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Title: Glimpses of Indian Birds
Author: Dewar, Douglas
Language: English
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                              GLIMPSES OF
                              INDIAN BIRDS

                            BY DOUGLAS DEWAR

                      NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
                    TORONTO: BELL & COCKBURN MCMXIII


                               I DEDICATE
                              THIS BOOK TO

                           THEODORE ROOSEVELT

                         ZOOLOGICAL AUTHORITIES


In the brief sketches that follow I find occasion repeatedly to attack
the prevalent theories of protective colouration, because it is
impossible for the naturalist who uses his eyes to accept these

Most of these hypotheses were advanced by field naturalists, but they
have since been elaborated by cabinet zoologists and have become a
creed. Now, Huxley remarked with truth, “Science commits suicide when it
adopts a creed.” With equal truth he asserted, “‘Authorities,’
‘disciples,’ and ‘schools’ are the curse of science and do more to
interfere with the work of the scientific spirit than all its enemies.”

In England zoology is at present in the hands of ‘schools’ and
‘authorities’ of the kind to which Huxley objected.

The result is that where, in some of my previous books, I have exposed
the shallowness of the prevalent theories, I have been taken to task by
certain reviewers who are disciples of those ‘authorities.’ These
gentlemen term my criticisms superficial, but they have made no attempt
to show in what way my criticisms are superficial. There is a good
reason for this. It is that these journalists know well that any
attempts to rebut my statements will lead to a controversy in which they
cannot but be worsted because the facts are against them.

If what I say is incorrect my reviewers now have an excellent
opportunity to demonstrate this.

Lest these have recourse to the unfailing resort of the defeated
Darwinian or Wallaceian—the argument of ignorance, lest they say that it
is only owing to their insufficient knowledge of Indian birds that they
cannot answer me, let me assert that what I say of Indian birds is
equally true of British birds.

I assert with confidence that the colouring of nine out of ten birds has
some feature which the theories attacked by me cannot account for.

“Hypotheses,” wrote Huxley, “are not ends but means. . . . The most
useful of servants to the man of science, they are the worst of masters,
and when the establishment of the hypotheses comes the end, and fact is
attended to only so far as it suits the ‘Idee,’ science has no longer
anything to do with the business.”

The hypotheses which I decline to accept have become the masters of many
zoologists who are busily occupied in distorting facts which do not
coincide with theory.

It is not very long since an English scientific paper published an
article entitled “What have ornithologists done for Darwinism?” So long
as zoologists test the work of the naturalist by the amount of evidence
he collects for Darwinism or any other “ism,” it is hopeless to expect
zoological science to progress.


  I. Birds in a Grove                                                   3
  II. The Magpie-Robin                                                  9
  III. The Indian Snake-Bird                                           14
  IV. Minivets                                                         19
  V. The Power of Animals to Express Thought                           25
  VI. Pied Woodpeckers                                                 31
  VII. A Jhil out of Season                                            37
  VIII. Birds in White                                                 42
  IX. The Pied Crested Cuckoo                                          48
  X. Vultures                                                          55
  XI. The Indian Robin                                                 61
  XII. The Shikra                                                      69
  XIII. A Finch of Roseate Hue                                         74
  XIV. Birds on the Lawn                                               80
  XV. The Grey Hornbill                                                86
  XVI. The Flamingo                                                    91
  XVII. Summer Visitors to the Punjab Plains                           98
  XVIII. A Bird of Many Aliases                                       106
  XIX. Paddy Birds at Bedtime                                         111
  XX. Merlins                                                         116
  XXI. The Common Wryneck                                             121
  XXII. Green Pigeons                                                 126
  XXIII. Bulbuls’ Nests                                               131
  XXIII. Bulbuls’ Nests—II                                            139
  XXIV. Nightingales in India                                         145
  XXV. The Wire-tailed Swallow                                        150
  XXVI. Winter Visitors to the Punjab Plains                          157
  XXVII. A Kingfisher and a Tern                                      167
  XXVIII. The Red Turtle Dove                                         172
  XXIX. Birds in the Millet Fields                                    178
  XXX. Hoopoes at the Nesting Season                                  185
  XXXI. The Largest Bird in India                                     197
  XXXII. The Swallow-Plover                                           204
  XXXIII. The Birds of a Madras Garden                                211
  XXXIV. Sunbirds                                                     218
  XXXV. The Bank Myna                                                 225
  XXXVI. The Jackdaw                                                  231
  XXXVII. Fighting in Nature                                          234
  XXXVIII. Birds and Butterflies                                      238
  XXXIX. Voices of the Night                                          246
  Index                                                               257

  These “Glimpses” originally appeared in one or other of the following
periodicals: _The Madras Mail_, _Pioneer_, _Civil and Military Gazette_,
_Times of India_, _Bird Notes_.

  The author takes this opportunity of thanking the editors of the above
papers for permission to reproduce the sketches.

                         GLIMPSES OF INDIAN BIRDS

                            BIRDS IN A GROVE

The small groves that usually surround hamlets in Oudh are favourite
resorts of birds.

I know of few more pleasant ways of passing an hour than under the trees
in such a grove at the beginning of December, when the weather is
perfect. The number of birds that show themselves is truly astonishing.

Recently I tarried for a little time in such a grove consisting of half
a dozen mango trees, a tamarind and a pipal, and witnessed there a
veritable avian pageant—a pageant accompanied by music.

The sunbirds (_Arachnechthra asiatica_) were the leading minstrels.
There may have been a dozen of them in the little tope. To count them
was impossible, because sunbirds are never still for two seconds
together. When not flitting about amid the foliage looking for insects
they are playing hide-and-seek, or pouring out their canary-like song.
At this season of the year the cocks are in undress plumage. In his full
splendour the male is glistening purple; but in August he loses nearly
all his purple gloss and becomes brownish above and ashy grey below,
save for a purple stripe running downwards from his chin. The hen is at
all times brown above and yellow below.

The red-whiskered bulbuls (_Otocompsa emeria_) were as numerous and as
full of life and motion as the sunbirds. Their tinkling notes mingled
pleasantly with the sharper tones of the other choristers.

It is superfluous to state that two or three pairs of doves were in that
little _bagh_, and that one or other of them never ceased to coo.

Further, it goes without saying that there were redstarts in that tope.
The Indian redstart (_Ruticilla rufiventris_) is one of the commonest
birds in Oudh during the winter months. During flight it looks like a
little ball of fire, because of its red tail: hence its old English
name, fire-tail.

At intervals, a curious _tew_ emanated from the foliage. A short search
sufficed to reveal the author—the black-headed oriole (_Oriolus
melanocephalus_), a glorious golden bird having the head and neck black
and some black in the wing. This creature seems never to descend to the
ground; it dwells always in the greenwood tree and its life is one long
search for fruit, caterpillars and other creeping things.

The flycatchers were a pageant in themselves; there were more species in
that tiny _bagh_ than are to be found in the whole of Great Britain and

First and foremost the fan-tailed flycatcher (_Rhipidura
albifrontata_)—the prima donna of the tope—presented herself. Like a
fairy in a pastoral play, she comes into view from some leafy bower,
announcing her appearance by five or six joyous notes that mount and
descend the musical scale. Dainty as a wagtail she is arrayed in black
and white like some motacillas. She is dancer as well as singer, and she
pirouettes up and down a horizontal branch, bowing now to right and now
to left, spreading her tail into a fan and suddenly breaking off her
dance to make a flight after an insect.

Even more beautiful was the next flycatcher to introduce
itself—Tickell’s blue flycatcher (_Cyornis tickelli_). The upper parts
of this exquisite little creature are glistening royal blue; the throat
and breast are flaming orange, and the lower parts are white. After
flitting from bough to bough in search of quarry, it stood still and
uttered its lay, which consists of a _chik, chik_, followed by a little
trill, not unlike that of the fan-tailed flycatcher. Having delivered
itself of its melody, it vanished into the green canopy. Its place was
taken almost immediately by a red-breasted flycatcher (_Siphia parva_),
a bird very like the English robin in appearance. Ere long it moved

Shortly after another flycatcher took its little part in the pageant.
This was the grey-headed flycatcher (_Culicicapa ceylonensis_), “a tiny
brownie bird,” with the head grey and the lower parts bright yellow.
With the exception of the _Rhipidura_, all these flycatchers had come
down from the Himalayas.

While watching their graceful movements, my attention was attracted by a
curious grating sound that emanated from the branches immediately over
my head. On looking up, I saw a crow-pheasant (_Centropus rufipennis_)
running up a branch in the inimitable manner of his kind. His bright red
eye was fixed on me, and he had evidently made up his cuculine mind that
“distance lends enchantment to the view” of a human being, and
accordingly lost no time in making his exit.

Scarcely had I lost sight of him when there was a considerable commotion
in the pipal tree near by. When running to discover the cause of this I
startled half a dozen pipits (_Anthus rufulus_) that, hidden by the
grass, were feeding on the ground. They, as is their wont when
frightened, flew into the foliage. Pipits are dull brown birds, streaked
like larks, that display tail-wagging propensities. I discovered that
the bird making the commotion near the summit of the pipal tree was a
vulture. Very large and out of place did it seem struggling among the
slender branches with wings spread-eagled. It was tugging away
vigorously at a small branch and soon succeeded in breaking it off.
Having accomplished this, it scrambled on to what looked like a large
ball of dried leaves and twigs caught in one of the upper branches. This
was a nest in course of construction, which the vulture was lining with
pipal branches. Presently the huge bird flew off, and I was then able to
identify it as the white-backed vulture (_Pseudogyps bengalensis_). I
returned to the mango tree beneath which I had been standing, and in so
doing disturbed a bee-eater (_Merops viridis_) that was perching on one
of the lower branches. Of the presence in the vicinity of these charming
little birds I was already aware from their soft twitterings. I had not
actually seen them, because their habit is to perch on the outer
branches of trees, whence they make aerial sallies after insects.

The calls of the blossom-headed parakeets (_Palæornis cyanocephalus_),
far softer and mellower than those of the rose-ringed species, had at
frequent intervals mingled with the notes of the other birds; and at
this moment one of these green parrots settled on a branch quite close
to me. Her slate-coloured head showed her to be a hen; in this species
the head of the cock is coloured like a ripe plum.

Sharp sounds, like those made by insects, issuing from every tree
revealed the presence of warblers. These birds were so small and so
active that I am not certain to what species they belonged. The majority
of them were, I believe, willow warblers (_Phylloscopus tristis_).

At intervals the _to-wee to-wee_ of the tailor-bird (_Orthotomus
sutorius_) had rung out clear and distinct from the medley of sounds
that filled the grove. Suddenly two tailor-birds came on the scene, one
chasing the other. They alighted on a horizontal bough, where they
tarried sufficiently long to enable me to see the chestnut crown so
characteristic of the species.

I have omitted to make mention of the sprightly magpie-robin (_Copsychus
saularis_). Of this species there was at least one pair in that little
grove, and several times did the cock descend to the ground, and hop
about, with tail erect. He is arrayed in black and white, and a
smarter-looking bird does not exist. His mate also put in an appearance;
she has all his sprightliness and is equally tastefully attired in grey
and white.

Having spent an hour in the grove, I had to return to my tent to work,
without having witnessed all the _dramatis personæ_ of the daily
pageant. As I was leaving the tope a hen brown-backed robin (_Thamnobia
cambaiensis_) hopped out of an _arhar_ field and stood beneath a mango
tree, carrying her tail erect so as to display the red undertail

After I had reached my tent, fifty yards away, I heard the
_kutur—kutur—kuturuk_ of the green barbet (_Thereiceryx zeylonicus_),
the loud tap, tap, tap of the golden-backed woodpecker (_Brachypternus
aurantius_), and the cheerful notes of the king crow (_Dicrurus ater_).

                            THE MAGPIE-ROBIN

The magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis), or _dhayal_, as the Indians call
him, is a truly delightful bird. He is of handsome appearance, bold
disposition, and confiding habits. He is, further, a singer who can hold
his own in any company when at his best. The _dhayal_ is a typically
Indian bird, being found in all parts of the country from the Himalayas
to Cape Comorin. He is common in Ceylon and ascends the hills of India
to altitudes of over 6000 feet. He is, I believe, more abundant in the
United Provinces than anywhere else. It is no exaggeration to assert
that at least one pair of magpie-robins lives in every garden in Oudh
and Agra. I do not count as gardens those treeless compounds in which
some bungalows are situate, for the magpie-robin is a bird that loves
shade. The species, although by no means rare in South India, is not
nearly so abundant there as in the northern part of the peninsula.

The _dhayal_ is very easily identified. The cock is a black and white
bird rather larger than the familiar English robin. His head, neck,
breast, and upper parts are black with a white bar in the wing. The
lower parts are white, as are the outer tail feathers.

The above description will show that the black and white markings of the
plumage are similar to those of the common magpie; hence the popular
name of the bird—magpie-robin. If the distribution of the magpie-robin
happened to coincide with that of the magpie, I have no doubt whatever
that zoologists of the school of Wallace would cite the _dhayal_ as an
example of protective mimicry. They would tell us that this robin had
aped the dress of the powerful magpie in order to dupe the crows and
other bullying birds that vex the lives of their smaller neighbours.

As the magpie-robin dwells mostly where the magpie is not found, no
Wallaceian has attempted to explain why its colouring is so like that of
the magpie. As a matter of fact, the magpie scheme of colouring seems to
be a popular one in nature (if I may be permitted to use such an
expression). It appears in seven species which are in no way closely
related one to another, to wit, a goose, a crow, a tanager, a
honey-eater, a swallow-shrike, a robin, and, of course, the common

The hen magpie-robin is brownish grey where her lord and master is
black, the pattern of her plumage being the same as his.

The magpie-robin does not carry his tail as most birds do, but goes
about with it pointed to the sky. This gives the bird a very sprightly
appearance. Its actions fulfil the promise of its looks. It is never
still for an instant. Now it descends to the ground, where it hops about
with tail erect, picking up here and there tiny insects; now it flies
into a tree or bush, where it pursues its search for insects or pours
forth its joyous song. Nor does it confine its operations to trees,
bushes, and dry land. I have seen a magpie-robin hunting for insects on
a tangled mass of weeds and stems floating on water. On these it hopped
about just as it does on _terra firma_. Each little jump caused
considerable commotion in the water. The bird did not seem to mind its
toes getting wet.

The _dhayal_ is essentially a bird of gardens. Like the English robin,
it prefers to dwell as near human habitations as possible. In my opinion
it is one of the finest song birds in the world. Like the majority of
melodious birds, the magpie-robin is not in song all the year round.
During the early winter it is a silent creature. Towards the end of the
cold weather the cock begins to find his voice, and at that time his
efforts are not very pleasing to the human ear. But each successive
day’s effort produces better results, until, by March, the bird is able
to pour forth a torrent of far-reaching melody which is inferior to that
of no Indian bird save his cousin, the shama.

Needless to say, the period when the cock _dhayal_ is in song
corresponds to the mating time. At this season the cocks are very
pugnacious. This pugnacity is simply the expression of the fact that the
_dhayal_ is at that time more than usually overflowing with energy. This
energy has to find outlets. One of these is through the medium of
vigorous song. Another way of dissipating energy is by performing
gymnastic feats in the air. As a rule magpie-robins rarely perform
sustained flights. They are content with flitting from bush to bush, or
making little excursions to the ground and back again. But at the
breeding season the cocks often fly up high in the air and describe a
series of wide circles. They will spend hours in this performance with
only a few seconds’ rest at long intervals.

The eggs are nearly always placed in some natural hole, that is to say,
one not excavated by the _dhayal_ itself. The hole is sometimes in a
tree, but nine times out of ten in Northern India the site selected is a
hole in some building. The servants’ quarters in the corner of some
shady garden are almost invariably chosen. A very favourite spot is
between the wooden lintel and the mud wall of a _kachcha_ building; such
buildings are well called _kachcha_, for they begin to crack and fall
down as soon as they are built. The cracks and crevices that appear in
them offer just what magpie-robins want for nesting purposes. The eggs
are not laid on the bare brick, mud, or other material in which the
cavity exists. The hole is invariably lined with roots, fibres, grass,
feathers, or any other soft material available. My experience of the
nests of this species has been confined chiefly to Northern India, and I
do not recollect ever having found a nest that was not in the wall of
some building; but observers from South India say that, as often as not,
the _dhayal_ nests in trees.[1] Oates states that in Burma the
magpie-robin almost invariably selects a large hollow bamboo, and places
its nest about two feet inside, near the first joint; but he adds that
the bamboos selected are generally to be found lying about the verandahs
and cucumber framings of the native houses. The truth of the matter
would seem to be that magpie-robins select the very first cavity of the
right size they come across, and, as they affect human habitations, the
cavity used is almost invariably near some man’s dwelling. In Northern
India the construction of the dwellings of Indians is such that the
walls afford convenient sites, so that these are generally utilised; in
other parts of the country, where the walls do not present so many
holes, other cavities in trees, etc., are selected.

The eggs have a greenish-white background which is usually largely
obliterated by blotches of brownish red. March, April, May, and June are
the months in which eggs are most likely to be found; April and May for

[1]Such is the contrariness of birds in general and of magpie-robins in
    particular, that since this book went to press I have found in the
    Pilibhit and Bareilly districts no fewer than seven _dhayals’_ nests
    in holes in trees!

                         THE INDIAN SNAKE-BIRD

The Indian darter, or snake-bird (_Plotus melanogaster_) is best
described by what I may perhaps call the synthetic method. Take a large
cormorant and remove the head and neck; to the headless cormorant, sew
on the head and neck of a heron, and you will have produced a very fair
imitation of the Indian snake-bird. If during the operation you happen
to have dislocated one of the lower neck vertebrae of the heron, so much
the better, for the slender neck of the darter is characterised by a
bend at the junction of the eighth and ninth vertebrae, which, as Mr.
Garrod has shown, enables the bird, by suddenly straightening the neck,
to transfix the fish on which it has designs. As a catcher of fish the
snake-bird is probably without peer. This is not surprising, since it
possesses the swimming and diving apparatus of the cormorant, the long
neck and dagger-like beak of the heron, and, in addition, a patent
thrusting apparatus in the shape of the aforesaid kink in the neck.

The Indian darter is a bird with which all who go down to _jhils_ to
shoot duck must be familiar, since it is a full yard in length and
occurs in most parts of India, Burma, and Ceylon. Notwithstanding its
large size, it is apt to be overlooked when in the water, because it
almost invariably swims with the body submerged, showing only the upper
neck above the surface. Every now and again it completely disappears
from view. After remaining submerged for several seconds the head
reappears with a small fish projecting from the bill. The fish is
forthwith thrown a little way into the air, and then caught and
swallowed. This habit of tossing food into the air preparatory to
swallowing it occurs in many long-billed species, and appears to be the
most expeditious method of getting food from the tip of an elongated
beak to the other extremity, where it is seized by the muscular walls of
the gullet and passed onwards.

The snake-bird is said sometimes to secure its quarry by diving from a
perch like a kingfisher. I have not observed the bird behave thus, and
the method does not appear to be generally practised.

_Plotus melanogaster_ is called the snake-bird because of its long,
slender, snake-like neck, which looks very like the anterior portion of
a water-snake when the bird swims, as it often does, with the body
submerged. If danger threatens the bird usually sinks in the water until
every part of it except the beak disappears. This certainly is a method
of hiding superior to that said to be adopted by the ostrich.

The snake-bird is a rapid swimmer, and as it frequently remains under
water for thirteen or fourteen seconds at a time, it is able to move
considerable distances while completely submerged.

The snake-bird is a powerful flier. While on the wing it does not
retract its neck after the manner of the heron, but progresses with neck
extended. The neck being so slender gives the bird a comic appearance
and renders it easy to identify during flight. When resting from its
piscatorial labours it betakes itself to the edge of the _jhil_ or to an
islet and squats there to dry its plumage in the approved cormorant
fashion, with wings partially, and tail fully, expanded. In this
grotesque attitude it frequently preens itself, and, thanks to the
length of its neck and bill, it has not to undergo the contortions that
characterise most birds when trying to reach with the tip of the beak
their least accessible feathers.

The Indian darter does not appear to patronise the open sea. Probably it
objects to the swell and finds its quarry easier to catch in
comparatively shallow water. It does not mind salt water, for it may be
found in tidal estuaries and creeks. I have seen it on the Cooum at
Madras. It is, however, essentially a bird of the _jhil_. Needless to
state that it is no songster—none of the _Phalacocoracidae_ are
melodious—nor is it given to undue loquacity, but it is capable, when
the occasion demands, of emitting a harsh croak.

So far as my experience goes, snake-birds usually occur singly or in
pairs, but according to Jerdon hundreds of the birds are to be seen on
some _jhils_ in Bengal.

At the nesting season it is more likely to be seen in flocks than at
other times, for numbers breed together, often in company with herons
and cormorants. Like these latter, the snake-bird times its nesting
operations so that the young will be hatched out after the monsoon has
brought into existence numbers of amphibia and crustacea on which to
feed them. Accordingly, it nidificates in July, August, and September in
Northern India and Travancore, which are served by the south-west
monsoon, and in January and February in those parts of South India
visited by the north-east monsoon.

The nest is a mere platform of twigs, usually placed in low trees,
babools for preference, and growing in situations flooded in the rains.

I do not know of any place near the city of Madras where snake-birds
breed. Mr. T. F. Bourdillon, writing of Travancore, says, “I once found
a colony of these birds nesting above the Athirapuzha in the Kodasheri
River in September. They had taken possession of an island in midstream,
where they had built their untidy nests on small trees about twenty feet
high, and there were fresh and hard-set eggs in them in all stages of
incubation, while half-fledged birds scrambled about the branches or
flopped into the water at our approach. The nests were about one foot in
diameter and roughly built of twigs. The eggs are white and covered with
a chalky coat and measure 2 inches by 1¼. Some of the eggs are rather
larger at one end than the other, while others are truly fusiform with
pointed ends.”

The snake-bird is sometimes kept as a pet by Indians. According to Mr.
J. R. Cripps the Buddeas, a race of gipsies who travel about the Eastern
Bengal districts in boats, are very fond of keeping these birds, almost
every boat tenanted by these gipsies having a snake-bird on board.

The shoulder feathers of the Indian darter are long and narrow like the
hackles of a cock. Each is black with a conspicuous silvery shaft, which
renders it a thing of unusual beauty. According to Jerdon these feathers
constitute the badge of royalty among the Khasias, and used to be the
badge of one of the Bengal Regiments of Irregular Cavalry.


Were a beauty show held open to all the birds of India, the minivets
would, I think, win the first prize. To say this is to bestow high
praise, for India teems with beautiful birds.

All the colours of the rainbow appear in our avian population. Indeed,
the Indian pitta (_Pitta brachyura_)—the bird of nine colours—is a
rainbow in himself, displaying as he does red, yellow, grey, and various
shades of blue and green, to say nothing of black and white.

Most of our beautiful birds, however, pin their affections more
especially to one colour. The parakeets, the chloropses, the green
pigeons, the bee-eaters, and the barbets wear sufficient green to
satisfy the most patriotic Irishman.

Golden yellow is affected by the orioles and the ioras.

The kingfisher, the roller and the purple porphyrio are as blue as
Putney on boat-race day.

Sunbirds, pheasants, and peafowl favour us with a gorgeous display of
metallic hues.

The rose-coloured starling and the flamingo wear their pink as proudly
as a Westminster boy.

The minivets are the leaders of fashion as regards the reds and yellows.
The cocks vie with the hens as to who shall be the more resplendent,
and, in so doing, make short work of the attempts of Wallace and Darwin
to explain sexual difference in plumage. In most species of minivets the
cocks are arrayed in bright scarlet, whence the name Cardinal-bird, rich
crimson, deep rose colour, flaming red, or soft orange, while their
respective wives are studies in the various shades of yellow. But the
beauty of the minivet is not merely that of colouring. The elegance of
its slender, well-proportioned form rivals that of the wagtail.

Minivets are little birds with longish tails which flit about among the
leaves of trees in flocks of half a dozen, conversing in low but
exceedingly melodious tones.

They are veritable nomads. They never remain long in one place, except,
of course, when nesting. Without apparently ever taking a prolonged
flight, the flocks of minivets must traverse very considerable tracts of
country. They never leave the neighbourhood of trees. Their habit is to
pass methodically from tree to tree, tarrying awhile at each, seeking
for insects now on the topmost branches, where the dainty forms of the
birds stand out sharp and clear against the azure sky, now lost to view
amid the denser foliage.

Few are the lurking insects that escape the bright little eye of the
minivet. Even those resting on parts of the tree where a bird cannot
obtain a foothold do not escape, for the minivet is able to seize them
while hovering in the air on vibrating wings. Occasionally, in order to
reach a tiny victim hidden away on the under surface of a leaf, the
minivet will hang by its feet, like a titmouse, from the slender branch
that bears the leaf. At times the minivet will indulge in a little
zigzag flight among the green branches, and it is on such occasions that
the cock utters his feeble but pleasing little warble.

Fifteen species of minivet adorn India. Unfortunately, most of them are
of comparatively restricted range, being confined to the Himalayas. Two
species only, I believe, are common in South India, namely, the small
minivet (_Pericrocotus peregrinus_) and the orange minivet (_P.
flammeus_). The former is the only one likely to be seen in Madras city.
If we would see the orange species we must go to the Nilgiris or the
Western Ghauts.

Both sexes of _Pericrocotus peregrinus_ are handsome without being
showy. They are about the size of sparrows, but have a much longer tail.
The head, nape, and upper part of the back of the cock are of a rich
slaty-grey tint, which deepens into black on the sides of the head, and
on the throat, wings, and tail. There is an orange bar in the wing, and
the tail feathers are tipped with that colour. The breast and lower
portion of the back are of the richest scarlet. The female is less
showily attired than the cock; she lacks his scarlet trimmings and wears
yellow in place of his patches of orange.

The orange minivet is a still more beautiful bird. The head and the back
of the cock are black. His wings are black and flame-coloured red, the
red being so arranged as to form a band running along, not across, the
wing during flight. This longitudinal red or yellow wing-band
characterises most species of minivet. His tail feathers are all red,
save the two median ones, which are black. During flight the brilliant
red seems almost to obliterate the black, so that a number of cocks, as
they fly from one tree to another, look like sparks driven before the
wind. The hen is marked in the same way as the cock, but in her the
flaming red colour is replaced by bright yellow. In my opinion, “orange”
is not a very suitable adjective to apply to this species. A literal
translation of the Latin name—the flame-coloured minivet—would be more

A minivet’s nest is a work of art. As all the species construct
precisely the same kind of nursery, what is true of any one species
applies equally to all the others. The nest is a neat little cup, about
three inches in diameter, composed of twigs and grasses, and covered
outside with moss and cobwebs, so that in colour and general appearance
the exterior is exactly like the bark of a tree. It is usually placed on
a bough; if this happens to be a thick one, the nest is totally
invisible to any person looking up into the tree. If the branch happens
to be a thin one, the nursery, seen from below, looks exactly like a
knot or swelling in the branch. Thus, unless one actually sees the
minivet sitting on the nest, or climbs the tree, it is scarcely possible
to locate the little nursery. It is easy enough to discover that a pair
have a nest, for the parent birds make a great noise when a human being
comes anywhere near. If they happen to be carrying food in the beak for
the young birds, they at once drop it, set up their cry of distress and
try to entice the stranger away by flying a little distance off. If this
ruse[2] be not successful, the hen minivet will act as if her wing were
broken and flap along away from the nest.

It is an interesting fact that although minivets build open nests and
the sexes differ so considerably in appearance, both the cock and the
hen take part in incubation.

Some years ago, when writing of the small minivet, I quoted Mr. William
Jesse as describing a very curious phenomenon in connection with the
nesting of this species, namely that in his experience almost invariably
two hens and one cock take part in nest building and incubation. “What
is the exact duty of this second wife,” writes Jesse, “I cannot make
out. Possibly she may be a drudge. That she exists I have satisfied
myself time after time, and so convinced are the Martiniere boys of the
fact that they—no mean observers by the way—rarely trouble to look for a
nest if only one female is present. Unfortunately, I have never yet
found out what happens when there are young. Whether both females take
part in incubation and in rearing the young I do not know. I do not
think that both lay eggs, as I have never found more than three.” From
the time when I first read the above passage I have paid particular
attention to minivets, with the object of trying to account for the
alleged phenomenon, and the result of my efforts is that I have never
seen more than one cock and one hen at a nest, whether it be under
construction or whether it contain eggs or young. Moreover, I have not
come across any naturalist other than Mr. Jesse who has seen more than
two birds at the nest. I am therefore driven to the conclusion that
minivets are monogamous birds and that the observation recorded by Mr.
Jesse is faulty, that the presence of the second female was due to the
chance visit of an outsider. Possibly, since there seem to be more hen
minivets than cocks, there is considerable competition among the hens
for cocks, and it may happen that the hen who has set her cap at a cock
in vain may stay on in the vicinity for some time after her rejection.

[2]I use the word “ruse” for want of a better term. I do not believe
    that the bird _intends_ to deceive the intruder. I am disposed to
    think that this feigning of injury is a purely instinctive act. The
    phenomenon is discussed on p. 207 _infra_.


The thoughts of birds and beasts are probably few and simple. Yet it is
unlikely that they are able to communicate all their thoughts to one
another, because the language they possess consists of a few
monosyllables, by which they can express only elementary feelings such
as pain, anger, fear, hunger, and the presence of food.

Some animals possess a much larger vocabulary than others. Dr. Garner,
who went to Africa to study the language of his Simian brothers, found
that the average monkey was able to emit only about seven cries, but the
vocabulary of the highly intelligent chimpanzee comprised twenty-two
separate calls.

According to Mr. Edmund Selous, the rook is really in process of
evolving a language. He records no fewer than thirty-three distinct
sounds he heard rooks utter, and states that this is but a small page
out of their vocabulary. Nevertheless, he is compelled to admit that
only in few cases was he able to connect a note with any particular
state of mind.

The articulate language of animals is a language of monosyllables, a
language composed almost entirely of interjections. Such a language,
while very expressive as far as it goes, does not go very far. And the
question naturally arises, does it go sufficiently far to meet the needs
of the various species, or have they some means of communicating with
one another other than by sounds? It is very tempting to believe that
they have, that they are able to transmit thought to one another in some
way. It is only on the assumption of brain waves that one can explain
the soldier-like evolutions which flocks of birds sometimes perform in
the air.

I have often wondered how those species of birds, of which both the cock
and hen take part in the nest-building operations, select the site. The
matter is, of course, simple when only the one sex constructs the nest.
But how is the site selected when both sexes build? It is tempting to
believe that they discuss the matter, that the hen says to the cock,
“Now, James, my dear, it is necessary for us to build a nest without
delay: come, let us select a secluded spot wherein to build”; and to
picture the little birds hunting about together and criticising the
sites each selects. Nevertheless, I think it most unlikely that any such
discussion takes place. Nest building is largely instinctive. In the
case of the first nest it is improbable that the little builders quite
know what they are doing, and I do not see how, before the nest is
begun, they can have any idea of what it will look like when it is

It is possible that birds agree as to the site without any discussion or
without any communication. Let us suppose that a pair of bulbuls have
mated. Suddenly one of them is overmastered by the nest-building
instinct which has hitherto lain dormant. This particular bird is
impelled by some irresistible force to seek out a site and then
forthwith to begin to build the nest. The nest-building instinct of its
mate, which is dormant, is at once awakened by the sight of its spouse
collecting material. When this happens the second bird begins
collecting, and is content to work at the structure already commenced by
its mate. Assuming the correctness of the suggestion that the
nest-building instinct does not, as a rule, become awakened
simultaneously in a pair of birds, what will happen in the exceptional
cases when the instinct does awaken simultaneously? When this happens,
it is my belief that each sex commences to build a separate nest. When
one of the pair discovers what its mate is doing, it, of course, gets
angry and scolds it. The other returns the compliment. Probably the next
step is that each examines the handiwork of the other and thinks very
little of it. Possibly at first each refuses to yield to the other, or
the one whose nest is the least advanced leaves this in favour of the
other, or—a third alternative—the stronger bird may attack the weaker
and compel it to desert its nest.

This, of course, is pure conjecture. But it is in accordance with the
fact that numbers of nests are commenced which are never completed, and
which, indeed, never progress very far. There are at present in my
verandah two nests belonging to bulbuls which have been left after about
three hours’ work was put into them. Several explanations of this
phenomenon are possible. Each bird may have commenced a separate nest,
and so one was deserted; or the site in question may have been found to
have some fatal defect, consequently the nest has been given up; or the
birds have been scared away or killed. The last alternative is the least
likely, and I am inclined to believe that the first explanation is the
true one.

I recently read in _Country Life_ an exceedingly interesting account of
the nest-building operations of a pair of wagtails. The account is brief
and has so important a bearing on the subject we are discussing that I
take the liberty to quote at length:—

“From the cover of a riverside cottage,” writes Mr. Alfred Taylor of the
grey wagtail in England, “I saw two birds repeatedly fly to a rocky
ledge both with nest-building material in their beaks. It was soon
evident that the male wagtail had selected one nest and the female
another place a couple of yards away. The former for some time took no
notice of the doings of his mate, and they both continued to gather
materials into their selected places. Suddenly he flew to her position
and commenced removing her material to the place where he thought the
nest ought to be. Trouble seemed to be brewing in the family, especially
when she still persisted in carrying dead grass to her site. In the end
the cock bird lost his temper, flew to her ledge, and viciously attacked
her, knocking off the ledge all evidence of her efforts at building. She
flew away, and for a couple of hours remained perched in a tree and
sulked, evidently much upset at her chastisement, not taking the
slightest notice of overtures of peace from her mate. As the deadlock
seemed likely to continue I departed.

“Two days later I was round again, eager to see how the difference had
been settled, if at all. To my great surprise, I must confess, the male
bird had given way to the female, and the nearly completed nest was on
her chosen site. A close examination of the two places showed that the
judgment of the male had been at fault. Where he had erred was in not
detecting the presence of mice; it was quite impossible for these
destructive little animals to reach the spot selected by the hen.”

Here, then, is a case of the cock having selected one site and the hen
another. Had they gone about choosing a site in company and disagreed
upon the place, it is hardly likely that the cock would for some time
have taken no notice of what the hen was doing; he would surely have set
his foot down at once. The fact that at first he took no notice seems to
show that at the outburst of what I may perhaps call the fury of
nest-building the cock had eyes for nothing but his work. Again, when
the cock did assert his authority, he apparently did not argue with the
hen. He simply knocked her and her handiwork off the ledge—a rude but
forcible, if inarticulate, method of expressing his feelings.

It may be asked, how was it that the birds agreed to the change of site
if they were not able to communicate with one another? Here, again, we
must wander into the field of conjecture. It must suffice that it is
possible to explain the change of tactics of the cock without assuming
any communication between him and his mate. Let us suppose that while
she was sulking, and he was working, a mouse appeared on the scene. This
would alarm him, and possibly the instinct of flying from enemies, that
the appearance of the mouse called into play, would cause him to desert
his nest, and perhaps he too began to sulk. Then the hen, once again
overcome by the nest-building instinct, recommenced her work, and when
the cock followed suit he left his useless site and worked at hers.

Investigation into the extent to which birds and beasts can communicate
with one another is as difficult as it is fascinating. It is one of
those subjects of which probably but little can be learned by systematic
experiment. The casual observer is as likely to throw light upon it as
the man who makes a special study of it. A chance incident, such as that
observed by Mr. Taylor, throws a flood of light upon the subject. It is
not until we have a large number of such observations on record that we
shall be able to acquire some definite knowledge of the extent to which
birds and beasts can, and do, communicate with one another.

                            PIED WOODPECKERS

No fewer than fifty-six species of woodpecker occur in India, and of
these thirteen wear a pied livery. The black-and-white woodpeckers are
all small birds. Most of them are of very limited distribution, several
being confined to the Himalayas and the connected hills. One species is
peculiar to the Andamans. One pied woodpecker, however, ranges from
Cochin China, through India, to Ceylon, but its distribution, although
wide, is capricious. It is abundant in all parts of North-West India,
but is said not to occur in Eastern Bengal and Assam. I do not remember
having seen it in Madras, yet it is the common woodpecker of Bombay. The
bird is easily identified. A pied woodpecker seen in South India can
belong to no species other than that which is known as _Liopicus
mahrattensis_ to men of science. The English name of this species is the
yellow-fronted pied woodpecker. It is clothed in black-and-white raiment
set off by a yellow forehead, and, in the case of the cock, a short red
crest. There is also a patch of red on the abdomen, but this is not
likely to be seen in the living bird, which presents only its back to
the observer as it seeks its insect quarry on the trunks and boughs of
trees. In the lower plumage the white predominates; the lower back is
white, as are the sides of the head and neck. The shoulders, upper back,
wings, and tail are black speckled with white.

Its habits are those of the woodpecker family. It moves about in a jerky
manner, like a mechanical toy. Its method is to start low down on the
trunk of a tree and work upwards, searching for insects. Unlike the
nut-hatch, the woodpecker seems to object to working head downwards, so
that, when it reaches the top of the tree, it flies off to another. Its
movements in the air are as jerky as those on the tree-trunk.

While other birds are hunting for insects that fly in the air, or creep
on the ground, or lurk under the leaves of trees, the woodpecker has
designs on those that burrow into tree-trunks or hide in the crevices of
the bark. These the woodpecker evicts by means of its bill and tongue.
The former is stout and square at the end, which presents a chisel-like
edge. The bird is thereby enabled to cut holes in the hardest wood.
Occasionally it literally excavates its quarry, but, as a rule, it is
not obliged to resort to such drastic measures. A series of vigorous
taps on the bark under which insects are lurking usually frightens them
to such an extent that they bolt from their hiding-places as hastily as
men leave their habitations during an earthquake. When the insects
expose themselves the woodpecker’s tongue comes into operation. This
organ is a fly-paper of the most approved “catch-’em-alive-o” type. It
is covered with a secretion as sticky as bird-lime. The insects it
touches adhere to it, one and all are drawn into the woodpecker’s mouth,
and forthwith gathered unto their fathers!

The nest is of the usual woodpecker type, that is to say, a cavity in
the trunk or a thick branch of a tree, partially, at any rate, excavated
by the bird. Although the chisel-like bill of the woodpecker can cut the
hardest wood, the bird usually selects for the site of its nest a part
of the tree where the internal wood is rotten. This, of course, means
less work for the bird. The only hard labour it has then to perform is
to cut through the sound external wood a neat, round passage leading to
the decayed core. When once this is reached, little further effort is

Last year I spent a few days at Easter in the Himalayas, and there had
leisure to watch a pair of pied woodpeckers at work on their nest. These
birds were brown-fronted pied woodpeckers—_Dendrocopus auriceps_. Their
nest was being excavated in the trunk of a large rhododendron tree, at a
spot some thirty feet from the ground. When I first began to watch the
birds the cock was at work. He confined his operations to a spot about
four inches from the surface, so that, as he hammered away, his head,
neck, and a part of his shoulders disappeared in the hole. His fore toes
grasped the inside of the aperture, and his hind toes the bark of the
tree. The wood at which he was working was sufficiently hard to cause
the taps of his bill to ring out clearly. After I had been watching him
for about ten minutes he flew off to a tree hard by and uttered a number
of curious low notes. Then his spouse appeared and he caressed her.
After this both birds flew off. A few seconds later the hen came to the
nest hole and set to work. Her efforts were not directed to the part of
the cavity at which the cock had been working. Her taps were at a spot
deeper down, so that while at work her tail, although at right angles to
her body, derived no support from the trunk. She was operating on soft
wood, hence the tapping of her bill was scarcely audible. After working
for about eight minutes she began to remove the chips of wood she had
detached. This operation is performed so rapidly that it is apt to be
overlooked. The bird plunges its head into the hollow, seizes some
chips, draws out its head and jerks this violently to one side, usually
to the right, and thus casts the chips over its shoulder.

After the hen had been at work for nearly ten minutes she flew away.
Within one minute and a half of her departure the cock arrived on the
scene, and at once set to work in a most business-like fashion. He now
operated on the right side of the cavity, and not at the spot to which
his wife had directed her attention. After working for exactly
twenty-five minutes the cock flew off. Then for a fraction over ten
minutes the hole was deserted. At the end of this time it was the cock
who again appeared. He put in a spell of thirty-five minutes’ work, in
the course of which he indulged in a “breather” lasting three minutes. I
then went away, and returned nearly three hours later, by which time the
work had advanced to such an extent that when a bird was excavating at
the deepest part of the cavity only the tail and the tip of the wing
were visible. I found that the habit of the birds was to cease working
about 4 p.m. I do not know at what hour they commenced work.

Five days later the nest hole had attained such a size that the birds
were able to turn round in it, and so now emerged head foremost. When
throwing away the chips, the head of the bird would appear at the
aperture with the beak full of chips and dispose of them with a jerk of
the head. The head of a woodpecker at the entrance to its hole is a
pretty sight, so bright and keen is its eye. The excavation of the nest
from start to finish probably occupies from ten to fourteen days.

The yellow-fronted pied woodpecker sometimes selects as a nesting site a
spot in a tree-trunk only a few inches above the level of the ground.

Some years ago my ignorance of this fact afforded me a rather amusing
experience. I noticed a pied woodpecker with some insects in its bill.
Obviously it was about to carry these to its young. As there was only
one clump of about six trees in the vicinity the nest was necessarily in
one of these. Having half an hour to spare, I determined to wait and
discover the whereabouts of the nest. The sun was powerful, so I elected
to squat in the shade close by the trunk of the smallest of the trees. I
anticipated that the woodpecker would fly direct to its nest with the
food. Birds that nest in holes are usually quite indifferent to the
presence of man; instinct teaches them that their nest is in an
inaccessible place. But, in this instance, the bird kept hopping about
looking very distressed. Consequently, I came to the conclusion that its
nest must be in the trunk of the tree near which I was crouching. I
stood up and examined the trunk carefully, but found no signs of a nest.
I again sat down and waited until the patience of the woodpecker should
be exhausted, but it continued to hop about on a log of wood with the
food in its beak and disgust plainly depicted in its face. At the end of
half an hour I went off mystified. The following day I returned to the
spot, and the first thing that caught my eye was the entrance to the
woodpecker’s nest eight inches off the ground in the trunk by which I
had sat on the previous day. I had then unwittingly been blocking the
approach of the bird!

                          A JHIL OUT OF SEASON

Even as every English seaside resort has its “season,” so is there for
every Indian _jhil_ a period of the year when it is thronged with avian
visitors. At other times of the year the _jhil_, like the seaside town,
is, comparatively speaking, deserted. The season of the _jhil_ extends
from October to April—a term long enough to turn the average
lodging-house keeper green with envy! During the winter months the
_jhils_ of Northern India are full to overflowing with ducks, geese,
coots, pelicans, cormorants, and waders of every length of leg. As the
weather grows hot, the majority of these take to their wings and hie
themselves to cooler climes, where they enter upon the joyous toil of
rearing up their families. Thus, from May to September, the permanent
residents hold undisputed possession of the _jhil_. The number of these
permanent residents is considerable, so that a _jhil_, even in the
rains, when it contains most water, has not the forlorn appearance of,
let us say, Margate in winter.

It is very pleasant during a short break in the rains to visit a _jhil_
late in the afternoon, especially if a breeze be blowing. The sky
presents a panorama of clouds of the most varied and fantastic shapes,
to which the setting sun imparts hues wonderful and beautiful. The
slanting rays are reflected and refracted from cloud to cloud, so that
not infrequently there appear to be two suns behind the clouds, a major
one setting in the west and a minor one sinking to the eastern horizon.
The earth below is very beautiful. It is clothed in a mantle of green of
every hue, from the vivid emerald of the young rice crop to the dark
bluish green of the pipal tree. As likely as not the _jhil_ is so
thickly studded with grasses and other aquatic plants as to present the
appearance, from a little distance, of a number of flooded fields, in
most of which are well-grown crops—the water being visible only in
patches here and there.

The most conspicuous of the occupants of the _jhil_ are the snow-white
egrets (_Herodias alba_). These birds, which attain a length of a yard,
strut about solemnly in the shallower parts of the lake, seeking their
quarry. Their long necks project high above the vegetation; so slender
are these that they might almost belong to swans. Here and there stands
motionless a “long-necked heron, dread of nimble eels” (_Ardea
cinerea_), waiting patiently until a luckless frog shall approach. The
grey plumage of this species, dull and sober though it be, stands out in
bold contrast to the surrounding greenery. In another part of the _jhil_
a couple of sarus cranes (_Grus antigone_) are visible. This is the only
species of crane resident in India; the others are to be numbered among
those which visit the _jhil_ in the “season.” One of the saruses, like
the heroine of the “penny dreadful,” has drawn himself up to his full
height, and his grey form, relieved by patches of red and white on the
head and neck, shows well against the background of dark foliage. His
mate is apparently sitting down. This probably indicates the presence of
a nest. To discover this we must wade and chance an occasional immersion
to the waist. Risking this, we advance, to the disgust of the saruses,
who set up a loud trumpeting. Sometimes the parent birds attack the
intruders. Such conduct is, however, rare. Usually the sarus indulges in
Lloyd-Georgian methods of meeting an enemy.

The nest in question is a pile of rushes and water-weeds, rising a
couple of feet from the water and large enough for a man to stand upon.
It contains two whitish eggs faintly blotched with yellowish brown.

Viewed from the margin, the _jhil_ appears to be utterly devoid of
waterfowl; but in this case things are not what they seem. Before we
have waded far in the direction of the nest of the sarus, numbers of
duck and teal which were hidden by the sedges and grasses get up and fly
to another part of the _jhil_. The first birds to be disturbed are some
cotton-teal (_Nettopus coromandelianus_). As these consist of a flock of
eight or ten they are obviously not nesting. The cotton-teal drake is a
bird easy to identify. Its small size, white head, and black necklace
are unmistakable, and the white margins to the wings are very
conspicuous during flight.

On another part of the _jhil_ a pair of spot-billed ducks (_Anas
poecilorhyncha_) settle down. These are recognisable even at a
considerable distance when in the water by the white patch on each
flank. As there are two of these birds together it is probable that they
have a nest hidden in one of the sedge-covered islets studded about the
tank. The other ducks disturbed by our approach are whistling teal
(_Dendrocycna javanica_), which occur in considerable flocks, and a few
comb-duck (_Sarcidiornis melanotus_). All these species of duck and teal
are permanent residents in India.

Not a single coot is to be seen upon the _jhil_. The explanation of this
is that this particular tank dries up in the hot weather, and coots
usually keep to those lakes that contain water all the year round.

Half a dozen terns form a conspicuous and beautiful feature of the
_jhil_. As they sail overhead, with every now and then a descent to the
water to secure a frog or small fish, their silvery wings stand out
boldly from a dark cloud on the southern horizon. The terns at the
_jhil_ are all of the black-bellied species (_Sterna melanogaster_). The
other species haunt rivers in preference to shallow lakes.

Last, but not least, mention must be made of Pallas’s fishing eagle
(_Haliaetus leucoryphus_). One or more pairs of this bird are to be seen
in the vicinity of every _jhil_. In the earlier part of the day they are
active, screaming creatures, but when once they have made a good meal
off a teal or some fish they become very sluggish. Two of them are
sitting about fifty yards apart on a _band_ alongside the _jhil_,
looking like kites with whitish heads. They sit as motionless as
statues. They are obviously feeling very lazy. Presently a king-crow
(_Dicrurus ater_) comes up and, uttering that soft note which seems to
be peculiar to the rainy season, makes repeated feints at the head of
one of the fishing eagles. Save for a slight inclination of the head,
the eagle pays no attention to the attack of its puny adversary.
Eventually, the king-crow gives up in despair and flies off, probably to
find something which will take more notice of his threatening

Even when I approach the fishing eagle the phlegmatic bird only flies a
few yards. There is no creature more sluggish than a bird or beast of
prey that has recently made a good meal.

                             BIRDS IN WHITE

Almost every species of bird and beast throws off an occasional
albinistic variation or sport, which tends to breed true. Such sports
are of two kinds—complete and incomplete albinos. In the former, the
organism is totally devoid of external pigment, so that the eye looks
red, there being no colouring matter in the iris to mask the small blood
vessels in it. In the incomplete albinistic form the iris retains the
pigment, so that the eye colour is normal. True albinos have very poor
sight, hence when such sports occur in a species in a state of nature
they soon perish in the struggle for existence. The white varieties with
pigmented eyes are not handicapped by bad eyesight, but their whiteness
makes them conspicuous to the creatures that prey upon them; so that,
unless they are well able to defend themselves or unless they dwell in a
region of everlasting snow, they tend to be eliminated by natural

If protective colouring were as important to the welfare of birds as
Wallaceians and modern Darwinians assert, all the birds of the Polar
regions would be white and not a single white species would be found in
the temperate zones or in the Tropics. That coloured species occur in
the Arctic regions and white species in the Tropics is conclusive proof
that in those particular cases, at any rate, it is not of paramount
importance to the species that they be protectively coloured.

Finn and I have shown in _The Making of Species_ that the ice-bound
Arctic and Antarctic regions are not inhabited, as popular works on
zoology would have us believe, by a snow-white fauna. We have shown that
in the Polar countries the coloured species of birds outnumber the white
species. I will, therefore, not dilate further upon this subject. It
will suffice to repeat that in the area of eternal snow the white forms
are at an advantage in the struggle for existence, as their whiteness
tends to render them difficult to see, while, in regions where snow is
unknown, such organisms labour under a disadvantage because of their
conspicuousness, and, other things being equal, they ought not to be
able to hold their own against less showy rivals.

The fact that white birds exist in the plains of India must mean that
their colour is not a matter of great importance, that a conspicuous
organism can survive in the fight for life provided it be otherwise well
equipped for the contest. From this it follows that it is incorrect to
speak of the whiteness of such organisms as the direct product of
natural selection.

Let us take a brief survey of those birds of India of which the plumage
is largely white, and try to discover how it is that each of them is
able to hold its own in the struggle for existence, notwithstanding its
showy plumage. These birds are the spoonbill, the egrets, the
black-winged stilt, the avocet, the white ibis, the flamingo, adult cock
paradise flycatcher, and certain of the gulls, terns, pelicans and
storks, including the open-bill. With many of these every one is
familiar. Accordingly, it will not be necessary to describe the sea
gulls, the pelicans or the flamingo.

The spoonbill (_Platalea leucorodia_) is a bird larger than a kite with
very long black legs and a bill of the same hue which is flat and
expanded at the end like a spoon, hence the popular name of the bird.
Perhaps another name for the bird—Banjo-bill—still better describes its
beak. Spoonbills dwell on the fringe of water and feed much as ducks do.

The white ibis (_Ibis melanocephala_) is another wading bird, rather
smaller than the spoonbill and with considerably shorter legs. All its
plumage is white, but the legs, bill, and featherless head and upper
neck are black. The bill is long and curved like that of the curlew. The
stilt (_Himantopus candidus_) may be described as a sandpiper on red
stilts. It is a white bird with dark wings and back which spends its
days wading in shallow water. The avocet (_Recurvirostra avocetta_) is
perhaps the most elegant of all wading birds. It is slightly bigger than
the stilt but with shorter legs. Its body is white picked out with
black. Its most characteristic feature is a long, slender bill which
curves upwards. Like the species already mentioned, it feeds in shallow
water, and I have seen it on the Cooum.

The open-bill (_Anastomus oscitans_) looks like a shabby specimen of the
common white stork. It is characterised by a peculiar beak, of which the
mandibles do not meet in the middle and look as though they had been
bent in an attempt to crack a hard nut. The egrets, of which there are
several species in India, are snow-white, heron-like birds. The most
familiar is the cattle egret (_Bubulcus coromandus_), which Finn
characterises as one of the most picturesque birds in the East. This is
the bird that struts along beside a cow or buffalo and seizes the
grasshoppers disturbed by the motion of the quadruped. It is the least
aquatic of all the egrets, most of which are true waders.

Terns may be described as very graceful and slenderly built gulls. Their
feet are webbed, so that they can swim after the manner of ducks and sea
gulls, but they spend most of their time on their powerful pinions and
so elegant is their flight that they have been called sea-swallows. The
adult cock paradise flycatcher (_Terpsiphone paradisi_) is one of the
most beautiful birds in the world. As he is described in another essay
it is only necessary for me to state in this place that he is a white
bird with a black-crested head. He is not much larger than a sparrow,
but his two median tail feathers are twenty inches in length and float
behind him like streamers of white satin as he flits from tree to tree.

It will be observed that of the above list of Indian birds that are
mainly white, only the paradise flycatcher belongs to the great Order of
_Passeres_; moreover, with this exception, all are wading or aquatic
birds. These are significant facts if we can interpret them aright. I
interpret them in the following manner. It may be taken as a fact that
every species throws off occasionally white mutations or sports, which
breed true, so that, if allowed to persist, they form the starting point
for new varieties and species. As most passerine birds are small and
preyed upon by the _raptores_, white varieties among them usually perish
at an early age on account of their conspicuousness. Thus there are very
few white passerine birds. The paradise flycatcher lives amid thick
foliage, and so is comparatively immune from the attacks of birds of
prey; but even here it is note-worthy that the hens are not white but
chestnut in colour throughout life, and the cocks have chestnut-coloured
plumage until they are two years old. As the cock shares in the duties
of incubation equally with the hen, her failure to acquire white plumage
cannot be accounted for by supposing her to have a greater need of
protection. Finn has suggested that the whiteness of the cock is a
senile character; that it is the livery of old age.

The majority of the non-passerine birds that are altogether or mainly
white are large and able to fight well, so that they are comparatively
immune from the attacks of raptorial birds. The gulls and terns,
although small, fly so powerfully as to be equally safe. In the case of
birds which secure their food in the water, whiteness is probably useful
in rendering them less conspicuous to organisms living in the liquid
medium than they would be were they coloured.

Further, whiteness of feather seems to be correlated in some way with
the power to resist cold and damp.

It should be noted that not one of the larger fruit-eating birds is
white. The reason of this would seem to be that in the case of
non-aquatic birds such white species possess no advantage in the
struggle for existence, but, on the contrary, the whiteness of their
plumage is perhaps correlated with weakness of constitution. This, of
course, is a heavier handicap to a large bird than being conspicuous is.

The correlation or interdependence of various characteristics and organs
is a subject full of interest, but one which has hitherto attracted
comparatively little attention. Close study of this phenomenon may
eventually revolutionise zoological thought. Whether this surmise prove
right or wrong, one thing is certain, and that is there is more in the
philosophy of whiteness than the old-fashioned evolutionist dreams of.

                        THE PIED CRESTED CUCKOO

The pied crested cuckoo (_Coccystes jacobinus_) is the most handsome of
all the cuckoos. He is more than this. He stands out head and shoulders
above his fellow-deceivers. Lest these words should convey an
exaggerated idea of his splendour, let me say that they do not
necessarily mean very much. Among the family of parasitic cuckoos the
standard of beauty is not high. Most of the _Cuculidæ_ not only lack
bright colours, ornamental plumes, and other superfluous appendages, but
are also devoid of the smart appearance and soldier-like bearing that
characterise the great majority of the feathered folk. Thus it cometh to
pass that the pied crested cuckoo, although he cannot hold a candle to
such birds as the paradise flycatcher or the oriole, is able to point
the claw of scorn at his fellow-cuckoos. His black-and-white livery is
distinctly stylish and is embellished by a crest that does not lie down
as though it were ashamed of itself, but projects prettily from the back
of the head.

Even as a little girl of my acquaintance calls every plump Indian a
Bengali, so do the inhabitants of Bengal call all birds possessing these
pretty crests bulbuls. On this principle the Bengali name for the pied
crested cuckoo is _Kola bulbul_. On the other hand, black bulbuls
(_Hypsipetes_), which possess no crests, are not recognised as bulbuls
by the natives of India. Obviously, the crest maketh the bulbul.

The pied crested cuckoo is a bird that is easily recognised. The upper
parts of his plumage are black, his lower parts and the tips of his tail
feathers are white. There is in each wing a conspicuous white bar. Then,
there is the black crest. As regards size the plumage of the common
cuckoo would fit our pied crested friend like a glove.

But it is not necessary to set eyes on him in order to recognise him. To
hear him sufficeth. In this respect he differs in no way from his
brother cuckoos. A silent cuckoo is unthinkable. The generating of sound
is to the cuckoo what wine is to the wine-bibber, poker to the gambler,
fighting to the soldier, “votes for women” to the Suffragette. According
to cuculine philosophy, life without noise is but the image of death.
The reason of this is obvious. At the breeding season a vast amount of
surplus energy is generated in birds. This has to find some outlet. It
is usually dissipated in the form of vocal effort, the dances and antics
of courtship, and the labours of nest building and feeding the young. Or
it may find expression in more concrete form in the growth of plumes and
other ornaments. To the parasitic cuckoos most of these outlets are
closed. They do not produce nuptial ornaments; to build nests they know
not how. They are denied the pleasurable labours of rearing up their
offspring. They do not appear to indulge in elaborate courtship. All
their superfluous energy is sent forth in the form of noise. Watch any
cuckoo while he is calling, be it the cheery _canorus_, who gladdens the
Himalayas, or the koel or the brain-fever bird or the pied crested
cuckoo, who enliven the plains, and you will be driven to the conclusion
that they are demented creatures. Although the frenzied screaming of the
pied cuckoo is easily recognised, it is difficult to describe. “Its
call,” writes Stuart Baker, “is a very loud metallic double note, too
harsh to be called a whistle. In the early part of the season, before
its voice has fully formed, its cries are particularly harsh and
disagreeable, and the second note, which should be the same in tone as
the first, often goes off at a tangent. Later on in the year, though it
becomes more noisy than ever, its notes are rather musical.”

Much remains to be discovered regarding the distribution of the pied
crested cuckoo in India. Although it has been observed in most parts of
the country, it appears to undergo considerable local migration. In
Northern India I have seen the bird only during the rains, but I believe
that there are cases on record of its occurring there in winter. On the
other hand, I have seen pied crested cuckoos in Madras in July, at which
time they are supposed all to migrate northwards. An anonymous writer
recently put forward the theory that our Indian cuckoos are not really
migratory, that they appear to migrate because of their skulking habits.
Cuckoos are loved by their fellow-birds about as much as Lord Morley is
loved by Anglo-Indians. As cuckoos dislike demonstrations, the theory is
that they habitually shun observation, and are therefore not noticed,
except at the breeding season, when their loud excited calls betray
their presence. This theory is a plausible one, but the facts are, I
think, against it. There can be no doubt that some species of cuckoo are
migratory. Indeed, one of the earlier theories to account for the
parasitic habits of the common cuckoo was that the bird did not stay in
England sufficiently long to enable it to rear up a brood. Again, the
Indian koel (_Eudynamis honorata_) certainly migrates. No bird is
commoner in Lahore in the hot weather, but I did not set eyes upon the
bird there in the course of two winters during which I took several
walks a week, armed with field-glasses. Likewise the pied crested cuckoo
is also migratory, but the particular direction of its movements remains
to be established. I would ask every one interested in birds to make a
note of each date on which this cuckoo is seen.

The parasitic habits of the pied cuckoo are interesting. The bird
victimises various species of babbler, more especially the jungle
babbler (_Crateropus canorus_) and the large grey babbler (_Argya
malcomi_). There is nothing particularly remarkable in this, for
babblers are the favourite dupes of Indian cuckoos. The point that is of
interest is that the common hawk-cuckoo, or brain-fever bird
(_Hierococcyx varius_) also victimises the seven sisters. Now this
cuckoo is much like a hawk in appearance, so much so that it affords the
stock example of aggressive mimicry among birds. Says the Wallaceian:
“This cuckoo resembles a hawk so closely that small birds mistake it for
one. When the nesting babblers see it, they flee for their lives, and
the cuckoo—the ass in the lion’s skin—seizes the opportunity to deposit
an egg in the momentarily deserted nest. The strange egg is not noticed
by the babblers on their return because it is blue like theirs. We thus
see how natural selection has brought about the hawk-like appearance of
the brain-fever bird, and caused the egg to become blue.” If all cuckoos
parasitic on babblers were like hawks in appearance, I should have
nothing to urge against the above explanation. Unfortunately for the
Wallaceians, the pied crested and other cuckoos, which do not look in
the least like hawks, successfully dupe the seven sisters. It would
seem, therefore, that this elaborate disguise of the hawk-cuckoo is
quite unnecessary. I grant that it may make very smooth the path of the
brain-fever bird. This, however, is not enough. As I have repeatedly
said, almost I fear _ad nauseam_, natural selection cannot be said to
have brought about a structural peculiarity which is proved to be merely
useful, and not essential. Unless it can be shown that, but for a
certain peculiarity, a species would have perished, it is incorrect to
speak of natural selection as having fixed that characteristic in the
species by eliminating all individuals that did not possess it.
Moreover, if it can be shown that any specified character has such a
survival value, the selectionist has still to prove that the
characteristic had this value at the earliest, and at each successive
stage of its development.

I submit, then, that the Wallaceian’s explanation of the hawk-like
appearance of the brain-fever bird is in all probability not the correct
one. In the same way it is doubtful whether the blue eggs of the
brain-fever bird and the pied crested cuckoo can be fairly laid to the
charge of natural selection. The common cuckoo sometimes lays its eggs,
which are not blue, in the nests of birds whose eggs are blue, for
example the hedge-sparrow in England and the Himalayan laughing thrush
in India.

The pied crested cuckoo, when it first leaves the nest, differs
considerably from the adult in appearance. Its upper parts are slaty
grey, and its lower parts, the wing patch and the tips of the outer tail
feathers are pale buff, so that the young cuckoo, when flying, might
easily be mistaken for a bank myna (_Acridotheres ginginianus_) but for
the length of its tail. Like all young cuckoos, it is a greedy,
querulous thing. It sits on a branch, clamouring continually for food,
flapping its wings and uttering a very fair imitation of the babbler

September is the month in which to look out for young pied cuckoos.
Those that I have seen appear always to be unaccompanied by
foster-brothers or sisters. This would seem to indicate either that the
parent cuckoos destroy the legitimate eggs at the time of depositing
their own, or that the young birds have the depraved habits of the
youthful _Cuculus canorus_. But there are cases on record of young pied
crested cuckoos being accompanied by young babblers. It is thus evident
that much remains to be discovered regarding the habits of _Coccystes


Having dealt in _Bombay Ducks_ with what I may perhaps term the domestic
vulture of India—_Neophron ginginianus_, or Pharaoh’s chicken—I do not
propose again to discuss this worthy but ugly fowl. Nevertheless, before
passing on to the aristocratic vultures, I cannot resist the temptation
to reproduce Phil Robinson’s inimitable description of our familiar
_Neophron_: “A shabby-looking fowl of dirty white plumage, about the
size of an able-bodied hen, but disproportionately long for its height,
pacing seriously along the high road, taking each step with its legs set
wide apart, with all the circumspection of a Chinaman among papers, but
keeping its eyes as busily about it for chance morsels of refuse as any
other professional scavenger. The traffic, both of vehicles and foot
passengers, may be considerable, but the vulture is a municipal
institution and knows it. No one thinks of molesting it; indeed, if it
chose to obstruct the footpath, the natives would make way for it.
Children let it alone, and dogs do not run after it. So it goes plodding
through its day’s work, solemn, and shabby, and hungry, uncomplaining,
and poor, and at night flaps up into some tree and quietly dozes off to
sleep.” _Neophron ginginianus_ always puts me in mind of the heroes in
some of George Gissing’s novels.

Very different are the ways of the other members of the vulture tribe.
They are not content to wander about among rubbish heaps and in other
still less savoury places in the hope of securing any small morsel. They
demand substantial fare; nothing less than a large carcase pleases them.
It is true that they have sometimes to put up with garbage of the lesser
sort, so that those which have not been successful in their hunt have
perforce to gather in the trees near the municipal slaughter-house and
await the casting forth of the offal. Their usual method of securing a
meal is of the won-by-waiting description. They mount high into the air
and float on outstretched pinions 3000 or 4000 feet or more above the
level of the earth, and thence scan its surface with eager eye. When the
hand of death strikes any terrestrial creature, down comes the soaring
vulture. His earthward flight is observed by his neighbour, floating in
the air a mile away, who follows quickly after number one. In a few
seconds numbers three, four, five, six, and others are also making for
the quarry, so that the stricken creature, before life has left it, is
surrounded by a crowd of hungry vultures, and, as the poet has it, “but
lives to feel the vultures bick’ring for their horrid meal.” Nor do
these wait for death to set in before they begin their ghastly repast.
It suffices that their wretched victim is too feeble to harm them; they
then set to work to tear it to pieces, utterly indifferent to its cries
of agony. Such behaviour is characteristic of all birds and beasts of
prey. These, in consequence, have been dubbed “cruel” by those who
should know better. Thus Bonner, in his “Forest Creatures,” writes:
“Just as a child likes to enjoy the consciousness of having possession
of a cake, and revels for a while in the pleasurable feeling before
taking the first bite, feeling sure that delay will not weaken his
tenure, so will an eagle very often toy with his victim, and though
within his grasp, defer the fatal grip. At such times his appetite is
probably not very keen; or he is in a merry humour and likes the fun of
seeing the terror he causes, as he races in his mirth round and round
the animal almost paralysed with fear. Or perhaps there is somewhat of a
Caligula in his nature, and he considers _that_ the only true enjoyment
which is purchased by the acute suffering of others. Be this as it may,
he will thus dally with a creature’s anguish, and only after having
twenty times swooped down as if to seize it in his talons, do so in

To call such behaviour on the part of a bird of prey cruel is, I submit,
utterly wrong, and based on an altogether incorrect perception of the
animal mind. It is my belief that vultures and other raptorial birds do
not recognise in the screams of their victims the wails of pain. Their
power of reasoning is not sufficient to enable them to interpret the
meaning of these cries. How can they possibly know that they are hurting
their victim, or that it can feel? They have never been taught that it
is most painful to be torn to pieces, and they themselves have not
experienced the sensation. How, then, are they to understand that it
hurts? An Indian coolie, even, does not appear to appreciate the fact
that birds can feel pain, for when accompanying a man out shooting he
will pick up a winged snipe or duck and put it, while still alive, in
the game stick and leave it there to die a lingering death. Now, I
readily admit that the Indian villager is not overburdened with brains,
but he is capable of simple reasoning, which is more than can be said of
any bird. He certainly is not conscious that by putting the head of a
live bird into a game stick he is causing unnecessary pain; much more
are birds of prey ignorant of the fact that being eaten alive is a most
painful experience.

A crowd of vultures gathers round a stricken animal in almost as short a
space of time as a mob of gaping Londoners collects round the victim of
an accident. Recently, in the course of a shoot in the Terai, the man in
the _machan_ next to mine shot a spotted deer, which fell lifeless in an
open patch in the forest. By the time the line of beaters had reached
our _machans_ fifteen or sixteen vultures had assembled round the dead
stag, and it was with difficulty that we, from our _machans_, kept the
greedy birds off the carcase.

Vultures are always to be found at the burning _ghat_. Wood is expensive
in many parts of India, so that only the more wealthy completely burn
the remains of their dead relatives. For the poor and the parsimonious
the vultures complete the work commenced by the fire, so that truer than
even its author suspected is Michelet’s description of vultures as
“beneficent crucibles of living fire through which Nature passes
everything that might corrupt the higher life.” When a body, with the
face only singed, is cast on to the Ganges, at least one vulture alights
upon it and proceeds to devour it as it is borne on the waters of the
sacred river; the air and gases in the corpse keep both it and the
vulture afloat. Sooner or later a rent causes the gases to escape, then
the corpse sinks suddenly and the vulture is often hard put to it to
reach the bank, for it cannot fly properly when its wings are wet. The
half-burnt corpse is not always consigned to the river, and in these
circumstances the scene at the _ghat_ when the living human beings have
left it is not one that is pleasant to contemplate. But in India, where
Nature’s back premises are so exposed, it is not always possible to
avoid it. More than once when strolling along a river bank have I
suddenly and unexpectedly come upon a company of vultures squatting in
an irregular circle round some object, each fighting with its neighbour
for a place at the repast. The vultures are not the only participants.
Some pariah dogs run about on the outskirts, every now and then making
frantic efforts to wedge themselves in between the vultures and so
obtain for their emaciated bodies a mouthful of food. Some crows and
kites are invariably present, trusting to their superior agility to
snatch an occasional morsel. And in the Punjab some ravens will also be
at the feast.

There are several species of vulture in India. Next to the scavenger
vulture the commonest is the white-backed species (_Pseudogyps
bengalensis_). This is not a bad-looking bird in its solemn lugubrious
way. Its general colour is ashy black—the black of a threadbare coat.
Its back is white, but this is usually nearly entirely hidden by the
dark wings, and shows merely as a thin streak of white along the middle
of the back. The dark grey head and neck are almost devoid of feathers
and their nakedness is accentuated by a ruff or collar of whitish
feathers. The bareness of the head makes the large hooked beak look
longer and bigger than it really is. The bird is nearly a yard in

A yet finer bird is the black, King, or Pondicherry vulture (_Otogyps
calvus_). The back and wings of this species are glossy black relieved
by white patches on the thighs. Its bare head and neck are yellowish
red, and there is a wattle of this colour on each side of the head. This
vulture, unlike the last species, is solitary, and is called the “King
vulture” because, when it comes to a carcase, all the vulgar herd of
smaller vultures, kites, and crows give way before it, and, as a rule,
are afraid to approach until this regal bird has had its fill.

Vultures build huge platforms of nests high up in lofty trees, and, like
sand martins, rear up their young in the winter.

                            THE INDIAN ROBIN

Speaking generally, the birds of India are to the feathered folk of the
British Isles as wine is to water. The birds, such as the blue tits,
which we looked upon in our youth as possessing gay plumage, seem to
have lost some of their lustre when we again set eyes upon them after a
sojourn in the East. It is not that they or we have grown older, that
their feathers have lost their ancient splendour or that the rose rims
to our spectacles have worn away. The explanation lies in the fact that
we have for years been looking upon allied species of brighter hue. The
English robin, however, is one of the few exceptions to this rule. He is
in all respects superior to his Indian cousins—the Thamnobias. I mean no
offence to the latter, for they are charming little birds, nevertheless
they must bow to the superiority of their English brethren. The Indian
robins lack the red waistcoat that gives the British bird his
well-to-do, homely appearance. It is true that our Indian robins wear a
patch of red feathers under the tail. But this, notwithstanding the fact
that they make unceasing efforts to display it, is not adequate
compensation for the lack of the red waistcoat. It is not so much what
one wears as the way in which one wears things that matters. To wear
brown boots with light-coloured clothes is no offence against good
taste, although at one time the undergraduates at Pembroke College,
Cambridge, were not allowed to wear brown boots in chapel; but to don
this description of footwear simultaneously with a frock coat is a sin
that is likely to be visited upon the children—I was about to say—unto
the fourth generation, but in this horrid, democratic, Lloyd-Georgian
age I think it would be more correct to say “unto the second
generation.” Nor is this the only point of inferiority of the Indian
robin. Although he is by no means a poor singer, he is not nearly so
brilliant a performer as his British cousin.

Then again, the Indian robin has not the confidential manners of the
English species. Often when I have been sitting in an English garden,
has a robin come and perched on the arm of my chair, an example which
his Indian counterpart has never shown the slightest inclination to
follow. In England the robin is a semi-domesticated bird; in India,
although a pair often take up their abode in the compound, robins prefer
to dwell “far from the madding crowd.” If the truth must be told the
Indian species love not the shady garden. The cool orchard has no
attractions for them. They abhor the babbling brook. Their idea of an
earthly paradise is a brick-kiln, a railway embankment, or a flat,
rocky, barren, arid piece of land. Aloes and prickly pear are their
favourite plants.

But enough of these odious comparisons. Let me now describe the two
Indian species of Thamnobia—the black-backed robin (_T. fulicata_) which
has possessed itself of South India and the brown-backed species (_T.
cambayensis_) which is found all over Northern India. The cock of the
former species is a glossy, jet-black bird, with a narrow white bar in
his wing, and the brick-red patch under his tail which I have already
had occasion to mention. The hen is sandy brown all over save for the
aforesaid patch. The hen of the northern species differs in no
appreciable way from her sister in the South; while the cock of the
North varies only from his southern brother in having the back brown
instead of black. It is my belief that the black-backed species arose as
a mutation from the brown-backed form. The hen and the two cocks
probably represent three stages in the evolutionary process.

I am sorry to be under the necessity of making a statement which may
offend the ladies, but the fact is that among birds the cocks tend to be
ahead of the hens as regards evolutionary development, they are, in a
sense, superior beings. The tendency is for all birds to assume
brilliant plumage, and it is fitting that this should be so, for are not
birds the most exquisite ornaments of the earth? In some species both
sexes have travelled equally far along the evolutionary path, and in
such instances the sexes are alike. In other cases one of the sexes is
one or more stages ahead of the other, and it is almost invariably the
cock who leads and who is, therefore, the more beautiful. It is my
belief that at one time both sexes of both species of Indian robin were
coloured as the hens now are. Later, a mutation arose in the cock
whereby all his plumage save the back became black, and when this
mutation became fixed in the species, the cock had advanced a stage in
his evolutionary progress. A still more advanced stage was reached when
the whole of the plumage became black. Could we peep a thousand years
into the future, it is quite likely that we should find that the
northern species of Indian robin had acquired a black back.

Some may think that these statements are far-fetched. I submit that they
are nothing of the kind. Not infrequently it happens that hen birds
develop the plumage of the male. Again, sometimes of two closely allied
species one displays marked sexual differences, while the sexes of the
other are difficult to distinguish. Every one is familiar with the showy
drake and the dull-coloured hen of the common mallard or wild duck of
Europe (_Anas boscas_), and we in India are equally familiar with an
allied species the spotted bill (_A. poecilorhyncha_), in which both
sexes are dull-coloured like the female mallard. The cock mallard is a
stage ahead of the hen mallard and of both sexes of the spotted bill as
regards evolutionary development. A thousand years hence the male
spotted-bill may have developed a coat of many colours. The foregoing
will not be acceptable to the old-fashioned Darwinians, but as these
cannot explain satisfactorily how it is that natural selection has given
cock robin in Northern India a brown back, and a black back to his
southern cousin, they are not entitled to dictate to us. The
Darwin-Wallace hypothesis has been of great service to Science during
the past fifty years, but zoology has now outgrown it, and sooner or
later all scientific men must recognise this fact. But we have made a
long digression into the arid field of science, let us hie back to our
Indian robins.

Perhaps their most interesting characteristic is their fondness for
queer nesting sites. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the
nest itself, which varies according to its situation, from a mere pad to
a neat cup composed of soft materials, such as cotton, grass, and
vegetable fibres. The nursery is cosily lined, frequently with feathers.
The lining almost invariably contains some human or horse hair, and
often fragments of snake’s skin. In April and May of one year I came
upon the following robins’ nests at Lahore: No. 1, in the disused nest
of a rat-bird (_Argya caudata_) placed about five feet above the ground
in a thorny but dense bush; No. 2, on the outer sill of a window, which
was guarded by trellis-work, the meshes of which were so fine that it
was with difficulty that I could insert two fingers into the nest; No.
3, in a hole in the mud wall of a deserted hut; No. 4, among the roots
of a sago palm tree; No. 5, in a very dilapidated disused rat-bird’s
nest; No. 6, in a hole in a railway embankment; No. 7, in a hole barely
a foot from the ground in the trunk of a tree—in the same hole was a
wasps’ nest; No. 8, in one of the spaces between bricks that had been
stacked in order to become dried by the sun.

The above form a varied assortment of sites; but there is nothing very
remarkable in any of them. Colonel Marshall records a nest built in the
hole in a wall intended for the passage of a punkah rope.

At Fategarh, some years ago, a pair of robins built inside an old
watering pot that had been thrown into a bush. Another pair went “one
better” by nesting in the loop of an old piece of cloth that had been
thrown over the branch of a tree.

Mr. J. T. Fry records in _The Countryside Monthly_ a nest built at
Jhansi in a long-haired brush used for taking down cobwebs. “The nest,”
he writes, “is constructed of the fine roots of the _khus-khus_ lined
with hair into which onion peel and scraps of cast-off snake’s skin have
been incorporated. The brush, when out of use, was placed against the
wall at the side of the bungalow, being fixed to the end of a long
bamboo. It was only in use about a fortnight before the nest was

The above were all nests of the brown-backed robin, but the black-backed
species selects equally curious nesting sites. As examples of these
mention may be made of holes in railway cuttings within a few feet of
the line, holes in walls, the side of a haystack, a hole in a gatepost.
Dr. Blanford found the nest of this species inside the bamboo of a
_dhooly_ in the verandah of Captain Glasfurd’s house at Sironcha. Mr. J.
Macpherson records a nest in an elephant’s skull lying out in his
compound at Mysore.

Both sexes take part in nest construction. At the mating season cock
robins are very bold and pugnacious, but these characteristics do not
always save the nest from destruction, as the following incident will

In May, 1912, a pair of brown-backed robins elected to nest in the
verandah of my bungalow at Fyzabad. The roof of the verandah is
supported by longitudinal beams which rest on a series of cross-beams
that project from the main wall of the house and lean at their far end
on the verandah pillars. The upper surface of the cross-beams affords
admirable nesting sites of which the doves and mynas take full
advantage. The robins in question built their nest on one of these
cross-beams. No sooner had the nursery been completed than trouble
began. The first intimation I received of the existence of the nest was
much swearing (if I may use that expression to denote the angry cries of
a little bird) on the part of cock robin. The temperature on that day
was well over 100° F. in the shade, consequently I did not open the
doors of the house to ascertain the cause of the robin’s wrath. But the
angry cries of the bird persisted, and I heard them repeatedly on the
following day, so I braved the heat and went into the verandah to
prospect and discovered that a myna was the object of the robin’s wrath.

During the following day the language of the robin abated neither in
quantity nor quality; indeed, his noise began to get on my nerves. He
used to perch when giving vent to his feelings, just above the heads of
the _chaprassis_ who sat in the verandah awaiting orders. These men are
not usually very observant, but even they noticed and grew annoyed at
the robin’s noise, and on several occasions I heard them flicking at the
robin with a duster. During the early part of the fourth day there was
comparative quiet in the verandah, and I thought that the robins and
mynas had settled their differences. I was mistaken. The quiet proved to
be the lull before the storm. This burst about 4 p.m. The uproar brought
me to the window; from there I saw that the robin was hissing with rage
at a myna who was peeping into the robin’s nest. Then the cock robin
flew at the myna and pecked at him. The myna, although three times the
size of the robin, fled and flew from the verandah, followed by the
swearing robin. A couple of minutes later cock robin returned alone. He
then perched on the floor of the verandah, drew himself up to his full
height, like the heroine in a penny novelette (who, by the way, appears
always to slouch except when she is very angry), and stood there hissing
with rage. This continued until a _chaprassi_, who was squatting in the
verandah, drove the angry bird away. The next morning I found lying on
the floor of the verandah the wreck of the robins’ nest, and noticed
that a myna was constructing a nest on the site recently occupied by
that of the robin.

                               THE SHIKRA

Falconers divide hawks into the long-winged and the short-winged
varieties. The former stand in much the same relation to the latter as
the cross-country runner does to the sprinter. The long-winged hawks
have dark eyes, while in the short-winged ones the eyes are yellow or
orange; hence the two classes are sometimes distinguished as dark-eyed
and light-eyed hawks. The various falcons, the peregrine, the laggar,
the saker, etc., come in the long-winged category. When they catch sight
of their quarry, they give chase and follow it, if necessary for a long
distance, till they either lose it or are able to get above it in order
to strike. The short-winged hawk is content with making one pounce or
dash at its quarry; if it secures it, well and good, if it fails, it
does not give chase. The sparrow-hawk and the shikra are familiar
examples of the short-winged hawks.

The long-winged falcons are naturally held in greatest favour by the
hawker; but short-winged birds of prey are also trained. Long-winged
hawks hunt in the open. Being long-distance fliers, they rely chiefly
upon their power of endurance, and so naturally like plenty of room in
which to operate. Short-winged hawks, on the other hand, usually hunt in
wooded localities, where they are better able to surprise their victims
than in the open.

After the kite, the shikra (_Astur badius_) is the commonest bird of
prey in India. It is in habits and appearance very like the common
sparrow-hawk (_Accipiter nisus_). So great is the resemblance between
the two species that “Eha,” in his _Common Birds of Bombay_, gives an
excellent description of the shikra under the title of the Indian

Although the two little hawks are so similar in appearance,
ornithologists place them in different genera on account of the
considerably longer legs of the sparrow-hawk proper and its heavily
spotted and blotched eggs, the eggs of the shikra being white and almost
entirely free from spots.

The shikra is a slightly-built bird about the same length as a pigeon;
its tail is half a foot long. The upper plumage is greyish. The wings
and tail are heavily barred with black. The breast is white, with large
brown spots in young birds; in old birds the brown spots are replaced by
a number of thin wavy, rust-coloured cross-bars. The female, as is
invariably the case in birds of prey, is considerably larger than the
male, she being fourteen inches in length as against his twelve and a
half. But it is quite useless to attempt to recognise a shikra, or
indeed any other bird of prey, from a description of its plumage. As
“Eha” says: “To try to make out hawks by their colour is at the best a
short road to despair. Naturalists learn to recognise them as David’s
watchman recognised the courier who brought tidings of the victory over
Absalom: ‘His running is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.’
Every bird of prey has its own character, some trick of flight, some
peculiarity of attitude when at rest, something in its figure and
proportions which serves to distinguish it decisively. The sparrow-hawk
(shikra) flies with a few rapid strokes of the wings and then a gliding
motion, and this, together with its short, rounded wings and long tail,
distinguishes it from any other common bird of prey. I learn of its
presence oftener by the ear than the eye. Its sharp, impatient double
cry arrests attention among all other bird-voices.”

The shikra has comparatively feeble claws, and so is unable to tackle
any large quarry. Birds of prey strike with the claw, not with the beak,
as some artists would have us believe; hence the size of the claws of
any particular bird of prey affords a safe index of the magnitude of its
quarry. The more formidable the claw, the larger the prey. No matter how
large a raptorial bird be, if its claws are small and feeble, it feeds
either upon carrion or tiny creatures.

The shikra is said to live chiefly upon lizards; but it makes no bones
about taking a sparrow or other small bird, a mouse, or even a rat. In
default of larger game it does not despise grasshoppers, and, when the
termites swarm, it will make merry among these along with the crows and
kites. I once saw a shikra pounce upon a little striped squirrel. Some
crows were witnesses of the feat, and at once proceeded to attack the
shikra so vehemently that it let go of the squirrel, which made good its
escape. The crows, let me add, were not actuated by philanthropic
motives. Their object was, not to liberate the squirrel but to make a
meal of it. They were quite as disappointed as the shikra when the
little rodent regained its liberty.

Natives of India frequently hawk with the shikra, setting it on to
partridges, quails, and mynas. It is very easily and quickly trained.
Within a week or ten days of capture its education is complete. However,
hawking with a shikra is, in my opinion, very poor sport, for the shikra
makes but one dash at its quarry, and at once desists if it fails to
secure it. The hawker holds it in his hand and throws it like a javelin
in the direction of its quarry. While waiting for its victim it is
carried on the hand in the same way as a merlin is, but is never hooded.
It is only the dark-eyed hawks that have to be hooded; they seem to be
much more excitable than the light-eyed ones. A trained shikra is very
tame and does not show any objection to being handled.

The shikra nests from April to June, building, high up in a lofty tree,
a nest which can scarcely be described as a triumph of avine
architecture. Hume says: “These little hawks take, I should say, a full
month in preparing their nest, only putting on two or three twigs a day,
which they place and replace, as if they were very particular and had a
great eye for a handsome nest; whereas, after all their fuss and bother,
the nest is a loose, ragged-looking affair, that no respectable crow
would condescend to lay in.” Three bluish-white eggs are deposited in
the nest. Shikra nestlings show fight when interfered with and peck
savagely at the intruder.

                         A FINCH OF ROSEATE HUE

The _Fringillidæ_, or finches, constitute the most successful family of
birds in the world. The crow tribe runs the finches close, but the
_Corvi_ are handicapped by their large size. Were the sparrow as big as
the crow, man would never have allowed him to become the pest that he
is. The impudent pigmy is tolerated because he is so small and

Finches are birds of coarse build, and are characterised by a
vulgar-looking beak, so that they need either fine feathers or a sweet
voice to render them acceptable to man. Those finches which, like the
common sparrow, lack either of these attributes are accounted mean birds
of low estate. But, on the whole, Dame Nature has been kind to the
finches in that she has arrayed the cocks of many species in bright
colours. The showy goldfinch is a familiar instance of this, as is the
canary, but the yellow colour of the latter has been induced largely by
artificial selection. The wild canary is not a very beautiful bird.

Among the finches all shades of red and yellow are to be found. Brown
and green are worn by some species. Blue seems to be the only colour not
vouchsafed to the _Fringillidæ_.

Several of the finches have the gift of song. This being so, it is
regrettable that the particular species of finch which, like the poor,
is always with us should have such an execrable voice. If sparrows sang
like canaries what a pleasing adjunct to London they would be!

The gross, massive beak of the finch, though not good to look upon, is
of great value as a seed-husking machine. No one can have watched a
canary for five minutes without observing the address with which each
little seed is picked up, cracked, and the husk rejected by the joint
action of tongue and mandibles.

Sixty-four species of finch occur within the limits of the Indian
Empire. Of these fifteen species are known as rose-finches. Rose-finches
are birds of about the size of a sparrow. The plumage of the cocks is
more or less suffused with crimson, while that of the hens is dark
greyish olive sometimes washed with yellow. Rose-finches are essentially
birds of a cold climate; they are found in Northern Europe, Asia, and
America. All the Indian species, save one, are confined to the Himalayas
and the country north of those mountains. The one exception is the
species known as the common rose-finch (_Carpodacus erythrinus_). This
spreads itself during the winter all over the plains of India as far
south as the Nilgiris. I do not remember having seen it in or about
Madras, but it may sometimes visit that city. In April this rose-finch
goes north to breed, a few individuals remaining in the Himalayas, where
they nidificate at altitudes of 10,000 feet and upwards.

The nest is a neat cup-shaped structure made of grass with a lining of
fine material. It is usually built within a yard of the ground, in a
bush, or even among long grass. The eggs are blue with chocolate or
purple markings, which may be sparse or numerous, and may take the form
of blotches, freckles, or pencillings.

The cock rose-finch, or _Tuti_, as he is always called by the natives of
India, is a handsome bird. The head and neck are dull crimson, the lower
parts are rosy pink and the wings are brown. The rose-finches seen in
the early part of the winter are considerably less brightly coloured
than those observed after Christmas. This phenomenon is due to two
causes. The one is that the bird moults in September or October and dons
a new suit of clothes. These are of such excellent material that they
improve by wearing! As is so often the case, the margins of the new
feathers are duller than the inner portion. A bird’s feathers overlap
like the tiles on a roof, and they overlap to such an extent that only
the margin of each feather shows. As the dull edges wear away, the
brighter parts begin to show, hence the gradual transition from dullness
to brightness. Further, the actual colouring of the feathers becomes
intensified as the spring season approaches. But in the plains of India
the cock is never seen in the full glory of his crimson tunic, because
he departs to high altitudes at the breeding season.

The hen rose-finch is an olive-brown bird with a tinge of yellow and
some brown streaks in her plumage. The wing is set off by a couple of
whitish wing-bars. There are also bars in the wing of the cock, but
these are not well defined.

Seeing how beautiful the cock rose-finch is naturally, and how
successful have been the efforts to improve the canary, it may seem
strange that fanciers have not turned their attention to the rose-finch,
and produced, by artificial selection, a rose-finch arrayed from head to
tail in crimson lake.

The fact is all the crimson colour disappears from the plumage of a
rose-finch kept in captivity. Until some means of preventing this is
discovered it is hopeless to attempt to breed a crimson finch.

Rose-finches live in flocks, which consist usually of from sixteen to
thirty members. These flocks appear to be made up of cocks and hens in
equal numbers. The birds feed on the ground, from which they pick small
seeds that have fallen. “In the extreme south,” writes Jerdon of the
rose-finch, “I have chiefly seen it in bamboo jungle, feeding on the
seeds of bamboos on several occasions, and so much is this its habit
that the Telugu name signifies ‘Bamboo sparrow.’” In other parts of the
country it frequents alike groves, gardens, and jungles, feeding on
various seeds and grain; also not infrequently on flower buds and young
leaves. Adams states that in Kashmir it feeds much on the seeds of a
cultivated vetch.

During the greater part of the year the rose-finch is a silent bird. At
the breeding season, and a little before it, the cock joins in the bird
chorus. Its vocal efforts are well described by Blyth as “a feeble
twittering song, but soft and pleasing, being intermediate to that of
the goldfinch, and that of the small redpole linnet, the call note much
resembling that of a canary bird.”

Rose-finches are said to be very pugnacious, and in this respect they
resemble their vulgar relations the sparrows, but they differ from the
latter in lacking their fearlessness of man or beast. At the least alarm
a flock of rose-finches feeding on the ground scurries into the nearest
tree with a loud fluttering of wings. The harsh cry of the king-crow or
the shadow of a passing kite is quite sufficient to cause the instant
disappearance of the little flock into the foliage.

On an average, a feeding flock thus takes alarm at least twenty times in
the course of an hour. Sometimes the birds take fright for no apparent
reason whatever. Their behaviour in this respect is exactly like that of
chaffinches, greenfinches, etc., in England, which Edmund Selous
describes so accurately in that perfect nature book _Bird Watching_.
Selous “came to the conclusion that the cause of flight was almost
always a nervous apprehension, such as actuates schoolboys when they are
doing something of a forbidden nature and half expect to see the master
appear at any moment round the corner. Though there might be no
discernible ground for apprehension, yet after some three or four
minutes it seemed to strike the assembly that it _could_ not be quite
safe to remain any longer, and, presto! they were gone.”

It is my belief that what may be called the undue nervousness of little
birds has been caused by the attacks of birds of prey. It must as a rule
be the bolder spirits—those that refuse to take refuge in the foliage at
every alarm—that fall victims to the sparrow-hawk. The more nervous ones
escape and transmit their innate nervousness to their offspring. There
has thus arisen a race of little birds as nervous as horses.

Before a minute has passed the rose-finches, who have taken refuge in a
tree, perceive that there was no ground for alarm. They then drop to the
ground in twos and threes, so that, although the birds begin to return
almost as soon as they have fled into the foliage, some little time
elapses before the whole of the flock is again seeking food on the
ground. The reformation of a flock is a pretty sight—a shower of little
birds falling from a tree like leaves in autumn.

                           BIRDS ON THE LAWN

In some parts of India the hot-weather nights are sufficiently cool to
allow the European inhabitants to dispense with punkas and to enjoy
refreshing sleep in the open beneath the starlit sky. He who spends the
night under such conditions sees and hears much of the birds. Not an
hour passes in which the stillness of the darkness is not broken by the
voice of some owl or cuckoo. Most of our Indian cuckoos are as nocturnal
as owls. The brain-fever bird (_Hierococcyx varius_)—most vociferous of
the cuculine tribe—seems to require no sleep.

The human sleeper, no matter how early he wakes in the morning, finds
that some of the feathered folk have already begun the day. Every
diurnal bird is up and about long before the rising of the sun. In the
daylight the gauze curtains which kept the mosquitoes at bay during the
night, form a most convenient cache from which to observe the doings of
the birds. Birds do not see through the meshes of the mosquito nets.
Eyesight is largely a matter of training. This explains why the vision
of birds is so keen in some respects and so defective in others. A bird
of prey while floating in the air does not fail to notice a small animal
on the ground 3000 feet below. Nevertheless, that same bird will allow
itself to become entangled in a coarse net stretched out in front of a
tethered bird. I once asked a falconer how he would explain such
inconsistencies in the behaviour of raptorial birds. He replied that in
his opinion the bird of prey sees the net but fails to appreciate its
nature, that the falcon looks upon the net spread before its quarry as a
spider’s web, as a gossamer structure that can be contemptuously swept
aside. I think that the falconer’s explanation is not the correct one. I
believe that the bird of prey really does not see the net. It has eyes
only for its quarry. It is not trained to look out for snares, having no
experience of them under natural conditions. A bird that had several
times been snared while stooping at its prey would learn the nature of a
net and avoid it.

Similarly, birds, being unaccustomed to see living creatures emerge from
apparently solid structures, do not look for human beings inside
mosquito nets, and so fail to observe them. The consequence is that the
birds hop and strut about the lawn within a few feet of my bed, or even
perch on the mosquito curtain frame, utterly unconscious of my presence.

There is to me something very fascinating in thus watching at close
quarters the ways of my feathered friends. My compound boasts of a lawn,
sufficiently large for three tennis courts, which owing to much
watering, mowing, and rolling is green and velvet-like. This lawn is a
popular resort for many birds of the vicinity.

In England blackbirds, thrushes, robins, starlings, and sparrows are the
birds which frequent lawns. Of these the sparrows are the only ones
found in our Indian gardens. Sparrows are very partial to my lawn.
Throughout the day numbers of them hop about on the turf, looking for
objects so small that I have not been able to make out what they are.
The fact that sparrows are greatly addicted to a lawn that is watered
and mown twice a week serves to show that _Passer domesticus_ is not so
black as he is painted by his detractors. The sparrows cannot come to my
lawn for any purpose other than that of looking for insects.

The first birds to visit the lawn every morning are a pair of coucals,
or crow-pheasants (_Centropus sinensis_). They appear on the scene with
great punctuality about an hour before sunrise. The crow-pheasant is one
of the most familiar of Indian birds. It is neither a crow nor a
pheasant, nevertheless there is much to be said in favour of its popular
name, because the bird has altogether the appearance of a crow that has
exchanged wings and tail with a pheasant. It is black all over save for
its ruby-coloured eye and chestnut-hued wings. It belongs to the cuckoo
family, but, unlike the majority of its brethren, builds a nest and
incubates its eggs. It is characterised by an elongated hind toe, which
he who lies behind the mosquito net may observe as its possessor struts
by. There is something very pompous about the strut of the
crow-pheasant. Were it an inhabitant of Whitechapel, its friends would
undoubtedly enquire whether it was a fact that it had purchased the
street! But the sight of an insect on the lawn causes the coucal to
throw dignity to the winds. Its sedate walk becomes transformed into a
bustling waddle as it gives chase to the insect with a gait like that of
a stout, nervous lady hurrying across a road thronged with traffic.
Crow-pheasants feed largely on insects, and it is in search of these
that they frequent the lawn. Their food, however, is not confined to
such small fry; they are very partial to snakes, and so are useful birds
to have in the garden.

Hoopoes (_Upupa indica_) are constant visitors to my lawn. They revel in
soft ground. The comparatively hard probe-like bill of the hoopoe
enables the bird to extract insects from ground on which the soft-billed
snipe could make no impression. But hoopoes prefer soft ground; from it
they can obtain food with but little effort. Unfortunately for them,
velvety lawns are not common in India; hence the birds flock to those
that exist as eagerly as Europeans rush to the Himalayas in June. A few
mornings ago I counted twenty-seven hoopoes feeding on my lawn.
Occasionally a hoopoe perches on one of the bars from which my mosquito
curtains hang, and thus unconsciously exposes himself to close scrutiny
on my part. There are few birds so delightful to watch as hoopoes. Their
form is unique. Their colouring is striking and pleasing. Then they are
such fussy little creatures. When feeding they behave as if they were in
a violent hurry. The _modus operandi_ is a hasty tap of the bill here
and another there, and if these reveal nothing promising, a few hurried
steps, then more probing. The majority of these tappings and probings
reveal nothing, but every now and then a spot is discovered beneath
which an ant-lion, earth-worm, or other creature lies buried. Then the
fun waxes fast and furious; the hoopoe begins to excavate in real
earnest, and plies its bill as eagerly as a terrier scratches away the
loose earth that conceals its retreating quarry. After a few seconds
this strenuous probing and digging usually results in some creature
being dragged out of the earth. This is swallowed by the hoopoe after a
little manipulation rendered necessary by the length of the bird’s bill.
Having disposed of its quarry the insatiable hoopoe passes on, without a
pause, to seek for further victims. With twenty or thirty hoopoes thus
at work, day after day, it is strange that the insect store of my lawn
does not become exhausted.

While the hoopoe is feeding, its fan-like crest remains tightly closed.
This attitude of the crest denotes business. The corona of the hoopoe is
as mobile as are the ears of a horse. There is more expression in it
than in the face of many a man or woman.

Mynas are, of course, always to be found on the lawn, but as these birds
feed largely on grasshoppers, they seek their food by preference amid
grass which is drier and longer than that of my lawn.

At the time when the grass is irrigated numbers of pied mynas
(_Sturnopastor contra_) and paddy-birds (_Ardeola grayii_) visit the
lawn. The former strut about, and the latter stand near the place where
the water trickles from the pipe. Both come in quest of creatures driven
from their underground homes by the water.

Occasionally two or three crows visit the lawn; these come to gratify
their curiosity rather than for food. Crows are inquisitive creatures,
and cannot resist visiting any spot where they see other birds enjoying
themselves. Wagtails are birds which are very partial to lawns, but all
the Indian species, with one exception, leave India in April or May, so
that their graceful forms do not delight the eye in the hot weather.

                           THE GREY HORNBILL

Hornbills, like the Jews, are a peculiar race. There are no other birds
like unto them. They are fowls of extravagant form. Their bodies are
studies in disproportion. The beak and tail of each species would fit
admirably a bird twice as big as their actual possessor, while birds
less than half their size might well look askance at the wings with
which hornbills are blessed. With the solitary exception of the “cake
walk” of the adjutant (_Leptoptilus dubius_), I know of no sight in
Nature more absurd than the flight of the hornbill. By dint of a series
of vigorous flaps of its disproportionately short wings the bird manages
to propel itself through the air. But the efforts put forth are too
strenuous to be maintained for many seconds at a time. When it has
managed to acquire a little impetus, the great bird gives its pinions a
rest, and sails at a snail’s pace for a few seconds, after which, in
order to save itself from falling, it violently flaps its wings again,
and thus manages to win its way laboriously from one grove to another,
in much the same way as the primitive flying reptiles must have done.
Nor is the excitement over when it reaches its destination. Owing to the
weight of the beak, the hornbill is in danger of toppling over, head
foremost, as it alights on a branch, and assuredly would sometimes do so
but for the long tail which serves to balance the great beak. So
vigorously does the hornbill have to flap its wings during flight that
the sound of the air rushing through them can be heard for nearly half a
mile in the case of the largest species.

All hornbills are grotesque. The grey species is, however, the least
grotesque, and approaches the most nearly to the appearance of normal
birds. Three species of grey hornbill occur in India. The common grey
hornbill (_Lophoceros birostris_) is characterised by the possession of
what is known as a casque—an appendage which the other two species of
grey hornbill lack. This is a horny excrescence from the upper surface
of the beak. In some species the casque is so large as to extend over
the greater part of the head and beak. No one has yet discovered its
use. I am inclined to think that it has no use. The Malabar and
Ceylonese grey hornbills, whose habits are identical with those of the
common grey hornbill, thrive very well, in spite of the fact that they
have no casque.

_Lophoceros birostris_ is a bird nearly two feet in length. The
prevailing hue of the plumage is greyish brown. The bill, which is four
inches long, and the casque are blackish. Like the other members of this
peculiar family, the grey hornbill possesses eyelashes, which increase
the strangeness of its appearance. This species is found in most parts
of the plains of India, except the Malabar coast, where it is replaced
by _Lophoceros griseus_. The grey hornbill of Ceylon is the species _L.

The majority of species of hornbill shun the vicinity of human beings.
They are accordingly to be found only in the Terai and other great
forest tracts. The grey hornbill, on the contrary, shows no fear of man.
Although strictly arboreal in its habits, it occurs in those parts of
the country that are not thickly wooded. A grove of trees is all that it
demands. Grey hornbills are birds of the highway and the village.
Usually they go about in small flocks.

_Lophoceros birostris_ is particularly abundant in the sub-Himalayan
districts of the United Provinces. In Oudh and the eastern part of Agra
almost every village has its colony of grey hornbills. These hamlets are
nearly always surrounded by trees, usually bamboos, among which the
hornbills live. In many parts of Northern India grey hornbills are
commonly seen in the avenues of trees which are planted along the high
roads to shelter wayfarers from the midday sun.

Hornbills feed largely on fruit and are fond of that of the pipal and
the banian trees. Their great bills are admirably suited to the plucking
of fruit. When the hornbill has severed a berry, it tosses it into the
air, catches it in the bill as it falls, and then swallows it. This is
the most expeditious way of passing the food from the tip of its bill to
the entrance to its gullet.

The cry of the grey hornbill is feeble for so large a bird, and is
querulous, like that of the common kite.

The nesting habits of the hornbills are very remarkable. The eggs are
deposited in a cavity in a tree. The cavity selected may be the result
of decay in the wood, or it may have been hollowed out by a woodpecker
or other bird. In either case the hornbill has usually to enlarge the
cavity, for, being a big bird, it requires a spacious nest. When all
preparations have been made, the female enters the nest hole, and does
not emerge until some weeks later, when the eggs have been hatched and
the young are ready to fly. Having entered the nest, the hen hornbill
proceeds to reduce the size of the orifice by which she gained access to
the nest cavity, by plastering it up with her ordure until the aperture
is no more than a mere slit, only just large enough to enable her to
insert her beak through it. Thus, during the whole period of incubation
and brooding she is entirely dependent on the cock for food. And he
never leaves her in the lurch. He is most assiduous in his attentions.
When he reaches the trunk in which his wife is sitting, he, while
clinging to the bark with his claws, taps the trunk with his bill, and
thus apprises her of his arrival. She then thrusts her bill through the
orifice and receives the food. When at length the young are ready to
leave the nest, the mother emerges with her plumage in a much-bedraggled

Why the hen hornbill behaves thus, why she is content to submit
periodically to a term of “simple imprisonment,” is one of the unsolved
riddles of Nature. This curious habit is peculiar to the hornbills, but
seems to be common to every member of the family. In this connection it
is interesting to note that the hoopoes, which are nearly related to the
hornbills, have somewhat similar nesting habits. The hen hoopoe,
although she does not adopt the heroic measure of closing up the
entrance to the nest cavity, is said never to leave the nest until the
young have emerged from the eggs. No sight is commoner in India than
that of a hoopoe carrying food to the aperture of a hole in a tree, or
in a building made of mud, in which his spouse is sitting. Another
curious feature in the nesting habits of the hornbill does not appear to
have been mentioned by any observer, and that is that during the nesting
season hornbills go about in threes, and not in pairs. I have noticed
this on two occasions, and Mr. Horne, in his interesting account of the
nesting of the grey hornbill at Mainpuri, which is recorded in Hume’s
_Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds_, mentions the presence of a third
hornbill, who “used to hover about, watch proceedings, and sometimes
quarrel with her accepted lord, but he never brought food to the
female.” Although grey hornbills are by no means uncommon birds, very
few nests seem to have been taken. The result is that there are several
points regarding their nidification that need elucidation. Those who
love the fowls of the air should lose no opportunity of studying the
ways of these truly remarkable birds.

                              THE FLAMINGO

Ornithologists, as is their wont, have disputed much among themselves as
to whether the flamingo is a stork-like duck or a duck-like stork.
Indians accept the former view and call the bird the King Goose (_Raj
Hans_); their opinion was shared by Jerdon, who classed the flamingo
among the geese. Likewise, Stuart Baker has given flamingos a place
among the Indian ducks and their allies.

The flamingo is both wader and swimmer. It has long legs, the better to
wade with, and webbed feet admirably adapted to natation. The bird
certainly wades by preference. I have never seen it in water
sufficiently deep to render swimming necessary or even possible. Those
who have been more fortunate state that the swimming movements of the
flamingo resemble those of a swan. I doubt whether flamingos ever swim
from choice, but the webbed feet are likely to be useful, especially in
the case of young birds, when flamingos are swept off their feet by the
wind in a violent storm.

Two species of flamingo occur in India. These are known as
_Phœnicopterus roseus_ and _P. minor_, or the common and the lesser
flamingo. As the former is the one most often seen in India let us
concentrate our attention on it. It is as tall as many a man, and
measures over four feet from the tip of the beak to the end of the tail.
Of these four feet the greater portion consists of neck, which is very
supple; a flamingo when preening its feathers often twists the neck so
that it assumes the shape of a figure of eight. The general hue of the
bird is white tipped with rosy pink; the wings are crimson and black,
hence the appropriate scientific name, _Phœnicopterus_, wings of flame.
The bill is pale pink, tipped with black, while the legs are reddish

Every Anglo-Indian has seen flamingos in the wild state, if not in
India, at any rate from the deck of a ship as it crept through the Suez
Canal. The shallow lakes and lagoons in the vicinity of the Canal abound
with flamingos. These beautiful birds are to be seen in numbers
throughout the cold weather in the shallow lakes and backwaters round
about Madras. Flamingos are very numerous in Ceylon, where they are
known to the Singalese as the “English Soldier Birds” on account of
their “crimson tunics” and upright martial bearing.

A flock of flamingos is a fine spectacle. Some years ago I saw near the
Pulicat Lake about two hundred of these birds. They were perhaps half a
mile from the house-boat. Their white bodies showed up well against a
background of blue water. Some of them were feeding with heads
underwater, others stood as erect as soldiers at attention and as
motionless as statues; a few were moving with great precision, like
recruits under training. Portions of the flock were congregated in small
groups, apparently in solemn conclave. Dignity and solemnity are the
distinguishing features of the flamingo. After watching the flock for
fully half an hour I fired a gun. I did not try to kill any of them.
They were out of range. I fired because I wanted to see the birds take
to their wings, to see them rise like a “glorious exhalation.” The
report of the gun seemed to cause no alarm. There was none of that
fluster and hurry that most birds display when they hear the sound of
firing. The flamingos rose in a stately manner; they did not all leave
the water simultaneously. The birds took to their wings by twos and
threes, so that it was not until more than a minute after the firing of
the gun that all of them were in the air. As their wings opened the
colour of the birds changed from white to crimson, the latter being the
hue of the lining of their wings. It was as if red limelight had been
thrown on to the whole flock.

During flight, the long white neck, that terminates in the
pink-and-black bill, is stretched out in front, and the pink legs point
behind, so that the neck and legs form one straight line, broken by the
crimson wings, which are flapped very slowly. The great birds sailed
thus majestically for a few hundred yards and then sank to the water.

When flamingos are about to alight the legs leave the horizontal
position assumed during flight and come slowly forward until they touch
the water. The whole flock settles without making any splash. It has
never been my good fortune to watch the flight of flamingos at very
close quarters. I will, therefore, reproduce from the _Saturday Review_
Colonel Willoughby Verner’s description of those he witnessed in Spain:
“What a wonderful sight it was! The curious-shaped heads and bulbous
beaks at the end of the long, thin, outstretched, and snake-like necks,
the small compact bodies, shining white below and rosy pink above, the
crimson coverts and glossy black of the quickly moving pinions, and the
immensely long legs projecting stiffly behind, ending in the
queer-shaped feet. Surely no other bird on God’s earth presents such an
incongruous and almost uncanny shape and yet affords such a beautiful
spectacle of colour and movement. Onward they sped, now in one long
sinuous line; now with some of the birds in the centre or rear
increasing their speed and surging up ‘line abreast’ of those in front
of them, and again falling back and resuming their posts, ever and anon
uttering their weird, trumpeting, goose-like call. They were flying not
fifteen feet above the water, and as they passed abreast of me, the
moving mass of white, pink, crimson, and black was mirrored in the
placid surface of the laguna below them which shone like a sheet of opal
in the setting rays of the sun.”

The beak of the flamingo is a curious structure. It is bent almost to a
right angle in the middle, so that when the basal portion is horizontal
the tip of the bill points towards the ground, and when the long neck is
directed downwards (as must be done when the bird feeds because of the
length of the legs) the terminal half of the bill is parallel to the
ground, and the tip points between the bird’s toes. Thus the flamingo
when feeding assumes the position it would adopt when about to stand on
its head! The upper mandible then is placed along the ground, and, for
the convenience of the bird, is flattened, while the lower mandible,
which is uppermost when the bird is feeding, is arched like the upper
mandible in most birds. This arrangement gives the flamingo a grotesque

The food of this species consists of small crustaceans, insects and
mollusca, together with vegetable matter. The quarry is scooped out of
the mud at the bottom of the lake. The mandibles are lamellated like
those of ducks, hence they, assisted by the tongue, act as sieves and
reject most of the mud while retaining the nutritive material. The words
“most of the mud” are used advisedly, for it is not possible to sift all
out, so that those who have examined the contents of the stomach of the
flamingo have usually found it to contain a quantity of sand and mud.

The nest of the flamingo is a mound of earth raised by the bird from
shallow water. The only place in India where flamingos are known to
breed is the Run of Cutch. In seasons when there has been sufficient
rain-fall this curious spot abounds with nests of flamingos.

The older writers believed that, on account of the length of its legs,
the flamingo could not incubate its eggs in the ordinary manner. It was
known that the nest consists of a mound raised from the ground, and from
this it was conjectured that the bird stood up to hatch its eggs.
Writing of the inconvenience of the long shanks of the flamingo, Bishop
Stanley said:—

“A still greater inconvenience would ensue if it were under the
necessity of sitting on its nest, like other birds, for it would then be
utterly impossible to dispose of its long, stilted, disproportioned
legs. Nature has, however, met the difficulty, and taught it how to make
a nest exactly suited to its form and length of leg. It is made of mud,
in the shape of a hillock, with a cavity on the top where the eggs are
laid; and the height of the hillocks is such that she can sit as
comfortably on her nest as a horseman does on his saddle, leaving her
legs to hang dangling down at full length on either side.”

In order to impress this peculiarity of the flamingo on the mind of the
reader, the worthy Bishop furnishes a picture of an incubating flamingo.
A similar belief used to exist regarding herons and other long-legged
birds. These were supposed to sit astride the nest, and certain
veracious observers stated that they had noticed the legs dangling down.
Needless to state, there is no truth in these stories. Every
long-shanked bird is able to bend its legs and tuck them up under it
when necessary.

Mr. Abel Chapman has actually observed the flamingo folding its legs
under its body when it is about to sit on the nest.

But it is unfair to laugh at good Bishop Stanley. His statement that the
flamingo sits astride its nest is not nearly so ridiculous as Mr. A.
Thayer’s assertion that crocodiles mistake the flamingo for a sunset!
Mr. Thayer is an American artist who is obsessed by the theory that,
amid their natural surroundings, all birds and beasts are obliteratively
coloured, so as to be completely invisible. Instead of meeting with the
ridicule it deserves, this utterly preposterous theory appears to be
accepted by some British zoologists!

Two eggs are usually laid by the flamingo, but only one seems to be
hatched in the great majority of cases.

Baby flamingos are covered with greyish down, and have normally shaped
bills, which, however, at an early age assume the curious form so
characteristic of the adult.


During the months that Father Sol is doing his best to make the Punjab
an earthly Inferno the birds are busy at their nests. They do not seem
to mind the heat. Some of them positively revel in it, visiting us only
in the hot weather. These summer visitors form an interesting group.

The bee-eaters are the first to make their appearance. In the first or
second week in March, two species of bee-eater visit the Punjab—the
little green one (_Merops viridis_), and the blue-tailed species (_M.
philippinus_). The former is a grass-green bird about the size of a
bulbul. Its beak is slightly curved and black; a bar of the same hue
runs through the eye. The throat is a beautiful turquoise blue. The
wings are tinted with bronze, so that the bird, when it flies, looks
golden rather than green. The most distinctive feature of the bee-eater
is the middle pair of tail feathers, which are blackish and project
beyond the others as sharp bristles.

Bee-eaters feed upon insects which they catch on the wing. The larger
species live up to their name by devouring bees and wasps. Like every
other bird that hawks flying insects the bee-eater takes up a strategic
position on a telegraph wire, a railing, a bare branch or other point of
vantage, whence it keeps a sharp look-out for its quarry. When an insect
appears it is smartly captured in the air, the mandibles of the
bee-eater closing upon it with a snap, audible at a distance of several

Bee-eaters begin nesting almost immediately upon arrival. The nest is a
chamber, rather larger than a cricket ball, which the cock and hen,
working turn about, scoop out of a sandbank with beak and claw. The nest
chamber communicates with the exterior by a passage about three feet
long, so narrow that the bird is unable to turn round in it. Every kind
of sandbank is utilised. Numbers of nests are to be found in the mounds
that adorn the Lawrence Gardens at Lahore. Others may be seen in the
artificial bunkers on the uninviting _maidan_ which is by courtesy
called The Lahore Golf Links. The butts on the rifle range are sometimes
made use of, the bee-eaters being utterly regardless of the bullets that
every now and then bury themselves with a thud in the earth near the
nest hole.

The blue-tailed bee-eater is distinguishable by its larger size, its
yellowish throat, and its blue tail. It is not so abundant as the green
species, and excavates its nest at a higher level. The note of both
kinds of bee-eater is a soft but cheery whistle.

The honey-suckers (_Arachnechthra asiatica_) or sunbirds, as they are
frequently called, follow hard upon the bee-eaters. As these charming
little birds form the subject of a subsequent chapter, it is only
necessary to state in this place that they build thousands of nests in
the various stations of the Punjab during the summer months. At least,
one nest is to be found in every garden. In each little nursery two or
three families are reared in succession.

The koel (_Eudynamis honorata_) is perhaps the most interesting of our
summer visitors. We are all of us acquainted with his fluty crescendo
_ku-il, ku-il, ku-il_, also with the excited _kuk, koo-oo, koo-ooo_,
which the bird pours forth in a veritable torrent.

The koel is sometimes erroneously called the brain-fever bird. This
proud title properly belongs to another parasite, namely the hawk cuckoo
(_Hierococcyx varius_), which does not come as far west as Lahore, but
may be heard at Umballa. This noisy fowl shrieks _brain fever, brain
fever, brain fever_, beginning low down in the scale and ascending
higher and higher until his top note is reached, then he begins all over
again, and repeats the performance for an indefinite period. He would
have a future before him as a foghorn were it only possible to make him
call at will!

The cock koel is a jet black bird with a red eye and a green bill. When
flying he looks like a slenderly built, long-tailed crow. The hen is
speckled black and white. This cuckoo cuckolds crows.

The cock draws off the owners of the nest by placing himself near them
and screaming. The crows, being short-tempered birds, rise to the bait
and give chase. While they are absent the hen slips into the nest and
lays her egg. If sufficient time be allowed she destroys one or more of
the eggs already in the nest. She works hurriedly, for the operation is
a dangerous one. If she be caught on the nest the crows will try to kill
her and will, as likely as not, succeed. The life of the koel is by no
means all beer and skittles. If the hen koel gets away before the crows
return they fail to notice the strange egg, although it differs markedly
from their blue and yellow ones, being smaller and olive green blotched
with yellow. Nor do they seem to miss their own eggs which are lying
broken on the ground beneath the nest. Sometimes the koel returns and
lays a second egg in the same nest, and destroys all the legitimate
eggs, for she can tell the difference between her eggs and those of the
crow. Thus it sometimes happens that the deluded crows rear up only two
koels. They never seem to notice the trick that has been played upon
them. Even when the black-skinned young koels hatch out, the crows are
apparently unable to distinguish them from their own pink-coloured

The young koel invariably emerges from the egg before his
foster-brothers and thus begins life with a start. He develops much more
quickly than they do, but, unlike the common cuckoo, ejects neither the
other eggs in the nest, nor the young birds as they hatch out. He lives
on good terms with the other occupants of the nest, and when fledged,
makes laudable if ludicrous attempts to caw.

The natives assert that the hen koel keeps an eye on her offspring all
the while they are in the crow’s nest and takes charge of them after
they leave it. I am almost certain that this is not so.

Early in April the paradise flycatchers (_Terpsiphone paradisi_) arrive.
The hen is a chestnut bird with a black head and crest and a white
breast; she looks something like a bulbul. The cock when quite young is
similarly attired. At his first autumnal moult, that is to say when he
is about fifteen months old, his two middle tail feathers outgrow the
rest by twelve or thirteen inches. In his third year white feathers
begin to appear among the chestnut ones, and after his third autumnal
moult he emerges as a magnificent white bird with a metallic black head
and crest. His elongated tail feathers now look like white satin
streamers. He retains this livery for the remainder of his life, and
looks so magnificent in it as to merit well his name. It is impossible
to mistake the paradise flycatcher. There is no other bird like it. It
is a denizen of orchards and shady groves and may always be seen during
the hot weather in the beautiful wood on the bank of the Ravi between
the bridge of boats and the railway. A cock paradise flycatcher, in the
full glory of his white plumage, as he flits like a sprite through the
leafy glade, is a sight never to be forgotten. The movements of his long
tail feathers as he pursues his course are as graceful as those of the
folds of the gossamer garments of a skilled serpentine dancer.

The nest is a deep cup, in shape like an inverted cone, plastered
exteriorly with cobweb and white cocoons. It is almost invariably placed
in a fork near the end of one of the lower branches of a tree. Both cock
and hen take part in nest building and incubation. As the cock sits his
long white tail feathers hang down over the side of the nest and render
him very conspicuous. The most expeditious way of finding a paradise
flycatcher’s nest is to look out for a sitting cock. The alarm note of
this species is a sharp harsh _Tschit_, but the cock is also able to
warble a very sweet song.

The Indian oriole (_Oriolus kundoo_) is another gorgeous summer visitor
to the Punjab. The cock is arrayed in rich golden yellow. His bill is
pink and he has a black patch on each side of his head, there is also
some black in his wings and tail. The hen is clad in greenish yellow and
is neither so showy nor so handsome. The oriole is commonly called the
mango bird by Europeans in India. I have never been able to discover
whether the bird is so named because the cock is not unlike a ripe mango
in colour, or because orioles are to be found in almost every mango
tope. _Oriolus kundoo_ is a bird of many notes. Of these the most
pleasing is a mellow _lorio, lorio_. Another note very frequently heard
is a loud but not unmusical _tew_. The alarm note of the species is a
plaintive cry, not easy to describe. It is uttered whenever a human
being approaches the nest. The hen alone incubates, but she is not often
seen upon the nest, for she leaves it at the first sound of a human

The nest of the oriole is a wonderful structure. It is a cradle slung on
to a stout forked branch. The bird tears with its beak strips of the
soft bark from the mulberry tree. An end of the strip is wound round one
limb of the fork, then the other end is passed under the nest and wound
round the other limb of the supporting bough. If the strip be long
enough it is again passed under the nest. This framework supports the
nest proper, which is a hemispherical cup composed of fine roots and
dried grass. The minimum of material is used in construction, with the
result that the eggs lying in the nest are sometimes visible from below.
He who would find orioles’ nests should repair in June to the canal bank
or to the above-mentioned wood.

Every oriole’s nest that I have seen in Lahore has been placed near a
king-crow’s nest. It is, I think, for the sake of protection that the
oriole builds near the king-crow. This latter is so pugnacious that most
predaceous birds avoid the tree in which its nest is situated.

Among the summer visitors to the Punjab is a dove known as _Oenopopelia
tranquebarica_. Those who find this name rather a mouthful are at
liberty to call the bird the red turtle-dove. This species is of
interest on account of the large amount of sexual dimorphism which it
displays. The head and neck of the cock are ashy grey, his upper back
and wings are the peculiar red of a faded port-wine stain, the lower
back is grey, the middle tail feathers are brown and the other ones
white. There is a black collar round his neck. The hen is a uniform
greyish brown, her only adornment being a black collar similar to that
of the cock.

As a chapter of this work is devoted exclusively to the red turtle-dove,
nothing more need be said of it in this place, save that its note is not
the orthodox coo, it is a peculiar low grunt, and gives one the
impression that the bird has caught cold.

One summer visitor remains to be described, but he need not detain us
long, for, save his respectability, he has nothing in particular to
commend him. I allude to the yellow-throated sparrow (_Gymnorhis
flavicollis_). This bird probably sometimes passes for a hen house
sparrow; close inspection, however, reveals a yellow patch on the
throat. According to Jerdon this creature has much the same manners and
habits as the common sparrow. This I consider libellous. The
yellow-throated sparrow is a bird of retiring disposition and I have
never heard of one forcing its way into a _sahib’s_ bungalow. It nestles
in a hole in a tree. Having lined the ready-made cavity with dry grass
and feathers, it lays four eggs which are thickly blotched all over with
sepia, chocolate brown, or purple. A pair of these birds lives in the
octagonal aviary at the Lahore Zoo.

                         A BIRD OF MANY ALIASES

The paddy bird has as many aliases as a professional criminal of twenty
years’ standing. I do not refer to his scientific names. Of course he
has a number of these. Every bird has. A person who desires violent
exercise for the memory cannot do better than try to keep pace with the
kaleidoscopic changes which Indian ornithological terminology undergoes.
The paddy bird is now known as _Ardeola grayii_, but I do not guarantee
that he will be so called next month. When I assert that the paddy bird
is a creature of many aliases, I mean that he has a number of popular
names. He is sometimes known as the pond heron, because no piece of
water larger than a puddle is too small to serve as a fishing ground for
him. His partiality to flooded rice fields has given rise to the name by
which he most commonly goes. He is frequently dubbed the blind heron,
especially by natives. The Tamils call him the blind idiot. Needless to
say the bird is not blind, its confiding disposition is responsible for
the adjective. It might be blind for all the notice it takes of
surrounding objects as it stands at the water’s edge, huddled up like a
decrepit old man.

Before proceeding further, let me, for the benefit of those who are
unacquainted with the avifauna of India, describe the bird. It is much
smaller than the common heron, being about the size of a curlew. The
head, neck, and the whole of the upper plumage are greenish brown, each
feather having a darker shaft stripe. The under parts are white, as are
the larger wing feathers, but these latter are so arranged as to be
altogether invisible when the wings are closed, so that the bird, when
it flies, seems suddenly to produce from nowhere a pair of beautiful
white pinions and sail away on them. Before it has flown far it usually
performs the vanishing trick. This, like most effective conjuring
tricks, is very easy to perform when one knows how to do it. The bird
merely folds its wings, then the dark coverts alone are visible. These
are of the same hue as the damp sand or mud on which the paddy bird
spends a considerable portion of the day. The dingy hues of the paddy
bird are the outcome of its habits; it is a _shikari_ that stalks its
prey or lies in wait for it. If it were as showy as the cattle egret its
intended victims would “see it coming” and mock at it. Hence the
necessity for its workaday garb.

The paddy bird is a very sluggish creature; it comes of a lazy family.
There is not a single member of the heron tribe that does sufficient
work to disqualify it for membership of the most particular trade union.

Most herons, however, do stalk their prey, which is more than the paddy
bird usually does. One may sometimes see him progressing through shallow
water at the rate of six inches a minute; but more commonly he stands in
shallow water as motionless as a stuffed bird, with his head almost
buried in his shoulders, looking as though he were highly disgusted with
things in general. As a matter of fact he is thoroughly enjoying
himself. His ugly eye is fixed upon some luckless frog in the water. The
moment this comes within striking distance the pond heron will shoot out
his long neck, seize the frog and swallow it whole. One cannot but feel
sorry for the frog as it finds itself being hustled down the heron’s
throat. It probably mistook the motionless creature for a rock and, even
had it not made this mistake, it could not be expected to know that the
bird had buried in its shoulders a patent telescopic neck. After the
amphibian is safely lodged _in ventro_, the paddy bird resumes his
strategic position at the water’s edge and maintains it for hours.

One day when I have nothing else to do I mean to mark down a paddy bird
in its roosting tree, follow it to its fishing ground and picnic there
all day and watch its behaviour. I shall then write an essay entitled _A
Leaf from the Diary of a Lazy Bird_.

I imagine that the daily entry will read somewhat as follows:—

  8 a.m.—(One hour after sunrise) woke up.
  8—8.30—Pruned my feathers.
  8.30—Flew to my fishing ground.
  8.32—Settled there for the day.
  8.40—9—Caught a few water insects for breakfast.
  9—10—Had a nap.
  10.30—Caught a frog.
  10.32—12—Had a nap.
  12.15—Caught another frog.
  12.17—2—Had a nap.
  2.20—Caught a third frog.
  2.22—Walked three yards.
  2.24—4—Had a nap.
  4.40—Caught a fourth frog.
  5—6—Had a nap.
  6.15—6.30—Caught and ate my supper.
  6.30—Flew to roost.
  6.35—40—Had a row with a neighbour who had taken my private roosting
  7 p.m. onwards—Slept the sleep of the just.

The above is not a statement of actual fact. Like many scientific
productions it is based on imagination and not observation. I have not
yet devoted a whole day to the paddy bird. I have, however, spent an
hour at a pond heron’s dormitory and record in the next chapter what I
saw there.

At the nesting season the paddy birds awake from their habitual
lethargy. Towards the end of June they begin to make a collection of
sticks and pile these together on a forked branch high up in some tree.
When the pile has reached a magnitude sufficient to support four or five
eggs the paddy bird flatters itself that it has built a fine nest and
forthwith proceeds to stock it with eggs. This species usually nests in
colonies, sometimes in company with night herons (_Nycticorax griseus_),
and occasionally with crows. Seen from below the nursery looks rather
like an old crow’s nest. The eggs are a beautiful pale green. They are
most jealously watched by the parents; one or other always remaining on
guard, and, every now and then, gurgling with delight.

The youngsters hatch out in a comparatively advanced condition. A baby
pond heron about a week old is a most amusing object. It has a long,
narrow, pinkish beak, quite unlike the broad triangle that does duty for
a mouth in passerine birds. Its neck is disproportionately long, while
its green legs are many sizes too big for it. Downy feathers are
scattered irregularly over the body, and add to the absurdity of its
appearance. The eye is bright yellow and gives its possessor a very
knowing look.

Most birds when they have young work like slaves to procure sufficient
food for them. Not so the paddy bird. He knows a trick worth two of
that. He is a past master in the art of loafing. He does not feed his
offspring on tiny insects, dozens of which are required to make a decent
meal; he forces whole frogs down the elastic gullet of the nestling. Now
the most ravenous and greedy young bird cannot negotiate very many frogs
per diem; hence the feeding of their young is not a great tax upon paddy

                         PADDY BIRDS AT BEDTIME

The paddy bird (_Ardeola grayii_) is at all times and all seasons as
solemn as the proverbial judge; hence at bedtime, when all other birds
are hilarious and excited, he is comparatively sedate.

Paddy birds, in common with the great majority of the feathered kind,
roost in company. At sunrise, the company separates. Each goes his own
way to his favourite river, paddy-field, tank, pond or puddle, as the
case may be, and spends the day in morose solitude. At sunset he rejoins
his fellow pond herons.

Growing out of the water in a small tank near the railway station at
Fyzabad are three trees, one of which is quite small, while the other
two are about the size of well-grown apple trees. This description is
perhaps as vague as saying of an object that it is as big as a piece of
chalk. I am sorry. I cannot help it. I know of no accurate method of
judging the size of a tree that is surrounded by dirty, slimy water. On
one of these trees, like unto an apple tree, over fifty paddy birds
spend the night.

One might have thought that this was a very fair load for an average
tree. This, however, is not the opinion of the feathered folk. Some 300
or 400 mynas also utilise this tree as a dormitory. The mynas occupy the
higher branches, and the paddy birds the lower ones.

As every one knows, the roosting place of a company of mynas is a
perfect pandemonium. For thirty or forty minutes before going to sleep
each individual bird shouts at every other individual with truly
splendid energy. If man could but devise some means of harnessing this
energy, every station in India might be lighted with electric light at a
very small cost. As things are, all this energy is dissipated in the
form of sound, with the result that the noise made by 300 starlings can
be heard at a distance of half a mile.

One might reasonably suppose that a quiet, sedate bird like _Ardeola
grayii_ would be greatly disgusted at the din that emanates from the
throats of mynas at bedtime, and would refrain from selecting as his
dormitory a tree that literally quivers with the shoutings of mynas. It
is, however, not so. Birds rarely do what one would expect. I know
hundreds of ideal sites for birds’ nests that are never utilised. _Per
contra_, I have met with numbers of nests situated in the most
uncomfortable and evil-smelling places. Paddy birds obviously do not
suffer from nerves.

For about fifteen minutes before and fifteen minutes after sunset the
tree in which all these birds roost presents an animated appearance. One
or two paddy birds are the first to arrive, and they settle on one or
other of the lower branches which almost touch the water. Nearly all
birds, on approaching the tree in which they roost, literally throw
themselves into the foliage, they plunge into it at headlong speed.
Needless to say, the paddy bird does nothing so reckless as this;
nevertheless, when approaching the tree in which he intends to spend the
night he travels faster than at any other time, except, of course, when
he is being chased by a falcon. The advance-guard of the mynas arrives
very shortly after the first _bagla_. The mynas belong to two
species—the common and the bank mynas (_Acridotheres tristis_ and _A.
ginginianus_). They come in squads of twenty or thirty. The various
squads arrive in rapid succession. Then the uproar begins and continues
to swell in volume as the numbers in the tree increase.

The paddy birds come in ones and twos, and, as stated, invariably alight
on one of the lower branches. They usually select a branch so thin that
it would be impossible for so large a bird to obtain a foothold on it
did not the claws of that bird grip like a vice; and even so it is not
without much flapping of their white wings that the pond herons manage
to reach a state of equilibrium.

If, when a paddy bird has succeeded in steadying itself on a slender
branch two feet or so above the level of the water, another feckless
fellow elects to alight on the selfsame branch, there follows trouble
compared to which the Turco-Italian War is, as the babu says, a mere
storm in a teapot; both birds seem in danger of taking a bath. On such
occasions, the bird first on the tree greets the new-comer with gurgles
of protest, there is much flapping of white wings, and eventually one or
both the birds have to leave the branch.

But it is not until the tree is filled with birds that the real fun
begins. When about forty paddy birds are squatting on the lower branches
and over 300 mynas on the upper ones, it will be well understood that
there is not much accommodation available for new arrivals. When a
belated myna appears on the scene and plunges into the midst of his
brother starlings, he is greeted with such a torrent of abuse that,
although, in the gathering gloom, one cannot see what is going on amid
the foliage, one feels convinced that the abuse is backed up by assault
and battery. If, on the other hand, the luckless myna pitches into the
tree at a lower elevation, he is liable to find himself transfixed by
the stiletto-like beak of the nearest paddy bird, the savage thrust
being accompanied by a lugubrious croak which seems to be the only note
of the paddy bird. Nine out of ten mynas prefer incurring the wrath of
their own kind to bringing down upon themselves the less noisy but more
formidable anger of the pond heron.

If the mynas are packed like sardines in a box, the paddy birds lower
down are not much more comfortable. It is true that the paddy birds are
not squeezed together after the manner of the mynas, for the simple
reason that if more than two of them attempted to squat on any but the
stoutest of the branches they would all find themselves immersed in the
slimy, unsavoury water beneath. The discomfort of the paddy birds is of
another kind. Each one is balancing himself on an insecure perch and
lives in momentary terror of being displaced by the advent of some other
_bagla_. Hence, when the tree contains about forty herons, every fresh
arrival is greeted with croaks the most sepulchral, and there is much
shaking of branches and flapping of wings before he can find a spot on
which he is able to maintain himself in a state of unstable equilibrium.

I watched the tree in question one evening in order to ascertain how
many paddy birds roosted in it. I was able to count fifty-four by
enumerating the birds as they arrived. I may have missed a few. But this
is a mere detail. The lower branches carried all the paddy birds they
were capable of bearing with safety. A few of the paddy birds had to be
content with berths in a neighbouring tree, which grew out of the water
at a distance of a few feet.

Some time after the sun had set one of the overflow party decided to try
his luck in the main tree, and this resulted in such croaking and
fluttering of wings on the part of his fellow paddy birds that for a few
seconds the din of the mynas was drowned.

By the time it is really dark every bird, be he myna or pond heron, is
sufficiently satisfied to hold his tongue. From then until an hour
before sunrise not a sound emanates from the sleeping population of some
400 mynas and 50 paddy birds, who have elected to spend the night amid
the unwholesome vapours that emanate from the water below. Birds are
evidently mosquito proof.


Merlins are pigmy falcons. Like falcons, they are reclaimed for hawking
purposes, but are regarded as mere toys by those who indulge in “the
sport of kings.”

In the days when falconry was a fashionable pastime in England nearly
every lady of quality possessed a merlin, which was often as much of a
companion as a dog is nowadays. The exquisite little bird of prey would
accompany its mistress on her rides or her walks, flying overhead and
coming to the glove when called. This species, being the only kind of
merlin found in England, is popularly called the merlin (_Æsalon
regulus_), even as _Cuculus canorus_ is always known as the cuckoo, as
though it were the only cuckoo in the world.

The merlin when trained for falconry is usually flown at the skylark.
There are few prettier sights than that presented by a contest between a
merlin and a skylark. Both know that the merlin can do nothing until it
gets above its quarry; hence the contest at first resolves itself into
one for supremacy of position. The adversaries often fly upwards in
spirals until they almost disappear from view. When once the merlin does
succeed in getting above the lark it makes swoop after swoop until it
strikes its quarry.

In India the merlin is often trained to fly at the hoopoe. This contest
is of a nature very different from that just described. The hoopoe does
not rely on speed. It trusts to its truly marvellous power of timing the
onslaught of the merlin and swerving at the critical moment, so that the
merlin misses it by a hair’s breadth. So great a master of aerial
manœuvre is the hoopoe that two merlins working together are required to
accomplish its downfall.

As the plumage of _Æsalon regulus_ has the nondescript colouring that
characterises most birds of prey, no useful purpose will be served by an
attempt to describe it. The merlin is a winter visitor to India, and
visits only the Punjab and Sind.

There is, however, another species of merlin which is a permanent
resident in and distributed throughout India, viz. the red-headed merlin
(_Æsalon chicquera_) or turumti as the bird is popularly called. Like
the common merlin it is one of the smaller pirates of the air, being no
larger than a myna, but it is the very quintessence of ferocity, and it
knows not what fear is. Hence it is a terror to many creatures of
greater magnitude than itself. The red-headed merlin is comparatively
easy to identify, because it has some distinctive colouring, in the
shape of a chestnut-red head and neck. The remainder of the upper
plumage is French grey, marked with fine brown cross-bars. There is a
broad black band with a white edge across the end of the tail. The chin,
throat, and under parts are white, with brown spots, which become less
plentiful as the individual grows older. This disappearance with age of
the markings on the lower parts is very common among birds of prey, and
is one of the many problems of animal colouring that do not appear to be
explained by the theory of natural selection.

The hen turumti is about fourteen inches in length, of which six consist
of tail. The cock, as is usual among raptores, is somewhat smaller than
the hen.

The red-headed merlin occurs only in India. It is an evil manufactured
for the sole benefit of the small birds of Hindustan. The turumti does
not appear to undergo any periodical migration. It preys chiefly upon
small birds. Social larks, little ringed plovers and sparrows are its
commonest victims. But it is not afraid to tackle larger birds.
Frequently it attacks mynas, starlings, quails, and doves. Indeed the
usual lure bird for a red-headed merlin is a myna. This is tethered to a
stick stuck into the ground, and in front of it is stretched a net
attached to upright posts. The first turumti to observe this swoops down
at the myna to find itself hopelessly entangled in the net. Hume once
saw a red-headed merlin strike a pigeon and kill it with the first blow.
Turumtis do not confine their attention to birds. The alert little palm
squirrel is often victimised, as are sometimes those bats that are so
unwary as to venture forth before the merlins go to bed.

When pursuing their operations in the open turumtis frequently hunt in
couples, and, as they fly exceedingly swiftly, no matter how speedy the
quarry be or how adept in swerving in the air, it is rarely able to
escape from the concerted attack of a pair of these little furies.

Red-headed merlins are addicted to perching on the telegraph wires that
are stretched alongside railway lines. They do this in order to pounce
down into the midst of a flock of small birds alarmed by the noise of a
passing train. The turumti, like the sparrow hawk, is a sprinter rather
than a long-distance flier, and hence is able to secure its quarry in
gardens, groves, and other comparatively confined places. It is fond of
gliding with great rapidity along some hedgerow or bank and swooping
down on any small bird feeding in the vicinity.

The turumti is not often used for purposes of falconry, which is
somewhat surprising, seeing that it affords better sport than does the
shikra, because it does not give up the chase so readily. When trained
it is usually flown at the blue jay or roller (_Coracias indica_). “In
pursuit of this quarry,” writes Jerdon, “the falcon follows most closely
and perseveringly, but is often baulked by the extraordinary evolutions
of the roller, who now darts off obliquely, then tumbles down
perpendicularly, screaming all the time and endeavouring to gain the
shelter of the nearest grove or tree. But even here he is not safe; the
falcon follows him from branch to branch, and sooner or later the
exhausted quarry falls a victim to the ruthless bird of prey.”

Very different is the behaviour of the shikra; he makes a dash at the
quarry, and, if he fail to seize it at once, gives up the chase.

The red-headed merlin is thrown from the hand in the same way as the
shikra. According to Mr. R. Thompson, the turumti affords peculiar sport
with the spotted dove (_Turtur suratensis_), “striking at the quarry
several times, and even often losing it altogether, owing partly to the
softness of the dove’s feathers, which give way at the least touch, and
partly to its rapid dodging flight.”

Turumtis breed from February to June, earlier in South India than in the
Punjab and the Himalayas. The nest is usually built in a fork near the
top of a tree—a tamarind or a mango for preference. In size and
appearance the nest resembles that of a crow. It consists of a
conglomeration of twigs, forming a platform of which the diameter
measures about a foot. In the middle is a depression, lined with fine
twigs, roots, feathers, or other convenient materials, in which the eggs
are placed. Both sexes take part in nest building, which they appear to
consider a very difficult and arduous task, judging by the fuss they
make over the placing of every twig brought to the nest. The eggs are
reddish white, very thickly speckled with brownish red. Turumtis are
exceedingly pugnacious at the nesting season, and are as resentful as
king-crows at any kind of intrusion; hence they are kept busy in giving
chase to crows _et hoc genus omne_, who seem to take a positive delight
in teasing fussy birds with nests.

                           THE COMMON WRYNECK

I leave it to anatomists to determine whether wrynecks are woodpeckers
that are turning into other birds, or other birds that are changing into
woodpeckers. Certain it is that they are closely allied to woodpeckers.

Only four species of wryneck are known to exist, and, of these, three
are confined to the Dark Continent, while the fourth is a great
traveller. It is the bird which is frequently seen in India during the
winter, and is well known in England as the “cuckoo’s mate,” because it
migrates every year to Great Britain at the same time as the cuckoo.
Ornithologists call this bird _Iynx torquilla_, plain Englishmen usually
term it the wryneck, as though there were only one species in the world.
From their insular point of view they are quite right because it is the
only wryneck they ever see unless they leave their island. One
convenience of living in a country, like England, poor in species, is
that to particularise a bird is rarely necessary; it is sufficient to
speak of the cuckoo, the swallow, the kingfisher, the heron. On the
other hand, we who dwell in this country of many species, if we would
not be misunderstood, usually have to particularise the cuckoo, the
kingfisher, or the swallow of which we are speaking. However, as regards
wrynecks, India is no better off than England. One species only visits
that country; hence Indians may indulge in the luxury of speaking of it
as the wryneck. This is a bird not much larger than a sparrow and
attired as plainly as the hen of that species. But here the resemblance
ends. The wryneck is as retiring in disposition as the sparrow is
obtrusive. I defy any one to dwell a week in a locality that boasts of a
pair of sparrows without noticing them, but many a man spends the
greater part of his life in India without once observing a wryneck. The
greyish-brown plumage of the wryneck, delicately mottled and barred all
over with a darker shade of brown, harmonises very closely with the
trunks of trees or the bare earth on which it spends so much of its
time, and thus it often eludes observation.

The wryneck, like its cousins the woodpeckers, feeds almost exclusively
on insects which it secures by means of the tongue. This wormlike
structure is several inches in length and is hard and sharp, barbed at
the tip and covered elsewhere with very sticky saliva. It can be shot
out suddenly to transfix the bird’s quarry, and then as rapidly
retracted. The tongue is so long that when retracted it coils up inside
the head. Although wrynecks feed a good deal on trees, they are far less
addicted to them than woodpeckers are. The latter sometimes feed upon
the ground, but this is the exception rather than the rule, while with
the wryneck the reverse holds good. Once, at Lahore, I nearly trod upon
a wryneck that was feeding on the ground. It flew from between my boots
to a low bush hard by; then it descended to the ground and began to feed
in the grass. I crept towards the place where it was feeding, and it did
not again take to its wings until I was close up to it. This time it
flew to a branch of a tree about ten feet above the level of the ground.
I again followed up the wryneck. This time it allowed me to walk right
up under it, and study the dark cross-bars on its tail feathers. After a
little time it betook itself to a bunker on the golf links, from off
which it began to pick insects. Then it flew to a low bush, and from
thence dropped to the ground. I again followed it up, and, as I
approached, it quietly walked away. Other naturalists have found the
wryneck in India equally tame. Mr. Blyth says of it: “Instinctively
trusting to the close resemblance of its tints to the situations on
which it alights, it will lie close and sometimes even suffer itself to
be taken by the hand; on such occasions it will twirl its neck in the
most extraordinary manner, rolling the eyes, and erecting the feathers
of the crown and throat, occasionally raising its tail and performing
the most ludicrous movements; then, taking advantage of the surprise of
the spectator, it will suddenly dart off like an arrow.”

At most seasons of the year the wryneck is a remarkably silent bird. I
do not remember ever having heard one utter a sound in India. When,
however, it first arrives in England it has plenty to say for itself.
“In one short season,” says an anonymous writer in England, “we hear its
singular monotonous notes at intervals through half the day. This
ceases, and we think no more about it, as it continues perfectly mute;
not a twit or a chirp escapes to remind us of its sojourn with us,
except the maternal note or hush of danger, which is a faint, low,
protracted hissing, as the female sits clinging by the side or on the
stump of a tree.”

The wryneck is not singular among birds in uttering its note only at
certain seasons of the year. Very few of the song birds pour forth their
melody all the year round. This fact bears powerful testimony to the
view I have frequently enunciated as to the nature of birds’ song. There
is nothing conversational in it, nothing in the nature of language; it
is merely the expression of superabundant vitality which fills most
birds at certain seasons of the year.

Like very many other migrants, the wryneck does not appear to be
powerful on the wing. Its flight has been well described as “precipitate
and awkward.”

The wryneck derives its name from a curious habit it has of twisting its
neck as it seeks for insects on a tree-trunk or mound.

Wrynecks are very rarely seen in cages or aviaries, probably because
they are not songsters and because their habits are not such as to
render them attractive in an aviary. Nevertheless, wrynecks thrive in
captivity. Bishop Stanley records an instance of a wryneck which “lived
for a year and a half in a cage, and never appeared to show impatience
during its confinement; it was observed always to take its food by
throwing out its long tongue.”

During the winter the wryneck seems to visit all parts of India, except
possibly the Malabar coast, and it is sufficiently common in South India
to have a Tamil name—_Moda nulingadu_.

The wryneck breeds neither in the plains of India nor, I believe, in the
Himalayas, but its nest has been recorded in Kashmir. It busies itself
with parental duties in the summer—in May and June in England—laying its
glossy white eggs in a hollow in a tree. Unlike the woodpecker the
wryneck does not hollow out its hole for itself. It is sensible enough
not to undertake that which can be equally well done by others. In this
respect, as in so many others, it differs from the woodpeckers proper.

                             GREEN PIGEONS

Green birds are comparatively few in number, but nearly all of those
that do exist are very beautiful objects. Green is a colour which is
rarely found alone in birds. The fowls of the air of which the plumage
is mainly green almost invariably display patches of other colour. In
the familiar green parrots red, pink, blue, and black occur; the green
coppersmith flaunts the most gaudy hues of red, crimson, and yellow; the
emerald merops adorns itself with gold and turquoise ornaments; while
green pigeons are birds which display the whole spectrum of colours,
each in a subdued form. In the common Indian species the forehead is
greenish yellow; the nape and sides of the head French grey; the chin
and neck are old gold shading off into olive; the body is greenish
olive; the shoulder is washed with lilac. The primary wing feathers are
dark grey, while the secondaries are similarly coloured, but have pale
yellow tips. The tail is slate-coloured, becoming greenish yellow at the
base. The feathers under the tail are a dark claret colour with creamy
bars. The lower parts are slate-coloured tinged with green, save for the
feathers of the thigh, which are canary yellow. The legs are orange
yellow. The eye is blue, with an outer ring of carmine. Yet,
notwithstanding all this show of colour, there is nothing gaudy about
the green pigeon. Every tint is most delicately laid on, and each hue
blends into the surrounding ones in a truly exquisite fashion, so that
it is no exaggeration to call the green pigeon a vision of perfect

In the unlikely event of any one taking the trouble to compare the above
description with those given in the fauna of British India for _Crocopus
phœnicopterus_ (the Bengal green pigeon) and _C. chlorogaster_ (the
Southern green pigeon), that person will observe that it does not tally
exactly with either of them. Nevertheless, my description is taken from
a specimen shot by me in the Basti district of the United Provinces. The
fact of the matter is that in places where the Bengal form meets the
southern species the two interbreed, as, I believe, do all, or nearly
all, allied species at the point of junction. And, in such cases, the
hybrid birds appear to be perfectly fertile and to thrive equally with
the parent species; neither of which would be the case were facts in
accordance with the Wallaceian theory. But, as we shall see later, green
pigeons seem to lay themselves out to destroy the biological orthodoxy
of to-day.

Green pigeons appear to live exclusively on fruit. They go about in
small flocks, seeking out trees of which the fruit is ripe; when they
hit upon such a tree they behave as if they were schoolboys let loose in
a tuck shop!

The Hindustani name for the green pigeon is _Harrial_. The natives, or
at any rate some of them, assert that the bird never descends to the
ground, because when its foot touches the earth the bird loses a pound
in weight, in other words, shrivels up into nothingness! If asked how it
drinks, they will reply that it settles on a reed which bends with its
weight, so that it is able to partake of the water beneath without
touching the earth. In the absence of a conveniently situated reed, the
green pigeon overcomes the difficulty by carrying a twig in its feet. It
would be interesting to discover the origin of this story, which is on a
par with that which asserts that the red-wattled lapwing (_Sarcogrammus
indicus_) sleeps on its back with its legs in the air, in order to be
ready to catch the sky on its feet if ever this should fall! As a matter
of fact green pigeons are very arboreal in their habits. I do not
remember ever having seen one of them on the ground.

The note of the green pigeons is not a coo, but a pleasant whistle. The
birds are sometimes caged on account of their song. But they are
uninteresting pets. In captivity they soon lose their beauty, because
they are so gluttonous as to smear the head and neck with whatever fruit
be given them to eat.

Green pigeons are said to be far less obtrusive in their courtship than
the majority of their kind. The male does not puff himself out after the
manner of other cock pigeons, but is content to bow before his lady love
and in this attitude move his expanded tail up and down.

There are few birds that assimilate so closely to their surroundings as
green pigeons. Fifty of them may be perched in a pipal tree, and a man
on the look-out for them may fail to detect a single individual until
one of the birds moves. They are thus excellent examples of protectively
coloured birds. Their green livery undoubtedly affords them a certain
amount of protection, and so may perhaps be considered a product of
natural selection. Be this as it may, a consideration of the details of
the colouring of their plumage shows that many of these, as, for
example, the lilac on the wing, are quite unnecessary for the
concealment of the bird. The eastern and the southern species which
occur together in certain places and the hybrids produced by the
interbreeding of these are all equally difficult to distinguish from the
surrounding leaves, notwithstanding the fact that their plumage differs
in details, e.g. the breast and the abdomen are greenish yellow in the
southern and ashy-grey in the eastern form, while there is green in the
forehead and tail of the latter, but not of the former. Thus we have two
species of green pigeon, of which at least one has not originated by
natural selection. Facts such as these, however, do not prevent Dr.
Wallace, Sir E. Ray Lankester, and Professor Poulton continually
proclaiming from the housetops that every existing species owes its
origin to natural selection and nothing but natural selection!

There are several genera of green pigeons, and all of them are
characterised by short legs and broad toes. These are adaptations to the
arboreal habit, in the formation of which natural selection has, in all
probability, played an important part. The habits of all the genera are
identical. They, one and all, build the rough-and-ready shakedowns which
do duty for nests amongst the _Columbidæ_. All lay the inevitable two
white eggs. Yet the sexes of the genus _Crocopus_ are alike in external
appearance, while those of the genera _Osmosteros_, _Sphenocercus_, and
_Treron_ exhibit considerable dimorphism. Again in the genus _Butreron_
the sexual differences displayed are inconsiderable. These facts, of
themselves, are quite sufficient to disprove the theory that sexual
dimorphism in birds is due to the hen’s greater need of protection. Cock
green pigeons assimilate so well to their leafy environment that there
cannot possibly be any necessity for their wives to be differently
dressed. Further, it is worthy of note that the most flourishing of the
genera of green pigeons is that in which the sexes dress alike.

                            BULBULS’ NESTS—I

In May, 1911, a pair of red-whiskered bulbuls (_Otocompsa emeria_) took
up their residence in my verandah at Fyzabad, that is to say, they spent
the greater part of the day there in constructing a nest in a croton
plant. The nest of the bulbul is a shallow cup, formed of bast, roots,
twigs, and grass, loosely worked together. Sometimes dead leaves, pieces
of rag and other oddments are woven into the fabric of the nest. The
pair of bulbuls of which I write did not, however, indulge in any of
these luxuries; they were content with a rudely constructed nursery.
When the nest was nearly complete the owners deserted it. Why they acted
thus I have not been able to discover.

The bulbuls absented themselves for a few days. When they returned they
frequented another portion of the verandah, and their fussiness betrayed
the fact that they were working at another nest. Several days passed
before I found time to look for their nest, and I then discovered it in
an aralia plant growing in the verandah, in a large pot placed at the
right-hand side of one of the doors leading into my office room. The
site chosen was the more remarkable in that it was within ten feet of
the carpet on which the _chaprassis_ sit when not engaged in active
work. This nest was of even rougher design than the first one, and was
equally devoid of decoration. So carelessly had it been constructed
that, to use a nautical expression, it had a distinct list. I found in
the nest three pinkish eggs, mottled and blotched with purplish red.
They had been laid some time before I first saw them. This was
demonstrated by the reluctance of the hen to leave the nest when I
approached. Among birds the parental instinct increases as incubation
proceeds. On one occasion the bird sitting on the nest in question
allowed me to stroke its tail. This organ projects upwards like a
semaphore, the nest not being sufficiently large to accommodate it.

It was not until the 15th July that I had leisure to watch these bulbuls
closely. Up to that time I had merely noticed that both birds incubate,
and that both sexes, and not the cock alone, as some writers assert,
have the red “whiskers,” or feathers, on the cheeks.

The weather being warm, it was not necessary for the birds to sit
continuously, and the eggs were frequently left for ten minutes or
longer at a time. On the morning of the 15th July, I found that two of
the young birds had hatched out. Both parents were feeding them.

Birds are creatures of habit. Each parent bulbul had its own way of
approaching the nest and of perching when tending the nestlings, so
that, although I was not able to say for certain which of the pair was
the cock and which the hen, I could distinguish one individual from the
other. For brevity I will call them A and B, respectively.

Both birds, before flying to the nest, used to alight on the stem of a
palm standing in the verandah. From this point their manœuvres differed.
Individual A invariably flew to a stout vertical branch of the aralia,
remained there for a second or two, flitted to a second vertical branch,
and from thence hopped on to the edge of the nest, so that its face when
there pointed to the east. This individual always showed itself the
bolder spirit of the two. The other bird, B, used to fly from the palm
to a slender leafy branch of the aralia, and thus cause considerable
commotion among the leaves; from thence it jumped on to the edge of the
nest, where it perched with its face pointing to the north. The _modus
operandi_ of A was the superior. The verandah faces the east, so that
when A wished to leave the nest, it had but to jump across it into the
space beyond, and then wing its way ahead, while B had to turn round
before it could fly off. The neatness and address with which A used to
leap across the nest into the air baffles description.

The 16th July fell on a Sunday. I therefore determined to devote some
hours to studying the ways of those bulbuls at the nest. Every
naturalist has his own method of prying into the ways of the fowls of
the air or the beasts of the field. Some expose themselves to the Indian
sun at midday in May, others will squat for hours in feverish swamps.
People who do these things are worthy of all praise. I prefer less
heroic methods. Accordingly, I had the pot containing the nest-bearing
plant moved a distance of rather less than a yard, so that it stood in
the middle of the door-way. I then had an easy chair placed in the
office room at a distance of some four feet from the nest. Finally, I
removed such of the leaves as tended to obstruct my view. Thus, I was
able to watch the bulbuls through the _chik_ in comfort, reclining in
the easy chair.

Both parent birds were present when the plant was being moved. They
looked rather alarmed, but raised no outcry. They did not seem eager to
approach the nest after the position of the aralia had been changed.
Evidently they did not understand the meaning of what they had seen.
Eventually bulbul A summoned sufficient courage to visit the nest, and
must have been highly gratified to find the two youngsters and the egg
safe. While perching on the nest it kept its eye on me, having espied
me, notwithstanding the fact that there was a _chik_ between me and it.
While eyeing me it cocked its head on one side and half opened its bill.
The opening of the bill is an expression of anger. The bulbul’s crest
was also folded back, but this does not necessarily denote anger. The
crest invariably assumes this attitude when the bulbul is incubating, or
brooding, or feeding its young. It was some time before bulbul B could
bring itself to visit the nest. It made at least six abortive attempts
before it reached the edge of the nest, and then perched only for a
second before flying off with every sign of trepidation. And for the
whole of that day it showed itself nervous, whereas A soon came quite
boldly to the nest. The difference in temperament between the two birds
was most marked.

The parent birds did not come to the nest with the bill very full. They
were usually content to bring one succulent grub or insect at a time.

In the earliest stages of their existence bulbul nestlings are so small
that one caterpillar satisfies their hunger completely for some little
time. So that it often happened that one of the parents arrived with
food for which neither of the young birds was ready. Under such
circumstances, the parent, after trying to force the food into the mouth
of each nestling, remained on the rim of the nest waiting patiently
until one of the youngsters lifted up its head for food. The baby
bulbuls did not display at this early stage of their existence that
eagerness for food, amounting almost to greediness, that characterises
nestlings when they grow a little older.

On arrival with food the adult bird invariably uttered a couple of
tinkling notes as if to inform its offspring that it had brought food.
No sound emanated from the young birds during the first two or three
days of their existence. When it had disposed of the food it had
brought, the parent bird usually looked after the sanitation of the nest
by picking up and eating the excreta. The parent birds did not appear
ever to bring water to the nestlings. The succulent food probably
supplies the requisite moisture. About midday on the 16th July the third
young bird hatched out. The egg was intact at 10 a.m., but by a few
minutes after midday the youngster had emerged, and half the shell was
still in the nest. Thus the latest arrival made his appearance at least
twenty-eight hours after either of his brethren.

I watched carefully in order to ascertain how the parent birds got rid
of the egg-shell. Presently bulbul A came to the nest with food. When it
had disposed of this, it began pecking in the nest, and appeared to be
eating up the shell, but in reality it was cleaning the nest. After
being thus engaged for a couple of minutes it flew off, carrying the
half egg-shell in its beak. It flew to a distance with this, so that I
did not see what became of it. This explains why broken egg-shells are
seldom found lying on the ground below a nest. On the following day I
placed a small piece of paper in the nest. This was carried off by the
first parent bird to visit the nest, but not before the bird had fed its
young. Shortly afterwards I placed a sheet of thick paper over the top
of the nest so as to completely cover it. This nonplussed both parents.
They made no attempt to insert their heads underneath it, but hopped
about near the nest looking very disconsolate. I therefore removed the

Young bulbuls when first hatched out are almost lost in the nest, taking
up very little more room than the eggs that contained them; but they
grow at an astonishing rate. By the time the oldest was six days old the
three young birds almost filled the nest. From the fourth day the heads
of the nestlings went up, and the mandibles vibrated rapidly whenever a
parent approached; previously the young birds did not seem to hear the
approach of the old birds. On the sixth day of their existence the
youngsters first began to call for food, and for a time the sounds they
emitted were very feeble. On the sixth day their eyes began to open, the
opening at first being a tiny slit.

The parents were not always judicious in selecting food for their babes.
I saw a bulbul bring a large insect with gauzy wings to a six-day-old
nestling. The bird succeeded in ramming about one-third of it into the
gaping mouth of the young one. The latter then made frantic efforts to
swallow its prize. After struggling for the greater part of a minute it
rested for a few seconds with half an inch of insect projecting from its
bill. When at last it did succeed in swallowing it, the young bulbul
fell back with neck stretched out and appeared to be in a thoroughly
exhausted condition.

A triple tragedy has now to be related. Tragedies, alas! are very common
among the bulbul community. On several occasions have I watched the
nesting operations of these birds, but never yet have I seen a single
young one reach maturity. When the eldest of the nestlings was seven
days old I noticed that the list on the nest had become very marked, and
on examining the nursery I found it empty. I then saw two of the young
bulbuls lying on the floor of the verandah. The third was nowhere to be
seen. Having rectified the position of the nest, I replaced the two
nestlings, which the parents continued to feed. They did not seem to
notice that one of their babes was missing.

On the following morning I found the nest half torn from its holdings,
and saw the two youngsters on the earth near the roots of the aralia.
Some leaves were strewn on the ground. Apparently a cat, a mongoose, or
other predaceous creature had attempted to capture the parent bird
during the night when it was sitting on the nest. It had not succeeded
in the attempt, for both the old birds were hale and hearty;
nevertheless, the fall had killed one of the youngsters. I placed the
nest higher up in the aralia, in what I considered a safer situation,
wedging it tightly between some branches, and then replaced the
remaining nestling. This the parents continued to feed, although they
seemed to find the nest difficult of access in its new position. The
next morning I found the young bird alive and well in the nest, but this
latter was now a lower branch of the aralia, to which it had been tied
by string. Some officious _chaprassi_ had doubtless done this. He had
probably found the nest pulled down as I had found it on the previous
day. Our efforts, however, were of no avail. On the following morning I
again found the nest torn down, and this time the young bird was lying
lifeless on the ground. The parents were somewhat disconsolate, and hung
about for a little with food in their bills. But they soon seemed to
realise that it was useless to bring food to a little bird that would
not open its mouth. So they went off. They are, I believe, looking out
for a suitable nesting site at the opposite end of my verandah. Bulbuls
are as philosophical as they are foolish.

                           BULBULS’ NESTS—II

The simplest observations often bring to light the greatest scientific
truths. The force of gravity was revealed to Sir Isaac Newton by the
falling of an apple. A kettle of boiling water gave the idea of the
steam-engine to James Watt. The watching of bulbuls, which are so common
in our Indian gardens and verandahs, suffices, apart from all other
evidence, to demonstrate how erroneous is the orthodox doctrine that the
survival of the fittest is the result of a struggle for existence among
adult organisms. This year (1912) six bulbul tragedies have occurred in
my garden, and the year is yet young.

The scene of one of these tragedies was the identical plant in which
occurred the disaster described above, which happened about nine months
ago. Thus we see that among bulbuls destruction takes place mostly in
the nest, whole broods being wiped out at a time. The same is, I
believe, true to a large extent of other species that build open nests.
There are three critical stages in the life of a bird—the time when it
is defenceless in the egg, the period it spends helpless in the nest,
and the two or three days that elapse after it leaves the nest until its
powers of flight are fully developed. When once a little bird has
survived these dangerous periods, when it has reached the adult stage,
it is comparatively immune from death until old age steals upon it. If
zoologists would perceive this obvious truth there would be an end to
nine-tenths of the nonsense written about protective colouring. Most
birds are not protectively coloured; moreover, if they were so clothed
as to be invisible amid their natural surroundings they would not derive
much profit therefrom.

The labour of the six-and-twenty little bulbuls who, to my knowledge,
have failed to rear their broods has not been lost altogether, for it
has taught me something about their ways that I did not know before.
Those birds showed me how quickly they are able to build a nest.

Very few observations regarding the duration of nest-building operations
are on record. The reason is not far to seek. A nest at the very
beginning of its existence is difficult to discover, and if come upon by
chance is not easy to recognise as an incipient nursery. The nests we
find are usually complete or in an advanced stage of construction.

I was strolling in the garden about 8 a.m. on the 3rd March last, when I
noticed a bulbul with a leaf in its bill. I saw the bird fly into a
small cypress bush and then emerge therefrom without the leaf. A short
search sufficed to reveal the place in the bush where the leaf had been
deposited. Placed by this leaf I found another leaf, a small branch of
Duranta with some yellow berries attached to it, two or three small
straws and some cobweb. These apparently had been thrown haphazard into
the bush. Had I not seen the bulbul go into the bush carrying a leaf, I
should not have suspected that these few things were the beginning of a
nest, for they had no semblance of one. The bulbuls could not have been
working at that nest for more than half an hour when I discovered it. On
my return thirty minutes later to look at it I found that the amount of
material collected had doubled, but the nest was still without any
definite form; it was a mere conglomeration of rubbish. The two leaves
already mentioned had dropped down nearly a couple of inches below the
other material. The additional material consisted of more Duranta twigs
with berries, straws, dried grasses, cobweb, and a piece of what looked
like tissue paper. Half an hour later the rapidly increasing collection
included a long piece of worsted, but this was not wound round any of
the branches. In most bulbuls’ nests that I have seen a certain amount
of cotton or such-like material is used to support the cup-like nest by
being bound to one of the neighbouring branches, although cobweb is the
chief means of attaching the nest to its surroundings. In this
particular instance, however, the worsted was not so utilised; possibly
the pliable, upright branches of the cypress did not lend themselves to
this kind of attachment. At this time (9 a.m.) the collected materials
had nothing of the shape of a nest, but some of the tiny twigs were
entwined in the cypress branches.

At midday, four hours after I had first seen the nest, I was astonished
to find that it had assumed a saucer-like form. I was not a witness of
the process whereby the original shapeless mass was made to take this
shape, but my observations on other nests have convinced me that the
nest is shaped entirely by the bird’s body and feet. When a bulbul
brings material to the nest, it drops this on to what has already been
collected, sits on it, and proceeds to arrange it with its feet, which
work so vigorously as to shake the whole plant in which the nest is
placed. In the middle of the process the bird usually turns on its axis,
a right angle, and thus the interior of the nest becomes rounded by the
bird’s breast. All new material is added to the inside of the nest.

At midday, then, the nest in question was a shallow saucer composed
chiefly of Duranta and other twigs, dried grass, and bast. The leaves
mentioned above had fallen some way below the nest, and the worsted and
tissue paper had been crushed into a ball at one side of the nest.

By the evening more material, chiefly bast in bands about a quarter of
an inch broad, had been added, and the nest looked almost as complete as
some bulbuls’ nests in which I have seen eggs. But that particular pair
were evidently bent on building a very substantial structure.

By 8 a.m. on the following day the cup of the nest had grown deeper, and
its walls had been considerably thickened. By the evening of the day the
nest was practically complete. On the 5th March the finishing touches
were put to it in the shape of a few grasses and prickly stems.

The diameter of the completed nest is between 2½ and 3 inches. The nest
is rarely quite circular. It is about 2½ inches in depth. The length of
its diameter appears to be determined by that of the bird’s body
(exclusive of head and tail) which is the mould that shapes it. A bulbul
sitting in the nest looks very cramped and uncomfortable, with the tail
projecting vertically upwards, the neck stretched out, and the chin
resting on the rim of the nest. The crest of the sitting bird is folded
right back.

On the early morning of the 8th March the first egg was laid. On the 9th
a second egg was deposited. My little boy, to whom I had shown the nest,
then thought that he would like a couple of bulbul’s eggs poached for
his breakfast, so, regardless of the feelings of the bulbuls, removed
both eggs and took them to the cook! As that individual declined to cook
them, my little son replaced them, or rather one of them, for he broke
the other. On the morning of the 10th a third egg was laid and deposited
in the nest beside the other. The usual clutch of _Otocompsa emeria_ is
three. On the morning of the 11th I found the nest half pulled down and
empty and on the ground beneath I saw a few bulbul’s feathers. Some
predaceous creature, possibly a cat or a mongoose, had seized the
sitting bulbul in the night.

The above notes show that a pair of bulbuls can build a nest in a couple
of days. This observation was confirmed by another pair who constructed
a nest in my verandah on the 23rd and 24th March. On the 22nd I noticed
a pair of bulbuls prospecting in a croton plant near my _daftar_ window;
nevertheless, although I examined that plant carefully, I found no
traces of a nest. On the next day, however, I saw that the nest had been
commenced. During the three following days I had no leisure in which to
look at the nest, but on the 28th I found a bulbul sitting on three
eggs, so that, as only one egg per diem is laid, the first egg must have
been deposited on the morning of the 26th at the latest.

On returning to my bungalow at about 10.30 p.m. of the 28th, I found
some of the servants collected in the verandah. They showed me a dead
brown tree snake (_Hipsas trigonata_) which they had killed in the plant
containing the bulbuls’ nest. The reptile had evidently discovered the
nest and crawled up the stem of the plant. At its approach the
incubating bulbul had made a great commotion which attracted the notice
of the servants. They promptly killed the snake. On my return the eggs
were lying broken on the ground, and I was not able to discover whether
the fluttering bulbul or the servants striking the snake had caused
their downfall. No further eggs were laid. Bulbuls seem always to desert
a nest when their eggs are destroyed. It is worthy of note that the
snake attacked the nest in the dark, and on all other occasions on which
I have observed similar tragedies they have been enacted at night. What,
then, becomes of the elaborate theory of protective colouration?

                         NIGHTINGALES IN INDIA

The nightingale shares with the Taj Mahal the distinction of being an
object on which every person lavishes high praise. All who hear the song
of the nightingale go into ecstasies over it; similarly, every human
being who sets eyes on the Taj waxes enthusiastic at the sight thereof.
Some years ago a writer in the _Globe_ stated that a patient
investigator compiled a list of nearly two hundred epithets bestowed by
poets alone on the nightingale’s song, and I doubt not that an equally
patient investigator could compile an equally long list of adjectives
lavished on the Taj Mahal by those who have attempted to describe that
famous tomb. The consequence is that every superlative in the English
language has been appropriated by some person, so that he who nowadays
wishes to bestow something original in the way of praise on either the
nightingale or the Taj is at his wit’s end to know what to say. Recently
I met in a railway train a Portuguese gentleman who was paying a visit
to India. Needless to say, I asked him what he thought of the Taj. He
promptly replied: “_Le Taj, ah! c’est un bijou._” I feel that by way of
paying the necessary homage to the nightingale I cannot do better than
repeat “_c’est un bijou_.”

Ornithologists assure us that there are three species of nightingale.
There is the Western nightingale (_Daulias luscinia_), which visits
England in the summer and fills the woods with its glorious melody. Then
there is the Eastern species or variety which is also known as the
sprosser (_D. philomela_), and, lastly, the Persian nightingale, the
_hazar-dastan_ or _bulbul_ of the Persian poets. This last variety is
known to men of science as _Daulias golzii_.

It would puzzle the ordinary man to distinguish between these various
races. The length of the tail is one test. If the nightingale have a
tail well over three inches in length it is the Persian form, if well
under three inches it is a Western nightingale, and if about three
inches a sprosser. The nightingale, as every one knows, is a small bird
varying from 6½ to 7½ inches in length. Both sexes dress alike and in
the plainest manner possible, the upper plumage being russet brown and
the lower pale buff.

As we have seen, one of the Persian names of the nightingale is
“bulbul.” This has given rise to considerable misunderstanding regarding
the existence of nightingales in India. Every one knows that India teems
with bulbuls, and as “bulbul” is the Persian for nightingale, the
average Englishman labours under the delusion that Hindustan abounds
with nightingales which fill the soft Indian night with melody, at the

  “When mangoes redden and the asoka buds
  Sweeten the breeze and Rama’s birthday comes.”

Now, as a matter of fact, the Indian bulbul has nothing whatever to do
with the nightingale. There can, I think, be but little doubt that the
Persian poets have misapplied the word “bulbul” in using it to denote
the nightingale. The term “bulbul” is familiar to every native of India
as meaning one of the Brachypodous birds belonging to the genera
_Molpastes_, _Otocompsa_, etc., and as there are true bulbuls in Persia,
one of which, _Molpastes leucotis_, is a good singer, it is probable
that the poets, who are notoriously bad naturalists, have misapplied the
name of this songster to an even better singer, namely, the nightingale.
And this name, having been immortalised by Hafiz and others, will always
remain. We must, therefore, be careful to distinguish between the true
bulbuls, which are not very brilliant singers, and the nightingale,
which in India is known as the _bulbul bostha_, or _bulbul basta_.
Numbers of Persian nightingales are captured and sent in cages to India,
where they are highly prized on account of their vocal powers. A good
singing cock will fetch as much as Rs. 400 in Calcutta. The cock
nightingale alone sings, and as he is indistinguishable in appearance
from the hen, a would-be purchaser, before paying a long price for one
of these birds, should insist on hearing it sing. Nightingales thrive in
captivity if provided with a plentiful supply of insect food. The
Western and Eastern forms have both bred in captivity, and the Persian
variety will doubtless do likewise if given proper accommodation.

Indian bulbuls, then, are not nightingales. Nor are nightingales common
in that country. Oates, it is true, includes _Daulias golzii_ among the
birds of India, but, in my opinion, on insufficient evidence. He admits
that it is of extreme rarity in the country, “only two instances of its
occurrence being known.” Hume, in October, 1865, had a Persian
nightingale sent to him, which was said to have been procured in the
Oudh terai. It is probable that neither this specimen nor the other
whose presence is recorded in India was a wild bird at all; as likely as
not they were caged birds that had escaped from captivity! The
nightingale is certainly a very retiring bird, and since, if it occurs
in India, it can be only as a winter visitor when it is not in song, it
is possible that it might be overlooked. But in face of the fact that
many good ornithologists have spent long periods in Oudh without ever
having seen a nightingale, and the bird has never been observed anywhere
else in India, it seems most improbable that nightingales ever stray
into India. What, then, are we to think of the statement of Dr. Hartert,
a German ornithologist, who says of the Eastern nightingale that “it
winters in Southern Arabia, parts of India (e.g. Oudh) and East Africa”?

Here we have an excellent illustration of the adage “A little learning
is a dangerous thing,” a good example of how erroneous statements creep
into scientific books. Dr. Hartert has heard that nightingales have been
recorded in Oudh, so jumps to the conclusion that the species winters
there, even as it does in Egypt. This statement will doubtless be
copied, without acknowledgment, into many future text-books, for
plagiarism is very rife among men of science; and thus the popular
notion that nightingales are common in India will be fortified by
scientific support! Nightingales undoubtedly do winter in India—but only
in cages. We have many fine songsters in Hindustan, but the nightingale
is not one of them.

                        THE WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW

Were each species of bird to record in writing its opinion of men, the
resulting document would certainly not be flattering to the human race.
The inhumanity of man would figure largely in it. The majority of the
feathered folk have but little cause to love their human neighbours. Men
steal their eggs, destroy their nests, kill them in order to eat them or
to decorate women with their plumage, and capture them in order to keep
them in cages. A few species, however, ought to regard man with friendly
eyes, for they owe much to him. The swallow tribe, for example, must
acknowledge man as its greatest benefactor. Take the case of the common
swallow (_Hirundo rustica_), the joyful herald of the English summer,
the bird to which Gilbert White devotes a particularly charming letter.
All the places in which this species builds owe their origin to human
beings. The myriads of swallows that visit Great Britain in the spring
find in the chimneys of houses ideal nesting places—hence the birds are
known as house or chimney swallows.

“The swallow,” writes White, “though called the chimney swallow, by no
means builds altogether in chimneys, but often within barns and
outhouses against the rafters, and so she did in Virgil’s time:

  Garrula quam tignis nidos suspendat hirundo.’

“In Sweden she builds in barns, and is called _ladu swala_, the barn
swallow. Besides, in the warmer parts of Europe there are no chimneys to
houses, except they are English-built. In those countries she constructs
her nest in porches and gateways and galleries and open halls. Here and
there a bird may affect some odd, peculiar place, as we have known a
swallow build down the shaft of an old well through which chalk had been
formerly drawn up for the purpose of manure; but in general with us this
_Hirundo_ breeds in chimneys, and loves to haunt those stacks where
there is a constant fire, no doubt for the sake of warmth. Not that it
can subsist in the immediate shaft where there is a fire, but prefers
one adjoining to that of the kitchen, and disregards the perpetual smoke
of that funnel, as I have often observed with some degree of wonder.”

In the days before man began to build substantial houses for his
habitation, the swallows can have nested only in caverns and under
natural ledges in cliffs, so cannot have existed in anything like their
present numbers. _Hirundo rustica_ is a common bird in India. During the
winter it spreads itself over the plains, and may be seen, as in
England, dashing through the air after tiny insects. In the East the
gentle twittering of the birds as they propel themselves through the air
sounds doubly sweet, since it recalls scenes in our distant island. The
swallows which winter in India migrate to the Himalayas or Kashmir or
Afghanistan, where they rear up their families.

But to-day I write of a more beautiful bird even than _Hirundo rustica_,
of the most beautiful of the swallow kind, of a species on which Gilbert
White could not have set eyes. Like the common species, the wire-tailed
swallow (_Hirundo smithii_) is a glossy, steel-blue bird. The forehead,
crown, and nape are chestnut, and all the lower plumage, including the
chin, is white. In this last respect it differs considerably from the
common swallow, which has the chin and throat chestnut, a black pectoral
band, and the rest of the under parts pale reddish brown. In both
species there is a white spot on each of the tail feathers, except the
median pair. These white spots are very conspicuous when the bird sits
with tail expanded.

The chief characteristic of _Hirundo smithii_ is the great development
of the shafts of the outer tail feathers. In most swallows the shaft is
elongated. In _H. rustica_ it extends 2½ inches beyond the other tail
feathers. In the wire-tailed swallow the shaft of each of the outer tail
feathers attains a length of seven inches, and is thus more than twice
as long as the body of the bird. This swallow, indeed, looks as though
two pieces of wire had been inserted into its tail; hence the popular
name, which is far more appropriate than the scientific one. Jerdon
called this species _H. filifera_, an excellent name, but among cabinet
ornithologists the excellence or appropriateness of a bird’s name counts
for nothing. Many years ago a member of the Smith family made the
acquaintance of the bird, and it was named after him. This name being
the oldest is the one by which we must call the bird until some
bibliophile manages to unearth some yet earlier name.

The elongated shafts of the outer tail feathers are brittle and easily
broken, so that it is the exception rather than the rule to see a bird
with both the delicate filiferous appendages complete.

The habits of this swallow are similar to those of other species, except
that it is probably not migratory. It is found all the year round in the
plains of North-West India. It is rare in Lower Bengal, Assam, Upper
Burma, and in South India. Although it occurs in the Madras Presidency,
it is not often seen as far south as the city of Madras. Since water is
always conducive to the presence of the small insects on which swallows
feed, these birds usually seek their quarry in the vicinity of the
liquid element, and naturally roost near their feeding grounds. This
fondness for the neighbourhood of water doubtless gave origin to the
once prevalent belief that some swallows did not leave England in the
autumn, but remained behind and hibernated underwater. This idea is, of
course, erroneous.

Wire-tailed swallows like to roost in considerable companies in the
minarets of mosques or in other lofty towers. Unlike swifts, swallows
frequently perch. Telegraph wires are a very favourite resting place.
When these are not available the birds will settle on stones or tufts of

As chimneys are scarce in the plains of India, the wire-tailed swallow
has to look elsewhere for nesting sites. True to the traditions of its
family, it almost invariably elects to build on some structure erected
by man. Nine out of ten nests are built under the arches of low bridges
or culverts, preferably those under which there is a little water lying.
The nest projects from the arch like a little shelf. It resembles a deep
saucer in shape, and is composed of a shell of mud, lined with feathers.

Wire-tailed swallows obtain the mud they use from the edge of water, and
carry it in the bill in precisely the same way as the house martin does
in England. One of the prettiest sights of a London suburb is to watch
the house martins taking the materials for their nests from a muddy
road, which they always contrive to do without soiling their
white-feathered legs. Muddy roads are not common in India, hence
wire-tailed swallows are not able to resort to them for nest-building

The cup of the nest is usually fairly thick, especially at the place
where the nest is attached to its foundation. The outside of the cup has
a rugged appearance, and each of the projections which it displays
corresponds to a mouthful of mud added to it by the bird. According to
Mr. James Aitken, the birds occupy about four weeks in building the
nest, “a narrow layer of mud being added each day and left to dry.”

When once a pair of wire-tailed swallows have made up their minds to
nest in a certain spot they are not easily deterred from carrying out
their intention. Mr. Aitken admits having on one occasion removed two
eggs, out of a clutch of three, but the little mother sat on and hatched
out the one egg that remained. A man of my acquaintance, who, although
an egg collector, is not altogether devoid of the milk of kindness,
always carries about with him one or two sparrow’s eggs which he
exchanges for the birds’ eggs he wishes to add to his collection. One
May day at Lahore this person came upon a wire-tailed swallow’s nest
which contained one egg. This he removed, and substituted for it a
sparrow’s egg. The owners of the nest either did not, or pretended not
to, notice the exchange, and the hen laid two more eggs, so that when I
visited the nest three days later I found that two legitimate eggs had
been placed beside the spurious one. The incubating bird sat very tight,
and allowed me to touch her, and had I wished to do so I could easily
have caught her; such is the strength of the incubating instinct in some
birds. The nest in question was built under a low arch, one end of which
was blocked up. The only other occupants of the arch were a number of
wasps. Birds seem to have little or no fear of wasps. Indeed, it is
rather the wasps that fear the birds, which have a disagreeable habit of
swallowing them, notwithstanding their sting and warning colouration!
Three weeks later I paid another visit to the arch in question, and
found that the swallow’s nest had been removed by some person or persons
unknown, but under the same arch was another nest containing two eggs.
It would seem that the plucky little birds, undaunted by the fate of
their first nest and eggs, had quickly set to work to make good the


Six months ago we welcomed the birds that came to spend the summer with
us—the tiny iridescent purple sunbird, the emerald bee-eater, its larger
blue-tailed cousin, the golden oriole, the superb paradise flycatcher,
the yellow-throated sparrow, the solemn night heron, and the noisy koel.

These have all built their nests, reared up their families (except, of
course, the koels who made the crows do their nursemaids’ work) and
departed. The sunbirds were the first, and the koels the last, to go. By
August the former had all disappeared, but throughout the first half of
October young koels were to be seen, perched in trees, flapping their
wings, opening a great red mouth, and making creditable but ludicrous
attempts at cawing.

Even the koels have now gone and will not reappear until the sun once
again causes us human beings to wonder why we have come to this “Land of

The places left vacant by the summer visitors are being rapidly filled
up. Lahore has for birds a winter as well as a summer season. The former
is the more important of the two. So numerous are our winter bird
visitors that it is not feasible to enumerate them in this place; we
must be content with a glimpse at those which come in the greatest
numbers and are, therefore, most likely to attract attention.

The earliest to arrive are the rosy starlings (_Pastor roseus_) or
_Gulabi Mainas_, or _Tilyers_ as the natives call them. They are easy to
recognise. They go about in great flocks. When a flock settles on a tree
it is a point of etiquette for all the individuals that compose it to
talk simultaneously. The head, crest, neck, throat, upper breast, wings,
and tail are glossy black. The rest of the plumage is a beautiful rose
colour in the adult cock and pale coffee colour in the hens and young

Rosy starlings arrive in Lahore as early as July. As they do not leave
us until the end of April, and are supposed to nest in Asia Minor, it
might be thought that they are the discoverers of some specially rapid
method of nest-construction, egg-incubation, and bird-rearing. This is
not so. The fact is they do not migrate simultaneously. The birds that
were in Lahore in such numbers last April are not those which appeared
in July. These latter probably migrated to Asia Minor in February.

It is only in the spring that the rosy starlings go about in very large
flocks; these are the result of “packing” prior to migration. At other
times the birds occur in nines and tens and associate with the ordinary
mynas, feeding either on fruit or grain.

They appear to be the favourite game bird of the native of the Punjab.
They are quite good to eat. A charge of small shot fired into a tree
full of them brings down a dozen or more, so that a “crack” shot is
easily able to secure a large bag and brag about it to his friends!

Several other species of starling visit the plains of the Punjab during
the winter, arriving in November. These, like the familiar English
starling, are all dressed in black, glossed with blue, green, and
purple, and spotted with white. The species-making propensity of the
professional ornithologist has led to the division of these into a
number of species, although it requires an expert with an ornithological
imagination to distinguish them from one another. They go about in
flocks and, like the rosy starlings, all “talk at once.”

The winter visitors that appeal most to the sportsman are the game
birds—the grey quail, the various species of duck, teal, geese, and
snipe. The quail (_Coturnix communis_) are the first to appear. They
arrive in Lahore late in August or early in September. It is the moon
rather than the temperature that determines the date of their arrival.
They migrate at night-time and naturally like to travel by moonlight. A
few grey quail remain with us all the year round. These are probably
birds that have been wounded by _shikaris_ and have not in consequence
sufficient strength for the long migratory flight across the Himalayas.
The fact that some quail remain in India throughout the hot weather, and
are able to breed successfully, shows that their migration is a luxury
rather than a necessity.

It is a universal rule that all migratory birds of the Northern
Hemisphere breed in the more northerly of their two homes. This seems to
indicate that they were formerly permanent residents in the latter.
Geology tells us that thousands of years ago the climate of this earth
suddenly became colder. The result was that the more northerly portions
of it were rendered uninhabitable for birds during the winter—the frost
killed insect life and the snow made vegetable food difficult to
procure; hence, the birdfolk were confronted with the alternative of
starving in winter or going south in search of food. They chose the
latter alternative. So powerful is the “homing instinct”—the instinct
that man has developed so wonderfully in the homer pigeon—that these
migrants invariably returned in the summer to their old homes for
breeding purposes.

The climate has again become milder, so that for many migratory birds
migration is no longer necessary; nevertheless, they still perform the
double journey every year. The force of habit is strong in birds. Those
Australian finches which are imported into India, even when kept in
aviaries in the Himalayas, nest in December and January as they did in
Australia, where these are summer months.

The ducks and geese that visit the Punjab in winter are too numerous to
be dealt with in this brief essay, which of necessity is not exhaustive.
It merely deals with such of the winter visitors to the Punjab as are
seen every day. Every winter Northern India is invaded by millions of
grey-lag and barred-headed geese, and by hundreds of thousands of
brahmany ducks, mallard, gadwall, teal, wigeon, pintails, shovellers and
pochards. The other game birds which visit the Punjab in great numbers
every winter are the jack and the common snipe.

The Indian redstart or firetail (_Ruticilla rufiventris_) is one of the
most striking of our winter visitors. No one but a blind man can fail to
notice the sprightly little bird with St. Vitus’ dance in its tail. The
head, breast, neck, and back of the cock are grey or black according to
the season of the year. Birds’ clothes wear out just as ours do. But
every bird is his own tailor. When his clothes wear out, instead of
resorting to the West-End tailor or the humble _darzi_, he grows a new
coat. This process is technically known as the moult and occurs at the
end of summer in most birds.

Each of the feathers composing the coat of the cock redstart is black
with a grey margin. When the feathers are new only the grey edges show,
the bird, therefore, looks grey; gradually the grey borders become worn
away, so that the bird turns black. The remainder of the plumage of the
cock, except the two middle tail feathers, is brick red. The hen is
reddish brown where the cock is black or grey. As the bird hops about in
the garden it looks very like a robin, but the moment it takes to its
wings it becomes transformed, as if by magic, into a flash of red. The
red of the tail and back is scarcely visible when the bird is not
flying, for the wings cover the latter and the tail is closed like a
fan; the red feathers all folding up underneath the middle brown ones
which act as a cover. During flight the red tail feathers open out and
the wings leave the red back exposed—hence the sudden transformation.

The redstart should be a favourite with Englishmen, because in habits
and appearance it resembles the familiar robin of our country. The
perverse Indian robin (_Thamnobia cambayensis_), it will be remembered,
insists on wearing its patch of red, as Phil Robinson hath it, on the
seat of its trousers.

The Indian redstart arrives towards the end of September. In the autumn
of 1906, September 22nd was the date on which I first noticed a redstart
in Lahore. In the following autumn I did not see one until September
27th. Bird-lovers of fixed abode in India would be rendering no small
service to ornithology if they would record carefully, year after year,
the dates on which they first observe each of our returning summer and
winter visitors.

When the migrant wagtails arrive we feel that the hot weather is really
over. Three species of wagtail are common in Lahore. One of these—the
pied wagtail (_Motacilla maderaspatensis_)—is a permanent resident. The
other two—the white wagtail (_Motacilla alba_) and the grey wagtail (_M.
melanope_)—come to us only for the winter. The last is easily
distinguished by its bright yellow lower plumage. The white and the pied
wagtails are both clothed in black and white, but whereas the face and
throat of the former are white, the whole head of the pied wagtail is
black save for a white eye-brow.

Wagtails live almost entirely on the ground. Throughout the winter
dozens of them are to be seen on the gymkhana cricket ground, sprinting
after tiny insects, and stopping after each capture to indulge in a
little tail wagging. All three species of wagtail feed exclusively on
insects, so that the migration in this case, as in that of the quail and
of many other birds, is obviously due to the force of habit.

Another winter visitor that cannot fail to attract attention is the
white-eared bulbul (_Molpastes leucotis_), a bird loathed by the
gardener on account of the damage it does to buds.

Two species of bulbul are abundant in Lahore: this one and the Punjab
red-vented bulbul (_Molpastes intermedius_). The latter, like the poor,
is always with us, while the former shakes the dust of Lahore off its
feet and departs when the weather becomes hot. The permanent resident
has a red patch under its tail and a black head and crest, while the
migrant wears yellow under the tail and has white cheeks.

The family of birds of prey furnishes us with a large number of winter
visitors. Those most likely to be seen in the neighbourhood of Lahore
are the steppe eagle, the long-legged buzzard, the sparrow hawk, the
peregrine falcon, the kestrel, and the merlin. It must not be thought
that _all_ our Indian birds of prey are migrants. A number of species
remain in the plains throughout the hot weather to vex the souls of
their weaker brethren. Curiously enough, there is among the permanently
resident raptores a counterpart, a nearly allied species—I might almost
say a “double”—of nearly every migrant. The tawny eagle (_Aquila
vindhiana_) and the steppe eagle (_A. bifasciata_) are so alike that
some authorities are inclined to regard them as a single species. But
the former lives in the plains all the year round and breeds in and
about Lahore, while the steppe eagle goes to the hills in the hot
weather to breed, and appears quite unable to endure heat. The one
caught at Wazirabad in the cold weather of 1906-7 and confined in the
local “Zoo” died comparatively early in the hot weather, whereas the
tawny eagle, kept in the same cage, has all along flourished like the
green bay tree. The shikra (_Astur badius_) and the sparrow hawk
(_Accipiter nisus_), although ornithologists now place them in different
genera, are so much alike that it is easy to mistake one for the other,
yet the former is a permanent resident while the latter is a migrant.
Similarly the peregrine falcon (_Falco peregrinus_) is a winter visitor
to the plains of the Punjab, while its cousin the laggar (_Falco
jugger_) is a permanent resident. In the same way the _Turumti_ or
red-headed merlin abides with us all the year round, while the common
merlin (_Aesalon regulus_) visits us only in winter.

Almost the only raptorial winter visitor that has not a cousin who lives
in the plains throughout the year is the kestrel (_Tinnunculus
alaudarius_), the bird known in England as the Windhover. This is
perhaps the easiest to identify of all the birds of prey, on account of
its habit of hovering on vibrating wings, like the pied kingfisher, high
in the air, over a spot where it thinks that there is quarry in the
shape of some small rodent. If the surmise be correct the kestrel drops
like a stone and seizes its quarry in its talons; if it sees nothing it
sweeps away with a few easy movements of its powerful wings and hovers
elsewhere. The only other bird of prey that hovers like the kestrel is
the black-winged kite (_Elanus caerulus_). This is mainly white and so
cannot be confounded with the kestrel.

The explanation of the fact that one species of bird of prey leaves the
plains in the hot weather, while a nearly related species remains, may
perhaps be found in the nature of their food. Birds of prey are to a
greater or lesser extent specialists; while quite ready to devour any
small bird, reptile, or mammal which comes their way, they lay
themselves out more especially to catch one particular species, and if
that species migrates it follows that the bird that preys upon it will
also migrate. Thus the peregrine falcon lays itself out to catch ducks
and naturally goes with them to their breeding grounds, just as the
hawker of cheap wares, who preys upon the _mem-sahib_, follows her to
the hills in the summer.

In conclusion mention must be made of the _Corvi_ which visit us in
winter. The arch-corvus, the grey-necked rascal (_Corvus splendens_), of
course, abides with us all the year round. The raven, too, is to be seen
at all times of the year, but is more abundant in the cold weather than
in the hot. During the summer months we see comparatively few ravens; in
the winter they are exceedingly numerous. Every evening towards sunset a
long stream of them may be observed flying in a westerly direction to
the common roosting place. There is a similar stream of crows that flies
in a north-westerly direction. The rook (_Corvus frugilegus_) is a
permanent resident of Kashmir and the North-Western Himalayas, but in
mid-winter many individuals are driven by the cold into the Frontier
Province and the Punjab; some come as far south as Lahore, where they
consort with the crows. If the winter is a severe one large numbers of
rooks come to Lahore, otherwise these birds are not very numerous. The
same applies to the jackdaw (_Corvus monedula_), but he never comes in
such numbers as the rook. There is in the octagonal bird house in the
Lahore “Zoo” a compartment in which there is a “Happy Family” of ravens,
rooks, and jackdaws, with an Australian crow-shrike and a Nicobar pigeon
to keep them company. Thus every one who cannot already do so may learn
to identify the various _Corvi_ which visit Lahore in the winter.

                        A KINGFISHER AND A TERN

Nearly every village in India has its pond which becomes filled with
water during the monsoon and grows drier and drier during the winter and
hot weather. The pond is usually a natural depression, sometimes
enlarged and deepened by human agency. Occasionally a village is
situated on the edge of a lake, or _jhil_, but such fortunate villages
are few and far between; the average hamlet has to be content with a
small tank. This morning I came upon such a tank, in which the water had
become low, leaving a wide margin of mud between it and the artificially
made bank. At one end a couple of people were squatting. _Mirabile
dictu_, there was not a paddy bird to be seen, and the only feathered
creature disporting itself along the edge was a grey wagtail. In mid
pond four domestic ducks were feeding. A tern—the Indian river tern
(_Sterna seena_)—was busy at the tank, flying gracefully over the water
and dipping into it every few seconds. Judging from the frequency with
which the bird dived, the water must have teemed with food, but there
were no signs of fish rising, so that how the eye of the tern was able
to penetrate the very muddy water is a mystery. However, the tern did
manage to distinguish its quarry, for, although its movements were so
rapid that I was not able to discover what it was catching, I could see
distinctly that, when rising, it carried something tiny in its bill.

Terns are especially addicted to pieces of water that are rapidly drying
up, for under such conditions they find the creatures upon which they
prey literally jostling one another. After the water has been run off
from a canal, dozens of terns congregate at each hollow in the canal-bed
in which water lies.

The tern, when it plunges after its quarry, takes great care not to wet
its wings. Its habit is to drop from a height of about twenty feet head
foremost. In the course of the plunge the head and body are often
submerged, but, I think, never the wings; during the operation, these
are held almost vertically. So assiduously was this tern plying his
profession that he made thirty dives in about six minutes.

While he was thus employed a pied kingfisher (_Ceryle rudis_) appeared
on the scene and took up a position on one of three neem trees that grew
beside the tank. After sitting thus for a few seconds, he too began to
seek for food. Save that both he and the tern drop from a height of
about twenty feet into the water after their quarry, there is but little
similarity between their movements. The tern sails gracefully along on
pinions which move but slowly, while the kingfisher flies a little way,
then remains stationary in the air for a few seconds on rapidly
vibrating wings, with both tail and bill pointing downwards, so that the
shape of the bird is an inverted V with the apex at the neck. It then
either dives or passes on to another spot where it again hovers.
Frequently it makes as if it were going to dive, then seems to change
its mind, for it checks itself during its drop and passes on.

When the kingfisher was hovering in the air, the tern approached and
looked as though he were going to attack him. However, he contented
himself by skimming past very close to the “pied fish tiger.” This
appeared to disconcert the latter, who went back to the neem tree and
rested there for a few minutes. Meanwhile, the tern flew away. The
moment he had departed the kingfisher renewed his piscatorial efforts
and took up a position about twenty feet above the water almost directly
over the spot where the ducks were floating. I thought this rather
foolish on the part of the kingfisher, because the ducks must
necessarily scare away all the fish from that part of the water.
However, the little fisherman possessed more sense than I gave him
credit for. He had not been hovering for thirty seconds when he plunged
into the water and emerged with a large object in his bill. With this he
flew to the muddy border of the pond. Then, by means of my field
glasses, I saw that his quarry consisted of a frog about two and a half
inches long including the legs. The kingfisher experienced some little
difficulty in swallowing the frog. He had it crosswise in his beak and
the problem that confronted him was to get the frog lengthwise head
foremost in his bill without releasing the nimble little amphibian and
thus giving it a chance of escape. After a little manœuvring the
kingfisher got the frog in the desired position, and, having held it
thus for a few seconds, swallowed it.

Then the kingfisher remained squatting on the bank for a couple of
minutes looking pensive. This was scarcely to be wondered at, seeing
that as regards size the frog bore to him the same relation as a large
mackerel does to a man. I was interested to see whether the kingfisher
would consider this a sufficient meal, or whether he would immediately
resume his fishing operations. I expected him to adopt the latter
course, for birds have most voracious appetites. If horses were to eat
in the same ratio they would require at least a maund of oats per diem
to keep them in health! My surmise was correct. In a few seconds the
kingfisher flew to a large stake projecting from the water and squatted
there, cocking up his tail at frequent intervals. This motion of the
tail is possibly an aid to digestion! When he was thus seated, the tern
reappeared on the scene and at once recommenced fishing in the manner
already described. After the tern had been fishing for a couple of
minutes the kingfisher resumed operations and again sought the
neighbourhood of the ducks. He soon captured a second frog; but this
time, instead of being able to bear it to the bank and devour it in
peace, he had to reckon with the tern. He had not risen a yard above the
water when the tern noticed that he had quarry. Forthwith the tern
committed a breach of the tenth commandment and then proceeded to try to
violate the eighth. He made a swoop at the kingfisher, which the latter
adroitly dodged, squeaking loudly but without dropping the frog. Then
ensued a chase which was a sight for the gods. As regards pace on the
wing the kingfisher is no match for the tern. In an aerial contest the
slower flier has the advantage of being able to twist and turn more
quickly than the rapid flier. Of this advantage the kingfisher availed
itself to the full, so that the contest waxed fast and furious, the
combatants moving in a series of curves, zigzags, circles, and other
geometrical figures.

The kingfisher, notwithstanding that he had just swallowed a frog,
evidently had not the least intention of delivering up his catch. The
tern appeared equally determined to capture it. Seeing that he would
never be able to enjoy the fruits of his prowess while he remained at
the tank, the kingfisher changed his tactics and flew right away,
disappearing behind some trees, with the tern in pursuit. The latter,
however, did not follow far. He seemed suddenly to come to the
conclusion that honesty is the best policy, and returned to the pond to
endeavour to secure food in a more legitimate manner. I waited on for
about half an hour, expecting to see the kingfisher reappear, but was
disappointed. Then the tern went to seek pastures new, and left the
ducks and a solitary wagtail in possession of the tank.

                          THE RED TURTLE DOVE

Insects and birds, on account of the vast number of species they
present, furnish the best available material for the study of evolution.
It is owing to the fact that most Professors of Zoology are neither
entomologists nor ornithologists that biological science is in its
present deplorably backward condition. There exists scarcely a
zoological theory, be it neo-Lamarckian or neo-Darwinian, that the
competent ornithologist is not able to refute. For example, writing of
sexual dimorphism in animals, Cunningham states that in the case of
birds which exhibit such dimorphism the cocks differ essentially in
habits from the hens, and in this way he, as a Lamarckian, would account
for their external differences. “The cocks of common fowls and of the
_Phasianidæ_ generally,” he writes, “are polygamous, fight with each
other for the possession of females, and take no part in incubation or
care of the young, and they differ from the hens in their enlarged
brilliant plumage, spurs on the legs, and combs, wattles, or other
excrescences on the head. In the _Columbidæ_, _per contra_, the males
are not polygamous, but pair for life, the males do not fight, and share
equally with the females in parental duties. Corresponding with the
contrast of sexual habits is the contrast of sexual dimorphism, which is
virtually absent in the _Columbidæ_.”

Mr. Cunningham evidently is not acquainted with the red turtle dove
(_Œnopopelia tranqebarica_) so common in India, or he would not have
asserted that sexual dimorphism is virtually absent in the _Columbidæ_.
The sexes in this species are very different in appearance, and I know
of nothing peculiar in its habits to explain this dissimilarity. The
sexual dimorphism displayed by the red turtle dove is a fact equally
awkward for the Wallaceians, because the habits of this species appear
to be in no way different from those of the other doves. I have seen red
turtle doves feeding in company with the three other common species of
Indian dove; they eat the same kind of food, build the same ramshackle
nests, and lay the usual white eggs. But I will not spend time in
whipping a dying horse. The poor overburdened beast which we call
Natural Selection has done yeoman service; for years he has pulled the
great car of Zoology along the rugged road of knowledge, and now that he
is past work, now that he stands tugging impotently at the traces, it is
time to pension him and replace him by a new steed. Unfortunately, the
drivers of the coach happen to be old gentlemen, so old that they fail
to perceive that the coach is at a standstill. They believe that they
are still travelling along as merrily as they were in Darwin’s time. Ere
long their seats will be occupied by new drivers, who will give the good
steed Natural Selection a well-earned rest, and replace him by a fresh
animal called Mutation. Then once again the coach will resume its

The red turtle dove is a little bird, and the hen looks like an
exceptionally small specimen of the ring dove. So great is the
resemblance that a hen red turtle dove was shown at the United Provinces
Exhibition at Allahabad as a ring dove. The cock red turtle dove has a
pretty grey head, a black half-collar running round the back of his
neck, which, as Jerdon remarks, is “well set off by whitish above,”
while the remainder of his upper plumage is dull brick red. The hen is
clothed in greyish brown, in the hue known as dove colour, and her one
ornament is a black half-collar similar to that of the cock.

The best friends of turtle doves can scarcely maintain that they have
melodious voices. Phil Robinson, writing of the species which visits
England, contrasts its note with the “mellow voluptuous cooing of the
ring-dove.” “The call of the turtle dove,” he says, “is unamiable,
usually grumbling, and often absolutely disagreeable. To the imagination
it is a sulky and discontented bird, perpetually finding fault with its
English surroundings of foliage, weather, and food. ‘Do, for goodness’
sake get those eggs hatched, my dear, and let us get back to Italy.’
That is the burden of his grumble, morning, noon, and night.”

Phil Robinson’s opinion of the call of the red turtle dove is not on
record; this is unfortunate, for, assuredly, it would be a document
worthy to be placed side by side with Mr. Lloyd George’s invective
against the House of Lords!

To describe the note of the turtle dove as a coo would be to violate the
truth. It is a sepulchral grunt, the kind of sound one might expect of a
ring dove suffering from an acute sore throat. The only other bird which
makes a noise in any way resembling the call of the turtle dove is an
owl that makes itself heard in India shortly after the shades of night
have fallen. To what species this owl belongs I know not, for it is no
easy matter to fix on the owner of a voice heard only after dark, and
the descriptions of the cries of the various owls given in
ornithological works are anything but illuminating. The owl in question
is, I think, the brown fish owl (_Ketupa ceylonsis_), but of this I am
not certain.

The red turtle dove occurs throughout India, but, as in the case of the
other species of dove, its distribution appears to be capricious. It is
a permanent resident in the United Provinces, and, possibly, in South
India, although I am inclined to think that it goes north to breed. Of
this I am not sure. It never does to be sure of anything connected with
doves; they are most unreliable birds. To give a concrete instance.
Having lived for two years at Lahore, and having seen any number of red
turtle doves there during the hot weather, but not even the shadow of
one in the cold season, I was rash enough to assert in a scientific
journal: “There is no doubt that this species is merely a summer visitor
to Lahore.” As if to stultify me, some red turtle doves took into their
heads to remain on in Lahore during the following winter, and at the end
of September, when they ought to have been far away, a pair of them were
hatching out eggs. On the 27th of that month Mr. Currie found a nest
containing three fresh eggs. The laying of three eggs was an additional
piece of effrontery on the part of the lady turtle dove, and she was
rewarded by having them captured by Mr. Currie. As every one knows, two
is the correct number of eggs for a respectable pair of doves. I have
found dozens of doves’ nests, but have never seen more than two eggs in
any of them. Two is the normal number for the red turtle dove, but this
species has a trick of occasionally laying three, and so would seem to
be departing from the traditions of the family in the matter of

As regards architecture, it has not made any advances on the vulgar herd
of doves. Its nursery is the typical slight structure over which so many
ornithologists have waxed sarcastic—a few slender sticks, or pieces of
grass, or both, so loosely and sparsely put together that the eggs can
generally be spied from below through the bottom of the nest. Hume
states that he has always found the nest at or near the extremities of
the lower branches of very large trees, at heights of from eight to
fifteen feet from the ground. My experience agrees with Hume’s in that
the nests are placed in tall trees, but all those that I have observed
have been situated high up in the tree at a level not less than twenty
feet above the ground. Mr. Currie states that the nests he found at
Lahore in May and June were also in high trees, forty or fifty feet from
the ground, but that the nests which he found in August and September of
the individuals who elected to winter at Lahore were placed in bushes or
low trees, and were not more than twelve feet above the earth, one of
them being at an elevation of but four feet.

                       BIRDS IN THE MILLET FIELDS

The fields of _bajra_, or giant millet, which in late autumn or early
winter form so conspicuous a feature of the landscape of Northern India,
are a never-failing source of amusement to the naturalist, because they
are so attractive to the feathered folk. Were the bird visitors asked
why they came to the _bajra_, they would doubtless reply, if they could
speak, that the attraction was the insects harboured by the crops. And
the majority would be telling the truth. But there are, alas, some who
come for a less useful purpose, that of abstracting the grain. Let us
deal first with the avian black sheep. Of these, the buntings are the
most numerous, unless the particular field happens to be within a mile
of a village; in that case, of course, the sparrows outnumber them. On
_Passer domesticus_ I have not leisure to dwell. It must suffice that he
eats and twitters and squabbles to his heart’s content all day long, and
generally enjoys himself at the expense of the cultivator.

The buntings merit more attention. They are aristocratic connections of
the sparrow. They need no introduction to the Englishman, for of their
clan is the yellow-hammer, the little bird that sits on a fence and
calls cheerily “A little bit of bread and no che-e-e-se.” Like other
grain-eating birds, buntings possess a stout bill—not a coarse beak like
that of the bullfinch or even of the sparrow, but a powerful, conical,
sharply pointed instrument with which they are able to extract grain
from the ear and then husk it preparatory to swallowing it. A
peculiarity of the bill of the bunting is that the upper and lower
mandibles do not come into contact along their whole length, but are
separated in the middle by a gap which gives the beak the appearance of
having been used to crack grain too hard for it.

Fifteen species of bunting visit India. I am not going to attempt to
describe all these, for two excellent reasons. The first is that no one
would read my descriptions, and the second is that I have never set eyes
upon several of the Indian buntings. Three species, however, are very
abundant, and one fairly so, in Northern India, during the cold weather.
Buntings are not often seen south of Bombay. As they find plenty of
grain in northern latitudes, there is no necessity for them to penetrate
into the tropics. The grey-necked, the red-headed and the black-headed
are the three commonest species. The grey-necked bunting (_Emberiza
buchanani_) is an ashy-brown bird with a reddish tinge in its lower
plumage, and a whitish ring round the eye. It is a bird that is apt to
pass unnoticed unless looked for. This perhaps explains why Oates
wrongly states that the species is not found east of Etawah. The cock
red-headed bunting (_E. luteola_) is a handsome bird, nor has the hen
any reason to be ashamed of her appearance, whatever the ladies of the
other species may say. The wings and tail of the cock are greenish
brown. His head is a beautiful old-gold colour, while his rump and lower
parts are bright yellow. In the hen the colouring is everywhere more
subdued. In the cock black-headed bunting (_E. melanocephala_) the
feathers that adorn the head are black with a grey border, so that the
head looks grey when the bird first reaches India in the autumn, but
grows blacker as the grey edges of the feathers become worn away. The
back and shoulders are rich chestnut, the wings and tail are brown, the
cheeks and lower plumage rich yellow. The hen is brownish with dull
yellow under parts, and a bright yellow patch under the tail. This
species, which might at a casual glance be mistaken for a weaver bird
(_Ploceus baya_), is very abundant on the Bombay side, where, to quote
“Eha,” it “about takes the place of the yellow-hammer at home, swarming
about fields and hedges, and singing with more cheer than music.”

The fourth species of bunting has been promoted to a different genus
because it boasts of a conspicuous crest, not unlike that of the crested
lark (_Galerita cristata_). Its scientific name is _Melophus
melanicterus_, and its non-scientific, or popular, or vulgar name is the
crested bunting. The cock is a greyish black bird with russet-brown
wings. The hen is a dark brown bird. This is said to be a resident
species in the plains, whereas the other three are migratory. Otherwise
its habits are very like those of the ordinary buntings. These birds
spend the day in the fields. As they live in the midst of plenty they
enjoy much leisure. This they employ perched on a head of millet making
a joyful noise. Sometimes one will be sitting thus on a particular stalk
when a friend will fly up, drive him from his position, and in turn hold
forth, only to be playfully ousted by another of his comrades. Verily
the life of a bunting is a jolly one.

Like rosy starlings, the buntings are not very much in evidence until
they begin to collect in huge flocks preparatory to leaving India for
the hot weather. Then it is impossible to miss seeing them. At that
season golden corn takes the place of millet in the fields. Heavy is the
toll which the buntings levy on the ripening grain. When disturbed, they
take refuge in the nearest tree, and the moment the fear of danger is
past they are back again in the field. Hence Jerdon calls them corn

The other black sheep of the _bajra_ field are the rosy starlings
(_Pastor roseus_) and the green parrots (_Palæornis torquatus_). For
noisiness and destructiveness these are a pair of species hard to beat.

Having considered the sinners, it now behoves us to turn to the saints.
Fortunately for the long-suffering ryot, the latter outnumber the
former; the majority of the avian _habitués_ of the millet field come
for the sake of the insects which are so abundant in this particular
crop. The most conspicuous of these is the Indian roller (_Coracias
indica_), who uses the heads of the millet as convenient perches whence
he can descend upon his quarry. It is not by any means every millet
stalk that is sufficiently stout to support so weighty a bird, and it is
amusing to watch a “blue jay” try in vain to find a perch on several
successive heads, on each occasion almost losing his balance. For this
reason the roller always selects for his watch-tower a castor-oil plant,
when any of these are interspersed among the millet.

King-crows are always in force on the millet field, but is there any
spot in India where they are not in force? They, like the roller, use
the heads as resting places whence to secure their quarry, but they take
it in the air in preference to picking it from off the ground.

On the highest stalk of the field sits a butcher bird, still and grim,
waiting for a victim. Though he is small, you cannot fail to notice him
on account of his conspicuous white shirt front. As a rule, there are no
thorny bushes in the vicinity of the millet field, so that here he must
devour his food without spitting it on a thorn.

Every millet field is visited by flocks of mynas—bank, pied, and common
mynas—with now and then a starling. These, I believe, visit the field
mainly for insects; but I would not like to assert that they do not
sometimes pilfer the grain. In any case, they are a cheery crowd, and
without them the _bajra_ fields would not be the lively spots they are.
Mention must also be made of the Indian bush chat (_Pratincola
maura_)—most unobtrusive of little birds. The hen is dressed in reddish
brown, and, when apart from her lord and master, it is scarcely possible
to distinguish her from several other lady chats, unless, of course, the
observer be so ungallant as to shoot her. The upper parts of the cock
are reddish brown in winter, black in summer. There is a large patch of
white on each side of the neck. The breast is orange red, the lower
parts russet brown. But what with the young cocks assuming gradually the
full adult plumage, and the adults changing from the plumage of one
season to that of the next, no two of these birds seem to be exactly
alike. The bush chats feed upon the small insects that live on the
millet plants.

Lastly, mention must be made of various species of pipits and warblers,
who feed on insects down in the depths of the millet field.

Such, then, are the principal of the _dramatis personæ_ of the gay
little scene that is enacted daily in the millet field. But, stay—I have
forgotten a very important class of personages—the birds of prey. In
India these are, of course, very numerous, and many of them, more
especially the harriers, habitually hunt over open fields, gliding on
outstretched wings a few yards above the crops, ready to swoop down upon
any creature that has failed to mark their approach. Great is the
commotion among the birds in the millet when a harrier appears on the
scene. The voices of the smaller birds are suddenly hushed, and their
owners drop on to the ground, where they are hidden from view by the
crop. The mynas, uttering harsh cries of anger, take to their wings and
fly off to right and to left of the path of the harrier, as though they
were soldiers performing a manœuvre. Thus the bird of prey flies over a
field which is apparently devoid of living creatures. But long before he
is out of sight the little birds have again come to the surface, the
mynas have returned, and all are feeding as merrily as before. So
cautious are the smaller birds that even a dove flying overhead causes
them to drop into the depths of the crop. They do not wait to see the
nature of the living object—to do so might mean death.

It may perhaps be thought that, if birds are thus in constant fear of
being devoured, their life must be fraught with anxiety. Far from it.
Birds know not what death is. Instinct teaches them to avoid birds of
prey, but they probably enjoy the sudden dash for cover. The smaller fry
appear to look upon the raptorial bird in much the same light as
children regard the “bogey man.” For some unknown reason, they are
afraid of him, but at the same time he affords them a certain amount of

                     HOOPOES AT THE NESTING SEASON

_Uk-uk-uk_—soft and clear; _uk-uk-uk_—gentle and monotonous pipes the
nodding hoopoe with splendid pertinacity throughout the month of
February. This is the prelude to nesting operations. From mid-February
till mid-March hoopoes’ eggs to the number of several millions are laid
annually in India. During the months of March and April considerably
over a million hoopoes emerge from the egg. In Northern India during the
month of April it is scarcely possible to find an adult hoopoe who is
not employed from sunrise to sunset in digging insects out of the ground
with feverish haste and flying with them to the holes in which the
youngsters are calling lustily.

But let me begin at the beginning. Ordinarily the Indian hoopoe (_Upupa
indica_) is as sedate and prim as a maiden lady of five-and-fifty
summers. At the season of courtship the hoopoes cast aside their
primness to some extent. But even at that festive time the cock does
not, like the king-crow and the roller, disturb the whole neighbourhood
by his noisy love songs. In his wildest moments his voice is never loud.

Sometimes he chases his mate on the wing, and then the pair of lovers
perform the most wonderful gyrations, twisting, turning, and doubling
with greater rapidity and ease than the most mobile butterfly. The chase
over, the birds descend to the ground and remain motionless for a
little. Then the cock—it is impossible to distinguish the sexes by
outward appearance, but it is the custom to attribute all matrimonial
advances to the cock, hence I say the cock—opens out his beautiful
cinnamon-and-black corona and runs rapidly along the ground. The lady of
his choice pays no attention whatever to his display.

Mark this statement, gentle and ungentle readers! Mark it with a black
mark, because it is an example of that horrid heterodoxy of mine which
causes the worthy reviewers of a number of influential and highly
respectable newspapers to indulge at intervals in much gnashing of teeth
and to roar with impotent rage. The orthodox view is, of course, that
the lady only pretends that she does not see the display of the cock; in
reality she is watching it carefully out of the corner of her eye, and
is thoroughly appreciating it. Says she to herself (according to the
orthodox view), “My eye! Hasn’t John James got a magnificent crest! But
I must not let him know that I think it, otherwise he will suffer from
swelled head and be positively unbearable to live with!”

The orthodox would have us believe that the lady hoopoe is a consummate
actress. She may be. But, I submit that the burden of proof is on those
who make such assertions. If the hen looks as though she is taking no
notice, it is proper to assume that she is taking no notice until we can
prove that this assumption is incorrect. Now, I submit that it is not
possible to adduce one jot or tittle of proof of the hen’s alleged
pretence. All the evidence goes to show that the hen bird really does
not notice the display of the cock. I ask, why should the hen
dissimulate? Why should she show without hesitation her feelings on all
occasions that call for a display of feeling except this one?

I ask again, even if the hen does notice the display of the cock, has
she any sense of beauty? Is it likely that a bird, which lays its eggs
in a dirty dark hole and squats in that hole for a fortnight until it
stinketh in such a manner as to be perceptible to the Indian coolie,
appreciates the beauty of the corona of the cock or of the bold
black-and-white markings on his wings? I decline to attribute to the hen
hoopoe all the wiles of a human coquette. But, grant that she does
possess them. What of the cock? Is he supposed to see through them? If
not, why does he display his beauties to a lady who appears persistently
to refuse to notice them? I submit that the orthodox view of the nuptial
display is totally wrong. The cock does not try to show off, nor does
his display win him a mate. At the breeding season the sight of the hen
excites him, and his excitement shows itself in the form of dance, of
the erection of certain feathers, or of song. Even as a man’s joy often
finds expression in song or dance, so does the pleasure of a bird. A
fighting dove often goes through the antics we associate with courtship.
These antics are merely the expression of excitement, and not made
deliberately to attract a hen or alarm an enemy.

So much for conjecture. Let us now turn to facts. The hoopoe usually
lays its eggs in a hole in a tree or a building; on rare occasions only,
in a crevice of a rock or under a large stone. The most approved nesting
site is a roomy cavity, as dark and dirty as possible, with a very small
opening leading to the world without.

I have no wish to exaggerate, and I believe that I am understating facts
when I say that I have seen more than fifty hoopoes’ nests.

These have all been in cavities in trees or buildings opening to the
exterior by a very small aperture. I think I may safely assert that
forty-nine out of every fifty hoopoes’ nests are in such situations. I
emphasise this point in order to demonstrate the kind of nonsense that
finds its way into English periodicals.

In the issue of the _Fortnightly Review_ for February, 1912, an article
by Mr. Philip Oyler appeared entitled “Colour Meanings of some British
Birds and Quadrupeds.”

Mr. Oyler is a disciple of that eccentric artist, Mr. Abbot Thayer, who
imagines that all birds and beasts are invisible in their natural

Mr. Oyler’s article in the _Fortnightly Review_ is composed chiefly of
erroneous statements, wild guesses, and absurd interpretations of facts.
The climax of nonsense is reached by Mr. Oyler when he writes about the

“As it nests in hollow stems, and hollow stems mean decay, there is
invariably fungus on those stems. And how wonderfully the hoopoe’s white
copies them, and how wonderfully the black represents shadows; and then
again, in addition to colouration, is a crest to help break the

For the benefit of those who have not visited India I may state that in
the greater part of the plains the trunks of old trees are not covered
with fungus. Practically every hoopoe nests in a place completely hidden
from the outer world. If the hen hoopoe were coloured with all the
colours of the spectrum she would while sitting on her eggs be invisible
from the outer world. It is sad to think that people exist who can bring
themselves to write such nonsense as Mr. Oyler has inflicted on the
readers of the _Fortnightly Review_.

It is said that a pair of hoopoes uses the same nest year after year. I
have not been able to verify this statement owing to the demands on my
peripatetic capacity made by the exigencies of the public service.

The eggs of the hoopoe are elongated ovals of a dirty white colour;
euphemists describe them as dingy olive-brown or green, while euphuists
portray them as having a delicate greyish blue tint. They are devoid of

The clutch is said to contain from four to seven eggs. This is another
assertion which I have never attempted to verify, because in order to
reach the eggs of the hoopoe one has usually to pull down part of a wall
or other edifice and at the same time wreck the nest. However, I can say
that I have never observed more than two young hoopoes emerge from a
nest, and on several occasions I have noticed that only one issued

As concrete instances are more interesting than generalities I propose
in what follows to give an account of the nesting operations of a pair
of hoopoes that recently reared up a youngster in a chink in the wall of
my verandah at Fyzabad between a wooden rafter and the brickwork. The
cavity in question was so situated that I could see its orifice as I sat
at my dressing table. I noticed for the first time a hoopoe bringing
food to the nest on the 17th March. The food brought appeared to consist
chiefly of caterpillars. Whenever the bird arrived at the nest it
uttered a soft, pretty, tremulous _coo-coo-coo_. This was to inform its
mate that it had come.

The hen hoopoe is said not to leave the nest from the time she begins to
incubate until the young emerge from the eggs. This statement is, I
believe, correct. It is not one that can be very easily verified because
the sexes are alike in outward appearance. Certain it is that the hen
sits very closely and the cock continually brings food to her.

As soon as the young are hatched out the hen leaves the nest and assists
the cock in finding food for the baby hoopoes. I cannot say on what day
the particular hen whose doings are here recorded left the nest. April
9th was the first date on which I noticed both birds feeding the young.
At that period the parents were bringing food faster than the occupant
of the nest could dispose of it, and one or other of them had often to
wait outside with something in the beak until the nestling was ready to
receive it. At that time I had no idea how many young birds were inside
the nest. The chink that led to it was too narrow to admit of the
insertion of one’s hand. It was not until the young bird emerged that I
discovered that only one nestling had been reared.

While the parent was thus waiting outside with a succulent caterpillar
hanging from its bill, it used to utter its call _uk-uk-uk_. Sometimes
while one bird was thus waiting the other would appear. Then the first
bird would transfer the quarry to its mate, and the latter would either
devour it or wait outside the nest with the morsel.

Most birds when they feed their young collect several organisms in the
beak between the visits to the nest. Not so the hoopoe; it brings but
one thing at a time, which it carries at the extreme tip of the bill.
The reasons for this departure from the usual practice are obvious. The
long bill of the hoopoe, like that of the snipe, is a probe to penetrate
the earth. During this operation any food already in the bill would be
torn and damaged. Moreover, if the hoopoe were to carry the food to the
nest in the angle of the beak as most birds do, it would be difficult to
transfer this to the long bill of the young bird. Hence it comes to pass
that hoopoes visit their nestlings a very great number of times in the
course of the day.

When young hoopoes emerge from the egg they are silent creatures, but
before they are many days old they begin to welcome with squeaks the
arrival of the parents with food. The older the young birds grow the
more vociferous they become.

Like the majority of birds that nestle in holes, hoopoes with young
display but little fear of man. The nest of which I write was situated
over the door of the pantry, where servants work during the greater part
of the day. The hoopoes did not seem to object at all to the presence of
the servants, but they took great exception to my arrival. Whenever I
came upon the scene the parent hoopoes used to greet me with a harsh
_chur_ uttered with crest folded back and tail expanded.

One day a corby (_Corvus macrorhynchus_), who doubtless had done to
death many a promising nestling, alighted on a table placed in the
verandah outside the pantry. The hoopoes were furious at the intrusion.
They took up positions, to right and to left of the crow, at a safe
distance, and scolded it with great vehemence. The crow took no notice
whatever of this hostile demonstration. After a little one of the
hoopoes flew to the ground, and from there continued its abuse of the
crow. Then, while waiting to regain its breath, it expanded its crest
and repeatedly bobbed its head so that the tip of the bill almost
touched the ground. This bowing performance is evidently an expression
of great excitement. I have seen doves behaving in a similar manner in
the midst of a fight, and also when courting. Here, then, we have a case
of what is usually considered to be showing off or display to the
female, taking place at a time when a bird is very angry. The hoopoe in
question was not showing off either to the crow or to its mate; it was
assuredly no time, “no matter for his swellings nor his turkey cocks.”

On the 25th April the young hoopoe began to call even when its parents
were not at the nest. Each time they brought food it uttered a series of
squeaks much like those that emanate from a cycle pump when air is being
pumped through it into a nearly fully inflated tyre. By this time the
young bird had developed to such an extent that when a parent arrived it
would push its head through the aperture of the nest hole.

On the 26th April the young bird left the nest. Assuming that the 17th
March was the day when the hen began to sit, we find the young bird
emerging from the nest forty days later. It is, however, improbable that
I noticed the cock feeding the hen on the very first day of incubation.
It is my belief that young hoopoes do not leave the nest for fully a
month after they are hatched. When they do leave the nest they differ
very little in appearance from the adult. They have the crest and the
colouring fully developed. The only difference is that the bill is not
quite so long or so curved.

From the time the bird emerges from the nest until the moment when it is
gathered unto its fathers, the hoopoe’s plumage does not undergo any
change in appearance. This being so I am puzzled to know what a
correspondent meant when he recently wrote to the _Field_ about a hoopoe
in full breeding plumage that appeared in Yorkshire.

But let us return to the young hoopoe that emerged from the nest in my
verandah at Fyzabad on the 26th April, 1912. Not content with thrusting
its head and shoulders through the aperture at the visit of its father
or mother as it had been doing for some time, it suddenly came right out
on to the beam to meet its food-laden parent. After it had eaten the
proffered caterpillar and the parent had left, the young bird caught
sight of me. Immediately it opened out its crest and began bowing in the
manner described above as betokening excitement. Then it fluttered on to
a ledge at the distance of six feet. A minute later it flew out of the
verandah and alighted on a creeper growing on a wall fifteen yards away.
Its flight was wonderfully strong, but I noticed that it was breathing
heavily after it had alighted, showing that the short flight entailed
considerable exertion. It appeared to dislike the interest I was taking
in it, and so flew on to the roof of the bungalow, where I lost sight of

These little incidents are, I submit, utterly subversive of the
anthropomorphic theory, so much in favour nowadays and expounded by Mr.
Walter Long in that much-read book _The School of the Woods_, that birds
and beasts are born with their minds a blank, and that they have to be
taught how to walk and how to fly just as human babies are taught how to
talk and walk. As a matter of fact, young birds require and receive very
little education from their parents. A young bird flies as instinctively
as a baby cries.

I saw nothing more of the young hoopoe until the morning of the 28th
April, when I noticed a hoopoe on the roof of my bungalow calling
_uk-uk-uk_ repeatedly, notwithstanding the fact that it had a
caterpillar in its beak. Birds can sing with the mouth full! Presently a
young hoopoe appeared on the roof. The adult bird ran to the latter and
thrust the caterpillar into its mouth. This was acknowledged by a little
squeak of thankfulness.

Most young birds flap their wings and make a great commotion when they
think it is time they received a beakful of food. Baby hoopoes, however,
do not behave in this way at all. They toddle sedately in the wake of
the mother or father, but make no clamour for food. They receive this in
a most dignified manner, merely uttering a little squeak of thanks.

To return to the young hoopoe of whose exploits I have been writing. I
saw a parent come repeatedly and feed him on the roof of the bungalow on
that day and on the 29th and the 30th. This, of course, I was prepared
for. But I was not prepared for the next event, which was the
revisitation of the nest in the verandah by the two parent birds on the
1st May. On the following days they continued to visit the nest hole,
but I had no leisure for watching them. On the 5th May I saw one hoopoe,
presumably the cock, literally drive the other into the nest hole. They
both flew into the verandah and alighted on a ledge that runs round it a
little way below the roof. There the cock emitted some harsh cries,
expanded his crest and bowed as described above. Then he advanced
towards her. She disappeared into the nest hole. He flew up to the
aperture and remained outside on guard for some time. After a little he
put his head into the aperture and gave vent to his gentle _uk-uk-uk_.
Then he withdrew his head, remained standing outside the nest aperture
for a few minutes and flew off. The hen emerged from the hole a couple
of minutes later.

The next day the cock was bringing food to the nest, and the hen was
apparently incubating. On the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th I saw the
cock still at work feeding the hen, uttering at each visit to the nest a
soft _coo-coo-coo_. From this date I did not see the cock visit the nest
again until the 24th, when I saw him fly to the verandah with some food
in his mouth, but he emerged from the nest hole without having disposed
of the food he was carrying. He then dropped down on to the lawn and
gave this to another hoopoe feeding on the grass. From that day onwards
I have not seen a hoopoe visit the nest hole in the verandah. It would
seem that after sitting on the second batch of eggs a few days the hen
hoopoe went on strike! Or, to speak more correctly, the fury of
incubation left her, and she regained her normal taste for a life in the

                       THE LARGEST BIRD IN INDIA

It has always been a cause of wonder and sorrow to me that the sarus
crane (_Grus antigone_) does not occur in the neighbourhood of Madras,
or indeed in South India at all. The tropical portion of the Indian
peninsula, with its millions of acres of green paddy, should be a
paradise for cranes; yet not one of these fine birds is likely to be
found south of the Godavery, or, at any rate, of the Kistna. There is
presumably some good reason for this, but that reason has yet to be

The sarus might well be called the Indian crane, for it is one of the
most characteristic and beautiful birds of Northern India; moreover, it
appears to be found nowhere outside India. Saruses occur in Burma, but
the Burmese birds have fallen into the hands of the ornithological
systematist, and he has, of course, made a separate species of them. The
sarus from Burma is now known in the scientific world as _Grus
sharpii_—not because very sharp eyes are necessary in order to
distinguish him from the Indian form!

The plumage of the sarus is a beautiful shade of grey. The tail feathers
are paler than the rest of the plumage, being almost white in some
individuals. There is a broad red band round the neck and the lower part
of the head. This at the breeding season becomes very brilliant, and
then looks like a broad collar of crimson velvet. The legs of the sarus
are also bright red and are nearly a yard long. So that the sarus can,
when he wishes to assert himself, look over the head of the average
human being without unduly stretching his neck.

The sarus is the only crane that stays in India throughout the year. As
has already been said, the species is very common in Northern India;
indeed, a broad stretch of landscape in that part of the world would not
seem true to life did it not contain a pair of saruses standing near
together. Every pair of these birds is a regular Darby and Joan. There
are instances on record of a sarus having pined away and died because it
had lost its mate. This affection of the male and female who pair for
life is so notorious that the Indians who eat the flesh of these birds
make a point, after they have bagged one of a pair, of killing the mate.

The food of saruses is, as Hume remarks, very varied. No small reptile
or amphibian comes amiss to them. They also eat insects and snails, and
seeds and green vegetable matter. They are often to be observed feeding
at some distance from water. Indeed, my experience is that they are seen
more often on dry land than in water. Their long legs appear to be of
little use to them except at the nesting season, when they are necessary
in order to enable the birds to wade to the nest. Cranes, unlike storks
and herons, cannot grip with the foot, so that they never perch in
trees. The nest is built on the ground and, presumably for the sake of
protection against jackals, wolves, and such-like creatures, is usually
surrounded by water. As a rule, it is not constructed on an island, but
is itself an islet rising from the bottom of the _jhil_ or tank in which
it is situated.

I have not had the good fortune to witness a nest of the sarus in course
of construction, but from the behaviour of the owners when heavy rain
falls after the nest is completed, I believe that both sexes take part
in construction. As the nesting season is in June, July, August, and
September, a good deal of rain usually falls while nesting operations
are going on. The nest is a mound or cone, composed of rushes and reeds,
of which the diameter is two feet at least. The top of this cone, on
which the eggs are placed, is usually about a foot above the surface of
the water. Thus the eggs lie only a little above the water level;
nevertheless, they always feel quite dry, as does the layer of rushes on
which they are placed. This is rather surprising—one would expect the
water to get soaked up into the parts of the nest above the surface; but
this does not happen. It is needless to say that if the top of the nest
became submerged it would be impossible to keep the eggs dry; hence,
when very heavy rain causes the water level round the nest to rise, the
parent saruses raise the top of the nest by adding more material to it.

Two eggs are usually laid. These, as befits the size of the owners, are
very large. It is as much as one can do to make both ends meet of a tape
eleven inches long, passed round the long axis of the egg. The eggs vary
considerably in size, but are usually of a creamy hue, They may be with
or without markings. The shell is very thick and hard, so that if
sarus’s eggs were used for electioneering purposes, fatalities would
often occur.

Various observers give very different accounts of the behaviour of the
parent saruses when their nest is attacked. The general experience is
that they show no fight, but that they retire gracefully as soon as the
human being gets within twenty yards of the nest. Hume, however, records
one case of a sitting sarus making such vigorous pokes and drives at the
man who approached her when sitting on the nest that he was forced to
flap her in the face vigorously with his waist cloth before she left her
eggs. That, says Hume, is the nearest approach to a fight for its
_penates_ he has ever seen a sarus make. Recently I visited a nest of
these birds, which was situated in a small patch of water, perhaps forty
feet square, with a millet field on one side and paddy on the other
three. I was on horseback, not wishing to wade nearly to my waist. With
me were three men. When we first noticed the nest, the hen was sitting
on it and the cock standing near by. As we approached the female rose to
her feet very slowly, and then I could see that the nest contained a
young one. When we were at a distance of some ten yards the female began
to move her feet as if scraping the nest, and the young bird betook
itself quietly to the water, and swam slowly into the neighbouring
flooded paddy field. The hen then slowly descended from the nest into
the water and quietly walked off. On reaching the nest, I found in it
one egg. I sent one of the men after the youngster, which he quickly
secured and brought to me to look at. It was about the size of a small
bazaar fowl, and had perhaps been hatched three days. It was covered
with soft down. The down on the upper parts was of a rich reddish fawn
colour, the back of the neck, a band along the backbone, and a strip on
each wing being the places where the colour was most intense; these were
almost chestnut in hue. The lower parts were of a cream colour, into
which the reddish fawn merged gradually at the sides of the body. The
eyes were large and black. The bill was of pink hue and broad at the
base where the yellow lining of the mouth showed. The pink of the bill
was most pronounced towards the base, fading almost to white at the tip.
The legs and feet were pale pink, the toes being slightly webbed. Even
at that stage of the youngster’s existence the legs were long, and
enabled him to swim with ease, but they were not strong enough to
support him when he tried to walk. Sarus cranes cannot walk properly
until they are several months old.

While I was handling the young bird the cock sarus was evidently
summoning up his courage, for presently he began to advance in battle
array, that is to say, with neck bent, so that the head projected
forward, mouth slightly open, and wings about half expanded. Thus he
slowly approached, looking very handsome. He did not advance direct, but
took a circuitous course as if stalking us. When he had approached
within about six feet I made a pretence of striking him with a short
cane. Of this act of hostility he took not the least notice, but
continued to approach. The men with me, who were on foot, began to fear
being attacked, so one of them pulled up some paddy stalks and threw
these at him. This made him jump and retreat a few paces. But he soon
recommenced his advance in battle array. Then one of the men rushed at
him. That caused him to retreat a few paces hastily, but with dignity.
He then proceeded to attempt a rear attack, and as he circled round us
with bent neck he put me in mind of the villain of the melodrama, who
stalks about saying “My time will come!” When the sarus had advanced
thus to within four feet of my men and looked as though he were about to
spring at them, one of these lunged at him with a short stick, and he
would have been struck had he not beaten a hasty retreat. Nothing
daunted, he again returned to the attack. We were at the nest for fully
ten minutes, and the whole time he was trying to get at us. Only once
did he utter his trumpet-like call. The female meanwhile remained
watching at a distance of perhaps forty yards.

Having seen what we wanted, we replaced the young bird and the egg in
the nest and retreated fifteen or twenty yards. We waited to see what
the parent birds would do. The female came up to the cock (she is
distinguishable by her smaller size); then they both advanced very
slowly towards the nest, the hen approaching the faster. When at a
distance of perhaps eight yards from the nest, the cock indulged in some
curious antics. He slowly drew himself up to his full height and stood
thus motionless for a few seconds, then he stretched out his bill
towards the sky. Next, the long neck began to bend slowly until it took
roughly the shape of the letter S. Then, while the neck was still so
bent, the sarus dipped his bill into the water. After this he again
stood upright and repeated the whole performance. Finally he indulged in
a little dance. Meanwhile the hen slowly advanced, and when within a
yard of the nest stood still and contemplated it for a little, then,
after caressing the youngster with her bill, she slowly climbed on to
the nest. The nest cavity being a very shallow one, the young bird
sitting in it could be seen from a considerable distance, and its
reddish fawn plumage showed up in strong contrast to its surroundings.
The sarus nestling cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called
protectively coloured, but it fares very well, notwithstanding its
conspicuousness, because its parents never depart far from the nest, and
while they are present it is immune from attack. Even large birds of
prey avoid the powerful beak of an infuriated crane.

                           THE SWALLOW-PLOVER

Terns are so beautiful that, where they occur, they are apt to attract
unto themselves all attention. This is, I think, the reason why so
little is on record regarding the swallow-plovers, which haunt all the
larger rivers of India to such an extent that it is scarcely possible to
spend an hour on the Ganges, the Jumna, the Gogra, the Indus, the
Brahmaputra, the Nerbudda, the Mahanuddy, or even the distant Irawaddy
without meeting with a flock of those curious little birds.

Swallow-plovers, or pratincoles, as they are often called, are easily
described. They are plovers that subsist largely upon flying insects
which they catch when on the wing. As a result of this habit
swallow-plovers (_Glareola lactea_) have taken on some of the attributes
of the swallow, notably the long wings and the broad gape.

The total length of a swallow-plover, including the tail, is 6½ inches,
while the wing alone is nearly six inches long. It is these long wings
that give the bird a swallow-like appearance.

The general hue of _Glareola lactea_ is that curious sandy-grey shade of
brown which, for some occult reason, is known as isabelline. The short
tail is white with a black tip. There is a black streak through the eye
and a white one near the margin of the wing. The abdomen is white. The
legs are short for those of a plover; nevertheless, the species is very
nimble on its feet, and runs in the manner peculiar to the peewit

Swallow-plovers are to be found at a distance from water, but they are
essentially river birds.

At sunset, when insects in their myriads disport themselves over the
surface of rivers, the swallow-plovers issue forth and hawk these flying
hexapods just as swallows do, and, as they fly low over the face of the
waters, they are doubtless often mistaken for swallows.

Jerdon states that swallow-plovers live exclusively on insects which
they catch on the wing. I doubt whether this assertion is correct. These
birds certainly feed largely on flying insects, but as they spend the
major part of their time on the sand, over which they run swiftly, I
think that creeping things constitute a not inconsiderable portion of
their diet.

Their nesting habits are similar to those of terns and plovers; that is
to say, the eggs are placed on the sand or bare ground without any
semblance of a nest.

I make a point every year, if possible, of spending a morning on a river
at the beginning of the hot weather looking for the nests of terns and
other birds which lay on _churs_ and sandbanks. Almost every Indian
river is plentifully studded with islets which render its navigation
difficult, but afford most convenient nesting sites for many species of
birds. The sandy islets whereon eggs are laid are nearly always those of
which some portion is sufficiently high to escape being flooded when the
river rises in consequence of the melting of the snow on the higher
peaks of the Himalayas. The selected islands are almost invariably
sufficiently far from the river bank to prevent jackals and other
predaceous creatures wading across to them. If terns or plovers fail to
take such precautions, the chances are that their eggs will come to

This year (1912), on the 15th April, I went out on the Gogra at Fyzabad,
and found over thirty nests of swallow-plovers on one islet, on which I
also saw two eggs of the black-bellied tern (_Sterna melanogaster_).

Immediately I set foot on the island the terns and small pratincoles
commenced making an uproar, which, of course, amounted to an assurance
that they had eggs on the island. One portion of it was well sprinkled
with stunted vegetation, and thither I at once repaired, to the great
disgust of the swallow-plovers, who flew about excitedly, uttering their
lapwing-like cry—_titeri, titeri_. A search of less than a minute served
to reveal a couple of eggs placed on the bare ground between two small
plants that were growing out of the sand. As I stooped down to examine
these eggs I looked round and saw a very curious and pretty sight.
Swallow-plovers were surrounding me. They were nearly all on the ground
and striking strange attitudes. Some were lying on the sand as though
they had been wounded and fallen to the ground; others were floundering
on the ground as if in pain; some were fluttering along with one wing
stretched out limply, looking as though it were broken; while others
appeared to have both wings injured. I did not count the birds, but at
least twenty of them were seemingly injured. I had often seen one bird
or a pair behave thus, but never a whole flock.

All the plover family have this injury-feigning instinct, but in none is
it so well developed as in the pratincoles.

“The strange antics,” writes Hume, “played by these little birds, at
least those of them that had young or hard-set eggs, whenever we
approached their treasures were very remarkable; flying past one, they
would come fluttering down on to the sand a few paces in front of one,
and there gasp and flutter as if mortally wounded, hobbling on with
draggled wings and limping legs as one approached them, and altogether
simulating entirely helpless and completely crippled birds. No one
unacquainted with the habits of this class of birds could have believed,
to see them flapping along on the sands on their stomachs, every now and
then falling head over heels and lying quite still for an instant, as if
altogether exhausted, that this was all a piece of consummate acting
intended to divert our attention from their nests.”

Hume here voices the popular opinion that birds, when they behave as
though they are injured, are deliberately pretending to be wounded with
the object of diverting the attention of an intruder from their eggs or
young. I hold this view to be utterly and entirely wrong. Consider the
long chain of reasoning that a bird has to make before behaving as
swallow-plovers are supposed to do. In the first place the birds must
know or believe that the intruder has come with the object of taking
their eggs or young ones. They must know or believe that the said
intruder would like to capture them in preference to their eggs or
young. They must further have discovered that a bird with a leg or a
wing broken is easier to capture than one that is sound in limb. They
must also know how a bird with a broken wing or leg behaves when
endeavouring to escape from a foe. Knowing and believing all these
things, the swallow-plover must reason thus within itself: “If I pretend
that I am injured the intruder will try to catch me and thus be drawn
away from my eggs or young. I will, therefore, proceed to act the
wounded bird to the best of my ability.”

I do not for a moment believe that the average swallow-plover has half
this knowledge and power of reasoning. Its behaviour can be accounted
for in a far more probable manner. We all know that instinct teaches
birds to fly away from all birds or beasts of prey or large strange
moving objects; but instinct teaches them to guard their eggs. Now, when
a human being approaches the eggs of a pratincole, these two instincts
come into violent opposition, and the bird’s mental equilibrium is much
disturbed; the result is that the bird undergoes all manner of strange
contortions. We look at these and say, “What a clever little bird! How
well it is acting!” The contortions of the swallow-plover undoubtedly do
tend to attract the attention of predaceous creatures, and are probably
useful to the species when there are young, for these are able to slip
away while the attention of the attacker is momentarily diverted by the
parent birds. Hence such behaviour must tend to be perpetuated by
natural selection. That it is in no sense an intelligent act is obvious
from the fact that such behaviour occurs when there are eggs, and so can
do no good; moreover, the parents will go on behaving in this manner
even after the intruder has taken the eggs and put them in his pocket!

Textbooks tell us that _Glareola lactea_ lays from two to four eggs. I
have never found more than two in a clutch, and think that Hume made a
mistake when he said “from two to four,” and as plagiarism is very rife
among writers on ornithology, other ornithologists have copied his
statements without acknowledgment, and, of course, reproduced his

The eggs of this species are interesting on account of the extraordinary
variations they exhibit. As Hume well says, it is scarcely possible to
find two eggs (outside the same clutch) that closely resemble each
other. It not infrequently happens that the two eggs in the same clutch
differ so greatly that it is difficult to believe that they are the
produce of one hen. The ground colour may vary from pale green, almost
white, to fawn colour. The markings sometimes take the form of blotches,
so that the eggs look like those of a small tern. More usually the
markings appear as tiny spots, freckles, pencillings, or cloudy smudges.
On a sandbank containing twenty nests it is possible to pick out ten
eggs, each of which differs so greatly from the others that the casual
observer would certainly say they all belonged to different species. The
size is, of course, fairly uniform, but the shape varies greatly; some
are elongated, while others are nearly as broad as they are long.
Occasionally a pear-shaped egg is found, but as a rule the narrow end of
the egg is comparatively blunt. That eggs which are laid on the sand in
the open should display these extraordinary variations is an awkward
fact for those who consider that the colouring of birds’ eggs is the
direct result of natural selection. If this were so we should expect to
find a wonderful sameness about the eggs of this species, which are laid
in such exposed situations. The fact is, of course, that on a sandbank
eggs of any colour that is not too pronounced are difficult to see;
hence, for purposes of protection, the actual colours of the background
and the markings of the egg are matters of little importance.

                      THE BIRDS OF A MADRAS GARDEN

Richard Jefferies devotes several chapters of one of the most delightful
of his books—_Wild Life in a Southern County_—to the birds that frequent
a farm on the Downs. “On looking back,” he writes, “it appears that the
farm-house, garden, orchard, and rickyard at Wick are constantly visited
by about thirty-five wild creatures, and, in addition, five others come
now and then, making a total of forty. Of these forty, twenty-six are
birds, two bats, eight quadrupeds, and four reptiles. This does not
include some few additional birds that only come at long intervals, nor
those that simply fly overhead or are heard singing at a distance.

“Around the farm-house itself come the starlings, sparrows, swallows,
water wagtails, hedge-sparrows, robins, wrens, tomtits, thrushes, and
blackbirds. The orchard is frequented by sand martins, cuckoos, missel
thrushes, goldfinches, greenfinches, flycatchers, linnets, blackcaps,
and titmice.

“In the rickyard are seen redstarts, stone-chats, rooks, chaffinches,
wood-pigeons, doves, and larks.”

Now a closer observer of nature than Richard Jefferies never existed,
and he knew every square yard of the Wick Farm, so that we may be sure
that the list he gives is exhaustive.

This list seems very meagre to one who is accustomed to bird life in
India. If the Wick Farm were transported bodily and set down in the
middle of India it would be visited by seventy or eighty species of
birds instead of twenty-six.

Every garden of tolerable size in Madras is the abode of quite twice as
many birds as those which visit a downland farm in England, so superior
is India to England as a field for the ornithologist.

Every Madrassi whose bungalow is placed in a garden worthy of the name
may, without leaving the same, count upon seeing fifty species of birds
before he has been many months in the country.

First there are the perennials—the birds which, like the poor, are
always with us—the jungle and the house crows, the white-headed babbler,
the iora, the red-vented and the white-browed bulbuls, the king-crow,
the tailor bird, the common and the brahmany mynas, the common sparrow,
the golden-backed woodpecker, the bush lark, Loten’s and the
purple-rumped sunbirds, the coppersmith, the white-breasted kingfisher,
the hoopoe, the koel, the crow-pheasant, the spotted owlet, the common
and the brahmany kites, the spotted and the little brown doves, and the
cattle egret; while if the garden boast of anything in the shape of a
pond there will be found the common kingfisher and the paddy bird.

Nearly all these birds nest in the compound, and all are so familiar to
every Anglo-Indian that no description is needed. Moreover, I have, I
think, previously treated of all of them with the exception of the iora
(_Aegithina tiphia_). In case there be any who are unable to give this
beautiful little species a name when they see or hear it, let me briefly
describe it. It is considerably smaller than a sparrow, and lives amid
the foliage, from which it picks the tiny insects that constitute its
food. In summer the upper parts of the cock are black, and the lower
parts bright yellow. There are two narrow white bars in the wing. In
winter the black on the head and back is replaced by yellowish green.
The hen has the upper plumage and tail green, and the lower parts
yellow. She also has the two white wing bars. To my mind the iora is a
good songster. Nevertheless, “Eha” states that it “has no song, but
scarcely any other bird has such a variety of sweet notes.” I will not
quarrel over the meaning of the word song; every one who knows the iora
must agree that it continually makes a joyful noise.

Less common than the birds named above, but occupants of almost every
garden, are the butcher birds and their cousins the wood-shrikes, the
fantail flycatchers, and the pied wagtails, the emerald bee-eaters, and
parakeets, the robin and the palm swift.

The commonest species of butcher bird in Madras is the bay-backed shrike
(_Lanius vittatus_), a small bird with a grey head and a maroon back,
and a broad black streak through the eye. This tyrant of the garden
takes up a perch on a bare branch, and there remains like a sentinel on
a watch-tower, until it espies an insect on the ground. On to this it
swoops, displaying, as it descends, much white in the wings and the

The wood-shrike (_Tephrodornis pondiceranus_) frequents trees and
hedgerows. But for its broad white eyebrow and the white in its tail, it
might pass for a sparrow. It is most easily recognised by its melodious
and cheerful call—_tanti tuia, tanti tuia_.

The pied wagtail (_Motacilla maderaspatensis_)—elegance
personified—loves to sit on the housetop and pour forth a lay which vies
with that of the canary. Suddenly away it flies, speeding through the
air in undulating flight, until it reaches the ground, where,
nimble-footed as Camilla, it chases its insect quarry.

The fantail flycatcher (_Rhipidura albifrontata_) is another study in
black and white. This most charming of birds frequents leafy trees,
whence it pours forth its sweet song of six or seven notes. Every now
and again it, after the manner of all flycatchers, sallies into the air
after insects. Having secured its victim, it alights on a branch or on
the ground, and there spreads out its tail and turns as if on a pivot,
now to one side, now to the other.

We must seek the robin (_Thamnobia fulicata_) among the tangled
undergrowth in some corner of the compound neglected by the gardener.
There shall we find the pair of them—the cock a glossy black bird with a
narrow white bar in the wing, the hen arrayed in a gown of reddish
brown. In each sex there is a patch of brick-red feathers under the
tail, and, as if for the purpose of displaying this, the tail is carried
almost erect.

If there be any fruit ripening, even if it be that of the cypress, green
parrots (_Palaeornis torquatus_) are certain to visit the garden. On the
approach of a human being these feathered marauders will fling
themselves into the air with wild screams, and dash off, looking, as
Lockwood Kipling says, like “live emeralds in the sun.”

Even more like living emeralds are the little green bee-eaters (_Merops
viridis_), whose feeble twitter may emanate from any tree. Take a huge
emerald and cut it into the shape of a bird. Insert a pale blue
turquoise at the throat, rubies for the eyes, and set these off with
strips of darkest emery, let into the head a golden topaz, then breathe
into this collection of gems the breath of life, and you will have
produced a poor imitation of that gem of the feathered world—the little
emerald merops.

If there be palm trees in the garden the presence of the little palm
swift (_Tachornis batassiensis_) is assured. Palm swifts are tiny
smoky-brown birds which travel unceasingly through the air in pursuit of
the insects on which they feed. During flight the wings remain expanded,
looking like a bow into the middle of which the slender body is

I had almost forgotten one of the most striking birds in the world—the
Indian paradise flycatcher (_Terpsiphone paradisi_), which certainly is
entitled to a place among the common birds of a Madras garden. The cocks
are white or chestnut, according to age. The crested head is shining
black, and the two median tail feathers are greatly elongated, so that
they flutter in the air like satin streamers as the bird flits about
among the trees. The hen lacks the lengthened tail feathers, and, as
“Eha” says, looks like a chestnut-coloured bulbul. Indeed, Anglo-Indian
boys call this species the _Shah Bulbul_.

There are a number of occasional bird visitors to our Madras gardens.
Parties of minivets and cuckoo shrikes come and seek for insects among
the leaves of trees. The unobtrusive yellow-throated sparrow (_Gymnorhis
flavicollis_) is another tree-haunting species to be looked for in the
garden. Conspicuous among the less common birds which feed on the ground
are the gorgeous roller or “blue jay,” the sprightly magpie robin, the
white-throated munia, attired like a quaker, and that bird of many
colours the Indian pitta, which keeps always near thick underwood,
sometimes issuing from thence into the open to give forth a cheery

In conclusion, mention must be made of the migrant species. Many of the
birds that come to the farm on the downs of which Jefferies wrote—the
swallows, the cuckoos, and the wagtails—are but summer visitors to
England. So do a number of migrating species visit our Madras gardens.
There is, however, this difference in the two cases. The migrating
species visit England in summer for nesting purposes, whereas they spend
the winter in warm Madras, and leave it in summer before the nesting
time begins.

Among the winter visitors which come into the garden must be mentioned
the beautiful Indian oriole, a study in yellow and black, the Indian
redstart, or, to give it its older name, the fire-tail, the grey-headed
wagtail, whose under parts are bright yellow, the dull earthy-hued
little Sykes’s warbler, which hides itself in a bush and keeps on
calling out _chick_, and the grey-headed myna, which, but for the fact
that the head and recumbent crest are grey, might easily pass for a
brahmany myna.

The birds above enumerated do not form by any means an exhaustive list.
Were birds that sometimes come into the garden included, the list would
extend to three times its present length.


Sunbirds, or honey-suckers as they are sometimes called, are to the
tropics of the Old World what humming birds are to the warmer portions
of the New World.

Sunbirds are tiny feathered exquisites which vary in length from 3½ to 5
inches, including a bill of considerable length for the size of the

They are numbered among the most familiar birds of India, owing to their
abundance and their partiality to gardens. They occur all the year round
in the warmer parts of the peninsula, but leave the coldest regions for
a short time during the winter.

Twenty-nine species of sunbirds are described as belonging to the Indian
Empire, but most of them are only local in their distribution. Three
species, however, have a considerable range. These are _Arachnechthra
asiatica_, the purple sunbird, which occurs throughout India and Burma,
ascending the hills to 5000 feet; _A. zeylonica_—the purple-rumped
sunbird—which is the commonest sunbird in all parts of Southern India
except Madras, where the third species, _A. lotenia_—Loten’s sunbird—is
perhaps more abundant.

The genus _Arachnechthra_ is characterised by a great difference in
appearance between the sexes. The hens of all the species are very like
one another; all are homely-looking birds, dull greenish brown above and
pale yellow below. The cocks of the various species are arrayed in
metallic colours as resplendent as those that decorate humming birds.

Seen from a little distance, the cock of the purple-rumped species is a
bird with dark head, neck, wings, back, and tail, and bright yellow
under parts, while the female is brown above and yellowish beneath. Thus
at a distance the male does not look much more beautiful than the
female, but if one is able to creep up sufficiently near him his plumage
is seen to be unsurpassable; it glistens with a splendid metallic sheen,
which is purple or green according to the direction from which the sun’s
rays fall upon it. On the top of the head is a patch of brilliant
shining metallic green, which exceeds in beauty any crown devised by

The cocks of the purple and Loten’s species are very much alike, but may
be readily distinguished by the fact that the slender curved bill of
Loten’s is considerably longer than that of its cousin. How shall I
describe these beautiful birds? In my volume _Indian Birds_ I classed
them among black birds, because they look black when seen at a distance,
but I stated that they are in reality dark purple, and have been taken
to task for not classing them among the blue birds. The fact of the
matter is that these birds cannot be said to be of any colour; like shot
silk, their hue depends upon the angle at which the sun’s rays fall upon
them. In the sunlight their plumage glistens like a new silk hat, and
sometimes the sheen looks lilac and at others green.

The habits of all three species appear to be exactly alike.

The cocks of all have fine voices. At his best the purple sunbird sings
as sweetly as a canary. Indeed, on one occasion when I was staying at
Bangalore I heard a bird singing in the verandah which I thought was a
caged canary; it was only when I went to look at the canary that I
discovered it to be a wild sunbird pouring forth its music from some

Sunbirds are always literally bubbling over with energy. They are
bundles of vivacity—ever on the move. Although they eat tiny insects,
they subsist chiefly on the nectar of flowers, which appears to be a
most stimulating diet.

Sunbirds have long, slender, curved bills and tubular tongues, hence
they are admirably equipped to secure the honey hidden away in the
calyces of flowers. As the little birds insert their heads into the
blossoms they get well dusted with pollen, so that, like bees and some
other insects, they probably play an important part in the
cross-fertilisation of flowers; but they do not hesitate to probe the
sides of large flowers with their sharp bills, and thus secure the honey
without bearing pollen to the stigma. It is pretty to watch the sunbirds
feeding. They are as acrobatic as titmice and strike the most
extraordinary attitudes in their attempts to procure honey. When there
is no convenient _point d’appui_ they hover like humming birds, on
rapidly vibrating wings, and while so doing explore with their long
tongues the recesses of honeyed flowers. To quote Aitken, “between
whiles they skip about, slapping their sides with their tiny wings,
spreading their tails like fans, and ringing out their cheery refrain.
As they pass from one tree to another they traverse the air in a
succession of bounds and sportive spirals.” Verily the existence of a
sunbird is a happy one!

The nest of the sunbird is one of the most wonderful pieces of
architecture in the world, and it is the work of the hen alone. While
she is working like a Trojan, her gay young spark of a husband is
drinking riotously of nectar! The nest is a hanging one, and is usually
suspended from a branch of a bush or a tree, and not infrequently from
the rafter of the verandah of an inhabited bungalow; sunbirds show
little fear of man.

The nest is commenced by cobwebs being wound round and round the branch
from which the nest will hang. Cobweb is the cement most commonly
employed by birds. To this pieces of dried grass, slender twigs, fibres,
roots, or other material are added and made to adhere by the addition of
more cobweb.

The completed nest, which usually hangs in a most conspicuous place,
often passes for a small mass of rubbish that has been pitched into a
bush, and, in view of the multifarious nature of the material used by
the sunbird, there is every excuse for mistaking the nursery for a ball
of rubbish. Grasses, fibres, fine roots, tendrils, fragments of bark,
moss, lichen, petals or sepals of flowers, in short, anything that looks
old and untidy is utilised as building material.

In _Birds of the Plains_ I mentioned the sunbirds’ nest that was
literally covered with the white paper shavings that are used to pack
tight the biscuits in Huntley and Palmer’s tins.

“It is curious,” writes Mr. R. M. Adam, “how fond these birds are of
tacking on pieces of paper and here and there a bright-coloured feather
from a paroquet or a roller on the outside of their nests. When in Agra
a bird of this species built a nest on a loose piece of thatch laid in
my verandah, and on the side of the nest, stuck on like a signboard, was
a piece of a torn-up letter with ‘My dear Adam’ on it.”

Mr. R. W. Morgan describes a yet more extraordinary nest that was built
by sunbirds in an acacia tree in front of his office at Kurnool: “It was
ornamented with bits of blotting-paper, twine, and old service stamps
that had been left lying about. The whole structure was most compactly
bound together with cobwebs, and had a long string of caterpillar
excrement wound round it. This excrement had most probably fallen on to
a cobweb and had stuck to it, and the cobweb had afterwards been
transported in strips to the nest.”

The completed nest is a pear-shaped structure, with an opening at one
side near the top. Over the entrance hole a little porch projects, which
serves to keep out the sun and rain when the nest is exposed to them.

The nest is cosily lined with silk cotton. The aperture at the side acts
as a window as well as a door; the hen, who alone incubates, sits on her
eggs, looking out of the little window with her chin resting comfortably
on the sill.

Two eggs only are laid. The smallness of the clutch indicates that there
is not a great deal of loss of life in the nest. The immunity of the
sunbird is due chiefly to the inaccessibility of the nest. The latter is
usually at the extreme tip of a slender branch upon which no bird of any
size can obtain a foothold. When a sunbird does make a mistake and place
its nest in an unsuitable place, the predaceous crows devour the young
ones, as they did recently in the case of a nest built in the middle of
an ingadulsis hedge in my compound at Fyzabad.

In conclusion, I should like to settle one disputed point in the economy
of the purple sunbird (_A. asiatica_). Jerdon stated that the cock doffs
his gay plumage after the breeding season and assumes a dress like that
of the hen except for a purple strip running longitudinally from the
chin to the abdomen.

Blanford denied this. He appears to have based his denial on the fact
that cocks in full plumage are to be seen at all seasons of the year.
There is no month in the year in which I have not seen a cock purple
sunbird in nuptial plumage. I used, therefore, to think that Blanford
was right and Jerdon wrong.

Afterwards I came across the following passage by Finn in _The Birds of
Calcutta_: “The purple cock apparently thinks his wedding garment too
expensive to be worn the whole year round; for after nesting he doffs
it, and assumes female plumage, retaining only a purple streak from chin
to stomach as a mark of his sex. . . . I well remember one bird which
came to the museum compound after breeding to change his plumage; he
kept very much to two or three trees, singing, apparently, from one
particular twig, and even when in undress he kept up his song.”

Since reading the above I have watched purple sunbirds carefully, and
have observed that during the months of November and December cocks in
full breeding plumage are very rarely seen, although there is no lack of
cocks in the eclipse plumage described by Finn.

Moreover, a purple sunbird which is being kept in an aviary in England
assumes eclipse plumage for a short period each year at the beginning of
winter. Thus there can be no doubt that the cock of the purple species
does doff his gay plumage after the nesting season, but only for a short
period. In January the majority of cocks are in breeding plumage, and,
indeed, in some parts of the country nest building begins as early as

                             THE BANK MYNA

The bank myna (_Acridotheres ginginianus_), like the Indian corby
(_Corvus macrorhynchus_), is a bird that has suffered neglect at the
hands of those who write about the feathered folk. The reason of this
neglect is obvious. Even as the house crow (_Corvus splendens_)
overshadows the corby, so does the common myna (_Acridotheres tristis_)
almost eclipse the bank myna. So familiar is the myna that all books on
Indian birds deal very fully with him. They discourse at length upon his
character and his habits, and then proceed to dismiss the bank myna with
the remark that his habits are those of his cousin.

The bank myna is a myna every inch of him. He is a chip of the old
block; there is no mistaking him for anything but what he is. So like to
his cousin is he that when I first set eyes upon him I took him for a
common myna freak. And I still believe I was not greatly mistaken. I
submit that the species arose as a mutation from _A. tristis_.

Once upon a time a pair of common mynas must have had cause to shake
their heads gravely over one or more of their youngsters who differed
much from the rest of the brood. As these youngsters grew up, the
differences became even more marked, they showed themselves slaty grey
where they should have been rich brown, and pinkish buff where white
feathers ought to have appeared, and the climax must have been reached
when these weird youngsters developed crimson patches of skin at the
sides of the head, instead of yellow ones. Probably, the other mynas of
the locality openly expressed their disapproval of these caricatures of
their species, for mynas do not keep their feelings to themselves. As
likely as not they put these new-fangled creatures into Coventry, for
birds are as conservative as old maids.

Thus these myna freaks were compelled to live apart, but, being strong
and healthy, they throve and either paired _inter se_, or managed to
secure mates among their normally dressed fellows. In either case, the
offspring bore the stamp of their abnormal parents.

It is a curious fact, and one which throws much light on the process of
evolution, that abnormalities have a very strong tendency to perpetuate
themselves. Thus was brought into being a new species, and as there were
in those times no ornithologists to shoot these freaks, and as they
passed with credit the test prescribed by nature, the species has
secured a firm footing in India. This hypothesis accounts for the
comparatively restricted distribution of the bank myna. It does not
occur south of the Narbada and Mahanadi Rivers, but is found all over
the plains of Northern India, and ascends some way up the Himalayas. It
is particularly abundant in the eastern portion of the United Provinces.
In the course of a stroll through the fields at Allahabad, Lucknow, or
Fyzabad, one meets with thousands of bank mynas. There seems to be
evidence that this species is extending its range both eastwards and
westwards; and one of these days a southerly advance may be made, so
that eventually the bank myna may form an attractive addition to the
birds of Madras.

This species goes about in flocks of varying numbers, after the fashion
of the common myna. It comes into towns and villages, but is much less
of a garden bird than its familiar cousin. It is in the fields,
especially in the vicinity of rivers, that these birds occur most
abundantly. They consort with all the other species of myna, for,
whatever may have been thought of them when first evolved, they are now
in society. King-crows (_Dicrurus ater_) dance attendance upon them as
they do on the common mynas, for the sake of the insects put up by them
as they strut through the grass. The king-crow, owing to the length of
its tail and the shortness of its legs, is no pedestrian, and so is not
able to beat for itself.

The books tell us that bank mynas feed on insects, grain, and fruit. I
am inclined to think that their diet is confined almost exclusively to
the first of these articles. I speak not as one having authority, for,
in order to do this, it is necessary to shoot dozens of the birds and
carefully examine the contents of their stomachs. This kind of thing I
leave to the economic ornithologist. I admit that bank mynas are very
partial to the fields of millet and other tall grain crops, but I am
persuaded that they visit these for the insects that lurk on their

Grasshoppers are to the common myna what bread and meat are to the
Englishman, the _pièces de résistance_ of the menu. This is why mynas
always affect pasture land, where it exists, and keep company with
cattle, the sedate march of which causes so much consternation among the
grasshoppers. Bank mynas eat grasshoppers, but seem to prefer other
insects, especially those which lurk underground.[3] Certain it is that
wherever they occur they maintain a sharp look-out for the ploughman,
and follow him most assiduously as he turns up the soil by means of his
oxen-drawn plough. The house crows also attend this function. The other
species of myna follow the plough, but not so consistently as the bank
myna. The pied starling, although it does not disdain the insects cast
up by the plough, seems to prefer to pick its food out of mud. One often
sees a flock of these birds paddling about in shallow water, as though
they were sandpipers.

It is amusing to watch a flock of bank mynas strutting along a newly
turned furrow. In Upper India it is usual for two or more ploughs to
work together in Indian file, a few yards separating them. The mynas
like to place themselves between two ploughs, and so fearless are they
that they sometimes allow themselves almost to be trodden on by the team
behind them. Although the progress of the ploughing oxen is not rapid,
it is too fast for the mynas, who find themselves continually dropping
behind, and have every now and again to use their wings to keep pace
with them. At intervals, the whole following, or a portion of it, takes
to its wings and indulges in a little flight purely for the fun of the
thing. The flock sometimes returns to the original plough, at others
transfers its attentions to another. Thus the flocks are continually
changing in number and personnel, and in this respect are very different
from the companies of seven sisters. The latter appear to be definite
clubs or societies, the former mere chance collections of individuals,
or probably pairs of individuals.

Bank mynas are so called because they invariably nest in sandbanks, in
the sides of a well, or some such locality, they themselves excavating
the nest hole. Like sand martins, bank mynas breed in considerable
companies, but they are not so obliging as regards the season of their
nidification. They usually select sites which are not only at a distance
from human habitations, but difficult of access, and, as the birds do
not begin to nest until well on in May, when the weather in Upper India
is too hot to be described in literary language, one does not often have
a chance of seeing the birds at work. Their nesting passages do not
necessarily run inwards in a straight line. The result is that
neighbouring ones often communicate. At the end of the passage is a
circular chamber which is lined with grass and anything else portable.
Cast-off snake skin is a lining particularly sought after. Mr. Jesse
informs us that from one of these nests in the bank of the Goomti, near
Lucknow, he extracted parts of a Latin exercise and some arithmetic
questions. The owners of the nest were not going in for higher
education; it was merely a case of putting a thing to a use for which it
was never intended, a feat at which both birds and Indian servants are
great adepts. Notwithstanding the fact that the eggs are laid in dark
places, they are blue, as are those of the other mynas. Young bank mynas
lack the red skin at the side of the head, and are brown in places where
the adults are black. Young mynas of all species have a rather mangy
appearance. Like port wine, they improve with age.

[3]Since the above was written, C. W. Mason has published a paper
    entitled _The Food of Birds in India_. In this he shows that eight
    stomachs of the bank myna contained 106 insects. His researches show
    that this species is very partial to the caterpillars of the common
    castor pest, _Ophiusa melicerte_. _Vide Memoirs of the Department of
    Agriculture in India_ (Entomological Series, Vol. III).

                              THE JACKDAW

The jackdaw, although numbered among the birds of India, has not
succeeded in establishing itself in the plains. Large numbers of
jackdaws visit the Punjab in winter, where they keep company with the
house crows and the rooks, the three species appearing to be on the best
of terms. At the first approach of the warm weather the daws, the rooks,
and the majority of the ravens betake themselves to Kashmir or to
Central Asia, leaving the house crows to represent the genus _Corvus_ in
the plains of the Punjab. The jackdaw (_Corvus monedula_) is in shape
and colouring like our friend _Corvus splendens_, differing only in its
smaller size and in having a white iris to the eye. As is the case with
the common Indian crow, individual jackdaws differ considerably in the
intensity of the greyness of the neck. In some specimens the sides of
the neck are nearly white. Of these systematists have made a new
species, which they call _C. collaris_. Oates, I am glad to observe,
declines to recognise this species. A jackdaw is a jackdaw all the world
over, and it is absurd to try to make him anything else.

As it has not been my good fortune to spend any time in Kashmir, my
acquaintance with the jackdaws of India is confined to those that visit
the Punjab in winter. These do not appear to frequent the vicinity of
houses; I have invariably found them feeding in fields at some distance
from a village. They roost, along with the crows and the rooks, in
remote parts of the country. Every evening during the half-hour before
sunset two great streams of birds pass over Lahore. The larger stream,
consisting of crows, rooks, and daws, moves in a north-westerly
direction, while the other, composed exclusively of ravens, takes a more
westerly course. The ravens apparently decline to consort with their
smaller and more frivolous relations.

Although jackdaws seem never to remain in the plains after the beginning
of spring, they are able to thrive well enough in the hot weather. A
specimen in the Zoological Gardens at Lahore keeps perfectly well, and
loses none of his high spirits even when the heat is, to use the words
of Kipling, “enough to make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl.” But then, as
Bishop Stanley asked, “who ever saw or heard of a moping, melancholy
jackdaw?” This particular bird is able to hold his own quite well
against the crows, rooks, and ravens confined in the same aviary.
Moreover, all these are on quite friendly terms with an Australian
piping crow—a butcher bird which apes the manners and appearance of a
crow so successfully as to delude the _Corvi_ into thinking that he is
one of themselves! Half a century ago Jerdon wrote: “The jackdaw is
tolerably abundant in Kashmir and in the Punjab, in the latter country
in the cold weather only. It builds in Kashmir in old ruined palaces,
holes in rocks, beneath roofs of houses, and also in trees, laying four
to six eggs, dotted and spotted with brownish black.” No one living in
Kashmir appears to have taken the trouble to amplify this somewhat
meagre account of the jackdaw in Asia. It would be interesting to know
whether the daws of Kashmir have any habits peculiar to themselves. The
fact that Jerdon mentions their breeding in trees is interesting, for in
England they nest in buildings in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out
of a thousand.

The jackdaw makes a most admirable pet. When taken young it becomes
remarkably tame, soon learning to follow its master about like a dog.
Moreover, the bird is as full of tricks as is a wagon-load of monkeys,
so that Mr. Westell does not exaggerate when he says that the jackdaw
when kept as a pet seems more of an imp than a bird. It thieves for the
mere sake of thieving. The nest is sometimes a veritable museum of
curiosities. One bird, immortalised by Bishop Stanley, appears to have
tried to convert its nest into a draper’s shop, for this, although not
finished, was found to contain some lace, part of a worsted stocking, a
silk handkerchief, a frill, a child’s cap, “besides several other
things, but so ragged and worn out that it was impossible to make out
what they were.”

                           FIGHTING IN NATURE

A correspondent to _Country Life_ states that he has noticed that in the
various battles between ravens and golden eagles, which frequently take
place in the island of Skye, the golden eagles are always defeated.

He enquires whether this phenomenon is a usual one and how it is that
the comparatively weak raven can vanquish so powerful a bird as the
golden eagle.

The above statement and its attendant queries are the result of faulty

Such a thing as a battle between ravens and golden eagles has probably
never happened. If it did take place it could have but one ending—the
victory of the golden eagles.

Battles rarely, if ever, occur in nature between different species. In
order that a battle may take place it is necessary that each of the
opposing species should want the same thing and be ready to fight and,
if necessary, to sustain serious injuries in order to obtain that thing.

Now these conditions are rarely fulfilled except at the breeding season,
when males of the same species fight for the females.

The only other things over which fighting is likely to arise are food
and nesting sites.

It frequently happens that birds of different species want the same
food. But this rarely leads to anything in the nature of a battle. In
such contests the weaker almost invariably gives way to the stronger
without any fighting.

A familiar instance of this is afforded by the behaviour of the
white-backed (_Pseudogyps bengalensis_) and the black vultures (_Otogyps
calvus_) when they gather round a carcase.

Jesse writes, and my experience bears out what he says: “Often I have
been watching the vulgar white-backed herd, with a disreputable
following of kites and crows, teasing and fighting over a body, when one
of these aristocrats (i.e. _Otogyps calvus_), in his red cap and white
waistcoat, has made his appearance. Way is immediately made for him, the
plebeian herd slinking back as if ashamed or afraid, and I cannot
remember the last comer ever being obliged to assert his authority.”

If the smaller vultures, which are the more numerous, chose to combine,
they could drive off the black vultures, but in doing this some of them
would run the risk of sustaining injuries. Now, it seems to be a rule in
nature that no creature will willingly run such a risk. Rather than do
this an animal will flee before a comparatively puny adversary.

The instinct of self-preservation, which includes the preservation of
the body from injury, is strongly developed in all organisms. Natural
selection tends to develop this instinct, because the individuals in
which the instinct is strongly developed are less likely to be injured
by fighting than those which are pugnacious. In other words, it does not
pay to fight in nature. Injured individuals are seriously handicapped in
the struggle for existence. Thus natural selection tends to produce

At the breeding season an instinct, which is ordinarily dormant in
birds, suddenly becomes active—the instinct of preserving the nest and
its contents.

This instinct, when aroused, frequently overmasters the instinct of
self-preservation, with the result that shy birds become bold, timid
ones grow aggressive, little birds which usually are terrified at the
close proximity of a human being allow themselves to be handled rather
than leave their eggs or young.

At the breeding season the desire to protect the nest leads many birds
to attack, or to make as if to attack, all intruders.

No sight is commoner in India than that of a pair of little drongos
(_Dicrurus ater_) chasing a kite or a crow.

Similarly I have witnessed doves chase and put to flight a tree-pie
(_Dendrocitta rufa_), and fantail flycatchers mob a corby (_Corvus

Nor are such cases confined to India.

In England Mr. A. H. Bryden states that he has seen sea-gulls mob and
put to flight so formidable a creature as a peregrine falcon.

In each of the above instances the bird pursued could, if it wished,
turn round and rend its puny adversaries. Why does it not do so? Because
the instinct of self-preservation is implanted in it so firmly.

This instinct teaches it never to resist an attack, no matter how feeble
the attacker be.

The object of the attack, provided it have no nest to defend, has
everything to lose and nothing to gain by resisting the attack and
giving battle. It matters little to a golden eagle on the look-out for
quarry in which direction it flies; hence if, while it is sailing
through the air, it is suddenly attacked by a couple of infuriated
ravens, the obvious course is for it to change the direction of its
flight. If it fail to do this it must either run the risk of being
severely pecked by the ravens or fight them and thereby expose itself to
injury. Under the circumstances it naturally chooses the line of least

It is absurd to speak of a bird that behaves in this manner as being
defeated in battle. It does not suffer defeat. It merely declines to
give battle.

The general rule in nature is, “Never fight when a fight can be

This rule is unconsciously followed by all birds, except those that have

The most familiar example of the rule in operation is the well-known
habit of birds of surrendering their perches to new-comers. When
individual A flies to a perch occupied by individual B the latter almost
invariably gives way without demur. The particular perch is of no value
to the occupier, but a whole body may be a matter of life or death.

                         BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

Biological science is at present in a rather peculiar position.
Biologists are divided into two parties. On the one side stand the
theorists and their followers; on the other the practical men who think
for themselves. At present, the theorists are the party in power (and
they are quite Lloyd-Georgian in their methods), while the practical
men, the breeders and the field naturalists, form the opposition. The
reason of the division is that many facts, that have come to light
lately, do not fit in with the theories that hold the field.

Now, when facts are discovered which militate against a theory the
proper course for the holder of the theory is to test carefully the
alleged facts, and if they prove to be really facts to discard or modify
his theory.

Unfortunately the professional biologists of to-day do not usually
follow this course. They have made fetishes of their theories, which
they worship as the Israelites worshipped the golden calf. The
consequence is that they feel in honour bound either to ignore or to
gloss over the facts that are subversive of their fetishes. When they
write books in honour of their fetishes, they omit many facts which tend
to show that their fetishes are shams. They regard the discussers of the
awkward facts as enemies to be crushed. Hence the gulf between the two
classes of biologists.

One of the fetishes of the present day is the theory of protective
mimicry. Butterflies and moths are the organisms which exemplify best
this theory.

It often happens that two species of butterfly occur in the same
locality which resemble one another in outward appearance. In such cases
zoologists assert that one species mimics the other. They maintain that
this mimicry has been brought about by natural selection, because the
one species profits by aping its neighbour. The species that is copied
is said to be unpalatable. The copy-cat, if I may use the expression,
may be either palatable or unpalatable. In either case it is believed to
profit by the resemblance. If it is edible the birds that are supposed
to prey upon butterflies are said to leave it alone, because they
mistake it for its unpalatable neighbour. This resemblance of an edible
form to an unpalatable one is called Batesian mimicry.

If the copy-cat be unpalatable it is nevertheless said to profit by the
likeness, because young birds are supposed to feed on every kind of
butterfly and only to learn by experience which are unpalatable. The
theory is that if they attack a red-coloured butterfly and find it nasty
to the taste, they leave all red-coloured butterflies alone henceforth.
Thus, the imitating species may benefit by the sacrifice of the other
red-coloured species. This is known as Mullerian mimicry.

The mimicry theory is very enticing; indeed, it is so enticing that
those who hold it, as, for example, Professor Poulton, of Oxford, seem
to think that there _must_ be something wrong with the evidence opposed
to it.

I assert that it is not the evidence against the theory, but the theory
itself that is wrong.

The objections to the hypothesis are many and weighty. Finn and I
summarised most of them in _The Making of Species_.

Two of the objections appear to be insuperable.

The likeness cannot be of much use until it is fairly strong. How, then,
is the beginning of the resemblance to be explained?

In order that natural selection should have produced these astounding
resemblances, it is necessary that butterflies should be preyed on very
largely by birds; but all the evidence goes to show that birds very
rarely eat butterflies. In the course of some ten years spent in India I
have not seen butterflies chased by birds on more than a dozen
occasions. Similarly, Colonel Yerbury, during six years’ observation in
India and Ceylon, can record only about six cases of birds capturing, or
attempting to capture, butterflies. Colonel C. T. Bingham, in Burma,
states that between 1878 and 1891 he on two occasions witnessed the
systematic hawking of butterflies by birds, although he observed on
other occasions some isolated cases.

Nor is the evidence, as regards India, confined to the experience of the
casual observer. Mr. C. W. Mason, when supernumerary entomologist to the
Imperial Department of Agriculture for India, conducted a careful
enquiry into the food of birds. The enquiry was made at Pusa in Bengal,
in the years 1907, 1908, 1909. The results arrived at by Mr. Mason are
published in the _Memoirs of the Department of Agriculture for India_
(Entomological Series, Vol. III, January, 1912). As the result of this
enquiry, in the course of which the contents of the stomachs of hundreds
of Indian birds were examined, Mr. Mason writes (page 338, _loc. cit._):
“Butterflies do not form any appreciable proportion of the food of any
one species of bird, though a good many birds take these insects at
times. . . .

“The butterflies include a number of minor pests, of which _Melanitis
ismene_ was taken by _Merops viridis_ and _Papilio pammon_ by
_Acridotheres tristis_. Other well-known pests are _Pieris brassicae_,
_Virachola isocrates_ and _Papilio demoleus_. _Belenois mesentina_, a
Pierid, was seen to be taken on one occasion by the king-crow, and
_Ilerda sena_ by _Passer domesticus_, both of which insects are neutral.

“Moths include many major pests of varied habits—defoliators, miners,
cut-worms, grain and fabric pests. The larvae form an inexhaustible
supply of insect food to almost all species of insectivorous birds, and
even many species of birds that when mature feed almost, if not quite,
entirely on grain and seeds are when in the nest fed very largely on
caterpillars by the parent birds.”

Obviously, then, in India birds comparatively rarely attack butterflies;
but they devour millions of caterpillars. It is the same in other parts
of the world.

Mr. G. A. K. Marshall, in the course of five years’ observation in South
Africa, recorded eight cases of birds capturing butterflies.

Similarly Mr. Banta points out in various issues of _Nature_, in 1912,
that all the evidence available shows that in North America birds very
rarely capture butterflies. Field naturalists scarcely ever witness a
butterfly chased by a bird. Of 40,000 stomachs of birds examined very
few were found to contain remains of butterflies.

In 1911 the butterflies of the species _Eugonia californica_ were so
numerous that “the ground was often blackened with them, and great
swarms of them filled the air from morning to evening.” Yet of the birds
in the locality where those butterflies were most numerous, only five
out of forty-five species were found by direct observation and stomach
examination to eat the eugonia, and the only bird that fed off them
copiously was the brewer blackbird (_Euphagus cyanocephalus_) which is
almost omnivorous, and eats insects of all kinds, even if they be what
Darwinians call warningly coloured!

Now, modern theorists, as a rule, ignore facts such as these, and this
certainly is the wisest course they can pursue, unless they are ready to
give up these theories or make themselves look foolish.

However, I am glad to be able to record that Professor Poulton has, as
regards the remarks of Mr. Banta, not followed the usual course of the
modern theorist.

He has had the courage to take up the cudgels and reply to Mr. Banta in
_Nature_. The reason of this unusual course appears to be that Mr. C. F.
M. Swynnerton has made some observations in South Africa which Professor
Poulton considers are in favour of his pet theory.

According to the Professor, Mr. Swynnerton, as the result of three and a
half years’ investigation in South-East Rhodesia, “has obtained the
records of nearly 800 attacks made by 35 species of birds belonging to
30 genera and 18 families, upon 79 species of butterflies belonging to 9
families or sub-families.”

Professor Poulton does not seem to see that the researches of Mr.
Swynnerton are altogether subversive of the theory of protective
mimicry. In order that natural selection may totally change the
colouring of a butterfly (as it does according to the theory of
protective mimicry), that butterfly must be habitually preyed upon by
large numbers of birds, which must be so vigilantly and unceasingly on
the look-out for it, that its only chance of escaping from their attacks
must be for it to assume a disguise.

Compare with this the state of affairs revealed by Mr. Swynnerton’s
observations. He worked for three and a half years, and, as his
investigations extended to eighteen families of birds, they must have
been very extensive. Exactly how extensive they have been we do not
know, because he has not yet published them. Nevertheless, as the result
of three and a half years’ watching and stomach examination he has
evidence of only “nearly 800” attacks made by birds on insects; that is
to say, on an average about two attacks in three days!

Watch a bee-eater feeding and you will see it take twenty or thirty
insects in less than an hour. If you were to watch it one whole day you
might see it capture 300 insects, but certainly not more than one of its
victims, on an average, would be a butterfly. Yet, the theory of mimicry
is based upon the assumption that butterflies are so greatly preyed upon
by birds that they require special means of protection!

I ask all who are interested in the subject to be ever on the look-out
for birds chasing butterflies or moths. These are so large and so easy
to identify that there can be no chance of mistaking them. Even a casual
observer, when watching a bird, cannot fail to notice the capture of a
butterfly by it. And when a bird has captured a butterfly it cannot
dispose of it very quickly. According to Mr. Swynnerton, “some (birds)
swallow the insect (butterfly or moth) whole, but usually after
masticating or beating it; some remove inconvenient portions by
‘worrying’ like a dog or beating against perch or ground; some grasp the
prey in one foot and tear off the rejected portions with the bill,
eating the rest piecemeal.”

The fact that the average bird has to go through all the above
performances before devouring a creature containing so little
nourishment as a butterfly, is sufficient to show that it does not pay
birds to chase butterflies.

But it is best not to rely on arguments to refute the theories of
persons who have no logic in them. The only way to destroy the
pernicious zoological theories that hold the field at present is to pile
up the facts that tell against them. Similarly, theories that are true
cannot be established satisfactorily except by the accumulation of
facts. The relations between birds and butterflies can be determined
only by observation, and for that kind of observation no country
presents a better field than India. Moreover, such observations can be
conducted by people having little or no scientific knowledge.

                          VOICES OF THE NIGHT

The stillness of the Indian night suffers many interruptions.

In the vicinity of a town or village the hours of darkness are rendered
hideous by the noises of human beings and of their appendages—the pariah
dogs. In the jungle the “friendly silences of the moon” are continually
disturbed by the bark of the fox, the yelling of the jackal, or the
notes of the numerous birds of the night.

The call of the various nocturnal birds must be familiar to every person
who has spent a hot weather in the plains of Northern India and slept
night after night beneath the starry heavens. With the calls of the
birds all are familiar, but some do not know the names of the
originators of these sounds.

First and foremost of the fowls that lift up their voices after the
shades of night have fallen are the tiny spotted owlets (_Athene
brama_). Long before the sun has set these quaint little creatures
emerge from the holes in which they have spent the day, and treat the
neighbours to a “torrent of squeak and chatter and gibberish” which is
like nothing else in the world, and which Tickell has attempted to
syllabise as “_Kucha, kwachee, kwachee, kwachee, kwachee_,” uttered as
rapidly as the little owlets’ breath will allow of. These noisy
punchinellos are most vociferous during moonlit nights, but they are by
no means silent in the dark portion of the month.

Almost as abundant as the spotted owlet is another feathered pigmy—the
jungle owlet (_Glaucidium radiatum_). This species, like the last, calls
with splendid vigour. Fortunately for the Anglo-Indian its note is
comparatively mellow and musical. It is not altogether unlike the noise
made by a motor cycle when it is being started, consisting, as it does,
of a series of disyllables, low at first with a pause after each, but
gradually growing in intensity and succeeding one another more rapidly
until the bird seems to have fairly got away, when it pulls up with
dramatic abruptness. The best attempt to reduce to writing the call of
this bird is that of Tickell: “_Turtuck, turtuck, turtuck, turtuck,
turtuck, turtuck, tukatu, chatuckatuckatuck._” This owlet calls in the
early part of the night and at intervals throughout the period of
darkness, and becomes most vociferous just before the approach of
“rosy-fingered dawn.”

Very different is the cry of the little scops owl (_Scops giu_). This
bird has none of that Gladstonian flow of eloquence which characterises
the spotted and the jungle owlets. His note is, however, more befitting
the dignity of an owl. He speaks only in monosyllables, and gives vent
to those with great deliberation. He sits on a bough and says “_wow_” in
a soft but decisive manner. When this pronouncement has had time to sink
into the ears of his listeners, he repeats “_wow_,” and continues to
sound this impressive monotone at intervals of a minute for several

The above are the three owls which are most often heard in the plains of
Northern India. Sometimes all three species, like the orators in Hyde
Park, address the world simultaneously from neighbouring trees.

There are numbers of other owls that disturb the stillness of the night
with more or less vigour, but it would be tedious, if not impossible, to
describe them all. It must suffice to make mention of the low, solemn
booming _durgoon durgoon_, of the huge rock-horned owl (_Bubo
bengalensis_) and the wheezy screech of the barn owl (_Strix flammea_).

Another call, often heard shortly before dawn, is doubtless usually
believed to be that of an owl. This is the deep, _whoot, whoot, whoot_
of the coucal or crow pheasant (_Centropus sinensis_), that curious
chocolate-winged black ground-cuckoo which builds its nest in a dense

Unfortunately for the peace of mankind the coucal is not the only cuckoo
that lifts up its voice in the night. Three species of cuckoo exist in
India which are nocturnal as owls, as diurnal as crows, and as noisy as
a German band. A couple of hours’ sleep in the hottest part of the day
appears to be ample for the needs of these super-birds. From this short
slumber they awake, like giants refreshed, to spend the greater portion
of the remaining two-and-twenty hours in shrieking at the top of their

Needless to state these three species are the brain-fever bird, the
koel, and the Indian cuckoo—a triumvirate that it is impossible to match
anywhere else in the world. Some there are who fail to distinguish
between these three giants, and who believe that they are but one bird
with an infinite variety of notes. This is not so. They are not one
bird, but three birds. Let us take them in order of merit.

The brain-fever bird or hawk cuckoo (_Hierococcyx varius_) is _facile
princeps_. In appearance it is very like a sparrow-hawk, and, but for
its voice, it might be mistaken for one. This species has two distinct
notes. The first of these is well described by Cunningham as a “highly
pitched, trisyllabic cry, repeated many times in ascending semitones
until one begins to think, as one sometimes does when a Buddhist is
repeating his ordinary formula of prayer, that the performer must surely
burst.” But the brain-fever bird never does burst. He seems to know to a
scruple how much he may with safety take out of himself. It is not
necessary to dilate upon this note. Have we not all listened to the
continued screams of “brain-fever, _brain-fever_, Brain-fever,” until we
began to fear for our reason? The other call is in no way inferior in
magnitude. It consists of a volley of single descending notes, uttered
with consummate ease—_facilis descensus_—which may or may not, at the
option of the performer, be followed by one or more mighty shouts of
Brain-fever. There is not an hour in the twenty-four during the hot
weather when this fiend does not make himself heard in the parts of the
country haunted by him. His range extends from Naini Tal to Tuticorin
and from Calcutta to Delhi. Assam, Sind, and the Punjab appear to be the
only portions of India free from this cuckoo.

The second of the great triumvirate is the Indian koel (_Eudynamis
honorata_). This noble fowl has three calls, each as powerful as the

The first is a crescendo _ku-il, ku-il, ku-il_, very pleasing to Indian
ears, but too powerful for the taste of Westerns. The second is well
described by Cunningham as an outrageous torrent of shouts, sounding
“_kuk, kŭū, kŭū, kŭū, kŭū, kŭū_,” repeated at brief intervals in tones
loud enough to wake the seven sleepers. When the bird thus calls its
whole body vibrates with the effort put forth. The third cry is uttered
only when the koel is being chased by angry crows, and is, as Cunningham
says, a mere cataract of shrill shrieks: “_Hekaree, karee_.”

For the benefit of those unacquainted with the ways of the koel it is
necessary to state that that bird spends much of its time fleeing before
the wrath of crows. It lays its eggs in the nests of these. And, if one
may judge from their behaviour, they suspect the koel. The other two
calls are heard at all hours of the day and night, and it makes no
difference to the koel whether it is the sun or the moon, or only the
stars that are shining. He is always merry and bright. The second call,
however, is usually reserved for the dawn. Hence this particular vocal
effort is rendered all the more exasperating, coming as it does
precisely at the time when, after the departure of a “sable-vested
night” straight from Dante’s Inferno, which has been embellished by the
sluggishness of the _punkawalla_, a certain degree of coolness sets in
to give some chance of a little refreshing sleep. Then is it that the
jaded dweller in the plains, uttering strange oaths, rushes for his gun
and seeks out the disturber of his slumber. In case there be any unable
to identify the koel, let it be said that the cock is black from head to
foot, that he possesses a wicked-looking red eye, that he is about the
size of a crow, but has a slighter body and a longer tail. The hen is
speckled black and white. This bird spares not even Sind or the Punjab.
It visits every part of the plains of India, wintering in the south and
summering in the north.

The third of the triumvirate, the common Indian cuckoo (_Cuculus
micropterus_), although in its way a very fine bird, is not of the same
calibre as its confrères. It stands to them in much the same relation as
Trinity College, Dublin, does to the Universities of Oxford and
Cambridge. It has quite a pleasant note, which Indians represent as
_Boutotaka_, but which is perhaps better rendered by the words
“wherefore, therefore,” repeated with musical cadence. It does not call
much during the middle of the day. It usually uplifts its voice about
two hours before sunset, and continues until the sun has been up for a
couple of hours. This cuckoo is very common in the Himalayas and in the
plains of India from Fyzabad to Calcutta. Fyzabad ought really to be
renamed Cuckooabad. It is the habitation of untold numbers of cuckoos.
There during the merry month of May the cuckoos spend the night chanting
anthems of which the refrain runs _kui-il, ku-il, ku-il, wherefore,
therefore, brain-fever, brain-fever, brain-fever_. The Indian cuckoo is
very like the English cuckoo in appearance, and it victimises the seven
sisters (_Crateropus canorus_) and other babblers, as does the
brain-fever bird.

The night-loving cuckoos have demanded so much space that the other
vocalists of the hours of darkness will have to be content with very
brief notice.

The night heron (_Nycticoran griseus_) makes the welkin ring with his
guttural cries of “_waak, waak_,” uttered as he flies after nightfall
from his roost to the pond where he will fish till morning. As he fishes
in silence the addition he makes to the noises of the night is not
great. The large family of plovers must be dismissed in a single
sentence. They, like many cuckoos, regard sleep as a luxury; hence their
plaintive cries are heard both by day and by night. The most familiar of
their calls is the “_did-he-do-it, pity-to-do-it_,” of the red-wattled
lapwing (_Sarcogrammus indicus_). The notes of the rest of his family
consist of variations of the words _titeri, titeri_.

In conclusion, mention must be made of the nightjars or goatsuckers, as
they are sometimes called after the fashion of the Romans, who believed
that these birds used to sally forth at night and milk goats. This
belief was based on two facts. First, the udders of goats were often
found to be empty in the morning; secondly, the broad gape possessed by
the nightjar. However, the character of these birds has now been
cleared. We know that their bills are wide in order to seize large
insects on the wing, and that if goats yield no milk in the morning it
is not the nightjar who is to blame. Nightjars are brownish grey birds,
mottled and barred all over like cuckoos, for which they are often
mistaken. Two are common in India. The first of these is _Caprimulgus
asiaticus_, the common Indian nightjar, whose call is heard only after
nightfall, and resembles the sound made by a stone skimming over ice.
The other nightjar is that of Horsfield (_Caprimulgus macrurus_). Its
note has been compared to the noise made by striking a plank with a
hammer. The distribution of nightjars is capricious. They are fairly
common in the western districts of the United Provinces.

Horsfield’s nightjar is abundant in the _sal_ forests of the Pilibhit


  _Accipiter nisus_, 70, 164
  _Acridotheres ginginianus_, 53, 113, 225-30
  — _tristis_, 113, 225-30, 241
  Adam, Mr. R. M., 222
  Adams, 77
  Adjutant, 86
  _Aegithina tiphia_, 213
  Aesalon chicquera, 117-20
  — _regulus_, 116, 117, 164
  Aitken, Mr. James, 154, 155
  _Alaudarius, Tinnunculus_, 164
  _Alba, Herodias_, 38
  —, _Motacilla_, 162
  _Albifrontata, Rhipidura_, 4, 214
  Albinos, 42
  _Anas boscas_, 64
  — _poecilorhyncha_, 40, 64
  _Anastomus oscitans_, 45
  _Anthus rufulus_, 6
  _Antigone, Grus_, 38, 197-203
  _Aquila bifasciata_, 164
  — _vindhiana_, 163
  _Arachnechthra asiatica_, 3, 99, 218-224
  — _lotenia_, 218
  — _zeylonica_, 218
  _Ardea cinerea_, 38
  _Ardeola grayii_, 85, 106-15
  _Argya caudata_, 65
  — _malcomi_, 51
  _Asiatica, Arachnechthra_, 3, 99, 218-24
  _Asiaticus, Caprimulgus_, 253
  _Astur badius_, 70, 164
  _Ater, Dicrurus_, 8, 41, 227, 236
  _Athene brama_, 246
  _Aurantius, Brachypternus_, 8
  _Auriceps, Dendrocopus_, 33
  Avocet, 44
  _Avocetta, Recurvirostra_, 44

  Babbler, grey, 51
  — jungle, 51
  — white-headed, 212
  _Badius, Astur_, 70
  _Bajra_, 178
  Baker, Stuart, 50, 91
  Bamboo sparrow, 77
  Banjo-bill, 44
  Bank myna, 53, 113, 182, 225-30, 235
  Banta, Mr., 242, 243
  Barbet, green, 8, 19
  Barn owl, 248
  — swallow, 151
  Barred-headed goose, 160
  _Batassiensis, Tachornis_, 215
  Batesian mimicry, 239
  _Baya, Ploceus_, 180
  Bay-backed shrike, 213
  Bee-eater, 6, 19, 98, 213, 215, 244
  — blue-tailed, 98, 156
  — little green, 98, 156
  _Belenois mesentina_, 241
  _Bengalensis, Bubo_, 248
  —, _Pseudogyps_, 6, 60
  Bingham, Col. C. T., 240
  Biology, peculiar position of, 238
  Birds and Butterflies, 238-45
  “Birds of Calcutta,” 224
  “Birds of the Plains,” 222
  _Birostris, Lophoceros_, 86-90
  Black-bellied tern, 40, 216
  Blackbird, 211
  —, Brewer, 242
  Black bulbul, 49
  Blackcap, 211
  Black-headed bunting, 179
  Black-winged kite, 165
  Blanford, Dr., 66, 223
  “Blue jay,” 119, 182, 216
  Blyth, 77, 123
  “Bombay Ducks,” 55
  Bonner, 57
  Bourdillon, Mr. T. F., 17
  _Brachypternus aurantius_, 8
  _Brachyura, Pitta_, 19
  Brahmany duck, 161
  — kite, 212
  — myna, 212, 217
  Brain-fever bird, 51, 80, 249
  _Brarna, Athene_, 246
  _Brassicae, Pieris_, 241
  Brewer blackbird, 242
  Brown fish owl, 175
  Brown-fronted pied woodpecker, 33
  Brown tree snake, 144
  Bryden, Mr. A. H., 236
  _Bubo bengalensis_, 248
  _Bubulcus coromandus_, 45
  _Buchanani, Emberiza_, 179
  Bulbul, 146, 147
  — (nightingale), 146
  — basta, 147
  — black, 49
  — bostha, 147
  — kola, 49
  —, red-vented, 163, 212
  —, red-whiskered, 4, 130-44
  Bulbuls’ nests, 130-44
  Bulbul, white-browed, 212
  — white-eared, 163
  Bunting, 178-81
  — black-headed, 179, 180
  Bunting, grey-necked, 178, 180
  — red-headed, 179, 180
  Bush chat, 182
  Bush-lark, 212
  Butcher-bird, 182, 213
  _Butreron_, 130
  Butterflies, Birds and, 238-45
  Buzzard, long-legged, 163

  _Caerulus, Elanus_, 165
  _Californica, Eugonia_, 242
  _Calvus, Otogyps_, 60, 235
  _Cambaiensis, Thamnobia_, 8, 162
  _Candidus, Himantopus_, 45
  _Canorus, Crateropus_, 51, 252
  —, _Cuculus_, 50, 53, 116
  _Caprimulgus asiaticus_, 253
  — _macrurus_, 253
  _Carpodacus erythrinus_, 75
  Cattle egret, 45, 212
  _Caudata, Argya_, 65
  _Centropus rufipennis_, 6
  — _sinensis_, 82, 248
  _Ceryle rudis_, 168
  _Ceylonensis, Culicicapa_, 5
  — _Ketupa_, 175
  Chaffinch, 211
  Chapman, Mr. Abel, 96
  Chat, Bush, 182
  _Chicquera, Aesalon_, 117
  Chloropsis, 19
  _Cinerea, Ardea_, 38
  _Coccystes jacobinus_, 48
  _Collaris, Corvus_, 231
  “Colour Meanings of some British Birds and Quadrupeds,” 188
  _Columbidæ_, 130, 172, 173
  Comb-duck, 40
  “Common Birds of Bombay, The,” 70
  _Communis, Coturnix_, 159
  Coppersmith, 212
  _Copscychus saularis_, 7
  _Coracias indica_, 119, 182
  Corby, 192, 236
  _Coromandelianus, Nettopus_, 39
  _Coromandus, Bubulcus_, 45
  Correlation of Characters, 47
  _Corvus collaris_, 231
  — _frugilegus_, 166
  — _macrorhynchus_, 192, 236
  — _monedula_, 166, 231-3
  — _splendens_, 165, 225, 231
  Cotton teal, 39
  _Coturnix communis_, 159
  Coucal, 82, 248
  “Country Life,” 28, 234
  “Country-side Monthly,” 66
  Crane, sarus, 38, 197-203
  _Crateropus canorus_, 51, 252
  Crested lark, 180
  Cripps, Mr. J. R., 17
  _Cristata, Galerita_, 180
  _Crocopus_, 130
  — _chlorogaster_, 127
  — _phoenicopterus_, 127
  Crow, 85, 100, 165, 192, 212, 225, 231, 236, 250
  — jungle, 212
  Crow-pheasant, 6, 82, 212
  Cuckoo, common, 116, 211
  — Indian, 251
  — pied crested, 48-54
  Cuckoo’s mate, 121
  Cuckooabad, 251
  _Cuculus canorus_, 30, 53, 116
  — _micropterus H._, 251
  _Culicicapa ceylonensis_, 5
  Cunningham, 172
  — Col., 249, 250
  Currie, Mr., 176, 177
  _Cyanocephalus, Euphagus_, 240
  — _Palaeornis_, 7
  _Cyornis tickelli_ T., 5

  Darter, Indian, 14-18
  Darwin, 20, 173
  _Daulias golzii_, 146, 148
  — _luscinia_, 146
  — _philomela_, 146
  _Demoleus Papilio_, 241
  _Dendrocitta rufa_, 236
  _Dendrocopus auriceps_, 33
  _Dhayal_, 9-13
  _Dicrurus ater_, 8, 227, 236
  Dimorphism, sexual, 172
  Display, nuptial, 187
  _Domesticus, Passer_, 82, 241
  Dove, 192, 211
  —, little brown, 212
  —, red turtle, 104, 172-7
  —, ring, 174
  —, spotted, 120, 212
  —, turtle, 174
  Drongo, 236
  _Dubius, Leptoptilus_, 86
  Duck, brahmany, 161
  —, comb, 40
  —, pintail, 161
  —, shoveller, 161
  —, spotbilled, 40, 64
  —, wild, 64

  Eagle, golden, 234
  —, Pallas’s fishing, 40
  —, steppe, 163, 164
  —, tawny, 163, 164
  Egret, 38
  —, cattle, 45, 212
  “Eha,” 70, 213, 216
  _Elanus caerulus_, 165
  _Emberiza buchanani_, 179
  — _luteola_, 180
  — _melaocephala_, 180
  _Emeria, Otocompsa_, 4, 131-44
  _Erythrinus carpodacus_, 75
  _Eudynamis honorata_, 51, 100, 250
  _Eugonia californica_, 242
  _Euphagus cyanocephalus_, 242
  Eyesight of birds, 80

  _Falco jugger_, 164
  —, _peregrinus_, 164
  Falcon, 69
  —, laggar, 164
  —, peregrine, 163, 164, 165
  Fan-tailed flycatcher, 4, 213, 214, 236
  “Field,” 193
  Fighting in nature, 234-237
  Finch, gold, 74
  — of roseate hue, 74-79
  — rose, 74-79
  Finn, 42, 45, 46, 224
  Firetail, 161, 162, 217
  Fishing eagle, 40
  Fish-owl, brown, 175
  _Flammea, Strix_, 248
  _Flammeus, Pericrocotus_, 21
  Flamingo, 19, 91-97
  _Flavicollis, Gymnorhis_, 105, 216
  Flycatcher, 211
  —, fantailed, 4, 213, 214, 236
  —, grey-headed, 5
  —, paradise, 45, 46, 100, 157, 215
  —, red-breasted, 5
  —, Tickell’s blue, 5
  “Food of Birds in India,” 228
  “Forest Creatures,” 57
  “Fortnightly Review,” 188, 189
  Frog, caught by kingfisher, 169
  _Frugilegus, Corvus_, 166
  Fry, Mr. J. T., 66
  _Fulicata, Thamnobia_, 214

  Gadwall, 161
  _Galerita cristata_, 180
  Garner, Dr., 25
  Garrod, Mr. A., 14
  George Gissing, 56
  _Gingalensis, Lophoceros_, 88
  _Ginginianus, Acridotheres_, 53
  —, _Neophron_, 55
  Gissing, George, 56
  _Giu, Scops_, 247
  _Glareola lactea_, 204-210
  _Glaucidium radiatum_, 247
  Goatsuckers, 252, 253
  Goldfinch, 74, 211
  Golden-backed woodpecker, 212
  Golden eagle, 234
  _Golzii, Daulias_, 146, 148
  Goose, barred-headed, 160
  —, grey-lag, 160
  _Grayii, Ardeola_, 85, 106-15
  Green finch, 211
  — parrot, 181, 215
  — pigeon, 19, 126-30
  Grey-headed myna, 217
  — wagtail, 217
  Grey hornbill, 86-90
  — lag goose, 160
  Grey-necked bunting, 179
  Grey wagtail, 28, 162, 167
  _Griseus, Nycticorax_, 109, 252
  _Grus antigone_, 38, 197-203
  — _sharpii_, 197
  _Gulabi maina_, 158
  _Gymnorhis flavicollis_, 105, 216

  Hafiz, 147
  _Haliaetus leucoryphus_, 40
  Harrial, 128
  Harrier, 183
  Hartert, Dr., 148
  Hawks, light-eyed, 69
  —, dark-eyed, 69
  —, long-winged, 69
  —, short-winged, 69
  Hawk-cuckoo, 249
  Hedge-sparrow, 53, 211
  _Herodias alba_, 38
  Heron, 38
  —, night, 109, 157, 252
  —, pond, 106
  _Hierococcyx varius_, 51, 80, 100, 249
  _Himantopus candidus_, 44
  _Hipsas trigonata_, 144
  _Hirundo filifera_, 153
  — _rustica_, 150, 151, 152
  — _smithii_, 152
  Honeysucker, 99, 218
  _Honorata, Eudynamis_, 51, 100, 250
  Hoopoe, 83, 90, 117, 185-96, 212
  Hornbill, 86
  —, grey, 86-90
  Horne, Mr., 90
  Horsfield’s nightjar, 253
  House-martin, 154
  Hume, 72, 90, 118, 148, 176, 198, 200, 207, 209
  Humming-birds, 218
  _Hypsipetes_, 49

  _Ibis melanocephala_, 44
  Ibis, white, 44
  _Ilerdi sena_, 241
  “Indian Birds,” 219
  _Indica, Coracias_, 119, 182
  —, _Upupa_, 83, 185-96
  _Indicus, Sarcogrammus_, 128, 252
  Injury-feigning instinct, 22, 207
  Instinct, injury-feigning, 22, 207
  _Intermedius, Molpastes_, 163
  Iora, 212, 213
  _Ismene, Melanitis_, 241
  _Isocrates, Virachola_, 241
  _Iynx torquilla_, 121

  Jackdaw, 166, 231-3
  Jack snipe, 161
  _Jacobinus, Coccystes_, 48
  _Javanica, Dendrocynca_, 40
  Jay, blue, 119
  Jefferies, Richard, 211, 212, 216
  Jerdon, 16, 77, 91, 105, 119, 181, 205, 223, 232, 233
  Jesse, Mr. William, 23, 24, 230, 235
  Jhil out of season, 37-41
  Jungle owlet, 247

  Kestrel, 163, 164, 165
  _Ketupa ceylonensis_, 175
  Kipling, 232
  Kipling, Lockwood, 215
  King-crow, 8, 41, 104, 182, 185, 212, 227, 241
  Kingfisher, 19, 167-71
  —, common, 212
  —, pied, 168
  —, white-breasted, 212
  King vulture, 60
  Kite, black-winged, 165
  —, brahmany, 212
  —, common, 212
  Koel, 50, 51, 100, 157, 212, 250
  Kola bulbul, 49

  _Lactea, Glareola_, 204-10
  Laggar falcon, 164
  Language of birds and beasts, 25
  _Lanius vittatus_, 213
  Lankester, Sir E. Ray, 129
  Lapwing, red-wattled, 128, 252
  Largest bird in India, the, 197-203
  Lark, 211
  Laughing-thrush, Himalayan, 53
  Lawn, birds on the, 80-5
  _Leptoptilus dubius_, 86
  _Leucorodia, Platalea_, 44
  _Leucoryphus, Haliaetus_, 40
  _Leucotis, Molpastes_, 147
  Linnet, 211
  _Liopicus mahrattensis_, 31-6
  Long, Mr. Walter, 194
  _Lophoceros birostris_, 86-90
  — _gingalensis_, 88
  Loten’s sunbird, 212, 218-24
  _Luscinia, Daulias_, 146
  _Luteola, Emberiza_, 180

  Macpherson, Mr. J., 66
  _Macrorhynchus, Corvus_, 192, 236
  _Macrurus, Caprimulgus_, 253
  Madras garden, the birds of a, 211-7
  _Maderaspatensis, Motacilla_, 162, 214
  Magpie-robin, 7, 9-13, 216
  _Mahrattensis, Liopicus_, 31-6
  _Maina, golabi_, 158
  “Making of Species, The,” 42, 240
  _Malcomi, Argya_, 51
  Mallard, 64
  Marshall, Col., 66
  —, Mr. G. A. K., 242
  Martin, house, 154
  —, sand, 211
  Mason, Mr. C. W., 228, 240, 241
  Mate, cuckoo’s, 121
  _Maura, Pratincola_, 182
  _Melanicterus, Melophus_, 180
  _Melanitis ismene_, 241
  _Melanocephala, Emberiza_, 180
  _Melanocephala, Ibis_, 44
  _Melanocephalus, Oriolus_, 4
  _Melanogaster, Plotus_, 14-18
  —, _Sterna_, 40, 206
  _Melanotus, Sarcidornis_, 40
  _Melophus melanicterus_, 180
  Merlin, 116-20, 163, 164
  —, red-headed, 117-20, 164
  _Merops philippinus_, 98
  — _viridis_, 6, 98, 215, 241
  _Mesentina, Belenois_, 241
  Michelet, 59
  _Micropterus, Cuculus_, 251
  Millet fields, Birds in the, 178-84
  Mimicry, 52, 243
  —, Batesian, 239
  —, Mullerian, 239
  —, protective, 10, 239
  Minivet, 19-24
  Missel-thrush, 211
  _Moda nulingadu_, 125
  _Molpastes_, 147
  — _intermedius_, 163
  — _leucotis_, 147, 163
  _Monedula, Corvus_, 166, 231
  Morgan, Mr. R. W., 222
  _Motacilla alba_, 162
  — _maderaspatensis_, 162, 214
  — _melanope_, 162
  Mullerian mimicry, 239
  Munia, white-throated, 216
  Mutation, 46, 64, 174, 225
  Myna, bank, 53, 113, 182, 225-30
  —, brahmany, 212, 217
  —, common, 67, 84, 113, 182, 183, 212, 225-30
  —, grey-headed, 217
  —, pied, 85, 182

  Natural Selection, 53, 173, 174, 236, 240, 243
  “Nature,” 242
  _Neophron ginginianus_, 60
  “Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds,” 90
  _Nettopus coromandelianus_, 39
  Newton, Sir Isaac, 139
  Nightingales in India, 145-9
  Nightingale, Persian, 146, 147
  Nightjar, 252, 253
  —, common Indian, 253
  —, Horsfield’s, 253
  _Nisus Accipiter_, 70
  _Nulingadu, Moda_, 125
  Nuptial display, 187
  _Nycticorax griseus_, 109, 252

  Oates, 148, 231
  _Oenopopelia tranquebarica_, 104, 173
  Open-bill, 45
  Orange minivet, 21
  Oriole, 4, 103, 157, 217
  _Oriolus kundoo_, 103
  — _melanocephalus_, 4
  _Orthotomus sutorius_, 7
  _Oscitans, Anastomus_, 45
  _Osmosteros_, 130
  _Otocompsa_, 147
  —, _emeria_, 4, 131-44
  _Otogyps calvus_, 60, 235
  Owl, barn, 248
  —, brown fish, 175
  —, rock-horned, 248
  —, scops, 247
  Owlet, jungle, 247
  —, spotted, 212, 246
  Oyler, Mr. Philip, 188, 189

  Paddy bird, 85, 106-15, 212
  _Palaeornis cyanocephalus_, 7
  — _torquatus_, 181, 215
  Pallas’s fishing eagle, 40
  Palm swift, 213, 215
  _Pammon, Papilio_, 241
  _Papilio demoleus_, 241
  — _pammon_, 241
  Paradise flycatcher, 45, 46, 102, 157
  _Paradisi, Terpsiphone_, 45, 102, 215
  Parakeet, 7, 19, 181, 213
  Parrot, green, 181, 215
  _Parva, Siphia_, 5
  _Passer domesticus_, 82, 178, 241
  _Pastor roseus_, 158, 189
  Peafowl, 19
  Peregrine falcon, 164, 165
  _Pericrocotus flammeus_, 21
  — _peregrinus_, 21
  Persian nightingale, 146, 147
  _Phasianidæ_, 172
  Pheasant, 19
  _Philippinus, Merops_, 98
  _Philomela, Daulias_, 146
  Phil Robinson, 55
  _Phoenicopterus minor_, 92
  —, _roseus_, 91-7
  —, _Crocopus_, 127
  _Phylloscopus tristis_, 7
  Pied crested cuckoo, 48-54
  — kingfisher, 168
  — myna, 85, 182
  — wagtail, 162, 3, 213, 214
  Pigeon, green, 19, 126-30
  —, Bengal, 127
  Pigeon, southern, 127
  Pintail duck, 161
  Piping crow, 232
  Pipit, 6
  Pitta, 19, 216
  _Pitta brachyura_, 19
  _Platalea leucorodia_, 44
  _Ploceus baya_, 180
  _Plotus melanogaster_, 14-8
  Pochard, 161
  _Poecilorhyncha, Anas_, 40, 64
  Polar regions, birds of, 42
  Pond heron, 106
  _Pondicerianus, Tephridornis_, 214
  Porphyrio, 19
  Poulton, Professor, 129, 240, 242, 243
  _Pratincola maura_, 182
  Pratincole, 204-10
  Protective mimicry, 10, 239, 243
  _Pseudogyps bengalensis_, 6, 60, 235
  Purple-rumped sunbird, 212, 218-24
  Purple sunbird, 218-24

  Quail, common, 159

  _Radiatum, Glaucidium_, 247
  _Raj Hans_, 97
  Rat bird, 65
  Raven, 165, 231, 232, 234
  Ray Lankester, Sir E., 129
  _Recurvirostra avocetta_, 44
  Redstart, 211
  —, Indian, 4, 161, 162, 217
  Red turtle-dove, 104, 172-7
  Red-vented bulbul, 156, 163, 212
  Red-wattled lapwing, 128, 252
  _Regulus Aesalon_, 116, 117, 164
  _Rhipidura albifrontata_, 4, 214
  Ring dove, 174
  Robin, black-backed, 63
  —, brown-backed, 8, 63
  —, Indian, 61-68, 162, 212, 214
  Robinson, Phil, 55, 162, 174
  Rock-horned owl, 248
  Roller, 19, 119, 182, 185, 216
  Rook, 25, 166, 211, 231, 232
  Rose-finch, 74-9
  Roseate hue, finch of, 74-79
  _Roseus, Pastor_, 158, 181
  Rosy starling, 158, 181
  _Rudis ceryle_, 168
  _Rufa, Dendrocitta_, 236
  _Rufipennis, Centropus_, 6
  _Rufiventris, Ruticilla_, 4, 161
  _Rufulus, Anthus_, 6
  _Ruticilla rufiventris_, 4, 161

  Sand martin, 211
  Saras crane, 38, 197-203
  _Sarcidiornis melanotus_, 40
  _Sarcogrammus indicus_, 128, 252
  “Saturday Review,” 94
  _Saularis, Copsychus_, 7, 9-13
  “School of the Woods,” 194
  _Scops giu_, 247
  Scops owl, 247
  _Seena, Sterna_, 167
  Selection, Natural, 53, 173, 174, 236, 240, 243
  Selous, Mr. Edmund, 25, 78
  _Sena, Ilerda_, 241
  “Seven sisters,” 252
  Sexual dimorphism, 172
  Shah bulbul, 216
  Shama, 11
  _Sharpii, Grus_, 197
  Shikra, 69-73, 164
  Shoveller, 161
  _Sinensis, Centropus_, 82, 248
  _Siphia parva_, 5
  Skylark, 116
  Snake, brown tree, 144
  Snake-bird, 14-8
  Snipe, common, 161
  —, jack, 161
  Sparrow, 82, 211
  Sparrow, yellow-throated, 105, 157, 216
  Sparrow-hawk, 69, 70, 163, 164
  “Species, The Making of,” 43
  Sphenocercus, 130
  _Splendens, Corvus_, 165, 225, 231
  Spoonbill, 44
  Spot-billed duck, 40, 63
  Spotted dove, 120, 212
  — owlet, 212, 246
  Sprosser, 146
  Squirrel, little striped, 72
  Stanley, Bishop, 96, 97, 124, 232, 233
  Starling, 159, 182, 211
  —, rose-coloured, 19, 158, 181
  —, rosy, 19, 158, 181
  Steppe eagle, 163
  _Sterna melanogaster_, 40, 206
  — _seena_, 107
  Stilt, 44
  Stone chat, 211
  _Strix flammea_, 248
  Stuart Baker, 50, 91
  _Sturnopastor, contra_, 85
  Sunbird, 3, 19, 99, 212, 218-24
  —, Loten’s, 212, 218-24
  —, purple, 218-24
  —, purple-rumped, 212, 218-24
  _Suratensis, Turtur_, 120
  _Sutorius, Orthotomus_, 7
  _Swala ladu_, 151
  Swallow, barn, 151
  —, common, 150, 151, 205
  —, wire-tailed, 149-56
  Swallow-plover, 204-10
  Swift, 153
  —, palm, 213, 215
  Swynnerton, Mr. C. F. M., 243, 244
  Sykes’s warbler, 217

  _Tachornis batassiensis_, 215
  Tailor-bird, 7, 212
  Tawny eagle, 163, 164
  Taylor, Mr. Alfred, 28
  Teal, 161
  —, cotton, 39
  —, whistling, 40
  _Tephrodornis pondicerianus_, 214
  Tern, 45, 167-71, 204-10
  —, black-bellied, 49, 206
  _Terpsiphone paradisi_, 45, 102, 215
  _Thamnobia_, 61
  — _cambaiensis_, 8, 63, 162
  — _fulicata_, 63, 214
  Thayer, Mr. A., 97, 188
  _Thereiceryx zeylonicus_, 8
  Thompson, Mr. R., 120
  Thought, power of animals to express, 25-30
  —, transmission of, 26
  Thrush, 211
  —, missel, 211
  Tickell, 247
  _Tickelli, Cyornis_, 5
  _Tilyer_, 158
  _Tinnunculus alaudarius_, 164
  _Tiphia, Ægithina_, 213
  Titmice, 211
  Tomtit, 211
  _Torquatus, Palaeornis_, 181, 215
  _Torquilla, Iynx_, 121
  _Tranquebarica, Œnopopilia_, 104, 173
  Tree-snake, brown, 144
  _Treron_, 130
  _Trigonata, Hipsas_, 144
  _Tristis, Acridotheres_, 113
  —, _Phylloscopus_, 7
  Turtle-dove, 174
  —, red, 104, 172, 177
  _Turtur suratensis_, 120
  _Turumti_, 117-20, 164
  _Tuti_, 76

  _Upupa indica_, 83, 185-96

  _Varius, Hierococcyx_, 51, 80, 100, 249
  Verner, Col. Willoughby, 94
  _Virachola isocrates_, 241
  _Viridis, Merops_, 6, 98, 241
  Visitors, winter, to the Punjab Plains, 157-66
  _Vittatus, Lanius_, 213
  Voices of the Night, 246-53
  Vulture, 55-60
  —, black, 60, 235
  —, domestic, 55
  —, king, 60
  —, Pondicherry, 60
  —, scavenger, 55, 60
  —, white-backed, 60, 235

  Wagtail, 85
  —, grey, 28, 162, 167
  —, grey-headed, 217
  —, pied, 162, 213, 214
  —, water, 211
  —, white, 162
  Wallace, 20, 129
  Wallaceian theory, 127, 173
  Warbler, 7
  —, Sykes’s, 217
  —, willow, 7
  Water-wagtail, 211
  Watt, James, 139
  Westell, Mr., 233
  White, Gilbert, 149, 150, 151
  —, Birds in, 42-7
  — ibis, 44
  — wagtail, 162
  — backed vulture, 60, 235
  — breasted kingfisher, 212
  — browed bulbul, 212
  — eared bulbul, 163
  — headed babbler, 212
  — throated munia, 216
  “Wild Life in a Southern County,” 211
  Willow-warbler, 7
  Winter visitors to the Punjab Plains, 157-66
  Wire-tailed swallow, 149-56
  Woodpecker, golden-backed, 8, 212
  —, pied, 31-6
  Wood-pigeon, 211
  Wood-shrike, 214
  Wren, 211
  Wryneck, 121-25

  Yellow-fronted pied woodpecker, 31-6
  Yellow-hammer, 179
  Yellow-throated sparrow, 105, 157, 216
  Yerbury, Colonel, 240

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  people are always asking as to how tapestries differ from paintings,
  and good tapestries from bad tapestries. It will interest lovers of
  paintings and rugs and history and fiction, for it shows how
  tapestries compare with paintings in picture interest, with rugs in
  texture interest, and with historic and other novels in romantic
  interest; presenting on a magnificent scale the stories of the Iliad
  and the Odyssey, the Æneid and the Metamorphoses, the Bible and the
  Saints, Ancient and Medieval History and Romance. In a word, the book
  is indispensable to lovers of art and literature in general, as well
  as to tapestry amateurs, owners and dealers.

FROM STUDIO TO STAGE. By Weedon Grossmith. With 32 full-page
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 16s. net.

  ⁂ Justly famous as a comedian of unique gifts, Mr. Weedon Grossmith is
  nevertheless an extremely versatile personality, whose interests are
  by no means confined to the theatre. These qualities have enabled him
  to write a most entertaining book. He gives an interesting account of
  his early ambitions and exploits as an artist, which career he
  abandoned for that of an actor. He goes on to describe some of his
  most notable rôles, and lets us in to little intimate glimpses “behind
  the scenes,” chats pleasantly about all manner of celebrities in the
  land of Bohemia and out of it, tells many amusing anecdotes, and like
  a true comedian is not bashful when the laugh is against himself. The
  book is well supplied with interesting illustrations, some of them
  reproductions of the author’s own work.

of “The House in St. Martin Street,” “Juniper Hall,” etc. With numerous
Illustrations by Ellen G. Hill and reproductions of contemporary
Portraits, etc. Demy 8vo. 16s. net.

  ⁂ This book deals with the Court life of Fanny Burney covering the
  years 1786-91, and therefore forms a link between the two former works
  on Fanny Burney by the same writer, viz. “The House in St. Martin
  Street,” and “Juniper Hall.” The writer has been fortunate in
  obtaining much unpublished material from members of the Burney family
  as well as interesting contemporary portraits and relics. The scene of
  action in this work is constantly shifting—now at Windsor, now at Kew,
  now sea-girt at Weymouth, and now in London; and the figures that pass
  before our eyes are endowed with a marvellous vitality by the pen of
  Fanny Burney. When the court was at St. James’s the Keeper of the
  Robes had opportunities of visiting her own family in St. Martin
  Street, and also of meeting at the house of her friend Mrs. Ord
  “everything delectable in the blue way.” Thither Horace Walpole would
  come in all haste from Strawberry Hill for the sole pleasure of
  spending an evening in her society. After such a meeting Fanny
  writes—“he was in high spirits, polite, ingenious, entertaining,
  quaint and original.” A striking account of the King’s illness in the
  winter of 1788-9 is given, followed by the widespread rejoicings for
  his recovery; when London was ablaze with illuminations that extended
  for many miles around, and when “even the humblest dwelling exhibited
  its rush-light.” The author and the illustrator of this work have
  visited the various places, where King George and Queen Charlotte
  stayed when accompanied by Fanny Burney. Among these are Oxford,
  Cheltenham, Worcester, Weymouth and Dorchester; where sketches have
  been made, or old prints discovered, illustrative of those towns in
  the late 18th century savours of Georgian days. There the national
  flag may still be seen as it appeared before the union.

Browning. Illustrated. Demy 8vo. 14s. net.

THE STORY OF DON JOHN OF AUSTRIA. By Padre Luis Coloma, S.J., of the
Real Academia Española. Translated by Lady Moreton. With Illustrations.
Demy 8vo. 16_s._ net.

  ⁂ “A new type of book, half novel and half history,” as it is very
  aptly called in a discourse delivered on the occasion of Padre
  Coloma’s election to the Academia de España, the story of the heroic
  son of Charles V. is retold by one of Spain’s greatest living writers
  with a vividness and charm all his own. The childhood of Jeromin,
  afterwards Don John of Austria reads like a mysterious romance. His
  meteoric career is traced through the remaining chapters of the book;
  first as the attractive youth; the cynosure of all eyes that were
  bright and gay at the court of Philip II., which Padre Coloma
  maintains was less austere than is usually supposed; then as conqueror
  of the Moors, culminating as the “man from God” who saved Europe from
  the terrible peril of a Turkish dominion; triumphs in Tunis; glimpses
  of life in the luxury loving Italy of the day; then the sad story of
  the war in the Netherlands, when our hero, victim of an infamous
  conspiracy, is left to die of a broken heart; his end hastened by
  fever, and, maybe, by the “broth of Doctor Ramirez.” Perhaps more
  fully than ever before is laid bare the intrigue which led to the
  cruel death of the secretary, Escovedo, including the dramatic
  interview between Philip II. and Antonio Perez, in the lumber room of
  the Escorial. A minute account of the celebrated _auto da fe_ in
  Valladolid cannot fail to arrest attention, nor will the details of
  several of the imposing ceremonies of Old Spain be less welcome than
  those of more intimate festivities in the Madrid of the sixteenth
  century, or of everyday life in a Spanish castle.

  ⁂ “This book has all the fascination of a vigorous _roman à clef_ . .
  . the translation is vigorous and idiomatic.”—_Mr. Owen Edwards in
  Morning Post._

Nineteen Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 16_s._ net. Third Edition.

  ⁂ It is a novel idea for an author to give her reasons for taking up
  her pen as a journalist and writer of books. This Mrs. Alec Tweedie
  has done in “Thirteen Years of a Busy Woman’s Life.” She tells a
  dramatic story of youthful happiness, health, wealth, and then
  contrasts that life with the thirteen years of hard work that followed
  the loss of her husband, her father, and her income in quick
  succession in a few weeks. Mrs. Alec Tweedie’s books of travel and
  biography are well-known, and have been through many editions, even to
  shilling copies for the bookstalls. This is hardly an autobiography,
  the author is too young for that, but it gives romantic, and tragic
  peeps into the life of a woman reared in luxury, who suddenly found
  herself obliged to live on a tiny income with two small children, or
  work—and work hard—to retain something of her old life and interests.
  It is a remarkable story with many personal sketches of some of the
  best-known men and women of the day.

  ⁂ “One of the gayest and sanest surveys of English society we have
  read for years.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._

  ⁂ “A pleasant laugh from cover to cover.”—_Daily Chronicle._

Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ The author of this book of essays on the intercourse between England
  and France in the seventeenth century has gathered much curious and
  little-known information. How did the travellers proceed from London
  to Paris? Did the Frenchmen who came over to England learn, and did
  they ever venture to write English? An almost unqualified admiration
  for everything French then prevailed: French tailors, milliners,
  cooks, even fortune-tellers, as well as writers and actresses, reigned
  supreme. How far did gallomania affect the relations between the two
  countries? Among the foreigners who settled in England none exercised
  such varied influence as the Hugenots; students of Shakespeare and
  Milton can no longer ignore the Hugenot friends of the two poets,
  historians of the Commonwealth must take into account the “Nouvelles
  ordinaires de Londres.” the French gazette, issued on the Puritan
  side, by some enterprising refugee. Is it then possible to determine
  how deeply the refugees impressed English thought? Such are the main
  questions to which the book affords an answer. With its numerous
  hitherto unpublished documents and illustrations, drawn from
  contemporary sources, it cannot fail to interest those to whom a most
  brilliant and romantic period in English history must necessarily

THE VAN EYCKS AND THEIR ART. By W. H. James Weale, with the co-operation
of Maurice Brockwell. With numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 12_s._
6_d._ net.

  ⁂ The large book on “Hubert and John Van Eyck” which Mr. Weale
  published in 1908 through Mr. John Lane was instantly recognised by
  the reviewers and critics as an achievement of quite exceptional
  importance. It is now felt that the time has come for a revised and
  slightly abridged edition of that which was issued four years ago at
  £5 5s. net. The text has been compressed in some places and extended
  in others, while certain emendations have been made, and after due
  reflection, the plan of the book has been materially recast. This
  renders it of greater assistance to the student.

  The large amount of research work and methodical preparation of a
  revised text obliged Mr. Weale, through failing health and eyesight,
  to avail himself of the services of Mr. Brockwell, and Mr. Weale gives
  it as his opinion in the new Foreword that he doubts whether he could
  have found a more able collaborator than Mr. Brockwell to edit this

  “The Van Eycks and their Art,” so far from being a mere reprint at a
  popular price of “Hubert and John Van Eyck,” contains several new
  features, notable among which are the inclusion of an Appendix giving
  details of all the sales at public auction in any country from 1662 to
  1912 of pictures reputed to be by the Van Eycks. An entirely new and
  ample Index has been compiled, while the bibliography, which extends
  over many pages, and the various component parts of the book have been
  brought abreast of the most recent criticism. Detailed arguments are
  given for the first time of a picture attributed to one of the
  brothers Van Eyck in a private collection in Russia.

  In conclusion it must be pointed out that Mr. Weale has, with
  characteristic care, read through the proofs and passed the whole book
  for press.

  The use of a smaller _format_ and of thinner paper renders the present
  edition easier to handle as a book of reference.

COKE OF NORFOLK AND HIS FRIENDS. The Life of Thomas Coke, First Earl of
Leicester and of Holkham. By A. M. W. Stirling. New Edition, revised,
with some additions. With 19 Illustrations. In one volume. Demy 8vo.
12_s._ 6_d._ net.

THE EMPRESS JOSEPHINE. By Joseph Turquan. Author of “The Love Affairs of
Napoleon,” “The Wife of General Bonaparte.” Illustrated. Demy 8vo.
12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ “The Empress Josephine” continues and completes the graphically
  drawn life story begun in “The Wife of General Bonaparte” by the same
  author, takes us through the brilliant period of the Empire, shows us
  the gradual development and the execution of the Emperor’s plan to
  divorce his middle-aged wife, paints in vivid colours the picture of
  Josephine’s existence after her divorce, tells us how she, although
  now nothing but his friend, still met him occasionally and
  corresponded frequently with him, and how she passed her time in the
  midst of her miniature court. This work enables us to realise the very
  genuine affection which Napoleon possessed for his first wife, an
  affection which lasted till death closed her eyes in her lonely
  hermitage at La Malmaison, and until he went to expiate at Saint
  Helena his rashness in braving all Europe. Comparatively little is
  known of the period covering Josephine’s life after her divorce, and
  yet M. Turquan has found much to tell us that is very interesting; for
  the ex-Empress in her two retreats, Navarre and La Malmaison, was
  visited by many celebrated people, and after the Emperor’s downfall
  was so ill-judged as to welcome and fete several of the vanquished
  hero’s late friends, now his declared enemies. The story of her last
  illness and death forms one of the most interesting chapters in this
  most complete work upon the first Empress of the French.

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. 42s. net.

_Also an Edition de Luxe._ 10 guineas net.

“Napoleon’s Campaign in Poland,” “Napoleon’s Conquest of Prussia,” etc.
With 17 Maps and Plans. Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ In the author’s two first histories of Napoleon’s campaigns (1806
  and 1807) the Emperor is at his greatest as a soldier. The third
  (1809) showed the commencement of the decay of his genius. Now, in
  1813, he has seriously declined. The military judgment of Napoleon,
  the general, is constantly fettered by the pride and obstinacy of
  Napoleon, the Emperor. The military principles which guided him up to
  1807 are frequently abandoned; he aims at secondary objectives, or
  mere geographical points, instead of solely at the destruction of the
  enemy’s army; he hesitates and fails to grasp the true situation in a
  way that was never known in his earlier campaigns. Yet frequently, as
  at Bautsen and Dresden, his genius shines with all its old brilliance.

  The campaign of 1813 exhibits the breakdown of his over-centralised
  system of command, which left him without subordinates capable of
  exercising semi-independent command over portions of armies which had
  now grown to dimensions approaching those of our own day.

  The autumn campaign is a notable example of the system of interior
  lines, as opposed to that of strategical envelopment. It marks, too,
  the real downfall of Napoleon’s power, for, after the fearful
  destruction of 1813, the desperate struggle of 1814, glorious though
  it was, could never have any real probability of success.

With 32 Full-page Illustrations. With an Introduction by Mrs. John Lane.
Demy 8vo. 12_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ Franklin, Jefferson, Munroe, Tom Paine, La Fayette, Paul Jones,
  etc., etc., the most striking figures of a heroic age, working out in
  the City of Light the great questions for which they stood, are dealt
  with here. Longfellow the poet of the domestic affections; matchless
  Margaret Fuller who wrote so well of women in the nineteenth century;
  Whistler master of American artists; Saint-Gaudens chief of American
  sculptors; Rumford, most picturesque of scientific knight-errants and
  several others get a chapter each for their lives and achievements in
  Paris. A new and absorbing interest is opened up to visitors. Their
  trip to Versailles becomes more pleasurable when they realise what
  Franklyn did at that brilliant court. The Place de la Bastille becomes
  a sacred place to Americans realizing that the principles of the young
  republic brought about the destruction of the vilest old dungeon in
  the world. The Seine becomes silvery to the American conjuring up that
  bright summer morning when Robert Fulton started from the Place de la
  Concorde in the first steam boat. The Louvre takes on a new attraction
  from the knowledge that it houses the busts of Washington and Franklyn
  and La Fayette by Houdon. The Luxembourg becomes a greater temple of
  art to him who knows that it holds Whistler’s famous portrait of his
  mother. Even the weather-beaten bookstalls by the banks of the Seine
  become beautiful because Hawthorne and his son loitered among them on
  sunny days sixty years ago. The book has a strong literary flavour.
  Its history is enlivened with anecdote. It is profusely illustrated.

MEMORIES OF JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER: The Artist. By Thomas R. Way. Author
of “The Lithographs of J. M. Whistler,” etc. With numerous
Illustrations. Demy 4to. 10_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ This volume contains about forty illustrations, including an
  unpublished etching drawn by Whistler and bitten in by Sir Frank
  Short, A.R.A., an original lithograph sketch, seven lithographs in
  colour drawn by the Author upon brown paper, and many in black and
  white. The remainder are facsimiles by photo-lithography. In most
  cases the originals are drawings and sketches by Whistler which have
  never been published before, and are closely connected with the matter
  of the book. The text deals with the Author’s memories of nearly
  twenty year’s close association with Whistler, and he endeavours to
  treat only with the man as an artist, and perhaps, especially as a

  * Also an Edition de Luxe on hand-made paper, with the etching printed
  from the original plate. Limited to 50 copies.

  * This is Out of Print with the Publisher.

in the Cause of Music. Compiled by Myles Birket Foster, F.R.A.M., etc.
With 16 Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 10_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ As the Philharmonic Society, whose Centenary is now being
  celebrated, is and has ever been connected, during its long existence,
  with the history of musical composition and production, not only in
  this country, but upon the Continent, and as every great name in
  Europe and America in the last hundred years (within the realm of
  high-class music), has been associated with it, this volume will, it
  is believed, prove to be an unique work, not only as a book of
  reference, but also as a record of the deepest interest to all lovers
  of good music. It is divided into ten Decades, with a small narrative
  account of the principal happenings in each, to which are added the
  full programmes of every concert, and tables showing, at a glance, the
  number and nationality of the performers and composers, with other
  particulars of interest. The book is made of additional value by means
  of rare illustrations of MS. works specially composed for the Society,
  and of letters from Wagner, Berlioz, Brahms, Liszt, etc., etc.,
  written to the Directors and, by their permission, reproduced for the
  first time.

IN PORTUGAL. By Aubrey F. G. Bell. Author of “The Magic of Spain.” Demy
8vo. 7_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ The guide-books give full details of the marvellous convents,
  gorgeous palaces, and solemn temples of Portugal, and no attempt is
  here made to write complete descriptions of them, the very name of
  some of them being omitted. But the guide-books too often treat
  Portugal as a continuation, almost as a province of Spain. It is hoped
  that this little book may give some idea of the individual character
  of the country, of the quaintnesses of its cities, and of peasant life
  in its remoter districts. While the utterly opposed characters of the
  two peoples must probably render the divorce between Spain and
  Portugal eternal, and reduce hopes of union to the idle dreams of
  politicians. Portugal in itself contains an infinite variety. Each of
  the eight provinces (more especially those of the _alemtejanos_,
  _minhotos_ and _beiröes_) preserves many peculiarities of language,
  customs, and dress; and each will, in return for hardships endured,
  give to the traveller many a day of delight and interest.

K.C.C., etc. Demy 8vo. 7_s._ 6_d._ net.

  ⁂ “From the author of ‘Tales of Old Japan’ his readers always hope for
  more about Japan, and in this volume they will find it. The earlier
  papers, however, are not to be passed over.”—_Times._

  ⁂ “Lord Redesdale’s present volume consists of scholarly essays on a
  variety of subjects of historic, literary and artistic

  ⁂ “The author of the classic ‘Tales of Old Japan’ is assured of
  welcome, and the more so when he returns to the field in which his
  literary reputation was made. Charm is never absent from his
  pages.”—_Daily Chronicle._

MY LIFE IN PRISON. By Donald Lowrie. Crown 8vo. 6_s._ net.

  ⁂ This book is absolutely true and vital. Within its pages passes the
  myriorama of prison life. And within its pages may be found
  revelations of the divine and the undivine; of strange humility and
  stranger arrogance; of free men brutalized and caged men humanized; of
  big and little tragedies; of love, cunning, hate, despair, hope. There
  is humour, too though sometimes the jest is made ironic by its sequel.
  And there is romance—the romance of the real; not the romance of
  Kipling’s 9.15, but the romance of No. 19,093, and of all the other
  numbers that made up the arithmetical hell of San Quentin prison.

  Few novels could so absorb interest. It is human utterly. That is the
  reason. Not only is the very atmosphere of the prison preserved, from
  the colossal sense of encagement and defencelessness, to the smaller
  jealousies, exultations and disappointments; not only is there a
  succession of characters emerging into the clearest individuality and
  genuineness,—each with its distinctive contribution and separate
  value; but beyond the details and through all the contrasted variety,
  there is the spell of complete drama,—the drama of life. Here is the
  underworld in continuous moving pictures, with the overworld watching.
  True, the stage is a prison; but is not all the world a stage?

  It is a book that should exercise a profound influence on the lives of
  the caged, and on the whole attitude of society toward the problems of
  poverty and criminality.

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. 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 Hunsdon. 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.

Chamberlain. A Translation from the German by John Lees. With an
Introduction by Lord Redesdale. Demy 8vo. 2 vols. 25s. net. Second

  ⁂ “A man who can write such a really beautiful and solemn appreciation
  of true Christianity, of true acceptance of Christ’s teachings and
  personality, as Mr. Chamberlain has done. . . . represents an
  influence to be reckoned with and seriously to be taken into
  account.”—_Theodore Roosevelt in the Outlook, New York._

  ⁂ “It is a masterpiece of really scientific history. It does not make
  confusion, it clears it away. He is a great generalizer of thought, as
  distinguished from the crowd of mere specialists. It is certain to
  stir up thought. Whoever has not read it will be rather out of it in
  political and sociological discussions for some time to come.”—_George
  Bernard Shaw in Fabian News._

  ⁂ “This is unquestionably one of the rare books that really matter.
  His judgments of men and things are deeply and indisputably sincere
  and are based on immense reading . . . But even many well-informed
  people . . . will be grateful to Lord Redesdale for the biographical
  details which he gives them in the valuable and illuminating
  introduction contributed by him to this English translation.”—_Times_.

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. 21s. net.

Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ This volume deals with some famous trials, occurring between the
  years 1650 and 1850, All of them possess some exceptional interest, or
  introduce historical personages in a fascinating style, peculiarly
  likely to attract attention.

  The book is written for the general reading public, though in many
  respects it should be of value to lawyers, who will be especially
  interested in the trials of the great William Penn and Elizabeth
  Canning. The latter case is one of the most enthralling interest.

  Twenty-two years later the same kind of excitement was aroused over
  Elizabeth Chudleigh, alias Duchess of Kingston, who attracted more
  attention in 1776 than the war of American independence.

  Then the history of the fluent Dr. Dodd, a curiously pathetic one, is
  related, and the inconsistencies of his character very clearly brought
  out; perhaps now he may have a little more sympathy than he has
  usually received. Several important letters of his appear here for the
  first time in print.

  Among other important trials discussed we find the libel action
  against Disraeli and the story of the Lyons Mail. Our knowledge of the
  latter is chiefly gathered from the London stage, but there is in it a
  far greater historical interest than would be suspected by those who
  have only seen the much altered story enacted before them.

With 100 Illustrations from her own Photographs. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

  ⁂ Hitherto all books on the old gardens of Italy have been large,
  costly, and incomplete, and designed for the library rather than for
  the traveller. Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond, during the course of a series of
  visits to all parts of Italy, has compiled a volume that garden lovers
  can carry with them, enabling them to decide which gardens are worth
  visiting, where they are situated, how they may be reached, if special
  permission to see them is required, and how this may be obtained.
  Though the book is practical and technical, the artistic element is
  supplied by the illustrations, one at least of which is given for each
  of the 71 gardens described. Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond was the illustrator
  of the monumental work by H. Inigo Triggs on “The Art of Garden Design
  in Italy,” and has since taken three special journeys to that country
  to collect material for her “The Old Gardens of Italy.”

  The illustrations have been beautifully reproduced by a new process
  which enables them to be printed on a rough light paper, instead of
  the highly glazed and weighty paper necessitated by half-tone blocks.
  Thus not only are the illustrations delightful to look at, but the
  book is a pleasure to handle instead of a dead weight.

Illustrations and a Map. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

  ⁂ Mr. Stewart was former Inspector of Forestry to the Government of
  Canada, and the experience he thus gained, supplemented by a really
  remarkable journey, will prove of great value to those who are
  interested in the commercial growth of Canada. The latter portion of
  his book deals with the various peoples, animals, industries, etc., of
  the Dominion; while the story of the journey he accomplished provides
  excellent reading in Part I. Some of the difficulties he encountered
  appeared insurmountable, and a description of his perilous voyage in a
  native canoe with Indians is quite haunting. There are many
  interesting illustrations of the places of which he writes.

Introduction by John Spargo. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

  ⁂ All who are interested in the multitudinous political problems
  brought about by the changing conditions of the present day should
  read this book, irrespective of personal bias. The applications of
  Socialism throughout the world are so many and varied that the book is
  of peculiar importance to English Socialists.

THE STRUGGLE FOR BREAD. By “A Rifleman” Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

  ⁂ This book is a reply to Mr. Norman Angell’s well-known work, “The
  Great Illusion” and also an enquiry into the present economic state of
  Europe. The author, examining the phenomenon of the high food-prices
  at present ruling in all great civilized states, proves by statistics
  that these are caused by a relative decline in the production of
  food-stuffs as compared with the increase in general commerce and the
  production of manufactured-articles, and that consequently there has
  ensued a rise in the exchange-values of manufactured-articles, which
  with our system of society can have no other effect than of producing
  high food-prices and low wages. The author proves, moreover, that this
  is no temporary fluctuation of prices, but the inevitable outcome of
  an economic movement, which whilst seen at its fullest development
  during the last few years has been slowly germinating for the last
  quarter-century. Therefore, food-prices must continue to rise whilst
  wages must continue to fall.

numerous Illustrations (including several in Colour) reproduced from
unique originals. Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net.

GATES OF THE DOLOMITES. By L. Marion Davidson. With 32 Illustrations
from Photographs and a Map. Crown 8vo. Second Edition. 5s. net.

  ⁂ Whilst many English books have appeared on the Lande Tirol, few have
  given more than a chapter on the fascinating Dolomite Land, and it is
  in the hope of helping other travellers to explore the mountain land
  with less trouble and inconvenience than fell to her lot that the
  author has penned these attractive pages. The object of this book is
  not to inform the traveller how to scale the apparently inaccessible
  peaks of the Dolomites, but rather how to find the roads, and thread
  the valleys, which lead him to the recesses of this most lovely part
  of the world’s face, and Miss Davidson conveys just the knowledge
  which is wanted for this purpose; especially will her map be
  appreciated by those who wish to make their own plans for a tour, as
  it shows at a glance the geography of the country.

KNOWLEDGE AND LIFE. By William Arkwright. Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ This is a remarkably written book—brilliant and vital. Mr. Arkwright
  illumines a number of subjects with jewelled flashes of word harmony
  and chisels them all with the keen edge of his wit. Art, Letters, and
  Religion of different appeals move before the reader in vari-coloured
  array, like the dazzling phantasmagoria of some Eastern dream.

CHANGING RUSSIA. A Tramp along the Black Sea Shore and in the Urals. By
Stephen Graham. Author of “Undiscovered Russia,” “A Vagabond in the
Caucasus,” etc. With Illustrations and a Map. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ In “Changing Russia,” Mr. Stephen Graham describes a journey from
  Rostof-on-the-Don to Batum and a summer spent on the Ural Mountains.
  The author has traversed all the region which is to be developed by
  the new railway from Novo-rossisk to Poti. It is a tramping diary with
  notes and reflections. The book deals more with the commercial life of
  Russia than with that of the peasantry, and there are chapters on the
  Russia of the hour, the Russian town, life among the gold miners of
  the Urals, the bourgeois, Russian journalism, the intelligentsia, the
  election of the fourth Duma. An account is given of Russia at the
  seaside, and each of the watering places of the Black Sea shore is
  described in detail.

Dickinson, A.M.I.Mech.E. Demy 8vo. 10s 6d. net.

  ⁂ No Biography dealing as a whole with the life-work of the celebrated
  Robert Fulton has appeared of late years, in spite of the fact that
  the introduction of steam navigation on a commercial scale, which was
  his greatest achievement has recently celebrated its centenary.

  The author has been instrumental in bringing to light a mass of
  documentary matter relative to Fulton, and has thus been able to
  present the facts about him in an entirely new light. The interesting
  but little known episode of his career as an artist is for the first
  time fully dealt with. His stay in France and his experiments under
  the Directory and the Empire with the submarine and with the steamboat
  are elucidated with the aid of documents preserved in the Archives
  Nationales at Paris. His subsequent withdrawal from France and his
  employment by the British Cabinet to destroy the Boulogne flotilla
  that Napoleon had prepared in 1804 to invade England are gone into
  fully. The latter part of his career in the United States, spent in
  the introduction of steam navigation and in the construction of the
  first steam-propelled warship, is of the greatest interest. With the
  lapse of time facts assume naturally their true perspective. Fulton,
  instead of being represented, according to the English point of view,
  as a charlatan and even as a traitor, or from the Americans as a
  universal genius, is cleared from these charges, and his pretensions
  critically examined, with the result that he appears as a
  cosmopolitan, an earnest student, a painstaking experimenter and an
  enterprising engineer.

  It is believed that practically nothing of moment in Fulton’s career
  has been omitted. The illustrations, which are numerous, are drawn in
  nearly every case from the original sources. It may confidently be
  expected, therefore, that this book will take its place as the
  authoritative biography which everyone interested in the subjects
  enumerated above will require to possess.

A STAINED GLASS TOUR IN ITALY. By Charles H. Sherrill. Author of
“Stained Glass Tours in England,” “Stained Glass Tours in France,” etc.
With 33 Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ Mr. Sherrill has already achieved success with his two previous
  books on the subject of stained glass. In Italy he finds a new field,
  which offers considerable scope for his researches. His present work
  will appeal not only to tourists, but to the craftsmen, because of the
  writer’s sympathy with the craft. Mr. Sherrill is not only an
  authority whose writing is clear in style and full of understanding
  for the requirements of the reader, but one whose accuracy and
  reliability are unquestionable. This is the most important book
  published on the subject with which it deals, and readers will find it
  worthy to occupy the position.

SCENES AND MEMORIES OF THE PAST. By the Honble. Stephen Coleridge. With
numerous Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ Mr. Stephen Coleridge has seen much of the world in two hemispheres
  and has been able to count among his intimate personal friends many of
  those whose names have made the Victorian age illustrious.

  Mr. Coleridge fortunately kept a diary for some years of his life and
  has religiously preserved the letters of his distinguished friends;
  and in this book the public are permitted to enjoy the perusal of much
  vitally interesting correspondence.

  With a loving and appreciative hand the author sketches the characters
  of many great men as they were known to their intimate associates.
  Cardinals Manning and Newman, G. F. Watts, James Russell Lowell,
  Matthew Arnold, Sir Henry Irving, Goldwin Smith, Lewis Morris, Sir
  Stafford Northcote, Whistler, Oscar Wilde, Ruskin, and many others
  famous in the nineteenth century will be found sympathetically dealt
  with in this book.

  During his visit to America as the guest of the American Bar in 1883,
  Lord Coleridge, the Chief Justice, and the author’s father wrote a
  series of letters, which have been carefully preserved, recounting his
  impressions of the United States and of the leading citizens whom he

  Mr. Coleridge has incorporated portions of these letters from his
  father in the volume, and they will prove deeply interesting on both
  sides of the Atlantic.

  Among the illustrations are many masterly portraits never before

  From the chapter on the author’s library, which is full of priceless
  literary treasures, the reader can appreciate the appropriate
  surroundings amid which this book was compiled.

Escott. Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ The author of this book has not solely relied for his materials on a
  personal intimacy with its subject, during the most active years of
  Trollope’s life, but from an equal intimacy with Trollope’s
  contemporaries and from those who had seen his early life. He has
  derived, and here sets forth, in chronological order, a series of
  personal incidents and experiences that could not be gained but for
  the author’s exceptional opportunities. These incidents have never
  before appeared in print, but that are absolutely essential for a
  right understanding of the opinions—social, political, and
  religious—of which Trollope’s writings became the medium, as well as
  of the chief personages in his stories, from the “Macdermots of
  Ballycloran” (1847) to the posthumous “Land Leaguers” (1883). All
  lifelike pictures, whether of place, individual, character of
  incident, are painted from life. The entirely fresh light now thrown
  on the intellectual and spiritual forces, chiefly felt by the novelist
  during his childhood, youth and early manhood, helped to place within
  his reach the originals of his long portrait gallery, and had their
  further result in the opinions, as well as the estimates of events and
  men in which his writings abound, and which, whether they cause
  agreement or dissent, always reveal life, nature, and stimulate
  thought. The man, who had for his Harrow schoolfellows Sidney Herbert
  and Sir William Gregory, was subsequently brought into the closest
  relations with the first State officials of his time, was himself one
  of the most active agents in making penny postage a national and
  imperial success, and when he planted the first pillar-box in the
  Channel Islands, accomplished on his own initiative a great postal
  reform. A life so active, varied and full, gave him a greater
  diversity of friends throughout the British Isles than belonged to any
  other nineteenth century worker, literary or official. Hence the
  unique interest of Trollope’s course, and therefore this, its record.

THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH PATRIOTISM. By Esmé C Wingfield Stratford, Fellow
King’s College, Cambridge. In 2 vols. Demy 8vo. With a Frontispiece to
each volume, (1,300 pages). 25s. net.

  ⁂ This work compresses into about HALF A MILLION WORDS the substance
  of EIGHT YEARS of uninterrupted labour.

  The book has been read and enthusiastically commended by the leading
  experts in the principal subjects embraced in this encyclopædic survey
  of English History.

  When this work was first announced under the above title, the
  publisher suggested calling it “A New History of England.” Indeed it
  is both. Mr. Wingfield Stratford endeavours to show how everything of
  value that nations in general, and the English nation in particular,
  have at any time achieved has been the direct outcome of the common
  feeling upon which patriotism is built. He sees, and makes his readers
  see, the manifold development of England as one connected whole with
  no more branch of continuity than a living body or a perfect work of

  The author may fairly claim to have accomplished what few previous
  historians have so much as attempted. He has woven together the
  threads of religion, politics, war, philosophy, literature, painting,
  architecture, law and commerce, into a narrative of unbroken and
  absorbing interest.

  The book is a world-book. Scholars will reconstruct their ideas from
  it, economics examine the gradual fruition of trade, statesmen devise
  fresh creative plans, and the general reader will feel he is no
  insignificant unit, but the splendid symbol of a splendid world.

CHARLES CONDER: HIS LIFE AND WORK. By Frank Gibson. With a Catalogue of
the Lithographs and Etchings by Campbell Dodgson, M.S., Keeper of Prints
and Drawings, British Museum. With about 100 reproductions of Conder’s
work, 12 of which are in colour. Demy 4to. 21s. net.

  ⁂ With the exception of one or two articles in English Art Magazines,
  and one or two in French, German, and American periodicals, no book up
  to the present has appeared fully to record the life and work of
  Charles Condor, by whose death English Art has lost one of its most
  original personalities. Consequently it has been felt that a book
  dealing with Conder’s life so full of interest, and his work so full
  of charm and beauty, illustrated by characteristic examples of his Art
  both in colour and in black and white, would be welcome to the already
  great and increasing number of his admirers.

  The author of this book, Mr. Frank Gibson, who knew Conder in his
  early days in Australia and afterwards in England during the rest of
  the artist’s life, is enabled in consequence to do full justice, not
  only to the delightful character of Conder as a friend, but is also
  able to appreciate his remarkable talent.

  The interest and value of this work will be greatly increased by the
  addition of a complete catalogue of Conder’s lithographs and
  engravings, compiled by Mr. Campbell Dodgson, M.A., Keeper of the
  Print-Room of the British Museum.

PHILIP DUKE OF WHARTON. By Lewis Melville. Illustrated. Demy 8vo. 21s.

  ⁂ A character more interesting than Philip, Duke of Wharton, does not
  often fall to the lot of a biographer, yet, by some strange chance,
  though nearly two hundred years have passed since that wayward genius
  passed away, the present work is the first that gives a comprehensive
  account of his life. A man of unusual parts and unusual charm, he at
  once delighted and disgusted his contemporaries. Unstable as water, he
  was like Dryden’s Zimri, “Everything by starts and nothing long.” He
  was poet and pamphleteer, wit, statesman, buffoon, and amorist. The
  son of one of the most stalwart supporters of the Hanoverian dynasty,
  he went abroad and joined the Pretender, who created him a duke. He
  then returned to England, renounced the Stuarts, and was by George I.
  also promoted to a dukedom—while he was yet a minor. He was the friend
  of Attenbury and the President of the Hell-Fire Club. At one time he
  was leading Spanish troops against his countrymen, at another seeking
  consolation in a monastery. It is said that he was the original of
  Richardson’s Lovelace.

and Patches.) From the last days of the French Revolution, until her
death as Princess Chimay in 1885. By L. Gastine. Translated from the
French by J. Lewis May. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other
Illustrations Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ There is no one in the history of the French Revolution who has been
  more eagerly canonised than Madame Tallien; yet according to M.
  Gastine, there is no one in that history who merited canonisation so
  little. He has therefore set himself the task of dissipating the mass
  of legend and sentiment that has gathered round the memory of _“La
  Belle Tallien”_ and of presenting her to our eyes as she really was.
  The result of his labour is a volume, which combines the scrupulous
  exactness of conscientious research with the richness and glamour of a
  romance. In the place of the beautiful heroic but purely imaginary
  figure of popular tradition, we behold a woman, dowered indeed with
  incomparable loveliness, but utterly unmoral, devoid alike of heart
  and soul, who readily and repeatedly prostituted her personal charms
  for the advancement of her selfish and ignoble aims. Though Madame
  Tallien is the central figure of the book, the reader is introduced to
  many other personages who played famous or infamous roles in the
  contemporary social or political arena, and the volume, which is
  enriched by a number of interesting portraits, throws a new and
  valuable light on this stormy and perennially fascinating period of
  French history.

MINIATURES: A Series of Reproductions in Photogravure of Ninety-Six
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.

RECOLLECTIONS OF GUY DE MAUPASSANT. By his Valet François. Translated
from the French by Maurice Reynold. Demy 8vo. 12s. 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. 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.

32 other Illustrations, principally from Photographs by the Author. Demy
8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

  ⁂ “Not for a long time have we read such straightforward, entertaining
  accounts of wild sport and adventure.”—Manchester Guardian.

  ⁂ “His adventures have the whole world for their theatre. There is a
  great deal of curious information and vivid narrative that will appeal
  to everybody.”—_Standard_.

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. 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 woman’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. 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. 12s. 6d.

  ⁂ 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 chef 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. 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. 2 vols. 32s. net.

of 50 Illustrations, 4 in Photogravure. 2 vols. Demy 8vo. 32s. net.

NAPOLEON AND KING MURAT. 1805-1815: 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. 12s. 6d. net.

Ceramics and Antiques throughout Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain,
Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Turkey. From the year 1869 to 1885.
Edited by 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.

Christopher Hare. With a Photogravure Frontispiece and 16 other
Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 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. 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 any reserve the family received Lady Hamilton.

Constance Hill. Author of “Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends,”
“Juniper Hall,” “The House in St. Martin’s Street,” etc. With numerous
Illustrations by Ellen G. Hill and Reproductions of Contemporary
Portraits, etc. Demy 8vo. 21s. net.

CESAR FRANCK: A Study. Translated from the French of Vincent d’Indy,
with an Introduction by Rosa Newmarch. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

          John Lane, The Bodley Head, Vigo Street, London, W.

                          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.

--Compared contents to Table of Contents, added one entry for Bulbuls’
  Nests, Part II.

--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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