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Title: Cassell's Book of Birds, Volume 1 (of 4)
Author: Jones, Thomas Rymer, Brehm, Dr.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cassell's Book of Birds, Volume 1 (of 4)" ***

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CASSELL'S BOOK OF BIRDS.

[Illustration: THE BLUE-STRIPED LORY ____ LORIUS CYANOSTRIATUS

(_about four fifths Life size_)]



    CASSELL'S

    BOOK OF BIRDS.

    _FROM THE TEXT OF DR. BREHM._

    BY
    THOMAS RYMER JONES, F.R.S.,
    PROFESSOR OF NATURAL HISTORY AND COMPARATIVE ANATOMY IN
      KING'S COLLEGE, LONDON.

    WITH UPWARDS OF
    Four Hundred Engravings, and a Series of Coloured Plates.

    _IN FOUR VOLUMES._

    VOL. I.

    LONDON:
    CASSELL, PETTER, AND GALPIN;
    AND NEW YORK.



CONTENTS.


          PAGE
    EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION      1-22
    CLASSIFICATION OF BIRDS      23


CRACKERS (_Enucleatores_).

     PARROTS (_Psittacini_). The TRUE PARROT (_Psittacinæ_):--The
     Jako--The Amazon Parrot--The Maitakka--The Crested Hawk Parrot
     24-43

     THE DWARF PARROTS (_Psittacula_):--Swinder's Love Bird--The
     Sparrow Parrot--The Siskin Parrot 43-45

     COCKATOOS (_Plyctolophus_):--The Lemon-crested
     Cockatoo--Leadbeater's Cockatoo--The Helmet Cockatoo--The
     Nose Cockatoo--The Nestor Cockatoo--The Eagle Cockatoo--The
     Casmalos--Banks's Raven Cockatoo--The Kakapo, or Night Parrot of
     New Zealand 45-57

     THE ARARAS (_Aræ_): The Scarlet Macaw--The Soldier Arara--The
     Anakan--The Ararauna--The Hyacinth-coloured Arara. The PARRAKEETS,
     or CONICAL-TAILED PARROTS (_Conurus_):--The Garuba--The
     Tiriba--The Carolina Parrakeet--The Choroy 58-66

     THE LONG-TAILED PARROTS, OR PARRAKEETS (_Palæornithes_):--The
     Collared, or Rose-ringed Parrot--The Bettet. The SUPERB
     PARROTS (_Polytelis_):--The Scarlet-crested Superb Parrot--The
     Black-tailed Superb Parrot. The GRASS PARROTS (_Platycerci_):--The
     Rosella--The Variegated Parrot--The Waved Parrot--The Corella--The
     Ground Parrakeet 66-79

     THE LORIES (_Lorii_):--The Purple-capped Lory--The Dappled
     Lorikeet--Swainson's Lorikeet--The Maiden Lorikeet--The Papuan
     Lory--The Blue-striped Lory 79-82


PASSERINE BIRDS (_Passeres_).

     THE CROSS-BILLS (_Loxiæ_):--The Large-beaked Cross-bill--The
     Pine-tree Cross-bill--The Banded Cross-bill--The Parrot Greenfinch
     85-92

     THE BULLFINCHES (_Pyrrhulæ_):--The Parrot Bullfinch--The Pine
     Grosbeak--The Carmine Grosbeak--The Rose Bullfinch--The Carmine
     Bullfinch--The Siberian Bullfinch--The Vinous Grosbeak, or Desert
     Trumpeter--The Bullfinch--The Girlitz--The Canary 92-114

     THE FINCHES (_Fringillæ_):--The Chaffinch--The Mountain Finch--The
     Snow Finch--The Winter Finch. The LINNETS (_Cannabinæ_)--The Brown
     Linnet--The Mountain or Grey Linnet--The Birch-tree Siskin--The
     Common Siskin--The Goldfinch--The Golden Thistle Finch 114-130

     THE SPARROWS PROPER (_Passeres_):--The Common Sparrow--The Spanish
     Sparrow--The Field or Tree Sparrow--The Plain Sparrow--The Golden
     Sparrow--The Rock Sparrow. The HAWFINCHES (_Coccothraustæ_):--The
     Green Grosbeak--The Hawfinch--The Evening Cherry Hawfinch--The
     Large-beaked Hawfinch. The PARROT FINCHES (_Pityli_):--The
     Rose-breasted Hawfinch--The Cardinal Grosbeak--The Dominican
     Finch--The Tiny Finch--The Diadem Grosbeak--The Ashy-blue Parrot
     Finch--The Masked Parrot Finch 131-148

     THE HABIAS (_Saltator_):--The Capi. The PLANT CUTTERS
     (_Phytotoma_): The Rarita. The TANGARAS PROPER:--The Ornate
     Tangara. FIRE TANGARAS (_Pyranga_):--The Flax Bird--The Fire
     Tangara. The CALLISTES (_Calliste_):--The Red-necked Calliste.
     The CALLOUS-BEAKED TANGARAS (_Ramphocelus_):--The Tapiranga. The
     BUTCHER-BIRD TANGARAS (_Lanio_):--The Black-headed Butcher-bird
     Tangara. The ORGANIST TANGARAS (_Euphone_):--The Violet Organist.
     The BRIGHT-COATED FINCHES (_Amadinæ_):--The Band Bird. The
     HOODED FINCHES (_Spermestes_):--The Magpie Finch. AUSTRALIAN
     FINCHES:--The REED FINCHES (_Donacola_):--The Chestnut Reed Finch.
     The Double-banded Reed Finch. The GRASS FINCHES (_Poëphila_).
     CHAFF-FINCHES (_Chloëbia_):--The Admirable Chaff-finch--The Rice
     Bird--The Little Goldbreast--The Blood Finch--The Variegated
     Finch--The Steel Finch--The Butterfly Finch. The ASTRILDS
     (_Astrildæ_):--The Grey Astrild--The Pheasant Finch 148-165

     WEAVER BIRDS (_Plocei_):--The Social Weaver Bird--The Golden
     Weaver Bird--The Masked Weaver Bird--The Baya--The Crimson-beaked
     Weaver Bird--The Taha--The Flame-coloured Fire Finch--The
     Red-beaked Buffalo Weaver Bird--The Alecto Buffalo Weaver
     Bird--The Dinemelli Buffalo Weaver Bird 166-178

     THE WHYDAH OR WIDOW BIRDS (_Viduæ_):--The Yellow-shouldered
     Mourning Widow--The Long-tailed Widow Bird--The Paradise Widow
     Bird 178-181

     THE AMERICAN FINCHES (_Passerella_):--The White-throated
     Sparrow--The Morning Finch--The Tree Bunting Finch--The Prairie
     Bunting Finch--The Sea Bunting Finch 181-184

     THE BUNTINGS (_Emberizæ_):--The Crested Bunting--The Grey
     Bunting--The Golden Bunting--The Ortolan--The Red Bunting--The
     Black-headed Bunting--The Reed Bunting--The Lark Bunting--The Snow
     Bunting 185-195

     THE LARKS (_Alaudæ_):--The Calandra Lark--The Short-toed Lark
     or Calandrelle--The Black or Moor Lark--The Desert Lark--The
     Black-headed Bunting Lark--The Alpine Lark. The LARKS PROPER
     (_Alaudæ_):--The Tufted Lark--The Wood Lark--The Sky Lark--The
     Sentry Lark. The COURSER LARKS (_Alaemon_):--The Desert Courser
     Lark 195-202


RAVENS (_Coracirostres_).

     THE STARLINGS (_Sturnidæ_). The TROOPIALS (_Agelaii_):--The
     Boblink or Rice Bird. The MARSH TROOPIALS (_Agelaius_):--The
     Red-winged Troopial. The COW BIRDS (_Molothrus_):--The Cow
     Starling. The YELLOW or GOLDEN STARLINGS (_Icteri_):--The Jamaica
     Yellow Bird--The Baltimore Golden Starling. The CASSICANS
     (_Cassici_):--The Japu, or Tufted Cassican. The BOAT-TAILS
     (_Quiscalus_):--The Great Boat-tail. The STARLINGS PROPER
     (_Sturni_):--The Common Starling--The Sardinian Starling--The
     Rose Starling--The Mina Birds--The Musical Grakle. The OX-BITERS
     (_Buphagæ_):--The African Ox-biter--The Red-beaked Ox-biter. The
     GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Lamprotornithes_)--The Bronze-coloured Glossy
     Starling--The Golden-breasted Glossy Starling--The Superb Glossy
     Starling--The Scaly Glossy Starling--The Brazen Glossy Magpie. The
     ROCK GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Moriones_):--The White-beaked Rock Glossy
     Starling. The MOUNTAIN GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Amydrus_):--The Naburup.
     The ORIOLES (_Orioli_):--The Satin Bower Bird--The Spotted Collar
     Bird--The Pirol, Golden Oriole, or Cherry Bird--The Golden-crested
     Oriole 210-243

     THE BIRDS OF PARADISE (_Paradiseæ_):--The Footless Bird of
     Paradise--The Wumbi--The Ruby, or Red Bird of Paradise--The
     King of the Birds of Paradise--The Collared Bird of Paradise.
     EPIMACHI:--The Resplendent Epimachus--The Collared Epimachus--The
     Magpie Bird of Paradise 243-253

     THE RAVENS PROPER (_Coraces_). The MOUNTAIN CROWS, or CHOUGHS
     (_Fregili_):--The Chough--The Snow Crow, or Alpine Chough. The
     TRUE RAVENS:--The Raven--The White-necked Vulture Raven--The
     Scapulated Raven. The CROWS (_Corvus_):--The Carrion Crow--The
     Hooded Crow--The Rock or Field Crow--The Jackdaw--The Glossy
     Crow--The Nutcracker. The PIPING CROWS (_Phonygamæ_):--The Flute
     Bird--The Bell Bird or Bell Magpie--The Bald-headed Crow. The TREE
     CROWS, or JAYS (_Garruli_):--The Magpie--The Blue Magpie. The BLUE
     RAVENS (_Cyanocorax_):--The Hooded Blue Raven--The Crested Blue
     Jackdaw--The Common Jay--The Unlucky Jay. The LONG-TAILED CROWS
     (_Glaucopes_). The TREE MAGPIES (_Dendrocitta_):--The Wandering
     Magpie--The Benteot--The Long-tailed Kitta--The FEATHER-BEAKS
     (_Cissa_):--The Sirgang, or Green Jackdaw 254-283

     THE PLANTAIN EATERS (_Amphibolæ_). The TRUE PLANTAIN
     EATERS (_Musophagæ_):--The Banana Eater. The HELMET BIRDS
     (_Corythaix_):--The White-cheeked Helmet Bird--The Turako. The
     SPLIT BEAKS (_Schirzorhis_):--The Alarm Bird. The COLIES, or MOUSE
     BIRDS (_Colii_):--The Wiriwa--The White-cheeked Mouse-Bird 283-290


CATCHERS (_Captantes_).

     BIRDS OF PREY (_Raptores_). The FALCONS (_Falconidæ_). The
     NOBLE FALCONS (_Falcones_). The HUNTING FALCONS (_Hierofalco_).
     The WANDERING FALCONS (_Falco_):--The Peregrine Falcon--The
     Red-necked Falcon--The Tree Falcon--The Berigora. The KESTRELS
     (_Tinnunculus_):--The Lark Kestrel--The Kestrel--The Red-footed,
     or Evening Falcon--The Sparrow Falcon. The DWARF FALCONS
     (_Hierax_):--The Muti 291-312



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


    PLATE    I.--THE SCARLET MACAW.

      "    II.--THE GROUND PARRAKEET.

      "   III.--THE BLUE-STRIPED LORY.

      "    IV.--EGGS.

      "     V.--THE BULLFINCH AND GOLDFINCH.

      "    VI.--THE WAGLERS CASSICUS.

      "   VII.--THE SHARP-BILLED ORIOLE.

      "  VIII.--THE RUBY BIRD OF PARADISE.

      "    IX.--THE SPARROW HAWK.

      "     X.--THE IMPERIAL EAGLE.



INTRODUCTION.


FIG. PAGE

    1. Respiratory Apparatus of a Fowl                           2

    2. Wing of a Bird, partially stripped of Feathers,
       to show the insertions of the Quills                      4

    3. Nascent Feather of a Chicken                              5

    4. Head of a Swan (_Cygnus olor_)                            6

    5. Section of the Head of an Eagle, showing the
       structure of the Eye                                      7

    6. Eye of an Owl, showing the arrangement of
       the Nictitating Membrane                                  8

    7. Muscles of the Eye-ball and of the Nictitating Membrane   9

    8. External Ear of a Young Owl                              10

    9. The Throat of a Fowl, showing the parts _in situ_        11

    10. Tongue of the Woodpecker, showing the mechanism
       employed for its protrusion                              12

    11. Viscera of Small Bird (_Euphone violacea_)              13

    12. Skeleton of a Goose                                     16

    13. Ornithological Regions of the body of a Small Bird      19

    14. Chicken in the Egg, newly arrived at maturity           21

    15. A Young Chicken, showing the arrangement
        of the Feathers                                         22



CLASSIFICATION OF BIRDS.


    1. Cockatoos (_Cacatua_)                                     28

    2. Collared Parrot (_Palæornis torquatus_)                   29

    3. The Jako (_Psittacus erithacus_)                          36

    4. The Amazon Parrot (_Chrysotis Amazonicus_)                40

    5. The Maitakka (_Pionus menstruus_)                         41

    6. The Crested Hawk Parrot (_Deroptyus accipitrinus
       coronatus_)                                               44

    7. The Helmet Cockatoo (_Callicephalus galeatus_)            48

    8. The Nestor Cockatoo (_Nestor productus_)                  49

    9. The Casmalos (_Microglossus aterrimus_)                   52

    10. The Raven Cockatoo (_Calyptorhynchus Banksii_)           53

    11. The Scarlet Macaw (_Ara Macao_)                          61

    12. The Garuba (_Conurus luteus_)                            64

    13. The Rosella (_Platycercus eximius_)                      72

    14. The Waved Parrot (_Melopsittacus undulatus_)             73

    15. The Corella (_Nymphicus Novæ Hollandæ_)                  76

    16. The Ground Parrakeet (_Pezoporinus formosus_)            77

    17. The Purple-capped Lory or Lorikeet (_Lorius domicella_)  80

    18. The Dappled Lorikeet (_Psitteuteles versicolor_)         81

    19. Tail-piece                                               82

    20. The Large-beaked Cross-bill (_Loxia pityopsittacus_)     85

    21. The Banded Cross-bill (_Loxia tænioptera_)               88

    22. Cross-bills (_Loxiæ_)                                    89

    23. The Pine Grosbeak (_Pinicola enucleator_)                93

    24. The Desert Trumpeter (_Bucanetes githagineus_)           96

    25. Female Bullfinch and Nest                               104

    26. The Girlitz (_Serinus hortulanus_)                      105

    27. The Wild Canary                                         109

    28. The Tame Canary                                         112

    29. The Chaffinch (_Fringilla Coelebs_)                     116

    30. The Mountain Finch (_Fringilla montifringilla_)         120

    31. The Brown Linnet (_Cannabina linota_)                   121

    32. Siskin, Bullfinch, and Goldfinch                        125

    33. Goldfinches and Nest                                    128

    34. Winter Visitors to the Village                          132

    35. Sparrow's Nest                                          133

    36. The Tree Sparrow (_Passer montanus_) and the
        House Sparrow (_Passer domesticus_)                     136

    37. The Green Grosbeak (_Chloris hortensis_)                140

    38. The Rose-breasted Hawfinch (_Coccoborus ludovicianus_)  144

    39. The Dominican Finch (_Paroaria dominicana_)             148

    40. The Rarita or Rara (_Phytotoma Rara_)                   149

    41. The Guttarama (_Euphone violacea_)                      156

    42. The Rice Bird (_Padda oryzivora_)                       160

    43. The Pheasant Finch (_Astrilda undulata_)                164

    44. Detached Nest of Male Gold-fronted Weaver Bird
        (_Oriolinus icterocephalus_)                            165

    45. Nest of Astrilda, from Senegal                          165

    46. Nest of Weaver Bird, slit open                          166

    47. Nest of Mahali Weaver Bird                              168

    48. Nest of Social Weaver Bird (_Philetaërus socius_)       168

    49. The Golden Weaver Bird (_Ploceus galbula_) and
        the Masked Weaver Bird (_Ploceus larvatus_)             169

    50. The Java Weaver Bird (_Baya_) and Nests                 172

    51. Breeding Nest of the Golden-fronted Weaver Bird
        (_Oriolinus icterocephalus_)                            173

    52. Nests of South African Weaver Birds                     175

    53. The Fire Finch (_Euplectes Petiti_)                     176

    54. Dinemelli's Buffalo Weaver Bird (_Textor Dinemellii_)   177

    55. The Paradise Widow Bird (_Vidua paradisea_)             180

    56. The White-throated or Song Sparrow (_Zonotrichia
        albicollis_)                                            181

    57. The Ortolan, or Garden Bunting (_Emberiza-Glycyspina
        hortulana_)                                             188

    58. The Black-headed Bunting (_Euspiza melanocephala_)      189

    59. The Reed Bunting (_Cynchramus schoeniclus_)             192

    60. The Lark Bunting (_Centrophanes lapponicus_)            193

    61. The Snow Bunting (_Plectrophanes nivalis_)              194

    62. The Calandra Lark (_Melanocorypha Calandra_)            197

    63. The Moor Lark (_Saxilauda Tatarica_)                    200

    64. The Desert Lark (_Ammomanes deserti_)                   201

    65. The Alpine Lark (_Phileremos alpestris_)                202

    66. The Tufted Lark (_Galerita cristata_)                   204

    67. The Skylark (_Alauda arvensis_)                         205

    68. The Sentry Lark (_Macronyx capensis_)                   208

    69. Tail-piece                                              209

    70. The Boblink (_Dolichonyx oryzivorus_)                   212

    71. The Red-Winged Troopial (_Agelaius Phoeniceus_)         216

    72. The Cow Starling (_Molothrus pecoris_)                  217

    73. The Baltimore Bird                                      220

    74. The Great Boat-tail (_Quiscalus major_)                 221

    75. The Common Starling (_Sturnus vulgaris_)                224

    76. The Rose Starling (_Pastor roseus_)                     228

    77. The Musical Grakle (_Gracula musica_)                   229

    78. The Red-beaked Ox-biter (_Buphaga erythrorhyncha_)      232

    79. The Superb Glossy Starling (_Notauges superbus_)        233

    80. The Scaly Glossy Starling (_Pholidauges leucogaster_)   236

    81. The Satin Bower Bird (_Philonorhynchus holosericus_)    237

    82. The Spotted Collar Bird (_Chlamydera maculata_)         240

    83. The Pirol, or Golden Oriole (_Oriolus galbula_)         241

    84. Birds of Paradise                                       244

    85. The Red Bird of Paradise (_Paradisea rubra_)            245

    86. The Resplendent Epimachus (_Seleucides resplendens_)    249

    87. The Collared Epimachus (_Epimachus magnus_)             252

    88. The Magpie Bird of Paradise (_Astrapia gularis_)        253

    89. The Chough (_Fregilus graculus_)                        256

    90. The White-necked Vulture Raven (_Corvultur albicollis_) 259

    91. The Scapulated Raven (_Pterocorax scapulatus_)          260

    92. The Raven (_Corax nobilis_)                             261

    93. The Carrion Crow (_Corvus corona_)                      262

    94. The Rook (_Corvus frugilegus_)                          264

    95. The Jackdaw (_Monedula turrium_)                        265

    96. The Nutcracker (_Nucifraga caryocatactes_)              268

    97. The Flute Bird (_Gymnorhina tibicen_)                   269

    98. The Magpie (_Pica caudata_)                             273

    99. The Crested Blue Jackdaw (_Cyanocitta cristata_)        276

    100. The Common Jay (_Garrulus glandarius_)                 277

    101. The Wandering Magpie (_Dendrocitta vagabunda_)         281

    102. The Banana Eater (_Musophaga violacea_)                284

    103. The White-cheeked Helmet Bird (_Corythaix leucotis_)   285

    104. The Alarm Bird (_Schizorhis zonurus_)                  288

    105. The Wiriwa (_Colius Senegalensis_)                     289

    106. Oriental Falconry                                      297

    107. The Peregrine Falcon (_Falco peregrinus_)              301

    108. The Falconer                                           304

    109. The Tree Falcon (_Hypotriorchis subbuteo_)             305

    110. The Lark Kestrel (_Tinnunculus alaudarius_)            308

    111. The Red-footed or Evening Falcon (_Erythropus
         vespertinus_)                                          309



_CASSELL'S_ BOOK OF BIRDS.



EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION.


We were some time ago both delighted and astonished by the performances
of a German artist, who imitated with wonderful exactness the notes of
a variety of birds. The song of the nightingale and the warblings of
the skylark, the whistling of the throstle and the out-poured melody
of the canary, were gone through with such perfect execution, that the
birds themselves, we thought, could scarcely have detected a flaw in the
performance. This gifted individual introduced himself to his audience
by a somewhat humorous account of the manner in which he had acquired
his extraordinary powers. He told us that his father, who was a breeder
of birds, had upon one occasion gone from home, leaving a bag of rice
as provision for his children, and a quantity of bird-seed for his
feathered protégés. By some mistake the rice had been given to the birds,
and the bird-seed to the children, the consequence being, that on the
gentleman's return he found his birds all dead, and his children singing
like piping bullfinches. How far this explanation was satisfactory we
will not stop to inquire; but we have sometimes been almost tempted to
suppose that some similar accident must be of frequent occurrence in
Germany. The deep acquaintance of the ornithologists of that country with
the objects of their study, and the fidelity with which they note down
the minutest incidents connected with the history of their favourites,
surpassing anything achieved by other naturalists, not even excepting
such enthusiastic labourers as Wilson and Audubon, demands our warmest
praise; while the patient industry, so conspicuous in their writings, at
once calls for and excites our admiration.

Among the foremost of his countrymen in the cultivation of ornithological
research stands the author of the magnificent work whose pages it is our
wish to lay before English readers. Not content with studying the natural
history of his favourites from books, or even in the rich scientifically
arranged collections contained in so many Continental museums, his zeal
led him to follow them even into their own wild retreats, and, gun
in hand, to penetrate the burning deserts of Eastern Africa, and the
equally inhospitable, and then but little known, regions of Abyssinia.
By thus familiarising himself with the habits of birds in their native
haunts, and amid the scenery whereby they are surrounded in a state of
nature, he has been enabled to impart a freshness to his descriptions as
characteristic of the real naturalist as the smell of new-made hay is
redolent of fields and hedgerows, and no more to be imitated by the mere
compiler than the voice of an orator by the reporter of his speeches.

Before, however, we permit our author to speak for himself, it may
perhaps be desirable to preface his remarks by a few general observations
concerning the structure of the beautiful creatures that form the
subjects of his teaching, inasmuch as it is obviously desirable to have
clear notions concerning the machinery employed before its adaptation to
its intended uses can be made manifest; and further, because in the study
of ornithology, as in every other branch of natural history, there are
certain conventional terms that may require explanation before the words
used in describing an object are intelligible to the uninitiated.

The Bird is an inhabitant of the air in the fullest sense of the
expression. The atmosphere is emphatically the sphere of its activity; it
mounts it as it would a ladder; it sails through it in triumph, and rides
upon the winds as upon a fleet steed. Moreover, it is the atmosphere
itself which endows the feathered Ariel with such capabilities, and
it is in the perfection of his respiration that we must search for an
explanation of his wonderful achievements.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--RESPIRATORY APPARATUS OF A FOWL.

_a_, the Lungs, immovably fixed; _c_, _d_, the Breast-bone, moving as
upon a hinge at _b_, so that it can be raised to the position indicated
by dotted lines at _h_. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Cells, with membranous walls,
into which the air is freely admitted during the act of inspiration.]

The muscular activity of every animal is intimately dependent upon the
efficiency of its breathing apparatus, upon the freedom with which
the vital element finds admission to the blood which it is destined
to renovate, and upon which it confers those qualities so inseparably
connected with the elimination of increased temperature, and the vigour
of muscular action. In this respect, as we shall see immediately, the
feathered races surpass all living creatures, with the exception,
perhaps, of the members of the insect creation.

The lungs of a bird are not suspended, like those of a quadruped, within
a circumscribed chest or thoracic cavity, in such a manner as to become
inflated by each inspiration; they are rather to be described as soft,
porous, and highly vascular organs, through which the air passes as
through the interior of a sponge. The movements of the chest, upon which
depend the inspiration and expiration of the atmospheric fluid, may be
compared to those of a bellows continually employed in taking in and
expelling the surrounding element by a mechanism represented in the
accompanying figure (Fig. 1). The framework of the chest, consisting
of the ribs and of the breast-bone, is so put together that at each
inspiration it can be raised, as shown in the drawing, from the position
_d_ to the position _h_, thus materially enlarging the thoracic chamber,
just as the upper board of an ordinary bellows is raised for the purpose
of taking in the air; but, in this case, the surrounding element, instead
of entering through a valve-defended orifice, rushes down the windpipe,
and through the immovable, sponge-like lungs, permeating the wide
passages with which they are perforated, and not only filling the entire
thorax, but penetrating into the interior of the very bones, which are
left marrowless for its reception.

The mechanism whereby expiration is effected is equally simple; just as,
when the upper board of the bellows is depressed, the air is forced out
through the nozzle, so, by the return of the breast-bone to its former
position, the inspired air is again forced to pass through the lungs and
make its escape by means of the windpipe. By this process it is obvious
that the vital element--the oxygen of the atmosphere--being admitted to
every part of the system, the blood is vitalised to the greatest possible
extent, its temperature is raised until the heat of the body of a bird
is far greater than that of an ordinary quadruped, and its vitality is
proportionately exalted. Consequently, as the blood circulates through
the system, it carries with it heat and life in superabundance; the
energies of the entire system are roused to the uttermost; the fibres of
every muscle quiver with intense life, like a steam-engine working under
high pressure, thus enabling the falcon to cleave the skies with the
velocity of a falling thunderbolt, and not only qualifying the swallow
for its rapid flight, but enabling it to achieve its wonderful migrations.

This admission of air into every part of the system serves not only
to fan the vital flame, and rouse the energies of the bird to an
extraordinary degree of tension; it likewise assists in giving buoyancy
to its movements, bearing it upward, as the gas does a balloon; for it is
evident that the air received into the body being raised to a temperature
corresponding to the heat of its blood, the specific gravity of the
bird is proportionately diminished, and it rises into the air almost
without an effort, and even hovers in the sky with scarcely a perceptible
movement of its wings.

A knowledge of the mechanism of their mode of respiration will likewise
enable us to explain another remarkable feature in the history of the
feathered tribes, namely, their power of song. Who that has listened to
the prolonged warblings of a linnet, the flood of melody poured forth
from the little throat of the canary, the "lengthened sweetness long
drawn out" which almost pains the enraptured ear as we listen to the
song of the nightingale, but has wondered how such tiny birds can ever
find sufficient breath for the utterance of such long-sustained, such
interminable notes? What would our prima-donnas at the opera give for but
the tithe of the capacity of these favoured little songsters? No human
breast could ever hold sufficient breath for such performances. We now
see, however, that the vocal organs of a bird are exactly adapted to
the nature of their music. Their whole body is a bellows, as large in
proportion to their size as the bellows of an organ is in relation to the
pipes into which it has to pour the sound. The little bird is, in fact,
a living harmonium--its singing apparatus is not situated at the top of
its throat, but is implanted in the inferior termination of its windpipe;
and just as the tongue of the harmonium is thrown into vibration by the
issuing current of air caused by pressure upon the bellows, so are the
vocal chords of the feathered songster rendered sonorous as the air
passes over them. In proportion to the capacity of the bellows must be
the duration of the note, and we have already seen that the air-cells of
the bird are capable of furnishing a supply not easily exhausted. There
is, however, this remarkable difference between the two instruments:
the tongue of each key of the harmonium can give utterance but to one
sound--one never-varying tone--while the corresponding part of the
bird, rendered more or less tense by muscles provided for the purpose,
contains within itself a whole gamut, and there is not a note in the
scale that is not instantly at the command of the inimitable little
musician. In the perching birds, among which are found by far the most
accomplished singers, five pairs of muscles are connected with this
exquisitely-contrived apparatus, and are so disposed as to influence
both the diameter and the length of the air-passages. In the parrots
three pairs are met with; some of the swimming birds have two, while
others have only one; and in a few--as the king of the vultures and the
condor--vocal muscles are quite wanting.

Seeing that the temperature of birds is raised so much above the usual
standard by the arrangements described above, some clothing is requisite,
adequate to retain the vital heat. Another indispensable provision is
therefore met with in the FEATHERS with which all birds are so warmly
clad. Indeed, so peculiar is the texture of these admirable fabrics,
that no better distinctive appellation could be devised for the entire
class than that of the "feathered tribes," by which they are frequently
designated. A feather realises in its structure more qualities than
imagination could have conceived it possible to combine--lightness,
thickness, warmth, durability, elasticity, softness, strength, and
beauty. It is one of the master-works of creation. Whoever has examined a
feather under the microscope will testify to the incomparable perfection
of the contrivance. Every feather is a mechanical wonder. If we look at
the quill-portion, or barrel, we find it possessed of attributes not
easily brought together--strength and lightness. If we cast our eye upon
the upper part of the stem, we see a material made for the purpose,
which is used in no other class of animals, and in no other part of
birds--tough, light, pliant, elastic--the pith. This is also a substance
_sui generis_; it is neither bone, flesh, membrane, nor horn.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--WING OF A BIRD PARTIALLY STRIPPED OF FEATHERS, TO
SHOW THE INSERTIONS OF THE QUILLS.

_a_, the Arm; _d_, the Fore-arm; _g_, the Thumb; _c_, the Secondary
Quills, implanted into the Fore-arm; _f_, the Primary Quills, implanted
into that portion of the Wing which represents the hand; _e_, the
Spurious or Bastard Quills, derived from the Thumb.]

But the most wonderfully constructed part of a feather is the _plume_,
or, as it is sometimes called, the _web_. This is affixed to each side of
the stem, and constitutes the broad expansion of the feather, that part
which we usually strip off when making a pen. One of the first things to
be remarked is that the web is much stronger when pressed in a direction
perpendicular to the flat plane of the plume than when rubbed either up
or down in the direction of the stem; the reason of this is that the
web is composed of numerous flat, thin, and broad laminæ, arranged with
their flat sides together, so that, although they easily bend towards
each other, they offer great resistance in the direction in which they
have to encounter the impulse and pressure of the air; and it is in this
direction only that their strength is wanted and put to the test.

Another particularity is still more admirable. Whoever examines a feather
cannot help noticing that the laminæ of which we have been speaking,
in their natural state seem to be fastened together. Their adhesion to
each other is manifestly something more than mere apposition; they are
not to be separated without a certain degree of force, and, as there is
evidently no glutinous cohesion between them, it is plain that by some
mechanical means or other they catch or clasp among themselves, thereby
giving to the web its closeness and compactness of texture. Nor is this
all. When two laminæ which have been separated by accident or design
are brought together again, they immediately reclasp; the connection,
whatever it was, is perfectly restored, and the web of the feather
becomes as smooth and firm as if nothing had happened to it. Draw your
finger down the feather, which is, so to speak, against the grain, and
you will probably destroy the junction between some of the contiguous
laminæ; draw your finger up the feather in the opposite direction, and
you restore all to their former state of coherence. This is no common
contrivance. Let us now inquire concerning the mechanism whereby it
is effected. The laminæ above mentioned, examined individually, are
found to be provided with vast numbers of long fibres, or teeth, which
project from their edges in such a manner that, when placed in contact,
those of contiguous laminæ hook and grapple together. The fibres are
extremely minute; indeed, fifty of them have been counted by means of
the microscope in the space of the 1/20th of an inch. Every fibre is
crooked, but bent after a definite manner; those that proceed from one
edge of a lamina are long, flexible, and bent downwards, whereas those
that proceed from the opposite edge are shorter, firmer, and turned
upwards. The manner in which they are united is, therefore, as follows:
When two contiguous laminæ are pressed together, so that the long fibres
are forced far enough over the short ones, their crooked parts fall into
the angles formed by the crooked parts of the others, just as the latch
of a door falls into the cavity of the catch fixed to the door-post, and
there hooking itself, fastens the door. This admirable structure, which
may be readily seen with a very ordinary microscope, ensures not only
the union of the laminæ, but renders it possible that when any two of
them have been separated by violence they will become re-connected with
facility and expedition. In the ostrich, this apparatus of crotchets and
fibres, of hooks and eyes, is wanting; the filamentary laminæ hang loose
and separate, forming a kind of down; but such a plan of construction,
however it may fit the plumes for the flowing honours of a lady's
head-dress, must be considered as detrimental to the bird, inasmuch as
wings composed of such feathers, although they may assist in running,
will not serve for flight.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--NASCENT FEATHER OF A CHICKEN.

_c_, the External Horny Sheath, slit open; _d_, _d_, Web of the Feather
produced in successive layers from the central stem, _e_.]

The power of inflating their whole body with air, and the possession
of feathers, are therefore the most distinctive endowments of a bird,
inasmuch as these attributes are quite peculiar to the class.

To creatures thus gifted with strength and activity so extraordinary,
it is manifest that perceptions of great acuteness are requisite,
corresponding with the rapidity of their movements and the intelligence
necessary for the performance of the important duties entrusted to their
charge; and in this respect, as will be made manifest by a perusal of
their history, they occupy a position in the economy of nature fully
equal or even superior to that enjoyed by the most favoured quadrupeds.
The mental faculties of the parrots correspond with those of the monkeys,
whom in their habits and capabilities these birds closely resemble; in
cunning they are quite upon a par with their four-handed neighbours,
with which, in the forests of tropical countries, they are so generally
associated; and when removed from their native woods, and made, as they
often are, the companions of mankind, the facility with which they can
be taught to imitate human actions--nay, to mimic our very speech--bears
ample testimony to the exalted character of their mental capacities.

On examining the brain of a bird, the anatomist is therefore by no means
surprised to find that, both in its development and in the perfection of
its structure, it surpasses that of many quadrupeds. The proportionate
volume of the brain of some of our singing birds, as compared with the
dimensions of their body, is astonishing, and reveals to us at a glance
the reason why these little favourites are so sagacious and so eminently
susceptible of education. (See Fig. 4.)

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--HEAD OF A SWAN (_Cygnus olor_).

The upper part of the skull has been removed to show the brain and eyes
_in situ_. _a_, _a_, the Cerebral Hemispheres; _b_, the Cerebellum; _c_,
the Spinal Cord. All the above parts are represented covered by their
investing membranes. _e_, Sinuses of the Dura Mater; _g_, _g_, Walls of
the Skull; _h_, _h_, Base of the Beak; _m_, Optic Nerve of the Left Eye;
_p_, _p_, Large sentient Nerves supplying the Bill; _v_, Bony Ring in
front of the Eye-ball; _x_, _x_, Transparent Cornea; 1, 3, 5, 7, Muscles
moving the Eye-ball.]

In strict correspondence with this exalted condition of their cerebral
organisation are the senses whereby they hold intercourse with
surrounding nature. Their power of vision is beyond our comprehension,
and the elaborate contrivances whereby the eye of a bird is adapted
to its peculiar mode of life, might furnish materials for a lengthy
treatise, imperfect as is our knowledge of the numerous delicate
arrangements demonstrable by anatomical skill in every part of its
structure. At present we can but briefly allude to a few of the more
conspicuous peculiarities wherein the visual apparatus of a bird differs
from that of other creatures.

The distances from which the vulture and the hawk can see their prey
are almost incredible. To have the "eye of a hawk," to see with "eagle
glance," are expressions which, though common enough, give but a very
feeble idea of the extent to which those birds are gifted in this
respect, or of the vast expanse bounded by their horizon. The falcon sees
its diminutive prey from an altitude at which it is itself invisible,
and from the very sky swoops down upon its quarry with the velocity of a
shot, rarely missing its victim, and thus proving at once the perfection
of its sight and the steadiness of its aim. The eye of these birds must
therefore be constructed after the plan of a telescope, and its focus
adapted to long-sightedness. Its axis must be lengthened to an extent
greater than is compatible with a spherical form of the eye-ball. To
meet this requirement a circlet of bony plates, constituting a firm but
at the same time somewhat flexible ring or hoop, is introduced into
the composition of the outer coat of the eye, whereby the requisite
elongation is effected, and the organ is thus adapted for perfect vision
at a great distance. (See Fig. 4.)

The above beautiful arrangement, however, constitutes but a part of the
mechanism required. A telescope adjusted for distant vision is quite
useless when brought to bear upon an object close at hand, and its focus
must necessarily be altered in accordance with the changed conditions.
In the case of the telescope, the needful adjustment would be effected
by shortening or lengthening the sliding tube; but in the bird some
other plan is evidently indispensable, and few contrivances in animal
mechanics are more admirable than that which is adopted. Embedded in the
transparent vitreous humour of the eye is a peculiar apparatus called
the "marsupium," the texture of which resembles that of the human iris.
Now the iris, as we all know, being eminently sensitive to the intensity
of light, by its spontaneous contractions and dilatations is enabled to
alter the diameter of the pupil of the eye, and thus exactly control
the quantity of light admitted. The marsupium, equally sensitive, and
equally spontaneous in its action, swells or contracts its dimensions,
filling or emptying itself like a sponge, and thus adjusting the lenses
of the eye so as to secure perfect vision at whatever distance the object
to be seen may be placed. The quickness of sight with which birds are
gifted is equally remarkable. The swallow is proverbially one of the
swiftest flyers in the feathered creation, and yet in the full career
of its flight it is looking on the right hand and on the left, upwards
and downwards, for its food. The insects upon which it preys are often
exceedingly minute, sometimes flying above and sometimes below the level
of the swallow's course, and yet they are seen and captured without any
diminution of the prodigious rate at which the bird is flying. Nay,
more, any one who attentively watches one of these birds skimming over a
meadow, may perceive that it will capture two or even three insects in
such quick succession as to convince him that the swallow must have "had
an eye upon them" all at once, and yet they are caught, as it were, in a
moment.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--SECTION OF THE HEAD OF AN EAGLE, SHOWING THE
STRUCTURE OF THE EYE.]

Another admirable contrivance peculiar to the feathered race, is the
existence of a thin, semi-transparent veil, which, when requisite, can
be instantaneously drawn over the front of the eye. This apparatus,
generally known as the "nictitating membrane," is useful for a variety of
purposes; it sweeps over the eye to cleanse it from dust, it diffuses the
tears which keep it bright and polished, it will act as a screen to shut
out the too great intensity of light, so that with its assistance the
eagle can confront the sun even at noon-day; it will likewise defend the
eye from sudden injuries, and yet, even when drawn like a curtain over
the pupil, not shut out the light. The commodious manner in which this
membrane lies folded up in the inner corner of the eye, and the quickness
with which it executes its purpose, are known to every observer; but what
is equally admirable, though not quite so obvious, is the employment
of two kinds of material, and the combination of two kinds of force,
by which the movements of this membrane are effected. It is not, as
in ordinary cases, by the action of two antagonist muscles, the one
pulling it forward and the other backward, but the membrane itself, being
elastic, is capable of being drawn out like a thin sheet of india-rubber,
and of returning to its former position when the force acting upon it
is removed. Such being its nature, in order to adapt it for its office
it is connected by a tendon with a muscle situated at the back part of
the eye. This tendon, though strong, is so fine as not to obstruct the
sight, even when it passes across the pupil, and the muscle which moves
it being situated deeply within the orbit, derives from its situation
the advantage of not only being secure from injury, but of being out of
the way, which it hardly would have been in any position that could be
assigned to it in the front of the eye, where its function really lies.
When this muscle contracts, the membrane, by means of the communicating
tendon, is instantly drawn, as it were, by a thread, over the transparent
cornea, and when the muscle ceases to act, the elasticity of the membrane
is sufficient to bring it back into its former position. (See Fig. 6.)

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--EYE OF AN OWL, SHOWING THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE
NICTITATING MEMBRANE.

Both eyelids are divided through their middle, and everted, so as to
display the Nictitating Membrane, _a_, and the passage for the tears
(_puncta lacrymalia_), _b_.]

But this is not all. In the arrangement of the muscle which, though
placed behind the eye, draws the nictitating membrane in front of
it, there is what justly deserves to be called a marvellous piece of
mechanical contrivance. The extent of contraction necessary to draw
the membrane over the whole front of the visual organ would require a
much longer muscle than could have been placed in such a situation;
in order to meet this difficulty, the tendon which draws forth the
nictitating membrane is made to pass through a loop in another muscle, as
represented in the next wood-cut (Fig. 7), where it is evident that, by
the simultaneous contraction of both these muscles, the extent of their
action when drawing the nictitating membrane over the eye is considerably
increased. Neither is this the only advantage derived from so ingenious a
contrivance; were it not for the plan adopted, the tendon of the muscle
_u_ _x_ would press upon the optic nerve, and thus materially interfere
with vision--an inconvenience that by the existing arrangement is totally
prevented. Devices like these, whereby special machinery is introduced
for special purposes, speak for themselves; we acknowledge their beauty,
and in them we recognise at once the wisdom and the goodness of the
CREATOR.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--MUSCLES OF THE EYE-BALL AND OF THE NICTITATING
MEMBRANE.

The Muscles of the Eye-ball, _p_, _q_, _r_, _s_, are separated from their
origins, and turned aside, to show the "trochlearis" or "quadratus," _t_,
and the "pyramidalis," _u_, _x_; the latter of which passes through a
loop in the former, so as to gain a double extent of effect with a given
length of fibre.]

The SENSE OF SMELL in birds has afforded subject-matter for much
discussion, and great obscurity still exists with reference to the
extent to which they make use of their olfactory organs. It has been
generally asserted that birds of prey are gifted with an acute perception
of odours, and are thus enabled to discover their food at a distance;
but the rapidity with which vultures are known to assemble round the
carcase of an animal too recently killed to attract them by putrefactive
exhalations, has induced many observers to consider them as being
directed entirely by sight. That this latter is the preferable theory
appears to be sufficiently established by the experiments of Audubon,
which go to show that these birds possess a sense of smell very far
inferior to that conferred upon carnivorous quadrupeds, and that, so
far from guiding them to their prey from a distance, it affords them no
indication of its presence even when close at hand.

Having procured the skin of a deer, M. Audubon stuffed it full of
hay, and after the whole had become perfectly dry and hard, he placed
it in the middle of an open field, laying it down on its back in the
attitude of a dead animal. In the course of a few minutes he perceived
a vulture flying towards and alighting near it. Quite unsuspicious of
the deception, the bird immediately proceeded to attack the carcase, as
usual, in the most vulnerable points. Failing in this, he next, with much
exertion, tore open the seams with which the skin had been stitched, and
appeared earnestly intent upon getting at the flesh which he expected to
find within, and of the absence of which not one of his senses was able
to inform him. Finding that his efforts, which were long reiterated, led
to no other result than the pulling out of sundry quantities of hay, he
at length, though with evident reluctance, gave up the attempt, and took
flight in pursuit of other game.

Another experiment, the converse of the preceding, was then tried:--A
large dead hog was concealed in a narrow and winding ravine, about twenty
feet deeper than the level of the ground around it, and filled with
briars and high cane. This was done in the month of July, in a tropical
climate, where putrefaction takes place with great rapidity; yet,
although many vultures were seen sailing in all directions over the spot
where the putrid carcase was lying covered only with twigs of cane and
light underwood, none of them appeared at all to suspect its presence.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the apparently decisive result of the above
experiments, anatomy teaches us that the olfactory apparatus in this
class of animals is largely developed, and indicates by its extent that
it is well adapted to investigate the odorous properties of the air taken
in for respiration.

The SENSE OF HEARING in birds is remarkably acute, as might be readily
inferred from the vocal capabilities conferred upon many of these
gifted songsters. Their music is certainly not less appreciated by
the performers than it is by their auditors. "Nobody can doubt,"
observes Bishop Stanley, "who sees a bird singing, clapping its little
wings, turning from side to side, and glancing its bright eyes in all
directions, as if courting attention and admiration, that it feels
delight and satisfaction. Did we require further proof, we have but
to recollect that the song-bird is most alert with the music of its
voice when its affections and interests are awakened by its mate during
the time of rearing its young." It is, indeed, principally during the
breeding-season that the singing power of birds is in full activity; and
seeing that in general it is only the male that possesses the musical
faculty, we may naturally suppose that its exercise is intended for the
solace and amusement of his mate during her confinement to her nest. The
nightingale himself becomes voiceless so soon as the appearance of his
nestlings calls him to more profitable employment.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--EXTERNAL EAR OF A YOUNG OWL.

_a_, the Upper Part of the Head, partially denuded of feathers; _b_, the
Beak; _d_, the Eye; _c_, _e_, _f_, Marginal Fold of Skin surrounding a
cavity, the interior of which somewhat resembles the folds of the human
ear; _g_, Auditory Passage leading to _h_, the Drum of the Ear (_membrana
tympani_).]

It is, however, among the nocturnal birds that the faculty of hearing
is more specially developed. In the generality of birds there is no
provision made externally for catching or concentrating sonorous
impressions; but in the owls, the bustards, and a few others that venture
forth at night, we find a different arrangement. In the owls, more
especially, an external auditory apparatus is very conspicuous; not only
does the integument exhibit a variety of folds, the disposition of which
forcibly reminds us of the human ear, but the feathers upon the sides of
the head are so disposed as to fulfil in some degree the purposes of a
hearing trumpet. (See Fig. 8.) In such species the sense of hearing is
exquisitely developed.

In the generality of birds the SENSE OF TASTE can scarcely be said to
exist. The manner in which they obtain and swallow their food precludes
the possibility of enjoyment from this source, so that their tongue is
in many cases appropriated to some totally different use. In by far
the greater number the tongue is small, thin, and cartilaginous; the
extremity is flat, and incapable of being protruded beyond the bill. (See
Fig. 9.) There are, however, great varieties in the construction of this
organ, a few of which will require our notice.

The tongue of the parrot, although its substance is not so fleshy, has
some resemblance to that of man, and it is probable that this is one of
the circumstances enabling these birds to imitate the human voice with so
much facility.

In the family of the toucans and some others, the tongue, without being
extensible, is fully as long as the largely developed bill, and,
moreover, its sides are fringed like those of a feather. A tongue of this
description may probably be endowed with some delicacy of taste, enabling
these birds to appreciate the flavour of the fruits on which they feed.

Birds of the duck family have the largest tongues. Owing to its fleshy
appearance it more nearly resembles the human tongue than even that of
the parrot. Birds of this family discriminate their food not by sight,
but by the delicate sense of touch with which their tongue is endowed.
They thrust their bill into the mud, and from the mouthful thus obtained
select, by means of their tongue alone, whatever is fit for food,
rejecting the rest.

The smallest tongues are found in the night-jars and swallows, two groups
which at the same time are distinguished by having the largest mouths in
proportion to the size of their bodies; and in this case the design is
equally apparent. These birds feed upon living insects captured during
their rapid flight, and immediately swallowed whole; taste is out of the
question. A large tongue would only be in the way, and it is therefore
reduced to a mere rudiment.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--THE THROAT OF A FOWL, SHOWING THE PARTS _in situ_.

_a_, the Lower Mandible; _c_, the Tongue; _h_, _m_, interior of the
Gullet; _i_, the Upper Larynx.]

In the preceding examples the length of the tongue never exceeds that
of the bill; but in the case of the woodpeckers it is protrusible to a
wonderful extent. On opening the bill of a woodpecker immediately after
it has been killed, the tongue seems of ordinary length, or indeed
rather short, and shaped somewhat like the spears used by the Caffres in
South Africa, called _assagais_, pointed at the end and furnished with
numerous barbs. (See Fig. 10.) This, however, is only the tip of a very
remarkable instrument. If the barbed portion be drawn out of the mouth, a
person unacquainted with its nature would think that he had got hold of
a very long earthworm that the bird had incautiously tried to swallow,
but which had stuck in its throat; hence a tongue of this description
is called _vermiform_. The point in its usual position reposes in the
ordinary manner between the mandibles; the rest is concealed, but is
susceptible of extension, at the pleasure of the bird, to four or five
times the length of the bill. The act of protrusion is effected by the
remarkable structure of the root of the tongue, or more properly of the
_os hyoides_, or bony apparatus whereby it is attached. The posterior
prolongations derived from the _os hyoides_ are compactly curved around
the back of the skull; and occasionally they are prolonged forwards
to such an extent as actually to reach the nostrils. By means of this
somewhat complex arrangement the woodpecker, having broken away the bark
of a tree by the powerful strokes of its bill, and thus laid open the
retreat of the insects beneath, suddenly darts out its tongue, spears
its prey, and instantly brings the transfixed insect into its mouth.

The SENSE OF TOUCH must be of very limited utility; indeed, there seems
to be no part of the body of a bird so constructed as to be capable of
tactile impressions. The wings, the representatives of hands and arms,
are obviously entirely unfit for the exercise of such a function; neither
do the legs and feet seem to be better suited to this purpose. The only
organ of touch about which there can be no doubt is the bill, yet even
this is generally covered with a hard sheath of horn. Nevertheless, in
some races the extremity of the bill is soft and largely supplied with
nerves. In snipes and wood-cocks, for example, the sensitive extremity of
the beak materially assists in procuring their food.

For the systematic arrangement of the class of birds, the conformation
of their feet has been found to afford characters of great importance to
the ornithologist, inasmuch as the organisation of these members must
obviously be in strict relation with the localities they inhabit. To
account for the distribution of the feathered tribes, and to explain the
relationships that exist between them and other animals, a great variety
of ingenious theories have been broached, all of them more or less
fanciful. The different families, sub-families, and minor groups into
which they have been divided have been again and again sorted, like a
pack of cards, frequently more in accordance with the whim of the player
than with the established rules of the game. And yet a little reflection
will show that the great principles of zoological classification are so
simple, and at the same time so immutable, that we sometimes cannot but
admire the ingenuity displayed in going wrong.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--TONGUE OF THE WOODPECKER,
SHOWING THE MECHANISM EMPLOYED FOR ITS PROTRUSION.

_a_, harpoon-like Tip of the Tongue; _d_, _e_, _f_, _g_, _h_, Framework
of the Throat; _i_, _k_, Glands furnishing adhesive secretion.]

Few things are more manifest to the student of nature than that, in the
distribution of the animal creation, it has been ordained that every
locality shall be peopled by forms of life pre-eminently adapted for
its occupation. If, therefore, we are asked whether birds ought to be
arranged in circles or in squares, in hexagons or in pentagons, in groups
of five or in groups of seven, our simple reply would be by inquiring how
many localities could be pointed out as requiring appropriate occupants,
and to this question it is not difficult to find a satisfactory answer.

The earth, the water, and the air, throughout their broad domains, must
each of them be provided with inhabitants peculiarly constructed to
live in their diversified regions. Upon the earth, we find the level
ground, the mountain, and the glen; we find the pathless forests, and
the solitary trees and shrubs, and bushy underwood. We cast our eyes
upon the waters, and we see the world of ocean covering two-third parts
of this great globe, stretching from pole to pole, rolling its mighty
waves through every zone; we see the creeks and shallow bays that margin
it all round, and watch the waves as they approach the shore and lay
them down to sleep upon the beach. There are the rivers, too, and lakes,
and swamps and marshes which are neither land nor water, sometimes
overspread with floating vegetation, sometimes a broad expanse of ooze
and rushes far too soft to bear the weight of creatures that might try
to walk upon the treacherous surface. We look into the air, and there we
find between the earth and sky abundant room for birds of every wing.
If, therefore, with this little map of the world before us, we reply to
the question propounded above, we should be tempted to say that there
must necessarily be as many different types of organisation as there
are districts therein enumerated; and doubtless a reference to any
system of ornithology, however much the classification may be confused
by preconceived theories, will convince us that such is essentially the
foundation of any natural arrangement.

In taking, therefore, a brief survey of the principal groups, or ORDERS,
under which the feathered races have been distributed, we will begin
with those appointed to live on trees, inasmuch as these are regarded
by the author of the following pages as being entitled to the highest
rank in the class to which they belong, rivalling in intelligence, as
some of them do, the apes and monkeys of which they are in general the
inseparable companions.

Few people in this country have any adequate conception of a tropical
forest, and, consequently, are scarcely prepared to see whole races
of animals constructed specially for a residence in the umbrageous
wilderness within its pathless precincts. The great forest of the Amazon,
in all its primeval grandeur, stretches for a thousand miles from north
to south, and probably three or four hundred from east to west, and
over all this vast extent of territory, so closely are the branches
interwoven that, as we are told, a monkey might make his way passing
from tree to tree without ever coming to the ground except at those
points where the rivers hold their course through the tangled yet sublime
scenery. "In these untrodden vastnesses the trees, rising frequently
to a height of sixty or eighty feet, with stems perfectly straight and
without a branch, give support to the huge creepers that climb around
their trunks like immense serpents waiting for their prey, or sometimes
stretching obliquely from their summits like the stays of a lofty mast,
here twisting round each other till they form living cables, as if to
bind securely the patriarchs of the forest; there wreathed in tangled
festoons, and themselves covered with smaller creepers and parasitic
plants." Such is Mr. Wallace's description of the interior of the
Amazonian forest.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--VISCERA OF SMALL BIRD (_Euphone violaceus_).

_a_, Crop; _b_, termination of the Windpipe, or inferior larynx; _c_, one
of the Vocal Muscles; _d_, lower portion of the Gullet; _e_, the Gizzard;
_g_, Lung of the right side; _h_, Liver; _i_, Alimentary Canal.]

"The forests of Rio Janeiro," says Mr. Darwin, "are ornamented with the
cabbage palm trees 110 feet high, with a stem so narrow that it might
be clasped with two hands. The woody creepers themselves are of great
thickness, some of them measuring two feet in circumference. If the eye
was turned from the world of foliage above to the ground beneath, it was
attracted by the extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns and mimosæ
(sensitive plants). The latter in some parts covered the ground; in
walking across these thick beds, a broad track was marked by the change
of colour produced by the drooping of their sensitive leaves. It is easy
to specify the individual objects of admiration in these grand scenes,
but it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of
wonder, astonishment, and devotion, which fill and elevate the mind."

These are the localities amongst which species of the ARBOREAL
ORDERS find their Paradise, and hold undisturbed possession. Myriads
of climbing birds--parrots, macaws, and cockatoos--fill the whole
atmosphere with joyful screams, deafening the very monkeys with their
din; gorgeous toucans, with enormous bills and feathers dipped in flame,
and woodpeckers scarcely less gaily clad, make the woods echo, as with
axe-like beaks they chop their way in search of insect food.

The peculiar structure of the feet in the arboreal races is evidently
adapted to a life amongst the branches of trees: the outer toe can be
directed backwards like a thumb, enabling them to grasp the boughs as
with a hand.

If, leaving the trackless gloom of the forest, we approach the sylvan
scenery of the surrounding country, the "bosky woods" and isolated trees,
or the sparse undergrowth of bushy shrubs, we find innumerable forms that
have their feet contrived for _perching_ only. These INSESSORIAL races,
called also PASSERES, from their general resemblance to sparrows, live
upon insects, fruit, and grain; but those with strong beaks live more
exclusively upon grain, and those with slender beaks upon insects. The
proportional length of their wings is as variable as their habits. They
have four toes, generally so disposed that there are three in front and
one behind; sometimes all four in front. Their legs are slender, and they
hop rather than walk.

The forests and the trees, the bushes and the brakes, the thickets and
the hedgerows, being thus provided with appropriate denizens, we turn
our attention to the level ground; and here we find species as obviously
designed for a terrestrial existence as were the preceding groups for a
residence among the branches. The terrestrial or GALLINACEOUS birds live
principally upon the ground. Their body is large and heavy, and their
wings short and rounded, so as to be but ill adapted to prolonged flight.
They have three toes in front, which are united at their base by a short
fold of the skin, and their hinder toe is affixed above the level of the
rest. In many species the male is provided with formidable weapons in
the shape of _spurs_. To this order belong the turkeys, pheasants, and
barn-door fowls. Their legs are thick, strong, and muscular, their toes
short and powerful. They always prefer running to flying, and, indeed,
will rarely take to their wings, except when compelled to do so by the
urgency of the occasion.

If any doubt could be entertained as to the terrestrial character of the
gallinaceous birds, there can be none whatever as to those distinguished
by the name of CURSORES or runners. The principal characteristic of the
cursorial race consists in the undeveloped condition of their wings,
which are quite disproportioned to the size of their body. In some cases
these rudimentary wings are but imperfectly furnished with feathers, and
seem only to be used after the manner of sails, to catch the wind, and
thus assist in running. The living species form two families, of one of
which the Ostrich, and of the other the Apteryx, is the type.

Leaving the firm dry land, we next turn our attention to the marshes--the
dubious confines between land and water--and here we find the order of
WADERS, or, as they have been named on account of their long stilt-like
legs, GRALLATORES or stilt-walkers. These birds, as their name imports,
are characterised by the height of their legs, which are naked, and
thus adapted for wading to a certain depth into the water, where many
species catch their prey. A remarkable example is met with in this order
of the facility with which difficulties, apparently insurmountable, in
the adaptation of certain species to peculiar circumstances, have been
encountered and overcome. In India, the tanks and ponds of considerable
depth are more or less covered with the broad leaves of water-lilies
and other floating vegetation. In such places, which are far too deep
to be occupied by wading birds, and yet too extensive to be left
without inhabitants, we find a family provided with toes so enormously
lengthened, and moreover eked out by claws of such extraordinary length,
that the spread of their feet extends over a very large surface, thus
enabling them to walk over the floating weeds.

Another order of birds comprehends those whose feet are specially
constructed for swimming, constituting a NATATORIAL TYPE; for this
purpose they are placed far back upon the body, the legs are short and
compressed, and the toes are united by a web. Their plumage is thick and
shining, impregnated with oil, and closely packed with soft down, so as
to preserve them from all contact with the water. They are the only birds
the length of whose neck much surpasses that of their legs, thus enabling
them, while swimming at the surface, to obtain their food at the bottom.
Such are the DUCKS and SWANS, which are, moreover, further characterised
by having their bill covered with a soft skin, and furnished occasionally
at the sides with ridges and tooth-like points. The DIVERS, trusting to
their superior powers of battling with the watery element, are met with
further from the shore; while, at distances still more remote from land,
daring the utmost fury of the tempestuous ocean, walking upon the waters,
or riding upon the seas--

                  "Up and down, up and down,
    From the base of the wave to the billow's crown,
    In the midst of the flashing and feathery foam,
    The Stormy Petrel finds _her_ home."

Lastly, in this our rapid survey of the distribution of the feathered
tribes, we have to speak of those whose element is the air. And here,
perhaps, the reader may feel inclined to remark that, with the exception
of the cursorial birds, such as the Ostriches and the Apteryx, all
the species we have had occasion to mention are more or less capable
of flight--that this is the special attribute of the whole class.
Nevertheless, upon a little consideration, he will find that amongst the
many races that fly well, there are some so pre-eminent in this respect
that all others quail before them. It is one thing to be able to fly, and
another to be furnished with wings so powerful that they never seem to
tire. It is one thing to be the champion of the coppice, but another to
be the tyrant of the sky!

The greatest powers of flight are of course conferred upon the rapacious
birds, whose business is to overtake and destroy their swift-flying
prey. To enable them to do this, their wings are necessarily of the most
perfect structure; and they may also be recognised by their feet, which
are strong, and armed with formidable talons. Of the swiftness of the
falcon we have spoken elsewhere; and any one who has witnessed the flight
of the eagle is not likely to have forgotten so grand a spectacle; his
movements are majestic, and as he sails above the clouds on outstretched
wings he seems to feel himself the monarch of the scene around. And
yet even the falcon and the eagle cannot, as regards their powers of
flight, be looked upon as the most highly gifted of flying birds. The
spread of wing of the frigate-birds measures ten feet from tip to tip,
and their flight is so powerful that they are everywhere to be seen in
tropical climates at immense distances from land; while the albatross
has been known to fly around a ship for weeks together, exhibiting such
indomitable strength of wing that it has been supposed to be capable of
circling round the world.

It is by no means our intention to trouble the reader with unnecessary
details concerning the anatomy of the creatures upon the history of which
he is about to enter; nevertheless, it is indispensably requisite that we
should give at least an outline of their internal organisation.

No one can have examined attentively the bony framework whereby the
body of a bird is sustained, without being forcibly impressed with the
lightness as well as the compactness of its construction. The most
wonderful economy is exhibited in the arrangement of the weighty material
of which it consists. The bones present in their interior extensive
cavities, whereby they are considerably lightened, and their walls,
although exceedingly dense and strong, are much thinner than in any other
animals. The extremities of the cylindrical bones are occupied by a light
open network of slender filaments shooting across in every direction from
wall to wall, and as these attenuated buttresses are likewise hollow,
it is easy to perceive how incomparably lightness and strength are here
conjoined.

The extent to which the skeleton is thus filled with air varies in
different birds in relation with their powers of flight. In the Swifts
and the Humming-birds every bone of the skeleton, even to the toes
and the claws, is permeated by the atmospheric fluid. In the opposite
extreme, the terrestrial Apteryx and the aquatic Penguin have not a
single bone thus excavated.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--SKELETON OF A BIRD.

     _a_, the Skull; _b_, Vertebræ of the Neck; _c_, Dorsal Region of
     the Spine; _d_, Vertebræ that support the Tail; _e_, _e_, _e_,
     the Sternum or Breast-bone; _f_, _f_, _f_, _f_, the Ribs; _h_,
     the Scapula, or Shoulder-blade; _i_, _i_, the conjoined Clavicles
     or Collar-bones, forming the Furculum, or "Merry-thought;" _k_,
     the Coracoid Bones; _l_, the Humerus, or Arm-bone; _m_, _n_,
     Bones of the Fore-arm; _o_, _b'_, Bones of the Wrist or Carpus;
     _p_, _p_, the Metacarpal Bones and Rudimentary Thumb; _q_, _q_,
     Pieces representing the Middle Finger; _r_, _s_, _s_, the Pelvis,
     formed by the consolidation of the hinder Vertebræ of the Back
     into one piece; _t_, the Thigh-bone; _u_, the Leg; _x_, _x_,
     the Tarso-Metatarsal Bones, usually called the Tarsus; _y_, the
     Hallux, or Hinder Toe; _z_, _z_, the Front Toes.
]

The skeleton of an animal formed for flight must be constructed upon
mechanical principles of a very refined character. The utmost lightness
is indispensable; nevertheless, in a framework which has to sustain the
powerful action of muscles so vigorous, strength and firmness are equally
essential. It is in combining these two opposite qualities that the human
mechanician exhibits the extent of his resources and the accuracy of his
knowledge; but let the best and most ingenious mechanic carefully examine
the skeleton of a bird, and we doubt not that in its construction he
will find all his ingenuity surpassed, and perhaps derive not a little
instruction from the survey.

In order to render the following account of the structure of a bird's
skeleton intelligible to the non-scientific reader, we have delineated
that of the Pigeon, and with this figure before us we shall have but
little difficulty in indicating those points with which it is essential
that the reader of the present volume should be intimately acquainted.
(See Fig. 12.)

In the back-bone, or vertebral column, we find three principal regions,
each of which will merit distinct notice.

The _cervical region_, or that portion belonging to the neck (Fig. 12,
_b_), is exceedingly variable in its proportionate length, and forms the
only flexible portion of the spine; it performs, indeed, the functions of
an arm, at the end of which the beak, the chief instrument of prehension,
is situated. The number of vertebræ entering into the composition of this
part of the skeleton is very variable; in the Swan there are as many as
twenty-three, in the Crane nineteen, while in the Sparrow there are only
nine. As a general rule, it may be observed that the neck of a bird is
never so short as not to be able to reach to every part of the body; in
many aquatic species it is remarkably elongated, whether they swim upon
the surface by means of webbed or natatory feet, like the Swan, or wade
into rivers and marshes, like the Crane or the Heron. Throughout the
entire class a very beautiful contrivance is observable in the S-shaped
curvature of this region, the joints of the upper vertebræ being so
disposed that they will bend forwards, while in the lower part they can
only be bent backwards, thus enabling the bird to lengthen or shorten its
neck with the utmost facility and gracefulness.

But if flexibility is thus admirably provided for in the cervical
region, in the thoracic portion of the skeleton which has to support the
framework of the wings, and sustain the efforts of the powerful muscles
connected with flight, firmness and rigidity become essential requisites,
and, accordingly, in the dorsal region, every means has been employed
to prevent those movements which in the neck are so advantageously
permitted. The vertebræ of this region (Fig. 12, _c_) are therefore so
consolidated as to be almost immovable; and, moreover, splints of bone
laid along the back materially add to its stability and strength. There
are likewise two sets of ribs, one firmly lashed to the back-bone, the
other strongly attached to the sides of the sternum; these dorsal and
sternal ribs are moreover united to each other by firm connections, and
a thorax is thus formed, possessing sufficient mobility to perform the
movements connected with respiration, but still affording a strong basis
for muscular action; nay, still further to strengthen this part of the
skeleton, from the hinder margin of each dorsal rib a broad flat plate of
bone (Fig. 12, _f_) is prolonged backwards, so as to overlap the rib next
behind, and thus bind the whole together as firmly as possible.

The sternum or breast-bone (Fig. 12, _e_) is developed in proportion to
the size of the three pectoral muscles subservient to flight, and is
prolonged beneath into a deep keel-like projection. In the cursorial
races, such as the Ostriches and the Apteryx, whose wings are not
available for flying, the keel is entirely wanting.

Whoever considers the position of the hip-joint in the skeleton of a
bird, and reflects how far it is necessarily removed behind the centre of
gravity when the bird walks with its body in a horizontal position, will
at once perceive that the hinder portion of the spinal column, having
to support the whole weight of the body under the most disadvantageous
circumstances, and at the same time to give attachment to the strong
and massive muscles that wield the thigh, must be consolidated and
strengthened in every possible manner, and that even the slight degree of
movement permitted in the region of the back would here be inadmissible.
Most of the hinder vertebræ are, therefore, solidly conjoined into a
single piece (Fig. 12, _r_, _s_), sufficiently strong and massive to bear
the great strain to which it is continually subjected, leaving only a few
of the hindmost pieces (Fig. 12, _d_) free, upon which the feathers of
the tail are supported.

The fore limb of a bird, although used for the purpose of flight, when
stripped of the feathers and quills that, as we have already seen,
form the extensive surface of the wing, will be found very much to
resemble the human arm in its general arrangement, presenting only
such modifications as are required for the performance of its peculiar
function.

The framework of the shoulder consists of three bones (Fig. 12, _h_,
_i_, _k_), named respectively the _scapula_ or _shoulder-blade_, the
_clavicle_ or _collar-bone_, and the _coracoid bone_. The scapula (_h_)
is a long and comparatively slender piece placed upon the ribs, and
embedded in the muscles, to which it gives attachment. The coracoid bone
(_k_) is the strongest piece of the shoulder; it supports the wing at
one extremity, while at the opposite it is firmly united to the sternum
by a broad and massive joint. But the most peculiarly formed part of the
shoulder is the _furculum_, or "merry-thought," as it is usually called
(_i i_), consisting of the two collar-bones united, so as to form but a
single fork-shaped apparatus, the presence of which materially enlarges
and strengthens the shoulder, without unnecessarily adding to the weight.
It is by the union of the three last-mentioned bones that a place is made
for the socket of the shoulder, with which the wing is more immediately
connected.

The skeleton of the wing presents the bone of the arm, called the
_humerus_ (Fig. 12, _l_), and the two bones of the fore-arm, named
respectively the _radius_ (_m_) and the _ulna_, or _cubit_ (_n_). The
_wrist_, or _carpus_, consists of two bones (_b' o_), and the metacarpus
(_p_) is likewise made up of two pieces; these, with two, or sometimes
three, rudimental fingers (_p' q q_), complete the framework of the wing.
The largest finger consists of two, or sometimes of three joints; a
second offers but a single joint; and the third, when present, is a mere
appendage to the carpus, representing a sort of apology for a thumb.

The bones of the leg likewise exhibit the same parts as exist in the
human skeleton, but modified. The _thigh_, or _femur_ (Fig. 12, _t_),
is a short and strong bone, to which succeeds the leg, consisting of
two bones (_u_), named the _tibia_ and the _fibula_, but the latter
is generally very imperfectly developed. That part which is commonly
considered to be the leg consists of the bones of the ankle and a part
of the foot (the tarsal and metatarsal bones) consolidated into a single
piece, called by anatomists the _tarso-metatarsal_ bone, but known to
ornithologists as the _tarsus_ (_x_). At the lower extremity of the
tarsus are three joints that support the three front toes (_z, z_), while
a fourth toe (technically called the _hallux_) (_y_), which is directed
backwards, is attached to it by the intervention of a small accessory
piece. In the gallinaceous order there exists a bony spur, considered by
some as representing a fifth toe.

In order to facilitate the description of a bird, it is usual for the
ornithologist to consider its exterior as being mapped out into sundry
_regions_ (see Fig. 13), to each of which has been assigned a definite
and appropriate name; with the names of these regions, and their precise
application, it is requisite that the reader should be intimately
acquainted.

A bird, like any other vertebrate animal, is divisible into the head,
the body, and the limbs; under one or other of which divisions all
subordinate parts may be classed.

The head consists of the _skull_ and the _bill_, and is joined to the
body by the _neck_. Commencing with the bill, we see that it is composed
of two pieces, corresponding to the jaws of quadrupeds; that which is
above is called the _upper mandible_ (Fig. 13, 1), that which represents
the under jaw is called the _lower mandible_ (2). The upper mandible
contains the _nostrils_ (3); its highest part is called the _culmen_
or _ridge_ (4), while the corresponding ridge of the lower mandible is
called the _gonys_ or _keel_ (9).

The lateral edges of the mandibles which meet when the bill is closed are
called the _margins_. In some birds the margins of the upper mandible
fold over those of the lower, while in others the edges meet; when
this is the case, the line of junction between the two is called the
_commissure_ (5).

In many birds the upper mandible is continued far back over the forehead,
and there dilated, so as to form a _casque_ or _helmet_. In rapacious
birds and parrots there is a belt of soft naked skin at the base of
the upper mandible, named the _cere_, in which the nostrils are placed,
while around the eye is a space, often denuded of feathers, called the
_ophthalmic_ region (11).

The HEAD is that part which lies immediately over the skull, extending
from the base of the beak to the commencement of the neck. The _front_
or _forehead_ (12) is that part of the head which lies close above the
nostrils; then follows the _crown_ or _summit_ (17), which occupies the
middle or centre of the head, forming that part which is usually occupied
by the crest in birds so ornamented. The _hind head_(18) commences at
the declivity of the skull; its lower portion is called the _nape_ (19).

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--ORNITHOLOGICAL REGIONS OF THE BODY OF A SMALL
BIRD.

    1. Upper Mandible.
    2. Lower Mandible.
    3. Nostrils.
    4. Ridge, or Culmen.
    5. Commissure, or cutting edges of the Mandibles.
    6. Apex, or point of the Beak.
    7. The Chin.
    8. Upper Throat.
    9. Keel, or Gonys.
    10. } Coloured Bands, usually called Bridles and Stripe.
    11. }
    12. The Forehead.
    13. The Gape, or Rictus.
    14. Space around the Eye.
    15. Lower Throat.
    16. Superciliary Region.
    17. Crown, Summit, or Vertex.
    18. Hind Head, or Occipital Region.
    19. The Nape, or Nucha.
    20. The Ear, or Ear-feathers.
    21. The Throat.
    22. The Breast.
    23. The Neck above, or Upper Neck.
    24. The Back, or Mantle.
    25. Scapular Wing-covers.
    26. Lower Back, or Tergum.
    27. The Shoulder.
    28. Body, or Lower Breast.
    29. The Belly.
    30. The Vent.
    31. The Tail Feathers.
    32. The Under Tail-covers.
    33. Spurious Quills.
    34. Secondary Quills, or Secondaries.
    35. Primary Quills, or Primaries.
    36. The Shoulder Margin.
    37. Wing Covers.
    38. Under-surface or Under-part of the Body.
    39. The Tarsus, or Leg.
    40. The Front Toes.
    41. The Hinder Toe, or Hallux.
    42. Upper Tail-covers.
]

On the sides of the head the following parts have received distinct
names:--The feathers that cover the ears, to save repetition, are usually
called the _ears_ (20): they are generally rather more rigid and their
webs more disconnected than the surrounding feathers. The space between
these and the corner of the mouth (usually called the _gape_)(13), is
termed the _cheek_.

The parts of the NECK are thus designated:--The back of the neck is
called the _upper neck_, or _nucha_ (23), beneath which is the _lower
neck_ or _auchenium_. The under-side of the neck is divided into three
regions; first, there is the _chin_ (7), or that small space just
beneath the lower mandible; to the chin succeeds the _upper throat_ (8),
between which and the broad part of the body is the _lower throat_ (15).

The BODY presents the following regions: first there is the _breast_
(22), which extends over the space which covers the breast-bone. To
this succeeds the _belly_ (29), which is terminated by the _vent_ or
_crissum_ (30). Immediately behind the vent are the _under-tail covers_
(32), which are frequently of a different colour from the surrounding
feathers.

On the upper aspect of the body we have the _interscapular region_,
sometimes called the _back_ (24), to which succeeds the _lower back_
(26), which terminates at the _rump_, or that part where the _upper-tail
covers_ (42) are inserted.

Last of all comes the TAIL, composed of long stiff feathers, called the
_tail-feathers_ (31), concerning which it is only necessary to observe
that the two middle tail-feathers are the _intermedial_, while those on
the sides are the _lateral_ tail-feathers.

The WING of a bird will be found to present a structure worthy of our
highest admiration. The object aimed at in the arrangement of its
different parts is evidently to obtain a very large and firm expanse of
surface, by employing the smallest possible quantity of material. For
the purposes of flight it is obviously necessary that the superficial
extent of the wings shall be sufficiently ample, not only to sustain
the weight of their possessor in the thin and yielding element in which
it flies, but, by the vigour of their stroke and the violence of their
impulse, to propel the bird with a rapidity proportioned to the occasion,
and, moreover, by the lightness of their touch and the accuracy of
their movements, to steer and steady its course through all the varied
evolutions whereby it is enabled to capture prey, or sportively display
the wonderful activity conferred upon the feathered tribes.

We have already seen, while examining the construction of the skeleton,
that the bony framework of the wing essentially resembles that of the
human arm, and that the limb when stripped of its feathers is no more
adapted for flying than our own. The needful expansion is obtained
altogether by the addition of the quill feathers, which, as explained in
a preceding page, combine in their structure all the qualities requisite
for the intended purpose, lightness, firmness, strength, elasticity, and
extent of surface: the central part of the arm or wing forms merely a
basis of support, into which the quills and other appendages to the wing
are securely implanted. It will therefore be easily understood that the
importance of the individual quills as instruments of flight will depend
very much upon the position they hold in the wing, of which they form
so considerable a portion, and, consequently, that they have received
names expressive of their relative efficiency. Those that are affixed to
the bones representing the hand (Fig. 12, _p_, _q q_), by the length of
their stroke, and the peculiarity of their arrangement, are obviously of
primary importance, both from their size and the situation they occupy,
and have consequently been named the "_primaries_," or the "_primary
quills_," (Figs. 2, _f_; 13, 35); they might be called with equal
propriety the "_hand-quills_," a term more particularly expressive of
the parts to which they are attached. Upon the relative length and other
proportions of the primary quills the shape and mechanical power of the
instrument principally depend; if the first primary be the longest, the
termination of the wing is sharp and pointed (_acuminate_), as in most
birds that are remarkable for the swiftness of their flight; whereas if
the second, third, or fourth of these quills should exceed the others in
this respect, the wing becomes more and more rounded (_obtuse_), and the
perfection of its action visibly deteriorated.

The "_Secondary Quills_," or "_Secondaries_" (Figs. 2, _c_; 13, 34),
are exclusively sustained by the bones of the fore-arm (Fig. 12, _m_,
_n_); from their situation being much nearer to the shoulder-joint than
the preceding, the extent of their sweep is more limited, and their
stroke much feebler; they are, consequently, as their name indicates, of
secondary importance in locomotion.

[Illustration: _Plate 4 Cassell's Book of Birds_

1. Tyrant Shrike (_Tyrannus intrepidus_).--2. Virginian Chordeiles
(_Chordeiles Virginianus_).--3. Cow-bird (_Icterus pecoris_).--4.
Crimson Honeysucker (_Myzantha garrula_).--5. Masked Weaver-bird
(_Ploceus larvatus_).--6. Fire-crested Wren (_Regulus pyrocephalus_).--7.
Rice-bird (_Padda oryzivora_).--8. Variegated Grakle (_Quiscalus
versicolor_).--9. White-tailed wheatear (_Saxicola leucura_).--10. The
Wittal Oriole (_Oriolus galbula_).--11. The Alpine Accentor (_Accentor
Alpinus_).--12. Nordman's Glareole (_Glareola Nordmanni_).--13. Alpine
Tit (_Parus Alpinus_).--14. Crested Tit (_Parus Cristatus_).--15. African
Parra (_Parra Africana_).--16. Piririguan Tick-eater (_Crotophaga
Piririgua_).--17. Ptarmigan (_Lagopus Scoticus_).--18. Scapulated Crow
(_Corvus Scapulatus_).--19. The Kestrel (_Tinnunculus Cenchris_).--20.
The Senegal Thick-knee (_Oedicnemus Senegalensis_).--21. Rock Kestrel
(_Tinnunculus rupicolus_).--22. Corythus (_Corythus enucleator_).--23.
The Red-legged Stilt-Walker (_Himantopus rufipes_).--24. The Stone Thrush
(_Turdus saxatilis_).--25. The Silk-tail (_Bombycilla garrula_).--26.
Long-tailed Tit (_Parus biarmicus_).--27. The Wall-creeper (_Tichodroma
muraria_).--28. The Troopial (_Agelaius phœniceus_).--29. The
Yellow Bunting (_Emberiza Cia_).--30. The Red-eyed Coccyzus (_Coccyzus
erythropthalmus_).--31. The Cirl-Bunting (_Emberiza cirlus_).]

The _Spurious_, or _Bastard Quills_ (Figs. 2, _e_; 13, 33), are attached
to the rudimental bone that represents the thumb (Figs. 2, _g_; 12,
_p_); their size is diminutive, and their use in flight comparatively
unimportant.

The _Wing Covers_ or _Coverts_ (Fig. 13, 37) are small feathers arranged
in several rows, which overlap and strengthen the bases of the quills;
they are often variously coloured, and thus afford important features
whereby different species may be distinguished. Besides the above, there
are certain conventional terms employed by the ornithologist that will
require enumeration. The arm-part of the wing in the living bird is
generally known as the _shoulder_ (27); the elbow-joint is the _flexum_;
while that part of the fore-arm which corresponds to the edge of the wing
is denominated the _shoulder-margin_ (6).

The names appropriated to the different parts of the hinder-limb have
been already sufficiently indicated when describing the composition of
the skeleton.

There are many birds which have stripes of variously coloured feathers
situated above, before, and behind the eye; while others sometimes occur
at the base of the lower mandible. To all these distinct names have
been appropriated. A _superciliary_ stripe is situated _above_ the eye,
occupying a position analogous to that of the human eyebrow. An ordinary
eye-stripe is either _anterior_, _posterior_, or _entire_. It is called
_anterior_ when it only occupies the space between the eye and the bill;
_posterior_ when it commences behind the eye, and advances towards or
unites with the ear-feathers; and _entire_ when it is both posterior
and anterior. A _maxillary_ stripe commences at the base of the under
mandible, and descends on the sides of the neck.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--CHICKEN IN THE EGG, NEARLY ARRIVED AT MATURITY,

Showing the little Hammer or "Bill-scale" on the end of its beak,
wherewith it is enabled to break through the egg-shell.]

Such is the by no means very long list of names of parts used by the
ornithologist in his description, and which in the course of the present
volume will necessarily be of very frequent occurrence.

The oil with which birds preen their feathers, and the glands that supply
it, constitute a remarkable provision peculiar to the feathered creation.
Embedded among the feathers at the root of the tail, there is on each
side a small nipple, yielding upon pressure a butter-like substance,
which the bird extracts by squeezing the orifice with its bill. By means
of the oil, or rather ointment, thus procured, it dresses its feathers,
either for the purpose of increasing their brilliancy, or, as in the case
of the swimming birds, to make them impenetrable to wet.

The pairing of birds is a feature in their history which draws a broad
line of distinction between the feathered tribes and the generality of
quadrupeds. Among mammiferous quadrupeds the young derive their nutriment
during the earlier period of their existence entirely from the maternal
breast, the male parent contributing nothing towards its support; but in
the winged races the callow brood derive their supply of food from the
industry of both parents, whose united exertions are not more than is
requisite to procure the needful supply. In this circumstance we may see
a reason for the faithful love of the feathered mate as contrasted with
the vagrant disposition of the quadruped. The parental fondness of birds
towards their young has escaped no observer; no historian of nature is
silent upon this subject. "How well they caress them," says Derham, "with
their affectionate notes, lull and quiet them with their voice, put food
into their mouths, cherish and keep them warm, teach them to peck and
eat, and gather food for themselves, and, in a word, perform the part of
so many nurses deputed by the Sovereign Lord and preserver of the world
to help such young and shiftless creatures."

It would lead us far beyond the limits of our space were we to do more
than indicate the close relationship that exists between the exalted
temperature and warm clothing of the feathered creation and the wonderful
instinct which urges them to build nests for the reception of their
eggs, or the still more remarkable blind perseverance with which they
devote themselves to the task of incubation. "There is nothing," says
Paley, "either in the aspect or in the internal composition of an egg
which could lead even the most daring imagination to conjecture that it
was hereafter to turn out from its shell a perfect living bird. From the
contents of an egg would any one expect the production of a feathered
goldfinch? To suppose the female bird to act in this process from a
sagacity and reason of her own is to suppose her to arrive at conclusions
there are no premises to justify." And yet HE who made the egg not
only ordained that such should be the result of the simple process of
incubation; but, as though to confound scepticism, by giving, as it were,
the last touch to HIS inscrutable work, provided the young bird with the
means of escaping from incarceration, by attaching to the end of its beak
a little hammer, called the "bill-scale," the only use of which is to
crack the egg-shell, and allow the little prisoner to come forth. (See
Fig. 14.)

With these few prefatory remarks, we leave our author in the reader's
hands, at the same time promising that he will find in the succeeding
pages a rich store of valuable information.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--A YOUNG BLACKBIRD SHORTLY AFTER ITS ESCAPE FROM
THE EGG, SHOWING THE ARRANGEMENT AND CONDITION OF THE FEATHERS.]



CLASSIFICATION OF BIRDS.


Those who are familiar with modern works on ornithology will have
observed that it is usual to commence the history of the feathered
tribes by a description of the vultures--the most disagreeable and
least intelligent of the race. Some writers, however, consider the
singing birds as entitled to the first place, the remaining members of
the heterogeneous multitude being arranged according to the pleasure
of individual naturalists more or less acquainted with their subject.
For our own part, we recognise in the parrots the qualifications most
fitted to entitle them to take the precedence, and it is, consequently,
with these that we shall commence our history. Ornithologists, moreover,
differ widely among themselves as regards the relation that exists
between the parrots and other members of the class to which they belong,
either placing them in a group by themselves, in a manner never intended
by Nature, or associating them with toucans, woodpeckers, and cuckoos,
with which they possess but few characteristics in common. Under these
circumstances, we have considered ourselves at liberty to adopt our
own views upon the subject, and have, accordingly, constituted for the
parrots a distinct order, under the quaint but expressive name of


CRACKERS (_Enucleatores_),

in allusion to the facility with which, owing to the construction of
their beaks, they are enabled to crack nuts, and other hard seeds, that
form the usual staple of their food.

The order that we have thus thought it advisable to establish is,
however, by no means limited to the parrots; it includes various
other seed-eating birds, chiefly belonging to the passerine tribes,
the resemblance of which to parrots has been in some cases generally
acknowledged in selecting the names ordinarily conferred upon them. Thus,
the Cross-bills have long been known in Germany as the FIR-TREE PARROTS,
and, on the other hand, the epithet of SPARROW-PARROTS, applied to some
races of climbing-birds, clearly shows the relationship that exists
between these generally dissevered groups.

The birds thus associated will be found to present many features in
common. They live chiefly upon vegetable substances, and their strong
beaks enable them to break up hard kinds of food, such as nuts, seeds,
and grain. They will also eat fruit and leaf-buds, or the tender shoots
of plants; many will devour insects; and a few do not altogether reject
the flesh of other animals. They are all clever, lively, and active,
much attached to the society of birds of their own species, though they
do not often cultivate acquaintance with those belonging to a different
family. Their great intelligence enables them to live comfortably even
under disadvantageous circumstances, and their temperament allows them
to fight the "battle of life" very cheerfully. Owing to the diversity of
their habits, they are necessarily widely distributed, and some of them
are to be met with in every climate; the parrots only are restricted
to the torrid zones, the remaining members of the order being citizens
of the world. As to the localities they frequent, much depends upon
the absence or presence of the trees to which they usually resort, by
far the greater number being strictly arboreal, passing their whole
lives in flying from tree to tree, and confining their excursions to
a very limited district. Only such as live in cold countries migrate;
indeed, regular migrations--that is to say, such as take place at stated
periods--or journeys to any considerable distance, are quite exceptional
among them. They are, in general, very affectionate and docile; the male
has frequently but one mate during his whole life, and nearly all of them
brood more than once in the year.

The nests of this order of birds are of very various construction, and
the number of eggs never large. The task of incubation usually devolves
upon the female, who is cheered and tended by her mate during the
period of her seclusion, but he also occasionally shares her labours,
and both parents co-operate in feeding and taking care of their young.
Many species are considered inimical to mankind, on account of their
marauding attacks upon property; and yet the benefits they confer far
outweigh any injuries of which they may be guilty. They clear away the
seeds of noxious weeds, free the plants from insects; and their lively
and cheering presence in the woods, their beauty, their song, and the
ease with which they are tamed, together with other good qualities, fully
entitle them to our admiration and regard. The flesh of most of them
affords an appetising and healthy food, and the plumage of some species
forms a beautiful and admired decoration.


PARROTS (_Psittacini_).

If it is ever permissible to compare animals of one class with those of
another, we would state our opinion that the parrots hold among birds
much the same position as that occupied by monkeys among quadrupeds.
The truth of this remark will become obvious as we proceed with their
history. Most systematists have considered parrots as entitled to take
but an inferior place in the zoological series, founding this opinion
upon a single characteristic which they share with many other birds
of far humbler endowments; we allude to the prehensile structure of
the foot. Parrots, Woodpeckers, Pepper-eaters, Curacus, Barbets, and
Jacamars, are all climbing birds; that is to say, they all have two toes
placed in front and two directed backwards; and, immaterial as this
structure of the foot may appear, it has been deemed a sufficient reason
for forming an order embracing several races of most dissimilar form,
which present only this one feature in common. Little stress should,
in reality, be laid upon this disposition of the toes, from whatever
point of view it is regarded, seeing that Woodpeckers, Tree-creepers,
and a great number of others that do not possess the scansorial foot,
vie with the so-called climbing birds in the facility with which they
climb. The three-toed Woodpecker is not inferior in the dexterity with
which it can use its claws to any four-toed scansorial species; and we
shall, we believe, be giving this climbing foot its proper appreciation
if we compare it to and rank it with the flexible tail of some mammalia,
the possession of which is not confined to any particular race, but
bestowed alike upon arboreal species of the most various kinds. A foot of
this description is by no means of such uniform structure as is usually
supposed, and, in truth, is scarcely less varied than are the birds
themselves; the foot of the parrot, in particular, differs essentially
from the pair-toed foot of other Scansores, in the development of the
central part, which renders it in its functions comparable to a hand. The
parrots, in fact, constitute a distinct and very clearly defined race,
their most distinguishing characteristic being found in the structure
of their beak, which can never be mistaken for that of any other bird.
At the first glance, indeed, the beak of the parrot would appear to
resemble that of the birds of prey; but it is, in reality, much thicker
and stronger, and also comparatively higher and more symmetrical in
its form. The legs are thick, strong, and fleshy, but never long; the
tarsus much shorter than the middle toe, and always covered with small
scaly plates; the toes are moderately long, and have a thick sole, but
this exists only on certain peculiar ball-like elevations; upon their
upper surface the feet are covered with minute scales, resembling those
of the tarsus; and these scales, as they approach the ends of the toes,
become gradually larger, and project beyond the base of the claw upon
the terminal joint in the shape of short tubular or band-like plates;
the claws are not long, but much bent and tolerably sharp, never very
powerful. The structure of the wings is in exact correspondence with that
of the feet; the bones are of moderate length, but strong; the pinion
feathers tolerably numerous--twenty to twenty-four. The compactly formed
primary quills are seldom long, but so disposed that the outspread wing
is generally pointed; the tail-feathers vary considerably in different
species, both as regards length and shape. The general plumage is
remarkable on account of its compactness; it consists of few feathers,
but these are usually of large size, with the exception of those covering
the head, which are small. The eye is in many instances surrounded by
a naked patch of skin, which during life is usually powdered over with
white dust. The body feathers are each furnished on the under side with
a large downy appendage. The coloration of the plumage, notwithstanding
its great diversity, will require notice, as presenting a feature very
distinctive of the different races of parrots. The prevailing tint is
a more or less vivid leaf-green; but we also meet with hyacinth, blue,
purple, red, golden yellow, and at times darker hues; their distribution
is also characteristic, more especially the frequent occurrence of
complementary colours upon the upper and under sides of the same
feather--blue-violet, dark blue, light blue or green above, with light
yellow, orange-yellow, cinnabar red, or purple underneath. Not less
peculiar is the frequent concealment of glowing tints among others which
are less conspicuous, as, for example, in the case of some Cockatoos in
which we meet with feathers having their lower portion and their downy
roots of a deep cinnabar red or brilliant yellow, and yet this portion
is seldom visible, on account of the length of the white feathers among
which it is hidden.

The extraordinary intelligence exhibited by some parrots is particularly
remarkable; it is, indeed, their sensible behaviour, not their form, that
makes us regard these creatures as representatives of the Quadrumana.
The parrot has, superadded to the form of a bird, all the qualifications
and troublesome propensities of the monkey--humoursome and fickle at
one moment, gentle and agreeable at the next; it is intelligent, active
and circumspect, provident and crafty, very quick in discernment, and
possessed of an excellent memory; on this account it is eminently
susceptible of instruction, and may be taught almost anything. On
the other hand, it is choleric, malicious, spiteful, and deceitful;
it forgets injuries as little as it does kindnesses; it is cruel and
inconsiderate to creatures weaker than itself, tyrannically ill-treating
the helpless and unfortunate, as does the monkey. It has been the
fashion to rank parrots as inferior to many other birds, because they
do not exhibit such conspicuous capabilities of locomotion; they are,
nevertheless, very well endowed, even in this respect. The larger species
fly with apparent heaviness, but with considerable rapidity; the smaller,
wonderfully well--so well, indeed, that we have been almost consoled for
the loss of a favourite bird whilst watching the beauty of its flight.
Very many appear to be quite out of their element when upon the ground,
they seem to hobble rather than to walk, but there are some Ground
Parrots that run swiftly and with much facility; and Gould makes mention
of a Grass Parrot that he saw running upon the ground like a plover.
The capability of hopping from bough to bough is an accomplishment in
which parrots are deficient, nevertheless they have their own mode of
progression among the branches; any considerable space they fly over,
but smaller distances they pass by climbing, and that with considerable
rapidity, unwieldy as some of them appear; helping themselves along
by means of their beak, as well as their feet, while other birds use
their feet only. Parrots are unable to swim, and are quite incapable of
diving. The bill is far more movable than that of any other bird, and
is useful for many purposes. Their voice is harsh and screaming, but
yet not entirely destitute of an agreeable sound when heard in their
native haunts. Some species will learn to whistle tunes with remarkable
clearness and accuracy; the faculty which they possess of imitating the
human voice and speech is well known--their performance, indeed, is
wonderful; they do not babble, they speak, and seem to know the meaning
of the words they use.

With the exception of Europe, parrots are to be met with in all parts
of the world, more especially in tropical regions; one American species
ranges as far north as 42°, and another is found in the southern
hemisphere, as far as the inhospitable wastes of Tierra del Fuego, in
53° south latitude. Cockatoos are known to inhabit New Zealand and
Macquarrie's island, 52° south. In Asia and Africa, the parrots are
principally confined to the limits of the torrid zone; in China, they
rarely pass 27° north latitude, and in India, at furthest, only extend
to the foot of the Himalaya mountains. In Western Africa, they rarely go
beyond 16° north, and in Eastern Africa, according to our information,
not further than 15°; but towards the southern hemisphere they probably
are to be met with at a greater distance from the equator.

Generally speaking, the woods are their favourite haunts; but this is by
no means universally the case. There are certain species, for example,
which only frequent treeless plains or wide steppes; in the Andes some
are to be found living far beyond the region of trees, even at an
altitude of 11,000 feet above the level of the sea.

In the north-east of Africa, according to our own experience, they
almost exclusively reside in places frequented by monkeys, insomuch
that apes and monkeys seem to be their inseparable companions. The more
extensive the forests--that is, the richer they are in vegetation--the
more these birds abound; indeed, in the tropical forests, they constitute
a large--we might almost say, the largest--proportion of the feathered
inhabitants. The same remark applies to Australia, as well as to many
localities in India, and in part also to Africa; in these countries
parrots are as numerous as crows are in Europe, and as common as sparrows.

They would seem to understand how to make themselves conspicuous; and
while they deafen the ear with their discordant cries, enliven the dark
shades of tropical forests with their lavishly-coloured plumage. "It
is impossible," says Gould, "to describe the enchanting scene afforded
by certain parrots, more especially by those adorned with feathers of
glowing red, as they wheel their varied flight among the silver-leaved
gum-trees of Australia, their gorgeous plumage standing out amid the
surrounding scenery with wonderful effect."

"Morning and evening," writes Schomburgk, "countless multitudes may
be seen at a considerable height, making an insufferable noise; one
afternoon I saw such a prodigious flight descend upon the trees by the
river-side, that the branches bent low under the weight of the birds."
"It is necessary to have lived in these countries, more especially in the
hot valleys of the Andes," says Humboldt, "to believe it possible that
the shrieking of the parrots actually drowns the roar of the mountain
torrents as the waters leap from rock to rock. What would those wondrous
tropical forests be without parrots? Lifeless gardens of enchantment,
a wilderness of silence, a solitary desert; by these birds they are
awakened and kept alive, for the parrots know equally well how to find
occupation both for the ear and eye of the traveller."

Except in the breeding season, parrots live in society, or, we might
rather say, in great flocks; they select a locality in the forest as
their settlement, and thence make daily excursions to considerable
distances. Early in the morning they simultaneously quit their
roosting-place, to invade the same tree or the same field in search of
food, stationing sentinels, whose duty it is to protect the community
from a sudden surprise. They pay instant attention to any voice of
warning, and when alarmed, immediately take flight, either all together
or shortly after each other.

"At the first glimmering of the clear morning sun of the tropics,"
says the Prince von Wied, "the parrots rouse themselves from their
sleeping-places, dry their wings, which have become wetted with the dews
of night, and playfully call aloud to each other; then, after describing
many sweeping circles above the high woods, they quickly depart in search
of the morning's meal. In the evening they invariably come back again to
their usual roost."

Le Vaillant tells us that in south-eastern Africa the native parrots
fly in little flocks in search of food, bathe about noon, and hide
themselves among the foliage during the overpowering heat of the sun.
Towards evening they disperse themselves, after which they again bathe,
and then fly back to the same roosting-place from which they had departed
in the morning. These roosting-places are very various--sometimes the
thickly-leaved top of a tree, sometimes a rock full of holes, often a
hollow tree trunk; the situation last mentioned seems to be especially
sought after. "Their sleeping-place," says Audubon, speaking of the
American parrakeets, "is a hollow tree, or the hole chiselled out in
some tree's trunk, to be the nestling-place of the larger woodpeckers,
that is, in case these are not occupied by their true owners. In the
gloaming large flocks of parrots assemble around old hollow sycamores,
or other trees of similar character; and may be seen immediately in
front of the entrance clinging to the bark, until one after another they
disappear through the hole that leads into the interior, in order to
pass the night. When a hollow of this description is not sufficiently
large to accommodate the numbers that are assembled, those that come last
are content to suspend themselves by their bill and claws from the bark
before the entrance.

"We have ourselves, in the primitive forests around the Blue River,
in Africa, repeatedly watched the parrots at twilight, slipping one
after another into their hole, and have observed them ranged with
great regularity around the many perforations in the trunk of some old
Adansonia.

"In India, the Collared Parrot, as Layard informs us, sleeps among the
thickets of bamboos. "All Parrots, Bee-eaters, Grakles, and Crows from
districts extending for many miles around, pass the night in flocks among
the great bamboo plantations, where the dull rushing sound caused by
their flutterings, constantly heard from sundown till dark, and from the
first grey dawning in the east until long after sunrise, might almost
be supposed by the observer to proceed from numerous steam-engines in
full work. Many of these flocks returning late in the evening from
their excursions, fly so near to the ground that they scarcely clear
the obstacles to their course; indeed, they do not always succeed in
doing so; for, several nights together, we have picked up parrots which
had flown against walls or similar obstructions, and had been killed in
consequence."

Layard gives a very lively account of the behaviour and doings of the
Alexander parrot (a species commonly met with in Ceylon), at one of their
sleeping-places.

In Chilau, he relates, that he has seen such massive flights of these
birds winging their way to their roosting-places among the cocoa-nut
trees that overshadow the market-place, that their cries completely
drowned the Babel-like confusion of tongues heard among the buyers and
sellers in the streets. He had previously been told of the flocks which
thus pay their nightly visits, and placed himself, accordingly, towards
evening, upon one of the neighbouring bridges, in order to form a
calculation of the numbers that might make their appearance in a certain
given direction. At about four o'clock in the afternoon they began to
arrive; scattered swarms were seen wending their way homewards, to these
there succeeded others still more numerous, and in the course of half an
hour the homeward stream was apparently in full flow. He very soon found
that it was impossible even to count the flocks, which seemed gradually
to unite into one great living, roaring torrent. Some flew high in the
air, until they were immediately over their roosting-place, and then
suddenly plunged down, wheeling round and round towards the tree-tops,
of which they were in search. Others crowded onwards, flying close to
the ground--indeed, so closely that some of them nearly grazed his face.
They swept along with the rapidity of thought, and their dazzling plumage
seemed to be lit up with gorgeous brilliancy, as it glanced in the rays
of the sun. He waited at his post of observation until the evening closed
in, and he could see no longer, but even then the flight of the birds as
they made towards their nests was audible. When he fired off a gun, they
rose with a sound like that of a furiously rushing wind; soon, however,
they again settled down, and commenced an indescribable hubbub. The
shrill screams of the birds, the noise caused by the fluttering of their
wings, and the rattling of the leaves of the palm-trees was so deafening,
that he was heartily glad when he escaped from such a turmoil, and took
refuge in his own house.

[Illustration: COCKATOOS (_Cacatua_).]

Next to a safe sleeping-place, the presence of trees thickly crowned
with foliage is an essential requisite for the comfortable lodgment of
parrots; this they require, not so much as a protection against the
weather, as for a secure hiding-place. Of all things they like warmth,
nevertheless they do not absolutely avoid a cool temperature, and still
less are they afraid of wet, at least for a time.

[Illustration: COLLARED PARROT (_Palæornis torquatus_).]

"During the heavy tropical rain-storms that sometimes darken the air,"
says the Prince von Wied, "it is not uncommon to see parrots sitting
motionless upon the dead branches at the very top of a tree, uttering
cheerful screams, as the water streams off from their plumage; there may
be dense foliage, and thick boughs immediately beneath, under which they
might easily find shelter, but they prefer the warm shower, and seem to
enjoy the wetting. No sooner, however, has the rain ceased, than they
appear equally desirous to dry themselves, and to rid their plumage of
the moisture."

In fine weather it is quite otherwise; they then decidedly prefer the
shelter of the thickest trees, either as a protection from the burning
heat of the sun, or for the purpose of concealment, and hasten to them at
once on the slightest alarm. They know what an excellent protection to
them, clothed as they are in leafy green, the verdant bower offers; and,
truly, when thus ensconced, they are tolerably secure from observation;
a man may know that there are fifty of them in a tree, and not see
one. In playing their game of hide and seek, both the colour of their
feathers, and the cunning so peculiar to all parrots, contribute to their
safety;--they do not want to be seen. One of their company has just at
the right time observed the approach of an enemy; he gives a sign, they
are all at once silent, and withdraw themselves towards the centre of the
tree; noiselessly, they climb to that side of the summit opposite to the
spot where the enemy has appeared, they then fly off, and it is only when
they are a hundred yards away that they seem to recover their voice, and
scream to their hearts' content, apparently rather out of bravado, after
having thus outwitted their pursuers, than for the sake of calling upon
their companions. This clever game they play more especially when they
have settled on some tree for the purpose of enjoying the fruit, as it is
then that their thievish design is carried out with the greatest cunning.
"Whilst on the wing," says Pöppig, "the large golden green Araras of the
Andes will arrest their flight to come down upon the scarlet Coral trees
(_Erythrinæ_) and the yellow _Tachiæ_, the heads of which they eagerly
devour. Their cry is positively fearful; nevertheless, they are quite
clever enough to understand that it would be dangerous to give utterance
to it when they are just about to plunder some ripening field of Indian
corn. At such a time, every one of them will repress its inclination
to make a noise, giving utterance to no sound except a sort of murmur,
with which it accompanies its proceedings, as it prosecutes its work
of destruction with surprising quickness. The sportsman, or even the
exasperated Indian, finds it by no means an easy task to surprise the
thieves, seeing that two of the oldest birds are always set as watchmen
upon the highest trees in the neighbourhood. The first note of alarm is
immediately answered by a general, half-uttered cry from the assembled
pilferers; the second is responded to by deafening screams, raised by
the whole flock as they fly away, and it is only when their enemy has
departed that they begin anew their destructive raid."

The presence of a numerous flock of parrots is generally only betrayed by
the empty husks that rattle as they fall against the broad leaves of the
bushes, producing a sound that can be heard from some distance.

Le Vaillant has noticed the silence of these birds at the approach of a
suspicious-looking visitor, on the occasion of their mid-day assemblages.
They will keep themselves so still that not the slightest sound can
be heard to proceed from among them, even though thousands should be
congregated together. On the discharge of a gun, the whole multitude will
immediately take wing, and rise into the air with deafening cries, as
though rendered furious by the interruption.

Far different is their conduct when they have become aware that the
good-nature of man leaves them unmolested. In India, as Jerdan informs
us, they not only come boldly into the towns, but will settle down,
without the slightest shyness, upon the tops of the houses, and from this
elevation descend to plunder the gardens and fields in the neighbourhood.
Incredibly great, and justifying the most efficient means of defence on
the part of man, is the destruction caused by parrots; nothing is safe
that is not constantly guarded. Like the monkeys, they waste a great deal
more than they eat.

The multitudes which assemble upon the fields or fruit trees devour all
they can upon the spot, bite off still more, and carry a few ears of
corn up into the trees, in order peaceably to fill their much craving
stomachs. When they make their appearance in the orchard, they search
every tree that is in fruit, and pluck such as may be ripe; bite a bit
off, and if it does not exactly suit their very refined taste, throw
it down upon the ground and take another instead. While feeding they
generally climb the branches from below upwards, and as soon as they get
to the top fly away to another tree, sweeping over the ground without
ever moving their wings. Arrived at this second tree they recommence the
work of destruction just as before.

In North America and in Chili they attack the fruit before it is ripe, in
search of the as yet milky pippins, and we may imagine the damage thus
caused. According to Audubon, the cornstacks in the fields are sometimes
the objects of their attack; they will hang upon them, and draw the ears
out of the sheaves, thus sparing the owner the trouble of threshing.
Some prefer one kind of seed and some another; but all agree in spoiling
everything that man sows or plants for his own use; and on this account
anything like friendship between the farmer and the parrots is quite out
of the question.

After having satisfied their hunger in this manner they go in search of
water to drink; and, according to Audubon and Schomburgk, do not refuse
salt, or at any rate brackish water. Besides occasional rain-baths, they
will bathe in lakes, washing themselves, Le Vaillant tells us, until they
are soaked through, as with a heavy rain. We also learn from Audubon that
they enjoy playing in the sand like fowls, covering their plumage with
dust, and will creep into king-fishers' holes, in order to find it. They
are fond of salt ground, and are always to be found near the saltworks in
the forests.

The incubation of these birds takes place during the months that
correspond in their native lands to our spring. The larger kinds
appear to lay but once in the year, and then only two eggs; though the
Australian Grass Parrot and some others are exceptions to this rule,
inasmuch as they will lay regularly from three to four eggs, and in
some cases from six to nine, twice or even three times during the year.
The eggs are always white, smooth, and round. Holes in trees are the
favourite nesting-places of these birds, but not exclusively so; some
American kinds will lay in holes in the rocks, and the Indian parrots in
crevices in old buildings, pagodas, monuments, or houses.

Audubon assures us that several females will lay in one hole; but we
consider this as very doubtful, though it is true that parrots prefer
breeding in society, sometimes even associated in immense flocks.

Molina speaks of a large settlement of these breeding birds in Chili,
and Pöppig of another, probably of the same species. "These several
settlements," says the last-mentioned naturalist, "must be very
astonishing to those to whom they are new. Fancy yourself, about mid-day,
wearily approaching a precipice, believing yourself to be perfectly
alone, that deep silence reigning around you that always indicates noon
in these tropical regions, when all animals seek repose in sleep; a kind
of growling strikes your ear, but you look in vain for any creature
that could produce it; suddenly you hear the parrots' cry of warning,
answered by many others, and before you are awake to your true position,
are surrounded by swarms of these quarrelsome birds, flying about in a
close circle, and in evident anger, threatening to strike you. From all
the innumerable holes upon the face of the rocks little round heads are
protruding, looking comical enough; and those that do not come out unite
their screams to the general uproar. Every opening indicates a breeding
hole, that has been excavated by its owner in the clay met with between
the strata of the rocks. At times many hundreds may be counted."

These colonies are always so cunningly situated, that it is impossible
for a beast of prey to approach them. Such settlements could not be made
in the woods, as the trees would not afford a foundation strong enough to
sustain their weight.

In general, it is in old trees that parrots make their nests; in Central
Africa the Adansonia is preferred, more especially should it grow on the
outskirts of a forest. We once saw a group of monkey-bread trees in the
Kordofanian steppes inhabited in this manner, although not yet covered
with their leaves.

As it is not always possible to find a trunk whose interior has been
hollowed by some friendly woodpecker, the parrots are often forced to
excavate their own nesting-places, and then it is that they show what
an available instrument their beak can be. It is the female who almost,
but not exclusively, makes the hole; at this work she shows herself most
skilful; she hangs, like a woodpecker, from the bark, and gnaws, rather
than cuts away, one shred after another, until the dwelling is completed;
this labour often occupies several weeks, but with patience the end is at
length attained. The hole is the principal matter, the nest does not need
much making; a few chips picked from the ground are all that is required
as a bed on which to deposit the eggs; even a hole that leaves much to
be desired in the way of convenience will content these very easily
satisfied parents. "From the white stem of a Trimi-palm," says Pöppig,
"I once saw a brilliant light blue tail depending; it betrayed the
Yellow Arara, who was busy with her strong beak enlarging a woodpecker's
hole, out of which her ell-long tail hangs whilst brooding." The female
generally sits alone, and is fed and entertained by her mate during the
whole time of incubation.

Among the smaller kinds of these birds, the brooding season lasts
from eighteen to twenty, and with others nineteen, twenty-three, or
twenty-five days.

The young are perfectly helpless when they leave the egg, but their
growth and development is rapid. At first they are very imperfectly
fledged, but in from five to six days the feathers begin to sprout,
and they open their eyes within eight or ten days of their birth. The
warbling Grass Parrakeet leaves the nest thirty-three days after being
hatched, and may be seen flying about two days later. Both parents feed
the young and tend them for some time after they have left the nest.

The food, if corn, is softened in the parent's crop before it is put into
the beak of the young bird. Schomburgk tells us that a pair of parrots
which had settled near his encampment in the wood, only fed their young
twice in the day, once at eleven in the forenoon and again about five
in the evening. As soon as they arrived they perched upon a branch near
the hole, and if they fancied themselves watched would sit quite still,
until they thought that a favourable opportunity occurred for stealing in
unobserved.

The parents are by no means deficient in tender care for their progeny,
and will shield their offspring from danger with most self-sacrificing
courage. Some species will attach themselves with great tenderness to
deserted birds; not merely to those of their own family, but to any
helpless orphan, even although belonging to another species.

Cunningham tells us that the surgeon of the _Triton_--a ship plying
between England and Australia--had a Blue Mountain Parrot, and a very
beautiful smaller one, that he had taken from its nest so young that
it was unable to feed itself. Under these circumstances the elder bird
undertook to give it food, and watched over it with the greatest anxiety.
The mutual friendship of these creatures seemed to increase as time
went on; most part of the day was spent in caresses; they trimmed each
other's feathers, and the old bird would spread her wings over her little
charge with every indication of solicitude. Indeed, their affectionate
demonstrations soon became so noisy that they had to be separated, in
order that the passengers might not be annoyed, and the young one was
placed in a cabin with several others.

After a two months' separation the elder parrot succeeded in escaping,
and was guided to the cabin by the voice of its young protégé, to
whose cage it clung. From this time the friends were not parted, but a
fortnight later the young one died, in consequence of a wound caused by a
fall. Its friend was silent from that hour, and did not long survive its
little charge.

Parrots attain their full beauty of plumage, and commence laying by the
time they are two years old; some of the smaller kinds breed within the
first twelve months, but, notwithstanding this, live for many years, and
have been known to long survive the family in which they passed their
youth.

In countries where parrots abound they are destroyed with unrelenting
perseverance, and this simply for the protection of property. "People
must not imagine," says Audubon, "that all the injuries they are guilty
of meet with no reprisals; on the contrary, these birds are slaughtered
in great numbers during their predatory visits to the farmers. Armed
with his loaded gun, the exasperated proprietor creeps amongst them, and
brings down eight or ten at the first shot; the survivors rise screaming
into the air, fly about in circles for three or four minutes, but return,
and surround the bodies of their fallen companions, uttering loud cries,
and this is repeated again and again, until so few remain that the farmer
does not think it worth while to waste his powder and shot upon them.
Hundreds are thus destroyed in the course of a few hours, and baskets
filled with the spoils."

Various are the expedients adopted for their destruction in different
parts of the world. The Chilians rush out with all speed when they see
the parrots settling, and attack them with sticks. The Australians rouse
them from their sleeping-place, and then throw their boomerangs amongst
the retreating flock. Adventurous men let themselves down the rocks in
which the South American species breed, to draw the young out of their
holes with hooks; or shooting parties and hunters endeavour to steal upon
them unawares. When it is found impossible to climb the trees on which
they breed, these are cut down, and nets and limed twigs placed around
to catch the young. The flesh of the slaughtered birds is often eaten,
although hard and tough, or is made into excellent soup.

Very frequently they are sought for on account of their splendid plumage.
"There is nothing more natural," says the Prince von Wied, "than this
most simple and pleasing decoration, to the use of which savages are
much addicted; and very beautiful are the articles made from feathers by
entirely untaught tribes; many of the aborigines of Brazil particularly
excelled in this kind of work." The love for parrot feathers is very
ancient. "In long forgotten times," says Pöppig, "the inhabitants of the
tropical forests brought arara feathers as tribute to the Incas, for the
decoration of their palaces, and early historians inform us that these
feathers and the 'Koka' were the only produce which led to the peopling
and cultivation of the formidably hot districts in which they abound."

It is said that Alexander the Great brought tame parrots from India, and
in later times these birds were taken in great numbers to Rome, where the
favour in which they were held was carried to such excess that it was
often reproved in the open forum. "Oh, unhappy Rome!" cried that severe
censor Marcus Portius Cato; "have we lived to see the day when our women
nurse dogs upon their laps, and our men go about with parrots on their
hands?" The Romans kept them in cages made of silver, tortoise-shell,
and ivory, and had tutors who particularly taught them to utter the word
Cæsar; in those days the price of a parrot that could speak exceeded that
of a slave. Ovid did not consider it beneath him to sing their praises,
and Heliogabalus thought he could not set anything more delicate than
parrots' heads before his guests. In Nero's reign, it would seem, only
Indian species were known; but probably at a later period African parrots
were introduced.

During the Crusades these birds adorned the houses of the rich, and
the first discoverers of America found tame parrots in the huts of the
natives. Von Schomburghk tells us, that in their native lands, when tame,
they are allowed to fly about, without having their wings clipped. "I
saw many," he writes, "which joined the flocks that were living over the
village during the day, and returned to their master's hut at night."

In comparison with such a life as this the parrots brought to Europe have
a sad fate; but they suffer most before their destination is reached.
The Indians inhabiting the primitive forests capture them in order to
exchange them for European articles, and hand them over to some sailor
in the nearest harbour, who knows nothing either of the necessary food
or of the care they require; not more than half the number that are
shipped survive the long sea voyage, and many of those that reach Europe
in safety perish in the dark, dirty, pestiferous shops of the dealers.
It is only when the bird receives especial attention that its fate is
ameliorated; but by that time it has often become distrustful, violent,
and ill-behaved, and only loses these rude ways after long care and kind
treatment; it is, however, very quick, soon learns to adapt itself to its
altered position, and becomes accustomed to all kinds of diet. At first
hemp or canary seed is acceptable, but after a time the parrot grows more
dainty, and if supplied with sweets becomes such an epicure that any less
delicate food is distasteful; it is easily habituated to almost anything
that man enjoys, even to tea, coffee, wine, or beer, and will quite
intoxicate itself with strong drink. These remarks do not apply to the
little Australian Ground parrot, which refuses everything except grass
seeds and the leaves of plants. Most of the larger kinds enjoy hemp-seed,
hard-boiled rice, ants, maize, lettuce, cabbage, fruit, small kinds of
millet, canary-seed, and the leaves of plants; such food as this keeps
them well and thriving. Bitter almonds and parsley, according to Küle,
are poisonous to these birds.

Many degrees of intelligence are observable among the members of the
Parrot tribe, and the same species often contains individuals of very
varied capabilities; but the memory of all is generally excellent. As
regards teaching them to speak, the most important point to be attended
to is that they should at first be kept closely confined and constantly
instructed; any extent of freedom may, however, be accorded when their
education is nearly completed. On the contrary, should the owner desire
the parrot to breed, a certain amount of liberty is needful. For this
purpose the first requisites are space, quiet, and a suitable tree for
the nest. A tolerably roomy chamber in which they may live throughout
the year, and the trunk of a hollow tree with convenient holes, the wood
being of a soft kind, afford all that is necessary in these respects.

The classification of parrots is particularly difficult, on account of
the great number of species, and it is almost impossible to indicate
distinct boundaries between the different families. It will, however,
answer our present purpose to arrange them under the general titles
of TRUE PARROTS (_Psittacinæ_), MACAWS (_Arainæ_), LORIES (_Lorinæ_),
COCKATOOS (_Cacatuinæ_), and GROUND PARROTS (_Pezoporinæ_), all of which
differ from each other more or less in their habits and modes of life.


THE TRUE PARROTS (_Psittacinæ_)

are inhabitants of the woods, only leaving them to linger on their
outskirts, and from thence to contemplate the tempting fields of fruit,
upon which from time to time they make a raid. Many of them never quit
their dense forests, whilst others of the smaller kinds prefer the less
shady trees or open country.

These birds belong to Africa and the neighbouring islands, and also to
various islands in the Pacific Ocean; they are likewise met with in
great numbers in South America. The family is very rich in species;
we shall, however, only select a few from the many, seeing that the
mere description of their plumage would be wearisome, and we scarcely
possess any information with regard to their mode of life in their native
haunts. There can be no hesitation in placing the "JAKO," the GREY, or
RED-TAILED PARROT (_Psittacus erithacus_) first upon the list, for it may
be considered as the type of the race; it is true that it has neither the
quickest flight nor the gayest plumage, but it combines in itself that
equal excellence of all the attributes of a parrot which gives and will
retain for it a pre-eminence among its congeners.


THE JAKO.

The GREY PARROT exhibits only two colours in its plumage. The tail is of
a deep Cinnabar red, and all the other feathers are ash-grey or greyish
blue, bordered with a lighter shade; near the head and neck the light
borders of the feathers are somewhat wider than elsewhere. The beak
is black, the eyes light brown, the bare places round the latter of a
whitish colour. The male and female do not differ in hue, and but little
in size, the male being the largest; its average measurement is twelve
inches in length and twenty-five inches across the wings, the tail three
inches and a half, the wing from shoulder to tip eight inches and a half;
when folded, the wing extends some lines beyond the tail.

Very little is known of these birds in their wild state, although they
are brought to Europe in far greater numbers than any other species. We
learn from Heuglin that the habitat of the Jako extends from the western
coast of Africa, deep into the heart of that continent, and reliable
naturalists have seen it in great numbers in Wan and Bongo, up to 8°
north latitude. It does not appear to penetrate further east, and is
quite unknown in eastern Soudan; how far north and south it is found is
at present doubtful. It is worthy of remark that these birds were not
many years ago imported from Guinea to Madagascar, where they became
naturalised and increased so rapidly, that at the commencement of the
eighteenth century their numbers rendered them a perfect scourge to the
inhabitants of the island of Bourbon and the Mauritius. The Grey parrot
is one of the most highly-prized of our domestic favourites, and well
merits the esteem in which it is held. Its praises have been sung in all
languages, and every work on natural history relates some anecdotes of
its surprising cleverness.

Perhaps the most celebrated of the species is one which lived for many
years in Vienna and Salzburg, and luckily found an exact and industrious
observer of its performances.

The Count Courcy Droitaumont was the first who, in the year 1835, in
Oken's "Isis," gave us such particulars of its attainments as awakened
astonishment in all quarters. This account has been attested by the
late possessor of the parrot, President Kleimayrn, at the wish of Lenz,
who afterwards published the following narrative:--"Jako noticed and
criticised everything that passed before him, gave the proper answer to
a question, did as he was bidden, saluted people who entered the room,
and made his adieux to those who were taking leave; he wished you good
morning and good night at the proper times, and asked for food when he
was hungry.

"He called all the members of the family by name, and preferred some
of them to others; if he wanted me (his master), he called out 'Papa,
come here,' and whatever he said, sang, or whistled, was done as a human
being would do it. There were times when he seemed inspired like an
improvisatore; his voice then sounded like that of a speaker heard from a
distance, when too far off to enable you to understand the words.

"Sometimes he would be marvellously polite--'Good morning, reverend
sir!' 'An almond, if you please, reverend sir!' 'Do you want an almond?'
'Should you like a nut?' 'Shall I have some food soon?' 'Have you got
something?' Occasionally he would threaten--'Be off, you rascal; are
you going home or not?' 'Be off, you thief, or wait till I come!' 'You
idiot!' 'You clown!' At times he was self-complacent--'Good little
prattler!' 'You are an excellent little parrot!' 'Take time, neighbour,
take time!' &c. If any one knocked at the door he would call very loudly
and distinctly (just like a man) 'Come in! Come in, Herr B.!' 'What
orders have you?' 'I am your humble servant!' 'I am delighted to have the
honour! quite delighted to have the honour!' Or he would tap on his cage
and say the above to himself.

"He could imitate the cuckoo excellently. Occasionally his conversation
was rather discursive. 'Look out!' 'Come out!' 'Come up!' 'My dear
little parrot!' 'Bravo, bravissimo!' 'Are we not going to dinner?' 'Let
us go to the window!' 'Hieronymus, stand up!' 'I am going!' 'Long live
the Emperor!' 'Where have you been?' 'Will you kindly excuse me, but I
thought you were a bird?' Whenever he bit or spoiled anything, he would
say, 'Don't bite!' 'Be quiet, do!' 'What have you been doing?' 'Wait a
minute, you rascal; what have you been doing?' 'I am coming after you!'
'How are you, you little chatterer?' 'Have you got something to eat?' 'I
hope you will enjoy it!' 'Hush, hush, good night!' 'Pretty Poll may go
out; so come, come shoot, Poll, shoot!' and then he would shoot, calling
loudly 'Puff!' 'There, there, there!' 'Go home, come march, go home
directly!' 'I'm coming after you!' He would ring a bell that was placed
in his house, and say, 'Who's that ringing? who's that ringing?' 'Why,
here's a little dog! a pretty little dog!' Then he would whistle to the
dog and say, 'Whistle, little dog!' and ask, 'What does the little dog
say?' and then bark. If told to fire, he would say 'Puff!' and give the
word of command, 'Halt; right about face; make ready; present; fire!
Bravo, bravo!' He never said 'Bravo!' in connection with his faults.

[Illustration: THE JAKO (_Psittacus erithacus_).]

"Sometimes he would cry out, 'What are you shaking me for? What are
you doing to me?' and scream for help, as though being shaken, and
call out again, 'Don't shake me, you rascal! Ah! that's the way of the
world! alas! alas! Don't shake me, you rascal!' and then laugh with
great distinctness. If anything ailed him, he would exclaim mournfully,
'Poor Poll is ill; poor little parrot!' If annoyed, his tone became
defiant--'Wait a minute; I'll come and punish you!' If ever he saw the
cloth being laid, or heard from a distance that preparations were making
for a meal, he would immediately call out, 'Let's go to dinner!' When
the family were at breakfast he would ask, 'Am I to have anything? I
should like some chocolate!' He would remain quiet as long as his master
slept; but if in another room would begin singing and whistling at break
of day. In order to see if it would be possible to teach Jako to sing,
we selected such words as he could say, and he was soon able to sing a
verse of a song; he could put in harmonies, and readily run up and down
the scales, and learnt to whistle many scraps and shakes. He never kept
to the same key, but would take the air half a tone higher or lower, and
yet never utter a false note. Whilst at Vienna he was taught an air from
'Martha,' and on being shown a dance, tried to imitate it by raising
one foot after another, and putting his body into dancing attitudes.
Kleimayrn died in 1853, and Jako fell ill, as it would seem, from pining
after his beloved master. In 1854 he was so weak that he had to be laid
in a little bed and carefully tended; he continued, however, to talk
incessantly, and after saying, 'Your poor little parrot is ill!'--died."

A young lady has given us the following particulars about another
"Jako:"--"The parrot of which I am about to speak was given me by a
man who had lived for many years in the East Indies. The bird at first
knew nothing but Dutch, but soon learnt German and French, and after a
time spoke as clearly as a human being in all three languages; he was
so observant that he often used phrases which had never been taught
him, applying them on fitting occasions in the most astonishing manner.
He said a number of disjointed Dutch words and sentences, intermixing
German quite correctly when the phrase was not forthcoming in the former
language. He could ask, answer, and request you to give him something,
and thank you for it, varying the use of the words according to the time,
place, or person. 'The little parrot wants something to eat!' If he did
not get what he wanted, he would immediately scream out, 'I _must_ and
_will_ have something to eat!' And if still kept waiting would begin
throwing everything about to vent his anger. He said '_bon jour_' in the
morning, and '_bon soir_' in the evening; asked permission to retire, and
took his leave of us. When he was carried out, he would say, '_Bon soir,
bon soir_.'

"This bird was particularly attached to his mistress, from whom he
received his food, and would press his beak on her hand, and say, 'Kiss
the lady's hand.' He took great interest in all she did, and whilst she
was busied with something would often ask, with most comic earnestness,
'What is the lady doing?' After her death, he evinced great sorrow, and
it was only with difficulty that he could be persuaded to take food,
or that his life could be preserved. He whistled wonderfully well,
particularly the tune, 'Ich dank dir schon durch deiner Sohn,' and sang
most beautifully. He would say to himself, 'Polly must sing a little,'
and then begin--

    "'Perroquet mignon,
    Dis moi sans façon,
    Qu'a-t-on fait dans ma maison
    Pendant mon absence.'

Or--

    "'Ohne Lieb und ohne Wein
    Können wir doch leben?'

Then he would sometimes say--

    "'Ohne Lieb und ohne _maison_
    Können wir doch leben.'

Or--

    "'Ein Kuss--_sans façon_.'

The latter version seemed to amuse him so much that he would burst into
loud laughter. 'Polly, what does Lottie say?' he would sometimes ask
himself, and answer immediately, as though some one else had put the
question, 'Oh, my beautiful, beautiful little parrot; come and kiss me.'
And this he would utter with the exact tone of endearment used by Lottie.
He expressed his conceit by saying, 'Ah, how beautiful I am!' at the same
time stroking his beak with his foot, though he was by no means handsome,
for he had the ugly trick of pulling out his feathers. On this account he
was ordered wine baths, which were administered to him by the help of a
watering can. These baths were most disagreeable to him, and as soon as
he saw preparations being made he would beg imploringly, 'Please don't
make me wet! Poor little parrot! Please don't wet me!'

"He could not bear strangers, and those who came to see him, and wanted
to hear him speak, only attained their wishes by hiding themselves. In
their presence he was as quiet as a mouse, but chattered incessantly when
visitors were out of sight, as though he wanted to indemnify himself for
the restraint he had been under. There were people, however, who managed
to gain his affections, and he would talk with them when they came, and
used even to crack his jokes about them. A fat major, with whom he was
well acquainted, was trying one day to teach him a new trick. 'Get upon
the stick, parrot; get upon the stick!' commanded the soldier. But Polly
seemed sulky. All at once, the bird burst into a loud laugh, and said,
'Get upon the stick, major; get upon the stick!' Another friend of his
had not come to the house for some time. The visitor had been talked
about, and it was expected that 'Roth,' as he was called, would make his
appearance on a certain day. 'Here comes Roth,' said the bird, suddenly,
as he saw him approaching through the window, and recognised him from
some distance.

"This poor parrot came to an unlucky end; it was given as a present to
a relation of its master, who had become superannuated, and had taken a
childish fancy to the bird. But it could not endure the parting from all
it loved, and died in the course of a few days."

We could tell of many grey parrots that have been brought to great
perfection in the art of speaking, but the preceding anecdotes combine
all that these birds have been known to do, so we will only observe
that their wonderful memory and powers of mimicry have sometimes their
disadvantages. Their first teachers are usually sailors, and it may,
therefore, be easily imagined that their vocabulary is neither choice nor
elegant; unluckily, the best educated birds will often remember these old
lessons, and intermix the lowest and commonest words with their pretty
phrases and speeches. The parrot can reproduce any peculiar sound with
as much ease as it learns words, and will imitate the creaking of a
neighbouring door, the barking of a dog, the mewing of a cat, or even an
old man's cough.

Mr. Wood tells us that a friend of his had a parrot of this species,
which proved herself a most tender and affectionate guardian. In a hedge
of roses near its owner's house, a pair of finches had built their nest,
and were regularly fed by the family, who were much attached to all kinds
of pet animals. The numerous visitors to the rose hedge attracted Polly's
attention, and, seeing the food they gave strewed around, she determined
to emulate their good example. Being allowed to fly about, she left her
cage, imitated the cry of the old finches, and gave the nestlings a part
of her food; but these expressions of sympathy did not please the parent
birds, who at once deserted their young from fear of the large stranger,
so that Polly saw the little ones thus become orphans, and a fine field
opened for her fostering care. From that hour she refused to return to
her cage, and remained day and night near her adopted children, whom
she fed with the greatest assiduity, and had the pleasure of rearing
successfully. When the little ones were fledged they used to perch upon
the head and neck of their foster-mother, who bore the burden with
exemplary care; the parrot, however, received but small thanks, for her
young charges had no sooner wings strong enough to bear them than they
flew away. Poor Polly was for some time in bitter distress, but at length
found consolation for her motherly feelings in the discovery of some
deserted hedge sparrows; these she conveyed to her cage, where they were
soon on the best terms with their adopted parent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many American varieties of the Short-tails, usually called GREEN PARROTS
(_Chrysotis_), differ from their African congeners, the Jakos, in their
prevailing green colour, and in the small size of the bare parts around
the eyes. Their body is compact, the beak strongly bent, the tail short,
broad, and somewhat rounded; the wings broad, and strongly formed,
reaching nearly to the middle of the tail; the legs are strong, thick,
and fleshy; the feet powerful, and armed with strong claws, the plumage
lies close and thick, the feathers being small and imbricated. Two
species of this family are especially well known to us, the Green and the
Amazon. They are both large birds, of fourteen inches long, and about
twenty-one to twenty-three across the wings; the tail measures from four
inches to four inches and two-thirds; and the wing, from the shoulder to
the tip, seven inches.


THE AMAZON PARROT.

The AMAZON PARROT (_Chrysotis Amazonicus_) is of a brilliant green
colour, sky blue on the brow and top of the head, yellow on its cheeks
and throat, and red on the shoulders; the side tail-feathers are
blood-red beneath, the beak deep horn grey, the cere blackish, the feet
ash grey, powdered with white, and the iris externally bordered with
orange, and internally with pale yellow. The Green parrot (_Chrysotis
æstivus_), on the contrary, has its forehead and cheek stripes of a sky
blue colour. The shoulders are green, and the red side-feathers of the
tail edged with green.

From the observations made by the Prince von Wied, Speke, Schomburghk,
and Burmeister, we learn that both kinds are widely spread over South
America.

The Amazon parrot avoids the forests near the coast, but frequents the
woods and bushes of the higher lands, while the Green parrot prefers the
primitive forests. Both kinds are much alike in their habits and mode
of life. Early in the morning they leave their roosting-places, and fly
screaming through the air, beating violently with their wings, until they
reach the woods or plantations where they can find fruit; at noon they
rest, after which they set out in search of food; and in the evening,
except in breeding time, assemble in great numbers, making a terrible
noise until a roosting-place is found for the night.

The Prince von Wied gives the following account of the Green parrot,
which is called the Kuriche by the Brazilians:--"In all the eastern
coasts of Brazil that I travelled through this bird was very common; I
found it in numbers wherever there were thick forests, and on the borders
of mango swamps at the mouths of rivers; it breeds equally well in all
such places, but seems to prefer localities where it can obtain the fruit
of the mango. Great flocks inhabit the wooded country around Rio de
Janeiro, Parahiba, Espirito Santo, and Belmonte, and their loud voices
may be heard morning and evening in the bushes of the bog-like country,
which is watered by the floods from the rivers. These bushes stand in the
same relation to the Brazilian rivers as willows do to European streams;
but the trees are higher, and the parrots can often make their homes on
their strong stems or branches. In the breeding season they usually fly
up into the air in pairs, calling and screaming loudly, but except at
that time are met with in very numerous flocks. We ourselves have seen
such enormous swarms of short-tailed parrots in the Mucuri forests and
other places, that the whole woodland was filled with their extraordinary
cry. On these occasions many different species seemed to be combined in
one flock; their united screams were deafening, and as one party drove
another from the trees, excitement gave new vigour to their shrieks.
Should they alight upon a lofty, thickly-foliaged tree, it is often
very difficult to see them, as their green hue is a great protection,
and their presence is only indicated by the fall of the shells and
stones of the fruit they devour. Whilst eating they remain quiet, but if
alarmed will utter loud cries. They are shot in great numbers, as they
are excellent food, and the soup made from their flesh is much esteemed
both in Brazil and Surinam. These parrots lay two white eggs in holes of
trees, upon a bed of shreds of wood, chipped out in preparing the nest;
they breed but once in the year, and that in the spring time of their
native land.

[Illustration: THE AMAZON PARROT (_Chrysotis Amazonicus_).]

"The young, if taken from the nest, are soon tamed, and learn to speak
distinctly; on this account they are frequently found in the Brazilian
houses, and are brought in great numbers into the towns, and sold to
sailors, who bring them to Europe; they do not learn to speak so readily
as the grey parrot, but prove teachable, tolerably gentle, and amiable
towards those that feed them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Under the generic name of PIONUS, Wagner unites many small parrots, which
we will call the BLUNT-TAILED PARROTS. Their bodies are compact, the tail
very short, the wings on the contrary being slender, pointed, and so long
that they reach at least as far as the middle of the tail; the beak is
compressed at the sides, and the upper mandible generally terminates in a
long pointed hook. The legs are strong and powerful, the plumage usually
harsh, and the feathers cordiform and particularly small. Those on the
head and neck are thick and strikingly coloured. We are familiar with
many varieties of these birds, most of them from South America, and with
others from Africa, which have lately been placed in a different tribe.

[Illustration: THE MAITAKKA (_Pionus menstruus_).]


THE MAITAKKA.

Of all the blunt-tailed parrots, none is brought to Europe in greater
numbers than the Brazilian MAITAKKA (_Pionus menstruus_). This bird is
of middle size, ten and a half inches long and twenty inches across;
the tail is three inches long, and the wing six inches in length from
the shoulder to the tip. The plumage on the head, neck, throat, and
upper part of the breast, is ultramarine, through which the black ground
colour is visible: the neck feathers are of a copperish green, edged
with blue. The back, lower part of belly, breast, and wings are copper
green, the feathers on the back being edged with a darker shade; those
upon the breast are shaded with light blue. The upper wing-covers are
of a yellowish olive green, the under covers the colour of verdigris;
the quill-feathers are green, bordered with black, the wing-feathers
blood-red, yellow at the tip, and the shafts blue. The two middle
tail-feathers are green, the tip and outer web are blue, and near the
root of a light blood-red. The beak is horn grey at the tip and paler at
the base, with a rose-coloured spot on both sides beneath the nostrils;
the legs are of a greyish slate colour, the eye-rings bluish grey, and
the eyes greyish brown. The female resembles the male, but is somewhat
paler. In the young, grey is generally the prevailing hue; in old birds
blue predominates.

According to the testimony of travellers, particularly the Prince von
Wied, Schomburghk, and Burmeister, the Maitakka inhabits all the country
near the coast in Brazil and Guiana, where these birds are met with in
great numbers. They live in pairs in the dry season, and assemble in
large flocks during the rainy part of the year, flying with loud cries
from tree to tree, and settling upon those most heavily laden with fruit,
to which they often do great damage, returning in the evening to their
usual resting-places. Their movements depend upon the time when the
different fruits are ripe, and to enjoy these they fly about the country
in various directions, during the rainy season approaching nearer to the
plantations on the coast and open country, but in the hotter part of
the year keeping more immediately in the neighbourhood of the principal
forests.

The flocks of these birds are very noisy; but when pairing they only
utter their call-note, which is a shrill, harsh cry. They breed during
the dry season, and their preparations for sitting do not differ from
those of other parrots. The Maitakka is hunted zealously throughout the
whole of Brazil, partly in order to drive it from the plantations, and
partly for the sake of its flesh. It is often tamed, and though not so
teachable as other parrots, soon becomes accustomed to captivity, and
can be taught to utter disjointed words. Great numbers are brought to
the coast, and eagerly purchased by sailors, for though very numerous
in Europe, these birds always command a high price. With care they can
endure confinement for many years.


THE CRESTED HAWK PARROT.

One of the American parrots which we include in this family reminds us
of the cockatoos, and must be considered as the type of a peculiar tribe
(_Deroptyus_). Linnæus, who was acquainted with it, gave it two distinct
names, the one on account of its sparrow-hawk-like plumage (_Deroptyus
accipitrinus_), the other, because of its frill of elongated feathers
(_Deroptyus coronatus_). We will call it the CRESTED HAWK-PARROT, seeing
that the long feathers on the nape of the neck, which can be raised at
pleasure, distinguish it from other South American species.

The beak is large, strongly but bluntly toothed, and having the ridge
of the upper mandible powerfully hooked and projecting. The cere is
short, and its margin curved like the letter S. The eyes are surrounded
by a broad bare circle; the bluntly-pointed wings reach to the middle
of the tail, the latter being of tolerable length and formed of rounded
feathers, of which the three exterior on both sides are shortly
graduated; the legs are weak, and the toes long. The plumage is on
the whole extremely rich, of a pale yellowish-grey upon the head; the
exterior margin of the forehead is of a brown colour; the crest is
composed of dull blood-red feathers, edged with sky blue. The plumage
on the back is light green, somewhat darker in the middle than on the
sides, and the feathers on the lower part of the body are, as far as they
are visible, blood-red. The sides of the cheeks and the throat are of a
brownish tint; the primaries quite black, and the secondaries similarly
coloured on both sides. The tail is bluish on its upper surface, and
black underneath. Burmeister gives the length of this rare and beautiful
species as being fourteen inches, five and a half of which belong to the
tail; the wing measures seven inches from the shoulder to the tip.

As far as we know at present, this bird prefers dwelling in the wooded
district near Guiana and the River Amazon. Spix found it at Villa Nova,
on the river above-mentioned. Schomburghk mentions it but twice. He
says that he met with it on the Rupununi, and also in the huts of the
Warrau Indians; but though he saw numerous flocks of these magnificent
birds enlivening the palm-trees of Sawari, and greeting passers-by
with piercing cries, and thus had abundant opportunities for making
observations, he tells us extremely little about them. "When angry," he
informs us, "this bird is without doubt one of the most beautiful of the
parrot race, as it then raises the brilliantly tinted feathers on the
back of the neck, until they stand up perpendicularly, thus forming a
flowing circle round the head." The settlers call it "Hia," which word
is supposed to resemble its cry. From the same writer we learn that
this species inhabits the lower woods, approaching the settlements with
confidence, and although easily tamed, is weakly and unteachable. It
makes its nest in the holes of trees, and lays from two to four eggs.


THE DWARF PARROTS.

Among the most vivacious and docile members of this family, the Dwarf
Parrots (_Psittacula_) deserve our particular notice, for their behaviour
is quite in harmony with their beautiful exterior. "The poets," says
Schomburghk, "could not have been aware of the tender love that exists
between a little pair of Dwarf Parrots, or they would never have selected
doves as their models of ideal tenderness; indeed, it is impossible to
compare the latter with the former in this respect. Between these "Love
birds," as we generally call them, there exists the most perfect harmony
in all their acts and wishes. They eat together, share the same bath,
and if the male bird utters his cry his mate will instantly join her
voice to his. Should one fall ill, the other feeds it, and, however many
may be assembled on a tree, the little couples never leave each other.
It is well known that these elegant little creatures can only be reared
in pairs, or, at any rate, they must be allowed the society of some of
their race. If taken young out of the nest, before they have chosen a
mate, it may happen that solitary individuals can be reared; but the
older birds never survive the death of their little companions, and
soon pine themselves to death. More need not be said in favour of these
'inseparable birds.'"

The "Dwarf Parrots" are not larger than Finches or Larks, and are
distinguished by their short, bluntly-hooked beaks, and strikingly short
small tails, the feathers of which are tolerably equal in size and
pointed. The quills of their wings are short, and when the latter are
closed reach to the end of the tail; their legs are likewise short and
feeble. The plumage is soft, long, and large-feathered; the individual
feathers are, usually, not bright, but strikingly coloured and marked. We
are acquainted with many species, which are spread over Africa, Asia, and
South America, and resemble each other in their habits and mode of life.
All are true parrots, climbing the branches with the greatest dexterity,
flying rapidly, and feeding upon fruit and corn; the nests are made in
the holes of trees, and their eggs are small, rounded, and white.


SWINDER'S LOVE-BIRD.

SWINDER'S LOVE-BIRD (_Agapornis Swinderiana_), one of the prettiest
members of this group, is a tiny creature, at most five inches in length,
of which more than one inch belongs to the tail: it is about nine inches
broad, and each wing measures three inches from the shoulder to the tip.
The prevailing colour of the plumage is green; the under part of the
body, wings, and upper tail-covers are a beautiful azure blue; the short,
scarcely rounded tail is, with the exception of the two middle feathers,
green, but bright red at the root and towards the end, with a black line
dividing the two colours. The face, belly, and tail-covers are yellowish
green, and the upper part of the throat is surrounded by a black band.
These beautiful birds inhabit the western and interior parts of Africa,
but information as to their habits in their native land is entirely
wanting.

[Illustration: THE CRESTED HAWK PARROT (_Deroptyus accipitrinus
coronatus_).]


THE SPARROW PARROT.

The SPARROW PARROT (_Psittacula passerina_) is one of the smallest of
the Brazilian parrots, being scarcely or not at all larger than the
species we have just described. The colour of the plumage is a bright
green, shaded into yellow upon the brow, face, and lower parts. The
under-side of the tail and tail-covers are of a pale bright bluish
green; the anterior border of the wing, the large wing-covers, the back,
and secondary quill-feathers, as well as the inner wing-covers and the
under part of the body, are of a bright ultramarine; the primary quills
are blackish brown, with a green anterior edge. The beak is a bluish
ashy green; the cere somewhat darker; the feet ash grey, with green,
scale-like plates; the eyes brown.

The Sparrow Parrot is very common in Brazil, and inhabits both the
woodlands near the sea-coast and the bushes in dry districts, to which
it is an admirable ornament. These birds come in troops into the gardens
of the settlers like our sparrows, which they also resemble in the fact
that when in company with others of their kind they scream and chatter in
a very confused manner, the united flock producing a shrill twittering
sound. They settle in great numbers upon a tree or shrub to nibble the
fruit, during which time the whole swarm is in unceasing confusion,
climbing nimbly up and down the branches, and whistling briskly. In other
respects the Sparrow Parrot lives after the same manner as the rest of
its relatives, making the same kind of nest, sometimes using the deserted
oven-shaped abode of the Crested Parrot, and laying from three to four
white eggs upon the shreds of wood that cover the bottom of the hole.
Both young and old are often captured by the Brazilians, and seem soon to
forget the loss of their freedom, if they are not separated from their
mates. They are but short lived, and for that reason seldom reach Europe;
still, it occasionally happens that, with great care, they will survive
some years, and even breed in a state of captivity.


THE SISKIN PARROT.

The SISKIN PARROT (_Nasiterna pygmæa_), the dwarf among the dwarfs
belonging to this order, lives in New Guinea and the Papuan Islands. Its
green plumage is varied by a yellowish shade on the head, and the face
is light golden brown; the middle tail-feathers are blue, the rest are
black, with yellow tips; the beak is extraordinarily high and strong. As
far as we know, this bird is not rare upon the high trees on the coast of
New Guinea and in the forests of Salawatis and Misool, but no observer
has as yet given us particulars of its habits.


COCKATOOS.

Amongst the different species of parrots with which Australia is enriched
the COCKATOOS (_Plyctolophus_) take high rank. The members of this group
are distinguished by their compact body, short tail, and wings of middle
size; their large, short, broad beak toothed at the margin, the upper
mandible of which terminates in a strong hook. The tongue is usually
fleshy and smooth, the region of the eye bare, and the head decked
with an upright tuft of bright and beautiful feathers. The plumage is
generally very striking, either by reason of its pure white or delicate
rose colour, or (for a parrot) the unusually dark tints that predominate.
Cockatoos are found not only in Australia, but in the Moluccas, New
Guinea, and the Philippine Islands, where most kinds establish themselves
in enormous flocks in the woods, and fly from thence over the fields
and plains, presenting an appearance that is enchantingly beautiful.
"Perched under the shadow of the dark foliage," says Mitchell, "their
bright wings and glowing crests transform the heights upon which they
live into regions of the most exquisite beauty." In their habits and mode
of life Cockatoos resemble other parrots, and must be reckoned among
the most pleasing of the whole race. It is quite true that when living
together in large flocks their cries frequently become a deafening noise
intolerable to ordinary ears, but a solitary bird is very engaging;
indeed, there is something so extremely tender in the tone in which it
utters the word "cockatoo" (whence is derived the name), that it attracts
us involuntarily, for the cry of "cockatoo" is always intended to express
a kindly feeling, and changes when angry into a most fearful shriek. The
Cockatoo soon learns to make friends with mankind, plays fewer tricks
than other parrots, appears grateful for any kindness that is shown to
it, and seems eager to make a fitting return; unkindness alone makes
it ill-tempered or mischievous, and its excellent memory enables it to
avenge an injury after the lapse of years. Its disposition in general
is mild and gentle, and its good qualities numerous. It learns to speak
with tolerable ease and fluency, forming the words into phrases, as
though it understood them, and applies whole sentences at a fitting
opportunity. In their wild state, Cockatoos assemble in large flocks,
which remain more or less united even during the breeding season; they
pass the night buried in the leafy shelter of the trees, and at break of
day make the woods resound with their noisy screams as they rise into
the air with light strokes of the wing, hovering and gliding till they
reach a field yielding suitable food. Fruit, corn, and seeds constitute
their principal nourishment, and they will also devour buds and bulbs,
obtaining the latter very dextrously by the help of their long beaks.
Every fresh occurrence in their daily life is greeted with loud cries;
and should a second flock pass over the place where they have settled,
their combined shrieks are perfectly appalling, and can only be imagined
by those who have heard the yells a few captive cockatoos are capable
of producing. As soon as hunger is appeased these flocks retire to rest
beneath the shelter of the branches, where they remain some hours in
comparative quiet; they then again go in search of a meal, returning
to pass the night on their accustomed trees. Thus they live till the
breeding season, when they pair, and each couple sets out to find a
suitable home, preferring holes in trees, but also resorting to fissures
in the rocks. Certain precipices near the South Australian rivers are
yearly visited by thousands of Cockatoos, just as the cliffs of the north
seas are infested by huge flocks of sea-gulls. We are told that some of
these rocks are completely honeycombed by them, and the strength and
firmness of their beaks renders this assertion easily credible. They
lay two white, pointed eggs, about the size of those of a bantam fowl;
but in what manner incubation is carried on we are not aware. We are
told by travellers that they soon become timid if they suspect danger,
and, like other kinds of parrots, carry on their depredations with so
much cunning that it is very difficult, or indeed impossible, to drive
them from the fields. The natives hunt them in a very peculiar manner.
"Perhaps," says Captain Grey, "it would be impossible to imagine a more
exciting spectacle than that of seeing the Australians hunt the Cockatoo.
They employ for this purpose a very remarkable weapon called a boomerang;
this is a sickle-shaped flat instrument made of wood, which can be thrown
by the hand to a distance of 100 feet, and flies in small circles with
many windings from the direct path. An Australian will follow a flock
either into the fields or woods, preferring, however, places where large
trees are situated near water, such spots as these being the favourite
resort of the Cockatoos. Here they are to be found in innumerable hosts,
climbing on the branches or flying from tree to tree; here they also
sleep, and here the wily native comes, most watchfully observing all
necessary precautions. He goes from one tree to another, and creeps from
bush to bush, taking the greatest care not to disturb the wary birds, but
in vain, for, however quiet his movements may be, he is soon discovered,
and his near approach greeted with a hideous cry. The birds have already
perceived that danger is at hand, though they do not know what the next
step may be. At length their pursuer reaches the water, and discloses
his dark form to their view; amidst piercing shrieks the white cloud of
birds rises into the air, and at the same instant the Australian throws
his weapon amongst them. The boomerang, which is thrown with great force,
dances and springs in the most wonderful manner over the water, and then,
rising higher and higher in its wayward flight, is soon careering in
the midst of the frightened multitude. A second, a third, and a fourth
weapon is discharged; in vain the terrified creatures try to escape,
the apparently aimless course of the missile bewilders them and delays
their flight. One after the other is struck by the boomerang, and comes
to the ground, having probably either lost its head or broken its wing;
they fall screaming with pain and terror, and it is only when the dusky
hunter has attained his end that the remainder of the terrified flock
hide themselves in the foliage of the trees." The flesh of the Cockatoo
is tolerably good, and the soup made from it excellent. The number of
these birds that find a home with us prove that they are easily captured,
and, like all other parrots, they will live a long time if nourished with
simple food.


THE LEMON-CRESTED COCKATOO.

The LEMON-CRESTED COCKATOO (_Cacatua galerita_) is known by its white
colour (which in some specimens presents the appearance of having had a
delicate red breathed upon it), and by its perfectly shaped tuft, formed
of two rows of long and slender feathers, that can be raised or lowered
at pleasure. This long tuft or crest, the wings, and the inner web of the
tail-feathers are of a pale brimstone colour at the root. The eye is deep
brown, the beak black, and the foot greyish brown. The length of this
species is about one foot four inches.

We are at present uncertain whether this bird is spread over Van Diemen's
Land, as well as over the whole of Australia and New Holland, or whether
those countries are inhabited by different species of very similar
plumage. A careful examination of the Cockatoos most abounding in those
three regions has shown a decided difference in the construction of the
beak, and justifies the last-mentioned opinion. According to Gould, the
Lemon-crested Cockatoo is common to all the Australian settlements except
those to the west. These birds live in flocks of hundreds and thousands,
much preferring open plains, or slightly wooded districts, to the forests
near the coast.


LEADBEATER'S COCKATOO.

The INCA, or LEADBEATER'S COCKATOO (_Cacatua Leadbeateri_), another
species found on the continent of Australia, differs from the bird we
have just described in the arrangement of its colours. Its plumage is
white, but the forehead, sides of the neck, the middle and under surface
of the wings, are of a beautiful rose tint. The crest is magnificent;
the individual feathers of which it is composed are bright red at the
root, spotted with yellow in the middle, and tipped with white. When this
plume is laid back, nothing but the white tips can be seen, but it is no
sooner raised than the blazing red appears, and the yellow spots unite
themselves into a stripe that renders its appearance still more striking.
The spaces around the eyes are light brown; the beak light horn colour;
the foot dark brown. The female is somewhat paler on the lower part of
the body, and has large yellow spots upon the crest.

Gould tells us that these splendid birds are spread over the whole of
South Australia, living principally upon the high gum-trees and brushwood
near the rivers of the interior. They are found principally near the
Darling and Murray rivers, and do not extend as far as the north-western
coast. During the breeding season they appear in great numbers in certain
localities, and animate the otherwise monotonous forests of the interior.
The voice of the Inca cockatoo is more plaintive than that of its
congeners, and its scream not so harsh.


THE HELMET COCKATOO.

The HELMET COCKATOO (_Callicephalus galeatus_) also deserves notice as
being the type of a tribe that forms the connecting link between the True
Cockatoos and the GERINGEROES or RAVEN COCKATOOS of New Holland. This
bird is known by its short vaulted beak, which has a slightly projecting
hook on the upper mandible, and by its tolerably strong and rounded tail.
The plumage is beautiful and richly marked; the upper part of the body
is a dark slate blue, the forehead, cheeks, and crest scarlet; all the
feathers, except the primary and secondary quills and the tail-feathers,
are slender, and edged with whitish grey more deeply on the upper than on
the under part of the body. The female is darker, and almost of a slate
colour, the upper surface of the neck and back sprinkled with pale grey,
and the rest of the body marked with irregular greyish white stripes.
The feathers on the under parts of the body are of a brimstone colour,
edged with dusky red. The spaces round the eyes are blackish brown, the
beak light horn colour, the feet black and sprinkled with a greyish kind
of dust. We have no knowledge whatever of these birds in their native
state. Gould tells us that they are found in the woods on the southern
coast of Australia, and on some of the neighbouring islands, as also in
the northern parts of Van Diemen's Land, where they inhabit the highest
trees, and luxuriate upon the seeds of the different kinds of Eucalyptus.

[Illustration: THE HELMET COCKATOO (_Callicephalus galeatus_).]

Many species of Cockatoos are remarkable for the peculiar formation of
their beaks, the upper part of which is unusually prolonged. These birds
form a distinct group, but much resemble the true Cockatoos, and have
therefore been placed among them. Such, for example, is


THE NOSE COCKATOO.

The NOSE COCKATOO (_Licmetis nasicus_) is from sixteen to seventeen
inches in length; the beak measures along the ridge about two inches.
Both sexes are of the same colour, the whole plumage being white, the
under-wing and tail-covers mottled with pale brimstone yellow. All the
feathers on the head and neck as far as the upper part of the breast,
are vermilion red, white at the tip; a vermilion stripe runs across the
forehead, reaching to the back, and passes like a pair of eyebrows over
the eyes. There is also a crooked line of red upon the breast. The beak
is light horn colour, the feet ash grey. Some of the feathers near the
cheeks can be raised at will. Gould considers that there are two species
of this bird, one of which is found in Western Australia or New South
Wales, the other is confined to Port Philip and Southern Australia.

[Illustration: THE NESTOR COCKATOO (_Nestor productus_).]

The Nose Cockatoos seem rather to inhabit the interior than the
neighbourhood of the sea-coast. They assemble in large flocks, and spend
the night and noon-day upon the summits of the forest trees; passing,
however, a considerable portion of their time on the ground, where they
run, or rather hop, somewhat slowly; their flight, on the contrary, is
very rapid, and much lighter than that of their congeners. Their food
consists of corn and seeds, but principally of buds and the bulbs of
different plants, more especially of orchids, which they obtain by the
help of their long and curiously shaped beak. The breeding of these birds
offers nothing unusual; their two white eggs, which resemble those
of the Tufted Cockatoos, are generally laid on a bed of decayed wood
upon the ground, or in some hole in a large gum-tree. This species can
endure captivity for many years, and has lately been brought to Europe
in great numbers, but, notwithstanding this, it is not often met with in
our collections. Gould has observed that a caged Nose Cockatoo is much
more sullen, gloomy, and irritable than others of its race, and this
we can fully confirm, having had for a year one of these birds in our
possession, that has never become reconciled to its keeper, but threatens
with its beak all who approach; it cannot endure to be stroked or
touched, and everything unusual excites its rage; at such times it erects
the small horseshoe-shaped crest upon its brow, so that the splendid
red feathers are displayed, wags its head violently, repeatedly snaps
its beak, and screams most furiously. The word "cockatoo" is mingled
with its cries, but uttered in quite another tone to that employed by
its congeners; the latter generally utter it in a soft drawling manner,
whilst the Nose Cockatoo on the contrary pronounces the two first
syllables hurriedly, and lays a strong emphasis on the last. The facility
with which this parrot can move its beak in any direction is very
remarkable, and no other species that we are acquainted with has such
suppleness and command of the joints of its jaws. The beak of the Nose
Cockatoo is, indeed, the most extraordinary pair of pincers that ever
was constructed. In justice to this bird, we must add to the foregoing
remarks that it may occasionally be made very tame, and not only
learns to speak, but is able to apply its language very intelligently.
There is one in the Zoological Gardens at Antwerp that is an universal
favourite with the visitors, with whom it converses freely, greeting its
acquaintances as soon as they appear, without the slightest ill-humour or
sullenness.


THE NESTOR COCKATOO.

The NESTOR COCKATOO (_Nestor productus_) represents a very remarkable
tribe of parrots, recognisable by their extraordinarily elongated beak
and sickle-shaped upper mandible, which projects far beyond the lower.
The tail is of middle size, the points of the tail-feathers being in some
places denuded of their web, and the wings, when closed, reach nearly to
the middle of the tail. The tarsus is decidedly higher, and the plumage
harsher and more imbricated than in other Cockatoos. In our specimen it
is much variegated, the upper part of the body is brown, the head and
back of the neck mottled with grey, each of the feathers covering these
parts being bordered with a darker shade. The under part of the body
and tail-covers are of a deep red; the breast, throat, and cheeks, are
yellow, the latter having a reddish tint; the tail-feathers are orange at
the root, and striped with brown: the inner web of the quills is dark red
and brown; the bare place round the eyes, the legs, and the cere, are of
an olive brown; the beak is brown; and the eye a very dark brown. Both
sexes are similarly coloured, but the young are of a dark olive brown on
the breast, instead of being adorned with the red and gold that decks
their parents.

The Nestor Cockatoos are not only striking in their appearance, but
lead a somewhat remarkable life; they are confined to a very limited
district, only inhabiting New Zealand and the neighbouring islands.
The bird we have just described is only found on Philip's Island, the
circumference of which does not exceed five miles; and Gould informs us
that people living for many years on Norfolk Island, at about four or
five miles distance, have never seen it. The extremely limited extent
of the habitat of this species is very unpromising as regards its
preservation, and it will doubtless soon share the fate of the DRONTE;
since the cultivation of the island, it has been periodically hunted, and
its days are numbered; probably it is already extinct, as we have seen
nothing of it for several years. The rocky parts of the island, partially
covered with trees, form, or rather _did_ form, its favourite resort;
here it passes its time, principally upon the ground, seeking for roots,
which it digs up with its beak, at least, so we imagine, as the bill is
often found covered with earth, and, indeed, we can well believe that so
remarkable an instrument may be employed for this purpose. According to
some naturalists it sucks nectar, although its tongue does not, like that
of the Lory, end in a tuft, but has only a nail-like horny plate at the
tip, closely resembling the nail upon a human finger. The hard nuts that
other parrots enjoy are avoided by the Nestor, whose beak is not strong
enough to break the shell. Gould saw one of these birds in the possession
of Major Andrews, in Sydney; it was a cheerful, lively companion, and
seemed fully inclined to attract the attention of strangers. Its habits
differed considerably from those of other parrots, and its owner did not
keep it in a cage, but allowed it to fly about the entrance-hall. We are
told of another tame Nestor that it had a great fondness for green food,
and would pick the leaves of lettuce and other juicy plants. The voice of
this bird has a harsh, quavering, snarling sound, much reminding us of
the barking of a dog. As regards its propagation, we only know that it is
said to lay four eggs in some hole in a tree.


THE EAGLE COCKATOO.

The EAGLE COCKATOO (_Dasyptilus Pequetii_) belongs to the same division
as the last-named species, and is remarkable for its shape and plumage,
reminding us, in some respects, of the birds of prey. Nothing positive
can be said as to its native land; Gould tells us that it lives on the
island of Formosa, where no other parrots are known, but it would rather
appear to be an inhabitant of New Guinea or Salawatti; indeed, Rosenberg
speaks decidedly as to the first-named island being its home. The Eagle
Cockatoo is about twenty inches long, ten of which are included in the
tail; the wings are ten and a half inches in length. This species is
recognised by its beak, the upper portion of which does not rise so high
above the lower mandible as in the Nestor; and by the plumage of the
head, consisting of a few stiff bristles and slender upright feathers,
with very stiff hard shafts. The cheeks and cheek-stripes appear almost
bare, the wings and tail are shaped like those of the last-mentioned
bird, though the tail is somewhat longer and more rounded. The plumage
is of a brilliant black, shading into grey on the throat, head, and
breast, the feathers on these parts being sprinkled with pale brown. The
wing-covers along the carpus, the first wing-covers of the secondary
quills, the under wing-covers, the five first feathers of the secondary
quills on their outer web, the feathers of the axilla, belly, and rump,
are of a beautiful scarlet, which is somewhat darker on the under
tail-covers; the upper tail-covers are edged with dark red, the beak is
black, and the feet dark brown. Notwithstanding the extreme rarity of
this creature, we have been able to take our description from a living
bird which was for some time in the Earl of Derby's celebrated collection.

       *       *       *       *       *

In New Guinea and the neighbouring islands, viz., Salawatti, Misool,
and Waigui, we find several kinds of parrots that are included among
the Cockatoos, although their resemblance to these birds is merely
superficial. These are the LONG-BILLED PARROTS (_Microglossus_) of Le
Vaillant--very large birds of a dark colour. Their resemblance to the
Cockatoos consists principally in their short square tail, and the plume
upon the head, although the latter is of quite a different shape to that
of the true Cockatoo. Their naked cheeks, and enormous upper mandible,
remind us of the Araras. The shape of the tongue is quite peculiar; this
organ is of medium length, fleshy, but no broader than it is thick, the
upper surface is hollow and flattened at the tip; this strangely-shaped
tongue can be protruded, and employed as a spoon to convey food into the
mouth, the edges being very flexible, and capable of being bent towards
each other. The other distinguishing characteristics of the Long-billed
Parrots are the naked tarsi (which are bare as far as the heel-joints)
and the short flat soles of the feet.


THE CASMALOS.

The CASMALOS (_Microglossus aterrimus_), the best known of these species,
is an inhabitant of New Guinea, and is one of the largest of the parrot
tribe, even exceeding most of the Araras in this respect. Its plumage is
uniformly deep black, with somewhat of a greenish gloss; the living bird
has a greyish appearance, owing to a white meal-like dust, which, as in
most other parrots, is scattered over its plumage; the naked wrinkled
cheeks are of a red colour. The crest is formed by a number of long
slender isolated feathers, and is of a lighter grey than the rest of the
plumage.

[Illustration: THE CASMALOS (_Microglossus aterrimus_).]

Little is known of these birds in their natural state. "The Large-beaked
Parrot," says von Rosenberg, "is not rare in the islands of Waigui,
Misool, and Salawatti, and is found on the coast of New Guinea. It
usually perches at the very top of the highest trees, keeping its body
constantly in motion, and whilst resting, or when by powerful strokes of
its wings it raises itself into the air, it utters a trumpet-like note
quite different from that produced by the White Cockatoo. The natives
take the young birds from the nest, and, when they have reared them,
sell them to traders. In captivity they seem to prefer the fruit of the
canary tree, the hard shell of which they manage to crack with the utmost
facility. One of these so-called Cockatoos, belonging to a resident in
Amboyna, was in the habit of flying about all over the town, but always
returned home at the proper time to take its meals and to sleep." Von
Marten saw a tame parrot of this kind at Mahai. "The Black Cockatoo,"
he observes, "when perched stiffly with its tail erect, red face, and
powerful beak, has the air of an old general, and, owing to its extreme
ugliness, makes a forcible impression on all who see it. It is quiet and
slow in its movements, but allows strangers to approach, and utters from
time to time a disagreeable, harsh, guttural shriek."

[Illustration: THE RAVEN COCKATOO (_Calyptorhynchus Banksii_).]

According to Rosenberg, the Large-beaked Parrot is often seen at Amboyna,
where it may be bought for about twenty or twenty-five shillings: in
Europe these remarkable birds are amongst the greatest curiosities in our
collections. Unlike all other parrots with which we are acquainted, the
Casmalos uses its peculiarly-formed tongue in a strange manner; taking
its food with its foot, it carries the morsel to its beak, tears it
up, and presses the end of the tongue, which is provided with a round
horn-like plate, upon the pieces, which stick to it; the tongue is then
drawn in, and the food swallowed; this being a very slow process, the
meal usually occupies a considerable time.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RAVEN COCKATOOS (_Calyptorhynchus_) differ very materially from all
other species not only in the colour of the feathers, but in their form.
The beak is short, crescent-shaped, and sloping, owing to the great
breadth of the lower jaw; the wings are large and broad, reaching only
over the first third of the long, strong, and rounded tail; the crest is
comparatively small.

The Raven Cockatoos, or Geringeroes, are found exclusively in New
Holland, and there only in certain districts. Gould, the great explorer
of Australian ornithology, mentions six species in his masterly work, and
gives a tolerably full account of their mode of life; there is, however,
great similarity between them, and the following observations may be
considered as applicable to all.

The Raven Cockatoos are truly _tree_-birds, feeding principally upon the
seeds of the Eucalypti, and other trees indigenous to the country, but,
unlike other parrots, they will occasionally eat large caterpillars.
Another peculiarity is that they only congregate in small parties
consisting of not more than from four to eight individuals, and never
assemble in considerable flocks. Each part of Van Dieman's Land has its
peculiar species.

The manner in which the Raven Cockatoos feed is also very peculiar. Some
species break off the little twigs of the fruit trees while eating,
apparently out of mischief; and all use their sharp beaks to draw the
concealed living insects--principally larvæ--out of the wood. The large
caterpillars which they obtain from the gum-trees do not always satisfy
their hunger; they wage war upon the grubs that lurk deep in the wood,
dextrously stripping off the bark and picking large holes in the branches
until they reach their prey. Some species prefer insects to any other
kind of nourishment, whilst others subsist upon seeds, principally those
of the Casuarinæ and Banksias. Fruit they seem to despise, although they
destroy much out of pure mischief, plucking it before it is ripe, to the
great annoyance of the owners.

So far as we know, the Geringeroes breed exclusively in the holes of
trees, always choosing the highest and most unapproachable trunks, and
invariably such as the natives cannot climb. They prepare no regular
nest in the holes which they select, or at most only collect chips of
wood from the ground, wherewith to line the interior. They lay from two
to five tolerably large eggs, 1 2/3 inch in length and 1 1/3 inch broad.
Besides the attacks made upon them by man, the Raven Cockatoos often
become victims to birds and beasts of prey. Europeans do not prize their
flesh very highly, but by the natives it is esteemed a delicacy.


BANKS' RAVEN COCKATOO.

BANKS' RAVEN COCKATOO (_Calyptorhynchus Banksii_) attains the length of
a foot and a half. The plumage of the male is black, the only exception
being the tail, which is a brilliant black with a greenish sheen. The
female is greenish-black upon the head, spotted with yellow on the neck
and wings, and striped with light yellow upon the breast. The male has
a broad scarlet band extending along the middle of the tail, but not
reaching the two middle feathers or the outer edge of the side feathers.
The female has broad yellow and reddish-yellow spotted stripes similarly
disposed, both upon the outer and the under side of the tail-covers.

Banks' Raven Cockatoo belongs to New South Wales, and is principally
found in the district between Moreton Bay and Port Philip, though by
no means rare in the immediate neighbourhood of Sydney and other large
towns. Its flight is heavy; the wings are lax, and seem to move with
difficulty; it seldom rises high in the air, but will, nevertheless,
sometimes fly for a mile at a stretch; whilst on the wing it utters a
loud cry, which is less shrill than the harsh screech of the cockatoo.
When on the ground, these birds move with difficulty; upon the tops of
trees their motions are less deliberate, but always slow. Most of them
are shy and distrustful, owing no doubt to the manifold persecutions
from which they suffer, and it is only during feeding-time that they are
less upon the watch. They are much attached to their companions, and
should one of them be killed or wounded, the hapless individual is seldom
deserted by the others, who generally fly about him, uttering a wailing
cry, and expose themselves so recklessly to the hunter, that he, knowing
how to avail himself of this habit, often succeeds in capturing the whole
flock.


THE KAKAPO, OR NIGHT-PARROT OF NEW ZEALAND.

For the same reason that the Owls and the Falcons are grouped as distinct
families, we shall consider the KAKAPO, or NIGHT-PARROT OF NEW ZEALAND
(_Strigops habroptilus_) as the type of a peculiar race. This bird,
indeed, reminds us so forcibly of the Owls, that were it not for the
structure of the foot, we should decidedly class it as one of them. Its
scientific name of "owl-faced" (_Strigops_) is very well chosen. The
large body of this species is covered with soft, delicate feathers,
which form a rudimentary veil about the face; the wings are short and
trough-shaped; the tail long and rounded; the beak long, bent like that
of an owl, and nearly covered with stiff, bristle-like feathers; the
feet are of middle size, the toes long. The general colour is a dark
green, interspersed with tolerably regular stripes, and some irregular
yellow spots; upon the breast the colour is lighter and yellower than on
the back, and the stripes are indistinct; the green tail is banded with
dark brown. The habitat of the Kakapo is restricted to New Zealand, and
the species is now found in tolerable abundance only in the most remote
Alpine valleys of the southern island. It has been nearly exterminated
in the northern portion. Lyall and Haast have given us full particulars
of its habits. "The Kakapo," says the first of these writers, "is still
found occasionally in the northern districts of New Zealand, frequenting
the dry cliffs or the low grounds near the banks of the rivers, where the
high trees and woods are, to some extent, free from ferns and brushwood.
The first time we met with it was upon some hills, rising 4,000 feet
above the level of the sea; but we afterwards found it living with others
of the same species, on open spots near the mouth of the river, and not
far from the coast." "Most striking," adds Haast, "is the fact that the
Kakapo (except in the valley of the Makavora, formed by the Lake Wanaka)
is never seen east of the mountains, although forests abound there;
apparently the absence of woodland in the intervening district is an
obstacle to its farther progress in that direction. These birds are less
numerous in the Wilkin valley, where I have observed traces of the wild
dog; in the valley of the Hunter, which is only separated from these
districts by a chain of not very high mountains and some inconsiderable
hills, no trace of them is to be found, although the fine beech forests
offer them a favourable retreat." "In such places," says Lyall, "the
tracks of the Kakapo were visible; these are about a foot wide, very
regularly worn, and often resemble in so striking a manner those made by
men, that at first we really believed that the natives must have been in
the neighbourhood. The Kakapo lives in holes under the roots of trees,
and in the cavities of overhanging rocks."

Lyall tells us that the holes he saw had two openings, and the trees
above them were for some distance hollow. The Kakapo, he says, was not
visible by day, except when driven from its retreat; and he was never
able to find it but with the help of dogs. When these birds were more
plentiful, the natives used to catch them at night by torch-light.
There is a breed of half-wild dogs in the northern part of this island
continually hunting the Kakapos, which, indeed, they have almost
exterminated. It is said that the spread of these dogs is arrested by a
river; but it is to be feared that so soon as they succeed in crossing
that barrier, the total extinction of these birds will ensue; for
although they use their beak and claws very energetically, and can make
a powerful resistance, still, sooner or later, they must succumb to
their four-footed enemy, and ultimately share the fate of the MOA, the
DRONTE, and other species recently become extinct. "The Maoris assure
me," says Haast, "that the Kakapo is brave, and often confronts the
dogs with success; but this cannot be credited if their dogs are worth
anything, for mine never had any serious battle with it. At first, the
dog was attacked both with beak and claws, but it soon learnt to conquer
its game by biting it through the back." An idea was formerly entertained
that the Kakapos were nocturnal in their habits, but our observations
lead us to believe that this is not exactly the case. We generally heard
their voices about an hour after sunset, in places which were rendered
dark and obscured by thick foliage, and they then began to sweep about,
attracted by the light. We, however, twice saw these birds during the
day feeding upon the ground, and strictly upon their guard against
approaching danger. On the first occasion, about noon on a cloudy day,
we were returning through an open wood from the western coast, and saw
the Kakapo sitting upon an uprooted tree, not far from the Haast river;
as we approached, it quickly disappeared, but was caught by the dogs.
The second time, on a clear day, as we entered a deep ravine, we saw one
of these birds perched ten feet high upon a fuchsia-tree, the berries
of which it was eating. As soon as it saw us, it fell, as though shot,
to the earth, and disappeared beneath the surrounding blocks of stone.
The most astonishing thing was, that the bird made no use of its wings;
indeed, did not even open them to break its fall. In order to ascertain
whether it would either fly or flutter, we followed, and having with
us a Kakapo that had been taken uninjured by the dogs, we set it free
upon a large, open, gravelly spot, where there was plenty of room to
run away, if it wished to do so, or to raise itself into the air, even
should it require a large space for that purpose. We were much surprised
to find that it only ran to the nearest thicket, and that much faster
than we could have thought possible from the structure of its toes and
the bulk of its body. Its movements resembled those of a barn-door fowl.
We stood on one side of it, and it appeared to us that it kept its wings
quite close to the body; but one of our companions, who was behind it,
observed that the wings were slightly raised, but motionless; so that
doubtless they are employed more as a means of balancing the bird than to
accelerate its progress. Though its shape is not suited to running, it
can progress in this manner to a considerable distance, as we often saw
by its tracks, which extended sometimes for more than a mile over sand
and shingle down to the bank of the river. Lyall, however, has seen this
bird flying, though only for trifling distances. "During our hunt," he
says, "we only saw the Kakapo fly when, having climbed a hollow tree, it
wished to reach another in the neighbourhood. From the first tree it flew
down to the next in height, making its way up each in turn, climbing very
quickly to the top by the help of its tail; the motion of the wings was
very trifling--indeed, almost imperceptible.

"The cry of the Kakapo is a hoarse croak, which changes into a discordant
screech when the bird is angry or hungry. The Maoris declare that the
noise these creatures make is sometimes deafening during the winter,
when they congregate in great numbers, and greet each other on their
arrival or departure. The stomach of a specimen we killed contained a
pale or almost white homogeneous mass, without any trace of flesh, so
that, doubtless, its food consists partly of roots and partly of leaves
and delicate shoots of plants. We observed that at one place where the
birds were very numerous, a leguminous plant, growing on the banks of the
river, had all its buds nipped off; and learnt from a boatman, who had
lived in that place for many years engaged in the whale fisheries, that
the Kakapo was the offender. We also found its beak covered with hardened
dirt. This species, he told us, requires a great deal of river water in
order to dilute the pulpy mass of vegetable matter in its crop. Except
in two instances, in which berries had been eaten, we found the crop
always filled with half-digested moss, and so distended and heavy that
it weighed many ounces; the bird, moreover, appeared much smaller when
the crop was emptied. The quantity of innutritious food with which it
stuffs itself explains its liking for living upon the ground, and compels
it to resort to wild localities inhabited by no other parrots. Another
peculiarity, also perhaps a consequence of this vegetable diet, is, that
instead of the soft oily fat that other birds have under the skin, it has
an abundance of solid white fat; its flesh is much whiter than that of
other parrots, and has a very superior flavour. We must be forgiven for
observing that it is a dainty article of food for those who are wandering
in these wildernesses, and we can quite believe that the Maoris smack
their lips whenever the Kakapo is mentioned."

On the subject of their propagation, Lyall makes the following
statement:--"During the latter half of February and the first days of
March, at which time we tarried among the dwelling-places of the Kakapos,
I found young in many holes, often only one, and never more than two
in each. In one instance I found a single nestling and an addled egg.
Sometimes, not always, I found the parent in the hole. There is no real
nest; the bird only scratches a shallow cavity in the dry mass of decayed
wood. The egg is pure white, about the size of a pigeon's.

"Many young birds were brought to us on board ship, but most of them
died in a few days, apparently in consequence of the unusual treatment;
others lived for some months. Generally, after a few weeks, their legs
were crippled by confinement, either on account of the smallness of their
cage, or the want of proper food. We fed them principally with sopped
bread and cooked potatoes; if we allowed them to run about in the garden,
they ate the grass and cabbages, and snapped eagerly at every green leaf
that came in their way. A Kakapo which we succeeded in bringing alive to
within six hundred miles of the English coast, ate, while we resided in
Sydney, the leaves of the Banksias and Eucalypti. It seemed to relish
nuts and almonds, and during the latter part of our voyage home, lived
almost entirely upon Brazil nuts. On several occasions this bird was
seized with cramp for two or three days, and whilst this lasted it ate
nothing, cried furiously, and hacked with its bill if any one ventured
to disturb it. At such times it was not to be trusted, for it bit most
fiercely, precisely when least expected. Its temper was always at the
best when any one took it out of its cage. Early in the morning it would
busy itself, as soon as out of confinement, with the first object that
came in its way, generally with our trousers or boots. The latter it much
fancied--it would squat upon them, beat its wings, and give every symptom
of the greatest enjoyment; it would then rise, rub its sides against
them, roll on them back downwards, and kick its feet in the most lively
manner. An unlucky accident caused its death."

Another of these birds, which Captain Stoke brought ashore and
transmitted to the care of Major Murray, was allowed to run about the
garden freely. It showed a strong liking for the company of children, and
would follow them about like a dog.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LONG-TAILED PARROTS are rich in species, and present considerable
variety in their dimensions, their size ranging from that of the largest
Parrot to that of a Finch; but they all possess in common a graduated
tail, at least as long as the body, the middle feathers of which are
sometimes twice the length of those at the side. The wings, which are
moderately pointed, seldom reach, when folded, beyond the first third of
the tail. The beak is, as a rule, strong, almost always short, and very
round, but sometimes, in solitary cases, it is long and but slightly
bowed.

The plumage of the Long-tailed Parrots is very varied, still it never
possesses the softness and gloss observable in the coat of the Lory. A
tuft-like prolongation of the feathers is rarely but occasionally met
with. It is, however, impossible to describe the plumage of this group
in general terms; suffice it to say, that the hues we have mentioned as
employed in the coloration of other parrots, also predominate in their
feathers. The Long-tailed Parrots may be considered as the type of their
order, inhabiting, as they do, all the various countries in which the
race is found.


THE ARARAS.

Amongst the Long-tailed Parrots, the ARARAS (_Aræ_) are easily
distinguished by their unusually large beak, furnished with a smooth
broad summit. The lower mandible is very short, and incised or obliquely
cut, without any ridge upon the chin, and having its base entirely
covered by a cere. The cheeks are broad and naked, but sometimes covered
with small feathers arranged in rows; the tarsus is thick, strong, and
short; the toes long, and furnished with large strongly bent claws; the
wings are long and pointed, and reach far down the tail, which is longer
than the body. The plumage is very thick.

The members of this very conspicuous group are almost exclusively
confined to the eastern parts of South America, where they inhabit the
primitive forests, far from man and the turmoil of the world. Unlike
other parrots, they live in little companies, which very rarely unite to
form a flock. They feed principally upon fruit, are comparatively quiet,
and although they exhibit but little vivacity, are as intelligent as the
rest of their race.


THE SCARLET MACAW (_Ara Macao_).

This species is about 2 3/4 feet long, of which more than 1 foot belongs
to the tail; the stretch of its wings is about 3 3/4 feet. The plumage is
magnificent and very brightly coloured. The head, neck, breast, and belly
are scarlet; the feathers of the neck and upper part of the back have a
greenish edge, which becomes broader lower down. The middle and lower
regions of the back, the rump, and under tail-covers are a beautiful sky
blue; the upper feathers of the wings are scarlet; the middle, hinder,
under, and shoulder feathers green, the latter shaded with red; the front
wing-covers are ultramarine on the outer web, and on the inner pale red.
The same is the case with the inner wing-covers; the middle tail-feathers
are more or less red, the inner web of the quills black. On the naked
flesh-coloured cheeks, which look as though powdered with white flour,
are five or six rows of little pencil-shaped red feathers, implanted
near the nostrils, and ranged around the eyes; the beak is of a clear
horn colour, black at the point and edge, as is the lower mandible; the
eyes are yellowish white, the feet blackish grey, the claws brownish
black. The two sexes are alike in colour, the young birds more delicately
tinted than the old ones. In the variety of this bird represented in the
frontispiece to Part I., the colours are somewhat different.

The principal portion of the plumage is bright scarlet, the
quill-feathers of the wings fine blue, the greater wing-coverts yellow,
tinged with green, the upper and under tail-coverts blue, the two middle
feathers of the tail crimson, and the remainder of the tail-feathers,
which gradually decrease in length towards the sides, are partly red
and partly blue; the feet are dusky black, the naked skin of the cheeks
wrinkled and white, the upper mandible whitish, and the lower one black
or dusky.

The Macaw was formerly to be found in the immediate neighbourhood of
such large cities as Rio de Janeiro, &c., but it has long since left the
inhabited part of the country. Flat, well-watered, primitive forests
appear to be its favourite haunts; it will not ascend mountains, but
in high, parched districts, burnt up by the heat of the sun, or in the
rocky, wild parts of Bahia, its cry is constantly to be heard. "Whilst
we were upon the rivers that irrigate the woods upon the coast," says
the Prince von Wied, "we saw this proud red bird, and recognised it at
once by its voice, size, and streaming tail, as it slowly beat the air
with its long large wings, and steered its course through the blue air."
"The habits of this beautiful bird," continues the same author, "resemble
those of other parrots. At noon we generally saw them sitting quietly
upon the strong under-branches of a large tree, the neck drawn in, and
the long tail hanging straight down. Except during pairing time, they fly
in small companies in search of different kinds of fruits, especially
those of various species of palms, on the hard shells of which they are
very fond of trying their powerful beaks. Notwithstanding the noise they
usually make, like other species of parrots they become at once perfectly
silent so soon as they have found a tree laden with suitable produce, and
when they settle upon it, their presence is only indicated by the fall of
the husks, which they bite off and throw down. During the cold season of
the year we often found them busily seeking out the fruit of a creeping
plant called _sphinha_; they climb up its tangled stems very adroitly,
and it is then easier to shoot them than under other circumstances. Their
crops were quite full of the white seeds of this plant; at other times we
found their beaks dyed blue by some species of fruit that they had eaten."

Le Vaillant says, in his "Natural History of Parrots," that the Araras
are stupid birds, which do not fear the hunter's gun; but we must say
from our own experience that in the unfrequented woods of Brazil, where
they are very numerous, these Macaws are amongst the slyest and most
cunning of their race. While sitting upon a tree feeding, the whole
party are quiet, or only utter a low sound, which somewhat resembles the
murmur of human conversation; but during their flight, or when disturbed,
their voices are loud enough. They shriek most wildly when the hunter
steals upon them unobserved, and disturbs the unsuspecting company in
the middle of their meal by a shot, and on such occasions often raise a
deafening uproar. Their loud scream is very harsh; it consists but of one
syllable, and somewhat resembles the cry of our ravens. Like all other
parrots, these birds are much attached to their mates. "In April of the
year 1788," says Azara, "Manuel Palomares, who was hunting about a mile
from the city of Paraguay, shot an Arara, and tied it to the saddle of
his horse. The mate of the dead bird followed the hunter to his home,
which was in the centre of the town, and remained for several days
upon the same spot; at last it allowed itself to be taken by hand and
domesticated." "In pairing time," says the Prince von Wied, "the Araras
endeavour to find the breeding place they have formerly occupied. The
nest is always made in some large tree, that has either an open cavity or
a hollow place, which they soon enlarge to the requisite size by the help
of their strong beak. In this the female lays two white eggs, resembling
those of most other parrots." Schomburghk tells us that the long tail of
the parrot often proves fatal to the brood, by betraying the presence of
its owner, as it hangs out of the hole in which the nest is situated.
Azara assures us that the couple never leave the nest, dividing the
care of it between them; and should any one approach, they testify the
greatest uneasiness. The young do not cry out for food, but signify their
wants by tapping at the sides of the tree. Like the nestlings of other
parrots they are very ugly and helpless, and for some time after leaving
the nest require the protection and care of their parents. The natives
prefer taking them unfledged, as they are then very easily tamed. Caged
Araras always seem to have been favourites with the Indians. "We saw with
great interest," says Humboldt, "large Araras flying about tame in the
Indian huts, as pigeons do with us; these birds are great ornaments to
the Indian poultry-yard, and do not yield in beauty to the Peacock or
Golden Pheasant."

It must, however, be rather dangerous to have Araras flying about in such
close vicinity, if only on account of the undesirable use they often make
of their formidable beaks, and yet in some instances they become very
tame. An individual in the possession of the Prince von Wied had full
liberty to fly about the apartments, but preferred being near its master.
It allowed him to catch it, or to carry it on his hand about the room,
and would stroke his cheeks in a blandishing manner with its dangerous
bill.

This species never learns to speak as well as other parrots, but is
nevertheless not quite deficient in the necessary talents. "My Arara,"
wrote Siedhof, "has shown a great facility for speech, imitating my
magpie, which can talk very well. For more than four months after it
came to me it was quite dumb, not even uttering its frightful cry. I
therefore hung it where the magpie, which chattered incessantly, would be
near it, and it had been exactly ten days there when it began to imitate
its companion. Now it can call my children by name, and learns directly
whatever it is taught. It has, however, one peculiarity, namely, that it
usually only speaks when alone." The Scarlet Arara can endure captivity
for many years; we have heard of one that was kept forty-four years in
the same family. The Scarlet Macaw is sought after with equal zeal both
by white men and natives; and the European sportsman rejoices when a
well-directed shot puts him in possession of one of these magnificent
birds. "Carefully," says the Prince von Wied, "and concealed by thick
bushes or trees, the hunter creeps towards them, and sometimes brings
down several at one shot. If wounded, the bird clings to the branches by
its strong beak and claws, often hanging a long time in that position.
Should the pursuer obtain the desired booty, it furnishes him with most
agreeable food; the flesh is very like beef; that of the old birds is
tough in winter, and often very fat; but when cooked it makes excellent
soup. The beautiful feathers are used in many ways; every native who has
killed a macaw decorates his head-dress with the brilliant red and blue
plumage. The Brazilians make pens of the quills from the tail, and many
savage tribes employ the other feathers as ornaments. The dark ones from
the tail are selected to feather their arrows. Even at the present time
many deck themselves with these magnificent plumes. Formerly the tribe of
the Lingoes manufactured ornamental articles from these feathers, which
they kept, until wanted for use, in boxes closed with wax. The Tapinambes
on the eastern coast, when making a feast on the death or devouring of
an enemy, began it in very festal array; the slayer of the deceased was
rubbed with a certain kind of gum, and then thickly covered with small
Arara feathers; on his head was a crown, formed of the tail of this
beautiful bird."


THE SOLDIER ARARA.

The SOLDIER ARARA (_Ara militaris_), a magnificent bird, is not inferior
in size to the species described above. The general colour of its plumage
is bluish green; on the under side, and over the joints of the wings,
this is mixed with brown; the cheeks are white, with several rows of
small brown feathers; a narrow strip of blood-red feathers runs across
the forehead; the wings are blue on the outer side, beneath they are of
a greenish yellow, black at the edge; the prevailing colour of the tail
is red, blue at the tip, and beneath greenish yellow; the outer feathers
are blue on both sides; the beak and feet are black. This species is
spread over the district near the upper part of the Amazon, and reaches
northward as far as the United States.


THE ANAKAN.

The ANAKAN (_Ara severa_) is only 1 1/2 feet in length, its breadth 2 1/4
feet; the tail measures nine inches, and the wings ten inches. The Anakan
is altogether more slenderly built than any of its congeners with which
we are acquainted, and its colours are less brilliant. The plumage is
usually green, shaded into blue on the top of the head; the forehead is
reddish brown, the wings blue above and dull red beneath; the primaries
blackish on the inner border, the secondaries green at the edge, blue at
the tip, in the middle bluish crimson. The beak is black, grey at the
tip; the cere and the bare cheeks, which seem to be covered with rows of
small pointed black feathers, are of a yellowish flesh-colour, as are the
eyes; the feet are black. The Prince von Wied found the Anakan, which is
spread over all the tropical regions of America (the islands included),
principally in the primitive forests, in the vicinity of rivers. It lives
on the highest trees, and is often seen perched upon the branches,
sometimes even in heavy storms of rain, which it willingly allows to soak
its feathers. During the breeding season it lives in pairs, at other
times in flocks.

[Illustration: ARARA MACAO ____ SCARLET MACAW

(_about one quarter Life size._)]

[Illustration: THE SCARLET MACAW (_Ara Macao_).]

The Anakans search the woods for fruit, and very often do great damage
to the maize; their flight is astonishingly rapid, and their voice loud
and harsh, but shriller and weaker than that of the large Araras. When
a party of these birds is perched upon a tree, they utter soft, strange
notes, as though talking together, the sound resembling the murmur
of conversation. The male and female often sit in pairs on the high
branches. The flesh of this bird is much esteemed, both by natives and
Europeans, and, indeed, is excellent.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Macaws we have been describing, the prevailing colour of the upper
feathers is a more or less bright green; but in the following genera blue
predominates.


THE ARARAUNA.

The ARARAUNA (_Ara Sittace Ararauna_) is a very well-known bird, not
inferior to any of the preceding in magnificence. The body is somewhat
smaller, the tail, on the contrary, longer, than in the Scarlet Macaw; it
may be reckoned as thirty-seven inches long, of which quite twenty inches
belong to the tail; the wing measures twenty inches from the shoulder
to the tip. The eye is greenish white, the beak and shoulder black. The
forehead, a great part of the tail, and also a ring round the throat,
are green. This colour changes above into light blue, whilst the under
side is of the colour of the yolk of an egg; the same is the case with
the tail. The upper and under tail-covers are blue. The outer webs of the
wings are darker, those of the inner webs almost black, but only on their
upper surface, for the under side shades off into dull yellow; the same
is the case with the tail-feathers. The lower part of the face is more
darkly coloured than the upper throat; the chin is almost black, the bare
cheeks are white, with three rows of blackish feathers.

       *       *       *       *       *

According to the statements of travellers, the habits of the Araraunæ are
very similar to those of the Scarlet Macaw. The extent of country over
which they are found is not exactly known. Schomburghk saw them sitting
in considerable numbers on trees upon the banks of the Rio Takutu. They
are seldom found on the eastern coast, and have long been driven from the
inhabited districts.


THE HYACINTH-COLOURED ARARA.

The HYACINTH-COLOURED ARARA (_Anodorhynchus hyazinthinus_) has with
great reason been regarded as the type of a peculiar race, for this
bird differs from the rest of its family in the same way as the Nose
Cockatoo differs from its fellows. The highly curved upper mandible is
of considerable size, and much stronger than in other macaws, with a
sloping, elongated hook at its extremity, which bends in the shape of a
sickle over the under beak. The cheeks are thickly feathered, and only
a small circle round the eyes and another round the under beak is bare.
The plumage is of an uniform ultramarine, the crown, neck, wings, and
tail are more darkly coloured than the throat, breast, and belly; in some
lights it shimmers with pale sky blue. The wings on the lower side, the
inner webs of the wing-feathers, and the under side of the tail, are pale
black; the outermost wing-feathers sprinkled with black. The beak is of a
brilliant black, the feet greyish black, and the eyes brownish black. The
naked place near the eyes, and also a narrow featherless border around
the beak, are dark yellow, lightly powdered. In size, this species is
scarcely inferior to the Macaw; its length is thirty-eight inches, of
which the tail measures twenty-two. The length of the wings is sixteen
inches.

Little is known of the habits of the Hyacinth-coloured Arara; we learn
that it is principally found in the river districts of Rio de Francisco,
and from thence to the Amazon. These birds are not very numerous, and are
constantly seen in pairs instead of flocks. In comparison with the rest
of their family, they have little shyness, and their voices are seldom
heard.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may consider the PARRAKEETS, or CONICAL-TAILED PARROTS (_Conurus_),
although much smaller, as the next relations to the Araras, from which
they are easily distinguished by the circumstance that their cheeks are
feathered. Some have a bare circle round the eyes, whilst in the smaller
kinds the feathers reach quite to the eyelids. The beak is comparatively
strong, but short and broad; the cere is thickly feathered, and the
nostrils, which are placed in the middle of the forehead, are surrounded
with bristle-like feathers. The plumage is generally green, and
relatively simple; still there are very magnificent species among them.
Such an one is


THE GARUBA.

The GARUBA OF BRAZIL (_Conurus luteus_) is a splendid bird, of bright
egg-yellow colour, only varied by the green and black upon the wings and
tail. The head and wings are usually of a brighter colour than the rest
of the body; the wings are externally green, tipped and bordered with
black; the beak greyish horn yellow; the foot flesh-coloured, varied with
grey; the narrow bare places round the eyes whitish; the eyes are dark
orange. Its length is fourteen and a half inches, six inches of which
belong to the tail. The length of the wings is about the same. The north
of Brazil, particularly the country near the Amazon, is the principal
habitat of the Garuba, but nowhere is it found in great numbers.


THE TIRIBA.

The TIRIBA (_Conurus leucotis_), a bird only nine inches long, four
inches of which must be reckoned for the tail, is certainly the most
elegant and charming of all parrakeets. The crown is brown, and shines
with a metallic bluish green lustre; the rim round the forehead, the
cheek-stripes, the cheeks, and the throat, are cherry colour. The part
near the ear is white; the neck, rump, and wings dark green; the point
of the tail and the middle of the belly, as well as the wings near the
shoulder, are red; the breast is olive green; and the feathers on the
upper part of the neck are indicated by a black-edged stripe, prettily
marked. The wings are externally bluish green, and black within. The tail
is green, the upper part touched with cherry colour, and the lower part
with blood red; the horn-grey beak terminates in a white point. The feet
are dark ash grey, and the eye-rings orange; the narrow bare place around
the eyes is blackish. The female is somewhat smaller than the male, from
whom she differs but little in colour. In the young birds the tints are
paler, and the feathers only slightly marked.

The Tiriba is met with in many parts of the eastern coast of Brazil;
these birds abound in forests, and particularly in such as have not been
cleared; they are also found in great numbers on the sea-coast, and at no
great distance from human habitations. Except in pairing time, they are
always in large flocks, and if disturbed dart like arrows from the tops
of the trees, shrieking loudly. They climb very dextrously, employing the
beak freely, and carefully guarding their long tail from being injured
by the branches. It is very difficult for the sportsman to distinguish
them in their haunts, on account of their green colour, and if they
fear danger they will remain perfectly motionless and quiet. It is only
when flying that they raise their voices loudly and repeatedly. When
there are plantations near the woods, they will, like other parrots,
do considerable damage, but are less destructive to maize than to rice.
After breeding time they appear more numerously on the outskirts of the
woods, accompanied by their young, whom they feed out of their crops
until they have nearly attained their full size.

[Illustration: THE GARUBA (_Conurus luteus_).]

The nest is built in the hollow of a tree, and contains from two to three
white eggs. Some species, according to Schomburghk, are favourites with
the Indians, so that we often find whole flocks of tame parrakeets near
their settlements. The Brazilians generally place them on a stick, which
they fasten to the outside of their houses, fixing one end into the
plaster wall.


THE CAROLINA PARRAKEET.

The CAROLINA PARRAKEET (_Conurus Carolinensis_) is the only parrot found
in North America. Its length is from ten to twelve inches, and the
wing seven inches; the prevailing colour of the plumage is a pleasing
green, darker on the back, and somewhat yellowish on the under part;
the forehead and cheeks are reddish orange, as are likewise the back
of the head, shoulders, and wings. The neck is of a pure gold colour;
the large wing-covers olive-green, with yellow tips; the primary quills
deep purplish black; and the middle tail-covers near the shaft blue. The
female is of a paler colour than the male, and in the young the forehead
is of an uniform green.

The Carolina Parrakeets are found as far as forty-two degrees north
latitude, and seem to be capable of enduring very severe weather, for
Wilson tells us that he saw a flock of them fly screaming along the banks
of the Ohio, during a snow-storm in February. Solitary individuals are
sometimes met with still farther north, even as far as Albany; but these
are only such as have lost their way. The favourite haunts of these birds
are districts overgrown with a weed called wrinkled burdock, the seeds of
which they obtain in spite of its armature of strong thorns; they often
invade plantations in great numbers, and do much damage, destroying far
more than they eat, and are therefore bitterly hated by the owners, and
actively pursued.

We have full particulars of their life and habits from Wilson, Audubon,
and the Prince von Wied. "The Carolina Parrakeet," says Audubon, "eats
or destroys all kinds of fruit, and is on this account most unwelcome to
the planter, the countryman, or the gardener. The stacks of corn in the
fields are often visited by large flocks, which hide them so completely
that they present the appearance of being covered with a brilliantly
coloured carpet; the birds hang round the stacks, draw out the straws,
and destroy twice as much of the corn as is necessary to satisfy their
hunger. They come in crowds to assail the fruit trees in a garden, pluck
the fruits, bite them open and take out the soft and milky kernel,
proceeding industriously from branch to branch, until the tree that had
looked so promising is entirely stripped. It is easy to understand that
these attacks upon their property are avenged by the planters, and that
regular war is waged against the Parrakeets. Ten or twenty of them often
fall at one shot, but the survivors always come back to the same place,
so that many hundreds are killed in the course of a few hours." The
"Carolina Parrakeet," says Wilson, "is a very sociable creature. Should
one of a flock be wounded, the rest instantly return to it, uttering loud
anxious cries, as they settle on the nearest tree. After repeated shots
they will not alter their behaviour, but come nearer and nearer to the
fallen bird, and fly around it with plaintive screams."

It would be hard to find a greater contrast than is noticeable between
the rapid flight of the Carolina Parrakeets and their lame, helpless
movements when on the branches of trees, and still more when on the
ground. They fly in closely-packed masses, rushing along with loud
resounding cries, generally in a direct line, sometimes in graceful
curves, which they seem often to vary for their own amusement. Their
favourite trees are sycamores and plantains, in the hollows of which they
find a resting-place, and hang to the bark like woodpeckers, clinging by
the beak and claws. They sleep a good deal, retiring many times in the
day to their holes to take a nap. They eat salt readily, and for this
reason are always to be found in great numbers near salt works. Wilson
gives us the following information concerning a Carolina Parrakeet that
he tried to keep:--"As I was anxious to learn whether this parrot would
allow itself to be easily tamed, I took one under my care that had been
slightly wounded in the wing. I prepared for him a kind of bower at the
stern of my boat, and threw him burdocks, which he continued to eat from
the time he came on board. The first day was pretty equally divided
between eating and sleeping, and at times he gnawed the bars of his cage.
When I left the river and travelled by land I carried my prisoner with
me in a silk handkerchief, disregarding all the difficulties which such
an undertaking must involve. The road was bad beyond description; there
were dangerous rivers and lakes to swim across, whole miles of morass and
thicket to encounter, and other hindrances to overcome; many times the
parrot came out of my pocket, and I was compelled to dismount to seek
for it amongst the brushwood. When we encamped in forests I placed it on
my little bundle near me, and took it up again in the morning, carrying
it in this manner more than a thousand miles. As soon as I reached the
hunting-ground of the Chickasaws I was surrounded by these people--men,
women, and children--who regarded my companion with great astonishment
and loud laughter, calling it in their language 'Kelinky;' indeed, Polly
was ever after a bond of friendship between us. When I reached my friend
Dunbar's house I procured a cage, and placed it in the verandah; from
whence my captive used to call to the flights of Parrakeets that sped
over the place, and day by day we had numerous troops of them hovering
about, keeping up a lively conversation. One whose wing was slightly
wounded I placed in Polly's cage, to the great delight of the little
solitary, who approached it instantly, and whispered her sympathy at
its accident, stroked its neck and head with her beak, and took it to
her heart at once. The new comer died, and Polly was for many days
inconsolable and restless. I then placed a looking-glass near to the
place where she usually sat. My ruse succeeded, her happiness was
restored, and for a time she was beside herself with joy. It was quite
touching to see her, as evening approached, laying her head on the image
in the glass, and testifying her happiness by a gentle note. After some
time she learned her name, and answered to it; she would climb up my
body, perch on my shoulder, and take bits from my mouth: there is no
doubt that I could have succeeded in training her, had not an unlucky
accident caused her death; she left her cage one morning before I rose,
and was drowned in the Gulf of Mexico."

The Prince von Wied substantiates the preceding account; he found these
Parrakeets in the early spring in enormous numbers near the Mississippi,
and they have been also seen near the Lower Missouri, but never towards
the upper part of that river. The Indians in the neighbourhood of Fort
Union wear the skins of these birds as ornaments on their heads.


THE CHOROY.

The CHOROY of the Chilians (_Enicognathis leptorhynchus_) is well
deserving of notice, on account of the peculiar shape of its beak. There
is nothing particularly striking in the plumage, which is of a nearly
uniform dark green, blueish on the wings, their tips being spotted with
black; the tail-feathers are brownish, and blood red at the tip. The bird
is green above, with a red streak upon the brow, red cheek-stripes, and
a few insignificant dark bands on the top of the head, which are visible
through the points of the corresponding feathers; the lower part of the
body is green, with red spots between the thighs, larger in the male
than in the female. Its length is about fourteen inches, six and a half
of which belong to the tail. The Choroy reminds us of the Long-beaked
Cockatoo, on account of its prominent and elongated upper mandible, and
we are told that its habits are similar. These birds congregate in troops
of many hundreds, and the noise they make is almost deafening. They are
most destructive to maize and wheat fields, and also to apple-trees, the
fruit of which they gather only for the sake of the pips. This species is
found over large tracts of the Pampas, and is rather a ground than a tree
bird.

       *       *       *       *       *


THE LONG-TAILED PARROTS, OR PARRAKEETS.

The LONG-TAILED PARRAKEETS (_Palæornithes_) inhabit the Old World, and
notwithstanding the peculiarities whereby the different families are
characterised, bear a common impress. All are distinguished by their
very slender shape and pointed tail of the same length as the body, and
by their flowing, magnificently-coloured plumage. They are distributed
over the whole of Central and Southern Africa, a great part of India and
Australia, and in favourable situations are met with in large flocks.
The Australian type differs from the Asiatic and African principally in
having a comparatively broad tail, and is on that account often referred
to another group.


THE COLLARED OR ROSE-RINGED PARROT.

The COLLARED PARROT (_Palæornis torquatus_) is elegantly formed and
strikingly coloured. The entire length of the male is from fourteen to
sixteen inches, ten of which must be allowed for the tail; the length of
wing is about six inches from the shoulder to the tip. The colour of the
plumage is generally a bright grass green, brightest on the top of the
head, palest underneath, and darkest on the wings: on both sides of the
throat, and about the cheeks, this colour changes to a delicate sky blue,
which is divided from the green of the neck by a dark blackish stripe on
the throat, and a splendid band of rose red feathers; the tips of the
tail-feathers are also sky blue, and the under part of the tail and wings
yellowish green. The beak is bright red, with a dark tip to the upper
mandible, the feet grey, the eye yellowish white. The young birds before
moulting may be distinguished from the old by their paler and uniform
light green colour.

The Rose-ringed Parrakeet is spread over the whole of Africa, and is
found from the western coast to the eastern borders of the Abyssinian
mountains, the wooded parts of which are especially favourable to its
mode of life and habits; it does not always seek the extensive unbroken
primitive forests, which cover the lower parts of the interior of
Africa, but is often seen in limited tracts of woodland, among the
thickly-foliaged evergreens, which afford a safe retreat during the
entire year. In Western Africa it is seen on the coast; in Northern
Africa we have found it as far southward as fifteen degrees north
latitude, but did not observe it in those parts of the mountainous
coast of Abyssinia through which we travelled, and only met with it
in the neighbourhood of monkeys; indeed, after repeated observations
we concluded that we could safely reckon upon always finding it where
monkeys were to be seen, and _vice versâ_. It would be difficult for
travellers through their haunts to overlook the Rose-ringed Parrakeets,
as they announce their presence by loud, discordant cries heard above
all the noises of the forest; their associated bands, after uniting and
thus increasing to large flocks, often take possession of some of the
thickly-leaved tamarind or other trees, and from these resting-places fly
daily across a greater or less tract of country. In the early morning
they are tolerably quiet, but soon after sunrise go forth screaming in
search of food, and the whole flock may then be seen flying hurriedly
over the woods. The African forests are comparatively poor in fruit, but
the plants that grow under their shadow are prolific in seeds of all
kinds, which entice the parrots to the ground; nevertheless, except when
the small round fruit of the bush known as "Christ's thorn" is ripe,
they seldom descend from the trees. It is probable that they will also
take animal food; at any rate, we have often observed them busy near
ant-hills and the dwellings of Termites. They are rarely seen in the
fields bordering on the woods of Central Africa, although tame birds
may be fed solely upon the Caffre millet and durrah, the corn of that
country; it would seem, however, that they prefer fruits and seeds to the
last-mentioned diet.

Until mid-day the flocks are busy satisfying their hunger, after which
they fly to seek water, and then rest for some hours among the branches,
chattering and screaming; but in spite of their noise they are difficult
to find, owing to their green colour, which is scarcely distinguishable
from the foliage; moreover, they are perfectly silent the instant that
they observe anything unusual, or creep stealthily and quietly away if
they fear pursuit. The longer you remain under a tree beneath the top of
which you have just heard hundreds of voices, the stiller and quieter
it becomes, until at last all is silent; one bird after the other has
noiselessly crept away to a distance, from whence a joyful cry tells that
their cunningly planned retreat is happily accomplished.

Towards evening they again assemble, and make (if that is possible) a
louder shrieking than before; for now the question is not only which is
the best branch to rest upon, but the safest sleeping-place. During the
spring time, when the woods are decked in magic beauty, the parrots
always sleep in holes in trees, but in the dry season they prefer the
foliage; leafless trees they consider dangerous.

Although these birds fly well, their movements on the ground are clumsy,
and even their climbing very awkward; their flight is extremely swift,
but seems fatiguing; it requires many quick strokes with the wings,
and changes into a hovering motion if the bird wishes to alight. Their
gait can scarcely be called a walk, but rather a waddle; the body is
swung forward, and the long tail carefully raised that it may not touch
the ground. A party of Parrakeets progressing in this manner provokes
involuntary laughter, as there is something most comically serious in
their movements.

The Rose-ringed Parrots breed during the African rainy season, which
comes with the spring; at which time the gigantic Adansonias are crowned
with their thickest foliage, and the numerous holes in their trunks
hidden in the most desirable manner; here the breeding birds settle
in parties, and after some strife about holes, the pairs live quietly
together. In those parts of Africa through which we travelled, Europeans
shoot these birds, but the natives never molest them with weapons,
and only capture them when they have an opportunity of disposing of
them alive. Notwithstanding the numbers in which they are found, it is
not very easy to procure a specimen, as their cunning deceives even a
practised sportsman, and renders his efforts fruitless. After some time,
however, we learned to turn their tricks to their own disadvantage; when
we found a party of them in the woods, one of us would creep to the
nearest and thickest tree, while another disturbed that they were on; the
consequence was that the parrots, as they tried to escape, generally fell
victims to the marksman who was watching their arrival.

The natives take the young unfledged birds out of the nest, or surprise
the old ones at night in their holes. They are extensively captured in
Senegal, and from thence come most of the Rose-ringed Parrakeets that
we see in captivity. During the time we spent in Africa, we had many of
these birds alive, but never succeeded in becoming very friendly with
them; we gave them as much freedom as possible, allowed them to fly about
a large room, fed them well, and hoped to retain the whole troop; but we
were sadly deceived in our expectations, for they fell murderously upon
each other, and the strong ones bit the weak to death; in most cases they
broke the skulls of their victims, and ate their brains, after the manner
of our Titmouse (_Parus_).

On the other hand, we must own that we have often seen bird-fanciers keep
dozens in small cages, and learnt, in answer to our questions, that they
lived together in the greatest harmony. Connoisseurs have told us that
with care they can be made very tame, and will show great affection for
their master, but rarely learn to speak, or only in the most imperfect
manner. Their plumage forms their greatest attraction.


THE BETTET.

The BETTET (_Palæornis pondicerianus_), together with other allied
species, is found throughout India and the neighbouring islands. In
size it resembles the Rose-ringed Parrakeet, but differs from it in
the markings of its more variegated plumage. Green is also here the
prevailing colour, but the delicate rose red that marks the neck of the
former is in this bird spread over the whole breast, and, in the male,
extends over the top of the head. The whole mantle is green, the sides of
the wings yellowish green, and here and there the feathers have more or
less broad yellow edges; the tail-feathers are blueish green above, on
the under side yellowish green; the belly is green, but much paler than
the back. The head and breast contrast splendidly with these leaf-like
tints; it is difficult to describe the mixture of colours they present;
we can only say that the head is of a blueish or greyish rose red, while
a narrow band on the forehead, and the marks on the cheeks, heighten
the effect of the bright and glowing tints on the neck. A line on the
forehead, which reaches to the eyes, and the streaks upon the neck, are
of a dull black; the breast is of a pale brick red; all the feathers
having narrow grey edges to their tips, as though suffused with a greyish
vapour. The beak is black, the feet greenish yellow, the eyes yellowish
grey. The two sexes are distinguished by the colour of the head, which in
the one has a reddish and in the other a greenish lustre. We have one of
these birds alive before us, but cannot say whether the red-headed is,
as we fancy, the male, or the female; the colours of both are equally
beautiful. Bernstein tells us that although this parrot is principally
seen in Java, its distribution is very unequal, for whereas in some parts
it is quite a common bird, in others it is not to be found without strict
search. It inhabits hot low-lying districts, or sometimes promontories to
the height of 4,000 feet, but never frequents mountains. It is always to
be met with in the coffee-plantations, where it soon betrays its presence
by its loud screaming voice, although it knows so well how to conceal
itself from observation amongst the foliage, that it is much oftener
heard than seen.

During the day Bettets fly in pairs or small parties through the
gardens or thickets in the neighbourhood, and towards evening assemble
upon their trysting-place--a large, thickly foliaged tree, or bamboo
plantation--where they pass the night together. "If you happen to know
such a tree," says Bernstein, "and place yourself near it towards
evening, you will see a very attractive exhibition. When the sun goes
down, the birds come gradually from all sides; as soon as the first has
arrived, it raises its voice joyfully and commences a performance in
which all new comers join, so that at last the concert increases to a
perfectly deafening noise, which only ends as the last ray of sunset
disappears. Then all go to roost, and are only disturbed when a solitary
bird, whose little sleeping-place is not comfortable, flies about to seek
another perch, or drive a companion from its place; should this happen,
the general annoyance is loudly expressed, and the disturber of their
repose soon settled with a few sharp pecks. With the first appearance of
daylight, the flock separates until the following evening, when all seek
the same tree or bush, and pass the night together as before."

During the breeding season these birds live in pairs, and the evening
assemblies do not take place. The nests are made in holes of trees, and
the strong beaks of the parrots are very useful in preparing them. We
only succeeded in finding one nest, and that was in a hollow in a Puda
tree some forty or fifty feet above the ground; it contained but one
pure white egg, but the ovary of the female showed plainly that there
were more eggs to lay. The Bettets we have seen in captivity were very
tame, and appeared mild and gentle in their demeanour; we learnt from
trustworthy sources that they may be easily taught to speak very fluently.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the Australian parrots the SUPERB PARROTS (_Polytelis_) remind us
most of those just described. The only two known species are moderately
large birds from fifteen to sixteen inches in length, slenderly formed,
but with tolerably strong beaks, the upper mandible reaching far over the
lower one.


THE SCARLET-CRESTED SUPERB PARROT.

In the SCARLET-CRESTED Species (_Polytelis Barrabandi_) the plumage upon
the back of the neck, upper and lower parts of the body, is grass green;
the fore part of the head, the cheeks, and the throat, king's yellow;
the wings and tail deep blue, shaded with green; the neck surrounded by
a crooked line of scarlet; the eyes are orange; the beak bright red; the
feet ash grey. The female is distinguished by its somewhat less brilliant
plumage, its dull blueish grey face, its dusky rose-red breast, and
scarlet loins. The young resemble it in colour, but are less beautifully
marked. This bird is not rare in New South Wales, and in the interior is
tolerably numerous.


THE BLACK-TAILED SUPERB PARROT.

The BLACK-TAILED SUPERB PARROT is found in numerous flocks on the banks
of the Murray, and lives principally among thick shrubs and upon the
gum-trees. Its food consists of seeds, buds, and the honey which it
obtains from the blossoms of the Eucalypti. Its flight is very rapid; its
voice a loud screaming cry, which becomes a discordant chatter when a
flock settles.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are more intimately acquainted with the so-called GRASS PARROTS
(_Platycerci_), a beautifully marked, small-beaked, high-footed race,
whose short tail is broader at the end than at the root. They are found
in New Holland, distributed over the whole of that continent; and, as
they keep together in flocks, are very troublesome to the settlers. In
their habits they have much in common with the Sparrow Parrots and with
the Finches. They run more than they climb, frequenting the country
roads, like our sparrows, the fields, like our finches, or the grassy
plains, like the reed sparrows, and are only found in the woods, or on
solitary trees, during the time that they roost. They wander much about
the country, and appear unexpectedly in great flocks in certain places,
which they leave as suddenly when food becomes scarce. Most species
eat seeds exclusively, preferring those of different kinds of grass.
They differ remarkably from other parrots in the circumstance that the
female lays from six to ten eggs, and rears a numerous family. They can
generally endure captivity, but do not enjoy the company of mankind, and
seldom learn to distinguish their friends from those whom they have cause
to fear.


THE ROSELLA.

The ROSELLA (_Platycercus eximius_) is a truly splendid bird, thirteen
inches in length. The fore part of the head, back of the neck, breast,
and under tail-covers, are scarlet; the cheeks white; the feathers on
the back black, bordered with yellow; the rump, upper tail-covers, and
belly, with the exception of a yellow spot in the middle, are of a bright
pale green; the middle of the wings bright blue; the quills dark brown,
the outer border blue; the two middle tail-feathers green, changing to
blueish-green; all the rest blue at the root, shading into light blue,
and tipped with white; the beak is horn-coloured; the foot brown; the
pupils blackish brown. The young, when they leave the nest, have a coat
very similar to the old birds, without its full brilliancy; they are also
recognisable by their yellow beaks. These beautiful parrots are natives
of New South Wales and Tasmania, where they are very common, but only
in especial districts, often bounded by a brook, over which they will
not pass. They do not congregate in large flocks, but in small groups or
families. Open countries are their favourite resorts, or grassy hills
and plains planted with high trees or groups of bushes. From these
trees, which become the central point of their movements, they fly over
the little sandy plains or open country into the woods to seek their
food. They are as often to be found upon the roads as our sparrows, and,
like them, if startled, only fly to the nearest tree or hedge by the
wayside, soon returning again to the ground. Travellers are unanimous in
saying that the impression made on Europeans by the profusion of these
magnificent birds surpasses description. The Rosella flies in curves,
with rapid strokes of its wing, but seldom to any great distance, as it
is soon fatigued; it moves with ease upon the ground, and is quite equal
to our Finches in agility. The voice of this species, like that of most
of its congeners, is a pleasant pipe, which might almost be called a
song. Its food consists of seeds of different kinds, principally those
of grasses; but it will also at times eat insects; the breeding-time is
in the months of October and January, which answers to our spring. The
female lays from seven to ten beautiful elongated white eggs in a hole in
the branch of an Eucalyptus, or some similar tree.


THE VARIEGATED PARROT.

The VARIEGATED PARROT (_Psephotus multicolor_) must be regarded as one of
the most splendidly coloured of the Grass Parrots, amongst which it is
numbered on account of its moderately short wings and unevenly graduated
tail. It is about a foot in length, and nine to ten inches in the spread
of its wings. This bird inhabits the interior of Australia, being very
numerous on the banks of the rivers. The plumage is remarkable on account
of the variety of its colours. In the male the forehead and shoulders
are brimstone-coloured; the under tail-covers yellow; the lower part of
the belly and legs scarlet; the rump striped with yellowish green, dark
green, and reddish chestnut brown; the wings and lower wing-covers deep
blue; the middle tail-feathers blue; the outer ones blueish green, tipped
with pale blue; the beak horn brown; and the feet yellowish brown. The
female, whose plumage is similarly marked, only differs from the male in
the inferior brilliancy of colouring, being of a yellowish brown on the
throat and breast, and only slightly striped on the back of the head and
wing-covers. We have but slight knowledge of these birds either in their
natural state or in captivity.

The Variegated Parrot is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest acquisitions
that a connoisseur can make; it is the ornament of every aviary, and,
like its congeners, pleases as much by its docility as by the splendour
of its plumage. It will also breed in our own country. "My father," says
Neubert, "possessed a pair of Variegated Parrots, which were always very
cheerful and extremely attached to each other. One was a little larger
than the other, and in colour far more beautiful, for that which in the
little one was yellow and orange, was in the larger bird orange and flame
colour, and so on throughout the different tints. On account of this
circumstance, these birds were always supposed to be male and female, and
this opinion was strengthened by observing that they showed the greatest
affection for each other. After a time the lesser bird--whom for the
sake of brevity we will call the female--was always busy on the ground;
it seemed melancholy, and ate scarcely anything, but was constantly fed
by the male out of his crop. One morning there lay a beautiful white egg
in the cage, which the female watched most carefully. My father at once
fastened a willow basket to the cage, filled with materials for a nest,
and placed the egg upon it; the female, however, lifted it again to the
bottom of the cage. On this we gave them a common wooden box, in which a
hole was cut, and filled it with soft materials; both birds immediately
busied themselves in turning them out, and in chipping some very fine
shreds off the inside of the box, on which to lay the egg. From this
time the female seldom came out of the box, but the male frequently went
in to feed her. Several other eggs were laid during the next few days,
some being larger than the rest. The devotion of both birds to the task
of incubation increased daily, and they became so heated as to lose the
feathers from the under part of their bodies. As time went on, neither of
them came out, or only very rarely, to eat. At length we observed that
one was dead; the other continued to sit upon the eggs, but died after a
few days. The eggs were examined, and proved to be addled. It was only
on the birds being stuffed, that the reason of our disappointment was
discovered; both were females, and had laid unfertile eggs. Many English
and Belgian collectors have succeeded in making the Variegated Parrots
lay, so we may hope to see these beautiful birds more numerous amongst
us."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Australian continent would seem to be a veritable Eden for the Parrot
tribes! The dazzling Cockatoos peep like gorgeous flowers from the masses
of green foliage, and the Scarlet-coated Rose Parrakeet glitters amongst
the yellow blossoms of the acacia, whilst Honey-birds swarm in blithe
and busy parties about the various trees, and the otherwise deserted
plains are animated by the presence of the little Grass Parrakeets.
Parrots abound in Australia, as do the swallows in our villages and
roads, and are met with everywhere in all their variegated beauty. When
the farmer is about to get in his harvest, these birds appear before his
barns in large flocks, seeking, like pigeons, for stray corn among the
stubble. Poetical travellers have often been inspired by the ever varying
spectacle presented by such gorgeous objects; but the settler hates them
from the bottom of his heart, and avenges himself for their depredations
by shooting them with the same indifference as that with which our
country folks kill sparrows.


THE WAVED PARROT (_Melopsittacus undulatus_).

[Illustration: THE ROSELLA (_Platycercus eximius_).]

This beautiful bird is of small size, though its long tail makes it seem
larger than it is; its length is from eight to nine inches, and the
span of its wings ten inches. The body is slender and elegantly formed,
the tail long and graduated, the wings comparatively long and pointed,
the beak moderately large, with a long curved point. The cere, in which
the large nostrils are placed, is broad and slightly inflated; the feet
long, the toes slender, the outer one being longer than the inner. The
beautiful grass green that predominates in the plumage is prettily
marked; the whole of the mantle--that is, the back of the head, neck, top
of the back, shoulders, and wing-covers--are pale yellowish green, each
feather being edged and spotted with black and brown, more finely on the
neck and head than on the back; the under side is of a beautiful uniform
green. The parts of the face, that is, the fore part of the head, vertex,
and throat, are yellow, bordered and spotted with four bright blue spots,
of which those upon the cheeks are the largest, while the others look
like three little round drops. The wings are brown, the outer web of
the quills dark grey, spotted with greenish yellow; the tail, with the
exception of the two blue middle feathers, is green in the middle. Each
feather is striped with yellow, the eye-rings yellowish white, the beak
horn-coloured, the feet pale blue. The female is distinguished from her
mate in being somewhat smaller, and by the different colour of the cere;
with her this is greyish green, whilst in the male it is a bright blue.
The young are without the deep blue spots on the throat, and the regular
markings on the head, which is entirely covered with delicate stripes;
when only eight months old, they assume the plumage of the parent birds.

[Illustration: THE WAVED PARROT (_Melopsittacus undulatus_).]

Shaw was the first naturalist who became acquainted with and described
the Waved Parrot, and Gould is the only traveller who gives us any
information respecting its natural state; from him we learn that these
birds inhabit the whole of the interior of Australia in enormous numbers,
especially where there are large tracts of grass, the seeds of which they
eat.

When Gould was investigating the plains in the interior, he saw the
Waved Parrots flying about, and remained for some time in the vicinity,
in order to observe their habits and mode of life. They came in flocks
of from twenty to one hundred to a small lake to drink, and from this
locality flew at stated times over the plain in search of the seeds which
are their exclusive food; they went to the water in the greatest numbers
in the early morning, or as it grew dark in the evening. During the heat
of the day they sat motionless under the leaves of the gum-trees, the
holes of which were just then occupied by the pairs who were laying, and
as long as they remained quiet, were with difficulty perceptible. When
going to the stream, they alighted freely in large flocks upon the dead
twigs of the Eucalypti, or on the branches that hung down to the water.
Their activity is wonderful, and their flight very rapid, resembling
that of the falcon or swallow; they run upon the ground with facility,
but their feet are ill adapted for climbing among the branches of trees.
When on the wing they utter a screaming cry; and whilst perched amuse
each other with a caressing kind of twitter, which might almost be
termed a song. The Waved Parrot congregates in parties, even during the
breeding-time, although pairs are easily distinguished by their faithful
devotion to each other. The nest is made in the holes and fissures of
gum-trees, and in December contains from four to six eggs of a pure white
colour and somewhat round shape. By the end of December the young have
flown out and are capable of providing for themselves; they then collect
in great flocks, that fly about in company with the old birds. As soon
as the breeding-time is over, the flocks begin their migrations, during
which they pass regularly from south to north, and only return to their
breeding-place when the grass-seeds are ripe. Throughout South Australia
they appear in spring, and also in autumn, with the same precision as
our migratory birds. Some years ago only solitary Waved Parrots were
occasionally seen amongst us; but at the present time every ship brings
hundreds to Europe. Before leaving Australia, the captives are put
together in wooden cages, the perches of which are placed like little
flights of steps above each other, so as to hold a great number of birds
in the smallest possible space. Such a travelling bower presents a most
amusing appearance; the whole party sits in lines, so that one row of
faces appears above the heads of another, and all eyes are fixed upon
an observer, as they seem to beg to be freed from their confinement.
Quarrels and strife have never been observed among them, and until
breeding-time, thousands live most comfortably together, those of the
same sex as happily as the little pairs do. We have seen one of the large
cages of a bird merchant, that had formed part of a cargo of these birds,
and contained more than a thousand pairs, all of which lived in great
harmony. The Waved Parrot does not belong to the "inseparables"--that
is, to those species that pine and die on the loss of their mates; but
it loves the society of its own species, and prefers the company of
the opposite sex. Sometimes it will associate with a small parrot of a
different species, though it never shows the same attachment that it
exhibits to its own. It is, however, necessary to keep these birds in
pairs, as under any other circumstances they are never seen to full
advantage. They require little change in their food, and can live upon
millet or canary seed; they will also eat the juicy leaves of plants,
cabbage, and other vegetables; but despise fruit, sugar, and dainties. In
spite of their preference for dry food, they drink very little, sometimes
not for weeks together, but their owner must not, on that account,
neglect to give them fresh water.

Most parrots, however gentle their disposition, become quite
insupportable by reason of their noise. This is, however, by no means the
case with the Waved Parrots; they can produce a great variety of sounds,
but never use their voice in such a degree as to become tiresome, or
except to express pleasure. It is not too much to say that the male of
this species should be reckoned among the singing birds, for its notes
are something more than a twitter, and often become a very expressive
though modest song; it may, indeed, be taught to imitate the notes of
other good singers in such a manner as to deceive an expert ear. In order
to rear these birds, they should be placed in a small room, which can be
aired and warmed without disturbing the occupants; the floor should be
strewed with sand, and the walls hung with boxes. It is advisable, but
not necessary, to ornament the chamber with living and harmless plants,
for these offer the best places for rest and concealment; evergreens are
particularly suitable for this purpose. Holes should be made in hollow
blocks of willow-trees, and divided into compartments by boards, so
that many pairs may make their nests in the same block. A room of this
description is by far the best for breeding purposes, but in most cases
a moderately-sized cage is quite sufficient. The most important thing is
to leave the birds undisturbed, and keep them well fed.

It is necessary to be personally acquainted with these lovable little
creatures, and to have observed them during the performance of their
parental duties, to be able to understand the enthusiasm with which they
are regarded; it is only during their pairing time that we become fully
conscious of their many merits. "The male," says Devon, "is a model
husband, and his mate is a model mother. He devotes his whole attention
to his chosen one, never heeding another female, though she be in the
same place with him; he is always zealous, devoted, and ardent--indeed,
shows the utmost affection towards his partner. Perched upon a twig
before the opening of the nest, he sings her his best song, and while she
is sitting feeds her with as much zeal as pleasure. He is neither dull,
quiet, nor sleepy, like many other husbands, but always cheerful and
charming."

The building of the nest is the exclusive business of the female. She
works with her beak at the entrance till it satisfies her, and then,
more or less, at the interior, gnawing off little shreds, on which she
lays, in the space of two days, from four to eight small, round, shining
white eggs. She then sits for eighteen or twenty days most assiduously,
and during the whole time is fed by the male, never leaving the hole
except on the most urgent necessity. The young remain some thirty or
thirty-five days in the nest, and only quit it when fledged. During all
this time the mother is busily occupied in keeping their home clean, and,
like a good housewife, clears out her little chamber every morning, and
cleanses and purifies her offspring with extraordinary care. Immediately
after leaving the nest, the young go in search of food, and a few days
after conduct themselves quite like the old birds. Still, care must be
taken, for the before-mentioned zeal of the father is often shown in
an unexpected manner; he will fall upon his brood so boisterously, and
seize them with so much roughness, that he kills them by his caresses.
The first brood is no sooner fledged than the parents have a second, and
even a third and fourth; indeed, Schlegel, the director of the Zoological
Gardens at Breslau, declares that he has known them breed all the year
round. Such cases are exceptional; three broods, according to our own
observations, are the usual number. The last family of young may be left
with the parents without danger, and then the first brood may be brought
back. These show themselves to be quite as affectionate as their parents,
and feed and take care of the nestlings. Moreover, they will imitate each
other in everything--in climbing, flying, eating, and chattering--so that
the noise in the nursery often becomes quite deafening, and sometimes
seems to be too much even for the parents, who will then remove to a
distance to get out of the way.

[Illustration: THE CORELLA (_Nymphicus Novæ Hollandicæ_).]

A pair of Waved Parrots in our possession occupied a large cage, in which
they seemed very comfortable, but perhaps the bright sun, as it laughed
at them through the windows, made them sigh for freedom. One day the
female cleverly made her escape, and, before we discovered it, had flown
through the window. We now learned to admire this bird from another point
of view, as we watched its glorious flight, and may say with truth that
we forgot to feel angry at our loss. The fugitive rose high into the air,
and screamed with delight as it wheeled round and round with incomparable
rapidity over a neighbouring garden; it flew quite differently to any
parrot we ever saw--indeed, more like a falcon or a swallow, and was
soon out of sight, but in a few minutes reappeared in the garden,
apparently in consequence of the anxious cry of its mate, for we had at
once placed the latter near the window. The lovers of these birds know
that their tone is deceptively like that of our sparrows. It was the
height of summer, and all the roofs were covered with young sparrows,
who exhibited the greatest agitation as soon as the beautiful stranger
appeared. The parrot had placed itself upon a plum-tree near the window,
and from thence conversed with its mate. The young sparrows, who thought
that the enticing chirp was intended for them, ventured near in flocks,
regardless of the warnings and cautions of their elders, for though the
latter seemed astonished, they were far too old birds to be deceived,
and would not approach; the young ones, on the contrary, surrounded it
in crowds. It took not the slightest notice of them, but they were not
to be repulsed; they became most pressing in their attentions, hopped
quite close to it, looked at it with the greatest delight, and answered
its chirp with all their little strength. When it became angry and flew
off to another tree, the whole array followed, and it was only when
the stranger began to exhibit its splendid powers of flight, that the
sparrows were compelled to remain below abashed. This comedy lasted for
about half an hour, and the whole length and breadth of the garden was
filled with sparrows, when at last, love for its mate made the fugitive
return to its room; on this it was seized and put into the cage, where
it was most tenderly received by its companion, and the crowd outside
dispersed. In this country the Waved Parrots can be kept for whole weeks
out of doors. In the spring of 1861, two pairs of these birds flew
from a cage to the estate of a noted collector in Belgium; they betook
themselves to the tops of some high trees in a large park, and were lost
during some time. While they remained at large, as it afterwards proved,
they had made their nest, and reared a number of young ones. The owner
of the property surprised a whole flock of from ten to twelve in a field
of oats, where they were helping themselves; from that time they were
enticed with proper food, and before the winter ten birds were captured.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to observe those that were still at
liberty, as it would have been most interesting to learn if the strangers
could survive one of our winters.

[Illustration: THE GROUND PARRAKEET (_Pezoporinus formosus_).]


THE CORELLA.

The CORELLA (_Nymphicus Novæ Hollandicæ_) is closely allied to the
Cockatoos, although belonging to the group of True Parrots. These birds
are fully a foot long, and nearly the same in their spread of wing. The
plumage is very variegated in its markings; the fore part of the head,
the tuft, and cheeks, are lemon colour; the ear-coverings bright orange;
the back of the neck, the two middle tail-feathers, and the outer border
of the wings, brownish grey; the back, shoulders, under side, and outer
tail-feathers, greyish chocolate brown. The shoulders and sides are the
darkest; the upper wing-covers are white; the eyes dark brown; the beak
lead colour; the feet blueish grey. The female resembles the male, except
that the face and the crest are dark olive green; the feathers near the
throat are brownish grey, those of the under parts of the body and upper
tail-cover yellow; the four middle feathers of the tail are grey, the
rest yellow, and, with the exception of the outer web, edged delicately
with brown. Gould, whom we have to thank for a full description of the
Corella, found this beautiful bird in great numbers in the interior of
Australia. On the coast it is rare in comparison with the thousands seen
on the plains of the interior, and in eastern Australia it seems to be
more numerous than in the western parts of that continent.

In summer the Corellas build their nests near the Hunter and Peel rivers,
and other streams running north, if they can find suitable trees. After
the breeding season they assemble in innumerable flocks, which cover
whole tracts of country, or alight in hundreds upon the overhanging
branches of the gum-trees. In September these flocks begin to migrate
to their breeding-place, and in February or March return to the north.
They devour grass seed, like the rest of their congeners, but cannot
live without water, and, therefore, must remain in the neighbourhood of
a stream. They are very active, run with facility on the ground, and fly
slowly but often to a considerable distance before they alight. They
are but little afraid of man, and if startled from the ground, wend
their way to the nearest tree, perch upon a branch, and, as soon as the
danger is over, return to the ground; not being shy, they are easily
captured. They lay five or six white eggs, about an inch long. Corellas
have only lately been brought to Europe in any considerable number; at
the present day they are to be met with in all large zoological gardens,
and may be obtained from the principal dealers in birds. They require
but little tending, and need no particular surroundings for breeding;
but they should be left as much as possible to themselves. Two birds in
the Hamburgh Zoological Gardens sat by turns on their eggs, the female
from the noon of one day to the forenoon of the next, and the male in the
intermediate hours. As far as we know, such a division of parental duties
has not been observed in any other parrots.


THE GROUND PARRAKEET.

The GROUND PARRAKEET (_Pezoporinus formosus_) reminds us in many
particulars of the Owl-Parrot, or Kakapo; its plumage is of similar
colour, and its habits resemble those of that bird in many respects. The
length of the Ground Parrakeet is about thirteen inches, the stretch
of wing somewhat less; the plumage is dark green, striped with a still
darker shade of the same colour; that of the upper side is dark grass
green, each feather irregularly striped with black and yellow; upon
the head and neck there are black lines. The neck and breast are pale
yellowish green; the belly and under covers of the wings a beautiful
yellowish green, with numerous curved black stripes; the brow is scarlet;
the quill-feathers green on the outer web, and on the inner dark brown,
spotted with pale yellow. The four middle tail-feathers are green,
marked with yellow; the side tail-feathers, on the contrary, yellow,
spotted with dark green; the eyes are dark brown, with delicate light
blue circles; the feet and tarsi blueish flesh colour. Gould informs us
that the Ground Parrakeet is spread over all parts of South Australia,
including Van Dieman's Land; in the northern latitudes of that continent
it has never been observed. This bird lives almost exclusively on the
ground, and is seldom seen among the branches of trees. Barren sandy
districts, abounding in low grass and weeds, or moors covered with
rushes, constitute its favourite haunts; there it lives a retired life,
either alone or in pairs, and is, therefore, almost impossible to find
without the assistance of a dog; it can run among the grass with
great rapidity and persistency, or lie close to the ground, like a hen
or a woodcock, in the hope of being overlooked, and when flushed will
rise and fly quickly over the ground, making all kinds of zig-zags in
the air, like a snipe, then fall again, and run hurriedly on. The eggs,
which are white, are laid on the bare ground, and both parents assist
in their incubation. The young assume the plumage of the adult in the
spring, and separate from their parents as soon as they are old enough to
provide for themselves. The flesh of the Ground Parrakeet is considered
very excellent; it is more tender than that of a snipe, and in flavour
not unlike that of the quail. The example figured in our coloured
illustration (Plate II.) is the _Pezoporinus cornutus_, which differs
somewhat from the preceding, especially in having two beautiful horn-like
appendages to the head.

[Illustration: THE GROUND PARRAKEET ____ PEZOPORINUS (_Life size_)]


THE LORIES.

In India and the neighbouring islands we find some species of
Short-tailed Parrots called LORIES (_Lorii_), differing so essentially
from those we have described, that modern naturalists are inclined to
form them into a separate family. Amongst the points in which they are
unlike other parrots, we must mention their comparatively long neck, and
feeble beak, the slightly bent under-mandible, without notches at the
edge, and closely compressed; the by no means fleshy tongue, divided at
its tip into a bunch of horny fibres, and the streaming plumage, which
is decorated with the most magnificent colours. Our knowledge of these
beautiful birds in their native state is very limited; we are, however,
told that the fibrous tongue is employed to lap up the sweet juices that
exude from the leaves and blossoms of the trees, and that this very
peculiar diet is the great hindrance to their being tamed or transported
to any considerable distance; still, in spite of this, some species are
occasionally brought to Europe, and will live for many years in a cage.
They are docile, and may be taught to speak, but are quiet and languid
when in confinement.


THE PURPLE-CAPPED LORY.

The PURPLE-CAPPED LORY, or LORIKEET (_Lorius domicella_), the largest
and best known of these birds, is a really magnificent creature, about
twelve inches long and twenty inches across the wings. The plumage is of
brilliant scarlet, deep purple on the top of the head, the back of the
head violet, the upper wing-covers green, the legs sky-blue; over the
breast runs a crescent-shaped yellow line; the tail-feathers are scarlet
at the root, striped with black towards the top, and dotted with yellow
at the tips; the beak is orange-coloured, and the feet dark grey.

The Purple-Capped Lory lives in parties in the woods, which it never
quits; its movements are lively, and its flight very rapid. It would seem
that these birds do not subsist entirely upon the nectar from plants, as
they may be reared without any particular care upon bread soaked in milk,
or any kind of parrot food, and will live for years upon this diet.

We learn from the sailors who bring them to Europe that they are
frequently offered for sale in India, but die in great numbers when in
confinement.


THE DAPPLED LORIKEET.

The DAPPLED LORIKEET (_Psitteuteles versicolor_) is a small bird of about
six and a half inches in length. The plumage is much variegated; the
cheek-stripes and top of the head are dark red, with a band round the
neck of deep sky blue; the back blueish green, the wings green, the upper
tail-covers light yellowish green, all the upper feathers being narrowly
striped with yellowish green, and the under-feathers streaked with
yellow along the shaft; both sides of the belly and the inner side of the
leg are spotted with purple. The primary quills are black, bordered at
the edge with dark green, and surrounded by a yellowish line. The beak is
scarlet, the foot a light ash grey, the cere and the bare patch around
the eye are greenish white, the iris is reddish yellow, with narrow red
rings around the pupil.

[Illustration: THE PURPLE-CAPPED LORY, OR LORIKEET (_Lorius domicella_).]

We are indebted to Gilbert for a short description of the habits of
this species, which is found on the northern side of Australia, more
particularly near Port Essington. These birds assemble, he tells us,
in innumerable hosts, and settle upon the gum-trees in order to obtain
nectar from their flowers: whilst a flock is in motion, their movements
are so regular and simultaneous that they might be mistaken for a passing
cloud, did not their piercing cries undeceive the spectator.


SWAINSON'S LORIKEET.

A Lorikeet nearly related to the preceding, called after Swainson
(_Psitteuteles Swainsonii_), has been described by Gould as
follows:--"The South Australian woods of gum-trees, extending to
Moreton's Bay and Van Dieman's Land, shelter large flocks of Swainson's
Lorikeets, the flowers of these forests furnishing them with a plentiful
supply of nectar and pollen; such trees as have newly blossomed being
preferred to any others by these dainty little creatures. The appearance
of a forest of Eucalypti covered with blossoms, upon which various
species of Parrots and Honey-birds are feeding, baffles all description;
three or four different kinds may often be seen busily combining to rob
the same branch; nor is it easier to imagine the thousands of tones and
cries uttered by a flock when rising into the air, preparatory to leaving
one tree for another." These swarms must be seen and heard if we would
form any adequate idea of them. During a morning's walk in the woods,
near the Hunter river, Gould came upon an enormous gum-tree, about 200
feet high, in full bloom, upon which hundreds were perched in the utmost
harmony; he killed specimens of all the four species of Lorikeet found in
that part of the country upon one bough.

[Illustration: THE DAPPLED LORIKEET (_Psitteuteles versicolor_).]

The flight of these Lorikeets is very powerful, and as straight as that
of an arrow: they rise with surprising rapidity, dart through the air
uttering noisy cries, and climb the trees with much adroitness, more in
the manner of a Titmouse than of a Parrot. After sunrise they are so
busily occupied in imbibing the nectar from the flowers, that they can
scarcely be frightened from their perch, and Gould found that the firing
of a gun had no other result than a loud scream, or merely caused some
of the birds to quit the branch that had been aimed at, and settle on
another. So successful are they in their search for nectar, that it often
streams from the mouths of those that have been shot if they are held up
by the feet.

Little has been learnt by travellers of the incubation of this species,
but it would seem that the flocks do not divide in the breeding season;
as many couples build upon one tree as can find room upon it. The nest
is made in the holes of trees during the month of October, and contains
from two to four white round eggs. In certain parts of Australia the
Lorikeets are great favourites with the natives, who string their heads
into chains, with which they deck themselves as with garlands.


THE MAIDEN LORIKEET.

The MAIDEN LORIKEET (_Coryphilus Tahitianus_), another member of this
group, inhabits the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and principally Tahiti,
from which it receives its name. It is a magnificent little bird, about
six inches long, with a tail that measures two inches and a half. The
feathers upon its head form a sort of coif or cap; the plumage is of
uniform blueish purple, with the exception of the throat and upper part
of the breast, which are of a dazzling white; the lower part of the wing
and tail covers are dusky black. Its habits are similar to those of other
Lorikeets.


THE PAPUAN LORY.

The PAPUAN LORY or RASMALAS (_Pyrrhodes carmosine Papuensis_) is one of
the somewhat aberrant forms of this group. In shape it is more elongated
than those we have just mentioned, and may be recognised by the two
middle feathers of its tail, which are longer than the body, and make
the entire length of the bird seventeen inches, of which no less than
eleven inches must be allowed to these middle tail-feathers: it measures
about fourteen inches across the wings. The plumage of the Rasmalas is
bright and beautifully tinted, its general colour scarlet, interspersed
with blue, golden, and grass-green spots; the head, neck, and top of the
back, and the whole of the under portion of the body, are scarlet, except
two streaks of splendid sky-blue, edged with scarlet, which run over the
hinder and middle parts of the head; the sides of the breast and legs are
spotted with yellow, the under tail-covers and the inner side of the legs
are deep blue, the wings green, and the centre tail-feathers light grass
green tipped with gold, these last colours being repeated upon the other
tail-feathers, only that the latter are of a somewhat darker shade at
their roots.

The Rasmalas is an inhabitant of New Guinea, and an article of traffic to
the natives, who treat the dried skins as they do those of the Birds of
Paradise, cutting away both the legs, before exporting them to Europe. As
far as we know, this species has never been brought alive to our part of
the world, and we are quite ignorant as to its habits and mode of life.


THE BLUE-STRIPED LORY.

The BLUE-STRIPED LORY (_Lorius cyanostriatus_), which we have selected
as the subject of one of our coloured illustrations (Plate III.), may be
regarded as the type of the beautiful race to which it belongs. Its small
size, and comparatively feeble beak, the elevation of the tarsi, and the
diminutive claws, are eminently characteristic, as also is the somewhat
wedge-shaped tail. The prevailing colour of this species, like that of
the Lories generally, is a brilliant crimson, which pervades the entire
plumage, but is much relieved and set off by dark shadings of deep red,
almost approaching blackness, which cover the hinder part of the back,
overspread the extremities of the wings and tail, and vary the tints of
the wing-covers, producing a very rich appearance, which is still further
heightened by a row of feathers of ultramarine, wherewith the hinder part
of the neck is ornamented as with a sort of cape. The eyes are surrounded
by elongated patches of naked flesh-coloured skin, immediately behind
which the ear-feathers, of a brilliant ultramarine blue, are rendered
very conspicuous.

[Illustration]



PASSERINE BIRDS (_Passeres_).


The Passerine order we understand to include the FINCHES and their
nearest relations, as also the Sparrows, and other families of similar
structure. These birds have been usually grouped together under the
name of CONIROSTRES, but as the adoption of this term would oblige us
to include the RAVENS (_Coracirostres_), we shall avoid it, considering
that the many peculiarities of the latter entitle them to be regarded as
forming an order by themselves.

The PASSERES, according to our definition, are rather small birds, the
largest among them not exceeding the size of a Starling. Their shape is
compact, the body strong, the neck short, the head thick, and the wings
of moderate length, with nine or ten quills upon the primary, and the
same number upon the secondary region of the wing. The tail is generally
long, and contains twelve feathers; the foot small, and what is termed
a _perching_ foot, three of the toes being in front and one behind.
The beak is thick and usually conical, occasionally hooked, and still
more rarely crossed. The plumage is generally thick, and the feathers
comparatively large and soft; their colouring is usually quiet; but this
is by no means invariably the case; all are, however, devoid of metallic
lustre, or possess it in a very trifling degree. There is a difference
observable between the male and female, not always dependent on the
plumage, the male being the finer bird; the young resemble the mother.
Many species moult twice in the year, so that at certain times their
plumage exhibits a more brilliant appearance than at others, owing to the
rubbing off of the outer edge of the feathers. The internal structure
of the body presents nothing unusual. Although the Passerine Birds are
unquestionably far below the parrots in capacity, they are intelligent,
acute, susceptible of being taught, and keen of perception.

Their flight is not so rapid as that of the smaller parrots, and consists
of a succession of undulating movements, which change into a hovering
motion when the birds are excited or about to alight. They can walk upon
the ground, but generally hop; and though the latter mode of progression
gives an air of awkwardness to some species, it contrasts favourably with
the waddling gait of the parrots. Many species are able to hop nimbly
among the twigs and branches of trees, but few can climb, and still fewer
possess the peculiar clinging powers of the woodpecker and other really
climbing birds. They prefer the neighbourhood of water, but none of them
are capable of swimming or diving.

The Passerine Birds are citizens of the world; they can endure the
climate of icy mountains and northern snows, and are met with in the
glowing regions of the tropics. Hills and valleys, woods or fields,
the reed-covered swamps or treeless plains, are equally tenanted by
various races, as is the crowded city or the barren desert. In all
these localities they will build their nests and educate their young.
Turn where we will, we see them--indeed, they are as much a part of
the landscape as the earth and sky. Notwithstanding the fondness they
exhibit for wooded countries, we can by no means venture to call them
_tree_-birds, as many species live exclusively upon the ground, and
all frequent it more constantly than even the parrots. Open country
near a wood is their favourite resort, and from thence they visit the
surrounding gardens and brushwood. They are found but in small numbers
either in deep forests, or on barren plains and mountains. Seeds, fruits,
birds, and insects form their usual nourishment, and but few appear to be
dainty in their selection. The Passeres are, almost without exception, of
a social disposition, and solitary birds are seldom seen; they live in
pairs during the breeding season, and keep together in parties throughout
the remainder of the year, these parties occasionally increasing until
they become large flocks. It is usual to find several different species
living together in this manner, and associating for many months; the
cleverest become the leaders of the rest, and are obeyed, perhaps we
should say imitated, by their little followers. Such are the flocks that
settle on our fields in autumn, after they have reared their young and
moulted their feathers. In the winter they generally establish themselves
in our farmyards and streets. Many species leave their homes annually,
and go southwards at the commencement of the winter; others only wander
or take occasional journeys, whilst some are stationary. Our part of the
world yearly receives a large number of guests from colder latitudes, in
exchange for the native birds that have left us to winter farther south.
During very severe weather, we are often visited by species from the far
north, that perhaps have not been amongst us for years, driven from their
home by a deficiency of the food that they generally find in their own
country. Some amongst them seem to pay so little regard to the change
of season that they will breed at any time of the year, and will carry
on the work of incubation exposed to the icy cold of a northern winter,
or the exhausting heat of the tropics. For the most part, however, they
recognise the arrival of spring, and, like the poets, are inspired with
their tenderest feelings during the month of May. At that season the
large flocks have dispersed, and each pair is intent upon the duties
inseparable from incubation to a degree that is seldom equalled by other
birds. Their beaks are then as frequently employed in doing battle with
jealous rivals, as in pouring out their songs of joy; their days are
divided between singing and fighting; they eat with haste, exhibiting the
greatest excitement in all they do. Each pair seeks a separate spot for
its own nest, driving away all other birds, so that breeding settlements,
such as we have elsewhere described, are rarely seen amongst them. The
nests of the Passeres are of different forms, and exhibit very various
degrees of skill in their construction. Sometimes they may be seen
hanging from, or placed upon, waving twigs or thick branches; sometimes
they are hidden among the foliage, or in holes of trees or fissures of
rocks, and they may often be found concealed under bushes, among reeds,
corn, grass, and even upon the ground. Their exterior is carefully
formed of twigs, grass, hay, lichens, moss, plant-cotton, and such like
materials, and is lined with softer fibres, moss, scraps of wool, hair,
and feathers. The brood commonly consists of from three to eight eggs of
various shape and colour, usually light blue or green, or yellowish grey,
with markings of various kinds. In most cases only the female sits upon
the eggs, and during the period of incubation she is fed by her mate, but
sometimes the two sexes share this duty and sit in turn, appearing to
rival each other in taking care of their little family. The young early
attain their full growth, and seldom need the attention of the parents
after they have left the nest, as they soon learn to seek their own food
and associate together in flocks, flying about over a limited extent of
country until the season for moulting arrives. The parents meanwhile
rear another brood, sitting sometimes thrice in the year, whilst others
breed but once in the twelve months. Many enemies pursue these small
and feeble creatures--indeed, some falcons feed entirely upon them;
those and their nightly pursuers, the owls, must be considered as their
most formidable foes, though monkeys, lemurs, cats, weasels, bears, and
shrew-mice, the tree-frequenting rodents, and some kinds of snakes, are
dangerous enemies; indeed, man himself cannot always be numbered among
their friends. On the whole, the damage done by Passerine birds is not
very serious, and some of them are inexpressibly useful by reason of
the enormous quantities of insects and seeds of noxious plants which
they devour; still, there is no denying that many species become very
troublesome, especially when they congregate in large flocks, and descend
upon ripe corn or fruit-trees, and we readily acknowledge that it cannot
be agreeable to have to entertain hundreds of thousands of these little
destroyers for weeks together.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amongst the very numerous Passerine races, we find some that might be
called the PARROT-FINCHES, for the same reason that we call the little
"Love Birds" SPARROW PARROTS; indeed, the resemblance they bear to the
parrots is very striking, as is seen not only in the contour of their
body, but in its structure, as well as in their demeanour and peculiar
habits. Such, for example, are--

[Illustration: THE LARGE-BEAKED CROSS-BILL (_Loxia pityopsittacus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The CROSS-BILLS (_Loxiæ_), which, although but few species are known,
may be said to form a separate family. They not only differ from other
Passeres, but from all other birds, in the formation of their beak. This
very remarkable instrument is thick and strongly arched, its ridge or
culmen is high and rounded, the mandibles are broad at their origin, but
suddenly separate, and terminate in sharp points that are bent across
each other, the under-jaw being inclined sometimes to the right side,
sometimes to the left, without any general rule being observable in this
respect; there are, indeed, as many that have their beaks twisted to the
right as in the opposite direction. It is, moreover, specially noticeable
that the muscles moving the lower jaw are unequally developed on the two
sides of the head, an arrangement which must be considered as a necessary
consequence of the sidelong movements of the jaw. The head is large in
comparison with that of other finches, the body short, but slender and
high; the keel of the breast-bone is long and arched, resembling that
of the woodpeckers. The plumage is thick and soft, the wings of middle
length, narrow, and pointed; the tail-feathers strong, narrow, and short,
those at the side being considerably longer than those in the middle. The
tarsi and bones of the leg are bowed inwards, and are short and strong;
the toes long, with stout, curved, pointed claws. The eyes are small and
prominent; the nostrils round, placed close to the forehead, and almost
or entirely covered with hair-like feathers. The internal construction of
the body does not differ from that of other birds of this order.

Like most other species belonging to the Passeres, the Cross-bills live
in society, seldom leaving the woods, wherein they find fir-trees adapted
to their support. They cannot be said to have any fixed residence,
but are the gipsies of the feathered race; their home is anywhere and
nowhere. It is by no means easy to discriminate between the different
species of these birds, seeing that every extensive collection shows
us many varieties, strongly resembling each other. We may, however,
safely mention four different species belonging to Europe, and in the
mountainous districts of Asia and America we also find about that number;
all these, however, present not only the same general structure, but a
similar colouring of the feathers. The plumage of the old male bird is of
a beautiful vermilion or red-currant tint, while that of the young male
is of either a reddish yellow, gold, greenish gold, or red chalk colour.
The coat of the female is green, shaded into yellow or grey. The plumage
of the birds before moulting is a light grey, streaked with a darker
shade; the wings and tail-feathers are of a greyish black. The large head
and strong beak, bulky feet, and short tail, make them appear very stout
and clumsy, nevertheless they are really agile and rapid, flying quickly
and lightly, hovering before they perch, climbing nimbly about among the
branches, and are only awkward and out of place upon the ground.


THE LARGE-BEAKED CROSS-BILL.

The LARGE-BEAKED CROSS-BILL (_Loxia pityopsittacus_), the largest of all
the Cross-bills with which we are acquainted, is from seven to seven
and a half inches in length, and eleven and a half to twelve inches
across the wings. The beak strongly resembles that of a parrot, and is
very thick and high, bent into a crescent, each mandible terminating
in a short hook. The prevailing colour in the plumage of the old male
is either a dark or light vermilion; the wing and tail covers greyish
black, edged with greyish red; the belly greyish white. The young male is
recognised by its light-reddish tints, which upon the back are mingled
with greenish yellow, and upon the rump with yellow. The female is dark
grey on the upper part of the body, and the feathers have a more or less
clearly defined edge of green or yellowish green. The under part of the
body is light grey, the feathers being edged with greenish yellow; the
wing and tail feathers are greyish black, dotted with greenish grey.


THE PINE-TREE CROSS-BILL.

The PINE-TREE CROSS-BILL (_Loxia curvirostra_), or FIR-PARROT, is a
somewhat weaker and more slender bird than the preceding. Its length is
from six to six and a half inches; its width across the wings ten and a
half to eleven and a half inches. This species is distinguished from the
foregoing by its longer and more delicate beak; the plumage of both birds
being similarly coloured.


THE BANDED CROSS-BILL.

Next to these we must mention the BANDED CROSS-BILL (_Loxia tænioptera_),
a much rarer species, smaller than the Pine-tree Cross-bill, and having
a still more delicate beak. It is distinguished by two white lines upon
the wings. We think it very probable that many other Cross-bills usually
mentioned as varieties ought really to be considered as constituting
distinct species.

The American and some of the Indian Cross-bills differ considerably
from such as are found with us. Those in America are remarkable for
the smallness of their size, and may be considered as the dwarfs of
the family. The Cross-bills always inhabit pine-forests, as their food
consists entirely of the seeds of the pine, fir, and larch; they are
consequently more numerous in the north than in the south, seeing that
in northern latitudes these trees are met with over a far wider extent
of country than elsewhere. They are seen almost annually in Germany, but
only when the seeds of the above-mentioned trees are ripe. When the cones
are abundant they visit in great numbers many places where they have
not been for years, appearing at irregular intervals, and not confining
themselves to any particular localities. Should the situation be
suitable, they will proceed at once to breed, otherwise they merely tarry
for a short time, and then pass on to a more desirable resting-place.
The most favourable spots in the woods are soon taken possession of to
serve as their head-quarters, from whence they fly over the surrounding
country, returning to settle upon the same trees in the evening. They
are very social, living in pairs in the breeding season, but even during
that period will sometimes associate in considerable numbers. Their
nests are made among the branches of fir-trees, and there they disport
themselves gaily, climbing nimbly, and assisting their movements, as
parrots do, with their beaks. They will hang for minutes together head
downwards, clinging to a twig or cone, seeming to enjoy this apparently
uncomfortable position. Their movements, when on the wing, are undulating
and rapid, but they never fly to any great distance. The pleasure they
experience in the society of their mate is often testified by fluttering
over the tops of the trees as they sing, after which they hover for
a time, and then sink slowly to their perch. In the daytime they are
generally in motion, with the exception of a short time at noon. During
the spring, summer, and autumn, they pass their time in flying from one
plantation or mountain to another. In winter, if the cold is extreme,
they remain much longer in their sleeping-place, only coming abroad after
the sun has warmed the earth, though they commence their song early
in the morning. At this season they make their first appearance about
ten o'clock, and are soon busily employed in search of food; about two
o'clock they become quieter, seek food again at four o'clock, and then
go to roost. The Cross-bill troubles itself but little about the other
inhabitants of the woods, and is almost fearless of man, whom it is very
evident it has not learnt to regard as an enemy. Should a female be shot,
its mate will remain sorrowfully perched upon the branch from which his
little companion has fallen; or again and again visit the spot where she
was killed in the hope of finding her; indeed, it is only after repeated
proofs of the treachery of mankind that he begins to testify any symptom
of shyness. When placed in a cage, the Cross-bills become exceedingly
tame, appearing entirely to forget the loss of their freedom, and grow
so fond of those they are with as to obey them in everything, allowing
themselves to be touched, or even carried about the room on the hand,
and demonstrating their confidence in a variety of ways, so that the
inhabitants of mountainous districts are usually much attached to these
gentle little creatures.

[Illustration: THE BANDED CROSS-BILL (_Loxia tænioptera_).]

The call-note of the Pine-tree Cross-bill, common to both sexes, is "Gop,
gop," "Gip, gip," "Yock, yock." This is uttered either whilst flying or
when at rest; and so gentle is its sound, that the listener must be quite
close to the tree in order to hear it; indeed, he might imagine the bird
to be at a considerable distance, till, on glancing upwards, he beholds
it perched just above his head. The cry of the Fir Cross-bill is shriller
and weaker than that of the Large-beak. Those who have heard both species
can scarcely mistake them. No sooner does one of them utter the sound of
"Gip, gip," than all the rest become attentive, and generally fly away
together, if the first bird sets the example; and if, whilst they are
eating, other birds pass by, their cry of "Gip, gip," is intended as an
invitation to join the party and partake of the meal. Should one be at
a distance from the rest, the almost incessant cry of "Gop" will bring
it back; it is also the signal for the whole flock to settle. This last
note is never uttered during flight. Whilst brooding, the Cross-bill
employs a gentle sound, not unlike the piping of a little chicken whilst
under the wing of the hen, and the young have a similar cry, mingled with
the call-note of the parent bird. The song of the male is very pleasing,
particularly that of the Pine Cross-bill; it consists of a cadence formed
of a variety of weak twittering low notes. These birds are to be heard
at their best when the weather is fine and warm, and are quite silent if
the day is windy or stormy; whilst singing, they perch on the summit of
the trees. The female has the same song as her mate, but it is somewhat
gentler and more confused. In captivity they sing throughout the year,
except during the moulting season. The food of the Cross-bill consists
almost exclusively of the seeds of the forest trees, in obtaining which
its strong crossed beak is of the greatest service, as it requires
considerable strength and much skill to break open the cones of the fir
and pine, in order to obtain the hidden seed. The bird perches upon a
cone with its head downwards, or lays it upon a branch, and stands upon
it, holding it fast with its sharp, strong, pointed claws. Sometimes it
will bite off the cone and carry it to a neighbouring bough, or fly with
great difficulty some ten or twenty paces to another tree where it can be
opened, for a suitable spot is not to be found on every branch. If the
cone is large, the little creature tears its way through the middle of
the outside with its upper mandible, inserts its half-opened beak, and
forces an opening by a sideway motion of the jaws; it is then easy for
it to pick out the seeds, which are soon swallowed. The breaking up of
the husks produces a cracking sound, that is heard very distinctly from
below. The cones are seldom completely emptied of their seeds, but are
thrown down to the ground when scarcely touched, or not more than half
cleared, so that the grass beneath the trees on which a party of these
creatures has been perched is often completely strewn with them. When,
however, there are no more to be gathered, the birds will seek and feed
upon those they have previously flung away. The Pine Cross-bill seldom
touches the far harder cones of other fir-trees, as it does not possess
strength sufficient to open them, though the Large-beaked species breaks
them without difficulty, and can at one stroke tear off all the husks
into the midst of which it has plunged its beak. A cone is thus rifled of
its contents in the space of two minutes, when it is immediately thrown
down and another taken. Should the Cross-bill not be disturbed, it will
remain for hours upon the same tree, and continue for weeks together in
one part of the country. As long as fir-cones can be found, it seems not
to care for other food; but if driven by hunger it will eat oily seeds
such as those of the hemp or thistle, or even insects, seeking for them
in the neighbouring gardens and orchards. These birds are cleanly in
their habits, preening themselves carefully after every meal, and rubbing
their beak for minutes at a time upon the branches, in order to cleanse
it. Still, it is not always possible for them to keep their plumage trim,
and their feathers are frequently covered with a coating of resin. The
feeding of the Cross-bills on the fir-cones has another very remarkable
result. Their flesh becomes so penetrated with resin that it will resist
putrefaction for a lengthened period. It acquires by exposure a peculiar
smell, but cannot be said to decay. We have made many experiments upon
this subject, and always with the same result; there is a specimen now
lying before us, which was shot during the extreme heat of last summer,
and still retains its feathers. We have even seen a mummy of this bird
which was twenty years old. That the resin imbibed is the only cause of
this peculiarity is proved by the fact that specimens which have lived
upon other diet for some time before their deaths, share the ordinary
fate of dead birds. The Cross-bills are at all times a great ornament to
our woods; but it is only in the winter, when the snow is on the ground,
that we appreciate their full beauty. At such times their brilliant
red forms may be seen perched on the dark green branches, and as the
white, snow-covered ground throws them into strong relief, the fir upon
which they rest presents the appearance of a vast Christmas tree. Their
appearance is rendered still more attractive by the circumstance that
they usually assemble to breed during the winter season; though they
will also lay eggs during other months of the year--as readily in the
height of summer as when the snow lies thick upon the branches, and all
other living inhabitants of the woods are silent. They seem to trouble
themselves but little about the change of seasons. At the breeding time
the pairs into which the flock separates, choose the finest trees in the
woods, whereon they make the cradles for their young, as near together as
possible. The male then perches himself upon the highest branch of the
most lofty tree, singing energetically, calling to his mate incessantly,
and turning himself in all directions, seeming to wish to exhibit himself
and his beauty to her in all points of view. If she, however, does not
answer his call, he flies to another tree and recommences his song.
Should she still linger, he chases her sportively from branch to branch,
uttering his piping cry; at such times the Large-beaked Cross-bill
accompanies these endeavours to attract the notice of his mate with a
peculiar fluttering of his wings, often rising into the air and then
settling again in the same place; these demonstrations continue till
about noon, when the building of the nest commences. This is made upon
some widely-projecting or forked branch, and is always situated so as
to be well covered by the twigs that hang over it, partly to guard the
little family from any snow that might fall, and partly for the sake of
concealment. The nest is most artistically constructed. It is formed
externally of pine twigs, and lined with feathers, soft grass, and the
needle-like leaves of the fir-tree. The walls are about an inch thick,
and strongly woven together, the interior being tolerably deep. All the
nests that we see in this country are thus constructed, and therefore
it is rather surprising to hear from Eckström, one of the first Swedish
naturalists, that in Sweden "the Large-beaked Cross-bill builds a round
nest, formed of twigs, interwoven with other materials, and of such a
large size that it is at least an ell in diameter; the entrance being
perfectly round, and so small that the bird can only pass in and out with
difficulty; while the interior is large enough to hold a man's fist.
The winter nests," as he tells us, "are built in this manner; those
for summer use are smaller, and have thinner walls." We mention this
statement, though we are by no means sure that it applies to the species
with which we are familiar. We had once an opportunity of observing a
female Cross-bill whilst building. She commenced by breaking off dry
twigs, and carrying them to the spot she had chosen for the nest, and
then flew in search of such scraps as she could find, carrying away a
whole beakful at a time, and laying them in their proper place. As soon
as the rounding of the exterior nest was accomplished, the bird got
inside and spent some time in pushing it with her breast and pulling
until it was somewhat in order. She took all the materials from a
neighbouring tree, and was so industrious that she continued her work
during the afternoon, only requiring from two to three minutes to prepare
and carry each load. The brood consists of from three to four rather
small eggs, of a greyish or blueish white colour, streaked with faint
blood red, reddish brown, or blackish brown spots; sometimes these spots
take the form of a wreath round the broad end of the egg, and sometimes
cover the whole of its surface.

[Illustration: CROSS-BILLS (Loxiæ).]

The careful mother nurses her young with the greatest attention, whilst
the male fulfils his task of tending her and supplying all her wants. The
nestlings are fed from the first day of their life on the seeds of the
fir or pine, softened in the crop of the old birds and half digested, but
after a short time they are able to take them without this preparation.
They rapidly attain their full size, and are active and lively, but
require parental attention for the lengthened period during which their
mandibles are not crossed, as until they are so the young are incapable
of opening cones for themselves. After leaving the nest, they seek
shelter in the thickest trees, in the vicinity of their parents, and
while the latter are procuring fir-cones, as above described, will cry
uninterruptedly, like naughty children, following the old birds hastily
should they leave the tree, or calling long and dismally until their
return. After a time they are taught to work, their parents commencing
by giving them half opened cones to practise upon, and afterwards such
as have only been bitten from the trees. When the young are quite
independent in this respect, they form fresh flocks, or associate
themselves with that of their parents.

It is easy to ensnare the Cross-bill if it is enticed to the ground
by the help of a tame bird. In some parts of Germany high poles are
prepared, covered with pine branches, in which limed twigs are concealed;
these are then placed in the upper parts of the woods, and a decoy-bird
fastened beneath them, which contrives to attract the attention of all
that fly over it, so that many perch upon the bushes and limed twigs; in
this manner numbers may be caught in the course of a morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must leave it undecided whether a most remarkable species found in
the Sandwich Islands be reckoned among the Cross-bills or not. Many
naturalists have no hesitation in so placing it, though Reichenbach
believes it to be more nearly allied to the Honey-eaters, with whom our
readers will shortly be made acquainted, than to the Finches. This bird,
which we shall call the PARROT-GREENFINCH (_Psittirostra psittacca_),
appears to be even more of a connecting link between the Parrots and the
Finches than the Cross-bill or the Parrot-Bullfinch, as its two names
clearly express. In size it resembles our bullfinch, its length being
about six and three-quarter inches, and the length of the wings three and
a half inches. The plumage is of a beautiful parrot-green, intermixed
with grey upon the breast. The head and breast are of gamboge yellow,
the wings and tail-feathers edged with green, and the back and legs of a
black colour. We are entirely ignorant of such particulars of its life
and habits as might give us any assistance in decisively assigning this
bird to its proper place; it still may be numbered amongst our greatest
rarities, as but very few collections can boast of a specimen.


THE BULLFINCHES (_Pyrrhulæ_).

The BULLFINCHES are known by their short thick beak, arched in all
directions, while the upper mandible terminates in a small hook. Their
other characteristics are their short moderately strong legs and somewhat
soft plumage, the nature and colour of which vary considerably in the
different members of the family. These birds are found throughout the
whole world, with the exception of Australia; but they principally
frequent the temperate and frigid zones. They inhabit woods and bushes,
as well as mountains and deserts, and pass as much of their time upon
trees as upon the ground. Their food consists principally of corn, seeds
of various kinds, and green leaves and buds. Being eminently social,
they mingle freely with their congeners, and very soon become attached
to man. In their movements they are somewhat clumsy, and much behind
the Cross-bills in agility and beauty. Their song is very simple and
pleasing, and to this some add the gift of being able to learn and
imitate with great accuracy the notes of other birds. The nest is always
carefully hidden in trees or the clefts of rocks. The number of eggs is
from four to six.


THE PARROT-BULLFINCH.

The PARROT-BULLFINCH (_Paradoxornis flavirostris_) should, as its name
testifies, be assigned the first place in this family. This is a very
rare bird, and of striking appearance, inhabiting Southern Asia; it
has not the beak of the true Bullfinch, the upper mandible not rising
noticeably above the lower one, but curving outwards towards the sides,
as in some species of parrots. The wings are somewhat feeble and
decidedly rounded, the sixth quill being longer than the rest; the tail
is long, graduated, and strong; the legs and feet very powerful, the
toes of middle length, and the claws much bent. Its soft and flowing
plumage is of a greyish brown, somewhat lighter on the under parts of
the body, reddish brown on the back of the head and neck; the mantle
olive-coloured, with a band of deep black round the throat and over the
ear-covers; the face, skull, cheeks, and throat are white, spotted or
striped with a darker colour, and there are tawny tints upon the belly,
becoming redder upon the sides. The beak is of a brilliant yellow; the
feet leaden coloured, the eye reddish brown. In size this bird resembles
our common bullfinch, its length being about eight inches, three of which
belong to the tail. The wing measures three inches from the shoulder to
the tip.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the varieties of Parrot-Bullfinch with which we are acquainted are
inhabitants of the Himalayas. Jerdon tells us that the species we have
just mentioned was seen by him in the Khana Mountains, at a height of
about 5,000 feet above the level of the sea; and it has been observed
by other travellers in Nepaul and Assam. "I found," he continues, "that
they feed upon a variety of seeds, and saw a female with two or three
young ones that strongly resembled her in colour; they were somewhat shy,
but did not hide themselves, merely flying from tree to tree." Another
species was found by the above-mentioned naturalist in the bamboo woods
of the hilly districts of Nepaul, Sikkim, and Butan, where they feed upon
all kinds of seeds. They flew about in small parties, and appeared to be
somewhat timid, allowing themselves to be watched, but seeking shelter
when pursued. We learn from Tickell that they readily devour corn, maize,
and rice. "After eating," says this writer, "they perch upon the branches
of the trees and bushes, and have no appearance of living a retired life,
as is the case with the Timalias. In some respects they resemble other
bullfinches."

       *       *       *       *       *

We are happily much better acquainted with the second tribe of the same
family, the European species of which is named


THE PINE GROSBEAK.

[Illustration: THE PINE GROSBEAK (_Pinicola enucleator_).]

The PINE GROSBEAK (_Pinicola enucleator_) deserves our notice, as being
the largest of the Bullfinches. Its beak is vaulted on all sides, and
the upper mandible somewhat hooked, in this respect differing from
other finches; the margin is slightly curved, and the extreme tip of
the under mandible rather blunted. The legs are short and strong, the
toes powerful, the claws large, and the wings, when closed, seldom
reach beyond the first third of the tail; the latter is graduated to
the centre. The Pine Grosbeak resembles the Singing Thrush in size,
its length being from eight to nine inches, from three to three and a
half of which belong to the tail; the breadth across the wings varies
from thirteen to fourteen inches, and the wing measures four and a half
inches from the shoulder to the tip. The plumage is rich, and somewhat
straggling. In the old male birds, a pretty red shade predominates,
whilst those of a year old are somewhat yellower; the throat is of a
paler colour, and the wings marked with two crooked lines. The individual
feathers are ash-grey, blackish along the shaft, tipped at the end with
a red or reddish yellow, and dotted here and there in the middle with
a darker shade; the edges, on the contrary, are somewhat lighter, thus
producing a cloudy kind of marking. The wing and tail feathers are black,
bordered with a light shade, these borders being much more distinct upon
the shoulder-feathers. The beak is of a dirty brown, blackish at the
tip, the legs greyish brown, and the eyes dark brown. This bird inhabits
the northern countries of Europe and Asia, and in America there is a very
similar species. As far as we can ascertain, the Pine Grosbeaks live
during the summer alone, or in pairs, and only assemble during the winter
in flocks, that may be seen flying over the northern woods or frequenting
the solitary farms, returning at the commencement of spring to their
retreats in the forests. Should a heavy fall of snow occur and compel
them to migrate to more southern parts, the flocks will join each other,
and that often in very considerable multitudes.

In the years 1790-93-98, and 1803, such enormous swarms of these birds
appeared in the islands of the Baltic, that in the country about Riga
some thousands of pairs were caught weekly for a considerable time. They
were also very numerous in Russia during the winter of 1821, and have
been more recently seen in great numbers in various parts of Germany. We
have to thank these involuntary wanderers for nearly all the information
we possess concerning their habits, for we are but little acquainted with
their mode of life in their native wilds. Whilst with us, they fly about
in flocks during the day, eat in company, and settle in the evening all
together upon the same sleeping-place, their favourite haunts being the
pine forests, and they seem to prefer those in which the underwood is
composed of young juniper-trees. They do not frequent thick foliage, but
fly over barren plains as rapidly as possible.

When these birds first come amongst us they are harmless, confiding
creatures, who have not yet experienced the artifices of man, never
offering to stir if a stranger or hunter approach the trees on which they
are perched, and will stare at the gun destined for their destruction
without thinking of flight, even should one of their companions be shot
down from the same branch. Persons have tried successfully to catch them
by means of snares fastened to the end of poles, by the aid of which
they could be thrown over the heads of the birds; indeed, the clumsiest
kind of trap is all that is required to catch these unsuspicious little
wanderers. The most touching tales are told of the attachment of the
Pine Grosbeak to its mate. On one occasion, three out of a party of
four had been captured, when, to the astonishment of all, the fourth
crept into the net in order to share the fate of its companions. It
must not be imagined, however, that these birds are really foolish, for
experience soon teaches them its lessons, and they become distrustful,
shy, and cautious. In its habits the Pine Grosbeak often reminds us of
the Cross-bill; it is essentially a tree-bird, being quite at home upon
a branch, but uneasy and out of place upon the ground. It can climb
skilfully from one bough to another, hopping with ease to tolerably
distant branches. Its flight is rapid, and, like that of most finches,
rather undulating, and it hovers before perching. Its voice is flute-like
and expressive, resembling that of the bullfinch, and its song, which
may be heard throughout the whole of the winter, is very varied and
pleasing on account of its soft clear notes. In winter we do not hear
it in perfection, as it is then low and disjointed; but in spring, when
the male rouses all his energies to cheer his little mate, his tones
would satisfy the most fastidious critic; it sings during the clear light
summer nights of its native land, and is there called on that account
"the Watchman." This bird has many other good qualities, and, owing
to its gentle, confiding temperament, may be easily tamed if properly
treated. It becomes, in a few days, accustomed to confinement, taking
its food readily from the hand, and will allow itself to be stroked,
or even carried about the room, all the time testifying its happiness
and content. It is an interesting sight to see a male and female bird
in one cage, for their tenderness towards each other is extreme; but,
alas! in one point they are deficient--they do not survive the loss of
their freedom for any considerable length of time, and pine away rapidly,
especially when their keepers forget that these children of the north
must have fresh cold air, and foolishly confine them in hot rooms. The
birds that come to us prove themselves almost entirely insensible to
cold, and are lively and cheerful in the most severe winter weather.
If shut up in a warm, close chamber, they will climb uneasily around
their cage, open their beaks and pant, thereby showing how unbearable
and injurious they find the heat of such an unwonted climate. Under
favourable circumstances they will live for a year in confinement; but
their plumage does not retain its beauty after the first six months,
turning yellow and losing its brilliancy. It is best to keep them, even
during the winter, in an unwarmed room, or still better in a cage hung
outside the house. In its native state the Pine Grosbeak feeds upon the
seeds of the fir-trees, which it picks out of the open cones or gleans
from the ground. It will also eat many kinds of seeds or berries, and
looks upon green weeds and the buds of trees as dainties. Tame birds are
fed with linseed, rapeseed, and juniper or mountain-ash berries; they
require a considerable quantity of food, as they are large eaters. It
would seem that in summer they live extensively upon insects, especially
flies, and with these they probably feed their young.

We have but scanty knowledge of their manner of breeding. In one instance
that came under our notice, the nest was made in a privet-bush about four
feet high. It was very lightly built, and scarcely thicker than that of
a hedge-sparrow, the outer wall being formed of dry stalks of plants,
and the interior lined with horsehair. The brood consisted of four eggs
of a beautiful bright blue, tinted at the broad end with reddish brown,
and having a few chestnut-brown spots. In colour and marking they much
resemble those of the Cherry Hawfinch. Only the female sits upon the
eggs, but during her seclusion she is cheered by the song of her mate.


THE CARMINE GROSBEAK.

The CARMINE GROSBEAKS (_Erythrothorax_) differ from the preceding
principally by reason of the smaller size, and consequently inferior
strength of the beak, which is short, thick, somewhat bowed, vaulted, and
elevated slightly at the ridge, with a scarcely perceptible hook at the
tip. The feet are of moderate length and strong, the tail is tolerably
strong and excised, the wings somewhat long in proportion to the body,
the third and fourth quills being the longest. The magnificent crimson
which forms the principal feature in the plumage of the adult male,
distinguishes it from the female and from the young birds, whose colour
is a greyish brown, or brownish grey; the males may be numbered among the
most beautiful birds of the Passerine order.


THE ROSE BULLFINCH.

The ROSE BULLFINCH, or ROSE FINCH (_Erythrothorax roseus_) is seven
inches long and ten and a half broad. Its forehead is of a dazzling
whiteness, and the rest of a brilliant carmine red; the wings are of the
same colour, with two lighter stripes running over them; the under part
of the body is also of a bright red. In the young male bird the plumage
is of a reddish brownish grey, with dark streaks, and upon the wings
there are two clear reddish yellow stripes. The female resembles that of
the linnet. Rose Bullfinches were often seen by Radde upon the Bareja
Mountains. During the month of September they lived in small parties of
from six to twelve birds, but in winter they only flew about in pairs,
and towards the spring disappeared entirely. Plantations of oaks or
black birch-trees are generally preferred by these birds to any other
localities, though they are fond of frequenting well-wooded valleys.
About noon they separate and repose lazily and carelessly upon the
branches; but during the forenoon, whilst seeking food, they are always
active and on their guard against danger.


THE CARMINE BULLFINCH.

The CARMINE BULLFINCH, or RIBAND FINCH (_Erythrothorax erythrinus_)
is six inches long and ten inches across the wings. The wing and tail
feathers are deep brown, the upper part of the neck bright carmine, and
the breast white, marked with carmine red. The male of a year old and the
female resemble the female linnet. The Carmine Bullfinches inhabit woods
and districts covered with reeds in the north of Europe and Asia, and
are found in great numbers in Sweden, Finland, and Russia. According to
Jerdon, this species is also met with as a winter guest throughout India,
being seen very frequently in the north, but more rarely in the southern
parts of that country, principally inhabiting mountainous districts. "I
have," he says, "generally found this bird in the bamboo plantations;
indeed, it is called in the Telegu dialect the _Bamboo Sparrow_; it
also frequents gardens and thickets, and lives almost exclusively
upon the seeds of the bamboo and of various other plants." The Carmine
Bullfinch is often captured on account of its agreeable song: Radde met
with it on the Steppes and at Baikal, but more frequently on the banks
of rivers, and sometimes saw solitary individuals even at an altitude
of 8,000 feet above the level of the sea. We are not much acquainted
with the habits of this bird, but know that it prefers well-watered or
boggy plantations, and feeds upon various kinds of seeds, amongst which
we must no doubt include those of reeds, as it is principally met with
where beds of the latter are to be found. In its demeanour it reminds
us as much of a linnet as of a bullfinch. Its movements are light, its
flight undulating, and its call a clear piping note. Blyth tell us that
the "Tuti," as this species is called in India, has a weak, twittering,
but gentle and expressive voice, the sound of which is something between
that of a goldfinch and a linnet, while its call resembles that of the
canary. In Kamschatka its notes have been imagined to sound like the
Russian sentence, "_Tschewitschu widal--I have seen the Tschewitschu_,"
the Tschewitschu being a large kind of salmon, which is the most
highly-prized fish of that country, forming, as it does, a valued article
of food; so that the song of the Carmine Bullfinch is not only looked
upon as a herald of spring, but as announcing the blessings that she
brings in her train. The nest is built in clumps of willows or canes, and
always in the vicinity of water; it is formed of the stalks of plants,
straw, or fibrous roots, and is lined with wool or horsehair. The eggs
are larger than those of the linnet, and of a green colour, with red
spots spread most thickly over the broad end. Tame Carmine Bullfinches
are considered great curiosities; whilst writing, however, we are so
fortunate as to have a male of this species before us. When it first
came into our possession, the autumnal moulting was just commencing, and
continued until December, leaving the once beautiful creature with a dull
coat. Towards the middle of February it began to sing so charmingly as
quite to exceed all our expectations. Naturalists who have described the
notes of this bird have not by any means done it justice, for its song
may bear comparison with that of the most gifted Finches; its voice is
as melodious as it is copious. The call is uttered loudly, the actual
song, on the contrary, being very soft, reminds us of the tones of the
goldfinch, linnet, and canary. The habits of our tame bird are very
entertaining; it is constantly in motion, hops about its cage with much
alacrity, and will hang like a titmouse from the wires at the top. The
shyness it at first exhibited has quite disappeared, and it now greets
its acquaintance with a cry of recognition. It eats millet, canary-seed,
and ants' eggs, taking but few of the latter; nor does it seem partial
to green food. The Carmine Bullfinch is replaced in America by a similar
bird, and a species very closely allied to it is found in Arabia Petræa.

[Illustration: THE DESERT TRUMPETER (_Bucanetes githogeneus_).]


THE SIBERIAN BULLFINCH.

The SIBERIAN BULLFINCH (_Uragus Sibericus_) is remarkable from the
circumstance that, unlike most bullfinches, its tail is as long as its
whole body; the fourth tail-feather on each side being the longest, the
others graduating gently to the middle. The beak is of moderate size, and
the upper mandible slightly bent over the lower. The fourth quill of the
wing is longer than the rest. In colour the Siberian Bullfinch resembles
the Rosefinch; the plumage of the old male is almost entirely of a rose
colour, darker on the back, owing to the prominent marking of the shafts
of the feathers. The head and throat are whitish, and of satin-like
brilliancy, particularly after the moulting season. The lower part of
the body is very brilliant, being of a bright carmine-red, and the beak
is surrounded by a line of the same hue. The individual feathers are
dark grey, lightly edged with pale carmine, and the wings and tail are
also vividly tinted with the latter colour. The small upper wing-covers
and shoulder-feathers are white upon the tip and outer web, or bordered
with white, giving the closed wing the appearance of being white, marked
with a crooked line of grey. The three external tail-feathers are also
white as far as their dark shaft, and a dark border on the inner web,
which becomes broader towards the middle of the tail, the feathers in
the centre being merely edged with white. The female is of an olive or
greyish green. The Siberian Bullfinches inhabit the marshy, reed-covered
districts of Northern Asia. In the autumn they congregate in parties of
from ten to thirty, and fly about uttering a monotonous piping note.
In Irkutsck these birds assemble in great numbers during the month of
September, and many are captured by bird-fanciers; but they entirely
lose their vivacity when in a cage, and do not long survive. In Oron the
Siberian Bullfinch is found in company with the Bohemian Chatterer; large
flocks are also seen in the Bareja Mountains about the end of September.
The flight of this species is somewhat undulating, and produces a buzzing
sound.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are far better acquainted with the next bird that we shall describe--a
most splendid and interesting member of the family of Bullfinches. It
inhabits Africa, but frequently makes its way into Central Europe.


THE VINOUS GROSBEAK.

The VINOUS GROSBEAK, or, as it is sometimes called the DESERT TRUMPETER
(_Bucanetes gilhagincus_), is met with both in Egypt and Nubia, where
we have killed many specimens; but for all this we cannot pretend to as
intimate an acquaintance with it as Bolle, who has made it the subject
of one of his most animated descriptions. We much regret that our space
does not admit of its insertion at full length, and we must, therefore,
present it to our readers much curtailed, and intermixed with such
observations of our own as are likely to add force to his statements.
"Far beyond the fruitful coast of North-eastern Africa, and far beyond
the Atlas Mountains, we find a new kingdom lying in the desert occupied
by few but strange inhabitants. All is not dead and silent in this
dreary waste, nor are its waves of sand for ever untouched except by
the breath of the death-bearing simoom. It has its wells, where the
feet of the caravan have made their path, its little oases, sheltered
by the clustering palm, and its valleys rich in brooklets filled with
water collected from the winter rains. Within the heart of the Sahara,
and not merely on its borders, we occasionally find deep glens planted
with the tamarind and mimosa, and the most unlikely places, at certain
seasons of the year, produce plants peculiar to the desert. Even in these
dreary regions, where vegetation struggles with difficulty through the
sun-burnt soil, we need not seek in vain for animal life. This immense
expanse, extending, as it does, from the Euphrates to the Senegal, has
been branded by nature as an unfruitful wilderness, and all its living
inhabitants are formed to harmonise with the desolate plains that they
inhabit." We will not follow Bolle through all his illustrations of the
suitability of the creatures found in the desert to the localities in
which they are placed, but will proceed at once to his description of the
Desert Trumpeter. "The Desert Trumpeter, the 'STONE BIRD' of the Arabs,
the 'MOROS' of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, is a lively and
beautiful bullfinch, of about the size of our canary bird. Its body is
compact, and its scarlet beak, owing to its parrot-like shape, appears
somewhat thick, but not sufficiently so to interfere with the elegance
of its form. The feet are remarkably delicate for a creature that passes
so much of its time upon the stony ground. The plumage is comparatively
rich, the bridal attire of the old male bird being a mixture of rose-red
and satin-like white feathers, the former colour increasing in extent
and depth of hue as the bird becomes older; it is darkest in the spring,
when the plumage is of a deep rich crimson. These colours, however,
become much paler towards the autumn, at which season the tints of the
male closely resemble those of the female, whose coat is of a dull
yellowish red. Many varieties of shade are seen in this species, some
males presenting the appearance of having been dipped in blood, whilst
others are of a greyish hue. The red colour is not confined to the
plumage, but spreads over the whole body, so that a Desert Trumpeter,
when plucked, might properly be termed a little _Red-skin_! During
the spring the top of the head and neck are a pale ash-grey, with a
brilliant gloss, the shoulders and neck being a brownish ash-grey, with
a reddish tinge produced by the red-coloured borders of the feathers.
The large wing-covers are pale brown, edged with bright rose colour, and
carmine red on the outer web. The female is of a brownish grey over the
whole of the upper part of the body, and on the lower parts light grey
marked with red; the belly is of a dirty white." Those who would become
acquainted with the home of this species must wander into the desert to
which it properly belongs. Bolle found it breeding on the Canary Islands,
principally upon the most eastern, namely Lanzarote, Fuerta-ventura, and
the Great Canary. We ourselves have met with it all over the greater part
of Upper Egypt and Nubia, as far even as the Steppes, where it entirely
disappears. We also found it in the desert parts of Arabia. From these
regions this bird has been known to reach the Greek Islands, and even
Provence and Tuscany. In Malta it may frequently be seen during the
winter. The places frequented by the Desert Trumpeter are barren spots
exposed to the hottest rays of the sun; it prefers arid and stony places,
where scorching heat blazes down upon the burning rock, and seems to
luxuriate in glare and dazzling brightness that are perfectly blinding
to the traveller upon these treeless wastes. The favourite haunts of the
Desert Trumpeter yield but few blades of parched, dry grass, and the
stunted shrubs to please its taste must be few and far between. On such
a spot it delights to dwell, hopping from stone to stone, or gliding
along near the ground on noiseless wings. It is seldom possible to follow
the course of this bird to any distance, for the reddish grey of its
plumage blends as perfectly with the surrounding stones and leafless
shrubs as do the paler tints of the young with the colour of the sand,
tufa, or chalk. To this difficulty is added that of the dazzling and
deceptive play of light so common in these deserts, which teaches us to
appreciate the delightful relief that grass and foliage afford to the
weary eye. We should soon lose the object of our pursuit were it not
for its voice, which constitutes its most remarkable feature, and will
prove our best guide in this search. Hark! a sound like that of a tiny
trumpet is ringing through the air; it swells and trembles, and if our
ear is acute enough we shall find that this strange clang is preluded
or followed by a few light silvery tones, which fall, bell-like, upon
the desert silence, much resembling almost inaudible notes struck upon a
musical glass by an invisible hand. At other times the sound it produces
is extraordinarily deep, and not unlike that made by the tree-frog of the
Canary Islands, consisting of a few harsh notes rapidly repeated, and
which, strangely enough, are answered by the little creature itself, the
second sound being produced by a sort of ventriloquism, and appearing to
come from some distance. Few things are more difficult than to attempt
to render the note of a bird through the medium of our alphabet, and
in this case it would be particularly so, for the voice of the Desert
Trumpeter consists of tones entirely different from those to which we
are accustomed, and must be heard before it can be imagined. No one
would expect to find a singing bird in such localities as those above
described, and the fantastic voice of this creature appears well suited
to the places it inhabits. The cry mentioned above is often followed by
a succession of crowing, rattling sounds, which, like its trumpet-call,
seem by their strangeness so completely in unison with the surrounding
scenery, that we always stood to listen to them with pleasure, and wished
to hear them recommence. In such places as are entirely covered with
moving sands the Desert Trumpeter is never met with, as it is not fitted
like a Curlew or Courser to run with ease over loose ground; it frequents
the barren lava streams upon which not a blade of grass could grow,
and in such fissures and holes as these places offer it finds a hiding
or resting place, but is never seen upon a shrub or tree. In inhabited
districts the Desert Trumpeter is very shy, only seeming to have full
confidence when surrounded by silence and solitude; but in its native
haunts the young may be often seen perched close beside their parents,
and when a traveller approaches them they only acknowledge his presence
by staring calmly in his face with their bright little black eyes.
These birds may generally be met with all along the rocky shores of the
Nile, and from the valley of that river as far as the desert. In the
northern and middle parts of Nubia they alight upon the ground in parties
consisting of fifty to sixty, or fly over and about the rocks; indeed,
the steeper and more rugged these latter are the more attractive they
appear to be.

The food of the Desert Trumpeter consists almost exclusively of different
kinds of seeds, with probably a small quantity of leaves or buds. Water
is an indispensable requisite. However troubled, scanty, or lukewarm
the spring may be, these birds will visit it at least once in the day,
so that their appearance is ever a welcome sight to thirsty travellers.
They are always seen at the spring, both morning and evening, drinking
much and in long draughts, and frequently bathing in shallow water. The
breeding season commences in March, at which time the male has donned
his gala dress, and, with his chosen mate, has separated himself from
the flock; the little couples may very frequently be found perched
sociably near the clefts of the rocks, whilst through the air rises the
protracted trumpet-like call of the male, and the lark-like note of the
female. We saw a pair of these birds upon the banks of the Nile, busily
carrying away materials for their nest, but were unable to discover what
they consisted of, as the rocks on both sides of the stream offered far
too secure a brooding-place to allow us any chance of finding them; we
learned, however, from the goat-herds that the Desert Trumpeter builds in
the clefts and fissures of the blocks of lava, or under large overhanging
stones. The nest, we were told, is artistically constructed of large
blades of grass found in the desert, and lined with wool or feathers; in
this the three eggs that constitute the brood are laid. It is probable
that these birds breed twice in the year, and that they only again join
the flocks amongst which their young ones are already numbered, when
their parental duties are accomplished. During the autumn and winter
they wander to a considerable distance, appearing even in the Canary
Isles, and some instances have been known of their falling exhausted
upon the deck of ships, that were passing in that neighbourhood. They
are never molested by man, and were there no such creatures as Wild Cats
and Ichneumons, Falcons or Kites (the latter being very destructive to
them in their winter flight through the desert), these remarkable birds
might live an undisturbed and happy life. The naturalist may, with
care, capture them while drinking, and as many as heart can desire may
be obtained from among the stones. It is, however, difficult to take
them alive, as a decoy of the same species is indispensable for the
purpose. The latter should be fastened in some desert place, or on the
borders of a stubble-field, as far from trees or bushes as possible, in
such localities as they are known to frequent. The decoy-bird instantly
commences uttering its incessant call, and soon attracts large numbers
of its wild companions, who alight and hop, as though dancing from one
stone to another; they will linger for a moment at a distance, but come
near enough to be recognised by their plumage and the brightness of their
eyes; next they begin to peck up the food that is strewn about, and a
few hours later behold them captives in the net. At first the little
prisoners are wild and defiant, but soon become tractable, and eat the
canary-seed laid before them. The sport of catching these birds is one
that we have fully enjoyed, and may boast our skill in this respect.
What could be more exhilarating than an expedition, net in hand, during
the early morning, through those boundless plains, when, after a short
concealment behind a mass of rock, we emerge to find our labours so
richly rewarded? We brought ten Desert Trumpeters with us to Germany, and
feel fully entitled to speak as to their qualifications as domestic pets.
On their passage home we had a terrible storm, that lasted for many days,
and during the whole of that time the birds, in defiance of the cold,
continued to pour out their song.

The fact above recorded shows the Moros to be hardy, much-enduring birds,
which, though they love to seek shelter in a warm corner, can endure a
considerable degree of cold. Even in this severe climate they may be
kept in the open air from April to October, although they should not be
exposed to frost. Our own are very social, and fond of expressing their
confidence by the cheerfulness of their song--indeed, that of the male
may be heard late into the autumn and winter. Unlike other birds kept
in a room, they are most lively in the evening; no sooner is the lamp
lighted than the little captives begin to trumpet forth their cry. The
concerts with which we are entertained at these times are most amusing.
The performance begins with their loud and clear trumpet-call, changing
gradually into the protracted droning sound that mainly constitutes
their song; after which they give utterance to a variety of noises, some
of which are not unlike the mewing of a cat. At another time they will
commence with light clear notes, resembling those of a little silver
bell, and these are succeeded by an entirely different cry, which we
might compare to the song of a Bunting. Their quavering call is usually
followed by one much deeper and rapidly uttered, and their changes of
temper are expressed by various tones, which are poured forth with great
point and expression. The Moros are rarely heard to chatter amongst
themselves, as do the smaller kinds of parrots, but merely employ a sound
not unlike the cackling of a hen three or four times repeated, and their
cry when alarmed or surprised is quite peculiar. Should any one attempt
to catch them, they quaver forth a piteous sound, so full and expressive
that we are astonished that it can be produced by so small a creature.
The sound to which we allude is uttered with the head laid back and the
beak wide open, while the gentler notes, on the contrary, are produced
with the beak closed. During their song, and particularly in the breeding
season, these birds accompany themselves with a variety of the most
comical movements, dancing about their companions, and chasing each other
with great zeal. It is not unusual to see the male bird, with its body
erect and outspread wings, looking like the strange figures we employ as
armorial bearings.

When caged, the Moros still appear to prefer living upon the ground, over
which they hop rather than walk, and here they usually pass the night.
They will often conceal themselves, but never creep into holes that
have a narrow entrance. When a party of them is engaged in preening and
expanding their feathers in the sun, the spectacle they afford is very
striking and beautiful. Unfortunately, in captivity their plumage soon
loses its magnificent red colour, but, despite its loss, they always
present a pleasing appearance. The Desert Trumpeter should be fed, like
others of its species, upon seeds, in the choice of which it is far from
dainty, though it prefers hemp or millet, and will also eat the green
heads of the dandelion, the seeds of which it picks out most dexterously;
neither does it refuse ears of corn nor the leaves of some plants, such
as lettuce, cabbage, &c.; but it will not eat insects, with the exception
of the pupæ of ants. In fact, it is by no means particular as respects
diet, and is very easily reared. The Moro will frequently breed in
captivity, and with a little care and patience may be completely tamed;
it does not require any artificial warmth, for the scorching days and icy
cold nights of the Sahara seem to render it indifferent to any change of
temperature.

Should the Moro be separated from its species it will seek the society
of other birds, and we have known a case in which a Desert Trumpeter
mated with a small pigeon (_Columba passerina_) of twice its own size.
For the construction of the nest it prefers a cage that is hung up at
some height, the bars of which are rather wide apart, and will only
build with straw, which they collect by beakfuls at a time, but utterly
reject hay or moss as unfit for the purpose. The interior is lined with
feathers. The male bird carries some of the materials to the nest, but
it is constructed almost entirely by the female. The pair we observed
spent some time inside, one entering as the other left, and they appeared
occasionally to have considerable difficulty in managing the conveyance
of some of the long straws, with which they grappled. Our birds laid
their first egg in April, and another was daily added till there were
four. The mother, who but rarely left the nest, would probably have sat
upon her brood, had we not determined to sacrifice half her stock on
the altar of science. The remaining two eggs we placed in the care of a
canary that was an excellent sitter, and brought her young charges out
of the shell within a fortnight of their being placed under her. The
nestlings were by no means so unsightly as those of singing birds usually
are, and were covered with a thick, fine, white down, which formed a sort
of crest upon the head; the bare places on the neck, &c., were of a flesh
colour. In spite of the care taken of these young birds they died when
but a week old, and that without having grown much larger. Our Desert
Trumpeters soon proceeded to lay a second supply of eggs, and from the
third to the fifth of May were employed in the construction of another
nest, which, however, was not completed, as the little couple preferred
returning to their old home, after having put it thoroughly into repair.
On the ninth of May the first of three eggs was laid, but the female
became sickly, and, though we left her in quiet possession of her stock,
would not brood, but flew about the room with streaming plumage, as
though in search of some remedy that was suggested by her instinct, but
unattainable in captivity. During this time the male bird kept faithfully
by the side of his little mate, and after her death was inconsolable for
many days. The eggs are somewhat large considering the size of the parent
bird, and of a light sea-green, or even paler shade, sprinkled over with
a few reddish-brown spots or streaks, which sometimes form a kind of
wreath round the broadest end. This marking is occasionally varied by
delicate streaks, zig-zag lines, or large spots arranged in a somewhat
undulating manner, and placed principally over the most uniformly tinted
portion of the egg. It is much to be regretted that the excellent
capabilities of the Moro have not yet attained for it the place it merits
among our domestic pets, and that no European traveller has as yet given
particular attention to supplying us with living birds.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Bullfinches we are next about to describe differ from those already
mentioned in the inferior richness of their plumage, which is neither so
varied nor so bright in its hues, although beautifully marked. Amongst
them we number


THE BULLFINCH.

The BULLFINCH (_Pyrrhula vulgaris_) is called also by the names of Blood,
Red, Gold, Flame, and Leaf-finch, Red-fighter, Red-bird, and others too
numerous to mention, for its titles would really occupy more space than
we could afford for their enumeration, many being descriptive of its
habits, others derived from the markings and colours of its plumage. This
species is from six to seven inches long, and from ten and a half to
eleven inches across. The length of the wing is three and a half inches,
and the tail measures two and a half inches. The old male is of a rich
deep black upon the throat, wings, and tail, and ash-grey upon the back;
the rump is white, and the rest of the lower part of the body a bright
red. The female differs from the male in the greyish colour of the lower
part of the body, and the smaller proportion in which bright tints are
found among her feathers. The young ones are without the black mark
upon the head. The wing is at all ages striped with two greyish-white
bands that run in the direction of the carpal joint. Some varieties are
white, black, or speckled. Bullfinches are found throughout all the
countries of Europe, though during the winter they usually frequent the
most southern parts of the continent, preferring such places as abound
in woodlands, and never visiting the more open districts except during
their passage to another locality--indeed, these birds never quit the
woods except compelled to do so in search of food, and it is only when
the snow appears that they leave their shelter to visit the orchards,
fields, or gardens of the surrounding villages, and seek such berries
and seeds as have escaped the observation of the rest of their feathered
relations. For the greater part of the year, these little songsters live
in pairs, but during their short excursions they congregate in small
flocks, which fly about the neighbourhood on the most amicable terms.
At the commencement of their raids upon the country none but male birds
are of the party, but these are afterwards joined by the female portion
of the community. It is only under peculiar circumstances that they
travel beyond their native land, and are therefore but rarely seen in
the south of Spain or Greece. They pass their time in flying from one
tree to another, only alighting upon the ground when driven to do so by
dire necessity. Their habits are very cheerful, and calculated to render
them favourites with all who observe them attentively. One of the most
distinguishing characteristics of these creatures is their attachment
to each other. Should one of them be killed they cannot endure to leave
their companion on the ground, and make every effort to take the body
with them. This habit is the more striking when the party consists of
only a few birds, and has frequently quite touched our heart. On one
occasion in particular, we had shot one of two males that were perched
upon a hedge; the other immediately flew away to a considerable distance,
but very shortly afterwards we saw it return to the spot upon which its
little associate had fallen.

The Bullfinch hops over the ground in a somewhat ungainly manner, but
is most adroit in its movements upon trees. Sometimes it will rest upon
a branch with its body in a horizontal position and its feet stretched
out, and at others will perch bolt upright, or hang head downwards from
the twigs. Its long and fleecy feathers are but rarely laid close down
upon its sides, thus causing it to seem much larger than it really is.
Whilst eating or flying it presents a somewhat more compact appearance,
but when in a cage always allows its plumage to droop about its body.
A tree full of these birds is a very pretty sight, the red colour on
their breasts being seen to great advantage among the green foliage, and
in winter their bright plumage contrasts prettily with the snow. The
Bullfinch does not exhibit much sensibility to cold, and is lively and
cheerful even during our most severe winters, always of course supposing
that it can find sufficient food; such powers of endurance are easily
explained if we consider the thickness of its feathers, and this density
of plumage has considerable influence upon its flight, which is slow and
undulating, much resembling that of the Chaffinch, owing to its habit of
alternately extending and shutting its wings; it will sometimes hover in
the air, and then plunge suddenly with closed pinions upon the selected
spot. The call-note is a plaintive cry, employed by both sexes, generally
uttered when flying, or about to perch or quit their resting-place,
and is capable of a considerable variety of expressions--another proof
of the delicate organisation possessed by these interesting birds; for
sounds which to our grosser ears appear almost identical, have to them
innumerable significations. The song of the male is in no way peculiar,
and somewhat harsh; it may be heard almost throughout the entire year.
Seeds of trees and grasses constitute the principal food of this species,
and it will also devour the kernels of fruit. The seeds of fir and
pine trees are obtained by picking them from the ground, as the little
creature is unable to rob the cone of its contents, though it can extract
the stones from fruit with great dexterity, throwing away the outer part
as unfit for food. Its presence upon a tree is often indicated during
the winter by the quantities of refuse thus disposed of. Grains of sand
are always necessary to this bird, in order to assist digestion; the
young are fed principally upon insects. In Europe the Bullfinch makes
its nest by preference in such retired spots as are well covered with
trees, though it will occasionally settle in parks or large gardens, and
we have heard of an instance in which a little pair built in the ivy
that surrounded the lodge of a gentleman's seat. The nest is usually
placed at no great distance from the earth, either in the forked branch
of a low bush, or on the ground, snugly supported against the trunk of a
tree; indeed, so invariably do they choose these situations, that their
nests have never been found at any considerable height. In its general
construction the little dwelling resembles that of the Greenfinch, being
formed externally of small portions of fir, birch, or pine twigs, upon
which a second layer, composed of fibres from various roots, is placed,
and this again is lined with the hair of the deer or horse; sometimes
a little wool is mixed with the horsehair. In May, from three to four
small, round, smooth eggs are deposited in the nest; they are of a
light green, or greenish-blue colour, covered with pale violet or black
spots, and reddish-brown dottings that form streaks or lines. The female
sits upon her brood for about a fortnight, and is tended by her mate
during that time; both parents combine in the care of their offspring.
The nestlings are fed at first upon insects, then with seeds that have
been softened in the crop, and afterwards with the same in their natural
state. Should there not be a second brood, the young remain for a long
time under parental tuition.

[Illustration: FEMALE BULLFINCH AND NEST.]

Those who wish to rear these birds should take them from the nest while
still unfledged, and the sooner their education commences the more
profitable it is likely to be. In the woods around Thüringen hundreds
of young Bullfinches are caught annually, and sent, when properly
educated, to the principal capitals of Europe, and even to America. The
course of instruction begins from the first day of their capture, and
the principal thing that is necessary is that their instructor should
be able to whistle the air he is teaching them with great clearness and
precision. Persons have tried to teach these little birds to sing with a
hand-organ, but with little success, for even the flute cannot produce
a sound so delicate as that uttered by the lips of a good whistler.
Some Bullfinches can learn to sing two or three tunes without any great
difficulty, whilst others never acquire precision. Some will retain a
tune during their whole life, and others again forget it entirely during
the moulting season. The voice of the female is much inferior to that
of her mate. We have often heard the Redpoll and the Blackbird pipe
extremely well, but these do not approach the Bullfinch in the purity,
flexibility, and fulness of its notes. It whistles in such flute-like
tones that the listener's ear is never weary. A friend of ours possessed
a bird of this species, which he had reared and trained himself. The
cage was hung quite low, so that visitors could approach. When its owner
wished it to sing a tune that it had learnt with great exactness, he went
to the cage, called his favourite by name, bowed three times, and each
time was answered by the bird with great liveliness and joy. After the
third salute the little creature commenced its exquisite song, singing it
perfectly, and then pausing to receive its master's bow of satisfaction,
exhibiting at the same time signs of much delight if praised for its
efforts. One circumstance in this performance was remarkable: it would
respond to and perform, after receiving the necessary salutes from any
_man_, but utterly refused to obey the signs or commands of a lady. A
female relation of its owner tried to entrap the bird, by putting on its
master's hat before approaching the cage; but this device was useless,
the ungallant little songster proved as obstinate as ever. To such a
point of cultivation as this the Bullfinch seldom attains, except taken
very early from the nest, and placed where no other sounds are heard
until the desired air is acquired, as it can imitate many noises with
facility. We ourselves have heard one whose song was compounded of a
portion of a tune, the chirp of a sparrow, and the crowing of a cock.

[Illustration: THE GIRLITZ (_Serinus hortulanus_).]

Few birds are to be found so suitable for our drawing-rooms as the
Bullfinch; it shows great attachment to those whom it likes, and is
evidently conscious of either reproof or praise. Leury mentions a
Bullfinch of his own, that testified great pleasure whenever a poor man
out of the neighbouring village where it had lived entered the room,
and was quite uneasy if it heard a voice at the door which it knew and
recognised; indeed, we have known instances where these birds have died
in consequence of too much excitement. A lady friend of ours had a
Bullfinch so tame that she allowed it to fly about the room, and was in
the habit of lavishing caresses upon it. One afternoon, being somewhat
busy, her little companion did not receive the customary attention, for
which he clamoured so loudly that his mistress at length hastily caught
him, replaced him in the cage, and covered it with a cloth; the poor
little creature was no sooner treated in this manner than he uttered a
few plaintive notes, as though imploring for notice and freedom, and
then, hanging his head, fell dead from his perch upon the floor of
the cage. An exactly opposite case was related by a gentleman of our
acquaintance. The narrator took a journey, and, during his absence,
his Bullfinch appeared very mournfully silent; on the master's return,
however, the bird was overwhelmed with delight, flapped its wings, and
fluttered up and down, bowed its tiny head repeatedly, as it had been
taught to do, at the same time pouring forth a song of welcome; suddenly
all was silent--the little favourite lay at the bottom of its cage dead
with joy. If trained while young, the Bullfinch may be allowed to fly in
and out at will, and Leury gives us an interesting example of this fact.
During the spring he let a female Bullfinch, that he had had for a year
under his care, out into his garden, and for many days afterwards the
bird would fly about, returning occasionally to the house, but at last
disappeared entirely until the following autumn; when lo! one morning
she flew into the sitting-room, as tame as ever. The following year she
was again set at liberty, and returned in the month of June with four of
her young ones, apparently as confiding as before, and most desirous to
persuade the little brood to consider her late master as a friend; but
these endeavours proving fruitless, she again left, and in September once
more made her appearance with three of her second family. She remained
for a short time, and then departed; but positively came back late in
the autumn without her little flock to pass the winter in her old home.
The following spring she was set at liberty for a third time, and was
observed not long after to enter her cage, peck up some of the food it
contained, whilst her mate lingered upon a neighbouring tree, and then
flew away and was seen no more.

These various little anecdotes will, we think, justify our assertion
that the Bullfinch is well worthy of our regard and attention. As to the
care it requires, give it a nicely-kept, roomy cage, water to bathe in,
and a little rapeseed, and all its wants are satisfied. A small quantity
of green-stuff may also be added, and on this fare a little couple of
Bullfinches may even be persuaded to undertake the cares of a family.

The capture of this species is attended with no difficulty, as its social
habits render it an easy prey. Naumann tells us that any one who can
tolerably imitate its call-note may entice it to the spot upon which a
snare is awaiting it; indeed, a live decoy-bird is scarcely needed, as a
stuffed specimen placed near the traps or limed twigs will answer every
purpose, attracting the unsuspecting creatures in great numbers. In our
opinion, to shoot a Bullfinch would be a crime; although it is true that
it occasionally becomes somewhat troublesome by picking off the buds
from the trees, yet, in spite of this, we hope that our readers will
allow that its many pleasing qualities make ample amends for any of its
troublesome propensities. Besides, in pleading for mercy, we must not
forget that its enemies are already sufficiently numerous; martens and
weasels, squirrels and dormice, hawks, sparrow-hawks, and falcons, crows
and jackdaws, destroy both old and young, and materially limit their
increase; many likewise perish during severe winters.


THE GIRLITZ.

The GIRLITZ (_Serinus hortulanus_) may be regarded as the type of a
peculiar group of the Bullfinch family, allied on the one hand to the
South African or Carmine Bullfinch, and on the other to the Canary, with
which we are all familiar. The beak of the Girlitz is very short and
small, less spherically vaulted than that of the Bullfinch, and moreover
blunt, instead of being sharp-pointed at the tip; the legs are short
and weak, the wings comparatively long and pointed, the tail graduated,
and the prevailing colour of the plumage yellowish or green. The male is
a magnificent little creature, of about the size of a Siskin, three or
three and three-quarter inches in length and eight in width, the tail
measuring two inches, and the wing two and a half inches. The female is a
trifling degree smaller. In the male, the fore part of the head, throat,
and middle of the breast are of a bright yellowish green, the under part
of the body light yellow, while the upper part and the back of the head
and neck are of an olive green. The under parts are uniform in shade,
but marked at the sides with two large, deep black streaks, the back is
dotted with some very faint spots, running from the head to the tail;
over the wings pass two yellow lines, the wing and tail feathers are
plain black, edged with a greenish shade. During the autumn the feathers
upon the middle of the back and wings are of an olive brown or reddish
grey. The female is paler in colour, and more strongly marked than her
mate; the young ones are of a dirty or pale greenish yellow, marked along
the body with greyish-yellow streaks.

In Germany the Girlitz is numbered amongst the migratory birds, appearing
there about the last day of March or first of April, and remaining until
late in the autumn; indeed, it spreads in a similar manner over the whole
of Southern Europe, but in spite of this fact we can scarcely designate
its wanderings as true migrations. This bird is particularly numerous in
Spain, and is to be met with in all parts of its highlands and lowlands,
if we except the country about Castile. In Catalonia it is as commonly
met with as is the Sparrow with us; every garden, every vineyard is
enlivened by its presence, it abounds in every grove--even the summits
of Montserrat affording it a welcome residence. Some few years ago the
Girlitz was unknown in the interior of Germany, and was only found about
the south-eastern and south-western portions of that country; but at the
present time it is met with in considerable numbers around Dresden, and
we ourselves have captured a little pair in the neighbourhood of Jena.
The love of this species for certain districts is quite remarkable.
Orchards situated near vegetable gardens form its favourite retreat;
all such places as present these attractions are much frequented,
whilst in districts that are deficient in gardens and fruit-trees the
Girlitz is but rarely seen. We have observed that it rapidly increases
and multiplies in any locality where it settles. According to Hoffmann,
this bird does not inhabit the hilly parts around Stuttgard, although
often met with in the fields or plains; while Homeyer tells us that it
makes no distinction between high-lying and low-lying districts. The
Girlitz is a spruce, brisk, lively little creature, with a moderately
good voice, and considerable peculiarity in its habits, particularly
during the breeding season. Strangely enough, the male birds are the
first to come amongst us, and are afterwards followed by the females.
The former, when they begin to arrive, attract attention by their loud
notes and careless movements, perching upon the highest trees, raising
their tails, and turning themselves in all directions, as they busily
pour forth their song; but should the spring be wet or cold, they keep
well under shelter of the trees, and only occasionally steal out to
snatch a morsel from the ground, while their notes during such times are
faint, few, and far between. As the breeding season approaches the song
of the little strangers becomes more animated, and their gestures more
extraordinary. The male, not content with exhausting itself to please its
mate with its voice, stretches itself like a cuckoo upon the branches,
erects the feathers upon its throat, spreads its tail as it balances
and turns its body in all directions, then rises suddenly into the air,
fluttering in a most curious manner, with somewhat of the motion of the
bat; it next settles upon the tree, throwing itself from one side to the
other, after which it will return to its first perch, and recommence
its song. Should another male appear, nothing can exceed the rage of
the jealous occupant, who pursues the intruder from one tree to another
with furious indignation, and only leaves him after having inflicted a
considerable amount of very severe chastisement for the liberty he has
taken. The song of this species is somewhat peculiar, though we cannot
exactly say that its tones are musical, being rather monotonous and
shrill, yet still, to our mind, far from unpleasing. The nest, which
may really be called a work of art, is formed of the fine roots of
plants or blades of grass, and bits of hay. The interior is lined very
delicately with hair or feathers, and the little structure is generally
buried in the thick foliage of a tree or shrub. According to Hoffmann,
pear-trees are preferred, but it will build upon apple, cherry, and, we
believe, pine trees, while in Spain it is most fond of settling upon the
boughs of the orange and citron. The brood consists of from four to five
small, blunt-shaped eggs, of a dirty-white or greenish colour, marked
principally at the broadest end with pale brown, red, reddish-grey, or
purplish-black spots, dots, or streaks. In Spain we have found newly-laid
eggs from April to July. It is probable that these birds breed twice in
the year.

The nest of the Girlitz is not always very easily to be found, but if
sought for carefully its situation will be betrayed by the female; the
latter is fed by her mate during the whole period of incubation, and
when hungry expresses her wants by calling to her little companion, so
that any one wishing to discover their retreat needs only to stand under
the tree and watch for the return of the male bird. The mother is very
faithful to her little charges, and sits for about ten days upon her
eggs. As soon as the young leave the shell they also call for food with a
chirping kind of sound, and soon becoming weary of the nest, frequently
leave it before they are really strong enough to do so. The parents feed
them for a considerable time, and will even bring them food if they are
confined in a cage placed near the tree--indeed, the latter is a very
convenient plan by which to secure proper nourishment for the little
prisoners until they have attained their full strength. The Girlitz feeds
chiefly on all kinds of seeds, and may be kept when tame upon rapeseed,
poppy-seed, or millet; water is indispensable. These birds are well
adapted for a cage, and are very social. In Spain, when the breeding
season is over, they assemble in large flocks at the commencement of
autumn, and during such times associate in some degree with Goldfinches,
Sparrows, and Fieldfinches. They are eagerly pursued by most of the
smaller birds and beasts of prey, and the young not unfrequently fall
victims to these marauders. They are caught by the Spaniards in great
numbers and brought to market, where they are purchased both for the cage
and the kitchen. In Germany the Girlitz is but little molested. In Spain
it is trapped by means of the "esparto," a long, rush-like kind of grass
that grows in great abundance on the Spanish plains. The blades of this
grass, smeared with bird-lime, are placed in considerable quantities on
the tops of the trees, their summits being thus converted into one large
trap. The numbers so caught are most astonishing, for it will often
happen that not one-fourth part of a large flock escapes in safety from
the treacherous branches, even birds of considerable size being sometimes
taken in this manner.


THE CANARY.

The CANARY (_Dryospiza Canaria_). Three centuries have elapsed since the
CANARY-BIRD first left its native isles to become a citizen of the world,
and now who could recognise in our beautiful golden little favourite the
wild green species from which it is descended? The change reminds us of
the difference sometimes observable between two brothers, one of whom
has experienced all the advantages of society and cultivation, while the
other has remained in his rustic but perhaps happier position. It is to
Bolle we are indebted for the first reliable history of the Canary in
its wild state, as until his time we were only acquainted with the tamed
species. The writers of former times have given us many examples of this
bird, but their accounts have bordered somewhat upon the marvellous. They
were even mistaken as to its original haunts. The naturalists of the
last century were somewhat better informed, but even Buffon has assisted
in the spread of erroneous ideas concerning its history. "Goldfinches
and Citronfinches," says Bolle, "must be contented to descend from the
position they have hitherto occupied as supposed progenitors of the
Canary. Buffon tells us that the Canary belongs to the same species
as the two above-mentioned birds, and has only changed in colour from
difference of climate. Humboldt was the first who could speak with any
authority as having seen the Canary in its wild state, having become
acquainted with it in 1799, during his residence in Teneriffe." More
modern ornithologists have been far from giving this bird the praise
it deserves, and we have to thank Bolle alone for so beautiful and
exhaustive a description of its life and habits, that nothing more
remains to be desired. The following account is drawn from his work.

[Illustration: THE WILD CANARY.]

The writer we quote found this species occupying the seven wooded islands
called the Canaries, and even some parts of Madeira, the latter fact
leading him to suppose that this bird may have lived upon all these
islands before their trees were cut down. It is principally to be met
with in such places as are covered with wood or shrubs, and are situated
near springs of water in the interior, which in summer form brooks,
margined during the entire year by a border of delicate plants; it is
also found in the gardens and houses of the inhabitants, and is quite as
numerous in crowded towns as in the quietest nooks--indeed, it is seen
in all parts, even at an altitude of 5,000 or 6,000 feet above the level
of the sea, except in the thick damp forests formed by laurel and holly
trees, beyond the borders of which Bolle never observed it to settle. It
may be also frequently met with in the vineyards, or in fir plantations
that cover rocky declivities. It is at present uncertain whether this
bird occupies the high ground during the winter, but it has been found
at an altitude of 4,000 feet late in the autumn. The wild Canary, which,
even in its native woods, is called "Canario" both by the Spaniards and
Portuguese, is considerably smaller, and usually more slender than these
we see tamed in Europe. Those, on the contrary, which are kept in a
state of captivity in the Canary Islands have completely retained their
original dimensions by mating with birds newly taken from their wild
state. The adult male wild Canary is greenish yellow upon the back, with
blackish streaks upon the shafts of the feathers, which are so broadly
bordered with bright ashy grey, that the latter might almost be described
as the principal colour. The hinder part of the body is yellowish green,
the upper tail-covers excepted, which are green, edged with ash-grey; the
head and neck feathers are yellowish green with narrow grey borders; the
forehead and two long stripes which run in a circular form over the eyes
to the neck are of a greenish-gold colour, and the throat, upper part of
the breast, and sides of the neck are, on the contrary, of an ash-grey.
The lower portion of the breast is of a paler yellowish tint, the belly
and under tail-covers whitish, the shoulders a beautiful siskin-green,
bordered with pale black and green, the blackish wing quill-feathers are
edged with green, and the blackish-grey tail-feathers sprinkled with
white; the eyes are brown, the beak and feet a brownish flesh colour.

Bolle is of opinion that the plumage above described is only acquired at
the end of the second year. The female is brownish grey upon the back,
with broad black lines along the shafts of the feathers; the neck and
top of the head are similarly coloured, but the ground colour of the
feathers is green. The cheek-stripes are grey, the forehead green, and
the cheeks partly greenish yellow and partly a blueish ash-grey. The neck
is encircled by a line that is yellowish green in front, merging into
blueish ash-grey at the back; this ring, however, is not very distinct.
The shoulders and small upper wing-feathers are a light yellowish green,
the whitish-grey borders of which are broader, but not so beautiful as
in those of the old male bird. The lower part of the breast and belly
are white, and the feathers at the sides of the body brown, with dark
lines at the shafts. The plumage of the young birds is brownish, shading
into yellow upon the breast, with a few touches of lemon-yellow upon the
cheeks and throat. The colours are extremely difficult to describe, owing
to the delicacy with which the different shades are blended, and we may
therefore add that the plumage is almost the same as that with which we
are familiar in what we call our tame green or grey Canaries.

The food of these birds consists principally of green herbs, small seeds,
and delicate juicy fruits--a ripe fig, for instance, with its soft, juicy
flesh and small kernels, is eagerly sought for and enjoyed, as soon as
the too ripe fruit has burst its violet or yellowish-green mantle, for
until this happy time arrives their small and delicate beak is quite
powerless to penetrate the distended skin. A fig-tree, when its fruit
has reached this point of ripeness, is indeed a beautiful sight for
those who have been fortunate enough to see it literally covered by the
various singing birds that are tempted to rob its branches. Blackbirds,
greenfinches, tom-tits, and many others come in variegated confusion
to share the dainty in common with our friend the Canary. Water is
essential to its welfare, as it drinks much, and is fond of bathing very
frequently. These birds pair and begin to construct their nest about the
end of March, never, as far as we have been able to ascertain, fixing
upon a spot that is less than eight feet from the ground, preferring
trees with slender stems, either evergreens or such as don their foliage
early in the spring. Amongst their favourite trees pears and pomegranates
hold the first place. The orange-tree is not often selected, on account
of its bushy crown, and the fig-tree is never employed for this purpose.
The nest is always built in a retired spot, but is easily discovered on
account of the constant coming and going of the male bird. The first
that we saw was found towards the end of March, in a deserted garden of
Villa Arotava, upon a box-tree about twelve feet in height, that stood
above a myrtle hedge. The nest merely rested upon the tree, being built
between the forked portions of a branch, and was beautifully constructed.
It was broad at the base, and very narrow at the top, with a tiny little
entrance. The walls were formed throughout of snow-white wool, woven
together with a few blades of grass. The first egg was laid upon the
first of March, and one was added daily till there were five in all,
this appearing to be the usual number of a brood, though from time to
time we have found but three or four in a nest. The eggs are of a pale
sea-green, spotted with reddish brown, but are sometimes of a uniform
colour; they exactly resemble those of the tame bird, and the time during
which the female sits upon them is the same in both cases. The young
remain in the nest until fully fledged, and for some time after are
tended by both parents, and fed from the crop with great care. The Canary
breeds usually four times in the year, but occasionally only three times.
In July the moulting season commences, after which no more eggs are laid.

During the period of incubation the male bird perches upon a tree near
his mate, and from thence delights her with his song of encouragement
and sympathy. It is a real pleasure to listen to this pretty songster,
as it inflates its throat and pours forth its lay, turning, as it
sings, from one side to another, as though to bathe its glowing breast
in the flood of bright sunlight. All at once it hears the call of its
little companion, and darts with responsive tenderness to perch at her
side--indeed, in our opinion this modestly-attired bird, as it sits
surrounded by all the varied and delicious blossoms of its native trees,
is a far more attractive spectacle than its more brightly-coloured
and elegant brother, with whose appearance in captivity we are all so
familiar. We do not deny that the beauty of the objects that surrounded
these Canaries had much to do with the admiration with which they
inspired us, and many a time they have caused us for a moment to forget
that we were sojourning in a strange land, their song exactly recalling
the voices of the warblers we had heard at home. Much has been said, and
very varied opinions expressed as to the relative merits of the song of
these birds when free or in captivity, and for our part we consider that
such as have been tamed in no way surpass their brethren of the woods,
either in skill or beauty of tone. Whatever trifling modifications may
be noticed, either as regards greater purity of sound or more artistic
performance, the song is unchanged, and proves that though the language
of a country may be entirely lost, yet the notes of these feathered
songsters remain ever the same. We fully admit that our tame Canaries are
at a great disadvantage when compared with their brothers of the groves,
for that which sounds delightful in a dusty room, gains unquestionably a
thousandfold by being heard in a spot where the singer has God's heaven
above him, and masses of roses and jessamine at his feet. We would,
however, by no means lead the reader to suppose that all wild Canaries
are equally gifted; with them, as with all other singing birds, many
degrees of skill and beauty may be observed, and some we have heard would
well stand the test of comparing their notes with the heart-stirring
tones of the nightingale. The flight of the Canary resembles that of
the linnet, being somewhat undulating. In their passage from tree to
tree, the various members of a party fly at some little distance from
each other, uttering their call-note whilst on the wing. In the breeding
season these birds live in pairs, but during the rest of the year they
associate in very large flocks, often, however, dividing into smaller
parties, and passing most of their time upon a chosen spot, spending a
considerable portion of the day upon the ground, and re-assembling after
sunset to pass the night perched in the branches of their favourite trees.

The capture of these birds is, owing to their great sociability,
unattended with any difficulty, and even nestlings will run at the call
of a decoy. In the Canary Islands we have seen linnets or gold-finches
employed for this purpose with success. The snaring of this species
should be carried on very early in the morning, in such spots as are well
watered and rich in fine trees. On these occasions we have always found
much interest in observing, from some place of concealment, the various
movements and lively gestures of the unwary little victims as they run
to meet their fate, and have ourselves seen from sixteen to twenty birds
caught during a few hours; of these the unfledged young formed the larger
proportion. The Canary is a restless creature, and must pass some time
in captivity before it can be taught to lay aside its wild habits. The
birds we have kept began to moult at the latter end of August, and some
of them had not entirely resumed their plumage by the month of December.
These latter we imagined to be the youngest members of the party, and
the yellow colour in all cases was first visible upon their breasts.

[Illustration: THE TAME CANARY.]

As regards the habits of the Canary when tamed, we quote Lenz, a
naturalist well qualified to furnish all the particulars that could
possibly be desired:--"In order to ascertain where the finest specimens
could be obtained, I sought throughout the whole of Germany and its
surrounding countries, not omitting to place myself in correspondence
with various distant portions of the world, and am now fully persuaded
that the choicest birds are to be procured at Andreasdorf, in the Hartz
Mountains, and the neighbouring villages. In the above-mentioned place
almost every house has its breeding-room set apart for their cultivation.
Many families live entirely by this means, and we were told by an
official belonging to the place that Canaries are sold to the value
of 12,000 rix-dollars during the course of the year from this village
alone. It is quite unknown when this business was first established in
the Hartz Mountains, but that locality affords in plenty three great
requisites for its success: wood in such profusion that the cost of
warming the Canaries' apartments throughout the year is very trifling,
abundance of rapeseed, and white bread, the corn for which is grown with
ease in the beautiful meadows that surround the villages. The songs of
the birds reared on this spot are very various, but in no case have we
heard a really bad singer, while many possess voices of unusual power and
sweetness."

In Andreasdorf a bird of uniform pale yellow plumage, and without a
crest, is much preferred, because those that are uniformly tinted cannot
be spoilt by irregular markings, and because the male nestling of this
species is easily recognised on account of its tints about the eyes
and region of the beak; even after the young have left the nest this
distinguishing feature is for some time observable, and the sexes may be
thus readily ascertained. The superfluous female birds are sent early
in the summer upon their travels through the world in the care of an
itinerant salesman, and hundreds of the males are taken in October and
November to be sold by wholesale dealers in large cities, or exported
to Russia and America. The Canaries reared in other neighbouring
districts cannot equal those of Andreasdorf in their song, though they
are very superior to such as are obtained elsewhere. The following
hints may perhaps be useful to our readers in the choice of a tame
specimen:--First, entirely green birds, or such as are brightly marked
with green, are usually very strong, and, in consequence, their voice
is often disagreeably loud; secondly, such as are of a yellowish brown
or dark yellow are weakly, and seldom breed; thirdly, the variegated
kinds do not often have prettily-marked young; fourthly, such as have
red eyes are weak; and, fifthly, should birds with a crest be preferred,
the purchaser must be careful that there are no bare spots on it. In
order to ensure a good singing Canary, it is necessary to procure
such as have parents gifted in that respect, and during the course of
instruction the bird should not be allowed to hear the song of finches,
larks, and nightingales, as the notes which it would thus acquire would
be unnatural, and therefore soon forgotten. In Andreasdorf the people
are most careful only to allow the young to copy the notes of such male
singers as are experts in the art, as should the little pupil, even when
four years of age, hear a bad singer it is pretty sure to imitate all its
faults, and even in old age will sometimes retain this tiresome trick.
The Canary will learn tunes played upon an organ with little difficulty,
but after a time often perform them inaccurately. We have tried the
experiment of placing the pupil with two old males, and have always found
it prefer to imitate the bird whose song gives it the least trouble, and
thus it acquires shakes and trilling notes with much greater ease than
the flute-like tones, or deep rolling song of the nightingale. A Canary
belonging to an artist residing at Bordeaux, possesses the remarkable
faculty of singing whenever it feels disposed with the beak closely
shut, producing its song, which is very clear, apparently from the top
of its throat, and giving the effect, as in ventriloquism, of a voice
proceeding, not from its owner, but from some distance.

The cage of a bird under tuition must be placed in such a position that
it can be constantly visited and instructed, and at such a distance
from the window as will prevent its being disturbed, in which case it
is liable to become irritated, and learn to scream or sing in a very
disjointed manner. The diet should consist entirely of rapeseed and white
bread steeped in water, so that the food being simple, the pupil may not
be distracted from its song by the daintiness of its fare. Green-stuff or
fruit should not be given to it, as producing the same result. The wires
of the cage should be so close together that the bird cannot stretch
its neck between them and look around, and should it appear inclined to
try to peck at such things as bits of paper, thread, &c., these should
be removed and four oats given to it daily, thus affording exercise for
its beak. If the Canary has been always in the habit of living alone it
should not be allowed to see another of its kind, or it will immediately
begin to scream instead of singing gently; but if more convenient to
place it with other males, the cages should be hung close together so
as to enable them to be constantly aware of each other's presence. When
a young bird has been trained in this manner for two years, it may be
considered to have learnt all that it is capable of acquiring. As regards
the cage, great care should be taken that it has no brass or paint about
it; the floor should be strewed with sand, and the bird furnished with
some atoms of clay or crushed egg or snail shells. The perches are best
when made from the wood of the lime-tree. Great precautions are necessary
to prevent the entrance of vermin into the cage, and should they be
detected both cage and bird must immediately be washed with linseed or
rapeseed oil. Except during the breeding season, the females may all be
kept together in a large cage, that is, if they will live in peace,
which is not always the case. The place in which the cage hangs ought
to be kept tolerably warm, but should the bird be exposed to a hot sun
a screen should be provided. In winter the females may be kept without
injury in a room in which the temperature is below freezing-point, but
the male under such circumstances refuses to sing; many experiments
have proved to us that these birds can endure extreme cold if only well
fed, and provided with snow to drink instead of water. Canaries should
be screened from draughts. Some perfumes are very injurious to them;
one evening we placed a blooming _Orchis bifolia_ in a room occupied
by three of these delicate creatures, and in the morning found the two
females dead, and the male so overcome that he was only saved by prompt
attention. The use of the common kind of lamp-oil blackens the feathers,
but does not in other respects injure the bird. As to the most suitable
food, we can only refer to the treatment adopted by the inhabitants of
Andreasdorf, of which we gave a detailed account in a previous page.
The average age attained by the Canary in Malaga is sixteen years, but
we have heard of cases where by great attention they have lived to the
age of twenty. The number of eggs laid by this species is large, and one
reared by us produced as many as twenty-nine within the year; the eggs
are white, and dotted with red at the broad end. The female broods from
about thirteen to fifteen days; the young birds quit the nest soon after
leaving the egg, and feed themselves within a week of that time. Before
a month has passed the feathers, with the exception of those on the tail
and wings, begin to moult, and the change is not completed for some
months. By the ensuing moulting season the young birds have commenced
singing, and the males are then easily recognised by the fluency of their
song, the notes of the young female being quite unconnected. Should it be
desired to render a favourite very tame, no food should be given in the
cage, the bird being thus compelled to take all from the hand. The Canary
is well known to be a most docile pupil, and will learn to exhibit its
skill by spelling words that are repeated to it, selecting the letters
in proper order from an alphabet laid before it; will find the required
pieces of cloth from amongst several others; and has been taught to add
up, multiply, or divide figures by the assistance of numbers given it to
choose from. Others will sing when commanded, pretend to fall dead when
a pistol is fired, then allow themselves to be laid on a little car to
be carried to the grave by two other canaries, and when the journey is
accomplished will jump up and sing a lively song. All these tricks are
taught as with dogs or horses, by keeping them without food until the
order has been obeyed.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE FINCHES (_Fringillæ_).

The birds belonging to this group are distinguished by an elongated,
round, and somewhat blunt beak, a tarsus of moderate height, narrow and
somewhat pointed wings, and a long and rather excised tail; the body is
elongated and straight, the plumage compact, and in the male bird of
bright colours, which vary considerably according to the time of year.
The female is not so handsome as her mate, and the young, after the first
moulting, resemble their mother. Finches are found all over Europe, in
forests and plantations, or in rocky places covered with a growth of
trees and underwood. They are very sociable, but by no means peaceful
in their habits, as, though they associate freely with other birds,
they are seldom long in their company before quarrelling commences.
Seeds of plants and insects constitute their principal food; the young
are generally fed with insects. All the males of this family are busy
creatures, some of them much valued on account of their vocal powers, and
the little injury they do is fully compensated by their many services,
among which their song should take the first place. These birds are
considered, especially in Germany, as migratory, being much addicted
to long flights, although some are known to remain in the same country
during the whole winter. They usually make their appearance amongst us
early in the year, and build elegant and artistic nests, breeding from
once to three times in the summer, after which they assemble in large
flocks, fly from place to place, and then depart simultaneously for
warmer regions. The favour in which they are held by many is very easily
understood if we consider their really great gifts, sweet song, and the
facility with which they are tamed. They have been the companions of man
from the most ancient times, and in some places are as much valued as
the Nightingale. In certain parts of Germany the Chaffinch is an actual
member of the household, and quite indispensable to the family circle.


THE CHAFFINCH.

The CHAFFINCH (_Fringilla coelebs_), or as the Germans call it the
NOBLE FINCH (_Edelfink_), is by this very name at once placed first
amongst its brotherhood, and is so common amongst us that it can rarely
be mistaken for any other bird. Its length is six inches, its breadth
across the wings seven inches, the female being somewhat smaller and
longer than her mate. The plumage is strikingly coloured, and beautifully
marked. The male is deep black upon the forehead, the head and neck
ash-grey, the back brown, the lower part of the body (except the belly,
which is white) of a rich red, and the wings striped in two places with
white. The female and young birds are often of an olive-greyish brown,
grey below, and the wings marked as in the male bird. The beak in the
young is of a dusky light blue, in autumn reddish white, and always black
at the tip; the foot is of a reddish grey, or dirty flesh colour, the eye
brown.

The Chaffinch is found over the whole of Europe, if we except its most
northern and southern countries; it appears in Spain only during the
winter, and in the north is replaced by a species called the Mountain
Finch. In Siberia it is as common as it is in Germany, and in Northern
Africa a very similar bird is to be met with. The Chaffinch inhabits all
kind of woods, frequenting the larger forests as readily as clumps of
trees, plantations, and gardens, only avoiding marshy or boggy ground.
One little couple lives close to another, but each bird defends its own
chosen spot with great fury, and wages constant war against intrusion.
After the breeding season is over these separate couples assemble,
and form large flocks--which often include several other species of
birds--and then start upon their exploring travels through the length and
breadth of the land. At these times they do not appear more peaceably
disposed than before, and quarrels and strife go on unremittingly. In
Germany the Chaffinch is a summer bird, and though some few males may
winter there, the mass of these lovers of sunshine leave for a warmer
climate.

As they begin to assemble at the commencement of September, in October
the flocks are ready for flight, and before the end of that month have
entirely disappeared, to take up their winter quarters in Southern
Europe, or North-western Africa, and some few in Egypt: spreading
over mountains, valleys, fields, and gardens, everywhere numerous,
and everywhere living, not in pairs, but socially; thus showing that
these regions are not regarded as their home, but merely as a temporary
abiding-place. When the spring commences they return to their old haunts,
generally performing the journey in much smaller parties than when they
took their departure--the males first, followed in about a fortnight by
the females. It is very rarely indeed that both sexes return together.
In fine weather the males generally make their appearance about the
beginning of February, the principal parties arriving about March, the
stragglers often not till April. Then may be heard their fresh cheerful
voices, as they seek their old breeding places and choose their mates; as
soon as this is done the building of the nest commences, and the little
cradles for the young are generally ready before the trees are covered
with leaves.

[Illustration: THE CHAFFINCH (_Fringilla Coelebs_).]

The process of making a nest is commenced by a search amongst the
branches; a proceeding in which both birds take an active part, the
female, perhaps, looking for what is required with the greatest
earnestness, her mate, on the contrary, thinking more of his attachment
to her, and his determination to keep off all rivals; for in their case,
as sometimes happens with their betters, love and jealousy go hand in
hand. At length a suitable spot for building is found upon a forked or
gnarled branch, or sometimes even in the thatch of a house. The nest
itself is most beautifully made, being as round as a ball, and open at
the top. The thick outer wall is formed of green moss, delicate roots and
blades of grass, and these materials are covered externally with bits
selected from the tree itself, woven together by means of the webs of
various insects, so that the nest might easily be mistaken for a part of
the branch on which it is placed; indeed, even a naturalist would have
the greatest difficulty in finding it, and the uninitiated could only
discover it by chance. The interior is round, deep, and snugly lined with
a bed of hair, feathers, and fibres of wool or cotton. Whilst the nest
is being built, and during the time the female broods, her mate pours
out an uninterrupted flow of song, and every other male responds to his
notes with great zeal, for these little creatures are not only actuated
by jealousy, but by ambition. Chaffinches, like other singing birds,
strive to vie with each other in their performance; but the rivals soon
become so excited in their efforts that their voices fail, and they are
compelled to give vent to their rage by chasing each other through the
branches, until at last, literally seizing each other by the throat,
and thus powerless to fly, they whirl round and fall upon the ground.
In these battles the combatants seem blind and deaf to every danger,
and risk their lives in their endeavours to vent their fury. As soon
as the battle with the beak and claws is concluded, the musical strife
is renewed, to be again terminated by a fresh onslaught of the furious
and implacable little rivals. The breeding time of these birds may be
described as one uninterrupted series of contests, for every male in the
neighbourhood thinks it his duty to worry and rival his neighbour.

The eggs, five or six in number, have very fragile shells of a delicate
blueish-green colour, varied with pale reddish-brown markings, and
blackish-brown spots of various sizes and shapes. The female sits for
about a fortnight, and is relieved by her mate during such time as she
requires to go in search of food. The nestlings are fed by both parents
exclusively upon insects, and require to be supplied with nourishment for
some time after leaving the nest; when first hatched they have a peculiar
kind of cry, but soon employ the same call as the old birds. These latter
have scarcely parted from one brood than they commence preparations for
a second, seeking another place for a nest, and building again, but with
less care than before, the female laying only from three to four eggs.
With the rearing of this second brood the duties of incubation are for
the year at an end.

Chaffinches are much attached to their young, and utter loud cries at
the approach of an enemy, accompanying their screams by most significant
actions. Naumann tells us that the male bird concerns himself more
about the eggs, while the female gives her affection principally to the
nestlings. We ourselves have not observed this difference. With respect
to the tenderness shown to their offspring, this species differs much
from other Finches, for if young Linnets, for instance, are taken out
of the nest and placed in a cage, one may rest assured that the parents
will continue to feed them, whilst Chaffinches, on the contrary, would
allow their young to starve, as many of their admirers have learned by
bitter experience. Exceptions to this rule are sometimes found, but among
the last-mentioned birds care for their own safety is generally stronger
than parental love. The Chaffinch is a cheerful little creature, and
passes the greater part of the day in action, only reposing from its
fatigues during the noontide heat. Its movements are much more agile
than those of the Bullfinch, and of an entirely different character. On
the branches it sits perched bolt upright, and seems to balance its body
as it moves upon the ground, with a kind of step that is half hopping,
half running. When on the twigs it prefers progressing in a sidelong
direction, and flies very rapidly with an undulating sort of course,
spreading its wings slightly before perching. The call-note of "pink"
or "finch" is uttered with great diversity of sound and expression, and
its song possesses a variety and beauty that has earned the admiration
of all who have heard it. To the uninitiated the changes in these sounds
are scarcely noticeable, but those who rear and study these birds have
arrived at so great perfection in their observations that they can give
the proper interpretation to their various notes. Lenz even tells us of
nineteen (so-called) different expressions, but to enumerate them would
be to weary our readers. In former times the passion for these birds was
so strong that men have been known to exchange a cow for a Chaffinch,
and though, at the present day, this mania has diminished in force, it
has by no means died out. In Belgium we hear of bets being laid about
the singing of pet birds. On the occasion of such trials of skill, the
competitors in their cages are placed in rows upon the table, and the
conflict continues for an hour. Certain men undertake to mark down how
often each individual utters its notes, and the one that "trills" the
oftenest is considered to have gained the prize. Instances have been
known of Finches uttering the required sound 700 times within the hour.
Chaffinches are well fitted for life in a cage; but there is a strange
idea afloat that they must be blinded before they will sing well, and
in many parts of Belgium this horrible practice is constantly carried
out; many are captured, particularly in the breeding season, at which
time they often recklessly expose their lives and liberty; all that is
needful is to place a decoy in a snare, and its brethren will hasten
in numbers to the trap, their angry little passions hurrying them to
their destruction, for when the decoy is properly posted, the wild birds
come down for the express purpose of engaging it in a fight, and thus
rendering themselves an easy prey, are caught by means of limed twigs.
Chaffinches are never injurious, and often very useful to man, as they
destroy a great quantity of seeds--chiefly those of various weeds--whilst
the numbers of insects consumed by their little bills render them real
benefactors to the woods and gardens.


THE MOUNTAIN FINCH.

The MOUNTAIN FINCH (_Fringilla montifringilla_) is a species known by
a great variety of names. Its length is about six and a half to seven
inches, its breadth ten and a half to eleven inches. The plumage of the
male bird during the breeding season is of a brilliant deep black, and
on the fore part of the neck and shoulders of an orange colour; the
under parts of the body and breast are white, the sides black; in the
female bird the latter are marked with long pale black streaks, while
over the wings run two white lines; the under wing-covers are brimstone
yellow. The female is brownish-black upon the head, neck, and back; the
under parts of the body are of a sober, dull shade. After the moulting
season the beautiful bright hues of these birds are hidden by the light
yellowish-brown edges of the feathers. Countries beyond 65° north
latitude may be considered as the homes of the Mountain Finch, it being
by no means rare in Lapland, and very numerous in Finland; how far east
it may be found we are at present ignorant. From these northern regions
it emerges during the winter, covering the whole of Europe as far as
Greece and Spain, and Asia even to the Himalaya Mountains, forming large
flocks during the month of August, and then coming gradually farther
and farther south. It reaches Germany in September, and Spain somewhat
later, the latter country, indeed, being never visited so regularly as
Germany. Mountains and large close forests are the favourite resorts
of these birds, and decide their course, always supposing that their
intended route is not disturbed by meeting with flocks of other kinds of
finches, to whom they are very ready to unite themselves--indeed, the
Mountain Finch is generally seen in company with Chaffinches, Linnets,
Yellowhammers, Field Sparrows, and Goldfinches, a group of trees being
usually chosen as the gathering-place of this very varied company,
and the nearest wood affording them their sleeping quarters. Should a
heavy fall of snow occur, they are compelled to remove to another place
in search of food; their migrations are, therefore, dependent upon
the suitability of the spot, and in nowise regular or premeditated.
The Mountain Finch very much resembles the Chaffinch, and like it, is
quarrelsome and violent, in spite of its apparently social disposition,
equalling the bird we have just mentioned in its activity, but far
inferior in the quality of its song, which, indeed, we can only describe
as a plaintive little chirp.

The Mountain Finch is usually, but unjustly, considered to be stupid,
because, like most other northern birds, it exhibits boldness and
confidence when it first reaches us; it however soon loses these
qualities and becomes cunning and shy. Though much to be admired on
account of the beauty of its plumage, its many disagreeable qualities,
and quavering, weak voice, prevent it from being regarded as suitable for
domestication. The food of this species consists principally of seeds
from various plants and trees; in summer they devour great quantities of
flies and insects, and can live for many years upon rapeseed, and other
simple diet. The nest and eggs bear a most deceptive resemblance to
those of the Chaffinch. The Mountain Finch is sought for on account of
its well-flavoured though somewhat bitter flesh, and is caught in great
numbers.


THE SNOW FINCH.

The SNOW FINCH or STONE FINCH (_Montifringilla nivalis_) is nearly allied
to the Finches before described, but differs from the preceding species
in the shape of the long, curved, and spur-like nail upon the hinder
toe, its long wings, and the fact that both male and female have the
same coloured plumage. We shall therefore consider it as the type of a
distinct group. The length of this species is eight and three-quarter
inches, and its breadth across the wings fourteen inches. The plumage is
simple but very beautifully marked. In the old birds the head and neck
are of a blueish ash-grey, the mantle brown, the upper wing-covers half
black, half white; the under part of the body of a whitish shade; the
throat black or blackish. After moulting, the original colours of the
plumage are concealed by the light borders of the feathers. The tail is
white, with the exception of the upper cover and its two middle feathers,
these being white tipped with black. The beak is black in summer and
yellow in winter; the feet are black, and the eyes brown. The young birds
are grey; the throat is of a dirty white; and the feathers that form the
white markings on the wings, are streaked with black, and have black
shafts. Among European birds are two distinct species of Stone Finches,
the first of which belongs to the more northern countries, the other is
found in great numbers in most of the Tyrolean and Swiss Alps. Both pass
the summer months in mountain ranges, preferring such wild and barren
places as lie close to the boundaries of eternal snow and ice in these
deserted regions, always mounting higher and higher, as the warm rays of
the sun remove the snowy mantle from the naked rocks. In cold seasons
they remain lower down, but never leave the vicinity of the glaciers,
where they may be seen generally in pairs or small parties, perching upon
such bare and rugged peaks as rear their crests nearest to the sky, and
over which they fly in joyous confusion, or hop about the ground like
the Chaffinches. During especially severe winters they may be met in the
valleys, searching for the various seeds of which their food consists,
and even there always seem to prefer the highest ground. Tschudi tells us
that upon one occasion, a whole cloud of Snow Finches, numbering upwards
of a thousand, was seen by a hunter in the open country near Kleven, of
which he succeeded in killing some hundreds; the poor birds appearing
to be so hungry and stupefied, that when he fired, such as had not been
reached by his shot fell to the ground in company with their wounded
fellows. Most observers tell us that they are harmless and confiding, and
may often be found flying in and out of the huts of the mountaineers, who
take great pleasure in watching and feeding them; they are, however, very
timid, and will take every precaution to prevent the discovery of their
nests.

The song of the Snow Finch is a short, disjointed, piping note, or a call
resembling that of the Cross-bill; when frightened it utters a kind of
chirp: its voice is principally heard during the period of incubation.
The breeding season commences in April or the beginning of May. This
bird builds by preference in deep clefts of perpendicular rocks, though
occasionally it will occupy holes in walls or the roofs of houses,
whether the latter are inhabited or not. The nest is capacious and
substantially constructed of fine grasses lined with wool, horsehair, or
feathers. The young are tended by both parents with great affection, and
fed principally upon the larvæ of insects, spiders, and little worms.
When the nest is situated in a deep cleft, the young are assisted in
climbing out of it by the old birds, in order that they also may revel
in the beds of snow. These Finches are constant guests at various Alpine
hospices for travellers, and meet with every attention from the monks who
inhabit them.


THE WINTER FINCH.

The WINTER FINCH (_Nyphæa hyemalis_) has been described as a species
of Bunting, with the beak of a finch and very indistinct markings on
its plumage. Its body is powerful, its neck short, the head large, the
beak short and very pointed, the legs slender, and the feet of moderate
length. The wings are short, but concave and rounded, the third and
fourth quills being the longest; the second nearly the same length, and
the first shortest of all. The tail is long and forked, the plumage very
soft and lax. In the male bird the head, neck, back, wings, tail, and
front of the breast are blackish grey, which is darkest upon the head;
the wings are bordered with white, the two outermost tail feathers, the
lower part of the breast and belly being also white. The beak is reddish
white, and dark at the tip; the eyes are blackish brown. The female is
paler than her mate, and marked upon the back with brown. The length of
the male bird is five inches and three-quarters, its breadth nearly seven
inches; the female is five and a half inches in length, and eight and a
quarter across.

[Illustration: THE MOUNTAIN FINCH (_Fringilla montifringilla_).]

This species, which belongs to North America, may be considered the
best-known member of its family. "I have travelled," says Wilson, "over
the country from North Maine to Georgia, a distance of 1,800 miles, but I
do not think there was a day, or indeed an hour, in which I did not see a
flock of these birds, often numbering thousands; and several travellers
with whom I conversed gave me similar accounts of their experience." On
the other hand, we are told by many American naturalists that the Winter
Finch, as its name would show, is only to be met with in these numbers
during the winter, and is not seen in the United States during the summer
months. It is an inhabitant of the northern mountains of America, where
it builds its nest, and from thence it wanders south when winter closes
in. This species will occasionally migrate as far as Europe; and Temminck
assures us that several have been captured in Iceland; indeed, it is upon
this authority that we reckon them amongst European birds. Winter Finches
are seen in the United States about October, departing about the end of
April, and migrating by night; hosts of them are often found early in the
morning in localities where not one was to be seen the evening before.
On first arriving they fly about the outskirts of the woods and hedges
in parties of from twenty to thirty, but at a later period assemble
in flocks of some thousands. As long as the ground is uncovered, they
feed upon grass-seed, berries, and insects, and are often to be found in
company with partridges, wild turkeys, and even squirrels; but as soon
as the snow begins to fall, Winter Finches make their appearance in the
farmyards, open roads, and streets of the town, and place themselves
under the protection of man, who shows how much he is to be trusted by
capturing hundreds of these diminutive creatures. Still this bird has
more friends than enemies, and many Americans regard it with the same
affection that we feel for our robin redbreast, and will feed it in a
similar manner. Its confidence in man is so great, that it will allow a
horseman or foot passenger to approach quite close to it in the street,
only flying away if it has reason to think it will be molested. Thus it
lives until the winter is passed, when it quits the towns and villages
for its favourite mountain or native haunts. The Winter Finch but seldom
joins company with any other birds, though in the villages and farmyards
it will associate with the so-called "Song Sparrow" and domestic fowls,
keeping, however, somewhat apart. It passes the night either perched
upon a tree, or in a hole, and often makes a place for itself in stacks
of corn. In its movements the Winter Finch much resembles our sparrows,
and hops very lightly over the ground, testifying great readiness to
engage any of its kind in single combat. As soon as these birds return to
their native places the work of incubation commences, and the males are
constantly engaged in furious contentions, chasing each other through the
trees with wings and tail outspread, and thus exhibiting their plumage in
all its varied beauty. At such times their simple but pleasing song is at
the best, its principal feature being a few long, drawn-out notes, that
are not unlike the twitter of a young canary.

[Illustration: THE BROWN LINNET (_Cannabina linota_).]

When about to build, the little pair seek a quiet spot in which to make
their nest, preferring a rock thickly covered with bushes; and there upon
the ground they construct their home, forming it of twigs and grass,
and lining the interior most delicately with fine moss and horsehair.
The four eggs of which a brood consists, are of a yellowish colour,
thickly covered with reddish spots, and measure five-eighths of an inch
across the broadest end. Both parents tend their young with great care,
feeding them for some time after they leave the nest, and warning them
of danger by a peculiar cry. The Sparrow Falcon (_Rhyncodon sparverius_)
must be regarded as the most formidable of the many enemies of the Winter
Finches. Wilson mentions having seen this bird continually hovering in
their neighbourhood, watching for a favourable opportunity, and, when the
proper moment arrived, the destroyer would swoop down upon its victim,
seize it, and carry it to the nearest tree to be devoured. The weasel,
and many of the smaller kinds of beasts of prey, are also numbered among
their foes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LINNETS (_Cannabinæ_) have lately been formed into a distinct tribe,
on account of their conical-shaped bill, which is more rounded, shorter,
and sharper at its extremity than in the true Finches. The wings are
elongated, slender, and pointed, and the tail forked at the end. The
representatives of this family are met with only in the northern parts of
the Old World.


THE BROWN LINNET.

The BROWN LINNET (_Cannabina linota_) is five inches long and eight and
a half inches broad across the wings. The colour of the feathers is very
variable, according to sex, age, and season of the year. During the
spring the adult male is most beautiful. The front of its head is bright
blood-red, the back of the head, neck, and sides of the throat are grey,
the back rust-brown, the rump whitish, the face and part of the neck a
whitish grey-brown, the breast a blazing blood-red; the remainder of the
lower part of the body white, and the sides a light brown. During the
autumn the beautiful red tints of its plumage are concealed under the
light borders of the feathers; but as these wear off the creature regains
its brilliancy of hue. In the female the head and neck are brown, or of a
deep yellowish ash-grey, the feathers spotted upon the shafts. The mantle
is rust-brown, the feathers of the back having a light edge, and a dark
streak along the shaft. The upper part of the breast and sides are light
yellowish brown, thickly marked with blackish brown along the body. The
young resemble the mother, but have more conspicuous spots upon their
somewhat paler plumage. In such birds as are captured when young, the
feathers never acquire their beautiful red colour, and old ones, when
in confinement, soon change their brilliant hues for a pale yellow or
yellowish red.

The Brown Linnet inhabits the whole of Europe, a large portion of
Northern Asia, Asia Minor, and Syria, and during its migrations
appears regularly in North-western Africa, though rarely seen in the
north-eastern part of that continent: in Germany it is exceedingly
common, particularly in hilly districts; but it avoids high mountains and
extensive forests. These birds are of a social and cheerful disposition,
preferring society even during the breeding season; they assemble as
autumn approaches in companies of about a hundred, and during the winter
associate with various other species. They fly to and fro over the
country notwithstanding their parental duties; indeed, we observed a
Brown Linnet early in the summer in our garden, at a distance of nearly a
mile from its nest; and, strange to say, in these excursions the female
frequently accompanies her mate. The affectionate tenderness shown by
these little creatures towards each other is very striking. Should one
of the pair be shot, the other will at once come to the ground, uttering
most piteous cries, as though it could not endure the loss of its beloved
companion; the same attachment is exhibited to the eggs and nestlings;
so that the parents frequently allow themselves to be captured rather
than be separated from their young. The flight of the Brown Linnet is
light, rapid, and hovering; when about to descend, the bird wheels
around in circles, and often almost touches the earth whilst on the
wing, then rises again into the air, and continues its flight for some
distance before settling. It hops nimbly over the ground, and, when
singing in the trees, is usually perched upon the topmost branch, or on
a projecting twig. Its voice may be heard from March to August, and the
young sing from the time of their moulting in the autumn all through
the bright winter days of November and December. The young male easily
learns to imitate the notes of other birds, but forgets them after a few
repetitions. We have heard a Brown Linnet that could perfectly imitate
the song of the Chaffinch, and another that exactly copied the notes of
the Siskin. Naumann mentions instances of its having even learnt the
song of the Goldfinch, Lark, and Nightingale. This species begins its
preparation for building, early in April, and breeds two or three times
within the year. Its favourite nesting-place is among short brushwood, at
no great distance from the ground. The nest is built externally of twigs,
fibrous roots, and blades of grass, within which is a second layer more
carefully constructed, but composed of the same materials, and this again
is lined with wool and a little horsehair. The brood consists of from
four to five eggs of a whitish-blue colour, marked with a few reddish
spots; the female sits for thirteen days, after which time the young are
most assiduously tended by both parents until they leave the nest, the
last brood always remaining under supervision for a longer period than
their predecessors. Whilst the female is sitting she is cheered by the
song of the male, who usually perches on a neighbouring tree. Unlike the
Chaffinches, these birds live peaceably together during the breeding
season, the males often taking little excursions in company, or they will
perch and sing together, not out of rivalry but in harmony with each
other. The following account is given of the proceedings of a pair of
these little songsters that had made their home close to a house:--"The
nestlings who, when discovered, had just left the shell, remained
perfectly quiet in their snug abode, even when expecting or receiving
their food, but were no sooner fledged than they at once began to try the
power of their wings, continuing these efforts during an entire evening
with so much success, that before break of day they had finally left the
nest. They remained for some time close at hand upon the thickly-foliaged
trees, and then, accompanied by their parents, quitted the spot. These
birds were a source of great pleasure to us, as, contrary to the usual
habits of the species, they did not leave off feeding when we approached,
even if accompanied by several people. The time that elapsed between the
different meals given to the young was not more than twelve or sixteen
minutes; when feeding them the parents would perch upon a tree close at
hand, gently utter their call-note, and then flutter towards the nest,
which was always approached from the same side. Each young bird was fed
in turn, the male commencing operations; when both he and his mate had
emptied their crops into the gaping beaks of their progeny, they flew
away to obtain a fresh supply. The female but once came back alone, and
only on that occasion did she take the precedence of her mate in feeding
the brood. Every morning before leaving the nest the mother carefully
arranged and cleaned her little domicile, and instead of throwing out
what she cleared away, swallowed it, and spit it out again at some
distance from the nest. We never observed the male bird assist in this
business except once, and have no doubt that the precaution exercised
by the mother was intended to prevent any trace of her brood from being
discovered." The Brown Linnets but seldom leave their progeny, and
will continue to feed them long after they have been placed in a cage.
Bird-fanciers often take advantage of this, and we have never known a
case in which the parents under such circumstances have neglected to
provide for the wants of their offspring, so that the old birds may
frequently be enticed farther and farther from their breeding place by
the gradual removal of the cage to a distance. This manner of feeding the
young has, however, its disadvantages, as they remain wild and shy for a
much longer period than if brought up by hand.


THE MOUNTAIN OR GREY LINNET.

The MOUNTAIN or GREY LINNET (_Cannabina montium_) in many northern
countries seems to take the place of the species just described. Its
length is four and three-quarter inches, and the span of its wings eight
and a quarter inches. The plumage on the back is of a blackish brown,
the feathers being edged with rust colour, the rump is red, the breast
of a rusty yellowish grey striped with brown, and the remainder of the
lower part of the body white. This bird is always to be met with in the
northern parts of Scotland, also in Norway, Lapland, Russia, and Siberia;
it inhabits mountain regions where stunted shrubs and low Alpine plants
sprout from between the rocks. In its habits it resembles its congeners,
but is perhaps of a somewhat livelier and more cautious disposition. Its
voice reminds us of the notes of the Siskin and Red Linnet, and though
its song can scarcely be called beautiful, it has something so spirited
and cheerful in its tones that the inhabitants of such northern countries
as are not much frequented by Finches take great pleasure in listening to
its strains. In captivity the habits of the Grey Linnet are the same as
those of others of its race, and it soon becomes accustomed to a cage.
The food of this little chorister consists of seeds. The Mountain Linnet
is frequently found in the southern parts of Sweden; it is said to be
rare in Scotland though common in England, and is frequently caught in
the vicinity of London. Solitary birds of this species are often met with
in Germany; and during very severe winters they will even wander as far
as Southern Switzerland, Northern Italy, or the south of France.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many small Finches, distinguished for their long and slender beaks, were
formerly classed under the general name of Siskins, but have lately been
arranged in separate groups with more or less reference to the colour of
their plumage.


THE BIRCH-TREE SISKIN.

The BIRCH-TREE SISKIN (_Linaria rubra_) is extremely common in Central
Europe; by some authors it has been described as the Red Linnet,
nevertheless it is so entirely unlike the Linnet, that only a novice
in ornithology could mistake them, even at the first glance. The adult
male of this species is a beautiful bird, as will be evident from the
following description:--The front of the head is of a dark carmine-red,
the rump pale red, and the feathers on the upper part of the body
brown with light edges; the wing and tail feathers are black bordered
with grey, and the wing exhibits two bands of a lighter shade than the
remainder of its surface. The under part of the body is entirely white,
the throat black, the fore part of the neck, upper breast, and sides,
of a pale carmine-red, this last colour being entirely wanting, or
very indistinct in the female. Shortly after moulting, the beauty of
the plumage much deteriorates, as the feathers then become edged with
grey. The young birds resemble the mother, and, when nestlings, are of
a uniform brownish grey with brownish markings along the body; the head
is blueish, the lower mandible yellow, the feet greyish brown, and the
eye dark brown. The Birch Siskin is of nearly the same dimensions as the
Linnet, being about five inches long and eight and a half inches across
the wings; the female is in a very trifling degree smaller than her mate,
and both birds differ from other Finches in the unusual elongation of the
beak, which is somewhat conical and compressed at the sides, and by their
comparatively strongly-developed wings.

[Illustration: SISKIN, BULLFINCH, AND GOLDFINCH.]

Those of us who have been favoured with a peep into the extensive
northern forests can understand why it is that the Birch Siskins are so
rarely seen during the winter in Central Europe; they seldom need to
migrate, the birch-trees of those woods producing in great abundance all
that they require; it is only when their usual supply of seeds and fruits
fails that these birds decide on removing for a time to more southern
regions. Our readers will readily believe that this necessity is of very
unfrequent occurrence, when we tell them that in cold northerly countries
hundreds and thousands of square miles are entirely covered with trees,
yielding the seeds preferred by these children of the forest. In short,
the Birch-tree Siskin occupies the same position with regard to birch
woods as does the Cross-bill to the tracts of fir and pine-trees, finding
in them abundance of food during the winter months, and plenty of insects
during their breeding season; indeed, the swarms of flies met with in
these regions are prodigious, every tree or bush being often literally
enveloped in a cloud of them. We have frequently been told that these
birds will breed in Germany, but as yet no nests have to our knowledge
been discovered so far from their usual haunts. Even in the north it is
extremely difficult to find them, and for the first description of one we
have to thank Boja, whose statements have been corroborated by Schräder.
"You know," says the former writer, in a letter to his brother, "what
difficulty I have had in my search after a Siskin's nest, and I should
never have found it had not accident placed it in my possession. As I
was descending a steep and almost naked precipice near Norwick my foot
slipped, and I fell heavily into a cleft of the rock, disturbing by my
fall a female bird sitting upon her nest, which was fixed upon the strong
branch of a birch-tree, and contained four eggs, not larger than those of
our Goldfinch, and of a greenish-white colour, marked with brownish red."

The Birch Siskins usually make their appearance in Germany about the
beginning of November, and that in very considerable numbers, though, as
we observed above, their coming is by no means regular, and only takes
place when they are driven from their native haunts by want of food.
They usually select districts planted with alder or birch-trees, from
whence they fly over hill and dale in company with Greenfinches, often
passing the night upon the hedges, and feeding upon all kinds of oily
seeds gleaned from the fields, but preferring those of the birch and
alder. It is very evident when these birds first arrive in that country
that they are by no means aware of their danger in venturing so near
their arch-enemy man, but will come down and seek their food close to his
dwellings, indeed it is only after repeated proofs of his treachery that
they begin to lose their confidence and grow cautious and shy.

The Birch Siskin is a restless, lively little creature, and more skilful
in climbing than any of its congeners; indeed, it will bear comparison in
that respect with the Cross-bill or Titmouse. Trees, when covered with
these birds, present a most beautiful appearance, as the latter hang upon
the branches or climb in busy crowds to reach the seeds; they are also
quite at home upon the ground, to which they descend and hop about much
more frequently than any other members of the family. Their flight is
rapid and undulating, they usually hover for a time before perching, and
but rarely frequent high trees, except when compelled by necessity to
rest upon them in passing over extensive and open districts. The flocks
when once united never separate, and such as stray from the main body
are recalled by their little companions with anxious cries. Quarrelling
or strife are unknown among them, they even associate as peaceably with
Linnets and Field Sparrows as they do with their own species. Birch
Siskins are excellently suited for a cage for they soon become very
tame, and seem to rejoice in displaying their activity and skill in
climbing. They are readily caught by the assistance of a decoy and a few
limed twigs; numbers are thus captured, as the poor little prisoners are
often followed by others of their kind who will not desert them in their
affliction. Their flesh is frequently eaten, and their song is simple but
melodious. It remains as yet to be decided whether the American Birch
Siskin is the same species as that inhabiting Europe. Richardson observed
it during very severe winters in all the fur districts, and Audubon
speaks with delight of the tameness and confidence in man exhibited by
those he met with in Labrador.

The TRUE SISKINS have recently been separated from the species just
described, by reason of their long and delicately-pointed beak, the ridge
of which is somewhat arched. They are also distinguished by their short
claws and comparatively long wings, and by the colour of their plumage,
but except in these respects the birds strongly resemble each other.


THE COMMON SISKIN.

The COMMON SISKIN (_Spinus viridis_) is about five inches long, and nine
across the span of the wings. In the male the top of the head is black,
the back yellowish green, streaked with blackish grey; the wings, which
are blackish, have two yellow stripes. The under part of the body is
bright yellow upon the breast, and white upon the belly; the throat is
black. The female bird is greyish green upon the upper parts of the body,
streaked with a darker shade; the under parts are white or yellowish
white, and marked with longish black spots. The young are yellower and
more variegated in their markings than the female.

The Siskin is particularly numerous in mountain regions, chiefly
inhabiting the interior of Norway, Sweden, and Russia. It is unknown
in Northern Asia, but is occasionally met with in the north-eastern
portions of that continent; Radde mentions flocks of these birds seen by
him in the Bareja Mountains, and near the banks of the Amur. The Siskins
are birds of passage, and, except in the breeding season, spend their
time in wandering over the country, going south for the winter in great
numbers, should the season be unusually cold or food deficient. In the
summer months they frequent the pine forests of mountainous districts,
living upon the seeds that are found there in abundance. In these places
they also breed. During their migratory excursions they often appear in
winter by thousands close to the villages, in districts where, in less
inclement seasons, not one is to be seen. In these wanderings, barren
tracts of country are carefully avoided, and they prefer perching upon
the topmost branches of forest trees. "The Siskin," says Naumann "is
always lively, adroit, and bold, and very attentive to the care of its
plumage; it is brisk in its movements, and a most capital climber."
In this respect it much resembles the Titmouse, frequently hanging
backwards from the boughs, which it ascends quickly, even should they
be quite perpendicular--in short, among the branches it is never quiet,
except when asleep or while taking its food. It can also hop nimbly
upon the ground, always, however, appearing to avoid descending from
its perch, if not obliged to do so. Its flight is undulating, rapid,
and light; it can pass with ease over large tracts of country, and rise
to a considerable height in the air. Its song is a very simple, but
not unpleasing, twitter. In all other respects this species strongly
resembles the Birch-tree Siskin; in disposition it is social, peaceful,
and thoughtless--indeed, we do not know any bird that shows so little
regret at the loss of its freedom, or is more suitable for domestication.
Moreover, it is very docile, and learns many little tricks, is not at all
dainty concerning the quality of its food, and becomes so tame that it
may be allowed to leave its cage at pleasure, and will obey its master's
call. Hoffmann relates of several of these birds that were kept in his
aviary, that they could be allowed to fly about, and would readily take
their food from his hand. On one occasion, as he tells us, a flock of
wild Siskins passed over the garden while one of his captive birds sat
perched upon his hand. The tame bird had no sooner heard the call-notes
of its brethren than it responded to the invitation, and flew at once to
join the party upon a neighbouring tree, receiving a very warm reception
from the little strangers, both individually and collectively. Of course
he gave his pet Siskin up as lost, but made an effort to allure it back
by its call-note and some favourite food. These efforts were successful,
and the truant was again soon perched upon his hand, although it was
followed by one of the wild birds to within six feet of the place where
he stood.

Seeds of many kinds--but principally those of trees--young buds, tender
leaves, and, during the breeding season, caterpillars and various
insects, constitute the ordinary food of these birds, the nestlings
being fed exclusively upon the latter diet--caterpillars, aphides, &c.
It is for this reason that the parent birds often frequent gardens
and orchards, accompanied by their young, such localities affording a
larger supply of insects than is to be met with in the forests. When in
captivity a little seed and a few green weeds will satisfy all their
requirements.

[Illustration: GOLDFINCHES AND NEST.]

The Siskin seeks its mate in April, obtaining her favour by very much the
same efforts as those practised by the Cross-bills, the male bird, at
such times, looking much larger than it really is, spreading its wings,
and wheeling around her at a considerable height in the air, and at the
same time singing vigorously. During this courtship the female remains
quite quiet, only from time to time caressing her companion with her
beak, or making short excursions in his company. Occasionally many of
these little couples will join company, and live in the utmost peace and
unity. The building of the nests begins shortly after the pairing of the
birds, and all must admire the cunning with which the female selects a
suitable spot, and fully appreciate the popular idea that a Siskin's nest
is invisible. The locality fixed upon is generally the extreme end of a
thick, lofty branch, the foliage of which entirely conceals the little
domicile. Fir and pine-trees are frequently selected for nidification,
and so perfectly does the exterior of the nest resemble the branch upon
which it is placed, that it is only recognisable when seen from above,
in which position it is betrayed by its rounded interior--indeed, so
completely is it hidden from observation, that a servant sent by us into
a tree to discover the nest, was about to descend without it, even though
it lay but two feet distant from him; and had we not recommended him to
strip the branch by removing one twig after another, he probably would
have sought for it in vain. This plan, however, succeeded, and the prize
was secured. The skill with which these little creatures conceal their
young has prevented any one from having seen the nest in progress of
erection, and will account for the old-fashioned legend that the Siskin
builds with invisible stones--for so very great is the difficulty of
distinguishing these structures from the surrounding branches, that few
naturalists have succeeded in finding them. The progress of the work is
extremely rapid. The two birds that we saw laboured alternately, each
waiting while the other supplied fresh materials, and then flew together
in search of what more was required, bringing back beakfuls of dry
twigs, wool, or moss, which they tore from the bark of the trees. It was
curious to see the little creatures prepare the wool, with which the nest
is lined, by holding it with the foot while pulling it out with their
beak to render it soft and elastic. In some other instances that have
come under our notice, the female alone constructed the nest, the male
keeping near her during the whole time. When busy in the preparation of
their dwelling, these little birds testify no uneasiness if watched or
approached, though they have been known to leave a partially constructed
nest, and commence another. The vicinity of water is always preferred
in the choice of a tree on which to build. The nests vary considerably
in their appearance. They are formed of twigs and moss, bound strongly
together with cobwebs, and lined with feathers, hair, and various kinds
of delicate fibres. The walls are very thick, and the central cavity
deep. The breeding season usually commences about the beginning of June,
but young fledged birds have been seen as early as May. The eggs, which
resemble those of the Brown Linnet, differ remarkably from each other in
size, shape, and colour, but are, for the most part, of a whitish-blue or
blueish-green, marked with a variety of spots and veins. The female alone
sits upon the eggs, remaining on the nest from the time that the first is
laid. The Siskin has been known to breed in captivity.


THE GOLDFINCH.

The GOLDFINCH (_Carduelis elegans_) may be considered as the type of a
group that has but few representatives, the only other species with which
we are acquainted being an inhabitant of the West Indies. The Goldfinches
are distinguished by their long, conical, compressed beak, bent slightly
at the tip; short strong legs, tail of middle length, and variegated
exterior. The feathers of both sexes are alike in their colouring, but
the young bear no resemblance to the parents. The length of the male is
about five inches, its breadth eight and three-quarter inches. The female
is not quite so large. The tail measures two inches, and the wing two
and a quarter inches from the shoulder to the tip. The plumage is most
beautifully marked and ornamented (see Coloured Plate V.); the beak,
which is flesh-coloured at the base and blue at the tip, is surrounded by
a black circle, and this again is encompassed by a broader band of red.
The back of the head and part of the otherwise white cheeks are black.
The back is brown, the belly white; and the sides of the upper part of
the breast light brown; the wings and tail black, streaked with white,
and the quills golden yellow at the root. The two sexes are so much alike
that it requires a practised eye to distinguish them, though the male has
somewhat more red on the face and a deeper black upon the head than the
female.

The Goldfinch inhabits a much larger extent of country than most others
of its race, being found over the whole of Europe, in Madeira, the
Canary Isles, North-western Africa, a large part of Asia, and even in
Cuba. Districts rich in trees and plants are the favourite resorts of
this bird, from whence it flies over the surrounding country in search
of food, frequently visiting our fields and gardens, and enlivening us
by its activity and beautiful song. When upon the ground, its movements
are decidedly slow and awkward; but nothing can exceed its nimbleness in
climbing, and it may often be seen hanging from a twig head downwards,
for whole minutes at a time. Its flight, like that of its congeners, is
light, rapid, and undulating; like them it hovers before perching. It
generally prefers the highest branch, upon which it sits bolt upright,
with plumage tightly compressed; but its restless disposition prevents
it from remaining for any great length of time upon one spot. It is
remarkably shy and peaceable in disposition, living upon excellent terms
with its feathered brethren, but preferring the society of the Titmouse.
The song of the male is loud and pleasing, and his voice may be heard
throughout the whole year, except during the moulting season. These birds
subsist upon various kinds of seeds, principally those of the thistle
tribe, so that wherever the latter are found we may look for the presence
of these pretty songsters; indeed, a more pleasing sight can scarcely be
imagined than that of a party of Goldfinches, as they hang head downwards
from the thistle tops, and rob them of their seeds by the aid of their
long and pointed beaks. In this business the harsh, strong feathers upon
the head are of great service, as they shield that part from the prickly
mass from which they pluck their food. During the summer, they destroy
large quantities of insects--indeed, upon these they feed their young,
thus rendering inestimable service to mankind. The nest is built upon
a tree at about twenty or twenty-four feet from the ground, and is so
carefully concealed at the end of the branch upon which it is placed, as
to be quite imperceptible until the leaves fall. The female alone works
at its construction, employing moss and fibrous roots for the outer
wall, and weaving these materials together in the most artistic manner
with spiders' webs; the interior is then lined with thistle-down, which
is kept in its place by the aid of horsehair or bristles. The male bird
sings with great vigour while the work progresses, but rarely assists
his mate in her labours. The brood consists of four or five delicate,
thin-shelled eggs, of a white or blueish-grey colour, lightly sprinkled
with violet grey spots, which form a kind of wreath at the broad end.
The eggs are generally laid about May, and the parent birds breed but
once during the summer. The female sits upon the nest for thirteen or
fourteen days, never leaving her brood for more than a few moments; her
mate brings such food as she requires, and subsequently assists her to
feed the young for some time after they are fully fledged. The capture
of Goldfinches is attended with but little difficulty, and, though shy,
they are easily tamed, and taught a variety of pleasing tricks. They will
pair with Canaries when caged, and the progeny have the colours of both
parents most curiously blended in their plumage. The food of these birds,
when tamed, should consist of seeds and an abundance of green-stuff; but
whilst nestlings, they must be fed upon bread soaked in water, until
their beaks have acquired a little strength.


THE GOLDEN THISTLE-FINCH.

The GOLDEN THISTLE-FINCH (_Astragalinus tristis_), an inhabitant of the
New World, is an elegant creature, of about four and a half inches long
and eight broad. This bird resembles our Goldfinch in its appearance,
the yellow plumage being varied by a black and white bordering to its
wings and tail-feathers. The beak and feet are brownish yellow, and the
eyes dark brown; the coat of the female is deeper in its hues than that
of her mate, and has no black spot on the forehead; in other respects
it so exactly resembles its European congener, as to require no further
description, and Audubon tells us that their voices are so similar as to
be scarcely distinguishable.

[Illustration: _Plate 5, Cassell's Book of Birds_

1. BULLFINCH ____ Pyrrhula vulgaris

2. GOLDFINCH ____ Carduelis elegans

_Life size_]


THE SPARROWS PROPER (_Passeres_).

THE SPARROWS are known by their strong, thick, stunted beaks; short,
stout legs, furnished with toes of moderate length and crooked claws;
their wings are short, and the tail more or less graduated; the body is
stoutly built, and the plumage simple in its colour and markings. The
feathers of the male are of chestnut-brown, grey, or golden yellow, while
those of the female are entirely grey, streaked with brown; the young
are like the mother. The members of this family strongly resemble each
other in their mode of life and habits; all are more or less stationary,
frequenting agricultural districts, and any place inhabited by man; never
going to a great distance from their dwelling-place, and passing their
time principally upon the ground in search of food. The Sparrows show
as great a dislike to barren districts, as to thick woods; preferring
such spots as are planted with shrubs or hedges, upon which they seek
shelter in times of danger; holes in rocks, or crevices in walls, are,
in like manner, sometimes employed for this purpose. In their movements
they are clumsy, and hop when upon the ground with apparent effort;
their flight is violent, and far more rapid than accords with their
strength, so that they are soon exhausted. Their song scarcely deserves
the name, and the call-note is monotonous and unpleasing. These birds
are intelligent and social in one sense of the word, but, although they
love to congregate with other species, they are extremely quarrelsome and
spiteful, especially during the season for choosing a mate, when most
pertinacious and furious battles are of constant occurrence--the enraged
combatants falling upon each other, biting, struggling, and screaming in
a manner that is perfectly astounding to a spectator of this miniature
warfare; indeed, it seems as if these encounters took place simply to
gratify the pugnacious propensities of the irritable little creatures.
All the members of this family bathe frequently, paddling about when
in the water until their coats are quite saturated, and subsequently
preen their feathers with the greatest care. Corn and insects form their
principal food, their preference for the former, perhaps, accounting for
the pertinacity with which they frequent the dwellings of men. During the
summer they industriously pursue various kinds of insects, with which
they feed their young. They are fond of fruit, and often attack our
orchards, doing an incalculable amount of injury. It is believed that
these birds produce many broods in the year. The nest, which is placed in
a hole or upon the branch of a tree, consists only of a heap of scraps,
thrown inartistically together without arrangement or care, except that
the softest materials should line the interior.

Sparrows are totally unfitted for life in a cage.


THE COMMON SPARROW.

The COMMON or HOUSE SPARROW (_Passer domesticus_) is well known to all
our readers. The mantle of the male bird is brown, striped with black,
the top of the head blueish grey, edged at its sides with deep chestnut.
The wings are marked with two bands, one white, the other of a rusty
yellow colour, and extremely narrow; the cheeks are greyish white, the
front of the neck black, and the under part of the body light grey.
The female is of a light brownish grey upon the head, whilst over the
eyes runs a pale yellow line; the back is light brown, streaked with
black; the whole of the lower part of the body greyish white; the young
resemble the mother until the first moulting season. The beak is black in
summer and grey in winter, the feet horn-grey, and the eyes brown. Many
varieties of plumage occasionally occur, some individuals being white, or
yellowish white, and some nearly black. The male and female differ but
little in size; both are about six or six and a quarter inches long, and
nine to nine and a half across the wings.

[Illustration: WINTER VISITORS TO THE VILLAGE.]

The House Sparrows inhabit a greater extent of country than almost any
other bird, being found over the whole of the northern portion of the
Eastern hemisphere; moreover, it is a remarkable fact that wherever met
with they are always in a state of semi-domestication: even in Australia,
into which country Sparrows were only introduced some few years ago,
they hold the same relation to man as in Europe. Few villages are to be
found in which these little creatures have not settled, and that in the
fullest sense of the word, as they never fly more than a mile from the
place where they were born, except when in search of a spot on which to
establish themselves. We are told by a Norwegian naturalist that these
birds are yearly seen flying about some parts of Norway in couples, going
from house to house, but that, not finding the country to their liking,
they soon disappear, leaving no trace behind. Our House Sparrow is social
in its habits, and even during the breeding season can hardly be said to
live apart from its fellows; the nests are placed very close together,
the males appearing to enjoy each other's society even whilst the process
of incubation is going on. The young join the rest of the troop as soon
as they can fly. During the whole time that corn can be obtained, or any
green plants remain, these flocks fly daily over the neighbouring fields
and plains in search of food, returning in the middle of the day to the
villages, where they rest, and in the evening assemble upon the trees
or roofs to make their preparations for passing the night--a proceeding
that is always accompanied by great confusion and much squabbling. In the
winter time these intelligent little creatures prepare beds or nests of
the warmest description, into which they creep for shelter from the cold;
they also frequent chimneys, quite regardless of the smoke and soot with
which they are often covered.

[Illustration: SPARROW'S NEST.]

The Sparrow will attach itself to man, but never sufficiently so to
overlook the precautions necessary for its safety; it is ever upon its
guard, and when angry even its inflated plumage cannot conceal the
glances of its bright and crafty little eye; the unexpected opening of a
window, the approach of a stranger, or even a stick held up like a gun,
will at once excite alarm and cause its instant flight. Unlike the Pigeon
race, this bird seems to become more wary and cunning as its intimacy
with man increases--indeed, it never seems to forget the lessons taught
by experience. Despite the clumsiness of its shape, the Sparrow has an
air indicative of considerable spirit, as it hops energetically over the
ground with tail borne aloft and head erect. The social disposition of
these birds in no way interferes with their natural inclination to pick
a quarrel upon every opportunity, and the most ludicrous combats often
take place between the males relative to the appropriation of a mate. On
these occasions, when the battle rages furiously, males and females alike
mingle in the strife, until both parties come pecking, tumbling, and
screaming through the air, to conclude the fight upon some neighbouring
roof, forgetful in their fury of the safety they usually prize so highly,
and take such precautions to ensure. During these contests they carry
the head and neck erect, the tail raised, and their wings somewhat
drooping. The Sparrow seldom flies at any great height; if perched upon
a steeple, or other similar elevation, it will drop rapidly towards the
ground before commencing its flight, rising again in a direct line when
it wishes to attain the same altitude as before, although this attempt
at soaring appears to cost the bird a great effort; it prefers, however,
living at some distance from the ground.

These birds are capable of enduring almost any degree of cold, and but
few perish even during the most severe winters. The note of the Sparrow
is extremely unpleasing; the young utter the same cry as the parents,
and are very noisy while being fed. The female is exceedingly prolific,
breeding sometimes thrice during the year. The nest, which is built
early in the spring, is little more than a rude heap of straw, sticks,
and paper, lined with feathers, and furnished with a kind of lid. Even
this slight preparation for her brood is often avoided by the cunning
female, who will creep into the nest of a Swallow, there to deposit
her eggs; and should she find a brood still occupying it, will at once
destroy the helpless young ones, throwing them over the side, to make
room for her own offspring, quite regardless of the cries of the unhappy
mother. It was once believed that the Swallow would avenge the injury
thus inflicted, but this we regard as a fable. The first eggs--generally
from five to seven in number--are laid in March; the shell is smooth and
delicate, of a dull purplish white, very variously spotted with brown
or dark grey. The parents sit by turns on the nest for about thirteen
or fourteen days; they feed the young at first with soft insects, and
afterwards with corn that has been softened in their crops, until the
fledglings are strong enough to eat seeds and various kinds of fruit. A
week after the first brood has left the nest preparations are commenced
for another, the second batch of eggs being laid within a fortnight of
the departure of the first family; and thus they go on producing brood
after brood until the end of September. Both parents are much attached
to their offspring, and should one of them die, the other will use
every effort to supply the wants of the young birds. Selby gives us a
remarkable example of their perseverance in this duty. He had observed
that a pair of Sparrows continued to carry food until winter was close
at hand, and being anxious to discover the reason of such an unusual
occurrence, examined the nest, in which he found a young bird whose foot
had become entangled, and was in this manner imprisoned, so that the
parents, unable to release it, continued to minister to its wants.

Many persons are inclined to regard Sparrows as mischievous creatures,
without considering the immense services they render by devouring
innumerable noxious insects. Frederick the Great of Prussia, we are told,
was so prejudiced against these birds that he issued a decree that they
should be shot whenever they appeared, and set a price upon their heads.
The poor Sparrows were immediately pursued in all directions, and some
thousands of dollars expended in the course of a few days by the State
as payment for their destruction. The natural result of this barbarism
followed; the trees that had been supposed to be injured by the birds
were so covered with caterpillars and other insects, as to be not only
barren of fruit, but also quite denuded of their leaves, so that the
King was at once obliged to recall his decree, and had to command that
Sparrows should be brought from all parts in order to repair the mischief
that he had done. These birds have been introduced into Australia in
the hope of their being similarly useful. Their flesh is often eaten,
and in Italy small towers are built, in the compartments of which they
make their nests; from these the young are taken as soon as fledged,
and are considered great dainties when spitted on a stick and roasted.
In old Gesner's time they were applied to a very different purpose: two
spoonfuls of burnt Sparrow was supposed to be a cure for avarice, and
the flesh of the nestlings, when applied with a little vinegar, was
considered an excellent remedy for toothache. According to Pliny, their
brains were extensively employed in medicine.

It is now satisfactorily decided that the Sparrows inhabiting Southern
Europe are to be regarded as varieties of our _Passer domesticus_, and
that the differences in their plumage are simply attributable to the
diversity of external circumstances. The colours of the male alter
considerably as it advances in age, or under any great change of climate;
the reddish brown upon the head spreading towards the nape, while, on
the contrary, the same beautiful tint upon the back becomes much more
indistinct as the black shade at the lower part of the feathers extends
and mingles with it. Thus the Sparrows of Provence and Italy, when no
longer young, resemble ours in the colour of the back; but the head is
generally entirely reddish brown or grey, the feathers being tipped with
light brown only after the moulting season. These birds are very numerous
in the warmer parts of Siberia, Buchara, Syria, Java, Egypt, and Nubia,
and are also found in the islands of the Mediterranean, especially in
Sardinia. The so-called Italian Sparrow (_Passer Italicus_) has been
considered by some as constituting a distinct species. In the old males
the top of the head and back of the neck are dark reddish brown, the
sides of the neck and cheeks white, the gorge, throat, and upper part of
the breast deep brownish black, and the sides reddish grey. The female
is of a rusty white, mingled with grey on the under part of the body,
and the markings above the eyes are much paler than in the Sparrow of
Northern Europe. This bird is principally found in the South of France
and Italy, but is quite unknown in the interior of Spain and Egypt. The
_Passer Italiae_ will often mate with our common House Sparrow--the
plumage of the progeny being a curious mixture of that of both parents.


THE SPANISH SPARROW.

The SPANISH SPARROW (_Passer Hispanicus_), or MARSH SPARROW (_Passer
salicicolus_), is about six inches long, and its breadth across the
span of its wings about nine inches and a half. The female is somewhat
smaller than her mate, and in both birds the tail is generally longer
and the tarsus shorter than in the Common Sparrow. In the colour of its
plumage, however, the _Passer Hispanicus_ bears but little resemblance
to the House Sparrow; in the old males the head and back of the neck are
of a dark reddish brown, the back is black, marked with chestnut, and
the throat, breast, and sides are almost black, with a pure white streak
passing above the eyes. The rest of the plumage is similar to that of the
House Sparrow, and the females of both species are almost identical in
appearance.

The Marsh Sparrow inhabits such districts as are abundantly watered, and
is found in Spain, Greece, Northern Africa, and the Canary Islands, as
also in some parts of Asia. It is eminently a field bird, and is seldom
found near human habitations, preferring the vicinity of bogs or water,
near which it is usually to be met with in large flocks. In Egypt these
birds are more frequently to be seen than any other species. Bolle tells
us that the date-palm is very attractive to them, and that for the sake
of the shelter afforded by its crown of leaves, they will occasionally
desert their favourite swamps--especially in Egypt, where they may be
frequently seen near villages rich in these trees, whilst such as do
not possess them are never visited. The same writer also mentions that
on one occasion he saw a settlement of some hundreds living under the
roof of a church. The flight of the Marsh Sparrows is very rapid, and,
unlike the rest of their race, they keep quite close together when on
the wing. In Egypt they may often be seen flying over fields of rice in
such dense masses that numbers might be brought down at a shot. Their
voice is considerably stronger, purer, and more varied than that of
the Common Sparrow, and their disposition much more shy and timorous.
The time of incubation in Egypt and the Canary Isles commences about
February or March, and at this season the palm-trees of the Delta are
covered with their nests, the holes in the stems being also employed as
breeding-places. The nest itself is a very rude affair, and the eggs
so closely resemble those of the Field Sparrow that the most practised
eye cannot distinguish between them. By the month of May the young have
left their home, and the parents at once set about making preparations
for another brood. In no part of the world are these birds regarded
with favour. In Egypt the damage done by them to the fields of rice is
very serious, and Bolle gives us the following account explanatory of
the aversion in which they are held by the inhabitants of the Canary
Isles. The principal promenade of the capital, he tells us, is a most
attractive, cheerful spot, encircled by banana trees, and prettily
decorated with fountains and flowers; consequently, it is a favourite
resort of the beauty and fashion of the place during the long summer
evenings. Night after night elegant groups may be seen lounging and
sitting, listening to the music, and watching the drops of water as they
sparkle in the marble vases, or besprinkle the surrounding myrtles. You
might imagine yourself in some scene embodied from an old romance, when
all at once a strange rustling noise is heard in the summits of the
neighbouring trees, and hosts of sparrows rise into the air, the birds
having been disturbed in their repose by the lighting of the lamps. The
scene is at once changed; exclamations of disgust and annoyance take
the place of laughter and gay conversation, and the señoritas, as they
hurry from a spot suddenly become so dangerous to their elegant toilettes
and rich mantles, are by no means sparing in their invectives against
a torment that compels them to forego all the delights of a summer
evening's walk with their cavaliers, whose complaints against the authors
of the mischief are at any rate equal to their own. For this reason,
the _pajaro palmero_, as it is called, is pursued with great eagerness,
and every attempt made to drive it from the locality. Frequently in the
twilight boys are sent up into the trees with lanterns to catch the
birds whilst blinded by the sudden light, and numbers are thus brought
to expiate their crimes in the frying-pan, for their flesh is much
esteemed. But little, however, can really be done to dislodge them during
the summer; it is only in autumn, when the leaves have fallen, and the
Alameda possesses no more attraction for their enemies than it does for
them, that they condescend to seek a home elsewhere. The same author
tells us that he has frequently seen these birds caged in the Canary
Isles, but though quite tame, they did not appear to thrive, owing, he
imagines, to a lack of insect nourishment.

[Illustration: THE TREE SPARROW (_Passer montanus_), AND THE HOUSE
SPARROW (_Passer domesticus_).]


THE FIELD OR TREE SPARROW.

The FIELD or TREE SPARROW (_Passer montanus_) is met with in the middle
and northern parts of Europe. It is a small bird, of five and a half
inches long and seven and three-quarter inches across the wings, much
resembling the Common Sparrow in colour, but easily distinguishable from
it. The upper part of the head and neck are reddish brown, the mantle
rusty grey, and the bridles, throat, and a spot upon the cheeks black,
the remainder of the head being white. The lower part of the body is
light grey, the beak black, the feet a reddish horn colour. The sexes
closely resemble each other, and the young are scarcely distinguishable
from the parent birds.

This species inhabits more particularly the eastern side of our
hemisphere, extending even as far north as the Polar Regions; it is
met with in Asia, and is very numerous in Japan. Meadows, woods, and
pastures, are its favourite resorts, and it is only in winter that it
seeks the abodes of man, in the hope of obtaining food; when in the
woods, it lives in very large parties except during the breeding season.
In disposition the Field Sparrow closely resembles its congeners, but is
somewhat duller, owing to the little intercourse it has with our race.
Its bearing is superior to that of the House Sparrow, as the little
creature is courageous, animated, and very trim in its appearance; its
flight is light, and its pace easy and rapid; the call-note is short,
but is similar to that of the rest of its family. From autumn to spring,
seeds and berries constitute its principal food; in summer it feeds upon
caterpillars, aphides, and other insects, rendering good service to
mankind by clearing the trees and shrubs of these visitants, and thus
atoning for the damage it frequently does to fields of wheat and millet.
The nestlings are fed upon insects and milky grains of corn. The breeding
season lasts from April to August, and each pair rears two families
during the year, building their nests in holes of trees, or occasionally
in convenient nooks in houses or out-buildings; in structure they are
like those of other Sparrows. The brood consists of from five to seven
eggs, resembling those of their congeners, but somewhat smaller; the
parents sit alternately, the period of incubation lasting about thirteen
or fourteen days. The Field Sparrow frequently pairs with other species;
when this occurs the male is a Field and the female a House Sparrow; and
the young, in such cases, are also capable of laying fertile eggs. These
birds are easily caught by means of bird-lime and other simple traps, and
may be reared upon all kinds of seeds, varied with a little green food.


THE PLAIN SPARROW.

The PLAIN SPARROW (_Pyrgitopsis simplex_) is a remarkable species,
inhabiting the wooded country of Eastern Soudan, where it is frequently
to be seen near the huts of the natives. In size it is larger than most
of its congeners, its length being about six and a half inches, and the
span of the wings ten and a half inches. The body is slender, and the
beak much elongated; the plumage, as its name indicates, is of very
uniform colour; the head and neck mouse-grey, the back and wing-covers
rusty brown, the wing and tail quills dark brown, edged with a faint
rust-red; the lower part of the body is of a light reddish grey, the
throat somewhat lighter, and the belly whitish, the eye light reddish
brown, the beak black, and the feet reddish horn colour.

This species is found over the whole of Central and Southern Africa,
where it lives in pairs or small parties, being rarely seen in large
flocks; its habits resemble those of our Field Sparrow, but, unlike that
bird, it often frequents the depths of forests. The nest is built in
holes of trees, or in the straw roofing of the native huts. Its voice
is similar to that of other Sparrows, and the breeding season commences
early in spring. We are unacquainted with the appearance of the eggs.


THE GOLDEN SPARROW.

The GOLDEN SPARROW (_Chrysospiza lutea_), also a native of Africa, is one
of the most beautiful members of this family. The head, neck, and entire
under part of the body are of a golden yellow, the mantle reddish brown,
the small upper wing-covers black, the wing and tail quills dark grey,
edged with reddish brown. The female is very like that of the Common
Sparrow, her tints, however, being more golden, and her throat yellow.
The young male is like its mother, but brighter. In size the Golden
Sparrow resembles the Common species.

Well-watered plains, abounding in mimosa-bushes, afford the shelter most
agreeable to these birds, and from such localities they sally forth in
large flocks to fall upon the fields of corn or grass. They generally fly
over a very limited extent of country, and exhibit so little timidity
that they will allow a man to approach quite close to them before taking
alarm; they are thus easily brought down by a shot, which only drives
the rest of the party to a short distance. Before the rainy season, when
the ground is parched and barren, the Golden Sparrow visits the villages
and small towns in hope of finding food in the surrounding farmyards and
gardens, and though at first rather shy, soon loses all fear of man.

Incubation takes place during the period of the heavy rains, the flocks
dividing into pairs about the month of August, keeping at no great
distance from each other, and often building close together. The nest,
like that of other Sparrows, is constructed, without much art, of such
materials as happen to be in the neighbourhood, and is placed but a few
feet above the ground. The eggs, three or four in number, are white,
spotted with brown, and about eight lines in length. The young are
seen flying with their parents by the end of September or October. The
moulting season is in the month of January, and by June or July the coats
of the adult birds have acquired their greatest beauty. We have never
seen the African Golden Sparrow in a cage, even in its own country, for
though striking in plumage, it is entirely deficient in song.


THE ROCK SPARROW.

The ROCK SPARROW (_Petronia rupestris_) is most undoubtedly to be classed
with the preceding birds, though differing from them in shape, colour,
and habits. The body is compact, its length six and a quarter inches,
and breadth across the wings nine and a half inches, the female somewhat
less. The beak is comparatively strong, and the plumage very plain,
resembling that of the female House Sparrow. The back is greyish brown,
marked with blackish-brown and greyish-white spots; the upper tail-covers
grey, and striped, as is the forehead, with olive brown; over the eyes
passes a lighter streak, and the tail-feathers have a white spot on the
under side. In winter the beak is of a brownish grey, in summer of a
yellow tint, the upper mandible being darker than the under; the eyes
are brown, and the tarsus reddish grey. There is but little difference
in the appearance of the sexes after they have attained maturity, and
females are often found as beautifully marked as the male. The young are
recognisable by a white spot upon the throat.

In the South of France, Spain, Algiers, and the Canary Islands, the Rock
Sparrow is extremely common. It is found principally in mountainous
districts, among old ruins, but is often met with near towns or villages,
and in lonely valleys; it is by no means afraid of man, though it but
rarely comes down into the streets, preferring to remain in the retreats
it has chosen in cliffs or old towers, until compelled by hunger to
seek its food in the adjacent fields. Above all other things it prizes
liberty, and exhibits a foresight and prudence in its intercourse with
our race that distinguishes it in a remarkable degree from the rest of
its congeners. In its movements the Rock Sparrow bears a considerable
resemblance to the Cross-bill; its flight is produced by a short, quick
vibration of the wings, upon which it poises itself with a hovering
motion before perching. It hops nimbly upon the ground, and while sitting
assumes a defiant attitude, and wags its tail repeatedly. The voice of
this bird might almost be termed a song, and is not unlike that of the
Bullfinch, though by no means so agreeable or varied. The breeding season
commences at the end of spring, or the beginning of summer. This species
builds in holes in rocks, walls, or roofs, and with so much precaution
are their retreats selected that it is extremely difficult to find a
nest. The one we saw was constructed of straws and bits of cloth and
linen, carelessly intermixed, and lined with feathers, hair, and wool.
One of these little cradles is often used for years by the same birds,
who make whatever improvements are necessary as spring returns. The
eggs, which are five in number, are larger than those of the generality
of Sparrows, and of a greyish or dirty white, spotted and streaked with
slate colour, the markings being most numerous at the broad end. We are
unable to speak with certainty as to whether both parents brood, although
they certainly co-operate in taking care of their progeny. When the young
first leave the nest they associate in flocks, and fly about the country
until the autumn, the parents, in the meantime, employing themselves in
rearing a second and third family. Rock Sparrows subsist principally upon
insects, seeds, and berries. In Spain and Germany they are often to be
seen hopping through the dirt in the streets, and in the former country
are brought to market spitted upon a stick. They are easily obtained by
the help of nets or limed twigs, but are so wary that it is difficult to
bring them down with a gun. In spite of its shyness this species is very
well adapted for the cage, and will become so tame as to take its food
out of the hand of its master.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HAWFINCHES (_Coccothraustæ_) have usually been classed amongst the
true Finches (_Fringillæ_), but in our opinion they should be regarded
as the type of a peculiar family. The birds belonging to this group are
recognisable by their compact body, long wings, comparatively short tail,
short, powerful legs, and above all by their strong, rounded, thick,
and pointed beak, furnished with a longitudinal groove within the upper
mandible, behind which there is a transverse ridge, placed directly
above a corresponding depression in the lower mandible, surrounded by
a thickened margin. The plumage is rich, somewhat lax, and, though
striking, not brightly coloured. The members of this group are found in
all parts of the world--indeed, some species are extremely numerous, but
our knowledge of their mode of life and habits is but limited.


THE GREEN GROSBEAK.

The GREEN GROSBEAK (_Chloris hortensis_), or GREENFINCH, as it is
generally called, must be regarded as forming, as it were, a bond of
connection between the present family and the Goldfinches. This bird
has a strong conical beak, somewhat compressed at its edges, with a
small ball-like elevation in the interior of the upper mandible. The
feet are longer than those of the true Hawfinch, and the body elongated,
but powerful. The plumage is principally of a green colour, that of the
male being olive-green on the upper part of the body, the lower portion
greenish yellow, the wings ash-grey, the tail black, the anterior
quill-feathers of the wings and the five exterior tail-quills beautifully
marked with yellow. The beak is of a yellowish flesh colour, and the eye
brown. The plumage of the male is duller during the winter, owing to the
grey with which the feathers are then bordered. The coat of the females
never loses this sombre tint: the young are distinguishable by the dark
streaks upon their bodies both above and below.

The Greenfinch inhabits the whole of Europe, and a large portion of
Asia, with the exception of the most northerly countries: it is also
numerous in Spain, but quite unknown in Siberia. Everywhere it is found
about pasture-land, and such localities as are at no great distance from
human habitations; it avoids all thickly-wooded places, and usually
lives in pairs or small parties, the latter increasing into large flocks
only during their passage from one country to another, at which times
they associate freely with many other small birds of kindred habits.
The Greenfinch generally selects some small coppice or garden for its
residence, and passes the entire day in flitting from place to place,
or upon the ground, whither it resorts in search of food. At night it
seeks a shelter in the branches of some thickly-foliaged tree. Although
clumsy in appearance it is a lively, active bird, light and easy in all
its movements. Whilst perched the plumage is generally allowed to hang
heavily round the body; but at times the bird stands erect, and lays its
feathers so close and flat as to present an entirely different exterior.
It hops with facility when upon the ground, and its course through the
air is light and undulating, owing to the manner in which it opens and
closes its wings; it always hovers before alighting. When flying, these
birds repeatedly utter their call, which, though a soft note, can be
heard at a considerable distance; when employed as a cry of warning, it
is accompanied by a gentle distinct whistle; on the approach of man they
rise at once into the air, and thus render the task of shooting them both
wearisome and difficult. Seeds of all kinds afford them nourishment,
although they prefer those of an oily nature, such as rapeseed or
linseed, only seeking food upon the trees when the ground is covered with
snow. Fields of hemp offer an irresistible attraction to these little
creatures--indeed, they seldom leave them until the crop is entirely
destroyed; they are also at times very troublesome in fruit gardens, in
spite of the services they render in clearing the trees of insects.

[Illustration: THE GREEN GROSBEAK (_Chloris hortensis_).]

The Greenfinch breeds twice or even thrice during the year. Just before
the time for pairing, the movements of the male are very animated; it
sings constantly, as it soars rapidly into the air, raising its wings
so high at each stroke that the tips almost touch each other. It thus
sweeps backwards and forwards, turns round in circles, and then, slowly
fluttering, descends to the spot from which it rose. Should another male
venture to approach the little couple, he is immediately driven off by
his happier rival, whilst the female remains quietly perched, watching
the proceedings of her mate with great delight. The nest is built of such
materials as are easily obtained, and usually placed on a forked branch,
or close against the stem of a tree. This beautiful structure consists of
an outer wall formed of straws, and fibres or fine roots, upon which is
spread a layer of green moss or some similar material; the interior is
lined with a warm blanket of wool, and the mossy exterior is always woven
together with hair. The nest is of a round shape, its walls including
rather more than the half of a sphere, being from two and a half to two
and three-quarter inches wide at the top, and about two inches deep. The
construction of this snug domicile devolves entirely upon the female,
her mate merely endeavouring to lighten her labours by his company. The
first eggs are laid about the end of April, the second in June, and the
third at the beginning of August; they are from four to six in number,
and from nine to sixteen lines in length; the shape is but slightly
oval, the shell thin, smooth, and of a blueish-white or silvery colour,
marked more or less distinctly with light red spots, which form a kind of
irregular wreath at the broadest end. The female sits upon her brood for
about a fortnight, and is fed and tended during that time by her mate.
Both parents, however, combine in the care of their progeny, feeding them
at first with seeds softened in their crops, and afterwards with the
same food in its natural state. These duties are but of short duration,
the young soon quit the nest to go forth alone into the world, or fly
in company with other Finches; nevertheless, they rejoin their parents
as soon as the latter have fulfilled their work of incubation. The
Greenfinch is much sought after on account of the delicacy of its flesh,
but we cannot recommend it as suitable for domestication, as its song is
very insignificant, and its disposition so quarrelsome that it will not
live in peace with others of its race; on the other hand, we must mention
that few species adapt themselves so readily to life in a cage.


THE HAWFINCH.

The HAWFINCH (_Coccothraustes vulgaris_) is easily distinguishable from
the true Finches on account of the unusual heaviness of its shape: its
length is seven inches, and breadth across the wings twelve inches; its
tail two and a half inches long, and the wing three and three-quarter
inches from the shoulder to the tip. The female is somewhat smaller. The
plumage is greyish yellow upon the fore-part of the head, and brownish
yellow at the back and on the cheeks; the neck and throat ash-grey, the
back light brown; the lower part of the body brownish grey, and the
throat black; the wings black, with a white spot in their centre; the
beak a dark blue in winter, and in summer grey, somewhat darker towards
the tip. The eye is light grey, the foot light red. In the female all
these colours are paler, and the black patch upon the throat smaller than
in the male. In the young birds the feathers on the head are greyish
yellow, those on the nape of the neck dirty brownish yellow, the back
greyish brown, the lower part of the body greyish white, shading into
reddish grey upon the throat and sides, and marked with blackish brown.
The middle tail-feathers are very peculiar, becoming broader towards
their ends, which are slightly forked.

These birds inhabit all the temperate portions of Europe and Asia, and
are found in Sweden, also in the southern and western parts of Russia,
and are amongst the summer visitors to Siberia. They fly about in large
flocks, often reaching Algiers and Morocco in the course of their
migrations; and generally prefer such mountainous or hilly countries
as are well wooded, occasionally frequenting fruit and vegetable
gardens. During the summer each little pair settles in a retired spot,
selecting such districts as are at no great distance from a cherry
orchard, and passing the night perched close together upon the twigs
of some thickly-foliaged tree. The Hawfinch, as its shape would lead
us to suppose, is very heavy and inactive, every change of place being
apparently the subject of lengthy consideration; even if alarmed, it
only flies a few paces, immediately returning to the same spot; its
movements among the branches are rather more active, but its little legs
seem hardly able to support its body when upon the ground. Its flight is
swift, undulatory, and noisy, owing to the rapid motion of its wings;
it usually hovers before perching. Despite the clumsy appearance of
this bird, it is extremely cunning and prudent, easily distinguishing
a friend from a foe, and taking every precaution for its own safety.
At the approach of danger it conceals itself so artfully among the
foliage as to render discovery almost impossible; at other times it will
perch on the topmost branches in order to observe the movements of an
enemy--indeed, we ourselves endeavoured some years ago to capture one
of these wary little creatures with the help of some favourite seed,
but eight days passed before we were successful, as the use of our gun
appeared to be quite understood by the intended victims. These birds are
fond of beech-nuts and cherries, preferring the latter solely on account
of the kernels; in order to obtain which, the cherry is bitten off and
its stone separated from the fleshy part, the latter being rejected. The
fruit stones are cracked with such force and noise that the process may
be heard at thirty paces from the tree, and the kernel is then extracted
and swallowed. When fruit is scarce the Hawfinch is compelled to seek its
food upon the ground, occasionally doing great damage amongst our seeds.
In winter it subsists almost entirely upon the fruit of the hawthorn and
other stone fruits and berries, from the latter of which it extracts
the seeds as its favourite portion; it also consumes various kinds of
insects, such as beetles and their larvæ, in great numbers, and will even
catch Cockchafers (_Melolontha_) when upon the wing, and devour them
after throwing away the legs and elytra. One or two broods are produced
during the year, from about May to July, each pair taking possession
of a little district which no other bird is permitted to approach, the
male keeping constant watch for intruders from the top of his tree, or
detecting them by short flights in the vicinity of his nest. His song
is a disagreeable, sharp, whirring noise, which we may hope affords
greater pleasure to his mate than it does to us, for her little partner
is most indefatigable in his efforts to entertain her with his voice,
often singing for hours together, accompanying his notes with rapid and
varied gesticulations. The nest, which is easily recognised from its
unusual width, is built of twigs and straws, lined with softer materials,
firmly bound together with hair, and though by no means elaborately
constructed, may be classed amongst the number of well-built nests; it
is usually placed upon a thin branch, extreme care being taken to ensure
its concealment. The eggs, three or five in number, are an inch long, of
a dirty greenish or yellowish colour, marked with various shades of brown
or grey. The female sits during the greatest part of the day, but is
relieved for a short time about noon, when her mate takes his place upon
the eggs. The young are tended by both parents for many weeks after they
are hatched, as it is long before their beaks are capable of cracking the
cherry-stones from which they derive the principal part of their food.
The serious injury done by this species in orchards explains the extreme
aversion in which it is held; one family alone will completely clear a
tree of its fruit in an incredibly short time, and as long as a single
cherry is left the destroyers will return, in despite of all the noises
made in the hope of driving them from the spot. The gun affords the only
means of scaring them, and even to its sound they soon become accustomed.
Few birds are so pertinaciously and constantly pursued, and yet, thanks
to their cunning, they are more than a match for their numerous enemies.

Attempts to domesticate the Cherry Hawfinch usually prove unsuccessful,
as its formidable beak and quarrelsome habits render it dangerous to its
companions; it has even been known to eat its own young when in captivity.


THE EVENING CHERRY HAWFINCH.

The EVENING CHERRY HAWFINCH or SUGAR-BIRD (_Hesperiphona vespertina_),
(so called on the authority of Cooper, who tells us that its song is only
heard in the evening twilight), is the most beautiful species belonging
to this family. It inhabits the almost unexplored northern parts of North
America. The SUGAR-BIRD, as it is called by the Indians, is from eight
to eight and a half inches long, three inches of which belong to the
tail; the wing measures four and two-third inches from the shoulder to
the tip. In the male bird the top of the head, wings, and tail are deep
black, the line over the eyes, the middle of the back, lower part of
the body, and under wing and tail covers, being of a bright yellow. The
nape of the neck, sides of head, throat, and back of the neck, together
with a portion of the back and breast, are dark olive brown, the sides
of the shoulders yellow, with a greenish gloss, the quills of a dazzling
whiteness at the tip--all these various colours being so blended as
greatly to enhance the beauty of the whole coat. The female is without
the yellow line upon the head and the white spot upon the hinder quills;
the other feathers are paler and greyer in their tints; some of the
wing-feathers are tipped with white.

We learn from Townsend that the Evening Hawfinches are very numerous in
the pine forests of Columbia, and so tame as to become an easy prey.
Their song, which is popularly supposed to be only heard in the twilight,
may in favourable localities be distinguished during the entire day, but
as soon as night approaches they withdraw to the tree tops, and do not
stir again till morning dawns. They seem to be of a social disposition,
and are rarely seen living alone. They feed principally upon the seeds of
pine cones, but likewise consume the larvæ of large black ants in great
quantities. Their cry when in search of food has a somewhat screeching
sound; the actual song commences about noon; this latter is a most dismal
performance, and its tones are so pitiful that the bird itself seems to
feel their influence, and pauses from time to time as though overcome by
its own melancholy music, recommencing, however, very shortly, but with
the same result as before. Nothing further is known as to the habits of
this beautiful bird, which may be reckoned among the greatest rarities in
our collections.


THE LARGE-BEAKED HAWFINCH.

The LARGE-BEAKED HAWFINCH (_Geospiza magnirostris_) is a very remarkable
species, inhabiting the Galapagos Islands, and is at once distinguishable
by its enormous beak and short tail. The plumage of the old male is raven
black, that of the female brown; the head is horn colour, and the feet
dusky. These birds spend the greatest part of the day in searching for
food upon the ground, and Darwin mentions having seen one of them riding
fearlessly upon the back of a lizard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The PARROT FINCHES (_Pityli_) are now generally included amongst the
_Conirostres_, and associated with the Hawfinches. They are known by
their short wings, long tail, and peculiar beak, which is very strong,
thick, and bulging, the edge being more or less compressed, and slightly
angular. The first quill is always very short, and the third and fourth
usually the longest. The wings are powerful, the tarsus high, and the
toes of moderate length. The plumage is thick, soft, and entirely without
metallic brilliancy. In colour it is usually grey or greenish grey,
occasionally, but very rarely, marked with reddish yellow, black, or
some bright colour. South America is the true habitat of these birds,
which are seldom found in the northern parts of the Western Hemisphere.
They are for the most part incapable of song, although some few are
highly gifted in this respect. In their general habits they resemble the
Hawfinches, and, like them, subsist upon seeds, berries, and insects.


THE ROSE-BREASTED HAWFINCH.

The ROSE-BREASTED HAWFINCH (_Coccoborus ludovicianus_) is an American
bird, equally remarkable for its beauty of plumage and sweetness of song.
It is about seven inches long and eleven inches across; the wing measures
three inches, and the tail rather more than two. The body is compact,
the wings broad and of moderate length; the tail comparatively short and
somewhat rounded; the beak short, strong, pointed, and almost conical;
the upper mandible slightly hooked. The plumage is soft, brilliant, and
very striking in its colours. The entire head, as well as the upper part
and nape of the neck, back, wings, and tail is glossy black; the first
row of feathers on the wing-covers and the tips of those on the second
row are white, as are the roots of the primary quills, the wings being
thus bordered by a double band of white. The inner web of the three
exterior tail-feathers is also white, and the sides of the breast, under
part of the body, lower portion of the neck, and middle of the breast,
of a magnificent carmine red, the latter colour being also visible upon
the lower wing-covers. The beak is whitish, the eyes are brown, and the
feet greyish brown. The plumage of the female is olive grey, spotted
with dark brown, each individual feather being marked in the middle with
the same colour. Over the head runs a yellow stripe, spotted and edged
with dark brown; the eyes are surrounded by a white line; the wings and
tail are brown, the lower portions of both having a yellowish shade; the
former are bordered by two light lines, which are much narrower than in
the male. The neck, breast, and sides are marked with dark brown, and the
lower wing-covers shaded with rose colour.

[Illustration: THE ROSE-BREASTED HAWFINCH (_Coccoborus ludovicianus_).]

Audubon tells us that he frequently observed these magnificent birds in
some parts of Louisiana, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, during the month of
March, as they passed over the country in the course of their migrations.
Pennsylvania, New York, and other States lying eastward, are likewise
often visited by them; but they are rarely seen in Labrador or on the
coasts of Georgia, or Carolina, although they inhabit the mountains of
those regions. They are generally numerous near the banks of a river,
and large parties of them frequent the neighbourhood of Lakes Ontario
and Erie. When in flight, these beautiful Finches rise high into the
air with violent and very decided strokes of the wings. The call-note
is uttered whilst flying, and ceases as soon as the bird has alighted
upon a tree-top, where it remains perched erect and motionless for a few
minutes, and then seeks shelter in some retired and shady spot. Many
varieties of seeds, buds, and tender shoots form their principal food,
and they are in the habit of seizing insects while on the wing. The nest,
which is built chiefly of twigs and leaves, lined with hair or delicate
fibres, is placed at variable distances from the ground, such localities
being preferred as are in the vicinity of water. There is but one brood
during the year, and both parents co-operate in the duties of incubation.
The young are at first fed upon insects, and at a later period on seeds,
softened in the crops of the parent birds; they do not attain their full
beauty of plumage until three years old. The song of the Rose-breasted
Hawfinch is rich and pleasing. Nuttall tells us that in fine weather it
will sing during the whole night, pouring out floods of song as varied
and enchanting as those of the Nightingale, the little songster appearing
to manifest the greatest delight at its own performance of strains that
are alternately plaintive, gay, and tender. The Mocking-bird is the only
American species that can bear comparison with it, so that its vocal
powers, combined with its great beauty and the ease with which it is
tamed, render it one of the most valuable birds of its size for purposes
of domestication.


THE CARDINAL GROSBEAK.

The CARDINAL or TUFTED GROSBEAK (_Cardinalis Virginianus_) is closely
allied to the species we have just described, as is plainly indicated by
its compact body, short wings, graduated tail, and upright attitude. The
length of the Cardinal is about eight inches, its breadth rather more
than eleven inches, the wing, from shoulder to tip, three inches, and the
tail three and a half inches. The soft and glossy plumage of the male is
very beautiful, though almost uniform in its tints, the prevailing colour
being dark red; the head is scarlet, and the face and throat deep black;
the inner web of the wing is light brown, the shafts being of a darker
shade, the beak bright red, the eyes dark greyish brown, the feet pale
brown, shaded with greyish blue. In the female the tints are paler than
those of her mate, and the tuft shorter; the back of the head, nape of
the neck, and upper part of the back are greyish brown; the forehead,
eyebrows, and tuft deep red; the wings dark brownish red. The individual
quills are bordered with greyish brown, the lower part of the body is
greenish brown, the breast and middle of the body of a reddish hue, and
the beak pale red.

The Cardinal is found in nearly all parts of North America, inhabiting
the Southern States in large numbers; but, we believe, is entirely
unknown in the extreme north of that continent. It prefers such districts
as are near the coast, and during mild seasons will remain for years
together in the same locality; but should extreme cold set in, it at once
changes its abode for a more southern region. Its life is passed upon
the trees, from which it makes short excursions over the neighbouring
country. Should food be scarce in its favourite woods, it visits fields
and gardens, and is occasionally met with in the villages, where it
receives a hearty welcome on account of its brilliant plumage and
delightful song. In the summer time these birds may be seen in pairs;
in winter they associate in small parties, living on very friendly
terms with many other species, and constantly frequenting farmyards,
where their strong beaks are of the greatest service to them, enabling
them to feed upon the various kinds of corn scattered over the ground;
at night they sleep upon a thickly-foliaged tree, and thus survive the
winter months. They are remarkably restless, and rarely remain longer
than a minute in one position; their flight is abrupt, rapid, and noisy,
the movements of their wings being accompanied by a constant opening
and closing of the tail; they seldom fly to any great distance, and hop
nimbly, either upon the ground or in the trees. Should the winter prove
severe, the Cardinal journeys southward in search of a milder climate,
returning about March, in company with other migratory birds. Audubon
tells us that these journeys are accomplished in some measure _on foot_,
the little creature hopping from one bush to another, and flying over
more considerable distances. The males return some days previous to their
female companions; shortly after their re-appearance the pairing season
commences, and is always inaugurated by violent disputes and battles
between the males, who chase each other from place to place with bitter
animosity, and then return to pour forth a song of triumph in the ear of
their mates, to whom they are most tenderly attached; bushes or trees
in the vicinity of a river or farmyard are the localities generally
preferred for building purposes, and the nest is frequently placed within
a few yards of that of a Mocking-bird. In the Northern States the female
lays but once during the year, but further south three broods are by no
means unusual, each consisting of from four to six eggs of a dirty white
colour, marked with olive brown. The food of the Cardinal consists of
corn, seed, and various berries; during spring it devours the berries
of the sugar-maple in large quantities, and in summer wages continual
war against beetles, butterflies, and caterpillars, committing great
depredations in the gardens, attacking the fruit and destroying the bees.
American naturalists are loud in their praises of the song of this bird,
to which they give the name of "the Virginian Nightingale," asserting
that its notes are fully equal to those of its European namesake, both
in purity and variety of tone. Audubon describes its song as resembling
the sound of a flageolet, commencing in a loud clear key, and gradually
sinking until scarcely audible. It is during the breeding season that
these notes are heard in their greatest perfection, the little songster
appearing to feel the full beauty of its own performance, as it inflates
its breast, spreads its tail, and opens its wings, turning from right
to left as though to attract attention to the wonderful sounds it is
producing. Again and again these strains are renewed, the pretty vocalist
only pausing from sheer exhaustion, sometimes continuing its song almost
without intermission from sunrise to sunset, occasionally accompanied by
the less pretentious effort of its mate. European naturalists are by no
means so enthusiastic in their notices of this bird, and pronounce its
song to be more striking than beautiful. The Cardinal is easily reared in
captivity, but it is so quarrelsome as to be dangerous to any companions
confined in the same cage.


THE DOMINICAN FINCH.

The DOMINICAN FINCH (_Paroaria dominicana_) is the species we shall
select as the type of the group Paroaria, or Grey Finches, so called from
the leaden colour of a portion of their plumage, the entire back being
grey, the sides of the belly white, and the head usually red. This bird
is slender in shape, with pointed wings that reach almost to the middle
of the rounded tail; the beak is straight and thick, but slightly hooked
at its tip, the edge somewhat compressed, with a slight ridge near the
centre; the legs are powerful and of moderate length. The Dominican Finch
is about six and a half inches long and ten and a half inches across; the
wing about three and a half inches long and the tail three inches. The
plumage of the nape of the neck, back, wings, and tail is of a dark slate
colour; the lower part of the body white, marked upon the sides of the
breast with a greyish shade; the head, gorge, and fore part of the neck
are, with the exception of the black ear-covers, of a deep blood red, the
back of the neck being separated from the grey nape by a white band. The
upper mandible is of a blackish grey, the lower one of a whitish tint;
the eye is brown, and the legs a brownish flesh colour. There is but
little difference between the plumage of the male and female.

These beautiful birds inhabit the northern part of Brazil, and are found
principally about Bahia, Para, and the river Amazon, where, like most of
their tribe, they live in pairs, on bushes that border the large forests;
but are by no means numerous. They are very quiet and simple in their
habits, and will live for a considerable time in a cage. Their song is
short and twittering, and the call-note clear.


THE TINY FINCH.

The TINY FINCH, or LITTLE PARSON (_Gyrinorhyncha_, or _Sporophila
minuta_), is a small species, measuring not more than five inches in its
entire length. The upper part of the body of the male is black, and the
lower portion a rusty red. The back of the female resembles that of her
mate, but the breast is reddish brown, and the belly a rusty yellow; the
young are like their mother.

Like its congeners, this bird is found principally upon the grassy plains
of Brazil, where it lives upon various kinds of seeds. It is a smart,
pleasing little creature, with an agreeable voice, and on these accounts
is much valued by the Brazilians, in spite of the damage it occasionally
does to their crops. The Tiny Finch is distinguished by its small
beak, hooked at the tip, resembling that of the Bullfinch in shape; by
its comparatively long wings, short tail, and by the black shades that
predominate in the upper portion of the plumage of the male bird.


THE DIADEM GROSBEAK.

The DIADEM GROSBEAK (_Catamblyrhynchus diadematus_), another member of
this family, inhabits Santa Fé de Bogota. Its length is five and a half
inches, and the wing measures two inches and a half. The beak of this
bird is very thick, and not unlike that of the Bullfinch in shape, the
upper mandible being but slightly hooked; the wings are rounded, the tail
somewhat shortened at its sides, and the feet very strong. The bridles,
cheeks, sides of the neck, and whole of the lower part of the body, are
of a chestnut brown; the brow and front of the head orange colour; the
back of the head and nape black, and the remainder of the upper part of
the body blueish grey; the wings and tail are brownish, the former being
edged with blueish grey. The beak is black, as is a narrow streak upon
the cheeks, and the feet are brown. We are totally unacquainted with the
habits of this species.


THE ASHY-BLUE PARROT FINCH.

The ASHY-BLUE PARROT FINCH (_Pitylus cœrulescens_) is a large bird,
about nine inches long and twelve in breadth, the wings and tail
measuring about four inches. Its beak is thick, arched, and compressed
at the margins, terminating at its tip in an abrupt hook. The wings
are short, and when closed do not extend beyond the upper tail-covers;
the two first quills are considerably shorter than the third; the tail
is very long, and its three exterior quills much shorter than the
six that form the middle portion; the small delicate legs seem quite
disproportioned to the size of the beak. The plumage of both sexes is
soft, but by no means thick; that of the male being a deep blackish slate
colour shaded with indigo blue, and the mantle and wings of a blueish
green. The face stripes, region of the eyes, ear-covers, front and sides
of neck, chin, throat, and upper part of the breast, are deep black, the
wing and tail feathers black, the former white on the anterior border;
the lower wing-covers are pure white, the eye is greyish brown, the beak
of a reddish colour, and of a deeper shade at its tip; the legs are
brownish black. In the plumage of the female the bright colours are not
so vivid on the upper part of the body; the black portion of the throat
is not so deep in its hue, and the entire coat appears duller; the beak
is of a pale red. The young male is known by the light yellow coloured
beak, and by the inferior purity of its tints.

This species is not frequently met with. It inhabits South America, and
usually lives in pairs, avoiding the interior of forests, and delighting
to disport itself in the sunny meadows of its native land. When perched
in the brushwood, the contrast between its bright red beak and dark coat
and the green foliage renders it a conspicuous object in the landscape.
The call is a chirping note, not unlike that of the Hawfinch.


THE MASKED PARROT FINCH.

The MASKED PARROT FINCH (_Caryothraustes Brasiliensis_) is closely
related to the last-mentioned bird. The formation of the beak is very
similar to that above described, but it is somewhat less arched, and
not quite so thick. The wings, which are comparatively long, reach when
folded half way down the remarkably short tail; the latter is slightly
rounded, and its exterior quills but little shorter than the rest; the
legs are weak, and the very thick plumage beautifully coloured. In size
this species resembles the common Hawfinch, being from six and a half
to seven inches long; the wings measure rather more than three inches,
and the tail three inches. The entire face is coal black; the brow,
region of the eye, top of the head, sides of the neck, lower part of the
throat, and middle of the belly, bright green; the breast and sides of
the body are shaded with a darker tint. The mantle is olive green, the
wing-feathers greyish brown, with a border of green edged with yellow.
The two middle feathers of the tail are almost entirely olive green,
the rest greyish green, with a yellowish shade upon the inner web; the
outer web is olive green. The eye is brown, the beak a brilliant black,
somewhat paler towards the base, which in the old birds is of a leaden
hue; the legs are reddish brown.

[Illustration: THE DOMINICAN FINCH (_Paroaria dominicana_).]

We know little or nothing of this bird beyond the fact that it inhabits
some parts of Brazil, and is generally found in small flocks in the
vicinity of woods and forests, or occasionally living solitarily or in
pairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE HABIAS.

Under the name of HABIAS (_Saltator_) we shall include a group of South
American Parrot Finches that are distinguished by their thick beaks,
short wings, and long tails, the latter being rounded at the tip, as are
the wings. The first quill of the latter is much shorter than the rest,
the legs are very powerful, and the beak, which is black, high, and
compressed at its edge, is almost straight at the tip. The upper part of
the back and wings are of an olive green.


THE CAPI.

The CAPI (_Saltator cœrulescens_) is nearly of the same size as our
English Blackbird, being about eight inches long and twelve broad; the
wing measures four inches from the shoulder to the tip, and the tail
three and a half inches. The plumage upon the nape, back, and wings
is blueish grey, shaded with yellowish brown; the bridles and a line
over the eyes and throat are white, the latter being divided from the
chin by a black streak; the upper part of the breast is grey, and the
lower portion of the body of a paler shade; the wings and inner web of
the wings are a rusty yellow, spotted with grey; the tail a dark slate
colour, the beak brownish grey, and the feet a dusky black.

[Illustration: THE RARITA, OR RARA (_Phytotoma Rara_).]

These birds are found in considerable numbers in the southern parts
of Brazil, where they frequent the trees, avoiding deep forests, and
at times do considerable damage in the gardens; they are usually seen
in pairs or small parties, and are by no means afraid of man, in the
vicinity of whose dwellings they are constantly to be met with. They fly
slowly and with difficulty, rarely coming to the ground, on which their
movements are neither animated nor easy; their life is spent principally
in the midst of the trees or bushes, from whence they fly forth to
procure the seeds, buds, snails, or insects that constitute their
principal food, though they occasionally eat the strips of meat that
have been laid to dry in the fields. The song of the Capi is extremely
insignificant, and except during the breeding season scarcely deserves to
be called by that name. The nest is built about the month of November; it
is carelessly formed of moss, roots and twigs of various sizes, a high
thick branch affording the favourite locality for its construction. The
eggs, two or three in number, are greenish blue, marked at the broad end
with a variety of spots and lines. Little is known of the habits of these
birds beyond what we are told by Azara, who kept one of them caged for
some time in order to observe its conduct; it would take almost any food
that was given to it, but, strangely enough, ate like a quadruped, taking
large pieces into its beak and chewing them.

       *       *       *       *       *

The PLANT CUTTERS (_Phytotoma_) are a very remarkable race of birds,
closely resembling the Habias in their general appearance and habits,
but differing from them in the construction of their beaks, which are
furnished at their edge with a saw-like apparatus, that enables them
to cut down the various plants upon which they feed. Most marvellous
tales have been told by early writers of the habits of these destroyers,
and although much has been proved to be fabulous, still there can be no
question that the damage done by them to the crops in their native land
is both extensive and serious, so that they are proportionably dreaded
and persecuted by its inhabitants.


THE RARITA.

The RARITA, or RARA (_Phytotoma Rara_), the most redoubtable species,
has been fully described by Molina, who named it from the sound of its
cry. Its length is six and a half inches, its breadth eleven inches,
the wing measures three and one-third, and the tail two and a quarter
inches. The plumage of both sexes is very similar: the upper part of the
body is of a dark olive green, each feather having a black shaft and a
greenish yellow border; the lower part of the body is of a paler shade,
with the same dark markings along the shafts of the feathers; the brow
is rust colour, becoming darker towards the top of the head; the throat
and lower part of the body yellow; the feathers on the upper part of the
breast and tail are of a rusty red at the upper portion, becoming darker
towards the roots; the wings almost black, edged with two white borders;
the tail-feathers are dark at the tip and on the outer web, and the
inner web rust red. The colours of the female are paler and greyer than
those of her mate; the beak and feet a blackish grey, and the eye bright
red. D'Orbigny mentions two other species, one of which he has called
the AZARA, in honour of that naturalist, and the other the BOLIVIAN
PLANT-MOWER.

From the above-mentioned writer we learn that these birds inhabit the
temperate zone, and are rarely found beyond such parts of the country as
are cultivated by man; they constantly frequent vineyards, fields, and
gardens in company with Habias, doing terrible damage by breaking the
plants, cutting off the young shoots, and eating the fruits, continuing
this work of destruction throughout the whole year. They are rarely or
never seen upon the ground, but fly very low when in search of food,
seldom passing any length of time upon the wing. Their cry is extremely
disagreeable, resembling the grating sound of a saw. Another author from
whom we quote, bears testimony to the terrible mischief wrought by these
bold and formidable marauders, who are all the more to be feared as they
carry on their devastations in the twilight of the early morning and
evening, at which times they are constantly occupied in sawing down young
plants close to the ground, working until their beaks are green from
the sap that flows from the stalks at which they labour; indeed, were
this species as numerous as other Finches, no field could escape their
destructive propensities. The capture of these birds is attended with but
little difficulty, as they perch during the day upon trees or fences, and
testify but little alarm at the approach of man. The only information we
have as to their breeding is that the eggs are white, spotted with red.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TANGARAS are a very peculiar and numerous race of Finches, inhabiting
America, and distinguished by the variety and beauty of their plumage. In
size they resemble our Sparrows; their beak is always conical, and the
upper mandible furnished with a kind of notch near its extremity, which
terminates in a slight hook. The wings and tail are of moderate length,
and the thick plumage of the male brilliantly dyed with blue, green, or
red, intermixed with black and white. The coat of the female is much less
brightly coloured.

The tropics must be regarded as the real habitat of these glowing
birds, though we find them spread over the greater part of the American
continent; some species frequenting woods, whilst others prefer to perch
nearer the ground, upon low trees or bushes. Despite the great beauty
of their plumage, they are by no means favourites in the countries they
inhabit, owing to the damage done by them to fields and plantations;
indeed, their exquisite colouring is their only merit, as their
disposition is very uninteresting, and they are almost without any kind
of song. Berries and various kinds of fruit constitute their principal
food, many eat insects, and some species subsist entirely upon dry seeds.

       *       *       *       *       *

As our space only permits us to mention a few of these birds, we will
first select the TANGARAS PROPER, as being the largest of this family.
The beak of the True Tangaras is compressed and slightly bent, conical,
and almost straight at the tip; the wings are pointed, and of moderate
length; the tail is long, and broad at the end, which is somewhat forked,
and of a green or blue colour; the plumage presents but little variety in
species.


THE ORNATE TANGARA.

The ORNATE TANGARA (_Tangara ornata_) is four inches long, the tail
measuring about three inches more, and the wing three inches from the
shoulder to the tip. The plumage of the male is bright blue upon the
head, neck, breast, and lower part of the body, with a greyish shade
where the roots of the feathers are visible; the middle of the belly,
legs, and rump are greenish grey; the back is of a dirty greenish grey,
shaded with blue; the lesser wing-covers are blue at the shoulder; the
smallest feathers of these parts are lemon yellow, and the remainder
of the wing greyish brown, each feather being bordered with green. The
tail is a greyish brown, its middle portion shaded with green, the rest
only edged with that colour. All such parts as are blue in that of her
mate are in the plumage of the female greyish green, shaded with blue;
the green and yellow markings of the wings being much paler and more
indistinct.

All the countries from the Amazon to Guiana, and the woods upon the
coast of Brazil, afford a home to these birds; they seem to prefer the
shelter of the plantations that abound in these districts to the sombre
retreat of large forests, and pass their active, cheerful little lives
in the immediate neighbourhood of man, to whose orange and lemon trees
they are at once ornaments and formidable enemies. Except during the
pairing season these Tangaras have no song, but merely utter a simple and
monotonous call-note. The nest is built upon a tree, and resembles that
of a Greenfinch.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our knowledge of the North American Tangaras is much more extensive. We
shall confine ourselves, however, to the mention of two species belonging
to the group denominated.

       *       *       *       *       *

FIRE TANGARAS (_Pyranga_). The members of this group are slender, their
wings long, pointed, and reaching almost to the middle of the rounded
tail. Their beak is strong, conical, vaulted, and strongly compressed at
the margins; the edges of the upper mandible are somewhat bent outwards,
and jagged towards the middle portion, but straight near its extremity,
where there is a scarcely perceptible notch. The plumage of these birds
is thick and smooth, that of the male being generally red, that of the
female yellow.


THE FLAX BIRD.

The FLAX BIRD (_Pyranga rubra_) is the most numerous and best known of
the two species we shall describe. Its length is six and a half inches,
its breadth ten and a half inches, the wing being four inches long,
and the tail two and a half inches. The coat of the male, when in its
full beauty, is of a most magnificent scarlet, the upper portion of the
feathers being of that colour, and white at their roots; the latter tint,
however, is never visible during life, though very conspicuous after
the bird has been stuffed. The wings and tail are of a brilliant black,
affording a striking contrast to the glowing little body. Very shortly
after the breeding season this plumage disappears, and is replaced by
feathers resembling in their hues the quiet dress of the female; the
upper part of the body being then of a greenish colour, and underneath of
a pale yellow. This costume is followed after the moulting season by a
third, when the male appears prettily spotted with bright red and green,
and presents a most elegant appearance.


THE FIRE TANGARA.

The FIRE TANGARA, or SUMMER RED BIRD (_Pyranga æstiva_), is larger than
the rest of its congeners, measuring from six and three-quarters to seven
and a quarter inches in length, and eleven across. The body is red, like
that of the last-mentioned species, but the wings are of a reddish brown,
and the whole plumage somewhat paler. The female is olive green, shaded
with brown, the under part of the body being yellow, towards the middle
shaded with red. Very old females are occasionally met with, resembling
the male birds in their colours. The young are like the mother.

In their manners both these species of Fire Tangaras are much alike;
they inhabit the extensive forests of America, where they are found in
pairs, living a very quiet and retired life, and generally perching
upon the topmost branches of the trees. The Summer Tangara receives its
name from the fact that it is only seen in the United States from May
to September; though far from numerous, it is well known all over the
country, frequently making its appearance in the gardens and plantations,
where it does considerable damage to fruit and flax. The scarlet species
is generally seen as early as April, and leaves somewhat later than the
Summer Tangara. The latter migrates by day, the former at night, the
birds rarely consorting even on these occasions, and preserving their
comparative isolation when flying through the length and breadth of the
land. As to their habits, naturalists agree in telling us that they are
quiet and monotonous; but, whilst constantly deploring their deficiencies
as birds of song, they cannot speak too warmly of their great beauty and
of the striking contrast their red plumage affords to the surrounding
trees. Their flight is smooth and gliding; but they seldom descend to
seek their food upon the ground; their movements among the branches are
slow, and the trifling amount of animation of which they appear capable
is expressed by occasionally flapping their wings, or uttering their
call, which consists of only two notes. They live principally upon
insects, catching them when upon the wing, and Wilson mentions having
found Tangaras whose stomachs were entirely filled with the remains of
bees. The nest, which is clumsy in its construction, is usually built
upon a forked branch, no care being taken for its concealment. The Prince
von Wied mentions having seen a brooding female that remained sitting
quite undisturbed by his approach, even when he ventured quite close to
the young family; indeed, so little precaution is taken to ensure safety,
that the nests are often constructed by the roadside, and so lightly
fastened to the branches upon which they are built as to be easily shaken
from their place; dry roots and straw generally form the outer wall, the
interior is lined with fine grass. The eggs, four or five in number, are
light blue, or dark greenish blue, those of the Scarlet Tangara being
spotted with different shades of purple. Both sexes unite in the duties
of incubation, sitting upon the brood for the space of a fortnight, and
feeding the nestlings principally upon insects. By the beginning of June
the young birds are strong enough to fly about the country, accompanying
their parents until the season for migration arrives. Wilson mentions a
pretty instance that came under his own notice of the attachment of these
beautiful creatures to their young. On one occasion, he tells us, he
caught a young Scarlet Tangara that had been a few days out of the nest,
and carried it to a distance of about half a mile, when he placed it in a
cage near the nest of a Yellow Bird, thinking that as the occupant had a
family of her own, she might take pity on the stranger. In this hope he
was deceived, its plaintive cries being entirely disregarded, nor could
it be persuaded to take food from his hand. He had almost decided on
taking the poor bird to the place whence it came, when towards evening a
Scarlet Tangara was seen flying round the cage and making every effort to
obtain admission; not succeeding in its attempts, the bird flew away,
speedily returning with a beakful of food; this continued till sunset,
when it perched for the night upon a neighbouring tree. At break of
day its ministrations recommenced in spite of all the enmity testified
by its neighbour the Yellow Bird, who tried to drive it from the spot.
Several days and nights were spent in this manner, the parent urging
the young one by every tender persuasion of which it was capable to
leave its prison and accompany her. At last the cage was opened, and the
little captive permitted to rejoin its mother, who received it with loud
demonstrations of affection and delight. The Tangara is but rarely seen
in Europe, and though easily reared upon fruit and seeds, is by no means
adapted for domestication.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under the name of CALLISTES (_Calliste_) we include a considerable number
of small birds, somewhat resembling the Siskin and Linnet in appearance,
but much more varied and brilliant in their hues. Their beak is
comparatively short, high, and slender, its edges compressed, the upper
mandible furnished with a horizontal ridge, and the tips slightly bent.
The eyelids are surrounded by a circle of small flat feathers; the wings
and tail are of moderate length, the latter slightly forked and covered
with small feathers; the legs are delicate, the tarsus high, and the toes
short. The plumage of the Callistes is variegated, the tints on the coat
of the male being more distinct and pure than in the female; the young
resemble the parents, but are paler in colour. These birds inhabit the
wooded districts of Brazil, and are distinguished from other Tangaras by
the fact that they subsist entirely upon various kinds of seed.


THE RED-NECKED CALLISTE.

The RED-NECKED CALLISTE (_Calliste festiva_), the most prominent member
of this group, is a small bird, five and a half inches long, the wing
measures two and a half inches, and the tail two inches. Its shape
is slender and elegant, the feathers extremely soft and delicate,
and the coloration of the plumage exquisite; the front of the brow,
cheek-stripes, base of the under mandible, chin, and upper part of the
beak, are black; the upper portion of the forehead and small feathers
round the eye, a beautiful greenish blue; the rest of the head is a
brilliant ultramarine. Around the eyes and under the lower mandible runs
a broad line of splendid cinnabar red, which passes over the cheeks,
the region of the ear, sides of the throat and nape. The rest of the
plumage is principally of a bright glossy green, shading into yellow on
the hinder part of the body; the wings are brownish black, the feathers
being edged with a broad green line, and the shoulder marked with a
streak of orange. The feathers of the tail resemble those of the wings,
but are shaded with green; the beak is deep black, the feet slate colour
or reddish brown. The coat of the female resembles that of her mate;
the colours, however, are somewhat paler, and a portion of the back is
spotted with black.

These birds, which are by no means numerous, inhabit the woods upon the
eastern coast of Brazil, and are occasionally found in Guiana. We are
entirely ignorant as to their life and habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CALLOUS-BEAKED TANGARAS (_Ramphocelus_) are recognisable by their
thick high beaks, that have the appearance of being swollen at the
base, while the lower mandible is covered with peculiar coloured
callosities, that extend as far as the angle of the mouth. The edge of
the upper mandible is turned inwards, and its tip bent, presenting a very
perceptible notch. The short wings do not extend as far as the middle of
the tail, which is extremely long and abruptly graduated at the sides.
The legs are small, the tarsi thick, and the claws hooked. The plumage of
the male is much more brilliant and thicker than that of his mate.


THE TAPIRANGA.

The TAPIRANGA, or TIJÉ (_Ramphocelus Brasilianus_), the only species of
this group to which we shall allude, is seven inches in length, and seven
inches across the wings; the wings and tail each measure three inches.
The female is somewhat smaller. The plumage of the male is thick and
harsh, and of a light blood-red; the wings and tail are brownish black,
becoming lighter as the bird advances in age; the feathers of the upper
wing-covers are bordered with blood-red, the under covers being black,
marked with white, the feet deep brownish grey. The fore part of the back
and throat of the female are of a quiet greyish brown; the breast and
entire lower portion of the body are a light reddish brown, the upper
tail-covers tinged with blood-red, the wings greyish brown, edged with
a paler shade, and the tail-feathers blackish brown. The beak of this
species is without callosities, and the eyes pale red. The young male
and female are alike in colour, but the plumage of the former is of a
somewhat deeper shade, and there is a white skin on the lower mandible.
In both birds the upper tail-covers are blood-red. During the time that
the young are acquiring the red feathers their plumage has the appearance
of being spotted.

The Tapirangas inhabit the Brazils, and there frequent such localities as
are at no great distance from the banks of a river, or from marshy ground
covered with reeds. In their native land these beautiful birds are very
common. Except during the breeding season, their time is passed in flying
about in small flocks, in search of berries and fruit, and they exhibit
a very cunning preference for the finest and more valued kinds, such as
oranges and citrons, to which they do great damage. Young and old are
alike engaged in these foraging parties, and are only distinguishable by
their cry, that of the old bird resembling the twitter of our Sparrows.
In disposition this species is lively and restless, and by no means shy.
The nest, which is placed upon the forked branch of a tree, is deep and
semi-globular in shape, formed of moss, and delicately lined with fibres
or blades of grass. The eggs, two in number, are of a beautiful sky-blue
or apple-green, spotted with brown, and marked with black streaks at the
broad end. The Tijé is unknown in mountainous regions.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUTCHER-BIRD TANGARAS (_Lanio_) are also recognisable by the
formation of the beak, which is somewhat elongated; the upper mandible
is hooked at its extremity, and possesses (what constitutes its greatest
peculiarity) a strong tooth-like appendage situated near its apex. The
wings are long, and the tail of moderate length, slightly forked.


THE BLACK-HEADED BUTCHER-BIRD TANGARA.

The BLACK-HEADED BUTCHER-BIRD TANGARA (_Lanio atricapillus_) is about
five and a quarter inches long, and eight and a quarter across the wings;
the tail measures two and a half inches, and the wings three inches.
The plumage of the male is black upon the upper part of the body; the
forehead, eyes, throat, and a line over the tail greenish brown, the
under parts of a bright yellow, and the centre of the back and breast
of a reddish shade; a white line passes over the wings. The coat of the
female is greenish red, the head dark green, and the middle of the belly
bright yellow.

These birds are numerous in Guiana, where they generally live in pairs
upon the trees in plantations, or near the coast. D'Orbigny found them
in small flocks, occupying the hot woods at the foot of the Bolivian
Alps, and perching so high upon the branches as to render their capture
difficult. Their food consists of seeds and the tender shoots of young
plants.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ORGANIST TANGARAS (_Euphone_) constitute another group. These birds
bear a strong family resemblance to the True Tangaras, from which they
have been separated on account of their possessing _two_ tooth-like
prominences behind the apex of the upper mandible. In their general
habits, compact body, short tail, high tarsus, and short broad back,
they seem closely allied to the MANAKINS (_Pipra_). They are small,
thick-headed birds, with strong beaks, which are distinguished by the
peculiarity mentioned above, and much compressed towards the tip. The
wings are short, covered with narrow feathers, and do not reach beyond
the root of the tail; their first three quills are of equal length, the
tail is very short and narrow, and the individual tail-feathers rounded
at their extremities. The plumage differs in the two sexes, the back of
the male being of a blueish steel colour, inclining to green, and that
of the female olive green; the lower parts of the body are brilliant
yellow or light green. A most striking peculiarity in this species is the
seeming absence of any proper stomach or gizzard, these being replaced by
a simple spindle-shaped dilatation, resembling a crop, situated at the
termination of the gullet.

The Organist Tangaras lead a solitary life, inhabiting the depths of
forests, and living upon berries of various kinds; their nests are built
upon thickly-foliaged trees or bushes; the eggs are very long, of a pale
red colour, spotted with reddish brown at the broad end. Their voice
is extremely pleasant and melodious, and capable of a great variety of
notes. Our space does not permit us to mention more than one example of
this group, and our readers must, therefore, take it for granted that all
its other members are more or less similar in appearance and habits to
the species we describe.


THE VIOLET ORGANIST.

The VIOLET ORGANIST, or GUTTARAMA (_Euphone violacea_), the bird we
select to represent its kindred, is four inches long, and seven inches
broad; the wing measures two and a quarter inches, and the tail one and a
half inches. In the male the brow and the whole of the lower part of the
body are bright yellow, the upper parts, from the forehead downwards, of
a blueish violet; the wing-covers are shaded with a pretty green, as are
the edges of the quills, the inner border of the latter being white; the
upper side of the tail is blueish green, its lower surface black, and the
two exterior feathers white upon the inner web and shaft. The female is
of a sad olive colour upon the back, and yellowish grey underneath; the
wing and tail feathers are brownish grey. The young birds resemble the
mother; the second coat of the young male is greyish blue, spotted with
yellow on the lower parts of the body.

We are but little acquainted with the habits of this species, though it
is frequently caged, and is in all respects an elegant, lively little
creature, hopping and flying with great animation, and possessing a full
and agreeable voice. The Guttaramas subsist chiefly on fruit, preferring
that of the orange, banana, or guava trees, to which they do great
damage. In Guiana they are also extremely troublesome by reason of the
injury they do to the fields of rice, over which they sometimes fly in
small flocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BRIGHT-COATED FINCHES (_Amadinæ_), a group to which we shall next
call attention, comprehends many brightly plumaged, compactly formed,
small birds, inhabiting Africa, Southern Asia, and Australia. They are
distinguished by the absence of a hook at the end of their somewhat
thick beaks; their wings are of moderate length, their tail is short
and graduated, the two middle feathers often extending far beyond the
rest, and their legs are comparatively weak. The males are much more
brilliantly coloured than their mates, although the latter are by no
means deficient in this respect, so that their gay presence lends
an indescribable charm to the districts they inhabit. The song of
these beautiful Finches is by no means equal to their external gifts,
nevertheless they seem anxious to atone for all deficiencies by the
zeal and industry with which they pour forth their notes throughout
the greatest part of the year; their voices are extremely varied, some
having a curious kind of song, that has the effect of being produced
by ventriloquism. All parts of the country are frequented by these busy
birds, who usually keep together in tolerably numerous parties. When
flying, they dart along with the velocity of an arrow, beating the air
rapidly with their wings--in short, whether upon the ground, hopping
about among the bushes, or hanging like Titmice from the branches, they
prove themselves at least the equals of any of their congeners. Their
breeding season commences with the spring, though some species lay much
later in the year; the brood consists of from three to six eggs, and the
young are fed exclusively upon insects, which, together with a variety
of seeds, constitute the food of the parent birds. The enemies of these
pretty creatures are extremely numerous, man himself being first upon
the list, in revenge for the mischief done to his fruit and corn. Some
Falcons subsist entirely upon them, and a variety of other destroyers
kill and devour them in large numbers.

[Illustration: THE GUTTARAMA (_Euphone violacea_).]


THE BAND-BIRD.

The BAND-BIRD, or COLLARED FINCH (_Amadina fasciata_), well known in
seaport towns, is the species we have selected for special description,
as being a worthy representative of its race. Its beak is extremely
strong, and nearly as high and broad as it is long; the upper mandible is
somewhat flattened at its origin, and the ridge arched from the forehead;
the lower mandible is very wide; the wings are of middle size, and the
three first quills of nearly equal length; the tail is short, and rounded
at its tip. The plumage is brown, spotted with a lighter shade, and
prettily marked with black; the tail black, tipped with white. The entire
length of this elegant little creature does not exceed five inches,
the wing two and a quarter inches, and the tail one and three-quarter
inches. The coat of the male bird is of a beautiful brown, darker upon
the back, and lighter on the under part of the body, its whole surface
being either undulated, or the feathers bordered with black. Upon the
breast some of the individual feathers are marked with a black spot that
takes the shape of the letter V. The upper wing-covers are terminated
by a greyish-red patch, thrown into strong relief by a black crescent
that divides it from the rest of the feathers. The wings are brown,
edged with a yellow shade, and the tail pale black, the under portion
being grey, and the outer web of the exterior feathers white; the other
tail-feathers, with the exception of the two middle ones, are entirely
black. The male bird is further distinguished from its mate by a broad
band of rich carmine round the throat, which passes along the lower part
of its white face and neck. The eye is brown, as are the beak and legs.

These birds are very numerous in their native lands; they inhabit the
continent of Africa from east to west, avoiding the actual desert and
primitive forests, as not affording the grasses and plants on whose
seeds they mainly rely for food. In their habits they are social, and
may frequently be seen flying over the country in parties that include
not merely their own species, but many varieties of their feathered
relatives. These flocks will often alight close to the huts of the
negroes, without the slightest danger of repulse; and pass the entire
day in searching for food upon the ground. Should the busy foragers
be disturbed at their work, they rise at once to take shelter in some
neighbouring tree, where they while away the time by preening their
feathers and singing, until the supposed danger is over, when they
return to the spot from whence they were driven. If attacked by a bird
of prey, the whole party takes refuge in some thickly-foliaged retreat,
to which they also resort during the mid-day heat to enjoy a siesta,
thus protecting themselves from the burning rays of the sun; later in
the afternoon they are again busy in the search for food. The breeding
season commences in September or October, the months which in Africa
correspond to our European spring. In the countries watered by the Nile
these birds have only to dread the attacks of Falcons or Sparrow Hawks,
for the natives are content to frighten them from their fields of corn
without wreaking further vengeance upon them. It is remarkable that
during the whole period of our residence in Africa we never saw one of
them in the huts of the natives, although the great numbers exported to
various parts of the world come exclusively from the tract of country
watered by the Gambia. Hundreds of these "Bengalees," as they are called,
make the long sea voyage shut up together in a wooden cage, and but
scantily provided with nourishment; yet, in spite of this treatment, and
the deplorable condition in which they arrive, they speedily recover
health and spirits, appearing most grateful for any kindness shown to
them. Few birds are more attractive than this species, or better adapted
for domestication; indeed, the mutual attachment of the little couples
will bear comparison with that of the proverbially affectionate "Love
Birds:" every labour and pleasure is equally shared, the male scarcely
allowing himself time for a song, so busily is he occupied in cares for
his pretty mate and her offspring. This amiable disposition is, however,
by no means exhibited in reference to other males, the little husband
doing battle with all intruders with such vigour and pertinacity as to
render it quite impossible to keep more than one pair in a cage--at
least, during the breeding season. The nest is melon-shaped, and provided
with a hole at the side for an entrance; it is built of grass or straw,
snugly lined with wool. The brood consists of from four to five eggs,
dotted with small spots; the young progeny are covered with down when
hatched, and should be fed at first upon the yolk of eggs, and afterwards
with seeds, softened as they would be in the crop of the parent bird. The
breeding season commences in January, and continues until August, when
the feathers are moulted.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HOODED FINCHES (_Spermestes_) resemble the members of the
last-mentioned group in the general shape of their bodies. The beak
is short and thick, the upper mandible being furnished with a shallow
furrow, and slightly curved towards its extremity. The wings are
comparatively short, the first quill somewhat less than the second,
which is the longest of all; the strong tail is abruptly graduated; the
plumage is black upon the upper part of the body, white underneath, and
very harsh, the whole coat being usually marked with band-like lines. The
upper mandible is dusky, the lower somewhat paler. One of the best known
species belonging to this group is


THE MAGPIE FINCH.

The MAGPIE FINCH (_Spermestes cucullata_) is a small bird, about three
and a half inches long, the length of the wing being one and a quarter
inches, and that of the tail thirteen lines. The plumage upon the upper
part is a deep glossy brown, which is darkest upon the head and neck,
and extends as far as the breast; the under part of the body is white;
the rump, upper and lower tail-covers, and the sides of the belly are
streaked with greyish white and dull black, and still further ornamented
with a large dark shining patch of metallic green, situated upon the
sides of the breast; the wings and tail-feathers are uniformly black, the
under side of the quills being of a bright grey; the iris is brown, the
upper mandible black, the lower mandible whitish, and the feet black. The
Magpie Finch is an inhabitant of the countries in the vicinity of the
river Gambia, but of its history when in a state of freedom we are quite
ignorant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slight and uncertain as is our knowledge of the AUSTRALIAN FINCHES, it
would be impossible for us to pass them unnoticed, for what trifling
information has been acquired respecting them shows them to be as
remarkably distinguished by their beauty or peculiarity of form as
are most of the animal and vegetable productions of that "land of
contrarieties;" many of them, indeed, vie with the American Tangaras in
the gorgeousness of their plumage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The REED FINCHES (_Donacola_) are recognisable by their short thick beak,
which bulges out at its base, and has the ridge much elevated; the wings
are comparatively short, their three first quills being longer than the
rest; the tail is short and rounded, the two exterior feathers being of
equal length; the tarsus is long, and the plumage striped and banded,
with a dark tint on the upper part of the body, its under portion being
similarly marked, but with a lighter shade.


THE CHESTNUT REED FINCH AND THE DOUBLE-BANDED REED FINCH.

The CHESTNUT REED FINCH (_Donacola castaneothorax_), and the
DOUBLE-BANDED REED FINCH (_Donacola bivittata_), two species of this
group, have been brought repeatedly to Europe within the last few years,
thus rendering us somewhat familiar with their habits. These birds
closely resemble each other in their general appearance, and in their
length, which is about four inches. The head and upper part of the throat
are dark grey; the cheeks, throat, and ear-covers blackish brown; the
upper part of the body reddish brown, and the upper tail-covers orange or
tawny; the tail is reddish brown, edged with a paler shade; the breast
is decorated with a broad, light, chestnut-coloured circlet, which is
enclosed upon its lower portion by two black lines; the breast, belly,
and under tail-covers are white, striped with black. The Double-banded
Reed Finch is found near Moreton Bay, where it lives upon the banks of
rivers, passing its time among the reeds, very much after the manner of
our Bearded Titmouse (_Calamorphilus biarmicus_), which it resembles in
the activity of its movements.

The DOUBLE-BANDED FINCH is distinguished by the size of the black
spots upon the cheeks, which reach as far as the breast; moreover, the
chestnut-coloured circlet upon the breast is broader, and separated from
the light-coloured belly by a broad black line.

Little is known of either of the above species in their native state.
When caged they are lively and contented, but require to be kept in
pairs, as it is only then that their affectionate dispositions can
be fully appreciated. Song they have none, and their monotonous and
prolonged call has not even purity of sound to recommend it.

Both these Finches breed and moult in the months corresponding to our
autumn and winter. In confinement they may be reared upon almost any
small seeds, with a little green food as an occasional variety.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second Australian section comprehends the group of the GRASS FINCHES
(_Poëphila_). The beaks of these birds resemble those of the Hawfinches,
being very deep at their base, and almost as broad as they are long; the
wings are of moderate size, their first quill shorter than the rest,
and the four succeeding ones of equal length; the wedge-shaped tail is
abruptly graduated, and its two middle feathers considerably elongated.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another very similar race of these Australian birds has been separated
from this group by Reichenbach under the denomination of CHAFF-FINCHES
(_Chloëbia_), on account of the peculiar formation of the tail, which
is short and wedge-shaped, the two middle feathers standing out in the
old bird, and terminating in a bristle-like appendage; the difference of
plumage is also striking, the coat of the Grass Finch being light brown,
with very prominent lines, of a darker or lighter shade, passing around
the body, while the Chaff-finch is of a bright green above, but yellow
underneath, and has a broad line upon the breast.


THE ADMIRABLE CHAFF-FINCH.

The ADMIRABLE CHAFF-FINCH (_Chloëbia mirabilis_) is the species we select
for description, being a bird of surpassing brilliancy as regards the
coloration of its plumage. The top and sides of the head are bright red;
the throat black, as are the edges of the feathers at the back of the
head; the neck is surrounded by a line of sky-blue, which is narrowest
in front, and white on the nape, where it shades into a yellowish green,
blending with the mantle, which is of the green usually seen in Parrots.
The rump and upper tail-covers are pale blue, the quills of the wings
bordered with yellowish brown; the exterior tail-feathers light blue,
whilst those in the middle are dark grey or black. On the lower part of
the body the sky-blue ring around the throat is bordered with a broad
line of lilac, which, increasing in size, passes over the breast, and is
separated from the yellow belly by a narrow line of orange. The female
resembles her mate, but is rather paler, and the middle tail-feathers are
shorter than in the male.

This magnificent creature was first seen in the vicinity of Raffles Bay,
Australia, but only three specimens were obtained, and no information
acquired as to its habits. Macgillivray tells us that the CHLOËBIA
GOULDII is only this species in another coat, and mentions having seen
a flock of them in the neighbourhood of Port Essington, no two of
which were alike in plumage, the greater number not having arrived at
their full beauty; many still retained the black or partially black
feathers on the top of the head, whilst in some this part was of a
beautiful red, thus making it evident that these two birds, which had
been considered as distinct species, must now be looked upon as one and
the same. In their habits the Australian Finches are like the rest of
their congeners, frequenting such parts of the country as are covered
with reeds, and situated at no great distance from the banks of a river,
seeking for seeds upon the ground, and climbing up and down the reeds
with the dexterity of Titmice. They are sometimes seen in flocks, but
are not as social as the rest of their family; they show no fear in
their intercourse with man, and are constant visitors to the fields and
gardens, occasionally taking more or less lengthy excursions over the
surrounding country. Their nests are described as differing much in
construction, some resembling those of Bottletits, being placed among
reeds, whilst others are built on trees in the immediate vicinity of the
eyries of birds of prey. Gould mentions having seen one of these nests
placed partially within the gaping hole of a tree that had been selected
as the home of a family of WEDGE-TAILED EAGLES (_Uroaëtos sphænurus_),
and tells us that the little male was perching without any sign of
fear on the same branch as his formidable but certainly very friendly
neighbour.

[Illustration: THE RICE BIRD (_Padda oryzivora_).]


THE RICE BIRD.

The RICE BIRD (_Padda oryzivora_), one of the largest of the Asiatic
Finches, constitutes, with one or two others, a group distinguished by
their strong beaks, which are nearly straight, forming at their origin
almost a right angle with the forehead, and furnished with a slight
ridge in front of the nostrils. The wings are of moderate length, the
two first quills being considerably longer than the rest; the individual
quills that form the short and rounded tail are of unusual breadth; the
plumage is grey or brown, with white patches upon the cheeks. In China
these birds have always been called by the name that still distinguishes
them, from the fact that they subsist in great measure upon "Padda," or
rice that is still in the husk; and Chinese artists from the earliest
times have thought them objects worthy of being constantly painted upon
porcelain and rice-paper. They were not known to Europeans until about
a century and a half ago, but at the present day are exported from Asia
in great numbers. The plumage of the Rice Bird is grey, the wings of a
somewhat deeper shade, and the sides lightly tinted with rose colour; the
cheeks are of a pure white; the quills grey, with a dark border, and
of a silvery whiteness on the under side; the tail is entirely black;
the eyes brown, the eyelids red; the beak a bright rose colour, edged
and tipped with pearly white; the feet are reddish. Many varieties of
plumage are found among the members of this group, some few of them being
entirely white.

The Rice Birds are found all over Southern Asia, as also Java and
Sumatra, and are very numerous on the former of these islands. Like our
Field Sparrow, they inhabit the agricultural districts, frequenting
woods, gardens, or bushes, from the month of November until March
or April--during which time the fields of rice are under water--and
subsisting upon such seeds and small fruits, insects or worms, as they
can glean from the shrubs or bushes; but no sooner does the water
disappear, and the rice begin to ripen, than they leave everything
to attack it, and would do incalculable damage were not prompt means
taken by the natives to protect themselves against their ravages.
As an effectual means of scaring away these feathered thieves small
watch-towers are erected upon bamboo poles, placed in the rice-fields at
no great distance from each other; connected with these little buildings
are numerous strings and thin slips of bamboo, to which are attached
a profusion of large dry leaves, dolls, wooden clappers, and similar
objects, the whole of this grotesque network being agitated from time to
time by a native perched within the tower, like a great spider in the
centre of its web, who thus produces a series of gymnastic performances
by the dolls, and such noises with the clappers as are sufficient to
frighten the boldest trespasser. Even after harvest-time is over,
abundance of food is procured by these gleaners from among the stubble in
the rice-fields, in which thousands of ears lie buried, this supply being
still further increased by the incredibly rapid growth of innumerable
weeds, that spring up in all directions when the rice is cut, and soon
furnish a rich banquet of quickly ripened seeds. At this season the Rice
Birds are fat and delicate, and the young especially are much sought
after, as affording a dainty dish to the inhabitants of the country, and
a source of amusement to their children, who drag them about the streets
fastened to the end of a long string, as a sort of living toy. The nests
of these birds are built of grass, and placed sometimes on the summit of
a tree, sometimes among the creeping plants that cover its trunk; in the
former case, they are usually of large size, and in shape like the half
of a sphere, whilst under the latter circumstances they are much smaller,
and more irregular in their construction. The brood consists of from six
to eight brilliantly white eggs (see Coloured Illustration, Plate IV.,
Fig. 7), about nine lines in length. In its disposition the Rice Bird is
quarrelsome, and its feeble notes are quite unworthy of being called a
song.


THE LITTLE GOLDBREAST.

The LITTLE GOLDBREAST (_Pytelia subflava_) will furnish us with the
best type of the STRIPED FINCHES, whose distinguishing characteristics
are the long and pointed beak, slightly vaulted at its roof, its origin
being nearly at right angles with the forehead; the length of the second
quill of the wings, and the short and rounded tail. The plumage of the
upper part of the body is of an olive-green or greyish tint, somewhat
lighter beneath, and delicately striped upon the sides of the body. In
size the Goldbreast does not exceed from three and a half, to three and
three-quarter inches, the span of the wings five and a half inches, the
length of the wing two and a half, and of the tail one and one-sixth
inches. The plumage is more varied in colour than in others of its
family; the entire upper portion of the body is olive green, and the
hinder part brownish red; a red line passes over the eyes, the throat
is white, the upper part of the breast and under tail-covers orange,
the sides of the belly greyish olive, marked with white crescent-shaped
spots, and its middle lemon yellow; the tail is black, and the feathers
edged with white at their extremities; the back and legs are red.

We are entirely ignorant as to the habits of these birds when in their
native lands, and can only inform our readers that when caged they are
very attractive little creatures, manifesting great attachment to each
other, and associating readily with other Finches. Their voice is gentle,
and not unpleasing in its sound.


THE BLOOD FINCH.

The BLOOD FINCH (_Lagonosticta minima_) is a species fully equalling
that above described in its claims to our notice, and represents a
group recognisable by their comparatively long and compressed beaks,
rounded tails, and red plumage, marked with small white spots. This
species, which is known to dealers in birds as the "Little Senegal," is
about three inches and a quarter long, and five and a half broad, the
wing-covers measure two inches, and the tail one inch and a half. The
coat of the male is very beautiful, both in its hues and markings. The
upper part of the head, nape of the neck, back, and wings are dark brown,
shading into black upon the tail; the face, front of the throat, breast,
and rump are bright red; the belly light brown, and the vent light grey;
the breast and hinder part of the body are marked with minute spots, the
beak and feet are red, the eye brown. The coat of the female is greyish
brown, of a lighter shade upon the lower part of the body, the rump is
red, spotted on its sides with white. The young resemble the mother.

In its native lands the Blood Finch occupies a similar place to that of
the House Sparrow with us, and at certain seasons of the year may be
found in great numbers in all the villages of South Nubia and Eastern
Soudan, flying in enormous flocks over the surrounding country, and
occasionally occupying the steppes at a great distance from the abode of
man, or living upon mountains at an altitude of 400 or 500 feet above
the level of the sea. The habits of this elegant and bright little bird
closely resemble those of its congeners, none of whom exceed it in
lightness or agility, either when flying, or hopping among the branches
with its companions, whose society it cultivates even during the period
of incubation. By the time the dry season is over it has moulted, and at
once proceeds to choose a mate and undertake the care of a family; the
little couples may then be seen going frequently down into the villages
and streets to examine the straw houses or mud huts of the natives, in
order to find a suitable spot upon which to build their nest, which is
merely a heap of dried grass thrown roughly together, the only care being
expended in making the interior compact and round. Occasionally, when no
better place is to be found, the birds have to content themselves with
a tree, or are even reduced to make the cradle for their young upon the
ground. We ourselves, in the month of January, when near the banks of
the Upper Nile, were upon one occasion attracted by the anxious cries
and restless movements of a female Blood Finch, as she hopped about,
evidently trying to divert attention from her nest; after a short search
we found it in the midst of a heap of grass, from which it was scarcely
distinguishable; it contained a number of small, white, round eggs, with
a very smooth shell. The work of incubation extends over a considerable
space of time, and many broods are laid in the course of the year.
When caged this bird is very docile; and its song is both lively and
pleasing. The male and female are extremely attached to each other, and
alike occupy themselves in making the nest and rearing their offspring,
usually sitting upon the eggs for about a fortnight; the young when first
hatched, are covered with a brownish down instead of feathers, and are
fed by the parents with half-digested corn, insects, caterpillars, and
other larvæ. As far as we have ascertained, all attempts to naturalise
these birds have been unavailing, because they continue to breed and
moult during the same months as in Africa, and find our cold winter quite
unendurable under these circumstances.


THE VARIEGATED FINCH.

The VARIEGATED FINCH (_Emblema picta_) may be regarded as the Australian
representative of the last-mentioned bird, and is particularly remarkable
for its long, conical beak. Its wings are of moderate length, the first
quill being much shorter than the rest, and the four next of equal
length; the tail is somewhat rounded at the sides. The colours of this
species are extremely striking; the top of the head, and the whole of
the lower part of the body, wings, and tail are brown; the face, throat,
and wings bright red; the upper mandible black, whilst the lower one
is scarlet, and marked with triangular black spots towards its base;
the feet are light red. We are indebted to Gould for the discovery of
this beautiful creature, but unfortunately he was only able to procure
one specimen, and learnt nothing as to its life and habits--indeed, had
he not succeeded in making a painting of it, we should never have been
acquainted with this species, as the bird was stolen soon after being
stuffed.


THE STEEL FINCH.

The STEEL FINCH (_Hypochera ultramarina_) frequents the banks of the
Nile, and represents a distinct group, with one species of which
(_Hypochera nitens_) Europeans are familiar. This bird, like its
well-known relative, is distinguished by the following characteristics:
a compact body, short tufted tail, the exterior feathers of which are
somewhat rounded, and wings of moderate length, reaching half way down
the tail; the beak is short, conical, and vaulted; the nostrils are
furnished on each side with bristles of considerable length. The plumage
varies with the age of the bird or season of the year, that of the male
being black. The feathers of the _Hypochera nitens_ are shaded with
green, those of the _Hypochera ultramarina_ with bright blue. In the
female the body is light brown, the feathers being edged with reddish
yellow, the breast, belly, and under tail-covers are white, the eyebrows
of a red shade, as is a streak that passes over the head. The male bird
assumes a similar plumage during the dry season. This species measures
rather more than four inches, the wings two inches, the tail one inch and
four and a half lines.

The Blue Steel Finch is found chiefly in Dongala, spread over the whole
face of the country, inhabiting the steppes, or seeking its food in the
native villages with equal impartiality; its favourite haunts, however,
are those wells and pleasant places selected as resting-places by the
many caravans of travellers passing through their domains, the débris
from whose dinner or supper afford a plentiful repast, which is rapidly
appropriated by these elegant and industrious little creatures, who,
meantime, exhibit their graceful attitudes and attract constant attention
to their varied movements. The period of incubation extends from January
until March; the nest is built upon a tree, and is a mere heap of grass.
We are unacquainted with the appearance of the eggs. No sooner are the
young birds fledged than the whole company associate themselves with the
Fire Finches, and fall in masses upon the fields of _durrah_, thereby
drawing down upon themselves the hatred of the natives, who use every
means in their power to drive them from the spot, employing for this
purpose a contrivance similar to that we have already described in our
account of the Rice Bird. The Blue Steel Finch is never caught for
purposes of domestication, but large numbers of the Green species are
captured annually on the western coast of Africa, and exported to Europe
and America.


THE BUTTERFLY FINCH.

The BUTTERFLY FINCH (_Mariposa phoenicotis_) is a species found
constantly associated with the birds above-mentioned. Its body is lengthy
and slender, its tail long and wedge-shaped, and its beak, which is
extremely broad and high, placed at a right angle with the forehead. The
first quill of the wings exceeds the rest in length. The plumage of this
bird is very thick and silky; the whole of the upper part of the body
is grey, the face, breast, sides, and upper part of the centre of the
tail a bright greenish blue, the belly and under tail-covers dark grey,
as is the under portion of the tail. The cheeks are marked with a vivid
red spot, the beak is pale red, and the feet flesh colour. Both sexes
are alike in plumage, except that the female is without the red spots
upon the sides of the face. This bird is four and a quarter inches in
length, the breadth across the wings six and a quarter inches, the length
of the wing is one inch and five-sixths, and of the tail one inch and
three-quarters.

The Butterfly Finch inhabits the greater part of the continent of Africa,
flying over the country in small parties, that rarely become much
increased. The nest, which is seen both during the rainy and dry seasons,
is placed upon a low bush, and resembles a rough bundle of hay rather
than a cradle for the young. The eggs, from four to seven in number,
are long and of a brilliant white. We are told that this species will
occasionally steal into a Weaver Bird's nest to deposit its eggs, but
cannot speak positively as to the truth of the statement. This elegant
Finch, better known upon the Continent as "Cordon Bleu," is lively and
restless in its habits, and the attachment testified by one little mate
for the other renders them extremely attractive when caged. The only care
necessary for their successful rearing is to keep them constantly in a
warm atmosphere.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: THE PHEASANT FINCH (_Astrilda undulata_).]

Next in order to the preceding we place the ASTRILDS (_Astrildæ_), as
closely resembling them in many particulars, the body being slender
and the tail wedge-shaped; but the beak, although almost as high and
broad as it is long, rises with a decided curve towards the brow. The
plumage is very silky, delicately coloured, and marked with a series
of undulating lines. Europeans are familiar with two species of this
group--the GREY ASTRILD (_Astrilda cinerea_), and the PHEASANT FINCH
(_Astrilda undulata_). The coat of the former is brownish grey, lighter
upon the lower part of the body, or almost imperceptibly shaded with dark
wave-like markings; the tail is white, and its exterior feathers white
upon their outer web; the bridles which in this bird pass around the
eyes are of a blood-red, as is the beak; the feet are grey. The plumage
of the Pheasant Finch is of a brownish grey, fading upon the throat into
greyish white; the lower part of the breast and sides of the belly are
tinged with rose colour, and the outer web of the exterior tail-feathers
are light grey, striped with a deeper shade. In other respects this bird
resembles the Grey species; both are alike in their size, which does not
exceed four inches.

The whole of Southern and Central Africa is graced by the presence of
these beautiful creatures, the "Little Pheasants" generally occupying
such parts as are thickly wooded, and flying about the country in small
flocks, perching when in need of rest upon the bushes, from which they
descend to seek for seeds upon the ground. These birds are extremely
common in Natal, where we are told they devour great numbers of winged
termite ants, pursuing them in the same manner as that practised by the
Flycatchers. The nest of the Astrilds has been described as melon-shaped,
and closed at the top; it is placed in beds of high grass, and built of
fine leaves or stalks stoutly woven together, and hanging loose about the
exterior. The eggs, four or five in number, are carefully tended by both
parents, who sit alternately. As far as we can ascertain, the Pheasant
Finches do not migrate, but may be found living for years in the same
districts. In disposition they are very attractive, and this, combined
with their beauty and rather pleasing voice, will account for the large
numbers that are captured and exported to Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: DETACHED NEST OF MALE GOLD-FRONTED WEAVER BIRD (_Oriolinus
icterocephalus_).]

[Illustration: NEST OF ASTRILDA, FROM SENEGAL.]

We are now about to enter upon a description of one of the most
remarkable groups of African birds, the strange forms of whose very
varied nests are no doubt familiar to many of our readers. It would
be difficult to imagine a more beautiful sight than that presented by
a settlement of these most artistic WEAVERS, their nests hanging not
singly, but by dozens, from the branches of a tree, which is generally
selected with a view to being in the immediate vicinity of water. So
strong and firm is the work of the little architects that the rain and
blasts of years will not shake their abodes from their foundations,
and it is by no means uncommon to see a tree thickly covered with the
consecutive labours of many generations, and literally bending under
the weight of these curious and elegant constructions. The central and
western parts of Africa are particularly resorted to by these birds, also
long accounts are given us of their abundance in Java and Madagascar.


WEAVER BIRDS.

The WEAVER BIRDS (_Plocei_) are large Finches, with bodies somewhat
elongated, having slender, or in some cases, short broad beaks, long
wings, tails of moderate length, and very bright coats, the latter often
varied during the breeding season by a peculiar kind of plumage. Yellow
and yellowish red are usually the principal tints in the coloration of
the feathers; but species are found in which black, red, white, or grey
predominate. The head and face are generally dark, the back greenish
or yellowish red, the lower part of the body dark yellow, or of a
light or dark red. Like other Finches, the Weaver Birds are extremely
social, living, as we have said, in large settlements during the period
of incubation, and flying over the country in company with thousands
of their feathered brethren during the remainder of the year. Immense
damage is done by these swarms to the fields over which they pass, and
about which they remain until the time comes for returning to their old
breeding-places. Shortly after the moulting season the work of building
commences, and several months are generally occupied in diligent labour
before the newly-constructed homes will suit the requirements of the
fastidious owners, who frequently tear a whole nest to pieces, and
entirely recommence their labours, rather than rest content with a
performance that is not quite satisfactory. The nests of the various
species of Weaver Birds differ considerably in their shape and general
structure, some building a detached residence (see p. 165), in which
the male luxuriates, whilst his spouse is busied with the cares of her
family; others, again, are so large as to contain numerous compartments,
the whole colony working so close together as to form, not many separate
nests, but one large establishment (see p. 168). Fibres, slender
twigs, or blades of grass, are the materials usually employed in the
construction of these edifices, the whole being woven tightly together,
after having been rendered more flexible and adhesive by an application
of saliva from the little artist's beak. The greater number of such
settlements are formed of nests containing merely the chamber for the
young and the apartment arranged by the male for his own occupation. Some
males, however, build separate nests for themselves. Both are represented
in our engravings.

[Illustration: NEST OF WEAVER BIRD SLIT OPEN.]

Many tribes of Africans tell wonderful tales about these creatures and
their homes, some of which border upon the marvellous. The Malays have
a saying that "He who can remove a Weaver Bird's nest without breaking
it, will find a golden ball within;" and there is a popular belief in
Africa that the lumps of clay so often found in these little dwellings
are employed by the tenant as a kind of candlestick in which it fastens
the fire-beetle it is supposed to employ to light its tiny apartment
by night. The Weaver Bird lays many times during the year, and feeds
its somewhat numerous family upon insects; these latter, combined with
various kinds of seeds, also constitute the food of the parents. In spite
of the injury done to the fields, but few precautions are taken by the
natives to protect themselves against the depredations of these ingenious
architects, who might live out the full term of their natural life were
it not for the attacks made upon them by their numerous enemies, who
are ever on the watch around their habitations. Our engraving (p. 175)
represents the manner in which the monkey, one of the most formidable
of their foes, obtains its prey. It is in hope of baffling the attempts
of such unwelcome visitants that the Mahali Weaver Birds insert thorns
with the points outwards into the walls of their nests, thus enabling the
occupants to rest quietly, without fear of seeing their young carried
off by snakes and other intruders. Large numbers of these curious and
interesting birds are annually exported and sold at low prices, so that
our readers need have no difficulty in witnessing their constructive
powers, which are often displayed to great advantage in a cage. One of
the most celebrated of this group is


THE SOCIAL WEAVER BIRD.

The SOCIAL WEAVER BIRD (_Philetaërus socius_) stands alone in the
peculiarities that distinguish it from its congeners. This species
is recognisable by its conical and elongated beak, which is somewhat
compressed at the sides; its upper mandible rises into a slight arch, and
is furnished at its edges with a tooth-like appendage; the wings are of
moderate length, scarcely extending beyond the root of the tail: their
first quill is much shorter than the succeeding four, which are of equal
length; the tail is rounded at its extremity. In this species, as in the
whole family of Weaver Birds, the tarsus is strong and high. The plumage
is extremely simple: the top of the head, sides, and front of the neck
and breast are of uniform deep grey; the upper part of the head marked
with dark spots; the nape and back grey, with undulating lines of black;
the wing-covers, quills, and tail-feathers deep brown, edged with light
grey; the feathers on the sides of the belly are blackish, bordered with
a paler shade; the region of the beak and a small spot over each eye are
black; and the beak and legs horn colour. Its length is about six inches
and nine lines, and the wing measures rather more than two inches and ten
lines. The female is known by the paler colour of the back, and the young
by the brown tints upon the head; the latter are without the black spot
upon the lower mandible and sides of the body.

It is generally considered that the Social Weaver Bird never crosses the
Orange river, though how far it may penetrate in a northerly direction
has not as yet been ascertained. Patterson, who wrote at the end of the
last century, mentions having seen mimosa forests densely inhabited by
these birds, who congregate in the hope of preserving their eggs from the
numerous snakes. For this purpose, hundreds of them build their nests
beneath one large roof, resembling a thatched house in its appearance.
This roof (see p. 168) is fixed to a large branch or portion of the tree,
and under it the actual nests are placed so closely together that it
would be quite impossible for a snake or any other enemy to penetrate to
the interior. All day long the busy crowd of workers hurry to and fro,
resembling a swarm of bees in their industry, and, like them, return
laden with everything needful for the construction or improvement of
their homes, while year by year the settlement increases in size, until
at last the tree literally bends beneath the weight of the superincumbent
colony. The entrances to the interior are very numerous, and situated
underneath the massive edifice, each opening leading to a kind of
corridor or street, on both sides of which are the small and very secure
apartments provided for the young. These birds subsist upon the seeds of
the grasses employed in the construction of their dwellings. The above
account has been verified by Mr. A. Smith, a well-known traveller and
naturalist, from whom we learn that each couple works at its own portion
of the building, all co-operating, however, in the common endeavour to
concentrate the nests under one substantial straw thatch, and thus ensure
the safety of the whole flock. These aerial cities are generally built
upon large branches at a considerable elevation, but the Tree Aloe is
occasionally selected as affording suitable support. The brood of the
Social Weaver Bird consists of three or four blueish-white eggs, marked
with small brown spots at their broadest end. The young are fed entirely
upon insects, which are only occasionally eaten by the parents.


THE GOLDEN WEAVER BIRD.

The GOLDEN WEAVER BIRD (_Ploceus galbula_), the type of a numerous group,
is an inhabitant of Eastern Soudan. This bird and its congeners are all
slenderly formed, and of moderate dimensions, possessing a slightly
curved and shallow beak, the base of which appears to join the forehead
at an acute angle; the feet are strong, the wings moderately long,
reaching past the tail-covers; the tail is of medium length, and abruptly
rounded; the third, fourth, and fifth quill-feathers are the longest, the
first being rudimentary. The adult male is a most beautiful creature, the
top and sides of its head, and all the lower portion of its body, being
of a bright lemon colour. The region of the eyes, and the parts around
the lower mandible are bright red; the back and wing-covers a brilliant
green, with darker shafts to the feathers; the quills and tail are
reddish brown, bordered with yellowish green; the iris is reddish brown,
the beak black, and the feet yellow. In the female the forehead is of a
greenish yellow; the back of the head, nape of neck, and mantle bright
green; the shafts of the feathers are of a deeper shade; the throat is a
dirty white, the upper mandible deep brown, the lower one somewhat paler.
The young male resembles the mother, but is distinguished by the dusky
yellow upon its throat.

[Illustration: NEST OF MAHALI WEAVER BIRD.]

[Illustration: NEST OF SOCIAL WEAVER BIRD (_Philetaërus socius_).]

The Golden Weaver Bird is common in Abyssinia and the surrounding
countries, where it may be often seen flying about in company with
its congener the Green Weaver Bird, but never joining with it in the
construction of a settlement. In their habits these birds are closely
allied to other Finches, and are lively, active, and extremely social. At
such times as the work of building the nests or rearing their young is
not going on, they generally congregate in large flocks, and perch on
the very summits of the trees, pouring forth their song for the delight
of the female part of the community, until they are inclined to go in
search of food. About noon all is hushed, for at this time the cunning
Weavers are going down to drink, an operation requiring the greatest
circumspection and care, as their enemies the Falcons are peeping at
them over the trees, and ready to pounce upon them at a moment's notice.
They now assemble in the bushes near the water side, frequently to the
number of some thousands, where they scream and chatter much after the
manner of our Sparrows. Suddenly, with one swoop, the little creatures
reach the desired stream, take a hasty draught, and are back again to the
thickets before their much dreaded foes have time to recover from their
surprise and follow in pursuit. This proceeding is repeated some ten or
a dozen times during the hour that is devoted to quenching their thirst,
before they again commence their search for food. When the labours of the
afternoon are over, all again return to the favourite tree, to sing their
songs, and sleep away the night. In Soudan the moulting season commences
about July or August, and after that is over the flock are employed in
making long excursions until the period of incubation returns. Most
species breed twice in the year. The following description of the Golden
Weaver Bird's nest was written some years ago upon the spot, where we
were fortunate enough to have opportunities of observing the manner of
its construction:--The operation is commenced by placing long blades of
grass at equal distances from each other, and fastening them together
with so much exactness that a kind of framework is prepared, in which
the form of the edifice is plainly discernible. The next step is to make
the walls, by weaving in long straws; great care being taken to lay them
in a downward direction, and thus render the roof water-tight. At this
stage the beautiful fabric presents the appearance of a cone, placed
upon the half of a ball. An entrance to its interior is next obtained
by constructing a long tubular passage, extending downwards from a
hole at the side, quite to the bottom of the nest, to the exterior of
which it is firmly attached. The interior is lined with soft stems of
grasses, and very frequently the birds may be seen employed upon this
wonderful structure, even after the eggs have been laid; these latter,
from three to five in number, are at first white, then red, and only
gradually acquire their green colour. From Heuglin we learn that the
male undertakes the principal labour of constructing his own abode, and
that he may frequently be found building it, as though in anticipation,
at times when he has no especial need of a nest. As far as we could
ascertain, the care of brooding devolves entirely upon the female; she
is, however, assiduously tended by her mate, who likewise shares her
toils when the time comes for feeding the nestlings. This latter duty
is performed so diligently that scarcely a minute elapses between the
arrivals of the parents bringing supplies to satisfy the gaping young;
they hang upon the lower part of the nest, thrusting in their heads and
placing the morsel into the outstretched beaks of their hungry progeny.
At such times, when the nests are numerous and placed closely together, a
settlement of Weaver Birds can be compared to nothing but a bee-hive, as
the inhabitants perpetually fly backwards and forwards in one unceasing
bustle and confusion. These birds are occasionally, but very rarely,
brought to Europe.

[Illustration: _Plate 7, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE SHARP-BILLED ORIOLE ____ Oriolus acrorhyncus

(_Three-fourths Life size_)]

[Illustration: THE GOLDEN WEAVER BIRD (_Ploceus galbula_) AND THE MASKED
WEAVER BIRD (_Ploceus larvatus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BAYAS (_Nelicurvius_). The members of this remarkable group inhabit
the whole of Southern Asia, including the neighbouring islands, and are
characterised by the formation of the beak, which is somewhat prolonged,
with the ridge vaulted, and joining on to the forehead almost in a
straight line. The wings, of which the fourth quill is the longest,
are of moderate length, the tail is short, the feathers being of equal
size and sharply pointed, the tarsus strong, and of medium height; the
coloration of the plumage is by no means bright.


THE BAYA.

The BAYA (_Nelicurvius Baya_), the most celebrated of the race, is of
a dark brown upon the upper portion of its body, and all the feathers,
particularly those of the wing and tail covers, are bordered with
yellowish white; the breast is marked with light brown, the shafts of the
feathers being of a deeper shade. The face and front of the throat are
black, the top of the head bright yellow, and the primary quills edged
with a narrow yellow line. The female is without the black and yellow
upon the head, the eyebrows are pale, the breast and chin of a whitish
shade. The winter coat of the adult male is like that of the female;
in the young male the breast is pale red. The beak is horn colour, the
iris brown, the feet flesh coloured, the eye dark blue. The length of
this bird is six inches, and its breadth nine and a half inches; the
wing measures two inches and four-fifths, and the tail two inches. This
species is found extensively throughout India, Assam, Burmah, and the
Malayan peninsula, frequenting woodlands in large numbers; it is much
more rarely met with in the highlands of the Deccan. Corn, rice, and
various kinds of grass-seeds constitute its principal food, but we have
never been able to ascertain from our own observation that it will eat
fruit. The Bayas breed during the rainy season, which occurs between
April and September, according to the locality, and associate freely
with other species. Their very curious nests, which in shape resemble a
retort, are models of neat and compact architecture: these structures are
generally hung from the branches of palms, or other trees, and in India
we have never seen them elsewhere; in Burmah, on the contrary, it is not
uncommon to find them suspended from the eaves of houses, or from the
huts of the natives, some twenty or thirty in a row. On one occasion we
observed not fewer than a hundred of these strange appendages hanging
to the roof of one house, and the little occupants living on excellent
terms with their human neighbours; it is, therefore, very remarkable
that this same species in some places should occupy the most quiet and
isolated situations, only visiting such districts as are but little
frequented by man. The walls of the Baya's nest are composed of blades
of grass, gathered while still green, or of strips of leaves, frequently
those of the palm-tree, woven carefully together, the shape of the little
edifice varying according to circumstances or the taste of its owner. As
soon as the chamber allotted to the eggs is fully completed, the bird
proceeds to build a partition wall, thus forming a second apartment,
supposed by some naturalists to be the especial property of the male,
whilst others imagine that it is only intended to separate the entrance
passage from the cradle of the nestlings. The entrance is tubular, and
is very strongly and firmly constructed, being destined to serve as the
favourite sitting-room of the whole family, when the young birds have
acquired sufficient strength. No sooner is the second chamber of which we
have spoken completed than the female, who has hitherto worked with her
mate, retires into the part designed for her eggs, and occupies herself
in weaving together the fine grass with which the interior is lined, the
materials for the work being brought to her by the male bird, who alone
continues the building of the passage and exterior portions of the nest.
When this part of the work is concluded, the little artisan proceeds
to carry in the lumps of clay, about the use of which so many opinions
have been expressed. The natives assert that to these pieces of clay the
male affixes fire-flies, to illumine the interior of the nest. Layard
imagines them to be employed by the little builder as a whetstone whereon
to whet its beak, whilst we ourselves are of opinion that they serve
merely as a means of weighting the structure as it hangs suspended in
the air, and have many times remarked that an unfinished nest contained
more clay-balls than one that was completed. Very various accounts are
given as to the number of eggs that form a brood; we have never found
more than three, and feel sure that in cases where six or seven have
been discovered two females must have occupied the nest. Young Bayas are
frequently tamed, and form a most interesting and attractive addition to
an aviary.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CRIMSON-BEAKED WEAVER BIRDS constitute a separate group,
distinguished by the unusual height and depth of their beak, which is
nearly equal to two-thirds of its entire length; in shape it is slightly
arched, and compressed towards its edges. The wings reach to the middle
of the tail, which is short, but slightly graduated and rounded at its
extremity; the plumage is brownish, spotted on the lower portion of the
body when the bird is young, becoming at a later period of a yellowish or
reddish shade.


THE CRIMSON-BEAKED WEAVER BIRD.

[Illustration: THE JAVA WEAVER BIRD (BAYA), AND NESTS.]

The CRIMSON-BEAKED WEAVER BIRD, or DIOCK (_Quelea sanguinirostris_), is
about four inches and ten lines long, and seven inches and ten lines
broad; the wing two inches, the tail rather more than one inch. The iris
is brown, the beak brownish red, and the feet pale red. The plumage of
this species varies considerably, according to the time of year. During
the breeding season, the coat of the male is chiefly of a yellowish red;
the face, forehead, cheeks, and throat black, the mantle appearing of a
greenish brown, mingled with a black shade that shines through from the
shafts of the feathers; these latter are edged with a red tinge; the wing
and tail feathers are black; the exterior web of the quills bordered with
lemon colour. The female and young birds are without the black upon the
face. Very shortly after the breeding season the male dons his winter
coat, in which the throat and belly are of a dirty white, and the breast
and sides of a dull yellow, all the feathers having faint lines upon
their shafts. The whole of the upper part of the body is a dark greenish
grey, the feathers of the mantle and nape of the neck being bordered with
yellow; the tail is brownish grey; the third, fourth, and fifth quills,
and the five exterior tail-feathers are gold colour, the rest of a paler
shade. The male is without the black face during the winter months.

[Illustration: BREEDING-NEST OF THE GOLDEN-FRONTED WEAVER BIRD
(_Oriolinus icterocephalus_).]

The Queleas must be regarded as by far the most numerous of the race
of Weaver Birds. In Soudan they are met with in enormous flocks, and
are certainly the commonest of the feathered inhabitants of Central and
Western Africa. We ourselves have seen twenty-seven brought down at a
single shot. The habits of the Diocks resemble those of other Weavers,
but, unlike most of them, they fly over the country, or perch upon the
river banks in flocks that number several thousands, many of which are
of other species. When in confinement these birds will carry on their
building operations with great industry, employing coloured thread, if
given to them, as a substitute for other materials. We have, moreover,
been told that feathers, yarns, and worsteds of brilliant hues are much
preferred for this purpose, and that the designs constructed from them
are sometimes extremely beautiful, but we cannot vouch for this from
our own experience. Reichenbach speaks of their manners in a way that
is by no means flattering. He tells us that the Crimson Beak is a most
quarrelsome, restless creature, and quite unfit to be placed in a cage
with other birds of smaller size, whom it never ceases to torment in
every conceivable manner; one very favourite method being to seize its
companion by the tail, and hold it thus suspended in the air for several
seconds, the tormentor meanwhile uttering cries expressive of its own
enjoyment of this, for a bird, very original pastime. It will sometimes
only relinquish its hold when the victim has successfully counterfeited
death from this cruel treatment. If not quite in the humour for such
_active_ amusement, the Crimson Beak contents itself with pulling out
the feathers of its playmates, who never seem to dream of opposing force
to force, and quietly submit to all its persecutions. When confined
with others of its own species, it is but little more conciliatory in
its manners, squabbles and fighting appearing to form the principal
diversion of the males, and even the females are not always exempted from
the disagreeable results occasioned by the decidedly eccentric tempers
of their mates. Their nests are suspended from the topmost branches of
trees, and are constructed of various dry materials woven together while
rendered flexible by the moisture sprinkled over them by the birds, who
use their claws when fastening down the various parts, the beak at the
same time doing its full share in carefully smoothing and arranging the
fibres into a proper state of neatness and order. The little couple
work together, apparently quarrelling the whole time; the male usually
appropriates to himself the business of constructing the exterior, while
the female is busy within, and the flexible stems employed being passed
from one to the other. The nest when completed is round in shape, the
front, where the entrance is situated, being somewhat straighter than
the rest; the whole fabric resembles a nicely padded willow basket.
The birds work for not more than three or four hours at a time, but so
industriously that only about eight days are occupied in building their
wonderfully beautiful home.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TAHA may be selected as an example of a group of Weaver Birds
distinguished by their black plumage. These birds have a few Abyssinian
congeners also called Taha; in all of them the body is compact, the
wings and tail small, and the beak short, strong, and conical; the upper
mandible being slightly arched. The wings reach to the middle of the very
short tail; the first quill is almost rudimentary, the third longest of
all; the tail-feathers are of nearly equal length.

THE TAHA.

The TAHA (_Taha dubia_) is of a beautiful bright yellow upon its head,
back, shoulders, upper and lower tail-covers, and hinder part of the
body. The wings and tail are a blackish brown, and all the feathers
bordered with the same tint; the rest of the plumage is black; the female
and young male during the winter months are blackish brown above and
light grey beneath, some of the feathers having deep grey shafts, while
others are edged with reddish brown. The length of this elegant little
bird is about four inches, of which only one belongs to the very short
tail. This species is a native of Southern Africa, and is seldom found
farther north than the centre of that continent. During the breeding
season it seeks refuge in the fields of corn or reeds, to the stems of
which it hangs its purse-shaped nest. In its habits it resembles the Fire
Finches, which we are about to describe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FIRE FINCHES (_Euplectes_) constitute one of the most brilliant of
all the many beautiful groups of Weaver Birds. Few sights that meet the
eye of the traveller in the regions watered by the Nile are at once so
striking and so splendid as that presented by a flock of these glowing
creatures, as they dart in masses over the green fields of _durrah_,
looking, when the sun sheds his rays upon them, like a multitude of
aerial flames, appearing and disappearing almost with the rapidity of
lightning, as they rise into the air or take refuge among the corn. The
little creatures seem quite conscious of the admiration excited by their
beauty, for they open and close their wings, turn themselves in every
direction, and pour forth their pleasant song, as if fully appreciating
the attention of a stranger.


THE FLAME-COLOURED FIRE FINCH.

The FLAME-COLOURED FIRE FINCH (_Euplectes ignicolor_) in the construction
of its body closely resembles the Taha, from which, however, it differs
entirely in the colour of its plumage. The coat of the male is extremely
soft, and its whole surface, except the wing and tail feathers, of a
bright black or fiery red. Except during the breeding season the male
and female are alike dressed in a modest garb of brown, which is so
completely changed when pairing time arrives as to differ not merely
in colour, but in the softness and texture of the feathers; the wings
and tail alone remaining unaltered. When clothed in all its glory the
male bird is black upon the top of the head, the cheeks, breast, and
belly; the other parts of the body being bright red; the wings exhibit a
brownish shade, owing to the somewhat paler edges of the feathers. During
this season the tail-covers become of such unusual length as almost to
conceal the tail. The eye is brown, the beak black, and the feet brownish
yellow. The body of the female is brown above, and of a yellowish shade
beneath; a yellow line passes over the eyes, and the feet and beak are
horn coloured.

[Illustration: NESTS OF SOUTH AFRICAN WEAVER BIRDS.]

The Fire Finch inhabits the whole country from the middle of Nubia to
the interior of Central Africa, preferring such places as are in the
vicinity of man, frequenting fields of corn, and only taking up its
quarters in beds of grass or reeds when other accommodation is not
attainable. A field of _durrah_ is a veritable Eden to these birds, who
cause much injury to the natives, often completely destroying the crops,
in spite of the many devices employed to scare them away; for these
bold-hearted little thieves are not to be deterred from their work of
destruction either by the dancing of dolls or rattling of clappers. The
Fire Finch exhibits great activity; when amongst the corn it resembles
a Reed Sparrow rather than a Finch in its movements, as it climbs up
and down the stalks, or hides itself among the grass. When the period
of incubation is over, and the harvests are gathered in, the fields
that have afforded them food are deserted, and some time is then passed
in flying about the country, after the manner of their congeners. This
species of Weaver Bird can scarcely be said to form settlements, each
couple building somewhat apart from the rest. The nest is constructed
of stalks and blades of grass woven so loosely together that the little
brood are often visible through the lattice-work of their cradle, which
is either placed upon the ground in a bed of grass, or fastened to
the higher stalks. Considerable difference is observable in the size
and shape of these nests, some being long, some round; few, however,
exceed seven or eight inches in length, and five or six in breadth. Our
illustration represents the _Euplectes Petiti_, a very similar species to
that just described, except that the whole of the lower part of the bird
is black.

[Illustration: THE FIRE FINCH (_Euplectes Petiti_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUFFALO WEAVER BIRDS (_Textor_) constitute a group well deserving our
notice, and are distinguished by their large size, thick, conical beak,
which is unusually thick at its base, long, abruptly-rounded wings, and
slightly rounded tail.


THE RED-BEAKED BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD.

The RED-BEAKED BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD (_Textor erythrorhynchus_) is the
species of this group with which we are most familiar. This bird is from
eight and three-quarter to nine and three-quarter inches in length. Its
plumage is black, the front feathers of the upper wing-covers and quills
being bordered with white; the beak is pale red, the foot light brown,
and the eye dark brown.


THE ALECTO BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD.

The ALECTO BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD (_Textor Alecto_) resembles the
last-mentioned species in the colour of its plumage, but is easily
distinguishable from it by the difference in the shape of the beak. Its
feathers are soft and brilliant, some of those under the wings and upon
the sides being occasionally nearly white. The eyes are brown, the beak
yellow, tipped with blue upon its extremity and edges, the feet are of
a dirty grey. Its length is almost the same as that of the species last
described.

[Illustration: DINEMELLI'S BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD (_Textor Dinemellii_).]


THE DINEMELLI BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD.

The DINEMELLI BUFFALO WEAVER BIRD (_Textor Dinemellii_), as the third
member of this group has been called, is a native of Abyssinia. This
species is white upon the head and lower portion of the body; the mantle,
wing and tail covers are chocolate colour, each feather being edged with
a lighter shade; the shoulders, rump, and tail-covers are marked with
small scarlet spots; the bridles are black, the beak a dirty deep blue,
the feet dark blue. The body measures about seven inches, the wing four
inches, and the tail two inches.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the foregoing varieties of Weaver Birds resemble each other in their
mode of life, and must certainly be reckoned as the most remarkable
members of their family, for though Finches, they have many features in
common with the Thrush, and their nests resemble those built by Magpies
rather than such as are made by other Weaver Birds. The three species we
have mentioned alike frequent pasture land, keeping as much as possible
in the immediate vicinity of the herds of buffaloes, upon whose backs
they perch, to obtain the ticks that form their principal nourishment;
they may constantly be seen around these huge creatures, to whom they
not only render this service, but warn them of the approach of danger.
Strangely enough, these birds confine their attentions entirely to the
buffalo, whilst their constant companion, a species of Buphaga, renders
the same service exclusively to the rhinoceros. The Black Weavers are by
far the least numerous members of this trio, their settlements rarely
including more than about eighteen nests, which are built upon some large
tree, and are remarkable for their size, if we consider the dimensions
of the bird by which they are constructed. The nests, which have a very
beautiful exterior, are formed of slender branches and twigs; those of
the Garat Mimosa being frequently employed, in spite of the thorns with
which they are armed; these materials are woven carelessly together, and
the whole fabric, some three or four feet in diameter, is so lightly
constructed that the eggs are often visible through the sides of the
nest. The interior is lined with delicate fibres and grass, the entrance
being an opening large enough to admit a man's hand at one end, while at
the other is a hole so small as to allow nothing larger than the birds
themselves to pass through. We learn from travellers in Africa that the
nests of this species are occasionally found of a much larger size than
those described, some measuring from five to six feet in length, and
four to five in breadth and height; these enormous structures, however,
are not occupied as a residence by one family, but are joint property,
some containing as many as from three to eight distinct nests, in each
of which may be seen the three or four white eggs, spotted with brown,
that constitute the brood. As may well be imagined, the noise and bustle
around one of these compound nests must be heard to be appreciated;
indeed, the vicinity of a settlement is unmistakably proclaimed by its
busy and loud-voiced proprietors. The Black Buffalo Weaver Bird breeds
at very various seasons of the year, the time depending on the part of
the continent that it inhabits. Its flight is hovering, very light, and
produced by a slow motion of the wings, which at each stroke are raised
high towards the back. When upon the ground it runs with ease, and is
most adroit in its movements among the branches of the trees to which it
resorts.


THE WHYDAH OR WIDOW BIRDS.

The WHYDAH OR WIDOW BIRDS (_Viduæ_) form the group to which we shall next
allude, as being most nearly allied to the family of the Weavers. Whether
the members of this family have had the name of _Widow_ bird assigned to
them by reason of the blackness of their plumage, is a question we shall
not attempt to decide; some naturalists affirm that the word _Widow_
is merely a corruption of _Whydah_, the name of the place from which
they were first obtained by the Portuguese. These birds are Finches of
moderately large size, remarkable from the fact that the plumage they
acquire during the breeding season is distinguished by the peculiar form
and great length of a portion of the tail-feathers, this decoration
being laid aside as soon as the period of incubation is over, and
replaced by another of less striking appearance. The other distinguishing
characteristics of this family are the short, conical, and pointed beak,
somewhat dilated at its base and compressed at its tip, and the wings
of moderate length. The plumage of the male is black above, intermixed
here and there with white and red; the lower part of the body is red,
gold colour, or white. All the various species of _Viduæ_ are to be met
with throughout the entire continent of Africa, though some countries
in particular might be mentioned as the actual homes of certain members
of the group. In their habits the Widow Birds bear a closer resemblance
to the Buntings than is usually observable in the Finch tribe; they
live during the breeding season in pairs apart from the rest, or else
not unfrequently in a state of polygamy, and only congregate in large
flocks and fly about the country after the period of incubation and the
moulting season are over. As may be easily imagined, the movements of
these beautiful birds are greatly influenced by their change of plumage;
the long tail necessitating a slow and stately motion, especially when
upon the wing, and often causing its possessor to be driven hither and
thither at the pleasure of the wind; when perched, the sweeping tail
hangs straight down, but is borne aloft when on the ground; no sooner,
however, has the moulting season gone by than the Widow Bird appears
to be quite another being, hopping and flying over the country with
the same activity that characterises the Finches. Most species of this
group seek their food principally upon the ground, generally subsisting
upon grass-seeds and various kinds of insects: they pass a considerable
portion of the breeding season among the branches, as affording the most
convenient situation for the bestowal of their streaming tails, whilst
some are found almost exclusively inhabiting the reedy parts of the
country, where they also carry on the work of incubation. The breeding
season is in the spring time of the African continent. In Soudan the eggs
are laid about the month of August, and in Abyssinia some months earlier.
The nest closely resembles those of the Weavers. The Widow Bird is rarely
brought alive to Europe, and though of a pleasing disposition, and well
qualified to live in a cage, is almost entirely destitute of song. The
first members of this group to which we shall call attention have been
named

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOURNING WIDOWS (_Coliuspasser_). In these birds the beak is long,
compressed at its sides, slightly bent towards the tip, and appears
to rise at a right angle from the forehead; the wings are of moderate
length, the first quill much shorter than the four succeeding ones; the
feathers of the tail are considerably broader at their extremities than
at the base, the middle ones being the longest. The plumage is black,
with red or yellow upon the head, breast, nape, and shoulders.


THE YELLOW-SHOULDERED MOURNING WIDOW.

The YELLOW-SHOULDERED MOURNING WIDOW (_Coliuspasser flaviscapulatus_),
an inhabitant of Abyssinia, is a bird about eight inches in length, of
which the tail measures four and a half inches; the wing does not exceed
three and one-third inches. The coat of the male is deep black, the
shoulders yellow, and the wings and tail edged with yellowish white. The
plumage of the female is principally of a brownish yellow, lightest on
the throat and darkest upon the head, which, owing to the deep colour of
the feathered shafts, has a slight appearance of being striped. The wings
and tail are dark brown, and the shoulders greenish yellow. The breeding
season commences about August; the nests are somewhat deep, built of
large dry straws, and entered through a long tubular passage or small
opening, protected by a kind of roof. The male is provided with a second
nest, placed near to that containing his family, and furnished with two
entrances. The eggs have a reddish-white shell, marked with rose-coloured
spots and streaks, lying most thickly together at the broad end, and so
minute as almost to escape notice.


THE LONG-TAILED WIDOW BIRD.

The LONG-TAILED WIDOW BIRD (_Chera caffra_), the largest of all the South
African species, is remarkable for the peculiar construction of its tail,
formed of sixteen imbricated feathers of great but unequal length. The
plumage is of a velvety black, scarlet upon the shoulders, the latter
colour being divided from the wing by a pure white line; the wings are
black, the feathers being bordered with light yellow; the beak and feet
are of a pale brownish yellow. In the coat of the female all the feathers
are bordered with a yellow margin, only the middle being black; the lower
portion of the body is greyish yellow; the throat, eyebrows, and under
tail-covers are white. The length of this large bird is not less than
twenty and a half inches, the longest tail-feathers measuring fifteen and
a half inches, and the wing five and a half inches.

The Long-tailed Widow Bird is social in its habits, and must certainly
be reckoned amongst the races that are polygamists, as it is by no means
uncommon to see flocks containing about eighty females to not more than
ten or fifteen males. As with our Barn-door Fowls, some of the old
females acquire the plumage of the male. Marshes and bogs afford the
breeding-places preferred by this species. The nest, which is round, is
generally suspended from a reed, and formed of some green plant, the
entrance to the interior being effected by means of a long passage,
opening on the side that is nearest to the water. Travellers assure us
that the male may be caught with the hand during windy weather, as its
long tail renders escape by flight impossible.

       *       *       *       *       *

The COCK-TAILED WIDOW BIRDS (_Steganura_) are found throughout the whole
of Central Africa, and have been described as two distinct species,
resembling each other in the shape of their beak, the height of which
equals its length; the ridge is arched, and joined at a sharp angle with
the forehead. When in nuptial plumage the tail of the male seems to
consist of only the middle feathers, which are much longer than those at
the sides, and very various in their appearance; the centre feathers are
bent like those in the tail of a Cock, and of great length and breadth,
narrowing somewhat towards the tips.


THE PARADISE WIDOW BIRD.

The PARADISE WIDOW BIRD (_Vidua paradisea_) is black upon the head, back,
and tail, brilliant red upon the nape and lower parts of the body. The
plumage of the female is brownish yellow upon the head, the bridles and
two lines upon the top of the head being black, the breast rose colour,
as are the borders of the black wings. The length of the body is about
five and three-quarter inches, the tail eleven and a quarter inches, its
breadth nine and a half inches, and the wing two inches. The female is
somewhat smaller than her mate.

[Illustration: THE PARADISE WIDOW BIRD (_Vidua paradisea_).]

The Paradise Widow Birds are found principally in the thinly-wooded
forests of Africa, and appear to avoid the vicinity of man, flying about
woodland districts in pairs or in small parties. Their gala dress is
donned during the rainy season, and is retained for about four months.
The process of moulting occupies but a very short time, and the long
tail-feathers grow with great rapidity. They are often brought to Europe
in considerable numbers, and are sometimes known under the name of "Birds
of Paradise." The song of this species is extremely simple, but not
unpleasing; it is never heard except during the period of incubation, and
ceases when the beauty of the plumage has disappeared.


THE AMERICAN FINCHES.

The AMERICAN FINCHES include a great number of species called, not
inappropriately, BUNTING FINCHES (_Passerella_), from the fact that the
plumage presents markings very similar to those seen on our Buntings.
They are characterised by a slender, conical beak, somewhat arched at its
roof, and straight towards its tip; the wings are of moderate size, with
the secondary quills of unusual length, the tarsus high, the toes long,
and armed with large claws, those of the hind toes resembling spurs.
Some species are essentially inhabitants of woodland districts, and
carefully avoid the more open country; some confine themselves entirely
to well-watered regions, or river banks; and others, again, frequent the
sea-shore, open fields, and pastures, or replace our House Sparrows in
their relation to man and his domestic life. We must, however, content
ourselves with the mention of but a few principal members of this
extensive group.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-THROATED OR SONG SPARROW (_Zonotrichia
albicollis_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS are inhabitants of North America, while
the MORNING FINCHES, on the contrary, occupy the southern portion of
that hemisphere. Both species have been classed under the name of
_Zonotrichia_. These birds are furnished with a slightly conical beak,
the upper mandible of which is straight and somewhat pointed, the corners
of the mouth bent downwards, the lower mandible almost equalling the
upper one in height. The wings are of moderate length, reaching as far
as the upper tail-covers; the tail itself is of middle size, and formed
of small feathers; the tarsus is high, the toes long, and furnished
with large claws but slightly bent. The plumage is soft and thick. Both
species closely resemble the European House Sparrow in their habits,
living in and about the villages, and subsisting upon various kinds of
seeds, which they search for on the ground. Their nests are built in the
neighbouring trees, upon which, also, they generally pass the night.


THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.

The WHITE-THROATED OR SONG SPARROW (_Zonotrichia albicollis_) is six
and a half inches long, and nine across the wings, the female somewhat
smaller; the upper part of the head is of a dark brown and black brown,
intermingled with a mixture of black and grey, and divided by a light
greyish-brown stripe, marked with dark and light spots; a similar
whitish-brown stripe passes over both eyes, towards the back of the head,
and under this is a dark brown streak running in the same direction; the
cheeks and lower part of the throat are ashy grey, the upper portion and
chin white, divided from the dark grey tint beneath by a black line.
The mantle is of a reddish grey, the feathers being marked with black
streaks; the shoulders and wing-covers are blackish brown, the lower
portion of their feathers bordered with reddish brown, and their end
tipped with yellowish white, forming two irregular light borders to the
wing. The throat of the female has less white upon it, and the wings are
not so profusely marked with yellow.

The White-throat is found throughout the whole of America: Audubon
tells us that it is a constant summer visitor in Louisiana and other
Southern States, seldom, however, remaining longer in those parts than
from March to September; but in the more central provinces it would seem
to prolong its sojourn to a later period. No sooner do these welcome
visitors arrive than every hedge and fence is alive with them; they form
parties consisting of some forty or fifty birds, and fly down from time
to time upon the surrounding district in search of food; hopping gaily
about as they peck the small grass-seeds that constitute their principal
nourishment, and hurrying back to their perch at the first intimation of
danger. Nothing can be more amicable than the terms on which they seem
to live; the time between their excursions over the field is passed, not
in noisy strife, but in pouring forth a constant flow of song, so sweet
as to please the ears of the most indifferent or unmusical listener. At
early dawn the little community is roused by a peculiar shrill warning
cry, somewhat resembling the syllable "twit;" this we have heard uttered
during the night, when no doubt it is intended as an intimation that
all is well. Should the day be warm, the whole flock seek shelter in
the woods, and disport themselves upon the branches of the wild vine,
rarely, however, flying to any great distance from their usual haunts.
With the first approach of spring the States are deserted for the more
northern portions of the continent. Richardson found the nest of this
bird, in the month of July, under the trunk of a tree that had fallen,
and tells us that it was formed of grass, with a bed of feathers and hair
in its interior; on his approach the mother bird did not fly away, but
ran noiselessly over the ground in the manner of a lark, thus leaving
the eggs, which were green, spotted with reddish brown, fully exposed to
his view. The White-throated Sparrow is a plump little fellow, and often
becomes extremely fat, the latter quality adding materially to the value
in which its flesh is held as an agreeable article of food, not only by
man but by Sparrow-hawks and other enemies. When caged, the voice of this
bird is heard in its full sweetness, and it continues during the entire
spring and summer to sing, even until night has set in, as is its habit
in its native land.


THE MORNING FINCH.

The MORNING FINCH (_Zonotrichia matutina_), as the Brazilian species has
been called, is eminently distinguished for its powers of song. In size
it is somewhat smaller than its North American brother, not exceeding
five and a half inches in length: its appearance much resembles that
of our Reed Bunting: the head is grey, striped with black; the nape of
the neck a rusty red; the back brown; the feathers have a light tip,
and their shafts broadly marked with black; the throat is white, with a
streak of black at the sides.

Large numbers of these birds frequent the villages of South America, and
pass the day seeking for food, like our Sparrows, from amongst the offal
in the streets, perching at night and early morning upon the roofs of the
houses, and pouring forth their sweet enlivening song. The nest, which is
large, and usually placed in a bush in some neighbouring garden, is built
of dry straw, hair, or feathers, and is generally found to contain four
or five greenish-white eggs, marked very thickly with spots of a light
red colour. Other species are met with in North America and in Asia.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have selected another North American species as the type of a
distinct group of Bunting Finches (_Spizella_), the members of which are
recognisable by their conical beak, compressed at its sides, which curve
slightly inwards; their wings are of moderate length, the third quill
being the longest. The tail is but slightly excised, the feet large,
and the legs covered with small scales; the plumage is soft, but not
particularly striking in its hues.


THE TREE BUNTING FINCH.

The TREE BUNTING FINCH (_Spizella Canadensis_) is rather more than eight
inches long and eight inches across, the wing and tail each measuring
rather more than two inches. In the plumage of such birds as have
attained their full beauty, the top of the head is of a light reddish
brown; the mantle is of the same colour intermixed with black; the quills
greyish brown, bordered with yellow, and the wings surrounded by two
white lines; the chin, throat, and lower part of the neck are a light
grey, the breast and belly greyish white, shaded upon their sides with
yellowish brown, and marked with a deeper tint. A light grey stripe
passes over the eyes towards the back of the head; the iris is greyish
brown; the beak blackish brown upon the upper mandible and tip of lower
one, the remainder of the latter being yellow; the feet are of a deep
flesh colour. The female closely resembles her mate in plumage; but the
young are by no means so brightly tinted as the parent birds.

The Tree Bunting Finches are met with in large numbers throughout North
America, though they will not breed in every locality that they frequent,
the more northern portions being, we believe, preferred for that purpose.
Like most of their congeners, these birds pass the winter months in
flying about the country in company with Buntings and a variety of other
Finches, seeking food upon the hedges and trees, whose seeds constitute
their principal nourishment, and sheltering themselves during very severe
weather by creeping into such low bushes as are thickly surrounded with
long grass or dry plants, thus affording a defence against the keenness
of the wind. They generally arrive in the more southern States at the
commencement of winter, and gradually disappear as spring returns. The
breeding season is in May, and during that time they frequently attain a
power of song of which they are incapable when not inspired by the wish
to attract the attention of their mates, whose favour they endeavour to
win by alternately chirping and singing throughout the entire evening.
The day is spent in hopping about on the ground, and in the evening they
disport themselves with wonderful agility upon the branches of their
favourite trees. Their flight is rapid and undulating. The nest, which
is usually constructed against an upright branch or stem, is formed of
coarse grass, lined with slender fibres or hair. The brood consists of
from four to five eggs of a uniform dark blue. Shortly after the young
are fledged, the whole party attach themselves to a large flock of their
congeners, in whose society some few weeks are passed preparatory to
their winter migrations. The food of this species consists of a variety
of seeds, berries, and insects.


THE PRAIRIE BUNTING FINCH.

The PRAIRIE BUNTING FINCH (_Passerculus savannus_) is one of the most
numerous members of this group; it is distinguished by its short conical
beak, the upper mandible of which is short; by its rounded wings, having
the third and fourth quills longer than the rest; short graduated tail,
moderate tarsus, and soft velvety plumage. Upon the upper portion of the
body the feathers are of a pale reddish brown, presenting somewhat the
appearance of being spotted, owing to the darker tint upon the shafts;
the lower parts are white, marked upon the breast with small deep brown
spots, and the sides are streaked with the same colour. The beak is dark
brown upon the upper mandible, the lower one a shade paler; the eyes are
brown; the feet of a light flesh colour. The length of this bird is five
and a half inches, and its breadth eight and a half inches. The female
resembles the male, but her plumage is lighter in its tints.

We learn from Audubon that the Prairie Bunting Finch is one of the most
beautiful and widely distributed of its kind. It is met with in the
Northern States from October to April, inhabiting fields and woodland
districts, and living chiefly upon the ground, where its movements are
extremely nimble, and resemble those of a mouse; indeed, it only uses its
wings when closely pursued, or suddenly alarmed: its flight is irregular
but continuous. This species seems to prefer high grounds at no great
distance from the coast, and is rarely found inhabiting the interior of
woods and forests. During the winter these birds unite themselves to
flocks of their congeners, generally passing the day in flying about in
search of food in the fields or gardens, and sleeping at night upon the
ground. The nest, which is constructed of hay, and lined with some finer
materials, is usually placed in a hole upon the ground, or else under
the shelter of a bush or high tuft of grass. The eggs, from four to six
in number, are of a pale blue colour, marked with purplish-brown spots,
which occasionally take the form of a wreath at the broader end of the
shell. In the more central States these birds breed twice, whilst farther
north they do not lay more than once in the year. The Prairie Bunting
Finch is by no means suitable for domestication, as it is almost entirely
without voice; but it affords a not unpleasing article of food, both to
man and to its still more formidable enemies, the Falcon and Mink.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SHORE FINCHES (_Ammodromus_) are likewise included in the family
of Bunting Finches. They are recognisable by their slender, elongated,
pointed beak, compressed at its edges; their wings and tail are
of moderate length, with the feathers variously coloured at their
extremities.


THE SEA BUNTING FINCH.

The SEA BUNTING FINCH (_Ammodromus maritimus_) is about six or seven
inches long and from ten to eleven inches across the wings. The upper
portion of the body is greenish brown, the breast ash grey, the throat
and belly white, the bridles and a streak on the top of the head dark
grey; a yellow line passes over the eyes. The wings are yellow, bordered
by a broad crooked line of brown, the beak and feet are brown, the eyes
dark brown.

This very remarkable species does not resemble a Finch in its mode of
life, but dwells like a Sandpiper upon the sea-shore, and passes its
time in running nimbly and rapidly at the water's edge, or climbing
about among the reeds with the agility of a Reed Bunting. Its principal
nourishment consists of shrimps, small crabs, sea snails, and little
fishes, this food imparting to its flesh a flavour of train oil, so
generally observable in most sea birds. Marshes producing reeds and
high grass, and well covered with sea water, are the favourite resorts
of these birds, and there they build their nests, care being taken to
place them in some tuft of grass that is beyond the reach of the waves;
the little cradle is formed of coarse grass lined with a bed of finer
quality; the eggs, from four to six in number, are greyish white, spotted
with brown. As far as we can learn, they breed twice in the year.


THE BUNTINGS.

The BUNTINGS (_Emberizæ_) form the connecting link between the Larks and
the Finches proper, and constitute a family extremely rich in species,
all presenting a striking resemblance to each other. These birds are
characterised by their thick bodies, their wings of moderate length,
of which the second or third quills are generally the longest, and by
their large tail formed of broad feathers, its termination being either
straight or slightly furcated; the feet are short, the toes long, and
the hinder toe furnished with a large spur-like nail. The beak, which we
regard as the distinguishing feature of this family, is short, conical,
and pointed, thick at the base, but much compressed towards its tip;
the upper mandible is somewhat narrower than the lower, by which it is
slightly overlapped, the cutting margins are strongly bowed inwards, and
bent down at a sharp angle towards the gape. Implanted in the palate of
the upper jaw there is, moreover, a bony protuberance, which is received
into a corresponding cavity in the under jaw; the gullet is enlarged, but
can scarcely be said to form a crop, and there is a muscular gizzard.

The Buntings are essentially inhabitants of the northern portions of the
earth, but are replaced elsewhere by birds of very similar character.
They mostly frequent low, thin brushwood, or beds of reeds, preferring
such localities as are in the immediate vicinity of water, or delight
in fertile pastures; some species are met with on mountains, others in
valleys, but all agree in avoiding forests or thickly-wooded districts.
Though we must acknowledge that these birds cannot be regarded as
particularly active, or possessed of very excellent endowments, they
are by no means deficient in natural gifts, and their capacity, if not
remarkable, is quite equal to the position they are called upon to fulfil
in the economy of nature. All the species of this family are of social
disposition, associating with Finches and Larks, and living in large
flocks except in the breeding season, and sometimes even during that
period they keep at no great distance from each other, although every
little couple has its own nesting place, the immediate neighbourhood of
which no other bird is permitted to approach. They exhibit no fear of
man, frequently taking up their abode in the immediate neighbourhood
of his dwellings, and paying constant visits to his barns, farmyards,
gardens, or stables. Most of these birds are migratory, and but few
remain for any great length of time in the localities they have
selected for breeding-places. Their food consists during the summer of
grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and other larvæ, besides flies,
gnats, and similar insects; in winter they prefer farinaceous seeds,
those of an oily nature being carefully avoided; they eat very largely,
and soon become extremely fat. When in search of food they generally
alight upon the ground, over which they hop and walk with considerable
activity; their flight is undulating, and their song monotonous, the
call-note consisting of one prolonged cry. The nest is generally built
in a hollow, but is sometimes placed slightly above the surface of the
ground, and simply formed of straws and roots lined with fine grass,
hair, or feathers. The eggs are from four to six in number, spotted and
veined with a dark colour; both parents assist in the work of incubation,
and in providing for the little family when fledged. The Buntings were
regarded in ancient times as a valuable article of food, and many species
are still caught in great numbers for the table in the more southern
countries, whilst in the north birds or beasts of prey are the only
enemies they have to fear.


THE CRESTED BUNTING.

The CRESTED BUNTING (_Gubernatrix cristatella_), which we have selected
as well worthy of notice, is a South American species. This beautiful
bird strongly resembles the rest of the family, differing from them,
however, in the inferior elongation of the nail upon the hinder toe, and
in the fact that it possesses an upright tuft of feathers at the back of
its head. The plumage is thick and matted, in the manner observable in
most Buntings, the male and female closely resembling each other in this
respect. In both birds the back is of a greenish shade, the shoulders
and exterior tail-feathers being bordered with yellow; the top of the
head and throat are black. In the male the lower part of the body and a
line over the eyes are yellow, whilst in the female the breast is grey,
the belly and rump pale green, and the cheek white, as is a line that
passes over the eyes; the beak is grey, the feet black. Azara gives the
measurement of this species as eight inches in length and its breadth
twelve inches, the wing four inches, and the tail three and a half inches.

We are unluckily but little acquainted with the habits of this bird
when in its native land. The author just quoted, however, tells us
that it chiefly frequents the countries watered by the River La Plata,
and the southern portions of Brazil, living, as do its congeners, upon
such bushes as are at no great height, keeping for the most part on the
ground, and rarely perching upon trees or flying to any distance. During
the breeding season the Crested Buntings live in pairs, and at all other
times in small parties, which are very frequent visitants to the native
gardens and farmyards in search of the seeds and insects upon which they
principally subsist. Large numbers are frequently caught and sent to
Europe, where they are known under the name of the "Green Cardinal." They
are often allowed to fly about the gardens in summer, but a warm cage is
necessary during winter, as, being tropical birds, they cower together
and shiver at the first breath of our autumnal blasts. When caged, they
may be reared upon various kinds of bird-seed, finely-chopped meat, ants'
eggs, worms, and salad. In disposition they are generally social, and may
be safely allowed to consort with other birds, except during the breeding
season, when the males are outrageously violent and quarrelsome, fighting
and tearing each other until one or both of the combatants are killed or
severely wounded, the conqueror continuing to maltreat its victim long
after it has been completely _hors de combat_, despite all the endeavours
that may be used to drive it from the spot. A nest described to us was
built of the stalks of heather, woven together like a basket, and without
any softer lining in its interior. The voice of the Green Cardinal is
both powerful and agreeable.


THE GREY BUNTING.

The GREY BUNTING (_Miliaria valida_) is one of the largest of its family,
the length of the body being seven and a half inches, the breadth across
the tail twelve and a quarter inches, the wing four inches, and the tail
three inches. The female is not quite so large as her mate. The plumage
of this species is extremely simple in its coloration; the body is a dark
grey, the lower portion, as far as the breast, being marked with white
or yellowish white, and the sides with brown. The exterior tail-feathers
are of uniform grey, the iris dark brown, the beak greenish yellow, and
the feet horn colour. The female is exactly like her mate. The young
are darker than the old birds, and the spots upon the feathers larger.
The Grey Bunting is not only distinguished by the simplicity of its
plumage, but by its comparatively large, strong beak, furnished with a
protuberance on its roof; its feet are weak and its wings short; it is
likewise remarkable for the shortness of the claw upon the hinder toe.

The Grey Buntings inhabit the greater part of Europe, either as permanent
residents or as birds of passage, appearing in the largest numbers in the
more southern portions of the continent: they are likewise met with both
in Egypt and the Canary Isles. Fields and pastures are the localities
they prefer, and they but rarely make their home in the neighbourhood of
forests or in mountain districts. This bird has a clumsy and unwieldy
appearance, as a glance at its stout, powerful body, combined with weak
legs and short wings, will at once show; indeed, when upon the ground it
looks eminently ungraceful, as it bends itself nearly double, flapping
with its tail as it hops slowly from place to place. When in the air it
flies with difficulty, the short, whirring strokes of its wings producing
an undulating kind of motion. The song of this Bunting has nothing to
recommend it, being in sound not unlike the noise produced by a stocking
machine, from which fact this species is in many places known as the
"Stocking Weaver." Still, however unpleasing to our ears this performance
may be, the birds themselves are highly delighted with their own music,
accompanying their notes by a variety of gesticulations, and thus
appearing to give utterance to sentiments that their very limited gamut
does not permit them otherwise to express.

The breeding season commences in April. The nest is generally placed in
the grass or amongst a group of plants, and is built of straw and dry
leaves, lined with hair and other elastic materials. The eggs, from four
to six in number, have a delicate pale grey or dirty yellowish shell,
marked with dull purple spots, veins, and lines that are very close
together at the broad end. The young are fed upon insects, and are fully
fledged by May, when the parent birds at once proceed to undertake the
care of a second family, only joining the rest of the flock when the work
of incubation is completed. The flesh of the Grey Bunting is considered
excellent; it is therefore much sought after by man, whose example is
followed by falcons, rats, foxes, and other animals.


THE GOLDEN BUNTING.

The GOLDEN BUNTING, or YELLOW BUNTING (_Emberiza citrinella_), is to
be met with in the same parts of our continent as afford a home to the
species last described, from which it is distinguished by the beauty of
its plumage, and the comparative slenderness of its beak. The Yellow
Bunting is about six and a half inches long, and from ten to ten and a
half inches in breadth; the wing measures three and a quarter inches,
and the tail two and three-quarter inches; the plumage of the male is
admired for its markings and the brightness of its tints; the head and
lower portion of the neck are of a bright lemon yellow, and the breast
and belly streaked with reddish brown; the sides of the breast, rump, and
mantle are of a vivid rust colour, the latter being streaked with dark
brown; the throat is tinted with a mixture of olive green and reddish
yellow, and the wings and tail are bordered by two lines, formed by the
yellowish tips of the feathers; the iris is brown, the beak blueish, and
the feet of a deep flesh colour. The female is by no means so handsome as
her mate.

Unlike the Grey Bunting, this species is frequently found at a
considerable altitude, and is very numerous upon the Swiss Alps: it
generally, however, prefers woodland districts, where it hops about
with an agility and grace far exceeding that of its grey brother, whom
it also much surpasses in the quality of its voice. During the entire
summer Golden Buntings are seen flying over the country either in pairs
or small parties; but no sooner does spring approach than the little
couples creep under some low bush or bushy plant, and commence their
preparations for a young family, generally building their nest with fine
grass or some similar material, and enlivening their work by a constant
flow of song, that has been freely translated into a number of sentences
appropriate to the business upon which they are employed; these jubilant
sounds are uttered whilst perched upon a high branch, from which the bold
songster will look down upon the approach of a man without exhibiting
any alarm. The brood consists of from four to five eggs of a dirty white
or reddish colour, veined and spotted with a darker shade. Both parents
assist in the work of incubation, and feed the young exclusively upon
insect nourishment; should the season be favourable, these birds will
breed twice or thrice in the year. When the rearing of the several
families is completed, young and old congregate into one large flock,
and fly about the country in company with Larks, Finches, and Thrushes,
for whose society they appear to feel a wonderful predilection, which
is, however, not so peaceful in its nature as to prevent innumerable
squabbles, though these rarely become serious. On the approach of winter,
the flocks are compelled to seek their food in the neighbouring fields
and farmyards, their visits being by no means welcome to the proprietors,
who, nevertheless, but rarely take any means to protect themselves
against such petty marauders.

[Illustration: THE ORTOLAN OR GARDEN BUNTING (_Emberiza-Glycyspina
hortulana_).]


THE ORTOLAN.

The ORTOLAN, or GARDEN BUNTING (_Glycyspina hortulana_), is a member of
this family; in size it is somewhat smaller than the Golden Bunting, its
body not measuring more than six inches in length; the span of its wings
is about ten inches, the wings three inches, and the tail two and a half
inches. The female is not quite so large as her mate. Among the Ortolans
the sexes are but little distinguishable by their plumage, in which a
reddish brown generally predominates. The head, nape, and front of the
neck are grey, the throat, stripe upon the cheeks, and a small circle
round the eyes of a straw colour. The back is marked with long dark
streaks, the wing-quills are brown, the secondaries being bordered with
light brown, and the rest with light red, as are also the tail-feathers;
the exterior tail-feathers have a long white patch upon their inner web.
The plumage of the female is spotted and duller in its tints than that
of the male, which, however, resembles her in these respects during the
winter months. The iris is brown, and the feet and back of a reddish grey.

[Illustration: THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (_Euspiza melanocephala_).]

The Ortolan is found throughout the greater portion of the European
continent, and is extremely common both in South Norway and in Sweden,
as also in Southern Italy and on the eastern coast of Spain. It is well
known in Holland, England, France, Russia, and some parts of Germany;
it inhabits Asia as far as the Altai Mountains, and, though rare, is
occasionally met with in Northern Africa. In its life and habits the
Garden Bunting closely resembles its golden-plumaged relative, and even
surpasses it in its powers of song, although the voices of the two
are very similar. The nest is built upon the lowest branches of some
thickly-foliaged tree. The eggs, four or six in number, are whitish red
or reddish grey, streaked and spotted with blackish blue. The Ortolan
is entitled to our notice from the fact that it enjoys and always has
maintained a very high reputation as a delicate and costly article of
food. By the Romans these birds were always tended with the greatest
care, in order that their flesh might attain its full perfection, and
lamps were kept constantly burning near their cages at night, that they
might eat with as little intermission as possible. This mode of fattening
them is still employed in Italy and the South of France, as well as
among the Greek Islands, where Ortolans are kept in great numbers.
When ready for the market, their necks are wrung, the birds steeped
in boiling water, and then packed by hundreds in small casks filled
with highly-spiced vinegar, after which precautionary measure they are
exported to foreign markets, where they always command a high price. At
the present day, the gamekeepers in many parts of Germany are allowed to
appropriate the proceeds of the sale of these delicate birds, whose flesh
resembles that of the Snipe, but is, in the opinion of the epicure, even
more delicate.


THE RED BUNTING.

The RED BUNTING or MEADOW BUNTING (_Emberiza-Glycyspina cia_) is, in
our opinion, a more beautiful species than the much-prized Ortolan,
its plumage being as noticeable for its elegant markings as for the
brilliancy of its colours. The principal tint is reddish brown; the
throat, head, and upper part of the breast are of a delicate grey; the
cheeks and ears are surrounded by a black ring, which is enclosed by two
white lines, the back is marked by a series of spots running in stripes,
and the wings are ornamented with two light borders. The markings in
the plumage of the female are less distinct, and her throat lighter and
more spotted than in the case of her mate. The iris is dark brown, and
the beak blueish black upon the upper mandible, the lower mandible is
light blue, and the feet are horn colour. The length of this bird is
about six and a half inches, its breadth nine and a half inches, and the
wing and tail two and three-quarter inches. The female is not quite so
large. The Red Bunting is an inhabitant of the South, only frequenting
such parts of Germany as are watered by the Rhine; but is numerous in
Austria, Spain, Italy, and Greece, spreading from these countries over
Asia, till it reaches the Himalaya Mountains, where we hear it is very
constantly met with; indeed, our own observations lead us to suppose that
this species prefers mountain districts, avoiding open plains, and is an
inhabitant of the Swiss Alps. There can be no question that precipices
abounding with large fragments of stone afford a most acceptable shelter
for the purpose of incubation, and in such localities it disports itself
much in the same fashion as its congeners, but is rarely seen perching
elsewhere. In its flight, general habits, and song, it is a true Bunting.
The nest is generally built on and about rocks, or in fissures of the
walls that surround the vineyards, with which the sides of the mountains
are frequently covered. The eggs, three or four in number, are greyish
black surrounded with grey lines, often arranged like a girdle round the
middle, thus distinguishing them from those of the Yellow Bunting. [For
drawings of the eggs of this species and of the Cirl Bunting (_Emberiza
cirlus_) see Coloured Plate IV.] The parent birds breed twice in the
season, and when the period of incubation is over join the large flocks
of their companions, with whom they pass the rest of the year.


THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING.

The BLACK-HEADED BUNTING (_Euspiza melanocephala_), an inhabitant of the
south-eastern portion of Europe, and of a large portion of South-western
Asia, is one of the most beautiful of the many species belonging to this
extensive family. It is recognisable by its elongated beak, furnished
with a long sharp protuberance under its roof, and by the more uniform
coloration of its plumage, which differs widely in the two sexes. The
Black-headed Bunting is seven inches long, and eleven and a half across
the wings, the wings and tail measuring about three inches in length. The
head of the male is jet-black, the back rust-red, the whole of the under
part of the body of a golden colour, and the wings and tail dark brown.
The female is without the black hood, the bridles are greyish brown, the
back reddish grey, each feather being bordered with a lighter shade, and
having a dark shaft; the under part of the body is pale yellow, and the
throat of a whitish hue; the quills, wings, and tail-covers are dark
brown, edged with a lighter tint, or with brownish white; the beak is
light blue, and the feet of a deep flesh colour.

The Black-headed Buntings commence their migrations about the month of
November, and very shortly after leaving Europe make their appearance
in the Deccan, and upper provinces of Hindostan, assembling there in
large flocks, and making terrible havoc in the corn-fields, until the
time returns for carrying on their work of destruction in our part of
the world, where, on their arrival, they may be seen perching in crowds
upon the sea shore, as they alight to rest after their long and arduous
flight. We are told by Von Mühle that these birds are so extremely dull
and stupid in their disposition that the male when singing will allow
himself to be approached and killed with a stick, but in other respects
they resemble the rest of their congeners. The nest is usually built upon
a hill side, the female burying herself as far as possible among the
surrounding plants or grass, whilst her mate perches upon a neighbouring
shrub or tree and cheers her with a constant flow of song. The little
cradle is formed without art of the stalks of plants and leaves loosely
woven together, and lined with delicate fibres of hair or fine grass.
The eggs, which are laid about the middle of June, are of a pale blueish
green, marked with more or less distinct green, red, or grey spots.


THE REED BUNTING.

The REED BUNTING (_Cynchramus Schoeniclus_) has been separated from the
other members of its family on account of the peculiar formation of its
beak, and though closely resembling them in many particulars, certainly
differs from them in its habits. The Reed Bunting is about six inches
long and twenty-nine broad, the wings and the tail measuring rather more
than two inches. The female is not quite so large. The head and entire
throat of the male are deep black, a white stripe passes from the corner
of the beak towards the shoulder, uniting itself with a band of the same
hue that encircles the neck; the back is brown, each feather being edged
with a lighter shade, and having a dark shaft, giving to this part of the
plumage a somewhat sparrow-like appearance; the rump is ash grey, the
belly white, and the sides grey, marked with dark longitudinal streaks.
In the female the head is brown, with markings of a darker shade, the
throat dirty white, and encircled by a spotted band; the nestlings and
young males resemble the mother. The eye is brown, the beak blue, darker
upon the upper mandible, and light beneath; the feet are reddish grey.

This species is found throughout Europe, inhabiting every country
even as far north as Lapland. It is, however, generally met with in
such districts only as are near to water, or in marshy land, rich in
water-plants, reeds, or willows, on or near which it makes its nest. The
nest itself is frequently built on some small patch of ground, encircled
by water; it is constructed of grass or roots woven neatly together
and lined with cotton down taken from seeds or willows. This little
dwelling is placed upon the ground in such a manner as to be hidden by
the surrounding vegetation, and (about May) is generally found to contain
from four to six pretty eggs, differing considerably from each other in
appearance, but for the most part of a brownish or reddish tinge, with
a profusion of dark brown or grey spots and veins. These birds are much
attached to their young, and the mother will actually permit herself
to be removed from the nest by force rather than desert her offspring.
In its general attributes the Reed Bunting certainly stands superior
to most of its fellows, far exceeding them in the activity it displays
either when hopping on the ground or jumping from twig to twig: its
flight is rapid and undulating, occasionally varied by more energetic
efforts as the light and elegant bird rises swiftly into the air, where
it performs a variety of evolutions, and then as speedily descends. Its
song is monotonous, but far from unpleasing; its call a more prolonged
note than is usually produced by a Bunting. During the summer, the food
of this species consists principally of such insects as it obtains from
the reeds growing in the immediate vicinity of the water, and in winter
it subsists upon the seeds that abound in its favourite haunts; it is
only after the breeding season that it is tempted to join company with
others of its kind, and make short excursions to pilfer the neighbouring
corn-fields, very much after the manner of Sparrows. On the approach of
winter, it seeks refuge in a more congenial climate, visiting Spain and
other southern countries in large flocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SPUR BUNTINGS or LARK BUNTINGS (_Centrophanes_) constitute an
extensive group that comprises many beautifully plumaged species,
distinguished by the remarkable elongation of the nail upon their hinder
toe. They are all recognisable by their small beaks, with only a slight
excrescence in the upper portion, by their long, pointed wings, tail of
moderate length, strong feet, and the aforesaid spur, which is much bent,
in some cases nearly equalling, and in others exceeding the toe in length.

[Illustration: THE REED BUNTING (_Cynchramus Schoeniclus_).]


THE LARK BUNTING.

In the SPUR BUNTING or LARK BUNTING (_Centrophanes lapponicus_) the
characteristic nail is longer than the toe itself. The plumage of the
male is black upon the top of the head, and beneath the throat; the nape
is a bright rust-red, marked with a reddish-white line that passes over
the eyes, and lower down takes the form of the letter S; the back is
brown, streaked with a deeper shade; the wings brownish black, with light
borders to the small covers and individual quills; the lower part of the
body is greyish white, marked upon the sides with large black streaks and
spots. The female is without the black upon the head, throat, and sides,
and her plumage is of a paler tint than that of the male. During the
winter the black markings are frequently almost concealed under the white
edges that the feathers acquire at that season. The young resemble the
mother, but have long dark streaks upon the lower portion of the body.
The iris is dark brown, the beak blueish black at its tip, and the feet
a greyish brown. The length of this species is about six inches, and the
breadth ten inches; the wing measures three and a half inches, and the
tail two and a half inches. The female is smaller than her mate.

[Illustration: THE LARK BUNTING (_Centrophanes lapponicus_).]

The Lark Bunting is to be found in all the northern countries of Europe,
and is extremely numerous in Lapland, its favourite haunts being
mountains, barren highlands, or birch forests. Its habits are a curious
mixture of those of the Lark and Reed Bunting; it runs on the ground
after the manner of the former, and perches like the latter, while its
flight bears a resemblance to that of both birds. The call-note is
melancholy, and its sound well suited to the localities where it is
heard: the song is very simple, and is, we believe, only uttered whilst
on the wing. Schräder tells us that this species visits Lapland about
April, and at once proceeds to make its nest, which is safely concealed
under the roots of a birch tree, or hidden amongst the surrounding
plants; exteriorly it is formed of coarse, thick grass, and lined with
soft feathers. The eggs, five or six in number, are laid about the
middle of June; in shape they are elongated, and of a grey or yellowish
colour, marked more or less with dark spots or lines, which are, however,
occasionally wanting. As soon as the duties of incubation are concluded
the little pairs unite themselves into parties, and appear during
their journeyings over the country to be almost entirely without fear
of man, and quite ignorant of his dangerous powers. The food of these
birds during the summer months consists principally of gnats and other
insects, and in winter of various kinds of seeds. The migrations of Lark
Buntings rarely extend beyond the southern parts of Scandinavia, such
as have visited Germany being, no doubt, stragglers that have wandered
involuntarily from the rest. Naumann tells us that they constantly seek
the society of Larks, and that their flesh is frequently eaten.


THE SNOW BUNTING.

The SNOW BUNTING (_Plectrophanes nivalis_), the last member of this
family to which we shall call our readers' attention, is distinguished by
the remarkable thickness of its plumage, and in several other respects
differs from its congeners. The beak resembles that of the Lark Bunting,
but the wings are comparatively long, and the tail short; the spur-like
nail is likewise bent, and not quite so large as in that bird. The male
is from six to seven inches long, its breadth about twelve inches; the
wing four and a quarter inches, and the tail two and a half inches.
Simple as are the colours in the plumage of the young male, its beauty
cannot fail to excite admiration. The middle of the back and tips of the
quills are black, as is the upper portion of the middle tail-feathers,
and a spot upon the carpal portion of the wing; the lower parts of the
tail-feathers are bordered with brownish grey, gradually shading into
black towards their roots, and the whole of the remainder of the plumage
is of a pure white. The iris is light brown, the beak blue at its base
and black at the tip; the feet are of a brownish black colour. The head
of the female is of a blackish shade, that of the young bird grey; but
during the winter the head and neck are brownish grey, marked with a
black crescent-shaped spot; at that season the breast is of a quieter
tint, only the wings and tail retaining colours similar to those they
exhibit in summer. The plumage of the young birds is a dull reddish
brown, the back brown with dark markings; the wings are striped with two
white bands.

[Illustration: THE SNOW BUNTING (_Plectrophanes nivalis_).]

This species is an inhabitant of the same countries as those frequented
by the Lark Bunting, but is often found living in much higher latitudes
than that bird, even breeding so far north as the islands of Spitzbergen
and of Novaja Zemlja. We ourselves have met with it during the summer in
Scandinavia, in the northern part of Lapland, and upon the highest of the
Dovrefeld Mountains. Rocky passes seem to afford it the localities it
prefers when about to breed; the nest, which is formed of moss and grass,
lined with down and feathers, is placed in a cleft of rock, or under a
large stone, the entrance to this secret retreat being made of the very
smallest proportions consistent with the possibility of the parent birds
slipping in and out of the nest. The brood consists of from five to six
eggs, so extremely various in their colour and markings as to render any
attempt at description useless. The young are fed almost exclusively with
insects, upon which their parents also subsist in the breeding season,
seeds of various kinds affording them nourishment during the winter.

The flocks of these beautiful creatures are remarkably numerous; they
pour in dense masses over the country, and drop like snow-flakes
upon such spots as seem to offer them the food of which they are in
search--indeed, so strong is the resemblance of these swarms to a
snow-storm, when thus seen congregated in large numbers, that the birds
are popularly called "Snowflakes" in St. Petersburg, where they are met
with in much greater multitudes than in other parts of Europe. Many tales
are told of these flocks settling down, during their migrations, on the
decks of ships, in order to enjoy a short repose; upon such occasions,
however, they rise again into the air almost immediately, and continue
their long and weary journey, even should they have to encounter the full
violence of a contrary wind.

In its demeanour this species bears quite as close a resemblance to
the Lark as to its more immediate relations. Its movements upon the
ground are easy, its flight rapid and extremely light, the bird rising
high into the air when about to fly to a distance, but keeping near
the ground during its ordinary daily excursions. Naumann tells us that
the evolutions of a flock of Snow Buntings are extremely curious, the
whole party appearing to revolve around each other whilst on the wing,
much after the fashion of waltzers in a ball-room--indeed, under every
circumstance of their active lives they never lose their restless and
unwearying activity, which even great cold or want of food seems unable
to abate or restrain. The fields afford them sustenance during the
winter, and over these they hover, scarcely ceasing from their flight
even when occupied in obtaining food; but should the supply from this
source prove insufficient for the wants of the party, they are, as a
last resource, driven into towns and villages, in order to obtain from
thence provisions not to be found elsewhere. Their song is not unlike
that of the Lark, and their call a shrill piping note, generally uttered
whilst on the wing; when singing, on the contrary, they prefer to perch
upon a stone or bed of snow, as near as possible to the mate for whose
delectation their music is intended.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE LARKS.

The LARKS (_Alaudæ_) differ widely in their habits from the rest of the
Passerine Order, inasmuch as they reside so exclusively upon the ground,
that we should feel very much surprised to see a Lark perching in a tree,
or disporting itself amongst the branches.

All the various members of this family are stoutly built, with large
heads, beaks of short or moderate length, long and very broad wings,
short tails, and rather flat feet, furnished with toes of middle size,
armed in some species with a spur-like nail: the tail, which is by no
means large, is composed of twelve feathers evenly cut off at their
extremity. The plumage is of a brownish shade, nearly alike in the
two sexes, but varying considerably as the birds increase in age. The
internal structure of the body differs in no essential particulars from
that of other Passeres. The skeleton is powerful; the bones for the most
part filled with air, and without marrow; the singing apparatus is well
developed; the lungs are large and the gizzard muscular; there is no
crop. These birds inhabit the open country, whether cultivated or not,
and are most numerously met with in temperate latitudes, some preferring
fields, whilst others are restricted to steppes or desert plains. Most
species must be considered as migratory, that is to say, such as are
found in the more northern countries seek for sunnier climes when winter
approaches, whilst those that inhabit the South may be regarded as
stationary; but in no case do these migratory excursions extend to any
great distance; and though the Larks are amongst our first visitors,
their stay with us is never protracted beyond the autumn. The behaviour
of all the members of this group is characterised by many peculiarities
that distinguish them from other Passeres. When upon the ground they
do not hop, but _step_ with surprising rapidity, and their flight is
remarkable for the variety of the evolutions by which it is accomplished.
Should the bird be eager to reach its destination it flies in large
undulating curves, produced by alternately opening and closing the wings;
but if, on the contrary, the little warbler is about to pour forth its
glorious song, it darts straight into the sky, like an arrow from a bow,
or else rises rapidly, but more leisurely, in a series of spiral circles
until it is quite out of sight. When about to descend, it hovers for a
short space in one spot, and then by a sudden plunge reaches the ground,
with body contracted and wings completely closed. At other times it may
be seen skimming close to the earth, or over the surface of a sheet of
water, occasionally varying these several kinds of exercise or amusement
by chasing its companions in buoyant and sportive flights through the
air. As regards their capabilities, the Larks have certainly been highly
favoured by Nature, but their intelligence is by no means equal to their
other endowments. Most of the members of this family are good singers,
some of them very highly gifted in that respect, and capable not only of
uttering a great variety of notes, but of imitating many of the sounds
they hear. All are of a cheerful and restless disposition, associating
but little with other birds, and exhibiting no fear of man or his snares,
except after experience of his tyranny. We have already said that Larks
are rarely found on trees, but pass their lives principally upon the
ground from which they procure the seeds and insects that constitute
their principal food. During the summer they consume large quantities
of small beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders, and larvæ; these,
with seeds of various kinds, and young shoots from the budding corn,
constitute their daily fare; at other seasons different kinds of grain,
large and small, are eaten when still in the husk, thus necessitating
the swallowing of sand and little pebbles in order to assist the gizzard
in the labour of digestion. Water seems to be held in actual aversion
by these birds; they cleanse themselves, as do the domestic fowls, by
scratching about in the dust or sand; snow is also frequently used
during the winter for the same purpose. The Larks build their nests
upon the ground, or in small hollows scooped out for the reception of
the little structure, which is not remarkable for beauty; the principal
object in the choice of materials being to select such as are not easily
distinguishable from the ground upon which the nest stands; dry blades of
grass and leaves are generally employed for the purpose, and these are
woven together with but slight attention to comfort or compactness. The
brood consists of from four to six eggs, and as each pair breeds twice in
the course of the year, the increase of these birds is extremely rapid;
indeed, if this were not the case, their extermination would be speedily
accomplished, for their enemies are terribly numerous, those inhabiting
southern countries being particularly unfortunate in this respect,
as snakes and lizards are there added to the already large number
of destroyers, from whose teeth and claws so many of their northern
congeners are unable to escape. Man himself, however, is, after all, by
far the most redoubtable of their foes; for hundreds of thousands of
these little songsters are captured annually in order to add to the list
of delicacies supplied to his already over-stocked table.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CALANDRA LARKS (_Melanocorypha_) are distinguished by their strong
beaks, vaulted both above and below, and slightly compressed at the
sides; by their long wings, short tails, and the cheerful coloration of
their plumage.


THE CALANDRA LARK.

The CALANDRA LARK (_Melanocorypha Calandra_), which we select as the
type of this group, is the most celebrated of all the species inhabiting
Southern Europe. It exceeds most of its congeners in size, the length
of its body being from seven to eight inches, its breadth fifteen to
seventeen inches, the wing five and a quarter inches, and the tail two
and a half inches. The plumage is of a reddish brown, marked with black
along its upper portion; the feathers on the wing-covers are tipped
with white, thus producing the effect of two distinct white lines; the
shoulder-feathers are bordered with white, and the exterior tail-feathers
entirely of that hue. The under parts of the body are whitish yellow,
streaked with brown along the upper portion of the breast, and the sides
of the neck are marked with an irregular black spot; the eyes are light
brown, the beak and feet horn colour. The coat of the young bird is of a
reddish yellow upon the back, the individual feathers being edged with a
paler shade. The head is marked with round spots, and with one irregular,
pale black patch.

[Illustration: THE CALANDRA LARK (_Melanocorypha Calandra_).]

These birds abound in Southern Europe, and occasionally in the
south-eastern parts of our continent; they are also met with in
Central Asia, North America, Northern Africa, India, and China, being
very numerous in the latter country. In Asia the Calandra Lark almost
exclusively inhabits the boundless steppes, whilst in other parts of the
world it shows no particular preference as to situation, frequenting
agricultural districts or barren tracts with equal impartiality. Though
usually of a social disposition, it separates itself from the rest of
its companions during the breeding season, and watches over its little
partner with most jealous care; as soon, however, as the labours of
incubation are accomplished the various couples again congregate, and
form large flocks. Its general habits resemble those described as common
to the whole family, the principal difference being that the Calandra
Lark, unlike its congeners, frees the seed or corn from the husk before
swallowing it. The nest is built of dry stalks or fine roots carelessly
woven together, and placed either behind a clod of earth or under a small
bush, sometimes amongst corn, a small hollow being always prepared for
its reception. The brood usually consists of four or five large, round,
white or yellowish white eggs, thickly covered with light brown or grey
spots.

Much has been said and written in praise of the song of the Calandra
Lark, but words are quite inadequate to describe the effect it is capable
of producing upon the minds of all who listen as it pours forth an
almost unceasing flow of sweet sounds, combining in the most surprising
manner, not merely the great variety of tones constituting its own
peculiar song, but the notes and music uttered by almost every other
kind of bird, the whole being exquisitely adorned and blended by the
little vocalist, who thus produces an ever-changeful strain, which must
be heard under the wide canopy of heaven before its full beauty can be
appreciated. When in a room, the whole performance is too loud to permit
the hearer adequately to appreciate the versatile powers of the little
songster, who not unfrequently gives utterance to a surprising flow of
varied cadences, without any visible exertion of the throat, the sounds
appearing, strangely enough, to proceed entirely from the beak. With us
these Larks are not much esteemed as household pets, owing, as we have
said, to the loudness of their voice; but in Spain great numbers are
caught for domestication, the capture being generally achieved at night
with the aid of sheep-bells and dark lanterns, the birds thus deluded
remaining stationary, under the impression that only a flock of sheep is
approaching, and thus their pursuers are enabled to enclose multitudes of
them in their nets before the unsuspecting victims can escape.


THE SHORT-TOED LARK.

The SHORT-TOED LARK, or CALANDRELLE (_Calandritis brachydactyla_), is a
well-known species, inhabiting Spain and Italy, and differs from that
above described in the comparative smallness of its beak and very short
spurs. The upper portion of the body is of a light clay colour, with a
reddish tint upon the head, and a grey shade here and there upon the
back; the under parts are pale greyish yellow; the wings are bordered
with a darker shade than those of the Calandra Lark, and the spots on
the neck are smaller and fainter than in that bird. Its length is about
five and a half inches, its breadth from ten to eleven inches; the wing
measures three and a half inches, and the tail from two to two and a half
inches.

The Calandrelle is found in considerable numbers, inhabiting all the
plains of Southern Europe, Central Asia, and Western Africa, where it
frequents alike the barren wastes or cultivated districts. The Asiatic
steppes and desert tracts of the South must, however, be regarded as
its actual habitat, and in such localities the resemblance between the
parched herbage or dry ground and the attire of the bird is so deceptive,
that the little creature need but lower its head to become completely
unrecognisable at the distance of a few paces from the spot upon which it
stands. Such of this species as frequent Spain, commence their wanderings
in the early spring, keeping together in enormous flocks until the
breeding season, when they separate into pairs, each couple choosing a
convenient nesting-place, which is not left until the end of summer. The
flight and habits of these birds have some few peculiarities, but in
most respects they closely resemble the rest of the Lark family. When
upon the wing they fly in irregular curves, ascending into the sky, if
we may so describe it, by a kind of _climbing motion_, and descending
at once with the direct impetus and closed wings usually seen in the
earthward course of their congeners. Their song has been humorously
described as "patchwork," and so it actually is, for the performance is
never consecutive, each long, shrill note being followed by an entirely
distinct and unconnected sound, the effect of which is far from pleasing,
especially as their notes are often repeated some twenty times in
succession without the slightest variation beyond an occasional change of
key. Yet, despite the poverty of its own song, this bird is capable of
imitating the voice of its feathered companions with considerable skill,
and may be heard pouring forth its disjointed notes almost during the
whole day, both when upon the ground, or while mounting upwards to the
sky.

The nest of the Calandrelle is carelessly constructed, but very safely
concealed from view; the eggs are grey or pale yellow, marked more
or less distinctly and very variously with reddish brown. At the
commencement of September the annual migrations of these Larks have fully
commenced, and flocks of them may be seen winging their way in immense
masses towards the wooded steppes of Central Africa, literally forming
clouds that obscure the sky, or when they alight covering the entire
ground, very frequently for half an hour at a time. Jerdon mentions their
appearance in India in very similar terms, and tells us that on one
occasion he brought down no fewer than twelve dozen of these birds with
two shots from a double-barrelled gun--a statement for the truth of which
we can fully vouch after our own experiences in Central Africa. Thousands
are also destroyed in Spain, but the increase is so large as to prevent
any serious diminution of their numbers.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BLACK LARKS (_Saxilauda_) form a group very closely resembling the
Calandra Larks, but recognisable by the peculiarity of their plumage and
the Finch-like form of their beaks.


THE BLACK LARK.

The BLACK LARK, or MOOR LARK (_Saxilauda Tatarica_), is about seven and
a half to eight inches long, the wings five and a half, and the tail
three inches. The coat of the old male bird is coal-black, shaded, after
moulting, with white, both upon the back and lower portion of the body;
indeed, at that time the plumage may almost be described as _chequered_,
each feather having a white border, which gradually wears away as the
season advances. The beak is yellow, tipped with a dark shade, the feet
brown, and the eyes light brown. The coat of the female is brown, marked
with a deeper tint, the under portion of the body being white: the young
resemble the mother. Swarms of these Moor Larks are found inhabiting the
steppes of Central Asia, where they frequently linger from year's end to
year's end, never leaving except to wander to somewhat higher ground, in
search of a spot upon which they can escape the snow that drives them
from the lower parts of the country. Eversmann tells us that he saw them
in large flocks upon the Asiatic steppes during the winter, but with the
particulars of their summer life in Asia we are entirely unacquainted,
except that the seeds of various plants and insects constitute their
favourite food. As to its general habits, this species closely resembles
the Calandra Lark, with which it frequently associates. The brood
consists of from four to six pale blue eggs, marked with reddish spots;
the nest exhibits but small trace of care in its construction.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must here again call our readers' attention to the admirable manner in
which the colours of the feathered tribes are adapted to the particular
situations in which their life is to be passed. Seeing that the Black
Larks could only exist where the soil is of a similarly dark character,
another race of these birds has been appointed to cheer the barren desert
with their presence, coloured so as to harmonise and blend with the light
and sandy plains that they frequent; such are--

       *       *       *       *       *

The SAND LARKS (_Ammomanes_), easily recognisable by their strong beaks,
very powerful, broad, long, and pointed wings, comparatively large and
excised tail, and sand-coloured plumage; all the various species closely
resemble each other in these particulars.


THE DESERT LARK.

The DESERT LARK (_Ammomanes deserti_) is one of the smallest members of
this group, not being more than five and a half inches long, and eight
and a half broad. The upper part of the body is of a sandy yellow or
grey, marked upon the throat by fine dark lines; the black tail and wing
feathers are edged with reddish brown.

[Illustration: THE MOOR LARK (_Saxilauda Tatarica_).]

We ourselves have met with these birds in all parts of the African
Desert, even in the sandy plains called by the Arabs _Hammadas_, or
_Red Lot_; indeed, such spots as these are selected by preference, the
little creatures seeming carefully to avoid the oases, or any districts
that bear the impress of cultivation, only leaving the burning wastes
to wander unmolested through the ruined temples of the Pharaohs, to
which their dismal cry seems to lend an additional shade of gloom. In
their movements the Desert Larks exhibit an activity and adroitness
that enables them to travel over the loose sand upon which they live
with surprising rapidity. Their disposition is quiet, and so extremely
engaging, as to cause them to be regarded by the Arabs with peculiar
favour; as to their requirements, they must certainly be numbered amongst
the most easily satisfied of living creatures; a little sand and a few
stones are all they need to form a home, and should the locality selected
by a pair of Desert Larks afford them a few blades of coarse grass, their
utmost desires are fulfilled. Day after day you may visit the spot, and
there they will be found perching upon the same stone, apparently as
happy and contented as birds can be. Early in the year they commence the
labours attendant upon incubation, concealing their nests with so much
care amongst the stones, that all our attempts to discover them have
proved fruitless. Nothing can exceed the fearlessness with which man is
regarded by the Desert Lark; it will frequently allow the approach of a
stranger without the slightest demonstration of alarm, having learned by
experience that their attractive manners render them safe at least from
the pursuit of the Arab, if not of the naturalist.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUNTING LARKS (_Pyrrhulauda_) may be regarded as the dwarfs of the
Lark family. They inhabit a large portion of Africa, including the
eastern coast, and are remarkable not merely for the smallness of their
size, but for their short thick beak and very large wings.


THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING LARK.

The BLACK-HEADED BUNTING LARK (_Pyrrhulauda leucotis_) is black upon the
head and lower portion of the body; the back is reddish brown, the cheeks
white, as is a line that passes over the nape; the hips are dirty white,
the wing-feathers brown, whilst those of the tail are half white and half
brown; the eyes are light brown, and the beak and feet light yellow. Its
length is five inches, the breadth nine and a quarter inches; the wing
measures nearly three, and the tail about two inches.

[Illustration: THE DESERT LARK (_Ammomanes deserti_).]

This lively, elegant little bird is found extensively in all the African
lowlands, beyond sixteen degrees north latitude, flying about freely in
the immediate vicinity of man, and only avoiding such localities as high
mountains or dense forests. In its habits it is by no means so brisk
and alert as the Desert Lark, and its appearance anything but trim, as
it runs or sits with drooping head, and wings hanging loosely from its
side; but its flight is easy, and its movements when upon the ground far
from clumsy, and very rapid. Its song is extremely simple, consisting
generally of a monotonous repetition of the syllables _tit-tit_, and
is uttered both when perched and when upon the wing. Our knowledge
respecting the incubation of this species is extremely scanty, and we
can only say that the little mates are much attached to each other, keep
themselves separate from their kindred during the breeding season, and
rejoin them when their parental duties are accomplished, forming parties
which occasionally become very numerous. The plumage of the young differs
considerably from that of the adult birds.


THE ALPINE LARK.

The ALPINE LARK, or SHORE LARK (_Phileremos alpestris_), is one of the
liveliest members of its family, both as relates to its plumage and
disposition, and may be regarded as forming, with a few other species,
a distinct group remarkable for the elongation of the body, and two
appendages resembling feathery horns, with which the back of the head is
furnished. The beak is straight, weak, and of moderate size; the wings
long, with the second, third, and fourth primaries almost of equal
length; the feet are strong, the toes of moderate size, and the hinder
toe armed with a slightly curved, spur-like claw. The plumage of this
bird is variegated in its tints; the length of its body is about seven
inches, the breadth thirteen; the wings measure four, and the tail three
inches. The Alpine Lark is an inhabitant of Northern Europe, and is
easily recognisable by its elegant and striking appearance. Upon the back
the feathers are of a reddish grey; the wings and tail black, bordered
with dark brown; the breast and belly of a very pale yellowish grey, so
light as to be nearly white. The markings upon the head are extremely
beautiful: the brow is of a dull yellow, the region of the ear yellowish
grey, enlivened by a bright brimstone-coloured line, which passes over
the eyes, and gradually spreads till the throat and sides of the neck
are of the same colour. The upper part of the breast is decorated with
a triangular patch of velvety black, the cheeks, base of the beak, a
streak upon the head, and the tufts being of the same rich deep shade.
The eye is light brown, the beak and feet of a blueish tint. The coat of
the nestlings is of a pale brownish grey upon the back, all the feathers
edged with light yellow; the belly is white, and the individual feathers
furnished with a pale yellow border; the wing and tail feathers are brown.

[Illustration: THE ALPINE LARK (_Phileremos alpestris_).]

The name of the Alpine Lark is derived, not from the Swiss Alps, but from
the mountains of Siberia, and the rest of Northern Europe, where, at the
present day, it is met with in large numbers, though until within the
last fifty years it was considered to be one of the rarest birds in our
continent. According to our own observations, this species is not found
at a greater elevation than 400 or 500 feet above the level of the sea.
In Lapland it lives near the coast. These Larks quit the more northern
countries at the end of October, and return about April, when they at
once commence preparations for their young. The nest is most carefully
constructed, and neatly lined with fine blades of grass, cotton wool, and
other delicate materials, a slight hollow being prepared in the ground
for its reception; in this the little cradle is so well concealed as
to be only discoverable by a practised eye. The brood consists of from
four to five eggs, of about the same size as those of the common Field
Lark; they are usually yellow, and covered with very fine markings of a
deeper shade, which take the form of a wreath around the broadest end;
varieties are, however, occasionally found exhibiting grey streaks, or
brown hair-like lines. In its habits this species closely resembles the
Field Lark; indeed, the movements of the two are so exactly similar as
to render it almost impossible to distinguish between them, either when
on the ground or in the air: the Alpine Lark, however, sings either
when perched or sitting upon a stone, and not, like its more southern
representative the Field Lark, only when soaring in the air. It subsists
chiefly upon seeds and insects, feeding its young principally upon the
gnats and larvæ abounding in its favourite resorts.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LARKS PROPER (_Alauda_) are distinguished from the birds just
described by their more slender beaks, short wings, and simple plumage,
but closely resemble them in other particulars.


THE TUFTED LARK.

The TUFTED LARK (_Galerita cristata_) may be regarded as holding an
intermediate position, by reason of the comparative strength of its
beak, the shape of which, however, points it out as belonging to the
Larks Proper; it is, moreover, easily recognisable by its compact body
and tolerably strong feet, furnished with an almost straight claw upon
the hinder toe, also by its large head and blunt wings, lax plumage,
and, above all, by the crest it bears upon the vertex. The plumage is
extremely various, and we are as yet unable to decide whether this
diversity indicates distinct species, or is to be attributed to other
causes; suffice it to say that these alterations in the colouring are
usually accompanied by very observable differences both in the song
and manners of the birds. We shall not here attempt to enter into a
discussion on this point, but shall only observe that in one part of
Egypt, where the soil is very dark, a species of Lark is found which,
from the depths of its hues, has been called _Galerita nigricans_, whilst
in the desert, not a mile from the same spot, a similar bird is met with
almost of a golden colour. We mention this to show that in such a case
the climate can in no way be the cause for so great a dissimilarity. In
this group, therefore, every variety of tint, from deep yellowish grey to
pale whitish yellow, may frequently be seen in birds apparently belonging
to the same species. The Tufted Lark, so frequently met with in Germany,
is usually reddish grey upon the upper part of its body; the throat is
pale yellowish white, the rest of the under portion is brownish yellow,
every feather being marked with a black line upon its shaft, except
those upon the throat, wings, and a streak which passes over the eyes;
the wings and tail-feathers are black or dark brown, bordered with rusty
red. In the young birds, all the feathers upon the upper part of the coat
are edged with white, and spotted at the tip with a dark shade; the eye
is brown, the upper mandible deep grey, the lower one light grey, and
the feet red. The length of this species is about six and three quarter
inches, its breadth twelve and a half inches, the wing three and three
quarter inches, and the tail two and a half inches. The female is not
quite so large as her mate. We shall speak of this group collectively,
as relates to their habits and mode of life, for what applies to one
applies to all. The Tufted Larks are spread extensively over the whole
of Europe, Central and Southern Asia, and Africa, being most numerous
in the southern parts, where they not only inhabit the villages, but
also frequent mountains and barren plains; whilst, as we have already
mentioned, those of Africa are as constantly seen in the desert as in
the cultivated districts. In Europe they may be considered as constant
winter visitors to our barns and houses, hopping about them in company
with Sparrows and Finches in the hope of obtaining food. Except during
the period of incubation, all are quiet, unobtrusive birds, easily
distinguished from our Field Lark by their crest, which is always held
erect upon the head, but closely resembling their congeners in their
flight and movements upon the ground. Their song is sweet and silvery in
its tone, and though somewhat melancholy, is much admired; many esteem
the species found in the desert as the most gifted in this respect,
but we imagine this merely to proceed from the fact that any pleasing
sounds have a double charm when heard amidst the gloom of those dreary
and usually silent wastes. Seeds, tender shoots, and insects constitute
their principal food, the latter also forming the principal nourishment
of the young birds. The nest, which is built in fields, vineyards, or
gardens, is placed upon the ground, and so well concealed as to be not
easily found, though often situated in localities much frequented by
man. The eggs are yellow or reddish white, marked with numerous grey or
yellow brown spots; the first brood consists of from four to six eggs,
the second seldom of more than three or four. Both sexes assist in the
work of incubation, taking their place upon the eggs by turns; the young
are hatched in about a fortnight, and are carefully tended by both
parents; they remain close to the nest until they can fly with ease,
taking refuge within it in case of danger. Compared with many members of
the Lark family, the birds belonging to this group may be said to live in
safety from the pursuit of man, as their flesh is not much esteemed as an
article of food.

[Illustration: THE TUFTED LARK (_Galerita cristata_).]


THE WOOD LARK.

The WOOD LARK (_Corys alauda arborea_) is distinguished by its inferior
size, small wings, large, broad, and rounded tail, and scarcely
perceptible tuft upon its head. Its length never exceeds six inches,
its breadth is eleven and three-quarter inches, the wing measures three
and a half inches, and the tail two inches. The female is smaller than
her mate. The plumage is brownish yellow, shaded with rusty red; the
belly white, striped with black as far as the breast; the four exterior
tail-feathers are white, or of a yellowish shade; a light blue line
passes over the head at the base of the upper mandible, running above the
eyes, and around the crest. The feathers on the back of the young have a
dark border.

[Illustration: THE SKYLARK (_Alauda arvensis_).]

This beautiful bird is found extensively throughout Southern and Central
Europe, and a large portion of Central Asia; its favourite haunts are,
however, restricted to such barren plains and bare mountainous tracts
as would offer few attractions to other members of the family. In its
movements the Wood Lark is extremely vivacious and active; it runs with
short steps over the ground, carrying its body and crest so erect as
to give it an air of great self-importance and trimness. Should its
promenade be disturbed by the appearance of a Hawk or other bird of
prey, the little creature instantly lays itself flat upon the ground, if
possible in a small hollow, and in this attitude will remain so still
and motionless until the danger is past, as frequently to escape even
the keen scrutiny of its formidable pursuer. Unlike its congeners, this
species passes a considerable portion of its life perched amongst the
branches of trees, from which peculiarity it derives its distinguishing
name of Wood Lark. The breeding season commences with the spring, and
numerous and violent are the battles between the male birds during
this period of the year, for as their numbers usually exceed those of
the females, it is a matter of no slight difficulty for each to find
a mate. This important point, however, once settled, the males regain
all their wonted gentleness, and confine their activity entirely to
rendering themselves agreeable to the partner they have obtained with
so much courage and perseverance. The nest, which is very compact and
elaborate in its construction, is usually built in the grass, often under
the shelter of a pine or juniper tree, and is composed of dry blades of
fine grass. In shape, the little fabric resembles the half of a ball;
its interior is warmly and neatly lined with soft materials for the
reception of the eggs; these are usually four or five in number, white,
and thickly strewn with grey or light brown markings (see Coloured Plate
X., fig. 37). The female alone broods, but she is carefully tended during
her seclusion by her mate, who also assists in taking care of the young,
which are very soon capable of leaving the nest. No sooner is it vacated
than another brood replaces the first, and it is only when the work of
incubation is fully accomplished that the whole family unites to form a
small flock, and fly about the country in search of food. During these
expeditions many visits are paid to newly ploughed or stubble fields; and
even during their autumnal migration, which commences about the end of
October, entire days are often spent in exploring such spots in search
of the precarious supply of seeds and insects, upon which they rely for
food. These migratory excursions frequently extend as far as Africa,
but by February the birds are with us again, and may be sometimes seen
flying and singing cheerfully upon our mountains before the snow has
fully disappeared from the surface of the ground. The song of the Wood
Lark is extremely beautiful, and has inspired many eloquent writers
with a theme; indeed, the impression made upon the mind of a traveller
passing through the dreary plains inhabited by these birds, may well be
of a most enthusiastic description, when, amidst the deep silence that
surrounds him, this glorious little songster suddenly rises into the air,
and commences pouring out an uninterrupted flow of exquisite music as it
soars above him for half an hour at a time. Those who have been fortunate
enough to listen to the Wood Lark in the stillness of the night, speak
still more warmly of the effect its voice is capable of producing. We
would, however, by no means lead our readers to suppose that the song of
this bird can bear comparison with that of the Nightingale; nevertheless,
whilst the latter is only heard during two months of the year, the former
enlivens its native haunts from March to October, and, when caged, sings
with such unflagging zeal and spirit as to render it a great favourite
with all who have kept it in their aviaries. Large numbers of Wood Larks
are captured by the mountaineers during the night by means of nets spread
over the ground; few, however, survive captivity for more than two or
three years.


THE SKYLARK.

The SKYLARK, or FIELD LARK (_Alauda arvensis_), is distinguished from its
congeners by the slender formation of its body, its weak short conical
beak, and its somewhat pointed wings, the third quill of which is longer
than the rest; its tail, of moderate length, is slightly excised at
the extremity, and its delicate feet are furnished with somewhat short
toes. The length of this species is about six inches and three-quarters,
its breadth twelve inches and a quarter; the wing measures from three
to four inches, and the tail from two inches and a half to two and
three-quarters. The colour of the plumage is reddish brown upon the back,
the under part of the body being white, the head distinctly spotted with
brown, and the sides marked with dark streaks; the bridles and sides
of the neck are of a lighter colour than the rest of the feathers; the
exterior tail quills are white, as is the outer web of the second quill;
the eye is reddish brown, the beak blueish grey, and the feet reddish
grey.

The Skylark abounds over the whole continent of Europe and its contiguous
islands; in Asia it is met with as far north as Kamschatka, and we think
that it may now be numbered amongst North American birds, Audubon having
introduced many species into that country, in the hope of their becoming
naturalised. Though somewhat rarely seen, Field Larks have been known to
reach Egypt in the course of their migrations. We ourselves have seen
large flocks inhabiting the Castilian highlands, and they are said to
be plentiful in Algiers and Greece during the colder parts of the year.
In England the Lark is always regarded as the harbinger of spring, as
with us it has usually returned and selected its home by the end of
April. In its behaviour this species closely resembles its congeners,
but, unlike some of them, it is extremely restless, running or flying
from one spot to another with a constant change of flight or step, at
one moment walking slowly, repeatedly ducking its head as it goes, and
the next instant darting along with the rapidity of a plover. When in
the air its evolutions are most varied. While singing it usually hovers
gently, or rises rapidly with regular strokes of its wings, as it carols
forth its well-known lay, which may be frequently heard at intervals
from early morning until after sunset, the little songster appearing
quite regardless of all other pleasures or desires, as it rises higher
and higher towards the clouds, which sometimes seem to hide it from our
view. The night is passed upon the ground, but at the first dawn of day,
this "herald of the morn," as it has been aptly called, is amongst the
first to greet the rising sun, its matin song being uttered whilst still
perched upon the spot that has afforded it a shelter for the night.
Like the bird we last described, the Skylark lives at peace with its
brotherhood until the time for choosing a mate, at which season regular
pitched battles are of constant occurrence between the males, who pull
and tear each other in the air until the whole party fall struggling
to the ground, usually, however, without any serious injury, and quite
ready to renew the combat at the first sound of their antagonist's voice;
the females, meanwhile, not only seem to enjoy the scene, but sometimes
assist the mate they would prefer.

The nest is constructed about the beginning of May, the birds generally
selecting a corn-field as most suitable for building purposes. They
choose a piece of ground some two or three hundred paces in extent,
and on this they settle, the whole party being as near together as the
required space will allow, so that they thus form a kind of little
colony. Male and female both assist in excavating the small cavity
necessary for the safe deposit of the nest, which is built of stubble,
blades of grass, or fibrous roots, the interior being occasionally lined
with horsehair. In this humble retreat the female lays five or six eggs
of a greenish yellow or reddish white tinge, covered with brown or grey
spots (see Coloured Plate X., fig. 37). Both parents assist in the work
of incubation, but the largest share devolves upon the female. The young
leave the nest very shortly after being hatched, and seek shelter in
the neighbouring fields, the old birds being immediately busied with
the cares of a second family. Of all the numerous enemies by which
the Skylarks are surrounded, man himself stands pre-eminent; hundreds
of thousands are annually destroyed, merely to furnish a dainty food;
and we learn from a continental writer, Elzholz, that they are so much
sought after in Germany, that on one special occasion to which he refers
403,455 dead Larks were sold in the town of Leipsic alone, although, he
tells us, by far the greater number caught in that part of the country
were disposed of in the villages before they could reach the markets in
the city. These birds are attracted by any light of unusual brightness,
and are sometimes allured to their destruction by a rapidly revolving
mirror. Amongst their feathered enemies the hawk known as the "Hobby"
is the most formidable--indeed, so extreme is the terror evinced by
the little songsters on its appearance, that, if escape by other means
is impossible, they will seek refuge in a passing wagon or similar
hiding-place; we ourselves knew an instance in which a Skylark, driven to
desperation, sought protection from its dreaded foe upon the pommel of a
horseman's saddle.

       *       *       *       *       *

The STILTED LARKS (_Certhilaudæ_) are a group inhabiting Africa,
remarkable for their elongated bodies, small heads, and large beaks, the
upper mandible of which terminates in a slight hook; they are likewise
distinguished by their comparatively short wings, long, rounded tail, and
very high tarsi, furnished with toes and nails of moderate length.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SPUR LARKS (_Macronyx_) are distinguished by their straight, short,
and powerful beaks, elevated tarsi and feet, furnished with large toes,
and by their variegated plumage. The large, somewhat curved nail upon the
hinder toe must, however, be regarded as the peculiar characteristic of
these birds.

[Illustration: THE SENTRY LARK (_Macronyx capensis_).]


THE SENTRY LARK.

The SENTRY LARK (_Macronyx capensis_) has received its name from the
peculiar cry that it utters when disturbed, which sounds exactly like
the _Qui vive!_ employed as a challenge by French soldiers on guard. The
plumage of this species is more variegated than that of almost any other
Lark, the feathers upon the back being deep grey, edged with a lighter
tint, and the exterior tail-feathers of a whitish shade half way up the
inner web; the lower part of the body is of almost uniform reddish brown;
a streak over the eyes is deep orange, as is the throat, the latter being
surrounded by a black line; the eye is reddish brown, the beak dark
grey, and the feet of a yellowish shade. The plumage of the female is
paler, and the spur upon the foot smaller than in the male. The length
of this bird is about seven inches, the wing four, and the tail two and
three-quarter inches.

We learn from Le Vaillant that the Spur Lark is found abundantly
throughout the whole of Southern Africa, where it principally frequents
grassy plains, or the immediate vicinity of streams or brooks. The nest,
which is formed of fine roots or similar materials, is concealed under a
bush, and the brood consists of three or four blueish-white eggs, marked
with reddish-brown spots, most thickly strewn over the broad end. The
flesh of this species of Lark is much esteemed as an article of food by
the settlers in South Africa.

       *       *       *       *       *

The COURSER LARKS (_Alæmon_) may be regarded as the connecting link
between the Larks and the Cursorial birds. Their bodies are much
elongated, the beak remarkably long, weak, and perceptibly curved; the
tarsus is double the length of the middle toe and nail; the tail is long,
and straight at its extremity, and the wing comparatively short, the
second, third, fourth, and fifth quills being longer than the rest.


THE DESERT COURSER LARK.

The DESERT COURSER LARK (_Alæmon desertorum_) is one of the members of
this group with which we are most familiar, as it is frequently seen in
Europe. In this bird the head and neck are of a greyish cream colour, the
back and wing-covers being somewhat yellower; the belly is white, and
the breast marked with a few blackish-brown primary streaks; the quills
are white at their roots, and black at the tip, whilst the secondaries
are entirely white, striped near the middle with black, thus producing a
double white border to the wing; the centre feathers upon the tail-covers
are of the same colour as the back, but black at the shaft, the exterior
feathers having the outer web white, and the rest black, with a yellowish
edge. The eye is light brown, the beak and feet pale grey. Both sexes are
alike in plumage, but the female is not quite so large as her mate. The
length of this species is about eight inches, the wing four and a half,
and the tail two inches.

According to our own observation, this very remarkable bird is met with
extensively between Cairo and Suez, but is by no means numerous in the
desert, and quite unknown in the region of the steppes; we occasionally
saw it in small parties, but usually living in pairs, which appeared
to associate peacefully with each other. As we have said, the Desert
Courser Lark much resembles the Cursorial birds in many particulars. It
runs with great rapidity, in the same manner as the Isabella Courser
(_Cursorius Isabellinus_), and when in flight hovers or rises into the
air with a bold stroke of the wings. When about to alight it poises
itself for some moments, and then, closing its wings, comes rapidly to
the ground, repeating this form of ascent and descent several times in
quick succession, apparently solely for the purpose of affording pleasure
to its admiring mate. The song of these birds is loud and twittering.
The nest we have never seen, and our information as to the food upon
which they subsist is very slight. Insects, we believe, constitute their
principal diet, and they probably eat some kinds of seed. They exhibit no
fear of man, and may often be seen running almost tame about the streets
and court-yards of Suez and Cairo.

[Illustration]



RAVENS (_Coracirostres_).


We are now about to introduce our readers to a race of Birds, so nearly
related to the _Passeres_, that many naturalists have regarded them as
constituting a subdivision of that order. We, on the contrary, following
our intention of rendering our classification as simple as possible, have
thought it best to assign them an entirely separate place, principally in
consideration of the unmistakable peculiarity of their plumage.

The order CORACIROSTRES, according to this view, comprises a large number
of species, varying in size from a Raven to a Finch, but all presenting
the same characteristic structure: all have elongated yet powerful
bodies, large heads, short necks, and wings of moderate size, or slightly
lengthened, pointed or rounded at the tip. The tail is formed of twelve
feathers, and is very various in its shape and size; the feet are strong,
the toes short, armed with stout claws, and the tarsi covered with scaly
plates; the beak is long, occasionally equal to or even exceeding the
head in length, but sometimes much shorter; its shape is almost straight,
more or less conical, sometimes arched at its roof, the upper mandible
being slightly bent towards the point, but not terminated by a hook. The
plumage is short in proportion to the size of the bird, and moderately
compact and thick. In some cases the ornamentation is very peculiar,
individual feathers being much elongated and stripped of their web. Very
great diversity is observable in the coloration of these birds: black
is generally predominant, but yellow and white are frequently employed,
and green, brown, or red occasionally but more rarely intermingled;
these various colours being often harmonised and enriched by a peculiar
and splendid metallic brilliancy. The internal structure of this race
bears a strong resemblance to what we have seen in the Passerine Order.
The skeleton is powerful, many of its bones being filled with air. The
back-bone very constantly consists of twelve cervical, eight dorsal, ten
or eleven pelvic, and seven to eight caudal vertebræ. The vocal muscles
of the lower larynx are well developed. The gullet does not enlarge into
a crop, and the gizzard is never so muscular as in the Passerine birds;
the various senses are very equally developed, and the brain is large.
According to some naturalists, the Ravens must be regarded as the most
perfectly constructed of the feathered tribe; and we are not inclined to
dispute this opinion: certainly, few birds can compare with them either
in capacity or bodily powers, for they run, fly, or climb with equal
facility, and possess a remarkably flexible and copious voice; indeed,
some families display such an extremely high degree of development both
as regards their intelligence and strength, as to justify us in saying
that they possess the attributes of the Parrots and Falcons combined.
In the habits of the smaller species of this order there is much that
reminds us of the Finches or Buntings; but its larger members are
distinguished by many peculiarities. They are for the most part dexterous
thieves, achieving their object with a boldness and cunning that is
truly surprising, frequently stealing, as it were, for the mere pleasure
afforded them by the act, rather than from any necessity for the object
purloined. All parts of the world are inhabited by various tribes of this
extensive division; some of them may perhaps be regarded as for the most
part frequenting woodland districts; others are equally at home upon
mountain ranges or lowlands, the sea-coast, or barren plains; and they
are constantly met with either in the solitary desert, or dwelling in the
immediate vicinity of man. Southern countries, however, afford the most
congenial home to these birds, which, though appearing in all latitudes,
are more numerous in the warmer portions of the earth than in the north.
They live everywhere unmolested by man, obtaining a plentiful supply of
food in any circumstances, seeing that their easily satisfied stomachs
are equally ready to appropriate all kinds of nourishment. In their
conduct the Ravens display an intelligence that cannot fail to interest
every observer, and most curious are the means by which they seem to
impart and receive hints or suggestions from each other. Some species
will assemble at a given hour upon a certain tree, and enter at once, as
it would seem, upon a full discussion of the events of the day, the old
birds instructing the younger members of the party, who appear to profit
by the lessons thus received; superior instinct or talent is sure to find
promotion amongst them, the most intelligent being at once recognised
as leaders of the rest of the flock. Their habits are social, but each
bird may be said to lead an independent life, though ready at a moment's
notice to join its companions in defence or attack. The structure of
their nests is very various; some are placed apart, and separate from
each other; others in close vicinity; the only interruption to the
general harmony occurring during the breeding season, when the busy
couples are all clamouring and struggling for favourite building places
or necessary materials. At such times those who cannot take what they
want by force, employ wonderful dexterity and cunning in abstracting the
coveted object, should its possessor be for one moment off his guard. The
brood consists of from four to six eggs. Both parents assist in the work
of incubation, the male stealing occasionally from the side of his mate
to pass an hour in chattering or singing with a select party of friends,
perched upon some neighbouring tree. The young remain for a considerable
time under the care and tuition of their parents, who rarely brood more
than once during the summer.

For the most part, the RAVENS must be considered as eminently useful,
destroying, as they do, large quantities of noxious insects, and thus
rendering great service to man. Some of the larger members of the order,
on the contrary, are distinguished by a cruelty and rapacity that render
them extremely destructive to the smaller quadrupeds, causing them
to be regarded as deserving of human vengeance, and fit objects for
relentless persecution. When caged, the Ravens are many of them extremely
interesting, as they will not only learn to imitate tunes, but some
of them acquire the power of repeating whole sentences with as great
facility as does the Parrot, and soon become perfectly tame. The flesh
of many species is well flavoured, and the feathers are employed for a
variety of purposes.

We shall divide the order of RAVENS into four groups, all distinctly
recognisable by some marked peculiarity of structure, but resembling each
other in their general mode of life and habits. These divisions we shall
distinguish as the STARLINGS, the BIRDS OF PARADISE, the RAVENS PROPER,
and the PLANTAIN EATERS, assigning to the Starlings the first place, as
being superior to the rest in their vocal powers.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE STARLINGS.

THE STARLINGS (_Sturnidæ_) must be ranked among the smaller birds
belonging to this order, and are eminently distinguished for their
high endowments. Their body is elongated, the wings of moderate size,
the tail seldom of any great length, usually short and straight, the
tarsus of medium height, the beak long, conical, and weak. The plumage
is composed of small harsh feathers, much variegated in their hues, and
frequently presenting a brilliant gloss. With the exception of Australia,
the members of this family are distributed over the entire world; each
continent and country possessing its peculiar species: America, more
especially, is particularly rich in different races of Starlings.

       *       *       *       *       *

The YELLOW STARLINGS (_Icteri_) are birds varying in size from that of
a Crow to that of a Finch. Their bodies are elongated, but powerfully
built, the beak conical, the wings and tail of moderate length, the
tarsi strong, and the plumage soft and brilliant, black, gold, or red
preponderating in its coloration; the beak is rounded and thick towards
its base, and without any notch or hook at the apex, its upper portion
being prolonged like a shield among the feathers of the forehead. The
fourth quill of the wings is longer than the rest; the tail, which
is half covered by the wings when the bird is at rest, is rounded or
graduated towards its extremity; the tarsi are longer than the middle
toes, and covered in front with scaly plates; the toes are of moderate
length, armed with strong, bent, and pointed nails. In some species the
feathers on the top of the head take the form of a tuft, and in others
the cheeks are left bare. All the members of this group are social,
cheerful, and active; some of them are rich in song. Their favourite
haunts are in the woods, where they subsist principally upon insects,
snails, fruit, or seeds. Their nests are built with care, and display
considerable artistic skill.

[Illustration: THE BOBLINK (_Dolichonyx oryzivorus_).]


The TROOPIALS (_Agelaii_) include the smallest members of the
last-mentioned group. In these birds the roof of the beak is quite
straight, and its margins bent at an angle towards the gape; the hinder
toe is furnished with a spur-like claw. The plumage of the young differs
considerably from that of the parent birds, and is very various in its
colours and markings.


THE RICE-BIRD.

The BOBLINK, or RICE BIRD (_Dolichonyx oryzivorus_), possesses so
many features in common with both Finches and Starlings as to render
it difficult to decide amongst which it should really be placed. This
species is very numerous in North America, where it is much detested on
account of the serious damage it does to the fields of ripe grain. The
principal characteristic of the group of RICE EATERS to which this bird
belongs is their strong, conical beak, which is of moderate length, and
much compressed towards the sides, the upper mandible being narrower than
the lower portion, and lying, as it were, enclosed within its edges. The
body is compact, the head large, the wings of moderate size, the second
quill being longer than the rest; the tail is of great length, and each
individual feather composing it terminates in a sharp point; the feet are
not large, but powerful, and the plumage compact and glossy. The body of
the Boblink measures seven inches, its breadth being about eleven inches,
the wing three and a half, and the tail two and a half inches. The
plumage varies considerably at different seasons of the year. During the
period of incubation the male is black upon the head, the lower portion
of the body, and the tail; the nape is brownish yellow, and the feathers
upon the back black, with a broad yellow margin; the shoulders and rump
are of a yellowish white; the wing-covers and quills are black, bordered
with yellow. The eye is brown, the upper mandible dark brown, and the
lower one blueish grey; the feet are light blue. The female is smaller
than her mate, of a pale yellowish brown upon the back, the shafts of the
feathers being marked with a dark tinge; the lower parts of the body are
of a pale greyish yellow, the sides streaked in the same manner, as is
the back; the bridles are brown, and a yellow line passes over the eyes;
the quills and tail-feathers are much lighter than in the gala dress of
her mate. During the winter months the male bird wears a coat closely
resembling that of the female. The young are similar to the mother, but
all their tints are greyer and paler.

When upon the ground, the movements of this species may be described as
being more like a step than a hop; its flight is light and graceful, and
its powers of climbing amongst the stubble by no means inferior to those
of the Reed Sparrow. The Boblink (so called from its well-known cry)
appears regularly in North America during the summer months, visiting the
West Indies and the northern parts of South America in the course of its
migrations. About May these birds begin to make their appearance in New
York by small parties, which gradually increase in numbers until they
literally swarm throughout the whole State--indeed, Audubon tells us that
it would be impossible to find a field unoccupied by these destructive
visitors. Even the breeding season does not interfere with their social
relations, for the nests are built near together upon the ground, each
pair, however, keeping possession of a distinct territory, in the
centre of which the little home is made with much art, amidst the grass
or stubble. The cares of the brood devolve entirely upon the females,
their mates, meanwhile, disporting themselves over the neighbouring
fields, and making the air resound with their endeavours to rival each
other in the beauty of their song, which is so rich and varied in its
tones as frequently to lead the hearer to imagine that he is listening
to the voices of many singers, when in reality the sounds are produced
by a solitary bird. Wilson describes the performance of the Boblink as
resembling a series of notes struck upon all parts of the pianoforte
in rapid succession, and tells us that the effect, though strange, is
extremely pleasing. When perched, the male accompanies its song by a
variety of animated gestures and movements of its wings. The eggs are
laid about the end of May; they are from four to six in number, white,
and thickly marked with dark blue or black spots irregularly distributed.
Each couple breeds but once during the year. The young are fed upon
insects: they rapidly attain their full size, and are ready to join
their parents in the work of destruction about to commence. No sooner is
the period of incubation over than the nature of these birds seems to
undergo an entire change. The male completely loses his song, and doffs
his brilliant coat, which is replaced by a comparatively quiet dress,
resembling that of the female, and all exchange their hitherto harmless
demeanour for a life of active and really formidable mischief. In vain
are every means adopted by the inhabitants to scare the destructive
flocks from their fields of young corn; hundreds of thousands are shot,
but with little result beyond driving the enemy from one district to take
refuge in another, and it is only when the work of devastation has been
fully carried out that these enormous swarms leave the locality to carry
on their terrible raids in another part of the country. It would seem
as though the hatred with which the farmers regard this bird had made
them entirely overlook the service it renders them during other seasons
of the year by the enormous quantities of insects it consumes; even the
great beauty of its song has not induced them to tame it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MARSH TROOPIALS (_Agelaius_) are quite as numerous, and almost as
destructive as the members of the last-mentioned group. In these birds
the beak is long, conical, very pointed, and slightly compressed, the
body powerful, the wings of moderate size, their second and third quills
being longer than the rest; the tail moderate, rounded at its extremity,
and the plumage soft and glossy.


THE RED-WINGED TROOPIAL.

The RED-WINGED TROOPIAL (_Agelaius Phoeniceus_) is almost as abundant
in North America as is the Rice Bird, and, though its plumage is
extremely simple, it is remarkably beautiful. During the breeding season
the coat of the male is deep black, except upon the shoulders, which are
of a rich scarlet; the eyes are brown, and the feet and beak blueish
black. The female is blackish brown upon the upper part of the body, the
belly greyish brown, each feather being edged with yellowish grey; the
throat and cheeks are light greyish yellow, streaked with a deeper shade;
its body is about eight and a half inches long, its breadth thirteen and
a half inches; the wing measures four and a half inches.

These birds are found extensively throughout the whole of North America,
and appear regularly in the United States during the summer months, but
are most numerous in the northern provinces. Audubon tells us that the
"Redwings" leave the south as soon as spring appears, performing their
migrations in flocks of considerable extent; the males leading the way,
and singing almost without intermission, as though to induce the females
to follow them; the different parties rest for the night upon the tops
of high trees, and greet the morning with an animated song before again
proceeding on their journey. No sooner have the females made their
appearance than the work of choosing a mate commences, a proceeding
attended with no small difficulty, as the males far exceed the females in
number. When mated the little couple retires from the rest of the flock,
and sets about the construction of the nest, which is built of dry reeds,
lined with horsehair or fine grass, and placed under a bush at the edge
of a pond or in a marshy field. The eggs (see Coloured Plate IV., fig.
28), from four to six in number, are of a light brown colour, spotted
with a darker shade. The male bird exhibits the greatest anxiety for the
welfare of its little partner, and, should they be molested, will fly
close up to the intruder, as though to divert attention from the nest,
or else will perch immediately above its mate, uttering such pitiful
cries of distress as will sometimes deter the unwelcome visitor from
approaching nearer. These birds produce two broods during the summer, the
second being ready to leave the nest by the beginning of August, when
they congregate in flocks, numbering many thousands, and immediately
commence their depredations in the fields, destroying the crops in the
most terrible manner, despite the utmost efforts used to drive them from
the locality, which they only quit when the corn becomes too ripe to suit
their requirements. Like most of their congeners, they usually pass the
night amongst the beds of reeds, which afford them temporary protection
from the attacks of the infuriated farmers, by whom incredible numbers
are slaughtered, without making any apparent diminution in the flocks,
which occasionally may literally be said to darken the sky. Except
during the time when the corn is young and tender, the habits of the
Red-wing are by no means such as to render them objects of persecution,
for they may be seen hopping after the plough, and clearing the field of
multitudes of noxious and destructive insects; these services, however,
are entirely overlooked by the American husbandmen, who have no eyes for
their beauty and no ears for their song, but pursue them with unrelenting
hostility.

       *       *       *       *       *

The COW-BIRDS (_Molothrus_) constitute a group of Starlings distinguished
by their short, conical, sharply-pointed beaks, the upper mandible of
which is almost straight, and compressed towards its edges; the wings
are tolerably long, the three first feathers being of nearly equal
length. The tail is of moderate size, and straight at its extremity,
the individual quills becoming broader towards their tip; the tarsi are
compact, but rather high, and the soft plumage, which in the young bird
is brown, at a later period turns to a bright metallic blue.


THE COW STARLING.

The COW STARLING (_Molothrus Icterus pecoris_) is the best known, or,
perhaps, we should say, the most _notorious_ of these birds. The plumage
of the male is simple in its coloration, but by no means without beauty;
the head and neck are brown, the rest of the plumage brownish black, with
a blueish gloss upon the breast, and a green and blue shimmer on the
back; the eye is dark brown, the beak and feet brownish black. The length
of this species is about seven inches, and the span of its wings eleven
and a half inches; the female is rather smaller, and her colour almost
entirely brown, the lower part of the body being of a lighter shade than
the back.

The Cow Starlings inhabit North America, where they frequent such marshy
spots as are at no great distance from pastures containing cows or
horses, whose backs they relieve from many tormenting parasites. In the
northern parts of the United States these birds make their appearance in
small flocks about the end of March, frequently associating with parties
of red-winged Troopials, and gradually increasing in numbers until their
swarms become really formidable; by the end of September they have left
the country in company with many of their feathered companions. Though
bearing a great resemblance to their congeners, there is much that is
decidedly peculiar in their habits, more especially as relates to the
rearing of their young. Anything like family affection would seem to
be quite unknown amongst them, both male and female having many mates,
and living in such entire indifference as to each other's movements
that the withdrawal of one of the party does not seem to excite the
slightest attention. Their eggs, moreover, are laid, like those of the
Cuckoo, in the nest of any other bird who may for a moment have left
its young charge; on more than one occasion we have been much amused
in following and watching a female Cow Starling as she flew anxiously
about in the woods, until she succeeded in finding a nest into which she
might steal and deposit her eggs during the absence of its owner. Should
this, however, not be possible, force is often used to drive the weaker
bird from its brood until the object is accomplished. The egg of this
species is small as compared with the size of the mother; it is usually
pale blueish grey, marked with dark brown spots and streaks, which are
the most numerous at the broadest end (see Coloured Plate IV., fig. 3).
According to Audubon, the Cow-bird never deposits more than one egg at a
time; the resulting progeny, he tells us, is soon hatched, and receives
every care from its foster parents, who are, however, deserted by their
strange nursling as soon as it has strength enough to fly.

       *       *       *       *       *

The YELLOW or GOLDEN STARLINGS (_Icteri_) are distinguished from the rest
of the family by their superior size, and long, slender beaks, which are
straight at the ridge and sharply pointed towards the extremity; the
wings are of moderate size, the tail long, graduated at the sides, and
rounded at its tip; the legs are strong, the toes powerful, and armed
with sharp and crooked claws. The plumage is principally of a yellow
colour, the female in this respect resembling her mate, but the young
birds never exhibit the bunting-like markings that distinguish others of
the family.

The "YELLOW BIRDS," as they are usually denominated, are inhabitants of
the southern portions of America, though by no means rare in its more
northern countries, and must be regarded as holding the same place in
the Starling family as the Weaver Birds do amongst Finches, for their
nests are built with great artistic skill, and frequently hang in
considerable numbers from the same tree or branch. In their habits they
are extremely social, and are much prized by the Americans, either when
in their favourite woods or confined in a cage, on account of their gay
plumage and the beauty of their song. The food of these birds consists
principally of insects and fruit, but at some seasons of the year they
will also eat corn and devour large quantities of the softer kinds of
maggots and larvæ, for which they search amidst the refuse scattered on
the roads.

[Illustration: THE RED-WINGED TROOPIAL (_Agelaius Phoeniceus_).]


THE JAMAICA YELLOW BIRD.

The JAMAICA YELLOW BIRD, or SOFFRE (_Icterus Jamacaii_), is one of the
most beautiful members of this family, found, as its name implies, in
the islands of the West Indies, but likewise abounding in Brazil and
Guiana. In this species the head, throat, back, and neck are black,
the nape and lower portion of the body bright orange. A portion of
the hinder secondary quills is edged with white underneath, and the
small wing-covers are marked with orange at the shoulder; the lower
wing-covers are of a paler yellow. The beak is brilliant black, with a
lead-coloured spot upon the lower mandible; the feet are of a blueish
flesh colour, the eyes light yellow; the ophthalmic region is bare, and
of a greenish hue; the coat of the female is lighter than that of her
mate, and the young birds are of a still paler tint; the beak of the
latter is brown, the feet pale yellowish brown, and the wings edged
with broad grey lines. The length of this bird is about ten inches, its
breadth thirteen, and the wing and tail four and a half inches.

[Illustration: THE COW STARLING (_Molothrus pecoris_).]

All observers who have seen this magnificent species in its wild state
speak of it with enthusiasm. The Prince von Wied describes it as looking
like a flashing flame as it darts hither and thither amongst the dark
foliage; its movements are lively and elegant, and its voice so flexible
as to be capable of imitating the songs of many other birds. The depths
of the forests afford these brilliant creatures the shelter they prefer,
and thither they resort in pairs during the period of incubation; at
other seasons of the year they fly about in small parties, which subsist
principally upon insects or various kinds of fruit, and do great damage
to the orange and banana trees. We learn from the same author that
he found the nest of a Yellow Bird woven between the branches of a
tree and hanging some eight or nine feet above the ground; the little
structure was formed of small twigs, and in shape resembled a ball,
the entrance being through a hole in the side. Schomburghk tells us
that the wooded banks of the rivers resound morning and evening with
the melodious but plaintive notes of this sweet songster, and that it
is sought after by the settlers for purposes of domestication, though
its life in confinement is but of short duration: this writer adds that
the Yellow Bird becomes so tame in Brazil, that its cage may be kept
open without any danger of its returning to its native haunts; but in
this statement we can by no means agree, our own observations having
led us to a contrary opinion; such as we have seen in captivity have
almost invariably proved themselves to be very untamable, falling upon
and destroying the nest or young of other birds, and domineering over
the larger species of Starlings and Thrushes with so much violence as
to ensure to themselves undisputed possession of the food or sleeping
perch, as none of their companions dared to approach until the wants of
these tyrants of the aviary were satisfied: to the keepers alone they
showed the more amiable side of their character, and were so shy before
strangers as to refuse to sing if the listener was not concealed from
view.


THE BALTIMORE GOLDEN STARLING.

The BALTIMORE GOLDEN STARLING (_Hyphantes Baltimore_), a North American
species, is the member of this group with which we are most familiar. In
the general construction of its body it closely resembles the Yellow Bird
last described, but the ridge of the beak is slightly curved; also the
wings are longer and the tail shorter than in that species. The plumage
of the male is black upon the head, throat, and upper wing-covers, as
are the quills and middle tail-feathers; the under parts of the body and
small wing-covers are bright orange, the back and breast a light scarlet:
the exterior tail-feathers are black from the root, but their lower half
is bright orange. The large upper wing-covers are tipped with white, and
the quills bordered with a white margin; the eye is orange, the beak and
feet light grey. In the young male all the colours are paler: the iris
is light brown, and the upper mandible brownish black. The size of this
species is about seven and three-quarter inches long, its breadth twelve
inches.

According to Audubon, the Baltimore Bird is met with throughout the
whole of North America as far as fifty-five degrees north latitude,
being very numerous in some parts, but only visiting others in the
course of its migrations. Its favourite haunts are in hilly districts,
to which it resorts as soon as spring appears, to discharge the duties
attendant on incubation. The nest is suspended from a slender twig,
and is most artistically woven, but its construction varies with the
climate. In the Southern States the birds prefer the northern side of
the tree, and form their little cradle of moss so loosely intertwined
as to allow the air to penetrate; while those that inhabit the Northern
States prefer such branches as are most exposed to the rays of the sun,
and render their home warm and snug by lining it with soft and fine
materials. The construction of these remarkable nests is very peculiar;
the builders begin by seeking for all kinds of threads or fibres about
the surrounding fields and villages, and frequently do very serious
damage by their depredations among the skeins of thread or cotton laid
out in the fields to bleach: all the odds and ends of cotton, silk, or
thread thus collected are woven into the nest, amongst other materials,
with a compactness and dexterity that is truly surprising. The female
lays from four to six eggs, of a pale green colour, marked with dark
spots or streaks. The young are hatched within a fortnight, and are fully
fledged in about three weeks after their birth, from which period they
begin to climb in and out of the nest, and hang from the outside after
the manner of Woodpeckers; they then accompany their parents, by whom
they are fed and tended for another fortnight, before they are capable
of supporting themselves. In the more southern parts of North America
these birds frequently produce two broods within the year; during the
spring they subsist principally upon various insects, usually caught
upon the wing; but in summer they prefer fruit of different kinds, and
do great damage to the orange and banana trees. This species commences
its migrations early in the autumn, flying generally alone, and high in
the air, uttering loud cries and hurrying along with great rapidity; when
evening approaches it seeks food and shelter upon a tree, where it passes
the night; it then takes a hasty meal and resumes its onward journey.
The movements of the Baltimore Bird are regular and graceful; its flight
is direct and continuous; its step, when upon the ground, easy; and its
adroitness in climbing amongst the branches such as to bear comparison
with the activity of the Titmouse. The song is simple, but pleasing.

       *       *       *       *       *

We select the CASSICANS (_Cassici_) as taking rank next in order to
the _Icteri_, being, like them, of slender shape, with long, pointed,
conical beaks, long, tapering wings, long and graduated tails, rounded
at the extremity, and formed of broad feathers. The feet are strong, the
toes large and armed with sharp claws. The plumage is thick, smooth,
and glossy, principally black, heightened to greater richness by an
intermixture of yellow. In size they resemble our Jackdaw. (See Coloured
Plate VI.)

[Illustration: _Plate 6. Cassell's Book of Birds_

WAGLERS CASSICUS ____ Cassicus Wagleri

(_Three-fourths Life size_)]

The Cassicans hold pretty much the same place in America as that
occupied by the Crows in European countries. In their habits they are
lively and active, beautiful in appearance, and, though essentially
occupants of trees, resemble the Yellow Birds in many particulars, like
them frequenting fields of ripe corn, and doing considerable damage,
without any apparent fear of the wrath of the proprietors. When in the
woods, insects and seeds constitute their principal fare, and they will
occasionally devour fruit. The voice of this species is not so pleasing
as that of the Soffre, but it possesses very great flexibility--indeed,
Schomburghk tells us that it can not only imitate the note of every
other songster, but the cry of any animal, producing at times such a
strange medley of sounds as to astound its hearers, who scarcely believe
it possible that a single bird can alternately bleat like a sheep, crow
like a cock, or scream like a turkey, all these various noises being
accompanied by such extraordinary contortions of the whole body as cannot
fail to excite laughter in those who witness this strange performance.

Scarcely less remarkable is the manner in which the Cassicans construct
their nests. Like the Weaver Bird, they build regular settlements,
suspending their artistically woven cradles in large numbers from the
same tree, and very frequently in the immediate vicinity of other
species. As with the Weaver Bird, these nests are inhabited from year to
year, and repaired every season for the reception of a new family. In
shape they are not unlike the large bags formerly used to carry shot, and
are so lightly constructed that their walls may be seen through. Great
patience and skill are exhibited in the manufacture of these abodes, some
species only employing such materials as linen thread, or fibres, while
others build with fine blades of grass, which they moisten with saliva in
order to render them more pliable. Schomburghk tells us that this species
is extraordinarily deficient in social attachment, and mentions an
instance of this fact witnessed by himself. A large party of "Blackbirds"
(Cassicans) had made their settlement upon the banks of a river which one
day rose to an unusual height, and threatened destruction to the entire
colony. Some of the nests were washed down, and others gradually filled
with water. The terrified parents, unable to render any help to their
young, flew about in an agonised confusion, or sought for their eggs and
nestlings amongst the general débris, whilst such of the flock as were
still above immediate danger sat quietly brooding, or continued their
building operations without paying the slightest attention to the piteous
cries of their companions. According to Audubon, these birds breed but
once in the year, the nests being placed, as we have described, quite
close together, thus ensuring a safety from the attacks of their numerous
enemies, that could not otherwise be obtained; each family, however,
leads a life quite distinct from that of its neighbours, and exhibits
neither interest nor sympathy in the movements of those that live around
it.


THE JAPU.

The JAPU, or TUFTED CASSICAN (_Cassicus cristatus_), is an inhabitant of
South America, and has been selected for particular description as being
one of the most remarkable species belonging to this group. In this bird
the plumage is principally of a brilliant black, with the lower portion
of the body of a deep reddish brown; the exterior tail-feathers are
yellow, and the inner ones black. The beak is of a whitish yellow, the
feet deep black, the eyes, like those of the rest of its congeners, light
blue. The length of the male varies from fifteen and a half to seventeen
inches, its breadth is twenty-three and a half inches, the wing measures
from seven and two-third to eight inches, and the tail from six to seven
inches. The female is at least three inches shorter, and the wings six or
seven inches less in their span.

[Illustration: THE BALTIMORE BIRD.]

We are indebted to the Prince von Wied for an exhaustive account of this
species, from which we shall extract such particulars as our space will
permit. This remarkable bird, he tells us, inhabits the whole of South
America, but is most numerous in the northern portions, frequenting
woodland districts, and such plantations or human habitations as may be
in the immediate neighbourhood of forests, but avoiding barren or open
parts of the country. It is social and active, flying about incessantly
amongst the trees, and hanging suspended by its sharp claws from the
branches, from time to time plucking a favourite fruit, and carrying
it off with cries of delight to another spot where it may be eaten in
safety. During the season, oranges and bananas constitute its favourite
food, and large quantities of valuable fruit are thus destroyed, in spite
of all the precautions taken by the planters for its preservation; but at
other times the Japu contents itself with less dainty fare, and subsists
principally upon insects and berries. Few scenes are more animated than
that afforded by a settlement of these interesting birds, as they perch
upon the branches of the forest trees, in parties of some thirty or forty
couples, or fly about filling the whole air with their strange and varied
song, the general effect of which, when thus heard in chorus, is far from
unpleasing, though some notes are harsh, and others very shrill.

[Illustration: THE GREAT BOAT-TAIL (_Quiscalus major_).]

Their nests, which are extremely curious, are suspended close together
from the branches of the highest trees; in shape they are not unlike
a purse, being long, narrow, and rounded at the bottom, usually three
or four feet long, and not more than five or six inches wide. A bough
of about the thickness of a man's finger is usually chosen for their
support, and to this they are stoutly fastened, a long and narrow hole
being left at the top for an entrance. Occasionally these abodes are
built one upon another, each being provided with a separate opening. The
Japu constructs this large and beautiful fabric with the greatest care,
weaving together the various fibres of which it is formed so strongly,
and with so much skill, as to render the task of tearing it to pieces a
work of real difficulty. When the nest is completed a soft, warm bed of
moss or leaves is made at the bottom of the bag, and upon this the eggs,
one or two in number, are laid. We ourselves have never found more than
one young bird in the nest, but believe we are correct in stating that
two eggs are sometimes deposited: they are slightly elongated in shape,
the shell being white, with reddish-violet or deep purple streaks and
spots. The nestlings have loud, harsh voices, and resemble their parents
in plumage very shortly after being fledged, as the yellow tail is soon
acquired. Immediately after the breeding season young and old congregate
in flocks, and seek for food upon their favourite fruit-trees. A more
strange or beautiful sight can scarcely be imagined, says the Prince von
Wied, than that of a tree laden with dozens of the curious nests, and
animated by the presence of a party of Cassicans, whose glorious plumage
seems to gain new beauty as they spread their tails, raise their wings,
after the manner of the swan, inflate their breasts, and utter their
flute-like cry, as though to attract the observation of a stranger, whose
near approach they will permit without exhibiting any sign of fear. The
flight of this bird is swift and light, the peculiar motion of its wings
producing a whirring sound, which is distinctly audible. The natives of
South America shoot the Japu for the sake of its flesh, although somewhat
tough and coarse, and for its feathers, which they apply to many purposes
of ornamentation, frequently forming them into a plume to wear upon the
forehead.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BOAT-TAILS (_Quiscalus_), so called on account of the peculiar
conformation of the caudal part of their plumage, are distinguished by
their long, straight, conical beaks, the upper mandible of which is
slightly curved and bent at its extremity. The wings are of moderate
size, the tail much rounded, and the webs of its outer feathers turned
upwards, something like the sides of a boat. The legs are delicately
formed, and their coat, which is black, gleams in certain lights with
metallic brilliancy.


THE GREAT BOAT-TAIL.

The GREAT BOAT-TAIL (_Quiscalus major_) is sixteen inches long, and
twenty-four broad. Its entire plumage is black, but the head and neck are
shaded with rich purple, and the wings and tail-feathers have a bright
green shimmer. The female bird is considerably smaller than the male,
rarely exceeding thirteen inches in length and eighteen in breadth; her
colour is a dull, deep, greyish brown upon the upper part of the body,
and reddish brown underneath. In both sexes the eye is pale yellow, and
the beak and feet black.

This species inhabits the Southern States of North America, and is very
numerous in marshy districts, or upon the banks of rivers; it likewise
frequents the salt marshes, and may be seen on the sea coasts in large
flocks during the entire year, searching in the mud for crabs and worms,
upon which it principally subsists. It does not appear to feed upon
insects, but is very destructive to fruit gardens, and fields of corn or
rice. By the month of February the male has acquired his full beauty,
and at once seeks a mate, retiring with her into the woods, where he
exhibits his new plumage in every point of view, apparently to excite
her admiration, its extreme brilliancy causing it to be seen glistening
and shining even at some distance, as the bird expands its feathers in
the full blaze of the sun. During the time employed in the selection of
a companion all the quarrelsome feelings of which rivals are capable
seem to be aroused, but that important business once settled, the flock
subside into their usual peaceful state, and set about the construction
of their nests in perfect harmony, usually preferring some marshy
locality. The eggs are four or five in number, of a greyish white colour,
variegated with brown and black spots. Both parents assist in rearing
the young, who are supplied with all kinds of food, the nests of other
species being frequently robbed in order to provide for the wants of the
nestlings. The Boat-tails, in their turn, suffer considerably from the
attacks of their many enemies, of whom the alligator may be considered
as one of the most formidable, for being well aware what dainty morsels
these fat and tender birds afford, it is ever on the watch to shake them
from their nest among the reeds into the water, or by gliding quietly
along in the direction from which it hears the young ones cry, secures at
least a part of the brood, before the mother can warn her family of their
danger. Like its congeners, the Boat-tail is extremely active; it climbs
among the reeds with great rapidity, combining the boldness of the Crow
with the agility of the Starling; its flight is undulating, and its song
not unpleasing, though without great pretensions to melody. During autumn
and winter it associates with many other birds, amongst which Herons are
frequently met with.

       *       *       *       *       *

The STARLINGS PROPER (_Sturni_) are birds of moderate size, compactly
built, with short tails, long wings, rather long and broadly conical
straight beaks, and high, strong feet; their plumage is rich, but harsh
and very varied in its colouring. Like the rest of the family, they
are of social habits, living together in flocks throughout the whole
year, and carrying on all the business of life in common. Despite their
somewhat clumsy appearance, they are extremely active, both upon the
ground and in the air; their step is quick, but rather waddling; their
flight light and noisy; and their movements in the trees extremely agile.
All the members of the group are lively, restless, busy creatures, which
may literally be said never to rest, except during the time they pass in
sleep. Their food consists of insects, worms, and snails; occasionally
they will eat fruit or the delicate parts of some plants, but never
in such quantities as to be troublesome. The nest, which is large and
irregular in its construction, is generally placed in holes of trees,
rocks, or walls; the eggs are usually from four to seven in number. Few
birds are more eminently adapted for domestication, their many talents
rendering Starlings universal favourites when caged.


THE COMMON STARLING.

The COMMON STARLING (_Sturnus vulgaris_) combines all the many
peculiarities of its family, and we have therefore selected it as the
most suitable representative of their principal characteristics. The
plumage of this bird varies considerably with age or the season of the
year; in the spring the adult male is black, shaded with purple and
green, these tints seeming lighter upon the wings and tail on account
of the broad grey border by which the feathers are surrounded; some of
those upon the back have greyish-yellow spots at their tips. The eyes
are brown, the beak black, and the feet reddish brown. No sooner has the
process of moulting been fully accomplished than the appearance of the
bird is entirely changed, for all the feathers upon the nape, back, and
breast are then tipped with white, and thus give the plumage the effect
of being spotted; the beak also becomes considerably darker. The female
resembles the male, but her plumage is even more spotted than that of
her mate during the spring months of the year. The young are of a dark
brownish grey, the region of the face being lighter than the rest of the
body; the beak is greyish black, and the feet brownish grey. The length
of this species is from eight and a half to eight and three-quarter
inches, its breadth fourteen to fifteen inches; the wing measures rather
more than four, and the tail from two and a half to two and three-quarter
inches.

       *       *       *       *       *

The COMMON STARLING is met with throughout almost the whole of Europe,
principally frequenting its more southern portions, and preferring such
wooded pastures or plains as are well watered or marshy. During its
migrations it very frequently visits Northern Africa, and is an annual
winter guest in Egypt and Algiers, but for the most part the flocks
do not leave the Continent of Europe, and pass the colder part of the
year in flying about the country in company with Ravens, Thrushes, and
other similar birds. Few of the feathered tribe are endowed with so
joyous and contented a disposition as is the Starling, whose cheerful
voice may be heard amidst the utmost inclemencies of the weather, as it
perches fully exposed to all the attacks of wind or rain, and appears
philosophically indifferent to the scantiness of its supply of food. No
sooner has spring commenced than the males may be seen about towns or
villages, perching upon the steeples or high trees and pouring out their
song, which is accompanied by a variety of animated gesticulations. We
are, however, perhaps, giving our readers a wrong impression by speaking
of the sounds uttered by the Starling as being a _song_, for it is, in
fact, little more than a succession of harsh, loud, distinct sounds,
uttered by the energetic vocalist with so much gaiety and expression as
to render the performance quite attractive, especially when combined, as
it occasionally is, with imitations of the songs of many other birds.
Even such noises as the creaking of a door, the clattering of a windmill,
or the crowing of a cock may often be clearly distinguished amongst its
attempts at mimicry; the little singer will frequently continue its vocal
exercise for many hours at a time, only pausing occasionally in order
to go in search of food. The breeding season commences early in spring,
when Starlings build their nests, usually in the hollows of trees, or,
should these not be attainable, in holes of walls or old buildings, and
many are the disputes and combats that take place among the members of
a flock before all are suited with a home. The nest itself is formed of
stalks of grass, thickly lined with a bed of soft feathers, collected
from the neighbouring farmyards; but, should such warm materials not be
procurable, the architect is equally contented to employ hay, straw, or
even small twigs. The brood consists of five or six long, large eggs,
having a somewhat rough but glossy shell, of a light blue colour; upon
these the female alone sits, but both parents assist in obtaining the
constant supply of food required by the nestlings, though the father
of the family manages now and then to steal away from his duties and
pass an hour in singing with a party of pleasure-seeking companions. No
sooner have the young left the nest than the vocal performances to which
we have alluded may be heard throughout the entire day, for they do not
require attention from their parents except during the first week; after
leaving their home they immediately associate themselves with others of
their kindred, and fly about in companies that are often very numerous,
being in time strengthened by the addition of the second families, to the
rearing of which the parents almost immediately turn their attention.
When the duties of incubation are terminated, the old birds at once leave
their nests, and congregate in immense flocks, which pass the night
either amongst the trees or in beds of reeds or osiers. These swarms,
occasionally containing hundreds or rather thousands of Starlings, fly
about in dense masses during the day, and retire at night to the same
roosting-place, their numbers frequently occasioning the reeds upon which
they settle to break beneath their great weight, thus obliging them to
seek shelter elsewhere, a proceeding always accompanied by an amount of
squabbling and screaming that is absolutely deafening. Before leaving the
country, the parent birds revisit their nests, upon which they perch and
sing every morning and evening. They only commence their migrations when
compelled to seek shelter from the snow and frost, and lead as blithe and
active a life in the countries to which they resort as they do in their
summer haunts.

[Illustration: THE COMMON STARLING (_Sturnus vulgaris_).]

Few species are so deserving of the protection of man as these most
useful birds, an account of whose services in clearing the ground from
snails and other hurtful creatures would sound almost incredible, were
we to compute the hosts of active destroyers from whose attacks our
fields and gardens are thus preserved. With characteristic patience,
a German naturalist has been at the trouble of ascertaining that a
single young Starling will consume 140 snails in fourteen hours out
of the twenty-four, during which the young nestlings are constantly
fed, only about three minutes intervening between the arrivals of the
parents with fresh supplies for the hungry beaks of the little family.
We cannot follow the writer through all his intricate calculations
concerning a large swarm of Starlings that visited the part of Thuringia
in which he lived, and must content ourselves by giving our readers
the extraordinary result--namely, that the 180,000 birds of which this
unusually large flock was composed could not have cleared the ground
of less than 12,600,000 snails and worms daily during the time they
remained in that neighbourhood. The proceedings of the Starling when in
search of food are extremely amusing, as it runs hither and thither,
prying into every conceivable nook with keen eyes and ready beak, so as
to render it impossible for its victims to escape detection; even when
search by sight is impracticable, the tongue is employed to feel amongst
the grass, and accomplishes its duty with most unerring precision. When
exposed to the attacks of their foes, the cunning of these birds is of
the utmost service in securing their safety. It will frequently happen
that when flying about in company with Crows and Jackdaws, the enjoyment
of the party is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a Falcon or
Sparrow-hawk; no sooner does the enemy approach than the vigilant
Starlings at once take the alarm and beat a hasty and quiet retreat,
leaving the bird of prey to seek a victim among their less intelligent
or observant companions. From man they have little to fear, for by him
their numerous services are too fully appreciated to allow of any great
number being doomed to a life of confinement. Still, when caged their
qualifications are such as to render them general favourites. When kept
alone they are readily tamed, but, on the contrary, should they be placed
with other birds, they soon become quarrelsome: and, not content with
constantly squabbling with their companions, have often been known to
tear the nests of the latter to pieces, and throw out not merely the
eggs but the young. In our own aviary we on one occasion found a very
lively Starling flying about with a piece of white paper in its beak,
and chasing the terrified occupants in all directions, this sportive
performance apparently affording the greatest delight to the perpetrator
of the joke, who seemed to enjoy the alarm and screams thus excited.
Most extraordinary are the tales told of the facility with which this
species can be taught to speak or imitate almost any sound; an instance
is recorded of a Starling having learnt to repeat the Lord's Prayer quite
distinctly, without missing a word; the naturalist Lenz, to whose curious
calculations respecting these birds we have already alluded, kept one of
them tame, and tells us that this creature not only whistled two tunes,
and could utter syllables, but that it understood and obeyed his words
and gestures like a dog.

The following narrative, for which we are indebted to the kindness of
Dr. McFarlane McBirnie, will be read with interest:--"My father," writes
Dr. Birnie, "from boyhood was passionately fond of birds, when under ten
years of age he travelled from Balpon to Linlithgow and back, a distance
of forty miles, in order to get a canary. A few years after, having
broken his leg, he was confined to the recumbent position for two months,
the tedium of which was relieved by the company of his favourites. In
1845 he bought a fledgling Starling for eighteen-pence, and at once
commenced its education. He spent three hours a day (not, of course,
consecutively) for twelve months before he brought it to perfection.
From the very first, poor 'Richard,' as it was called, showed a love of
learning, he seemed actually to drink it in; he would lie with his head
inclined, as a person does when he wishes to listen intently, and would
lean against the wires of his cage to be as near as possible to the
sound; and I would here remark that in training a bird to sing and speak,
the instruction should be imparted in a subdued, semi-whispering tone,
in a darkened chamber, where there is nothing to distract the attention.
My father made it a point to give Richard half an hour's tuition every
night after ten o'clock, in total darkness, and he says he found it more
tractable then than at any other time. It would take up too much space to
show the _rationale_ of this; I may state, however, that in early morning
birds are intent on procuring food, and cannot be expected to listen to
instruction, and then, during the day there are so many things going on
in a house, so many diverse sounds, that it is impossible for them to
single out the vocables we wish, whereas, after three hours' repose, when
there is no desire for food, no wish for the pleasure of muscular motion,
no sounds or sights to withdraw their attention, then is the fitting
time to teach. By the time Richard was able to hop from perch to perch,
his master saw that his pupil was striving to imitate him; never was
scholar more apt or more gratified at receiving a prize than Richard was
at getting a bit of hard-boiled egg on achieving two or three additional
notes, and in this way he soon became the Mario of Starlings. At the word
of command--as at the down-beat of a conductor's baton--Richard started
off with the 'Hills of Glenorchy.' I regretted my father had not selected
a more popular tune; yet I question if one could have been got more
adapted for the vocalisation of a bird: prolonged notes, such as minims
or dotted crotchets, a bird is not able to maintain; a tune with quavers,
and in marching time, is best adapted to their sustaining powers. After
having whistled the 'Hills of Glenorchy,' Richard paused, as it were
to draw breath, and said, 'That's the "Hills of Glenorchy"--that's a
tune for the ladies;' 'A wee gill o' the best, here--quick, quick, make
haste;' 'Richard's a pretty, pretty bird;' 'A coach and six for pretty
Richard;' 'Richard's the boy for kissing the lasses;' here he imitated
the sound of kissing, familiar to every one, which convulsed his audience
with laughter, especially if a number of ladies were present; then
added, 'Now for the "Hills of Glenorchy,"' and began _de novo_. I have
heard many birds articulate, and am sure I shall be corroborated in the
statement that, more particularly in the Parrot tribe, the words are
often a mere screech--harsh and dissonant to a musical ear, and in many
cases a stranger would require to be informed beforehand what the bird
was going to say, ere he could properly understand it; with Richard it
was quite the reverse; his whole performance was thoroughly musical, and
so accurate was his vocalisation, that when at his best the tuning-fork
showed that his notes had not fallen to any appreciable extent at the
end of his song. Hundreds of times have I seen him roused from sleep at
midnight, to gratify parties who had come from a distance to hear him;
my father would bend over the cage, and say in a petting sort of way,
'Come, now, Richard, give us the "Hills of Glenorchy,"' when the poor
bird would hop over to the wires, place his bill in my father's mouth,
get a kiss, and then go through the whole performance as often as he was
asked. Richard had, besides his _chef-d'oeuvre_, many stray sentences,
which of themselves would have rendered him famous, such as calling the
dog, ordering coals, &c.; but these my father discouraged. Richard died
at the patriarchal age of sixteen, deeply regretted by those who had, for
so many years, looked upon and spoken to him as one of the family. While
I write, he is looking down on me from his glass shrine."


THE SARDINIAN STARLING.

The SARDINIAN STARLING (_Sturnus unicolor_) is a species inhabiting
Southern Europe, and distinguished from the bird last described by the
long and slender feathers upon its head and nape, and by the colour of
its plumage, the latter being of pale slate colour, almost entirely
without spot, and only enlivened by a very slight metallic lustre. The
coat of the young bird is dark brown. This species inhabits Spain,
Southern Italy, and a large portion of Asia; it is common in Cashmere,
Scinde, and the Punjaub; its size is somewhat larger than that of our
Common Starling, which it closely resembles in its habits.


THE ROSE STARLING.

The ROSE STARLING, or SHEPHERD-BIRD (_Pastor roseus_), is another
European species, nearly related to those last described, but having
the beak somewhat more compressed at its sides, and the upper mandible
slightly curved; the wings are also larger, and the tarsi higher than in
the common Starling. In the old male the feathers upon the head become
elongated, and thus form a kind of tuft. The Rose Starling is from eight
and a quarter to eight and three-quarter inches long, and from sixteen to
eighteen and a half broad; the wings measure three inches and a quarter.
The plumage of the old male is a rich black upon the head, throat, and
upper breast, these parts being enlivened by a beautiful purple gloss,
also visible upon the wings and tail, which are brownish black; the rest
of the body is of a delicate rose colour. The plumage of the female is
paler in its tints and her tuft smaller than that of her mate. The young
wear the same garb as other young Starlings.

South-Eastern Europe and a great part of Central Asia afford a home to
this beautiful species, which only occasionally visits other portions of
our Continent, but migrates regularly to countries still further south.
In its mode of life it very much resembles the Common Starling, with
which it frequently associates, the various flocks at times sleeping in
company upon beds of reeds, though the Rose Starling usually prefers to
seek the shelter of the woods during the night. The movements of these
birds when upon the ground are easier than those of their congeners; but
their voice is strange and unpleasing--indeed, the song of a party of
them has been well described as resembling the noises made by a number
of rats when the latter are fighting and disputing amongst themselves;
moreover, so peculiar is their manner of singing when any number are
together, that a listener would imagine them to be engaged in shrill
and noisy altercation. In some parts of the country they are known as
the _Grasshopper Starlings_, on account of the large numbers of those
insects destroyed by their agency; their appearance is consequently often
regarded as an unfailing sign that the much-dreaded swarms of locusts are
about to infest the land; others do great service by clearing the backs
of cattle from many tormenting parasites. In India, however, the Rose
Starlings are by no means regarded with favour, as the damage they do to
the fields of rice is frequently extremely serious, and when this means
of support is no longer obtainable, other kinds of seeds and grain are
resorted to and destroyed in large quantities. Both the nest and eggs
resemble those of other Starlings. The disposition of the Shepherd-bird
is gentle and pleasing, but it is entirely without the amusing qualities
by which the members of this family are usually characterised.

[Illustration: THE ROSE STARLING (_Pastor roseus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The MINA BIRDS (_Acridotheres_) form a distinct group of Starlings,
inhabiting the continent of India. In these birds the beak is short,
strong, and slightly curved at its roof; the feet are powerful, the toes
long, the tail rounded at its extremity, and the head ornamented with a
crest.


THE MINA BIRD.

The MINA BIRD (_Acridotheres tristis_) is about ten inches long, three
and a half of which belong to the tail; the wing measures five inches
and a quarter. The feathers upon the head, nape, and breast are of a
brilliant black; the rest of the coat is reddish brown, the wings and
back being of a deeper shade, and the under side lighter than the rest
of the body; the exterior quills are black, but white at the root, thus
giving a somewhat spotted appearance to the wing; the tail is black, and
tipped with patches of white, the latter becoming gradually wider towards
the sides; the belly and lower wing-covers are also white.

[Illustration: THE MUSICAL GRAKLE (_Gracula musica_).]

The Minas are among the commonest birds in India, Assam, and Burmah,
where they frequent the neighbourhood of towns and villages in
preference to more wooded districts. A tree is usually selected as
their sleeping-place, and from this point they fly over the country in
small parties in search of food, stealing occasionally even into the
huts of the natives, in order to obtain cooked rice, of which they are
very fond; some follow the flocks and herds, and seize the grasshoppers
as they rise from the grass when disturbed by the cattle, others seek
subsistence by plundering the gardens and orchards in their vicinity.
When upon the ground the Mina walks with ease, constantly bowing its
head as it goes, and occasionally springing to a considerable distance;
its flight is heavy, direct, and tolerably rapid, and its notes rich and
varied. So little fear is exhibited by these birds that they build almost
exclusively in the vicinity of houses, or even in temporary cages that
are hung out for their accommodation. In Mosuri, where this species is
only a summer visitor, it usually prefers making its nest within a hollow
tree. Like the Starling, it easily acquires the art of speaking, and of
imitating a variety of sounds. The Mina has been dedicated by the Indians
to their god RAM, and is usually represented as perched upon his hand.
Major Norgate has given a full description of this interesting bird, from
which our space will only allow us to extract the following account of
its quarrelsome propensities--regular pitched battles, he tells us, are
of constant occurrence amongst these pugnacious little creatures; the two
combatants, who usually belong to different flocks, coming to the ground,
in order the better to carry on their struggle, which is maintained by
clawing, beating with the wings, and rolling round each other, screaming
loudly as the combat waxes hot; only for a very brief space, however,
is the fight confined to these two champions of the rival parties; one
after another the rest come down and mingle in the fray, which often
rages so fiercely that broken wings or other injuries at last compel the
untiring combatants to cease their strife. The same writer describes the
Mina's manner of singing as being very amusing: it inflates its chest as
though about to make a most tremendous effort, and then gives voice to
such a variety of crowing, grunting, and squeaking sounds as cannot fail
to astonish its hearer. When in flight the notes of these birds are by
no means unpleasing; but if alarmed their cry rises to a loud, hoarse
shriek, the rest of the party usually joining chorus until the uproar
becomes general. The nest is constructed with the utmost carelessness,
and is, in fact, a mere heap of straw, twigs, rags, or even shreds of
paper; but in spite of the discomfort of the home thus provided for the
young, the latter are tended by both parents with great affection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GRAKLES (_Graculæ_) constitute a race of Starlings that have always
been regarded with great favour by mankind. These birds are of a moderate
size, with thick bodies, and short wings and tails; the beak, which
equals the head in length, is thick, high, and in its transverse section
of a square form, the upper mandible is rounded and much vaulted at
its roof. The fourth quill of the wings is longer than the rest, and
the tail, which is rounded at its tip, is composed of twelve feathers;
the feet are strong, and the head is furnished on each side with two
moveable appendages resembling flaps of skin (which are usually brightly
coloured) hanging down from behind the eyes. The plumage is soft, and of
a satin-like brilliancy.


THE MUSICAL GRAKLE.

The MUSICAL GRAKLE (_Gracula musica_, or _Gracula religiosa_) is about
ten inches long and eighteen and a half inches in breadth; the tail
measures nearly three inches, and the wing five inches and three-fifths.
The plumage of this species is of a uniform rich, deep, purplish black,
shaded with green upon the lower part of the back and upper wing-covers;
upon the under surface of the body this beautiful green shimmer is less
distinctly visible; the wings and tail are jet black, the former edged
with a white band, formed by a series of patches, with which the first
seven primary quills are marked; the strange fleshy flaps to which we
have alluded are of a bright yellow colour, and are appended behind the
eyes, passing over the ears, at which part they become considerably
dilated. A naked space under the eyes is also of a brilliant yellow. The
beak is orange, the feet yellow, and the eyes dark brown.

Jerdon tells us that these birds principally inhabit the woods of Eastern
India, and that they are found in considerable numbers in the Rhat
Mountains and other elevated regions, living at an altitude of 3,000
feet above the level of the sea, and only making their appearance in
large flocks during the winter; at other seasons of the year they are
usually met with in parties of six or seven. These assemblages pass the
night together, generally in beds of reeds or bamboo thickets upon the
banks of the mountain streamlets. Their food consists of various kinds
of fruit and berries, and their visits are therefore greatly dreaded by
the proprietors of fields and gardens. The Grakle is lively and active,
much resembling the Common Starling in disposition: its song is cheerful
and varied, but contains many unpleasing notes; its powers of imitation
are so highly developed as to render it a most interesting companion
when tamed; indeed, some of the admirers of this gifted bird declare it
to be superior to the Parrot in the art of mimicry, and at the same time
entirely without the disagreeable noisy habits that often render the
latter intolerable. When caged, the Grakle not only becomes much attached
to those who feed it, but soon familiarises itself with all the dogs and
cats of the establishment, and will even fly fearlessly about the house
in search of food. Our own experience does not allow us to speak in quite
such unqualified terms of praise as the writer from whom we quote: we
have seen an instance in which one of these birds was so voracious as
scarcely to allow itself time to utter a sound, and so pugnacious and
quarrelsome as to be an object of dread to all its feathered companions,
who suffered severely from its beak and claws. This species breeds in
holes of trees, but its eggs have not as yet been identified.

       *       *       *       *       *

The OX-BITERS (_Buphagæ_) are very remarkable birds, differing from other
Starlings in the construction of their beak and feet, but resembling them
in their mode of life and general habits. Their bodies are slender and
their wings long; the tail, which is composed of twelve feathers, is of
moderate size; the feet are provided with short toes, armed with strong
hooked claws; the very peculiar beak is round at its base, and towards
its tip compressed at the sides; the upper mandible is vaulted, and the
lower portion bent forward at an obtuse angle; the plumage is lax, and
of a brownish-grey colour. We are only acquainted with two species: they
inhabit Central and Southern Africa, and bear a strong family likeness to
each other both in their appearance and demeanour.


THE AFRICAN OX-BITER.

The AFRICAN OX-BITER (_Buphaga Africanus_) is about nine inches long and
thirteen and three-quarters broad, the tail measures three and a half
inches. The whole of the upper part of the body, including the throat and
a portion of the breast, are of a uniform reddish brown, the belly and
rump being of a light reddish yellow; the wings and tail are deep brown,
the beak is of a reddish tint at its extremity and yellow towards its
base; the feet are brownish grey, and the eyes bright reddish brown.


THE RED-BEAKED OX-BITER.

The RED-BEAKED OX-BITER (_Buphaga erythrorhyncha_) is about the same size
as the species last described. Upon the back this bird is of a greyish
brown, the lower parts of the body are pale yellow; the beak is light
red, the feet greyish brown, and the eyes and eyelids of a golden colour.
Both the species alluded to above are found spread over a large extent
of country--the former inhabiting South Africa, whilst the home of the
latter is confined to the central regions of that continent; occasionally
both are found inhabiting the same district, but under no circumstances
do the two species--though their mode of life has so much in common--ever
join company. They are usually seen flying in little flocks of from six
to eight, following herds of cattle, camels, elephants, or rhinoceroses
about the country, the whole party frequently settling upon the backs
of these animals in search of the flies or bots by which they are much
infested. These birds are much disliked by the natives, owing to an idea
very prevalent in Abyssinia, that the Ox-biter prevents the sores upon
the cattle from healing; but this is far from being the case, as the
beasts themselves seem to be fully aware, for they will stand with the
greatest patience and allow the birds to extract the maggots from their
skin or clear away the flies that have been attracted to any wounded
part, never so much as attempting to frighten away their little friends,
whose sharp probing beaks are rendering them efficient relief at the
expense of a few moments of pain. Only such beasts as are unacquainted
with the happy results attendant on this operation ever resent it, but
these will occasionally testify excitement almost approaching to frenzy
when they find themselves taken possession of by such unbidden guests.
Ehrenberg tells us that the manner in which the Ox-biters carry on their
work is most amusing, and describes their movements over the bodies of
the huge beasts they favour as resembling those of the Woodpecker when
climbing about the trunk and branches of a tree; no portion of the animal
escapes scrutiny, and in prosecuting their search they will even hang
head downwards from the ears or limbs, in order more perfectly to carry
out their minute investigations. It is a strange sight to see the perfect
confidence with which both quadrupeds and birds seem to regard each
other, though the latter are so afraid of man that on the first sight of
a stranger they scramble together upon the very top of the back of the
ox or camel whose skin they are examining, and, should the traveller
attempt to approach nearer, seek safety in flight, rising into the air
with wings full spread, and, after describing a large circle, descend to
resume their labours;--should danger still impend, they take refuge upon
some high stone or piece of rock; but they never frequent trees for this
purpose. Gordon Cumming tells us that the cattle are often warned of the
approach of some of their numerous enemies by the acute perceptions of
these watchful servants; but neither he nor any other traveller has given
us any information as to the manner in which the Ox-biters build their
nests, or carry on the work of incubation.

[Illustration: THE RED-BEAKED OX-BITER (_Buphaga erythrorhyncha_.)]

The tropical regions of Africa, and some part of Asia, are inhabited by a
group of birds which seem to form a connecting link between the Starlings
and the Birds of Paradise, and are distinguished by such splendour of
colour and satin-like brilliancy of plumage, as to have obtained the name
of

       *       *       *       *       *

The GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Lamprotornithes_). All parts of the countries
to which they belong are enlivened by the presence of these brilliant
creatures, but they principally take up their residence in rocky
districts, wooded valleys, or even in the immediate vicinity of man,
though they prefer to disport themselves amidst the woods, to which they
lend an embellishment that travellers are never weary of extolling. The
various members of this group are without exception lively, bold, and
noisy in their demeanour; they are usually met with in large flocks,
and in many cases do not withdraw from the society of their companions,
even during the breeding season; this sociable disposition is, however,
by no means manifested towards other birds, with many of whom they live
in a constant state of active warfare. Fruit, seeds, snails, worms, and
insects of various kinds constitute their principal food, but they will
occasionally eat carrion, and, like the Ox-biter, they often render
good service to the cattle by clearing them from various parasites.
Their movements are light and active, in all respects resembling those
of other Starlings, and their disposition exceedingly sagacious and
intelligent. Some species have very discordant voices, while others are
not without some slight pretensions to song, inasmuch as their call-note
is agreeable, and often composed of more than one syllable. Such trifling
peculiarities as distinguish the various members of the group are most
strikingly observable in the difference of their habits during the
breeding season: some species separating from the rest of the flock while
busied with the cares of a family; others, on the contrary, remaining
with their companions even at that period of the year. The formation of
their nests varies considerably, according to the situations in which
they are placed--such as are built among the rocks being nothing better
than a mere heap of twigs or grass, whilst those placed in the trees
are necessarily substantial, and more artistic in their construction.
The brood usually consists of five or six eggs, of a green colour, and
marked with either red, brown, blueish, or black spots; some species
breed twice within the year. It is at present doubtful whether any of
these birds ever migrate; for the most part they seem to spend their time
in wandering over a limited tract of country, appearing in certain parts
only for a short time, and then as suddenly taking their departure. The
Glossy Starlings are seldom caught by the natives of the regions they
frequent, and are, therefore, very rarely seen in our part of the world,
though their great beauty, and the ease with which they may be reared,
eminently point them out as adapted for life in a cage.

[Illustration: THE SUPERB GLOSSY STARLING (_Notauges superbus_).]

We have divided this group into several divisions, the first of which
contains

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Lamprocolii_). In their general conformation
these birds resemble our Common Starling; the beak, which is of moderate
size, slightly curves towards its tip, and the upper mandible reaches a
little beyond the lower. The wings extend about half way down the rather
short tail, which is straight at its extremity. The feet are short and
powerful, the toes large, and the claws with which they are furnished
of moderate proportions. All the members of this group are decked in
the most gorgeous apparel, of which a metallic green is usually the
predominating tint, and all have a more or less satin-like gloss upon
their plumage.


THE BRONZE-COLOURED GLOSSY STARLING.

The BRONZE-COLOURED GLOSSY STARLING (_Lamprocolius chalybeus_), an
inhabitant of North-Eastern Africa, possesses an attire of such
extraordinary lustre, that words are almost inadequate to express the
appearance it presents when glittering in the rays of a tropical sun.
The plumage is bronze-like in tint, except upon the sides of the head,
the lower part of the belly, and wings, these parts being blue, as are
the tips of the feathers upon the shoulders; the dresses of the male
and female are alike, but the young are of a metallic green upon the
back, and underneath of a deep brownish grey, almost entirely devoid
of brilliancy. This species is about ten and a quarter inches long and
seventeen and a half in breadth; the wing measures five and a half, and
the tail three and three-quarter inches. The Bronzed Glossy Starlings are
to be met with in great numbers in their native land, more especially
in the forests, which they seem to prefer to the less densely wooded
districts; they also occasionally frequent the more open country, living
for the most part in pairs, and only congregating in small flocks after
the termination of the breeding season. They are brisk and lively,
endowed with all a Starling's alacrity, both upon the ground and in
the trees; their flight alone is peculiar, being distinguished by a
noiselessness that plainly indicates the velvety softness of their
wings. Little can be said as to their other endowments--their song is
extremely insignificant, and their call-note a most unpleasing sound.
To say the truth, if these birds were not so splendidly decorated they
would have little to recommend them to our notice, nature seems to have
been so lavish in this one particular as to have deemed any other charm
unnecessary. Those who have seen the Bronze Starling in its native
woods describe it as flashing upon their astonished sight like a bright
and unexpected gleam of sunshine, its feathers during life reflecting
every ray of light as does a looking-glass; but they lose this intense
brilliancy very shortly after death. This beautiful creature has, we
believe, as yet never been brought to Europe.


THE GOLDEN-BREASTED GLOSSY STARLING.

The GOLDEN-BREASTED GLOSSY STARLING (_Notauges chrysogaster_), another
species belonging to this group, is an inhabitant of North-Eastern
Africa, and is distinguishable from its congeners by the greater
thickness and inferior gloss of its plumage, as well as by its slender
beak, short tail, comparatively strong high tarsi, and long toes. This
bird is not more than eight inches long and thirteen and a half broad;
the wing measures four inches, and the tail two inches and a half. In the
old male the brow and upper part of the head are of a greyish green, the
mantle, neck, throat, and breast blackish green, intermingled with bright
brown; the rump is brilliant steel blue, the belly and thighs rust red,
but entirely devoid of lustre. The bridles are black, the eyes brown,
the beak yellow, and the feet blueish black. The young are dark brownish
green upon the back, and reddish brown below the region of the throat,
which is rather deeper in shade than the breast.


THE SUPERB GLOSSY STARLING.

The SUPERB GLOSSY STARLING (_Notauges superbus_) may certainly be
regarded as the most magnificent member of the group. This species,
which inhabits Abyssinia and the most unfrequented portions of the
African continent, is of about the same size as that last mentioned; its
plumage is a reddish copper colour upon the top of the head, and green
upon the mantle, each feather being tipped with a brilliant silky black
spot; the front of the throat, upper part of the breast, and tail are
blue, with a steel-like gloss. The rest of the body is red, with the
exception of a white band upon the breast.

These birds are met with in considerable numbers throughout the whole of
Soudan; they may usually be seen flying about in large flocks, sometimes,
but rarely, in pairs. Heuglin tells us that though they prefer to reside
upon low-lying plains, they are occasionally met with at an altitude
of 4,000 feet above the sea, but we ourselves have never seen them at
so great an elevation. During the day multitudes of these gorgeous
creatures may be observed disporting themselves with great vivacity,
running in small parties over the ground in search of food, or seeking
repose and shelter from the mid-day sun amongst the branches of the
trees, on which they also perch morning and evening, whilst the males
pour forth their matin or vesper song; should the party be alarmed, they
do not seek safety in flight, but hide amongst the foliage until they
can again venture from their concealment. During the whole time they
are in search of food the neighbourhood is kept in a constant state of
uproar: one screams to another almost without intermission, several
frequently joining in with their voices, apparently for the sole purpose
of rendering confusion worse confounded. As may be imagined, it is no
difficult matter to trace a flock of these birds, but their capture by
means of the gun is attended with much difficulty, as they are extremely
shy, and resort to shelter at the first alarm of danger.

       *       *       *       *       *

The members of the second division of this group are recognisable by
their delicate, arched, and compressed beaks, short wings, tails of
moderate length, weak long-toed feet, and scale-like plumage, from which
they have derived their name of SCALY GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Pholidauges_).
We are only acquainted with one species--


THE SCALY GLOSSY STARLING.

The SCALY GLOSSY STARLING (_Pholidauges leucogaster_) is met with over
a large portion of Africa, and also occasionally found in Arabia. The
plumage of this gaily-bedizened bird is of a rich violet over the whole
of the back and throat as far as the breast, these parts being pervaded
by a beautiful blue reflection or shimmer; the breast and belly are
white, the wings blackish brown, bordered with violet, and relieved, as
are all the darker portions of the body, by a copper-coloured metallic
brilliancy; the iris is light brown, and the beak and feet black. The
young differ widely in appearance from the adults, the upper portion of
their bodies being striped with light and dark shades of brown, while the
under parts are reddish white, streaked with brown. The male is about
seven inches long, and twelve and a half broad; the wing measures four
inches, and the tail two inches and three-quarters.

These birds are widely distributed throughout the countries where they
reside, generally, however, preferring mountainous districts; they
are eminently arboreal, and but rarely pass any length of time upon
the ground. In their mode of life they resemble other Starlings, but
are very quiet compared with the rest of their family. When in flight
their plumage is extremely striking, for, instead of its usual violet
hue, its back glitters in the sunlight with a bright _copper colour_,
and it is only when it remains stationary that the blue shades become
apparent, insomuch that those who are lucky enough to bring down one of
them with the gun are astonished to find how they have been deceived as
to the real colours. In its movements this brilliant bird is light and
elegant, flying with great rapidity high in the air; when in search of a
resting-place, it selects the tops of high trees, those in the immediate
vicinity of water obtaining a decided preference. Heuglin tells us that
he has seen these birds living 2,000 feet above the sea, but gives us no
information as to their nests, or habits during the breeding season.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GLOSSY MAGPIES (_Lamprotornithes_) constitute a small group belonging
to the family of the Starlings. They somewhat resemble the Jay in their
form and habits, and are of larger size than the species we have been
describing. They are, moreover, remarkable for the great development
of their tails; the beak is small and delicate; the upper mandible is
arched, and curves slightly outwards at its edges; the wings are long,
and the tail so sharply graduated, that the exterior feathers are only a
third of the length of those in its centre; the tarsi are high, the toes
long, and armed with strong claws.

[Illustration: THE SCALY GLOSSY STARLING (_Pholidauges leucogaster_).]


THE BRAZEN GLOSSY MAGPIE.

The BRAZEN GLOSSY MAGPIE (_Lamprotornis äenea_) is from eighteen to
twenty inches long, ten or thirteen inches of this measurement belonging
to the tail; the wing is from six and a half to seven and a half
inches long. The predominating shade upon the plumage is a beautiful
ever-changing blueish green; the back and lower parts of the body are
brown, and the head enlivened by the copper-like brilliancy we have
already alluded to as pervading this group. The feathers upon the
wing-covers are spotted with black at their tips; the tail is purplish
blue, marked with irregular dark spots, and gleams with metallic lustre.
The eye is light yellow, and the back and feet black. These splendid
birds inhabit Western and Southern Africa, and are replaced by a very
similar race in the more northern portions of the continent. Le Vaillant,
whom we have to thank for the discovery of this species, tells us that
the Brazen Glossy Magpies congregate in large flocks, and spend their
lives principally amongst the trees, from which they descend from time
to time to seek for food. When running upon the ground the long tail is
borne aloft, after the manner of the Jay. In disposition these birds
are extremely shy, and distrustful of man, though we have occasionally
seen them near such of the native huts as are built upon the borders
of the forest. Heuglin mentions having seen them living both in pairs
and flocks, at an altitude of 4,000 feet above the level of the sea; we
learn from the same author that they will occasionally eat carrion; their
voice is harsh and screaming, and so peculiar in its sound as to be quite
unmistakable. Their food consists of various kinds of insects, some of
which they catch with great dexterity when on the wing.

[Illustration: THE SATIN BOWER BIRD (_Philonorhynchus holosericus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The ROCK GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Moriones_) constitute the last group of
this family to which we shall allude. These birds are recognisable by
the inferior beauty of their plumage, which, however, is not without a
certain brilliancy and gloss upon the feathers; in all the species the
quills of the wings are almost or entirely brown.


THE WHITE-BEAKED ROCK GLOSSY STARLING.

The WHITE-BEAKED ROCK GLOSSY STARLING (_Philonorhynchus albirostris_) is
found in Abyssinia, where it frequents the rocky parts of the country, or
lives upon high bare trees or ancient ruins. Its plumage is silky; the
short beak, which is rounded at its tip, is slightly notched, and partly
covered with hair-like feathers at the base of the upper mandible; the
wings are rounded and moderate in size, the third quill being longer than
the rest; the tail is rather long, and square at its extremity; the feet
are powerful, the toes long, and armed with strong hooked claws. The
plumage of the old male is principally of a blueish black, that shines
with a steel-coloured lustre; the tail and large wing-covers are of a
soft velvety black; their quills brownish red, tipped with a blackish
shade upon the outer web. The iris is reddish brown, the beak greyish
brown, and the feet black. The female and young are blueish grey upon
the head, throat, and breast. The length of this bird is about eleven
inches, the wing measures six and a quarter, and the tail four inches and
one-third. Rüppell, who first discovered this species of Rock Starling,
tells us that it lives in flocks, and subsists upon various kinds of
berries and seeds; its movements are light and elegant, and its voice
pleasing and rich in its tones. The capture of this bird is extremely
difficult, as it is exceedingly shy, and ever on the alert against
approaching danger, which it eludes by seeking shelter amongst the
fastnesses of its favourite rocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOUNTAIN GLOSSY STARLINGS (_Amydrus_) are distinguished by their
decidedly curved and delicate beaks, short rounded wings, long graduated
tail, and silky plumage, which is entirely without the metallic
brilliancy possessed by the birds above described; they inhabit Southern
and Central Africa, and are occasionally met with in Arabia. As an
example of this group we select


THE NABURUP.

The NABURUP (_Amydrus Naburup_), is a bird about nine inches and
two-thirds long; the wing measures five and a quarter inches, and the
tail four inches. The colour of the plumage is a dark steel blue, except
upon the six first quills, these being reddish brown upon their outer
web, light brown upon their inner portion, and blackish brown at their
tips; the iris is light red, the beak and feet pale black. The coat of
the female resembles that of the male, but she is somewhat smaller. The
young are brown, spotted with steel blue. In its habits this species is
social and its song agreeable; like its congeners, it builds amongst the
rocks of Abyssinia, forming in some cases small settlements, and weaving
its nest with so little skill as to permit the eye to penetrate its
interior. Both sexes assist in the work of incubation, but beyond this we
have no knowledge of their habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ORIOLES (_Orioli_) constitute a family of beautiful birds, regarded
by some ornithologists as allied to the Thrushes, and by others classed
with the Birds of Paradise, but to which we venture to assign a position
in this place. They are recognisable by their elongate slender bodies,
long wings, and tails of moderate size; the feet are short, the toes
strong, and armed with powerful claws; the beak is long and conical;
both mandibles are rather vaulted, and the upper one terminates in a
slight hook. The plumage, which is soft and gay in its colours, varies
considerably, according to the age or sex of the bird; and, when
destitute of the brilliant gloss by which it is usually distinguished, is
still more varied in its hues. Several of the most interesting species
of this family inhabit Australia, and none of its members are found
beyond the limits of the eastern hemisphere. All may be regarded as
tree-birds, though some few spend a considerable portion of their time
upon the ground, over which they hop with an extremely heavy, awkward
step; amongst the branches, on the contrary, their movements are light
and graceful, and their voice is both full and pleasing in its tones.
Fruit and insects constitute their principal food. During the period of
incubation many species separate entirely from their companions, towards
whom they testify considerable animosity and jealousy; but others remain
in the company of their associates even at that season of the year. The
nests of all are placed upon trees, and are remarkable for the neatness
and beauty of their construction.


THE SATIN BOWER BIRD.

The SATIN BOWER BIRD (_Ptilonorhynchus holosericus_), a
recently-discovered inhabitant of Australia, is a very celebrated member
of this family. The body of this species is powerful, the wings rounded
at the tip; the tail of moderate size, and cut straight at its extremity;
the tarsi are high, slender, and the toes short. The beak is strongly
formed, the upper mandible arched at the tip over the lower portion,
which is also slightly bent. The adult male is truly a splendid creature,
with rich satin-like plumage of a deep blue black; the primary quills and
the secondaries are of velvety blackness, tipped with blue, as are also
the wing and tail feathers; the iris light blue, surrounded by a narrow
red ring; the beak is blueish grey, tipped with yellow, and the feet red.
The female is green upon the upper parts of the body, and underneath of
a yellowish green; the feathers are spotted here and there with brown
crescent-shaped spots, that give a scale-like appearance to the lower
portion of the bird; the wings and tail are deep yellowish brown. The
young resemble the mother.

Gould has made us familiar with the curious habits of the Satin Birds,
whose favourite haunts are found amidst the thickly-foliaged "bush" of
Australia, and here they may be seen living in pairs throughout the
greater part of the year, only quitting their favourite locality when
tempted to short distances by the hope of obtaining some particular
kind of food. In autumn they usually congregate in small flocks, and
seek a home among the bushes that grow upon the banks of neighbouring
rivers. Insects sometimes form a portion of their diet; they, however,
prefer fruits and grain, and are fond of robbing the gigantic fig-trees
of their tempting burden. When engaged in eating, these birds are so
extremely shy and cautious as to render their capture almost impossible.
One of the oldest members of the party is usually found perched upon
the highest branch of some neighbouring tree for the purpose of warning
his companions of approaching danger: this he does by a peculiar clear
note, which--should the sentinel become excited--is followed by a harsh,
guttural cry. Their _bowers_ have been described by the author from whom
we quote as most peculiar and beautiful in their construction. From
observations made by himself, he tells us that these remarkable erections
are generally placed upon the ground, under the shelter of an overhanging
tree or bush, in some quiet and retired place, and vary considerably in
their size. The walls are strongly formed of twigs and small branches
woven together in such a manner as to bring the ends in contact at the
top. An opening is left to form an entrance at both extremities of this
strange arbour, which is decked with every gay or shining material that
the little architects can procure; snail or mussel shells, pebbles,
or white bones are laid as ornaments to grace the entrances, and
Parrot-feathers or brightly-coloured rags are stuck between the twigs;
indeed, so well do the natives know the passion of the Satin Bird for
glittering or polished objects, that should they lose anything of that
description, they at once endeavour to discover the bower that has been
beautified at the expense of their property. Gould mentions having
found a pretty pebble an inch and a half long lying within one of these
edifices, which was also decked with a variety of blue woollen scraps
that had, doubtless, been stolen from a settlement in the vicinity. Males
and females alike resort to these bowers, solely, as it would appear, to
disport themselves in very much the same manner as we do in a ball-room,
dancing and turning about with the greatest spirit and liveliness, or
chasing each other up and down their gay apartment in an untiring whirl
of sportive delight. Should a female lose her mate, she at once consoles
herself with another; and we have known an instance in which one of them
was deprived of no less than three successive mates, without deterring
her from participating in the gambols of the rest of the party. The
males principally undertake the actual labours of constructing the gala
chamber, whilst all the more delicate work of beautifying the interior
devolves entirely upon the females; the nests are said to be built at
no great distance from the bower; but the eggs, as far as we know, have
never been found. A pair of Satin Birds were presented to the Zoological
Gardens in the Regent's Park some few years ago, and a bower, constructed
by them, may be seen in excellent preservation in the British Museum.

       *       *       *       *       *

The COLLAR BIRDS (_Chlamydera_) are nearly allied to the group
last described, and are addicted to the same remarkable habit of
bower-building. In these species the beak is compressed at its sides
and notched towards its tip; the upper mandible is slightly vaulted;
the wings are long and pointed, their third and fourth quills being of
greater length than the rest; the tail is long and slightly rounded; the
tarsi are covered in front with broad scales; the toes are large, and
furnished with sharp-pointed claws.

[Illustration: THE SPOTTED COLLAR BIRD (_Chlamydera maculata_).]


THE SPOTTED COLLAR BIRD.

The SPOTTED COLLAR BIRD (_Chlamydera maculata_) is about ten inches long;
the feathers upon the top of the head and region of the throat are of
a beautiful brown, surrounded by a narrow black line, those upon the
head being tipped with silver grey; the neck is surrounded by an elegant
collar or plume of long feathers, of the colour of a peach blossom; the
entire back, wings, and tail are covered with deep brown feathers, marked
at their extremities with a round, brownish-yellow spot; the lower parts
of the body are greyish white, the feathers upon the sides streaked with
a zig-zag, pale brown line; the eye is deep brown, the beak and feet of a
lighter shade. The young are without the feathery collar round the neck.

These interesting birds are inhabitants of Central Australia, where
they make their nests and spend the greater part of their lives upon
the numerous low bushes with which the plains are covered, hiding
themselves in the thickest branches at the very tops of trees at the
first approach of a stranger, and thus rendering the observation of their
habits a work of considerable difficulty; those who are desirous of
obtaining a specimen are therefore compelled to watch the tree on which
they perch until thirst compels them to come down in search of water.
Gould informs us that the bowers built by the Collar Birds are even more
artistically constructed and elaborately decorated than those of the
Satin Bird, and though erected in similar situations, are more arched and
of greater size, some being as much as three feet long; like those we
have described, the sides are formed of twigs woven together, but these
birds are not content with so rough a screen, and cover their ball-room
with a layer of fine and beautiful grass, large stones being employed
by the clever little architects for the purpose of keeping all the
materials firmly in the proper place. The interior is decorated in the
most elaborate manner with various kinds of shells, gay scraps, bleached
bones, or even the skulls of small animals; some of them being placed in
such a manner as to form a sort of approach to the bower, whilst a goodly
number are heaped up by way of ornament upon each side of the entrance.
Instances have been known in which these energetic and persevering little
creatures have collected as much as half a bushel of materials, rejecting
everything as unsuitable for their purpose that is not quite white or
very gay in colour, and actually going to search for shells upon the
banks of rivers some miles distant from the spot on which they build.
Gould tells us that these tasteful bowers are so firmly constructed as to
serve as a pleasure apartment for several seasons in succession.

[Illustration: THE PIROL, OR GOLDEN ORIOLE (_Oriolus galbula_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The birds constituting the second group of this family are recognisable
by their elongated beaks, short feet, and rather long wings; in the
plumage of the male, black and yellow predominate; but the prevailing
colour of the female is a greenish grey.


THE PIROL.

The PIROL, GOLDEN ORIOLE, or CHERRY BIRD (_Oriolus galbula_), is about
nine and three-quarter inches long and eighteen broad; the wing measures
about six inches, and the tail four inches. The female is a trifle
smaller than her mate. The plumage of the male is principally of a
splendid light yellow, only the bridles, wings, and tail being black; the
roots of the quills and the tips of the tail-feathers are ornamented with
a yellow spot. The colour of the female, as well as that of the one-year
old male and young birds, is green above and white beneath; the front
of the throat is of a light ash grey, marked with long greyish-black
streaks; the tail is tipped with yellow, and the wing-feathers edged with
a light border; the eyes are bright carmine, the beak a dull red, that of
the female and young being greyish black, and their feet lead colour.

In Germany this beautiful species has received the name of the
Whitsuntide Bird, from the fact that in most parts of Europe, except the
extreme north, it usually makes its appearance at that season of the
year. Central Asia, however, must be regarded as the actual habitat of
the Pirol; there, as elsewhere, it frequents wooded districts, generally
avoiding mountain tracts, and only tarrying for a short time amongst
the forests of fir or pine trees passed over in journeying to another
locality. Birch or oak trees afford it a favourite retreat, and upon
these it will establish its head-quarters, only leaving them to fly
about the gardens or orchards in the immediate neighbourhood in search
of food, and thus becoming very troublesome to the inhabitants at the
season when the cherries ripen. During the course of its migrations,
the Pirol visits the very centre of Africa; we ourselves have seen it
as far south as eleven degrees north latitude, and it is constantly met
with in the western parts of the continent. In its habits this bird is
distinguished by many peculiarities; although living in the immediate
vicinity of man, it is extremely shy, and constantly endeavours to
conceal itself from his view. In disposition it is always mild and
restless, flying and fluttering about incessantly from one tree or branch
to another, only coming down to perch upon a bush, or searching the
ground when desirous of procuring insect food. Its gait is so extremely
awkward, that it may be said to progress by means of a series of short
clumsy jumps, rather than by hopping in the usual manner. Its flight is
heavy, noisy, rapid, and, like that of the Starling, very undulating.
Amongst themselves these birds are extremely quarrelsome, often pecking
and hunting each other about for a quarter of an hour at a time upon the
slightest provocation--indeed, they exhibit a most pugnacious disposition
towards all their feathered companions. Their voice is very loud, full,
and agreeable, and they would seem never to be weary of exhibiting their
vocal powers; a pair of them is sufficient to enliven the whole wood in
which they take up their abode.

The nest, which is most artistically constructed, is usually suspended
from a forked and slender branch; in shape it is like a deep basin. The
walls are formed of blades of grass, vine-tendrils, wool, cobwebs, and a
great variety of similar materials, the interior being snugly lined with
a thick bed of wool, feathers, or fine grass; this beautiful structure is
most skilfully fastened in its place by means of long threads or twigs,
moistened with saliva from the beak of the bird, and then wound several
times round the branch, their ends being woven into the body of the nest.
Both parents assist in the formation of the outer wall of this pretty
fabric, but the female alone undertakes the preparation of the warm bed
upon which the brood are to be deposited. The eggs, five in number,
are laid about June; they are smooth, white, and marked with dark grey
or reddish spots. Passler tells us that the affection of these birds
for their young progeny is very great, and that they show considerable
courage and determination in defending their little family if any attempt
is made to touch their nest. At noon the female is relieved from her
watch by her mate, who remains upon the nest whilst she flies away
hurriedly to snatch a hasty meal from the neighbouring fields. The young
are hatched within a fortnight; they grow with great rapidity, and
moult their feathers before leaving the nest. Should a pair of Pirols be
driven from their home whilst brooding, they will at once set about their
preparation for another family, but will never recommence if disturbed
a second time. Various kinds of insects, caterpillars, butterflies, or
worms are consumed by these birds in great numbers, and they also eat
cherries and other descriptions of fruit in abundance. Notwithstanding
its usual timidity, the Pirol has been known to become so tame when caged
as to feed from its keeper's hand or mouth; and in one instance that came
under our notice, would pull its master by the hair if he omitted to pay
it the attention desired.

       *       *       *       *       *

Africa and Southern Asia possess many species of Orioles; these it is
needless to enumerate, as they closely resemble those that inhabit
Europe. We find, however, in Australia another group of these birds,
which we must mention, inasmuch as they form a connecting link between
the Pirols and the Birds of Paradise.


THE GOLDEN-CRESTED ORIOLE.

The ROYAL or GOLDEN-CRESTED ORIOLE (_Sericulus chrysocephalus_), one of
the most beautiful creatures inhabiting that fertile and highly-favoured
continent, is distinguished by its short and feeble bill, the upper
mandible of which is very distinctly notched, its straightly cut, or very
slightly rounded tail, and the peculiar nature of its feathers. The head,
back of the neck, and an arched line which passes from the nape over
the breast, are bright yellow, while the rest of the plumage is velvety
black. The first quill is black, the rest of the primaries yellow in the
middle and black at the root and tip; the secondaries are yellow, if we
except a narrow border to the outer web. The eye is pale yellow, the
beak of a deeper shade, and the feet black. In the female the head and
throat are brownish white, the top of the head being marked with a large
black spot; the upper portions of the wings and tail are olive brown, the
feathers of the back tipped with triangular brownish-white spots; the
belly is olive brown, and marked with similar but still more distinct
spots. The eyes are brown, and the feet black. The young resemble their
mother. The full-sized birds are about eight inches and three-quarters in
length.

We learn from Gould that this splendid species is confined to Eastern
Australia, and is very numerous in the bush about Moreton Bay, as also
upon the neighbouring islands. In its habits it resembles the Pirol, but
is much quieter. It has no fear of man, and delights to perch in full
view upon the highest and most conspicuous branches of the trees; it
would, however, seem as if the old males learnt by experience the danger
to which they expose themselves by this lavish display of their gorgeous
plumage, for they are much more prudent in this respect than the females
and young males. As regards their mode of incubation Gould was unable to
obtain any trustworthy intelligence.

       *       *       *       *       *

But few years have passed away since Europeans first became acquainted
with the living forms of the magnificent creatures we are now about to
describe. Their glowing feathers, it is true, had long been familiar to
every eye, but the natives of New Guinea, in preparing their skins for
exportation, had removed all trace of legs, thus giving rise to most
extravagant tales about the life they led in their native lands. The
Birds of Paradise, as they were called on account of their apparent want
of feet and great beauty, retained, it was popularly supposed, the forms
they had borne in the Garden of Eden, and lived upon no more substantial
nourishment than dew, or the ether through which it was imagined that
they perpetually floated by the aid of their long, cloud-like plumage,
only seeking an occasional change of position in suspending themselves
for a few minutes from the branches of a tree by some of the tendril-like
feathers of their tail. In vain naturalists endeavoured to prove the
absurdity of these and many other fables; the public mind would not be
convinced, and for centuries retained and cherished these most poetical
notions. Since those days many travellers in New Guinea and its islands
have seen and described the Birds of Paradise, and we are indebted to
Bennett, Wallace, and Rosenberg for many very interesting but by no means
exhaustive particulars as to their habits and mode of life.

[Illustration: BIRDS OF PARADISE.]


THE BIRDS OF PARADISE.

[Illustration: THE RED BIRD OF PARADISE (_Paradisea rubra_).]

The BIRDS OF PARADISE (_Paradiseæ_) are magnificent Ravens, varying in
their size from that of a Jay to that of a Lark, and are distinguished
not only by the exquisite beauty of their feathers, but by the elegance
of their shape. In this family the beak is of moderate size, straight, or
slightly curved, compressed at its sides, and covered at the base with
a feathered skin, by which the nostrils are concealed; the wings are of
moderate length, and very decidedly rounded, as the sixth and seventh
quills are much longer than the rest; the tail is either composed of
twelve rather long feathers, combined with many thread-like feathery
appendages of great length, or is extremely long, simple in form, and
sharply graduated; the feet are powerful, the toes long, and armed with
sharp, crooked claws. In some species the plumage upon the sides is most
peculiar in its appearance, the feathers growing to a great length, and
splitting, as it were, into several light and delicate portions. These
peculiarities are only observable in the male, both the female and young
being much more simply clad. The Birds of Paradise are found exclusively
in New Guinea and the neighbouring islands, Arnisland, Salawati, Meisol,
and Waigiou, each of these localities possessing one or more distinct
species.

Rosenberg has given us the following description of the manner in which
the natives prepare these valuable creatures for the European and other
markets:--The Papuans shoot the Bird of Paradise with arrows, and then
strip the body of its skin, cut away the feet and a portion of the
tail-feathers; they then insert a stick through the beak, and thus
supported, the skin is hung to dry in the smoke of a wood fire in order
to preserve it from the attacks of vermin. The natives of Meisol, on the
contrary, do not remove the feet or any portion of the tail, as they
have learnt by experience that the unmutilated skins command the highest
price. These skins are bought by merchants from Madagascar, Teimate, and
Eastern Seram, and conveyed to Singapore, from whence they are forwarded
to Europe or China. According to information received from these
merchants the finest birds come from the northern coast of New Guinea,
the Sultan of Tidore receiving annually a certain number of the skins
obtained within his territory as tribute.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE BIRDS OF PARADISE (_Paradiseæ_) possess a plume of long split
feathers, placed at the first joint of the wings, growing from a portion
of skin about an inch in length, which can be spread out or folded up
at pleasure. The females are without this appendage. The two middle
tail-feathers are usually extremely long, and become enlarged at the tip.


THE FOOTLESS BIRD OF PARADISE.

The FOOTLESS BIRD OF PARADISE (_Paradisea apoda_), as it has been called,
to perpetuate the memory of the fables to which we have alluded, is a
species about thirteen inches long. The predominant colour of the plumage
is a beautiful chestnut brown, the forehead a rich black, shaded with
emerald green; the top of the head and upper part of the neck are lemon
coloured, the throat greenish gold, the upper throat violet brown; the
long, feathery plumes at the sides are a brilliant orange, spotted with
purple at their tips, but these soon lose their freshness and beauty when
long exposed to the rays of the sun. The eye is pale yellow, the beak
and feet blueish grey. The colour of the female is brownish grey upon
the upper part of the body, the throat is greyish violet, and the belly
reddish yellow. This bird appears exclusively to inhabit the island of
Aru.


THE WUMBI.

The WUMBI (_Paradisea Papuana_) is somewhat smaller than the species
last described, not exceeding twelve inches in length. The back of this
bird is chestnut coloured; the lower parts of the body a deep reddish
brown; the top of the head, nape, and upper part of the throat and sides
are pale yellow; the feathers upon the brow and beak black, with a green
gloss; the throat emerald green; the eye is of a whitish yellow, the
beak and feet deep blue. The young bird, on first leaving the nest, is
entirely brown; the upper portions of the body being of a deeper shade
than the rest; the tail-feathers are of equal length, the two centre ones
terminating in a slight tuft; after the first moulting, the head and nape
of the neck are pale yellow, and the brow and throat gleam with metallic
green; the two centre tail-feathers are a few inches longer than those in
the first plumage. After the third change, these feathers are prolonged
into mere bare shafts, measuring about fifteen inches; and the beautiful
plumes begin to sprout from the sides, growing until at last they attain
the enormous length of fifty or sixty inches, and in very old birds have
been known even to exceed that size. Rosenberg tells us that this species
is found upon the islands of Meisol and Salawati in considerable numbers;
upon the eastern coast of New Guinea it is more scarce.


THE RUBY OR RED BIRD OF PARADISE. (_See Coloured Plate_ VIII.)

The RUBY OR RED BIRD OF PARADISE (_Paradisea rubra_) is distinguished
from the preceding species by a golden green plume, with which the front
of its head is decked. The back is russet yellow, a streak of this colour
passing like a broad band over the breast and under side of the body; the
breast and the wings are reddish brown, the base of the beak and a patch
behind the eyes are velvety black; the throat emerald green. The plumes
upon the sides are of a magnificent red, each feather terminating in a
circular tip; the tail-feathers have long shafts, which curl outwards;
the eye is light yellow; the back and feet greyish blue. In the female
the forehead and throat are of a rich brown; the upper part of the body
and belly reddish brown, the back of the head, throat, and breast bright
red.

The Red Bird of Paradise is extremely rare, as it is only found, and that
in small numbers, upon the island of Waigiou. The three species we have
mentioned closely resemble each other in their habits: all are lively
and intelligent, exhibiting (if we may so term it) a certain amount of
coquetry in the manner in which they display their glorious plumage.
Travellers who have seen these splendid creatures hovering in their
native element speak with rapture of their beauty; and Lesson tells us
that on one occasion he quite forgot to fire at a magnificent specimen as
he watched his intended victim float away--

    "Upon its waving feathers poised in air--
    Feathers, or rather clouds of golden down,
    With streamers thrown luxuriantly out
    In all the wantonness of wingèd wealth."

According to Rosenberg, the Birds of Paradise are migratory, living
partly upon the coast and partly in the interior of the country, which
they visit as soon as the fruit is quite ripe. We have seen a flock of
these beautiful creatures winging their way to a tree, that after having
been fired upon, returned almost immediately to the same spot; but this
is by no means usual--on the contrary, as a rule they are extremely shy,
and very difficult to obtain with the gun. Their cry is hoarse, and often
followed by a scraping kind of sound; it may be heard both in the morning
and evening, but rarely during the day. Lesson tells us that whilst
creeping amongst the branches in search of the insects that constitute
their favourite food, they utter a soft clucking note, entirely unlike
their call, which is only heard when the bird is perched high upon the
tops of the trees. During the entire day their graceful forms may be seen
flying incessantly from one tree to another, never remaining perched for
more than a few minutes upon the same branch, and concealing themselves
among the foliage at the first suspicion of danger. Before sunrise they
are already on the alert, and busied in their search for the fruit and
insects upon which they subsist; in the evening all the various members
of the party congregate at the summit of a high tree, where they pass the
night. Lesson informs us that the Bird of Paradise is often seen flying
in parties of some forty or fifty, under the guidance of a leader, who
soars considerably above the flock he is conducting; their cries as they
struggle with the wind are not unlike those of the Starling; when much
incommoded by a strong breeze their note resembles the call of the Raven.
Should a storm arise, they will at once soar high into the air, as though
to escape the power of the blast; but in spite of all their efforts
they are often rendered completely helpless, as the wind blows aside
and entangles their long tails and waving plumes, and not unfrequently
forces them to fall heavily to the earth, or into the sea; many are thus
drowned, and others are obliged to lie upon the ground until they have
recovered sufficiently from the shock to arrange their disordered and
matted feathers. On the eastern and northern coast of North Guinea and
in Meisol, the breeding season commences in May, but upon the western
coast and in Salawati the eggs are not laid till November. Lesson is
of opinion that the Bird of Paradise lives in a state of polygamy, and
tells us that the males are most active in their endeavours to show
their glorious apparel to full advantage when desirous of attracting
the attention of the females. We learn from Rosenberg that in order to
obtain the Bird of Paradise, the natives, during the dry season, build
little huts of twigs and leaves amongst the branches in one of the trees
usually selected as a sleeping-place. About an hour before sunset this
leafy bower is occupied by a man who is considered to be a practised
shot; silently he crouches until the flock begins to arrive, and then one
after another he marks them out and strikes them to the ground, with an
arrow armed with a conical wooden cap as large as a teacup, so arranged
as not to injure the plumage of the bird. In some places limed twigs
are employed for this purpose, and in others snares are laid upon the
branches of the fruit-trees in such a manner as to entangle the foot of
the unsuspecting victim, who, when thus caught, is at once drawn down by
means of a long string.

Mr. Wallace gives the following interesting account of his experience
among these beautiful creatures in their native haunts:--"When I first
arrived" (at Waigiou) "I was surprised at being told there were no Birds
of Paradise at Muka, although there were plenty at Bessir, a place where
the natives caught them and prepared the skins. I assured the people I
had heard the cry of these birds close to the village, but they would not
believe that I could know their voice. However, the first time I went
into the forest I not only heard but saw them, and was convinced there
were plenty about; but they were very shy, and it was some time before
we got any. My hunter first shot a female, and I one day got close to a
very fine male. He was, as I expected, the rare red species, _Paradisea
rubra_, which alone inhabits the island, and is found nowhere else. He
was quite low down, running along a bough searching for insects, almost
like a Woodpecker, and the long, black, ribbon-like filaments in his
tail hung down in the most graceful double curve imaginable. I covered
him with my gun, and was going to use the barrel, which had a very
small charge of powder and number eight shot, so as not to injure his
plumage, but the gun missed fire, and he was off in an instant among
the thickest jungle." After describing other unsuccessful attempts, Mr.
Wallace proceeds:--"At length the fruit ripened on the fig-tree close by
my house, and many birds came to feed upon it; and one morning, as I was
taking my coffee, a male Paradise Bird was seen to settle on its top. I
seized my gun, ran under the tree, and gazing up, could see it flying
across from branch to branch, picking a fruit here, and another there,
and then, before I could get a sufficient aim to shoot to such a height
(for it was one of the loftiest trees of the tropics), it was away into
the forest. They now visited the tree every morning, but stayed so short
a time, their motions were so rapid, and it was so difficult to see them,
owing to the lower trees which impeded the view, that it was only after
several days' watching, and two or three misses, that I brought down my
bird--a male in the most magnificent plumage."

[Illustration: _Plate 8. Cassell's Book of Birds_

RUBY BIRD OF PARADISE ____ Paradisea rubra

(_Three-fourths Life size_)]

[Illustration: THE RESPLENDENT EPIMACHUS (_Seleucides resplendens_).]

We are indebted to Dr. Bennett for the following graphic account of a
Bird of Paradise, which lived for nine years in the aviary of Mr. Beale
of Macao:--"This elegant creature has a light, playful, and graceful
manner, with an arch and impudent look; dances about when a visitor
approaches the cage, and seems delighted at being made an object of
admiration; its notes are very peculiar, resembling the cawing of the
Raven, but its tones are by far more varied. During four months of the
year, from May to August, it moults. It washes itself regularly twice
daily, and after having performed its ablutions throws its delicate
feathers up nearly over the head, the quills of these feathers having a
peculiar structure, so as to enable the bird to effect this object. Its
food is boiled rice mixed up with soft egg, together with plantains,
and living insects of the grasshopper tribe; these insects, when thrown
to him, the bird contrives to catch in its beak with great celerity;
it will eat insects in a living state, but will not touch them when
dead. I observed the bird, previously to eating a grasshopper, place
the insect upon the perch, keep it firmly fixed with the claws, and
divesting it of the legs, wings, &c., devour it, with the head
always placed first. It rarely alights upon the ground, and so proud
is the creature of its elegant dress that it never permits a soil to
remain upon it, and it may frequently be seen spreading out its wings
and feathers, and regarding its splendid self in every direction, to
observe whether the whole plumage is in an unsullied condition. The
sounds uttered by this bird are very peculiar; that which appears to be
a note of congratulation resembles somewhat the cawing of a Raven, but
changes to a varied scale in musical gradations--a _he_, _hi_, _ho_,
_how_, repeated frequently and rapidly, as briskly and playfully he hops
round and along his perch, descending to the second perch to be admired,
and congratulate the stranger who has made a visit to inspect him. He
frequently raises his voice, sending forth notes of such power as to be
heard at a long distance, and as it would scarcely be supposed such a
delicate bird could utter. These notes are _whack_, _whack_, _whack_,
uttered in a barking tone, the last being in a low note as conclusion. A
drawing of the bird of the natural size was made by a Chinese artist.
This was taken one morning to the original, who paid a compliment to
the artist by considering it one of his own species. The bird advanced
towards the picture, uttering at the same time its cawing, congratulatory
notes; it did not appear excited by rage, but pecked gently at the
representation, jumping about the perch, knocking its mandibles together
with a chattering noise, and cleaning them against the perch, as if
welcoming the arrival of a companion. After the trial with the picture
a looking-glass was brought, to see what effect it would produce upon
the bird, and the result was nearly the same; he regarded the reflection
of himself most steadfastly in the mirror, never quitting it during the
time it remained before him. When the glass was removed to the lower
from the upper perch he instantly followed, but would not descend upon
the floor of the cage when it was placed so low. It seemed impatient,
hopping about without withdrawing its gaze from the mirror, uttering the
usual cawing notes, but with evident surprise that the reflected figure
(or, as he seemed to regard it, his opponent) imitated so closely all
his actions, and was as watchful as himself. There was, however, on his
part no indication of combativeness by any elevation of his feathers, nor
was any irritation displayed at not being able to approach nearer to the
supposed new comer from his own native land. His attention was directed
to the mirror during the time it remained before him, but when removed
he went quietly and composed himself upon the upper perch as if nothing
had excited him. One of the best opportunities of seeing this bird in
all its beauty of action as well as display of plumage is early in the
morning, when he makes his toilet; the beautiful sub-alar plumage is then
thrown out and cleaned from any spot that may sully its purity by being
gently passed through the bill; the short, chocolate-coloured wings are
extended to the utmost, and he keeps them in a steady flapping motion,
as if in imitation of their use in flight, at the same time raising up
the delicate long feathers over the back, which are spread in a chaste
and elegant manner, floating like films in the ambient air. When it has
picked and thoroughly cleaned its feathers, elevating its tail and long
shaft feathers, it raises the delicate plumage of a similar character to
the sub-alar, forming a beautiful crest, and throwing up its feathers
with much grace, appears as proud as a lady in her full ball dress. His
prehensile power in the feet is very strong, and, still retaining his
hold, the bird will turn himself round on his perch. He delights to be
sheltered from the glare of the sun, as that luminary is a great source
of annoyance to him if permitted to dart its fervid rays directly upon
the cage. This bird is not at all ravenous, but eats rice leisurely,
almost grain by grain."


THE KING OF THE BIRDS OF PARADISE.

The KING OF THE BIRDS OF PARADISE (_Cincinnurus regius_) may be selected
as representing the SPIRAL TAILS (_Cincinnurus_), as the various species
composing the second group of this family have been called. In size it
is inferior to any of its congeners as yet described; it is, moreover,
distinguished from them by the delicacy of its beak and by the less
remarkable development of the plumes with which its sides are adorned.
The two centre tail-feathers twine like the tendrils of a vine, and are
entirely without a web, except at their extremity, which is furnished
with a wheel-like feathery expansion. The male of this species is of a
ruby red upon the upper portions of the body; the brow and top of the
head are orange, the throat yellow, and the belly greyish white; the
eyes are surmounted by a small black spot, and a band of metallic green
divides the dark-coloured breast from the shades upon the belly; the
feathers upon the sides are grey, marked with irregular white and red
lines, and terminate in a bright emerald green tip. The female is reddish
brown upon the upper part of the body, and below of a reddish yellow
streaked with brown; the wings are gold colour, the beak is dark brown,
and the feet light blue.

This species is found over a larger extent of country than any other
member of its family, occupying not only a large portion of North Guinea,
but most of the surrounding islands, where it frequents the bushes
growing upon the sea-coast. Its movements are extremely restless, and,
like other Birds of Paradise, it seems to revel in its own beauty as
it spreads its plumage and raises the golden collar round its throat,
meanwhile demonstrating its satisfaction by uttering a soft noise not
unlike the mewing of a kitten. Writers of former days inform us that
these beautiful creatures fly about in parties under the guidance of a
male bird distinguished from the rest by the superior development of the
tail, and that the flock are inconsolable if they lose their leader; but
more modern naturalists do not mention this supposed peculiarity, which
we must therefore regard as a fable.


THE COLLARED BIRD OF PARADISE.

The COLLARED BIRD OF PARADISE (_Lophorina superba_) is an extremely rare
species, inhabiting Northern New Guinea. It is distinguished by the long
feathers by which the upper part of its back and the nape of its neck are
surmounted, the latter even extending over the breast, and thus forming a
kind of collar; but there are no elongated feathers upon the sides, and
it wants the webless stems found on the tail of some species; the plumage
in general is black, the long feathers upon the breast are of a brilliant
metallic green; the flowing feathers of the shoulder fall like a mantle
over the body, and can be raised when the bird is desirous of appearing
in all its beauty.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SIX-FEATHERED BIRD OF PARADISE (_Parotia sex-pennis_) represents
a race of extremely beautiful and rare creatures, which, owing to the
peculiarities of their plumage, have been classed as a separate tribe
under the name of PAROTIA. In these birds the side feathers are much
elongated, but not disintegrated, as in the species described above;
the tail is graduated, and none of its feathers are destitute of a web.
Upon the head and behind the ear are placed six long shafts, from which
the members of this group have derived their name, each terminating in
a feathery web. The plumage is of a deep black, except upon the breast,
which is golden green.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gorgeously attired EPIMACHI resemble the Birds of Paradise in the
peculiar elongation of the side and tail feathers and in the construction
of their feet; the beak alone differs in its formation, being long, thin,
and delicately curved.


THE RESPLENDENT EPIMACHUS.

The RESPLENDENT EPIMACHUS (_Seleucides resplendens_, or _Seleucides
alba_) is recognisable by the tufts upon the breast, formed of large,
rounded, and brightly bordered feathers, and by the graceful plumes that
adorn its sides; these latter are downy in their upper portions, and
terminate in very long and webless shafts. According to Rosenberg, this
extraordinary bird is about thirty-two and a half inches in length. The
velvet-like feathers of the head, neck, and breast are black, but gleam
with a deep green or violet shade; the tufts upon the sides of the breast
are also black and edged with dazzling emerald green; the plumes upon the
sides are of a splendid golden yellow, but soon lose their brilliancy
after death, changing to a dirty white; the wings and tail are glossy
violet, and appear in some lights to be marked with stripes. The plumes
for which this species is so celebrated are most remarkable; the longest
of them reach to the tail, and there terminate in long, horsehair-like
threads of a bright yellow towards their root, and for the rest of their
length of a brown colour. The eyes are scarlet, the beak black, and the
feet of a yellowish flesh tint. In the female the top of the head and
lower part of the throat are black, the velvety feathers upon the head
shining with a bright purple lustre; the lower part of the back, the
wings, and tail are reddish brown, the large quills being black upon
their inner web; the whole of the lower parts of the body are greyish
white or a dirty yellowish brown, marked with small undulating black
streaks. The young males at first resemble their mother, but after the
first moulting the throat is grey, after the second the belly acquires
its yellow tint, and the tufts upon the sides begin to make their
appearance.

[Illustration: THE COLLARED EPIMACHUS (_Epimachus magnus_).]

The Resplendent Epimachus is found exclusively upon the island of
Salawati, frequenting rocky districts in considerable numbers, and
subsisting, we believe, upon insects and various kinds of fruit. They
usually congregate in small parties, and fly together in search of food,
seeming, when upon the wing, to glide through the air with great facility.


THE COLLARED EPIMACHUS.

The COLLARED EPIMACHUS (_Epimachus magnus_) represents another group of
the same family. The beak of this bird is long, arched, and slightly
rounded at the ridge; the wings are moderate, the tail long and
graduated, the foot powerful, but of no great size; the breast only
is adorned with tufts of feathers. This species is about three and a
quarter feet long, two feet of which measurement are included in the
tail. The head is decked with small, round, scale-like feathers of a
bronze green colour, but gleaming with a blue and golden light; the long
feathers growing upon the nape are black and velvety; the back is of
similar colour, but varied by the blueish green gloss of many long, broad
feathers. The lower part of the body is of a blackish violet, and the
long and graceful plumes that sprout from the sides shine with a glossy
splendour as they hang negligently over the wings; the beak and feet
are black. In the female the top of the head and nape are of a cinnamon
colour; the rest of her plumage resembles the male, but is rather paler.

This splendid creature is so mutilated during its preparation for sale
by the natives, that we believe no perfect specimen has as yet been
brought to Europe. Rosenberg tells us that it inhabits New Guinea, but is
never seen upon the surrounding islands.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some naturalists place among the Birds of Paradise two species, of which
we know very little, that have been named the


MAGPIE BIRDS OF PARADISE (_Astrapioe_); others regard them as belonging
to the Thrushes, as they resemble these latter birds in the construction
of their beak, which is straight, and slightly flattened in front of
its apex; its base, moreover, is unfurnished either with bristles or
velvety feathers; the tail is long, and distinctly graduated; the wings
are of moderate size, and the legs powerful; both sides of the head
are adorned with a tuft of feathers which incline outwards. Lesson and
other naturalists say that it is impossible to describe the beauty and
brilliancy of these glorious creatures by any selection of words. The
plumage, which is purple black on the upper part of the body, gleams with
metallic splendour. The plumes upon the head are blueish red, tipped with
emerald green; the whole of the lower parts of the body are malachite
green; a reddish violet streak passes from the corner of the eyes in a
semicircle down to the throat; the legs and beak are black. When seen
in the full sunlight these gorgeous birds appear to gleam with every
conceivable effect and variety of the most brilliant colours; their
length is about two feet and a quarter. We learn from Rosenberg that the
Paradise Magpie is found exclusively upon the tolerably large island of
Obi, near Gilwick Bay, but he gives us no particulars as to its life and
habits, as he was unable either to observe it in the wild state or to
obtain a living specimen.

[Illustration: THE MAGPIE BIRD OF PARADISE (_Astrapia gularis_).]


THE RAVENS PROPER (_Coraces_).

This family comprehends some of the largest members of the order. In
these birds the beak is large, strong, curved towards the point, and
toothed on its cutting edge, the upper mandible being only occasionally
slightly hooked; the wings are of moderate size, and rounded at their
extremities, the fourth quill being larger than the rest; the tail is
formed by twelve feathers, which are either graduated or straight at the
extremity. The plumage is rich, and its feathers large, those at the base
of the beak usually resembling hairs or bristles; the rest are extremely
glossy. Both sexes are alike in colour, and the young differ but little
from the parent birds.

The Ravens inhabit every part of the globe, their mode of life and
appearance varying slightly, according to the climate in which they
live. Warm countries, however, appear more congenial to them than the
northern parts of the earth, where they are met with in comparatively
small numbers. By far the greater number are stationary, rarely, if ever,
leaving the place that gave them birth, except to make short excursions
in the neighbourhood, whilst others migrate to countries at no great
distance from their native land. If we except the power of song, the
Ravens combine in themselves every gift possessed by any members of the
order to which they belong. They move with ease upon the ground, fly
rapidly and lightly, and are remarkable for the very equal development of
all their faculties, including the sense of _smell_.

This family has been divided into many groups, all of which present very
marked peculiarities.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOUNTAIN CROWS, or CHOUGHS (_Fregili_) are recognised by their long,
slender bodies, long wings, and short tails; their beaks are slender and
pointed, slightly arched, and, like their feet, brightly coloured. Their
plumage is black and glossy. Europe has two species of these birds, and
several others inhabit India and Australia.


THE CHOUGH.

The CHOUGH, or MOUNTAIN CROW (_Fregilus graculus_) is distinguished by
the peculiar formation of its long, thin, arched beak, which, like its
short-toed foot, is of a brilliant scarlet colour. The eyes are dark
brown, and the plumage of an uniform glossy blueish black. This species
is about fifteen inches long and thirty-one inches across; the wing
measures ten and a half inches, and the tail five and a half inches. The
female is scarcely distinguishable from her mate, but the young are known
by their black feet and beak; after the first moulting, however, they
resemble the older birds.

Almost all the mountains of Europe afford a home to these Crows, which
are met with in considerable numbers in Scotland, in Cornwall, and in
Wales: in Spain they are very abundant, but are comparatively rare
among the Swiss Alps. In most of the mountains that they frequent they
occasionally ascend to the summits of the loftiest peaks, and are usually
found as high as the snow-line, descending to the valleys in severe
winters. Travellers in these mountain regions often hear the voices of
thousands of these birds from amongst the rocks, and those who take
the trouble to observe their movements soon perceive that they appear
with a certain kind of regularity in the same localities, generally
leaving their sleeping-place early in the morning to search for food,
and returning about nine o'clock to their perch; before noon they again
leave, and again return to pass the mid-day hours in the holes with
which their favourite haunts abound, keeping, however, a vigilant watch
against intruders, even when enjoying their noontide rest, and giving
warning of any approaching danger with loud and piercing cries; nor are
these precautions by any means superfluous, seeing that Hawks and others
of their enemies are always on the alert to seize an unwary straggler,
which, on such occasions, usually endeavours to hide itself by creeping
into the depths of some adjacent hole. In the afternoon the whole party
again goes several times in search of food, and returns at night to sleep
upon the usual perch. According to Bolle, this species is rarely seen in
the Canary Islands; and, indeed, many other spots which would appear to
offer it a most desirable home, are, most unaccountably, never visited
by this shy and unenterprising bird. It is only when we learn upon what
food the Chough subsists that we appreciate the full value of its many
services; for it lives principally upon insects, grasshoppers, spiders,
and, in Spain, it also devours scorpions in large numbers, raising the
stones under which such creatures live by the aid of its beak, or digging
up the ground in search of them.

The breeding season commences early in spring; the nest, which is often
very difficult to find, being placed in holes in the rock, is constructed
of dry stalks or hay, well lined with moss: the eggs, four or five in
number, are whitish or dirty yellow, marked with dark brown spots and
streaks. The female broods alone, but both parents assist in the heavy
task of feeding the young, an operation which is carried on amidst an
indescribable amount of noise and general confusion. So extremely social
are these birds that they remain in company even during the period of
incubation. Though, like other Ravens, they have doubtless little respect
for property, still, on the whole they live peacefully, even when in
large flocks, and courageously assist their companions when in danger.
Should one of the party be injured the rest immediately surround it with
every indication of sympathy, and we have known a case in which a Chough
that had broken its wing was fed by its companions until it could fly
about and obtain its own food. When tamed these birds frequently become
extremely interesting, and may be allowed to leave the cage, without any
danger of their flying away.


THE ALPINE CHOUGH.

The SNOW CROW, or ALPINE CHOUGH (_Pyrrhocorax alpinus_) possesses a
comparatively strong, yellow beak, of about the length of its head, and
its plumage more nearly resembles that of a Blackbird than that of a
Crow. The attire of the adult is of a rich velvety black, the feet are
red. Whilst young the feathers are of a paler tint, and the feet yellow.

In size and habits the Alpine Chough closely resembles the species last
described--indeed, it may be regarded as holding the same place among
the pinnacles of Alpine ranges as that occupied by the Lark in our
corn-fields, or the Seagull on our coasts. Tschudi tells us that two of
these birds were seen by Meyer during his ascent of the Finsteraarhorn,
at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet above the level of the sea,
and they are frequently known to inhabit regions that are entirely
uninhabitable by man, or even by the quadrupeds that occasionally are
found at very considerable altitudes. Travellers who attempt the most
precipitous and apparently desolate passes are astonished to find that
they are greeted by a noise which they could never have supposed to
have existed amongst the lofty peaks of the solemn and majestic Alps,
and soon find themselves beset by swarms of Snow Crows, who scream and
quarrel among themselves as they hover over the heads of their unusual
visitors, or perch upon a neighbouring pinnacle the better to observe
their movements. The utmost severity of the winter will not drive them to
seek a home in the country that lies beneath, upon which they, however,
occasionally descend in large flocks, making the air resound with hoarse
caws, or shrill cries, as they search for berries in the bushes that
abound in Alpine valleys. Almost any kind of food is consumed by them
with avidity, but they manifest a decided preference for snails of
various kinds--indeed, upon one occasion we found no less than thirteen
of these destructive molluscs in the crop of a Snow Crow that we had
killed: like birds of prey, they will occasionally follow living animals,
and devour dead carcases with the greatest eagerness. The author from
whom we quote tells us that he has known these birds to rush down from
their retreats at the first report of a gun, and join in the pursuit of
the intended victim with the utmost excitement, and mentions an instance
in which a flock of Alpine Choughs hovered for months over a precipice,
beneath which lay the whitened bones of a hunter who had met his death
in pursuit of a chamois, and whose flesh they had eaten. Most noisy are
the altercations while these creatures are at their disgusting meals,
which are enlivened by a constant succession of vicious attempts to drive
their companions from their prey. When devouring the smaller birds or
quadrupeds the head is first attacked in order to obtain the brains.

[Illustration: THE CHOUGH (_Fregilus graculus_).]

The nest of the Snow Crow is but rarely found, being built in clefts or
fissures of the steep rocks in which they live; it is large and flat, and
is usually constructed of blades of grass. The eggs, five in number, in
size resemble those of the Common Crow; the shell is light grey, marked
with spots of a deeper shade. Successive generations often build upon the
same place, which in time becomes so thickly covered with the excreta
of its numerous occupants as to form beds of guano, which are largely
employed as a valuable manure. When domesticated, says Savi, the Snow
Crow exhibits great attachment to its owner, and becomes so tame as to
fly quite freely about the house. It will consume almost anything eaten
by the family, and prefers milk or wine to water. While eating, it seizes
the morsel and tears it with the claws before swallowing it, and should
the supply prove too large for present need the remainder is carefully
put away, and hidden under scraps of paper or any available covering,
its owner keeping a very sharp look-out to prevent the discovery of his
concealed treasure. So remarkable is its liking for _fire_, that we might
imagine it to be the _Avis incendiaria_ of the ancients; it has been
known to pluck the burning wick from a lamp and swallow it, or to draw
small live coals from the hearth for this purpose, without any apparent
ill effect, and so to delight in smoke as to take every opportunity of
throwing a scrap of rag, wood, or paper into the grate, for the pleasure
of seeing the light clouds ascend as it is consumed by the flames. The
affection of this bird for those by whom it is tamed is remarkably
demonstrative; it seems to observe their absence, and greets them on
their return with every expression of delight; to some persons, on the
contrary, it occasionally takes a most unaccountable aversion, and pecks
and screams at them whenever they approach. The song of the Snow Crow is
varied, and it has been known to whistle a simple air that it had been
taught.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE RAVENS are distinguished by their large but rather short beak,
which is more or less curved, and covered at its base with a number of
black bristles; the wings are of moderate size, and reach, when closed,
to the end of the tail; the feet are powerful, and the plumage a rich
black, more or less glossy.


THE RAVEN.

The RAVEN (_Corax nobilis_), as the principal member of this group is
called _par excellence_, is recognisable by its lengthy body, broad,
long, and pointed wings, the third quill of which considerably exceeds
the rest in length; the tail is of moderate dimensions, and graduated.
Its plumage is short, glossy, and uniformly black; the eyes of the old
birds are brown, those of the young blueish black, and those of the
nestlings pale grey. The length of this species is about two feet, its
breadth four and a quarter; the wing measures seventeen inches, and the
tail nine and three-quarters.

This Raven is spread over a much larger portion of the world than
any of its congeners; it inhabits the whole of Europe, as well as a
great part of Asia, and is met with in the countries extending from
the Altai Mountains to Japan. It is at present uncertain whether the
very large Raven met with in North America is the same or only a
similar species. Throughout some parts of Europe these birds dwell
comparatively apart from man, preferring to inhabit such localities as
mountains, dense forests, or rocky coasts, while others, that frequent
the northern, southern, or eastern coasts of our continent, live on
comparatively friendly terms with the lord of the soil, from whom their
many objectionable habits do not meet with the same retribution as in
the more central or western lands. Ravens usually live in pairs, and
remain constantly together throughout their lives, passing their time
principally in flying in company with each other over the surrounding
country. When on the wing, their movements are extremely beautiful, they
alternate between a rapid and direct flight, produced by a powerful
stroke of the wings, these, like the tail, being kept outspread, and a
hovering motion, that takes the form of a series of gracefully described
circles, seeming to be produced without the slightest effort on the part
of the birds, who occasionally amuse themselves by dropping suddenly to
a distance of some feet, and then continuing their way as before. Upon
the ground their gait is distinguished by a most absurd assumption of
dignity, the upper portion of the body being held considerably raised,
whilst they gesticulate with the head in a most laughable attempt to
keep time with the movements of the feet. While perched the feathers are
generally kept quite close, those only upon the head or neck being spread
or ruffled when the creature is under the influence of strong emotion:
the wings are always kept slightly raised from the body.

By the rest of its congeners the Raven would seem to be regarded with
abhorrence, for they will fall upon and attack it with the utmost
animosity: and should it attempt to join a party of other species of its
family, they greet it with as noisy demonstrations of terror, as if the
intruder were a Hawk or a Buzzard, and compel it at once to retire from
amongst them. In its relations with man nothing can exceed the prudence
and wariness of the Raven, its fear of molestation being so strong as to
compel it even to desert its nestlings should an enemy approach, although
its attachment to its offspring is usually both warm and constant. The
voice of this bird is varied, and its manner of chattering to its mate
during the period of incubation even more peculiar and incessant than
that of the Magpie.

In voracity the Raven has but few equals, for not only will it eat
almost all kinds of food, including fruit, corn, and every description
of insect, but it will seize upon and devour creatures exceeding itself
in size, and attack not only almost any quadruped from a hare to a
mouse, but boldly engage the Seagulls in combat, when those birds seem
inclined to dispute its right to invade their nests and despoil them
of their young. Boldness and cunning, strength and dexterity, all seem
to be united in the character of this daring marauder; it will attack
domestic fowls, ducks, or young geese, and chase and destroy not only
partridges, but hares and pheasants. In some parts of Ireland the Raven
may be seen picking up its food in the vicinity of houses in company with
dogs and cats, or prowling about on the sea-shore in search of fish.
During the spring it destroys numbers of young lambs, or amuses itself
by driving Eider Ducks from their nests to devour their eggs, and when
it has satiated itself will conceal those that remain beneath the sand;
even horses are not free from the attacks of these birds, which will
settle upon the back of any wounded or suffering animal, and can only
be dislodged after long and violent efforts. Eagles they do not venture
to contend with, but follow in their wake in the hope of obtaining the
remnants of their prey; in short, nothing that can be overcome by their
strength, craft, or audacity is spared; they will even, it is said,
devour the aged or nestlings belonging to their own species. We are
assured that mussels form a part of the Raven's diet, the bird having
first carried them into the air, and let them fall from a considerable
height, to break their shells upon the rocks or stones beneath; they
will also eat the hermit crab, which is obtained by rapping its shell
until the unsuspecting creature creeps out to ascertain the cause of
the disturbance. Despite the cruel and rapacious disposition of these
birds, their deeds are not always deeds of evil; on the contrary, great
and valuable are some of the services they often render to man, insomuch
that by some nations they are regarded with the utmost favour--the Arabs,
indeed, look upon them with such superstitious reverence as to imagine
them to be immortal, and in Greenland and Iceland they are allowed to
run tame about the houses. On the other hand, in the Canary Islands they
are held in the utmost detestation by the shepherds, who maintain that
they constantly peck out the eyes of young goats and lambs, and on this
account wage an exterminating war against them.

The eyrie of the Raven is generally situated in the hole of a rock, or
the summit of a high and inaccessible tree; it is usually about one
foot deep, and from two to three feet wide; the exterior is formed of
small branches, lined with a layer of twigs, and the interior, which is
about nine inches in diameter, and four or five inches in depth, bedded
with wool, fine grass, and similar materials, the utmost caution being
employed by these birds, both when seeking materials and when building
the large and strong cradle which year after year is resorted to for the
purposes of incubation. The eggs, usually four or five in number, are
large, and of a green colour, marked with brown and grey spots. Ravens
are by no means deficient in care for their young, and labour incessantly
to satisfy their ever-craving beaks with all kinds of animal food; should
fear compel them to quit their charge, they perch as near the little
family as safety will permit, and testify by plaintive cries and anxious
flutterings their desire to return to their brood. When fully fledged,
the young do not entirely leave the nest, but return every evening for
some weeks, in order to pass the night in the snug warmth that it affords
them, and perhaps to receive instruction during the day, as to the means
to be employed in obtaining food; they probably leave their protectors
only when the autumn approaches. When tamed the Raven may be taught to
speak with facility. It will likewise imitate a great variety of sounds,
and those who can overlook its thievish propensities and tiresome habits
will often derive considerable pleasure from watching its amusing tricks,
and cultivating its really high capacities.

       *       *       *       *       *

The VULTURE RAVENS (_Corvultur_), as two African members of this group
have been called, are birds exceeding the Common Raven in rapacity
as well as in size. Both these species have unusually thick beaks,
compressed at their sides, the upper mandible being so decidedly bent as
closely to resemble that of a Vulture; the third and forth quills are
longer than the rest; the tail is rather large, and slightly graduated.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: THE WHITE-NECKED VULTURE RAVEN (_Corvultur albicollis_).]

The WHITE-NECKED VULTURE RAVEN (_Corvultur albicollis_) and the
THICK-BILLED VULTURE RAVEN (_Corvultur crassirostris_), the former
a native of the Cape of Good Hope, and the latter an inhabitant of
Abyssinia, are much alike in their general appearance; both are of
a glossy coal black, except upon the nape, which is white. In the
Abyssinian species the sides of the neck gleam with a rich purple, and
the rest of the coat is lighted up with a blue refulgence; the small
feathers upon the wing-covers near the shoulder are a mixture of chestnut
and black; and the white marks upon the nape extend upwards till they
reach the top of the head; the eye is reddish brown, the feet and beak
black, the latter being tipped with white. The length of this species is
about three feet two inches, the length of wing one foot five inches, and
of the tail nine inches. According to Rüppell, this bird inhabits the
Abyssinian highlands, and is often found at an altitude of 5,000 feet
above the level of the sea. Le Vaillant tells us that the Vulture Raven
is voracious, daring, extremely noisy, and very filthy in its habits,
subsists principally upon carrion, and destroys large numbers of sheep
and gazelles, tearing out their eyes and tongue and then devouring them.
Were it possible, it would readily contend with buffaloes, elephants,
cattle, or horses, but is compelled to rest content with following them
and relieving such as are tormented with various parasites to which
they are liable, the poor creatures often allowing the Vulture Raven to
peck their hides till the blood flows rather than endure the perpetual
irritation from which they suffer so severely. The nest of the Vulture
Raven is built in October, and placed upon the branches of a tree; it
is formed of twigs, lined with some soft material. The four eggs of
which a brood is composed are green, spotted with brown. This species
never migrates, but remains from one year's end to another near the
same locality; occasionally it associates with its congeners, but never
partakes of the food on which they subsist.

[Illustration: THE SCAPULATED RAVEN (_Pterocorax scapulatus_).]


THE SCAPULATED RAVEN.

[Illustration: THE RAVEN (_Corax nobilis_).]

The SCAPULATED RAVEN (_Pterocorax scapulatus_) is a small species
inhabiting Africa from eighteen degrees north latitude, distinguished by
its peculiar plumage and moderate sized beak. The feathers are of a rich
glossy black, except upon the upper part of the breast, which is of a
dazzling white, as is also a broad patch over the scapular region; these
lighter portions gleam like satin, and the deeper tints are brightened
by a metallic lustre; the eye is light brown, the beak and feet black.
The length of this bird is about eighteen inches, the wing measures
thirteen inches, and the tail six inches. Throughout the whole of Soudan
and the lower parts of Abyssinia the Scapulated Raven is found living
in pairs, which rarely assemble in small parties, and appear to avoid
mountain districts. In its general appearance this species is not unlike
the Magpie; its flight is light, rapid, and hovering, and as it rises
in the air with pointed wings and rounded tail fully displayed, after
the manner of a Falcon, its elegance cannot fail to please the eye of
the beholder, who may trace its course for a considerable distance as
its snowy breast sparkles and gleams in the direct rays of the sun. When
upon the ground its gait is very easy and dignified; its voice resembles
that of the Raven. Wherever these birds make their abode they are soon
on excellent terms with the human inhabitants, and rarely exhibit any
fear of man, except when entirely unaccustomed to his appearance; they
are regular visitors to some of the villages upon the coast, and will
sometimes perch upon the straw huts of the natives. The eyrie of the
Scapulated Raven is usually placed upon a tree. The eggs, four or five
in number, are laid during the first month of the rainy season; in
appearance they resemble those of the rest of the family. The parents
are much attached to their young, and will dart like Falcons upon any
stranger who may approach the nest. These birds are disliked by the
natives, on account of their unclean habits, and their flesh is never
employed as food.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: THE CARRION CROW (_Corvus corona_).]

The CROWS (_Corvus_) are distinguished from the Ravens by the comparative
smallness of their beaks, by their rounded tails, and their lax and dull
plumage. Two species are common in Europe--


THE CARRION CROW AND THE HOODED CROW.

The CARRION CROW (_Corvus corona_) and the HOODED CROW (_Corvus cornix_),
are so alike in size and general formation, that if they were denuded of
feathers it would be difficult to distinguish between them. They will
frequently pair together, and both have been the subject of endless
disputes as to whether they are slight varieties of the same species, or
quite distinct from each other.

The Carrion Crow is entirely black, with a violet or purple lustre on
its feathers, and brown eyes. The young are pale black, and their eyes
grey. The plumage of the Hooded Crow, on the contrary, is only black
upon the head, front of throat, wings, and tail; the rest of the body
is ash colour. The young are of a dirty deep grey. The length of both
these birds is from eighteen to nineteen inches, their breadth is from
thirty-eight to forty inches, the wing measures from twelve and a half to
thirteen inches, and the tail seven to eight inches. These two species
usually pass their lives in one limited district, or only leave their
native haunts to make short excursions into the surrounding country.
Wooded pastures are their favourite resorts, such situations being
preferred as are in the immediate neighbourhood of man, whose orchards
they are fond of visiting, though forests or even thick woods seem to
be avoided by these social and intelligent creatures. Their senses
are highly and equally developed; their sight, smell, and hearing are
remarkably perfect, and their movements both in the air and upon the
ground are light and rapid. Like the Raven, they render immense service
to mankind by clearing great numbers of noxious insects from the fields
and gardens; and though, like that bird, they attack wounded animals,
or such as are smaller than themselves, and frequently rob nests of
their contents, their troublesome propensities are far outweighed by the
benefits they confer. At the first dawn of day they congregate in large
numbers upon some tree or building preparatory to going in search of
food, and from thence they wing their flight over the neighbouring fields
and gardens in company with many of their congeners, examining every nook
or furrow in search of their insect fare, robbing nests of their eggs, or
pouncing upon mice as they run from their holes; so courageous are they
that nobler birds of prey are often disappointed of their victims by the
efforts of these comparatively feeble interlopers, who will pursue and
dash round the tyrants of the air in such numbers and with so much energy
as to compel them to relinquish their prey and retire from the field.
At noon the parties of Crows retire to the pleasant shelter of some
thickly-foliaged tree, there to sleep away the mid-day heat, going again
in search of food during the afternoon, and re-assembling towards evening
on their favourite perch to chatter to each other, and (apparently)
discuss the events of the day in a manner with which all are familiar.
The night is passed in some retired group of trees, the birds only taking
possession of their roosting-place after it has been cautiously examined
by several of their party, and entering it with so much wariness that no
sound is audible beyond the soft fluttering of their wings. The period of
incubation commences about February or March, and during this time the
attachment of the male bird to its mare seems redoubled; his whole time
appears to be occupied in rendering himself attractive in her eyes. The
eyrie, which is built at the summit of a lofty tree, is not more than
four inches deep, and is constructed of dry twigs, roots, or couch-grass,
the interior being lined with wool, feathers, bristles, hair, or even
with bits of rag. The nests are usually about two feet broad, and old
nests are often repaired for the reception of the brood. The eggs, three
to five, and occasionally six in number, are laid in April, and in colour
are blueish green, marked with olive green, dark grey, or black spots
and streaks. The female broods alone, but receives the most unremitting
attention from her mate, who only quits her when compelled to go in
search of food; both assist in the nourishment and care of their young,
who are protected and defended from their numerous enemies with the
utmost courage and devotion.

As we have already said, it is by no means uncommon for the Carrion Crow
and the Hooded Crow to pair with each other; in such cases the plumage
of the offspring combines the hues of both parents, and should these
hybrid birds mate among themselves, their young, strangely enough, will
often appear in the perfect plumage of one or other of the pure breed
from which they are descended. Both species will live for a long time in
confinement, but though capable of learning to imitate the human voice,
they possess so many disagreeable tricks as to render their training
a work of much labour and but little enjoyment; their bodies have an
odour that makes it impossible to keep them in a dwelling room, and
if permitted to run at large about the yard or garden they become so
troublesome by their thievish propensities, and love of every bright
or glittering object they may see, as to cause them to be regarded
with little favour by their owners. Many are the enemies against which
these birds have to contend, but none of them is so formidable an
antagonist as the Horned Owl, whose attacks are the more fatal from the
circumstance that they always occur during the night, and thus render the
possibility of eluding them almost hopeless; the Crows, however, take
every opportunity of avenging themselves during the day, and fall upon
their dreaded foe with the utmost ferocity; indeed, so strong is the
hatred with which they regard their arch-enemy that those engaged in Crow
shooting often fasten an owl immediately in front of the small huts under
which they lie concealed, and fire upon the flocks of Crows as they come
down in furious crowds to mob and worry their helpless persecutor.


THE ROOK.

[Illustration: THE ROOK (_Corvus frugilegus_).]

The ROOK, or FIELD CROW (_Corvus frugilegus_, or _Frugilegus segetum_),
is a most useful species, inhabiting all the plains of the south of
Europe and the southern portion of Siberia, even as far as Afghanistan
and Cashmere. These birds are distinguished by their slim appearance, the
decided elongation of their beaks, their long wings, abruptly rounded
tails, close, glossy plumage, and by the bareness of the face observable
in the old birds, occasioned, probably, by continually rubbing it upon
the ground when in search of food. Their length is from about eighteen
to nineteen inches, the breadth thirty-seven to thirty-nine inches,
the wing measures thirteen to fourteen inches, and the tail ten and
a half inches. The plumage of the adults of both sexes is an uniform
purplish black, and that of the young birds pale black; the faces of
the latter are covered with feathers. Unlike the members of the family
described above, the Rooks migrate regularly, and in enormous swarms,
towards Southern Europe and the north of Africa, everywhere preferring
well-wooded and fruitful plains, and never settling upon mountains except
whilst occupied in journeying from one country to another. Like their
congeners, they assemble in flocks, usually choosing a clump of trees
as a gathering point, from which they fly over the neighbourhood, and
upon these they build their nests. In their habits they are more social
than other Crows, freely associating with birds that are weaker than
themselves, but exhibiting such fear of the Raven that they will vacate
a favourite resort on its first appearance, even although they may be
so attached to the locality as to refuse to quit it when men attempt to
drive them from the spot. In bodily endowments and intelligence they are
inferior to none of their family, but are far more timid and harmless in
their disposition. Their voice is deep and hoarse, and though they are
capable of imitating sounds, they never attain the power of pronouncing
words. In spite of the comparative amiability of disposition exhibited
by the Rooks, they render themselves extremely troublesome in a variety
of ways, almost deafening their hearers by their incessant cawing, and
frequently doing considerable mischief by stealing fruit from the gardens
or seed from the fields, and even giving proof of still more voracious
propensities by strangling young hares or partridges. For the most part,
however, the food of this species consists of cockchafers and their
destructive larvæ or slugs; whilst in pursuit of these, their acute sense
of smell would seem to guide them to the exact spot under which they
lie concealed, and so enormous are the numbers they dig up, that, as we
have said, the hungry Rooks actually rub the feathers from their faces
by constantly burrowing in the ground with their beaks. In the breeding
season, numerous pairs build close together, quarrelling the whole time,
and robbing each other incessantly of the materials collected. The female
alone broods upon the eggs, which are usually four or five in number,
of a pale green, spotted with dark brown. During the time of incubation
comparative peace reigns in the colony; but no sooner are the nestlings
hatched than the uproar is redoubled tenfold, as the hungry little ones
clamour for food in most discordant tones from daybreak till the sun goes
down.

[Illustration: THE JACKDAW (_Monedula turrium_).]

Large numbers of Rooks are destroyed during their migrations, which are
made in flocks of incredible magnitude; whilst flying in this manner
from place to place they may sometimes be seen to delay their course
for half an hour at a time, merely to enjoy the pleasure of hovering or
performing a variety of evolutions on the wing, descending somewhat in
their flight as they pass over mountains, and soaring high into the air
when about to cross lowland districts; sometimes, as though again wishing
to alight, they plunge directly earthwards, falling like a lifeless mass
from two hundred feet above the ground, and then fly gently onwards for
a short distance before again ascending to continue their journey. In
the southern part of Europe, and in the north of Africa, the flocks are
seldom met with of the enormous size above described, as before reaching
so great a distance these large bodies have separated, and gone to spread
themselves in less destructive numbers over the countries they select
as winter quarters; despite this precaution, thousands perish from
starvation, and we ourselves have seen hundreds covering the ground near
Suez, the weary travellers not having found the food which they had come
so far to seek.


THE JACKDAW.

The JACKDAW (_Monedula turrium_) is a very small species of Raven,
distinguished from its congeners by its short, strong, straight beak,
which is but slightly curved. The length of this bird does not exceed
twelve inches, or twelve and three-quarters, its breadth is from
twenty-four to twenty-five inches, the wing measures eight and a half
inches, and the tail five inches. The plumage is deep black upon the
forehead and top of the head, the back of the head and nape being dark
grey; the upper part of the body is blue black, and the lower portions
slate colour or pale black. The young are recognisable by their lighter
tints and the grey colour of the eye. The Jackdaw is found throughout
most of the countries of Europe and in many parts of Asia, occupying
some places in large numbers, and entirely avoiding other districts with
a fastidiousness for which we are unable to account: steeples, towers,
or old buildings are the situations it prefers for building purposes,
but it will also make its nests upon high trees or even shrubs. The
disposition of this species is lively and its habits extremely social;
indeed, it may be said to possess the gifts of the Crow, with but few
of its disagreeable qualities. When upon the wing the flight of the
Jackdaw is not unlike that of a Pigeon, and its mode of rising, falling,
or performing a variety of evolutions remarkably graceful and easy.
Its voice is capable of considerable development, and, like many other
members of this family, it has but little difficulty in imitating human
speech and other sounds; it chatters almost incessantly during the
breeding season, but not offensively, for its tones are soft and very
varied. Large quantities of insects, snails, and worms are devoured by
these useful birds: they will seek their food in the streets or follow in
the wake of the ploughman as he turns up the clods and lays the concealed
grubs bare to their hungry beaks; they hunt for mice, young birds, and
eggs with great dexterity, and will also feed upon roots, leaves, corn,
and fruit.

Late in the autumn the Jackdaws leave us for warmer regions in company
with the Rook, though but rarely journeying as far as that bird. The
spring is usually far advanced before they return to their native haunts
and commence their work of building or repairing their nests, which are
extremely rude, being roughly formed of twigs or straw, and lined with
hair, feathers, or hay. During these building operations the settlement
is a constant scene of quarrelling, one bird stealing from another with
the greatest audacity and cunning, and taking possession not only of the
materials but of the places selected by their neighbours as snug and
desirable localities. The young are fed upon insects and tended with
great affection by their parents, who will also defend them from an enemy
with much courage. Should an Owl or Buzzard venture to approach the
colony, it is received with loud cries and immediately driven off by the
infuriated Jackdaws, who often pursue the intruder to the distance of
some miles. Cats, Martens, Falcons, and Hawks are numbered amongst the
most formidable of the enemies with which they have often to contend; the
two first of these marauders plundering their nests, while the latter
attack both old and young birds. Of all the members of the family, none
are so well fitted for domestication; large numbers are caught annually
for this purpose, as their great intelligence and pleasing disposition
render them favourites with all lovers of the feathered tribes.


THE GLOSSY CROW.

The GLOSSY CROW (_Anomalocorax splendens_) is an inhabitant of the East
Indies, and one of the most elegant of the many representatives of the
family met with in that part of the world. In this bird the wings are
so short as scarcely to reach the end of the long tail, and it has for
this reason been classed as forming a distinct subdivision of the group
to which it belongs. The length of the Glossy Crow is from fifteen to
eighteen inches, seven inches of which are included in the tail; and the
wing measures about eleven inches. The plumage upon the front of the head
is a brilliant black, the back of the head, nape, and upper part of the
throat are lively grey; the back, wings, and tail black, lighted up by a
rich violet tint like tempered steel; the chin, breast, and sides of the
neck are black, with a metallic lustre; the breast is dark grey, and the
middle of the belly a dusky black, lightly marked with steel blue.

Jerdon tells us that the name given to this species has been entirely
misapplied, as many of its congeners rival it in the brilliant gloss
upon their coats. Every part of India affords a home to this beautiful
bird, which is met with in all the towns and villages from Ceylon to the
Himalaya Mountains, living upon the most friendly terms with man during
the day, and passing the night in company with not merely its own kind,
but with large parties of Parrots and Minas, amongst whom, as may be
easily imagined, disputes and fights are of constant occurrence, and
anything like quiet or harmony impossible. At dawn the whole party are
awake, and at once commence their preparations for the business of the
day by carefully preening their feathers, chattering with the utmost
vivacity among themselves. The flock then divides into small parties of
from twenty to forty birds, and fly over the surrounding country often to
a distance of ten miles from the place where they slept. It may literally
be said of the Glossy Crows that they live upon the crumbs that fall
from man's table, for many of the natives take their meals outside their
huts, and at such times are generally surrounded by these birds, who
seize every morsel as it drops; indeed, so well do they understand what
the lighting of a fire indicates, that the first appearance of smoke will
attract them, and keep them hovering about the spot until the expected
food is ready to be eaten. Others, again, will seek for crabs, fish,
frogs, or insects, which they consume in large quantities, or follow
Gulls and Sea Swallows in order to share their prey; some will search
the fields for grubs, or relieve the cattle from the parasites by which
they are tormented; others spend the day in robbing the banana-trees of
their fruit, or hunt the winged Termites in company with Bee-eaters,
Kites, or even Bats. During the heat of the summer they may be seen
sheltering themselves under some thickly-foliaged branch from the power
of the sun, and with beak wide open, seem to pant for a breath of cool
fresh air. The breeding season extends from April to June; and the nests,
which are placed upon trees or the corners of a house, are formed of
twigs, lined with a bed of some soft material. The brood consists of four
greenish-blue eggs (spotted and marked with brown), this number being
frequently increased by the addition of a Cuckoo's egg, that bird seeming
to have a decided preference for their nests when in search of a home for
her offspring.

The flight of these Crows is light and tolerably rapid. When pursued by
an enemy they are very dexterous in eluding its attacks--indeed, their
courage, intelligence, and cunning are so highly developed as to render
them most interesting. Blyth tells us that they disport themselves
about the houses with great confidence, running hither and thither in a
constant bustle, as though each moment was of value and could not be
wasted in idle loitering, at the same time uttering their cry, which is
unbearably noisy. The inhabitants of Ceylon observe these birds with
great attention, and have many superstitions based upon the course of
their flight, the kind of trees on which they settle, or the numbers in
which they appear--indeed, the proceedings of the Glossy Crow would seem
to be regarded with the same attention and anxiety as was the flight
of ominous birds amongst the Greeks and Romans. The Dutch, during the
time that they possessed Ceylon, also showed considerable favour to
this species, and decreed heavy punishments for those who killed them,
believing them of great service in promoting the growth of cinnamon by
devouring the ripe fruit and scattering the undigested seeds over the
surrounding country.

[Illustration: THE NUTCRACKER (_Nucifraga caryocatactes_).]

Endless are the annoyances to which the inhabitants of Ceylon are exposed
by the thievish propensities of these daring pilferers, who will watch
the windows of the houses, to steal every article that it is in their
power to remove, and not unfrequently open packets, or even unknot a
cloth, if they fancy that anything eatable is contained within its folds.
On one occasion a party of people seated in a garden were much startled
by the sudden appearance of a clasp-knife covered with blood, which fell
amongst them as if coming from the clouds, and, on instituting inquiries,
at last ascertained that the formidable missile had been stolen from
the cook, who, in an unlucky moment, had turned his head aside, and
thus given one of these expert thieves the opportunity for which it was
waiting. A still more amusing anecdote is told by Tennent of a Glossy
Crow, who, having long attempted by every conceivable device to divert
the attention of a dog from a bone that it wished to secure, and its
efforts proving fruitless, retired in search of a friend, who at once
perched upon a tree, and endeavoured to attract the attention of the dog,
but all in vain; at length, rendered desperate by repeated failures, the
new comer darted down with great violence upon the owner of the coveted
bone; the dog, to revenge itself, sprang upon the intruder, while the
cunning instigator of the commotion crept quietly to the spot, and
secured the prize.


THE NUTCRACKER.

The NUTCRACKER (_Nucifraga caryocatactes_) belongs to a group of Ravens
met with in most various and distant parts of the globe, some of its
members inhabiting the whole of the north of Europe and a large portion
of Asia, while others are found both in America and on the Himalaya
Mountains. The body of this bird is slender, the neck long, the head
large and flat, with a long, slender, and rounded beak, the upper
mandible being straight, or only very slightly curved. The wings are of
moderate size, blunt, and graduated, the fourth quill being longer than
the rest; the tail is short, and rounded at its extremity; the feet are
strong, and furnished with powerful toes, armed with strong hooked claws.
The plumage is thick and soft; its predominating colour is a dark brown,
without spots upon the top of the head and nape, although elsewhere each
individual feather is tipped with an oval mark of a pure white; the wings
and tail-feathers are of a brilliant black, the latter being tipped with
white at their extremities; the under tail-covers are likewise white;
the legs are brown, and the beak and feet black. It is from thirteen to
fourteen inches long, and from twenty-two to twenty-three and a half
inches broad; the tail measures about five inches.

[Illustration: THE FLUTE BIRD (_Gymnorhina tibicen_).]

This species frequents thickly-wooded mountains, and the wide-spread
forests of Northern Europe and Asia, showing a decided preference
for districts covered with Siberian pines, and may be met with in
considerable numbers in certain localities, while in others, in the
immediate vicinity, it will be entirely wanting: in Sweden it is
exceedingly common, but is seldom seen in Norway. In appearance the
Nutcracker is awkward and clumsy, but in reality it is extremely
active and adroit, walking upon the ground with ease, and climbing, or
suspending itself from the branches with the dexterity of a Titmouse; its
flight is light but slow, and is produced by powerful strokes and broad
extensions of the wings. The voice is a loud, screeching, resounding cry,
and though most of its senses appear to be very equally developed, its
intelligence will not bear comparison with that of most other members of
the family.

But little is known about the habits of these birds during the breeding
season, for their nests are usually built in the inmost recesses of some
thicket almost inaccessible to man. March, we are told, is the month
in which they lay their eggs, and, if this be the case, they must in
many places undertake the cares of a family whilst snow still lies deep
upon the ground. The nest, as we learn from Schütt, is neatly formed of
dried fir twigs, woven together with the green leaves of the same tree,
probably for the purpose of decorating the exterior; it is lined with
a layer of moss or young bark, beautifully worked in, which gives a
round and finished appearance to the interior. The eggs are pale blueish
green, marked here and there with light brown spots. Like other Ravens,
the Nutcracker subsists principally upon insects, seeds, and fruit, but
displays many of the propensities of birds of prey; it attacks a great
variety of animals weaker than itself, and after biting them in the
neck, breaks open their head and devours the brains. We have heard of an
instance in which one of these birds ate a squirrel that was laid before
it. Hard nuts are among the favourite articles of their food, and it is
most curious to see them seize one in their claws and dexterously crack
it, always keeping the broad end carefully uppermost during the process:
in this manner they will rapidly dispose of a large supply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The PIPING CROWS (_Phonygamæ_) are short-tailed Ravens, with very long
conical beaks; the upper mandible is hooked, and armed with teeth-like
appendages near the tip; the wings are pointed, and the tail slightly
rounded. These birds are distinguished from the rest of their family by
many peculiarities; they live much upon the ground, and, though they do
not avoid dry parts of the country, prefer marshy districts near the
sea-coast. Upon the ground their movements are remarkably active, and
they exhibit considerable agility among the branches of trees, but their
powers of flight are very inferior to those possessed by their congeners,
and, unlike them, they never mount into the air or perform any remarkable
evolutions. They feed upon insects of all kinds, but more especially
upon locusts and grasshoppers, and sometimes rob nests of other birds to
devour the eggs and young; they will also eat seeds, fruit, or corn in
such quantities as to render them extremely troublesome to the settlers.
We learn from Gould that the Piping Crows lend a great charm to the
places they frequent, as they hop nimbly and gracefully about, uttering
their clear flute-like cry, which is constantly heard when they are
resting on the trees in small parties of from four to six birds. The
nests are formed of twigs, lined with grass or other suitable material,
and resemble those built by European Crows. The brood consists of from
three to four eggs; the young are fed by both parents, who display great
courage in defence of their little family; their growth is rapid, and,
after the first moulting, they acquire the same plumage as the adults. As
an example of this musical race we may select


THE FLUTE BIRD.

The FLUTE BIRD (_Gymnorhina tibicen_) is a species of Crow, about sixteen
and a half inches in length. Its plumage is principally black, but the
nape, lower part of the back, lower tail-covers, and the undermost row
of the upper wing-covers are white; the eyes are reddish brown, the
beak brownish grey, and the feet black. According to Gould, these birds
are very numerous in New South Wales, where they form a most attractive
feature in the fields and gardens, enlivening the landscape with their
variegated plumage, and delighting the ear with their peculiar tones as
they pour forth their song of greeting to the rising sun. They seem to
prefer clear open country, planted with groups of trees, as their usual
residence, and for this reason they are but seldom seen upon the coast.
Their food consists principally of grasshoppers, which they devour in
enormous quantities. The period of incubation, in accordance with the
inverted seasons of the southern hemisphere, commences in August, and
lasts until January, each pair breeding twice in the year: the nest is
round and open, formed of twigs, and lined with some softer material.
The eggs of the Flute Bird are unknown, but Gould describes those of a
very similar species, which he tells us are of a dirty blueish white,
often shaded with green, and marked with zig-zag brown streaks of various
shades. When in confinement these birds are extremely violent and
revengeful; should anything annoy them they will erect their feathers and
spread their wings and tail after the fashion of a Game-cock, and are
so quarrelsome that they frequently engage in furious combats with much
larger birds. Some species are eminently distinguished by the flexibility
of their voice, and all are capable of imitating any tunes they may
happen to hear.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BELL MAGPIES (_Strepera_) differ from the Flute Birds in the
formation of their beaks, which are much longer, slenderer, and more
delicately arched; the upper mandible is armed with a powerful hook at
the tip, and furnished with conspicuous teeth on its margins.


THE BELL BIRD OR BELL MAGPIE.

The BELL BIRD (_Strepera graculina_) is of a beautiful blue black; the
roots of the primary wing-quills, from the fourth to the eighth, the tip
of the tail, and the lower tail-covers, are white, thus giving their
plumage the effect of being piebald, the tail appearing entirely white,
with the exception of a regular patch of black across its terminal
margin; the eyes are of a beautiful yellow, the beak and legs black. In
length this species does not exceed seventeen inches. The Bell Bird,
like the Flute Bird, is an inhabitant of New South Wales, where it is
distributed widely over the face of the country, occasionally appearing
upon the coast, but preferring, at least during the breeding season, well
watered valleys, abounding in trees; in such localities it also finds
its principal supply of food, which consists of berries, fruits, and
seeds. When either upon the ground or amongst the branches, these birds
are usually seen in very small parties, and but rarely in pairs or large
flocks: they live principally in trees, and, though quite at their ease
upon the ground, seldom come down to disport themselves upon its surface.
Their flight is quite unlike that of our Crows; when in the air their
movements are extremely sweeping and majestic, but cannot be sustained
for any length of time. Whilst on the wing they utter a most peculiar
resounding cry, from which they derive their name. The nest is large,
round, and very open, formed of twigs and lined with moss and grass. With
the appearance of the three or four eggs that constitute their brood,
we are entirely unacquainted. The settlers of New South Wales hunt the
Bell Magpie, as they do the Flute Bird, on account of its flesh, which
is regarded as a great delicacy. Very few of this species have as yet
reached Europe alive.


THE BALD-HEADED CROW.

The BALD-HEADED CROW (_Picathartes gymnocephalus_) is an extremely
peculiar and very rare member of this family, inhabiting Sierra Leone,
and we believe entirely confined to that country, but we cannot
speak with any certainty on this point, as naturalists are still
quite unacquainted with its habits. This species would seem to form a
connecting link between the Ravens and the Vultures, birds between which
there is usually but little similarity. The beak of the Bald-headed Crow
is comparatively weak, but slightly curved, and covered at its base with
a cere in place of the bristles that are generally so characteristic of
the Raven tribe. The wings are powerful and rounded, the tail long and
graduated, and the feet high and furnished with strong toes. The head
is entirely bare, and the throat, like that of the Vulture, overspread
with bristly or down-like feathers. The plumage is of a brownish grey
above and white beneath; the wings and tail are reddish brown, the bare
or sparingly covered neck red, the beak black, and the feet yellow.
According to Gray, this bird is about fifteen inches long, the wing
measures rather more than six inches, and the tail six inches and ten
lines.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TREE CROWS, or JAYS (_Garruli_), are distinguished from the Ravens by
their blunt short beaks, with or without a hook at the extremity, their
weak feet and very short rounded wings, long graduated tails, and rich
variegated plumage, which is generally very soft and flocculent. Unlike
the members of the preceding family, the various species of Jays pass the
greater part of the day in flying from tree to tree in their favourite
woods, seldom coming to the ground, and still more rarely congregating
in large flocks. Owing to the comparative shortness of their wings,
their flight is unsteady, and they are therefore incapable of attaining
to any considerable height, or of hovering in or whirling through the
air; still more inelegant is their mode of progression on the ground, it
being nothing more than a ludicrous attempt at a hop: upon the trees,
however, they are quite at their ease, and some even exhibit unusual
facility in climbing. In the perfection of their senses they are in no
way inferior to the family above described, but their intelligence is
not nearly so great, and they must be rather considered sly than clever;
indeed, in many points they resemble the Shrike, possessing all the
murderous cruelty and rapacity of that bird, without any of the courage
and boldness that seem to palliate the atrocities committed by Ravens.
They will mercilessly destroy and plunder the nests of other birds, and
eat almost any animal or vegetable food, frequently doing great damage by
their raids upon orchards, fields, and gardens, thus bringing down upon
themselves the vengeance of man. In their habits during the period of
incubation they also differ widely from the preceding family, inasmuch
as they never build associated together in large numbers, but quite
apart from each other; their nests, moreover, are small, and the brood
is usually composed of from five to seven eggs. When tamed, some of them
are capable of imitating words, and of learning to whistle tunes, but
they are extremely troublesome, owing to the numberless petty thefts and
annoying tricks in which they delight.

       *       *       *       *       *

We shall divide the Tree Crows or Jays into several groups, all more or
less recognisable by the following characters:--Their bodies are slender,
their Raven-like beaks are as long as the head, nearly straight, and
provided at the base with a cere, instead of bristly feathers; the wings
are short, and their third and fourth quills longer than the rest; the
tail, which is composed of twelve feathers, is either very long and
wedge-shaped, or of moderate length and rounded at the extremity. The
lax and soft plumage frequently becomes flowing towards the head, thus
forming a kind of crest, and is usually bright in its coloration.


THE MAGPIE.

The MAGPIE (_Pica caudata_) stands first upon our list, as being
familiar to us all, and also because it presents many characteristics
that associate it with the family of Ravens--indeed, it might almost
be described as a Crow with a long tail, though its beak is shorter and
more curved, the wings shorter and more rounded, the tarsi higher, and
the plumage softer and thicker than in that bird. The lower part of the
breast and the feathers upon the shoulders are white, and the rest of the
coat black, with a rich and varied lustre upon its surface. The eyes are
brown, the beak and feet black. This species is about one foot six inches
long, its breadth one foot ten inches; the wing measures seven inches,
and the tail ten inches.

[Illustration: THE MAGPIE (_Pica caudata_).]

The Magpie is met with throughout the whole extent of Europe, in Thibet,
Northern Asia, and North Africa: in North America it is represented by a
very similar bird: but the distribution of the Magpies is very unequal;
some districts it seems carefully to avoid, and yet in a neighbouring
province it may be found in large numbers. It seldom visits mountains,
open plains, or thick forests, but usually inhabits lightly wooded parts
of the country, such localities being preferred as are frequented by
man, in whom it shows the utmost confidence. In Scandinavia, where it
is regarded with the greatest favour, it seeks its food in farmyards
or the courts that surround the houses, and builds beneath the roofs.
It is always stationary, and never wanders to any great distance from
its abode, except during the winter, invariably returning to its old
haunts. The movements of the Magpie differ in many respects from those
of the Ravens; its gait is similar, but the tail is borne aloft, to act
as a kind of balance to the body of the bird; its flight is heavy, being
effected by sweeping strokes of the wing, and should the wind be at all
high is very unsteady--indeed, as a rule, it never flies, except when
compelled to do so in going from one tree to another. As regards its
intelligence, and the development of its senses, the Magpie will bear
comparison with any of its kindred. In its intercourse with man it seems
easily to distinguish between friends and enemies; towards the latter
it shows itself bold, and sometimes cruel; but in its relations with
its fellows it is extremely social. Its voice is harsh and monotonous.
Magpies will occasionally congregate with other species in flocks of
moderate size, though they more generally live in small parties; during
the breeding season the conferences held between them are extremely
amusing, and the sounds they produce much varied in expression, the
assembly chattering with such noise and earnestness as to have given rise
to sundry popular proverbs.

These birds live upon insects of all kinds, as well as fruit, seeds, and
berries; they do incalculable mischief in the fields, and destroy great
numbers of eggs during the spring--indeed, their murderous propensities
would almost bear comparison with those of the Falcon, for they will not
only attack small birds, but occasionally fall upon fowls, ducklings,
or pheasants so suddenly that their victims are quite unprepared to act
on the defensive. In Norway it is popularly supposed that the Magpie
begins its nest on Christmas Day; with us the preparations for building
are not made till the commencement of spring. The nest is placed at the
summit of a tree, or in some countries, as we have said, upon the tops
of houses, and is formed of twigs or dry leaves, covered with a thick
layer of clay; within this is placed a bed of delicate fibres or hair,
upon which the eggs are deposited; the structure is then protected from
the attacks of an enemy by a roof of dry thorns or twigs, woven lightly
together, but sufficiently strong to keep off intruders; the entrance to
the nest is effected through a hole at the side. The brood consists of
seven or eight eggs of a green colour, sprinkled with brown spots. In
three weeks the young are hatched, and are fed by both parents on a great
variety of insects, earthworms and snails, the greatest caution being
employed to avoid discovery of the nest; and so attached are the parents
to their offspring, that we have known a female continue to brood after
having received a shot in her body. When taken young from the nest the
Magpie becomes extremely tame, and, like others of its race, soon learns
to imitate words and whistle tunes, without having been subjected to the
operation of _tongue slitting_, popularly supposed to be necessary before
these birds can be taught to speak; in spite of their docility they are,
however, most troublesome creatures, and tales without number might be
told of the mischief they have wrought by throwing suspicion on innocent
people by their thievish propensities, for they seem to delight in
abstracting any bright or glittering object that attracts their attention.


THE BLUE MAGPIE.

The BLUE MAGPIE (_Cyanopica Cookii_) is frequently met with in the
southern and central parts of Spain, and a very similar species
(_Cyanopica cyanea_) inhabits the Crimea, a large portion of Siberia as
far as the Amur river, and the whole of China. These birds have been
separated from other members of the family on account of the great
difference of the tints of their plumage, which is so extremely beautiful
that the European species is pre-eminent among its feathered relatives;
in both the species under consideration the back is pale brownish grey,
the throat and cheeks greyish white, and the wings, quills, and tail
light blueish grey; the eyes are reddish brown, and the beak and feet
black. The plumage of the young birds is paler, the black upon the head
and the blue of the wings being almost imperceptible; the grey of the
body is very dingy, and the wings are marked with two indistinct grey
lines. The length of both species is thirteen and a half to fourteen
inches, their breadth sixteen inches to sixteen and a half; the wing
measures five and a quarter, and the tail eleven inches; the female is
not quite so large as her mate.

All such districts of Southern and Central Spain as are covered with
woods of oak-trees are frequented by the Blue Magpie in great numbers,
but it is rarely seen in the eastern provinces, over which the oak is
but sparsely scattered. These birds are also met with in North-western
Africa, living everywhere in large flocks; they sometimes settle upon
the houses, and have no hesitation in constantly seeking their food
amongst the refuse of the busiest streets. In most of their habits they
closely resemble the Common Magpie, and when exposed to danger exhibit
so much cunning in evading pursuit as to render their capture a very
difficult and wearisome operation. The _voice_ of the Blue Magpie is,
however, quite unlike that of the member of its family with which we are
all so familiar; its note is very prolonged, and when several pairs are
chattering gaily to each other their tones rather resemble the lusty
sounds produced by the Green Woodpecker than those of their congeners. In
Spain this species does not commence its building operations until May,
but in other countries is somewhat earlier in the preparations for its
young; the nest, which resembles that of a Shrike, has an outer frame of
dry branches, lined with blades of grass, shoots of plants, and similar
materials, which are selected with great care. Many nests are built
upon the same tree, a whole party taking up their residence at a short
distance from each other, preferring under these circumstances their
favourite elms or other lofty trees as affording the safest lodging for
the young. The brood consists of from five to nine eggs: these are of a
greenish yellow, mottled with indistinct patches of a deeper shade, and
spotted or streaked with olive brown markings, which occasionally form a
kind of wreath at the broad end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BLUE RAVENS (_Cyanocorax_), as they have been called, are a species
of Jays which appear to form a connecting link between the Magpies and
the Jackdaws. These birds inhabit South America, and are remarkable for
the magnificence of their plumage; their powerful beaks are usually as
long as the entire head, somewhat compressed towards the tip, slightly
arched at the roof, and covered with bristles at the base; the wings, in
which the fifth and sixth quills are longer than the rest, extend to the
root of the long tail.


THE HOODED BLUE RAVEN.

The HOODED BLUE RAVEN (_Cyanocorax pileatus_) is about fourteen inches
in length, seventeen broad, with wings six inches, and tail six and a
half inches long. The forehead, bridles, and upper part of the head (the
feathers of which are considerably elongated), are of a rich black, so
are the sides of the neck and the entire throat; the nape, back, wings,
and tail, bright blue, and the entire lower part of the body white, as
are also the tips of the feathers that compose the tail; above and below
the eyes is a broad, crescent-shaped spot of sky blue. Schomburghk tells
us that these beautiful birds frequent high trees, and subsist upon fruit
or seeds; they are very shy and restless, and are easily discovered
through the constant utterance of their discordant cry. The nest, which
is artistically constructed, is built at the summit of a lofty tree. The
eggs, two in number, are brownish white, spotted with brown. Beyond these
few facts we know nothing of the Hooded Blue Raven in its native haunts.


THE CRESTED BLUE JACKDAW.

The CRESTED BLUE JACKDAW (_Cyanocitta cristata_) is an American species,
with which we are much better acquainted. The shape of this bird is
slender, its beak short, strong, slightly arched, and pointed; the
wings are short, their fourth and fifth quills longer than the rest;
the tail long and decidedly rounded. The plumage is soft and brilliant,
and the feathers upon the head prolonged into a crest. In the male the
predominating colour upon the back is bright blue; the tail-feathers
are surrounded by a narrow dark line, the wing-feathers are tipped
with black; the ends of the secondary quills, the larger feathers of
the wing-covers, and the exterior tail-feathers are white, or of a
greyish-white shade; the sides of the head are pale blue; a line which
commences at the back of the head and passes round the throat is black,
as is also a streak between the eyes; the eye itself is greyish brown,
the beak and feet blackish brown. This species is about eleven inches
long, its breadth sixteen inches, the wing five inches and a quarter, and
the tail five inches.

[Illustration: THE CRESTED BLUE JACKDAW (_Cyanocitta cristata_).]

Notwithstanding the beauty of its appearance, the Blue Jackdaw is
regarded with but little favour in America, where it is found in
great numbers occupying the dense woods or groups of moderately high
trees. It is only migratory from the Northern States, and is elsewhere
numbered among the stationary birds. Wilson calls this species the _Bird
Trumpeter_, from the remarkable sound that it produces when alarmed;
and we learn from other writers that it can imitate the cry of the
Buzzard and Sparrow Falcon to such perfection as frequently to terrify
the smaller feathered denizens of the woods, and raises such an uproar
on perceiving a fox or other enemy as compels the intruder to sneak
quietly away. Its attacks upon the eggs and young of other birds are
extremely merciless; and, indeed, it may be regarded as a most voracious
and destructive bird of prey, which devours not only small quadrupeds,
but will attack very large and powerful members of the feathered tribe
should they be wounded, and thus for the time incapable of resistance;
yet Audubon tells us that the Blue Jackdaw is a most arrant coward, and
that it will often fly before an adversary no stronger than itself. It
obtains its prey rather by extreme craft than by open warfare, for even
Thrushes and other small birds can scare it from their nests, into which,
however, it often manages to steal if left unguarded only for a moment;
it will also attempt to seize young chickens, but is at once baulked of
its purpose if startled by an angry cluck from the hen. Large quantities
of seeds, all kinds of insects, and flesh are also eaten by these birds.
During the autumn the maple, oak, and other similar trees are thickly
covered by swarms of Blue Jackdaws, who not only satisfy their present
wants, but carry off large quantities of seeds or acorns, storing them
up as a provision for the winter, and by this means greatly assist in
spreading the growth of these trees over the face of the country.

[Illustration: THE COMMON JAY (_Garrulus glandarius_).]

The number of broods varies with the district in which the Jackdaws are
found, some breeding but once and others twice in the year; the nest is
formed of twigs and other dry materials, lined with a bed of delicate
fibres, on which, in due season, four or five eggs are deposited; these
latter are olive brown, marked with dark spots. During the time that
the mother is sitting the male employs every precaution to prevent
the discovery of his young family; he visits his mate with the utmost
secrecy, and preserves the strictest silence while in her company. The
young are fed principally upon insects. Nestlings may be easily reared in
confinement, but it is never safe to trust the Blue Jackdaw in an aviary
with other birds, as it is not uncommon, under these circumstances, for
it to destroy its companions one after another. Audubon gives a most
interesting account of an attempt he made to naturalise this species in
Europe, but which unfortunately proved abortive; the birds, about thirty
in number, destined to make the experiment were placed by him in a large
cage, and at first exhibited every symptom of fear, refusing the food
he proffered them, and crouching in the corners of the cage; by the
next day, however, all had regained their usual spirits, and, taking up
seeds of maize in their claws, hammered at them with such hearty good
will that the noise they produced sounded more like a diminutive party
of smiths than the efforts of birds; quarrels seldom occurred, and the
party reached Europe in excellent health and spirits, but had not been
long exposed to the change of climate before they began to be infested
by numerous parasites, and only one survived to reach London. Since this
attempt of the American naturalist many Blue Jackdaws have been brought
to Europe, but in no instance have the efforts to naturalise them proved
successful.


THE COMMON JAY.

The COMMON JAY, or OAK JACKDAW (_Garrulus glandarius_), is an European
species, bearing no inconsiderable resemblance to the American bird
above described, but its beak is stronger, and the tail shorter and less
rounded. The plumage is silky, lax, and flowing, the feathers upon the
head being prolonged into a crest. Its colour is principally greyish
red or greyish brown, darker upon the back than on the lower parts of
the body; the rump is white, the throat whitish, and marked upon its
upper portion by two broad black streaks, commencing on the cheeks; the
forehead is speckled with black and white; the quills are black, with the
exception of a greyish-white space upon the outer web; the tail-feathers
are black, occasionally edged with blue; the covers over the primary
quills are striped alternately with blue, black, and white, producing
a very lustrous effect. The eye is light blue, the beak black, and the
feet horn colour. The length of this species is about thirteen, and its
breadth twenty inches; the wing measures six and a half, and the tail
five inches and three-quarters. The female is somewhat smaller than her
mate.

A species closely related to this bird, but differing from it in the
markings of the head, is occasionally met with in the south-eastern
parts of Germany; its actual habitat, however, is North-western Asia,
and members of the group to which it belongs are found in Central and
Northern Asia. The Jay inhabits all the wooded districts of Europe except
its northern parts, and is also met with in Central Asia and Western
Africa; in Germany it is exceedingly common, but in England somewhat
scarce. This bird frequents pine forests, woodland pastures, or leafy
groves with equal impartiality, living during the summer in pairs, but at
other seasons of the year flying over the country with its companions in
small parties; it seems to avoid localities where there are no oak-trees,
such districts being rarely visited. The Jay is extremely restless, and
though in some respects a lively and interesting bird, is so crafty
as to render it at times very troublesome, not only to its feathered
associates, but to man. When excited, it places itself in a succession of
strange attitudes, and imitates a great variety of sounds with amusing
correctness. Whilst in a tree, its movements are light and active, and
its gait upon the ground by no means awkward; but its flight is heavy,
and it rarely remains for any length of time in the air, preferring to
perch at short intervals upon trees or bushes, using them, however, not
merely as resting-places, but as temporary shelter from the numerous
feathered enemies by whom it is constantly pursued in the course of its
short excursions from one wood to another. Naumann describes the dread
in which many birds of prey are held by the Jays as so great, that they
rarely venture to congregate in large flocks, but fly apart over the open
country, living according to the advice of the old French maxim, "Chacun
pour soi." The wonderful power possessed by this species of imitating
the voices of other birds is noticed by many writers. Naumann heard a
Jay whinny like a foal and crow like a cock; and Rosenberg tells us that
late in the autumn, when seated beneath a tree, he heard one successively
imitate the voices of the Magpie, the Shrike, the Thrush, and the
Starling, and that on searching the branches to obtain a sight of such
unseasonable vocalists, he discovered that all these various sounds were
produced by a Jay, perched on a bough just above his head.

Of this bird it may be said, in the broadest sense of the word, that it
will eat anything it is possible to obtain or vanquish; nothing, from a
mouse to the smallest insect, escapes its voracity. During the autumn it
often subsists for weeks together upon acorns and birch or hazel nuts,
softening the former in the crop, and afterwards tearing off the shell
with its beak; the latter it breaks by hammering upon them without any
such preparatory process; Naumann also mentions having seen one of these
birds in the act of killing a Thrush, and adds that they frequently
work great destruction among young Partridges. The period of incubation
commences early in the spring; the nest, which is by no means large, is
placed in the branches of a tree at very various heights from the ground,
and formed of dry stalks or small twigs, neatly lined with fibrous
roots. The eggs, five to six in number, are laid about April; they are
of a dirty white, thickly marked with greyish-brown streaks and spots,
some of which form a wreath around the broadest end. Only one brood is
produced during the year. The young nestlings leave the shell in about
sixteen days, and are fed at first on caterpillars, larvæ, worms, and a
variety of insects, but at a later period are reared upon the flesh of
young birds. Falcons and Sparrow-hawks are among the many enemies with
which the Jay has to contend; by the former it is immediately vanquished,
but with the latter it will sometimes struggle long and fiercely, the
combatants not unfrequently falling to the ground, exhausted by the
violence of their efforts. The Horned Owl is a still more formidable
assailant, destroying many birds belonging to this species; and their
nests are constantly sacked by the Tree Martin, whose approach is often
greeted with the most appalling cries as the parents attempt to drive
the destroyer from their young. In its intercourse with man the Jay
is extremely wary, and often succeeds in exasperating the sportsman,
as, while in safety itself, it derides his efforts by its cries, and
at the same time warns the other denizens of the wood that danger is
approaching. If taken young, these birds may be trained to utter words,
but their many disagreeable propensities render them even more unfit for
a life of confinement than their American congeners.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the more northern countries of Europe where the Common Jay is not met
with, we find it replaced by a species whose delicate beak, decidedly
rounded tail, and dusky plumage, have caused it to be regarded as the
representative of a distinct group.


THE UNLUCKY JAY.

The UNLUCKY JAY (_Perisoreus infaustus_) is about twelve inches long and
eighteen broad; its wing and tail measure five and a half inches. The
prevailing colour of the adults is a light reddish grey, the quills and
centre tail-feathers are grey, while upon the wings and the exterior
tail-feathers there are patches of reddish brown; the upper part of the
head is blackish brown. Young birds are known by the comparative paleness
of their tints, and the indistinct markings upon the lower portions of
the body. The eyes are greyish brown, the beak and feet black.

The dense fir and pine forests of Russia and Siberia are in some places
numerously inhabited by this species, which has been known to fly as
far as Germany, and, though rarely, is occasionally seen in Norway and
Lapland. In some respects it resembles the bird we last described,
but its activity and intelligence are inferior, and its mischievous
propensities by no means so conspicuous as in the Common Jay. Wilson
tells us that it is so bold and inquisitive that it will perch upon the
cap of the woodcutter when engaged at his work, and testifies so little
fear of man as to follow flocks of reindeer to their resting-place, even
when accompanied by their herdsman. Its gait upon the ground resembles
that of the Jackdaw, but amongst the branches it is considerably more
active in its movements. When perching upon a tree it often appears
to be under no anxiety to conceal itself, and seems to trust to the
inconspicuous colour of its attire as a sufficient protection from
the eye of an enemy. The flight of the Unlucky Jay is unsteady and
struggling, and its cry, which is composed of two syllables, has been
compared to that of a man in distress; Schräder speaks of it as being not
unlike that of the Shrike, composed of various hoarse notes, mingled with
sounds resembling the mewing of a cat. Nuts, berries, seeds, acorns, and
insects of all kinds are eagerly sought after by these birds; they will
climb amongst the fir and pine trees like Titmice, to obtain the contents
of the cones, in very much the same manner as that practised by the
Cross-bills, and as winter approaches will lay up a goodly store of these
provisions; but their hoards are frequently plundered by squirrels or
woodpeckers who have managed to discover the secret of their hiding-place.

This species commences its building operations in March: a nest which we
obtained was a large structure, formed externally of twigs, moss, grass,
and strips of pine branches; the interior was lined with an extremely
thick layer of hair and Ptarmigan feathers. The eggs are usually from
five to seven in number, of a greenish white, thickly covered with
irregular dingy spots of greenish grey or olive green. The attachment of
these birds to their young is extreme; should a sportsman approach their
nest, the parent will fly down, and hobble along the ground as though
lame, in order to draw his attention from the little family, and should
it succeed in luring him to a safe distance from the spot, will rise
suddenly into the air, and return by a circuitous flight to the place
from whence it came.

When a flock of these birds is discovered, their capture is accomplished
with little difficulty, for they will never desert each other in a
moment of danger, so that should one member of the party be taken the
rest become an easy prey. The Unlucky Jays are commonly to be met with
throughout the whole of the fur districts in North America, where they
may be seen hovering about the encampments of the trappers during the
whole season. According to the account of Captain Blackiston, their
capture is sometimes accomplished in the following manner:--A man lays
himself flat down, either in a boat or upon the ground, draws a cloth
over his head and shoulders, stretches out his hand, in which he holds
a scrap of dry meat, and quietly awaits the result; his purpose is soon
accomplished, for down come the birds to attack the meat, when, just
as they are about to give the first peck at the tempting morsel, the
treacherous hand seizes upon them with an irresistible grasp.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LONG-TAILED CROWS (_Glaucopes_) are distinguished by their powerful
and moderately long beak, which is broad at the base and compressed
towards the tip. The upper mandible is slightly arched, hooked at its
extremity, and covered at the base with short velvety feathers. The wings
are short, their fifth quill longer than the rest; the tail is long and
graduated, the feet strong, and the tarsus longer than the middle toe.
The coloration of the plumage is brilliant. Like the Jackdaws, these
birds almost exclusively frequent thick forests, and closely resemble
the foregoing groups in their habits; the few facts we give below apply
equally to them and the following species.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TREE MAGPIES (_Dendrocitta_) constitute a group of Jays inhabiting
India. They are large birds, with short, compressed, and very decidedly
arched beaks; short, abruptly rounded wings, of which the fifth and sixth
quills are longer than the others; wedge-shaped, elongated tails, the
two centre feathers extending far beyond the rest; and with tolerably
strong or short feet. So entirely are these Tree Magpies to be regarded
as Indian, that not more than one or two of the five species mentioned by
Jerdon are met with in neighbouring countries. We select for description
the Kotri of the Hindoos (_Dendrocitta rufa_), or, as we shall call it,


THE WANDERING MAGPIE.

The WANDERING MAGPIE (_Dendrocitta vagabunda_) is about sixteen inches in
length, ten inches of which are included in the tail; the wing measures
six inches. The entire head, nape, and breast are reddish brown or
blackish brown, the tints being deeper upon the fore part of the head,
chin, and breast, and from thence changing into a greyish shade. The
feathers upon the shoulders, back, and tail-covers are deep red; the
wing-covers and the exterior web of the secondary quills are light grey,
almost white; the rest of the quills are black. The tail is deep grey,
and all its feathers tipped with black; the lower part of the breast is
red or reddish yellow, the beak black, the feet deep slate colour, and
the eyes blood red.

[Illustration: THE WANDERING MAGPIE (_Dendrocitta vagabunda_).]

The Kotri is met with throughout the whole of India, and is especially
numerous in the wooded plains of Assam, China, and Cashmere. In the more
northern parts it is seen in every group of trees and every garden,
generally living in the immediate vicinity of villages; it appears to
pass the day in flying in large undulating curves from tree to tree, or
in roaming over a considerable tract of country, resting where it feels
inclined, and never resorting to any particular spot for that purpose. It
is but rarely met with in parties, but lives in pairs. Its food consists
principally of fruit, or the insects found upon the trees; but it will
also eat young birds, destroying them after the manner of the Shrike.
Buckland tells us that another species hunts bats.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BENTEOTS (_Crypsirhina_) are a group inhabiting Java. These birds are
recognisable by the construction of their tail, which is formed of ten
feathers, the centre ones being extremely long, whilst those at the sides
are graduated. The beak is strong, of medium length; the tarsi moderately
long, but weak; the toes are armed with powerful claws.


THE BENTEOT.

The BENTEOT of Japan, or TENIA of Le Vaillant (_Crypsirhina varians_), is
about the size of a Thrush, though it appears much larger, owing to the
extent of the long tail. Its soft plumage is principally of a jet black,
and gleams with a green or purple sheen; only the forehead, bridles, and
throat are pale black, and entirely without lustre; the quills are black,
the four centre tail-feathers green, as are also the outer webs of the
exterior feathers; the inner webs are of a dull black, the beak and feet
are black. Horsfield tells us that this bird is by no means rare in Java,
but frequents such very retired spots as to be but seldom met with; it
avoids the inhabited parts of the country, and only appears occasionally
upon the borders of its favourite thickets, to which it retreats at the
first approach of danger. Its flight is unsteady and awkward, and its
gait upon the ground equally clumsy. It lives principally upon insects of
every description, and its powerful claws would seem to indicate that it
can also plunder the nests of its feathered associates. Fruit has been
found in the crop of this species.

       *       *       *       *       *

A very similar group, TEMNURUS, is distinguished from that just
described by the shape of the tail-feathers, the ends of which present
the appearance of having been cut off at a right angle. The SAW-TAIL
(_Temnurus truncatus_), inhabiting Cochin China, is the most perfect
representative of this section. Its plumage is of an uniform black, and
its length about fourteen inches.

The KITTAS (_Cissa_) are met with in Southern and Eastern Asia. They bear
so great a resemblance to the Jays in their mode of life and general
deportment, that we have no hesitation in assigning to them a place here,
instead of following in the steps of some naturalists who class them
with the Thrushes. The Kittas are a race of extremely beautiful birds,
elegant in form and brilliant in plumage; their beaks are thick, strong,
and almost as long as the head, curving from the base, and bent upwards
towards the tip; the feet are large and strong, the toes powerful and of
medium length, with formidable claws; the wings are round, their fourth
and fifth quills being longer than the rest; the tail is either short
and rounded or very long and graduated; in the latter case the central
feathers extend far beyond those at the sides.


THE LONG-TAILED KITTA.

The LONG-TAILED KITTA (_Urocissa Sinensis_) is about twenty-six inches
in length, seventeen to eighteen inches of this measurement belonging to
the tail; the wing measures eight inches. The plumage is very splendid,
the entire head, throat, and breast being deep black, shading into blue,
with the exception of a white streak which passes over the head and nape;
the mantle and upper tail-covers are of a light cobalt blue, the latter
tipped with a broad patch of black; the wings are of the same blue tint,
the inner web of the quills being black, and all the feathers tipped with
white; the tail is principally blue, but its centre feathers are white,
and the rest tipped with white and black; the under side of the bird is
whitish, shaded with a reddish grey.

The Long-tailed Kitta is met with in the western parts of the Himalaya,
and is replaced by a very similar species in the eastern provinces.
Swinhoe tells us that it also inhabits the forests around Hong Kong in
great numbers. In India it is found living at an altitude of 6,000 feet
above the level of the sea, occasionally perching in the brushwood, but
spending the greater portion of its life upon the ground, from which
it obtains its principal food. In its habits it is so observant and
intelligent as to be extremely useful to its feathered brethren, by
warning them of the approach of an enemy; indeed, it is said that it will
sometimes follow the leopard for miles, and thus prevent it from quietly
stealing upon its prey. During its flight, which resembles that of the
Magpie, the tail is kept in an horizontal position, but when perched it
is held erect, and constantly waved as the bird utters its sharp and
chattering cry. The Long-tailed Kitta builds amongst the branches of
trees, at various heights from the ground, and forms its nest of twigs
woven loosely together and lined with different kinds of vegetable fibre.
The brood consists of from three to five eggs of a pale greenish grey,
thickly strewn with brown spots, which form a kind of wreath at the broad
end. Many of these birds have been brought alive to England, and in India
they are occasionally kept tame in a cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FEATHER-BEAKS (_Cissa_) are recognisable by their powerful bills,
which are of medium size, slightly arched, and compressed at the sides;
the wings are rounded, and the tail but slightly graduated.


THE SIRGANG.

The SIRGANG of Bengal, or GREEN JACKDAW, as it is called by the
Anglo-Indians (_Cissa Sinensis_), is a bird about fifteen and a half
inches long, of which eight and a half belong to the tail; the wing
measures six inches. The coat of this species is also remarkable for
its beauty; the predominating colour is a delicate chrysophrase green,
shading here and there into blue or blueish green, and changing into
yellow upon the head; the black bridles are prolonged to the nape, where
they unite, thus forming a kind of ring. The quills and wing-covers are
of a beautiful deep red, shaded with brown (those of the old birds are
greenish brown); the secondary quills are pale blueish green, with a
broad border of black; the tail-feathers are white, those at the side are
black, tipped with white. The feathers upon the head are elongated into
a crest. The Sirgang is met with throughout the south-eastern districts
of the Himalaya, with the exception of Assam, Silhet, and Tenasserim; in
Sikim it is often found living at an elevation of 12,000 feet. Jerdon
tells us that it wanders from tree to tree in search of delicate leaves
or insects, and that it also eats grasshoppers. We learn from other
sources that it will fall upon and destroy small animals after the manner
of the Shrikes, and is as expert as a Falcon in pursuit of its prey. The
voice of the Green Jackdaw is loud, and, compared with that of some of
its congeners, not unpleasing. When caged it soon becomes tame, and is
attractive in its habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE PLANTAIN EATERS.

THE PLANTAIN EATERS (_Amphibolæ_) constitute a family of very remarkably
constructed species, whose habitat is confined exclusively to Africa.
Few members of the feathered tribe have given rise to so much difference
of opinion as has been occasioned by the desire to assign to these
birds their proper place. We have followed the classification adopted
by Reichenbach, and shall introduce them here as presenting many
characteristics in common with the Jackdaw. To avoid confusion, we have
subdivided this very varied group into sub-families or sections.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE PLANTAIN EATERS (_Musophagæ_) range from the size of a Raven
to that of a Jackdaw. Their body is elongated, the neck short, the head
of moderate size; the upper mandible is very decidedly curved, slightly
over-lapping the lower portion, and either indented or furnished at its
sides with tooth-like appendages; the wings are of moderate length, and
rounded, their fourth and fifth quills being longer than the rest; the
tail is rather long and rounded, the tarsi strong and comparatively high.
The foot is not constructed after the scansorial type--three of the toes
being placed in front and one behind; it is true that they can move the
exterior toes slightly backwards, but never so far as to pair with the
one behind, except when under the hands of the bird-stuffer. The plumage
is soft, in some species almost downy, and occasionally very brilliant in
its hues.

The Plantain Eaters inhabit the dense and extensive forests of Central
and Southern Africa, but are never found in the treeless districts of
that continent; their habits are social, and they usually live in small
parties, seldom consisting of more than fifteen birds. Some species
pass the day in flying noisily about, whilst others spend their time
in climbing with great activity amongst the trees, or in searching for
food upon the ground. The flight of these birds is light and easy, their
short wings enabling them to turn in the air with great facility; they
are not very remarkable for intelligence, but in some respects exhibit
considerable foresight and prudence, and though extremely timid in their
intercourse with man, associate freely with their feathered brethren.
They feed principally upon leaves, buds, fruit, berries, and corn,
and for this reason they usually inhabit such localities as are well
watered and rich in various kinds of trees. We are unacquainted with any
particulars of their incubation, except that the nest is usually built in
the hollow trunk of a tree, that the eggs are white, and that the young
remain for a considerable time under the care of their parents.


THE BANANA EATER.

[Illustration: THE BANANA EATER (_Musophaga violacea_).]

The BANANA EATER (_Musophaga violacea_) is met with in the forests of
Agra, upon the Gold Coast, and is replaced by a very similar bird in
Western Africa. This species is distinct from its congeners by the
peculiar formation of its beak, the upper mandible being covered for a
considerable extent by a horny plate, which is also spread over a large
portion of the forehead; the beak itself is very powerful, and arched
broadly from the brow to the tip, where it terminates in a slight hook,
projecting over the somewhat feeble inferior mandible; the edges of
the bill are indented, and the nostrils are situated in the fore part
of the upper beak. The bridles and a patch around the eyes are quite
bare; the wings are of medium length, their secondary quills longer
than the primaries; the tail is comparatively short, broad and rounded
at its extremity; the feet are short but powerful. Swainson speaks in
glowing terms of the beauty of this species--he regards it as truly a
king among birds, and describes its plumage as being principally of a
rich, lustrous, purple black, the splendour of which is enhanced by the
contrast presented by its magnificent bright red wings; the beak is also
very striking in appearance, being of a bright yellow, shading into
brilliant red. The soft and delicate feathers which cover the top of the
head resemble brilliant red velvet; the rest of the plumage is deep
violet, and shines with a beautiful green light when seen in the rays of
the sun; the quills are red, tipped with violet, and shaded with lilac;
the bare places round the eyes are also red, and are thrown into strong
relief by a dazzling white streak, which passes beneath them; the feet
are black, the eyes brown. The young are without the small red velvety
feathers upon the top of the head, but in other respects their plumage
resembles that of the old birds. The length of this species is about
twenty inches, the wings and tail measure eight inches and a half.

We are acquainted with but few particulars concerning the Banana Eater,
which, until the last few years, has been numbered amongst the greatest
rarities of our collections; but we learn from travellers that it
inhabits the western coast from Senegambia to Lower Guinea, living in
pairs, and passing nearly the whole of its life in the same locality;
its movements, habits, voice, and food, seem to differ but slightly from
those of its congeners with which we are more familiar.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-CHEEKED HELMET BIRD (_Corythaix leucotis_).]

We are much better informed as to the habits of

The HELMET BIRDS (_Corythaix_). These elegant and brilliantly-coloured
birds are slenderly formed, with rounded wings, of which the fifth quill
is longer than the rest. The tail is of medium size, the beak short and
triangular, furnished with a slight hook at the extremity of the upper
mandible; the nostrils are partially covered by the feathers on the brow,
the plumage is rich; upon the head the feathers are prolonged so as to
form a kind of helmet composed of green feathers. The wings are of an
uniform purplish red, and the eyes surrounded by a bare flesh-coloured
ring. All the various members of this group are remarkably alike, both in
their appearance and mode of life.


THE WHITE-CHEEKED HELMET BIRD.

The WHITE-CHEEKED HELMET BIRD (_Corythaix leucotis_) is an inhabitant of
Abyssinia; the colour of this species is for the most part green: the
beak and wings are deep greenish violet, the tail is blackish violet,
marked with dark coloured undulating lines; the belly and legs are deep
grey. The helmet is dark green; a spot in front of the light brown eyes,
and a streak which passes from the ear to the fore part of the throat are
pure white; the wings are of a magnificent bright red, and bordered with
yellowish green. The eye is surrounded by a ring of small reddish brown
warts; the upper mandible is green, as far as the nostrils, and blood-red
at its tip; the feet are brownish grey. The length of this species is
about seventeen inches, its breadth twenty-one inches and a half; its
wing measures six inches and three-quarters, and the tail eight inches
and a quarter; the female is somewhat smaller than her mate, but does not
differ from him in other respects. The Helmet Bird is found either at a
considerable altitude in the mountains, or frequenting well-watered and
thickly-wooded valleys, where it passes the greatest part of its life
in flying from one tree to another in small flocks, only coming to the
ground for a few moments at a time when in want of food, and immediately
returning to seek shelter in the branches. When occupied in this manner
the movements of this species resemble those of the Jackdaw, for the
whole party does not alight at the same time, but steal down one by
one, preserving the strictest silence, and after following exactly in
the steps of their leader, return to the sycamore or tamarind tree that
has been selected as a general rendezvous; here they assemble regularly
both at night and during the mid-day heat, and when thus congregated
at the summits of the branches, present a spectacle of such brilliancy
and beauty as cannot fail to excite the admiration of all who see them.
They hop and fly with the greatest liveliness and activity from bough to
bough, and, apparently, are by no means desirous of eluding observation.
Their flight is undulating, and effected by a series of violent strokes
until the desired height is attained; the bird then spreads its wings
as though to display itself to the utmost advantage, and sinks slowly
towards the ground before again rising and continuing its course. During
these evolutions the neck is outstretched, the head elevated, and the
tail alternately opened and closed. The voice of the Helmet Bird is very
peculiar, and has somewhat the effect of ventriloquism, often misleading
the listener as to the position of the owner. We found both berries and
seeds in the crops of some specimens that we killed, and observed that
they were always most numerous in localities where the former abounded;
we also procured a pure white egg from the ovary of the female Helmet
Bird, which was not unlike the egg of a domestic pigeon, both in size and
shape, but distinguishable from it by the superior delicacy and polish of
the shell; the nest we could never discover, but believe it to be built
in the trunk of a tree. These birds are so extremely shy and restless,
as to render their capture a work of great difficulty, if the sportsman
should not succeed in taking them unawares whilst disporting themselves
in the crowns of their favourite trees. Verreaux mentions a very curious
fact connected with this species, namely, that the magnificent purple of
the tail-feathers entirely loses its beauty when exposed to moisture,
and that the colour may be rubbed off with the fingers when wet; but
as soon as the plumage is dry it recovers its full brilliancy of tint.
A strange illustration of this peculiarity was afforded in the case of
a Helmet Bird in the Amsterdam Zoological Gardens, which, having been
seized with cramp, was drenched with cold water; some hours afterwards
the creature died, and it was then discovered that the wing upon which
it lay was still wet, and had changed from red to blue, while the upper
wing had dried before death ensued, and had therefore regained its full
gorgeousness of hue.


THE TURAKO.

The TURAKO (_Corythacola cristata_) may be regarded as the giant of this
family. It is a very remarkable species, resembling the Helmet Birds in
some respects, but differing from them in others so decidedly as to cause
it to be regarded by some as the type of a distinct group. These birds
are remarkable for the great size of their limbs, and also present marked
peculiarities in the formation of the beak, and in the crests with which
their heads are adorned. Their body is powerfully constructed, the wings
of moderate size, and rather pointed, the fifth quill being longer than
the rest, the fourth and sixth, however, almost equalling it in length;
the tail consists of ten broad rounded feathers, slightly graduated at
the sides; the tarsi are short and strong, the toes long, and armed with
thick claws; the beak is powerful, and decidedly arched, somewhat rounded
at the roof, and indented at its edges. The crest is formed by elongation
of the feathers upon the brow and top of the head, the region of the
eyes and bridles are also covered with feathers. The plumage is thick
and soft, and upon the under part of the body slightly downy. In size
this species will bear comparison with the Raven. Its length is about two
feet two inches, the wing measures one foot, and the tail one foot and
one or two inches. A bright green or Turkish blue usually predominates
in the coloration of the feathers; those which form the crest are, on
the contrary, black, tipped with dark blue; the breast and fore part of
the belly are yellowish green, the rest of the under portion of the bird
pale reddish brown, the tail greenish blue, tipped with bright blue, and
marked with a broad streak of black towards its extremity. The beak is
yellow, lighter in shade towards its base; the feet are of a leaden hue.
The male and female resemble each other, but the young are without the
crest, and have the throat bare; the beak and upper part of the head are
black, and the whole coat much paler than in the adults.

The habitat of the Turako is confined to Western Africa, where it
exclusively frequents such tracts as are well watered and thickly planted
with trees, living in the same manner as the Helmet Birds, and rarely
flying for any length of time, owing to the great difficulty it has in
sustaining its heavy body, or rising to any great height in the air.
Juicy fruits, such as figs or bananas, constitute its favourite food, but
it will also eat grasshoppers and a variety of insects, and is said to
do great mischief in plantations by the quantities that it devours. The
Turako is constantly on the alert against danger, and on the slightest
alarm raises its crest, which is usually laid flat, elevates its head,
and turns about with every symptom of fear, previous to seeking safety
in some other locality, where it conceals itself from pursuit with so
much skill as to render its capture a work of difficulty, in spite of the
observation it attracts by its loud, hoarse cry.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second division of the Plantain Eaters constitutes a distinct group,
called the

SPLIT-BEAKS (_Schizorhis_), also inhabitants of Western and Central
Africa, distinguishable from the species already described by their
elongated bodies and comparatively long wings, in which the fourth quill
is longer than the rest, and also by the construction of their beaks,
which are strong, and nearly as thick as they are broad; the upper
mandible is very decidedly curved, and but slightly indented at its
edges. The plumage of this group is dusky, and the crest upon the head of
a peculiar shape.


THE ALARM BIRD.

The ALARM BIRD (_Schizorhis zonurus_) measures about one foot seven
inches and a half in length, and two feet four inches in breadth; the
wings and tail measure nine inches and a half. The female is larger than
her mate, but resembles him in other respects. In these birds the upper
part of the body is of an uniform brown, and the lower portion light grey
from the breast downwards. The elongated feathers which form the plume
are bordered with white, those of the back, so far as they are visible,
blueish grey; the quills are blackish brown, and all except the first
marked upon their inner web with large, square white spots. The centre
tail-feathers are light brown; the four exterior ones are brown at the
tip, and from thence upwards white, broadly striped with brownish black
at their roots. The eyes are greyish brown, the beak greenish yellow; the
feet are dark grey.

This species appears to be spread over a considerable portion of the
African continent, and travellers mention having seen it in Abyssinia,
about the Blue River, and at the source of the White Nile. The cry of
the Alarm Bird so closely resembles the voice of the monkey, that even
experienced sportsmen are deluded into the belief that they are in the
vicinity of a party of baboons, and find, to their astonishment, that
the loud and peculiar noise is produced by some of these strange birds,
as they sit perched together in pairs or parties on the branches of
a neighbouring tree. When about to utter this cry the birds sit bolt
upright upon the topmost boughs, and after agitating their tails give
forth a sound that penetrates far and wide amidst the surrounding woods.
Their habits are shy and cautious; they testify considerable anxiety at
the approach of man, except when accustomed to his immediate vicinity,
and rarely leave their refuge amongst the trees, except in the morning
and evening, in search of the berries that constitute their principal
food.

[Illustration: THE ALARM BIRD (_Schizorhis zonurus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The COLIES, or MOUSE BIRDS (_Colii_) bear a close resemblance to the
Plantain Eaters, but are distinguished from them by the following
striking peculiarities. All the species belonging to this group are
much alike in appearance; their bodies are rather muscular, and nearly
cylindrical in shape, the tail almost twice as long as the body, the
wings short and almost rounded, the tarsi short, and toes long; the
beak is short, thick, curved from its base downwards, and compressed
at its tip; the upper mandible is furnished with a slight hook. The
distinguishing characteristics of these birds consist in the construction
of the foot, which has four toes all placed in front, but those at the
exterior are capable of being turned either to the side or back of the
foot; and, secondly, in the peculiarity of the plumage, which is so
fine as to resemble the hair upon the back of a small quadruped; the
long feathers which compose the tail are, on the contrary, particularly
stiff, each of them having a very powerful shaft and webs of remarkable
strength; the centre tail-feathers are at least four times as long
as those at the sides; the wings are short and decidedly rounded,
the fourth, fifth, and sixth quills being longer than the rest. The
appellation of Mouse Birds has been given to this group on account of the
mouse-like grey that predominates in their plumage, varied occasionally
with a reddish or dark grey shade.


THE WIRIWA, AND WHITE-CHEEKED MOUSE BIRD.

[Illustration: THE WIRIWA (_Colius Senegalensis_).]

The WIRIWA (_Colius Senegalensis_) and the WHITE-CHEEKED MOUSE BIRD
(_Colius leucotis_) are both inhabitants of Africa. In the first the brow
is grey, and adorned with a tuft of brownish-grey hair-like feathers; the
back of the head and sides of the neck are reddish yellow, the remaining
upper part of the body blueish grey, the throat light grey, the immediate
front of the throat and breast greyish blue, clouded with grey; the belly
is reddish brown, the beak red at its base and black at the tip; the feet
are bright red, as is a bare ring around the brown eye. The plumage of
the White-cheeked species is mouse grey; the lower portion of the body is
yellowish grey, the throat dark grey, the brow blackish grey, the cheeks
greyish yellow. The webs of the tail-feathers are broader than in those
of the Wiriwa. The eye is light blue, the upper mandible of a blueish
shade, the lower mandible reddish horn colour, and the feet bright red.
Both species are alike in size, being about thirteen or thirteen and a
half inches long, and from eleven to eleven and a half broad; the wing
measures three inches and three-quarters, and the tail about nine inches.
These remarkable birds are found exclusively in Central and Southern
Africa, though the northern parts of that continent seem equally rich
in their favourite trees. Some species appear to inhabit a very limited
tract, whilst the range of others extends from the western to the eastern
coast, and from sixteen degrees south latitude to the Cape of Good Hope:
all frequent well wooded districts, and are as numerous in the fertile
steppes as in the primitive forests. Le Vaillant was the first to give
any detailed account of the remarkable habits of this group, and so many
reliable naturalists have substantiated his statements that we cannot
hesitate to give them a place here, though our own observations have not
always furnished the same results.

The Mouse Birds, according to the writer we have just mentioned,
generally live in small families, numbering about six individuals,
and usually select a densely foliaged tree or thick mass of bushes as
their gathering place. Only those who have visited Africa, and thus
become acquainted with the remarkable characteristics of its luxuriant
vegetation, can realise the actual appearance of the haunts thus selected
as cities of refuge by these most strange and _mouse-like_ creatures.
Our readers must, therefore, try to picture to themselves a gigantic
tree, with dense and usually thorny foliage, so interwoven with and
embedded in the huge parasitical plants that grow around it as to be
nearly concealed from view. In this green mass, which is impenetrable to
man and beast, and even impervious to the attacks of the sportsman, the
Mouse Birds make their home, creeping, like the animals whose name they
bear, through such tiny and invisible crevices as to lead the spectator
to imagine that they have actually vanished from his sight, when suddenly
a little head appears, and the bird makes its exit through the hole by
which it entered. How they manage to creep in and out of such small
apertures seems quite inexplicable; Le Vaillant describes their motion
whilst accomplishing this curious performance as being extraordinarily
rapid. Their flight is performed with wings and tail outspread; whilst
in the air the whole party constantly utter their shrill cry, which is
accompanied by a very peculiar chirping sound; they but seldom rise to
any great height when on the wing, and still more rarely settle upon the
ground. Le Vaillant tells us that the Mouse Birds pass the night hanging
in clumps upon the branches, like bees upon a hive while swarming.
Perreaux, who verifies this statement, mentions having seen them clinging
to each other whilst asleep, the first bird holding on to the branch with
one foot, while it supports a second bird by entwining one of its legs
with its own free limb; this second bird, in like manner, supporting
a third, until they form a chain that often contains as many as six
or seven of these living links. We ourselves have never succeeded in
observing either of these curious habits, but have seen them during their
sleep not only with both feet upon the branch, but lying full length upon
it with the breast downwards. Whilst climbing among the foliage they will
often hang like Titmice from the under part of a twig, but never retain
this position for more than a very short time. The Colies are far from
shy, and are easily captured if it has once been possible to penetrate
their fastnesses--indeed, so little timidity do they exhibit that we have
seen them caught with the hand.

Their food appears to be limited to vegetable diet, for we have never
found insects in their crops, or, indeed, any substances except buds,
fruit, or corn. The fruit of the plant called "Christ's Thorn" affords
them their principal subsistence, but they will also devour grapes,
limes, and cactus figs, getting at them after the manner of the Titmouse,
by climbing over their surface. In Central Africa we heard no complaint
of the mischief done to the gardens by the Mouse Birds, but in the
Cape of Good Hope, owing to the large numbers in which they occur,
the inhabitants regard them as formidable enemies. Nets or similar
precautions are perfectly useless to prevent their incursions if they
have cast their eyes upon a tempting-looking tree, for, if there be an
aperture however small, their lithe, elastic bodies can penetrate it with
the utmost ease. The nests, which are described as being of a conical
shape, and formed of roots of various kinds, cotton-wool, grass, and
leaves, are placed close together upon the most inaccessible branches.
The brood consists of from six to seven eggs. Large numbers of the Mouse
Birds are shot in the Cape, not only on account of the mischief they do,
but for the sake of their juicy flesh.



CATCHERS (_Captantes_).


Under this head we class not only those members of the feathered race to
which has been assigned, _par excellence_, the name of BIRDS OF PREY,
but include with them such families of Swallows and song birds as obtain
the principal part of their food by the destruction of animal life.
We are fully aware of the difficulties presented by this attempt at a
simple and natural classification, which, like many similar efforts, must
necessarily be very imperfect, and open to grave objection; but we have
adopted it as rendering the general view of our subject more intelligible
to the tyro in Ornithology.

All the very various groups we have thus combined under the general name
of CATCHERS are endowed with powerful bodies and comparatively long
wings, and, moreover, are remarkable for the velocity and grace of their
movements through the air. Their beaks are short, hooked, and frequently
rendered more formidable by the possession of a tooth-like appendage to
the upper mandible, which fits into a corresponding cavity in the lower
portion of the beak; their gape is always large, and often of such great
extent as to appear out of proportion to the rest of the body; the crop
is but slightly developed or is entirely wanting, and the gizzard a
mere capacious bag, provided with strong muscular walls. In all other
characteristics presented by the members of this very heterogeneous order
so much dissimilarity is observable, that to avoid confusion we must
confine ourselves to describing each group in its appointed place.

The CATCHERS are met with in all parts of the world, but it is only in
the warmer climates that they are found in great numbers, or seem to
exhibit the full development of their matchless powers, which are alike
displayed amid the recesses of the forest or on the heights of mountain
ranges; even the inhabitants of the water are not secure against their
treacherous rapacity. Some groups carry on the work of destruction during
the day, some prefer the evening for their excursions, while others only
commence their murderous onslaughts when night has fully closed in, and
given them the protection of its sheltering darkness. All have but one
mate, and breed once or twice in the year. Their nests are often built
with great skill, and usually placed in holes of trees, in crevices
of walls and rocks, or, in some instances, upon the ground. The eggs
vary from one to eight in number, and the young are tended with great
affection by both parents.

       *       *       *       *       *

BIRDS OF PREY (_Raptores_).

The numerous species included in this group present a remarkable
inequality of size, some vying with the largest members of the feathered
race in the majestic development of their powerful bodies, whilst others
are no bigger than a Lark; still, despite this difference, there is such
an unmistakable impress upon their forms and plumage as renders it easy
to distinguish a Bird of Prey at the first glance. All the members of
this rapacious series are endowed with a powerful and compact frame,
broad breasts, and strong limbs; the head is usually round, occasionally
elongated, the neck short and muscular, the trunk robust, and the legs
and wings exhibit such unmistakable strength in their formation as can
leave no doubt as to the attributes of the bird, even should it be seen
deprived of its feathers, beak, and claws. The beak is short, decidedly
curved, hooked at its extremity, and covered with a cere at the base of
the upper mandible; the latter is immovable, and somewhat compressed
at its sides. The margins of the beak are not only very sharp, but
are frequently rendered more terrible by the presence of a tooth-like
projection from the upper mandible, which fits into a corresponding
excavation in the lower jaw. In such species as are without this
tooth-shaped appendage the margins of the upper mandible are waved and
trenchant, distinctly indicating their carnivorous propensities. The feet
are massive and strong, the toes long in proportion to the size of the
tarsi, and very motile; both legs and feet are covered with scale-like
plates, and the toes furnished with claws or talons, which are either
curved and sharp or comparatively straight, but in both cases rounded
above and channelled beneath in such a manner that the lower part of
each claw presents two distinct sharp margins. The plumage is generally
soft, and formed of large feathers, which are either thick, small, and
firm, or broad, soft, and silky, or even woolly in their texture. The
bridles, a place between the base of the beak and the eye, and the eye
itself are frequently entirely naked, whilst, on the contrary, some
members of this group are distinguished by a circle of radiating feathers
surrounding the orbit. The quills that form the wings and tail are
always of considerable size, and their number in most species is pretty
nearly the same--that is to say, ten primaries, and at least twelve or
at most sixteen secondaries, form the wings; the tail is composed almost
invariably of twelve quills, which appear placed, as it were, in pairs.
In some races the feathers cover not only the tarsi, but even the toes,
where they are distinguished by the name of _hose_, a term that will
be frequently employed in our descriptions of the birds with which we
are about to deal. The plumage of the _Raptores_ is usually dingy and
sombre in its hues, though some few species exhibit considerable beauty
of appearance, and the bare places on the head, the comb, wattles,
bridles, cere, beak, feet, and eyes are occasionally brightly coloured.
The internal construction of these birds is on a par with their external
configuration; the skeleton is strong, and the sternum so large as
to extend over the whole of the fore part of the breast; the keel is
high, the bones of the wings comparatively long, and those of the legs
powerfully developed. The bones of the entire skeleton are for the most
part without marrow, and thus admit of the entrance of air, received
from the large lungs and air-cells which extend throughout the body. The
gullet is very dilatable, and is usually enlarged into a crop.

As we have said in our introductory chapter, the sight of the Raptores
is very acute, and their eye adapts itself with remarkable facility to
varying distances; and if any of our readers have tried the experiment of
holding their hands alternately close to and at some distance from the
eye of a Falcon, they have no doubt been astonished at witnessing the
extraordinary dilations and contractions of which the pupil is capable.
In some species the sense of hearing is also good, and we shall shortly
have fully to describe the high degree of excellence observable in the
structure of the ear of an Owl; their sense of smell, on the contrary, is
by no means keen, and that of touch scarcely more acute or reliable. All
Birds of Prey are remarkable for great courage, and exhibit such cruelty,
rapacity, and cunning as cannot fail to render them terrible foes to all
creatures weaker than themselves. In their relations to each other, on
the contrary, the different species exhibit great affection; they combine
readily in the defence of their companions, and do battle for them with
the utmost devotion. To what perfection the intelligence of the Birds
of Prey has been brought will be seen in our description of some of the
services rendered to our forefathers by the Falcons. As regards their
voices, few species are capable of uttering more than two or three harsh
and unpleasing notes.

[Illustration: _Plate 9 Cassell's Book of Birds_

SPARROW-HAWK ____ Accipiter nisus

(_Two-thirds Life size_)]

All parts of the world afford everything that is necessary to the
existence of these predatory races; they are as much at their ease upon
beds of ice such as environ Greenland or Spitzbergen as upon the glowing
sands of an African desert; they sweep over continents, and exhibit the
utmost indifference whether they alight upon the gigantic trees of a
primitive forest or upon the steeples of a densely populated city. As
winter approaches, such of these winged freebooters as inhabit northern
regions wander south, returning in the spring to their native haunts,
each bird with its mate, and at once commence preparations for the
reception of the single brood produced by the pair during the whole year.
The eyrie, as the nest of a Bird of Prey is called, is usually situated
in hollow trees, cavities in old walls, on lofty rocks, or among the most
inaccessible branches of the forest, in some cases, though rarely, upon
the ground; or they make a platform of boughs, upon which the eggs are
deposited. When built upon trees or rocks these eyries are usually very
firm and massive in their construction, the walls increasing in height
and strength from year to year, as their occupants add to and repair
them at the commencement of each season; the interior, however, is never
deep, the bed for the young being gradually raised with the rest of the
fabric. Large sticks are employed by some Eagles to form the outwork of
the eyrie; Tschudi tells us that the Stone Eagle obtains the branches
it requires by falling suddenly upon them with closed wings, and thus,
by the weight of its body, breaking them from the trunk to which they
belong; the branch is then carried off in its talons to the place where
the nest is to be built. Such Birds of Prey as build in holes trouble
themselves but little about the accommodation of their brood, and lay
their eggs without any preparation upon the naked stone, or at the
bottom of the cavity they have selected. During the time that these bold
and daring birds are occupied in the choice of a mate terrible battles
are of frequent occurrence, the spirited antagonists confronting each
other on the wing, and fighting till one of them is compelled to quit
the field, the combat being often renewed day after day for whole weeks
together, until the weaker rival is fairly vanquished, and driven from
the locality; the females never appear to mingle in the strife, and are
treated throughout the breeding season with the utmost attention and
tenderness by their victorious spouses. The eggs, which are from one
to seven in number, are rough shelled, and either pure white, grey, or
yellow, marked with spots and streaks of a darker shade. In general only
the female broods, but she is relieved occasionally by the male bird, who
is by no means behind the mother in attachment to the young, and will
sometimes perish in endeavouring to ward off danger from his progeny. The
nestlings are at first fed upon food half digested in the crop of their
parents, and afterwards upon scraps of flesh. The preparation of the
nutriment intended for the young usually devolves upon the mother, but
both parents combine in watching over the safety of the little flock long
after they are fully fledged.

All Birds of Prey procure their principal sustenance by murderous and
incessant attacks upon the creatures that surround them; and, besides
flesh, many will devour insects, eggs, worms, snails, garbage of all
kinds, and, in some rare instances, fruit; they consume great quantities
of food, but are also capable of fasting during a considerable period.
Their digestive powers are such as to enable them to reduce bones and
sinews to a pap; the feathers and hair of their prey are rolled into
a ball, and from time to time ejected from the mouth. Perhaps few
prejudices are more unjust than the ill-will and enmity with which men
usually regard these voracious and daring races, whose destructive
propensities are much more frequently employed in their service than in
the injury of their property; the Secretary Vulture destroys the Cobra di
Capello by crushing its head, whilst other species clear the streets of
Africa and Southern Asia of a mass of filth and refuse which, if left to
accumulate, would fill the air with poison and disseminate everywhere the
seeds of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Raptores divide themselves naturally into three distinct and
important groups, gradually connected by a great variety of species,
which combine and blend, as it were, the particular characteristics of
the more typical members of the order. These three groups are--

       *       *       *       *       *

The FALCONS, the VULTURES, and the OWLS. We have no hesitation in
assigning to the Falcons the first place, both on account of their
intelligence and the development of their corporeal attributes; but it is
not so easy to decide between the merits of the Vultures and the Owls,
as their claims upon our notice are very equal. We, however, regard the
Vultures as the more highly gifted birds, and have, therefore, given them
the second place upon our list.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FALCONS (_Falconidæ_) are distinguished by their powerful, slender,
and compact bodies, heads of medium size, and short necks. Their wings
are large, usually pointed, but occasionally rounded at the extremity;
the tail and feet are very various, both as regards formation and
strength; the beak is short, and covered at its base with a cere, which
is never concealed from view by feathers; the upper mandible is always
hooked, and sometimes furnished with tooth-like projections. In some
species the plumage covers not merely the entire body, but extends
over the legs and feet, even to the toes; the feathers are sometimes
short and coarse, and sometimes soft and silky in texture, but always
very abundant. The eyes are bright and of moderate size, the crop is
protuberant, but never globose. All the Falcons obtain their food by
rapine, and may be regarded as the most daring and courageous of the
feathered tribes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The NOBLE FALCONS (_Falcones_) are in every respect the most perfectly
organised members of the group to which they belong; both as regards
their strength and skill, and the perfection in which they display the
characteristics peculiar to their race, they stand supreme. In these
noble birds, as they are justly called, the body is very compact, the
head moderate, the neck short, the wings long and pointed, the second
and occasionally the third quill being longer than the rest. The beak
is short but powerful, very decidedly arched at its base, hooked at
the extremity, and furnished near its apex with a more or less highly
developed _tooth_; the lower mandible is sharp at its edge, and has a
hollow in which the tooth of the upper mandible can lodge. The talons
of these Falcons are proportionately larger and more formidable than
those of any other Bird of Prey; the leg is strong and muscular, and the
tarsus short, the middle toe almost equalling it in length. The plumage
is thick and harsh, the quills and tail-feathers of great strength. The
region of the eye is bare, so as not to interfere with the scope of
vision, presenting a naked ring, which is a distinguishing characteristic
of the Noble Falcons. The plumage is usually of a light blueish grey
above, whilst whitish grey, reddish yellow, or white predominate on the
lower parts of the body; the cheeks are often curiously marked by a black
streak, which has been called a _beard_. The males resemble the females
in the coloration of their feathers, but are somewhat smaller. The young
do not acquire the plumage of their parents until they are two or three
years old.

Many of these birds migrate during the winter months, and spend a
great portion of their time in flying over the face of the country,
sweeping along with astonishing strength and rapidity, and rushing
down upon their prey with a velocity that renders it impossible for
the eye to follow their movements. Considerable variety is observable
in the manner in which the flight of the different races of Falcons is
accomplished, some moving slowly and with a hovering motion through the
realms of air, others sustaining themselves for a considerable time in
one spot by means of a gentle and tremulous agitation of the wings. The
Noble Falcons, on the contrary, fly with quick short strokes, and an
occasional gliding movement, sometimes soaring to an incredible height,
and performing most varied and beautiful evolutions, more especially
when they are endeavouring to attract the admiration of their mates; at
other times they do not usually rise to more than 400 feet above the
earth. When perching, the body, owing to the shortness of the feet, is of
necessity held erect, but is kept in a horizontal position when walking
on the ground, an act which they accomplish in the most awkward manner,
endeavouring to render their progress more easy by a constant balancing
of the wings. Early morning and evening are preferred by these Falcons
for the pursuit of their prey, which they almost always capture whilst
in flight, the booty being carried off to some retired spot, where they
can devour it undisturbed and at leisure. Some species consume large
quantities of insects, but no true Falcon in its free state will eat
carrion. The process of digestion is accomplished during a light sleep
into which these birds usually fall when satiated, and during which they
sit perched upon some tree with streaming and disordered plumage. During
the summer they live in pairs, and will allow no intruder to approach the
spot where they have selected their building place, but at other seasons
they occasionally associate with their congeners and form large flocks,
which remain together for weeks and months at a time; towards Eagles or
Owls, on the contrary, they exhibit the utmost enmity, and many are the
sturdy combats that ensue should the rival marauders encroach upon each
other's hunting grounds.

The eyrie of the Noble Falcons is usually very carelessly constructed,
and, indeed, some of them will not take the trouble to make even ordinary
preparation for their young, but seize upon the nests of some of the
larger species of Ravens; whilst such as do build for themselves are
content with almost any situation, and merely collect a rough heap of
sticks in the holes of trees, rocks, old walls, or even on the ground,
the only care for the comfort of the young family consisting in the
arrangement of a slight bed of some fibrous material, upon which the
brood is laid. The eggs, from three to seven in number, vary considerably
in their appearance, but are for the most part round, rough-shelled, and
of a pale reddish brown, marked with small spots and large patches of
a darker shade. The female alone sits upon the nest, and is meanwhile
tended with much assiduity by her mate, who endeavours to enliven her
during the performance of her monotonous duty by every means in his
power. The young receive the utmost care and attention from both parents,
even after they have left the nest, and are instructed and defended from
danger with most unwearying devotion.

Perhaps few creatures are so destructive to game and poultry as these
Falcons, and yet for centuries they were regarded with distinguished
favour by man, who had learnt how to subdue them to his service. So long
ago as 400 years before Christ we hear of their being employed in the
chase, and in the sixth century the passion for falconry had attained to
such an extravagant excess that it was openly reprobated and forbidden
in the churches; but even after this the barons, it is said, maintained
their right to place their Falcons on the altar during the hours of
Divine service. So violent was the rage for this pursuit in England that
Edward III. commanded that those who killed a Falcon should be punished
with death, and condemned to imprisonment for a year and a day whoever
should take one of their nests. To such a high value had they risen in
1396 that the Duke of Nevers and many other noble captives were liberated
by Bajazet on the payment of twelve white Falcons, sent to him by the
Duke of Burgundy as their ransom. Francis I. kept no fewer than 300 of
these valuable birds, which were reared under the care of an officer, who
had fifteen noblemen and fifty falconers to assist him in his duties.
In England hawking was performed on horseback or on foot--on horseback
when in the fields and open country, and on foot when in the woods and
coverts. In following the Hawk on foot it was usual for the sportsman to
have a stout pole with him to assist him in leaping over little rivulets
and ditches; this we learn from an historical fact related by Hall, who
informs us that Henry VIII. pursuing his Hawk on foot at Hitchin, in
Hertfordshire, attempted, with the assistance of his pole, to jump over
a ditch that was half full of muddy water, the pole broke, and the king
fell with his head into the mud, where he would have been stifled had
not a footman leaped into the ditch and released His Majesty from his
perilous situation. When the Hawk was not flying at her game, she was
usually _hoodwinked_ with a _cap_ or hood provided for that purpose and
fitted to her head, and this hood was worn abroad as well as at home. All
Hawks taken upon "_the fist_," the term used for carrying them upon the
hand, had strips of leather, called _jesses_, put about their legs, and
the jesses were made sufficiently long for the knots to appear between
the middle and little fingers of the hand that held them, so that the
_lunes_, or small thongs of leather, might be fastened to them with two
_tyrrits_, or rings, and the lunes were then loosely wound round the
little finger. Lastly, their legs were adorned with bells fastened with
rings of leather--each leg having one--the leathers to which the bells
were attached were denominated _bewits_, and to the bewits was added the
_creance_, or long string, by which, in tutoring, the bird was drawn back
after she had been permitted to fly, a proceeding which was called the
reclaiming of the Hawk. The bewits, we are informed, were for the purpose
of keeping the Hawk from "winding when she bated," that is, when she
fluttered her wings to fly after her game. Respecting the bells, it is
particularly recommended that they should not be too heavy to impede the
flight of the bird, and that they should be of equal weight, sonorous,
shrill, and musical, not both of one sound, but the one a semitone below
the other. The person who carried the Hawk was also provided with gloves
for the purpose of preventing its talons from hurting his hands. In the
inventories of apparel belonging to Henry VIII. such articles frequently
occur; at Hampton Court, in the jewel house, were "seven Hawks' gloves
embroidered."

Old books on hawking assign to different ranks of persons the sort of
Hawks proper to be used by each, and they are enumerated in the following
order:--

    "The Eagle, the Vulture, and the Merloun--for an _Emperor_.
    The Ger-faulcon, and the Tercel of the Ger-faulcon--for a _King_.
    The Faulcon of the Rock--for a _Duke_.
    The Faulcon Peregrine--for an _Earl_.
    The Bastard--for a _Baron_.
    The Sacre and the Sacret--for a _Knight_.
    The Lanere and the Laneret--for an _Esquire_.
    The Marlyon--for a _Lady_.
    The Hobby--for a _Young Man_.
    The Goshawk--for a _Yeoman_.
    The Tercel--for a _Poor Man_.
    The Sparrow Hawk--for a _Priest_.
    The Musket--for a _Holy Water Clerk_.
    The Kestrel--for a _Knave_ or _Servant_."

The above list is interesting, as it may be presumed to contain the names
applied to the greater part, if not all, of the birds used in hawking.

As in hunting, so in hawking the sportsmen had their peculiar
expressions, and the uninitiated may read with advantage the terms
employed to designate assemblages of various kinds of birds. Thus we read
of a _sege_ of Herons or of Bitterns, a _herd_ of Swans, of Cranes, and
of Curlews, a _dopping_ of Sheldrakes, a _spring_ of Teals, a _covert_ of
Coots, a _gaggle_ of Geese, a _badelynge_ of Ducks, a _sord_ or _sute_
of Mallards, a _muster_ of Peacocks, a _nye_ of Pheasants, a _bevy_
of Quails, a _covey_ of Partridges, a _congregation_ of Plovers, a
_flight_ of Doves, a _dole_ of Turtles, a _walk_ of Snipes, a _fall_ of
Woodcocks, a _brood_ of Chickens, a _building_ of Rooks, a _murmuration_
of Starlings, an _exaltation_ of Larks, a _flight_ of Swallows, a _watch_
of Nightingales, and a _charm_ of Goldfinches.

It will thus be seen that many technical expressions once employed in
Falconry are still in common use.

The Mews at Charing Cross, Westminster, were so called from the word
_Mew_, which, in Falconers' language was the name of the place wherein
Hawks were kept at the moulting time, when they cast their feathers: the
king's Hawks were kept at this place as early as 1377, at the beginning
of the reign of Richard II., but A.D. 1537, the 27th of Henry VIII., it
was converted into stables for that monarch's horses, and even up to the
present time the word Mews is employed to designate London stables.

In Central Asia the use of these birds for hunting purposes appears to
have been carried on with truly Eastern pomp and profusion, for Marco
Polo, who wrote about the year 1290, tells us that when Kublai Khan
quitted Hambul he took with him no fewer than 10,000 falconers, who were
sent out in parties of from 200 to 300 men to hunt over different parts
of the country, and were commanded to send all the game they obtained to
their master.

[Illustration: ORIENTAL FALCONRY.]

On these occasions the Khan rode upon an elephant, and was followed by
10,000 men, who stood in an enormous circle round him, ready to catch the
Falcons and bring them back to their owners. Twelve of the finest birds
were appropriated to the Sultan, and these, as well as those belonging to
the principal nobles, were distinguished by a silver plate fastened to
the leg, on which the name of their owner was written, whilst the Falcons
belonging to inferior members of the suite were without the badge, and
were handed over to the care of an officer appointed for their especial
protection. Tavernier, who resided in Persia for many years in the
seventeenth century, tells us that the King of Persia had 800 Falcons,
of which some were taught to hunt wild boars, wild asses, antelopes,
and foxes, and others trained to go in pursuit of Cranes, Herons, Geese,
and Partridges; Chardin, another eastern traveller, informs us that the
Persians trained them to fly at the heads of very large quadrupeds, or
even men, and blind them. It would appear that this mode of hunting
with Falcons is still practised in many provinces of Asia, and Sir John
Malcolm, in his "Sketches of Persia," describes the sport of hawking as
seen by him when at Abasheher on the Persian Gulf:--

"The huntsmen repair to a large plain, or rather desert, near the
sea-side; they have Hawks and greyhounds; the Hawks are carried in the
usual manner, on the hand of the huntsman; the dogs led in a leash by
the horseman, generally the same who carries the Hawk. When an antelope
is seen, they endeavour to get as near as possible, but the animal, the
moment it observes them, goes off at a rate that seems swifter than the
wind; the horsemen are instantly at full speed, having slipped the dogs.
If it is a single deer, they at the same time fly the Hawks, but if a
herd, they wait till the dogs have fixed on a particular antelope. The
Hawks, skimming along near the ground, soon reach the deer, at whose head
they pounce in succession, and sometimes with a violence that knocks
it over; at all events they confuse the animal so much as to stop its
speed in such a degree that the dogs can come up, and in an instant men,
horses, dogs, and Hawks, surround the unfortunate deer, against which
their united efforts have been combined. The part of the chase that
surprised me most was the extraordinary combination of the Hawks and the
dogs, which throughout seemed to look to each other for aid; this, I was
told, was the result of long and skilful training. The Hawks used in this
sport are of a species I have never seen in any other country; the breed,
which is called 'Cherkh,' is not large, but of great beauty and symmetry.

"The novelty of these amusements interested me, and I was pleased on
accompanying a party to a village, about twenty miles from Abasheher,
to see a species of hawking, peculiar, I believe, to the sandy plains
of Persia, on which the Hubara, a noble species of Bustard is found on
almost bare plains, where it has no shelter but a small shrub, called
'yeetuck.' When we met in quest of them we were a party of about twenty,
all well mounted. Two kinds of Hawks are necessary for this sport; the
first, the Cherkh (the same which is flown at the antelope) attacks them
on the ground, but will not follow them on the wing; for this reason,
the Bhyree, a Hawk well known in India, is flown at them the moment the
Hubara rises. As we rode along in an extended line, the men who carried
the Cherkhs every now and then unhooded and held them up, that they might
look over the plain, and the first Hubara we found afforded us a proof
of the astonishing quickness of sight of one of the Hawks. She fluttered
to be loose, and the man who held her gave a whoop as he threw her off
his hand, and then set off at full speed; we all did the same. At first
we only saw our Hawk skimming over the plain, but soon perceived, at the
distance of more than a mile, the beautiful speckled Hubara, with his
head erect and wings outspread, running forward to meet his adversary;
the Cherkh made several unsuccessful pounces, which were either evaded
or repelled by the beak or wings of the Hubara, which at last found
an opportunity of rising, when a Bhyree was instantly flown, and the
whole party were again at full gallop; we had a flight of more than a
mile, when the Hubara alighted, and was killed by another Cherkh, who
attacked him on the ground. We killed several others, but were not always
successful, having seen our Hawks twice completely beaten during the two
days that we followed this fine sport."

According to Jerdon, the Bedouins of the Sahara capture large numbers
of Peregrine Falcons, and sell them to men who train them to pursue
Bustards, Storks, Ibises, and various quadrupeds. The Heron alone, of all
birds, seems capable of resisting these terrible assailants, and will
sometimes defend itself so courageously with its beak as to drive off
the enemy, should the latter not have sufficient experience to seize the
Heron by the nape of the neck. In England the pursuit of the Heron by
means of Falcons was practised until very recently, and Sir John Sebright
gives the following account of Heron hawking as practised at Didlington
in Norfolk:--

"This heronry is situated on a river, with an open country on every
side of it. The Herons go out in the morning to rivers and ponds, at
a very considerable distance, in search of food, and return to the
heronry towards the evening. It is at this time that the falconers place
themselves in the open country, down wind of the heronry, so that when
the Herons are intercepted on their return home, they are obliged to fly
against the wind to gain their retreat. When a Heron passes, _a cast_ (a
couple) of Hawks is let go. The Heron disgorges his food when he finds
that he is pursued, and endeavours to keep above the Hawks by rising in
the air. The Hawks fly in a spiral direction to get above the Heron,
and thus the three birds frequently appear to be flying in different
directions. The first Hawk makes his stoop as soon as he gets above the
Heron, who evades it by a shift, and thus gives the second Hawk time to
get up and stoop in his turn. In what is termed a good flight this is
frequently repeated, and the three birds often mount to a great height
in the air. When one of the Hawks seizes his prey, the other soon _binds
to him_, as it is termed, and, buoyant from the motion of their wings,
the three descend together to the ground, with but little velocity. The
falconer must lose no time in getting hold of the Heron's neck when he is
on the ground, to prevent him from injuring the Hawks; it is then, and
not when he is in the air, that he will use his beak in his defence."

The SCHAHIN, or ROYAL FALCON (_Falco peregrinator_), is highly prized
by the Hindoos, who catch large numbers annually. When in pursuit of
game, this latter species is not loosened from the huntsman's hand, but
is permitted to soar aloft in freedom until its prey is roused, when it
swoops down upon it with unerring aim.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HUNTING FALCONS (_Hierofalco_), the most prized of the Falcon
family, inhabit the more northern portions of the globe, and are at
once recognisable by their very large bodies, strong and decidedly
curved beaks, long tails, and the fact that the feet are only partially
covered with feathers; in other respects they closely resemble other
Noble Falcons. We have divided these birds into three groups, which we
shall call respectively the HUNTING, the POLAR, and the GIER FALCONS.
The two former of these sections bear a close resemblance to each other
as to plumage, and the young of all three are so much alike as almost to
baffle even the eye of a practised naturalist. The plumage of the HUNTING
FALCON (_Hierofalco candicans_) is white, marked with longitudinal dark
streaks, whilst that of the POLAR FALCON (_Hierofalco Arcticus_) is
white, with irregular dark blotches; as both species advance in years,
these dark marks gradually fade, and the plumage becomes a most pure and
beautiful white. In the young birds the back is greyish brown or deep
grey, with very distinct streaks and spots; the feathers upon the top
of the head have black shafts, and vary considerably in their shade;
the wings and tail are broadly striped, and the lower parts of the body
are fawn colour; the brown eye is surrounded by a bare greenish yellow
ring. In the old birds the feet are pale yellow, the beak yellowish
blue, becoming darker towards the tip, and the cere yellow; the feet of
the young are blue. The plumage of the Gier Falcon (spelt also _Ger_,
_Jer,_ and _Gyr_), on the contrary, is deep greyish blue, striped with
black upon the upper part of the body; the tail is light greyish blue,
striped with a deeper shade; the quills are brownish black, the breast
and belly are grey or yellowish white, marked with long dark streaks,
varied upon the sides and hose by irregular spots. The coat of the young
is dark brown above, and of a light greyish yellow beneath, streaked with
a deeper shade. Nestlings of this species are scarcely distinguishable
from Peregrine Falcons of similar age. All these three groups of HUNTING
FALCONS are nearly of the same size; the females being about one foot
eleven inches in length, and four feet in breadth; the tail measures
about nine inches, and the wing fifteen inches.

The Hunting Falcon and the Polar Falcon both inhabit Greenland and
Iceland; the Gier Falcon, on the contrary, is met with in the most
northerly parts of Scandinavia, Russia, and Siberia, and, according to
our own observations, is the only species of Hunting Falcon found in
Lapland. We must speak collectively of the habits of these three groups,
concerning whose respective peculiarities we are almost entirely without
information. All appear to prefer such rocky localities as are in the
immediate neighbourhood of the sea coast, and upon which hundreds and
thousands of sea birds settle during the breeding season; nevertheless,
they do not entirely avoid the wooded parts of the country, for such
amongst them as are too young to pair make long excursions inland, even
occasionally visiting the mountain ranges of the interior, amongst which
the old birds are rarely or never seen. The attachment of these various
species to their breeding places is very remarkable; they return to them
with such unfailing regularity that we were once accurately directed
where to look for an eyrie, even though our informant had neither seen
the spot nor heard it spoken of for many years; in their other habits
they closely resemble the Peregrine Falcon.

During the summer months they subsist upon sea birds, in the winter
upon Ptarmigans, and, according to some naturalists, will devour hares,
and live upon squirrels for whole months together. We were on one
occasion for three days in the vicinity of the Nyken (two mountains much
frequented by sea birds), and watched a pair of Gier Falcons come down
morning after morning punctually at ten o'clock, in order to obtain their
breakfast. This was very speedily accomplished; both took a rapid survey
of the feathered swarm they were about to attack, and then, swooping
down with unerring aim, carried off one bird after another until they
had obtained the necessary supply. Holwell mentions having seen a Polar
Falcon pounce upon two Sea Gulls at the same time, and bear them away
in triumph one in each foot; they are also said to destroy Pigeons. At
the close of the breeding season the Hunting Falcons often come down
from their retirement and approach the dwellings of man, towards whom
they exhibit but little fear. When winter approaches they follow the
Ptarmigans to their retreats amongst the mountains, and so great is the
dread in which the latter holds their cruel and insatiable enemy, that
they will frequently endeavour to bury themselves in the snow, if safety
by flight seems to be hopeless. When in pursuit of the squirrel their
ordinary mode of attack would, of course, be impossible, as the creature
is protected by the sheltering trees; the Hunting Falcons, therefore, at
once change their tactics, and display a patience and cunning in watching
for and stealing upon their victims that strikingly contrasts with their
ordinary precipitate and open butchery.

According to Faber, the True Hunting Falcon builds its large flat eyrie
amid the fastnesses of some inaccessible rock in the immediate vicinity
of the ocean, whilst the Gier Falcon prefers to avoid all the labour of
preparation by taking violent possession of the nest of some large Crow.
The eggs of the Polar Falcon are laid about June or July, those of the
Gier Falcon, according to Nardoi, are usually laid as early as April,
though we have found them in the month of July. The colour and size of
the eggs is very varied, but those of the Polar Falcon are largest, and
have the roughest shell.

Some centuries ago a Danish vessel called the _Falcon Ship_ was sent
every year to bring these birds from Iceland, and live Falcons are still
exported every year to Copenhagen. Large numbers are killed in Iceland
and Greenland on account of the mischief they do, but in the north of
Asia they are still reared and trained for the chase. In Lapland and
Scandinavia they are never captured except for the naturalist. The Raven
is the only feathered enemy against whose attacks the Hunting Falcons
have to be upon their guard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The WANDERING FALCONS (_Falco_) differ from the last-mentioned birds in
the inferiority of their size, and the construction of the beak, which is
smaller and more decidedly curved; the feet are not so entirely covered
with feathers, and the tail is somewhat shorter in comparison with the
wings.


THE PEREGRINE FALCON.

[Illustration: THE PEREGRINE FALCON (_Falco peregrinus_).]

The PEREGRINE FALCON (_Falco peregrinus_) is the member of the family
with which we are most familiar. The plumage of the old bird is light
slate colour on the upper part of the body, and marked with dark grey
triangular spots, which produce a striped effect; the brow is grey,
the tail striped with bright grey and bordered with yellow towards the
tips of the feathers; the wing-quills are greyish black, the inner web
being marked with reddish-yellow spots arranged in stripes; the throat
is yellow, and marked by two black streaks that commence on the cheeks;
the lower part of the breast and belly are reddish yellow, the former
streaked with brownish yellow and marked with lozenge-shaped spots; the
hinder part of the body is striped with dark irregular patches. During
the life of the birds the plumage is covered with a greyish dust. The
female is brighter in colour than her mate. The iris is dark brown, the
cere, corners of the mouth, and bare places around the eyes are yellow.
The young are blackish grey upon the upper part of the body, every
feather being bordered with reddish yellow; the throat and upper part
of the breast are white or greyish yellow, streaked with light or dark
brown; the beak is light blue, the cere and naked places on the head
blueish or greenish yellow. The old male is from sixteen to eighteen
inches long, and from thirty to forty broad, whilst the female, on the
contrary, is from eighteen to twenty-one inches long, and forty to
forty-two inches broad; the wing measures from fourteen to fifteen and a
half inches, and the tail six and a half to seven and a half inches.

The name of _Peregrine_ or _Wandering Falcon_ most accurately describes
the habits of this species, which is found almost throughout the wide
world. Its habitat extends from Northern Asia and Western Europe, and
during the breeding season it frequents the northern coasts of the
Mediterranean. As winter approaches it migrates to Africa, visiting the
very heart of that continent, and occasionally making its appearance
in the neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope. According to Jerdon,
the Peregrine Falcon is regularly met with in India throughout the
cold season, during which it roams about the country lying between the
Himalaya Mountains and Cape Comorin, but is seen in the greatest numbers
on the coast or upon the banks of rivers. These birds appear in India
towards the first week in October and leave again in April, but never
breed there. The species inhabiting America also migrates farther south,
but we cannot speak with certainty as to their being found in Mexico,
though we have known instances in which they have flown across the Gulf
of Mexico--indeed, so great are their powers of endurance when upon the
wing that a distance of a hundred miles seems to be regarded as a mere
pleasure excursion by these restless marauders. The Wandering Falcon
is very courageous, and its powerful body and bright intelligent eye
clearly indicate a high standing in respect to its natural gifts. When
about to take flight this species usually spreads its tail, and flies
for a short distance close to the ground before rising into the air,
where its course is very rapid, and produced by quick, hurried strokes of
the pinions; during the period of incubation it soars to a considerable
height, but at other seasons keeps comparatively near the earth, and is
easily recognised by its slender form, narrow tail, and long, pointed
wings. Dense woods afford these birds the retreats they prefer, and even
there they rarely retire to rest until late in the evening, selecting
their sleeping place with great care in some thickly-covered nook: whilst
reposing they perch upon a branch with the neck drawn in so completely
as to give their head the appearance of growing from the shoulders, the
black cheeks and white throat adding considerably to their striking
appearance as they sit warily upon their guard against approaching
danger. The cry of this species is powerful and full-toned, but is rarely
heard except during the breeding season.

Nothing can exceed the terror in which the Peregrine Falcon is regarded
by such of its feathered brethren as cannot compete with it in strength
or activity--indeed, no bird from a Wild Goose to a Lark is safe from
its murderous attacks. Its prey, which is usually seized when upon
the wing, is made to rise from the ground by a variety of tactics. A
Partridge it terrifies by performing gyrations above its head, until
the frightened creature endeavours to seek safety in flight; Pigeons
are often so panic-stricken as to plunge into the water, and Ducks are
frequently so overcome with fear and exhausted with their struggles as
to be powerless to dive, and thus to elude the dreaded foe. Rapidity
of flight is no security against its attacks. Some species of Pigeons
endeavour to save themselves by crowding close together in a thick mass,
and quitting the locality with all possible expedition; but even this
stratagem rarely meets with complete success, for some weary straggler
is pretty certain to fall into the clutches of the ever-watchful enemy,
who darts down upon its victim like an arrow from a bow. Immense numbers
of Crows are also destroyed by these birds, who often subsist for whole
weeks together upon their flesh: despite the well-known courage of the
Crow, it seems to consider, when brought face to face with this powerful
tyrant, that "discretion is the better part of valour," and at once
endeavours to slink off unobserved, or beat a very undignified retreat;
all attempts at flight are, however, perfectly hopeless, for so rapid is
the speed of the pursuer that the eye cannot follow its course, as it
flashes down with a whizzing sound, and pounces fiercely upon its almost
paralysed victim--indeed, so incredibly powerful is the shock with which
the Peregrine Falcon occasionally descends, that instances have been
known in which the pursuer has actually killed or stunned itself by the
violence of its swoop, or has plunged to such a depth in the water, when
endeavouring to seize a duck, as to have been drowned in the attempt.
Large birds, such as Wild Geese, are generally disposed of while upon the
ground, as their size would render it impossible to contend with them
in the air, and the flesh is devoured upon the spot where the victim
is killed; more portable prey, on the contrary, is carried off to some
quiet retreat, where it can be eaten at leisure. Small birds are entirely
consumed, but larger kinds are stripped of a portion of the feathers, and
the entrails are thrown aside as unfit for food.

Every variety of situation seems to be regarded with favour by this
species, and it will live as comfortably in a crowded city as on
precipitous and impassable mountain ranges; when about to breed, however,
a decided preference is shown for the latter situation, as affording
ready-made holes, which require but little labour to convert them into
dwellings for the young; hollow forest trees are also employed for this
purpose, and a pair of Wandering Falcons often render their preparatory
exertions still more light by the appropriation of a Crow's nest. The
eyrie is very slightly constructed of twigs or brushwood, and the eggs,
three or four in number, are laid about May or June; these are round,
of a yellowish red, spotted with brown. The task of brooding devolves
entirely upon the female; the young are fed at first upon half digested
flesh, and afterwards with the same in its fresh state. When fledged they
are carefully instructed in all the arts required in their freebooting
life, and only withdraw themselves from their parents' protection when
fully competent to do battle with any member of the numerous species
against which their family wages constant war.

One strange habit of the Peregrine Falcon must not be passed over without
notice--namely, that at the very first attack made upon it by even the
most insignificant and cowardly of feathered assailants, it will at once
throw down its prey, or even allow it to be seized and carried off by
foes of so timid a character that a spirited clucking hen might drive
them from the spot. We have ourselves seen in North-eastern Africa one
of these fierce and strong marauders resign possession of three Ducks
in succession when beset by an impudent party of feathered mendicants,
amongst which the prey was dropped without even an attempt at resistance.
Most serious and extensive is the destruction caused by these birds, and
since the days of falconry have passed away no service rendered by them
can in any degree compensate for the many injuries they inflict upon our
property--indeed, but little can be said in their favour, except that
they are imposing in their appearance when sailing through the realms of
air.

When caged they will sometimes live for many years, and exhibit
surprising voracity. Naumann mentions having kept a Peregrine Falcon for
some time in confinement, and tells us that on one occasion it devoured
the whole of a fox in the course of two days; three Crows were only
sufficient for one day's provision, but, on the other hand, it could,
if required, fast for a whole week; this bird would seize six Sparrows
at a time, three in each foot, and dispatch them, as it squatted on the
ground, by biting one after the other through the head, laying down each
victim in succession until all were killed.


THE RED-NECKED FALCON.

The RED-NECKED FALCON (_Falco ruficollis_), the smallest and most
beautiful of the many kinds found in Asia and Africa, is very nearly
related to the bird above described, and is replaced in India by a very
similar species called the TURUMDI (_Falco Chiquera_). The head and
nape of the neck of the _Falco ruficollis_ are rust red, streaked here
and there with a dark shade upon the shafts of the feathers; the back,
wing-covers, and small quills are of a deep grey (which during the life
of the bird has a blueish gloss), and is marked with irregular black
spots; the shoulder is light reddish yellow, the tail is dark grey, with
a broad white tip, and ornamented with eight or ten white stripes; the
throat is also white, the fore part of the neck, breast, belly, and
thighs are light yellowish red, thickly marked with dark grey stripes;
the very prominent beard and a streak over the eyes are black, the eye
itself is deep brown, the beak greenish yellow, tipped with greyish blue;
the feet are light orange. The male is eleven inches long, and twenty-two
inches broad; the wings measure seven inches, and the tail four inches
and a quarter. The female, on the contrary, is thirteen inches long,
twenty-six and a half broad; her wing measures about eight inches, and
her tail five inches and a half.

[Illustration: THE FALCONER.]

According to our own observations these beautiful birds are met with
south of sixteen degrees north latitude, exclusively frequenting date
palms, the broad, fan-like leaves of which form a capital foundation on
which to build their eyries. Only on one occasion have we ever seen them
on any other tree, but Heuglin tells us that in Central Africa they are
also found amongst the Dhuléb palms. A solitary tree of this description
is sufficient to induce a couple to settle upon it, and from this lofty
and commanding eminence they descend to capture such Weaver Birds, or
other small feathered victims, as approach them, darting upon them with
a velocity and dexterity that, in our opinion, will bear comparison with
the powers of flight possessed by any of their congeners. Large birds
they seldom or never attack, and will live not only at peace with them,
but actually allow one kind, the Guinea Pigeon (_Stictoenas Guinea_),
to build upon the same branch. We never succeeded in our endeavours
to inspect one of their eyries closely, as the Dhuléb palm is quite
inaccessible to climbers.

[Illustration: THE TREE FALCON (_Hypotriorchis subbuteo_).]

We shall confine ourselves to Jerdon's description of the Turumdi. This
bird is found throughout the whole of India, but is most numerous in the
open country, where it prefers the vicinity of man, and rather avoids
than seeks the recesses of the woods and forests. It hunts in pairs, and
lives principally upon small birds, such as Larks, Sparrows, or Water
Wagtails, and will eat field mice. The eyrie of the Turumdi is built at
the summit of a lofty tree, and usually contains four eggs of a yellowish
brown colour, sprinkled with brown spots. The young leave the nest at
the end of March or beginning of April. This species is sometimes tamed
by the Hindoos, and employed in the pursuit of Quails, Partridges, and
similar birds. We have known instances in which they have been trained by
their masters to hunt in parties.


THE TREE FALCON.

The TREE FALCON (_Hypotriorchis subbuteo_) is but little inferior to
those we have described, either in its powers or the nobility of its
appearance. The members of the family of which this bird is the type
are smaller than the Falcons we have mentioned, and are distinguished
by their elongated bodies, comparatively long and sickle-shaped wings,
which extend as far as, or in some instances beyond, the extremity of
the tail. The Tree Falcon is twelve inches long, and thirty broad; the
wing measures nine and a half, and the tail nine inches; the female is
one inch and a half longer, and from two to three inches broader than
her mate. The entire upper portion of the body is blueish black, the
head of a greyish shade; the nape is spotted with white, the quills
black, bordered with reddish yellow, and marked upon the inner web with
from five to nine reddish irregularly oval patches. The tail-feathers
are slate colour above, grey beneath, and ornamented on the inner web
with eight irregular reddish-yellow spots, which form a kind of border;
the two middle feathers are without these spots. The lower part of the
body is white or yellowish white, marked from the head downwards with
longitudinal black streaks; the wings and lower tail-covers are beautiful
rust red; the beard is very plainly indicated; the eye is dark brown,
the naked ring by which the latter is surrounded, the cere, and feet are
yellow; the beak is dark blue at its tip, and of a lighter shade towards
its base. In the plumage of the young birds the blueish-black feathers
that cover the back are bordered with reddish yellow; the light spot
upon the nape is larger than in the adult, and of a yellow colour; the
lower part of the body whitish yellow, marked with long black streaks;
the wings, lower wing-covers, and clothing of the legs are yellowish, the
feathers of which the latter are formed having black shafts.

This species inhabits the whole continent of Europe and the cooler
portions of Asia; it also visits India in large numbers during the
winter, but is rarely seen in Northern Africa. Eversmann tells us that
it is found in great numbers in the country near the Ural Mountains. In
the central portion of our continent it usually makes its home amongst
the trees of the open country, rarely visiting the forests, except during
the course of its migrations; in these countries it is a summer guest,
leaving about September or October, and returning in April. The flight of
the Tree Falcon is extremely rapid, and bears some resemblance to that
of the Swallow; the wings are held somewhat arched, and their stroke
is short and quick; its evolutions through the air are often extremely
beautiful, and are characterised by light and graceful gyrations as it
rises aloft or sinks rapidly to the ground. The Tree Falcon, as its name
suggests, usually prefers to perch upon trees, and but rarely seeks the
ground, except when engaged in devouring its prey. The migratory season
commences in autumn, and during their journeyings the pairs keep together
with the utmost constancy, in spite of the many fights and squabbles
that arise amongst the members of the party. The voice of this bird is
clear and not unpleasing, though it consists but of a single note. In its
habits it is extremely intelligent, and so very shy and cautious that
it only ventures to yield to sleep when the darkness of night has fully
closed in.

Field Larks appear to be the favourite food of the Tree Falcon, though
it by no means objects to other birds--indeed, it is regarded as a
formidable enemy even by the most rapid of the Swallow tribe. Naumann
tells us that an instance came under his own observation in which a
Swallow was so terrified at the appearance of one of these redoubtable
enemies that it fell as though dead to the ground, and only ventured to
open its eyes and give signs of life some little time after he had taken
it in his hand. Occasionally, if hotly pursued and other means of escape
appear impossible, Larks will seek refuge and hide themselves near the
protecting feet of the ploughman or of horses, as they wend their way
about the fields. Swallows endeavour to save themselves by uniting into
flocks, and whirling at a respectful distance above the heads of their
dread pursuers. The Tree Falcons will also catch insects when upon the
wing, and devour large numbers of grasshoppers, dragon-flies, and ants
during the whole time that the latter are engaged in swarming.

The eyrie is usually built upon a high tree, and resembles those of other
Falcons as regards its exterior, but the interior is lined with wool,
hair, or some other soft and elastic material. The eggs are laid in July,
and are from three to five in number, and of a greyish white or greenish
colour, covered with light reddish-brown spots, which are most thickly
distributed over the broad end. Lenz tells us that one Tree Falcon will
destroy no fewer than 1,095 small birds annually. This species was
formerly trained for hunting purposes, and is, when domesticated, one of
the most intelligent and docile of its family.


THE BERIGORA.

The BERIGORA (_Jeracidea Berigora_) is the most remarkable among the
many birds of prey inhabiting New Holland, and constitutes, as it were,
a connecting link between the Noble Falcons and the next group. The
Berigora possesses the general shape and beak of the Falcons already
described, but is distinguished from them by the inferior strength of
its wings, in which the third quill is longer than the rest, as well as
by the length and slender formation of the tarsi, and toes furnished
with claws of no great strength. The length of the male is about sixteen
inches, the female is somewhat larger, but exactly resembles her mate
in the colour of her plumage. The feathers upon the top of the head are
reddish brown, with fine black streaks upon the shafts; the middle of the
back is reddish brown, the shoulders, wing-covers, and tail-feathers are
brown, edged and spotted with a reddish shade; the throat, breast, middle
of the belly, and lower wing-covers are pale fawn colour, with a delicate
brown line passing along each side of the shaft; the feathers that cover
the sides are reddish brown, surrounded by a border of yellowish-white
spots; the hose are brown, spotted with red; the secondary quills are
blackish brown, marked upon the inner web with large fawn-coloured
patches. The cere and eye-rings are light blue, the beak lead colour at
its base and black at the tip; the eyes are of very deep brown.

The Berigora is met with throughout the whole of Van Diemen's Land and
New South Wales, where it lives in large flocks, except during the period
of incubation, when each pair dwells apart from the rest. The food of
this species consists principally of reptiles and insects, but it will
also devour small birds and quadrupeds, and by no means despises carrion.
The settlers regard these birds with great disfavour, on account of the
number of young Chickens they manage to abstract from the farmyards, and
seem entirely to overlook the many and great services they render by the
destruction of enormous numbers of insects and caterpillars. The eyrie
is built near the summit of the highest gum-trees, and the eggs, which
are laid about October and November, differ so considerably in their
hues that two of a brood are seldom alike; various shades of whitish
fawn-colour, spotted with pale reddish brown, usually predomi