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Title: Jungle Folk - Indian Natural History Sketches
Author: Dewar, Douglas
Language: English
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                              JUNGLE FOLK


                         INDIAN NATURAL HISTORY
                       SKETCHES BY DOUGLAS DEWAR


                   LONDON: JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD
                   NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY MCMXII


             WM. BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH



                                PREFACE


It is not of the bigger jungle folk that I write—of lions, tigers,
leopards, bears, bison, or even deer and antelopes; for of these it is
vouchsafed to no man—not even to the _shikari_, who spends years in the
jungle—to obtain more than an occasional fleeting glimpse.

The subjects of my theme are the lesser fry—vivacious mynas, noisy
babblers, vociferous cuckoos, silent herons, beautiful pittas, graceful
wagtails, elegant terns, melodious rock-chats, cheeky squirrels.

A cheery crowd are these. The man who passes his days in India without
knowing them misses much of the pleasure of life.

                                                               D. DEWAR.



                                CONTENTS


                                                                     PAGE
  I. Of Indian Birds in General                                         3
  II. Respectable Cuckoos                                               9
  III. The Brown Rock-Chat                                             16
  IV. The Scavenger-in-Waiting                                         21
  V. Indian Wagtails                                                   28
  VI. The Teesa                                                        32
  VII. Falconry in India                                               37
  VIII. Hawks in Miniature                                             45
  IX. The Roosting of the Bee-Eaters                                   51
  X. Owls                                                              56
  XI. A Bundle of Iniquity                                             62
  XII. The Interpretation of the Actions of Animals                    68
  XIII. At the Sign of the Farash                                      72
  XIV. The Coot                                                        78
  XV. The Beautiful Porphyrio                                          84
  XVI. The Cobra                                                       89
  XVII. The Mungoose                                                   94
  XVIII. The Swan                                                      99
  XIX. Kites of the Sea                                               104
  XX. River Terns                                                     110
  XXI. Green Bulbuls                                                  116
  XXII. Cormorants                                                    121
  XXIII. A Melodious Drongo                                           126
  XXIV. The Indian Pitta                                              132
  XXV. The Indian White-eye                                           137
  XXVI. Goosey, Goosey Gander                                         143
  XXVII. Geese in India                                               149
  XXVIII. A Swadeshi Bird                                             154
  XXIX. The Indian Redstart                                           160
  XXX. The Night Heron                                                165
  XXXI. The Cement of Bird Masons                                     171
  XXXII. Indian Fly-Catchers                                          178
  XXXIII. Insect Hunters                                              184
  XXXIV. The Rosy Starling                                            192
  XXXV. The Pied Starling                                             197
  XXXVI. A Bird of the Open Plain                                     202
  XXXVII. Birds in the Cotton Tree                                    208
  XXXVIII. Ugly Ducklings                                             214
  XXXIX. Babbler Brotherhoods                                         220
  XL. The Mad Babbler                                                 227
  XLI. The Yellow-eyed Babbler                                        233
  XLII. The Indian Sand-Martin                                        237
  XLIII. The Education of Young Birds                                 243
  XLIV. Birds at Sunset                                               253
  Glossary                                                            261
  Index                                                               265



                               JUNGLE FOLK



                                   I
                       OF INDIAN BIRDS IN GENERAL


Literary critics seem to be agreed that we who write about Indian birds
form a definite school. “Phil Robinson,” they say, “furnished, thirty
years ago, a charming model which all who have followed him in writing
seem compelled to copy more or less closely.” Mr. W. H. Hudson remarks:
“We grow used to look for funny books about animals from India, just as
we look for sentimental natural history books from America.”

In a sense this criticism is well founded. Popular books on Indian
ornithology resemble one another in that a ripple of humour runs through
each. But the critics err when they attempt to explain this similarity by
asserting that Anglo-Indian writers model themselves, consciously or
unconsciously, on Phil Robinson, or that they imitate one another. The
mistake made by the critics is excusable. When each successive writer
discourses in the same peculiar style the obvious inference is that the
later ones are guilty of more or less unconscious plagiarism. The
majority of literary critics in England have not enjoyed the advantage of
meeting our Indian birds in the flesh. To those who do possess this
advantage it is clear that the Indian birds themselves are responsible
for our writings being “funny.” We naturalists merely describe what we
see. The avifauna of every country has a character of its own. Mr. John
Burroughs has remarked that American birds as a whole are more gentle,
more insipid than the feathered folk in the British Isles. Still greater
is the contrast between English and Indian birds. The latter are to the
former as wine is to water.

India is peculiarly rich in birds of character. It is the happy
hunting-ground of that unique fowl, _Corvus splendens_—the splendid
crow—splendid in sagacity, resource, adaptiveness, boldness, cunning, and
depravity; a Machiavelli, a Shakespeare among birds, a super-bird. The
king crow (_Dicrurus ater_) is another superlative. He is the Black
Prince of the bird kingdom. He is the embodiment of pluck. The thing in
feathers of which he is afraid has yet to be evolved. Like the mediæval
knight, he goes about seeking those upon whom he can perform some small
feat of arms.

When we turn to consider the more outward characteristics of birds, the
peacock, the monal pheasant, the “blue jay,” the oriole, the
white-breasted kingfisher, the sunbird, the little green bee-eater, and a
host of others rise up before us. Of these some, showily resplendent,
compel attention and admiration; others of quieter hues possess a beauty
which cannot be appreciated unless they be held in the hand and each
feather minutely examined. At the other extreme stands the superlative of
hideousness, the ugliest bird in the world—_Neophron ginginianus_, the
scavenger vulture. The bill, the naked face, and the legs of this
creature are a sickly yellow. Its plumage is dirty white, with the
exception of the ends of the wing feathers, which are shabby black. Its
shape is displeasing to the eye, and its gait is an ungainly waddle. Yet
even this fowl looks almost beautiful as it sails on outstretched
pinions, high in the heaven. Between the extremely beautiful and the
extremely ugly birds we meet with another class of superlatives—the
extremely grotesque. This class is well represented in India. The great
hornbill—_Dichoceros bicornis_—and the adjutant—_Leptoptilus dubius_—are
birds which would take prizes in any exhibition of oddities. The former
is nearly four and a half feet in length. The body is only fourteen
inches long, being an insignificant part of the bird, a mere connecting
link between the massive beak and the great, loosely inserted tail. The
beak is nearly a foot in length, and is rendered more conspicuous than it
would otherwise be by a structure known as the casque. This is a horny
excrescence, nearly as large as the bill, which causes the bird to look
as though it were wearing a hat which it had placed for a joke on its
beak rather than on its head. The eye is red, and the upper lid is
fringed with eyelashes, which add still further to the oddity of the
bird’s appearance. The creature has an antediluvian air, and one feels
when contemplating it that its proper companions are the monsters that
lived in prehistoric times. The actions of the hornbill are in keeping
with its appearance. It is the clown of the forest.

Even more grotesque is the adjutant. This is a stork with an enormous
bill, a tiny head, and long neck, both innocent of feathers. From the
front of the neck hangs a considerable pouch, which the bird can inflate
at will. Round the base of the neck is a ruff of white feathers that
causes the bird to look as though it had donned a lady’s feather boa. It
is the habit of the adjutant to stand with its head buried in its
shoulders, so that, when looked at from behind, it resembles a
hunch-backed, shrivelled-up old man, wearing a grey swallow-tailed coat.
It looks still more ludicrous when it varies the monotony of life by
kneeling down; its long shanks are then stretched out before it, giving
the idea that they have been mistakenly inserted hind part foremost! Its
movements partake of the nature of a cake-walk. “For grotesque devilry of
dancing,” writes Lockwood Kipling, “the Indian adjutant beats creation.
Don Quixote or Malvolio were not half so solemn or mincing, and yet there
is an abandonment and lightness of step, a wild lift in each solemn
prance, which are almost demoniacal. If it were possible for the most
angular, tall, and demure of elderly maiden ladies to take a great deal
too much champagne, and then to give a lesson in ballet dancing, with
occasional pauses of acute sobriety, perhaps some faint idea might be
conveyed of the peculiar quality of the adjutant’s movements.” If the
hornbill be the clown of the forest, the adjutant is the buffoon of the
open plain.

Consider for a little avine craftsmanship, and you will find no lack of
superlatives among our Indian birds. The weaver-bird (_Ploceus baya_),
the wren-warbler (_Prinia inornata_) are past masters of the art of
weaving. The tailor-bird (_Orthotomus sutorius_), as its name implies,
has brought the sartorial art to a pitch of perfection which is not
likely to be excelled by any creature who has no needle other than its
beak.

If there be any characteristic in which Indian birds are not pre-eminent
it is perhaps the art of singing. A notion is abroad that Indian birds
cannot sing. They are able to scream, croak, and make all manner of weird
noises, but to sing they know not how. This idea perhaps derives its
origin from Charles Kingsley, who wrote: “True melody, it must be
remembered, is unknown, at least at present, in the tropics and peculiar
to the races of those temperate climes into which the song-birds come in
spring.” This is, of course, absurd. Song-birds are numerous in India.
They do not make the same impression upon us as do our English birds
because their song has not those associations which render dear to us the
melody of birds in the homeland. Further, there is nothing in India which
corresponds to the English spring, when the passion of the earth is at
its highest, because there is in that country no sad and dismal
winter-time, when life is sluggish and feeble. The excessive joy, the
rapture, the ecstasy with which we greet the spring in the British Isles
is, to a certain extent, a reaction. There suddenly rushes in upon the
songless winter a mighty chorus, a tumult of birds to which we can
scarcely fail to attach a fictitious value. India possesses some
song-birds which can hold their own in any company. If the shama, the
magpie-robin, the fan-tailed fly-catcher, the white-eye, the purple
sunbird, the orange-headed ground thrush, and the bhimraj visited England
in the summer, they would soon supplant in popular favour some of our
British song-birds.

Another feature of the Indian avifauna is its richness in species. Oates
and Blanford describe over sixteen hundred of these. To the
non-ornithological reader this may not convey much. He will probably
obtain a better idea of the wealth of the Indian avifauna when he hears
that among Indian birds there are numbered 108 different kinds of
warbler, 56 woodpeckers, 30 cuckoos, 28 starlings, 17 butcher-birds, 16
kingfishers, and 8 crows. The wealth of the fauna is partly accounted for
by the fact that India lies in two of the great divisions of the
ornithological world. The Himalayas form part of the Palæarctic region,
while the plains are included in the Oriental region.

Finally, Indian birds generally are characterised by their fearlessness
of man. It is therefore comparatively easy to study their habits. I can
count no fewer than twenty different species which, during past nesting
seasons, have elected to share with me the bungalow that I happened to
occupy. Is it then surprising that an unbounded enthusiasm should pervade
the writings of all Indian naturalists, that these should constantly
bubble over with humour? The materials on which we work are superior to
those vouchsafed to the ornithologists of other countries. Our writings
must, therefore, other things being equal, excel theirs.



                                   II
                          RESPECTABLE CUCKOOS


The general public derives its ideas regarding the manners and customs of
the cuckoos from those of _Cuculus canorus_, the only species that
patronises the British Isles. “The Man in the Street,” that unfortunate
individual who seems never by any chance to catch hold of the right end
of the stick, is much surprised, or is expected to express great
surprise, when he is informed that some cuckoos are not parasitic, that
not a few of them refuse to commit their eggs and young ones to the
tender mercies of strangers. The non-parasitic cuckoos build nests, lay
eggs and sit on them, as every self-respecting bird should do. All the
American species of cuckoo lead virtuous lives in this respect. But the
Western Hemisphere has its evil-living birds, for many cow-birds—near
relatives of the starlings—lay their eggs in the nests of their
fellow-creatures; some of them go so far as to victimise the more
respectable members of their own brotherhood.

There are several upright cuckoos among our Indian birds, so that there
is no necessity for us to go to America in order to study the ways of the
non-parasitic species of cuckoo.

First and foremost among these is our familiar friend the coucal, or
crow-pheasant (_Centropus sinensis_), known also as the lark-heeled
cuckoo, because the hindmost of its toes has a long straight claw, like
that of the lark. This cuckoo is sometimes dubbed the “Griff’s pheasant,”
because the new arrival in India frequently mistakes the bird for a
pheasant, and thereby becomes the laughing-stock of the “Koi-Hais.”

It always seems to me that it is not quite fair to poke fun at one who
makes this mistake. A man cannot be expected to know by instinct which
birds are pheasants and which are not. The coucal is nearly as large as
some species of pheasant, and rejoices in a tail fully ten inches long;
moreover, the bird is usually seen walking on the ground. Further, Dr.
Blanford states that crow-pheasants are regarded as a great delicacy by
Indian Mohammedans, and by some Hindu castes. I have never partaken of
the flesh of the coucal, and those Europeans who have done so do not seem
anxious to repeat the experiment. Its breast is smaller than that of a
_dak_ bungalow _murghi_, for its wing muscles are very small. As to its
flavour, Col. Cunningham informs us, in his volume _Some Indian Friends
and Acquaintances_, that “a young fellow, who had recently arrived in the
country, complained with good reason of the evil flavour of a ‘pheasant’
that one of his chums had shot near a native village, and had, much to
the astonishment of the servants, brought home to be cooked and partaken
of as a game-bird.” There is an allied species of crow-pheasant, which is
still more like a long-tailed game-bird, so much so that it is known to
zoologists as _Centropus phasianus_. Here, then, we have examples of
cuckoos which resemble other species and suffer in consequence. What have
those naturalists who declare that mimicry is due to natural selection to
say to this?

The crow-pheasant is an easy bird to identify. The wings are chestnut in
colour, while all the remainder of the plumage is black with a green or
purple gloss.

But for the fact that the brown wings do not match well with the rest of
the plumage, I should call the coucal a handsome bird. This, however, is
not “Eha’s” view.

The crow-pheasant is widely distributed in India, being found in gardens,
in cultivated fields, and in the jungle. All the bird demands is a
thicket or hedgerow in which it can take cover when disturbed. It does
not wander far from shelter, for it is a poor flier. Its diet is made up
chiefly of insects, but not infrequently it captures larger quarry in the
shape of scorpions, lizards, small snakes, and the like delicacies.
Probably freshwater mollusca and crustacea do not come amiss to the bird,
for on occasions I have seen it wading in a nearly dried-up pond. It
certainly picks much of its food from off the ground, but, as it is often
seen in trees, and is able to hop from branch to branch with considerable
address, I am inclined to think that it sometimes feeds on the
caterpillars and other creeping things that lurk on the under surface of
leaves. I have never actually observed it pick anything off a leaf, for
the coucal is of a retiring disposition. Like some public personages, it
declines to be interviewed.

Its call is a very distinctive, sonorous _Whoot, whoot, whoot_, and, as
the bird habitually calls a little before dawn in the early part of the
hot weather, its voice is doubtless often attributed to some species of
owl.

The nest is, we are told, globular in shape, considerably larger than a
football, composed of twigs and grass and lined with dried leaves. The
entrance consists of an aperture at one side. I must confess that I have
not yet seen any of the creature’s nests. I have located several, but
each one of these has been placed in the midst of a dense thicket, which,
in its turn, has been situated in the compound of one of my neighbours.
The only way of bringing a nest built in such a position to human view is
by pulling down the greater part of the thicket. This operation is not
feasible when the thicket in question happens to be in the garden of a
neighbour.

Large though the nest is, it is not sufficiently commodious to admit the
whole of the bird, so that the long tail of the sitting crow-pheasant
projects outside the nest. “When in this position,” writes Hume, “the
bird is about as defenceless as the traditional ostrich which hid its
head in the sand.” This remark would certainly be justified were the
crow-pheasant to build its nest in mid-desert, but I fail to see how it
applies when the nest is in the middle of a thicket into which no crow or
other creature with tail-pulling propensities is likely to penetrate. “In
Australia,” continues Hume, “the coucal manages these things far better.
There, we are told, ‘The nest, which is placed in the midst of a tuft of
grass, is of a large size, composed of dried grasses, and is of a domed
form, with two openings, through one of which the head of the female
protrudes while sitting, and her tail through the other.’ On the other
hand, the Southern Chinese coucal, which Swinhoe declares to be identical
with ours, goes a step further, and gets rid of the dome altogether.”

Young crow-pheasants are of exceptional interest. Three distinct
varieties have been described. In some the plumage is barred throughout.
Jerdon supposed that these are all young females. Other young birds are
like dull-coloured adults; these are smaller than the barred forms, and
sometimes progress by a series of hops, instead of adopting the strut so
characteristic of the species. These dull-coloured birds are very wild,
whereas the barred ones are usually easily tamed. This interesting fact
was pointed out by Mr. Frank Finn in his delightful volume
_Ornithological and Other Oddities_. Jerdon regards these as young cocks.
The third variety is coloured exactly like the adult. Finn does not
accept Jerdon’s view, for, as he points out, the three forms differ in
habits, and the barred and dull-coloured forms do not appear to occur in
the same brood; the young in any given nest are either all barred, or all
dull-coloured, or all like the adults in colour. So that if the barred
and dull-plumaged birds represent different sexes, then all the
individuals of a brood must be of the same sex. Instances of this
phenomenon have been recorded, but they appear to be very rare. Finn
therefore thinks that the three varieties of young correspond to three
races. In this connection it is of interest to note that Hume divided
this species into three: _Centropus rufipennis_, found in the Indian
Peninsula and Ceylon; _C. intermedius_, which occurs in Eastern Bengal,
Assam, and Burma; and _C. maximus_, that inhabits Northern India and
Sind. Blanford, while uniting all these into one species, says,
“unquestionably these are all well-marked races.”

Finn had brought to him in Calcutta barred and dull-coloured young birds,
these possibly correspond to the rufipennis and intermedius races. The
matter needs further investigation.

In this connection it should be noted that the young of the Indian koel
(_Eudynamis honorata_)—a cuckoo parasitic on crows—are of three kinds.
Some are all black like the cock, some are barred black and white like
the hen, while others, though nearly altogether black, display a few
white bars. The fact that I have seen specimens of all three kinds of
koel nestling in one garden at Lahore would seem to militate somewhat
against the theory that these correspond to different races or _gentes_.

I have discoursed at such length on the crow-pheasant that our other
respectable cuckoos will not receive adequate treatment. The interesting
malkohas will not get an innings to-day. I trust they will accept my
apologies.

I must content myself in conclusion with a few words regarding the
_sirkeer_ or grey ground-cuckoo. The scientific name of this
species—_Taccocua leschenaulti_—affords an excellent example of the
heights to which our scientific men can rise in their sublimer moments.
This cuckoo always appears to me like a large babbler. It has the untidy
appearance, the sombre plumage, and the laborious flight of the “seven
sisters.” But it does not go about in flocks. It appears to consider that
“two is company, three is none.” Its cherry-red bill is the one bit of
bright colour it displays. From its beak it derives its vernacular name
_jungli tota_ (jungle parrot), the villagers being evidently of opinion
that the beak makes the parrot. This cuckoo seems to feed entirely on the
ground, picking up insects of all sorts and conditions. It is found only
in the vicinity of trees. In the Basti district of the United Provinces,
where it is unusually abundant, I noticed it at almost every
camping-ground I visited. Mango topes appear to be its favourite
feeding-places. When alarmed it used to fly to the nearest cornfield,
where it was quickly lost to view. Its habits are in many ways like those
of the coucal. It builds a rough-and-ready nest, a mere collection of
twigs with a few leaves spread over the surface. The eggs are chalky
white, like those of the crow-pheasant. Both the cock and the hen take
part in incubation.

It is a bird concerning the habits of which there is comparatively little
on record. It therefore offers a fine field for the investigations of
Indian ornithologists.



                                  III
                          THE BROWN ROCK-CHAT


The standard books on Indian ornithology give inaccurate accounts of the
distribution of some species of birds. In certain cases the mistakes are
due to imperfect knowledge, in others it is probable that the range of
the species in question has undergone change since the text-books were
published. There must of necessity be a tendency for a flourishing
species to extend its boundaries. Growing species, like successful
nations, expand. A correspondent informs me that the Brahminy myna
(_Temenuchus pagodarum_) is now a regular visitor at Abbottabad and Taran
Taran in the Punjab, whereas Jerdon states that the bird is not found to
the west of the United Provinces. Similarly, there is evidence that the
red turtle dove (_Œnopopelia tranquebarica_) is extending its range
westwards. Oates states that the tailor-bird (_Orthotomus sutorius_) does
not occur at elevations over 4000 feet, but I frequently saw it at
Coonoor, 2000 feet higher than the limit set by Oates.

The brown rock-chat (_Cercomela fusca_) is another species regarding the
distribution of which the text-books are in error. Jerdon gives its range
as “Saugor, Bhopal, Bundlekhand, extending towards Gwalior and the United
Provinces.” Oates says, “The western limits of this species appear to be
a line drawn from Cutch through Jodhpur to Hardwar. Thence it extends to
Chunar, near Benares, on the east, and to Jubbulpur on the south, and I
have not been able to trace its distribution more accurately than this.”
Nevertheless, this bird is very abundant at Lahore, some two hundred
miles north-west of the occidental limit laid down by Oates. Brown
rock-chats are so common at Lahore, and the locality seems so well suited
to their mode of life, that I cannot think that the species is a recent
addition to the fauna of the Lahore district. It must have been
overlooked. It is scarcely possible for one individual to have a personal
knowledge of all parts of so extensive a country as India: we cannot,
therefore, expect accuracy in describing the range of birds until an
ornithologist does for each locality what Jesse has done for Lucknow,
that is to say, compiles a list of birds observed in a particular
neighbourhood during a period of observation extending over a number of
years.

Let us now pass on to the subject of this essay. The brown rock-chat is a
dull-reddish-brown bird, slightly larger than a sparrow. There is no
outward difference between the cock and the hen, both being attired with
quaker-like plainness. They are, however, sprightly as to their habits,
being quite robin-like in behaviour. As they hop about looking for food
they make every now and again a neat bow, and by this it is easy to
identify them. They seem invariably to inhabit dry, stony ground. Round
about Lahore numbers of ruined mosques and tombs exist, and each of these
is the home of at least one pair of brown rock-chats. But these birds by
no means confine themselves to old ruins. They are very partial to plots
of building land on which bricks are stacked. When a man determines to
build a bungalow in Lahore he acquires a plot of land, and then has
pitched on to it a quantity of bricks in irregular heaps, each heap being
a cartload. These bricks are then left undisturbed for any period up to
ten years. Among these untidy and unsightly collections of building
material numbers of brown rock-chats take up their abode. But there are
not enough ruins and collections of bricks to accommodate all the
rock-chats of the locality; consequently, many of them haunt inhabited
buildings, and display but little fear of the human possessors of these.
Indeed, an allied species (_Cercomela melanura_) is thought by some to be
the sparrow of the Scriptures.

A cock rock-chat used at the beginning of each hot weather to come into
the skylight of my office at Lahore and sing most sweetly, while his mate
was sitting on her eggs hard by. As I had not then seen a nest of this
species I sent a Mohammedan _chaprassi_ into the Shah Chirag—a tomb in
the office compound—to ascertain whether the nest was inside it or not.
He brought back word that the nest was inside the sepulchre, but that
Christians were not allowed inside, adding, however, that the fakir in
charge thought that an exception might be made in my favour. A rupee
settled the question. Matting was laid down so that the saint’s
burying-place might not be defiled by the dust that fell from the boots
of the infidel, and a ladder was taken inside. Let into the walls of the
tomb were a number of large niches. In one of these, of which the base
was some ten feet above the level of the ground, was the nest of the
brown rock-chats, containing three beautiful pale blue eggs, blotched
with light yellow at the broad end. The ledge on which the nest was built
was covered with dust and pieces of fallen plaster, which had evidently
been accumulating there for generations. The fallen plaster served as a
foundation for the little nursery, which was composed entirely of fine
dried grass. This had the appearance of being woven into a shallow cup,
but I am inclined to think that the material had been merely piled on to
the ledge, and that the cavity had resulted from the sitting of the bird.
The nest was bounded on two sides by the wall, and the part of it next to
the wall was deeper than the remainder. There was no attempt at weaving
or cementing, and the whole was so loosely put together that it could
have been removed only by inserting a piece of cardboard under it, and
thus lifting it bodily away. In other niches were three disused nests,
one of which I appropriated; they had probably been made in previous
years by the same pair of birds. I subsequently came across another nest
inside an inhabited bungalow at Lahore, and another on the inner ledge of
the window of an outhouse. Hume stated that a pair of brown rock-chats
built regularly for years in his house at Etawah. They do not invariably
construct the nest inside buildings. Hume writes: “Deep ravines and
earthy cliffs also attract them, and thousands of pairs build yearly in
that vast network of ravines that fringes the courses of the Jumna and
Chambul from opposite Agra to Calpee. Others nest in quarries, and I got
several nests from those in the neighbourhood of Futtehpoor Sikri.”

During the nesting season the brown rock-chat knows not what fear is. Mr.
R. M. Adam gives an account of a pair which built a nest in a hole in a
bath-room wall. The birds did not appear to be frightened by people
entering and leaving the room. When the first brood had been reared the
hen laid a second clutch of eggs, and, on these being taken, she
immediately laid a third batch. Colonel Butler writes: “During the period
of incubation both birds are extremely pugnacious, and vigorously attack
any small birds, squirrels, rats, lizards, etc., that venture to approach
the nest.” The tameness of the brown rock-chat, together with his
alluring ways and sweet song, make him an exceptionally fascinating
little bird.



                                   IV
                        THE SCAVENGER-IN-WAITING


The number of kites to be seen in any given place depends almost entirely
upon the state of sanitation in that place. In England conservancy
arrangements are so good that the kite is practically extinct. We have no
use for the bird at home. “_Il faut vive_,” says the kite, “and if you do
not provide me with offal I shall prey upon poultry,” “As to your
living,” replies the farmer, “_Je n’en vois pas la necessité_, and, if
you attack my poultry, I shall attack you.” The kites in the United
Kingdom were as good as their word; so were the farmers. The result is
that the kite is a rara avis at home; a nestling born in the British
Isles is said to be worth £25.

India teems with kites (_Milvus govinda_); we may therefore infer that
sanitation out there is primitive. Unfortunately, we Anglo-Indians do not
require the kites to enable us to appreciate this fact. Kites, however,
are useful in giving us the measure of the insanitariness of a town.
Lahore is a great place for kites. That city contains a greater
proportionate number of these scavenger birds for its size than any other
city or town I have ever visited. They are nearly as abundant as the
crows; further, that beautiful bird, commonly known as Pharaoh’s chicken
(_Neophron percnopterus_), shows his smiling face to one at every turn.
Let me here observe that I am not calling anyone names; I am merely
stating a fact. If the Lahore municipal authorities take my words to
heart, so much the better!

Kites are the assistant sweepers to Government; I was going to say
“honorary sweepers,” but that would not have been strictly accurate, for
in India nothing is done for nothing. The kites receive no money wages,
nothing that comes under the Accountant-General’s audit, but they are
paid in truck. They are allowed to keep the refuse they clear away. This
seems on the face of it to be a _bandobast_ most favourable to the
Government, a very cheap way of securing servants; but, like many another
arrangement which reads well on paper, it is in practice not so
advantageous as it appears. Thus the kite is apt to put a wide, I might
almost say an elastic interpretation on the word “refuse.” To take a
concrete example: the other day one of these birds swooped down and
carried off the chop that was to have formed the _pièce de résistance_ of
my breakfast.

But, notwithstanding his many misdeeds, the kite is a bird with which we
in India could ill afford to dispense, for he subsists chiefly upon
garbage. Fortified with this knowledge, we are able to properly
appreciate the sublime lines of the poet Hurdis:

  “Mark but the soaring kite, and she will reade
  Brave rules for diet; teach thee how to feede;
  She flies aloft; she spreads her ayrie plumes
  Above the earth, above the nauseous fumes
  Of dang’rous earth; she makes herself a stranger
  T’ inferior things, and checks at every danger.”

Now, I like these lines. Not that I altogether approve of the sentiments
therein expressed. I would not advise anyone, not even a German, to learn
table manners from the kite. What I do like about the above is the
splendid manner in which the poet strikes out a new line. [N.B.—The poets
and their friends are strongly advised to omit the forty lines that
follow.] The vulgar herd of poets can best be compared to a flock of
sheep. One of them makes some wild statement about a bird, and all the
rest plagiarise it. Not so Hurdis; he is no slavish imitator. He
obviously knows nothing about the kite, but that is a trifle. If poets
wrote only of things with which they were _au fait_, where would all our
poetry be?

What Hurdis did know was that, as a general rule, when you want to write
about a bird of which you know nothing, you are pretty safe in reading
what the poets say about it, and then saying the very opposite. That in
this particular case the rule does not hold good is Hurdis’s misfortune,
not his fault. The kite happens to be almost the only bird about which
the poets write correctly. This is a phenomenon I am totally unable to
explain.

Cowper sang:

  “Kites that swim sublime
  In still repeated circles, screaming loud.”

Writes Clare:

  “Of chick and duck and gosling gone astray,
  All falling preys to the sweeping kite.”

King says:

  “The kite will to her carrion fly.”

The most captious critic could not take exception to any of these
sentiments. He might certainly pull a long face at Macaulay’s

  “The kites know well the long stern swell
  That bids the Roman close.”

But he would find it exceedingly difficult to prove that the kites do not
know this.

But let us leave the poets and return to the bird as it is, for common
though he be in the East, the “sailing glead” is a bird that will repay a
little study. His powers of flight, his ability to soar high above the
earth, to sail through the thin air with outstretched and apparently
motionless wings, are equalled by few birds. Watch him as he glides
overhead in great circles until he disappears from sight. He constantly
utters his tremulous, querulous scream—_Chēē-hēē-hēē-hēē-hēē_; his head
is bent so that his beak points downwards, and few things are there which
escape his keen eye. Suddenly he espies a rabble of crows squabbling over
a piece of meat. Quick as thought he is full on his downward career. A
second or two later the fighting, squawking crows hear the swish of his
wings—a sound very familiar to them—and promptly make way for him. None
desires to feel the grip of his powerful talons. He sweeps above the bone
of contention, drops a little, seizes it with his claws, and sails away
to the nearest housetop, where he devours his booty, fixing it with his
talons as he tears it with his beak.

Crows love not the kite. His manner of living resembles theirs so closely
that a certain amount of opposition is inevitable. Then, again, the kite
never makes any bones about carrying off a young crow if the opportunity
presents itself. If the truth be told, the crows are afraid of the kite.
They will, of course, not admit this. You will never get a crow to admit
anything that may be used as evidence against him.

The crows regard kites with much the same feelings that the smaller boys
at school regard the big, bullying boys. Those who know the ways of the
_corvi_ (and who is there in India that does not?) will not be surprised
to hear that they never lose an opportunity of scoring off a kite. There
is no commoner sight than that of a brace of them, as likely as not aided
and abetted by a king crow, chasing the fleeing glead, and endeavouring
to pull a beakful of feathers out of his rump.

But crows prefer to worry the kite upon _terra firma_, for the latter is
a clumsy bird when on the ground. He is so heavy that he can only waddle
along, and, notwithstanding his great pinions, he experiences difficulty
in raising himself off a level plain. Hence it is when a kite is resting,
half asleep, upon the ground, that the “lurking villain crows” usually
worry him. It requires at least two of the “treble-dated birds” to do
this with success. One alights in front of the victim and the other
behind him. This apparently harmless manœuvre is quite sufficient to
excite the suspicions of the kite. He turns his eyes uneasily from crow
to crow, and, although he utters no sound, he is probably cursing his
luck that he has not a visual organ at the back of his head. If he is a
sensible bird he will at once fly off, in hopes that the perditious crows
will not follow him. If he remains, the posteriorly situated crow takes a
peck at his tail. He, of course, turns upon the aggressor, and thus gives
the front bird the opportunity for which it has been waiting. Sooner or
later the kite has to move on.

Kites are very fond of settling on the tops of posts, and on other spiky
places; this feature they share with crows, green parrots, blue jays, and
other birds. I cannot bring myself to believe that such perches are
comfortable; but, just as a small boy will prefer balancing himself upon
a narrow railing to sitting on a proper seat, so do birds seem to enjoy
perching on all sorts of impossible places. Birds are like small boys in
many respects. A kite, of course, enjoys one great advantage when he
elects to rest upon such a perch: it is then impossible for “ribald”
crows to come and squat to right and to left of him.

Kites are not migratory birds in most parts of India. It is said,
however, that the kites leave Calcutta during the rains. I have never
visited the “Queen of Indian cities,” so I cannot say whether or not the
kites act thus. Jerdon, Blanford, and Cunningham all declare that they
do; but Finn writes: “How such an idea could have arisen I do not know. I
have always noticed kites in the rains, and have never heard that they
were ever in the habit of leaving Calcutta then.” The truth of the matter
seems to be that when it rains very heavily the streets of the city on
the Hooghly are washed comparatively clean, and all the food of the
“sailing glead” is swept out into the country, so the kites go after it,
but they return as soon as the rain stops.

The nesting season for the kites is at any time when they feel disposed
to undertake the cares of the family. The books tell us that it begins in
January. This is correct. Where they go wrong is in asserting that it
ends in April. I should rather say that it ends in December. It is true,
however, that in Northern India the greater number of nests are
constructed in the first three months of the calendar year.

The completed nest is about the size of a football, and is an untidy mass
of twigs, rags, mud, brickbats, and such-like things. It is usually
placed high up in a tall tree, not quite at the top, on a forked branch.
It is not a great architectural triumph, but it serves its purpose. Two
eggs are usually laid. These have a white ground blotched with red or
brown. Kites object to having their nest pried into, so that he who
attempts to steal the eggs must not be surprised if the owners attack
him.



                                   V
                            INDIAN WAGTAILS


  “What art thou made of?—air or light or dew?
  —I have no time to tell you if I knew.
  My tail—ask that—perhaps may solve the matter;
  I’ve missed three flies already by this chatter.”

I quite agree with Mr. Warde Fowler that wagtails are everything that
birds should be. They are just the right size; their shape and form are
perfect; they dress most tastefully; they display that sprightliness that
one looks for in birds; their movements are elegant and engaging; their
undulating flight is blithe and gay; their song is sweet and cheery; they
are friendly, and sociable, fond of men and animals, “not too shy, not
too bold.” They are, in short, ideal birds.

I know of nothing more enjoyable than to sit watching a wagtail feeding
at the water’s edge.

“She runs along the shore so quickly,” writes a long-forgotten author,
“that the eye is hardly able to follow her steps, and yet, with a flying
glance, she examines every crevice, every stalk that conceals her
reposing or creeping prey. Now she steps upon a smoothly washed stone;
she bathes and drinks—and how becomingly, and with what an air! The very
nicest _soubrette_ could not raise her dress more coquettishly, the
best-taught dancer not move with more graceful _pas_ than the pretty
bather as she lifts her train and dainty feet. Suddenly she throws
herself, with a jump and a bound, into the air, to catch the circling
gnat; and now should be seen the beating of wings, the darting hither and
thither, the balancing and the shakes and the _allegretto_ that her tail
keeps time to. Nothing can surpass it in lightness. In fine, of all the
little feathered people, none, except the swallow, is more graceful,
fuller of movement, more adroit or insinuating, than the wagtail.”

Wagtails are essentially birds of the temperate zone. They remind us of a
fact that we who dwell in the tropics are apt to forget, namely, that
there are some beautiful birds found outside the torrid zone.

Fourteen species of wagtail occur in India, but the majority of them
leave us to breed. They bring up their families in cool Kashmir, on the
chilly, wind-swept heights of Thibet, or even in glacial Siberia, and
visit India only in the winter when their native land becomes too frigid
even for them.

Many of the migratory wagtails do not show themselves in the southern
portion of the peninsula, being rightly of opinion that the climate of
Upper India is not far from perfect during the winter months.

There is, however, one species—the most lovable of them all—the
pied-wagtail (_Motacilla maderaspatensis_)—which has discovered that it
is possible to live in the plains of India throughout the year; and,
having made this discovery, it has decided that the troubles and trials
of the hot weather are lesser evils than the inconveniences and perils of
the long migratory journey. The head of this species is black, relieved
by a white streak running through the eye; the wings and tail are mostly
black, and a bib—or is “front” a more correct word?—of similar hue is
usually worn. The under parts of the bird are white.

The pied-wagtail is common all over India. It is particularly abundant in
the city of Madras, where it is to be seen everywhere—on the house-top,
in the courtyard, in shady garden, in open field, and on the river bank
in company with the soldiers who solemnly fish in the waters round about
the fort.

When in Madras I used to see almost daily one of these birds perched on
the telegraph wire that runs across the Cooum parallel with the Mount
Road bridge. The bird seemed to spend most of the day in pouring forth
its sweet song. When sitting on the wire its tail used to hang down in a
most unwagtail-like manner, so that the bird looked rather like a pipit.
Pied-wagtails sometimes appropriate suitable parts of the bungalow for
nesting sites; when this happens the human occupant has plenty of
opportunity of studying their ways.

The remaining thirteen species of wagtails are merely winter visitors to
the plains of India. Two or three of these are to be seen feeding, during
the cold weather, on every grass-covered field, and at the edge of every
_jhil_. In the latter place wagtails are nothing short of a nuisance to
the man who is out after snipe, for they have the habit of rising along
with the snipe, and the white outer-tail feathers invariably catch the
eye. Many a snipe owes its life to the wagtail.

The four commonest of the migratory wagtails are, I think, the white
(_Motacilla alba_), the masked (_M. impersonata_), the grey (_M.
melanope_), and the grey-headed wagtail (_M. borealis_). The two latter
are characterised by much bright yellow in the lower plumage, which the
first two lack; but I am not going to attempt to achieve the impossible
by trying to describe the various species of wagtail. Owing to the fact
that these birds, like ladies of fashion, are continually changing their
gowns, it is very difficult to state the species to which an individual
belongs without examining that individual feather by feather. You may see
a dozen wagtails of the same species catching insects on your lawn, each
of which differs markedly from all his companions. Most of us are
satisfied with the knowledge that a given bird is a wagtail, and are able
to enjoy the poetry and grace of its motion without troubling our heads
about its scientific name.



                                   VI
                               THE TEESA


_Butastur teesa_ used to be called the white-eyed buzzard, but one day a
worthy ornithologist discovered that the bird was not the genuine
article, that its legs and its eggs betrayed the fact that it is not a
true buzzard. Therefore a new name had to be found for the bird. In their
search for this, naturalists have not met with great success. Indeed, the
last state of the bird is worse than the first, for it is now known as
the white-eyed buzzard-eagle. To the adjectival part of the name no one
can take exception, because the white eye and a whitish patch of feathers
on the back of the head are the most remarkable features of a rather
ordinary-looking fowl. The name “buzzard-eagle,” however, is most
misleading. Although, as I have previously had occasion to state, eagles
are not quite the noble creatures the poets have made them out to be, to
suggest that _Butastur teesa_ is one of them is to insult the whole
aquiline community. Eagles, notwithstanding the fact that they sometimes
eat carrion, attack, each according to the size of its talons, quarry of
considerable size, and are, in consequence, the terror of other birds. As
Phil Robinson says of them, “they stand in the sky as the symbol of
calamity. When they stoop to the earth it is a vision of sudden death.”
To speak thus of _Butastur teesa_ would be, as Euclid says, absurd. The
white-eyed buzzard is almost contemptible as a bird of prey; he is a
raptorial degenerate, a mere loafer.

In India one often sees a white-eyed buzzard, some mynas, a pair of
doves, several bee-eaters, one or two king crows, and a roller, sitting,
all in a row, on a telegraph wire within a few yards of one another; the
first and the last, as likely as not, on the tops of the telegraph poles,
looking like pillar saints. Contrast this state of affairs with what
happens when a hawk or a falcon appears on the scene. “Take to woodland,”
writes Phil Robinson, “and fill it with your birds of beauty and of song;
put your ‘blackbird pipers in every tree,’ and have linnets ‘starting all
along the bushes.’ Let melody burthen every bough and every cloud hold a
lark. Have your doves in the pines, and your thrushes in the hawthorn;
spangle your thistle-beds with restless goldfinches, and your furze with
yellowhammers. The sun is shining brightly, and the countryside seems
fairly overflowing with gladness. But with a single touch you can alter
the whole scene; for let one hawk come skimming round that copse yonder,
and the whole woodland is mute in the moment. Here and there shrill
warning cries of alarm, and here and there a bird dipping into the
central covert of the brake. But for the rest there might not be one
winged thing alive in all the landscape. The hawk throws a shadow of
desolation as it goes, its wings scatter fears on either side; silence
precedes it and gloom pursues.”

Small birds fear the hawk and despise the _teesa_, because they know that
the former is as swift and energetic as the latter is slow and lazy. But
it is not easy to understand why the white-eyed buzzard does not prey
upon wild birds, because its wings are, in proportion to its size, longer
than those of most birds of prey. It is not that _Butastur_ considers
birds unfit to eat. On the contrary, says Mr. C. H. Donald, “that he
would love to catch a bird for his dinner is proved by the fact of his
coming down to a bird behind a net as soon as he sees it, but I suppose
experience has taught him that it is no use his trying to catch one in
its wild state, and in full possession of its wings and feathers, and,
consequently, he never tries.” Thus, we have no alternative but to regard
the white-eyed buzzard as a degenerate, a bird that might starve in the
midst of plenty.

When a hungry _Butastur_ sees flitting all around him potential meals in
the shape of small birds, his feelings must be akin to those of the
impecunious man in the comic song who, as he contemplates the insurance
policy on the life of his shrewish wife, cries out: “Stone broke with
fifty quid staring me in the face!” The white-eyed buzzard has perforce
to feed upon very humble quarry, upon the creeping and crawling things,
upon beetles and insects, with an occasional rat or frog. His usual
method of capturing his prey is very similar to that of the shrike, or
butcher-bird, or, to come nearer home, to that of the true buzzards. He
takes up a position on a bare branch of a tree, a telegraph pole, a
fence, or other point of vantage, such as a heap of _kankar_, and there
waits patiently until some small creature wanders by. On to this he
quietly drops, secures it in his feeble talons, and returns to the perch
to devour his quarry and thus bring to a close one of nature’s little
tragedies, of which millions are being daily enacted. After he has
finished his dinner he loves to sit awhile, as the nursery rhyme tells us
we should do, and quietly digest what he has eaten. I once disturbed a
_Butastur_ that had just finished a heavy meal in the shape of a frog,
with the result that the bird “brought up” the frog!

Sometimes the white-eyed buzzard beats over the ground in search of its
quarry, but this is not his usual _modus operandi_. If you would see the
white-eyed buzzard, go into an open place and watch for a brown bird a
little larger than a crow, sitting motionless on some point of vantage,
like Patience on a monument. By its sluggish habits, its small size, its
white eye, and the whitish patch at the back of its head, you may
recognise it. It utters a peculiar plaintive screaming call, which is
heard mostly at the nesting season. “In February and March,” writes Mr.
Donald, “just before the breeding season, these birds may be frequently
seen soaring high up in the heavens, and giving vent to their plaintive
call, and might be taken for falcons if it were not for their much more
rounded wings. When at a height their breasts appear dark and their wings
(lower surface) very light and silvery.”

Needless to say, the nest of this species is not a very skilfully
constructed affair. It is not more beautiful than a _dak_ bungalow, but,
like the latter, serves the purpose for which it is built. It is very
like that of the common crow—a loosely-put-together collection of sticks,
devoid of anything in the form of lining, and placed fairly high up in
the fork of a tree. The tree selected is usually one with rather dense
foliage, and one of a clump or row, in preference to a solitary tree;
nevertheless, I have seen a nest in an isolated tree. The eggs, which are
greyish white, are not laid until some time after the nest has been made
ready. _Teesas_ are very noisy at the nesting season; the sitting hen
utters constantly a mewing cry, which renders the nest easy to locate;
but her vocal efforts pale into insignificance before those of the young
hopefuls. These, to quote Mr. Benjamin Aitken, “keep up an incessant
screaming for days before and after they leave the nest; so that you
cannot pass within two hundred yards of a brood of nearly fledged or
newly fledged birds without being made painfully aware of their existence
and good spirits.”



                                  VII
                           FALCONRY IN INDIA


Lest the title of this chapter should lead the reader to indulge in
expectations that will not be realised, let me hasten to say that, in my
opinion, hawking is a much overrated pastime. This statement will, of
course, rouse the ire of the keen falconer, who will tell me that hawking
is the sport of kings, and that it has no equal. To such a defence of the
sport the obvious reply is that it has almost entirely died out in
England, and that in India, where there is every facility for it, very
few Europeans care to indulge in it. In Persia and India falconry is
carried on in precisely the same way as it used to be in England. There
can be little doubt that the sport originated in the East, and was
introduced into the British Isles in Anglo-Saxon times. The hoods, the
jesses, the lures, the gauntlets that are used in India to-day are
exactly like those portrayed in old English hawking prints.

Hawks fall into two classes, according to the method of catching their
quarry. These may be compared respectively to sprinters and long-distance
men among human athletes. They are known to falconers as the short-winged
or yellow-eyed hawks and the long-winged or dark-eyed hawks. The former
adopt what I may perhaps call slap-dash methods. A furious rush is made
at the quarry, and if this be not secured at the first onslaught the
chase is given up. The second class adopts the slow but sure method. The
falcon, having sighted its quarry, settles down to a long pursuit, keeps
on and on until it finds itself above its victim, on to which it stoops.
The second class of raptorial birds, which includes all the falcons,
affords the better kind of sport, because the following of the chase
entails some hard riding. For falconry of this kind a stretch of flat,
open country is a _sine qua non_, and, as this is comparatively easy to
find in India, one would naturally expect that the long-winged form of
falconry would be the most popular among Indians. But this is not so. In
Northern India, at any rate, that species of falconry that does not
involve hard riding on the part of the falconer is the most practised.
The goshawk (_Astur palabarius_) is the hawk most commonly used.

Perhaps the best method of conveying an idea of falconry to one who has
not witnessed the sport is to describe a day’s actual experience. The
month is December, and the place Oudh. This means a sunny but perfectly
cool day, so that riding, even when the sun is at its zenith, is
delightful. Our party consists of an Indian gentleman—a Sikh and a large
land-holder—who owns the hawks, and three Europeans all well mounted,
also the chief falconer, indifferently mounted, who carries on his gloved
forearm a goshawk. Then there are two other falconers on foot, one
carrying a goshawk and the other a sparrow-hawk (_Accipiter nisus_). Half
a dozen beaters and three mongrel terriers complete the party. The
sparrow-hawk is hooded, while the goshawk is not, being of a less
excitable nature. The hood is a leather cap, constructed so as to cover
up the wearer’s eyes but not her beak. The hood terminates in a point
like a helmet. In the summit some plumes are stuck, so that the hooded
bird has a fantastic appearance. Sparrow-hawks and peregrines are made to
wear these hoods when taken out, until the falconer espies quarry, when
he unhoods his hawk and lets the ends of the jesses go. The jesses are
short straps made of soft leather, which all trained hawks and falcons
always wear. The goshawks are both females. In all species of the
_raptores_—listen to this, ye suffragettes!—the female is larger and
bolder than the male, and hence is more highly esteemed by the falconer.
The female goshawk is known as a _baz_, and is worth anything up to Rs.
150, while the male, called the _jurra_, will never fetch more than Rs.
80. The goshawks whose exploits I am about to recount cost Rs. 80 and Rs.
60 respectively. They have been trained more especially to take peafowl.

The party sets out in a southerly direction across an uneven plain, much
intersected by dried-up water-courses. There is no cultivation on the
plain, which is to a large extent covered with long _sarpat_ grass and
other xerophilous plants. We move along in an irregular line, the dogs
and beaters doing their best to put up game. Suddenly a quail rises. “Let
loose the sparrow-hawk,” cries the Sirdar. But, alas, the man carrying
that bird has lagged behind, so the quail escapes. I may here say that on
nine occasions out of ten when out hawking the man with the proper hawk
is not where he should be. We continue our course, and presently come to
a narrow river running through a deep _nullah_. Here two or three
cormorants come flying overhead. They are forthwith “spotted” by the
goshawks, which have all the time been eagerly looking about them in all
directions. Having seen the cormorants, they begin tugging excitedly at
their jesses. The falconers liberate the goshawks, and away they go in
pursuit. After flying about eighty yards, first one goshawk, then the
other, gives up the chase, and each repairs to the tree that happens to
be nearest it. Then the falconers go up and show the birds pieces of
meat, in order to entice them back to the fist. One baz immediately flies
to the bait. Not so the other. She sits perched in her tree with an air
of _j’y suis, j’y reste_. In a few seconds some crows catch sight of her
and proceed to mob her by flying around her and squawking loudly.
However, not one of them dares to touch her. Presently she too flies to
her trainer, and the party moves on.

We next ford the river. On the far side the country is still more rugged,
but contains more trees. Presently there is a great commotion in the
thicket, and up gets a great peacock. The goshawks are again released and
give chase. They fly low and make straight for the peacock, upon which
they gain rapidly. We ride hard after them. After a flight of perhaps two
hundred yards the hawks, when close up to the object of their chase, give
up the pursuit, and fly to trees hard by. I ask their owner why they did
not secure the peacock. He replies: “They would have taken it had it been
a hen. They are not used to the male bird. Alas, my best hawk, which
would take the cock, died last week!” Let me here remark that I have
never yet come across a falconer whose best hawk had not recently died.
This is the inevitable excuse for the apparently invariable failure of
the falcon to secure its quarry. To cut a long story short, neither of
those goshawks secured anything that day. Later, the sparrow-hawk was
sent after an unfortunate myna (_Acridotheres tristis_), which it secured
after a chase of perhaps a dozen yards. Its talons struck the myna in the
neck, and it soon killed it, not, however, before the poor little
creature had emitted some heart-rending shrieks. The goshawk must
occasionally catch something, or it would not fetch so large a price, and
would not be so popular a bird with falconers in Northern India, but I
imagine that on most days the hawking party returns without having
secured anything.

Let me now give a brief account of hawking with the Bhairi, or peregrine
falcon (_Falco peregrinus_). The scene, this time, is a huge expanse of
flat plain in the Punjab, near the River Jhelum. The hawks belong to a
European. We have ridden for several hours, not having succeeded in
putting up quarry of any kind. As the falconer seems to have anticipated
this, and as he has with him on trial a new peregrine, which he wants to
see at work, an unfortunate crow, which was captured in the morning and
has been carried round in a bag with us, is let go. He flies in a very
stiff manner. When he has flown some eighty yards the peregrine is
unhooded and let go after him. She at once flies upwards, and in a few
seconds is above the crow, who, seeing her, drops to the ground and lies
there on his back prepared to show fight. The falcon stoops at him, but
seems to be afraid to tackle him on the ground. The falconer then runs up
to him and tries to make him get up; but he refuses, so he is picked up
and thrown into the air. The falcon at once stoops at him, but before she
reaches him the crow has again dropped to the ground, and still the
falcon refuses to close with him. “That bird is of no use,” is the
comment of my host, an assertion which I do not feel inclined to
contradict.

The only other kinds of falconry I have witnessed are those with
hawk-eagles (_Spizaëtus nepalensis_), shikras (_Astur badius_), and
merlins (_Æsalon regulus_). Hodgson’s hawk-eagle is so large a bird that
to watch him dashing after his quarry is a fine sight. It is said that
this species can be trained to capture chinkara (_Gazella bennetti_).
However, I have only seen it in pursuit of a hare that had been
previously caught and then let loose. The hawk-eagle overtook this before
it had gone fifty yards.

Hawking with the shikra is, in my opinion, very poor sport, for this
little bird of prey makes but one dash at its quarry, and at once desists
if this does not enable it to overhaul it. It is usually flown at quails
or mynas. While waiting for its victim it is carried on the hand, but is
not hooded. When one of the kind of bird to which it has been trained is
flushed, the hawker takes the shikra in his hand, holds it between his
thumb and fingers, and then throws it like a javelin in the direction of
its quarry. Thus it enjoys the benefit of a flying start, but,
notwithstanding this, it generally fails to make a catch.

The contest between a merlin and a hoopoe is an exceedingly pretty sight.
The hoopoe is not a very rapid flier, but he is a past master in the art
of jinking and dodging, and the manner in which he times the onslaught of
the merlin, and jerks himself a couple of inches to right or to left, is
a sight for the gods. The merlin, thus cheated of his victim, is carried
on by sheer force of momentum some sixty yards before he can turn for
another dash at the hoopoe. Meanwhile the latter is steadily flapping
towards cover. The merlin is no more successful in his second dash, nor
in his third or his fourth; on each occasion the hoopoe escapes,
apparently by the proverbial hair’s-breadth. A single merlin is usually
not clever enough to capture the wily hoopoe, but when two of them act in
concert they usually succeed in doing so.

Such, then, is falconry as I have seen it. I concede that my experience
has not been great, but I have witnessed enough to enable me to
understand how it is that shooting has almost entirely displaced it as a
pastime.

The training of hawks is, of course, most interesting, and must be a very
fascinating pursuit to those engaged in it. When once the hawk or falcon
has been trained, it appears to me that the best of the fun is over.

The going out in search of quarry seems only an excuse for spending a day
in the open on horseback under very pleasant conditions.



                                  VIII
                           HAWKS IN MINIATURE


Even as the earth is overrun by dacoits, robbers, and highwaymen in all
places where the arm of the law is not far-reaching and hard-striking, so
is the air infested with bandits. These feathered marauders fall into
three classes, according to the magnitude of their quarry. There are,
first, the eagles, falcons, and hawks, which attack creatures of
considerable size. Then follow the shrikes or butcher-birds—pocket
editions of the raptores—which prey upon the small fry among reptiles,
mammals, and birds, also upon the larger insects. Lastly come the
fly-catchers, which content themselves with microscopic booty, with
trifles that the larger birds of prey do not deem worthy of notice. These
last are able to swallow their victims bodily. Not so the shrikes and
birds of prey, whose quarry has to be devoured piecemeal, to be captured,
killed, then torn to pieces.

Similarity of calling not infrequently engenders similarity of
appearance. Swifts and swallows afford a striking instance of this. Alike
externally, they are widely separated morphologically. So is it with the
shrikes and the raptores. The earlier naturalists were misled by this
outward likeness, and, in consequence, classed the swifts with the
swallows and the shrikes with the falcons.

Many are the points of resemblance between the greater and the lesser
bandits of the air. The ferocity of their mien is apparent to the most
casual observer. Michelet speaks of the eagle as having a “repulsively
ferocious figure, armed with invincible talons, and a beak tipped with
iron, which would kill at the first blow.” Even more sinister is the
aspect of the shrike. The broad black streak that runs from the bill to
the nape of the neck serves to accentuate the fierce expression of the
eye. The American naturalist Burroughs speaks of the shrike as a “bird
with the mark of Cain upon him, . . . the assassin of the small birds,
whom he often destroys in pure wantonness, or to sup upon their brains.”

Much has been written about the cruelty of birds of prey. Their calling
is indeed a barbarous one; they undoubtedly inflict much pain; but these
are not reasons why they should be spoken of as villains of the deepest
dye, as criminals worthy of the noose. The bird of prey kills his quarry
because it is his nature to do so. He regards his victims as so many
elusive loaves of bread, made for his consumption, to be obtained for the
catching. The fly-catcher holds similar views regarding his quarry. We
should bear in mind that the average insectivorous bird kills in the
course of his life a vastly greater number of living things than does the
eagle. The robin, for example, has been known to devour two and a half
times its weight in earthworms in a single day. Were the daily tale of
its victims placed end to end they would form a wriggling line fourteen
feet in length. Yet writers abuse the fierce and vicious eagle, while
they belaud the gentle and good robin. Thus Michelet writes with typical
romantic fervour: “These birds of prey, with their small brains, offer a
striking contrast to the numerous amiable and plainly intelligent species
which we find among the smaller birds. The head of the former is only a
beak; that of the latter has a face. What comparison can be made between
these giant brutes and the intelligent, all-human bird, the robin
redbreast, which at this moment hovers about me, perches on my shoulder
or my paper, examines my writing, warms himself at the fire, or curiously
peers through the window to see if the spring-time will not soon return?”

Writing of this description is possibly very magnificent, but it is not
natural history. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If
it is wicked of the falcon to devour a duck, I fail to see that it is
virtuous of the robin to gobble up a worm.

But to return to the shrike. His beak is very falcon-like. The short,
arched, upper mandible, with its pointed, downwardly-directed tip and
strong projecting tooth, is a weapon admittedly adapted to the tearing-up
of raw flesh. The butcher-bird waits for his quarry much as the buzzard
does, sitting immobile on the highest branch of a bush or low tree,
whence he scans the surface of the earth. Something moving on the ground
arrests his attention. In an instant he has swooped and seized a
grasshopper. A second later he is back on his perch, grasping his victim.
I have already stated that shrikes feed upon small mammals, birds and
reptiles, and large insects. These last make up by far the greater
portion of his menu. Often have I watched the smaller species of Indian
shrike obtaining a meal, but never have I seen any of these capture
anything larger than an insect. Mr. W. Jesse says of the Indian grey
shrike (_Lanius lahtora_)—the largest of our species: “It feeds on
crickets, locusts, lizards, and the like. It may occasionally seize a
sickly or a young bird, but I have never actually seen it do so.” Other
observers have been more fortunate. Thus “Eha” says: “Sometimes it sees a
possible chance in a flock of little birds absorbed in searching for
grass seeds. Then it slips from its watch-tower and, gliding softly down,
pops into the midst of them without warning, and strikes its talons into
the nearest.” Similarly Benjamin Aitken writes: “The rufous-backed
shrike, though not so large as the grey shrike, is a much bolder and
fiercer bird. It will come down at once to a cage of small birds exposed
at a window, and I once had an amadavat killed and partly eaten through
the wires by one of these shrikes which I saw in the act with my own
eyes. The next day I caught the shrike in a large basket, which I had set
over the cage of amadavats. On another occasion I exposed a rat in a cage
for the purpose of attracting a hawk, and in a few minutes found a
_Lanius erythronotus_ fiercely attacking the cage on all sides.”

I am disposed to regard such cases as the exceptions which prove the rule
that the food of, at any rate, the smaller species of shrike, consists
mainly of insects. This would explain why so few shrikes’ “larders” are
discovered in India. Every popular book on natural history describes how
the butcher-bird, having killed his victim, impales it upon a thorn, and
leaves it there to grow tender preparatory to devouring it. I have not
been lucky enough to come across one of these larders. Other naturalists
have been more fortunate, and we may take it as an established fact that
even the smaller Indian species of butcher-birds sometimes impale their
victims on thorns. The existence of such larders is easily accounted for.
When the little butcher captures a victim so large that it has to be torn
to pieces before consumption, he has to find some method of fixing it
while tearing it up. He is not heavy enough to pin it to the ground with
his talons, as a raptorial bird does, so must perforce utilise the fork
of a tree or a large thorn. Having taken his fill, he flies away, leaving
the remains of his dinner impaled on the thorn, where it is discovered by
some enterprising ornithologist.

Fifteen species of _Lanius_ are described as existing in India. Of these
the three most commonly seen are the rufous-backed, the bay-backed, and
the grey species.

The rufous-backed shrike (_Lanius erythronotus_) is the only butcher-bird
that is abundant on the Bombay side. It is about the size of a bulbul. It
sits bolt upright, with tail pointing to the ground, and in this attitude
watches for its quarry. It has a grey head, with a conspicuous broad
black band—the mark of the butcher-bird community—running through the
eye. Its back is reddish brown. It has a white shirt-front, which makes
it easy to see; moreover, it always sits on an exposed perch. To mistake
a shrike is impossible. There is no other fowl like unto it.

The bay-backed species (_L. vittatus_) is a somewhat smaller bird, but is
very like _erythronotus_ in appearance. It may, however, be distinguished
at a glance when on the wing by the white in the wings and tail.

The third common species—the Indian grey shrike (_L. lahtora_)—has the
whole of the back grey, and thus is recognisable without difficulty.

The nest of the butcher-bird is an untidy, cup-shaped structure, from
which pieces of rag frequently hang down. As often as not it is built in
a thorny tree, and, by preference, pressed up close against the trunk.
Baby shrikes make their _début_ into the world during the hot weather.



                                   IX
                     THE ROOSTING OF THE BEE-EATERS


One evening in August I was “on the prowl” with a pair of field-glasses,
when I came across a tree from which emanated the twittering of many
green bee-eaters (_Merops viridis_). As the sun was about to set, it was
evident that these alluring little birds were getting ready to go to
sleep. Most birds seem to roost in company. They do so presumably for the
sake of companionship, warmth, and, perhaps, protection. To my mind there
is no sight more amusing than that of a number of little birds going to
bed, so I turned aside to watch these emerald bee-eaters. The tree in
question was an isolated one, growing at the side of a field. I do not
know its name, but it was about twenty feet high, with fairly dense
foliage, the leaves being in colouring and shape not unlike those of the
rose. The bee-eaters in the tree were making a great noise; all were
twittering at the top of their musical little voices, and, as there were
certainly more than forty of them, to say nothing of some other birds,
the clamour may be imagined. From a little distance it sounded like the
calling of many cicadas. The birds were evidently busy selecting perches
on which to pass the night, and there was, as there seems always to be on
such occasions, a certain amount of squabbling. I was going to say
“fighting,” but perhaps that would be too strong a word to use for this
scramble for places. At times, indeed, the scramble would develop into a
fight, and two birds emerge snapping at one another. Once outside they
would desist from fighting and return to the tree. Occasionally a
bee-eater would dart out of the tree, and make a sally after some flying
insect, and, having caught it with a loud snap of its mandibles, return
to the tree and disappear into the “leafy bower.” While this was going on
amid the foliage, fresh bee-eaters kept coming in from a distance, mostly
in pairs. These all made direct for the tree, evidently knowing it well.

I crept up to within about six yards of the dormitory, so as to witness
as much as possible of what was going on amongst the leaves.

Some of the birds looked as though they had settled down for the night,
since they were quite quiet. Two, in particular, had taken up a position,
side by side, close up against one another on a somewhat isolated bough.
They sat there quite still except for an occasional turn of the head,
which seemed to express surprise and annoyance at the clamour of their
fellows. Several other individuals had settled down in the same manner,
in rows of two or more, huddled as close as possible together, each row
being on a separate branch.

I noticed one line of eight bee-eaters, squeezed up against one another,
and very pretty did the eight little heads look. But these rows were
subjected to constant disturbance, and were continually being broken up
and re-formed. The disturbances came both from within and from without.
One of a row, usually the outside one (outside berths are not appreciated
by the bird-folk), would suddenly determine to better his position, which
he would seek to do by hopping on to his neighbour’s back, and trying to
wedge himself in between him and the next bird. This would be resented by
the aforesaid neighbour, who would try to shake off the intruder, and the
struggle that ensued would, as often as not, result in the break-up of
the whole row. Birds that had not already found suitable perches would
join rows already in existence. This was a constant source of
disturbance. Perhaps four bee-eaters would be sitting on a bough which
their weight caused to hang horizontally, then a fifth bird would take it
into his little head to alight at the extreme tip of the branch, and bear
it down to such an extent that those already on it had to grip hard to
maintain their equilibrium. It must be very disconcerting and annoying to
a sleepy little bird when the angle of its perch is suddenly changed by
fifteen or twenty degrees!

While I was watching all this some village boys caught sight of me, and,
with the curiosity so characteristic of the Punjabi, came up to see what
I was looking at. Shortly after their arrival one of them showed his
country manners by clearing his throat with such violence as to frighten
all the bee-eaters out of the tree in which they were settling down for
the night! Some flew to a neighbouring tree, but the majority circled in
the air with loud twitterings. Within less than three minutes, however,
all were back again, trying to find suitable perches. Before they had
half settled down a boy again disturbed them. This was obviously done to
annoy me, so I sent the urchins about their business. All the bee-eaters
were back again almost immediately. By this time the sun had disappeared
below the horizon, a fact which the birds seemed to appreciate, judging
by the celerity with which they settled down. It soon grew so dark that I
could scarcely distinguish the birds from the foliage which they resemble
so much in hue. But for the black streak through the eye I should not
have been able to do so. I now crept up under the tree, and was able, by
looking up, to distinguish little groups of bee-eaters huddled together.
I noticed several couples, two rows of three, four rows of four, and one
of five. The tails projected from behind, and by counting these I was
able to determine the number in a row. I noticed that the tails were not
parallel; some were crossed by others, showing that the birds do not
roost so closely packed as they appear to be when looked at from the
front. Birds are composed largely of feathers, so that it is easy for
them to have the appearance of being packed like sardines in a tin when
in reality they have plenty of room.

All the birds in a row faced the same way, but some rows looked one way
and others another.

Bee-eaters do not sleep with the head under the wing, as some birds do,
but are content to allow it to drop into their downy shoulders.

The little company did not all roost at the same elevation, but none
slept on the lowest branches, nor could I distinguish any on the highest
boughs. I should say that all the birds roost in the middle zone of the
tree. The branches selected were not necessarily those where the foliage
was thickest, nor, so far as I could make out, where the sleeping birds
would be best protected from dew and rain. As it rained very heavily in
the night in question, some of those bee-eaters must have had a nocturnal
shower-bath.



                                   X
                                  OWLS


It is the misfortune of owls that they are universally unpopular. They
are heartily detested by their fellow-birds, who never miss an
opportunity of mobbing them. They are looked upon with superstitious
dread by the more ignorant classes all the world over. Jews and Gentiles,
Christians and heathens, alike hate them. Owls are thought to be “death
birds,” “foul precursors of the fiend,” “birds whose breath brings
sickness, and whose note is death,” death’s dreadful messengers, Satan’s
_chapprassis_, the devil’s poultry. Poets join with the vulgar _plebs_ in
showering abusive epithets upon them. Owls are gibbering, moping, dull,
ghastly, gloomy, fearful, cruel, fatal, dire, foul, baleful, boding,
grim, sullen birds, birds of mean degree and evil omen. The naturalist
is, however, above the vulgar and ill-founded prejudice against the
“sailing pirates of the night.” To him, owls are birds of peculiar
fascination and surpassing interest. They are of peculiar fascination
because he has learned comparatively little about their habits. We day
folk have but a slender knowledge of the lives of the creatures of the
night. To most of us owls are _voces, et præterea nihil_—voices which are
the reverse of pleasant. Owls are of surpassing interest to the
naturalist on account of their perfect adaptation to a peculiar mode of
life.

The owl is a bird of prey which seeks its quarry by night, a “cat on
wings,” as Phil Robinson hath it. A master of the craft of night-hunting
must of necessity possess exceptional eyesight. His sense of hearing too
must be extraordinarily acute, for in the stillness of the night it is
the ear rather than the eye that is relied upon to detect the presence of
that which is sought. Another _sine qua non_ of owl existence is the
power of silent progression. Were the flight of owls noisy, like that of
crows and other large birds, their victims would hear them coming, and so
be able to make good their escape. He who hunts in the night has to take
his quarry by surprise. Everyone must have noticed the great staring orbs
of the owl. Like the wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, it has
large eyes in order the better to see its victim. The eye of the owl is
both large and rounded, and the pupil is big for the size of the eye in
order to admit as much moonlight as possible. The visual organs of the
owl are made for night work, and so are unsuited to the hours of
sunlight. Ordinary daylight is probably as trying to the owl as the glare
of the noonday sun in the desert is to human beings. But it is not
correct to speak of the owl as blind during the day. He can see quite
well. He behaves stupidly when evicted from his shady haunts in the
daytime because he is momentarily blinded, just as we human beings are
when we suddenly plunge from the darkened bungalow into the midday sun of
an Indian June. I have seen owls of various species either sitting on a
perch or flying about quite happily at midday.

The chief reason why most owls are so strictly nocturnal is because they
are intensely unpopular among the birds of the day. These give them a bad
time whenever they venture forth. In this the crows take the lead. Crows,
like London cads, are intensely conservative. They hate the sight of any
curious-looking or strangely dressed person. Put on a Cawnpore tent club
helmet, and walk for a mile in the East End of London, and you will learn
the kind of treatment to which owls are subjected by their fellow-birds
when they venture forth by day. Mr. Evans, writing of the owl in his
volume, _The Songs of Birds_, says: “There is some sad secret, which we
do not know, which no bird has yet divulged to us, and which seems to
have made him an outcast from the society of birds of the day. He is
branded with perpetual infamy.” I trust that Mr. Evans will not take it
ill if I state that there is no secret in the matter. Diurnal birds are
not aware that the country is full of owls, so that when one of these
appears they regard it as an intruder, a new addition to the local fauna,
to extirpate which is their bounden duty. When a cockatoo escapes from
its cage the local birds mob it quite as viciously as they do the owl.

Another peculiarity of the owl lies in the position of its eyes. These
are forwardly directed. In most birds the eyes are placed at the side of
the head, so that owls alone among the feathered folk can truly be said
to possess faces. The position of a bird’s eyes is not the result of
chance or accident. A creature whose eyes are forwardly directed can see
better ahead of him than he could were they placed at the sides of the
head, but he cannot see what is going on behind his back. Animals whose
eyes are at the side of the head have a much wider range of vision, for
the areas covered by their visual organs do not overlap. Such creatures
cannot see quite so well things in front of them, but can witness much of
what is going on behind them. They are therefore better protected from a
rear attack than they would be did their eyes face forwards. The result
of this is that, if we divide birds and beasts into those which hunt and
those which are hunted, we notice that in the latter the tendency is for
the eyes to be placed at the sides of the head. They thereby enjoy a
wider range of vision, while in the former the tendency is for the eyes
to be so situated as to enable them best to espy their quarry. Compare
the position of the eyes in the tiger and the ox, in the eagle and the
sparrow. The tiger and eagle have little fear of being attacked, so have
thrown caution to the winds and concentrated their energies to equipping
themselves for attack. In owls the eyes are more forwardly directed than
in the diurnal birds of prey, because they have to hunt their quarry
under more difficult conditions. Even when its ears inform the owl that
there is some creature near by, it requires the keenest eyesight to
detect what this is. The position of a bird’s eyes is determined by
natural selection. With colour and such-like trifles natural selection
has but little to do. It works on broad lines. It determines certain
limits within which variations are permissible; it does not go into
details. So far as it is concerned, an organism may vary considerably,
provided the limits it defines are not transgressed. This statement will
not meet with the approval of ultra-Darwinians, but I submit that it is
nevertheless in accordance with facts. If we try to account for every
trivial feature in every bird and beast on the principle of natural
selection, we soon find ourselves lost in a maze of difficulties.

It is because the eyes of owls are forwardly-directed that they are such
easy birds to mob. They can see only in one direction—a limitation which
day-birds have discovered. The result is that when the owls do venture
forth during the daytime, they come in for rough handling. The position
of the eyes in the owl would lead us to infer that the bird has but few
enemies to fear, and, so far as I am aware, there is no creature which
preys on them, except, of course, the British gamekeeper. Why, then, are
owls not more numerous than they are in those countries where there are
no gamekeepers to vex their souls? The population of owls must of course
be limited by the abundance of their quarry. But there is more than
enough food to satisfy the hunger of the existing owls. What, then, keeps
down their numbers? Mr. F. C. Selous has asked a similar question with
regard to lions in Africa. Even before the days of the express rifle
lions were comparatively scarce, while the various species of deer roamed
about the country in innumerable herds. The answer must, I think, be
found in the intensity of the struggle for existence. Nature balances
things with such nicety that the beasts of prey have their work cut out
to secure their food. The quarry is there in abundance; the difficulty is
to catch it. If this be so, it follows that the weaker, the less swift,
the less skilled of the predaceous creatures must starve to death. In
that case the lot of birds and beasts of prey is a less happy one than
that of their victims. These latter are usually able to find food in
abundance, and death comes suddenly and unexpectedly upon them when they
are in the best of health. How much better is such an end than death due
to starvation?

In most birds the opening of the auditory organ is small; in owls it is
very large and is protected by a movable flap of skin, which probably
aids the bird in focussing sounds. In many species of owl the two
ear-openings are asymmetrical and differ in shape and size. This
arrangement is probably conducive to the accurate location of sound. Want
of space debars me from further dilating upon the wonderful ear of the
owl.

In conclusion, mention must be made of the flexible wing feathers, and
their soft, downy edges. Air rushing through these makes no sound. Hence
the ear may not hear, but

                          “The eye
  May trace those sailing pirates of the night,
  Stooping with dusky prows to cleave the gloom,
  Scattering a momentary wake behind,
  A palpable and broken brightness shed,
  As with white wings they part the darksome air.”



                                   XI
                          A BUNDLE OF INIQUITY


The common squirrel of India is a fur-covered bundle of iniquity. He is a
bigger rascal than either the crow or the sparrow. I am aware that these
statements will not be believed by many residents of Northern India. I am
sorry, but the truth must be told. Let those who will imagine _Sciurus
palmarum_ to be a pretty, fluffy little creature, as charming as he is
abundant. I know better. I have sojourned in Madras. In Northern India
the little striped squirrel is merely one of the many tribes that live on
your frontier; in South India he is a stranger who dwells within your
gates. We who are condemned to residence in the plains of Northern India
keep our bungalows shut up during the greater part of the year in order
to protect ourselves from the heat, or the cold, or the dust, or whatever
climatic ill happens to be in season. And when the weather does permit us
to open our doors we have to guard them by means of _chiks_ from the
hordes of insects that are always ready to rush in upon us. Thus we keep
the squirrel at arm’s length. In Madras you lead a very different life.
The gentle breeze is always welcome, you rarely, if ever, close the doors
of your bungalow, for extremes of temperature are unknown. Nor are you
obliged to protect every aperture by means of a _chik_. There is thus no
barrier between the squirrel and yourself. The result is that the
impudent little rodent behaves as though he believed that men build their
bungalows chiefly for his benefit. Not content with living rent-free in
your house during the nesting season, he expects you to furnish his
quarters for him, and to provide him with food. As I have hinted
elsewhere, Indian bungalows are constructed in such a manner as to lead
one to infer that there is a secret compact between the builders and the
fowls of the air. The rafters rarely fit properly into the walls, and the
spaces left make ideal nesting sites for sparrows and squirrels. These
last, although devoid of wings, are such adepts at climbing that there
are few spots in any building to which they are unable to gain access.

In Madras punkahs are up all the year round, and, as usually they are
pulled only at meal times, squirrels regard them as paths leading to
their nests. Running up the hanging rope, walking, Blondin-like, along
the leathern thongs that lead to the punkah, jumping from these on to the
top of the punkah frame, climbing up the rope to a rafter, and marching
along this to the nest, are feats which the little striped rodent
performs without effort.

In default of a suitable cavity, the squirrel constructs, among the
branches of a tree, a large globular nest, which has the appearance of a
conglomeration of grass, straw, and rubbish, but it contains a cosily
lined central cavity. Any available soft material is used to make the
interior of the nest warm and comfortable. When squirrels are nesting it
is not safe to leave any balls or skeins of wool lying about the
bungalow. The fluffy little creatures sometimes display considerable
ingenuity in adapting materials for use in nest construction. One rascal
of my acquaintance destroyed a nearly new grey _topi_, finding the felt
covering and the pith “the very thing” for nest-lining.

Books on natural history inform us that the food of this species of
squirrel consists of seeds, fruits, and buds, with an occasional insect
by way of condiment. This is the truth, but it is not the whole truth.
The above list does not by any means exhaust the menu of _Sciurus
palmarum_. My experience shows him to be nearly as omnivorous as the
myna. Occasionally I fall asleep again after my _chota hazri_ has been
brought. In Madras I was sometimes punished for my laziness by the
disappearance of the toast or the butter. Needless to state that theft
had been perpetrated, and that the crows and the squirrels were the
culprits.

On one occasion I feigned sleep in order to see what would happen. For a
little all was still; presently a squirrel quietly entered the room, took
a look round, then climbed up a leg of the table and boldly pulled a
piece of toast out of the rack which was within a couple of feet of my
face. It was no easy matter for the little thief to climb down the leg of
the table with his big load. A loud thud announced that the toast had
fallen on to the floor. The squirrel scampered away in alarm, leaving his
booty behind him. In a few seconds his head appeared at the doorway;
having regarded me attentively with his bright little eye, and satisfied
himself that all was well, he advanced to the toast and bore it off. But,
alas, the way of transgressors is hard! A “lurking, villain crow,” who
had been watching the theft from the verandah, pounced upon the thief,
and bore off his ill-gotten toast. The wrath of the squirrel was a sight
for the gods. His whole frame quivered as he told that crow what he
thought of him.

_Sciurus palmarum_ is very fond of bread and milk, and will, in order to
obtain this, perform deeds of great daring. I once kept a grackle, or
hill-myna. This bird, when not at large, used to dwell in a wicker cage.
In a corner of this cage a saucer of bread-and-milk was sometimes placed.
The squirrels soon learned to climb up the leg of the table on which the
cage stood, insert their little paws between the bars, and abstract the
bread-and-milk, piece by piece. In order to frustrate them, I placed the
saucer in the middle of the cage. Their reply to this was to gnaw through
a bar, and boldly enter the cage. They grew so audacious that they used
to walk into the cage while I was present in the room; but, of course,
the least movement on my part was the signal for them to dash away into
the verandah. On one occasion I was too quick for a squirrel who was
feeding inside the grackle’s cage. I succeeded in placing my hand in
front of the gnawed-through bar before he could escape. He dashed about
the cage like a thing demented, and so alarmed the myna that I had to let
him out. In half an hour he was again inside the cage!

The little striped squirrel feeds largely on the ground. As every
Anglo-Indian knows, it squats on its hind legs when eating, and nibbles
at the food which it holds in its fore-paws. In this attitude its
appearance is very rat-like, its tail not being much _en évidence_. It is
careful never to wander far away from trees, in which it immediately
takes refuge when alarmed. It does not always wait for the seeds, etc.,
upon which it feeds, to fall to the ground: it frequently devours these
while still attached to the parent plant. Being very light, it can move
about on slender boughs. It is able to jump with ease from branch to
branch, but in doing so causes a great commotion in the tree; its
arboreal movements seem very clumsy when compared with those of birds of
the same size.

Squirrels are sociably inclined creatures; when not engaged in rearing up
their families they live in colonies in some decayed tree. At sunrise
they issue forth from the cavity in which they have slept, and bask for a
time in the sun before separating to visit their several feeding-grounds;
at sunset they all return to their dormitory. Before retiring for the
night they play hide-and-seek on the old tree, chasing each other in and
out of the holes with which it is riddled.

Young squirrels are born blind and naked, and are then ugly creatures.
Their skin shows the three black longitudinal stripes—the marks of
Hanuman’s fingers—which give this creature its popular name. The hair
soon grows and transforms the squirrels.

A baby _Sciurus_ makes a charming pet. The rapid movements are a
never-failing source of amusement. It is feeding out of your hand when it
takes alarm at apparently nothing, and, before you can realise what has
happened, it has disappeared. After a search it is found under the sofa,
on the mantelpiece, or out in the garden. I know of one who took refuge
in its owner’s skirts. She had to retire to her room and divest herself
of sundry garments before she could recover it. Once, in trying to catch
a baby squirrel that was about to leap off the table, I seized the end of
its tail; to my astonishment the squirrel went off, leaving the terminal
inch of its caudal appendage in my hand, nor did the severance of its
note of interrogation seem to cause it any pain. A squirrel’s tail, like
a lamp brush, is composed mainly of bristles.



                                  XII
              THE INTERPRETATION OF THE ACTIONS OF ANIMALS


The proper interpretation of the actions of animals is one of the
greatest of the difficulties which confront the naturalist. We all know
how liable a man’s actions are to be misinterpreted by his fellow-men,
whose thoughts and feelings are similar to his. How much more must we be
liable to put false constructions on the acts of those creatures whose
thoughts are not our thoughts and whose feelings are not our feelings?
The natural tendency is, of course, to assign human attributes to
animals, to put anthropomorphic interpretations on their actions, to
endow dumb creatures with mental concepts like those of man—in short, to
credit them with reasoning powers similar to those enjoyed by human
beings. That this is incorrect is the opinion of all who have made a
study of the question, and yet even such seem unable completely to divest
themselves of the tendency to regard animals as rather simple human folk.
I do not wish to speak dogmatically upon this most difficult subject. Let
it suffice that it is my belief that animals do not possess the mental
powers popularly ascribed to them. My object is not to argue, but to
record some instances showing how liable we are to misinterpret animal
actions.

Some time ago, while walking near the golf-links at Lahore, I noticed a
rat-bird, or common babbler (_Argya caudata_, to give it its proper
name), with a green caterpillar hanging from its beak. The succulent
insect was, of course, intended for a young bird in a nest near by. Being
in no hurry, I determined to find that nest. Under such circumstances,
the easiest way is to sit down and wait for the parent bird to indicate
the position of the nursery. The bird with the caterpillar had seen me,
so, instead of flying with it to the nest, moved about from bush to bush
uttering his or her note of anger (I do not pretend to be able to
distinguish a cock from a hen rat-bird). In a few minutes the other
parent appeared on the scene, also with something in its beak. Observing
that all was not well, it too began to “beat about the bush,” or rather
from one bush to another. Meanwhile, both swore at the ungentlemanly
intruder. However, I had no intention of moving on before I found that
nest. After a little time the patience of the second bird became
exhausted; it flew to a small bush, into which it disappeared, to
reappear almost immediately with an empty beak. I immediately advanced on
that bush, of which the top was not three feet above the ground. In the
bush I found a neatly constructed, cup-shaped nest, which contained five
young rat-birds. I handled these, taking one ugly, naked fellow in my
hand in full view of the parents, who were swearing like bargees. I was
careful to make certain that the mother and father could see what I was
doing, for I was anxious to find out how far their laudable attempts at
the concealment of the nest from me were due to the exercise of
intelligence. Having replaced the baby bird in the nest, I returned to
the place where I had waited for the parents to direct me to their
nursery, and watched their future actions. If they had been acting
intelligently, they would reason thus, “The great ogre has found our nest
and seen our little ones. If he wants them we are powerless to prevent
him taking them. The game of keeping their whereabouts hidden from him is
up. There is nothing left for us to do but to continue to feed our chicks
in the ordinary way without further attempt at concealment.” If, however,
they were acting blindly, merely obeying the promptings of the instinct
which teaches them not to feed their young ones in the presence of
danger, they would be as unwilling now to visit the nest as they were
after they first caught sight of me. They pursued the latter course, thus
demonstrating that this seemingly most intelligent behaviour is prompted
by instinct.

It is a well-known fact that some birds, such as the partridge, whose
young are able to run about when first hatched, behave in a very clever
manner in presence of danger. The mother bird acts as though her wing was
broken, and flutters away from the intruder with what appears to be a
great and painful effort. By this means she draws the attention of the
enemy to herself; meanwhile her chicks are able to hide themselves in
whatever cover happens to be convenient. If anything looks like an
intelligent act this surely does. But in this case appearances are
deceptive. It sometimes happens that a hen partridge acts in this manner
before her eggs are hatched. Under such circumstances the pretence of a
broken wing is not only useless, but positively harmful, since it
probably directs the attention of the intruder to her white eggs. This
feigning of injury would thus appear to be a purely instinctive act, a
course of behaviour dictated by natural selection. Mr. Edmund Selous
discusses the origin of this peculiar habit in that admirable book
entitled _Bird Watching_, to which I would refer those who are interested
in the matter. Instances such as these, of acts which are only apparently
purposeful, could easily be multiplied. They should prevent our rushing
to the conclusion that because a cat, or dog, or horse behaves in a
sensible manner under certain conditions, it is exercising intelligence.
Natural selection has brought instinct to such perfection that many
instinctive actions are very difficult to distinguish from those which
are intelligent.



                                  XIII
                       AT THE SIGN OF THE FARASH


The farash tree (_Tamarix articulata_), regarded from the point of view
of a human being, is everything that a tree should not be. Its wood has
little or no commercial value, being of not much use even as fuel. Its
needle-like leaves afford no shade. It has a dusty, dried-up, funereal
appearance. During the day it absorbs a large amount of the sun’s heat,
which it emits, with interest, at night-time, so that if, on a
hot-weather evening, you happen to pass near a farash tree you cannot
fail to notice that the temperature of the air immediately surrounding it
is considerably higher than it is elsewhere. Each farash tree becomes,
for the time being, a natural heating stove. In appearance the farash is
not unlike a stunted casuarina tree. It is what botanists call a
xerophile; it is addicted to dry, sandy soil, and is found only in the
more desert-like parts of Sind and the Punjab. The one redeeming feature
of the farash tree is the shelter it affords to the fowls of the air. Its
wood is so soft and so liable to decay that the tree seems to have been
evolved chiefly for the benefit of those birds which nest in holes. The
interior of every aged farash is as full of cavities as a honeycomb. A
grove of farash trees is a veritable bird hotel; it might with truth be
called _L’Hôtel des Oiseaux_. Like many of the hotels built for the
accommodation of human beings, the Farash Hotel is almost deserted at
some periods of the year and overcrowded at others. It has its “season.”
During the winter months many of its rooms remain untenanted. The more
commodious ones, however, are occupied all the year round; some by
spotted owlets (_Athene brama_), and others by the little striped
squirrel (_Sciurus palmarum_). The spotted owlets do not, like most
birds, visit the farash merely for nesting purposes; they live in it,
lying up in their inner chamber during the day, immune from the attacks
of crows, kites, drongos, and other birds that vex the souls of little
owls. No matter at what season of the year you call at the hotel, you
will find Mr. and Mrs. Spotted Owlet at home during the daytime. If you
tap on the trunk, which is tantamount to knocking at the door or shouting
“_Koi hai_,” you may expect to see appear at the door of the suite
occupied by the owlets a droll little face, that will bow to you, but
with such grimaces as to leave no doubt that you are unwelcome.

The squirrels are winter residents in the hotel; they like to dwell in it
throughout the year, but are not always permitted to do so. Numbers of
them are ejected every February by the green parrot (_Palæornis
torquatus_). The green parrot is a bully, and is neither troubled by the
Nonconformist conscience, nor hampered by the Ten Commandments; so that,
when he has set his heart on a certain suite in the hotel, he proceeds to
install himself therein, regardless of the vested interests of the
squirrels. The “season” may be said to begin with the arrival of the
green parrots. These rowdy creatures make things “hum,” and must cause
considerable annoyance to the more respectable birds that stay in the
hotel. The green parrot is to bird gentlefolk what the Italian
organ-grinder is to the musical Londoner—an ill that has to be endured.
The little coppersmith (_Xantholæma hæmatocephala_) takes up its quarters
in the bird hotel early in the season. It is very particular as regards
its accommodation. It holds, and rightly holds, that rooms which have
already been lived in are apt to harbour parasites and carry disease, so
insists on hewing out a chamber for itself. Owing to the industry of both
the cock and the hen, the excavation of their retort-shaped nesting
chamber occupies surprisingly little time, and the neat, circular
front-door that leads to it compares very favourably with the irregular,
broken-down-looking entrance to the quarters occupied by the parrots or
owlets. As often as not the coppersmith excavates its nest in a
horizontal bough, in which case the entrance is invariably made on the
under surface, with the object of preventing rain-water coming into the
room.

Another regular patron of the Farash Hotel is the beautiful golden-backed
woodpecker (_Brachypternus aurantius_). This bird usually arrives later
in the season than the coppersmith, but, like it, disdains a room which
has been occupied by others. It is not, as a rule, so industrious as the
coppersmith, for it usually selects for the site of its abode a part of
the tree that is more or less hollow, and proceeds, by means of its
pick-like beak, to cut out a neat round passage or tube leading to the
ready-made cavity.

The most flashy of the _habitués_ of the hotel is the Indian roller
(_Coracias indica_), or “blue jay,” as he is more commonly called. Like
“loud” human beings, the roller bird is excessively noisy. When there are
both green parrots and blue jays in the hotel it becomes a veritable
bear-garden, resembling the hotels in Douglas, a town of the Isle of Man.
During the summer months these are filled with holiday-makers from the
Lancashire mills, who seem to spend the greater part of the night in
playing hide-and-seek, hunt the slipper, “chase me,” and such-like
delectable games in the corridors and public rooms. There is, however,
this difference between the rowdiness of the Lancashire “tripper” and
that of the parrots and “jays”—the former is chiefly nocturnal, whereas
the latter is strictly diurnal. The blue jays indulge in their
screechings and caterwaulings, their aerial gymnastics, their “tricks i’
the air,” only during the hours of daylight. Not that the hotel is quiet
at night. Far from it. The spotted owlets take care of that. The blue jay
is not particular as to the nature of his accommodation; any kind of hole
is accepted, provided it be fairly roomy. He is quite content with a
depression in the broken stump of an upright bough. Sometimes the bird
places in its quarters a little furniture, in the shape of a lining of
feathers, grass, and paper. More often the bird scorns such luxuries, and
is content with the hard bare wood.

When a pair of blue jays first takes up its quarters in the hotel a great
secret is made of the fact. Anyone who did not know the birds might think
they were trying to avoid their creditors. This is not the case. The fact
is that the nest contains some eggs which the owners imagine every other
creature wants to steal. When, however, the young ones hatch out, the
parents forget all about the necessity for concealing the whereabouts of
the nest, so taken up are they with the feeding of their young ones.

The hoopoe (_Upupa indica_) is another bird that must be numbered among
the _clientèle_ of the hotel. It is just the kind of visitor that a hotel
proprietor likes. It is not in the least particular as to its quarters.
Any tumble-down room will do, the filthier the better! All that it
demands is that the front-door shall be a mere chink, only just large
enough to admit of its' slender body. It then feels that its house is its
castle; no enemy can possibly enter it.

The common myna (_Acridotheres tristis_) is another bird which habitually
patronises the Farash Hotel. It is even less particular than the hoopoe
as to the nature of its quarters—anything in the shape of a hole does
quite well. Having secured accommodation, it proceeds to throw into it,
pell-mell, a medley of straws, sticks, rags, bits of paper. That is its
idea of house-furnishing. So untidy is the myna that you can sometimes
discover the room it occupies by the pieces of furniture that stick out
of the window! The mynas arrive later than most of the birds which nest
in the farash, hence they find all the more desirable suites occupied.
This does not distress the happy-go-lucky creatures in the least. They
are probably the most contented of all the members of the little colony
that lives in the _Hôtel des Oiseaux_. _Summæ opes, inopia cupiditatum._



                                  XIV
                                THE COOT


The coot (_Fulica atra_) is a rail which has taken thoroughly to the
water. It has, in consequence, assumed many of the characteristics of a
duck. We may perhaps speak of it as a pseudo-duck. Certain it is that
inexperienced sportsmen frequently shoot and eat coots under the
impression that they are “black duck.” Nevertheless, there is no bird
easier to identify than our friend, the bald coot. In the hand it is
quite impossible to mistake it for a duck. Its toes are not joined
together by webs, but are separated and furnished with lobes which assist
it in swimming. Its beak is totally different from that of the true
ducks. But there is no necessity to shoot the coot in order to identify
it. Save for the conspicuous white bill, and the white shield on the
front of the head, which constitutes its “baldness,” the coot is as black
as the proverbial nigger-boy. Thus its colouring suffices to
differentiate it from any of the ducks that visit India. Further, as
“Eha” truly says, “its dumpy figure and very short tail seem to
distinguish it, even before one gets near enough to make out its uniform
black colour and conspicuous white bill.” The difficulty which the coot
experiences in rising from the water is another easy way of identifying
it. Ducks rise elegantly and easily; the coot plunges and splashes and
beats the water so vigorously with wings and feet that it appears to run
along the surface for a few yards before it succeeds in maintaining
itself in the air. But, when fairly started, it moves at a great pace, so
that, as regards flight, it may well say, even at the risk of
perpetrating a pun, _Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coute_. During the
efforts preliminary to flight the bird presents a very easy mark; hence
its popularity among inexperienced sportsmen. Now, since the coot is, to
use a racing term, so indifferent a starter, raptorial birds must find it
a quarry particularly easy to catch. Therefore, according to the rules of
the game of natural selection, as drawn up by the learned brotherhood of
zoologists, the coot ought to be as difficult to see as a thief in the
night, and should spend its life skulking among rushes, in order to
escape its foes. As a matter of fact it is as conspicuous as a
lifeguardsman in full uniform, and, so far from having the habits of a
skulker, it seems to take a positive delight in exposing itself, for, as
Jerdon says, “It is often seen in the middle of some large tank far away
from weeds or cover.”

Someone has suggested that the coot is an example of warning colouration,
that it is unpalatable to birds of prey, and that its black livery and
white face are nature’s equivalent to the druggist’s label bearing the
legend “Poison.” Unfortunately for this suggestion, certain sportsmen, as
we have seen, never lose an opportunity of dining off roast coot, and
appear to be none the worse for the repast. Moreover, Mr. Frank Finn, who
holds that no man is properly acquainted with any species of bird until
he has partaken of the flesh thereof, informs us that “coots are edible,
but need skinning, as the skin is tough and rank in taste.” Miss J. A.
Owen has a higher opinion of the flavour of the bird. She maintains that
coots are “very good for eating, but they are not often used for the
table, chiefly because they are so difficult to pluck, except when quite
warm.” Further, low-caste Indians appear to be very partial to the flesh
of our pseudo-duck. One of the drawbacks to water-fowl shooting in this
country is the constant wail of the boatmen, “_Maro wo chiriya, sahib,
ham log khate hain_” (Shoot that bird, sir, we people eat it). Neither
expostulations nor threats will stay the clamour. The sportsman will
enjoy no peace until he sacrifices a coot. If, then, human beings of
various sorts and conditions can and do eat the coot, it is absurd to
suppose that the creature is unpalatable to birds of prey, some of which
will devour even the crow. It is true that I do not remember ever having
seen an eagle take a coot, but how few of us ever do see raptorial
creatures seize their victims? What is more to the point, some observers
have seen coots attacked by birds of prey. We are, therefore, compelled
to regard the bald coot as a ribald fellow, who makes merry at the
expense of modern zoologists by setting at naught the theory of natural
selection as it has been developed of late.

Some may, perhaps, accuse me of never missing an opportunity to cast a
stone at this hypothesis. To the charge I must plead guilty; but at the
same time I urge the plea of justification. The amount of nonsense talked
by some naturalists in the name of natural selection is appalling. The
generally accepted conception of the nature of the struggle for existence
needs modification. Natural selection has of late become a kind of fetish
in England. So long as biologists are content to fall down and worship
the golden calf they have manufactured, it is hopeless to look for rapid
scientific progress. The aspersions I cast on Wallaceism are either
justified or they are not. If they are justified, it is surely high time
to abandon the doctrine of the all-sufficiency of natural selection to
account for the whole of organic evolution. If, on the other hand, they
are not justified, why do not the orthodox biologists arise and refute my
statements and arguments? It is my belief that the black livery of the
coot is not only not the product of natural selection, but is positively
harmful to its possessor; that the coot would be an even more successful
species than it now is, if, while retaining all its habits and other
characteristics, it had a coat of less conspicuous hue. I maintain that
many organisms possess characters which are positively injurious to them,
and yet manage to survive. Natural selection has to take animals and
plants as it finds them—their good qualities with the bad. If a species
comes up to a certain standard, that species will be permitted to
survive, in spite of some defects. By the ill-luck of variation the coot
has acquired black plumage, but this ill-luck is out-weighed by its
good-luck in possessing some favourable characters.

The first of these favourable attributes is a good constitution. Thanks
to this the coot is able to thrive in every kind of climate: in foggy,
damp England; in the hot, steamy swamps of Sind, and in cold Kashmir. In
this respect it enjoys a considerable advantage over the ducks, inasmuch
as it is not exposed to the dangers and tribulations of the long
migratory flight.

Another valuable asset of the coot is a good digestion. Creatures which
can live on a mixed diet usually do well in the struggle for existence.
Then, the coot is a prolific bird. It brings up several broods in the
year, and its clutch of eggs is a large one. The nest is usually well
concealed among reeds and floats on the surface of the water, so is
difficult of access to both birds and beasts of prey. Moreover, the
mother coot carefully covers up the eggs when she leaves the nest.
Another useful characteristic of the coot is its wariness. Many
water-fowl go to sleep in the daytime, but the coot appears to be always
watchful. This perhaps explains its popularity with ducks and other water
birds, although I should be inclined to attribute it to the extreme
amiability of the coot. Nothing seems to ruffle him, except the approach
of a strange male bird to the nest. Whatever be the reason therefor, the
general popularity of the coot among his fellow-water-fowl is so well
established that in England many sportsmen encourage coot on to their
waters in order to attract other water-fowl. Thus, a strong constitution,
a good digestion, prolificness, and wariness, enable the coot to thrive,
in spite of its showy livery. The first three of the above
characteristics enable the species to contend successfully with climate
and disease, which are checks on the increase of organisms far more
potent than predaceous animals. It is also possible—but this has yet to
be demonstrated—that the coot, although edible, is not considered a
delicacy by birds of prey, and so is taken when nothing more dainty is
obtainable. If this be the case, it could, of course, minimise the
disadvantages of the coot’s conspicuousness. But even then there is no
evading the fact that the blackness of the coot is an unfavourable
characteristic.



                                   XV
                        THE BEAUTIFUL PORPHYRIO


The bald coot is, as we have seen, a rail that has taken thoroughly to an
aquatic life. The purple coot may be described as a rail, which, while
displaying hankerings after a life on the liquid element, has not
definitely committed itself to the water. The porphyrio, then, is a rail
which, to use a political expression, is “sitting on the fence.” The
indecision of Mr. Porphyrio has somewhat puzzled ornithologists. These
seem to be unable to come to an agreement as to what to call him. Jerdon
dubs him a coot, Blanford a moor-hen. The New Zealanders term him a
swamp-hen, and their name is better than that given him by either Jerdon
or Blanford, as denoting that the bird is neither a coot nor a moor-hen.
But, perhaps, the classical name best suits a bird which is arrayed in
purple and fine linen. For the fine linen, please look under the tail, at
what Dr. Wallace would call the bird’s recognition mark, although I am
sure it will puzzle that great biologist to say what use so uniquely
plumaged a bird as the porphyrio can have for a recognition mark. As well
might Napoleon have worn a red necktie, to enable his friends to
recognise him when they met him! But this is a digression.

The Greeks were well acquainted with a near relative of the Indian
porphyrio, which they kept in confinement. “For a wonder,” writes Finn,
“they did not keep it to eat, but because they credited it with a strong
aversion to breaches of the conjugal tie in its owner’s household.” He
adds: “Considering the state of morality among the wealthier Romans, I
fear that accidents must often have happened to pet porphyrios.”

The purple moor-hen is a study in shades of art blue—a bird which should
appeal strongly to Messrs. Liberty and Co. Its bill, which is not flat
like that of a duck, but rounded, is bright red, as is the large
triangular shield on the forehead. Its long legs and toes are a paler
red. The plumage is thus described by Blanford: “Head pale, brownish
grey, tinged with cobalt on cheeks and throat, and passing on the nape
into the deep purplish lilac of the hind neck, back, rump, and upper
tail-coverts; wings outside, scapulars and breast light greenish blue;
abdomen and flanks like the back; the wing and tail-coverts black, blue
on the exposed portions; under tail-coverts white.”

So striking a bird is this coot, that it cannot fail to arrest one’s
attention. Many sportsmen seem unable to resist the temptation of
shooting it. Mr. Edgar Thurston informs me that a cold weather never
passes without some sportsman sending him a specimen of _Porphyrio
poliocephalus_ for the Madras Museum. They come across the bird when out
snipe-shooting, and, thinking it a rare and valuable species, pay it the
very doubtful compliment of shooting it. As the museum has now a
sufficient stock of stuffed porphyrios to meet its requirements for the
next few decades, I hope that sportsmen in that part of the world will in
future stay their hand when they come across the beautiful swamp-hen.

Rush-covered marshes, lakes, and _jhils_, which are overgrown with reeds
and thick sedges, form the happy hunting-grounds of this species. Its
long toes enable it to run about on the broad floating leaves of aquatic
plants. They also make it possible for the bird to cling to the stems of
reeds and bushes. Very strange is the sight it presents when so doing—a
bird as big as a fowl behaving like a reed warbler. The long toes of the
porphyrio are not webbed, but are provided with narrow lobes which enable
it to swim, though not with the same ease as its cousin, the bald coot.

In places where it is abundant the purple swamp-hen is very sociable, and
keeps much more to cover than does the coot. When flushed, it flies well
and swiftly, with its legs pointing backwards—the position so
characteristic of the legs of the heron during flight. Its diet is
largely vegetarian, and it is said to commit much havoc in paddy fields.
The harm it does is probably exaggerated, for the purple coot flourishes
in many districts where no paddy is grown.

This species has one very unrail-like habit, that of taking up its food
in its claws. Its European cousin, _P. veterum_, was seen by Canon
Tristram “to seize a duckling in its large foot, crush its head and eat
its brains, leaving the rest untouched.” This behaviour Legge stigmatises
as cannibalism! There is no evidence that the purple moor-hen is a
cannibal, but it is not safe to keep the bird in the same enclosure as
weaker birds.

Its voice is not melodious; indeed, it is scarcely more pleasant to
refined ears than the wail of the street-singer.

Purple coots breed in company. The nest is a platform made of reeds and
rushes, or, when these are not available, of young paddy plants, erected
on a tussock of long grass projecting out of the water, usually some way
from the edge of the _jhil_. Hume’s observations led him to lay down two
propositions regarding the nesting habits of this species. First, “that
all birds in the same swamp both lay and hatch off about the same time.”
Secondly, “that in two different _jhils_ only a dozen miles apart, and,
apparently, precisely similarly situated, there will be a difference of
fifteen days or more in the period of the laying of the two colonies.”
Neither of these statements appears to hold good of the purple coot in
Ceylon, for, according to Mr. H. Parker, “they do not breed there
simultaneously.” “Young birds, eggs in all stages of incubation and
partly built nests are all found in the same tank. In some cases the eggs
are laid at considerable intervals. I have met with a nestling, partly
incubated eggs of different ages and fresh eggs in the same nest.” Widely
distributed species not infrequently display local variations in habit.
Such local peculiarities are of considerable interest, for they must
sometimes form the starting-points for new species. They are also
responsible for some of the discrepancies which occur in the accounts of
the species by various observers. The nesting season is from June to
September; August for choice, in India. The eggs are pale pink, heavily
splashed with red, quite in keeping with the beautiful plumage that
characterises the adult bird. Sometimes the eggs of purple coots are
placed under the barn-door fowl. Young porphyrios hatched under such
conditions become quite tame and form a pleasing addition to the
farmyard.



                                  XVI
                               THE COBRA


According to my dictionary, the cobra di capello (_Naia tripudians_) is a
reptile of the most venomous nature. This, like many other things the
dictionary says, is not strictly true. There exist snakes whose bite is
far more poisonous than that of the cobra. The common krait, for example,
is four times as venomous, and yet the bite of this little reptile is
mild as compared with that of the sea snake, which should be carefully
distinguished from the sea-serpent of the “silly season.” But let us not
quarrel with the writer of the dictionary; he did his best. The cobra is
quite venomous enough for all practical purposes to merit the title of
“the most venomous.” A fair bite kills a dog in from five minutes to an
hour. Notwithstanding the lethal nature of his bite, the cobra is said by
all who know him intimately to be a gentle, timid creature. Sulkiness is
his worst vice. In captivity he sometimes sulks to such a degree as to
starve to death unless food be pushed down his gullet! The cobra is a
reptile who prefers retiring gracefully to facing the foe. It is only
when driven into a corner that he strikes, and then apparently he does so
with the utmost reluctance. Nicholson writes: “A cobra standing at bay
can be readily captured; put the end of a stick gently across his head
and bear it down to the ground by a firm and gradual pressure. He will
not resist. Then place the stick horizontally across his neck and take
him up. You must not dawdle about this; sharp is the word, when dealing
with snakes, and they have as much respect for firm and kind treatment as
contempt for timidity and irresolution.” “There is very little danger,”
he adds, “about handling this snake; nerve is all that is required.” I
have no doubt that this is all true. It is certainly borne out by the
nonchalance with which an Indian, who is accustomed to snakes, will put
his hand into a basket of cobras and pull one out. There are, however,
some things the doing of which I prefer to leave to others, and one of
these is the handling of venomous snakes. There is always the colubrine
equivalent of the personal equation to be taken into consideration.
People whose fondness for playing with fire takes the form of
snake-charming will do well to operate upon light-coloured specimens, for
experience has taught those who handle snakes that dark-coloured
varieties are worse-tempered than those of paler hue. In some
unaccountable manner blackness seems to be correlated with evil temper.
Another word of warning. A snake has a longer reach than might be
anticipated. On one occasion, wishing to show how the cobra strikes, I
walked up to within a yard or two of one standing at bay and threw a clod
of earth at him. He struck, and his head came unpleasantly near to my
legs!

The cobra is a species of considerable interest to the zoologist. In the
first place, several varieties exist. Some cobras have no figure marked
on the hood, others display a pattern like a pair of spectacles, while
others show a monocle. These are known respectively as the anocellate,
the binocellate, and the monocellate varieties. The binocellate form is
most frequently met with. It is found all over India. It is the only
variety that occurs in Madras, and the one most commonly found in Bombay
and North-Western India. The great majority of the cobras that dwell in
Central India belong to the anocellate variety. This form is also found
on the frontier from Afghanistan to Sikkim. The monocellate variety is
the common cobra of Bengal, Burma, and China.

There can be but little doubt that the cobra is a form undergoing active
evolution. _Naia tripudians_ appears to be splitting up into three
species. The spectacled cobra is probably the ancestral form. The black
anocellate variety seems best adapted to the climatic conditions of the
Central Provinces, while the pale, binocellate form thrives in Southern
India. It is possible that these external characteristics are in some way
correlated with adaptability to particular environments. Curiously
enough, brown, yellow, and black varieties of the African cobra (_Naia
haje_) exist. Some species of birds display a similar phenomenon. The
coucal or crow-pheasant, for example, is divided up into three local
races. Most naturalists are agreed that geographical isolation has been
an important factor in the making of some species. Exactly why this
should be so has yet to be explained.

Another interesting feature of the genus _Naia_ is the dilatable neck or
hood. Of what use is this to its possessor? Zoologists, or at least those
of them who sit at home in easy chairs and formulate theories, have an
answer to this question. They assert that the hood has a protective
value. A cobra when at bay raises the anterior portion of its body,
expands its hood, and hisses. This is supposed to terrify those animals
which witness the demonstration. Thus Professor Poulton writes: “The
cobra warns an intruder chiefly by attitude and the broadening of its
flattened neck, the effect being heightened in some species by the
‘spectacle.’” Unfortunately for this hypothesis, no creature, with the
possible exception of man, appears to be in the least alarmed at this
display. Dogs regard it as a huge joke. Of this I have satisfied myself
again and again, for when out coursing at Muttra we frequently came
across cobras, which the dogs used invariably to chase, and we sometimes
found it very difficult to keep the dogs off, since they seemed to be
unaware that the creature was venomous. Colonel Cunningham’s experience
has been similar. He writes: “Sporting dogs are very apt to come to grief
where cobras abound, as there is something very alluring to them in the
sight of a large snake when it sits up nodding and snarling; and it is
often difficult to come up in time to prevent the occurrence of
irreparable mischief.” He also states that many ruminants have a great
animosity to snakes and are prone to attack any that they may come
across. We must further bear in mind that even if the cobra does bite his
adversary, this will avail him nothing, for the bite itself, though
painful, is not sufficiently so to put a large animal _hors de combat_
immediately. It does not profit the cobra greatly that his adversary dies
after having killed him.

Thus, it seems to me that neither the hood nor the venom is protective.
Indeed, it is difficult to understand how it is that the poison fangs
have been evolved. The venom, of course, soon renders a small victim
quiescent and so makes the swallowing of it easier than would otherwise
be the case. But non-venomous snakes experience no difficulty in
swallowing their prey. Moreover, in order that natural selection can
explain the genesis and perfecting of an organ it is not sufficient to
show that the perfected organ is of use. We must demonstrate that from
its earliest beginning the organ in question has all along given its
possessor sufficient advantage in the struggle for existence to effect
his preservation when his fellows have been killed.



                                  XVII
                              THE MUNGOOSE


From the cobra it is a natural step to his foe—the mungoose. This
creature—the ichneumon of the ancients—occupies a most important place in
the classical and mediæval bestiaries. Every old writer gives a graphic
account, with variations according to taste, of the “mortall combat”
between the aspis and the ichneumon. But the noble creature was not
content with fighting a mere serpent, it used to pit itself against the
leviathan. Pliny tells us that the crocodile, having gorged himself,
falls asleep with open mouth in order that the little crocodile bird may
enter and pick his teeth. Then the watchful ichneumon “whippeth” into the
monster’s mouth and “shooteth” himself down his throat as quick as an
arrow. When comfortably inside, the ichneumon sups off the bowels of his
host, and, having satisfied his hunger, eats his way out through the
crocodile’s belly, so that, to use the words of the learned Topsell, who
gallantly gives _place aux dames_, “Shee that crept in by stealth at the
mouth, like a puny thief, cometh out at the belly like a conqueror,
through a passage opened by her own labour and industrie.”

In these degenerate days the mungoose does not perform such venturesome
exploits; nevertheless, he still has a “bold and sanguinary disposition.”
Sterndale’s tame mungoose once attacked a greyhound. Although in the wild
state he does nothing so quixotic as to assail large snakes, the mungoose
is a match for the cobra. The natives of India declare that, when bitten
by his adversary, he trots off into the jungle and there finds a root or
plant which acts as an antidote to poison, so that he may claim to be the
discoverer of the anti-venom treatment for snake-bite. We may term this
the anti-venom theory to account for the immunity of the mungoose. It
bears the stamp of antiquity, but is unsupported by any evidence. In this
respect it is not much worse off than some modern zoological theories.
The other hypothesis we may call the-prevention-is-better-than-cure
theory. It attributes the immunity of the mungoose to his remarkable
agility. He does not allow the cobra to “have a bite,” and even if the
latter does succeed in striking, the chances are that its fangs will be
turned aside by the erected hair of the mungoose or fail to penetrate his
tough skin. Blanford states that although it has been repeatedly proved
that the little mammal dies if properly bitten by a venomous snake, it is
less susceptible to poison than other animals. He adds: “I have seen a
mungoose eat up the head and poison glands of a large cobra, so the
poison must be harmless to the mucous membrane of the former animal.”

Eight species of mungoose occur in the Indian Empire. The only one which
is well known is the common mungoose, which Jerdon calls _Herpestes
griseus_. It is, I believe, now known as _Herpestes mungo_. During the
last century it has been renamed some eight or nine times.

It is not necessary to describe the mungoose. The few Anglo-Indians who
have not met him in the wild state must have frequently seen him among
the “properties” of the individual who calls himself a snake-charmer.

The mungoose lives in a hole excavated by itself. It is diurnal in
habits, and feeds largely on animal food. Jerdon states that it is “very
destructive to such birds as frequent the ground. Not infrequently it
gets access to tame pigeons, rabbits, or poultry, and commits great
havoc. . . . I have often seen it make a dash into a verandah where some
cages of mynas, parrakeets, etc., were daily placed, and endeavour to
tear them from their cage.” But birds are not easy for a terrestrial
creature to procure, so that its animal food consists chiefly of mice,
small snakes, lizards, and insects. Jerdon states that “it hunts for and
devours the eggs of partridges, quail, and other ground-laying birds.” I
am inclined to think that the carnivorous propensities of the mungoose
have been exaggerated, for its food seems to contain a considerable
admixture of vegetable substances. In captivity it will eat bread and
bananas, although it requires animal food in addition. McMaster records
the case of a mungoose killed near Secunderabad, of which the stomach
contained a quail, a portion of a custard apple, a small wasp’s nest, a
blood-sucker lizard, and a number of insects—quite a _recherché_ little
repast!

In Lahore I, or rather my wife, made the discovery that the mungoose is
very fond of bird-seed. A certain individual contrived to spend the
greater part of the day in our bungalow. He was probably attracted in the
first instance by the amadavats. Finding that these were secure in their
strongly-made cage, he turned his attention to their seed, and found that
it was good. When he had devoured all that had fallen to the ground he
would endeavour by means of his claws to extract seed from within the
cage. This used to alarm the birds terribly; one night their flutterings
woke me up. It takes an amadavat a long time to learn that it is safe in
its cage. It is not until after months of captivity that it will sit on
the floor of its house and gaze placidly at the hungry shikra which has
alighted on the top. For this reason we did not encourage that mungoose.
I may say that we distinctly discouraged it by throwing things at it, or
chasing it out of the bungalow whenever we saw it. But it soon became so
bold that, unless we ran out of the bungalow after it, it used to remain
in hiding in the verandah, and, a few seconds after all was quiet, its
little nose would appear at the doorway.

The impudence of the Indian house-crow is great, that of the sparrow is
colossal, that of the striped squirrel staggering, but the impudence of
all these is surpassed by that of the mungoose. Small wonder, then, that
it makes an excellent pet. McMaster kept one that died of grief when
separated from him. But, in order to tame a mungoose, the animal must be
captured while young. Babu R. P. Sanyal, in his useful _Handbook on the
Management of Animals in Captivity_, writes: “Adult specimens seldom
become tame enough even for exhibition in a menagerie; they either remain
hidden away in the straw or snap at the wire, uttering a querulous yelp,
possibly expressive of disgust, at the approach of man. They have been
known to refuse nourishment and to starve to death.”

A mungoose (_Herpestes ichneumon_) allied to our Indian species is common
in Egypt, where it is known as Pharaoh’s rat or Pharoe’s mouse. It is
frequently trained by the inhabitants to protect them from rats and
snakes.

The mungoose is a ratter without peer. Bennet, in his _Tower Menagerie_,
states that “the individual now in the Tower actually, on one occasion,
killed no fewer than a dozen full-grown rats, which were loosed to it in
a room 16 feet square, in less than a minute and a half.” The Egyptian
species eats crocodiles’ eggs, so that Diodorus Siculus remarks that but
for the ichneumon there would have been no sailing on the Nile. The
Indian species seems to display no penchant towards crocodiles’ eggs.



                                 XVIII
                                THE SWAN


  “With that I saw two swannes of goodly hewe
  Come softly swimming downe the lee;
  Two fairer birds I yet did never see;
  The snow, which does the top of Pindus strew,
  Did never whiter shew.”

When I speak of “the swan,” I mean the bird called by ornithologists the
mute swan (_Cygnus olor_), the swan of the poets that warbles sublime and
enchanting music when it is about to shuffle off its mortal coil, the
tame swan of Europe, the swan that used to take Siegfried for cheap trips
down the river, the swan that “graces the brook,” the swan of the
“stately homes of England,” the swan I used to feed as a youngster on the
Serpentine, not the black fellow in St. James’s Park, the swan that
hovers expectantly in the offing while you are having tea in a boat on
the Thames. This is, of course, by no means the only species of swan.
There are plenty of others—white ones, black ones, black-and-white
ones—for the family enjoys a wide distribution. Nevertheless, I propose
to confine myself to this particular swan. I have excellent reasons for
doing so. As it is the only swan with which I have had much to do, I can,
like the Cambridge Don who declared that the Kaiser was quite the
pleasantest Emperor he had ever met, say that _Cygnus olor_ is the most
agreeable of my swan acquaintances. This may sound like flattery, like
the fulsome praise of the penny-a-line puffer. It is nothing of the kind.
It is barely complimentary. Among the blind the one-eyed is king, unless,
of course, he lives in a republic. “You are the best of a very bad lot,”
were the encouraging words with which a prize for arithmetic was once
handed to me. The mute swan is the most agreeable of a bad-tempered clan.

Swans are overrated birds. They cannot hold a candle to their despised
cousins, the geese. I am sorry to have to say this, to thus shatter
another idol of the poets, to expose yet another of what the Babu would
call their “bull cock” stories. I am the more sorry as I am fully aware
that this will bring down upon me the thunderous wrath of the literary
critic, whose devotion to the British bards is truly affecting. Let me,
therefore, by way of trimming, say that there is some justification for
idolising the swan. The bird is as beautiful as the heroine in a
three-volume novel. He is dignified and stately, full of “placid beauty.”
“Proudly and slow he swims through the lake in the evening stillness. No
leaf, no wave, is moving: the swan alone goes on his solitary course,
floating silently like a bright water spirit. How dazzlingly his snowy
whiteness shines! How majestically the undulating neck rises and bends!
With what lightness and freedom he glides buoyantly away, the pinions
unfurled like sails! Each outline melts into the other; every attitude is
full of feeling, in every movement is nobility: an ever-changing play of
graceful lines, as though he knew that the very stream tarried to
contemplate his beauty.”

But his splendour is not without alloy. It is marred by the tiny, black,
beady eye, which gives the bird an evil-tempered, sinister expression.
This expression is in keeping with the character of the swan. Cygnus is a
bully. He delights to tyrannise over the ducks who so often keep him
company in captivity. The domineering behaviour of an old swan that used
to live in the Zoological Gardens at Lahore was amusing to watch. The
water-fowl are fed twice daily, the food being placed in a series of
dishes so that all can eat at once. The swan used to appropriate the
first dish to be filled, and no duck or goose durst approach that dish.
Having taken the edge off his appetite, the swan would waddle to the next
plate, and drive away the ducks that were eating out of it. He would then
pass on to dish number three, and so on all along the line, his idea
being, apparently, to cause the maximum of annoyance to his neighbours
with the minimum of trouble to himself. There were great rejoicings among
the ducks when that old swan died.

An angry swan is capable of inflicting a nasty blow with its powerful
wings. It is said to be able to use these with such force as to break a
man’s arm. Mr. Kay Robinson denies this, and declares that the wing of a
swan is not a formidable weapon. Personally, I always give the wing the
benefit of the doubt and an angry swan a wide berth.

Considering its size, the swan has a very small brain; hence it is not
overburdened with intelligence. Mr. H. E. Watson relates how one day when
shooting in Sind he came across five swans on a tank. “They let the boat
get pretty close,” he writes, “and I shot one. The other four flew round
the tank a few times and then settled on it again. I went up in the boat
and fired again, but without effect. They flew round, and then settled
again. The third time I shot another; the three remaining again flew
round and settled, and the fourth time I fired I did not kill. Exactly
the same thing happened the fifth time; the birds flew round and round,
and settled close to me, and I shot a third. The remaining two flew a
little distance, and settled, but I thought it would be a pity to kill
them . . . so I began to shoot ducks, and then the two remaining swans
flew by me, one on the right and one on the left, so that I could easily
have knocked them over with small shot.” What a pity swans are such rare
visitors to India! What grand birds they must be for an indifferent shot.
One swan on a small _jhil_ would give a really bad gunner a whole
morning’s shooting; it would circle round and round the sportsman at
short range, letting him blaze off to his heart’s content until it fell a
victim to its trustfulness! Try to imagine the so-called stupid goose
behaving in this manner.

The swan is a very silent bird in captivity, for this reason it is called
the mute swan. The only noise I have ever heard it make is a hiss when it
is angry. At the breeding season it is said to trumpet sometimes. The
ancients believed that the swan, though mute throughout life, sings most
sublimely at the approach of death; it then sings, not a funeral dirge,
but a jolly, rollicking song. This presented an excellent opportunity for
moralising. Mediæval authors were always on the look out for such
opportunities. The swan, wrote the author of the _Speculum Mundi_, “is a
perfect emblem and pattern to us, that our death ought to be cheerful,
and life not so dear to us as it is.” This practice of singing before
death has, like the crinoline, quite gone out of fashion. The mute swan
can never have been so great a musician as some of his brethren, since
the French horn which he carries in his breast-bone is not nearly so well
developed as it is in either the hooper or the black swan. Let me here
say, _en passant_, that both ancient and mediæval writers declined to
believe in the existence of a black swan; they regarded it as “the very
emblem and type of extravagant impossibility.” The phœnix, the dragon,
and the mermaid they could believe, but they felt that they must really
draw the line at a black swan.

A swan’s nest is a bulky structure composed of rushes, reeds, and other
aquatic plants; it is placed on the ground near the water’s edge. Six or
seven large greenish-white eggs are laid. The breeding season is from
March to May. Swans do not, of course, breed in India. Indeed, it is only
on rare occasions that they visit that country, and then they do not
venture farther south than Sind.



                                  XIX
                            KITES OF THE SEA


  “Graceful seagulls, plumed in snowy white,
  Follow’d the creaming furrow of the prow,
  With easy pinion, pleasurably slow;
  Then on the waters floated like a fleet
  Of tiny vessels, argosies complete,
  Such as brave Gulliver, deep wading, drew
  Victorious from the forts of Blefuscu.”

Of all the methods of obtaining food to which birds resort, none makes
greater demands on their physical powers than that which we human beings
term scavenging—the seeking-out and devouring of the multifarious edible
objects left, unclaimed by the owners, on the face of the land or the
sea. No bird can eke out an existence by scavenging unless it be endowed
with wonderful power of flight, the keenest eyesight, and limitless
energy, to say nothing of the ability and the will to fight when
necessity arises. Thus it happens that it is to the despised scavengers
that we must direct our eyes if we would behold the perfection of flight.
The vultures, the kites, and the gulls are verily the monarchs of the
atmosphere.

Bird scavengers are of two kinds—specialists and general practitioners.
The former confine themselves to one particular kind of food—the bodies
of dead animals. Of such are the vultures. In the polity of the feathered
folk might is right, so that these great birds enjoy the prerogative of
picking and choosing their food. The lesser fry have to be content with
that which the vultures do not require, with the crumbs that fall from
the vulturine table; they are ready to devour “anything that is going.”
All is grist that comes to their mill.

The kites and gulls are the chieftains of the clan of general scavengers.
The sway of the former extends over the land: the latter have dominion
over the seas. Kites cannot swim; their operations are in consequence
necessarily confined to the land, and to water in the neighbourhood of
_terra firma_. Sea-gulls, on the other hand, are as buoyant as corks, and
have webbed feet; they are, further, no mean swimmers, and are eminently
adapted to a seafaring life. They are birds of powerful flight, and
almost as much at home on land as at sea. They confine their attention
mainly to the sea, not because they are compelled by their structure to
do so, but because they encounter less opposition there.

Among birds, similarity in feeding habits often engenders similarity in
appearance—a professional likeness grows up among those that pursue the
same calling. The likeness between swifts and swallows is a remarkable
instance of this. The separate sphere of influence occupied by kites and
gulls sufficiently explains the dissimilitude of their plumage. In nearly
all other respects the birds closely resemble one another. In habits,
gulls are marine kites. Grandeur of flight is the most marked attribute
of each. They do not cleave the air at great velocity, like swifts or
“green parrots.” It is the effortlessness, the perfect ease with which
kites and sea-gulls perform their aerial movements for hours at a time,
rather than phenomenal speed, that compels our admiration. A dozen gentle
flaps of the wings in a minute suffices to enable a gull to keep pace
with a fast steamship.

Cowper sang of—

  “Kites that swim sublime
  In the still repeated circles, screaming loud.”

These words are equally appropriate to the kites of the sea.

I have watched, until my eyes grew tired, kites floating in circles in
the thin atmosphere, with scarce a movement of the pinions; I have seen
gulls keeping pace with a steamer without as much as a quiver of their
wings. In each case the wind was the motive power.

Both kites and gulls fly with downwardly directed eyes. Their life is one
long search for food. So keen is their vision that no object seems minute
enough to escape their notice. The smallest piece of bread thrown from a
moving ship is immediately pounced upon by the “wild sea-birds that
follow through the air,” but no notice appears to be taken of a piece of
paper rolled up into a ball.

Gulls, like kites, are omnivorous. Some species occasionally prey upon
fish which they catch alive; this method of obtaining food is, however,
the exception rather than the rule among gulls. They are sea-birds merely
in the sense that they usually pick their food off water. They are found
only where there is refuse to be picked up. In those parts of the ocean
that are not frequented by ships gulls are conspicuous by their absence.
They do not, as a rule, travel very far from land; when they do venture
out to sea, it is invariably in the wake of some great ship. Every ocean
liner sheds edible objects all along its course, and so attracts numbers
of gulls. These follow the ship for perhaps two hundred miles, and then
forsake it to return with some homeward-bound vessel.

The seashore and the estuaries of tidal rivers are the favourite
hunting-grounds of the sea-gulls, the flotsam of the rivers and the
jetsam of the waves being the attractions. Numbers of the graceful birds
await the return of the fishing smacks, in order to secure the fish
thrown away by the fishermen. The marine kites are not always content to
wait for rejected fish; not infrequently they boldly help themselves to
some of the shining contents of the nets, and sometimes actually tear the
meshes with their strong sharp bills. In India there is always much
fighting between the gulls and the crows over the fish cast away by the
fishers. The antagonists are well matched. Similar contests have been
recorded in the British Isles. I cull from _The Evening Telegraph_ the
following description of a fight between gulls and rooks over ground
covered with worms which had been killed by a salt-water flood:
“Thousands of gulls and rooks fought each other with a determination and
venom that could not be appreciated unless witnessed. Feathers flew in
all directions; the cawing and screaming were almost deafening. It was a
genuine fight. At first it took place in mid-air, but soon the combatants
came to the ground, and then the struggle centred in and around a fairly
large hillock. Just as the gulls appeared to be gaining the upper hand,
the report of a gun broke up the fight.”

The diet of the kites of the sea is not confined to small things. “A son
of the marshes” states that he has seen them feeding with hooded crows on
the carcases of moorland sheep. In the British Isles gulls frequently
follow the plough and greedily seize the worms and grubs turned up in the
furrow. In London and Dublin, and probably in other places, gulls have
taken up their residence in the parks, where they feed largely on the
bread thrown to the ornamental water-fowl, seizing it in the air before
it reaches the ducks. So tame do these gulls become that they will almost
take bread from the hands of children. Many people labour under the
delusion that these gulls are domesticated ones kept by the authorities
along with the ducks and swans.

Of late years a large colony of gulls has established itself on the
Thames opposite the Temple. These now form one of the sights of London.
The townsfolk take so much interest in the graceful birds that some
individuals earn a living by selling on the Embankment small baskets of
little fish which passers-by purchase in order to throw to the screaming
gulls that hover around expectantly.

Even as hunger frequently drives kites to commit larceny in the farmyard,
so does it sometimes turn sea-gulls into birds of prey.

Mr. W. J. Williams gives an account, in _The Irish Naturalist_, of a
lesser black-headed gull that used to frequent the lake in St. Stephen’s
Green Park. It was wont to rest on the cornice of a house overlooking the
park, till an opportunity presented itself of swooping down and snatching
a duckling. It became so expert at this form of poaching that the Board
of Works had the marauder executed. Another gull which attacked a
duckling was in turn attacked by the parents (a pair of Chilian wigeons),
with such success that the exhausted gull was killed with a stick by one
of the Park constables.

In India gulls do not, I think, venture far inland. The terns regard the
inland waters of Hindustan as their preserve. Some people eat gulls. The
late Lord Lilford declared that the black-headed species is a good bird
for the table. I am not prepared to deny this assertion. I shall not put
it to the test, for, in my opinion, gulls should be a feast only for the
eyes.



                                   XX
                              RIVER TERNS


A sojourn of a few years in Upper India usually teaches a European to
make the most of the cold weather as it gives place to the heat of
summer. There is a period of a week or two in March and early April when,
although the days are very hot, the nights and early mornings are cool,
when the mercury in the thermometer fluctuates between 104° and 68° F. If
at this season a man is energetic enough to rise at 5.15, shortly after
the birds awake, there are few more pleasant ways of spending the ensuing
three hours than by taking what the French would term a promenade upon
the water. The gliding motion of a boat propelled by sail or oar is
always soothing, and is doubly so when one knows that the breeze which
then blows cool upon the cheek will scorch the face seven hours hence.
The morning excursion on the water is rendered especially enjoyable if it
happens to take place at one of the comparatively few parts of the Ganges
or the Jumna where the river-bed is narrow, so that the water fills the
space between the banks, instead of being, as is more usually the case, a
mere trickle of water meandering through a great expanse of sand. Under
the former conditions it is good to sit in the stern of a gliding boat
and watch the birds that frequent the river.

At sunrise the crow-pheasants (_Centropus rufipennis_) come to the
water’s edge to drink, so that numbers of the long-tailed, black birds
with chestnut wings are to be seen from the boat. Having slaked their
thirst, they hop up the steep bank with considerable dexterity, to
disappear into the stunted bushes that grow on the top of the bank. Then
there are, of course, the regular _habitués_ of the water’s edge—the
birds that frequent it at all hours of the day—the ubiquitous paddy bird
(_Ardeola grayii_), which spends the greater part of its life ankle-deep
in water, waiting motionless for the coming of its prey; the common
sandpiper (_Totanus hypoleucus_), that solitary bird, as small as a
starling, which, on the approach of a human being, emits a plaintive cry
and flies away, displaying pointed wings along the length of which runs a
narrow white bar; the handsome spur-winged plover (_Hoplopterus
ventralis_), whose call is very like that of the did-he-do-it—but we must
not dwell on these littoral birds, for to-day I would write of terns, the
river birds _par excellence_. None of God’s creatures are more attractive
than terns to those who love beauty. That few, if any, of our English
poets have sung the praises of these beautiful birds surely demonstrates
how little attention poets pay to nature, and how artificial are their
writings. This will, I fear, annoy the friends of the poets. I am sorry,
but I cannot help it. It is the fault of the bards for having so grossly
neglected the terns.

In colouring, these superb birds show what endless possibilities are open
to the artist who confines himself to black and white and their
combinations.

There is in the flight of terns a poetry of motion over which no one with
an eye for the beautiful can fail to wax enthusiastic. The popular name
for terns—sea-swallows—is a tribute to their wing power. They are all
designed upon a common plan. Length and slimness characterise every part
of their anatomy, save the legs, which are very short. Terns rarely walk;
nearly all their movements are aerial.

The terns that commonly frequent the rivers of Upper India are of three
species—the black-bellied tern (_Sterna melanogaster_), the Indian river
tern (_S. seena_) with its deeply forked tail, and the whiskered tern
(_Hydrochelidon hybrida_), a study in pale grey. These, when not resting
on a sandbank, are dashing through the air without effort, ever and anon
dropping on to the water to pick something from off the surface, or
plunging in after a fish. Allied to the terns, and found along with them,
are the Indian skimmers (_Rynchope albicollis_), easily recognised by
their larger size and black wings.

The passing of a black crow causes some of the terns to desist from their
piscatorial occupation, in order to mob the intruder. This means that
there are terns’ eggs or young ones in the vicinity. Many species of
birds betray the presence of their nests by displaying unusual pugnacity
at the breeding season. To discover the eggs or young of the terns is not
a difficult matter. It is only necessary to land upon the nearest island
between which and the river bank there is a sufficient depth of water to
prevent jackals fording it. If the island contain eggs or young ones, the
parent birds will make a hostile demonstration by collecting overhead and
flying backwards and forwards, uttering their harsh cries, and the nearer
one approaches the nest the more clamorous do they become. In this manner
they unwittingly inform the nest-seeker whether he is getting “hot” or
“cold,” to use the expressions employed in a nursery game.

The terns which breed on islets in Indian rivers do not appear to do much
incubating in the daytime. There is no need for them to do so, because
the sand grows very warm under the rays of the sun. Moreover, the only
foes to be feared are the crows and the kites, which the terns can keep
at bay more effectually when on the wing than while sitting on the eggs.
Very different is the behaviour of the sea terns, whose eggs are liable
to attack by gulls and crabs. For safety’s sake the sea terns lay in
large colonies, and, to use Colonel Butler’s expression, sit on their
eggs “packed together as close as possible without, perhaps, actually
touching one another.” He once came upon the nests of a colony of
large-crested terns (_Sterna bergii_). The sitting birds did not leave
their eggs until he was within a few yards of them. Having put them up,
he retired to a little distance. “No sooner had I done so,” he writes,
“than both species [i.e. the gulls and terns] began to descend in dozens
to the spot where the eggs were lying. In a moment a general fight
commenced, and it was at once evident that the eggs belonged to _Sterna
bergii_, and that the gulls were carrying them off and swallowing their
contents as fast as they could devour them.” River terns do not construct
any nest. They deposit their eggs on the bare, dry sand. The eggs have a
stone-coloured ground, sometimes suffused with pink, blotched with dark
patches, those at the surface of the shell having a sepia hue, and those
deeper down appearing dark greyish mauve. The eggs, although not
conspicuous, may, without difficulty, be detected when lying on the sand.
Their colouring would seem to be adapted to match a stony, rather than a
sandy environment, but the fact that the colouring of the eggs is but
imperfectly protective does not much matter when the latter lie on a sand
island, to which but few predaceous creatures have access; the
watchfulness of the parent birds more than compensates for the
comparative conspicuousness of the eggs.

Young terns, like most other birds, are born helpless, and are then
covered with a greyish down; but before the tail feathers have broken
through their sheaths, and while the wing feathers are quite rudimentary,
the ternlets learn to run about and swim upon the water. At this stage
the little terns look like ducklings when on the water, and, as they run
along the water’s edge, may easily be mistaken, at a little distance, for
sandpipers.

When a young tern is surprised by some enemy, his natural instinct is to
crouch down, half buried in the sand, and to remain there quite
motionless until the danger has passed. The colouring of his down is such
as to cause him to assimilate more closely to the sandy environment than
the eggs do. If one picks up such a crouching ternlet, the bird will
probably not struggle at all; it may, perhaps, peck at one’s fingers, but
in nine cases out of ten will remain limp and motionless in the hand,
looking as though it were dead, and if it be set upon the ground it falls
all of a heap, and remains motionless in the position it assumed when
dropped. If you take a young tern in your hand and lay it upon its back
on the sand it makes no attempt to right itself, but remains motionless
in that attitude, looking for all the world like a trussed chicken; but
if you turn your back upon it, it will take to its little legs and run,
with considerable speed, to the water, to which it takes just as a duck
does, its feet being webbed at all stages of its existence.



                                  XXI
                             GREEN BULBULS


Since green is a splendid protective colour for an arboreal creature, it
is surprising that there are not more green animals in existence. The
truth of the matter is that green seems to be a difficult colour to
acquire. There does not exist a really green mammal; while green birds
are relatively few and far between. In India we have, it is true, the
green parrots, the barbets, the green pigeons, the green bulbuls, and the
bee-eaters. Take away these and you can count the remaining green birds
on the fingers of your hands. Curiously enough, the bee-eaters spend very
little time in trees; consequently the beautiful leaf-green livery seems
rather wasted on them. And of the other green birds we may almost say
that they are precisely those that seem least in need of this form of
protection. The parrakeets and barbets, thanks to their powerful beaks,
are well adapted to fighting, while more pugnacious birds than bulbuls
and pigeons do not exist. I think, therefore, that the green liveries of
these birds are not the result of their necessity for protection from
raptorial foes. This livery is a luxury rather than a necessity.

Anatomically speaking, green bulbuls are not bulbuls at all. Jerdon
called them bulbuls because of their bulbul-like habits, although, as
“Eha” points out, they take more after the orioles. Oates tells us that
these beautiful birds are glorified babblers, rich relations of the
disreputable-looking seven sisters. He gives them the name _Chloropsis_.

Seven species of green bulbul are found in India; they thus furnish an
excellent example of a bird dividing up into a number of local races.
When the various portions of a species become separated from one another
this phenomenon often occurs. The common grey parrot of Africa is,
according to Sir Harry Johnston, even now splitting up into a number of
local races. That interesting bird is presenting us with an example of
evolution while you wait. It is quite likely that the process may
continue until several distinct species are formed. We must bear in mind
that there is no essential difference between a species and a race. When
the differences between two birds are slight we speak of the latter as
forming two races; when the divergence becomes more marked we call them
species. Very often systematists are divided as to whether two allied
forms are separate species or mere races. In such cases some peacemakers
split the difference and call them sub-species.

Green bulbuls are essentially arboreal birds. In the olden time when
India was densely wooded I believe that there was but one species of
_Chloropsis_, even as there is but one species of house-crow in India
proper. Then, as the land began to be denuded of forest in parts, these
green bulbuls became a number of isolated communities, with the result
that they eventually evolved into several species. In this connection I
may mention that the grey on the neck of _Corvus splendens_ is much more
marked in birds from the Punjab than in those that worry the inhabitants
of Madras.

Of the green bulbuls only two species occur in South India—the Malabar
_Chloropsis_ (_C. malabarica_) and Jerdon’s _Chloropsis_ (_C. Jerdoni_).
The former, as its name tells us, is found in Malabar. The green bulbul
of the other parts of South India is Jerdon’s form. This handsome bird
does not occur in or about the City of Madras; at least I have never seen
it in the neighbourhood, nor indeed nearer than Yercaud. However, not
improbably it occurs between the Shevaroys and the east coast. If anyone
who reads these lines has seen this bird in that area, I hope that he or
she will be kind enough to let me know. Here let me say that to identify
a green bulbul is as easy as falling out of a tree. He is of the same
size as the common bulbul. His prevailing hue is a rich bright
grass-green—the green of grass at its best. His chin and throat are
black, and he has a hyacinth-blue moustache, so that he deserves his
Telugu name—the “Ornament of the Forest.” His wife is pale green where he
is black and her moustache is of a paler blue. The Malabar species is
easily distinguished by its bright orange forehead. Green bulbuls go
about, sometimes in small flocks, more frequently in pairs. They rarely,
if ever, descend to the ground, but flit about amid the foliage, to which
they assimilate so closely, seeking for the insects, fruit, and seed on
which they feed. Like many other gaily attired birds, they give the lie
to the oft-repeated assertion that it is only the dull-hued birds that
are good songsters. Green bulbuls are veritable gramophones, “flagrant
plagiarists” Mr. W. H. Hudson would call them. Not only have they a
number of pretty notes of their own, but the feathered creature whose
song they cannot imitate remains yet to be discovered. Green bulbuls
might be called Indian mocking-birds were there not so many other birds
in the country that imitate the calls of their fellows. Some
ornithologist with a good ear for music should draw up a list of all our
Indian birds that mock the calls of others, setting against each the
names of these whose sounds they imitate.

Green bulbuls are hardy birds and thrive well in captivity. I saw
recently a specimen in splendid condition at a bird show in London.
“There is one drawback, however,” writes Finn in his _Garden and Aviary
Birds of India_, “to this lovely bird (from a fancier’s point of view),
and that is its very savage temper in some cases. In the wild state Mr.
E. C. Stuart Baker has seen two of these birds fight to death, and
another couple defy law and order by hustling a king-crow, of all birds.
And in confinement it is difficult to get two to live together; while
some specimens are perfectly impossible companions for other small birds,
savagely driving them about and not allowing them to feed. Many
individuals, however, are quite peaceable with other birds, and a true
pair will live together in harmony.”

There is nothing remarkable in the nest of the _Chloropsis_; it is a
shallow cup, devoid of lining, placed fairly high up in a tree. July and
August are the months in which to look for nests. Two eggs usually form
the complete clutch. It would thus seem that green bulbuls have not a
great many enemies to fear. Nevertheless they fuss as much over their
eggs as some elderly ladies of my acquaintance do over their baggage when
travelling. Birds and people who worry themselves unduly over their
belongings seem to lose these more often than do those folk who behave
more philosophically. Take the case of the common bulbuls. These
certainly lose more broods than they succeed in rearing, yet the ado they
make when a harmless creature approaches their nest puts one forcibly in
mind of the behaviour of the captain of a Russian gunboat when an
innocent vessel happens to enter the zone of sea in the centre of which
the Czar’s yacht floats.



                                  XXII
                               CORMORANTS


Cormorants, like Englishmen, have spread themselves all over the earth.
Save for a few out-of-the-way islands, there is no country in the world
that cannot boast of at least one species of cormorant. Cormorants, then,
are an exceedingly successful and flourishing family. It must be very
annoying for those worthy professors and museum naturalists who are
always lecturing to us about the all-importance of protective colouration
that the most flourishing families of birds—the crows and the
cormorants—are as conspicuous as it is possible for a thing in feathers
to be.

Mr. Seton Thompson well says that every animal has some strong point, or
it could not exist; and some weak point, or the other animals could not
exist. Cormorants have several strong points, and that is why they
flourish like the green bay tree, notwithstanding their conspicuous
plumage. They are as hardy as the Scotchman, as voracious as the ostrich,
as tenacious of life as a cat, to say nothing of being piscatorial
experts, powerful fliers, and champion divers.

The cormorant family furnishes a very good example of the manner in which
new species arise quite independently of natural selection.
Notwithstanding their world-wide distribution, all cormorants belong to
one genus, which is divided up into thirty-seven species. Of these no
fewer than fifteen occur in New Zealand—a country not characterised by a
large avifauna.

One species—the large cormorant (_Phalacocorax carbo_)—flourishes in
almost every imaginable kind of climate and among all sorts and
conditions of birds and beasts. Yet in New Zealand, in a country where
the conditions of existence vary but little, cormorants have split up
into fifteen species. It is therefore as clear as anything can be in
nature that we must look to some cause other than natural selection for
an explanation of the multiplicity of species of cormorant in New
Zealand. It seems to me that the solution of this puzzle lies in the fact
that the conditions of life are comparatively easy in New Zealand.
Consequently a well-equipped bird like a cormorant is allowed a certain
amount of latitude as to its form and colouring. In places where the
struggle for existence is very severe, where organisms have their work
cut out to maintain themselves, the chances are that every unfavourable
variation will be wiped out by natural selection; but if the struggle is
not particularly severe, or if a species has something in hand, it can
afford to dispense with part of its advantage and still survive. Thus it
is that in New Zealand we see a number of different species of cormorant
living side by side. De Vries likens natural selection to a sieve through
which all organisms are sifted, and through the meshes of which only
those of a certain description are able to pass. Bateson compares it to a
public examination to which every organism must submit itself. Those
animals that fail to get through are killed. The standard of the
examination may vary in various parts of the world.

So much for cormorants in general and the puzzle they present to
evolutionists. Let us now consider for a little while our Indian
cormorants. For once India is at a disadvantage as compared with New
Zealand. There are but three species found in this country—the great, the
lesser, and the little cormorant. The last—_Phalacocorax javanicus_—is
the most commonly seen of them all. It is to be found in the various
backwaters round about Madras, being especially abundant in the vicinity
of Pulicat. At the place where the canal runs into the lake there are a
number of stakes driven into the canal bed; these project above the level
of the water, and on every one of them a little cormorant is to be seen.
Cormorants in such a position always put me in mind of the pillar saints
of ancient times. Although very active in the water, cormorants become
statuesque in their stillness when they leave it.

The lesser cormorant (_Phalacocorax fuscicollis_) breeds in nests in the
trees on the islets which stud the Redhills Tank near Madras, also on the
tank at Vaden Tangal, near Chingleput. The third species of cormorant
found in India is the great cormorant (_Phalacocorax carbo_). This is the
one which is world-wide in its distribution. It is a large bird, being
over 2 ft. 6 in. in length. It is said to be capable of swallowing at one
gulp a fish fourteen inches long. It is less gregarious in its habits
than the other cormorants, but it breeds and roosts in colonies. Captain
H. Terry states that this species’ nests are to be met with on a tank
near Bellary. The great cormorant possesses fourteen tail feathers, while
all other cormorants have to put up with twelve. Why the big fellow
should be the happy possessor of two extra caudal feathers is a puzzle
which no one has attempted to solve.

It is not very easy to distinguish the three species of cormorant from
one another. The great cormorant has a conspicuous white bar on each side
of the head. This and his larger size serve to separate him from the two
smaller forms. It is usually possible to distinguish the other two by the
fact that the little cormorant has more white on the throat than his
somewhat larger cousin. But, when all is said and done, it is not of
great importance to distinguish the various species. All cormorants have
almost exactly the same habits. The nests are all mere platforms of
sticks. They are all expert fishermen, and seem equally at home on fresh
or salt water. They can swim either on or under water and move at a
considerable pace, covering nearly 150 yards in a minute. The young are
said to feed themselves by inserting their heads into the gullet of the
parent and pulling out the half-digested fish. Cormorants are readily
tamed and are employed in China to fish for their masters, a rubber ring
being inserted round the lower part of the neck in order to prevent the
fish from going too far. In bygone days, fishing by means of cormorants
was considered good sport, and the royal household used to have its
Master of the Cormorants.

Cormorants’ eggs are of a very pale green colour, and their nests smell
of bad fish, for the owners care nothing about sanitation. Young
cormorants are not nearly so black as their parents, and do not attain
adult plumage till they are four years old.



                                 XXIII
                           A MELODIOUS DRONGO


Our friend the king crow (_Dicrurus ater_) is so abundant throughout
India, and possesses to so great a degree the faculty of arresting the
attention, that we are apt to overlook his less numerous relatives. In
Ceylon it is otherwise. _Dicrurus ater_ occurs in that fair isle, but
only in certain parts thereof, and is not so abundant as his cousin, the
white-vented drongo (_Dicrurus leucopygialis_). The former has,
therefore, to play second fiddle in Ceylon, where he is usually known to
Europeans as the black fly-catcher. The white-vented drongo is their king
crow—the bird that lords over the _corvi_.

The drongos constitute a well-defined family. When you know one member
you can scarcely fail to recognise the others. They fall into two great
classes, the fancy and the plain, the dandies and those that dress
quietly. The bhimraj, or larger racket-tailed drongo (_Dissemurus
paradiseus_), is the most perfect example of the fancy or ornamental
class. His head is set off by a crest, but his speciality is the pair of
outer tail feathers, which attain a length of nearly two feet.

Of the less ornamental drongos, the king crow is the best-known example.
This bird is found in all parts of India, and occurs in Ceylon. Almost as
widely distributed, but far less abundant, is the white-bellied drongo.
This species may be met with in all parts of India save the Punjab. In
the Western Province of Ceylon it is replaced by a drongo having less
white in the plumage.

It is a moot question whether this last is to be looked upon as a race or
a distinct species. Legge writes: “No bird in Ceylon is so puzzling as
the present, and there is none to which I have given so much attention
with a view to arriving at a satisfactory determination as to whether
there are two species in the island or only one. I cannot come to any
other conclusion than that there is but one, the opposing types of which
are certainly somewhat distinct from one another, but which grade into
each other in such a manner as to forbid their being rightly considered
as distinct species; and I will leave it to others, who like to take the
matter up for investigation, to prove whether my conclusions are
erroneous or not.” Oates has since constituted the birds which have less
white on the lower parts a distinct species, which he calls the
white-vented drongo (_Dicrurus leucopygialis_). He admits that the amount
of white on this form and on the white-bellied species (_Dicrurus
cærulescens_) is variable, and that a bird is occasionally met with which
might, as regards this character, be assigned indifferently to one or the
other species, but, says he, the colour of the throat and breast will, in
these cases, be a safe guide in identification. The parts in question are
grey in the white-bellied species and dark brown in the white-vented
form. It seems to me that a slight difference in the colouring of the
feathers of the throat is not a very safe foundation on which to
establish a new species. However, this piece of species-splitting need
not worry the Anglo-Indian, for the white-vented form is found only in
Ceylon. All drongos with white underparts that occur in India are
_Dicrurus cærulescens_. This bird is not common in Madras; I observed it
but twice during eighteen months’ residence in that city. It is in shape
exactly like the common king crow, and possesses the characteristic
forked tail, but it is a smaller bird, being nine and a half inches in
length, and therefore shorter by fully three inches than the black
drongo. Its upper plumage is deep indigo; the throat and breast are grey;
all the remainder of the lower plumage is white. Its habits are very much
like those of the king crow, but it is less addicted to the open country,
seeming to prefer well-wooded localities. I have never seen the _Dhouli_,
or white-bellied drongo, perched on anything but a branch of a tree. It
almost always catches its insect prey upon the wing, after the manner of
a fly-catcher. Jerdon, however, states that he once saw it descend to the
ground for an insect.

As a singer it is far superior to the king crow. In addition to the harsh
notes of that species it produces many melodious sounds. Tickell
describes its song as “a wild, mellow whistle pleasingly modulated.” It
was the voice of the bird that first attracted my notice. Some eight
years ago, when camping in the Fyzabad District, I heard a very pleasing
but unknown song. Tracking this to the mango tope whence it issued, I
discovered that the author was a white-bellied king crow. Last winter a
member of this species favoured me with a fine histrionic performance. I
was sitting outside my tent one afternoon, when I heard above me a harsh
note that was not quite like that of the king crow. Looking up, I
observed, perched on a bare branch at the summit of the tree, a
white-bellied drongo. Then, as if for my especial benefit, he began to
imitate the call of the shikra; he followed this up by a very fair
reproduction of some of the cries of a tree-pie. Having accomplished
this, he made, first his bow, then his exit. I was much interested in the
performance, since an allied species, the bhimraj, is not only one of the
best songsters in the East, but a mimic second only to the wonderful
mocking-bird of South America.

The white-bellied drongo is so rare in the peninsula of India that not
one of our ornithologists has given us anything like a full account of
its habits, and no one appears to have discovered the nest in India.
Fortunately, it is very common in Ceylon, so that Legge has been able to
give some interesting details regarding its habits. We must bear in mind
that Legge includes both the white-bellied varieties under one species.
If we divide them into two, the question arises to which do his various
observations apply? The reply is to either or both, for Legge was not
able to detect any differences between them, except that perhaps the
white-vented variety has a more powerful voice. He writes: “It is
occasionally, when there is abundance of food about, a sociable species,
as many as three or four collecting on one tree, and carrying on a
vigorous warfare against the surrounding insect world.” Like the king
crow, it is an early riser and a late rooster. It is a great chaser of
crows, and of any creature that dares to intrude into the tree in which
its nest is placed. Needless to say that it detests owls. Says Legge:
“The white-bellied king crow never fails to collect all the small birds
in the vicinity whenever it discovers one of these nocturnal offenders,
chasing it through the wood until it escapes into some thicket which
baffles the pursuit of its persecutors.” But why does he call owls
“nocturnal offenders”? Wherein lies their offence? So far as I can see,
the only crime that owls commit is in being owls. The creatures they prey
upon have reason for disliking them. But owls do not attack
ornithologists. Why, then, should these gentry call them hard names?

The nesting habits of both the white-bellied and the white-vented drongos
are very similar to those of the common king crow. Legge describes the
nest as a shallow cup, almost invariably built at the horizontal fork of
the branch of a large tree at a considerable height from the ground,
sometimes as much as forty feet. The eggs seem to vary as greatly in
appearance as do those of the common king crow.

Since the white-bellied drongo appears to be quite as pugnacious as its
black cousin, and to have almost identical habits, it is strange that it
should be so uncommon in India. As we have seen, its distribution is
wide, so that it seems able to adapt itself to various kinds of climate.
Nevertheless, it is common nowhere in India. What is the cause that keeps
down its numbers? Naturalists are wont to talk airily about natural
selection causing a species to be numerous or the reverse, but unless
they can show precisely how natural selection acts they explain nothing.
Those who write books on natural history convey the impression that it is
the birds and beasts of prey that keep down the numbers of the smaller
fry. As a matter of fact, predaceous creatures seem to exercise but
little influence on the numbers of their quarry. There are hidden causes
at work of which we know almost nothing. Damp and small parasites are
probably far more powerful checks on multiplication than predaceous
creatures. It would seem that there is something in the constitution of
the white-bellied drongo which enables it to outnumber the king crows
proper in Ceylon, but which prevents it from becoming abundant in the
peninsula of India. What this something is we have yet to discover. We
really know very little of the nature of that mysterious force with which
naturalists love to conjure, and which Darwin named Natural Selection. We
write it with a capital N and a capital S, and then imagine that we have
explained everything.

  “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
  Now we all know what you are.”



                                  XXIV
                            THE INDIAN PITTA


Some Indian birds are adepts at self-advertisement. To use an expressive
vulgarism, they continually “hit you in the eye”; they obtrude themselves
upon you in season and out of season. Others are so retiring that you may
live among them for years without observing them. To this class, to the
class that hide their light under a bushel, the beautiful Indian pitta
(_Pitta brachyura_) belongs. There is at least one favoured compound in
Madras where a pitta, or possibly a pair of them, spends the cool-weather
season. Pittas proclaim their presence by uttering at dawn their cheery
notes, which have been described as an attempt to whistle, in a
moderately high key, the words “quite clear.” If, on hearing this call,
you are sufficiently energetic to go out of doors, you will probably see
on the ground a bluish bird, about the size of a quail, but before you
have had time to examine it properly it will have taken to its wings and
disappeared into the hedge. Those who are not so fortunate as to have
pittas on the premises may be tolerably certain of seeing a specimen by
visiting the well-wooded plot of land bordered on the west by the canal
and on the south by the Adyar River.

This bird is about seven inches in length. Thus it does not measure much
more than a sparrow, but it is nevertheless considerably larger, for the
tail is very short, being barely one inch and a half in length. The crown
is yellow, tinged with orange, and divided in the middle by a broad black
band running from the beak to the nape of the neck, where it meets a
broader black band that passes below the eye. The eyebrow is white. The
back and shoulders are dull bluish green. The upper tail-coverts are pale
blue. There is also a patch of this colour on the wing. The wings and
tail are black, tipped with blue. During flight the pinions display a
white bar. The chin and throat are white. The breast is of the same
yellow hue as the head. There is a large crimson patch under the tail.
Captain Fayrer’s photograph in _Bombay Ducks_ conveys very well the shape
of the bird, but, of course, does not reproduce the most marked feature
of the pitta—its colouring. Indians in some localities call it the
_naurang_—the nine-colours. The bird may truly be said to be arrayed in a
coat of many colours. Unfortunately, such a garment is apt to lead to
trouble. Even as the coat of many colours brought tribulation upon Joseph
of old, so does the much-coveted, multi-hued plumage of the pitta
frequently bring death to its possessor.

Apart from the colouring, it is impossible to confound the pitta with any
other bird. Its long legs and its apology for a tail recall the
sandpiper, but there is nothing else snippet-like about it. The
classification of the bird has puzzled many a wise head. It has been
variously called the Madras jay, the Bengal quail, the short-tailed pye,
the ant-thrush, the painted thrush, and the ground thrush. But it is not
a jay, neither is it a quail, nor a thrush, nor a tailless pye. It is a
bird made on a special model. It belongs to a peculiar family, to a
branch of the great order of perching birds, which differs from all the
other clans in some important anatomical details. Into these we will not
go, for they belong to morphology, the science which concerns itself
chiefly with the dry bones of zoology, with the lifeless aspect of the
science of life.

The Indian pitta is a bird which likes warmth, but not heat, so that it
refuses to live in the Punjab, where the climate is one of extremes—a
spell of cold, then a headlong rush into a period of intense heat,
followed by an equally sudden return to a low temperature. The pitta
seems to occur in all parts of Eastern, Central, and Southern India,
undergoing local migration to the south in the autumn and back again in
the spring. In places where the climate is never very hot or very cold,
as, for example, Madras and the hills in Ceylon, some individuals seem to
remain throughout the year. I have seen pittas in Madras at all seasons,
and I know of no better testimonial to the excellence of the climate of
that city. Jerdon writes of the pitta: “In the Carnatic it chiefly occurs
in the beginning of the hot weather, when the land-winds first begin to
blow with violence from the west; and the birds in many instances appear
to have been blown, by the strong wind, from the Eastern Ghauts, for,
being birds of feeble flight, they are unable to contend against the
strength of the wind. At this time they take refuge in huts, outhouses,
or any building that will afford them shelter. The first bird of this
kind that I saw had taken refuge in the General Hospital at Madras; and
subsequently, at Nellore, I obtained many alive under the same
circumstances.” Other observers have had similar experiences. Bligh, for
instance, states that in Ceylon pittas are frequently caught in bungalows
on coffee estates on cold and stormy days.

It is strange that so retiring a bird as the pitta should find its way
with such frequency into inhabited houses. Jerdon’s explanation is its
“feeble flight,” but I doubt whether he is correct in calling the pitta a
bird of weak flight; it can travel very fast, for short distances at any
rate. It seems to me that the pitta dislikes cold and wind, and therefore
naturally seeks any shelter that presents itself. Not being a garden
bird, it is unaware that the bungalow, which offers such tempting cover,
is the abode of human beings. Possibly another reason why the pitta so
frequently enters bungalows is to avoid the crows. Dr. Henderson tells me
that he was playing tennis some years ago at a friend’s house in Madras
when he saw a bird being chased by a mob of crows. The fugitive took
refuge in the drawing-room of the house, where Dr. Henderson caught it,
and found that it was an uninjured but very much frightened pitta. Mr. D.
G. Hatchell informs me that he once picked up in his verandah a dead
pitta that had probably been killed by crows. The _corvi_ are out-and-out
Tories. They strongly resent all innovation _qua_ innovation. Any
addition to the local fauna is exceedingly distasteful to them. They
object to the foreigner quite as strongly as do (perhaps I should say
“did”) the Chinese. It is for this reason that they mob every strange
bird that shows its face. Now, they seldom come across either the
creatures of the night or the denizens of the thick undergrowth;
consequently, when such venture forth into the light of day the crows
forthwith attack them.

The pitta feeds chiefly on beetles, termites, ants, and other creeping
things, which it seeks out among fallen leaves, after the manner of the
“seven sisters.” The pitta is quick on its feet, and is able to hop and
run with equal ease. It thrives in captivity. It is an excellent pet,
provided it be not kept with smaller birds. It regards these as so much
fresh meat especially provided for it.

The nest of the pitta is described as a globular structure fully nine
inches in horizontal diameter and six inches high, with a circular
aperture on one side. Twigs, roots, and dried leaves are the building
materials utilised. The eggs are exceedingly beautiful. “The ground
colour,” writes Hume, “is China white, sometimes faintly tinged with
pink, sometimes creamy; and the eggs are speckled and spotted with deep
maroon, dark purple, and brownish purple as primary markings, and pale
inky purple as secondary ones. Occasionally, instead of spots, the
markings take the form of fine hair-like lines.”



                                  XXV
                          THE INDIAN WHITE-EYE


The Indian white-eye (_Zosterops palpebrosa_) is a bird which should be
familiar to everyone who has visited the Nilgiris. To wander far in a
hillside wood without meeting a flock of these diminutive creatures is
impossible. Sooner or later a number of monosyllabic notes will be heard,
each a faint, plaintive cheep. On going to the tree from which these
notes appear to emanate a rustle will be observed here and there in the
foliage. Closer inspection will reveal a number of tiny birds flitting
about among the leaves. These are white-eyes—the most sociable of birds.
Except when nesting, they invariably go about in companies of not less
than twenty or thirty. Each individual is as restless as a wren, so that
some patience must be exercised by the observer if he wish to obtain a
good view of any member of the flock. But by standing perfectly
motionless for a time under the tree in which the birds are feeding he
who is watching will, ere long, be able to make out that the white-eye is
a tiny creature, not much more than half the size of a sparrow. The upper
parts are yellowish green, the chin, throat, and feathers under the tail
are bright yellow, and the remainder of the lower surface of whitish hue.
The most marked feature of the _Zosterops_ is a conspicuous ring of white
feathers round the eye, which causes the bird to look as though it were
wearing white spectacles. From this circle the species derives its
popular names, the white-eye or spectacle bird. Thanks to the conspicuous
eye-ring, it is impossible to mistake the bird.

All feathered creatures that go about in flocks and haunt thick foliage
emit unceasingly a call note, by means of which the members of the flock
keep in touch with one another. This ceaseless cheeping note is probably
uttered unconsciously. Each individual listens, without knowing that it
is doing so, for the calls of its fellows; so long as it hears these it
is happy. When the main volume of the sound grows faint the individual
white-eye knows that his companions are moving away from him; he
accordingly flies in the direction from which their calls are coming,
giving vent, as he goes, to a louder cheep than usual. Whenever a
white-eye flies from one tree to another it utters this more powerful
call and thereby informs its fellows that it is moving forward. This
louder cry stimulates the others to follow the bird that has taken the
lead. All the time they are thus flitting about the white-eyes are busy
picking tiny insects off the leaves. I have never observed them eating
anything but insects. Legge, however, asserts that their diet is for the
most part frugivorous, in consequence of which the birds are, according
to him, very destructive to gardens, picking off the buds of fruit trees,
as well as attacking the fruit itself. He further declares that he has
known caged individuals in England feed with avidity on dried figs.
Hutton also states that white-eyes feed greedily upon the small black
berries of a species of _Rhamnus_, common in the Himalayas.
Notwithstanding the authorities cited, it is my belief that these little
birds are almost exclusively insectivorous. They perform a useful work in
devouring numbers of obnoxious insects, which they extract from flowers.
In so doing their heads sometimes become powdered with pollen, so that
the white-eyes probably, like bees and moths, render service to plants by
carrying pollen from one flower to another.

The search for food does not occupy the whole day. Except at the nesting
season, the work of birds is light. In the early morning the white-eyes
feed industriously; so that by noon they have satisfied their hunger.
They then flit and hop and fly about purely for pleasure. White-eyes,
like all small birds, literally bubble over with energy. They are as
restless as children. Once when walking through the Lawrence Gardens at
Lahore in the days when they had not yet fallen into the clutches of that
enemy of beautiful scenery, the landscape gardener, I came across a
company of these charming little birds disporting themselves amid some
low bushes near a plantation of loquat trees. First one little bird, then
another, then a third, a fourth, a fifth, etc., dropped to the ground,
only to return at once to the bush whence they came. A whole flock
appeared to be taking part in this pastime. There were two continuous
streams, one of descending and the other of ascending white-eyes. These
might have been little fluffy, golden balls with which some unseen person
was playing.

When the heat of the day is at its zenith, white-eyes, like most birds in
India, enjoy a _siesta_. At this hour little gatherings of them may be
seen, each bird huddled against its neighbours on some bough of a leafy
tree.

At the nesting season the white-eye sings most sweetly. The ordinary
cheeping note then becomes glorified into something resembling the lay of
the canary; less powerful, but equally pleasing to the ear.

The nest of the white-eye is a neat little cup, or, as Mr. A. Anderson
describes it, a hollow hemisphere. It is a miniature of the oriole’s
nursery. It is large for the size of the bird, being usually over two
inches in diameter. Some nests are fully two inches deep, while others
are quite shallow. It is composed of fine fibres (i.e. grass stems,
slender roots, moss, and seed down) and cotton, bound together by cobweb,
which is the cement most commonly used by bird masons. The nursery is
invariably provided with a lining. In one nest that I found, this lining
consisted of human hair. Other lining materials are silky down, hair-like
moss and fern-roots, and grass fibres so fine that the horsehairs which
are sometimes utilised look quite coarse beside them. The most wonderful
thing about the nest of this pretty little bird is the manner in which it
is attached to its supports. I have called it a miniature of the oriole’s
nursery, because it is usually suspended from two or more branches by
cotton fibres. I once came upon a nest which was attached to but one
slender branch, and to the tip of this. The end was worked into the
structure of the nest so that the whole looked like a ladle with a very
thin handle. It seemed incredible that so slight a branch could support
the nest and its contents.

I have not been fortunate enough to watch the white-eye building its
nest. Mr. A. Anderson states that the pair—for both the cock and the hen
take part in nest construction—“set to work with cobwebs, and having
first tied together two or three leafy twigs to which they intend to
attach their nest, they then use the fine fibre of the _sunn_
(_Crotalaria juncea_), with which material they complete the outer fabric
of their very beautiful and compact nest. As the work progresses, more
cobwebs and fibre of a silky kind are applied externally, and at times
the nest, when tossed about by the wind (sometimes at a considerable
elevation), would be mistaken by a casual observer for an accidental
collection of cobwebs. The inside of the nest is well felted with the
down of the _madar_ plant, and then it is finally lined with fine hair
and grass stems of the softest kind.” The nest is usually situated within
three or four feet of the ground, but is sometimes placed at much higher
elevations.

In South India, the time to look for white-eyes’ nests is from January to
March. In the north, the majority of nests are found between April and
June.

The eggs are a beautiful pale blue. Most commonly only two seem to be
laid. There are, however, many cases on record of three and a few of four
eggs. This is an unusually small clutch. Nevertheless it is unlikely that
a pair of white-eyes bring up more than two broods in the year. These
facts, when taken in conjunction with the wide distribution of the
species, indicate that the white-eye meets with exceptional success in
rearing its young. The nest is usually well concealed in the depths of a
leafy bush. Squirrels and lizards must find the suspended nursery
difficult of access. In addition to this we must bear in mind that
white-eyes are plucky little creatures. Mr. Ball describes how he saw one
of them attacking a rose-finch, a vastly more powerful bird, and drive it
away from the flowers of the _mohwa_, which form a favourite
hunting-ground of the white-eye.

As I have repeatedly stated, pugnacity is a more valuable asset than
protective colouration in the struggle for existence.

Lastly, the white-eye appears able to thrive under greatly varying
conditions of climate.

These advantages possessed by white-eyes, I think, explain why the clutch
of eggs is so small.

White-eyes make excellent pets. They will live amicably along with
amadavats in a cage. Finn is my authority for saying that soft fruit,
bread and milk, and small insects are all the food required by
white-eyes, and they are so easy to keep that many specimens are sent to
Europe.



                                  XXVI
                         GOOSEY, GOOSEY GANDER


The goose, like certain ladies who let lodgings, has seen better times.
It is a bird that has come down in the world. For some reason which I
have never been able to discover, it is nowadays the object of popular
ridicule. It is commonly set forth as the emblem of foolishness.
Invidious comparisons are proverbially drawn between it and its more
handsome cousin, the swan. The modern bards vie with one another in
blackening its character. As Phil Robinson says, “It does not matter who
the poet is—he may be anyone between a Herbert and a Butler—the goose is
a garrulous fool, _et præterea nihil_.” Well may the bird cry _O tempora!
O mores!_ It has indeed fallen upon evil days. Things were not ever thus.
Time was when men held the goose in high esteem. Livy was loud in his
praises of the bird. Pliny was an ardent admirer thereof. The Romans used
to hold a festival in honour of the feathered saviour of the Capitol. The
degradation of the goose is, I fear, a matter of looks. Its best friend
can scarcely call it handsome. It is built for natation rather than
perambulation; nevertheless it spends much time out of water and feeds
chiefly on _terra firma_. It is probably a bird that is undergoing
evolution, a bird that is changing its habits. It has taken to a more or
less terrestrial existence, but has not yet lost what I may perhaps call
the aquatic waddle. While walking it looks as though it might lose its
balance at any moment. As a matter of fact, the goose is no mean
pedestrian, and is capable of performing considerable journeys on foot.
When pressed, it can show a fine turn of speed. This I have had some
opportunity of observing in the Zoological Gardens at Lahore. A crane
(_Grus antigone_) is confined in the water-birds’ enclosure along with
the ducks, geese, pelicans, etc. Now, cranes are the most frolicsome and
playful of birds. In no other fowl is the sense of humour more highly
developed. The crane in question continually indulges in “cake walks,”
and cuts other mad capers. Sometimes it is seized with the impulse to
“clear the decks,” that is to say, the banks of the ornamental pond. The
operation is conducted as follows: The crane opens out its wings, takes
two wild jumps into the air, then rushes at the nearest duck or goose,
with wings expanded, looking as though it were going through one of the
figures of the serpentine dance. The frightened duck flees before the
crane; the latter keeps up the chase until the duck takes refuge in the
water. Having succeeded in its object, the crane trumpets loudly and
performs a dance which a Red Indian on the war-path could scarcely hope
to emulate. It next turns its attention to some other inoffensive duck or
goose. It is while being thus chased that pinioned geese show a fine turn
of speed. Fly they cannot, so they sprint with expanded wings.

The goose is a great favourite of mine. The more one sees of the bird the
more one likes it and appreciates its good qualities. It is a creature of
character. It rapidly forms attachments, and will sometimes follow about,
like a dog, the person to whom it has taken a fancy. A curious instance
of this was recorded many years ago by _The Yorkshire Gazette_. A gander
belonging to a farmer developed a liking for an old gentleman. The bird
used to go every morning from the farmyard to the house of the said
elderly gentleman and awake him by its cries. It would then accompany him
the whole day in his walks and strut behind him in the most frequented
streets, unmindful of the screams of the urchins by whom the strange pair
were often followed. When the old gentleman sat down to rest the gander
used to squat at his feet. When they were approaching a seat on which the
old man was accustomed to sit the gander used to run on ahead and signify
by cackling and flapping of wings that the resting-place was reached.
When anyone annoyed the old gentleman the gander would express its
displeasure by its cries and sometimes by biting. When its friend went
into an inn to take a glass of ale, the bird used to follow him inside if
permitted; if not allowed to do so, it would wait outside for him.

One should not of course accept as gospel truth everything one reads in a
newspaper. It is necessary to discriminate. Thus, when a well-known
weekly journal produces a picture of the ladies of a Sultan’s harem
dancing unveiled before a distinguished company of gentlemen, one begins
to wonder whether truth really is stranger than fiction. However, I see
no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of the story of the Yorkshire
gander. The goose is an exceptionally intelligent bird and is very easily
tamed. I once made friends with a goose in the Zoological Gardens at
Lahore. It was a white, bazaar-bred bird. Whenever it saw me it used to
walk up to the fence and emit a low note of welcome. I was able to
distinguish that particular bird from the other geese by the fact that a
piece had been broken off its upper mandible.

I am glad to notice that Mr. W. H. Hudson, one of the leading British
ornithologists, has a high opinion of the goose. In his _Birds and Man_
he gives a delightful account of the home-coming of a flock of tame geese
led by a gander. He writes: “Arrived at the wooden gate of the garden in
front of the cottage, the leading bird drew up square before it, and with
repeated loud screams demanded admittance. Pretty soon in response to the
summons, a man came out of the cottage, walked briskly down the
garden-path and opened the gate, but only wide enough to put his right
leg through; then placing his foot and knee against the leading bird he
thrust him roughly back; as he did so three young geese pressed forward
and were allowed to pass in; then the gate was slammed in the face of the
gander and the rest of his followers, and the man went back to the
cottage. The gander’s indignation was fine to see, though he had probably
experienced the same rude treatment on many previous occasions. Drawing
up before the gate again, he called more loudly than before; then
deliberately lifted a leg, and placing his broad webbed foot like an open
hand against the gate, actually tried to push it open. His strength was
not sufficient, but he continued to push and call until the man returned
to open the gate and let the birds go in.”

If only for his sturdy independence and his insistence on his rights the
gander is a bird whose character is worthy of study. He is courageous
too; so is his wife. She will stand up fearlessly to a boy, a kite, or
even a fox, when her brood is threatened. Last year in the Lahore
Zoological Gardens a goose hatched a number of goslings. The kites
regarded these as fair game, and, in spite of the efforts of the mother,
carried off several of the young birds. Thereupon four ganders took
counsel and constituted themselves a bodyguard for the goose and chicks,
one or more of them being always on duty. In spite of this a kite managed
to secure another gosling. The mother and her remaining five chicks were
then placed in a cage; notwithstanding this, the ganders still maintained
their guard and cried loudly whenever a human being approached the cage
containing the brood.

The goose, like the swan, uses its wing as a weapon. When it attacks it
stretches its neck and head low along the ground and hisses; it then
dashes at its adversary, seizes him with beak and claws, and lays on to
him right well with its powerful wings.

Here endeth the account of “Goosey, Goosey Gander.” I must apologise to
the geese in their natural state for having completely ignored them. We
will make amends by indulging in a wild-goose chase at an early date!



                                 XXVII
                             GEESE IN INDIA


Seven or eight species of goose have been recorded as winter visitors to
India. With two exceptions they honour us with their presence only on
rare occasions, and do not really form part and parcel of our Indian
avifauna. The exceptions are the grey lag goose and the barred-headed
goose, which visit India every winter in their millions. It is these that
form the subject of this essay. It is difficult for the dweller in the
south to realise how abundant geese are in Northern India throughout the
cold weather. Flocks of them fly overhead so frequently that they
scarcely attract notice. Each flight looks like a great trembling,
quivering V, floating in the air, a V of which the angle is wide and one
limb frequently longer than the other. During flight geese are
distinguishable from cranes and storks by this V-shaped formation, and by
the fact that they never sail on expanded wings; they progress by means
of a steady, regular motion of the pinions, and are able to cover long
distances in short time. Geese on the wing are distinguishable from the
smaller species of duck by their larger size, and from Brahminy ducks
(_Casarca_ _rutila_) by their lighter colour. Moreover, the curious note
of this last species is very different from the cackle of geese. Brahminy
ducks go about in couples; geese fly in flocks.

Like most birds which breed in the far north, geese are largely
nocturnal; their cries as they fly overhead are among the commonest of
the sounds which break the stillness of the winter night in Upper India.
They feed mainly in the hours of darkness, and do a certain amount of
damage to the young wheat; nor do they leave their feeding ground until
the sun is high in the heavens, when they repair to a river bank or
shallow lake, where they love to bask in the sun, all with the head
tucked under the wing, save one or two who do duty as sentinels.

The grey lag goose of India is, I believe, identical with the wild goose
of England. This is a belief not shared by everyone. For over a century
this species has been the plaything of the systematist. Linnæus classed
ducks and geese as one genus—_Anas_. This goose he called _Anas anser_,
the goose-duck. But it was soon recognised that ducks and geese are not
sufficiently nearly related to form a common genus; hence, the geese were
formed into the genus _Anser_, and the grey lag goose was then called
_Anser cinereus_, the ashy-coloured goose, a not inappropriate name,
although the bird is brown rather than grey. But the name was not allowed
to stand. For some reason or other it was changed to _Anser ferus_. Then
it was altered to _Anser anser_—the goosey goose, presumably meaning the
goose _par excellence_. Then Salvadori discovered, or thought that he
discovered, that the grey lag geese of the East are not quite like those
of the West; he therefore made two species of the bird, calling the
Indian variety _Anser rubirostris_, the red-billed goose. Alphéraky
denies the alleged difference. The result is that the bird has some
half-dozen names, each of which has its votaries. It is this kind of
thing which deprives classical nomenclature of all its utility. Until
ornithologists learn to grasp the simple fact that the external
appearance of every living creature is the result of two sets of forces,
internal or hereditary, and external or the influence of environment,
they will always be in difficulty over species. Englishmen who dwell in
sunny climates get browned by the sun, yet no one dreams of making a
separate species of sun-burned Englishmen. Why, then, do so in the case
of birds whose external appearance is slightly altered by their
environment?

Even as scientific men have toyed with the Latin name of the bird, so
have compositors played with its English name. Nine out of ten of them
flatly decline to call it the grey lag goose; they persist in setting it
down as the grey _leg_ goose. If the bird’s legs were grey this would not
matter. Unfortunately they are not. In extenuation of the conduct of the
compositor there is the fact that etymologists are unable to agree as to
the meaning and derivation of the word lag.

The other common species of goose is the barred-headed goose (_Anser
indicus_). This is not found in Europe. It is a grey bird, more so than
the grey lag goose, with two black bands across the back of the head. The
upper one runs from eye to eye, the lower is parallel to, but shorter
than, the upper bar. The back of the neck is black and the sides white.
There is some black in the wings. The bill and feet are yellow. Both
these species of goose are a little smaller than the domestic bird.

Geese are very wary creatures, and possess plenty of intelligence. They
all seem to know intuitively the range of a gun, and as they object to
being peppered with No. 2, or any other kind of shot, it is necessary for
the sportsman to have recourse to guile if he would make a bag. It is
this which makes shooting them such good sport. Every bird obtained has
to be worked for. By rising very early in the morning the gunner may
sometimes get a shot at them while they are feeding. They seem to be less
wary then than later in the day. Sometimes, when riding at sunrise, I
have suddenly found myself within forty yards of a flock of geese feeding
in a field.

They usually indulge in their midday siesta in an open place, and
invariably post sentinels. For this reason they do not give one much
opportunity of observing them. They cannot, or pretend they cannot,
distinguish between the naturalist and the sportsman. In this, perhaps,
they are wise. Their intelligence has, I think, been exaggerated. Last
winter, when punting down the Jumna, I noticed a flock of geese resting
on the moist sand at the water’s edge. Behind them was a semi-circular
sandbank, some fifteen feet in height. This bank sheltered the geese from
the wind. Birds, like ladies, object to having their feathers ruffled. It
occurred to me that owing to the sandbank one could approach quite near
to the flock unobserved. Knowing that geese are creatures of habit, I
counted on the flock being at the identical spot next day. Consequently,
I returned the following morning and approached on all fours from the
sandbank side, and was rewarded by securing a barred-headed goose. I
repeated the operation on the following day, and again bagged a goose.
The third day I was unable to visit the place, so sent a friend, who was
only prevented from slaying a goose by the fact that two Brahminy ducks
in mid-stream saw him approaching and gave the alarm. We left the camp
the next day. I do not, therefore, know whether the geese continued to
frequent that danger-fraught sandbank. The fact that they allowed
themselves to be caught napping thrice shows that they have not quite so
much intelligence as some people credit them with. For all that, the
goose is no fool.



                                 XXVIII
                            A SWADESHI BIRD


I commend the common peafowl (_Pavo cristatus_) to the Indian patriot,
for it is a true _Swadeshi_ bird. It is made in India and nowhere else.
The beastly foreigner does, indeed, produce a cheap imitation in the
shape of _Pavo muticus_—the Javan peafowl; but with this the patriotic
Indian bird will have nothing to do. The two species are very like in
appearance, the most noticeable difference being in the shape of the
crest; that of the Indian species is like an expanded fan, while the
cranial ornament of the Javan species resembles a closed fan.
Notwithstanding their similarity they do not interbreed when brought
together. This, I am aware, was not Jerdon’s view. He stated that hybrids
between the two species were not rare in aviaries. In this particular
instance Jerdon, _mirabile dictu_, seems to have been wrong; he probably
mistook the japanned variety of the common bird for a hybrid. My
experience tends to show that the two species will not interbreed. Caste
feeling evidently runs high.

Peafowl are distributed all over India; they occur in most localities
suited to their habits, that is to say where there is plenty of cover,
good crops, and abundance of water. They are very plentiful in the
Himalayan _terai_, where they are a source of annoyance to the sportsman.
You are sitting in your _machan_, listening to the approaching line of
beaters. Presently there is a rustle among the fallen leaves; a creature
is making its way through the undergrowth. You listen intently, and
perceive with satisfaction that the moving object is coming towards your
_machan_. You are now all attention, and grasp your rifle in such a
manner that it can, in an instant, be brought to your shoulder. Then, to
your disgust, a peacock emerges with a
good-morning-have-you-used-Pear’s-soap air. When, after about half a
dozen of these false alarms, a bear appears, you are, as likely as not,
unprepared for him.

In many parts of Northern India, notably in those districts through which
the Jumna and Ganges run, peafowl are accounted sacred by the Hindu
population. If you shoot one in such a locality the villagers have a
disagreeable way of turning out _en masse_, armed with _lathis_. The
reverence for the peacock is curiously local. In one village the people
will invite you to shoot the birds on account of the damage they do to
the crops; while the inhabitants of a village at a distance of less than
a hundred miles will send a wire to the Lieutenant-Governor if you so
much as point a gun at the sacred fowl. I once camped in a district where
peafowl were exceptionally numerous, and on this account I concluded that
they were venerated by the populace. But, sacred or not, I hold that
there is nothing to equal a young peafowl as a table bird, so I used to
mark down the trees in which the pea-chicks roosted, and return to the
spot with a gun, after the shades of night had fallen. Having shot a
sleeping bird I smuggled it into camp in order not to offend the village
folk. After having taken these precautions for about two months I learned
that the people entertained no objection whatever to the birds being
shot! Peafowl are objects of veneration in all the Native States of
Rajputana. These are strongholds of orthodox Hinduism. Nilgai, even, may
not be shot, because the Pundits, not being zoological experts, labour
under the delusion that these ungainly antelope are kine.

In some parts of India peafowl may be seen in a state of
semi-domestication and are regularly fed by temple keepers. The drawback
to the peacock as a domestic bird is that he renders the night hideous by
his cries, which resemble those of an exceptionally lusty cat. Blanford,
I notice, called them “sonorous.” There is no accounting for taste. In my
opinion, peafowl should be seen and not heard.

The peacock, like the ostrich, is almost omnivorous; it feeds chiefly
upon grain, buds, and shoots of grass, but it is not averse to insects,
and will devour many of these, which are generally supposed to be
inedible and so warningly coloured. Lizards and snakes complete a varied
menu.

The peafowl is a bird of considerable interest to the zoologist, as it
affords a striking example of sexual dimorphism. In plain English, the
cock differs greatly from the hen in appearance. In some species, such as
the myna, the crow, and the blue jay, the cock is indistinguishable from
the hen. In others, as, for example, the sparrow, the sexes differ
slightly in appearance. In others, again, the cock differs from the hen
as the sun does from the moon. The peafowl is one of these.

Zoologists have for years been trying to find out why in some species the
cock resembles the hen while in others it does not. Humiliating though it
be, we must, if we are honest, admit that we are little, if any, nearer
the explanation of the phenomenon than we were a couple of centuries ago.
Darwin thought that the pretty plumage of the males was due to selection
on the part of the females. He tried to prove that hens are able to pick
and choose their mates, that they have a keen eye for beauty. Just as
political economists of Ricardo’s school teach us that every man marries
the richest woman who will have him, so does Darwin ask us to believe
that hens always mate with the best-looking of their suitors, that they
quiz each with the eye of an art critic, and pronounce judgment somewhat
as follows: “Number one is no class; his train is too short. I would not
be seen dead beside number two; he looks as though he had issued from a
fifth-rate dyer’s shop. I’ll take number three, he is the pick of the
bunch.” Darwin argued that the showy cocks are fully alive to their good
looks, and know how to show them off to best advantage. There is much to
be said in favour of his theory. A peacock, when he sees a hen that he
admires, promptly turns his back upon her, erects his great train and his
paltry little tail which is hidden away underneath. He then spreads out
his feathers and suddenly faces the hen, flapping his wings, and causing
every feather in his body to quiver with a curious noise, so that he
appears to be seized with a shivering fit. The hen either affects not to
notice him, or assumes an air of studied boredom. Unfortunately for
Darwin’s theory, peacocks sometimes show off in the absence of other
living creatures. Moreover, a young cock with a train of which a magpie
would be ashamed will strut about and show off with the greatest pride.

There are in the “Zoo” at Lahore a number of albino peacocks. These,
although handsome birds, are not so beautiful as the coloured variety,
being a uniform white; nevertheless they are exceedingly popular with the
hens, and experience no difficulty in cutting out all the coloured beaux.
It is very naughty of the hens to prefer the albinos, for by so doing
they deal a severe blow to the theory of sexual selection. Stolzman has
quite another hypothesis to account for the superior beauty of the male.
As any “suffragette” will tell you, the male is a more or less
superfluous being; the world would get along much better if he were less
plentiful. Hence, in the interests of the race, it is necessary that the
numbers of the pernicious creature should be strictly limited. Nature
has, therefore, arrayed cock-birds in coats of many colours so that they
shall be easily seen and devoured by beasts of prey! Wallace, again,
thinks that the comparatively sombre hues of the hen are due to her
greater need of protection, as it is she who does all the incubating. An
objection to this view is the well-known fact that many showy cocks sit
on the eggs turn-about with the dull-coloured hens in open and exposed
nests.

Peafowl are polygamous. The breeding season begins in May and continues
all through the hot weather. The typical nest is described as “a broad
depression scratched by the hen, and lined with a few leaves and twigs or
a little grass.” It is usually made amongst thick grass or in dense
bushes, but occasionally there is no attempt at concealment. Mr. A.
Anderson states that peahens frequently lay at high elevations, that he
has on several occasions taken their eggs from the roofs of huts of
deserted villages on which rank vegetation grew to a height of two or
three feet. My experience of captive birds bears out this. The peahens in
the Lahore “Zoo” lay all their eggs on a broad shelf in their aviary,
some fifteen feet above the level of the ground. Seven or eight eggs of a
dirty white hue are laid. These are, in the words of Hume, “delicious
eating.”



                                  XXIX
                          THE INDIAN REDSTART


Poets, naturalists, essayists, and novelists have with one accord and
from time immemorial extolled the English spring. In this particular
instance their eulogies are justified, for spring in England is like a
wayward maiden: when she does choose to be amiable, she is so amiable
that her past perverseness is at once forgiven. But why do not
Anglo-Indian writers sing to the glories of the Indian autumn? Is it not
worthy of all praise? It is the season which corresponds most nearly to
spring in England, and is as much longed for. Even as spring chases away
the gloomy, cheerless English winter, so does autumn drive away the
Indian hot weather, unpleasant everywhere, and terrible in the plains of
the Punjab and the United Provinces. Those condemned to live in Portland
Gaol probably suffer fewer physical discomforts than they who spend the
summer in any part of the plains of Northern India. First, weeks of a
furnace-like heat, when to breathe seems an effort; then a long spell of
close, steamy heat, so that the earth seems to have become a great
washhouse. From this the Anglo-Indian emerges, limp, listless, and
languid. How great, then, is his joy when one day he notices a suspicion
of coolness in the air. Day by day this coolness grows more appreciable,
so that by late September or early October to take an early-morning
stroll becomes a pleasure. Then the sky is bluer, the atmosphere is
clearer, the foliage is greener than at any other time of the year. Then
at eventide the village smoke hangs low, looking like a thin blue
semi-transparent cloud resting lightly on the earth—a sure sign of the
approaching cold weather. Then, too, the winter birds begin to appear.

Even as the cuckoo is welcomed in England as the harbinger of the sweet
spring, so in Northern India is the redstart looked for as the herald of
the glorious cold weather. Within a week of the first sight of that
sprightly little bird will come the day when punkahs cease to be a
necessity. Last year (1907) the hot weather lingered long, and the
redstarts were late in coming. It was not until the 27th September that I
observed one at Lahore.

Several species of redstart are found within Indian limits, but only one
of them haunts the plains, and so thoroughly deserves the name of the
Indian redstart (_Ruticilla rufiventris_). This species visits India in
hundreds of thousands from September to April.

I have observed it in the city of Madras, but so far south as that it is
not common, being a mere straggler to those parts. In the Punjab and the
United Provinces, however, it is exceedingly numerous. Throughout the
cold weather at least one pair take up their abode in every compound.

The Indian redstart is a sexually dimorphic species, that is to say the
cock differs from the hen in appearance; the former, moreover, is
seasonally dimorphic. The feathers of his head, neck, breast, and back
are black with grey fringes. In the autumn and early winter the grey
edges completely obliterate the black parts, so that the bird looks grey.
But during the winter the grey edges gradually become worn away, and the
black portions then show, so that by the middle of the summer the cock
redstart is a black bird. Thus he remains until transformed by the
autumnal moult. His under parts are deep orange, and his lower back and
all the tail feathers, except the middle pair, are brick-red. Now, when
the tail is unexpanded the two middle caudal feathers are folded over the
others, and hide them from view, and, as the lower back is covered by the
wings, the red parts are not visible when the bird walks about looking
for food; but the moment it takes to its wings all the red feathers
become displayed, so that the bird, as it flies away, looks as though its
plumage were almost entirely red. Hence the name redstart—“start” being
an old English word for tail. Another popular name for the bird is
firetail.

Two species of redstart visit England, and these also are characterised
by reddish tails. The hen Indian redstart is reddish brown where the cock
is grey or black, and red where he is red. The gradual change in colour
undergone by the cock redstart every year is instructive, because it
seems to show that the bird is even now undergoing evolution. I think it
likely that the feathers of the cock were at one time uniformly grey and
that they are becoming a uniform black. The tendency seems to be for the
grey margin to become narrower. It will probably eventually disappear. In
some birds it is so narrow that much black shows even after the autumn
moult; in others the margin is so broad that it never disappears. What is
causing this change in plumage? It cannot be the need for protection. The
incipient blackness is probably an indirect result of either natural or
sexual selection. Thus birds with black bases to their feathers may be
either more robust or have stronger sexual instincts than those which
have scarcely any black. In the former case natural selection, and in the
latter sexual selection, will tend to preserve those individuals which
have the least grey in their feathers. This idea of the connection
between colour and strength is not mere fancy. Cuckoo-coloured
(barred-grey) birds are very common among ordinary fowls, but are, I
believe, never seen among Indian gamecocks. Grey plumage seems to be
inconsistent with fighting propensities. Black, on the other hand, seems
to be a good fighting colour. Most black-plumaged birds, as, for example,
the king crow, the various members of the crow tribe, and the coot, are
exceedingly pugnacious.

Redstarts live largely on the ground, from which they pick their food.
This appears to consist exclusively of tiny insects. They sometimes hawk
their quarry on the wing. They are usually found near a hedge or thicket,
into which they take refuge when disturbed. They show but little fear of
man, and, consequently, frequent gardens. They occasionally perch on the
housetop. Indeed, they are quite robin-like in their habits, and the
species, thanks to its reddish abdomen, looks more like the familiar
English robin than does the Indian robin.

The Indian redstart, like all its family, has a peculiar quivering motion
of its tail, which is especially noticeable immediately after it has
alighted on a perch; hence its Hindustani name, _Thir-thira_, the
trembler. Its Telugu name is said to be _Nuni-budi-gadu_—the oil-bottle
bird—a name of which I am unable to offer any explanation. Eurasian boys
call it the “devil bird,” for reasons best known to themselves.

The redstart stays in India until May, when it goes into Tibet and
Afghanistan to breed. A few individuals are said to spend the summer in
India. There are in the British Museum specimens supposed to have been
shot at Sambhar in July and Ahmednagar in June. I have never observed
this bird in India between the end of May and the beginning of September,
and am inclined to think that the above dates have been incorrectly
recorded.



                                  XXX
                            THE NIGHT HERON


Some American millionaires are said to sleep for only three hours out of
the twenty-four. I do not believe this; I regard the story as a
fabrication of the halfpenny paper. But, even if it be true, the night
heron (_Nycticorax griseus_) is able to eclipse the performance. That
bird only sleeps when it has nothing better to do. It looks upon sleep as
a luxury, not a necessity. As its name implies, it is a creature of the
night; but it is equally a day bird. You will never catch it napping.
Just before sunset, when the crows, wearied by the iniquities they have
wrought during the day, are wending their way to the corvine dormitory,
the night herons sally forth from the trees (“roosts” would be a misnomer
for them) in which they have spent the day and betake themselves, in twos
and threes, to the water’s edge. As they fly they make the welkin ring
with their cries of _waak, waak_, or _quaal, quaal_—sounds which may be
likened to the quacking of a distressed duck. Having arrived at their
feeding-ground, they separate and proceed to catch fish and frogs in the
manner of the orthodox heron. After an all-night sitting, or rather
standing, in shallow water, they return to their day quarters, where they
are popularly supposed to sleep. They may possibly spend the day in
slumber when they have neither nests to build nor young to feed. I am not
in a position to deny this, never having visited a heronry on such an
occasion. I speak, however, as one having authority when I say that all
through the nesting season the night heron works harder during the hours
of daylight than the British workman does. At the present time (April)
thirty or forty night herons are engaged in nesting operations in the
tall trees that grow on the islands in the ornamental pond that graces
the Lahore Zoological Gardens, and as I visit those gardens almost daily
I have had some opportunity of observing the behaviour of our night bird
during the daytime. I may here say that night herons seem very partial to
Zoological Gardens, inasmuch as they also resort to the Calcutta “Zoo”
for nesting purposes. This is, of course, as it should be. Every
well-conditioned bird should bring up its family in a “zoo” by
preference. Had birds the sense to understand this, many of them would be
spared the miseries of captivity.

Before discoursing upon its nesting habits it is fitting that I should
try to describe the night heron, so that the bird may be recognised when
next seen. I presume that everyone knows what a heron looks like, but
possibly there exist persons who would be at a loss to say wherein it
differs from a stork or a crane. It may be readily distinguished from the
latter by its well-developed hind toe. Storks and herons are perching
waders, while cranes do not trust themselves to trees because they cannot
perch, having no hind toe to grasp with. The heron’s bill is flatter and
more dagger-shaped than that of a stork. Moreover the former possesses,
inside the middle claw, a little comb, which the stork lacks. The heron
flies with neck drawn in, head pressed against the back, and beak
pointing forwards. It never sails in the air, but progresses, like the
flying-fox, with a steady, continuous flapping motion. So much for herons
in general. To those who would learn more of these and other long-legged
fowls I commend Mr. Frank Finn’s excellent little book, entitled _How to
Know the Indian Waders_.

The night heron is considerably smaller than the common heron—the heron
we see in England, and larger than the Indian paddy bird—the ubiquitous
fowl that looks brown when it is standing and white when it is flying.
The head and back of the night heron are black, the remainder of the
upper plumage is grey, the lower parts are white. There are two or three
long, white, narrow feathers, which grow from the back of the head and
hang down like a pigtail. The eye is rich ruby-red. Young night herons
are brown with yellowish spots, and the eye is deep yellow.

Any resident of Madras may see this species if he repair to the Redhills
Tank. One of the islands in that tank supports a considerable population
of night herons and little cormorants. The former nest in the trees on
the island in July. The place is well worth visiting then. As the boat
carrying a human being approaches the islet, all the night herons fly
away without a sound. They love their young, but not so much as they love
themselves, so they leave their offspring at the first approach of the
human visitor and remain away until he turns his back on their
nesting-ground. A night heron never allows his valour to get the better
of his discretion. The nest is a platform of twigs placed anywhere in a
tree. Four pale greenish-blue eggs are laid. A heronry is a filthy place.
The possessors are, like our Indian brethren, utterly regardless of the
principles of sanitation. The whole island will be found white with the
droppings of the birds, and the unsavoury smell that emanates therefrom
would do credit to a village inhabited by _chamars_. Although they are
evil-tempered, cantankerous creatures, night herons always nest in
company. It is no uncommon thing to find half a dozen nests in the same
tree, so that the sitting birds are able to compare notes while engaged
in the duties of incubation. Both the parent birds take part in nest
construction, and, as they work by day, it is quite easy to watch the
process. They wrench small branches from trees, and, as they have only
the beak with which to grasp these, they find twig-gathering hard work.
When a twig has been secured it is dropped on to the particular part of
the tree in which the bird has thought fit to build. Forty or fifty twigs
dropped haphazard in a heap constitute the nest. The birds make a great
noise while engaged in building. Quarrels are of frequent occurrence. It
sometimes happens that two birds want the same twig; this invariably
gives rise to noisy altercation. The crows too are provocative of much
bad language on the part of the night herons. Whenever any of the crows
of the neighbourhood has nothing else to do, he says to a kindred spirit:
“Come, let us worry the night herons.” Whereupon the pair—_Arcades
ambo_—go and pretend to show the herons how to build a nest.

When, my friends, you consider the untidiness and filthiness of the
heron’s nest, you will be able to appreciate to the full the audacity of
the latest falsehood circulated by the plume trade—to wit, the egret
plucks out its nuptial plumes, which constitute the “osprey” of commerce,
and weaves these into the nest to make it more cosy; and, after the young
ones are fledged, some honest fellow visits the nest and disentangles the
plumes therefrom!

A baby heron is a disgustingly ugly creature. It is a living caricature.
Patches of long hair-like feathers are studded, apparently haphazard,
over its otherwise naked body and give it an indescribably grotesque
appearance. It looks like a bird in its dotage. If you lift a young heron
out of the nest you will probably find that his “corporation” is
distended to bursting-point, and, if you do not handle him carefully, a
half-digested frog will, as likely as not, drop out of him!

The farther north one goes the earlier in the year does the night heron
breed. In Kashmir the nesting season is in full swing in March. In the
Punjab April and May are the nesting months; in Madras the birds do not
begin to build until July; and I have seen eggs at the end of August. It
is my belief that the night heron is a migratory bird. During the winter
months not a single specimen of that species is to be seen in or about
Lahore, but they migrate there regularly every April. They disappear
again to I know not where when they have reared up their young.



                                  XXI
                       THE CEMENT OF BIRD MASONS


Birds may be divided into two classes—those which build nests and those
which do not. To the latter belong the parasitic starlings and cuckoos,
which drop their eggs in the nests of other birds; those, such as
plovers, which lay their eggs on the bare ground; and those which deposit
them in holes, in the earth, in trees, in banks, or in buildings, as, for
example, the Indian roller or blue jay (_Coracias indica_).

Intermediate between the birds that build nests and those which do
not—for there are no sudden transitions, no sharply defined lines of
division in nature—are those birds which merely furnish, more or less
cosily, the ready-made holes in which they deposit their eggs. The common
myna (_Acridotheres tristis_) affords a familiar instance of this class
of birds. Some of the nest-builders are really excavators; they dig out
their nests in a tree or bank. The woodpeckers and the bee-eaters are
examples of these. The rest of the nest-builders actually construct their
nurseries. These buildings are of various degrees of complexity. Crows,
doves, birds of prey, herons, and a few other families are content with a
mere platform of sticks and twigs, which rests in the fork of a tree, or
on a ledge or other suitable surface. The birds which build primitive
nests of this description are not put to the trouble of seeking or
manufacturing any cohesive materials. It is only when the nest takes some
definite shape and form that means have to be found of binding together
the materials of which it is composed, and of attaching the whole to that
which supports the nest. In such cases the component materials are either
woven or cemented together. It is among the woven nests that we find the
highest examples of avian architecture. The homes of the weaver-bird
(_Ploceus baya_) and of the Indian wren-warbler (_Prinia inornata_) are
constructed with a skill that defies competition. But it is not with
these wonderful nests that we are concerned to-day. It must suffice to
say that woven nests have to be supported; they cannot float in the air.
There are various methods of supporting them. The nest may be firmly
wedged into a forked branch. It may be bound to its supports, as in the
case of the nest of the king crow (_Dicrurus ater_). The supporting
branches may be worked into its structure, as is done by _Prinia
inornata_. The nest may hang, as does that of _Ploceus baya_. It may be
cemented to its support, as in the case of the nests of the various
swifts; or it may rest on supporting fibres which are slung on to a
forked branch, just as a prawn net is slung on to its frame. The golden
oriole (_Oriolus kundoo_) resorts to this ingenious device.

Coming now to those nurseries in which the building materials are
cemented together, we must first consider the nests of the swallows and
swifts. These birds secrete a very sticky saliva, which quickly hardens
when it is exposed to the air. This constitutes an excellent cement.
Watch a swift working at its nest under the eaves of a house. It flies to
it with a feather or piece of straw carried far back in the angle of its
mouth, hangs itself by means of its four forwardly directed toes on to
the half-completed nest, which is stuck on to the wall of the house, and,
having carefully placed the feather or straw in the required position,
holds it there until the sticky saliva it has poured over it has had time
to harden and thus firmly glue the added piece of material to the nest.
The bits of straw, feathers, etc., may be said to constitute the bricks,
and the saliva the cement of the swift’s nest. Some swifts build their
nests exclusively of their saliva. These constitute the “edible birds’
nests” of commerce, and may be likened to houses built entirely of
cement. The martin (_Chelidon urbica_), the common swallow (_Hirundo
rustica_), and the wire-tailed swallow (_H. smithii_) construct their
nests of clay and saliva. They repair to some puddle and there gather
moist clay, which they stick on to some building, so as to form a
projecting saucer-shaped shelf. In this the eggs are laid. But nature has
not vouchsafed sticky saliva to all birds, so that many of them have to
find their cement just as they have to seek out the other building
materials they use.

The chestnut-bellied nuthatch (_Sitta castaneiventris_), which nestles in
holes in trees, fills up all but a small part of the entrance with mud
“consolidated with some viscid seed of a parasitical plant.”

The hornbills close up the greater part of the orifice of the hole in
which they nest with their droppings mixed with a little earth.

Hume informs us the rufous-fronted wren-warbler (_Franklinia buchanani_)
utilises a fungus as its cement. “In all the nests that I have seen,” he
writes, “the egg-cavity has been lined with something very soft. In many
of the nests the lining is composed of soft, felt-like pieces of some
dull salmon-coloured fungus, with which the whole interior is closely
plastered.”

The cement which is most commonly used is cobweb. I do not think that I
am exaggerating when I say that cobweb enters extensively into the
structure of the nests of more than one hundred species of Indian birds.
What birds would do without our friend the spider I cannot imagine.

The nest of some birds is literally a house of cobwebs. The beautiful
white-browed fan-tail fly-catcher (_Rhipidura albifrontata_) is a case in
point. Its nursery is so thickly plastered with cobweb as to sometimes
look quite white. It is a tiny cup that rests on a branch of a bush or
small tree, and is composed of fine twigs and roots, which are cemented
to the supporting branch and to one another by cobweb. This the bird
takes from the webs of those trap-door spiders which weave large nets on
the ground.

Utterly regardless of the feelings of the possessor of the web, the
fly-catcher takes beakful after beakful of it, and smears it over the
part of the branch on which the nest will rest. It then sticks to this
some dried grass stems or other fine material, next adds more cobweb, and
continues in this manner until the neat little cup-shaped nest is
completed. This, as I have already said, is thickly coated exteriorly
with cobweb to give it additional strength.

The sunbirds or honeysuckers make nearly as extensive use of cobweb in
nest construction as do the fan-tailed fly-catchers. Loten’s honeysucker
(_Arachnechthra lotenia_) seeks until it finds a large spider’s web
stretched horizontally across some bush; it then proceeds to build its
nursery in the middle of this. As the material is added the nest grows
heavier, and thus depresses the middle of the web until it at last
assumes the shape of a V, in the angle of which the mango-shaped nest is
situated. The nursery is thus suspended from the bush by the four corners
of the cobweb.

A spider’s web looks such a flimsy affair that it does not seem possible
that it could support a nest peopled by a number of birds. Sometimes the
nest derives additional support by being attached to other branches.
Moreover, a tiny creature such as a sunbird is almost as light as the
proverbial feather. Then cobweb is exceedingly elastic, and, considering
its attenuity, is able to support a surprising amount of weight. It
occasionally happens that the common garden spider (_Epeira diadema_) is
not able to find a _point d’appui_ to which it can attach the lower part
of its web; it then utilises a stone (which may be as much as a
quarter-inch in each dimension) as a plummet to make the nest taut. This
comparatively heavy stone hangs by a single thread.

I have sometimes amused myself by testing the strength of a strand of
cobweb stretched across a path, by hanging bits of match or other light
material on it. In one experiment a gossamer thread, thirty feet in
length, stretched across a road, bore the weight of five blades of grass
which were hung upon it. The sixth blade proved to be the last straw that
broke the camel’s back.

The strength of cobweb is proved by the fact that many of the birds that
build hanging nests use it as cement to attach them to the supports from
which they are suspended. The Indian white-eye (_Zosterops palbebrosa_)
fixes its tiny oriole-like nest to the supporting branches, not by
fibres, but by cobweb. In the same way the yellow-eyed babbler
(_Pyctorhis sinensis_), whose nest is shaped like an inverted cone,
attaches this by cobweb to the stems of the crop in which it is situated.

The common honeysucker (_Arachnechthra asiatica_), whose nest looks like
a tangle of dried twigs and other rubbish, uses much cobweb in the
construction thereof. The little nursery is suspended by means of cobweb
from some projecting branch of a bush, and the various materials which
compose it are stuck together with spider’s web; but in this case some
sticky resinous substance is usually used in addition to the cobweb.

The tailor-bird (_Orthotomous sutorius_) always uses cobweb to draw
together the edges of the leaf or leaves that compose its nest. Having
made a series of punctures along the edges of the leaf to be utilised, it
procures some cobweb, and, having attached it to one edge of the leaf,
carries the strand across to the other edge and, before attaching it to
this, pulls it so tightly as to draw the two edges together. When the
nest has taken its final shape the bird strengthens the first attenuated
strands of cobweb by adding more cobweb or some threads of cotton.

Many birds which weave their nests plaster the exterior more or less
thickly with cobweb so as to add strength to the structure.

It would be wearisome to detail all the kinds of nest into the
composition of which cobweb enters. Sufficient has been said to show that
this very useful substance is the favourite cement of bird masons.



                                 XXXII
                          INDIAN FLY-CATCHERS


There exist in the Indian Empire no fewer than fifty-one species of
fly-catcher. This fact speaks volumes for the wealth of both the bird and
the insect population of India. Fly-catchers are little birds that feed
exclusively on insects, which they secure on the wing. Their habit is to
take up a strategic position on some perch, usually the bare branch of a
tree, whence they make sallies into the air after their quarry. Having
secured the object of their sortie—and this they never fail to do—they
return to their perch. A fly-catcher will sometimes make over a hundred
of these little flights in the course of an hour; the appetite of an
insectivorous bird appears to be insatiable. All fly-catchers obtain
their food in this manner, but all birds which behave thus are not
members of the fly-catcher family. As fly-catchers are characterised by
rather weak legs, and, in consequence, do not often descend to the
ground, they are of necessity confined to parts of the country well
supplied with trees. Thus it comes to pass that the great majority of
fly-catchers are found only in well-wooded hill tracts. Four or five
species, however, occur commonly in the plains. With two of these—the
glorious paradise fly-catchers (_Terpsiphone_) and the very elegant
fan-tail fly-catchers (_Rhipidura_)—I have dealt in my former books. I
therefore propose to confine myself to some of the many other species. Of
these last, the brown fly-catcher (_Alseonax latirostris_) is the one
most frequently met with in the plains. This is the most inornate of all
the fly-catchers. As its name implies, brown is its prevailing hue. Its
lower parts are, indeed, whitish, and there is an inconspicuous ring of
white feathers round the eye, but everything else about it is earthy
brown. It is the kind of bird the casual observer is likely to pass over,
or, if he does happen to observe it, he probably sets it down as one of
the scores of warblers that visit India in the cold weather. It is only
when the bird makes a sudden dash into the air after an insect that one
realises that it is a fly-catcher. The brown fly-catcher is an
Ishmaelite. It seems never to remain for long in one place, and, although
it may be seen at all times of the year, its nest does not appear ever to
have been found in this country.

A more ornamental fly-catcher which occasionally visits the plains is the
grey-headed fly-catcher (_Culicapa ceylonensis_). In this species the
head, neck, and breast are ash-coloured, the wings and tail are dark
brown, the back greenish yellow, and the lower parts dull yellow. This
fly-catcher is common both in the Nilgiris and the Himalayas. It has the
usual habits of the family. Like the majority of them it is no songster,
although it frequently emits a cheeping note. Its nest is a very
beautiful structure, a ball of moss which is attached to a moss-covered
tree or rock, more often than not near a mountain stream.

Fly-catchers usually nidificate in the neighbourhood of water, because
that element favours the existence of their insect food.

_Siphia parva_—the European red-breasted fly-catcher—is a species which
visits the plains of India in the cold weather, but not many individuals
penetrate so far south as Madras. This bird is easily recognised, since
the cock bears a strong likeness to the familiar English robin
red-breast. I may here mention that an allied species—the Indian
red-breasted fly-catcher, _S. hyperythra_—summers in Kashmir and winters
in Ceylon, but, curiously enough, it has not been recorded from the
plains of India. It would thus seem to fly from Kashmir to Ceylon in a
single night. Even so, it would be very extraordinary if an occasional
individual did not fail to perform the whole journey in so short a space
of time; therefore, this species should be watched for in South India in
spring and autumn. It is easily distinguished from allied species by a
black band which surrounds the red breast and abdomen.

As it is impossible to detail in one brief essay all the species of
fly-catcher found in the Indian hills, I propose merely to mention those
that are most common in the Nilgiris and the Himalayas, and then to make
a few observations on fly-catchers in general. In addition to the
fan-tail, the grey-headed and the brown fly-catchers, the following
species are abundant in the Nilgiris: Tickell’s blue fly-catcher
(_Cyornis tickelli_), the Nilgiri blue fly-catcher (_Stoparola
albicaudata_), and the black and orange fly-catcher (_Ochromela
nigrirufa_). In the Himalayas, the paradise fly-catcher is common in
summer at lower altitudes. Above 6000 feet elevation the following are
the species most commonly seen: the grey-headed fly-catcher, the
white-browed blue fly-catcher (_Cyornis superciliaris_), and the
beautiful verditer fly-catcher (_Stoparola melanops_), which is no mean
songster.

Fly-catchers form a most interesting group of birds. It is, I maintain,
quite impossible for any man possessed of a logical mind to contemplate
this family without discovering that the theory of natural selection is
utterly inadequate to account for the variety of animal life that exists
upon the earth. The habits of practically all the fly-catchers are
identical. They all dwell in an arboreal habitat; nevertheless, the
various species display great dissimilarity in outward appearance. Some
species are brightly plumaged, others are as dully clad as a bird can
possibly be. Some have crests and long tails, others lack these
ornaments. The adult cock paradise fly-catcher, with his long, white,
satin-like tail feathers, is the most striking of birds, while the brown
fly-catcher is less conspicuously attired than a hen sparrow. This is not
the only difficulty presented to the theory of natural selection by
fly-catchers. In some species, as, for example, the paradise fly-catcher,
the sexes are altogether dissimilar in appearance, while in others the
most practised eye cannot distinguish between the cock and the hen. Nor
does there appear to be any connection between nesting habits and the
presence or absence of sexual dimorphism. The fan-tail fly-catchers, in
which the sexes are alike, and the paradise fly-catchers, in which they
differ widely, both build little cup-shaped nests in the lower branches
of trees, and in both the cock shares with the hen the duty of
incubation. Again, the verditer and the white-browed blue fly-catchers
build their nests in holes in trees; yet in the former both sexes are
blue, while in the latter the cock only is blue.

Further, in the fly-catchers we see every gradation of sexual dimorphism,
from a difference so slight as to be perceptible only when the sexes are
seen side by side, to a difference so great as to make it difficult to
believe that the sexes belong to one and the same species. It must,
therefore, be obvious to any sane person that neither natural nor sexual
selection can be directly responsible for the colouration of many species
of fly-catcher.

Another interesting characteristic of the fly-catchers is the total
absence of green in the plumage of any of them. They are birds of a
variety of colours; they display many shades of blue, yellow, orange,
red, grey, and brown, also black and white; but not one carries any green
feathers. Yet they are essentially arboreal birds, so that green would be
a very useful colour to them from the point of view of protection from
enemies. From the fact, then, that none of the fly-catchers are green, we
seem to be compelled to infer that there is something in their
constitution that prevents green variations appearing in their plumage.

In conclusion, note must be made of the fact that fly-catchers, although
they subsist almost entirely upon insect diet, appear but rarely to
devour butterflies. I have watched fly-catchers closely for several
years, and have on two occasions only seen them chase butterflies or
moths. Five years ago in Madras I observed a paradise fly-catcher chasing
a small butterfly, and recently, in the Himalayas, I saw a grey-headed
fly-catcher drop down from a tree and seize a moth that was resting in
the gutter. The reason why fly-catchers do not often attack butterflies
is obvious; these insects offer very little meat and a great deal of
indigestible wing surface. Nevertheless, the theory of protective mimicry
is almost exclusively illustrated by examples taken from butterflies. In
theory, these creatures are so relentlessly persecuted by insectivorous
birds that in order to escape their foes many edible butterflies mimic
the appearance of unpalatable species. Unfortunately for theory, few
creatures in practice seem to attack butterflies when on the wing, which
is just the time when the “mimicry” is most obvious.

The elegant little fly-catchers, then, are birds which mock Darwin, laugh
at Wallace, and make merry at the expense of Muller and Bates!



                                 XXXIII
                             INSECT HUNTERS


Fly-Catchers, although they subsist almost entirely on insects, are by no
means the only insectivorous creatures in existence. They merely form a
considerable branch of the Noble Society of Insect Hunters.

If there exist any philosophers in the insect world they must find the
uncertainty of life a fitting theme on which to lavish their
philosophical rhetoric. Consider for a moment the precariousness of the
life of an insect! There exist in India probably over three hundred
species of birds which live almost exclusively upon an insect diet. Think
of the mortality among insects caused by these birds alone, by the mynas,
the swifts, the bee-eaters, the king crows, _et hoc genus omne_. Then
there are insectivorous mammals, to say nothing of man who yearly
destroys millions of injurious and parasitic hexapods. Fish too are very
partial to insects, while for spiders, frogs, and lizards, life without
insects would be impossible. Nor do the troubles of insects end here,
they are preyed upon by their own kind, and, strange phenomenon, some
plants entrap and destroy them. But we Anglo-Indians cannot afford to
sympathise with the insects. In spite of the high mortality of the
hexapod tribes, they flourish like the green bay-tree. So prolific are
they that, notwithstanding the fact that millions are daily destroyed by
their foes, the life of human beings in India becomes a burden on account
of the creeping things. In the monsoon the insects tax man almost to the
limits of his endurance—they teaze, bite, and worry his person, they
destroy his worldly goods, and, not content with this, find their way
into his food and drink. For this reason I feel very kindly disposed to
the frogs, the lizards, and the fly-catching birds.

It is worth coming to India if only to see a frog or toad at work. Go at
sunset, during a break in the rains, on to the _chabutra_, and place a
lamp near you. Thousands of insects of all shapes and sizes are attracted
by the light. In their wake come the toads. A toad always looks _blasé_.
His stupid appearance and sluggish movements give him this air. Watch him
as he hops into the zone of light. He advances to within an inch of a
resting insect, and, before you can say “Jack Robinson,” the creature has
flown into his mouth! The toad takes another hop, and a second insect
follows the example of the first; then another and another! Have the
insects all suddenly gone mad? Are they bewitched, mesmerised by the ugly
face of the toad? Nothing of the kind. The insects have not jumped into
the amphibian’s mouth at all. The toad has a long tongue attached at the
front end to its mouth. This tongue is covered with sticky saliva and is
capable of being protruded and retracted with lightning rapidity. In
other words, the toad’s tongue is just a fly-paper, capable of the most
perfect manipulation. The unsuspecting insect is resting, and hears not
the silent approach of its enemy. Suddenly it is caught up by a great
sticky tentacle, then comes oblivion. The toad’s tongue has shot forth
and back again so quickly as to be imperceptible to the human eye.

The lizard obtains its food in a similar way. It enters the bungalow and
lies up during the day behind a picture. As soon as the lamps are lighted
it comes forth as hungry as the proverbial hunter. In a single night it
devours hundreds of insects. I have watched a lizard feeding in this way
until he had consumed so many insects that he could scarcely move: and
doubtless he would have continued his gluttonous meal but for the fact
that he had become as slow as Mark Twain’s jumping frog after it had
partaken copiously of shot! The lizard cannot shoot out his tongue to the
extent that the frog can, so he has to make a dash at each insect before
swallowing, and, to his credit, it must be said that he rarely lets a
victim escape him unless, of course, he has over-eaten himself.

Although I am very fond of the nimble little gecko, I must admit that he
is an out-and-out glutton. Sometimes his gluttony leads him to try to
capture quarry beyond his capacity. Let me relate an amusing little
incident that I recently witnessed. The scene was my dressing-table, and
the time 9 p.m. in the month of August; the day I forget. It matters not.
A large stag-beetle was crawling laboriously across the dressing-table.
Upon this table was an ordinary looking-glass, under which a lizard had
taken up his habitation. From his point of view the position was a good
one, for the lamp overhead attracted to the table a number of insects
which the lizard could watch from under the base of the glass.

The lizard caught sight of the beetle and began to stalk it. Surely, I
thought, the lizard will not try to devour that beetle, which is nearly
half as big as himself; but, as he emerged from under the glass, I saw
that he meant business. Slowly but surely he gained upon the slow-moving
beetle. Having arrived close up behind it, he shot forth his sticky
tongue. The next moment the beetle found itself lying on a spot eight
inches from where it had a second before stood, and the lizard was
trembling in his lair. The reptile had apparently expected to find the
beetle as soft and luscious as a strawberry, so the instant his tongue
felt the hard, chitinous integument of the beetle he drew that organ back
pretty smartly. But his tongue was so sticky that the beetle stuck to it
for a moment, and so was thrown backwards over the reptile’s head. The
lizard was startled at what had happened, so instinctively took cover.
The insect too was scared nearly out of its wits, and did what most
frightened insects do, that is to say, retracted its legs and remained
perfectly motionless. When, however, several minutes passed and nothing
happened, the beetle grew bold, and putting forth its legs, began again
to crawl on its way. Directly it moved the lizard put himself on the _qui
vive_, and even went so far as again to follow it, but, profiting by his
recent experience, did not attempt a second time to swallow it. Thus the
beetle passed off the stage.

Seeing that this particular lizard was not over sharp, I determined to
play a little practical joke upon it. Taking a piece of black worsted, I
rolled it up into a ball about the size of a fine, strapping blue-bottle
fly, and, having attached a piece of cotton to it, I dangled this bait
before the lizard. I succeeded in “drawing” him. He was on it before I
could say “knife.”

In less than a second the worsted was in his mouth, but he dropped it
like a hot potato, and then sulked under the looking-glass, apparently
greatly annoyed at having been made a fool of twice in succession. The
next day I chanced to come upon a toad, busy catching insects. Wondering
whether he would be deceived, I threw on to the grass near him the end of
a lighted cigarette which I had been smoking. He at once caught sight of
it, and sat there looking at it intently for some seconds, and I began to
think he would not fall into the trap, but the temptation was too strong,
for he shot forth his tongue to seize it. He discovered that the “tongue
is an unruly member” as he retracted the smarting organ.

It is therefore clear that some insect-hunters are ever ready to try
experiments as regards food.

Fish too, when really hungry, do not appear to exercise much
discrimination as to the nature of the “fly” they will take.

The swarming of the “white ants” is a red-letter day for the
insect-eating animals, an annual harvest in which they revel. The mynas
and the crows do not disdain to partake of this copious meal supplied by
nature.

The latter are omnivorous birds; all is grist which comes to their
mill—carrion, fruit, locusts, termites, fish, grain, and the crumbs which
fall from man’s table.

The mynas too eat a variety of food, but they are first and foremost
insectivorous birds. They are never so happy as when chasing grasshoppers
on the grass. By preference they accompany cattle, strutting along beside
these and catching in their beaks the insects as these latter jump into
the air, frightened by the approach of the great quadruped.

The beautiful white cattle egrets (_Bubulcus coromandus_) in a similar
way make buffaloes and kine act as their beaters.

The familiar king crow (_Dicrurus ater_) adopts two methods of
insect-catching. The one he favours most is that of the fly-catcher.
Sometimes, however, he attaches himself to a flock of mynas. In such
cases he flies to the van of the flock and squats on the ground,
regardless of the fact that by so doing his beautiful forked tail gets
dusty. As the mynas approach, snatching up grasshoppers, they put up a
number of flying insects, and these the king crow secures on the wing. As
soon as the last of the mynas has passed by the king crow again flies to
the van and repeats the performance.

In India almost every company of mynas has its attendant king crow.
Usually the two species are on good terms, but sometimes the king crow
gets “above himself,” and then there is trouble. The other day I saw a
bank myna (_Acridotheres fuscus_) hop on to a king crow’s back and
administer unto him chastisement in the shape of a couple of vigorous
pecks on the back of the head. On being released the king crow did not
attempt to retaliate, but flew meekly away.

Among the _élite_ of the insect-hunters we must number the swifts.
Strange birds are these. Not once in their lives do they set foot upon
the ground. For hours at a time they pursue their speedy course through
the thin air, snatching up, as they move at full speed, minute insects.

But even their powerful pinions cannot vibrate for ever, so at intervals
they betake themselves to the verandah of some bungalow, and there hang
on to the wall close under the roof. Their claws are simply hooks, and
this is their rest—clinging to a smooth horizontal wall!

So long is the list of insect-hunters, and so varied are their methods,
that I am unable to so much as mention many of them. I must content
myself, in conclusion, with noticing the tits, cuckoo-shrikes, minivets,
and white-eyes, which flit from leaf to leaf, picking up tiny insects;
babblers and laughing thrushes, which spend the day rummaging among
fallen leaves for insects; nuthatches and tree-creepers, which run up and
down tree-trunks on the hunt for insects; and woodpeckers, which seize,
by means of their sticky tongue, the insects they have, by a series of
vigorous taps, frightened from their hiding-places in the bark.

Consider these, and you cannot but be impressed with the trials and
troubles of an insect’s life!



                                 XXXIV
                           THE ROSY STARLING


Every Anglo-Indian is acquainted with the rose-coloured starling (_Pastor
roseus_), although some may not know what to call it. Nevertheless, it is
a bird of many aliases; to wit, the rosy pastor, the _tillyer_, the
_cholum_ bird, the _jowaree_ bird, the mulberry bird, the locust-eater,
the _golabi maina_. The head, neck, breast, wings, and tail are glossy
black, while the remainder of the plumage is a pale salmon or faint
rose-colour. The older the bird the more rosy it becomes, but the great
majority are pale salmon, rather than pink.

Rose-coloured starlings are sociable birds. They go about in large
companies, which sometimes number several thousand individuals. They are
cold-weather visitors to India, spreading themselves all over the
peninsula, being most abundant in the Deccan. In the north straggling
flocks occur throughout the winter, but it is in April that they are seen
in their thousands, preparatory to leaving the country for breeding
purposes. These great gatherings tarry for a short time in Northern India
while the mulberries and various grain crops are ripening. They seem to
subsist chiefly upon these, whence some of their popular names, and the
malice which the farmer bears them. They are undoubtedly a very great
scourge to the latter, but they are not an unmixed pest, for they are
said to devour locusts with avidity when the opportunity presents itself.
Now, the slaying of a locust is a work of merit which ought to neutralise
a multitude of sins.

The rosy starlings which occur in India are said to nest in Asia Minor.
This may be so, but I am inclined to think that there must be some
breeding-grounds nearer at hand, for these birds have been observed in
India as late as July, and they are back with us again in September. To
travel to Asia Minor, construct nests, lay eggs, hatch these out, rear up
the young, and return to India with them, all within the space of two
months, is an almost impossible feat. It is, of course, probable that the
birds which remain in India so late as July do not return as early as
September.

The large flocks of rosy starlings are quite a feature of spring in
Northern India. On the principle that many hands make light work, a
company of these birds experiences no difficulty in speedily thinning a
crop of ripening corn. The starlings feed chiefly in the morning and
before sunset. During the heat of the day they usually take a long rest,
a habit for which the crop-watchers ought to be very thankful. When not
feeding, rosy starlings usually congregate in hundreds in lofty trees
which are almost bare of foliage. They then look like dried leaves. I
have spoken of this as a rest, which is not strictly accurate. They
certainly do not feed, but they constantly flit about from branch to
branch, and do a great deal of feather preening, and, during the whole
day, they give forth a joyful noise. Their note is a sibilant twitter
which is not very loud; indeed, considering the efforts put into it,
there is remarkably little result, but the notes are so persistent, and
so many birds talk at once, that they can be heard from afar. The song of
the rosy starling is not musical, not more so than the “chitter, chitter”
of a flock of sparrows at bed-time, yet it is not displeasing to the ear.
There is an exuberance in it which is most attractive. It cannot be
conversational, for all the birds talk at once, and their notes lack
expression and variety. Their clamour is not unlike the singing of the
kettle as it stands on the hob; in each case the sound is caused by the
letting off of superfluous energy. Starlings literally bubble over with
animal spirits. There can be no question as to their enjoyment of life.

Rosy starlings are the favourite game birds of the natives of Northern
India, for they are very good to eat and easy to shoot. When a thousand
of them are perched in a bare tree, a shot fired into “the brown” usually
secures a number of victims. It is, therefore, not difficult to obtain a
big bag. Needless to say, the natives shoot these birds sitting. The way
in which Europeans persist in firing only at flying objects is utterly
incomprehensible to the average Indian; he regards it as part of the
magnificent madness which is the mark of every sahib. I once asked a
native _Shikari_ if he had ever fired at a flying bird. He was a gruff
old man, and not afraid to express his feelings. He looked me up and down
with eyes filled with withering contempt, and said “What do you take me
for? Am I a sahib, that I should waste powder and shot on flying things?
I never fire unless I think that by so doing I am likely to bring down at
least six birds.”

It is impossible to watch a flock of _jowaree_ birds without being struck
by what I may perhaps term their corporate action, the manner in which
they act in unison, as though they were well-drilled soldiers obeying the
commands of their officer. This phenomenon is observable in most species
of sociable birds, but, so far as I am aware, no ornithologist, save Mr.
Edmund Selous, has paid much attention to the matter, or attempted to
explain it. To illustrate. A flock of rosy starlings will be sitting
motionless in a tree giving vent to their twittering notes, when
suddenly, without any apparent cause, the whole flock will take to its
wings simultaneously, as if actuated by one motive, nay, as if it were
one composite individual. Again, a flock will be moving along at great
speed, when suddenly the whole company will make a half-turn, and
continue the flight in another direction. Yet again, a number of rosy
starlings will be speeding through the air when six or seven of them,
suddenly and simultaneously, change the direction of their flight, and
thus form, as it were, a cross current. How are we to explain these
simultaneous changes of purpose? It is not, at any rate, not always, a
case of “follow my leader,” for frequently no one individual moves before
the others. In some cases at least the change in purpose is not due to
any command, no sound being uttered previous to one of these sudden
impulsive acts. Mr. Selous seeks to explain the phenomenon by assuming
that “birds, when gathered together in large numbers, act, not
individually, but collectively, or rather, that they do both one and the
other.” According to him, the simultaneous acts in these cases are the
result of thought-transference—a thought-wave passes through the whole
flock.

Some may be inclined to scoff at this theory, but such will, I think,
find it difficult to put forward any other explanation of the difficulty.
As Mr. Selous points out, it seems “a little curious that language of a
more perfect kind than animals use has been so late in developing itself,
but animals would feel less the want of a language if
thought-transference existed amongst them to any appreciable extent.”
Whether Mr. Selous has hit upon the correct explanation I hesitate to
say. There is, however, no denying the fact that flocks of birds
frequently act with what he calls “multitudinous oneness.”



                                  XXXV
                           THE PIED STARLING


Writing of pied starlings (_Sturnopastor contra_) Colonel Cunningham thus
delivers himself: “They are not nearly such attractive birds as the
common mynas, for their colouring is coarsely laid on in a way that
recalls that of certain of the ornithological inmates of a Noah’s Ark;
their heads have a debased look, and they have neither the pleasant notes
nor the alluringly familiar ways of their relatives.” The above statement
is, in my opinion, nothing short of libel. There are few living things
more charming than pied mynas. These birds are clothed in black and
white. Now a black and white garment usually looks well whether worn by a
human being or an animal. In the case of the pied myna, or _ablak_ as the
Indians call it, the black and white are tastefully arranged. The head,
neck, upper breast, back, and tail are glossy black, save for a large
white patch on the cheek, which extends as a narrow line to the nape, a
white oblique wing bar, and a white rump. The lower parts are greyish
white. The bill is yellow, of deeper hue at the base than at the tip. I
fail to see in what way the head of the pied starling has a debased look;
it is typical of its family. The bill, however, is a trifle longer and
more slender than that of the common myna. The statement that pied mynas
have not the pleasant notes of the common species is the most astounding
of a series of astounding assertions; as well might a musician complain
that the cathedral organ lacks the fine tones of the street hurdy-gurdy!
I like the cheerful “kok, kok, kok, kekky, kekky” of the common myna. I
also enjoy listening to the harsh cries with which he greets a foe. India
would be a duller country than it is without these familiar sounds, but I
maintain that his most ardent admirer can scarcely believe the common
myna to be a fine songster. The notes of the pied starling, on the other
hand, although essentially myna-like, are really musical. Its lay is that
of _Acridotheres tristis_, purified of all the harshness, with an added
touch of melody. Jerdon, I am glad to notice, speaks of its pleasant
song, and Finn, who knows the bird well, writes in one place of its
beautiful note, and in another says: “It does not indulge in any set song
apparently, but its voice is very sweet and flute-like, and it appears
not to have any unpleasant notes whatever—a remarkable peculiarity in any
bird, and especially in one of this family.” In Northern India the
cheerful melody of the pied starlings is one of the most pleasing
adjuncts of the countryside.

So jovial a bird is _Sturnopastor contra_ that it is a great pity that
his range is comparatively restricted. He would be a great acquisition to
Madras and Bombay. Unfortunately, the species is not found in South
India, and is almost unknown in the Punjab. Agra is the most westerly
place in which I have seen pied mynas. In Burma the species is replaced
by an allied form, _S. superciliaris_, readily distinguished by the
possession of a white eyebrow. By the way, I should be very glad if our
Wallaceian friends would tell us why it is necessary to its existence
that the Burmese species should possess a white eyebrow, while the Indian
birds seem to fare excellently without that ornament.

Except at the nesting season, the habits of pied starlings are very like
those of the other species of myna. They feed largely on the ground, over
which they strut with myna-like gait—no myna would dream of losing its
dignity to the extent of hopping. They feed largely on insects, but will
also eat fruit. They do not, as a rule, gather together in such large
companies as most kinds of starling, but in places where pied mynas exist
two of them, at least, usually attach themselves to each flock of the
common species.

I am inclined to think that _Sturnopastors_ pair for life, but that does
not prevent them from performing the antics of courtship at the nesting
season. This is a fact of some importance, for if birds that are mated
for life indulge every year in what we call courtship, it is obvious that
the commonly accepted explanation of the meanings of the antics of birds
at the breeding season is a mistaken one. The accepted interpretation of
these facts is that the cocks deliberately set themselves to “kill the
girls,” and to this end cut mad capers and perform the other absurdities
that characterise the amorous swain. I incline to the view that, although
birds select their mates, the songs and the dances and the displays of
the males are not so much attempts to captivate the females as
expressions of the superabundant energy that literally bubbles over at
the breeding season. A ruff when courting is obviously as mad as the
proverbial hatter: he will display all his splendours as readily to a
stone as to a reeve. At the season of love-making one frequently sees one
pied myna—presumably a cock—puff out his feathers and inflate his throat,
and then strut after another bird just as the little brown dove (_Turtur
cambayensis_) does when on matrimony intent. At another phase of the
courtship of the pied mynas two birds will sit, side by side, on a perch
and bow and sing to one another just as king crows (_Dicrurus ater_) do.

Most species of myna breed early in the hot weather, but the pied mynas
invariably wait until the first rain has fallen before they set about the
work of nest-building. Colonel Cunningham suggests that the reason for
this peculiarity of the pied starling is that, as it does not nestle in a
hole but builds in a tree, it requires the green leaves coaxed forth by
the rain as a protection to its nest. If the nursery of the pied myna
were a neatly constructed cup, something might be said for this idea, but
no amount of foliage could hide from view the huge mass of straw and
rubbish that does duty for the nest of this species. Pied mynas rely on
their pugnacity, and not on concealment, for the protection of the nest.
A list of the various materials utilised by nesting _Sturnopastors_ would
include almost every inanimate object which is both portable and pliable;
feathers, rags, twigs, moss, grass, leaves, paper, bits of string, rope
and cotton, hay and portions of skin cast off by snakes, are the
materials most commonly employed. The nest is not, as a rule, placed very
high up. Sometimes it is situated in quite a low tree. Once when visiting
the gaol at Gonda in the rains I observed a pair of pied mynas nesting in
a solitary tree which grew in one of the courtyards inside the gaol
walls. Like most of its kind, the pied starling displays little fear of
man. The eggs of this species are a beautiful pale blue. Blue is the hue
of the eggs of all species of myna. The fact that, notwithstanding its
open nest, the eggs of the pied myna do not differ in colour from those
of its brethren which nestle in holes, is one of the facts that the field
naturalist comes across daily which demonstrate how hopelessly wrong is
the Wallaceian view of the meaning of the colours of birds’ eggs.



                                 XXXVI
                        A BIRD OF THE OPEN PLAIN


It is the fashion for modern writers of books on ornithology to divide
birds according to the localities they frequent, into birds of the
garden, birds of the wood, birds of the meadow, birds of the waterside,
etc. The chief drawback to such a system of classification, which is
intended to simplify identification, is that most birds decline to limit
themselves to any particular locality.

There are, however, some species which are so constant in their habits as
to render it possible to lay down the law regarding them and to assert
with confidence where they will be found. Of such are the finch-larks. I
have never seen a finch-lark anywhere but on an open uncultivated plain
or in fields that happen to be devoid of crops.

Any person living in India may be tolerably certain of making the
acquaintance of the ashy-crowned finch-lark (_Pyrrhulauda grisea_) by
repairing to the nearest open space outside municipal limits.

The finch-lark is a dumpy, short-tailed bird, considerably smaller than a
sparrow. Having no bright colours in its plumage, it is not much to look
at, but it makes up by its powers of flight for that which it lacks in
form and colour.

The finch-larks found in India fall into two genera, each of which is
composed of two species.

The commonest species is that mentioned above—the ashy-crowned or, as
Jerdon calls it, the black-bellied finch-lark.

In the genus _Pyrrhulauda_ the sexes differ much in appearance, while in
the allied genus, _Ammomanes_, the cock is indistinguishable from the
hen.

As the habits of these two genera are alike in all respects, they afford
an instance of the futility of attempting, as some do, to account for the
phenomenon of sexual dimorphism by alleging that the habits of the
dimorphic species differ from those of the monomorphic species. When
species A lives in the same locality as species B, nests at the same
season, builds the same kind of nest, and when both feed and fly in the
same manner, it should be obvious to every person not obsessed by a pet
theory that natural selection cannot have had much to do with the fact
that, whereas in species A the sexes are alike, in species B they differ.
But, as we shall see, finch-larks would almost seem to have been created
expressly to upset present-day zoological theories.

Well might one say to the indoor naturalist, who sits in his chair and
theorises, “Go to the finch-lark, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and
be wise.”

The cock _Pyrrhulauda grisea_ is an ash-coloured bird with a short brown
tail, and very dark brown, practically black, chin, breast, and abdomen.
The cheeks are whitish, as are the sides of the body; but these are
separated by a black bar, so that the bird has stamped on its breast a
black cross. There is also a black or very dark brown bar that runs from
the chin through the eye. The hen is an earthy-brown bird, the plumage
being tinged with grey above and reddish below. There is nothing peculiar
in her colouring. But for her size, she might pass for a hen sparrow. The
colouring of the cock, however, is very remarkable. Almost every bird in
existence, which is not uniformly coloured, is of a much lighter hue
below than above. In the cock finch-lark this relation is reversed. I
cannot call to mind any other Indian bird, unless it be the cock
brown-backed robin (_Thamnobia cambaiensis_), in which this phenomenon
occurs. Moreover, the arrangement of colour—dark above and pale below—is
not confined to birds, but runs through nearly the whole of the animal
kingdom. So much so that Mr. Thayer asserts that the phenomenon is a
striking example of protective colouration. The fact that a bird or
mammal is darker in hue above than below renders it less conspicuous than
it would be were it coloured alike all over, since the pale under parts
tend to counteract the effects of light and shade. A few creatures, as,
for example, the skunk in America, are darker below than above. These are
usually cited as examples of warning colouration. The skunk, as everyone
knows, is able when attacked to eject a very fœtid and blinding
excretion, so that very few animals prey upon it. Consequently, the
light-coloured back and the erect tail are supposed to act as danger
signals to its fellow-creatures. However, there are a number of nocturnal
mammals, such as our Indian ratel (_Mellivora indica_), of which the fur
is light-coloured above and dark below. These cannot be examples of
warning colouration. The same must be said of the inoffensive little
finch-lark, with its dark under parts.

The fact that there exist so few creatures of which the under parts are
of darker hue than the upper parts must, I think, be attributed to two
causes. The first is that few species ever vary in that manner; the
tendency is all the other way. The second is that such rare variations,
when they do occur, are in most cases not conducive to the welfare of the
individual, since they tend to make it conspicuous to its foes or its
quarry. In certain cases, however, as in that of creatures like the
shunk, which are not preyed upon, or that of nocturnal animals, the
possession of dark under parts does not affect the chances of the
possessor in the struggle for existence. So this variation has not been
eliminated by natural selection. This, I believe, is the case with the
finch-lark. The bird has very short legs, so that when it is on the
ground its black under parts are scarcely visible even to a human being
walking on the ground, and certainly would not be seen by a bird of prey
flying overhead. My experience is that the cock finch-lark is not more
conspicuous than the hen. Both, when they alight on a ploughed field, are
lost to human sight until they move.

I believe finch-larks feed exclusively on the ground. I have not seen one
perch in a tree. What they live upon I do not know. The books do not tell
us, and I have never had the heart to shoot one of these small birds in
order to find out. But whatever their food consists of, the search for it
leaves finch-larks plenty of leisure, much of which they spend after the
manner of the skylark clan. Suddenly one of these birds will jump into
the air, and rise almost perpendicularly by vigorous flappings of its
powerful little wings. Having reached an altitude of from twenty to forty
feet, its habit is to close its pinions and drop, head foremost, like a
stone. Just before it reaches the ground, it checks its flight and again
soars upwards. Often while disporting themselves in the air these birds
display strange antics, twisting and turning about much as the common fly
does. After amusing themselves for some time in this manner, the pair
will take to their wings in real earnest, and fly off to a spot a quarter
of a mile or more away, and there drop to the ground and begin feeding.

Finch-larks, like skylarks, nest on the ground. According to Hume, they
have two broods, one in February or March, and the other in July or
August. The nest, which consists of a small pad of dried grass and
fibres, is usually placed in some depression on the ground; a hoof-print
is considered an especially suitable site. As the bird sits very close,
the nest is not easy to find. But when flushed the hen generally flies
straight off the nest without first running along the ground; thus, if
the spot from which the bird gets up be carefully marked, the nest ought
to be found without much difficulty.

Finch-larks sometimes entertain queer notions as to what constitutes a
desirable nesting site. At Futtehgarh Mr. A. Anderson once found a nest
“in the centre of a lump of cow-dung, which must have been quite fresh
when some cow or bullock ‘put its foot in it.’” “As the foot-print,”
writes Mr. Anderson, “had not gone right through to the ground, I was
enabled to remove the lump of dung without in any way hurting the nest.
White ants had left their marks all over the dry dung, so that detection
was almost impossible: it was altogether the most artfully concealed nest
I have ever seen.” Scarcely less objectionable, from the human point of
view, was the site of the finch-lark’s nest found at Etawah by Hume,
namely, on the railway line, amongst the ballast between the rails. “When
we think,” says Hume, “of the terrible heat glowing from the bottom of
the engine, the perpetual dusting out of red-hot cinders, it seems
marvellous how the bird could have maintained her situation.” Verily,
there is no accounting for taste! Two eggs are laid, which are like
miniature lark’s eggs.

The other species of finch-lark found in South India is _Ammomanes
phœnicura_, the rufous-tailed finch-lark. This, as its name indicates,
has a reddish tail. The rest of the plumage is brown. The sexes are
alike. Its habits are those of the ashy-crowned species. I have not
observed it in the vicinity of Madras.



                                 XXXVII
                        BIRDS IN THE COTTON TREE


Lack of green grass and the paucity of wild flowers are the chief of the
causes which render the scenery of the plains of India so unlike that of
the British Isles. India, not being blessed with frequent showers, the
_sine qua non_ of flower-decked, verdant meadows, has to be content with
a xerophilous flora. But there is in this country some compensation for
the lack of flowers of the field in the shape of flowering shrubs and
trees. Among the most conspicuous of these is the cotton tree (_Bombax
malabaricum_). This tree is not an evergreen. It loses its leaves in
winter, and before the new foliage appears the flowers burst forth—these
may be bright red or golden yellow. As they are larger than a man’s fist,
and appear while the branches are yet bare, a cotton tree in flower is a
very conspicuous and beautiful object. But it is of the feathered folk
that visit this tree that I would write, not of the splendour of its
blossom. Even before the March sun has risen and commenced to dispel the
pleasant coolness of the night the cotton tree is the scene of riot and
revelry. Throughout the morning hours, as the burning sun mounts higher
and higher in the hard blue sky, the revelry continues. It may, perhaps,
cease for a time during the first two hours after noon, when the wind
blows like a blast from a titanic furnace. But it soon recommences, and
not until the sun has set in a dusty haze, and the harsh clamours of the
spotted owlets (_Athene brama_) are heard, does the noisy assembly of
brawlers leave the tree in peace.

The cause of all the revelry is this. The nectar which the great red
flowers secrete is to certain birds what absinthe is to some Frenchmen.
First and foremost, amongst the votaries of the silk-cotton tree are the
rose-coloured starlings (_Pastor roseus_). During the winter months these
birds are not a conspicuous feature of the India avifauna, for they do
not then go about in great flocks. But from the time the cotton tree is
in blossom until the grain crops are cut, the rosy starlings vie with the
crows in obtruding themselves upon the notice of human beings in Northern
India. You cannot ride far in the month of March without hearing these
birds. Their clamour is truly starling-like; they produce that curious
harsh sibilant sound which is so easy to recognise, but so difficult to
describe, that noise which Edmund Selous calls a murmuration, and which
the countryfolk at home term a “charm,” meaning, as Richard Jefferies
expresses it, “a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each
interfering with the other.”

Look in the direction whence the sound issues and a blaze of scarlet will
meet the eye; it is amid this that the rosy starlings are calling, for
where the silk-cotton tree is in bloom there are these birds certain to
be.

Approach the tree and look carefully into it; you will see it thronged
with birds, mainly rosy starlings. Conspicuously arrayed though these
birds are, it is not easy, unless they move, to distinguish them among
the red petals and dark calyces. _Pastors_ that are not dipping their
heads into the red shuttlecock-like flowers are all either scolding one
another or making a joyful noise. They move about so excitedly and jostle
one another so rudely as to give you the impression that they are
somewhat the worse for liquor. This may not be so. It may be the natural
behaviour of the rosy starlings, for they are always noisy and
pugnacious. But they seem to be exceptionally so when in the silk-cotton
tree. So eagerly do they plunge their beaks into the cup-like flowers,
that these latter are frequently knocked off the stalk in the process.
This is especially the case with those flowers that have begun to fade.
The floral envelopes and the stamens of such are easily detached from the
ovary.

The rose-coloured starlings are by no means the only members of the clan
which drink deeply of the nectar provided by this hospitable tree. Among
the mob of brawlers are to be seen the common, the bank, and the Brahminy
mynas, but there is this difference between these latter and their
rose-coloured brethren; the former are only occasional visitors to the
tree. They are moderate drinkers; they visit the public-house perhaps but
once in the day, stay there a short time, and then go about their
business. The rosy starlings carouse throughout the hours of daylight.

Another _habitué_ of the silk-cotton tree is the Indian tree-pie
(_Dendrocitta rufa_), the nearest approach we have to the magpie in the
plains of India. His long tail and general shape at once stamp him as a
magpie, but his colouring is, of course, very different; in place of a
simple garment of black and white he exhibits black, chestnut-brown,
silver, white, and yellow in his coat of many hues. You are not likely to
see a crowd of tree-pies among the red blossoms, for the simple reason
that the species is not gregarious; but in all localities where tree-pies
exist you may be tolerably certain of seeing at least one of these birds
at every flowering cotton tree. Tree-pies, be it noted, although widely
spread in India, are apparently very capriciously distributed. For some
reason which I have not been able to fathom they occur in the
neighbourhood of neither Madras nor Bombay.

Needless to say, the crows join in the drinking bout. The corvi rarely
wander far from the path of the transgressor. Fortunately for the
starlings, the crows are not passionately fond of the secretion of the
Bombax flowers. Did these last exercise so great an attraction for the
crows as they do for starlings, the smaller birds would be crowded out by
their larger rivals, and the Bombax tree would be black with squawking
corvi. The crow drinks the nectar of the cotton tree as a man drinks
liqueurs; the result is that rarely more than two or three crows are to
be seen among the scores of starlings and mynas. The flowing bowl seems
to have greater attractions for the corby (_Corvus macrorhynchus_) than
for the house crow (_C. splendens_); but there is a reason which prevents
the too frequent visiting of the silk-cotton tree by the corbies, namely,
that it comes into flower in March, which happens to be the nesting
season of those birds.

The above seven species are, so far as my observation goes, the only
birds that make a habit of drinking at the blossom of the cotton tree. It
would thus appear that the nectar has a very pronounced taste, and that,
in consequence, birds either like it intensely or positively dislike it.

“Eha,” I am aware, states that many other birds frequent the cotton tree,
for the sake of its good cheer, “the king crow, and even the temperate
bulbul and demure coppersmith, and many another, and, here and there, a
palm squirrel, taking his drink with the rest like a foreigner.” But did
not “Eha” mistake the purpose for which these creatures visit the
silk-cotton tree? A bird may be present without taking part in the
revelry. The other day I was watching all the fun at one of these trees
when suddenly a little coppersmith (_Xantholæma hæmatocephala_) came and
perched on one of the bare spiny branches. He sat there motionless, as
out of place as a Quaker would among a mob of bookmakers. Suddenly a rosy
starling hustled him off his perch. But the coppersmith did not fly away;
he merely hopped on to another branch, and then suddenly performed the
vanishing trick. Had I not been watching him very closely I could almost
have persuaded myself that he had melted into thin air. As it was, I saw
him dive into a round opening—scarcely the size of a rupee—about two
inches from the broken end of a dead branch, not as thick as a woman’s
wrist, at the very summit of the tree. The circular opening in question
had been neatly cut by the coppersmith and its mate, and led to a hollow
in which three white eggs were doubtless lying. These and not the
nectar-bearing flowers were the attraction for the coppersmith.



                                XXXVIII
                             UGLY DUCKLINGS


Some people invariably look untidy. They seem to be nature’s misfits. All
the skill of the tailor, all the art of the milliner, can make them
nothing else. No matter how well-cut their garments be, these always hang
about them in a ridiculous, uncouth manner. If the individual be a man,
the upper part of his collar seems to exercise an irresistible attraction
for his tie; if a woman, she presents an unfinished appearance about the
waist, as often as not displaying an ugly hiatus in that region. Similar
creatures are to be found among the beasts of the field and the birds of
the air. There exist not a few feathered things whose plumage usually
looks as though a thorough spring-cleaning, followed by a “wash and
brush-up,” would do it a world of good. Chief among these are our
well-known friends the babbler thrushes, alias the seven sisters, or
seven brothers, as some will have it.

Like most human beings who are careless of their personal appearance,
these birds possess many good qualities. First and foremost of these is
the love which they show one to another. They are brotherly affection
personified. Except for a very rare squabble over a tempting piece of
food, the harmony of the brotherhood is never broken. What more striking
testimony to this admirable quality can be offered than the popular
designation of the bird? It is always one of seven; there is no word
whereby the man in the street may express an individual alone without his
comrades. Nor, indeed, does he require such a term, for it is impossible
to think of the bird otherwise than as one of a company. Has anyone ever
seen brother Number One, or brother Number Two, or brother any other
number alone? I trow not. These birds invariably hunt in little
societies; usually eight or ten elect to fight the battle of life
shoulder to shoulder, and a very good fight they appear to make of it, if
we may judge by their wide distribution and contented faces.

While upon the subject of the bird’s name it is as well to have the usual
hit at the ornithologist. Just as the popular name is appropriate, so is
the scientific one ridiculous. _Crateropus canorus_ is a strange name for
a bird whose note is a cross between the creak of a door with a rusty
hinge and the squeak of a cart-wheel of which the axle needs oiling.
Nature, by way of compensation, often endows a sombre-plumaged bird with
a sweet voice, and keeps down the pride of a gorgeous fowl by ordaining
that its voice shall be a hoarse croak. To the seven brothers, however,
the wise dame has given two wooden spoons. Their raucous voice is in
keeping with their dull plumage. When the honest little company are
merely whispering sweet nothings one to another, the stranger
unacquainted with their habits is apt to think that they are angrily
squabbling, and that bloodshed must inevitably follow. Such is the voice
of the bird yclept “canorus” by the ornithologist.

Linnæus appears to have given this species this name under the impression
that it was the Indian equivalent of our English thrush, that it sat in
mango trees and warbled most sweetly.

Hodgson made a gallant attempt to give the species the more appropriate
name “terricollor,” but he laboured in vain. The tyranny of the priority
rule proved too much for him.

Ornithological public opinion has decreed that as regards the specific
names of birds the race is to the swift: the first name hurled at a bird,
no matter how inappropriate, is to be retained. This rule was made in the
hope of introducing some sort of order into the chaos of ornithological
terminology. But, far from effecting this, it has called into existence a
race of ornithological pettifoggers, who spend their time in rummaging
about in libraries in the hope of discovering that some bird bears a name
which was not the first to be given it. Such a discovery means another
change in ornithological terminology. This is provocative of much
unparliamentary language on the part of the naturalist, but gives the
priority-hunter unalloyed pleasure.

Is it necessary for me to describe these misnamed babblers? Who is not
familiar with the untidy creature, with his dirty-looking brownish-grey
plumage, relieved by a yellow beak and a white, wicked eye? Who has not
laughed at the drooping wings, the ruffled feathers, and the disreputable
tail of the birds? Yet the seven brothers lead happy, contented lives.
They have always company, and plenty to occupy their minds. They are
numbered among those who despise not small things: no insect is too tiny,
no beetle too infinitesimal, no creeping thing too insignificant, to be
eaten by these birds, so the little company of friends hops together
along the ground from tree to tree, from shrub to shrub, searching every
nook and cranny, turning over every fallen leaf in the most methodical
way, seizing with alacrity everything it comes across in the shape of
food. During the search for food the chattering never ceases. Now and
again the birds will take to a tree and hop about its branches, talking
louder than ever. In the early morning, before the air has lost its first
crispness, they delight to play about the trees, flying in a crowd from
one to another. Again, in the evening, just before bedtime, they love to
gambol among the branches and jostle one another in the most
good-tempered way.

These birds have adopted the motto of the French Republic, and they
practise what they preach. Liberty, equality, and fraternity are theirs.
They form a true republic, a successful one because of the smallness of
its numbers. What bird is so free as our seven brothers? They are not
hedged in by the conventions of dress. “Eha” says that they remind him of
“old Jones, who passes the day in his pyjamas.” Is this not the acme of
freedom? They squeak, croak, hop, and fly where they list; well might
they be enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Army, that noble band who eat what
they like, drink what they like, say what they like, and do what they
like.

Of the fraternity of the little society we have already spoken. Of their
equality there can be no room for doubt. They have no leader. Now brother
Number Two, now brother Number Five moves on first, to be followed by his
comrades. They seem all to fall in with the views of whoever for the
moment takes the lead. There is much to be said for this form of life. It
makes the birds, who are individually weak, bold. They have often hopped
about outside my tent, jumping on to the ropes, and seeking food within a
couple of inches of the _chik_ on the other side of which I was standing.
They seem to court the company of man. It is in the compound rather than
the jungle that they abound. If one of the little company be attacked by
a more powerful bird, his comrades come at once to his assistance. Some
naturalists declare that they will go so far as to attack a sparrow-hawk,
others say they will not. Probably both are right. All men are not
equally brave, nor are all babbler thrushes equally bold. Even the
bravest species has to confess to a Bob Acres or two. As a matter of
fact, the brotherhood is not afforded many opportunities of displaying
its valour, for it is rarely attacked. Birds of prey know better than to
molest social birds; they are aware of the fact that it is difficult to
elude sixteen or twenty watchful eyes, and even if this feat be
accomplished there is always the fear of a stout resistance. The babbler
thrushes recall the good old days of ancient Rome when all were for the
State and none for a party.

The seven brothers are as indifferent to the appearance of their home as
to that of their persons. The nest they construct is a rude structure,
but some species of cuckoo think it quite good enough to lay eggs in.



                                 XXXIX
                          BABBLER BROTHERHOODS


The Crateropus babblers, known variously as the _Sath Bhai_, seven
sisters, or dirt birds, furnish perfect examples of communal life. So
highly developed are their social instincts that a solitary babbler, or
even a pair, is a very unusual sight. They do not congregate in large
flocks; from six to fourteen usually constitute a brotherhood, eight,
nine, or ten being, perhaps, the commonest numbers. There is no truth in
the popular idea that they always go about in flocks of seven. Sir Edwin
Arnold recognised this when he wrote of “the nine brown sisters
chattering in the thorn.”

Notwithstanding the fact that babblers are among the commonest birds in
India, there is much to be discovered regarding the nature of their
flocks. The _raison d’étre_ of these flocks is not far to seek. One has
but to observe the laboured flight of a babbler to appreciate how easy a
mark he is to a bird of prey. The strength of the babbler lies in his
clan. Eight or ten pairs of eyes are superior to one. A party of seven
sisters is not often caught napping. The incessant squeaking, and
screeching, and wheezing indulged in by each member keep them all in
touch with one another. Then, in time of danger, it is good to see how
they combine to drive off the hawk-cuckoo (_Hierococcyx varius_) which
victimises them, and which they undoubtedly mistake for a species of
raptorial bird.

But their clannishness does not shelter them from all tribulation. They
are the dupes of the hawk-cuckoo, and they sometimes fall victims to
birds of prey. A few weeks ago I had occasion to visit a friend, who was
unwell and confined to his bungalow. I found him sitting in the verandah.
While greeting him I heard a great clamour of scolding babblers
(_Crateropus canorus_) emanating from a neem tree hard by. I had come
just too late to witness a little jungle tragedy. There was a babbler’s
nest containing young in that tree. A pair of rascally crows had
discovered the nest, and one of them attacked it; the babbler in charge,
with splendid courage, went out to meet his big antagonist, who promptly
turned tail and fled, pursued by the screeching babbler. This left the
nest open to the other crow, who carried off a young bird. When I
arrived, the victims of the outrage were swearing as only babblers and
bargees can, and making feints at the crows.

It is thus obvious why these clubs, or brotherhoods, have been formed,
but we are almost altogether in the dark as to how they are formed, as to
their nature and constitution. We do not even know what it is that keeps
them apparently so constant in size. It is even a disputed point whether
these little companies persist throughout the year, or disband at the
nesting season. As to the nature of the companies, Colonel Cunningham
maintains that they are family parties. This view is, however, untenable,
unless we assume that the seven sisters are polygamists or polyandrists,
because three or four is the normal number of eggs laid, so that if each
little gathering were a family party, it should consist of not more than
six members. The flocks are too large to be made up of mother, father,
and children, and usually too small to be two such families.

There is at present living in the compound of the Allahabad Club a
company consisting of, I think, eight babblers. Seven are adults, and one
is quite a child. This last goes about with its elders, every now and
again flapping its wings, opening wide its yellow mouth, and calling for
food. A day or two ago it took up a position within a few feet of my
door, so that I was able to watch it closely through the _chik_. I saw
one of the company come up with a grub in its bill, which it, with due
ceremony, put into the young bird’s “yellow lane.” Having fed the
youngster, it began rummaging about in the grass near by. Shortly
afterwards a second babbler came up to the young one, bringing a
caterpillar. This particular individual carried his (or her, for I don’t
pretend to be able to sex a babbler at sight) tail askew. That organ
protruded from under the left wing, instead of projecting between the
wings, as is usual with tails—babblers, like actors and artists, affect a
careless style of dress. Having delivered up its caterpillar to the
clamorous youngster, it hopped away. I kept my eye carefully upon both it
and the bird I had first seen bring food. In a few seconds a third
babbler came up and presented a caterpillar to the baby brown sister.
Now, I submit that this can only mean that babblers are not monogamous,
or that they nest in common sometimes, or, so close are the ties that
bind the members of the little company that each feeds both his own
offspring and those of his brethren. Personally, I am inclined to think
that babblers are monogamous. That the same nest is sometimes used by
more than one pair seems to be established by the fact that there are
cases on record of nests containing as many as eight eggs, or young ones.
This, however, is not a usual occurrence, and it is my belief that the
members of the club are so greatly attached to one another that they look
upon each infant as common property. Hume quotes Mr. A. Anderson as
saying: “During the months of September and October I have observed
several babblers in the act of feeding one young _Hierococcyx varius_
(the brain-fever bird or hawk-cuckoo, which, as we have seen, is
parasitic on babblers) following the bird from tree to tree, and being
most assiduous in their attentions to the young interloper.” This
observation, I submit, supports the view that each member of the flock
takes a personal interest in the offspring of other members, even though
it be spurious!

Thus we may take it that these gatherings are not family parties, but
rather of the nature of clubs. The question, then, arises: What
determines the membership of these clubs? At present our knowledge of the
ways of these common birds is not sufficient to enable us to frame a
satisfactory reply. It is even an open question whether or not these
clubs break up at the breeding season, or whether the nesting birds still
continue to seek food in company. Colonel Cunningham declares that during
April and May babblers “cease to go about in parties, and pairs of them
are everywhere busily occupied in nesting.” Jerdon, on the other hand,
states that the parties persist throughout the breeding season. I feel
sure that Jerdon is right. No matter where one is stationed, parties of
babblers are to be seen at all seasons of the year. From this, of course,
it does not necessarily follow that the nesting birds do not forsake
their brethren, at any rate for a time. It is probable, nay certain, that
all the members of a flock do not pair and nest simultaneously. The
breeding season extends at least from March to July. But the fact that
there is quite a baby bird in the babbler brotherhood that dwells in the
compound of the Allahabad Club seems to indicate that the nesting birds
continue to find their food in company. There is no reason why they
should not, for babblers neither migrate nor wander far afield.

But the question arises: What happens to the young birds when they are
grown up? If they attached themselves to the existing flocks, these would
tend to increase in size, and sometimes, at any rate, we should see an
enormous assembly. So far as one’s casual observation goes, the flocks
keep constant in number throughout the year. It is, of course, quite
possible that casual observation leads one astray in this case. Any
person interested in the subject, who has a more or less fixed abode,
would do some service to ornithology if he would make a point of looking
out for babbler clubs, and endeavouring to count the members of each, and
keep a record of the results, with the date of each census. I am aware
that it is not easy to count accurately a babbler club, for its members
are always on the move, and odd birds are apt to pop out of unexpected
places. But even rough figures, if they extended to a number of flocks,
would, being all liable to the same error, prove fairly accurate as
regards averages. Such observations, if they were to extend over a year,
might lead to some interesting results. They would almost certainly show
a reduction of numbers during the summer months, when nesting operations
were in progress, but would this be followed by a considerable rise later
in the year? If so, it would seem to indicate that some, at any rate, of
the young ones attached themselves permanently to the flock in which they
were born.

A somewhat more elaborate experiment which might yield interesting
results would be to trap a whole “school” of babblers; they might be
captured while asleep. After a piece of coloured material had been tied
round the leg of each, every bird being decorated by a different colour,
the irate sisters would be restored to liberty. Then it might be possible
to follow the fortunes of each separate bird, and learn whether a given
flock is always made up of the same individuals, whether they practise
exogamy or favour endogamy, and a hundred and one other interesting facts
relating to the _vie intime_ of the brown sisters. I use the word “might”
advisedly. For alas! bitter experience has taught me that, more often
than not, the most cunningly devised ornithological experiments yield no
definite results. It is quite possible that the club of babblers thus
captured and decorated with gay colours might flee from the neighbourhood
in wrath and terror. The birds would not understand the why and the
wherefore of the proceeding, and might, perhaps, think that you were
going to make a practice of catching them every night and tying things
round their limbs. A bird whose leg has been pulled once is apt to be
twice shy.



                                   XL
                            THE MAD BABBLER


The seven sisters (_Crateropus canorus_), which occur in every garden in
India, are veritable punchinellos, so much so that schoolboys in the
Punjab always call them “mad birds.” But nature is not content with
having produced these. So readily does the babbler clan lend itself to
the humoresque, that from it has been evolved the large grey babbler
(_Argya malcomi_), a species even more comic than the noisy sisterhood.
This is the _Verri chinda_, the mad babbler of the Telugu-speaking
people. Pull the tail out of one of the seven sisters, and insert in its
place another, half as long again, with the outer feathers of
conspicuously lighter hue than the median ones, then brush up the plumage
of the converted sister, and you will have effected a transmutation of
species, turned a jungle babbler into a large grey one. This latter
species has a wide range, but is capricious in its distribution. It does
not, I believe, occur in the neighbourhood of the city of Madras, but is
abundant in some parts of South India. The habits of this species seem to
vary with the locality. In the south it appears to shun the madding
crowd; in the north it frequents gardens and loves to disport itself in
the middle of the road, and is in no hurry to get out of the way of the
pedestrian or the cyclist. Probably many a large babbler has, owing to
its tameness, succumbed to the motor-car. Bold spirits, such as the
little striped squirrel, which take a positive delight in experiencing a
series of hair-breadth escapes, suffer considerably when a new and
speedier conveyance is introduced into a locality. They have learned by
experience how close to the inch they may with safety allow the ordinary
vehicle to approach before they skedaddle, and it takes time for them to
discover that with a speedier vehicle a larger margin must be allowed.
The little Indian squirrel has not yet learned to gauge the pace of the
motor-car. Recently I counted five of their corpses on the road between
Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, which is much frequented by motor-cars.

The _Sath Bhai_ are usually accounted noisy birds, but they are taciturn
in comparison with their long-tailed cousins. From dewy morn till dusty
eve the large grey babblers vie with the crows in their vocal efforts.
The crows score at the beginning of the day, for they are the first to
awake, or, at any rate, to begin calling. The king crow (_Dicrurus ater_)
is usually said to be the first bird to herald the cheerful dawn. This is
not always so; the voice of _Corvus splendens_ sometimes precedes that of
the king crow. But ere the sun has shown his face the grey babblers join
vociferously in the chorus that fills the welkin. And how shall I
describe the notes of these light-headed birds so as to convey an
adequate idea of them to those who have not heard with their own ears? I
ought to be able to do so, for Allahabad, where I am now stationed, is
the head-quarters of the clan of large grey babblers. _Argya malcomi_ are
to that city what the Macphersons are to Inverness-shire. You cannot
avoid them. The sound of their voices is never out of my ears during the
hours of daylight. Some of them are shouting at me even now. Yet words to
describe what I hear fail me. The only instrument made by man that can
rival the call of the mad babbler is the “rattle” used at our English
Universities, or at any rate at Cambridge, to encourage the oarsmen in
the Lent or May races. It is the delight of two of these birds each to
take up a position at the summit of a tree and for one to commence
calling. He bellows till his breath runs short; then his neighbour takes
up the refrain—I mean, hullabaloo—and, ere number two has ceased, number
one, having recovered breath, chimes in. In addition to this rattle-like
call the grey babblers emit a more mellow note, which is well described
by Jerdon as “Quey, quey, quey, quo, quo,” pronounced gutturally.
Occasionally one of these extraordinary birds bursts out into a volley of
excited squeaks, like the voice of Punch as rendered by the showman at
the seaside. This I take to be a cry of alarm. The bird while uttering it
careers about madly among the foliage of a tree, hopping from bough to
bough with great dexterity.

Mad babblers go about, like the seven sisters, in flocks of ten or
twelve, and feed largely on the ground. Their mode of progression when
not on the wing is by a series of hops. Their movements are very like
those of a thrush on an English lawn—a dash forward for about a yard,
followed by an abrupt halt. They seem to subsist chiefly on insects, but
grain does not come amiss to them. In places where they abound, several
of them are usually to be seen in every field of large millet, each
perched at the summit of a stalk eagerly devouring the ripening grain.
When thus occupied they sometimes forget to call. They are birds of
peculiarly feeble flight. Their tail is long and their wings are somewhat
sketchy, and the result is that they have to flutter these latter
frantically in order to fly at all. But for the fact that they always
keep together in flocks, even at the nesting season, they would fall easy
victims to birds of prey. Thanks to their clannishness and pluck, they
appear to be tolerably immune from attack. Jerdon says: “If the Shikra
sparrow-hawk be thrown at them, they defend each other with great
courage, mobbing the hawk and endeavouring to release the one she has
seized.” Only yesterday I saw a party of about a dozen large grey
babblers attack and drive away a couple of black crows (_Corvus
macrorhynchus_) from a position which the latter had taken up on the
ground. The babblers advanced slowly in a serried mass, while the corbies
remained motionless watching them. When the front rank of the babbler
_posse_ had advanced to within a foot of the crows a halt was called, and
the adversaries contemplated one another in silence for a few seconds.
Then one of the babblers made a lunge at the corby, which caused it to
take to its wings. Immediately afterwards the other crow was similarly
driven away. While the babblers were still celebrating their bloodless
victory with a joyful noise, a tree-pie (_Dendrocitta rufa_) came and
squatted on the ground near them, evidently spoiling for a fight. The
babblers advanced against him, this time in open order. On their approach
the pie lunged at a babbler and caused it to retire. But immediately
another babbler made a feint at the tree-pie, and things were becoming
exciting when something scared away the combatants.

_Argya malcomi_ constructs a nest of the typical babbler type; that is to
say, a somewhat loosely woven cup, which is placed, usually not very high
above the ground, in a tree or bush. Nests are most likely to be found in
the rains. The eggs are a beautiful rich blue—the hue of those of our
familiar English hedge-sparrow (_Accentor modularis_)—which is so
characteristic of babblers.

Like all of us, this happy-go-lucky babbler has its trials and troubles.
It is victimised by that handsome, noisy ruffian, the pied crested cuckoo
(_Coccystis jacobinus_), which deposits in the nest an egg, which is a
first-class counterfeit of that of the babbler. The feckless babblers sit
upon the strange egg until it gives forth its living contents. The
presence of the spurious child does not greatly perturb the babblers. As
we have seen, the flock does not break up even at the nesting season.
Under such circumstances the whole flock probably takes part in
administering to the young cuckoo the wherewithal to fill the inner bird,
so that on the principle “many hands make light work” the extra mouth to
feed is scarcely noticed. But is it an extra mouth? Does the young pied
cuckoo eject its foster-brethren, or do the parents turn out the
legitimate eggs?



                                  XLI
                        THE YELLOW-EYED BABBLER


The babbler community embraces a most heterogeneous collection of birds.
Every Asiatic fowl which does not seem to belong to any other family is
promptly relegated to the Crateropodidæ. Thus it comes to pass that such
dissimilar creatures as the laughing thrushes and the seven sisters find
themselves classed together. Now, taken as a whole, the babbler class is
characterised neither by beauty nor melodiousness. The best-known members
are the widely distributed seven sisters, which in many respects are very
like those human babblers who style themselves Labour Members of
Parliament. They are untidy in appearance and exceedingly noisy; their
voices are uncouth, and they never tire of hearing themselves shout. They
are apt to meddle with affairs that do not concern them. Of course the
_Sath Bhai_ have their good points; so, I suppose, have Labour M.P.’s—at
any rate when they are in their natural habitat. When they come to India
and then try to wield the pen—but it is not of human babblers that I wish
to write, nor of the plainly attired, noisy, avian babblers, for have not
the seven sisters had a double innings already? Even as some Labour
Members of Parliament wear frock-coats and top hats, so are there some
well-dressed members of the babbler clan. The yellow-eyed babblers belong
to this class; and the most widely distributed of these—_Pyctorhis
sinensis_—is the subject of the present discourse. This bird is,
according to Oates, found in every portion of the Indian Empire up to a
height of 5000 feet. As a matter of fact I have not seen it in or near
the city of Madras, but that, perhaps, was not the fault of the bird,
because we have Jerdon’s testimony that he saw it in every part of South
India.

The yellow-eyed babbler is a sprightly little creature not much larger
than a sparrow. Its upper plumage is a rich reddish brown, changing to
cinnamon on some of the quill feathers. The chin, throat, cheeks, and
breast are as white as snow. The conspicuous orange-yellow eye is set off
by a small white eyebrow. The abdomen is cream-coloured. The bill is
black and the legs a curious shade of dull yellow. The tail is 3½ inches
long, at least the median feathers thereof are; the outer ones are barely
two inches in length. This gradation in the size of the caudal feathers
is, of course, visible only when the tail is spread during flight. The
yellow-eyed babblers that inhabit Ceylon differ from those of the
mainland in some unimportant details; hence systematists, with their
usual aptitude for species-making, call the former _Pyctorhis nasalis_ to
distinguish them. In many parts of India the yellow-eyed babbler is quite
a common bird. It is especially addicted to tall grass and hedgerows, and
will occasionally enter a garden that is well provided with bushes. It is
not so clannish as most of its brethren; sometimes a small party of six
or seven feed in company, but more often only solitary birds or pairs are
seen. They hop about in and out of small bushes or on the ground,
industriously seeking out the small beetles and other insects on which
they prey. Every now and then one of these sprightly birds permits itself
a little relaxation in the shape of a sweet melody, which it composes and
pours forth from the summit of a convenient bush. Its more usual note is
described by Jerdon as “a loud sibilant whistle”; it also utters a
variety of chattering sounds, which proclaim it a true babbler.

For an Indian bird it is shy; if it sees that it is being watched it
quickly disappears into cover.

The nest of this species is a veritable work of art. Its usual form is
that of an inverted cone, composed of dried grass, fibres, or other
suitable material very compactly and neatly woven, the whole being
plastered over exteriorly with cobweb, which, as I have said before, is
the cement generally used by bird artisans. The well-built little nursery
is sometimes wedged into a forked branch of a tree; more often it will be
found snugly tucked away in a bush. In the Punjab the nest is very
frequently found attached to the stalks of growing millet, in much the
same way as a reed-warbler’s nest is fastened to reeds. The babbler
weaves its nest round a couple of adjacent stalks, so that these are
worked into its walls. A nest which is thus supported by two stalks is in
shape like the cocked hat worn by a political officer.

The eggs, which may be looked for at any time between May and September,
are very beautiful. To describe them in a few words is not easy, because
they exhibit great diversity in colour and markings. This is one of the
hundreds of facts inconsistent with the orthodox theories of the
significance of colour in organic nature that confront the field
naturalist at every turn. The existence of such facts does not perturb in
the least those theorists who “rule the roost” in the scientific world.
Their attitude is “our word is law—if facts don’t fit in with it, so much
the worse for facts.” As Hume points out, three main types of eggs occur,
and there are many combinations of these types. Of the two types most
often seen, “one has a pinkish-white ground, thickly and finely mottled
and streaked over the whole surface with more or less bright and deep
brick-dust red, so that the ground colour only faintly shows through here
and there as a sort of pale mottling; in the other type the ground colour
is pinkish white somewhat sparingly, but boldly, blotched with irregular
patches and eccentric hieroglyphic-like streaks, often bunting-like in
their character, of bright blood or brick-dust red.”



                                  XLII
                         THE INDIAN SAND-MARTIN


The Indian sand-martin (_Cotile sinensis_) is, I believe, the smallest of
the swallow tribe. So diminutive is he that you could put him in your
watch-pocket, were you so minded, without fear of damaging his plumage.
His charm lies in his littleness and activity rather than in his
colouring, for he belongs not to the dandies. Neat and quiet are the
adjectives that describe his attire. The head, shoulders, and back are
pale brown tinged with grey. The wing-feathers are dark brown. The under
parts are white with a touch of grey on the chin and breast. The sexes
dress alike. This description applies equally well to the sand-martin
(_Cotile riparia_) that nests in sand-pits in England, for the only
differences between this species, which occurs sparingly in India, and
the Indian form are that the former is a little larger and possesses a
dark necklace.

The feeding habits of sand-martins are those of the rest of the swallow
tribe. They live on minute insects which they catch on the wing, not,
after the manner of fly-catchers, by making little aerial sallies from a
perch, but by careering speedily through the air during the greater part
of the day and seizing every insect that they meet.

The Indian sand-martin is a species especially dear to the ornithologist
because it nests in winter, when comparatively few other birds are so
occupied. Speaking generally, the cold weather may be said to be the
“silly season” of the bird world.

There is one drawback to India from the point of view of the
ornithologist, and that is the habit of the great majority of birds of
building their nests at the time when the sun shines forth pitilessly
from a cloudless sky for twelve hours out of the twenty-four, burning up
all vegetation and raising the temperature of the air to furnace heat.
Under such conditions the pleasure of watching the birds is tempered by
the physical discomfort to which the bird-watcher is put. Very pleasant,
then, is it, after months of excessive heat, to awake from sleep one
morning to find that the cool weather has come at last, to feel the
morning air blow fresh against the cheek, and to look out on an earth
enveloped in dense mist. Before one’s horse is saddled, the first rays of
the sun dissipate the mist with almost magic suddenness, and then one
rides forth over dew-bejewelled plains of grass. If on such a morning one
repairs to a sand-pit or a river bank, one is likely there to meet with a
colony of sand-martins, for it is early in the cold weather that those
birds begin to construct their nests, which are holes bored in sand-banks
by the birds themselves.

Like the majority of very small birds, sand-martins show but little fear
of human beings. Tits, white-eyes, warblers, sand-martins, etc., will
come in search of food quite close up to a motionless human being. Mr. W.
H. Hudson relates in his _Birds and Man_ how, when one day he went into
his garden and walked under the trees, there was a great commotion among
the little birds overhead, who mobbed him in the manner they mob an
enemy. He discovered that the reason of this strange behaviour on the
part of the small birds that usually paid no attention to him, was that
he was wearing a striped cloth cap, which the birds appeared to mistake
for a cat. It would almost seem that there is so vast a difference in
size between a tiny bird and a human being that the former fails to
recognise the latter as a living object provided he keeps still. This
does not imply poor eyesight on the part of birds. The minds and eyes of
birds are almost invariably directed on small things. Now, a man bears to
a small bird much the same relation as a horse three hundred hands high
would bear to a man. As regards detail, the eyesight of birds is probably
superior to that of men, for each sand-martin seems never to mistake its
nest, although the entrance to it is merely one of several score of holes
scattered irregularly over the face of the cliff. To the human eye these
holes look all very much alike, but each must possess minute
peculiarities which loom large in the eye of the sand-martin. Whether or
not the above explanation is the true one, the fact remains that a human
being can take up a position within a few feet of the cliff without
disturbing the martins in their nest-building operations.

Some birds, when busy at their nests, work with feverish haste, as though
they were under contract to finish them by a given date. Not so the
sand-martins. With them, the spells of work at the nest would seem to be
mere interludes between their gambols in the air. Each bird appears to
visit its nest every few seconds, but generally it contents itself with
hovering in front of the hole for a fraction of a minute and then dashes
away. Frequently one sees a martin perch at the aperture for a few
seconds without doing any work, and then fly off again. For every visit
made with the object of doing work, ten or twelve seem to be made for the
mere fun of the thing. Sand-martins appear to derive the greatest
pleasure from the contemplation of the growing nursery. If the cliff be
examined carefully, its soft sandy surface will be found to be scored in
many places by marks made by the sharp little claws of the martins as the
birds alight.

A colony of nesting martins presents a very animated appearance. The main
body dash through the air to and fro in front of the cliff, uttering
their feeble twittering, but a few are always at the nest holes, either
resting or working. These latter are constantly reinforced from those on
the wing, and _vice versa_, so that there are two streams of birds, one
flying to the cliff and the other leaving it. Suddenly the whole flock,
including both the resting and the flying birds, will, as if affected
simultaneously by a common influence, fly off _en masse_ and disappear
from sight. But they are never absent for long. At the end of two or
three minutes all are back again.

The birds utter unceasingly, when on the wing, a twittering note, not so
harsh as that of the sparrow, but sufficiently harsh to make it appear
that the birds are squabbling. A certain amount of bickering does take
place among the sand-martins. Every now and again a bird may be observed
chasing its neighbour in a very unneighbourly manner. Occasionally two
will attack one another with open beak, and fall interlocked to the
ground. A prettier sight is that of a couple of martins resting side by
side at the orifice of the nest hole twittering lovingly to one another.
The excavation that leads to the nest is a round passage, less than three
inches in diameter. After proceeding inwards and slightly upwards for
about two feet, it ends in a globular cavity of larger diameter. This is
the nesting chamber, and is lined with grass, fine twigs, feathers, and
the like. Two or three white eggs are laid. Sand-martins probably bring
up more than one brood in the year. Their nests are likely to be found in
all the winter months.

_Cotile sinensis_ is a permanent resident in India and is common in all
the northern portions of the country, but is not often seen so far south
as Madras. It is curious that this species should be abundant in North
India and rare in the south, where insect life is so plentiful. There
must be something in the climatic conditions of South India that suits
neither this nor the other species of sand-martin. Precisely what this is
I cannot conjecture. Birds vary greatly in their adaptability to climate.
Some, such as the hoopoe, appear absolutely indifferent to heat or cold,
moisture or dryness; others, as most wagtails, shun heat. The two common
crows of India afford an excellent illustration of the way in which
allied species differ in their power of adapting themselves to variation
in climate. The grey-necked species (_Corvus splendens_) is found
throughout the length and breadth of the plains of India, but does not
ascend the Himalayas to any great height, and is, in consequence, not
found in Murree Mussoorie or Naini Tal. The corby (_C. macrorhynchus_),
on the other hand, is found in all parts of the plains save in the
Punjab, and ascends the Himalayas up to 10,000 feet or higher, and is the
only crow that occurs in most of the Himalayan hill stations. It is thus
evident that the black species is far less sensitive to cold than the
other, but why does it occur so sparingly in the Punjab? The connection
between climate and the distribution of birds is a fascinating subject
about which very little is known. Possibly in the varying sensitiveness
of birds to climatic conditions lies the secret of some of the phenomena
of bird migration.



                                 XLIII
                      THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG BIRDS


A certain school of naturalists, in which Americans figure largely, lays
great stress on the way in which parent birds and beasts educate their
offspring. According to this school, a young bird is, like a human babe,
born with its mind a blank, and has to be taught by its parents
everything that it is necessary for a bird to know. Just as children
study at various educational establishments, so do young animals attend
what Mr. W. J. Long calls “the school of the woods.” “After many years of
watching animals in their native haunts,” he writes, “I am convinced that
instinct conveys a much smaller part than we have supposed; that an
animal’s success or failure in the ceaseless struggle for life depends,
not upon instinct, but upon the kind of training which the animal
receives from its mother.” In short, but for its parents, a young bird
would never learn to find its food, to fly, or sing, or build a nest.

This theory appears to have met with wide acceptance, chiefly because it
brings animals into line with human beings. It is but natural for us
humans to put anthropomorphic interpretations on the actions of animals.
Careless observation seems to justify us in so doing. While not denying
that birds do spend much time and labour in teaching their young, I am of
opinion that the lessons taught by them are comparatively unimportant,
that their teachings are merely supplementary to the instinct, the
inherited education, which is latent in young birds at birth, and
displays itself as they increase in size, just as intelligence develops
in growing human beings.

By the mere observation of birds and beasts in their natural state it is
not easy to ascertain how far the progress made by young ones is the
growth of their inborn instincts, and how far it is the result of
parental instruction.

It is the failure to appreciate the magnitude of this difficulty that
vitiates the teachings of Mr. Long and the school to which he belongs. We
can gauge the value of the pedagogic efforts of parent animals only by
actual experiment, by removing young birds from parental influence and
noticing how far that which we may term their education progresses in the
absence of the mother and father.

The first and foremost of the things which a young bird must know is how
to find its food. This is an accomplishment which it speedily acquires
without any teaching. Young ducklings hatched under a barndoor hen take
to the water of their own accord, and soon discover how to use their
sieve-like bills.

I read some time ago a most interesting account of two young American
ospreys, which Mr. E. H. Baynes took from the nest at an early age.
Having secured them, he placed them in an artificial nest which he had
made for them. The parents did not succeed in finding them out, the young
birds had therefore to face the struggle for existence without a mentor.
“For several days,” writes Mr. Baynes, “they spent most of their time
lying still, with necks extended and heads prone on the floor of the
nest.” At this stage they were, of course, unable to fly. It was not
until they were five or six weeks old that the young ospreys entrusted
themselves to their wings, and at the first attempt they, or rather one
of them, performed an unbroken flight of several miles! After they had
learned to use their wings, the ospreys were allowed full liberty,
nevertheless they continued to remain in the neighbourhood of Mr.
Baynes’s house, and became quite domesticated. When taken away, they
returned like homing pigeons. Even as they had made the discovery that
they could fly, so did they, one day, find out that they could catch
fish. Mr. Baynes thus describes the earliest attempt of one of the young
birds: “His tactics were similar to those employed by old and experienced
ospreys, but the execution was clumsy. After sailing over the pond for a
few minutes, he evidently caught sight of a fish, for he paused, flapped
his wings to steady himself, and then dropped into the water. But it was
the attempt of a tyro, and of course the fish escaped. The hawk
disappeared, and when he came to the surface he struggled vainly to rise
from the water. Then he seemed to give it up.” At this, Mr. Baynes was
about to jump into the water in order to rescue him; however, “the next
moment he made a mighty effort, arose dripping wet, and flew to his old
roost on the chimney, where he flapped his wings and spread them out to
dry in the sun.” Far from being deterred by this experience, he repeated
the operation, and ere long became an expert fisher.

According to the school to which Mr. Long belongs, young birds learn
their song from their parents, just as young children learn how to talk.
In the words of Barrington, “Notes in birds are no more innate than
language is in man, but depend entirely upon the master under which they
are bred, as far as their organs will enable them to imitate the sounds
which they have frequent opportunities of hearing.”

Similarly Michelet writes: “Nothing is more complex than the education of
certain singing birds. The perseverance of the father, the docility of
the young, are worthy of all admiration.” There can be no doubt that
young birds are very imitative. The young of the koel—an Indian parasitic
cuckoo—make ludicrous attempts to caw in imitation of the notes of their
corvine foster-parents; but later, when the spring comes, they pour forth
the very different notes of their species. In the same way the young of
the common cuckoo, no matter by what species they are reared, all cry
“cuckoo” when they come of age. Ducklings, pheasants, and partridges,
hatched under the domestic hen, and fowls reared by turkeys, have the
calls peculiar to their species. It may, of course, be urged that these
learn their cries from others of their own kind. Here again, then, actual
experiment is necessary to determine which view is correct. Such
experiments were performed by Mr. John Blackwall as long ago as 1823. He
writes:—

“I placed the eggs of a redbreast in the nest of a chaffinch, and removed
the eggs of the chaffinch to that of the redbreast, conceiving that, if I
was fortunate in rearing the young, I should, by this exchange, ensure an
unexceptional experiment, the result of which must be deemed perfectly
conclusive by all parties. In process of time these eggs were hatched,
and I had the satisfaction to find that the young birds had their
appropriate chirps.

“When ten days old they were taken from their nests, and were brought up
by hand, immediately under my own inspection, especial care being taken
to remove them to a distance from whatever was likely to influence their
notes. At this period an unfortunate circumstance, which it is needless
to relate, destroyed all these birds except two (a fine cock redbreast
and a hen chaffinch), which, at the expiration of twenty-one days from
the time they were hatched, commenced the calls peculiar to their
species. This was an important point gained, as it evidently proved that
the calls of birds, at least, are instinctive, and that, at this early
age, ten days are not sufficient to enable nestlings to acquire even the
calls of those under which they are bred. . . . Shortly after, the
redbreast began to record (i.e. to attempt to sing), but in so low a tone
that it was scarcely possible to trace the rudiments of its future song
in those early attempts. As it gained strength and confidence, however,
its native notes became very apparent, and they continued to improve in
tone till the termination of July, when it commenced moulting. . . . By
the beginning of October . . . it began to execute its song in a manner
calculated to remove every doubt as to its being that of the redbreast,
had any such previously existed.” Mr. Long lays great stress on the
manner in which parents inculcate into their young fear of enemies. Fear,
he asserts, is not instinctive; young creatures, if found before they
have been taught to fear, are not alarmed at the sight of man. I admit
that very young creatures are not afraid of foes, and that, later, they
do display fear, but I assert that this change is not the result of
teaching, that it is the mere development of an inborn instinct which
does not show itself until the young are some days old, because there is
no necessity for it in the earliest stages of the existence of a young
bird.

“Some months ago one of my _chaprassis_ brought me a couple of baby
red-vented bulbuls which had fallen out of a nest. They were unable to
feed themselves, and were probably less than a week old. One met with an
early death, and the survivor was kept in a cage. One day, while I was
writing in my study, this young bulbul began scolding in a way that all
bulbuls do when alarmed. On looking round, I discovered that a
_chaprassi_ had silently entered the room with a shikra on his wrist. The
shikra is a kind of sparrow-hawk, common in India. That particular
individual was being trained to fly at quail. It had never before been
brought to my bungalow, nor is it likely that the captive bulbul, whose
cage was placed in a small, enclosed verandah, had ever set eyes upon a
shikra. It had left the nest before it was of an age at which it could
learn anything from its parents. Its display of fear and its alarm-call
were purely instinctive. Its inherited memory must have caused it to
behave as it did. Speaking figuratively, its ancestors learned by
experience that the shikra is a dangerous bird—a bird to be feared—and
this experience has been inherited. To express the matter in more exact
language, this inherited fear of the shikra is the product of natural
selection. For generations those bulbuls who did not fear and avoid the
shikra fell victims to it, while the more cautious ones survived and
their descendants inherited this characteristic.

“Of all the arts practised by birds none is so wonderful as that of
nest-building. If it can be demonstrated (as I believe it can) that this
art is innate in a bird, then there is no difficulty in believing that
all the other arts practised by the feathered folk are innate.

“Michelet boldly asserts that a bird has to learn how to build a nest
precisely as a schoolboy has to learn arithmetic or algebra. By way of
proof, he quotes the case of his canary—Jonquille. “It must be stated at
the outset,” he writes, “that Jonquille was born in a cage, and had not
seen how nests were made. As soon as I saw her disturbed, and became
aware of her approaching maternity, I frequently opened her door and
allowed her freedom to collect in the room the materials of the bed the
little one would stand in need of. She gathered them up, indeed, but
without knowing how to employ them. She put them together and stored them
in a corner of the cage. . . . I gave her the nest ready made—at least,
the little basket that forms the framework of the walls of the structure.
Then she made the mattress and felted the interior coating, but in a very
indifferent manner.”

Michelet construes these facts as proof that the art of nest-building is
not innate in birds, but has to be learned. As a matter of fact they
prove exactly the opposite. The Frenchman’s reasoning is typical of that
of those persons who make their facts fit in with their theories.
Michelet is blinded by his preconceived notions. He is unable to see
things which should be apparent to all. If the art of nest-building is
not innate, why did the canary fly about the room collecting the
necessary materials and heap them in a corner of the cage? That she did
not go so far as to build a nest is easily explained by the fact that she
was not given a suitable site for it, that the necessary foundation of
branches was not provided for her. As well might one say that a
bricklayer did not know his trade because he failed to build a wall on
the surface of the sea. When given the framework, Michelet’s untaught
canary lost no time in lining it. The alleged act that the lining was not
well done may be explained in many ways. Michelet may have imagined this,
or the materials provided may not have been altogether suitable;
moreover, Jonquille must have worked in haste, as the framework was
presumably not given until the bird had collected all the material.
Again, the nest was the first that that particular canary had built.
Birds, like human beings, learn to profit by experience. Nest-building is
an instinctive art, but intelligence may step in and aid blind instinct.

In this connection it is necessary to bear in mind that the nest is
completed long before the young birds come out of the egg; that they
leave, or are driven away from, the parents before the next nest-building
season. If young birds are taught nest-building, who teaches them?

Proof of the instinctiveness of nest-building might be multiplied
indefinitely. There are on record scores of instances of birds selecting
impossible sites for their nests; these are cases of instinct that has
gone astray. Again, the persistent way in which martins will rebuild, or
attempt to rebuild, nests that are destroyed, shows to what an extent
nest-construction is a matter of instinct. One more concrete piece of
evidence must suffice. My friend, Captain Perreau, has, among other birds
in his aviary at Bukloh, in the Himalayas, some grey-headed love-birds.
This species has the peculiar habit of lining the nest with strips of
bark, which the hen carries up to the nest amongst the feathers of the
back. Captain Perreau started with two cock love-birds and one hen, and
this last had the peculiarity of not carrying up the lining to her nest
in the orthodox way; nevertheless, her daughter, when she took unto
herself a husband, used to carry up bark and grass to her nest in the
orthodox manner. “Why did this hen do this?” Captain Perreau asks. “Her
mother could not have taught her. I have no other true love-birds; and my
blue-crowned hanging parrakeets, or rather the hens, certainly do carry
up to the nesting-hole bark, etc., but they carry it, not in the back,
but tucked in between the feathers of the neck and breast.” This neat
method of conveying material to the nest is, therefore, certainly an
instinctive act, as is almost every other operation connected with
nest-building.

To sum up. The parental teaching forms a far less important factor in the
education of birds than many naturalists have been led by careless
observation to believe. Birds may be said to be born educated in the
sense that poets are born, not made. In each case education puts on the
finishing touches to the handiwork of nature.



                                  XLIV
                            BIRDS AT SUNSET


It is refreshing to watch the birds at the sunset hour. The fowls of the
air are then full to overflowing of healthy activity.

In the garden the magpie-robin (_Copsychus saularis_), daintily clothed
in black and white, vigorously pours forth his joyous song from some
leafy bough. From the thicket issue the sharp notes of the tailor-bird
(_Orthotomus sutorius_), the noisy chatter of the seven sisters
(_Crateropus_), and the tinkling melody of the bulbul.

The king crows (_Dicrurus ater_) are alternately catching insects on the
wing and giving vent to their superfluous energy in the form of cheerful
notes. Upon the lawn the perky, neatly-built mynas are chasing
grasshoppers with relentless activity; nimble wagtails are accounting for
numbers of the smaller insects, while the showy-crested hoopoes are
eagerly extracting grubs and other good things from the earth by means of
their long forceps-like bill. All, especially the hoopoes, have the air
of birds racing against time. On that part of the lawn which the _malli_
is flooding to preserve its greenness the crows are thoroughly enjoying
their evening bath.

On the sandy path is a company of green bee-eaters (_Merops viridis_)
engaged in dust-bath operations.

Overhead the swifts—our little land albatrosses—are dashing hither and
thither at full speed, revelling in the abundant insect life called forth
by the fading light, and making the welkin ring with their “shivering
screams.” Flying along with the swifts are some sand-martins (_Cotile
sinensis_), easily distinguishable by their slower and more laboured
motion.

High above the sphere of action of the swifts and martins are numbers of
kites and vultures, sailing in circles on their quest for the wherewithal
to satisfy their insatiable appetite.

As the darkness begins to gather these birds, one and all, put more
energy into their movements. Each seems to be aware of the rapid approach
of the night when work must cease, and each appears fully determined not
to lose a moment of the precious daylight.

While the sun is still well above the horizon great flocks of mynas sweep
swiftly overhead towards the dense clump of bamboo bushes in which they
will spend the night. They are joined by other species of starling.
Before settling among the bamboos they perch in trees hard by, and make a
joyful noise; every now and then some of the throng take to their wings
and perform, like trained soldiers, a series of rapid evolutions. When at
length the gloom compels them reluctantly to desist from their vigorous
exercise, and to disappear into the bamboo clump, they give out energy in
the form of loud clamour.

From the grove of tall trees yonder, where thousands of crows will spend
the hours of darkness, an even greater noise issues. Some twenty minutes
before the sun dips below the horizon the advance guard of the corvi
arrives; then, for the succeeding quarter-hour, continuous streams of
crows come pouring in from east and west, from north and south.

Meanwhile the sparrows have been foregathering in their hundreds in the
low shrubs that fringe the edge of the garden. And what a dissonance
issues from those bushes!

Truly phenomenal is the activity of the birds at eventide. It is
especially marked in India, where during the middle of the day the sun
nearly always shines fierce and hot, so that the birds are glad to enjoy
a siesta in the grateful shade. From this they emerge like giants
refreshed.

This liveliness of the feathered folk at sunset is no small matter. It is
one of the most pleasing facts of natural history. It shows how immensely
birds enjoy life. It proves how healthy, how full of energy they are, how
they, to speak figuratively, live within their incomes.

Contrast such scenes as those described above with what may be seen in
the City of London at six o’clock on a weekday. A multitude of pale,
anxious, worn-looking men, and thin, tired, haggard women pursue with
listless steps their homeward way. Compared with the lot of these, how
happy is that of the birds.

Birds are, like children, loath to go to bed. They feel no weariness, and
so great is their enjoyment of life, that they are almost sorry when the
sun disappears for a little.

Jules Michelet, than whom no more wrong-headed naturalist ever lived,
declares that birds dread the night. “Heavy,” he writes, “for all
creatures is the gloom of evening. . . . Night is equally terrible for
the birds. . . . What monsters it conceals, what frightful chances for
the bird lurk in its obscurity. Its nocturnal foes have this
characteristic in common—their approach is noiseless. The screech-owl
flies with a silent wing, as if wrapped in tow. The weasel insinuates its
long body into the nest without disturbing a leaf. The eager polecat,
athirst for the warm life-blood, is so rapid that in a moment it bleeds
both parents and progeny, and slaughters a whole family.

“It seems that the bird, when it has little ones, enjoys a second sight
for these dangers. It has to protect a family far more feeble and more
helpless than that of the quadruped, whose young can walk as soon as
born. But how protect them? It can do nothing but remain at its post and
die; it cannot fly away, for its love has broken its wings. All night the
narrow entry of the nest is guarded by the father, who sinks with
fatigue, and opposes danger with feeble beak and shaking head. What will
this avail if the enormous jaw of the serpent suddenly appears, or the
horrible eye of the bird of death, immeasurably enlarged by fear?”

Greater nonsense than this was never penned outside a political pamphlet.
Birds do not, as Michelet seems to imagine, go to sleep quaking with
terror. They know not the meaning of the word death, nor have they any
superstitious fears of ghosts and goblins.

Birds with young sleep the sleep of a man without a single care.

At other times birds do not roost in solitude, but gather together in
great companies, the members of which are as jolly as the young folks at
a supper party after the theatre. The happiness of the fowls of the air
at the sunset hour is almost riotous.

Darkness, however, exercises a soothing influence over them. A feeling of
sleepiness steals over them, and they then doubtless experience the
luxurious sensation of tiredness which we human beings feel after a day
spent in the open air; for, although they know it not, their muscles are
tired as the result of the activity of the day.

Their sweet slumbers completely refresh them. Before dawn they are awake
again, and are up and about waiting for it to grow sufficiently light to
enable them to resume the interrupted pleasures of the previous day.


With the exception of “The Education of Young Birds,” which came out in
_The Albany Review_, the chapters which compose this book appeared in one
or other of the following Indian periodicals: _The Madras Mail_, _The
Times of India_, _The Indian Daily Telegraph_, _The Indian Field_, _The
Indian Forester_.

The author begs to tender his thanks to the several editors for
permission to reproduce this collection of essays.



                                GLOSSARY


_Bandobast._ Arrangement.

_Bhimraj._ The racket-tailed drongo (_Dissemurus paradiseus_).

_Chabutra._ A masonry platform, erected outside the bungalow in the
compound on which people sit in the evenings during the hot weather.

_Chamar._ The name of a low caste of Indians who skin animals and tan
their skin.

_Chaprassi._ Lit., a badge-wearer. A servant who runs messages.

_Chik._ A number of thin pieces of bamboo strung together to form a
curtain. _Chiks_ are usually hung in front of doors and windows in India
with the object of keeping out insects, but not air.

_Chota hazri._ Early morning tea.

_Dak bungalow._ Government rest-house.

_Jhil._ A lake or any natural depression which is filled with rain water
all the year round or only at certain seasons.

_Kankar._ Lumps of limestone with which roads are metalled in Northern
India.

_Koi Hai._ Lit., Is anyone there? The expression used in India to summon
a servant, bells being non-existent in that country.

_Lathi._ A club or long stick often studded with nails to make it a more
formidable weapon.

_Madar plant._ _Calotropis gigantea._

_Mohwa._ _Bassia latifolia._

_Murghi._ A fowl or chicken.

_Nullah._ A ravine.

_Ryot._ A cultivator or small farmer.

_Sahib._ Sir, or a gentleman. A term used to denote a European.

_Sath Bhai._ Any of the various species of Crateropus babblers.

_Shikari._ One who goes out shooting or hunting.

_Swadeshi._ A jingoistic term meaning Indian.

_Terai._ Lit., moist land. A low-lying tract of land running along the
foot of the Himalayas.

_Tope._ A grove of trees.

_Topi._ A sun-helmet.



                                 INDEX


                                   A
  _Ablak_, 197
  _Accentor modularis_, 231
  _Accipiter nisus_, 39
  _Acridotheres fuscus_, 190
  _— tristis_, 41, 76, 171, 198
  Actions of animals, interpretation of, 68-71
  Adam, Mr. R. M., 20
  Adaptability to climate of birds, 241
  Adjutant, 5, 6
  _Æsalon regulus_, 42
  Aitken, Mr. Benjamin, 36, 48
  Alphéraky, 151
  _Alseonax latirostris_, 179
  Amadavat, 97
  _Ammomanes_, 203
  _— phœnicura_, 207
  _Anas anser_, 150
  Anderson, Mr. A., 140, 141, 159, 207, 223
  _Anser cinereus_, 150
  _— ferus_, 150
  _— rubirostris_, 151
  _Arachnechthra asiatica_, 176
  _— lotenia_, 175
  _Ardeola grayii_, 111
  _Argya caudata_, 69
  _— malcomi_, 227, 229, 231
  Arnold, Sir Edwin, 220
  _Astur badius_, 42
  _— palabarius_, 38
  _Athene brama_, 73, 209


                                    B
  Babbler, 14, 117, 190, 220-6
  —, brotherhoods, 220-6
  —, common, 69, 70, 214-9
  —, large grey, 227-32
  —, mad, 227-32
  —, yellow-eyed, 176, 233-6
  Baker, Mr. E. C. Stuart, 119
  Ball, Mr., 142
  Bank myna, 210
  Barbet, 116
  Barrington, 246
  Bates, 183
  Bateson, 123
  Baynes, Mr. E. H., 245, 246
  Bee-eater, little green, 4, 33, 51-5, 184, 254
  Bennet, 98
  _Bhairi_, 41
  Bhimraj, 8, 126, 129
  Bird of the open plain, 202-7
  _Birds and Man_, 146, 239
  _Bird Watching_, 71
  Blackbird, 33
  Blackwall, Mr. John, 247
  Blanford, Dr., 8, 10, 14, 26, 84, 85, 95, 156
  Bligh, 135
  “Blue jay,” 4, 75, 171
  _Bombax malabaricum_, 208
  _Bombay Ducks_, 133
  _Brachypternus aurantius_, 74
  Brahminy duck, 149, 150, 153
  — myna, 16
  Brain-fever bird, 223
  _Bubulcus coromandus_, 189
  Bulbul, 212, 248, 249, 253
  —, green, 116-20
  Burroughs, John, 4, 46
  _Butastur teesa_, 32-6
  Butcher bird, 34, 45-50
  Butler, 143
  Butler, Colonel, 20, 113
  Buzzard, 47
  —, white-eyed, 32-6


                                    C
  Canary, 249, 250, 251
  _Casarca rutila_, 149
  Casque, 5
  Cement of bird masons, 171-7
  _Centropus intermedius_, 14
  _— maximus_, 14
  _— phasianus_, 11
  _— rufipennis_, 14, 111
  _— sinensis_, 10
  _Cercomela fusca_, 16
  _— melanura_, 18
  Chaffinch, 247
  Chat, brown rock-, 16-20
  _Chelidon urbica_, 173
  Chilian wigeon, 109
  Chinkara, 42
  _Chloropsis_, 117, 118, 120
  _— Jerdoni_, 118
  —, Jerdon’s, 118
  —, Malabar, 118
  _— malabarica_, 118
  _Cholum_ bird, 192
  Clare, 24
  Climate, adaptability of birds to, 241
  Clubs, bird, 223
  Cobra, 89-93
  Cobweb, 174-7
  _Coccystis jacobinus_, 231
  Colouration, protective, 121, 142
  —, warning, 79, 204
  Coot, 78-83
  —, purple, 84-8
  Coppersmith, 74, 212, 213
  _Copsychus saularis_, 253
  _Coracias indica_, 75, 171
  Corby, 211, 212, 242
  Cormorant, 40, 121, 125
  Corporate action, 195
  _Corvus macrorhynchus_, 211, 230, 242
  _— splendens_, 4, 118, 211, 228, 242
  _Cotile riparia_, 237
  _— sinensis_, 237, 241, 254
  Cotton tree, birds in the, 208-13
  Coucal, 10, 11, 12, 13, 91
  —, Southern Chinese, 13
  Cow-bird, 9
  Cowper, 23, 106
  Crab, 113
  Crane, 144, 167
  _Crateropus canorus_, 215, 221, 253
  Crocodile, 94
  _Crotalaria juncea_, 141
  Crow, 14, 24, 25, 26, 41, 42, 64, 65, 107, 112, 136, 165, 168, 169,
          171, 189, 211, 212, 228, 230, 242, 255
  Crow-pheasant, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 91, 111
  Cuckoo, 9-15, 161, 171
  —, lark-heeled, 10
  —, pied crested, 231, 232
  — -shrike, 190
  —, sirkeer, 14
  _Culicapa ceylonensis_, 179
  Cunningham, Colonel, 10, 26, 92, 197, 200, 222
  _Cygnus olor_, 99-103
  _Cyornis superciliaris_, 181
  _Cyornis tickelli_, 181


                                    D
  Darwin, 131, 157, 158, 183
  _Dendrocitta rufa_, 211, 231
  Devil bird, 164
  De Vries, 122
  _Dhouli_, 128
  _Dichoceros bicornis_, 5
  _Dicrurus ater_, 126, 172, 189, 200, 228, 253
  _— cærulescens_, 127, 128
  _— leucopygialis_, 127, 128
  Diodorus Siculus, 98
  Dirt bird, 220
  _Dissemurus paradiseus_, 126
  Donald, Mr. C. H., 34, 35
  Dove, 33, 171
  —, little brown, 200
  —, red turtle, 16
  Drongo, large racket-tailed, 126
  —, melodious, 126-31
  —, white-bellied, 126-31
  —, white-vented, 126-31


                                    E
  Eagle, 32, 45, 46, 47
  Ear of owl, 61
  Education of birds, 243-52
  Egret, 189
  “Eha,” 11, 78, 117, 212, 217
  _Epeira diadema_, 175
  Evans, Mr., 58
  Eyes of owl, 58-60
  Eyesight of birds, 239


                                    F
  Falcon, 33, 42, 45
  Falcon, peregrine, 41, 42
  Falconry, 37-44
  _Falco peregrinus_, 41
  Farash, at the sign of the, 72-7
  Fayrer, Captain, 133
  Finch-lark, 202-7
  —, ashy-crowned, 202-7
  —, rufous-tailed, 207
  Finn, Mr. Frank, 13, 14, 26, 80, 85, 119, 142, 167, 198
  Fly-catcher, 45, 46, 185, 237
  —, black and orange, 181
  —, brown, 179
  —, European red-breasted, 180
  —, fan-tailed, 8, 174, 179, 182
  —, grey-headed, 179
  —, Indian, 178-83
  — —, red-breasted, 180
  —, Nilgiri blue, 181
  —, paradise, 179, 181, 182
  —, Tickell’s blue, 181
  —, verditer, 181
  —, white-browed blue, 181
  Fowler, Mr. Warde, 28
  _Franklinia buchanani_, 174


                                    G
  Gamecocks, 163
  _Garden and Aviary Birds of India_, 119
  _Gazella bennetti_, 42
  Gecko, 186
  Glead, 24, 27
  _Golabi maina_, 192
  Goldfinch, 33
  Goose, 143-53
  —, barred-headed, 151, 153
  —, grey lag, 150, 151
  Goshawk, 38, 40, 41
  Grackle, 65
  Green birds, 116
  Green bulbul, 116-20
  — pigeon, 116
  _Grus antigone_, 144
  Gull, 104-9, 113


                                    H
  _Handbook on the Management of Animals in Captivity_, 98
  Hatchell, Mr. D. G., 135
  Hawk, 33, 34, 37, 45
  —, dark-eyed, 38
  —, long-winged, 38
  —, short-winged, 38
  —, yellow-eyed, 38
  — -cuckoo, 221, 223
  — -eagle, 42
  Hawking, 37-44
  Hedge-sparrow, 231
  Henderson, Dr., 135
  Herbert, 143
  Heron, 166, 167, 171
  —, night, 165-70
  _Herpestes griseus_, 96
  _— ichneumon_, 98
  _— mungo_, 96
  _Hierococcyx varius_, 221, 223
  _Hirundo rustica_, 173
  _— smithii_, 173
  Hodgson, 216
  Honeysucker, Loten’s, 175
  Hooper swan, 103
  Hoopoe, 43, 76, 241, 253
  _Hoplopterus ventralis_, 111
  Hornbill, great, 5, 6, 174
  Hôtel des Oiseaux, 73, 77
  _How to Know the Indian Waders_, 167
  Hudson, Mr. W. H., 3, 119, 146, 239
  Hume, 12, 13, 19, 87, 136, 159, 174, 206, 207, 223, 236
  Hurdis, 22, 23
  Hutton, 139
  _Hydrochelidon hybrida_, 112


                                    I
  Ichneumon, 94
  Injury-feigning instinct, 70-1
  Insect hunters, 184-91
  Instinct, nest-building, 249-50


                                    J
  Javan peafowl, 154
  Jefferies, Richard, 209
  Jerdon, 13, 16, 26, 84, 96, 117, 128, 134, 135, 154, 198, 203, 229,
          230, 234, 235
  Jesse, 17
  Johnston, Sir H., 117
  _Jowaree_ bird, 192, 195


                                    K
  King crow, 4, 25, 33, 126-31, 184, 189, 190, 228, 253
  Kingfisher, white-breasted, 4
  Kingsley, Charles, 7
  Kipling, Lockwood, 6
  Kite, 21-7, 105, 106, 254
  Kites of the sea, 104-9


                                    L
  _Lanius erythronotus_, 48-50
  _— lahtora_, 48, 50
  _— vittatus_, 50
  Larders, shrikes’, 49
  Lark, 33
  Legge, 87, 127, 129, 130, 138
  _Leptoptilus dubius_, 5
  Lilford, Lord, 109
  Linnæus, 216
  Linnet, 33
  Livy, 143
  Lizard, 186-8
  Long, Mr. W. J., 243, 246, 248
  Loten’s honeysucker, 175
  Love-bird, grey-headed, 251, 252


                                    M
  Macaulay, 24
  _Madar_ plant, 141
  Magpie-robin, 8, 253
  Martin, Indian Sand-, 237-42
  McMaster, 96, 97
  _Mellivora indica_, 205
  Merlin, 42, 43
  _Merops viridis_, 51-5, 254
  Michelet, 46, 47, 246, 249, 256, 257
  _Milvus govinda_, 21
  Mimicry, 11, 183
  Minivet, 190
  _Motacilla alba_, 31
  _— borealis_, 31
  _— impersonata_, 31
  _— maderaspatensis_, 29
  _— melanope_, 31
  Muller, 183
  Multiplication, checks on, 131
  Mungoose, 94-8
  Myna, 41, 64, 76, 184, 189, 198, 200, 254
  — bank, 190, 210
  — Brahminy, 16, 210
  — hill, 65


                                    N
  _Naia haje_, 91
  _— tripudians_, 89, 91
  Natural selection, 11, 59, 71, 79-82, 93, 122, 131, 163, 181, 205
  _Naurang_, 133
  _Neophron ginginianus_, 5
  _— percnopterus_, 22
  Nicholson, 90
  Night heron, 165-70
  _Nuni-budi-gadu_, 164
  Nuthatch, chestnut-bellied, 173, 190
  _Nycticorax griseus_, 165


                                    O
  Oates, 8, 16, 17, 117, 127, 234
  _Ochromela nigrirufa_, 181
  _Œnopopelia tranquebarica_, 16
  Oriole, 172
  _Oriolus kundoo_, 172
  “Ornament of the Forest,” 118
  _Ornithological and other Oddities_, 13
  _Orthotomus sutorius_, 7, 16, 176, 253
  Ospreys, American, 245, 246
  Owen, Miss J. A., 80
  Owlet, spotted, 73, 74, 75, 209
  Owls, 36-61, 130


                                    P
  Paddy bird, 111
  _Palæornis torquatus_, 73, 74
  Parker, Mr. H., 87
  Parrot, green, 73, 74
  Partridge, 70
  _Pastor roseus_, 192-6, 209
  _Pavo cristatus_, 154
  _— muticus_, 154
  Peacock, 4, 40, 41, 154-9
  Perreau, Captain, 251
  Pettifoggers, ornithological, 216
  _Phalacocorax carbo_, 122, 123
  _— fuscicollis_, 123
  _— javanicus_, 123
  Pharaoh’s chicken, 22
  — rat, 98
  Pharoe’s mouse, 98
  Pheasant, Griff’s, 10
  —, monal, 4
  Pitta, the Indian, 132, 136
  — _brachyura_, 132
  Pliny, 94, 143
  _Ploceus baya_, 7, 172
  Plover, 171
  —, spur-winged, 111
  Polecat, 256
  Porphyrio, the beautiful, 84-8
  — _poliocephalus_, 85
  — _veterum_, 86
  Poulton, Professor, 92
  _Prinia inornata_, 7, 172
  Priority, rule, 216
  Protective colouration, 121, 142
  Pugnacity, 142
  _Pyctorhis nasalis_, 234
  _— sinensis_, 176, 234
  _Pyrrhulauda grisea_, 202-7


                                    Q
  Quail, 39


                                    R
  Rat-bird, 69
  Ratel, Indian, 205
  Redbreast, 247
  Redstart, Indian, 160-4
  _Rhamnus_, 139
  _Rhipidura albifrontata_, 174
  _Rynchope albicollis_, 112
  Robin, 46, 47
  Robin, Indian, 204
  Robinson, Kay, 101
  —, Phil, 3, 33, 57, 143
  Roller, 33, 75, 171
  Rook, 107, 108
  Roosting of bee-eaters, 51-5


                                    S
  Salvadori, 150
  Sand-martin, 237, 254
  — —, Indian, 237-42
  Sandpiper, common, 111, 114
  Sanyal, Babu R. P., 98
  _Sath Bhai_, 220, 228, 233
  Scavengers, bird, 104, 105
  — -in-waiting, 21-7
  _Sciurus palmarum_, 62-7, 73
  Screech owl, 256
  Seagull, 104-9
  Selection, natural, 11, 59, 71, 79-82, 93, 122, 131, 163, 181, 205
  Selection, sexual, 157, 158, 163
  Selous, Edmund, 71, 195, 196, 209
  Selous, F. C., 60
  “Seven Sisters,” 15, 117, 220, 233
  Sexual dimorphism, 182
  — selection, 157, 158, 163
  Shama, 8
  Shikra, 42, 97, 230, 248, 249
  Shrike, 34, 45-50
  —, bay-backed, 49, 50
  —, Indian grey, 48-50
  —, rufous-backed, 48-50
  _Siphia hyperythra_, 180
  _— parva_, 180
  _Sirkeer_ cuckoo, 14
  _Sitta castaneiventris_, 173
  Skimmer, Indian, 112
  Skunk, 204, 205
  _Some Indian Friends and Acquaintances_, 10
  Songbirds, 7
  _Songs of Birds, The_, 58
  “Son of the marshes,” 108
  Sparrow, 255
  — of Scripture, 18
  — -hawk, 39, 40, 41, 218
  Spectacle bird, 138
  _Speculum Mundi_, 103
  Spider, common garden, 175
  _Spizætus nepalensis_, 42
  Squirrel, Indian striped, 62, 67, 73, 212, 228
  Stag beetle, 186
  Starling, 8, 9
  —, pied, 197-201
  —, rosy, 192-6, 209
  _Sterna bergii_, 113
  _— melanogaster_, 112
  _— seena_, 112
  Sterndale, 95
  _Sturnopastor contra_, 197, 201
  _— superciliaris_, 199
  Stolzman, 158
  _Stoparola albicaudata_, 181
  _— melanops_, 181
  Stork, 166
  Struggle for existence, 81
  Sunbird, 4, 8, 175
  Sunset, birds at, 253-7
  _Swadeshi_ bird, 154-9
  Swallow, 45, 173
  —, wire-tailed, 173
  Swamp-hen, 84
  Swan, 99-103
  Swan, black, 103
  —, mute, 99-102
  Swift, 45, 173, 184, 190, 254


                                    T
  _Taccocua leschenaulti_, 14
  Tailor bird, 7, 16, 176
  _Tamarix articulata_, 72
  _Teesa_, the, 32-6
  _Terpsiphone_, 179
  Tern, 110-15
  —, black-bellied, 112
  —, Indian river, 112
  —, large crested, 113
  —, whiskered, 112
  Terry, Captain H., 124
  _Thamnobia cambaiensis_, 204
  Thayer, Mr., 204
  _The Evening Telegraph_, 107
  _The Irish Naturalist_, 109
  _The Yorkshire Gazette_, 145
  _Thir-thira_, 164
  Thompson, Mr. Seton, 121
  Thrush, 33, 230
  —, laughing, 190
  Thurston, Mr. Edgar, 85
  Tickell, 128
  _Tillyer_, 192
  _Temenuchus pagodarum_, 16
  Tit, 190, 238
  Toad, 185, 186
  Topsell, 94
  _Totanus hypoleucus_, 111
  _Tower Menagerie_, 98
  Tree-creeper, 190
  Tree-pie, Indian, 211, 231
  Tristram, Canon, 86
  _Turtur cambayensis_, 200


                                    U
  Ugly ducklings, 214-19
  _Upupa indica_, 76


                                    V
  Verditer flycatcher, 181, 182
  _Verri chinda_, 227
  Vulture, 105, 254
  —, scavenger, 5


                                    W
  Wagtail, 241
  —, grey, 31
  —, grey-headed, 31
  —, masked, 31
  —, pied, 29, 30
  —, white, 31
  Wagtails, Indian, 28-31
  Wallace, 84, 158, 183
  Wallaceism, 81
  Warbler, 239
  Warning colouration, 79, 204
  Watson, Mr. H. E., 102
  Weaver-bird, 7, 172
  White ants, 188
  White-browed fantail flycatcher, 174
  White-eye, Indian, 8, 137-42, 176, 190, 238
  Williams, Mr. W. J., 109
  Woodpecker, 190
  Wren-warbler, 7, 172
  —, rufous-fronted, 174


                                    X
  _Xantholæma hæmatocephala_, 74


                                    Y
  Yellowhammer, 33
  Yellow Ribbon Army, 218


                                    Z
  _Zosterops palpebrosa_, 137-42, 176



                           _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


  BOMBAY DUCKS: An Account of some of the Everyday Birds and Beasts
found in a Naturalist’s El Dorado. With numerous Illustrations reproduced
          from Photographs by Captain Fayrer, I.M.S. Demy 8vo.
  BIRDS OF THE PLAINS. With numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo.
  INDIAN BIRDS: Being a Key to the Common Birds of the Plains of India.
          Demy 8vo.
  (With Frank Finn). THE MAKING OF SPECIES. Demy 8vo.


                         THE MAKING OF SPECIES

   BY DOUGLAS DEWAR, B.A., (Cantab.), I.C.S., F.Z.S., AND FRANK FINN,
      B.A., (Oxon.), F.Z.S., M.B.O.U., WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS

             _Demy 8vo., 9 × 5¾ inches. Price 7s. 6d. net.
                          Postage 6d. extra._


                            _PRESS OPINIONS_

_Christian World._—“In an interesting preface, Messrs. Dewar and Finn
enlighten us as to the origin of their work.”

_Daily Chronicle._—“There is a breezy, refreshing air about the book.”

_Birmingham Post._—“Messrs. Dewar’s and Finn’s volume shows the value of
such first-hand experience.”

_Literary World._—“The book is certainly to be welcomed for the concise
way in which it deals with the greatest problem of biology.”

_Outlook._—“‘The Making of Species’ is a book of knowledge and
originality. Messrs. Dewar and Finn are capable investigators. This work
is thoroughly characteristic of our day. A long volume full of interest
and very clearly written.”

_New Age._—“The book is handsomely got up and fully illustrated.”

_Aberdeen Free Press._—“The book is well written. We do not doubt that
the work will produce good fruit and attract considerable attention.”

_Dublin Daily Express._—“The merits of the book are undoubtedly great. We
recommend it to the attentive study of all who are interested in the
subject of evolution.”

_Manchester Courier._—“The amateur entering this perplexing field could
hardly have a better guide. The illustrations are confined to birds, but
are admirably executed.”

_Nation._—“An exceptionally interesting book. We gladly welcome the
literary advent of two such able and independent Naturalists as Messrs.
Dewar and Finn.”

_Daily News._—“‘The Making of Species’ will be read with a good deal of
pleasure and interest. There are many striking photographs.”

_T. P.’s Weekly._—“Messrs. Dewar and Finn have accumulated some very
singular and striking facts in their ‘Making of Species.’”

_Newcastle Daily Chronicle._—“The authors have stated their facts in a
plain and common-sense fashion.”

_Truth._—“‘The Making of Species’ will do much to arrest the
fossilisation of biological science in England.”

_Sunday Times._—“This handsome volume.”

_Daily Telegraph._—“Interesting and suggestive. It should receive wide
attention.”


                              BOMBAY DUCKS

      AN ACCOUNT OF SOME OF THE EVERYDAY BIRDS & BEASTS FOUND IN A
                         NATURALIST’S EL DORADO

                    By DOUGLAS DEWAR, F.Z.S., I.C.S.

      With Numerous Illustrations from Photographs of Living Birds
                   By Captain F. D. S. FAYRER, I.M.S.

                         _Demy 8vo. 16s. net._


                           _PRESS OPINIONS._

_Spectator._—“Mr. Douglas Dewar’s book is excellent. . . . A feature of
the book is the photographs of birds by Captain Fayrer. They are most
remarkable, and quite unlike the usual wretched snapshots and blurred
reproductions with which too many naturalists’ books are nowadays
illustrated.”

_Standard._—“The East has ever been a place of wonderment, but the writer
of ‘Bombay Ducks’ brings before Western eyes a new set of pictures. . . .
The book is entertaining, even to a reader who is not a naturalist first
and a reader afterwards. . . . The illustrations cannot be too highly
praised.”

_Daily News._—“This new and sumptuous book. . . . Mr. Dewar gives us a
charming introduction to a great many interesting birds.”

_Pall Mall Gazette._—“Most entertaining dissertations on the tricks and
manners of many birds and beasts in India.”

_Graphic._—“The book is written in a most readable style, light and easy,
yet full of information, and not overburdened with scientific words and
phrases. . . . The habits of the different birds are fully described,
often in a very amusing and interesting manner.”


                          BIRDS OF THE PLAINS

                    By DOUGLAS DEWAR, F.Z.S., I.C.S.
                     AUTHOR OF “BOMBAY DUCKS,” ETC.

                      With numerous Illustrations.

                       _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net._


                           _PRESS OPINIONS._

_Globe._—“Mr. Dewar is not only a keen and patient observer, but he is
gifted with the descriptive art in high degree, and his vivacious style
communicates the characters and habits of birds with unerring fidelity
and infinite spirit.”

_Sportsman._—“Mr. Dewar has a delightfully simple and quaintly humorous
way of expressing himself, and his clever word pictures of bird life make
charming reading.”

_Truth._—“The volume is handsomely produced, and, like its predecessor,
it has a number of remarkably fine illustrations.”

_Manchester Guardian._—“Those who enjoyed ‘Bombay Ducks’ will welcome
‘Birds of the Plains.’ His breezy style is pleasant and easy reading. The
photographs deserve the highest praise.”

_Daily Chronicle._—“Here is a work worthy of all commendation to those
who love birds, and is ably seconded by Captain Fayrer’s excellent
photographs.”


                              INDIAN BIRDS

         BEING A KEY TO THE COMMON BIRDS OF THE PLAINS OF INDIA

                    By DOUGLAS DEWAR, F.Z.S., I.C.S.

                         _Crown 8vo.  6s. net_


                            _PRESS OPINIONS_

_Spectator._—“The present book is by Mr. Douglas Dewar, a charming
writer, whose earlier books on birds we have had the pleasure of
recommending. The book is most carefully compiled, and much ingenuity is
displayed in framing this artificial analysis.”

_Pall Mall Gazette._—“This practical and useful work. Familiarity with
these pages would enable the average man in a few weeks to know all the
birds he meets in an Indian station.”

_Athenæum._—“Mr. Dewar is a careful guide, already known as a careful
observer and entertaining chronicler of the ways of Indian birds.”

_Indian Field._—“We can thoroughly recommend this book to all not versed
in ornithology and who wish to know our birds without having to kill
them.”


                   ORNITHOLOGICAL AND OTHER ODDITIES

                  By FRANK FINN, B.A. (Oxon.), F.Z.S.
       LATE DEPUTY-SUPERINTENDENT OF THE INDIAN MUSEUM, CALCUTTA

              With numerous Illustrations from Photographs

                        _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net_


                            _PRESS OPINIONS_

_Standard._—“This book, dealing with the courting of birds, how they
fight and mimic, and moult and blush, is one of the most fascinating we
have read for some time. His book will prove as interesting to the
general reader as to the enthusiastic naturalist.”

_Morning Post._—“The book consists of a number of papers—all are
delightfully readable. A very interesting and delightful book. The style
is always clear and free from technicalities; this volume will certainly
prove as entertaining to the general reader as it is interesting to the
naturalist.”

_Globe._—“The pleasantest of reading—produced most charmingly. The book
is illustrated with numbers of beautiful photographs showing bird and
beast life with wonderful truth and charm. We must congratulate Mr. Finn
and his publisher on one of the most alluring nature books we have seen
for a long time.”

_Shooting Times._—“The volume is well illustrated, and is certainly a
very amusing and highly instructive publication.”


                        JUNGLE BY-WAYS IN INDIA

Leaves from the Note-book of a Sportsman and a Naturalist, with upwards
of 100 illustrations by the Author and others. Second Edition. Demy 8vo.
12/6 net.


                            PRESS OPINIONS.

_Spectator._—“Well worth reading . . . told in a clever and vivid style.”

_Athenæum._—“These sketches, containing information about most of the
animals which attract sportsmen, enlivened by descriptions of their
pursuit, deserve praise . . . the pen and ink sketches have much merit.”

_Times._—“Mr. Stebbing has certainly the knack of setting down his jungle
experiences in narrative which is interesting and vivid.”

_Standard._—“Mr. Stebbing writes with great spirit.”

_Daily Graphic._—“A first-rate sporting book.”

_Daily Chronicle._—“Mr. Stebbing writes with the instinct and feeling of
a true sportsman. The illustrations assist one to an understanding and
appreciation of the text.”

_Outlook._—“This book is as instructive as it is entertaining, and should
prove of great value to the novice anxious to tread in the author’s
footsteps.”

_Morning Post._—“A delightful book . . . full of information and
adventure . . . charmingly illustrated.”

_Morning Leader._—“A fascinating and informing record of every variety of
sport.”

_Sunday Times._—“A striking picture of jungle-life. Mr. Stebbing’s
descriptions are vivid and admirable.”

_Queen._—“Mr. Stebbing has both knowledge and appreciation of the
denizens of the jungle.”

_Pall Mall Gazette._—“This interesting book.”

_Sporting Times._—“A really good shikar book, full of useful information
. . . one of the best.”

_Country Life._—“A rich and varied record of sport.”

_T.P.’s Weekly._—“I can confidently recommend this excellent volume.”

_Graphic._—“An extremely interesting book.”

_Manchester Guardian._—“Mr. Stebbing narrates his experiences in such a
fresh and easy style, and shows such keen and humorous appreciation of
the ways of the inhabitants of the jungle, great and small, that the
reader can scarcely fail to be interested . . . the sketches are
excellent and greatly assist the letterpress.”

_Indian Daily Telegraph._—“The sportsman in this country will find much
to amuse and instruct in Mr. Stebbing’s book.”

_Indian Review._—“There are many good things in this book, which may be
commended to all sportsmen, and should find a place on the bookshelf of
all lovers of nature.”


                        TWO DIANAS IN SOMALILAND

                     THE RECORD OF A SHOOTING TRIP.

                    By AGNES HERBERT. With numerous
           Illustrations. Demy 8vo. Price, 12_s._ 6_d._ net.
                          Postage 6_d._ extra.


                         _SOME PRESS OPINIONS._

_The Sportsman._—“A more delightful book—nay, so delightful a book—is not
met with once in a generation. It is sui generis; we know of none that
can pretend to compare with it. There is not a line in it that cannot be
read with pleasure, while the whole volume contains such a record of
interesting and thrilling adventure as one rarely meets with.”

_The Field._—“The story is told with great animation throughout, and with
a sense of humour that carries one on attentively to the end. We shall be
much mistaken if this very attractive volume on big game shooting is not
soon in a second edition.”

_The Athenæum._—“That most attractive book, ‘Two Dianas in Somaliland,’
which shows the author to be almost as skilful with her pen as with the
rifle; and that is saying a great deal. The book is exceptionally
interesting.”

_The County Gentleman._—“Miss Herbert’s light, breezy style in dealing
with the humours of camp life is highly entertaining. We have never read
a more piquantly written narrative of big game shooting.”

_Country Life._—“This sprightly and amusing book, full of wild life and
adventure, of difficulties and dangers pluckily overcome is a welcome
change after the innumerable recitals of ‘mere man’ in Africa.”

_The World._—“Miss Herbert wields her pen to good purpose. She has a keen
sense of humour, she goes straight to the point, she scorns padding in
purple patches, and yet so vivid is her style that she at once interests
the reader in her subject. No man, and few women, will fail to follow her
to the end of her adventures.”

_The Liverpool Post._—“It is a most chatty and vivacious account. The
book can be enjoyed by all, sportsmen or not, and it will assuredly take
an honoured place among its kind.”

_The Daily News._—“Certain to receive a friendly welcome from the general
reader. A keen eye for the humorous side of things, a fluent and lively
pen, and occasionally the display of a somewhat caustic wit, make the
volume most amusing reading. We congratulate the authoress on the lively
narrative. One can only hope that she will once again go a-hunting, and
once again tell its story.”

_The Birmingham Post._—“This is a book to read, if only for its
delightfully unconventional vein; and there is a subtle suggestion of
romance about it too.”

_The Dundee Advertiser._—“The book in some respects is marvellous. It is
the revelation of a sportswoman’s mind. Miss Herbert has a facile pen.”

_The Manchester Courier._—“Miss Herbert’s book is written
light-heartedly. It is a delightfully humorous and witty record. It is
also an assuming one.”

_The Daily Telegraph._—“This finely-printed and well-illustrated volume
is a thoroughly entertaining and amusing record. Every sportsman will
find this brisk and vivacious narrative to his taste.”

_The Daily Mail._—“‘Two Dianas in Somaliland’ is a book out of the common
run . . . very attractive reading.”

_The Scotsman._—“Certainly no one who reads this narrative will fail to
be keenly interested and amused.”

_The Daily Chronicle._—“You need not be a sportsman—or a sportswoman—to
enjoy this book, because it has a vivacity which would carry any reader
along. It it written with the merry heart that goes all the day, and it
has much to record besides lion killing.”

_The Evening Standard._—“We are sure that no such story was ever related
with greater charm or incisiveness. The volume is very welcome.”


                          TWO DIANAS IN ALASKA

                     By AGNES HERBERT & a SHIKÁRI.

                 With numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo.
                        Price, 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


                         _SOME PRESS OPINIONS._

_The Sportsman._—“The warm and lengthy praise we gave to the companion
volume ‘Two Dianas in Somaliland’ might be repeated. They should have a
place in every sportsman’s library; nay, in far more, for the piquancy of
the style, and the charming friendliness of it all, enthral the reader.”

_The Field._—“The story is told by Miss Herbert with all the free and
joyous spirit which characterised her former volume; the same love of
exploration, admiration for the beauty in nature, keenness for sport, and
withal a womanly restraint and tender-heartedness.”

_Country Life._—“Miss Herbert’s hand has lost nothing of its
sprightliness, she describes graphically and with never failing nerve
many exciting hunts. It is to the full as daring and lively as the
Somaliland volume.”

_Vanity Fair._—“The most fascinating sporting book I have read this year,
and quite the best written. In a dozen ways I found the book captivating.
Miss Herbert’s success is as emphatic in book-making as in hunting.”

_The Academy._—“We commend ‘Two Dianas in Alaska’ to many readers . . .
an amusing and picturesque journey. Scenery is powerfully described, and
so are the effects of light and shade and the flight of birds. But the
ways of the moose provide the most attractive reading of all.”

_The Daily Telegraph._—“This is a delightful book, of equal interest to
the sportsman and the general reader. Light and bright are the pages. We
heartily recommend this book to all readers. It is all admirable.”

_Ladies’ Field._—“Not less delightful than ‘Two Dianas in Somaliland.’ If
anyone turns aside from this book because he or she is indifferent to
sport they will lose some very pleasant hours. It is a charming book, and
has not a dull page in it from first to last.”

_Daily Graphic._—“The whole book is amazing good reading. The best book
of sport and travel that we have seen this season.”

_Yorkshire Post._—“This is a book of high spirits, mixed with philosophy.
In these prosaic days a romance from real life is not to be resisted.”

_The Queen._—“Very entertaining reading. It must not be thought that the
work is entirely devoted to hunting, the scenery, places, and human
beings are also described in very happy fashion.”

_The Morning Post._—“This delightful book. Lively is a poor name for it,
it scintillates with life. We are soon carried away with the zest of it,
and the irrepressible humour which bubbles out on every page.”

_The Manchester Courier._—“Those who had the good fortune to encounter
the charming record of the ‘Two Dianas in Somaliland’ will want no
recommendation to the equally sprightly description of their adventures
in Alaska. Miss Herbert has a ready sense of humour, and her wayside
jottings are inimitable.”

_Fortnightly Review._—“Miss Herbert has a happy knack of amusing the
reader on almost every page of her bright narrative, and this alone
places her above the majority of writers on travel. It is with her
asides, her not unkindly satire, her unabated philosophy, that Miss
Herbert attracts the reader.”

_Pall Mall Gazette._—“Miss Herbert has a pretty wit, word-pictures of
magic beauty. The book is witty, picturesque, exciting, and the effect on
the tired brain of a dweller in cities is that of a breeze bringing
health from a salutary land.”


                       A VAGABOND IN THE CAUCASUS

         WITH SOME NOTES OF HIS EXPERIENCES AMONG THE RUSSIANS

                           By STEPHEN GRAHAM

               _With Sixteen Illustrations and Two Maps_
                       _Demy 8vo_, 12s. 6d. _net_


                             PRESS OPINIONS

_Daily Telegraph._—“One of the most individual and interesting volumes of
travel talk that we have had for many a long day. A work of quite
exceptional charm and interest. An attraction that will make most readers
look forward with pleasurable anticipation to the author’s future work.”

_Morning Post._—“It is a good book, full of suggestiveness, promise, and
horizon.”

_Westminster Gazette._—“Mr. Graham’s literary touch has the delightful
intimate comradeship of the born wanderer, and his book is all too
short.”

_Daily News._—“A book of impressions and adventures with an unusually
fine literary flavour.”

_Standard._—“. . . written with keen insight and literary skill . . .
abounds with practical hints for prospective travellers.”

_Evening Standard._—“Mr. Graham has had adventures. He relates them well.
His style is direct and racy. Everything is real . . . entertaining.”

_Truth._—“A perfectly delightful book.”

_Academy._—“Mr. Graham writes with the intimate personal touch that gives
distinction to Stevenson’s ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and Belloc’s ‘Path to
Rome.’”

_Observer._—“Mr. Graham’s experiences make an entertaining book.”

_Graphic._—“An attractive book.”

_Country Life._—“You follow his adventures with the same interest you
would follow an engrossing novel, because you see the man and feel
something of his passion.”

_Bookman._—“In every way this is a most charming and attractive book. Mr.
Graham’s views are fresh and original.”

_Shooting Times._—“Distinctly entertaining.”


KASHMIR: The Land of Streams and Solitudes. By P. Pirie. With Twenty-five
Full-page Plates in Colour, and upwards of 100 other Illustrations by H.
R. Pirie. Crown 4to (10 × 6½in.). 21_s._ net.

  _Globe._—“This is a delightful book.”

  _Liverpool Courier._—“It is one of the handsomest productions that has
  come from the Bodley Head for a considerable time.”

  _Observer._—“The book is a treasure, and will be turned over often with
  joy and sighs.”


RIFLE AND ROMANCE IN THE INDIAN JUNGLE: Being the Record of Thirteen
Years of Indian Jungle Life. By Major A. I. R. Glasfurd (Indian Army).
With numerous Illustrations by the Author and Reproductions from
Photographs. New and Cheaper Edition. Crown 8vo. 7_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Literary World._—“To the list of books on big-game shooting that can
  be commended equally to the sportsman and the general reader must be
  added this truly fascinating work. We have read it through from cover
  to cover, and pronounce it excellent.”

  _Academy._—“Search where we will through this entertaining book, we
  always happen upon sound literature, fine description, good natural
  history, and lively adventure. The author is clearly in love with his
  subject, and the pictures of jungle scenery and jungle life are
  wonderfully vivid . . . in all respects a first-rate book.”


CEYLON: The Paradise of Adam. The Record of Seven Years’ Residence in the
Island. By Caroline Corner. With Sixteen Full-page Illustrations.
Reproduced from Photographs. Demy 8vo (9 × 5¾ in.). 10_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Daily Chronicle._—“This book is merry—merry, witty, observant, and
  readable: observation in lighter vein, however, with a serious note of
  information and experience.”


BIG GAME SHOOTING ON THE EQUATOR. By Captain F. A. Dickinson, F.R.G.S.
With an Introduction by Sir Charles Norton Eliot, K.C.M.G., late
Commissioner for British East Africa. 77 Illustrations reproduced from
Photographs. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


LAKE VICTORIA TO KHARTOUM: With Rifle and Camera. By Captain F. A.
Dickinson, D.C.L.I., F.R.G.S. With an Introduction by the Rt. Hon.
Winston Churchill, and numerous Illustrations from Photographs taken by
the Author. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


SERVICE AND SPORT IN THE SUDAN. A Record of Administrations in the
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, with Intervals of Sport and Travel. By D. C. E. ff.
Comyn, F.R.G.S. (late of the Black Watch). With 31 Illustrations and 3
Maps. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


STALKS IN THE HIMALAYA: Jottings of a Sportsman-Naturalist. By E. P.
Stebbing, F.R.G.S., F.Z.S. With upwards of 100 Illustrations by the
Author and others. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


                                _NOTICE_

_Those who possess old letters, documents, correspondence, MSS., scraps
of autobiography, and also miniatures and portraits, relating to persons
and matters historical, literary, political and social, should
communicate with Mr. John Lane, The Bodley Head, Vigo Street, London, W.,
who will at all times be pleased to give his advice and assistance,
either as to their preservation or publication._


                        LIVING MASTERS OF MUSIC.

An Illustrated Series of Monographs dealing with Contemporary Musical
Life, and including Representatives of all Branches of the Art.

Edited by ROSA NEWMARCH.

Crown 8vo. Cloth. Price 2/6 net.


  HENRY J. WOOD. By Rosa Newmarch.
  SIR EDWARD ELGAR. By R. J. Buckley.
  JOSEPH JOACHIM. By J. A. Fuller Maitland.
  EDWARD A. MACDOWELL. By Lawrence Gilman.
  THEODOR LESCHETIZKY. By Annette Hullah.
  GIACOMO PUCCINI. By Wakeling Dry.
  IGNAZ PADEREWSKI. By E. A. Baughan.
  CLAUDE DEBUSSY. By Mrs. Franz Liebich.
  RICHARD STRAUSS. By Ernest Newman.


                           STARS OF THE STAGE

A Series of Illustrated Biographies of the Leading Actors, Actresses, and
Dramatists.

Edited by J. T. GREIN.

Crown 8vo. Price 2/6 each net.


  ELLEN TERRY. By Christopher St. John.
  SIR HERBERT BEERBOHM TREE. By Mrs. George Cran.
  SIR W. S. GILBERT. By Edith A. Browne.
  SIR CHARLES WYNDHAM. By Florence Teignmouth Shore.


              _A CATALOGUE OF MEMOIRS, BIOGRAPHIES, ETC._


THE LAND OF TECK & ITS SURROUNDINGS. By Rev. S. Baring-Gould. With
numerous Illustrations (including several in Colour) reproduced from
unique originals. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 10s. 6d. net.


AN IRISH BEAUTY OF THE REGENCY: By Mrs. Warrenne Blake. Author of
“Memoirs of a Vanished Generation, 1813-1855.” With a Photogravure
Frontispiece and other Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 16s.
net.

  ⁂ The Irish Beauty is the Hon. Mrs. Calvert, daughter of Viscount Pery,
  Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and wife of Nicholson Calvert,
  M. P., of Hunsdson. Born in 1767, Mrs. Calvert lived to the age of
  ninety-two, and there are many people still living who remember her. In
  the delightful journals, now for the first time published, exciting
  events are described.


NAPOLEON IN CARICATURE: 1795-1821. By A. M. Broadley. With an
Introductory Essay on Pictorial Satire as a Factor in Napoleonic History,
by J. Holland Rose, Litt. D. (Cantab.). With 24 full-page Illustrations
in Colour and upwards of 200 in Black and White from rare and unique
originals. 2 Vols. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 42s. net.

_Also an Edition de Luxe._ 10 guineas net.


MEMORIES OF SIXTY YEARS AT ETON, CAMBRIDGE AND ELSEWHERE. By Robert
Browning. Illustrated. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 14s. net.


THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. By Stewart Houston
Chamberlain. A Translation from the German by John Lees. With an
Introduction by Lord Redesdale. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 2 vols. 25s.
net.


THE SPEAKERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS from the Earliest Times to the
Present Day, with a Topographical Account of Westminster at various
Epochs, Brief Notes on sittings of Parliament and a Retrospect of the
principal Constitutional Changes during Seven Centuries. By Arthur Irwin
Dasent, Author of “The Life and Letters of John Delane,” “The History of
St. James’s Square,” etc. etc. With numerous Portraits, including two in
Photogravure and one in Colour. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 21s. net.


WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH AND HIS FRIENDS. By S. M. Ellis. With upwards
of 50 Illustrations, 4 in Photogravure. 2 vols. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾
inches.) 32s. net.


NAPOLEON AND KING MURAT. 1808-1815: A Biography compiled from hitherto
Unknown and Unpublished Documents. By Albert Espitalier. Translated from
the French by J. Lewis May. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


LADY CHARLOTTE SCHREIBER’S JOURNALS Confidences of a Collector of
Ceramics and Antiques throughout Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain,
Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey. From the Year 1869 to 1885.
Edited Montague Guest, with Annotations by Egan Mew. With upwards of 100
Illustrations, including 8 in colour and 2 in photogravure. Royal 8vo. 2
Volumes. 42s. net.


CHARLES DE BOURBON, CONSTABLE OF France: “The Great Condottiere.” By
Christopher Hare. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


THE NELSONS OF BURNHAM THORPE: A Record of a Norfolk Family compiled from
Unpublished Letters and Note Books, 1787-1843. Edited by M. Eyre Matcham.
With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9
× 5¾ inches.) 16s. net.

  ⁂ This interesting contribution to Nelson literature is drawn from the
  journals and correspondence of the Rev. Edmund Nelson. Rector of
  Burnham Thorpe and his youngest daughter, the father and sister of Lord
  Nelson. The Rector was evidently a man of broad views and sympathies,
  for we find him maintaining friendly relations with his son and
  daughter-in-law after their separation. What is even more strange, he
  felt perfectly at liberty to go direct from the house of Mrs. Horatio
  Nelson in Norfolk to that of Sir. William and Lady Hamilton in London,
  where his son was staying. This book shows how completely and without
  reserve the family received Lady Hamilton.


A QUEEN OF SHREDS AND PATCHES: The Life of Madame Tallien Notre Dame de
Thermidor. From the last days of the French Revolution, until her death
as Princess Chimay in 1835. By L. Gastine. Translated from the French by
J. Lewis May. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


SOPHIE DAWES, QUEEN OF CHANTILLY. By Violette M. Montagu. Author of “The
Scottish College in Paris,” etc. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16
other Illustrations and Three Plans. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d.
net.

  ⁂ Among the many queens of France, queens by right of marriage with the
  reigning sovereign, queens of beauty or of intrigue, the name of Sophie
  Dawes, the daughter of humble fisherfolk in the Isle of Wight, better
  known as “the notorious Mme. de Feucheres,” “The Queen of Chantilly”
  and “The Montespan de Saint Leu” in the land which she chose as a
  suitable sphere in which to exercise her talents for money-making and
  for getting on in the world, stand forth as a proof of what a women’s
  will can accomplish when that will is accompanied with an uncommon
  share of intelligence.


MARGARET OF FRANCE DUCHESS OF SAVOY. 1523-1574. A Biography with
Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other Illustrations and Facsimile
Reproductions of Hitherto Unpublished Letters. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.)
12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ A time when the Italians are celebrating the Jubilee of the Italian
  Kingdom is perhaps no unfitting moment in which to glance back over the
  annals of that royal House of Savoy which has rendered Italian unity
  possible. Margaret of France may without exaggeration be counted among
  the builders of modern Italy. She married Emanuel Philibert, the
  founder of Savoyard greatness: and from the day of her marriage until
  the day of her death she laboured to advance the interests of her
  adopted land.


MADAME DE BRINVILLIERS AND HER TIMES. 1630-1676. By Hugh Stokes. With a
Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾
inches.) 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ The name of Marie Marguerite d’Aubray, Marquise de Brinvilliers, is
  famous in the annals of crime, but the true history of her career is
  little known. A woman of birth and rank, she was also a remorseless
  poisoner, and her trial was one of the most sensational episodes of the
  early reign of Louis XIV. The author was attracted to this curious
  subject by Charles le Brun’s realistic sketch of the unhappy Marquise
  as she appeared on her way to execution. This _chief d’oeuvre_ of
  misery and agony forms the frontispiece to the volume, and strikes a
  fitting keynote to an absorbing story of human passion and wrong-doing.


THE VICISSITUDES OF A LADY-IN-WAITING. 1735-1821. By Eugene Welvert.
Translated from the French by Lilian O’Neill. With a Photogravure
Frontispiece and 16 other Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s.
6d. net.

  ⁂ The Duchesse de Narbonne-Lara was Lady-in-Waiting to Madame Adelaide,
  the eldest daughter of Louis XV. Around the stately figure of this
  Princess are gathered the most remarkable characters of the days of the
  Old Regime, the Revolution and the first Empire. The great charm of the
  work is that it takes us over so much and varied ground. Here, in the
  gay crowd of ladies and courtiers, in the rustle of flowery silken
  paniers, in the clatter of high-heeled shoes, move the figures of Louis
  XV., Louis XVI., Du Barri and Marie-Antoinette. We catch picturesque
  glimpses of the great wits, diplomatists and soldiers of the time,
  until, finally we encounter Napoleon Bonaparte.


ANNALS OF A YORKSHIRE HOUSE. From the Papers of a Macaroni and his
Kindred. By A. M. W. Stirling, author of “Coke of Norfolk and his
Friends.” With 33 Illustrations, including 3 in Colour and 3 in
Photogravure. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 2 vols. 32s. net.


MINIATURES: A Series of Reproductions in Photogravure of Eighty-Five
Miniatures of Distinguished Personages, including Queen Alexandra, the
Queen of Norway, the Princess Royal, and the Princess Victoria. Painted
by Charles Turrell. (Folio.) The Edition is limited to One Hundred Copies
for sale in England and America, and Twenty-Five Copies for Presentation,
Review, and the Museums. Each will be Numbered and Signed by the Artist.
15 guineas net.


THE LAST JOURNALS OF HORACE WALPOLE. During the Reign of George III. from
1771-1783. With Notes by Dr. Doran. Edited with an Introduction by A.
Francis Steuart, and containing numerous Portraits reproduced from
contemporary Pictures, Engravings, etc. 2 vols. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾
inches.) 25s. net.


THE WAR IN WEXFORD. By H. F. B. Wheeler and A. M. Broadley. An Account of
The Rebellion in South of Ireland in 1798, told from Original Documents.
With numerous Reproductions of contemporary Portraits and Engravings.
Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


RECOLLECTIONS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT. by His Valet François. Translated
from the French by Maurice Reynold. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 7s. 6d.
net.


FAMOUS AMERICANS IN PARIS. By John Joseph Conway, M.A. With 32 Full-page
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 10s. 6d. net.


LIFE AND MEMOIRS OF JOHN CHURTON COLLINS. Written and Compiled by his
son, L. C. Collins. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 7s. 6d. net.


THE WIFE OF GENERAL BONAPARTE. By Joseph Turquan. Author of “The Love
Affairs of Napoleon,” etc. Translated from the French by Miss Violette
Montagu. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other Illustrations.
Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ Although much has been written concerning the Empress Josephine, we
  know comparatively little about the _veuve_ Beauharnais and the
  _citoyenne_ Bonaparte, whose inconsiderate conduct during her husband’s
  absence caused him so much anguish. We are so accustomed to consider
  Josephine as the innocent victim of a cold and calculating tyrant who
  allowed nothing, neither human lives nor natural affections, to stand
  in the way of his all-conquering will, that this volume will come to us
  rather as a surprise. Modern historians are over-fond of blaming
  Napoleon for having divorced the companion of his early years; but
  after having read the above work, the reader will be constrained to
  admire General Bonaparte’s forbearance and will wonder how he ever came
  to allow her to play the Queen at the Tuileries.


A SISTER OF PRINCE RUPERT. ELIZABETH PRINCESS PALATINE, ABBESS OF
HERFORD. By Elizabeth Godfrey. With numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9
× 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


AUGUSTUS SAINT GAUDENS: an Appreciation. By C. Lewis Hind. Illustrated
with 47 full-page Reproductions from his most famous works. With a
portrait of Keynon Cox. Large 4to. 12s. 6d. net.


JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY AND HIS FAMILY: By Mrs. Herbert St. John Mildmay.
Further Letters and Records, edited by his Daughter and Herbert St. John
Mildmay, with numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 16s.
net.


SIMON BOLIVAR: El Libertador. A Life of the Leader of the Venezuelan
Revolt against Spain. By F. Loraine Petre. With a Map and Illustrations.
Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.


A LIFE OF SIR JOSEPH BANKS, PRESIDENT OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY: With Some
Notices of His Friends and Contemporaries. By Edward Smith, F.R.H.S.,
Author of “William Cobbett: a Biography,” “England and America after the
Independence,” etc. With a Portrait in Photogravure and 16 other
Illustrations. Demy 8 vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ “The greatest living Englishman” was the tribute of his Continental
  contemporaries to Sir. Joseph Banks. The author of his “Life” has, with
  some enthusiasm, sketched the record of a man who for a period of half
  a century filled a very prominent place in society, but whose name is
  almost forgotten by the present generation.


NAPOLEON & THE INVASION OF ENGLAND: The Story of the Great Terror,
1797-1805. By H. F. B. Wheeler and A. M. Broadley. With upwards of 100
Full-page Illustrations reproduced from Contemporary Portraits, Prints,
etc.; eight in Colour. 2 Volumes. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 32_s._ net.

  _Outlook._—“The book is not merely one to be ordered from the library;
  it should be purchased, kept on an accessible shelf, and constantly
  studied by all Englishmen who love England.”


DUMOURIEZ AND THE DEFENCE OF ENGLAND AGAINST NAPOLEON. By J. Holland
Rose, Litt.D. (Cantab.), Author of “The Life of Napoleon,” and A. M.
Broadley, joint-author of “Napoleon and the Invasion of England.”
Illustrated with numerous Portraits, Maps, and Facsimiles. Demy 8vo. (9 ×
5¾ inches.) 21_s._ net.


THE FALL OF NAPOLEON. By Oscar Browning, M.A., Author of “The Boyhood and
Youth of Napoleon.” With numerous Full-page Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 ×
5¾ inches). 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Spectator._—“Without doubt Mr. Oscar Browning has produced a book
  which should have its place in any library of Napoleonic literature.”

  _Truth._—“Mr. Oscar Browning has made not the least, but the most of
  the romantic material at his command for the story of the fall of the
  greatest figure in history.”


THE BOYHOOD & YOUTH OF NAPOLEON, 1769-1793. Some Chapters on the early
life of Bonaparte. By Oscar Browning, M.A. With numerous Illustrations,
Portraits etc. Crown 8vo. 5_s._ net.

  _Daily News._—“Mr. Browning has with patience, labour, careful study,
  and excellent taste given us a very valuable work, which will add
  materially to the literature on this most fascinating of human
  personalities.


THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF NAPOLEON. By Joseph Turquan. Translated from the
French by James L. May. With 32 Full-page Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 ×
5¾ inches). 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


THE DUKE OF REICHSTADT (NAPOLEON II.) By Edward de Wertheimer. Translated
from the German. With numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.)
21_s._ net. (Second Edition.)

  _Times._—“A most careful and interesting work which presents the first
  complete and authoritative account of this unfortunate Prince.”

  _Westminster Gazette._—“This book, admirably produced, reinforced by
  many additional portraits, is a solid contribution to history and a
  monument of patient, well-applied research.”


NAPOLEON’S CONQUEST OF PRUSSIA, 1806. By F. Loraine Petre. With an
Introduction by Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, V.C., K.G., etc. With Maps,
Battle Plans, Portraits, and 16 Full-page Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 ×
5¾ inches). 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Scotsman._—“Neither too concise, nor too diffuse, the book is
  eminently readable. It is the best work in English on a somewhat
  circumscribed subject.”

  _Outlook._—“Mr. Petre has visited the battlefields and read everything,
  and his monograph is a model of what military history, handled with
  enthusiasm and literary ability, can be.”


NAPOLEON’S CAMPAIGN IN POLAND, 1806-1807. A Military History of
Napoleon’s First War with Russia, verified from unpublished official
documents. By F. Loraine Petre. With 16 Full-page Illustrations, Maps,
and Plans. New Edition. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches). 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Army and Navy Chronicle._—“We welcome a second edition of this
  valuable work. . . . Mr. Loraine Petre is an authority on the wars of
  the great Napoleon, and has brought the greatest care and energy into
  his studies of the subject.”


NAPOLEON AND THE ARCHDUKE CHARLES. A History of the Franco-Austrian
Campaign in the Valley of the Danube in 1809. By F. Loraine Petre. With 8
Illustrations and 6 sheets of Maps and Plans. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches).
12_s._ 6_d._ net.


RALPH HEATHCOTE. Letters of a Diplomatist During the Time of Napoleon,
Giving an Account of the Dispute between the Emperor and the Elector of
Hesse. By Countess Gunther Gröben. With Numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo.
(9 × 5¾ inches). 12_s._ 6_d._ net.


MEMOIRS OF THE COUNT DE CARTRIE. A record of the extraordinary events in
the life of a French Royalist during the war in La Vendée, and of his
flight to Southampton, where he followed the humble occupation of
gardener. With an introduction by Frédéric Masson, Appendices and Notes
by Pierre Amédée Pichot, and other hands, and numerous Illustrations,
including a Photogravure Portrait of the Author. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾
inches.) 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  _Daily News._—“We have seldom met with a human document which has
  interested us so much.”


THE JOURNAL OF JOHN MAYNE DURING A TOUR ON THE CONTINENT UPON ITS
REOPENING AFTER THE FALL OF NAPOLEON, 1814. Edited by his Grandson, John
Mayne Colles. With 16 Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches). 12_s._
6_d._ net.


WOMEN OF THE SECOND EMPIRE. Chronicles of the Court of Napoleon III. By
Frédéric Loliée. With an introduction by Richard Whiteing, and 53
full-page Illustrations, 3 in Photogravure. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.)
21_s._ net.

  _Standard._—“M. Frederic Loliee has written a remarkable book, vivid
  and pitiless in its description of the intrigue and dare-devil spirit
  which flourished unchecked at the French Court. . . . Mr. Richard
  Whiteing’s introduction is written with restraint and dignity.”


MEMOIRS OF MADEMOISELLE DES ECHEROLLES. Translated from the French by
Marie Clothilde Balfour. With an introduction by G. K. Fortescue,
Portraits, etc. 5_s._ net.

  _Liverpool Mercury._—“. . . this absorbing book. . . . The work has a
  very decided historical value. The translation is excellent, and quite
  notable in the preservation of idiom.”


GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO: A BIOGRAPHICAL STUDY. By Edward Hutton. With a
Photogravure Frontispiece and numerous other Illustrations. Demy 8vo. (9
× 5¾ inches) 16_s._ net.


THE LIFE OF PETER ILICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893). By his Brother, Modeste
Tchaikovsky. Edited and abridged from the Russian and German Editions by
Rosa Newmarch. With Numerous Illustrations and Facsimiles and an
Introduction by the Editor. Demy 8vo. (9 × 5¾ inches.) 7_s._ 6_d._ net.
Second edition.

  _The Times._—“A most illuminating commentary on Tchaikovsky’s music.”

  _World._—“One of the most fascinating self-revelations by an artist
  which has been given to the world. The translation is excellent, and
  worth reading for its own sake.”

  _Contemporary Review._—“The book’s appeal is, of course, primarily to
  the music-lover; but there is so much of human and literary interest in
  it, such intimate revelation of a singularly interesting personality,
  that many who have never come under the spell of the Pathetic Symphony
  will be strongly attracted by what is virtually the spiritual
  autobiography of its composer. High praise is due to the translator and
  editor for the literary skill with which she has prepared the English
  version of this fascinating work. . . There have been few collections
  of letters published within recent years that give so vivid a portrait
  of the writer as that presented to us in these pages.”


THE LIFE OF SIR HALLIDAY MACARTNEY, K.C.M.G., Commander of Li Hung
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                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Retained publisher information from the printed copy (the electronic
  edition is in the public domain in the country of publication).

--Corrected some palpable typos, including several botanical names.

--Moved all promotional material to the end of the book.

--In the text versions only, represented text font and size variations
  (the HTML version preserves the presentation of the original):

--Text in italics is delimited by _underscores_.

--Subscripted numbers are preceded by an underscore, as in the formula
  for water “H_2O”.

--Superscripted numbers are preceded by a caret, as in “45^o”.





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