain Colnett, in his 'Voyage,' says, 'they
go out to sea in shoals to fish.' With respect to the object, I believe
that he is mistaken; but the fact stated on so good an authority cannot
be doubted. When in the water the animal swims with perfect ease and
quickness, by a serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail--the
legs, during this time, being motionless and closely collapsed on its
sides. A seaman on board sank one, with a heavy weight attached to it,
thinking thus to kill it directly; but when an hour afterwards he drew
up the line, the Lizard was quite active. Their limbs and strong claws
are admirably adapted for crawling over the rugged and fissured masses
of lava which everywhere there form the coast. In such situations, a
group of six or seven of these ugly reptiles may oftentimes be seen on
the black rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the sun with
outstretched legs. I opened the stomachs of several," continues Mr.
Darwin, "and in each case found it largely distended with minced
sea-weed of that kind which grows in thin foliaceous expansions of a
bright green or dull red colour. I do not recollect having observed
this sea-weed in any quantity on the tidal rocks; and I have reason to
believe that it grows at the bottom of the sea, at some little distance
from the coast. If such is the case, the object of these animals
occasionally going out to sea is explained. The stomach contained
nothing but the sea-weed. Mr. Bynoe, however, found a piece of a Crab in
one; but this might have got in accidentally. The intestines were large,
as in other herbivorous animals."

The food of this Lizard, equally with its compressed form of tail, and
the certain fact of its having been seen voluntarily swimming out at
sea, absolutely prove its aquatic habits; nevertheless, as we are told
by Mr. Darwin, "there is in this respect one strange anomaly, namely,
that when frightened it will not enter the water. From this cause, it is
easy to drive these Lizards down to any little point overhanging the
sea, where they will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their tail
than jump into the water. They do not seem to have any notion of biting;
but when much frightened they squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril.
One day I carried one to a deep pool left by the retiring tide, and
threw it in several times as far as I was able. It invariably returned
in a direct line to the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom,
with a very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally aided itself
over the uneven ground with its feet. As soon as it arrived near the
margin, but still being under water, it either tried to conceal itself
in the tufts of sea-weed, or it entered some crevice. When it thought
the danger was passed, it crawled out on the dry rocks, and shuffled
away as quickly as it could. I several times caught this same Lizard by
driving it down to a point, and though possessed of such perfect powers
of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to enter the water; and
as often as I threw it in, it returned in the manner above described.
Perhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for
by the circumstance that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore,
whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous Sharks. Hence,
probably urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore is its
place of safety, whatever the emergency may be, it there takes refuge. I
asked several of the inhabitants if they knew where it laid its eggs:
they said, that although well acquainted with the eggs of the other
kind, they had not the least knowledge of the manner in which this
species is propagated--a fact, considering how common an animal this
Lizard is, not a little extraordinary. During our visit (in October) I
saw extremely few small individuals of this species, and none I should
think under a year old. From this circumstance it seems probable that
the breeding season had not commenced."

The terrene species, _Amblycephalus subcristatus_, unlike the aquatic
one, is confined to the central islands of the Galapagos archipelago,
where they inhabit both the higher and damp, as well as the lower and
sterile parts; but in the latter they are much more numerous. "I cannot
give a more forcible proof of their numbers," relates Mr. Darwin, "than
by stating that, when we were left at James Island, we could not for
some time find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our
tent. These Lizards, like their brothers of the sea-kind, are ugly
animals; and, from their low facial angle, have a singularly stupid
appearance. In size, perhaps, they are a little inferior to the latter,
but several of them weighed between ten and fifteen pounds each. The
colour of their belly, front legs, and head (excepting the crown, which
is nearly white) is a dirty yellowish orange; the back is of a brownish
red, which, in the younger specimens, is darker. In their movements they
are lazy and half-torpid. When not frightened, they slowly crawl along,
with their tails and bellies dragging on the ground. They often stop and
doze for a moment, with closed eyes, and hind legs spread out on the
parched soil. These Lizards inhabit burrows; which they sometimes
excavate between fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches
of soft volcanic sandstone. The holes do not appear to be very deep, and
they enter the ground at a small angle; so that when walking over one of
these Lizard _warrens_, the soil is constantly giving way, much to the
annoyance of the tired pedestrian. This animal, when excavating its
burrows, alternately works the opposite sides of its body. One front leg
for a short times scratches up the soil, and throws it towards the hind
foot, which is well placed so as to heave it beyond the mouth of the
hole. This side of the body being tired, the other takes up the task,
and so alternately. I watched one for a long time," continues Mr.
Darwin, "till half of its body was buried; I then walked up and pulled
it by the tail; at this it was greatly astonished, and soon shuffled up
to see what was the matter; and then stared me in the face, as much as
to say, 'What made you pull my tail?' They feed by day, and do not
wander far from their burrows; and, if frightened, they rush to them
with a most awkward gait. Except when running downhill, they cannot move
very fast; which appears chiefly owing to the lateral position of their
legs. They are not at all timorous; when attentively watching any one,
they curl up their tails, and raising themselves on their front legs,
nod their head vertically, with a quick movement, and try to look very
fierce, but in reality they are not at all so; if one just stamps the
ground, down go their tails, and off they shuffle as quickly as they
can. I have several times observed small fly-eating Lizards, when
watching anything, nod their heads in precisely the same manner; but I
do not at all know for what purpose. If the _Amblyrhynchus_ is held, and
plagued with a stick, it will bite it very severely; but I caught many
by the tail, and they never tried to bite me. If two are placed on the
ground, and held together, they will fight and bite each other till
blood is drawn. Those individuals (and they are the greater number)
which inhabit the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water
throughout the year; but they consume much of the succulent cactus, the
branches of which are occasionally broken off by the wind. I have
sometimes thrown a piece to two or three when together; and it was
amusing enough to see each trying to seize and carry it away in its
mouth, like so many hungry Dogs with a bone. They eat very deliberately,
but do not chew their food. The little birds are aware how harmless
these creatures are: I have seen one of the thick-billed Finches
(peculiar to the Galapagos) picking at one end of a piece of
cactus--which is in request among all the animals of the lower
region--whilst a Lizard was eating at the other; and afterwards the
little bird, with the utmost indifference, hopped on the back of the
reptile. The stomachs of several that I opened were full of vegetable
fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of a species of
_Acacia_. In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid and
astringent berries of the guayavita, under which trees I have seen
these Lizards and the huge Tortoises feeding together. To obtain the
acacia leaves, they crawl up the low, stunted trees; and it is not
uncommon to see one, or a pair, quietly browsing, whilst seated on a
branch several feet from the ground.

"The meat of these animals, when cooked, is white; and by those whose
stomachs rise above all prejudices, it is relished as very good food.
Humboldt has remarked, that in intertropical South America, all Lizards
which inhabit _dry_ regions are esteemed as delicacies for the table.
The inhabitants of the Galapagos say, that those inhabiting the damp
region drink water, but that the others do not travel up for it from the
sterile country, like the gigantic Land Tortoises. At the time of our
visit, the females had within their bodies numerous large elongated
eggs. These they lay in their burrows, and the inhabitants seek them for

These two curious Lizards of the Galapagos agree nearly in general
structure, and in many of their habits; and neither of them has that
rapidity of movement which is characteristic of various other
_Iguanidæ_. The form of the head resembles a good deal that of a land
Tortoise, and we find the same form of head, and again the same
disinclination to bite, in certain herbivorous Lizards, such as the
_Uromastyx_ and kindred forms, which are referred by Dr. Gray to the
corresponding Old World family of _Agamidæ_.]

In the family of Iguanas the Basilisk may be noted. According to
ancient authors, reproduced by writers of the middle ages, the
Basilisk, although such a small animal, could produce instant death
by its sting. The man whose eyes met theirs was supposed to be at
once devoured by an intense fire. Such are the fabulous ideas which
tradition has transmitted to us about these animals. It is to be
remarked, however, that the Basilisk of modern herpetology is not
the +basiliskos+, or Royal Serpent, of the ancients, the Cockatrice
of Scripture. The reptile which now bears the name is an inoffensive
animal, living in the forests of Guiana, Martinique, and Mexico, and
leaping from branch to branch, in order to gather the seeds or seize
the insects on which it feeds.

The Basilisk is distinguished from the other Iguanian Lizards by the
absence of the long and dilatable skin under the throat, and by the
presence of an elevated crest which runs along the whole length of the
back and tail.

[Illustration: Fig. 29.--Hooded Basilisk.]

The Hooded Basilisk, _B. americanus_ (Fig. 29), measures seven or eight
inches from the nose to origin of the tail, which is itself nearly three
times as long, being nineteen or twenty inches in length. Upon the
occiput it has a sort of horn or bag, in shape like a hood, round at the
summit, and slightly inclined towards the neck. This bag, when
distended, is about the size of a pullet's egg. In the male the back and
tail are surmounted by a raised crest, such as we have described above,
sustained in its thickness by the knotty process of the vertebræ. The
general colour is a mixture of sandy brown, slightly marbled on the back
and sides, with shades of blue on the upper part, and a silvery white
underneath. On the throat are larger bands of brown, and on each side of
the eye is a white ray bordered with black, which is lost upon the back;
and the tail is so remarkably attenuated towards its extremity as to
show the articulations of the vertebræ beneath.

[According to Mr. O. Salvin, the Basilisk is very common about Lanquin,
in the province of Guatemala, where it may frequently be seen on the low
branches of a bush, and it is particularly fond of basking on the boughs
of a felled tree in a clearing near a stream. In some specimens of the
males, we are informed, the tail is much more compressed than in others.
In a series of the young the crest is shown in all stages of
development. We also learn from this naturalist that, notwithstanding
the compressed form of its tail, the Basilisk does not habitually enter
the water, as most writers have supposed.

The sub-family of Anoles (_Anoliinæ_) have mostly the skin of their toes
widened (under the ante-penultimate phalanx) into an oval disk, striated
crosswise underneath, which enables them to attach themselves to various
surfaces. They do not attain the large size of the Iguanas, and the
habits and characteristics of the various species inhabiting Jamaica are
thus vividly described by Mr. P. H. Gosse in his "Naturalist's Sojourn"
in that beautiful island. "The stranger," he remarks, "walks into the
dwelling-house. Lizards, still Lizards, meet his eyes. The little Anoles
(_A. iodurus_, _A. opalinus_, &c.) are chasing each other in and out
between the _jalousies_, now stopping to protrude from the throat a
broad disk of brilliant colour, crimson or orange, like the petal of a
flower, then withdrawing it, and again displaying it in coquettish
sport. Then one leaps a yard or two through the air and alights on the
back of his playfellow; and both struggle and twist about in
unimaginable contortions. Another is running up and down on the
plastered wall, catching the Ants as they roam in black lines over its
whitened surface; and another leaps from the top of some piece of
furniture upon the back of the visitor's chair, and scampers nimbly
along the collar of his coat. It jumps on the table;--can it be the
same? An instant ago it was of the most beautiful golden green, except
the base of the tail, which was of a soft, light, purple hue; now, as if
changed by an enchanter's wand, it is of a dull sooty brown all over,
and becomes momentarily darker and darker, or mottled with dark and pale
patches of a most unpleasing aspect. Presently, however, the mental
emotion, whatever it was--anger, or fear, or dislike--has passed away,
and the lovely green hue sparkles in the glancing sunlight as before."

The green colour of certain of these Anoles so closely resembles that of
foliage, that they are apt to be overlooked. Thus Mr. Gosse was about to
throw a net over a Butterfly, when, as he remarks, "on a slight rustle
among the leaves, I observed that it was fluttering as if unable to get
away. My impression was that an invisible Spider's-web was holding it;
but, looking closer, I found that a little green Anolis had the
Butterfly in its mouth. Its colour was so exactly that of the verdant
leaves of the bush, that I had not perceived it before, although my eyes
were fixed on the spot. I have also observed the same species feeding on
Ants. On a gateway a number of scattered Ants of a small kind were
running to and fro, as they very frequently are seen to do. A beautiful
male Anolis had stationed himself on the post perpendicularly, with the
head downwards, and as the Ants one by one came near him he snapped them
up. Each capture was the work of an instant; he touched the post with
his muzzle, and the Ant was gone: they were evidently seized with the
lips, not with the tongue. These little creatures are as playful as they
are pretty. As they creep about they often catch sight of another of the
same species; immediately one suddenly raises and depresses the head and
fore-parts, flirts the tail from side to side, and extends the goitre by
means of the elastic arched bone in front, till its tip reaches nearly
as far as the muzzle. The brilliant goitre is thus alternately extended
and relaxed several times. After being thus 'signalized' for a few
seconds, one darts towards the other, who usually runs away, apparently
as if wishing to be caught." Elsewhere Mr. Gosse describes the noosing
of an example of a fine Lizard of this Anolis group, the _Dactylæ
Edwardsii_, which is also a native of Jamaica, "about a foot long, and
of a lively green colour. He was very savage, biting at everything near:
presently his colour began to change from green to blackish, till it was
of an uniform bluish black, with darker bands on the body, and a
brownish black on the tail; the only trace of green was just around the
eyes." He was placed in a cage, and "at night," continues Mr. Gosse, "I
observed him vividly green as at first--a token, as I presumed, that he
had in some measure recovered his equanimity. The next day he continued
very fierce. I hung the cage out in the sun; two or three times in the
course of the day I observed him green, but for the most part he was
black. The changes were rather quickly accomplished. The food of this
Lizard appears to include both vegetable and animal substances. I was
never able to induce one to eat in captivity; but the dissection of
several has given me this result. Thus in one I have found seeds and
farinaceous substance; in another the fragments of a brilliant beetle of
the weevil group. I once observed one deliberately eat the ripe
glass-berries, munching half of one at a mouthful."[23]

    [23] "A Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica," by P. H. Gosse.

Thus far we have treated of chiefly arboreal _Iguanidæ_; and although a
Marine Lizard (_Trachycephalus cristatus_) cannot well be so designated,
it nevertheless belongs to the same particular series. We have next a
long series of mainly terrene genera of the same great American family,
in which the body is subtrigonal or depressed. As many as twenty-two
genera, with sixty-one species of the terrene _Iguanidæ_, were
catalogued by Dr. Gray in 1845, and a good many have since been added.
There is a corresponding series in the kindred Old World family of
_Agancidæ_, and in neither instance are the majority of them
ground-frequenting Lizards to any great extent. Thus, of Dr. Gray's
first genus _Tropidolipis_ (so named from its large keeled scales), and
of which as many as nine species are given from Mexico, a tenth (_T.
undulatus_, of the United States) is described by Professor Holbrook to
inhabit chiefly the pine-forests, where it is often found under the bark
of decaying trees; it also commonly chooses old fences for its
basking-place. "It is exceedingly rapid in its motions, climbing with
great facility to the tops of trees, and is hence not taken alive
without great trouble. Its food consists of insects, especially such as
are found under decaying wood." The colouring of this Lizard is
remarkably brown, with narrow zigzag black bands above, and green
below, with a white medium stripe bordered with black; throat and breast
black, with a broad green band across. Various species of kindred genera
were collected by Mr. Darwin, and are figured in the "Zoology of H.M.S.
_Beagle_," and of one of these (probably _Lecolænus Darwinii_), which he
observed at Bahia Blanca, in Northern Patagonia, he remarks that "it
lives on the bare sand near the sea-coast, and from its mottled colour,
the brownish scales being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty
blue, can hardly be distinguished from the surrounding surface. When
frightened it attempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with
outstretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further molested,
it buries itself with great quickness in the loose sand. This Lizard,
from its flattened body and short legs, cannot run quickly." With others
these Lizards constitute the sub-family _Tropidolepinæ_ of Dr. Gray,
which are followed by the sub-family _Phrynosominæ_, in which some very
singular Lizards find their place. The most extraordinary of them
constitute the genus _Phrynosoma_, four species of which inhabit Western
North America. These have great spines to the occiput, in these respects
resembling the African genus _Cordylus_ (p. 107), and very Toad-like
proportions, looking somewhat like Toads with short tails; and again
they decidedly approximate in appearance to the curious _Moloch
horridus_ of Western Australia, which belongs to the corresponding Old
World family of _Agancidæ_; and, like that strange reptile, they are
slow of motion, and perfectly harmless, and they may be handled with
impunity, as they never attempt to bite.]


[Illustration: Fig. 30.--Flying Lizard (_Draco volans_).]

Flying Lizards (_Draco_) have the head small, the nostrils in a scale,
tubular, on the side ridge; tympanum white and opaque. They live on
trees, walking with agility with their wings folded by their sides.
These wings they expand and use as a parachute when they throw
themselves upon their prey from the tops of trees or other elevated
places. But they cannot move them as birds do their wings. These
remarkable appendages also serve to drive away insects.

[The fabulous Dragons of the ancient Greeks were Serpents or Lizards
with remarkably piercing sight, which guarded treasures and devoured
men. The Dragons of mediæval artists were frightful and fantastic
beings, one half Bat and the other half quadruped or Serpent. The little
Saurians which now bear the once dreaded name are no less interesting,
although they are no longer monsters; they are distinguished from all
other reptiles by a kind of wing, which is a large fold of skin, or
membrane, on each side of the body. These wings are entirely independent
of the other members, being sustained by six false ribs, which do not
surround the abdomen, but rather extend horizontally. They are the only
existing examples of our day of that organic arrangement which
distinguished the reptiles known under the name of _Pterodactyli_, and
which belonged to the jurassique period of geology.

Dr. Gray divides the Draconina into three genera, namely:--

I. _Dracos_, having the ears naked, nostrils below the fore ridge, of
which three species are described--viz., _D. volans_, the Flying Lizard
(Fig. 30), having the scales of the back broad, generally smooth, those
of the throat granular; wings grey, fulvous, or brown, spotted and
marbled with black, sometimes forming four or five oblique black bands
near the outer edge; the sides with a series of large keeled scales: the
Timor Flying Lizard, _D. viridis Timorensis_ of Schlegel; and the
Fringed Flying Lizard, _D. fimbriatus_, keeled.

II. _Draconella_, of which there are two species, one _D. Dussumieri_,
having the nape crested; and _D. hæmatopogon_, the Red-throated Dragon,
without crest on the nape.

III. _Dracunculus_, of which five species are described--namely, _D.
quinquefasciatus_, the Banded Flying Lizard, nape not crested, having a
longitudinal fold; _D. lineatus_, having the nape crested, the ears
slightly concave; _D. ornatus_, wings grey, reticulated with black, and
having broad black bands at the edge; the Spotted Winged Dragon, _D.
maculatus_, grey, and the wings black spotted; and _D. spilopterus_,
having the wing reddish near the body.]


This singular family of Saurians have the head wide and flattened, the
mouth wide, the nostrils distant and lateral, the eyes large, with short
lids; the tongue short, fleshy, and capable of slight elongation. The
body is thick and short, low on the legs, rather squat and depressed,
with a belly trailing on the ground; back without crest. The skin is
defended by granular scales, interlaced with others of a tubercular
character; they are almost always of a sombre colour. Their feet are
short, wide apart, and robust; they are furnished on the upper part with
imbricated laminæ, which enable them to adhere firmly to the surface of
even the smoothest bodies, and to run with rapidity in all directions on
a plain surface, and even to remain stationary with the back downwards,
like the common house Fly. More generally, however, their hooked and
retractile claws, like those of cats, assist them in climbing, crawling
up trees, rocks, and even perpendicular walls, and to remain there
immovable for several hours. Their flexible bodies mould themselves into
the depressions of the surface of the earth, in which they become
scarcely visible, their natural colour blending, and being confounded
with, the colour of the soil. Their eye-balls, which dilate and contract
considerably, protect them from the action of the sun's rays, and enable
them, it is thought, to see in the dark. They are nocturnal, avoid the
sun's rays, and catch their food in the chinks of rocks. Their movements
are rapid, silent, and sudden. They hibernate, and are provided with
fatty masses in the groin which are supposed to be a provision for their
nourishment during that period. Geckos emit sounds which resemble the
noise an equestrian makes when he would encourage his horse--smacking
their tongues on the palate to produce the sound. They seek habitations
in which they can find food, and are timid, inoffensive, and quite
incapable of inflicting injury either by their bite or claws; but their
repulsive appearance makes them objects of general repugnance, and has
caused evil properties to be attributed to them. Thus people try to
destroy them by every possible means. There are about sixteen known
species of Geckos distributed in all quarters of the globe, but chiefly
in warm countries.

[Illustration: Fig. 31.--Platydactylus homalocephalus.]

[The _Geckotidæ_ are divided into many genera, according to the
construction of the toes. Duméril refers to the comparative shortness
and general structure of the feet and conformation of the toes, which
he describes and figures in detail. The lower surface and the sole he
states are very dilatable, and furnished with small plates or lamellæ,
following or overlying each other in a mode which varies in the
different species. The nails are sometimes wanting on all the toes, but
more frequently hooked, and more or less retractile; the toes sometimes
united at the base, and in _Platydactylus_ the extremity of the toe
expands into a fan shape, as in the Tree Frogs. The membranous and soft
plates of the lower surface of the toes have various modifications in
different genera, which have been made the basis of their arrangement.
The Wall Gecko is supposed by Gesner to be the Lizard spoken of by
Aristophanes and Theophrastus, and the Tarentula of the Italians: and
there is little doubt that it was the +Aakalabônme+ of Aristotle and
the ancient Greeks; it clambered about their walls catching spiders,
on which it fed. Schneider has shown it was the _Stellio_ of Pliny.
Linnæus mentions three species, which he places with his great genus
_Lacerta_. Modern herpetologists, following Cuvier and Duméril, class
them according to the structure under the several genera _Ascalabotes_,
_Platydactylus, Hemidactylus_, _Ptyodactylus_, _Thecadactylus_,
_Stenodactylus_, and _Gymnodactylus_.]

The Wall Gecko (_P. homalocephalus_), Fig. 31, is of an ashy grey
colour, as if powdered on the upper part of the body. It is white
underneath, and inhabits the islands of the Mediterranean, as well as
the countries which form the basin of that sea, such as Italy, France,
Spain, and Africa. They are generally found in old walls; they are,
however, sometimes seen running on those of modern habitations. They
feed on all sorts of insects, particularly on the dipterous insects and


The genus _Chameleo_, of which ten species are described in the British
Museum Catalogue, are natives of Africa and Asia and naturalised in
Southern Europe. They live on trees, clinging to the branches by their
feet and prehensile tails; they move slowly and with great caution,
feeding upon insects, which they catch with singular dexterity by the
rapid elongation of their tongue, which is viscid at the tip.

Certain groundless metaphors, deeply rooted in the popular mind, have
singularly distorted the truth in respect to these reptiles. It is
commonly believed that the Chameleon often changes its shape, that it
has no fixed colour belonging to itself, but takes that of all objects
which it approaches. This singular idea has descended from very ancient
times. According to the reports of Theophrastus and Plutarch, the
Chameleon takes all colours in turn but white; according to Aristotle it
changes colour all over the body; but Ælian seems to have had views more
in accordance with those of modern observers, for he says when it takes
other colours than grey and disguises itself, it covers only certain
parts of the body with them. Altogether the ancients made the Chameleon
a very fantastic animal; hence in the familiar comparisons of literature
these fabulous beings serve as a type to designate uncertain principles;
to paint fawning men, who have neither character nor individuality of
their own, but who bend themselves to the will and adopt the opinions of
others. Putting aside the imaginary attributes accorded to the Chameleon
by the fancies of the ancients, and painting them such as they are, we
still see in them animals most worthy of observation and highly
interesting to the naturalist, as well for the singular formation of
different parts of their bodies as for their remarkable habits, and even
for peculiarities which have given some sanction to the errors and
prejudices to which we have alluded.

Chameleons have compressed bodies; the back round and projecting, or
rather pyramidal; the skin granulated; the head angular, with salient
occiput resting on a short and thick neck; their legs are slender; the
hind, as well as the fore toes are five; the tail prehensile and round.
The eyes are very large and protruding, their globes covered by a single
shagreen-like eyelid, which the animal can dilate or contract at will,
but which leaves little liberty to a small hole pierced at the centre,
through which a quick and rather brilliant eye-ball is perceived. The
eyes, in the Chameleon, are thus completely enveloped, as if they were
too delicate to sustain any glaring light; but this is not all--their
eyes have a singular mobility. By certain special muscular arrangements
they have the power to direct them on objects either together or
separate. Sometimes they turn their eyes in such a manner that one eye
looks back and the other forward. With one eye they can see objects
above them, while with the other they can see those situated below. It
is a common saying in France, applied to the Chameleon, "that it could
look into Champagne and see Picardy in flames."

The vermiform and retractile tongue is also a most singular organ. It is
cylindrical, about six inches long, terminating in a fleshy, dilatable,
and somewhat tubular tip, which is covered with a glutinous secretion,
by the aid of which it seizes its insect food, and draws it towards its
mouth. The feet have five very long and almost equal strong and hooked
claws, but the skin of the legs extends to the end of these toes, and
unites them in a very peculiar manner. Not only is this skin attached to
each of the toes, but it envelops them, and forms, as it were, two
bundles,--the one of three fingers, and the other of two. From this
structure one can anticipate the extreme difference which exists between
the habits of Chameleons and those of Lizards. These two bundles of long
toes are placed in such a manner as to enable them to seize the branches
easily on which they love to perch; they can grasp these branches by
holding on with one bundle of fingers before, and the other behind, in
the same manner as Woodpeckers, Cuckoos, and Parrots. Chameleons are
better able to preserve their equilibrium upon trees than upon the
ground; consequently they are more often seen in those ærial domiciles.
Besides, their long and strong prehensile tail serves them as a fifth
limb. They swing themselves about like monkeys, grasping the small
branches, and thus saving themselves from falling. Moreover, they are
cautious, moving at all times very slowly when going from one branch to
another. Walking becomes much more difficult for them when they rest
upon a level surface--groping their way as they advance, placing their
feet upon the earth, one after the other, with the greatest
circumspection. They also steady themselves on the ground by the aid of
their tail. In their walk they display a certain gravity which contrasts
with their diminutive size and the agility which might be expected from
them. Even when perched upon a tree their movements exhibit a slowness
and deliberation that one would be inclined to say was affected. It is
true that the arrangement of their eyes, and the rapid movements of
their tongue, render personal activity superfluous in their search for
food. They can see their prey and their enemies from a great distance,
and in all directions. The latter they readily avoid. As to their prey,
when about to seize it, the Chameleon rolls round its extraordinary
eye-balls so as to bring them to bear on the devoted object. As soon as
it arrives within range of the tongue, that organ is projected with
unerring precision, returning into the mouth with the prey adhering to
the viscous tip. This tongue they can extend to a length sometimes
surpassing that of their body. The skin of the Chameleon does not adhere
to the muscles everywhere; some spaces are left free, into which the air
penetrates, causing the skin to heave and swell; this mechanism is
voluntary, the animal having the power of inflating or relaxing it at
pleasure. When this great living bladder is emptied, the animal may be
said to resemble a bag of gold-beaters' skin filled with bones.
Chameleons exhibit great variation in their colours; that is to say,
they may be almost white, sometimes yellowish, at other times green,
reddish, and even black, either in portions, or all over their bodies.
These changes of colour were for a long time attributed to the greater
or less distention of the vast lungs they possess, and to the
corresponding modifications in the quantity of blood sent to the skin;
but this explanation is now abandoned. According to Mr. Milne Edwards,
the cause of these variations of colour lie in the peculiar structure of
their skin, in which there exists two layers of membranous pigment,
placed the one above the other, but disposed in such a manner as to
appear simultaneously under the cuticle, and at other times so that the
one hides the other. Again, occasionally the cuticle is hidden under the
superficial pigment.

[Sixteen or seventeen species of Chameleon are described in the British
Museum Catalogue.

I. Having an erect fin on the back, the belly crested; which includes
the Fringed Chameleon, _C. cristatus_, a native of Fernando Po.

II. Having the back high, and compressed belly and sides, with a toothed
crest; including the Side-crested Chameleon, _C. laterales_, a native of

III. The back and belly having a toothed crest, the sides simple, the
scales small and equal, muzzle simple; including the Common Chameleon,
_C. vulgaris_, with many synonyms. It is a native of the East Indies, is
the recognised type of the family (Fig. 32), and the one most commonly
brought to England. There are probably two varieties,--one from North
Africa, which is also found in Sicily and the South of Spain; the other,
the East Indian variety--_C. Senegalensis_, the Senegal Chameleon, a
native of West Africa; _C. arpelis_, from Ashantee and Gaboon; _C.
verrucosus_, a native of Bourbon and Madagascar; the Rhinoceros
Chameleon, _C. rhinoceroceratus_, also from Madagascar.

IV. Having a toothed crest on the back, with the belly and sides simple,
the chin and muzzle simple; including _C. tuberculiferus_, a native of
South Africa; _C. cucullatus_, the Hooded Chameleon, a native of
Madagascar; _C. nasutus_, having the chin simple, and the muzzle
compressed, and _C. bifurcus_, having the muzzle in the male
forked--both natives of Madagascar; _C. Tigris_, Seychille Islands;
_C. ventralis_, from South Africa, and _C. pumilus_, from the Cape of
Good Hope.

[Illustration: Fig. 32.--Chameleo vulgaris.]

V. Having back and belly without crest; including _C. Parsonii_, a
native of Madagascar; and _C. Owenii_, the Three-horned Chameleon, from
Fernando Po, and _C. Brookesianus_, an adult species, from S. W.
Brookes's collection.


Have the head large, covered with a thick skin, ears closed with two
valves, gape very wide, tongue short, jaws with a single series of
cone-shaped teeth inserted in sockets; back with a hard disc formed of a
longitudinal series of square keeled plates of hard bony consistence
embedded in the skin; the under surface covered with smooth thin square
plates; legs short, feet webbed, with four to five toes, the three inner
toes of each foot only armed with claws.

They are divided into two groups:--

I. _Crocodilidæ_, having the lower canines fitting into a notch in the
edge of the upper jaw.

II. _Alligatoridæ_, having the canines fitting into a pit in the upper


The Shielded Saurians, as Duméril designates the largest of living
species of that order of reptiles, have the body depressed, elongated,
and protected on the back with a solid carinated shield or buckler; the
tail longer than the trunk, compressed laterally, annulated and crested
above; having four very short feet; the toes of the posterior feet
united, or web-footed, each foot having three claws only; head depressed
and elongated into a muzzle; the gape of the mouth extending back beyond
the skull; tongue fleshy, adherent; teeth conical, simple, hollowed at
the base or towards the root, unequal in length, and in a single row.
Such is a brief summary of the family by Duméril and Bibron.

If the Eagle is the king of the air, the Tiger and the Lion the tyrants
of the forests, and the Whale the monarch of the deep, the Crocodile has
for the exercise of his undisputed control the maritime shores of
tropical seas and the borders of tropical rivers. Living on the confines
of land and water, this formidable reptile is at all times the scourge
of those human beings who are compelled to reside near its haunts. Much
larger than the Tiger, Lion, or Eagle, the Crocodile surpasses all
terrestrial animals, with the exception of the Elephant, Hippopotamus,
and some Serpents, in its power of destruction.

Crocodiles have the head depressed and elongated into a muzzle, in the
front of which the nostrils are seen close to a fleshy tubercule, and
furnished with movable valves. The mouth opens up to the ears; the jaws
are of commensurate length, and are armed, as we have seen, with
conical-pointed teeth, bent back, and disposed in such a manner that
when the mouth is closed they pass one under the other. These teeth are
implanted in a single row, and continually maintained in a good
condition by an organic system which ensures their immediate reparation.
In short, each tooth is hollowed at the base in such a manner as to form
the cell or sheath of another tooth of a larger calibre. The new tooth,
which presses on, exercises a sort of absorption upon the base of the
old hollow tooth, so that the first is developed while the second is
decaying. In some species the front teeth of the lower jaw are so long
and sharp that they perforate the edge of the upper jaw and appear
above the muzzle when the mouth is closed. The lower jaw alone is
movable, and that only in a downward movement. The mouth is without
lips, consequently, whether walking or swimming, the teeth of Crocodiles
are always visible.

This formidable conformation gives to the Crocodile an aspect at once
terrible and alarming, which is increased by two wicked-looking eyes
placed obliquely and close together, surmounted by a kind of eyebrow.
The tail of these animals is very long, as thick as the body at the
junction, and in shape it is flat, like an oar; this enables them to
steer through the water like a fish, and to swim with rapidity. They
have four short legs, of which the hinder have toes, united by a
natatory membrane, and only three claws to each foot. The skin is
coriaceous, thick, and resistant; being also protected by very thick
knots intermingled with plates of different size, according to the parts
of the body they protect. On the skull and face the skin adheres closely
to the bone, and there is no trace of scales.

Nature has provided for the safety of these animals by covering them
with a cuirass, the resistance of which is proof against almost
everything. Thus the scales which defend the back and the upper part of
the tail are square, and form hard transversal bands possessed of great
flexibility, which prevents them from breaking. Down the centre of the
back there is a hard crest, which adds to the strength of their armour.
This cuirass is in many points proof against a bullet from a gun. The
plates which cover the belly, the upper part of the head, neck, tail,
and legs are also arranged in transversal bands, but less hard, and
without crests. It is at these weaker and consequently vulnerable parts
that those inhabitants of the waters which are enemies to Crocodiles
manage to attack them successfully.

The general colour of the Crocodile is a dullish brown, with sometimes a
shade of green along the back; the head and the sides are marked with
green, or at least they have a greenish tint, with blackish spots; the
under part of the legs and belly are of a yellowish grey. All these
shades, however, vary with age and sex, and the nature of the water in
which the animals live.

Crocodiles are oviparous, and their eggs are provided with resistant
shells. These eggs are deposited by the female in some secluded place in
the sand on the banks of the river, and are hatched simply by the
ambient heat, without any assistance from the mother. The female
Crocodiles of the Nile deposit their eggs where the solar heat soon
brings them to maturity. In certain countries, such as the neighbourhood
of Cayenne and Surinam, the eggs are buried under a kind of mound which
the Alligators raise in damp places by gathering together leaves and
herbaceous stems. This vegetable debris undergoes a kind of
fermentation, the result of which is an increase of temperature, which,
joined to that of the atmosphere, produces the desired result.

Lacépède describes an egg in the Museum of Natural History in Paris,
which was laid by a Crocodile fourteen feet in length, which was killed
in Upper Egypt. This egg is only two inches and five lines in its
greatest diameter; in its least diameter it is one inch and eleven
lines. It is oval and whitish. Its shell is cretaceous in substance,
like the eggs of birds, but not so hard. At the time of their birth the
little Crocodiles are only about six inches in length, but their growth
is very rapid. They abound in large rivers in the tropics, and in marshy
places near their banks. They often come on shore, for they are
amphibious. In the night they watch for their prey. They feed
exclusively on flesh--that is to say on fish, small Mammalians, aquatic
birds, and reptiles. When they have seized a large object they drag it
under the water, where it soon dies by asphyxia; there they leave it to
macerate, when they eat it by instalments. In this manner men are
sometimes carried away by Crocodiles, but it is contrary to the habits
of the animal to suppose that they are devoured immediately. When a
Crocodile has succeeded in seizing a negro, it does not devour him till
the body becomes decomposed, when it can tear it to pieces with greater

From the general structure of their bony framework it is difficult for
Crocodiles to turn round or move otherwise than forward. This
circumstance renders it easy to escape their pursuit. When chased by a
Crocodile, it can be avoided by describing a circle, or running in a
succession of curves. Upon the banks of the Lake of Nicaragua, in
America, an Englishman was once pursued by an Alligator which had
surprised him when on its margin. The animal was gaining upon him
rapidly, when some Spaniards who witnessed the scene cried out to him to
run round it. Thus fortunately warned the pursued dodged the Alligator,
and escaped from his dangerous enemy (Fig. 33).

[Illustration: Fig. 33.--The Englishman and the Caiman, or the Circular

[No specimens of the _Crocodilidæ_ have been found in Europe, and until
very recently none had been found in Australia, but they are very common
in the new colony of Queensland, an Alligator twenty feet long having
been shot on the banks of the Mackenzie river, which was afterwards
exhibited at Rockhampton. Crocodiles, properly so called, are found in
Africa, Asia, and America. The Gavials seem to be limited to the Ganges
and other large rivers in India. Besides the Gavial, Asia produces three
other species, namely, _C. vulgaris_, _C. galeatus_, and _C.
bifurcatus_. Of the first, Siam is the chief locality; the others are
found in the rivers which debouch into the Indian Ocean and the Ganges.


Include the _Jacares_, _Alligators_, and _Caimans_.

The _Jacares_ have the head oblong and depressed, with a ridge across
the face in front of the eyes; teeth unequal, canines of the lower jaw
fitting into a pit in the upper jaw; toes only partially webbed, eyelids
fleshy, nostrils separated by a cartilage. Five species are
described--namely, _J. fissipes_, from Tropical America, six feet in
length; _J. sclerops_, from the Brazils; _J. Nigra_, also from the
Brazils; _J. punctulatus_, with triangular oblong head, muzzle
elongated, thin and flat, with a rounded point in front, and a slight
enlargement behind the nostrils; _J. vallefrons_, differing slightly
from the above--both natives of the Brazils.

_Alligators_ have the jaws oblong, much depressed, broad and nearly
parallel; forehead with a small longitudinal ridge between the orbits;
feet fringed, toes half webbed, the outer toes free; nostrils separated
by a bony septum rising from the upper edge, muzzle lengthening with
age. One species only is known, which is a native of North America; it
attains a length of six to seven feet, and is known also as _Crocodilus

The _Caimans_ have the jaws oblong, depressed, rounded, and swollen at
the end, without frontal ridges or maxillary pits; teeth unequal, the
lower canines fitting into pits in the upper jaw; toes webbed. There are
three species described--_C. trigonatus_, _C. palpebrosus_, and _C.
goddeceps_, all natives of Tropical America.

The Jacares, Alligators, and Caimans are natives of America, which
country is fruitful in other species of the family. _C. acutus_ is also
found in Martinique and San Domingo; _C. rhombifor_, at Cuba; _A.
palpebrosus_, _A. sclerops_, _A. punctulatus_, and _A. cynocephalus_ are
natives of the southern part of the American Continent; and _A. lucius_
is found in the north.]

The principal characteristics of the American Crocodile are a head
one-third its length, and a very short muzzle; teeth unequal in shape
and size, the fourth lower tooth being buried in the upper jaw when the
mouth is closed; the first teeth of the lower jaw piercing the upper at
a certain age, so as to appear through the muzzle when closed. The
hinder legs and feet rounded, having neither crest nor indentation on
their edges; the intervals of the toes more than half covered with a
short membrane, forming semi-palmated feet.

It is generally admitted, as we have stated above, that there are five
species of this genera, all exclusively American, the type of which is
the Alligator, or _Caiman_. _A. Mississipensis_ (Gray) belongs properly
to North America, through the whole southern extent of which it is
found. They are gregarious, living together in large herds in the
Mississippi and its southern tributaries; they are also found in the
lakes and marshes of Louisiana, Carolina, and even as far north as
thirty degrees of north latitude. Alligators do not appear to leave
fresh water. During the winter season they bury themselves in the mud of
the marshes, and await in a state of torpor the return of spring, which
is the signal of their restoration to activity. In the neighbourhood of
Bayou Sarah, on the Mississippi, flats of lakes and marshes stretch away
to a vast extent on either bank; every year these reservoirs are flooded
by the overflow of the river, when they are visited by myriads of
fishes. The heat soon partly dries up these lakes, leaving only about
two feet deep of water, thus displaying a vast amount of prey ready
prepared for the shore birds and Crocodiles. Millions of ibis, herons,
cranes, and cormorants wade into the water in pursuit of these fish. In
the deepest portions vast quantities of these imprisoned fish
accumulate, and these parts are known in the country as the Alligators'
holes. Thither these reptiles crowd, pressing one against the other, and
they soon thoroughly clear it of the fish which lately were in such
dense crowds. As evaporation proceeds and the marshes gradually dry up,
the fish are more and more exposed to their voracious enemies. The
Alligators pursue and devour them in the water, whilst the ibis destroys
those which seek the banks for refuge. Alligators fish chiefly during
the night. In the hours of darkness and obscurity they assemble in large
herds, chase the fish before them, driving them into some retired creek,
where they rejoice their hearts at the expense of the unfortunate finny
tribes, which they force into their widely opened mouths by a lateral
movement of their tails. On these occasions the clashing of their jaws
may be heard at the distance of a mile. Alligators are found by
thousands in Mexican waters, and nearly all North American rivers to the
south of them. In the beautiful transparent waters of Lake Claro they
abound, and are without difficulty seen by the naked human eye. Here
they are so closely pressed one against the other that they resemble a
raft of trees recently felled, and the resemblance is further increased
by the colour of their backs and the bark of a newly-felled tree being
identical. In this united and immovable condition, while waiting for
their prey, the approach of a boat is disregarded; but they rush with
avidity at everything animate which either falls or is thrown into the
lake. Many children of poor negro women become a prey to the Caiman in
this locality. They rarely, however, pursue men, yet they would not
hesitate to devour them if their imprudence has placed them close to
their terrible jaws.

The natives of Mexico hunt the Caiman. When they meet an isolated
individual asleep, they throw a lasso round its body, and when secured,
gag it. After this operation, the victim's career is terminated by
hammering on his head. There is another means which the Indians use to
capture the Caiman. They provide themselves with four pieces of hard
wood about a foot long, and as thick as a man's finger, and pointed at
each end; round these they tie a cord in such a manner that, supposing
the cord to be an arrow, the four sticks would form the head of it. They
then fasten the other end of the cord round a tree, and bait with meat.
This device is thrown into the water. When the Caiman snaps at the prey
the points of the hook, on straining on the line, penetrate into its
flesh. Having waited till the Alligator is dead, it is drawn from the
water, when the captors further gratify their dislike and spirit of
revenge by breaking its skull with stones and sticks.

Another method of capturing Alligators is practised by the residents on
the upper waters of the giant river Orinoco. A tree is bent (generally a
bamboo is selected from its elasticity) till the top is brought down to
the butt, a bait is then placed on a sharp hook, the line attached to it
being fastened securely to the small end of the bent tree, which is
caused to relax its position by an ingenious piece of mechanism which
gives way the moment the least strain is felt upon the line; the
tree-point becoming thus released, straightens itself with great
velocity, and drags the victim from the water.

Frequently the Alligator, from constant pursuit and interruption,
becomes excessively wary and difficult to destroy; when such is the
case, a live bait is sometimes successfully employed. For instance, a
Dog with a hook tied to his back is taken in a canoe and dropped in the
water; it is seldom the unfortunate cur is permitted to swim far before
being seized.

It is currently believed that the Alligator prefers dog-flesh to all
others. The negroes on the plantations in the South-Western States of
America, by imitating the barking of a dog, frequently lure these
reptiles from their hiding-places, when a well-directed bullet
terminates their career.

Alligators are very voracious, but, like Serpents and Turtles, they can
live a long time without nourishment. In Brown's "Natural History of
Jamaica," he asserts that he has known the Caiman to live several months
without food. The following experiments have been tried in that
island:--The mouth of an Alligator was muzzled by a strong cord, it was
then thrown into a reservoir of water. Thus these animals lived a
considerable time. They were seen to rise occasionally to the surface of
the water, until death came to their rescue. Let us add to this, that
Crocodiles bred in captivity in the menagerie of the Museum of Natural
History, at Paris, sometimes live for several months without eating.

[Illustration: Fig. 34.--Alligator (_Crocodilus lucius_).]

The female Alligator takes more care of her young than the female
Crocodile, properly so called. She conducts them to the water, and in
the slimy mud she disgorges her half-digested food for their

The TRUE CROCODILES are indigenous to Africa, but they are found also in
Manilla and India. Their length of head is almost double its breadth.
The fourth tooth of the lower jaw is the longest and largest of all, and
passes into an indentation hollowed out in the edge of the upper jaw,
becoming visible on the outside. The hind feet have on their external
edge a dentated crest, and the interstices of their toes, externally,
are palmated.

The principal type is the Common Crocodile, _C. vulgaris_, which
sometimes attains the length of nine or ten feet. The upper part of the
body of these reptiles is of an olive green colour spotted with black,
and marbled upon the head and neck with the same colour, also the back
and tail; two or three broad, oblique black bands are visible upon the
flanks of the under part of the body, which is of a yellowish green.
Crocodiles abound in Africa. Formerly they were found in all parts of
the Nile, but lately it is said that _C. vulgaris_ is no longer to be
met with in the Delta, but that it exists in great numbers in the
Thebaid and in the Upper Nile. They are also found in the rivers Senegal
and Niger, in Caffraria, and in Madagascar. Most authors give them the
name of Crocodiles of the Nile. This species are found also in India.

The Crocodile was considered a sacred animal by the ancient Egyptians.
In ruins of temples mummies of Crocodiles are still found in a perfect
state of preservation. The Romans introduced living Crocodiles at the
national games in the Colosseum. At first only five were imported under
the ædileship of Scaurus. Under the Emperor Augustus thirty-six were
killed in the Circus of Flaminius. Several ancient medals represent this
reptile, the body of which perfectly resembles that which now lives in
the waters and on the banks of the Nile. There is a truly wonderful fact
in the natural history of the Crocodile. Listen to what Herodotus, the
father of history, tells us with regard to it:--"When the Crocodile
takes his food in the Nile, the interior of its mouth is always covered
with _bdella_ (flies). All birds, with one single exception, flee from
the Crocodile; but this one, the Nile Bird, _Trochylus_, far from
avoiding it, flies towards the reptile with the greatest eagerness, and
renders it a very essential service. Every time the Crocodile goes on
shore to sleep, and at the moment when it lies extended with open jaws,
the Nile Bird enters the mouth of the terrible animal and delivers it
from the _bdella_ which it finds there; the Crocodile shows its
recognition of the service, and never harms the bird."

This fact, reported by Herodotus, was long considered to be a fable, but
the naturalist, Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who formed part of the
commission that General Bonaparte took with him in his expedition into
Egypt, had on several occasions opportunities of proving the truth of
the historian's narrative.

In a memoir read to the Academy of Science on the 28th of January, 1828,
he says, "It is perfectly true that there exists a little bird which
flies about, perpetually seeking, even in the mouth of the Crocodile,
the insects which form the principal part of its nourishment." This
bird, which Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire recognised as the _Charadrius
Ægyptius_ of ornithologists, is like a Plover. The _bdella_, which thus
torment the Crocodiles, and even excite them to madness, are no other
than our European gnats. Myriads of these insects haunt the banks of the
Nile, and when these giants of its waters repose on its margin, warming
themselves in the sun, they become the prey of these insignificant
pigmies. It is like the war between the Lion and the Mouse, described by
La Fontaine. The _bdella_ fly into the Crocodiles' mouths in such
numbers that they cover the entire surface of the palate, and form a
brownish crust. These little pests pierce the tongues of the reptiles
with their stings. It is then that this bird comes into the mouth of the
monster to catch them, and deliver it from such innumerable enemies. The
Crocodile with one bite could easily destroy the bird, but he knows too
well what he owes to this friend to do it an injury. Crocodiles of the
Nile are more voracious than the American Alligators. Hasselquist
asserts that in Upper Egypt they often devour women who come to draw
water from the Nile, as well as children playing upon its banks.
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire says, that in the Thebaid they often met with
Arabs wanting an arm or leg, who accused Crocodiles of this mutilation.
Sir Samuel Baker also mentions, in his late work on the Nile and its
tributaries, the desire of these amphibia for human flesh, and the dread
they are held in by the natives. Livingstone, the celebrated traveller,
gives the following account of an encounter he had with one of these
ferocious animals:--

"The Crocodile," says the celebrated traveller, "makes many victims
every year among the children who are so imprudent as to play on the
banks of the Liambia when their mothers go to fetch water. The Crocodile
stupefies its victim with a blow from its tail, then drags it into the
river, where it is soon drowned. In general, when the Crocodile
perceives a Man it dives, and furtively glides away from the side which
he occupies. Sometimes, on the other hand, it precipitates itself with
surprising agility towards the person it has discovered, which may be
noticed from the disturbance caused on the surface of the water. An
Antelope which is being hunted and takes to the water, in the lagunes of
the Barotsé valley, a Man or a Dog who goes there to seek for game, will
scarcely fail to be seized by a Crocodile, of whose presence he has not
the slightest suspicion. It often happens that, after having danced in
the moonlight, the young natives of the river's bank will often plunge
into the water in order to refresh themselves, when, being seized by an
Alligator, they perish."

[This mode of attack (striking with the tail) is also one of the methods
adopted by the Alligator of America for disabling its prey. A friend, on
whose veracity I have much dependence, while shooting wild fowl on one
of the tributaries of the Lower Mississippi, had the fortune to witness
a fight between a Bear and an Alligator. He was called to the scene of
the struggle by the noise made by the combatants, in the dry cane, that
yielded to their pressure as they fought in each other's embrace.
Several times both ceased only to recover breath and fresh energy; at
length the Alligator missed striking the foe with its tail, Bruin seized
the opportunity, and with all his efforts succeeded in turning the
amphibian on its back, where he held him for some minutes, at the same
time gnawing one of the fore-shoulders. A final struggle of the now
worsted Alligator hurled both into the water, where they disappeared,
the disturbed surface telling of the dreadful contest that was being
prolonged beneath; after the lapse of over a minute the Bear came up,
evidently much fatigued, and swam ashore, my friend forbearing to wound,
or possibly kill, the gallant conqueror.]

Crocodiles, it is said, which have never eaten human flesh, are much
less dangerous than those that have acquired a taste for it. Mr. Combes
states that he was assured by an inhabitant of Khartoum, who had reached
the town with the Egyptian troops--that is to say, before the horrors
committed by the Desterdar, acting with Mehemet Bey, who had been
Governor of the Soudan some time before Mr. Combes's voyage--that the
Crocodiles appeared to be quite indifferent to human flesh; but after
the many executions by drowning ordered by Mehemet Bey, as he was told
by a native whom he interrogated--"since the Nile has been loaded with
the carcasses of my brethren"--the monsters which inhabit it have
become habituated to substantial food, which they scarcely knew before:
so that afterwards those swimming in the river, or even bathing on its
banks, were exposed to imminent danger.

Natives of Africa shoot the Crocodile with a gun, or attack it with a
barbed javelin, which is thrown by hand, and aimed at the fore-shoulder.
Some Egyptians are reported to be daring enough to swim under the
Crocodile, and pierce him in the belly with a dagger. The negroes of
Senegal are said to be equally expert. If they surprise the animals in
parts of the river where there is not sufficient water for them to swim,
they attack the monster with a lance; and with their left arm wrapped in
a sheet of leather, they commence by aiming with their weapon at the
eyes and throat; then they thrust the arm, encased in leather, into its
mouth, and, holding it open, their enemy is either suffocated or expires
under the wounds received. Traps are also employed successfully for
their destruction. In Egypt the natives dig a deep hole in the ordinary
route of the Crocodiles, which is easily discovered by the trail they
leave in the sand. This hole is covered with branches and strewed with
earth. The Crocodile is now alarmed with loud cries, which disturb and
drive him back to the river, by the same way that it has left it. As it
passes over the treacherous hole it falls in, when it is killed, often
with the most brutal cruelty. At other times a thick cord is attached to
a large tree, and to the other end of the cord a lamb is bound, held by
a protruding hook. The cries of the lamb attract the Crocodile, which,
in its attempt to carry off the bait, is taken by the hook.

Still another method for the destruction of these repulsive-looking
creatures has been adopted on one or two occasions by our countrymen in
India. A dead animal is procured, in its abdomen is placed a loaded
shell, to which is attached a wire made fast to an electric battery;
when the bait has been seized and carried to the bottom, the shell is
exploded, which invariably maims or kills the Crocodile.

The _Gavials_, or Indian Crocodiles, have long narrow cylindrical
muzzles, slightly inflated at the extremity; the teeth are almost the
same, both in number and shape, on each jaw, the two first and the
fourth of the lower jaw pass into notches or indentations in the upper
jaw, and not into holes, as in Crocodiles; the hind legs are dentated
and palmated, like those of African Crocodiles. The Gavials are chiefly
remarkable for their long head, its type being the _Gavial of the
Ganges_, or _Gavial longirostre_. It is of a deep watery green colour,
having on the upper part numerous irregular brown spots; in the young,
the back and limbs are transversely banded with black; the lower part is
of a pale whitish yellow; the jaws are marked with brown, the claws are
of a clear horn colour. This species is not so carnivorous as the
others, and is consequently less dreaded.

The Gavial of the Ganges, _G. Gangeticus_, is supposed to be the largest
of the existing Saurians; its length, as given by Duméril, is seventeen
feet four inches.



["The body," as described by Dr. Gray, "is covered with square imbedded
plates, generally forming a dorsal and ventral shield united by their
margins, leaving only the head, neck, limbs, and tail free, and (in some
species, as the Box-Tortoises, _Cinasternon_, shut up by movable
closely-fitting doors) only covered with a scaly skin; the upper shield
formed of the ribs united together and adherent to the dorsal vertebræ
by a toothed suture, and surrounded by a series of bones forming the
edge of the shields; the lower shield, or sternum, formed of four pairs
and a central anterior bone; the jaws toothless, covered with a horny
bill, rarely hid by fleshy lips; eyelids distinct; drum of the ear
visible; legs short and thick; tail conical." "The natural dwelling
chamber of the Chelonia consists chiefly," says Professor Owen, "and in
the marine species (_Chelone_) and Mud Turtles (_Trionyx_) solely, of
the floor and the roof; side-walls of variable extent are added to the
fresh-water species (_Emydians_) and Land Tortoises (_Testudinians_).
The whole consists of 'osseous plates,' with superincumbent horny
plates, or 'scutes,' except in the Soft or Mud Turtles (_Trionyx_ and
_Sphargis_), in both of which these are wanting."--("Circle of the

These animals, to which a portable stronghold is thus given in
compensation for inferior powers of locomotion and defence, are
recognisable at a glance from the singular armour with which Nature has
provided them. A double shield envelopes all parts of their bodies, only
permitting the head, neck, legs, and tail to pass through it: moreover,
all these organs can be hidden within this double cuirass by means of a
retractile power possessed by the animal. This double armour consists of
a _carapace_, or back-piece, and _plastron_, or breast-plate, composed
of a series of small bones or plates closely united together; the first
resulting from the union of the sides and dorsal vertebræ, the plastron,
or lower buckler, being only a highly-developed sternum. These organs
are merely portions of the skeleton, which, in place of being lodged in
the depths of the soft parts, has become the superficies, which is only
covered by a thin, dry skin.

This numerous and highly-interesting order of Reptiles, called
Chelonia, from +chelônê+, a Tortoise, are also called _Testudinata_,
from _testudo_, the Latin name for a Tortoise, from the double shield
in which the bodies of all, whether terrestrial, fresh-water, or marine
Tortoises, are enclosed.

The skeleton of the Tortoise is, perhaps, the most extraordinary
structure with which we are acquainted. This oddly-organised animal when
first seen strikes the beholder with astonishment. The carapace and
plastron, with their connecting plates, form a sort of protecting box,
in which the animal lives, its head and tail excepted. In the land
Turtles the head and feet, which are comparatively senseless, can be
withdrawn within the protecting armour. The ribs and sternum are both
placed quite on the exterior of the body, so as to form a broad dorsal
shield on the upper surface, and an equally strong ventral plate;
between these, the limbs and the head can be more or less completely
retracted. Nevertheless, the modifications in the arrangement of the
elements by which these changes are accomplished are of the simplest
nature. In the common Tortoise, _Emys Europæus_, the vertebræ of the
neck and tail being connected together in the ordinary manner, the neck
and caudal region of the spine present their usual flexibility, but the
dorsal vertebræ are strangely distorted, the upper arch being
disproportionately developed, while the bodies remain almost in a
rudimentary state; the spinous processes of these vertebræ are flattened
and converted into broad osseous plates, which form a longitudinal
series along the centre of the back, and connected together by means of
sutures. The ribs are changed into broad flat bones firmly united by
sutures to each other, and also to the lateral margins of the spinous
processes of the vertebræ, so that they form together a single broad
plate; the heads of the ribs are feebly developed, and the intervals
between them and the bodies of the vertebræ filled up with ligament. The
margin of the shield thus formed by the dorsal ribs is further enlarged
by a third set of flat bones fixed by sutures around the whole
circumference of the carapace.

The plastron, or ventral plate, is made up of nine pieces, of which
eight are arranged in pairs; but the ninth, which is always placed
between the four pieces composing the two anterior pairs, is single, and
occupies the mesial line. The bones of the shoulder and hip are placed
within the thorax, and articulated to the sides of the vertebral column.

Of this vertebral column in these extraordinary animals, Professor Owen
remarks that the manifold modifications of the framework which render it
a portable abode, appear to have been given as a compensation for
inferior powers of locomotion, and the absence of offensive weapons. But
with all its modifications, the same number of pieces are found in the
bony skeleton as in other ordinary vertebratæ, the form and volume of
many of these pieces being alone changed.

The skin which covers the body of these animals sometimes preserves its
softness, being altogether devoid of scales; but in nearly all the
species it is covered with horny scales of great consistency. Upon the
plastron and carapace these scales form large plates, the arrangements
and appearances of which vary in different species, some of them being
often remarkably beautiful. The material which bears the name of
Tortoise-shell forms an important article of commerce.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aristotle mentions three groups of Tortoises; namely, +chelôêchersaia+,
or Land Tortoises; +thalattia+, or Sea Tortoises; and +Eôhus+, or
Fresh-water Tortoises. Cuvier divides them into five sub-genera:--1,
Land Tortoises, _Testudo_ (Brogniart); 2, Fresh-water Tortoises,
_Emydes_ (Brogniart); 3, Marine Tortoises, _Chelque_ (Cuvier);
4, Chelydes, _Testudo fimbriata_; 5, Soft Tortoises, _Trionyx_
(Geoffrey)--in which he is followed by Dr. Gray in the British
Museum Catalogue, who makes them the third order of Reptiles in his
arrangement as follows:--


  Testudo, Chersina, Kinixys, Pyxis.


  Geoemyda, Emys, Cyclemys, Malaclemys, Cistudo, Kinosternon,
  Chelydra, Platysternum.


  Sternotherus, Pelomedusa, Hydraspis, Chelymys, Phrynops, Chelodina,
  Hydromedusa, Chelys, Peltocephalus, Padocnemis.


  Trionyx, Emyda.


  Sphargis, Chelonia, Caretta, Casuana.

In the valuable "Erpétologie" of Messrs. Duméril and Bibron, the
Chelonians are divided into--1, Land Tortoises, _Chersites_; 2, Marsh
Tortoises, _Elodites_; 3, River Tortoises, _Potamites_; 4, Sea
Tortoises, or Turtles, _Thalassites_.

This arrangement being the most simple, is adopted as best adapted to
our purpose.]


Terrestrial Tortoises are distinguished by their short, oval, and convex
bodies, covered by carapace and plastron; four feet, and the absence of
teeth; short, stumpy, unshapely legs; nearly equal toes, armed with
claws, united by a thick skin, so as to form a clumsy foot, the
periphery of which forms a sort of hoof, which seems adapted for the

In this group the carapace is very convex, its height sometimes
exceeding its breadth; it forms a solid, generally an immovable, arch,
under which the animal can completely conceal its feet and tail. This
_buckler_ is covered with large horny plates or scales.

Land Tortoises have been known from the earliest times, representations
of them being found on numerous monuments of antiquity, the product of
ancient art. Moreover, ancient writers tell us that the carapace of the
Tortoise contributed its substance to the formation of the first lyre;
it was consequently sacred to Mercury as the deity of music and inventor
of that instrument.

The Land Tortoises are divided into four genera, which Duméril and
Bibron again divide into three sub-genera and thirty species. The most
interesting species, however, to which we must limit our remarks
are--the Marginate Tortoise, _Testudo marginato_; the Moorish Tortoise,
_Testudo Mauritianica_; the Greek Tortoise, _Testudo Græca_; and the
Elephantine Tortoise, _Testudo elephantina_.

[Illustration: Fig. 35.--Testudo Mauritianica.]

The Margined Tortoise, which was long confounded with the Greek
Tortoise, is found abundantly throughout the Morea, in Egypt, and upon
the Barbary coasts. The carapace is oval in form, oblong, convex, and
much dilated at the posterior margin, and nearly horizontal; the
plastron is movable behind, which is its chief sub-generic character;
the tail is thick, conical, and scarcely issues from the carapace. The
plates of the disc are of a blackish-brown, presenting towards the
centre certain spots of a beautiful yellow colour; the marginal plates
are habitually ornamented with two triangular spots, one yellow, the
other black. The underpart of the body is of a dirty yellow, with one
large triangular black spot upon six or eight of the sternal scales.
This Tortoise is of medium size.

The Moorish Tortoise, _Testudo Mauritianica_, is commonly found in the
neighbourhood of Algiers, and along the coast of Morocco, whence those
are sent which are sold in the Paris markets. When shooting in Morocco,
scarcely a day would pass without the setters or pointers finding
numbers of them, to which they would stand with as much staunchness as
game. The scent they emit is so powerful as to be easily detected by a
human being. The carapace of this species is also convex; the sternum is
also movable behind: it is generally olive-coloured. The plates of the
disc are marked with blackish spots, and sometimes with a buckle of the
same colour, which covers their circumference on the front and sides.
The plates of the plastron, the ground of which is olive, have each a
large black spot in the centre. This species is rather smaller than the
Marginate Tortoise.

The Greek Tortoise, _Testudo Græca_, is of small dimensions, scarcely
exceeding twelve inches in length. They inhabit Greece, Italy, some of
the Mediterranean isles, and the south of France, from whence it seems
to have been transplanted into Italy. They feed upon herbs, roots,
slugs, and lob-worms. Like all their race, they sleep during the winter,
passing this season in holes which they excavate in the soil sometimes
more than thirty inches deep. As the month of May approaches they issue
from their retreat, resorting to some sheltered sandy place, where they
bask themselves in the sun's rays. Towards the month of June the females
lay from twelve to fourteen white spherical eggs, as large as a small
walnut; they dispose these eggs in a hole exposed to the sun; but
covered over with earth. Thus the operation of hatching is performed.
The carapace of this species is oval and very much arched; their
marginal plates are twenty-five in number; the plastron, which is almost
as long as the carapace, is separated into two great portions by a
longitudinal line; the plates of the carapace are spotted with black and
greenish yellow, forming a large marbled pattern; the centre of the disc
is besides relieved by a small, irregular, blackish, central spot. These
three species are held in high estimation on account of their flesh,
which gives an agreeable taste to soup.

The Elephantine Tortoise, _Testudo elephantina_, the length of which is
more than three feet, inhabits most of the islands situated in the
Mozambique Channel--namely, between the eastern coast of Africa and the
Isle of Madagascar. The Museum of Natural History at Paris had
specimens of this Tortoise which lived more than twelve months, and
which weighed about six hundred pounds. Their flesh is extremely
delicate, and much sought after.

In some other Terrestrial Tortoises, from which the genus _Pyxis_ has
been formed, the anterior portion of the plastron is movable; and when
the head and feet are drawn in, the animal can fasten itself against the
sides of the carapace like a door in its case.

In some Terrestrial Tortoises, which have been formed into particular
genera, the carapace is flexible, and can lower itself behind like the
plastron; these are _Kinixys_. Lastly, there are others which, for legs,
have only four unguiculated toes: such as the _Homopodes_.


Marsh Tortoises, _Elodites_, occupy a place between Terrestrial
Tortoises and those which are essentially aquatic. They have the
carapace more or less depressed, oval, and broader behind; their feet
have distinct flexible toes supplied with hooked claws, of which the
phalanges are united at the base by means of an elastic skin, which
enables them to separate one from the other, at the same time preserving
their strength and assisting them to grasp a much larger surface. Thus
they can walk upon the ground, swim on the surface of deep waters, and
climb up the banks of lakes or other tranquil waters, which are their
habitual dwelling-places.

These Tortoises are generally of small size; being carnivorous, they
feed upon small living animals. As they exhale a nauseous odour they are
not used as an article of food; and further, as their carapace is
neither thick enough nor beautiful enough to be manufactured as
tortoise-shell, they are consequently little sought after. There are a
hundred species of Elodians, or Marsh Tortoises, known, which are spread
over all parts of the globe, but principally in warm and temperate
regions. Such are the _Cistudo_, _Emydes_, and _Trionyx_.

The Elodians have none of the sluggishness of the Land Tortoises; they
swim with facility, and on land they walk with considerable rapidity.
Their eggs are white, and nearly spherical, with a calcareous shell, and
these are deposited in a hollow dug in the soil or sand, like the Land
Tortoises, the place chosen being generally situated on the banks of
some secluded stream; the number of eggs increasing as the animal
approaches maturity.

The Elodians are divided into _Cryptoderes_ and _Pleuroderes_: the
former distinguished from the latter by the retractile power they
possess of concealing their cylindrical neck, with its sheath of loose
skin, under the middle of the carapace; the head, whose width is nearly
equal to its height at the occiput; the eyes always lateral, and their
orbit so large that the diameter of the cavity nearly equals a fourth of
the whole cranium; and the jaws, which are strong, sometimes trenchant,
in others are dentated on the edge. In the larger number of species the
anterior extremity of the upper beak is notched with a strong tooth on
each side, producing the appearance of a beak closely resembling that of
birds of prey.

[Illustration: Fig. 36.--Mud Tortoise (_Cistudo Europæa_).]

The Mud Tortoises, _Cistudo_, sometimes called the Yellow Tortoise (Fig.
36) are very abundant in Europe. They are found in Greece, Italy, Spain,
Portugal, and in the southern provinces of France; also in Hungary,
Germany, and as far north as Prussia. They inhabit lakes, marshes, and
ponds, at the bottom of which they bury themselves in the mud.
Occasionally they come to the surface of the water, and remain there for
hours. They live principally upon insects, mollusks, aquatic worms, and
small fishes. Although the flesh of the Mud Tortoise is far from being
palatable, it is nevertheless eaten in countries where they are common.

[Illustration: Fig. 37.--Emydes Caspica.]

[Illustration: Fig. 38.--Chelys matamata.]

The _Emydes_ are divided into four considerable groups, namely, the
European group, of which Fig. 37, _E. Caspica_, is typical; the American
group, containing twelve or fourteen species; the African _Emys_; and
the Oriental group of twelve species.

The _Pleuroderes_ have the neck retractile on one side of the carapace,
without their having the power of drawing it between their fore feet,
and under the buckler and plastron, like the _Cryptoderes_. _Chelys
matamata_ (Fig. 38) belongs to this division. This species lives in
stagnant water, and is altogether remarkable for its singular
appearance--for its depressed, wide, and triangular nostrils, prolonged
into a proboscis; its wide gape, rounded jaws, and the cutaneous
appendages to the chin. This is sometimes called the Bearded Tortoise.


The River Tortoises live constantly in the water, only coming to land
occasionally; they swim with much ease below and on the surface. The
carapace is very broad and flat; the toes united up to the claws by
broad flexible membranes. These membranes change the feet into true
paddles, which perform the office of oars. They seem to attain a
considerable size, one kept by Pennant for three months weighing twenty
pounds, its buckler not reckoned; the neck measuring twenty inches in
length. The upper parts of their bodies vary in tint from brown to grey,
with irregularly marbled, dotted, or ocellated spots; the underpart is a
pale white, rosy, or purple tint. Sinuous brown, black, or yellow lines
are symmetrically disposed on the right and left, principally on the
neck and on the limbs.

During the night, when they think themselves safe, the River Tortoises
seek repose on the rocks and islets, or on timber floating in the
rivers, from which they plunge into the water on the slightest noise.
These Tortoises, which accommodate themselves so perfectly to the medium
that they inhabit, are continually at war with the fishes, reptiles,
mollusks, and other denizens of the rivers. They are voracious and
active, and are relentless enemies to the young of fishes, and
especially of Crocodiles.

The carapace of the River Tortoise, _Trionyx_, is soft, covered with a
flexible cartilaginous skin resting on a greatly-depressed osseous disk;
its upper surface is covered with shrivelled sinuosities. As they are
destitute of scales these Tortoises are said to be soft; their flesh is
much esteemed, and they are angled for with hook and line, baited with
small fishes or living worms and mollusks, or with dead bait, to which
the sportsman gives motion and apparent life, for they are said never to
approach dead prey. When they seize their victim, or defend themselves,
they dart out their head and long neck with great rapidity, biting
sharply with their trenchant beak, and holding on till they have bitten
out the piece. From this peculiarity they are commonly known in the
United States as the Snapping Turtle. Persons wading have been known to
lose toes from their bite.

[Illustration: Fig. 39.--Trionyx Ægyptiacus.]

M. Lesueur states that towards the beginning of May the females of
_Gymnopus spinifera_, belonging to this division, seek out sunny sandy
spots on the river's bank for the deposit of their eggs; they are not
deterred from choosing steeps of ten or fifteen feet for this purpose.
Their eggs are spherical, and more fragile than those of the Marsh
Tortoise. They deposit from fifty to sixty at a time. None of this group
are found in Europe. The fresh-water lakes and rivers of the warmer
regions, such as the Nile and the Niger, in Africa, the Mississippi, the
Ohio, and the Amazon rivers, in America, the Euphrates and the Ganges,
in Asia, are its habitats. Among other remarkable species in the group
we here represent _Trionyx Ægyptiacus_, Fig. 39, supposed to be the
+Emys+ of Aristotle.

No modern naturalist has done more to illustrate the habits of the
Fresh-water Turtle than Mr. Bates, in his highly interesting work, "The
Naturalist on the Amazon." "The great Fresh-water Turtle (probably
_Platemys æfipes_) of the Amazon or Solimoens grows on the upper river,"
he says, "to an immense size, a full-grown one measuring nearly three
feet in length, by two in breadth, and is a load for the strongest
Indian. Every house (in Ega) has a little pond called a corral, or pen
in the back-yard, to hold a stock of these animals through the season of
dearth--the wet months. Those who have a number of Indians in their
employ send them out for weeks, when the waters are low, to collect a
stock, and those who have not purchase their supply--this is attended
with some difficulty however, as they are rarely offered for sale. The
price of Turtles, like that of other articles of food, has risen greatly
since the introduction of steam-vessels. Thus, when I arrived, in 1850,
a middle-sized one could be bought for ninepence, but when I left, in
1859, they were with difficulty obtained for eight or nine shillings
each. The abundance of Turtles varies with the amount of diurnal
subsidence of the waters. When the river sinks less than the average,
they are scarce; but when high waters have prevailed, they can be caught
in abundance, their haunts being less restricted, and appropriate
breeding-places more numerous.

"The flesh is very tender, palatable, and wholesome; but it is very
cloying, and every one ends sooner or later by becoming thoroughly
surfeited. I became so sick of Turtle in the course of two years that I
could not bear the smell of it, although nothing else was to be had;
consequently I suffered from actual hunger."

One of the most amusing sketches in Mr. Bates' book is a journey he made
on the Solimoens, during which he visited the praias, or sand-islands,
the Turtle-pools in the forests, and the by-streams and lakes of the
great river. His companion was Cardozo, who was a sort of official
superintendent of the diggers for Turtles' eggs on the sand-banks of
Shimuni, the island lying nearest to Ega. There are four or five of
these Royal Praias, as they are called, in the district, each having its
commandant, whose business is to see that every inhabitant has an equal
chance in the egg-field.

"The pregnant Turtles descend from the interior pools of the main river
in July and August, before the outlets dry up, and seek their favourite
sand-island in countless swarms; for it is only a few praias that are
selected by them out of the great number existing. When hatched, the
young animals remain in the pools throughout the dry season; for these
breeding-places of the Turtle then lie from twenty to thirty feet above
the level of the river, and are accessible only by cutting a path
through the dense forest." On the 26th of September Mr. Bates left Ega
with his companion, who was about to visit the sentinels placed to mark
when and where the Turtles laid their eggs. Their conveyance was a
stoutly-built canoe, or _igareté_, arranged for two paddlers, with an
arched covering in the stern, under which three persons could sleep
pretty comfortably. The swift current of the Solimoens carried them
rapidly to the large wooded island of Baria, which divides the river
into two broad channels. Shimuni lies in the middle of the
north-easterly passage. They were quickly paddled across, reaching it an
hour before sunset. The island is about three miles long and half a mile
broad. The forest which covers it rises to an immense uniform height,
presenting all round a compact and impervious front, the uniformity
being interrupted here and there by a singular tree, called Mulatto
wood, whose polished dark-green trunk is seen conspicuously through the
mass of vegetation. The sand-bank lies at the upper end of the island,
and extends several miles, presenting an irregular surface of ridges and
hollows. At the further shore to the north-east, where no forest line
shuts out the view, the white, rolling, sandy plain stretches away to
the horizon; to the south-west a channel, about a mile in breadth,
separates Baria from Shimuni.

Arrived at this island, Mr. Bates proceeds to describe with great
minuteness the operations of the Turtles, as well as those of the
sentinels placed to watch them.

"We found two sentinels," he says, "lodged in a corner of the praia,
where it commences at the foot of the towering forest west of the
island, having built themselves a little rancho with poles and
palm-leaves. Great precautions are obliged to be taken to avoid
disturbing the vigilant Turtles, which, previous to crawling ashore to
lay, assemble in great shoals off the sand-bank. The men during this
time take care not to show themselves, and they warn off any fisherman
who attempts to pass near the place; for the passage of a boat, or the
sight of a man, or a fire on the sand-bank, would prevent their laying
their eggs that night, and if repeated, they would forsake the praia for
some quieter place."

After a night spent under a temporary shed rapidly constructed for
himself and companion, Mr. Bates rose from his hammock shivering with

"Cardoza and the men were already watching the Turtles on a stage
erected on a tall tree fifty feet high; from this watch-tower they are
enabled to ascertain the place and date of successive deposits of eggs,
and thus guide the commandant in fixing the time for his general
invitation to the Ega people. The Turtles lay their eggs during the
night, leaving the water in vast crowds when all around is quiet, when
they crawl to the central and highest part of the praia. The hours
between midnight and dawn are those when the Turtles excavate, with
their broad, webbed paws, deep holes in the fine sand, the animal in
each case making a pit about three feet deep; in this pit it lays its
eggs, about a hundred and twenty in number, covering them over with
sand; then a second deposit is placed on the top of the first, and so on
until the pit is full." This goes on for about fourteen days. "When all
have done, the area, or _taboliero_, over which they have been digging
is only distinguished from the rest of the praia by signs of the sand
having been a little disturbed.

"On rising I went to join my friends," he continues, "and few
recollections of my Amazonian rambles are more vivid and agreeable than
that of my walk over the white sea of sand on this cool morning. The sky
was cloudless; the just-risen sun was hid behind the dense woods on
Shimuni, but the long line of forest to the west on Baria, with its
plumy decorations of palms, was lighted up with his yellow horizontal
rays. A faint chorus of singing-birds reached the ears from across the
water, and flocks of Gulls and Plovers were calling plaintively over the
swelling banks of the praia. Tracks of stray Turtles were visible on
the smooth white surface, two of which had been caught, for stragglers
from the main body are a lawful prize.

"On arriving at the edge of the forest I mounted the sentinels' stage
just in time to see the Turtles retreating to the water on the opposite
side of the sand-bank. The sight was well worth the trouble of
ascending. They were about a mile off, but the surface of the sand was
blackened with the multitudes which were waddling towards the river; the
margin of the praia was rather steep, and they all seemed to tumble head
first down the declivity into the water."

On the 2nd of October the same party left Ega on a second excursion, the
object of Cardoza being this time to search certain pools in the forest
for young Turtles. The exact situation of these hidden sheets of water
are known to few. The morning was cloudy and cool, and a fresh wind blew
down the river; they had to struggle, therefore, against wind and
current. The boat was tossed about and shipped a good deal of water.
Their destination was a point of land twenty miles below Shimuni. The
coast-line was nearly straight for many miles, and the bank averaged
about thirty feet above the then level of the river; at the top rose an
unbroken hedge of forest. No one could have divined that pools of water
existed on that elevated land.

A path was cut through the forest by our party with their hunting-knives
to the pool, half a mile distant; short poles were cut and laid across
the path, over which three light canoes were rolled, after being dragged
up the bank. A large net, seventy yards in length, was then disembarked
and carried to the place. Netting, however, the older Indians considered
unsportsmanlike; and, on reaching the pool, they commenced shooting the
Turtles with bows and arrows from light stages erected on the shores.

"The pool covered an area of about four acres, and was closely hemmed in
by the forest, which, in picturesque variety and grouping, often
exceeded almost anything I had seen. The margins for some distance were
swampy, and covered with large tufts of fine grass called _matupá_.
These tufts were in many places overrun with ferns, and exterior to them
was a crowded row of arborescent shrubs growing to a height of fifteen
or twenty feet, forming a green palisade. Around the whole stood the
taller forest trees--palmate-leaved _Cecropiæ_; slender Assai palms
thirty feet high, with their thin feathery heads crowning their
gently-curving, smooth stems; and, as a background to these airy forms,
lay the voluminous masses of ordinary forest trees, with garlands,
festoons, and streamers of leafy parasites hanging from their branches."

The pool which was hemmed in by this gorgeous scenery was nowhere more
than five feet deep, and of that one foot was a fine soft mud. Cardoza
and the author spent an hour paddling about admiring the skill displayed
by the Indians in shooting Turtles. They did not wait for the animals to
come to the surface to breathe, but watched for the slightest movements
in the water which revealed their presence underneath; that instant an
arrow flew from the bow of the nearest man, which never failed to pierce
the shell of the submerged animal, and by mid-day about a score of
full-grown Turtles had been shot. The net was now spread at one
extremity of the oval-shaped pool, its side resting on the bottom, while
the floats buoyed the other side up on the surface, the cords being held
by two Indians. The rest of the party now spread themselves round the
pool, beating the water with long poles, in order to drive the Turtles
towards the centre. When they neared the net, the men moved more
quickly, beating and shouting with great vigour. The ends of the net
were now seized with vigorous hands, and dragged suddenly forward,
bringing them at the same time together, so as to enclose all within a
circle. Every man then leapt into the enclosure, the boats were brought
up, and the captured Turtles were thrown in. In this manner about eighty
were secured in twenty minutes.

Among these were several male Turtles, or _capetaris_, as they are
called by the natives. They are much less numerous than the females,
much smaller, and more circular in shape; their flesh is considered

On the 17th of October, the day announced for the _taboliero_, or
egg-digging, Mr. Bates made a last excursion in Senhor Cardoza's
company. Egg-collecting occupied four days. On the morning of the 17th
about four hundred persons were assembled on the sand-bank; each family
had erected a rude temporary shed of poles and palm-leaves, to protect
themselves from sun and rain. Large copper kettles to prepare the oil,
and hundreds of red earthenware jars, were scattered about on the sands.
The commandant commenced by taking down the names of all masters of
households, with the number of persons each intended to employ in
digging; he then exacted from each a fine equal to fourpence a head
towards defraying the expense of the sentinels, when the whole were
allowed to go to the _taboliero_. It was exhausted by the end of the
second day, when each household had erected large mounds of eggs beside
their temporary hut.


_Cheloniadæ_, Gray; _Carettoidæ_, Fitzing; _Halychelones_, Kelgen;
_Oiocopodæ_, Wagler.

The Turtles or Sea Tortoises are distinguished from all others by a
comparatively flat carapace, long members, the extremities of which
terminate in broad paddles, the anterior much longer than the posterior
ones; the toes, though formed of distinct pieces, can only act together,
thus constituting true oars, admirably arranged for swimming. Their
carapace, besides being flat, is indented and elongated in front, and
contracted behind, being disposed in such a manner that the head and
feet can be completely hidden.

Marine Tortoises are the largest of their species: they swim and dive
with great facility, and can remain long under water. The external
orifice of the nasal canal is furnished with a sort of valve, which the
animal raises when it is in the air and closes when under water; but it
rarely leaves its liquid element except in the breeding season, when
nature prompts it to seek the shore to lay its eggs. Some of the
species, however, seek the shore in the night, when they frequent the
banks of desert and solitary isles, where they browse on marine plants.
Although they walk with difficulty, and even with pain, in quiet seas
they may be seen floating like a boat, in absolute immobility, and
asleep on the surface of the water. With their horny jaws, which are
hard and trenchant as the beak of a bird of prey, some of them feed upon
sea-weed and algæ, while others feed on living animals, such as
crustaceans, zoophytes, and mollusks.

We have seen how regularly and systematically the Land Tortoises
proceed in depositing their eggs--nor is less precaution taken by the
Sea Tortoise. The females, accompanied by the males, traverse several
hundreds of miles of sea in order to deposit their eggs in some favoured
locality. Other females resort, year after year, almost to a day, to the
sandy shore of some desert isle, where they drag themselves ashore
during the night, sufficiently inland to be safe from the tide. In some
such spot, using their hind feet by way of a shovel, they excavate holes
about thirty inches deep. Here they lay frequently a hundred eggs,
covering them up afterwards with the fine sand, levelling the surface,
and then returning to sea, leaving the eggs to be hatched by the solar
rays. The eggs are round, slightly depressed at both ends, and furnished
with a coriaceous shell. From the high temperature communicated to the
sand-bank, they are hatched in about fifteen days. The females seem to
have two or three layings in the season, at intervals of two or three
weeks. When the young Turtles are hatched, they are feeble, white, and
about the size of frogs, and their instincts lead them at once to the
sea. Under the fostering care of their mother, those which have escaped
the birds of prey on their way to the sea, and the fishes lying in wait
for them, rapidly develop, and attain, under favourable circumstances,
an enormous size,--some of the _Sphargis_, or Soft Turtles, having been
known to weigh from fifteen to sixteen hundred pounds,--while others,
whose carapaces measured more than fifteen feet in circumference and
seven feet in length, exceeded eighteen hundred pounds.

Marine Tortoises are met with in herds more or less numerous in all
seas, principally towards the torrid zone in the tropical regions, on
the shores of the Antilles, in Cuba, Jamaica, St. Domingo, the Gulf of
Mexico, and in the Indian Ocean. Those occasionally found by navigators
in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean seem to be wanderers separated
from some travelling bands.

[Illustration: Fig. 40.--Green Turtle (_Chelonia Mydas_).]

Of all reptiles, the Sea Tortoise is the most useful to man. In
countries where they are common, and where they attain an enormous size,
their flesh is the most healthy and nourishing food, and their carapace
serves as a canoe in which the natives paddle along the shores. They
even roof their huts with them; they convert them into drinking-troughs
for their cattle and into baths for their children. According to Strabo
and Pliny, the ancient inhabitants of the shores of the Indian Ocean and
the Red Sea converted the enormous carapaces of the Tortoise which
frequented their shores into coverings for their houses, and boats for
paddling along the coast. The fat of many species, when fresh, is used
as a substitute for oil and butter. When the musk-like odour of this
fatty substance, as in _Chelonia caouana_ and _C. caretta_, becomes too
repulsive for food, it is employed in embrocations, in tanning leather,
or in lamps. The eggs of nearly all the Turtles are sought after for
their flavour. Finally, the carapace of several species constitutes a
valuable material much employed in the arts, and known as
tortoise-shell. This material is sought after in consequence of its
hardness and the fine polish of which it is susceptible, and also for
the facility with which it is worked. It has a strong resemblance to
horn, but is easily distinguished from it. Though, like horn, it is
formed of parallel fibres, it seems to be rather the result of
exudation, consisting of a kind of solidified mucus. Its texture is
homogeneous; it can be cut and polished with precision and beauty; in
short, under the influence of a gentle heat, it is softened and can be
modelled into any fashion, according to the taste of the moulder; after
becoming cool it retains the desired shape.

[Illustration: Fig. 41.--Capturing Turtles.]

While most of the Tortoises are highly useful to man, both for food and
other purposes, perhaps the most interesting are the Green Turtles
(_Tortues franches_ of French authors), _Chelonia caouana_ and
_Caretta_. From these man draws the greatest advantage from their
superior size, and from the thickness of their shells. The Green Turtle
(_Chelonia Mydas_, Fig. 40) is so called from the reflected green of its
carapace. It abounds in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, where it keeps
habitually far from the shore, except in the breeding seasons, when it
makes long voyages in order to deposit its eggs, giving a preference for
that purpose to Ascension Island and St. Vincent. It rests on the
surface of the open sea, and as it sleeps heavily, it is easily taken by
a cord with a running knot, which is carefully slipped round its neck as
the boat containing the captors silently glides past. It is even said to
be a practice with the Malay fishermen to dive beneath them, and
attaching a cord to the foot of a sleeping Turtle, thus take it alive.

Many other modes are employed for capturing them. In the regions
frequented by them in the breeding season, they are followed by their
track on the sands, and their retreat cut off, when met with, by forming
a circle round them, when they are thrown on their backs; hand-spikes
sometimes being necessary to accomplish this from their great size. In
this position they are helpless, and must remain until wanted, so that
their enemies have time to pursue their sport elsewhere, as represented
in Fig. 41. The next day they are collected or destroyed at leisure. In
1802 the crew of a French ship surprised a female Turtle on the Island
of Lobos. The men had infinite trouble in making good its capture and
throwing it on its back, for it was strong enough to drag them all
towards the sea. It was at last mastered. Its head was as large as that
of an infant, and its beak four times the size of a paroquet. It weighed
two hundred and sixty pounds, and had in its body three hundred and
forty-seven eggs. Turtles are also taken in nets, in the meshes of which
their beaks and flippers get entangled; thus prevented from coming to
the surface for air, they die of asphyxia. Others harpoon them on the
open sea when they come to the surface to breathe. The harpoon is
attached to a cord, by which the animal is soon brought to the surface
and drawn into the boat. But the commonest mode of capture is
approaching them in a boat as they float asleep on the surface--this
must be done silently. When within reach, a back flipper is laid hold of
by one of the crew, and by a sudden twist the Turtle is thrown on its
back, when becoming helpless for the moment, it is dragged on board.

[Illustration: Fig. 42.--Hawk's-bill Turtle (_Chelonia caretta_).]

A very curious mode of fishing for Turtle is pursued by means of small
fish, a species of Echeneis or Remora. These small fish are provided
with an oval plate on the head, which consists of a score of parallel
plates, forming two series, furnished on their outer edge with an oval
disk, soft and fleshy at its circumference; in the middle of this plate
is a complicated apparatus of bony pieces dispersed across the surface,
which can be moved on their axis by particular muscles, their free edges
being furnished with small hooks, which are all raised at once like the
points of a wool-card. The fishermen keep many of these fishes in
buckets of water. When they see a sleeping Turtle they approach it, and
throw one of these suck-fish into the sea. The fish dives under the
Turtle, and fixes itself inextricably to it by means of their cephalic
disk. As the fish is attached to a long cord by means of a ring in its
tail, the fish is drawn on board along with its victim. This is line
fishing of a new kind, in which the hook is living, and pursues its prey
in the bosom of the deep.

The Green Turtle, whose flesh is celebrated for its delicacy and
excellence of its fat, is that from which Turtle soup is made. Turtle
soup is only of recent invention, the first Turtle having been brought
to London by Admiral Anson in 1752. It was long a costly dish, and even
now, although the introduction of steam and other adjuncts to navigation
has greatly modified the expense, its price is about ten shillings per
pound weight.

[Illustration: Fig. 43.--Loggerhead Turtle (_Chelonia caouana_).]

Much of the tortoise-shell of commerce comes from the Green Turtle, but
by far the finest specimens are produced by the Imbricated or
Hawk's-bill Turtle, _Chelonia caretta_ (Fig. 42). In this species the
plates of the disk are imbricated, or lapping over each other, and
thirteen in number. The muzzle is long and compressed; the jaws with
straight edges, without dentation, curving slightly towards each other
at their extremities, with two nails on each fin. It rarely attains the
size or weight of the Green Turtle. The Hawk's-bill Turtle is met with
in the Indian Ocean, and also on the American shores. It feeds on marine
plants, on mollusks, and small fishes, and is chiefly sought after for
its shell, which produces the finest tortoise-shell known; while its
flesh is rendered unpalatable from its musky flavour. On the other
hand, its eggs are excellent when fresh, and eagerly sought after.

In order to prepare the shell, it is softened by means of boiling after
being torn from the animal's back. It is then flattened by being passed
through a press, previous to being polished. In this condition it is
ready for all sorts of ornamental work. The Loggerhead Turtle, or _C.
caouana_ (Fig. 43), like the Green Turtle, has its scales placed side by
side. Its colour is brownish or deep maroon. It is found incidentally on
the French and English coasts, and abounds in the Atlantic and
Mediterranean seas. Its length is about four feet; its weight, from
three to four hundred pounds. It is very voracious, and feeds
principally on mollusks. Its shell is much valued, but its flesh is
indifferent, and its fat altogether uneatable; however, it is used in
some localities to make lamp-oil.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.--Leather-back or Corded Tortoise (_Spargis

The Leather-back or Corded Tortoise, _Spargis coriacea_, differs from
every other genus, its body being enveloped in a coriaceous hide;
tuberculous in the young, perfectly smooth in adults. The feet are
without claws. Seven longitudinal grooves extend from the neck to the
tail, which remind one of the seven chords of the ancient lyre. Only one
species of _Sphargis_ is known (_S. coriacea_, Fig. 44). This species
is found in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean, and is, with the
Hawk's-bill Tortoise, the only species found on the British coast. Its
body is a light brown, with the lines of the carapace fawn-colour; its
members black, edged with yellow. It attains the length of six to eight
feet, and a breadth of about one-fifth of the length: it sometimes
attains the weight of fourteen to sixteen hundred pounds. Its flesh is
said to be unwholesome, and, on being eaten, to produce severe vomiting
and purging.



Birds are the spoilt children of nature--the favourites of creation.
Their brilliant plumage often assumes the most resplendent colours. They
have the happy privilege of moving in space--now fluttering through the
air, hunting the insect which flits from flower to flower; now soaring
high aloft, and swooping upon the victim it has marked for its prey; now
cleaving the atmosphere on rapid wing, and performing journeys of vast
extent with great rapidity. Mankind have a profound sympathy with these
little winged beings, which charm at once by the elegance of their form,
the melody of their song, and the graceful impetuosity of their

Anatomically speaking, birds are connected with the _Mammifera_ by their
internal structure. Their skeleton essentially resembles that of the
Mammals, the bones being nearly the same, only modified slightly for the
purposes of flight.

In birds there is a double circulation. The heart consists of two
moieties, or lobes, known as the auricle and ventricle. It is conical in
form, and occupies the anterior part of the thorax, its apex passing
between the lobes of the liver; but there is little perceptible
distinction between auricles and ventricles. Their blood is richer in
globules than that of the Mammalia, being more thoroughly permeated by
air; the respiratory function is also more energetic, from the same
cause--in fact, they consume a larger quantity of oxygen, and produce a
proportionately greater degree of heat; for while their lungs are small,
and placed in the upper part of the thorax only, where they are
confined on each side to a cavity, bounded above by the ribs, and below
by an imperfect diaphragm, they are perforated by tubes, which
communicate with membranous cells, distributed over the thoracic and
abdominal cavities, between the muscles, and beneath the skin,--often in
all parts of the body. What distinguishes the bird, in fact, is not the
wing; for certain of the Mammalia, as the Bat, and even some fishes, as
the Gusard and Exocoetus, can traverse the air by expanding their wings.
In birds the diaphragm which arrests the air in the Mammalia is scarcely
perceptible, so the external air penetrates into every part of the body
by the respiratory tubes, which ramify the whole cellular tissue, the
interior of the bones, and even the feathers, and between the muscles.
Their bodies, dilated by the air inhaled, lose a proportionate amount of
weight; balloon-like, they float in the air, and, from their peculiar
forms, they can swim, so to speak, in any direction in the gaseous

[Illustration: Fig. 45.--Skeleton of the Swan.]

Wings alone, then, would fail to support the bird in space. The
position renders a double system of breathing necessary. Vital heat in
animals is always in proportion to their respiration, for the oxygen of
the air, which penetrates every cell and cavity of their bones,
feathers, and body, warming and giving increased activity to their
circulation, and specific lightness to their bodies, from its rich
organisation enables birds to live in the coldest atmospheric regions.
In Fig. 46 the respiratory organs of a Pigeon are represented. The
trachea, or windpipe, is composed of many bony rings, varying in
different species. In the Falcons it is slightly flattened, and tapers
in a small degree; but in many genera it presents dilatations and
contractions, and in others it is variously curved, two slender muscles,
which run along its sides towards the sternum, serving to contract it.
In many of the song-birds several pairs of small muscles are attached to
the lower larynx where the tube bifurcates, by which they are enabled to
control this organ, which is the producer of their note.

[Illustration: Fig. 46.]

[Illustration: Fig. 47.]

The trachea carries the air to the lungs in a Pigeon, and separates into
two branches in the breast, where it abuts on the _aërial sacs_, and on
the two lungs (Fig. 47). The air carried by the windpipe acts upon the
blood through the thin substance of the cells which constitute the
pulmonary tissue, in which it traverses in an infinity of minute
vessels, whose thin walls are permeable by the gas.

The lungs are small, and placed in the upper part of the thorax, where
they are confined on each side by a cavity bounded above by the ribs and
below by an imperfect diaphragm; but they are perforated by tubes which
communicate with membranous cells distributed over the thoracic and
abdominal cavities, between the muscles, beneath the skin, and in all
parts of the body--the air even penetrating many of the bones when the
species are peculiarly aërial in their habits.

The external form of birds is modified so as to be subservient to aërial
progression. The vertebral column, or spine, along the centre of which
runs the spinal cord, is divided into three regions--the cervical,
dorsal, and sacral regions--terminating in the caudal extremities, the
number of vertebræ, or pieces, varying much in different genera. The
body consists of the dorsal, sacral, and caudal parts of the column;
laterally, of the ribs and pelvis; and beneath, of the sternum and the
soft parts contained in it. Its anterior part, containing heart, lungs,
and liver, is named the _thorax_; the posterior, the _pelvis_. The
_sternum_, with the clavicles and scapulæ, is perhaps the most curiously
modified part of the skeleton of birds.

The sternum, then, is a large expanded plate extended over the whole
anterior part of the thorax, and even covering more or less what may be
considered the abdomen. It varies greatly in different genera; but in
all it is more or less four-sided, and convex externally, forming the
basis for the powerful muscles by which the wings are moved. These wings
serve as arms by which the bird guides itself, ascending or descending
according to the impulse given them. "That the anterior form of birds is
modified so as to be subservient to the aërial progression for which
these animals are intended," says McGillivray, "is obvious and
intelligible. Their bodies are oval, with the more powerful muscles
placed on the breast, so that, when the horizontal position is assumed,
the centre of gravity comes between the wings, and is kept near the
lower part by the weight of the pectoral muscles. The length and
flexibility of the neck enable the bird to make the necessary changes in
the centre of gravity, while the solidity of the dorsal spine gives
advantage to the action of the muscles. The head is terminated by a
pointed bill, which aids in cleaving the air; the feet, when short, are
drawn up and concealed under the feathers; when long, they are stretched
out beneath or behind the tail, which is more or less expanded, and
helps to support the body in the air, as well as, by acting in the
manner of a rudder, to change its direction, or, by being expanded, to
break its descent."

[Illustration: Fig. 48.]

[Illustration: Fig. 49.]

[Illustration: Fig. 50.]

The wings of birds are acute or obtuse. The more angular the wing of
birds--that is to say, the longer the feathers on the edge of the
wing--the more rapidly does it propel itself through the air. The tail
consists of a number of feathers, to which are attached a series of
small muscles, one for each vertebra, which are capable of depressing
and elevating the tail in various degrees; while a series of
connections, whose fibres invest the base of the quills, curve round
the edge of the tail. Their action is to spread out the tail-feathers,
and incline them to the right or left; thus enabling it to perform the
part of a helm or rudder as it cleaves the atmosphere.

Besides flight, birds possess other means of locomotion. They are formed
for walking or for swimming as well as for flying, according as their
habits are aërial, terrestrial, or aquatic. Their general form, though
possessing all the characteristics of the class, is modified and adapted
to the kind of life they are intended to lead. Where the skin of a bird
is covered with feathers, it is observed that the true skin, or derma,
is thin and transparent; while the cuticle is thicker, and even covered
with scales, in those parts where feathers are absent.

Before addressing ourselves to the physiological functions of birds, a
few words descriptive of their feathers, beaks, and claws will not be
out of place.

The covering of birds is known by the general name of _plumage_. It is
composed of many individual _feathers_. The feathers are horny
productions, consisting of a hollow tube or barrel, and a stem rising
from it. Chemically, this covering is of the same material as the hair
on Mammals and the scales on reptiles and fishes, differing only in its
mechanical structure. Besides the more conspicuous feathers, most birds
have an underneath covering of smaller ones known as down-feathers. A
feather of the ordinary kind consists of the _tube_, or barrel, by which
it is attached to the skin, varying in length according to the species;
the _stem_, or _shaft_, composed internally of a soft, compact, but
elastic substance of a whitish colour, and in its buoyancy not unlike
cork; the _web_, which is a lateral prolongation of the external coating
of the shaft, and which assumes the form of a thin linear membrane
springing from it at an angle more or less acute in different species:
this is the _barb_. From the upper edge of each barb two sets of minute
filaments proceed at an angle similar to that of the barb itself in
respect to the shaft. These smaller filaments are the _barbules_, by
means of which the barbs are retained in opposition--not by the barbules
of one barb interlocking with those of another in the manner of
dovetailing, but by the anterior series of one barb overlapping and
hooking into the recurvate formation of the barb next to it (Figs. 51,
52). The barbules themselves frequently throw out filaments in the same
manner, which are called _barbicels_, whose object is apparently the
same--namely, that of connecting and retaining the barbules in position.
These may be observed, by the aid of a small magnifying glass, in the
quills of the Golden Eagle, _Aquila chrysaëtus_.

[Illustration: Fig. 51.]

[Illustration: Fig. 52.]

[Illustration: Fig. 53.]

[Illustration: Fig. 54.]

[Illustration: Fig. 55.]

Feathers, then, consist of three parts--the tube, the shaft, and the
webs; the webs being the barbs furnished with barbules, sometimes
barbicels. They are convex above, and are thus enabled to resist flexion
or fracture better from beneath than from any other direction. They are
also elastic; and this property, together with their curvature, tends to
keep them closer together.

In the feathers of a large portion of birds there is a plumiform
formation, or small feather or plumule. This plumule is conspicuous in
gallinaceous birds--for instance, the Pheasants (Fig. 53); it springs
from the fore part of the tube, just at the commencement of the shafts;
it gradually narrows, and is continued in the form of a very delicate,
thread-like fibre; from its side proceed two series of barbs, and from
the barbs two series of barbules, extremely fine, entirely disunited,
and very loose. This plumule seldom exists among aquatic birds, but in
gallinaceous fowls it attains the length of two-thirds of the feather,
and in the Emu and Cassowary it equals it in length.

Feathers may be divided into those specially employed as the means of
locomotion and those intended to protect the bird from extreme cold. The
former are much stronger, more compact, and more elongated than the
others. The row of feathers bordering the wing behind is known as the
_alar quills_, or wing-quills, and those terminating the extremity of
the tail, as _caudal quills_. From the head, backwards to the tail, the
feathers increase in strength and size; those on the face, or round the
base of the bill, being smallest, the tail-coverts longest. Immediately
covering the base of the wing-quills are a row of feathers on both
surfaces of the wing; these are the quill-coverts.

The most brilliant feathers are found in birds of warm climates, and the
more tropical the climate the more dazzling and brilliant is the
plumage. In many species the brilliant plumage is confined to the males,
while that of the females is dark and sombre. In other cases it is the
same in both sexes. The young of some species attain the adult
appearance after the first moult; others take several years to acquire
their full splendour.

Birds cast their feathers at least once a year, in order to put on a
fresh dress. This is called moulting--a change which usually occurs in
the autumn, but sometimes both in spring and autumn. During the moulting
season birds are dull, retiring, and silent; but when they emerge from
this state they proudly display their lively colours, which now rival
the gayest flowers that surround them.

Among the gallinaceous birds, and especially among the aquatic species,
there exist over the coccyx certain receptacles from which is distilled
the oily substance with which they lubricate their plumage. These
receptacles are known as the uropygial glands. On the lower surface is a
layer of cellular tissue containing a similar fluid, which seems to be
connected with the growth of the feathers.

[Illustration: Fig. 56.]

[Illustration: Fig. 57.]

[Illustration: Fig. 58.]

[Illustration: Fig. 59.]

[Illustration: Fig. 60.]

The feet of birds are as varied in different species as are their wings.
In birds of prey the claws are powerful and hooked. In some the foot is
flat and the claw straight and adapted for walking (Figs. 56, 57, 58).
The great toe is generally the strongest, but this is not an absolute
law: a projection which is found on the leg of some birds, and is
designated a spur, is a formidable weapon in some species (Figs. 59,
60). Some birds walk by bringing their feet forward alternately; others
by a simultaneous motion, or a succession of leaps. Some run with great
velocity, while others walk with great difficulty, and that only on a
flat surface. Many have their toes joined by thin membranes, which act
as paddles by which they propel themselves through the water.

The beak, or bill, of birds is composed of two bony pieces, called
mandibles, surrounded by a horny substance, differing both in form and
thickness according to the habits of the species. In the genus FALCO the
bill is shorter than the head; the upper mandible is furnished at the
base with a bare coloured skin, of a peculiar dense texture, called the
cere; its outline slightly convex as far as the edge of the cere (Fig.
61), then curved so as to form about the third of a circle, and
evidently destined, in connection with its formidable claws, to tear its

[Illustration: Fig. 61.]

[Illustration: Fig. 62.]

[Illustration: Fig. 63.]

In the TOUCANS RAMPHASTIDÆ the bill is half a foot long, hollow within,
thin, and nearly transparent; and the mandibles are so disposed as to
combine, with their great bulk, strength and lightness, and assisting by
their digestive power to assimilate both animal and vegetable food (Fig.
62). In the PELICANIDÆ, as in the Common Cormorant, _Phalacrocorax
carbo_, the bill is long, straight, and compound; the upper mandible
curved towards the point, the lower compressed; the base inserted in a
small membrane which extends under the throat. In the back part of the
head is an additional bone (Fig. 63, _a_), attached in such a manner to
the occiput as to admit of great expansion, which permits of its
swallowing plaice and other flat fish of considerable size. The CRANE,
_Grus cinerea_ (Fig. 64), has the bill rather longer than the head,
strong, straight, compressed, and pointed at the extremity; the sides of
the mandible deeply channelled with nostrils, and closed backwards by a
thin membrane.

[Illustration: Fig. 64.]

In the Goose, genus _Anser_ (Fig. 65), we find the bill short, not
longer than the head, conical, covered at the base with a cerous skin,
with under mandible smaller than the upper. In the Sparrows, _Passerina_
(Fig. 66), the bill is strong and conical, the upper mandible slightly
curved, the lower compressed and smaller than the upper; nostrils
lateral, basal, round, and partly concealed by the short feathers at the
base of the mandibles. In the Goatsuckers, _Caprimulgus_ (Fig. 67), the
bill is remarkably small and weak, the sides inflexed and sometimes

[Illustration: Fig. 65.]

[Illustration: Fig. 66.]

[Illustration: Fig. 67.]

The tongue, like the bill, however, is only an accessory to the
digestive apparatus; for while the beak serves the purpose of prehension
and trituration, the tongue assists in deglutition or swallowing.
Digestion is so active in some birds, that they get fat in an
excessively short space of time. The Ortolan Bunting, _Emberiza
hortulana_, and some others, are fattened for the table in five or six
days. In the swelling under the throat, called the crop, _a_ (Fig. 68),
or first stomach, which is largely developed in some of the granivorous
or grain-eating birds, the food remains for a time, where it undergoes
certain modifications which facilitate digestion; thence it passes into
the succenteric ventricle, or second stomach, _b_ (Fig. 68),--there it
imbibes the necessary amount of gastric juice; being finally transformed
into _chyme_ in the gizzard, _c_ (Fig. 68), or third stomach, which is
possessed of great muscular power, being capable of acting upon the most
solid bodies, triturating even the flints and gravel which the
gallinaceous birds swallow to aid their digestion.

[Illustration: Fig. 68.]

It is a curious fact that a grain of seed, introduced into the stomach,
may be digested without alteration, and ejected where it will germinate,
if it meets with no obstacle to its vegetation. In this manner trees are
frequently found in regions where their species appear to have been
previously unknown.

_Chyle_, which is a milky fluid formed from the junction of chyme and
bile, is received by the small intestine, where the bile also flows from
the liver and the saliva from the pancreas.

The urinary apparatus consists of the kidneys, two in number, thick and
irregular, and distinct one from the other, abutting on the intestine,
which terminates in a species of pouch, or _cloaca_, through which
evacuation, alternately of urine, excrement, and eggs, takes place.

The sense of touch, of smell, of taste, and hearing are only slightly
developed in birds. Some have spoken of great delicacy of scent in birds
of prey, which are observed to assemble in great numbers on fields of
battle and other places where human carcasses are exposed. But the
opinions of naturalists, such as Audubon and Levaillant, seem to prove
that these animals were attracted rather by the sight than smell.

The organ of sight is, indeed, more highly developed in birds than in
any other class of animals. The volume of the eye itself is large
compared with the head. It includes an addition which seems to be
confined to birds. This is a black membrane, with many folds, very rich
in blood-vessels, and situated at the bottom of the ocular globe, and
advancing towards the crystalline. Anatomy has failed to explain the use
of this, but it is supposed that by advancing or withdrawing it, it
gives to birds additional power of vision. Other parts of the eye, such
as the choroïds, the thin membrane which covers the posterior part of
the eye, the iris, the retina, present nothing remarkable. The white of
the eye is surrounded by an osseous or cartilaginous matter, evidently
placed there for protection of this delicate and useful organ.

[Illustration: Fig. 69.]

Besides the ordinary upper and lower pupils, birds possess a third. This
consists of an extensive transparent membrane, disposed vertically,
which covers the eye like a piece of network, protecting it from the
effects of a blaze of light. It is this pupil, or nictating membrane,
placed at the internal angle of the eye, between the orb and the
external pupil, which the animal uses at will, which permits the Eagle
to gaze at the sun, and prevents the nocturnal birds of prey from being
dazzled when exposed to daylight.

The perfection of the sight of birds seems to be proved from the
Vulture, so distant from his prey as to appear a mere speck in the
heavens, without deviation flying directly to it; or the Swallow, which
perceives, while on rapid wing, the smallest insect on which it feeds.
According to Spallanzani, the Swift has sight so piercing, that it can
see only five lines in diameter at the distance of five hundred feet.

Birds, of all animal creation, can traverse distances with the
greatest rapidity. The fleetest among the Mammifera cannot
run over five or six leagues in an hour. Certain birds easily
traverse their twenty leagues in the same interval of time. In
less than three minutes we lose sight of a large bird, such as a
Kite or an Eagle, whose body is more than a yard from wing to
wing. It is assumed, from these facts, that these birds traverse more
than fifteen hundred yards each minute, or more than fifty miles
in an hour. A Falcon of Henri II. strayed from Fontainebleau
in pursuit of a Bustard; it was taken the next day at Malta.
Another Falcon, sent from the Canaries to the Duke de Lermes,
in Spain, returned from Andalusia to the Peak of Teneriffe in six
hours--the flight representing a distance of two hundred and fifty
leagues. In short, the whole organisation gives to a bird that
remarkable lightness which contributes so much to its velocity. Not
to speak of the feathers with which it is covered, its bones are hollow
and form large cells, called _aërial sacs_, which it is able to fill
with air at will, and its sternum is furnished with a bony frame
or breast-bone, formed somewhat like the keel of a ship, into
which the pectoral muscles are inserted--which, besides being
largely developed, in birds of flight possess remarkable contractile

The vocal apparatus in birds, represented in Figs. 70 and 71,
is very complicated, and differs from the human larynx and trachea.
It consists of a kind of osseous chamber; which, however, is only
a swelling in the arterial trachea at the point where it bifurcates
and enters the breast to form the bronchial tube. It is this
formation, called the lower larynx, which constitutes the organ of
song. Five pairs of muscles, attached to the walls of this chamber,
stretch or relax the vocal chord, by which means they enlarge
or diminish the cavity of the larynx. Whoever has watched any
song-bird singing must have noted the swelling and contracting
of its throat as it poured out its melody, modifying, in a thousand
ways, the tension of the vocal chords and of the larynx, and
producing those marvellous modulations whose perfection must
always be a subject of astonishment and admiration.

[Illustration: Fig. 70.]

[Illustration: Fig. 71.]

The song of birds must be the expression of some sentiment; they surely
sing as much for their own pleasure as to charm those who listen to
them. While they fill the woods with their melodious accents they direct
their looks on all sides, as if proud of their talents, and desirous of
gathering the tribute of admiration to which they feel themselves
entitled. Their song varies with the season, but it is in the early
spring their efforts are the most successful, and we are most disposed
to admire the beauty and harmony of their voices. Can anything be more
delicious than the warbling of the Linnet, the piping of the Goldfinch,
slowly swelling from their leafy bower, or the melodious cadence of the
Nightingale, as it breaks the silence of the woodland during the serene
nights of leafy June?

Our landscape would be sad and mute indeed without these graceful
inhabitants of the air, which give so much animation to country life and
solitary rambles. In the silence of night, when all nature sleeps and
life seems suspended, all at once certain notes of harmony rise from
under the dense foliage, as if to protest against the universal silence.
It is sometimes a plaintive cry, prolonged into a stifled sigh, now a
continuous warbling, now a lively song, gay and melodious, which the
whole forest re-echoes to.

When the darkness of night gives place to the first dawn of day--when
the soft gleam of Aurora has appeared on the horizon, all is
transformed, all is vivified on the new-born earth, lately asleep and
apparently deserted. The larger birds rise higher and higher in the air,
till they are lost in the clouds. The small birds hop from branch to
branch with joyous gambols, communicating a movement of happiness and
content over all nature. What a wonderful variety of music issues from
them--what dazzling brilliancy and variety deck their plumage--what a
charm pervades the whole scene, enlivened by these living flowers
flitting about in intense enjoyment, hovering, traversing, and
embellishing the air! Be it a Titmouse, which seems to spend its life
suspended from the branch of a tree; or the Fly Catcher, on the other
hand, always perched; the Lark, performing its graceful circles in the
air as it rises higher and higher, pouring forth its melodious song more
vigorously with each circle described; the Thrush, which runs along the
grassy path, watching for its prey, or the House Sparrow chirping from
the straw-built roof, or the Robin warbling from some leafless
bower--how completely the little winged wanderers decorate the landscape
and improve the picture with their innocent gambols!

Assuredly birds have a language which they alone comprehend. When danger
threatens them, a particular cry is uttered by one, and immediately all
of the same species hide themselves until their fears are dispelled and
confidence restored. When the presence of a bird of prey is announced by
the plaintive cry of the Thrush, all the feathered race of the
neighbourhood are hushed into silence.

Birds of prey with carnivorous instincts live in the most solitary
places. The Eagle lives alone with his mate in some unapproachable
aerie, his nest placed on the side of some steeply-scarped mountain, or
perhaps hidden in the depth of some inaccessible ravine, whence they
sally forth to visit some distant region in search of prey.

It is very difficult for us to appreciate the degree of intelligence
exhibited by birds. In the Mammifers, whose organisation approaches
nearer to that of man, we are enabled partially to comprehend their joys
and griefs; but in the case of birds we are reduced to conjecture in
order to arrive at an estimate of their sensations. To explain this
profound mystery a word has been invented which satisfies easy minds: we
call the sentiment which leads birds to perform many admirable actions
which are related of them, _instinct_. The tenderness of the mother for
her young--a tenderness so full of delicacy and foresight--is, we say,
only the result of _instinct_. It is agreed on all hands, however, that
this instinct singularly resembles the intelligence called reason, and,
in the opinion of many, is nothing else.

Reproduction in birds occurs at intervals regulated by nature, and they
are distinguished, above all other creatures, for the fidelity of their
affections. It is frequently a matter of observation that a male
attaches itself to a female, and they henceforth live together till the
death of one or both; and many affecting scenes are described where
death has overtaken one of the affectionate pair. When the breeding
season approaches, the habits of the female are modified; she abandons
her former freedom, and, having laid her eggs, she passes her whole time
in incubation, defying hunger and all other dangers, apparently well
instructed in the fact that the equal and prolonged heat communicated by
their contact with her body is necessary to hatch them. During the
period of incubation the male, in most instances, watches the female,
and supplies her with food; afterwards the little ones are waited on by
both the parent birds with the tenderest care until they finally attain
the use of their wings.

The solicitude of birds for their young is first manifested in the
choice of the locality for the nest, and in the care with which this
cradle of their progeny is constructed. But all this disappears when the
young no longer require the maternal protection.

[Illustration: Fig. 72.]

[Illustration: Fig. 73.]

[Illustration: Fig. 74.]

[Illustration: Fig. 75.]

In spring, when the birds have paired, they set themselves to work at
once to collect the necessary materials for their nest. Each carries its
blade of grass or stem of moss. Large birds content themselves with a
coarser structure--chips of wood, or branches of trees interlaced with
twigs, lined with hair and other soft materials, are fashioned into the
necessary shape. But the smaller species really display great art in
framing their miniature dwelling, which they furnish inside with wool,
blades of grass, or down, the male and female labouring in the common
work. Their effort is to make a soft, warm, and solid bed on which to
deposit the coming eggs. The mother-bird has recourse to all sorts of
cunning devices in order to conceal her nest from prying eyes, choosing
for this purpose the heart of a leafy bush, the forked limb, the
concealed crack or hollow in the trunk of a tree, the chimneys of a
house, crevices in a wall or under a roof. Curiously enough, the nests
of the same species are always fashioned in precisely the same manner.
The Kinglet, or Wren (Fig. 72), builds its nest under a bank, generally
near some brook; it is neatly formed of moss, nearly covered with
leaves, and lined with small feathers, hair, and wool. In this nest the
smallest of our native birds lays six delicate little white eggs, marked
with small pink spots. The Humming-birds (Fig. 73), which flit about in
tropical woods, build their nests of grass, lined with feathers. The
House Sparrow (Fig. 74) builds its nest under the eave of some house;
while the Hedge Sparrow (Fig. 74) chooses the fork of a hawthorn-tree in
which to construct its children's home. The Magpie, more ambitious,
constructs, in the topmost fork of some tall ash, or poplar, or elm, its
nest of branches interlaced with twigs, and lined with fine grass, hair,
and other soft materials (Fig. 75). It is a large and consequently a
conspicuous fabric, elliptical in form, composed first of rough boughs,
on which is laid a quantity of mud, and then a layer of twigs, the whole
lined with fibrous roots and other soft material. The Goldfinch builds
its nest on trees; it is composed of grass, moss, and lichens, and lined
with the down of various plants and such other soft material as comes in
its way, elaborately interwoven with wool and hair (Fig. 76).

[Illustration: Fig. 76.]

[Illustration: Fig. 77.]

The Owl, _Strix flammea_, chooses her nest in some obscure nook of an
old tower, the steeple of a church, a dovecot, or the hollow of an aged
tree (Fig. 77). It is composed of twigs and straws loosely arranged.

Some birds form into a sort of coarse tissue the fibres of which they
construct their nest, which has procured them the name of Weaver Birds.
The nest of _Fondia erythrops_ occupies the centre of a bundle of reeds
growing in shallow water, in which various grasses are roughly
interwoven in the form of a cupola. The Black-headed Synalaxis, _S.
melanops_ (Bonaparte), constructs a more delicate fabric, but remarkable
for its strength. It builds its nest with grasses, interlacing them in a
firm and inextricable web; the form is globular, and the entrance is a
small hole in one of its sides. The Orioles and Cassiques of the New
World cannot be passed without noticing their wonderful skill in nest
construction. The nest of the Baltimore Oriole forms a perfect family
pouch, which it suspends from the upper branches of a shrub or tree. The
nest of _Cassicus hæmorrhous_ (Cuvier) consists of dry grasses woven
into long sacks, gradually increasing in size towards the bottom, with
an elongated slit in the side; this is so constructed as to exclude rain
from the nest. These wonderful structures are sometimes two yards in
length; and when these birds are numerous in the country, the nests, as
they hang suspended from the branches of trees, give a singularly novel
aspect to the landscape.

Not less curious is the nest of the Tailor Bird, _Orthotonia_ (Fig. 78),
which is formed of a large leaf, the two sides of which the bird has
contrived to sew together; in the interior is placed the nest.
Miraculous indeed is the produce of these little workers. The wonder is
how the birds contrive to enter a nest on the wing when the opening
seems scarcely so large as the bird's body, and yet it enters without
disturbing a fibre. The hut of some savage races is left constantly
open, their intelligence not suggesting a protecting door. The Spiders
are more ingenious. They contrive to close the entrance to their
dwellings, while the door is left habitually open; some birds adopt
analogous precautions. In M. Jeudon's book on the Birds of India, he
reports a curious arrangement of a species of Homrain: when the female
of this bird begins to lay, the male encloses her in their nest by
shutting up the door with a thick mud wall, leaving only a small opening
by which the female can breathe and receive her food from the male
bird's bill; for this severe husband is not forgetful of his duties, but
every few minutes conveys some morsel to the enclosed prisoner.

[Illustration: Fig. 78.]

[Illustration: Fig. 79.]

Sonnerat, in his "Voyage to India," speaks of a Cape Tit, the nest of
which is in the form of a bottle, and composed of cotton. While the
female hatches the eggs, the male, like a true sentinel, maintains a
strict watch on a specially-formed resting-place, built on one of the
sides. Finally, for ingenious construction, instigated by affection for
its progeny, there is nothing to compare to the work of the Republican
(Fig. 79). This little bird of the Cape, which is about the size of a
Sparrow, which it much resembles, lives in numerous families, that unite
in forming immense colonies. Their dwellings have the appearance of a
circular framework surrounding the trunk of some large tree, as
represented beneath. Levaillant counted as many as three hundred cells,
which indicate that it is inhabited by six hundred birds. These nests
are so heavy that Levaillant was compelled to employ a cart with many
men in transporting one of their colonies. At a distance they resemble
great roofs attached to the trunks or branches of trees, on which
hundreds of birds sport and enjoy themselves. Further, the Oriole
suspends its basket-like nest by a twig at the extremity of a flexible
branch, placing it thus beyond the reach of any prowling four-footed
ravisher. The Magpie selects the topmost fork of the loftiest trees.
Again, the nest of the esculent Eastern Swallow, the one so much sought
after by gourmands, hangs from those cliffs washed by the sea, and is
constructed of a _fucus_, or marine plant, of the genus _Gelidium_,
which gelatinous substance, cemented by the saliva of the bird, forms a
sort of paste of most delicate flavour.

When this nest is built, and the walls properly cemented, and the home
of the little brood prepared, the eggs are laid and the process of
hatching commences. Eggs are generally numerous in inverse proportion to
the size of the bird. The Eagle lays two, for instance, while the
Titmouse (_Parus_) lays from twelve to eighteen.

The eggs laid, the female must now submit to the long and painful labour
of incubation. While the male lies in wait in the neighbouring bush to
defend his young brood against any enemy which may present itself,
giving battle to much larger animals if they venture to attack his nest,
the female only quits her charge for necessary food, and her place is
often occupied during her absence by her mate. Enemies that lie in wait
are numerous. Among them may be enumerated birds of prey, small
quadrupeds, reptiles which treacherously insinuate themselves into the
nest, and perhaps more unfeeling than all, children with destructive

If nothing occurs to disturb the repose of the pair, the male, perched
upon a neighbouring branch, pours out a song expressive of his felicity.
The little ones are finally hatched. Helpless and incapable, without
feathers and with closed eyes, they are utterly dependent on the parent
birds, by which they are fed until the time when they are covered with
feathers. They now begin to try their wings, and find their own food.
The mother directs their first efforts, uttering a peculiar cry to
attract them when she discovers a favourite morsel; defending them
courageously, and, with a total abnegation of self, meeting the most
formidable enemies; sometimes going so far for their protection as to
offer herself a victim. How pitiful are the cries of a Swallow whose
nest is built under the roof of a house on fire! Fearlessly she rushes
on the flames, flying to the assistance of her young, as if she would
rescue them or perish under the fatal roof. Or mark the unhappy
Partridge which the sportsman has surprised on the nest. She hesitates
not to offer herself a sacrifice, throwing herself almost under the
intruder's feet, in order to attract his attention from her progeny.

When the young are strong enough to take wing, they abandon the family
tie, and soon lose themselves in the great world of nature, forgetful of
their parents' unselfish care. The ingratitude of their first-born does
not, however, discourage the forsaken couple. With the returning season
they renew their labours, exhibit the same solicitude, the same
affection, to meet with the same return. Nature is an unfailing
source--an eternal focus of tenderness and love.

Most families of birds are migratory; that is, they abandon their summer
quarters and undertake long journeys at certain seasons. These
migrations occur with the greatest regularity. By their departure from
temperate or cold climates they prognosticate the approach of winter, as
their return heralds spring. Among the ancient Greeks, as we learn from
a passage of Aristophanes on birds, the arrival of the CRANE pointed out
the time of sowing; the arrival of the KITE the sheep-shearing season;
and the arrival of the SWALLOW in Greece was the date for putting off
summer clothing. The impulse which causes birds to depart is an
instinctive desire to find climatic conditions appropriate to their
wants of life. At the approach of winter they desert the regions of the
north in search of southern countries with a warmer climate, while
others migrate northwards to escape the heat.

Nevertheless, all birds are not migratory; many species remain during
their whole lives in the locality where they were hatched, straying but
little distance from their birth-place. The majority of those which
migrate perform their journeys annually and with great regularity; a few
irregularly and accidentally; that is, they are caused by necessity, or
by atmospheric influences, to change their residence; and it is no
unusual sight on such occasions to see numerous flocks of birds
assembling under the leadership of a chief, and taking their flight in
perfect order, traversing seas, and passing from one continent to
another, with astonishing rapidity. On the 22nd of September, 1771,
White, of Selborne, witnessed the flight of a flock of Swallows which
had rendezvoused the night before in a neighbour's walnut-tree. "At dawn
of what was a very foggy day, they arose all together in infinite
numbers, occasioning such a rustling from the strokes of their wings
against the hazy atmosphere that the sound might be heard at a
considerable distance." In the Old World, choosing a time when the winds
are favourable, most migratory birds direct their flight towards the
south-west in the autumn, and the north-east in spring. In America the
migratory birds take a south-east direction in autumn, and the reverse
in spring. These aërial travellers instinctively direct their flight to
the same regions--often to the same district; and there are good grounds
to believe that the same pair frequently find their way year after year
to the same nest.

The duration of the life of birds in a state of nature is one of those
subjects on which little is known. Some ancient authors--Hesiod and
Pliny, for example--give to the Crow nine times the length of life
allotted to man, and to the Raven three times that period; in other
words, the Carrion Crow, according to these authors, attains to seven
hundred and twenty years, and the Raven two hundred and forty. The Swan,
on the same authority, lives two hundred years. This longevity is more
than doubtful. Paroquets, however, are known to have reached more than a
hundred. Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and Nightingales unquestionably, even
in the confinement of a cage, have lived four-and-twenty years. A Heron,
Girardin tells us, lived fifty-two years, which was testified by the
ring which he bore on one of his legs, and even then he lost his life by
an accident, while in full vigour. A couple of Storks, moreover, have
been known to nestle in the same place for more than forty years. All
that we can affirm is that birds live much longer than the Mammalia.

We can easily fix a circumscribed geographical boundary to any
species of Mammalia. They may be limited to a country, or even a
district. Can we impose a like distribution on birds? At first sight
this seems difficult: their powerful organs of locomotion permit of
their travelling rapidly; and, moreover, their nature, essentially
mobile, and their wandering humour, lead them to continual change;
and then their organisation adapts them for great extremes of
temperature--circumstances which would lead us to consider them quite
cosmopolite. Nevertheless, many species reside habitually in
countries of very limited range. A Sovereign Hand has traced on the
surface of the globe limits that cannot be passed. How such small
creatures are able to perform such distant journeys, pausing only at
far-severed resting-places for necessaries, has always been a matter
of surprise. They pass on without an instant's sleep, however long
and fatiguing the route. How can the Quail, for instance, with its
short wing and plump body, traverse the Mediterranean twice in the
year? Hasselquist tells us that small short-winged birds frequently
came on board his ship in squally weather, all the way from the
Channel to the Levant; and Prince Charles Bonaparte was agreeably
surprised by the visit of a party of Swallows to the ship _Delaware_,
in which he was a passenger, when five hundred miles from the coast
of Portugal, and four hundred from Africa. Audubon relates a similar
occurrence; and numerous instances are recorded in which these
fatigued travellers have taken shelter in the first fisherman's boat
they met, sometimes so weak as to be hardly able to move a wing. It
is therefore a fact truly inexplicable, in spite of every hypothesis,
more or less reasonable, which has been advanced by naturalists in

Men have little influence over birds, and have, therefore, few
opportunities of studying their habits in a state of nature. Some few
species may be retained in captivity, and some observers have been able
to obtain their entire confidence while in that condition; but, except
two or three species, it has not been possible to reduce them to a state
of domestication. Our knowledge of the habits and manners of the
feathered race is, therefore, entirely dependent on chance observation.

The Humming-bird is confined to certain portions of America. The
Nightingale, if a visitor to Scotland, is only found in Berwick and
Dumfriesshire in fine seasons, while it is constantly seen in Sweden, a
country much colder and much more northerly. The Toucans, so brilliant
in plumage, are only found in tropical South America. The Swallow, so
rapid on the wing, clearing its twenty leagues an hour when it leaves us
for its southern winter quarters, never deviates from the route which
seems to have been traced for it by a Sovereign Master.

It may, then, be stated that the great zones of the earth differ as much
in birds as in the Mammifers found in them. We find in climatic regions
birds, or groups of birds, of perfectly distinct species, and which are
rarely found beyond that particular zone. Glancing at the various
countries forming a region, particular types of birds are easily
recognised. Africa, for instance, alone possesses the Great Ostrich,
while only a small species exists in America--the Rhea; the Emu
represents the genus in Australia. Africa has species brilliant as the
most precious stones. To America belong exclusively the Humming-birds,
so remarkable for the brilliancy of their plumage. Again, if Africa is
the country of the Vulture, to America belongs the Condor.

Nevertheless, the acclimatisation of birds is by no means beyond our
power. Experience proves that by carrying a bird far from its native
country, and placing it in conditions approaching those to which it has
been accustomed, it will live and multiply--acclimate itself, in short,
to its new home.

Europe possesses no ornithological type peculiar to it. It is only in
Africa and America that we find those rich varieties of form and colour
which characterise the feathered race. The Island of Madagascar is the
land which possesses the greatest number of ornithological
types--simply, perhaps, because that island abounds in species whose
rudimentary wings do not permit of their wandering away. Whatever the
cause, however, the species found there are not obtained elsewhere. Here
we find the unique Dodo, a form of animal which became extinct in Europe
in the last century.

There is a wonderful charm of companionship in birds--they give
animation to the scene, skipping from bush to bush, or skimming the
surface of land and water. They please the eye by their graceful shape
and plumage, and they charm our ears by their ceaseless warblings. Even
in this sense we lie under a debt of gratitude to these graceful
inhabitants of the air. But this is far from being the limit of the
benefits we derive from them. The birds of the poultry-yards furnish our
most delicate food; their eggs form a considerable branch of trade, and
are indispensable in the kitchen; and what would become of our country
gentleman should our game birds ever become extinct?--an event by no
means improbable, seeing that, in the year of grace 1868, the head-dress
of every votary of fashion was decorated with the wing of a bird--not
confining the demand to Birds of Paradise, Ostrich, Pheasant, and other
feathers of brilliant plumage whose value was a protection, but
extending to the harmless sea-fowl, which were destroyed by thousands
only for the sake of their feathers.

Birds are useful to man by their feeding on the insects, larvæ, and
caterpillars which infest cultivated crops. Without their aid,
agriculture would become impossible. In former times it was a favourite
doctrine with the agriculturist that the _Passerina_ were the real
destroyers of his crops, and a war of extermination was declared against
them; but the observations of more enlightened persons have demonstrated
that the chief food of most of these consists of insects, and the havoc
among them has consequently been stayed; still much ignorance, and its
concomitant, cruelty, exist on this point. Elsewhere, those interested
soon discovered that the destruction of small birds led to formidable
increase in the numbers of voracious insects--that these lively and
joyous creatures, which float in the air and twitter on the bough, are
sent us more for good than evil, and that if some of them make the crops
pay a tax, they repay it tenfold by keeping down the excess of more
destructive ravagers.

While the smaller birds have proved essentially beneficial to man, some
of the larger birds exhibit similar tendencies. The Wading Bird clears
the earth of serpents and other unclean and venomous animals. The
Vultures and Storks throw themselves in flocks on corrupt carrion, and
divest the soil of all putrefying objects: thus, in concert with
insects, birds are the scavengers of the earth, lending their aid to
make it a fit residence for man; in fact, are constituted by nature
guardians of the public health.

In former days Falconry afforded a stately and picturesque sport to the
great, in which lords and noble dames assisted. This pastime still
exists in some parts of England and some portions of the East,
especially in Persia, where the Falcon is trained to chase the Gazelle
and small ruminants; while in China and Japan the Cormorant and Pelican
are taught to fish the rivers for their masters. From very ancient
times, the Carrier Pigeon was the bearer of messages now transmitted
along the electric wires with lightning speed.

Nor do these benefits comprise all the claims of birds to the gratitude
of man. In tropical America the Agami, _Trophia crepitans_, or Trumpet
Bird of Guiana, is domesticated, and so docile in its habits, that it is
employed to watch the flocks, which it does with the fidelity and
intelligence of a Dog. "The Agami," says M. Monocour, "is not only tamed
easily, but becomes attached to its benefactor with all the fondness and
fidelity of a Dog. When bred in the house, it loads the master with
caresses, and follows all his motions, but is easily offended." It is
bold and obstinate, and will attack Cats and Dogs, fighting a tough
battle with one of the latter, however considerable his size. In Cayenne
the denizens of the poultry-yard are confided to its care; it leads them
to their pasture, prevents them from straying to a dangerous distance,
and brings them home in the evening, just as a trained shepherd's Dog
will do the flocks committed to his care, and it manifests its delight
by cries of joy when its master vouchsafes a caress in return for its
faithful service. The Kamichi, which belongs, like the Agami, to the
same order, possesses similar characteristic intelligence. Like the
former, it is sociable and susceptible of education, and becomes a
useful auxiliary to the inhabitants of South America.

After these brief remarks on the organisation and habits of birds, we
proceed to describe the more remarkable species, arranged according to a
simple and comprehensive order of classification, placing before the
reader the various orders of the class AVES, in the ascending scale
which has been adopted in our previous works.


Warm-blooded, vertebrated, biped animals. _Pectoral limbs_, fore-arms or
wings organised for flight; feathery _integument_; red blood;
_respiration_ and _circulation_ double; _lungs_ fixed and perforated.


Swimming birds, having the toes united by a membrane; legs placed behind
the equilibrium; the body covered with a thick coat of down beneath the
feathers. They include the following orders and families:--

     I. _Brevipennes_, Ostriches, Cassowaries, the Penguins, Auks,
     Guillemots, and Grebes.

     II. _Longipennes_, including the Terns, Gulls, Mews, Petrel, and

     III. _Totipalmates_, the Pelicans, Gannets, Cormorants, Frigate
     Bird, Tropic Bird.

     IV. _Lamellirostres_, the Ducks, Geese, Swans, Flamingos.


Wading birds, having the legs long and naked from the tibia downwards.

     I. _Macrodactyli_, Crakes, Coots, Rails, Screamers.

     II. _Cultrirostres_, Boatbills, Cranes, Herons, Ibis, Storks,

     III. _Longirostres_, Avocets, Snipes, Ruffs, Turnstones,
     Sandpipers, Godwit, Curlews, Gambets.

IV. _Pressirostres_, Oyster Catchers, Thicknee Plovers, Lapwings,
Bustards, Coursers.


Scratching birds. Feet with strong, obtuse, scratching claws; mandible
vaulted; nostrils pierced at the base, covered by a cartilaginous scale.

     I. _Gallinaceæ_ (Polygamous), Pea-fowl, Partridge, Pheasant, Quail,
     Grouse, Pentados, Turkey, Curassow.

     II. _Columbaceæ_ (Monogamous), Pigeons, Gouravinago.


Singing birds. Legs short and slender, three toes before and one behind.
In this order, according to Professor Owen, the brain attains its
greatest proportionate size, and the organs of the voice their greatest

     I. _Dentirostres_, Shrikes, Wrens, Wagtails, Thrushes, Warblers,

     II. _Conirostres_, Birds of Paradise, Crows, Tits, Starlings,
     Buntings, Larks, Finches, Grosbeaks.

     III. _Tenuirostres_, Nuthatch, Creeper, Sunboard.

     IV. _Fissirostres_, Swallows, Martins.


Birds moving solely by flight. Skeleton light and buoyant; head large;
keel deep (entire on the Humming-bird); wings powerful, in some long
and pointed; legs small and weak. The order includes--

     I. _Cypselidæ_, Swifts.

     II. _Trochilidæ_, Humming-birds.

     III. _Caprimulgidæ_, Night-jar.

     IV. _Trogonidæ_, Trogons.

     V. _Prionitidæ_, Momots or Motmots.

     VI. _Meropidæ_, Bee-eaters.

     VII. _Galbulidæ_, Jacmar.

     VIII. _Coraciadæ_, Rollers.

     IX. _Capitonidæ_, Puff-bird.

     X. _Alcedinidæ_, King-fishers.

     XI. _Bucerotidæ_, Hornbills.


Climbing birds, with opposing toes in pairs, two behind and two
before. The order includes--

     I. _Ramphastidæ_, Toucans.

     II. _Bucconidæ_, Barbets.

     III. _Cuculidæ_, Cuckoos.

     IV. _Picidæ_, Woodpeckers.

     V. _Musophagidæ_, Plantain-eaters.

     VI. _Coliidæ_, Colys.

     VII. _Psittacidæ_, Parrots.


Rapacious birds, with strong, curved, pointed, and sharp-edged
beak; legs short and robust, three toes before and one behind,
armed with strong, crooked talons. The order includes--

     I. _Nocturnes_, Owls.

     II. _Diurnes_, Eagles, Vultures, Hawks.



The Natatores are obviously devoted, by their organisation, to an
aquatic life. Their constant haunts are found on the great rivers and
lakes, or on the coast. They are chiefly characterised by the form of
their feet. The toes are united by marginal membranes in the Coots and
Water-rails, or in others by the extension of webs between and uniting
the toes, of a soft membrane slightly lobed; hence the name of
_Palmipedes_, or web-footed, usually applied to them. These broad
palmate feet, acting at the end of a long lever, strike the water with
great force when fully expanded, being favoured by their backward
position. When the bird recovers its stroke, the toes are relaxed in
their forward movement, preparatory to another effort; thus progression
through the water is obtained.

Some of the swimming birds in their flight are feeble and slow; others
are incapable of even rising from the water, being only furnished with
rudimentary wings. Again, there are species which possess extraordinary
powers of traversing the air, their well-developed wings enabling them
to pass through space with wonderful rapidity. The Albatross is met with
on the high seas at a vast distance from the shore. Others, as the
Petrels, seem to revel in storms and tempests, mingling their wild cry
with that of the storm-tossed waves. The sailors, who look anxiously to
windward at the dark horizon, where the clouds are surcharged with
torrents of rain ready to burst on the ship, are assured of the
approaching tempest by the circling flight of the white-winged
Albatross, as it is seen through the obscure and threatening mist.

The whole order of Natatores swim and dive without saturation, their
plumage being anointed by an oily liquid furnished by certain glands in
their skin, which renders them impervious to moisture. This immunity
from the effect of water is further assisted by the disposition and
structure of their feathers, which, being smooth and three-cornered,
with the barbules closely interlaced, cause the water to glide off their
polished surface; while the down beneath the feathers of which we have
spoken protects their bodies from the cold, maintaining their natural
heat, and enabling them to resist the cold of the most rigorous winter.

The Natatores are numerous both in species and individuals, having their
habitat in all countries. According to Prince Charles Bonaparte, one of
the most eminent of European naturalists, those which frequent the
sea-shore alone constitute one-fourteenth part of all the birds on the
globe, and the number of species he reckons at nine thousand four
hundred. They feed on vegetables, insects, mollusks, and fishes. They
seek the coast in the breeding season, where they build their nests on
the sand, or in nooks and crannies of the rocks, or on the margin of
lakes and rivers.

In the spring the sea-birds assemble in large flocks, pair off, and
proceed to deposit their eggs in nests constructed generally without
skill, but always lined or carpeted with a fine down, which forms a soft
warm bed for the embryo progeny. Certain localities are frequented by
preference, which are occupied by innumerable flocks in the breeding
season, all of which seem to live together in perfect harmony. Some
of the families of the Natatores are valuable additions to the
poultry-yard. Ducks and Geese furnish delicate and nourishing food for
man; the Swan is gracefully ornamental on our lakes and ponds. The down
of all the aquatic birds is of immense value to the commerce of northern
countries. The eggs are good to eat, and in many countries the
inhabitants consume them in great quantities. Nor does their usefulness
end here. _Guano_, so eagerly sought for by the farmer, is the excrement
of aquatic fowls--the accumulation of ages, until, in the South Pacific
Ocean, it has formed whole islands, some of them being covered with this
valuable agricultural assistant to the depth of ninety or a hundred
yards. Nor is this so marvellous, if it is considered that twenty-five
or thirty thousand sea-birds sleep in these islets night after night,
and that each of them will yield half a pound of guano daily. Our lands
receive valuable assistance to fertility from this unrivalled material,
which owes its power to the ammoniacal salts, phosphate of lime, and
fragments of feathers of which it is composed.

The order of Natatores, or Palmipedes, consists of four families:--1.
_Brevipennes_, or Divers; 2. _Longipennes_, or Skimmers; 3.
_Totipalmates_, or _Pelicanidæ_; 4. _Lamellirostres_, including Geese,
Ducks, Swans, and Flamingos.

THE DIVERS (_Brevipennes_).

Penguins, _Aptenodytes_; Auks, _Alca_; Grebes and Divers, _Colymbus_;
Guillemots, _Uria_.

The birds which constitute this family of the Natatores are
characterised by wings so thin and short as to be totally useless for
the purposes of ærial locomotion. They are also called _Brachypteres_,
from the Greek compound +brachys+, short, and +ptera+, winged. These
are all habitual divers and indefatigable swimmers, using their wings
as fish do their fins. To raise these after making the down-stroke
requires a considerably greater effort than a bird of flight makes in
raising its wings in the air, for which reason the second pectoral
muscle in this and other diving birds has an unusually large
development to give further strength. Their plumage is smooth and
silky, and impervious to water from its oily nature. They live chiefly
on the sea, coming ashore in the breeding season.

The Divers, _Colymbus_, are distinguished from other Brachypteres by
their beak being longer than the head, straight, robust, and nearly
cylindrical, slightly compressed on the sides, acute, the upper mandible
longer than the lower; their toes, in place of being each furnished with
marginal membranes, have the three united by a single membrane; their
feet being placed far backward and on the same perpendicular line with
the tibia--an arrangement very unfavourable for walking, compelling the
birds to take a vertical position, rendering their movements on land
both painful and difficult.

They are, however, intrepid swimmers, and they dive with such alertness
that it requires a quick eye and hand to shoot them. They are
inhabitants of northern seas; there they build their nests in some
solitary islet or desert promontory, where they lay two eggs, oblong in
shape, and more or less shaded of an Isabella white. Fish, particularly
the herring, form their principal food; crustaceans and marine
vegetables are also eaten by them. Their flesh is tough and leathery,
and tastes disagreeable. In the winter they migrate to temperate
countries, where they frequent the rivers and lakes, returning to the
northern regions when the ice has broken up.

There are three species described: the Great Northern Diver, _Colymbus
glacialis_; the Arctic Diver; and the Imber Diver. But there is
considerable doubt on this subject, the young of _C. glacialis_ of the
first and second year being so unlike the parent birds as to have been
long supposed a distinct species.

THE GREAT NORTHERN DIVER (_Colymbus glacialis_).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Northern Diver: Montagu, Selby. Speckled Diver, Ember
Goose: Gunner. Ring-necked Loon.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Colymbus glacialis_: Linn., Adult, Latham, Jenyns,
Brien. _Colymbus Immer_: Young, Linn., Latham.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Plongeon Imbrim_: Temminck.

[Illustration: Fig. 80.--Great Northern Divers (_Colymbus glacialis_).]

The Great Northern Diver is among the mass of those birds which seek
their food on the bosom of the great deep. It is not numerous in British
waters, and can scarcely be called gregarious, although adults
sometimes, and the young more frequently, form small parties of two to
five. A wanderer on the ocean, it not only frequents the margins of the
sea, fishing in the bays and estuaries, but it is also met with many
miles from the shore. Narrow channels, firths, coves, sea-locks, and
sandy bays are, however, its favourite resorts; there it floats, the
body deeply immersed in the water. But though deep in the water, it
moves on steadily and majestically; it overtakes and shoots ahead of all
its more buoyant congeners. But let us watch the actions of a pair of
these children of the ocean, and listen while Mr. McGillivray describes
one of those picturesque scenes in which he delights. "It is now the
end of spring, when the returning warmth gives an increase of animation
to the wandering tribes of the winged inhabitants of the ocean air; but
the Loon makes comparatively little use of his wings, and his great bulk
and robust frame would be ill adapted for the hovering flight of the
Gulls and Petrels. There he comes, followed by his mate, advancing with
marvellous speed. They have rounded the point, and now stop for a moment
to cast a searching glance along the shore, lest an enemy should be
lurking there. Forward they start--the smooth water rippling gently
against their sides. Small effort they seem to make, and yet powerful
must be the stroke of the oars which impel masses so large at so rapid a
rate. Now and again they dip their bills into the water; then the head
and neck. One glides gently under the surface, without plunge or
flutter, and in a few seconds it appears with a fish in his bill, which,
with upstretched head and neck, it swallows. The other having also
dived, appears with a fish, larger, and less easily managed. She beats
it about in her bill, plashing the water, and seems unable to adapt it
to the capacity of her gullet; but at length, after much striving, she
masters it, and continues her search. Backwards and forwards, over the
clear sand of the shallow bay, they glide in their quiet way, and now
they have both dived with their heads towards us. One rises close to the
sea-weed, and so near to us, that we might almost count the spots on his
back. The other, in emerging, has perceived us, and somehow communicates
the discovery to her mate. They swim about for a short while with
erected necks, then sink into the water, their heads disappearing last;
and when we see them again, they are three hundred yards distant,
standing out to sea, with half-submerged bodies." "If shot at and not
wounded," continues this most picturesque of writers on Natural History,
"it never flies off, but dips into the water and rises at a great
distance, and unless shot dead, there is little chance of procuring it,
for its tenacity of life is great, and its speed far exceeds that of a
four-oared boat."

The great American naturalist, Audubon, has left a most interesting
account of this bird in his "Ornithological Biography." After describing
the various Transatlantic localities in which he has studied its
economy, he describes its nest. "One that I saw," he says, "after the
young had left it, on Lake Cayuga, was almost afloat, and rudely
attached to the rushes, more than forty yards from the land, though its
base was laid on the bottom, the water being only eight or nine inches
deep. Others I examined in Labrador were placed on dry land, several
yards from the water, and raised to the height of nearly a foot above
the decayed moss on which they rested. The nest, however placed, is
bulky, and formed of withered grasses and herbaceous plants found in the
neighbourhood. The true nest, which is from a foot to fifteen inches in
diameter, is raised to the height of seven or eight inches. Of the many
nests I have examined, more contained three than two eggs, and I am
confident that the former number most frequently occurs."

Of this handsome bird Sir John Richardson remarks, contrary to the
generally-received notion, that it is seldom seen either in the Arctic
Sea or Hudson's Bay, but that it abounds in all the inland lakes. It is
rarely found on land, being ill fitted for walking, but admirably
adapted to aquatic habits, swimming with great swiftness and for
considerable distances under water; and when it does come up, seldom
exposing more than its neck. It flies heavily, but rather swiftly, and
in a circle round those who have disturbed it in its haunts; its loud
and melancholy cry resembling the howling of the Wolf, or the distant
scream of a man in distress. When the Loon calls frequently, it is
supposed to portend a storm. In the bad weather preceding the advent of
winter on the smaller northern American lakes, previous to migration,
their wild, weird note is so unnatural, that both the Indians and
settlers ascribe to it supernatural powers.

The Imbrine Diver, _L'Imbrim_ of Buffon, is also a fine bird of blackish
plumage shaded with white, the belly and a ring round the neck being
also white. The head is of a changeable black and green colour. When it
has young, in place of diving under water, as its ordinary habit is when
threatened, it boldly attacks its enemies with its beak. Its skin serves
the Greenlanders as clothing. It inhabits the Arctic seas of both
hemispheres, is abundant about the Hebrides, in Norway, in Sweden, and
even on the coast of Scotland. Its appearance on the French coast is
very irregular, and only after great storms.

The Arctic Diver, _C. arcticus_, has the beak and throat black; summit
of the head ashy grey; the breast and the sides of the neck white, with
black spots; the back and rump black; the coverts of the wings with
white spots, and all the lower parts pure white. The bird, though rare
in England and France, is very common in the North of Europe. It is
found on the lakes of Siberia, of Iceland, in Greenland and Hudson's
Bay, and sometimes in the Orkney Islands. The women of Lapland make
bonnets with its skin dressed without removing the feathers; but in
Norway it is considered an act of impiety to destroy it, as the
different cries which it utters are said to prognosticate fine weather
or rain.

THE BLACK-THROATED DIVER (_Colymbus arcticus_).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Black-throated Loon, Black-throated Diver: Montagu,

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Colymbus arcticus_: Linn., Latham, Temminck, Jenyns,
Yarrell, Bonaparte.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Plongeon Lumme_: Temminck. _Plongeon Arctique_:

Smaller and more slender than the Great Northern Diver, this species
retains many of its characteristic habits. It floats deep in the water,
and when alarmed swims at surprising speed, with outstretched neck and
rapid beat of the wings, and little more than its head above the
surface. It flies high and in a direct course with great rapidity. Mr.
Selby describes an ineffectual pursuit of a pair on Loch Shin, in
Sutherlandshire, which was long persevered in. In this case submersion
frequently took place, which continued for nearly two minutes at a time,
and they generally reappeared at nearly a quarter of a mile distant from
the spot at which they went down. In no instance did he ever see them
attempt to escape by taking wing. "I may observe," says this acute
ornithologist, "that a visible track from the water to the nest was made
by the female, whose progress on land is effected by shuffling along
upon her belly, propelled from behind by her legs." When swimming, they
are in the constant habit of dipping their bill in the water with a
graceful motion of the head and neck.

The eggs, of which there are two, sometimes three in the same nest, are
of a very elongated oval form, three inches in length, two inches in
their greatest girth, and of a brownish olive sprinkled with black or
dark-brown spots, and are larger at one end than at the other.

THE RED-THROATED DIVER (_Colymbus septentrionalis_).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Red-throated Loon, Red-throated Diver: Montagu,
Selby, Yarrell. Speckled Diver: Montagu.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_C. septentrionalis_: Linn., Latham, Jenyns, Bonaparte,
Temminck. _C. borealis_, _Siviatus_, and _stellatus_: Latham.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Plongeon Col Marin, ou à Gorge Rouge_: Temminck.

The Red-throated Diver is smaller than either of the preceding, the
plumage is dense and firm, the wings of moderate length, the tail
rounded and firm.

From the beginning of October to the middle of May these birds are
constantly found on our northern coasts, and on the rivers and estuaries
with which they abound. When on a long journey, they keep at a great
height, moving rapidly in a direct course with outstretched wings. On
these occasions they exceed the speed of most of their congeners. With
their long outstretched necks and snow-white breasts, from their
comparatively short wings, they present a curious and novel sight. When
swimming they are extremely vigilant, and permit nothing to approach
them. On the appearance of a boat they glide as it were out of sight
under the water, without noise or flutter, and thence pursue their way
with great rapidity, using wings as well as feet to propel themselves.

THE PENGUINS (_Aptenodytes_)

Belong exclusively to cold countries. They rarely quit the vicinity of
land, yet only take to the shore in the breeding season, or when driven
by squalls and storms from their favourite element. On shore they are
compelled to sit erect. They carry the head very high and the neck
stretched out, while their short winglets are advanced like two
diminutive arms. When they sit perched in flocks on some lofty
projecting rock they might be mistaken at a distance for a line of

[Illustration: Fig. 81.--Penguin (_Aptenodytes_).]

At certain periods of the year the Penguins assemble on the beach as if
they preconcertedly met for deliberation. These assemblies last for a
day or two, and are conducted with an obvious degree of solemnity. When
the meeting results in a decision, they proceed to work with great
activity. Upon a ledge of rock, sufficiently level and of the necessary
size, they trace a square with one of its sides parallel and overlooking
the edge of the water, which is left open for the egress of the colony.
Then with their beaks they proceed to collect all the stones in the
neighbourhood, which they heap up outside the lines marked out, to serve
them as a wall, to shelter them from the prevailing winds. During the
night these openings are guarded by sentinels. They afterwards divide
the enclosure into smaller squares, each large enough to receive a
certain number of nests, with a passage between each square. No
architect could arrange the plan in a more regular manner.

What is most singular is that the Albatross, a bird essentially aërial,
and adapted for flight, associates at this period with these half fish,
half birds, the Penguins; so that the nest of an Albatross may be seen
next the nest of a Penguin, and the whole colony, so differently
constituted, appear to live on the best terms of intimacy. Each keeps to
its own nest, and if by chance there is a complaint, it is that some
Penguin (probably the king Penguin, for he is generally the greatest
thief) has robbed the nest of his neighbour, the Albatross.

Other sea-birds come to partake of the hospitality of the little
republic. With the permission of the masters of the coterie they build
their nests in the vacancies that occur in the squares.

The female Penguin lays but one egg, which she only abandons until
hatched for a few instants, the male taking her place while she seeks
her food. The Penguins are so numerous in the Antarctic seas that a
hundred thousand eggs have been collected by the crew of one vessel.

The Manchots (Fig. 82) have been described by most of the French
naturalists as a distinct species, but there is little doubt of their
being only a variety of the Aptenodytes. They abound in the southern
seas. Their short, stunted wings, which quite incapacitate them from
flying, are reduced to a flat and very short stump, totally destitute of
feathers, being covered with a soft down, having something of the
appearance of hair, which might be taken for scales. Like the Penguin,
the Manchots are excellent swimmers and incomparable divers, and their
coating of down is so dense that it even resists a bullet; it is
consequently difficult to shoot them.

Everything about these birds indicates their adaptation to an aquatic
life. Their feet are placed at the extremity of the body--an arrangement
that renders them awkward and heavy when ashore; where, in short, they
only come to lay and hatch their eggs. They begin to assemble in great
numbers at the commencement of October. Their nests are a very simple
construction; for they content themselves with digging in the sand a
hole deep enough to contain two eggs--but more often one than two.

[Illustration: Fig. 82.--The Manchot (_A. Patachonica_).]

In spite of the limited number of eggs, the quantity of these birds
found in the south of Patagonia is something prodigious. When sailors
land in these high latitudes they take or kill as many as they choose.
Sir John Narborough says, speaking of those at the Falkland Islands,
that "when the sailors walked among the feathered population to provide
themselves with eggs, they were regarded with sidelong glances." In many
places the shores were covered with these birds, and three hundred have
been taken within an hour; for generally they make no effort to escape,
but stand quietly by while their companions are being knocked down with

In another islet, in the Straits of Magellan, Captain Drake's crew
killed more than three thousand in one day. These facts are not
exaggerated. This island, when visited by these navigators, was, so to
speak, virgin; and the birds had succeeded each other from generation to
generation in incalculable numbers, hitherto free from molestation.

The Penguins have no fear of man. Mr. Darwin pleasantly relates his
encounter with one of these birds on the Falkland Islands. "One day," he
says, "having placed myself between a Penguin (_A. demersa_) and the
water, I was much amused by the action of the bird. It was a brave
bird, and, till reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me
backwards. Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him. Every
inch gained he kept firmly, standing close before me firm, erect, and
determined, all the time rolling his head from side to side in a very
odd manner, as if the powers of vision only lay in the anterior and
basal part of each eye." This bird, Mr. Darwin states, is called the
Jackass Penguin, from this habit, when on shore, of throwing its head
backwards, and of making a loud strange noise very like the braying of
an ass.

They defend themselves vigorously with their beaks when an attempt is
made to lay hands upon them; and when pursued, they will pretend to
retreat, and return immediately, throwing themselves upon their
assailant. "At other times they will look at you askance," says
Pernetty, "the head inclined first on one side, then on the other, as if
they were mocking you." They hold themselves upright on their feet, the
body erect, in a perpendicular line with the head. In this attitude they
might be taken for a party of choristers with white surplices and black
gowns. Their cry strikingly resembles the braying of an ass. Navigators
passing these islands of the southern seas might suppose that they were
densely inhabited, for the loud roaring voices of these birds produce a
noise equal to that of a crowd on a fête day. The flesh is most
unpalatable, but it is frequently the only resource of ships' crews who
find themselves short of provisions in these inhospitable regions. As to
the eggs of most of the Palmipedes, they are said to be excellent.


The Grebes (_Podiceps_) have the head small, the neck somewhat
elongated, the legs attached to the abdomen, the tail rudimentary, the
tarsi compressed, the anterior toes united at their base by a membrane
slightly lobed in its contracted extent. These birds live principally on
the sea, but they inhabit fresh water by preference, feeding on small
fishes, worms, mollusks, insects, and the products of aquatic
vegetation. While they dive and swim admirably, they also fly with
vigorous wing when pursued; but they rarely ascend into the air unless
they are alarmed, or under migrating impulse, which disperses them among
the interior lakes in the autumn, and compels them to select a
favourable breeding-place in the spring.

The nest of the Grebe is usually placed in a tuft of rushes, on the edge
of the water. It is composed exteriorly of large grassy plants roughly
interlaced, and the interior is lined with soft broken grasses
delicately arranged. The eggs vary from three to seven. On shore they
cannot walk at all, but creep, so to speak; for they must hold
themselves nearly upright, supported on the croup, the toes and the
tarsi being extended laterally. But ungraceful as they are on shore, so
much greater is their elegance on the water. They are covered with a
close warm down--so close and so lustrous, that muffs of a silvery white
are made of the down-covered skins of their breast, which are impervious
to water.

M. Noury, Director of the Museum of Natural History at Elboeuf, who has
carefully studied the habits of the Grebes, relates of the Castanean
Grebe, _P. cornutus_, that its nest is a perfect raft, which floats upon
the surface of our ponds and lakes. It is a mass of thick stems of
aquatic herbs closely woven together; and as these materials contain a
considerable quantity of air in their numerous cells, and from
disengaging various gases besides in decomposing, these aëriform
supporters render the nest lighter than the water. In this improvised
ship, and upon this humid bed, the female Grebe silently sits upon and
hatches her progeny. But if anything unforeseen disturbs her security,
this wild bird plunges one foot into the water, which she employs as an
oar to transport her dwelling from the threatened danger.

Grebes are inhabitants of the Old and New Continents. Among the European
species may be noticed the Crested Grebe (_Podiceps cristatus_), Fig.
83, about the size of a Duck, ornamented with a double black crest; the
Horned Grebe (_P. cornutus_), provided with two long tufts of feathers,
in form somewhat resembling a horn; the Eared Grebe (_P. auritus_),
distinguished by its beak, the base of which is depressed, while the
point is raised upwards. Among the American species may be mentioned _P.
Carolinensis_ and _P. rubricollis_, killed at the Great Slave Lake,
along with _P. cristatus_ and _P. cornutus_. _P. Chilensis_ and _P.
Americanus_ are natives of the warmer parts of America, of St. Thomas,
St. Domingo, and the Philippines.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Greater Crested Grebe: Jenyns. Crested Grebe:
Montagu, Selby.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Colymbus cristatus_: Linn., Yarrell. _C. urinatur_:
Young, Linn. _Podiceps cristatus_: Latham, Jenyns, Bonaparte, Selby.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Grèbe huppé_: Temminck.

[Illustration: Fig. 83.--The Crested Grebe (_Podiceps cristatus_).]

The Crested Grebe is found along our coasts, and in their estuaries, in
limited numbers; but in the splendid lakes of the North American
fur-countries, according to Dr. Richardson, this species is very
abundant. Mr. Audubon says that it returns to the United States from its
northern wanderings about the beginning of September, and proceeds south
as far as Mexico, a few stragglers only remaining on the lower part of
the Ohio, Mississippi, and the neighbouring lakes. "They pass swiftly
through the air," says this enthusiastic naturalist, "at the height of
about a hundred yards, in flocks of from seven and eight to fifty or
more, proceeding in a loose body, and propelling themselves by continual
flappings, their necks and feet stretched out to their full extent. When
about to alight on the water, they glide swiftly downward, with their
wings half closed, producing a sound not unlike that of a Hawk swooping
upon its prey. At this moment their velocity is so great that, on
alighting, they glide forward on the surface of the water for twenty or
thirty yards, leaving a deep furrow in their wake. They are exceedingly
quick-sighted, and frequently elude, by diving, the shot which is aimed
at them."

[Illustration: Fig. 84.--Guillemots (_Uria Troile_).]

The Guillemots (_Uria_), Fig. 84, have the beak long, straight, convex
above, somewhat angular below, a little curved and hollowed at the
extremity of each mandible; the legs are short, compressed, and placed
well behind the body; the three anterior toes are united by the same
membrane; the claws recurved and pointed; no hind toe; the wings are
straight, and the tail short. These birds, when placed on the ground,
raise themselves with great difficulty, owing to the conformation of
their legs. They only come ashore when driven there for shelter by the
storm, or for breeding. For the latter purpose they choose some
precipitous coast where the rocks project in ledges, from which they can
throw themselves into the sea if they are disturbed. Boldly-scarped
cliffs, which rise perpendicularly from the waves, are consequently
their favourite breeding-places. There it is necessary to seek them.
Unfortunately, the demand for the wings and down of the Guillemots has
reached a point which is not unlikely to lead to their extermination.
One London dealer, we are told, has given an order at Ailsa Craig, on
the Clyde, for a thousand sea-birds weekly; and the tacksman of the rock
is so intent on supplying the demand, that he spreads his nets while the
birds are sitting on the newly-hatched young, which are thus left in
thousands to perish from being deprived of a mother's fostering care.

Among the Guillemots, the female lays only one large egg. They feed on
fishes, insects, and crustacea. They principally inhabit northern
regions, visiting our shores and other temperate climates when the ice
has invaded their summer home. In their migratory journeys they must
trust to their wings--which, however, as already observed, are very
short. They are consequently not possessed of long powers of flight, and
skim the surface of the water, rarely rising much above the surface.
Their progress, however, is sharp and rapid, but of short duration. The
Guillemots during winter are frequently seen in immense numbers on
Rock-all Bank and on the banks of Newfoundland. So little are they
alarmed at the approach of a vessel, that should they be directly in her
track, they will only dive to save themselves. These banks are several
hundred miles from land.

The whole race of aquatic birds of which we have spoken, whether Divers,
Penguins, Grebes, or Guillemots, are, in these northern regions, a
valuable resource, where vegetation almost entirely ceases. The poor
people whose lot compels them to live there obtain in their feathers,
skin, oil, and eggs, clothing, food, and light during their long and
gloomy winter. But to obtain what they truly consider a blessing from
heaven, they have to surmount innumerable difficulties, the birds often
building their nests in islets almost unapproachable, or on rocks rising
perpendicularly out of the water. Slung upon seats hung from the summits
of these crags, the courageous islanders suspend themselves, in the
breeding season, to gather and make, so to speak, a harvest of the
sea-fowls' eggs. Some of these men walk along the rocky coast, furnished
with a conical net attached to the end of a pole, which enables them to
secure the birds flying around them, much in the same manner as boys
catch butterflies in the meadows.

But chasing these graceful swimmers at the foot of their rocky retreat
is mere trifling; the dramatic and dangerous incidents occur at the
summit of the steep, giant cliffs. The intrepid inhabitants of the Feroë
Islands, which are situated to the north of Scotland, between Norway and
Iceland, in the Atlantic Ocean, proceed as follows in the search after
eggs. The fowler begins operations by swarming, as schoolboys call it,
up a pole, which carries him to the first projecting ledge of the rocks.
This point attained, he throws a knotted rope to his companions, who
soon join him on the aërial cliffs. The same manoeuvre is performed,
stage by stage, until they reach the summit. But this is nothing; he has
now to visit the recesses in which the nests are to be found.

[Illustration: Fig. 85.--Catching Birds and gathering Eggs in the Feroë

Upon the edge of the rock a beam is run out horizontally; to this beam a
two-inch rope, which is not less than nine hundred feet in length, is
attached. To the end of this immense line a plank is tied, upon which
the fowler seats himself. This man holds in his hand a light cord for
the purpose of signalling to his companions above. The fowler, thus
seated, descends from cliff to cliff, and from rock to rock; he visits
every nook and cranny in search of plunder, making an ample harvest of
eggs and birds, either taking them by hand, or striking them with the
end of his line. The product of his perilous expedition he places in a
sort of haversack, which he carries slung from the shoulder. When he
wishes to change his place, he gives a preconcerted signal with his
cord, imparting an oscillating motion to it in the direction of that
part of the rock he wishes to visit. When the harvest is deemed
sufficient--when the day's sport is concluded--his companions are
notified, and the fowler is hoisted to the summit of the cliff.

How incredible is the address, and how great the courage, required to
induce a man to let himself be suspended by a slender cord over a
precipice some hundreds of feet in height, and how hazardous, how
frightful the peril! The cord might be cut by chafing against the sharp
rock. What risks he runs on changing his place! It has sometimes
happened to those above to hear one loud heart-rending shriek--the cry
of despair. The men who hold the rope lean forward--they see
nothing--they hear only the great voice of the sea, which drowns all
other sounds as it breaks against the island. They hasten to draw up the
cord--alas! its reduced weight too plainly tells what has happened! The
fowler has been seized with vertigo; or, probably, he has overreached
himself and lost his equilibrium on the slippery stones, and the wave
which roars at the base of this wall of rock has closed over him.

It is such accidents as these which induce the inhabitant of the Feroë
Islands, when he leaves his house on such an expedition, to bid farewell
to his family. Fatal catastrophes, however, are not very frequent. Men
who live in those climates which nature seems to have, as it were,
disinherited, become accustomed to struggle with the elements, and
almost always to triumph over the dangers which surround them. They go
to demand from the abyss food for their wives and children, and the idea
animates and sustains their courage.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Lesser Guillemot: Montagu. Foolish Guillemot:
Montagu, Selby, Willock, Linn. Marrot, Scout, Sea-Hen, Scuttock: Local.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Uria Troile_: McGillivray, Latham, Jenyns, Bonaparte.
_Colymbus Troile_: Latham.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Guillemot à capuchon_.

Individuals of this species are to be found dispersed over all our seas,
in small parties or singly, during the interval between the breeding
seasons. In estuaries, bays, and narrows, where herrings or other fry
are abundant, they congregate in vast numbers, along with Auks,
Red-throated Divers, and Gulls of various species. About the end of
April great quantities may be seen flying in strings along the coast
towards their favourite haunts, which are the precipitous cliffs of
Flamborough Head, the Farn Islands, St. Abb's Head, and other well-known
spots on the English and Scottish sea-board. No preparation is made for
the reception of the eggs, which are deposited in hollows of the rocks
and ledges of the cliffs, each female laying a single one, although a
great number are often seen so closely packed together as to be possibly
covered by one bird.

Where the cliffs are lofty and other birds breed with them, the
Guillemot occupies a zone above the Kittiwake and below the Razor-bill.
"It is interesting," writes McGillivray, with the enthusiasm of one who
has tried it, "to visit one of the great breeding-places, to row along
the foot of the cliffs in a boat, or to stand on a near promontory, and
see the multitudes perched on the rocks, or flying out to sea or
returning; or to look out from the summit upon the groups in sight; or
startle from their stations a whole flock by letting down a large stone;
or to descend by some crevice, clinging with fingers and unshod feet to
the little narrow ledges, and creep in among the eggs; or to be let
down, dangling on a rope, half trembling between fear and excitement."



Willoughby distributes the Palmipedes into such as have the back toe,
and those in which it is absent; the former, again, into such as have
the four toes webbed together, and such as have the back toe separated
from the others. These latter he again subdivides into narrow-billed and
broad-billed; the former having their bills either hooked at the end or
straight and sharp-pointed. The hook-billed have them either even or
toothed on the sides. Those which have them straight or sharp-pointed
are either short-winged and divers--such as Doukers and Loons--or
long-winged, such as Gulls. The broad-billed are divided into Ducks and
Geese. The Ducks are either Sea or Pond Ducks. "The Ducks," he adds,
"have shorter necks and larger feet, in proportion to their bodies, than
Geese. Howbeit, the biggest in this kind do equal, if not exceed, the
least in that. They have shorter legs than Geese, and situated more
backward, so that they go waddling; a broader and flatter back, and so a
more compressed body; and, lastly, a broader and flatter bill. Their
tongue is pectinated, or toothed, on each side, which is common with
them and the Geese."

"The Ducks are of two sorts, either wild or tame. The wild, again, are
of two sorts:--1, Sea Ducks, which feed mostwhat in salt waters, dive
much in feeding, have a broader bill (especially the upper one), and
bending forward to work on the stem; a large hind toe, and then, likely
for a rudder, a long train, not sharp-pointed. 2, Pond Ducks, which
haunt plashes, have a straight and narrower bill, a very little hind
toe, a sharp-pointed train, a white belly, speckled feathers, black,
with glittering green on the middle wing, with a white transverse ring
on either side."

According to Mr. Yarrell, the first division of Ducks comprises the Wild
Duck, Shieldrake, Muscovy Duck, Gadwall, Shoveller, Pintail, Widgeon,
Bimaculated Duck, Garganey, and Teals, all of which exhibit length of
neck, wings reaching to the end of the tail, tarsi somewhat round, hind
toe free or without pendent lobe. They generally frequent fresh water,
but pass much of their time on land, feeding on aquatic plants, insects,
worms, and sometimes fish. The second division includes the Red Crested
Duck, Poachard, Ferruginous Duck, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Harlequin Duck,
Long-tailed Duck, and Golden Eye; while between the two divisions he
places, as possessing some of the characters of each, the Eider Duck,
King Duck, Velvet Duck, and Scoter.

McGillivray accepts this arrangement, with some slight variations,
remarking that the differences as to habits, as well as structure, are
quite obvious; and he gives us a graphic description of the three types.
"High in air," he says, "advancing on gently-arched and outspread wings,
that winnow a passage for them over the far-spreading sea, is seen
advancing from the north a flock of large birds, that are observed, as
they draw nearer, to be arranged in lines ever undulating and changing
figure; while their clear cries seem to express their joy at having
escaped the dangers of their long passage over the waste of waters. Now
they descend, mingle their ranks, wheel in dislocated bands, unite,
sweep along, and, clamorous in their joy, at length alight on the open
pasture. Having rested awhile and plumed themselves, they begin to move
about in search of food, walking sedately and with decurrent necks,
stretching their strong bills to the ground, from which they wrench the
roots of the grasses, and pluck the herbage. Prudent, however, as they
well need be in an unexplored tract, and careful of their safety, they
neither scatter about at random nor leave themselves subject to
surprise. Should a suspicious object present itself, one of them
presently erects himself and emits a warning cry, on hearing which they
all rise together, raise their necks to their full stretch, and
carefully inspect the ground. Should the danger be imminent, they run a
few paces forward, spread out their large wings, ascend into the air,
and betake themselves to some distant place." These are of the first
division, or _Cribatores_, as Mr. McGillivray calls them--more useful to
man than the other aquatic birds, many of them not only affording him
savoury food, but feathers, quills, and down; while some have become
domesticated, and rival the Gallinaceous Fowls in utility: these are the
Ducks and Geese of the poultry-yards and commons.

These web-footed birds, the _Lamellirostræ_ of Cuvier, are distinguished
from all others by their laminated bills, which are thick, have a
covering of soft skin, also small teeth placed along the edge. The
tongue is fleshy, broad, and dentated on the edge. They are aquatic, and
principally inhabit fresh-water lakes and rivers. Their wings being
short, and living chiefly on the water, they are badly qualified for a
sustained flight. Their food is mostly vegetable.

Numerous flocks of Ducks, of various species, frequent the sea-shores
and the rivers of all parts of the world. No family of birds seems more
profusely distributed over the world of waters, and some of them are
remarkable for the brilliant colouring of their plumage. On land, the
waddling gait of Ducks is anything but graceful, but in the water their
appearance is alert and elegant. Look at them as they glide lightly over
the surface of the stream, or mark them as they plunge into its bosom
with a splash, either to bathe themselves or seek their food! All their
movements here are executed with graceful ease, and it is easy to see
that they are in their natural element. They love to paddle in the mud,
where they often find a sufficient supply of food to satisfy their
voracity. But no description of animal matter comes amiss to them,
whether water-insects, worms, slugs, snails, small frogs, bread, fresh
or tainted meat, fish, living or dead. They are such gluttons, that we
have seen two of them fighting and disputing for more than an hour over
the skin of an eel, or some other garbage, which one of them had partly
swallowed, whilst his antagonist was dragging at the other end. To this
division of the Anatidæ belongs the Mallard, or Wild Duck, which may be
considered typical of the others, and which is generally supposed to be
the ancestor of the Domestic Duck.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Mallard: McGillivray, Jenyns. Common Wild Duck:
Montagu, Selby.

LATIN SYNONYM.--_Anas boschas_: Linn., Latham, Jenyns, Bonaparte,

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Canard sauvage_: Temminck.

[Illustration: Fig. 86.--Wild Ducks (_Anas boschas_).]

The plumage of the Wild Duck is dense and elastic. The head, throat, and
upper part of the neck of the male are adorned with hues of a bright
emerald green, shot with violet; its breast is of a purplish brown; its
back is ashy brown, sprinkled with greyish-white zigzag bars; the four
feathers in the middle of the tail, curling up at the end in a
semicircle, are of a blackish hue with a green reflection; its length is
about twenty-four inches; length of wing, thirty-five inches. The
female, which is always smaller than her mate, does not possess the
bright colours which adorn the Drake. Her plumage is brown and russet
grey. Individuals sometimes, though seldom, vary. Sir William Jardine
states that he has seen Drakes having the upper parts of a bluish grey,
decreasing in depth of colouring down the breast; and Mr. Yarrell
mentions two instances in which females of this species have assumed, to
a considerable extent, the appearance and plumage of the Mallard, even
to the curling feathers of the tail. On the other hand, the male
plumage, according to Mr. Waterton, undergoes a singular alteration.
About the end of May the breast and back of the Drake begin to change
colour; in a few days the curled feathers of the tail drop out, and grey
feathers begin to appear in the lovely green plumage round the eyes;
and, by the 23rd of June, scarcely one green feather remains. By the 6th
of July all the green feathers have disappeared, and the male has
assumed the female garb, but darker in colour. In August this new
plumage begins to drop off, and by the middle of October the Drake again
reappears in all the rich magnificence of its former dress.

The Wild Duck (Fig. 86) forms the original stock from which our Domestic
Ducks have sprung. Their favourite resorts are to be found in those
hyperborean regions whose rigorous climate renders it uninhabitable by
man. The rivers of Lapland, Greenland, and Siberia are sometimes
literally covered with them; and, in the month of May, their nests are
there found in quantities which the imagination can scarcely picture. At
the first approach of frost their earliest harbingers begin to appear
among us, and about the middle of October these travelling bands arrive
in increasing numbers.

Wild Ducks have a powerful, sustained, and rapid flight. With one stroke
of the wing they raise themselves either from the land or water, and
mount perpendicularly above the summits of the loftiest trees, when they
take a more horizontal course, maintaining themselves at a great height,
and making long journeys without rest. Triangular columns of them may
sometimes be seen directing their unerring course towards their
destination, the rustling of their wings being heard at considerable
distances. The leading bird, which directs the course of the band, and
which is thus exposed to the first resistance of the wind, from being
foremost to cleave the air, soon becomes fatigued, when it falls back
into the second rank, its place in the van being immediately taken by
another (Fig. 87).

Wild Ducks are extremely suspicious in their nature. When they want to
settle down on any spot, or to go from one pool to another, they sweep
round in concentric curves, descending and ascending again and again,
until they have made a complete survey of their intended halting-place.

The margins of fresh-water lakes, pools, and marshes are the principal
localities frequented by the Wild Duck, so long as the frosts of
winter do not prevent their obtaining the water-insects and aquatic
weeds on which they feed. But when the frost has congealed the stagnant
waters, they take themselves off into more temperate climates,
invariably following the course of the rivers and running streams. When
they return northward after the great thaw--that is, about the end of
February--they keep in pairs, and disperse themselves in search of
breeding-places among the rushes, reeds, and sedge-grasses, constructing
a bulky nest of weeds, which is simply placed on the ground, and
generally near to water.

[Illustration: Fig. 87.--Flight of Wild Ducks.]

Much elegance is not to be looked for in the nest of the Wild Duck. A
favourite situation is a thickly-growing tuft of sedge, and they content
themselves with plucking off a few of the blades, the ends of which they
bend down so as to form a foundation, the surface being covered with a
soft layer of down. Their nests are occasionally found at some distance
from the water, amidst heath or broom, or even in the fork of a tree,
the female having been known to take possession of a Magpie's or Crow's
nest which had been abandoned.

The Duck lays from five to ten eggs, and sometimes more; their colour
varies, but is generally a dull greenish white. The female sits alone,
and only leaves the nest to seek her food. When leaving her nest, she
covers it up carefully with any rubbish at hand; on her return, the
cunning creature alights a considerable distance from it, and glides
through the grass, looking in every direction to see that she is not
watched; if discovered, she will even feign lameness to induce pursuit,
so that she may draw off intruders.

Incubation lasts about a month. The young ones are then hatched, all
generally bursting the egg on the same day. They are covered with a
close yellow down, and are quite alert when they leave the shell; and
their mother soon leads them down to the water, encouraging them by her
example to enter it. They do not return to the nest. At night their
mother covers them under her wings, and at first feeds them with the
small flies that come within her reach.

The ducklings, although they soon learn to swim, are unable to fly till
after the expiration of three months; after that lapse of time
wing-feathers are developed sufficiently to enable them to take flight.
But they are always alert and active on the water, diving and remaining
under it for many minutes with nothing but the bill above the surface.
When danger approaches, the mother utters a peculiar cry, and the young
ones immediately conceal themselves. In a ditch full of water, Mr.
McGillivray once came upon a whole brood of half-grown ducklings which
disappeared in a moment; and although he searched everywhere for them,
he did not succeed in finding a single one. When the Duck perceives the
great Black-backed Gull, the ruthless enemy of her race, she beats the
water with her wings as if to attract the attention of the aggressor. On
his approach she darts at him with so much vigour that she compels him
to retire, shamefully beaten.

Audubon relates a remarkable instance of maternal affection in this
bird. The American naturalist had found in the woods a female of this
species at the head of her young brood. As he approached, he noticed
that her feathers became erect, and that she hissed with a threatening
gesture, after the manner of Geese. In the meantime, the ducklings made
off in all directions. His Dog, which was perfectly trained, brought the
little creatures to him, one by one, without doing them the least
injury. But in all his proceedings he was watched by the mother, who
kept passing and repassing in front of him, as if to distract his
attention. When the ducklings were all safe in the game-bag, in which
they struggled and cried out, the mother came with a sad and troubled
air, and placed herself close to the sportsman, as if unable to suppress
her despair. Audubon, seeing her grovelling almost under his feet, was
filled with pity, and restored her little family before leaving the
spot. "When I turned round to watch her," adds the naturalist, "I really
fancied I could detect an expression of gratitude in her eyes; and I
experienced at that moment one of the most vivid sensations of pleasure
I have ever enjoyed."

Whilst the mother is devoting herself to the education of her brood, the
father pays but little attention to his progeny. Jaded and thin, he
lives a solitary and quiescent life, more sad and wild than ever. He
has, in fact, to submit to a most sudden course of moulting. The female
also loses her plumage after the young ones are hatched. They neither of
them regain their more brilliant dress until the end of autumn.

[Illustration: Fig. 88.--Shooting over Decoy Ducks.]

There are numerous instances proving that Wild Ducks are susceptible of
attachment to man, and it is certain that they can be easily tamed. They
also breed readily with the Domestic Duck; and the crossed birds thus
produced are said to have an excellent flavour, and to fatten with
facility. Mr. St. John, in his "Wild Sports in the Highlands," remarks
that he has frequently caught and brought home young Wild Ducks. "If
confined in a yard with tame birds for a week or two, they strike up a
companionship which keeps them from wandering when set at liberty. Some
years ago I brought home three, two of which turned out to be Drakes. I
sent away my tame Ducks, and the next season I had a large family of
half-bred and wholly Wild Ducks, as the tame and wild bred together
quite freely. The Wild Ducks which have been caught turned out the
tamest of all,--throwing off all shyness, they follow their feeder, and
will eat corn out of the hand of any one they know; while the half-bred
birds are inclined to take wing and fly away for the purpose of making
their nests at a distance."

[Illustration: Fig. 89.--Open Duck-shooting.]

The flesh of the Wild Duck is much esteemed. But they are birds which
are very difficult to approach, in consequence of their suspicious
nature; and in order to get even a long shot at them, it is necessary
to have recourse to stratagem. Even when successful in your aim, the
shot often fails to penetrate, owing to the thick layers of their downy
covering. Various artifices, therefore, are employed to lure them, all
of which require some cleverness. They are shot from a watching-place,
being seduced to its neighbourhood by employing Domestic Ducks which act
as decoys (Fig. 88). They are also shot from huts on the edge of the
water. Sometimes they are attracted by means of lights, or by imitating
their call. Many are taken in nets, in decoy-weirs, and in snares; they
are sometimes even taken by means of baited fish-hooks, and many other
strange contrivances.

The ordinary open Duck-shooting, as represented in Fig. 89, is far from
being so productive as some of the former methods, but it is much more
attractive. No sport is more uncertain, but occasionally none is more
fruitful, or more full of unexpected successes.

Duck-shooting from a hut, as represented in Fig. 90, is the method most
practised. The sportsmen are hidden in a small hut placed on the edge of
some lake or river, or it may be erected in the middle of the water on a
heap of stones. Here they lie in wait for the birds in order to get a
close shot at them. They generally use fowling-pieces of great length
and large calibre, called Duck-guns. Shooting from Duck punts is also
practised all round the coast, and on the larger lakes, ponds, and

On the Saône, the gunners, accompanied by a boatman, take their places
in a long, light, narrow, pointed boat, or punt, called a _fourquette_.
The two men, lying down in the bottom of the boat, are hidden by faggots
placed in front of them, the muzzle of the duck-gun protruding through
the faggots. Thus floating down the river among the Ducks, they get an
opportunity of shooting them without being perceived. Sportsmen in
France sometimes employ a very odd artifice to baffle the suspicious
instinct of these birds: a man disguises himself as a cow by means of an
outline of the animal roughly made of common cardboard. Under favour of
this disguise he gets near the Wild Ducks without exciting their fears,
if only aware how to make good use of his device; that is, if he
describes gentle and graceful curves, so as to advance gradually without
alarming the timid Palmipedes. But this sport, though productive enough
when skilfully managed, is not unattended with danger. A sportsman,
who had dressed himself up in this disguise, happened inadvertently to
find his way among a herd of cattle, which, detecting the imposture,
immediately ran at him and chased him about the meadow. He thought
himself fortunate in escaping with the loss of his disguise, which he
abandoned to the fury of his horned assailants.

[Illustration: Fig. 90.--Duck-shooting from a Hut.]

Large numbers of Ducks are taken by means of nets and various snares,
which want of space prevents us from here enumerating.

The Domestic Duck, _Anas domestica_, is a descendant of the Wild Duck,
or, as some think, of the Shoveller. The first tame Duck, the ancestor
of a family since so prodigiously multiplied, probably proceeded from an
egg which had been taken from some reedy marsh, and hatched under a Hen.

The Duck, however, has been reduced to a state of domesticity from a
very remote period, and has been of incalculable utility to mankind,
filling in our poultry-yards no unworthy place. Ducks' eggs are a
wholesome and agreeable article of food, and the flesh of the bird
itself is most savoury. Epicures highly prized, and rightly so, the
_pâtés de foie de canard_ of Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nérac, and Amiens (we
arrange them here in their order of merit, not according to Baron
Brisse's _dictum_, but following our own poor gastronomic capabilities).
Their feathers, although not so valuable as those of the Goose, are
articles of considerable importance in commerce.

Ducks produce large profits to those who rear them. They are by no means
choice in their food. Nothing comes amiss to their palate; the corn
scattered about the yard which is disdained by other fowls, and the
meanest remnants of the leavings of the table and kitchen, they do not
reject. All that they require as an essential is to have a little water
within reach in which they can paddle at will.

Ducks' eggs are often put under a Hen to be hatched. When seeking her
food, the Hen sometimes leads her little flock to the edge of water, and
gives them a glimpse of its dangers. But the ducklings, impelled by
instinct, rush into the element they are most partial to. The poor
mother, anxious for the fate of the young giddy-pates, which she loves
as her own offspring, utters cries of terror. She would resolutely throw
herself into the stream, and perhaps get drowned, were she not soothed
by seeing them swimming about, happy and active. This shows her that in
them she cannot recognise her own flesh and blood.

There are several favourite varieties of the Domestic Duck, but those of
Normandy and Picardy, in France, and the Aylesbury Ducks in England, are
the most profitable. Every nation rears Ducks; but the Chinese
undeniably most excel in this art. For hatching them the Celestials have
recourse to artificial heat. They also possess some superb varieties,
which have been recently imported into Europe, and are at the present
time the glory of our ornamental waters. Magnificent pairs of Chinese
Ducks, of which the Mandarin is the most beautiful, may be admired in
the Jardin d'Acclimatation at Paris, at the Zoological Gardens of the
Regent's Park, and also in the artificial waters in the parks and
gardens of our principal cities.

The Common Wild Duck, which we have described, is the type of the order
of Ducks; but there are about seventy other species. The most remarkable
are the Widgeon, the Poachard, the Shoveller, the Shieldrake, the Eider
Duck, the Teal, the Black Diver, and the Merganser.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Golden-eyed Garrot: McGillivray, Yarrell, Montagu,
Jenyns, Selby. Golden-eyed Duck, Gewdy Duck, Pied Widgeon, Whistler.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas clangula_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Anas
glaucion_: Bonaparte, Linn., Young, Yarrell, Latham. _Clangula
vulgaris_: Selby. _Clangula chrysophthalmus_: Jenyns.

The Golden-eyed Garrot, _Anas clangula_, is sometimes called the
Golden-eyed Duck, on account of the brightness of the iris of its eye.
In some provinces it has received the nickname of the Harlequin Duck,
because its plumage, at a little distance off, looks as if it was
composed of black and white feathers only. This variegated appearance,
which occurs only in the males, makes a fine show on the dark pools and
lakes of the north Highlands and Hebrides, where the scenery in winter
is excessively dismal. When undisturbed, they float lightly on the
surface; but if alarmed, they are said to sink themselves deeper in the
water, diving rapidly, and swimming with great velocity. They fly also
swiftly in a direct manner, their small, stiff, and sharp-pointed wings
producing a whistling sound, which is heard in calm weather at a
considerable distance.[24] They rise easily from the water, striking it
with their feet and wings for several yards; but under alarm, or when
there is a breeze rippling the surface, they can ascend at once. During
winter they are met with in all parts of the country, from Shetland and
Orkney on the one side, and from the Lewis Islands on the other, to the
southern extremity of England. In Ireland, also, they are constant
winter visitors; but they do not seem to breed with us, betaking
themselves to the Arctic regions in spring, and returning in October.
They are essentially lake Ducks; but they are also found on the open
coasts and estuaries. Their flesh is dark-coloured and unsavoury, it
requiring all the art of the cook to conceal its natural fishy flavour.

    [24] From the noise made by their wings they are in some localities
    called Whistlers.

They are generally plentiful in our markets, where the young and females
go under the comprehensive name of Widgeons.

The Golden-eyed Garrot flies low and rapidly. In the month of November
it reaches France in small flocks, to remain till the spring. Then it
returns to its native country--Sweden, Norway, or Lapland. As it is not
a shy bird, the sportsmen on the sea-coasts of Picardy, Normandy, and
the Landes kill large quantities of them.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Red-headed Poachard: McGillivray. Poachard Montagu.
Common Poachard: Jenyns.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas ferina_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Aythya
ferina_: Bonaparte, McGillivray. _Fuligula ferina_: Selby, Jenyns.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Canard melouin_: Temminck.

The Poachard nearly resembles the American Canvas-back Duck, but is
unlike any British species in form. Its body (of the male) is large,
full, depressed, and elliptical in form; its neck long and thick; the
head large, oblong, compressed, and rounded above. The plumage is dense,
soft, and glossy. The feathers on the fore part of the head are small
and stiff; on the remainder of the head and neck soft, silky, and
blended. The wings are short, curved, narrow, and pointed. The bill
black to a little beyond the nostrils, the intermediate space light
greyish blue. The head, and half the neck all round, are of a fine
brownish-orange tint.

The Poachard (Fig. 91) is, next to that of the Common Wild Duck, the
variety which is most plentiful on our waters. It is almost as large as
the latter; it makes its nest in the rushes round pools or lakes, and
feeds upon the roots of grasses and aquatic plants, also on worms,
mollusks, and small fish. They are plentiful in the eastern counties
south of the Humber, and in the fen counties; and it occurs in America,
where, as Dr. Richardson states, it breeds in all parts of the fur
countries, from the fiftieth parallel to their most northerly limits.
Audubon found it abundant in winter about New Orleans, in East Florida,
and in Chesapeake Bay. "Although they dive much and to a great depth in
our bays and estuaries, yet, when in the shallow ponds of the interior,
they prefer dabbling in the mud along the shores, much in the manner of
the Mallard."

[Illustration: Fig. 91.--Poachard (_Anas ferina_).]

This bird reaches France in little flocks of twenty to forty in the
month of October. It can easily be caught in nets.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Blue-winged Shoveller: McGillivray. Common Shoveller:
Selby, Jenyns. Shoveller: Montagu.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas clypeata_: Linn., Latham, Jenyns, Temminck.
_Rhynchaspis_: Bonaparte, McGillivray.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Canard Souchet_: Temminck. _Rouge de Rivière_:

The Shoveller (Fig. 92) is very common on the Seine and the Marne, where
it is called _Rouge de Rivière_. It is smaller than the Common Wild
Duck, and has a very long bill, with the upper mandible of a
semi-cylindrical shape, dilated at its extremity, somewhat in the form
of a small spoon. This bird is really charming in the brilliancy of its
plumage. Its head and neck are of a bright green, and its wings are
variegated with streaks of a brilliant pale blue, green, white, and
black. It is called "red" because its plumage underneath is of a
brownish-red hue. In the month of February it abandons the icy regions
of the north, to visit the more southern lakes and rivers of France and
Germany. With us it is only a straggler, although in former days, when
our system of drainage was less perfect, it was a more frequent visitor.
In France considerable numbers of the Shovellers remain and breed. It
dwells in marshes, on lakes and large rivers, being seldom found near
the sea-coast; feeding occasionally on vegetable substances, but chiefly
on fresh-water mollusks, worms, and insects, for grubbing up which, and
separating them from the sand and mud, its bill is evidently well

[Illustration: Fig. 92.--The Shoveller (_Anas clypeata_).]

The Shoveller is met with in various parts of Europe, as well as in
Asia, Africa, and America, where it is found widely dispersed. The nest
is constructed on the borders of rushy lakes, and they lay from eight to
twelve eggs. When first hatched, the young ones are excessively ugly,
their beaks being almost as large as their bodies. The flesh of the
Shoveller is tender and delicate, and preserves its pink colour even
after it is cooked.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Burrow Shielduck: McGillivray. Shieldrake: Montagu,
Selby, Jenyns. Popular names: Skeldrake, Skelgoose, Skieling Goose,
Burrow Duck, St. George's Duck, Stockannet.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas tadorna_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Tadorna
vulpanser_: Selby, Bonaparte, McGillivray.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Canard Tadorne._

This very beautiful bird is a permanent resident in the British Islands,
although it is only met sparingly along our coasts. It resorts in spring
and summer to the sandy bays on the west coast of England and Scotland,
from the Land's End to the Shetland Islands. In autumn and winter it is
found on the eastern coast both of Scotland and England, where many
individuals remain to breed. It is generally found in the neighbourhood
of sandy, marshy land and moist meadows near the sea. It walks with a
quickish step, and has a swift flight, something like the Mallard, and
with a more rapid beat of the wings than the Goose.

[Illustration: Fig. 93.--The Shieldrake (_Anas tadorna_).]

The Shieldrake (Fig. 93) is the most remarkable of all the Duck tribe,
not only from its size, but from its beauty, and the elegant variations
of its plumage. It is larger and stands higher on its legs than the
Common Wild Duck. The plumage is full, soft, and blended; the feathers
of the head and upper neck are small and silky. The colours are very
brilliant, being of a glossy blackish green on the head and neck, with
purplish reflections in some lights; a broad band or ring of white is
found on the neck, and lower another of orange-red encircles the fore
part of the body. The rest of the under parts are white, with a band of
glossy black on the breast and belly; the back white, variegated with
black, white, russet, and green. The Shieldrake abounds on the coasts of
the Baltic and North Sea; it is also found in America, and on the
southern coasts of France, as well as on the edge of the Northern Ocean.
The nest is usually placed in some indentation in the sand, the female
frequently choosing a Rabbit's hole, which is often situated in
sand-banks. The poor Rabbit, thus turned out of its burrow, never
ventures to return to it again.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Eider Duck: Montagu. Common Eider: Selby.
White-backed Eider: McGillivray. Popular names: St. Cuthbert's Duck,
Dunter Goose.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas mollissima_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Somateria
mollissima_: Jenyns, Bonaparte, McGillivray, Selby.

The Eider Duck, though remarkable for beauty of plumage, is nevertheless
a very clumsy bird. In form it is bulky, depressed, and elliptical, with
large, oblong, and compressed head. The plumage is dense and fine; the
head-feathers are short, tufted, and rounded, and, blending with the
terminal filaments, disunited; the wings diminutive, concave, narrow,
and pointed, the tips of which extend to the base of the tail, which is
short, round, and slightly decurvated.

The Eider Duck is the northern bird which supplies the soft, light, and
warm material which is so well known under the name of "eider-down." Its
plumage is whitish, but the upper part of the head, its belly, and its
tail are black; the side of the head, the throat, and the neck are
white, but the hair-like feathers on the back part of the cheeks and
nape are of a delicate pale green; the lower part of the neck is
cream-coloured. The black parts from their glossiness are conspicuous,
while the white look soiled; the head and back are also shaded with a
green tint.

The Eider Duck is found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, occurring
in diminished numbers in the latter. In the Outer Hebrides it has many
breeding-places, and some nests occur on the Bass Rock, and on the Farn
Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, where the eggs have been found
in the month of June. The nest is made in some hollow in the turf, and
is composed of sea-weed and dried grass, mixed with such marine plants
as _Plantago maritima_ and _Coronopsis_. The eggs, which vary in number,
are of a longish oval shape, smooth and glossy, and of a pale greenish
grey. When they have been laid, the female is said to pluck the down
from her breast and cover them over with it. This down, when shaken out,
will occupy a space of nine or ten inches. This peculiar quality of the
down, however, caused by its elastic character, belongs to all the
Anatidæ, and probably not less so to the Anserinæ.

The principal home of the Eider Duck is on the bleak and frozen
sea-coasts of Northern Europe, and its food, which is obtained by
diving, is the bivalve mollusca; also crustacea, fishes, and fish-spawn,
together with aquatic worms. It makes its nest on rocks washed by the
sea. Sometimes two female birds lay in the same nest, which then
contains from nine to ten eggs, for each of them lays from four to six.
The nest is roughly built with sea-weed, but it is lined inside with a
thick layer of the bird's own down. "The Eider Ducks," as we learn from
Willoughby, "build themselves nests on the rocks, and lay good store of
very savoury and well-tasted eggs; for the getting of which the
neighbouring people let themselves down by ropes dangerously enough, and
with the same labour gather the feathers, or eider-dun, our people call
them, which are very soft and fit to stuff beds and quilts; for in a
small quantity they dilate themselves much, being very springy, and warm
the body above any others. These birds are wont at set times to moult
their feathers, enriching the fowlers with this desirable merchandise."
"When its young are hatched," adds the English naturalist, "it takes
them out to sea, and never looks at land till next breeding-time, nor is
seen anywhere about our coasts."

There seems to be some considerable difference between the down taken
from the dead bird and that which the female plucks from her breast. The
lightness and elasticity of the latter are such that two or three pounds
of it squeezed into a ball which may be held in the hand will expand so
as to fill a quilt large enough to cover a bed. When the female prepares
her nest, she lines it as above mentioned; when she has laid her four or
six eggs, which are about three inches in length and two in breadth, she
strips herself a second time; should this down be abstracted, as it
generally is, and she is unable to supply more, the male submits himself
to the same plucking process, his contribution being known by its paler

The haunts of a bird yielding so valuable an article are carefully
watched, and proprietors do everything in their power to attract them to
their land; and in Scotland and Norway the districts resorted to by the
Eider Ducks are strictly preserved, everything likely to disturb them
being carefully guarded against. Pennant thus records a visit he paid to
one of their breeding-places in the Farn Islands on the 15th of July,
1769:--"I found the Ducks sitting," he writes, "and I took some of the
nests, the base of which was formed of sea-plants and covered with the
down. After separating it carefully from the plants it weighed only
three-quarters of an ounce, yet was so elastic that it filled a greater
space than the crown of the largest hat. These birds are not numerous on
the isles, and it was observed that the Drakes kept on the side most
remote from the sitting-places. The Ducks continue on the nest till you
come almost to them, and when they rise, they are very slow fliers. The
eggs are of a pale olive colour, large, glossy, and smooth; they are
from three to four, warmly bedded in down." Sir George Mackenzie, in his
"Travels in Iceland," says that "the boat in its approach to Vidöe
passed multitudes of Eider Ducks, which hardly moved out of the way; and
between the landing-place and the governor's house it required some
caution to avoid treading on the nests, while the Drakes were walking
about even more familiar than common Ducks. The Ducks were sitting on
their nests all round the house, on the garden wall, on the roof, in the
inside of the house, and on the chapel."

The locality where the Eiders make their nests is always difficult of
access. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Iceland, Lapland, and the
coasts of the North Sea invariably secure them. The harvest which is
derived from these birds is the source of a considerable revenue,
eider-down being, in fact, a very large article of commerce. The rocks
where the Eider Ducks lay their eggs are private property, and are
handed down in families just as if they were the most valuable


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Common Teal: Montagu, Selby. Green-winged Teal.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas crecca_: Linn., Latham, Flemming, Temminck,
Jenyns. _Querquedula crecca_: Bonaparte, Selby, McGillivray.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Canard Sarcelle._

[Illustration: Fig. 94.--Common Teal (_Anas crecca_).]

This is the smallest of the Duck kind known in the British Isles. It is
a remarkably beautiful bird, and in colouring as well as in form closely
resembles the Mallard, but is much smaller. It frequents marshy places
and the margins of lakes and rivers, seldom betaking itself to estuaries
or the sea-coast until frost sets in. It walks with ease, swims with
great dexterity, flies rapidly, and is in all respects remarkable for
its activity. It rises from the water or the land at once, and shoots
away with great rapidity, so that the marksman who would bring it down
must be very expert with his gun. It breeds in the long reedy grasses on
the margin of lakes, or on upland moors and marshes. Its nest is a mass
of decayed vegetable matter lined with down and feathers, in which it
lays ten or twelve eggs, about an inch and three-quarters in length and
an inch and a quarter in breadth. North of the Tay they are found
occasionally all the year round, returning, according to Mr. St. John,
year after year to breed, if left undisturbed in the process of

"If we compare," says Mr. McGillivray, "the Common Teal (_Anas crecca_,
Linn.), with the Garganey (_Anas circia_), the Gadwall (_Anas
strepira_), and the Pintail Duck (_Anas acuta_), we find slight
differences in the form of the bill, in the elongated lamella of the
upper mandible, in the length of the neck and tail; but they are all so
intimately connected that, unless each species can be converted into a
genus, there can be no reason for separating them." He classes them
accordingly under the general name of Teal.

This bird makes its appearance in France in spring and autumn. It breeds
in all the temperate climates of Europe, and pushes on towards the south
as the winter advances.

Of the Teals there seem to be three, probably four, species, which in
our climate may be divided into three--namely, the Common Teal, _Anas
crecca_; the Summer Teal, _Anas circia_; and the Little Teal, or Black
Diver, _Anas nigra_.

According to Columella, in his work "De Re Rustica," the Romans
succeeded in domesticating the Teal; but the bird has reverted to an
entirely wild state, which is much to be regretted, for it would have
formed a valuable addition to the poultry-yard, the flesh of the Teal
being held in great estimation.

The group of Ducks usually denominated Teal, Mr. Swainson has formed
into the sub-genus _Boschas_, in which he also includes the Mallard, or
Wild Duck. "As this is the most numerous group," says this writer, "so
it exhibits a greater diversity of form among the species. They are all,
however, characterised by a bill longer than the head, whose breadth is
equal throughout; sometimes indeed a little dilated, but never
contracted at the tip, while the laminæ of the upper mandible are
entirely concealed by the margin of the bill." "The beautiful _Anas
formosa_, which is essentially a Teal, differs," says a writer in the
"Penny Cyclopædia," "in the greater length of the tail, thus connecting
it more closely with the Pintail and other long-tailed species; while
the bill, which is depressed in form in the Mallard as well as in the
Common Duck, is convex, with projecting laminæ, in the Teal. Such is the
case with the Blue-winged Teal of North America, in which the laminæ of
the upper bill project nearly as much as in the Gadwall, while the upper
mandible exhibits that sinuosity at the base which is seen in no other
Duck except the Shoveller."

Mr. Selby says of the Common Teal: "I am inclined to think that our
indigenous breeds seldom quit the immediate neighbourhood of the places
in which they are bred, as I have repeatedly observed them to haunt the
same district from the time of their being hatched till they separated
and paired on the approach of the following spring. The Teal breeds in
the long rushy herbage about the edges of lakes, or on the boggy parts
of upland moors." Very few of them are found, according to Mr.
McGillivray, in the south of Scotland during the summer months. In
winter, one of his correspondents informs him, it unites in large
flocks, the Drakes having then a whistle like the Plover; but it has not
been heard to use this call during the breeding season. The boldness of
the female in defence of her young is very affecting. Mr. St. John
describes an instance which occurred in Ross-shire. He was riding along
when an old Teal, with eight newly-hatched young ones, crossed the road.
The youngsters could not climb the bank, and all squatted flat down
while he passed. He dismounted, and carried all the young ones a little
distance down the road to a ditch, the old bird fluttering about all the
time, and frequently coming within reach of his whip. The part of the
road where he found them passed through a thick fir-wood covered with
rank heather, and it was a great puzzle to him how such little things,
scarcely bigger than a mouse, could have struggled through it. Next day
he saw them all enjoying themselves in a pond a little distance off,
where a brood of Teal appeared every year.

Teal are less timid than the Wild Duck, and the sportsman, therefore,
has not the same difficulty in getting within shot of them. They breed
in great numbers in some of the Highland lochs, and Mr. St. John says
that in August he has seen perfect clouds of them rise from some calm,
glassy lake at the report of a gun.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Velvet Duck: Montagu. Velvet Scoter: Selby, Jenyns,
McGillivray. Black Duck, White-winged Black Duck, Black Diver, Double

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas fusca_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Oidemia fusca_:
Selby, Jenyns, Bonaparte, McGillivray. _Anas nigra_: French writers.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Canard Macreuse_: Temminck.

The Scoters (_Oidemia_, Flemming) have the bill broad, with dilated
margins, and coarse lamelliform teeth; a swelling above the nostrils,
dividing them into two equal parts, both large and elevated.

The Velvet Duck is the largest of the Scoters, and is distinguishable by
the white band upon its wing, much-depressed body, thick neck, and
large, oblong, and compressed head. They make their appearance in our
bays and estuaries towards the end of autumn, and depart about the
middle of April. In the evening they fly out to sea in flocks of fifteen
or twenty when the weather is favourable, returning to the shore in the
morning. They fly low, but with considerable speed, moving their wings
quickly; and on arriving at a suitable place, they relax a little and
alight on their hinder end, the body being kept oblique. On settling,
they commence forthwith to feed.


ENGLISH SYNONYM.--Black Scoter: Selby, Jenyns, McGillivray.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas nigra_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Oidemia nigra_:
Flemming, Selby, Jenyns, Bonaparte, McGillivray.

The Black Scoter arrives on our shores about the middle of autumn in
considerable flocks, and is seen on all our western coast during winter,
but is still more abundant on the French coast. It closely resembles the
American Scoter, of which it is probably a variety.

The Black Scoter (_Oidemia nigra_) is almost as large as the Common Wild
Duck, but is shorter and more thickly made. Its plumage is entirely
black; when young it is greyish.

The Black Scoter passes its life on the surface of the water, and never
ventures on the land except when driven by stress of weather, or for the
purpose of making its nest in the marshes. It flutters rather than flies
over the surface of the sea, and makes no use of its wings, except to
escape some danger, or to transport itself from one point to another
with more rapidity. Its legs, in flying, hang down, and constantly graze
the surface of the water; it always appears as if it regretted to leave
its favourite element.

When on land, these birds walk slowly and ungracefully; but in the water
they are never wearied. Like the Petrel, they have the singular faculty
of being able to run about on the waves. They are natives of both the
Old and New World. About the month of October, driven by the north and
north-west winds, they come down from the northerly countries of Europe,
and visit our Atlantic coasts and the Mediterranean.

[Illustration: Fig. 95.--Black Scoter (_Oidemia nigra_).]

The Black Scoter delights in the salt-water pools adjacent to the sea,
and the sheltered creeks on the coast, in which they find a refuge
against storms. In these places they become the objects of the terribly
destructive sport of which we are about to speak.

Two or three times during the winter, large placards exhibited in
certain towns of the department of Hérault--at Montpellier, Cette, Agde,
&c.--announce that large flocks of these birds (called _foulques_ in the
country) having settled down on some adjacent lake, a day's sport will
be had with them on a given date. The day is turned into a real fête by
the sportsmen, and an extraordinary concourse of people are brought
together. Every one starts in the middle of the night, some in
carriages, some in carts, and the most humble among them on donkeys or
on foot. At daybreak they reach the margin of the lake. When arrived
there, they embark in boats, each provided with a rower. At a given
signal the whole flotilla puts off from the shore, and advances slowly
towards that part of the lake in which the Ducks are to be found.

These unusual preparations are a cause of astonishment to the birds,
which utter gentle cries of terror as they crowd together. The boats,
however, hem them in on all sides, gradually contracting their circle so
as to shut the birds up in an enclosed space. The Black Scoters, seeing
the enemy advancing upon them, in their anxiety take to diving and
plunging about. But, before long, being closely pressed, they spread
their wings and take flight over the heads of their enemies. This is the
signal for the commencement of the first volley. There is now no
cessation in the resounding reports of the guns; for usually no less
than five hundred sportsmen meet on the surface of a not very extensive
lake, such as those of Mauguio or Palavas. The massacre lasts for some
hours; in fact, these unfortunate birds, incapable of flying very far,
are pursued from place to place by the pitiless boats, which are soon,
like the bark of the venerable Charon, laden with the dead. When no
birds remain on the lake, the boats return to the shore, rowing along
the banks to hunt out the wounded. Three thousand of these birds will
sometimes fall before the murderous guns in the space of a few hours.
Almost as a matter of course, quarrels often arise among the sportsmen.
The cause of dispute may be some bird which has been shot at from
several boats at the same moment. These disturbances, which usually
begin with shouts and abuse, from the warmth of the southern blood
sometimes terminate fatally. In this sport tumult reaches its utmost
pitch, and it is as productive of danger as of pleasure. Sometimes a
boat capsizes, owing to the excessive eagerness of the rowers; sometimes
a sportsman is wounded by an awkward neighbour, or two or three men fall
into the water in trying to reach their prey. Such are the exciting
scenes that I have often witnessed in my youth; they were the supreme
delight of the boys of Clapas (Montpellier). The same sport is practised
at Hyères, in the Var, and on the lake of Berre, near Marseilles.

On the coasts of Picardy, where the Black Scoter abounds during winter,
very destructive means are used for their capture. Nets are stretched
horizontally in the water, above the banks of shell-fish which the sea
has left uncovered at its reflux, and on which these birds feed. When
they dive to seize their prey they become entangled in the meshes of the
net, from which they cannot escape.

The Black Scoter is also the object of individual sport when it does
not arrive in these immense flocks. It is then shot from a boat like
other water-fowl.

The Black Scoter makes but a poor figure on aristocratic tables. Its
flesh, which is by no means tender, retains a very decided marshy
flavour. In former times it was much sought after, but not exactly for
its culinary qualities. The reason this bird was shown such preference
was because people were permitted to eat it in Lent in place of fish.

The singular notions on which the Church of Rome founded this
toleration--a toleration, however, which still exists in full force even
at the present day--is as follows. The councils of the twelfth century
permitted both the clergy and laity to eat Black Scoters during Lent
because it was a generally-accepted idea, founded on the writings of
Aristotle, that these birds were not produced from an egg, but had a
vegetable origin. The learned of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,
seeing large flocks of these birds suddenly appear, while nothing was
known whence they came, indulged in all kinds of conjectures to explain
this mysterious fact. They attributed to them origins which were
marvellous; one conjecturing that the feathery appearance in the
ciliated tentacles of certain mollusks which inhabit the barnacle shell
changed into Black Scoters; others imagined that these birds proceeded
from the wood of rotten fir-trees which had been long floating about in
the sea, or even from the fungi and marine mosses which cling to the
_débris_ of wrecked ships; others, again, went so far as to assert that
the north of Scotland, and especially the Orkney Isles, produced a tree
the fruit of which, falling into the sea, developed into the bird which
was called _Anser arboreus_, in order to commemorate its origin: this
bird they imagined was the Black Scoter.

The naturalists who gave expression to these transcendental views might
certainly boast that they had Aristotle on their side; for this
distinguished philosopher believed in the spontaneous generation of
various kinds of animals. He asserted, for instance, that rats sprung
from decayed vegetables, and that bees proceeded from the carcass of an
ox. Who, for instance, is unacquainted with the fine episode of the
fourth book of Virgil's Georgics, where this poetic fiction is related
in beautiful verse?

As a matter of fact, however, Pope Innocent III., better instructed than
Aristotle in this department of natural history, passed sentence on all
these tales by forbidding its use during Lent; but no one, either in the
monasteries, the castles, or the taverns, has ever looked at this
interdict of the sovereign pontiff in a serious point of view.

This controverted question, however, met with an unexpected solution.
Gerard Veer, a Dutch navigator, in one of his voyages to the north of
Europe, found some eggs of the Velvet Duck. Being ignorant of their
nature, he brought them home, put them under a hen, and, when they were
hatched, the produce exactly resembled the birds which were asserted by
the ancients to proceed from the decay of vegetable matter. Gerard Veer
made the announcement that these birds bred in Greenland, thus affording
a complete explanation of the absence of their eggs in southern

This discovery of the Dutch navigator met with no favourable reception.
The custom of eating the Velvet Duck in Lent had been long established;
the Church allowed it, and every one was satisfied. Gerard Veer was sent
back to his galliot, and all kinds of reasons were found for satisfying
the consciences and stomachs of the faithful, which had been justly

There was, however, no deficiency in the arguments brought forward. It
was asserted that the feathers of the Velvet Duck were of quite a
different nature from those of other birds; that their blood was _cold_,
and that it did not coagulate when shed; that their fat, like that of
fishes, had the property of never hardening. The analogy between the
Velvet Duck and the fishes being thus clearly established, the
permission of the councils remained in full force.

Finally, as the writers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were but
indifferent naturalists, and had very vaguely described the Velvet Duck,
the same mode of reproduction was ascribed to several other marsh-birds.
As a matter of course, the same toleration in Lent was extended to them.
The faithful were thus in the habit of indulging in various other birds,
such as the Brent and Bernicle Geese. The opposing claims of devotion
and appetite being thus harmlessly satisfied, no one cared to object to
a supposition which gave such general satisfaction.

We must add that this confusion of names still exists, for on the
sea-coast several varieties of the Duck genus still go by the name of
the privileged bird.

There are five principal varieties of this species. The most remarkable
are the Velvet Duck (_Oidemia fusca_), the Common Black Scoter (_O.
nigra_), and the Great-billed Black Diver (_O. perspicellata_).


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Surf Scoters: Selby, McGillivray, Jenyns. Surf Duck,
Black Duck: Pennant.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas perspicellata_: Linn., Latham, Temminck. _Oidemia
perspicellata_: Selby, Jenyns, Temminck, McGillivray.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Macreuse à large bec_, _Canard marchand_.

The Great-billed Scoter is a rare bird in this country, the only
positive evidence of its occurrence being a female, shot in the Firth of
Forth, mentioned by Mr. Gould, and a recently-shot specimen sent to Mr.
Bartlett for preservation, and from which Mr. Yarrell derived his
description. It is, however, stated by Audubon as being abundant in
winter on the eastern coast of America, as far south as the mouth of the
Mississippi. In Labrador he found a female on its nest in a marsh; the
nest was snugly placed amidst the tall blades of a bunch of grass, and
was raised fully four inches above the roots. It was composed of
withered and rotten weeds, the former being circularly arranged over the
latter, producing a well-rounded cavity, six inches in diameter, and two
and a half deep; the border of the inner cup being lined with down from
the birds after the manner of the Eider Duck. In it lay five eggs, the
smallest he had ever seen in a Duck's nest. They are equally rounded at
both ends, about two inches and a half long, and an inch and
five-eighths in their greatest breadth; the shell perfectly smooth, and
of a uniform yellow colour.

The plumage of the bird is soft, dense, and glossy; the feathers of the
head and neck blended and velvety; the wings short, narrow, and pointed;
the upper mandible orange red, the protuberance on each side yellowish
grey; at the base is a large square patch of black, margined with
orange red, with a patch of greyish white in front.

       *       *       *       *       *

Intimately allied to the Ducks in many respects, and to the Divers and
Cormorants in others, are the Mergansers, a very distinct family,
characterised by a large, elongated, and depressed body; long and
slender neck; oblong, compressed head, narrowing anteriorly; bill
straight, narrow, and slender, sub-cylindrical outwards, wide at the
base, and abruptly hooked at the tip; margins of both mandibles
serrated; the teeth directed backwards.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Goosander: Montagu, Selby, Jenyns. Dun Diver:
Montagu. Buff-breasted Goosander: McGillivray. Greater Goosander,
Saw-bill, Jacksaw.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Mergus merganser_: Linn., Latham, Temminck, Selby,
Jenyns. _Mergus castor_: Linn., Latham. _Merganser castor_: Bonaparte,

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Bieune_ of the old French. _Grand Harle_: Temminck.

The Merganser (_Mergus_, from _mergere_, to submerge) is sometimes
separated from the Ducks. Prince Charles Bonaparte includes in it two
sub-genera, the Smew (_Mergus_) and the Merganser of Leach. The
Merganser is distinguished by its slender and almost cylindrical bill,
armed on the edges with points turning backwards, somewhat resembling
the teeth of a saw; yet, in its general appearance, plumage, and habits,
this bird bears much resemblance to the Ducks.

The Mergansers very rarely come on land; they are exclusively aquatic,
and frequent rivers, lakes, and pools, preferring them to estuaries; but
they may be seen in summer fishing in the sea-lochs of Scotland. The
Latins gave them the name of _Mergus_ in consequence of their habit of
swimming with the body submerged--the head only appearing above the
surface of the water.

These birds feed on fish, of which they destroy an immense number. They
also commit serious depredations on the spawning beds. They are able to
accumulate a large quantity of air in the trachea, and can therefore
remain some time under water without breathing. They take advantage of
this for diving to the bottom to seek their prey, and they will often
travel to a considerable distance before they appear again on the
surface. The activity they display in pursuit of their prey is very
great; for, in order to accelerate their speed in swimming, they make
use of their wings as well as of their feet. The Merganser is in the
habit of swallowing fish head first; consequently, it often happens that
the remainder of the body of their prey is too bulky to be easily
gorged; they are, however, very far from wishing to get rid of this
temporary inconvenience, but wait till it becomes gradually absorbed.
Sometimes the digestion of the fish's head has already commenced in the
bird's stomach whilst the tail is still projecting from its bill.

The flight of the Merganser is rapid and prolonged, without reaching any
great elevation. Their gait on land is awkward and tottering. They
generally inhabit temperate regions during the winter, and in spring
return to the high latitudes of both hemispheres, which are their
breeding-places. They lay from eight to fourteen whitish-coloured eggs,
either on the shore between two large stones, or in thickets of grass on
the edge of lakes and rivers: occasionally a hollow in a tree is
selected; but it is invariably near water. Their nest is composed of dry
grass, sedges, fibrous roots, and other similar materials, with a lining
of down plucked from the breast.

The Merganser is a regular visitor, in winter, to our coasts and inland
lakes. It breeds in North Uist and others of the Outer Hebrides. Its
flesh is unedible except when young.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Smew: Montagu, Selby, Jenyns. Pied Smew: McGillivray.
White Nun: Selby. Pied Diver, Vane Widgeon.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Mergus albellus_: Linn., Latham, Jenyns, Bonaparte,
McGillivray. _Mergus minutus_: Young, Linn., Latham.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Harle Piette_: Temminck. _Harle Huppé_: Buffon.

Like its congeners, the Smew is a native of the northern regions of both
continents, retiring southward as the winter approaches, and spreading
in great numbers over Germany, France, and Italy in October and
November, and returning northward in April. North of the Humber it is a
rare bird. Montagu says it is plentiful on the south coast, but that it
is not known to breed with us. It is of elegant form, smaller than the
Merganser, being only fifteen inches in length. The plumage of the head
is full, soft, and blended; the upper part of the head and nape
elongated, forming a gradually narrowing crest; the wings short, rather
narrow, slightly convex, and pointed--when closed reaching to within an
inch and a half from the end of the tail. The male bird, at maturity,
has a great spot of greenish black on each side of the bill, and a
longitudinal one on the occiput. The tufted crest, neck, scapulars,
small coverts of the wing, and all the lower parts are pure white; the
upper part of the back, the two crescents under the sides of the breast,
and the edges of the scapulars are deep black; the tail is ash-coloured;
sides and thighs are varied with ash-coloured zigzags; bill, tarsi, and
toes are bluish ash; webs black, and the iris brown. In habit the Smew
greatly resembles the Goosanders.

[Illustration: Fig. 96.--The Smew (_Mergus albellus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The Goose (_Anser_) forms a special genus among the Palmipedes. It is a
bird which is often spoken of with contempt, though very improperly, for
few birds are able to afford mankind the amount of service rendered by
the despised Goose.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Grey Lag Goose: Montagu, Selby. Wild Goose: Jenyns.
Marsh Goose, Grey Lag, Grey Goose, Fen Goose.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas anser_: Linn., Latham. _Anser ferus_: Temminck,
Jenyns, McGillivray. _Anser palustris_: Selby. _Anser cinereus_:

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Oie Cendrée_: Temminck.

The Wild Goose, though by no means elegant in form, has none of the
awkwardness of the Domestic Goose, which is generally supposed to be
descended from it. The body of _Anser ferus_ is large and full; the neck
long, at its upper part slender; the head proportionately small, ovate,
oblong, and rather compressed; the feathers of the head are small,
short, rounded and blended, of a greyish brown; those of the upper part
of the neck small and oblong, and arranged in ridges with deep
intervening grooves, gradually getting paler until it fades into greyish
white; the wings are long, reaching nearly to the end of the tail, the
feathers of the fore part of the back and wings close, broad, and
abrupt; the prevailing colour a bluish grey.

The Geese in many respects resemble the Ducks and Swans, but they are
less aquatic in their habits, keeping at a distance from large bodies of
water, and frequenting, by preference, moist meadows and marshes, where
they find herbage and various kinds of seeds, on which they principally
feed. They swim very little, and seldom dive. They make their nests on
the ground, and lay from six to eight eggs, which are hatched in rather
more than one month. The young ones walk about and find their own food
almost as soon as they are hatched. Geese, especially the male birds,
moult twice a year--in June and November.

The noise made by a flock of Geese seeking their food can be heard at a
great distance. Their call, which is repeated at regular intervals,
somewhat resembles the sound of a trumpet or clarion, and is accompanied
by a continuous muttering noise in shorter notes. The hissing common
to both Geese and Ducks is produced by two membranes placed in
juxtaposition at the lower part of the trachea. These two membranes are
situated side by side in the two bony and elongated openings of the
internal larynx, from which the two principal bronchia have their
origin. A close examination of this organ in the Goose is supposed to
have contributed to the invention of certain wind instruments, such as
the flute, bassoon, bagpipes, clarionet, and even the organ.

When attacked, the Goose makes a hissing noise similar to that of some
serpents. Endeavours have been made to express this sound by the three
Latin words _strepit_, _gratitat_, _stridet_. The slightest noise wakes
them up, when they at once give the signal of alarm, which immediately
warns the whole flock of approaching danger. Thus, some authors have
maintained that the Goose is more vigilant than the Dog; and in proof of
this, instance the story of the Geese of the Capitol, whose wakefulness
saved the Romans from an attempted assault on the part of the Gauls. The
Roman people were grateful enough to award an annual sum for the
maintenance of a certain number of Geese in the Capitol; and on the
anniversary of the day when their services had been so valuable, they
were in the habit of whipping the Dogs in front of the building, as a
retrospective punishment for their culpable carelessness.

[Illustration: Fig. 97.--Wild Goose (_Anser ferus_).]

The Gauls, on the other hand, never pardoned the Goose for having
baffled their attack. Frenchmen, even in the present day, possibly the
descendants of the proud companions of Brennus, or of the conquerors of
Northern Italy, appear still to inherit this ancestral hatred. At some
of the French village fêtes they are in the habit of hanging up Geese by
the feet in order to cut through their necks with a sword, or to beat
them to death by hurling stones and sticks at their heads. At every
blow the poor creature must suffer dreadful agony, but it is left in its
pain until it dies a lingering death. It is then borne away in triumph
by the conqueror, and its mutilated carcass afterwards appears at his
table to be devoured by him and his companions. Happily, the Assemblée
Nationale has now forbidden this brutal and sanguinary amusement as
being dishonourable to a civilised nation.

It is difficult to say why the Goose should have been considered, from
the earliest ages, as the symbol of stupidity. Their sight is sharp and
piercing, and they enjoy a remarkable delicacy of hearing. Their sense
of smell, moreover, may be compared to that of the Crow. Their
watchfulness seems never at fault. When they either sleep or eat, one of
their number is placed as a sentinel. With neck stretched out and head
in the air, it scrutinises the distant horizon in every direction,
ready, at the slightest alarm, to give a signal of danger to the rest of
the flock.

The flight of Wild Geese indicates no slight degree of intelligence.
They place themselves in two slanting lines, forming a < shaped angle,
or sometimes in a single line, if the flock is not very numerous. This
arrangement allows each bird to follow the main body with the least
possible amount of resistance, and at the same time to keep its rank.
When the individual which leads the flight begins to be fatigued, it
takes its place in the rear, each bird in its turn leading the flock.

These birds are too numerous to travel in large flocks; it would appear,
therefore, as if they fixed upon some points where they separate in
order to distribute themselves over various countries. In Europe Wild
Geese come principally from Asia. On their arrival here, the flocks
disperse themselves over different districts. In our land they make
their appearance towards the beginning of winter, and depart towards the
end of April. Formerly they are said to have been abundant, and to have
been even permanently resident; now they are rare, and are seldom known
to breed with us. On their arrival they resort to open pastures and
cultivated fields, feeding on the roots of aquatic grasses, young corn,
clover, and other green herbage. On an alarm being given by the sentinel
on watch, they all erect their necks, run forward, and, uttering their
loud, grating cry, spring into the air, departing with a heavy,
measured, and lofty flight. According to Temminck, "the Wild Goose
inhabits the seas, coasts, and marshes of eastern countries, seldom
advancing northward beyond the fifty-third degree; it is abundant in
Germany and in Central Europe; occasionally, in its migrations, it halts
in small numbers in Holland." Those which visit France are the
harbingers of the frost; and when they make an early appearance, it is
well known that the winter will be a severe one.

Although they live little in the water, Wild Geese repair every evening
to the ponds and rivers in their neighbourhoods to pass the night; so
that the Wild Goose only takes to the water when the Wild Duck is
leaving it. These birds are very difficult to shoot in consequence of
their lofty flight, from which they only descend when they see the water
on which they are to pass the night. Even then their excessive caution
renders nearly useless all the stratagems of the sportsman. The attempt
is sometimes made to take them in the evening with nets, the wild ones
being attracted by means of tame Geese, which are trained to act as

The Ostiacs, on the banks of the Obi, in Siberia, pile up the snow, and,
with the addition of branches, construct small huts. Near these they
place some stuffed birds in the water; the Wild Geese dart on these and
peck them to pieces. While thus busily occupied, they can easily be shot
or taken with nets.

But the most curious and difficult mode of capturing them is that
followed by the adventurous inhabitants of St. Kilda, a little islet on
the west coast of Scotland. Wild Geese of several species make their
nests there in large flocks at the foot of the sea-washed rocks which
surround the island. It is very doubtful if the Wild Goose, _Anser
ferus_, is found among these. Both for strength and economy, the
inhabitants use a cord made of thongs of twisted cow-hide covered with
sheep-skin. With a rope of this description, two men climb to the top of
a cliff; there they fasten themselves to either end of the cord; then
one lets himself down over the face of the cliff, and the other clings
to the rugged points above. The first man fills a sack with the eggs,
and suspends by their claws as many goslings as he can hang to various
parts of his person. When he has made his collection, his companion
hoists him up by main force, twisting the cord round his own body after
the manner of a windlass.

This aërial and dangerous sport is very productive. A cow-hide rope
forms a large portion of the dowry of a St. Kilda girl, and very often
it is the sole dependence of a household. The hardy sportsmen have so
much coolness and nerve, that accidents very rarely happen.

The Bean Goose (_Anas segetum_) of most authors differs from the
preceding in being somewhat smaller, and having the bill more slender,
although not much shorter; the hind part of the back is also dark brown.
In its habits it closely resembles the Wild Goose, for which it has
probably been frequently mistaken. Vast flocks of this species frequent
the northern waters, such as Montrose Bay, the mouth of the Findhorn,
and especially the inland waters of Ross and Sutherland--thirty or forty
pairs having their nests annually on Lake Laighal.

The Domestic or Common Goose (_Anser sylvestris_) has been made the
source of great utility and profit. It appears to be the civilised
offspring of the Wild Goose, to which it bears the same proportions as
other tame animals bear to their prototypes. Mr. Yarrell was of opinion
that the White-fronted Goose (_Anser albifrons_) has concurred, with the
_Anser ferus_, in producing our domestic race.

In our poultry-yards the Domestic Goose begins, in the month of March,
to lay from eight to twelve eggs. When they remain on the nest longer
than usual, they are about to "sit." Incubation lasts for a month. No
birds are more easily reared than goslings; they issue from the shell
full of life, and covered with a delicate down. It is, however,
necessary to keep them shut up for the first few days; if the weather
permits, they may soon be released. Their first food is a paste formed
of barley roughly ground, mixed with bran, moistened, and boiled in
milk, with the addition of a few chopped-up lettuce leaves. When at
large, it is necessary to keep them carefully from hemlock and other
poisonous plants.

Our ancestors, the Celts, the Gauls, and the Franks, reared a large
number of these birds, and carried on a considerable trade in them,
especially with Italy. Pliny, in his "Natural History," relates that he
has seen immense droves of Geese, which were making their way towards
Rome from different districts of Gaul, but especially from the
country of the Morini (now forming the departments of the Nord and
Pas-de-Calais). The conductors of these feathered flocks were in the
habit of placing the tired ones in front, so that, being pushed forward
by the whole column behind them, they were forced to move on in spite of
themselves. In the present day, numerous flocks of Geese are driven in
the same manner into Spain from the French departments of Lot, Dordogne,
Lot-et-Garonne, Gers, Tarn, &c.

The Goose, in its coarse and somewhat democratic condition, was good
enough food for the Romans of the republic; but at a later period, when
the people became more refined in their tastes, they invented a
barbarous method of fattening it. By depriving them of water, movement,
and light, an extraordinary development of the liver was produced, which
gave them a particularly savoury flavour. This invention--the triumph of
modern gastronomy--dates as far back as the days of Augustus and Varro;
indeed, two persons of consular dignity disputed the honour of being its

In order to fatten Geese in this way, an abundant supply of food is
administered, at the same time depriving them of light and exercise.
This food consists of balls made up of maize and wheat, with which the
poor creatures are crammed three times a day. In some countries they
force whole grains of maize down their throats. At the end of about four
or five weeks the fattening process is perfect. This is at all events
considered to be the case when the wretched Palmipede exhibits signs of
suffocation. This is certainly a cruel method of feeding; nevertheless,
it is only by this plan that the delicious fat and plump livers so much
appreciated by epicures can be obtained. The liver undergoes an
alteration which in the end must prove fatal to the bird; in fact, it
assumes enormous development; and the epicures, who hold it in such high
favour, regard as a dainty this diseased liver!

The introduction of the Turkey has led to the culture of the Goose being
more neglected in Europe; nevertheless, the latter bird is a source of
prosperity at the present day in many parts of France, and in many a
rural district in England. In ancient times there was no entertainment
or family festival without the traditional Goose smoking on the board.
In England the Goose is still considered a festival bird. A custom
intimately associated with their national history still dictates that
every true Englishman should partake of Goose on Michaelmas Day.

The flesh, and especially the fat of the Goose, keeps perfectly when
salted down. In parts of the world, in this state it is much employed
for culinary purposes. The enormous succulent livers which are found in
these precious birds after their forcible fattening are used to make the
delicious Strasbourg pies. Those of Nérac, as well as those of Toulouse,
are made more of Ducks' livers, for the latter birds can be fattened in
very nearly the same way as the Goose.

The down and feathers of Geese are objects of considerable trade. Before
the invention of steel pens, the only implement that was used for
writing was the quill plucked from the wing of the Goose. Great care was
necessary in _dressing_ them. This was done by passing the barrel of the
quill through hot ashes, or plunging it into boiling water, with other
clarifying processes.

From under the neck, the wings, and the breast of the birds, the down is
taken. This operation takes place every two months, from March until

Geese are certainly not so stupid as they are usually said to be. The
following facts will perhaps enable us to appreciate the moral qualities
which distinguish them:--

In Scotland a Goose became so attached to its master, that it followed
him about everywhere, just like a dog. One day this gentleman, after
mixing with the crowd which was moving about the town he resided in,
went into a barber's shop to get shaved. The faithful bird had followed
him, and waited at the door until his master came out, in order to
attend him in his subsequent movements, and then accompanied him back to
his home. This intelligent creature could recognise its master's voice,
although clothed in any disguise.

In Germany a Gander was in the habit of leading an old blind woman to
church every Sunday. It guided her by the skirt of her dress, always
conducting her to the seat in the church which she usually occupied.
Afterwards it returned into the churchyard to browse upon the grass.
When the service was over, it waited, just like a faithful dog, to take
charge of its mistress. One day, when the minister called upon her and
found her from home, he expressed his astonishment that the poor blind
woman should venture out alone. "Ah, sir," replied her daughter, "we
have no fears about her--the Gander is with her." Our blind people would
make their fortune if they could replace their traditional dog by a
guide of this novel kind.

The _Bernicle_, or Tree Geese, are so called from a foolish tradition
of the Middle Ages of their being produced from the barnacle shell
which attaches itself to ships' bottoms and timber floating in the
sea. They differ from the true Geese in having the head smaller,
the bill shorter and more conical, the breast-feathers much larger,
and in the predominance of black in their plumage, bills, and feet.
The plumage is full, very soft, and close. There are several species
of _Bernicla_, which some recent writers have formed into a genus
under that somewhat inappropriate name, the best-known species
being the White-faced or Bernicle Goose, _Anser leucopsis_, Temminck,
and the Black-faced or Brent Goose, _Anser bernicla_, of the
same author.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Bernicle Goose: Selby, Montagu. White-faced Bernicle
Goose: McGillivray. Common Bernicle: Jenyns. Clukis: Selby.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas bernicla_: Linn. _Anas erythropus_: Latham.
_Anser leucopsis_: Temminck, Jenyns. _Anser bernicla_: Selby. _Bernicla
leucopsis_: Bonaparte, McGillivray.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Oie bernache._

In its winter plumage this is a beautiful Goose, much smaller than those
just described, but with a full body, long neck, and a small, oblong,
and compressed head, with soft glossy plumage well blended on the head,
neck, and breast. It occurs in considerable flocks in the Outer
Hebrides, where it arrives in October, and remains till April. A large
flock of these birds sitting lightly on the water, advancing with
elevated necks, presents a very beautiful spectacle. Nor are they less
handsome on the wing as they shoot through the air, now arranged in long
undulating ranks, at one time extending in the direct line of their
flight, at another flying obliquely, or at right angles to it, and
again mingling altogether under some unexplained impulse. Their voice,
as it proceeds from a large flock at some distance off, is clear and
shrill, producing a pleasant harmony.

The Brent Goose, or Black-faced Bernicle, is much smaller than the
_Anser leucopsis_, and easily distinguished from it by the face and head
being entirely black. They seem to have visited our shores in great
numbers in former years. In the years 1739-40 these birds were so
abundant on the French coast that the people rose _en masse_ to destroy
them, and so numerous on the Kentish coast that many were taken in a
starving condition. Mr. McGillivray met with large flocks of them in
Cromarty Bay, Beauley Firth, and Montrose Basin. Mr. Selby observed them
as constant visitors on the shallow waters between Holy Island and the
mainland, and other parts of the coast.

[Illustration: Fig. 98.--White-fronted Bernicle Goose (_Anser

THE SWAN (_Cygnus_).

The Swan, which belongs to the family of Lamellirostral Palmipedes, has
been an object of admiration in all ages for its noble and elegant
proportions, the graceful curvature of its neck, its small and shapely
oval head, its beak so prominent at the base, the gracefully-swelling
rotundity of its body, its plumage so abundant in down, and its colour
of purest white of the species with which we are most familiar, and is
the finest and largest of all our aquatic birds. On the water it is a
picture of elegant ease; it swims apparently without effort, and with
great rapidity; on the wing it rises to a great height, but on shore its
walk is slow and cumbersome. It is found in Europe, Asia, and America;
and in Australia the Black Swan, for ages the _rara avis_ of the poets,
is very abundant. In the wild state it lives on the lakes, rivers, and
sea-coasts of both hemispheres, feeding on such seeds, leaves, roots,
water-insects, frogs, and worms as come in its way. In its domestic
state it is the charm and ornament of our lakes and rivers; but, except
in some few instances, it is only kept for show, being jealous and cruel
in disposition, and incapable of being tamed.

[Illustration: Fig. 99.--Swans (_Cygnus olor_).]

The ancients thought the voice of the Swan musical and harmonious, and
its gracefully-rounded form and stately neck inspired many poets, who
have described it as the bird of gods and goddesses. The poetical
imagination of the Greeks, in short, associated their most agreeable
ideas with its name. It was one of their pleasing fictions that in dying
and breathing out its last sigh, the Swan celebrated its death by a
melodious song; or, as Eloy Johanneau has it--

  "Le Cygne, à la fin de la vie,
    Fait entendre un touchant accord,
  Et d'une voix affaiblie
    Chante lui-même en mort."

Buffon himself has drawn the portraiture of this bird in words more
poetical than true:--"The Swan," he says, "reigns over the water by
every claim which can constitute an empire of peace, grandeur, majesty,
and kindness.... He lives more in the character of a friend than a
monarch amid the numerous tribes of aquatic birds, all of which seem
willingly to place themselves under his rule."

The great naturalist certainly allowed himself to be led away by his
enthusiasm, and perhaps by his classic recollections; for the Swan,
although elegant and majestic in form, and graceful in its movements on
the water, is clumsy and awkward when on land; it is, besides, spiteful
and quarrelsome. It attacks every animal, and even man. The Swans in the
gardens of the Luxembourg at Paris had taken an aversion to all the
keepers, and whenever they saw one, they all came out of the water in
order to pick a quarrel with him.

The principal strength of the Swan does not lie in its beak, but
in its wings--a most effective offensive weapon, of which it takes
every advantage. In spite of its bad qualities, however, the Swan is
the most ornamental of all our aquatic birds. Its beak is flesh
colour, edged with black, and its plumage white as snow.

Its song, or rather its cry, is indeed far from being harmonious.
It is a dull and harsh sibilation, not at all agreeable to listen to.
Some of the poets, however, have not believed the fable which
attributes to these birds a sonorous and melodious voice. Virgil
perfectly well knew how hoarse the note of the Swan really was--

  "Dant sonitum rauci per stagna loquacia cycni."

Lucretius also says--

  "Parvus cycni canor."


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Whistling Swan: Montagu, Selby, Jenyns. Whooping
Swan: McGillivray. Wild Swan: Hooper, Elk.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Anas cygnus ferus_: Linn. _Anas cygnus_: Latham,
Temminck. _Cygnus ferus_: Selby, Jenyns. _Cygnus musicus_: Bonaparte,

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Cygne à bec jaune_: Temminck. _Cygne sauvage_ of

This is, in all probability, the Swan so celebrated among the ancients.
It is found in the northern regions of Europe and Asia; residing in
summer within the Arctic circle, and migrating southwards and visiting
Holland, France, and the British Islands in winter, although
occasionally breeding in the north of Scotland. Southward, it extends to
Barbary and Egypt; eastward, it wanders as far as Japan. The note of the
Wild Swan is a sort of whoop, uttered several times in succession--a
hoarse, hard, and rather discordant cry--and this has given it the name
we have adopted; for it is difficult to imagine the grounds on which the
Prince of Canino gave it the name of _Cygnus musicus_.

The peculiar organic distinction of the Swan is the great length of the
neck, consisting of twenty-three vertebræ, and the cavity in the sternum
for the reception of the trachea, which is admirably described by Mr.
Yarrell as descending the passage between the two branches of the forked
bone called the merrythought to a level with the keel of the
breast-bone, which is double, and receives the tube of the trachea
between its two sides, which here turns upon itself after traversing the
whole length of the keel, and passes upwards and forwards, and again
backwards, till it ends in the vertical bone where the two bronchial
tubes go off, one to each lobe of the lungs. This is the apparatus
through which the cry is produced, which is variously described as a
whistle, a whoop, or a song, according to the fancy of the writer. They
fly at a great height when on a migratory journey, and in a wedge-like
figure, uttering this note as they proceed, and when heard at a distance
it is not unmusical. Mr. McGillivray listened to a flock of Wild Swans
coming in from the Atlantic after a gale: their clear, loud, and
trumpet-like cries delighted him as they sped their way in lengthened
files; but they were too far off for him to decide whether or not they
were of this species.

From six to eight eggs, of a greenish white, the female lays, and the
incubation lasts about six weeks. The cygnets are at first covered with
a grey down, and do not put on their adult plumage until the third year.
Swans care but little for concealing their broods, as they feel
confident of their power to protect them against every enemy. They will
fight even with the Eagle itself, harassing it with beak and wings,
until the marauder is glad to make a more or less honourable retreat.

In the protection of their young they display extraordinary courage. On
one occasion a female Swan was sitting on the bank of a river, when she
perceived a fox swimming towards her from the opposite bank. Thinking
that she would be better able to defend herself in her natural element,
she took to the water and went to meet the enemy which was threatening
her brood. She soon reached him, and, springing upon him with much fury,
gave him such a violent blow with her wing that the fox was disabled,
and consequently drowned.

The male Swan is equally with the female attentive to the young brood,
and watches them with a rare devotion. He carries them about on his
back, takes them under his wings to warm them, and never abandons them
while they are still young. It is a beautiful sight to see him gliding
over the water at the head of his young flock, looking far ahead with an
inquisitive eye, and prepared to sweep away any opposing obstacle;
whilst the mother keeps some distance behind, ready to protect the rear.
How much, too, are they to be admired as they sail majestically over the
surface of some solitary lake! If you hide yourself behind the thick
reeds so that they have no suspicion of your presence, you may see these
noble birds bending their necks into the most graceful curves, plunging
their heads into the water, catching it up in their bills, and
scattering it behind them, the drops falling round their bodies in
glittering rain; or when, beating the water with powerful wing, stirring
up a foamy wave, you may behold them all on a sudden, they will briskly
spring up and glide majestically over the surface of the water, cleaving
it before them with their graceful bodies as the ploughman opens a
furrow in the ground with his ploughshare.

Sometimes, however, these elegant birds engage in terrible combats with
one another, which often lead to the death of one of the contestants.
The Domestic Swan, a more civilised and well-informed bird, does not
push matters quite so far; but Wild Swans, which live in the regions of
the North--in the lakes of Iceland and Lapland--hold sanguinary
tournaments in honour of their fair ones. A combat between two Swans is
a duel to the death, in which both adversaries display not only
unequalled strength and fury, but also considerable skill and
perseverance. The strife will sometimes last several days, and does not
terminate until one of the foes has succeeded in twisting his neck round
that of his enemy, and has been able to hold him down under water long
enough to drown him.

But let us turn from this warlike spectacle and admire the Swan at the
moment when, impelled by the stimulus of love, it displays all the
graces with which nature has endowed it. Their long and supple necks
entwine with one another like garlands of snow, their plumage swells up
with gentle undulations, and they display all the splendour of their

The Swan is certainly conscious of its good looks and grace, for it is
constantly busying itself either in cleansing or polishing its feathers.
Besides, it unites the useful and the ornamental, by extirpating the
weeds which stagnate at the bottom, and by thus transforming what would
be a nasty pool into a clear sheet of water.

These birds do not afford good sport with the gun, being unapproachable.
In Iceland and Kamtschatka, Swan-hunting takes place during the season
of moulting, because the birds are then unable to fly. Dogs trained to
this sport chase and run them down; the birds, being soon worn out with
fatigue, are easily killed with sticks.

The Russians have another mode of killing Swans. When the snows melt,
they allure them by means of stuffed Geese and Ducks. The Swans dart
furiously on these decoys. The sportsmen, hidden in a hut constructed of
branches of trees and heaps of snow, at short range easily shoot them.

The flesh of the Swan is very indifferent in flavour. Our fore-fathers
ate it, but merely from ostentation, for it was only served up on the
tables of the greatest nobles. At the present day, the city of Norwich
has a preserve for Swans, which are only eaten at the municipal feasts,
or sent as presents to distinguished individuals. In these cases, the
birds being young and tenderly fed, are by no means, if properly cooked,
a dish to be despised. The inhabitants of the frozen regions of the
extreme north, even with their imperfect system of _cuisine_, do not
entirely disdain it; but the cause for this is apparently something
analogous to the philosophical saying, "as there are no thrushes, we eat

[Illustration: Fig. 100.--Black Swans (_Cygnus atratus_).]

The river Thames is remarkable for the number of Swans which live on it.
The greater quantity of them belong to the Queen; the others chiefly to
the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies of the City of London; but we never
heard that these feast their guests on the noble birds. Deputations from
the companies make an annual visit to their preserves, called
Swan-hopping, or capering--that is, catching the cygnets, and marking
them in the presence of the royal swanherd with the distinguishing brand
of the society to whom the parent bird belonged.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two species of Swans were recognised by Linnæus; but later naturalists,
and notably the Prince of Canino, record four species known in
Europe--namely, _Cygnus olor_, _C. immutabilis_, _C. musicus_, and _C.
Bewickii_--besides the American species, namely, _C. americanus_ and _C.
buccinator_. There is another species, peculiar to Australia, which is
entirely black: efforts have been made successfully to naturalise it in

THE BLACK SWAN (_Cygnus atratus_).

SYNONYMS.--_Anas Plutonia_: Shaw. _Chenopis_: Wagler.

We here give a representation (Fig. 100) of the Black Swan of Australia.
This bird, which has now become so common in our ornamental waters, in
some respects resembles the White species; it is all black, except a few
of the secondary feathers, which are white. In a state of nature, the
Black Swans are generally seen in flocks of eight or nine floating on
lakes. When disturbed, they fly in single file, and are so shy that it
is very difficult to get within gunshot when in captivity. Their note is
less harsh than that of the Whooping Swan.

THE FRIGATE BIRD (_Fregata_, Ray).

ENGLISH SYNONYM.--Man-of-war Bird: Sloane.

LATIN SYNONYM.--_Tachypetes_: Vieillot.

The Frigate Bird is principally characterised by a strong, robust,
trenchant bill, longer than the head, with mandibles hooked at the
point; nostrils linear; orbits naked; throat dilatable; the front of the
neck bare of feathers; wings very long and narrow, first two feathers
longest; tail lengthy and forked; feet short; toes united by a membrane
deeply notched.

The Frigate Bird spreads its wings to the extent of three yards; its
power of flight is, therefore, very great. It inhabits the tropical seas
of both the Old and New World, and navigators assure us that they have
met with it two or three hundred leagues from any shore. When a
hurricane arises they mount up far above the storm, and remain in these
empyrean regions until it is again fine weather. In consequence of their
immense expansion of wing, they can sustain themselves in the air for
days together without taking or requiring rest.

Their sight is so piercing that, at a distance far beyond that which
would render them invisible to us, they can perceive the flights of
_Exocoeti_, or Flying Fish. From their elevated situation, they dart
down upon their winged prey, which has relinquished its native element;
and, keeping their neck and feet in a horizontal position, and thus
grazing the waves, they grasp their victim, which little expected to
meet with an enemy in the element which it sought for safety. It is no
unusual thing for it to rob the Gannet of the fish which it has just
caught: the unfortunate bird thus acts as purveyor to this sea-robber.

The Frigate Bird is of such a combative temperament, and has such an
unbounded confidence in its strength, that it is not afraid to defy even
man. It has been known to dash at a sailor, and to snatch at the fish
which he held in his hand. M. de Kerhoënt, a French navigator, relates
that, during a residence at the Island of Ascension, a perfect cloud of
Frigate Birds surrounded his crew. They hovered about, a few feet above
the coppers of the open-air kitchen, in order to carry off the meat,
without being intimidated in the least by the presence of his followers.
Some of them approached so near that M. de Kerhoënt knocked down one of
the impudent intruders with a blow of his stick.

When these birds have thoroughly feasted on fish, or any other of the
marine creatures which constitute their food, they take flight
landwards, and proceed to perch upon a tree, in order to digest their
food in peace.

They assemble in large flocks on the islands where they are accustomed
to breed. In the month of May they begin to repair their old, or
construct new nests. They pluck off small dry branches with their beaks,
and with these pieces of stick crossed and recrossed a foundation is
formed. These nests are suspended from trees which hang over the water,
or are placed on rocks in desert islands, overhanging the sea; in them
they lay two or three eggs, said to be of a carnation colour dotted with

These birds are common in the Brazils, in the Island of Ascension, at
Timor, the Ladrone Islands, and the Moluccas: in fact, they are to be
found in most tropical countries. Navigators, struck with the lightness
of their flight and their slender shape, have given them the name they
bear, thus comparing them with the fleetest and most elegant of
men-of-war. Sir Hans Sloane, who saw numbers of them at Jamaica,
describes them under the name of Man-of-War Birds. "They fly," he says,
"like Kites, look black, are very large-winged in proportion to their
size, and they fight with Sea Gulls for their prey." They are eminently
raptorial. Ray speaks of their eagle eye, vulturine claws, and cat-like
gliding movements, their immense extent of wing, and their dashing

       *       *       *       *       *

The Palmipede we are about to notice received from Linnæus the
mythological name of Phaeton, in allusion to the son of Apollo and
Clymene, who is said to have made an audacious attempt to drive the
chariot of the Sun.


The _Pelicanidæ_, which Mr. Gray makes his sixth and last family of
Palmipedes, includes Cuvier's Totipalmes, or birds having the hind-toe
united to the others by a single membrane. This extensive family
comprehends the Tropic Birds (_Phaeton_), the Anhingas (_Plotus_), the
Boobies (_Sula_), the Cormorants (_Phalacrocorax_), and the Pelicans

The group comprehends those birds which have the base of the bill
denuded of feathers, the nostrils mere slots, in which the opening is
scarcely perceptible; the skin of the throat more or less capable of
distension; the tongue small. Some of the group are large and heavy
birds, but they are all gifted with powerful wings; they are, at the
same time, good swimmers.

THE TROPIC BIRD (_Phaeton_).

SYNONYMS.--_Lepturus_: Moehr. _Tropicoliphus_: Leach. Tropic Bird:
Sloane, Catesby, and others.

These birds are well known to navigators as the harbingers which
foretell the approach to the Tropics. They are distinguished
by two long, slender tail-feathers, whence their French name of
Paille-en-Queue. They are gifted with great length of wing, which, with
their feeble feet, proclaims them formed especially for flight. They are
accordingly swift and untiring on the wing, heedlessly going far out to
sea; forming, as Lesson remarks, a well-defined and purely geographical
group, their homes being in rocky islands, to which they usually return
every night. Nevertheless, he frequently met with them in sea-tracks far
from any land, possibly they having been swept, by the sudden squalls
and hurricanes so frequent in equatorial seas, beyond their natural

[Illustration: Fig. 101.--Tropic Bird (_Phaeton æthereus_, Linn.).]

The Common Tropic Bird, _Phaeton æthereus_, seems to confine itself,
according to this writer, to the Atlantic Ocean, stopping on the
confines of the Indian Ocean; the other species, _Phaeton Phoenicurus_,
seeming to belong further eastward, both meeting in nearly equal numbers
at the Mauritius and other islands of the same group. Their flight is
described as calm, quiet, and composed of frequent strokes of the wing,
interrupted by sudden falls. The bird is about the size of a Partridge,
with red bill and markings under the lower mandible; in general
appearance it resembles the Gulls, but has longer and more powerful
wings; the legs and feet are vermilion red, the latter webbed; the tail
has two long, narrow feathers. One of their breeding-places is the
Bermudas, where the high rocks which surround the island are a
protection from the attacks of the fowler. _P. Phoenicurus_ is a larger
bird, being thirteen inches from the bill to the root of the tail; the
long tail-feathers being red of the deepest hue.

The appearance of this bird announces, as we have said, that the
navigators have entered the torrid zone, as this bird rarely goes beyond
the limits of this region. It sometimes, however, pushes out to sea to a
distance of a hundred leagues. When they are fatigued, aided by their
large webbed feet, they rest upon the waves. Like many other ocean
birds, their peculiar organisation prevents them settling from choice on
the ground. They are, therefore, compelled to skim continually over the
water, in which they feed upon the fish and mollusks, which form their
principal food. When they are on the shore, the immense spread of their
wings induces them to choose some elevated spot for a perch, such as the
top of a tree or the summit of a rock. Worn out by fatigue, if they
settle on the water, they are forced to wait until they are lifted up on
the crest of a wave before they can again take flight. Their mode of
flying is rather curious, for they communicate to their wings a kind of
quivering motion, as if overcome by exhaustion.

These birds seek some remote and solitary islet for the purpose of
breeding. They build their nests in holes in lofty trees, or in the
clefts of rocks, but always in some position difficult of access. They
lay two or three eggs. The young ones, when just hatched, owing to their
dazzling-coloured down, bear a considerable resemblance to powder-puffs.

There are three species of the Phaeton--the Red-tailed Phaeton (_Phaeton
Phoenicurus_), with white plumage, shaded with a light rose-coloured
tint, having the two long feathers of the tail of a red hue. It inhabits
the seas of India and Africa, Madagascar, the Isle of France, and the
Pacific Ocean. The White-tailed Phaeton (_Phaeton æthereus_), with white
plumage, with the two long feathers in the tail white. It is a native of
the Atlantic Ocean. The Yellow-beaked Phaeton (_Phaeton flavirostris_)
is distinguished by the colour of its beak. It is a native of the
islands of Bourbon and Mauritius.

THE DARTER (_Anhinga_).

SYNONYMS.--_Plotus_: Linn., Klein, Scopoli. _Anhinga_: Brisson,
Temminck. _Darter_ of English and American writers.

[Illustration: Fig. 102.--Darter (_Anhinga_, Levaillant).]

The Darter (Fig. 102) has a straight and pointed bill, with
indentations at the point, turned in a backward direction. Its head is
slender and cylindrical, and forms the termination of a slim and
excessively long neck, which gives it much the resemblance of a serpent
grafted on a bird. In all its movements this neck is the counterpart of
the reptile, and imitates its undulations; therefore, in the United
States it has received the name of the "Serpent-Bird." They are untiring
swimmers and excellent divers. When any danger threatens them, they dive
completely under water, and do not reappear until they have found some
tufts of reeds in which to hide, even should the distance be as much as
one thousand feet from the spot where it disappeared. These birds are of
a wild and suspicious nature, confining themselves to solitary places.
They perch upon trees which grow by the sides of a pool or river, in
order to dart upon any unfortunate fish which comes within their reach,
which they seize with extraordinary address, swallowing it whole if not
too large. If they cannot manage this, they carry it to a rock, where
they dismember it with their beak and claws.

The Anhinga builds its nest on the topmost branches of trees,
constructing it of dried twigs and reeds, and lining it inside with a
thick layer of down.

Only two species of the Anhinga are known: the _Anhinga (Plotus)
Levaillantii_, a native of Africa, the plumage of which is black from
the breast to the tail; and the Black-bellied Darter (_Plotus
melanogaster_), an American species.

Levaillant, in his usual lively manner, relates that he was induced to
visit a rich proprietor in the Canton of the Twenty-four Rivers by a
tempting description he received of two extraordinary birds which
haunted the vicinity. They frequented a particular tree, and baffled him
more than once by their skill; but at length he got within shot, and
killed both of them right and left. He describes them as diving for
fish. When they caught a small one it was swallowed; when a large one,
it was carried to a rock or the trunk of a tree, when the bird, fixing
it beneath its feet, picked it to pieces with its bill. Though the water
is its favourite element, it is on trees and rocks, he tells us, that it
establishes its nest and brings up its young, taking care to place the
nest so that the young may be precipitated into the water as soon as
they are able to swim, or when the safety of the family requires it.

THE GANNET (_Sula_).

SYNONYMS.--Solan Goose, Booby; _Fou de Bassan_ of the French.

The Gannet is a massively-made bird, not of graceful shape; it is larger
than a Duck, and has white plumage.

They have obtained the name of "Booby" from the supposed stupidity
which, rightly or wrongly, is attributed to them; for if a man finds one
of these birds standing in his way, the creature offers no resistance,
but will allow itself to be killed rather than abandon its position. The
Frigate Bird, with audacious rapacity, when it observes the Gannet catch
a fish, swoops down upon it and compels it to disgorge its prey. Their
somewhat imperfect organisation explains this habit of non-resistance.
The shortness of their legs and the excessive length of their wings
prevent them escaping from their enemies when on shore, nor have they
sufficient power of flight to avoid them in the air. But when they are
aloft they soar wonderfully, with their necks stretched out, the tail
expanded, and the wings almost motionless. Although they are strong on
the wing, they do not venture very far from shore, consequently they are
never met with more than twenty leagues at sea. Their appearance,
therefore, is considered by the mariner as an indication of the
proximity of land. In their flight they frequently skim over the surface
of the sea, catching such fish as swim near the top. The skin of their
throat is so readily distended that they can swallow their prey whole.
The Gannet is also an excellent diver, for it is able to remain more
than a minute under water when in pursuit of a favourite prey.

[Illustration: Fig. 103.--Gannet (_Sula Bassan_).]

These birds are found in every part of the globe, giving the preference,
however, to tropical countries; still they are plentiful in the
Hebrides, in Norway, Scotland, and are even found as far north as
Kamtschatka and the Gulf of Bothnia, according to Acerbi. But when
residents of high latitudes, they migrate southward on the approach of
cold weather. In the winter season they frequent the coast of Cornwall,
and are found, in fact, in every part of the British and Irish Channel,
generally keeping out at sea. They are constant attendants on the large
quantities of herrings and pilchards that frequent our coast late in

This bird takes its prey by darting down on it with great velocity; yet
it does not appear to dive--swimming, it floats upon the water with the
buoyancy of a gull, not submerged, as is the case with the Shag and

Three species of them are known: the Solan Goose, or Gannet (_Sula
Bassan_), which is very common on the Bass Rock, a small islet in the
Firth of Forth, and on the northern islands--this is the only European
species; the Common Gannet (_Sula dactylatra_), vulgarly called "Mouche
de Velours"--this is smaller than the preceding, and is found in the
Island of Ascension; the Brown Gannet (_Sula fusca_), which inhabits
South America.

THE CORMORANT (_Phalacrocorax_).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Cormorant: Willoughby, Albin, Montagu. Great
Cormorant: Bewick, Yarrell. Crested Cormorant: Bewick. Cormorant: Shaw,
Latham, Lewin, Walcot, Pultney. Provincial: Great Black Cormorant, Cole
Goose, Skart, Green Cormorant, Norie.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Carbo carboranus_: Meyer. _Pelicanus carbo_: Linn.,
Latham, Gwellin. _Corvus aquaticus_: Ray, Willoughby. _Phalacrocorax_:
Brisson, Temminck, Cuvier, Bonaparte. _Halicus_: Illiger. _Hydrocorax_:

The Cormorant is distinguished by a bill straight and compressed, the
upper mandible curving downwards, and forming a hook at the termination;
lower mandible inserted in a small membrane extending under the throat;
feet strong, short; toes three before and one behind, united by a
membrane; nail of the middle toe serrated; wings moderate, the first
quill longer than the second, the whole being blackish; the upper part
of the back and wings ashy brown, or bronzed in the middle, bordered by
a large band of glossy greenish black.

The Common Cormorant (Fig. 104) has a massive and rather awkward body,
feet short and drawn back to the abdomen, the head flattened and small,
the guttural pouch very small. Their bulk varies, according to the
species, from the size of a Goose to that of a Teal. On the south coast
of England they are large birds, Pennant having weighed one which
exceeded seven pounds, and measured three feet four inches. Their
blackish plumage has given the idea of some resemblance existing between
them and the Crow; hence their name, "Cormorant," from _Corvus vorans_,
which signifies a voracious Crow.

[Illustration: Fig. 104.--Cormorant (_Phalacrocorax carbo_, Gould).]

These birds have a wide geographical distribution, being found in all
parts of the globe, and always on the sea-coast or at the mouths of
rivers. They are excellent swimmers and clever divers, pursuing with
extraordinary rapidity the fish on which they feed.

The Cormorant swallows its prey head first; and if it happens to catch
it by the wrong end, it will throw it up in the air, and seize it again
in its bill as it descends in the proper position. When it has caught an
eel, a good half-hour sometimes elapses before it can succeed in
swallowing it. It may be seen making the most violent efforts to swallow
its prey; and just at the moment when one would think that the slippery
morsel was successfully absorbed, the fish suddenly reappears again from
the depths of its living sepulchre, still straggling to escape; the
Cormorant re-swallows it again; the eel still resists, and increases its
efforts to escape; worn out at last by its prolonged and useless
efforts, the victim is finally compelled to resign itself to its fate.

The appetite of the Cormorant is insatiable. The havoc which it commits
in rivers is very great, for one day's consumption frequently amounts to
six or eight pounds of fish: these it pursues principally under water,
for it is an expert diver, and most successful in its search for its
prey. In consequence of the skill displayed by the Cormorant in fishing,
and the ease with which it is tamed, it is reared in a semi-domestic
state in certain parts of Eastern Asia. The Chinese and Japanese are the
nations who best know how to utilise the habits of these birds. When
thus used a ring is placed round their necks to prevent them swallowing
their prey, before turning them loose in waters which abound with the
finny tribes. The Cormorants, trained to obey their master's voice, and
balked in their attempts to swallow by the ring round the neck, bring to
their owner all fish they capture. Sir George Stanton, in his embassy to
China, having reached Len-tze, famed for its breed of these birds, found
them to be a species somewhat resembling the Common Cormorant, described
by Dr. Shaw as a Brown Cormorant with white throat, the body whitish
beneath, spotted with brown; the tail rounded; irides blue, and bill
yellow; which he named _Phalacrocorax sinensis_. "On a large lake," Sir
George says, "close to this part of the canal, and to the eastward of
it, are thousands of small boats and rafts built entirely for this
species of fishery. On each boat or raft are ten or a dozen birds,
which, at a signal from the owner, plunge into the water; and it is
astonishing to see the enormous size of fish with which they return.
They appeared to be so well trained that it did not require either ring
or cord round their necks to prevent them swallowing their prey, except
when they received the permission of their master to do so, as an
encouragement for their labours."

The dexterity with which the Cormorant seizes its prey is such that if a
dead fish is thrown into the water from a distance, the bird will dive
immediately, pursuing its course in a direct line to the spot, never
failing to secure it, even before it reaches to the bottom. On shore the
Cormorant is a dull, heavy bird, and it is only in the water, and
especially while fishing, that it appears to advantage. It floats so low
in the water, and swims and dives so quickly, that it seldom fails to
capture its prey. Now on the surface, next moment below, onward it
plunges as if making an attack; then rising suddenly in some unexpected
spot after a lengthened dive, it is certain to have the unfortunate fish
in its bill.

Another peculiarity which belongs to this species is common with many
other aquatic birds--that of violently beating the water with its wings
without moving from the spot, followed by a vigorous shaking of the
whole body, with the feathers ruffled, and, at the same time, covering
itself with water. After repeating this several times with small
intervals of rest, it will retire to an elevated place on shore, where
it will remain with outspread wings until dry.

The flight of these birds is rapid and lasting; but they are as heavy
and awkward when on land as they are nimble and active in the water.
Their nature being unsuspicious and trustful, they can be easily
approached, particularly when resting after their fishing exertions.

The Cormorant is widely diffused both in the Old and New World. It is a
migratory bird, but is seen on our coast at all seasons. It breeds among
rocks on the coast, selecting crags and inaccessible places, which
sometimes are covered with their nests: these are composed of sticks and
sea-weed, in which the female deposits her eggs, generally three in
number, and which are of a whitish colour, weighing about two ounces.

In Egypt four species of Cormorants are known. The Great Cormorant
(_Carbo cormoranus_) is the size of a Goose; this species is often
domesticated, and is frequently met with in France.


ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Green Cormorant: McGillivray, Morris, Selby. Shag:
Montagu, Willoughby, McGillivray, Latham, Flemming. Crested Cormorant:
Morris. Crested Shag: Montagu, Selby, Jenyns.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Pelicanus graculus_: Linn., Latham, Montagu, Bewick.
_Phalacrocorax graculus_: Cuvier, Brisson, Rennies, Montagu,
McGillivray, Stephens, Flemming. _Phalacrocorax cristatus_: Meyer,

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_Cormoran Larcup_: Temminck. _Petit Cormoran_, or
_Nigaud_: Buffon. _Cormoran Nigaud_: Figuier.

LOCAL SYNONYMS.--Black Cormorant, Crested Cormorant, Shag, Scart,
Scarer, Green Scout, and the Booby Cormorant.

This species is in weight about four pounds; the bill is dusky, and
about four inches in length; a bare yellow skin is situated along the
sides of the mouth and chin, the latter speckled with black. The whole
bird appears black at a little distance, but on nearer examination, the
head, neck, breast, and rump are of a glossy green. The feathers of the
upper part of the back, scapulars, and wing coverts are pointed, and
beautifully glossed with purple, violet, and green, each feather being
edged with a velvety black; the under part of the body is less glossed
with green; the legs are dusky black; middle claw serrated.

The female weighs over three pounds; the upper part of her body is dark,
not so densely glossed as in the male; but the margin of the feathers of
the scapulars and wing coverts is black, the under part dusky, with a
mixture of grey.

Such is Colonel Montagu's description of a pair shot from the nest, but
they vary in plumage and colour. In habit the Shag is strictly a
salt-water bird, never visiting fresh water, breeding on our rocky
coasts, where it builds a nest of stick and sea-weed. They resort to the
maritime caves of the Hebrides in such vast numbers that they literally
cover the sea to a considerable extent when on their passage from the
caves of Liuir and Toehead to their fishing-grounds in the sound. Mr.
McGillivray has counted a hundred and five in one flock. This picture
Mr. McGillivray makes the text for one of his most delightful

"There is a large cave," he says, "on the west coast of Harris,
celebrated for the number of Shags which reside on it, and so lofty that
a boat can enter it to a considerable distance with lowering the masts.
When we appear off the mouth of the cave a considerable number appear
conspicuously perched on the little shelving rocks and projections,
their dusky figures strongly relieved by the whitened surface of the
rocks. Some of them fly overhead as we approach, but more drop into the
water like a stone. On looking down we see them rapidly winding their
way under the boat, swimming with outspread wings, and not at all in the
manner represented by some writers, who say that it propels itself
entirely under water by the feet and tail. Glancing aloft, we see many
Black Guillemots in the clefts; and above them is the eyrie of the
White-tailed Eagle. But our business is with the Shags, which are now
seen writhing their long necks as they gaze upon us. Presently a shot is
fired, and another; the dead birds drop on the water, the living plunge
headlong into it, many advance on the wing, but, being frightened by the
upraised oars, dart into the water.

"Advancing a little, we find that many still remain on the rocks; of
these we shoot some more. Presently some of those which had escaped
return, and perch; and we continue shooting until we have obtained as
many as we desire. After all the uproar we have created, several still
remain standing near their nests, loath to quit them. Although most of
the nests are out of reach, some are accessible. We find them generally
bulky, sometimes very scanty, formed of fuci, twigs, heath, and grass
rudely put together, made flat, or with a shallow cavity, containing
two, frequently three, sometimes four eggs, never more."

This bird has black plumage, as we have seen, is smaller than the one
preceding, and inhabits the Arctic and Antarctic regions. A bird nearly
resembling this (_Phalacrocorax Desmarestii_) is described by Temminck
and figured by Gould, a species which has been observed in Corsica, and
is of a blackish green. Montagu satisfied himself that the Crested
Cormorant was only a seasonal variety of the Common Cormorant; and
probably others of the species described, if carefully examined, would
prove to be the same. McGillivray is of opinion, however, if Mr. Gould's
figure is correct, the species must be distinct.


A comprehensive group of aquatic birds presenting a uniformity of
structure quite apparent in the skeleton, and especially in the
digestive organs, of which the Pelican is the type. They are mostly
birds of large size, but of slender, elongated body, long neck, and head
generally of moderate size. The bill is long, sometimes slender, at
other times rather stout and straight; the upper mandible with the ridge
separated by grooves, and terminated in a narrow, decurved, and pointed
nail, or claw; the lower mandible elastic and extensible. The plumage is
soft and blending, on the back and wings compact and imbricated; wings
long, tail of moderate length and narrow.

The habits of the group vary considerably. Cormorants pursue their prey
much in the same manner as Mergansers and Loons; the Anhingas are
strictly territorial; the Pelicans combine the habits of both. The
Gannets fly about in quest of food, plunging upon it from on high. The
Frigate Birds range over the seas with unrivalled power of flight, and
the Tropic Birds resemble in progression the Terns. The family

  1. Pelicans.
  2. Cormorants.
  3. Gannets.
  4. Phaetons.
  5. Anhingas.

The Pelican (Fig. 105) has the bill long, straight, rather broad, and
very much depressed; upper mandible flattened, terminating in a hooked
tip much bent and compressed; lower mandible formed of two bony branches
united at the point, from which a membranous naked skin is suspended,
forming a purse, which can be distended into a voluminous bag. The
Pelicans are large, heavy aquatic birds, with great extent of wing, and
are excellent swimmers; their haunts are estuaries, the sea-coast, and
the banks of rivers, lakes, and marshes. In its habitat, whenever a fish
betrays its presence by leaping or flashing its glittering scales in the
sun, the Pelican will be seen sailing towards it.

This bird has an appetite so insatiable, and a stomach so capacious,
that, in one day's fishing, it devours as much fish as would satisfy six
men. The Egyptians have nicknamed it the "River Camel," because it can
imbibe at once more than twenty pints of water. Certainly it only makes
two meals a day; but, oh! what meals they are!

[Illustration: Fig. 105.--The Crested Pelican (_P. onocrotalus_, var.
_Orientalis_, Linn.).]

Pelicans often travel in considerable flocks, visiting the mouths of
rivers or favourite retreats on the sea-coast. When they have made
choice of a suitable place, they arrange themselves in a wide circle,
and begin to beat the water with extended wing, so as to drive the fish
before them, gradually diminishing the circle as they approach the shore
or some inlet on the coast. In this manner they get all the fish
together into a small space, when the common feast begins. After gorging
themselves they retire to the shore, where the processes of digestion
follow. Some rest with the neck over the back; others busily dress and
smooth their plumage, waiting patiently until returning appetite invites
all to fresh exertions. When thus quiescent, occasionally one of these
birds empties his well-lined pouch, and spreads in front of him all the
fish that it contains, in order to feed upon them at leisure.

This guttural pouch, which plays so important a part in the Pelican's
life, is composed of two skins, the outer one being a prolongation of
the skin of the neck; the inner one is contiguous to the coating of the
oesophagus. The tongue is small: a delicate gizzard forms one large sac
with the other stomachs.

In spite of its great size, the Pelican flies easily and to considerable
distances. It is no diver, but will occasionally dash down on fish from
a considerable height, and with such velocity that it becomes submerged;
but its buoyancy instantly brings it to the surface again. It perches on
trees, but seems to prefer rocks. When it builds a nest, it is generally
formed of coarse reedy grass, lined with softer material, placed in the
cleft of dry rocks near the water. Here the female deposits two, three,
four, sometimes five white eggs, but most frequently only two. They are
occasionally satisfied with placing their eggs in an indentation in the
ground which they have roughly lined with blades of grass.

After an incubation lasting from forty to forty-five days, the young
ones, covered with a greyish down, are hatched. The female feeds them:
she presses the hooked red point of the mandible against her breast,
which causes her to disgorge the fish it contains into the bills of the
young ones, the male performing the same operation on himself for the
benefit of his partner. This is probably the fact that has given origin
to the absurd fable that the female Pelican is in the habit of piercing
her breast in order to nourish her young with her maternal blood. The
young birds are easily tamed. It is even asserted that they are
susceptible of education, and that, like the young Cormorants, they can
be taught to fish for their masters.

The Pelican is more common in tropical regions than in temperate
climates. They are very numerous in Africa, Siam, Madagascar, the Sunda
Isles, the Philippines, Manilla, and in the Western Hemisphere they
abound from the Antilles to the northern temperate part of the South
American continent. The true Pelicans are large birds with powerful
wings, and are excellent swimmers. The pouch has extraordinary
elasticity, and is capable of containing a number of fish either for its
own consumption or the nourishment of its young. It haunts the
neighbourhood of rivers and lakes and the sea-coast, being rarely seen
more than twenty leagues from the land. Levaillant describes one of
those wonderful ornithological scenes which only occur in uninhabited
regions. At the entrance of Saldanha Bay, on the south-west coast of
Africa, after wading through the surf and clambering up the rocks, "all
of a sudden there arose from the surface of the Island of Dassen-Eyland
an impenetrable cloud, which formed, at the distance of forty feet above
our heads, an immense canopy, composed of birds of almost every kind of
water-fowl--Cormorants, Sea Gulls, Sea Swallows, Pelicans, and I believe
the whole winged tribes of this part of Africa were here assembled.
Their voices, harsh and discordant, formed a noise so unmusical that I
was every moment compelled to cover my head in order to relieve my ears.
The alarm we created was so much the more general, inasmuch as the birds
disturbed were chiefly sitting females. They had nests, eggs, and young
to defend." In this scene the Pelican, from its peculiar appearance, was
of course a prominent object. The best-known species are--1, the White
Pelican; 2, the Crested Pelican; 3, the Brown Pelican; and 4, the
Spectacled Pelican.


ENGLISH SYNONYM.--White Pelican.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Pelicanus onocrotalus_: Linn., Temminck, Selby. _P.
minor_: Ruppell.

FRENCH SYNONYM.--_Pélican Blanc_: Temminck.

The White Pelican (_Pelicanus onocrotalus_) is as large as a Swan. Its
bill is about fifteen inches in length. Its plumage is white, with a
slightly rosy tint, which is brightest in the breeding season; the
pinnaries and spurious wings are black; the crest and a few feathers on
the neck yellowish.

This species received from the ancients the name of _Onocrotalus_,
because they fancied that they discovered a resemblance in its cry to
the braying of an ass. It is very common on the lakes and rivers of
Hungary and Southern Russia, as well as on the banks of the Danube. If
it is seen in France, it is purely accidental, as it is a rare visitor.
A wild rocky shore, where it can look down on the sea, is the favourite
haunt of the Pelican; but it is not uncommon for it to perch on trees.
The nest is formed of coarse reedy grass, with a lining of finer
quality; it is generally made on the ground, and is about eighteen
inches in diameter, in which it lays four, sometimes five, white eggs,
but more frequently two, slightly oblong, and alike at both ends. Fish
forms its principal food, which it captures chiefly in shallow inlets;
for it is no diver, although on the wing it dashes upon a fish
occasionally from a great height, and that with such velocity that it
submerges itself, but its buoyancy brings it immediately to the surface.
Occasionally it flies very high, but it generally just poises itself
over the water. Notwithstanding its webbed feet, it often perches on
trees--a habit which Sonnerat describes as peculiar to the female in the
evening, after having fed and protected her young during the day.


SYNONYMS.--_Pelicanus crispus_: Bonaparte, Temminck, Bruck. Pelican:
English authors. _P. onocrotalus_ (var. _Orientalis_): Linn, Pallas,
Dalmatian. _Riesen-pelikan_: German authors.

The Crested Pelican, in common with the White Pelican, inhabits the
south-east of Europe and Africa, and is also found in Hungary, Dalmatia,
Greece, the Crimea, and the Ionian Islands, as well as in Algeria, and,
according to some authors, it is frequently met with in China.

It has white plumage, with the exception that the ends of the feathers
of the back and wings are black. The feathers of the head and upper part
of the neck are twisted up so as to form a tolerably large tuft or
crest: hence the name it bears. Its habitat is principally the marshes
round the Black Sea, and the isles adjacent to the mouth of the Danube.

Of their habits, travellers in these regions give very interesting
descriptions. Count Mükle states that they are plentiful on the lakes of
Missolonghi, and in the marshy grounds near Thermopylæ. In situations
incredibly difficult of access, especially on floating islands, scarcely
over the water-line, they place their nests thickly together, supported
among reeds and rushes. The vicinity of these congregated nests is
rendered indescribably offensive by the foul fish they have dropped
about, and the disagreeable white dung with which all the neighbourhood
is covered.

"Time was," says Mr. W. H. Simpson, "and that not so long ago, when
_Pelicanus crispus_ lived in hundreds all the year round, from the rocky
promontory of Kourtzalari, hard by the mouth of the Acheloüs, on the
western extremity of the lagoon, near the island of Ætolico, up the
northern arm, and on the east along the great mud flats which mark the
limits of the present delta of Phidaris. Nowadays, however, a solitary
individual may be seen fishing here and there throughout the vicinity;
the remnant have betaken themselves to the islands which divide the Gulf
of Procopanisto from that of Ætolico. Here, towards the end of February
last, the community constituted a group of seven nests--a sad falling
off from the year 1838, when thirty-four nests were grouped upon a
neighbouring islet. As we approached the spot in a boat the Pelicans
left their nests, and taking to the water, sailed away like a fleet of
stately ships, leaving their preconcerted nursery in possession of the
invader. The boat grounded in two or three feet of mud, and when the
party had floundered through this, the seven nests were found to be
empty. A fisherman had plundered them that morning, taking from each
nest one egg, which we afterwards recovered. The nests were constructed
in a great measure of the old reed palings used by the natives for
enclosing fish, mixed with such pieces of the vegetation of the islet as
were suitable for the purpose. The seven nests were contiguous, and
disposed in the shape of an irregular cross, the navel of the cross,
which was the tallest nest, being about thirty inches high, the two next
in line being about two feet, and the two forming the arms being a few
inches lower, the two extremes at either end being about fourteen inches
from the ground.... The eggs are chalky, like others of the Pelicanidæ,
very rough in texture, and some of them streaked with blood."--("Ibis,"
vii. p. 395.)

THE BROWN PELICAN (_P. fuscus_).

The Brown Pelican is an American species, smaller than the preceding,
and is described at some length by Nuttall. It has the head and the neck
variegated with white and ash-colour; all the rest of the plumage of a
brownish grey, with whitish marks on the back; the pouch is of an ashy
blue, striped with a reddish hue. It is found in the Larger Antilles, on
the coasts of Peru, in Bengal, and in South Carolina.

THE SPECTACLED PELICAN (_Pelicanus conspicillatus_).

The Spectacled Pelican, which is only found in southern climates, is
thus named from the naked skin which surrounds the eye, reminding one of
spectacles by its more or less circular form. Its plumage, like that of
its congeners, is white.



"Notwithstanding the dissimilarity of the bill," says Mr. Vigors (_Linn.
Trans._, vol. xiv.), "the Sterna and Rhynchops most intimately accord in
habits and external characters. The Gull-billed Tern of Colonel Montagu
conducts us from these genera to the groups which compose the Linnæan
genus _Larus_--now divided into two genera, _Lestris_ and _Larus_. From
this group we are led to the genera _Diomedeæ_ and _Haladroma_, by the
absence of the hind toe, by means of the species _Larus tridactylus_
(Latham), where, though the hind toe is not absolutely different, as
might be inferred from its name, there appears but the rudiment of one.
The last-mentioned genus, _Haladroma_, originally belonged to
_Procellaria_, and was separated from it by its tridactyle foot. Even in
this character, however, it forms a connection from _Larus_ to the
groups that compose the genuine _Procellaria_, all of which are
distinguished by the singular peculiarity of having no true hind toe,
but only a nail adhering to the tarsus in its place. We thus arrive at
the Petrels, separated into groups of the _Procellaria_ (Anet),
_Pachyptila_ (Ilf.), _Puffucus_ (Ray)."


The _Grands Voiliers_, or Long-winged Birds, are thus named from their
powerful and enduring faculty of flight. Mariners meet with them
everywhere, and easily recognise them by their long and pointed wings,
forked tails, and short legs. In this order the back toe is unconnected
with the others, or is wanting, and the membrane which unites the others
much notched; their bills are sharp and pointed, and without
indentations. They pass their lives at a great distance from land, and
do not approach the shore except for breeding purposes. To this
sub-order belong the Sea Swallows (_Sterna_), Scissors-bills or Skimmers
(_Rynchops_), the Sea Gulls (_Laridæ_), the Labbes (_Stercoraria_), the
Petrels (_Procellaria_), Albatross (_Diomedea_).

THE TERN (_Sterna hirundo_, Linn.).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Common Tern: Selby, McGillivray, Morris. Greater
Tern: Montagu, Bewick, Pennant. Local names: Sea Swallow, Gull Teaser,
Tarney, Tarrock, Kippock, Scraye.

LATIN SYNONYMS.--_Sterna hirundo_: Pennant, Montagu, Bewick, Flemming,
Selby, Jenyns, Gould, Yarrell, Latham. _Sterna major_: Brisson. _Hirundo
marina_: Ray, Willoughby.

There are six species of Sterna, properly so called, described by
British naturalists; and six others, according to McGillivray, nearly
resembling them in form, colour, and habit. The true Sterna has the bill
straight, slender, compressed, and tapering; it is about the length of
the head, with the edge sharp, and the tip elongated and pointed; the
upper mandible armate; legs short, slender; anterior toes small;
membrane emarginate; wings long and pointed; tail forked. These birds
are remarkable for their buoyant, graceful, easy flight, and the soft,
loose texture of their plumage. Their prevailing colours are a pale
bluish grey or black, and white.

The Tern, or Sea Swallow, as it is commonly called, on account of its
long pointed wings and forked tail, appears to be, like the Swallow
properly so called, a perfect disregarder of rest. They may be seen
soaring in the air at a very great height, and then suddenly darting
down upon their prey, which their piercing sight has enabled them to
descry in the water. Often, too, they may be noticed skimming over the
surface of the waves with astonishing rapidity, and seizing in their
flight any fish which is imprudent enough to show itself. Their flight
over the sea seems incessant, and it is rarely they are seen swimming.
When they need rest, they seek some solitary, isolated rock in the
ocean. They congregate in flocks more or less numerous, and they
manifest so much attachment for individuals of their own species, that,
when one of them is wounded by the sportsman's gun, the others surround
it, full of grief and sympathy, nor will they leave it until all hope of
saving its life is at an end.

These birds in their flight give utterance to shrill and piercing calls,
which, when produced by numbers together, cause a deafening uproar in
the sky. These calls are raised with increased power when they are about
to undertake some longer flight than usual. But the time, above all
others, when their noise is most discordant and shrill is the breeding
season. "On going up to one of their breeding-places," says McGillivray,
"which may always be discovered from a distance, as some of the birds
will be seen hovering over it, one is sure to be met by several of them,
which hasten to remonstrate with the intruder by harsh cries and
threatened blows. As you draw nearer, more of them leave their nests;
and at length they are all on the wing, wheeling and bounding--now high
and now low--at times coming quite close, and increasing their cries,
which resemble the syllables 'cree-cree-cree-ae.'"

[Illustration: Fig. 106.--The Tern (_Sterna hirundo_, Linn.).]

Like the Land Swallows, these sea-birds arrive on our coasts in the
spring. They disperse themselves over our lakes and large ponds, where
they feed on any animal substances they meet with--either fresh or
putrefied--fish, mollusks, or insects. Montagu says they are found in
great abundance on the Sussex and Kentish coasts, particularly about
Winchelsea, and in the Romney marshes towards Dungeness. Mr. Selby found
them breeding in the Solway and in the Firth of Clyde. McGillivray met
with them in great numbers in South Uist and Long Island; and his
correspondents, Messrs. Bailie and Heddle, noted their annual arrival in
the Orkneys in May. "They arrive in straggling flocks in the beginning
of May," says McGillivray, "and soon betake themselves to their
breeding-places, which are sandy tracts, gravelly or pebbly ridges,
rocky ground, sometimes low, shelving rocks on the sea-shore; their
nests being bits of grass or fragments of sea-weed, placed in a mere
depression. In stormy weather they fly little, but shelter themselves by
resting on the shore. They go to roost very late in the evening; long
after sunset, they are still engaged in seeking their sustenance."

Terns always assemble in flocks on the sea-coast, on the margins of
lakes, in marshes, or wooded spots near the mouths of rivers, at their
breeding-time. Their nests are placed so near to one another, that the
hens sitting actually come in contact. They lay their eggs, to the
number of two or three, which hatch in twenty days. These eggs are
esteemed as a very delicate viand: in the United States a considerable
trade is carried on in them.

The Sea Swallow is found in all the regions both of the Old and New
World, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific.

The Tern (_Sterna hirundo_) is very common in France, on the shores of
the Atlantic, and in the Mediterranean.

THE LITTLE TERN (_Sterna minuta_, Linn.).

ENGLISH SYNONYMS.--Lesser Tern: Montagu, Selby. Lesser Sea Swallow,
Little Tern: McGillivray, Flemming.

LATIN SYNONYM.--_Sterna minuta_: Latham, Flemming, Selby, McGillivray,
Morris, Jenyns, Temminck.

FRENCH SYNONYMS.--_La Sterne Petite_: Figuier. _La Petite Hirondelle de
Mer_: Temminck.

This smallest of the Terns has many habits in common with the _Sterna
hirundo_. "In the elegance of its buoyant flight," says McGillivray, "as
it skims over the water or shoots along its way to and from its
breeding-place, the tiny creature is an object of admiration to every
lover of nature. You may see a pair coming up from a distance, flying at
the height of a few yards over the waves, their long wings winnowing the
air and impelling them on by starts as they wind their way in undulating
and graceful movements. Suddenly their flight is arrested over a large
pool left on the sands by the retreating tide. With quick beats of their
wings they hover almost stationary over the water, with downward-pointed
bills, intently searching for their prey beneath. One drops with
upraised wings, dips for a moment, and rises with a small fish in its
bill; the other is equally successful. Onward they proceed, now and then
emitting their shrill cry. Far ahead is seen a flock engaged in picking
up their prey, and onward the stragglers speed to join their kindred."

The Little Tern has the bill slightly longer than the head, and, like
the Common Tern, slender, nearly straight, much compressed, tapering,
and acute; the eyes and feet small; plumage soft and blended; wings
long, narrow, and pointed; tail long and deeply forked; upper part of
the head and nape black; neck, back, and wings light greyish blue; hind
part of the back and tail white; length to the end of the tail about ten
inches; wings twenty-one inches.

This species reaches our shores in the beginning of May, and settles
along the whole eastern and southern coast, from the Land's End to the
Orkneys, but is rare on the west coast. The Firth of Forth, the sands of
Barry, near Dundee, a place at the mouth of the Don, and another at the
Ythan, are noted as their haunts, as are the sands of Strathbeg Loch,
and the sands between Burghead and the mouth of the Findhorn. It is also
abundant on the sea-coasts of Holland and France, where it feeds on
fish-spawn and small winged insects.

The Noddy (_Sterna stolida_), which frequents rivers and the borders of
lakes, especially marshes, makes its nest among the reeds and water-lily
leaves: this is the species most plentiful in America. The Silver-winged
Tern (_Sterna leucoptera_) inhabits the bays and gulfs of the
Mediterranean, and is only an accidental visitor to the north of France.
The Arctic Tern (_Sterna arctica_) is a native of the Arctic Circle, and
regularly visits the sea-coast of the north of France. We may also
mention the Whiskered or Marsh Tern (_Sterna leucupareia_), the
Gull-billed Tern (_Sterna anglica_), the Roseate Tern (_Sterna
Dougalli_), the Sandwich Tern (_Sterna cautiaca_), and the Tschegruna,
or Caspian Tern (_Sterna caspica_), all of which either breed upon the
British coast, or are frequent visitors there, although they rarely
reach France.


[Illustration: Fig. 107.--The Black Scissors-bill (_Rynchops nigra_).]

The Scissors-bills have received their name from the conformation of
their beaks, which are flattened laterally into two laminæ fitting one
on the other, forming two mandibles compressed into cutting blades, the
upper being one-third shorter than the lower. In order to pick up the
shrimps and small fishes on which they feed, these birds are obliged to
skim the surface of the water, dipping the lower mandible of their bill,
the upper mandible being kept open and clear of the water till aquatic
insects or other small fry have entered into the lower portion of
it.[25] The singular form of their bills is also of service to them in
opening such bivalve shell-fish as come in their way. They frequently
watch these mollusks, and when they notice that the shell of the latter
is slightly open, they plunge the lower mandible of their long bill into
it; they then break the ligament of the shell by beating it against the
rock. The tenement being thus destroyed, there is no obstacle to their
devouring the inhabitant.

    [25] Catesby says: "These birds frequent near the sea-coasts of
    Carolina. They fly close to the surface of the water, from which
    they seem to receive somewhat of food."

The only remarkable species of this bird is the Black Scissors-bill
(_Rynchops nigra_), frequently called the Cut-water. It is about the
size of a Pigeon; its prevailing colour is white, top of the head and
shoulders black, with a white band on the wings. These birds are very
numerous in the West Indian seas. They fly with a slow motion, and, like
the Gulls and other sea-birds, they occasionally form such dense flocks
that the sky is actually darkened for the space of a league.


Gulls and their congeners include the well-known shore-birds generally
called Gulls, more especially the Skuas (_Lestris_), Gulls (_Larus_),
and Mews (_Gavia_). They are characterised by a light body, more or less
compact; neck of moderate length; head ovate; bill shorter than the
head, straight, compressed; convex ridge on upper mandible, nasal groove
long; lower mandible with the angle long and narrow; mouth moderate;
tongue fleshy; eyes small; legs generally short; tibia bare; tarsus
short, compressed; hind toe small; middle toe longest; fore toe moderate
in length and slender; connecting membrane full, margins only concave;
claws generally small, arcuate, acute, and more or less compressed.

These birds inhabit the sea-shore, along which they wander in search of
food; the larger species preying on fish, crustacea and mollusca, and
the carcasses of cetacea and other marine mammalia cast up by the sea.
They all pursue shoals of fish in the open sea, often to great distances
from land. Their plumage is full, soft, close, elastic, and well blended
on the back and wings; wings long, broad, and pointed; the tail, of
twelve feathers, rounded and forked.

The Sea Mews (_Gavia_) are connected with the Terns, yet still have some
characteristics of the Gulls. However, they are of smaller size than the
latter, have more slender forms, and their feet and bills are
comparatively feebler. We shall describe the Mews and Gulls under one
head, as they have the same generic characteristics, the only difference
between them being that of size. The name of Gull applies to those
species which are at least as large as Ducks; that of Mew to those which
are smaller.

The Gull (_Larus_) and the Mew are found in every country, on every
coast, out at sea, and sometimes even on fresh waters, lakes, and
rivers. These birds literally swarm on some coasts, where they devour
every kind of food they meet with. Fish, either fresh or stale; flesh,
either fresh or decomposed; worms; shell-fish--all are alike acceptable.
If these birds happen to notice the carcass of any animal, either
floating on the sea or cast up on the shore, it soon becomes their prey,
and is speedily devoured by these "Sea Vultures," as Buffon calls them.
Should one of them discover the remains of a dead whale, or other large
oceanic mammalia, it apprises the rest of the flock, and immediately
they all pour down upon their booty, uttering the most discordant cries.
They gorge themselves up to their very throats; but their stomachs soon
digest the rapidly-decomposing animal diet. They may also be observed in
search of other prey, skimming over the surface of the water, their keen
eyes anxiously scanning far and near for their most favourite food,
young fish.

During the breeding season they visit islands where they are sure to
find thousands of eggs as well as young birds. In spite of the piteous
shrieks of the parents and the plaintive cries of the young, the whole
colony is sacrificed to their gluttony; the eggs are sucked, and the
scarcely-hatched young ones are devoured. But, as they are always
cowards, whenever these sea-vagabonds notice the approach of a bird more
warlike than themselves, although, perhaps, much smaller, their only
endeavour is to hide themselves, or depart with all the celerity
which their long wings can give them. The mere sight of a Labbe
(_Stercoraria_) is quite sufficient to make them disgorge their food.
These birds, which are essentially water scavengers, are frequently very
much in want of food, especially during stormy weather. Nature in her
goodness, however, has well enabled them to endure hunger.

Sea Gulls and Sea Mews are found everywhere, but they are most numerous
on the flat and low sea-shores of the North, where the dead bodies of
whales and other large fish furnish them with abundant food. They prefer
building their nests on desert islands in the Polar seas, where they are
safe from man's intrusion. They lay two or three eggs in a hole
scratched in the sand, or in the cleft of a rock.

These birds are easily tamed, and soon take to domestic habits; but
their flesh, which is hard and tough as leather, is unfit for human
food. In order to render them eatable in cases of emergency, the
sailors, after having skinned them, hang them up by their feet, and
leave them exposed to the evening dew for two or three nights. By this
means a little of the disagreeable smell passed by their carcass is got
rid of.

[Illustration: Fig. 108.--Large White-winged Gull (_Larus glaucus_,

The most remarkable species of the Sea Gull are the following:--

The Large White-winged Gull, _Larus glaucus_ (Fig. 108), is all white
except its back, which is of a light bluish grey. It is most frequently
found towards the east of Europe, and is rare on the Atlantic coasts.

The Great Black-backed Gull, _Larus marinus_ (Fig. 109), is of a pure
white, with a black back. It is very common in northern regions, and
habitually visits the shores of the Atlantic to the north of France.

The Herring Gull (_Larus argentatus_, Yarrell), is white, with a blue
back. It is seen throughout the year on the coasts of the Mediterranean
and the Atlantic.

The only species of Sea Mew which it is necessary for us to describe

The White Sea Mew, or Senator (_Larus eburneus_),[26] which is found but
incidentally in the temperate regions of Europe. It is very common in
Greenland and Baffin's Bay. Its plumage is entirely white, tinted with
pink underneath; it has black feet and a bluish bill.

    [26] Ivory Gull of Yarrell.

The Brown-masked Sea Mew (_Larus capistratus_)[27] has the top of its
head and throat of a light brown colour; the inside of the wings are
light grey; the rest of its body is white; and its bill and tarsi are of
a reddish-brown colour. This species is common in England.

    [27] The Masked Gull of Yarrell.

[Illustration: Fig. 109.--Great Black-backed Gull (_Larus marinus_,

The Laughing Sea Mew (_Larus ridibundus_)[28] has its head black; its
neck, tail, and lower parts of a white hue. Its back and wings are
bluish grey, and its beak and feet vermilion red. This is the species
most easily tamed. It is called the Laughing Sea Mew on account of its
cry. It is widely spread all over Europe, and builds its nest on the
coast at the mouths of rivers. It is only a visitor in France and
Germany, but in Holland it is found a permanent resident.

    [28] Black-headed Gull of Yarrell.

The Grey Sea Mew, _Larus canus_ (Fig. 110), is commonly called the Sea
Pigeon. Its plumage is of a beautiful white colour with the exception of
a grey back. When tempests threaten, this species disperses in flocks
over the inland districts. It is common in summer in the regions of the
Arctic Circle; in autumn and winter it is found on the sea-coasts of
temperate and southern Europe.

[Illustration: Fig. 110.--Grey Sea Mews (_Larus canus_, Yarrell).]

[Illustration: Fig. 111.--The Common Skua (_Lestris cataractes_,

The Skua, Labbe, or Dung-bird (_Stercoraria_, Vieillot), Fig. 111, is
remarkable for its stout bill, which is nearly cylindrical, and covered
with a membrane from the base as far as the nostrils; the upper mandible
is convex, hooked, and armed at the extremity with a crooked point,
which almost appears as if it was supplementary. These birds principally
frequent the sea-shore, but at the time of storms they venture further
inland. They fly very rapidly, even against the strongest wind. They
pursue the Sea Mews and the Terns most inveterately, and sometimes even
Boobies and Cormorants, their only aim being to deprive these birds of
the prey they have caught; for the Sea Mews and the Terns are their
purveyors. Incessantly do they pursue, harass, and beat these species
until they have forced them to disgorge and drop their booty: before the
fish falls into the sea it is caught by the active persecutors. This
singular habit has given rise to the belief that Skuas feed upon the
excrement of the Sea Mew, and to this they owe their name of Dung-birds.

In some countries, as the Shetland Islands, these birds are held in
veneration. The care and protection of the sheep are almost entirely
intrusted to them, owing to their possessing an inveterate hatred
against Eagles; for as soon as the monarch of the air appears in view,
three or four of them combine together to give him battle. They never
attack him in front, but harass him pitilessly until his strength is so
reduced that they can completely conquer him, or at least force him to
retreat. In recompense for these services, the inhabitants are in the
habit of throwing to the Skuas the refuse of their fisheries.

These birds almost always live in solitude, so that they may be more
readily able to procure their food, which consists of fish, mollusks,
eggs, young sea-birds, and small mammals. They inhabit the Arctic
regions of Europe and America, and make their nests in the heather; they
lay from two to four eggs, which are sat upon by the male and female
birds alternately. They are courageous enough to defend their young
brood against any kind of animal, and even against man.

There are four European species: the Parasite Skua (_Lestris
parasiticus_), which inhabits Greenland, Newfoundland, and Spitzbergen,
and visits tolerably often our Atlantic coasts; Richardson's Skua
(_Lestris Richardsonii_), which is very plentiful in Sweden, Norway,
Lapland, and North America; the Pomerine Skua (_Lestris pomarinus_),
which is very common in Newfoundland, Iceland, and the Feroë Islands;
the Common Skua (_Lestris cataractes_), commonly called the Brown

The PETRELS (_Procellaria_, Linn.) are characterised by a gibbous beak,
the extremity of which is hooked, and seems made all in one piece, and
as if jointed on to the rest of the upper mandible. These birds never
dive, and rarely swim; but in their rapid flight they skim over the
waves, and actually appear to walk upon the waters. To this habit they
owe the name of Petrel, which simply means "Little Peter," in allusion
to the miracle of St. Peter, who walked upon the restless waters of the
Lake of Genesareth.

The family of the Petrels contains several species of very different
appearance. They traverse immense distances in their powerful and rapid
flight, although they nearly always keep close to the water. They never
draw near to the coast except to build their nests, for which purpose
they select a little crevice in some steep rock, in which they deposit a
large white egg. While sitting upon it, they keep up a low and continual
noise, like that of a spinning-wheel.

[Illustration: Fig. 112.--The Blue Petrel (_Procellaria cærulea_,

In general, Petrels are not of a very engaging aspect; but they are an
invaluable resource to the poor people who inhabit the islands in the
frigid seas, who do not object to eat the flesh of these birds, although
they principally value them for their warm down and the oil which can be
extracted from their stomachs. The quantity of oil which these birds
contain is so large that it is used as an article of diet. In the Feroë
Islands candles are made from this oleaginous matter. Often, indeed, the
islanders make the bird itself serve as a candle to illuminate their
gloomy vigils. This is performed by passing a wick through the body of
the bird when just killed.

These birds appear to love the tempest; they run over the roughest
waves, and seem as if they were enjoying themselves as they pass up and
down the declivities of the mountains of foam. When the storm is too
violent for them, they take refuge upon the nearest rocks, or even on
the yards of a passing ship. Sailors, who are confessedly simple and
superstitious, take these birds for evil spirits, birds of the devil,
harbingers of storms, and so forth, simply because they more frequently
see them during a storm. Their black plumage tends to confirm the sailor
in his superstition.

When the vessels sent to the whale fishery have passed the Shetland
Islands, and entered the northern seas, which are almost always very
rough, the Petrels are seen flying about amidst the eddies of foam which
are formed by the movement of the ship. They keep in attendance until
something is thrown overboard, for they are extremely voracious, and
especially fond of fat, particularly that of the whale. When the
fishermen begin to cut up a whale, the Petrels flock together to the
number of several thousands. They are not afraid to approach within
reach, so that they may be taken or killed with a blow from a boat-hook.
Their plumage is so close, that shot fired at them, except at close
range, will not penetrate.

Petrels walk on land with much difficulty. When they require rest in the
open sea, with their heads placed under their wings, they sleep on the
water, allowing themselves to be borne about at the mercy of the wind.

The most remarkable species are--the Giant Petrel (_Procellaria
gigantea_), commonly called the Bone-breaker, which inhabits the tract
of ocean between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope; the Chequered
Petrel (_P. capensis_), commonly called the Chequered Pintado, which is
a native of the southern seas; the Fulmar Petrel (_P. glacialis_), which
inhabits the Arctic seas; the Stormy Petrel (_P. pelagica_), commonly
called the Storm-bird, which frequents the seas of Europe, and after a
hurricane appears on the northern coasts of France; the Forster or Blue
Petrel (_P. Forsteri_ or _cærulea_), Fig. 112, commonly called the Blue
Petrel, which inhabits the Antarctic seas.

Under the name of Puffins those species of Petrels are included which
have bills as long, and sometimes longer, than their heads, and their
nostrils in two distinct tubes. Among these are the Grey Puffin
(_Puffinus cinereus_), which is very common in the Mediterranean, and
builds its nest in Corsica; the English Puffin (_Puffinus anglorum_),
which inhabits the northern regions of our hemisphere; the Brown Puffin
(_Procellaria æquinoctialis_), which inhabits the Southern Ocean, and is
frequently met with at the Cape.

[Illustration: Fig. 113.--The Common Albatross (_Diomedea exulans_,

The ALBATROSS[29] is the largest and most bulky of all the birds which
fly over the surface of the sea. It belongs principally to the southern
hemisphere. The sailors know it under the names of Cape Sheep and
Man-of-war, which they give it on account of its enormous size. Its
extended wings measure as much as five mètres across.[30] Its plumage
is generally white, with the exception of a dark back. Courage is not
measured by size. This rule holds good in these birds, for,
notwithstanding their wonderful strength and their large, strong, sharp,
and hooked bills, they exhibit the most unaccountable cowardice. Even a
poor weak Sea Mew will attack an Albatross, and endeavour to tear its
stomach open. The pusillanimous Albatross can find no better means of
getting rid of his enemy than by plunging into the water. Although they
are most gluttonous in taste, they prefer to fly away rather than
contend for their food. This consists of small marine animals, mollusks,
mucilaginous zoophytes, and the eggs and spawn of fish. They will even
swallow large fish without tearing them to pieces. When they are
completely gorged, and the fish which they have seized is too large to
swallow whole, they may be seen with part of it hanging outside their
bill, until the first half of their prey is digested. The same is done,
as is well known, by several kinds of Serpents. When thus embarrassed,
the Albatross has only one mode of escape if it happens to be pursued;
namely, by disgorging the food with which its stomach is overloaded.

    [29] From the Portuguese word _Alcatraz_, applied by the early
    navigators of that From the Portuguese word _Alcatraz_, applied
    by the early navigators of that nation to Cormorants and large

    [30] The weight of this bird much varies. A specimen in the
    Leverian Museum measured thirteen feet from the tip of one wing to
    the tip of the other. One shot off the Cape of Good Hope was said
    to be seventeen and a half feet.--ED.

Gifted as they are with an extraordinary power of flight, these birds
venture out to enormous distances from all land, more especially in
stormy weather. They seem to delight in the warring of the elements.
When overcome with fatigue, they take repose on the surface of the sea,
placing their heads under their wings. When in this position they are
very easy to capture: in order to do this, the sailors have only to
approach silently, and knock them down with a boat-hook or spear them
with a harpoon.

Navigators have found opportunities of observing these birds in the
Polar regions, where there is no night during half the year. They see
the same flocks hovering around their vessel during many successive days
without exhibiting the least signs of fatigue, or the slightest
relaxation in their strength. The peculiarity in their mode of flight is
that, whether they are ascending or descending, they seem to glide, for
they flap their wings but seldom.

To follow in the wake of some passing ship, probably because the
agitation of the waves brings to the surface the small fry of marine
animals which are their principal food, appears to delight them. They
also pounce upon anything that falls overboard, even though it should be
a man. On one occasion a sailor fell into the sea from a French vessel,
and could not be immediately rescued because there was no boat in a fit
state to be lowered. Before such could take place, a flock of
Albatrosses which followed in the ship's wake pounced upon the
unfortunate man, and commenced to peck his head and arms. Being unable
to buffet both with the sea and the enemies which surrounded him, the
man perished under the very eyes of his comrades.

The Albatrosses and Petrels may be said to be the Vultures of the ocean.
They may also be said to be its scavengers, for they cleanse the sea of
all the putrefied animal substances which float on its surface.

At the breeding season, which varies according to the hemisphere
inhabited by them, the Albatrosses arrive at their favourite haunts,
generally in an exhausted state; but, however thin they may be, they
soon grow fat upon the abundant supplies of food which they find in the
vicinity. In the end of September, to build their nests, they go in
immense numbers to the island of Tristan d'Acunha, in the South Atlantic
Ocean. Their nests, which are about three feet in height, are formed of
mud. Their flesh is very hard, and can only be rendered eatable by
laying it in salt for a long time, and afterwards boiling it, flavouring
it with some piquant sauce. Nevertheless sailors, as well as the
inhabitants of the desolate southern regions, use it, but only in the
absence of better food.

The most remarkable species are--the Common Albatross (_Diomedea
exulans_), which frequents the seas washing the south of Africa; the
Black-browed Albatross (_D. melanophrys_), which also inhabits the seas
round the Cape of Good Hope; the Brown Albatross (_D. fuliginosa_); the
Yellow and Black-beaked Albatross (_D. chlororinches_), which, like the
preceding species, inhabits the seas of the South Pole.[31]

    [31] Captain Cook mentions a variety frequently captured by the
    inhabitants of Kamtschatka and the Kurile Islands.



The most striking characteristic of the Waders consists in the nakedness
and length of their tarsi, which sometimes attain to really
extraordinary dimensions: some of these birds look as if they were
mounted on stilts. This peculiarity of conformation is, however, well
adapted to their modes of life. They inhabit, for the most part,
river-banks, lakes, and marshes, in which they find their sustenance;
consequently, they are fearless of water and ooze. The Agami, the
Bustard, and the Ostrich, as well as the Emu and other _Struthionidæ_,
which are placed by naturalists with this family, are not aquatic; they
inhabit the interior of the country, and are either herbivorous or

The bills of these birds assume very various forms. They are generally
long; but, according to the species, they may be thick or slender,
tapering or flat, blunt or pointed, strong or weak; and in some kinds,
such as the Flamingo, the Spoonbill, and the Boatbill, they really defy
all description. The neck is always slender, and in perfect harmony with
the length of the legs.

Almost all the Waders are birds powerful on the wing, and twice a year
most of them undertake long journeys, which they perform in large
flocks, like as do Ducks, Geese, and Swans. There are, however,
exceptions to this rule. Some of them--the Bustard, for instance--move
through the air with difficulty, although their inferiority in this
respect does not reach to complete inability; others, as the
_Brevipennæ_, are absolutely unable to fly at all: their wings being
altogether rudimentary, are only useful for accelerating their pace in
running, and thus assisted they are remarkably swift.

The nature of their food varies with the form and strength of the bill
and the locality they inhabit; it consists generally of fish, small
batrachia, mollusks, worms, and insects; sometimes of small mammalia and
reptiles, and more rarely of grasses and seeds. This kind of sustenance
must be wonderfully fitted to develop the savoury qualities of their
flesh, for it is among this class that we find our most delicious
specimens of "game." The mere mention of the Woodcock, Snipe, Plover,
Pewit, and Bustard is sufficient to establish their claim upon the
epicure. Some kinds, which are utterly devoid of any culinary
properties, are furnished with a plumage to which ladies owe some of
their most brilliant adornments. The Ostrich and Marabout feathers, and
those of the Heron, are keenly appreciated by many fair ones, whose
beauty the feathers are supposed to greatly enhance. In short, this
order of birds possesses two important qualities--worthily ministering
to the taste of the most fastidious palate, and handsomely decorating
with its gorgeous plumage our fashionable and wealthy belles.
Gormandising and coquetry alike find satisfaction, and derive from these
birds some of their most agreeable sensations. If they had the
additional gift of melody they might lay claim to perfection; however,
such is not the case, as their notes are shrill and discordant.

The Waders are monogamous or polygamous according to their species; but
their history furnishes us with some touching instances of conjugal
attachment. They make their nests either on trees, buildings, or the
surface of the earth; sometimes even in the middle of the water, among
the reeds, sedges, and other aquatic plants. In general, they evince but
little care in the construction of their progenies' birth-place. In most
cases they are contented to collect together a variety of substances
without much discrimination; sometimes they merely scratch a hole in the
ground, in which they deposit their eggs without any further care.

The Waders are usually divided into six great families, which are again
divisible into many genera. Following Cuvier's classification, with some
slight modification, we propose arranging the group as follows:--I.
_Palmidactyles_, II. _Macrodactyles_, III. _Longirostræ_, IV.
_Cultrirostræ_, V. _Pressirostræ_, and VI. _Brevipennæ_.


Have the anterior toes united by a wide membrane; the hind toe is
absent, or is very small; the legs are very long and smooth; from their
webbed feet they may appear to belong to the _Palmipedes_, but the
arrangement of their toes is altogether different, and constitutes them
most strikingly characteristic of the order of Waders.

[Illustration: Fig. 114.--The American Flamingo (_P. ruber_, Wilson).]

The FLAMINGO is one of the most curious of the tribe of Waders. The most
fanciful imagination would fail in picturing to itself anything more odd
than the conformation of this bird. Extremely long legs, supporting
quite a small body; a neck corresponding in length with the legs; a bill
rather long than otherwise, sharply curved and broken, as it were, in
the middle, contrived probably to discourage those who are tempted to
describe it; wings of a middling size, and a short tail--such are the
distinctive features of this remarkable-looking bird. The long legs
terminate in equally long feet, with three toes in front hind toe
articulated high up the tarsus, and very short; anterior toes united by
a deeply-indented membrane. Add to this a plumage of a splendid
rose-colour, warming into a bright red on the back and wings, and we
have an object calculated to excite both wonder and admiration.

Ancient writers, struck with the vivid colouring of its wings, gave the
Flamingo the designation of _Phoenicopterus_ (fiery-winged): this term
was popularised in France by the word _Flambant_, or _Flamant_: hence
the name by which the bird is universally known.

Flamingo inhabit the margins of lakes and ponds, more rarely the
sea-shore, or the banks of rivers. They feed on worms, mollusks, and the
spawn of fishes, which they capture by the following stratagem: they
place their long neck and head in such a position that the upper
mandible of their bill is the lowest; then, by stirring the mud about in
every direction, they easily succeed in disturbing the small fish which
have settled in it, and afterwards in capturing them. They also use
their feet for working the ooze and uncovering the fry and spawn to
which they are partial. They love company, and live in flocks, which are
subject to strict discipline. When they are fishing they draw themselves
up into long, straight, and regular files, placing a sentinel, whose
office it is to give a signal of alarm on the approach of danger. If any
cause for uneasiness should arise, the scout-bird gives a piercing cry,
not unlike the note of a trumpet, and the whole flock immediately take
wing in perfect order.

Flamingo are very shy and timid birds, and shun all attempts of man to
approach them; the vicinity of animals, however, they disregard. Any one
who is acquainted with this fact can take advantage of it so as to
effect slaughter of these beautiful creatures by dressing himself up in
the skin of a horse or an ox. Thus disguised, the sportsman may get
close to them and shoot them down at his ease. So long as their enemy is
invisible they remain immovable, the noise of the gun only stupefying
them, so that they refuse to leave, although their companions are
dropping down dead around them.

Some authors have asserted that the Flamingo makes use of its long neck
as a third leg, walking with its head resting on the ground like a
foot. The fact that has doubtless given rise to this supposition is the
position of the neck, necessitated by its peculiar method of seeking
food. We are told, it is true, about a Flamingo reared in captivity
which, being accidentally deprived of one of its limbs, found out a
remedy for its infirmity by walking on one leg and helping itself along
by means of its bill, using the latter as a crutch; the master of the
bird, noticing this, fitted it with a wooden leg, which it used with the
greatest success. But this story, which applies very well to a
domesticated bird which was maimed, and consequently under peculiar
conditions, in no way invalidates our former observations.

The Flamingo makes itself a nest which is as original as its own
personal appearance. It consists of a truncated cone, about twenty
inches in height, and formed of mud dried in the sun. At the summit of
this little hillock it hollows out a shallow cavity, in which the female
lays two eggs, rather elongated in shape and of a dead white colour.
When she is incubating them she sits astride on this novel description
of throne, with her legs hanging down on each side. The young ones run
about very soon after they are hatched, but it is some time before they
are able to fly--not, indeed, until they are clothed with their full
plumage. At two years old they assume the more brilliant colours of the
adult bird.

The Flamingo is found in all the warm and temperate regions of the
globe. On certain islands off the American continent they exist in such
numbers, that navigators have given them the name of the Flamingo
Islands. In the Old World they are found spread over a region below the
fortieth degree of latitude, principally in Egypt and the Nile
tributaries: during the summer they seek a cooler climate, and they are
then seen in numerous flocks on the southern coasts of France. The
height of these magnificent birds reaches to about five feet; when they
are flying, in the peculiar formation common to most aquatic birds, with
the neck stretched out and the legs sticking out behind, they look, in
the clear sky, like gigantic triangles of fire. The spectacle they then
present is at once beautiful and wonderful.

The ancients greedily sought after the flesh of the Flamingo, which they
regarded as the most choice food. The tongue especially was thought to
be an exquisite dainty, and the Emperor Heliogabalus appreciated it so
highly that a body of troops was exclusively employed in slaughtering
Phoenicopteri to satisfy his gastronomical tastes. At the present day we
no longer eat the bird; to modern palates its flesh is disagreeable in
flavour, and it retains a marshy smell which is far from being pleasant.
With regard to the tongue, the Egyptians, it is said, are content with
extracting an oil from it, which is used to flavour some descriptions of
viands. We must add, in order to complete our account of the Flamingo,
that it is covered with down like a Swan, which is employed for the same
purposes, and that its thigh-bone is used in some countries in the
manufacture of flutes.

[Illustration: Fig. 115. Avocet (_Recurvirostra avocetta_).]

The AVOCET (Fig. 115) is characterised by a very long and slender bill,
flexible, and curved upwards; this latter peculiarity has procured for
it the name of _Recurvirostra_ (curved beak). It uses this strange
implement to rake up the sand and mud to a pretty good depth, in order
to catch the worms, small mollusks, and fish-spawn which constitute its
chief food. Its long legs enable it to travel in safety over swamps and
lagoons; it also swims with great ease. It may often be seen looking for
its food in the very centre of lakes and ponds.

The Avocet stands about twenty inches in height, although its body is
but little bigger than that of a Pigeon. It is a pretty bird, of slender
make; its plumage is black on the head and back, and white underneath.
It is to be met with on both the Continents; the European species is
common in Holland and on the French coast. It is wild and shy in its
nature, and very difficult of approach. It is clever in avoiding snares
set for it by the fowler, and ingenious in escaping--either by flight or
swimming--its pursuers. The nest of the Avocet is a very simple
structure, generally made by placing a few blades of grass in a hole in
the sand. Here it lays two or three eggs, of which it is frequently
robbed; for, like those of the Plover and others, its congeners, they
are regarded as great delicacies by the gourmand. The flesh, however, is
not considered very tempting.

[Illustration: Fig. 116.--Stilt Bird (_Charadrius himantopus_).]

The STILT BIRDS obtain their name from the excessive length of their
legs, which are also so slender and flexible that they can be bent
considerably without breaking. Their feet are not so completely webbed
as the species we have just mentioned: the two membranes which unite the
toes are unequal in size. The bill is long, slender, and sharp, like
that of the Avocet, but straight; the wings are long and pointed; the
tail small. They are about the size of the Avocet, and sometimes attain
the height of six-and-twenty inches. They possess considerable powers of
flight, but walk with difficulty; on the other hand, they are much at
home on mud or in marshes and swamps, in which they bore with their long
beaks for insects, larvæ, and small mollusks--dainties to which they are
very partial.

They are dull, shy birds, leading a solitary life, except at the
breeding season. At that period they assemble in great numbers, build
their nests in the marshes, on little hillocks, close to one another,
grass being the principal material employed. They lay four
greenish-coloured eggs, with ash-coloured spots. The male bird watches
while the females are sitting; and at the slightest alarm he raises a
cry which startles the flock. The whole colony may then be seen on the
wing, waiting for the danger to pass before settling down.

Stilt Birds are uncommon in Western Europe; they are principally to be
met with in the Russian and Hungarian marshes. During the summer they
occasionally visit the shores of the Mediterranean, but they are seldom
seen on those of the Atlantic. By sportsmen they are little thought of.


The birds forming the family of _Macrodactyles_ (long-toed) are
remarkable for the extreme length of their toes, which are entirely
separate, or but slightly webbed; they are thus enabled to walk on the
weeds growing on the surface of the water. In most instances the
shortness of their wings limits their powers of flight.

This order includes the Water Hens (_Gallinula_), the Taleves, or
Sultana Hens, the Rails (_Rallus_), the Coots (_Fulica_), the Glareolæ,
and the Kamichis.

The chief characteristics of the WATER HEN are a short and strong bill,
thick at the base and sharp at the end, with a prolongation of it
extending up the forehead; four well-spread toes, furnished with sharp
claws--the three front toes united by a small and cloven membrane. They
are plentiful in some parts of the globe, their favourite haunts being
marshy places and the banks of lakes or rivers, where they feed on
worms, insects, mollusks, and the smaller fish. They are lively,
graceful, and ornamental birds. During the day they love to lie hid
among the reeds, shaded from the sun's rays by the large leaves of the
water-lily. They emerge from their hiding-places at evening and morning
in search of food.

Although incapable of either fast flight or rising to great elevations,
the Water Hen shows considerable address in escaping from the
sportsman's gun. When pressed very closely, they take to the water, in
which they are expert swimmers and divers: under the water they go, to
reappear on the surface many yards away, where they only show themselves
above for a moment to breathe, avoiding flight until every cause of fear
is removed.

In some countries they remain throughout the year; in others, on the
contrary, they are migratory. When the latter is the case, they travel
sometimes on foot, sometimes by swimming, and sometimes on the wing;
following the same route, however, year after year, and always returning
with constancy to the spot where they made their first nest.

The eggs are seven or eight in number. During incubation the male and
female occupy the nest alternately. Should any intruder alarm them, they
never fail, before leaving the nest, to cover up their cherished
treasures with grass or other material, so as to keep them warm and
hidden from the voracity of their watchful enemy, the Crow.

Immediately after the young are hatched they leave the nest to follow
their mother, and are very soon able to supply their own wants. Their
only covering at first is a scanty and coarse down; but they run
rapidly, and seem almost instinctively to swim and dive and conceal
themselves at the slightest appearance of danger. Young Water Hens,
however, are exposed to accident from the flooding of streams, and
consequent submersion of the nests; and it is probably by way of
compensation for this that nature has made them so prolific, for
frequently they rear three broods per annum.

The Common Water Hen (Fig. 117) is a native of Europe; it is found in
France, England, Italy, Germany, and Holland. The Slate-coloured Water
Hen is a native of Java.

[Illustration: Fig. 117.--Common Water Hen (_Gallinula chloropus_,

[Illustration: Fig. 118.--Sultana Fowl (_Pollo sultana_, Sw.).]

The Purple Water Hen (_Porphyrio hyacinthus_, Temminck), or Sultana Fowl
(Fig. 118), is peculiarly characteristic of Macrodactyles, and might be
defined as an exaggeration of the Water Hen. Its bill is thicker and
more robust, the frontal plate on the forehead is more extended, the
toes are longer, but its habits are very nearly the same. It is,
however, less exclusively aquatic, and its favourite food is the seeds
of the cereals and aquatic plants, and fruits: it occasionally, however,
feeds on mollusks and small fishes. When eating, it stands on one foot,
and uses the other as a hand in order to convey the food to its beak.

The body of this magnificent bird is of an indigo-blue colour, the beak
and feet being rose-colour. The ancients, who were acquainted with it,
and were accustomed to rear it in a domesticated state, gave it the name
of _Porphyrio_ (purple coloured) on account of its colour. If it could
be acclimatised, it would be a valuable addition to our ornamental

There are several species of the Sultana Fowl, differing more or less
from one another. They inhabit the warmer regions of the Old World. The
Purple Water Hen is found in Greece, Asia Minor, Africa, and the South
of Europe; generally, it is about the size of the ordinary Domestic

[Illustration: Fig. 119.--Land Rail (_Rallus crex_, Linn.).]

RAILS (_Rallus_) are characterised by a slender, tapering,
slightly-arched beak, longer than the head; elongated tarsi, terminating
in slender toes, much compressed and completely separate, and not
marginate; wings middle-sized; tail short.

Their habits bear a strong resemblance to those of the Water Hen. Like
the latter, they are timid, and hide themselves all day in the rushes,
underwood, or grass of the marshes and meadows they inhabit. They make
use of the holes hollowed out by water-rats, in which they take refuge
when hard pressed. Little thickets bordering brooks and small rivers
are localities to which they are peculiarly partial, inasmuch as they
assist ready concealment from their enemies. Their flight is slow and
heavy, and is generally directed in a straight line, but little elevated
above the ground. Running, however, is the means they usually adopt for
escaping their pursuers, and by their numberless turns and windings they
often succeed. But in some cases their efforts are of such a feeble
character that dogs catch them without difficulty, and even the
sportsman has been known to capture one with his hands.

Rails are solitary, differing in this from the majority of migratory
birds, which generally assemble in flocks previous to undertaking long

The nest is roughly constructed among the reeds and flags of some quiet
pond or river bank. The females lay from six to eight eggs. The young
ones run as soon as they are hatched, and grow very rapidly. Their
favourite food is worms, insects, and shrimps, but they do not reject
wild corn and other seeds. Their flesh is considered delicate, and is
certainly superior to that of the Water Hen: in the autumn it acquires
an exquisite flavour in the estimation of French gourmands.

Rails are very common in France. The species most abundant there is the
Land Rail, which is thus named from its habits being more terrestrial
than aquatic; besides, it gives a very decided preference for fields,
copses, heaths, and meadows. It is vulgarly called the "King of the
Quails," probably from frequenting the same localities. They do not
acquire their most perfect condition till the end of summer; this,
therefore, is the proper time to kill them. Twenty species of Rails are
enumerated, which are spread over the various countries of the globe.
However, the characteristic features of all are nearly alike.

The COOT (_Fulica_) has a bill of moderate size, stout, tapering, much
depressed, with a well-developed frontal plate; the toes are slender,
and edged with a broad, scalloped membrane. Their plumage is glossy,
soft, full, and blended, and impervious to water.

Coots are essentially aquatic, frequenting lakes, pools, and marshes,
and sometimes the shores of estuaries, bays, and gulfs. Like the Water
Hen and the Rail, their life is almost nocturnal. During the daytime
they hide themselves amid the reeds and flags, from which they do not
emerge until the evening, when hunger forces them to seek their food.
This consists of worms, small fishes, and the young shoots of aquatic
plants. Coots but rarely visit the dry fields, where they move about
with great difficulty; on the other hand, they swim and dive with
graceful ease. Their flight is somewhat less feeble than that of the
Rails; still it is far from strong.

[Illustration: Fig. 120.--The Bald Coot (_Fulica atra_, Sw.).]

Coots herd together in flocks; they make their nests on the reeds in the
water, and lay from eight to fourteen eggs. The young ones take to the
water as soon as they are hatched, but they often fall a prey to the
Marsh Harrier. It sometimes happens that the whole brood is destroyed in
this way: when such is the case the female lays a second batch of eggs,
which she hides in the most retired spot, less accessible to the enemies
of her race.

The Coot is found in every country in Europe, in North America, in Asia,
and in Africa. Its flesh, which is white and delicate in appearance, is
usually very fat, but has a disagreeable taste and marsh-like odour.
Three species are known, only one of which is found in this
country--namely, the Bald Coot (_Fulica atra_), the _Foulque macroule_
of French naturalists, very common in the north of France, and all
quarters of the Old and New World; the Crested Coot (_F. cristata_), a
native of Madagascar, but sometimes a visitor to the South of Europe,
and differing very little from the Common Coot, but distinguished from
it by the red and prominent bony protuberances at the top of the frontal
plate; and the Blue Coot, which is described as an inhabitant of

[Illustration: Fig. 121.--Collared Glareola (_Hirundo pratincola_,

The GLAREOLA, or SEA PARTRIDGE (_Glareola perdix_), has the bill short
and curved, the tarsi long and slender, the middle toe joined to the
outer by a small membrane, the wings long and pointed, the tail forked.
They live in flocks on the banks of the Danube, the Volga, and on the
shores of the Black and Caspian Seas. They feed on worms, water-insects,
and especially locusts, which they catch on the wing.

The JACANAS or PARRÆ are characterised by a straight and middle-sized
bill; legs armed with pointed spurs; toes furnished with long and
sharp-pointed claws, and a back toe longer even than the front ones.
These birds inhabit Asia, Africa, and South America. In Brazil they are
called "Surgeon-birds," from the resemblance the claw on their back toe
bears to a lancet. They frequent swamps, lagoons, and the margins of
pools. They walk on the wide-spreading leaves of tropical aquatic plants
with perfect ease, although they swim very imperfectly: some
naturalists, indeed, declare that they cannot swim at all, and they are
probably justified in this opinion by the appearance of the bird, which
seems to have few characteristics of an aquatic species. Their flight is
rapid, but not very high.

[Illustration: Fig. 122.--Jacana (_Parra africana_, Sw.).]

The Jacanas live in pairs. They are exceedingly numerous, and perfectly
fearless of man. They are restless and quarrelsome in their nature,
frequently engaging in conflict with other birds, when they make good
use of their spurs. They will defend their offspring with daring courage
even against man himself, and will sacrifice their lives without
hesitation in their defence. The male and the female evince the
tenderest mutual attachment; once united, they part no more during life.
They make their nest in a clump of flags or other aquatic plants, in
which the female lays four or five eggs, on which she sits during the
night only, the high temperature produced by a tropical sun supplying
the necessary warmth. As soon as hatched the young ones leave the nest,
and are able to follow their parents about.

[Illustration: Fig. 123.--Horned Screamer or Kamichi (_Palamedea
cornuta_, Sw.).]

The Common Jacana is black, with neck and shoulders of a reddish brown,
and green wing-feathers.

[Illustration: Fig. 124.--Faithful Kamichi (_Palamedea cristata_, Sw.).]

In the KAMICHI, or HORNED SCREAMER (_Palamedea cornuta_), the beak is
shorter than the head, slightly compressed, and bent at the point; the
wings are wide-spreading, and provided with strong spurs on the
shoulders; the toes are separated, and furnished with long, stout, and
pointed claws. Their plumage is of a blackish hue. Their size is about
that of a Turkey. They are South American birds. Their favourite haunts
are moist, marshy localities, inundated savannahs, or the oozy banks of
shallow streams. Although they do not swim, they venture on the water in
search of aquatic plants and their seeds. Some naturalists, founding
their belief on the presence of spurs with which this bird is provided,
assert that it attacks small reptiles and destroys them. This is now
acknowledged to be an error. These birds live isolated, in pairs; they
are mild and peaceful in their nature, for the breeding season is the
only time when they seem at all disposed to use their weapons. At this
period the cocks engage in deadly conflict to gain possession of some
favourite mate. The union once formed, it is indissoluble, and only
terminates with the death of one of them. It is even asserted that the
survivor exhibits signs of great affliction, lingering for days near
the spot where cruel fate had severed him by death from the loved one.

The Palamedea has many points of resemblance to the Gallinaceous order:
its comparatively short and thick tarsi, its general make and gait, its
habits of life and inoffensive nature, all remind us of the above-named
tribe. There is, therefore, no reason for surprise in the fact that man
has succeeded in domesticating them, and even in turning them into
useful assistants.

The Horned Kamichi is thus named on account of having on its head a
horn-like tuft, which is straight, thin, and movable, about three inches

The Chaja, or Faithful Kamichi, has, instead of the horn, a crest of
feathers arranged in a circle on the back of its head. This species is
susceptible of education. It is easily tamed, and becomes very friendly
with man, proving itself an active, intelligent, and devoted servant. It
becomes at once the companion and protector of the other denizens of the
poultry-yard--so much so, that in Brazil and Paraguay, where it is known
solely as the Chaja, the inhabitants have no hesitation in confiding to
its charge the care of their flocks of poultry. The Chaja accompanies
them into the fields in the morning, and at nightfall conducts them back
to their roosting-places. Should any bird of prey come near, the
guardian spreads out its broad wings, darts upon the intruder, and soon
makes him feel what a love of justice can do when aided by four stout


The birds composing this family are characterised by a long and flexible
bill, which is fitted for little else except boring in mud and soft
ground. They are indifferently shore or marsh birds. Among them are
comprised the Sandpipers, Turnstones, Ruffs, Knots, Godwits, Woodcocks,
Snipes, Curlews, and Ibis.

The SANDPIPERS have a long, straight, thin bill, flexible at the base,
but firmer towards the point; the tarsi are slender and elongated; the
wings very pointed; the feet half webbed, the back toe short, and
touching the ground with the point only. They live in small flocks on
the banks of rivers and on the sea-coast. Some species frequent marshy
localities, others dry and sandy districts. Their food is chiefly worms,
insects, fish-spawn, and sometimes even small fry and crustacea. Their
habits are peaceable, and their movements easy and graceful. They may be
noticed on the strands and banks of our rivers, incessantly on the move,
running, swimming, and diving, all of which they perform with equal
ease. They are gifted with a keen sight, for not even the smallest
insect in its vicinity can escape its vision. The moment one of them
descries a prey, the whole flock vie with each other to obtain
possession of it.

The Sandpipers are natives of the northern parts of the Old and New
World; they visit France twice a year--in spring and autumn. They breed
in the North, and lay from three to five eggs. The extreme delicacy of
their flesh causes them to be much sought after by epicures; they are,
therefore, captured in every possible way. Extinction will probably be
the result. To gratify the tastes of the gourmand and the bloodthirsty
instincts of the poacher, the lovers of nature are, forsooth, to be
deprived of one of the most innocent and beautiful families of birds.

[Illustration: Fig. 125.--Redshank (_Totanus stagnatui_, Temm.).]

In France seven species of Sandpipers are known, varying in size from
that of the Sparrow to that of the Thrush. They are as follows:--the
Brown Sandpiper, called also the Harlequin Sandpiper (_Totanus fuscus_),
the Greenshank (_Totanus glottis_), the Redshank (_Totanus caledris_),
Fig. 125; the Pond Sandpiper; the Wood Sandpiper (_Totanus glareola_),
the Green Sandpiper (_Totanus achropus_), the Common Sandpiper (_Totanus
hypoleucos_). The last kind is the smallest, and also the most prized.

[Illustration: Fig. 126.--Turnstone (_Cinclus interpres_, G. R. Gray).]

The TURNSTONES (_Strepsila_) inhabit the sea-coasts of both continents.
A single known species alone has been traced over most parts of Europe,
the Cape of Good Hope, and various parts of Asia, Australia, and North
America. It owes its name to the peculiar method it adopts to find its
food. This habit consists of lifting up the pebbles and shingles which
lie spread over its domain, the sea-shore, in order to discover the
worms, crustacea, and insects concealed underneath. For this purpose it
is provided with a bill of medium length, tapering, pointed, and hard,
which it uses adroitly as a lever. It lives a solitary life, and does
not even congregate with its own species for the purpose of migration,
but travels alone. Only in the North, whither it repairs to breed, does
it manifest any approach to sociability. The female lays three or four
rather large eggs of an ashy-grey colour; these are deposited in the
bottom of a hole dug in the sand on the shore. The young ones are very
precocious, for even on leaving the shell they run about with their
parents to seek their sustenance.

[Illustration: Fig. 127--Duel between Ruffs (_Machetes pugnax_, Temm.).]

The only species of this genus, the Ringed Turnstone, _Strepsila
interpres_ (Fig. 126), is a bird of passage in France and England. Its
flesh is not without relish, but by no means equal to that of the

The RUFF (_Machetes pugnax_, Temminck) commends itself to the attention
of the observer by the sudden metamorphosis which seems to revolutionise
its entire nature, in the early days of May, at the first dawning of
that charming month when all nature appears to expand and array itself
in every kind of splendour, the better to render homage to the Creator.
At this season the plumage of the Ruff, which has hitherto been grave
and almost sombre, undergoes a most brilliant transformation. It would
strike the observer as if the agitation of love had the effect of
totally changing its plumage from one altogether devoid of display to
the most brilliant costume imaginable, for its neck is now wreathed with
a glittering collar, which extends by degrees over shoulders and breast.
On the top of its head, to the right and left, two graceful plumes come
forth, which vastly improve its looks, and contribute in no small degree
to the impressiveness of its demeanour. Brilliant hues of yellow, white,
and black, arranged in a hundred ever-varying shades, combine to improve
their plumage, making them most attractive to look at.

This physical transformation produces a change in the temper of the
bird. Puffed up with pride, and elated at his own personal magnificence,
our hero suddenly finds himself subject to the most warlike feelings.

But what is this object which catches his sight? It is another Ruff--a
rival. Without hesitation he rushes immediately to meet the stranger,
who, nothing loath, charges in return at the top of his speed. With
stretched-out beak and crest erect, the two adversaries impetuously
close. A furious duel takes place, carried on in the sight of the
feebler sex, who pass their opinion on the blows which are given and
received, praise or blame them, and, by a cry at judicious movements,
reanimate the failing ardour of the gallant combatants. Fierce blows
with the beak follow one another in quick succession, blood soon flows,
and the arena is reddened around them, until at last the two weary
champions roll over in the dust, and lie side by side completely
exhausted. During two or three months these duels are of frequent
occurrence, and cannot fail to leave numerous gaps in the ranks of the

[Illustration: Fig. 128.--Ruffs in their nuptial plumage.]

In the beginning of August their rich vestments gradually disappear, and
the warlike fever as rapidly abates. The Ruff now becomes a commonplace
bird of peaceful habits, with no other occupation but that of searching
for worms and insects on the shores of the ocean. Then is the time when
they fall under the sportsman's gun and into the snares of the

The Ruff soon gets accustomed to living in captivity. In England, where
they were formerly very numerous, and in Holland, where they are
probably so still, Ruffs are reared and fattened for the table. They
must, however, be kept in the dark during the breeding season, to
prevent them from giving way to their turbulent tempers, which blaze out
on the slightest excitement under the influence of light.

These birds inhabit the northern and temperate countries of Europe and
Asia: in France they are common enough on the north and north-west coast
of the Channel. In spring they fix their abode in moist and marshy
meadows, where they lay their eggs, four or five in number, of a
greenish-grey hue, speckled with small brown spots. In the autumn they
spread themselves along the sea-shore. Their size nearly equals that of
the largest of the Sandpipers.

The KNOT (_Tringa_, Linn.) has a bill as long as the head; the toes
divided, the back toe short; the wings pointed; a shape rather heavy and
thick-set. They frequent the sea-shore and salt marshes, and, except by
accident, never venture far inland. They are natives of the Arctic Polar
Circle, and visit our coasts in the spring and autumn. They lay their
eggs, four or five in number, in their northern retreats.

The Sanderlings (_Caledris_) and the Curlews (_Numenius_, Latham) are
species closely allied to the Knots, but differing in their habits and
physical characteristics. They visit all the coasts of Europe in small
flocks, incessantly on the move. Even an abundance of food does not
suffice to keep them very long in the same locality: motion seems the
law of their existence.

The WOODCOCK (_Scolopax rusticola_) has a very long, straight, and
slender bill; the head flattened; the tarsi short; and the legs covered
with feathers. They live in the woods, and do not frequent the sea-shore
or river-banks. They differ from the Snipes in having the body fuller,
the tibiæ feathered at the joint, the tarsi shorter, the wings broader,
and the bill firmer (Fig. 129). They are also larger in size. In points
they differ from most of the Grallæ; but, taken as a whole, it has been
thought right to place them among this order.

[Illustration: Fig. 129.--Common Woodcock (_Scolopax rusticola_,

The Woodcock inhabits, during the summer, the lofty, wooded
mountain-ranges of Central and Northern Europe. Driven away by the
severe cold, they descend into the plains, and reach France and England
about the month of November. They are shy, timid birds, and conceal
themselves all day long in the depths of the most retired woods, busying
themselves in turning over the leaves with their bills to catch worms
and grubs, which form their food. The brightness of daylight prevents
their seeing clearly, and they do not possess full power of their visual
faculties until evening, when they emerge from their retreats, and seek
their sustenance in the cultivated fields, damp meadows, or in the
vicinity of springs.

Woodcocks do not all migrate, but remain throughout the year in the
neighbourhood of springs which the most bitter cold cannot freeze.
Solitary during the greater part of the year, they pair in spring;
building their nest on the ground with grass and roots, placing it close
to the trunk of some tree (the Scotch fir by preference, it is said), or
in a holly-bush. The female lays four or five oval eggs, rather larger
than those of a Pigeon. The young ones run about as soon as they are
hatched: the parent birds guard them with careful solicitude, and
manifest on all occasions the greatest love of their offspring. If any
danger threatens, the old birds catch up their young, holding them under
their necks by means of their beaks, and afterwards transferring them to
a place of safety.

[Illustration: Fig. 130.--Woodcocks (White and Isabelle-coloured).]

These birds seem always to feel an affection for places they have once
frequented, and love to return to them; the following fact, at least,
would lead one to think so. A gamekeeper, having snared a Woodcock, gave
it its liberty after fastening a copper ring to its leg. The following
year he perfectly recognised, by the help of this mark, the Woodcock
which had formerly been his captive; it had again visited its old

During ten months of the year the Woodcock is mute; when the early
leaves begin to bud it utters a feeble cry--_pitt-pitt-corr!_--to
attract a mate.

The plumage of the Woodcock is remarkable for the harmony of its shades;
it is a happy mixture of brown, russet, grey, black, and white. It is
not an unusual thing to meet with Woodcocks entirely of the latter; they
are the _albinos_ of their kind. Others are arrayed in an
Isabelle-coloured plumage (Fig. 130); but white, with grey or brown
mottlings, are their principal peculiarities of plumage.

The Woodcock is very clean in its habits: nothing prevents it pluming
and dressing its feathers twice a day. At morning and evening they can
be seen bending their course in rapid flight towards rivulets or springs
to bore for insects, quench their thirst, and arrange their toilette.

This bird is found in almost all the departments in France, but
principally in l'Ain and l'Isère. We need hardly say that they are
sought after with an eagerness that no obstacle seems to discourage. One
can scarcely imagine the pitch of enthusiasm some of our sportsmen
possess for pursuit of the Woodcock. They will walk for ten or twelve
hours in the mud, leave shreds of their garments hanging on every bush
and bramble they pass, exercise all their ingenuity in manoeuvring and
cunning, and, as a recompense for all these exertions, not discouraged,
perhaps find "the bird flown." This is a short compendium of the results
often enjoyed in seeking this woodland denizen.

The chief difficulty in pursuing these birds is, first, to find them,
and then to make them flush. Hidden motionless and mute in the thickest
bushes, they emit but very little scent to catch the nose of the dog,
which ranges about in every direction, disheartened with such laborious
and often unprofitable work. After a long trial of patience and
perseverance, scratched and torn by thorns and briers, the slightest
taint on the air tells the secret--the dog draws. As soon as the
sportsman sees or knows that his dog is "pointing" at the game, he
advances quietly, and judging as well as he can of the locality of the
bird, places himself in the best position for firing when it flushes
(Fig. 131). If he misses his aim, all he has to do is to follow up, for
it is likely enough to drop again only a short distance off. Still the
labour to force the game to take wing a second time is not less arduous
than heretofore. Both man and dog are often put on the wrong scent by
the turns, twists, and circuits of their tracks, and all the other
tricks of concealment with which this bird is familiar. If at last the
Woodcock succumbs, it will not be till it has thoroughly fatigued its

[Illustration: Fig. 131.--Woodcock-shooting.]

In Brittany, some years ago, Woodcocks were so common that the
inhabitants were in the habit of catching them with nets in the
following singular way:--Two men went out together at night, one
carrying a lantern, the other a small net fastened at the end of a long
stick. They proceeded to those parts of the woods where deer had been
grazing, which places are always favourite haunts of the Woodcocks on
account of their finding worms and insects among their droppings. The
rays of light from the lantern were suddenly thrown on the birds while
feeding; the latter, dazzled with the brilliancy, allowed themselves to
be entangled in the meshes of the net before they thought of flight.

A similar method to the above is practised by the negroes on the
Southern plantations of the United States, with this difference--instead
of a net, only a club is used for their destruction. Often the slaughter
of a successful night amounts to hundreds. The American Woodcock is
scarcely as large as the European bird, nor is their colour the same.

The Woodcock constitutes a delicious article of food from its exquisite
flavour and piquancy: it in consequence holds the highest rank among
game in the eyes of the epicure.

The SNIPE much resembles the Woodcock, but is smaller, with longer
tarsi. It is also different in its habits. It haunts marshes and fens,
feeding on grubs, and sometimes even on aquatic plants. It travels
during the night as well as in the day, generally preferring stormy,
damp weather for performing its migrations.

The Snipe is found in all latitudes in every part of the globe. Some
remain the year round in France and Ireland. They make their nests among
reeds in muddy, boggy places, difficult of access to both man and beast,
in which they lay four or five eggs. The young ones leave the nest as
soon as they are hatched, and are fed by their parents for some time,
the want of solidity in their bills not permitting them to bore for
their own food.

[Illustration: Fig. 132.--1. Jack Snipe. 2. Common Snipe (_Scolopax
gallinula_, _Scolopax gallinago_, Linn.).]

The Snipe does not live so solitary a life as the Woodcock; it is
occasionally seen in wisps or flocks. When flushed they utter a shrill
cry, which is easily recognised. They visit us in autumn, coming from
the marshes of Poland and Hungary, whither they return again in the
spring. The most common species are the Common Snipe (_Scolopax
gallinago_, Fig. 132, 2), the Great Snipe (_S. major_), the Jack Snipe
(_S. gallinula_, Fig. 132, 1), Sabine Snipe (_S. Sabini_), and the
American variety (_S. Wilsonii_).

The Common Snipe is no bigger than a Thrush, and has a bill longer in
proportion than the Woodcock. It has on the head two longitudinal black
stripes; the neck and shoulders are blackish, and the breast white. It
is persecuted by some of the small birds of prey, such as the Merlin,
the Hobby, and the Kestrel. But, among all its enemies, man is most to
be dreaded; he looks upon it as nearly equal to the Woodcock, and for
this reason pursues it with the greatest perseverance. It is true that
the sportsman pays dearly enough for the pleasure of killing this
favourite game; for Snipe-shooting is not only more fatiguing than
pursuit of the Woodcock, but is occasionally dangerous. Has not the
Snipe-shooter the horrible prospect of rheumatism saddling itself upon
him at an age when most persons are still vigorous, to say nothing of
the falls he is almost sure to meet with on the perfidious surface of
the bogs and marshes traversed, which might perchance even bury him in
their muddy depths? Certainly this thought ought to cause reflection;
but as rheumatism generally makes its appearance late in life, we seldom
worry ourselves about it when young. Besides the drawback of rheumatism,
Snipe-shooting is accompanied by innumerable difficulties. Immediately
on the bird rising it makes two or three sudden twists, which often
baffle even the best shots: proficiency can only be attained by long
experience, aided by considerable rapidity and steadiness of hand and

The Great Snipe is about a third larger than that of which we have just
been speaking.

The Jack or Deaf Snipe is thus named because it fails to notice the
approach of the sportsman, and gets up literally under his feet. This is
the smallest of the European species.

Wilson's Snipe (_Scolopax Wilsonii_) is a native of America. In size it
is the same as our Common Snipe. On the prairies of the Western
continent it is found in immense numbers. It is, strictly speaking,
migratory. The male and female differ slightly in plumage and size, the
former having a white breast, while the latter has a brown one. As a
table delicacy they cannot be surpassed.

The GODWIT (_Limosa_), Fig. 133, is a beautiful bird, of slender make,
with long legs. It is larger than the Woodcock, with a longer beak, this
being twice the length of its head, and slender and tapering towards
the point, which is rather depressed, and slightly curved upwards.

These birds inhabit the North of Europe, and in the autumn regularly
visit France, and the English coast from Cornwall to the north-east
extremity of Scotland. They make their nests in meadows near the sea,
among the grass and rushes, and lay four eggs, very large in proportion
to the size of the bird. Their flesh is much esteemed, and, with the
exception of that of the Woodcock and Snipe, is undeniably the best
among the group of Waders that frequent our coast.

[Illustration: Fig. 133.--Godwits (_Limosa melanura_, Temm.).]

The male Godwit is always smaller than the female. Two species of this
bird are known--the Black-tailed Godwit (_Limosa ægocephala_), and the
Barred-tailed Godwit (_Limosa rufa_).

The CURLEW (_Numenius_), Fig. 134, is remarkable for the immoderate
length of its bill, which is slender, curved, and round from end to end.
Its wings are medium-sized, and tail short. Its plumage is a mixture of
grey, russet, brown, and white. It derives its name from the plaintive,
melancholy cry which it utters when it takes flight.

These birds frequent the sea-coast and the vicinity of marshes, feeding
on worms, water-insects, and small mollusks. They plunge their bills
into the ground, to a small portion of which they communicate a
vibratory movement; the worms, disturbed in their subterranean
dwellings, come up to the surface, and are immediately swallowed.

The gait of the Curlews, generally speaking, is grave and measured; but
if any one disturbs them previous to taking wing, they begin running
with astonishing rapidity. They are capable of a prolonged flight, but
do not generally venture far into the interior of the country; it is on
the coast they are always most abundant. They live together in numerous
flocks, except during their breeding-time, when they isolate themselves
in order to build their nests in some dry place among the grass. The
female lays four or five eggs. The young ones run about to seek their
food as soon as they leave the shell, and receive no attentions from
their parents.

[Illustration: Fig. 134.--Curlew (_Numenius arquatus_, Gould).]

The Curlew is of a wild and timid nature. Nevertheless, in Senegal, they
have been domesticated; to no great advantage, it is true, as their
flesh always retains a very marshy flavour.

Curlews abound all over the globe. They are very common in France, where
they arrive in the month of April, leaving again in August, although
sometimes they pass the winter on the coast. Of their sojourn in the
British Islands the same may be said. A beautiful variety of the Curlew
is found in America. In shooting them the great difficulty is to get
within range. The sportsman, if well secreted, may occasionally succeed
in obtaining a shot at Curlews by imitating their call.

The IBIS has a long bill, curved in the direction of the ground, almost
square at its base, and rounded towards the termination; the head and
neck are bare. It has four toes; the three front ones are united at the
base by a membrane; the whole length of the back toe rests upon the

These birds are inhabitants of the warm regions of Africa, Asia, and
America; only one species, the Green Ibis, being found in Europe. They
are to be met with in companies of seven or eight together, in moist and
marshy grounds, and on the banks of large rivers, where they catch the
worms, water-insects, and small mollusks which form the principal part
of their food. They also crop young and tender aquatic plants. Their
nature being mild and peaceable, they do not keep shifting about with
that petulance which characterises some of the Grallæ, but have been
observed to remain for hours in the same place engaged in digging into
the mud which conceals their small prey. Like nearly all the other birds
of this order, they migrate every year, and undertake long journeys from
one continent to another. They are monogamous, each pair swearing, as it
were, eternal fidelity to one another, and death alone can sever the
bonds fortified by affection and habit. They usually build their nests
on lofty trees, but sometimes on the ground; the female lays two or
three whitish eggs, which hatch in from twenty-five to thirty days.

There are eighteen to twenty species of the Ibis, of which three only
merit our attention. These are the Sacred Ibis, the Green Ibis, and the
Scarlet Ibis.

The Sacred Ibis (_Ibis religiosa_) is about the size of a Fowl. Its
plumage is white, with black at the extremity of the wings and on the
rump. It has enjoyed celebrity from ancient times, on account of the
veneration of which it was the object by the Egyptians. They set it up
in their temples as a divinity, and allowed it to multiply in their
cities to such an extent that, if we can believe Herodotus and Strabo,
it actually impeded the traffic. Whoever killed an Ibis, even by
accident, at once became the victim of a mad crowd, who stoned him
pitilessly; and the dead bird was embalmed with the greatest care, and
then placed in earthen pots hermetically sealed, which were ranged in
special catacombs. A large number of mummies of the Ibis have been found
in the _nécropoles_ of Thebes and Memphis, and several specimens of them
are to be seen in the Museum of Natural History at Paris.

[Illustration: Fig. 135.--Sacred Ibis (_Ibis religiosa_, Cuv.).]

The Egyptian worship of the Ibis is a certain and incontestable fact.
Less certain, however, is the origin of these honours. Herodotus has
given an explanation, obscure enough, it is true, but which, however,
was adopted by his successors, and for a long time accepted by our

"The Arabians assure us," says Herodotus, "that the great veneration
which the Egyptians render to the Ibis is caused by the gratitude which
they feel towards them for ridding the country of _winged serpents_."

According to tradition, these "winged serpents" came into Egypt from
Arabia at the commencement of spring. They always followed the same
route, and invariably passed through a certain defile, where the Ibis
waited for them and destroyed them. Herodotus adds that, having gone to
Arabia to obtain some certain information about these "winged serpents,"
he saw, lying on the ground near the city of Buto, "an immense quantity
of bones and vertebræ unmistakably those of the winged plagues."

Since the time of Herodotus, a great many authors, probably on his
authority, have reproduced this fable, and enriched it with variations
more or less fanciful. Cicero, Pomponius Mela, Solinus, Ammianus, and
Ælian have mentioned it. According to the last writer, the Ibis inspired
the serpents with so much dread, that the very sight of its plumage was
sufficient to drive them away, and a mere touch killed them at once, or
at least stupefied them.

Let it suffice that all these naturalists admit that the Egyptians
venerated the Ibis for the service which it rendered by destroying
numbers of venomous serpents. In the narrative of Herodotus, as we have
seen, the expression "winged serpents" is used for venomous ones. The
translation is rather a free one, it must be confessed. Moreover, it is
the opinion of M. Bourlet, who has written a memoir on the subject, that
by the term "winged serpents" Herodotus intended to describe locusts,
innumerable swarms of which were wont to traverse Egypt and the adjacent
countries, destroying everything as they pass. This explanation appears
to us better than the former, for it is a fact that the Ibis cannot
attack serpents, its bill being too weak for such a purpose.

Having quoted M. Bourlet's opinion, we may as well give that of Savigny,
the naturalist, whose studies on the subject have been published in the
"Histoire Mythologique de l'Ibis."

"Between aridity and contagion, the two scourges which in all ages have
been so dreaded by the Egyptians," says the author, "it was soon
perceived that when a district was rendered fertile and healthy by pure
and fresh water, it was immediately frequented by the Ibis, so that the
presence of the one always indicated that of the other, just as if the
two were inseparable; they therefore believed that the two had a
simultaneous existence, and fancied some supernatural and secret
relations existed between them. This idea, being so intimately connected
with the phenomena on which their existence depended--I mean the
periodical overflowing of their river--was the first motive for their
veneration of the Ibis, and became the basis of the homage which
ultimately developed into the worship of the bird."

Thus, according to Savigny, the Ibis was venerated by the Egyptians
only because it announced to them the annual overflowing of the Nile.
This explanation is now generally accepted.

This bird, whose attachment to Egypt was formerly so great that,
according to Ælian, it suffered itself to die of hunger when it left the
country, strange to say, now is scarcely ever seen there. The cause of
this probably is, that the modern Egyptians, treading under foot the
ancient faith of their fathers, kill and eat the Ibis as they would any
other fowl, without remembering its former rank of divinity. Being
deprived of the ancient protection which rendered Egypt so dear to it,
the Ibis has almost deserted the ungrateful land of the Pharaohs. Still
it occasionally pays brief visits to the Delta at the time of the rise
of the Nile; but it soon takes flight into the wilds of Abyssinia,
forgotten and unregretted. It is also found in Senegal and at the Cape
of Good Hope.

The Green Ibis (_I. falcinellus_), called by Herodotus the Black Ibis,
has black plumage, variegated with green on the upper part. It inhabits
the north of Africa and the south of Europe. Like the first-mentioned
bird, it was held sacred by the Egyptians.

The Scarlet Ibis (_I. ruber_) is indigenous to America, and is found
principally in Guiana, where it associates in flocks at the mouths of
the rivers. Its plumage is of a beautiful vermilion colour, tipped with
black at the ends of the wings. It does not, however, wear this
brilliant plumage till about two years old. The young are very readily
tamed, and their flesh is tolerably well-tasted.


The _Cultrirostres_ (or knife-shaped bill) have a long, strong, and
sharp-edged bill. They are generally provided with stout tarsi, and
frequent the edges of marshes and banks of rivers. Many of them enjoy
the faculty of being able to stand on one leg for hours together. This
singular attitude is rendered possible by means of a curious mechanism,
which was discovered by Duméril. The tibia, in its junction with the
femur, presents a protuberant knot, which forcibly stiffens the
ligaments of the knee, forming a kind of catch, similar to the spring of
a knife.

The principal species of this family are--the Spoonbill (_Platalea_),
Stork (_Ciconia_), Jabiru (_Mycteria_, Linn.), Ombrette, Bec-ouvert,
Drome, the Boatbills (_Cancroma_), Heron (_Ardea_), Crane (_Grus_),
Agami and Caurale, and the Cariama (_Palamedea cristata_).

The SPOONBILL is remarkable for the singular form of its bill, which is
about four times the length of the head, straight, and flexible; the
upper mandible, about an inch and a quarter broad at the base, gradually
narrows to three-quarters, and again increases to two inches at the
point, causing a resemblance to a spoon, from which it takes its name.
It uses this bill for dipping into the mud and water, whence it extracts
worms and small fish, on which it principally feeds. It also eats
water-insects, which it catches by placing its bill half open on the
surface of the water, permitting them thus to float on to the lower
mandible. It lives in small companies, and frequents places near the
sea-shore. It is easily tamed.

[Illustration: Fig. 136.--Common White Spoonbill (_Platalea leucorodia_,

There are two species of them: the White Spoonbill, which has a tuft on
the back of its neck, and is found in most parts of Europe--it is,
however, seldom met with in France, and then only in the south; and the
Rose-coloured Spoonbill, a native of South America, the plumage of
which presents the most beautiful tints.

The STORK (_Ciconia_) has a long and straight bill, wide at the base,
pointed, and sharp-edged; legs long and slender; tibia bare for half its
length; tarsi long, compressed, reticulated; hind toe short, slightly
elevated, and inserted rather high, but resting upon the ground; the
tail is short. They are found in nearly all parts of the world. Some
species migrate with great regularity, being admirably constructed for
travelling considerable distances; for, although their bulk seems great,
their weight is comparatively small, as most of their bones are hollow.
In their migratory journeys they fly in continuous or angular lines, and
chiefly by night.

Storks live in moist and swampy places by the side of pools and rivers.
They feed principally on reptiles, batrachians, and fishes; but they
also devour the smaller birds and mammalia, mollusks, worms, and
insects; among the latter, even bees become their victims, nor do they
disdain carrion and other impurities. Their manner is slow and grave,
and they are rarely seen to run. They have wonderful powers of flight:
on the wing they resemble crosses, from their manner of carrying the
head and neck. They have no voice, and the only noise they make is a
cracking, which results from one mandible of the bill striking against
the other, and which expresses either anger or love; it is sometimes
very loud, and, under favourable circumstances, may be heard as much as
a league away. They lay from two to four eggs, their fecundity
increasing in an inverse ratio to their size. The duration of their life
is from fifteen to twenty years.

There are several species of Storks, the most important being the White
Stork (_Ciconia alba_). It measures about forty inches in height; length
to end of tail, forty-two inches; wings, extended, seventy-six inches;
its plumage is white; the wings are fringed with black. This is the
species best known in Europe; it is chiefly met with in Holland and
Germany. In France, Alsatia is chosen as a residence by nearly all those
that visit that country. It is so rarely seen in England, that there it
has become almost a matter of legend. It is very common in the warm and
temperate parts of Asia. Leaving France every year in the month of
August in order to visit Africa, it returns in the following spring.
This migration is not caused by temperature, as the Stork can bear the
most bitter cold. No, it is a mere question of sustenance; for feeding,
as it does, principally upon reptiles which remain in a complete state
of torpor during our winters, it is naturally compelled to seek its food

The Stork is of a mild nature, and is easily tamed. As it destroys a
host of noxious creatures, it has become a useful helper to man, who is
not ungrateful, for he has in all ages given it succour and protection.
In ancient Egypt it was venerated on the same score as the Ibis; in
Thessaly there was a law which condemned to death any one killing these
birds. Even at the present day the Germans and Dutch esteem it a happy
omen when the Stork chooses their house as its home. They go so far as
to furnish it with the means of doing this, by placing on the roof a box
or a large wheel; this forms the framework of the nest, which the bird
then finishes according to its fancy with reeds, grass, and feathers.

When the Stork has attached itself to a place, and is kindly treated, it
sometimes loses the habit of migrating. It cannot, however, quite get
rid of a certain agitation when the season for departure comes:
occasions have been known where it yielded to the appeals of its wild
companions and to the desire for progeny (for in captivity it is always
barren), and was allured away to join the band of travellers. But this
separation is only temporary; the next year the truant returns to the
same house, and again takes possession of its domicile with many a
flapping of wings to testify its joy. It exhibits great pleasure in
renewing acquaintance with the denizens of the house, and is not long in
placing itself on a footing of familiarity with them. It frolics with
the children, caresses the parents, plagues the dogs and the cats--in a
word, manifests a gaiety and susceptibility of affection which one would
hardly expect to find in a bird generally so dull and taciturn. It
presents itself at the family meals, and takes its share of them. If its
master tills the ground, it follows him step by step, and devours the
worms which are turned up by the spade or the plough.

The Stork may certainly be set up as a model for all mothers: its love
for its young ones sometimes even approaches heroism. We will give two
touching instances.

In 1536 a fire broke out in the city of Delft, in Holland. A Stork,
whose nest was placed on one of the burning buildings, made at first
every effort to save its progeny. Finally, seeing its inability to
assist them, it suffered itself to be burnt with its loved ones rather
than abandon them.

In 1820, at another fire at Kelbra, in Russia, some Storks, when
threatened by the flames, succeeded in saving their nest and young ones
by sprinkling them with water, which they brought in their beaks. This
last fact proves to what an extent intelligence may be excited under the
influence of maternal love.

The Stork is not only a good mother, but she is also an excellent wife.
The attachment which these birds show for each other when they are once
paired has long back procured for them a high reputation for conjugal
fidelity. Thus, in the Vorarlberg (Tyrol), a male Stork was known to
have refused to migrate, passing several winters by the side of his
mate, which, in consequence of a wound in her wing, was unable to fly.

[Illustration: Fig. 137.--White Stork (_Ciconia alba_, Temm.).]

We must, however, add that some lady Storks are by no means slow in
consoling themselves for the loss of husbands who ought to be the
subjects of eternal regret. A few tears, as a matter of form, and their
grief ends! Sprungli notes the case of one widowed Stork who contracted
new bonds after two days' mourning. Another gave evidence of the most
guilty perversity. The lady began by betraying the confidence of him
with whom she had united her destinies; his presence had evidently
become insupportable to her, and she finally killed him with the help of
her accomplice.

These errors of the female render the high morality of the male more
conspicuous. Witness the following story, related by Neander:--

A number of Storks had taken up their abode in the market-town of
Tangen, in Bavaria. Perfect harmony reigned in every family, and their
lives were passed in happiness and freedom. Unfortunately, a female, who
had been up to that time the most correct of Storks, allowed herself to
be led away by the idle gallantries of a young male; this took place in
the absence of her mate, who was engaged in seeking food for his family.
This guilty _liaison_ continued until one day the male, returning
unexpectedly, became convinced of her infidelity. He did not, however,
venture to take the law into his own hands; he was reluctant to dip his
bill into the blood of her he had once loved so fondly. He arraigned her
before a tribunal composed of all the birds at the time assembled for
their autumnal migration. Having stated the facts, he demanded the
severest judgment of the court against the accused. The ungrateful
spouse was condemned to death by unanimous consent, and was immediately
torn in pieces. As to the male bird, although now avenged, he departed
to bury his sorrows in the recesses of some desert, and the place which
once knew him afterwards knew him no more.

The Storks of the Levant manifest a still greater susceptibility. The
inhabitants of Smyrna, who know how far the males carry their feelings
of conjugal honour, make these birds the subjects of rather a cruel
amusement. They divert themselves by placing Hen's eggs in the nest of
the Stork. At the sight of this unusual production the male allows a
terrible suspicion to gnaw his heart. By the help of his imagination, he
soon persuades himself that his mate has betrayed him; in spite of the
protestations of the poor thing, he delivers her over to the other
Storks, who are drawn together by his cries, and the innocent and
unfortunate victim is pecked to pieces.

Besides the numerous virtues that we have just stated--paternal love,
conjugal fidelity, chastity, and gratitude--the ancients attributed to
them (among birds) the monopoly of filial piety. They believed that
these birds maintained and nourished their parents in their old age,
and devoted themselves to alleviating the trials of the last years of
their lives with the most tender care. Hence was derived the name of
the "Pelargonian Law" (from the Greek +pelargos+, a Crane), the name
given by the Greeks to the law which compelled children to maintain
their parents when old age had rendered them incapable of working.
This last feature in its character has not a little contributed to the
universal celebrity of the Stork.

The flesh of the Stork forms but a poor article of food; it is,
therefore, rather difficult to see why the sportsmen in our country
persist in shooting at it every time that they get a chance. The
reprehensible mania which our French Nimrods possess of indiscriminately
massacring everything which shows itself within reach of their guns is a
disgrace to those who practise it, and an injury to the community at
large. The result is that the Stork, meeting with nothing but
ill-treatment in return for its loyal and useful services, is gradually
retiring from France, and before long will have completely abandoned it.

The Black Stork (_Ciconia nigra_) is rather smaller than the one above
named; it is a native of Eastern Europe, and is rarely seen in France.
It feeds almost exclusively on fish, which it catches with much skill.
It is very shy, and avoids the society of man; it builds its nest in

The ARGALA, or MARABOUT, also called the Adjutant Bird, or Gigantic
Crane, is characterised by its very strong and large bill, and the
bareness of its neck, the lower part of which is provided with a pouch
somewhat resembling a large sausage; but, according to Temminck, there
is a notable difference between the African Marabout and the African
Argala, the characteristic mark of the latter frequently hanging down a
foot, while it is much shorter in the Marabout.

These birds are inhabitants of India; they feed on reptiles and all
kinds of filth, and this fact has been the means of securing for them
the good-will of the people. In the large cities of Hindostan they are
as tame as dogs, and clear the streets of every kind of rubbish which
litters them. At meal-times they never fail drawing themselves up in
line in front of the barracks, to eat the refuse thrown to them by the
soldiers: their gluttony is so great that they will swallow enormous
bones. At Calcutta and Chandernagore they are protected by the law,
which inflicts a fine of ten guineas on any one killing a Marabout.

[Illustration: Fig. 138.--Adjutant (_Ciconia argala_, Selby).]

The long white feathers, celebrated for their delicacy and airiness,
which are used in the adornment of ladies' bonnets, and known in
commerce by the name of Marabout feathers, come from this bird, and grow
under its wings. Consequently, in spite of their ugliness, a good many
Marabouts are reared in a domestic state in order that these lovely
feathers, on which our European fair ones place so much value, may be
plucked from them at the proper seasons.

[Illustration: Fig. 139.--The American Jabiru (_Mycteria americana_,

There are several other species which are allied to the Storks, and are
only distinguished from them by a slightly different form of the bill.
We will confine ourselves to merely naming them and pointing out the
localities they inhabit. They are as follows:--The Jabiru (Fig. 139),
which is a native of South America; the Ombrette, which is found in
Senegal; the Bec-ouvert, which inhabits India and Africa (Senegal and
Caffraria); the Drome, which is met with on the shores of the Black Sea
and Senegal; and finally, the Tantalus, which lives in the warm regions
of both the New and Old World.

[Illustration: Fig. 140.--The Common Boatbill (_Cancroma cochlearia_,

Whoever has once set eyes on the BOATBILL or SAVACOU (Fig. 140) will
never forget the bird, or confound it with any other. What, it will be
asked, is there so characteristic about it? Nothing else but its bill,
which certainly is the most singular implement one can well imagine.
Fancy two long and wide spoons, with their hollow sides placed one
against the other, the end of the upper spoon being furnished with two
sharp teeth, and we shall have some idea of this extraordinary
_storehouse_, as it may be called, for the proprietor can easily stuff
into it provisions for a whole day. If we add to this that the Savacou
possesses a beautiful black crest which hangs down behind its head, that
it is about the size of a Fowl, also that it has short wings, and rests
its four toes firmly on the ground, we shall then have a pretty exact
portrait of our subject. This bird inhabits the savannahs of Central
America, and occasionally the southern portion of the United States,
frequenting the banks of rivers, where it feeds on fish, mollusks, and
sometimes crabs. It makes its nest in the thick underbrush.

The HERONS (_Ardea_), which form a genus of birds of the order of
Cultrirostres, have the bill long, pointed, opening widely, and very
strong; their legs are in part bare of feathers; toes long, and
furnished with sharp claws, not excepting the back toe, the whole length
of which rests upon the ground; the neck is long and slender. Further,
the back of the head is adorned with a tuft of long feathers, which fall
over its shoulders like a plume, whilst those in front, which are narrow
and pendent, resemble a kind of beard at the bottom of the neck.

These birds lead a semi-nocturnal life, and frequent the margins of
lakes, marshes, and rivers, where they feed on reptiles, frogs, and
fish. They are generally of a shy nature, and live in solitude in the
most unfrequented portions of extensive woodlands. When they want to
seek their prey, they go into the water until it reaches half-way up
their legs, and with the neck doubled down over the breast, and the head
buried between the shoulders, they sometimes remain for hours together
immovable as statues. If any fish glides along within reach of them,
they suddenly stretch out their necks, as if impelled by a spring, and,
with a sharp movement of the bill, impale the unfortunate victim. When
their fishing is not very productive they dig into the mud with their
feet, to turn out the frogs and other reptiles that are concealed in it.
If compelled by hunger, they will attack rats, wood and field mice, and
if further pressed they show no repugnance to carrion. They can,
however, endure abstinence for a considerable time.

Most of the Herons are endowed with great powers of flight. When
compelled by unusually severe weather, they occasionally migrate, the
young and the old travelling separately. Nevertheless, as they can
accommodate themselves to almost any temperature, some species are
stationary, and they are to be met with all the year round in countries
the most dissimilar.

The principal species of Herons are the Ash-coloured or Common Heron
(Fig. 141), the Purple Heron, the White Heron, the Bittern, the Night
Heron, and the Crab-eater.

Every one knows the Grey Heron (_Ardea cinerea_), at least by
reputation, if only from La Fontaine's verse:--

 "Heron with the long bill, fit handle of a longer neck."

Its height is about forty inches, and it is found in nearly all parts of
the globe. It is the most common of the French Herons, and the only one
which joins its fellows during the breeding season, in order to build
their nests and sit on their eggs, and rear their young in company. The
place appropriated for this assemblage is generally a clump of lofty
trees in the neighbourhood of some large lake or river. On the summits
of these trees, or in the angles formed by the branches, the Herons
build their nests, which are of very simple construction--a few boughs
interwoven together with smaller twigs, and without any additions, such
as moss, grass, &c., with which smaller birds love to line their
dwellings. In these nests the females lay three or four eggs, and the
males share with them the cares of incubation. After the eggs are
hatched, the male assists in the nourishment of the young family.
Frequently he disgorges into the bills of his young ones the frogs and
small fry he has just swallowed; sometimes he divides among them a large
fish which he brings from the adjacent lake or the more distant
sea-shore. Occasionally they undertake journeys in order to insure
abundance for their progeny, and their excursions often extend over a
very considerable tract of country.

When the young Herons are able to fly, they leave the nest and provide
for their own wants.

But the time for migration has arrived. About the beginning of August,
and always at the same date, the colony, then amounting to five or six
hundred individuals, range themselves in order and quit the heronry. The
following year they return thither, and their arrival, like their
departure, takes place on a regular day. It is remarked that the number
of couples is always nearly the same as that of the nests, so that each
couple may readily find a resting-place. The new generation must,
therefore, have gone to found a fresh colony in some other locality.

Heronries are becoming more and more rare. M. Toussenet states that he
has met with only one in all France, that at Ecury (Marne), between
Epernay and Châlons. They are not uncommon in England, where many
ancient families connect the heronry with their ancestral grandeur. Lord
Warwick's heronry, on the classic Avon, still maintains seventy or
eighty pairs of the noble birds.

The Grey Heron has enemies in the Eagle, the Falcon, and the Crows. The
latter combine to steal its eggs; the former aim at the Heron itself,
its flesh being much to their taste. When the Heron finds itself pursued
by a bird of prey, it immediately disencumbers itself of all unnecessary
ballast, and then endeavours to get the uppermost in flying; this plan
is nearly its only means of safety. Occasionally it succeeds, for the
Heron is able to attain immense altitudes. If it is close pressed, it
makes an admirable use of its bill as a means of defence, and has been
known to impale its adversary. Its usual tactics are, to wait for its
enemy, lance in rest, and to allow the latter to pierce himself through,
merely by his own impetuosity. If it has a chance to dart its bill into
the eye of its foe, it does not neglect so good an opportunity of
utilising its small endowments. This is, in fact, a private lunge, a
_coup de grâce_, and many a dog, hunting among the reeds, has felt the
poignancy of this offensive weapon. We must, however, allow that the
Heron is not always so fortunate, and that oftener than not he becomes a
prey to his eager adversaries--the Eagle and the Falcon.

The magnificent powers of flight possessed by the Heron, and his clever
devices in defending himself, gave rise, in days gone by, to the very
special regard with which he was honoured by kings and princes, who
hunted him with Falcons trained to the sport. The poor Heron was
doubtless not very gratified for these marks of high esteem, and it is
probable that, if he could be consulted at the present day, he would
bless the happy obscurity in which he is now allowed to vegetate. "It
costs too much to shine in the world," is the moral La Fontaine puts
into the mouth of his Heron.

Although its flavour is certainly as disagreeable as possible, the flesh
of the Heron was in the old time reckoned as a "royal dish," and was
only served upon the tables of the great and powerful of the earth. In
order to procure this supposed delicacy more easily, the idea arose of
artificially arranging a certain part of the forest so as to attract the
unhappy birds into a retreat which should realise all the
characteristics of the natural heronry. The birds here enjoyed all the
comforts of life up to the moment when they were ruthlessly torn from
them at the will and pleasure of their lord. We must add that they
adopted the plan of taking from them their progeny to assist the royal
treasury; for, as Pierre Belon tells us, "they were in the habit of
trading largely in the young ones, which brought considerable sums of
money." Francis I. caused heronries to be established at Fontainebleau,
which, as connoisseurs tell us, were everything that could be wished.

The Heron is quite susceptible of training when it is caught young; but
it must always be little else than a bird of ornament, as the service it
can render amounts to little or nothing. When adult at the time of
capture it is altogether intractable, entirely refusing food, and dying
at the end of a few days.

The Purple Heron (_Ardea purpurea_) has the same habits as the one just
spoken of, but it is a little smaller. It owes its name to the colour of
the numerous spots which adorn its livery. It is rarely met with in
France, but is pretty common at the mouths of the Danube and Volga, and
on the margins of some of the lakes in Tartary.

The White Heron (_Egretta alba_) is remarkable for its plumage, which is
entirely of a pure white. Two varieties of it are known--the larger,
generally called the Great Egret, is about the size of the Ashy Heron;
it is common in Eastern Europe, in the North of Africa and America, and
in the Malay Archipelago. The smaller kind is known by the name of the
Garzette Heron, or the Little Egret, and is no bigger than a Crow; it
inhabits the confines of Asia and Eastern Europe, and regularly visits
the South of France.

[Illustration: Fig. 141.--Common Herons (_Ardea cinerea_, Temm.).]

These two species are adorned, during the breeding season, with fine and
silky feathers, which spring from the shoulders, and, spreading out over
the back, fall on each side of the tail in elegant plumes. These are the
feathers with which European ladies are so fond of adorning themselves,
and from them the birds have derived their name.

Northern Africa presents us with a beautiful White Heron, about the size
of a Pigeon, the functions of which are extremely interesting; it is
called the Ox-keeper. In Morocco this bird is very common. It is in the
habit of accompanying the oxen into the fields, and takes the task of
relieving the latter from the numerous flies and insects with which they
are annoyed. In France it is met with only at the mouth of the Rhône.

The BITTERN (_Botaurus_) has both the neck and legs shorter than those
of the Grey Heron; its plumage is of a rich reddish yellow, boldly
variegated with dark markings. Districts intersected by marshes are the
chief places of its resort; in these it keeps itself hidden all day long
among the reeds, motionless and silent. Here, too, it makes its nest,
almost on the ground, and close to the water. It does not leave its
hiding-place until the evening, and then will fly up to so great a
height as to be lost to view. Its call to its mate is peculiar; it
resembles the bellowing of a bull, and can be heard more than
half a league away. For this reason the ancients called it _Bos
taurus_--whence, by corruption, comes the French _Butor_.

The Bittern is a very courageous bird; it will defend itself
energetically against any bird of prey, against dogs, and even man. It
is found all over Europe. Four British species are described--_B.
stellaris_, _B. lentiginosus_, _B. minutus_, and _B. comatus_.

The CRANE (_Grus_), which forms a genus among the Cultrirostres, is
characterised by a bill much longer than the head, stout, straight,
tapering, compressed, and pointed, but always slightly cleft; feet long;
tibia bare for a fourth of its length, covered with hexagonal scales;
toes, four; back toe short, which does not reach the ground; wings long
and pointed. The Cranes are essentially migratory birds, and possess
wonderful requisites; for, in addition to prolonged powers of flight,
they enjoy the valuable faculty of being able to endure total abstinence
from food for several days--a faculty which, we may remark, is common to
most of the Wader tribe, though in a less degree.

There are three species described--the Ash-coloured Crane, the Crested
Crane, and the Demoiselle Crane.

The Ash-coloured Crane (_Grus cinerea_), Fig. 142, is a fine bird,
attaining nearly five feet in height. With the exception of the neck,
which is black, all the rest of its body is of a uniform ashy-grey
colour. The carriage of the bird is noble and graceful, and the feathers
on its rump, which rise up in undulating clusters, add much to its

These Cranes are periodical visitors to France; they arrive in Europe
in the month of April or May, passing the fine weather in more northern
countries. Towards the middle of October, on the arrival of the first
cold weather, they leave us, in order to winter in Egypt, Abyssinia, or
even Southern Asia. They travel in flocks, numbering sometimes as many
as three or four hundred birds; generally they arrange themselves in two
lines, so as to form an isosceles triangle, or a sort of wedge with the
point in front--the most convenient formation for cleaving the air with
the least amount of fatigue. From time immemorial people have been fond
of saying that these birds intrust the care of their guidance to a
chief, who, after having led the way for a certain time, and becoming
wearied, surrenders his charge to one of his companions and passes to
the rear of the band, where, like a new Cincinnatus, he resumes the
position of a simple citizen. The fact is, that the leader of the two
files changes perhaps ten times in a minute, and the apex of the angle
is occupied in succession by every Crane in the flock within a very
short space of time.

[Illustration: Fig. 142.--Ash-coloured Crane (_Grus cinerea_, Temm.).]

Cranes almost always travel at night, and alight down on the ground
during daytime to seek their sustenance. Sometimes, however, they do not
stop, and continue to push on through space, giving utterance to
startling cries, which probably are intended as a rallying summons to
those of the band which seem tempted to linger on their journey. When
they perceive a bird of prey, or have to contend against a tempest, they
abandon their usual formation, and collect in a circular mass, so as
better to resist the enemy.

Cranes frequent large plains intersected with marshes and water-courses.
They feed on fish, reptiles, frogs, mollusks, worms, insects, and even
small mammals. Some kinds of grain have also attractions for them, and
they may not unfrequently be seen invading the newly-sown fields to
devour the seed which the farmer has just committed to the soil.

When the breeding season arrives, they break up their social compact,
and pair off for the purposes of reproduction and attending to the
rearing of their young.

Their nests are but roughly constructed, and are placed on any little
piece of rising ground in the midst of the marshes; in them they lay
usually two eggs, the male sharing with the female the cares of
incubation. Although these birds are ordinarily so timid, and are
alarmed at the least appearance of danger, yet, when they have their
young ones to defend, they become really courageous. In this case they
do not shrink from attacking man.

The Crane ought to have been the emblem of vigilance. When the flock go
to sleep, with their heads hidden under their wings, one of their number
is specially charged with the duty of watching over their common safety,
and of giving alarm on the approach of danger.

When caught young they are easily tamed, and in a very short time will
manifest considerable familiarity with their keeper. They are,
therefore, a good deal sought after in some countries, both on account
of their graceful shape, and also for the sake of the vigilance which
they exercise round about their home.

These birds were well known in ancient times; Homer, Herodotus,
Aristotle, Plutarch, Ælian, Pliny, and Strabo have noticed them and
their migrations. Unfortunately, not content with correct observations,
they have given credence to some most ridiculous fables, invented in
Greece and Egypt, the classic and fertile lands of the marvellous. Thus,
according to the Egyptian story, the Cranes made an expedition to the
sources of the Nile to fight against the Pygmies, who were, as Aristotle
says, "a race of little men, mounted on little horses, who dwelt in
caves." According to Pliny, these little men were armed with arrows, and
mounted on rams; they abode in the mountains of India, and came down
every spring to wage war against the Cranes, whose sole object was to
exterminate the Pygmies. The Roman naturalist fancies that they
succeeded in this destructive aim, for the town of Gerania, which even
in his time was ruined and deserted, was formerly, he asserts, inhabited
by a race of Pygmies, who were driven out by the Cranes. In the views of
modern commentators, these Pygmies were nothing but monkeys, which
assemble in large troops in the forests of Africa and India, and always
manifest hostility to birds.

The Greeks have also invented two stories about Cranes, which are
certainly very ingenious, but result from the error of attributing too
much importance to trifles. They say Cranes carry a pebble in their
mouths when they cross Mount Taurus, so that they are compelled to keep
mute; they thus avoid exciting the attention of the Eagles inhabiting
those districts, which birds are much disposed to do them mischief. In
the same way, the Crane which is placed as sentinel to watch over his
sleeping companions is bound to stand on one leg, and carry a stone in
the other claw, so that if he allows himself to be overtaken by slumber,
the fall of the pebble would wake him up. It was, as we are aware, the
expedient of the youthful Aristotle to hold an iron ball suspended over
a metal basin in order to wake himself if he succumbed to sleep. We
shall, I think, ascribe too much ingenuity to the Crane in imputing to
it an action of Aristotle's.

The members of this interesting feathered tribe were said to possess
certain virtues. The thigh bone of a Crane imparted to him who possessed
it remarkable vigour and elasticity of limb. Its brain also was a kind
of love-philtre; it transformed the ugliest man into a perfect Adonis,
and won for him the favour of the fair.

It is, moreover, to the Crane that the Greeks are indebted for one of
their favourite dances. Be it understood that we are now returning to
plain matter of fact. The games and dances which Cranes indulge in
amongst themselves are not mere idle stories; observers of our own day,
well worthy of credit, have proved their complete authenticity. It is
certainly true that these birds form groups in various fashions, advance
one towards another, make a kind of salutation, adopt the strangest
postures--in a word, indulge in pantomimes both burlesque and amusing.
This is, we must confess, a curious element in their character, and has
been made the most of by the Chinese, who are in the habit of teaching
Cranes to dance according to all the rules of art.

The ancients set a high value on the flesh of the Crane, which is,
nevertheless, anything but good. The Greeks especially showed a great
fondness for it; they used to fatten these birds after having put out
their eyes or sewed up their eyelids; this cruelty being necessary,
according to their idea, to cause a proper degree of plumpness.

In the fine old days of hawking, the Crane, as well as the Heron,
enjoyed the esteem of princes. Even in the present day, in Japan, it is
reserved for the sport of the _Taïcoun_ (king), and the common people
treat it with all the respect that is consequently its due.

We should certainly fall short in our traditionary lore if we failed to
relate the far-famed story of the Cranes of Ibycus. Ibycus of Rhegium
was a lyric poet, who enjoyed some reputation in his day. On one
occasion, when he was proceeding to the Olympic Games in order to
contend for the poet's prize, he lost his way in a forest, and fell into
the hands of two malefactors, who cruelly murdered him. Just as he was
dying he cast his eyes towards heaven, and perceiving a flock of Cranes
passing over, he cried out, "O ye bird-travellers, become the avengers
of Ibycus!" The next day the two robbers were quietly taking a part in
the Olympic contests, when the news of the murder, which arrived during
the day, excited some sorrowful emotion. All of a sudden a flight of
Cranes passed over the arena, uttering loud cries. "Do you see the
Cranes of Ibycus?" said one of the murderers to his comrade in a
humorous tone. This remark, being overheard by some persons standing by,
and commented upon by a thousand lips, became the ruin of the two
scoundrels. At once arrested and pressed with questions, they were
compelled to confess their crime, and were immediately put to death.
Thus was fulfilled the dying invocation of Ibycus.

The Demoiselle Crane (_Grus virgo_) is remarkable for two beautiful
clusters of white feathers, which are suspended behind its head, and for
a black, pendent tuft with which nature has adorned its breast. Its size
is about the same as that of the species just described, and its shape
is still more elegant. It also enjoys in a higher degree the gift of the
mimic art. Its slightest movements have an air of affectation and
mannerism, as if it desired, at any rate, to attract the attention of
the spectator; hence, in French, the name of _Demoiselle_ has been given
to it. It is found in Turkey and Southern Russia, in Northern Africa,
and in some parts of Asia adjacent to the latter region.

[Illustration: Fig. 143.--Demoiselle Crane (_Ardea virgo_, Linn.).]

The Crested Crane (_Grus pavonina_), or Royal Bird, has the top of its
head adorned with a tuft of feathers, which it has the power of
spreading out like a fan, so as to form quite a resplendent ornament.
About the same size as the two sister-birds, it is slender and graceful.
Its voice is very loud. It seeks the acquaintance of man, and readily
grows familiar with him. Its chief locations are the eastern and
northern coasts of Africa, and also some of the isles in the
Mediterranean: according to the ancients, it was formerly common in the
Balearic Islands.

The Agami, or Hooping Crane (_Psophia crepitans_, Latham), has a strong
and tapering bill, shorter than the head; long tarsi; and medium-sized
toes, the back toe touching the ground at the extremity only. Its wings
are short, and, in consequence, it flies with difficulty; but, to make
up for this deficiency, it can run very swiftly. This bird is but little
bigger than a domestic Fowl. It is in the habit of uttering at intervals
a piercing cry, which seems as if it did not proceed from the bird
itself; this cry has procured for it the name of the Trumpet Bird, and
has caused some to ascribe to it the talent of ventriloquism. It makes
its nest on the ground, in a hole scratched out at the root of a tree,
and feeds on grasses, seeds, and small insects. Shyness is not one of
its qualities, and it will submit to captivity without repugnance; it
forms an attachment to its master, and solicits his caresses, just like
a pet dog. The latter comparison is all the more just, as the bird
renders very much the same service to man as the animal. This bird is
intrusted with the care of the flocks out of doors, and in the evening
brings them back to the farm, where his activity finds plenty of scope
in the poultry-yard.

[Illustration: Fig. 144.--Crowned Crane (_Ardea pavonina_, Linn.).]

In its wild state the Agami inhabits the forests of South America. Its
flesh is agreeable in flavour, and is often eaten. It is easily
domesticated, and attaches itself to man, following its master about.

The CAURALE (Fig. 145), which forms a genus in the order we are now
considering, is a bird about the size of the Partridge, with a large and
fan-like tail. Its brilliant hues have obtained for it in Guinea the
name of the Little Peacock, or Sun Bird. It is very wild in its nature.

[Illustration: Fig. 145.--Caurale (Figuier).]


The birds which belong to the order _Pressirostræ_ are characterised by
a middling-sized bill--not, however, devoid of strength--and a back toe
which is altogether rudimentary; indeed, in some species entirely
wanting. They are mostly vermivorous; some, however, are granivorous or
herbivorous. In this order a number of rather dissimilar birds have been
reckoned, some of which belong decidedly to the Wader tribe, whilst
others, by their general habits, are more allied to the _Gallinaceæ_.
Among them are the Cariama (Fig. 146), the Oyster-catcher, the
Yellow-leg, the Stone Plover, the Lapwing, the Plover, and the Bustard.

The OYSTER-CATCHERS (_Hæmatopus_) are characterised by a long, pointed,
and powerful bill, which they use like a pair of pincers for opening
oysters, mussels, and other shell-fish left on the shore by the receding
tide, with the sole purpose of devouring their contents. Few things are
more interesting than to see them hovering over the retiring water,
alternately advancing and retreating with the waves. As their toes are
united at the base by a web or membrane, they enjoy the faculty of
resting on the water, although they do not actually swim. They utilise
this power in allowing themselves, every now and then, to be carried on
the waves to some distance from the shore. They fly well, and can run
with the greatest ease. Numerous flocks of them are found on almost
every sea-coast on the globe, making the neighbourhood ring with their
shrill cries.

[Illustration: Fig. 146.--Cariama (_Palamedea cristata_, Gmelin).]

In the breeding season they pair off; the hen birds lay from two to four
eggs, either in holes carelessly scratched out on the strand or in
clefts of the rocks, or sometimes in marshy meadows some distance from
the shore.

They assemble in considerable flocks for the purpose of migration--if
this term may be held applicable to the short journeys which they
annually undertake. They ought rather to be called pleasant little
jaunts--inspections, as it were, of their domains; something like the
circuit of his department made by a prefect, or the progress of a
sovereign through his country.

[Illustration: Fig. 147.--Oyster-catcher (_Hæmatopus ostralegus_,

[Illustration: Fig. 148.--Runners (_Cursorius_, Figuier).]

There are three or four species of the Oyster-catcher, only one of which
is a native of Europe. The plumage of the latter is white and black,
which, joined to its noisy habits, has obtained for it the nickname of
the Sea Magpie. Its bill and feet are of a beautiful red colour; hence
the name of _Hæmatopus_ (feet the colour of blood) was given by Linnæus
to the whole genus, when the other varieties of it were yet unknown. It
is found at all seasons on most of our coasts. As an article of game it
is not all one could wish.

The RUNNERS (_Cursorius_) have slender and pointed bills, slightly bent
at the end; long tarsi; no back toe; wings much pointed; its plumage is
of a dove colour, and it is about eighteen inches in height. As its name
implies, it runs with surprising rapidity. It is a native of Asia and
the north of Africa, and only casually makes its appearance in Europe.
Nothing is known of its habits.

The LAPWINGS (_Vanellus_) have the bill enlarged on the upper side,
two-thirds of its length being filled up by the nasal channels; its back
toe is excessively short, and wings pointed. When flying, they make a
noise which is not unlike that of corn falling back on the
winnowing-fan; hence their French name, _Vanneau_.

These birds are essentially migratory, and come down from the high
northern latitudes in large flocks at the beginning of autumn, again
returning thither in spring. They frequent marshes and the margins of
lakes; in fact, all moist, soft districts which abound in earth-worms,
insects, slugs, &c. They may often be seen settling down on fields
recently ploughed, where they can find an ample supply of worms. They
are in the habit of employing a rather ingenious process to make their
victims emerge from the earth. They strike the ground with their feet,
and thus give the surface a slight shock, which the worm is tempted to
attribute to the proximity of a mole; and consequently it hastens to the
surface to escape its underground enemy, when it is immediately snapped
up by the bird.

The Lapwing is a model of cleanliness. After it has been feeding on the
ground for two or three hours, it washes its bill and feet; it repeats
these ablutions several times in the day. In this respect the most rigid
Mahommedan could scarcely find fault with it.

Lapwings live together in communities, except in the breeding season,
when they separate into pairs, to devote themselves to hatching and
rearing their young. The hen lays three or four eggs in the most simple
nest that can be imagined, placed in an exposed position on any little
rising ground in the marshes. These eggs are, it is said, of an
exquisite flavour, and in some countries, especially Holland, a large
trade is done in them.

The flesh of the Lapwing is only good eating during certain months of
the year. About All Saints' Day these birds acquire their finest
condition, when in some parts of France they are in great demand. In the
spring, as food, they are very indifferent, easily explaining why the
Church has allowed them to be eaten during Lent, for at that period
assuredly no food could be more _maigre_. There is an old saying which
celebrates, and also exaggerates, the culinary virtues of the Lapwing
and its brother bird, the Plover: "He who has never eaten either the
Plover or the Lapwing does not know what game is."

[Illustration: Fig. 149.--Pewit, or Crested Lapwing (_Vanellus
cristatus_, Temm.).]

The Lapwing might be ranked amongst the most useful auxiliaries of man;
it destroys a prodigious quantity of worms, caterpillars, and noxious
insects. After hearing this the reader might, perhaps, imagine that this
bird has found aid and protection from mankind. Nothing of the sort; it
is killed wherever and as often as possible; besides this, means are
discovered to set a limit upon its multiplication by stealing away its
eggs. We do not seem to perceive that this joyous, lively, and graceful
bird longs to conclude a treaty of friendship with mankind. When will
man make up his mind to understand his true interests?

There are in Europe two species of this genus--the Crested Lapwing and
the Swiss Lapwing, or Squatarole.

The Crested Lapwing (_Vanellus cristatus_), Fig. 149, is about the size
of a Pigeon; its belly is white, and its back black, with a metallic
lustre. It is furnished with a crest, which coquettishly adorns the back
of its head. It is tolerably abundant in France, but seems more
especially partial to Holland. The Swiss Lapwing is distinguished from
the last by a lighter-coloured plumage, and by the absence of the crest.

The PLOVERS (_Pluvialis_) have a bill closely resembling that of the
Lapwing, and differ from it chiefly in the latter having a back toe,
which is absent altogether in the Plovers. They are, however, connected
by several ties of kindred. Like the Lapwing, they live in moist places
and in numerous flocks; like them, they feed on worms, which they catch
much in the same way; like them, too, they make frequent ablutions;
finally, they are always close neighbours, and unite in migration. But
they do not follow out the resemblance with the Lapwings so far as to
imitate them in behaving as good fathers of families, and in living as
good citizens with one wife chosen once for all. Plovers understand life
in quite another fashion; they have other aspirations and other desires;
fidelity in love is not a quality which suits them, and they practise
polygamy on the very largest scale.

One might well fancy that a bird of such low morality would not be
easily affected by the misfortunes of its fellows, and that it would be
endowed with no feelings but those of utter selfishness. But nothing of
the sort. If you knock down a Plover flying in company with others, you
may notice the whole flock coming back to it to render the disabled one
all the help they can; and if you are not too much of a novice, you will
find no great difficulty in turning this circumstance to your profit by
filling your game-bag.

The Plover migrates from the North of Europe to Africa, and _vice
versâ_; it thus visits France twice a year, in spring and autumn. It is
their appearance at these usually rainy seasons which has given them the
name they bear. There are five principal species--the Great Land Plover,
the Dotterel, the Ringed Dotterel, the Kentish Plover, and the Golden

The Great Land Plover (_Oidicnemus Bellonii_, Fleming) is about the size
of a Crow; it is very uncommon, very active, and very suspicious in its
nature. The only chance of shooting it is in the evening, at the moment
when it comes to wash itself on the edges of lakes and rivers. Its flesh
is not much valued.

The Dotterel (_Pluvialis morinellus_) is a little larger than a
Blackbird. It visits us in March and September, and numerous flocks of
these birds frequent the vast plains of the beautiful country of France.
This is the bird which persists in sacrificing itself to the sportsman's
gun when its companion has fallen a victim before the murderous weapon.
It also shows the simplicity of believing that drunken people must be
animated with the kindest feelings towards it; so much so, that it is
only requisite to exhibit the outward signs of bacchanalian excitement,
and the birds will be filled with a sense of false security, so that you
may approach within a few yards of them.

The Dotterel has been the means of founding the reputation of the _Pâté
de Chartres_: the bird's own personal experience must long ago have
convinced it how heavy the burden of renown sometimes proves. They have,
in fact, found themselves so much relished, that they have been tracked
and hemmed in on all sides by eager pie-makers. The only chance for the
poor creature is to seek safety in flight, and abandon a country where
it is decidedly _too much_ loved. Without either regret or envy it must
have seen that Larks and Quails have usurped its place in popular favour
for filling _pâtés_.

The Ringed Dotterel (_Charadrius hiaticula_), Fig. 150, is about half
the size of the last bird. It is distinguished by its black collar, and
also by its extraordinarily brilliant and gold-coloured eyes. In former
days this bird had the credit of being able to cure the jaundice. All
that was necessary was for the sick person to look fixedly at the bird's
eyes, with a firm faith in the success of the experiment; under these
conditions the bird was obliging enough to relieve him of his malady.
This superstitious idea has departed to join all the rest of the medical
opinions of the middle ages.

[Illustration: Fig. 150.--Ringed Dotterel (_Charadrius hiaticula_,

[Illustration: Fig. 151.--Golden Plover (_Charadrius pluvialis_,

The Kentish Plover (_Charadrius cantianus_, Latham) is thus named on
account of its collar being divided into two parts; it is rather smaller
than the last-named bird, and is found in Europe and Asia.

The Golden Plover (_Pluvialis aurea_), Fig. 151, is the size of the
Turtle Dove; the ground of its plumage is of a yellow colour, speckled
over with brown spots. In winter it is always numerously represented in
our markets: this is occasioned by the ease with which it can be either
shot or netted.

The PLUVIAN may be considered as belonging to the Plovers, as the
difference between them is altogether insignificant. We wish to mention
it on account of its very curious habits, to which we previously called
attention when speaking of Reptiles. This bird is a native of Egypt and
Senegal, and has concluded a friendly treaty with the Crocodiles of the
Nile, which must force itself on the meditations of philosophers. The
Pluvian does the Crocodile the service of picking the latter's teeth.
This assistance rendered by the little bird to the terrible reptile of
the Nile is really rather touching, and has somewhat the appearance of
having inspired La Fontaine with his fable of the "Lion and the Mouse."

The BUSTARDS (_Otis_) are allied to the _Gallinaceæ_ by their short
back, their thick-set shape, and the general character of their habits;
but their elongated tarsi, and their legs partly bare, give them a
position among the _Grallæ_. They have short toes, and no back toe; they
run with extreme rapidity, assisted by their wings. Their flight is
heavy and awkward. They frequent dry and open plains, and make their
nests on the ground. Their food consists of worms, insects, grasses, and
even seeds; and they move about in large droves, although their range is
rather restricted. The male birds being less numerous than the females,
they are generally polygamous. These birds are shy and timid, and their
flesh constitutes an excellent article of food.

There are three species of the Bustard--the Great Bustard, the Little
Bustard (Fig. 152), and the Oubara Bustard (_O. Denhami_).

The Great Bustard (_Otis tarda_) is the largest of all European birds;
its weight sometimes attains to sixteen kilogrammes. It is yellow on the
back, with black streaks, and in front it is a greyish white. The head
of the male bird is ornamented on both sides with curled feathers, which
look something like moustaches, and have obtained for it the name of the
Bearded Bustard. It flies with great difficulty, and will never make up
its mind to take wing except in cases of absolute necessity. Its eggs,
two or three in number, are laid in the corn or grass; the nest is
nothing more than a hole scratched out in the earth, and with scarcely
any lining on the inside.

[Illustration: Fig. 152.--Little Bustard (_Otis tetrax_, Gould).]

The Great Bustard was formerly very common in Champagne, but has now
become extremely rare. Nevertheless, it is the only province in France
in which this bird is to be met with, and we might almost say that it
has completely disappeared from French soil. Innumerable troops of them
are to be seen in the steppes of Tartary and Southern Russia.


The birds belonging to this family are distinguished from the rest of
the _Grallæ_ by such decisive characteristics that some naturalists have
proposed to include them in a separate group, to be called _Cursores_,
or Runners; an arrangement which has much in its favour, although the
simpler arrangement of Cuvier best suits our purpose. In certain
anatomical points, and especially in their habits, the Brevipennæ
differ greatly from the other Grallatores. They have wings, it is true,
but they are so slightly developed that they are entirely unfit for
purposes of flight, and are only useful in accelerating the speed of
their limbs. On the other hand, their legs are long and powerful, and
capable of immense muscular effort, thus enabling them to run with
extraordinary fleetness.

The deduction to be drawn from these facts is, that the Brevipennes are
essentially land-birds. This limitation of their habitat necessitated
certain modifications in the sternum, which, instead of a prominent edge
of bone in the centre, as in other birds, only presents one uniform
breast-plate. Again, most of the Brevipennes are birds of large size,
and, in certain circumstances, manifest remarkable vigour.

This group comprehends the Ostrich (_Struthio camelus_), the American
Nandou (_Rhea americanus_), the Cassowary (_Casuarius emu_), and the

The head of the OSTRICH (_Struthio camelus_), Fig. 153, is naked and
callous, with a short bill, much depressed and rounded at the point; its
legs are half naked, muscular, and fleshy; the tarsi are long and rough,
terminating in two toes pointing forward, one of which is shorter than
the other, and has no claw; the wings are very short, and formed of soft
and flexible feathers; the tail taking the form of a plume.

There is but one species of the Ostrich; it is sparsely diffused over
the interior of Africa, and is rarely found in Asia, except, perhaps, in
Arabia. It is the largest member of the Grallatores, generally measuring
six feet in height, and occasionally attaining nine feet; its weight
varies from twenty to a hundred pounds.

The Ostrich has been known from the most remote antiquity. It is spoken
of in the sacred writings, for Moses forbade the Hebrews to eat of its
flesh, as being "unclean food." The Romans, however, far from sharing
the views of the Jewish legislator, considered it a great culinary
luxury. In the days of the emperors they were consumed in considerable
numbers, and we read that the luxurious Heliogabalus carried his
magnificence so far as to cause a dish composed of the brains of six
hundred Ostriches to be served at a feast: this must have cost some
hundreds of thousands of francs. In former days it was a favourite dish
with the tribes of Northern Africa. At the present date the Arabs
content themselves with using its fat as an outward application in
certain diseases, especially rheumatic affections; and they derive from
it, as they say, very beneficial effects.

The natives of Africa call the Ostrich "the Camel of the Desert," just
as the Latins denominated it _Struthio camelus_. There is, in fact, some
likeness between them. This resemblance consists in the length of the
neck and legs, in the form of the toes, and in the callosities which are
found on the lower stomach of both. In some of their habits they also
resemble each other; the Ostrich lies down in the same way as the Camel,
by first bending the knee, then leaning forward on the fleshy part of
the sternum, and letting its hinder quarters sink down last of all.

An entire volume might be filled with the fables recorded about the
Ostrich. In the first place, according to the Arabs, it is the issue of
a bird and a camel. One Arabian author states that it is aquatic in its
nature, another maintains that it never drinks. They still assert that
its principal food consists of stones and bits of iron. Buffon himself
does not deny that it _might_ swallow red-hot iron, provided the
quantity was small. Pliny and (following him) Pierre Belon, the
naturalist of the Renaissance, state that when the Ostrich is pursued it
fancies itself safe if it can hide its head behind a tree, caring little
about the remainder of its body; and some of these absurd ideas are
still deeply rooted in the minds of the public.

It is certain, however, that the Ostrich is extremely voracious.
Although the senses of sight and hearing are so highly developed that it
is said to make out objects two leagues off, and the slightest sounds
excite its ear, the senses of taste and smell are very imperfect. This
is the explanation given for its readiness to swallow unedible
substances. In a wild state it takes into its stomach large pebbles to
increase its digestive powers; in captivity it gorges bits of wood and
metal, pieces of glass, plaster, and chalk, probably with the same
object. The bits of iron found in the body of one dissected by Cuvier
"were not only worn away," says the great naturalist, "as they would
likely be by trituration against other hard bodies, but they had been
considerably reduced by some digestive juice, and presented all the
evidence of actual corrosion."

Herbage, insects, mollusks, small reptiles, and even small mammalia are
the principal food of the Wild Ostrich; when it is in a state of
domesticity even young chickens are frequently devoured by it. It
endures hunger, and especially thirst, for many days--about the most
useful faculty it could possess in the arid and burning deserts which it
inhabits; but it is quite a mistake to suppose it never drinks, for it
will travel immense distances in search of water when it has suffered a
long deprivation, and will then drink it with evident pleasure.

The muscular power of the Ostrich is truly surprising. If matured it can
carry a man on its back, and is readily trained to be mounted like a
horse, and to bear a burden. The tyrant Firmius, who reigned in Egypt in
the third century, was drawn about by a team of Ostriches; even now the
negroes frequently use it for riding.

When it first feels the weight of its rider, the Ostrich starts at a
slow trot; it, however, soon gets more animated, and stretching out its
wings, takes to running with such rapidity that it seems scarcely to
touch the ground. To the wild animals which range the desert it offers a
successful resistance by kicking, the force of which is so great that a
blow in the chest is sufficient to cause death. M. Edouard Verreaux
states that he has seen a negro killed by such a blow.

Man succeeds in capturing the Ostrich only by stratagem. The Arab, on
his swiftest courser, would fail to get near it if he did not by his
intelligence supply the deficiency in his physical powers. "The legs of
an Ostrich running at full speed," says Livingstone, the traveller, "can
no more be seen than the spokes in the wheel of a vehicle drawn at a
gallop." According to the same author, the Ostrich can run about thirty
miles in an hour--a speed and endurance much surpassing those of the
swiftest horse.

The Arabs, well acquainted with these facts, follow them for a day or
two at a distance, without pressing too closely, yet sufficiently near
to prevent them taking food during the time. When they have thus starved
and wearied the birds, they pursue them at full speed, taking advantage
of the fact which observation has taught them, that the Ostrich never
runs in a straight line, but describes a curve of greater or less
extent. Availing themselves of this habit, the horsemen follow the chord
of this arc, and repeating the stratagem several times, they gradually
get within reach, when, making a final dash, they rush impetuously on
the harassed birds, and beat them down with their clubs, avoiding as
much as possible shedding their blood, as this depreciates the value of
the feathers, which are the chief inducement for their chase.

Some tribes attain their object by a rather singular artifice. The
hunter covers himself with an Ostrich's skin, passing his arm up the
neck of the bird so as to render the movements more natural. By the aid
of this disguise, if skilfully managed, Ostriches can be approached
sufficiently near to kill them.

The Arabs also hunt the Ostrich with dogs, which pursue it until it is
completely worn out. In the breeding season, having sought and found out
where the Ostriches lay their eggs, another artifice is to dig a hole
within gunshot of the spot, in which a man, armed with a gun, can hide
himself. The concealed enemy easily kills the male and female birds in
turn as they sit on their nest. Lastly, to lie in wait for them close by
water, and shoot them when they come to quench their thirst, is often

The Ostrich, which is an eminently sociable bird, may sometimes be seen
in the desert in flocks of two or three hundred, mixed up with droves of
Zebras, Quaggas, &c. They pair about the end of autumn.

The nest of the Ostrich is more than three feet in diameter; it is only
a hole dug in the sand, and surrounded by a kind of rampart composed of
the _débris_; a trench is scratched round it outside to drain off the
water. Each hen bird lays from fifteen to twenty eggs, according to
circumstances. The eggs weigh from two to three pounds, and are each of
them equal in contents to about twenty-five Hen's eggs. They are of a
tolerable flavour, and are often a very seasonable help to travellers,
one of them being more than sufficient for the breakfast of two or three

[Illustration: Fig. 153.--The Ostrich (_Struthio camelus_, Linn.).]

Incubation usually takes six weeks, and is shared by both male and
female birds: several of the latter often lay in the same nest, and live
together on the best terms, under the control of one male. Levaillant
remarked four females taking turns in sitting on thirty-eight eggs laid
in the same nest: they sat during the night only, the burning heat of
the sun during the day being sufficient to maintain the necessary degree
of warmth. He also observed that a certain number of the eggs were not
sat upon, but were put aside to serve as nourishment for the young ones
after they were hatched.

It is a strange circumstance that the cry of the Ostrich so much
resembles that of the Lion when in search of his prey, that they are
often confused. Dr. Livingstone says that with all his experience he has
been frequently deceived, and that only the quick ear of a native can
detect the difference.

It was long a subject of reproach to the Ostrich that she was wanting in
affection for her progeny. She was looked upon as the most striking
example of the hard-hearted mother. Thus, the Hebrews accepted the
Ostrich as the symbol of insensibility, because she left her eggs upon
the sand, without troubling herself, as Job says, about the dangers to
which they might be exposed. Jeremiah, too, laments over her that she is
devoid of family affection. All these accusations are quite unfounded:
as we have already seen, the Ostrich does not abandon her eggs, neither
does she desert her young, although they are well covered at their birth
with a thick, warm down, and can from the first run about and provide
for their own wants. On the contrary, she keeps them near her until they
are almost full grown, and defends them against every enemy. Mr. Cumming
came suddenly one day on a dozen young Ostriches no larger than
full-grown Grouse. "The mother," he says, "tried all she could to
deceive us, just like a Wild Duck; first she ran away, extending her
wings; then she threw herself on the ground as if she was wounded;
whilst the male bird cunningly enough conducted the young ones in an
opposite direction."

Livingstone on several occasions met with broods of young Ostriches led
by a male bird, which pretended to be lame, in order to monopolise the
attention of the sportsmen.

Both the male and female birds afford one another mutual assistance, as
is proved by the following fact, which was related in a report addressed
to the Société d'Acclimatation:--"Si-Djelloul-Ben-Hamza and his brother,
Si-Mohammed-Ben-Hamza, were one day hunting Ostriches, and came upon the
tracks of a family led by a male and two females. Si-Mohammed arrived
first in sight of the birds, and firing, wounded one of the females. The
male bird at once darted at him, and struck with its feet at the breast
of his horse, which from fright threw its rider and ran away. The
Ostrich then turned upon Si-Mohammed, kicked him repeatedly, and did not
quit him until he had lost all consciousness, and his brother
Si-Djelloul had come to his assistance."

All these facts abundantly prove that the Ostrich is not so unnatural a
parent as it has been thought, and at the same time give a complete
denial to the accusation of stupidity which has also been made.

In spite of its great strength--perhaps even on account of it--the
Ostrich, when unmolested, is the most peaceable creature in the world;
and owing to its inoffensive nature, it readily becomes domesticated. If
captured young, it can be tamed in a very short time. General Daumas
asserts that they play with the children, and frolic with the horses and
dogs, &c. In the district of Sennaar they are reared as we do Fowls;
they are left to wander about as they choose, and one of them attempting
to escape is a thing quite unheard of. They accompany the herds to
pasture, and return again to their home at meal-times. Kindness and
caresses are sufficient to attach them to any one; but care must be
taken never to strike them. They have but one fault, which arises from
their voracity,--they are dreadful thieves, and devour everything they
can steal. The Arabs, therefore, always look out when they are counting
their money, otherwise the Ostriches might snatch some of the coin.

In all ages the feathers of the Ostrich have been the object of
considerable trade: the birds are hunted and reared in a domestic state,
not so much for their flesh, grease, or eggs, as for these plumes. Each
bird produces about half a pound of white feathers and three pounds of
black. These delicate, wavy, and flexible ornaments, so sought after by
the fair sex, are found on the Ostrich's tail and wings; they have been
used from time immemorial for the adornment both of man and woman. The
Roman soldiers decked their helmets with them, and the Janissaries their
turbans, when they had distinguished themselves by any glorious deed. At
the present day there is a large demand for them. The plumes of the male
bird are more highly valued than those of the female, and all are
superior when plucked from the living bird.

Several Libyan nations in former days used the skin of the Ostrich for a
cuirass, and even at the present time some Arabian tribes put it to the
same use. The shells of Ostrich eggs, which are very hard, are also
utilised; they are made into beautiful cups, which much resemble vases
of ivory. The Africans annually destroy a large number of these birds;
yet their race does not appear to diminish. It is a most useful
creature, and too much encouragement cannot be given to the trials which
have been made in Algeria and elsewhere to rear the Ostrich in flocks on
an extensive scale.

The NANDOU, RHEA, or AMERICAN OSTRICH (Fig. 154), bears the greatest
resemblance to the Ostrich, of which it is the representative in the New
World; but it is only about half the size of the African bird, and has
three toes in front instead of two. The colour of its plumage is a
uniform grey.

The Nandou (called by the Brazilians _Nhandu-Guaçu_) inhabits the Pampas
of South America, the coolest valleys in Brazil, Chili, Peru, and
Magellan's Land. There these birds may be seen wandering over the open
plains in flocks of about thirty, in company with herds of oxen, horses,
and sheep. They browse on the grass like grazing animals, searching at
the same time for various seeds. They run nearly as swiftly as the
Ostrich, and are well able, by speed, to escape the pursuit of their
enemies. If a river comes in their way, they do not hesitate to plunge
into it, as they are excellent swimmers; indeed, so fond are they of
water that they take a pleasure in washing and bathing.

The Nandou lays its eggs and incubates them in the same manner as the
Ostrich. They are birds of a gentle nature, and are tamed with the
greatest ease, becoming very familiar in the house, visiting the various
apartments, wandering about the streets, and even into the country; but
they always return to their homes before sunset.

[Illustration: Fig. 154.--The Nandou, or Rhea (_Struthio Rhea_, Linn.).]

The flesh of the adult Nandou is by no means agreeable; that of the
young, on the contrary, is tender and sweet, and forms excellent food.
Its skin, when properly dressed, is used for bags, purses, &c., and
their feathers serve for plumes and light dusting brooms. We owe the
perfect knowledge of a second species of Rhea to Mr. Darwin, who has
given a figure and ample descriptions of the bird and its habits in "The
Voyage of the _Beagle_;" it has been named in consequence _Rhea
Darwinii_. There is every reason for thinking that these birds might be
successfully acclimated in Europe.

[Illustration: Fig. 155.--Cassowary (_Struthio casuarius_, Linn.).]

The CASSOWARIES form a genus of birds allied to the Ostrich, although
they differ from it in some particulars--their shape is not so elegant,
and their wings are even less adapted for flight; for so short are they,
that they are perfectly useless even to assist in running. Their long
blackish feathers are almost devoid of side fringes, which gives them a
resemblance to coarse hair; their feet are provided with three toes.
This bird was called the Emu by early Portuguese navigators. It is the
_Struthio casuarius_ of Linnæus, the _Casuarius galeatus_ of Vieillot,
and the Cassowary of British naturalists.

The Cassowary has a kind of helmet on its head, produced by an
enlargement of the bone of the skull, and covered with a horny
substance. It is a massively-made bird, in size between the Ostrich and
the Rhea, and is a native of the islands of the Indian Archipelago, the
Moluccas, Java, and Sumatra. It is especially plentiful in the vast
forests of the island of Ceylon. The first bird of this species which
was seen in Europe was brought from Java by the Dutch in 1597. It is a
stupid, quarrelsome, and gluttonous creature, feeding on plants, fruits,
and sometimes small animals. Possessed of considerable strength, and
being wild and fierce in nature, its anger cannot be provoked without
danger; for, although its wings are short, each is furnished with five
pointed spines, the middle one of which is a foot long, and which are
employed with adroitness as weapons of defence. Its habitual cry
consists of a low grumbling, which, when the bird is angry, is changed
into a sonorous humming noise, not unlike the sound of carriage-wheels
or of distant thunder.

The menagerie of the Museum of Natural History at Paris was in
possession of a Cassowary which devoured everything that was given
it--bread, fruit, vegetables, &c., and drank seven or eight pints of
water daily. In the London and the Paris Zoological Gardens there are
generally several to be seen.

The Cassowary runs very swiftly, and in a way quite peculiar, for it
kicks up its heels at every step. They live in pairs, and during the
breeding season the male bird shows a degree of violence which renders
him very formidable. The female lays three or four eggs in the dust, and
sits on them alone for about a month. The young birds, when first
hatched, are covered with a light down, and are without the helmet,
which it acquires as it approaches maturity.

The wild nature of these birds renders them but little fitted for
domestication: this is a fact not much to be deplored, as their flesh is
of an unpleasant flavour, and in no other respect than as food could
they be of any service to us.

The EMU, or AUSTRALIAN CASSOWARY (_Dromiceius australis_), Fig. 156, is
distinguished from the last-named bird by its larger size, and also by
the absence of the helmet, the caruncles, and the pointed spines on the
wings. It was formerly common in the great forests of the Eucalyptus, in
Australia, but the clearings of the colonists have now driven it back
beyond the Blue Mountains. Being very powerful, it offers a stout
resistance to dogs, with which it is hunted. It can be tamed much more
easily than the last-mentioned bird, and manifests some attachment to
its master. It is an excellent and useful acquisition to man, for its
flesh being of an agreeable flavour, is much esteemed. The few specimens
which have been brought to Europe seem to have been readily acclimated,
for they have bred.

[Illustration: Fig. 156.--The Emu, or Australian Cassowary (_Dromiceius
australis_, Swainson).]

[Illustration: Fig. 157.--Kivi-kivi, or Apteryx (_Apteryx australis_,

KIVI-KIVI, or APTERYX (Fig. 157), so called from the Greek +apteron+,
"wingless," is a singular bird, bearing but little resemblance to the
other members of the class. It is no larger than a Fowl, and combines
the bill of the Woodcock with the feet of the Gallinaceous tribe. The
shortness of its wings, which are entirely unfit for flight, is the
sole characteristic which entitles it to rank with the group in which
it is placed.

The plumage of the Apteryx is brown; it has no tail, and its mere stumps
of wings are provided with strong and curved claws. It is a native of
New Zealand, and keeps in the marshes, where it feeds on worms and
grubs: being nocturnal, it does not leave its retreat until the evening.
In spite of its short legs, it runs very fast, but if overtaken does not
yield without an effort, using either its feet, armed as they are with
long and sharp claws, or the points at the end of its wings, as weapons
of defence. It builds a very rough nest among the roots of marsh-growing
shrubs, and lays a single egg, excessively large in proportion to the
size of the producer. The natives call the bird _Kiwi_. They used at
one time to hunt them very perseveringly, as much for their flesh as for
their feathers, which they used in making mats. Now they have renounced
this work, the profits not compensating for the fatigue which it
entailed. Day by day it is becoming more rare and difficult to procure.
The Zoological Society of London has three specimens.


The order of the _Brevipennæ_ may be held to embrace some birds which
have now disappeared from the surface of the globe, but which are
supposed to be contemporaneous with Man. The remains which are met with
in quite modern alluvium scarcely admit of any doubt in this respect.

In the first rank of extinct birds we may place the Dodo (_Didus
ineptus_, Linn.), Fig. 158, which was indigenous to the Mauritius and
the Isle of France, where it used to be abundant, if we may believe the
testimony of the companions of Vasco de Gama, who visited there in 1497.
At the end of the seventeenth century some of them still existed. Former
travellers have described them; and these accounts, with skeletons and
an oil-painting in the British Museum, are the only items of information
which we possess.

The Dodo was a fat and heavy bird, and weighed not less than fifty
pounds. This portly body was supported on short legs, and provided with
ridiculously small wings, making it equally incapable of running and
flying, dooming the bird to a rapid destruction. Lastly and principally,
it had a stupid physiognomy, but little calculated to conciliate the
sympathies of the observer. Its rear was decorated with three or four
curly feathers, making a pretence of a tail, whilst in front it
presented an enormous curved bill, which occupied nearly the whole of
the head.

The Dodo did not even possess the merit of being useful after its death,
for its flesh was disagreeable and of a bad flavour. On the whole, there
is not much reason to regret its extinction.

In the island of Madagascar fossil eggs and bones were found of a bird
belonging to a species probably extinct, the proportions of which must
have been truly colossal. One of these eggs was equal to at least six
Ostrich's eggs, and its capacity more than fifteen pints. M. Isidore
Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, who gave it the name of _Epiornis_, reckoned
that its height could not be less than ten or twelve feet.

[Illustration: Fig. 158.--The Dodo (_Didus ineptus_, Linn.).]

In 1867, M. Joly, Professor of the Faculty of Sciences at Toulouse,
published some very interesting observations on the structure and
probable habits of this gigantic bird.

It cannot yet be asserted that this bird has altogether disappeared. The
Malagashes state that, although very rare, some few representatives of
it still remain. There is an ancient tradition among this people
relative to a colossal bird which could knock down an ox, and then make
a meal of it. This tradition, however, is deficient in anything like
evidence of its correctness, for an examination of the pieces of bone
found proves that the _Epiornis_ possessed neither talons to seize, nor
wings with which to pursue its prey; it must, therefore, have fed
chiefly upon vegetable diet.

In New Zealand also some bones have been lately brought to light, which
must have belonged to a species of bird allied to the Ostrich, but
superior to it in size, which attained some thirteen feet in height.
This bird has been designated _Dinornis_. Some of them probably still
exist in that country; at all events, its disappearance must be very
recent, for the bones which were discovered still contained a large
proportion of gelatine. Rumour states that a Dinornis, more than
thirteen feet in height, was seen by two Englishmen in one of the marshy
forests; but they did not venture to approach near enough to kill it. We
give this tale with all due reserve, as its authenticity does not appear
to be satisfactorily established.



Under this name Linnæus included a large number of birds which bear
considerable analogy to the Domestic Fowl, and mostly included in the
Rasores of Illiger.

The GALLINACEÆ are essentially land birds, seeking their food on the
surface of the soil, and frequently building their nests upon it. They
delight in scratching the earth, and in rolling themselves in the dust.
Walking is their habitual mode of progression, as one would at once
conclude from observation of their strong legs, and their short and but
slightly-bent claws. Some, like the Partridge, are swift runners, having
very short wings, which render their flight at once awkward and
laborious. In this order of birds we do not find more than two or three
migratory species.

The Gallinaceæ have short arched beaks, which are generally very strong,
and well adapted for crushing the husks of the seeds which, with the
addition of grubs, insects, and grasses, form their principal
nourishment. Their large and muscular gizzards, with thick lateral
muscles, lined on the interior with a very tough coating or epithelium,
are exactly fitted for digesting this kind of food. The triturating
power of the Gallinaceæ is further increased by their habit of
swallowing small pebbles, which facilitate the crushing of the grain.

In certain species (the Domestic Fowl, Pheasant, Turkey, &c.) the males
are armed above the back toe with one or more tapering spikes (a kind
of very stiff spur), which they use both for attack and defence. A great
many of this class have their heads adorned with crests and combs of
various colours. These appendages exist occasionally in the females, but
with much less development.

Birds of the most brilliant plumage are to be found among the
Gallinaceous tribe. The Peacock (_Pavo_), the Argus, the Lophophore, and
the Pheasant may be said to bear the banner of their order with no mean
degree of splendour, and may worthily stand in comparison with the most
splendid of the Passerines. This richness of colour is the
characteristic of the male bird, for the females are usually of a dull
greyish hue. But if the Gallinaceæ captivate the sight, they are far
from affording pleasure to the ear, their cries being shrill and

Cruel, tyrannical, and quarrelsome are the characteristics of the
majority of this race. They are polygamous, and the females lay a large
number of eggs, which they sit upon, unassisted by the male. They are
generally divided into flocks, consisting of one male, several females,
and a number of young birds; but it is rarely that several families
unite to live in common.

The Gallinaceæ are of all birds the most useful to man. Certain
domesticated kinds stock his poultry-yard, and supply him with eggs of
an exquisite flavour; nor does their utility cease here--their flesh is
a popular, wholesome, and delicate food. Those known as "game birds" are
also abundant, and offer amusement to the sportsman and table delicacies
for the _bon vivant_.

Nearly all the Gallinaceæ were originally natives of the warm regions of
Asia and America; now, such as the Domestic Fowl, the Pheasant, and the
Turkey are perfectly acclimated to all temperate parts of the globe.

The order of the Gallinaceæ may be divided into two great sub-orders,
namely, the _Gallinaceæ proper_, to which the characteristics we have
just enumerated specially belong; and the _Columbidæ_, which differ from
them in certain details of organisation and habits, to be described


Comprehend six families: the _Tetraonidæ_, the _Perdicidæ_, the
_Tinamidæ_, the _Chionidæ_, the _Megapodidæ_, and the _Phasianidæ_.


The birds which compose this group are characterised as follows:--Tarsi
completely feathered; a naked and knotty band of skin supplying the
place of eyebrows; the body bulky; and the wings short. This family
comprehends several species. The best known we enumerate:--The Cock of
the Woods (_Tetrao urogallus_), the Black Grouse (_Tetrao tetrix_), Cock
of the Plains (_Tetrao artimesia_), the Pinnated Grouse (_Tetrao
Cupido_), the Ruffed Grouse (_Tetrao umbellus_), the Hazel Hen, or
Gelinotte (_Bonasia europæa_), and the Ptarmigan (_Lagopus_).

The COCK OF THE WOODS, or CAPERCAILZIE (_Tetrao urogallus_), inhabits
the pine and birch forests of northern hilly countries. They feed
indifferently upon fruits, berries, the buds of fir and birch trees,
insects and grubs--nothing, in fact, comes amiss to satisfy their
appetites. Their bearing, which is proud and warlike, is supported by a
robust form. Their plumage is black, spotted with white, and clouded, as
it were, with bluish diaphanous shades. They are polygamous, and live
together in families. They readily seek shelter in the trees, both for
roosting and in order to conceal themselves from their enemies.

At the first breath of spring the male birds make the woods re-echo with
the loud notes with which they summon the females to come to them. For
an hour every morning and evening, for over a month, this practice is

The females retire into the thick brushwood to build their nests and lay
their eggs: here they devote themselves to incubation, and afterwards to
rearing their offspring--cares which devolve upon them exclusively. They
deposit from eight to sixteen eggs on a bed of grasses and leaves
roughly interwoven. The young birds run about as soon as hatched, and
remain for several months with the mother, who on all occasions watches
them with the tenderest solicitude.

The flesh of the Cock of the Woods is juicy, but is esteemed more for
its rarity; for the buds and leaves of the pines, which are its
favourite food, give it a flavour of turpentine. In Scotland this
species became extinct, but was restored by the Marquis of Breadalbane
and others, who imported great numbers from Sweden. It is almost as
large as a Turkey.

[Illustration: Fig. 159--Black Grouse (_Tetrao tetrix_, Gray).]

The BLACK GROUSE (_Tetrao tetrix_), Fig. 159, is about the size of a
Pheasant, and is distinguished by its tail, which in the cock is divided
into two parts, with a curling notch, composed of four lateral feathers
on each side, curving outwards.

The COCK OF THE PLAINS (_Tetrao artimesia_, Aud.), so called from
frequenting and feeding on the sage that grows in profusion on the
far-western prairies of America, is a noble bird, of handsome plumage.
It is almost as large as a hen Turkey. Its numbers are rapidly

The PINNATED GROUSE (_Tetrao Cupido_, Aud.) is a native of the prairies
of the North American continent; it is the same size as the
last-described species, but the plumage is a light brown, occasionally
ticked with white. Its call is deep and sonorous, much resembling the
bellowing of a bull, and can be heard for miles in still weather. It is
an excellent table bird, and affords good sport to the lovers of the
gun. The Pinnated Grouse, frequently called Prairie Chicken or Hen, pair
in March; they lay from twelve to fourteen eggs, and are most devoted
parents. Of this species there are two strongly-marked varieties,
differing in size and formation of tail.

The RUFFED GROUSE (Fig. 160) is also an American bird, but differs
essentially from the last mentioned in size, habits, and selection of
food. The hill-sides, densely covered with evergreens or birch, are its
favourite retreats; on the wing it is remarkable for its swiftness.
Although not migratory, it is very erratic.

[Illustration: Fig. 160.--Ruffed Grouse (_Tetrao umbellus_, Aud.).]

The HAZEL GROUSE, or GELINOTTE (_Bonasia europæa_, Gray), inhabits the
same description of country, and has habits very similar to the Black
Grouse. Like them, it is suspicious and timid, and hides itself among
the thick foliage of the green trees at the least appearance of danger.
This bird flies awkwardly, but runs very swiftly. Its flesh, which is
both delicate and savoury, brings a high price in the market. It is much
less rare in France than the Cock of the Woods, and is frequently met
with in the departments of Vosges and Ardennes. It is about the size of
a Partridge, and the prevailing colour of its plumage is a reddish brown
mixed with white, or variegated with grey and brown: the male has a
large black patch under the throat.

The PTARMIGANS have feet much like those of a hare, and thence is
derived the name _Lagopus_, which signifies "hare-foot" (+lagos+, hare;
+pous, podos+, foot). These birds not only have their tarsi covered
with feathers, but also their toes and the soles of their feet.

The icy regions of both hemispheres, and the summits of lofty mountains,
are their domain. The snow is their favourite resting-place; they
delight in rolling in it, and turning it over in search of food, or
forming holes in which they pass the night to take shelter from the

[Illustration: Fig. 161.--Common Ptarmigan (_Lagopus mutus_, Gould),
Summer and Winter Dress.]

The colour of Ptarmigans is perfectly suited to the northern solitudes
they inhabit. Their plumage is of a brilliant white, save one line of
black on the head, and some tail-feathers of the same colour. This is
their winter costume. In the summer, when the snow has disappeared under
the scorching rays of the sun, they change their plumage, and are
clothed in a habit of a greyish colour, spotted with brown and red (Fig.
161). Like the Cock of the Woods and the Hazel Hen, they are birds of
social habits, and cannot bear captivity. When kept in confinement they
become sickly, and soon fall into decline. Their flesh is excellent and
much prized. Numbers of them are sold in the markets, and considerable
quantities are sent every year to England and France from Scotland,
Norway, and Lapland. The two principal species are the _Lagopus mutus_,
common in the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the North of Europe and America;
and the Red Grouse (_Lagopus scoticus_, Selby), which is found only in
Great Britain and Ireland, where it is much prized for its beauty,
delicacy of flesh, and the magnificent sport it affords when killed over
dogs. The 12th of August, the first day of Grouse-shooting, is looked
forward to by the disciples of the gun as anxiously as the Derby day by


The distinctive features of the birds composing this family are--a short
beak, a small head, a round and massive body, bare tarsi, with spurs
more or less developed, and a middling-sized back toe. The wings are
sharp, pointed, or blunt, according to the species. This family
comprehends the Gangas (_Pterocles_, Temm.), _Syrrhaptes_ (Ill.), Quail
(_Coturnix_), Partridge (_Perdix_, Briss.), Colin (_Ortyx_, Steph.),
Francolin (_Francolinus_, Briss.), and _Turnix_ (Bonap.).

[Illustration: Fig. 162.--Pin-tailed Sand Grouse (_Pterocles setarius_,
Gould), Male and Female.]

The GANGAS, or ATTOYENS, are essentially birds of passage, and in
consequence are provided with long and sharply-pointed wings; but the
range of their journeys is not very great. They resemble the Plover in
their power of lofty, rapid, and sustained flight, and inhabit the arid
plains of Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The PIN-TAILED SAND GROUSE (_Pterocles setarius_), Fig. 162, annually
makes its appearance in Spain and the South of France; it is common on
the steppes of Southern Russia, of Tartary, Manchuria, Northern China,
and in the North of Africa. Occasionally it breeds in the Pyrenees.

The SYRRHAPTES, or HETEROCLITES, are characterised by the total absence
of the back toe. They are closely allied to the Gangas, and, like them,
have pointed wings, and are fond of travelling, but their flight is not
so continuous, for in their journeys they are frequently compelled to
alight. They inhabit the steppes of Tartary, and but rarely venture into

The QUAIL (_Perdix coturnix_, Latham) has a small beak, a short back toe
inserted rather high up, tarsi furnished with a rudimentary spur in the
shape of a horny tubercle, a thick-set body, sharply-pointed
middling-sized wings, and hardly any tail. There are several species of
this bird, only one of which is found in Europe.

The Common Quail (Fig. 163) is noted for its migrations. Every year
innumerable flocks of them leave the regions of Africa, cross the
Mediterranean, and, about the commencement of May, spread themselves
over Europe. In the month of September they return, again accomplishing
the same journey. The instinct which impels them to migrate from one
country to another is so powerful that it is observed in Quails which
are born in captivity. At the season of migration captive Quails become
very uneasy, walk up and down their cages, and throw themselves against
the bars with such force that they frequently fall back stunned, and
sometimes even crush their skulls.

When it is considered that the Quail is a heavy bird, with wings
comparatively small, and that it must cost them great labour to migrate,
it is evident that it must be undertaken under strong impulse: probably
the necessity of escaping the severity of winter, or of providing for
their sustenance, is not the only cause, but that there is some sort of
instinctive want, equally imperative with that of hunger, under which
the birds are irresistibly forced to traverse such indefinite

[Illustration: Fig. 163.--Quails and Young (_Tetrao coturnix_, Linn.).]

The fecundity of the Quail is extraordinary: if it were otherwise the
species would soon be exterminated, partly from their heavy, awkward
flight, which renders them an easy prey to the sportsman's gun, but
still more from the wholesale slaughter of them which takes place in
certain districts at the time of migration. The Bishop of the island of
Capri, situated in the Bay of Naples, receives an annual revenue of
forty thousand francs (£1,600 sterling) from the duty he has imposed
upon trading in Quails killed on the island, which are afterwards sold
in the markets of Naples. From this he has received the name of the
"Bishop of the Quails."

On the shores of the Bosphorus, in the Morea, Crimea, and in some of the
islands of the Grecian Archipelago, Quails sometimes arrive in such
dense masses that, according to a popular saying, it is only necessary
to stoop in order to pick them up. They fall exhausted upon the ground,
and the sky may almost be said to be _raining_ birds. The inhabitants,
who have been watching for them for many days, now net them in great
numbers, and, having salted them, and packed them in barrels, export
them to different countries.

Quails travel principally in the evening and during the night. They
ascend to a tolerable height, but never fly against the wind; but, on
the contrary, scud before it, and are thus carried across the
Mediterranean. The south winds bring them to us, and the north winds
carry them back to Africa. If overtaken by a tempest during their
passage, they have not power to resist it, but fall into the waves.
Thousands of them have been found drowned around the precipitous
portions of the island of Malta; their strength had failed them, and,
from being unable to gain sufficient elevation, they found a watery
grave. They also take shelter occasionally on the decks of passing

Quails principally frequent plains covered with cereals or fertile
pastures. They delight in rolling in the dust, and are never known to
perch. Their food consists of seeds and insects. They are not sociable
birds; for the sexes do not approach one another except in the breeding
season, and parent and young separate as soon as the mother's care is no
longer necessary for the protection of the brood. This period soon
arrives, as the little things are of rapid growth. The hen birds lay
twice during the year, once in Europe and once in Africa, and each time
produce from ten to fourteen eggs.

[Illustration: Fig. 164.--Quail-shooting.]

The Quail is a very swift runner, and frequently employs this mode of
locomotion to escape pursuit. It is only in cases of imminent danger
that it has recourse to flight. It flies in a straight line, keeping
close to the ground, and shows itself a thorough master in the art of
baffling dogs by throwing them off their scent. Hidden in the thick
tufts of lucern, it often bids defiance to the novice; but its wiles are
seldom successful before an experienced sportsman.

This bird is not as large as the Partridge. When killed at the proper
time--that is to say, when it has rested after its fatiguing journey and
recovered condition--it is covered with a layer of fat which is not
surpassed in richness and flavour by any other bird. Its flesh is sweet
and delicate, and emits an odour grateful alike to the nose and palate.
This bird ranks immediately after the Woodcock and the Snipe in the
estimation of epicures.

The capture of Quails was formerly performed in several ways. They were
caught in a net or a trap, in which a bait was placed: they were also
shot with the help of a pointer. This last method is the only one which
is nowadays allowed in France; and, thanks to this restriction, the bird
is now destroyed on a less extensive scale than in times past, and the
species may yet be something more than a myth to future generations.

The PARTRIDGE (_Perdix_) has a sharply recurvate beak, a thick-set body,
blunt wings, and a short and drooping tail. The tarsi of the male bird
are either provided with, or destitute of, tubercles, according to the

Partridges live constantly on the surface of the soil, and never perch
except when they are absolutely forced to do so. They have, like the
Quail, the pulverulent instinct, and run with remarkable swiftness.
Their flight is also very rapid, but low, and does not extend to long

These birds are eminently sociable, and live, during the principal part
of the year, in flocks or coveys, composed of the parents and the young
ones of the last brood. They are not migratory, and seem to attach
themselves to certain localities, confining themselves to a limited
extent of country, in which they pass their lives. They never leave this
except by accident. In it they make choice of a sanctum in which to take
shelter when pursued; this is called by sportsmen a "cover."

Partridges are monogamous; they pair early in the year, which union does
not cease until the following spring.

In certain species, such as the Red Partridge, where the females are
less numerous than the males, a great number of the latter remain
single. As the cocks do not willingly resign themselves to single
blessedness, but make many attempts to avoid it at the expense of their
neighbours, this is the cause of frequent quarrels. These conflicts at
last come to an end--the various pairs are firmly united; and the
unsuccessful candidates for affection, who object to making up their
minds to live as hermits, ultimately combine together.

The attachment of the male to the female is deserving of admiration. At
the time for laying, the hen bird makes a hole in the earth, which she
lines with grass and leaves, and in it deposits her eggs, to the number
of twelve or fifteen, and sometimes even twenty or more. The season of
incubation follows after, which lasts twenty days at least. During this
time the male bird watches over his companion, and guards her from
danger. When the young are hatched, paternal affection is added to
conjugal love, and a portion of the father's care is devoted to the
young brood. He accompanies them in their wanderings; he teaches them to
catch grubs, finds ants' eggs, and shows himself as skilful as the
mother in guarding them from attacks of their enemies. At the appearance
of the sportsman or dog the male utters a cry of alarm, which warns the
young ones of their danger, and enjoins them to seek concealment.
Drooping his wings in order to induce the intruder to follow him, he
pretends to fly away. At the same time the female proceeds in another
direction; and alighting at some distance off, she runs back to her
family, reassembles them, and leads them to a place of security, where
they are soon joined by the male bird. The above is one of the ingenious
stratagems by which the young brood is defended from pursuit.

Some weeks after they are hatched, the young Partridges are fit to fly
and to provide for their own wants. As we have already said, they do
not now leave their parents, but continue to live with them in the
closest alliance until February or March, at which time they separate in
order to pair off. At this time, also, the union of the father and
mother comes to an end, and they generally form a fresh alliance.

[Illustration: Fig. 165.--Shooting Grey Partridge (_Perdix cinerea_,

Partridges are of a shy and timid nature, which shows itself in many
ways. Nor are their suspicious fears unjustifiable, when it is
remembered how numerous are their foes, for foxes and birds of prey make
continual and unsparing war upon them. The latter especially are
particularly dreaded. At the mere sight of one of the Falcon tribe a
Partridge will stop as though struck with stupor, and so overcome with
fear as almost to be incapable of concealing itself, remaining
absolutely immovable; and it is not until the dreaded enemy is gone that
it regains self-control.

When a bird of prey dashes at one of them unsuccessfully when in cover,
no human power is able to make it abandon its retreat, and any one can
then lay hands on it without difficulty. A Partridge has even been known
to allow itself to be stifled with smoke in its hiding-place rather than
again expose itself to the claw of the Falcon, Vulture, or Sparrow-hawk.

The knowledge of these facts has suggested a very simple and effectual
method of killing Partridges successfully. This consists in frightening
them with the help of an artificial bird of prey, attached to the tail
of a kite flown over them. While the Partridges are paralysed by fright
from this deception, the sportsmen advance and make the birds flush
within easy shooting distance.

Notwithstanding their wild nature, Partridges are susceptible of
domestication, and, with care and gentleness, they may be rendered very
tame. Girardin relates that a Grey Partridge, reared by a Carthusian,
became so familiar that it followed its protector about like a dog.
Willoughby states that an inhabitant of the county of Sussex succeeded
in taming a whole covey of Partridges, and was in the habit of driving
them before him like a flock of Geese. Tournefort relates that formerly,
in the Isle of Chio, flocks of Red-legged Partridges were reared which
allowed themselves to be driven about in exactly the same way; and
Sonini speaks of two Red-legged Partridges which an inhabitant of
Aboukir had managed to tame. All these facts abundantly prove that, with
a little patience, it would be possible to raise the Partridge to the
dignity of a domestic farm-yard fowl.

The Partridge is highly esteemed by epicures; it is also the delight of
the sportsman, because it lies well to dogs. On account of its
abundance, especially of the Grey variety, this may be called the
"favourite game" of the French empire. Partridge-shooting, moreover, is
what is generally chosen for the education of the inexperienced shot;
the dog, too, by its pursuit, acquires such sagacity that renders him a
valuable assistant to the disciple of St. Hubert.

[Illustration: Fig. 166.--Grey Partridge and Young (_Perdix cinerea_,

Let us now take a rapid glance at the various species of the Partridge.
The Grey Partridge (_Perdix cinerea_) is the most common; it is very
plentiful over the whole of Central Europe, the North of France,
Belgium, Holland, and Great Britain. In these countries it frequents the
cultivated districts, the vast plains covered with crops, and the
artificial meadows, in all of which it lives and breeds. This bird is
not altogether harmless to the pursuits of agriculture, as, after
seed-time, it is not satisfied with the grain left on the surface, but
digs out those that are growing. It also devours the young green shoots
of corn, and attacks the ears when they come to maturity. Its increase
on a large scale might, therefore, produce serious mischief, which would
hardly be compensated for by the services which it renders in destroying
worms, insects, and grubs.

The Grey Partridge furnishes a variety of smaller size, the Migratory
Partridge, which is not known in England. It is remarkable for its
vagrant character, and forms a singular contrast to the stay-at-home
habits of the genus generally. It makes its appearance in large flocks
at the most diverse seasons and in the most varied latitudes. Not
migratory in the proper sense of the word, its journeys seem undertaken
under the influence of some unknown cause, and are wanting in regularity
and constancy. It does not always follow the same route, and its
journeys are intermittent. This bird is of a very shy nature, and is
frequently met with in the East (Turkey, Syria, and Egypt); it is
sometimes noticed in France, where it is called the Damascus Partridge.

[Illustration: Fig. 167.--Shooting Red-legged Partridges (_Perdix
rubra_, Bonap.).]

Contrary to the Grey Partridge, the Red-legged, and those allied to it,
have the tarsi provided with tubercles.

The Red-legged or Guernsey Partridge owes its name to the predominant
colour of its plumage, and also to the pink shade of its beak, tarsi,
and feet. Uncultivated wastes, thinly covered with heath, and undulating
uplands adapted to the vine, are its favourite resorts. In France it is
principally found in the south; in the northern departments it is not so
plentiful as the Common Grey Partridge. It is also a native of Spain and
Italy, and is very common in portions of Asia and Africa.

The brush-clad mountains are its home, and in fine weather it ventures
even as far as the regions of perpetual snow. It is very fond of grapes
and the edible variety of snails. In some parts of France it is scarce;
the Jura, the Upper and Lower Alps, the mountains of Auvergne, and the
Pyrenees are the districts where it is most abundant. In Greece, Turkey,
and Asia Minor it is more plentiful.

Another variety, the Rock Partridge, or Gambra, which differs but little
from the Red-legged Partridge, is almost unknown in France. Its habitat
is Spain, Corsica, Sicily, and Calabria.

Wilson), has a thick and convex beak, smooth tarsi, and a longer tail
than the Partridge. These characteristics would hardly entitle us to
make any difference as to genus, if a study of their habits had not
revealed certain details which justify us in doing so.

When these birds are flushed, they do not all of them fly towards the
same spot, but disperse in every direction, and conceal themselves in
the brushwood or trees. Under such circumstances, if one can only manage
to re-find them, all may be killed in succession. They are more prolific
than the Partridge, also less suspicious, and will readily enter snares
set for them.

These birds are in the habit of making arrangements for sleeping which
are peculiar, to say the least. All the individuals of the same flock
begin by placing themselves in a circle at a certain distance from each
other; then they all walk backwards, converging towards a common centre,
until they are close to one another, side to side: in this position they
pass the night. By means of this precaution the whole flock can see in
all directions, and fly away at once in case of danger, without one
interfering with the other. Each bird, in fact, has a clear space in
front of him, and runs no risk of being impeded by his companions when
desirous of taking flight.

[Illustration: Fig. 168.--Californian Colin (_Lophortyx californicus_,

The Colin is also distinguished from the Partridge by its vagrant
habits. In this respect it resembles the Quail, but its peregrinations
are irregular, and do not embrace anything like the same extent of
range. This bird is a native of North America, where it abounds. It
exists in some districts of the United States to such an extent that,
during one winter, in a circuit of not more than five or six leagues in
extent, as many as twelve thousand head have been killed, without any
apparent diminution of the species in the ensuing spring.

Having been brought to England and looked after, the Virginian has bred.
Similar attempts have been made in France, but with less success, owing
to a want of perseverance. The Colin would be an excellent addition to
our game birds, as its flesh is delicate, and it lies well before
pointers or setters.

The Californian Colin (Fig. 168), familiarly known as the Californian
Quail, is a beautiful bird, adorned with a crest, the upper portion of
which points forward. They are only found on the Pacific slopes of the
Rocky Mountains. On the high grounds which form the margin of the valley
of the Sacramento River they are extremely numerous.

Another variety of Colin, figured by Audubon, is also a resident of
California, where it is called the Solitary Partridge.

FRANCOLINS are distinguished from Partridges by a stronger and more
elongated bill, by a more largely developed tail, and by the existence,
in the male, of one or two sharp spurs. They also differ in their
habits, for they frequent wooded and marshy districts, where they
subsist on berries, seeds, worms, insects, and young bulbous plants.
When not feeding, they are almost constantly perched on trees, where
they pass the night. These peculiarities excepted, they bear a strong
resemblance to the Partridge. Their flesh is highly esteemed, the
Francolin taking the first place among our game birds.

[Illustration: Fig. 169.--Turnix tachydroma.]

A beautiful variety of Francolin is found in the South of China. Its
favourite haunt is among the dwarf palmetto on the hill-sides. It lies
well to dogs, but is so quick in flushing, and so rapid in flight, that
even the best shots miss them. They are quite as large as the Grey

Unfortunately, in Europe the Francolin is tending towards extinction,
for its wild nature prevents it accommodating itself to a restricted
range. It is found on the southern coasts of the Black Sea, in Sicily,
and the island of Cyprus. There are other species inhabiting Africa and

The COTURNIX is closely allied to the Quail; the only physical
distinction between them is the absence of the back toe. It frequents
sandy districts and plains covered with high grass. It runs very
swiftly, and but rarely flies. Should it be compelled, however, to do
so, its course is seldom more than one or two yards above the ground,
and of very short duration. Dropping, it then stubbornly persists in
remaining on the ground, and prefers being caught to making a fresh
attempt on the wing. Its flesh is excellent.

A European species, the _Turnix tachydroma_ (rapid runner), (Fig. 169),
inhabits Sicily, the South of Spain, and the North of Africa.

The Sunda Isles produce a species of Quail, the warlike instincts of
which furnish an amusement for the barbarous tastes of the inhabitants,
who regularly pit them one against the other, betting largely on the
result, just as the English used to do on cock-fights.


All the birds of this family belong to South America. They are the
representatives of the Partridge on that continent. Their essential
characteristics are--a slender and medium-sized beak; tarsi rather long,
and provided with nodosities; the back toe either very short or
altogether wanting--at all events, no use in walking can be made of it
from its elevated position; the wings and tail short, the latter
sometimes deficient.

This family comprises four genera, all very closely allied to one
another; these are the _Tinamus_, the _Nothures_, the _Rhyncotes_, and
the _Eudromes_. We shall confine our remarks to their nature and

These birds are naturally stupid, and cannot habituate themselves to
captivity. They live in small flocks, except during the breeding season.
They fly heavily, always in a straight line, but are swift runners. Some
species manifest such sluggishness that they will remain the entire day
without moving, and will not even take the trouble to escape from their
enemies. They have the habit of rolling themselves in the dust, and
frequent indifferently cultivated ground, grassy meadows, or thick
woods. Except in rare instances, they roost upon the ground. They are
crepuscular--that is, they seek their food in the early mornings and
evenings, and even by moonlight. Their selection of nutriment is
frugivorous, granivorous, insectivorous, and vermivorous. They make
their nests on the ground, and lay twice a year seven or eight eggs.
Their flesh is good, and much sought after.

_Tinamus tataupa_ (Swainson) may be taken as a representative of the
order. Mr. Darwin, in his "Journal of Researches in the Countries
visited by H.M.S. _Beagle_," describes this bird.


The birds belonging to this family are characterised by a short,
crooked, and stout bill, long and pointed wings, a middling-sized tail,
and a merely rudimentary back toe. The size of the _Chionides_ varies
between the Partridge and the Pigeon. The species of _Chionis_,
_Tinochore_, and _Attagis_ are included in this family.

The _Chionides_ are remarkable for their marine habits; they frequent
the sea-beach, and feed on sea-weed and animal remains. They are to be
found in all southern countries. The _Tinochores_ and the _Attagis_ are
natives of Chili and Paraguay: their habits are not known.


The distinctive features of this family are as follows: the bill
straight and slender; the tarsi long and stout; the feet tetradachylous,
and furnished with long and strong claws. This family comprises three
genera: the _Megapodius_, _Alecthelia_, and _Talegallus_.

The _Megapodii_ are but little known. All that has been ascertained is,
that they inhabit marshy localities, fly but little, and run like
Partridges. They lay each of their eggs in a separate hole, and leave
them to be hatched by the heat of the sun. The young birds are able to
dispense with maternal assistance and to provide for their own wants on
leaving the shell. These birds inhabit the isles of the Pacific Ocean.

The _Alectheliæ_ bear a great resemblance to the Megapodii, and are
natives of the same places: their habits have not been studied as yet.

The _Talegalli_, or _Tavons_, inhabit Australia and New Guinea. They
live in low brushwood adjacent to the sea. These birds have a curious
plan in building their nests. They scrape together a large quantity of
dry leaves, of which they form a conical mound five or six feet high. On
the top of this heap they make a hole, in which the female drops two or
three eggs, one on the top of the other. The heat produced by
fermentation, joined with the rays of the sun, gives sufficient warmth
to hatch them.


This family is divided into several genera or tribes; namely, Pheasants,
Peacocks, Pintados, Turkeys, and Alectors.

The PHEASANT tribe comprises not only Pheasants proper, but also the
Domestic Fowls, the Argus, Tragopans, Roulouls, &c. Their
characteristics are as follows:--The head bare; bill stout; wings short
and flight heavy; tail largely developed; plumage extremely brilliant,
and sometimes splendid.

All these birds were originally natives of Asia; some have been
naturalised over nearly the whole face of the earth since time
immemorial; the Pheasant, however, is not so widely spread, although its
range has been much increased.

The Pheasant is remarkable for the extraordinary length of its tail, the
middle feathers of which in one species, Reeves's Pheasant (_Lyramaticus
Reevesii_), sometimes attain a length of seven or eight feet. It is a
bird of slender make, of an elegant form, and the males are adorned with
brilliant plumage; but the hens wear a much more unpretending attire.
The sides of the face, and round the eyes, are bare and tuberculous. The
stronger sex are provided with spurs.

There are many species of Pheasant, but there is no obvious difference
in their habits. We shall, therefore, content ourselves with giving an
account of the Common Pheasant (Fig. 170), which is the species most
widely spread through Europe.

The introduction of the Pheasant into Europe dates at a very early age,
if it is true that it goes back to the expedition of the Argonauts,
about 1300 B.C. The companions of Jason met with this bird on the banks
of the Phasis, in Colchis, whence its name is derived. Struck with its
beauty, they carried it back with them into Greece, whence it gradually
spread over a large portion of the European continent. The Greeks,
believing it to be indigenous to the banks of the Caucasian River,
called it the "Bird of Phasis;" subsequently, however, it was
ascertained that it also inhabited the whole of the South of Asia
(China, Cochin-China, Bengal, &c.).

[Illustration: Fig. 170.--Common Pheasants (_Phasianus colchicus_,

At the present day this bird is found in France, Great Britain, Holland,
Germany, and even Sweden.

Pheasants prefer wooded slopes or marshy plains. Their food is of a
varied character, and is composed of grain, berries, worms, insects, and
snails. They are shy and timid in their nature, taking flight at the
slightest indication of danger. They live in solitude up to the breeding
season, when the male birds select their mates, for they are
polygamous. On these occasions they engage in such desperate conflicts
that the weaker bird is often killed.

[Illustration: Fig. 171.--Golden Pheasants (_Phasianus pictus_, Linn.).]

The hen Pheasant makes her nest on the ground, in the midst of some
dense thicket, and lays from twelve to twenty eggs, which require
twenty-four days to hatch.

The mother does not manifest that care and solicitude for her young
which are so marked in the majority of other birds; she does not even
specially recognise her own progeny, for she pays equal attention to all
the young of her race that surround her. We must not, however, expect to
find much maternal love in a bird which does not shrink from breaking
her own eggs to gratify an unnatural appetite.

The Pheasant is not remarkable for its intelligence, for, in spite of
its suspicious nature, it falls an easy victim to the poacher.

Pheasants, although they breed in a wild state in our climate, are
principally raised in vast enclosures called pheasantries, where all the
necessaries to existence are provided for them. As the females are bad
mothers, it is no unusual thing for their eggs to be hatched by Domestic
Fowls. During the first two months of existence the young Pheasants
require the greatest care, for they are predisposed to numerous
maladies. Their favourite food is ants' eggs.

The flesh of the mature is very savoury, but rather dry, and epicures
consider that it ought not to be eaten till hung a long time, when it is
said to be "high," a requisite which by analogy has extended to other
game. There is one very curious peculiarity common to certain birds
belonging to the family of which we have been speaking, and which is
especially remarkable in the Pheasants--it is that when old females
become unfruitful they assume the plumage of males. It is said that
young Pheasants undergo the same change when deprived of their
reproductive organs.

The Golden Pheasant (_Phasianus pictus_), Fig. 171, and the Silver
Pheasant (_P. nychthemerus_, Linn.), are two beautiful birds, originally
from China and Japan, and now naturalised to Europe. The former, clothed
in purple and gold, bears a golden-yellow tuft on its head; the
black-and-white costume of the latter is not inferior in beauty to the
preceding. Linnæus has named them _Nychthemerus_ (the night and the
day). There are also the Ring-necked or Collared Pheasant, slightly
different from the Common Pheasant, which for some years has propagated
rapidly in France and England; Reeves's Pheasant (_Phasianus veneratus_,
Temm.), indigenous to China, where it is rather rare, and very highly
prized for the beauty of its plumage and the extraordinary length of its
tail--it is said that the exportation of this bird is severely
interdicted; and lastly, the beautiful Lady Amherst's Pheasant, so
called because that lady brought two living specimens to Europe. "I pass
thus some and of the best," as is said in _Hernani_, the French comedy.

[Illustration: Fig. 172.--Pheasant-shooting.]

The ARGUS (_Argus giganteus_, Temm.), Fig. 173, a bird with magnificent
plumage, which inhabits the forests of Java and Sumatra, takes its place
beside the Pheasants, from which it only differs in having the tarsi
longer and unprovided with spurs, and by the extraordinary development
of the secondary feathers of the wings in the male. The tail is large
and round, and the two middle feathers are extremely long and quite
straight. When paraded, as it struts round the female, spreading its
wings and tail, this bird presents to the dazzled eye of the spectator
two splendid bronze-coloured fans, upon which are sprinkled a profusion
of ocellated markings much resembling eyes: it owes its name of Argus to
these spots. In a state of quiescence the wings are folded on the sides,
and attract little attention. Only in the male bird is the gorgeous
display of colouring to be found. The Argus is very timid; its habits
are little known.

The general characteristics of the COCK (_Gallus_) are as follows:--A
middling-sized, curved, and strong beak; head surmounted by a fleshy,
red, and denticulated crest, the lower jaw furnished with two hanging
gills, equally red and fleshy; rather long tarsi, armed with sharp
spurs; short, concave, and obtuse wings; tectiform tail, arched and
falling in plumes, with very developed medium feathers; brilliant
plumage, with metallic reflections. This description applies exclusively
to male birds. Hens, more humble in their costume, are not gifted with
these exterior advantages; their plumage is generally dull and without
attraction, their straight and slightly-raised tails are limited to an
ordinary proportion; their crest is reduced to the most simple
excrescence, and in certain species entirely disappears; lastly, their
legs are without the murderous spur with which the male is armed. They
are also smaller and less vociferous than the male.

[Illustration: Fig. 173.--Argus (_Phasianus Argæ_, Latham).]

The domestication of this family dates from ante-historic times, so that
we can only raise conjectures as to the original country and species
from which the numerous varieties sprang which we now find spread
throughout the world. The species, however, is probably one of those now
living in a wild state in the islands of the Indian Archipelago. They
may perhaps constitute some of the types which have given birth to our
principal domestic races, and which are separated into a number of

Whatever may be the opinion adopted, we know that amongst the species
indigenous to Asia are the Bankiva Cock (_Gallus Bankiva_, Linn.), which
so nearly resembles our village Chanticleer as to be often confused with
it;--the bird, known as Jungle-fowl by Indian sportsmen, inhabits Java,
Sumatra, the Philippines, and Hindostan: it is sometimes called
Sonnerat's Cock (_Gallus Sonneratii_, Latham);--the Bronzed Cock
(_Gallus æneus_, Temm.), the Fork-tailed Cock (_Gallus furcatus_,
Temm.), and the Giant Cock, or Kulm Cock (_Gallus giganteus_, Jardine),
the largest species known. These are considered, not without reason, the
founders of our most extensive races. The last mentioned lives both in a
wild and domestic state in Java, Sumatra, and India proper. The Negro
Cock offers a very remarkable case of contrast, for the crest, gills,
epidermis, periosteum, and feathers of this species are black, but the
flesh is white. The Negro Cock, very largely spread over Belgium and
Germany, still lives in freedom in the Indies. All these species inhabit
thick forests, and their manners are entirely unknown. Consequently,
without further delay, we arrive at the description of the Domestic

[Illustration: Fig. 174.--Cock, Hen, and Chickens (_Gallus_, Briss.).]

The Cock is thick-set and massive, but without heaviness. His upright
and bold walk denotes his pride. Without being an habitual runner, he
moves with rapidity, but when driven to use his wings his incapacity
reveals itself; it is with difficulty he raises himself from the ground,
as if nature had destined him to live always by the side of man,
attached to the earth which feeds them both. The Cock is a perfect model
of a sultan; he attaches an entire seraglio to his train. His love is a
curious mixture of delicate attentions and revolting brutalities. See
him walking in the midst of his companions, he assumes an air at once
proud and defiant. He directs his wives, protects them, watches them
with restless tenderness, and if he finds a savoury morsel he
unselfishly parts with it. When the time for feeding comes, he softens
his voice to invite them to come and peck up the grain spread upon the
ground; again, he is cruel and brutal both to Hens and chickens. Of an
ardent character, the Cock cannot suffer a rival at his side; thus
battles are inevitable when two Cocks inhabit the same poultry-yard.
With flashing eyes, head lowered, and feathers of the neck bristled, the
two adversaries observe each other for a time in silence. At last the
storm breaks with violence; they precipitate themselves upon each other,
and fearlessly fight with both beak and spurs till the earth is reddened
with their blood. These battles, which sometimes last an hour, only
cease to recommence the next day, or till one of the champions succumbs,
acknowledging the supremacy of the victor, and abandoning the place.
The Cock sometimes employs his courage and strength in more noble
contests, for he does not fear to expose his life for the defence of the
poultry-yard. Man, who knows how to utilise even the bad instincts of
animals, has not failed to employ the natural combativeness of the Cock
in ministering to his pleasures. In olden times the Greeks delighted in
cock-fights; the Cocks of Rhodes were particularly renowned for their
game qualities. It is related that Themistocles, marching against the
Persians, who had invaded Greece, and seeing the troops discouraged
before the battle, recalled to them the obstinacy Cocks displayed in
their combats, and then added, "These animals display their courage for
the single pleasure of victory; but you, soldiers! you go to fight for
your gods, for the tombs of your fathers, for your children, for your
freedom." These words reanimated the failing ardour of the Greek troops,
and the Persians were vanquished. In memory of this event the Athenians
consecrated a special day in the year to cock-fighting. The Romans
borrowed this pastime from the Greeks. Even in the present day
cock-fighting is still in favour in various parts of the East. In Java,
Sumatra, and Manilla this amusement is carried to the length of folly.
The inhabitants of these countries scarcely ever travel without a
favourite Cock, which they carry under their arm. It is by no means rare
to find gamblers betting not only their fortune, but even their wives or
daughters, upon the strength and dexterity of a champion bird. In
England the barbarous practice of cock-fighting in former days was a
favourite pastime, nor is it now entirely abandoned. Henry VIII., we
read, instituted rules for this then popular sport. From his example
most of the English kings patronised it. Charles II. and James II. took
it under their special protection. At that time cock-fighting was almost
a science, which had voluminous codes, laws, and regulations,
determining the circumstances of the combat, and settling the interests
of betters. Now, however, it is almost exclusively confined to a few of
the lower classes, the matches generally taking place on one or other of
the few holidays which the hard-working mechanics have at their
disposal. On these occasions the crowd gathers, the bets are arranged,
which sometimes rise to considerable sums. The spectators contemplate
with barbarous pleasure the result of the anticipated combat, as both
adversaries, armed with artificial spurs of pointed steel, are placed in
the cock-pit. When left to themselves, they attack each other furiously,
using their steel spurs with great adroitness (Fig. 175). The fight only
terminates by the death of one of the combatants, and the victor is
exhibited in triumph to the crowd. But his triumph is of short duration;
the late hero called again to do battle, the spur of a more powerful
adversary strikes a vital part, and he in his turn expires in the arena.
The victor upon whom formerly so much interest rested, who excited so
much admiration and such enthusiastic praises, is now in turn
defeated--the former favourite of Fortune is deserted by the fickle
goddess. In the meantime the other birds are ceaselessly heard crowing
defiance, and proclaiming their eagerness for the fray. In the
poultry-yard the Game Cock is quarrelsome, and even cruel; but this may
be said of poultry generally. If one of their companions is sick or
wounded, they unite to put an end at once to his sufferings and life. A
stranger in the yard is certain to meet with a bad reception; the others
set on it in a body, and only cease hostilities at the end of several
days, or in the case of the Cock, who is their lord and master, taking
the new arrival under his protection. Hens feed on anything that comes
in their way; this renders them valuable to country-people, for they
yield a profit without occasioning more expense than that of a few
handfuls of corn in the morning and evening. Grain, herbs, worms,
insects, carrion, rubbish of all kinds, are alike acceptable to them.

[Illustration: Fig. 175.--Fighting Cocks.]

In France Hens begin to have eggs towards the month of February, and
cease about the beginning of autumn, when they moult. By giving them
heating food, they can be made to lay even in winter. They generally
produce an egg daily--sometimes, but rarely, two. Pairing exercises no
influence in this respect; that is to say, Hens have eggs without a
Cock, but these are _clear_ or unfruitful, and can only be used for
food. The cry of the Hen when about to lay is well known. When she has
produced about twenty eggs a desire to sit is manifested: if this is
permitted, twelve or fifteen eggs, placed in a basket filled with straw,
are given her; when, uttering a peculiar clucking and spreading her
wings, she sits upon her treasures, and covers them with so much
perseverance as sometimes to forget to eat or drink, unless food is
brought her. During twenty-one days the eggs are maintained at a uniform
temperature of about 40° Centigrade. At the end of that time the young
chickens burst their shell. The Hen fulfils the duties of a mother with
incomparable devotion and tenderness; she follows her young brood step
by step, calls them to her when they stray, and seeks nourishment for
them, thinking little of her own wants till theirs are satisfied.
Against all aggressors, with every feather bristling and angry eyes, she
warns them, protects them, and defends them. If a bird of prey appears,
she hastens to meet it, and assumes such a menacing attitude, that few
will not immediately take to flight. The chickens develop rapidly. At
the end of a month the crest of the males shows itself; at six months
they have acquired the vigour necessary for reproduction; females begin
to lay about the same time. At the age of three months transforming them
into capons and pullets is performed--names given to those individuals
which have been deprived of the sexual organs. In this condition they
are fattened, and acquire a superior flavour and delicacy of flesh.
Pullets and capons, in losing the generative faculty, lose also the
inherent characteristics of their sex. The temper of the male becomes so
mild that he has been made to perform maternal duties when a Hen has
deserted her chickens to recommence laying, by plucking out feathers
from his stomach, and then rubbing the part with nettles; the chickens
gliding under, allay the pain which the stings have caused, and thus the
bird derives pleasure from his wards, and soon attaches himself to them.
The departments of Sarthe and Ain are celebrated for the pullets there

Hatching is sometimes performed by artificial incubation. In olden times
the Egyptians had recourse to this means to increase the production of
poultry. The method which was used, and which is still employed in
modern Egypt, consists in placing the eggs in a furnace maintained for
twenty-one days at a uniform temperature of 40° C. By this means a
hundred millions of Fowls are annually produced in Egypt. Simple as this
operation appears, it is not without difficulty, or the climate of
Africa assists, for attempts in France have never been crowned with
success. In the Sunda Islands artificial incubation is accomplished in
another manner: here men are found who, for a small salary, remain for
three weeks stretched out and immovable upon eggs placed in ashes.
Antiquity has bequeathed to us the story of a curious incubation made at
Rome by the Empress Livia. This lady being pregnant, and desiring a son,
thought of hatching an egg in her bosom, and drawing a prognostic from
the sex of the chicken. The operation succeeded--the egg having produced
a Cock, the empress concluded that her wishes would be granted. These
were realised, for she brought into the world Tiberius--rather a wicked
bird, as every one knows.

The TRAGOPANS (_Ceriornis_, Swainson) and the JUNGLE-FOWLS belong to
India or the Indian Archipelago, and are all remarkable for the
brilliancy of their plumage. The HOUPIFERES, or, as their name
expresses, Tuft-bearers, strongly resemble our Domestic Fowl. The
Tragopan, which Buffon calls the Horned Pheasant, looks like a cross
between the Domestic Fowl and the Pheasant, but is distinguished by two
small horns, which decorate the head of the male. Lastly, the
Jungle-fowls live in a wild state, being as yet unknown domesticated,
consequently little can be said of their habits, but they probably
differ but slightly from those of the Pheasants.

PINTADOS (Guinea-fowls) have remarkably small heads for their size; beak
and neck short; the tail equally short and drooping; the tarsus very
low, and destitute of spurs; body round; wings short and concave; on the
head is a hard crest of a reddish blue, sometimes replaced in mature
birds by a tuft; the wattles are fleshy, and hang under the beak.

The Common Guinea-fowl (Fig. 176) has a slate-coloured plumage, covered
with white spots; it is indigenous to Africa, and its introduction into
Europe dates from far-distant times; it was known to the Greeks and
Romans. The former made it an emblem of paternal affection. According to
Greek writers, the sisters of Meleager felt such grief at the death of
their brother, that Diana, to terminate their woes, changed them into
Guinea-fowls. The goddess, wishing that their plumage should bear the
trace of their tears, marked it with white spots.

[Illustration: Fig. 176.--Guinea-fowl (_Numida cristata_, Latham).]

The Romans, who highly esteemed the flesh of these birds, propagated
them with the greatest care to figure at their feasts, but after the
invasion of the barbarians they disappeared from Europe, and during the
Middle Ages we never hear of them. The Portuguese re-discovered them in
Africa on their return from the Indies, and again imported them into
Europe, where they have since multiplied to a great extent. But the
turbulent and quarrelsome character of these birds and their noisy and
discordant cries are serious obstacles to their becoming favourites;
they have also ceaseless quarrels with the Hens and Turkeys, their
neighbours, and although not so strong as their antagonists, they fight
them fearlessly. They have been seen to attack the young of other birds,
and split their skulls with a blow of their beaks. They show great
attachment to their own young, yet they occupy themselves but little
with the cares of a family; consequently their progeny is generally
brought up by Hens or Turkeys. Although bad nurses, their fecundity is
very great, and when well fed they lay as many as a hundred eggs in a
year: these are much sought after, and epicures prefer them to those of
the Hen. Their flesh, though good, is not so much esteemed. There are
now several species known in a wild state in Africa, and in a domestic
state in Europe. They are numerous in Arabia, where they are found in
the neighbourhood of marshy places, in little bands composed of a male
and several females. Transported into America after the discovery of
that continent, the common variety is now perfectly acclimated there,
and is even to be found wild in some of the vast forests and savannahs
of that country.

TURKEYS are birds of large size, easily distinguished from other
Gallinacean fowls by the following characteristics:--Bare heads and
necks, decorated with fleshy appendages--those of the neck, which fall
under the head in front of the bird, are capable of being inflated and
much enlarged under the influence of love or anger; a brush of long and
straight hairs hangs at the base of the neck; the tarsi are strong, and
provided with slightly-developed spurs; lastly, the tail is round, of
moderate length, and at the will of the bird can be expanded like a fan.

The Turkey was originally imported from North America, where it still
lives in a wild state; it is frequently met with in the forests which
border the large western rivers of that country, such as the
Mississippi, Missouri, and the Ohio, and it must be studied there to
acquire a correct idea of its habits. The Domestic Turkey is not so
handsome in plumage as is the Wild, but the former generally much
exceeds the latter in size. The colour of the Wild Turkey is brown,
mixed with blue and green, giving out a diaphanous metallic brilliancy.
The full-grown male bird sometimes measures over three feet, and weighs
from twenty to twenty-five pounds. The American naturalist, Audubon,
speaks of having seen one which was upwards of thirty-six. The female is
much smaller, and seldom exceeds ten pounds in weight: her plumage
cannot vie with that of the male in splendour. Although it does not
appear constructed for the purpose, the mature bird is capable of taking
considerable flights, passing with ease in its wild state across such
gigantic rivers as the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, which in every
direction traverse and bisect the middle portion of the great North
American continent; but it, as a rule, only takes wing when all other
means of locomotion are denied, for it runs with surprising rapidity,
distancing the common cur dog with ease, and only abates its speed after
a lengthened pursuit. It accomplishes long journeys on foot; not,
however, caused by atmospheric influence, but want of sustenance in the
country which it inhabits. It is generally towards the beginning of
October that these migrations commence. The Turkeys then unite in troops
of from ten to a hundred individuals, and go towards the regions which
they have chosen for their new abode; the males form a separate drove
from the females, which march at their sides, surrounded by their young
families. The necessity of protecting their young from the brutality of
the old cocks, who will kill them if opportunity offers, inspires the
hen Turkeys with this habit. It sometimes happens that the emigrating
band are stopped by a water-course, when all evince great agitation by
spreading their tails, uttering frequent gobbles, and yielding
themselves to extravagant demonstrations. At the end of a day or two,
after having inspected the neighbourhood, they mount upon the branches
of some of the highest trees, and take to the wing to traverse the
obstruction. Some of the young ones always fall into the water, but they
know perfectly how to swim: when all have reached the opposite bank they
run hither and thither as if they were mad, and from their recklessness
at this time it is very easy to approach and kill them. These birds pair
in February or March, according to latitude; the females produce eggs
six weeks afterwards. At this time the hen secretes herself in a place
unknown to the male, as he would break the eggs. The nest is an
indentation in the ground, lined with soft grasses, moss, and dry
leaves, and in it are deposited her embryo progeny, which are sat upon
with perseverance deserving praise. In this respect they are superior to
all Gallinaceous fowls, even surpassing the Domestic Hen. When the
mothers leave their eggs to seek food they are always careful to cover
them with leaves, the better to screen them from the sight of the Fox,
Lynx, or Crow. The incubation lasts about thirty days. As the time for
hatching approaches, no power can make the mother leave her nest, no
peril will cause her to desert her charge. On being hatched, the young
Turkeys, under the protecting care of the old bird, are led to
sequestered feeding grounds, and do not leave her till the end of
several months. Wild Turkeys have many formidable enemies, the most
destructive being Man, next the Lynx and the Eagle Owl; they are,
therefore, very distrustful, and when on the ground secrete themselves
at the least appearance of danger; but if perched upon a tree they are
less guarded, and consequently can be more easily approached by the
sportsman. On a misty, moonlight night American hunters take their posts
under trees where Turkeys commonly perch. In this situation the game
will receive several discharges without making the slightest attempt to
escape, although numbers of them in succession may have been killed. It
is difficult to explain this apparent apathy, especially when we know
their hurry to fly before the Owl. It is doubtless owing to the want of
sagacity which they manifest under these circumstances, as well as to
their ludicrous aspect and eccentric attitudes, that Turkeys have
gained the reputation of stupidity. This bird, however, sometimes gives
proofs of intelligence, as the following fact, related by Audubon,
shows. He had raised a Wild Turkey from its most tender age, which had
become extremely tame, but the love of independence remained very strong
in the bird, for it could not accustom itself to the pent-up life of its
domestic relations. Thus it enjoyed the greatest freedom; it went and
came, passing nearly all its time in the woods, only returning to the
house in the evening. At length it ceased to come back, and from that
moment dispensed with visiting its birth-place. Some time after,
Audubon, whilst hunting, perceived a superb Wild Turkey, upon which he
set his dog; but, to his great surprise, the bird did not fly, and the
dog, instead of seizing it when it was overtaken, stopped and turned his
head towards his master: greater still was the hunter's surprise when,
having approached, he discovered his ancient pensioner. This Turkey had
recognised the dog, and understood that it would do him no harm,
otherwise it would have scampered off immediately.

[Illustration: Fig. 177.--Wild Turkey.]

Turkeys feed upon herbs, grasses, fruits, and berries of every
description; they are partial to beech and other nuts; and their liking
for wheat and maize is such that they frequent the neighbourhood of
cultivated fields, where they make the greatest ravages. They also
occasionally feed upon insects, frogs, and lizards. The large
destructive grub familiarly known as the Tobacco Worm they are
particularly partial to, and are consequently much encouraged by the
tobacco planters. In a domestic state they are even known to have killed
and eaten rats. One curious peculiarity in the history of the Turkey is
its horror of red; the sight of a scarlet object throws it into the most
comical fury. It is needless for us to vaunt the flesh of the Domestic
Turkey; every one is agreed on this subject. We will only say that, from
the testimony of many travellers and naturalists, the flesh of a Wild
Turkey, killed in winter or spring, before laying, is far superior to
that of the Domestic bird, those coming from Southern Indiana and
Illinois being considered by Americans as the finest. The Turkey, being
indigenous to America, was naturally unknown to the ancients. The
precise date of its introduction into France is not recorded. According
to some, it was at the end of the fifteenth century; to others, only at
the commencement of the sixteenth. Anderson affirms that the first
Turkeys raised and eaten in France were served at the marriage of
Charles IX., in 1570.

The Honduras or Ocellated Turkey (_Meleagris ocellata_, Cuvier) is one
of the most beautiful Gallinaceans; its plumage is magnificent; the tail
is enamelled with large blue eyes, each of which is surrounded with a
circle of brilliant yellow and purple. It inhabits the country
surrounding the Bay of Honduras, Southern Mexico, and all Central
America. At the Regent's Park Gardens, London, is to be seen a splendid
hybrid, bred between the American Wild Turkey and the Honduras species.

The tribe of PEACOCKS comprehends the genera _Pavo cristatus_, Hist.
Anim.; _Pavo javanicus_, Horsfield; and Lophophores. The feature which
essentially distinguishes Peacocks from other Gallinaceans is the
immense tail with which nature has endowed them. This tail, formed of
long, large, and tufted feathers, coloured with the richest shades, is
capable of being raised up like that of a Turkey. When one contemplates
this magnificent appendage, in which purple and gold vie with the most
varying colours of the emerald, and notices the innumerable and
brilliant eyes with which it is studded--when with delight he views its
lofty stature, elegant shape, noble carriage, and, above all, a slight
and mobile tuft, the emblem of royalty, crowning its head--one cannot
help being struck with lively admiration, and spontaneously according
the palm of beauty to the privileged being which unites in itself so
many marvels. The Peacock was known from the earliest time; for it is
mentioned in the Bible as one of the most precious products brought from
Asia by King Solomon's ships. It made its first appearance in Greece
after Alexander's expedition into India. Alexander, it is said, was so
astonished at the sight of this bird that he forbade it to be killed
under the severest penalties. For a long time they were very rare, and
fetched a high price at Athens, and the people from the neighbouring
towns assembled in crowds to see them. From the Greeks they passed to
the Romans; but this nation, more fond of the pleasures of the table
than of spectacles, soon made them figure in their feasts. Peacocks
consequently were rapidly propagated in the poultry-yards of the rich
patricians; and some of the emperors, such as Vitellius and
Heliogabalus, caused dishes of the heads or brains of Peacocks to be
served: from this cause their price became excessive in Rome. Little by
little they spread throughout the empire, and thus the Peacock has
become naturalised in Europe. During several centuries its exquisite and
delicate flesh was in very great favour; but the importation of the
Pheasant, and later that of the Turkey, brought successful rivals for
table honours. The Peacock is now bred principally to please the eye;
and even when it does make its appearance at some ceremonious repast, it
is intended more to gratify the eye than the palate, for the carcass is
invariably decorated with the resplendent tail, spread out in fan-shape.
The Domestic Peacock, which is now the pride of our gardens and parks,
is indigenous to India and the isles of the Eastern Archipelago. There
they still live in large troops in the depths of the forests. They are
so abundant in localities, that it is said the traveller, Colonel
Williamson, being delayed one day in the district of Jungleterry,
counted not less than from twelve to fifteen hundred. The Peacock runs
with such rapidity that it often escapes from pursuing dogs; it takes to
the wing with difficulty, and flies slowly, though it can prolong its
flight to a considerable distance. It feeds upon grain of all kinds,
which it swallows without crushing. In the evening, to roost for the
night, it perches upon the limbs of the highest trees. In a state of
domesticity it retains this fancy for elevated places, and takes
pleasure in mounting on the roofs of houses, upon which it struts and
excites itself, scattering tiles, or tearing up the thatch, as the case
may be; for the devastating instinct appears to be very strongly
developed in it when opportunity offers. This bird also commits great
ravages in cultivated fields. The Peacock at times utters deafening
cries, which contrast unpleasantly with its dazzling plumage--one wishes
for a more harmonious voice with such a magnificent body; but what
animal possesses all perfections? It is polygamous. At the commencement
of the spring the male displays to the females all the splendour of his
plumage; he struts, spreads his tail, delights at the sight of his own
figure, and receives with pleasure the admiration which his charms draw
forth. His vanity knows no bounds; the adulation of his females is not
sufficient for him, he must have eulogiums from man also, and before
him rejoices to display all the riches of his wonderful tail. Complete
master in the art of pleasing, he knows how to manage the transitions of
light and shade so as to present himself to the greatest advantage; and
when he has been gazed at sufficiently, by reiterated struts he marks
his contentment. At the end of August his beautiful plumage falls off,
not to come forth again till the spring. It is said that the Peacock is
so ashamed of having lost that which was his pride, that he then shuns
the sight of man. This is better explained by the fact that the time of
moulting is for this, as for all other birds, a period of sickness; they
consequently retire into solitude, to find there the calm and
tranquillity which their critical state demands. The Wild Peahen lays
from twenty to thirty eggs in a hole hollowed out in the ground. She is
much less fruitful in the Domestic state. She takes the greatest care to
hide her nest from the searching eye of the male, which breaks the eggs
whenever he finds them. Incubation lasts from twenty-seven to thirty
days. The young follow their mother from their birth; at six months they
are reputed adult, and attain their full development at three years. The
Peahen, like the hen Pheasant and the Common Hen, adopts the plumage of
the male when age has rendered her unfruitful, or when, by a premature
atrophy, her eggs have become sterile. The Peacock lives from
twenty-five to thirty years; some authors have wrongly attributed to
them the longevity of a century.

[Illustration: Fig. 178.--Domestic Peacock (_Pavo cristatus_, Wood).]

The POLYPLECTRONS (_Diplectron_, Vieillot) owe their name to the
superabundance of spurs with which they are armed; the males always
possess two, sometimes three. The plumage of these birds, like that of
Peacocks, is sprinkled with glittering ocellations; but their tails are
shorter, and not susceptible of expansion. There are three or four
varieties known, which inhabit India, China, and the isles of Sumatra
and Borneo. Their manners have not yet been studied.

IMPEYAN PHEASANTS are little better known than the Polyplectrons. They
prefer cold climates, which sufficiently accounts for their predilection
for the elevated ridges of the Himalayas. No one has as yet succeeded in
acclimating them in Europe. This is one of the most brilliant
Gallinaceans; its plumage, bedizened with the most lively colours, has
gained for it in India a very significant name--that of the "Golden

Under the name of _Alectors_ (from the Greek +alektôr+), Cuvier has
united a certain number of American birds bearing some resemblance to
the Cock, and has divided them into several varieties: the Hoccos,
Pauxis, Penelopes, Parraquas, and Hoazins.

[Illustration: Fig. 179.--Impeyan Pheasants (_Lophophorus Impeyanus_,

[Illustration: Fig. 180.--Curassow, or Hocco (_Crax alector_, Linn.).]

HOCCOS are analogous in form and size to Turkeys, of which they are the
representatives in their habitat, Central America, Guiana, and Brazil.
Deprived of spurs, they have a large tuft upon the head, formed of
distorted and erectile feathers. They live in numerous troops in the
midst of forests, and feed upon seeds, berries, and buds. Naturally very
gentle, they readily yield to captivity, when they become familiar, and
evince pleasure in the caresses of their masters. Sonnini relates that
he has seen them wander at liberty through the streets of Cayenne,
return to their homes without hesitation, and leap upon the tables to
take their food. Their flesh is exquisite, and in all respects worthy of
the favour of epicures. These different qualities should cause an
honourable place to be assigned to Hoccos in our poultry-yards; it is,
therefore, to be regretted that the attempt to acclimate these birds
made by the Empress Josephine, at the commencement of this century, have
not been renewed.

GALEATED CURASSOWS, or PAUXIS (_Ourax pauxi_, Cuv.), differ but little
physically from the Hoccos. They have the same habits and
characteristics, and easily habituate themselves to servitude.

GUANS or PENELOPES (_Penelope cristata_, Gmelin), and PARRAQUAS
(Latham), are two genera of birds strongly resembling each other; they
have an analogy to Pheasants, but only on account of their general
forms; in short, they possess the confiding and peaceable nature of
Hoccos and Pauxis, and easily submit to the domination of man. Their
flesh is delicious; they also deserve to be acclimated.

The HOAZINS (_Opisthocomus cristatus_, Quoy and Gaimard) inhabit the
savannahs of Guyana. Their flesh, which exhales a strong odour--due, no
doubt, to the vegetables on which they feed exclusively--is far from
being agreeable.


The _Columbidæ_ family establish a transition between real Gallinaceans
and Passerines; in short, they partake of the nature of both. Whilst
they approach the former in their anatomical and purely material
characteristics, such as the structure of their beaks, sternum, and
crops, they resemble the latter in their elegant forms, peaceable
manners, and in all their habits.

Like the Passerines, they are monogamists. The male and female build
their nests together, and share the cares of the incubation and
education of their young; these, when born, are blind, and only covered
with a slight down, and are quite unable to run like young Gallinaceans.
There are generally two Pigeons hatched at the same time; and it is a
very curious fact that there is almost always a male and a female. They
do not quit the nest till they have acquired sufficient strength to use
their wings and fly. During the earliest portion of their existence they
receive no other nourishment from their parents than a sort of pap
secreted in the walls of the gullet; but at the end of some days the
father or mother discharges into their beaks the food which they
themselves take. When they are sufficiently developed, they travel with
the adults in large flocks to seek a milder climate or better feeding
ground: their migrations in the natural state occur in spring and
autumn. What distinguishes them from the true Gallinaceans is that they
have a thumb inserted even with the other toes, and that consequently
they are able to perch; almost all Pigeons pass much of their lives on
trees. Their food consists principally of seeds, berries, and fruits,
sometimes insects, and a peculiar little snail similar to that found in
the Isle of France. Their flesh, generally good, in some species, such
as the Crowned Goura, acquires an exquisite flavour. Thus they form an
immense part in public alimentation, both in a domestic and wild state.
They are shot very extensively at the time of their migration. Although
their flight is noisy, and even presents some appearance of heaviness,
it is easy and sustained, so that Pigeons have been known to accomplish
journeys of surprising length in a few hours.

We will divide the Pigeons into three families--the _Colombi-Gallines_,
the _Colombes_, or, properly speaking, Pigeons, and the _Colombars_.


A certain number of birds rank in this family, which, with the general
forms of Pigeons, still preserve the habits of Gallinaceans; hence the
mixed name of _Colombi-Gallines_. Thus they constantly live on the
earth, build their nests there, and only take refuge upon trees to pass
the night or escape from danger. They run perfectly, but fly badly, and
are sedentary; lastly, some species have cephalic nudities and fleshy
appendages, or long, movable feathers round the neck like the male of
the Domestic Fowl. Physically they are characterised by a slight and
straight beak, and by rather high tarsi. This family comprises a very
large number of species spread throughout Central and South America, the
isles of the Indian Ocean, and a great part of Africa. The compass of
this work will not permit us to examine all: we will merely mention the
most remarkable, the Great Crowned Pigeon (_Columba coronata_, Latham),
very common in New Guinea and the Moluccas. The plumage of this bird is
of a beautiful greyish blue; its head is ornamented with a pretty plume
of straight, long, and tapering feathers; it is about the size of a
Domestic Fowl, and very highly esteemed for the qualities of its flesh;
consequently the inhabitants of the above islands raise it in their
poultry-yards (Fig. 181).

[Illustration: Fig. 181.--Crowned Goura (_Phasianus cristatus indicus_,


Colombes have slender beaks, long wings, and short tarsi. The principal
species are the Wood Pigeons, Common Domestic Pigeons, Carriers, Turtle
Doves, and Passenger Pigeons: the first three are indigenous to Europe.

[Illustration: Fig. 182.--The Wood or Ring Pigeon (_Columba OEnas_,

The WOOD PIGEONS (_Columba OEnas_, Selby), Fig. 182, are the largest
species of this family; their plumage is slaty grey, with bluish,
green, and rose-coloured reflections. They are spread throughout all
Europe, but chiefly in warm and temperate parts. They are very common in
France, where they arrive in numerous flocks early in March, generally
departing in October or November to pass the winter in more hospitable
climates. At the time of their passage the Alpine and Pyrenean hunters
destroy them in large quantities. The Wood Pigeons or Cushats inhabit
forests, and delight among the branches of large trees. They feed upon
acorns and beech-nuts, and are very partial to cherries and
strawberries. With the farmers this bird is far from a favourite, for
its appetite is insatiable, and it is alike destructive to grain in the
ear or germinating. They build their nests in lofty trees. The female,
after having chosen a place, forms the nest out of materials which the
male brings her, such as little dead branches which it detaches from
trees by the aid of its feet or beak; it never picks up the boughs which
strew the ground. This nest is but a rude shelter, scarcely large enough
to contain the young, and sometimes falls to pieces before they are able
to fly; in this case the brood retains, if possible, a position on the
large branches which supported their previous dwelling. Queests, as they
are frequently called, generally lay in March and August. Incubation
lasts twelve days, and the young can take flight about two weeks
afterwards. During all the time of the incubation and education of the
young the male remains near the female, constantly cooing, as if to
break the monotony of her occupation. In the wild state Ring Pigeons are
distrustful and difficult of approach, but their characters become
modified by domestication, or even by an independent life passed in the
neighbourhood of man. Thus young ones taken from their birth familiarise
themselves without difficulty, and do not appear to regret having lost
their liberty. They do not breed in this condition--or at least we do
not know how to make them do so; it is said that the ancients understood
this art.

Ring Pigeons are seen in Paris which have from time immemorial chosen a
domicile in the gardens of the Tuileries, at the Luxembourg, and in the
Champs Elysées. They are very tame, and come almost under the feet of
promenaders. Few inhabitants of Paris have not seen at the Tuileries the
charming spectacle of an old man who attracts round him numbers of Wood
Pigeons and Sparrows, to which he distributes crumbs of bread. The
confidence they show to this kind friend as an acknowledgment of his
goodness is wonderful; they rest upon his shoulders, take the bread from
between his fingers, and even from his mouth, and allow themselves to be
caressed without manifesting the least fright: this is evidence of the
possibility of taming Ring Pigeons.

Wood Pigeons (_Columba OEnas_) have many traits of resemblance to Ring
Pigeons, but they are smaller, justifying the name of Little Queest
which is sometimes given to them; their habits are the same as those of
the preceding species, except that they build their nests in the hollows
of trees, instead of upon the branches, as the former species do. They
are very plentiful in the South of Europe and in Africa. They leave
France regularly in the month of October.

WILD ROCK PIGEONS (_Columba livia_, Selby) delight in rocky and arid
places. They depose their two eggs in the clefts of rocks and ruins.
They are seldom seen in Europe in a state of complete liberty, except
upon some parts of the coasts of England and Norway and certain isles of
the Mediterranean. They willingly sacrifice their independence to live
in pigeon-houses. They are generally regarded as the founders of the
numerous races of our Domestic Pigeons.

DOMESTIC PIGEONS probably sprang from the Wild Rock Pigeons. They are of
two kinds--the Colombier Pigeons and the Aviary Pigeons. The former
enjoy almost complete liberty; they traverse the country all day to seek
for food, and sometimes even return to a wild state. The latter are
quite tame, and the door of their habitation can be left open without
danger; they go a little distance, and always return to their domicile.
If Domestic Pigeons cause some harm to our crops, they amply compensate
for these devastations by the services which they render to agriculture.
They are equally valuable to the breeder and consumer; the former derive
a certain profit from them, and the latter an agreeable and economical
article of food. To give a sufficient idea of the resources which they
supply to public alimentation, we have only to state that certain
species lay as many as ten eggs a year. Further, they supply a manure
which is very efficacious for some soils. Raising Pigeons necessitates
certain precautions which cannot be neglected without bad results: the
greatest cleanliness is necessary in the pigeon-house or aviary; all
turbulent individuals which sow discord, and often injure the fecundity
of females, must be excluded; and the races must be separated as much as
possible the one from the other, in order to avoid the production of
sterile varieties. Amongst the Domestic species the naturalist can study
at leisure the manners of Pigeons, and form an exact idea of their
natures and inclinations; for he can observe them from their first
steps, making their early timid endeavours to raise themselves in the
air; afterwards noting at more mature age the evolutions of the sexes,
and their fidelity to each other through years after pairing. We will
examine rapidly the principal races of Domestic Pigeons.

The first is, as we have said, the Common House Pigeon, differing
slightly from the Wild, which almost exclusively supports the population
of Pigeon-breeders; this is sometimes called the Fugitive Pigeon. The
Blue Rock is only a modification of the Wild Rock Pigeon; in form it is,
however, more elegant, while the plumage is prettier. It is one of the
most fruitful species.

The Pouter Pigeon owes its name to the faculty which it possesses of
inflating its crop to an immense size by the introduction of air. This
peculiarity often destroys them; indeed, when feeding their young, they
find so much difficulty in causing the seeds which they have swallowed
to reascend into their beaks, that they contract a malady which is
frequently fatal.

The Roman Pigeons, thus named because they are very common in Italy, are
easily recognised from the circle of red which surrounds their eyes.

The Swift Pigeon is of small size, its flight is light and rapid, and
its fecundity very great.

The Carrier Pigeons belong to this race. They are celebrated for their
attachment to their birth-place, or to the spot that contains their
offspring, and for the intelligence which enables them to regain their
native countries from whatever distance. Transport them miles from their
homes, even in a well-closed basket, then give them their liberty, and
after a time they will return, without the slightest hesitation, to the
place from which they were taken. This valuable faculty has long been
utilised, especially in the East. The Romans made use of Pigeons as
messengers. Pliny says that this means was employed by Brutus and
Hirtius to concert together during the siege of a town by Marc Antony.
At the siege of Leyden, in 1574, the Prince of Orange employed Carrier
Pigeons to carry on a correspondence with the besieged town, which he
succeeded in freeing. The Prince, to mark his acknowledgment of the
services rendered by these sagacious birds, wished them to be fed with
strawberries, and their bodies to be embalmed after death. We learn from
Pierre Belon, the naturalist, that in his time navigators from Egypt and
Cyprus took Pigeons upon their galleys, and liberated them when they had
arrived at the port of destination, in order to announce to their
families their safe journey. In our century they have been made use of
for similar purposes. The fluctuations of the Bourse were for a long
time sent from Paris to Brussels by means of Carrier Pigeons.

The Tumbler Pigeon owes its name to its curious manner of flying. It has
a habit, after it has risen to a certain height, of throwing five or six

The Wheeling Pigeon describes circles like birds of prey. It is
turbulent, and ought to be banished from pigeon-houses.

The Nun Pigeon is recognised by a kind of hood formed of raised
feathers, which covers the back of the head and neck, and to which it
owes its name. It flies heavily, but is very familiar and very prolific.

The Fan-tailed Pigeon is remarkable for its tail, which is very large,
and raised like that of the Peacock, and for the convulsive trembling
which agitates it, especially at breeding-time. It thrives badly in an
aviary, and is little valued, except as an object of curiosity.

There are two species of Doves--the Turtle Dove (_Turtur communis_,
Linn.) and the Ring Dove (_Turtur risorius_, Selby). The former is the
smallest species of the family of Colombidæ. They are found throughout
Europe, but are more abundant in the south than the north. They arrive
in France in spring, and depart for warmer countries at the end of
summer. They build their nests in large trees in the shady and most
retired parts of woods. They feed on seeds and berries. After harvest
they visit stubbles of wheat or other grain; the abundant nourishment
which they there find makes their flesh extremely delicate and
nutritious. Although naturally wild, the Turtle Dove is easily tamed
when taken young, when it evinces great attachment.

The RING DOVE is indigenous to Africa, where it lives in a state of
freedom. This is the species which, in Europe, is raised in cages and
aviaries. In certain towns of Egypt, particularly Alexandria and Cairo,
they are so tame that they walk in the streets, and even enter houses,
fearless of the presence of occupants. They are prolific, for they lay
every month, except during the moulting season. Their cooing somewhat
resembles a laugh--hence the name of Laughing Dove which has been given
them. The ancients made the Turtle Dove an emblem of tenderness. This
honour is justified by the kind attention which the male shows the
female, especially during the period of incubation.

The PASSENGER PIGEON (Fig. 183) is the _Columba migratoria_ of many
authors: it inhabits North America. They are remarkable for the strength
and rapidity of their flight, and for the migrations which they

The American naturalist, Audubon, says, "Pigeons have been killed in the
neighbourhood of New York, having their crops still full of rice, which
they could not have taken nearer than the fields of Georgia and
Carolina--six or seven hundred miles distant. As their digestion is
sufficiently rapid to entirely decompose grain in the space of twelve
hours, it follows that they must have travelled the above space at the
rate of a mile a minute. One of these birds, if able to keep up this
velocity, could visit the European continent in less than three days."

[Illustration: Fig. 183.--Passenger Pigeons (_Ectopistes migratoria_,

It is not for the purpose of seeking a warmer climate that they
undertake their journeys, but to procure food when the acorns become
scarce in the woods which they inhabit. Their migrations, consequently,
are irregular as to date. Looking at the innumerable and closely-packed
masses of Passenger Pigeons which take part in these voyages confuses
the mind. Audubon one day endeavoured to count the flocks which passed
above him in one hour. He counted a hundred and sixty-three in twenty
minutes, but he was soon obliged to give up, the flights succeeded each
other so rapidly. He says: "The more I advanced, the more Pigeons I met.
The air was literally filled with them. The daylight, in full mid-day,
was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell like flakes in a fall of
snow; the buzzing of their wings stunned me, and gave me a sleepy
sensation." These Pigeons are endowed with very strong sight. When
flying at a considerable height they can perfectly distinguish the
places which will furnish them with the means of subsistence. Having
found a suitable country, they alight upon an immense space of ground,
and in a few minutes completely ravage it. Large quantities of them can
then be destroyed without any apparent diminution in their number. Some
hours after their descent they again take to flight, and regain their
nocturnal domicile, frequently twenty or thirty miles distant, where a
frightful slaughter is often made amongst them. Long before the sun sets
the inhabitants of surrounding counties await them with horses, carts,
guns, and ammunition. Some even bring flocks of pigs, to fatten on the
flesh of the Pigeons which the destroyers are unable to carry away.
Audubon, who assisted at one of these slaughters, has related it as
follows. He says:--"Every one holds himself in readiness, with eyes
directed towards the heavens. Suddenly a general cry of 'They come!'
resounds. The noise which they made, although at a distance, reminded me
of a strong sea-breeze amongst the cordage of a ship, the sails of which
are furled. When they passed above my head I felt a current of air which
astonished me. Thousands were already struck down by men armed with
poles, but they continued to arrive without intermission. Fires were
lit, and it was then a fantastic sight full of frightful magnificence.
The birds precipitated themselves in masses, and pitched where they
could, one upon the other, in large heaps like barrels. Then the
branches gave way under the weight, cracked and fell, bringing to the
ground and crushing the closely-packed flocks which covered every part
of the trees. It was a lamentable scene of tumult and confusion. In vain
I tried to speak, or even to call the persons nearest to me. It was with
difficulty that I could hear the guns fire, and I only perceived they
had fired by seeing them reload their arms. Pigeons continued to come,
and it was past midnight before I noticed any diminution in the number
of the arrivals. The uproar continued all night. At last the day
approached, the noise began to abate a little, and, long before we could
distinguish objects, the Pigeons commenced to start in quite an opposite
direction to that in which they had come in the evening. At sunrise all
that were capable of flying had disappeared. Now it was the Wolves'
turn, the howls of which saluted our ears. Foxes, Lynxes, Cougars,
Bears, Rats, Opossums, and Martins, bounding, running, climbing, pressed
to the quarry, whilst Eagles and Falcons of different species flew down
from the air to take their part of such rich booty. The sportsmen then,
in their turn, entered into the midst of the dead, the dying, and the
wounded. The Pigeons were piled in heaps, each took what he wished, and
the Pigs were left to satiate themselves on the remainder."

These massacres are in nowise injurious to the existence of this
species. In short, according to Audubon, the number of these Pigeons
becomes doubled or quadrupled in a single year.


This family, established by Levaillant, comprises some species which
belong entirely to the hot countries of Asia and Africa. These birds are
characterised by thick, strong, bent beaks, which enable them to break
the envelopes of the fruits which serve them for food. They fly less
rapidly than birds of the Dove family, and coo in a different manner.
They inhabit woods, and build in holes in trees. Their flesh is good.
The principal species are found in Abyssinia, Senegal, and the Indian



People will be strangely mistaken if they imagine that all the birds
which rank in this order possess the faculty of climbing. In reality it
is only the privilege of some, and does not belong exclusively even to
them, for it is found in some of the Passerines. The essential
characteristic of the Climbers lies in this organic disposition--that
the external toe, instead of being placed in front like that in other
birds, is placed behind, by the side of the thumb. For this reason the
denomination of Climbers has been substituted by that of _Zygodactyles_,
which is used by Temminck, Vieillot, and others, and which has the
advantage of perfectly expressing the distinctive characteristic of the
order, for this word signifies _fingers disposed in pairs_. Thanks to
the formation of their feet, the Climbers can clasp the branches of
trees strongly; thus they are almost continually perched. Their flight
is medium, being neither so powerful as that of the Raptores nor so
light as that of the Passerines. These birds feed upon fruits or
insects, according to the strength of their beaks. They chiefly inhabit
warm countries, and their colours are generally brilliant. Lastly, they
are all monogamists, with the exception of the Cuckoo. This order is one
of the least numerous of the class of birds. It comprehends but few
families, amongst which we will mention the Parrots, Toucans, Cuckoos,
Woodpeckers, and Jacamars.


Parrots have large, strong, and round beaks; the upper mandible strongly
hooked and sharp at the extremity, extending beyond the lower, which is
rather deeply hollowed. The tongue, which is thick, fleshy, and
movable, is terminated by a cluster of sinewy papillæ, or by a
cartilaginous gland. The tarsi are very short, and the feet perfected to
such a degree that they really become hands, able to seize, hold, and
retain small objects. Their toes are supplied with strong and hooked
claws, which make these birds pre-eminently Climbers. With the exception
of one single species--the Loriets (_Platycercina Vigorsia_, Sw.)--which
have rather long tarsi and straight claws, enabling them to run with
some rapidity, the Parrots, on the contrary, walk with difficulty. They
drag along the ground with such trouble that they rarely descend to it,
and only under pressing circumstances. Besides, they find all the
necessaries of their existence on trees. They are not more favoured with
regard to their flight, and we can understand that it should be so; for,
living in thick woods, they only require to effect trifling changes of
place, such as from one tree to another. However, some species,
especially the smaller, are capable of a more prolonged and effective
use of their wings. According to Levaillant, some even emigrate, and
travel hundreds of miles every year; but this is an exception. In
general, Parrots are sedentary, and willingly remain in localities
without a desire to leave.

Sociable in their dispositions, they assemble in more or less numerous
bands, and make the forests re-echo with their loud cries. To some
species it is such an imperative necessity to be near each other and
live in common, that they have received from naturalists the name of
Inseparables. At breeding-time each couple isolate themselves for the
purpose of reproduction. The male and female evince the greatest
attachment to each other. The females deposit their eggs in the hollows
of trees and in the crevices of rocks. The young birds are quite naked
when hatched; it is not till the end of three months that they are
completely covered with feathers. The parent birds wait upon them with
the greatest solicitude, and become threatening when approached too
closely by intruders.

Essentially frugivorous, Parrots prefer the fruits of the palm, banana,
and guava trees. They may be seen perched upon one foot, using the other
to bear the food to their beaks, and retain it there till eaten. After
they have extracted the kernel they free it from its envelope and
swallow it in particles. They often visit plantations and cause great
devastation. In a domestic state they are omnivorous. Besides seeds and
grain, they eat bread, and even raw or cooked meat, and it is with
manifest pleasure that they receive bones to pick; they are also very
partial to sugar. It is well known that bitter almonds and parsley act
upon them as violent poisons. They drink and bathe very frequently; in
summer they evince the greatest desire to plunge into water. Captive
Parrots will habituate themselves, if permitted, to the use of wine; it
produces the same effect on them as on the human family, viz., excites
their loquacity and gaiety. They climb in a peculiar manner, which has
nothing of the abruptness displayed by other birds of the same order.
They accomplish their slow and irregular movements by the help of the
beak and feet, which lend a reciprocal support. Like almost all birds of
tropical regions, Parrots are adorned with most beautiful colours, green
predominating; then comes red, and finally blue and yellow. They have
often largely-developed tails.

Notwithstanding their prattling, Parrots are the favourites of men, from
their remarkable talent of imitation. They retain and repeat with great
facility words which they have learned or heard by chance, and also
sometimes imitate, with startling resemblance, the cries of animals, the
sounds of different musical instruments, &c.

By the words that they utter in an unexpected manner, Parrots contribute
to our amusement and diversion, and quite become companions. Is it,
then, to be wondered at that these birds have been eagerly sought since
their introduction into Europe? Alexander the Great brought into Greece
a Parrot which he had found in India. These birds became so common in
Rome at the time of the emperors, that they figured in their sumptuous
repasts. They are now spread throughout Europe in a domestic state.

The species most remarkable for their mimic babbling faculties are the
Grey Parrot, or Jaco, a native of Africa, and the Green Parrot, from the
West Indies and Tropical America.

In the sixteenth century a cardinal paid a hundred crowns for a Parrot
because it recited the Apostles' Creed correctly. Monsieur de la Borde
relates that he has seen a Parrot supply the place of chaplain to a
ship, for he recited the prayer and rosary to the sailors. Levaillant
heard a Parrot say the Lord's Prayer lying on its back, placing together
the toes of its feet as we join our hands in the act of prayer.
Willoughby mentions a Parrot which, when he said to him, "Laugh,
Parrot!" immediately burst out laughing, and cried out an instant after,
"O the great fool who made me laugh!" A keeper of a glass shop possessed
one which, whenever he broke anything or knocked over a vase, invariably
exclaimed, in tones of anger, "Awkward brute! he never does anything

"We have seen a Parrot," says Buffon, "which had grown old with his
master, and partaken with him the infirmities of age. Accustomed to hear
little more than the words, 'I am ill,' when asked, 'How are you,
Parrot--how are you?' 'I am ill,' it replied in doleful tones, 'I am
ill,' and stretching itself on the hearth--'I am ill.'" "A Parrot from
Guinea," says the same author, "being taught on the journey by an old
sailor, learnt his rough voice and his cough so perfectly that they
could be mistaken. Although it had been given immediately after to a
young person, and only heard his voice, it did not forget the lessons of
its former master, and nothing was so agreeable as to hear it pass from
a sweet and pleasant voice to its old hoarseness and the cough of early

Goldsmith relates that a Parrot belonging to King Henry VIII., and
always confined in a chamber bordering upon the Thames, had learnt
several phrases which it heard repeated by the boatmen and passengers.
One day it was let fall into the Thames, when it cried with a strong
voice, "A boat! a boat! twenty pounds to save me!" A waterman
immediately threw himself into the river, thinking that some one was
drowning, and was much surprised to find it was only a bird. Having
recognised the king's Parrot, he carried it to the palace, claiming the
recompense the bird had promised when in distress. The circumstance was
related to Henry VIII., who laughed much, and paid it with a good grace.

The Prince Léon, son of the Emperor Basil, having been condemned to
death by his father, owed his life to his Parrot, which, in repeating
the lamentable accents several times, "Alas! my master Léon!" ended by
touching the heart of this barbarous father. M. Lemaout says:--"In a
town of Normandy a butcher's wife beat her child unmercifully every day.
The infant sank under the ill-treatment. The justice of man made no
remonstrance, but a Grey Parrot which lived in the house of a
rope-maker, opposite to that of the butcher, took upon itself the
chastisement of this unnatural mother. It continually repeated the cries
which the poor child uttered when he saw his mother rush at him with the
rod in her hand--'What for? what for?' This phrase was uttered by the
bird with such doleful and supplicating accents, that the indignant
passers-by entered unexpectedly into the shop, and reproached the
rope-maker with his barbarity. He justified himself by showing his
Parrot, and relating the history of his neighbour's child. After some
months the woman, pursued by the accusing phrase and the murmurs of
public opinion, was obliged to sell her business and leave the village."

The Marquis of Langle, in his "Travels in Spain," writes thus:--"I saw
at Madrid, at the English Consul's, a Parrot which has retained a
quantity of things--an incredible number of stories and anecdotes--which
it retails and articulates without hesitation. It spoke Spanish,
murdered French, knew some verses of Racine, could say grace, repeat the
fable of the Crow, and count thirty louis. They dared scarcely hang its
cage at the windows; for when it was there, and the weather was fine,
the Parrot talked ceaselessly. It said everything it knew, apostrophised
all passers-by (except women), and talked politics. In pronouncing the
word Gibraltar it burst out laughing. One would think it was a man who

An English gentleman bought a Grey Parrot in Bristol, the intelligence
of which was quite extraordinary. It asked for everything it wanted, and
gave orders: it sang several songs, and whistled some airs very well,
beating the measure. When it made a false note it recommenced, and never
committed the mistake again. We have often, when passing through the Rue
Four-des-Flammes, at Montpellier, heard a Parrot which sung and
articulated most distinctly the two verses of this song:--

  "Quand je bois du vin clairet,
  Tout tourne, tout tourne au cabaret."

Parrots imitate not only the words, but even the gestures of those with
whom they come in contact. Scaliger knew one which repeated the songs of
some young Savoyards, and imitated their dances.

[Illustration: Fig. 184.--The Ara Macaw (_Macrocercus_ (Sw.) _ararauna_,
from Brazilian name).]

These birds are more or less susceptible of education. Some, naturally
peaceable, are easily tamed; others, more refractory, submit to
captivity unwillingly. In general, when they are taken young they attach
themselves strongly to those who have care of them.

Parrots have a mania for using their beaks upon everything that comes in
their way. When encaged against their will they utter loud cries, and
sometimes turn their fury upon the bars of their prison. They have been
known to pluck and even tear themselves in these paroxysms. Supplying
them with a plaything is the only means of keeping them quiet under such

These Climbers are endowed with remarkable longevity. The "Memorandums
of the Academy of Sciences of Paris" mention a Parrot that lived in the
family of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in Florence, more than a hundred
and ten years. Vieillot speaks of having seen one near Bordeaux which
was eighty-four years of age. The average length of their life cannot,
however, be exactly ascertained.

[Illustration: Fig. 185.--Ringed Parrakeet (_Palæornis torquatus_,

Parrots rarely breed in Europe; it is true they often lay, but the eggs
are sterile. A few instances have been known in France where, under
favourable circumstances, they have perpetuated their species. Generally
all that we see in our temperate regions are brought from countries
where the majority have been taken from the nest. Different means are
employed to capture the adults, all of which have for their aim to stun
them for an instant, in order to paralyse their movements.

The family of Parrots comprises four principal groups--the Macaws,
Parrakeets, Parrots properly speaking, and Cockatoos.

[Illustration: Fig. 186.--Love-birds (_Psittacula taranta_, Gould).]

The MACAWS (Fig. 184), the largest of the Parrots, are recognisable from
their bare cheeks and long tapering tails. They inhabit South America,
and are arrayed in the most brilliant colours. The principal species are
the Red, the Blue, the Green, and the Black Macaws. The name Arara, by
which they are known in their habitat (Brazil), describes the deafening
cries which they utter. Very familiar, they tame easily, and do not
abuse the liberty granted them, for they never move far from their
dwelling-place, and always return to it. They like the caresses and
attentions of people they know, but do not care for strangers. The Green
Ara is remarkable for its aversion to children. This peculiarity
doubtless arises from the fact that it is very jealous, and that it
often sees children receive the caresses of its mistress. The Macaws
have only the gift of imitation in a slight degree; they are scarcely
able to retain any words, and articulate badly.

PARRAKEETS, much smaller than Macaws, have, like them, long and tapering
tails, but their cheeks are wholly or partially feathered. Some species,
which resemble the preceding group by being more or less destitute of
plumage round the eyes, for this reason have received the name of
Macaw-Parrakeets. Parrakeets are highly esteemed for their vivacity,
gentleness, and the facility with which they learn to talk. Their
plumage is generally of a uniform green; sometimes it is varied with red
or blue. They inhabit South America, the islands of Oceania, the Indies,
Africa, and Senegal.

[Illustration: Fig. 187.--Grey Parrots (_Psittacus erythacus_, Sw.).]

The TABUAN or KING'S PARROT (_Platycercus scapulatus_, Vig.), which
inhabits Australia, belongs to this group. These birds form a curious
exception in the order of Climbers by their terrestrial habits.
According to M. J. Verreaux, they never perch when pursued, but take
refuge on the ground among the herbage.

[Illustration: Fig. 188.--Green Parrot (_Psittacus amazonicus_,

PARROTS, properly speaking, are distinguished from other groups of the
same family by their short square tails. They have feathered cheeks like
Parakeets, and their size is intermediate between them and the Aras.
They are much appreciated on account of their memory, and also for their
habit of repeating what they hear. Parrots are divided into several
species, founded upon the size and the predominating colour of the
plumage. The first of these is generally grey, and consists only of the
Grey Parrot, or Jaco, indigenous to the West Coast of Africa, to which
the chief part of the anecdotes recounted in the preceding pages relate.
Next comes a species the plumage of which is green; the most remarkable
of these is the Amazonian Parrot. The principal colour of the Lories is
red; they inhabit the Moluccas and New Guinea. Love-birds (Fig. 186) are
the smallest of this group; their plumage varies in shades according to
the climates. They are met with in America, Southern Africa, and in the
islands of Oceania.

COCKATOOS have tails of medium length, cheeks feathered, and head
surmounted by a white, yellow, or pink tuft, which they can raise and
lower at will. They are the largest among the race of Parrots of the Old
Continent. They inhabit the Indies and the isles of Oceania, and are
pretty, graceful, docile, and caressing, but are indifferent talkers.
One very remarkable species of this group is the _Microglosse_ (little
tongue), called by Levaillant the "Macaw with the trumpet," from the
formation of its tongue, which is cylindrical, and terminated by a
little gland slightly hollowed at the extremity. When this bird has
reduced into fragments, by the help of its jaws, the kernels of the
fruits which form its nourishment, it seizes the pieces by means of the
hollow which terminates the tongue, and having tried the flavour,
projects the trumpet in front, and makes it pass to the palate, which
has the function of causing it to fall into the throat. This curious
mechanism was disclosed by Levaillant.

[Illustration: Fig. 189.--Sulphur Cockatoos (_Cacatua suiphurea_,


The characteristic of the birds which compose the family of Toucans is
their enormous beak. This is much longer than the head, is curved at its
extremity, dentated at its edges, and possesses a projecting bone at
the middle of the upper mandible. It is not so heavy to bear, and
incommodes the movements of the birds less than might be supposed, for
it is formed of a spongy tissue, the numerous cells of which are filled
with air. Thus it is very weak, and does not serve to break, or even to
bruise, fruits, notwithstanding the idea one forms at first sight of its
strength, for it is not even capable of breaking off the bark of trees,
as certain authors have urged. This wonderful bill encloses a still more
strange tongue; very straight, and as long as the beak, which is covered
on each side with closely-packed barbs, similar to a feather, the use of
which remains a complete mystery to us. This curious instrument so
struck the naturalists of Brazil, where many Toucans are found, that it
furnished these birds with a name. In Brazilian _Toucan_ means

[Illustration: Fig. 190.--Toucan (_Ramphastos toco_, native name).]

Toucans feed on fruits and insects; they live in bands of from six to
ten, in damp places where the palm tree flourishes, for its fruit is
their favourite food. In eating they seize the fruit with the extremity
of the beak, make it bounce up in the air, receive it then into the
throat, and swallow it in one piece. If it is too large, and impossible
to divide, they reject it. They are rarely seen on the ground, and
although their flight is heavy and difficult, they perch on the branches
of the highest trees, where they remain in ceaseless motion. Their call
is a sort of whistle, frequently uttered. Very timid, they are
approached with difficulty. During the breeding season they attack the
weakest birds of their own race, chase them from their nests, and devour
the eggs or nearly-hatched young ones which they enclose. They build
their nests in holes hollowed out by Woodpeckers or other birds. They
all have very brilliant plumage, and inhabit Paraguay, Brazil, and

This family is divided into Toucans, properly speaking, and the
Aracaris. These are distinguished from the former by their much less
size, more solid beak, and longer tail. The most beautiful species of
the family is the Brazilian Toucan, described by Humboldt under the name
of Yellow Toucan (Fig. 191). The beautiful orange feathers which cover
this bird are sometimes employed for ladies' dress. This fashion has
passed from Brazil and Peru into Europe, and muffs made of the throats
of Toucans sell at a great price.

[Illustration: Fig. 191.--Yellow Toucan (_Pteroglossus Humboldtii_,


The general characteristic of the birds ranked in this family
are--slightly-curved beaks of medium dimensions, wings generally short
and concave, and tapering tails. Among the Cuckoos are comprehended
Anis, or Annos (_Cotophagus_, Briss.), Barbets, Trogons, and Touracos,
or Plantain-eaters. Cuckoos have elegant shapes; beaks almost as long as
the head, compressed, and slightly curved; the tail rather long and
rounded. Unlike other birds of the same family, they have long and
pointed wings. Their size is about that of the Turtle Dove. Their flight
is light and rapid, but they are unable to bear strong winds; thus they
cannot accomplish great journeys without resting. There are a great
number of known species belonging to all the countries of the Old
Continent. The whole of Africa, South Asia, China, Japan, and certain
isles of Oceania are inhabited by Cuckoos.

Europe only possesses one species, the Grey Cuckoo, which has been
carefully studied, and to which what we have to say regarding this group
of birds applies. Grey Cuckoos are essentially migratory. They pass the
warm season in Europe, and the winter in Africa or in the warm parts of
Asia. They arrive in France in the month of April, and leave it at the
end of August or the beginning of September. They travel during the
night, not in numerous bands, but alone, or in groups of two or three at
the most. They prefer bushy parts of woods, but often traverse the
country in search of nourishment, which is composed principally of
insects and caterpillars. They are frightfully voracious, which accounts
for the enormous capacity of their stomachs. Of a surly and tyrannical
nature, they suffer no rival of their species in the neighbourhood which
they have chosen; for if some intruder arrives, it is hunted out without
truce or mercy. On account of this unsociable disposition, the Grey
Cuckoos, when captured after attaining maturity, are unable to
accommodate themselves to confinement--in short, adults starve
themselves to death when in captivity. Young birds are less restive, and
gradually accustom themselves to a cage; but they are always
disagreeable on account of their quarrelsome habits, which prevents them
from living caged with feathered companions.

[Illustration: Fig. 192.--Cuckoo (_Cuculus canorus_, Linn.).]

Cuckoos are celebrated for the peculiar manner in which they raise their
progeny. The females do not build a nest or cover their eggs, neither do
they take care of their young. They lay their eggs in the nests of other
birds, generally in those of little insectivorous Passerines, such as
the Lark, the Robin, Hedge Sparrow, Redthroat, Nightingale, Thrush,
Blackbird, and sometimes also in those of the Magpie, Turtle Dove, and
Wood Pigeon. They leave the care of hatching their eggs to these
strangers, and of feeding their young until they are completely
developed. Different explanations have been proposed to justify the
anomaly which seems to make a hard-hearted mother of the Cuckoo. We owe
to M. Florent Prevost the possession of certain information on this
point which had long remained in obscurity. According to this
naturalist, Cuckoos are polygamous, but in a reverse sense to other
birds. Whilst among them males have several females, with Cuckoos it is
the females that have several males, because the stronger sex is much
more numerous than the weaker. These ladies have no fixed home. At the
breeding-time they wander from one district to another, reside two or
three days with a male at one place, and then abandon him, according to
inclination. It is at this time that the males so frequently utter the
cry known to all the world, and from which the bird derives its name; it
is a sort of call or challenge to the females, which in their turn reply
by a peculiar clucking. Cuckoos lay eight or ten eggs in the space of a
few weeks. When an egg has been laid, the female seizes it in her beak,
and carries it to the first unoccupied nest in the vicinity, and there
deposits it, profiting by the absence of the proprietor, which would
certainly oppose such an addition. A Redthroat has been seen to return
unexpectedly, and force the stranger to retire with her burden. The next
egg is placed in a neighbouring nest, but never in the same as the
first. The mother is doubtlessly conscious of the unfortunate position
it would place her two nurslings in if she acted otherwise, for it would
certainly be impossible for two little Passerines to supply the wants of
two such voracious beings as young Cuckoos. Pertinent to this, we will
mention a fact that we have not seen stated in any work on natural
history. It often happens that the female Cuckoo takes from the nest one
of the eggs of the Passerine, breaks it with her beak, and scatters the
shell. Thus, when the mother returns, she finds the same number of eggs
that she left. It is from this cause one frequently sees pieces of
egg-shell surrounding the nests where Cuckoos have deposited their
progeny. This action on the part of the birds denotes perfect reasoning
powers, and consequently real intelligence. What say the great
philosophers to it, who refuse this faculty to animals? When it has thus
left its eggs to nurse, the female comes several times to see that they
are well cared for, and does not leave the neighbourhood till she is
assured that such is the case. She is not quite so free from solicitude
about the welfare of her young as one at first thinks. Thus we can
understand why the female Cuckoo does not herself discharge her maternal
functions. Laying her eggs at considerable intervals, she would find
that to cover several eggs and to raise a young one at the same time was
incompatible, for the latter duty involves frequent absences which would
destroy the eggs, to which, during incubation, an equal and constant
temperature is necessary. It is not then indifference, but thought, that
causes her to confide to others her maternal cares. The young Cuckoo is
no sooner hatched than he employs his infant strength to get rid of the
true children of his foster-parents, in order to be the only one to
profit by their attentions; he glides under the frail creatures, gets
them on his back--where he holds them by means of his raised wings--and
precipitates them one after another from the nest. The mother, though
thus cruelly treated in return for her affection, generally retains her
love for this perfidious child of her adoption, and provides for all its
wants until the time of its departure. Sometimes, however, she is so
angry at the loss of her young, that she brings no nourishment to the
monster, and lets it die of starvation.

HONEY GUIDES, or INDICATORS (_Indicator_, Vall.), have their place next
to Cuckoos. These are little birds inhabiting the interior of Africa.
They feed on insects, and especially delight in the pupæ of bees; they
employ very curious manoeuvres in order to procure them, which denote
perfect intelligence. When one of these birds discovers a hive, it
endeavours to attract the attention of the first person it meets by
frequently-repeated cries. When observed it proceeds to fly, and
sometimes leads thus for great distances till it reaches the place where
the hive is, which it takes care to point out by every means in its
power. Whilst the honey is being taken, the bird remains in the
neighbourhood, observing all that passes, and when that work is
accomplished, it approaches to reap the fruits of its trouble. The bees
make very little buzzing, but flutter round, trying to sting it (but its
skin is impervious to their efforts). Often, however, the despoiled bees
attack its eyes, and sometimes succeed in blinding it: the unfortunate
bird, incapable of guiding itself, then perishes in sight of the place
that witnessed its triumph. The Hottentots esteem Indicators very highly
on account of the services which they render them in revealing the
abodes of bees, and therefore scruple to kill them.

The group of Cuckoos is supplemented by several more species nearly
allied to the genus Cuckoo, upon which it is useless for us to enlarge.
These are Courols, Coccyzus, Couas, and Guiras. All these birds are

ANIS have bulky, short, very compressed beaks, surmounted by a slight
and sharp crest. They inhabit the countries of Equatorial America, and
live in troops of from thirty to forty in the midst of savannahs and
marshes. They feed upon reptiles and insects; they are often seen to
alight upon cattle to devour the insect parasites which torment them.
Hence comes their scientific name of _Crotophaga_ (Linn.), or eaters of
insects. They are of very gentle, confiding natures, and the sight of
man does not frighten them; besides, there is no advantage in killing
them, for their flesh exhales a repulsive odour. Taken young, they
become very familiar, and are as quick as Parrots in learning the art of
speaking. They possess the instinct of sociability in the highest
degree; so much so, that they do not even isolate themselves at
pairing-times as other birds do. They build a common nest either in the
trees or bushes, in which all the females lay and sit on their eggs.
This nest is sometimes divided by walls into a certain number of
compartments, each of which belongs to a female, but generally all the
eggs are mixed, and the females cover them indiscriminately. This
admirable understanding does not cease after the young are hatched.
These are nourished by all the mothers in common. Are not these little
republics models of peace and concord? and does not man find in them
salutary examples of disinterestedness and affection? The two principal
species of the genus are the Razor-bill of Jamaica and the Crow
Blackbird of America. The former is the size of a Blackbird, the latter
of a Jay.

[Illustration: Fig. 193.--African Barbet (_Pogonias hirsutus_, Sw.).]

BARBETS (Fig. 193) owe their name to a number of straight hairs which
they have upon their beak. They are massive in form, and their flight is
heavy. Inhabiting warm countries of both continents, they conceal
themselves in thick forests, either alone or in small bands. They feed
on fruits, berries, and insects. Certain species even attack and devour
young birds. They build in the trunks of trees. The number of eggs they
lay is two, sometimes (though rarely) three. Levaillant asserts that the
old and infirm Barbets are cared for and fed by those in the enjoyment
of all their vigour. He says that, having taken five Barbets in a nest
of Republicans, one of which was so old that it could not stand on its
legs, and having enclosed them in a cage, "the four healthy Barbets
hastened to give food to the one lying in a dying state in a corner of
the cage." He adds that the nest whence he had taken them was filled
with husks and the remains of insects, which led him to think that the
old invalid had been fed a long time by these kind and thoughtful
birds. If this is true, it is worthy the attention of moralists.

[Illustration: Fig. 194--Resplendent Trogons (_Trogon_ (_Calurus_)
_resplendens_, Gould).]

TROGONS, like Barbets, have the bases of their beaks covered with hairs.
Their soft and silky plumage glitters with the most brilliant hues, and
their tails are extremely long. They very strongly resemble the birds of
night by their unsociable nature and melancholy dispositions, and by the
solitary lives they pass in the wildest parts of woods. Like them, also,
they only go out in the morning and evening to seek the insects and
caterpillars which form their principal nourishment. The presence of man
does not frighten them; and this confidence often leads to their death,
for they are actively pursued for their flesh, which is said to be
excellent, and also for their very beautiful feathers. Their name
Couroucous arises from the cry which they utter at breeding-times. They
inhabit the intertropical regions of both continents. The most
remarkable species is the Resplendent Trogon (Fig. 194), indigenous to
Mexico and Brazil. The plumage of this bird is of a magnificent emerald
green frosted with gold: its head is surmounted by a beautiful tuft of
the same colour. The daughters of the Caciques in the New World formerly
used its feathers in their dresses. At the present time creoles employ
them for the same purpose. The most common species is the _Trogon
mexicanus_ (Fig. 195).

[Illustration: Fig. 195.--Mexican Trogon (_Trogon mexicanus_, Gould).]

TOURACOS, or PLANTAIN-EATERS (_Musophagidæ_), are African birds, of
which the general forms bear some analogy to the Hoccos. They live in
forests, and perch upon the highest branches of trees: their flight is
heavy and little sustained.


The birds which compose this family are characterised by a rather long,
conical, pointed beak, and by a very extensible tongue. They form two
genera, Woodpeckers and Wry-necks.

[Illustration: Fig. 196.--Black Woodpeckers (_Picus_ (_Dryocopus_)
_martius_, Gould).

1. Female. 2. Male.]

[Illustration: Fig. 197--Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (_Picus minor_,

WOODPECKERS excel in the art of climbing, but they do not perform it in
the same manner as Parrots. They accomplish their ascensions by
extending their toes, supplied with bent claws, upon the trunk of a
tree, and maintain themselves hanging there; then move themselves a
little farther by a sudden and jerked skip, and so on. These movements
are facilitated by the disposition of the tail, formed of straight
resistant feathers, slightly worn away at their extremities, which,
pressed against a tree, serve as a support to the bird. Thanks to this
organisation, Woodpeckers traverse trees in every direction--downwards,
upwards, or horizontally. Woodpeckers are of a timid and restless
disposition; they live alone in the midst or on the borders of large
forests. Insects and their larvæ form their nourishment; there they seek
them in the trunks and clefts of trees. Their tongue is wonderfully
suited to this work of exploration. It is very long, and, by a peculiar
mechanism, can be projected out far enough to reach objects three or
four inches away. The beak is terminated by a horny point bristling with
small hooks. In many species it is overlaid with a sticky humour,
secreted by two voluminous glands, the effect of which is to catch the
insects which it touches. Whenever the bird darts this tongue into the
crevices, it draws it out more or less laden with insects. If it
perceives an insect that it cannot reach by means of this organ, it has
recourse to its strong beak: striking the tree with redoubled blows, it
cuts the bark, breaks an opening, and seizes the coveted prey. It often
also strikes with its beak to sound the tree, and assure itself that
there is no cavity in the interior which would serve as a refuge for its
prey. If the trunk is hollow, it examines all parts to find the entrance
to the cavity. When it has discovered it, it introduces its tongue; and
if the canal is not large enough to permit it to explore the
hiding-place with success, it increases the size of the aperture. It is
not only to seek for food that Woodpeckers make holes in trees, but also
to establish their nests. Some species, it is true, select the
anfractuosities which they find, but others hollow out their
resting-places according to their tastes. When such is the case, they
inspect soft-wood trees, such as the beech, aspen, &c., to ascertain
those that are decayed in the interior. When they have made their
choice, the male and female peck the bark off the tree by turns, and do
not cease to labour till they have reached the decayed portion. The
cavity which they bore is generally so oblique and so deep that perfect
darkness must surround them. It is doubtless a measure of security
against the little mammals, especially the rodents, the natural enemies
of their family. The female deposits her eggs upon a bed of moss or the
dust of worm-eaten wood. The young birds grow slowly, and receive in the
nest the care of their parents for a long time. In general they have
little voice, or only utter disagreeable cries. At breeding-time they
frequently employ a language peculiar to themselves: they strike the
trunks of dead trees with their beaks, and these blows, which are heard
at a great distance, attract all the Woodpeckers of the neighbourhood.

Woodpeckers are generally considered noxious birds, because they are
supposed to injure the trees of forests and orchards, and for this
reason a relentless war is made against them. They should, on the
contrary, be protected; for they destroy innumerable insects, the real
enemies of timber. Besides, they scarcely ever attack healthy
trees--they reserve their labours for those which are worm-eaten. There
are a great number of species of Woodpeckers known, which are spread
over the two continents: Europe possesses eight, seven of which live in
France either in a settled state or as birds of passage. The principal
are the Black Woodpecker, the Spotted Woodpecker, and the Grey

[Illustration: Fig. 198.--Wry-necks (_Yunx torquilla_, Yarrell).]

WRY-NECKS owe their name to the curious property which they possess of
being able to twist their necks in such a manner as to turn the head in
all directions. They repeat this movement every instant, especially when
surprised or angry. At the same time their eyes become fixed, the
feathers of the head stand up, and the tail expands itself. Like
Woodpeckers, they can hang upon trees, and sustain themselves in a
vertical position for a long time; but they are incapable of climbing.
The weakness of their beaks does not permit of their boring trees;
therefore they seek their nourishment upon the ground, principally
amongst the ant-hills. They lead a solitary existence, which they only
relinquish at pairing-time. They possess a characteristic confidence,
never in the least avoid the presence of man, and become very familiar
in captivity. They build in the natural holes of trees, or in those
hollowed by Woodpeckers. Their plumage is pleasing, and their size is
the same as the Lark. They inhabit all the Old Continent.


[Illustration: Fig. 199.--Paradise Jacamar (_Galbula paradisea_,

Jacamars (Fig. 199) inhabit Equatorial America. They are characterised
by long and pointed beaks, short tarsi, and short or obtuse wings. They
have three or four toes, according to the species. Their habits are
little known; but it is certain that they live isolated or in pairs,
that they are stupid, move but little, and rarely depart from the
neighbourhood where they have chosen their dwelling. All species do not
frequent the same places--some like thick woods, others prefer plains,
while some select damp localities; but all are insectivorous. In their
manners, as well as in their physical characteristics, Jacamars appear
to resemble King-fishers, of which we shall speak in the following



The Passerines (from _passer_, the Latin name for Sparrow) form the
least natural group of the class Aves. Here one seeks in vain for
the homogeneous characteristics which distinguish the preceding
races. Indeed, it is difficult to detect the bonds which connect them
together. For example, where is the link which unites the Crow to
the Swallow or to the Humming-birds? Nevertheless, all these winged
creatures, though so different externally, belong to the _Passerinæ_.
It may be said that this order presents only negative characteristics,
bringing together in a somewhat odd assemblage all birds which are
neither web-footed, wading, gallinaceous, climbing, nor rapacious. The
only physical feature on which much stress can be laid, which is common
to all Passerines, and even that not of much value, is that the outward
toe is united to the middle one in a more or less extended manner.
Their food consists of seeds, insects, and fruit. They live singly or
in pairs; they fly gracefully and easily; their walk consists of a
leap; and they build their nests and take their rest under the thick
foliage of trees, or under the eaves of buildings.

In this extensive group we find most of the songsters whose melodious
voices so charmingly wake the echoes of the woodlands. Some of them have
even the gift of imitating to a certain extent the human voice, as well
as the cries of wild animals. Many are remarkable for their brilliant
plumage; others are appreciated for their delicacy on the table. Man has
reduced numbers of them to comparative tameness, but has altogether
failed in bringing them to a domestic state.

Cuvier divides the _Passerinæ_ into five great families--the
_Syndactyles_, _Tenuirostres, Conirostres, Fissirostres_, and
_Dentirostres_. The first is based on the structure of the feet; the
other four on the formation of the bill. But this classification is very
arbitrary, as it is not always possible to assign a place to certain
groups by an inspection of the beak alone. We shall, however, follow
this distribution, as being that generally adopted.


The _Syndactyles_ (having the toes united) have the external toe nearly
as long as the middle one, and united to it up to the last articulation.
The birds which constitute this group have little analogy with each
other, the physical characters which we shall have occasion to notice
being purely artificial as a means of classification. The family
includes the Hornbills (_Buceros_, Linn.), the Fly-catchers
(_Muscicapidæ_), the King-fishers (_Alcedo_, Linn.), the Bee-eaters
(_Merops_, Linn.), and the Momots (_Prionites_, Ill.).

The HORNBILLS, or CALAOS, are remarkable for their enormous development
of beak, which is long, very wide, compressed, and more or less curved
and notched, and in some species surmounted by a large helmet-like
protuberance. This immense beak is nevertheless very light, being
cellulose, as in the Toucans. The Hornbills have in some respects the
bearing of the Crow: this led Bontius to class them among the Crows,
under the name of Indian Crow (_Corvus indicus_). They walk with
difficulty, and their flight is clumsy, their favourite position being
on a perch at the summit of lofty trees. Great flocks of these haunt the
forests of the warmer regions of the Old World, especially Africa,
India, and the Oceanic Archipelago. They build their nests in the
hollows of trees. They are omnivorous, and the fruits, seeds, and
insects of those regions are their principal food; yet they feed also on
flesh. In India they are domesticated, their services in destroying rats
and mice being much appreciated. The plumage of the Hornbill is black or
grey, of various shades; but there is a species described by Dr. Latham
and Dr. Shaw, under the name of the Crimson Hornbill, which Mr. Swainson
thinks may prove to be a link between Toucans and Hornbills, and thus
combine the beauty of plumage of the former with the peculiarity of form
of the latter. Their flesh is delicate, especially when fed on aromatic
seeds. Many species are described, varying in size, among which the
Rhinoceros Hornbill (_Buceros rhinoceros_), Fig. 200, is the most worthy
of notice. This bird is so named from the singular protuberance with
which its bill is surmounted: this is a smooth horny casque or helmet,
curving upwards from the bill, somewhat resembling the horn of the
rhinoceros. It is a native of India and the islands of the Indian Ocean.

[Illustration: Fig. 200.--Rhinoceros Hornbill (_Buceros rhinoceros_,

The FLY-CATCHERS (_Muscicapidæ_) are a family of insectivorous birds,
many of which are British, comprehending, according to Temminck, the
Todies (_Todus_), distinguished by long, broad, and very flat bills,
contracting suddenly at the tip. Characteristics:--Tail short, slender,
and rounded; legs long and weak; toes short, the outer one more or less
united to the middle one. _T. viridis_, the only species, according to
Temminck, has a bright green plumage above, whitish beneath; a scarlet
throat; sides rose colour; and the tail-coverts yellow. It is a native
of South America and the Antilles; and Sir Hans Sloane, under the name
of "Green Humming-bird," describes it as "one of the most beautiful
small birds he ever saw." Mr. Browne states that it is a familiar little
bird, and will often let a man come within a few feet to admire it
before becoming alarmed. "It keeps much about the houses in country
parts," he adds, "flies slow, and probably may be easily tamed."

It lives almost entirely on the ground, feeding on insects, which it
catches in the evening. It builds its nest in the crevices on river
banks, or in the soft rocks, in which it hollows out a dwelling by means
of its bill and feet.

The KING-FISHERS (_Alcedo_), the Martin-fishers of some authors, form a
highly interesting group, of which _Alcedo ispida_ (Linn.) is the only
known species indigenous to Britain. M. Vigors finds an intimate
resemblance between them and the Todies. The King-fishers are very
singular birds. Their bill is strong, straight, and angular, being of
immense length compared with their size; the tip of both mandibles
acute; the commissure perfectly straight; the head strong and elongated;
wings and tail of moderate size; tarsi short, and placed far back (Fig.
201). The King-fisher (_A. ispida_) has behind each eye a patch of light
orange brown, succeeded by a white one; from each corner of the mandible
proceeds a line of rich blue, tinged with green; the crown of the head
is deep olive green; the feathers are tipped with a verdigris shade;
chin and throat with yellowish white; breast, belly, and vent with
orange brown; tail a bluish green; shafts of the feathers black; and the
legs a pale brick red. This beautiful bird is as interesting in manners
as in appearance. Living on the banks of rivers, they feed almost
exclusively on fish. The King-fisher watches patiently from a fixed
station, generally a naked twig overhanging the water, or a stone
projecting above the surface, for its prey: in this position it will
sometimes wait for hours, absolutely immovable. When the fish comes
within reach, with great rapidity it pounces upon it, seizing it in its
powerful mandibles, and after destroying it by compression, or by
knocking it against a stone or the trunk of a tree, it swallows it head
foremost. When fish is scarce it feeds also upon aquatic insects, which
it seizes on the wing. Its aërial movements are rapid and direct, but
weakly maintained, being performed by a series of quick, jerking beats
of the wings, generally close to the surface: the action of the wings is
so rapid as to be scarcely perceptible. The short tarsi render the
King-fisher a bad walker.

[Illustration: Fig. 201.--King-fishers (_Alcedo ispida_, Linn.).]

The King-fisher is a solitary bird, living generally in secluded places,
and is rarely seen even with birds of its own species, except in the
pairing season. Like the Todies, they build their nests in the steep
banks of rivers, either in the natural crevices, or in holes hollowed
out by water rats; and these dwelling-places are generally disfigured by
the fragments of their repast. Father and mother sit alternately, and
when the young are hatched they feed them with the produce of their
fishing. The bird has a shrill and piercing note, which it utters on the
wing. Their flesh is very disagreeable.

The King-fisher is the Halcyon of the ancients, who attributed to it
after death the power of indicating the winds. The seven days before and
the seven days after the winter solstice were the Halcyon days, during
which the bird was supposed to build its nest, and the sea remained
perfectly calm. To its dead body the attributes of turning aside
thunder-bolts, of giving beauty, peace and plenty, and other absurdities
were ascribed. Even now, in some remote provinces of France, the dead
birds are invested with the power of preserving woollen stuffs from the
attack of the moth; hence they are called Moth Birds by drapers and
shopkeepers. They are inhabitants of almost every region of the globe,
and comprehend a great number of species, spread over Asia, Africa, and
America.[32] Europe possesses one species not larger than a Sparrow, and
which is remarkable for the rich colouring of its feathers. What,
indeed, can surpass the brilliancy of the King-fisher as it suddenly
darts along some murmuring brook, tracing a thread of azure and emerald?
Some authors separate the King-fishers, properly so called, or riverside
birds, from the Bee-eaters and other Fissirostral birds, which, while
they resemble each other in many physical characteristics, differ
essentially in their habits; in short, while the one haunts the river,
feeds upon its inhabitants, and nests upon its margin, the other keeps
to the woods and forests, feeds upon insects, and builds in holes in

    [32] In China a great number of species are to be found, all robed
    in the most brilliant plumage, nine of which we have collected.--ED.

The _Ceyx Meninting_ of Lesson (_Alcedo Biru_ of Horsfield) very closely
resembles the King-fisher of Europe in its habits; it darts in short,
rapid flight along the surface of lakes and rivulets, emitting shrill,
discordant sounds; it perches on trees on the river banks, and feeds on
small fishes and aquatic insects. The tarsus is smooth, the inner toe
suppressed; in other respects its habits are those of the King-fisher.

The BEE-EATERS (_Meropidæ_) have the beak long, thin, slightly curved,
and pointed, the mandible having a trenchant edge; the tarsi short; the
wings long and pointed; the tail well developed, tapering, or forked.
They are slender, light, and clamorous; their cries are incessant, while
they skim through the air on rapid wing with well-sustained flight.
Their name of Bee-eaters they take from their principal food, which
consists of various Hymenoptera, especially bees and wasps. They seize
their prey either on the wing, like the Swallows, or they hide
themselves at the opening of their hives, and snatch up all that enter
or depart. They are skilful in avoiding their sting. Living together in
numerous flocks, they rapidly clear a district of wasps and wild bees.

They build their nests in the banks of rivers or rivulets, in holes
which they excavate to the depth of six or seven feet. Some species are
highly esteemed as table delicacies by the French.

[Illustration: Fig. 202.--Common Bee-eater (_Merops apiaster_, Sw.).]

The Bee-eaters inhabit the warmer regions of the Old World, such as
Bengal, the west coast of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, Morocco, and
Malta. One species alone is found in Europe, the Common Bee-eater
(_Merops apiaster_), Fig. 202. From the coast of Africa it migrates in
small flocks into the countries skirting the northern shores of the
Mediterranean. Some individuals proceed into France, Switzerland, and
Germany; others spread themselves over Turkey and the southern parts of
Russia. In England it is occasionally met with in Cornwall, Devonshire,
and along the Hampshire coast. It has been shot in the Mull of Galloway.
In France it arrives in the month of May, and remains but a short time.
As a rule it rarely ventures further north than the South of France.

The MOMOTS (_Prionites_, Illiger) are birds still very imperfectly
known. They are remarkably massive in form, heavy and slow on the wing.
They are placed by systematists near the Toucans (_Ramphastos_), from
similarity of habits, and especially from the structure of the tongue,
which is in both long, and so much ciliated at the sides as to resemble
a feather. The feet, however, are totally different from those of the
Toucans. In the Momots the beak is long, robust, and crenated at the
edge. They are very wild, and lead an isolated life in the thick forests
of South America, where they build in holes in trees.

[Illustration: Fig. 203.--Momot (_Prionites_, Sw.).]


The Passerine Tenuirostres are characterised by a long slender beak,
straight or curved, but always without indentation. They are
insectivorous, and comprise the Hoopoes, Humming-birds, Creepers, and

The HOOPOES (_Upupa_, Linn.) have the beak long, slender, triangular,
and slightly curved. This group, which Mr. Gray designates the
_Upupidæ_, includes a number of birds whose general form presents the
greatest analogy, but which possess their own peculiarities of plumage
and special physiognomy. This has necessitated its subdivision into
sub-genera, of which the Hoopoes (_Upupa_), the Promerops (Brisson), and
the Epimachus are worthy of notice.

[Illustration: Fig. 204.--Hoopoes (_Upupa epops_, Linn.).]

The Hoopoes are easily recognised from the double range of plumes which
form an arched crest on their head, which they have the power of raising
at pleasure. These feathers are, in the Common Hoopoe, of a ruddy buff
colour, tipped with black. They are solitary birds, living by preference
in low grounds and humid places, where they prey on the worms, insects,
and terrestrial mollusks. They are migratory, and are occasionally found
in the British Islands in autumn: instances have occurred of their
breeding there. They take their departure for warmer regions in
September. They have a light and graceful walk, and nearly pass their
existence on the ground, rarely perching, and flying with visible
effort. They have no song, and only utter two notes, which may be
rendered by the syllables _zi, zi; houp, houp_. They nest in the clefts
of rocks or walls, and in holes in the trunks of trees. When captured
young, they become very tame, and seem to be susceptible of great
attachment to those who take care of them.

The Hoopoe (Fig. 204) is found in summer as far north as Denmark and
Sweden; and southward, in France and Italy, at Gibraltar and Ceuta, and
in Egypt, where it breeds, as it probably does over Northern Africa. It
has been seen occasionally at Madeira, and is abundant at Trebisond,
whence it comes every year to pass the summer season in Europe. During
the spring and summer it abounds all over France. At the period of its
departure--that is to say, in the month of September--it is plump enough
to be a choice morsel for the table, as its flesh is very delicate.

The EPIMACHUS are remarkably beautiful birds. When at maturity the
side-feathers develop themselves in delicate lines or elegant panicles,
while their plumage, richly coloured, is brilliant with diaphanous
metallic reflections. Little is known of their habits. They are natives
of Australia and New Guinea. The very remarkable species, _E. multifil_
(Fig. 205), has six long fillets on each side of its body. The equally
striking species, _E. magnus_, has the elongated side-feathers raised
and curling, of a glittering steel blue, azure, and emerald green; the
breast and belly lustrous with the same diaphanous tints. This bird is
an inhabitant of New Guinea.

[Illustration: Fig. 205.--Epimachus (_Epimachus multifil_).]

The PROMEROPS are distinguished from the other _Upupinæ_ by the absence
of the crest, by their very long tail, and by their forked and
extensible tongue. They are natives of Africa, and their habits, like
those of the former, are little known.

The _Colibri_ of Cuvier may be divided into Humming-birds
(_Trochilidæ_), or species having the beak straight, and true _Colibri_,
having the beak curved. With this slight difference, the _Trochilidæ_
and _Colibri_ closely resemble each other. They have the same slight,
elegant figure, the same brilliancy of plumage, and the same
habits--describe the one, and you describe the other. We must be
permitted, therefore, to treat of them together.

The HUMMING-BIRDS (_Trochilidæ_) are the most lovely of the winged race.
Nature seems to have endowed them with her rarest gifts. In creating
them she surpassed herself, and exhausted all the charms at her
disposal; for she imbued them with grace, elegance, rapidity of motion,
magnificence of plumage, and indomitable courage. What can be more
delightful than the sight of these little feathered beauties, flashing
with the united fires of the ruby, the topaz, the sapphire, and the
emerald, flying from flower to flower amid the richest tropical
vegetation? Such are the lightness and rapidity of some of the smaller
species, that the eye can scarcely follow the quick beat of the wings.
When they hover they seem perfectly motionless, and one might fancy they
were suspended by some invisible thread.

Specially adapted for an aërial life, they are unceasingly in motion,
searching for their food in the calyx of flowers, from which they drink
the nectar with so much delicacy and address that the plant is scarcely
stirred. But the juice and honey of flowers, as some authors affirm, are
not their only food--such unsubstantial diet would be insufficient to
sustain the prodigious activity displayed almost every moment of their

The tongue of the Humming-bird is a microscopic instrument of marvellous
arrangement. It is composed of two half-tubes placed one against the
other, capable of opening and shutting like a pair of pliers. Moreover,
it is constantly moistened by a glutinous saliva, by which it is enabled
to seize and hold insects--an arrangement not without its analogy in the

Proud of their gay colours, the Humming-birds take the greatest care to
protect their plumage. They frequently dress themselves by passing their
feathers through their bills. Their vivacity often amounts to petulance,
and they frequently manifest belligerent propensities not to be expected
in such minute creatures. They attack birds much larger than
themselves, harassing and pursuing them without intermission,
threatening their eyes, and always succeeding in putting them to flight.
They frequently contend with each other. If two males meet on the calyx
of a flower, bristling with anger, and uttering their cry, they rush on
one another. After the conflict is over the conqueror returns to reap
the reward of his valour.

[Illustration: Fig. 206.--Nest of Humming-bird.]

The nest of the Humming-bird (Fig. 206) is a masterpiece. It is about
the size of half an apricot. The materials are brought by the male, and
arranged by the female. These consist of lichens, and are most
artistically interwoven, the crevices being closed up with the bird's
saliva: the interior is padded with the silky fibres furnished by
various plants. This pretty cradle is suspended to a leaf, sometimes to
a small branch, bundle of rushes, or even to the straw roof of a hut.
The hen bird lays twice a year a pair of eggs of a pure white, about the
size of a pea.

After an incubation of six days the young are hatched; a week later they
are capable of flight. During the breeding season the males are tender
and demonstrative, and both parents show much affection for their

These little creatures are universally admired for their elegance and
beauty, and the names given them are generally descriptive of their
excessive minuteness. The creoles of the Antilles call them Murmurers;
the Spaniards _Picaflores_; the Brazilians _Chupaflores_, or
Flower-suckers; finally, the Indians call these darlings Sunbeams.

Humming-birds are much sought after--not for their flesh, which is
valueless from its minute quantity, but for their feathers: these ladies
turn to various uses, such as collars, pendants for the ears, &c. Some
of the Indian races which have been converted to Christianity employ
them to decorate the images of their favourite saints. The Mexicans and
Peruvians formerly employed them for trimming mantles. The French
soldiers who shared in the Mexican expedition report that pictures with
the feathers of the Humming-bird are fresh, brilliant, and effective.

Humming-birds cannot be preserved in captivity--not that they do not
become familiar and affectionate, but their extreme delicacy unfits them
for confinement, and in spite of the utmost care that can be bestowed on
them, they will die in a few months. In their habitat they are killed
with very small shot or with the _sarbacane_: if desired alive, they are
taken with a butterfly net.

Among the most formidable enemies of the _Trochilidæ_ may be reckoned
the Monster Spider (_Mygale avicularia_), which spins its web round
their nests, and devours eggs or little ones; even the old birds are
sometimes its victims. Humming-birds are scattered over the whole of
South and North America, even as far north as Canada; but in Brazil and
Guiana they are most abundant. At least five hundred species are known.
Cuvier included them in his genus _Colibri_. Mr. Gould has described
three hundred of which he has actual specimens; these he divides into
fifty-two genera. Among the more remarkable species we may note the
Topaz-throated Trochilus (_T. pella_, Gould), a native of Brazil; the
Sickle-winged Humming-bird (_Trochilus falcatus_, Sw.); Gould's
Humming-bird (_Ornismya Gouldii_, Less.); the Double-crested
Humming-bird (_Trochilus cornutus_, Wied.); Cora Humming-bird (_Ornismya
cora_, Less.); the Giant Humming-bird, which attains the size of the
Swallow; the Dwarf Humming-bird, whose size does not exceed that of a
bee; the Bar-tailed Humming or Sapho Bird of Lesson (Fig. 207), a native
of Eastern Peru; and the Racket-tailed Humming-bird, so named from the
shape of its tail, which spreads out at the extremity in the form of a

[Illustration: Fig. 207.--Bar-tailed Humming-bird (_Trochilus
sparganurus_, Lesson).]

The CLIMBERS (_Scansores_, Vig.) among birds, such as the Woodpeckers,
are characterised by an arched beak and a stiff pointed tail. The
family comprehends several genera and sub-genera, of which the principal
are the Climbers, properly so called, as the Creepers (_Certhia_), the
Wall-Creepers (_Tichodroma_), the Picumnus, the Furnarius, the Sucriers,
the Soui-mangas, and the Nuthatches (_Sitta_).

[Illustration: Fig. 208.--The Creeper (_Certhia familiaris_, Linn.).]

The CREEPERS (_Certhia_) are small Climbing birds which live and build
their nests in the holes they bore in the trunk or in the natural
hollows of trees: the insects to be found under the bark are their food.
Looking at the form of their slender beak, it is difficult to imagine
how it can penetrate the hard covering of an oak, for which they exhibit
a marked preference. The Tree-Creeper (_Certhia familiaris_) is spread
over nearly every European country, and is very common in France. The
Wall-Creeper (_Tichodroma muraria_, C. Bonap.), called also Wall-Climber
(the _Grimpereau des Murailles_ of French authors), owes its name to its
habit of climbing the walls of dwellings. Supporting-points are not
found in their tails, as in the Woodpeckers. Grasping the tree with
their claws, they assist their feet by a slight movement of the wings.
They feed on insects, and lead a solitary life on the mountains, only
descending into the plains with the early frosts of winter. They are
found diffused over all the South of Europe.

The PICUMNUS (_Climacteris picumnus_, Temm.) have form and habits very
similar to the Creeper, but the beak is stronger and more boldly curved.
They are natives of Brazil and Guiana.

[Illustration: Fig. 209.--Furnarius (_Furnarius_, Lesson).]

The FURNARIUS (_Furnarius figulus_, Spix.) live singly or in pairs in
the plains of Chili, Brazil, and Guiana. They feed principally on seeds,
but also on insects. They take up their residence with much confidence
in the neighbourhood of man. Their nests (Fig. 209) are remarkable for
their construction, being in the form of an oven, whence their name.
This structure it builds upon trees, on palisades, or on the window of a
house. It is remarkable for its size as compared with its inhabitant,
measuring not less than from twelve to fourteen inches in diameter; it
is entirely formed of clay, and the interior is divided by a partition
into two compartments, the outer and inner, the latter being that in
which the female lays her eggs. The male and female alternately bring
small balls of earth, out of which the edifice is constructed, and they
labour so industriously that it is sometimes finished in two days. Some
species construct their nests on trees, interlacing them with spiny
branches, and providing one or many openings; that of the _Annumbi_ is
fifteen inches in diameter by twenty inches in height.

The SUCRIERS (_Cinnyridæ_) are American birds, so called from their
attachment to saccharine substances. They feed on honey they extract
from flowers, and the sap from the sugar-cane, the juice of which they
suck through crevices in the stem. Like the Humming-birds, they have the
tongue divided into two parts, by which they are enabled to seize
insects, which form a part of their food. They are small in size, and
their plumage is brilliantly coloured. Among the _Cinnyridæ_ we find the
_Guits-guits_, ingenious little creatures which construct a nest in the
form of a horn, which is suspended from the flexible branches of a
shrub: in order to protect their young from the attacks of earwigs, the
opening is below.

[Illustration: Fig. 210.--Sun-birds (_Certhia chalybeia_, Linn.).]

The SOUI-MANGAS (Fig. 210) have the same partiality for sugar exhibited
by the last, justifying their name, which signifies "sugar-eater" in the
Malagash tongue. They are natives of Southern Africa and India, and
represent in the Old World the Humming-birds of the New. They are gay
and sprightly, and decked in the most brilliant colours. Like the other
_Cinnyridæ_, they love to plunge their tongue into the corolla of
flowers and extract its sweets. Their most brilliant colours are
displayed in the breeding season.

The NUTHATCHES (_Sitta_), Fig. 211, have the beak straight, pyramidal,
and pointed, covered at the base with small feathers directed forward;
the long toes are furnished with claws strong and crooked; their habitat
resembles that of the Creepers. The Nuthatch is found in Oceania.

[Illustration: Fig. 211.--Common Nuthatch (_Sitta europæa_, Gould).]


The _Conirostral Passerinæ_ are characterised by a strong, robust beak,
more or less conical, and without notches. They are generally
granivorous, but some species are insectivorous or carnivorous. This
group includes the Birds of Paradise, Crows, Rollers, Starlings,
Sparrows, Tits, and Larks.

The BIRDS OF PARADISE have the beak straight, compressed, and strong,
the nostrils covered with velvety feathers. In brilliancy of colouring,
and in graceful, pendent, gossamer-like plumage, they take precedence in
the feathered creation.

They have a very restricted habitat, being only found in New Guinea,
Ternate, and in the island of Papua, situated to the north of Australia:
there they dwell in the thick forests, feeding on fruit and insects.
Occasionally they are found living in solitude, but more frequently are
to be met in large flocks, altering their residence with the change of
the monsoon.

Their flight is very swift, and has been frequently compared by
Europeans resident in the East to that of a Swallow; in consequence,
they have bestowed on the Bird of Paradise the name of Swallow of

[Illustration: Fig. 212.--The Great Emerald (_Paradisea apoda_, Linn.).]

It is owing to the long lateral plumes, which they most perfectly
control in the air, that they are so buoyant; at the same time, this
unusual amount of plumage almost entirely stops their progression
against a head wind.

When the Bird of Paradise was first spoken of in Europe few believed
that it existed. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we remember that it
was affirmed that these gorgeous birds were without legs, and hung on to
the branches of trees by their long aërial plumes; that the female
deposited her eggs under the feathers on the back of the male; that
they passed the breeding season in Paradise; and many other stories
equally absurd.

The inhabitants of Papua capture these birds, for their plumage is of
great commercial value. The method they adopt is to place themselves in
the tops of the highest trees: when thus concealed, they attract the
birds within reach of their blow-pipes by whistling.

The Birds of Paradise are divided by Vieillot into _Parotia_,
_Lophorina_, _Cincinnurus_, and _Samalia_. The most remarkable among
these is _Paradisea apoda_, the Great Emerald, as it is sometimes called
(Fig. 212), the throat and neck of which are of a bright emerald green,
from which circumstance it has received one of its popular names, while
on its sides are shaded tufts of yellow feathers which float on the
breeze, forming an elegant aërial plume, and giving the bird a meteor
look as it shoots through the air. They live in flocks in the vast
Papuan forests. When prepared for migration--for they change their
quarters with the monsoons--the females assemble in small flocks on the
tops of the loftiest trees, and utter their call to the males, each
flock of fourteen or fifteen being attended by one male.

[Illustration: Fig. 213.--King Bird of Paradise (_Cincinnurus regius_,

The King Bird of Paradise (_Paradisea regia_, Linn.), Fig. 213, is an
inhabitant of the Molucca Islands, where it is scarce. Little is known
of its habits. The beak, which is furnished at the base with small
feathers pointing forward, is slender, convex, and slightly compressed
at the sides. The hypochondrial feathers are broad, elongated, and

In the Superb (_Lophorina superba_), Fig. 214, the beak is furnished
with elongated feathers, extending half its length; the feathers of the
neck, rising just behind the head, expand into a wing-like form.

[Illustration: Fig. 214.--The Superb (_Paradisea superba_, Latham).]

[Illustration: Fig. 215.--Golden-throated Sifilet (_Paradisea aurea_,

In the Sifilets (_Parotia_) the beak is furnished with short feathers
for half its length, and is slender, compressed laterally, notched and
curved at the tip; they have long, broad, and loose plumes covering the
sides and abdominal part. Of this group the Gold-throated Sifilet of
Buffon (_Parotia sexsetacea_, Latham), Fig. 215, is a fine example. It
obtains its name from the three thread-like feathers on each side of the
head expanding into a lancet shape at the extremity, and which form a
very striking ornament.

The birds which constitute the CROWS (_Corvidæ_) are characterised by a
very strong beak with cutting edges, broad at the base, flattened
laterally, and hooked towards the point; the nostrils covered with stiff
feathers directed forward; also by strong claws and long pointed wings.
They are divided into four groups or sub-genera--namely, _Corvus_, the
Crows properly so called; the Magpies (_Pica_); the Jays (_Garrulus_);
and the Nut-cracker (_Nucifraga_).

The genus _Corvus_, as limited by modern naturalists, comprehends the
Raven (_C. corax_, Lesson), the Carrion Crow (_C. corone_, Temm.), the
Royston Crow (_C. cornix_, Selby), the Rook (_C. frugilegus_, Linn.),
the Jackdaw (_C. monedula_, Linn.).

All these species have in many respects the same characteristics, the
same aptitude, and the same habits. With the exception of the Raven and
Magpie, which live in pairs, the others reside together in large flocks,
whether they are in quest of their daily food or roosting at night. They
are all possessed of the same intelligence, the same cunning, the same
mischievous habits, the same gift of imitation, though in different
degrees, and the same provident habit of amassing provisions in secret
places. This last peculiarity in tamed birds degenerates into a mania,
which leads them to carry off and hide everything that attracts their
attention, especially gems and bright articles of metal. The whole group
are susceptible of domestication.

The Crows, especially the Raven and the Carrion Crow, are pre-eminently
omnivorous. Living or dead flesh, fish cast up on the shore, insects,
eggs, fruit, seeds--nothing comes amiss to them. Their depredations are
enormous. Thus Ravens, not content with raising a tribute on moles,
wood-mice, and leverets, venture into poultry-yards, and without
ceremony appropriate chickens, ducklings, &c. Buffon even asserts that
in certain countries they fasten upon the backs of buffaloes, and after
having put out their eyes, devour them. As for the Carrion Crows,
according to Lewis, it is certain that they attack the flocks in Scotch
and Irish pastures. Lastly, all Crows delight in digging up newly-sown
ground, eating with avidity the germinating seed. On this account the
agricultural population are generally their bitterest enemies,
destroying them when opportunity offers. In certain parts--Norway, for
instance--laws were made ordering their extermination. But this policy
was short-sighted: if they did harm, they also did good, for the
quantity of noxious grubs and larvæ formerly devoured by them, and
consequently kept in check, became most formidable foes to the farmer,
and most difficult to overcome. How is it that men will not use their
brains--that they actually destroy the animals provided by a bounteous
Creator, and whose utility is most conspicuous?

The flesh of the Raven and the Carrion Crow exhales a very bad odour,
doubtlessly caused by the quantities of putrid animal matter they
consume; consequently, it is unfit for human food. Not so, however, with
the Rook. This bird, when taken young, is not only eatable, but by some
deemed a delicacy.

Crows possess a vigorous and sustained flight; they have a keen sense of
smell, and excellent vision. By exercising these latter qualities they
become aware where food is to be obtained, and as they wing their way
towards it they constantly utter their cry, as if inviting their
companions to join them: this croak, as it is called, is very harsh and
dissonant. The plumage being of a sombre funereal black, and the voice
so unmusical, have doubtless been the reasons why they have long been
considered birds of ill omen. When taken young, they are tamed with
great facility, even to permitting them to go at large, for they will
neither rejoin their own race nor desert the neighbourhood where they
have been kindly treated. True, they may go into the fields to seek for
food, but when the increasing shadows predict the approach of night,
their familiar resting-place in the house of their protector will be
sought. They become much attached to those who take notice of them, and
will recognise them even in a crowd. Their audacity and their malice are
incredible. When they take an antipathy to any one, they immediately
show it. They suffer neither cats nor dogs to approach them, but harass
them incessantly, tearing from them their very food. Finally, they
choose secret hiding-places, where they store up all that tempts their
cupidity or excites their covetousness. They even learn to repeat words
and phrases, and to imitate the cries of other animals. These facts are
confirmed by numerous anecdotes related by naturalists of undoubted

Pliny speaks of a Raven which established itself in one of the public
places of Rome, and called out the name of each passer-by, from the
emperor to the humblest citizen. We have all laughed heartily at the
recital of an adventure which happened to an awkward horseman who lost
his seat, while a Raven perched on a branch of a tree above him cried
out with solemn voice, "How silly!"

Dr. Franklin thus speaks of a Raven of his acquaintance which had been
brought up at a country inn:--"It had," he says, "great recollection of
persons, and knew perfectly all the coachmen, with whom it lived on the
greatest intimacy. With its special friends it took certain innocent
liberties, such as mounting on the top of their carriage and riding out
with them until it met some other driver with which it was on terms of
similarly close friendship, when it would return home." The same Raven
had unusual sympathy with dogs in general, and especially those which
happened to be lame. These it loaded with the most delicate attentions,
keeping them company and carrying them bones to gnaw. This excessive
kindness to animals which are rarely in the good graces of Ravens arose
from this bird having been reared along with a dog, for which it
entertained such strong regard, that it attended it with unremitting
assiduity when it had the misfortune to break its leg.

The same author mentions another Raven which was captured in Russia, and
came to be confined in the Jardin des Plantes, of Paris. It recognised
Dr. Monin when he stopped accidentally before its cage. It had belonged
to him ten years before, and when brought before its old master it
leaped upon his shoulder and covered him with caresses. The doctor
reclaimed his property, and the bird was henceforth an ornament to his
house near Blois, where it learnt to address the country-people as
"great hogs." Dr. Franklin raised one of these birds himself which
showed wonderful powers of imitation. "He called himself Jacob.
Sometimes it made such a noise at the bottom of the stairs that you
could only imagine it was caused by a party of three or four children
quarrelling with great violence; at other times it would imitate the
crowing of a cock, the mewing of a cat, the barking of a dog, or the
sound produced by a rattle for frightening away birds from a
wheat-field; then a silence would ensue; but soon after the crying of a
child of two years of age would be mimicked; 'Jacob! Jacob!' its own
name, probably it would then call, repeating the cry at first in a grave
tone, then with shriller intonation and more vociferously; again another
silence; but after a pause, a man seems to knock at the gate; if it is
opened, enter Jacob, who runs about the room, and finally mounts on the
table. Unfortunately, Jacob was a thief--and that was not his least
fault; spoons, knives, forks, even plates, disappeared, with meat,
bread, salt, pieces of money--especially if new; he carried off
everything, and hid all in some secret hole or corner. A washerwoman of
the neighbourhood was accustomed to dry her linen near our window,
fixing the clothes on the line with pins; the bird would labour with a
perseverance truly wonderful to detach these, the woman chasing him off
with bitter maledictions about her fallen linen; but he would only fly
over into his own garden for safety, where he would indulge in a few
malicious croakings. One day I discovered, under some old timber,
Jacob's hiding-place. It was full of needles, pins, and all manner of
glittering objects."

Mr. Charles Dickens was partial to keeping Ravens in his youth, and has
related some of his experiences in the preface to "Barnaby Rudge." He
had two great originals. "The first was in the bloom of his youth, when
he was discovered in a humble retreat in London and given to me. He had
from the first, as Sir Hugh Evans says of Anne Page, 'good gifts,' which
he improved by study and attention in a most extraordinary manner. He
slept in a stable--generally on horseback--and so terrified a
Newfoundland dog by his preternatural sagacity that he has been known,
by the mere superiority of his genius, to walk off unmolested with the
dog's dinner from before his face. He was increasing in intelligence and
precocity when, in an evil hour, his stable was newly painted. He
observed the workmen closely, saw that they were careful of their
pigments, and immediately burned to possess some of them. On their going
to dinner, he ate up all they left behind, consisting of a pound or two
of white-lead. Alas! this youthful indiscretion terminated in death.

"Whilst yet inconsolable for the loss, another friend of mine," adds Mr.
Charles Dickens, "discovered an older and more gifted Raven at a village
inn, which he prevailed upon the landlord to part with for a
consideration. The first act of this sage was to administer to the
effects of his predecessor, by disinterring all the cheese and halfpence
he had buried in the garden--a work of immense labour and research, to
which he devoted all the energies of his mind. When he had achieved this
task, he applied himself to the acquisition of stable language, in which
he soon became such an adept that he would perch outside any window and
drive imaginary horses all day long, with great skill in language.
Perhaps I never saw him at his best, for his former master sent his duty
with him, and said, 'if I wished the bird to come out very strong, to be
so good as show him a drunken man;' which I never did, having
(unfortunately) none but sober people at hand. But I could hardly have
respected him more, whatever the stimulating influence of this sight
might have been. He had not the least respect for me, I am sorry to say,
in return, or for anybody but the cook, to whom he was attached--but, I
fear, only as a policeman might have been. Once I met him unexpectedly,
about half a mile off, walking down the middle of the public street,
attended by a pretty large crowd, and spontaneously exhibiting the whole
of his accomplishments. His gravity under this trying ordeal I never can
forget, nor the extraordinary gallantry with which, refusing to be
brought home, he defended himself behind a pump until overpowered by
numbers. It may have been that he was too bright a genius to live long,
or it may have been that he took something pernicious into his bill, and
thence into his maw--which is not improbable, seeing he new-pointed the
greater part of the garden-wall by digging out the mortar, broke
countless squares of glass by scraping away the putty all round the
frames, and tore up and swallowed in splinters the greater part of a
wooden staircase of six steps as well as the landing--but after some
three years he was taken ill, and died before the kitchen fire. He kept
his eye to the last upon the meat as it roasted, and suddenly turned
over on his back with the sepulchral cry of 'Cuckoo.'"

Crows (_Corvus_) are universally diffused over the globe. The Raven
(_Corvus corax_), Fig. 216, and the Carrion Crow (_Corvus corone_), are
sedentary birds, and never voluntarily abandon the place they have
elected for their home. The Hooded Crow (_Corvus corone_), the Rook
(_Corvus frugilegus_), and the Jackdaw (_Corvus monedula_), are
migratory in their habits, only visiting the countries of Southern
Europe on the approach of winter. The Royston Crow (_Corvus cornix_)
inhabits the lofty mountain regions of Europe, descending into the
plains during winter. Finally, the Senegal Crow (_C. senegalensis_,
Temm.) is exclusively confined to Africa.

[Illustration: Fig. 216.--The Raven (_Corvus corax_, Lesson).]

The MAGPIES are distinguished from the Crows by their shorter wings,
longer tail, and by their variegated plumage; but for this difference,
they greatly resemble the previously described in appearance and habits.
Like the Crows, they are omnivorous, but they generally avoid dead prey;
they have the same desire, whether in the wild or domestic state, to
store away provisions and hide glittering objects. Their instinctive
habit of appropriating all sorts of plunder is one of the causes of
their popularity. Every one has heard the true story on which the drama
of _The Maid and the Magpie_ is founded--how Ninette was accused and
pronounced guilty of robbing her master, and when executed found to
have been innocent, the true culprit being the pet Magpie of the house.

The Magpie is a bold, impudent bird, which is easily put to flight by
man, but will fearlessly harass a dog, a fox, or any of the smaller
birds of prey. Having caused one of these to retreat, it pursues it
vigorously, rousing by its cries all the birds of its kind; and what
with its own energy and the combined efforts of its kindred, it
generally succeeds in utterly discomfiting the intruder. Its action is
unceasing, its movement short and jerky; but it is heavy on the wing. It
cries and chatters incessantly. Hence the proverb to "chatter like a
Magpie." It builds its nest of withered shrubs, dry sticks, and sand, on
the highest branch of some lofty tree, it is and equally remarkable for
its form, size, and solidity. This fabric has many beginnings: the
foundation of the last and permanent structure is laid with infinite
precautions, to avert observation. This care is taken, according to M.
Nordmann, in order to mislead those who are spies on its actions; for it
is in this last nest that the female deposits her eggs. If this fact
were clearly established, it would show a great amount of cunning in the

The Magpie lays seven eggs, which the parent birds hatch with care, each
bird sitting alternately. They show great attachment to their progeny,
and continue to exercise their protection and solicitude until the young
are well advanced towards maturity.

The Magpie is tamed with facility, and soon becomes familiar,
assiduously following its master everywhere, and eagerly seeking his
caresses, so that it is necessary sometimes to shut it up to get rid of
its importunities. It readily learns to repeat a few words, "mag" being
the favourite in its vocabulary. The ability to pronounce words is said
to be increased by extending the soft fibrous slit which binds the lower
part of the tongue to the palate. But, compared with the beautiful
glossy bird of the thicket, the domesticated Magpie, draggled and
mutilated, is a miserable-looking object.

The Common Magpie (_Pica melanoleuca_), Fig. 217, abounds in all parts
of the world. Cultivated valleys with natural or artificial woodlands
on their slopes; low ground diversified with fields; pastures and moors
partially covered with plantations; fertile plains fenced in with
wooded hedgerows, and studded with farm-houses and cottages, are the
type of landscape they prefer. In spring plumage the Magpie is a fine
bird, the feathers of the back being of velvety black, while the breast
and a part of the wings are pure white.

[Illustration: Fig. 217.--Common Magpie (_Corvus pica_, Linn.).]

In the Brazils and Paraguay we find another species, whose whole plumage
is a fine cerulean blue, with the exception of the head and throat,
which are black. In China there is also a Magpie of beautiful
cobalt-blue plumage; its two centre tail feathers are very long, barred
with black, and tipped with pure white; the bill and legs are red. It is
extremely shy, and occasionally seen in flocks. By the inhabitants it is
frequently taught to speak.

The JAYS (_Corvus glandarius_) have short bills, which are slightly
notched at the tip; head rather large; feathers on the upper and
anterior part of the head erectile when the bird is irritated; those
feathers at the base of the upper mandible are stiff, with short barbs.
It is not less shy than other members of the family, although it
frequents gardens, where it feeds on beans and peas, of which it seems
to be particularly fond. Its food, however, is not confined to fruit and
vegetables, as it picks up worms, insects, the eggs of small birds, and
crustacea, after the manner of Crows and Magpies. Naturally irascible
and quarrelsome, they are nevertheless easily tamed when taken young,
and soon learn to pronounce a few words. They abound in Europe and the
Indies. The European Jay (_Garrulus glandarius_), Fig. 218, is a pretty
bird of soft and blended plumage, the feathers of the fore part of the
head elongated, oblong, and erectile: its general colour is a delicate
brownish red tinged with grey, approaching to purple on the back. The
most conspicuous trait of the plumage is the patch of ultramarine blue,
banded with blackish blue, on the primary coverts.

[Illustration: Fig. 218.--European Jay (_Garrulus glandarius_, Belon).]

[Illustration: Fig. 219.--The Nut-cracker Crow (_Nucifraga_, Briss.).]

The American variety of Jay is not quite as large as the European
representative. Its plumage is less brilliant. In characteristics they
are much alike, being equally mischievous and dreaded by the smaller
feathered denizens at the period of nesting.

The NUT-CRACKER (_Nucifraga caryocatactes_) is furnished with a long,
strong, and straight bill, with which it can penetrate under the bark of
trees when in search of insects, and open the cones of firs and pines,
on the kernels of which it feeds; failing these, it eats the hazel-nut
and wild fruit, from which circumstance its name is derived. They
inhabit the mountain forests of Europe and Asia, building their nests in
the trunks of trees, to which they are capable of clinging, but not of

[Illustration: Fig. 220.--European Roller (_Galgulus_, Briss.).]

The ROLLERS (_Coracias garrula_), Fig. 220, have in their general
appearance and habits considerable resemblance to the Jays; but they
differ from the beak being more robust, and the nostrils uncovered; they
are also more timid, withdrawing into the thickest parts of the woods,
which are their favourite haunts. When taken young from the nest it is
tameable. Dr. Meyer, of Offenbach, and others, have succeeded in rearing
them; but although they become so tame as to know those who attend to
their wants, they never grow familiar. Their favourite food consists of
insects and their larvæ, worms, and the smaller reptiles; but in their
absence they feed on berries, seeds, and certain roots.

The bill of the Roller is black towards the point, becoming brown at the
base, with a few bristles; the irides are formed of yellow and brown
circles; the head, neck, breast, and belly present various shades of
bluish verditer, changing to a palish green; the plumage of the upper
part of the body is a brilliant azure blue on the shoulders, and reddish
brown on the back; rump feathers purplish. Wing primaries dark bluish
black, lighter on the edge; tail feathers pale greenish blue. They
abound in Europe, Africa, and Southern Asia. Although the natural
habitat of the bird is oak and beech forests, M. Vieillot tells us that
in Malta, where trees are scarce, the bird nests on the ground. In
Barbary it has been observed to build on the banks of the rivers, and
Pennant observes that where trees are wanting it builds its nest in
clayey banks.

[Illustration: Fig. 221.--Starling (_Sturnus vulgaris_, Swainson).]

The STARLINGS (_Sturnidæ_) are characterised by a straight bill,
depressed towards the point. They are remarkable for their vivacity, and
grave, sombre plumage, lit up with brilliant metallic reflections of
green and blue. They are sociable birds, living in numerous flocks,
being, says Selby, "particularly abundant in the fenny parts of
Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, where they roost among the reeds.
Before retiring to rest they perform numerous manoeuvres in the air, the
whole colony frequently describing rapid counter-flights round a common
centre. They will sometimes continue repeating the eccentric evolutions
for half an hour before they finally settle for the night." Their
favourite food is seeds and berries, and occasionally insects, worms,
and small terrestrial mollusks. They choose for their nests
well-protected places, such as the hollows of decaying trees, crevices
of walls, the belfries of old churches, the ledges of roofs, and
sometimes even the interior of pigeon-houses. The nest is formed of dry
grass, in which it lays five light blue eggs. The Starling is accused of
seeking the shelter of the dovecot for the purpose of sucking the
inhabitants' eggs, but this is now found to be a calumnious error." They
are diffused over all quarters of the globe. There are two species
described among European birds--_Sturnus vulgaris_ (the Common
Starling), and _Sturnus unicolor_ (the Sardinian Starling), which is
black, and without spots, with the anterior feathers very long,
tapering, and drooping from the base of the neck. It is found in Algeria
among the rocks, where it builds. It passes the winter on the African
coast of the Mediterranean, in company with the Common Starling. Its
flesh is bitter, and consequently unpleasant to the taste, but it is
sought after for its docility, and for the ease with which it is taught
to speak.

[Illustration: Fig. 222.--The Pensile or Baltimore Oriole (_Icterus
baltimorus_, Wood).]

The BALTIMORE ORIOLES (_Xanthornis baltimorii_, Sw.) have the bill broad
at the base, nearly conical and pointed; the upper mandible has the
dorsal line slightly arched, the ridge narrow, the sides flat and
sloping at the base. They are chiefly American birds, and have
considerable resemblance in form and habit to the European Starlings.
Like them, they are sprightly, light, and very rapid on the wing, live
together in large flocks throughout the year, feeding on seeds, berries,
and especially insects, and frequently committing ravages on cultivated
fields and orchards. Some of this genera exhibit remarkable industry and
skill in the construction of their nests: the most ingenious represents
a kind of purse, about a yard in length and a foot in diameter, the
mouth or entrance being placed sometimes at the upper extremity,
sometimes on the side. Naturalists have subdivided them into many
smaller groups or genera, the most important being the one here
described, and which may well be taken as an example. They are confined
entirely to North America.

[Illustration: Fig. 223.--The Beef-eater (_Buphaga africana_,

The BEEF-EATERS (_Buphagus_, Briss.), Fig. 223, owe their name to a
singular habit they have of lighting on the backs of ruminating
mammalia, and picking off the insects or extracting the larvæ of OEstri
which infest them--an operation which cattle submit to with great
pleasure. Their food is not confined to the larvæ of the OEstri; they
feed also upon the wood-bug and locusts: hence they are likewise called
Locust Hunters. They generally unite in small flocks of six or eight.
They are very wild, and take flight with a sharp cry of alarm on any one
approaching their haunts.

Among the congeners of the Beef-eater may be placed the Colius (Briss.
and Linn.), which, like that bird, is an inhabitant of Africa. They are
small, about the size and shape of the Yellow-hammer, and have a tuft on
the head. They live in flocks of from twelve to twenty, which nest in
common, and feed on fruit and young birds. According to Levaillant, they
creep on the branches of trees, with the head downwards; and, strange to
say, even sleep in this peculiar position, pressing one against the
other. Their flesh is said to be very delicate.

[Illustration: Fig. 224.--Crossbills (_Loxia curvirostra_, Linn.).]

The CROSSBILLS (_Loxiadæ_) are remarkable for the form of their bill,
the mandibles being compressed and recurved, crossing each other in
contrary directions, the terminations being hooked, forming an
instrument admirably adapted for dividing the scales of fir-cones so as
to disclose the germs, which are favourite portions of their food. They
are sometimes found near orchards, feeding on the kernels of apples,
which their bill readily cuts. They are said to commit great ravages on
the fruits of Normandy when they pass through that province, which they
annually do in great flocks. This family present this peculiarity, which
is almost unique among birds--that they build their nests and lay at all
seasons. The Crossbills haunt the wooded mountains of the North of
Europe and America.

[Illustration: Fig. 225.--Grosbeak, or Hawfinch (_Loxia coccothraustes_,

The SPARROW (_Passer_) is, perhaps, the best-characterised genus among
the Passerine Conirostres. In it are included a great number of species
with bills more or less thick at the base. Coming to the most remarkable
of them, we have the Grosbeak (_Fringilla coccothraustes_, Temm.), Fig.
225, which is the type of the genus, for it is distinguished by the
possession of a bill which is about three-quarters of an inch long, not
less than half an inch in thickness at the base, and of immense strength
when the size of the bird is considered, which scarcely exceeds that of
the Thrush. It feeds on seeds, berries, and insects; the kernels of the
hardest fruit cannot resist the powerful implement with which it is
provided. Widely diffused throughout Europe, it is always met with in
England during autumn, continuing with us till April, but it has not
been recorded as breeding here. It is constantly found in France, where
it appears in open country or woods, according to temperature. It is a
quarrelsome and unsociable bird; and if placed in confinement with
others, it will undoubtedly maltreat, and perhaps kill them.

The Americans possess many species of _Fringilla_, some of them having
plumage of a fine rose colour.

[Illustration: Fig. 226.--Bullfinches (_Loxia pyrrhula_, Penn.).]

The BULLFINCHES (_Pyrrhula vulgaris_, Gould), Fig. 226, are pretty
little birds. Their cheeks, breast, and belly are a bright crimson,
shaded with orange red; grey round the shoulders, with black head. They
feed on various kinds of seeds or berries. They are easily tamed, being
of a gentle, docile disposition. Their attachment to their master, and
the ease with which they are taught to pipe, are their principal
recommendations. In their natural state they construct their nest in the
most inaccessible part of the thicket, usually in a black or white thorn
bush. This is composed of small dry twigs, lined with fibrous roots.

[Illustration: Fig. 227.--Siskins (_Fringilla spinus_, Penn.).]

The SISKIN (_Carduelis spinus_, Yarrell), Fig. 227, may be mentioned
among the numerous songsters which charm with their melodious notes. It
is very pretty, although less richly coloured than the Goldfinch and
others, its congeners. It is neat and compact in form; its bill
resembles that of the Goldfinch, but is more compressed, the two
mandibles in some specimens meeting only at the base. The plumage is
soft, blended, and glossy.

The HOUSE SPARROW (_Passer domesticus_, Yarrell), Fig. 228, is among the
most interesting of the Passerinæ. It abounds all over Europe, from its
most southern regions up to extreme north.

Every one is acquainted with this little bird; lively, pert, and
cunning, the true _gamin_ of the winged race. It lives in flocks in the
neighbourhood of dwelling-houses, and even in the heart of large towns;
it is familiar, but its familiarity is circumspect and sly. It haunts
our streets and public places, but is careful to keep men and boys at a
respectful distance. It has a notion that the friendship of the great is
dangerous, and its prudence counsels it to avoid intimacies which might
have troublesome consequences; it is only after multitudinous proofs of
good offices that the Sparrow will form an unreserved treaty of
friendship with man. The Sparrow quoted by Buffon, which not only
followed its soldier master everywhere, but would recognise him from all
the others in the regiment, proves they are both intelligent and capable
of affection.

[Illustration: Fig. 228.--House Sparrows (_Fringilla domestica_,

Sparrows are eminently sociable, seeking their food and building their
nests near each other, whether it be in crevices of walls or under the
eaves of houses, in hedges or trees, or in the deserted nests of
Swallows, which they have the effrontery to appropriate. In their nest,
which is a bulky, soft, and warm structure, lined with wool, bristles,
and hair, the female deposits from four to six eggs three times a year;
their fecundity is consequently very great. They are omnivorous, but
prefer seeds and the larvæ of insects to all other food.

Oceans of ink have flowed to prove the ravages committed by Sparrows on
the corn-fields, and to demonstrate that they should be exterminated by
the farmer. But it is now generally agreed that the Sparrow is a
benefactor, and belongs to the list of useful birds. Have we not seen in
the Palatinate that after the Sparrow was proscribed and exterminated,
the inhabitants were under the necessity of reimporting them in order to
arrest the ravages of insects, which, in consequence of this bird's
absence, had multiplied in a frightful manner?

[Illustration: Fig. 229.--Goldfinches (_Fringilla carduelis_, Linn.).]

[Illustration: Fig. 230.--Linnets (_Fringilla linota_, Penn.).]

The GOLDFINCH (_Carduelis elegans_, Yarrell), Fig. 229, is at the same
time the most gentle and peaceful of birds, and one of the prettiest of
European races. It has the back brown, the face red, with a bright
yellow spot upon each cheek; its voice is full, sweet, and harmonious;
it is exceedingly docile, easily tamed and raised as a cage-bird; in the
aviary it soon becomes familiar, testifying great attachment to those
who take charge of it; it readily learns to sing and go through various
exercises, such as drawing up the vessel containing its food and drink,
firing a miniature cannon, and other similar tricks.

The LINNETS (_Linota cannabina_, Yarrell), Fig. 230, have considerable
analogy to the Goldfinch. They are, like them, extremely sociable,
except at the period of incubation; that duty over, the individuals
begin to muster in small flocks towards the end of autumn, which
increase as the winter advances, when they betake themselves to
sheltered districts, and to the neighbourhood of villages and
farm-houses in search of food. They associate with various species, such
as the Mountain Linnet, Green Linnet, and other small birds. The nest of
the Linnet is generally placed in a bush of furze or heath. It is a neat
structure, formed externally of blades of grass intermingled with moss
and wool, and lined with hair of various kinds; sometimes with
thistle-down. The female lays from four to six eggs, of an oval form,
colour bluish white, marked with distinct spots of brownish black,
purplish grey, and reddish brown. Should the nest be destroyed during
incubation, the pair will build again, and lay two or three sets of eggs
if needful; but the male is said to take no part in the building or
incubation, although he watches the female with great solicitude,
supplying her with food during the process.

The Linnets feed principally on hemp and linseed, whence their popular
name. In the winter season, in the absence of their favourite food, they
attack the young buds of trees, and pick up the stray seeds about
farm-yards. Their song in confinement is remarkably sweet, brilliant,
and varied, but will not compare with the thrilling voice of the
Blackbird or Thrush. The species are numerous, both in Europe and
America, but there is a tendency to reduce their number, and to regard
them as seasonal varieties of the species under consideration.

The CHAFFINCH (_Fringilla coeleb, Linn.)_ Fig. 231, lives in flocks,
except when breeding, like the Goldfinch and Linnets. But they differ
from these members of the group in this--that their wing is less
compact, and that they disperse themselves more in search of food than
their congeners. Chaffinches are met with all over Europe, either as
birds of passage or as permanent residents. They feed on various kinds
of seeds and larvæ of insects, the latter of which they obtain in the
early mornings of summer and autumn by searching the lower surface of
the leaves of oak, ash, and other trees. They inhabit indifferently the
woods, gardens, or high mountain ridges. In the early days of spring the
mellow, modulated "tweet, tweet, tweet" of the Chaffinch is exceedingly
pleasant to hear; but its monotony is apt to fatigue, for its eternal
refrain makes it seem an affectation of gaiety, whence probably the
French proverb, _Gai comme un pinson_.

[Illustration: Fig. 231.--The Chaffinch (_Fringilla_, Gesner).]

[Illustration: Fig. 232.--Canaries (_Carduelis canaria_, Wood).]

The CANARIES (_Fringilla canaria_, Linn.), are only known by us as
cage-birds, where they are recognised by their yellow plumage, more or
less varied with green, although the facility with which they breed
with the Linnet, Goldfinch, and others of the group, has introduced
great varieties of colouring. Originally from the Canary Islands, they
were first imported into Europe in the fifteenth century, and such was
the charm of their song, added to their natural docility and gay
plumage, that every one was eager to possess them. Buffon says, in his
elegant manner, that if the Nightingale is the songster of the woods,
the Canary is the chamber musician. Their race propagates, moreover, so
rapidly that the poorest can afford to possess them; for these elegant
little creatures are to be found among every grade of society, pouring
out their joyous melody in the garret of the poor workman with as much
energy as in the gorgeous saloons of the wealthy.

[Illustration: Fig. 233.--Whidah Finch, or Widow Birds (_Emberiza
paradisea_, Linn.).]

There are two distinct species of the Canary, the Plain and Variegated,
or, as the bird-fanciers designate them, the Mealy, or Spangled, and
Jonquils; but between these innumerable varieties have sprung up from
cross-breeding with the Goldfinch, Linnet, and Siskin. These
cross-breeds are often charming songsters; but, like all mules, they are
completely sterile. Bechstein is of opinion that our Domestic Canary
has a cross of the Siskin in it: this belief for a long time existed,
but most naturalists now are of opinion that the Siskin belongs to a
different genus.

The WIDOW BIRDS, or WHIDAH FINCHES (_Vidua_, Sw.), Fig. 233, are among
the most remarkable of the hard-billed, seed-eating birds to which they
belong. The long, drooping tail feathers which adorn the males in the
breeding season give them a very singular appearance. The upper part of
their plumage is of a faded blackish brown, assuming a paler hue on the
wings and lateral tail feathers. The whole body is tinged with this
faded black, gradually narrowing as it descends to the middle of the
breast; a broad, rich orange-brown collar proceeds from the back of the
neck, uniting with a tinge of the same colour on the sides of the
breast, this last hue passing into the pale buff colour of the body,
abdomen, and thighs, and the under tail coverts being of the same colour
as the upper ones--a hue to which the bird is indebted for its popular
and scientific name. The tail feathers are black; the four lateral ones
on each side slightly graduated, and rather longer than the one
immediately above. The next two are the long, drooping feathers,
externally convex, so conspicuous in the male bird, which, in fine
specimens, measure a foot in length from base, and about three-quarters
of an inch in width. The body of the bird is about the size of a Canary.
They are natives of South Africa and Senegal.

Near to the Widow Birds in the system we may place the Java Sparrow,
Rice Bird, or Paddee Bird of the East Indies and Eastern Archipelago
(_Fringilla oryzivora_, Sw.), Fig. 234. They are eagerly sought for as
pets, in consequence of their brilliant plumage, and the facility with
which they learn innumerable tricks.

The WEAVER BIRDS (_Ploceus_, Cuvier) close the series of _Fringillidæ_.
They live in flocks in the interior of Africa, where they feed on the
cereals and the young of weaker birds. They chirp, but have no song; and
they owe their name to the inimitable art which they display in
constructing their nests. These vary in form according to the species,
and are composed of grass, rushes, and straw. They are usually suspended
from the branches of a tree, the entrance being below. Sometimes they
are spiral-shaped, occasionally round; in fact, they are of every
imaginable outline. Mr. Swainson describes the nest of a species of
_Loxia_ built on a branch extending over a river or a pool of water,
shaped like a chemist's retort suspended from the head, while the shank
was eight or ten inches long, at the bottom of which was the entrance,
all but touching the water.

[Illustration: Fig. 234.--Java Sparrows, or Rice Birds (_Loxia
oryzivora_, Linn.).]

Another species of the _Ploceinæ_ construct their nests in a clump under
one roof or cover, each nest having a separate entrance on the under
side, but not communicating with that next it. Another variety is said
each year to attach a new nest to that of the previous year, and nothing
is more picturesque than these groups of nests thus suspended to the
branches of a tree.

But the most curious of birds, in respect to nidification, are the
Republican Weaver Birds (_Loxia socia_, Latham). These establish
themselves, to the number of five or six hundred, upon the same tree,
constructing their nests under a common roof, the one backing against
the other, like the cells of a bee-hive, all living together in the
happiest manner.

The BUNTINGS (_Emberizidæ_) are intimately associated with the Passerine
birds. They are characterised by a short, stout, conical bill, the upper
mandible narrower than the lower, its dorsal outline nearly straight,
sides convex, edges inflected, the tip acute; the lower mandible has the
angle short, broad, and rounded. In the palate is a hard, bony knob to
bruise the seed which forms their principal food. Their general habitat
is the fields and hedges upon the margin of woods; some few species
haunt the banks of rivers. They build their nests on the ground, or on
low bushes, and in this they deposit four or five eggs. The young, when
hatched, are blue. Their plumage is deficient in brilliancy, but their
song is not without attractions. In autumn, when they leave the colder
regions to go south, fattened with the rich produce of the
harvest-fields, they have a rich, delicate flavour, and are then in
France eagerly sought after for the table, and frequently brought to
market along with Larks and Ortolans.

[Illustration: Fig. 235.--The Reed Bunting (_Emberiza schoeniclus_,

[Illustration: Fig. 236.--The Cirl Bunting (_Emberiza cirlus_,

The Buntings are divided into the Buntings properly so called, in which
the claw of the back toe is short and hooked, and the Spurred or Lark
Buntings (_Plectrophanes_, Meyer), in which it is long, straight,
compressed, and slightly arched. To the first of these divisions
belongs the Reed Bunting (_Emberiza schoeniclus_, McGillivray), Fig.
235, which may be considered the type of the group, and is a constant
resident all the year round in France and England, but migratory in
Scotland and other northern countries.

The Cirl Bunting (_E. cirlus_), Fig. 236, on the other hand, although
found in Devon and Cornwall, and other parts of England, is only
plentiful in the southern parts of Europe, and does not migrate into the
colder regions.

[Illustration: Fig. 237.--The Ortolan Bunting (_Emberiza hortulana_,

The Ortolan Bunting (_E. hortulana_, Yarrell), Fig. 237, so well known
to gourmets and pot-hunters of Southern Europe, migrates periodically.
Some have been found in various parts of England, but they were
evidently stragglers, driven there by accidental circumstances. They
abound on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, in Western Central
Asia, in France, and as far north as Norway, where they are known to
breed. Their favourite resorts, according to Meyer, are the borders of
woods, hedges, and fields, near a water-course, clothed with low willows
and bushes. They are very shy: still great numbers are captured in nets,
when they are kept in confinement, and crammed for the table.

The Snow Bunting (_Plectrophanes nivalis_, Gould) rarely shows itself in
France, and Montagu describes them as rare in England, but McGillivray
found them in considerable flocks all over Scotland, from the Outer
Hebrides to the Lothians. On the 4th of August, 1830, being on the
summit of Ben-na-muic-dhu, one of the loftiest mountains in Scotland, he
observed a beautiful male flitting about in the neighbourhood of a drift
of snow, and some days after, in descending from Lochnagar on a
botanising expedition, he noticed a flock of eight individuals flying
about among the granite rocks of a corry, evidently a family. "It is,
therefore," he thinks, "very probable that it breeds on the higher

The Conirostral Passerines include the family of _Paridæ_, or TITS. The
Titmice, as they are sometimes called, are small birds, seldom attaining
the size of the Common Sparrow. Their general form is moderately full,
the head large in proportion, and broadly ovate. Their bill is straight,
short, and tapering, furnished with hairs at the base, but their
individuality is distinguished by their specific peculiarities rather
than by physiognomy. A characteristic feature is their audacity, almost
approaching to impudence, and their courage, the instinctive result of
their sociability. These qualities secure for them a well-defined place
in the group under consideration.

Who discovers the Owl during the day? Who besieges him with its
clamours? Who pursues him with unintermitting blows of his bill? Who
rouses the whole tribe of small birds against the nocturnal tyrant? It
is the Titmouse. Bellicose as bird can be, it gives full scope to its
most warlike instincts whenever a suitable occasion presents itself, its
want of physical power being compensated for by the vigour of its
assault. The Tit is, indeed, the incarnation of motion; it is
continually on the _qui vive_, skipping from branch to branch, at one
moment piercing the crevices of the bark with its bill in search of
food, the next hanging suspended from a branch, to which it clings with
its claws, while it picks off the insects which occupy the lower surface
of the leaves.

Nevertheless, it varies its food according to seasons and circumstances.
Not only does it devour all kinds of insects, not excepting wasps and
bees, but even cereals and fruits. It is even carnivorous, for it has
been known to kill weak or sickly birds in order to devour them. Some
species have a most unnatural partiality for grease, and devour it
whenever opportunity offers. They are sociable birds, inhabiting
thickets or woods, living in flocks the greater part of the year, and
showing strong attachment to each other, so that a flock of them will
suffer themselves to be decimated, and even altogether destroyed, rather
than desert a wounded companion. In the spring they pair, and each
isolated couple now seek out a suitable place in which they may rear
their future progeny.

The position of the nest varies with the species. The Great Tit, or
Oxeye (_Parus major_, Selborne), builds in the hole of some wall, or in
a cavity formed in a decayed tree. It is usually composed of moss, hair,
and feathers. The Blue Tit (_P. cæruleus_, Selborne) occasionally builds
its nest in very insecure places. Mr. Duncan, one of Mr. McGillivray's
correspondents, in a MS. note now before us, says, "In the year 1836 I
discovered the nest of a pair of Blue Tits in the shaft of a pump well,
which was drenched and partly carried away every time water was drawn;
still they persevered in building. Gladly would I have left them there,
but they kept the water in a continually muddy state, and their removal
became absolutely necessary." The Coal Tit (_P. ater_, Selborne) chooses
the crevice of a wall or decayed tree. So does the Marsh Tit (_P.
palustris_, Selborne). The Crested Tit (_P. cristatus_, Selborne), Fig.
238, is a retiring, solitary little bird, provided with plumage both
brilliant and beautifully blended. They are rarely seen in England, but
several flocks are recorded as appearing in Scotland. They are said to
breed annually in plantations near Glasgow, in the forest of Glenmore,
and near the Spey two were killed in 1836. In the North of Ireland, in
autumn, they are not uncommon wherever plantations of larch trees are to
be found. Their nest, according to Temminck, occurs in holes of trees,
the oak being preferred, in rocks, or in a deserted Crow's or Squirrel's

The nest of the Long-tailed Tit, or Mufflin (_P. caudatus_), is,
perhaps, the most skilful specimen of construction. It is oval in form,
and has two openings, one for entrance, the other for exit--an
arrangement which the long tail of the bird renders necessary. This
singular bird--the most diminutive of our birds except the
Kinglets--differs from the Tits in its softer and more bulky plumage and
tail. Its flight is undulating and rapid; its long tail and body muffled
up to the chin in dense plumage giving the observer the idea of an arrow
flying through the air.

The Tits abound throughout Europe, and are also found in America; some
of them remaining all the year with us, although they are all birds of

[Illustration: Fig. 238.--The Crested Tit (_Parus cristatus_,

The LARKS (_Alaudinæ_) complete the Conirostral Passerinæ. They are
distinguished by the great muscularity of their gizzard, and their
elongated and slightly-curved claws, which are sometimes longer than the
toe itself, indicative of a ground-bird; in short, they pass their lives
on the ground, in the bosom of great grassy plains, or soaring in the
air. This family renders eminent service to agriculturists by the
enormous quantity of worms, caterpillars, and grasshoppers it daily

The Lark builds its nest in a furrow, or between two clods of earth,
without much skill it is true, but with sufficient intelligence to know
that it is necessary it should be concealed. Here it lays four or five
eggs, spotted or freckled; in favourable seasons three sets of eggs in
the year are sometimes hatched. The young birds break the shell after
fifteen days' incubation, and are in a condition to leave their cradle
at the end of fifteen more; but the mother still continues her
surveillance, guides their steps, satisfies their wants, and continually
hovers near them until the demands of another brood take her away, when
they are abandoned to themselves, being now so fully fledged as no
longer to require maternal care.

[Illustration: Fig. 239.--The Crested Lark (_Alauda cristata_, Linn.).]

The Lark is the living emblem of happy, peaceful labour, the songster of
the cultivated earth. In the early dawn the male bird rises aloft, and
with soaring wing fills the air with his joyous notes, and calls the
husbandman to his labour. Higher and higher he mounts, until he is lost
to sight; but his voice is still heard. The song is significant; it is
the hymn of good fellowship--a call to all the dwellers of the plain.

The season of incubation over, the Larks assemble in numerous flocks,
having now only their food to think of; and that being plentiful, they
soon get plump and fat. In countries like France this is the signal for
their destruction, for persons assemble from all quarters to make a
_razzia_ on these valuable innocents, using every means to accomplish
their work of death; and unless the legislature interfere in their
behalf by passing laws for their preservation, it will finish probably
by exterminating the race.

Taking Larks by means of a mirror is a _ruse_ based upon the natural
curiosity of this species, which leads it irresistibly towards any
reflected light. The slaughterer places a glass, or any object that
will reflect the sun's rays, in a field, concealing himself in its
neighbourhood. The Larks, attracted by the light, come within reach of
his blows, and fall around the mirror, undismayed by the fate of their

In this family the only species which lives in confinement is the
Sky-lark, and that only by very great care. It sings unceasingly in a
cage, and even imitates the song of other birds. Larks are found all
over the Old World, especially in Europe and Asia. The principal species
are the Sky-lark (_Alauda arvensis_), the Crested Lark (_Alauda
cristata_), the Wood Lark (_Alauda arborea_), and the Shore Lark
(_Alauda alpestris_).

The Crested Lark (_Alauda cristata_), Fig. 239, abounds on the continent
of Europe, but is rare in this country, one or two specimens only being
recorded. It is migratory, moving northward in spring, and again toward
the south on the approach of winter. It is a handsome bird, about the
size and appearance of the Sky-lark, having a few feathers on the crown
forming a crest pointing backwards.


The _Fissirostral Passerinæ_ are characterised by a broad, short bill,
flattened horizontally, and slightly hooked; mandibles slightly concave;
mouth very wide. They are essentially insectivorous. They comprehend
three genera:--1. Swallows (_Hirundo_). 2. House Martins (_Chelidon_).
3. Sand Martins (_Cotyle_).

The SWALLOWS are recognisable by their long pointed wings, forked tail,
and excessively short tarsi. The air is the true element of these birds;
they fly with a facility, lightness, and rapidity quite inconceivable;
indeed, their existence is one eternal flight. They even feed their
young on the wing when the latter first begin to fly. Watch them in the
air, and they will be seen to rise and fall, tracing the shortest
curves, crossing and interlacing each other's course, moderating their
pace suddenly when at their utmost speed in order to follow the
eccentric course of some winged insect which they have doomed for their
food. Such, indeed, is the rapidity of their progress that some of the
species have been known to travel at the rate of thirty leagues an

[Illustration: Fig. 240.--Window Swallows (_Hirundo rustica_, Linn.).]

This wonderful power, however, is only developed at the sacrifice of
another locomotive faculty, for they are bad walkers. With their short
limbs, activity on their feet is impossible; and if by chance they are
placed on the ground, with difficulty they rise again on the wing. On
the other hand, their sight is excellent--equal to even that of the
Eagle or Falcon. According to Spallanzani, who made numerous experiments
on the Swallows, the Martin perceives the winged fly passing through
the air at the distance of more than a hundred and twenty yards.

Swallows are celebrated for their migratory journeys. In the early days
of spring they reach Europe, not in flocks, but as isolated individuals
or in pairs. They occupy themselves almost immediately either in
repairing their last year's nests, or, if these have been destroyed, in
constructing new ones. Among the arrivals are many young birds of the
previous year which have not had nests, and yet it is not a little
extraordinary that these, after six months' absence, return with
unerring certainty to the old dwelling where hatched. This fact has been
too often recorded to admit of any doubt on the subject.

The form, structure, and locality of the Swallow's nest vary with the
species. The Common Swallows (_H. rustica_), Fig. 240, build theirs in
the upper angles of the window of some country house, under the eaves of
a roof, or on the interior wall of a chimney. A chimney seems an odd
place to select for such a purpose; and White of Selborne relates, not
without some expressions of wonder at such a choice, that near the
middle of May one of these little birds began to form her nest about
five or six feet down a chimney adjoining the kitchen fire. Their nests
consist of a crust or shell of mud mixed with straw, and lined with fine
grass and feathers. Other species, sometimes in vast numbers, establish
themselves in the clefts of dead trees. Audubon estimated at the
incredible number of eleven thousand the quantity of Swallows which had
taken up their dwelling in a sycamore tree (familiarly known there as a
button wood) near Louisville, Kentucky, United States. Some Swallows
prefer rocks or caverns, and hollow out in steep escarpments a gallery
from two to three feet in depth, at the extremity of which they place
their nest. Sometimes the nest is formed of twigs torn by the bird from
the dead branches of trees, and bound together by a viscous liquid which
flows from the bird's mouth.

When, after a month's labour, the Swallows have finished their
dwellings, the female deposits from four to six eggs. Incubation
commences, and continues from twelve to fifteen days, during which the
male bird exhibits intense interest in the proceedings, carrying food
continually to his mate, and passing the night in her immediate
vicinity, twittering and chirping all day long to cheer the mother at
her task. Two or three times in the season they thus raise a family.

From the time when the little ones are hatched the parent birds attend
them with all the care their feebleness demands, and often exhibit
remarkable proofs of affection. When the young Swallows feel strong
enough to try their wings, the old ones tenderly guide them on their
first attempts at flight, and teach them how pursuit of insects in the
air is successfully performed. Boerhaave quotes an instance where a
Swallow, returning from some distant excursion, found the house in which
it had built its nest in flames. It did not hesitate an instant to throw
itself into the fire in order to save its young.

Swallows generally prefer the proximity of a lake or river, the surface
of water being always the rendezvous of crowds of insects, among which
they can reap a plentiful harvest. Swallows are extremely sociable; they
assemble in large flocks, and appear to be bound together by strong
attachment, for they aid each other in trying circumstances.

"I have seen a Swallow," says Dupont de Nemours, "which was unfortunate,
and had, I know not how, entangled its foot in a ball of string, one end
of which was attached to the roof of the College of the Four Nations;
its strength was exhausted, and it hung uttering painful cries at the
end of the string, only endeavouring to release itself occasionally by
fluttering attempts at flight. All the Swallows between the Tuileries
and the Pont Neuf, and perhaps for a much greater distance, were
assembled to the number of many thousands, forming a perfect cloud,
uttering cries of alarm. All that came flew past, giving a peck of their
bill at the fatal string; these blows, being frequently repeated, and
always directed at the same spot, were finally successful, for in half
an hour the string was cut and the captive set at liberty."

Another fact, related by the great naturalist Linnæus, proves how strong
is the spirit of brotherhood with these birds. When the Window Swallows
returned in spring to take possession of their nests, a certain number
of them were found occupied by Sparrows. One of the more legitimate
proprietors, thus despoiled of his property, endeavoured by every
possible means to recover possession, but all was unavailing. Under
these circumstances the assistance of its companions was demanded. The
whole assembly proceeded to besiege the intruder. It resisted,
intrenching itself in its fort, and in revenge the ousted Swallows
brought mud in their bills, and actually walled up the entrance to the
citadel and entombed the interloper in his cell. The truth of this
account, which is repeated by many naturalists, has been denied; but Mr.
McGillivray, than whom we have no more reliable author, records three
well-authenticated similar instances.

The Swallow generally leaves us in the month of September in order to
seek a milder climate, and one providing more abundant food in winter.
Some time before their departure their cries are incessant, and great
agitation is seen in their ranks; they assemble in some elevated place,
as if to hold council and deliberate over their journey, and fix the
date of their departure; finally, a day is decided on, which when it
arrives, all the Swallows of the neighbourhood mass at an appointed
place, and after certain evolutions, intended, no doubt, to determine
the route, they advance in one mass towards the shores of the
Mediterranean, whence they pass into Africa. Although they are of all
birds the strongest on the wing, and best adapted for a long journey,
they cannot accomplish this without rest if adverse winds should arise.
Ships passing are frequently boarded by stragglers which light on the
rigging; and both at Gibraltar and Tangiers large flocks are
occasionally seen to arrive in a state of great exhaustion. Those
stragglers which, through weakness or the duties of maternity, are
prevented from joining the great flocks, depart some days later in
smaller parties. Occasionally, however, a few individuals seem to remain
with us all the year round, contriving to survive the most severe
winters, which has given rise to the supposition that the Swallow has
the power of hibernating, or of remaining in a state of torpor during
the winter, and returning to animation in the spring. This
much-controverted point has now been consigned among the mythical
legends to which it belongs.

Swallows have in all ages possessed the sympathies of mankind, some of
the ancients regarding them as sacred birds; nor are they ungrateful for
the good feeling they excite. The services they render in destroying
vast quantities of noxious insects, not to speak of their gentle habits,
mutual attachment to each other, and the happy presage they bring with
them of spring's advent, contribute to make them welcome visitors.
Nevertheless there are instances where these proper sentiments yield to
the love of destruction--where their innocent confidence is rewarded by

[Illustration: Fig. 241.--The Cliff Swallow (_Hirundo fulva_, Gin.).]

Swallows generally have the breast and belly white, and the upper parts
of the body black, tinted with a reflected blue or peach colour. There
are about sixty species spread over the globe, of which six only are
natives of Europe. They are divided into Swallows proper (_Hirundo_),
Martins (_Chelidons_), Sand Martins (_Cotyle_), and Swifts (_Cypselus_).
The Martins are larger in size than the true Swallows; have the wings
longer, and consequently their powers of flight are greater and their
speed more sustained; their claws are more robust and hooked.

The principal species we have already named. It is only necessary to
mention the Cliff Swallow (Fig. 241), the Chimney Martin, the Bank
Martin, and the Alpine Swift (_Cypselus alpinus_), Fig. 242.

[Illustration: Fig. 242.--The Alpine Swift (_Cypselus melba_, Wood).]

Among the foreign species the SALANGANE SWALLOW (Fig. 243) may be
mentioned, so famous over the world for its edible nest. This bird
inhabits the rocks and caverns of the sea-shore in Sumatra and Java.
When building it eats of the plant called fucus, which abounds in these
regions; this is metamorphosed in the bird's stomach, and afterwards
disgorged, to fabricate the walls of its nest. The fucus thus devoured
forms the nutritive substance so eagerly sought after by the Eastern
gourmet. The consumption of the nest of the Salangane (Fig. 244) in
China, in spite of its high price, is very considerable. From the days
of Buffon there have been exported from the coast of Cochin China four
millions of them annually; and the proprietors of one cavern in the
island of Java receive annually fifty thousand florins for rent alone.

[Illustration: Fig. 243.--The Salangane Swallow (_Hirundo esculenta_,

The distinctive features of the GOATSUCKERS (_Caprimulgus_) are a short,
much-depressed bill; the body small in proportion to the plumage; the
neck short; the head large, broad, and depressed; the eyes very large
and broad; the feet very small; tarsi partially feathered; toes four,
the lower surface broad and flattened, the anterior toes connected by
basal membranes; claws moderate, arched, and compressed. The plumage is
full, soft, downy, and blended, like the Owl's; the wings have the
second and third quills longest; tail long and rounded. Almost all the
species have strong bristles along the base of the upper mandible, and
some have the feathers of the face radiated, like those of the Owls.

[Illustration: Fig. 244.--Nest of the Salangane Swallow.]

The Goatsuckers are solitary birds, living generally in pairs, sleeping
during the day, and issuing from their nest with the setting sun, or
possibly earlier in gloomy weather, to chase the crepuscular and
nocturnal insects on which they feed. They move silently and with great
rapidity. Some authors say that when on the wing they keep the mouth
open; but this is not supported by facts, and is opposed to reason. The
insects they principally devour are moths, dragon-flies, beetles,
crickets, cockchafers, and mosquitoes. Their usefulness, therefore, is
nearly equal to that of the Swallow. As they get very plump and fat in
the autumn, they fall a sacrifice to the gunner, and in their turn are
eaten by gourmets greater than themselves. They are migratory birds,
travelling only during the night. They are readily distinguished by the
bristles at the base of the bill, and by the claws of the middle toe,
which is toothed. The object of this toothed appendage has been the
subject of speculation. Some writers fond of the marvellous even surmise
that it is intended to comb and smooth the head feathers. Mr. Vigors is
of opinion that it may be useful as a further power of prehension,
citing, in support of his view, the family of the _Ardeidæ_ among the
Wading birds, which exhibit an analogous construction in the middle

Through Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia the Goatsuckers are
diffused, and naturalists have divided them into several sub-genera,
such as _Podargus_, represented by _Podargus humeralis_ of the Gold
River, and _Podargus javanensis_, the Chabba-wonno of Java, and the
Guacharo Bird, _Steatornis villot_ of Humboldt and Bonpland.

The typical species of _Caprimulgus_ is the NIGHT-JAR (_C. europæus_),
Fig. 245. It is about the size of a Thrush; and Montagu states that he
observed on one occasion a flock of eight or ten on the wing together,
in the dusk of the evening, skimming over the surface of the ground,
after the manner of Swallows, in pursuit of insects. Its nest is of the
simplest kind, for it deposits its eggs on the bare ground, or upon a
few dry leaves. These eggs, in number only two, are hatched by the
female in fourteen days.

The Common Night-jar is chiefly found on furzy commons, wild bushy
heaths, and broken hilly ground in the neighbourhood of thickets and
woods. During the day it lies concealed in the scrub, issuing forth in
the balmy summer evenings to pursue its insect prey on the wing.

On the prairies of North America, especially those intersected by
sloughs, dozens of these birds may be seen at the hour of sunset, their
swift, powerful, and graceful flight being worthy of the greatest
admiration. They are there called Bull Bats, and are often accused by
the ignorant of the crime of sucking milk from cows--about as probable
as snakes being guilty of the same offence; yet there are hundreds who
believe in such impossibilities.

The Night-jar is a bird of evil omen in the estimation of our rural
population: such it has been considered since the days of Aristotle, and
possibly even further back. The reverse should be the case, for the
benefit it produces by clearing the air of noxious insects is

The GUACHAROS are singular birds, which were first described by MM.
Humboldt and Bonpland as being found in the interior of a vast Columbian
cavern--the Grotto of Caripe. Their hooked bill and general aspect are
more robust than the Night-jars, for they more resemble birds of prey.
They inhabit in thousands the deep recesses of the caverns of the Cumana
Chain, hanging to the walls by their pointed claws. In these caves,
which they only leave during the night, they build their nests. Unlike
their congeners, they feed only on grain and seeds. The Indians of
Caripe enter these sombre domains from time to time, and make raids upon
their ranks, for they are deservedly esteemed as great delicacies.

[Illustration: Fig. 245.--The Night-jar (_Caprimulgus europæus_, Sw.).]


The _Passerine Dentirostres_ are characterised by a bill more or less
strong, compressed on each side of the point. They feed on berries and
insects, and comprehend numerous genera, including the Fly-catchers
(_Muscicapidæ_), the Manakins (_Piprinæ_), the Warblers (_Sylvinæ_),
the Lyres (_Lyra_), the Orioles (_Oriolus_), the Philedons
(_Meliphagidæ_), the Dippers (_Cucelus_), the Thrushes (_Turdus_), the
Tanagers (_Tanagrinæ_), the Caringas (_Coracina_), and the Butcher Birds

M. Lesson thinks the _Muscicapidæ_ should consist of the genera
_Tyrannus_, _Monacha_, _Eurylaimus_, _Platyrhynchus_, _Todus_,
_Myiagra_, _Muscicapa_, _Alectrurus_, _Drymophila_, _Formicivora_,
_Rhipidura_, _Seisura_, _Psophodes_, and _Euicurus_. Of these,
_Eurylaimus_ have a very large, depressed, and cleft bill. They are of
more elegant form than plumage; for their colouring is devoid of
brilliant tints. They live a retiring life in marshes, and upon the
banks of lakes and rivers, feeding upon the worms and insects which
abound in such localities. They are about the size of the Thrush, and
they inhabit the isles of Oceania.

The MANAKINS (_Piprinæ_, Sw.) have the bill rather short; the upper
mandible much curved, and pierced with large nostrils; the feet longish,
slender, and weak; the external toes reverted towards the middle. These
birds are natives of South America, and are gifted with brilliant

The _Rupicola_ (Briss.), or Cock of the Rock, is remarkable for the
lively and delicate shades of the colour of its plumage, and for a
graceful crest which decorates its crown. It prefers sombre localities,
and retires into clefts and caverns when pursued. It is very wild, and
only issues from its hiding-place in search of the fruits which form its
food. Under the most favourable circumstances these birds are difficult
to approach, taking flight at the slightest appearance of danger. Their
name comes from their size, and also from their habit of scratching up
the earth, and flapping their wings like the Domestic Cock. They are
natives of South America and Malaya. The best-known species, _Rupicola
aurantia_ (Vieillot), is a native of Guiana; its plumage is bright
orange, and the crest is formed by two rows of feathers, so arranged as
to form a semicircle.

The WARBLERS (_Sylvianæ_, Sw.) are readily recognised by their short,
slender, and tapering bill, constituting a numerous series of birds,
among which we note the Fauvette (_Sylvia hortensis_), Gold-crested Wren
(_Regulus auricapellus_), the Wren (_Troglodytes_), the Whin Chats
(_Saxicola_), and many other genera.

All these are of small size, and have the singular property of imparting
a vibratory motion to their tails. They are chiefly denizens of our
woods, thickets, and gardens, where they fill the air with their melody.
They are generally migratory, arriving in the spring, and departing at
the fall of the leaf. Living, except in autumn, almost exclusively on
insects and their larvæ, they render in this respect eminent services to
man; but it is a curious fact that at that period these birds cease to
be insectivorous, and feed on fruits--among others, figs and grapes,
whence the name of _Bec-figues_ applied to them in the South of France.
There they are most eagerly sought for, the attraction being their
flesh, which is considered most delicate.

Warblers prefer the woods and sloping hill-sides, or the banks of
rivers, clothed with trees and shrubs, for their residence.

In the first rank of the Warblers stands the NIGHTINGALE (_Philomela
luscinia_, Selby), Fig. 246, celebrated all over the world for its song,
which is superior, without any doubt, to that of all other birds. In
size it is somewhat greater than the Garden Warbler, which it resembles
in its homely attire. Many have been the attempts made to describe this
far-famed bird. Naturally shy, the Nightingale retires into the freshest
and most sheltered places, rarely exposing itself to observation.
Brushwood and thickets, witch-elms and evergreen trees, growing on the
banks of some retired water-course, are its favourite dwelling. It is
among these that it establishes its nest, built without care, at
irregular height, and sometimes even on the ground. It possesses this
peculiarity--that it sings not only during the day, but also in the
night; but let any alarming noise approach its retreat, and it stops
instantly. It seems to love solitude above all things. Audubon, the
American naturalist, has described some of the distinctive
characteristics of the bird with a few graphic touches. He has left his
downy couch, and sallied forth to watch the eventful moment when nature
arises, fresh, blooming, and full of renovated vigour. In his wanderings
he comes upon a Nightingale. "In the midst of a thicket," he says, "I
now see a solitary bird, humble in its attire, and of most modest mien,
peeping at me with a caution so uncommon, and yet so inviting, that I
feel tempted to seek its acquaintance. With care I approach the
feathered stranger. Its form is somewhat elongated, yet not incompa