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Title: Casell's Book of Birds, Vol. II (of 4) - From the Text of Dr Brehm
Author: Brehm, Alfred Edmund
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.

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[Illustration: _Plate 15. Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE PURPLE CRESTED CORYTHAIX ____ Corythaix macrorhynchus

_Nat. 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. II.



London:
Cassell, Petter, and Galpin;
and New York.



CONTENTS.


    PAGE


    CATCHERS (_Captantes_).--_Continued._

    THE HAWKS (_Accipiter_):--The Laughing Hawk--The Double-toothed
    Hawk--The Sparrow Hawk--The True Hawk, or Gos Hawk. The SINGING
    HAWKS (_Melierax_):--The True Singing Hawk--The Serpent Hawk 1-7


    RAPTORIAL BIRDS.

    THE EAGLES (_Aquila_):--The Tawny Eagle--The Golden
    Eagle--The Imperial Eagle--The Spotted Eagle. The DWARF
    EAGLES (_Hieraëtos_):--The Booted Eagle--The Dwarf Eagle.
    The WEDGE-TAILED EAGLES (_Uroaëtos_):--The Bold Wedge-tailed
    Eagle. The HAWK EAGLES (_Pseudaëtos_, _Eudolmaëtos_, or
    _Asturaëtos_):--Bonelli's Hawk Eagle. The HOODED EAGLES
    (_Spizaëtos_):--The Martial Hooded Eagle--The Tufted Eagle. The
    DESTROYING EAGLES (_Pternura_):--The Urutaurana. The BRAZILIAN
    EAGLES (_Morphnus_):--The Crested Brazilian Eagle--The Harpy
    Eagle. The SEA EAGLES (_Haliaëtos_):--The Sea Eagle--The
    White-headed Sea Eagle--The African Screaming Sea Eagle--The
    Osprey, River Eagle, or Fish Hawk 7-31

    THE KITES (_Milvus_):--The Short-tailed Kite. The GLIDING
    KITES (_Elanus_):--The True Gliding Kite. The HOVERING KITES
    (_Ictinia_):--The Mississippi Kite. The CROOKED-BILLED KITES
    (_Cymindis_):--The Buzzard Kite--The Syama or Baza 31-37

    THE TRUE KITES:--The Black Kite--The Govinda--The Parasite
    Kite--The Red or Royal Kite--The Swallow-tailed Kite. The
    CHELIDOPTERI:--The Dwarf Swallow-tailed Kite. The FIELD KITES,
    or HARRIERS (_Circus_). The MEADOW KITES (_Strigiceps_):--The
    Blue Kite or Hen Harrier--The Kite of the Steppes, or Pallid
    Harrier--The Meadow Kite, or Ash-coloured Harrier--The Reed Kite,
    or Marsh Harrier. SPOTTED KITES (_Spilocircus_):--Jardine's
    Spotted Kite 37-47

    THE BUZZARDS (_Buteo_). The SNAKE BUZZARDS (_Circaëtos_):--The
    Snake Buzzard. The CRESTED BUZZARDS (_Spilornis_):--The
    Bacha--The Honey Buzzard, or Wasp Kite--The Crested Honey
    Buzzard--The Rough-legged Buzzard--The Common or Mouse
    Buzzard--The Red-winged or Grasshopper Buzzard--The Tesa--The
    Caracolero, Snail Buzzard, or Hook-beaked Buzzard--The Urubitinga
    47-56

    THE VULTURE FALCONS (_Polyborus_):--The Chimango--The
    Vulture Buzzard--The Carancho or Traro. SCREAMING BUZZARDS
    (_Ibicter_):--The Ganga--The Secretary or Crane Vulture 56-64

    THE VULTURES (_Vulturidæ_):--The Bearded Vulture. The TRUE
    VULTURES (_Vultur_). The CONDORS, or WATTLED VULTURES
    (_Sarcorhamphus_):--The Condor--The Californian Condor--The
    King of the Vultures. The GOOSE VULTURES (_Gyps_):--The Tawny
    Goose Vulture--The Sparrow-hawk Goose Vulture. The CRESTED
    VULTURES:--The Cowled Vulture--The Variegated or Crested
    Vulture. The EARED VULTURES (_Otogyps_). The RAVEN VULTURES
    (_Catharta_):--The Scavenger or Egyptian Raven Vulture--The Monk
    Vulture--The Urubu or Turkey Buzzard--The Gallinazo 64-84

    THE OWLS (_Striginæ_).

    THE DAY OWLS (_Surnia_):--The Sparrow-hawk Owl--The Snow Owl.
    The STONE OWLS (_Athene_):--The Stone Owl Proper. The BURROWING
    OWLS (_Pholeoptynx_):--The Brazilian or Rabbit Owl--The Prairie
    Owl. The SPARROW OWLS (_Microptynx_):--The European Sparrow Owl.
    The _Eared Owls_, or UHUS (_Bubo_):--The Uhu--The Short-eared
    Uhu--The Milk-white Uhu--The Virginian Uhu--The Brown Fish
    Owl--The Woodland Owl--The Marsh Owl. The DWARF EARED OWLS
    (_Scops_):--The Dwarf Eared Owl 84-99

    THE NOCTURNAL OWLS:--The Tree Owl--The Hairy-footed Owl. The
    VEILED OWLS (_Strix_):--Kirchhoff's Veiled Owl--The Flame Owl, or
    Barn Owl 99-103


    THE GAPERS (_Hiantes_).

    THE SWALLOWS (_Hirundo_). The TRUE SWALLOWS (_Cecropis_):--The
    Chimney Swallow--The Senegal Swallow--The Thread-tailed
    Swallow--the Martin or Roof Swallow 104-111

    THE MOUNTAIN or SHORE SWALLOWS (_Cotyle_):--The Rock
    Swallow--The Sand Martin--The Ariel Swallow. The WOOD SWALLOWS
    (_Atticora_):--The Striped Wood Swallow. The SAILOR SWALLOWS
    (_Progne_):--The Purple Swallow 111-115

    THE SWIFTS (_Cypselus_). The TREE SWIFTS (_Dendrochelidon_):--The
    Klecho. The SALANGANES (_Collocalia_):--The Salangane Proper--The
    Kusappi. The PRICKLY-TAILED SWIFTS (_Acanthylis_):--The
    White-throated Prickly-tailed Swift--The Dwarf Swift--The
    Palm-tree Swift--The Steeple Swift--The Alpine Swift 115-124

    THE NIGHT JARS, or GOATSUCKERS (_Caprimulgus_):--The Nacunda.
    The TWILIGHT NIGHT JARS (_Chordeiles_):--The Night Falcon--The
    Common Goatsucker--The Resplendent Goatsucker. The BRISTLED
    NIGHT JARS (_Antrostomus_):--The Whip-poor-Will. The AFRICAN
    NIGHT JARS (_Scotornis_). The LYRE-TAILED NIGHT JARS
    (_Hydropsalis_):--The Lyre-tailed Night Jar. MACRODIPTERYX:--The
    Long-winged Macrodipteryx--The Streamer-bearing Night Jar, or
    "Four Wings." The GIANT GOATSUCKERS (_Nyctibius_):--The Ibijau,
    or Earth-eater--The Guachero, or Oil Bird. The OWL SWALLOWS
    (_Podargus_):--The DWARF OWL SWALLOWS (_Ægotheles_):--The True
    Dwarf Owl Swallow. The GIANT OWL SWALLOWS (_Podargus_):--The
    Giant Owl Swallow. The FROG-MOUTHS (_Batrachostomus_):--The
    Plumed Frog-mouth 124-140


    THE SINGING BIRDS (_Oscines_).

    THE TOOTH-BEAKED SINGING BIRDS (_Dentirostres_). The SHRIKES
    (_Lanius_):--The Sentinel Butcher Bird, or Great Grey Shrike--The
    Southern Shrike--The Grey, or Black-browed Shrike. The BUTCHER
    BIRDS PROPER (_Enneoctonus_):--The Red-backed Shrike, or True
    Butcher Bird--The Red-headed Shrike, or Wood Chat--The Masked
    Shrike. The THICK-HEADED SHRIKES (_Pachycephalus_):--The Falcon
    Shrike. The BUSH SHRIKES (_Malaconotus_). The FLUTE-VOICED
    SHRIKES (_Laniarius_):--The Scarlet Shrike--The Flute Shrike.
    The HOODED SHRIKES:--The Tschagra--The Helmet Shrike. The
    CROW SHRIKES (_Cracticus_):--The Magpie Shrike. The RAVEN
    SHRIKES (_Thamnophilus_):--Vigors' Raven Shrike. The DRONGO
    SHRIKES (_Edolius_):--The King Crow, or Finga. The DRONGOS
    (_Chaptia_):--The Singing Drongo. The FLAG-BEARING DRONGOS
    (_Edolius_ or _Dissemurus_):--The Bee King. The DRONGO SHRIKES.
    The SWALLOW SHRIKES (_Artamius_):--The Wood Shallow Shrike
    140-158


    THE FLY-CATCHERS. The KING or TYRANT SHRIKES (_Tyrannus_):--The
    True Tyrant Shrike, King Bird, or Tyrant Fly-catcher--The
    Bentevi. The FORK-TAILED TYRANTS (_Milvulus_):--The
    Scissor Bird--The Royal Tyrant. The STILTED FLY-CATCHERS
    (_Fluvicola_):--The Yiperu, or Yetapa--The Cock-tailed
    Fly-catcher. The CATERPILLAR EATERS (_Campephaga_):--The Red
    Bird, or Great Pericrocotus. The FLY-SNAPPERS (_Myiagra_). The
    PARADISE FLY-CATCHERS:--The Paradise or Royal Fly-snapper.
    The FANTAILS (_Rhipidura_):--The Wagtail Fantail. The TRUE
    FLY-CATCHERS (_Muscicapa_):--The Grey or Spotted Fly-catcher. The
    MOURNING FLY-CATCHERS (_Muscicapa_):--The Black-capped or Pied
    Fly-catcher--The Collared or White-necked Fly-catcher--The Dwarf
    Fly-catcher. The SILK-TAILS (_Bombycilla_):--The European, or
    Common Silk-tail, Bohemian Chatterer, or Wax-wing 158-174

    THE MANAKINS (_Pipra_). The ROCK BIRDS (_Rupicola_):--The Cock
    of the Rock. The TRUE MANAKINS (_Pipra_). The LONG-TAILED
    MANAKINS (_Chiroxiphia_):--The Long-tailed Manakin--The Tije--The
    Black-cap Manakin. The PANTHER BIRDS (_Pardalotus_):--The Diamond
    Bird. The BALD-HEADED CROWS (_Gymnoderus_):--The Capuchin Bird,
    or Bald Fruit Crow--The Umbrella Bird, or Umbrella Chatterer.
    The BELL BIRDS (_Chasmarhynchus_):--The Bare-necked Bell
    Bird--The Araponga--The True Bell Bird--The Three-wattled Bell
    Bird, or Hammerer. The THRUSHES (_Turdidæ_). The GROUND SINGERS
    (_Humicola_) 174-185

    THE NIGHTINGALES (_Luscinia_):--The Nightingale. The HEDGE
    SINGERS, or TREE NIGHTINGALES (_Aëaou_ or _Agrobates_):--The Tree
    Nightingale. The BLUE-THROATED WARBLERS (_Cyanecula_)--Swedish
    Blue-throat--White-starred Blue-throat. The RUBY NIGHTINGALES
    (_Calliope_):--The Calliope of Kamschatka. The Robin Redbreast
    186-193

    THE WARBLERS (_Monticola_). The REDSTARTS (_Ruticilla_):--The
    Black-capped Redstart--The Garden Redstart. The MEADOW WARBLERS
    (_Pratincola_):--The Brown-throated Meadow Warbler--The
    Black-throated Meadow Warbler. The CLIPPERS (_Ephthianura_):--The
    Wagtail Clipper. The CHATS (_Saxicola_):--The Fallow Chat, or
    Wheatear--The Eared Stone Chat and Black-throated Stone Chat.
    The RUNNING WARBLERS (_Dromolæa_):--The White-tailed Wheatear.
    The STONE THRUSHES, or ROCK WAGTAILS (_Petrocincla_):--The
    Stone Thrush, or Rock Wagtail--The Blue Rock Wagtail, or Blue
    Thrush--The Bush Warbler 193-204

    THE THRUSHES (_Turdus_):--The Red-winged Thrush--The Red-throated
    Thrush--The Pale Thrush--The Siberian Thrush--The Wandering
    Thrush--The Hermit Thrush--Wilson's Thrush--Swainson's
    Thrush--Dwarf Thrush--The Soft-feathered Thrush--The
    Black-throated Thrush--The Ground Thrush--The Missel Thrush--The
    Song Thrush--The Fieldfare, or Juniper Thrush--The Redwing--The
    Ring Ouzel, or Ring Thrush--The Blackbird, Black Thrush, or
    Merle. The MOCKING THRUSHES (_Mimus_):--The Mimic Thrush, or
    Mocking Bird--The Ferruginous Mocking Bird, or Thrasher--The
    Cat Bird. The BABBLERS, or NOISY THRUSHES (_Timalia_):--The
    Grey Bird--Le Vaillant's Grey Bird. The TRUE BABBLERS
    (_Timalia_):--The Red-headed Babbler. The HOOK-CLAWED BABBLERS
    (_Crateropus_):--The White-rumped Babbler. The LAUGHING THRUSHES
    (_Garrulax_):--The White-tufted Laughing Thrush 204-223

    THE WATER OUZELS (_Cinclus_):--The Water Ouzel, or Dipper--The
    American Water Ouzel. The PITTAS, or PAINTED THRUSHES
    (_Pitta_):--The Nurang--The Pulih--The Noisy Pitta--The ANT
    THRUSHES (_Myiothera_):--The Fire Eye--The Ant King--The Tapacolo
    or Tualo 223-232

    THE LYRE BIRD (_Menura superba_) 232-237

    THE WARBLERS (_Sylvia_). The SONG WARBLERS (_Sylvia_). The
    TRUE SONG WARBLERS (_Curruca_):--The Sparrow-hawk Warbler--The
    Orpheus Warbler--The Greater Pettichaps, or Garden Warbler--The
    Lesser Whitethroat--The Capirote, or Black-cap--The White
    Throat--The Spectacled Warbler--The White-bearded Warbler--The
    Fire-eyed Warbler--Rüppell's Warbler--The Black-headed Fire-eyed
    Warbler--The Sardinian Fire-eyed Black-head--The Provence
    Fire-eyed Warbler, or Dartford Warbler. The TREE WARBLERS
    (_Phylloscopus_):--The Field Tree Warbler, or Willow Wren. The
    LEAF WRENS (_Reguloides_):--The Leaf Wren. The GARDEN WARBLERS
    (_Hypolais_):--The Melodious Willow Wren--The Chiff-Chaff--The
    Ashy Garden Warbler. The MARSH WARBLERS (_Calamodytæ_). The REED
    WARBLERS (_Acrocephalus_):--The True Reed Warbler. The SEDGE
    WARBLERS (_Calamodus_):--The Sedge Warbler. The GRASSHOPPER
    WARBLERS (_Locustella_):--The Grasshopper Warbler. The BUSH
    WARBLERS (_Drymoica_):--The Pinc-Pinc. The TAILOR BIRDS
    (_Orthotomus_):--The Long-tailed Tailor Bird--The Emu Wren 237-269

    THE WRENS (_Troglodytæ_):--The Common Wren. The MARSH WRENS
    (_Thryothorus_):--The Carolina Wren--The House Wren--The
    Flute-player 269-274

    THE PIPITS (_Anthus_):--The Meadow Pipit, or Meadow Titling--The
    Tree Pipit--The Rock Pipit, Shore Pipit, or Sea Titling--The
    Stone Pipit, or Fallow-land Pipit. The SPURRED PIPITS
    (_Corydalla_):--Richard's Spurred Pipit 274-282

    THE WAGTAILS (_Motacilla_):--The White Wagtail--The Pied
    Wagtail--The Dhobin--The Rock Wagtail--The Mountain Wagtail. The
    SHEEP WAGTAILS (_Budytes_):--The Cow or Meadow Wagtail--Ray's
    Wagtail--The Velvet-headed or Sheep Wagtail--The Yellow-headed
    Wagtail--The Gomarita, or Garden Wagtail. The SWALLOW WAGTAILS
    (_Enicurus_):--The MENINTING 282-292

    THE ACCENTORS (_Accentor_). The HEDGE SPARROWS, or HEDGE WARBLERS
    (_Tharraleus_, or _Accentor_):--The Hedge Sparrow, or Hedge
    Warbler--The Siberian Accentor--The Alpine Accentor 292-296

    THE TITS (_Parus_). The CRESTED WRENS or KINGLETS
    (_Regulus_):--The Golden-crested Wren--The Dalmatian Wren--The
    Fire-crested Wren--The Satrap Crowned Wren--The Ruby Crowned
    Wren. The _Penduline Titmice_ (_Ægithalus_):--The True Penduline
    Titmouse. The REED TITMICE (_Panurus_):--The Bearded Titmouse.
    The LONG-TAILED TITS (_Orites_):--The Long-tailed Titmouse. The
    CRESTED TITS (_Lophophanes_):--The Crested Tit--The Toupet Tit.
    The WOOD TITS (_Parus_):--The Great Tit--The Sombre Tit--The Cole
    Tit. The BLUE TITS:--The Blue Tit--The Azure Tit--The Siberian
    Tit--The Marsh Tit--The Carolina Titmouse--The Black-cap Titmouse
    296-320



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


COLOURED PLATES.

    PLATE XI.--THE ANGOLA VULTURE.

      "   XII.--THE JAVA OWL.

      "   XIII.--THE TAWNY GOATSUCKER.

      "   XIV.--THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE.

      "   XV.--THE PURPLE-CRESTED CORYTHAIX.

      "   XVI.--EGGS.

      "   XVII.--EGGS.

      "   XVIII.--THE NIGHTINGALE.

      "   XIX.--THE AZURE PITTA.

      "   XX.--THE ORONOKO CORACINA.


WOOD ENGRAVINGS.

    FIG.        PAGE

    1. The Gos Hawk (_Astur palumbarius_)      4

    2. Eagles      8

    3. The Golden Eagle (_Aquila chrysaëtos_)      12

    4. The Imperial Eagle (_Aquila imperialis_)      13

    5. Bold Wedge-tailed Eagles (_Uroaëtos audax_)      16

    6. The Tufted Eagle (_Lophoaëtos occipitalis_)      20

    7. The Harpy Eagle (_Harpyia destructor_)      24

    8. The Sea Eagle (_Haliaëtos albicilla_)      25

    9. The White-headed Sea Eagle (_Haliaëtos leucocephalus_)      28

    10. The African Screaming Sea Eagle (_Haliaëtos
    vocifer_)      29

    11. The Short-tailed Kite (_Helotarsus ecaudatus_)      33

    12. The Parasite Kite (_Hydroictinia parasitica_)      40

    13. The Red or Royal Kite (_Milvus regalis_)      41

    14. The Swallow-tailed Kite (_Nauclerus furcatus_)      42

    15. The Reed Kite or Marsh Harrier (_Circus rufus_)      45

    16. The Snake Buzzard (_Circaëtos brachydactylus_,
    or _Circaëtos Gallicus_)      48

    17. The Common or Mouse Buzzard (_Buteo vulgaris_)      53

    18. The Carancho or Traro (_Polyborus vulgaris_ or
    _Brasiliensis_)      60

    19. Track across the Pampas      61

    20. The Secretary, or Crane Vulture (_Gypogeranus
    serpentarius_)      64

    21. Vultures feasting      65

    22. The Bearded Vulture, or Lämmergeier (_Gypaëtos
    barbatus_)      68

    23. The Condor (_Sarcorhamphus gryphus_, or _Sarcorhamphus
    condor_)      72

    24. The King of the Vultures (_Sarcorhamphus
    papa_)      73

    25. The Tawny Goose Vulture (_Gyps fulvus_)      76

    26. The Monk Vulture (_Neophron pileatus_)      79

    27. African Vultures (_Gyps fulvus_)      80

    28. The Scavenger, or Egyptian Vulture (_Percnopterus
    stercorarius_, or _Neophron Percnopterus_)      81

    29. The Urubu (_Cathartes aura_)      83

    30. The Snow Owl (_Nyctea nivea_)      88

    31. The Stone Owl (_Athene noctua_)      89

    32. The Uhu at bay      92

    33. The Uhu (_Bubo maximus_)      93

    34. The Virginian Uhu (_Bubo Virginianus_)      96

    35. The Marsh Owl (_Otus brachyotus_)      97

    36. The Tree Owl (_Syrnium aluco_)      100

    37. The Barn Owl (_Strix flammea_)      101

    38. Tail-piece      103

    39. The Chimney Swallow (_Cecropis Hirundo rustica_)      105

    40. The Thread-tailed Swallow (_Cecropis Uromitus
    filifera_)      108

    41. The Martin (_Chelidon urbica_)      109

    42. The Ariel (_Chelidon Ariel_)      113

    43. The Klecho (_Dendrochelidon Klecho_)      116

    44. Salanganes      117

    45. The White-throated Prickly-tailed Swift
    (_Acanthylis caudacuta_)      120

    46. The Steeple Swift (_Cypselus apus_)        121

    47. The European Goatsucker (_Caprimulgus Europæus_)        128

    48. The Whip-poor-Will (_Antrostomus vociferus_)        129

    49. The Lyre-tailed Night Jar (_Hydropsalis forcipata_)        130

    50. The Oil Bird (_Steatornis Caripensis_)        133

    51. The True Dwarf Owl Swallow (_Ægotheles
    Novæ Hollandiæ_)        137

    52. The Giant Owl Swallow (_Podargus humeralis_)        139

    53. The Sentinel Butcher Bird (_Lanius Excubitor_)        144

    54. Butcher Bird and Fly-catchers        145

    55. The Falcon Shrike (_Falcunculus frontatus_)        148

    56. The Flute Shrike (_Laniarius Æthiopicus_)        149

    57. The Helmet Shrike (_Prionops poliocephalus_)        152

    58. The Magpie Shrike (_Cracticus destructor_)        153

    59. The True Tyrant Shrike, King Bird, or Tyrant
    Fly-catcher (_Tyrannus intrepidus_)        160

    60. The Scissor Bird (_Milvulus tyrannus_)        161

    61. The Paradise Fly-catchers (_Tersiphone paradisea_)        165

    62. The Collared or White-necked Fly-catcher
    (_Musicapa albicollis_)        172

    63. The Silk-tail, Bohemian Chatterer, or Wax-wing
    (_Bombycilla garrula_)        173

    64. The Cock of the Rock (_Rupicola crocea_)        176

    65. The Diamond Bird (_Pardalotus punctatus_)        179

    66. The Capuchin Bird, or Bald Fruit Crow (_Gymnocephalus
    calvus_)        180

    67. The Umbrella Bird, or Umbrella Chatterer
    (_Cephalopterus ornatus_)        181

    68. The Nightingale (_Luscinia Philomela_)        185

    69. The Swedish Blue-throat (_Cyanecula Suecica_)        189

    70. The Robin Redbreast (_Erythaca rubecula_, or
    _Rubecula silvestris_)        192

    71. The Garden Redstart (_Ruticilla phœnicura_, or
    _Phœnicura ruticilla_)        193

    72. The Black-throated Meadow Warbler (_Pratincola
    rubicola_)        196

    73. The Wheatear (_Saxicola œnanthe_)        197

    74. The Eared Stone Chat (_Saxicola aurita_)        200

    75. The Stone Thrush, or Rock Wagtail (_Petrocincla
    Turdus saxatilis_)        201

    76. The Bush Warbler (_Thamnolæa albiscapulata_)        204

    77. The Song Thrush (_Turdus musicus_)        208

    78. Fieldfares        209

    79. The Redwing (_Turdus iliacus_)        210

    80. The Blackbird (_Turdus merula_)        212

    81. The Mocking Bird (_Mimus polyglottus_)        213

    82. The Cat Bird (_Galeoscoptes Carolinensis_)        217

    83. The Grey Bird (_Pycnonotus arsinoë_)        219

    84. The White-rumped Babbler (_Crateropus leucopygius_)        221

    85. The White-tufted Laughing Thrush (_Garrulax
    leucolophus_)        222

    86. Water Ouzels and Kingfisher        224

    87. The Water Ouzel, or Dipper (_Cinclus aquaticus_)        225

    88. The Tapacolo (_Pteroptochus megapodius_)        232

    89. The Lyre Bird (_Menura superba_)        233

    90. The Sparrow-hawk Warbler (_Curruca nisoria_)        239

    91. The Orpheus Warbler (_Curruca Orphea_)        241

    92. The White Throat (_Curruca cinerea_)        245

    93. The Spectacled Warbler (_Curruca conspicillata_)        248

    94. The Field Tree Warbler, or Willow Wren
    (_Phyllopneuste Trochilus_)        253

    95. The Chiff-Chaff (_Hippolais rufa_)        256

    96. The Reed Warbler (_Acrocephalus turdoides_)        257

    97. The Sedge Warbler (_Calamodus phragmitis_)        260

    98. The Long-tailed Tailor Bird (_Orthotomus longicauda_)        265

    99. The Emu Wren (_Stipiturus malachurus_)        268

    100. The Common Wren (_Troglodytes parvulus_)        269

    101. The Tree Pipit (_Anthus arboreus_)        276

    102. The Rock Pipit (_Anthus petrosus_)        277

    103. The Fallow-land Pipit (_Agrodroma campestris_)        280

    104. Wren and Wagtails        281

    105. The White Wagtail (_Motacilla alba_)        284

    106. The Mountain Wagtail (_Calobates sulphurea_)        288

    107. The Meninting (_Enicurus coronatus_)        293

    108. The Alpine Accentor (_Accentor Alpinus_)        296

    109. The Golden crested Wren (_Regulus vulgaris_,
    _flavicapillus_, or _auricapillus_)        300

    110. Bearded and Penduline Tits        304

    111. The Long-tailed Titmouse (_Orites caudatus_)        308

    112. The Great Tit (_Parus major_)        313



    _CASSELL'S_
    BOOK OF BIRDS.



CATCHERS (_Captantes_).--Continued.



THE HAWKS.


THE HAWKS (_Accipitres_) are a group of birds that rival the Falcons in
rapacity, but are entirely without those qualities popularly supposed
to lend a certain nobility to the murderous propensities of their more
favoured relatives.

The HAWKS are recognisable by their compact body, long neck, and small
head, their short rounded wings, very long tail, and high tarsi; the toes
vary considerably in size. The beak is less vaulted and more compressed
at its sides than in the Falcons; the tooth-like appendages are placed
further back, and are less distinctly developed, and the bare circle
around the eye is entirely wanting. The plumage is thick and soft,
usually dark blueish grey above, and of a lighter shade upon the lower
parts of the body, the latter being often darkly striped. Old birds of
both sexes are alike in plumage, but the young differ considerably from
their parents. The members of this family are found throughout the whole
world, some species being confined to a comparatively limited extent of
country, whilst others are to be met with everywhere. All frequent woods
and forests, from whence they sally forth to find their food in the
fields and valleys of the surrounding country. Hawks seldom fly to any
great altitude; they move with great rapidity, altering their course at
once with the utmost facility, and passing in and out among the branches
and bushes with the dexterity of a Martin; they run swiftly upon the
ground, assisting their progress with their wings. Their eyrie is usually
built upon high trees, and is by some species prettily decked with green
twigs, which are renewed from time to time. The eggs are numerous, and
during the period of incubation the parent birds will fiercely attack
even men should they attempt to molest the brood. Some few species have
been trained for hunting purposes, but these attempts have almost always
proved unsuccessful.


THE LAUGHING HAWK.

The LAUGHING HAWK (_Herpetotheres cachinnans_) is a South American bird,
to which we have assigned the first place, inasmuch as in some respects
it resembles the Falcons; the name it bears has been given to it on
account of the very peculiar sound of its loud and resonant voice. Its
distinguishing characteristics are its comparatively large head, which is
profusely covered with feathers, and the robust development of the hinder
parts of its body. The wings when closed reach to the middle of the tail,
their primaries are narrow and pointed, the third and fourth quills
being longer than the rest; the tail is long, the exterior feathers
somewhat shortened; the tarsi are of moderate height and strength, the
toes small, and the claws remarkably short and thick; the beak is short,
much compressed at its sides, and terminates in a short hook; the lower
mandible is shallow, and bifurcated at its tip; the region of the eye is
bare, and the body covered with long-pointed and strong-shafted feathers.
In size the Laughing Hawk resembles its European congeners; the plumage
is pale yellow from the top of the head to the nape, each feather having
a black shaft; the bridles, nape, and cheeks are black, the mantle
brown, the feathers being bordered with a lighter shade; the entire
lower portion of the body and a stripe upon the neck are white, which
changes into red upon the breast and legs; the upper part of the tail is
black, its under portion whitish yellow, tipped with white and ornamented
with six or seven grey stripes; the inner web of the brown quills which
form the wings is shaded from reddish yellow to white, and edged with a
delicate irregular brown line; the eye is reddish yellow, the beak black,
the cere and legs are yellow.


THE DOUBLE-TOOTHED HAWK.

The DOUBLE-TOOTHED HAWK (_Harpagus bidentatus_) resembles the Falcons
in its general form, but is recognisable by its comparatively small
head, long broad tail, and short wings. The beak is very peculiar in its
construction, the upper portion being excised immediately behind the hook
at its tip, and the lower mandible, which terminates abruptly, has near
its extremity two sharp teeth at each side; the third quill of the wings
is longer than the rest, the tarsi are short, and of the same length as
the toes. This bird, of which there are two species, is only found in
South America.

The _Guaviao_, as the Double-toothed Hawk is called by the Brazilians,
is thirteen and a half inches long and twenty-six inches broad; the wing
measures eight inches, and the tail six inches. The plumage upon the
upper part of the body is blackish grey, embellished with a metallic
lustre; the under portions are reddish brown, with narrow white stripes
upon the throat; the rump is also white, the quills of the wings are
brown, ornamented with an irregular border, which is pure white upon the
inner web; the tail is black above, brown beneath, and marked with three
broad and crooked lines; the eye is light carmine, the cere greenish
yellow, the beak blackish grey, and the feet of a beautiful reddish
yellow. The plumage of the young is brown above and white beneath,
delicately marked with undulating brown lines of various shades.


THE SPARROW HAWK.

The SPARROW HAWK (_Nisus communis_) is the European representative of
a very numerous group distributed throughout the world. These birds
(see Coloured Plate IX.) are distinguished by their elongated body,
small head, and delicate beak, furnished with a very sharp hook at the
extremity of the upper mandible; the wings are short, tail long, and
short at its tip; the tarsi are high and weak, the toes long and slender,
and armed with extremely sharp claws. The plumage varies but little in
its colour. This species is about one foot long, and two broad; the
wing measures seven inches and two-thirds, and the tail six inches; the
female is about three inches longer and five inches broader than her
mate. In the full-grown bird the entire upper portion of the body is
blackish grey, the under parts are white, marked with undulating reddish
brown lines; the shafts of the feathers are also of the latter hue, and
brighter in colour in the male than in the female; the tail is tipped
with white, and has five or six black stripes. In the young birds the
upper portion of the body is a greyish brown, beneath the throat white,
striped with brown; the belly and legs are ornamented with irregular
spots, the beak is blue, the cere yellow, the iris golden yellow, and the
feet pale yellow.

The Sparrow Hawk inhabits the whole of Europe and Central Asia; it is
stationary in some parts of the latter continent, but migrates from
Europe as winter approaches, and seeks a warmer climate in Northern
Africa or India, appearing, according to Jerdon, in the latter country
about the beginning of October, and leaving about February or March. This
species makes its home principally in woodland districts, preferring such
regions as are mountainous or hilly, and is more numerous in the central
portions of Europe than in the extreme south. Despite the shortness of
its wings, the Sparrow Hawk flies with ease and rapidity, but when upon
the ground it hops in the most ungainly manner. Towards such of its
feathered brethren as are larger than itself it exhibits no trace of
fear, and pounces upon its prey with a dexterity and courage that will
bear comparison with the demeanour of the noblest of its congeners. In
these encounters, the female bird has decidedly the advantage over her
mate, and can bear the brunt of a battle to which his strength would be
quite inadequate. Instances have been recorded in which this Hawk has
been so eager in the pursuit of its prey as to follow the victim even
into a house or wagon, and we lately heard of one darting into a railway
carriage when in rapid motion in order to secure its prize. Birds of all
sizes, including domestic fowls, are boldly attacked; Naumann mentions
having even seen a Sparrow Hawk swoop down and fasten itself upon the
back of a Heron. Small quadrupeds are devoured by these birds in great
numbers, and they will sometimes stoop upon hares, but whether this is
done with any hope of overcoming them, or merely for pleasure, we have
not been able to ascertain. In so much dread is this formidable enemy
held by the objects of its attack, that on its approach some birds will
throw themselves as though dead upon the ground; others will make for
their hiding-place with such devious turnings from the direct path as
baffle even the skilful steering of their pursuer, and then dart into
the inmost recesses of some protecting bush, and thus place themselves
for the time in safety. Such of the swift-flying smaller birds as do not
hold the Sparrow Hawk in dread, avenge themselves by following it boldly
with loud cries whenever it appears; and so annoying does this reception
prove to the tyrant of the woodland, that on the approach of some species
of Swallows, whose flight is too rapid to admit of revenge, it will soar
at once high into the air and beat a hasty retreat to its forest glades.
The prey of the Sparrow Hawk is usually conveyed to some quiet spot to be
devoured at leisure; the large quills are then pulled out and the carcase
devoured piecemeal, the indigestible portions, such as bones, feathers,
and hair, being subsequently ejected from the mouth, collected into large
balls called castings; it also frequently destroys the eggs and young of
such birds as make their nests upon the ground. The voice of this species
is but seldom heard except during the breeding season. The nest, which is
placed in some thicket at no great elevation, is built of small branches
of fir, birch, or pine trees, and the slight hollow that forms the bed
for the young is lined with down from the body of the female parent. The
eggs, from three to five in number, are large, and very various both in
shape, colour, and size; the shell is thick, smooth, white, or greyish or
greenish white, and more or less distinctly marked with spots of reddish
brown or greyish blue, sometimes lying thickly together and sometimes
very sparsely scattered over the surface. The female alone sits upon the
eggs, and testifies the utmost solicitude and affection for her young
brood, retaining her seat upon the nest in spite of repeated alarms, and
doing battle with all intruders. Both parents seek the food necessary
for the young family, though the female only is capable of preparing
morsels delicate enough for the tender beaks of the nestlings, who, we
are told, occasionally perish from hunger should they lose their mother
and be left to the more clumsy ministrations of the male bird. The young
are fed and instructed long after they have left the nest. Most numerous
are the dangers to which the European Sparrow Hawk is exposed, for not
only men, but all such birds as are more powerful than itself pursue it
with unextinguishable hatred and animosity; in some parts of Asia, on
the contrary, it is regarded with favour, owing to the facility with
which it can be trained to hunt the smaller kinds of game, particularly
Quails; in the southern districts of the Ural, according to Eversmann,
large numbers caught in the summer are trained for this purpose, and
after having been employed during the autumn are again let loose in order
to avoid the difficulty of keeping them through the winter months. The
female alone is reared for the chase, the male, when captured, being
allowed to fly again, as useless. In India this bird and another species
are regarded with equal favour, and are employed by the native falconers
in the pursuit of Partridges, Quails, Snipes, Pigeons, and Minas.


THE TRUE HAWK, OR GOS HAWK.

[Illustration: THE GOS HAWK (_Astur palumbarius_).]

The TRUE HAWK, or GOS HAWK (_Aster palumbarius_) resembles the Sparrow
Hawk in many of its features, but differs from that bird in the
compactness of its body, and in the strength of its beak; the tail is
rounded, the feet powerful, and the plumage peculiarly marked. This Hawk
is about one foot and three-quarters in length, and three feet and a half
across; the wing measures twelve inches, and the tail eight and a half;
the female is five inches longer and six inches broader than her mate.
The plumage upon the upper part of the body is blackish brown, more or
less shaded with greyish blue; the lower portions are white, the shafts
of the feathers being brownish black, as are the undulating lines with
which they are ornamented; the beak is greyish brown, the cere, eyes, and
feet pale yellow. In young birds the upper portion of the body is brown,
each feather being bordered and spotted with reddish yellow; the lower
parts are of a reddish shade, and at a later period of a reddish white,
marked with longitudinal brown streaks; the beak, eyes, cere, and feet
are paler than in the adult.

The habitat of the Gos Hawk is as extensive as that of the Sparrow Hawk;
it is found in great numbers in northern countries, and in some districts
may be regarded as stationary; in Southern Europe it is extremely rare,
and, according to our own observation, is seldom met with in Northern
Africa or India. Wooded country, interspersed with fields and valleys,
afford it the localities it prefers, and it is much more numerous in
extensive forests than in comparatively small woods. In its habits this
species is eminently unsocial, living almost invariably alone, except
during the breeding season; its disposition is cunning, wild, and
violent, and its movements active and powerful. When upon the wing, it
may be seen hovering from time to time, and then rushing down upon its
prey with noisy impetuosity; in making a swoop it cleaves the air with
great force, the tail at these times being partly outspread. In the
air the Gos-Hawk is completely master of its movements, and steers its
course with imposing majesty; whilst upon the ground, on the contrary,
its gait is awkward and ungainly, its step being a sort of lame hop. Its
voice consists of a variety of sounds, but is rarely heard; it is loud,
resonant, and extremely unpleasing. So rapacious is this formidable bird,
that its destructive attacks are repeated almost without intermission
during the entire day on birds of all sizes, and even rabbits, squirrels,
and water-fowl may be numbered among its victims, the prey being seized
with equal facility either when running, flying, or swimming; some of
the smaller quadrupeds are so completely paralysed with fear at the
approach of their destroyer that they crouch down incapable of moving a
limb, while the Hawk swoops down upon them with wings almost closed and
talons outspread, producing as it descends a rushing sound, that may
be heard above a hundred paces from the spot. Remarkable anecdotes are
cited by reliable writers of the extreme cunning and intelligence of
these birds when strength proves unavailing. Count Wodzicki tells of a
sagacious Hawk that, when all other means had failed by which it hoped
to seize upon some tempting but wary pigeons, at length decided upon
perching motionless upon a branch, with neck drawn in, so as to simulate
an owl; the _ruse_ completely succeeded, for the birds, fearing nothing
from the huge but helpless looking creature, ventured out and were seized
with a rapidity from which escape was hopeless. The same author mentions
an instance of a trick played upon another flock of pigeons, in which
very different means were adopted; the Hawk in this case, finding that
its hoped-for prey utterly refused to come out and allow themselves to
be caught, at last alighted upon the dove-cot, and beat and stamped
upon it with such violence that the terrified inhabitants were fairly
driven from their retreat. Audubon mentions having seen a Hawk kill five
Blackbirds in succession as a flock was passing the Ohio, the victims
being successively thrown down upon the water until the destroyer had
time to collect them at his leisure; this latter feat was accomplished by
a series of very dexterous movements, and the booty safely deposited upon
dry land. The extraordinary rapacity of the Hawk fully accounts for its
unsocial habits; it would, in fact, be impossible for these birds to live
together; no relation of life appears to excite any natural feeling, even
parents, devour their offspring with the most revolting cruelty--indeed,
so great is their ferocity, that although provided with abundance of
other food, they cannot restrain their murderous propensities, if brought
in contact with birds even of their own species. Such of the feathered
denizens of the forest as are sufficiently swift of wing to be able to
elude the Gos Hawk, pursue it fearlessly, and chase it with rude cries
whenever it appears; Crows and Swallows are particularly addicted to
this most harassing mode of avenging the wrongs of their more helpless
companions.

The eyrie of this species is large and shallow, built of green fir or
pine branches, which are added to or renewed from time to time; the bed
for the young is lined with down stripped from the parent birds. Old and
high trees are usually preferred for building purposes, the nest being
placed on a large branch near the main stem; year after year a pair of
Hawks will return to the same spot, at each visit making such repairs as
the eyrie requires, and renewing the green branches. The eggs, two to
four in number, are large, long, and very wide towards the middle; the
shell is thick, rough, of a greenish-white colour, and either entirely
unmarked, or spotted with yellow; the female alone sits, but both parents
guard the nest with jealous care, often attacking men, or even horses
should they approach too near. The young grow very quickly, and are so
voracious that the eyrie often looks like a slaughter-house, the parents
having as much to do as they can manage in catering for their clamorous
family, whose greed is so excessive that they will often fall upon and
destroy each other when too impatient to await a fresh supply of food.
Many and various are the means employed to clear the country of these
destructive birds, but all attempts prove inadequate to cope with the
extreme cunning and sagacity which they display on the approach of
danger. In some parts of Asia their worst qualities are the points on
which the favour of the native falconers is grounded, and by them these
birds are prized as unrivalled for the purposes of the chase; they even
employ them in the pursuit of such large game as hares. When about to
hunt large animals, the legs of the Hawk are carefully covered with a
kind of leather gaiters, to defend them when dragged through bushes and
brambles, as their intended victim endeavours to escape from its clutch;
seldom, however, does it succeed, for the bird holds firmly on with one
foot, keeping the other raised to clear aside the branches, or get a firm
grasp upon a bush, and thus arrest the progress of its quarry when the
proper moment arrives.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SINGING HAWKS (_Melierax_) are an African group, differing somewhat
in shape from their European relatives. Their body is more slender, the
beak less powerful, and the wings longer than in the races hitherto
described; the tail is rounded at its extremity; the tarsi are strong and
high, and the feet provided with comparatively short claws.


THE TRUE SINGING HAWK.

The TRUE SINGING HAWK (_Melierax musicus_), as the largest member of this
group is called, inhabits Southern Africa, and is replaced in the central
portions of that continent by another species (_Melierax polygonus_),
closely resembling it in appearance, though somewhat smaller. In the
latter the plumage on the upper part of the body, throat, and upper
breast, is slate-coloured; the belly, wings, hose, and large wing-covers
are white, striped with delicate grey zig-zag markings. The quills are
brownish black, the tail-feathers of a paler shade, the latter are
tipped with white, and striped three times with a crooked white line;
the iris is of a beautiful brown, the beak dark blue, the cere and feet
bright orange. The length of this bird is about one foot seven inches,
its breadth three feet two inches; the wing measures eleven inches and
two-thirds, the tail eight inches and one-third. The female is about one
inch and a half longer and two inches broader than her mate. The plumage
of the young is brown above, and upon the belly and breast white striped
across with light brown; the sides of the head and a line over the breast
are of the latter colour. The first-mentioned species is similar in its
colour and markings. Le Vaillant, who first described these remarkable
Hawks, tells us that they are numerous in Caffraria, where they usually
frequent the widely scattered trees, and subsist principally upon hares,
partridges, quails, rats, mice, or similar fare. The nest is large, and
contains four pure white eggs. Le Vaillant has given the name of Singing
Hawk to the species, from an extraordinary fact of which he assures us
he had personal experience, namely, that they are capable of pouring out
a flow of song, and sometimes continue their vocal exercise for hours
together. For our own part we have never heard one of these birds sing,
and therefore must abstain from either depreciating or maintaining this
statement; but similar species, carefully observed by ourselves, in the
more northern parts of Africa, were capable of nothing but a prolonged
whistle or piping scream. In appearance alone do these Hawks bear any
resemblance to their European congeners; in their habits they are dull,
extremely indolent, and entirely incapable of the daring exploits that
render other members of their race so formidable; it is by no means
uncommon for them to sit for hours together dozing upon a tree, or lazily
scanning the surrounding country almost too idly even to note the prey
they might easily secure. When in the air their movements resemble in
some respects those of our Hawk, but are entirely without the precision
and rapidity which render that bird so terrible an opponent. Whilst
perched among the branches their appearance is ungainly, as they squat
motionless with head drawn in, staring fixedly at one particular spot.
According to our own experience, they devour toads, grasshoppers, and
various kinds of insects in great numbers; Hartmann tells us that they
will also eat lizards. The prey is usually pounced upon as it goes down
to the water to drink, yet even then, so slow and apathetic is this
bird in its behaviour, that an attempt to seize the victim often proves
abortive. We are entirely destitute of particulars as to the incubation
of this species.


THE SERPENT HAWK.

The SERPENT HAWK (_Polyboroides typicus_) is a very remarkable member
of the Hawk family, inhabiting the same parts of Africa as the bird
last mentioned; a very similar species is also met with in Madagascar.
The Serpent Hawk is recognisable by the smallness of its head and body,
bare cheeks, slender beak, and enormous wings; the tail is long, broad,
and slightly rounded; the tarsi high and thin, and the toes small. The
plumage is dark greyish blue upon the upper portion of the body, front
of neck, and breast; the primary quills are black, the upper secondaries
grey, with a black spot near the tip; the tail-feathers are black tipped
with white, and have a broad white streak across the middle. The belly,
hose, and tail-covers are white, delicately marked with black. The eye is
brown, the beak black, the feet lemon colour, the cere and bare patches
round the eyes pale yellow. The male bird is one foot eleven inches and
a half long, and four feet four inches across the span of the wings;
these latter are sixteen and the tail eleven inches in length; the tarsus
measures three inches and a quarter, and the middle toe not more than one
and a half.

This species is met with throughout the woodland districts of Eastern
Soudan, where it frequents such localities as are in the immediate
vicinity of water, as it there finds in abundance the reptiles on which
it principally subsists. The manner in which this Hawk obtains its prey
is very remarkable, as it is enabled to draw its victims from their holes
by the aid of a most curious contrivance; the tarsus is so constructed
as to allow the foot to be turned in all directions, backwards as well
as to the sides, and the claws being comparatively small, the leg can
be introduced through a very narrow aperture; it is then moved rapidly
into every recess and cranny of the hole, to the inevitable discovery
of its helpless occupant. The Serpent Hawks rarely pass much time upon
the wing, and, indeed, do little more than fly from one tree to another,
exhibiting in all their habits that sluggish and unsocial temperament
common to most reptile-eating birds; they live for the most part alone,
and spend their time in perching lazily on a bough, or flitting from tree
to tree. Verreaux tells us that they will sometimes pursue small birds or
quadrupeds.

       *       *       *       *       *

The succeeding families of RAPTORIAL BIRDS are distinguished by the
circumstance that, although they pursue and kill living prey, they
will likewise occasionally eat carrion; in order, however, to make the
arrangement of this heterogeneous multitude at all clear to the general
reader, we must subdivide them into several different groups.



[Illustration: EAGLES.]

THE EAGLES.


THE EAGLES (_Aquilæ_) are distinguishable by the following
characteristics: their body is stoutly and compactly built, their head
is of moderate size and entirely covered with feathers, and the beak,
which is straight to a considerable distance from its base, terminates
in a curve or hook; the upper mandible is without teeth, but is slightly
waved at its sides; the cere is bare, the tarsi are of moderate size,
strong, and more or less covered with feathers, extending in some cases
down to the toes; these latter are very powerful, often of great length,
and armed with large, much curved, and sharply pointed talons. The
wings of some species reach as far as the end of the tail, in others no
farther than its root; in all they are rounded at the tip, the fourth
and fifth quills being longer than the rest; the tail is long, broad,
and either rounded or straight at its extremity. The plumage consists of
large and usually pointed feathers, rich in texture, often very soft, but
occasionally coarse and harsh. One of the distinguishing features in the
plumage of the Eagle is that the feathers on the back of the head and
nape are either pointed or considerably prolonged. The eye is large and
fiery, and the eyebrows very distinctly marked, thus giving an expression
of fierceness to the face.

A glance at different members of the Eagle tribe will at once convince us
that they do not all belong to the same country or climate. It is true
that they are dispersed over the surface of the whole earth, but each
species has its appointed district; all, however, avoid the abodes of
man, and make their nests in some unfrequented spot. Mountains, forests,
sea-coasts, or the banks of lakes or rivers have each their appointed
forms, while some species roam at large over the open plains of the
countries in which they live. Such members of the family as inhabit the
more northern portions of the globe migrate as winter approaches, and
pass their lives in sweeping from land to land, except at such times as
they are busied with the cares of incubation. In their habits all are
unsocial, keeping company rarely even with individuals of their own race,
except during their winter journeyings, and suffering no intruder to
approach the spot selected as a breeding-place; so strong is this dislike
to society that even when several Eagles are attracted by the same prey
the companionship is merely in appearance, each bird coming and going
without any reference to the movements of the rest. Notwithstanding this
unwillingness to join company with others, even of their own species,
they are much attached to their mates, each pair living in close
companionship throughout their whole lives, and frequently permitting
smaller birds to make their nests in close proximity, either regarding
them as entirely beneath their notice, or, perhaps, feeling that such
despicable morsels are not worth the long and troublesome chase which
their pursuit would necessitate. To some members of the Eagle family the
name of Hawk Eagles has been assigned, on account of their very decided
resemblance to the Hawk, not merely in appearance, but in disposition.

Though unable to cleave the air with the rapidity of the Falcon, the
flight of an Eagle is extremely imposing, as it rises with slow and
majestic strokes of its large wings, steering its course by the aid of
its tail, or hovers for minutes at a time without any apparent effort;
when descending to seize its prey its movements are somewhat more rapid,
but are not to be compared with the stoop of the Hawk. While upon the
ground nothing can be more clumsy than the mode of progression employed
by these large birds; they hop, or rather jump, with a most peculiar
step, at the same time helping themselves along with their wings; far
different is their appearance when they are seen perched with body erect
upon some tree, from whence they gaze upon the world beneath with a calm
dignity worthy of the royalty not unfrequently assigned to them. The
sight of the Eagle is more highly developed than any other sense; it
also hears well, and exhibits a marked dislike to any sharp sound. Many
wonderful tales have been circulated as to the power of appreciating
odours possessed by these birds, but for our own part we consider
these accounts as much exaggerated. All the members of the family are
intelligent, prudent, in some cases cunning, and they have such an
appreciation of their own strength as to impart an air of nobility to
their demeanour even towards man himself. When in pursuit, Eagles exhibit
great fierceness, and seem to enjoy the full excitement of the chase;
even such large quadrupeds as foxes fall victims to their ferocity, and
the swiftest inhabitants of the air are not safe from their pursuit;
instances are on record in which man himself has had to combat the
attacks of these bold and audacious birds.

The eyries built by the various species of Eagles differ but little in
appearance; all are exceedingly large, broad, and very shallow. They are
formed of boughs, sometimes of considerable thickness, on these are
placed smaller branches, and the interior is then padded with twigs upon
which the leaves have been left, in order to form a warm bed. These nests
are usually constructed upon a tree, or upon some rocky precipice. The
breeding season varies according to the climate; the eggs often but one,
rarely three in number, are incubated by the female alone. Both parents,
however, assist in rearing their progeny, and have been known to fly to
a distance of many miles in search of food for their hungry family. The
nestlings are tended for some time after they are fully fledged.

       *       *       *       *       *

Foremost among the Eagles three species stand pre-eminent, and have been
celebrated and dreaded from the most ancient times. These form the group
of TRUE EAGLES, and are recognisable by their powerful bodies, large and
well-shaped heads, and broad long wings, which reach to the end of the
tail; in the wings the fourth quill is longer than the rest; the tail
is long, and the legs strong and of moderate height; the beak is large,
the upper mandible curves very decidedly from the cere downwards, and
bulges outwards at its sides; the eyes, which are of great size, lie
partly concealed under the projecting brows; the feet are powerful and of
moderate length, the claws large, curved, and sharp. The plumage is rich
and soft, and its feathers pointed, those at the back of the head and on
the nape being slender and elongated; the tarsi are feathered down to the
toes.

Thus far we have described collectively the three species forming the
family of True Eagles; but, to avoid confusion, we will now speak of the
Tawny, the Golden, and the Imperial Eagles, each under its proper heading.


THE TAWNY EAGLE.

The TAWNY EAGLE (_Aquila fulva_), the largest, strongest, and most
compactly built member of the family, is from two and three-quarters
to three feet in length, and from six and two-thirds to seven feet in
breadth; the wing measures from one foot two inches to two feet, and
the tail thirteen or fourteen inches. The largest of these measurements
applies to the female bird. When the plumage is in its full beauty,
the head and back of the neck are brownish yellow, and the rest of the
feathers of a uniform dark brown; the tail is white, striped, or spotted
with black at its upper portion, the lower half entirely black; the hose
are almost white. Naumann tells that only the two centre tail-feathers
are of equal length, those towards the sides being slightly graduated.


THE GOLDEN EAGLE.

The GOLDEN EAGLE (_Aquila chrysaëtos_) is much more slenderly built and
has a smaller head than the bird above described, but the wings and tail
are longer, and the former do not extend as far as the extremity of the
tail. The male is three feet long and seven feet and a quarter across
the span of the wings; the wing measures two feet four inches and the
tail thirteen inches; the female is three feet two inches in length, and
seven feet and a half across. The plumage is lighter than that of the
Tawny Eagle, and more of a reddish brown upon the breast, hose, and lower
tail-covers; the region of the shoulder is indicated by a white spot;
the tail is always brownish grey, marked with irregular crooked black
lines, and the black stripes are narrower than in the preceding species.
All the feathers that compose the tail are of equal length, except the
two outer ones, which are somewhat shortened; the lower part of the wing
is always very dark, and often entirely without markings. The plumage
of the young is darker, and without the white patch in the shoulder,
and the reddish-brown feathers on the back of the head and neck, that
characterise the adult bird.


THE IMPERIAL EAGLE.

The IMPERIAL EAGLE (_Aquila imperialis_) is considerably smaller than
the preceding, not exceeding two feet and a half to two feet and
three-quarters in length; its breadth across the wings is from six to
six feet and two-thirds, the wing measures from two, to two feet and a
quarter, and the tail from ten, to twelve inches and a half. The female
is of the same size as the male Tawny Eagle. The body of this species is
compact, and the wings so long that they extend beyond the comparatively
short tail. In the adult the plumage is of a dark, somewhat variegated,
brown; the head and nape are reddish yellow, and the shoulders are
ornamented with a white patch; the tail-feathers are grey, striped
with black. The plumage of the young is tawny, marked longitudinally
with dark brown. Both the Golden and Tawny Eagles are found throughout
all such countries of Europe as possess high mountains or extensive
forests, and both are met with in many parts of Asia and North America.
The Imperial Eagle, on the contrary, inhabits the south-eastern portion
of our continent from Hungary to Mongolia; Jerdon tells us that it not
only visits India during its migrations, but breeds there. This last
species frequents open tracts of country, whilst the Tawny and Golden
Eagles prefer rocky districts, the former always building amongst the
mountain fastnesses, and the latter occasionally making her eyrie among
the branches of one of the gigantic trees of the forest. The Imperial
Eagle also makes its nest upon trees, and often at no great distance
from the abodes of man. All these birds have many habits in common; they
commence their pursuit of prey long after the sun rises, and confine
their excursions within the limits of a certain district. Both mates hunt
together, but the possession of some delicate morsel which one or other
refuses to share with its companion is often a cause of strife between
them. The chase lasts till noon, when they retire to rest in some quiet
spot, and remain perched with drooping plumage, but with ever watchful
eye, whilst the work of digestion is going on. When this period of repose
is over they fly in search of water, not only drinking largely, but
bathing in the cooling stream. The afternoon is passed in the same manner
as the morning; and the early part of the evening is spent in soaring
and floating through the air, till darkness has closed around, when
the wary couples quietly retire to their safe and often unapproachable
sleeping-places. The force with which these enormous birds clutch their
prey is so violent that the entrance of a Golden Eagle's claws into the
sides of its victim can be distinctly heard, and its flesh is often
partially devoured before life is extinct.

Many tales are told of Eagles having carried off young children, and we
know instances in which they have attacked man himself. Naumann mentions
an amusing example that came under his own notice, a Tawny Eagle in his
possession having been captured under the following circumstances:--This
rash and hungry bird, he tells us, was tempted to seize upon a fine fat
pig as it ran about its native village; but the pig was so obstinate as
to appear by no means inclined to leave this world quietly, and uttered
such piercing cries as brought a passer-by to its assistance. The
peasant succeeded in dislodging the Eagle, who, however, determined not
to be entirely baffled, pounced upon a cat that was contemplating the
struggle, and flew with pussy to a neighbouring hedge. Exasperated at
this second attack, the man rushed into a cottage, seized a loaded gun,
and returned in the hope of saving the second victim; but no sooner did
the Eagle observe the approach of this disturber of its quiet enjoyment
than it darted upon him and attacked him with such fury that he was with
difficulty saved by the people who ran in answer to his cries for help,
and at last succeeded in taking the bird prisoner.

When about to devour their prey these birds always retire to some
spot where they are likely to be unmolested; even whilst the work of
destruction is slowly going on they pause from time to time and listen
attentively, in the fear that an intruder is at hand. The entire
carcase is in most cases consumed, the head being first devoured, and
then the rest of the body; even the bones are crushed and swallowed,
but the entrails are rejected. The hair or feathers would seem to be
actually necessary to digestion, seeing that they are swallowed in large
quantities, probably for the purpose of clearing out their stomachs,
where they become formed into balls, which are rejected every few days in
the shape of "castings." When hair or feathers are not obtainable they
will swallow hay or straw, apparently for a like purpose. The eyrie is
built about the month of March. The eggs, which are comparatively small,
are round, rough-shelled, white or greenish grey, and irregularly marked
with spots of various shapes and sizes; those of the Tawny Eagle are the
largest, and those of the Golden Eagle the smallest eggs of the three;
in other respects they so closely resemble each other that the eyries
are frequently mistaken. The eggs are sometimes three in number, but it
is rare to find more than one, or at any rate two nestlings. The female
broods for five weeks, and is assisted by her mate in the heavy duty
of providing food for the family. If taken from the nest young, Eagles
may be easily tamed, and become much attached to those who feed them;
if carefully tended they often attain a great age, and instances are on
record of their having lived for upwards of a century in confinement.

[Illustration: THE GOLDEN EAGLE (_Aquila chrysaëtos_).]

We learn from Pallas and Eversmann that the Tawny and Golden Eagles
are extensively employed by the Bashkirs for hunting purposes. The
inhabitants of Mongolia set a high value upon the wing and tail feathers
of these birds, offering them to their gods, and also employing them to
feather their arrows; they never willingly hurt an Eagle, and should such
an accident occur, it is despatched with the utmost promptitude, in
order to avoid the anger of the bad spirits. It is a remarkable fact that
these strange superstitions are shared by the American Indians, by whom
the body of an Eagle, coloured with red paint, and surmounted with the
tail of a rattlesnake, is often employed to symbolise some notable deed
of daring. Some tribes regard the plumes as tokens of bravery, placing a
feather upon their heads for every enemy they kill, and, when engaged in
war, often fasten these feathers to their weapons, or wear them in their
hair.

[Illustration: THE IMPERIAL EAGLE (_Aquila imperialis_).]


THE SPOTTED EAGLE.

The SPOTTED EAGLE (_Aquila nævia_) is met with in great numbers in
Germany, Russia, and some of the southern parts of our continent; it also
inhabits Asia, and during the winter is frequently seen in North Africa.
This species is not more than from twenty-five to twenty-seven inches in
length, and from five feet four inches to five feet eight inches broad;
the wing measures from eighteen to nineteen inches and three-quarters,
and the tail from nine and a half to ten inches. In the adult the plumage
is of a uniform brown, darkest and most glossy upon the back; the back
of the head is yellowish red or pale fawn colour; the centre quills are
distinctly striped, the upper and lower wing-covers bordered with a
light shade; the tail-feathers are numerously striped and mottled, or are
of a uniform colour, with a light tip; the upper tail-covers are brownish
yellow. In the young birds the plumage is variegated, the feathers being
for the most part brown, and spotted with light yellow on both sides of
the shaft and at the tip; in some instances the wings of the young have a
beautiful border; the hose and lower wing-covers are a mixture of brown
and dirty white.

The Spotted Eagle and its congeners for the most part frequent marshy
or boggy country, and are found in large numbers in woodland districts.
Each pair seems to live within a certain limited space, in the centre
of which the eyrie is built; and so attached are they to the spot they
have selected for a home, that it is almost impossible to drive them to
other quarters; even should the eggs or young be destroyed, the parents
will not quit the eyrie, or only leave it to erect another a few yards
from the old nest. In the northern parts of Europe the Spotted Eagle
is met with during the summer, appearing early in March, and leaving
about October, some few remain throughout the winter. In fierceness and
daring this species is far inferior to any other member of the group
to which it belongs; its manners are gentle and its disposition timid,
as may at once be seen by the expression of its eye. When perched, its
appearance is extremely ignoble; but when on the wing it exhibits some
of the dignity characteristic of its race, and often passes whole hours
in performing beautiful gyrations through the air. This Eagle destroys
small birds, mice, and frogs in great numbers; it perches like a Buzzard
upon a tree, stone, or post, and from thence peers around in the hope
of descrying a victim; should its observations prove successful, it at
once rapidly descends to seize its prey, which is sometimes pursued
with a kind of hopping gait; it also devours carrion with the avidity
of a vulture. The voice of this species is very loud and resonant, and
when the bird is pleased its sound is not disagreeable. Birch-trees are
usually preferred for building purposes, and where these are not to be
found, fir or pine trees are selected; the eyrie, which is small and very
carelessly constructed, is flat, and ornamented with green branches. The
egg--for there is usually but one--is either oval or round; the shell is
white, with pale blueish grey, reddish brown, or yellow spots, more or
less distinctly laid on; some are prettily adorned with a wreath of spots
round the centre. The female sits for three weeks, and, should she be
driven from her charge, perches upon the nearest tree and utters pitiful
cries; the young are tended by both parents, and fed principally upon
small reptiles; if taken from the nest they are easily tamed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DWARF EAGLES (_Hieraëtos_) are the smallest members of this family,
and have received the name they bear on account of the shortness of
their legs; the two species we are about to describe closely resemble
each other, and are about one foot and a half long, and three feet seven
inches broad; the wing measures thirteen inches and three-quarters and
the tail seven inches and a quarter. The female is one inch and a half
longer and about three inches broader than her mate.


THE BOOTED EAGLE.

The BOOTED EAGLE (_Hieraëtos pennata_) is yellowish white upon the brow,
and striped upon the top of the head with a darker shade; the nape is
reddish brown, the mantle and wings blackish brown, each feather having
a light edge, and thus imparting a mottled appearance to the back and
surrounding the wings with two indistinct borders; the shoulder is marked
with a white spot; the upper sides of the tail-feathers are dark brown,
with a light tip, the lower part is pale grey; the feathers on the lower
portions of the bird are light yellow, with brown lines upon the shafts;
these lines are broadest upon the breast, gradually decreasing until they
are scarcely visible upon the hose; in some old birds these dark markings
are only visible upon a small part of the breast; the eyes are of a pale
bronze tint, the beak light blue at its base and tipped with black, the
feet lemon yellow, and the cere straw colour. The young are of a pale
rust red upon the lower part of the body, but in other respects resemble
their parents. The nestlings are brown above, and reddish yellow beneath;
the shafts of the feathers are not striped, and there is no white upon
the shoulder.


THE DWARF EAGLE.

The DWARF EAGLE (_Hieraëtos minuta_) is pale reddish brown upon the
head and nape, longitudinally marked with black streaks, which are most
prominent upon the fore part of the head; the mantle is brown, the long
shoulder-feathers blackish brown; the tail is pale brown, tipped with a
light shade and surrounded by three or four distinct black borders; the
eyes are encircled by a dark ring; the hose, tarsi, and lower wing-covers
are paler than the rest of the body; this species has also the white
spot upon the shoulders; the eye is brown, the beak blue at the base,
black at the tip; the cere and toes are lemon yellow. The young are light
rust red upon the head, which is distinctly marked with black upon the
fore part; the entire body is paler than that of the older birds, and
the borders upon the tail-covers scarcely perceptible. The habitat of
the Dwarf Eagles lies within the south and south-eastern portions of
our continent; what parts of Asia they inhabit is still unknown, but
the Booted species is found throughout the whole of India and Ceylon,
and breeds in both countries; during the summer they are very common in
Europe, but they migrate either in pairs or flocks as winter approaches,
at which season they visit Egypt and the upper parts of the Nile in
large numbers. In their habits and disposition the Dwarf Eagles are by
no means inferior to the True Eagles, even exceeding the latter birds
in energy and activity, but they do not equal them in prudence and
foresight. Their flight is rapid, powerful, and light; they hover with
ease, and soar high into the air, darting with the rapidity of an arrow
upon their prey, and sometimes flying near the ground while engaged in
its pursuit. When about to perch they select low branches, upon which
they sit erect and motionless, but most carefully observant of all that
passes around them. We have never seen one of these birds alone; they are
always met with either in pairs or small parties, that remain together
even during their migrations. The cry of both species is clear, and has a
piping sound. Birds of very various kinds and many small quadrupeds are
eagerly pursued by the Dwarf Eagle, who prefers woodland districts for
its hunting-grounds, and captures its prey after the manner of the Hawk.
The breeding season commences about the month of April, and the eyrie is
built with slender branches upon the top of a lofty tree. Several pairs
are usually found brooding in close proximity to each other. The eggs,
two in number, resemble those of the Hawk in size, form, and colour. When
first hatched the young are covered with long, light, silky down, which
is yellow upon the top of the head. During such time as the female is
engaged in sitting upon the nest, she is constantly relieved for hours
at a time by her mate, who frequently takes her place, and exhibits the
utmost constancy in his demonstrations of attachment. Wodzicki tells us
that when about to approach its eyrie, the Dwarf Eagle perches upon a
branch at some distance from it, lowers its head, inflates its crop, and
walks slowly into the nest. During the period of incubation, these birds,
if molested, exhibit great courage and fierceness; towards the Screech
Owl in particular they manifest an inveterate hatred, that leads to many
deadly encounters.

       *       *       *       *       *

The WEDGE-TAILED EAGLES (_Uroaëtos_) constitute a group of large birds
that inhabit Australia. In shape and plumage they resemble the True
Eagles, but are distinguishable from them by their elongated powerful
beaks, long and abruptly-graduated tails, and by the lengthy feathers
that adorn the back of the neck.

[Illustration: BOLD WEDGE-TAILED EAGLES (_Uroaëtos audax_).]


THE BOLD WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE.

The BOLD WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE (_Uroaëtos audax_) is three feet one inch
long, and about six feet eight inches broad. The back and sides of the
throat are rust colour, the rest of the body blackish brown. The feathers
of the wings and upper tail-covers are edged and tipped with pale brown.
The eye is yellowish white, the beak is yellowish grey at its root, and
yellow at the extremity; the feet are pale yellow. Another species or
variety is also met with, more slender in form and paler in plumage than
that above described.

The Bold Wedge-tailed Eagles are common throughout Australia, where
they frequent open plains and forests, preferring such localities as
are inhabited by kangaroos. Gould tells us that all that has been said
about the strength, courage, and rapacity of the Tawny Eagle may also
be applied to these birds, whose unremitting attacks upon flocks of
sheep are a cause of constant loss to the colonists; small kangaroos
they destroy in great numbers, but rarely contend with such as are full
grown. Gould also mentions having seen one of these Eagles pursuing a
mother kangaroo with great patience, and watching for the moment when
fatigue would compel her to empty the young from her pouch, and thus
yield them an easy prey. From the same source we learn that they will eat
carrion, and may often be seen perched thirty or forty at a time upon
the carcase of an ox. The eyrie is built upon such high trees as to be
almost inaccessible; in size it varies considerably, as it is enlarged
and repaired from time to time by its owners, who return to the same nest
for many successive years. The outer walls are formed of large boughs,
these again are interwoven with smaller branches, and the interior lined
with leaves and slender twigs. According to Ramsay, the breeding season
is at the end of the summer. The eggs, two in number, are round and rough
shelled, three inches long, and at the thickest part two inches and
three-eighths in diameter; these are white, spotted with red, yellowish
brown, or purple. Many forests contain the remains of large settlements
made by these birds before the white man had penetrated into the interior
of the country. The Bold Wedge-tailed Eagle is often taken young from the
nest by the natives, and when reared exported to Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HAWK EAGLES (_Pseudaëtos Eudolmaëtos_, or _Asturaëtos_) constitute a
group distinguished by their comparatively short wings, that do not reach
the end of the very long tail, and by their high tarsi, feathered even to
the toes, which are armed with long and broad curved talons; the beak is
long, but powerful.


THE HAWK EAGLE.

BONELLI'S HAWK EAGLE (_Pseudactos Bonellii_), as the European
representative of this group is called, is about two feet four inches
long, and four feet ten inches broad; the wing measures one foot four
inches, and the tail ten inches. The female is three inches longer and
four inches broader. Upon the brow the plumage is white, as is also a
streak passing over the eyes; the top of the head and nape are brown,
darkly striped; the upper part of the back is white, its feathers having
blackish-brown spots upon their edges; the mantle is of a uniform dark
brown, and blackish brown at its extremity; the upper tail-covers are
white, mottled with brown; the throat, breast, and centre of belly white,
the shafts of the feathers spotted with black; the upper surface of the
tail is greyish brown, tipped with white, and marked with seven crooked
dark lines; the under side is whitish yellow, spotted with brownish grey.
In the young the top of the head is light red, the nape fawn colour, the
mantle light brown, each feather being bordered with reddish yellow; the
tail is greyish brown above, streaked ten times, and edged with white;
the lower portion of the body is principally of a pale yellowish brown,
the feathers having delicate dark streaks upon the shafts; the belly and
lower wing-covers are dirty reddish white, without any markings. The eye
is bronze colour, the beak greyish blue, the cere and feet greyish yellow.

These Eagles are common in Germany, Greece, and South Italy, and more
numerous than any others in Spain and Algiers, where they frequent bare
mountains; they are also met with in north-western Africa and India,
always resorting to the hilly districts of the latter country. These
birds do not migrate, but wander at large in considerable flocks, except
during the breeding season, when they are extremely unsocial, prudently
permitting none of their companions to approach the nest. In disposition
the Hawk Eagle has much in common with the group whose name it bears,
equalling the Gos-Hawk in courage and hardihood, but far exceeding it in
bodily powers. When upon the wing its movements will bear comparison with
those of the Falcon, but when perched its attitude is much less imposing.
The eye of this species is peculiarly brilliant and fiery in its glance,
clearly indicating the disposition of its owner, whose fierce boldness
often leads it to contend with the largest and most formidable of its
race. Some writers tell us that the Hawk Eagle confines its attacks to
water birds, but this is not the case; in Spain it is numbered amongst
the most terrible invaders of the poultry-yard, whence it will carry off
a good fat hen under the very eyes of its owner. Jerdon mentions having
seen it in India seize upon and bring down Peacocks. The eyrie, which is
usually placed in holes of rocks, is but rarely met with; one found by
Krüper in Greece contained two eggs, the walls were formed of sticks, and
the interior was lined with down. The eggs differed from each other, both
in colour and markings, one being of a dirty white without spots, and the
other pure white, and distinctly speckled. The nest to which we allude
must have been an uncommonly warm cradle for the nestlings, for it was so
placed as to be exposed to the full force of the sun's rays.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HOODED EAGLES (_Spizaëtos_) are slender in form, with short wings,
long tails, and high, powerful feet, one distinguishing character being
the possession of a more or less developed tuft upon the back of the head.


THE MARTIAL HOODED EAGLE.

The MARTIAL HOODED EAGLE (_Spizaëtos bellicosus_) is the largest and
strongest member of this group. This powerful bird is three feet long,
and of great breadth; the wing measures two feet, the tail fourteen
inches. Its plumage is extremely simple; the upper part of the body is a
beautiful brown, the head of a darker shade; the individual quills of the
mantle have a light edge, and the wings a border formed by the light tips
of the feathers that form the large wing-covers; a white stripe passes
over the eyes to the back of the head; the entire lower parts of the body
are white, shaded with blue; the tail is dark brown above, light brown
beneath, and striped crossways with six dark lines; the outer web of the
large quills is black, the inner lighter in colour and darkly striped;
the lower wing-covers are pure white, the eye is greyish brown, the
cere greenish, the beak black, and the feet lead colour. This species,
which is an inhabitant of Africa, has been so little noticed by modern
travellers that in describing its habits we must quote Le Vaillant, who
wrote at the close of the last century; from this source we learn that
the Martial Eagle lives in pairs, which keep together with the greatest
constancy, each couple remaining jealously apart from others of their own
kind. The nest is usually built upon a solitary tree, and from this point
the pair fly forth, and spread terror over the surrounding country. No
bird, however large, is safe from their pursuit, and even when Vultures
and Ravens combine in the hope of collectively routing the common enemy,
they are no sooner face to face with the foe than they are ignominiously
put to flight. These Eagles destroy antelopes and hares in great numbers;
and are, in fact, the tyrants of the districts they inhabit. When on the
wing, their motions are light and rapid; their voice is sometimes harsh
and deep, and at others sharp and penetrating. These birds usually
build upon the summits of trees; sometimes, however, though rarely,
their nest is placed in holes of rocks. The cradle for their young is
formed of three distinct layers, the first being formed of thick and
knotty branches, the second consists of twigs, moss, and large leaves,
and the third is a lining composed of still more delicate and elastic
materials; the whole structure is about four or five feet in diameter,
and so strongly built that it will bear a man's weight; the same nest
is repaired and employed year after year during the entire life of the
couple by whom it was originally constructed. The eggs, of which there
are two, are about three inches long, pure white, and almost round.
The female alone broods, but both parents unite in the enormous labour
required to feed their voracious young, whose gaping mouths they find it
almost impossible to satisfy; indeed, the tales told of the quantity they
devour seem almost to border on the fabulous.


THE TUFTED EAGLE.

The TUFTED EAGLE (_Lophoaëtos occipitalis_), also an inhabitant
of Africa, is considerably smaller than its congeners, and easily
recognisable by the crest that adorns its head. The body is compact, the
wings long, the tail short, and the tarsi high. The plumage is almost
entirely dark brown, deepest in shade upon the belly, and lightest on the
breast; the edges of the wings, the base of the crest, lower wing-covers,
the plumage upon the tarsi, roots of the tail-feathers, and three crooked
streaks passing over the tail are of a whitish hue. The eyes are bright
yellow, the beak greyish blue, dark at its tip, and light towards its
base; the cere is pale yellow, and the feet straw colour. The length
of this bird is about nineteen inches and three-quarters, its breadth
forty-six inches; the wing measures twelve and three-quarters, the tail
seven inches. The female is one inch and a quarter longer and two inches
broader than her mate.

The Tufted Eagle is met with in considerable numbers in the countries
watered by the Upper Nile, where it usually frequents groups of Mimosa
trees, perching amongst the branches for hours together, with eyes half
closed, as it lazily spreads or closes the crest upon its head. At such
times it has very little the appearance of a bird of prey; but should
some poor mouse, rat, pigeon, or squirrel venture near the spot where it
indolently reposes, all the instincts of an Eagle are at once exhibited,
and the apparently idle dreamer darts down upon its victim with a
boldness and rapacity fully equalling that displayed by some European
Hawks; in fact, despite the smallness of its size, it may be regarded
as one of the most terrible of the numerous freebooters inhabiting the
African forests. We learn from Le Vaillant that this species builds upon
trees, and lines its nest with wool or feathers, and that the eggs,
two in number, are almost round, of a whitish colour, and marked with
reddish-brown spots. The Tufted Eagle is but rarely brought to Europe;
indeed, the Zoological Gardens of London, Antwerp, and Hamburg are, we
believe, the only places of public resort that have boasted a living
specimen of this very striking species, whose streaming crest, dark, rich
plumage, and fiery eyes, cannot fail to render it an object of interest.
It may be kept alive for many years in this country if carefully tended,
and is but little sensitive as to climate. A Tufted Eagle that we saw in
confinement was very lively, and uttered its cry lustily, both morning
and evening; but in its general behaviour showed little of the courage
for which it is remarkable in a state of freedom.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DESTROYING EAGLES (_Pternura_) constitute a race of South American
birds, very closely resembling the Tufted Eagle in their general
appearance, but recognisable by the comparative length of their wings (in
which the fifth quill is longer than the rest), and by the shortness of
their toes.


THE URUTAURANA.

The URUTAURANA (_Pternura tyrannus_), the most stately member of this
group, is twenty-six inches in length and fifty in breadth; the wing
measures sixteen and the tail fourteen inches; the female is two
inches longer and three or four inches broader than her mate. In this
species, the head, throat, nape, and upper part of the breast are
black; the plumage of the back is an uniform blackish brown, that of
the lower portions of the body of the same hue, marked with white;
the wing-feathers are ornamented with five or six white lines; the
tail-feathers have similar markings, and are bordered with white, so that
when seen from above they appear of a greyish brown, and on the under
side whitish grey; the plumage upon the legs and feet is also mottled
with white. The young birds are brown or greyish brown, the feathers upon
the back being edged with a lighter shade; the throat is whitish, the
breast yellowish brown, marked with dark spots; the eye orange colour,
the beak greyish black; the cere greyish yellow, and the feet pale yellow.

[Illustration: THE TUFTED EAGLE (_Lophoaëtos occipitalis_).]

The Urutaurana inhabits the forests in the interior of Brazil, but is
never met with in large numbers; indeed, the Prince von Wied, who first
discovered this species, only captured one specimen, and Burmeister
saw but two during his travels. The bird shot by the first-mentioned
naturalist was killed whilst in the act of seizing an opossum. Monkeys
and small quadrupeds of all kinds constitute its usual food. The nest,
which was built upon the branch of a tree, contained but two eggs. These
scanty particulars include all the information that has as yet been
obtained respecting its habits.

Brehm mentions having seen a still rarer species, the _Pternura Isidori_,
in confinement, and tells us that when first caged it proved extremely
fierce and shy, becoming, however, much tamer after a few months. It
would eat every kind of animal food, even fish; but always carefully
examined any new viand before proceeding to devour it. This bird
exhibited perfect indifference to change of climate, frequently remaining
voluntarily exposed to a pelting rain or fall of snow when it could have
readily found shelter beneath the roof of its cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BRAZILIAN EAGLES (_Morphnus_), also inhabitants of the woods of
Brazil, form a race of remarkable birds, concerning whose proper position
there has been great variety of opinion, seeing that they combine the
size, strength, and noble appearance of an Eagle with the shape of the
Sparrow Hawk. All the members of this group possess stout bodies and
large heads; their wings are short, their tails broad and long; the
tarsus is at least twice as long as the middle toe, and but slightly
covered with feathers below the heel, the other parts being protected
with horny plates; the toes are powerful, though short, and armed with
strong, sharp talons; the beak is long, shallow, and comparatively weak;
the upper mandible terminates in an abrupt hook, and its edges bulge
slightly outwards.


THE CRESTED BRAZILIAN EAGLE.

The CRESTED BRAZILIAN EAGLE (_Morphnus Guianensis_) is the species with
which we are most familiar. In length this bird measures twenty-five, in
breadth fifty-seven inches; the wing from fifteen to sixteen, and the
tail from eleven to twelve inches. The long, streaming, and somewhat
owl-like plumage is prolonged at the back of the neck into a crest
six inches long, and varies considerably according to the age of the
specimen. We learn from the Prince von Wied that the head, throat,
breast, belly, rump, and legs are of spotless white, only varied here and
there by a slight yellow shade; the back, shoulders, and wing-covers are
of a pale greyish red, the feathers being spotted and mottled with red;
the quills and tail are blackish brown, edged with a narrow irregular
greyish-red line. Pelzehn considers that the plumage above described
belongs to the young, and tells us that as they increase in age their
feathers become darker. According to this authority, the old birds are
dark brown upon the head and throat, and greenish black upon the whole
of the upper part of the body and breast; the upper tail-covers being
streaked and tipped with white. We must leave it to future naturalists to
decide which of these descriptions is correct.

These Eagles inhabit the whole of South America, frequenting both the
forests near the coast and such fertile spots as are occasionally found
upon the barren steppes; but districts near rivers appear to be their
favourite resorts. According to Schomburghk, they are easily recognisable
by their loud cry, and by the effect of their snowy plumage, which
acquires new beauty by contrast with the deep blue sky under which they
wheel their rapid and varied flight. When about to perch they select the
summit of a lofty tree, and often linger for hours together upon the
same branch, almost motionless, or amusing themselves by playing with
and exhibiting their flowing crests in a variety of positions. We learn
from the Prince von Wied that they subsist principally upon opossums
and monkeys, but will also devour a great variety of small quadrupeds
and birds. The capture of the Crested Brazilian Eagles is attended with
considerable difficulty, and their eyries are almost inaccessible, owing
to the great height of the trees upon which they are built. It would seem
that these birds are by no means inferior to their congeners in courage,
for the Prince von Wied mentions that the specimen he obtained, though it
had been shot through the neck by a large arrow, resisted boldly, both
with beak and claws, when he attempted to take possession of it.


THE HARPY EAGLE.

The HARPY EAGLE (_Harpyia destructor_) is the most formidable of all the
Eagles found in South America. The body of this bird is powerful, its
head large, its tail robust and of considerable length; the wings, on the
contrary, are short and blunt; the beak is unusually high and strong,
very decidedly rounded at its summit, and sharp at the edges, which bulge
outwards below the nostrils, and form a tooth-like appendage; the feet
are stronger than those of any other Bird of Prey, the toes are long,
and armed with very long, thick, hooked talons; the tarsi are partially
covered in front with feathers, the bare places being protected by large
horny plates. The plumage, which is soft and rich, is prolonged into a
large, broad crest at the back of the neck; the head and nape are grey,
the crest, and entire back, wings, tail, upper part of the breast and
sides of the rump, dark slate colour; the tail is ornamented with three
white stripes; the lower portion of the breast and rump are white, the
belly and legs are also white, the former spotted and the latter streaked
with black. The beak and claws are black, the legs yellow, and the eyes
reddish yellow. In the young bird all these markings are indistinct; the
feathers on the back are striped with grey, and those upon the breast and
belly spotted with black. Tschudi gives the length of this species as
being three feet two inches, that of the tail being one foot one inch,
whilst according to Burmeister its size exceeds this measurement. The
middle toe is three inches, the hinder toe one inch and a half long, and
both are furnished with claws an inch and a half in length.

All the large forests of South America, from Mexico to the interior of
Brazil, are inhabited by this large and formidable Eagle, which, although
it occasionally visits the warm valleys interspersed among the mountain
ranges, never leaves them to take shelter on the rocky heights by which
they are surrounded. Such old writers as have treated of the Natural
History of the American continent never fail to mention so destructive
a bird, and about its life and habits many strange fables have been
invented. Fernandez describes the Harpy as being as large as a sheep, and
constantly attacking men; but tells us that notwithstanding its great
fierceness it can be tamed and employed in the chase. Mauduyt repeats
the above statements, and adds thereto that a Harpy with one blow of
its beak, is able to split open a man's skull; stating, moreover, that
these birds are much addicted to this exercise of their powers. Modern
naturalists have refuted these notions, and we will give, in a small
compass, the facts which such men as D'Orbigny and Tschudi have been able
to ascertain by their own observations. According to these authorities,
the Harpy dwells in the moist, well-watered forests of South America,
within the boundaries already indicated, rarely, however, appearing in
the depths of these leafy wildernesses, but frequenting the banks of
rivers, where an abundance of animal life is always to be met with. In
no part of the continent are these birds to be found in great numbers,
doubtless owing to the fact that from time immemorial they have been
hunted by the natives for the sake of their feathers. Like the Hawk,
they are seldom seen on the summits of trees, but sit upon the branches,
whence they rise with short, irregular strokes, and fly with arrow-like
rapidity when in pursuit of prey, swooping upon it with great force,
after describing a few preparatory evolutions.

According to D'Orbigny, these Eagles are of solitary habits, except
during the breeding season. From Tschudi we learn that the Harpy is much
dreaded by the Indians, owing to its devastating attacks upon their
property; indeed, in some woodland districts the inhabitants find it
impossible to keep poultry or small dogs, for so bold and audacious are
these feathered poachers that they have been known to seize a fine fat
hen whilst its owner was standing not a yard from the spot. All such
quadrupeds as are not large, or powerfully armed, fall victims to the
voracity; and Schomburghk was told by the natives that instances are on
record of children having been carried off and devoured. From the same
source we learn that the Sloth is sometimes literally torn piece by
piece from the branches when it cannot be induced to relax its hold by
other means. We need scarcely say that we do not vouch for this latter
statement. By the monkey tribes that swarm and gambol in the South
American forests, the Harpy is regarded with such dread that, should a
frolicsome party be made aware of the approach of their powerful enemy,
the terrified creatures at once beat a hasty retreat to the thickest
parts of the surrounding foliage, uttering the most pitiful cries as
they endeavour to escape from the impending danger, against which all
attempts at defence would be useless. The eyrie of the Harpy is built
upon lofty trees, and the Indians assert that the same nest is employed
for many successive years: the eggs, as far as we can ascertain, have
not as yet been found. These remarkable birds are so highly esteemed by
the native tribes, that the happy possessor of a live Harpy is regarded
with envy and increased respect by his less fortunate neighbours. Upon
the women devolves the task of feeding and tending these valuable members
of the family party, whose feathers, plucked from the wings and tail
twice in the year, afford the owners not only the means of barter for any
article they may desire, but are employed as much-coveted decorations
for the head-dress and accoutrements of a warrior. In Peru, the hunter
who succeeds in capturing a Harpy is allowed the privilege of taking his
prize from door to door, to receive such articles as eggs, maize, or
poultry, in acknowledgment of his prowess.

Pourlamaque informs us that in the countries watered by the Amazon, the
flesh and fat of the Harpy are considered valuable for healing purposes,
both by the native and European inhabitants. Many of these birds have
been brought alive to Europe, but they never become tame; when confined,
they exhibit the most insatiable voracity, devouring every kind of animal
food, but preferring to receive their prey whilst it is still alive. They
appear to feel no affection towards those that feed them, and are so
extremely ferocious that it is impossible to introduce even one of their
own kind into the cage that they occupy.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SEA EAGLES (_Haliaëtos_) constitute a well-defined group of very
large birds, armed with long and powerful beaks, which terminate in
an abrupt hook, and rise but slightly above the cere; the tarsi are
only partially covered with feathers; the talons are long, sharp, and
hooked, and the toes distinctly separate; the wings are large, the third
quill longer than the rest, reaching almost to the tip of the broad and
more or less rounded tail. The plumage is rich, and usually of a grey
colour; the feathers upon the head and nape are only slightly elongated,
but terminate in a sharp point; the tail is _usually_, and the head
_occasionally_, white.


THE SEA EAGLE.

The SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos albicilla_) is met with in large numbers
upon all European sea-coasts. This species is at least two and a half,
generally three feet long, and from seven to eight feet broad; the wing
measures two feet, and the tail one foot. The plumage of the full-grown
birds is greyish brown upon the head and throat, the body is fawn colour,
the wings tipped with black, and the tail with white. The eyes, beak,
cere, and feet are yellow. As the Sea Eagle increases in age, the colours
of its feathers fade, until the upper part of the body is white, and
the lower portion greyish white. The young birds are principally brown,
spotted, or mottled, with white beneath, and have a dark tail.

       *       *       *       *       *

The WHITE-HEADED SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos leucocephalus_), the North
American representative of the species above described, is somewhat
smaller than its European congener, its length not exceeding from two
feet four inches to two feet eight inches; its breadth is from six feet
to six feet nine inches; its wing measures from twenty to twenty-two
inches, and tail ten and a half to eleven and a half inches, according to
the sex. The plumage of the old bird is dark brown upon the body, each
feather being edged with a lighter shade; the head, upper part of the
throat, and tail are of snowy whiteness, and the wings black; the eyes,
cere, beak, and feet are somewhat paler than in the preceding species.
In the young birds the plumage is almost entirely blackish brown, nearly
black upon the head, throat, and nape, and presents a lighter appearance
upon the back, wings, and breast, owing to the feathers having a white
edge. The beak is dark grey, the cere greenish yellow.

[Illustration: THE HARPY EAGLE (_Harpyia destructor_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The SEA EAGLE is found throughout the whole of Europe and a large part of
Asia; it likewise visits Africa regularly during the winter months. It
is certain that more than one species inhabit the European continent,
as those found in the more northerly latitudes greatly exceed in size
those of Southern Europe. We cannot do better than lay before our readers
the description of the habits of this bird as given by Audubon. Near the
border of some large stream, "this ruthless tyrant may be seen perched
in an erect attitude on the highest summit of the tallest tree, from
whence his glistening but stern eye looks down upon the scene beneath. He
listens attentively to every sound, glancing now and then around, lest
even the light tread of the fawn should pass unheard. His mate is perched
on the opposite bank of the river, and, should all be silent, warns him
by a cry to remain patient. At this well-known call the male partly opens
his broad wings, inclines his body a little downwards, and answers to
her voice in tones not unlike the laugh of a maniac; the next moment
he resumes his erect attitude, and all is again silent. Ducks of many
species, the Teal, the Widgeon, the Mallard, and others, are seen passing
and following the course of the current; but the Eagle heeds them not,
they are at this time beneath his attention. The next moment, however,
the wild trumpet-like scream of a yet distant but approaching swan is
heard. A shriek from the female Eagle comes across the stream, for she
is fully as alert as her mate. The latter suddenly shakes himself, and
with a few touches of his beak arranges his plumage. The snow-white bird
is now in sight, her long neck is stretched forward, her eye is on the
watch, vigilant as that of her enemy; she approaches, however, and the
Eagle has marked her for his prey. As the Swan is passing the dreaded
pair, the male Eagle starts from his perch with an awful scream, that
to the Swan's ear brings more terror than the report of a gun. Now is
the moment to witness the Eagle's powers: he glides through the air
like a falling star, and comes upon the timorous quarry, which, in an
agony of despair, seeks by various manœuvres to elude the grasp of his
cruel talons. It mounts, it doubles, and willingly would plunge into the
stream, were it not prevented by the Eagle, which--long possessed of the
knowledge that by such a stratagem the Swan might escape him--forces it
to remain in the air, by attempting to strike it with his talons from
beneath. The poor Swan has now become much exhausted, and its strength
fails it; it is almost at its last gasp, when its ferocious pursuer
strikes with its claws the under side of its wing, and, with irresistible
power, forces the bird to fall in a slanting direction upon the nearest
shore. And now the Eagle presses down his powerful feet, and drives his
talons deep into the heart of the dying Swan; he shrieks with delight
as he feels the last convulsions of his prey, and the female, who has
watched every movement of her mate, now sails to the spot to participate
in the gory banquet."

[Illustration: THE SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos albicilla_).]

Space will not allow us to quote Audubon's description at greater length,
and we must, therefore, endeavour to give particulars of the habits of
the Sea Eagles in as few words as possible. All the various species of
these birds pass their entire lives upon or in the immediate vicinity of
the sea-coast, only ranging further inland during the time that elapses
between leaving the nest and choosing a mate. As far as we can ascertain
it is an extremely rare occurrence to find a pair of Sea Eagles building
upon forest trees, even when the latter are situated in well-watered
districts, if at any great distance from the sea-coast. Except during the
breeding time they are social, and pass the night together, selecting
trees, rocks, or, when the weather is warm, small islands as their
resting-places. At the first dawn of day the whole party is astir, and
hastens at once in pursuit of food, usually preferring such prey as
Ducks, Auks, fish, or the smaller Cetaceans. Homeyer mentions having seen
these bold and powerful birds overcome a fox, in spite of the cunning
usually displayed by the wary quadruped in eluding danger. Sheep and
goats are frequently destroyed. The Sea Eagles dive deep into the water
to obtain fish, seize young dog-fishes as they swim close to the mother's
side, and have been known even to carry off children. In Kamschatka it
is not uncommon for these tyrants of the coast to be drawn under water
and drowned, whilst contending with a dolphin or sturgeon; Lenz mentions
having seen a Sea Eagle on one occasion seize one of the latter, which
was too heavy to be raised from the water; all endeavours of the sturgeon
to drag its enemy beneath the waves proved fruitless; the bird would
not relinquish its hold, and both floated along together, presenting
the appearance of a skiff in full sail. At last some men, who had been
attracted by so strange a sight, came up to the struggling combatants in
a boat, and succeeded in capturing them both.

In comparison with the flight of the True Eagle, the movements of the
Haliaëtos in the air are slow and heavy; upon the ground, however, it
moves with great facility, and can dive to a certain depth. In the
development of its senses it is not inferior to its more noble relatives,
but, unlike them, combines so much cruelty and rapacity with its courage
as to deprive its disposition of that majesty popularly attributed to the
King of Birds. The breeding season commences about March, and though each
male has but one mate during its entire life, many and frequent are the
battles that arise about the possession of these often very hardly-earned
partners. Count Wodzicki gives an interesting account of the pertinacity
and fury with which these disputes are sometimes carried on. Two male
Eagles, he tells us, that came under his own observation, fought almost
incessantly, falling upon each other with beak and claws, and rolling
upon the ground until their feathers flew in all directions and blood
flowed. During these encounters the female sat apart, and rewarded the
victor by her caresses, with the utmost indifference as to which of the
two should obtain her for his mate. After a fortnight spent in constant
battles, the strongest bird remained for the time in possession of the
field, but no sooner did the pair leave their eyrie, after rearing their
young family, than the disappointed rival at once renewed his attacks
with so much ferocity as to kill his adversary, after a short but severe
struggle.

The eyrie of the Sea Eagle is a large structure, from five to seven
feet in diameter, and from one and a half to two feet high, formed
externally of branches as thick as a man's arm, and lined with twigs; the
interior is rendered warm and soft with down plucked from the mother's
breast. The brood consists of from two to four eggs, about three inches
long; the shell is thick, rough, and coarsely grained, sometimes white
without any markings, and occasionally spotted with red or brown. What
period of time elapses before the nestlings escape from the egg is not
yet known, but it has been ascertained that both parents assist in the
work of incubation. The young do not leave the nest until from ten to
thirteen weeks after their birth, and even then return to it at night;
it is only as autumn approaches that they finally withdraw from parental
care. The Sea Eagle is extremely shy, and therefore captured with great
difficulty. In Norway small stone huts are erected for this purpose,
outside which a piece of flesh, fastened to a string, is laid upon the
ground; the other end of the string is held by a man within the hut, who
no sooner perceives that his bait is taken, than he draws up the piece
of meat, which the bird will not relinquish, and by this means usually
succeeds in bringing the huge creature to close quarters, and killing it
or making it prisoner. When caged the Sea Eagle soon becomes tame, and
learns to distinguish its friends amid a crowd of strangers; indeed, so
thoroughly does it accustom itself to its new life, that one with which
we were familiar, having escaped from confinement, used to return every
day to visit its companions, and was at last re-captured while perched
upon their cage. These Eagles have been killed in various counties in
England, and are not uncommon in the rocky parts of the western and
northern counties of Ireland; they are said to be common in Scotland,
and breed in the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland. Dr. Heysham, in his
catalogue of Cumberland animals, says that they breed occasionally in the
neighbourhood of Keswick and Ullswater.


THE AFRICAN SCREAMING SEA EAGLE.

The AFRICAN SCREAMING SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos vocifer_) is pure white upon
the head, throat, nape, and upper part of the breast and tail; the mantle
and quills are blueish black; the edges of the wings, and underside of
the latter, are of a rich brownish red; the eye-rings, cere, and feet,
light yellow; and the beak blueish black. In the young birds the plumage
on the upper part of the head is blackish brown, mingled with white; the
nape and back of the head, white, intermixed with brownish grey. The
upper portion of the shoulders, and lower part of the back, are white,
the feathers tipped with brownish-black spots; the front of the throat
and upper part of the breast are white, streaked with brown; the rest
of the lower portions of the body being entirely white; the quills are
brown, and white at the root; the tail-feathers white, spotted and tipped
with brown. The plumage is moulted many times before the bird appears in
its full beauty. This species is about twenty-eight inches long; the wing
measures nineteen and the tail six inches.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-HEADED SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos leucocephalus_).]

The Screaming Sea Eagle was first seen by Le Vaillant in South Africa,
afterwards by other travellers in Western Africa, and by ourselves in the
interior of that continent, where it appeared to live exclusively upon
the banks of the Blue and White Nile. Le Vaillant, on the contrary, found
it on the sea-coast, and only exceptionally near large rivers. It is,
however, in the primitive forests of Soudan that these beautiful birds
are seen in their full glory, and, as they perch side by side among the
foliage, afford a spectacle that cannot fail to rivet the traveller's
attention, even should he have been long accustomed to the wonders of
the African continent. In its life and habits this species resembles its
congeners. It lives in pairs, each couple occupying a certain district,
usually about half a mile in extent; over this they range from early
morning till noon, when they rise into the air and entertain themselves
with a variety of evolutions, meanwhile uttering yells that can be heard
at a considerable distance. During the afternoon and evening, they sit
side by side upon the branch of a tree occasionally bowing their heads,
spreading their tails like a fan over the extremities of their wings,
and screaming loudly should any strange object appear. Each couple has a
favourite resting-place, to which they resort with unfailing regularity.
At night they prefer to seek shelter in the inmost recesses of their
leafy retreats. We found these birds so entirely without fear at the
approach of man as to allow a shot to whistle past them without any
indication of alarm: nevertheless, Le Vaillant speaks of them as shy
and cautious. The food of the Screaming Sea Eagle consists of fish and
carrion, the former is obtained by swooping upon it from a considerable
height; the prey is generally carried to the water's edge, and there
devoured. We were on one occasion much amused by observing the manner
in which a little bird (_Hyas Ægypticus_) assisted in the demolition
of a large fish that had been safely landed and stripped of its flesh
by one of these Sea Eagles. The small but courageous pilferer ran with
the rapidity of lightning to the spot, seized upon a few scraps, and
hurried away to devour them at a distance, repeating this operation till
its hunger was appeased, the Eagle meanwhile turning its head from time
to time to observe its manœuvres, but without making any attempt to
interfere with its operations. Towards other birds of prey the Sea Eagle
is far from exhibiting this amiable disposition, and usually succeeds in
overcoming even the Vulture, should the latter interfere with its prey.
In Soudan, the period of incubation commences with the rainy season.
The eyrie is built upon high trees, or pieces of rock, and is formed of
branches lined with some warm and elastic material; the brood consists of
two or three purely white eggs. When caged these birds soon become very
tame, and accustom themselves so easily to our climate, that they may be
allowed to fly about in the open air.

[Illustration: THE AFRICAN SCREAMING SEA EAGLE (_Haliaëtos vocifer_).]


THE OSPREY.

The OSPREY, RIVER EAGLE, or FISH HAWK (_Pandion Haliaëtos_), although
included in this extensive group, may be regarded as forming a connecting
link between the Eagles (from which it differs in many essential
particulars) and the Kites. In this species the body is comparatively
short and powerful, and the head large: the beak rises from immediately
beneath the cere, and terminates in a very large hook; the wings, in
which the third quill is the longest, extend beyond the by no means
short tail. The legs are very robust, and only covered with feathers
above the heel; the tarsi are unusually strong, and protected by thick,
small scales; the toes, the outermost of which can be turned either
backwards or forwards, are short, and armed with short and powerful
talons. The plumage of the Osprey is peculiarly smooth and compact; its
prevailing colour is yellowish white, marked upon the head and nape
with longitudinal blackish brown streaks, the feathers on these parts
terminating in sharp points; the rest of the upper part of the body is
brown, each feather being bordered with a lighter shade; the tail is
brown, striped with black. The under portions of the body are white, or
yellowish white; a dark streak passes from the eyes to the middle of the
throat, and the breast is adorned either with a collar or shield-shaped
patch of brown feathers, which are in some cases distinct, but in others
scarcely visible. The eye is bright yellow, the cere and feet lead
colour, while the beak and claws are of a brilliant black.

This bird is found throughout the entire continent of Europe, the greater
part of Asia, and upon the rivers of Northern and Western Africa. Many
naturalists are of opinion that the American Ospreys should be regarded
as the same species, so very slightly do they differ from their European
representatives, either in their appearance or manner of life. The River
Eagle lives almost exclusively upon fish, and passes its life in such
places as afford a plentiful supply; it only visits northern regions
during the summer months, remaining throughout the rest of the year in
warmer latitudes. During the course of its migrations, every piece of
water over which it passes is subjected to close inspection, and even
the finny inhabitants of the humblest pond are not safe from this most
destructive and voracious marauder. Its eyrie is usually constructed upon
a high tree, and formed of moss and twigs; the eggs, two or three in
number, are greyish white, marked with pale yellowish red spots. Owing
to the great strength of its wings, this bird is capable of flying to a
very considerable distance from its roosting-place, to which, however, it
always returns for rest or shelter. As soon as the mist has cleared away
from the surface of the water, the business of the day commences, and
about noon the Osprey may be seen careering through the air, preparatory
to descending by a series of graceful evolutions upon the river or
lake, over which it has hitherto sailed at a considerable altitude. At
the first indication of a fish being about to rise, the observant bird
arrests its progress, hovers for a moment above the spot, and then swoops
down with great velocity upon its prey. All attempts to elude the fierce
destroyer are useless, for even should the Osprey be completely submerged
during the struggle, it rises again with ease, bearing its prize safely
grasped by the back, shakes the water from its wings, and flies away with
its victim to a neighbouring tree, or, if too heavy, drags it to the bank
there to be devoured. The only exception to this mode of fishing is when
the Osprey perceives an eel in the vicinity of the water, this it pounces
upon, and transfixes with its "iron talons," and then, after tearing
it to pieces, devours some portions of the body, entirely rejecting
the entrails. Next to the Otter, this Eagle may be considered as the
most destructive of all the many enemies to whose attacks well-stocked
ponds and rivers are incessantly exposed, and for this reason it is
regarded with great hostility by all cultivators of fish. In North
America alone it is treated with favour, being supposed, by a popular
superstition, to bring luck to the district in which it builds its nest.
With all varieties of swimming birds the Osprey lives upon the most
amicable terms, but Crows, Swallows, and Wagtails pursue and harass it
so perseveringly that it will often throw down its hardly-earned booty
in order to escape from their unrelenting persecution. Traps baited with
fish are employed in North America by those who wish to obtain these
birds alive; so wary are they, however, that their capture is attended
with great difficulty. When caged, even if supplied with plenty of fresh
fish, they rarely survive imprisonment for more than a few months, and
are, for this reason, numbered amongst the greatest rarities in our
aviaries.

In England, as Yarrell informs us, specimens of this bird have been
obtained in Surrey, Sussex, and almost every county on the north-east
coast. Two or three have been killed in Durham, and they are said to be
met with on the north-west coast of Scotland rather more frequently than
elsewhere.

Sir W. Jardine says that in Scotland, "a pair or two may be found about
most of the Highland lochs where they fish, and, during the breeding
season, build on the ruined towers so common on the margins or on the
insulated rocks of these wild waters. The nest is an immense fabric of
rotten sticks--

    'Itself a burden for the tallest tree--'

and is generally placed, if such exists, on the top of the chimney,
or, if this be wanting, on the highest summit of the building. An aged
tree may sometimes be chosen, but ruins are always preferred, if near
water. They have the same propensity for returning to a station with
those of America, and, if one is shot, a mate is soon found and brought
to the ancient abode. Loch Lomond, Loch Awe, Killchurn Castle, and Loch
Menteith, have long been breeding places."

       *       *       *       *       *

The KITES (_Milvi_) constitute a group of Falcons, many species of
which are to be met with in all parts of the world. Of these birds it
is almost impossible to speak in general terms, so very various is
their appearance; and we must therefore confine ourselves to saying
that they are for the most part slender in shape, with short necks, and
small or moderate sized heads. Their wings are always long and pointed,
and usually rather narrow; the tail varies considerably in length,
but is generally very long and forked--really _short_ tails are only
exceptionally met with in this group. The foot, which is either long and
weak or small and heavy, is invariably furnished with short toes; the
beak is moderate, usually curving directly from its base, and hooked
at the extremity, near which it occasionally presents a tooth-like
appendage; the claws are slightly rounded and very sharp. The plumage is
extremely soft and tolerably dense about the region of the head, forming
in some instances a kind of ruff of long feathers which surround the
ears, and, when spread out, materially assist the sense of hearing. To
these characteristics we can only add that their colours are sometimes
pale, and sometimes exceedingly bright. All the various members of this
group are remarkable for the excellence of their flight, which differs
essentially from that of any other birds of prey. Unlike the True
Falcons, their movements are extremely calm and regular--indeed, they may
be said to travel through the realms of air without any direct stroke
of the wing, a peculiarity which occasionally gives a rocking motion to
the flight of some species, the points of the wings being at such times
held above the plane of the body. When upon the ground, however, their
movements are by no means effected with equal facility--some species walk
with ease, while others appear to progress with great difficulty. In all
these birds the sense of sight is very highly developed, and such as
possess the long feathers around the neck hear with great acuteness; of
the delicacy of their sense of taste we cannot speak with any certainty.
As regards intelligence, the Kites are decidedly inferior to other
Falcons; they are cautious and persevering, cunning and inquisitive,
extremely rapacious, but so destitute of courage that we must stigmatise
them as mere thieves, amongst whom the reckless deeds of daring often
wrought by other members of the fraternity are entirely unknown; indeed,
a Kite always prefers to follow in the wake of some other bird of prey,
in order to obtain the refuse of its hardly-earned spoil, rather than
engage in any struggle on its own account. Great diversity is observable
in the mode of life adopted by the various species of Kites; the greater
number live entirely apart, not merely from other birds, but from their
own kind, while some fly about in pairs--only a few dwell together
in small parties: these latter, however, are very sociable, and much
attached to their companions. All are alike active and restless; from the
first dawn of day till twilight has closed in they may be seen winging
their way over the face of the country, occasionally pausing in their
varied and beautiful gyrations, to descend slowly earthward and snatch
the morsel they have espied from afar.

The food of the Kites consists principally of the smaller quadrupeds,
defenceless birds, toads, fish, and various insects. Some species
subsist entirely upon the latter diet, and hunt their prey in a manner
more resembling that of the Swallow than the mode practised by other
Falcons; but very few will devour carrion. On the whole, these birds must
be regarded as useful to man, though some are very destructive to his
property. The eyrie varies considerably in its construction; sometimes it
is built upon rocks or in holes of walls, sometimes on church steeples,
trees, bushes, or even the bare ground. The number of eggs varies from
one to five; both parents assist in the work of incubation, and tend
their young with great assiduity. When caged all the members of this
group are easily tamed, and some attach themselves to their keepers, but
they entirely lose their vivacity, and are quite unable to survive any
lengthened confinement. Among the Bashkirs some species are trained to
assist their masters in the chase.


THE SHORT-TAILED KITE.

The SHORT-TAILED KITE, sometimes called the MOUNTEBANK (_Helotarsus
ecaudatus_), is a very remarkable bird, inhabiting the continent of
Africa, from sixteen degrees north latitude as far as the Cape of Good
Hope. In appearance it reminds us of an Eagle, and is recognisable by its
short, powerful, compact body, short neck and large head. The wings (in
which the second quill is longer than the rest) are of great length, the
tail is unusually short, as are the tarsi; the latter are, however, very
strong, and well protected by scaly plates. The toes are of medium size,
and armed with slightly curved and blunt talons. The plumage is unusually
rich in texture, and consists of large broad feathers, with which the
head in particular is profusely covered. The coloration of the plumage
in adult males is as striking as its general appearance; the head, neck,
fore, under, and hinder parts of the body are of a beautiful pale black;
the entire tail and upper portion of the back are red. The exterior
wing-covers vary from pale brownish red to cream colour; the primary
quills are black, the secondaries and shoulder feathers grey, tipped with
black, so that these latter form a black border to the wing, the lower
side of which is of silvery whiteness. The eye is a beautiful brown, and
glitters with a golden light; the back is reddish yellow at the base,
and greyish blue towards the tip. The cere, and a bare place round the
eyes, are blood red, spotted with reddish yellow. In the young birds the
plumage is dark brown, usually deeper in shade on the back than it is
beneath, where the feathers have a light greyish brown edge; the feathers
upon the throat are light brown, and the secondary quills greyish brown.
The eye is reddish brown, the beak, cere, cheek-stripes, and feet blue,
the latter shaded with red. The length of the adult female is one foot
ten inches, its breadth five feet ten inches; the wing measures one foot
nine inches, and the tail not more than five inches. The male is not
quite so large.

[Illustration: THE SHORT-TAILED KITE (_Helotarsus ecaudatus_).]

This remarkable bird, whose extraordinary appearance has caused it
to be the subject of many strange superstitions among the natives of
Africa, is found throughout the whole of that continent, excepting its
most northern portions: it lives principally in mountainous districts,
but nevertheless constantly makes its appearance in all parts of the
widely-extended plains; yet, notwithstanding the frequency with which
this bird is seen by travellers, it is by no means easy to obtain
possession of a specimen, as it usually soars so high when in flight as
to be out of gunshot, and will often pass the entire day in thus sailing
over extensive tracts of country; at noon, however, it may generally be
found slaking its thirst at a pool of water, or taking a short nap upon
a tree near some stream. The afternoon and early evening are spent in
the pursuit of food, and it is only when darkness has fully closed in
that the "Mountebank" seeks shelter for the night. Le Vaillant mentions
having seen this species flying about in pairs, but we ourselves have
always found it solitary; during the breeding season alone it is to be
found associated with others of its kind in small parties. Speke tells us
that the Short-tailed Kite is regarded by some of the African tribes with
superstitious dread, its shadow being supposed to bring ill-luck, while
others, on the contrary, venerate it on account of its imaginary powers
of healing by means of rare medicinal roots which they imagine that it
flies to a great distance to obtain. The latter notion has no doubt
arisen from the fact that the snakes so frequently devoured by this bird
have been mistaken for pieces of roots, when borne by their destroyer to
its resting-place. From the strange antics and remarkable appearance of
this Kite, it is called by the Abyssinians "The Monkey of the Sky;" and
those who have seen it alternately tumbling, gliding, rising, or falling
through the air will own that the name is not ill applied. Only when on
the wing can the beauty of the Mountebank be fully appreciated; while
in the trees its appearance is most ungainly--the body is inflated till
it looks like a ball of feathers, and the plumage hangs loose about the
neck and face, the head being meanwhile turned about in all directions,
after the manner of the Screech Owl. The sight of this bird, like that of
other Kites, is very keen, and its powers of hearing excellent. In its
wild state it is extremely shy, even towards its congeners; and though
it will often engage in serious conflicts, is by no means courageous. In
captivity it soon becomes exceedingly tame, and, unlike other birds of
prey, quite enjoys being stroked. But little care, either as regards food
or climate, is required to keep the Mountebank in health when caged, as
it can endure almost any variety of temperature. Gazelles, lambs, sick
sheep, young ostriches, and carrion are said to constitute its favourite
food, but we cannot vouch for the truth of this statement, as our own
observations have led us to the conclusion that this species subsists
chiefly upon reptiles, and is equally destructive to snakes of all kinds,
whether poisonous or not. When in pursuit of food of this description,
it is immediately attracted by the conflagrations that frequently break
out upon the vast plains of their native land, and will fly quite close
down to the line of fire, snatching its victims as they vainly attempt to
escape from the dense cloud of smoke in which they are enveloped; they
will, no doubt, if driven by hunger, occasionally eat carrion. The period
of incubation commences with the dry season, when, owing to the parched
state of the ground, snakes are easily discovered among the burnt-up
grass. The eyrie is usually built at the summit of a high tree, and the
brood consists, according to Le Vaillant, of from three to four eggs, but
we ourselves have never succeeded in finding more than two.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GLIDING KITES (_Elanus_) are common in all parts of the world, with
the exception of Europe, where they are very rarely met with. This
group is composed of four species, resembling each other in an unusual
degree. All have compact bodies and thick plumage; their wings, of which
the second quill is longer than the rest, extend beyond the tip of the
short, slightly excised, and by no means powerful tail. The feet are
short, powerful, and only partially covered with feathers, the middle toe
is longer than the tarsus, and all the toes are armed with very sharp,
hooked talons; the beak, which is short and comparatively high, is much
bent, and terminates in a long hook; the margin of the upper mandible
bulges slightly outwards. The plumage is extremely silky in its texture,
and resembles that of the Owl in the formation of its feathers.


THE TRUE GLIDING KITE.

The TRUE GLIDING KITE (_Elanus melanopterus_) is of a beautiful greyish
blue upon the upper portions of its body, and white beneath; the brow
and shoulders are black; the eyes a brilliant red; the beak black; the
cere and feet orange. The young are brownish grey on the back, and light
yellow, streaked with brownish yellow, on the under parts of the body;
most of the feathers are surrounded by a white border. The length of the
male is about thirteen and a half and its breadth thirty inches; its
wing measures eleven and a half and its tail five and a half inches. The
female is somewhat larger. This Kite principally inhabits such tracts of
country as are diversified by woodlands and pastures, and usually avoids
extensive forests; with this exception, it is found throughout the whole
of North-eastern Africa, and is particularly numerous in Egypt. It always
lives in pairs, never flying about in parties except when engaged in
instructing its young. The couples, however, live close to each other,
and may, therefore, often be seen apparently enjoying a social excursion,
when in fact, each family is entirely regardless of its neighbours. In
its habits the Gliding Kite bears some resemblance both to the Buzzard
and the Owl, and is easily recognised either as it flies with the tips
of its wings raised much above its body, or when seen quietly perched
and glowing with dazzling brilliancy in the rays of a tropical sun.
If in pursuit of prey, it glides along at a considerable height above
the ground, and, when it descries a victim, hovers for a few moments
before swooping heavily down with wings close to its sides; should it
be a mouse, or a grasshopper that is thus hastily seized, the former is
carried off to a tree to be devoured, the latter immediately swallowed.
Young birds are often eaten, but mice, we believe, constitute its
principal subsistence. So entirely is this species free from any dread
of man, that in Egypt it flies about in the fields close to the native
labourers, and will even build its nest upon such orange-trees as are
constantly visited by the gardener; it soon, however, becomes cautious
if pursued, and learns to keep at a very respectful distance from the
European gun. In its relations to such of its feathered companions as are
small or harmless, the True Gliding Kite is quite inoffensive, but it
pursues the larger birds of prey with loud cries whenever they appear.
The voice of this species resembles that of the Tree Falcon; the notes
are, however, more prolonged, almost like a whistle, and can be heard at
a great distance. In Egypt the period of incubation takes place in the
months that correspond with our spring, and in Soudan at the commencement
of the rainy season: we have twice found young birds as early as March.
The nests were flat in shape, and placed upon low, thickly-foliaged
trees, at not more than twenty feet above the ground; they were built of
small twigs, and lined with fine fibres and blades of grass, over which
was laid a snug bed of wool and mouse's hair. The eggs vary in colour,
some being greyish white, thickly but irregularly spotted, and streaked
with reddish brown, insomuch that the whitish colour of the shell is
scarcely visible. Jerdon mentions these eggs as being pure white; their
length is one and a half inches, and their diameter, in the thickest
part, about fourteen lines. If taken young from the nest, the Gliding
Kite is capable of being made very tame, and soon accustoms itself to
life in a cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HOVERING KITES (_Ictinia_) are American birds, very nearly allied
to those we have just described. This group consists of but two
species. In these birds the wings--in which the third quill is longer
than the rest--are long and pointed; the tail of medium length, and
slightly sloping; the feet powerful, but of no great size; the toes are
comparatively short, and armed with round and very decidedly curved
talons; the beak is short, nearly as broad as it is high, and furnished
at its base with rudimentary tooth-like appendages; the plumage is thick
and soft, and the individual quills of moderate size.


THE MISSISSIPPI KITE.

The MISSISSIPPI KITE (_Ictinia Mississippensis_) is about fourteen inches
long and thirty-six broad. The head, nape, and entire upper portions of
the body are blueish white; the back, wings, and tail, black, enlivened
by a greenish gloss; the secondary quills are tipped with greyish white,
the outer web of the primaries being of a brilliant red; the eye is deep
red; the beak, and a place round the eye, black; the foot is bright red.
"When spring arrives," says Audubon, "the Mississippi Kite extends its
migrations as high as the city of Memphis, on the noble stream whose
name it bears, and along our eastern shores to the Carolinas, where it
now and then breeds, feeding the while on lizards, small snakes, and
beetles. At times, congregating to the number of twenty or more, these
birds are seen sweeping round some tree, catching the large locusts which
abound in those countries at an early part of the season. The Mississippi
Kite arrives in Lower Louisiana about the middle of April, in parties
of five or six, and confines itself to the borders of deep woods, or to
those near plantations, not far from the shores of the rivers, lakes,
or bayous. It never moves into the interior of the country; plantations
lately cleared, and yet covered with tall, dying, girted trees, placed
near a creek or bayou, seem to please it best.

"Its flight is graceful, vigorous, protracted, and often extended to
a great height, the Fork-tailed Hawk being the only species that can
compete with it. At times it floats in the air as if motionless, or sails
in broad, regular circles, when, suddenly closing its wings, it glides
along to some distance and renews its curves. Now it sweeps, in deep and
long undulations, with the swiftness of an arrow, passing almost within
touching distance of a branch on which it has observed a small lizard,
or an insect it longs for, but from which it again ascends disappointed.
Now it is seen to move in hurried zig-zags, as if pursued by a dangerous
enemy, sometimes seeming to turn over and over like a Tumbling Pigeon;
or it may be observed flying round the trunk of a tree to secure large
insects, sweeping with astonishing velocity. While travelling, it moves
in the desultory manner followed by Swallows, but at other times it
is seen in company with the Fork-tailed Hawk, at a great elevation,
among the large flocks of Carrion Crows and Turkey Buzzards, dashing at
the former and giving them chase, as if in play, until these cowardly
scavengers sweep downwards; it then abandons this apparently agreeable
sport to the Hawks, who now continue to gambol undisturbed. When in
pursuit of a large insect or a small reptile, this Kite turns its body
sideways, throws out its legs, extends its talons, and generally seizes
its prey in an instant. It feeds while on wing, apparently with as much
ease and comfort as when on the branch of a tall tree. It never alights
on the ground; at least, I have never seen it do so, except when wounded,
and then it appears extremely awkward. It never attacks birds, or
quadrupeds of any kind, with a view of destroying them for food, although
it will chase a fox to a considerable distance, screaming loudly all the
while, and soon forces a Crow to retreat to the woods."

The eyrie of the Mississippi Kite is always placed at the summit of a
lofty tree, the magnificent white oaks and magnolias with which the
Southern States are so plentifully adorned being usually preferred. The
nest is very simple in its construction, resembling that of the Common
Crow; it is composed of twigs thrown lightly together, and lined with
Spanish moss, dry leaves, and the bark of the wild vine. The eggs, two
or three in number, are round and of a green colour, thickly covered
with black or dark chocolate spots. Both parents assist in the work of
incubation, and protect their young with so much ardour that they will
even attack men, should they attempt to molest the little family. The
nestlings when first fledged resemble their parents, and attain their
full beauty of plumage before their first migration. The capture of these
birds is not difficult, for, though they fly at a very considerable
height, they are by no means shy, and, when perched at the summit of a
lofty tree, are easily brought down with the gun.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CROOKED-BILLED KITES (_Cymindis_) are recognised by their lengthy
bodies and unusually long and pointed wings, in which the fourth quill
is the longest; the tail is of considerable length, composed of broad
feathers, and rounded slightly at its tip; the feet are short and weak,
the tarsi slender, and partially covered with feathers on the upper side;
the toes are feeble, and furnished with thin, but slightly curved and
very long talons; the beak is high, and much compressed at its sides; the
culmen is narrow, and the margin straight; the upper mandible extends
considerably beyond the under portion of the beak, and terminates in
a hook; the plumage is very rich, and composed of large feathers; its
markings resemble those of the Hawks.


THE BUZZARD KITE.

The BUZZARD KITE (_Cymindis uncinatus_) is sixteen inches in length and
thirty-three inches broad; the wing measures eleven and the tail seven
inches. The plumage of the adult male is uniform light grey, shaded with
blue, somewhat lighter on the lower parts of the body; the wing and
tail-feathers are of the same pale shade, striped with deep grey--a broad
white line passes over the base of the tail-feathers; the eye is of a
pearly hue; the upper mandible blackish grey, the lower whitish yellow;
the cere, cheek-stripes, and a spot near the eyes, are greyish green; the
margin of the mouth yellow; the feet orange colour. The female is of a
paler grey, with grey and black waved markings on the wings; the under
part of the body is striped with white; and below the broad white streak
upon the tail passes a succession of alternate black and grey lines. The
back of the young bird is greyish brown, each feather being edged with
red; the body underneath is light reddish yellow, transversely striped
with rust-red; the primary quills are blackish brown, adorned with light
streaks, and bordered with white. When seen from above, the tail exhibits
two yellowish grey stripes; beneath, it presents lines of reddish yellow,
and is tipped with the same shade.

We learn from the Prince von Wied, and other authorities, that these
birds are found throughout a large portion of South America. They are
most numerous on the outskirts of forests, more particularly of such
as are in the immediate vicinity of the settlements of the planters;
and lead for the most part a solitary life. Their appearance is very
beautiful, and their flight varied and rapid. The stomachs of such as the
Prince von Wied shot were found to contain insects and snails, but they
will also eat birds and small quadrupeds. In disposition this species
is courageous and fierce. The eyrie is built upon lofty trees, and is
generally quite inaccessible.


THE SYAMA.

The SYAMA or BAZA (_Baza lophotes_) is the most remarkable of the many
species of Kites with which we are acquainted. Its length is from
thirteen to fourteen inches, its breadth thirty inches; the wing measures
nine, and the tail five inches. The beak of this bird is small, much
curved and furrowed at the sides; the upper mandible is furnished with
two sharp teeth on each side, and the lower one has three or four similar
appendages towards the tip. The wings are of moderate size, the third
quill being longer than the rest; the tail is square, and of medium
length; the tarsi are short, thick, and feathered on the upper side; the
toes short, the talons small, and very much curved. The plumage is rich,
and forms a crest upon the head; the upper portions of the body and hose
are of a brilliant greenish black, as are also the tail and wing-covers;
the outer web of the secondary quills is a beautiful nut-brown, the
feathers on the shoulders, and some of those on the wing-covers, are
white, spotted with brown; these form an uninterrupted white line across
the entire wing. The lower parts of the body are white, with five or six
nut-brown bands on the sides of the belly. The quills of the wings and
tail are of an uniform pale blueish tint.

Jerdon informs us that this bird is found throughout the whole of India;
it is, however, scarce in the southern provinces and near Calcutta, but
occurs more frequently in the region of the lower Himalayas. It subsists
principally upon insects, which it procures from within the recesses of
the forests. The Syama is seldom seen in flight; the crest is usually
carried erect. These scanty particulars comprise all the information
respecting this species that has as yet been obtained.

       *       *       *       *       *


THE TRUE KITES.

Such of the True Kites as can be united into one group are recognisable
by their very lengthy body, small head, feeble beak, large wings, and
long, more or less forked tail. Two species of this family are known to
breed in Germany, and others are met with in different parts of Europe.


THE BLACK KITE.

The BLACK KITE (_Hydroictinia atra_) inhabits the southern provinces of
Germany, Russia, and Central Asia, as far as Japan. This species is from
twenty-one to twenty-three inches long, and from forty-eight to fifty
broad; the wing measures sixteen, and the tail from eleven to twelve
inches. The distinguishing characteristics of this bird are its somewhat
delicate beak, furnished with well developed, tooth-like appendages, and
terminating in a long hook; and the shape of its wings, in which the
fourth quill is the longest, and the first shorter than the seventh; its
tail is, moreover, black and forked. The plumage, composed of narrow
feathers, is of a dirty white upon the head, throat, and neck, streaked
longitudinally with dark greyish brown; the breast is reddish brown,
varied with still darker markings; the feathers on the breast and the
hose are rust-red, with black shafts; those on the back, shoulders, and
wing-covers are dark brown, with a narrow light border; the upper wing is
rust colour, each feather being edged with brownish white, and spotted
with black on the shaft. The quills, which are tipped with brownish
black, are whitish upon the inner web; the tail is brown, and decorated
with from nine to twelve narrow brown and black lines; the beak is black,
the cere yellow, the eyes brownish grey, and the feet orange. The plumage
of the young is of an uniform brown, the cere and feet of a paler yellow
than those of the adult birds; the beak is black, and the eyes dark brown.

The Black Kite is replaced in Africa and South-western Asia by a species
known as the Parasite Kite, for which it is frequently mistaken. The
former is very commonly met with in Russia and the eastern parts of our
continent, where it frequents such woodland districts as are in the
vicinity of water, to which it flies daily in search of food, returning
at night to sleep upon the trees. The season for migration commences
about October; but this bird seldom journeys farther south than Egypt,
and returns to its summer quarters in the month of March. The Black Kite
is in many respects highly endowed, though by no means worthy to be
classed among the nobler Birds of Prey. Its flight is light, hovering,
and capable of being long sustained; when upon the ground, its movements
are also more graceful than those of most of its congeners, the body and
head being held erect. The sight of this species is remarkably acute,
and its other senses by no means deficient; its instincts are keen, yet,
in spite of these many gifts, the Black Kite must be regarded as one of
the most audacious and shameless beggars to be found among the feathered
tribes. Too lazy and cowardly to kill its own prey, it devotes its life
for the most part to theft, stealing habitually the quarry other birds
have obtained, and following and tormenting them with such pertinacity,
that at last, out of sheer weariness of its importunities, they throw
down the coveted prize; it will, however, destroy rats, mice, and other
small quadrupeds, and frequently captures fishes during the spawning
season.

Notwithstanding that the cowardice of this bird is so great that a
clucking hen could scare it away, it manages to render itself a most
troublesome visitor to the farmyard, where its cunning and adroitness
stand in the stead of nobler qualities, and enable it, unobserved, to
steal many a fat chicken or duckling. When other food is scarce it
will consume frogs, and is always attracted by carrion. The breeding
season commences about April or May, and is inaugurated by a series of
graceful evolutions through the air, in the performance of which both
male and female take a share, the former continuing frequently to soar
aloft for the entertainment of his mate during such time as family cares
confine her to the nest. The eyrie is placed upon a very high tree, and
most artistically constructed of dry twigs, with some soft and elastic
material, such as moss, hay, shreds of cloth, or even cuttings of paper.
The brood, which consists of three or four yellowish or greyish white
eggs, either marked or spotted with brown, is tended by the female with
great care and affection. The young are reared upon mice, frogs, and
occasionally small birds; they remain for a long time in the nest, and
even some weeks after leaving it are nourished and instructed by their
parents; when this period of tuition is over they separate, each bird
going its own way, and beginning life for itself. Towards autumn they all
again assemble, previous to setting forth upon their winter migrations.
When in captivity the Black Kite soon learns to attach itself to those
that feed it.


THE GOVINDA.

The GOVINDA (_Hydroictinia Govinda_), as the Indian species is called,
is found, according to Jerdon, throughout the whole of Hindostan, up to
an altitude of 8,000 feet, and is one of the birds commonly met with in
India, where it frequents all large towns or populous places, and proves
itself a most bold and impudent thief. It will follow travellers in hopes
of being able to steal their food, and even snatch a dainty morsel from
the table, under the very eyes of its lawful owner. It not only drives
its own species and other birds from a meal that has caught its fancy,
but often pounces upon fine full-grown Hens and Parrots. Bligh informs
us that it will also eat Crows. According to our own observations, the
Govindas often congregate in large companies, on which occasions they
seem to come together from all parts of the neighbourhood, to hold, as
it were, a kind of "palaver," and compare their experiences. The Govinda
pairs about Christmas, and breeds from January to April. The nest is
placed upon trees or high buildings, and is formed of twigs or branches,
lined with some soft material. The eggs are from two to three in number.


THE PARASITE KITE.

The PARASITE KITE (_Hydroictinia parasitica_) is found in large numbers
throughout the whole of North-eastern Africa, and is a constant
frequenter of the banks of the Nile and shores of the Red Sea.

Unlike most of its congeners, this bird always seeks the society of man,
and, as its name indicates, obtains its principal means of subsistence,
not by its own exertions, but by unceasing thefts and petty pilfering;
indeed, amongst the many troublesome members of the feathered tribes by
which African towns are visited, the Parasite Kite stands pre-eminent
for audacity and persevering cunning. Perched upon a lofty palm-tree or
slender minaret, it surveys the people that pass beneath with so keen
and appreciative an eye, that we have been sometimes almost tempted to
imagine that it was actually capable of understanding what the various
signs of daily life indicated, and had made the habits of mankind a
subject of most sagacious study. Is a sheep led through the streets
on its way to the slaughter-house, this bird is sure to follow in the
wake, and obtain more than its share of the pickings. Woe to the buyer
in the market-place who may happen to accost a neighbour, in momentary
forgetfulness of the basket that contains his dinner! In the twinkling
of an eye, the watchful thief has swooped noiselessly down, and is off
with the prize before the unlucky owner has had time to turn his head.
All attempts to frighten the marauder into dropping its booty are upon
such occasions entirely useless. Fear of man it has none, and will snatch
a tempting morsel from his hand with as much coolness as it exhibits
in defrauding its congeners of their hardly-earned repasts. The nobler
Birds of Prey appear thoroughly to despise the miserable thief who is
constantly hovering about in order to harass them, and at once throw down
their prey, as if in contempt of the wily intruder. We have seen the
Peregrine Falcon thus cast away four different captures in the course of
a few minutes, each time returning to obtain a fresh supply for its own
breakfast. The Parasite Kites are usually seen flying about in flocks
numbering some fifty or sixty birds; it is only during the breeding
season that they live in pairs. The eyrie of this species is built upon a
high tree or steeple, and almost every minaret in Cairo is decorated with
several of these structures. The eggs, from three to five in number, are
laid about February; by the end of May the young are fully fledged, and
quite capable of stealing on their own account. The parents exhibit great
attachment and courage in their care of their family.

The general appearance and size of the Parasite Kite corresponds very
closely with that of the Black Kite, except that the plumage is somewhat
lighter than in that bird, and the beak yellow. This species is called
"Hitaie" by the Arabs, that word being supposed to represent its cry,
of which the first syllable "hi" is very sharp, and the latter much
prolonged. This Kite has been the subject of many amusing Eastern fables.

[Illustration: THE PARASITE KITE (_Hydroictinia parasitica_).]


THE RED OR ROYAL KITE.

The RED or ROYAL KITE (_Milvus regalis_) differs from those of its
congeners already described in the comparative strength and height of its
beak, which is, moreover, but slightly hooked at its extremity. The first
quill of the wing is as long as the seventh; the tail is long, broad, and
much forked. The length of the Royal Kite is about two feet, its breadth
four and three-quarters: the wing measures one foot and a half, and the
tail fourteen inches. The female is about three inches longer and broader
than her mate. The plumage of this species consists of broad feathers
of a rust-red colour, spotted and marked upon the shafts with blackish
brown. The head and neck are white, streaked longitudinally with brown;
the points of the wings are black, the tail is rust colour, striped with
dark brown. In the young birds the head is yellowish white, spotted with
brownish red, and all the feathers on the under parts of the body have a
light edge.

The Royal Kite inhabits all the level tracts of the European continent,
from the south of Sweden to Spain, and from thence to Siberia, but only
appears in mountainous districts during the course of its migrations.
They usually make their appearance in Europe about March, and leave
for warmer climates in October; when the winter, however, has proved
exceptionally mild, some stragglers have been known to remain with
us throughout the entire year. The Royal Kites live in pairs, except
when about to migrate, at which time they congregate in large parties
containing from fifty to a hundred, which fly about in search of food
during the day, and pass the night upon trees. These wandering bands
extend their flight as far as North-western Africa, but we have rarely
seen them in Egypt.

[Illustration: THE RED OR ROYAL KITE

(_Milvus regalis_).]

In times not very remote these Kites seem to have played in England the
part of scavengers, much in the same way as the Parasite Kite and Govinda
now do in India, for Pennant informs us that in the days of Henry VIII.
they flew fearlessly about the streets of London, and cleansed them
of the mass of filth, which must otherwise have tainted the air with
poisonous vapours. To kill one of these feathered scavengers was, in that
reign, a punishable offence. The Royal Kites are indolent and cowardly;
they frequently hover for a quarter of an hour in the air without any
perceptible movement of the wings, merely steering their course by means
of their broad tail, by the aid of which they can likewise soar to an
enormous height. When upon the ground their gait is extremely awkward,
consisting rather of shuffling hops than of regular steps. In disposition
they resemble the species we have already described. Their voice is
monotonous and somewhat bleating in its tone, but this sound is varied
during the breeding season by a tremulous note, sometimes employed at
other seasons to express pleasure or contentment. They live upon small
quadrupeds, unfledged birds, snakes, toads, frogs, grasshoppers, beetles,
and worms; and though they occasionally annoy the farmer by stealing a
chicken, or the sportsman by pouncing upon a young hare, these trifling
offences are not worth speaking of when we consider the valuable services
rendered by them, for without their most timely aid entire crops would be
destroyed. Dozens of mice are often devoured by one Kite in the course of
a single day, and incalculable hosts of noxious insects are also consumed
by these active but much-reviled friends of the farmer and gardener. When
about to breed they prefer taking possession, if possible, of a Falcon's
eyrie or Crow's old nest, but should this be impossible, they build
much in the same manner as the Kites above described. The eggs, usually
two, sometimes three in number, are laid about April, and are white,
spotted with red. The female alone broods, and her mate busies himself
in procuring food. The young are reared like others of their congeners.
The Royal Kite is easily tamed, and, according to our own experience, may
be considered as the most interesting and pleasing of all caged Birds of
Prey.


THE SWALLOW-TAILED KITE.

The SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (_Nauclerus furcatus_) is a most beautiful
member of this group, belonging to Southern and Central America; many
of this species have, however, from time to time found their way to
Europe, and it may therefore be considered as in some measure belonging
to our continent. This remarkable bird is distinguished by its powerful
body, short neck, and small but powerful head. Its wings, which in shape
resemble those of the Swallow, are long, and gradually pointed; their
third quill being longer than the rest. The tail is very long, and so
deeply forked that the exterior feathers are twice as long as those in
the centre; the beak, which is of no great size, and rather shallow,
curves gently from its base, and terminates in an abrupt hook; the
margins are straight but furrowed. The feet are small and powerful, the
toes short, and armed with sharp and very crooked talons. The plumage is
soft, and composed of large feathers. The entire coat of the adult bird
is white, if we except the mantle and tail, which are black, but gleam
with a metallic lustre; the inner web of the secondary quills is white
towards the tip. In young birds the feathers upon the nape and back of
the head have black or very dark shafts, the plumage upon the back is
grey and lustreless, the lower wing-covers are also tipped with grey, the
exterior secondary quills are pure white. The eye is dark brown, the beak
black, the cere blueish grey, the feet are greenish blue, and the claws
horn colour. The male is somewhat smaller than its mate, from which it is
also recognisable by the pure white of the rump and the brilliant black
of the wings. The length of this species is about twenty-three inches,
its breadth fifty inches; the tail measures sixteen, and the longest
tail-feathers twelve inches.

[Illustration: THE SWALLOW-TAILED KITE

(_Nauclerus furcalus_).]

The Swallow-tailed Kites inhabit all parts of South America, from the
South of Brazil to the Southern United States, only appearing, however,
in the latter region during the summer months. According to Audubon they
visit Louisiana and Mississippi about April, and depart in September.
Some few penetrate as far as New York and other Northern States, but they
are merely stragglers. These Kites generally live in large flocks, that
pass their time in sweeping and hovering over the face of the country,
or perching sociably amongst the branches of trees, which, when thus
occupied, present a spectacle not easily forgotten. "The flight of this
elegant species of Hawk," says Audubon, "is singularly beautiful and
protracted; it moves through the air with such ease and grace that it is
impossible for any individual who takes the least pleasure in observing
birds not to be delighted with the sight of it whilst on the wing.
Gliding along by easy flappings, it rises in wide circles to an immense
height, inclining in various ways its deeply-forked tail to assist the
direction of its course, dives with the rapidity of lightning, and,
suddenly checking itself, re-ascends, soars away, and is soon out of
sight. At other times a flock of these birds, amounting to fifteen or
twenty individuals, is seen hovering around the trees. They dive in rapid
succession amongst the branches, glancing along the trunks, and seizing
in their course the insects and small lizards of which they are in quest.
Their motions are astonishingly rapid, and the deep curves which they
describe, their sudden doublings and crossings, and the extreme ease with
which they seem to cleave the air, excite the admiration of him who views
them while thus employed in searching for food."

Their food, we are told, consists principally, indeed, almost
exclusively, of insects. Audubon, however, states that they will also
devour lizards and snakes. When in pursuit of insects they hunt after
the manner of Swallows, only with this difference, that, unlike those
birds, they seize the prey with the foot. As yet all efforts to keep
this beautiful species for any length of time in a cage have proved
unavailing, owing to the difficulty of providing suitable food.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CHELIDOPTERI represent a group of African Kites, that resemble the
above-described species as regards their general appearance, but are
readily distinguishable by the different construction of their feet and
wings.


THE DWARF SWALLOW-TAILED KITE.

The DWARF SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (_Chelidopterix Riocouri_) is of a
greyish blue colour upon the upper part of the body, deeper in shade
upon the head and shoulders than on the wings and tail. The tips of the
tail-feathers of the second order are white, the brow, bridles, cheeks,
and under portions of the body pure white; the lower wing-covers and beak
are black, and the feet yellow. In length this species measures from
thirteen to fourteen inches, of which seven belong to the tail; the wing
is about nine inches long. Nothing is known of this rare bird, except
that it is an inhabitant of the extensive steppes of Central Africa, and
appears regularly in Kordovan. We ourselves have never seen it, except
when soaring high in the air, only occasionally coming low enough to be
recognised by the naked eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FIELD KITES, or HARRIERS (_Circi_), are birds of moderate size,
characterised by their elongated bodies, long, slender wings, broad
but not large tails, long, weak, short-toed feet, and small, but very
decidedly-curved beaks, hooked at the extremity, and furnished with blunt
denticulations. In some species the feathers on the face are prolonged
into a disc, and in all, the third and fourth quills of the wings exceed
the rest in length. The plumage is soft and very lax in the region of
the neck. The various members of this group belong rather to the earth
than to the air, in which they seldom rise to any considerable elevation:
their days are passed in hovering over the surface of fields, meadows,
and pools, in search of birds, small quadrupeds, toads, and fish: they,
however, only capture such prey as either swims or runs on the ground,
and never molest birds upon the wing.

This family has been divided into two groups, known respectively as
MEADOW KITES (_Strigiceps_) and MARSH KITES (_Circus_).

       *       *       *       *       *

The MEADOW KITES (_Strigiceps_) are recognisable by the clearly-defined
disc upon the face, and by the great variety observable in their plumage
at different ages, or according to the sex.


THE BLUE KITE, OR HEN HARRIER.

The BLUE KITE, or HEN HARRIER (_Strigiceps cyaneus_), is about seventeen
inches long, of which eight and a half belong to the tail; its breadth
is forty inches, and the length of the wing fourteen inches. The plumage
of the adult male is light greyish blue above, and white beneath; the
nape is striped with brown and white; the first quill is blackish grey,
the five next are black, and only grey or white towards the root, the
rest are entirely grey. The tail is ornamented with a few dark spots.
The plumage of the female is yellowish brown, with white lines over the
eyes, and reddish yellow borders to the feathers on the hinder part of
the head; the under part of the body is of the latter colour, streaked
longitudinally with brown. The pupil of the eye, cere, and feet, are
lemon yellow, and the beak greyish black. The young resemble the mother.


THE KITE OF THE STEPPES, OR PALLID HARRIER.

The KITE OF THE STEPPES, or PALLID HARRIER (_Strigiceps pallidus_), is
about sixteen inches and a half long and thirty-eight and a half broad;
its tail measures eight and a quarter and wing thirteen inches. In the
general coloration of its plumage this bird differs but little from the
species last described, though it is somewhat paler in tint, being of a
leaden colour above and pure white upon the lower portions of its body;
the tail and wings are distinctly striped with grey, and the wings tipped
with black. The adult female is brown; the individual feathers of the
mantle edged with a light reddish shade; the under side is pale reddish
yellow, streaked with a darker tint. The young are recognised by the
uniform colour of their parts. As a distinguishing mark between the Blue
Kite and this bird we will add that in the former the fourth quill, and
in the latter the third, is longer than the rest.


THE MEADOW KITE, OR ASH-COLOURED HARRIER.

The MEADOW KITE, or ASH-COLOURED HARRIER (_Strigiceps cineraceus_),
must be regarded as representing a distinct group (_Glaucopterix_).
This species is seventeen inches long and forty-two inches broad; the
wing measures about fourteen inches, and the tail eight and a half. Its
wings are very long, and the facial discs but slightly developed. The
head, mantle, throat, and upper part of the breast are in the adult
male greyish blue; the feathers upon the belly and legs are white, with
reddish shafts. The primary quills are quite black, and the secondaries
light greyish blue, marked with irregular black streaks, which form a
well-defined border on the outer wing. The tail is ornamented with four
or five dark stripes. The adult female and young male are brownish grey,
the top of the head being red, striped with black. The lower portions
of the body are white, marked indistinctly with reddish spots. The very
young birds are of a spotless rust-red beneath, and above are covered
with dark brown feathers, these latter being tipped with a reddish shade;
the eye is almost surrounded by a large dark brown patch, under which is
a white spot; the rump is white, the wing and tail feathers marked with
irregular dark spots. The eye of the adult male is bright yellow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BLUE KITE, or HEN HARRIER, the first of the three species above
described, is found throughout the greatest part of Europe and the whole
of Central Asia; it seldom, however, wanders very far south, appearing
but rarely in India, and being, we believe, unknown in Africa, where it
is replaced by

       *       *       *       *       *

The PALLID HARRIER (_Strigiceps pallidus_), which is met with in large
numbers from Egypt to the western coast of Africa, but seldom makes its
appearance in Southern Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ASH-COLOURED HARRIER (_Strigiceps cineraceus_), on the contrary,
belongs to the South-eastern countries of the European continent, and
the greater part of Asia; it is also common in America. All these three
species so closely resemble each other in their habits and mode of life,
that we shall confine ourselves to a description of the Blue Kite, merely
adding that the names Kite of the Steppes and Meadow Kite, given to the
other two, indicate the districts they principally frequent. All are
active, bold, and cunning: their flight, which is quiet and uncertain,
often consists of a mere hovering in the air; at such times the tips of
the pinions are held above the body, and the tail is slightly spread.
This peculiarly irregular mode of progression renders it impossible to
mistake these Kites for any of their congeners if seen when upon the
wing; they usually fly very near the ground, and but rarely soar to
any considerable height. According to Naumann they avoid lofty trees,
and prefer to perch upon stones or hillocks, sleeping at night amongst
grass, reeds, or corn. Our own observations have proved that this
peculiarity does not apply to the Pallid species, which both sleeps and
perches during the day among the branches of trees, never, however,
selecting such as are at the summit, but seeking a resting-place as
near the trunk as possible, much after the manner of the Owls. When
upon the ground, these Kites run and hop with so much adroitness and
activity as frequently to succeed in capturing a mouse, whilst the
latter is endeavouring to save its life by speed. The early part of
the day is spent in procuring food; at noon they rest, and then resume
their labours until the shades of evening have fully closed in: owing
to the extreme keenness of their sight and hearing, they are capable of
hunting almost in the dark, and can often detect their prey by the sense
of hearing alone. In disposition they are so inquisitive that almost
any attractive object will bring them down to investigate it. Of their
courage we cannot speak in flattering terms, but we have known them join
forces with the Crows in order to attack one of the larger tyrants of
the air. When caged they are easily tamed; we do not, however, recommend
them for domestication. Their voices are not loud, but penetrating.
All these birds are eminently useful to man, as they destroy enormous
numbers of mice as well as frogs and other reptiles; but they also most
unmercifully devour eggs and young birds during the breeding season. We
have never seen them touch carrion. The period of incubation commences
with the spring. The nest is placed among growing grass or reeds, the
parents prudently waiting until it is safely concealed before the eggs
are deposited. Naumann describes the eyrie as being a mass of dry twigs,
grass, potato stalks, and similar materials, lined with hair, feathers,
or moss. Occasionally the nest is merely formed of a little straw or
grass, rudely matted together. The brood consists of four or five eggs,
round in shape, and having delicate shells; these are of a greenish
white colour, sometimes marked with very tiny spots and streaks, but are
entirely without lustre. The young are reared upon mice, small birds,
frogs, and insects.


THE REED KITE, OR MARSH HARRIER.

[Illustration: THE REED KITE OR MARSH HARRIER (_Circus rufus_).]

The REED KITE, or MARSH HARRIER (_Circus rufus_), closely resembles
the birds above described in its general construction, but its beak is
longer and more powerful, and its tarsi more robust; the facial disc,
moreover, is only slightly indicated. Its length is twenty-one inches,
of which ten belong to the tail; its breadth varies from forty to fifty
inches. The female is from one and a half to two inches longer, and
three broader than her mate. The plumage of the adult male is often much
variegated. The top of the head and brow are brown; the cheeks and throat
are covered with pale yellow feathers, having dark shafts; the upper
part of the breast is yellow, streaked with brown, and the feathers on
the under part of the body are rust colour, tipped with a light shade;
most of the secondary quills, and all the tail-feathers, are grey. In the
female the top of the head and nape are yellow, striped with brown, the
rest of the mantle is reddish brown; the shoulder and upper wing-covers
of the axillary region are yellow, streaked with brown; the throat is
yellow, the cheeks and fore part of the body reddish brown. The young are
usually dark brown, with yellow heads, but vary much in their plumage.
The feet of all are pale yellow; the beak is black; the eye of the adult
bird yellow; that of the young, nut brown. It is at present uncertain
to what countries the habitat of this species is restricted, as it has
been occasionally met with in many parts of the world. Marshy districts
afford its favourite retreats, and it is constantly seen in the vicinity
of water or bog land, carefully avoiding high, dry plains, or mountainous
regions. During the winter this Harrier is one of the commonest birds
of India and Egypt. It reaches Europe about March, and at once takes
possession of its appropriate haunts. In its mode of life and habits
it so closely resembles the Blue Kite that further description would
be mere repetition. Its food consists principally of water and marsh
birds, frogs, fish, and insects; according to Jerdon, it will also eat
shrew mice and water rats. Large eggs it opens with great dexterity,
small ones are devoured whole; with Swan's eggs it appears to be unable
to grapple, for Naumann mentions having seen a Reed Kite turning them
over, and vainly endeavouring to get at the interior: it is no doubt
from fear of this voracious enemy that many birds are at such pains to
conceal their nests. From the breeding season until autumn this species
pursues all kinds of Water Fowl with insatiable avidity; it is in vain
that the quarry endeavours to elude pursuit by diving; old Ducks alone
seem capable of chasing away the unwelcome intruder, who, however,
revenges itself for their temerity, by destroying all the unprotected
ducklings that stray into its vicinity. In India this bird often exhibits
great hardihood; indeed, it is not uncommon for it to seize upon a Snipe
at the very moment that the sportsman is about to fire. The eyrie is
formed in beds of reeds, and is a mere rude mass of flags, rushes, or
similar materials carelessly heaped together. The brood consists of from
four to six large greenish-white eggs, which are hatched by the female
alone, who is meanwhile entertained by the antics of her mate; the
latter amusing himself by performing every conceivable kind of vagary in
the air, accompanying his motions by alternately lively and lugubrious
cries for whole hours at a time. The young are tended with much care
by both parents. As may be imagined, the enemies of the Reed Kite are
neither few nor backward in their attacks; the flocks of Crows alone must
occasionally make its life wearisome, for they allow no opportunity of
annoying or pursuing it to escape their vigilance. In some parts of Asia
the Reed Kite is trained to hunt Ducks; but in Europe, as far as we are
aware, this has never been attempted.

       *       *       *       *       *

Several species of Kites inhabiting New Holland, are distinguished from
those already described by their plumage. These birds have been grouped
together under the name of SPOTTED KITES (_Spilocircus_).


JARDINE'S SPOTTED KITE.

JARDINE'S SPOTTED KITE (_Spilocircus Jardinii_) is about the size of the
Reed Kite. The feathers upon its cheeks, ear-covers, and the top of its
head are nut brown, streaked with blackish brown upon the shafts; the
face, breast, and back are dark grey; the under side of the wings, belly,
and legs are reddish brown; most of the feathers upon the wings and lower
part of the breast are marked with round white spots upon each side of
the shaft; the quills are dark, and the tail-feathers striped alternately
with brown and grey. The beak is grey at the base, and black at its tip;
the feet are yellow, and the eyes orange. The young birds are of an
uniform dark brown upon the back, and striped instead of spotted on the
lower parts of the body. Gould informs us that the Spotted Kite is found
extensively throughout New South Wales, and that it closely resembles
its European congeners in its habits and mode of life. Small quadrupeds,
birds, lizards, and snakes constitute its principal nourishment. The nest
is built upon the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUZZARDS (_Buteones_) constitute a group of somewhat
heavily-constructed birds, of moderate size, that are found extensively
in both hemispheres, and in almost every latitude. Their bodies are
stout, their heads broad, thick, and flat; they all have short beaks,
which curve downwards from the base, are comparatively thick at the
sides, and without denticulations on the margin. Their necks are short,
and their wings long and rounded; in the latter the fourth quill usually
exceeds the rest in length. The tail is of moderate size, the tarsi of no
great height, and furnished with short, weak toes, which are, however,
armed with sharp and formidable talons. The plumage is more or less
lax, and composed of long, broad feathers, except upon the head, where
they are narrow and pointed, being only exceptionally prolonged into a
crest. Dusky hues predominate in the coloration of these birds, and their
markings are numerous and very varied.

The Buzzards frequent both mountainous and level districts, preferring,
however, such situations as abound in fields and woodlands. During
the breeding season each pair takes up its abode in a certain limited
district, within which it keeps, never trenching upon the space belonging
to a neighbouring couple. Towards other members of the feathered creation
they are inoffensive and peaceable, and are only roused to violence
should an intruder venture too close to their young family; such as
inhabit the northern countries of Europe are migratory in their habits,
while those found in southern regions are stationary. All the various
species fly slowly, more after the manner of the Eagles than of the
Kites; when about to pounce upon their prey, they hover, Falcon-like,
for a moment in the air, and then come slowly and heavily down. Upon the
ground their movements are ungainly, and their step an awkward attempt at
a hop. So strong and keen is the sight of these birds, that they may be
very properly termed "eagle-eyed;" their hearing is also good, and their
powers of touch and taste well developed.

In spite of the apparent dullness exhibited by the Buzzards, they are
superior in intelligence to most of their order, and scarcely deserve to
be called rapacious, as when no longer hungry they rarely plunder from
mere love of theft; having satisfied their appetite, they seem to trouble
themselves no longer about the chase. With other Birds of Prey they would
willingly live upon amicable terms; towards the Screech Owl alone they
exhibit a most implacable hatred. But the Buzzards themselves have many
tormentors, no doubt from the fact that such of their assailants as are
light and active find considerable amusement in following and worrying
their more ponderous and unwieldy neighbours. Worms, snails, larvæ, and
various kinds of insects, together with some kinds of vegetable food,
are eaten in large quantities by these birds, so that their services
to the farmer are both extensive and important. Rice they will readily
devour, and snakes they perseveringly destroy, even if the encounter
necessitates considerable exertion. Their eyrie is built in high trees,
and constructed in the most careless manner; the eggs are usually three
or four in number, though occasionally the female lays but one. The
young remain for a considerable time under the care and tuition of their
parents, by whom they are most watchfully tended. If taken from the nest
when very young, the Buzzard will become so tame that it may be allowed
to fly about at large.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SNAKE BUZZARDS (_Circaëti_) have frequently been numbered with the
Eagles under the name of Snake Eagles. These are large birds, of a most
peculiar type. Their bodies are slender, but powerful, with short neck,
large head, and strong beak; the latter curves downwards from the base,
is compressed at its sides, and terminates in a long hook. The wings are
broad and long, the third or fourth quill exceeding the rest in length;
the tail is of moderate size, broad and straight at its extremity; the
feet are high, and protected by a thick armature of horny plates; the
toes are very short, and furnished with short, sharp, crooked talons. The
plumage is lax; and, as in that of the Eagle, the feathers upon the head
and nape are pointed at their tip.


THE SNAKE BUZZARD.

[Illustration: THE SNAKE BUZZARD (_Circaëtus brachydactylus_, or
_Circaëtus Gallicus_).]

The SNAKE BUZZARD (_Circaëtus brachydactylus_, or _Circaëtus Gallicus_)
is from twenty-six to twenty-eight inches long, and from sixty-six to
sixty-eight across the wings; the latter measure eighteen, and the tail
nine inches. The upper part of the body of this bird is brown, the
feathers upon the head and nape pale brown, tipped with a still lighter
shade; the quills are blackish brown, edged with two borders, one being
white, the other pale brown, and marked with an irregular black line; the
tail is brown, broadly tipped with white, and adorned with three black
stripes; the brow, throat, and cheeks are whitish, and streaked with
delicate brown lines; the crop and upper part of the breast are bright
light brown; the rest of the under part of the body is white, with a few
brown spots. The large eyes are surmounted with a ring of wool-like down,
and the cheek-stripes are covered with bristles; the eye is yellow, the
beak blueish black, and the cere and feet light blue. The young differ
but slightly from the adult birds.

Until the beginning of the present century this Buzzard was almost
entirely unknown, but it is now met with throughout all the countries of
Southern Europe. Its habitat, however, extends beyond that continent;
indeed, it often wanders far into Northern Africa, and Jerdon mentions
it as common in India. In Central Europe it is a summer bird, appearing
about May, and departing early in the autumn; its disposition is
extremely quiet and indolent, and as it usually prefers to seek shelter
in the recesses of forests, is not very frequently seen; in Hindostan,
on the contrary (where it breeds), it inhabits the more open country,
whether the latter be dry or marshy. In Northern Africa it flies about
during the winter in parties of from six to twelve, often settling on
such rocks as are near rivers, but more generally upon the open and
barren steppes; it has also been known to breed in North-western Africa.
The Snake Buzzards, according to our own experience, although quiet and
idle, are exceedingly quarrelsome while occupied with the care of their
young; at other times they are remarkably timid, and often utter loud
cries if disturbed. Those we saw in Africa would remain perched when we
approached, and glower at us with their large eyes in a most unearthly
manner, without attempting to save themselves by flight. It is only early
in the morning and late in the evening that they are seen upon trees,
the entire day being spent in searching after prey. While thus employed
nothing can exceed the deliberation with which they move; indeed, it
would be difficult to find in any other members of the feathered race
such a picture of indolence as they present, while they sit motionless
at the edge of the water, or flap their way ponderously through the air.
Towards its own kind this bird exhibits many most unamiable qualities,
for so greedy and envious is it, that should one of its brethren prove
fortunate in the chase, a hard-fought battle is sure to ensue, in order
to compel the possessor of the coveted morsel ignominiously to resign its
prize, and during such encounters the combatants often use their claws
with so much effect that, powerless to fly, both fall together to the
ground. About noon the Snake Buzzard appears upon the river banks, over
which it hops much after the fashion of the Raven. An isolated tree is
usually selected for a sleeping-place, as from such a situation the bird
can command a view of the surrounding country.

The food of this species consists principally of reptiles, though it also
devours large quantities of fish, which, should the water be shallow,
it readily obtains; according to Jerdon, it also consumes rats, small
birds, crabs, and the larger kinds of insects. The manner in which
this bird gives battle to serpents has been thus described: "A young
individual in my possession," says Mecklenburg, "would dart down upon
any snake, however large or fierce, and after seizing it with its claws
behind the head, bite it vigorously several times through the nape; the
reptile, thus paralysed, was then swallowed by degrees, commencing with
the head, each new mouthful being prepared by a preliminary bite through
the backbone. During one forenoon I have seen my bird kill and devour no
fewer than three large snakes, one of which measured nearly three feet,
and was very thick. I have never known an instance in which it tore its
prey to pieces before swallowing it. The scales were usually cast up
again undigested." Elliot mentions having seen one of these Buzzards
completely enveloped in the folds of a huge poisonous snake, the head
of which, however, was held so firmly in the bird's beak, that all its
efforts to free itself were fruitless. The thick coat of feathers in
which this species is enveloped is its only protection against the deadly
fangs of its victims; recent experiments have proved that its system is
not, as was once supposed, proof against their poison.

The eyrie of the Snake Buzzard is built about June; it is flat in shape,
and formed of branches and twigs; the interior is lined with green
leaves, and green branches are also fastened outside to protect the
little family from the rays of the sun. It is not uncommon for a pair of
these birds to return year after year to the same eyrie. They lay one or
two eggs of an oval shape, with very thin, coarse shells, of a blueish
white colour. Both parents participate in the labour of incubation,
sitting alternately upon the eggs for about twenty-eight days. We are
told, on reliable authority, that, if molested, the mother bird removes
her young to another place. The Snake Buzzard is easily tamed if taken
early from the nest.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CRESTED BUZZARDS (_Spilornis_) are a group of very remarkable birds,
inhabiting the most southern countries of Asia and Africa. Such species
as we are acquainted with are of considerable size, and powerfully built;
their pointed wings, in which the fourth quill is the longest, extend to
the middle of the tail; the latter is of moderate length, and rounded at
the extremity; the tarsus is high, and the talons short and sharp; the
beak, which is straight at the base, curves abruptly towards its tip; the
margin of the upper mandible is without teeth, whilst that of the lower
one is excised near the extremity. The plumage is thick, and prolonged
into a crest at the back of the head.


THE BACHA.

The BACHA (_Spilornis Bacha_), the species we select as an example of
this group, is described by Le Vaillant as from twenty-two to twenty-four
inches long, of which ten belong to the tail. The plumage is a dusky
greyish brown, darkest upon the upper parts of the body; all the feathers
upon the borders of the wings, lower portion of the breast, belly, and
legs are marked with three or four round, white spots, standing out, by
contrast, very distinctly from the dark body; the wings are blackish
brown, and the feathers upon their covers bordered with greyish white;
the crest is white, tipped with black, as are also the feathers on the
brow. The eye is brownish red, the cere and feet yellow, and the beak
greyish blue.

The Bacha is found throughout the interior of Southern Africa, Java,
Nepaul, and China. According to Le Vaillant, it frequents the most barren
and mountainous districts of the countries it inhabits, subsisting upon a
variety of small quadrupeds, reptiles, and insects. It passes a solitary
life, after the manner of our Buzzard, and is but rarely met with. The
voice of this species is very melancholy. The breeding season commences
in December; the eyrie, which is most carelessly constructed, is placed
in holes of rocks, and usually contains from two to three eggs. Bernstein
tells us that such of these birds as inhabit Java live upon the outskirts
of the woods, or amongst the groups of trees growing near the villages.
In such localities the nest is also built, a thickly-foliaged tree being
usually selected for the purpose. The same author describes the eggs as
being of a dull white, marked with irregular streaks and spots of reddish
brown, which usually lie thickest towards the two ends.

       *       *       *       *       *

Other species of Crested Buzzards are met with in the Philippine Islands,
Ceylon, and India.


THE HONEY BUZZARD.

The HONEY BUZZARD, or WASP KITE (_Pernis apivorus_) may be regarded as
forming the connecting link between the Buzzards and True Kites. In this
bird the body, wings, tail, and beak are long, the latter, moreover, is
shallow, weak, and but slightly curved towards its tip; the third quill
of the wings exceeds the others in length, and the cheek-stripes are
covered with short, stiff feathers; the plumage of this species is also
harsher, and lies closer than that of the Buzzards above described. Its
length is from twenty-three to twenty-four inches, its breadth fifty-two
to fifty-four inches; the wing measures fifteen, and the tail nine
inches. The plumage varies very considerably, both in its colour and
markings, and it is, therefore, difficult to make any decided statements
on these points. The male is sometimes of an uniform brown, the tail
alone being adorned with three large and several small stripes; the head
is greyish blue; sometimes, however, we find the upper parts of the body
brown, and the lower spotted more or less with white; or the feathers
on these portions white, with brown spots and streaks upon the shafts.
The young are usually brown or yellowish brown, the feathers having dark
shafts, except those on the nape, which are light. The eye is either
golden, or of a silvery whiteness; the beak is black, the cere bright
yellow, and the feet lemon colour.

The Honey Buzzard inhabits all the southern and central countries of
Southern Europe, and during the course of its migrations frequently
journeys as far as Western Africa. In disposition it is cowardly, dull,
and indolent; its movements have been described in such contradictory
terms, that we can scarcely imagine them to be applied to the same
species; according, however, to our own observations, its flight is
light and beautiful, it can rise to a great height, and describes an
endless variety of evolutions in the air; like most of its congeners,
it runs well, and often pursues its prey upon the ground. Its voice is
monotonous, and its call-note sometimes prolonged for whole minutes at
a time. The food of this species differs from that of any other Bird of
Prey, for it lives principally upon wasp-grubs, very carefully avoiding
such as are full-grown, and, therefore, protected by their sting. It
also devours beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, frogs, mice, and rats;
and will frequently linger near a Hawk until the latter has finished
its meal, in the hope of securing what is left. During the summer it
occasionally eats various kinds of berries.

The eyrie is usually placed at no great height, upon the branches of
some sturdy beech or oak; pines and fir-trees being but rarely resorted
to. The nest, which the bird is at no pains to conceal, is carelessly
constructed of dry twigs, so lightly thrown together that the brood
is often visible through its walls. The eggs, from two to four in
number, are sometimes round, sometimes oval; the shell is more or less
smooth, and either yellowish red or brownish white, marbled with lines
of different tints, which, like the colour, are so very variable that
any description of them would be useless. The young are reared upon
caterpillars, flies, and other insects, with which they are supplied
from the crops of the parent birds; at a later period they are fed upon
honeycombs, filled with bee-grubs, also upon frogs, birds, and other
substantial diet.

Behrends relates the following facts to prove how tame the Honey Buzzard
may become: "My bird," he says, "before it had been many weeks in the
house, learnt to attach itself not only to certain individuals of the
family, but to my dogs, towards one of the latter, in particular, it
exhibited great affection, following it about, and perching close to it
whilst it slept. This bird was allowed to run at large about the house,
and never found a door standing open without calling loudly until it was
shut. It answered to the name of 'Jack,' but would only come at my call
when hungry, or in a particularly good humour. I have seen it spring on
to a lady's lap or shoulder, and play with her hair by drawing a lock
through its beak, at the same time uttering a piping kind of cry; it
would also raise its wing in order to be scratched, a performance that
it much enjoyed. When hungry it used to rush screaming through the house
until it found my maid, upon whose dress it clambered in its energetic
endeavours to have its wants attended to. If not immediately satisfied
its cries became frightful, and it would assume a very pugnacious
attitude, as though it would say, 'You had better be careful how you
trifle with me.' Bread and milk was the diet it preferred, but it would
eat meat, porridge, and potatoes; wasps it merely killed, without
eating them. 'Jack' was extremely susceptible to cold, and would hide
near the stove during the winter, remaining very quiet, as he knew well
that his presence in our sitting-room was against rules. His general
demeanour somewhat resembled that of a Crow, his movements were slow and
deliberate, and it was only when alarmed or pursued that he sought safety
by taking a series of short jumps. I only succeeded in keeping him for
three years."


THE CRESTED HONEY BUZZARD.

The CRESTED HONEY BUZZARD (_Pernis cristatus_) is found throughout the
whole of Hindostan, where it inhabits all woodland districts, from the
coast to an altitude of 8,000 feet above the sea. This species, which
is very closely allied to the bird above described, subsists, like its
European congener, upon young bees, wasps, ants, and caterpillars; only
occasionally devouring rats, reptiles, and (as we learn from the natives)
young birds and eggs. The eyrie is built upon trees; the eggs are of a
light colour, and thickly covered with spots.


THE ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD.

The ROUGH-LEGGED or WINTER BUZZARD (_Archibuteo lagopus_) is
distinguished from all its congeners by having its tarsi feathered, like
those of the Eagle. The beak of this species is small and narrow, very
decidedly curved, and furnished with a long hook; the wings, in which the
third and fourth quills exceed the rest in length, extend, when closed,
to the end of the long and rounded tail. The plumage is lax, its feathers
for the most part large, those upon the head and nape being small, and
rounded at the tip; the brow is white, the tips of the wings are dark
slate colour, the tail white, its grey tip striped with black; the breast
of the male and belly of the female are spotted with blackish brown; the
hose are reddish yellow or whitish grey, similarly marked. The coloration
of the feathers upon the other parts of the body is a strange mixture of
all these different tints. The length of this bird is from twenty-two to
twenty-five inches. The female is larger than her mate. The Rough-legged
Buzzard is found throughout all the northern countries of the globe,
proving itself everywhere to be a very formidable enemy to the Lemming.
The eyrie is built upon rocks as well as trees. This bird is sometimes
met with in England, where it has been killed once or oftener in almost
every county; it has, however, rarely been known to breed here, and is
usually obtained in spring or autumn, when changing its latitude from
north to south, or _vice versâ_.

Sir John Richardson, in his "Zoology of North America," tells us "that
this species advances east of the Rocky Mountains, as high as the
sixty-eighth parallel. It arrives in the fur countries in April or May,
and, having reared its young, retires southward early in October. It is
by no means an uncommon bird in the districts through which he travelled,
but, being very shy, only one specimen was procured. A pair were seen
building their nests with sticks on a lofty tree, standing on a low,
moist, alluvial point of land. They sailed round the spot in a wide
circle, occasionally settling on the top of a tree, but were too wary to
allow an approach within gun shot." In the softness and fulness of its
plumage, its feathered legs, and habits, this bird bears some resemblance
to an Owl. It flies slowly, sits for a long time on the bough of a tree,
watching for mice, frogs, &c., and is often seen skimming over swampy
pieces of ground, and hunting for its prey by the subdued daylight which
illuminates even the midnight hours in high latitudes. Wilson observes
that in Pennsylvania it is in the habit of coursing over the meadows
long after the sun has set. It is fitted for this nocturnal chase by
the fleeciness of its feathers, which contributes to render its flight
noiseless."


THE COMMON BUZZARD.

The COMMON or MOUSE BUZZARD (_Buteo vulgaris_) is distinguished by its
small, narrow, hooked beak, and bare tarsi; its tail is comparatively
short, and its plumage less lax than that of the above-mentioned species,
which, in other respects, it closely resembles. Its length is from
twenty-two to twenty-five inches, its breadth from fifty to fifty-eight
inches; the tail measures about nine inches. The coloration of the
plumage varies so much in different individuals as to render a general
description almost impossible--indeed, no two birds are alike.

The Mouse Buzzards are met with throughout a large part of Europe and
Central Asia, appearing in the southern portions of our continent during
the winter, and living solitarily in the vicinity of lofty mountains
during the summer months. They are rarely seen in Northern Africa, or
in the lower parts of India, but are common in certain districts of the
Himalayas. In some of the warm countries of Europe they remain throughout
the entire year; in such as are more northern, they arrive about March or
April, and leave again in September. When about to migrate, these birds
congregate in parties of from twenty to a hundred, and as the flocks
usually proceed in the same course when quitting us, without actually
assembling in large hosts, they often fly so as to spread their numbers
over a square mile of country. At such times their flight is slow, and
varied by the performance of many elegant evolutions, sweeping about
in circles for half-an-hour at a time; and, as they return northwards,
they often linger for whole days upon spots likely to afford them a
plentiful supply of food. When about to settle, they generally select
such localities as are well covered with trees, and in the vicinity of
fields or pasture lands, these situations being rich in such game as they
prefer; they are, however, found in large forests, and sometimes ascend
to a great height in mountain ranges.

[Illustration: THE COMMON OR MOUSE BUZZARD (_Buteo vulgaris_).]

The movements of this Buzzard are characterised by a slowness and
clumsiness that render it almost unmistakable, either as it soars
slowly aloft, or sits, with body huddled together and ruffled plumage,
upon the branch of a tree, from whence it watches with keen eyes,
for the appearance of its prey. During the breeding season and early
spring, however, these birds exhibit an activity for which we are quite
unprepared, and soar to prodigious heights, displaying their skill in
a variety of aërial manœuvres, apparently for the amusement of their
mates. The voice of the Common Buzzard very closely resembles the
mewing of a cat; its sight is excellent, its hearing delicate, and the
other senses very well developed; its disposition is intelligent, keen,
and sly. The eyrie is built, or an old one repaired, about May. This
structure is placed upon a tree, and carefully formed of branches, such
as are thickest being placed beneath the others; the interior is lined
with very fine twigs, moss, hair, and other soft materials. The nest is
about two feet in diameter. The brood consists of three or four greenish
white eggs, spotted with light brown; the female alone sits, but at a
later period both parents co-operate in tending the little family. This
species occasionally takes possession of the nests of Crows or Ravens,
instead of building on its own account.

Rats, marmots, snakes, and insects are greedily devoured by the Mouse
Buzzard, yet, as its name indicates, _mice_ constitute its favourite
diet--indeed, so large is the number eaten by this bird, that, according
to Lenz, a family of five consumes no less than 50,000 of these
destructive animals in the course of a year. We will not attempt to
include the next generation in this calculation, or our readers would be
involved in a sum as intricate as that with which we are all familiar,
respecting the nails in a horse-shoe; if, however, we take into account
that the Mouse Buzzard attacks and kills all kinds of snakes, whether
poisonous or not, we shall be able in some measure to estimate the very
valuable services it renders to the human race. The generally-received
impression that this species is proof against the venom of serpents is
incorrect, as has been proved in a variety of instances.


THE RED-WINGED OR GRASSHOPPER BUZZARD.

The RED-WINGED or GRASSHOPPER BUZZARD (_Poliornis rufipennis_) is a small
lively bird, inhabiting Central Africa. This species is recognisable by
its long, powerful, but slightly curved beak, and over-hanging cere. Its
pointed wings, in which the fourth quill is the longest, reach almost
to the end of the long tail; the legs are high, and the toes small; the
brow white, the mantle brownish grey, the head, nape, and lower portions
of the body reddish yellow; the feathers upon the back have dark shafts
and light borders, those on the under part of the body are marked with
dark streaks; the tail is deep grey, edged with white, and darkly striped
towards its tip. The quills are reddish brown, lightest in shade upon the
inner web, tipped with black, and having a white border. The cere, bare
cheek-stripes, and feet are bright yellow; the beak is deep orange at its
base and greyish black at the tip. The length of the male is fourteen
inches and a quarter; the wing measures eleven, and the tail six inches
and three-quarters.

The Grasshopper Buzzard makes its appearance upon the plains of Central
Africa about the rainy season, during which period it finds abundance of
food, and after lingering for some time, quits that part of the continent
for still warmer regions. In its habits this bird is half Falcon and
half Buzzard; like the latter it perches for hours together upon the
branches of a tree, surveying the surrounding country, and watching for
prey; then, suddenly rising, it flies, with rapid strokes of its wings,
to a considerable distance, and, after hovering for a few seconds, swoops
down, and pounces upon the grasshopper it has marked for its own. We are
without further particulars of the life of this bird.


THE TESA.

The TESA (_Poliornis Tesa_), the Indian representative of the species
above described, is found throughout Hindostan, where it is very numerous
both upon pasture land and on open plains. The flight of this Buzzard
is rapid, and much resembles that of the Kestrel. When upon the wing it
usually keeps near the ground, over which it often runs for some yards,
in order to secure its prey, and few prettier sights can be imagined than
that presented by this bird as it thus half runs, half flies, in pursuit
of the grasshoppers, upon which it mainly subsists; it will also eagerly
devour rats, mice, lizards and small snakes, frogs, cray-fish, crabs,
and large insects. Burgess tells us he saw a Tesa picking the remains of
a full-grown Quail. The eyrie is built upon a tree; the eggs, four in
number, are laid about April or May; these are sometimes quite white, or
white spotted and marked with brown.

       *       *       *       *       *

South America possesses a group of Buzzards, distinguished from the birds
already described, by the formation of their beak, which is usually thin
and shallow. The members of this group are also more slender, and have
smaller heads and longer wings than the rest of the family; their wings,
in which the fourth quill is the longest, are narrow, very pointed, and
extend beyond the end of the long and broad tail; the latter is either
graduated or excised at its extremity. Their legs are weak, and the tarsi
bare; the toes are long, and armed with long, slender, and slightly bent
talons.


THE CARACOLERO.

The CARACOLERO, SNAIL BUZZARD, or HOOK-BEAKED BUZZARD (_Rostrhamus
hamatus_), is one of the members of this group with which we are most
familiar. Its length is from sixteen to seventeen inches, and its
breadth from forty to forty-two inches; the wing measures from thirteen
to thirteen and a half, and the tail from six to six and a half inches.
The plumage is of an uniform dark grey, shaded with pale brown upon the
back and shoulders; the narrow feathers that clothe the legs are edged
with red, the upper tail-covers are white at the base, and bordered with
white. The eye is bright blood red, the cere, cheek-stripes, corners
of the mouth, half the under mandible, and the legs bright orange; the
beak is black. The coloration of the young is very varied, and differs
considerably from that of the parent birds.

According to D'Orbigny, the Snail Buzzards are found throughout the whole
of South America, where they frequent the margins of lakes and morasses,
in large numbers. In their habits they are social, keeping together in
parties of about thirty birds; indeed, it is by no means uncommon to see
a dozen or more perched on the same tree. When in flight they summon each
other with loud cries, and all are constantly upon the watch to detect
and warn their companions against approaching danger. Their flight is
light, graceful, and rapid, and their attitudes, when perching upon a
tree, extremely dignified. Except during the breeding season (respecting
which we have no information), they sweep over the face of the country,
seldom remaining for any length of time in one place. The food of this
species consists of snails, reptiles, fish, and insects. Grundlach tells
us that upon one occasion he saw a great number of nests built upon the
trees that surrounded a large pond, and was told that they were those of
the Caracolero; the young had already quitted the eyries, though it was
then only April.


THE URUBITINGA.

The URUBITINGA (_Hypomorphnus Urubitinga_) is one of the largest Buzzards
with which we are acquainted. Its beak is comparatively short, high,
and straight towards the base, but from thence it curves downwards in
a long hook; the head is large, the wings, in which the third quill is
longer than the fourth and fifth, are of moderate size; the tail is very
long, and composed of broad feathers. The feet are remarkably high, the
tarsi being twice the length of the middle toe; the talons are strong,
pointed, and much bent. The plumage is rich in texture. The cheeks,
region of the eyes, bridles, and throat are sparsely covered with a
bristle-like growth; the eyelids have very well developed eyelashes.
The length of this species is about twenty-two inches, and its breadth
fifty-one inches; the wing measures fifteen and a half, and the tail nine
inches; the female is larger than her mate. In old birds the plumage is
principally brownish black; the feathers on the nape are white at their
origin, and those on the back gleam with a greyish blue lustre, whilst
such as clothe the inner side of the legs are marked with small light
streaks. The wings are blackish brown adorned with narrow greyish blue
lines; the tail-feathers are blackish brown at the root and tip, white
in the middle, and surrounded by a narrow dirty white border. The eye
is brownish yellow, the cere and base of the lower mandible yellow, the
upper part of the beak greyish black, the feet light yellow. The young
are yellow or brownish yellow; the feathers upon the hinder parts have
blackish brown spots at their tips, and the wings and tail-feathers are
striped with yellow and brown.

The Urubitinga is, without question, the noblest and most courageous
member of its family, and, according to the Brazilians, is a very
dangerous foe to monkeys, small quadrupeds, birds, lizards, and snakes;
it also eagerly devours grasshoppers and snails; in order to obtain these
it prefers to make its home in the forests, upon the outskirts of which
it loves to linger; it is occasionally, but rarely, seen in the open
country. The Prince von Wied tells us that he has often found this bird
perched in the branches of some thickly-foliaged tree, surrounded by a
host of feathered tormentors, who were doing their best to excite it to
frenzy; these amiable endeavours, however, had no visible result; the
nobler bird sat still, tranquilly pursuing its meditations, apparently
quite unconscious that it was the subject of their gibes and raillery.
The flight of the Urubitinga is majestic, and capable of being long
sustained; its voice is very shrill, and composed of but two notes. The
eyrie is usually constructed upon such inaccessible trees as grow near
the banks of a river. We learn from Burmeister that the eggs, two in
number, are elongated, and white, spotted with various shades of reddish
brown.

       *       *       *       *       *

The VULTURE FALCONS (_Polybori_) are a family of birds inhabiting South
America. Their bodies are slender, their wings comparatively short, their
tails long, broad, and rounded at the extremity; the tarsi are high and
thin, the toes weak and of moderate size, the claws pointed and but
slightly curved; the beak is long, straight towards its base, hooked at
its tip, and straight at the margins. The plumage is harsh, and composed
of large feathers; those upon the head are pointed. The cheek-stripes
are _always_, the throat and brow _occasionally_ bare; the eye has long
lashes.

The members of this family may be regarded as holding in South America
the place occupied in Europe by the Raven, Magpie, and Crow. They
frequent all parts of the country in large numbers, and live in such
close proximity to man, that they are literally found at his very door.
Two species of this group are particularly fond of the society of the
human race, and are met with throughout the land, on every spot where
even the smallest settlement has been established; others frequent
the sea-coast, upon which they obtain the means of subsistence; and
some inhabit the woods, feeding, in a great measure, upon fruits and
berries. Carrion and offal have, however, the greatest attractions for
the Vulture Falcons, and wherever these are to be met with hundreds
are certain to appear. The flight of these birds is so peculiar as to
cause them to be recognised even at a great distance; in consequence of
the equal length of the quills, the wings appear square when extended,
and the tail is kept fully spread, whilst they travel through the air
with a slow, sweeping kind of stroke; occasionally, however, they fly
with considerable rapidity. When upon the ground their gait closely
resembles that of the True Vulture. The sight and hearing of this family
are keen, and their other senses tolerably acute; that of smell they
certainly possess, and the nostrils are always moist. In disposition
they are bold and insolent, and would willingly be extremely social;
their shrill Hawk-like cry, however, renders it undesirable to cultivate
their intimate acquaintance. Their nest is built upon the ground or on
the branches of trees; the eggs, from two to six in number, are round,
and spotted like those of Falcons. Both parents assist in the cares of
incubation, and are much attached to their young. Although extremely
numerous in their native land these birds are but seldom brought to
Europe, and are therefore always numbered amongst the rarities of our
zoological collections.


THE CHIMANGO.

The CHIMANGO (_Milvago Chimachima_) is one of the most extensively
distributed species of this family. The formation of its body is
slender, its head large, the wings long and pointed; in the latter the
fourth quill exceeds the rest in length. The tail is of moderate size,
and slightly rounded; the legs high, slender, and the tarsi sparsely
feathered; the toes are long, and armed with very sharp hooked talons;
the beak is slender, and terminates in a short hook; the cere is broad,
and projects beyond the well-developed nostrils, which are surrounded
by a kind of ridge; the throat is but slightly covered with feathers;
the bridles and region of the eyes are bare. Dirty white predominates
in the plumage of the adult male; the wings, tail, back, and a streak
above the eyes that extends to the nape are dark brown; the four exterior
quills are white in the middle, and marked with dark spots, thus forming
an irregular white line; the other quills are yellowish white at their
origin, and streaked with black; the upper portion being blackish brown.
The tail-feathers are white, tipped and striped three times with blackish
brown. The eye is greyish brown, the beak pale blueish white, brightest
towards its tip; the cheek-stripes, cere, eyelids, and a small place
round the eye, and the chin are orange colour; the feet are pale blue.
But little difference is perceptible in the plumage of the male and
female. In the young birds the top of the head and cheeks are dark brown,
the sides and back of the neck yellowish white, spotted with brown; the
back is dark brown, and some of the feathers are bordered with red. The
wing-covers are striped with two shades of brown, the throat is dirty
white, the breast blackish brown, each feather being streaked with
yellow; the belly is yellowish. The length of this species is fourteen
inches and a half, its breadth thirty-one inches; the wing measures about
ten, and the tail six inches. The female is a trifle larger than her mate.

The Chimangos inhabit almost the whole of South America, and throughout
that continent are met with in great numbers; pasture lands or large
open tracts are their favourite resorts, and, if not molested, they will
congregate around and upon the houses of the natives; Boeck mentions
having often seen them perching in crowds on the roofs, or following the
ploughman up and down the fields. They rarely frequent mountains, and
then only to a limited height; but at times they are casual visitors to
the sea-coast. When upon the ground the Chimango moves with dignified
ease, and regards all such as approach it with a proud glance of its
eye, that would lead us to imagine its intelligence superior to its
position in the economy of Nature. Its flight is far from rapid, and it
seldom rises high into the air. According to the Prince von Wied, these
birds are never seen flying peaceably about in parties, but exhibit on
all occasions such a decided love of quarrelling and strife that even a
chance meeting between two of them, if strangers to each other, is likely
to be followed by a furious battle. No other Birds of Prey will eat such
various kinds of food as are ordinarily devoured by the Chimango, to
whose voracious appetite it would seem that nothing comes amiss, even
down to the merest refuse from the kitchens of the natives; it much
enjoys potatoes, and not only abstracts them from the houses, but will
dig them up immediately after it has seen them planted. Of all the hungry
crew by which the dead body of a horse or cow is invariably surrounded,
this bird is always the last to leave the well-picked bones, and may
often be seen, long after the rest have deserted it, running up and
down within the skeleton, in the hope of finding an as yet undiscovered
morsel; it eagerly devours worms, larvæ, snails, reptiles, fishes, birds,
and small quadrupeds, besides a great variety of other articles of food
gleaned from the sea-coast. The voice of the Chimango is extremely harsh
and shrill. The breeding season commences in September. The eyrie, which
is built upon a tree, is a large shallow structure formed of branches,
twigs, and roots. The brood consists of five or six very round eggs, of
a reddish or light brown-grey colour, marked with irregularly disposed
spots of red or brown, which lie closest at the broad end. During the
period of incubation the Chimango is somewhat less quarrelsome towards
its associates than at other seasons of the year, and exhibits great
affection for its young.


THE VULTURE BUZZARD.

The VULTURE BUZZARD (_Milvago Australis_) is also a well-known inhabitant
of South America, and is particularly numerous in the Falkland Islands.
In size this species resembles the Spotted Eagle (_Aquila nævia_). The
plumage of the adult birds is deep black, the feathers upon the back,
neck, and breast being streaked with white; the hose are bright reddish
brown; the origin of the quills and tips of the tail feathers white. The
beak is grey, the cere and feet of a yellow shade. The young are without
the light streaks upon the neck and breast, the feathers on these parts
being speckled with red or reddish white. The quills are rust red at the
base, the tail blackish brown, the beak deep brown, and the feet brownish
yellow. Abbott tells us that these birds will fall upon and devour such
of their own species as have been wounded; and that they are so covetous
and inquisitive that he has known them drag a large hat and two balls to
the distance of a mile from the spot on which they were first discovered.
According to another authority, they are so violent in their disposition
that it is not uncommon for them to root up the grass when they are in a
particularly troublesome humour. Upon the ground they run with all the
agility of a pheasant, and are then very elegant in their appearance;
when perched we cannot pay them the same compliment, as their crop is
often so enormously distended as to excite strong feelings of disgust.
The Vulture Buzzard spends but little of its time in the air, through
which it may be said to walk rather than fly, so peculiar and heavy
are its movements when upon the wing. It is noisy in its habits, and
possesses a loud harsh voice, much resembling that of the Crow; whilst
uttering its very disagreeable but varied notes, the head is repeatedly
thrown backwards and forwards, after the manner of its congeners. The
eyrie is built upon the precipitous rocks that abound upon the coast,
and is usually formed of dry blades of tussock grass, lined with wool.
The two or three eggs of which a brood consists are round, brown, and
variegated with dark spots and streaks. The female lays about November,
and Abbott tells us that the young do not attain their full beauty until
they are two years old.


THE CARANCHO.

The CARANCHO or TRARO (_Polyborus vulgaris_ or _Polyborus Brasiliensis_)
is found extensively throughout South America. The group of which this
bird may be regarded as the type, is characterised by a slender body and
powerful wings (in which the third quill is the longest) that extend
almost to the end of the tail; the feathers of the latter are ragged at
the tips, as in the tail of the Vulture. The legs are long, the toes
short, and the talons strong, sharp, and but slightly curved. The beak is
large, high, straight at its base, and only slightly bent. The plumage is
heavy and lustreless. The feathers upon the head, neck, and breast, are
narrow; those on the back large and rounded. The cheek-stripes, as well
as the region of the chin and crop, are so sparsely covered with short
bristles that they appear to be bare. The length of the Carancho is about
one foot two inches; its breadth more than four feet; the wing measures
above fourteen, and the tail above seven inches; the feathers upon the
top and back of the head can be raised so as to form a crest. The back
is dark brown striped with white; the wings are of the same deep shade,
streaked with a paler tint upon the posterior quills and wing-covers; the
cheeks, chin, throat, and upper part of the breast are white or yellowish
white; the sides of the throat and breast streaked like the back. The
belly, legs, and rump are of an uniform blackish brown; the tail feathers
are white, tipped broadly with blackish brown and thickly covered with
extremely fine brown lines; the eye is grey or reddish brown; the cere,
cheek-stripes, and the bare space around the eyes brownish yellow; the
beak is light blue, and the foot orange colour. The female is larger
than her mate, the only other difference in appearance consisting in the
comparative paleness of her coloration. The feathers upon the bodies of
the young birds are pointed and have light borders, those upon the top of
the head being of a deep brown, but with this exception their plumage is
very dull and faded in its appearance.

These remarkable birds are frequently met with in pairs, wandering over
the plains of South America; but they are most numerous in the extensive
regions known as the Steppes or Pampas, or near morasses. When seen upon
the ground their appearance is striking and even beautiful; the crest is
borne aloft, and each bird moves with an ease and bold bearing that might
almost be termed majestic. Animal food of all kinds is greedily devoured
by the Caranchos, and they capture mice, small birds, reptiles, snails,
and insects, after the manner of Buzzards. Azara tells us that flocks of
sheep if not protected by the presence of a good dog, are constantly in
danger of falling victims to the attacks of these voracious marauders,
who come down in parties of four or five upon the defenceless lambs, and
tear out their entrails even while still alive.

The Caranchos, says Mr. Darwin, together with the voracious Chimangos,
constantly attend in numbers the _estancias_ and slaughter-houses. If
an animal dies on the plain, the Milvago begins the feast, and then the
Caranchos pick the bones quite clean. Besides devouring the carrion
of large animals, these birds frequent the borders of streams and
sea-beaches to pick up whatever the waters cast ashore. In Terra del
Fuego and on the west coast of Patagonia they must live exclusively on
such supplies. The Caranchos are said to be crafty and to steal great
numbers of eggs. They attempt also, together with the Chimango, to pick
the scabs from the sore backs of horses and mules; the poor animals
on the one hand with ears down and back arched, and on the other the
hovering bird of prey eyeing at a distance the disgusting morsel, form a
picture that has been described by Captain Head with peculiar spirit and
accuracy. A person will discover the necrophagous habits of the Carancho
by walking out upon one of the desolate plains and there lying down to
go to sleep; for when he awakes he will see on each surrounding hillock
one of these birds patiently watching him with an evil eye. If a party
goes out hunting with dogs and horses, it will be accompanied during the
day by several of these attendants, and in the desert between the rivers
Negro and Colorado, numbers constantly attend on the line of road to
devour the carcases of the exhausted animals which chance to perish from
fatigue and thirst.

These birds are much detested by the inhabitants of the districts where
they abound, on account of their raids upon the meat laid out to dry
in the fields. They will also steal fowls from under the very eye of
the farmer, and destroy eggs in great numbers; we are told that they
even pursue Cranes until the unfortunates are compelled to disgorge
the meat they have been seen to swallow. These various attacks upon
the outer world are generally returned with interest upon the head of
the rapacious offender, for not only other birds, but even its own
species, allow no opportunity for annoying or harassing it to escape
their notice; while another troublesome class of enemies contributes to
render the life of these disgusting birds far from enviable; we allude
to the vermin with which their plumage is so infested as to render it
unadvisable to touch even their dead carcases. The voice of the Carancho
is harsh, and has given rise to its name of "Traro," as it consists of
two notes--"tr-a-a-a" and "r-o-o-o," uttered in such a manner as to
sound like the noise made by striking two pieces of wood together, and
the attitudes into which this bird throws itself, whilst vociferating in
this strange manner, are most laughable and eccentric. From early morning
till sunset, the Carancho is actively employed in the pursuit of prey; at
night it perches itself upon the lower branches of some ancient tree, in
company with is almost inseparable companion, the Carrion Vulture; it
often flies to a distance of some five or six miles in search of one of
its favourite resting-places, and should an old tree not be discovered,
takes possession of a piece of rock, or of one of the hills raised by the
termites. Throughout the entire year the female is never deserted by her
mate, and even when these birds are seen in large parties, it is easy to
distinguish the respective pairs by their mutual attentions. In Paraguay
the breeding season commences in the autumn; in the more central parts
of the continent it takes place in the spring. The nest, which is large
and flat, is placed on a tree, and formed of branches lined with roots,
grass, and moss. The two eggs which form a brood are yellow, spotted
with brown or crimson. The young are covered with white down when they
first leave the shell, and are for a time tended with great care by
their parents; this attention is, however, of short duration, the little
family being sent forth early to shift for themselves. These birds are
but rarely caged. Audubon informs us that all the brilliant colours that
adorn the bare patches upon the body of the Carancho have completely
faded within an hour after the death of the bird.

[Illustration: THE CARANCHO OR TRARO (_Polyborus vulgaris_ or
_Brasiliensis_).]


THE GANGA.

The GANGA (_Ibicter Americanus_ or _Ibicter nudicollis_) represents a
group known as the SCREAMING BUZZARDS (_Ibicter_).

The body of this species is slender; its tail so long that the wings
only reach as far as its middle portion; the tarsi are of moderate size,
and equal the middle toe in length; the beak is long, narrow, and arched
gently towards its tip, which is slightly hooked. The bridles, cheeks,
and throat are bare, only the small portion of the cheek-stripes that
passes behind the cere being covered with very long fine bristles. The
length of this species is about twenty-two inches, its breadth forty-two
to forty-five inches, the wing measures fifteen inches and a half, and
the tail nine and a half. The plumage upon the head, throat, nape, back,
wings, tail, breast, and sides of the upper part of the belly are of a
resplendent black, which gleams with a green lustre; the lower part of
the legs and belly are white. The eyes are bright red; the cere, corners
of the mouth, and base of the lower mandible a beautiful light blue;
the bare parts of the face reddish brown. The young are paler in their
colours and their feathers are surrounded by a brown border; their eyes
are brown.

[Illustration: TRACK ACROSS THE PAMPAS.]

We learn from the Prince von Wied that this bird inhabits the primitive
forests, or such parts of the country as are barren and unfrequented.
"It was not," says this author, "until I reached the districts that lie
between the rivers Ithéos and Pardo, in fifteen degrees south latitude,
that I was surprised by the loud penetrating notes of the Ganga, whose
voice sounded strange and unearthly in those deserted regions. This
species is of social habits, and, though often found solitary, is as
frequently met with in pairs and numerous flocks. Woods are usually
preferred for its dwelling-place, as in such localities it easily finds
abundance of wasps, bees, and other insects, upon which it chiefly
subsists. Whilst occupied in the chase of prey, its deep-toned voice is
constantly heard as it flies about from branch to branch." We are told
on reliable authority that it also eats large quantities of fruit and
berries, and some kinds of reptiles.


THE SECRETARY.

The SECRETARY or CRANE VULTURE (_Gypogeranus serpentarius_), a member of
this family, is one of the most extraordinary birds with which we are
acquainted, and well deserves a minute description. Its body is slender,
its wings long and straight, the first five quills being of equal length,
and there are blunt spurs or excrescences on the carpal joint. The tail
is of remarkable length, and very abruptly graduated, the two middle
feathers, which are slender, extending far beyond the rest. Owing to the
very peculiar construction of the feet, naturalists differ as to the
classification of this species, and we have therefore assigned it to no
particular group. The principal peculiarity of the Crane Vulture's foot
is the disproportionate length of the tarsus; the toes are short and the
claws of moderate size, blunt, but slightly curved and very strong. The
neck is thick, and the head small, broad, and flat at the top; the beak,
which is shorter than the head, is thick, powerful, and vaulted, curving
abruptly downwards from its base: the hook in which the upper mandible
terminates is of moderate size, and very sharply pointed. The cere
extends from below the eyes almost to the middle of the beak. The plumage
is thick and formed of large feathers, which are prolonged at the back
of the head into a crest, composed of six pairs of feathers placed one
behind the other, so that they can be either raised and spread, or laid
flat one upon another. The cheek-stripes and region of the eyes are bare.
In the coloration of the plumage light greyish blue predominates; the top
of the head, crest, nape, quills, and tail feathers, with the exception
of the two longest, are black, edged with white at their tip; the belly
is striped with black and light grey, the legs with grey and light brown;
the two centre tail-feathers are greyish blue, tipped with white, and
spotted with black towards the extremity; the lower wing-covers are
reddish brown. The crest of the female is shorter and her tail longer
than that of her mate, her plumage is also lighter; her legs are striped
brown and white, and her belly is entirely of the latter hue. The young
resemble their mother. The length of the male is from forty-one to
forty-three inches; the wing measures twenty-four inches and the tarsus
is one foot long. The female is somewhat larger than her mate.

The Crane Vulture inhabits Africa, from the Cape to fifteen degrees north
latitude, and from the Red Sea to Senegal; it is also occasionally seen
on the Philippine Islands. Such as are met with in Northern Africa are
smaller than that we have just described, and are probably a different
species. A glance at the engraving of this remarkable bird will convince
our reader that its life must necessarily be passed almost entirely upon
the ground. Mountains and woods it carefully avoids, and when desirous
of flying it is compelled to run a short distance and then spring
upwards, in order to get fairly on the wing; at first it moves heavily
and with apparent difficulty through the air, but after a few strenuous
efforts its flight becomes easy and regular, and it sweeps lightly and
beautifully aloft, apparently without even moving its broad pinions: it
finds itself, however, most at home upon the ground, and stalks over its
surface with much dignity, the long Crane-like legs enabling it to walk
for miles without fatigue; when in pursuit of prey it runs, with its body
thrown forward, almost as rapidly as a Bustard.

The Secretary Vultures live in pairs, each couple occupying a certain
district, over which they often hunt for hours together, seeking their
food among the grass that covers the plains. After having fully satisfied
their hunger they retire to a quiet spot, and remain in a sort of dreamy
apathy, until the business of digestion is accomplished. Should one of
those extensive conflagrations break out by which the arid plains of
Central Africa are so frequently cleared, these birds at once congregate
in large numbers and hurry to the spot, in order to enjoy the rich feast
thus afforded them. Keeping close to the line of fire, they seize upon
and destroy the hosts of living things that are driven forth by the
huge clouds of smoke, and thus spend whole hours retreating before the
advancing fire, and contesting their prey with the devouring flames: so
voracious are they that Le Vaillant assures us he found no fewer than
twenty-one small tortoises, eleven lizards, three snakes, and a mass of
grasshoppers, in the crop of a specimen he had killed; snakes of all
kinds are the objects of their constant attacks, and the same author
gives the following graphic account of an encounter between a Crane
Vulture and one of the most deadly species of these formidable reptiles:--

"Should the snake assume a threatening attitude, and appear ready to
inflict a wound, the bird spreads one of its wings, and holding it like a
buckler before the foot with which it is going to transfix its prey, hops
backwards and forwards in a variety of strange attitudes. Each attempt to
bite is received upon the feathered shield, and when the enemy, finding
all its efforts useless, becomes exhausted, it receives either a stunning
blow or is cast into the air, as a preliminary to being bitten through
the nape, after which it is swallowed either entire or in large pieces.
It is supposed by some that the Crane Vulture is proof against the venom
of snakes, as it certainly does not reject their poisonous fangs, and we
have never heard of an instance in which it has been killed by a bite
inflicted during one of these terrible battles." About June or July
furious quarrels arise among the birds themselves relative to the choice
of a mate, the disputed female becoming the prize of the most powerful
of the rivals, and the pair at once commence the work of preparation
for a young family. The eyrie is built upon a high tree or thick bush
(generally a mimosa), and constructed of branches, plastered together
with clay; the very shallow, almost flat, interior of the nest is lined
with cotton-wool, feathers, and other soft materials. One of these
structures is often employed for many years by the same couple, such
repairs as are necessary being made at every recurring breeding season;
and it is no uncommon thing for the branches of which the outer walls of
the nest are formed to sprout afresh and spread, until the eyrie becomes
literally a leafy bower of great beauty. Whilst repairing their dwelling,
the pair pass the night in its interior, but the eggs are not laid until
the month of August; these are two or three in number, and about the same
size as those of a Goose, but somewhat rounder; the shell is either pure
white or slightly marked with little red spots. The young are not hatched
until after an incubation of about six weeks, and make their appearance
covered with a coat of beautiful snow white down; at first they are
perfectly helpless, and for a long time remain so weak upon their legs
as to be quite unable to quit the nest, in which they sometimes remain
for six months. If carefully trained, the Secretary Vulture soon becomes
so tame that it may be permitted to run about a farm-yard, where it
lives on the most friendly terms with the poultry, and we are told on
good authority that, so far from being a troublesome member of the
community, this bird not only interferes should a couple of Hens become
quarrelsome and try to peck each other, but that it renders important
services by clearing away intruding rats and snakes. On this account
these birds are so much esteemed at the Cape of Good Hope that a severe
penalty is inflicted if one of them is killed. Many and various are the
names applied to this species by the natives of the different countries
in which it is common; by some it is known as the "Devil's Steed," by
others as the "Bird of Fate." We must own that to us these fanciful
appellations are quite unintelligible, nor has any Eastern tale we have
ever read thrown a light upon their origin; nevertheless our unpoetical
imagination at once recognises the appropriateness of its nickname of
the "Secretary," as the crest upon its head when laid back looks most
comically like the pen stuck behind the ear of some scrivener's clerk.

[Illustration: THE SECRETARY OR CRANE VULTURE (_Gypogeranus
serpentarius_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The VULTURES (_Vulturidæ_) are the largest of all the many varieties
of Birds of Prey, some of the smaller members of this family being
comparable in size with the largest Eagles. The body of the Vultures is
short, broad-breasted, and very powerfully framed; the neck is long, and
often quite bare; the head sometimes large, sometimes small; the beak is
high and straight, except at its tip, which terminates in a hook; its
margins are sharp, and the upper half, or in some species one-third of
the entire length is covered by a large cere; a slight outward bulging of
the edge of the upper mandible is sometimes perceptible, but an actual
tooth-like appendage is never met with amongst these birds. Some species
possess a comb-like growth of skin above the beak. The wings are very
large, broad, and decidedly rounded, the fourth quill exceeding the
rest in length; the tail is of moderate size, and composed of fourteen
stiff and rounded feathers; exceptional instances however occur, in which
the second quill of the wings is the longest, and the tail formed of but
twelve feathers. The legs are powerful, but the toes are weak and the
talons short, blunt, and but slightly curved, making it at once evident
that the feet of the Vulture are not much employed in seizing its prey.
In most respects the internal structure of these birds resembles that of
the Falcons; the following exceptions, however, are worthy of notice. The
neck being longer they have more cervical vertebræ, and those of the tail
are proportionately broader. The breast-bone is also comparatively low,
and the gullet terminates in a crop of great size, which, when filled,
projects like a bag from beneath the throat.

[Illustration: _Plate 11, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE ANGOLA VULTURE ____ Gyphierax Angolensis

(_one third Nat. Size_)]

[Illustration: VULTURES FEASTING.]

It has always been the custom to speak of the Vultures as most revolting
members of the feathered tribes, whose faculties and powers are on a
par with their disgusting occupation. That, in the order of Nature, to
these birds has been assigned the "scavenger work" is true; nevertheless,
in the perfection of the organisation by which they are adapted to the
discharge of their important duties, they bear comparison with the most
highly-endowed members of the order. They rival the Eagle in their powers
of sight and hearing, although they are far from equalling that bird in
intelligence. Their disposition is violent but cowardly, and, moreover,
exhibits so much stupidity as to prevent their exercising even an
ordinary amount of cunning. Indolent they are not, though they frequently
linger for hours on the same spot with dishevelled plumage and drooping
wings; but, this period of inanition over, they prove themselves capable
of walking well upon the ground, and exhibit great command of wing and
power of flight whilst skimming lightly and easily, if not rapidly,
through the realms of air. All the divisions of our earth, with the
exception of New Holland, afford a home to one or other of the various
members of this extensive group; the greater number, however, belong to
the Eastern Hemisphere. They are as often found on burning and barren
plains as on the pinnacles of lofty mountains, from which they soar to a
height unattainable by almost any other bird. Such species as frequent
highland regions are the _most_ stationary in their habits, although to
none of them is that word strictly applicable, their strength of wing
enabling them to sweep with ease over the whole face of the country
they inhabit. Every town of Africa, Asia, and South America, is visited
by a constant succession of these winged scavengers, who clear away a
mass of refuse that would otherwise engender pestilence; while other
species confine their attention to keeping the plains and fields clear
from carcases that would taint the air with death. In India, according
to Professor Behn, it is no uncommon thing to see a Vulture perched upon
a corpse floating down the river Ganges, endeavouring, with outspread
wings, to steer it to the neighbouring bank, there to be devoured.
Occasionally, should the pangs of hunger become very keen, these birds
have been known to attack sick, but still living animals; they prefer the
dead carcases of quadrupeds to any other food, but will also eat reptiles
or even fish, and we have seen them engaged in demolishing the remains of
a crocodile. We are told that they are gregarious, and often fly together
in flocks to seek for carrion, wheeling in large intersecting circles
over the country, and thus obtaining a view of its whole surface; twenty
birds will, in this manner, easily survey an area of as many miles. Some
fly at a great height, while others keep near the ground, so that every
spot is thoroughly inspected; when one of the party perceives a dead
animal, it wheels round so as to announce the discovery to its nearest
companions, who, followed by others from a greater distance, hasten to
share the feast; all, even the most remote, steering in a straight line
for the desired spot--to which it was formerly erroneously supposed they
were directed by the extreme acuteness of their sense of smell. When the
skin of the deceased animal is too tough to be rent asunder, the Vultures
linger around it, or on the neighbouring trees, where they are joined by
others of their kind, all eager to share in the banquet; from time to
time they examine the carcase, testing its state with feet and claws,
and as soon as it has attained the requisite degree of putridity, fall
eagerly to work, the strongest driving off the weaker, who retaliate with
all the rage of disappointed hunger, hissing and combating for portions
already partially swallowed, and burying their nostrils in the flesh,
although every minute compelled to desist in order to clear them from the
moist filth which chokes them and stops their breathing. At length by
continuing these vigorous attacks, the carcase is soon demolished, and
nothing remains but the bare skeleton.

When satiated with the disgusting repast, they usually retire to
some quiet spot, there to repose until the process of digestion is
accomplished. Many hours are usually required for this purpose, after
which they go down to the water to drink and take a bath, the latter
being eminently necessary to creatures that generally rise from their
repast covered with blood and filth of every description. After bathing
they again seek repose for some hours, either lying down upon the sand,
or standing with wings outstretched in such a manner as to allow the
sun to warm them; but if disturbed during these _siestas_, it is not
uncommon for the Vulture to disgorge its food, previous to seeking safety
in flight. Trees or rocks are usually selected as resting-places for the
night. Recent experiments have fully proved that the many tales told
respecting the distance at which the Vulture can detect carrion are mere
fables; they certainly possess the sense of smell, but by no means to
the extraordinary degree formerly imagined. These birds breed in the
spring time of their native lands, and build their eyries either upon
rocks or on the bare ground. The eggs, one or two in number, are round,
coarse-grained, and of a yellowish or grey tint, marked with spots or
streaks of various patterns. In some species, if not in all, both parents
assist in the work of incubation. When hatched the young are usually
covered with a thick down, and are so extremely helpless that they are
fed with carrion that has been more than half-digested in the crops of
the parents. At a later period they exhibit a voracity almost exceeding
that which distinguishes them when full grown. Many months elapse before
the nestlings are capable of providing for themselves, and during all
that time they are tended and instructed with great affection by both
father and mother, whose united efforts are often scarcely sufficient to
satisfy the cravings of their ravenous offspring.


THE BEARDED VULTURE.

To the BEARDED VULTURE (_Gypaëtos barbatus_) is assigned the first place
upon our list, as being the noblest member of the group with which we
are acquainted, bearing in some respects a resemblance to the Falcons.
The body of this species is elongate, but powerful; its head is large,
long, flat in front, and arching upwards towards the back; its neck is
short; the wings, in which the third quill is much longer than the first,
are of great size and pointed; the long tail is graduated or conical,
and composed of twelve feathers; the beak is large; the upper mandible,
which is saddle-shaped at its base, rises somewhat towards its tip, and
terminates in an abrupt hook; its margins are not incised, and the lower
mandible is straight. The feet are short, and by no means powerful;
the toes of moderate length, and very weak; the talons strong, and but
slightly bent and blunt. The plumage is rich, and composed of large
feathers; the origin of the beak is surrounded by bristles, that grow
over the cere and beneath the lower mandible, thus forming a kind of
beard. The head is covered with small bristle-like feathers, whilst those
upon the neck are of large size; the rest of the plumage lies compact
and close, except upon the legs, the hose being also formed of large
feathers, which extend as far as the toes. In old birds the upper part
of the body is black or blackish brown, each of the individual quills
being tipped and streaked upon the shaft with white; the under side is
reddish yellow or white, spotted here and there with black; greyish brown
predominates in the coloration of the young. The skeleton of this bird is
remarkably massive. The back-bone contains thirteen vertebræ in the neck,
eight in the back, and seven in the tail; the breast-bone is long and
broad, and its keel very deep.

[Illustration: THE BEARDED VULTURE, OR LÄMMERGEIER (_Gypaëtos barbatus_).]

It remains at present undecided whether the Bearded Vultures found
throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa are to be regarded as different, or
merely as varieties of the same species. Of these the European is the
largest, being, according to Tschudi, from four to four and a half feet
long and nine and a half broad. The tail measures twenty-one inches. The
female is generally larger than her mate. The different species, if such
they be, vary somewhat in the coloration of their plumage. The Bearded
Vulture, or Lämmergeier (Lamb Vulture), of the Swiss Alps inhabits all
the lofty mountain ranges of Europe, Asia, and Africa, living usually
in pairs, or alone, and but rarely appearing in parties of more than
five. The flight of this truly formidable bird will bear comparison
with that of many Falcons, and its powers of enduring fatigue are very
considerable. Upon the ground it steps somewhat after the manner of the
Raven, but with much less ease and nimbleness. Most wonderful tales have
been told of the _Ossifragra_ (Bone-breaker), as the Bearded Vulture
was called by the ancients, from the fact that its favourite method of
despatching its victims is by precipitating them from lofty cliffs, in
order that the carcase may be shattered by the fall. Gesner, who wrote
about the fifteenth century, assures his readers that the eyrie of a
Lämmergeier, found in Germany, "was placed upon three oaks, and was
constructed of branches and other materials, so widely extended that a
wagon could have been sheltered under it. In this nest were three young
birds, already so large as to measure three ells in the spread of their
wings. Their legs were thicker than those of a lion, and their claws as
the fingers of a man." We smile at such exaggerations as these; there is
no doubt, however, that these birds are by far the most dangerous and
rapacious of the many feathered tyrants by which mountain ranges are
infested. In 1819 so numerous did they become in Saxe Gotha that, after
two children had been carried off by them, a price was set upon their
heads. They destroy sheep, hares, she-goats, chamois, and calves, in
large numbers, and hold even man himself in so little dread that he would
be foolhardy indeed who should venture to molest them during the breeding
season. From Simpson we learn that marrow-bones constitute the tid-bits
of these feathered monsters, and that no sooner is the flesh stripped
away than they either swallow the bones entire or dash them to pieces by
dropping them upon a piece of rock. They will also devour tortoises, and
the writer from whom we quote suggests that it was probably a Lämmergeier
that made the unfortunate mistake of endeavouring to break the hard
covering of one of these creatures by letting it fall upon the head of
the poet Æschylus, imagining that worthy ancient's bald pate to be a
stone.

Such of these birds as inhabit Asia and Africa are equally formidable.
Bruce relates a fact that came under his own notice, well calculated to
show that those on the latter continent are by no means behind their
European congeners, either in audacity or strength. The traveller and
his companions, while in the mountains, were seated at their dinner with
several large dishes of goat's flesh before them, when a Bearded Vulture
suddenly appeared. It did not swoop rapidly from a height, but came
slowly flying along the ground, sat down close to the meat, within the
ring formed by the men, and deliberately put its foot into the pan in
which a large piece of meat was boiling, but, as may be supposed, soon
withdrew it; there were, however, two other pieces, a leg and a shoulder;
into these it struck its claws and carried them off. After a short time
it returned for more, but was shot by one of the men, who by this time
had recovered from their astonishment at such an unwelcome and unexpected
intrusion.

The breeding time of the Bearded Vulture occurs in Europe during the
first months of the year, and in Asia and Africa during the spring. The
nest is variously constructed, and we cannot do better than give the
words in which those built in Arabia were described by our guides: "The
nest of this robber and son of a robber (may Allah curse him and all his
generations!) is placed where the sons of Adam can rarely penetrate, and
is formed of a huge bed of goat's hair, gathered from the animals the
wretch has slaughtered. The nest contains but two eggs, with a white
shell, spotted all over with the blood of its prey." The brother of Dr.
Brehm was the first European who succeeded in finding one of the many
nests built by these birds amid the solitudes of the Pyrenees. This eyrie
was about five feet in diameter at its base and its height three feet;
the interior was about two feet wide and five inches deep; the sides were
constructed of branches varying greatly both in length and thickness;
upon these was a heap of twigs, in the middle of which the hollow of the
nest was excavated; the interior was lined with a bed of various kinds
of hair. The eggs of such European species as we have seen were large
and almost spherical, with a coarse-grained, dirty white shell, spotted
with reddish brown, dark grey, or ochreous yellow. As may be easily
imagined, the capture of these huge and fierce birds is attended with
much difficulty; the Swiss endeavour to lure them down during the winter
by sprinkling blood upon the snow, or laying a trap baited with carrion
near the spots upon which the eyries are built.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE VULTURES (_Vultures_) have stout powerful bodies, which are of
unusual breadth at the breast; the wings are long, broad, and rounded,
their fourth quill being of greater length than the rest; the tail is of
medium size, and slightly rounded at its extremity; the individual quills
are stiff and ragged, or split towards their tip; the legs are strong,
of moderate length, and destitute of feathers; the toes, though long
and powerful, are almost useless for grasping; the talons are slightly
bent and very blunt. The beak, which is as long as the head, is higher
than it is broad, and straight except at its extremity, which terminates
in a moderately long and very sharp hook; the mandibles bulge slightly
outwards at their margins. The plumage is composed of very long and broad
feathers, and does not entirely cover the body, the head and neck are
either quite bare or overspread with a slight growth of hair-like down.
In some species the legs and belly are covered with down, intermingled
upon the latter with long narrow feathers. The bare or thinly-covered
portions of the body are often brightly coloured, but the plumage itself
is usually sombre and indistinct in its coloration, though occasionally
variegated. The eyes are large and expressive, the formation of the
nostril differs considerably according to the species. All the members
of this group see, hear, and smell with great acuteness, and their
intelligence is by no means inferior to that of the Bearded Vulture.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CONDORS, or WATTLED VULTURES (_Sarcorhamphi_), as three of the
largest species of True Vultures have been called, are at once
recognisable by their comparatively slender bodies, long narrow wings,
and long tails. The tarsi are high and the toes large; their neck is
of moderate size, and the head long; the beak, compressed at the side,
terminates in a powerful hook, which, in the male, is decorated above
the base of the upper mandible with a kind of fleshy comb, and, in the
region of the chin, with wattles or folds of skin. The nostrils are very
peculiar in their formation, not having the usual division between them.
The plumage is composed of small, brightly coloured feathers, and does
not cover the whole body, some parts being left entirely bare. Unlike
most of their family, the males of the three known species of Condors are
larger than the females.


THE CONDOR.

The CONDOR (_Sarcorhamphus gryphus_, or _Sarcorhamphus condor_) has
been the subject of even more extravagant tales than its European
representative, the Lämmergeier, as its name of Gryphus or Griffin
indicates; indeed, the travellers of former times seem to have thought no
anecdotes too absurd to impose upon the popular mind either concerning
the bird itself, or other productions of the countries it inhabits. The
plumage of the full-grown Condor is principally black, enlivened by a
slight metallic lustre; the upper part of the wings is black, but all the
quills are tipped with patches of white, which become gradually so broad
that the shoulder feathers are almost entirely white, and only black at
their origin. The back of the head, face, and throat are blackish grey,
the neck flesh colour, and the region of the crop pale red; the fold
of skin and two warty lappets on either side of the throat of the male
are bright red. In both sexes the neck is surrounded by a ruff of white
feathers; the eyes are fiery red, the beak horn colour, and the feet
dark brown. Humboldt gives the dimensions of the Condor as follows:--The
body three feet three inches, span across the wings eight feet nine
inches, and the tail fourteen inches. The female, according to the same
authority, is one inch shorter, and nine inches less in breadth.

All the highlands of South America, from Quito to fifteen degrees south
latitude, afford a home to this huge bird, whose powers of flight are
stupendous; indeed, we are told on reliable authority that it is capable
of soaring to an altitude of 22,000 feet above the level of the sea,
thus surpassing any other member of the feathered race in its wonderful
strength of wing. In Peru and Bolivia it lives and breeds upon the
sea-coast, but is by no means so numerous as in mountainous districts.
Except during the period of incubation, Condors fly in large parties,
spending the entire day in sailing majestically about in search of
food, and pass the night perched upon one of their favourite ledges or
lofty pinnacles of rock. "Near Lima," says Mr. Darwin, "I once watched
several Condors for half-an-hour together. They moved in large curves,
sweeping in circles, ascending and descending, without once flapping
their pinions. As they glided close to my head I intently watched from an
oblique position the outlines of the separate and terminal feathers of
their wings. If there had been the slightest vibratory motion these would
have been blended together; but they remained distinct under the blue
sky. If the bird wished to descend, the wings for a moment collapsed,
and then, when again expanded with an altered inclination, the momentum
gained by the rapid descent seemed to urge it upward with the steady,
even motion of a paper kite."

The food of these gigantic birds consists principally of carrion; but
they also destroy pumas, vicunas, sheep, and even calves, and thus work
terrible havoc among the flocks and herds of the sturdy mountaineers,
who are compelled to train their watch-dogs for the especial duty of
barking incessantly as long as one of these formidable marauders is
within sight of their flocks. Modern writers all agree in corroborating
the statement of the Indians that this species never molests children,
and as much as possible avoids the vicinity of man, though, if actually
attacked, it displays extraordinary courage, as the following extract
from the journal of Sir Francis Head fully shows:--"In riding along the
plain I passed a dead horse, about which were forty or fifty Condors.
Many of them were gorged and unable to fly from repletion, several were
standing on the ground, devouring the carcase, the rest hovering over
it. I rode within twenty yards of them, and saw one of them displaying
his strength as he lifted the flesh and tore out great pieces, sometimes
shaking his head and pulling with his beak, and sometimes pushing with
his leg. Got to Mendoza and went to bed. Wakened by one of my party who
arrived. He told me that, seeing the Condors hovering in the air, he also
had ridden up to the dead horse, and as one of these enormous birds flew
about fifty yards off and was unable to go any further, he rode up to
him, and, jumping off his horse, seized him by the neck. The contest was
as extraordinary as the rencontre was unexpected. My companion said that
he had never had such a battle in his life; that he had put his knee upon
the bird's breast and tried with all his strength to twist his neck, but
that the Condor, objecting to this, struggled violently, and, moreover,
that as several others were flying over his head he expected that they
would attack him. At last he succeeded in killing his antagonist, and
showed me with great pride the large feathers from his wings."

The preparations made by these birds for their young are extremely
slight; indeed, in most instances the two eggs laid by the female are
deposited upon the bare rock. The eggs are large, the shell yellowish
white, spotted with brown. When first hatched, the young are covered
with a coat of grey down; they grow but slowly, and remain under the
protection of their parents long after they are fully fledged. Some
tribes of Indians prize the heart and other portions of the body of the
Condor as invaluable specifics for many serious maladies, and more than
one modern writer has testified to their efficacy in certain complaints.
When caged this gigantic bird has been known to become comparatively
tame, and attached to its keeper.


THE CALIFORNIAN CONDOR.

The CALIFORNIAN CONDOR (_Sarcorhamphus Californianus_), as the second
member of this group is called, is found throughout the mountains of
California. According to Taylor, this bird is four feet six inches in
length (of which fifteen inches belong to the tail), and eight feet four
inches across the span of the wings. Its plumage is of an uniform dark
brown or black, marked upon the wings with a triangular spot; the breast
is dirty white, as are the exterior feathers of the under surface of the
wings; the head, with the exception of a three-cornered stripe covered
with small feathers, is bright lemon yellow; the neck is of a dirty flesh
colour. The habits of this species resemble those of its congeners, but
it is found in larger numbers near the coast, and subsists principally
upon fish.


THE KING OF THE VULTURES.

The KING OF THE VULTURES (_Sarcorhamphus papa_) has lately been separated
from the preceding under the name of _Gyparchus_, owing to some slight
variety in the shape of its nostrils. This bird, known to the writers of
former days under the significant appellation, "King of the Vultures," is
well worthy of the place thus assigned to it, both as regards its size
and general aspect, as well as for the mastery it asserts over other
members of its family. Its plumage is extremely beautiful; the fore part
of the back and upper wing-covers are bright reddish white, the belly
and lower covers pure white, and the wing and tail deep black; the ruff
around the neck, and the outer web of the quills are grey; the top of
the head and face are covered with short, stiff, flesh-coloured bristles
or feathers. The region of the eye exhibits a number of remarkable
warts, which, like the folds of skin that pass over the back of the
head, are dark red; the cere, neck, and head are light yellow, the
deep, lappet-like wattle is black, the beak yellowish white at its tip,
bright red in the middle, and black at its base; the feet are blackish
grey, and the eye of a silvery whiteness. The plumage of the young is
of an uniform nut brown, darkest upon the back and rump; the lower part
of the thighs is white. The length of this species has been variously
estimated--Tschudi gives it as thirty-two, Burmeister as thirty-four
inches. Its breadth is about sixty-seven inches and a half, the wing
measures twenty, and the tail nine inches. The female is larger than her
mate, but has a somewhat smaller wattle.

[Illustration: THE CONDOR (_Sarcorhamphus gryphus_, or _Sarcorhamphus
condor_).]

The King of the Vultures is found throughout all the lowland provinces of
South America, from thirty-two degrees south latitude as far as Mexico,
Teja, and Florida, where it usually frequents the primitive forests
or fertile plains. It is occasionally met with upon mountains, at an
altitude of 5,000 feet above the level of the sea, but is never seen in
barren districts or upon bare rocks. This species mainly subsists upon
carrion, and morning has scarcely dawned before it may be seen sweeping
over the face of the country, in search of the carcase of some creature
that has fallen a victim to the jaguar, or one of the many beasts of prey
that abound in large forests. Such a repast once found, the bird does not
immediately fall to and gorge itself after the manner of most Vultures,
but seats itself at some distance upon the ground, or on a neighbouring
tree, from whence, with head sunk between its wings, it casts longing
glances at the tempting meal, and appears to be endeavouring to put a
very keen edge indeed upon its appetite by this self-enforced abstinence,
which often lasts for a full half-hour. This unusual proceeding is
followed by an onslaught so vigorous, that the royal glutton forgets its
usual vigilant precautions for its own safety, and becomes so completely
gorged as to be unable to rise from the spot on which it has breakfasted.
Schomburghk tells us that whatever birds may be feasting on a dead
animal, the Vulture King no sooner arrives at the scene of action than
the busy crowd precipitately retire, leaving it in undisturbed possession
of the spoil, and only return in case a few scraps should be left after
the unwelcome monarch is fully satiated. Many writers have endeavoured
to prove the falsity of this statement, but it tallies exactly with our
own observations. We have frequently witnessed similar scenes, in which
the disappointed birds never ventured to interfere with the lord of the
feast, but perched around upon the trees, devouring with their eyes
what was unattainable in a more satisfactory and substantial manner.
Opinions also differ considerably as to the habits of this species during
the breeding season; we shall, therefore, only say that, according to
Burmeister, the King of the Vultures builds upon trees, and that the eggs
are white.

[Illustration: THE KING OF THE VULTURES (_Sarcorhamphus papa_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The GOOSE VULTURES (_Gyps_) are recognisable by their elongated body and
long, slender wings. The tail is of moderate length, and the tarsi low.
The neck, which constitutes the peculiar characteristic of this group,
resembles in its formation that of the Goose, and is covered with white
downy hair or bristles. The beak is comparatively long and feeble. The
plumage is composed of large feathers, and varies in its coloration,
according to the age of the bird. The young are easily distinguished from
their parents by the fact that the feathers which cover their bodies
are long and narrow, and that their necks are enveloped in a streaming,
ragged kind of frill. The members of this group are found throughout the
whole of the Eastern Hemisphere.


THE TAWNY GOOSE VULTURE.

The TAWNY GOOSE VULTURE (_Gyps fulvus_), the only species inhabiting
Europe, is about forty-one inches long, and ninety-nine broad; the wing
measures twenty-six, and the tail eleven inches. Its plumage is almost
entirely of a pale tawny colour, darker on the lower parts of the body
than upon the back; the large wing-covers are surrounded by a broad white
border, the tail-feathers and primary quills are black, the secondaries
greyish brown, edged with reddish brown upon the outer web. The eye is
light brown, the beak rust colour, and the feet light greyish brown.
The plumage of the young is darker than that of the old birds, and the
feathers upon their necks are long, brown, and narrow.

This species is frequently met with in the southern countries of Europe,
and occasionally appears in the more central provinces of that continent;
it also frequents Egypt, Nubia, Algiers, and Morocco; but although it
is sometimes seen around the Himalayas, it is replaced in the lowland
districts of Hindostan by the _Gyps Indicus_ and _Gyps Bengalensis_, two
very similar birds.


THE SPARROW-HAWK GOOSE VULTURE.

The SPARROW-HAWK GOOSE VULTURE (_Gyps Rüppellii_), the handsomest member
of this group, is three feet two inches long, and seven feet six inches
broad; the wing measures two feet, and the tail nine inches and a half.
In the adult bird all the large feathers, except the quills and those
of the tail, are dark brown, tipped with a dirty white, crescent-shaped
patch, thus giving a chequered appearance to the body. The skin of the
neck is greyish blue, and shades downwards at its sides into a reddish
hue, these colours being distinctly visible through the few scanty
feathers with which it is overspread. The eye is silver grey, the beak
yellow at the base and grey at the tip, the cere black, and the feet
dark grey. The frill around the neck is formed of short, hairy, white
feathers. In the young birds the small feathers are dark greyish brown,
with yellowish brown shafts, and the quills and tail-feathers blackish
brown. The eye is pale reddish brown, the cere and beak are black, the
latter tipped with blue; the feet are greenish grey; the ruff is composed
of long, narrow, dark brown feathers, each with a yellowish shaft.
Several years elapse before the young acquire the full plumage of the
adult birds.

The Sparrow-hawk Goose Vulture inhabits Nubia, and all the central
portions of Africa with which we are acquainted. The southern portion of
that continent possesses another species, the _Gyps Kolbii_, but of its
distinguishing features we cannot speak with certainty. All the various
species of Goose Vultures usually frequent mountain ranges, and build
their nests on the rocks or upon trees. They live for the most part in
very large flocks, which form extensive settlements during the breeding
season, and constantly associate with a variety of other birds. In many
respects they are inferior to the rest of the family, but their flight
is light and elegant, and they walk with such rapidity that a man must
run very fast indeed in order to compete with one of them on _terra
firma_. In disposition all are violent and mischievous, and so extremely
quarrelsome that battles and disputes are of constant occurrence between
them and other Vultures; even those of the same species do not live on
much better terms, and often engage in such deadly encounters that they
appear entirely regardless of danger, and will allow a man to approach
close to them. We have heard, on reliable authority, of an instance in
which a shepherd was compelled to employ the "argument of a thick stick"
to a couple of Goose Vultures, with which he laid about him very freely
before he could persuade them to relinquish their hold upon each other,
and retire from the field. According to our own observations, these birds
do not begin their search for carrion until the day is far advanced.
When they have found a carcase, they at once commence upon the entrails,
plunging their heads into the interior, and dragging out their favourite
parts with great excitement and violence; Lázár tells us that they
often fall upon sick and dying sheep, and kill the poor beasts in this
revolting manner.

In Europe the Goose Vulture breeds about March, and places its nest,
which is formed of small branches, upon a rock. Many couples often build
but a few paces from each other, and it is not unusual to see the nests
of the Black Stork and some species of Eagles forming part of their
settlements. The brood consists but of one coarse-shelled white egg,
which in size resembles that of a Goose. Both parents assist in the
somewhat lengthy process of incubation, and tend their little, round,
woolly ball of a nestling with great devotion and patience, for so weak
is it when it first sees the light, that three months often elapse
before it is able to fly. It would be almost impossible to render one
of these birds really tame, but we have heard of an instance in which
a Goose Vulture became so much attached to an old mastiff belonging to
its master, that when the dog died its feathered companion refused to
devour the body, even when very hungry, and, after pining for a few days,
expired, apparently through grief at its loss. The feathers of the Goose
Vulture are much esteemed in Egypt, and large sums, we are told, were
formerly paid by Turkish merchants for articles of dress made with them
by some tribes of Arabs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CRESTED VULTURES are distinguished from the above group by their
strength and compactness of body, as well as by their muscular neck,
large head, powerful, eagle-like beak, and broad wings. Their plumage is
also thicker and softer than in the Goose Vultures; the head is covered
with short, curly, wool-like down, which is prolonged at the nape into a
kind of crest, the neck and part of the throat are bare, but the lower
part is ornamented with a frill, formed of large, broad, dark feathers.


THE COWLED VULTURE.

The COWLED, or BROWN VULTURE (_Vultur cinereus_), as the European member
of this group is called, is forty-one inches and a half long, and
eighty-five broad; the wing measures twenty-nine, and the tail fifteen
inches. The female is from one inch and a half longer, and from two to
three inches broader than her mate. The plumage of this bird is of an
uniform dark brown; the beak is marked towards the centre with red or
violet, and the bare places on the throat with grey. The plumage of the
young is glossier and darker than that of the adults, and the downy
feathers on the top of the head are dirty whitish brown.

The Brown Vulture lives and breeds throughout all the most southern
countries of Europe, and is met with in Africa in the regions around the
Atlas Mountains. In Asia it is becoming extremely numerous, owing, it
is supposed, to the rapid spread of disease amongst the cattle, whose
carcases afford it a constant supply of food. The movements of this
species are distinguished by a dignity that is very unusual amongst the
Vultures. Its eye is fiery and intelligent, its bearing much like that of
the Eagle, and its entire demeanour calm and almost majestic. Even when
feeding, it exhibits none of the haste and violence observable in the
Goose Vultures. Its principal food appears to be carrion, but it rarely
touches the entrails, usually contenting itself with eating the flesh and
swallowing the bones of the prey, which, we are told on good authority,
it sometimes kills. Unlike those species above described, the Brown
Vulture builds exclusively upon trees; its nest is large, and formed of
thick boughs and small branches, the flat interior being lined with thin
dry twigs. The one white coarse-shelled egg that constitutes the brood in
size resembles that of the Goose. Both parents tend their offspring with
great care, and feed it upon flesh for four months, as until that time
it is unable to fly. Attempts to render this bird tractable in captivity
usually prove fruitless, but instances have been lately known in which
the Brown Vulture has been made so tame as to run about a farm-yard on
excellent terms with its inhabitants, and to allow children to play with
it.

[Illustration: THE TAWNY GOOSE VULTURE (_Gyps fulvus_).]


THE CRESTED VULTURE.

The VARIEGATED or CRESTED VULTURE (_Vultur occipitalis_) is an inhabitant
of Central Africa, and is now regarded as the type of a distinct group
(_Lophogyps_). In this bird the entire upper part of the body, breast,
and tail, are covered with black feathers, edged with brown; the region
of the crop, belly, feet, and secondary quills are pure white, the
primaries black. The crest is composed of white woolly down; the bare
neck is blueish white, and covered in front with from eight to ten lines
of small blackish warts; the eye is dark brown, the beak blackish blue at
its tip, and reddish brown at its base; the lower mandible and cere are
light blue; the feet pale purple, or reddish white. The plumage of the
young is of an uniform dark blackish brown colour, the eye is grey, the
beak red, and the foot white. This species of Crested Vulture inhabits
all the woodland districts of California, where it lives either alone
or in pairs, and though by no means shy, seldom ventures near towns
or villages. In its general habits it closely resembles its congeners
already described.

       *       *       *       *       *

The EARED VULTURES (_Otogyps_) may be regarded as by far the most
powerful members of this voracious family; they are easily recognised
by their large strong head and beak, large, broad, and slightly rounded
wings, comparatively short tail, long legs, and very peculiar plumage.
As respects the latter, only the upper part of the body resembles that of
other Vultures, the lower portion being covered with thick, long, greyish
down, interspersed with a few long, narrow, sabre-shaped feathers. The
legs are covered either with a similar, but longer and reddish yellow
down, or with small feathers of the usual description. The head, back
of the neck, and entire front of the throat are bare, and the chin is
overspread with hair-like feathers. A reddish brown of various shades
predominates in the coloration of the plumage; the quills and feathers
of the tail have a _dark_, and those of the large wing-covers a _light_
edge. Yellowish white feathers are often intermixed with those upon the
back and nape. The young are distinguished by the darker hue of their
plumage, and by the borders to the feathers on the lower part of the body
being broader than in the parent birds. The eye is dark brown, the beak
grey at its sides, deeper in shade upon the culmen and upon the lower
mandible; the feet are light grey, as are the bare parts of the neck:
the naked cheeks are violet. When the bird is excited these bare places
become bright red.

The Eared Vultures are found throughout Africa, and have occasionally
visited Europe. In Asia they are replaced by the Sukuni, or Bald Vulture
(_Otogyps calvus_). In their habits they are bold and social, and
everywhere frequent the vicinity of man, coming down into the villages
with the utmost confidence, in order to gather up the refuse thrown from
the slaughter-houses and dwellings. With such extraordinary eagerness and
voracity do these birds attack their prey, that (as Jerdon witnessed) a
party of Vultures devoured the body of a dead dog, and picked the bones
completely clean in the course of a few minutes. The toils of the day
completed, they go in search of water, and, after preening themselves,
lie down to roll in the sand and bask in the sunshine; this performance
over they retire to their sleeping-place in a tree, where they perch
bolt upright, with head drawn in, and tail hanging loosely down, until a
late hour in the following morning. So large an amount of rest do these
Vultures require, that they do not commence the duties of the day until
about ten o'clock, and seldom seek for food after about four or five in
the afternoon; and, so soundly do they sleep, that upon one occasion we
rode around the tree in which a large party was perched without arousing
them. A shot fired amongst them only had the effect of causing them to
rise drowsily into the air, and fly heavily to a distance of about five
hundred paces, when they again settled upon some branches to finish their
interrupted slumbers. The flight of these birds is very graceful, and
particularly quiet and easy. When about to descend they open their wings,
stretch out their feet, and reach the ground in a direct line, without
the slightest movement of their broad pinions. The nests are built close
to each other, upon a ledge of rock, and thus form a kind of settlement,
which is for the most part quite inaccessible, owing to the precipitous
nature of the locality usually selected; we have, however, made various
successful attempts to reach them with the help of a Hottentot guide, but
found the stench from the eyries intolerable, and the surrounding rock
perilously slippery, being, as it were, polished by constant friction.
The brood consists but of one white egg, which is laid about October:
the nestling, when first hatched, is covered with white down, and is not
fully fledged until the month of January. The Eared Vulture thrives in
captivity, and can easily be rendered very tame.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RAVEN VULTURES (_Cathartæ_), a group of much smaller birds than those
above described, are recognisable by their long beaks, pointed wings, and
slender tarsi; their heads are either wholly or partially bare, and in
some species covered with warts. The members of this group, as their name
suggests, in many respects resemble the Ravens, and may be regarded as
replacing those birds throughout South America, whilst such as are found
in Africa and India associate freely with Crows, and lead a very similar
life. The nest is usually built upon rocks or trees, and the brood
consists of one, or at most of two eggs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SCAVENGER or EGYPTIAN RAVEN VULTURE (_Percnopterus stercorarius_
or _Neophron Percnopterus_), by far the most celebrated bird of the
above group, was called by the ancient Egyptians "Pharaoh's Hen," and
was treated with a considerable amount of superstitious reverence. This
bird has been in all ages a favourite subject for the pencil of Eastern
artists, and even at the present day the Egyptians preserve some remnant
of the respect with which this remarkable species was formerly regarded.
It is distinguished from its congeners by its long, pointed wings, by its
graduated tail, which is of considerable length, and by the peculiarities
of its plumage. Its beak is slender, and more than half covered by the
cere; the upper mandible terminates in a long but feeble hook; the foot
is weak, and its middle toe almost as long as the tarsus; the talons
are of moderate size and but slightly curved. The third quill of the
wing exceeds the rest in length, the second is larger than the fourth,
and the sixth longer than the first. The exterior tail feathers are
only about two-thirds the length of those in the centre. The plumage is
extremely soft, and composed of large feathers, which become much longer
and broader upon the nape and upper part of the back. In colour this
species varies much, according to the age of the bird, but there is no
perceptible difference in this respect between the male and female. In
the coloration of the adults a dirty white predominates, which shades
into deep yellow on the throat and upper part of the breast, but becomes
somewhat purer in its tint on the back and belly; the primary quills are
black, the shoulder feathers grey, the colour of the eye varies from
reddish brown to light yellow; the bare portions of the head, warts upon
the throat, and upper part of beak are bright orange, the latter being
tipped with greyish blue; the skin of the neck is paler than that of the
head, and the wings are blueish red, or light greyish yellow. In young
birds, on the contrary, the shoulders, upper wing-covers, a stripe across
the middle of the breast and belly, the frill around the throat, the
neck, the rump, and tail-feathers are grey; the throat, breast, belly,
and quills of a blackish brown; the feathers on the top of the leg are
chequered grey and black; those at the side of the neck have brown shafts
and tips. The face, cere, and head are deep grey; the eye is dark brown,
the beak black, and the leg light grey. The body of the female is from
twenty-five to twenty-seven inches long; her breadth from sixty-one to
sixty-three inches; the wing measures eighteen inches and the tail nine
and a half. The Scavenger Vultures are frequently met with throughout all
the southern countries of Europe, and are very numerous in Western and
Southern Asia, and in all parts of Africa, with the exception perhaps of
the western coast. Such of these birds as are met with in Europe, migrate
to warmer regions, whilst those inhabiting Asia and Africa are stationary
throughout the year.

It would be impossible to over-estimate the immense services rendered
to man by the Scavenger Vultures, to whose appetite no kind of filth
or refuse comes amiss. They devour carrion freely, but this forms by
no means their principal subsistence; offal of all kinds they consume
with avidity, and were it not that Providence had assigned to these most
active birds the task of clearing away the garbage that the inhabitants
of tropical and of some European cities are too indolent to remove, fever
and pestilence would rage with unremitting fury. Many writers speak of
these invaluable benefactors to humanity in terms of strong disgust,
but for our own part we consider this by no means warrantable. Ugly
they certainly are, and the odours they spread around them somewhat of
the strongest; but there is such a thing as the _beauty of fitness_,
and, to our minds, this is possessed by the Scavenger Vultures in an
eminent degree, so exactly are they adapted to the part they have to
play in the economy of Nature. So totally are these birds destitute of
fear, that they not only approach, but enter the houses requiring their
ministrations, and we have frequently seen them busied in clearing away
the refuse strewn about the tents of the Arabs, or accompanying caravans
for a whole day in the hope of obtaining the scraps thrown away by the
travellers. Unlike many of its congeners, the Neophron does not usually
smear itself over with filth whilst eating; it even appears to exercise a
certain care in this particular, as it steps quietly about, feeding after
the manner of a Barn-door Fowl. When satiated it retires to a quiet tree
or rock, and there remains in a kind of indolent doze, while the work
of digestion is going on, a process which often occupies several hours.
When about to fly it springs from the ground with considerable force,
and, after a few sharp strokes of its wings, floats slowly and gracefully
through the air, without any further movement of its wings. This species
is very sociable, and flies about either in pairs or small parties, which
usually form a settlement during the breeding season, building their
nests as near to each other as possible, upon rocks, pagodas, tombs, or
similar situations. The nest is made of twigs and a variety of materials,
of which rags often form a part. The brood generally consists of two
long eggs of a yellowish white colour, spotted with yellowish or reddish
brown; we have seen them also marbled all over with deep crimson lines.
The young are covered with greyish down when first hatched, and are fed
with food regurgitated from the crop of the parent birds; many months
elapse before they are fully capable of providing for their own wants. If
trained while young, the Scavenger Vulture is as tractable as a Barn-door
Fowl, and will learn to follow its master about with the affection of a
dog. According to old Gesner, the gall of this species was regarded in
his time as an infallible remedy for many most dissimilar complaints.


THE MONK VULTURE.

[Illustration: THE MONK VULTURE (_Neophron pileatus_).]

[Illustration: AFRICAN VULTURES (_Gyps fulvus_).]

The MONK VULTURE (_Neophron pileatus_) resembles the bird last mentioned
in several respects, but differs from it in many particulars; the beak
being comparatively short and the wings broader; the tail projects in a
straight line; the forehead and the back of the head and nape are covered
with a short woolly growth of feathers; the bare portions of the face and
throat are also larger than in the Scavenger Vulture; the apertures of
the ears are well developed, indeed almost muscular, and the fore part of
the throat is covered with wart-like excrescences. The plumage is of an
uniform chocolate brown, while the soft feathers at the back of the head
are grey. The beak is greyish blue, darkest at its tip; the foot pale
grey, the cere light violet, the bare head and throat are blueish red.
The young are recognisable by the comparative paleness of their tints,
and the dark brown colour of the back of the neck, the smooth skin upon
the throat, and their less conspicuous ears. The length of this species
is twenty-six, its breadth sixty-six inches; the wing measures seventeen
inches, and the tail nine and a half.

[Illustration: THE SCAVENGER, OR EGYPTIAN VULTURE (_Percnopterus
stercorarius_ or _Neophron Percnopterus_).]

The Monk Vulture is met with throughout almost the whole of the African
continent, but is especially numerous upon the banks of the Blue and
White Nile and on the shores of the Red Sea. So common is it in Abyssinia
and Massowah, that large parties are often seen perching about the roofs
and trees, as the crows do with us, or picking up their food around the
houses with the utmost confidence and fearlessness. Before the natives
have left their huts in the morning, these active servants are at the
door, ready to begin their task of cleansing, as soon as the family will
allow them to enter and remove whatever filth may have accumulated. So
extremely feeble is the beak of these birds, that they seem to be almost
entirely dependent upon man for the means of subsistence; and those who
have never visited tropical countries can scarcely imagine how ably and
perseveringly they perform the work that has been assigned to them. The
movements of the Monk Vultures are active, and their habits very social;
even during the breeding season the parties do not separate, but form
settlements upon such groups of suitable trees as are at some distance
from the towns and villages. The nests are usually placed upon the higher
branches, and do not exceed one foot in diameter; they are flat in shape,
and formed of twigs very nicely woven together; the interior is so small
as to be capable of containing but one nestling. The solitary egg is
round, coarse-shelled, and usually of a greyish white, thickly sprinkled
with yellow spots. Both parents assist in the work of incubation, the
male bird relieving his mate during the mid-day hours. The young grow
very slowly, and after leaving the nest, subsist, according to Heuglin,
upon such food as they can pick up on the sea-shore or river banks.


THE URUBU, OR TURKEY BUZZARD.

The URUBU (_Cathartes aura_) is the first of the two species of American
Vultures that we have selected from amongst the many varieties inhabiting
the western continent, all of which, though differing somewhat in
appearance, bear so close a resemblance to each other in their habits
and mode of life that we shall content ourselves with speaking of them
collectively. The Urubu or "Turkey Buzzard," as it is called in North
America, is distinguished by its short thick beak, graduated tail, and
low tarsi. The head and bare parts of the neck are of a flesh colour,
deepest at the base of the beak, and become gradually paler towards
the nape; the top of the head is violet. The skin upon the brow and
nape hangs in thick folds, and that of the throat is overspread with
orange-coloured warts; a few bristle-like feathers are scattered over the
crown of the head and around the ears; the entire body, wings, and tail
are brownish black, and gleam with a metallic lustre. The beak is pale
red, and partially covered by the cere, in the upper part of which the
large oval nostrils are situated; the eyes are bright red, and have a
blueish grey circle around the pupil. The length of this species is about
twenty-two and its breadth sixty-three inches; the wing measures nineteen
inches and the tail ten and a half.


THE GALLINAZO.

The GALLINAZO (_Coragyps atratus_), as the second species is called,
possesses a rather longer and thinner beak, comparatively high tarsi,
and a shorter tail, which is straight at its extremity. The bare head
and fore part of the throat are dark grey, deepening in some parts into
black; the body, wings, and tail are pale black, shaded with reddish
brown. The wing-feathers are white at their origin, the eyes dark brown,
the beak blackish brown, whitish at the tip. The top of the head, from
the base of the upper mandible to the nape, is covered with a regular
succession of folds of skin, placed one behind the other. The length
of this bird is twenty-three, its breadth fifty-two inches; the wing
measures fifteen, and the tail about seven inches.

[Illustration: THE URUBU (_Cathartes aura_).]

Both the Urubu and Gallinazo are found in large numbers throughout the
whole of the American continent, and both appear to avoid the summits
of mountain ranges. The Urubu lives for the most part in the vicinity
of the coast; whilst the Gallinazo, on the contrary, frequents the
towns and villages, occasionally, but rarely, appearing in mountainous
districts. So highly do the Americans value the services rendered by
these Vultures, that in some districts it is considered a punishable
offence to kill them. Wilson tells us that "the Turkey Buzzards are
gregarious, peaceable, and harmless, never offering any violence to any
living animal, or, like the plunderers of the Falco tribe, depriving
the husbandman of his stock. Hence, though in consequence of their
filthy habits they are not beloved, yet they are respected for their
usefulness; and in the Southern States, where they are most needed, they,
as well as the Black Vultures, are protected by a law which imposes a
fine on those who wilfully deprive them of life. They generally roost in
flocks, on the limbs of large trees; and they may be seen on a summer
morning spreading out their wings to the rising sun, and remaining in
that posture for a considerable time. Pennant conjectures that this is
'to purify their bodies, which are most offensively fetid.' But is it
reasonable to suppose that _that_ effluvia can be offensive to them
which arises from food perfectly adapted to their nature, and which is
constantly the object of their desires? Many birds, and particularly
those of the granivorous kind, have a similar habit, which doubtless
is attended with the same exhilarating effects as an exposure to the
pure air of the morning has on the frame of one just risen from repose.
These birds, unless when rising from the earth, seldom flap their wings,
but sweep along in ogees, and dipping and rising lines, and move with
great rapidity. They are often seen in companies, soaring at an immense
height, particularly previous to a thunder-storm. Their wings are not
spread horizontally, but form with the body a slight angle upwards, the
tips having an upward curve. Their sense of smelling is astonishingly
exquisite, and they never fail to discover carrion, even when at the
distance of several miles from it. When once they have found a carcase,
if not molested, they will not leave the place until the whole is
devoured. At such times they eat so immoderately, that frequently they
are incapable of rising, and may be caught without much difficulty; but
few that are acquainted with them will have the temerity to undertake the
task. A man in the State of Delaware, a few years since, observing some
Turkey Buzzards regaling themselves upon the carcase of a horse which
was in a highly putrid state, conceived the design of making a captive
of one, to take home for the amusement of his children. He cautiously
approached, and springing upon the unsuspicious group, grasped a fine
plump fellow in his arms, and was bearing off his prize in triumph;
when, lo! the indignant Vulture disgorged such a torrent of filth in the
face of our hero, that it produced all the effects of the most powerful
emetic, and for ever cured him of his inclination for Turkey Buzzards."

On the continent of America, this species inhabits a vast range of
territory, being common, it is said, from Nova Scotia to Terra del Fuego.
How far to the northward of North California they are found, we are
not informed, but it is probable that they extend their migrations to
the Columbia, allured thither by the quantity of dead salmon which, at
certain seasons, cover the shores of that river.

Mr. Darwin, who observed this bird in New Jersey, states "that the Turkey
Buzzard is a solitary bird, or at most goes in pairs. It may at once be
recognised from a long distance by its lofty, soaring, and most elegant
flight. It is well known to be a true carrion feeder. On the west coast
of Patagonia, among the thickly wooded islets and broken land, it lives
exclusively on what the sea throws up, and on the carcases of dead seals;
and wherever these animals are congregated on the rocks, there the
Vultures may be seen."

The Gallinazoes are extremely active; they fly lightly, and can rise
with ease to a considerable height in the air; when perched they usually
draw their head down between their shoulders, and allow their plumage
to hang loosely about their bodies; but when upon the ground they hold
themselves erect, and walk with very much the same air as a Turkey-cock.
We learn from Audubon, who made a variety of experiments on this subject
(see Introductory Chapter), that these Vultures discover their food by
sight alone, and are almost or entirely without the sense of smell.
Many writers have maintained that they subsist altogether upon garbage
and carrion, but both Audubon and Humboldt concur in the statement
that they will occasionally kill their own prey. The latter describes
the manner in which they seize young crocodiles, about seven or eight
inches in length, either upon the land or in shallow water; and tells
us that the small reptile endeavours to confront its foe by rising on
its fore-feet, stretching up its head, and literally grinning defiance
through its long sharp teeth. It not unfrequently happens that, while
thus engaged in keeping one of its feathered enemies at bay, the spirited
little creature is snapped up by an Urubu, who has come up quietly
and unobserved to watch the encounter. Large numbers of eggs are also
devoured by the American Vultures, who frequently build their eyries in
the immediate vicinity of the nests of Wading or Swimming Birds for the
express purpose of thus obtaining a constant supply of food for their
young. Most naturalists are now agreed that both the Gallinazo and Urubu
lay their eggs in clefts of the rock, holes in the ground, or in hollow
trees, as such spots afford the best protection against the inclemency
of the weather. In Texas and Mexico they usually select a hillock near
marshy ground, and merely scratch a hole beneath a bush wherein to lay
the two eggs of which a brood consists. Both parents sit alternately for
thirty-two days, and feed each other from the crop during that period.
These birds are easily tamed, and when in a state of domesticity exhibit
towards their master all the fidelity of a dog.

       *       *       *       *       *


THE OWLS.

THE OWLS (_Striginæ_) constitute the last division of the extensive order
RAPTORES to which we have to call the attention of our readers. These
remarkable birds possess an apparently heavy, but, in reality, slender
and by no means muscular body, and a large, broad, thickly-plumaged
head. Their short, very decidedly arched beak terminates in a hook, and
is partially covered by a cere, which is so thickly clothed with stiff
bristle-like feathers as to be entirely concealed. The large eyes, which
look directly forward, are without the bony ridge projecting from the
brow, usually so characteristic of the Falconidæ, and are encompassed by
a circle of slender, radiating, hair-like feathers, forming a _facial
disc_. The ear is highly developed, and often furnished with a kind of
lid; the wings are long, broad, and wedge-shaped; the tail broad and
of various lengths; the short tarsi and toes are covered with feathery
plumes or hairs; the outer toe is reversible, as in the Parrot, and the
claws are long and sharp. The plumage of the body is composed of long,
broad feathers, and is so extremely soft and downy as to render the
flight of an Owl almost noiseless; the coloration is in most species
sombre, and scarcely distinguishable from the bark of the trees on which
they perch; in some few, on the contrary, it is comparatively bright and
varied. All the members of this division possess extraordinary power of
seeing in the dark, and hear with such acuteness that they can readily
detect and obtain their prey in situations where sight seems impossible.
As regards intelligence they are certainly behind the rest of the order;
and, though generally peaceful in their disposition, will, if excited,
fall upon and devour such of their companions as are aged or sick, not
sparing even their own offspring. Their flight is usually slow, and
their movements upon the ground extremely clumsy, but when in the trees
they hop about and spring from branch to branch with great agility,
sometimes amusing themselves by ducking their heads and throwing their
bodies into a great variety of ludicrous attitudes. Every quarter of
the globe is inhabited by these predatory birds, some species being as
much at home on the icebergs of the Polar regions as others are beneath
a tropical sun; they are sometimes found upon mountains, at an altitude
of 15,000 feet above the level of the sea, and, though woodland regions
are their favourite resorts, frequent both populous districts and desert
plains. Although generally classed collectively as "Night Birds," some
few species obtain their food during the day, and confront the sunlight
with the utmost ease; still, they are for the most part nocturnal,
concealing themselves in holes and cavities until the hour of twilight
has arrived, and, if forced into the full glare of day, sit blinking and
staring in a state of helpless bewilderment most amusing to behold. All
reject carrion, and only devour such food as they have themselves killed,
subsisting principally upon small quadrupeds, birds, and insects; a few
will even eat fish. Many species are capable of living without water for
months at a time, though they drink it readily, and often bathe freely.
Most of the members of this sub-order lay from two to seven round white
eggs, which are deposited in holes of trees, rocks, or buildings. The
young remain for a considerable time under the care of their parents, by
whom they are protected with great affection and courage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DAY OWLS (_Surniæ_) are recognisable by their small head, slender
body, long tail and wings, and compact plumage. All their senses are well
developed, and in intelligence they far exceed any of their nocturnal
relatives.


THE SPARROW-HAWK OWL.

The SPARROW-HAWK OWL (_Surnia Ulula_, _Surnia funerea_, or _Surnia
nisoria_), often called the Falcon Owl, on account of some slight
resemblance to that family, is one of the best known members of this
group, and is distinguished from its congeners by its broad flat head,
and small face, which is without the circle of feathers around the region
of the eye, possessed by most of the species; its wings are slender and
pointed, its tail long and conical. The beak is short, powerful, higher
than it is broad, and curves downwards from its base; the hook in which
the upper mandible terminates, overlaps the lower one; the margins of
both are slightly incised, and the latter has a deep notch at its tip.
The tarsi are completely covered with feathers, and the toes armed with
short and very sharp claws; the eyes and apertures of the ears are large.
The plumage, which is rich, soft, and glossy, is much thicker than that
of the majority of Night Owls; the feathers on the sides of the head
are held erect, and thus make the face appear fully to equal the body
in breadth. The outer web of the anterior quills is denticulated like a
saw, while the inner one is of velvety softness. The cry of this species
resembles that of the Kestrel; when angry it snaps with the beak, after
the manner of other Owls, but, unlike most of the members of the family,
its eyes are kept open in the day-time, and it rather seeks than avoids
a strong light. The face of the adult male is whitish grey, and marked
with two black streaks, one before and one behind the ear, forming a sort
of crescent. The top of the head is brownish black, each of the feathers
in that region being tipped with a round white spot, which increases in
size towards the back of the neck; the nape and a spot behind the ear
are pure white; the feathers upon the back are white, edged and striped
with brown. The breast, sides, and belly are white, marked with blackish
brown; the throat is white, traversed by a dark stripe; the quills and
tail-feathers are mouse grey, and for the most part streaked with white.
The beak is dingy yellow, tipped with black, and the eyes of a beautiful
brimstone yellow. Considerable deviations from this coloration are of
frequent occurrence, but the young closely resemble their parents. The
length of this species is from fifteen to sixteen, and its breadth from
twenty-nine to thirty-one inches; the wing measures nine and the tail
seven inches.

The Sparrow-hawk Owls are met with extensively throughout all the
countries of the extreme north, and frequently visit the central portions
of the American and European continents. Birch, fir, and pine forests
afford them the retreats they prefer, and where these are found they
will often ascend to a considerable height in mountain ranges. Wallengen
tells us that their eyries are built upon fir and pine trees, and are
formed of leaves and twigs, intermixed with dry moss; and that the six
or seven round white eggs that constitute a brood are laid early in the
spring. Some naturalists are of opinion that they lay but two eggs. We
learn from Richardson that large numbers of these birds are killed by the
fur hunters, and that they subsist principally upon insects and mice;
they also devour Ptarmigans, and when in pursuit of the latter are so
bold that, at the sound of the sportsman's gun, they congregate around
him in the hope of securing his birds as they fall; they catch mice by
waiting quietly seated near their holes until they come out, and never
seize them whilst on the wing. They appear to have no fear of man, and
are constantly seen around the watch-fires made by the hunters in their
encampments. Such Sparrow-hawk Owls as visit Central Europe arrive about
March, and depart early in the autumn; here as elsewhere they subsist
principally upon mice, and frequent forests and woodland districts. The
flight of this bird, unlike that of most Owls, is rapid and easy, but
upon the ground it hops somewhat clumsily.


THE SNOW OWL.

The SNOW OWL (_Nyctea nivea_), as the largest of the diurnal species
is called, frequents the same countries as the bird above described,
and, like it, wanders to Southern Europe; but the Polar regions are its
actual home, and there it may be seen living, not only inland, but on the
coast, sitting in large numbers upon the icebergs, or scrambling with
hasty steps over the surface of the ice-covered sea. The distinguishing
features of the Snow Owl are its small head, well-developed ear, and
thickly-plumed feet; the wing, in which the third quill is the longest,
is of moderate size; the tail long and rounded; the beak powerful, and
its hook short; the plumage thick, but not so soft as that of some of its
congeners. The length of this species is from twenty-six to twenty-seven,
and its breadth from fifty-six to sixty inches; the wing measures
twenty-one, and the tail ten inches. The coloration of the plumage varies
considerably, according to the age of the birds; such as are very old
are either entirely white, or have a few small brown spots upon the
forehead and quills; the younger the bird, the more distinct are these
brown markings. The eye is a rich yellow, and the beak greyish black.

During the entire summer the Snow Owl remains in its native land, but
when heavy snow begins to fall, and renders search for food impossible,
it departs to warmer latitudes. According to Radde, the females are
the first to leave, but are very shortly followed by their mates. When
perched these birds look much like other members of their family, but
when in flight exhibit a rapidity of motion and dexterity in steering
their course, far exceeding that possessed by any other species of Owl,
and so remarkably bold are they that, if wounded by a shot, they at once
bear down upon the sportsman who has molested them, for the purpose of
revenging the injury, and will also attack dogs, darting upon them, and
seizing them after the manner of a Falcon. Whilst tarrying in Central
Europe, they subsist principally upon lemmings, and should these prove
scarce, attack squirrels, marmots, and other small quadrupeds: they
pursue Wild Pigeons, Ducks, and Ptarmigans with great ardour, and are
so daring in contesting the latter delicacies with the hunters that,
according to Blakeston, they have been known to snatch the coveted
prize out of the sportsman's bag, whilst it hung suspended at his back.
Audubon had the good fortune to see some of these interesting birds
busied in what we should have imagined an uncongenial occupation for an
Owl, namely, "angling for fish." He tells us that whilst engaged one
morning in shooting Wild Ducks on the banks of the Ohio, he observed a
Snow Owl lying upon the rocky bank, apparently asleep, with its head
turned towards the water: whilst noticing it, a fish rose to the surface,
and, with the rapidity of lightning, was caught in the claws of the wily
bird, who at once made off with its prize to a few yards' distance, and
having devoured it, immediately returned to play the same clever trick
upon other victims. In the winter season this species often seeks its
food during the night, and so much vigilance does it display in these
nocturnal excursions, that no object seen in the air is allowed to pass
without proper investigation as to its edible properties. Holboell
mentions having amused himself one moonlight night by constantly throwing
up his hat to attract the attention of a Snow Owl, and was rewarded by
inducing it to follow the unfamiliar object for nearly a quarter of a
mile. The cry of this bird is harsh, and much resembles that of the Crow.
The breeding season commences in June; the eggs, from seven to ten in
number, are of a dirty white, and are deposited in a hole in the ground
lined with a little dry grass. The young are fledged by the month of
August, and are tended till this period with great affection by both
parents. The female, who is also carefully fed by her mate during the
period of her seclusion, exhibits great affection for her little family,
and should a man approach so near the nest as to excite her suspicion,
will fall to the earth, and lie as though dead or lamed, in the hope of
diverting the stranger's attention from the brood to herself. Attempts to
rear this remarkable Owl have hitherto usually proved unsuccessful.

       *       *       *       *       *

The STONE OWLS (_Athene_) are small birds, with moderate sized heads,
short round wings, which do not extend beyond two-thirds of the long
straight tail, long legs, powerfully armed toes, and short beaks; the
latter are compressed, and the upper mandible terminates in a hook. The
aperture of the ear is smaller, and the feathers which surround it longer
than in other diurnal species; the plumage is compact, and only partially
covers the legs, the toes being overspread with a hair-like growth.


THE STONE OWL PROPER.

The STONE OWL PROPER (_Athene noctua_) is about eight inches long, and
twenty broad; its wing measures five inches and a half, and the tail
three and three-quarters. The female is slightly larger than her mate.
In the adult of both sexes the upper part of the body is dark mouse
grey, irregularly spotted with white; the face is greyish white, the
belly whitish, spotted with brown, except at the vent; the wing and
tail-feathers are reddish yellow, spotted with white; the beak is greyish
yellow, the foot yellowish grey, and the eye of a brimstone yellow. The
plumage of the young is darker than that of their parents.

[Illustration: THE SNOW OWL (_Nyctea nivea_).]

This bird inhabits the central parts of Europe as far as the south of
Sweden, and is found throughout almost the whole of Asia. In some of
the southern countries of Europe, it is replaced by the celebrated bird
known to the Greeks as "Minerva's Owl" (_Athene indigena_). Two other
varieties are also commonly met with, the one in Spain, the other in
Northern Africa. Mountainous districts are avoided by the Stone Owls,
who prefer living in the immediate vicinity of man, and often build
their nests upon the roofs and steeples of the villages they frequent.
The day is usually passed in some quiet nook, such as a tomb, old wall,
or similar situation, and at night they sally forth in search of food,
striking terror into the heart of many an ignorant peasant, as their
harsh, unearthly cry resounds through the silence of the night. To
such an extent do some of the peasants in Germany carry their absurd
superstition respecting this Owl, as actually to imagine that its notes
distinctly express the words, "Komm mit, komm mit auf den Kirchhof, hof,
hof," or, in plain English, that the sepulchral voice is forewarning
either themselves or some members of their family of impending death, and
speedy consignment to the tomb. In the southern parts of Europe, where
Stone Owls are met with much more frequently than in Germany, familiarity
has bred contempt, and these old wives' tales are entirely unknown. The
flight of this bird is very peculiar, owing to the shortness of its
wings, and much resembles that of a Woodpecker. Whilst perched it usually
draws its head down upon its shoulders; but if attracted by some object,
for it sees excellently well in the daylight, it sits erect and peers at
it with so keen and intelligent an eye as fully to explain the reason
that to this species was assigned the honour of attending on the Goddess
of Wisdom.

[Illustration: THE STONE OWL (_Athene noctua_).]

The Stone Owls are extremely social, and live on very peaceable terms
with their companions, dwelling in the same hole, and going together in
search of prey. Twilight has scarcely set in before their voices are
heard as they sweep about in pursuit of the small quadrupeds, birds, and
insects upon which they subsist; the whole night is passed in pursuit
of food, very much to the annoyance of many a weary sleeper, who is
roused from pleasant dreams by the sudden dash of their bodies against
the window as they vainly endeavour to get to the fire or taper burning
within. During the breeding season they become extremely restless and
noisy, and utter their strange cry throughout the whole day. The eggs,
four to seven in number, are deposited about May in a hole in some old
tree or building; the nestlings are hatched in a fortnight after the
eggs are laid, and are reared upon mice, young birds, and insects. These
Owls are frequently captured in Italy for the purpose of domestication,
as they are easily tamed, and render themselves eminently useful in
houses and gardens, by keeping the premises clear of mice and a variety
of noxious insects. It is no uncommon thing to see three or four of them
fastened to a perch in the stall of an Italian cobbler or tailor, who
amuses himself by observing them as he plies his trade. These prisoners
usually display great affection for their master, who rears them upon
_polenta_ when meat is beyond his means.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BURROWING OWLS (_Pholeoptynx_) are a family of very remarkable
birds, about the same size as and closely allied to the Stone Owls, but
differing from these latter in their superior length of leg, and in some
other trifling respects. The members of this group are recognisable by
their moderate size, round head, large eyes, and elongated beak, rather
arched at its roof, and terminating in a hook; the lower mandible is
blunt at its tip, and slightly incised upon the margins. The wings, in
which the fourth quill is longer than the rest, are long, powerful, and
rounded at the extremity; the tail is short and straight, the tarsi high,
slender, and only sparsely feathered in front, the sides and sole being
covered with smooth skin; the toes are defended by rough horny plates
interspersed with bristles; the talons are very slightly curved. The
plumage, which is composed of small, soft, silky feathers, lies very
compact; the feathers on the cheek-stripes are stiff and bristle-like,
and the rest of those upon the face small and delicate.


THE BRAZILIAN OR RABBIT OWL.

The BRAZILIAN or RABBIT OWL (_Pholeoptynx cunicularia_)--called by the
natives the Caruje--is about eight inches long, and twenty-two broad; the
wing measures six and the tail three inches. The upper part of the body
is reddish brown, marked with oval and round white spots; the chin and
eyebrows are white, the lower part of the neck reddish yellow, spotted
with greyish brown, the breast greyish brown marked with yellow; the
lower part of the belly is yellowish white; the eye is yellow, the beak
pale greenish grey, as are the legs. This bird inhabits the Brazils, and
is replaced in North America by


THE PRAIRIE OWL.

The PRAIRIE OWL (_Pholeoptynx hypogæa_), a species so closely resembling
it both in appearance and habits, that one description will suffice for
them both. The Burrowing Owls are found in great numbers throughout the
extensive plains of the American continent, perching upon hillocks, or
scrambling in and out of the holes in which they live; they constantly
frequent such excavations as have been made by anteaters, armadilloes,
or prairie dogs, and instances have occurred in which they have been
seen quietly creeping in and out of a hole tenanted, not only by the
last-mentioned quadruped, but by a rattlesnake. Like the Stone Owl,
they are capable of enduring the full light of the sun, and display
considerable agility in evading pursuit; the colour of their plumage aids
them considerably, as it closely resembles that of the ground on which
they sit. They walk with ease and rapidity, and fly in an undulating
course, but only remain for a short time upon the wing; they never
frequent trees, but pass their lives almost entirely upon the earth.
Whilst seated they indulge in all the strange attitudes, bowings, and
tossings of the head with which their congeners amuse themselves, and
greet the approach of a stranger with a fixed stare, their eyes shining
like stars. Whoever attempts to capture one of them generally finds that
his labour has been spent in vain, as they easily elude pursuit, and if
hard pressed take refuge in one of the many holes that abound in their
favourite haunts. They are remarkably social, even during the breeding
season, and several pairs frequently lay their eggs in such burrows as
are near together. The Brazilian species deposits its three white eggs
upon the bare ground of the cavity selected, whilst the North American
Prairie Owl on the contrary, according to Townshend, lays four whitish
eggs, and lines its hole with fine grass; both subsist principally upon
mice, snakes, lizards, and grasshoppers, and will occasionally eat crabs
or such other inhabitants of the water as find their way to dry land. The
North American Indians declare that these Owls retire into their holes
about the end of August, in company with the prairie dogs, and there
sleep away the winter months, but we should be inclined to imagine that
their undeniable disappearance during the cold season is occasioned by
their having gone for a time further south.

[Illustration: _Plate 12. Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE JAVA OWL ____ Strix Javanica

(_two-thirds Nat. size_)]

       *       *       *       *       *

The SPARROW OWLS (_Microptynx_), so called from their diminutive size,
are by far the most pleasing and elegant group of their family, and
are found throughout all parts of the globe, with the exception of
Australia; in the southern portions of Asia, America, and Africa, they
are particularly numerous. Extensive forests are their favourite resorts,
and there they may be seen flying about during the entire day in search
of food.


THE EUROPEAN SPARROW OWL.

The EUROPEAN SPARROW OWL (_Microptynx passerina_) is the species we have
selected as a type of the above group. Its length does not exceed six
inches and a half, and its breadth fifteen and a half; the female is
about an inch longer and one inch and a half broader than her mate. The
body of this bird is slender, its head small, the beak powerful, and much
curved and incised upon the margin of the upper mandible. The wing, in
which the third and fourth quills are the longest, is short, the tail of
moderate size, the foot short and thickly feathered, the facial disc is
but slightly developed. The upper part of the body is mouse grey, spotted
with white, the belly white, marked longitudinally with brown, the face
of a mottled greyish white, the beak greyish, and the eye bright yellow;
the tail is adorned with four, and the wing with several white lines. The
female is of a darker hue than her mate, and has two dark lines under the
eyes; brown predominates in the coloration of the young.

Although very numerous in the northern parts of Europe, and by no means
rare in the central portion, this species is constantly overlooked, by
reason of the smallness of its size, and because as it flies by day,
and has a cry unlike that of most of its family, ordinary observers do
not recognise it to be what it is--a Dwarf Owl; its habits, therefore,
have been but little remarked, and it is seldom met with either in
ornithological collections or in aviaries. Those few writers who have
been at the trouble of making themselves acquainted with this most
interesting bird, describe it as being agile, cunning, and active as a
Parrot, as it hops about among the branches of trees in pursuit of the
insects upon which it mainly subsists; it also consumes mice and small
birds, plucking the latter carefully before devouring them. It is not
uncommon to see this lively little Owl hopping about the Scandinavian
villages when the snow lies heavy upon its haunts in the forest. It
is easily summoned from the trees by those who can imitate its simple
call-note, and may often by this means be led to a considerable distance.
When perched its body appears to be far more slender in proportion to its
size than that of other species, and Naumann describes its small broad
face as looking more like that of an ape, than presenting the cat-like
appearance with which we are all familiar in the generality of Owls. Its
flight is rapid and undulating. The eggs are deposited in holes of trees,
from the inmost recesses of which the voices of the parents may sometimes
be heard as they summon each other. The hole is usually lined with a bed
of moss and dry leaves, and upon this the eggs are deposited; these have
a thick, smooth, white shell, are oval in shape, and about an inch long.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: THE UHU AT BAY.]

The EARED OWLS or UHUS (_Bubones_) constitute a group distinguished by a
tuft of feathers growing behind each ear, and presenting the appearance
of a pair of horns. The size of these birds varies considerably, some
being very large while others are comparatively diminutive. In all the
head is bulky, the wings blunt, the tail short and nearly straight at
its extremity, the feet of moderate size and covered with feathers. The
plumage, which is thick and lax, is composed of broad feathers. The beak
is thick and slightly curved, the claws very long and much hooked; the
eye is large, flat, and of a bright yellow; the tufts behind the ears of
no great size, and the feathers upon the face only slightly developed.
Several species of Uhu are found in Southern Africa, but the northern
portions of our globe must be regarded as their actual home, from whence
they wander forth occasionally to other regions, but live and breed for
the most part in their native lands. All are _nocturnal_ Birds of Prey,
and pass the entire day in such localities as afford them shelter from
the sun, whose rays they studiously avoid, though they see with ease in
the daylight. The larger species of Uhus live alone or in pairs, but the
smaller are constantly met with in considerable flocks, except during
the breeding season. These birds exhibit an extraordinary degree of good
fellowship towards their congeners, and many touching stories have been
told of their kindly behaviour towards each other; they are, however,
inferior to the Diurnal Owls as regards their activity and intelligence.


THE UHU.

[Illustration: THE UHU (_Bubo maximus_).]

The UHU (_Bubo maximus_), King of the Night, as it has been aptly called,
is the largest species of Owl with which we are acquainted; its length
often exceeding two feet, and its breadth five feet; its wing measures
sixteen, and its tail ten inches. The rich soft plumage of this bird is
of a dark rust red, streaked with black upon the upper parts of the body,
and on the under side reddish yellow, longitudinally striped with black;
the tufts behind the ears are black marked with yellow, the throat is
nearly white, and the wing and tail feathers streaked alternately with
brown and yellow; the beak is deep blueish grey, and the scales upon
the feet of a lighter shade of the same hue; the iris is rich golden
yellow, encircled by a red line. The male and female are alike in colour,
but the young are yellower than the adults. Many slight variations are
observable in the plumage of such as inhabit different countries. This
Uhu is found occasionally throughout the whole of Europe and the northern
parts of Asia, and is replaced in Africa by two other species, viz.:--The
SHORT-EARED UHU (_Bubo ascalaphus_) which inhabits the north-eastern
provinces, and the MILK-WHITE UHU (_Bubo Nyctaëtos-lacteus_), found in
the central portions of that continent; there is also a North American
species, known as the VIRGINIAN UHU (_Bubo Virginianus_). So closely do
these birds resemble each other that one description will suffice for
them all. Their favourite haunts are mountainous districts and extensive
forests, as in such situations they can lead a quiet and retired life.
It is not uncommon for a pair to remain for years upon the same spot, if
they are fortunate enough to escape the observation of man; still they
are occasionally met with, not only living, but breeding in the vicinity
of human habitations; we ourselves found a couple that had taken up their
quarters and made their nest upon some fortifications near a large town.
During the day they remain quietly concealed in their holes, where they
are scarcely distinguishable on account of the sombre colour of their
plumage, but though neither timid nor helpless in the daylight, instinct
has taught them to avoid encountering the sunshine, and it is only when
evening has fully set in that they sally forth to reconnoitre and seek
their prey. So well do the feebler denizens of the forest know what they
have to expect from this dreaded enemy, that should one of them chance
to espy the Uhu as it crouches within its hole, a loud note of terror
immediately conveys the appalling intelligence to its companions, whose
voices at once unite in giving the huge and murderous foe a serenade that
is neither harmonious nor complimentary. During the breeding season,
combats between the males are of frequent occurrence, and then it is
that the cry of the Uhu is heard in all the unearthly tones that have
been so often supposed to proceed from demons, or some of the fanciful
crowd of beings with which popular superstition has peopled the forests.
Indeed, this species may be truly accused of "making night hideous,"
as it flies in search of the rats and mice upon which it principally
subsists. "The favourite residence of the Virginian Horned Owl," says
Wilson, "is in the dark solitudes of deep swamps, covered with a growth
of gigantic timber, and here, as soon as evening draws on and mankind
retire to rest, he sends forth such sounds as scarcely seem to belong
to this world. Along the mountainous shores of the Ohio, and amidst the
deep forests of Indiana, alone, and reposing in the woods, this ghostly
watchman has frequently warned me of the approach of danger, and amused
me with his singular exclamations. Sometimes sweeping down and around
my fire, uttering a loud and sudden 'Waugh, O! Waugh, O!' sufficient to
have alarmed a whole garrison. He has also other nocturnal solos, one of
which very strikingly resembles the half-suppressed screams of a person
suffocating or throttled."

Richardson gives the following instance of the terror this Uhu so
frequently excites:--"A party of Scotch Highlanders, in the service of
the Hudson's Bay Company, happened in a winter journey to encamp after
nightfall in a dense clump of trees, whose dark and lofty stems, the
growth of centuries, gave a solemnity to the scene that strongly tended
to excite the superstitious feelings of the Highlanders. The effect was
heightened by the discovery of a tomb which, with the natural taste
often exhibited by Indians, had been placed in this secluded spot. Our
travellers, having finished their supper, were trimming their fire
preparatory to rest, when the slow and dismal notes of the Horned Owl
fell on the ear with a startling nearness. None of them being acquainted
with the sound, all thought that so unearthly a voice must be the moaning
of the spirit of the departed, whose repose they imagined they had
disturbed by inadvertently making a fire of the wood of which his tomb
had been constructed. They passed a tedious night of fear, and with the
first dawn of day hastily left the ill-omened spot."

The Uhu devours Geese, Partridges, Buzzards, and many other birds and
quadrupeds in large numbers; some writers have gone so far as to accuse
it of seizing upon young stags, calves, and even Eagles, but such
assertions are very improbable, though the statement that it will attack
hedgehogs has been fully substantiated; the prickly ball being forced
to unroll by means of powerful strokes with the beak, which completes
its destruction before the victim has time to coil itself up again. The
period of incubation usually commences about March, and, strange to say,
no sooner are the quarrels about the possession of a mate over than
the cruel, violent male is suddenly transformed into the most faithful
and tender of spouses, and exhibits such affection and devotion to his
family as is seldom met with. Building, however, is not an art in which
the Uhu excels; the eggs are therefore, if possible, deposited in the
deserted nest of a Buzzard, Raven, or Black Stork, and should one of
these not be found, the parent is content to drag together a few twigs
and branches, and make therewith a bed in the cavity it has selected for
a breeding-place. Occasionally, the comfort of this slight arrangement
is dispensed with, and the two or three eggs are deposited upon the
bare ground at the bottom of the hole. The female alone broods, but is
meanwhile most carefully tended by her mate; and both parents assist in
defending their domicile from intrusion, attacking with fierce courage
not only beasts of prey, but men. Should the nest appear to have been
disturbed, the mother has been known to carry off her charge to a
safer retreat. Count Wodzicki mentions an instance that came under his
own notice in which a young Uhu was fed at first by its parents, and
afterwards, as soon as they were fledged, by its brother nestlings, for
the space of two months after it had been made prisoner and fastened to
a perch outside the forester's lodge. This Uhu will live for many years
in confinement, but seldom become, really tame; the African species is
perhaps an exception to this rule, for we saw one of these birds in
Stockholm that not only allowed itself to be stroked or playfully seized
by the beak, but would come to its master when called by name. "When
wounded," Audubon informs us, "the Uhu exhibits a revengeful tenacity of
spirit, scarcely surpassed by the boldest of the Eagle tribe; disdaining
to scramble away, it faces its enemy with undaunted courage; protruding
its powerful talons, and snapping its beak, it will defend itself to the
uttermost against both man and dog."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Malay peninsula and India proper are inhabited by a group of Owls,
in many respects resembling the species above described, but with
this difference, that they subsist principally upon fish, crabs, and
other inhabitants of the water. All these birds are large, and have
well-developed tufts around the ears; the beak is powerful and of
moderate size, while the upper mandible is compressed, and terminates in
a hook; the feet are long, and the toes bare. The plumage is not thick,
the ears are small, and the wings, in which the fourth quill is longer
than the rest, do not extend as far as the tip of the tail.


THE BROWN FISH OWL.

The BROWN FISH OWL (_Ketupa Ceylonensis_), called by the Cingalese
"Utum," is from twenty-one to twenty-three inches in breadth, the tail
measures eight, and the wing sixteen inches. The upper part of the body
is of a deep reddish tinge, the feathers upon the head and nape being
streaked with dark brown, while those upon the back and upper wing-covers
are marked with brown and reddish yellow. The quills are reddish or
yellowish brown, spotted with white upon the inner web; the tail is
brown, tipped and streaked with a paler shade; the face is brown, and
its bristle-like feathers ornamented with white and black; the chin and
breast are white, partially striped with brown. The rest of the plumage
is reddish brown, streaked with numerous dark lines. The eye is bright
yellow, the eyelids purplish brown, the foot and beak pale greyish yellow.

[Illustration: THE VIRGINIAN UHU (_Bubo Virginianus_).]

The Fish Owl is found extensively throughout the whole of India and
Ceylon, and is also met with in Burmah and China. In the Malay peninsula
it is replaced by a very similar species. Bernstein tells us that the
Fish Owl frequents woodland districts, and that, though it often lives
in the immediate neighbourhood of villages, never actually takes shelter
about the houses. Jerdon informs us that he usually saw it perching close
to lakes, ponds, or rivers, watching for the fish upon which it mainly
subsists. It also devours lizards and snakes, as well as rats and mice.
Like most of its family this bird remains concealed during the day, and
only issues forth at night to obtain its prey: this diurnal seclusion
does not, however, arise from the fact that it cannot bear the light,
for experiments have proved that it sees any object readily, even when
exposed to the full glare of the sun. The voice of the Fish Owl is
constantly heard throughout moonlight nights, and may be represented by
the syllables "Hu, hu, hu, hi." A nest found by Bernstein was nothing
more than a depression in some moss and lichens that had overgrown the
trunk of an old tree; it contained but one round, smooth-shelled, white
egg.


THE WOODLAND OWL.

The WOODLAND OWL (_Otus sylvestris_) in many respects resembles the Uhu,
from which it is distinguished by the slenderness of its shape, its long
wings, in which the second quill exceeds the rest in length, its short
feet, and a large tuft behind each very highly developed ear. The whole
body is of a dull reddish yellow, spotted and marked with greyish brown
above, and with dark brown beneath. The ear is whitish within, and black
on its exterior; the face is greyish yellow. The length of this bird
is from thirteen to fourteen inches, its breadth from thirty-five to
thirty-eight inches.

[Illustration: THE MARSH OWL (_Otus brachyotus_).]

The Woodland Owl abounds throughout Europe and Asia, and is particularly
numerous in the central portions of both continents. In North America
it is replaced by a very similar species, which, until recently, was
supposed to be identical with that inhabiting the Eastern hemisphere.
These birds, as their name indicates, dwell in and around woods and
forests, in the recesses of which they remain during the day, only flying
by night in quest of food. In their habits they resemble the Uhu, but are
less cruel and violent in their disposition. During the breeding season
they live in pairs, after that period they assemble in flocks, and sweep
together over the face of the country, but never actually migrate. So
fearless is this bird, that should a man approach, it not only remains
quietly upon its perch, but in some instances will not stir until shaken
from the branches. Shrew mice, field mice, and small birds constitute its
principal food, and we must therefore pronounce it to be a benefactor
both to the gardener and the farmer. The Woodland Owl rarely constructs
its own nest, but takes possession of one that has been deserted by
some Crow or squirrel. The four white eggs that constitute its brood
are laid about March. The female continues sitting for three weeks,
and is, meanwhile, fed and carefully tended by her mate, who remains
almost constantly by her side, and expresses his affection by frequently
uttering loud cries, and occasionally beating the air violently with his
wings. The nestlings require an unusual amount of food, for which they
clamour incessantly; if taken before they are fledged they may be readily
tamed.


THE MARSH OWL.

The MARSH OWL (_Otus brachyotus_) is closely allied to the bird above
described, and is found in all parts of the globe, with the exception
of New Holland. The head of this species is smaller than that of the
Woodland Owl, and its long wings reach far beyond the tail. The tufts
above the ears are composed of from two to four feathers, and the plumage
is principally of a bright but pale yellow; the feathers upon the head
and lower parts of the body have black shafts, whilst those of the
wing-covers are yellow upon the outer and black upon the inner web; they
are likewise tipped with black. The quills of the tail are striped with
greyish brown. The radiating feathers upon the face are whitish grey, and
the eyes light yellow. The young are somewhat darker than their parents.
The length of this bird is from fourteen to sixteen inches, and its
breadth from forty to forty-two inches.

The peculiar characteristics of the Marsh Owls are their preference for
fens and bogs, and their practice of wandering from one place to another;
they frequent all the northern parts of the globe, and are by no means
rare in any of the countries in which they are seen; in the more southern
latitudes they appear about October, and leave again in the month of
March. At night they fly softly and slowly in search of mice, lemmings,
and insects, upon which they chiefly subsist; and usually pass the day
amidst the grass and reeds that overspread their favourite haunts; if
disturbed they crouch to the ground, and allow the enemy to approach
quite close, then, rising suddenly, they hover in the air, or soar to
a very considerable height. Their voice is gentle, and their anger
expressed by snapping violently with the beak. The nest is extremely
simple in its construction, and invariably placed upon the ground. The
female lays three or four white eggs about May.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DWARF EARED OWLS (_Scops_) are recognisable by their large heads,
long wings, in which the second quill exceeds the rest in length, short
slightly-rounded tail, high sparsely-feathered tarsi, and bare toes. The
beak is powerful and much curved, the plumage smooth and variegated,
the ear-tufts short, and the feathers that surround the aperture of the
ear but slightly developed. The members of this group inhabit Southern
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. From these we shall select the
European species as a type of the rest.


THE DWARF EARED OWL.

The DWARF EARED OWL (_Ephialtes Scops_) is from six to seven inches
long, and from eighteen to nineteen broad; the wing measures five inches
and two-thirds, and the tail about two and a half. The plumage is very
striking; the upper part of the body is reddish brown, shaded with grey,
and streaked and spotted with black; upon the wings the spots are white,
the region of the shoulder is dashed with red; the under side is a
mixture of brownish red and greyish white. The beak and feet are blueish
grey, and the eyes light brimstone yellow. The sexes closely resemble
each other in plumage, but that of the young is more sombre and less
variegated.

The Dwarf Eared Owls are numerous in Southern Europe, and at certain
seasons are met with in its more central portions, where they arrive
early in the year, and leave again for warmer latitudes about September.
Their migrations are performed in large flocks, and often extend as far
as the interior of Africa. They generally resort to fields, vineyards,
and gardens, exhibit no fear of man, and may frequently be seen perching
upon the trees that grow near crowded thoroughfares. During the day they
conceal themselves under the vines, or amongst the branches of trees,
the stems of which they so much resemble in colour as to be in but
little danger of detection so long as they remain quiet. It is not until
evening has fully set in that they sally out in quest of food, and hover,
with something of the movement of a Falcon, close to the surface of the
ground, in quest of mice and similar fare. The nest is built in a hollow
tree, and the eggs, three or four in number, are laid in the autumn.

       *       *       *       *       *

The NOCTURNAL OWLS are distinguished from those above described, by
their large round heads, broad discs of feathers upon the face, and wide
apertures to the ears, which are unprovided with tufts. The wing is
usually rounded, and the tail and foot vary considerably both as to size
and form. The plumage is either very thick, or lies close and compact.
All the members of this group sleep or doze away the whole day, and only
sally forth when the sun's last rays have disappeared, for in its light
they are perfectly helpless and almost blind.


THE TREE OWL.

The TREE OWL (_Syrnium aluco_) is recognisable by its large head and
comparatively small ear-apertures, as well as by its thick neck, slender
body, short tail, thickly-feathered feet, and short toes. Deep grey or
reddish brown predominates in the coloration of the plumage; the back
being, as is usually the case, darker than the under parts of the body;
the wings are regularly marked with light spots; the nape, region of the
ear, face, beak, and tips of the toes are grey; the eye dark brown, and
the skin that surrounds it of a flesh-colour.

This species is frequently met with throughout the whole of Europe, if we
except its extreme north and south--it is but rarely seen in Spain, and
never, we believe, in some parts of Russia. Woodland districts are its
usual haunts, but it also occasionally seeks shelter among ruins, or even
in nooks of houses. During the summer it passes the day perched close
to the trunk of some old hollow tree, in the interior of which it hides
itself during the winter.

The movements of this species are extremely slow and heavy, and it
rarely rises above a few feet from the ground whilst seeking for the
mice upon which it subsists. It also devours noxious insects of various
kinds in considerable quantities, and thus renders important service
both to the gardener and farmer. Martin mentions his having found no
fewer than seventy-five large caterpillars in the stomach of a Tree
Owl that he had killed immediately after it had finished this very
substantial repast. In disposition it is dull, and more uninteresting
than almost any other bird with which we are acquainted. Its cry is a
loud, resonant "Hu, hu, hu," and often rings through the darkness like
a burst of demoniacal laughter. The breeding season commences about
April or May, and during that period these, at other times apathetic
sluggards, seem roused to something like animation, and make the woods
re-echo with their discordant note. The eggs, two or three in number,
are laid in cavities of trees, or sometimes in roofs or chimneys, upon a
slight bed of hair, wool, or moss; the deserted nest of some other bird
is also frequently employed for the reception of the young family. The
eggs are oval, rough-shelled, and white. The female alone broods, and is
meanwhile fed with great tenderness by her mate. Both parents are much
attached to their offspring. These birds may be readily tamed, and soon
become accustomed to those that feed them. Gadamer tells us that a Tree
Owl in his possession used to come out every evening and stand before
the open stove, stretching out its neck with every demonstration of keen
enjoyment.


THE HAIRY-FOOTED OWL.

The HAIRY-FOOTED OWL (_Nyctale dasypus_) is distinguished by its
unusually broad head, large ear-apertures, and well-developed facial
discs; the wings are rounded, the tail of moderate size, and the short
and rounded tarsi, covered with long, thickly-set feathers; the plumage
is soft and silky. The upper parts of the body are mouse grey, with large
white spots; and the under side white, distinctly streaked with greyish
brown. The wings and tail-feathers are mouse grey, with irregular white
stripes; the long feathers about the face whitish grey, mottled with
black; the beak is greyish yellow, and the eye bright gold colour. The
young are of an uniform reddish brown, with white spots upon the wings
and tail. The length of this species is from nine to ten, its breadth
from twenty-one to twenty-three inches, and the tail about six or seven
inches.

[Illustration: THE TREE OWL (_Syrnium aluco_).]

These birds inhabit Central Europe, and are likewise found in the
northern parts of Asia and America; they are never seen in any large
numbers, and are reckoned among the greatest rarities in our aviaries,
owing to the difficulties attendant on their capture, for their retreats
are usually in the deepest recesses of woods and forests, which they
seldom quit. A hollow tree is the favourite resort of a pair of
Hairy-footed Owls, and there they remain during the whole day, but at
night fly away together in search of food. They appear carefully to
avoid the light of the sun, and are extremely timorous. Should they be
molested by the sportsman, they at once lie down close behind the branch
in which they are perched, and thus effectually put themselves out of
both sight and gunshot. Their voice somewhat resembles the syllables "Wi,
wi, wi," and is not unlike the whimper of a child; this cry is heard
principally in the evening and at early morning. The eggs, three or
four in number, are deposited about April or May in a hollow tree, and
are similar to those of the Stone Owl. Mice, insects, small birds, and
bats constitute their principal food; the latter, according to our own
observations, are caught on the wing. As in the case of the Uhu, all the
small birds seem to delight in mobbing and harrying this dreaded foe,
whenever they discover it sitting in the day-time perched and perfectly
helpless. The young are destroyed in great numbers by the larger species
of Owls and other enemies. A Hairy-footed Owl kept in Dr. Brehm's house
soon became extremely tame, and though at first it invariably took refuge
in the darkest corner of its dark cage, it soon lost this habit, and
hopped about even during the day; it took its food from the hand of its
master, and carried it to a quiet nook to be devoured, concealing the
prize with its feathers whilst it ate. It seldom drank, but bathed almost
daily when the weather was warm; if cold, it crouched upon the ground,
drawing up its feet under its body. Its voice sounded occasionally
somewhat like the low bark of a dog.

[Illustration: THE BARN OWL (_Strix flammea_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The VEILED OWLS (_Strix_) constitute one of the most remarkable groups
of this very important family. Their body is slender, the neck long,
the head large and broad, the wings of great size, and the tail of
medium length, the legs are high, the plumage silky and very varied in
its coloration. The beak is elongate, straight at the base, hooked at
its tip, and the under mandible slightly indented. The eye is small and
more arched than that of other species; the ear appears unusually large,
owing to the long feathers by which it is encircled, and which form a
heart-shaped frill around the face, the tarsi are but slightly plumed,
and are covered upon the lower portion with fine bristles; the toes are
almost bare, the claws long, thin, and pointed.

The Veiled Owls are found in all parts of the world, dwelling in populous
districts, in and around villages, and when these are not to be found,
seeking shelter in hollow trees; they especially delight in old ruins,
and are constantly met with in church steeples, ancient castles, and
dismantled towers, as such buildings afford them safe hiding-places until
the evening closes in. All the members of this group so closely resemble
each other that they might readily be mistaken for one and the same
species, and all are equally remarkable for the beauty of their plumage.


KIRCHHOFF'S VEILED OWL.

KIRCHHOFF'S VEILED OWL (_Strix Kirchhoffii_), discovered by Dr. Brehm
whilst in Spain, and called after one of his friends, is so extremely
beautiful as to render an adequate description almost impossible. The
upper portion of its plumage is of a pretty reddish yellow, mottled with
grey upon the shoulders and middle of the back, and delicately spotted
with black and white; the under parts are of dazzling whiteness, and as
glossy as the softest satin. The discs of feathers upon the face are
spotted and edged with reddish brown.


THE BARN OWL.

The FLAME OWL, or BARN OWL (_Strix flammea_), is from twelve to fourteen
inches long, and from thirty-six to thirty-nine inches broad; the wing
measures about eleven, and the tail from four and a half to five inches.
The upper part of the plumage is dark grey; the nape and back of the head
reddish yellow, delicately marked with tiny black and white streaks; the
under side deep reddish yellow, spotted with brown and white; the long
feathers upon the face are either entirely of uniform reddish white, or
become gradually lighter towards the tip; the quills are rust red upon
the inner and whitish upon the outer web, spotted and striped three or
four times with dark brown; the reddish yellow tail-feathers are striped
with black, and have a broad dark grey patch, mottled with white at the
extremity; the beak and cere are reddish white; the bare portions of the
foot blueish grey, and the eye dark brown. The female is of a somewhat
duskier hue than her mate.

Old ruins of every description are constantly frequented by these
birds, such lofty mountain ranges as are barren of trees they carefully
avoid, but in every other situation are more or less frequently met
with. The Barn Owls are stationary in their habits, and often remain
for years in the same locality, spending the day in some retired nook,
and sallying forth at night in quest of prey. Their sleep is extremely
light, and, if disturbed, their contortions are amusing to behold, as
they rock themselves from side to side upon their legs, and peer blindly
at the intruder, expressing their uneasiness by a variety of the most
extraordinary grimaces which we can conceive even an Owl's face to
be capable of. If very hard pressed they seek safety in flight, and
thus prove that they are not so completely blinded by the light as is
popularly supposed. When evening sets in their active life commences,
and they may then be constantly seen and heard, sweeping slowly about,
and uttering their dismal cry at short intervals, as they flit over
the ground, or settle for a short time upon the house-tops. Rats,
mice, moles, and small birds, as well as the larger kinds of insects,
constitute their principal food. They have frequently been accused of
attacking Pigeons, but this we believe is not the case.

So adroit and rapid are the manœuvres of these Owls when hungry,
that their victims have but small chance of escape, and we would
therefore warn such of our readers as are tempted to try the effect of
domestication upon them to keep a very sharp watch indeed upon any other
feathered pets that may be in the same house. A friend of Dr. Brehm's,
after endeavouring to tame one of these birds for about a week, ventured
on the strength of its good training to leave it for one single minute
in his dark room, while he hurried away to obtain a light; when, lo,
upon his return he beheld the Owl behind a stove, quietly finishing the
remains of his pet Linnet, which it had seized, killed, and more than
half devoured in that short space of time! This same Owl would often
eat as many as fifteen mice during the day. In Spain a strange idea is
very prevalent respecting this species, it being supposed to enter the
churches and consume the olive oil employed in the lamps by which those
buildings are lighted. For our own part we believe that such a charge
is quite unfounded, and that the Owl in this case is no more guilty of
the offence, than the terrible cat facetiously described as working so
much havoc in English kitchens. The Spaniards make use of the body of
this bird extensively in medicine, after it has been soaked in oil.
According to Pennant "the Monguls of Tartary pay the Barn Owls almost
divine honours, because they attribute to one of them the preservation of
Ghenghis Khan, the founder of their empire. That prince, with his small
army, happened to be surprised and put to flight by his enemies; when
forced to conceal himself in a little coppice, an Owl settled on the bush
under which he was hid, and induced his pursuers not to search there, as
they thought it impossible that any man could be concealed in a place
where that bird would perch."

It was formerly supposed that the Barn Owls laid their eggs about April,
but recent observations have proved this statement to be incorrect. The
breeding season really commences in the autumn, and during this period
the happy pair testify their love and devotion to each other by loud
and constant cries, as they fly sportively together around and over the
towers and turrets near which they have taken up their abode--nest there
is none, the young family being reared at the bottom of a hole, or in
some retired corner. The nestlings are reared upon mice, and are most
carefully tended by their parents, who nurse their progeny so devotedly
that they have frequently been known to carry food to them for weeks or
even months, after they have been captured and shut up in a cage.

[Illustration]



THE GAPERS (_Hiantes_).


The order to which we have given the name of GAPERS (_Hiantes_) includes
a considerable number of families, which, though differing considerably
from each other in some trifling respects, are related in many essential
particulars. Nearly all these birds are of small or moderate size, and
are recognisable by their slender though powerful body, short neck,
large and remarkably flat head, long narrow-pointed wings, and short
feeble legs. Their beak is short, broad, and flat, tapering towards its
extremity, and although somewhat varied in its formation, is always
surrounded by a stiff, bristle-like growth; the gape is so unusually wide
as to constitute the most remarkable feature they all have in common.
The plumage is sometimes harsh and dusky, and sometimes soft, glossy,
and brilliantly coloured. The birds belonging to this order principally
frequent the warmest portions of our globe, and are rarely met with in
high northern latitudes, as the latter afford them but a very scanty
supply of the insects upon which they mainly subsist. Heat is essential
to the abundance of their favourite food, and it is for this reason
that such species as inhabit the temperate zones are compelled to quit
their native lands for sunnier climes as winter approaches. Some occupy
forests; others mountains, valleys, or open plains; and many, when about
to make their nests, seek the immediate vicinity of man. All the members
of this order are possessed of extraordinary powers of flight, and pass
the greater part of their lives in pursuing their tiny prey through the
realms of air. Upon the ground they move awkwardly and slowly, and are
usually scarcely more adroit in climbing among the branches of trees.
The sight of all these birds is excellent, but their other senses
appear to be only slightly developed. In temper they are social, brisk,
and restless, and exhibit much tenderness towards their young. Their
intelligence, however, is by no means great; indeed, some species are
unquestionably extremely deficient in this respect. So very various is
the formation of the nests, and the number and appearance of the eggs of
the different families into which this order is divisible, that we shall
not attempt to mention them here, but will describe them with the group
or species to which they belong.

       *       *       *       *       *


SWALLOWS.

The SWALLOWS (Hirundines) constitute the foremost family of this order,
and are readily distinguished by their small, delicately-formed body,
broad breast, short neck, and flat head; their beak is short, flat, broad
at its base, and terminates in a slight hook; the gape is so wide as to
extend as far as the eyes. These birds have no crop; their broad, flat,
horny tongue is sharp at its edge, divided at its tip, and furnished with
small tooth-like appendages towards its base. The feet are broad and
feeble, the toes, three of which are placed in front, are very weak and
the claws are slender. The wing is long, narrow, composed of nine quills,
and sharply-pointed at its extremity; the tail forked, containing twelve
feathers; those at the exterior often far exceeding the centre ones in
length. The plumage is composed of small compact feathers, and frequently
exhibits considerable metallic lustre. Both sexes are alike in colour,
but the young differ somewhat from the adult birds.

Swallows are found throughout every division of both hemispheres, and
occupying every latitude, but they rarely breed and are far from numerous
within the limits of the Polar regions. Such species as inhabit the
torrid zones do not migrate, whilst those that visit comparatively
cold countries go to warmer climes as winter approaches, quitting and
returning to their native lands at the appointed period with such
extraordinary regularity that the time of their appearance or departure
may be calculated almost to a day. As regards their intelligence, these
birds are far superior to most other members of the order. Their pleasing
twitter may almost be termed a song, and their flight is distinguishable
by an ease and rapidity that has rendered it proverbial. All Swallows
bathe and drink whilst upon the wing. They subsist upon insect diet,
which they obtain by darting upon their tiny victims with marvellous
velocity as they skim through the air, and swallow them entire. They
consume beetles and flies in enormous quantities, for their appetite
is insatiable; but bees and wasps, or any insect armed with a sting,
they never touch, as their wonderful instinct renders them fully aware
that such morsels are not to be snapped at with impunity. Naumann
mentions that having upon one occasion put a wasp into the beak of a
young Swallow, the bird died almost immediately from the effects of the
stinging it received whilst swallowing the insect. Some species form most
artistic abodes with bits of clay consolidated by means of the glutinous
spittle with which the members of this family are provided; whilst others
excavate deep holes for the reception of the young, the same nests being
employed for many successive years. The females alone brood, and lay from
two to six eggs.

[Illustration: THE CHIMNEY SWALLOW (_Cecropis-Hirundo-rustica_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE SWALLOWS (_Cecropis_) are characterised by their slender and
powerful body, wide flat head, broad but very slightly curved beak, long
wings, extending beyond the deeply-forked tail, moderate sized foot, and
lax plumage, which upon the upper parts gleams more or less with metallic
lustre.


THE CHIMNEY SWALLOW.

The CHIMNEY SWALLOW (_Cecropis-Hirundo-rustica_) is seven inches long and
twelve broad, the wing measures four and a half and the tail about three
inches. The upper part of the plumage is glossy blueish black; the brow
and throat are chestnut brown, a broad line upon the head black, and the
other parts of the body reddish yellow. The five outer feathers of the
tail are adorned with round white spots upon the inner web. The female
is not quite so dark as her mate, and the young are still paler. This
species breeds throughout the whole continent of Europe, if we except its
extreme north. In the northern parts of Asia and Africa it is replaced
by a very similar species--the RUST-RED SWALLOW (_Cecropis cahirica_,
or _Cecropis Boissoneauti_), which is very numerous in Egypt. The NORTH
AMERICAN HOUSE SWALLOW (_Cecropis Americana_), the SOUTH AMERICAN RED
SWALLOW (_Cecropis rufa_), and the _Cecropis neoxena_ are also very
nearly allied species, but somewhat less in size than their European
relative.

We are desirous our readers should fully understand that the Chimney
Swallow is essentially a native of Europe, and that when it wanders to
warmer regions it does not "homeward fly," but exactly the contrary,
being then compelled, by reason of the approach of winter, to leave its
native land "in distant climes to roam," until such time as the breath
of spring has caused the snow and frost completely to disappear, and the
leaves have again burst forth upon the trees. When these migrations are
about to commence, the Swallows assemble in very large flocks, which
congregate upon the trees or houses, and keep up such an incessant
twitter and commotion as would lead an observer to suppose that they
are discussing the important journey they are about to undertake. The
Swallows usually leave Europe about September or October; according to
our own observation, they often travel as far south as eleven degrees
north latitude, and are constant winter guests in India and Ceylon; by
the end of April, however, they are with us again, and have either sought
out their old nests or chosen a proper spot on which to build. For this
purpose, they generally select such districts as are in the vicinity of
water; and, "although the Chimney Swallow has received its most general
name from the somewhat peculiar position in which it frequently builds
its nest, it by no means confines itself to chimneys, but builds readily
in almost any suitably-sheltered position. Thus, the disused shafts of
mines and the sides of old wells are sometimes resorted to. Occasionally
it will build in the roof of a barn or shed, attaching its nest to the
rafters; or in a garret or passage to which it finds easy access. In
almost all cases it selects a point where some projection from the wall,
'some coign of vantage ground,' forms a buttress on which its nest may
be supported. The nest is constructed principally of mud or soft earth,
collected in small pellets from the edges of ponds and other wet places;
these are carried home in the bird's bill, and plastered on to the spot
selected for the nest; fresh pellets are then brought and added, together
with numerous straws and leaves of grasses, until the whole is gradually
moulded into the form of an open saucer, attached by one side to the wall
of the chimney or other place of retreat. A lining of feathers is then
put into the nest, and upon these the eggs are laid." Such of these nests
as are well sheltered from the wind and rain are often employed for many
years, and that, not merely by the original builders, but by successive
generations; any little repairs required being made from time to time by
the occupants.

The Chimney Swallow, though by no means a powerful or hardy bird,
possesses such an amount of life and spirit as is seldom met with in any
other members of the feathered race, and which no inclemencies of weather
or scarcity of food can entirely quell. Its appearance is extremely trim,
and its disposition so brisk and lively that it has ever been an especial
favourite. Morning has scarcely dawned before it is on the alert, and
occupied in twittering its summons to the rest of the world to be up and
about their work. Its voice can boast no real music, but its notes are
so sprightly, and so evidently the outpouring of the bird's own joyous
sensations, as it turns its breast in all directions, flaps its wings,
and indulges in a variety of animated gestures, that it cannot fail to
please the hearer, and impart an additional charm to the beauties of the
first hours of a bright early summer's day.

The flight of this species is peculiarly light and graceful, and very
far superior to its movements upon the ground, over which it crawls with
an awkward and helpless step, its little feet appearing quite unable to
support its body, either when walking or perching. When upon the wing the
powers of the Swallow are seen in their full perfection, and few objects
are more beautiful than one of these birds, as it skims over the face
of the country, now soaring upwards to a great height, and now sinking
suddenly down until it almost sweeps the ground; then changing its
course, it flies backwards and forwards with amazing celerity, pursuing
its way with untiring speed, and not unfrequently indulging in a bathe
in the lake or stream over the bosom of which it delights to skim. This
proceeding, like all its other evolutions on the wing, is rapidly and
easily accomplished; the bird sinks close to the water, and suddenly
darts beneath its surface, re-appearing in less than a moment, and then
flies off to a distance to shake the moisture from its plumage. The
Swallow devours enormous numbers of flies, beetles, and butterflies; when
in pursuit of prey it either keeps near the ground, or skims through the
air at an altitude regulated according to the barometrical state of the
atmosphere, insomuch that from this fact has arisen the popular idea that
its movements indicate the kind of weather to be expected.

The eggs (see Fig. 35, Coloured Plate X.), from four to six in number,
are laid about May, and are incubated entirely by the female. If the
season is fine the male ministers to her wants, and the young are hatched
in twelve days; but should the weather be cold or wet the unfortunate
mother is expected to provide for herself, and must therefore leave her
nest; if this is the case the nestlings do not quit the shell for about
seventeen days. The young grow rapidly, and before they are fully fledged
may be often seen peering and gaping above the sides of the nest, until
able to accompany their parents during their daily excursions; yet, even
then, they return to the nest for a short period as evening closes in.
No sooner has the first family become self-supporting than the female
again lays, but this time the eggs are fewer than before, and it is not
uncommon for this second brood to be hatched so late in the season that
the nestlings are too weak to accompany the rest of the family when the
time for migrating arrives. A Spanish proverb says, "He who could destroy
a Swallow could kill his own mother;" but, in spite of the reprobation of
the act expressed in this popular adage, hundreds and thousands of these
useful and sprightly birds are annually slaughtered out of mere wanton
mischief, not only in that country, but in all parts of Europe, and yet
few members of the feathered creation are more innocent, more useful, or
more ornamental to the landscape. "The Swallow," says Sir Humphry Davy,
"is one of my favourite birds, and a rival of the Nightingale, for he
cheers my sense of seeing as much as the other does my sense of hearing.
He is the glad prophet of the year, the harbinger of the best season; he
lives a life of enjoyment, among the loveliest forms of Nature. Winter
is unknown to him, and he leaves the green meadows of England in autumn,
for the myrtle and orange groves of Italy, and for the palms of Africa.
He has always objects of pursuit, and his success is secure. Even the
beings selected for his prey are poetical, beautiful, and transient.
The ephemeræ are saved by his means from a slow and lingering death in
the evening, and killed in a moment when they have known nothing but
pleasure. He is the constant destroyer of insects, the friend of man, and
a sacred bird. His instinct, which gives him his appointed season, and
teaches him when and where to move, may be regarded as flowing from a
Divine source; and he belongs to the oracles of Nature, which speak the
awful and intelligible fiats of a present Deity."

[Illustration: THE THREAD-TAILED SWALLOW (_Cecropis-Uromitus-filifera_).]

The power of flight possessed by these birds is truly wonderful, and
the distance to which they can travel through the air, without the
possibility of rest, is almost incredible. Nevertheless, at one time,
and that not many years ago, it was believed that on the approach of
cold weather Swallows plunged to the bottom of some pond, in the mud
of which they passed the winter, and revived again in spring. So long
ago as the year 1849 this subject was brought before the Academy of
Sciences at Stockholm, and the following document, which, coming from
the quarter it did, was by some looked upon as an irrefragable proof of
the truth of this strange story, was submitted to and gravely discussed
by that learned body:--"Near to the estate of Kafvelas, in the province
of West Gothland, there is a little lake called Djpasjon, where on
several occasions in the winter time, when the ice-net has been drawn,
_stelnade_, or stiffened Swallows, have been brought up in my presence.
My father, then Inspector at Kafvelas, who was also present, directed
me to take some of them home, and place them in a chair at some little
distance from the fire. This I did, and, to my great astonishment, I soon
observed the birds to draw their heads from under their wings, where they
had been previously placed, and in a few moments to fly about the room.
But as this was not the proper season for their quickening, they lived
but a short time afterwards."

So often has this statement been repeated, that even Wilson felt himself
called upon to confute it. "The Swallow," says that graphic writer,
"flies in his usual way, at the rate of one mile in a minute, and he is
so engaged for ten hours every day; his active life is extended on an
average for ten years, which gives us two million one hundred and ninety
thousand miles--upwards of eighty-seven times the circumference of the
globe. And yet this little winged seraph, if I may so speak, who in a
few days can pass from the Arctic regions to the torrid zone, is forced
when winter approaches to descend to the bottom of lakes, rivers, and
mill-ponds, to bury itself in the mud with eels and snapping turtles,
or to creep ingloriously into a cavern, a rat-hole, or a hollow tree,
with snakes, toads, and other reptiles, till the return of spring! Is
not this true, ye wise men of Europe and America, who have published so
many _credible_ narratives upon this subject? The Geese, the Ducks, the
Cat-bird, and even the Wren, which creeps about our houses like a mouse,
are all declared to be migratory, and to pass to southern regions on
the approach of winter. The Swallow alone, on whom Heaven has conferred
superior powers of wing, must sink in torpidity to the bottom of some
pond to pass the winter in the mud!"

[Illustration: THE MARTIN (_Chelidon urbica_).]

We must confine our notice of the True Swallows to the mention of two
other species, one remarkable for its size, and the other for the very
peculiar formation of its tail.


THE SENEGAL SWALLOW.

The SENEGAL SWALLOW (_Cecropis Senegalensis_) is about eight inches long
and fifteen broad; the wing measures five and a half, and the tail about
four inches. The plumage of the upper part of the body is of a glossy
blueish black, with the exception of the rump and a ring round the neck,
which are reddish brown; the under side is entirely of the latter hue,
somewhat paler upon the throat and upper part of the breast. This very
large species inhabits Central Africa in great numbers, and is met with
from the western coast to the shores of the Red Sea. In its mode of life
and habits it so closely resembles the Chimney Swallow that a description
of its habits would be mere repetition; unlike that bird, however, it
does not always dwell in the immediate vicinity of man, but frequently
wanders forth and lives upon the vast and barren steppes. Another very
similar species is found in Angola and at the Cape of Good Hope.


THE THREAD-TAILED SWALLOW.

The THREAD-TAILED SWALLOW (_Cecropis-Uromitus-filifera_) is a small and
delicate bird, easily recognisable by the long threads in which the two
outer feathers of the tail terminate. The upper part of the body is of
a beautiful metallic blue, the top of the head rust-red, the region of
the cheeks black, the under side white, and the tail spotted with white.
The length of this species is five, and its breadth eleven inches. The
thread-like appendages are not so long in the tail of the female as in
that of her mate. This singular bird principally frequents India and
Central Africa, and we have met with it living solitarily or in pairs
during our travels in Nubia. As far as we were able to ascertain, its
habits exactly correspond with our account of its European congener. The
Indians call this species "Leischra," as the threads attached to the tail
are supposed to resemble the grass known by that name.


THE MARTIN.

The MARTIN or ROOF SWALLOW (_Chelidon urbica_) we have selected as the
type of a group, recognisable by their slightly forked tail and strong
feet, the toes of which are connected from the first joint, and, like the
tarsi, are thickly covered with feathers. This bird is five inches and
a half long, and ten and three-quarters broad; the wing measures four
inches, and the tail two and a half. Upon the back the plumage is almost
entirely of an uniform blueish black; the under side and rump are white.
The eye is dark brown, the beak black, and the bare parts of the foot
black. Both sexes are alike in colour, but the plumage of the young is
less clear in its tints than that of the adult. The Martin inhabits the
whole of Europe, and penetrates further north than the Chimney Swallow;
it is numerous in Siberia, and during its migrations visits the interior
of Africa and Southern Asia. In most respects it closely resembles the
species already described, but is somewhat less brisk and intelligent;
its flight also is not so rapid and varied as that of the Chimney
Swallow, but it frequently soars to an enormous height in pursuit of the
insects upon which it subsists. Its voice is very far inferior to that of
the rest of its family, and its cry monotonous and harsh.

In populous districts the nests of this bird are invariably constructed
upon houses, but where human habitations are scarce, the Roof Swallow
is content to make its preparations upon rocks, or any situation that
will afford it a secure shelter from the wind and rain. The nest is
very similar to that of the Chimney Swallow, but with this difference,
that it is always built against a hole, and has no external entrance;
sometimes many pairs construct their dwellings under the same eaves or
the same rock, and thus form a kind of settlement. Although usually
peaceful, during the breeding season disputes and battles are of constant
occurrence; each couple naturally endeavouring to obtain the snuggest
corner, and to oust its neighbour should the opportunity offer. The brood
consists of from four to six delicate snow-white eggs, and the nestlings
are hatched in about twelve days. The female alone broods, and is fed by
her mate only when the weather is fine; the young also frequently have
but an insufficient supply of food, owing to the difficulty of procuring
insects when the season is inclement, and thus must very often be left
behind when the flocks migrate, as they are still too weak to undergo
such great fatigue. If all goes well, the nestlings are fully fledged
in about sixteen days, but generally remain for some time longer under
the care of their parents. During this period the whole family return
at night to their nest, which they fill so completely that we have
often been inclined to wonder that the walls did not give way under the
pressure to which they were subjected. Desperate fights often ensue when
a stray bird finds its way into a wrong nest, and most courageously
do those in possession exert themselves to expel the intruder, who is
generally equally determined to remain. Far less brave is the Swallow
when brought into collision with its principal enemy, the Sparrow;
it often happens that no sooner is the Swallow's nest completed than
a male Sparrow creeps in and takes possession, keeping guard at the
door, in order to prevent the entrance of the rightful owner; under
these circumstances, the latter, not venturing to obtain admittance by
force, usually summons its companions, who together beset the impudent
intruder with loud cries and every demonstration of anger. In most cases
the Sparrow retains possession of its ill-gotten abode, but should the
Swallow be bold, a battle sometimes takes place that proves fatal to one
or other of the combatants. So constant are these attempts of the Sparrow
to obtain a home for its young, that a pair of Swallows sometimes are
deprived _twice_ in the season of the domicile they have laboriously
completed, and, should this occur, do not breed at all that year. It was
formerly imagined that the Swallow revenged itself on its foe by building
it up in the nest, but we need hardly say that this is untrue.

The Martins make their appearance in England a few days after the Chimney
Swallow (_Cecropis-Hirundo-rustica_), and on their arrival are usually
seen in warm and low situations, such being most likely to supply an
abundance of their natural food. They are equally distributed throughout
the kingdom, and are found wherever man has fixed his residence, seeming
to court his protection. They commence nidification early in May, and
build in the upper angles of windows and under the eaves of houses,
sometimes under the arches of bridges or against the face of rocks. The
nest is formed of mud completely worked and cemented, and is closed all
round except a small orifice, usually on the sheltered side, just of
sufficient size to permit the passage of the inhabitant; the interior is
well lined with a collection of straw, hay, and feathers. These birds
leave us in October; preparatory to their departure, they congregate in
great numbers on the roofs of houses.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOUNTAIN or SHORE SWALLOWS (_Cotyle_) are recognisable by their
slightly forked tail, and lax, lustreless plumage. Two species are
indigenous to Europe; a description of these will serve for the entire
group.


THE ROCK SWALLOW.

The ROCK SWALLOW (_Cotyle rupestris_) is about five inches and a half
long, and from twelve and a half to thirteen and three-quarters broad;
the wing measures about five inches. The coloration of the plumage
closely resembles that of the rocks upon which this species principally
lives. The upper parts of the body are light brown, the quills and tail
blackish; the centre feathers that compose the latter are beautifully
marked with oval yellowish white spots; the throat is whitish; the breast
and belly dirty reddish grey; the eye is dark brown, the beak black, and
the foot reddish grey. The sexes are nearly alike; the young are somewhat
more uniform in hue than the adult bird.

The actual habitat of the Rock Swallows appears to be Spain, Italy, and
Greece, but they are constantly met with and are known to breed in the
Tyrol, and even in still more central parts of Europe. So hardy are
they that such as migrate do not leave till the autumn is far advanced,
and return as early as February or March; whilst others, inhabiting
the extreme south, remain in their native land throughout the entire
year. In Egypt and South-western Asia they are replaced by a smaller
but very similar species. The Rock Swallows seldom associate with their
congeners, and are readily distinguished from them by their greyish hue,
and comparatively slow and hovering flight. In Switzerland, after their
return in the spring, they usually allow some time to elapse before they
seek their own nests or build new ones; during the interval they busy
themselves in making excursions in all directions, either skimming near
the mountains, or, if the weather be fine, soaring to a considerable
height in the air. If, on the contrary, the season be dull or rainy, they
keep close to the earth, or beneath projecting rocks and stones. If the
day be bright, they come down from their retreats among the mountains,
and perch upon the roofs of cottages, but never venture actually into
houses. The nest is placed beneath a projecting ledge of rock, or in some
similar situation, and resembles that of the Chimney Swallow. Several
pairs frequently build together, but we have never seen settlements
like those formed by some other species. Many various statements have
been made as to their mode of nidification, seeing that, owing to the
precipitous nature of the localities selected, it is very often extremely
difficult to approach the abode of a Rock Swallow. The eggs are white,
spotted with red, and are from three to five in number. After the
nestlings are fully fledged, they still remain for some time with the old
birds, following them about in search of insects, which are caught on the
wing, but as soon as a fly or a beetle is thus obtained, the hungry young
perch for a moment upon a tree, and receive the morsel from the parent's
beak. When the period of incubation is over, the different families form
small parties, and wander about the country, as in the spring, until the
proper time for commencing their migrations. In its general disposition,
the Rock Swallow is less alert and brisk than its congeners, and its
voice has a deeper and rather hoarse sound.


THE SAND MARTIN.

The SAND MARTIN (_Cotyle riparia_), one of the smallest members of its
family, is only five inches long and eleven broad; the wing measures
four, and the tail two inches. The plumage is greyish brown above, white
beneath, and marked on the breast with a greyish brown ring. The sexes
are nearly alike, but the young are darker than the adults. These birds
inhabit and breed in all parts of Europe, except the extreme northern
countries, and usually frequent such rocks or hills as overhang streams
and rivers. The wonderful nests that have rendered the members of
this group so famous, are made either in natural hollows, or in holes
excavated with enormous labour by the builders; they appear, however,
to prefer the cavities which they have themselves prepared, and are
most careful to dig their retreats at such an elevation as to be above
high-water mark. "It appears," says Naumann, "almost incredible that
a pair of these small birds, with no other instruments than their
delicate beaks, can dig, as they do, a horizontal passage several inches
in diameter, and from three to six feet deep, in the space of two, or
sometimes three days. The male and female both assist in this, for
them, gigantic undertaking, and work with the utmost energy and ardour,
disposing of the loose earth by throwing it out behind them with their
feet; and yet, strange to say, it is not uncommon for them suddenly
to leave one of these excavations when almost finished, and commence
another; occasionally, they will even dig a third. Why they do this
has never been satisfactorily ascertained, for it is only the passage
to the chamber in which the nest is made that is ever occupied either
by the parents or the young family. Many pairs invariably work close
together, thus forming an extensive settlement, and it is most amusing to
watch the earth flying out of a number of their holes as it is ejected
by the busy labourers, who are usually quite out of sight." It is to
these settlements that Pliny alludes in the following amusing terms:
"At the Heracleotic mouth of the Nile in Egypt, the Swallows present an
insuperable obstacle to the inroads of that river, by the embankment
formed by their nests in one continuous line, nearly a stadium in
length--a thing that could not possibly have been effected by the agency
of man. In Egypt, too, near the city of Coptos, there is an island sacred
to Isis; in the early days of spring, the Swallows strengthen the angular
corner of this island with chaff and straw, thus fortifying it in order
that the river may not sweep it away. This work they persevere in for
three days and nights together, with such unremitting labour that it is a
well-known fact that many of them die in consequence of their exertions;
moreover, this is a toil which recurs to them regularly every year."

The nest itself is made at the end of the above-mentioned passage, and
consists of a bed of straw, hay, and fibres, snugly lined with wool,
hair, and feathers. The eggs, five or six in number, are of an oval
shape, and have a thin, pure white shell. The young are hatched in a
fortnight, and remain for a similar period under the care of their
parents. Should the first family not be reared, a second brood is at once
laid. The flight of the Sand Martin is so light as to bear comparison
with that of the butterfly. Its voice is weak and gentle, and its
disposition lively and active; it is extremely social, and lives at peace
with most other birds. In its general habits it resembles its congeners,
but leaves for warmer climes earlier in the year than they do, and does
not reappear till about May.


THE ARIEL SWALLOW.

[Illustration: THE ARIEL (_Chelidon Ariel_).]

The ARIEL SWALLOW, or FAIRY MARTIN (_Chelidon Ariel_), as the Australian
representative of our Roof Swallow is called, is about three inches and a
half in length. The upper part of its body is deep blue, the top of the
head rust-red, the rump brownish white, and the tail dark brown; the eye
is blackish brown, the beak black, and the foot brownish grey. According
to Gould, the Ariel appears in the southern and western portions of
Australia about August, and, seeking after its old haunts, lays two or
three broods, and departs again in February. In some situations the nests
of this species are built crowded together under eaves of houses and
hollow trees, or beneath the shelter of an overhanging rock; the male
birds assist in the construction of the long flask-like passage by which
the actual home for the young is entered, and fetch clay for the females
while employed in building.

"Until my arrival in the colony of New South Wales," says Gould, "I had
no idea of the existence of this new and beautiful Martin, nor, in fact,
until I was awakened by its twittering notes at the bedroom window at
the inn in Maitland did I discover that I was surrounded by hundreds of
this species, which were breeding under the verandahs and corners of the
windows, precisely after the manner of the Common Martin. Several of
their bottle-shaped nests were built round the house, and from thence I
obtained as many eggs as I desired. I observed this bird throughout the
district of the Upper Hunter, as well as in every part of the interior,
breeding in various localities, wherever suitable situations presented
themselves, sometimes in the holes of low decayed trees, while not
unfrequently clusters of nests were attached to the perpendicular banks
of rivers, the sides of rocks, &c., always, however, in the vicinity of
water. The nest, which is bottle-shaped, with a long neck, is composed
of mud or clay, and, like that of our Common Martin, is only constructed
in the morning and evening, unless the day be wet or lowering. While
building these nests they appear to work in small companies, six or
seven assisting in the formation of each, one of them remaining within
and receiving the mud brought by the others in their mouths. In shape
the nests are nearly round, but vary in size from four to six inches in
diameter, the spouts being eight, nine, or ten inches in length; when
built on the sides of rocks or in the hollows of trees, they are placed
without any regular order in clusters of thirty or forty together, some
with their spouts inclining downwards, others at right angles, &c.; they
are lined with feathers and fine grasses." The eggs, which are four or
five in number, are sometimes quite white, or spotted or blotched with
red; they are eleven-sixteenths of an inch long, by half an inch broad.

       *       *       *       *       *

The WOOD SWALLOWS (_Atticora_) are delicate birds with long wings (in
which the first and second quills are of equal length), forked tails,
thin beaks, and slender legs, furnished with short toes; the plumage
gleams with metallic lustre, and is much varied in its hues. All the
species included in this group inhabit South America and Africa; they
frequent woods and forests, and build their nests in the trunks of hollow
trees.


THE STRIPED WOOD SWALLOW.

The STRIPED WOOD SWALLOW (_Atticora fasciata_) is a native of Brazil. Its
plumage is black, marked with white upon the breast and under part of
the thigh; the rump has a blueish gloss. The length of the body is six
inches, the wing measures four, and the tail three inches. This active,
lively bird frequents the forests of Northern Brazil, from whence it
flies, in search of its insect fare, over the neighbouring streams and
rivers, and perches or sleeps amongst the surrounding trees.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must not omit to mention the American SAILOR SWALLOWS (_Progne_),
partly because they have frequently been seen in Europe, but more
especially as they form the connecting link between the Swallows and the
Swifts; they are powerful birds, with long, broad wings, extending beyond
the very decidedly forked tail. Their beak is strong, broad at the base,
compressed at its sides, much arched, and terminates in a hook; the legs
are robust, the tarsi bare, and the toes thicker and more fleshy than
those of other Swallows. The plumage is very dense.


THE PURPLE SWALLOW.

The PURPLE SWALLOW (_Progne purpurea_) is seven inches and a half long
and fifteen and a half broad; the wing measures about five, and the tail
two and a half inches; the centre feather of the latter does not exceed
two inches. The female is a trifle smaller and more slender than her
mate. The plumage is of a deep blackish blue, shaded with purple; the
quills and tail-feathers are blackish brown; the eye dark brown, the beak
blackish brown, and the foot purplish black. The head of the female is
brownish grey, spotted with black; the upper part of the body is greyer
in tint than that of the male, and streaked with black.

This bird is a particular favourite with the Americans, and has been
described at great length by many writers. According to Audubon, the
Purple Swallows appear in New Orleans about February, and at once come
sweeping about the towns or over the streams and rivers. Near the Falls
of the Ohio, they are not seen till March, and in Missouri not before
the middle of April. In August they leave for more southern countries,
assembling like their European brethren upon steeples or high trees,
preparatory to starting upon their travels. The flight of this species
resembles that of the Roof Swallow, but upon the earth and among the
branches of trees its movements are far more easy, and it frequently
alights to seek for insects on the ground. Whilst upon the wing, it often
bathes and drinks in the same manner as our English Swallows, and like
them seizes its prey as it darts through the air. Its disposition is
bold and courageous, insomuch that it will frequently chase cats, dogs,
Falcons, Cranes, or even Vultures, with great intrepidity.

The nest of the Purple Swallow, which is long and flask-shaped, is formed
of dry twigs, grass, leaves, feathers, and other elastic materials, and
is either built against a tree or placed in similar situations to those
selected by its congeners. The female produces two and sometimes three
broods, and lays from four to six purely white eggs; the first family is
fully fledged by May, and the second about July. Both parents assist in
the work of incubation; the male proves himself a most tender and devoted
spouse, and often spends whole hours at the side of his mate, singing to
her with great vivacity. Should several pairs brood near the same spot,
the utmost harmony prevails among them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pursuant to our intention of laying a _natural_ classification of the
Animal Kingdom before our readers, we shall now proceed to describe the
SWIFTS, although we are well aware that many modern naturalists consider
that they should not be grouped with the Swallows.

The family of the SWIFTS (_Cypseli_) are small or moderate-sized birds,
with a long slender body, short neck, broad flat head, and small
delicate beak, which is broad at its base, slightly curved, and somewhat
compressed at its tip. The gape is uncommonly wide; the wings are narrow
and curved like a sabre; the tail is very variously formed, being
sometimes long, sometimes short, and more or less deeply incised at its
extremity; the feet and toes are stunted, the latter armed with short,
powerful, and much curved claws. The plumage is thick and composed of
small feathers, it is usually of a dusky hue, but occasionally exhibits
considerable metallic lustre. The various members of this family are
found throughout all the divisions of our earth, except its most northern
portions, and inhabit every situation from the sea-coast to the snow
boundary of lofty mountain ranges. From early morning till late in the
evening, they may be seen skimming through the air with astonishing
rapidity, or soaring to such an elevation as to be almost beyond the
reach of our vision. So powerful are their wings that no amount of
exertion appears to fatigue them; their pinions, which when extended form
a crescent, are wielded with a force and rapidity rivalling the activity
of the Humming Birds--they dart with the velocity of an arrow upon their
prey, or indulge in every conceivable variety of flight or motion, as
they skim through what may certainly be called their native element; even
when among the branches of trees, they display considerable agility,
but are perfectly helpless upon the ground. All the members of this
family are of a restless disposition; they spend but a few hours of the
night in repose, and require a very large amount of food to enable them
to support their prolonged exertions, so that they consume insects in
enormous quantities, seizing them whilst upon the wing.

[Illustration: THE KLECHO (_Dendrochelidon klecho_).]

All such species as inhabit the temperate zone migrate with the utmost
regularity as winter approaches, and return to their native haunts with
such unfailing precision that the day on which they will re-appear may
be accurately prognosticated. Those species inhabiting the interior of
Africa never actually migrate, but occupy themselves in flying over the
face of the country during the wet season. The work of constructing the
nest is commenced as soon as the winter journeyings are over, and is
always carried on amidst great excitement; the males chasing and fighting
each other most furiously during the whole time, and constantly engaging
in pitched battles with the birds whose nests they prefer taking rather
than undergo the labour of constructing a home for themselves. Unlike the
nests of the Swallows, those built by the Swifts seldom consist of more
than a few slight materials laid carelessly together, and cemented with
saliva from the builder's beak. The eggs are round and white; the female
alone broods, but both parents share in the toil of satisfying their
hungry progeny.

[Illustration: SALANGANES.]

       *       *       *       *       *

The TREE SWIFTS (_Dendrochelidon_) constitute a group whose various
species form a link between the Swallows and the Swifts Proper. These
birds are recognisable by their elongate body, long wings, in which the
two first quills are of equal length, their long, deeply-forked tail, and
the crest with which their head is adorned: their feet resemble those of
the Swallow.


THE KLECHO.

The KLECHO (_Dendrochelidon klecho_), so called from the sound of its
cry, is about seven inches long; the wing measures six, and the tail
three inches. Upon the upper part of the body the plumage is of a
brilliant metallic steel-green; the wing-covers have a blueish lustre;
the quills are blackish on the inner and blue on the outer web, and
the shoulder-feathers white. The belly is white, the rest of the under
surface and rump of a beautiful deep grey. The male has a reddish brown
and the female a black spot near the eye.

The Tree Swifts differ almost entirely in their mode of life from
any other members of their family. Extensive woods and dense forests
are their favourite resorts, such being preferred as are in lowland
districts; according to Jerdon, the Indian Klecho constantly builds in
these localities, flying from thence over the streams or lakes in the
vicinity in search of insects on which it subsists. Whilst resting from
its labours it usually selects a withered tree for its perch, and amuses
itself by expanding and playing with the beautiful crest upon its head.
Its flight is excellent, but it climbs awkwardly among the branches. When
upon the wing it utters almost incessantly a loud parrot-like scream;
when perched its voice is not quite so harsh. We learn from Bernstein
that, unlike all other Swifts, the Klecho usually builds at the summit of
a tree, upon a branch of about an inch in thickness. Its strange nest,
the walls of which are scarcely thicker than parchment, is constructed
of bits of bark, feathers, and other similar materials, woven together,
and cemented with saliva. The great peculiarity of the nest consists in
the fact that it is only just big enough to contain the one large egg
laid by the female, and that the walls are far too delicate to bear the
weight of the brooding mother; the bird is, therefore, compelled to perch
and support herself upon the branch, and merely allow her breast to cover
and warm her offspring. The female lays twice in the season; the egg is
perfectly oval and of a blueish tint.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SALANGANES (_Collocalia_) are a group of Swifts whose edible nests
have been famous from time immemorial, but as to whose life and habits
little information has been acquired. These birds are distinguished by
their small size, long wings, in which the second quill exceeds the rest
in length, their forked or slightly incised tail, small but powerful
beak, and delicate feet, the exterior toe of which is directed backwards.
In all the members of this group the salivary glands are much developed.


THE SALANGANE PROPER.

The SALANGANE PROPER (_Collocalia nidifica_), as we will call the species
most extensively met with, is from four to five inches long, and twelve
inches broad. Its wing measures about four inches and a half, and its
tail two and a quarter. The plumage is of a greyish brown, paler upon the
under surface; the quills and tail are blackish, and the vicinity of the
eyes marked with white. The feathers of the adult have a slight metallic
lustre that is not perceptible in the young. It was formerly supposed
that these remarkable birds were only found upon the Sunda Islands, but
modern observation has proved that they also inhabit the mountains of
Assam, the Neilgherries, Sikkim, and Ceylon. Most contradictory tales
have been told by travellers as to the materials of which their famous
edible nests are composed.

The earliest account of these nests is met with in Bontius, who tells
us that "Large flocks of very small birds of the Swallow kind come down
during the breeding season, and settle upon the Chinese coasts, where
they swarm over the cliffs that overhang the sea. In these situations
they build their strange nests, forming them of fish spawn, which they
collect from the shore. These nests are much valued by the natives, who
will often pay very large sums of money for them, in order to make them
into soup, which is considered a dainty." More modern investigators have
been equally inaccurate in their surmises, some pronouncing them to
be constructed of the flesh of a kind of snail or worm, or a peculiar
species of sea-weed, gathered from the shore. Recent observations upon
this interesting point have, however, proved that all these explanations
are incorrect, and we learn that these luxuries, in which the Chinese so
much delight, are formed of a secretion resembling saliva, drawn from
under the bird's own tongue. After a great variety of experiments as to
its component parts, Marsden pronounces that the material resembles a
mixture of gelatine and white of egg, an opinion in which Bernstein, who
is a trustworthy authority on this disputed question, entirely coincides;
we will, however, describe the nest of the Salangane before we give our
readers the real secret of its construction, as vouched for and described
by the last-mentioned naturalist. The Salangane usually builds in such
deep and dark cavities that the observation of its proceedings as it
fastens its small, thin, gelatinous nest to the rock, is attended with
great difficulty. This structure is in shape like the quarter of an
egg-shell, divided longitudinally along its entire length. Some of these
nests are white, some of a brown colour, and opinion differs considerably
as to the reason of this variety; we ourselves believe it to depend on
the age of the structure, as we have never seen a brown nest occupied,
but other authorities pronounce them to be the work of two distinct
species. In the markets the white nests command a very high price, while
such as are dark are but little esteemed. The two white eggs laid by
the Salangane are deposited at the bottom of this remarkable gelatinous
receptacle, without any further preparation for their warmth or comfort.


THE KUSAPPI.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-THROATED PRICKLY-TAILED SWIFT (_Acanthylis
caudacuta_).]

The abode of the KUSAPPI (_Collocalia fuciphaga_) is much more easy of
access than that of its congener above described, as it is either placed
at the bottom of a hole, or affixed to the naked rock. In shape it
resembles that of the Salangane, but its walls are partially composed of
stalks of plants, horsehair, and blades of grass, not woven, but cemented
together with the aforesaid gelatinous secretion, by which it is also
attached to the surface of the cliff. The amount of the mucilaginous
substance used varies considerably, some nests being in great measure
composed of it, whilst such as are formed of very pliable extraneous
materials are made to a certain extent without its aid. Bernstein gives
the following account of the process of building the nests of the
Kusappi, and has proved the accuracy of his statements by numberless
experiments, having even drawn the slimy thread himself from the bird's
beak. "Shortly before the breeding season," says Bernstein, "the glands
beneath the tongue of these birds become unusually distended, and present
the appearance of two large swellings, which diminish considerably in
size after the nest is completed. When about to make the foundation of
its future abode, the Kusappi presses its tongue against the rock that is
to serve for a support, and then, retiring a few paces, draws out a long
gummy thread, which dries with great rapidity; this process is repeated,
until a crescent-shaped mass is formed, and firmly fastened to the stone.
The bird then takes the blades of grass, or stalks of other plants, one
after another, from a heap it has already prepared, and cements them
together by a similar operation, producing, as it turns its head from
side to side, in order to draw out its thread, the undulating lines so
frequently seen upon these remarkable structures, and this process is
continued until the nest has assumed the necessary dimensions." The
Salangane's method of proceeding is essentially similar to that adopted
by the Kusappi, but, as we have already said, it builds entirely with the
gelatinous threads, without any foreign admixture. We have frequently
remarked that such of these birds as are well fed exhibit a much more
considerable enlargement of the glands than is observable in those that
have only been able to obtain a scanty supply of nourishment. This fact
explains the reason why so much difference is constantly noticeable both
in the size and beauty of these much-prized nests, millions of which are
annually consumed, such as are very clear and delicate often realising
fabulous prices. Java is particularly rich in this article of commerce,
and Epp thus describes one of the localities in which the nests are most
numerously met with:--"The Karang Kallong," he says, "is a huge chalk
rock, rising perpendicularly from the sea, by which it is surrounded,
and is garrisoned with a force of twenty-five men, whose sole duty is
to protect the birds while building. A large tree grows at the edge of
the steep, and from this point of view those who venture to look down
behold the busy workers swarming beneath, appearing in the distance no
larger than bees. The sides of the precipice contain nine caverns, each
of which has its name, and can only be entered by a man lowered from
above; should the rope break, his death is inevitable, and even if this
danger be escaped, the task of finding the entrance to the cavern is
attended with great peril, as the foaming waves constantly dash high
enough to conceal it from view. The natives who engage in this terrible
undertaking fortify themselves for their task by a dose of opium, and
offer up a prayer to the Goddess Njaikidul before making the descent."
In 1847 no fewer than 2,700 people inhabited the summit of the Karang
Kallong, and of these 1,500 men were thus employed. Enormous numbers
of nests are exported annually from this place to China, and are sold
at very high prices; but those who thus risk their lives to obtain the
expensive luxury are but poorly remunerated. We are but little acquainted
with the habits of these birds, except that they fly with great rapidity,
and constantly frequent the sea-shore.

[Illustration: THE STEEPLE SWIFT (_Cypselus apus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The PRICKLY-TAILED SWIFTS (_Acanthylis_) are distinguished from other
members of their family by the very peculiar construction of their
tail-feathers, the shafts of which extend beyond the web; the plumage is
also thicker, and the tarsi longer and more powerful than in most other
species.


THE WHITE-THROATED PRICKLY-TAILED SWIFT.

The WHITE-THROATED PRICKLY-TAILED SWIFT (_Acanthylis caudacuta_) is about
eight inches and a half long, and twenty broad; the wing measures eight
and the tail two inches. The head, upper tail-covers, sides of the wings,
quills, and tail are pale black, with a metallic greenish blue gloss; the
back and shoulder-feathers are whitish brown, the breast and nape white.
The under side is blackish brown, the lower wing-covers and a streak on
the side of the head are white, more or less intermixed with glossy,
blackish blue feathers. The inner web of the secondary quills is also
white; the beak is black, the foot lead-colour, and the eye deep brown.

We learn from Jerdon that this species is found in the south-eastern
provinces of the Himalaya, Nepaul, Sikkim, and Bhotan, and that its
flight is extraordinarily light and rapid. The breeding settlements are
generally at a considerable height in the mountains, but always below the
snow boundary. The strange prickly tail appears to be employed to assist
the bird while climbing. Further particulars as to its habits and mode of
life are entirely wanting.


THE DWARF SWIFT.

The DWARF SWIFT (_Cypselus parvus_) is a small species found in some
parts of Central Africa, where it usually frequents the forests or
woodland districts. Its length does not exceed five inches and a half,
and its breadth is eleven inches. The plumage is almost entirely dark
grey, lightest upon the throat; the wings are of a brownish hue. In its
general habits the Dwarf Swift resembles its congeners, but the structure
of its nest is so remarkable as to merit a minute description. Brehm
tells us that upon one occasion, whilst travelling in the vicinity of
the Blue River, he was attracted by cries uttered by one of these birds
as it flew backwards and forwards near a lofty palm whose branches
towered above the surrounding trees. On going nearer the spot, he
observed that the Swift kept disappearing, as it were, within one of
the large, fan-like leaves, against the glossy green of which several
white objects were distinctly visible. Thinking this circumstance
somewhat extraordinary, he climbed the tree, and found, to his no small
astonishment, that the said green leaf was the nest, and the white
objects, the eggs, of the noisy bird. We should, perhaps, be more
accurate if we said that the leaf formed the outer part of the nest, the
actual chamber for the young being composed of cotton wool and feathers,
fastened together with saliva, and in shape resembling a round spoon: the
interior did not exceed two inches and a half in diameter. Guided by a
most wonderful instinct, this little builder seems perfectly aware of the
danger to which its aërial abode is exposed from a strong wind, and takes
the very safe precaution of gumming with her tenacious spittle not only
the nest and eggs, but the nestlings also, firmly to the leaf. Another
peculiarity in the domestic arrangements of this species is that the two
white eggs that compose a brood are fastened end upwards, in the very
limited bed prepared for their reception.


THE PALM-TREE SWIFT.

The PALM-TREE SWIFT (_Cypselus palmarum_) constructs its nest in a very
similar manner to the Dwarf Swift.


THE STEEPLE SWIFT.

The STEEPLE SWIFT (_Cypselus apus_) is from six to seven inches long and
fifteen and a half broad; its wing measures six and a half, and tail
three inches. Its plumage is of a blackish brown, with the exception of
the throat, which is white; the eyes are brown, the beak and feet black.

The Steeple Swifts are met with throughout the southern countries of
Europe, in Central Asia, and over the entire continent of Africa. They
appear in Europe with the utmost regularity on the first or second
of May, and usually leave about the first of August. Such of them as
are seen after that period find their way to us from more northern
countries, having been left behind by their companions. The migrations
of these birds are undertaken in large flocks and are usually commenced
at midnight. Like all its congeners, the Steeple Swift is extremely
restless, active, and lively in disposition, but differs considerably in
its habits from all other members of its family. The air is its home,
and almost its entire life is passed upon the wing. From early morning
it may be seen, either sailing through the sky at a considerable height,
or skimming along in its tortuous course as it pursues its insect prey.
In general, however, it is only towards evening, or if the sky be wet
or cloudy, that it approaches the surface of the earth. Such of these
birds as inhabit the Canary Islands are an exception to this rule, for,
according to Bolle, they invariably seek the shelter of their holes for
a couple of hours during the forenoon. So extremely awkward are the
movements of this species when upon the ground, that it is commonly
supposed to be unable to rise if it should chance to alight on _terra
firma_. This idea is, however, incorrect, for with the aid of its wings
it is enabled to make a violent spring, and thus recommence its flight.
The feet of the Swift are almost useless for walking; they are, however,
invaluable assistants to the bird when climbing, and the sharp claws with
which they are armed are most formidable weapons of defence against its
adversaries. The sight and hearing of the Steeple Swifts is excellent,
but in every other respect they are far below their congeners, with whom
they live in a constant state of warfare; even towards their own species
they exhibit the same violent and revengeful disposition, falling upon
and clawing each other with such violence as often to tear the flesh
from their opponent's breast. We ourselves have seen the males become so
excited in these encounters, as to permit us to approach and seize them
with our hands, and Naumann mentions having observed one of these birds
dart like a Falcon upon a Sparrow quietly picking up worms in a field,
and attack it with such fierceness that the terrified little creature
sought refuge between the feet of a man who was standing near the spot.

Steeples, lofty edifices, and in some countries rocks, are the situations
preferred by this species when about to build. The nest is constructed
of hay, dry leaves, blades of grass, or even bits of rag, cemented into
a solid mass by the saliva from the builder's beak. The two or at most
three eggs that constitute a brood are white, elongate, and of the same
breadth at both ends. The female begins to lay at the end of May; she
alone performs the work of incubation, and is fed by her mate if the
weather be fine; should it, however, be wet, she is compelled to leave
her little family, and go herself in pursuit of insects, as the male can
only provide for his own requirements. The young grow very slowly and
remain for many weeks under parental care, indeed, they are rarely fully
fledged until the end of August. It is by no means uncommon for these
birds to avoid all the trouble attendant on nidification, by setting
upon and worrying a Starling or Sparrow until they have compelled it to
resign its little domicile; under these circumstances, if the eggs of the
late occupier have been already laid, the marauder simply covers them
with a layer of some elastic material, and on this the female deposits
her brood. These Swifts subsist almost entirely on insects, and usually
require a large supply of food; they can, however, occasionally fast for
a lengthened period.


THE ALPINE SWIFT.

The ALPINE SWIFT (_Cypselus Melba_) is considerably larger and more
powerful than the bird last described, its length being about eight, and
its breadth from nineteen to twenty inches; the wing measures eight and
the tail three inches. The plumage of this species is dusky greyish brown
above, and white upon the throat and belly; the rings around the eyes are
deep brown, and the feet and beak black. The young are recognisable by
the light edge upon their feathers.

All the mountains of Southern Europe, and a large part of Asia, afford a
home to the Alpine Swift; it is, however, rarely met with in the central
or northern parts of the European continent. According to Jerdon, it is
by no means uncommon in India, around the Ghauts, and Neilgherries, and
on the Malabar coast; it is also sometimes seen near Madras; and all
parts of Africa are visited by these birds during the course of their
migrations. Although the favourite resorts of this species are in the
mountains in Switzerland, it constantly frequents the steeples of the
churches, appearing in that country about the end of March, and only
leaving for warmer regions in October. We have been informed by the monks
upon Montserrat that the Alpine Swift has been seen from time to time
near their cloisters throughout the entire winter. In most particulars of
its life and habits this bird closely resembles the Steeple Swift, but
it is capable of mounting to even a still greater height in the air. Its
voice resembles that of the Kestrel. Like its congeners it is eminently
social, and generally flies about in considerable flocks; we have seen
thousands at a time swarming around the summit of Montserrat, and Jerdon
tells us that they congregate in similar multitudes on the heights of
some Indian mountains. Their nests are built in holes of rocks, steeples,
or similar situations; they are formed externally of twigs, upon which
are laid leaves, straw, rags, paper cuttings, or other materials of like
description, the whole being consolidated by means of the glutinous
spittle to which we have so frequently alluded. The three elongated white
eggs that form the brood are laid at the end of May; the nestlings are
hatched by the middle of June, and are fully fledged by the last week in
July.

       *       *       *       *       *

The NIGHT JARS or GOATSUCKERS (_Caprimulgi_) constitute a family of very
remarkable birds, in some respects resembling the Swallows and Swifts,
but differing from them in many important particulars. Some species fully
equal the Raven in size, whilst others, on the contrary, are not larger
than a Lark; in all, the body is elongate, the neck short, the head
large, broad, and flat, the eye prominent. The beak is broad, short, and
tapers towards its tip, which is much compressed; the jaws are unusually
large, and the gape wide; the legs are weak, the tarsi short and covered
with horny plates, the upper part being occasionally feathered, or quite
bare. The toes vary considerably in different species, but are usually
weak and short, the centre one only being well developed; this middle toe
is sometimes furnished with a large serrated claw. The wings are long and
pointed, but not to such a degree as those of the Swallow, the second
and third quills, instead of the first, generally exceeding the rest in
length. The tail is formed of ten feathers, and differs considerably as
to its shape; the plumage, like that of the Owl, is soft, and composed
of large feathers; it is usually dark in colour, but much variegated
and very delicately marked. The base of the beak is covered with a
very remarkable growth of stiff bristles, and the eyes are surrounded
with short but thick lashes. In some species the males have long and
peculiarly formed feathers in the region of the tail and on the wings.

[Illustration: _Plate 13, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE TAWNY GOATSUCKER ____ Nyctibius grandis

(_two-thirds Nat. size_)]

The Night Jars, or Fern Owls, as they are sometimes called, are found
throughout all divisions of our globe, with the exception of its most
northern latitudes; two species are met with in Europe, and others occur
in America, Africa, and Asia. Though thus spread over the face of the
earth, the actual habitat of this group is somewhat limited; certain
amongst them occupy mountains, others frequent desert tracts or fruitful
plains, but all keep to a certain extent within the limits of their
appointed domain, their plumage being usually coloured so as to harmonise
and blend with the tints of the rocks, sand, or tree trunks, among which
they pass the greatest portion of their lives. Such of these birds as
dwell in tropical forests do not migrate; and the greater number skim
over the surrounding country at certain seasons; but all those inhabiting
northern latitudes withdraw in the autumn towards the south. It is only
during these migratory excursions--which often extend as far as the
interior of Africa--that the Night Jars exhibit anything like a social
disposition; in their native haunts each pair keeps entirely apart from
others, and never allows the slightest intrusion within the precincts
of the locality selected for its abode. It may occasionally happen
that some tempting neighbourhood will induce several couples to settle
comparatively near together, but under any circumstances the same utter
want of intercourse among them is observable. Towards man they by no
means exhibit this want of sociability, and in most parts of the earth
more or less frequent the immediate vicinity of his dwellings. Almost all
these birds seek for insects--upon which they principally subsist--during
the night, and retire to sleep within their favourite recesses as soon
as morning dawns; but some American species are an exception to this
rule, as they fly about in quest of prey not only in the daylight, but
even when exposed to the full glare of the sun. Upon the ground they may
be said to recline, rather than to perch or sit, and their gait, when
attempting to take a few steps over its surface, is remarkably clumsy;
their powers of flight, however, make ample amends for this deficiency,
combining the facility and swiftness with which we are familiar in the
movements of the Falcon and the Swallow.

The sight of the Night Jars is very keen, their hearing tolerably well
developed, and their temperament by no means so sluggish as those
who only see them drowsily perched among the branches during the day
are usually inclined to suppose. They make no nest, and are content
to deposit their eggs upon the naked ground, without even such scant
preparation as the hollowing out of a slight cavity in which they might
be more securely placed. Audubon tells us that it is not uncommon for the
female, when disturbed, to conceal an egg in her mouth, and hurry with
it to a spot where she can brood upon it unobserved. The young (usually
not more than one or two in number) are tended and provided for with
great care. Despite the important services rendered by this family, its
members are in most countries regarded with unaccountable disfavour. One
idea prevalent among the peasantry in some parts of Europe is so absurd
that we cannot refrain from mentioning it; we allude to the idea that
some species of Night Jars employ their huge jaws in relieving the goats
of their milk--a superstition from whence is derived their usual name
of Goatsuckers, an appellation conferred upon them from the most remote
antiquity.


THE NACUNDA.

The NACUNDA (_Podager nacunda_) has obtained its name from the unusual
size of its mouth, and may be regarded as the type of a South American
group, distinguished by their powerful body, very broad head, strong
beak, and thick plumage; their beak curves slightly downwards at its tip,
and the mouth is surrounded by a growth of very stiff, short bristles;
the nostrils are situated immediately above the upper mandibles. The
wings, in which the second and third quills exceed the rest in length,
are long and pointed; the short tail is composed of broad feathers and
slightly rounded at its tip. The legs are powerful, the tarsi long and
bare, the toes fleshy, and the nail of the middle toe serrated. The
plumage of the Nacunda on the upper part of the body is blackish brown,
marked with fine reddish yellow lines; the head is darker than the middle
of the back, and the region of the shoulder indicated by large blackish
brown spots. The tail-feathers exhibit six or eight dark lines, those of
the male being edged with white. The throat, cheek-stripes, and region of
the ear are reddish yellow, and slightly spotted; the belly, legs, lower
tail-covers, and a line which passes from ear to ear around the throat
are of a pure white; the breast is marked with undulating lines. The very
large eyes are light brown; the beak greyish brown, tipped with black;
the feet flesh-red, shaded with brownish grey. According to the Prince
von Wied, this species is about ten inches long and twenty-seven broad;
the wing measures eight inches and a quarter, and the tail two inches and
two-thirds. These birds are principally found upon the vast savannahs
of South America, where they usually frequent such parts as are covered
with brushwood; they are also constantly seen around the Indian villages,
and are called Chiangos by the natives. Unlike most of their congeners,
they are very social and active, carrying on the pursuit of the insects
upon which they subsist in broad daylight. The Prince von Wied assures
us that he only once saw any great number of them together, and that was
upon a large tract of land in the province of Bahia; they were flying
fearlessly around the horses and cattle, apparently enjoying the intense
heat of the sun, to which they were exposed. Schomburghk describes their
flight as equalling that of the Falcon in swiftness, and the movements
of their wings as resembling those of the Swallow. If disturbed, they
endeavour to conceal themselves from observation among the low grass,
and exhibit so much dexterity in evading pursuit, as to have given rise,
among the Indians, to the strange fancy that the Nacundas possess two
pairs of eyes. As night approaches, their melancholy cry is constantly
to be heard, as they sweep in large parties around the trees, or over
the fields, during their noisy and incessant pursuit of food. Burmeister
found a Nacunda's egg in some long grass under a bush; it was almost
cylindrical in form, the shell yellowish white, thickly marked with three
shades of brown. Azara states that this species lays two eggs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TWILIGHT NIGHT JARS (_Chordeiles_) are recognisable by their slender
body, short neck, and large head. Their wings, in which the second
quill exceeds the rest in length, are long and pointed. The tail is
short, formed of broad, powerful feathers, and more or less forked at
its extremity; the legs are smooth, and the toes short; the centre toe
being armed with a very decidedly hooked and serrated claw. Their plumage
is thick, composed of small feathers, and is brighter in hue and more
distinctly marked than that of most of their congeners.


THE NIGHT FALCON.

The NIGHT FALCON (_Chordeiles Virginianus_), a well-known member of this
group, is an inhabitant of North and South America. Its length is about
eight and a half, and its breadth from twenty to twenty-one inches;
the wing measures seven inches and two-thirds. The upper part of the
plumage is brownish black, spotted with white and pale brownish red.
The secondary quills are dotted with brownish white, and the first five
primaries have a broad stripe of white across their centre. The tail is
striped with brown and grey, its four exterior feathers being tipped
with white; the under side of the body is greyish white, marked with
undulating brown lines; the throat is surrounded by a broad white line.
The female resembles her mate, but the brown parts are darker, and the
whitish spots redder, than in the plumage of the male. Her tail has no
white spots at its extremity.

"The Night Falcons," says Audubon, "make their appearance in Louisiana
about the first of April, during their migrations eastward, but never
breed either in that State or in Mississippi. So rapid is their transit
through these parts of the country, that the flocks have entirely
disappeared within a few days of their arrival, whilst in the Southern
States, on the contrary, they are often to be met with from the fifteenth
of August till October. These wandering parties generally fly over the
towns and villages, and settle from time to time upon the trees or
houses, meanwhile uttering a harsh, shrill note, that cannot fail to
attract the attention of all who hear it. We have seen them in Maine
about June, and in the Central States somewhat earlier. These birds
penetrate northwards as far as New Brunswick, but are rarely or never met
with in Labrador or Newfoundland." The flight of the Night Falcons is
light, animated, and capable of being long sustained, it is accompanied
by loud, shrill cries, as the birds alternately soar above the summits of
lofty mountains, or, rapidly sinking, continue their course close to the
surface of the water. During such times as they are trying to attract the
attention of the female part of the community, their evolutions become
almost inconceivably fleet and agile; it is not uncommon to see one
of them, after describing a series of the most elegant gyrations, come
rushing down with such headlong velocity towards its intended partner,
that it seems to render its death inevitable; but when within a few yards
of the earth the bird dexterously spreads out its wings and tail, and
again rises into the air, in order to recommence its sportive manœuvres.
Audubon describes the spectacle of several males thus offering and
exhibiting their admiration as being most amusing, and tells us that no
sooner has the female made her choice, than the happy mate elect at once
begins to harry and drive his rivals from the field.

The food of the Night Falcons consists principally of various kinds
of small insects; they consume flies in enormous quantities, seeking
their prey during the day, and sleeping at night upon trees or houses,
from the tops of which their loud cries may be heard from time to time
during the night. The breeding season commences at the end of May; the
two eggs that form their brood have a grey shell, spotted with greenish
brown or violet-grey (see Fig. 2, Coloured Plate IV.), and are deposited
without any previous preparation upon the ground. The nestlings are at
first covered with dark brown down, and are tended with great affection
by their parents; the female especially exhibits unusual boldness and
cunning in protecting or concealing her family from danger. When the
young are strong enough to perch it is not uncommon for them to sit
motionless beside the father and mother for hours, remaining so perfectly
quiet and silent as to render it very difficult to discover their place
of concealment. Large numbers of these useful birds are shot out of
mere mischief. According to Audubon their flesh is excellent during the
autumn, at which season they become well-flavoured and fat.


THE COMMON GOATSUCKER.

The EUROPEAN NIGHT JAR or COMMON GOATSUCKER (_Caprimulgus Europæus_)
represents a group of birds whose pursuit of food is carried on
_exclusively_ by night. All the various species of nocturnal Goatsuckers
have slender bodies, short necks, and broad wings, not very sharply
pointed at the extremity, as the second quill is slightly longer than
the first. The tail is almost straight at its tip; the beak is short
and broad, narrow at its base, and curves downwards from beneath the
nostrils. The centre toe of the small delicate foot is considerably
longer than the rest, and is connected with that on each side by a fold
of skin extending as far as the first joint; the small inner toe is
entirely detached from the rest; the tarsus is partially covered with
small feathers, and upon its lower portion is defended by horny plates;
the claw upon the middle toe is serrated. The plumage, which is composed
of large feathers, is fleecy; the upper parts of the body are dark grey,
variously marked with brownish black and reddish yellow; the under side
is light grey, streaked and spotted with black and dark brown; the brow
and edges of the jaws are indicated by whitish lines; the three first
quills in the wing of the male are decorated with a white, in the female
with a yellow spot. The centre tail-feathers are grey, striped with
black; the rest are paler, and rather _spotted_ than streaked with black:
they terminate in a pointed white patch. The markings in the plumage of
the female are less distinct than in that of her mate, and the exterior
tail-feathers are spotted and tipped with reddish yellow. The length of
this species is about ten, and its breadth twenty-one inches; the wing
measures seven and a quarter, and the tail between four and five inches.
The European Night Jar inhabits some parts of Asia and the whole of our
continent, if we except its extreme north and the southern provinces of
Spain; in the latter country it is replaced by a very similar bird, the
Red-breasted Goatsucker (_Caprimulgus ruficollis_). It is at present
undecided whether the JOTAKA (_Caprimulgus jotaca_), met with in Japan,
is identical with the European species. (The egg of the European
Goatsucker is represented at Fig. 41, Coloured Plate XVI.)


THE RESPLENDENT GOATSUCKER.

The RESPLENDENT GOATSUCKER (_Caprimulgus eximius_) is a most beautiful
bird, inhabiting Northern Africa, remarkable for the brilliancy of its
plumage, which is almost entirely of a bright golden hue, marked upon
the head, breast, and back with oval _spots_, and upon the wings and
tail with _streaks_ of a somewhat deeper shade; the throat, vent, a spot
upon the pinions, and the tips of the exterior tail-feathers are white.
Rüppell, who first discovered these birds in Bahiuda, tells us that they
frequent vast steppes, and that their gay plumage blends most deceptively
with the yellow stubble and light sand which abounds in their favourite
haunts. We ourselves have often met with them in Cordofania.

[Illustration: THE EUROPEAN GOATSUCKER (_Caprimulgus Europæus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BRISTLED NIGHT JARS (_Antrostomus_), indigenous to America, are
recognisable by their long, flat beak, which is hooked at its tip, by
their prominent tube-like nostrils, and the ten stiff strong bristles,
of about an inch in length, that grow at the base of the upper mandible,
and can be lowered or raised at pleasure. The second or third quill
exceeds the rest in length; the tail is long, but comparatively narrow,
more rounded at its tip, and the plumage is also thicker, and composed of
smaller feathers than that of such of their congeners as we have already
alluded to.


THE WHIP-POOR-WILL.

The WHIP-POOR-WILL (_Antrostomus vociferus_), so called from its peculiar
cry, is about nine inches and one-third long, and seventeen and a half
broad; the wing measures seven and a half, and the tail five inches. The
upper parts of the body are dark brownish grey, spotted with brownish
black; the region of the cheeks is brownish red, the wing-covers and
quills are dark brown, spotted in lines with a paler tint, the latter
tipped with a mixture of both shades; the four centre tail-feathers
resemble the back in colour and markings, whilst those at the exterior
are white, slightly spotted on the upper portion, and dark brown towards
the end. The upper parts of the throat and breast are dark brown, with
blackish-brown markings; the rest of the under side is of a paler hue. A
yellowish white line passes across the front of the throat. North America
is the actual habitat of this species, which is, however, frequently
seen in Central America and the West Indies during the course of its
migrations.

[Illustration: THE WHIP-POOR-WILL (_Antrostomus vociferus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The AFRICAN NIGHT JARS (_Scotornis_) constitute a group of birds
distinguished from their congeners by their remarkably long graduated
tail, which far exceeds the body in length; the third quill of the wing
is longer than the rest, thereby rendering it less pointed than that of
most Goatsuckers; the beak is very small and delicate, and the bristles
at its base comparatively long; the inner toes are longer than those
on the exterior. The plumage is somewhat difficult to describe; in
_Scotornis climacurus_ the body is principally of a pale reddish brown,
with dark markings; the chin, cheek-stripes, and extremities of the
smaller wing-covers are white, the quills black, spotted with grey on
the lower half; the first six are striped with white in the middle; the
rest are spotted with red and black, and tipped with white. The centre
tail-feathers are marked with undulating lines of different shades;
those at the exterior are white upon the outer web, and the two next in
order terminate in a white spot; the lower side is a mixture of brown
and grey, arranged in wave-like curves. The male is about fifteen inches
long and twenty broad; the wing measures five inches and a half and the
tail full nine and a half. The body of the female is considerably shorter
than that of her mate. All the sparely-covered, sandy plains of Central
Africa afford a home to the members of this group. According to our own
observations they are rarely found beyond sixteen degrees north latitude;
other authorities affirm that they occasionally wander as far as Europe,
and have been met with in Provence, but we are inclined to question the
accuracy of this statement.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LYRE-TAILED NIGHT JARS (_Hydropsalis_), a group of very remarkable
birds inhabiting South America, are recognisable by their long powerful
wings, in which the first quill is much bent; their slender, but
comparatively strong beak; their delicate feet, partially covered with
feathers, and protected with horny plates upon its lower half; and their
remarkably forked tail, which in the male bird is occasionally of great
length.


THE LYRE-TAILED NIGHT JAR.

[Illustration: THE LYRE-TAILED NIGHT JAR (_Hydropsalis forcipata_).]

The LYRE-TAILED NIGHT JAR (_Hydropsalis forcipata_), as the species with
which we are most familiar has been called, is spotted with brown and
yellow upon its body, the centre of the throat being white. The exterior
tail-feathers of this beautiful bird are from twenty-six to twenty-eight
inches long, while the body does not exceed seven, and the wing nine
inches. According to Azara, the Lyre-tailed Night Jar is somewhat rarely
met with, as it usually frequents the inmost recesses of the vast forests
of South America. Its scientific name, _Hydropsalis_, has been derived
from the fact that like other Night Swallows it flies close to the water
when passing over the lakes or rivers in search of food.

Some Goatsuckers have certain feathers of their wings so remarkably
developed, that they have been called by the Arabs "_the four-winged
birds_," and are described by Swainson under the name of MACRODIPTERYX.


THE LONG-WINGED MACRODIPTERYX.

The LONG-WINGED MACRODIPTERYX (_Macrodipteryx longipennis_) has the tail
of moderate size, and straight at its extremity; the foot resembles that
of the European species; the beak is delicate and furnished with long
bristles at its base. The plumage of the _male_ bird is characterised by
the long appendages which grow between the primary and secondary quills.
These appendages, or rather shafts, are frequently seventeen inches
long, entirely bare to within six inches of the extremity, where the
web grows upon both sides and forms a broad expansion. The wing of the
female is entirely without this remarkable structure. The plumage, which
is somewhat dusky, is a mixture of red and black; the throat is paler,
and the nape decorated with a yellowish tint; the primaries are striped
black and red, with a dark tip; the secondaries are black with four red
stripes. The centre tail-feathers are grey, spotted and streaked with
black. The length of these birds is about five inches: the tail measures
from three and a half to four, and the wing six inches and three-quarters.


THE STREAMER-BEARING NIGHT JAR OR "FOUR WINGS."

The STREAMER-BEARING NIGHT JAR, or "FOUR WINGS" (_Cosmetornis
vexillarius_), is another remarkable species, closely allied to that
above described, but distinguished by the development, not of one only,
but of two excessively long feathers, that grow from each wing. These
peculiar appendages are furnished with a web upon both sides, extending
throughout their entire length. We are entirely without particulars
as to the life and habits of this extremely rare bird, which inhabits
South-eastern Africa.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the various groups of Goatsuckers whose outward appearance we
have thus briefly described frequent woodland districts or forests,
in the immediate neighbourhood of large plains and open fields, as
such localities abound with the insects on which they mainly rely for
nourishment. Still there are exceptions. The Red-throated Goatsucker,
for example, is most frequently seen upon rocks slightly overgrown with
trees or shrubs, and though it builds in various situations, prefers
plantations of olive-trees, when about to make its nest, whilst the
Cream-coloured Night Jar (_Caprimulgus isabellinus_), on the contrary,
usually conceals itself amidst the bushes or grass that cover the sandy
banks of the Nile. During the day most species seek a shady retreat, and
either sit upon the ground whilst reposing, or find shelter upon trees,
on the boughs of which they recline, not after the manner of other birds,
but in such a position as to allow the entire body to _lie_ along the
supporting branch, holding themselves, meanwhile, firmly in place by
means of their inner toes, and the serrated claw, with which the central
toe is furnished; it is only when disturbed from their slumbers that the
Goatsuckers perch in the ordinary manner; as soon as the supposed danger
is over, they at once resume their favourite attitude. Whilst asleep
the eyelids are kept completely closed, but if suddenly awakened, these
birds blink, and peer around them, after the fashion of an Owl, and seek
to conceal themselves by lying close to the earth, or to the tree on
which they are reposing. Upon the ground they move with much difficulty;
indeed, it has often been stated that their feet are useless as a means
of progression, but this is not the case, as we have on several occasions
seen the African Goatsuckers walk some little distance when passing from
one resting-place to another. The flight of all these various groups
is unsteady and apparently aimless during the day, but at sunset they
seem endowed with new life, and may be seen alternately skimming and
hovering over the face of the country, in pursuit of moths, beetles, and
various other insects, upon which they subsist. When their appetite is
appeased, they rest for a time upon some branch, and then sally forth
again before morning dawns to procure a second repast. It is not uncommon
for the Goatsuckers to wander to a very considerable distance from their
usual haunts during these nocturnal excursions, and even approach the
immediate vicinity of towns and villages; nay, so inquisitive and bold
are they in regard to the objects they meet with whilst in search of
prey, that they will often follow and hover round a man or a dog for a
quarter of an hour at a time. During the breeding season their flight
becomes still more varied and beautiful, and the birds themselves seem
roused to a higher degree of intelligence than is observable at other
times; such species especially, as possess the remarkably long wings or
tails we have described, cannot fail to impress those who are fortunate
enough to see them gliding or hovering aloft, with their flowing plumage
alternately closed or outspread, as they perform their light and elegant
gyrations through the realms of air. Russegger describes the African
"Four Wings" as looking like some strange being from another world, as
it whirls along, at one moment appearing to multiply itself by rapidly
assuming the most various attitudes, or revolving like a shuttlecock,
with its long feathers streaming and twisting in the wind. The voices
of these various birds differ very considerably; some species uttering
a harsh, droning note, not unlike the sound of a spinning-wheel (whence
is derived their name of "Night Jar," or "Night Churr"), whilst others
are capable of producing by no means inharmonious tones. The European
Goatsucker, when alarmed, purrs very much like a cat, and during the
breeding season attracts the attention of its mate by two distinct notes;
at other times its cry may be represented by the syllables, "Dak, dak,"
faintly and hoarsely uttered. So dismal and unearthly are the voices of
some American Night Jars, that Schomburghk tell us that neither Indians,
Creoles, nor Negroes would venture to shoot one of them, regarding them
as direct embodiments of, or emissaries from, the various evil spirits
and enchanters, of whose machinations and spells the ignorant natives
live in constant dread.

"A Goatsucker," says Waterton, "inhabits Demerara, about the size of an
English Wood Owl, whose voice is so remarkable that when once heard it
is not to be easily forgotten. A stranger would never believe it to be
the cry of a bird, but would say it was the departing voice of a midnight
murdered victim, or the last wailing of poor Niobe for her children,
before she was turned to stone. Suppose a person in hopeless sorrow,
beginning with a loud note, 'Ha, ha; ha, ha; ha, ha, ha;' each note lower
and lower, till the last is scarcely heard, pausing a moment between each
exclamation, and you will have some idea of the moaning of the Great
Goatsucker of Demerara. Other species articulate some words so distinctly
that they have received their names from the sentences they utter, and
absolutely bewilder a stranger on his arrival in their vicinity. One
sits down close to your door, or flies and alights three or four yards
before you as you walk along the road, crying, 'Who are you? who, who are
you?' Another bids you 'Work away; work, work, work away!' A third cries
mournfully, 'Willy, come go; Willy, Willy, Willy, come go!' and a fourth
tells him to 'Whip-poor-Will, Whip-poor-Will!' in tones wonderfully clear
and startling."

As regards their instincts and capabilities, the nocturnal Goatsuckers
are far behind the diurnal members of their family, and exhibit so little
sense of self-preservation, as constantly to expose themselves to great
danger. We have frequently, whilst camping out in Africa, whenever we
have kindled a fire, been visited by numbers of these birds, apparently
quite regardless of the risk they ran of being brought down by our gun.
In Spain, however, the Goatsuckers appear to be somewhat more on the
alert; indeed, owing to their supposed dexterity in evading pursuit,
they are there called by the peasantry _Engaña Pastor_, or "Shepherd
Deceivers," as that class of men come most in contact with these birds,
whilst tending their flocks; not from the absurd reason that has obtained
such universal credence, but because these much-maligned visitants
perform a most invaluable service both to the farmer and his cattle.

"When the moon shines brightly," Waterton continues, "you may have a
fair opportunity of examining the Goatsucker; you will see it close by
the cows, goats, and sheep, jumping up every now and then under their
bellies. Approach a little nearer; he is not shy; 'he fears no danger,
for he knows no sin.' See how the nocturnal flies are tormenting the poor
kine, and with what dexterity he springs up and catches them, as fast as
they alight on the belly, legs, and udders of the poor animals. Observe
how quietly they stand, and how sensible they seem of his good offices;
for they neither strike at him, nor try to drive him away as an uncivil
intruder. Were you to dissect him, and inspect his stomach, you would
find no milk there; it is full of the flies that have been annoying the
herd."

[Illustration: THE OIL BIRD (_Steatornis Caripensis_).]

All Night Jars breed but once in the year, and that always during
the spring-time of their native lands. No nest is built, the parents
contenting themselves with any retired, shady nook, when about to deposit
their eggs. Towards their young, both parents exhibit great attachment
and devotion, and will exert every effort to entice any approaching
stranger from the little family. Many strange tales have been circulated
as to the manner in which their eggs are conveyed from one place to
another, in time of danger, and on this point we may now venture to speak
with authority, having been fortunate enough to be an eye-witness to the
whole proceeding. Upon the occasion to which we refer, a pair of Night
Jars which we purposely disturbed, appeared to be overcome with fear for
the space of a minute, then, suddenly recovering themselves, they each
seized an egg in their capacious beaks, and bore it carefully and gently
away, flying so near the ground as almost to touch it with their feet.
Both parents assist in the labour of incubation, and continue to sit,
even after the nestlings have left the shell, in order to keep them warm:
according to some authorities, this practice is continued until they are
almost fledged. The young are fed during the night, and reared upon a
variety of insect food. When taken from the nest, they thrive and grow
rapidly, if provided with a plentiful supply of flies.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GIANT GOATSUCKERS (_Nyctibius_) constitute another South American
group, easily recognisable by their strongly-hooked beak, heavy foot,
the central toe of which has no serrated claw, powerful body, and large
head. The wings (in which the third quill exceeds the rest in length) are
long and pointed, the tail long, and slightly rounded, and the plumage
rich, soft, and lax. The beak is very peculiar in its formation, and
appears triangular when seen from above; the upper mandible is extremely
broad at its base, sloping gently downwards as far as the nostrils,
from which point it becomes thin, round, compressed, and curves gently
over the lower mandible, which is also slightly bent at its tip, and
somewhat shorter than the upper portion. The sharp edges of the beak
have a tooth-like appendage, about one line in length, placed just where
it begins to curve. The jaws open almost to the ears, and the gape is
therefore enormous. The horny portion of the bill is almost entirely
concealed from view by a growth of feathers intermixed with bristles,
which covers the upper mandible, from the nostrils almost to the tip. The
legs are short, the toes slender, and the claws comparatively strong and
hooked. The central nail has a prominent ridge.


THE IBIJAU, OR EARTH-EATER.

The IBIJAU, or EARTH-EATER (_Nyctibius grandis_), is by far the largest
member of this group. Its length, according to the Prince von Wied,
exceeds twenty-one, and its breadth forty-seven inches; the wing measures
fifteen inches and a half, and the tail ten inches and one-third. A
whitish or greyish yellow predominates in the coloration of the plumage,
which is darkest upon the upper portion of the body, and marked with
a variety of fine brown and black lines; the head-feathers have dark
streaks upon the shafts, and triangular spots at the tip. The edges of
the wings and region of the shoulders are deep reddish brown, streaked
with black, and intermixed with white spots upon the carpal joint; the
under side is white, ornamented with curved brown lines, each feather
being tipped with yellow, the quills are dark greyish brown, striped
with a paler shade, and spotted with white upon the outer web, the
tail-feathers are decorated with six or seven dark and light stripes, the
throat is white, marked with brown, as is the breast, the latter is also
streaked longitudinally with black; the hinder parts of the body are pure
white; the beak and feet are yellowish grey, and the eyes dark blackish
brown.

These large Goatsuckers, though by no means rare in South America, are
not frequently seen, as they remain during the entire day ensconced at
the summit of the most lofty trees, lying full length upon the thickly
foliaged branches in the manner already described. So closely does their
plumage resemble the bark of the trees on which they recline, that it is
very difficult to detect their presence, and so extremely dull are some
species that, as the Prince von Wied tells us, they allow themselves to
be fired at repeatedly without attempting to stir, or will sit quietly
and permit a snare to be thrown over their heads. We cease to wonder at
such utter stupidity when we learn from the same source that though the
body of these Swallows equals that of the Raven, their brain does not
exceed a hazel-nut in size. Evening has no sooner set in than, like their
congeners, they at once commence their search for moths and similar prey,
in pursuit of which they soar to a very considerable height; and it is
by no means rare to find the ground completely strewn with the wings of
the enormous moths and butterflies which they attack and seize in their
huge beaks. During the night their dismal cry is constantly heard, as one
mate calls to the other; but when morning approaches they seek their
favourite retreats. Burmeister tells us that the two eggs that constitute
a brood are deposited in any slight cavity in the trees. Such as he
obtained were oval in shape, with a lustreless, pure white shell, thickly
covered with brown dots of various shades, most thickly strewn over one
end.


THE GUACHERO, OR OIL BIRD.

The OIL BIRD (_Steatornis Caripensis_) has hitherto been classed among
the Goatsuckers, but it differs so essentially from any other member of
that family in its mode of life, that we have decided upon describing it
entirely apart. The body of this remarkable species is slender, the head
flat and broad; the wing, in which the third and fourth quills exceed
the rest in length, though long and pointed, does not extend as far as
the extremity of the well-developed tail. The beak is broad at its base,
compressed in the middle, and terminates in a hook; its tip, moreover, is
furnished with two denticulations; the gape extends to the eyes, but the
lower mandible is feeble and considerably shorter than the upper part of
the beak. The feet are so small as to be almost useless upon the ground:
their soles are callous, and the tarsi without feathers; the front toes
are all of equal size, entirely unconnected, and the short hinder toe is
reversible. The plumage is extremely soft, almost silky, and the region
of the beak is overgrown with long bristles; the large eyes are protected
by heavy lids covered with long hairs. The gullet is not dilated into a
crop, and the stomach is very muscular; the entrails are covered with a
fatty layer of such thickness that they may be said to be embedded in
fat. The plumage is of a beautiful reddish brown, deepest in shade upon
the back; the head, breast, belly, wings, and tail are rust-red, marked
with heart-shaped white spots, which are here and there surrounded by
a black line. The eye is blueish black, the beak and feet horn-grey.
The length of this species is about twenty-one inches, and its breadth
about forty-two inches. Humboldt, who discovered this remarkable bird in
1799, found it living in the rocky caverns of Caripe, and more recent
travellers have met with it in the dark clefts and fissures of rocks
among the Andes.

"The Cueva del Guachero, or Cave of the Guacheros," as described by
Humboldt, "is a vast fissure, pierced in the vertical profile of a rock,
facing towards the south; and the rocks which surmount the grotto are
covered with trees of immense height; succulent plants and orchidaceæ
rise in the driest clefts, and plants waving in the wind hang in festoons
at the entrance. Within the cave vegetation continues to the distance of
forty paces. Daylight penetrates far into the grotto, but when the light
begins to fail the hoarse voices of the inhabitants become audible, and
it would be difficult to form an idea of the horrible noise occasioned
by thousands of these birds in the dark parts of the cavern. Their
shrill and piercing cries strike upon the vaults in the rocks, and are
repeated by the subterranean echoes. The Indians showed us the nests of
the Guacheros by fixing a torch to a long pole; these nests were fifty or
sixty feet above our heads, in holes of the shape of funnels, with which
the roof of the grotto is pierced like a sieve. The noise increased as we
advanced, the birds becoming scared by the torches we carried, but when
the din somewhat abated, immediately around us we heard at a distance the
plaintive cries of others at roost in the ramifications of the cavern.
It seemed as if different groups answered each other alternately. The
Indians enter the Cueva del Guachero once a year, near Midsummer. They go
armed with poles, with which they destroy the greater part of the nests.
At that season several thousand birds are killed; and the old ones, as
if to defend their brood, hover over the heads of the Indians, uttering
terrible cries. The young, which fall to the ground, are opened on the
spot. Their peritoneum is found extremely loaded with fat, and a layer
of fat reaches from the abdomen to the vent, forming a kind of fatty
cushion between the legs. At the period commonly called at Caripe the
"oil harvest," the Indians build huts with palm leaves near the entrance
and even in the porch of the cavern, where, with a fire of brushwood,
they melt in pots of clay the fat of the young birds just killed. This
fat is known by the name of butter or oil (_mantece_ or _aceite_) of the
Guachero; it is half liquid, transparent, without smell, and so pure that
it may be kept above a year without becoming rancid. At the convent of
Caripe no other oil is used in the kitchen of the monks but that of the
cavern, and we never observed that it gave the aliments a disagreeable
taste or smell."

Funck, who also visited the cavern above described, states that the
Guacheros leave their nests after darkness has completely closed in, and
that their harsh, raven-like cry may then be heard as they fly about
in quest of food. Fruit forms their usual nourishment, and this they
will swallow, even if as large as a Pigeon's egg; but the seeds and
kernels they reject as indigestible. The nest is constructed of clay,
and the brood consists of from two to four eggs. Grosz also gives an
account very similar to that of Humboldt respecting another stronghold
of the Oil Birds, called the Ravine of Iconongo, that he visited in New
Granada. This extensive nesting-place is about half a mile long, and
from thirty to forty feet broad, and had to be entered by means of a
rope let down from above. Grosz fortunately succeeded in obtaining many
Guacheros, both dead and alive, and made valuable observations relative
to their demeanour and habits. Their movements in the air, he tells us,
are light and rapid, the pinions and tail during their flight being
held fully expanded; upon the ground their gait is extremely awkward,
their feet requiring assistance from the wings, even to sustain the
creeping hobbling motion to which their progress when on _terra firma_
is restricted. Whilst thus attempting to walk the tail is slightly
raised, and the head and neck bent forward in a constant succession of
serpent-like movements, in order to maintain their balance. When perched
they keep the body erect, supporting it slightly upon the wings, and
hang the head droopingly. If much excited whilst in flight, the cry of
the Guachero becomes positively unearthly, so dismally hideous are its
tones. Both parents brood alternately upon the eggs, which, according to
Grosz, are white and pear-shaped. No preparations whatever are made for
the reception of the young family, the eggs being merely deposited in the
clefts of the rocks. The nestlings, when first hatched, are extremely
ugly and uncouth, and completely helpless until they are fully fledged;
so extraordinarily voracious are they that, if other food is not on the
spot, they will fall furiously upon each other, or even seize and drag at
their own feet or wings.

       *       *       *       *       *

The OWL SWALLOWS (_Podargi_) constitute a family bearing considerable
resemblance to the Night Jars, both in their general appearance and mode
of life. These birds have a slender body and short neck; their head is
broad and flat, their wings short and blunt, their tail long, their tarsi
high and powerful. The beak, which opens farther back than the eyes,
is large, flat at its base, and broader than the brow; the mandibles
are hooked at the tip, of equal length, and smooth at the margin; the
nostrils are situated at the base of the beak, and are almost entirely
concealed beneath the feathers of the forehead. The foot is short, with
three of the toes placed in front, and one pointing directly backwards;
the latter is not reversible. The plumage is soft, and dusky in its
coloration; the region of the beak, and, in some cases, that of the ear,
is covered with a growth of bristles.

Such of these birds as we are at present acquainted with, inhabit the
forests of Southern Asia, as also of New Holland and the neighbouring
islands; but little has as yet been ascertained respecting their general
habits, and we must therefore confine ourselves to the mention of those
species with which we are best acquainted.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DWARF OWL SWALLOWS (_Ægotheles_), found exclusively in New Holland,
are recognisable by their long but powerful body, nearly round head,
short, rounded wing (in which the second quill exceeds the rest in
length), long, rounded tail, and comparatively high and bare tarsi; the
toes are of equal length and unconnected; the beak is thick, broad,
and compressed at its base, but becomes suddenly narrow towards its
extremity, and terminates in a flat hook; the lower mandible is furnished
with a hollow rim that encloses the curved tip of the upper part of
the beak. The plumage is soft in texture, except around the beak and
in the region of the eyes and brows, these parts being covered with a
bristle-like growth.


THE TRUE DWARF OWL SWALLOW.

The TRUE DWARF OWL SWALLOW (_Ægotheles Novæ Hollandiæ_) is about nine
inches and a quarter long, and above twelve in breadth. The upper part of
the body is dark brown, streaked with white; the entire under surface,
a spot near the eye, and two sickle-shaped lines, the one on the neck
and the other at the back of the head, are grey, dotted with black and
reddish yellow; the anterior quills are brown, spotted with light brown
and grey on the inner web; the tail is dark brown, regularly striped with
grey, and dotted with black; the iris is nut-brown; the feet of a pink
flesh-colour. The sexes are alike in size, and similarly tinted, but
the plumage of the young is darker than that of the adult bird. Gould
tells us that this species lives and breeds in all woodland districts
throughout Southern Australia and Tasmania, and that it also frequents
the shrubs and bushes upon the coast. Its flight is direct and slow, and,
when perched, its attitudes resemble those of an Owl; like that bird,
if disturbed, it turns its head rapidly in all directions, and emits
a low, hissing sound. The Dwarf Owl Swallow breeds twice in the year,
and deposits its four or five round pure white eggs in the hollows of
trees. One strange habit possessed by this bird renders the discovery of
its retreat very easy; for no sooner is any unusual sound made in the
vicinity of its hole than the active little occupant at once scrambles up
to the entrance, and putting out its head, peers around to discover the
cause of the disturbance. Should danger seem imminent it at once takes
flight, and seeks safety elsewhere; but should nothing alarming be in
view, it quietly returns to the bottom of its abode, until again roused
by some voice from the outer world.

[Illustration: THE TRUE DWARF OWL SWALLOW (_Ægotheles Novæ Hollandiæ_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The GIANT OWL SWALLOWS (_Podargus_) are birds of considerable size,
with large flat heads, moderately large wings, in which the first
quill exceeds the rest in length, long rounded tails, and short tarsi,
furnished with a foot of moderate size, the two innermost toes connected
by a fold of skin. The beak is hard, powerful, much broader than it
is high, slightly curved at the roof of the upper mandible, and very
decidedly hooked at its tip, which fits into a corresponding groove in
the lower portion of the beak; the gape extends as far as the hindermost
corner of the eye. The plumage is soft, and resembles that of the Owl.
The beak has but a sparse growth of bristles.


THE GIANT OWL SWALLOW.

The GIANT OWL SWALLOW (_Podargus humeralis_) is a bird about the size of
a Crow. The upper part of the body is brown marked with greyish white and
dark brown, the top of the head being streaked with blackish brown, and
spotted with white. The quills are brownish black, marked with rows of
spots upon the outer, and striped upon the inner web; the beak is light
brown shaded with purple; the feet and eyes are yellowish brown. The many
varieties of this species resemble each other both in appearance and
habits.

"Like the rest of the genus, the _Podargus humeralis_ is strictly
nocturnal, sleeping throughout the day on the dead branch of a tree, in
an upright position, across and never parallel to the branch, and which
it so closely resembles as scarcely to be distinguishable from it. I have
occasionally seen it beneath the thick foliage of the Casuarinæ; and I
have been informed that it sometimes shelters itself in the hollow trunks
of the Eucalypti, but I could never detect one in such a situation. I
mostly found them in pairs, perched near each other on the branches of
the Gums, in places not at all sheltered from the beams of the mid-day
sun."--GOULD.

The sleep of the Giant Owl Swallow is so profound that one of a pair
may be shot from a branch without the mate that is sleeping at its side
being roused, and the heavy sluggard may be pelted with stones, or
struck with a stick, without being awakened from its slumbers. Should
it at last be roused to consciousness, it scarcely exhibits animation
sufficient to prevent it from falling to the ground, as it slowly
flutters, in a semi-torpid state, to the nearest tree, when it at once
perches, and falls into a sleep as heavy as that from which it has just
been disturbed. No sooner, however, has night set in, than the previously
drowsy stupid bird becomes a new creature, and after carefully preening
its plumage, at once proceeds to run actively and briskly up and down
the branches of trees in search of Grasshoppers; it also extracts larvæ
from under the bark, after the manner of Woodpeckers, or dives down
holes and fissures to find any delicate morsels that may be concealed
within. Its flight is not particularly good, owing to the shortness of it
wings, but it passes with considerable rapidity from tree to tree, and
occasionally amuses itself by a variety of manoeuvres in the air. Gould
is of opinion that this species lives entirely upon insects, but Verreaux
affirms that it frequents morasses during winter, when food is scarce,
and consumes snails or other inhabitants of the water, and that in the
breeding season it will attack young birds, kill them by repeatedly
striking them against the stem of the tree, and then devour them. The
pursuit of prey is carried on late in the evening, and again just before
dawn, the intermediate hours being devoted to the process of digestion,
combined with heavy sleep. The breeding season commences about July, and
is ushered in by repeated battles between the males, whose loud voices
become louder and more dissonant as they dispute possession of a female,
or exert themselves to please her with their vocal efforts. Both parents
co-operate in building their small, flat nest, which is most carelessly
constructed of fine twigs lined with grass and feathers, and is usually
placed in a forked branch at about five or six feet from the ground. The
eggs are from two to four in number, their shape is elongate, and their
colour pure white, so that they are often distinctly visible through the
thin walls of their slightly constructed abode. Both parents assist
in their incubation, the father sitting upon them during the night, and
seeking food during the day, whilst the female takes her place upon the
nest in his absence. Should the sun's rays prove too powerful for the
young, they are carried to a shady nook or hole until mid-day is passed.
By November they are fully fledged, but remain for some time longer
under parental care and tuition. Gould and Verreaux both inform us that
if the season be unusually cold, it is not uncommon for the Giant Owl
Swallow to remain for a time in a hole, or on a branch, in a state of
complete torpidity. Such of these birds as we have seen caged in Europe
were extremely tame, and would not only eat from the hand, but allowed
themselves to be carried about the room without any sign of fear.

[Illustration: THE GIANT OWL SWALLOW (_Podargus humeralis_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The FROG-MOUTHS (_Batrachostomus_) constitute a group of comparatively
small birds, inhabiting India and its neighbouring islands. Though
smaller than the Giant Owl Swallow, they have a still larger beak, which
is very broad and flat at its base, slightly arched at its tip, and
terminates in a hook; the upper mandible projects over the lower one in
all directions; the nostrils are small and covered with feathers, and the
wings abruptly rounded; the tail is long, and is either graduated, or has
the outer feathers very short; the tarsi and feet are small but strong,
the toes powerful and very flexible.


THE PLUMED FROG-MOUTH.

The PLUMED FROG-MOUTH (_Batrachostomus cornutus_ or _B. Javanensis_) is
an inhabitant of Java, and distinguished from its congeners, not only
by the remarkable arrangement of the head-feathers, but by the beauty
of its plumage. In this bird the region of the ears and brow is covered
with a plume of long, ragged feathers, which hangs down over the eyes and
makes the head appear of a size very disproportionate to the rest of the
body. The plumage on the back is light rust-red, marked with fine zig-zag
black lines, the nape being adorned with a white crescent-shaped patch;
the shoulder-feathers are tipped with white spots thrown into relief
by an ornamented semicircular line of black at their tips; the brow is
marked with reddish yellow spots. The centre of the throat and upper
part of the breast and belly are white, partially marked with zig-zag
lines; the lower breast is rust-red, spotted with black and white; the
tail is light reddish yellow, striped seven or eight times with a deeper
shade, and streaked with black; the quills are similarly decorated. The
eye is sulphur-yellow, the feet brown, and the beak pale yellow. This
extraordinary looking bird chiefly inhabits the thickets of allangallany
palm-trees that abound in Java at about 3,000 feet above the level of
the sea. Bernstein, who was the first to give us any account of it, says
nothing as to its life or habits, but has given us a description of the
nest. This delicate little structure, which is formed almost entirely
of down from the body of the bird, is placed in a hole within the stem
of the palm, and is so small as to render it impossible for the parent
to sit in it whilst engaged in the process of incubation. The female is
therefore compelled to lie along the stem that encloses her snug cradle,
and whilst holding firmly on with her feet, presses her breast against
the opening of the nest, and thus imparts warmth to her young. The one
egg found by Bernstein was oval in shape and of a dull white, streaked
and spotted with brownish red; these markings were most thickly strewn
over the broad end, where they formed a kind of wreath.

Another very similar species (_B. auritus_) has the face ornamented with
a pair of large tufts of light feathers that project horizontally, giving
the bird a very singular and grotesque appearance.



THE SINGING BIRDS (_Oscines_).


Under this name we class numerous families, all of which are more or
less distinguished for the perfection of their vocal apparatus. In
appearance the members of this order are for the most part pleasing and
elegant, and their disposition usually attractive and engaging. Their
body is long, the neck short, and their head comparatively large; the
beak, though differing much as to its formation, is almost invariably
small, straight, or only very slightly curved, and the upper mandible is
generally more or less incised; the tarsi are covered with horny plates,
the toes long, and the claws large and sharp; the wings, invariably of
moderate size, are formed of ten quills, the first of these being usually
much stunted or not at all developed; the tail is by no means large,
and composed of twelve feathers. The plumage, which is soft, thick, and
occasionally downy in texture, is simple and uniform in its coloration;
some few species, however, are brilliantly ornamented. The young at first
differ considerably in appearance from the adult birds, and both young
and old moult their feathers once within the year. All the members of
this extensive order are active, intelligent, and extremely restless;
their flight is light and rapid, and their movements amongst the branches
or upon the ground are distinguished by extraordinary agility. In all,
the sight and hearing are very perfect. They live chiefly upon insects
and seeds of various kinds, but some few species will kill and devour
small birds or similar prey. Every part of the world is enlivened by the
presence of these delightful warblers, whose cheerful voices are heard
even in the most dreary and desolate regions, on burning, sandy plains,
as well as upon the ice-bound shores of arctic regions. Such as inhabit
tropical climates do not migrate; but those within the temperate zones,
as winter approaches, remove towards the south, seeing that their native
lands at that season do not afford them a sufficient supply of food. Very
great variety is observable in the construction of the nests built by
different species of singing birds, many exhibiting wonderful skill, and
in some cases actually _sewing_ together the materials they employ, with
their sharp beaks, whilst others are contented to drag a few leaves into
a hole and thereon deposit their brood. The eggs, sometimes five or six
in number, are hatched by the agency of both parents, who also assist
each other in procuring food for the young progeny. The latter grow with
great rapidity, and are capable of providing for a family of their own
after the first year.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TOOTH-BEAKED SINGING BIRDS (_Dentirostres_) constitute a large tribe,
the members of which are at once recognisable by a notch or tooth at the
extremity of the upper mandible.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SHRIKES (_Lanii_) are a very numerous and well-known group, equally
common in all parts of the world. In these birds the body is powerful
and the breast prominent; their neck is strong, the head comparatively
large and round, the wings broad and rounded, the third or fourth quill
far exceeding the rest in length, while their tail is long and graduated.
The beak is powerful, compressed at its sides, and terminates in a strong
hook, near which the upper mandible has a very perceptible tooth-like
appendage. The feet are large and robust, the toes long, and armed with
sharp claws; the plumage is rich, thick, and lax, and its coloration
pleasing and varied.

Woods surrounded by meadows or pasture lands are the favourite resorts
of these birds; but they are also constantly found dwelling in hedges,
among brushwood, or upon solitary trees. Such species as frequent
northern latitudes migrate regularly during the autumn, and find their
way, in pursuit of food, even to Central Africa. In their habits they
closely resemble some of the birds of prey, and their movements bear
considerable similarity to those of the Raven family. Although by no
means conspicuously endowed in most respects, the voice in some species
is highly developed, and all seem capable of improving their natural
powers of song, by imitating the sounds produced by other birds. Their
flight is irregular, and their step upon the ground a mere series of
hops; but, despite these deficiencies, they display great dexterity in
securing their prey, even should it equal themselves in size; and are
exceeded by no other members of the feathered creation in rapacity and
the cruelty which they display towards their victims. They devour insects
in large quantities, but by no means rely solely upon them for food, for
they destroy great numbers of Sparrows and other small birds; and their
attacks are all the more dangerous as they are entirely unsuspected. It
is not uncommon to see a large party of little birds quietly perched
around a Shrike, and evidently regarding it as a friendly companion,
whilst in reality the treacherous intruder is merely watching for a
favourable moment to dart upon and kill some member of the group that it
has already singled out as its prey. One very remarkable habit, depicted
in the engraving on page 145, is highly characteristic of this family; we
allude to the practice of spiking their victims upon sharp thorns, from
which circumstance they have obtained the well-merited appellation of
BUTCHER BIRDS. The nest of the Shrike is artistically constructed of the
green portions of plants, and placed in a thick bush or closely-foliaged
branch. The brood consists of from four to six eggs, which are hatched by
the female alone, whilst her mate undertakes the duty of providing for
her nourishment. Both parents assist in feeding the nestlings, and in
defending them. The young remain under parental care and instruction for
a considerable time after they are fully fledged, sometimes not leaving
it until the winter, for the Shrike, if undisturbed, breeds but once in
the course of the year.


THE SENTINEL BUTCHER BIRD.

The SENTINEL BUTCHER BIRD, or GREAT GREY SHRIKE (_Lanius Excubitor_), is
from nine and a half to ten inches long, and its breadth about fourteen
inches; the wing measures four inches and the tail four and a half. Upon
the upper part of the body the plumage is of an uniform light grey; the
under side is pure white, and a broad black stripe passes across the
eyes. The upper half of the large primary quills, as well as the inner
webs and tips of the secondaries, are white, their other portions and the
rest of the quills being black; the centre tail-feathers are black, but
with the exception of a large black spot upon the centre of the inner web
of the fifth, and a black streak upon the shaft of the exterior feather,
the rest are entirely white. The eye is brown, the beak black, and the
foot dark grey; the plumage of the female is less pure in its coloration
than that of her mate: the young are recognisable by the wave-like
markings upon the breast and other parts of the body. The egg is shown at
Fig. 3, Coloured Plate XVI.

This species of Shrike is found in almost every European country, and
throughout a large part of Asia and Northern Africa; it is also very
numerous in North America. Everywhere it appears to prefer woodland
districts, but is nevertheless constantly met with both in mountain
ranges and in marshy plains. Whilst on the alert for prey it may usually
be seen upon the topmost branches of a tree, peering eagerly about in all
directions, in the hope of detecting any small bird or mouse that may
be near, pouncing down and killing it with wonderful dexterity as soon
as the proper moment arrives. If the destroyer is hungry the prey is at
once dragged away and devoured; but should this not be the case, the body
is impaled upon a thorn, and left for a future meal. Even when tame it
continues this habit, and has been known to make constant use of a spike
driven into a wall for that purpose by its owner.

"We have seen," says one writer, "the New Holland Butcher Bird (_Vanga
destructor_) act in this manner when in captivity, and after strangling
a mouse or crushing its skull, double it through the wires of its cage,
and, with every demonstration of savage triumph, tear it limb from limb
and devour it. The bird to which we allude had the talent of imitation
in great perfection, and had learnt to sing several bars of airs, with a
full-toned musical voice. It executed the first part of 'Over the Water
to Charlie' with a spirit that would have gone to the heart of an old
Jacobite." The term _Excubitor_ or Sentinel was given to the Butcher Bird
by Linnæus, from its vigilance in watching against Hawks and other birds
of that tribe, whose approach it is ever the first to perceive, uttering
at the same time a querulous chattering, indicative, no doubt, of fear
and dislike; hence on the Continent it is used by persons engaged in the
capture of the Peregrine Falcon.

The flight of this Shrike is slow and undulating, and can rarely be
sustained for more than a few minutes at a time; even when merely passing
from one tree to another the bird moves in undulating lines, keeping
near the ground, and rapidly agitating both its wings and tail. Its
sight is excellent, and its sense of hearing so delicate as at once to
detect the slightest sound. In disposition it is bold, courageous, and
very quarrelsome; during the breeding season it lives peaceably with its
mate, but after that period each individual provides only for itself,
and carries on an incessant warfare, not only with other birds, but with
its own race. The notes of the Excubitor vary considerably at different
times of the year; in the spring both sexes possess an actual song, which
seems to reproduce the sounds uttered by all their feathered companions.
The period of incubation commences in April, and both parents assist in
the formation of the nest, which is artistically constructed of twigs,
straws, and grass, its round interior being lined with wool, hay, and
hair. The eggs, from four to seven in number, are greenish grey, spotted
with brown or dark grey, and are hatched in about a fortnight. The
nestlings are fed at first upon beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects,
but at a later period on small birds and mice. Both parents defend the
little family with the utmost courage, and continue their care and
instructions until the season for migration. When aged, this species of
Shrike soon becomes very tame, and easily learns to obey and recognise
its master. In former times it was trained for the chase.


THE SOUTHERN SHRIKE.

The SOUTHERN SHRIKE (_Lanius meridionalis_) is very similar to, but more
beautiful than the species above described, and is found throughout
Southern Europe and North-western Africa; the male is about ten inches
long and thirteen broad; the wing measures more than four inches, and the
tail four and three-quarters; the female is half an inch smaller than
her mate. The plumage is deep grey upon the upper part of the body, and
white beneath, the breast being shaded with a rich red; the four centre
tail-feathers are black, the eye is brown, the upper mandible dark, and
the lower one light blue; the foot is black.

This bird is, we believe, the only Shrike that remains throughout the
year in Spain; it arrives in Greece about April, and leaves again in
the end of August. Its habits do not differ from those of its congeners
already alluded to. The nest, which is usually placed at the summit of
an olive-tree, is formed of green stalks, woven together, and lined
with sheep's wool and goats' hair; the eggs, four or six in number, are
of a dirty white or reddish white, thickly strewn with brown, grey, or
red spots of various sizes. These eggs are regarded as such dainties in
Spain, that men will often risk their lives in procuring them for the
market.


THE GREY, OR BLACK-BROWED SHRIKE.

The GREY, or BLACK-BROWED SHRIKE (_Lanius minor_), is a beautiful
species, from seven and a half to eight inches broad, and thirteen and a
half to fourteen inches long. The upper part of the body is light grey,
the under side quite white, with the exception of the breast, which is
slightly tinged with pink; the brow and cheek-stripes are black, the
base of the quills is white, and the remaining portion black; the four
centre tail-feathers are black, the next in order white upon the lower
half, with a dark spot upon the inner web, whilst those at the exterior
are entirely pure white. The eye is brown, the beak black, and the foot
grey. The female is exactly like her mate; but the young are dirty white
upon the brow, and yellowish white, striped with grey, upon the under
surface. The Black-browed Shrike is common in some parts of Europe,
especially in Bavaria, Brandenburgh, the south of France, Italy, and
Turkey; but is quite unknown or rarely seen in most other parts of the
Continent. During its migrations it visits Central Africa; we ourselves
have seen it in the Nile provinces as early as September, and have never
observed it in Europe before May. According to Naumann, this species is
by far the most lively and harmless member of its family; its flight is
light and graceful, and its capacity for imitating the voice of almost
any other bird unusually great. Its food consists exclusively of beetles,
butterflies, grasshoppers, and other insects; it also devours larvæ and
chrysalids in large quantities. When in pursuit of prey it shows great
agility, and usually watches its victims in the same manner as its
congeners; but, unlike them, it does not transfix its booty upon thorns
previous to devouring it. The nest, formed of hay, straw, wool, hair, and
feathers, is placed at the summit of a tree; the eggs, six or seven in
number, are greenish white, marked with brownish or violet-grey spots and
streaks. Both male and female co-operate in the work of incubation; the
young are hatched within a fortnight; they are reared upon insects, and
defended with much courage by their parents, who chase every feathered
intruder to a distance, and will even venture down to confront a man,
should he approach too near the little family. Large numbers, however,
in spite of all their efforts, are destroyed by Hawks, Crows, and other
formidable neighbours.

[Illustration: THE SENTINEL BUTCHER BIRD (_Lanius Excubitor_).]

[Illustration: BUTCHER BIRD AND FLY-CATCHERS.]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUTCHER BIRDS PROPER (_Enneoctonus_) are very easily distinguishable
from the above-mentioned groups by their short, strong, and slightly
hooked beak, and by the variety of plumage observable in the male and
female. This group contains two distinct species, of which we are about
to describe the most generally known.


THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE, OR TRUE BUTCHER BIRD.

The RED-BACKED SHRIKE, or TRUE BUTCHER BIRD
(_Enneoctonus-Lanius-collurio_), is light grey upon the head, nape,
and wings; the mantle is reddish brown; the breast pale rose-pink; a
black stripe passes above and beneath the eyes; the quills are of a
brownish greyish black, with a light border; the base of each of the
secondaries is decorated with a small spot, which, when the wing is
extended, combine and form a well-defined line; the centre tail-feathers
are brownish black; those next in order are white at the roots, whilst
the exterior ones are almost entirely white, and tipped with black. The
eye is brown, the beak black, and the foot greyish black. The female
differs considerably from the male, her body being reddish grey above
and of a whitish tint beneath, marked with undulating brown lines. The
young resemble the father, but are spotted slightly upon the back. (See
Coloured Plate XIV.) The length of this species is seven inches, and its
breadth eleven and a half.

The Butcher Bird is met with in most countries of Europe, from
Scandinavia, Russia, and some parts of Siberia, to the south of France
and Greece. During its winter migrations it visits the forests of
North-eastern Africa, and does not return to Europe until late in the
spring. Trees and bushes are the situations it prefers when about to
build, and it often makes its nest for years on the same spot, but
should it be disturbed, it at once leaves not only the tree but the
neighbourhood. In its habits it closely resembles other Shrikes, and
in like manner consumes large quantities of insects. The Butcher Bird,
however, often continues to kill, long after it has satisfied the
cravings of hunger, and pursues small quadrupeds or birds so incessantly
as to drive away or destroy all such as have been unfortunate enough
to make their homes in its vicinity. This species is constantly in the
habit of impaling its captives after they are dead upon thorns, and it
is not uncommon to see the bodies of many victims thus secured until
their destroyer has recovered his appetite: Naumann tells us that the
brain appears to be regarded as the greatest delicacy, and is always
eaten fresh. Should a Butcher Bird be disturbed whilst making its meal,
it at once takes flight, and does not return. The nest, which is usually
placed in a thorn bush, at no great distance from the ground, is large,
thick, and carefully constructed of straw, hay, or moss, woven firmly and
neatly together, and lined with delicate fibres or similar materials.
The female, who broods but once in the year, lays five or six eggs
(Fig. 4, Plate XVI.), of various sizes, shapes, and colours, more or
less resembling those of other Shrikes; she alone performs the work of
incubation, sitting on her nest with such devotion and care that she will
allow herself to be captured rather than quit her post.

The Butcher Bird will frequently live for several years in captivity,
and cannot fail to become a favourite, by reason of its wonderful power
of imitating not only the voices of its feathered companions, but other
sounds, for instance, such as the barking of a dog.


THE RED-HEADED SHRIKE, OR WOOD CHAT.

The RED-HEADED SHRIKE (_Enneoctonus-Phoneus-rufus_), or WOOD CHAT, as
it is sometimes called, is seven inches long and eleven broad; the wing
measures three and a half and the tail three inches. In the male, the
upper portion of the body is black, the under surface yellowish white,
the back of the head and nape are reddish brown, and the shoulders and
rump white. The female resembles her mate. The plumage of the young is
brownish grey, marked with crescent-shaped black spots; the wings and
tail are brown; the eyes are dark brown; the beak blueish black, and the
feet deep grey.

The Red-headed Shrike is very numerously met with in Southern Europe,
where it not only frequents woodland districts, but settles in the
immediate vicinity of houses. As winter approaches it leaves for warmer
latitudes, and is very commonly seen in the forests of Central Africa,
shortly after the rainy season. In its mode of life this species
resembles the Butcher Bird, but it subsists principally upon insects, and
only destroys small quadrupeds or birds when compelled to do so through
lack of other food. The nest is placed upon a tree, and constructed
of dry stalks or green plants, the interior being lined with moss and
delicate fibres, feathers, hair, and wool. The five or six eggs that
constitute a brood are laid in May; these have a greenish white shell,
spotted with dark grey or brown. When caged, the Red-headed Shrike
soon becomes an attractive companion, owing to its great facility for
imitating the voice of almost any bird that it may hear.


THE MASKED SHRIKE.

The MASKED SHRIKE (_Enneoctonus personatus_) is of a blueish black upon
the upper parts of the body; the breast is reddish yellow; the brow,
shoulders, throat, and rump are white; the six centre tail-feathers are
entirely black, and the two outer ones pure white, with a black shaft;
the rest are a mixture of black and white. The eye is brown, the beak
and feet black. This species, according to Lindmayer, appears in Greece
at the beginning of May, and leaves again in the middle of August. It
is also met with in large numbers in Egypt and Nubia, remaining in the
latter countries throughout the entire year; whilst such individuals
as migrate from Europe penetrate as far as the interior of Africa, and
remain there during the winter season. Unlike other members of its
family, it perches upon lofty trees, from the summit of which its clear
but monotonous voice is constantly to be heard. The nest, which is small
and delicately constructed, usually contains six or seven eggs of a
yellow hue, spotted with yellowish brown. This species subsists entirely
upon insect diet.

       *       *       *       *       *

The THICK-HEADED SHRIKES (_Pachycephali_) are recognisable by their
compact body, powerful head, strong beak, short wings and tail, and
powerful feet. All the species belonging to this group are met with in
New Holland and the islands of the Pacific, where they perch upon the
summits of lofty trees, and climb about among the branches, with the
alacrity of Titmice. Insects constitute their principal nourishment;
they also devour large quantities of caterpillars and worms. Their
movements are slow and their gait heavy. Their song varies according to
the species, some having loud but agreeable voices, whilst others utter
a prolonged piping note, varied and repeated in a very peculiar manner.
The nest is round, beautifully constructed, and generally placed upon the
branches or in a hole of some tree; it usually contains four eggs.


THE FALCON SHRIKE.

The _Falcon Shrike_ (_Falcunculus frontatus_), a member of the group
above described, is a powerfully-formed and prettily-marked bird of about
six inches in length: the beak resembles that of a Falcon, but neither
the hook nor tooth-like appendages are well developed. In both sexes the
mantle is olive-green, and the under surface bright yellow; the sides of
the head are white, and marked by a broad black line that passes from the
nape across the eyes and over the brow; the crest and throat are black;
the exterior and secondary quills blackish brown, broadly bordered with
grey; the tail is similarly coloured, but tipped with white. The eye is
reddish brown; the beak black, and the foot blueish grey. The female is
smaller than her mate, and of a brighter hue upon the throat. We learn
from Gould that this bird is found in New South Wales and Australia,
where it alike frequents thick bushes and such trees as grow upon the
open plains; it subsists chiefly upon insects, which are obtained among
the foliage or under the bark of the larger branches, or trunks of the
trees. In procuring these it displays great dexterity, stripping off the
bark in the most determined manner, for which purpose its powerful bill
is most admirably adapted. The same author says, "It is very animated
and sprightly in its actions, and in its habits closely resembles the
Tits, particularly in the manner in which it clings to and climbs among
the branches in search of food. While thus employed it frequently erects
its crest, and assumes many pert and lively positions. No bird of the
same size, with which I am acquainted, possesses greater strength in its
mandibles, or is capable of inflicting severer wounds, as I experienced
on handling one I had previously winged, and which fastened on my hand
in the most ferocious manner. As far as I am aware, the _Falcunculus
frontatus_ is not distinguished by any powers of song; it merely utters
a few low, piping notes. I could neither succeed in securing the nest
of this species, nor obtain any authentic information respecting its
nidification." The stomachs of the specimens dissected by Gould were
filled with the larvæ of insects and berries.

[Illustration: THE FALCON SHRIKE (_Falcunculus frontatus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUSH SHRIKES (_Malaconoti_) constitute a numerous group, inhabiting
Africa and India. These birds are distinguishable by their comparative
length of wing and shortness of tail; the formation of the latter varies
considerably in different species. The beak is long, slender, and but
slightly curved or incised; the tarsus high and weak. The thick plumage
is brilliant in its hues, and unusually developed on the lower portions
of the body. All the members of this family live either in pairs or small
parties, amidst the leafy tops of forest-trees, or in such districts
as are covered with a thick growth of brushwood. They feed exclusively
on insects, but with this exception we are almost entirely without
particulars as to their habits or mode of incubation.

[Illustration: THE FLUTE SHRIKE (_Laniarius Æthiopicus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The FLUTE-VOICED SHRIKES (_Laniarius_) are recognisable by their elongate
body, short neck, head of medium size, and moderately long wing, in
which the fourth or fifth quills exceed the rest in length. The rather
long tail is rounded at its extremity; the beak is long, very decidedly
hooked, and but slightly incised. The tarsus is high, the toes powerful,
and armed with formidable claws.


THE SCARLET SHRIKE.

The SCARLET SHRIKE (_Laniarius erythrogaster_), a species inhabiting
Eastern Africa, and replaced in the western and southern portions of that
continent by a somewhat similar species (the _Laniarius barbarus_), is
of an uniform glossy black on the upper portion of the body; the under
side, with the exception of the brownish yellow hump, is of a brilliant
scarlet; the eye is yellow, beak black, and foot lead-grey. The length
of this bird is nine, and its breadth thirteen inches; the wing measures
four and the tail three inches and a half. The plumage of the _Laniarius
barbarus_ is exactly similar, if we except a dull yellow patch upon the
top of its head.


THE FLUTE SHRIKE.

The FLUTE SHRIKE (_Laniarius Æthiopicus_) is entirely black upon the
upper parts of the body, except a white line upon the wings; the under
side is pure white, shaded here and there with rose-red; the eye is
reddish brown, the beak black, and the foot blueish grey. The length of
its body is nine and a half, and breadth twelve inches and one-third; the
wing measures four, and the tail three and three-quarter inches.

Like other members of this group the two species above described lead a
very retired life among the sheltering branches of their favourite trees,
from whence their most strange and very monotonous song is to be heard
almost incessantly throughout the day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HOODED SHRIKES are easily distinguishable from the last-mentioned
group by their comparatively long, graduated tails, short wings, in which
the fourth quill exceeds the rest in length, and remarkably long tarsi.

It is at present uncertain if all the species of Shrikes inhabiting
Western and Eastern Africa can be included in this group. The coloration
of their plumage is almost identical, and in their habits they closely
resemble each other, but considerable variety is observable in their
size. All make their homes amidst such thick brushwood as grows close to
the ground, and they never seek the shelter of the trees except when very
closely pursued. If driven from their favourite lurking-places amongst
the bushes and long grass, they fly with rapid strokes of the wing to
the nearest shelter, keeping close to the earth as they hurry along, but
occasionally hovering for a few moments before concealing themselves.
Whilst in search of insects, they run upon the ground with a rapidity and
ease far exceeding the powers of any other members of their family.

Except the facts that these birds associate in small parties during the
period of incubation, and live alone or in pairs at other seasons, we are
without particulars as to their nidification and breeding, and have been
unable personally to observe their habits.


THE TSCHAGRA.

The TSCHAGRA (_Telephonus erythropterus_)--the species we have selected
for description--is brownish grey upon the upper part of the body, and
light grey beneath. A broad black line passes over the head, and another,
somewhat narrower, crosses the region of the eye. These lines are
separated by a light streak, which is white upon the face, but becomes of
a yellow tinge towards the sides. The outer web of the quills is grey,
but is so broadly bordered with reddish brown that when the wings are
closed they appear to be almost entirely of the latter hue. The upper
secondaries are edged with reddish grey; the two centre tail-feathers are
grey, marked with dark stripes; the rest are black, tipped with white,
those of the exterior have also a light border to the outer web. The
eye is reddish brown, the beak black, and the feet lead-colour, with a
greenish shade. In length the Tschagra does not exceed eight inches, its
breadth is ten inches, the wing measures three inches and the tail three
and a half. It is, at present, uncertain whether the very similar birds
inhabiting Eastern and Western Africa are identical with this species. In
colour they are closely alike, but differ somewhat in size.

[Illustration: _Plate 14, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE RED BACKED SHRIKE ____ Lanius collurio

_Nat. Size_]


THE HELMET SHRIKE.

The HELMET SHRIKE (_Prionops poliocephalus_ or _Prionops cristatus_) is
easily recognisable by the remarkable plume, composed of stiff, hairy
feathers, with which the head is decorated. Some of these hairy feathers
cover the nostrils and base of the beak, and incline forwards, whilst
the rest rise directly from the top of the head, and combining, form a
crest that in shape resembles the upper part of a helmet. The eyelids
are brightly coloured, and in texture similar to the cere with which our
readers have become familiar in the Raptores. The wings, in which the
third quill exceeds the rest in length, although of considerable size, do
not cover more than a third of the very long and rounded tail; the tarsi
are short, and the toes long. The plumage is soft, thick, and very simply
coloured; the mantle-quills and a large portion of the tail are black;
the crest, head, nape, and entire under surface white. An indistinct
yellowish line passes over the back of the head. The inner web and tips
of the primary quills, the tips of the secondaries and the exterior
tail-feathers are white; the rest are tinted with a mixture of black and
white, in which the former predominates. The eye is pearl-grey, and its
lid bright orange, the feet cinnabar-red, and the beak black. Heuglin
tells us that the crest of the young bird is short, and shaded with grey.
The length of this species is eight and its breadth thirteen inches; the
wing measures four inches and a half and the tail thirteen and a half.
Rüppell found large flocks of Helmet Shrikes inhabiting the valleys on
the Abyssinian coast, where they lived, like their congeners, in low
bushes, and subsisted upon insects. Nevertheless, this writer states
that he never saw them again in his travels through other parts of that
country. We ourselves were, on one occasion, fortunate enough to see a
considerable party of these remarkable-looking birds in the forests near
the Blue Nile. Such slight observations as we were able to make would
seem to indicate that their mode of life is very similar to that of the
last-mentioned group. Heuglin only met with this species during the rainy
season, and therefore concludes that it is of migratory habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RAVEN SHRIKES (_Thamnophili_) constitute a very peculiar group
inhabiting South America, Africa, and New Holland, closely allied to
the Shrikes, though differing from them in so many particulars that
ornithologists are as yet at variance respecting their classification,
founding their difference of opinion upon the peculiar construction of
the singing apparatus observable in some species. These birds are for the
most part of moderate size, with powerfully constructed bodies; their
wings are either of medium length, or short and much rounded, whilst the
tail is subject to many varieties of form; the tarsi, which are usually
long and slender, always exceed the centre toe in length, this latter is
united with the exterior toe as far as the first joint, whilst on the
inner side the toes are entirely unconnected. The elongate beak, which
is always more or less straight at its culmen, curves abruptly towards
its tip, where it exhibits tooth-like appendages. The margins of the bill
are sharp and compressed; the plumage of some species is rich, soft,
and in many instances striking in appearance, owing to the long and
almost wool-like feathers upon the back; the base of the beak is usually
surrounded by a growth of bristles.

We are entirely without particulars as to the life and habits of several
members of this group, and must therefore avoid any _general_ description.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CROW SHRIKES (_Cracticus_), according to Gould, who first described
them, closely resemble the Piping Crows in appearance.


THE MAGPIE SHRIKE.

The MAGPIE SHRIKE (_Cracticus destructor_), the most numerous
representative of this section, is of a deep greyish brown upon the upper
part of the body; the wings are blackish brown; the top of the head
and nape black; the rump is white, the under side greyish white, and a
white spot lies between the eyes and the base of the beak. The quills are
blackish brown, with a white edge to the outer web of the secondaries;
the tail-feathers are black, and, except the two centre ones, are tipped
with white. The eye is dark reddish brown; the beak is grey at its base,
and black towards the tip; the feet are deep grey. The female has darker
markings than her mate, and the young are spotted with brown and reddish
yellow. The length of this species is about thirteen inches and a half.

[Illustration: THE HELMET SHRIKE (_Prionaps poliocephalus_).]

Gould tells us that the Magpie Shrikes are found extensively throughout
Australia, where they inhabit the brushwood extending from the coast
to the mountain tracts; and, despite their habit of perching almost
motionless on the branches whilst on the watch for prey, their presence
is speedily announced to the traveller by the constant repetition of
their extraordinarily harsh and unpleasing cry. The larger kinds of
insects or small birds constitute their principal food; upon these they
dart with direct aim, and after killing their prey, return with it to the
perch they have just quitted, usually spitting the victim upon a thorn
or pointed twig, after the manner of the Butcher Bird, before devouring
it. Gould tells us that this species is very daring, even when brought in
contact with man, and mentions an instance in which he was followed for
more than an hour by a hungry Magpie Shrike, it having discovered that
a small bird was imprisoned in his hunting-pouch. The breeding season
commences in September; the nest is large, and neatly constructed of fine
twigs, lined with small shoots and delicate fibres. The brood consists of
four eggs, with a deep yellowish brown shell, marked with dark spots and
tracings of various shades, which frequently take the form of a wreath at
the broad end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RAVEN SHRIKES (_Thamnophilus_) appear to combine all the
peculiarities exhibited by the various members of this group, and in some
respects resemble the Jay in appearance. These birds are recognisable
by their powerful body and rounded wings, in which the third and fourth
quills exceed the rest in length; the tail is long, composed of broad
feathers, abruptly graduated at its sides, and rounded at its extremity.
The beak is high, compressed at the sides, and rounded at the culmen;
the upper mandible terminates suddenly in a large hook. The foot is
muscular, the tarsus thick and of moderate length, the long fleshy toes
are armed with large hooked claws, that of the hinder toe considerably
exceeding the rest in size. The plumage is composed of broad feathers,
and thus appears thick and rich in texture; the region of the beak is
surrounded by a slight growth of bristles.

[Illustration: THE MAGPIE SHRIKE (_Cracticus destructor_).]


VIGORS' RAVEN SHRIKE.

VIGORS' RAVEN SHRIKE (_Thamnophilus undulatus_ or _Thamnophilus
Vigorsii_) is a large bird about fourteen inches long; its wing measures
five and its tail six inches. The plumage of the male is entirely black
upon the upper side, streaked with white upon the back, wings, and tail;
the lower parts of the body are of an uniform dark grey, somewhat paler
upon the throat. The female is almost exclusively yellowish brown, the
top of the head being blackish brown, and the back, wings, and tail
striped alternately with black and reddish yellow. Burmeister found the
Bush Shrike inhabiting the wooded highlands of Rio de Janeiro and Santo
Paulo, occasionally in the vicinity of the towns and villages. Such as
he observed hopped about amongst the branches at some distance from the
ground, repeatedly uttering their monotonous cry. They exhibited no fear
of molestation, and would allow a sportsman to approach quite close, even
if armed with his gun.

We are somewhat better informed as to the habits of the species of Bush
Shrikes mentioned by Azara and the Prince von Wied. These are described
as resembling both the Shrikes and the Ant Thrushes (_Pitta_) in form and
general appearance. All lead a retired life amidst the bushy foliage of
their native forests, and usually prefer the darkest and most secluded
localities, seldom quitting these retreats except when flying from one
bush to another. The larger species are occasionally met with in the
open country, but there, as elsewhere, they keep within the shelter of
the brushwood, and only leave their favourite haunts for a few minutes
morning and evening. Towards other birds they exhibit little sociability,
but are much attached to their mates, each couple keeping together
throughout their lives. The voice of the various species is so very
similar as to render it almost impossible to distinguish the one from
the other by the ear alone. The Prince von Wied describes their cry as
resembling the sound produced by the rebound of a ball from a stone or
other hard body, followed by a deep bass note. In some few instances the
call is perfectly monotonous. The Bush Shrikes subsist almost exclusively
upon insects, but they also destroy small reptiles and young birds. The
nest, which is carelessly formed of blades of grass and moss, lined with
feathers, is concealed so cunningly as to render its discovery difficult,
even by the sharp-eyed natives. The eggs are laid about December; they
are of a dirty yellow colour, marked with a wreath of olive-brown spots
at the broad end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DRONGO SHRIKES (_Edolii_) constitute a family of birds found
extensively throughout Africa, Southern Asia, and New Holland; they
appear to form the connecting link between the Shrikes and the
Fly-catchers. All the various members of this family have slender
bodies, long wings and tails, broad beaks, and short feet. The fourth
and fifth wing-quills exceed the rest in length; the tail is composed
of ten feathers, and is more or less deeply forked at its extremity.
The large thick beak is surrounded with bristles at its broad base; the
slightly-curved upper mandible is incised at its edges and terminates in
a hook; the tarsi are short, the feet small but muscular, and armed with
strong claws. The plumage is dark-coloured, thick, harsh, and possesses
a very peculiar gloss. Most species are black, others blue, and some few
light or deep blue upon the back and whitish beneath; the eye is always
bright red, and the beak and feet black. All the members of this family
are very similar in their habits and mode of life.


THE KING CROW, OR FINGA.

The KING CROW, or FINGA of Bengal (_Dicrourus macrocercus_), is one of
the most remarkable and most numerous of the many species inhabiting
India. Its length is about twelve and its breadth sixteen inches; the
wing measures five inches and three-quarters, and the tail about six
inches. In this bird the entire body is of a resplendent black, deepest
in shade upon the wings and tail; the under portions are brownish black;
the region of the nape is decorated with a white spot. The sexes are
alike in colour, and the young are readily distinguished from their
parents by white crescent-shaped spots upon the feathers that cover the
under surface. The nest is composed of grass, twigs, and roots carefully
put together, and contains from three to five eggs of a white colour,
with pale brown or purplish spots.

The Finga is found throughout the whole of India, Assam, and Burmah, as
far as China, occupying almost every locality except the densest parts of
the jungle. An almost identical but larger bird is met with in Ceylon. We
are also acquainted with four other Indian varieties, and several very
similar species inhabit Africa and Australia.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DRONGOS (_Chaptia_) are recognisable from the last-mentioned group by
their more delicate feet and less decidedly pointed tails.


THE SINGING DRONGO.

The SINGING DRONGO (_Chaptia musica_) is nine inches long; its wing and
tail both measure four inches and a half. The plumage is of a blueish
black, enlivened by a most brilliant gloss; the wing and tail-feathers
are black; the belly and lower wing-covers dark grey, approaching to
black.

Le Vaillant discovered this bird in South-eastern Africa, and more recent
travellers have seen it in the northern parts of that continent. India
possesses a very similar species, which, however, unlike the rest of the
group, frequently inhabits dense thickets.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FLAG-BEARING DRONGOS (_Edolius_ or _Dissemurus_) constitute a group
of still more striking birds, with tails in which the exterior feathers
are more than twice the length of those in the centre. The lower half of
these outer feathers is entirely without web, while at the tip the web is
broad at the outer and very narrow on the inner side, so as somewhat to
resemble a flag. The beak is comparatively long and powerful, slightly
compressed at its base and much curved at the culmen, hooked at the
tip, and furnished with teeth-like appendages; the base of the beak is
surrounded with thick soft bristles.


THE BEE KING.

The BEE KING of the Indians (_Edolius paradiseus_) is fourteen inches
long; the outer tail-feathers are eighteen or nineteen inches in length,
while those in the centre do not exceed six inches and a half; the wing
measures six inches and three-quarters. The rich plumage is of an uniform
black, with a blue metallic gloss. The feathers upon the fore part of
the head are prolonged into a crest, and, like those upon the nape and
breast, are slightly incised at their extremities.

       *       *       *       *       *

The DRONGO SHRIKES are met with in large numbers throughout the whole
of India, even to an altitude of 8,000 feet, and may constantly be seen
sitting upon the house-tops or telegraph-posts in the immediate vicinity
of man, or perching fearlessly on the backs of the sheep as they wander
about the fields and pastures. Some few species seek for food during the
night, and carry on the chase in parties, which assemble on a favourite
tree shortly after sunset; others, again, are active throughout the
entire day, and though they do not hunt for prey after evening has closed
in, may frequently be heard uttering their loud, harsh, monotonous cry
should the night be fine and moonlit. During the breeding season each
pair lives entirely apart from the rest, and permits no intruder to
approach the nest.

We learn from Le Vaillant, Blyth, and others, that the Drongos are in
many respects highly endowed, their instincts acute, their various senses
well developed, and their movements through the air distinguished by
great lightness and activity. So acute is their vision that, like the
Swallow, they dart upon a flying insect from a considerable distance
with a rapidity that renders escape almost impossible, and, as we have
said, readily destroy their game even in the twilight. Except when
engaged in seeking food, they rarely come to the ground; indeed, they
seem to have considerable difficulty in using their delicate feet, even
whilst in the trees, merely employing them as a means of clinging to
the branches, and appearing quite incapable of hopping from one twig to
another with anything like a sprightly motion. Such acts as bathing or
drinking are carried on, as in the case of the Swallow, whilst the birds
are upon the wing. All the members of this group are lively, noisy, and
active. They exhibit the utmost courage in defending their mates and
nestlings from danger, several individuals often combining together to
drive away a common foe. They constantly attack Owls with great spirit,
and Gurney tells us that they frequently endeavour to battle with the
larger birds of prey. So violent are they during the season for choosing
a mate, that Jerdon mentions having seen four or five of these desperate
rivals rolling together upon the ground, as they fought in a paroxysm of
rage and jealousy. All the various tribes of Drongos appear to subsist
exclusively upon insects, more particularly upon bees and wasps; some
large species also devour grasshoppers, dragon-flies, and butterflies,
but, like their smaller brethren, prefer such insects as are furnished
with stings, thus often rendering themselves extremely troublesome to the
owners of bees. At the Cape of Good Hope they are known under the name
of "Bee-eaters." Le Vaillant tells us that they seem to know exactly at
what hour the heavily-laden insects return to their hives, and adroitly
relieve them of their burdens, strewing the ground with the wings and
bodies of the victims. We learn from Gurney that they are often attracted
by the smoke from the conflagrations that occasionally burst forth
upon the arid plains of their native lands, for they know well that the
devouring flames will drive forth a host of insects, and thus afford a
rich and abundant supply of food. Philipps mentions an amusing instance
of the cunning displayed by some of these birds whilst engaged in the
pursuit of a meal. Upon one occasion, he tells us, he saw a locust
closely pursued by a bird that was almost near enough to seize it, when
an observant Drongo, having espied the tempting morsel, and finding it
impossible to reach the spot in time, suddenly uttered the cry of terror
usually employed to signal the approach of a Hawk; the ruse succeeded;
the other bird instantly darted away to seek safe shelter, leaving the
wily Drongo in undisturbed possession of the coveted booty.

The season of the year at which the incubation of these birds takes place
is somewhat uncertain, and naturalists differ very considerably in their
opinions on this point. According to our own observations and experience,
they breed but once in the year. The nest, like that of the Pirol, is
suspended between two branches at some distance from the ground, and so
placed as to be fully exposed to all the changes of wind and weather;
nevertheless, the exterior is very carelessly formed of twigs and fibres,
and has no lining except at most a few coarse hairs. The eggs, three or
four in number, have a white or reddish white shell, spotted with brown
or red. Many species of the Drongo are caught and reared; the Bee-eater
in particular is very commonly seen in the houses in Calcutta and other
Indian cities. Blyth tells us that it is readily tamed, and soon becomes
a most amusing companion, from the power it possesses of imitating not
only the voices of other birds, which it does so exactly as to deceive
their mates, but also any sound it hears.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SWALLOW SHRIKES (_Artami_) constitute a family of strangely-formed
birds, that inhabit New Holland, India, and the Malay Islands. Their
muscular bodies are furnished with very long wings, in which the second
quill is longer than the rest. Their short or moderate-sized tails are
either quite straight or slightly incised at the extremity. The beak is
short, almost conical, rounded at the sides, the upper mandible slightly
bent at the tip, and incised at the margins. The feet are strong, with
short tarsi and toes, the latter armed with sharp and very hooked claws.
The plumage is thick, and of a dusky hue.


THE WOOD SWALLOW SHRIKE.

The WOOD SWALLOW SHRIKE (_Artamus sordidus_) is of a reddish grey upon
the body; the tail and wings are dark blueish black, the third and fourth
quill being edged with white upon the outer web. The tail-feathers, with
the exception of the two in the centre, are broadly tipped with white.
The eye is dark brown, the beak blue at its base and black at its tip;
the feet are greyish white. The female is smaller than her mate, and
presents a spotted appearance upon the back, the feathers on that part
having a dirty white streak upon their shafts. The colour of the surface
of the body is a mixture of white and brown. This bird is about six
inches long and thirteen and a half broad.

The various species of Swallow Shrike, though differing slightly in some
of their habits and in their mode of life, still bear so strong a family
likeness to each other as will permit us to describe them collectively.
All prefer woodland districts, and usually select localities in which
their favourite trees abound. One species in particular is called
by the natives the Palmyra Swallow, from the fact that it always
seeks the shelter of the Palmyra palm. Such members of the family as
inhabit Java select trees growing in open tracts, covered with short
grass and brushwood; one of their favourite trees is then chosen as a
sleeping-place or gathering-point, and from thence they fly over the
surrounding country in search of food. Jerdon tells us that the fancy of
the Swallow Shrike for certain trees is so strong that where these grow
it is often found living at an altitude of 4,000 feet above the level
of the sea. It is only in the air that these birds exhibit their full
powers; and as they glide along, with outspread but almost motionless
wings, their movements resemble those of some of the Raptores. Other
species, on the contrary, exhibit all the rapidity and free evolution
of the True Swallow, as they soar aloft or sink rapidly to the earth in
pursuit of their tiny aërial victims. They but rarely descend to the
ground, as their progress on foot is accomplished with some difficulty.
Shortly after the breeding season enormous parties of Swallow Shrikes
congregate upon the trees, where they live in the utmost harmony, each
one satisfying its own wants, and carrying on the business of the day
without either molesting or rendering assistance to its companions. A
tree thus occupied is as full of life and bustle as a beehive, every
part of its foliage affording a perch to one of these hungry and active
birds, whose sharp eyes enable them instantly to detect and dart upon a
passing insect, after which process they at once return to their former
position on the tree. Gould tells us that these large flocks may often
be seen hovering over a sheet of water, and literally darkening its
surface by their numbers, as they dart about amidst the tempting hosts
of insects that abound in such localities. We must not omit to mention
one very striking peculiarity of the Wood Swallows. Gilbert tells us he
has seen swarms of these birds, as large as a bushel measure, hanging
like bees in large clusters from the branches of the trees. "This bird,"
says Gould, "besides being the commonest species of the genus, is a great
favourite with the Australians, not only on account of its singular and
pleasing actions, but by its often taking up its abode and incubating
near the houses, particularly such as are surrounded by paddocks and open
pasture-land, skirted by large trees. It was in such situations as these
I first had the opportunity of observing this species; it is there very
numerous in all the cleared estates on the south side of the Derwent,
about eight or ten being seen on a single tree, crowding against one
another on the same dead branch, but never in such numbers as to deserve
the appellation of flocks. Each bird appeared to act independently of
the other, each, as the desire for food prompted it, sallying forth from
the branch to capture a passing insect, or to soar around the tree and
return again to the same spot. On alighting it repeatedly throws one wing
out at a time, and spreads its tail obliquely, previous to settling.
At other times a few were seen perched on the fence surrounding the
paddock, on which they frequently descended like Starlings, in search
of coleoptera and other insects. It is not, however, in this state of
comparative quiescence that this graceful bird is seen to best advantage,
neither is it at that state of existence for which its form is especially
adapted; for though its structure is more equally suited for terrestrial,
arboreal, and aërial habits than any other species I have examined, yet
the form of the wings point out the air as its peculiar province. Here
it is that when engaged in pursuit of the insects which the warm weather
has enticed from their lurking-places among the foliage to sport in
higher regions, this beautiful species in its aërial flights displays its
greatest beauty, whilst soaring above in a variety of easy positions,
with its white-tipped tail outspread."

The voice of these birds resembles the call-note of the Swallow, but is
somewhat harsher and more monotonous. Some are stationary, while others
wander from one place to another as soon as the period of incubation
is over. The Wood Swallow makes its appearance in Van Dieman's Land
in October, at the commencement of the Australian summer; and after
rearing two broods returns again to more northern latitudes. The nests
are built in a great variety of situations. Gould found one in a
thickly-foliaged bush close to the ground, another placed in the fork of
a bare branch, and others under the loose bark of a large tree; they are
also frequently placed under the roofs of the settlers' houses; and one
species in particular prefers to avoid all labour by taking possession
of the deserted nests of other birds. Their own nests are usually neatly
formed of delicate twigs, woven together, and lined with fine fibrous
roots. The four eggs that constitute a brood are generally of a dirty
white, spotted and streaked with reddish brown. Bernstein tells us that
the species inhabiting Java build amid the parasitic plants that cover
their favourite palms, or upon the leaves of the tree itself, forming
their little abodes of grass, moss, fibres, and small leaves, carelessly
arranged, but strongly lined with soft and elastic materials. The Indian
species, according to Jerdon, makes a bed of feathers inside its nest.
Many of the members of this family remain in company even during the
breeding season, and build in close proximity to each other. It is still
uncertain whether the male bird assists in the cares of incubation, but
both parents tend their young with great care, and rear them exclusively
upon insect diet.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FLY-CATCHERS, according to Linnæus, comprise a large number of small
singing birds, distinguished by their broad, flat beaks. These have again
been divided into a variety of families, amongst which the following
stands first upon our list as forming a connecting link between the
Fly-catchers and the Shrikes properly so-called.

       *       *       *       *       *

The KING or TYRANT SHRIKES (_Tyranni_) constitute a family of American
birds, having small but powerful bodies, and long, pointed wings, which
when closed extend half-way down the tail. The second and third quills
exceed the rest in length. The large broad tail is either excised or
rounded at its extremity; the legs are strong, the tarsi high, and the
toes muscular; the straight and slightly conical beak terminates in a
hook, and is surrounded with bristles at its base. The thick soft plumage
is usually grey upon the back, and white or yellow upon the under parts
of the body. The Tyrant Shrikes are found extensively throughout South
America, and are especially numerous in the warmest latitudes of that
continent.


THE TRUE TYRANT SHRIKE, KING BIRD, OR TYRANT FLY-CATCHER.

The TRUE TYRANT SHRIKE, KING BIRD, or TYRANT FLY-CATCHER (_Tyrannus
intrepidus_), as the most noted member of this family is called, is about
eight inches long and fourteen broad. The soft and brilliant plumage of
this species is prolonged into a crest at the top of the head. The entire
back is of a deep blueish grey, darkest upon the head, the feathers that
form the crest being edged with bright red and yellow; the under side
is greyish white, tinted with a deeper shade on the breast. The throat
and neck are pure white, the quills and tail brownish black, the latter
tipped with white, as are the wing-covers. The eye is dark brown, the
beak black, the feet greyish blue. In the plumage of the female all these
colours are much more dusky and indistinct than in that of her mate.

According to Audubon, the Tyrant Shrike is one of the most attractive
birds that visit the United States during the summer months. It appears
in Louisiana about the middle of March, and occasionally remains until
the middle of September, but the flocks for the most part proceed north
before that season, and spread themselves over every part of the country,
filling the air with their quivering shrill cry, as they explore the
orchards, fields, or gardens, and fearlessly approach the dwelling-houses
of mankind. As the breeding season draws near, they may be seen flying
merrily about at some distance from the ground, in search of a convenient
spot for building, the male constantly uttering his shrill note, and
keeping quite close to his mate. The nest is formed of bits of cotton,
wool, tow, or similar materials, and is usually of considerable size; the
interior is neatly and thickly lined with fibres and horsehair; the four
or six eggs have a reddish white shell, irregularly marked with brown
streaks. No sooner is the brood laid than the male bird begins to exhibit
the utmost courage and devotion in tending and protecting his partner.
The entire day is occupied in feeding and entertaining her, as he perches
close beside her on a twig, displaying his glowing crest and white
breast in all its beauty to her admiring eyes. Should an enemy or rival
approach, he darts furiously down and chases the intruder to a distance,
sometimes as far as a mile from the nest, and then returns rapidly to
his little family. So bold and fearless is the Tyrant Shrike upon these
occasions, that even Falcons scarcely venture to approach its nest; and
the cats of the neighbourhood, well knowing the reception they would meet
with, carefully avoid trespassing within the domains of the intrepid
father.

"At this period," says Wilson, "the extreme affection of the Tyrant
Shrike for his mate and young makes him suspicious of every bird that
happens to pass near his residence, so that he attacks every intruder
without discrimination. In the months of May, June, and part of July his
life is one continued scene of broils and battles, in which, however, he
generally comes off conqueror. Hawks, Crows, and Eagles all equally dread
an encounter with this dauntless little champion, who, as soon as he
sees one of the last approaching, launches into the air to meet him, and
darts down on to his back, sometimes fixing there, to the great annoyance
of the king of birds, who, if no convenient retreat be near, endeavours
by various evolutions to rid himself of his merciless adversary. But
the Tyrant Fly-catcher is not so easily dismounted; he teases the Eagle
incessantly, charges upon him right and left, and remounts into the air,
that he may descend on his enemy's back with greater force, all the while
keeping up a shrill and rapid twittering, and continuing the attack
sometimes for more than a mile, until he is relieved by some other of his
tribe equally eager for the contest."

The Purple Swallow alone seems capable of contesting the field with this
courageous opponent, and resisting its attacks. Wilson mentions having
seen the Tyrant Shrike also greatly irritated by his vain efforts to get
rid of the Red-headed Woodpecker, the latter dodging him round a rail,
and appearing highly amused at the impotent rage of his assailant.

About August the voices of these birds are far more rarely heard, and
they employ their time in picking the worms and insects from the furrows
in the fields, or in gliding over the water in pursuit of flies. Like the
Swallow, they drink and bathe whilst on the wing, invariably perching
upon a neighbouring tree, the better to dry their plumage. The Tyrant
Shrikes quit the United States before any other of the feathered summer
visitors, and prosecute their migrations by night as well as by day,
flying alternately with rapidly repeated strokes of the pinions, and a
smooth, gliding motion, that is apparently produced without the slightest
effort. The flesh of this species is delicate, and much esteemed in
Louisiana. A Tyrant Shrike kept for many months by Nuttall always
swallowed berries whole; grasshoppers, if too large to be so disposed
of, were pounded and broken on the floor of his cage, as the bird held
them in his beak. To manage the larger beetles was not so easy; these
he struck repeatedly against the ground, and then turned from side to
side, by throwing them dexterously into the air, after the manner of
the Toucan; the insect being uniformly caught reversed as it descended,
with the agility of a practised cup and ball player. After the beetle
was swallowed, he remained perfectly still for some time, in order to
digest his meal, tasting it distinctly some time after it entered the
stomach, as was obvious from the ruminating motion of his mandible. When
the soluble portion had been extracted, large pellets of the indigestible
legs, wings, and shells were brought up again in half an hour's time, and
ejected from the mouth after the manner of Hawks and Owls. This bird,
we are further told, had the sagacity to retire under the shelter of a
depending bed-quilt in the apartment about which he was allowed to run at
large, if the weather was unusually cold.


THE BENTEVI.

The BENTEVI (_Saurophagus sulphuratus_), a well-known species, resident
in Brazil, is recognisable by its comparatively long wings and slightly
incised tail. Its legs are powerful, tarsi high, toes long, and armed
with sickle-shaped claws; the beak, which is higher than it is broad,
and terminates in a hook, is of a conical shape, and equals the head
in length; its culmen is slightly rounded, and its base surrounded with
bristles. These latter are particularly numerous in the region of the
cheek-stripes. The length of this species is five and its breadth ten
inches; the tail measures three inches. Upon the upper part of the body
the plumage is of a greenish brown; the forehead and eyebrows white; the
crest-like feathers upon the crown of the head are of a brimstone-yellow;
the sides of the head, the bridles, and cheeks black; the wing-covers,
tail-feathers, and quills are broadly edged with rust-red; the throat
and fore part of the neck are white; the breast, belly, rump, and
legs sulphur-yellow. In the plumage of the young the top of the head
is entirely black; the wing and tail-feathers are broadly edged with
rust-red; and all the colours paler than in those of the adult birds. The
Bentevis are extensively met with throughout South America, particularly
in well-wooded pasture-land or meadows; indeed, their loud, penetrating
voices may literally be heard from every tree. We learn from Schomburghk
that though they subsist principally upon insects, they also devour
the nestlings of other species, and frequently visit the houses of the
inhabitants in order to pilfer scraps of the meat hung out to dry. So
bold are they that it is not uncommon to see them picking up their insect
prey from under the very feet of the herds of cattle as they graze.
Towards their feathered companions they exhibit unceasing animosity,
chasing them and harrying them from spot to spot with loud spiteful
cries, occasionally venturing to carry their pugnacious propensities so
far as to attack some of the larger birds of prey. As the breeding season
approaches, they become still more quarrelsome and noisy, until the air
resounds with the voices of both the males and females as they chase each
other in angry rivalry or sport among the branches, or so constantly
utter their strange cry as to appear prompted by an anxious desire to
outdo their companions, both in loudness and rapidity of utterance. This
cry, from which the name of the species is derived, has been freely
interpreted by the inhabitants of Monte Video and Buenos Ayres to mean,
"_Bien-te-veo_," "I see you well," and in Guiana into, "_Qu'est ce que
dit?_"

[Illustration: THE TRUE TYRANT SHRIKE, KING BIRD, OR TYRANT FLY-CATCHER
(_Tyrannus intrepidus_).]

The nest, which is large, thick, and ball-shaped, is artistically
constructed of moss, leaves, grass, and feathers, and is entered by a
small round aperture in the sides. The eggs, three or four in number,
have a pale greenish shell, marked with a few black and greenish blue
spots, which are most thickly strewn over the broad end. We learn from
Azara that the Bentevi is readily tamed, and when caged will live on
peaceful terms with its companions. The same authority mentions a
peculiarity that he observed in one of these birds that he himself
reared, namely, that it always seized the bits of flesh that were given
to it in his beak, and struck them repeatedly against the ground, as
though he supposed the morsels required killing before they could be
eaten.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FORK-TAILED TYRANTS (_Milvulus_) differ from the groups already
described principally in the great length of their forked tails. Their
bodies are slender, and they have short necks, broad heads, and long
wings. Their large, strong beaks bulge slightly towards the sides,
terminate in a decided hook, and are partially covered with bristles
at the base; the feet are short; the toes of moderate size, armed with
very sharp, compressed claws; the three first wing-quills, of which the
second is the largest, are pointed at the tip. This latter peculiarity is
particularly apparent in the male. The plumage is soft and elastic, but
by no means thick.


THE SCISSOR BIRD.

The SCISSOR BIRD of the Brazilians (_Milvulus tyrannus_), though properly
a native of Central America, is occasionally met with in the United
States. The length of this elegant species is about fourteen inches, of
which at least ten belong to the exterior tail-feathers, whilst those
in the centre do not measure more than two and a half inches. Its head
and cheeks are deep black, except at the lower part of the crest, which
is yellow; the back is ash-grey; the under side white; the quills,
wing-covers, and rump are blackish brown, edged with grey; the outer web
of the exterior tail-feathers is white along the whole of the upper half;
the eye dark brown; the beak and feet are black.

[Illustration: THE SCISSOR BIRD (_Milvulus tyrannus_).]

We learn from Audubon and Nuttall that the Scissor Birds are frequently
met with upon all the vast steppes of Central and Southern America, and
are common in some districts. They are usually seen assembled in large
parties upon low brushwood, and from thence fly down to seize their
insect prey. At the appearance of dusk they retire to pass the night
together upon a favourite tree. Whilst perched they seem to be of very
indolent and quiet disposition, but whilst in flight their appearance is
striking and remarkable, as they constantly open and close their long
tails, after the fashion of a pair of scissors, during the whole time
that they are upon the wing, a circumstance from which they derive their
name. Insects constitute their principal fare, and these they capture in
the same manner as other members of their family; they also pursue and
devour many small birds, and, according to Nuttall, frequently consume
berries. The nest, which is usually concealed in a thickly-foliaged bush,
is open above, and formed of delicate twigs, snugly lined with a bed
of fibres, wool, or feathers; the eggs are white, mottled with reddish
brown, these markings being thickest at the broad end. As autumn draws to
a close the Scissor Birds congregate with other species in large parties,
previous to setting forth upon their migrations. Schomburghk tells us
that such of these flocks as he observed leaving the country, settled
upon the trees from about three to five o'clock in the afternoon, and
remained there for the night, resuming their southern course at the first
dawn of day.


THE ROYAL TYRANT.

The ROYAL TYRANT (_Megalophus regius_), so called from the tiara-like
crescent that adorns its head, and its great beauty of plumage, has
a slenderly-formed body and pointed wings, in which the third and
fourth quills exceed the rest in length, the first and second being
comparatively short; the tail is moderately long, and quite straight at
its extremity; the beak, which is flat and spoon-shaped, terminates in
a sharp hook; the feet are short; the toes, of which the two exterior
are united at the base, are powerful, and armed with short blunt claws.
The plumage is soft and downy, and upon the top of the head is prolonged
into a broad flowing crest; at the base of the beak it is replaced by
bristles; five very long bristles also decorate the cheek-stripes. The
upper part of the body is of a beautiful light brown, while the entire
under surface and tail are bright reddish yellow; the throat is whitish;
the quills are deep brown or blackish, with a light edge upon the inner
web; the wing-covers are tipped with pale yellow; the tiara is of a
gorgeous flame-colour, or carmine-red, each feather having a black spot
at its tip, surrounded in the male by a light yellow line. These spots
gleam with a blue metallic lustre, and the crest extends as far as
the nape; the eye is light brown, the upper mandible brown, the lower
one light yellow; the feet are pale flesh-pink, and the long bristles
black. In the young the plumage is almost entirely brown, mottled upon
the breast, and spotted on the back; the crest is very small, and of
an orange-yellow. The length of this species is six inches; the wing
measures three and a half, and the tail two and a half inches.

The Royal Tyrant inhabits the primitive forests of Brazil and Guiana,
where it frequents the most shady recesses, and leads a quiet and
solitary life, usually preferring the tops of the trees. Notwithstanding
the preference it shows for retired spots, it is frequently caught by the
natives, on account of its great beauty. We learn from Burmeister that
the capture of the male is rendered comparatively easy, by the fact that
a brooding female has no sooner lost her mate than she consoles herself
with another. The natives, who are aware of this peculiarity, when they
find a pair shoot the male, and then wait patiently until his successor
makes his appearance, when he is also killed. We have it on good
authority that a female Royal Tyrant will in this manner take to herself
as many as a dozen of these ill-fated partners. The eggs are oval, and
have light violet shells, marked with brownish or blood-red spots, and
streaked with the same shade at the narrow end. We have no account of the
nest built by this species.

       *       *       *       *       *

The STILTED FLY-CATCHERS (_Fluvicolæ_) constitute a group of South
American birds differing in many particulars from the Tyrant Shrikes.
The members of this group are recognisable by their large, powerful
bodies, and their long wings and tail, in the former of which the first
quill is only a trifle shorter than the second. They have strong legs,
high tarsi, and thick, sharp claws. Their large, high, and slender beak
is of a conical form, and but very slightly bent at its extremity. Their
thick plumage is heavy, and is composed of small feathers, presenting but
a very slight development of down. The base of the beak is covered with
stiff bristles, of which from three to five of still stiffer and larger
size are scattered over the region of the cheek-stripes.

The Stilted Fly-catchers are frequently met with in the immediate
neighbourhood of human habitations, and in such open plains as are almost
entirely destitute of trees or bushes, near ponds, rivers, or even in
marshy districts, everywhere subsisting upon insects, and carrying on
the pursuit of their prey exactly in the same manner as the birds above
described.


THE YIPERU, OR YETAPA.

The YIPERU, or YETAPA--Cunningham's Bush Shrike--(_Gubernates Yiperu_),
a well-known member of this group, has a slender body, large wings, and
very long, forked tail. Its beak is thick and broad at its base, the
upper mandible considerably arched, and furnished with a strong, short
hook at its extremity; the legs, though short, are powerful, the toes of
moderate size, and armed with slightly-curved claws. The plumage is thick
and soft, that of the wings and tail being unusually heavy. The back and
under side of the body are grey, the wings and tail black, with a white
patch at the shoulder, and a light red spot on the outer web of the large
quills. The throat is white, separated from the grey breast by a reddish
brown line, which extends as far as the eyes; the brow is of a whitish
shade, the eye itself reddish brown, and the beak and feet black. The
length of this species is fifteen inches, of which nine are included in
the length of the exterior tail-feathers, whilst those in the centre are
not more than two and a half inches long. The span of the wings is about
fifteen inches.

We learn from Azara that the Yetapas principally frequent such plains
as are only partially covered with brushwood or trees, and fly about in
small parties, seeking for their insect food upon the ground. Their cry
is monotonous but penetrating.


THE COCK-TAILED FLY-CATCHER.

The COCK-TAILED FLY-CATCHER (_Alectrurus tricolor_)--the other member of
this group which we have selected for description--is easily recognisable
by its short, stiff tail, in which sometimes the two exterior and
sometimes the centre feathers are of very peculiar appearance, owing
to the very irregular development of the web. The thick conical beak
terminates in a delicate hook, the legs are slender, the tarsi high, and
the toes long. The wings are of moderate size and pointed, the third
quill being longer than the rest; the first and second are much incised
and narrow towards the tip. The plumage is soft, composed of small
feathers, and the bristles on the cheek-stripes are unusually large. In
the male bird the inner web of the very broad centre tail-feathers is
much developed; the body is almost entirely black, the throat, belly, and
shoulders being white. The plumage of the female and young is yellowish
brown, except upon the throat, which is whitish, with various light
markings, and the centre tail-feathers are no broader than those at the
side; all have greyish brown eyes. The beak is of a dirty light brown,
and the feet dark brown. The length of the Cock-tailed Fly-catcher is
five and a half, and the tail about nine inches. The wing measures two
and a half, and the tail two inches.

These birds inhabit all the plains of South America, and, according
to Azara and D'Orbigny, perch throughout the entire day upon the high
grass, from whence they rise to catch the insects as they pass, and then
sink with outspread wings and tail to their former lurking-place; they
rarely fly to any distance, and often seem to move through the air in
a backward direction. We are without particulars concerning the mode of
breeding and nidification of this species.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CATERPILLAR EATERS (_Campephagæ_) comprehend a number of birds
inhabiting the East Indies and contiguous islands, as also Africa and New
Holland. With their mode of life we are but little acquainted, beyond the
fact that they associate in small parties, and seek their food almost
exclusively amongst the foliage of trees and bushes. They consume great
numbers of insects and their larvæ, and some few eat berries.


THE RED BIRD, OR GREAT PERICROCOTUS.

The RED BIRD, or GREAT PERICROCOTUS (_Pericrocotus speciosus_), the
species we have selected as the representative of its family, is a
magnificent creature, about nine inches long, and twelve inches and a
half broad. The wings, in which the fourth and fifth quills are longer
than the rest, measure four and a quarter and the tail four inches. The
beak is short, broad at its base, and slightly curved. The tarsi are
short, the feet delicate, and the claws much hooked. The plumage of the
male is of a brilliant blueish black upon the back, quills, and centre
tail-feathers; whilst the entire under side, a broad band across the
wings (formed by a line of spots upon the outer quills), and the exterior
tail-feathers are glowing scarlet. In the female, the brow, back, and
upper tail-covers are greenish yellow; the quills dusky black, spotted
with yellow; the centre tail-feathers tipped with deep yellow; the rest
of the plumage is bright yellow, decorated with various dark markings. In
both sexes the eye is brown, and the beak and feet black.

These very beautiful birds are met with extensively throughout the
greater part of India, particularly in Calcutta, Assam, and Burmah; they
are most numerous in such localities as are 3,000 or 4,000 feet above the
level of the sea. Like most of their congeners, they are generally active
and social, usually gleaning their insect food from amongst the buds
and blossoms of their favourite trees, and only occasionally descending
to the ground or seeking their prey upon the wing. Jerdon tells us that
whilst the business of the day is going on the males and females separate
from each other, each sex associating in small parties of four or five
birds, and carrying on their work in the most lively manner, hopping
and climbing briskly about among the foliage, and constantly uttering
their cheerful and penetrating note. The nest of the Red Bird found by
the writer to whom we have alluded, was constructed of moss and delicate
fibres, and contained three white eggs, slightly spotted with brownish
red. Radde mentions a grey species, inhabiting China, the Philippine
Islands, and Eastern Siberia, and tells us that the flocks which he saw,
each numbering some fifteen or twenty birds, tumbled noisily about near
the tops of the trees, and filled the otherwise silent forests with
their shrill chattering cry. On the first approach of danger, these
lively parties at once united into large flocks, and sought refuge in the
highest trees, preserving meanwhile such unbroken silence as to render
their capture a work of great difficulty.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FLY-SNAPPERS (_Myiagræ_), another family of these birds, inhabit the
eastern hemisphere, and are recognisable by the slender formation of
their body, moderate-sized wings, in which the fourth and fifth quills
exceed the rest in length, and long tail; in the males of some species
the web of the centre tail-feathers is much developed; the beak is broad
and compressed, broad at its base, straight at the culmen, incised at its
margins, and hooked at its extremity. The feet are short and weak; the
plumage bright-coloured, and rich in texture. The base of the beak is
surrounded with bristles. All the members of this family are unusually
brisk and restless in their habits, and enliven their native forests by
their gay plumage and cheerful notes.

[Illustration: THE PARADISE FLY-CATCHERS (_Terpsiphone paradisea_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The PARADISE FLY-CATCHERS, separated as a distinct group under the name
of the _Terpsiphone_, comprise the most beautiful and striking species of
the family, and are distinguished by the formation of their tail, which
is very long and conical, the centre feathers in the male being double
the length of those at the exterior.


THE PARADISE OR ROYAL FLY-SNAPPER.

The PARADISE or ROYAL FLY-SNAPPER (_Terpsiphone paradisea_) is a
magnificent species, two feet in length, if we include the centre
tail-feathers, which measure fifteen and sixteen inches, whilst those
at the side do not exceed five inches. The wing is four inches long.
The coloration of the sexes differs considerably--in the old male the
head, crest, neck, and breast are of a greenish black; the rest of
the feathers are white, streaked here and there with black upon the
shafts; the primary and secondary quills are black, tipped with white
upon the inner and entirely white upon the outer web. The female,
readily distinguished from her mate by the comparative shortness of
the tail-feathers, is like the young male, of a glossy black upon the
head, neck, and breast, and white upon the belly; the rest of the
plumage being entirely nut-brown. The nestlings are ash-grey upon the
throat, breast, sides, and upper part of the belly. All have deep brown
eyes, bright blue beaks and eyelids, and lavender-blue feet. The Royal
Fly-snapper inhabits the whole of India, from Ceylon to the Himalaya,
where it is replaced by another species, and is usually found within the
shelter of such forests as are not more than 2,000 feet above the sea.
According to Jerdon, it occasionally ventures forth from its favourite
retreats to investigate the surrounding country, but rarely makes its
home amongst the brushwood or trees upon the open plains. Its flight is
undulatory in its commencement, and very striking, owing to the strange
effect presented by its long tail, as it waves and flutters through the
air. This flowing tail is raised and spread with every appearance of
delighted vanity by its beautiful owner, as it perches quietly in the
branches, and glances sharply around in order to detect the approach of
an insect, upon which it darts at once with great rapidity, and having
secured it, returns to its lurking-place. Almost the entire day is spent
in restlessly flitting about from branch to branch, and tree to tree, and
constantly uttering its loud but not unpleasing cry. The nest is formed
of moss and fibres, lined with hair and wool. This magnificent bird is
usually to be seen perched upon a branch, and displaying to the utmost
its beautiful plumage, as it alternately expands and closes its graceful
crest and tail, in evident appreciation and enjoyment of its own beauty.
Its flight, which is very rapid when occupied in chasing its rivals from
the field, or pursuing its insect prey, changes into a hovering motion if
the bird is under no excitement, and merely wishes to fly to a distant
spot; at such times few more attractive sights can be witnessed than it
presents as it thus slowly glides in a series of undulating lines through
the air, its pure white tail upheld and streaming behind in such a manner
as to form a flowing train. These long tail-feathers are only retained
during the time that the bird wears its bridal attire, and are soon
torn away by the foliage of the trees when the period of incubation is
over. Unlike most of its congeners, the Paradise Fly-snapper is endowed
with a gentle and sweet-toned cry. Le Vaillant describes a nest that he
was informed had been built by one of these birds as being horn-shaped,
about eight inches long, and the broadest part two and a half inches
across. This little structure, which hung in the forked branches of the
mimosa-tree, was most carefully constructed of fibres woven together, so
as in its texture to resemble haircloth. The interior was without any
warm lining.

       *       *       *       *       *

The FANTAILS (_Rhipidura_) are a group of birds inhabiting Australia and
the neighbouring islands; they are also occasionally to be met with in
some parts of Asia. All the various species have slender bodies, long
wings, of which the fourth and fifth quills exceed the rest in length,
and well-developed tails; their tarsi are powerful, and of moderate
length; their beaks broad, curving gradually downwards to the slightly
hooked extremity, and incised at the margins; the region of the bill is
covered with large bristles.


THE WAGTAIL FANTAIL.

The WAGTAIL FANTAIL (_Rhipidura motacilloides_), so called from its
resemblance to the European Water Wagtail (_Motacilla_), is of a glossy
greenish black upon the mantle, throat, and sides of the breast; a
narrow, yellowish white streak passes above the eyes; and a triangular
spot occupies the tips of the smaller wing-covers. The extremities of all
the webs of the exterior tail-feathers and the entire under surface are
pale yellowish white, the quills are brown, the eyes dark brown, the beak
and feet black. Both sexes are alike in colour, and differ but slightly
in size, their length being usually about five inches.

The Fantails are found extensively throughout Australia, where they
frequent retired woodland districts, but are often seen in the immediate
vicinity of men; indeed, so extremely tame and social are they that they
by no means confine their visits to orchards and gardens, but enter
freely into the houses, in search of flies and other insects. Their
flight is undulatory in its course, is seldom long sustained, and never
rises above the tops of the trees. Should the birds desire to reach a
distant spot, they usually descend to the ground, over the surface of
which their powerful legs enable them to run with great rapidity. The
song of this species, though loud and shrill, is by no means unpleasing,
and, should the moon be bright, is often heard after nightfall. The
period of incubation commences in September, that is, in the early
Australian spring, and each pair breeds twice, or, if the season be fine,
thrice within the year. Their deep, cup-shaped nest is most artistically
constructed of dry grass, bits of bark and roots, overlaid with spiders'
webs, and lined with a soft bed of delicate fibres, grass, and feathers.
Such trees as overhang the water are generally preferred for building
purposes. The nest is placed very near the ground, and furnished with
a strange-looking, long appendage, which is, no doubt, intended to act
as a sort of balance; it is frequently placed in situations that are
fully exposed to the violence of the sea and wind, but with such care
are the materials for these beautiful structures selected to harmonise
with the colour of the branch on which they are placed, that their
discovery is always a work of difficulty. The brood consists of two or
three dirty greenish white eggs, marked with black or reddish brown spots
and streaks, either at the broad end or around the centre. During the
whole time that the parents are occupied in the education of their young
they exhibit the utmost courage and anxiety to prevent the approach of
an enemy, and if alarmed express their uneasiness by a peculiar call
somewhat resembling the sound produced by a child's rattle.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE FLY-CATCHERS (_Muscicapæ_) constitute a family of birds chiefly
confined to Europe and Asia, and though unadorned with the flowing tails
and glowing tints possessed by some of their near relations already
described, comprise many beautiful species. All have elongate bodies,
short necks, and broad heads. Their wings (in which the third quill
exceeds the rest in length) are long, and their tails of moderate size,
either incised or graduated at the extremity. Their short, strong,
compressed beaks are broad at the base, and terminate in a slight hook;
the upper mandible is furnished with a sharp ridge at its culmen, and
the base of the bill is surrounded with bristles. Their soft lax plumage
varies considerably in its coloration, according to the age and sex
of the bird, and the young are easily recognisable by their spotted
appearance.

Like most of the groups above described, all the members of this family
frequent trees in preference to bushes, and rarely seek their food
upon the ground. Should the day be rainy, they content themselves with
berries; but in fine weather pass their time in actively giving chase
to every unlucky insect that chances to attract their keen little
eyes as they perch quietly among the branches, and, having secured the
victim, they at once return to their lurking-place. During the period
of incubation, the males utter a monotonous cry; but at other seasons
their voices are very rarely heard. The nest built by the Fly-catchers is
carelessly constructed, but furnished with a warm bed for the reception
of the young, and is placed either in holes of trees or upon a branch,
quite close to the stem. Both parents assist in hatching the four or
five eggs that compose a brood, and tend the young until the season
for migrating approaches, when they leave their native lands for more
southern regions, often reaching Central Africa in the course of their
winter journeyings.


THE GREY OR SPOTTED FLY-CATCHER.

The GREY or SPOTTED FLY-CATCHER (_Butalis grisola_) is distinguishable
from its congeners by the following characteristics:--The plumage of
the male is deep grey upon all the upper part of the body, each feather
having a black shaft. The crown of the head is blackish grey, lightly
spotted; and the wing-feathers are tipped with light grey, thus forming
an indistinct border to the pinions. The entire under side is dirty
white, shaded with reddish yellow upon the sides, and streaked with
faint, dark grey, oval patches on the breast and sides of the throat.
The eye is brown, the beak and feet black; the colours in the plumage
of the female are paler. The back of the young is whitish, spotted with
grey, and marked with brown and reddish yellow; the under side is of a
whitish shade, spotted with grey upon the breast and throat. The male
bird is five inches and a half long and nine and a half broad; the wing
measures about three and the tail three and a half inches; the female
is only a few lines smaller than her mate. These lively, restless birds
inhabit all the countries of Europe except its extreme north, and are
especially numerous in the southern provinces, making their appearance
in pairs at the end of April or beginning of May; in England, about the
20th of May, when they at once commence breeding. They leave for warmer
latitudes early in the autumn. During their winter migrations they
visit the interior of Africa, and we ourselves have seen large numbers
sojourning for a time in the forests near the Blue Nile. In Europe they
seem to have no preference for any particular locality, but inhabit
highland or lowland regions, unfrequented forest tracts, or the gardens
and orchards of a populous district, with equal impartiality; trees
in the immediate vicinity of water, however, afford them the retreats
they most delight in, the sheltering branches enabling them to dart
down unobserved amongst the swarms of insects that disport themselves
over the surface of lakes and streams. Whilst thus engaged in watching
for prey, the Fly-catcher waves its tail to and fro, as its keen eye
selects the most tempting morsel, which is instantly swooped upon and
seized with a noisy snap of the beak, the bird returning at once to its
perch. Should its victim be too large to be swallowed entire, its body
is crushed against a tree in such a manner as to tear off the wings and
legs, and thus render it manageable. The bird thus disposes of flies,
gnats, butterflies, and dragon-flies, always catching them upon the wing.
When the coldness of the season compels it to subsist upon berries, these
latter are also obtained whilst in flight, by sweeping down towards the
tree and snatching them from the stalk _en passant_, without tarrying for
a moment to rest on the branch. The delicate feet of this species do not
permit it to hop from bough to bough, and its movements upon the ground,
to which it rarely descends, are feeble and awkward; but its flight, on
the contrary, is rapid, and extremely graceful, its course through the
air being diversified from time to time by a fluttering motion, produced
by alternately completely closing and broadly spreading its pinions and
tail.

The voice of the Fly-catcher may be described as a gentle, twittering
chatter. The call-note is monotonous, and in moments of terror or
excitement usually accompanied by violent motion of the wings. Solitary
individuals are seldom seen, and only during such time as the young are
still under parental guidance are they met with in parties; at other
times they are found in pairs, that keep apart from each other, and
exhibit most determined pertinacity in driving off all intruders from the
haunts they have appropriated. The nests are built in a great variety
of situations--in holes of rocks, walls, or roofs, in hollow trunks of
trees, or on a branch quite close against the main stem; brushwood or low
clumps of old willows, however, afford the seclusion these birds prefer.
Green moss, fine dry fibres, and similar materials are usually employed
in constructing the somewhat carelessly-formed domicile, which is warmly
lined with horsehair, wool, and feathers. The female alone undertakes
the whole labour of building. Instances are recorded of the nest of this
species being found in very odd situations. We have heard of one built
in the head of a garden-rake that had been left standing against a wall;
another was seen by Mr. Atkinson, on the angle of a lamp-post in one of
the streets of London; and a third, mentioned by both Jesse and Yarrell,
occupied a still more remarkable position--namely, within the crown of
one of the lamps in Portland Place, in London.

Should a couple not be disturbed, they produce but one brood of four or
five eggs in the year; these are laid in June, and have a blueish or
blueish green shell, very variously marked with light rust-red. Both
parents assist in the work of incubation, and hatch the eggs within a
fortnight. The young grow rapidly, but remain for a long time under the
care of their parents. A curious circumstance concerning this bird is
recorded by Thomas Andrew Knight, Esq., President of the Horticultural
Society, namely, that--"A Fly-catcher that had built in a stove in one of
the green-houses in the Society's gardens was always observed to leave
its nest when the thermometer stood at 72°, and resumed its place upon
the eggs as soon as the temperature fell again below that point."

Naumann mentions a little incident that came under his notice, that will
illustrate the utility of these birds in the great scheme of Nature. "A
boy in our village," he says, "succeeded in obtaining a Fly-catcher's
nest before the young were fledged, and placed the little family,
including the mother, in a room in his house. No sooner had the parent
bird ascertained that all attempts to escape were hopeless, than she at
once set to work to feed her young with the flies that were winging their
flight about the chamber. Of course before long all these were consumed,
and the boy was compelled to carry his prize to a neighbour's cottage,
in order that they might procure a supply of food. In this manner the
useful family went the round of the village, clearing the houses of vast
numbers of troublesome guests. My turn came last, and in gratitude for
the benefit received I succeeded in obtaining liberty for both mother and
nestlings."

Despite the immense services rendered by these birds, they and their
eggs are constantly destroyed by boys and men, who are too ignorant or
unthinking to know and appreciate the benefits they confer upon us; large
numbers also fall victims to the attacks of cats, martens, rats, and
mice. The Fly-catcher is easily reared, and soon so completely adapts
itself to captivity that it may be allowed to fly at large about a room.
If provided with a small box filled with sand, in which an upright stick
is placed with another laid across, it prefers perching upon the latter
to any other situation, and never in any way injures the furniture of the
apartment. One of these birds kept by ourselves was fed during several
successive winters upon rolls soaked in milk, and finely-minced meat;
upon this diet it became remarkably tame, and, although liberated every
spring, regularly returned to us at the end of the warm season.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOURNING FLY-CATCHERS (_Muscicapa_) differ from those members of
their family already described in the shortness of their beak, which
is almost triangular, in the inferior size of their wings, and in the
diversity of plumage that distinguishes the sexes.


THE BLACK-CAPPED OR PIED FLY-CATCHER.

The BLACK-CAPPED or PIED FLY-CATCHER (_Muscicapa atricapilla_) is five
inches long, and about eight inches and a half broad. The male bird is
deep grey, more or less clearly marked with black upon the entire upper
side; the brow, lower parts of the body, and a patch upon the wings are
white. The female is greyish brown above, and dirty white beneath; her
anterior wing-quills being blackish brown, whilst the undermost are
bordered with white; the three exterior tail-feathers are white upon
the outer web. The young are similar to the mother. Both sexes have
dark brown eyes, and black beaks and feet. This species is particularly
numerous in some parts of Germany, and usually makes its appearance in
England about April, leaving for more southern latitudes in September,
but it is by no means common in this country. A nest found by Mr.
Heysham, of Carlisle, contained eight eggs, one of which lay at the
bottom, whilst the rest were placed perpendicularly, in regular order
round the little apartment, the narrow end turned upwards and supported
against the sides of the wall.


THE COLLARED OR WHITE-NECKED FLY-CATCHER.

The COLLARED or WHITE-NECKED FLY-CATCHER (_Muscicapa albicollis_) is
frequently mistaken for the preceding species, the females especially
bearing a most deceptive resemblance to each other. The adult male,
however, is recognisable by a white ring around the throat, and the
female is without the light edging to the tail-feathers. Both these
Mourning Fly-catchers inhabit Europe, the latter being numerously met
with in its most southern countries, but comparatively rarely seen in
the more northern portions; whilst the former frequents every part of
the European continent, making its appearance at the end of April, and
leaving again about September: their migrations often extend as far
as Central Africa, and are usually carried on at night: the males are
always the first to leave, and generally return to Europe before their
mates. Both species are extremely lively, passing the entire day, when
the weather is fine, in pursuing their prey, or chasing each other in
sportive evolutions through the air, or hopping nimbly from twig to twig,
meanwhile uttering their twittering call-note. Even when perched, their
little bodies are kept in constant motion by the incessant agitation of
their wings and tail. The song of these birds is generally to be heard
long before sunrise, when all their feathered companions are still
asleep; and we are therefore inclined to listen to their voices with a
pleasure and attention, occasioned rather by the circumstances under
which their penetrating and somewhat melancholy notes are uttered, than
from any intrinsic merits of their music; during the breeding season,
however, the male sings agreeably and energetically throughout the
day. Both these species of Fly-catchers subsist upon the same kinds of
insects, and, should their ordinary food fall short, have recourse to
various berries, or they glean small beetles from the leaves of the
trees. Like all birds that live in a state of constant activity, they
are extremely voracious, and devour enormous quantities of grasshoppers,
horse-flies, butterflies, gnats, and other insects, always seizing their
prey upon the wing, even should the victim be creeping on a leaf, or
running over the ground. The nests are usually made in hollow trees, and
are padded with a layer of moss and fibres, lined with feathers, wool,
and hair. Should a hollow tree not be attainable, the nest is built upon
some branch quite close to the trunk. The brood consists of five or
six delicate-shelled, pale greenish eggs; these are incubated by both
parents, and are hatched within a fortnight after they are laid. In three
weeks' time the nestlings are fledged, but they remain for a considerably
longer period under parental care and guidance. In some countries boxes
are often placed in gardens in order to attract the breeding pairs; and
so tame do the families thus reared become, that they will even allow the
boxes to be moved from one place to another, without either leaving them
or testifying any uneasiness. When caged, they soon attach themselves to
those who feed them, and will take flies from the hand: Nightingales'
food suits them best when they are subjected to a life of confinement.
Large numbers of these useful birds are caught by the Italians, in a
variety of nets and snares, during the time of their autumn migrations,
and hundreds of them are exposed for sale as dainty morsels in every
market-place. In ancient times Fly-catchers were sent from Cyprus to
Italy prepared in spice and vinegar, and closely packed in pots or small
casks.


THE DWARF FLY CATCHER.

The DWARF FLY-CATCHER (_Erythrosterna parva_) has been selected as the
representative of a distinct group, on account of its comparatively
powerful beak and high tarsi. The length of this bird is about five and
its breadth about eight inches. Its plumage is so diversified as to have
given rise to many errors concerning the number of species. During the
spring the upper part of the body of the adult male is of brownish grey,
deepest in shade towards the head; the feathers of the larger wing-covers
and the posterior quills have a light edge; the chin, throat, lower and
upper breast are rust-red; the rest of the under side dirty white; the
primary quills are of a blackish brown-grey, enlivened by a light border.
In the young male the reddish brown upon the throat is paler than in the
adult bird, and all the colours in the plumage of the female are fainter
and greyer than in that of her mate. All have dark brown eyes, and black
beaks and feet.

The Dwarf Fly-catcher is found extensively throughout Poland and almost
the whole of Germany, where it seems to prefer the shelter of the
beech-woods, living principally in the summits of lofty trees, and rarely
approaching the vicinity of man or descending to the ground. Its call
is generally a loud piping note; but the song varies so considerably in
different individuals as to be sometimes almost unrecognisable. The nest
is placed either in a hole or upon the branch of a tree, at some distance
from the trunk: it is formed of slender blades of grass vegetable fibres,
green moss, or similar materials, lined with wool and hair. The brood
consists of four or five eggs, of a greenish white, marked indistinctly
with light rust-red patches. Both parents assists in the work of
incubation, and exhibit extraordinary attachment to their young; the male
bird, however, devotes himself principally to tending and entertaining
his mate, whilst she undertakes the main part of the building operations.
No sooner are the nestlings capable of supporting themselves than they
leave their parents, and retire into the depths of the forests, where
they remain until their winter migrations. From the day when the parent
birds are separated from their families, their nature seems to undergo a
complete change, and they at once assume a quiet, inactive deportment,
that strongly contrasts with their previously sportive, busy habits.
Count Gourcy, who reared many of these Dwarf Fly-catchers, tells us
that they were readily tamed, and soon learnt to know him, welcoming
his approach to the cage by flapping their wings and waving their tails
above their heads. They bathed freely, and devoured insects in large
quantities, eagerly snapping at any fly that was unlucky enough to
approach too near.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SILK-TAILS (_Bombycillæ_) possess a compact body, short neck, and
moderate-sized head. Their wing, in which the first and second quills are
longer than the rest, is of medium length, and pointed at the extremity;
the tail is short, and composed of twelve feathers; the straight, short
beak is broad, much compressed at its base, but raised and narrow at its
tip, the upper mandible being longer and broader than the lower one,
arched at its culmen, and slightly hooked at its extremity, which is
visibly incised. The feet are short and powerful, and the exterior and
centre toe connected by a fold of skin. The soft silky plumage upon the
head is prolonged into a crest, and some of the wing and tail feathers
terminate in horn-like laminæ. The coloration differs but little in the
two sexes.


THE EUROPEAN OR COMMON SILK-TAIL.

The EUROPEAN or COMMON SILK-TAIL, BOHEMIAN CHATTERER, or WAX-WING
(_Bombycilla garrula_) is eight inches long and thirteen and a half
broad. The plumage is almost entirely reddish grey, darkest upon the
back, and shading into greyish white beneath; the brow and rump are
reddish brown; the chin, throat, bridles, and a streak over the eyes
black; the primary quills are greyish black, spotted with gold on the tip
of the outer, and edged with white upon the inner web; the secondaries
are furnished with parchment-like or horny plates at their extremities,
which are bright red; the tail-feathers are blackish at their lower
portion, light yellow towards their extremities, and terminate in horny
plates, resembling those upon the secondary quills. In the female the
colours are fainter, and the horny appendages much less developed than in
the plumage of her mate. The young are almost entirely dark brown, with
light edges to many of the feathers; the brows and a stripe that passes
from the eyes to the back of the head, a streak across the light reddish
yellow throat and the rump are whitish, while the lower tail-covers are
of a dusky rust-red.

[Illustration: THE COLLARED OR WHITE-NECKED FLY-CATCHER (_Muscicapa
albicollis_).]

[Illustration: THE SILK-TAIL, BOHEMIAN CHATTERER, OR WAX-WING
(_Bombycilla garrula_).]

The Common Silk-tail is an inhabitant both of Northern Europe and
of North America, but is found only occasionally in some parts of
Asia, being replaced in that continent by its Japanese congener, the
_Bombycilla phœnicoptera_; while in America the CEDAR BIRD (_Bombycilla
cedrorum_) is more numerously met with. In the northern portions of
Europe, birch and pine forests constitute its favourite retreats, and
these it seldom quits, except when driven by unusual severity of weather
or by heavy falls of snow to seek refuge in more southern provinces.
Even in Russia, Poland, and Southern Scandinavia it is constantly to
be seen throughout the entire winter; indeed, so rarely does it wander
to more southern latitudes that in Germany it is popularly supposed to
make its appearance once in seven years. On the occasion of these rare
migrations, the Silk-tails keep together in large flocks, and remain in
any place that affords them suitable food until the supply is exhausted.
Like most other members of the feathered creation inhabiting extreme
climates, these birds are heavy and indolent, rarely exerting themselves
except to satisfy their hunger, and appearing unwilling to move even to a
short distance from their usual haunts. With their companions they live
in uninterrupted harmony, and during their migrations testify no fear of
man, frequently coming down to seek for food in the villages and towns
they pass over, without apparently regarding the noisy bustle of the
streets. Even during their winter journeyings, they settle frequently,
and pass the entire day indolently perching in crowds upon the trees,
remaining almost motionless for some hours together, only descending
in the morning and evening to procure berries, in search of which they
climb from branch to branch with considerable dexterity. Their flight is
light and graceful, being effected by very rapid strokes of the wings.
Upon the ground they move with difficulty, and rarely alight upon its
surface, except when in search of water. Their call-note is a hissing,
twittering sound, very similar to that produced by blowing down the
barrel of a key. The song, though monotonous and gentle, is uttered by
both sexes with so much energy and expression as to produce a pleasing
effect, and may be generally heard throughout the entire year. Insects
unquestionably constitute the principal food of the Silk-tails during
the warmer months, but in winter they subsist mainly upon various kinds
of berries. So voracious is this species, that, according to Naumann,
it will devour an amount of food equal to the weight of its own body in
the course of twenty-four hours. When caged, it sits all day long close
to its eating-trough, alternately gorging, digesting, and sleeping,
without intermission. Until the last few years we were entirely without
particulars as to the incubation of the Silk-tail, and have to thank
Wolley for the first account of the nest and eggs. This gentleman, who
visited Lapland in 1857, determined not to return to England until he had
procured the long-desired treasure, and, after great trouble and expense,
succeeded in collecting no fewer than 600 eggs. All the nests discovered
were deeply ensconced among the boughs of pine-trees, at no great height
from the ground; their walls were principally formed of dry twigs and
scraps from the surrounding branches; the central cavity was wide, deep,
and lined with blades of grass and feathers. The brood consists of from
four to seven, but usually of five eggs, which are laid about the middle
of June; the shell is blueish or purplish white, sparsely sprinkled with
brown, black, or violet spots and streaks, some of which take the form of
a wreath at the broad end (see Fig. 25, Coloured Plate IV.) The Silk-tail
readily accustoms itself to life in a cage, and in some instances
has been known to live for nine or ten years in confinement, feeding
principally upon vegetables, salad, white bread, groats, or bran steeped
in water.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MANAKINS (_Pipræ_) constitute an extensive family of most beautiful
and gaily-plumaged birds, inhabiting America, Southern Asia, and New
Holland. Almost all the members of this group are of small size, few
being larger than a Pigeon, and all are clothed in soft, silky feathers,
glowing with the most brilliant hues. Their bodies are compact; their
wings short, or of moderate length; their beak short, broad at the base,
arched at the culmen, and slightly hooked and incised at its extremity.
The feet are powerful, the tarsi rather long, and the toes comparatively
short. The plumage, always compact and thick, varies much in its
coloration, according to the age and sex. All these birds inhabit forests
and woodland districts, some few frequenting hilly or mountainous tracts,
while the greater number are only seen in lowland regions. Most of them
are extremely lively and social, passing their time in flying in small
parties about the summits of forest-trees, and attracting the attention
of travellers as much by the peculiarity of their cry as by the glowing
tints of their plumage. They live almost exclusively on fruits of various
kinds, sometimes on such as are of considerable size. Kittlitz mentions
having upon one occasion seen a Manakin flying with such difficulty
as to arrest his particular notice, and having brought down the bird
with his gun, he found on examining the stomach that it contained a
half-digested palm-nut. "How it was possible," he says, "for the bird
to have swallowed a fruit nearly as large as its own body appeared to
me most extraordinary, but close investigation showed me that the gape
of this species, like that of a snake, is capable of great extension. I
am, however, still at a loss to explain how the juices of the stomach
were enabled to demolish so huge a morsel." Some few species also devour
insects.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ROCK BIRDS (_Rupicola_) comprise some of the largest species in the
entire family. Their bodies are powerful; their wings, in which the
fourth quill exceeds the rest in length, are long; the tail is short,
broad, straight at the tip, and almost covered by the long feathers upon
the rump. The tarsi are robust, the toes long, and armed with thick,
long, and very decidedly hooked claws. The feathers upon the back are
broad, with either sharp tips or angular extremities; those upon the
brow, top of the head, and nape, form an upright crest or plume.


THE COCK OF THE ROCK.

The COCK OF THE ROCK (_Rupicola crocea_), the best known species of this
group, has been minutely described by many writers. The rich plumage
of the adult male is of a bright orange-yellow; the feathers that form
the crest are deep purplish red; the large wing-covers, quills, and
tail-feathers brown, edged with white at their tips, and marked with
large white spots. The females and young are of an uniform brown; the
lower wing-covers orange-red; the rump and tail-feathers light reddish
brown; and their crest considerably smaller than that of the male. All
have orange-red eyes, greyish yellow beaks, and yellowish flesh-pink
feet. The male is twelve inches long; his wing measures seven and his
tail nine inches, the female is at least two inches smaller.

The Cock of the Rock is an inhabitant of Guiana and North-eastern Brazil,
where it frequents well-watered mountain regions, and the immediate
vicinity of waterfalls, only quitting these localities about June or
July, to visit the woods and forests, in order to procure the abundant
supply of ripe fruit that awaits it at that season; but it never, even
during these excursions, descends into the open plains. Humboldt met with
these birds on the shores of the Orinoco, and Schomburghk encountered
them twice, each time in large flocks, whilst he was travelling through
British Guiana, once on the Canuku Mountains, and again amongst the
sandstone rocks near Wenham Lake. "On one occasion," says Schomburghk,
"after ascending to the summit of a lofty precipice, so entirely covered
with huge blocks of granite overgrown with moss and ferns as to be almost
impassable, we came suddenly upon a small open spot, entirely destitute
of vegetation. A signal from the Indian who accompanied me warned me to
conceal myself silently amongst the surrounding brushwood. We had only
been for a few moments thus hidden from view, when we heard a sound so
exactly resembling the cry of a kitten that I concluded we were about
to attempt the capture of some small quadruped. The cry was instantly
and most exactly imitated by my guide, and he was again answered by
similar voices proceeding from every direction. In spite of a sign from
the Indian to have my gun in readiness, the first sight of the beautiful
birds, whose strange notes had thus deceived me, took me so completely
by surprise, that I quite forgot to fire until too late; for after
darting rapidly from the bushes, and ascertaining by a rapid glance that
they had been deluded by a false cry, they instantly retreated to their
former shelter. Before leaving the spot, however, I succeeded in shooting
seven of the flock, but was not fortunate enough to see them perform the
peculiar dances and evolutions I had heard described by my brother and
my Indian guide." We will give our readers a description of the strange
and interesting spectacle here alluded to, as afterwards witnessed by
himself; in the same naturalist's own words:--"Having at last attained a
suitable spot, we listened breathlessly for the cry of the birds, and my
guides having ascertained exactly where they were amusing themselves, I
was noiselessly conducted behind some bushes close to their ball-room,
and after we had lain ourselves flat on the ground, saw one Of the most
attractive and extraordinary sights I ever beheld. Some twenty of these
glorious birds were seated upon the stones and rocks around a small open
space, in the centre of which a solitary male was dancing vigorously,
and performing a great variety of evolutions, alternately springing
repeatedly with both feet from the ground, spreading his wings, and
moving his head, with most comical gestures, from side to side, waving
his tail like a wheel through the air, and then, when nearly exhausted
by his long-sustained exertions, concluding by walking coquettishly
around the open space, as though desirous to receive the applause of the
spectators, which the females expressed by uttering a very peculiar cry.
One after another the males came down and took their turn in amusing the
company, each going back to his seat before another performer commenced.
So completely absorbed was I in watching these strange evolutions, that I
had entirely forgotten my Indian companions, and was much startled when a
sudden shot was heard, and four of these beautiful birds fell. The rest
of the party at once rose in great terror, leaving their companions dead
upon the ground."

The remarkable performance thus described by Schomburghk is no doubt a
part of the courtship of the Cock of the Rock. We learn from the same
authority that the nestlings are to be found at all seasons of the year,
but in the greatest numbers about March, when the plumage of the male is
in its full beauty. The nests found by Humboldt in Orinoco were made in
holes in the granite rocks, whilst those seen by Schomburghk were built
in clefts and fissures, suspended like the nest of a Swallow, and covered
with resin. One of these nests is often occupied for years together,
and repaired by the addition of fresh fibres, feathers, or down, for
the reception of each new brood. It is by no means uncommon to find a
great number of nests in the same cleft or hole. The brood consists of
two white eggs, marked with black, and somewhat larger than those of a
Pigeon. The nestlings are reared upon the same fruits and berries that
afford the parents their principal means of subsistence. Great numbers of
these splendid birds are shot annually, as their skins not only command a
high price, but are much employed by the Indians in making a variety of
beautiful decorations: a large state mantle worn by the Emperor of Brazil
was entirely composed of their feathers. In some districts of South
America the natives are compelled to bring a certain supply of skins as
tribute, and are thus quickly diminishing the numbers of these elegant
creatures. Their flesh is well-flavoured, but of a very peculiar colour,
being bright orange-red. Humboldt tells us that the Cock of the Rock is
much valued by the Indians as a domestic favourite, and is kept by them
in cages made of the stalks of palm-leaves.

[Illustration: THE COCK OF THE ROCK (_Rupicola crocea_).]

Another very similar species, found only in Peru, the Peruvian Cock of
the Rock (_Rupicola Peruana_), lives entirely amongst trees, upon the
berries and fruits of which it subsists; but it exhibits none of the
dancing propensities of its Brazilian relative. We learn from Tschudi
that in no instance did he ever see one of these Peruvian birds either
on rocks or upon the ground, but always associated in large flocks, that
lived and built their nests upon trees. He tells us that they are easily
discovered from a considerable distance by their loud and most discordant
cry.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE MANAKINS (_Pipra_) comprise a number of small and most
magnificently-tinted birds, distinguished by the shortness of their wings
and tails. In the former the primary quills are graduated, very narrow
towards the tip, and do not extend beyond the base of the small tail,
which is either conical or quite straight at its extremity. The short
high beak is compressed at its centre, slightly incised directly behind
the hook that terminates the upper mandible, and furnished with a sharp
ridge at its culmen. The tarsi are high and thin, and the toes short,
the outer and centre toes being united as far as the first joint. The
compact thick plumage is extremely short in the region of the forehead,
and takes the form of fine bristles around the nostrils and the base of
the beak. In the coloration of the male, black predominates, affording
a rich contrast to the glowing fiery tints that adorn some parts of
his body; whilst the females and young usually appear in a modest garb
of greyish green. The Manakins live in pairs, or small parties, and
principally frequent the inmost glades of their native woods and forests,
hopping from bough to bough with untiring sprightliness, and enlivening
the most gloomy recesses of their sylvan haunts by their gay colours and
animated twitter. Before noon these pairs or parties unite with other
birds in search of food, and at the approach of the mid-day heat again
retire to their favourite sheltered nooks. Insects, fruits, and berries
of various kinds, constitute their principal food, and to obtain these
they occasionally venture near the abode of man. Schomburghk mentions
having seen several of these usually very timid birds approach his tent
daily, in order to gather the ripe fruit from some fig-trees that grew
close to his encampment. The nest of the Manakins is carelessly formed of
moss, and lined with cotton wool. The two eggs that constitute a brood
are unusually elongated, of a pale tint, and marked with delicate spots
that generally form a wreath at the broad end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LONG-TAILED MANAKINS (_Chiroxiphia_) constitute a prominent group of
the family under consideration, and are recognisable by the prolongation
of the centre tail-feathers, this peculiarity being particularly
observable in the male.


THE LONG-TAILED MANAKIN.

The LONG-TAILED MANAKIN (_Pipra-Chiroxiphia-caudata_) has a sky-blue
body, with black wings, throat, and tail, only the two centre feathers
of the latter being blue; the brow and top of the head are red. The
females and young are of an uniform greenish hue, shaded with brown upon
the quills and the extremities of the tail-feathers. Both sexes have
dark brown eyes, light reddish brown beaks with very pale margins, and
brownish flesh-red feet. The male is about six inches long and ten broad;
his wing measures two inches and five-sixths, and his tail two and a half
inches. The female is only a few lines smaller than her mate.

The Prince von Wied tells us that he met with this beautiful species
very frequently during his travels through Bahia, and generally found it
associated in small flocks, which took refuge amid the dense foliage of
the trees at the first alarm of danger. We learn from the same author
that during the breeding season they live in pairs, and usually build in
the fork of a branch, at no very considerable height from the ground.
The nest is small, carelessly formed of twigs, blades of grass, wool,
and moss, woven roughly together, and generally contains two large eggs,
with a greyish yellow shell, marked with indistinct spots, and a somewhat
more clearly defined wreath at the broad end. The call-note of the bird
is a loud, clear, piping tone. According to Burmeister, the Long-tailed
Manakin is never seen near the settlements of the colonists.


THE TIJE.

The TIJE (_Pipra-Chiroxiphia-pareola_) is the species we have selected
to represent a group possessing tails that are quite straight at the
extremity. The body of the male is principally of a coal-black, the back
alone being sky-blue, whilst the head is adorned with a magnificent
blood-red fork-shaped tuft or crest. The plumage of the female is
entirely siskin-green, without markings of any kind. Both sexes have
greyish brown eyes, black beaks, and yellowish red feet. The length of
this bird is four inches and two-thirds, and the breadth nine inches and
six lines.

The Tije is met with very extensively in a northerly direction, from
Bahia as far as Guiana, where it inhabits the forests and woodland
districts, subsisting exclusively upon fruit and berries. Schomburghk
describes the nests he found as formed of moss and cotton wool. They
contained but two eggs. Incubation, he tells us, takes place in April and
May. The call-note of the Tije is monotonous and loud.


THE BLACK-CAP MANAKIN.

The BLACK-CAP MANAKIN (_Pipra-Chiromachæris-Manacus_) is the
representative of a group known as the _Chiromachæris_, recognisable by
their high tarsi, the sickle-shaped form of the first primary quill, and
the beard-like development of the plumage in the region of the chin. In
the Black-cap Manakin the top of the head, back, wings, and tail are
black; the rump grey; the neck, throat, breast, and belly white. The
plumage of the female is entirely green. The eyes of both sexes are
grey, their beaks lead-coloured, and whitish on the lower mandible; the
feet are pale yellowish flesh-colour. "This beautiful bird," says the
Prince von Wied, "is found extensively throughout South America, and
is particularly numerous in Guiana, living, except during the breeding
season, in small parties and flocks, that keep either quite close to the
ground, or at no great distance from its surface. When in flight they
move from spot to spot with astonishing celerity, the rapid action of
their wings occasioning a strange loud sound, not much unlike the drone
of a spinning-wheel." The voice of the Black-cap Manakin is likewise
described by travellers as very remarkable. It is, we are told, capable
of uttering two entirely dissimilar notes, the first of which resembles
the sharp, cracking noise produced by breaking a nut, followed by a bass
note so deep as to lead travellers to suppose it to be rather the growl
of a large quadruped than the cry of a small bird. The food of this
species consists of insects and berries. The nest is similar to that of
its congeners. In Brazil the Black-cap Manakin is called the "Mono," or
"Monk," from the faculty it has of inflating the feathers upon its throat
in such a manner as to resemble a beard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The PANTHER BIRDS (_Pardalotus_) constitute a group of small Australian
species, very nearly allied to the Manakins, but possessing short thick
beaks, very broad at the base, and deeply indented behind the hooked
tip of the upper mandible. Their feet and tarsi are long and thin, the
exterior and centre toe being partially united; the wings are pointed,
the tail short. The plumage is conspicuous for its elegant markings.


THE DIAMOND BIRD.

The DIAMOND BIRD (_Pardalotus punctatus_), as the best known species is
called, has received its name from the spots on its plumage. The crown
of the head, wings, and tail, are black, with a round white patch at the
tip of each feather; a white streak passes above the eyes, the cheeks
and sides of the neck are grey, the feathers on the back grey, shading
at their roots into brown, and edged with black at the extremities. The
uppermost tail-covers are cinnabar-red; the front of the throat, breast,
and lower tail-covers yellow; the belly and sides are yellowish red; the
eyes deep brown, the beak brownish black, and the feet brown. The female
resembles her mate, but is somewhat less brightly coloured. Both sexes
are three inches and a half long.

The Diamond Bird is found throughout the whole of Southern Australia,
from east to west, and is still numerously met with in Van Diemen's
Land. Trees and bushes are its favourite resorts, and in search of these
it ventures freely into the gardens of the settlers, where it speedily
attracts attention by the activity it displays in gleaning its insect
fare from the leaves and branches, and by the constant repetition of its
very pleasing piping note, composed of two syllables, which have been
freely translated by the German settlers into the words, "Wie tief, wie
tief." The most striking peculiarity, however, in this beautiful little
bird is the strange manner in which it builds, the nest being placed not
in hollow trees, but in holes excavated by the brooding pairs in the
ground, generally on the side of some steep declivity. These excavations
form galleries, or passages, usually from two to three feet long, and
at their mouth are just large enough to allow the bird to pass through,
whilst the lower end is made much wider, for the reception of the nest,
and so raised as to insure safety from the entrance of rain. The chamber
for the accommodation of the young is of a round shape, about three
inches in diameter, with an entrance hole in its side. This apartment is
most beautifully formed of scraps from the bark of the gum-trees, woven
together with a perfection of neatness that cannot fail to astonish all
who see it, if they consider that the labour of its construction is
carried on entirely in the dark; the Diamond Bird affording, in this
respect, a very striking contrast to such other members of the feathered
creation as build under similar circumstances, their nests being, almost
without exception, a mere heap of materials thrown loosely and carelessly
together, without the slightest attempt at shapeliness, or endeavour to
arrange the heterogeneous mass. Gould was fortunate enough to discover
a number of these nests, notwithstanding the care taken by the Diamond
Birds to excavate only in such localities as are completely overgrown
with plants or the roots of trees. The brood consists of four or five
round, smooth-shelled eggs, of a pale reddish white. The female lays
twice within the year.

[Illustration: THE DIAMOND BIRD (_Pardalotus punctatus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The BALD-HEADED CROWS (_Gymnoderi_) constitute a family generally
regarded as nearly allied to the Manakins (_Pipræ_), although differing
considerably from the latter in the peculiarity of their habits and
the superiority of their size, which varies from that of a Crow to that
of a Thrush. The Gymnoderi are recognisable by their powerful body,
(in many respects resembling that of a Crow), short neck, moderately
long and pointed wings, in which the third quill exceeds the rest in
length, and short tail, composed of twelve feathers, and straight at its
extremity. The beak varies somewhat in different groups, but is usually
flatly compressed both towards the base and at the hooked tip, which is
furnished with a slight cavity, for the reception of the end of the lower
mandible. The gape extends very far back, nearly to beneath the eyes.
The feet, though short and strong, are only fitted for perching, and are
seldom employed as means of progression. The plumage is thick, compact,
and composed of large feathers, but differs so considerably in different
species as to render a general description impossible. In all the members
of this family the windpipe is very wide, and furnished on each side with
a delicate layer of muscular fibres.

[Illustration: THE CAPUCHIN BIRD, OR BALD FRUIT CROW (_Gymnocephalus
calvus_).]

The Bald-headed Crows inhabit the forests of South America, and subsist
entirely, or almost entirely, upon juicy fruit. In disposition they are
indolent, possessed of but little intelligence, and extremely shy. Some
few species are rarely heard to utter a note; but they are, for the most
part, remarkable for the loudness of their voice, by which their presence
is readily detected.


THE CAPUCHIN BIRD.

The CAPUCHIN BIRD, or BALD FRUIT CROW (_Gymnocephalus calvus_),
represents one of the most remarkable of the groups into which the
family of Gymnoderi is divided. The body of this species much resembles
that of a Crow, with some slight variation in the different members;
that is to say, the beak is considerably flatter, the feet shorter and
stronger, and the toes comparatively much longer than in that bird. The
slightly-pointed wings extend to the middle of the short tail; the
region of the beak, bridles, and eyes, the brow, the top of the head,
and the throat, are bare, and along the cheek-stripes are four stiff
bristles. The plumage is compact, of a reddish brown colour, shaded with
olive-green upon the back; the quills and tail-feathers are blackish
brown, the secondaries tinted with red; the upper wing-covers are
greenish brown; the face, beak, and feet black; and the eyes dark brown;
the bare portions of the face are slightly strewn with bristles; in the
young these bristles are replaced by a whitish down, and the entire
plumage varies considerably, not only from that of the adult birds, but
in different individuals. The body of this species measures sixteen, the
wing nine, and the tail four inches.

[Illustration: _Plate 16, Cassell's Book of Birds_

1. Kestrel (_Falco tinnunculus_).--2. Sparrowhawk (_Accipiter
Nisus_).--3. Great grey Shrike (_Lanius excubitor_).--4. Red backed
Shrike (_Lanius collurio_). 5. Cuckoo (_Cuculus canocus_).--6. Nuthatch
(_Sitta europæa_).--7. Creeper (_Certhia familiaris_).--8. Pied
Fly-catcher (_Muscicapa luctuosa_).--9. Spotted Fly-catcher (_Muscicapa
grisola_).--10. Yellow Wagtail (_Motacilla flava_).--11. Pied Wagtail
(_Motacilla alba_).--12. Missel Thrush (_Turdus viscivorus_).--13.
Blackbird (_Turdus merula_).--14. Thrush (_Turdus musicus_).--15. Ring
Ouzel (_Turdus torquatus_).--16. Red Start (_Phoenicura ruticilla_).--17.
Greenfinch (_Cocothraustes chloris_).--18. Bulfinch (_Pyrrhula
vulgaris_).--19. Goldfinch (_Fringilla carduelis_).--20. Lesser Redpole
(_Fringilla linaria_).--21. Chaffinch (_Fringilla cœlebs_).--22. Linnet
(_Fringilla cannabina_).--23. Yellow-ammer (_Emberiza citrinella_).--24.
Tree Sparrow (_Passer montanus_).--25. House Sparrow (_Passer
domesticus_).--26. Greater Titmouse (_Parus Major_).--27. Tomtit
(_Parus ceruleus_).--28. Bottle Tit (_Parus caudatus_).--29. Marsh
Titmouse (_Parus palustris_).--30. Cole Titmouse (_Parus ater_).--31.
Golden-crested Wren (_Regulus auricapillus_).--32. Fire Crest (_Regulus
ignicapillus_).--33. Redbreast (_Erythaca rubecula_).--34. Wren
(_Troglodytes europæus_).--35. Swallow (_Hirundo rustica_).--36. Tit Lark
(_Anthus pratensis_).--37. Skylark (_Alauda arvensis_).--38. Woodlark
(_Alauda arborea_).--39. Hedge Sparrow (_Accentor modularis_).--40.
Grasshopper Warbler (_Salicaria locustella_).--41. Nightjar (_Caprimulgus
europæus_).--42. Quail (_Coturnix vulgaris_).]

We are almost entirely without particulars as to the habits of these
remarkable birds, except that they live in pairs in the depths of the
forests of Guiana and North Brazil, and are rarely met with at an
altitude of more than 1,200 feet above the level of the sea. Fruits
appear to constitute their principal nourishment; and when not engaged
in satisfying the calls of hunger, the couples are usually to be seen
perched side by side upon a branch. Their cry, which resembles the
bleating of a calf, is uttered, according to Schomburghk, at regular
intervals.

[Illustration: THE UMBRELLA BIRD, OR UMBRELLA CHATTERER (_Cephalopterus
ornatus_).]


THE UMBRELLA BIRD.

The UMBRELLA BIRD, or UMBRELLA CHATTERER (_Cephalopterus ornatus_), is
one of the most extraordinary of birds, as far as regards the singular
ornaments with which it has been provided. It is about the size of
a Crow, and the whole of its plumage being of a deep black it has a
good deal of the corvine character in its aspect. Its head is adorned
with a large and spreading crest, which appears intended to act as a
parasol: this crest is composed of long, slender feathers, rising from
a contractile skin on the top of the head; the shafts are white, and the
plumes glossy blue, hair-like, and curved outwards at the tips. When the
crest is laid back the shafts form a compact white mass, sloping up from
the back of the head, and surmounted by the dense hairy plumes. Even in
this position it is not an inelegant ornament, but when fully opened its
peculiar character is developed. The shafts then radiate on all sides
from the top of the head, reaching in front beyond and below the tip of
the beak, which is thus completely concealed from view. The crest forms
a slightly elongated dome, of a beautiful shining blue colour, having
a point of divergence rather behind the centre, like that in the human
head. The length of this dome from front to back is about five inches,
the breadth from four inches to four and a half. As if this remarkable
crest was not enough to distinguish the bird amongst its fellows, it
is likewise furnished with a second singular ornament, resembling
which nothing is to be found in the feathered creation. This is a long
cylindrical plume, depending from the middle of the neck, and carried
either close to the breast, or puffed out and hanging down in front, the
feathers lapping over each other like scales, and bordered with fine
metallic blue. On examining this plume, it is found not to be composed
of feathers only; the skin of the neck is very loose, and from the lower
part grows a long, fleshy process, about as thick as a Goose's quill,
and an inch and a half long, to which the feathers are attached, thus
producing a beautiful tassel depending from the breast, and forming an
appendage as unique and elegant as the crest itself.

The plumage of this strange bird is of an almost uniform black; the
feathers on the mantle edged with dark greenish black; the crest is
blackish blue; the quills and tail-feathers deep black. All the small
feathers have white shafts; the eye is grey; the upper mandible blackish
brown, the lower greyish brown, and the feet pale black. The length of
this species is about nine inches and a half; the wing measures eleven
inches and three lines.

The Umbrella Birds are inhabitants of Peru, where they particularly
frequent the precipices on the eastern side of the Cordilleras, to an
altitude of 3,000 feet above the sea; and from thence are met with as
far as Rio Negro, and the boundaries of Chile. They associate in small
flocks, which subsist principally upon fruit of various kinds, and live
almost entirely at the summits of lofty trees. Their remarkable cry,
which resembles the lowing of a cow, is most frequently heard just before
sunrise and after sunset. We are entirely without particulars as to their
nidification and manner of breeding.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BELL BIRDS (_Chasmarhynchus_)--so called from the resemblance of
their voices to a muffled bell--constitute a group with whose habits we
are much more familiar. Their body is compact, and about as large as that
of a Pigeon. The wings, in which the third and fourth quills exceed the
rest in length, are long, and extend as far as the centre of the tail:
the latter is slightly rounded at its tip. The beak is about half as
long as the head, and so much depressed as to be far broader than it is
high; the upper mandible is slightly arched, and curves somewhat at its
tip, behind which is a small tooth-like appendage. The gape is remarkably
large. The tarsi are short, and the toes long. The thick plumage is
composed of small feathers, and takes the form of bristles in the
region of the beak, which is also furnished with very remarkable fleshy
appendages resembling those possessed by the Turkey. The coloration of
the feathers varies very considerably, not only in the four species that
compose the group, but in the different sexes.


THE BARE-NECKED BELL BIRD.

The BARE-NECKED BELL BIRD (_Chasmarhynchus nudicollis_). This bird,
which is called "The Blacksmith" by the Brazilians, is entirely of a
pure snow-white, with the exception of the bridles and throat, which
are bare and of the colour of verdigris. The eyes are greyish brown, the
beak black, and the feet flesh-pink. The length of this species is about
ten, and its breadth nineteen inches; the wing measures nine inches and
three-quarters, and the tail three inches and a quarter. The female is
not quite so large as her mate, she is black upon the throat and top of
the head; the upper part of her body is of a siskin-green, the under side
yellow, longitudinally spotted with black, and streaked with whitish and
yellowish lines upon the throat. The young male resembles the mother
until it is one year old, when it acquires white spots, and only in its
third year appears in the garb of the adult.


THE ARAPONGA.

The ARAPONGA (_Chasmarhynchus variegatus_) is also white over the greater
portion of its body, but the delicate purity of its hue is marred by
a slight intermixture of grey. The wings are deep black, and the top
of the head pale brown. The front of the throat is bare, but studded
with a multitude of small, fleshy, worm-shaped appendages, of a deep
brown colour; the beak and feet are black. The plumage of the female
is greenish, and on her throat the strange appendages of the male are
replaced by feathers.


THE TRUE BELL BIRD.

The TRUE BELL BIRD (_Chasmarhynchus carunculatus_) is entirely
snow-white. The male is furnished with a very remarkable wattle at the
base of the beak, which is hollow, black, and muscular. When the bird is
under the influence of no emotion, this wattle is flaccid and pendent,
but when excited he raises and inflates this fleshy horn until it attains
a length of about two inches, and a thickness of half an inch at its
root. Schomburghk tells us that the female is larger than her mate, but
her fleshy lappet is proportionately considerably smaller. The young
resemble the mother, and present a very remarkable appearance whilst in
their state of transition.


THE THREE WATTLED BELL BIRD.

The THREE-WATTLED BELL BIRD, or HAMMERER (_Chasmarhynchus
tricarunculatus_), is furnished with three fleshy lappets, one of which
grows above the base of the beak, whilst the two others appear as
prolongations of the corners of the mouth. The colour of these lappets,
as also of the bill and feet, is blackish; that of the eye, light
brownish red. The head and throat of the male are bright chestnut-brown,
and the nape and upper part of the breast pure white. The female, whose
plumage is olive-green, streaked with a lighter shade on the under side,
is entirely without the appendages that distinguish her mate. The young
resemble the mother. The length of this species is twelve inches; the
wing measures six and a half, and the tail four inches; the lappet on
the upper part of the beak is from two inches and a half to three inches
long, and those at the corners of the mouth about two inches and a half.
In the young the fleshy appendages are mere rudiments.

All the different kinds of Bell Birds above described belong to South
America. The Blacksmith inhabits the Brazilian forests, the Araponga is
met with in the northern portions of the continent, whilst the True Bell
Bird is found in Guiana, and the Hammerer in Costa Rica. As far as is at
present ascertained, it would appear that in their habits and mode of
life these different species closely resemble each other. The Blacksmith,
we are told by the Prince von Wied, is one of the most attractive and
beautiful of the many strange occupants of the magnificent forests of
Brazil; the dazzling whiteness of its plumage affording a striking
contrast to the rich deep hues of the leafy retreats it usually prefers.
Its loud clear note is distinctly heard to a very considerable distance,
as it rings, bell-like, at regular intervals, through the surrounding
silence, or is rapidly repeated with a force and peculiarity of tone
that strongly resembles the blows made by a smith upon his anvil. No
sooner does one bird commence than all the rest of a party follow suit,
and combine their efforts to produce such a concert as must be heard to
be appreciated. The Blacksmith also frequently perches upon the very
topmost bough of one of the giant trees of the forest, at such a height
as to be out of the sportsman's reach, who is thus often compelled to
content himself with admiring its snowy plumage, as the bird stands in
bold relief against a background of deep blue sky, and ever and anon
sounds its metallic note, as though to call attention to its conspicuous
position. Waterton speaks with equal enthusiasm of the True Bell Bird,
whose voice, he tells us, is heard throughout the entire day, but most
frequently at early morning or after sunset. Each tone is followed by a
considerable pause, lasting, after the first three notes, for the space
of six or eight minutes, when the strange performance recommences, with
not more than one minute's interval between the sweet, bell-like sounds,
which are often audible at a distance of three miles. As long as the
bird is in repose, the fleshy lappets we have described hang downwards,
but they are raised and turned in all directions at the instant that
the cry is uttered; and, on its cessation, drop at once to their former
position. The females generally perch on the lowest branches, but are not
easily discovered, owing to their silence, and the greenish hue of their
feathers, which enables them to hide securely amid the foliage. Fruits
and berries constitute the principal food of this group, and, according
to Schomburghk, they also occasionally eat insects. The Bell Birds make
their appearance in Demerara and Berbice about May or June, from whence
they spread over the face of the country, rarely occupying wooded heights
at more than from 1,200 to 1,500 feet above the sea, and never visiting
the immediate neighbourhood of the coast. Strange to say, notwithstanding
the interest excited in these strange and beautiful occupants of the
South American forests, we are still entirely without any particulars as
to their breeding, nidification, or powers of enduring life in a cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The THRUSHES (_Turdidæ_) constitute a group that comprises some of the
larger birds of the order. Their body is powerful, their neck short, and
head large; the bill is straight, compressed at its sides, and slightly
incised at the tip of the upper mandible, which curves downwards over the
lower portion of the beak. The tarsi are high, and covered with large
plates; the toes moderate, armed with very decidedly hooked claws; the
wing is of medium length, and contains ten primary quills, of which the
third is the longest; the formation of the tail varies considerably;
in some cases it is short and rounded, in others long and graduated;
but, generally, it is of moderate size, and more or less straight at
its extremity; the plumage is thick, usually of some dusky hue, but
occasionally brightly coloured.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GROUND SINGERS (_Humicolæ_), as the most gifted of the above family
have been named, include some of the smaller species of Thrushes, and
are recognisable by their comparatively slender bodies short wings,
moderate-sized tail, high tarsi, pointed beaks, glossy dark plumage, and
expressive eyes. The Ground Singers are entirely confined within the
limits of the eastern hemisphere, and make their appearance in Europe
with the commencement of spring, leaving again for warmer latitudes
at the approach of autumn. They usually prefer woodland regions, more
especially such as are well watered, as they there find an abundance of
the larvæ, worms, and berries, upon which they mainly subsist. Unlike
the groups above described, they glean their food principally from the
ground, as they hop over the surface of the soil with the utmost agility,
and rarely seek their insect fare upon the trees, from which, however,
they pluck ripe berries with much adroitness. From every point of view
we must recognise in these birds a very high degree of intelligence, all
the senses being well developed, and their sight and hearing particularly
good. When upon the wing, their motions are rapid and easy, and as
regards their wondrous vocal gifts we need only allude to one member of
the group, the Nightingale, the "Queen of Song," to convince our readers
that their musical powers are unequalled in the whole feathered creation.
In disposition they are vigilant, acute, and lively, ever on the alert
against danger, and daring and prompt in encountering a foe. The nests
built by the Ground Singers are large, thick, and usually placed in
holes among the projecting roots, or in the hollow trunks of trees, also
in hedges or other similar situations, but they vary considerably in
appearance, according to the species of the builder. The brood consists
of from four to seven eggs, which are either of one uniform colour or
marked with faint spots. The cares of incubation are undertaken by both
parents. The young are at first clad in a speckled plumage, but resemble
the adult birds before the end of the first autumn. Most of the members
of this delightful group are eminently suited for life in a cage, and
become attached to those who rear them.

[Illustration: THE NIGHTINGALE (_Luscinia Philomela_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The NIGHTINGALES (_Luscinia_) are recognisable by their slender body,
strong legs, high tarsi, moderately long wings and tail, the latter of
which is rounded at the extremity. The beak is almost straight, and
pointed at its tip; the close thick plumage in both sexes is of a reddish
grey.


THE NIGHTINGALE.

The NIGHTINGALE (_Luscinia Philomela_)--see Coloured Plate XVIII.--as the
species so familiar to us all is called, is reddish grey upon the upper
part of the body, the top of the head and the back being of a deeper
shade; the under side is light yellowish grey, palest on the throat and
near the centre of the breast; the inner webs of the quills are dark
brown, and the tail-feathers brownish red. The eye is also brownish
red, and the beak and feet reddish grey. In the young birds some of the
feathers on the back have light yellow spots on the shafts, and are
edged with pale black, thus giving the plumage a speckled appearance.
The length of this bird is six inches and a half, and its breadth nine
inches and two-thirds; the wing measures three and the tail two inches
and three-quarters. The female is slightly smaller than her mate.

This Nightingale is met with over the whole continent of Europe, from
Sweden to the Mediterranean, and over a large portion of Central Asia, as
far north as the middle of Siberia; it also visits North-western Africa
in the course of its migrations. Central Europe, Turkey, and Asia Minor
possess a very similar species (_Luscinia major_), although, as its name
indicates, larger and stronger than that above described, from which it
is also distinguished by the shortness of the first wing-quill, and the
markings that adorn the breast. Both these vocalists are much alike in
their habits and general demeanour, but are readily identified by the
peculiarities that characterise their song. Woods, groves, and leafy
forests in the immediate vicinity of water afford the favourite retreats
of these "most musical, most melancholy" songsters; in such localities
they live, each pair within its own especial domain, which, although
small, is jealously guarded, and boldly defended from all intrusion. The
larger species would seem to prefer low-lying districts, but its more
celebrated relative, according to Tschudi, is met with in Switzerland
and Spain, at an altitude of from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above the sea, if
trees and brushwood be there attainable. Some parts of Southern Europe
are especially frequented by these delightful birds; Spain in particular
is extremely fortunate in this respect; and in certain districts their
enchanting voices are heard from every bush and hedge. The declivities
of Sierra Morena may be literally described as an extensive "nightingale
garden;" and those who, like ourselves, have been so fortunate as to
spend a spring morning on Montserrat, or an evening within the walls of
the ruined Alhambra, must own that they have enjoyed a concert of sweet
sounds that could not be surpassed. For our own part, as we listened to
a hundred thrilling voices combining in the performance of their vesper
hymn, we were ready to exclaim, with good old Izaak Walton, "Lord, what
psalmody hast thou provided for thy saints in heaven, when thou affordest
bad men such music on earth!" The general demeanour of the Nightingale is
eminently reserved and dignified, and would appear to indicate that it
was fully conscious of the admiration it can command. Even when hopping
over the ground, it preserves a certain air of stateliness, as it springs
from spot to spot, with body erect and tail upraised, pausing for a
moment before every fresh effort. Whilst perching in the trees, also, the
tail is elevated, but the wings are allowed to droop. Should the bird
desire to pass from one branch to another, it accomplishes its object
by one active leap, and rarely condescends to amuse itself by jumping
from twig to twig. The flight of the Nightingale is undulatory, but
though light and rapid, it is rarely sustained beyond a short distance:
that these birds, however, are capable of great exertion whilst on the
wing must be evident to all who have witnessed the endeavours of two
contending rivals to drive each other from the field.

[Illustration: _Plate 18. Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE NIGHTINGALE ____ Luscinia Philomela

_Nat. size_]

No sooner have the Nightingales arrived in Europe than their song is to
be heard almost incessantly. Some few pour forth their trilling notes
throughout the long, bright night; but, for the most part, they only
sing during the day, except just at the commencement of the breeding
season, when the desire to please and attract their mates renders the
male birds excited and restless. The nest of the Nightingale is a mere
heap of dry leaves, rushes, and grass, with a lining of horsehair,
cotton wool, or any similarly elastic material; occasionally twigs and
straw are also employed. Naumann mentions an instance of a Nightingale
building on a branch five feet from the ground, and of another that made
its preparations for its little family in the centre of a heap of dry
leaves that had been thrown down in a garden-shed; these are, however,
exceptions to the general rule, their nests being, for the most part,
placed in low bushes, upon felled trees, or in holes in the ground. The
eggs, from four to six in number, have a delicate, glossy, greenish
grey shell. Both parents assist in hatching their young, who are tended
with great care, the male keeping a very sharp eye indeed upon his
mate, lest she should endeavour to leave her charge in order to take a
peep at the outer world, or even to stretch her wearied limbs. Bäszler
mentions having been much amused upon one occasion, when he had scared a
brooding female from her nest, by the cries of reproof and marital pecks
that were forcibly employed by her indignant spouse, in order to drive
back his partner to her maternal duties. Worms of various kinds, the
larvæ of insects, ants, smooth-skinned caterpillars, and some species of
beetles, constitute the principal food of the adult birds, and upon these
the nestlings are likewise reared. During the autumn they also consume
large quantities of berries. The young remain under the care of their
parents until the approach of the moulting season. Almost immediately
after leaving the shell the young males commence trying their voices,
but give little or no indication of their future capabilities in the
notes they utter during the first months of their life. It is not until
the following spring that they become possessed of their full powers,
at which time they seek a mate, and in her honour begin to pour forth a
copious flood of sounds, as sweet and enchanting as those of the older
birds. The moulting season commences about July, after which the autumn
migrations commence. These journeyings are accomplished in families,
or small parties, the birds flying with great rapidity to very distant
countries. We ourselves have met with them occasionally in the forests
of Southern Nubia and Eastern Soudan, and have observed that they appear
to make themselves but little conspicuous during their absence from
their native lands. About the middle of April they reappear in Europe,
the males coming first, and at once seek their former haunts, announcing
their welcome presence, and greeting their old home by joyous strains,
that are continued without intermission for hours at a time, and even
prolonged far into the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HEDGE SINGERS, or TREE NIGHTINGALES (_Aëdon_ or _Agrobates_), bear a
strong family likeness to the True Nightingales, both in their habits and
general appearance. They are met with in Southern Europe, North-western
Asia, and Northern Africa. The members of this family are recognisable by
their elongated body and comparatively strong beak, the upper mandible of
which is very decidedly bent; the third and fourth quills of the long,
broad wings are of equal length, the tail much rounded, and the tarsi
low. Their plumage is soft, silky, and of a pale reddish brown, lightest
upon the under side. The sexes are alike in colour, and the young without
any spots upon their feathers. So very similar are all these birds in
their mode of life that we shall confine ourselves to a full description
of but one species.


THE TREE NIGHTINGALE.

The TREE NIGHTINGALE (_Aëdon galactodes_) is of a reddish grey upon the
upper parts of the body, darker upon the top of the head than elsewhere;
the nape is greyish, the under side greyish yellow or dirty white,
tinted with red on the sides of the neck, and with reddish yellow on the
thighs; the cheeks are whitish brown, and a white streak passes over the
eyes. The quills and upper wing-covers are brown, the former diversified
with a narrow light brown edge, and the latter with a broad border of
reddish yellow; the tail-feathers, with the exception of the one in the
centre, are of a beautiful rust-red, with a white tip, the latter marked
with a round, blackish brown spot; the eye is deep brown, the beak and
feet reddish. This species is about seven inches long and eleven broad;
the wing measures rather more than three, and the tail three inches.

The Tree Nightingales are found principally on arid spots, but
sparsely overgrown with low brushwood, though they by no means avoid
cultivated districts or the immediate neighbourhood of man. In Spain,
they constantly frequent the vineyards and olive plantations, and in
North-eastern Africa take up their abode in the gardens, or close to
the huts of the natives, provided that they there find a few of their
favourite bushes whereon to perch. We ourselves have never met with them
in the primitive forests, or upon lofty mountains, though they often
frequent wooded highlands. Such of these birds as inhabit Central Africa
are stationary, whilst those occupying Northern Africa and Southern
Europe migrate, leaving their more northern habitat about the end of
September and returning in April. The males take their departure first,
followed in a few days by their mates: arrived at their destination, they
soon spread themselves over the face of the country. In their habits
they are somewhat peculiar; they always select the very topmost point of
a bush, post, or tree, as their ordinary perch, and on it they sit with
tail erect, drooping wing, upright body, and legs drawn in, as they pour
out their song, or glance sharply around in search of a worm or beetle.
Should a prize of this nature be discerned, the bird will instantly dart
down, flourishing and spreading its tail, and, after running rapidly for
a few paces, seize its prey and return to its observatory, uttering a
short call-note denoting extreme satisfaction. Their mode of flight and
other movements are almost identical with those of the Nightingale, and
like that bird they seek their food principally upon the ground, coming
occasionally even into the streets of towns, when hard pressed for the
means of subsistence, though at other times they are extremely cautious
and timid. Strange to say, such as came under our own notice in Central
Africa would permit the dark-coloured natives to approach quite close to
them, but took instant alarm at the appearance of a white man. The voice
of this species is capable of but very little variety, and will bear no
comparison with that of its world-famed relative; yet, in spite of this
inferiority, it is ever a favourite, its constant cheerfulness enlivening
all that listen to its almost incessant song, which may be heard not
only through the whole of the breeding season, but is uttered as the
little creature runs, perches, or even flies through the air. The period
of incubation commences at the end of May, and lasts for a considerable
time. The nest, which is large and roughly formed of twigs, moss, and
grass, lined with hair, wool, and feathers, is placed either against the
trunk of a tree or on one of the larger branches, or in a thick bush.
The eggs have a dirty white or blueish grey shell, marked with pale dark
patches and brown spots. We are without particulars regarding the rearing
of the nestlings, but have ourselves met with unfledged young as late as
September.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BLUE-THROATED WARBLERS (_Cyanecula_) are birds with slender bodies,
short blunt wings, and high, slender legs. Their long beak is compressed
at the nostrils, the upper mandible slightly raised, but sharp-pointed
at its extremity. The plumage is lax, and varies in hue with the age or
sex of the bird. In the male the upper part of the body is dark brown,
the under side dirty white, streaked at the sides with greyish brown.
The throat, which is of a magnificent ultramarine blue, is decorated in
some instances with a dark star, which spreads and extends downwards
like a black streak, separated from a crescent-shaped spot upon the
breast by a delicate light line. A band across the eyes is of a whitish,
and the bridles of a blackish hue. The quills are brownish grey; the
tail-feathers, except in the centre, blackish-brown at their distal half;
rust-red towards the roots. The eye is dark brown, the beak black, the
feet greenish in front, and yellowish grey behind. In the plumage of the
female all the colours are paler than those of her mate. The young are
spotted with rust-red on the back, and striped on the under side, their
throat being whitish. This bird is six inches long and eight and a half
broad; the wing measures two inches and three-quarters, and the tail two
inches and a quarter. The various species of Blue-throated Warblers are
distinguishable from each other by the somewhat varied coloration of
their throats; thus, that of the male SWEDISH BLUE-THROAT (_Cyanecula
Suecica_) has a reddish star in its centre, the WHITE-STARRED BLUE-THROAT
(_Cyanecula leucocyana_) a white star, whilst the _Cyanecula Wolfii_ is
entirely without this decoration.

[Illustration: THE SWEDISH BLUE-THROAT (_Cyanecula Suecica_).]

Of these the _Cyanecula leucocyana_ is the largest, and the _Cyanecula
Wolfii_ the smallest species. The females of all closely resemble their
mates in appearance.

These birds inhabit the northern portions of the Eastern Hemisphere,
and from thence wander forth to visit Central Asia, Egypt, and Nubia,
only occasionally venturing as far as Southern Asia or Central Africa.
The autumn migration is undertaken in large parties, which fly in a
direct line towards their destination, whilst in the spring, on the
contrary, the males return first, and steer their aërial course as far as
possible in the immediate vicinity of the banks of rivers or any large
bodies of water, as in such localities they find an abundant supply of
the worms, beetles, and similar fare that afford them their principal
means of subsistence. The disposition of the Blue-throats in every way
corresponds with their attractive appearance, and their intelligence is
by no means inferior to that of the Nightingale. All their movements
are characterised by a liveliness that seems to indicate a thorough
enjoyment of existence; and their demeanour, as they hop quickly over the
ground, with body erect and tail outstretched, evidently denotes a most
satisfactory consciousness of their own personal charms. When climbing
among, or perching on the branches of a tree or bush, they show to less
advantage; and their flight, through rapid, cannot be maintained for any
great distance. The sung of the various species differs considerably in
quality; that of the Swedish Blue-throat is, perhaps, the least pleasing
to the ear, owing to the fact that the various strophes that compose it
are each in turn repeated with a frequency that soon becomes wearisome to
the hearer, after he has ceased to amuse himself with the strange droning
under-tone or accompaniment kept up by the bird during the whole song,
which produces the effect of two distinct voices. Amongst the Lapps this
species is known as the "Hundred-tongued Warbler," from the great faculty
it has for imitating, not only the notes of birds, but a great variety
of sounds. Like the Hedge Warblers generally, it is most unwearied in
these vocal exertions, which are often continued even whilst the little
songster is running upon the ground. The nests built by the Blue-throats
are often concealed in bushes, or among the roots of trees, with so much
care as to render their discovery a work of difficulty. Holes in the
banks of rivers or brooks are also sometimes selected for the reception
of the nest; that side of the water, according to Hinz, always being
preferred which is most exposed to the rays of the morning or noon-day
sun. The nest itself is large, open at the top, and formed of twigs and
stalks of plants, lined with delicate blades of grass, and in northern
latitudes with wool or hair. The eggs, which are laid in the middle of
May, are from six to seven in number, and have delicate light blueish
green shells, marked with reddish brown spots, and clouded with brown
at the broad end. Both parents assist in the work of incubation, which
lasts for about a fortnight. The young are reared upon worms and beetles.
They leave the nest before they can fly, and soon learn to run over the
surface of the ground with the rapidity of mice. No sooner is the first
family fairly started in the world than the parents at once commence
preparations for a second brood. When caged, the Blue-throat soon becomes
very tame, but unless carefully tended only survives for a short time.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RUBY NIGHTINGALES (_Calliope_) are a group of Asiatic birds nearly
related to the Blue-throats, and forming, as it were, the connecting
link between them and the Hedge Warblers. All have moderately long and
powerful beaks, strong, high tarsi, large toes, and medium-sized wings,
the first quill of which is unusually short. The tail is short, pointed
at the sides, and rounded in the centre of its tip. The plumage is
compact and smooth.


THE CALLIOPE OF KAMSCHATKA.

The CALLIOPE OF KAMSCHATKA (_Calliope Camtschatcensis_) is the species
of the above group selected for description, as, according to Temminck,
it may now also be regarded as an inhabitant of Europe. Upon the upper
part of the body the plumage is olive-brown, deepest in shade upon the
brow and head; the under side is greenish grey, except the centre of
the breast, which is white; the bridles are black, and a streak over
the eyes of glossy whiteness; the throat is of a magnificent ruby red,
and separated from the breast by a black line, that fades gradually
into a brownish grey. In the plumage of the female all the colours are
paler than in that of her mate. The young are dark brownish grey, marked
with reddish yellow. The length of this species is six inches; the wing
measures two inches; and the tail two inches and one-third.

According to Middendorf, these birds frequent the well-watered provinces
and marshy districts of North-eastern Asia, from the middle of May till
the beginning of October (occasionally, only, till the end of August),
when they commence their migrations, journeying through Eastern Siberia,
Mongolia, Southern China, and Japan, and reaching India about November.
The Calliope usually remains concealed during the day, and only ventures
forth after twilight to obtain food, in quest of which it runs about
exactly in the manner of the Blue-throats, displaying, however, even
greater agility than they are capable of, when making its way through the
long grass that abounds in its favourite marshy retreats.

Jerdon speaks of this species as shy, unsociable, and very silent during
the greater part of the year; but with this last statement we by no means
fully agree. Whilst performing their migrations, the two sexes certainly
associate in flocks; and during the spring the notes of the males are
to be heard both by day and night. The voice of the Calliope is very
sweet, and though by no means loud, very clear. As the breeding season
approaches the male commences singing still more energetically, and is
usually to be seen perched, with inflated throat, wings outspread, and
tail raised at a right angle with his body, on the topmost branch of
a birch or alder-tree, whilst he perseveringly endeavours to attract
the admiration of his mate who sits beneath, almost entirely concealed
from view. The nests of these birds found by Middendorf on the banks
of the Taimye were most beautiful works of art, neatly covered with a
roof, and approached by a horizontal entrance-gallery excavated in the
sand. The nests were found to contain about five blueish green eggs,
which were laid in June. In China the Calliope is known as the "Hung-po"
(Redbreast), or "Ching-po" (Goldbreast), and is much prized as a domestic
favourite by people of all classes: it is constantly kept by the Chinese,
not in a cage, but secured to a perch or branch by means of a string tied
round the neck. This peculiar and very practical manner of preventing the
escape of a bird is, as Swinhoe tells us, very extensively adopted in the
Celestial Empire.


THE ROBIN REDBREAST.

The ROBIN REDBREAST (_Erythaca rubecula_ or _Rubecula silvestris_) is the
last member of the family to which our space permits us to allude. In
this species the upper mandible is arched and incised immediately behind
its curved tip. The feet are of moderate height, and delicately formed;
the wings, in which the fourth and fifth quills are the longest, are
rather short and weak; the tail is of medium size, and slightly incised
at its extremity.

The plumage is lax, and of a deep olive-grey upon the upper part of-the
body; the under side is grey; the brow, throat, and upper portion of the
breast yellowish red. The female is somewhat paler than her mate, and the
young are distinguishable by reddish yellow spots on the shafts of the
upper feathers; the under side is reddish yellow, with grey spots and
light edges to the feathers; the large, expressive eyes are brown, the
beak blackish brown, and the feet reddish grey. The length of this bird
is five inches and a half, and its breadth eight inches and a half; the
wing measures two inches and three-quarters, and the tail two inches and
a half.

Europe must certainly be regarded as the home of the Redbreasts; beyond
its limits they seldom venture, except during their migrations, when
some few travel as far as North-western Africa and the adjacent islands.
By far the greater number of those met with in the northern and central
countries of our continent usually only journey as far as Southern
Europe. This lively, beautiful little bird, with whose sweet twittering
voice and social fearless habits we are so familiar, is met with in all
woodland districts, and may constantly be seen hopping nimbly about our
fields and gardens, or flitting from bush to bush, quite close to our
houses, in search of the spiders, worms, snails, and beetles upon which
it subsists. In winter, when it is difficult to obtain these means of
support, it lives upon various kinds of berries. The nest of the Robin
is placed in holes in the ground, in hollow trunks of trees, or similar
situations, at no great elevation, and is formed of moss, stalks, and
leaves, woven together, and delicately lined with hair, wool, and
feathers. Should the margin of the cavity in which the nest is placed
not project in such a manner as to form a sheltering cover, a roof is
constructed, and an entrance made in the side. The eggs, which are of a
yellowish white, marked with reddish yellow spots (see Fig. 33, Coloured
Plate XVI.), are from five to seven in number; these are laid about May.
The parents brood alternately during a fortnight, they feed the nestlings
assiduously with worms and insects, and diligently instruct and tend
them for about a week after they are fledged; they are then permitted
to go forth into the world on their own account; whilst, if the weather
be fine, the old birds at once prepare for a second family. Numberless
are the anecdotes that might be quoted to show the kindly disposition of
these interesting little favourites, but we must confine ourselves to the
mention of two or three exemplifications of their habits.

[Illustration: THE ROBIN REDBREAST (_Erythaca rubecula_ or _Rubecula
silvestris_).]

The first that we shall narrate happened in our own village. Two male
Redbreasts were captured and confined in the same cage. From the moment
of their imprisonment they seemed entirely to have laid aside their usual
amiable and social demeanour; morning, noon, and night they squabbled
and pecked each other, and fought with an enduring rancour which plainly
showed that they each grudged every atom of food or drop of water
obtained by the other. This state of affairs was at last brought to a
very unexpected termination; one of the captives broke its leg, and
forthwith the conduct of its companion was completely changed; it at once
took charge of the helpless invalid with as much tenderness as if it had
been one of its own young, fed and tended it until the limb was restored;
and, strange to say, even after the invalid was strong and well again,
neither of the birds ever showed the slightest inclination to renew
former hostilities.

An instance of the truly parental affection they often exhibit towards
the young of entirely different species is mentioned by Naumann, who
upon one occasion introduced an unfledged Linnet into the cage of a
Redbreast. No sooner did the hungry nestling begin to clamour for food
than the parental feelings and sympathy of the Robin were awakened;
it at once hopped off to procure a dainty mouthful, which it placed
tenderly in the youngster's gaping beak, repeating the performance till
the calls of hunger were completely satisfied. Even in its native woods,
and surrounded by its own kind, the Redbreast will occasionally contract
a close friendship with a bird of another species. Posslen mentions a
pretty instance of this social tendency as having occurred in Germany.
"In a wood near Köthen," he says, "a Redbreast was found to have actually
deposited six eggs in the same nest with the six eggs laid by a Linnet,
the two mothers brooding side by side until the nestlings made their
appearance."

[Illustration: THE GARDEN REDSTART (_Ruticilla phœnicura_ or _Phœnicura
ruticilla_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The WARBLERS (_Monticolæ_) constitute a numerous family, whose members
vary considerably in size, but closely resemble each other, both in
appearance and habits. These birds are recognisable by their slender
bodies, moderate-sized or long wings, in which the third quill generally
exceeds the rest in length; short tail, either straight or excised at its
tip; slender tarsi, and awl-shaped beak, with quite straight or slightly
arched upper mandible, the latter furnished with a very short, delicate
hook at its extremity. The coloration of their thick, lax plumage
differs according to the age and sex, the males being usually much more
beautifully coloured than their mates, and the young distinguishable from
the adults by the spots with which they are adorned. Many species are
remarkable for the brownish red and white hues that predominate in the
tail-feathers. Most of the various members of this family occupy rocky
or stony districts, whilst some few, on the contrary, frequent woods,
gardens, or pasture-land. In disposition they are watchful, lively, and
restless, but by no means social, never congregating, even during the
migratory season, in flocks, but living invariably in pairs, or at most
in families. Morning has no sooner dawned than they commence hopping, or
rather running over the ground, climbing among the branches of bushes,
or flying about in short courses over a considerable tract of country,
always returning to pass the night upon their usual resting-place. Unlike
other singing birds, when excited, they bow the head repeatedly, and
either flourish and spread their tails or agitate them with a tremulous
kind of motion. The voices of this family, though possessing many sweet
notes, are generally marred by an intermixture of harsh tones, and a
constant repetition of the same cadence. Many species have great facility
for imitation, and constantly introduce the notes and strophes of other
birds into their own natural song. All such as inhabit the northern
portions of the globe migrate to warmer latitudes at the approach of
winter, whilst those that live in southern regions remain throughout the
entire year in their native lands. The reason of this difference in their
habits is at once explained, if we reflect that the insects upon which
they almost exclusively subsist are only found in northern countries
during the summer, but are readily obtained in southern climes throughout
the entire year. Both sexes assist in the labours attendant on building
and incubation. The nest, which is carefully hidden from view, is usually
situated in clefts or fissures of rocks and stones, or occasionally in
hollow trees and similar situations, and though very rudely constructed
externally, is provided with a well-lined interior, for the reception of
the little family. The eggs, from four to six in number, are generally of
a pale blue colour.

       *       *       *       *       *

The REDSTARTS (_Ruticilla_) are distinguishable by their slender body,
awl-shaped beak, which is furnished with a slight hook at the tip of the
upper mandible; slender, delicate feet; high tarsi; moderately long wings
and tail, the latter almost straight at its extremity, and lax plumage,
which varies considerably according to the age and sex of the bird. The
members of this group inhabit the eastern hemisphere (Asia especially
being tolerably rich in species), and resemble each other no less in
their habits and general disposition than in their general coloration and
appearance.


THE BLACK-CAPPED REDSTART.

The BLACK-CAPPED REDSTART (_Ruticilla atra_ or _Ruticilla titys_) is
black upon the head, the back and lower part of the breast being grey.
The belly is whitish, the wings spotted with white; the feathers on
the wings, and those that form the tail, with the exception of two in
the centre, are yellowish red. Uniform deep grey predominates in the
coloration of the female and one year old male, the plumage of the latter
being marked with undulating black lines. The length of this species
is six, and its breadth ten inches. The wing measures three inches and
one-third, and the tail two inches and a half.

The Black-capped Redstart inhabits Europe, and is numerous in such parts
of the continent as are rocky or mountainous. In Switzerland it is not
uncommon to see these birds not only perching at a very considerable
altitude, but disporting themselves over the glaciers and beds of snow.
In marshy districts or low-lying valleys they are met with far less
frequently, and are much more numerous in the south of Europe than in
the northern portions. Though by no means social, this species exhibits
but little fear of man, and will take up its abode on the house-tops of
a crowded city, apparently quite undisturbed by the noise and bustle of
the streets. In disposition it is lively and restless, and from dawn to
long after sunset appears to be in a state of constant excitement and
activity. Like the Fly-catcher, it seizes its insect prey whilst upon
the wing, and performs a great variety of beautiful evolutions, as it
alternately soars and sinks through the air. Upon the ground it moves
with swiftness and ease, bowing its head repeatedly, and whisking its
tail whenever anything happens to attract its particular attention,
or when under the influence of emotion. The voice of the Black-capped
Redstart, though by no means beautiful, possesses great flexibility, and
is capable of imitating the songs of a great variety of other birds.

The nest, which is carelessly constructed of fibres, stalks, and grass,
and thickly lined with hair and feathers, is built upon rocks, in holes
of walls, under eaves of houses, or in similar situations. Hollow trees
are occasionally, but very rarely, employed for this purpose. The eggs
have a delicate, glossy, pure white shell, and are usually from five to
seven in number. Both parents labour equally in feeding and tending the
little family, but upon the female devolves almost the entire work of
brooding, the male only relieving her for about two hours at noon. As
many as three broods are sometimes produced in the course of a season.


THE GARDEN REDSTART.

The GARDEN REDSTART (_Ruticilla phœnicura_ or _Phœnicura ruticilla_), a
common English species, is a very beautiful bird. The sides of its beak,
forehead, and throat, are black; the rest of the upper part of the body
dark grey. The breast, sides, and tail, are bright rust-red; the part of
the head immediately above the brow and the centre of the under side are
white. The plumage of the female is dark grey above, and of a lighter
shade beneath; her throat is occasionally of a deeper hue. The young are
grey, spotted with reddish yellow, on the back; and the feathers on the
under side have rust-red borders; the eyes of all are brown, and the
beak and feet black. This bird is five inches and a half long, and three
broad; the wing measures three, and the tail two inches and a quarter.

The Garden Redstart is an inhabitant of Europe and Asia, from whence it
migrates to pass the winter months in the eastern provinces of India or
the interior of Africa. In its habits and mode of life it very closely
resembles the species last described, with this exception, that it
usually perches upon trees. Its sweet song is composed of two or three
gentle flute-like cadences. The nest is roughly constructed of dry fibres
and grass, and thickly lined with feathers; it is usually situated in a
hollow tree, or hole in a wall or rock, such cavities being preferred as
have a very narrow entrance. The eggs, from five to eight in number, have
a smooth blueish green shell (see Fig. 16, Coloured Plate XVI.), and are
laid at the latter end of April. A second brood is produced in June, and,
strangely enough, is deposited, not in the nest employed for the first
family, but in another, specially prepared for its reception. The pair,
however, often return to their first breeding-place the following summer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MEADOW WARBLERS (_Pratincola_) are a group of small, stoutly-built
birds, with variegated plumage; short, thick, rounded beaks; wings of
moderate size; in which the third and fourth quills exceed the rest in
length; short tails, composed of slender feathers; and long, thin legs.
The members of this group inhabit the eastern hemisphere, and frequent
localities overgrown with shrubs or underwood.


THE BROWN-THROATED MEADOW WARBLER.

The BROWN-THROATED MEADOW WARBLER (_Pratincola rubetra_) presents a very
variegated appearance, owing to the broad reddish grey border fringing
the blackish brown feathers, with which the upper part of its body is
covered. The under side is light yellowish white; the chin, a streak over
the eyes, and the centre of the wings are pure white. All the colours in
the plumage of the female are indistinct; a stripe over the eyes is of a
yellowish shade, and the light-coloured spot on the wings very faintly
indicated. In the young birds the upper part of the body is a mixture of
rust-red and greyish black, striped longitudinally with reddish yellow.
The pale red feathers on the under side are diversified with reddish
yellow spots, and tipped with greyish black. The eyes of all are deep
brown, the beak and feet black. The body is five inches and a half long,
and eight broad; the wing measures two inches and a half, and the tail
two inches. The habits of this bird so closely resemble those of the
following species that one description will serve for both.


THE BLACK-THROATED MEADOW WARBLER.

[Illustration: THE BLACK-THROATED MEADOW WARBLER (_Pratincola rubicola_).]

The BLACK-THROATED MEADOW WARBLER (_Pratincola rubicola_), a species very
nearly allied to that above described, is black upon the throat and over
the entire upper part of the body; the under side is rust-red; the rump,
a spot upon the wings, and the sides of the neck are pure white. The
female is greyish black upon the throat and mantle, the feathers of the
latter edged with reddish yellow; the entire under side is of the latter
hue. Both these birds inhabit the continent of Europe and some portions
of Asia, and are often met with in Northern Africa during their winter
journeyings. All, however, do not migrate. We are told on good authority
that they are seen in Spain and Great Britain throughout the entire
year. Everywhere they show a very decided preference for cultivated
districts, and especially delight in well-watered pasture-land, or such
open fields as are upon the outskirts of woods; indeed, the more fruitful
the situation the more numerously do they congregate. Their voice is
sweet, full, and capable of producing a great variety of cadences.
Like most other members of their family, they sing almost incessantly
during the spring and early part of the summer, and are often to be
heard far into the night. The nests of both these species is loosely
formed of dry leaves, fibres, or grass, mixed with a little moss, lined
with some elastic material, such as a layer of horsehair. Grass-meadows
are generally selected, as affording situations adapted for building
purposes, and the nests are placed with so much care within hollows
on the ground, or beneath a low bush that, as frequently happens, the
brooding pairs are not discovered, either when the field is mowed, or
even when the haymakers have raked the grass from its surface. The
eggs, five or six in number, are broad in shape, with delicate, glossy,
light blueish green shells, and are laid from May to June. The female
alone broods; the eggs are hatched in about a fortnight. The young are
watched and tended with great care, and are saved from many enemies by
the prudence of their parents, who, should danger be at hand, remain
perfectly silent and motionless until the unwelcome visitor has left the
spot. As regards the movements, diet, and habits of these two species,
we will only add that in almost every essential particular they resemble
those of the Warblers already described.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CLIPPERS (_Ephthianura_), another group of the same family, met with
in New Holland, are recognisable by their nearly straight beak, which
is shorter than the head, compressed at the sides, and incised close to
the tip. The third and fourth quills of the long wing exceed the rest in
length; the tail is short, and straight at its extremity; the legs are
long, the tarsi thin, and the toes slender. We are at present acquainted
with but few members of this interesting and probably numerous group.

[Illustration: THE WHEATEAR (_Saxicola œnanthe_).]


THE WAGTAIL CLIPPER.

The WAGTAIL CLIPPER (_Ephthianura albifrons_), as the species most
frequently met with is called, is deep grey on the upper part of the
body, each feather having a dark brown spot in its centre. The wings and
tail-feathers are dark brown, the latter, with the exception of those in
its centre, decorated with a large, oval, white spot. The fore part of
head, face, throat, breast, and belly are pure white. The hinder part
of the head and a broad line that passes from the sides of the neck to
the upper region of the breast, are black. In the female the mantle is
greyish brown; the throat and under side are yellowish white; while
the ring about the neck and a light spot on the exterior tail-feathers
are only slightly indicated. This species is four inches long. Gould,
who first described the Wagtail Clipper, found it upon a small island
in Bass's Straits, and afterwards throughout the whole of Southern
Australia. Like its congeners, it is lively and active, and ever watchful
against the approach of danger. Like them it selects a stone or leafless
branch when about to perch, and if disturbed, flies swiftly for a few
hundred yards before it again settles. Its step upon the ground is
rapid, and generally accompanied by a whisking motion of the tail. The
song of the male is extremely pleasing, and is heard constantly about
September or October, when the breeding season commences. The nest is
formed of small twigs, grass, lined with hair or some similar material;
it is usually concealed beneath shrubs or brushwood, at an elevation of
only a few inches from the ground. The eggs, three or sometimes four
in number, are of a pure white, adorned with reddish brown spots or
markings, most numerous at the broad end. The young are carefully tended
by their parents, who, however, often betray the situation of the nest,
either by their evident uneasiness at the approach of a stranger, or by
affecting lameness or exhaustion, in the hope of turning the attention
of an unwelcome visitor from their helpless charge to themselves. Two
broods are produced during the season, the first family going forth into
the surrounding country till the second batch of nestlings are able to
support themselves, when they all join company with the parent birds.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CHATS (_Saxicolæ_) are slender birds, with awl-shaped beaks, which
are very lightly incised on the margin, slightly curved at the tip, and
very broad at the base. The tarsi are high and slender, the toes of
moderate size, the wings blunt, the tail short, broad, and straight at
the extremity. The plumage is rich and lax; it varies considerably in
its coloration, but is remarkable from the circumstance that the tail,
which is in most instances white, is always of a colour different from
the body. These birds are met with extensively in Europe and Asia, and
are particularly numerous upon the African continent. We shall, however,
confine ourselves to a minute description of but a few species, as the
habits of all are very similar.


THE FALLOW CHAT, OR WHEATEAR.

The FALLOW CHAT, or WHEATEAR (_Saxicola œnanthe_), is of a light ash-grey
upon the upper part of the body. The breast, brow, and a band over the
eyes, are white; the under side and rump reddish yellow; a patch upon the
cheek-stripes, the wings, and two centre tail-feathers are black; the
rest are white towards the base, and black at the tip. The eye is brown,
the beak and feet black. After the moulting season the upper part of the
plumage of the male is rust-red, and the under side reddish yellow. In
the female reddish grey predominates. The brow and a stripe over the eyes
are dirty white, the bridles pale black, the under side light brownish
red; the feathers of the wings are dark grey, edged with light yellow.
The length of this species is six inches and a quarter, and the breadth
eleven inches; the wing measures three inches and a half, and the tail
two inches and a quarter; the female is a few lines smaller than her
mate. The Wheatear both dwells and breeds in the British Islands, and
throughout that portion of Europe that lies between the Alps, Pyrenees,
Balkan Mountains, and Lapland; in Asia it is met with in corresponding
latitudes; occasionally it appears in the upper provinces of India; we
have also seen it ourselves in many parts of Africa. In Southern Europe
this bird is replaced by two nearly-related species--


THE EARED STONE CHAT AND BLACK-THROATED STONE CHAT.

The EARED STONE CHAT (_Saxicola aurita_) and the BLACK-THROATED STONE
CHAT (_Saxicola stapazina_). The first of these is six inches long, and
ten inches and a half broad; the wing measures three inches and a third,
and the tail two inches and a half. The plumage on the upper part of the
body is whitish grey; that of the under side greyish reddish white; a
narrow line that passes from the beak to the eyes, an oval patch on the
cheek, the wings, central tail-feathers, and the tips of those at the
exterior are black; the colours in the plumage of the female are paler
and redder than those of her mate. The Black-throated Stone Chat is
rust-red on the upper portions of the body, breast, and belly; the throat
and wings are black, the feathers of the single wing-covers edged with
rust-red; the exterior tail-feathers are white, tipped with black, and
those in the centre entirely black. The young of both species are greyish
yellow on the head, nape, and back, every feather being lightly edged
with grey at the tip, and streaked with white on the shaft. The under
side is dirty white, with a greyish shade upon the breast; the quills
and tail-feathers are pale black; the feathers of the wing-covers are
bordered with yellowish white.

Though they by no means avoid fruitful tracts or cultivated districts,
these birds very decidedly prefer to take up their abode in mountains
or stony regions, and are for this reason particularly numerous in
Sweden, Southern Germany, and Switzerland; in the latter country they are
popularly known as Mountain Nightingales, from the height to which they
often ascend. Even the icy and rugged tracts of Scandinavia and Lapland
seem to suit their requirements; and we have often seen them hopping
nimbly over the glaciers, in situations where no other living object
was discernible. Individuals inhabiting more southern latitudes display
the same liking for barren ground, and are usually seen in localities
so sterile and arid as to appear totally incapable of affording them
a sufficient supply of the insects upon which they subsist. Their
disposition is lively, restless, vigilant, and very unsocial; only during
their winter migrations do they commingle with others of their species.
Even when circumstances compel a certain amount of neighbourship, each
bird lives for itself, without appearing to take the slightest interest
in the proceedings of others in the vicinity.

The flight of the Stone Chat is remarkable, owing to the fact that,
at whatever height the perch may be from which it starts, the bird
invariably sinks towards the ground, close to the surface of which it
always flies, in a series of short, undulating lines. At the approach
of the breeding season this mode of flight is changed, and the bird
then entertains itself and its mate by repeatedly soaring into the air
to a height of some twenty or thirty feet, singing as it goes, and then
descending precipitately, to end its joyous song upon its favourite
perch. When standing upon a stone or rock, it holds its body erect,
shakes its tail, and, should anything unusual catch its eye, at once
commences bowing repeatedly. This strange habit has given rise to
its Spanish name of the "Sacristan," in allusion to the genuflexions
practised by the monks. The voices of all the species we have described
are loud and peculiar, but by no means pleasing. Of their performance,
however, it may be said that what is wanting in quality is made up by the
energy and persistency with which their song is poured out, not only from
daybreak to sunset, but long after night has closed in. The nest, which
is for the most part built in holes and fissures of rocks and stones,
or occasionally in hollow trees, is carefully concealed from view. Its
dense roughly-made exterior is formed of fibres, grass, and stalks,
lined thickly and warmly with wool, hair, or feathers; the eggs, from
five to seven in number, are of a delicate blueish or greenish white,
occasionally, but rarely, spotted with pale yellow. The female hatches
her brood with but little assistance from her mate, who perches near, in
order to keep a strict watch against the approach of danger, and warns
her of its appearance by an anxious cry. But one brood is produced in the
season, the first eggs being laid about May; occasionally, however, the
female produces two broods. The young remain with the parents till the
winter migration, which takes place in September. In March they again
return to their native lands.

       *       *       *       *       *

The RUNNING WARBLERS (_Dromolæa_) constitute another group of this
family, recognisable by the predominance of black in the coloration of
their plumage, and by the formation of their comparatively long and much
compressed beak, which is broad at its base, and very decidedly curved
and hooked at its extremity. The wings are long and pointed.


THE WHITE-TAILED WHEATEAR.

The WHITE-TAILED WHEATEAR (_Dromolœa-Saxicola-leucura_) is about seven
inches and a quarter long, and eleven and three-quarters broad; the
wing measures three inches and two-thirds, and the tail two inches and
three-quarters. The plumage is of an uniform rich black; the wing-quills
are grey towards their roots, and a band of dazzling white adorns the
extremity of the tail. The female is deep brown, but similar to her mate
in appearance. The young male and female respectively resemble the father
and mother, but are paler. This species inhabits Southern Europe, and
almost invariably resorts to its most mountainous districts. In Spain it
is particularly numerous, and is also frequently seen in Southern Italy,
Greece, and North-western Africa. In the latter portion of the globe and
in Asia it is replaced by several nearly allied species. In all these
various regions it shows a decided preference for barren heights and
rocky precipices, and is as constantly met with on rugged peaks, at an
altitude of 500 feet above the sea, as upon the masses of dislodged stone
that strew the declivities of the mountains. The darker the colour of the
rock, the more dreary and desolate the situation, the more attractive it
appears to be, as the blackness of the stone accords well with the dusky
plumage of the birds, and renders concealment comparatively easy.

[Illustration: THE EARED STONE CHAT (_Saxicola aurita_).]

[Illustration: _Plate 17. Cassell's Book of Birds_

1. Curlew (_Numenius Arquata_).--2. Sandpiper (_Totanus Hypolencos_).--3.
Ringed Plover (_Charadrius Hiaticula_).--4. Dunlin (_Tringa
variabilis_)--5. Land Rail (_Crex pratensis_).--6. Water Hen (_Gallinula
chloropus_).--7. Lapwing (_Vanellus cristatus_).--8. Redshank (_Totanus
calidris_).--9. Godwit (_Limosa melanura_).--10. Coot (_Fulica
atra_).--11. Oyster Catcher (_Hæmatopus ostralegus_).--12. Rook (_Corvus
frugilegus_).--13. Magpie (_Pica caudata_).--14. Jay (_Garrulus
glandarius_).--15. Chough (_Fregilus graculus_).--16. Jackdaw (_Corvus
monedula_).]

Those who have ventured to scale the rugged heights and steep precipices
frequented by these birds, are often startled by the sound of their
clear, sweet voices, as they suddenly salute the ear in situations
apparently destitute of animal life, whilst those whose patience will
permit them to follow the sound until they come to the spot upon which
a pair have taken up their abode, will behold a performance that richly
repays the trouble of a tedious climb. Upon a ledge or platform of
rock he will see the male bird either tripping lightly around the open
space, or executing a regular dance, with wings and tail outspread,
accompanying the movements of his feet and body with a continuous flow
of song, and bowing his head repeatedly: this entertainment being
varied by rising suddenly into the air, and sinking again rapidly, with
open pinions, to the ground. Upon one occasion, whilst journeying over
the Sierra de los Anches, we came upon a pair of these birds, seated
near to a nest containing their unfledged young. The terrified female
immediately began flitting from rock to rock, while her mate at once
commenced dancing, tripping gracefully about, and singing with all his
power, as though with the idea of riveting our attention on himself, and
thus averting danger from his little family. We could not find it in our
hearts to render the wily stratagem abortive, so contented ourselves
with a hasty glance at the nest, and left the spot, followed by a loud
song of triumph and rejoicing from the anxious father. The nest, which
is placed in holes in the rock, is not commenced until the end of April
or beginning of May. The exterior is formed of fibres and grass, woven
firmly together, the interior being carefully lined with a layer of
goats' hair. The eggs are of a pale greenish blue, marked violet or
reddish, but their pattern is very variable; they are from four to six in
number: in Spain we have occasionally found as many as seven in a brood.
The young are reared upon insects, and are no sooner fledged than they
may be seen perching upon the rocks or stones, watching their parents as
they pursue flies or other insects destined to fill their craving beaks.
Meanwhile, should any unusual sight or sound attract the attention of the
vigilant father, he instantly warns his brood by a peculiar cry that they
must at once seek shelter in the neighbouring holes and fissures, and
recalls them with the same note when they may again venture forth. It is
only after the moulting season, which continues throughout July, August,
and September, that the young withdraw themselves from the protection
of their parents, in order to seek a mate and begin life on their own
account.

[Illustration: THE STONE THRUSH, OR ROCK WAGTAIL
(_Petrocincla-Turdus-saxatilis_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The STONE THRUSHES, or ROCK WAGTAILS (_Petrocincla_), are comparatively
large birds, recognisable by their slender body and strong, awl-shaped
beak, which is broad at its base; the upper mandible is slightly arched,
and curved at its tip; the tarsi are armed with very decidedly bent
claws; the wing is long, its third quill exceeding the rest in length,
while the tail is short, and almost straight at its extremity. The
plumage is smooth, bright-tinted, and sometimes much variegated.


THE STONE THRUSH, OR ROCK WAGTAIL.

The STONE THRUSH, or ROCK WAGTAIL (_Petrocincla-Turdus-saxatilis_), is a
magnificently-coloured bird, about eight inches long and fourteen broad.
The head, face, part of the throat, nape, and rump are of a beautiful
blueish grey, the entire under side is bright rust-red, the quills are
blackish brown, the shoulder-feathers deep grey or slaty black; the two
centre tail-feathers are dark grey, and those at the exterior rust-red.
In autumn all the small feathers have light edges. The female is of a
pale brown, spotted with a still lighter shade on the upper part of the
body, whilst the rust-red feathers on the under side are darkly bordered:
the throat is white. In both sexes the eyes are reddish brown, the
beak pale black, and the feet of a reddish hue; the young resemble the
mother. These birds frequent all the mountain regions of Southern Europe,
but are also known to breed in some part of Austria, in the Tyrol,
along the course of the Rhine, and occasionally in Bohemia and in the
Hartz Mountains: in Italy and Greece they are especially numerous, and
everywhere appear to prefer the rocky valleys lying immediately at the
foot of mountain ranges to the precipices or towering heights occupied by
the group last described.

The Rock Wagtails generally appear in Europe about April or May, and
almost immediately commence their preparations for breeding. Their nests,
usually concealed with great cunning in such holes in the rock or ground
as are almost inaccessible, are made of twigs, straw, moss, or grass,
heaped roughly together to form the outer wall, the cup-shaped interior
being neatly lined with a variety of elastic materials, selected with
great care. The delicate blueish green eggs (see Fig. 24, Coloured
Plate IV.) are from four to six in number. We have not as yet been
able to ascertain whether the male relieves his partner in the work of
incubation, or contents himself with amusing her by a kind of dance,
performed with ruffled streaming plumage and half-closed eyes, in which
he delights to indulge at this season of the year. Both parents, however,
assist in tending the young flock, who are reared on the same kinds of
insects as form the staple food of the adults; the latter also devour
snails and worms, and during the autumn consume large quantities of
berries and fruit, including grapes. Their winter migrations take place
in September, and often extend over a large portion of Northern Africa;
indeed, we have often seen them in the vicinity of the Blue River. In
disposition the Rock Wagtail is cautious, sprightly, and restless,
passing almost the entire day in active exercise; its flight is extremely
light and beautiful, and so rapid as to enable it to seize an insect on
the wing; unlike most of the members of its family, it generally flies
in a direct line, and, after describing a few circles in the air, hovers
awhile before perching. Upon the ground its movements alternate between
a tripping step, accompanied by repeated bowings of the head, and the
dancing movement alluded to above. Its voice is pleasing, flute-like,
and capable of imitating a great variety of notes and sounds; it is for
this reason unusually attractive when caged. Count Gourcy tells us that
it soon becomes so tame as to greet its master with a song, and testifies
its affection by a variety of pretty tricks.

We must not omit to mention one strange propensity to which this species
is addicted when in captivity, during the season at which its kind
usually migrate. At that time of the year it seems seized with attacks of
perfect frenzy, rushes round its cage, leaps about, and utterly refuses
to take any food that is not forced upon it. This state of excitement
only continues for from eight to ten days, and leaves the bird in its
ordinary state of health. Throughout the whole course of the attack the
little prisoner exhibits a degree of terror which is quite inexplicable,
at sights and sounds that at other times would scarcely attract its
attention.


THE BLUE ROCK WAGTAIL, OR BLUE THRUSH.

The BLUE ROCK WAGTAIL, or BLUE THRUSH (_Petrocincla cyana_), is rather
larger than the species last mentioned, being from eight inches and
three-quarters to nine inches and a half long, and fourteen broad; the
wing measures five and the tail three inches and a half. The plumage of
the male is of an uniform greyish blue, and the quills and tail-feathers
edged with blue. The female is blueish grey upon the upper part of the
body, the throat being decorated with light reddish brown spots, each of
which is surrounded by a dark line; the feathers on the under side are
edged with brownish white, and marked with dark brown crescent-shaped
patches; the quills and tail-feathers are also dark brown. The nestlings
resemble the mother, but have light brown spots upon the back; the eyes
of all are brown, and the beak and feet black. After the moulting season
all the feathers in the plumage of the male are of an uniform greyish
blue, and the quills and tail-feathers edged with blue.

The Blue Thrushes inhabit the whole of Southern Europe, Northern Africa,
and a portion of Central Asia, and are especially numerous in Greece,
Dalmatia, Italy, the South of France, Spain, Egypt, and Algiers; during
winter a few are occasionally seen in India, but these, no doubt, are
stragglers that have lost their way, as, for the most part, these birds
remain throughout the entire year in their native land. Like the species
last described, they principally occupy rocky valleys and mountainous
regions, but are also often to be seen about towns and villages, where
they perch upon steeples, roofs, or lofty walls; in Egypt they frequently
dwell within the ruins of ancient temples. Although sprightly and
active, they are remarkably unsocial, and exhibit a positive dislike
to the society not only of man and of birds in general, but of their
own kind. During the period of incubation alone do they associate even
in pairs; at other seasons each leads an entirely independent life,
and exhibits active hostility to every other member of the feathered
creation. The flight of this species is much more continuous than that of
its congeners, and it usually hovers before perching: like the Thrush,
it often soars into the air when about to pour forth its song. Upon the
ground it moves with great ease and rapidity. The voice of the Blue
Thrush, though inferior to that of the Rock Wagtail, is pleasing, and so
flexible as readily to imitate the notes of other birds. The evolutions
performed by the male for the delectation of his mate are even more
comical than those indulged in by the _Petrocincla saxatilis_, as the
little creature inflates his body until it is almost as round as a ball,
bows his head, and continually brandishes his tail aloft whilst engaged
in going through his dancing steps. The nest is situated in holes in
rocks, walls, and ruins, or upon lofty towers or steeples, and is rudely
formed of grass; nevertheless, its flat interior is neatly lined with
fibres. The four oval-shaped eggs which compose a brood are laid at the
beginning of May. These are of a glossy, greenish blue, faintly spotted
with violet-grey, and more distinctly with reddish brown; unspotted eggs
are also occasionally laid. In Italy, Malta, and Greece, the Blue Thrush
is especially esteemed as a domestic favourite, and commands a high
price. Wright tells us that in Malta particularly, from fifteen to twenty
dollars are frequently paid for a good singer, and that as high a sum as
fifty dollars has been given for an unusually gifted specimen. In Malta,
such of the lower orders as keep these birds fasten a piece of red cloth
to the cage, in order to protect its inmate from the much-dreaded evil
eye. Owing to the extreme care with which the nests are concealed, and
the unusual timidity displayed by this species, its capture is attended
with great difficulty; indeed, none but the most wary and patient of
sportsmen can hope to obtain an adult bird.


THE BUSH WARBLER.

The BUSH WARBLER (_Thamnolæa albiscapulata_), an inhabitant of the
Abyssinian mountains, possesses a short, decidedly curved beak, slightly
pointed wings, in which the fourth quill exceeds the rest in length,
a comparatively long and rounded tail, and short feet; its length is
eight inches, and its breadth one foot and three-quarters of an inch.
The wing measures four inches and one-third, and the tail three inches
and three-quarters. The plumage of the male is of a blueish black upon
the head, throat, and upper part of the breast, back, wings, tail, and
legs; the belly and lower breast are bright rust-red; a band that divides
the upper and lower parts of the breast, and the feathers on the small
wing-covers are snow-white; the tail-feathers are rust-red on both sides,
and tipped with black. The females and young are without the white
patches on the breast and wings.

[Illustration: THE BUSH WARBLER (_Thamnolæa albiscapulata_).]

We had many opportunities of observing these birds at Habesch, and
saw them constantly in the neighbouring mountains. They lived almost
invariably in pairs, and frequented rocks, stones, trees, or the surface
of the ground, with equal impartiality. Upon the rocks they conduct
themselves after the manner of the Stone Thrush: whilst sporting upon the
trees, they hang from the trunk, as they search the bark for grubs, or
perch on the very topmost bough, and pour forth their clear and joyous
song. We were unable to make any observations respecting their breeding
and nidification.

       *       *       *       *       *

The THRUSHES (_Turdi_) constitute a very numerous family, whose various
members are spread over the whole surface of our globe. These birds
closely resemble each other in form and habits, although they differ
considerably in size; for whilst some have the dimensions of a Pigeon,
the smaller species are no larger than the Warblers we have just
described. All have more or less slenderly-formed bodies; the beak is
almost straight, and of moderate length, slightly curved along the culmen
of the upper mandible, and incised at its tip; the tarsus is slender,
and, like the toes, of medium size; the claws, on the contrary, are
large. The wings, in which the third and fourth quills exceed the rest in
length, are long and pointed; the tail is generally moderately long, and
either quite straight, or slightly rounded at its extremity. The plumage
is soft, somewhat lax, and very various in its coloration; the sexes are
usually similar in appearance, and the young are adorned with spots.

Our space forbids our entering into a particular account of all the
European Thrushes, and we can therefore only describe a few of those most
commonly known. Of the eighty-one species with which we are acquainted,
two inhabit the northern tracts of our globe, whilst fifteen are met
with in India and the adjacent countries. There are nine in Africa,
five in Australia, and twenty-seven in South America. Of these, the
RED-WINGED THRUSH (_Turdus fuscatus_), the RED-THROATED THRUSH (_Turdus
ruficollis_), the PALE THRUSH (_Turdus pallens_), the SIBERIAN THRUSH
(_Turdus Sibericus_), the WANDERING THRUSH (_Turdus migratorius_), the
HERMIT THRUSH (_Turdus solitarius_), WILSON'S THRUSH (_Turdus Wilsoni_)
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (_Turdus Swainsoni_), DWARF THRUSH (_Turdus minor_),
the SOFT-FEATHERED THRUSH (_Turdus mollissimus_), the BLACK-THROATED
THRUSH (_Turdus atrogularis_), and the GROUND THRUSH (_Turdus varius_)
are all met with in Europe; the four first-mentioned of these thirteen
species come from Siberia, the next in order from North America, the two
last but one from Southern Asia, and the GROUND THRUSH (_Turdus varius_)
from Australia. The members of this family inhabit every variety of
climate, and make their home indifferently within the depths of tropical
forests, or under the shelter of the pines and firs that frequently skirt
the glaciers of mountain ranges, amidst the rich woodland pastures that
adorn highly-cultivated tracts, or upon the sparsely scattered shrubs
that draw their scanty means of existence from the burning sands or
arid soil of vast steppes. Some few species remain during the entire
year within the limits of their native lands, while by far the greater
number exhibit such a propensity for wandering about to see the world as
is almost without a parallel in the whole feathered creation. All are
eminently endowed, and lively and active in their disposition; their
flight is remarkably swift, but varies considerably in the different
species; that of the Song, Red, and Ring Thrushes being the swiftest
and most graceful, whilst that of the Missel and Black Thrushes is
very feeble, owing to the comparative shortness of their pinions. All,
however, are equally adroit in hopping over the surface of the ground,
or climbing amid the trees, and they are all capable of springing with
remarkable facility, aided by their wings, to a distant branch. Their
sight is so keen as to enable them to detect the smallest insect at a
great distance; and their sense of hearing so delicate as to warn them
of the approach of danger long before it has been perceived by the other
inhabitants of their native woods, who at once seek safe shelter when
they hear the warning cry of their more acute and vigilant companions.
To this superior sagacity is no doubt attributable the eager desire
exhibited by Thrushes to investigate any new or striking object: they,
however, take good care to keep at a safe and respectful distance, even
while carrying on their examination with the most eager attention.
Although extremely quarrelsome--we might almost say vicious--in
temperament, the members of this family are eminently social, and
constantly assemble in large parties, comprising not only those of their
own race, but a variety of other birds. Towards man they appear to feel
but little attraction, and are quite acute enough readily to distinguish
friends from enemies. As regards their vocal powers, the different
groups are somewhat unequally endowed, though the notes of all are in
many respects very similar. The song of the "Nightingale of the North,"
as the Singing Thrush is called in Norway, must certainly be regarded
as excelling that of any other species; whilst that of the Missel and
Juniper Thrush are also remarkable for great sweetness and variety of
tone; of the Hermit Thrush (_Turdus solitarius_) Audubon speaks with
great enthusiasm.

Unlike most other birds, the Thrushes do not accompany their notes with
any description of movement or gesticulation, but sit perfectly quiet and
almost motionless during the whole song; one male has no sooner perched
himself on a conspicuous branch, and commenced singing, than he is
answered by all those in the neighbourhood, as they hurry to the spot to
join in the performance, and share the admiration they evidently expect
it will excite. Insects, snails, and worms afford them the means of
sustenance during the summer, these being principally obtained from the
surface of the ground; they also greedily devour berries, some preferring
one sort and some another. Thus the Missel Thrush constantly seeks the
fruit of the mistletoe, and for this reason is popularly supposed to
bear its seeds from one spot to another; while the Ring Thrush consumes
whortleberries in such quantities after the breeding season that,
according to Schauer, its flesh acquires a blue, and its bones a red
tinge. This very decided predilection for particular fruits and berries
renders these birds very troublesome in vineyards and orchards, and
brings down upon them severe retribution at certain seasons of the year.

Such groups as inhabit the north rarely commence breeding before June,
whilst others usually lay within a very short time after their return to
their native lands. The situations of the nest also vary considerably,
according to the localities in which they are built.


THE MISSEL THRUSH.

The MISSEL THRUSH (_Turdus viscivorus_) is about ten inches long, and
from sixteen inches and a half to seventeen and a half broad; its wing
measures from five inches and a half to five inches and three-quarters,
and the tail from four inches to four inches and a quarter. Upon the
upper part of the body the feathers are deep grey, the under side
is whitish, marked on the throat with triangular, and on the other
portions with kidney-shaped brownish black spots; the quills and tail
are brownish grey, bordered with greyish yellow; the eye is brown, the
beak dark, and the feet light horn-colour. The female resembles her
mate, but is somewhat smaller; the feathers on the under side of the
young are spotted with black, and the wing-covers bordered with yellow.
This species is found throughout the entire continent of Europe, and is
numerously met with in Great Britain. In Wales it is popularly known as
"Penn-y-llwya," or "Master of the Coppice," on account of the overbearing
and quarrelsome disposition it displays. In England it is often called
the "Storm Thrush," from the fact that its voice is constantly to be
heard before a storm of wind or rain. Such of these birds as inhabit the
most northern portions of our continent wander somewhat further south
as winter approaches, whilst those that occupy more genial latitudes
remain throughout the entire year in their native lands. Some few are
occasionally known to stray as far as North-western Africa. Districts
abounding in lofty trees or pine and fir forests are the localities they
prefer. The nest is formed of moss, stalks, lichens, and grass; the outer
wall being frequently coated with a layer of mud, and the interior neatly
lined with fine grass and similar materials. (The egg is represented in
Fig. 12, Coloured Plate XVI.)

The voice of the Missel Thrush resembles that of the Blackbird. "The
male," says Mudie, "is not a mere idle songster; he is equally vigilant
and bold in the defence of his family. The call-note he utters in case
of danger--and which is answered by the female as if she were expressing
her confidence of safety while he is on the watch--is harsh, grating,
and has the tone of a note of defiance. With the Missel Thrush this
defiance is no idle boast, for the sneaking Magpie, the light-winged
Kestrel, and even the Sparrow Hawk, are at those times compelled to keep
their distance, as the Thrush is too vigilant to be taken by surprise,
and under the sprays where these birds contend with him on equal terms he
keeps them all at bay. Nor is he the guardian of his own family only--he
is in some measure the warder of the whole grove, and when the harsh but
shrill sound of his bugle-note of alarm is heard, all the warblers take
heed of the danger, and the chorus is mute until he again mounts the
highest branch and raises the song of thankfulness for deliverance."


THE SONG THRUSH.

The SONG THRUSH (_Turdus musicus_) is considerably smaller than the
Missel Thrush, its length being eight inches and a half, and its breadth
twelve and three-quarters; its wing measures four inches and one-sixth,
and its tail three inches and a quarter. The upper portion of the body is
olive-grey, the under side yellowish white, marked with triangular oval
brown spots, which are less numerous on the belly than in the species
above described; the lower wing-covers are also palish yellow, instead
of white, and the feathers on the upper covers tipped with dirty reddish
yellow. The sexes differ only in their size; the young are recognisable
by the yellowish streaks and brown spots on the tips of the feathers
of the upper part of their body. Like the Missel Thrush, this species
inhabits the whole of Europe, being, however, especially numerous in its
extreme north, and rarely breeding in the most southern portions of the
continent, which are usually only visited during the winter months; it
is also frequently met with in China, and during its migrations wanders
as far as North-western Africa, but is rarely seen in the north-eastern
provinces of that continent. Notwithstanding the very quarrelsome
disposition usually displayed by these birds, many interesting anecdotes
have been recorded concerning the great affection they display towards
each other. Amongst these Yarrell mentions a touching instance, related
by Mr. Knapp:--"We observed," says the latter, "two common Thrushes
frequenting the shrubs on the green in our garden; from the slenderness
of their forms and the freshness of their plumage, we pronounced them to
be birds of the preceding summer. There was an association of friendship
between them that called attention to their actions. One of them seemed
ailing or feeble from some bodily accident, for, though it hopped about,
it appeared unable to obtain a sufficiency of food. Its companion, an
active, sprightly Thrush, would frequently bring it worms or bruised
snails, when they mutually partook of the banquet; the ailing bird would
then wait patiently, understand the actions, and expect the assistance of
the other, and advance from his asylum on its approach. This procedure
was continued for some days, but after a time we missed the fostered
invalid, which probably died, or, by reason of its weakness, met with
some fatal accident." (The egg of the Song Thrush is shown in Fig. 14,
Coloured Plate XVI.)


THE FIELDFARE, OR JUNIPER THRUSH.

The FIELDFARE, or JUNIPER THRUSH (_Turdus pilaris_), is ten inches long
and sixteen and a half broad; the wing measures five and a half and
the tail about four inches. The plumage of this species is unusually
variegated: the head, nape, and rump are deep grey; the upper part of
the back and region of the shoulder dull chestnut-brown; the quills and
tail-feathers black, the former and the feathers of the wing-covers being
grey upon the outer web and tip; the exterior tail-feathers are bordered
with white; the front of the throat is dark reddish yellow, spotted
longitudinally with black; the feathers on the breast are brown, with
a whitish edge; the rest of the under side is quite white; the eye is
brown, the beak yellow, and the foot dark brown. The female is somewhat
paler than her mate.

[Illustration: THE SONG THRUSH (_Turdus musicus_).]

These birds mostly live and breed in the extensive birch forests that
abound in Northern Europe, and usually make their appearance in the
central portions of that continent late in the autumn, rarely wandering
as far as its extreme south. They generally appear in Great Britain
in large flocks about March, when, should the season permit, they at
once spread themselves over the fields in every direction in search
of insects, or if these have all disappeared, seek the berries that
constitute their principal food in our hedges and gardens. But should
the weather prove so exceptionally cold as to deprive them of the latter
means of support, they are compelled to wander still farther south,
returning, however, to Great Britain again before the end of the winter.
Under ordinary circumstances, they remain with us till May, and have
occasionally been known to breed in Yorkshire, Kent, and some parts
of Scotland. Mr. Hewitson thus describes the habits of the Fieldfare
when preparing its nest:--"After a long ramble through some very thick
woods, our attention was attracted by the harsh cries of several
birds, which we at first supposed to be Shrikes, but which afterwards
proved to be Fieldfares. We were soon delighted by the discovery of
several of their nests, and were surprised to find them--so contrary
to the habits of other species of the genus _Turdus_ with which we are
acquainted--breeding in society. Their nests were at various heights from
the ground, from four feet to thirty or forty feet, or upwards; they were
for the most part placed against the trunk of the spruce fir; some were,
however, at a considerable distance from it, upon the upper surface,
and towards the smaller end of the thicker branches: they resemble most
nearly those of the Ring Ouzel; the outside is composed of sticks and
coarse grass and weeds, gathered wet, matted with a small quantity of
clay, and lined with a thick bed of fine dry grass. None of them as yet
contained more than three eggs, although we afterwards found that five
was more commonly the number than four, and that even six was very
frequent. The eggs are very similar to those of the Blackbird, and still
more to those of the Ring Ouzel."

[Illustration: FIELDFARES.]


THE REDWING.

The REDWING (_Turdus iliacus_) is eight inches and a half long and
thirteen and a half broad. Its wing measures four and a half, and tail
three and a half inches. Upon the upper part of the body the plumage
is of a greenish brown, the under side whitish, the sides of the
breast bright rust-red, and the throat yellowish, marked all over with
triangular and round dark brown spots. The female is of a lighter colour
than her mate. The back of the young is greenish, spotted with yellow,
and their lower wing-covers rust-red; the eyes of all are reddish brown;
the beak black, except at the base of the lower mandible, which is grey;
the foot is of a reddish hue. This species is also an inhabitant of
Northern Europe, but usually appears in the more southern portions of the
continent at the close of autumn. Its winter migration extends as far as
Northern Africa; it is also met with in Asia, but has never, we believe,
been seen in an easterly direction beyond Irkutzk.

[Illustration: THE REDWING (_Turdus iliacus_).]

It generally arrives in Great Britain about October, appearing in large
flocks; and great numbers frequently perish, should the winter be
extremely severe. "The Redwings," says Yarrell, in his excellent "History
of British Birds," "are much less inclined to feed on berries than most
of the other species of this genus, and should the resources obtained by
their search on the ground be closed against them by long-continued frost
and snow, the Redwings are first to suffer. During such severe seasons as
in 1799, 1814, and 1822, hundreds have been found almost starved, alike
unable to prosecute their journey south to more congenial countries, or
to bear the rigour of this." Whether such mortality resulted from the
intensity of the cold, or the long continuance of snow upon the ground,
may be matter for speculation.


THE RING OUZEL, OR RING THRUSH.

The RING OUZEL, or RING THRUSH (_Turdus torquatus_), is ten inches long
and sixteen broad, the wing measures five and a half, and the tail more
than four inches. The plumage of the male, with the exception of a
broad, crescent-shaped, white spot upon the breast, is of a pure black,
marked with faint crescent-shaped spots, formed by the light edges of
the feathers; the quills and wing-covers are shaded with grey, and
bordered with brownish grey; the tail is of an uniform brownish black,
with the exception of its two exterior feathers, which are surrounded by
a delicate line of greyish white. The female is greyer than her mate;
all the borders to the feathers are broader; moreover, the crescent
on her breast is only slightly indicated, and of a dull grey hue. The
feathers upon the back of the young bird are dark, with a light edge, and
partially streaked with light reddish yellow on the shafts; the throat is
pale reddish yellow, spotted with a deeper shade; the breast, which is of
a reddish hue, is marked with round spots, whilst those upon the greyish
yellow belly are crescent-shaped. The eye is brown, the base of the lower
mandible reddish yellow, the rest of the beak black; the foot is blackish
brown. The Ring Thrush principally frequents the highest mountain ranges
of Europe, but it is met with throughout the highland countries during
its migrations, and often wanders as far as the Atlas Mountains. This
species has been classed by some ornithologists as the representative
of a separate group, under the name of _Thoracocinela_, but, in our
own opinion, it can only be regarded as a connecting link between the
Thrushes and Blackbirds. (The egg of the Ring Ouzel is represented in
Fig. 15, Coloured Plate XVI.)

This species arrives in Great Britain about April, and is not common.
Mr. Mudie informs us that cold moors, stony places, where a good deal
of water falls, and where there are springs and lakes, are the nesting
ground of the Ring Ouzel. When startled by anyone coming suddenly upon
them, they utter the same alarm-note as the Blackbird. Their short
sweet song resembles that of the Missel Thrush, and is given forth from
some low rock, or elevated stone. The nest varies a little with the
situation. A plant or bush, especially if against a bank, usually has
the preference; but a tuft of grass or heath, or even the projecting
part of a massy stone, is often employed. The nest is formed of moss and
lichen, plastered with mud, and lined with dry soft grass. The eggs are
four, rarely six in number, about the size of those of the Blackbird, but
rather greener in tint, and the spots more decidedly marked.


THE BLACKBIRD.

The BLACKBIRD, BLACK THRUSH, or MERLE (_Turdus merula_), differs from the
species above described in the comparative shortness of its blunt-shaped
wings (in which the third, fourth, and fifth quills are nearly of equal
length), and still more decidedly in its mode of life. Its length varies
from nine and three-quarters to ten inches, and its breadth from thirteen
and a half to fourteen inches; the wing measures from four inches and
one-third to four and a half, and the tail four and a half inches. The
plumage of the adult male is of an uniform black, the eye brown, the beak
and edges of the eyelid bright yellow, and the legs dark brown; in the
adult female the upper part of the body is pure black, the under side
blackish grey, edged with light grey; the throat and upper part of the
breast are greyish black, but spotted with white and rust-red; the young
are blackish brown upon the back, spotted with yellow upon the shafts,
and rust-red, spotted with brown on the under side.

[Illustration: THE BLACKBIRD (_Turdus merula_).]

The Blackbird is met with extensively from sixty-six degrees north
latitude throughout the whole of Southern Europe, and is a permanent
resident in Great Britain. Everywhere it frequents moist and well-wooded
districts or tracts of underwood, usually remaining from year's end to
year's end within the limits of its native land. Only such as reside in
the extreme north of the continent migrate, and then rarely beyond the
southern parts of Sweden. "The Blackbirds," says Mr. Yarrell, "occupy
hedges, thickets, plantations, and woods. They are shy, vigilant, and
restless, frequenting the ground under cover of evergreens and other
shrubs, that serve to conceal them, and, if disturbed, take wing with
a vociferous chattering of alarm, and, after a short flight, turn
suddenly into some thick brake or hedgerow to avoid pursuit. The food
of the Blackbird varies considerably with the season; in the spring
and early part of the summer it consists of the larvæ of insects, with
worms and snails; the shells of the latter being dexterously broken
against a stone, to get at the soft body within. As the season advances
they exhibit their great partiality for fruit of various sorts, and
their frequent visits to our orchards bring upon them the vengeance of
the gardener. This bird commences his song early in the spring, and it
has been observed that he occasionally sings his best during an April
shower. He continues singing at intervals during the summer till the
moulting season. Like some other birds gifted with great powers of voice
the Blackbird is an imitator of the sounds made by others. He has been
heard closely to imitate part of the song of the Nightingale, and three
or four instances are recorded of his having been known to crow like a
cock, apparently enjoying the sound of the responses made by the fowls
in a neighbouring poultry-yard." Mr. Neville Wood mentions an instance
in which he heard a Blackbird cackle as a hen does after laying. This
species pairs and breeds very early in the spring, generally choosing
the centre of some thick bush in which to fix and conceal the nest. The
exterior is formed of coarse roots and strong bents of grass, plastered
over and interlaced with dirt on the inner surface, thus forming a stiff
wall; it is then lined with fine grass. The eggs are four or five,
sometimes six in number, of a light blue, speckled and spotted with pale
reddish brown (see Fig. 13, Coloured Plate XVI.) Occasionally they are of
an uniform blue shade. Their length is one inch and two lines, and their
breadth eight lines. The first brood is hatched by the end of March, or
early in April.

[Illustration: THE MOCKING BIRD (_Mimus polyglottus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The MOCKING THRUSHES (_Mimi_) constitute a family nearly allied to the
birds above described. They are recognisable by their slender bodies,
and short but strong wings, that only extend as far as the base of
the long tail, and have the third, fourth, and fifth quills of equal
length. The exterior tail-feathers are graduated, the tarsi high, the
feet large and powerful, and the claws comparatively weak. The beak
somewhat resembles that of the True Thrush, but is much higher and more
arched; the plumage, moreover, is unusually soft and lax. Unlike the True
Thrushes, the members of this group do not prefer forests or woodlands,
but frequent open tracts, marshy districts, or even the sea-coast; and
while some seek the retirement of the most isolated situations, others
make their home close to the dwellings of man. Such species as inhabit
the southern portions of the western hemisphere do not migrate, whilst
those from the north, when winter approaches, wander southward as far as
the United States or even Central America. All American writers speak
with enthusiasm of the song of these birds; and though we are by no means
inclined to allow them the superiority over their European cousins that
has been claimed for them, still we are fully prepared to acknowledge
that their vocal powers are eminently fascinating and remarkable.


THE MIMIC THRUSH.

The MIMIC THRUSH, or MOCKING BIRD (_Mimus polyglottus_), as the most
celebrated species has been called, is nine and a half inches long and
thirteen and a half broad; the plumage on the upper part of the body is
dark grey, shaded with brown upon the brow and side of the head; the
under side is brownish white; the quills and wing-covers are brownish
black, and the feet dark brown. The female is browner and darker than her
mate, and the white in the tail less pure. Both sexes are alike in size.

The United States of North America must be regarded as the native land
of this interesting bird, and from thence, as autumn approaches, it
wanders forth to visit the surrounding countries. (The Mocking Birds
of Louisiana, however, form an exception to this rule, as, owing to
the mildness of the climate, they often remain there throughout the
entire year.) This delightful songster generally frequents plantations,
gardens, and brushwood, and not only lives but breeds in the immediate
vicinity of man; it also prefers sandy plains, the banks of rivers,
and the neighbourhood of the sea-coast. On the ground its movements
resemble those of the True Thrush, but its flight is undulating, and
rarely sustained for any great distance, as the Mocking Bird from time
to time takes rest upon a tree before proceeding on its way; moreover,
as it flies, the tail is alternately expanded and closed. As regards the
wonderful powers of song that have rendered this species so famous, we
cannot do better than quote the words of Wilson:--"The intelligence he
displays in listening and laying up lessons from almost every species
of the feathered creation within his hearing is really surprising, and
marks the peculiarity of his genius. To his other endowments we may
add that of a voice full, strong, and musical, and capable of every
modulation, from the clear mellow tones of the Wood Thrush to the savage
scream of the Bald Eagle. While in measure and accent he faithfully
follows his originals, in force and sweetness of expression he greatly
improves upon them. In his native groves, mounted on the top of a tall
bush, or half-grown tree, in the dawn of dewy morning, when the woods
are already vocal with a multitude of warblers, his admirable song rises
pre-eminent over every competitor. The ear can listen to his music alone,
to which that of all others seems a mere accompaniment. Neither is his
strain altogether imitative. His own native notes, which are easily
distinguishable by such as are well acquainted with those of our various
song birds, are bold, full, and varied, seemingly beyond all limits.
They consist of short expressions of two, three, or at most five or six
syllables, generally interspersed with imitations, all of them uttered
with great emphasis and rapidity, and continued with undiminished ardour
for half an hour or an hour at a time. His expanded wings and tail,
glistening with white, and the buoyant gaiety of his action, arrest the
eye as his song most irresistibly does the ear; sometimes he sweeps round
with enthusiastic ecstasy, mounting and descending as his song swells
or dies away, and, as my friend Mr. Bartram has beautifully expressed
it, 'He bounds aloft with the celerity of an arrow, as if to recover or
recall is very soul expired in the last elevated strain.'

"While thus exerting himself, a bystander destitute of sight would
suppose that the whole feathered tribe had assembled together on a trial
of skill, each striving to produce his utmost effect, so perfect are his
imitations. He many times deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search
of birds that perhaps are not within miles of him, but whose notes he
exactly imitates; even birds themselves are frequently imposed on by this
admirable mimic, and are decoyed by the fancied calls of their mates; or
dive with precipitation into the depth of thickets, at a scream of what
they suppose to be the Sparrow Hawk."

As may readily be imagined, the sounds imitated by these remarkable birds
vary according to the situation in which they live; those that occupy
woodland districts naturally repeat the note uttered by their feathered
companions, whilst those near a farmyard learn not only to imitate the
cries of all its different inhabitants, but reproduce them so perfectly
as to deceive the nicest ear. Thus they have been known to summon the
house-dog, by whistling like his master; drive a hen to a state of the
utmost excitement, by constantly screaming out in such a manner as to
lead her to suppose that one of her chicks was in the last agonies; or
to scare away a whole flock of poultry by the perfection with which they
imitate the cry of one of the many tyrants of the air. The clapping of
a mill, a creaking door, the grating of a saw, or, indeed, any of the
multitudinous noises heard in a busy household, at once attract their
attention, and are simulated with such torturing exactness as often to
render the Mocking Bird, when caged, almost unbearable.

Amongst the many enemies to whose attacks this species is exposed, the
black snake is one of the most formidable, and frequent and terrible are
the battles that ensue between these apparently very unequal combatants.

"Whenever," says Wilson, "the insidious approaches of this reptile
are discovered, the male darts upon it with the rapidity of an arrow,
dexterously eluding its bite, and striking it violently and incessantly
about the head, where it is very vulnerable. The snake soon becomes
sensible of its danger, and seeks to escape; but the intrepid defender of
his young redoubles his exertions, and, unless his antagonist be of great
magnitude, often succeeds in destroying him. All its pretended powers of
fascination avail it nothing against the vengeance of this noble bird.
As the snake's strength begins to flag, the Mocking Bird seizes and
partially lifts it up from the ground, beating it with his wings; and
when the business is completed he returns to the repository of his young,
mounts the summit of the bush, and pours out a torrent of song in token
of victory."

In the southern provinces of the United States the breeding season
of this Thrush commences in April, whilst in the northern parts, on
the contrary, it does not begin till the end of May. Throughout the
whole of this period the male is extremely restless, and endeavours
to attract the attention of his mate by the ceaseless activity of his
movements, alternately strutting conceitedly about on the ground, with
tail expanded and drooping wings, or fluttering, butterfly-like, around
the spot on which she is perched, at the same time performing a series
of graceful evolutions in the air. The nest, which is formed of dry
twigs, tendrils, grass, and wool, thickly lined with delicate fibres, is
usually placed at the summit of trees or leafy shrubs, frequently close
to habitations, but occasionally also in low bushes and briary clumps
growing in comparatively unfrequented and uncultivated spots. Two and
sometimes three broods are produced in the year; the first containing
from four to six, the second at most five, and the third seldom more than
three eggs. These are round in shape, of a light green colour, variously
marked with dark brown. The young are hatched by the mother alone, and
usually leave the shell in about a fortnight. The two first families grow
rapidly, but they do not attain their full size until late in the year.
Audubon maintains that, should the parents be disturbed whilst tending
their young, they exhibit the greatest anxiety for their safety, and
redouble their care and attention. This opinion is, however, in direct
contradiction to the idea prevalent in America, that if the Mocking
Thrush be alarmed it at once deserts its progeny. During the summer this
species lives principally upon insects, which, unlike most Thrushes, it
often pursues to a considerable height in the air. In autumn it feeds
upon a great variety of berries. When caged it is readily reared upon the
food usually given to Thrushes, but should also receive an occasional
meal of ants' eggs or meal-worms. Upon this diet it will not only live
for a considerable time and become extremely tame, but lay its eggs
regularly from year to year.


THE FERRUGINOUS MOCKING BIRD, OR THRASHER.

The FERRUGINOUS MOCKING BIRD, or THRASHER (_Taxostoma rufum_), has a
slender body, long wings, a short tail, and a powerful foot. The upper
part of the body is brownish red; the under side, reddish white, striped
with blackish brown upon the sides and breast; the small feathers on the
wing-covers are edged with white, and thus form two light borders to the
pinions; the eye is yellow, the beak blueish, and the foot brown. Its
length is about twelve inches; this measurement includes the tail, which
is nearly six inches. The wing is four inches and one-third.

"This large and well-known songster," says Nuttall, "is found in all
parts of America, from Hudson's Bay to the shores of the Mexican Gulf,
breeding everywhere, though most abundantly in the northern portions.
Early in October these birds retire to the south, and probably extend
their migrations at that season through the warmer regions towards the
borders of the tropics. From the fifteenth of April till early in May
they begin to revisit the Middle and Northern States, keeping pace in
some measure with the progress of vegetation. They appear always to come
in pairs, so that their mutual attachment is probably more durable than
the season of incubation. Stationed near the top of some tall orchard or
forest tree, the gay and animated male salutes the morn with his loud
and charming song. His voice--resembling that of the Thrush of Europe,
but far more powerful and varied--rises pre-eminent amidst all the choir
of the forest. His music has all the full charm of originality; he takes
no delight in mimicry, and, therefore, really has no right to the name
of Mocking Bird. From the beginning to the middle of May the Thrasher
is engaged in building his nest, usually selecting for this purpose a
low thick bush in some retired thicket or swamp, a few feet from the
earth, or even on the ground in some sheltered tussock, or near the root
of a bush. It has a general resemblance to the nest of the Cat Bird;
outwardly being made of small interlacing twigs, and then layers of dry
oak or beech leaves. To these materials generally succeed a stratum of
strips of grape-vine or red cedar bark; over the whole is piled a mass of
some coarse root fibres, and the finishing lining is made of a layer of
finer filaments of the same. The eggs (never exceeding five) are thickly
sprinkled with minute spots of palish brown on a greenish ground. In the
Central States these birds rear two broods in the year; in other parts of
America but one. Both parents display the most ardent affection for their
young, and attack dogs, cats, and snakes, in their defence. Towards their
most insidious enemies of the human race, when the latter are approaching
their helpless young, every art is displayed--threats, entreaties, and
reproaches, the most pathetic and powerful, are tried; they dart at the
ravisher with despair, and lament the bereavement they suffer in the most
touching strains. I know nothing equal to the bursts of grief manifested
by these affectionate parents except the accents of human suffering.
Their food consists of worms, insects, caterpillars, beetles, and various
kinds of berries. The movements of the Thrasher are active, watchful, and
sly; it generally flies low, dwelling among thickets, and skipping from
bush to bush with his long tail spread out like a fan."


THE CAT BIRD.

The CAT BIRD (_Galeoscoptes Carolinensis_) is almost entirely slate-grey,
which is darkest on the back and lightest on the under side; the top
of the head is brownish black, the throat light grey, and the lower
wing-covers rust-red. Its length is nine inches, the wing four inches,
and the tail four inches and three lines. The best account of this bird
has been given by Wilson, who has described it at great length.

"The Cat Bird," says that graphic writer, "is very common in the United
States, and arrives in the lower parts of Georgia from the south about
the twenty-eighth of February, and probably winters in Florida. About
the beginning of May he has already succeeded in building his nest.
The place chosen for this purpose is generally a thicket of briars or
brambles, a thorn bush, thick vine, or the fork of a small sapling;
no great solicitude is shown for concealment, though few birds appear
more interested for the safety of their nests and young. The materials
employed are dry leaves, or weeds, small twigs, or fine dry grass; the
interior is lined with fine black fibrous roots. The female lays four,
sometimes five eggs, of an uniform greenish blue colour, without any
spots. Two, and occasionally three broods, are raised in the year.

[Illustration: THE CAT BIRD (_Galeoscoptes Carolinensis_).]

"The manners of this species are lively, and at intervals border on the
grotesque. It is extremely sensitive, and will follow an intruder to a
considerable distance, wailing and mewing as it passes from one tree to
another, its tail now jerked and thrown from side to side, its wings
drooping, and its breast deeply inclined. On such occasions it would fain
peck at your hand; but these exhibitions of irritated feeling seldom take
place after the young have sufficiently grown to take care of themselves.
In some instances I have known this bird at once to recognise its friend
from its foe, and to suffer the former even to handle the treasure
deposited in its nest with all the marked assurance of the knowledge
it possessed of its safety; while, on the contrary, the latter had to
bear all its anger. The sight of a dog seldom irritates it, but a single
glance at the wily cat excites the most painful paroxysms of alarm. It
never neglects to attack a snake with fury, though it often happens that
it becomes the sufferer for its temerity.

"The Cat Bird," continues the same author, "is one of our earliest
morning songsters, beginning generally before break of day, and hovering
from bush to bush with great sprightliness when there is scarce light
sufficient to distinguish him. His notes are more remarkable for
singularity than for melody. They consist of short imitations of other
birds and other sounds; but his pipe being rather deficient in clearness
and strength of tone, his imitations fail where these qualities are
requisite. Yet he is not easily discouraged, but seems to study certain
passages with great perseverance, uttering them at first low, and, as he
succeeds, higher and more freely, nowise embarrassed by the presence of
a spectator even within a few yards of him. On attentively listening for
some time, one can perceive considerable variety in his performance, in
which he seems to introduce all the odd sounds and quaint passages he has
been able to collect. Upon the whole, though we cannot arrange him with
the grand leaders of our vernal choristers, he well merits a place among
the most agreeable general performers.

"In spring or summer, on approaching a thicket of brambles, the first
salutation you receive is from the Cat Bird; and a stranger, unacquainted
with its note, would conclude that some vagrant orphan kitten had got
bewildered in the briars, and wanted assistance, so exactly does the call
of the bird sometimes resemble the voice of that animal.

"In passing through the woods in summer, I have sometimes amused myself
with imitating the violent chirping or squeaking of young birds, in
order to observe what different species were around me; for such sounds,
at such a season, in the woods, are no less alarming to the feathered
tenants of the bushes than the cry of fire or murder in the streets is to
the inhabitants of a large and populous city. On such occasions of alarm
and consternation, the Cat Bird is the first to make his appearance,
not singly, but sometimes half a dozen at a time, flying from different
quarters to the spot. At this time those who are disposed to play with
his feelings may almost throw him into fits, his emotion and agitation
are so great at the distressful cries of what he supposes to be his
suffering young. Other birds are variously affected, but none show
symptoms of such extreme suffering. He hurries backwards and forwards,
with hanging wings and open mouth, calling out louder and faster, and
actually screaming with distress, till he appears hoarse with his
exertions. He attempts no offensive means, but he bewails, he implores,
in the most pathetic terms with which Nature has supplied him, and with
an agony of feeling which is truly affecting. Every feathered neighbour
within hearing hastens to the place, to learn the cause of the alarm,
peeping about with looks of consternation and sympathy; but their own
duties and domestic concerns soon oblige each to withdraw. At any other
season the most perfect imitations have no effect whatever on him."

       *       *       *       *       *

The BABBLERS, or NOISY THRUSHES (_Timaliæ_), constitute a very numerous
race, inhabiting Africa, Southern Asia, and other portions of the eastern
hemisphere. The members of this family are in many respects nearly allied
to the birds above described, but are recognisable by their compact body,
short, rounded wings, in which the fourth or fifth quill is the longest;
a moderate-sized, broad-feathered, and more or less rounded tail,
powerful foot, and comparatively strong, compressed beak, slightly bent
at the tip of the upper mandible. The plumage is unusually lax, and of a
dusky hue.

These birds frequent tracts of brushwood or underwood in extensive
forests or cane districts, and subsist upon the insects, snails, worms,
fruits, and berries that abound in their favourite localities. All are
active, restless, and social in their habits, although they rarely
assemble in large flocks, and are invariably extremely noisy. Only a few
possess good voices. Their powers of flight are by no means great, and
rarely enable them to rise as high as the summits of the trees; but they
exhibit remarkable agility in skipping in and out amidst the densest
foliage.


THE GREY BIRD.

The GREY BIRD (_Pycnonotus arsinoë_) represents a group whose principal
characteristics are their middle-sized but strong and slightly-curved
beak, powerful foot, moderately long wings, in which the fifth quill
is the longest, and somewhat rounded tail. The plumage is lax, and
generally, with the exception of the lower tail-covers, of dull
appearance. The Grey Bird is about seven and a half inches long and
eleven broad, the wing three inches and a quarter, and the tail three
inches in length. It is of a deep greyish brown on the back and top of
the head. The head and throat are blackish brown, the breast and belly
whitish grey; the eye is brown, the beak and feet black. Both sexes are
alike in colour.

[Illustration: THE GREY BIRD (_Pycnonotus arsinoë_).]


LE VAILLANT'S GREY BIRD.

LE VAILLANT'S GREY BIRD (_Pycnonotus Vaillantii_) is a very similar
but larger species, met with in Arabia and the Cape of Good Hope. The
body of this bird, which we have named after the celebrated traveller
Le Vaillant, is of a somewhat lighter grey, and the under side of the
wing and rump of a beautiful sulphur-yellow. It has been asserted that a
third member of this group has been seen in Spain, but all our attempts
to discover it have proved unavailing. Africa and Southern Asia must
unquestionably be regarded as forming the almost exclusive habitat of the
Grey Birds, from whence they but very rarely wander as far as Europe,
or even Arabia. They are first met with in any considerable numbers at
about twenty-five degrees north latitude. In the north of Nubia they
are to be seen on every mimosa hedge, and in Eastern Soudan are more
commonly met with than almost any other bird; in the latter country they
alike frequent forests and gardens, mountains or plains, but usually seem
to prefer such spots as afford a shelter from the sun; for this reason
they are constantly found under the leafy branches of the sycamores that
abound on the banks of the Lower Nile. Towards man they exhibit no fear,
but trustingly take up their abode close to the huts of the natives.
Their temperament is cheerful and restless, and their movements upon
the ground and among the branches sprightly and active. Their flight,
on the contrary, is by no means elegant, and usually consists of a kind
of hovering, fluttering motion. From early morning till late in the
evening their loud, clear, and often beautiful voices are to be heard
almost incessantly, as they hop busily to and fro, gleaning caterpillars
or insects from the leaves, pausing ever and anon to expand or elevate
the long feathers that decorate the back of the head, and, with body
erect, to cast a keen investigating glance on the surrounding buds and
blossoms. Whilst the mimosa is in bloom, they are constantly to be seen
upon its branches, diving their beaks amidst the yellow petals, in order
to obtain the tiny beetles that lurk within, and thereby smearing their
heads all over in the most ludicrous manner with the bright golden pollen
that is profusely scattered over the stamens of the flowers. During the
period of incubation, which in Soudan commences with the rainy season,
and, in more northern latitudes, in the months that correspond with our
spring, not only the couples, but the settlements of couples that often
build upon the same tree live together in the utmost harmony. The nests
are always carefully concealed under the foliage, though so slenderly
constructed as to be permeable to light; their sides are composed of fine
grass and roots, woven together with spiders' webs, and smoothly lined
with delicate fibres. The eggs are small, of a reddish white colour,
and marked with dark brown and blueish grey spots, some of which form a
wreath at the broad end. We were unable to obtain further particulars
respecting the breeding of either this or the preceding species. The
natives of Northern Africa are far too indolent to attempt to tame these
interesting birds, but in India they are much prized, and frequently
reared in cages, not, however, on account of their song, but owing to
the sport they afford as combatants; indeed, they are regularly trained
for the cruel purpose of making them fight. In Ceylon the _Pycnonotus
hæmorrhous_ is taken young from the nest, and secured by a string to
its perch; it is taught to come at its master's call, and when it has
learnt the necessary obedience, is confronted with another bird similarly
fastened, and the two are then incited to attack each other with such
fury as would certainly end in the death of one or both, did not the
spectators take care to separate them at the proper moment by means of
the strings.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE BABBLERS (_Timalia_) inhabit Southern Asia, and are
distinguishable by their powerful beak, which is decidedly arched and
much compressed at its sides, as well as by their strong feet and claws,
long hinder toes, short rounded wings, in which the fifth and sixth
quills exceed the rest in length, and moderately long, rounded tail. At
the base of the beak there is a growth of well-developed bristles.


THE RED-HEADED BABBLER.

The RED-HEADED BABBLER (_Timalia pileata_) is olive-brown on the wings
and tail; the sides of the head and nape are dark grey; the brow and
region of the ear white; the top of the head is brilliant rust-red; the
throat and breast pure white, the former delicately marked with black;
the belly is of a pale reddish hue, shaded with olive-brown upon its
sides; the eye is dull red, beak black, and the feet flesh-pink; the
body measures six inches and three-quarters, the wing two inches and
three-eighths, and the tail two inches and four-fifths. Horsfield, who
discovered this species, saw it first in Java, and tells us that its
song consists of the five first notes of the gamut, _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_,
_g_, repeated in their proper succession with great regularity. More
recent travellers have found it on the continent of India, and from them
we learn that the Red-headed Babblers principally frequent tracts of
underwood that mark the places where the ancient forests once stood, or
districts thickly overgrown with shrubs and bushes, and that they are
more numerously met with in highland than lowland regions. Everywhere
they live in pairs, and, though they rarely venture forth into the open
country, are often to be seen in the early morning, perching on the
branches of their leafy retreats, whilst they preen their feathers or dry
their wet plumage. Even during the breeding season the male frequently
adopts this position, and sits with drooping wings, apparently entirely
forgetful, not only that his mate is left solitary, but of everything
around him. At other times the somewhat neglectful spouse endeavours to
cheer his hard-working partner with his song, accompanying his notes
by spreading the long feathers at the back of his head and brandishing
his tail aloft. The nest of these birds, which is deep, cup-shaped, and
very fragile, is usually formed of leaves woven neatly together, and
is placed in a bush at a considerable height from the ground. The eggs,
from two to three in number, are white, thickly covered with reddish
brown markings of various shades, largest and most numerous at the broad
end, and often intermixed with a few dark grey patches, that appear to
penetrate deep into the shell.

       *       *       *       *       *

The HOOK-CLAWED BABBLERS (_Crateropus_), another group of the same
family, are recognisable by their strongly-built body, rather long,
powerful, and slightly arched beak, which is compressed at its sides;
moderate sized, strong feet, armed with formidable hooked and pointed
claws; short wings, in which the fourth quill exceeds the rest in length;
and long tail, formed of large feathers, and slightly graduated at the
sides. The plumage is thick, harsh, and rarely very brightly coloured.


THE WHITE-RUMPED BABBLER.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-RUMPED BABBLER (_Crateropus leucopygius_).]

The WHITE-RUMPED BABBLER (_Crateropus leucopygius_) is chocolate-brown
on the upper part of the body; the top of the head, face, and rump are
white; the feathers on the under side brownish grey, edged with white,
this bordering presenting the appearance of crescent-shaped spots; the
quills and tail-feathers are marked with a series of dark lines; the eye
is deep carmine-red, the beak black, and the feet grey. These Babblers
are social in their habits, and are always met with in small parties,
numbering from eight to twelve birds. Their flight, which is performed
by alternate rapid strokes of the wings and a hovering motion produced
by broadly expanding the pinions and tail, is rarely sustained for any
great distance, and has no pretence to either grace or speed. In the
brushwood, on the contrary, they exhibit a wonderful power of climbing
and creeping through dense foliage, such as will bear comparison with
that of the Mouse Birds themselves. Few sights are more amusing than
that presented by a party of these noisy chatterers, as they fly quite
close together from bush to bush, settling on each one in turn, creeping
through it in all directions, and screaming violently whenever anything
attractive or unusual catches their eye, then, having snapped up as many
insects and devoured as many buds and leaves as their appetites require,
they re-assemble, and fly off in closely-packed array, to repeat the
same process at another spot. We are entirely without particulars either
respecting their nidification or manner of breeding.

[Illustration: THE WHITE-TUFTED LAUGHING THRUSH (_Garrulax leucolophus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The LAUGHING THRUSHES (_Garrulax_), inhabiting India and Southern Asia,
resemble the above-mentioned group so closely in their general appearance
as to render any detailed description of their habits mere repetition; we
shall therefore content ourselves with the mention of but one species, as
the mode of life and habits and general appearance of the group is very
similar.


THE WHITE-TUFTED LAUGHING THRUSH.

The WHITE-TUFTED LAUGHING THRUSH (_Garrulax leucolophus_) is a large
bird, about twelve inches long and fifteen and a half broad; its wing
and tail both measure five inches. The head--with the exception of
the black cheek-stripes--the nape, throat, and breast are pure white,
shaded with grey upon the sides; the rest of the plumage is of a reddish
olive-brown, deepest in shade on the inner web of the quills and
tail-feathers. All the wooded tracts of the Himalayas afford shelter to
large numbers of these remarkable birds, and resound with their most
peculiar cry, which so closely resembles a hideous laugh as to startle,
and, indeed, positively to terrify such as hear it for the first time.
Insects, snails, worms, and berries afford them their principal means of
subsistence; the former are sought for on the ground or in the foliage,
and the latter are gathered from the branches as they hang suspended from
the trees. The nest is a mere mass of roots, moss, and grass, placed in
a thick bush. The eggs are few in number, and have a pure white shell.
Frith gives us an interesting account of the manner in which a very
similar species, the CHINESE LAUGHING THRUSH (_Garrulax Chinensis_),
kills and devours its prey. "This bird," he tells us, "seized a snake
about a foot long that was put into its cage, struck it against the
ground, bored its head repeatedly with its bill, and then proceeded to
eat it, holding the body firmly with his foot whilst he tore it into
pieces. Large beetles he treated in a similar manner, and, previous to
snapping up a wasp or a bee, always allowed his intended victim to drive
its sting repeatedly into his expanded tail; small pieces of cooked flesh
he placed between the bars of his cage before proceeding to devour them."

       *       *       *       *       *

The WATER OUZELS (_Cinclus_) constitute a group whose members, though
closely allied to the Thrushes, have been separated from them on account
of certain peculiarities by which they are distinguished. They all
have slender bodies, which, however, appear stout, owing to the great
thickness of the plumage; delicate, almost straight beaks, compressed at
the sides and narrow towards the tip; the nostrils are closed by a fold
of skin; the feet are high and strong, the toes long, and armed with
very hooked and strong claws; the wing is unusually short, much rounded,
and almost as broad as it is long; the tail-feathers, which are broad
and slightly rounded at the extremity, are so short as to be little more
than stumps. The thick, soft plumage is totally unlike that possessed
by any other land birds, being furnished with an undergrowth of downy
feathers. The Water Ouzels are met with in all parts of the world, but
are especially numerous in northern countries; they are also occasionally
seen in the Himalayas, Andes, and other tropical mountain ranges.


THE WATER OUZEL, OR DIPPER.

[Illustration: WATER OUZELS AND KINGFISHER.]

The WATER OUZEL, or DIPPER (_Cinclus aquaticus_), is seven and a half
inches long, and eleven and one-third broad, the wing measures three and
a half, and the tail two inches; the female is a few lines smaller than
her mate. The coloration of the plumage is simple, but very striking, the
head and nape are yellowish brown; the feathers on the rest of the upper
part of the body are slate-grey, edged with black; the entire throat is
milk-white; the upper breast reddish brown, and the remainder of the
under side deep brown; the feathers of the young are light slate-colour,
bordered with a deeper shade on the back, and on the under parts of a
dirty white, with dark edges and markings. The Dippers are found very
extensively throughout all such European mountain ranges--except the
Scandinavian Alps, where they are replaced by a similar but darker
bird--as are well supplied with water; they also frequent Central Asia,
Palestine, and North-western Africa. In the south and extreme east
of Asia and in America they are represented by a variety of nearly
allied species. In Great Britain they are also numerous, especially in
Derbyshire, upon the banks of the Dove and Derwent. Waterfalls, rippling
streams, and mountain lakes are the localities they most delight in; and
in the vicinity of these they often remain throughout the entire year,
always providing that during the winter the ice upon the surface of the
water does not so entirely cover it as to prevent them from indulging in
the constant immersions that may be said to be almost necessary to their
existence. It is not uncommon to see the banks of a mountain stream,
from its source to its fall, occupied by a party of these birds, each
pair taking possession of about a quarter of a mile of water, and living
strictly within the limits of its district. Those who have been at the
pains to observe the movements and habits of this interesting species,
cannot fail to have been delighted by the antics it performs while
carrying on its bathing operations; not merely does it run over the stony
bed of the river with the utmost agility, and wade even up to its eyes
in the rippling stream, but continues its course under the water, or
even beneath the ice, to a considerable depth, not, as has been stated,
for a minute at a time, but certainly during the space of from fifteen
to twenty seconds. Strange as this performance by so small a bird may
appear to our readers, wading is the least extraordinary part of its
proceedings; into the swift eddying rapid, into the bed of the roaring,
rushing waterfall, it boldly plunges, steering its way, if need be, with
the aid of its short wings, through the whirling masses of water, and
flying, or rather, we should say, swimming, by the help of its pinions,
across more tranquil spots with an ease that will bear comparison with
the movements of almost any species of water-fowl. Nuttall says, in
speaking of these birds, "When the water becomes deep enough for them
to plunge, they open and drop their wings with an agitated motion, and,
with the head stretched out as in the ordinary act of flying in the air,
descend to the bottom, and there, as if on the ground, course up and
down in quest of food. While under the water, to which their peculiar
plumage is impermeable, they appear as though silvered over with rapidly
escaping bubbles of air." A writer in the "Annals of Sporting," gives
the following interesting account of a party of these birds, to whose
movements he was an eye-witness:--

[Illustration: THE WATER OUZEL, OR DIPPER (_Cinclus aquaticus_).]

"About four years ago, when on a shooting excursion, I embraced the
opportunity--as everybody else who has it ought to do--of visiting the
deservedly celebrated Falls of the Clyde, and here it was, while viewing
the Fall of Bonnington, that, happening to cast my eye down below, a
little beyond the foot of the cascade, where the river is broken with
stones and fragments of rock, I espied, standing near each other on a
large stone, no less than five Water Ouzels. Thus favourably stationed as
I was for a view--myself unseen--I had a fair opportunity for overlooking
their manœuvres. I observed accordingly that they flirted up their tails
and flew from one stone to another, till at length they mustered again
upon the identical one on which I had first espied them. They next
entered into the water and disappeared, but they did not all do this at
the same time, neither did they do it in the same manner. Three of them
plunged over head instantaneously, but the remaining two walked gradually
into the stream, and having displayed their wings, spread them on the
surface, and by this means appeared entirely to support themselves.
In this position they continued for some time--at one moment quickly
spinning themselves, as it were, two or three times round, at another
remaining perfectly motionless on the surface; at length they almost
insensibly sank. What became of them it is not in my power to state, the
water not being sufficiently transparent for me to discover the bottom
of the river, particularly as I was elevated so much above it. Neither
can I say that I perceived any one of them emerge again, although I kept
glancing my eye in every direction, in order, if possible, to catch them
in the act of re-appearing. The plumage of the bird, indeed, being so
much in harmony with the surrounding masses of stone, rendered it not
very easily distinguishable. I did, however, afterwards observe two of
these birds on the opposite side of the stream, and possibly the three
others might also have emerged and escaped my notice."

Mr. Mudie, in his "Feathered Tribes," observes--"A question has been
raised how the Dipper can contrive to keep beneath a fluid so much more
dense than itself. An Owl to an Owl's bulk of air is as a stone to a
pound, as compared with the Dipper's bulk of water to the Dipper; but
if birds rise and ascend in the air at pleasure by the motions of their
wings, it is only reversing those motions to enable them to descend or
keep themselves down in water. The difference of specific gravity between
the bird and the water is indeed so trifling that very little effort
suffices to move it in any direction, upwards, downwards, or laterally.
Birds do not fly upon the principle of specific gravity, as, with equal
wings, the heavy birds fly best; they fly because they strike the air
more forcibly in the opposite direction to that in which they wish to go,
and, under water, the Dipper just does the same. If it wishes to go down,
it strikes upwards with the wings and tail; if to come up, it does just
the reverse. The only difference is that the wings are held 'recovered,'
as running birds use them, and that gravitation has even less to do in
the matter than in flying. Any one who has ever seen a Dipper under
water, or has the slightest knowledge of the mere elements of mechanics,
can understand the whole matter in an instant. The Dipper is indeed often
adduced as an instance of the beautiful simplicity of animal mechanics."

The flight of the Water Ouzel is effected by a series of rapidly repeated
strokes, yet, even when winging its way through the air, the bird skims
along near the surface of the stream, darting down from time to time
to seize a passing insect. Only when hotly pursued does it quit the
vicinity of its favourite lake or river, and seek safety by flying to
any considerable distance, and it always returns to its usual haunts
as soon as the cause of its alarm has disappeared. While perched upon
an elevated point on the bank, engaged in watching for prey, it is not
uncommon to see it dart suddenly down and seize its victim with an action
more resembling the leap of a frog than the movement of a member of the
feathered creation. As regards intelligence and the perfection of its
senses, this remarkable bird is decidedly highly endowed; its sight
and hearing, in particular, are extremely acute. In disposition it is
cunning, cautious, and so observant that it at once perceives any unusual
object or detects approaching danger.

To the presence of man the Dipper usually exhibits the utmost repugnance,
whether he come in the guise of a friend or foe, nor is it less fearful
of the attacks of the numerous birds of prey that dwell around and
within its rocky haunts. We learn from Homeyer, who has observed these
Ouzels very extensively, that their dislike to man, above alluded to, is
sometimes laid aside, and that they have not only been known to allow the
approach of a stranger, but have even ventured to approach mill-streams,
and, in some instances, cultivated quite a close acquaintance with the
miller and his family. The same writer also mentions that a pair of these
birds made their appearance in Baden-Baden, and much astonished the
visitors at one of the largest hotels, by commencing their diving and
bathing operations immediately in front of the house. Even towards birds
of its own kind, the Water Ouzel is extremely unsocial; only during the
period of incubation does it tolerate the society of its mates; at other
times it lives alone, driving off any of its neighbours that unwarily
intrude within the precincts of its little domain with a violence well
calculated to prevent a renewal of the offence, as the following extract
will show:--

"A gentleman," says a correspondent of the _Field_ newspaper, "was
walking along the bank of a little stream in Pembrokeshire, when he saw a
Dipper, shooting along with its usual arrowy flight, divert itself from
its course, and, dashing against a Redbreast that was sitting quietly
on a twig overhanging the stream, knock it fairly into the water. The
savage little bird was not content with this assault, but continued to
attack the poor Redbreast as it lay fluttering on the waves, endeavouring
to force it below the surface. It twice drove its victim under water,
and would have killed it, had it not been scared away by the shouts and
gestures of the witness. The Robin at length succeeded in scrambling
to the bank, and got away in safety." So strong is this dislike to
companionship, that even the young are sent forth to provide for
themselves at such a tender age as would appear to render it impossible
for them to obtain their own livelihood.

The song of the male Dipper may be best described as a lively chatter,
consisting of a variety of light tones uttered with different degrees
of sound and expression, and is to be heard not only in the spring, but
during the utmost severity of the winter. "Those," says Schinz, "who have
listened to their cheerful voices on a bleak January morning, when every
object in the landscape seemed frozen or dead, or watched the gay little
singers as, in the very joyousness of their heart, they sprung through a
hole into the ice-bound stream, to take their usual copious bath, would
be inclined to believe that they are actually insensible to the chilling
breath of the frost and the icy nature of the scene around them." Insects
of all kinds constitute their principal means of existence. Gloger
tells us that during the winter they also frequently eat mussels and
small fish, and that this diet imparts a fishy flavour to their flesh.
Should the season be unusually severe, they are sometimes compelled to
venture forth and snatch a meal from the most unlikely places; thus
we were informed by a miller in our neighbourhood that his mill was
repeatedly visited during a heavy frost by a pair of these birds, they
being attracted by the hope of obtaining a portion of the oil with which
the mill-wheels were greased, and so overcome with hunger were the poor
creatures that they swallowed the grease boldly, even when one of the men
stood close to the spot.

The period of incubation commences in April, one brood and occasionally
two being produced within the year. The nest is constructed close to
the surface of the water, and, if possible, in such a situation as to
permit the stream to flow past it, and thus afford protection against
the attacks of martens, weasels, cats, and such-like enemies; it is
usually placed upon projecting stones or rocks, or in holes in bridges
or mill-dams, and similar situations. In an instance that came under
our own notice, it was built in the wheel of a mill that had for a time
stopped work. All our endeavours to obtain a sight of the nest last
mentioned would have been useless, had not the friendly miller drawn off
the water, and thus permitted us to satisfy our curiosity. The cavity, or
nook selected for the reception of the brood is lined with a thick bed of
twigs, grass, straw, and moss, these materials being overspread with a
layer of leaves. If the mouth of the hole be large it is covered with a
kind of mossy lid, resembling that made by the Wren for her little abode,
leaving only an entrance passage of very moderate dimensions. When placed
among the machinery of a mill, the nest has sometimes required to be two
feet long, in order to keep it firmly fixed on its precarious foundation.
The eggs, from four to six in number, are of a glossy white, variously
shaped, but generally from eight to ten lines long, and eight to eight
and a half lines broad. Though the female broods with such diligence and
care that she will not even make her escape at the approach of danger,
she rarely succeeds in hatching more than two of her brood, the rest of
the eggs being no doubt addled by the damp situation of the nest. Whilst
engaged in tending their young family, the parents often appear to lay
aside their usual timidity, and will permit a stranger to investigate
their proceedings without exhibiting any sign of fear.


THE AMERICAN WATER OUZEL.

The AMERICAN WATER OUZEL (_Cinclus Americanus_) differs from the European
species above described by the absence of white on the brownish chin
and throat. Nuttall tells us, in his interesting work on American
ornithology, that "this bird was first noticed by Pallas in the Crimea,
and afterwards by Mr. Bullock in Mexico, from whence it appears, by
an exclusively interior route, to penetrate into the wild and remote
interior of Canada, as far as the shores of the Athabasca Lake."

Mr. Townsend says, in speaking of this bird--whose habits are but little
known--"The American Dipper inhabits the clear mountain streams in the
vicinity of the Columbia. When observed it was swimming along the rapids,
occasionally flying for short distances over the surface of the water,
and then diving into it, re-appearing after a short interval. Sometimes
it alights on the banks of the stream, and jerks its tail upwards like a
Wren. I did not hear it utter any note. The stomach was found to contain
fragments of fresh-water snail-shells. I observed that this bird did not
alight on the surface of the water, but dived immediately while on the
wing."

       *       *       *       *       *

The PITTAS, or PAINTED THRUSHES (_Pittæ_), constitute a family of birds
nearly allied to the preceding, and remarkable for their short but
powerful body, moderately long neck, large head, and long wings--in which
the fourth and fifth quills exceed the rest in length--that reach to the
tips of the very short, straight tail. All have unusually powerful beaks,
compressed at the sides, and slightly arched at the culmen, those of some
species in particular being so strong as to have occasioned Linnæus to
class them with the Ravens. The foot is slender, the tarsus high, and
the outer toes connected with that in the centre as far as the first
joint. The plumage is thick and full, and usually glows with the most
resplendent colours. Owing to the great variety of hue and difference in
the shape of the beak and length of quills observable in the different
members of this family, they have been necessarily subdivided, although
they all nearly resemble each other in their habits and mode of life.


THE NURANG.

The NURANG of the Hindoos (_Pitta Bengalensis_) is blueish green upon
the back, shoulders, and wing-covers; the somewhat prolonged upper
tail-covers are pale blue, the chin, breast, and throat beneath the ear
white; the under side is entirely brownish yellow, with the exception of
a scarlet patch on the lower part of the belly and vent; a stripe that
passes over the eyes is black, as well as a line over the head; a streak
forming the eyebrow is white. The quills are black, tipped with white,
the first six primaries being also spotted with white; the secondaries
are edged with blueish green on the outer web; the tail-feathers are
black, tipped with dull blue, and a brilliant azure patch decorates
the region of the shoulder. The eye is nut-brown, the beak black, and the
foot reddish yellow. The length of the body is seven inches, that of the
wing four, and the tail measures one inch and two-thirds. The Nurang is
met with throughout the whole of India and Ceylon, and in some localities
is very numerous.

[Illustration: _Plate 19, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE AZURE PITTA ____ Pitta Cyanea

_about 5/8 Nat. size_]


THE PULIH.

The PULIH (_Pitta Angolensis_) one of the most beautiful birds of Western
Africa, is more powerfully constructed, and has shorter feet than the
last-mentioned species, but is similarly coloured. The plumage on the
upper part of the body is green, with a slight metallic lustre; the top
of the head, a broad cheek-stripe, the tail, lower wing-covers, and
quills are black, the latter, from the third to the sixth, enlivened by
a white spot; the tips of the tail-feathers and those upon the rump are
greenish blue, the throat and a streak over the eyes reddish white; the
upper breast is ochre-yellow, the lower part of the body light scarlet,
the beak reddish black, and the foot flesh-pink. The length of the body
is six inches and a quarter, that of the wing four, and the tail one inch
and two-thirds. The Pulih inhabits a large portion of Western Africa.


THE NOISY PITTA.

The NOISY PITTA (_Pitta strepitans_) the third species we have selected
for description, is of a beautiful olive-green on the back and wings; the
shoulders and wing-covers are of the colour of verdigris; the throat,
region of the ears, and nape, black; the under side is reddish yellow,
with a black and scarlet patch on the belly and lower tail-covers, the
rest of the tail and exterior quills are black, the fourth, fifth, and
sixth primaries being ornamented with a white spot upon the base. The eye
is brown, the beak dark brown, and the foot flesh-pink. The body is seven
inches and a half long. This beautiful bird is met with on the eastern
coast of Australia, between Macquarie and Moreton Bays.

The Pittas almost exclusively inhabit India and the neighbouring islands,
Western Africa, and Australia, and are never met with in the Western
Hemisphere. Of the thirty-three species enumerated by Wallace, six belong
to Africa, two to Australia, and no less than twenty-five to the Malay
Islands. Almost all frequent the inmost recesses of vast forests, whilst
a few, on the contrary, occupy such rocky districts as are covered with
brushwood. Jerdon is of opinion that their very inferior powers of flight
place them almost at the mercy of the heavy winds that occur at certain
seasons, and account for their being occasionally compelled to steer
their course for localities to which they would not voluntarily resort.
The first Nurang seen by him had taken shelter from a storm within the
hospital at Madras.

All the various species respecting whose breeding we have any
particulars, build close to the ground, and form their nests carelessly
of grass, stalks, twigs, or roots, lined with hair, moss, or delicate
leaves. The eggs vary considerably in appearance; those found by
Bernstein were oval, and had a glossy white shell, whilst other
authorities tell us that those laid by some species are bright yellow,
irregularly marked with brown and deep purplish grey, while others
again are greenish white, spotted with red and other dark tints. It
has not yet been ascertained whether the male assists in the labour of
incubation, but both parents co-operate with the utmost courage and
devotion in tending and protecting their young family. Strange informs
us that the Australian species may be allured to come down from the
trees, even almost to the mouth of the gun, by a careful imitation of
their call-note, and Hodgson speaks in similar terms of those inhabiting
Nepaul. Bernstein succeeded in rearing a pair of Pittas that he had taken
from the nest upon insect diet, and also rendered them extremely tame.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ANT THRUSHES (_Myiotheræ_) constitute a family of birds principally
inhabiting South America. Some of them are very similar in appearance
to the Wood Thrush, whilst others resemble the Shrikes. The formation
of the beak varies considerably, being sometimes much arched, sometimes
awl-shaped, and of very different size and strength. The tail is of
various lengths, straight or rounded at its extremity, the wing is
invariably short and rounded, the tarsus is high and powerful, while
the toes are long, thin, and armed with long, slender, and occasionally
spur-shaped claws. The plumage of all is soft and much variegated.

The Ant Thrushes inhabit forests or wooded tracts that abound upon the
vast prairies of South America, and appear entirely to avoid mountain
regions. Some few species venture near the inhabited districts; but, for
the most part, they resort to the densest thickets or closest copses,
and are most numerous in the hottest, quietest, and moistest localities,
where they generally live upon the ground, and trust, even when alarmed,
more to the swiftness of their feet than to the use of their wings. Other
species again, frequent the bushes, and hop from branch to branch in
search of food. The strength of foot displayed by the members of this
family fully equals that of any other race of birds; they leap up and
down with the utmost agility, and when endeavouring to elude pursuit,
spring over the ground with a rapidity that renders it difficult even for
a dog to overtake them. It is only during the period of incubation that
the Ant Thrushes are content to take up their abode in any one particular
spot; at other seasons they wander about from place to place, without,
however, undertaking any regular migrations. We are almost unacquainted
with the voices of these birds, but are told that great dissimilarity is
observable in their notes, and that though some species are far noisier
than the rest, none are distinguished for their powers of song. Insects
constitute their principal food: these are obtained from the surface of
the ground, sometimes by scratching upon it after the manner of hens.
According to Kittlitz, they by no means despise vegetable diet. They
greedily devour ants, and thus render inestimable service to mankind,
by helping to destroy some of the vast swarms of those much-dreaded
insects that occasionally sweep over the face of the country. "Everywhere
in the neighbourhood of Para," Mr. Bates tells us, "the Saüba Ants are
seen marching to and fro in broad columns, and carrying destruction
among the cultivated trees and vegetables of the Brazilians. So large
are the communities made by these tiny creatures, that the traveller
often comes upon heaps of their dwellings of not less than forty yards
in circumference, though not more than two feet high." We learn from
Ménétrier that the Ant Thrushes breed in the spring-time of their native
lands, and lay from two to three white eggs, marked with red; these are
usually deposited with but slight preparations in a hole in the ground,
or some similar situation.


THE FIRE EYE.

The FIRE EYE (_Pyriglena domicella_) is a well-known member of the family
of Ant Thrushes, belonging to a group that comprises a number of the
long-tailed species, who live principally amongst the branches of shrubs
or in the underwood, and comparatively rarely seek their food upon the
surface of the ground. They are all recognisable by their straight,
conical beak, which is hooked at its tip, and slightly incised; also by
their high powerful tarsi, strong toes, armed with short, slender, curved
claws, moderate-sized wings, in which the fourth quill exceeds the rest
in length, and moderately long and rounded tail. The plumage of the male
Fire Eye is almost entirely black, as are also the beak and feet. The
larger feathers of the wing-covers are edged with white, and those upon
the shoulder entirely white. The eye, as the name of the bird indicates,
is of a brilliant fiery red. The female is olive-brown, except upon the
nape and throat, which are pale yellow. The length of this species is
seven inches, its breadth nine inches; the wing measures three inches,
and the tail two inches and three-quarters. The Fire Eye inhabits the
forests of Brazil, and principally frequents the shrubs or brushwood in
the most shady and retired spots. Its song has been described as a mere
piping twitter. So eagerly does this very remarkable bird carry on its
chase after ants, that Kittlitz tells us that upon one occasion he fired
repeatedly into the midst of a busy party, occupied in clearing a clump
of canes from a swarm of black ants, without causing them to cease from
their work of destruction.


THE ANT KING.

The ANT KING (_Grallaria rex_) another of these Thrushes, represents a
group recognisable by their short, thick beak, which is incised towards
its hooked tip, and slightly arched at the culmen; short, rounded wings,
in which the fifth quill is the longest, that scarcely reach beyond the
base of the mere stump-like tail; slender legs, and moderate-sized toes,
armed with somewhat curved claws. The plumage is principally brown,
the smaller feathers being spotted on the shaft with a lighter shade;
the wing-covers have a reddish tinge; the quills and tail-feathers are
blackish brown, their outer web rust-red; the bridle, cheeks, and a
stripe that passes from the chin to the throat are pale yellowish white;
the entire under side is light yellowish brown, the eye greyish brown,
the beak blackish grey, and the feet reddish grey; the body measures
eight, the wing four inches, the tail an inch and a half, and the tarsus
two inches. All the interminable forests upon the coast of South America,
from Brazil to Columbia, are inhabited by these birds, of whose habits,
however, we are completely ignorant, as they live exclusively within
the shelter of the densest brushwood, and invariably take flight at the
approach of man. Burmeister tells us that their penetrating cry is to be
heard from early morning till late in the evening; that they make their
nest upon the ground, and lay blueish green eggs.


THE TAPACOLO.

The TAPACOLO (_Pteroptochus megapodius_) represents another group of
South American Ant Thrushes, in many respects resembling the Australian
Lyre Birds, and particularly characterised by the very unusual
development of the feet. Their body is elongate, their wing short, their
tail rounded and of medium size; the beak is powerful, and compressed at
the sides; the tarsus is robust, and of moderate height; the toes are
slender, and armed with slightly-curved spur-like claws of great length.
The TAPACOLO or TUALO of Chili is of a brownish olive on the upper part
of the body; the breast is reddish brown, and the rump of a reddish brown
hue, striped with white; the belly whitish, with dark markings; the
throat, sides of the neck, and a line over the eyes are white; the quills
bordered with reddish brown, and the tail-feathers entirely brown.

"The _Pteroptochus megapodius_," says Mr. Darwin, "called by the Chilians
'el Turco,' is as large as a Fieldfare, to which bird it has some
alliance; but its legs are much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger;
its colour is a reddish brown. The Turco is not uncommon. It lives on the
ground, sheltered among the thickets which are scattered over the dry
and sterile hills. With its tail erect, and stilt-like legs, it may be
seen every now and then popping from one bush to another with uncommon
celerity. It really requires little imagination to believe the bird is
ashamed of itself, and aware of its most ridiculous figure. On first
seeing it one is tempted to exclaim, 'A vilely-stuffed specimen has
escaped from some museum, and has come to life again.' It cannot be made
to take flight without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, but only
hops. The various loud cries which it utters when concealed amongst the
bushes are as strange as its whole appearance. It is said to build its
nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. I dissected several specimens;
the gizzard, which was very muscular, contained beetles, vegetable
fibre, and pebbles. From this character, and from the length of its
legs, scratching feet, membraneous covering to the nostrils, and short
and arched wing, this bird seems, to a certain extent, to connect the
Thrushes with the gallinaceous order.

"The Tapacolo," continues the same writer, "is very crafty. When
frightened by any person, it will remain motionless at the bottom of
a bush, and will then, after a little while, try, with much address,
to crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and
continually making a noise. These noises are very various and strangely
odd; some are like the cooing of Doves, others like the bubbling of
water, and many defy all similes. The country people say it changes
its cry five times in the year; according to some change of season, I
suppose."

[Illustration: THE TAPACOLO (_Pteroptochus megapodius_).]


THE LYRE BIRD.

[Illustration: THE LYRE BIRD (_Menura superba_).]

The LYRE BIRD (_Menura superba_) has, perhaps, excited more controversy
among ornithologists, respecting its classification, than any other of
the remarkable members of the feathered creation inhabiting Australia.
This difference of opinion has arisen from its unusual size, and the very
peculiar formation of its tail. The body is slenderly built, the neck of
moderate length, the head comparatively large and well-formed, the wings
short, the tail very long, and the tarsus high. The beak is straight,
except at the tip, which is slightly hooked, very perceptibly incised,
and broader than it is high at the base; the nostrils are large, oval,
situated near the middle of the bill, and partially covered with a skin.
The first five quills in the much-arched wing are graduated; the sixth,
seventh, eighth, and ninth are the longest, and of nearly equal size.
The very beautiful lyre-shaped tail possessed by the male is composed of
sixteen feathers, whilst that of the female is of the ordinary form, and
contains but twelve. The plumage of the Menura is thick, lax, and almost
hair-like on the back and rump, but prolonged into a crest on the top of
the head; the base of the beak is covered with bristles. The length of
the body of the male is fifteen inches, that of his tail twenty-three,
whilst his mate does not exceed thirteen inches; the longest feathers
in her tail measuring not more than fifteen inches. The male Menura is
of a deep brownish grey on the upper part of the body, shaded with red
on the rump; the throat and upper part of the breast are red; the rest
of the under side greyish brown, lightest upon the belly. The secondary
quills and outer web of the primaries are reddish brown; the tail
blackish brown on the upper side, and silvery grey beneath. The outer
webs of the two lyre-shaped feathers are dark grey, their extremities
velvety black, fringed with white, the inner web striped alternately
with blackish brown and rust-red; the two centre tail-feathers are grey,
the rest black. The plumage of the female is entirely of a dirty brown,
shading into grey on the belly; the young resemble the mother until after
the first moulting season. This remarkable bird, which, together with the
Emeu and Kangaroo, form the emblems or heraldic bearings of Australia,
has been most carefully observed and described by both Gould and Bennett;
we shall, therefore, lay before our readers the interesting results of
their labours in the words of those naturalists:--

"The great stronghold of the Lyre Birds," says Mr. Gould, "is the colony
of New South Wales, and, from what I could learn, its range does not
extend so far to the eastward as Moreton Bay; neither have I been able
to trace it to the westward of Port Phillip on the southern coast; but
further research only can determine these points. It inhabits equally
the bushes on the coast and those that clothe the sides of the mountains
in the interior. On the coast it is especially abundant at the Western
Port and Illawarra; in the interior the cedar bushes of the Liverpool
range, and, according to Mr. G. Bennett, the mountains of the Tumut
country are among the places of which it is a denizen. Of all the birds
I have ever met with, the Menura is by far the most shy and difficult
to procure. While among the mountains I have been surrounded by these
birds, pouring forth their loud and liquid calls for days together,
without being able to get a sight of them; and it was only by the most
determined perseverance and extreme caution that I was enabled to effect
this desirable object, which was rendered more difficult by their often
frequenting the almost inaccessible and precipitous sides of gullies
and ravines, covered with tangled masses of creepers and umbrageous
trees. The cracking of a stick, the rolling down of a small stone, or
any other noise, however slight, is sufficient to alarm it; and none
but those who have traversed these rugged, hot, and suffocating bushes
can fully understand the anxious labour attendant on the pursuit of the
Menura. Independently of climbing over rocks and fallen trunks of trees,
the sportsman has to creep and crawl beneath and among the branches
with the utmost caution, taking care only to advance while the bird's
attention is occupied in singing, or in scratching up the leaves in
search of food: to watch its action it is necessary to remain perfectly
motionless, not venturing to move, even in the slightest degree, or it
vanishes from sight as if by magic. Although I have said so much on
the cautiousness of the Menura, it is not always so alert: in some of
the most accessible bushes through which roads have been cut it may
frequently be seen, and even closely approached on horseback, the bird
evincing less fear of horses than of man. At Illawarra it is sometimes
successfully pursued by dogs, trained to rush suddenly upon it, when it
immediately leaps upon the branch of a tree, and its attention being
exclusively attracted by the dog below barking, it is easily approached
and shot. Another successful mode of procedure is by wearing the tail of
a full-plumaged male in the hat, keeping it constantly in motion, and
concealing the person among the bushes, when, the attention of the bird
being arrested by the apparent intrusion of another of its own sex, it
will be attracted within the range of the gun. If the bird be hidden
from view by surrounding objects, any unusual sound, such as a shrill
whistle, will generally induce him to show himself for an instant, by
causing him to leap with a gay and sprightly air upon some neighbouring
branch, to ascertain the cause of the disturbance; advantage must be
taken of this circumstance immediately, or the next moment it may be
half-way down the gully. The Menura seldom, if ever, attempts to escape
by flight, but easily eludes pursuit by its extraordinary powers of
running. None are so efficient in obtaining specimens as the naked black,
whose noiseless and gliding steps enable him to steal upon it unheard
or unperceived; with a gun in his hand he rarely allows it to escape,
and in many instances he will even kill it with his own clumsy weapons.
The Lyre Bird is of a wandering disposition, and, although it probably
keeps to the same jungle, it is constantly engaged in traversing it
from one end to the other, from the mountain base to the top of the
gullies, whose steep and rugged sides present no obstacle to its long
legs and powerful muscular thighs. It is also capable of performing
extraordinary leaps, and I have heard it stated that it will spring ten
feet perpendicularly from the ground. Among its many curious habits, the
only one at all approaching to those of the Gallinaceæ is that of forming
small round hillocks, which are constantly visited during the day, and
upon which the male is continually tramping, at the same time erecting
and spreading out its tail in the most graceful manner, and uttering
its various cries; sometimes pouring forth its natural notes; at others
imitating those of other birds, and even the howling of the native dog
(dingo). The early morning and evening are the periods when it is most
animated and active. Although upon one occasion I forced this bird to
take wing, it was merely for the purpose of descending a gully, and I
am led to believe that it seldom exerts this power unless under similar
circumstances. It is particularly partial to traversing the trunks of
fallen trees, and frequently attains a considerable altitude by leaping
from branch to branch. Independently of a loud full note, which may be
heard reverberating over the gullies for at least a quarter of a mile, it
has also an inward warbling song, the lower notes of which can only be
heard within about fifteen yards. It remains stationary whilst singing,
fully occupied in pouring forth its animated strain; this it frequently
discontinues abruptly, and again commences with a low, inward snapping
noise, ending with an imitation of the loud and full note of the Satin
Bird, and always accompanied by a tremulous motion of the tail. The food
of the Menura appears to consist principally of insects, particularly of
centipedes and coleoptera. I also found the remains of shelled snails in
the gizzard, which is very strong and muscular."

"I first," continues Mr. Gould, "saw these birds in the mountain range
of the Tumut country. Lately they have been very abundant among the Blue
Mountain ranges bordering on the Nepean River, above Emeu Plains, about
thirty-five miles from Sydney. They are remarkably shy, very difficult
of approach, frequenting the most inaccessible rocks and gullies; and,
on the slightest disturbance, they dart off with surprising swiftness
through the brakes, carrying their tail horizontally; but this appears to
be for facilitating their passage through the bushes; for when they leap
or spring from branch to branch, as they ascend or descend a tree, their
tail approaches to the perpendicular. On watching them from an elevated
position playing in a gully below, they are seen to form little hillocks
or mounds by scratching up the ground around them, trampling and running
flightily about, uttering their loud, shrill call, and imitating the
notes of various birds."

The following account of a young Lyre Bird was received by Mr. Gould from
Ludwig Becker:--

"In the month of October, 1858, the nest of a Lyre Bird was found in
the densely-wooded ranges near the sources of the river Yarra-Yarra.
It contained a bird which seemed at first to be an old one in a sickly
condition, as it did not attempt to escape, but it was soon discovered
to be a young bird of very large size as compared with its helplessness.
When taken out of the nest it screamed loudly, the note being high, and
sounding like 'tching-tching.' In a short time the mother-bird, attracted
by the call, arrived, and, notwithstanding the proverbial shyness of
the species, flew within a few feet of her young, and tried in vain to
deliver it from captivity, by flapping her wings and making various rapid
motions in different directions towards the captor. A shot brought down
the poor bird, and, with its mother near it, the young Menura was silent
and quiet. It was taken away, and kept at a 'mia-mia' erected in the
midst of the surrounding forest.

"Its height was sixteen inches; its body covered with a brown down, but
the wings and tail were already furnished with feathers of a dark-brown
colour. The head was thickly covered with a greyish-white down, of
from one to two inches in length; the eyes were hazel brown; the beak
blackish and soft; the legs nearly as large as those of a full-grown
specimen, but it walked most awkwardly, with the legs bent inwards.
It rose with difficulty, the wings assisting, and, when on its legs,
occasionally ran for a short distance, but often fell, apparently from
want of strength to move the large and heavy bones of its legs properly.
It constantly endeavoured to approach the camp-fire, and it was a
matter of some difficulty to keep it from a dangerous proximity to it.
Its cry of 'tching-tching' was often uttered during the daytime, as if
re-calling the parent bird; and when this call was answered by its keeper
feigning the note 'bullen-bullen'--the native name for the Lyre Bird,
which is an imitation of the old birds' cry--it followed the voice at
once, and was easily led away by it. It soon became very tame, and was
exceedingly voracious, refusing no kind of food, but standing ready, with
widely-gaping bill, awaiting the approaching hand which held the food,
consisting principally of worms and the larvæ of ants, commonly called
ants' eggs, but it did not refuse bits of meat, bread, &c. Occasionally
it picked up ants' eggs from the ground, but was never able to swallow
them, the muscles of the neck not having acquired sufficient power to
effect the required jerk and throwing back of the head. It rarely if
ever partook of water. It reposed in a nest made of moss, and lined with
opossum-skin, where it appeared to be quite content. While asleep the
head was covered with one of the wings. When called 'bullen-bullen' it
awoke, looked for several seconds at the disturber, soon put its head
under the wing again, and took no notice whatever of other sounds or
voices. That the young Menura remains for a long time in the nest is
proved by the manner in which it disposes of its droppings; our young
captive always went backward before dropping its dung, in order to avoid
soiling the nest. It is probable that it leaves the nest in the daytime,
when the warmth of the weather invites it to do so, but that during the
night it remains in the nest; and if the weather should become cold the
mother shelters her young, the nest being large enough to contain both."

A second species of Lyre Bird, the _Menura Alberti_, is thus described by
Mr. Gould:--

"The habits of this bird are very similar to those of the _Menura
superba_, but having seen and watched both on their playgrounds, I
find the _Menura Alberti_ is far superior in its powers of mocking
and imitating the cries and songs of others of the feathered race to
the _Menura superba_. Its own peculiar cry or song is also different,
being of a much louder and fuller tone. I once listened to one of these
birds that had taken up its quarters within two hundred yards of a
sawyer's hut, and he had made himself perfect with all the noises of
the homestead--the crowing of the cocks, the cackling of the hens, the
barking and howling of the dogs, and even the painful screeching of the
sharpening or filing of the saw. I have never seen more than a pair
together. Each bird appears to have its own walk or boundary, and never
to infringe on the other's ground, for I have heard them day after day in
the same place, and seldom nearer than a quarter of a mile to each other.
Whilst singing they spread their tails over their heads like a Peacock,
droop their wings to the ground, and at the same time scratch and peck
up the earth. They sing mornings and evenings, and more in winter than
at any other time. The young cocks do not sing until they get their full
tails, which I fancy is not until the fourth year, having shed them in
four different stages. The two centre curved feathers are the last to
make their appearance. They live upon small insects, principally beetles;
their flesh is not eatable, being dark, dry, and tough, and quite unlike
that of other birds. They commence building their nests in May, lay
in June, and have young in July. They generally place their nests on
the side of some steep rock, where there is sufficient room to form a
lodgment, so that no animals or vermin can approach."

The following particulars respecting this species we extract from one
of Dr. Bennett's interesting works on Australia:--"The locality it
frequents, says Dr. Stephenson, 'consists of mountain ridges not very
densely covered with brush. It passes most of its time on the ground,
feeding and strutting about, with the tail reflected over the back to
within an inch or two of the head, and with the wings drooping on the
ground. Each bird forms for itself three or four "corroborring places,"
as the sawyers call them. These consist of holes scratched in the sandy
ground, about two feet and a half in diameter, by sixteen, eighteen, or
twenty inches in depth, and about three or four hundred yards apart, or
even more. Whenever you get a sight of the bird, which can only be done
with the greatest caution, and by taking advantage of intervening objects
to shelter yourself from its observation, you will find it in one or
other of these holes, into which it frequently jumps, and seems to be
feeding; it then ascends again, and struts round and round the place,
imitating with its powerful musical voice any bird it may chance to hear
around it. The note of the _Dacelo gigantea_, or Laughing Jackass, it
imitates to perfection. Its own whistle is exceedingly beautiful and
varied. No sooner does it perceive an intruder than it flies up into
the nearest tree, first alighting on the lowermost branches, and then
ascending by a succession of jumps, until it reaches the top, whence it
instantly darts off to another of its playgrounds. The stomachs of those
I dissected,' continues Dr. Stephenson, 'invariably contained insects,
with scarcely a trace of any other material. Now collectors of insects
know that gravel-pits and sandy holes afford them great treats, and it
appears to me that one, if not the principal use of the excavations
made by this bird is to act as a trap for unwary coleopterous and other
insects, which falling in cannot ascend again, and are therefore easily
secured.' Mr. Strange, who met with this species in the cedar bushes
which skirt Turanga Creek, Richmond River, says, 'Like the _Menura
superba_, it is of a shy disposition. When alarmed or running away, it
carries the tail erect, and not drooping downward like that species.
I spent ten days in the midst of cedar-brushes in the hope of seeing
something of its nidification, but did not succeed in finding any nest
with eggs. I found, however, one large, dome-shaped nest, made of sticks
placed in the spur of a large fig-tree, which the natives assured me
was that of the Colevin, their name for this bird. It resembles that of
Orthonyx, except that the inside was not lined with moss, but with litter
from a large mass of parasitical plants that had fallen to the ground.
The natives agree in asserting that the eggs are only laid in cold
weather, by which I apprehend they mean the spring, as I shot a young
specimen about four months old on the 24th of November which had the
whole of the body still covered with brown and greyish down. I have seen
this specimen take extraordinary leaps of not less than ten feet from the
ground, on to some convenient branch, whence it continues to ascend in
successive jumps, until it has attained a sufficient elevation to enable
it to take flight into the gully below.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The WARBLERS (_Sylviadæ_) are among the smallest and most fascinating
of the feathered race. They are recognisable by their short, awl-shaped
beaks, powerful feet, short, rounded wings, long, variously formed tails,
and usually silky plumage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The SONG WARBLERS (_Sylviæ_), the most attractive group of this family,
are all little birds, having soft, silky, variously-coloured plumage and
a slender body; the beak is slightly conical, strong at the base, almost
as broad as it is high, hooked and slightly incised at its tip; the foot
is powerful and of medium length, the toes short and strong. The wings
are rounded and of moderate size, the third and fourth quills being
longer than the rest; the tail, which is composed of twelve feathers,
varies in its formation. Light grey predominates in the coloration of the
plumage; but is varied with different shades of red and brown; the adult
male and female are generally but not invariably alike.

The Song Warblers principally frequent the woodland districts of the
more northerly portions of the Eastern Hemisphere, and usually prefer
tracts covered with low trees and underwood to lofty forests. They
almost entirely avoid mountainous regions, even should these be thickly
overgrown with their favourite shrubs and bushes. Unlike the Thrushes,
they rarely descend to seek for food upon the surface of the ground,
nor are they apparently more at their ease when on the wing, for they
frequently undertake lengthy journeys during their winter migrations, and
their flight is in most instances fluttering and heavy; some few species,
however, prove exceptions to this rule, as they are not only capable of
careering with a rapid undulating course through the realms of air, but
frequently, when about to pour forth their song, soar to a considerable
altitude. It is in the depths of the thicket, however, that the members
of this family best display the wonderful agility with which they have
been endowed. No tangled brake, no mass of foliage, however dense, is
impervious to these little birds. With lowered head, and wings and feet
drawn in, they creep through the smallest apertures with astonishing
dexterity, and make their way with an ease and rapidity that is almost
unequalled in the whole feathered creation. Unlike the Thrush or Shrike,
they never agitate their tail and pinions when in motion; but, if angry
or excited, display the crest that decks their head, and slightly raise
their wings above the back. As regards their vocal powers, they are, for
the most part, highly gifted. Their senses are keen, their intelligence
remarkable, and their dispositions shy and cautious. Although usually
peaceable during the breeding season, they frequently exhibit
considerable fury and violence towards any suspected rival or enemy,
that contrasts strangely with the tenderness and devotion they display
while endeavouring to win the attention of their mates, or ministering
to the wants of their little family. More than one brood is usually
produced in the year, each of which consists of from four to six eggs,
of a white hue, spotted with grey or brown. The flat and prettily-formed
nest is placed amongst the bushes, or on a branch, and constructed of
stalks, cottony wool, spiders' webs, green moss, and fibres, lined with
horsehair, the whole being woven together so lightly that the eye can
penetrate its interior. In some instances these fragile little structures
are fastened so insecurely on their foundations as to be liable to be
dislodged by the wind. During the summer months the Song Warblers subsist
almost entirely upon insects, larvæ, caterpillars, and similar fare, and
in autumn devour large quantities of berries and fruit. They are often
very destructive to cherry-trees, and in Southern Europe do great damage
to the crops of ripe figs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TRUE SONG WARBLERS (_Curruca_) are distinguished from their congeners
by the comparative length of their pointed wings, in which the third
quill is longer than the rest, also by their moderately-sized and almost
or quite straight tail.


THE SPARROW-HAWK WARBLER.

The SPARROW-HAWK WARBLER (_Curruca nisoria_), the largest European member
of this group, is seven inches long and eleven broad; the wing measures
three and a half, and the tail three inches. Upon the upper part of the
body the feathers are deep grey, usually shaded with rust-red; the under
side is greyish white, decorated with dark grey crescent-shaped spots,
which are most clearly defined in the plumage of the male bird; the
quills are brownish grey, edged with a paler shade; the tail-feathers
deep grey, with light borders. The eye is bright gold colour, the beak
brownish black, and yellowish pink at its base; the foot is light grey.
In the young, the crescent-shaped spots on the breast are but slightly
indicated.

This species is numerously met with in most European countries that lie
between Southern Sweden and Central Asia; it is, however, unknown in
England, and is extremely rare both in Spain and Greece. Pasture lands,
abounding in shrubs and bushes, on the banks of large rivers, are the
localities it almost exclusively frequents; it never occupies lofty
trees, except as temporary resting-places during its winter migrations.
In its general habits and movements the Sparrow-hawk Warbler closely
resembles most other members of its family; it flies with difficulty,
and comes but seldom to the ground, but displays the utmost agility in
creeping through the densest bushes, or in hopping from branch to branch.
Its song is rich, varied, and uttered constantly, almost throughout the
entire day. The period of incubation commences as soon as the birds have
returned to their usual spring haunts, and is accompanied by repeated
outbursts of jealousy and violence on the part of the male, who not only
frequently engages in fierce conflicts with his actual rivals, but flies
assiduously round his mate while she carries on the work of building
their little dwelling, in order to keep the coast clear from even a
distant intruder on her privacy. The nest is usually placed in a hedge
or bush, at from two to four feet above the ground, and is in every
respect similar to that above described; the eggs, from four to six in
number, are oval, with thin greyish shells, spotted with grey or olive
brown. Both parents exhibit great timidity whilst occupied in the care of
their young, and quit the nest at the first alarm of danger, the female
frequently endeavouring to divert attention from her brood by feigning to
be lame or suffering. If disturbed while occupied in building, it is not
uncommon for a pair to leave the spot and re-commence their preparations
elsewhere; indeed, in some instances, an unusually timid couple have
been known to desert their brood when terrified by the approach and
investigations of a stranger.

[Illustration: THE SPARROW HAWK WARBLER (_Curruca nisoria_).]


THE ORPHEUS WARBLER.

The ORPHEUS WARBLER (_Curruca Orphea_), the European species next in
size to that above described, is six inches and a half long, and nine
and a quarter broad; the wing measures three inches, and the tail two
inches and three quarters. The female is two lines smaller than her
mate. The entire upper part of the back is dark grey, shaded with
brown, the top of the head and nape are brown or greyish black, the
sides of the breast light rust-red, the rest of the under-side is
white; the quills and tail-feathers are blackish brown, the outer web
of the exterior tail-feathers white, as is also a conical spot on the
extremity of the inner web and on the tip of the feathers next in order.
The eye is light yellow, the upper mandible quite black, and the bare
circle around the eyes bluish grey. The female is paler than her mate,
particularly about the region of the head. This species inhabits the
south of Europe, and only occasionally wanders to the central portions
of other continents. Some writers are of opinion that it remains in
Greece throughout the entire year, but this statement we are satisfied,
from our own observation, is incorrect; there, as in other southern
countries of Europe, they generally appear about April, and migrate to
Central Africa and India at the beginning of autumn. Jerdon tells us
that they are numerously met with in Southern India during the winter,
and we have ourselves seen them at that season in Africa, near the Blue
River. Unlike the generality of Warblers, these birds usually frequent
trees rather than underwood or bushes, and especially delight in groves
of figs and olives, or pine forests. Throughout all the well-watered and
highly-cultivated districts of their native lands they are by no means
rare, but are seldom seen in the vicinity of mountains. Their voice is
loud, sonorous, and agreeable. The nest of this species is usually placed
in full view, upon the bough of a tree, and is somewhat thicker and more
substantially constructed than that of most other Warblers; the interior
is variously lined, occasionally with delicate fibrils of grape-vines or
similar materials. Thienenmann mentions an instance in which fish-scales
were, strangely enough, employed for this purpose. The brood consists of
five glossy eggs, of a delicate white or greenish-white colour, spotted
with violet grey or yellowish brown; the latter spots are sometimes
entirely wanting. The female alone broods, while her mate sits upon a
neighbouring tree or branch, and cheers her labours with a constant flow
of song. The young are tended by both parents for some time after they
are fully fledged, and go forth alone into the world immediately after
the first moulting season.

The following notice of the occurrence of this species in Yorkshire may
be found in the "Zoologist" for 1849, from the pen of Sir William Milner,
of Nunappleton:--"The species was a female, and was observed in company
with its mate for a considerable time before it was shot. The other bird
had a black head, and the description I received left no doubt on my
mind that it was a male _Sylvia Orphea_. The bird obtained, of which I
send you a description, was shot in a small plantation near the town of
Wetherby, on the 6th of July, 1848, and had the appearance of having been
engaged in incubation, from the state of the plumage." "Mr. Graham, a
bird preserver of York," continues Sir W. Milner, "hearing that a very
uncommon bird had been shot, went over to Wetherby, and fortunately
obtained the specimen for my collection. This bird had the beak black and
very strong; the whole upper part of the plumage dark ash-coloured brown;
the outer feather of the tail white; the second on each side edged with
dirty white, the rest of a brownish black; chin dirty white; throat and
belly brownish white; under surface of the wings and vent light brown;
legs very strong, toes and claws black. The whole length six inches three
lines."


THE GREATER PETTICHAPS.

The GREATER PETTICHAPS, or GARDEN WARBLER (_Curruca_ or _Sylvia
hortensis_), is six inches long, and nine and three-quarters broad; the
wing measures three inches, and the tail two and a half; the female is
somewhat smaller than her mate, but resembles him in colour. The entire
upper portion of the body is olive-grey, the throat and belly are of a
whitish shade, and the rest of the under side light grey. The quills and
tail are dark grey, the eye light greyish brown, the beak and feet dull
grey.

This species inhabits the whole of Southern Europe, extending in a
northerly direction as far as 68° north latitude; in France and Italy it
is especially numerous, but is comparatively rarely met with in Spain,
though it is known to breed in that country. It usually arrives in
England and Scotland about April, and leaves early in September. Unlike
most of its congeners, the Garden Warbler is extremely quiet and peaceful
in its demeanour, and, though cautious and vigilant, by no means timid.
It usually frequents woods, gardens, and orchards, and may constantly be
seen disporting itself among the fruit trees, in utter indifference to
the presence of the owners.

[Illustration: THE ORPHEUS WARBLER (_Curruca Orphea_).]

Macgillivray, quoting from Sweet, says:--"It visits us in the spring,
about the end of April or the beginning of May, and its arrival is soon
made known by its very loud and long song. It generally begins very low,
not unlike the song of the Swallow, but raises it by degrees, until it
resembles the song of the Blackbird, singing nearly all through the day
and the greater part of the time it stays with us, which is but short,
as it leaves us again in August. In confinement it will sing nearly all
through the year, if it be treated well. In a wild state it is generally
found in gardens and plantations, where it feeds chiefly upon fruits,
and will not refuse some kinds of insects; it is very fond of the larva
or caterpillar that is often found upon cabbage plants, the produce of
_Papilio brassicæ_, and I know no other bird of the genus that will feed
on it. Soon after its arrival here the strawberries are ripe, and it is
not long before it finds them out; the cherries it will begin before
they are quite ripe, and I know not any kind of fruit or berry which is
wholesome that it will refuse. It generally tastes the plums, pears,
and early apples, before it leaves us; and, when in confinement it also
feeds freely on elder, privet, or ivy berries; it is also partial to
barberries."

Mr. Neville Wood has seen it "darting into the air to catch insects in
the same manner as the Spotted Fly-catcher (_Muscicapa grisola_), often
taking its stand on a dahlia stake, watching for its prey, darting aloft
with inconceivable rapidity, with its bill upwards, catching the fly with
a loud snap of the bill, and immediately returning to its station to
renew the same process with similar success."

In an extract given by Mr. Thompson, of Belfast, from the MS. of the late
John Templeton, Esq., he says:--"On the 21st of May I had the pleasure
of seeing this bird, to whose haunt in my garden I was attracted by its
pleasing melody. It was not very shy, coming near enough to be distinctly
seen, but was extremely restless, flitting every moment from place to
place, and only stationary on the branch while it gave out its song. The
male continued to sing until the young were reared, when his song ceased
for about a fortnight; then it was again renewed, on the construction, I
suppose, of a new nest."

"As a songster," says Yarrell, "it ranks with the Blackcap; and a good
judge of the comparative value of the songs of our birds has described
that of the Garden Warbler as a continued strain of considerable
modulation, sometimes lasting for half an hour at a time without a pause.
The song is wild, rapid, and irregular in time and tone, but the rich
depth is wonderful for so small a throat, approaching in deep mellowness
even to that of the Blackbird."

The nest is made in bushes and trees, at various distances from the
ground, and is so slightly constructed as to render it a matter of wonder
how it can possibly support the five or six eggs that constitute a brood.
It is formed externally of strong bents, lined with finer bents, fibrous
roots, and horsehair. The situation in which it is placed is carelessly
selected, and it is no uncommon occurrence for the little structure to
fall to the ground, not only during a high wind, but from the mere weight
of the parents as they enter or leave the nest. Strangely enough, though
they thus appear to adopt the most unsuitable situations for building,
few birds are so capricious as to their requirements in this respect,
and it frequently happens that a pair of Garden Warblers will lay the
foundation of several nests, often within a very limited space, before
they satisfy their peculiar fancies. Both parents co-operate in the
business of incubation; the male, however, only sits during the middle
of the day; the nestlings are hatched within a fortnight, and in another
fortnight can leave the nest, and climb nimbly about the surrounding
branches, though unable to fly. If undisturbed, this species breeds but
once in the year.


THE LESSER WHITETHROAT.

The LESSER WHITETHROAT (_Curruca garrula_) does not exceed five inches
and one-third in length, and eight in breadth; the wing measures two
inches and a half, and the tail two inches and a quarter. In this
species the top of the head is grey, and the back brownish grey; the
wing-feathers are of a still deeper grey, edged with a pale shade; the
entire under side is white, tinted with yellowish red on the sides of
the breast; the cheek-stripes are dark grey; the exterior tail-feathers
white; the rest being only surrounded with a white border. The eyes are
brown, the beak dark grey, and the legs bluish grey.

This Whitethroat inhabits the whole of Central Europe, usually appearing
in England about April; and, according to Jerdon, is met with throughout
India and in many parts of Central Asia, during the course of its winter
migrations. Woods, gardens, and orchards are its favourite resorts,
and these it boldly visits, not merely in the neighbourhood of human
habitations, but in the very centre of towns and villages.

"The food of this species," as Mr. Yarrell informs us, "is very similar
to that sought for by the Common Whitethroat--namely, insects in their
various states, the smaller fruits of many different sorts, for which it
visits the gardens, and, later in the season, it feeds on the berries of
the elder and some others. It is not, however, so easy to preserve this
bird in health during confinement as the Common Whitethroat."

Colonel Sykes obtained examples in the Deccan which only differed from
the English specimens in having a reddish tint on the white of the under
surface, but Mr. Blyth mentions that he has seen this tint on specimens
obtained in this country, and Mr. Yarrell quotes part of a letter
received from the Rev. W. E. Cornish, of Totnes, which says, "I have
reared the Lesser Whitethroat, two males and a female; the males had a
beautiful tinge of carmine on the breast."

Mr. Hepburn, who was the first to discover this species in East Lothian,
has furnished the following notice respecting it:--"On the 7th of
May, 1838, I first heard the song of the Lesser Whitethroat (_Sylvia
curruca_). In its habits it is shy and retiring; it loves to frequent
copses and gardens. When you approach its haunts it conceals itself in
the thickest shade, where it utters its alarm-note, distending its throat
a little. One day in July, when lying in wait for Wood Pigeons in a ditch
beneath the shade of some hedgerow trees, I observed one sporting amongst
the hawthorn twigs. He once sprung into the air, caught an insect,
and then began to sing in a very low voice, ending in a very shrill,
tremulous cry. House Sparrows, Hedge Chanters, Chaffinches, Wagtails,
Willow Wrens, Wood Wrens, White Throats, dart into the air in the very
same way. The little fellow ceased his song when he observed me, and
sought the middle of the hedge, where he remained till I left my place. I
teased him thus for about twenty minutes. He had young ones at the time.
It was about the beginning of July that I observed that both the Greater
and Lesser Whitethroats made excursions into fields of growing wheat
and beans. In the former case they settle on the stalk near to the ear,
which they diligently examine. The Wheat Fly (_Cecidomyia tritici_) at
this season deposits its eggs between the glumes of the corn, and we may
reasonably suppose that the Whitethroats devour this destructive insect,
in doing which they must confer a great benefit on the farmer, as far
as their influence extends. After this I shall never grudge them a few
currants. But this is not all; for, besides destroying vast numbers of
other insects which feed on the honey contained in the nectary of the
bean, I have seen their little mouths filled with the black or collier
aphides, which often commit much damage by adhering to the top of the
field bean and sucking its juice, so that sometimes fruit, leaves, and
stem perish. It prefers the red currant to all other fruits. It departs
about the 8th or 10th of September."

"The louder notes of this bird," says Mr. Yarrell, "have nothing
particular in their tone to recommend them; but if approached with
sufficient caution to prevent alarm, or when kept in confinement, they
may be heard to utter a low, soft, and pleasing whistle, which is almost
incessant; so much so as to have induced the application of the epithets
of _garrula_ and _babillard_, as terms of specific distinction. The nest
is usually placed upon a thick bush near the ground, and resembles that
made by other members of the family. The eggs are from four to six in
number, round, and pure white or bluish green, marked with violet-grey
or yellowish-brown spots, most thickly strewn over the broad end. Both
parents assist in the process of incubation, and tend and protect their
young with the utmost care and assiduity; but, like the species already
described, will often, if disturbed when brooding, desert not merely
their nest, but the eggs contained therein. We have frequently remarked
that the same self-sacrificing devotion exhibited by this species to
its own nestlings is also displayed towards the young Cuckoos that are
sometimes reared involuntarily as inmates of the little family."


THE CAPIROTE, OR BLACK-CAP.

The CAPIROTE, or BLACK-CAP (_Curruca atricapilla_), one of the most
highly-endowed of woodland songsters, is greyish black upon the upper
parts of the body; the under side is light grey, with the throat of a
still paler shade. In the adult male the crown of the head is deep black,
in the females and young reddish brown; the eyes are brown, the beak
black, and the feet dark grey. This species is five inches and ten lines
long, and eight inches broad; the wing measures two inches and a half and
the tail two and a quarter; the size of the female is the same as that
of her mate. It is at present uncertain whether the REDHEAD (_Curruca
ruficapilla_) is to be regarded as merely a variety of this bird, or as
an entirely different species.

The Capirote is found throughout the whole of Central Europe, and during
its migration visits the southern portion of that continent; it is also
very numerously met with in the Canary Islands, and has occasionally been
seen in Soudan. In most parts of Europe it generally makes its appearance
about April, and leaves again early in the autumn.

"When the Blackcap first arrives in this country, its chief food," says
Mr. Sweet, "consists of the early ripened berries of the ivy, and where
these are there the blackcaps are first to be heard, singing their
melodious and varied song. By the time the ivy-berries are over, the
little green larvæ of the small moths, rolled up in the young shoots and
leaves, will be getting plentiful; these then constitute their chief food
until strawberries and cherries become ripe; after that there is no fruit
or berry that is eatable or wholesome that they will refuse. When they
have cleared away the elderberries in autumn, they immediately leave us."

This species usually produces two broods in the season, and places its
comparatively well-built nest within the shelter of a thorny bush or
leafy shrub. The eggs, from four to six in number, are of an oval shape,
smooth, flesh-coloured, and marked with reddish-brown spots.

"The male birds of several species of Warblers," says Mr. Yarrell, "share
with their females the task of incubating the eggs; this is particularly
the case with the male Blackcap, readily known from the female by his
black head. So gratified is he, apparently, when performing this part of
his duty, that he will frequently sing while thus occupied, sometimes,
perhaps, occasioning the destruction of his hopes. A writer in the
'Magazine of Natural History' says he has several times been led to the
discovery of the eggs by the male singing while sitting. The female,
when taking her turn on the nest, is occasionally fed by her mate.
Generally, however, male birds neither sit so steady, or feed the young
so assiduously, as the females."

Bolle tells us that if the nestlings lose their mother her bereaved mate
will alone undertake the care of his hungry young ones. The general
habits and demeanour of the Blackcap so closely resemble those of
other members of this family that further description is unnecessary.
Nevertheless, we must allude more particularly to the peculiarities of
its beautiful song, which has been described by Mr. Yarrell:--

"The Blackcap has in common a full, deep, sweet, loud, and wild pipe,
yet that strain is of short continuance, and his motions are desultory;
but when the bird sits calmly, and engaged in song in earnest, he pours
forth a very sweet but inward melody, and expresses a great variety of
soft and gentle modulations, superior, perhaps, to any of our Warblers,
the Nightingale excepted. While this species warbles the throat is
wonderfully distended."

Bolle mentions a tame Capirote kept by a lady in Ciudad de los Palmas,
the chief town of the Canaries, that was the wonder and admiration of
the whole neighbourhood, on account of the extraordinary clearness with
which it had learnt to repeat the words _mi niño chiceritito_ (my darling
little pet), a phrase daily employed by its mistress, as she gave her
favourite its food. Large sums were offered by several persons, in the
hope of obtaining so great a curiosity as a singing bird that could
speak, but his owner was not inclined to part with her treasure; and
after tending it for several years with the utmost watchfulness, had the
grief to lose it by poison, administered, it was supposed, by some one
whose offers had been refused. When in confinement this species soon
becomes tame.

Beckstein says, "A young male which I had put into a hothouse for the
winter was accustomed to receive a meal-worm from my hand every time I
entered. This took place so regularly that immediately on my arrival he
placed himself near the little jar where I kept the meal-worms. If I
pretended not to notice this signal, he would take flight, and, passing
close under my nose, immediately resume his post; and this he repeated,
sometimes even striking me with his wing, till I satisfied his wishes and
impatience."


THE WHITE THROAT.

[Illustration: THE WHITE THROAT (_Curruca cinerea_).]

The WHITE THROAT (_Curruca cinerea_) is five inches and three-quarters
long, and eight inches and a quarter broad; the wing and tail each
measure two inches and a half. This species is at once recognisable by
the slender body, comparatively long tail, white throat, and the reddish
border that surrounds its upper wing-covers. The head, nape, back, and
rump are yellowish grey, shaded with a faint reddish tinge; the under
side is white, intermixed with reddish grey on the breast; the quills,
tail, and feathers that form the wing-covers are greyish black, the
latter being moreover broadly bordered with rust-red; the eye is brownish
yellow, the upper mandible deep grey, the lower reddish grey, and the
legs greyish yellow. In the female and young birds these various colours
are not so clearly defined as in the plumage of the adult male. These
Warblers are met with in North-western Asia and throughout the larger
portion of Europe, from Sweden and Russia, as far south as the northern
parts of Spain. They are numerous in Great Britain, where they arrive in
about the third week in April; and are only seen in Southern Spain and
Greece during the migrating season, when they wander even into Africa.
We ourselves have shot them in Eastern Soudan, and other naturalists
have found them in the western portions of the African continent. Like
other members of their family, they display extraordinary dexterity
in making their way through the most intricate masses of foliage or
the very innermost recesses of their favourite brushwood, and, under
ordinary circumstances, rarely venture forth upon the outer branches of
their leafy retreats. Despite their unusual shyness, they are, however,
occasionally bold enough to extend their foraging excursions as far
as the neighbourhood of fields of corn, and in Southern Europe they
especially favour the crops of ripe maize. During their flight they
generally keep near the ground, and, though unable to continue their
course for any great length of time, propel themselves through the air
with rapid and powerful strokes of their wings. The song of this species,
which, though varied, is decidedly inferior in quality to those of many
of its congeners, is frequently poured forth when the bird is on the
wing, at an altitude of some twenty or forty yards above the ground, or
as it rises fluttering, or sinks with closed pinions towards the earth.

"The note of the White Throat," says Gilbert White, "which is continually
repeated, and often attended with odd gesticulations on the wing, is
harsh and unpleasing. These birds seem of pugnacious disposition, for
they sing with an erected crest and attitudes of rivalry and defiance,
are shy and wild in breeding-time, avoiding frequented neighbourhoods,
and haunting lonely lanes and commons--nay, even the very tops of the
Sussex Downs, where there are bushes and coverts; but in July and August
they bring their broods into gardens and orchards, and make great havoc
among the summer fruits."

"One that I possess," says Mr. Sweet, "will sing for hours together
against a Nightingale, now, in the beginning of January, and will not
suffer itself to be outdone. When the Nightingale raises its voice, it
also does the same, and tries its utmost to get above it. Sometimes in
the midst of its song it will run up to the Nightingale, stretch out its
neck as if in defiance, and whistle as loud as it can, staring it in
the face. If the Nightingale attempts to peck it, away it flies in an
instant, darting round the aviary, and singing all the time. These birds
are easily taken in a trap baited with a living caterpillar or butterfly.
One that I caught last spring sung the third day after being placed in
confinement, and continued to sing all through the summer; but this was
most likely in consequence of a tame one being with it, which also sung
at the same time."

The nest is usually constructed in thick bushes or in long grass, and
is often placed quite close to the ground, or in the most unlikely
situations--the iron-work on a lamp in Portland Place and in a gate at
Hampton Court Palace are instanced by Mr. Jesse as having been employed
for this purpose. Externally, the walls of the nest are formed of grass,
often interspersed with wool, and lined with some delicate material.
The eggs, from four to six, are laid at the end of April. These differ
remarkably from each other, not only as to size, but in form and hue,
some being white, yellow, grey, or greenish, while others are slate
colour, yellowish brown, or yellowish green, streaked, spotted, or
marbled with various darker shades. Two broods are always produced within
the season.


THE SPECTACLED WARBLER.

The SPECTACLED WARBLER (_Curruca conspicillata_) is five inches long
and six and three-quarters broad; the wing and tail each measure about
two inches. The head of this species is dark grey; the upper part of
the body of a lighter grey, shaded with rust-red; the under side and
quills are grey; the outer web of the secondaries and of the feathers
on the upper wing-covers broadly edged with rust-red; the outer web of
the exterior tail-feathers is white, almost to the root; the inner web
of all the tail-feathers is decorated with a more or less distinctly
indicated triangular patch. The light reddish-brown eye is surrounded by
a white ring; the feathers above the ears are grey; the beak flesh-pink
at its base, and black at the tip; the foot is either yellowish pink or
reddish grey. The young are distinguishable from the adult birds by the
pure grey colour of their breast. In this species the fourth wing-quill
is the longest. The Spectacled Warblers inhabit all of the more southern
countries of Europe, and usually remain throughout the year in their
native lands. In their habits they closely resemble the species above
described, but are generally met with in districts overgrown with low
bushes and thistles. We learn from Wright that two broods are produced
within the year, the first eggs being laid about February.


THE WHITE-BEARDED WARBLER.

The WHITE-BEARDED WARBLER (_Curruca leucopogon_) is one of the most
attractive members of this family; the entire upper portion of the body
is of a beautiful dark grey, the under side greyish white, the throat
bright rust-red, adorned with a narrow white line, which passes from
the base of the beak to the shoulders; the reddish eye is surrounded
by a circle of red feathers, while those over the ears are brown; the
quills and tail-feathers are dark brown, the outer web of the exterior
tail-feathers being partially white, and the inner web decorated with a
triangular white spot; the other feathers are merely edged with white,
the eyelid is light red, the beak greyish black, the upper mandible
tipped with reddish grey; the foot is also of the latter shade. The
females and young are similarly coloured, but are without the red
feathers on the throat. This species is four inches and three-quarters
long, and six inches and three-quarters broad; the wing measures two
inches and a quarter, and the tail two inches and one-sixth.

The White-bearded Warblers inhabit the dwarf woods of oleanders,
evergreens, cistus, and elm that clothe some of the mountainous districts
of Southern Europe and North-western Africa. Within and around these
bosky retreats they seek their favourite insect fare with the mouse-like
movements that characterise their family; but, unlike the species above
mentioned, they are at little pains to conceal themselves at the approach
of a stranger, and are generally to be seen perching in pairs upon the
outer branches of their favourite shrubs, whilst they carry on their
chase, now darting into the air to snap up a passing insect, now diving
within the foliage to seize an unlucky beetle or caterpillar, as it takes
its morning walk upon the leaves. The nest of this species is thicker
and much more neatly constructed than those already described; the four
or five eggs that form a brood have a dirty white shell, spotted with
yellowish brown and olive green; the markings generally form a wreath at
the broad end.


THE FIRE-EYED WARBLERS.

The FIRE-EYED WARBLERS (_Pyropthalma_), as they have been called by
Bonaparte, on account of their bare and brightly coloured eyelids,
represent a group recognisable from the True Warblers by the comparative
shortness of their very rounded wing, in which the third and fourth
quills are of equal length, and also by the long, decidedly graduated
tail and thick hair-like plumage.


RÜPPELL'S WARBLER.

RÜPPELL'S WARBLER (_Curruca Rüppellii_) is of a dark grey on the upper
parts of its body, and white beneath; the sides are shaded with grey, the
rest of the under side with a reddish tinge; the head and entire throat
are deep black, the cheek-stripes ash grey, and a streak that passes from
the base of the beak and divides the black throat from the breast is pure
white. The quills and feathers of the smaller wing-covers are brownish
black, the latter bordered with white; the centre tail-feathers are
black; the second, third, and fourth marked with white on the inner web,
and those at the exterior are entirely white. The eye is light brown, the
beak horn-colour, and the feet red. This species is five inches and a
half long, and eight and a half broad; the wing measures eight inches and
a half. The female is smaller and paler than her mate.

We are almost entirely without particulars as to the life of this bird,
except that it inhabits South-eastern Europe, and usually frequents the
bushes that grow in sandy or barren districts. It is numerously met with
in Palestine, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Red Sea. We have also
seen it in Egypt, though it usually only visits that country during the
migratory season.


THE BLACK-HEADED FIRE-EYED WARBLER.

The BLACK-HEADED FIRE-EYED WARBLER (_Pyropthalma melanocephala_), the
most numerous species of this group, is five inches and three-quarters
long, and but seven broad; the wing measures at most two inches and
one-sixth, and the tail two inches and a half. The upper portion of
the body is greyish black, the under side white, shaded with red; the
head is of velvety blackness, the throat pure white; the wings and
tail are black. The outer web of the first and the inner web of the
next tail-feathers are white; the eye is brownish yellow, and its lid
brilliant red; the back blue, and the feet reddish grey.

[Illustration: THE SPECTACLED WARBLER (_Curruca conspicillata_).]

These birds inhabit the whole of Southern Europe, even to its smallest
islands, and are especially numerous in Greece, Italy, and Spain;
everywhere they frequent any situation covered with shrubs and bushes,
and remain throughout the entire year within the limits of their native
lands. Naumann tells us that the song of this species, which is very
varied, and consists of prolonged piping notes, is constantly uttered
both upon the wing and as the bird rises or sinks rapidly through the air.

When singing in the trees the male usually selects a prominent branch,
and accompanies his performance by agitating his tail, erecting the
feathers that form his crest, and bowing his head repeatedly; should any
unusual sound occur, the bold little creature is at once on the alert to
discover the meaning of the noise, and invariably hurries to the spot
to mingle in every fray or take his part in any dispute that arises
among his feathered companions. The female is not of an inquisitive and
intrusive disposition, and, as she usually remains quietly hidden among
the sheltering branches, is but seldom seen. During the breeding season,
the male is even still more pugnacious and determined. He resents all
intrusions upon his privacy by approaching almost close to the unwelcome
visitor, loudly uttering his shrill, clear call with such rapidity as to
make it appear but one prolonged note. In such moments of excitement the
black crest upon his head is raised aloft, and the bare circles round the
eyes gleam with fiery brilliancy. The nest, which is substantial in its
structure, is usually placed in a bush or tree, and carefully concealed
from view. The four or five eggs have a dirty white shell delicately
marked with extremely fine dark specks, sometimes they are also decorated
with blue markings and a wreath of olive-brown spots at the broad end.
We have found nests containing newly-laid eggs from March to August.
After the breeding season is over the parents fly about for some time in
company with their young, and occasionally they remain associated during
the winter.


THE SARDINIAN FIRE-EYED BLACK-HEAD.

The SARDINIAN FIRE-EYED BLACK-HEAD (_Pyropthalma sarda_), as its name
implies, is a native of Sardinia; it is likewise met with in Malta,
Greece, and the neighbouring islands, also, according to Homeyer, upon
the Balearic Islands. In this species the head, nape, and back are
blackish grey, lightly tinted with red; the under side is pale grey, the
throat whitish; the quills and tail-feathers are brownish black edged
with reddish grey, except the two exterior tail-feathers, which are
bordered with white on the outer web. The eye is nut brown, the bare
eyelid yellowish pink, and the beak black, except at the yellow base of
the lower mandible; the foot is light grey. The colours of the female
are somewhat paler. Salvatori tells us that this interesting Warbler
is one of the commonest birds in Sardinia, and that it frequents all
parts of the country, whether mountain or plain, provided the ground
is covered with bushes or heather. Homeyer speaks in the same terms of
such as inhabit the Balearic Isles, and tells us that their movements
closely resemble those of mice, as they scurry over the ground from
stone to stone and shrub to shrub; now running into a hole, now closely
examining every little twig of a bush, with a rapidity and dexterity far
exceeding even that of the Wren. During the whole time the bird is in
motion the tail is brandished aloft with most grotesque effect. The voice
much resembles that of a male Canary in some of its notes, while others
are like the sound of a tiny bell; the call-note is exactly similar
to that of the Redbacked Shrike. The nest is placed in thick bushes,
and is formed of grass, lined with horsehair and a few feathers; the
interior is deep, and the walls very thin. The four or five eggs have a
greenish-white shell, clouded with yellowish green, or marked with spots
of various shades and with black streaks; in size they resemble those
of the Goldfinch. The plumage of the young is like that of the parents,
except that the head is paler, and the eyelid only slightly touched with
red. Three broods are produced within the year, the first being laid in
August. This species does not migrate.


THE PROVENCE FIRE-EYED WARBLER.

The PROVENCE FIRE-EYED WARBLER, called in England the DARTFORD WARBLER
(_Pyropthalma Provincialis_), a species nearly allied to the above, is
dark grey on the upper portion of its body, and deep red on the under
side, streaked upon the throat with white. The quills and tail-feathers
are brownish grey, the four exterior tail-feathers having white tips;
the eye is light brown, its lid bright red; the beak black, with the
exception of the base of the under mandible, which is of a reddish
hue, as is the foot. The length of this bird is from four inches and
three-quarters to five inches, and its breadth from six inches to six and
a quarter. The wing measures two inches, and the tail from two inches
and a quarter to two inches and a half. This beautiful active little
Warbler inhabits not only the most southern part of Europe, but is also
met with in Great Britain, Asia Minor, and North-western Africa. Hedges,
shrubs, and brushwood are its favourite haunts, and in them it is to
be seen hopping briskly about in search of insects, or perching at the
end of a branch while it carols forth its blithe song, accompanying the
notes by gesticulations with its tail, and a display of the feathers on
its throat. Should its quiet retreat be disturbed by an unusual sound,
the vigilant little minstrel is at once silent, and after a momentary
survey of surrounding objects from the end of a projecting bough,
promptly retires to seek safety amid the densest part of the foliage.
"The male," as Mudie informs us, "often hovers about the bushes, uttering
his chirping cry, which, being rather feeble and hurried, can scarcely be
termed a genuine warble. At these times, from the thickness of the head
and neck, the long tail, and the short and rounded wings, the bird has
some resemblance to a dragonfly. A spy-glass must be used when observing
him, for if one venture near he instantly drops into the bush, where it
is in vain to search for him; and the alarm-note he then utters is not
unlike the cry of some of the field-mice."

This bird was first seen in England by Pennant, who, having killed his
specimens in the neighbourhood of Dartford, gave it the name of the
Dartford Warbler. Since that time it has been found on furzy commons in
several of the southern counties, and been proved to build and reside
throughout the year in this country. Colonel Montague, who met with
this bird in Devonshire, gives the following account of his search
after its nest:--"Mr. Stackhouse, of Pendennis, assured me that his
brother had observed these birds for several years to inhabit furze
near Truro. This information redoubled, if possible, my ardour, and I
visited a large furze bush in my neighbourhood, where I had seen them
the previous autumn, and upon close search, on the 16th of July, three
old birds were observed, two of which had young, as evidenced by their
extreme clamour and by frequently appearing with food in their bills. On
the 17th my researches were renewed, and, after three hours' watching
the motions of another pair, I discovered the nest with three young;
it was placed among the dead branches of the thickest furze, about two
feet from the ground, slightly fastened between the main stems, not in
a fork. On the same day a pair were discovered carrying materials for
building, and, by concealing myself in the bushes, I soon discovered
the place of nidification, and, upon examination, I found the nest was
just begun. As early as the 19th the nest appeared to be finished; but
it possessed only one egg on the 21st, and on the 26th it contained
four, when the nest and eggs were secured. The nest is composed of dry
vegetable stalks, particularly goose grass, mixed with the tender dead
branches of furze, not sufficiently hard to become prickly. These are
put together in a very loose manner, and intermixed very sparingly
with wool. In one of these nests was a single Partridge's feather. The
lining is equally sparing, for it consists only of a few dry stalks of
some species of carex without a single leaf of the plant, and only two
or three of the panicles. This thin flimsy structure, which the eye
pervades in all parts, much resembles the nest of the Whitethroat. The
eggs are also somewhat similar to those of the Whitethroat, weighing only
twenty-two grains; like the eggs of that species, they possess a slight
tinge of green; they are fully speckled all over with olivaceous brown
and cinereous, on a greenish-white ground, the markings becoming more
dense and forming a zone at the larger end. The young were considered
no small treasure, and were taken as soon as the proper age arrived
for rearing them by hand, which is at the time the tips of the quills
and the greater coverts of the wings expose a portion of the fibrous
end. By experience grasshoppers (which at this season of the year are
to be procured in abundance) are found to be an excellent food for all
insectivorous birds; these, therefore, at first were their constant food,
and, after five or six days, a mixture of bread and milk, chopped boiled
meat, and a little finely powdered hemp and rape seed, made into a thick
paste, to wean them from insect food by degrees; this they became more
partial to than even grasshoppers, but they afterwards preferred bread
and milk, with pounded hemp seed only, to every other food, the smaller
house or window flies excepted. Before these birds left their nest I
put them into a pair of scales, and found that they weighed two drachms
and a quarter each. At this time they ate in one day one drachm and a
quarter each, so that in two days each consumed more than its own weight.
Such a repletion is almost incredible, and doubtless greatly beyond what
the parent birds could usually supply them with, which, by observation,
appeared to consist of variety, and, not unfrequently, small _Phælenæ_;
their growth, however, was in proportion to the large supply of food.
This interesting little family began to throw out some of their mature
feathers on each side of the breast about the middle of August, and the
sexes became apparent. At this time they had forsaken their grasshopper
food, feeding by choice on the soft victuals before mentioned. The
nestling attachment of these little birds was very conspicuous towards
the dusk of the evening; for a long time after they had forsaken the
nest they became restless, and apparently in search of a roosting-place,
flying about the cage for half an hour, or until it was too dark to
move with safety, when a singular soft note was uttered by one which
had chosen a convenient spot for the night, at which instant they all
assembled, repeating the same plaintive cry. In this interesting scene,
as warmth was the object of all, a considerable bustle ensued, in order
to obtain an inward berth, those on the outside alternately perching upon
the others, and forcing in between them; during this confusion, which
sometimes continued for a few minutes, the cuddling note was continually
emitted, and in an instant all was quiet. Nothing can exceed the activity
of these little creatures; they are in perpetual motion the whole day,
throwing themselves into various attitudes and gesticulations, erecting
the crest and tail at intervals, accompanied by a double or triple cry,
which seems to express the words 'Cha! cha! cha!' They frequently take
their food while suspended to the wires with their heads downwards, and
not unusually turn over backwards on the perch. The males, of which there
were three out of the four, began to sing with the appearance of their
first mature feathers, and continued in song all the month of October,
frequently with scarcely any intermission for several hours together; the
notes are entirely native, consisting of considerable variety, delivered
in a hurried manner, and in a much lower tone than I have heard the old
birds in their natural haunts. This song is different from anything of
the kind I ever heard, but in part resembles that of the Stone Chat. The
Dartford Warbler will sometimes suspend itself on wing over the furze,
singing the whole time, but is more frequently observed on the uppermost
spray in vocal strain for half an hour together."

The same habits were observed by "Rusticus," of Godalming, who, writing
in "Loudon's Magazine," says:--"Its habits are very like those of the
little Wren; and when the leaves are off the trees, and the chill winter
winds have driven the summer birds to the olive gardens of Spain, or
across the Straits, the Furze Wren, as it is there called, is in the
height of its enjoyment. I have seen them by dozens skipping about
the furze, lighting for a moment on the very point of the sprigs, and
instantly diving out of sight again, singing out their angry, impatient
ditty, for ever the same. They prefer those places where the furze is
very thick, high, and difficult to get in."

The period of incubation commences early in the spring, each brood (of
which there are always two, sometimes three, in the course of the season)
consisting of four or five eggs. When first fledged the nestlings are
unable to fly, and run over the ground exactly after the fashion of
young mice. Whilst the little family is in this helpless condition, the
parents are constantly in a state of great excitement and anxiety; their
cry of admonition or warning is then to be heard incessantly; even when
the young are sufficiently advanced to perch upon the branches, the same
cautious watchfulness against approaching danger is maintained, and we
have often amused ourselves by observing the precipitation with which
the whole group of little Blackheads disappear as the obedient nestlings
hurry to some safe shelter within the bush or tree, at the first signal
from their vigilant parents. Such of these birds as inhabit mountain
ranges do not migrate; in Spain they live at an altitude of 3,000 feet
above the sea, and even when the snow begins to fall they merely come
into the valleys below, and never wander to any great distance from their
native haunts.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TREE WARBLERS (_Phylloscopi_) constitute a family whose members are
met with throughout the world. With the exception of one group, all are
small, slender, delicately-shaped birds, with comparatively long wings,
in which the third, fourth, and fifth quills usually exceed the rest in
length. The tail is of moderate size, either quite straight or slightly
incised at the extremity, and these tarsi are of medium height. The beak
is awl-shaped, slender, rather flat at its base, and in some instances
somewhat broader than it is high. The plumage is soft, and very uniform
in colour; it is usually of a pale green or brown on the back, and
yellowish on the under side. All the species with which we are acquainted
principally frequent the summits of trees, but come down occasionally to
seek their insect food upon the rushes, or in the fields of corn; they
seldom consume berries, unless compelled to do so by hunger. All are
active and restless, and display great agility, both among the branches
and when running over the surface of the ground; their powers of flight
are also good, their voice always agreeable, and their senses well and
sometimes highly developed. Such as inhabit Southern Europe, Asia, and
Africa do not migrate, whilst those in milder latitudes leave their
native lands late in the autumn, and return to them again in the early
spring. These latter species generally breed twice during the summer, and
lay from four to seven delicate white or pale rose-red eggs, marked with
dark spots. The nests of all are constructed with the utmost care.


THE FIELD TREE WARBLER, OR WILLOW WREN.

The FIELD TREE WARBLER, or WILLOW WREN (_Phyllopneuste Trochilus_), is
a slenderly-formed bird with long wings, in which the third and fourth
quill exceeds the rest in length. The tail is of moderate size, and
slightly incised at its extremity; the beak is delicate, broad at its
base, and compressed at its tip. The lax plumage is of an olive green
upon the upper parts of the body, and white on the under side, the
breast being tinged with greyish yellow; a yellowish-white stripe passes
over the eyes, and the cheek stripes are deep grey; the quills and
tail-feathers are grey, edged with green, and the lower wing-covers light
yellow; the eye is brown; the beak and legs grey. After the moulting
season the under side becomes a pale yellow. This species is four inches
and eleven lines long, and seven inches four lines broad; both wing and
tail measure about two inches. The sexes are alike in colour; the young
are greyish green above and yellowish-white on the throat; the rest of
the under side is white, tinted with yellow.

[Illustration: THE FIELD TREE WARBLER, OR WILLOW WREN (_Phyllopneuste
Trochilus_).]

The Field Tree Warblers inhabit the whole continent of Europe, a large
portion of Northern Africa, and some parts of North America. During
their migrations they also occasionally visit India and Northern Africa.
For the most part, however, such as quit Northern and Central Europe
for the winter do not wander farther than its more southern countries.
These birds alike frequent highlands and lowlands, and usually pass the
summer months in disporting themselves about the leafy summits of lofty
trees. In autumn, on the contrary, they come down into the brushwood and
beds of reeds or rushes, or, in Southern Europe, alight in the fields
of maize in quest of food; dense forests they appear almost entirely
to avoid. The song of this species is pleasing and flute-like; its
chief beauty, however, consists in the delicacy of intonation and rapid
swelling and sinking of sound in which the male indulges, as he sits
with drooping wing, inflated throat, and raised crest, upon a projecting
branch, or flutters rapidly from bough to bough, in order to attract the
attention of his intended mate; at such times the female also utters a
faint twittering kind of song. Like the Tree Warblers, these birds are
particularly active among the foliage; they do not creep in the quiet
mouse-like manner above described, but flutter about with a constant
brisk agitation of the tail that cannot fail to betray their presence to
an observant eye. While perched the body is usually held erect, but is
kept somewhat bowed down as the bird hops upon the ground; this latter
mode of progression is accomplished with some difficulty, each long hop,
or rather leap, being followed by a succession of rapid gesticulations
with the head before another effort is made. Their flight is capable of
being long sustained, but is somewhat inelegant, and appears unsteady,
as it is usually undulating and carried on by a series of very irregular
efforts. The same restless activity is also observable in the conduct of
these birds towards all their feathered companions; the slightest injury
or annoyance is resented with much fury, and even the sportive exercises
in which they frequently indulge usually terminate with a series of
violent flappings and peckings given on either side, rather in downright
earnest than in play. The nest is carefully concealed in a hollow in the
ground or in the trunk of some tree, and built entirely by the female,
who commences her operations by hacking at the hole or aperture till it
is of the requisite depth. The utmost caution is displayed by the anxious
mother to prevent the discovery of her future abode. For this reason she
seldom works except during the early morning, and at other times never
remains near the scene of her operations. The nest itself is cone-shaped,
with thick walls, in one side of which a hole is left for entrance; dry
leaves, stalks, moss, and grass are employed for the exterior, while
the interior is snugly lined with feathers, those of partridges being
usually preferred. From five to seven eggs form a brood; these are laid
about May, and are oval in shape, smooth, glossy, and white, more or
less spotted with light red. During the period of incubation the female
displays much anxiety for the safety of her eggs, and even when alarmed
will not leave them until she is forcibly removed. At mid-day her mate
takes his place on the nest for an hour or two, but with this exception
gives her no assistance; both parents, however, combine to rear and
protect the nestlings, and endeavour to attract the attention of any
intruder on their privacy and divert it to themselves, by hurrying to a
distance and uttering cries of distress. The young are fledged by the end
of May, and a second brood is produced in June.

       *       *       *       *       *

The LEAF WRENS (_Reguloides_) constitute a group inhabiting Southern
Asia and the provinces of the Himalaya. In these birds the beak is
comparatively shorter than that of the true Tree-Warblers. The wings are
long and more pointed, and the legs shorter and weaker. All such species
as inhabit India frequent mountainous districts.


THE LEAF WREN.

The LEAF WREN (_Reguloides Proregulus_), a member of the above group,
that wanders from its native lands and appears in Europe, is greyish
green on the upper portion of the body, and yellowish white on the under
side; the rump is bright green; a yellowish-green line passes over the
top of the head; and a reddish-yellow streak over the eye; the wings are
also decorated with two whitish-yellow stripes. The eye is dark brown;
the beak blackish brown above, and of a yellowish shade beneath; the foot
is pale brown. The body is four inches long and six and a quarter broad;
the wing measures two inches and the tail an inch and a half. This bird
is a native of Central Asia, and is commonly met with in India and China
during the winter; it has also been seen repeatedly in Southern Europe,
and more rarely in the central countries of our continent. The nest
of this species is spherical, and is constructed of fibres of various
kinds woven neatly together with spiders' webs, and fastened firmly
upon a branch at a considerable height from the ground. This elegant
little abode is entered by two holes, the one at the side and the other
in front; the latter, which is used most frequently, is protected by a
projecting cover.

       *       *       *       *       *

The GARDEN WARBLERS (_Hypolais_), by far the most attractive group
of this numerous race, resemble their congeners in little except the
colour of their plumage, and are readily distinguishable from them by
the comparative compactness of their body, length of wing (in which the
third and fourth quill are longer than the rest), and the thickness of
their tarsus. The beak is large, broad, and powerful, compressed at its
margin; and the tail is incised at its extremity. The habits and song of
the Garden Warblers differ no less remarkably from those of other members
of their family; their nests are open above, and are built upon trees,
instead of upon the ground; even the eggs do not resemble those laid by
other Warblers.


THE MELODIOUS WILLOW WREN.

The MELODIOUS WILLOW WREN (_Hypolais hortensis_ or _Hypolais salicaria_),
one of the five species of this group known in Europe, is greenish grey
on the upper portions of the body, and light sulphur yellow beneath;
the quills are pale blackish brown, edged with green on the outer web;
the tail-feathers are lighter than the quills, and are bordered on the
exterior web with dirty white; the eye is dark brown, the beak greyish
brown, and reddish yellow at the base of the lower mandible; the foot is
light blue. The length of the body is five inches and a half, the breadth
nine inches and a half; the wing measures three inches and one-third,
and the tail two inches. Central Europe must be regarded as the actual
home of this pretty bird, but it is also met with in the northern part of
the Continent as far as Scandinavia; it is but rarely seen in the south,
where it is replaced by very similar species. Its autumnal migrations
extend as far as Africa, and are commenced unusually early in the season,
as this bird is particularly delicate and quite unable to endure the
vicissitudes of climate so prevalent on our continent at the close of the
year; nor does it venture to return until the spring is far advanced,
and the trees are completely covered with their leaves. As their name
implies, the Garden Warblers almost invariably resort to cultivated
districts, and prefer orchards, hedges, and gardens. When compelled to
occupy the latter situations they generally frequent such trees as skirt
the denser parts of the thicket, into whose recesses they rarely venture
to penetrate, and are never met with in forests of fir or pine, or in
mountain regions. In the localities favoured by their presence a certain
limited district is selected, and to this the birds regularly return,
season after season, defending their little territory from all intrusion
with the utmost courage and obstinacy. In an instance that came under
our own notice a pertinacious individual occupied the same domain for
seven successive years. The voice of this species varies considerably in
quality, but is never remarkable for sweetness; indeed, its only charm
may be said to consist in the spirit and animation with which the singer
pours out his notes, as he flutters about the highest trees, or perches,
with body erect and raised crest, upon a projecting branch. When upon
the ground the Melodious Willow Wren hops with difficulty, and usually
with the head and neck thrown forward; in the air, on the contrary, it
moves with rapidity and lightness. Insects of all kinds constitute its
principal means of subsistence, but it also devours fruit, and does
considerable damage in the cherry orchards. It occasionally destroys
bees, and in an instance that came under our own notice the offending
bird actually beat against the hives in order to compel its unconscious
victims to come out. If undisturbed the Melodious Willow Wren breeds but
once in the year, usually at the end of May or beginning of June; the
eggs, from four to six in number, are rose-red or reddish grey, veined
and spotted with black or reddish brown. The very beautiful purse-shaped
nest is firmly built with grass, leaves, or any vegetable fibres,
intermixed with spiders' webs, paper, and similar materials; the interior
is lined with feathers and horsehair. The parents brood alternately, and
the young are hatched within thirteen days; the nestlings are reared upon
insects, and protected most carefully from danger by the wily stratagems
above alluded to.


THE CHIFF-CHAFF.

The CHIFF-CHAFF (_Hippolais_ or _Sylvia rufa_) is four inches and
three-quarters long and seven broad; the bill is brownish black,
inclining to yellow at the edges; the mouth of a pale saffron-yellow
tint. The plumage below is pale lemon yellow; the belly mixed with
silvery white, and the vent and under tail-covers inclining to deep
straw yellow; the quill and tail-feathers are dusky, edged with yellow,
except the exterior tail-feather on each side, which is plain. The female
resembles her mate.

This bird visits England about the end of March. It makes its nest
upon the ground, constructing it externally of dry leaves and coarse
grass, with a lining of feathers. The eggs are six in number, white,
and speckled at the larger end with purplish red, and an occasional
single speck on the sides. Its double note, which is four or five
times repeated, resembles the words "Chip-Chop," and hence its name of
Chiff-Chaff. It is said to feed principally on the larvæ of the different
species of _Tortrix_ that are rolled up in the unfolding buds of various
trees, rendering good service in devouring those insects that would
otherwise destroy a great part of the fruit. If the weather is fine and
mild, these birds may be seen among the most forward trees in orchards,
flying from branch to branch and from tree to tree, chasing each other,
and catching the gnats and small flies that come in their way. In the
summer they feed on the aphides which infest trees and plants, and they
are also very partial to small caterpillars, flies, and moths.

Mr. Sweet says the Chiff-Chaff is easily taken in a trap, and soon
becomes tame in confinement; one that he caught was so familiar as to
take a fly from his fingers; it also learned to drink milk out of a
tea-spoon, of which it was so fond that it would fly after it all round
the room, and perch on the hand that held it without showing the least
symptom of fear.

[Illustration: THE CHIFF-CHAFF (_Hippolais rufa_).]


THE ASHY GARDEN WARBLER.

The ASHY GARDEN WARBLER (_Hypolais cinerescens_) is entirely greyish
green on the upper portion, and whitish green on the under side of the
body. The eye is dark brown; the upper mandible horn colour, and the
lower one yellowish grey; the legs horn grey. The length of the bird is
five inches and seven lines, and the breadth about seven inches and ten
lines; the wing measures two inches and seven lines, and the tail two
inches and three lines; the female is about one line shorter, and from
two to four lines narrower than her mate. This species inhabits Southern
Europe, and is especially numerous in the highly cultivated districts of
Spain; there, as elsewhere, it frequents vineyards, olive plantations,
and fruit gardens, and ventures freely into the immediate vicinity of
the towns and villages; it appears entirely to avoid mountain ranges and
rocky localities. Unlike the Willow Wren, the Ashy Garden Warbler is
socially disposed towards those of its own race, and it is not uncommon
to see the pairs not only living close to each other in the utmost
harmony, but building upon the same tree. Such as we have observed seemed
entirely without fear of men, for we have frequently known them to make
their nests close to crowded thoroughfares, in small gardens, and, in one
instance, in close vicinity to a public summer-house in Valencia, that
was usually illuminated with lanterns until after midnight. The movements
of these birds are similar to those of the species last described, but
their song, although monotonous and without any particular beauty,
somewhat resembles that of the Sedge Warblers. The breeding season
commences about the first week in June, and continues until the end of
July. The nest, which is built on a high tree and fastened firmly between
two upright and parallel twigs, has a thick outer wall of grass, wool,
stalks, and similar materials woven together very compactly; the interior
is usually about two inches deep, and one inch and a half broad. The
eggs, from three to five in number, are of an oval shape, and have a pale
grey or reddish shell, marked with dark brown or black. Both parents feed
and tend their nestlings with great care and affection. This species is
sometimes seen in North-western Africa.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MARSH WARBLERS (_Calamodytæ_) are recognisable by their slender body,
narrow, flat-browed head, short rounded wing, in which the second or
third quill, or both, exceed the rest in length; moderate-sized tail,
which is either rounded, graduated, or conical; and powerful foot, armed
with strong toes and large hooked claws. The beak varies somewhat in
different species. The plumage of all is compact, harsh in texture, and
usually of a greyish-yellow or olive green tint. In all the different
species a light stripe passes over the region of the eye.

[Illustration: THE REED WARBLER (_Acrocephalus turdoides_).]

The Marsh Warblers inhabit all parts of our globe, but are particularly
numerous in the Eastern Hemisphere. As their name indicates, they
principally frequent marshy districts overgrown with reeds, rushes, or
long grass, and only occasionally seek their food upon bushes; they
entirely avoid mountain ranges, as the water that flows in the vicinity
of the latter is too frequently agitated to suit their requirements.
All lead a somewhat retired life within the limits of their favourite
haunts, but are readily discovered by their very peculiar yet by no means
unpleasing song, which is to be heard almost throughout the entire day.
They fly but little, and with an unsteady fluttering movement, keeping
the tail outspread, and always appear very unwilling to mount into the
air. They hurry over the ground with wonderful rapidity, and slip in and
out of tiny crevices with a celerity that fully equals that of a mouse.
They also hop nimbly from point to point, and climb the perpendicular
stems of reeds or long grass with the utmost facility. Insects of all
kinds afford them their principal means of subsistence, and they also
occasionally eat berries; worms they utterly reject. Such as inhabit
northern climates migrate at the approach of winter. The purse-like nest
built by these birds is hung from a reed or twig close to the water's
edge, and most artistically constructed; its bottom being heavy, the
sides long, and the top turned inwards, so as to prevent the young from
falling out, should the unsteady little structure be exposed to a violent
wind. It is a remarkable fact that the Marsh Warblers appear to be fully
aware that they may occasionally expect an unusual rise of water in the
lake or stream near which they live, and always anticipate the danger
that from this cause might accrue to the little family, by suspending
the nest at a proportionate height from the ground. The eggs are hatched
by both parents, and the young tended and fed long after they are fully
fledged.

       *       *       *       *       *

The REED WARBLERS (_Acrocephalus_) constitute a group possessing most of
the characteristics that distinguish this family. In these birds the beak
is almost straight, or very slightly curved at its extremity; the wings
are of moderate size, the third and fourth quills exceeding the rest in
length; the exterior tail-feathers are somewhat shortened, and the foot
unusually powerful. The compact and unspotted plumage is usually olive
green on the upper portion of the body, and reddish or yellowish white
beneath.


THE TRUE REED WARBLER.

The TRUE REED WARBLER (_Acrocephalus turdoides_) is about eight inches
long and eleven broad; the wing measures three inches and a half, and
the tail four inches and a quarter. This species is yellowish grey on
the mantle, and reddish white on the under side, shaded with grey upon
the throat. The female is somewhat smaller and paler than her mate.
The Reed Warblers inhabit Europe, from South Scandinavia to Greece and
Spain; in the extreme south and in Northern Africa they are replaced by
nearly allied species. Everywhere they frequent such marshy localities as
are overgrown with reeds, and are never seen in mountainous regions or
woodland districts, or even upon the trees that grow near their favourite
haunts. The migratory season commences in September; but during their
wanderings, which often extend as far as Central Africa, they pass direct
from one piece of water to another, and never turn aside in their course
to linger in any but marshy or well-watered places. Shortly after the
return of these birds, at the end of April or beginning of May, their
loud resonant voices are to be heard not only from sunrise to sunset,
but frequently throughout the night. The song is a strange combination
of a great variety of harsh quavering notes, more nearly resembling the
croaking of the frogs whose domain they share than the notes of any of
the feathered creation. While singing the males usually perch upon a
reed or twig, with drooping wing, outspread tail, inflated throat, and
open beak, and go through their noisy performance with an energetic
desire to rival every bird around them; such is the evident satisfaction
they exhibit at the result of their efforts, as to make the listener
overlook the want of vocal talent, in his amusement at the conceit of
the self-complacent songsters. The nests are commenced about June, and
are built near together, suspended firmly from the reeds that overhang
the surface of the pond or stream, some four or five being drawn firmly
together to make a safe support.

Like other Marsh Warblers, they display wonderful instinct in the
situation they select, and invariably build at such a height as is
secure from any unusual rising of the water; indeed, it has been
repeatedly observed that in certain years the nests of the Reed Warblers
were constructed at an unusual distance from the ground, and this
precaution has always been explained later in the season by the fall
of extraordinary heavy rain, that would inevitably have swept away the
little structures had they been placed in the situation ordinarily
selected. The nest itself is very long in shape, with the top turned
inwards, to render the nestlings secure in a high wind. The walls are
thick, formed of grass, stalks, fibres, and wool, lined with cobwebs,
horsehair, and similar materials. The eggs, four or five in number, are
of a bluish or greenish-white tint, spotted and veined with dark brown
and grey; the young are hatched in about a fortnight, should the parent
be undisturbed, and are tended with great affection, even long after they
are fully fledged. The Reed Warblers, as we learn from Dr. Bennett, are
commonly met with in Australia. "One species" (_Acrocephalus Australis_),
he tells us, "is very numerous about the sedgy localities of the Nepean
river; and although it has been denied that any of the Australian birds
are endowed with a musical voice, this bird has a very loud, pleasing
song, enlivening the places it frequents. It is a migratory species,
arriving in the spring season--_i.e._, about September--and taking its
departure as winter commences. It builds its nest, suspended among the
reeds, in a similar manner to its congeners in Europe; it is composed of
the thin epidermis of reeds interwoven with dried rushes. The sexes are
alike. I did not see the eggs in the nests, but they are stated to be
four in number, of a greyish-white colour, thickly marked all over with
irregular blotches and markings of yellowish brown, umber brown, and
bluish grey."

The large Reed Warbler of India (_Acrocephalus brunnescens_) is,
according to Jerdon, very similar to the European species, but differs
in being something smaller in the relative size of the primaries, the
greater length of the wing, and the greater intensity of its colour.

The larger Reed Warbler is found in most parts of India in the cold
weather, for it is only a winter visitant. It extends into Assam, Aracan,
and China, in some parts of which latter country it probably breeds. It
frequents high reeds and grasses, high grain fields and gardens, where
it hunts among the rows of peas, beans, and other vegetables. It clings
strongly to the stalks of grain, and makes its way adroitly through
thick grass or bushes, concealing itself when observed, and being with
difficulty driven out. It feeds on small grasshoppers, ants, and other
insects. "I have," continues our author, "heard it occasionally utter a
harsh, clucking kind of note."

       *       *       *       *       *

The SEDGE WARBLERS (_Calamodus_) are distinguished from the birds above
described by their inferior size, and by the comparative shortness of
their wings, in which the third quill is the longest; the tail, moreover,
is very decidedly rounded, and their plumage spotted.


THE SEDGE WARBLER.

[Illustration: THE SEDGE WARBLER (_Calomodus phragmitis_).]

The SEDGE WARBLER (_Calamodus phragmitis_) is about five inches and a
half long, and eight and a quarter broad; the wing measures two and a
quarter, and the tail two inches. The plumage on the upper portion of
the body is yellowish brown, spotted with dark brown, the under side a
reddish white; a yellow streak passes over the eyes, and the posterior
quills have light edges. The eye is brown, the beak brownish black,
except at its margins, and the base of the under mandible, which are
of a light yellowish red; the foot is dirty yellow. In the young, the
mantle is reddish grey and the under side reddish yellow, spotted on the
region of the crop with dark grey or brown. This species inhabits all
the European countries that extend from 68° north latitude as far as
Greece and Spain, usually arriving in April and leaving again in October,
when it wanders as far as Northern Africa. In the latter continent
it is often seen upon the plains covered with _halfa_ grass, but in
Europe it always frequents such marshy districts as are overgrown with
rushes, sedge, grass, and small-leafed water plants. Its flight is very
unsteady, but in other respects its movements are unusually nimble and
agile; the song is pleasing, flute-like, and very varied. Except during
the period of incubation, which commences in June, these birds usually
lead a very retired life amid the beds of grass or rushes, but at the
latter season they emerge, and take up their quarters on the surrounding
trees and bushes, where they engage in a series of vocal concerts, each
inspired with the hope of outdoing its numerous rivals in the favour
of some attractive female. Should any one of the feathered competitors
venture to intrude upon the same branch as the energetic singer he is at
once driven with much violence from the spot, to prevent a repetition
of the offence. During the whole time that the female broods the male
bird exhibits the same anxious desire to please her, and is often heard
gaily carolling from dawn of day till far into the night. "The song,"
says Mudie, "is hurried but varied, not so much in the single stave as
in its having several of them, which would lead one to imagine that
there were several birds. It sings in the throat, and gives a sort of
guttural twist to all it utters." At times, in his excitement, he rises
rapidly into the air, and, after hovering for a few moments with wings
raised high above the body, slowly descends or drops, like a stone, to
the spot whence he ascended. At this period of the year, not only the
manner of flight, but the whole nature of the male bird seems changed,
and he exhibits a fearlessness that contrasts strangely with his usual
cautious and timid demeanour. Like other members of this family, the
Sedge Warbler subsists principally upon insects, and occasionally devours
various kinds of berries. The nest, which is placed amongst clumps of
sedge, grass, or rushes, on marshy ground, at not more than a foot and a
half from its surface, is firmly suspended to the surrounding stalks, and
formed of hay, stubble, roots, and green moss, woven thickly and firmly
together, and lined with horsehair, feathers, and delicate blades of
grass. The eggs, from four to six in number, are of a dirty white, more
or less shaded with green, and spotted and streaked or marbled with
brownish grey. Both parents assist in the labour of incubation, and hatch
the young in about thirteen days, if undisturbed; but, if molested, they
frequently desert the nest, and at once commence preparations for another
brood. At first, the female alone appears to feel solicitude or care for
her eggs, her mate usually amusing himself until they are hatched, by
singing and fluttering about throughout the entire day, and exhibiting
no distress, even should both mother and brood be removed or destroyed.
No sooner, however, have the nestlings left the shell than his interest
is awakened, and he tends and protects them with anxious care. The young
quit the nest as soon as they are fledged, and run like mice about the
surrounding stalks, until they are strong enough to fly.

[Illustration: _Plate 20, Cassell's Book of Birds_

THE ORONOKO CORACINA ____ Coracina Oronocensis

_about 5/8 Nat. size_]

"The Sedge Warbler," says Mr. Yarrell, "is a summer visitor to this
country, arriving in April and leaving again in September, but on
one occasion a single specimen was observed near High Wycombe, in
Buckinghamshire, in winter. Immediately on its arrival it takes to thick
cover by the water-side, and is much more frequently heard than seen;
though it may occasionally be observed flitting on the uppermost twigs
of the willows it inhabits, giving rapid utterance to a succession of
notes as it flies from one branch to another. White, of Selborne, appears
to have first made Pennant acquainted with this species, and, with his
usual acuteness, detailed the habits of the bird, particularly remarking
its power of imitating the notes of other birds and its singing at
night. The observations of others in various localities have confirmed
the accuracy of his remarks, and the Sedge Warbler, in the situations
it frequents, may be heard throughout the day, and frequently during a
summer night, imitating the notes of various birds in a somewhat confused
and hurried manner; and should he desist for a few minutes' rest, it is
only necessary to throw a stone or clod of dirt among the bushes--he
will immediately commence a series of repetitions, but seldom quits his
covered retreat." "The marshy banks of the Thames, on either side of
the river, where beds of reeds or willows abound," continues the same
accurate writer, "are well stocked with this bird; although, from the
wet and muddy nature of the ground, they are not very easy to get at. In
the southern and western counties it occurs in Hampshire, Dorsetshire,
Devonshire, Cornwall, and in Wales; and is a summer visitor to the
north of Ireland. It occurs also in the marshes of Essex, in Suffolk,
Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, and Lancashire, and was
traced by Mr. Selby, in Sutherlandshire, to the northern extremity of
the island; it was found pretty generally distributed along the margins
of the lochs, particularly where low birchen coppice and reedy grass
abounded. The well-known babbling notes of this wakeful little songster
proclaimed its presence in many unexpected situations."

       *       *       *       *       *

The GRASSHOPPER WARBLERS (_Locustella_) constitute a group presenting
the following characteristics:--Their slender body is much deeper than
it is broad; the awl-shaped beak, wide at its base; the foot of moderate
height, and toes long; the wings, in which the second and third quills
exceed the rest in length, are short and rounded; the tail is broad,
of medium size, graduated at its extremity, and the feathers are of
unusual length. The rest of the plumage is soft and delicate, usually
of a brownish green above, with dark spots on the back and upper part
of the breast. The voice of these birds is very remarkable, the sounds
they produce being very similar to the chirping notes of the cricket or
grasshopper. All frequent localities overgrown with grass or plants,
and differ as to their habits in many essential particulars from other
members of the family.


THE GRASSHOPPER WARBLER.

The GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (_Locustella certhiola_ or _L. Rayii_) is from
four inches and three-quarters to five inches and a half long, and from
seven and a half to eight broad; the wing measures two inches and a half,
and the tail from one inch and five-sixths to two inches. Upon the upper
part of the body the plumage is olive grey or yellowish brown, decorated
with oval brownish-black spots; the throat is white, the upper breast
reddish yellow spotted with dark grey, the belly whitish or yellowish
white, somewhat deeper in hue at its sides; the lower tail-covers white,
with light brown spots upon the shafts; the quills are blackish brown,
with narrow yellowish-grey edges, which increase in breadth towards the
roots; the tail-feathers are of a deep greenish brown, striped with a
darker shade and surrounded by a light border; the eye is greyish brown,
the beak horn grey, and the foot light red. After the moulting season the
under side is yellower than before. In the young the breast is unspotted.

The Grasshopper Warbler is found throughout Central Europe and Central
Asia. In England it arrives about April and departs in September, and
during the course of its migrations wanders as far as China. Unlike most
of its congeners, this bird does not confine itself to any particular
situation, but occupies fields and woodland districts as frequently as
marshy tracts or brushwood. Everywhere, however, it seeks the shelter of
the densest foliage of the bushes, or creeps about close to the ground
beneath the overspreading leaves of plants growing by the water-side. In
both these situations it displays the utmost activity in evading pursuit;
if alarmed, the tail is brandished aloft, and the drooping wings agitated
from time to time; upon the ground it runs with ease, keeping the neck
outstretched forward, and the hinder portion of the body constantly in
motion. Its flight is rapid, light, and very irregular.

"Nothing can be more amusing," says Gilbert White, "than the whisper
of this little bird, which seems close by, though at a hundred yards'
distance; and when close to your ear is scarce louder than when a great
way off. Had I not been acquainted with insects, and known that the
grasshopper kind is not yet hatched, I should have hardly believed but
that it had been a _Locusta_ whispering in the bushes. The country people
laugh at you when you tell them that it is the note of a bird. It is a
most artful creature, skulking in the thickest part of a bush, and will
sing at a yard's distance, provided it be concealed. I was obliged to get
a person to go on the other side of a hedge where it haunted, and then it
would run creeping like a mouse before us for a hundred yards together,
through the bottom of the thorns, yet it would not come into fair sight;
but in a morning early, and when undisturbed, it sings on the top of a
twig, gaping and shivering with its wings."

The food of this species varies somewhat with the situation it occupies,
but is always of the same description as that employed by the other
members of the family. The nest, which is most carefully concealed in a
great diversity of situations, is neatly formed of green moss, or similar
materials, lined with fibres and horsehair. The eggs, from three to six
in number, are of a dull white or pale rose red, marked with reddish
or brownish spots, strewn most thickly over the broad end, and forming
occasionally a slight wreath. It is probable that both parents assist
in the process of incubation. In some seasons the Grasshopper Warbler
produces two broods, the first at the beginning of May and the second at
the end of June.

       *       *       *       *       *

The BUSH WARBLERS (_Drymoicæ_) constitute a very extensive group, closely
allied to those above described. They are of small size, with short,
rounded wings, comparatively slender and more or less graduated tail,
and moderately large and powerful feet. The beak is of medium length,
compressed at its sides, slightly curved along the culmen; the plumage
is usually of sombre appearance. Various members of this group inhabit
all parts of the world, and alike frequent low brushwood, shrubs, reeds,
long grass, or beds of rushes. In all these situations they display
extraordinary agility, but their powers of flight are, without exception,
feeble and clumsy. In disposition they are sprightly, and very noisy,
although almost invariably without vocal talent. Beetles, worms, snails,
and grubs constitute their principal means of support. Their nests are
always remarkable for their great beauty, some species exhibiting great
artistic skill in their manner of _weaving_ their materials together,
while the most famous members of the group, the wonderful "Tailor Birds,"
literally sew leaves to each other, and employ them to enclose the actual
nest, or bed for the young.


THE PINC-PINC.

The PINC-PINC (_Cisticola schœnicla_) is very recognisable by its short,
delicate, and slightly curved beak, long tarsi, large toes, short tail,
and rounded wing, in which the fourth quill exceeds the rest in length.
The plumage of the adult is yellowish brown, the head being spotted
with three blackish and two light yellow streaks. The nape and rump are
brownish and unspotted; the throat and belly are pure white; the breast,
side, and lower tail-covers reddish yellow; the quills are greyish black,
edged on the outer web with reddish yellow. The centre tail-feathers
are reddish brown, the rest greyish brown, bordered with white at the
end, and decorated with a heart-shaped black spot. The eye is brownish
grey, the beak horn colour, and the foot reddish. The young are only
distinguishable from the adults by the lighter colour of the under side.
This species is four inches and a quarter long, and two and a quarter
broad; the wing measures one inch and three-quarters, and the tail an
inch and a half. The female is a quarter of an inch shorter and half
an inch narrower than her mate. The Pinc-Pinc, as it is called by the
Algerines, from a supposed resemblance of those syllables to its note,
is numerously met with in Central and Southern Spain, Southern Italy,
Greece, Sardinia, Algiers, and India.

"This bird," says Jerdon, "is now considered identical with the European
one, and is also spread over the greater part of Africa. It is found in
every part of India, frequenting long grass, corn and rice fields. It
makes its way adroitly through the grass or corn, and often descends to
the ground to pick up insects; but I do not think that it habitually runs
along, as the name given by Franklin would imply, but it rather makes
its way through the grass or reeds, partly hopping and partly flying.
When put up it takes a short jerking flight for a few yards, and then
drops down into the grass again. It feeds on ants, larvæ of grasshoppers,
and various other small insects. As Blyth remarks, 'It may commonly be
observed to rise a little way into the air, as is the habit of so many
birds that inhabit similar situations, repeating at intervals a single
note, "Jik! jik!"' During the breeding season the male bird may be seen
seated on a tall blade of grass, pouring forth a feeble little song. The
nest is made of delicate vegetable down, woven into the stems of a thick
clump of grass, and forming a compact and very beautiful fabric, with a
small entrance near the top, and the eggs are four or five in number,
translucent white, with reddish spots. It has been noticed that whilst
the hen is laying the male bird builds the nest higher."

According to Hausmann it is quite stationary in its habits, and our own
observations corroborate this statement. In Spain it occupies low-lying
places, and in Sardinia, we learn from the above-mentioned authority
that it frequents such flat parts of the sea-coast as are marshy and
overgrown with grass, but also frequently breeds and lives in fields of
corn. In North-western Africa it seeks meadows and pasture-land, and
in India dwells on any spot covered with either long grass, corn, or
rice. During the breeding season the male is extremely active, and may
be constantly seen flying restlessly about, uttering its loud note, and
fluttering boldly round and about any intruder on its privacy; at other
times it is somewhat timid. All kinds of caterpillars, dipterous insects,
and small snails constitute the principal food of the Pinc-Pinc; these
it gathers from the leaves or seeks upon the ground, casting forth the
harder portions after the softer parts are digested. The nest, which we
have repeatedly found among long grass, reeds, and rushes, about half
a foot from the ground, is thus described by Le Vaillant:--"It is,"
he says, "usually placed among prickly bushes, but sometimes on the
extreme branches of trees. It is commonly very large, some apparently
larger than others, but this difference of size is only external; in the
interior they are all of nearly the same dimensions, namely, between
three and four inches in diameter, while the circumference is often more
than a foot. As the nest is composed of the down of plants, it is of
snowy whiteness or of a brownish hue, according to the quality of the
down produced by the surrounding shrubs. On the outside it appears to
be constructed in an irregular and clumsy manner, in conformity with
the curvatures of the branches on which it is so firmly attached (part
of them passing through its texture), that it is impossible to move it
without leaving one-half behind. If, however, externally, the nest has
the appearance of being badly constructed, we shall be all the more
surprised to find that so small a bird, without other instrument than
its bill, wings, and tail, should have felted vegetable down in such
a manner as to render it a fabric as united and firm as cloth of good
quality. The nest itself is of a rounded shape, with a narrow neck at
its upper part, through which the bird glides into the interior. At the
base of this tubular neck there is a niche, or shelf-like appendage, like
a small nest resting against the large one, which serves as a momentary
resting-place, by means of which the Pinc-Pinc may pass more easily into
the nest, a feat which, without such a contrivance, it might have some
difficulty in accomplishing, as it could not move through so small an
entrance on the wing, and the walls of the tube are so slightly formed,
that the bird would injure them were it constantly to rest upon them.
This little appendage is as firmly felted as the interior. Sometimes
there are two or three of these perches. It has until lately been
supposed that the female alone undertook the whole labour of building
this strange and beautiful structure, but we learn from Tristam, whose
statement is confirmed by Jerdon, that the male does considerably more
than half of the work. "I had the good luck," says Tristam, "to find a
nest that was just commenced, and was able daily to observe the whole
process. The first egg was laid before the outer wall was more than an
inch high, the male continuing to labour without intermission, until by
the time the nestlings were hatched the fabric was quite firm, and full
three inches in height. The eggs vary considerably in appearance; those
we found in Spain were of a uniform light blue, others again are bluish
green, sparsely marked with small or large brown, reddish, or black
spots, or pure white spotted with bright red. The young are tended by
both parents with much affection; the male especially appears entirely to
lay aside his usual timidity, and will frequently follow an intruder for
some distance, uttering low cries, as if to scare him from the spot."

The proceedings of a family of young birds are most entertaining to
behold, as they climb and flutter about the grass or corn, while the
busy father and mother seek food for their hungry progeny. No sooner has
one of the parents succeeded in capturing an insect than the whole flock
hurry with tails upraised to receive it, each scrambling with earnest
endeavour to be first, and obtain the coveted morsel. Should danger be at
hand, the mother disappears with her young to some safe retreat, while
the father rises into the air, and flies about in his usual manner. Savi
tells us that the Pinc-Pinc breeds thrice in the year--in April, June,
and August. We ourselves have found nests in May, June, or July.

       *       *       *       *       *

The TAILOR BIRDS (_Orthotomus_) constitute a remarkable group of Bush
Warblers, and are at once recognisable by their elongated body, much
rounded wing, in which the fifth and sixth quills are the longest;
their short abruptly rounded or graduated tail, composed of very narrow
feathers; and by their powerful feet with high tarsi and short toes; the
beak is long, straight, broad at the base, and pointed at the tip, and
in every respect admirably adapted for the sewing operations it has to
perform; the base of the bill is surrounded by a few delicate bristles;
the plumage is smooth and brightly coloured, usually green on the back
and rust-red on the head.


THE LONG-TAILED TAILOR BIRD.

[Illustration: THE LONG-TAILED TAILOR BIRD (_Orthotomus longicauda_).]

The LONG-TAILED TAILOR BIRD (_Orthotomus longicauda_) is of a yellowish
olive-green on the mantle, red on the crown of the head, and greyish
red upon the nape; the under surface is white with faint blackish spots
upon the sides of the breast. The quills are brown edged with green, the
tail-feathers brown shaded with green, those at the exterior are tipped
with white. In the male the two centre tail-feathers are considerably
prolonged. The length of this species is six inches and a half, the wing
measures two, and the tail three inches and a half; the female is not
more than five inches long, and her tail does not exceed two inches. The
Tailor Birds are found throughout all parts of India, from the Himalayas
to Cape Comorin, also in Ceylon, Burmah, and the neighbouring countries,
frequenting such localities as are not entirely destitute of trees or
bushes. In these situations they usually live in pairs or small families,
and pass their days in hopping nimbly from twig to twig in search of
insects, caterpillars, and larvæ, upon which they subsist. When moving
over the ground or eating they keep the tail erect, and elevate the
feathers upon the head. The manner in which they construct their strange
and beautiful nest is truly wonderful. Having chosen a leaf of adequate
dimensions, the ingenious sempstress draws the edges together by means of
her bill and feet, then, piercing holes through the approximated edges,
she secures them in their place by means of cotton threads, the ends of
which she ties into small bunches and thus fastens them, so as to prevent
them from slipping through. Sometimes the Tailor Bird, having picked up
a fallen leaf, fastens it to one still growing on the tree by sewing the
two together in the manner above described, and thus prepares a pensile
cradle in which the nest is constructed. The interior is lined with a
thick layer of cotton, flax, and other vegetable fibres, mixed with a
little hair, and on this comfortable bed the eggs are laid and the young
live secure from the attacks of monkeys or snakes. The brood consists of
three or four eggs, which are white, spotted with brownish red at the
broad end.

"This bird is most common," says Jerdon, "in well-wooded districts,
frequenting gardens, hedgerows, orchards, low jungle, and even now and
then the more open parts of high tree jungles. It is usually seen in
pairs, at times in small flocks, incessantly hopping about the branches
of trees, shrubs, pea rows, and the like, with a loud, reiterated call,
or picking various insects, chiefly ants, cicadellæ, and various small
larvæ, off the bark and leaves, and not unfrequently seeking them on the
ground. It has the habit of raising its tail whilst feeding, and hopping
about, and at times, especially when calling, it raises the feathers,
and displays the concealed black stripes on its neck. The ordinary note
of the Tailor Bird is, 'To-wee! to-wee! to-wee!' or, as it is syllabised
by Layard, 'Pretty! pretty! pretty!' When alarmed or angry it has a
different call. It is a familiar bird, venturing close to houses, but,
when aware that it is watched, it becomes wary and shy.

"The Tailor Bird makes its nest with cotton wool and other soft
materials, sometimes also lining it with hair, and draws together one
leaf or more, generally two leaves, on each side of the nest, and
stitches them together with cotton, either woven by itself, or cotton
thread picked up, and, after passing the thread through the leaf, it
makes a knot at the end to fix it. I have seen a Tailor Bird at Saugor
watch till the _dirzee_ (native tailor) had left the verandah where he
had been working, fly in, seize some pieces of thread that were lying
about, and go off in triumph with them. This was repeated in my presence
several days running. I have known many different trees selected to build
in; in gardens very often a guava-tree. The nest is generally built at
from two to four feet above the ground. The eggs are two, three, or four
in number, and, in every case I have seen, were white, spotted with
reddish brown, and chiefly at the large end."

Colonel Sykes tells us that the eggs are crimson, but he has probably
mistaken the nest and eggs of _Prinia socialis_, which last are sometimes
of a uniform brick-red. Hodgson suspects that there are two species
confounded under one name, as he has on several occasions got unspotted
_blue_ eggs from a Tailor Bird's nest. These were probably those of
_Prinia gracilis_, the eggs of which are blue. Layard describes one nest
"made entirely of cocoa-nut fibre, encompassed by a dozen leaves of
oleander, drawn and stitched together. I cannot call to recollection ever
having seen a nest made with more than two leaves."


THE EMU WREN.

The EMU WREN (_Stipiturus malachurus_), one of the most remarkable birds
found in Australia, is distinguished by the very unusual formation of
the web of the six feathers that compose the tail, a peculiarity most
observable in the male. The upper part of the body is brown, striped with
black; the top of the head rust-red; the chin and throat pale blueish
grey; the rest of the under side is bright red, the quills are dark brown
edged with reddish brown, and the tail-feathers dark brown; the eye is
reddish brown, and the beak and feet brown. In the female the top of the
head is streaked with black, and the region of the throat red instead of
blue.

The genus _Stipiturus_, according to Mr. Gould, is a form entirely
confined to Australia. These birds frequent extensive grass-beds,
particularly those which occur in humid situations. They run quickly over
the ground, and carry the tail erect, like the _Maluri_. Some slight
variation occurs in specimens from Tasmania and Southern and Western
Australia, but, probably, they are all referable to one species.

"The delicate little Emu Wren," says Dr. Bennett, "although formerly seen
in great numbers in the vicinity of Sydney, is now very rare. It was
also named the Cassowary Bird by the early colonists, from the peculiar
feathers in the tail, and was first described in 1798, in the _Linnæan
Transactions_. It is an active little creature, running rapidly among
the grass, and, from the shortness of its wings, appears ill adapted for
flight. Some years since it congregated in great numbers in the Sydney
Domain, near the Botanic Garden, but for some time not one has been seen
in that locality. This bird rarely perches on a bush at an elevation of
more than three or four feet from the ground; it is usually observed
darting quickly over the long grass, and, by its activity, readily eludes
pursuit."

"This curious little bird," says Mr. Gould, "has a wide distribution,
since it inhabits the whole of the southern portion of Australia, from
Moreton Bay on the east to Swan River on the west, including Tasmania.
Among the places where it is most numerous in the latter country are the
swampy grounds in the neighbourhood of Recherche Bay in D'Entrecasteaux
Channel, the meadows at New Norfolk, Circular Head, and Flinder's Island
in Bass Straits. On the continent of Australia, Botany Bay and, indeed,
all portions of the country having a similar character are favoured with
its presence.

"The Emu Wren is especially fond of low, marshy districts, covered with
rank high grasses and rushes, where it conceals itself from view by
keeping near the ground, and in the midst of the more dense parts of the
grass-beds. Its extremely short round wings ill adapt it for flight,
and this power is consequently seldom employed, the bird depending for
progression upon its extraordinary capacity for running; in fact, when
the grasses are wet from dew or rain, its wings are rendered perfectly
unavailable. On the ground it is altogether as nimble and active; its
creeping, mouse-like motions, and the extreme facility with which it
turns and bounds over the surface, enabling it easily to elude pursuit,
and amply compensating for the paucity of its powers of flight. The tail
is carried in an erect position, and is even occasionally retroverted
over the back.

"The nest, which is a small ball-shaped structure, with rather a large
opening on one side, is composed of grasses lined with feathers, and
artfully concealed in a tuft of grass or low shrub. One that I found
in Recherche Bay contained three newly-hatched young; this being the
only nest I ever met with, I am unable to give any description of its
eggs from my own observation; but the want is supplied by the following
account of this species from the pen of Mr. E. P. Ramsay, published in
the _Ibis_ for 1865:--

"'I had for many days visited the swamps on Long Island, where these
birds are very plentiful, in the hope of finding them breeding, but it
was not till the 25th of September that I succeeded in discovering a
nest, although I had watched them for hours together for several days.
While walking along the edge of the swamp on that day a female flew from
my feet out of an overhanging tuft of grass, growing only a few yards
from the water's edge. Upon lifting up the leaves of the grass which had
been beaten down by the wind, I found its nest carefully concealed near
the roots, and containing three eggs. They were quite warm, and within a
few days of being hatched, which may account for the bird being unwilling
to leave the spot; for, upon my returning about five minutes afterwards,
the female was perched upon the same tuft of grass, and within a few
inches of whence I had taken the nest. The nest was of an oval form (but
that part which might be termed the true nest was perfectly round),
placed upon its side; the mouth very large, taking up the whole of the
under part of the front. It was very shallow, so much so that if tilted
slightly the eggs would roll out, being almost on a level with the edge.
It was outwardly composed of grass, and the young dry shoots of the reeds
which are so common in all the swamps near the Hunter River, lined with
fine grass, roots, and, finally, a very fine green moss. It was very
loosely put together, and required to be moved very gently to prevent its
falling to pieces.

"'The eggs are six lines and a half long by four and a half broad,
they are sprinkled all over with minute dots of a light reddish brown,
particularly at the larger end, where they are blotched with the same
colour. One of the three had no blotches, but was minutely freckled all
over. The ground-colour is a delicate white, with a blush of pink before
the egg is blown.

[Illustration: THE EMU WREN (_Stipiturus malachurus_).]

"'The only note of the bird, besides a slight chirp when flushed and
separated, is a twitter, not unlike a faint attempt to imitate the
_Malurus cyaneus_. While in the swamp, which at that time was nearly dry,
I observed several separate flocks; of these some were hopping along the
ground, picking up something here and there, others, whose appetites
seemed appeased, were creeping along through the reeds, about a foot from
the ground, but as the reeds thickened I soon lost sight of them. They
seldom took wing except when disturbed, and not always then, seeming very
averse to showing themselves. While watching them, I observed one now and
then hop to the top of a tall reed, as if to get a glimpse at the world
above. Upon coming suddenly upon a flock and following them, they keep to
the reeds just in front of you, and never take wing unless hard driven,
when they separate, and do not collect for some time.

"'The male is readily distinguished from the female by the blue
colouring of the throat, and by a somewhat greater development of the
tail-feathers. The decomposed or loose structure of these feathers, much
resembling those of the Emu, has suggested the colonial name of the Emu
Wren for this species, an appellation singularly appropriate, inasmuch as
it at once indicates the kind of plumage with which the bird is clothed,
and the Wren-like nature of its habits.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The WRENS (_Troglodytæ_) are small, compactly-built birds, with
short wings and tails. Their beak is small, or of medium size, thin,
awl-shaped, compressed at its sides, and slightly curved at its culmen;
the feet are weak, short-toed, and the tarsi of moderate height; the
wings, in which the fourth or fifth quill is the longest, are short,
rounded, and much arched; the tail very short, conical, or slightly
rounded. The plumage is usually reddish brown, marked with black. These
little birds are to be met with all over the world, but are especially
numerous in Europe, Asia, and America; everywhere they frequent the
vicinity of trees or bushes, in whatever situation these are to be found,
but most commonly prefer well-watered and cultivated districts. All the
various species are restless, lively, and active; upon the ground, they
hop with the utmost activity, and display a rapidity in creeping through
the most tangled brushwood that is almost unrivalled. All are endowed
with agreeable voices, and some American species sing very sweetly. The
nests are generally of an oval shape, roofed above and furnished with a
small entrance at the side; the materials employed vary considerably,
according to the situations in which the nests are constructed, the
places selected for building being sometimes curiously chosen. A Wren, as
we are told by the Rev. J. G. Wood, made its nest in the body of a dead
Hawk that was nailed to the side of a barn, and another in the interior
of a pump, gaining access through the spout. As these birds testify
little fear of man in South America, they are frequently provided with
convenient receptacles for their nests, in order to induce them to build
upon the roofs of the houses.

[Illustration: THE COMMON WREN (_Troglodytes parvulus_).]


THE COMMON WREN.

The COMMON WREN (_Troglodytes parvulus_) is about four inches long,
and from five inches and a half to six inches broad; the wing measures
an inch and three-quarters and the tail about an inch and a half. Upon
the upper portion of the body the plumage is reddish brown, streaked
with pale black; the under side is paler, marked with undulating dark
brown lines; a brown cheek-stripe passes across the eyes, and a narrow
brownish white line above them. The centre feathers in the wing-covers
are decorated with oval white patches, touched with black; the quills
are deepish grey on the inner web, and on the outer alternately spotted
or streaked with reddish yellow and black; the tail-feathers are reddish
brown, lightest at the edges, and marked with undulating dark brown
lines; the eye is brown; the beak and feet reddish grey. The female is
paler than her mate, and the young have more spots on the under side, and
fewer on the back, than the old birds. The Wren inhabits all parts of
the continent of Europe, from Northern Scandinavia to the most southern
confines of Spain and Greece; in the Faroë Islands it is replaced by
a very similar but much larger species (_Troglodytes borealis_); and
another but more spotted variety (_Troglodytes Naumanni_) is met with
in some parts of Central Europe. In North-western Africa and Asia Minor
it is also common, but is, we believe, never seen in other parts of
Asia. Such as inhabit India are nearly allied but not identical species.
Like most members of its family, the Common Wren is lively and social,
constantly seeking the immediate vicinity of man. Its song consists
of a great variety of clear piping notes, intermingled with numerous
trills, and is poured out with an energy and power that appear really
astonishing, if we consider the small dimensions of the little singer.
Throughout almost the entire year this cheerful music is to be heard; no
inclemency of weather appears to daunt the brisk but diminutive vocalist,
who carols forth his joyful anticipations of the coming spring, even
when the snow-covered ground renders it impossible for him to procure a
sufficient supply of food, and cold and want have completely silenced all
his feathered companions. Like those of other members of its family, the
movements of this species in the trees and on the ground are extremely
agile and lively, but its flight, even for a Wren, is weak and unsteady.
So slight are its powers of endurance, that Naumann assures us that a
man can readily run it down and capture it with the hand. Indeed, a
curious practice, as we are told, "has prevailed from time immemorial in
the south of Ireland, of hunting this harmless little bird on Christmas
Day. The hedges are beaten with sticks, and when the unfortunate little
creature is driven from its concealment, it is struck down with a second
stick carried by each hunter. On St. Stephen's Day the dead birds are
hung by the children on an ivy-bush decorated with bright ribbons, which
they carry about with songs, and collect money to 'bury the Wren.' This
cruel piece of folly is, we are happy to learn, now falling into disuse."

This pretty little bird lives principally upon insects and berries, and
when these fall short, it often ventures fearlessly into houses and
outbuildings, in the hope of obtaining a meal. The situation of the nest
and the materials employed for building it vary considerably. Trinthammer
mentions an instance in which one of these birds made its nest year
by year in the hut of some charcoal-burners, following them season
after season in all their wanderings; indeed, it is not uncommon for a
pair to build many times, before they have satisfied their fastidious
requirements; and, strange to say, a solitary male will often make
several nests before it has selected a mate. Boenigk, who observed a Wren
attentively from April to August, tells us that the male constructed
four nests before it took a partner. After it had found a mate, both
worked together at three different nests, each in succession being left
uncompleted, until at last the female, despairing of obtaining a place
wherein to deposit her eggs, deserted her capricious spouse, who consoled
himself by constructing two more nests, which, like the rest, were never
employed.

"It is remarkable," says Montague, "how the materials of the Wren's
nest are generally adapted to the place: if built against the side of
a hayrick, it is composed of hay; if against a tree covered with white
moss, it is made of that material; and with green moss if against a
tree covered with the same; thus instinct directs it for security."
Mr. Jesse mentions that he possessed a nest "built amongst some litter
thrown into a yard, which so nearly resembled the surrounding objects
that it was only discovered by the birds flying out of it. Some of the
straws that composed it were so thick that one wondered how so small a
bird could have used them." A correspondent in the _Magazine of Natural
History_ says:--"In watching a pair of Wrens building their nest in an
old road, I noticed that one confined itself entirely to the construction
of the nest, which it never left for a moment, whilst the other was as
incessantly passing and repassing with materials for the structure. These
materials, however, this helper never once attempted to put into their
places; they were always regularly delivered to the principal architect
employed in constructing the building."

"I was not aware," says Mr. Weir, "it had been taken notice of by any
naturalist that the European Wrens, or at least some of this species,
take possession of their nests as places of repose during the severity
of winter, until I perused a very interesting account of the habits of
these little birds by Neville Wood, Esq., who says, 'Whether the nests in
which one or two broods had been reared in the summer are tenanted every
night throughout the winter by the old or the young birds is a question
more curious than easy to determine, on account of the difficulty, almost
impracticability, of catching the birds at night. This I have repeatedly
endeavoured to effect without success. I am happy to say that, after much
trouble, I have so far succeeded in determining this curious question.
About nine o'clock of the evening of the 7th of March, in one of their
nests which was built in a hole in an old wall, I caught the male and
female, and three of the brood. The other four of the young birds which
were also in the nest, made their escape. They were the Wrens I mentioned
formerly as having occupied the two nests which wanted the lining of
feathers.'"

"I know not," says Macgillivray, "a more pleasant object to look at than
the Wren; it is always so smart and cheerful--to it all weathers are
alike. The big drops of a thunder shower no more wet it than the drizzle
of a Scotch mist; and, as it peeps from beneath a bramble, or glances
from a hole in the wall, it seems as snug as a kitten frisking on the
parlour rug."

"It is amusing," continues this writer, "to watch the motions of a young
family of Wrens just come abroad. Walking among furze, or broom, or
juniper, you are attracted to some bush by hearing issue from it a lively
and frequent repetition of a sound which most resembles the syllable
"Chit." On going up you perceive an old Wren flitting about the twigs,
and presently a young one flies off, uttering a stifled 'Chirr,' while
the parents continue to flutter about, uttering their loud 'Chit! chit!
chit!' with indications of varied degrees of excitement."

The Wren produces two broods in the course of the year, the first in
April, the second in July. The eggs, from six to eight in number, are
large and round, of a pure white or yellowish white, delicately spotted
with reddish brown or blood-red, these latter markings often taking the
form of a wreath at the broad end. The male and female brood alternately
for thirteen days, and cleanse the nest and feed their hungry family with
great assiduity. The young remain for a considerable time with their
parents, and generally return to pass the night in their old homes for
some time after they are fully fledged. Although largely insectivorous,
these hardy little birds are enabled to brave the severest winters, not
only of our own climate but of still more northern regions. They are not
uncommon in Zetland, where their sweet notes serve greatly to enliven the
dreary landscape.

       *       *       *       *       *

The MARSH WRENS (_Thryothorus_) are a group of American species,
distinguished from other members of the family by their comparatively
long, thin, and slightly-curved beaks.


THE CAROLINA WREN.

The CAROLINA WREN (_Thryothorus Ludovicianus_), according to the Prince
von Wied, is five inches long and seven broad; the wing measures two
inches and one-sixth, and the tail an inch and three-quarters. The
plumage of the upper portion of the body is reddish brown, marked with
undulating lines of a deeper hue; the chin and throat are white, the
rest of the lower parts yellowish red, with black markings on the sides;
a stripe over the eyes is white. The quills are blackish brown on the
inner, and striped on the outer web. The feathers of the wing-covers are
tipped with white. The eye is greyish brown; the upper mandible light
grey, the lower one lead-colour, tipped with pale brown. This species is
the largest and most numerous of all the many species of Wrens inhabiting
North America; it is met with alike in mountain tracts, low-lying
regions, dense forests, or even districts near the abodes of man.

"The quickness of the motions of this little bird," says Audubon, "is
fully equal to that of the mouse. Like the latter, it appears and is out
of sight in a moment; peeps into a crevice, passes rapidly through it,
and shows itself at a different place in the next instant. When satiated
with food, or fatigued with these multiplied exertions, the little fellow
stops, droops its tail, and sings with great energy a short ditty,
something resembling the words '_Come to me, Come to me_,' repeated
several times in quick succession, so loud, and yet so mellow, that it is
always agreeable to listen to its music. During spring these notes are
heard from all parts of the plantations, the damp woods, the swamps, the
sides of creeks and rivers, as well as from the barns, the stables, and
the piles of wood within a few yards of the house. I frequently heard one
of these Wrens singing from the roof of an abandoned flat boat fastened
to the shore, a short distance below the city of New Orleans. When its
song was finished, the bird went on creeping from one board to another,
thrust itself through an auger-hole, entered the boat's side at one place
and peeped out at another, catching numerous spiders and other insects
all the while. It sometimes ascends to the higher branches of a tree of
moderate size, by climbing along a grape-vine, searching diligently among
the leaves and in the chinks of the bark, alighting sideways against the
trunk, and conducting itself like a true Creeper."

The vocal capabilities of the Carolina Wren would appear to be
respectable, and it can imitate with tolerable accuracy the notes of
other birds. "Amidst its imitations and variations," says Nuttall,
"which seem almost endless, and lead the stranger to imagine himself,
even in the depth of winter, surrounded by all the quaint choristers
of the summer, there is still with our capricious and tuneful mimic a
favourite theme, more constantly and regularly repeated than the rest.
This was also the first sound that I heard from him, delivered with great
spirit, though in the dreary month of January. This sweet and melodious
ditty--_tsee-toot, tsee-toot, tsee-toot_, and sometimes _tsee-toot,
tsee-toot, seet_, was usually uttered in a somewhat plaintive or tender
strain, varied at each repetition with the most delightful and delicate
tones, of which no conception can be formed without experience. That
this song has a sentimental air may be conceived from its interpretation
by the youths of the country, who pretend to hear it say '_Swĕet-heart,
swĕet-heart, sweet_!' Nor is the illusion more than the natural truth,
for usually this affectionate ditty is answered by its mate, sometimes in
the same note, at others in a different call. In most cases it will be
remarked that the phrases of our songster are uttered in threes; by this
means it will generally be practicable to distinguish its performance
from that of other birds, and particularly from the Cardinal Grosbeak,
whose expressions it often closely imitates, both in power and delivery.
I shall never, I believe, forget the soothing satisfaction and amusement
I derived from this little constant and unwearied minstrel, my sole
vocal companion throughout many weary miles of a vast, desolate, and
otherwise cheerless wilderness. Yet, with all his readiness to amuse by
his Protean song--the epitome of all he had ever heard or recollected--he
was still studious of concealment, keeping busily engaged near the
ground, or in low thickets, in quest of his food; and when he mounted a
log or brush-pile, which he had just examined, his colour, so similar to
the fallen leaves and wintry livery of Nature, often prevented me from
gaining a glimpse of the wonderful and interesting mimic."

"The nest of the Carolina Wren," says Audubon, "is usually placed in a
hole of some low, decayed tree, or in a fence stake, sometimes even in
the stable, barn, or coach-house, should it there find a place suitable
for its reception. I have found some not more than two feet from the
ground in the stump of a tree that had long before been felled by the
axe. The materials employed in its construction are hay, grasses, leaves,
feathers, and horsehair, or the dry fibres of the Spanish moss; the
feathers, hair, or moss, form the lining, the coarse materials the outer
parts. When the hole is sufficiently large, the nest is not unfrequently
five or six inches in depth, although only just wide enough to admit one
of the birds at a time. The number of eggs is from five to eight. They
are of a broad oval form, greyish white, sprinkled with reddish brown.
Whilst at Oakley, the residence of my friend James Perrie, Esq., near
Bagon, Jura, I discovered that one of these birds was in the habit of
roosting in a Wood Thrush's nest, that was placed on a low horizontal
branch, and had been filled with leaves that had fallen during the
autumn. It was in the habit of thrusting its body beneath the leaves,
and, I doubt not, found the place very comfortable. They usually raise
two, sometimes three broods in a season. The young soon come out from
the nest, and, in a few days after, creep and hop about with as much
nimbleness as the old ones. Their plumage undergoes no change, merely
becoming firmer in the colouring."


THE HOUSE WREN.

The HOUSE WREN (_Thryothorus platensis_), a South American species, is
brown on the upper portion of the body, shading into red towards the
rump. The quills and tail-feathers are finely striped with blackish
brown, the former edged with a paler shade on the inner web; a pale
streak passes over the eye; the throat is white; the region of the cheek
striped with brown; the throat, breast, and belly are pale reddish
yellow, the sides of the breast being deepest in tint, and faintly
streaked. The eye is deep brown; the beak dark grey, whitish at its
base; the foot reddish brown. The length of the body is four inches and
six lines, the breadth six inches; the wing measures one inch and ten
lines, and the tail an inch and a half. "This agreeable singing bird,"
says the Prince von Wied, "may be regarded as replacing our Common
House Sparrow about the Brazilian houses. In appearance and habits it
closely resembles the Common Wren, and is constantly to be seen hopping
nimbly about the gardens and over the roofs and fences, or creeping with
astonishing quickness through tiny holes or compact hedges. Its loud,
sweet-toned voice is very similar to that of the True Warblers. The
nests, which are small and carelessly constructed, are generally built
upon the house-tops, or in holes of walls; those we saw were open above
and very shallow, formed externally of stalks and grass, thickly lined
with feathers. The eggs, four in number, were rose-pink, marked with deep
red."


THE FLUTE-PLAYER

The FLUTE-PLAYER (_Cyphorhinus cantans_), a very noted species of Wren
inhabiting South America, represents a group distinguished by the
following characteristics:--The beak is strong, compressed at its sides;
the nostrils small, round, quite open, and surrounded by a skin, whereas
in other members of the family they are furnished with a covering;
the wings are short and much rounded; the tail of moderate size, and
graduated at its sides; the legs are strong, and the moderate-sized toes
armed with very disproportionately powerful claws. The upper part of the
plumage is reddish brown, lightest upon the brow and top of the head. The
mantle-feathers are marked with blackish brown; the chin, throat, and
front of the neck are light rust-red; the sides of the throat, cheeks,
and region of the ear black, with white shafts to the feathers; the belly
and centre of the breast are whitish yellow, the sides pale greenish
brown, with dark markings. The length of this species is five inches,
the wing measures two inches and one-sixth, and the tail one inch and
one-third.

The Flute-player, as this bird is called by the Peruvians, on account
of its strange and very beautiful voice, frequents the inmost recesses
of the South American forests, where it lives in parties, and seeks for
insects and berries either upon the ground or on such branches as are
not more than two feet above its surface. During the middle of the day,
according to Schomburghk, its song is rarely or never heard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The PIPITS (_Anthi_) form, as it were, a connecting link between the
Warblers and Larks, and until lately were classed among the latter birds.
Their body is slender; their wings, in which the third and fourth quills
are the longest, are of moderate size; the upper wing-covers often of
great length; the tail of medium size; the tarsus slender; the toes
weak; and the claws very large, the hindermost, like that of the Lark,
being prolonged into a spur. The beak is thin, straight, narrow at its
base, and awl-shaped, its margins turn inwards, and are incised at the
slightly-curved tip of the upper mandible; the smooth, glossy plumage is
of a brownish or greenish hue. The young usually resemble their parents.
The family of Pipits comprises a great number of species distributed
over all parts of the world, some occupying mountain tracts, and others
forests, plains, or marshy districts. All live principally on the ground,
and sometimes, but rarely, they perch on the branches of trees. Their
manner of progressing on _terra firma_ is rather by a rapid running step
than by a series of leaps, and is accompanied by considerable agitation
of the whole body, and constant gentle whisking of the tail. The flight
of the Pipits is rapid, light, and undulatory, when they are desirous
of going to any considerable distance, but changes to a hovering and
fluttering motion when they rise into the air previous to singing. They
are very intelligent, and their song, though simple, is agreeable; the
call is a kind of piping sound, whence the name of Pipits, by which they
are distinguished. Their principal food consists of beetles, moths,
flies, snails, and aphides; some species also devour spiders and worms,
and, according to recent observations, various kinds of seeds; all seek
their food on the ground, and rarely seize their prey in the air, or by
darting from the branches of trees or bushes. The nest is loosely formed
of blades of grass, portions of plants and roots, lined with wool or
hair, and is constructed on the ground. The eggs are of a dusky hue, and
faintly marked with spots and streaks. The female alone broods, but both
parents assist in tending the young. Most species lay more than once in
the year.


THE MEADOW PIPIT, OR MEADOW TITLING.

The MEADOW PIPIT, or MEADOW TITLING (Anthus pratensis), is of a greenish
brown, spotted with brownish black on the upper portion of the body;
the breast is light rust-red, spotted with dark brown; the throat and
belly are whitish, and a yellowish white streak passes over the eyes;
the quills are brownish black, with light edges, and the feathers of the
wing-covers bordered with dull green; the tail-feathers are brownish
black, edged with olive-green, those at the exterior decorated with a
large white spot at the tip. The eye is dark brown, the beak grey, and
the foot reddish grey. This species is six inches long, and nine and a
half broad; the wing measures two inches and five-sixths, and the tail
two inches and a quarter. The female is a trifle smaller than her mate.

The Meadow Pipit is known to breed in all the northern half of the
European continent, and is also met with in North-western Asia and North
Africa. During the course of its journeyings in Egypt it usually settles
near the coast among marshes, or near fields that are lying under water.
In the British Isles it remains throughout the year, and is known in
the lake district as the "Ling Bird," from the constancy with which it
frequents the moors overgrown with heather or _ling_ in that part of
the country. Like the Larks it migrates in large flocks, and frequently
in company with those birds, travelling day and night; it usually makes
its appearance in this country about March, leaving again in November
or December. Meadows, marsh-lands, or commons, afford the resorts it
prefers, but it generally avoids arid or barren districts. The movements
and habits of this species resemble those of other members of its family;
it lives on excellent terms with birds of its own kind, but constantly
exhibits a strong desire to annoy and irritate its other feathered
companions.

"When progressing from place to place," says Mr. Yarrell, "the flight of
this bird is performed by short unequal jerks, but when in attendance
on its mate, and undisturbed, it rises with an equal vibratory motion,
and sings some musical soft notes on the wing, sometimes while hovering
over its nest, and returns to the ground after singing. Occasionally it
may be seen to settle on a low bush, but is rarely observed sitting on a
branch of a tree, or perched on a rail, which is the common habit of the
Tree Pipit. The Meadow Pipit, when standing on a slight mound of earth, a
clod, or a stone, frequently moves his tail up and down like a Wagtail."

The nest is placed on the ground, sometimes so much sunk as to be with
difficulty perceived; sometimes sheltered by a tuft of grass. It is
composed externally of stems and leaves of grass, lined with finer grass,
fibres, and hair.

W. Thompson, Esq., in his valuable communications on the natural history
of Ireland, says that "A friend at Cromac has frequently found the nest
of the Meadow Pipit on the banks of watercourses and drains, as well as
on the ground in fields. One which was known to him at the side of a
drain was discovered by some bird-nesting boys, who pulled away the grass
that concealed it. On visiting it the next day he observed a quantity of
withered grass laid regularly across the nest; on removing this, which,
from its contrast in colour with the surrounding grass, he considered
must have been placed there by the boys, the bird flew off the nest, and,
on his returning the following day, he found the grass similarly placed,
and perceived a small aperture beneath it, by which the bird took its
departure, thus indicating that the screen, which harmonised so ill with
the surrounding verdure, had been brought thither by the bird itself.
The same gentleman once introduced the egg of a Hedge Accentor into a
Meadow Pipit's nest containing two of its own eggs, but, after a third
egg was laid, the nest was 'abandoned.'" "This, however," observes Mr.
Yarrell, "was probably induced by the visits of the observer rather than
by the introduction of the strange egg, as the egg of the Cuckoo is more
frequently deposited and hatched in the nest of the Meadow Pipit than in
that of any other bird."

The eggs, four or five in number, have a dirty white or dull red shell,
thickly strewn with brownish spots and streaks; they are generally
hatched in thirteen days. The young leave the nest before they can fly,
but conceal themselves with such adroitness at the first alarm of danger
that they are rarely discovered. The first brood is produced in the
beginning of May, and by the end of July the nestlings are capable of
providing for themselves.


THE TREE PIPIT.

The TREE PIPIT (_Anthus arboreus_) so closely resembles the species above
described as very frequently to be mistaken for it. It is, however,
distinguishable by its superior size, the comparative strength of its
beak and tarsi, and the shortness of the much curved centre claw. The
upper part of the body is yellowish brown, or dull brownish green, darkly
spotted in stripes; the rump and under side are of one uniform tint;
a stripe over the eyes, the throat, crop, sides of the breast, legs,
and lower wing-covers, are pale reddish yellow; the crop, upper breast,
and sides, being spotted with black. The stripes on the wings and edges
of the shoulder-feathers are lighter than in the plumage of the Meadow
Pipit. The eye is brown, the beak greyish black, and the foot reddish
grey. The body is six inches and a half long, and ten and three-quarters
broad; the wing measures three inches and a quarter, and the tail two
inches and a half. The female is considerably smaller than her mate.
During the summer the Tree Pipits frequent the woodland districts of
Europe and Siberia, and in the winter wander southward as far as the
African steppes and the Himalayas; they usually arrive in England
about the third week in April. In many respects these birds resemble
their congeners, but, unlike most of them, take up their quarters in
well-wooded and cultivated localities, and at once seek shelter in trees
at the approach of danger, and run along the branches with ease. They
are also far less social in their habits, and, except in the autumn,
while still occupied with their young, live alone, or associate but
seldom with the other feathered denizens of their favourite woods and
groves. The song of the Tree Pipit far exceeds in its quality that of
most other species; indeed, some of its loud, clear tones will bear
comparison with those of the Canary. The male sings almost incessantly
from sunrise to sunset, until the end of June, and pours out his lay from
the point of some projecting branch, from whence he rises into the air,
and after hovering for a short time slowly descends and finishes his
song upon the perch he had just left. The nest is placed in a hollow in
the ground, or carefully concealed in grass and clumps of plants; it is
very clumsily built, only the interior being arranged with anything like
neatness or care. The four or five eggs vary considerably both in form
and colour, the tints being either reddish, greyish, or blueish white,
spotted, mottled, or streaked with a darker shade. The female sits with
such devotion that she often will not quit her eggs unless driven from
the spot. The young are most tenderly reared by the exertions of both
parents, and quit the nest before they are able to fly.

[Illustration: THE TREE PIPIT (_Anthus arboreus_).]

"The Tree Pipit," says Mr. Yarrell, "is a summer visitor to this country,
arriving about the third week in April, and frequents the enclosed and
wooded districts of England. It is not uncommon around London, and I
have observed it frequently in the highly-cultivated and wooded parts
of Kent. The male has a pretty song, perhaps more attractive from the
manner in which it is given than the quality of the song itself. He
generally sings while perched on the top of a bush, or one of the upper
branches of an elm-tree, standing in a hedgerow, from which, if watched
for a short time, he will be seen to ascend on quivering wing about as
high again as the tree, then, stretching out his wings and expanding his
tail, he descends slowly by a half-circle, singing the whole time, to
the branch from which he started, or the top of the nearest other tree;
and, so constant is this habit with him, that if the observer does not
approach too near to alarm him, the bird may be seen to perform this
same evolution twenty times in half an hour, and I have witnessed it
most frequently during and after a warm May shower." "The Tree Pipit,"
continues Mr. Yarrell, "is found in all the wooded and cultivated
districts of the southern counties of England, but is seldom met with
in open unenclosed country. It is comparatively rare in Cornwall; not
very numerous in either North or South Wales; and some doubts are still
entertained whether it extends its range to Ireland."

[Illustration: THE ROCK PIPIT (_Anthus petrosus_).]

In a communication from Mr. Weir (who observed the birds in East Lothian)
to Mr. Macgillivray, he says:--"The Tree Pipits generally make their
appearance here about the beginning of May, and frequent the woods. They
perch upon the highest branches of a tree, from which they ascend into
the air, uttering a twittering note at each extension of the wings. They
send forth their song during their descent, which they perform with wings
extended and tail erected, till they again reach the tree, where they
continue a short time after perching, and then descend to the ground in
the same manner. They generally build their nests in plantations, at the
root of a tree, and amongst long grass. It is very difficult to discover
them, as they are so cunningly concealed, and as the birds generally
run several yards from them before they mount into the air. The nest in
which I caught the old ones being in a park grazed by cattle, and very
near a plantation, afforded me an excellent opportunity of observing
their motions. When they fed their young ones, which they did with flies,
caterpillars, and worms, they always alighted at the distance of twenty
or thirty feet from their nests, cowering, and making zig-zag windings,
and now and then putting up their heads and looking around them with
the greatest anxiety and circumspection. They are seldom met with in my
neighbourhood; and, in the long space of fourteen years, I have seen only
two or three of their nests."

"The Indian Tree Pipit," says Jerdon, "is very similar to its European
congener, but appears to differ slightly. It is found over all India
in the cold season, for it is a winter visitant, only coming early in
October and departing about the end of April. It frequents gardens,
groves, thin tree jungle, also occasionally grain-fields, beds of woody
streams, &c. It is social in its habits, many birds being generally found
together. It usually feeds on the ground on various insects, and also on
seeds, but, on being disturbed, flies up at once to the nearest tree.
It now and then feeds on trees, hopping about the upper branches, and
occasionally snapping at an insect on the wing. It is said by the natives
to kill many mosquitoes, hence many of its native names. Mr. Blyth says
he has seen small parties of these birds flying over their haunts, in
a restless unsettled way, now and then alighting on a tree, uttering a
slight chirp, and continuing this till nearly dark. The flesh of this
species is used by falconers as a restorative to the Bhagri, and is said
to be very delicate. It is taken in numbers for the table in Bengal and
elsewhere, and sold as Ortolan."


THE ROCK PIPIT.

The ROCK PIPIT, SHORE PIPIT, or SEA TITLING (_Anthus petrosus_, or
_aquaticus_), is deep olive-grey, spotted faintly with blackish grey
on the back and greyish white upon the lower portion of the body, the
sides of the breast being spotted with dark olive-brown; a light grey
streak passes over the eyes, and the wing is enlivened by the light
grey borders; the eye is dark brown. This species is from six inches
and three-quarters to seven inches long, and from eleven and a quarter
to eleven and a half broad; the wing measures three inches and a half,
and the tail two and three-quarters. The claw of the hinder toe is
long and very much curved. Unlike their congeners, the Rock Pipits
inhabit mountain ranges, and only descend upon the plains during their
migrations. In the Swiss Alps they are exceedingly common birds. "In
spring," says Tschudi, "this species appears upon such parts of the
mountains as are free from snow, and in summer large flocks seek safety
from the violent storms that frequently break over the Alps in more
sheltered situations. As winter approaches, and the cold becomes more
severe, they venture down into the plains beneath, and occupy marsh-land
and the neighbourhood of lakes or streams." In Great Britain they remain
upon the coast throughout the year, and are seldom seen at any great
distance from the sea; how far north they wander seems uncertain, for it
is at present undecided whether the SHORE PIPIT (_Anthus rupestris_), a
bird found throughout the whole of Scandinavia, is the same, or merely
a nearly allied species. During the breeding season the Rock Pipits
entirely lay aside the timidity they exhibit at other times, and boldly
approach any intruder on their privacy, flapping their wings as they fly
about him, and uttering loud and anxious cries. Their pleasing song,
which is heard about the end of July, is poured out with great rapidity,
as they rise quickly into the air; and after hovering for a time, with
a gentle swimming motion, slowly descend, with wings outspread, to the
spot from which they rose. They very rarely sing when perching on the
rocks or bushes. The nest is far less carefully concealed than that of
other Pipits, and is generally placed in a crevice, hole, or under a
tree-root so situated as to afford an overhanging shelter to the little
family. The eggs, from four to seven in number, have a dirty white shell,
very thickly marked with various shades of brown and grey; they bear a
considerable resemblance to those of the Common House Sparrow. Tschudi
tells us that on the Alps it is not uncommon for both parents and young
to perish in the heavy snow that often falls in spring.

"Though called the Rock Pipit," observes Mr. Yarrell, "it inhabits as
well low, flat shores in the vicinity of the sea, and the neighbouring
salt marshes, where it feeds on marine insects, sometimes seeking its
food close to the edge of the retiring tide. I have seen these birds very
busily engaged in the examination of sea-weed, apparently in search of
the smaller crustacea. This species is readily distinguished from the
Tree and Meadow Pipit by its larger size. The hind claw is long and very
considerably curved. The localities frequented by the Rock Pipit are,
however, strikingly distinguished from those in which the other Pipits
are so constantly found. I do not remember to have seen the Rock Pipit
except within a short distance of the sea-shore; and so generally is it
there distributed, that I never remember looking for it, when visiting
any part of our sea-coast, without finding it. It does not wander far
inland, and is very seldom seen at any considerable distance from the
sea. It remains in this country on the coast throughout the year."

"The Rock Pipit," Mr. Lloyd tells us, "is exceedingly common on the whole
coast of Scandinavia, from Scania to North Cape. Every rocky islet,
indeed," he continues, "is occupied by a pair or two of these birds, but
I do not remember having seen them in the interior of the country.

"The fishermen in the province of Blekinge look upon the Rock Pipit as a
very useful bird, for the reason that when the water is low it repairs
to the bare rocks, and feeds on the _grund märla_, a little shrimp or
crustacean, which is so injurious to their nets that, during a long
autumnal night, it will destroy them altogether.

"The female forms her nest on grass-grown ledges of rocks, but, though in
appearance pretty substantial, it is so fragile that it falls to pieces
at the least handling. She lays from four to five eggs of a greyish
brown or greenish brown colour, marked with ash-brown spots, and usually
hatches at the beginning of May."


THE STONE PIPIT, OR FALLOW-LAND PIPIT.

The STONE PIPIT, or FALLOW-LAND PIPIT (_Agrodroma campestris_), the
largest member of this family, represents a group of slenderer form, and
having a stronger beak and foot than those above described. The length
of this species is from six inches and three-quarters to seven inches,
its breadth ten inches and a half to ten inches and three-quarters;
the wing measures three inches and a quarter, and the tail two inches
and five-sixths. The upper parts of the body are pale yellowish grey,
sparsely marked with clearly-defined dark spots; the under side is
dirty yellowish white; the feathers over the crop have dark streaks on
the shafts; a light yellow line passes over the eye; and the wings are
decorated with yellowish white stripes. The young are darker, and their
feathers edged with yellow. The region of the crop is also much spotted.

The Fallow-land Pipit frequents unfruitful, arid, or stony localities,
such as are avoided by other members of the family, and is far more
numerous in the southern countries of Europe than in the northern parts
of our continent. Bolle tells us that it inhabits the hottest and most
barren districts of the Canaries in very large numbers, and in the
Balearic Isles it is one of the commonest birds; we have ourselves met
with it during the winter in all parts of North-eastern Africa and in
Soudan. Jerdon also mentions it as frequenting some parts of India. It
is a remarkable fact that though this species is so numerous in the
Balearic Isles, it is comparatively rarely seen in Spain, except during
its migrations. In most parts of Europe it usually arrives in April and
leaves for warmer regions at the end of August; in fine weather the
flocks journey by day, but if the season be unfavourable they pursue
their course principally during the night. In its movements and habits
the Fallow-land Pipit much resembles both the Larks and Wagtails. It
runs upon the ground with extraordinary rapidity, usually preferring
the furrows of ploughed fields or dry ditches, when in search of food,
and frequently pauses in its labours to perch upon a stone or clod,
and survey surrounding objects; while thus quietly resting, the body
is held erect and the tail lowered, but when the bird is excited, the
tail is agitated after the manner of a Wagtail. When in flight the
wings rapidly open and close, the undulatory course thus produced being
diversified by a slow hovering motion, or by a direct descent towards the
earth, with pinions completely closed. Such of these birds as inhabit
Europe are extremely shy, but those occupying the Canary and Balearic
Isles boldly approach the houses, and evidently prefer to be in the
immediate neighbourhood of man. The song of the Fallow-land Pipits is
extremely simple and monotonous. During the breeding season each pair
takes possession of a certain spot, from whence they drive off every
intruder, and the male at once commences a series of vocal exercises for
the entertainment of his mate; these he carols forth as he soars in the
air. The nest, which consists of moss, earth, and dry leaves, lined with
softer materials, is built upon the ground. The first eggs are laid about
the end of May, and in July the nestlings are fully fledged.

[Illustration: THE FALLOW-LAND PIPIT (_Agrodroma campestris_).]

"The Stone Pipit (_Agrodroma campestris_)," says Jerdon, "is found in
suitable places in India. I have found it most abundant in the Deccan,
at Mhoa, in Central India, and on the Eastern Ghauts; it is rare in the
Carnatic. Blyth has it from Midnapore and the North-western Provinces. It
frequents barren, open, stony land, and is never found in rich pastures.
It breeds in this country (India). In Palestine it is recorded as
frequenting the lower plains and hills."

[Illustration: WREN AND WAGTAILS.]

       *       *       *       *       *

The SPURRED PIPITS (_Corydalla_) are recognisable by their large size,
pointed wing (in which the three first quills are of equal length), their
long tail, incised at its extremity, and high slender foot, the hinder
toe of which is furnished with a claw of great length.


RICHARD'S SPURRED PIPIT.

RICHARD'S SPURRED PIPIT (_Corydalla Richardii_).--The mantle of this
species is of a dull brown, each feather having a light edge; the region
of the cheeks, a stripe over the eye, and the entire under side are
yellowish white, shaded with grey upon the breast; the sides of the
throat are white, decorated with oval, dark brown spots; the centre
quills are greyish brown, broadly shaded with light reddish grey on
the inner web; the outer web of the first quill is almost white, the
rest shade gradually into reddish yellow; the middle tail-feathers are
brownish black, the others, like those of the wing, become gradually
lighter, the outer feathers being nearly entirely white. The summer
plumage is deeper in tint, and the edgings to the feathers more clearly
defined than at other seasons. The eye is brown, the upper mandible dark
brown, the lower one yellow towards its base; the feet are yellowish
brown. This bird is from seven inches and a half to eight inches long,
and twelve inches and a half broad; the wing measures three inches and
four-fifths, and the tail three inches and a quarter.

The Spurred Pipits frequent Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Austria,
Greece, and Sardinia, but are never seen in large numbers; they are also
occasionally found in Heligoland; and Jerdon informs us that during
the winter they are met with in the Himalayas, Bengal, Nepaul, Ceylon,
Burmah, and other parts of India; at the latter season, according to
Swinhoe, they are also numerous in Central China. We ourselves have
never succeeded in finding the true Corydalla in either Spain or Africa.
Marshes, boggy districts, and the grassy margins of ponds or streams,
are the localities to which they resort. Jerdon tells us that they
particularly frequent rice-fields, always associating in small parties.
Their flight is light, graceful, and undulating. The nest, which is very
flat, and placed in a hollow or hole in the ground, is formed of stalks
woven together with fibres. The eggs, usually laid about May, are oval,
glossy, and of a delicate blueish white, spotted with blueish grey,
yellowish brown, or dark brown, and occasionally spotted and streaked
with brownish grey; they much resemble those of the Meadow or Rock Pipit.
We learn from Jerdon that a large number of these birds are sold in the
markets of Calcutta, and passed off as Ortolans.

This species was first found in England by N. Vigors, Esq., in 1812,
since which time a few other specimens have been seen in different parts
of the island. According to Yarrell, "The habits of the Spurred Pipit--as
far as the peculiarities of so rare a bird can be known, for it is
equally scarce on the Continent--are said to be very similar to those
of other Pipits. It is mostly observed on the ground, frequenting old
pastures, where it stands very high and runs with facility, waving the
tail up and down, with a gentle airy motion, like that observed in the
Wagtails, while its long hind claw, but slightly curved, connects it with
the Larks; it has, like them, an agreeable song."

       *       *       *       *       *

The WAGTAILS (_Motacillæ_) are readily distinguished from the Pipits by
the comparative slenderness of their shape; their legs are high and thin,
the wings of medium size, the third quill longer than the rest, and the
secondaries scarcely longer than the primaries; the tail is very long,
composed of narrow feathers, and often forked at its extremity. The beak
is slender, straight, and awl-shaped, with a ridge at its culmen, and
slightly incised at its tip. The plumage is much variegated, differs
somewhat according to the sexes, and is twice moulted.

The various members of this family inhabit the eastern hemisphere, and
within its limits are met with in every latitude; most species prefer
the immediate vicinity of water, but some few often seek their food in
comparatively arid situations, returning, however, within a few hours
to their usual haunts. The movements of the Wagtails are characterised
by considerable liveliness and grace, they are neither so hurried nor
so rapid as those of the Pipits. Upon the ground they generally walk
with a thoughtful, deliberate bearing, bowing the head at each step,
and agitating the tail so incessantly as to entitle them to the name by
which they are commonly known. Their flight is light and undulatory,
being produced by a rapid opening and closing of the wings, and their
song, though by no means powerful, is simple and pleasing. Flies,
beetles, and larvæ of all kinds afford them their principal means of
subsistence; these they not only seek upon the ground, but pursue them
to a considerable distance through the air. The northern species migrate
as far as Central Africa and India; others only wander somewhat farther
south, but few remain throughout the entire year in their native land.
The nest, which is carelessly formed of twigs, roots, straw, grass, moss,
and dry leaves, is lined internally with wool, or some similar material,
and is constructed in holes or hollows in the vicinity of water; if
no stream or pond is at hand, a mere pool will often satisfy the
requirements of the building pairs. The eggs have a thin, finely-spotted,
light grey shell. The nestlings, when first fledged, entirely differ from
the parents in their appearance.

Most species of Wagtail exhibit a decided predilection for the immediate
neighbourhood of man, whose favour they almost invariably obtain by their
confiding and lively disposition.


THE WHITE WAGTAIL.

The WHITE WAGTAIL (_Motacilla alba_) is grey upon the mantle, the nape is
of velvety blackness, the throat and upper part of breast are also black,
the rest of the under side brown, while the bridles, cheeks, and sides of
the throat are white; the quills are black, edged with whitish grey; the
centre tail-feathers are black, the rest white. The female resembles her
mate, but the black patch upon her throat is of smaller size. After the
moulting season both sexes have a white patch upon the throat, surrounded
by a horseshoe-shaped black line. The young are of a dull grey above, and
grey or dirty white beneath, with the exception of a dark line on the
throat. The eyes of all are deep brown, the beak and feet black. This
species is seven inches and a half long, and ten inches and two-thirds
broad; the wing measures three inches and a quarter and the tail three
inches and three-quarters.

The White Wagtail is found in every part of Europe; in Africa as far
as eleven degrees north latitude; and in Asia as far south as Aden; it
appears in Europe about March, and leaves again in October or December.
Like other members of its family this species frequents the neighbourhood
of water, and lives in a state of continual restlessness; even when the
bird is not running to and fro, the tail is constantly agitated. Its
movements closely resemble those of other Wagtails, and its song is
agreeable but very simple. Although social as regards their own kind,
these birds always exhibit a most pugnacious and daring disposition
towards the rest of their feathered companions, whatever their size or
powers; indeed, so entirely are they free from any timidity, or sense
of inferiority, that they often combine in parties, and pursue really
large birds of prey, meanwhile uttering such loud cries as warn the whole
neighbourhood of the impending danger; the enemy having been routed the
party separate, after noisily expressing their pleasure at the feat they
have accomplished. Insects and larvæ afford them their principal means
of subsistence; it is not uncommon to see these bold birds seize their
prey from under the very feet of the cattle as they graze, or follow
the footsteps of the ploughman as he turns up the earth. The pairing
season is inaugurated by desperate battles between the rival males, who
confront each other upon the ground and fight till one or the other is
compelled to quit the field. No sooner has the victor obtained undisputed
possession of his prize, than his whole demeanour changes, and he becomes
as tender and gentle as he was before fierce and quarrelsome. Each couple
takes possession of a particular spot, and within its limits make their
nest, placing it indifferently in the most diverse situations. The little
structure is formed of twigs, roots, and grass, hay, leaves, and a great
variety of similar materials, and lined with wool, hair, or other equally
elastic substances. The first brood is laid in April, and consists of
from six to eight eggs of a grey or blueish white hue, thickly spotted
and streaked with grey; the second batch of eggs is produced in June. The
female alone broods, but both parents assist in the business of feeding
the hungry nestlings, who grow with great rapidity, and are soon able
to take care of themselves. In the autumn young and old again assemble,
and pass the night in reed-covered marshy localities, in company with
Swallows and Starlings; as the season advances these parties increase
to large flocks, which during the day fly from one ploughed field or
pasture to another, always keeping in a direct course towards their
winter quarters, and, when night has set in, they rise together into the
air, and, amid loud outcries, start forth upon their long and wearisome
pilgrimage.

[Illustration: THE WHITE WAGTAIL (_Motacilla alba_).]

"The belief expressed in the first part of this work," says Mr. Yarrell,
in his third edition of his valuable work on British Birds, "that this
species is the true _Motacilla alba_ of Linnæus, has been verified in
several instances; the coloured figures and descriptions of Swedish and
other Continental authors leave us no room to doubt, and when the subject
has been further investigated, it will probably be found that the present
species is the real _Motacilla alba_, and therefore called the White
Wagtail. It is only a summer visitor to Britain, while many of the better
known Pied Wagtails remain with us all the year."

In the south of Sweden, where this Wagtail appears about the time the ice
is breaking up, it is called "Is Spjärna"--literally, the "kicker away of
the ice." In some places it goes also by the name of the "Kök Ärla," or
the "Clod Wagtail," because it is so constantly seen amongst the clods
in the newly-ploughed fields. There is, moreover, a saying in parts of
Sweden, that if the farmer commences ploughing either before the coming
or after the departure of the White Wagtail, success will not attend his
labours.


THE PIED WAGTAIL.

The PIED WAGTAIL (_Motacilla Yarrelli_) was formerly supposed to be
identical with the bird just described. Mr. Gould, who first decided that
the two species were quite distinct, thus discriminates between them, in
a communication to the _Magazine of Natural History_:--"The Pied Wagtail
of England is somewhat more robust in form than the true _Motacilla
alba_, and in its summer dress has the whole of the head, chest, and
back of a full, deep jet-black; while in the White Wagtail (_Motacilla
alba_), at the same period, the throat and part of the head alone are
of this colour, the back and the rest of the upper surface being of a
light ash-grey. In winter the two species more nearly assimilate in
their colouring; and this circumstance has doubtless been the cause of
their being hitherto considered identical, the black back of _Motacilla
Yarrelli_ being grey at this season, although never so light as in
_Motacilla alba_. An additional evidence of their being distinct (but
which has doubtless contributed to the confusion) is, that the female of
our Pied Wagtail never has the back black, as in the male; this part,
even in summer, being dark grey, in which respect it closely resembles
the other species."

"The Pied Wagtail of this country," says Mr. Yarrell, "though a very
common bird, is deservedly admired for the elegance of its form, as well
as for the activity and airy lightness exhibited in all its actions.
It is ever in motion, running with facility by a rapid succession of
steps in pursuit of its insect food, moving from place to place by short
undulating flights, uttering a cheerful chirping note while on the wing,
alighting again on the ground with a sylph-like buoyancy and a graceful
fanning motion of the tail, from which it derives its name. It frequents
the vicinity of ponds and streams, moist pastures, and the grass-plots of
pleasure-grounds; may be frequently seen wading in shallow water seeking
for various aquatic insects or their larvæ; and a portion of a letter
sent me lately by William Rayner, Esq., of Uxbridge, who keeps a variety
of birds in a large aviary near his parlour window for the pleasure of
observing their habits, seems to prove that partiality to other prey
besides aquatic insects, has some influence in the constant visits of
Wagtails to water. "I had," says that gentleman, "during the year 1837,
several Wagtails, the pied and yellow, both of which were very expert in
catching and feeding on minnows which were in a fountain in the centre
of the aviary. These birds hover over the water, and, as they skim the
surface, catch the minnow as it approaches the top of the water in the
most dexterous manner; and I was much surprised at the wariness and
cunning of some Blackbirds and Thrushes in watching the Wagtails catch
the minnows, and immediately seizing the prize for their own dinner."

The nest of our Pied Wagtail is formed of moss, dead grass, and fibrous
roots, lined with hair and a few feathers. It is sometimes placed on the
bare ground on a ditch bank, sometimes in a hole of a wall, or thatch of
an outbuilding, and it is frequently fixed in the side of a wood-stack
or hay-rick; occasionally it has been found occupying a cavity in a
peat-stack or a wall of turf sod, but always in the vicinity of water.
The eggs are four or five in number, white, speckled with ash-colour,
nine lines in length and seven lines in breadth.

Mr. Jesse, in his "Gleanings in Natural History," records an instance
of a Water Wagtail building her nest in one of the workshops of a
manufactory at Taunton:--"The room was occupied by braziers, and the
noise produced by them was loud and incessant. The nest was built near
the wheel of a lathe, which revolved within a foot of it. In this strange
situation the bird hatched four young ones; but the male not having
accustomed himself to such company, instead of feeding the nestlings
himself, as is usual, carried such food as he collected to a certain spot
on the roof, from whence it was borne by his mate to the young. It is
still more remarkable that she was perfectly familiar with the men into
whose shop she had intruded, and flew in and out of it without fear. If,
by chance, a stranger or any other of the persons employed in the same
factory entered the room, she would, if in her nest, instantly quit it,
or, if absent, would not return; the moment, however, that they were gone
she resumed her familiarity."


THE DHOBIN.

The DHOBIN (_Motacilla Dukhunensis_) is the Indian representative of
the species just described. During the summer this bird is pale grey on
the back and scapulars, a supercilian streak, the nape, wings, centre
feathers of the tail, the throat, and breast, are black; the eyebrows, a
spot on the wings, the exterior tail-feathers, and belly are white, and
the secondary quills are dark grey, bordered with white. In the winter
the chin, throat, and region of the eye, are white, and only a small
black spot is visible on the breast; the top of the head and nape are
then grey. The eye is brown, and the beak and feet black. The length of
this species is from seven inches and a half to eight inches; the wing
measures three inches and five-eighths; and the tail four inches and
three-quarters.

The Dhobin is met with throughout the whole of Ceylon and Southern and
Central India, and is very common in the Deccan; it usually makes its
appearance in October, and remains till March or April. It is at present
unknown where this species breeds; and we have but little information
respecting its habits, except that it lives in close proximity to houses,
frequently entering within doors to seize the flies as they skim about
the rooms; during the day it remains solitary, but in the evening goes
with its companions to the margin of some stream or other piece of water,
there to pass the night.

This bird closely resembles the _Motacilla alba_ of Europe, but is
distinguished by its great ear patch, and by the blackness of the
ear-feathers, and of the neck all round. "This Wagtail," says Jerdon,
"is found throughout Southern and Central India, extending into the
North-western Provinces, Sindh, the Punjaub, and Afghanistan. Adams,
however, says that he did not see it in Peshawur, and that the former
species is the Common Wagtail of Cashmere. It is also found in Ceylon. It
is not very abundant in the extreme south of the peninsula, but is very
common in the Deccan and in Central India, coming in about the middle
of October and leaving in March or April. It is a very familiar bird,
feeding close to houses, stables, and in gardens; often, indeed, entering
verandahs, and coming into an open room if not disturbed. It runs about
briskly after small insects, and is very active in catching the flies
that infest the vicinity of stables and outhouses. A small party of these
birds may often be seen towards evening on the bank of a river or tank,
though, when feeding, they are usually solitary."


THE ROCK WAGTAIL.

The ROCK WAGTAIL (_Motacilla Lichtensteinii_) inhabits the valley of
the Nile, and frequents such parts of that river as are traversed by
rocks or huge masses of stone. Its plumage is simple but striking in
its coloration; the entire mantle, sides of throat, and breast, are of
a rich deep black; a stripe over the eyes, a patch on the throat, a
spot on the wing-covers, the exterior tail-feathers, and under side are
white; the eye is brown; the beak and feet black. In its movements this
species closely resembles those of its family already described, but is
distinguished from them by its habit of frequenting such portions of rock
or stone as are entirely surrounded by water; in Nubia it is very common,
but is rarely met with in any but the most stony districts. According to
our own experience the Rock Wagtail lives in pairs, each couple keeping
within the limits of its own domain, and violently resenting any attempt
at intrusion. Like the rest of their brethren these birds are extremely
quarrelsome, and live in a state of constant warfare with such of the
northern species as take up their winter quarters in their vicinity. The
nests which we found were always situated in holes or clefts in the rocks.


THE MOUNTAIN WAGTAIL.

The MOUNTAIN WAGTAIL (_Calobates sulphurea_) represents a group of
Wagtails recognisable by their comparatively short wings, long tail, and
delicate beak; the sexes also differ in the coloration of their plumage.
During the spring the male is deep grey upon the back and sulphur-yellow
on the under side; the black throat is divided from the grey back by
a white line, a similar streak passes above the eyes, and the wing is
enlivened by two light grey stripes; when quite old the females resemble
their mates, but the yellow under side is of a paler hue, and the black
on the throat less pale; when young, the females have only a white or
dingy grey spot on the throat. The young of both sexes are of a dull
ash-grey above and yellowish grey beneath, the throat is greyish black,
spotted with blackish grey; the eye is dark brown, the beak black, and
the foot horn-grey. This species is seven inches and two-thirds in
length, and its breadth is nine inches and three-quarters; the wing
measures three inches and a quarter, and the tail four inches.

The Mountain Wagtail occupies not only European mountains, but those of
Asia and Africa. It is comparatively rare in Northern Europe, but is
numerously met with about the lofty peaks of its southern portions. The
great extent of country over which this species is found is the more
remarkable, because even such Mountain Wagtails as inhabit Central Europe
either remain throughout the year in their native haunts, or merely
wander for a comparatively short distance in a southerly direction.
Bolle tells us that they are commonly seen in the Canary Islands; and
Jerdon informs us that they appear in India in September, leaving again
about the first week in May; this latter statement is worthy of notice
from the fact that such as quit Europe at the approach of autumn do not
leave us earlier than September, and return before May. The localities
to which these birds usually resort are in the vicinity of mountain
streamlets and lakes, but they are also frequently seen about meadows
or upon house-tops, and in some countries evidently prefer the society
of man. Their flight is light, rapid, and often long sustained; they
move upon the ground with the utmost ease, turning their bodies about
as they run, much after the fashion of an animated dancer. The tail is
held slightly raised, in order to prevent it from getting wet, and great
care is taken to prevent any part of the plumage from being soiled. So
entirely are they without fear of man, that they not only freely venture
close to his dwellings, but permit a friendly stranger to approach
near to them, without quitting the spot on which they are perched. If,
however, they feel that they are pursued, they at once become so timid as
to render their capture extremely difficult. Their voice is deceptively
like that of the White Wagtail. Two broods are produced within the year,
the first in April, the second in July. During the whole period of
incubation the demeanour of the male is very restless; he flutters hither
and thither, flapping with his wings, and perches from time to time
upon certain chosen spots, in order to pour out his song of rejoicing;
at this season his vocal performance possesses unusual sweetness. The
nest is placed near the water in holes under roots of trees, or amongst
stones; it varies considerably both as to size and the care with which
it is constructed; the outer wall is generally formed of roots, leaves,
grass, or moss; upon this is arranged a second layer of somewhat finer
materials, and the interior is neatly lined with hair, wool, or vegetable
fibres. The eggs, from four to six in number, are of a dark grey or
blueish white, veined and spotted with yellow or dark grey. The female
usually broods, and exhibits such devotion to her progeny, that, when
sitting, force must be employed to remove her from the nest. The young
are very carefully nurtured.

This species is spread throughout all India and Ceylon; it is very
generally met with in the hilly and wooded parts, but is rare in the open
country, especially towards the south of India, the Carnatic, and the
bare table-land; it is apparently most abundant in Bengal and the more
northern districts.

[Illustration: THE MOUNTAIN WAGTAIL (_Calobates sulphurea_).]

"It occasionally," says Jerdon, "is to be seen on the banks of rivers,
but is more generally found in gardens near houses, in towns and
villages, and on walks in the forest, or where there is sufficient
shelter. Mr. Blyth, who had abundant opportunities for observing it, says
he has seen it tripping over the filthiest narrow black drains between
hut and hut in the native town of Calcutta. It occasionally, though
rarely, perches upon trees, and has the jerking motion of its tail more
remarkably noticeable than any other member of the entire group, for it
appears unable to keep it in repose even for a moment."

       *       *       *       *       *

The SHEEP WAGTAILS (_Budytes_), a group of European birds, are
recognisable from the other members of their family by their short tail,
the straight long nail on the hinder toe, and the brilliancy of the
plumage, which varies in the two sexes, insomuch that naturalists are
undecided as to whether certain species of these Wagtails are distinct or
identical.


THE COW OR MEADOW WAGTAIL.

The COW or MEADOW WAGTAIL (_Budytes flavus_) is blueish grey upon the
head and nape, the back is olive-green, and under side bright yellow, the
quills and tail are of a blackish hue, with light borders; a pale stripe
passes above the eyes, and two yellow lines across the wings; in the
female and young all the colours are fainter and greyer than in the male
bird. The eye of all is dark brown, the beak black, the base of the lower
mandible light blue, and the foot black.

The Meadow Wagtail is generally found in the central and northern parts
of Europe; it frequents meadows and the banks of small streams, and feeds
principally upon flies and aquatic insects. The nest is built in holes in
meadow ground, or at the foot of trees; the eggs are six in number, with
light flesh-coloured blotches. Gould supposes these birds, although not
visiting England, to be numerous on the Continent. He received one that
he tells us was shot in the neighbourhood of Paris, and in May specimens
were killed in Sweden by N. C. Strickland, Esq. From the account of
this gentleman, their manners are very different from those of our
Yellow Wagtail, as they run about with the tail elevated, and the wings
hanging down and spread. We have also received the bird from the Himalaya
Mountains. The first British specimen was shot near Colchester by Mr.
Henry Doubleday, who was attracted by observing a pair of birds together,
long after the time that our Common Yellow Wagtail leaves the country.
In 1836 two were seen near Edinburgh, and others have since been seen at
intervals in different parts of England.


RAY'S WAGTAIL.

RAY'S WAGTAIL (_Motacilla_ or _Budytes Rayi_)--the Yellow Wagtail,
formerly called _Motacilla flava_--so well known as a summer visitant to
England, is very rare on the continent of Europe, where the preceding
species, called by Continental authors _Motacilla flava_, is found. Mr.
Gould was the first to point out the difference between the two, and to
assign to the British species the name of Ray's Wagtail, in memory of the
distinguished naturalist by whom it was first observed.

"In Ray's Wagtail," says Yarrell, "the line over the eyes and ear-covers
is yellow, and the back of the head is, I believe, invariably the same as
the back of the bird; while, in the Grey-headed Wagtail, or Continental
species, the white elongated line over the eyes and ear-covers appears
to be permanent, and the grey head is more or less conspicuous at all
seasons, particularly in summer. The females of the two species most
resemble each other.

The Yellow Wagtail (_B. Rayi_) comes to us from the south, appearing at
the end of March or beginning of April, and leaving us in September. It
frequents ploughed fields and uncultivated ground covered with furze; it
makes its nest both in arable land and fields of wheat and tares, and
does not appear so partial to water as other species. "It frequents,"
says Mr. Yarrell, "dry fallows and fields of young corn, where, perched
upon a clod or stone, it exhibits its rich yellow breast to great
advantage." The nest, which is placed upon the ground, is formed of
dry stalks and fibres, and lined with hair. The eggs, from four to six
in number, somewhat resemble those of the Sedge Warbler; they are of a
whitish hue, mottled with various shades of brown. The young begin to fly
about the end of May, and from that time till the season for migration,
may be seen following their parents in search of food, keeping so close
to the feet of cattle and sheep as to be in constant danger. A writer
quoted by Mr. Yarrell says, "I have seen whole parties of Yellow Wagtails
running and dodging close to the cows' heads, apparently catching small
insects. I suppose the cattle disturbed the flies which are the favourite
food of this bird, and lodge in the grass, and which, as they arose, were
caught by the watchful Wagtail, before they could secure their retreat.
The call-note of this bird resembles that of other species, although
more shrill than that of the White Wagtail; it consists of two notes,
repeated in succession, the second of which is one whole tone lower than
the other."


THE VELVET-HEADED OR SHEEP WAGTAIL.

The VELVET-HEADED or SHEEP WAGTAIL (_Budytes melanocephalus_) is of a
rich black upon the brow, top of the head, and region of the eye; the
entire mantle is olive-colour, shaded with green; the under side is
bright sulphur-yellow; the wings and centre tail-feathers are black, with
light edges; and the wing-covers brownish black, bordered with white. The
female is of an olive-green above and pale greyish yellow on the under
side; the region of the ear is black. A remarkable variety inhabiting
Great Britain is yellowish green on the top of the head and nape, but the
rest of its plumage resembles that of the above-mentioned species. Both
birds are from six to six and a half inches long, and from nine to ten
broad; the wing measures from two inches and five-sixths to three inches
and a quarter, and the tail two inches.

The Sheep Wagtails appear in Europe about May, and leave again in August
or September. During the breeding season they usually frequent marshy
districts, and the immediate vicinity of water, but at other times pass
almost the entire day in pasture lands, near flocks of sheep or herds of
cattle. Most members of this family breed in Greece and North Africa, but
some few in the northern parts of Europe. The flight of all is light,
and often remarkably rapid; they generally hover before alighting, or
sink suddenly and directly earthward, with wings completely closed.
Their song consists of a few insignificant piping notes. Although of
a social temperament, they display during the breeding season a most
quarrelsome and pugnacious disposition, pursuing and giving battle to
every small bird that ventures to approach their dwelling-place. The
nest is concealed among grass, corn, or water plants, and is usually
made in a slight hollow in the ground; in form it resembles that of a
Lark or Pipit; the walls are loosely constructed with fine roots, grass,
dry leaves, and moss, and the interior lined with wool, horsehair, and
feathers. The eggs, from four to six in number, have delicate shells,
of a yellowish, reddish, or greyish hue, veined, spotted, and clouded
with brown, yellow, violet, and grey. But one brood is produced in the
year; the female alone undertakes the duty of incubation, and hatches
the nestlings in about three days. Both parents exhibit the utmost
anxiety about the safety of their little ones, and frequently betray
their retreat by the cries of alarm which they utter on the approach of a
stranger. Young and old remain together until they start forth on their
winter excursions.

Jerdon is of opinion that from the description of _B. melanocephalus_
of Southern Europe, there is little doubt that it is identical with
the Indian bird, which thus appears also to inhabit Northern Africa,
South-eastern Europe, and Western Africa. "In India this Wagtail comes
in towards the end of September, and does not quit the north of India,
till the end of April or beginning of May. It is exceedingly abundant
in every part of India, usually assembling in considerable flocks and
feeding among cattle, picking up the insects disturbed by their feet
while grazing. These birds also frequent damp meadow ground near rivers
or tanks, grain fields, where they may be often put up with the so-called
Ortolan (_Calandrella brachydactyla_) during the heat of the day, and,
late in the season, they may always be seen taking advantage of any
shade--a tree, stone, small clump or paling, to shelter them from the
mid-day heat. Now and then a few may be seen about houses in gardens
and roads, occasionally even perching on a housetop or paling, but very
rarely on trees. Many are snared at Calcutta and elsewhere to be served
up as Ortolan."

According to our own observations by far the greater number of these
Wagtails pass the winter in Central Africa, and we have also seen them
constantly in Egypt at that season, wandering about the pastures with the
cattle, and even accompanying them to their drinking-places.


THE YELLOW-HEADED WAGTAIL.

The YELLOW-HEADED WAGTAIL (_Budytes citreolus_), a native of Central
Asia, is somewhat larger than the species above described. Its length is
seven inches, its breadth ten and a half, the wing measures three inches
and a half, and the tail three inches and one-third. The summer plumage
of the male is of a bright citron-yellow on the head and entire under
side; the nape and upper portion of the back are black, the centre of the
back slate-grey, and the rump brownish black. The small feathers on the
wing-covers are greyish brown, broadly edged with dark grey, the centre
and large feathers are margined with broad white borders, which alone are
visible; the primaries and lower secondaries have narrow white edges,
and the upper secondaries a broad white border to the outer web; the
eight central tail-feathers are brownish black, and those at the exterior
almost entirely white. The eye is brown, the beak and feet black. The
female, who is not so large as her mate, is yellow on the brow, and
greyish green on the top of the head and nape; the back is dark grey, the
rump deep slate-colour; the cheeks and under side are of paler yellow
than in the male, and the white lines on the wings narrower and more
clearly defined. The young are grey above, and white shaded with yellow
on the under side. Radde informs us that some few of these birds are met
with in the central parts of Western Siberia, and that further east they
become very numerous. According to Jerdon they are found throughout India
during the winter, and there, as elsewhere, frequent marsh-land or the
immediate vicinity of water.

"This species," says Jerdon, "is remarkable for the great length of
the hind claw. It is found all over India in the cold weather, being
migratory, and probably breeding in North-eastern Europe and Northern
Asia. It is not very abundant, and is never found in dry places, like
the Indian Field Wagtail, but on the banks of lakes or rivers, and more
particularly in swampy ground or in inundated rice-fields, apparently
affecting concealment more than others of this group. It has been
obtained in breeding plumage at Mussooree, and is then a very beautiful
bird."


THE GOMARITA, OR GARDEN WAGTAIL.

The GOMARITA, or GARDEN WAGTAIL (_Nemoricola Indica_), has been separated
from the bird above described on account of the shortness of the claw on
the hinder toe, and the peculiar coloration of its plumage. The upper
part of the body is greenish brown, the under side yellowish white; a
double band of black passes over the breast, and a white stripe above
the eye; the blackish wings are decorated with two white lines, and a
third stripe passes across the base of the primary quills; the centre
tail-feather is brown, the next in succession are blackish, and those at
the exterior white, but blackish at the root, and edged with brown on the
outer web. The eye is brown, the upper mandible pale black, the lower
mandible whitish; the foot is light yellow, shaded with purplish brown.
This bird is six inches and a half long, and ten broad; the wing measures
three inches and one-eighth, and the tail two inches and five-eighths.

The Garden Wagtails are found throughout India, Ceylon, China, and Japan;
according to Jerdon they are comparatively rarely seen in Southern and
Central India, but are very numerous on some of the surrounding islands.
Everywhere they frequent woods, forests, shady gardens, and plantations,
living in solitude except during the breeding season, after which they
remain for some time assembled in small parties or families. These birds
do not migrate, and they moult their feathers but once in the year.
Layard tells us that the Gomarita, or "Dung Spreader," as this species is
called in Ceylon, receives its name from its habit of seeking for insects
in the droppings from the cattle.

"The Black-breasted Wagtail," writes Jerdon, "is found throughout the
whole peninsula of India and Ceylon, but is common nowhere; it is indeed
rare in the southern provinces and in the bare table-land of Central
India, and is not recorded from the North-western Provinces nor the
Himalayas. It extends to Arracan, Burmah, Malacca, and some of the
Malayan islands, where it is much more common than in continental India.
I have only procured it myself in my own garden and on the Malabar coast.
It appears not uncommonly about Calcutta, and, according to Blyth, at
all seasons. It is quite a wood-loving species, never being found in the
open plains, nor, that I have seen, about rivers, being chiefly found in
shady gardens and orchards, and in roads in the forests. It is usually
solitary, and feeds on various insects. It has no seasonal change of
colouring, and appears to be found, at all events in the more northern
parts of India, all the year round."

       *       *       *       *       *

The SWALLOW WAGTAILS (_Enicurus_) are large and powerfully-built birds,
inhabiting India and the Malay Islands; they are easily distinguished
from their European congeners, by their comparatively strong beak, more
rounded wing, in which the secondary quills are not prolonged, and their
robust feet. The beak is of moderate size, strong, straight, broad at
its base, furnished with a keel at its culmen, and gently curved at
its extremity, which is slightly incised; the toes are armed with very
hooked claws, the fourth and fifth, sometimes the fifth and sixth, exceed
the rest in length. The extremity of the tail is so deeply forked that
the centre feather is not more than one-third as long as those at the
exterior.

All the species of Swallow Wagtails with which we are acquainted inhabit
mountain regions, and are numerously met with in their favourite resorts
among the rocks. They are always found in the vicinity of streamlets
or waterfalls, into which they frequently wade. In their habits they
resemble other members of their family, and, except after the breeding
season, live alone or in pairs.


THE MENINTING.

The MENINTING (_Enicurus Leschenhaulti_, or _Enicurus coronatus_) is
black upon the upper part of the body, neck, and breast, and white upon
the crest and under side; the black wings are decorated with a broad
white stripe, the outer tail-feathers are pure white, the rest black,
broadly tipped with white; the beak is black, and the foot yellow. The
length of the body is about ten or eleven inches. The Meninting is
an inhabitant of the Malay Islands, where it frequents the mountain
regions, and is usually met with near shallow lakes or streams, at an
elevation of from sixteen hundred to four thousand feet above the sea.
Bernstein tells us that he saw one of these birds on the Pangerango, at
an altitude of ten thousand feet, but this must be regarded as a very
unusual occurrence. In disposition this species is gentle and timid, but,
if unmolested, will allow a stranger to approach without testifying any
alarm, merely flitting a few paces farther off should the intruder come
too near the spot on which it is perched. When excited the Meninting
raises its crest, repeatedly jerks its closed tail upwards, and then,
spreading it like a fan, slowly lowers it. Its voice resembles that of
the White Wagtail. The nest, which is invariably placed upon the ground
at no great distance from water, is frequently made in a small hollow in
the earth, this being lined with moss, upon which a layer of half-decayed
leaves is arranged to form an elastic bed for the young family. The eggs
are of a dull greenish or yellowish white, thickly marked with faint red,
yellow, or light brown spots; these often form a wreath at the broad
end. We have never found more than two eggs in a nest. The young are
tended with great devotion by their parents, who, should danger be at
hand, frequently betray the presence of their brood by uttering a gentle,
long-sustained note of distress. The Meninting subsists upon worms and
insects, seeking its food amongst the plants that border its favourite
streams. It is very partial to water, and frequently wades therein when
pursuing its prey.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ACCENTORS (_Accentores_) may be regarded as forming the connecting
link between the true Singing Birds and the strong-beaked granivorous
races, more especially the Larks. They are recognisable by their
powerful body, moderate-sized or long wing, in which the third or
fourth quill exceeds the rest in length, as also by their short, broad
tail, strong foot, armed with powerful toes, and much-curved claws.
The conical awl-shaped beak turns inwards at its margins, and the
nostrils are covered with a skin; the plumage is lax, and formed of
feathers of a relatively large size; the sexes are alike in appearance,
but the coloration of the young differs considerably from that of the
adult birds. Only two species of Accentors can properly be regarded as
European, the rest inhabit Asia, and are generally seen hopping over
the ground or flying very low, in search of the insects, berries, or
delicate seeds upon which they subsist; they never frequent lofty trees,
or even tall shrubs, except during the breeding season, when the males
occasionally perch upon low branches, whilst pouring out their, in most
cases, very agreeable song. As winter approaches some species wander
southward, while others merely quit the bleakest and most exposed peaks
for their rocky fastnesses. Incubation takes place early in the spring,
and two broods are generally produced in the course of the summer. Their
nests are carefully and neatly built of moss and hay, and lined with some
soft and elastic materials. The eggs, from three to six in number, are of
greenish hue.

[Illustration: THE MENINTING (_Enicurus coronatus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The HEDGE SPARROWS, or HEDGE WARBLERS (_Tharraleus_, or _Accentor_), have
a slender body, a comparatively weak and pointed beak, short, rounded
wings, in which the fourth quill is the longest, a moderate-sized tail,
straight or incised at its extremity, and a high foot.


THE HEDGE SPARROW, OR HEDGE WARBLER.

The TRUE HEDGE SPARROW, or HEDGE WARBLER (_Tharraleus modularis_, or
_Accentor modularis_), is six inches long and eight inches and one-sixth
broad, the wing measures two inches and three-quarters, and the tail two
inches and one-quarter. The female is considerably smaller than her mate.
The plumage of the adult bird is of a dusky reddish brown, spotted with a
still deeper shade on the shoulder and upper part of the back; the head,
fore part of the throat, and breast are brownish grey, or slate-colour.
In autumn the feathers on these parts have light edges; the belly is
brownish yellow, darkly spotted, and the rump greyish brown; the outer
web of the quills is reddish brown, striped once, in some instances
twice, with a whitish hue; the tail is of an uniform greyish brown. The
eye is light brown, the beak brown, and the foot reddish. The young
are reddish yellow spotted with blackish brown on the mantle, and of a
whitish hue spotted with greyish black on the centre of the belly. The
Hedge Sparrow inhabits the whole of Europe, from sixty-four degrees north
latitude as far south as the Pyrenees, Alps, and Balkan Mountains; it is
only occasionally seen still farther north, but visits Southern Europe,
Northern Africa, and Western Asia, regularly during its migrations. In
Great Britain it remains throughout the entire year. For some time after
their return to their native lands the Hedge Sparrows resort to the open
country, and take up their quarters on bushes and hedges; previous to the
breeding season, however, they retire to the shelter of their favourite
fir or pine woods, or, though comparatively rarely, occupy groves of
leafy trees; they also exhibit a decided preference for mountainous
regions.

In Great Britain this brisk little bird is a common frequenter of
gardens, orchards, or hedgerows, where it hops nimbly and almost
incessantly from twig to twig, in search of the insects, larvæ, and
seeds upon which it mainly subsists. According to Mr. Yarrell, it seldom
or never touches fruit. During the winter it is a constant visitor to
our farmyards and houses, and when the weather is severe is frequently
reduced to seek a scanty supply of food from drains and gutters. All
the movements of the Hedge Warbler are equally agile and rapid; it hops
with the utmost alacrity over the surface of the ground, climbs and
scrambles amid the thickest bushes with wonderful agility, and flies
lightly and gracefully, not merely from bush to bush, but sometimes
high into the air. Whilst in pursuit of food it usually prefers to keep
within the shelter of the foliage, but when about to utter its short,
sweet, and somewhat plaintive song, it perches upon a projecting branch
at a considerable elevation, and, if alarmed, darts directly downwards
into the innermost recesses of the brushwood or shrubs beneath. Mudie
describes the voice of the Hedge Sparrow as being particularly plaintive
in tone during the winter months, and remarks that in severe seasons
it utters its peevish cry with an apparent feeling of suffering and
desolation. The song of the males is often heard as early as January;
and by the middle of February each has found a mate and retired to some
quiet spot, in order to commence building operations. The nest, which
is generally finished by the end of March, is loosely put together;
it is formed exteriorly of moss and fibres, and within is neatly and
carefully lined with interwoven horsehair and wool; both parents assist
in the labour of building, and have generally completed their snug
little abode by the middle of March: it is, however, exposed to danger
and observation, being placed in a bush or hedge, without, as yet, the
screen of leaves, and often is visited by the Cuckoo, with the view of
depositing her progeny. The eggs, from four to six in number, are of a
blueish green colour. The first brood is hatched in April, and a second
is produced later in the season. Should the eggs be stolen from the nest,
as is too frequently the case, the female will occasionally furnish a
third brood. The young are hatched in about a fortnight, both father and
mother sharing the tedium of incubation, and tending them with the utmost
care and devotion until they are strong enough to seek their own food.


THE SIBERIAN ACCENTOR.

The SIBERIAN ACCENTOR (_Tharraleus montanellus_) is blackish brown upon
the top of the head, bridles, and region of the eye; a broad yellowish
white stripe passes over the eyebrow, and almost encircles the head; the
nape is grey, and the back reddish brown, spotted with a deeper shade;
the throat and lower tail-covers are whitish; the region of the crop and
the upper part of the breast are deeply shaded with reddish yellow, and
marked with crescent-shaped black spots; the sides of the breast are
shaded with reddish yellow and reddish brown. The eye is pale yellowish
brown, the mandibles greyish black, the lower one lightest at the base,
the foot is of a dirty yellowish white. This species is from four inches
and two-thirds to five inches and one-third long; the wing measures two
inches and seven lines, and the tail about two inches and six lines. This
beautiful bird inhabits Siberia, and has been found in Hungary, Dalmatia,
and Italy.


THE ALPINE ACCENTOR.

The ALPINE ACCENTOR (_Accentor Alpinus_) represents a group of birds in
appearance very closely resembling the Larks. Their beak is slightly
curved and pointed, compressed at its sides, narrow towards its
extremity, and broader than it is high at the base; the legs are stout,
the toes thick, and the claws much hooked, but blunt; the wings, in
which the third quill exceeds the rest in length, are long; the tail is
short, and deeply incised; the upper portion of the body is deep grey,
spotted with brown, the under side ash-grey, marked at the sides with
reddish brown; the throat is white, slightly spotted with brown; the
quills and tail-feathers are blackish brown, the latter spotted with
white; the wings are ornamented with two white lines. Both sexes are
alike in colour. The young are grey, spotted with reddish yellow; black
on the back, and reddish yellow, chequered with light and dark grey, on
the under side; the wing-feathers are brown, edged with rust-red, and
the wings enlivened by two reddish yellow stripes. The tail is brown,
and also tipped with reddish yellow; the eye is light brown, the beak
yellow at the base and black at the tip; the foot is brown. This species
is seven inches long and eleven and three-quarters broad; the wing
measures three inches and three-quarters, and the tail two inches and
three-quarters; the female is half an inch shorter, and three-quarters of
an inch narrower than her mate.

These birds inhabit all the lofty mountains of Central and Southern
Europe and Southern Asia, and are particularly numerous upon the Alps,
where they are generally met with at an altitude of from 4,000 to 6,000
feet above the sea. They are also occasional visitors to the south of
Great Britain. In winter they usually descend to the plains and valleys
in search of seeds, but return to their favourite haunts as soon as the
snow has melted from the surface of the rocks; they are then to be seen
running lightly or flying from one peak to another, as they pour out
their clear, melodious song, many notes of which will bear comparison
with those of the Lark itself. Their disposition appears to be somewhat
capricious; at one time they are all life and activity, at another
perfectly quiescent. Gloger explains this peculiarity by telling us
that they are only brisk and lively while searching for food, and that
their change of demeanour is attributable to the process of digestion
that is being carried on as they sit erect and motionless often for
a whole half hour at a time. While hopping on the ground the Alpine
Acceptor carries its tail slightly elevated, sometimes so high as to be
raised above the wings. The flight of these birds is light and rapid,
and capable of being sustained for a very considerable distance; but,
under ordinary circumstances, they keep near the ground, and only soar
into the air during the breeding season. Towards man they exhibit the
utmost confidence, and are frequently to be seen hopping about close to
a party of mountaineers or group of shepherds, quite indifferent to and
apparently almost unconscious of the voices and movements around them.
Insects, spiders, seeds, and berries constitute their principal food, and
they devour grass seed, in particular, in great quantities. The nest,
according to Schinz, is commenced early in the spring, and is situated in
clefts or holes of the rock, or amid Alpine rose bushes; sometimes on the
roofs of houses, care being generally taken that the little structure is
so placed as to be completely sheltered from wind and weather. The nest,
which is circular and semi-conical, is three inches both in diameter and
in depth; it is constructed alternately of grass and moss, and lined
with wool, hair, or similar materials. The eggs, from four to five in
number, are of an oval shape, smooth, and of a blueish green. It is at
present undecided whether the female is assisted by her mate in the work
of incubation. Two broods are produced in the year, the first in May, the
second in July.

[Illustration: THE ALPINE ACCENTOR (_Accentor Alpinus_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

The TITS (_Pari_), although differing in many respects, resemble each
other in most essential particulars. All are of small size, with compact
bodies and short limbs. The beak is conical, straight, and short, with
sharp margins, compressed at its sides and pointed at its tip; the
feet are sturdy, the toes powerful and of moderate size, and the claws
comparatively large and very much hooked. The wings, in which the fourth
or fifth quill is the longest, are short and rounded; the tail short, and
either straight or very slightly incised at its extremity; occasionally
it is very long, and graduated at its sides. The plumage, which is thick,
and composed of long and lax feathers, is bright and elegant in its
coloration.

Most members of this family inhabit the northern parts of the Eastern
Hemisphere, some few belong to North America, and others are natives
of Asia and Africa. Opinions differ as to whether they migrate at the
approach of winter, but our own observations have convinced us that even
those frequenting northern countries never wander to any great distance
from their native haunts. All are social in their habits, and consort not
only with their own kind, but also seek the company of other species,
often remaining in their society for weeks at a time. They seldom visit
seed-growing districts, but frequent woods and forests, living almost
exclusively upon trees or large shrubs, climbing and flying about the
branches in what may literally be termed an incessant search for food.
On the ground their movements are clumsy, and they seldom undertake long
excursions, but generally only flit from one tree to another, feeding
principally upon insects and seeds; of the former they devour enormous
quantities, as their life of restless activity renders an unusually large
supply of nourishment indispensable. The Tits may, therefore, be regarded
as valuable assistants to the gardener and farmer, richly meriting their
favour and protection. Most species breed twice in the year, laying each
time from seven to twelve eggs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The CRESTED WRENS or KINGLETS (_Regulus_) are recognisable by their
straight, thin, finely-pointed beak, which is broad at the base, raised
at the culmen, and slightly notched at the curved tip of the upper
mandible. The feet are slender, the tarsi high, and the claws very
decidedly hooked; the wings, in which the fourth and fifth quills are
the longest, are short, broad, and much rounded; the tail is of medium
size, and incised at its extremity; the plumage is thick, and composed
of large, loose feathers; the nostrils are covered with small feathers,
and the corners of the mouth with a few bristle-like hairs; the feathers
on the crown of the head are generally prolonged into a crest, and are
of brilliant hue. These birds are met with throughout Europe, Asia,
and North America, and from time to time make their appearance in
North-western Africa.

Their journeys are extraordinary when compared with their strength, size,
and powers of flight, but they are often exhausted before arriving at
their destination. Mr. Selby has related the following account of a large
migration on the coast of Northumberland in 1822:--

"On the 24th and 25th of October, 1822, after a very severe gale, with
thick fog from the north-east (but veering, towards its conclusion,
to the east and south-east), thousands of these birds were seen to
arrive upon the sea-shore and sand-banks of the Northumbrian coast,
many of them so fatigued by the length of their journey, or perhaps
by the unfavourable shift of wind, as to be unable to rise again from
the ground, and great numbers were in consequence caught or destroyed.
This flight must have been immensely numerous, as its extent was traced
through the whole length of the coasts of Northumberland and Durham.
There appears little doubt of this having been a migration from the more
northern provinces of Europe (probably furnished by the pine forests
of Norway, Sweden, &c.), from the circumstance of its arrival being
simultaneous with that of large flights of the Woodcock, Fieldfare, and
Redwing. Although I had never before witnessed the actual arrival of the
Golden-crested Regulus, I had long felt convinced, from the great and
sudden increase of the species during the autumnal and hiemal months,
that our indigenous birds must be augmented by a body of strangers, who
make these shores their winter resort."


THE GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN.

The GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN (_Regulus cristatus_, _flavicapillus_, or
_auricapillus_) is yellowish green on the mantle, and light grey beneath;
the throat is whitish grey; the crown of the head is saffron yellow,
its sides golden yellow, decorated with a black stripe; the wings are
enlivened by two light-coloured bands. In the plumage of the female
all the tints are duller, and the yellow on the head paler than in her
mate. The young are entirely without the bright colouring on the head.
This species is three inches and two-thirds long, and five inches and
five-sixths broad. The wing measures one inch and five-sixths, and the
tail an inch and a half. The Golden-crested Wren is the only member
of this family found in Scandinavia, and it also breeds as far south
in Europe as Greece, but is seldom seen in Spain. Notwithstanding the
apparent delicacy of these birds, they are capable of sustaining an
unusual degree of cold, and great numbers pass the entire winter in
the pine forests of Sweden. In England and Ireland they also remain
throughout the whole year, but we are told that those living in the
Orkneys wander as far as the Shetland Isles when the cold sets in. A most
extraordinary circumstance that took place in 1823 is related in the
Memoranda of the Wernerian Society, namely, the total disappearance of
the whole race of these birds, natives as well as strangers, throughout
Scotland and the north of England. This happened towards the end of
January, a few days previous to the continued snowstorm that was felt so
severely in the northern counties of England and the eastern parts of
Scotland. The range and route of this migration are unascertainable, but
it was most probably a distant one, from the fact of not a pair having
returned to breed or pass the succeeding summer in the situations they
had been known always to frequent; nor was one of this species to be
seen till the following October, about the usual time for our receiving
an annual accession of strangers to our indigenous birds. Like their
congeners, these tiny, delicate Wrens principally frequent fir and
pine forests, about the branches of which they scramble with wonderful
agility, hanging head downwards from the twigs, or darting like meteors
from branch to branch, in a restless and incessant search for the insects
upon which they subsist. Their voice is gentle and twittering, and their
song occasionally uttered as they hover in the air over a bush or shrub.
During the period of incubation, which frequently commences as early as
February, the males endeavour to attract the attention of their future
partners by spreading the beautiful crest upon their heads, and indulging
in a variety of animated and excited movements, as they hop or fly about
the spot where the desired mate is perching. The nest is spherical,
usually placed at the extremity of a branch, beautifully constructed of
moss or lichen, and in most instances snugly lined with feathers, cotton
wool, or down from plants. The eggs, from six to ten in number, have a
pale reddish white or yellowish white shell, finely spotted with red,
and are scarcely larger than peas, not exceeding six lines in length,
and five in diameter. So voracious are the young, that Colonel Montague
observed the mother come thirty-six times in an hour with morsels for her
craving family, and continue her labours without intermission for sixteen
hours in the day. Mr. Selby tells us that he has seen fully-fledged young
by the end of April.


THE DALMATIAN WREN.

The DALMATIAN WREN (_Regulus modestus_).--"The only history of this
bird," says Mr. Gould, "that we have been able to collect was that
written on the label attached to it by the Baron de Feldegg, of
Frankfort, which is as follows:--'I shot this bird, which on dissection
proved to be a male, in Dalmatia, in the year 1829.' We were informed, at
the same time, that it was not known to any German ornithologists, and,
consequently, had not received a specific title. This we have ventured to
give, and suggest the term _modestus_, in allusion to its chaste plumage
and the absence of the crest, which forms so conspicuous a feature in
other species of this genus. Its most conspicuous characters are the
three yellow stripes which ornament the head; the brighter and most
highly coloured of these marks, contrary to what obtains in any other
_Reguli_, being that over each eye, while the coronal stripe is palest,
and consists of feathers similar in length to those which cover the rest
of the head. With the exception of the stripes on the head, the whole of
the upper surface is delicate olive green, becoming abruptly paler on
the rump; the quills and tail are brown, edged with pale yellow, which
is more conspicuous on the secondaries; two transverse bands of the
same colour cross the shoulders. The whole of the under surface is pale
greenish white; bill and tarsi brown."


THE FIRE-CRESTED WREN.

The FIRE-CRESTED WREN (_Regulus ignicapillus_, or _Regulus pyrocephalus_)
is readily distinguished from the bird above described by a black
stripe that passes across and a white stripe that passes over the
eyes. The crown of the head is fiery red, and bright-flame yellow at
its sides, surrounded by a black line, which is broader than that on
the Golden-crested Wren. The two species are almost alike in size. The
Fire-crested Wren is met with in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, and
Spain, and has been seen, although very rarely, in England. In most of
the above-mentioned countries it only appears during its wanderings,
but is known to breed in Greece. Such of these birds as inhabit Europe
closely resemble the species above described in their movements and
habits.

According to Jerdon, "the Himalayan Fire Crest is very like the _Regulus
ignicapillus_ of Europe, but is larger, and has the flame-coloured crest
more developed. The Himalayan Fire-crested Wren has only been found in
the North-western Himalayas, and even there, apparently, it is not very
common."


THE SATRAP WREN.

The SATRAP-CROWNED WREN (_Regulus satrapa_), a North American species
nearly resembling its European congeners, is brownish grey upon the back,
and greyish white upon the under side; the breast is shaded with brownish
yellow, the eyes are encircled by a greyish white ring, and the head
decorated on each side with a black band, edged with bright yellow, and
with a broad fiery red stripe across the crown; the quills and feathers
of the wing-covers are dusky, the former edged and the latter tipped with
greenish yellow; the eye is brown, the beak black, and the feet brownish
yellow. The bird is four inches long and seven broad.

Of the American Fire-crested Wren, or Fiery-crowned Knight, Nuttall
writes as follows:--"The _Regulus tricolor_ (or _Regulus satrapa_)
appears associated only in pairs, which are seen on their southern
route, in this part of Massachusetts, a few days in October, and about
the middle of the month, or a little earlier or later according to the
setting in of the season, as they appear to fly before the desolating
storms of the northern regions, whither they retire about May to breed.
Some of these birds remain in Pennsylvania until December or January;
proceeding, probably, but little further south during the winter. They
are not known to reside in any part of New England, but retire to the
same remote and desolate limits of the farther north with an allied
species, of which they have most of the habits. They are actively engaged
during their transient visits to the south in gleaning up insects and
their lurking larvæ, for which they perambulate the branches of trees
of various kinds, frequenting gardens and orchards, and skipping and
vaulting from the twigs, sometimes head downwards, like the Chicadee,
with whom they often keep company, making only now and then a feeble
chirp. They appear at this time to search chiefly after spiders and
dormant concealed coleopterous or other insects; they are also said to
feed on small berries and some kinds of seeds, which they break open
by pecking with the bill in the manner of the Titmouse. They likewise
frequent the sheltered cedar and pine woods, in which they probably take
up their roost at night. Early in April they are seen on their return to
the north in Pennsylvania. At this time they dart among the blossoms of
the maple and elm, in company with others of their race, and appear more
volatile and actively engaged in seizing small flies on the wing, and
collecting minute lurking caterpillars from the opening leaves. On the
21st of May, 1835, I observed this species feeding its full-fledged young
in a tall pine tree on the banks of the Columbia river."

"If we compare the American Golden-crest Wren with the European, we find
that they agree in general appearance, in the proportional length of the
quills and in the form of the tail, as well as in that of the bill and
legs. Their differences are the following:--

[Illustration: THE GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN (_Regulus flavicapillus_).]

"_Regulus tricolor_ is longer by half an inch than _Regulus cristatus_,
its bill is stronger and one-twelfth of an inch shorter, its claws are
also stronger and shorter, and the flame-coloured patch on the head is
more extended and brighter. The European species never has so much grey
on the neck and back, and its lower parts are always more tinged with
brownish yellow. The other differences are not very obvious; but the
difference in the size of the bill, were there no other characteristics,
would be enough, in a family of birds so closely resembling each other
as the _Reguli_, to point out the American as distinct from the European
species.

"On the 23rd of January," continues the same writer, "I saw great numbers
of these birds in the woods near Charlestown, searching for food high
in the trees as well as low down, and so careless of us, that, although
we would approach within a few feet of them, they were not in the least
disconcerted. Their feeble chirp was constantly repeated. We killed a
great number of them, in hopes of finding among them some individuals
of the species known under the name of _Regulus ignicapillus_, but in
this we did not succeed. At times they uttered a strong querulous note,
somewhat resembling that of the Black-headed Titmouse. The young had
acquired their full plumage, but the females were more abundant than the
males. At this season the yellow spot on their head is less conspicuous
than towards spring, when they raise their crest-feathers while courting.
The young, shot in Newfoundland, in August, had this part of the head of
a uniform tint with that of the body. With us they are amazingly fat, but
at Newfoundland we found them the reverse."

"The Satrap Wren," says Audubon, "breeds in Labrador, where I saw it
feeding its young in August, when the species appeared already moving
southward; but although it was common there and in Newfoundland, as was
the Ruby-crowned Knight, we did not succeed in our search for its nest.
It enters the United States late in September, and continues its journey
beyond their limits, as I have met with it on the borders of our most
southern districts during winter. Individuals remain in all the Southern
and Western States the whole of that season, and leave them again about
the beginning of March. They generally associate in groups, composed each
of a whole family, and feed in company with Titmice, Nuthatches, and
Brown Creepers, perambulating the tops of trees and bushes, sometimes
in the very depth of the forests or of the most dismal swamps, while
at other times they approach the plantations and enter the gardens and
yards. Their movements are always extremely lively and playful. They
follow minute insects on the wing, seize them among the leaves of the
pines, or search for larvæ in the chinks of the branches. Like the
Titmice, they are often seen hanging to the extremities of twigs and
bunches of leaves, sometimes fluttering in the air in front of them, and
are unceasingly occupied. They have no song at this season, but merely
emit now and then a low _screep_."


THE RUBY-CROWNED WREN.

The RUBY-CROWNED WREN (_Regulus calendulus_) is four inches long and
six in extent of wing; the upper parts of the head, neck, and back
are olive, with a considerable tinge of yellow; wings and tail dusky
purplish brown, exteriorly edged with yellow olive; secondaries and
first row of wing-coverts edged and tipped with white, with a spot of
deep purplish brown across the secondaries, just below their coverts;
the hinder part of the head is ornamented with an oblong lateral spot of
vermilion, usually almost hid by the other plumage; round the eye a ring
of yellowish white; whole under parts of the same tint; legs dark brown,
feet and claws yellow, bill slender, straight not notched, furnished with
a few black hairs at the base; inside of the mouth orange. The female
differs very little in its plumage from the male, the colours being less
lively, and the bird somewhat less.

"This little bird," says Wilson, "is an American species, visits us
early in the spring from the south, and is generally first found among
the maple blossoms about the beginning of April; these failing, it has
recourse to those of the peach, apple, and other fruit trees, partly for
the tops of the sweet and slender stamina of the flowers, and partly
for the winged insects that hover among them. In the middle of summer I
have rarely met with these birds in Pennsylvania; and as they penetrate
as far north as the country round Hudson's Bay, and also breed there,
it accounts for their late arrival here in fall. They then associate
with the different species of Titmouse and the Golden-crested Wren,
and are particularly numerous in the month of October and beginning of
November, in orchards, among the decaying leaves of the apple-trees, that
at that season are infested with great numbers of small, black-winged
insects, among which they make a great havoc. I have often regretted the
painful necessity one is under of taking the lives of such inoffensive,
useful little creatures, merely to obtain a more perfect knowledge of
the species, for they appear so busy, so active and unsuspecting, as to
continue searching about the same twig, even after their companions have
been shot down beside them. They are more remarkably so in autumn, which
may be owing to the great number of young and inexperienced birds which
are then among them; and frequently at this season I have stood under
the tree, motionless, to observe them, while they gleaned among the low
branches, sometimes within a foot or two of my head. They are extremely
adroit in catching their prey, have only at times a feeble chirp, visit
the tops of the tallest trees as well as the lowest bushes, and continue
generally for a considerable time among the branches of the same tree,
darting about from place to place; appearing, when on the top of a high
maple, no bigger than humble-bees."

"Notwithstanding all my endeavours," continues our author, "I have
never been able to discover their nest, though, from the circumstance
of having found them sometimes here in summer, I am persuaded that they
occasionally breed in Pennsylvania, but I know several birds no larger
than this that usually breed on the extremities of the tallest trees
in the woods, which I have discovered from their beginning before the
leaves are out; many others, no doubt, choose similar situations, and,
should they delay building until the woods are thickened with leaves, it
is no easy matter to discover them. In fall they are so extremely fat,
as almost to dissolve between the fingers as you open them, owing to the
great abundance of their favourite insects at that time."

       *       *       *       *       *

The PENDULINE TITMICE (_Ægithalus_) are small, slenderly-formed birds,
with awl-shaped beaks, scarcely perceptibly curved at the tip; short,
blunt wings, in which the third, fourth, and fifth quills are the
longest, and nearly of equal length; and moderate-sized tails, slightly
incised at the extremity. The plumage is very lax, and the males more
brightly and beautifully coloured than the females. The young differ in
their appearance from both parents.


THE TRUE PENDULINE TITMOUSE.

The TRUE PENDULINE TITMOUSE (_Ægithalus pendulinus_) is greyish red
on the upper part of its body, on the under side whitish, shaded with
rust-red on the breast; a black stripe, beginning at the cheeks, passes
across the eyes to the region of the ear; the quills and tail-feathers
are blackish, with light borders; the eye is brown, the beak of various
shades of black, whitish at its margins; the feet are black or greyish
black. The female is more dusky, and has less black upon the brow and
sides of the head than her mate. In the young the black cheek-stripes
are not indicated. The upper portion of the body is reddish grey. This
species is from four inches to four and a half long, and from six to six
and a half broad; the wing measures two inches and a quarter, and the
tail one inch and three-quarters.

These elegant little birds inhabit all the eastern parts of Europe and
a large portion of Asia, and their active, sprightly demeanour entitles
them to a place among the most interesting members of the family to
which they belong. From morning to night they are almost incessantly
in motion, climbing nimbly among the reeds, or bopping from twig to
twig, in search of the insects and larvæ upon which they subsist. They
generally, however, keep well sheltered beneath the foliage, where their
presence is constantly betrayed by the frequent utterance of their clear,
chirping note. Whether this species migrates is as yet undecided; it is,
nevertheless, certain that it disappears from its native haunts about
September or October, and does not return until March.

"Proverbial as the nests of the Tits are for beauty of structure,"
says Mr. Gould, "none are more remarkable and curious than that of the
present species; it is constructed of the soft down of the poplar or
willow, and this substance, which closely resembles cotton wool, is woven
together with admirable ingenuity, so as to form a flask-shaped nest
with a lateral opening into the internal chamber. It is suspended at the
extremity of a drooping branch of a willow, or any similar tree hanging
over the water."

We are indebted to Baldamus not only for a very complete description of
the remarkable nest made by these birds, but also for a detailed account
of the mode of building it. "I have had an opportunity," writes that
naturalist, "of watching during seven weeks the daily operations of a
pair of these ingenious little builders, and have carefully examined
upwards of thirty nests." He observed, moreover, the whole process
of their construction, and procured several in different stages of
completion. The situation chosen was generally in the vicinity of a
swamp, and the nests were almost invariably suspended to the innermost
twigs of the branches of a willow tree, usually at an elevation of twelve
or fourteen feet from the ground, although some were at a height of from
twenty to thirty feet, and one example was obtained from the very summit
of a high tree.

In building these admirable structures the two sexes seem to emulate each
other in industry and perseverance, for without this, it is difficult to
conceive how such an edifice can be completed in the short space of about
fourteen days.

"The mode of proceeding in the construction of one of these nests,"
continues the same writer, "is as follows:--First of all the bird begins
by winding a quantity of wool, goats' hair, bast, or hempen thread,
around the selected twig, at a part where it becomes forked, and between
the forks are laid the foundations of the walls of the nest, which thus
becomes securely fixed; from this basis a sort of felt-work is prolonged
into the shape of a shallow basket, in which condition it was formerly
thought to be a supernumerary nest, constructed for the accommodation
of the male bird. As, however, the work proceeds, the walls are still
further produced by an accumulation of fitting materials, which now
consist of down collected from poplar and willow trees, interwoven with
threads of bast, wool, and hair, while the fibres of vegetable cotton
are glued and matted together by the aid of saliva supplied by the birds
themselves. The structure now presents the appearance of a basket with
thick rounded walls, and the next part of the process is to construct the
side entrance, which terminates in a small round hole, while the other
side also has a passage from below; the one with the round opening is now
provided with a tube of from one to three inches long, while the other
remains open, and only felted and smoothed down at the edges; lastly,
the bottom of the inside of the nest is thickly carpeted with loose
unrolled vegetable wool, and the structure is at length completed. The
nest now appears a round ball or bag, from six to eight inches in depth,
and from four to five in width, with a round entrance like the neck of a
bottle, which at first bending down soon stands out horizontally towards
the entrance, which is circular, and provided with a slightly thickened
margin."

"It is impossible to confound such a nest with that of any other bird,
and, therefore, we are quite assured that the Bottle Tit has repeatedly
made its nest in Germany, where deserted nests are frequently found in
winter by men employed in clearing away the reeds in various localities."

The eggs, according to Baldamus, are usually seven in number, and have
a smooth, delicate, pure white shell, which, owing to its transparency,
appears pale red until it is emptied of its contents. We are told, on
good authority, that both parents assist in the process of incubation.
The young are reared principally upon small caterpillars, flies, and
beetles.

       *       *       *       *       *

The REED TITMICE (_Panurus_) are distinguishable by their slender body,
long and much graduated tail, moderate-sized wings, in which the fourth
and fifth quills exceed the rest in length, and their short, much-curved
beak. The plumage is comparatively smooth and compact, but varies
according to the age or sex of the bird.


THE BEARDED TITMOUSE.

The BEARDED TITMOUSE (_Panurus biarmicus_) is light cinnamon brown on the
upper part of the body, greyish blue on the crown of the head, and light
rose-red on the under side; the throat is whitish, the region of the
tail black; the brown wings are decorated with a white stripe, and edged
with a line of black. The chin of the male is covered with a beard-like
tuft of soft black feathers, about nine inches long. The plumage of
the female is paler; the back is of a light shade, darkly spotted; the
lower tail-covers are pale rust-red, and the very slightly indicated
beard white. The young are almost black upon the back. The length of this
species is from six inches to six and a half, and its breadth from seven
inches to seven and a half; the wing measures two inches and a half, and
the tail three inches and a quarter.

[Illustration: BEARDED AND PENDULINE TITS.]

The Bearded Titmouse is met with in all the north-eastern parts of
Europe. In Great Britain it is but rarely seen; it is, however,
comparatively numerous in Holland, South Hungary, Greece, and a portion
of Asia Minor. Everywhere it seeks the reed-covered banks of rivers, and
lives in pairs or in small families.

Dr. Leach was induced to separate this very interesting bird from the
genus _Parus_ in consequence of its differing in several minor characters
from the other species of that genus, particularly in the situation it
affects as a place of abode and nidification, constructing a nest on
or near the ground in wet and marshy places. "Its food," continues Mr.
Gould, "is also very different, consisting of the seeds of reeds, with
aquatic insects and minute-shelled snails, for the trituration of which
it is provided with a strong muscular gizzard. It is more particularly
abundant in the low and marshy districts of Holland, France, and Germany.
Its disposition is timid, and its manners shy and retired, dwelling in
situations both local and difficult of access, a circumstance which,
until lately, has prevented naturalists from giving any details,
especially of its peculiar habits." We are indebted to Mr. Hoy for the
best account of this bird yet published, as given in the "Magazine of
Natural History," (Vol. III., page 328), from which the following is
extracted:--

"The borders," says. Mr. Hoy, "of the large pieces of water in Norfolk,
called 'broads,' particularly Hickling and Horsey Broads, are the
favourite places of resort of these birds; indeed, it is met with in
that neighbourhood wherever there are reeds in any quantity, with fenny
land adjoining. During the autumn and winter they are found dispersed
generally in small parties throughout the whole length of the Suffolk
coast, wherever there are large tracts of reeds. I have found them
numerous in the breeding season on the skirts of Whittlesea, near
Huntingdonshire, and they are not uncommon in the fenny districts of
Lincolnshire; whether they are to be met with further north I have no
means of ascertaining, but they do not appear to have been noticed
north of the Humber. They begin building in the end of April. The nest
is composed on the outside of the dead leaves of the reed and sedge,
intermixed with a few pieces of grass, and invariably lined with the top
of the reed, somewhat in the manner of the nest of the Reed Wren (_S.
arundinacea_), but not so compact in the interior. It is generally placed
in a tuft of coarse grass or rushes, near the ground, on the margin of
the dykes in the fen; sometimes fixed among the reeds that are broken
down, but never suspended between the stems. The eggs vary in number from
four to six, rarely seven; they are pure white, sprinkled all over with
small purplish red spots, intermixed with a few small faint lines and
markings of the same colour--size about the same as that of the Greater
Tit, but much more rounded and shorter. Their food during winter is
principally the seed of the reeds, and so intent are they in searching
for it, that I have taken them with a bird-lime twig attached to the end
of a fishing-rod. When alarmed by any sudden noise, or the passing of a
hawk, they utter their shrill musical notes, and conceal themselves among
the thick bottom of the reeds, but soon resume their station, climbing
the upright stems with the greatest facility. Their manners in feeding
approach near to those of the Long-tailed Tit; they often hang with the
head downwards, and occasionally assume the most beautiful attitudes.
Their food is not entirely reed-seed, for they sometimes eat insects and
their larvæ, and the very young shelled snails of different kinds, which
are numerous in the bottom of the reedlings. I have been enabled to watch
their motions whilst in search of insects, having, when there is a little
wind stirring, been often within a few feet of them, quite unnoticed
among the thick reeds. Were it not for their note betraying them, they
would be seldom seen. The young, until their autumnal moult, vary in
plumage from the old birds; a stripe of blackish feathers extends from
the hind part of the neck to the rump. It has been said that the males
and females keep separate during the winter, but I have always observed
them in company; they appear to keep in families until the pairing
time, in the manner of the Long-tailed Tit, differing in this respect,
that you will occasionally find them congregated in large flocks, more
particularly during the month of October, when they are migrating from
their breeding-places." "To the above interesting account," says Mr.
Gould, "we may add that they are to be met with occasionally on the banks
of the Thames; from the thick reed-beds of Erith, in Kent, throughout the
course of the river to Oxford; but their visits are by no means regular,
or to be calculated on with accuracy."

A contributor to Mr. Loudon's magazine saw a flock of eight or ten of
these beautiful little creatures on the wing, in a large piece of reeds
near Barking Creek, Essex. "They were just topping the reeds in their
flight, and uttering in full chorus their sweetly musical note, which
may be compared to the sound of very small cymbals; it is clear and
ringing, though soft, and corresponds well with the delicacy and beauty
of the form and colour of the birds. Several flocks were seen during the
same morning. Their flight was short and low, only sufficient to clear
the reeds, on the seedy tops of which, like most of their tribe, they
alighted to feed, with the head or back downwards. If disturbed, they
immediately descend by running, or, rather, by dropping to the bottom of
the stem, where they creep and flit, perfectly concealed from view by the
closeness of the covert and the resembling tints of their plumage."

       *       *       *       *       *

The LONG-TAILED TITS (_Orites_) have a short, compact body; long,
graduated tail, incised at the centre of its extremity; moderate-sized
wings, in which the fourth and fifth quills exceed the rest in length; a
very short, much arched, and pointed beak; and delicate feet. The sexes
are alike in colour, and the young differ but slightly from their parents.


THE LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE.

The LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE (_Orites caudatus_) is black on the centre of
the back and white on the head; the under side is reddish white, and the
wings black, their hinder quills being broadly bordered with white; the
tail is black, the three outer feathers spotted with white. The young are
pale black on the side of the head, back, and wings, and of a whitish hue
on the top of the head and on the under side of the body. The eye is dark
brown in the adults, its unfeathered margin is light red, in the young
bright yellow. The beak and feet are black. This species is six inches
long and seven inches and three-quarters broad; the wing measures two
inches and a half, and the tail three inches and a half.

The Long-tailed Tit inhabits the whole of Europe, from its most northern
countries as far south as the Pyrenees and Alps, but is met with
comparatively rarely in Greece and Spain. Like some of its congeners,
it prefers taking up its abode on fir and pine trees, but, if these are
not attainable, usually frequents orchards or well-cultivated woodland
districts; its habits are social, and its disposition, though equally
lively and active, considerably more peaceful than that of most other
members of its family. Both sexes utter