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Title: Our Summer Migrants - An Account of the Migratory Birds which pass the Summer - in the British Islands.
Author: Harting, J. E.
Language: English
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                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                          OUR SUMMER MIGRANTS.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                          OUR SUMMER MIGRANTS.

                             AN ACCOUNT OF
                          THE MIGRATORY BIRDS
                        WHICH PASS THE SUMMER IN
                          THE BRITISH ISLANDS.

                    BY J. E. HARTING, F.L.S., F.Z.S.

                         “SELBORNE,” ETC., ETC.


                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                            BICKERS AND SON,
                          1, LEICESTER SQUARE.

                      TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.


For those who reside in the country and have both leisure and
inclination to observe the movements and habits of birds, there is not a
more entertaining occupation than that of noting the earliest arrival of
the migratory species, the haunts which they select, and the wonderful
diversity which they exhibit in their actions, nidification, and song.

There is something almost mysterious in the way in which numbers of
these small and delicately formed birds are found scattered in one day
over a parish where on the previous day not one was to be seen; and the
manner of their arrival is scarcely more remarkable than the regularity
with which they annually make their appearance.

That most of them reach this country after long and protracted flights,
crossing the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay, and the English Channel
is an undoubted fact. They have been seen to arrive upon our shores, and
have been observed at sea during their passage, often at a considerable
distance from land.

But how few of those who notice them in this country know where they
come from, why they come, what they find here to live upon, how, when,
and where they go for the winter!

In the following chapters an attempt has been made to answer these
questions, and to give such information generally about our summer
migratory birds as will prove acceptable to many who may be glad to
possess it without knowing exactly where to look for it. Some of these
sketches were originally published in the Natural History columns of
“The Field” during the summer of 1871, and as a reprint has frequently
been asked for, I have now carefully revised them and made some
important additions and emendations, besides adding to the series a
dozen or more chapters which have never before appeared.

The illustrations, from designs by Thomas Bewick, will, it is conceived,
add considerably to the attractiveness of the volume, and will enable
the reader to dispense with particular descriptions of the species,
which it might be otherwise desirable to furnish. These may be found,
moreover, in other works devoted to British Ornithology.

                                                   James Edmund Harting.

July, 1875.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]



The Wheatear                                                           1

The Whinchat                                                           9

The Stonechat                                                         13

The Wood Warbler                                                      16

The Willow Warbler                                                    24

The Chiff-chaff                                                       28

The Nightingale                                                       32

The Blackcap                                                          44

The Orphean Warbler                                                   51

The Garden Warbler                                                    59

The Common Whitethroat                                                67

The Lesser Whitethroat                                                71

The Redstart                                                          74

The Sedge Warbler                                                     81

The Reed Warbler                                                      83

The Grasshopper Warbler                                               86

Savi’s Warbler                                                        88

The Aquatic Warbler                                                   91

The Marsh Warbler                                                     92

The Great Reed Warbler                                               101

The Rufous Warbler                                                   103

The Pied Wagtail                                                     106

The White Wagtail                                                    110

The Grey Wagtail                                                     112

The Yellow Wagtail                                                   117

The Grey-headed Wagtail                                              121

The Meadow Pipit                                                     124

The Rock Pipit                                                       130

The Tree Pipit                                                       135

The Water Pipit                                                      138

Richard’s Pipit                                                      142

The Tawny Pipit                                                      146

The Pennsylvanian Pipit                                              149

The Red-throated Pipit                                               152

The Spotted Flycatcher                                               155

The Pied Flycatcher                                                  160

The Swallow                                                          170

The Martin                                                           184

The Sand Martin                                                      187

The Common Swift                                                     191

The Alpine Swift                                                     199

The Nightjar                                                         204

The Cuckoo                                                           219

The Wryneck                                                          242

The Hoopoe                                                           249

The Golden Oriole                                                    262

The Red-backed Shrike                                                276

The Turtle-dove                                                      282

The Landrail or Corncrake                                            288

General Observations                                                 299

Conclusion                                                           330

Index                                                                335

                        [Illustration: WHEATEAR]

                             THE WHEATEAR.
                         (_Saxicola œnanthe._)

One of the earliest of our feathered visitors to arrive is the Wheatear,
which comes to us as a rule in the second week of March; and, although
individuals have been seen and procured occasionally at a much earlier
date, there is reason to believe that the spring migration does not set
in before this, and that the birds met with previously are such as have
wintered in this country; for it has been well ascertained that the
Wheatear, like the Stonechat, occasionally remains with us throughout
the year. It is a noticeable fact that those which stay the winter are
far less shy in their habits, and will suffer a much nearer approach.

The name Wheatear may have been derived either from the season of its
arrival, or from its being taken in great numbers for the table at wheat
harvest. Or, again, it may be a corruption of _whitear_, from the _white
ear_ which is very conspicuous in the spring plumage of this bird. Many
instances are on record of Wheatears having come on board vessels
several miles from land at the period of migration, and from the
observations of naturalists in various parts of the country it would
appear that these birds travel by night, or at early dawn. I do not
remember any recorded instance in which they have been seen to land upon
our shores in the daytime.

In Ireland, according to Mr. Thompson,[1] the Wheatear arrives much
later than in England, and does not stay the winter. With regard to
Scotland, Macgillivray states[2] that it is nowhere more plentiful than
in the outer Hebrides, and in the Orkney and Shetland Islands; and from
the fact of his having observed the species near Edinburgh on the 28th
of February, we may infer that a few, as in England, occasionally remain
throughout the year.

The number of Wheatears which used to be taken years ago upon the South
Downs in autumn was a matter of notoriety.

“Hereabouts,” says an old chronicle of East-Bourne, “is the chief place
for catching the delicious birds called Wheatears, which much resemble
the French Ortolans;” and Wheatears play an important part in the
history of this town. Squire William Wilson, of Hitching, Lord of the
Manor of East-Bourne, was in Oliver Cromwell’s time vehemently suspected
of loyalty to the Stuarts; and one Lieutenant Hopkins, with a troop of
dragoons, swooped down on Eastbourne to search the squire’s house, and,
if needful, arrest him as a Malignant. The squire was laid up with the
gout; but Mistress Wilson, his true wife, with the rarely-failing
shrewdness of her sex, placed before Lieutenant Hopkins and his troopers
a prodigious pie filled with Wheatears, “which rare repast,” the
chronicle goes on to say, “the soldiers did taste with so much
amazement, delight, and jollity,” that the squire upstairs had ample
time to burn all the papers which would compromise him, and when
Lieutenant Hopkins, full of Wheatear pie, came to search the house,
there was not so much treasonable matter found as could have brought a
mouse within peril of a _præmunire_. At the Restoration the Lord of the
Manor became Sir William Wilson of Eastbourne, a dignity well earned by
his devotion to the Royal cause; but the chronicle goes on to hint that
Charles II. was passionately fond of Wheatears, and that possibly the
liberality of the squire, in supplying his Majesty’s table with these
delicacies, may have had something to do with the creation of the

The abundance of Wheatears at certain seasons on the Hampshire downs was
noticed by Gilbert White in a letter to the Hon. Daines Barrington in
Dec. 1773. Since this excellent naturalist penned his observations,
however, many changes in the haunts and habits of birds have been
remarked. For example, the Hawfinch, which he referred to as “rarely
seen in England, and only in winter,” is now found to be resident
throughout the year, and nesting even in the proximity of London and
other large cities. The Landrail, which he noted as “a bird so rare in
this district that we seldom see more than one or two in a season, and
those only in autumn,” is now so plentiful in the same neighbourhood
that I have shot as many as half a dozen in one day in September, within
a few miles of Selborne. The Common Bunting, which in 1768 was
considered to be a “rare bird” in the district referred to, may now be
heard there in full song—if song it can be called—throughout the month
of May. Whilst walking from Liss to Selborne, I have on two occasions
met with a bird which Gilbert White had not observed—the Cirl Bunting;
and, to return to the Wheatears, these birds, which were formerly so
plentiful in autumn that the shepherds trapped them by dozens, are now
far less numerous at the same season, and the practice of snaring them
has perceptibly declined.[3] It was remarkable that, although in the
height of the season—_i.e._, at wheat harvest—so many hundreds of dozens
were taken, yet they were never seen to flock, and it was a rare thing
to see more than three or four at a time; so that there must have been a
perpetual flitting and constant progressive succession.

The Wheatear is partial to commons and waste lands, old quarries, sand
hills, and downs by the sea, and it is in these situations that we may
now look for him without much fear of disappointment. Like all the
chats, the Wheatear is very terrestrial in its habits, seldom perching
on trees, although often to be seen on gate-posts and rails, where a
broader footing is afforded it. Its song is rather sprightly, and is
occasionally uttered on the wing. The contrast between the spring and
autumn plumage of this bird is very remarkable. If an old bird be
examined in September, it will be found that the white superciliary
streak has almost disappeared; the colour of the upper parts has become
reddish brown; the throat and breast pale ferruginous, lighter on the
flanks and belly; while the primaries and tail at its extremity are much
browner. On raising the feathers of the back, it will be found that the
base of each feather is grey; and in spring this colour supersedes the
brown of winter, which is worn off, and the upper parts assume a
beautiful bluish grey, while the under parts become pure white. In this
species, therefore, it is evident that the seasonal change of plumage is
effected by a change of colour in the same feather, and not by a moult.

The nest of the Wheatear is generally well concealed in the crevice of a
cliff or sandbank, or in an old rabbit burrow. Where these conveniences
are not accessible, the nest may be found at the foot of a bush,
screened from view by grass or foliage. The eggs, five or six in number,
are of a delicate pale blue, occasionally spotted at the larger end with
pale rust colour.

The geographical range of the Wheatear is very extensive for so small
and short-winged a bird. It is found in the Faroe Isles, Iceland, and
Greenland; in Lapland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark; throughout Europe to
the Mediterranean; in Egypt, Arabia, Asia Minor, and Armenia.

                        [Illustration: WHINCHAT]

                             THE WHINCHAT.
                         (_Saxicola rubetra._)

Seldom appearing before the end of the first week in April, the Whinchat
arrives much later than the Wheatear, and is much less diffused than
that species. By the end of September it has again left the country, and
I have never met with an instance of its remaining in England during the
winter months. On several occasions correspondents have forwarded to me
in winter a bird which they believed to be the Whinchat, but which
invariably proved to be a female, or male in winter plumage, of the
Stonechat—a species which is known to reside with us throughout the
year, yet receiving a large accession to its numbers in spring, and
undergoing corresponding decrease in autumn.

In the southern counties of England the Whinchat is sometimes very
numerous, and may be found in every meadow perched upon the tall grass
stems or dockweed. The abundance or scarcity of this species, however,
varies considerably according to season. In some years I have noticed
extraordinary numbers of this little bird, and in others have scarcely
been able to count two or three pairs in a parish. I have generally
found that a cold or wet spring has so affected their migration as to
cause them apparently to alter their plans, and induce them to spend the
summer but a short distance to the north or north-west of their winter

It is a little remarkable that in Ireland the Whinchat is far less
common than the Stonechat, the reverse being the case in England. Mr.
Thompson says, in the work already quoted (p. 175), “In no part of
Ireland have I seen the Whinchat numerous, and compared with the
Stonechat it is very scarce.” In the south of Scotland, according to
Macgillivray, it seldom makes its appearance before the end of April,
that is, more than a fortnight after its arrival in England. It extends
to Sutherland, Caithness, and the outer Hebrides (_cf._ More, “Ibis,”
1865, p. 22), and has occasionally been met with in Orkney, but not in
Shetland. In winter it migrates to the south-east, and at that season is
not uncommon in Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, travelling also through
Asia Minor, Arabia and Persia, as far eastward as the north-west
provinces of India. In a south-westerly direction this species, passing
through Spain and Portugal, proceeds down the west coast of Africa to
Senegal, Gambia, and Fantee.

The Whinchat differs a good deal in its habits from the Wheatear, and on
this account, as well as on account of certain differences of structure,
it has been placed with the Stonechat and other allied species in a
separate genus (_Pratincola_). It is doubtful, however, whether these
differences are sufficient to entitle them to anything more than a
specific separation.

The Whinchat perches much more than does the Wheatear, and may be seen
darting into the air for insects, after the manner of a Flycatcher. It
derives its name, of course, from the fact of its being found upon the
_whin_, or _furze_, a favourite perch also for its congener the
Stonechat. The derivation of the word _whin_ I have never been able to

Although the two species are frequently confounded, the Whinchat may be
always distinguished from the Stonechat by its superciliary white
streak, by the lighter-coloured throat and vent, and by the white bases
of the three outer tail feathers on each side. Both species make a very
similar nest, which is placed on the ground and well concealed, and lay
very similar eggs, of a bright blue faintly speckled at the large end
with rust colour.

                       [Illustration: STONECHAT]

                             THE STONECHAT.
                         (_Saxicola rubicola._)

As has been already stated, the Stonechat may be found in a few
scattered pairs throughout the country all the year round. At the
beginning of April, however, a considerable accession to its numbers is
observed to take place, owing to a migration from the south and
south-east. It takes up its residence on moors and heaths, and many a
lonely walk over such ground is enlivened by the sprightly actions and
sharp “_chook-chook_” of this little bird. The male in his wedding
dress, with jet black head, white collar, and ferruginous breast, is
extremely handsome; and the artist who is fond of depicting bird-life
would scarcely find a prettier subject than a male Stonechat in this
plumage upon a spray of furze in full bloom.

In Ireland the Stonechat is considered to be a resident species, and
this is attributed by Mr. Thompson to the mild winters of that island.
In Scotland, on the contrary, Sir Wm. Jardine has observed that the
Stonechat is not nearly so abundant as either the Whinchat or the
Wheatear, and frequents localities of a more wild and secluded
character. It ranges, however, to the extreme north of the mainland of
Scotland, and is included by Dr. Dewar in his list of birds which he
found nesting in the Hebrides. It is said not to breed in either Orkney
or Shetland.[4]

The geographical range of the Stonechat is rather more extensive than
that of the Whinchat, for besides being found throughout the greater
part of Europe to the Mediterranean, it goes by way of Senegal to South
Africa, and extends eastward through Asia Minor, Palestine, and Persia,
to India and Japan. In Europe, however, its distribution is somewhat
remarkable, inasmuch as it is confined chiefly to the central and
southern portions of the continent, and in Norway and Sweden is unknown.
The Whinchat, on the other hand, breeds in these countries, and has been
met with as far north as Archangel. In winter the male Stonechat loses
the black head, and the colours in both sexes are much less vivid than
in summer. Here again, as with the Wheatear, the change of plumage seems
to be effected by a change of colour in the same feathers, and not by a

_Apropos_ of this subject, the reader may be referred to an article
contributed by me to the Natural History columns of “The Field,” 16th
September, 1871, on variation of colour in birds.

                      [Illustration: WOOD WARBLER]

                           THE WOOD WARBLER.
                      (_Phylloscopus sibilatrix._)

Although often taken to comprehend every species of warbler, Professor
Newton has recently shown[5] that the genus _Sylvia_ of Latham should be
restricted to the group of fruit-eating warblers next to be described,
and that the generic term which has priority for the willow wren group
is _Phylloscopus_ of Boie.

From its larger size, brighter colour, and finer song, the Wood Warbler
deserves to be first noticed; and the first step should be to
distinguish it from its congeners. Perhaps none of the small
insectivorous birds have been more confounded one with another than have
the members of this group, not only by observers of the living birds,
but by naturalists with skins of each before them. Taking the three
species which annually visit us—_i. e._, the Wood Warbler, the Willow
Warbler, and the Chiff-chaff—it will be found on comparison that they
differ in size as follows—

                        Length.     Wing.       Tarsus.

  Wood Warbler          5·2 in.     3·0 in.     0·7 in.
  Willow Warbler        5·0 ”       2·6 ”       0·7 ”
  Chiff-chaff           4·7 ”       2·4 ”       0·6 ”

Not only is the Wood Warbler the largest of the three, but it has
comparatively the longest wings and the longest legs. The wings, when
closed, cover three-fourths of the tail. In the Willow Wren, under the
same circumstances, less than half the tail is hidden. The Chiff-chaff’s
wing is shorter again. In my edition of White’s “Selborne,” founded upon
that of Bennett, 1875, pp. 56, 57, will be found a long footnote on the
subject, with woodcuts illustrating the comparative form of the wing in
these three birds. Mr. Blake-Knox, in “The Zoologist” for 1866, p. 300,
has pointed to the second quill-feather, depicted in a sketch
accompanying his communication, as being an unfailing mark of
distinction.[6] When we reflect, however, upon the variation which is
found to exist in the length of feathers, owing to the age of the bird,
moult, or accident, too much stress ought not to be laid upon this as a
character. At the same time there is no doubt that, taken in connection
with other details, it will often assist the determination of a species.
After examining a large series of these birds, I have come to the
conclusion that, as regards the wings, the following formulæ may be
relied on: Wood Warbler, 2nd=4th; 3rd and 4th with outer webs sloped off
towards the extremity. Willow Warbler, 2nd=6th; 3rd, 4th, and 5th sloped
off. Chiff-chaff, 2nd=7th; 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th sloped off.

The Wood Warbler is much greener on the back and whiter on the under
parts than either of its congeners, and has a well-defined superciliary
streak of sulphur-yellow, which, in the Willow Wren, is much shorter and
paler. The legs of the Wood Warbler and Willow Wren are brownish
flesh-colour, while those of the Chiff-chaff are dark brown. After the
first moult, the young of all three species are much yellower in colour
than their parents. Hence the mistake which Vieillot made in describing
the young of _P. trochilus_ as a distinct species under the name of

Although the majority of the _Sylviidæ_ are fruit-eaters, the species
now under consideration are almost entirely insectivorous;[7] they are
also more strictly arboreal in their habits, and as regards the
character of their nests, they differ remarkably from other members of
the _Sylviidæ_ in building domed nests on or near the ground, instead of
cup-shaped nests at a distance from it. The Yellow-billed Chiff-chaff—or
Icterine Warbler, as it should now be called[8]—however, forms an
exception to the rule, as will be seen later. As these little birds make
their appearance at a season when caterpillars and destructive larvæ
begin to be troublesome, the good they do in ridding the young leaves
and buds of these pests is incalculable. I have watched a Willow Wren
picking the green _aphis_ off a standard rose-tree, and have been as
much astonished at the quantity which it consumed as at the rapidity of
the consumption. The Wood Warbler is not nearly so sociable as either
the Willow Warbler or the Chiff-chaff. It keeps to the tops of trees in
woods and plantations, and seldom comes into gardens; hence it is not so
often seen. Although not rare, it is somewhat local, and in the British
Islands, it appears, is confined exclusively to England and the south of
Scotland. Mr. Thompson has included it with hesitation amongst the birds
of Ireland; for although the description given to him of certain birds
and eggs seemed to apply to this species, it was stated that the nest
which contained the eggs was lined with feathers. Now, the Willow Wren
invariably makes use of feathers for this purpose, but the Wood Warbler
does not. The nest of the latter is composed entirely of dry grass and
leaves, occasionally mixed with a little moss; and although I have
sometimes found horsehair inside, I do not remember to have seen or
heard of an instance in which any feathers were employed. The eggs, five
or six in number, are white, closely freckled over with reddish brown.

Mr. Blake-Knox, a well-known naturalist, resident in the county of
Dublin, says (“Zoologist,” 1866, p. 300), “I tried very hard this year
to add the Wood Wren to our Dublin avifauna, and though I killed some
dozens of snowy-white-bellied Willow Wrens, they were all the common
_Sylvia trochilus_. That the bird is Irish I am sure, for I have heard
it. Should an Irish ornithologist see this, will he try for it, if he
should live in a wooded district, such as the counties Wicklow and
Wexford? I am sure it is neglected for want of a certain distinction.”
Since this note was published, the Wood Wren has actually been obtained
in Ireland, a specimen having been shot in the county of Fermanagh by
Sir Victor Brooke, and preserved by him in June, 1870. Another was
obtained the same year at Glen Druid in the county of Dublin, as
reported by Mr. Blake-Knox. Both Sir William Jardine and Macgillivray
have referred to the Wood Warbler being found northward to the middle
districts of Scotland, a circumstance which appears to have been
overlooked by Mr. Yarrell, since he says (vol. i. p. 349, 3rd edit.), “I
am not aware of any record of its appearance in Scotland.” This
statement, however, has been rectified in the fourth edition of this
standard work by Professor Newton, who remarks: “In Scotland it is known
to breed regularly in the counties of Dumfries, Wigton, Lanark and
Berwick, the Lothians and Perthshire, and occasionally in those of
Roxburgh, Selkirk, Renfrew and Stirling.” Mr. A. G. More, in an article
“On the Distribution of Birds in Great Britain during the Nesting
Season,” published in the “Ibis” for 1865, observes (p. 26), that the
Wood Warbler “in Scotland ranges further north than the Chiff-chaff,
having been observed by the Duke of Argyle in Argyleshire and at

According to Mr. Robert Gray, of Glasgow, it has been observed in
Inverness and Aberdeenshire, and Mr. Edwards has found it in Banffshire.

Beyond the British Islands the Wood Warbler is found throughout Europe,
though rare in the north, and it extends eastward to Siberia and
southward to Algeria, Egypt and Abyssinia. It arrives in this country
generally about the middle of April, and leaves again in September.

                     [Illustration: WILLOW WARBLER]

                          THE WILLOW WARBLER.
                      (_Phylloscopus trochilus._)

The Willow Warbler is much more generally distributed than the
last-named bird; but it is possible that it is considered commoner from
the difference in the haunts of the two species—the Wood Warbler, as
already remarked, keeping further away from habitations. As a rule, the
Willow Wren arrives in this country about the end of the first week in
April—that is to say, before the Wood Warbler, but not so early as the
Chiff-chaff, which is the first of the genus to appear.

Yarrell speaks of these birds as “having acquired with us the general
name of Willow Warblers, or Willow Wrens, from their prevailing green
colour;” but Thompson, in his “Birds of Ireland” (i. p. 192), says,
“this name was doubtless bestowed upon the bird originally on account of
its partiality to willows, which I have frequently remarked, the twigs
and branches of the common osier (_Salix viminalis_) abounding with
_aphides_, being on such occasions its chief favourite.” There is yet
another suggestion—_i. e._, that the name may have been bestowed from
the circumstance that these little birds make their appearance just as
the willow is budding.

It is marvellous how these tiny creatures can sustain the protracted
flights which are necessary to transport them from their winter to their
summer quarters; and yet that they make these long journeys is well
ascertained. On the 23rd of April a Willow Wren came on board a vessel
eighty miles from Malta and fifty from Cape Passaro, the nearest land.
Two days later another alighted on the rigging sixty miles from
Calabria, and one hundred and thirty-five from Mount Etna. On the 26th
of April, eighty miles from Zante and one hundred and thirty from
Navarino, a Willow Wren and a Chiff-chaff were found dead on board,
presumably from exhaustion, as they were apparently uninjured. Many
other such instances are on record.

The present species may be regarded as the commonest of the three which
visit us, being generally dispersed in favourable localities over the
whole of Great Britain and Ireland. Although it has not been met with in
the Hebrides, the Willow Wren has occasionally been seen in Orkney, and
the late Dr. Saxby has recorded a single instance of its occurrence in
Shetland. Through every country in Europe it seems to be well known as a
periodical migrant.

The winter quarters of the Willow Wren are to a certain extent those of
its congeners, that is to say, Northern Africa and Palestine, where it
is very numerous in the cold season, but it has been found much further
southward. Mr. Ayres sent a specimen to Mr. Gurney from Natal; the late
Mr. Andersson met with it in Damaraland, S.W. Africa; and Mr. Layard
some years since procured specimens at the Cape. As is often the case
with allied species, the remarks as to habits and food which have been
applied to the Wood Warbler will apply almost equally well to the
present species. The distinction between the birds themselves has been
already pointed out. The nests of the Willow Wren and Chiff-chaff are
both lined with feathers, the eggs of the former being white spotted
with red; while those of the latter are white spotted with purple,
chiefly at the larger end.

Varieties in this group of birds are rarely met with, and it may
therefore be worth notice that in May, 1861, a primrose-coloured Willow
Wren was shot at Witley Park, in the parish of Witley, Surrey, and
forwarded for inspection to the editor of “The Field.”

                      [Illustration: CHIFF-CHAFF]

                            THE CHIFF-CHAFF.
                         (_Phylloscopus rufa._)

Although the smallest of the three species, the Chiff-chaff is
apparently the hardiest of them all, for it often braves the winds of
March, and makes its appearance in England long before the leaves have
given signs of approaching summer. As I have already pointed out the
means of distinguishing this little bird from its congeners, and have
referred to its nest and eggs, it will suffice to state that, like the
Willow Wren, it is a regular summer visitant to England, Scotland, and
Ireland; that it is the earliest of the summer warblers to visit us; and
that it remains with us until the first week of September, when it
migrates to the south-east to spend the winter in a warmer climate. It
appears to be common at that season in Italy, Sicily, the Maltese
Islands, and Asia Minor; and Mr. Blyth has found it as far to the
eastward as Calcutta.

Old English authors, who knew the Garden Warbler as the Greater
Pettychaps, gave the Chiff-chaff the name of the Lesser Pettychaps,
presumably from its general resemblance to it in miniature. These two
names, however, may now be considered as obsolete.

Whilst on the subject of Willow Warblers, we may refer to the fact that
a single example of another species, _P. hypolais_ (_vel icterina_, the
oldest name for it), which is common enough on the other side of the
German Ocean, is recorded to have been taken in England, and another in
Ireland. The bird is known as the Yellow-billed Chiff-chaff, Melodious
Willow Warbler, and Icterine Warbler.[9] So long ago as June, 1848, the
English specimen referred to was killed at Eythorne, near Dover, and the
fact was communicated by Dr. Plomley to Mr. Yarrell, who published it in
his “History of British Birds.” A second British example of this species
was shot at Dunsinea, county Dublin, in June, 1856, and is now in the
Royal Dublin Society’s Museum.[10] In size it equals the Wood Warbler,
and resembles it somewhat in colour, but it has a shorter wing (2·75 in.
instead of 3 in.); the whole of the under parts are sulphur-yellow, and
the legs and toes are slate colour. These characters may serve to
distinguish it at once should it again be met with by ornithologists in
England. Should its song be heard, all doubts would at once be set at
rest, for as a warbler it is far superior to any of the three species
just mentioned. I have had many opportunities of seeing and hearing this
little bird in Holland, and can testify to the power and variety of its
song. Frequently I contrived to get within a few feet of it, and could
almost see the notes as they poured out of its tiny throat. The eggs
when fresh are the most lovely imaginable, being of a bright pink with
dark purple spots, scattered chiefly at the larger end. The nest, as I
have already hinted, is cup-shaped, and placed at a little height from
the ground; the bird in this respect departing from the usual habit of
the Willow Warblers.

These notes being intended rather as suggestions for those who desire to
know a little about our summer birds, than as a condensed history of the
species, I may observe, in concluding this chapter, that those who are
anxious to glean further particulars about the Willow Warblers and their
allies, will do well to consult an excellent article on the subject by
Professor Schlegel, published (in French) in 1851 in the “Proceedings of
the Royal Zoological Society of Amsterdam.”

                      [Illustration: NIGHTINGALE]

                            THE NIGHTINGALE.
                        (_Philomela luscinia._)

In common with one or two allied species, the Nightingale differs so
materially in structure and habits from the garden or fruit-eating
warblers (_Sylvia_), with which it has been generally associated, that
most naturalists nowadays are agreed in regarding it as the type of a
separate genus (_Philomela_). For want of a better English name, and as
indicating their haunt, the members of this genus may be called “thicket
warblers.” As regards structure, they differ from the Garden Warblers in
having the bill less compressed towards the tip, and wider near the
gape; the legs much longer and not scutellated, the toes more adapted
for walking than perching. In habits they are more retired, concealing
themselves in thickets and copses, living a good deal on the ground,
where they find the principal portion of their food, and building a
loosely-constructed nest on or near the ground, instead of a more
compact structure at a distance from it.

The sole representative of this genus in England is the far-famed
Nightingale; and of all the summer migrants to this country, no species
probably has attracted more attention, or given rise to more speculation
and discussion amongst naturalists. The most remarkable fact in
connection with its annual sojourn in England is its very partial
distribution. When we find this bird in summer as far to the westward as
Spain and Portugal, and as far to the northward as Sweden, we may well
be surprised at its absence from Wales, Ireland, and Scotland; and yet
it is the fact that the boundary line, over which it seldom if ever
flies, excludes it from Cornwall, West Devon; part of Somerset,
Gloucester, and Hereford; the whole of Wales (_à fortiori_ from
Ireland), part of Shropshire, the whole of Cheshire, Westmoreland,
Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland. I am well aware that the
Nightingale has been stated to have been heard and seen in Wales,
Cumberland, and even in Mid-Lothian (see “Zoologist,” p. 241); but, even
if they could be relied on in every case, which is doubtful, these
instances can only be regarded as exceptional. In those counties only to
the east of the line indicated can the bird be considered a regular
summer visitant. Mr. Blyth has expressed the opinion[11] that the
Nightingale migrates almost due north and south, deviating but a very
little indeed either to the right or left. “There are none in Brittany,”
he says, “nor in the Channel Islands, and the most westward of them
probably cross the Channel at Cape la Hogue, arriving on the coast of
Dorsetshire, and thence apparently proceeding northwards, rather than
dispersing towards the west; so that they are only known as accidental
stragglers a little beyond the third degree of western longitude.” They
arrive generally about the end of the second week in April, and it is a
well-ascertained fact that the males invariably precede the females by
several days. In 1867 three London birdcatchers, between April 13 and
May 2, took 225 Nightingales, and the whole of these, with five or six
exceptions only, were cock birds. The previous year these same
bird-catchers had supplied the dealer by whom they were employed with
280 Nightingales, of which not more than sixty were hens. From these
statistics we may infer that in no locality would Nightingales be more
plentiful if unmolested than in the neighbourhood of London; but if one
dealer only is instrumental in capturing between 200 and 300 in the
season, it is easy to account for the scarcity of the species. On the
arrival of the hen birds the cocks soon pair, and assist in building,
during which time, and during the time the hens are sitting, they are in
full song. When the young are hatched the males leave off singing, and
busy themselves in bringing food to the nest.

The song generally ceases before the end of the first week in June.
Occasionally, however, I have heard a Nightingale sing on throughout
June, but accounted for this by supposing that the nest had been robbed,
and that the cock was singing while the hen hatched a second brood.
Naturalists who live in London need not travel more than five miles from
Charing Cross to hear the Nightingale in full song. Nay, a friend who is
well acquainted with the note, has heard the bird frequently in Victoria
Park, which is only two miles distant from the Bank of England, and on
several occasions attentive observers have recognized the unmistakable
notes of the Nightingale in the Botanical Gardens, Regent’s Park, and in
Kensington Gardens.

It is curious how wide-spread is the belief that the Nightingale warbles
only at eve. The reason, no doubt, is that amidst the general chorus by
day its song is less noticed or attended to. But that it sings
constantly by day is a fact, of which we have satisfied ourselves
repeatedly. Moreover, it is by no means the only bird to sing at night.
The Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Woodlark, Skylark, and Thrush,
may often be heard long after sunset; while the Cuckoo is frequently to
be heard at midnight, and the Landrail constantly.

It would appear that of the large number of persons who profess a love
for song birds very few, comparatively, have the ear to distinguish a
song unless they can see the author of it. Hence it frequently happens
that they listen to a Thrush or Blackcap in the early spring, and
immediately inform their friends that they have heard the Nightingale
weeks before it has reached this country.

Many poets have perpetuated the odd belief that the mournful notes of
the Nightingale are caused by the bird’s leaning against a thorn to
sing! Shakespeare, for example, in his “Passionate Pilgrim,” says:

  “Everything did banish moan,
  Save the nightingale alone.
  She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
  Lean’d her breast up-till a thorn;
  And there sung the dolefull’st ditty,
  That to hear it was great pity.”

These lines, by the way, although generally attributed to Shakespeare,
and included in most editions of his poems, were written, it is said, by
Richard Barnefield in 1598, and published by him in a work entitled
“Poems in divers humors.”[12] Shakespeare’s Lucrece, however, invoking
Philomel, says:

  “And whiles against a thorn thou bear’st thy part
  To keep thy sharp woes waking.”

Fletcher speaks of

                    “The bird forlorn,
  That singeth with her breast against a thorn.”

And Pomfret, writing towards the close of the seventeenth century, says:

  “The first music of the grove we owe
  To mourning Philomel’s harmonious woe;
  And while her grief in charming notes express’d,
  A thorny bramble pricks her tender breast.”

The origin of such an odd notion it is not easy to ascertain, but I
suspect Sir Thomas Browne was not far from the truth when he pointed to
the fact that the Nightingale frequents thorny copses, and builds her
nest amongst brambles on the ground. He inquires “whether it be any more
than that she placeth some prickles on the outside of her nest, or
roosteth in thorny, prickly places, where serpents may least approach

In an article upon this subject published in the “Zoologist” for 1862
(p. 8029), the Rev. A. C. Smith has narrated the discovery on two
occasions of a strong thorn projecting upwards in the centre of the
Nightingale’s nest. It cannot be doubted, however, that this was the
result of accident rather than design; and Mr. Hewitson, in his “Eggs of
British Birds,” has adduced two similar instances in the case of the
Hedge Sparrow.

The nest of the Nightingale is a very loosely-made structure, composed
for the greater part of dead leaves, and placed upon a hedge bank,
generally at the root of some stout shrub or thorn. The eggs, usually
five in number, are, like the bird itself, of a plain olive-brown
colour. The young Nightingales are spotted like young Robins, having the
feathers of the upper portions of the plumage tipped with buff colour.
In some respects the Nightingale assimilates very much in habits to the
Robin; and advantage has been taken of this in localities where the
Nightingale is unknown to introduce its eggs into the nests of Robins,
with a view to having the young reared in the neighbourhood, and so
induced to return to it. But although, as regards hatching and rearing,
the plan has been successful, the birds have never returned to the place
of their birth. For some inexplicable reason, a limit appears to be set
to the migration of the Nightingale, which has no parallel in the case
of other migrants.

As autumn approaches it moves southwards towards the Mediterranean, and
spends the winter months in North Africa, Egypt, and Asia Minor. We
cannot help thinking that the Nightingale and many other birds which
visit us in summer and nest with us, must also nest in what we term
their winter quarters; otherwise it would be impossible, considering the
immense numbers which are captured on their first arrival, not only in
England, but throughout central and southern Europe, to account for the
apparently undiminished forces which reappear in the succeeding spring.

The late Mr. Blyth, however, was of a different opinion. Criticizing the
above remarks, he wrote:—

“The only birds known to me that breed in their winter quarters are two
species of Sand-martin (_Cotyle riparia_ and _C. sinensis_). In India I
have been familiar enough with birds in their winter quarters, and have
no hesitation in asserting that migratory species (with the remarkable
exceptions named) do not even pair until they have returned to their
summer haunts. Were they to do so, I could not but have repeatedly
noticed the fact, and must needs have seen very many of their nests and

To my suggestion that from Mr. Layard’s observation of young birds
there, the Common Swallow, _H. rustica_, probably breeds at the Cape
during the season that it is absent from the British Islands, Mr. Blyth

“According to my experience of _Hirundo rustica_ (and I have had the
best opportunities for observation), it decidedly does not breed in its
winter quarters. Some birds of this species, which pass their
non-breeding season within the tropics, may migrate south instead of
north, and breed in the summer of the southern hemisphere instead of
that of the northern hemisphere; but there is no reason to suppose that
they are the same individuals. Were it so, the Cape colony would indeed
be flooded with _Hirundo rustica_. Besides, these birds renew their
plumage (as the Cuckoo likewise does) when in their winter quarters;
whereas the Sand-martins (_Cotyle_), as I am all but sure from
recollection, resemble the great majority of our summer migrants in
moulting before they take their departure equatorward. That our British
Sand-martin (_C. riparia_) breeds in Egypt during the winter months is
noticed in the “Proceedings of the Zoological Society” for 1863 (p.
288), and that its ordinary representative in India and the countries
eastward (_C. sinensis_) does the same I can vouch from personal
observation, having myself taken both eggs and young about the turn of
the year from their burrows in the banks of the Hugli; while Mr. Swinhoe
noticed their breeding when in their winter haunts, in the “Ibis’ for
1863, p. 257, and 1866, p. 134.”

                        [Illustration: BLACKCAP]

                             THE BLACKCAP.
                        (_Sylvia atricapilla._)

Five species may be conveniently grouped under the generic term
_Sylvia_, or Fruit-eating Warblers, and these, with one exception, visit
Great Britain regularly in the spring. Two of them, the Blackcap and
Garden Warbler, enjoy little more immunity from traps and birdlime than
does the Nightingale. Their fine song marks them at once as the prey of
the professional bird-catcher, and during the month of April immense
numbers are taken daily. The Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat are also
sought after as cage-birds, but not to the same extent, for their song
is neither so musical nor so varied.

In no part of the country are these four species more plentiful than in
the south-eastern counties of England; and the neighbourhood of the
metropolis seems to have some special attraction for them. Far from
shunning “the busy haunts of men,” they appear to be nowhere more at
home than in our gardens and orchards. The reason is obvious as soon as
we become acquainted with their habits, and the nature of their food. We
then discover that their motives are not so disinterested as we might
suppose, since the real attraction is _fruit_. Upon this the parent
birds live to a great extent; and after bringing up their young upon
various kinds of insects which infest fruit trees—in which they
unquestionably do us good service—they introduce their progeny at length
to the more palatable pulp upon which they themselves have been faring
so sumptuously. No wonder, then, that the large market-gardens of Kent,
Surrey, and Middlesex should entice such numbers of these little birds
to remain in their vicinity throughout the summer.

The Blackcap (_Sylvia atricapilla_) is the earliest of the genus to make
his appearance, and seems to be hardier also than any of his congeners.
Many instances are on record of Blackcaps having remained in this
country throughout the winter, and this has been noticed as particularly
the case in Ireland. It is rather singular that Mr. Yarrell, in
referring to the sister isle, says that the Blackcap “has been taken,
once at least, in the north of Ireland,” as if he were of opinion that
its occurrence there were doubtful, or at least extremely rare. Mr.
Thompson, in his excellent “Natural History of Ireland” (vol. i. p.
183), notices the Blackcap as a regular summer visitant there; but he
adds that it must be considered very local. In Scotland it is considered
rare, being confined chiefly to the south; but since the observations
were published from which these remarks are drawn, considerable changes
seem to have taken place in the local distribution of many species of
birds. This is notably the case with the Blackcap and Garden Warbler,
both of which have followed cultivation, and now are found commonly in
localities where twenty years ago they were either unknown or stated to
be extremely rare.

The Blackcap, like the Nightingale, appears to migrate almost due north
and south, and ranges from Lapland to the Cape. It is resident in
Madeira, the Azores, and the Canaries, and is also found throughout the
year in Northern Africa and Southern Italy. In the fine collection of
African birds (_Passeres_ and _Picariæ_) belonging to Mr. R. B. Sharpe,
I have seen a specimen of the Blackcap from Senegal. In Spain and
Portugal it is found only on the migration in spring and autumn. Mr.
Godman, in his interesting work on the “Natural History of the Azores,”
has described a curious variety of the Blackcap which is found in these
islands, “having the black marking on the head extending to the
shoulders and round under the throat,” and he was informed that
individuals were sometimes found with “the whole of the under parts of
the body black.” This variety appears to have been met with also in
Madeira, from whence it was described by Heineken (“Zool. Journ.,” v. p.
75). A figure of it will be found in Jardine and Selby’s “Illustrations
of Ornithology,” pl. 94.

However much observers may be deceived by song, there is no mistaking
either sex of the Blackcap as soon as the bird comes in view. The black
crown of the male and the brown crown of the female suffice to
distinguish the species amongst every other of our summer migrants.
There is something very peculiar, too, about the half-hopping,
half-creeping motions of all the Fruit-eating Warblers, which
distinguishes them at once from other small birds frequenting the same

The males invariably arrive some days before the females; but both sexes
seem to leave the country much about the same time—that is, early in

The nests of all the species in the genus _Sylvia_, as compared with
those of the finches and linnets, are slovenly and loosely-made
structures; and that of the Blackcap is no exception to the rule. The
birds take some pains, however, to conceal it, and both male and female
bestow a good deal of trouble upon it. It is generally placed a few feet
from the ground, and is composed of dry bents, and lined with horsehair.
The eggs, usually five in number, are white clouded with pale brown, and
sparsely spotted with black towards the larger end. They closely
resemble the eggs of the Garden Warbler, but differ in being smaller,
and as a rule of a warmer tint; the pink or reddish-brown colour with
which the eggs of the Blackcap are often suffused is not found in those
of its congener. Both sexes take their turn at incubation, relieving one
another to feed; but the male will often feed his partner on the nest,
and then sit and sing to her. As to the song, it is simply delightful. I
refrain, however, from attempting a description, for two reasons. The
attempt has been made very often, and mere verbiage can convey but a
very faint notion of its nature. It must be heard to be appreciated. If
I were asked the question, “How am I to know the song when I hear it?” I
would reply, “Approach the bird as slowly and as noiselessly as
possible, until you can see the individual singing.” This is the only
way to learn the songs of birds. The note of each species then becomes
impressed upon the memory, and can afterwards be detected without
hesitation when the bird is not in sight. To acquire this knowledge,
however, of the songs of birds, one thing is necessary—an ear for music.
This, unfortunately, cannot be imparted by teaching; and unless it exist
as a gift of nature, the delight of music can never be experienced.
There is this consolation, however, for those who are not musicians—they
cannot feel so much the loss of a pleasure which they have never

                          THE ORPHEAN WARBLER.
                           (_Sylvia orphea._)

The Orphean Warbler, as its name implies, is another noted song bird;
but, though not uncommon in some parts of Europe and Asia, its claim to
be included amongst our British warblers rests on very slender grounds.
So long ago as July, 1848, a pair of this species were observed in a
small plantation near Wetherby, and the hen bird was shot and forwarded
to Sir William Milner, who informed Mr. Yarrell of the fact. On this
single instance it was included by the last-named naturalist in his
“History of British Birds.” Since the last edition of that work was
published (1856), there is reason to believe that the Orphean Warbler
has occurred again at least on two occasions in England. In June, 1866,
the late Sergeant-Major Hanley, of the 1st Life Guards, well known as a
bird fancier, purchased a young warbler, which had been chased and
caught by a boy near Holloway. Mr. Blyth, who saw it in the following
December, pronounced it to be without doubt a female Orphean Warbler. As
the bird when caught was unable to fly, it is evident that a pair must
have nested in the neighbourhood. I have seen a nest and eggs which were
taken in Notton Wood, near Wakefield, in June, 1864, which certainly
appertained to none of our common warblers, and the eggs could not be
distinguished from well-authenticated eggs of _Sylvia orphea_.[14] Mr.
Howard Saunders has reported a similar nest and eggs from East
Grinstead. The eggs differ from those of the Blackcap and Garden Warbler
in being white, spotted, chiefly at the larger end, with ash-grey. The
bird may be briefly described as a large form of the Blackcap, exceeding
it by half an inch in total length, and by a quarter of an inch in
length of wing, the male having the black crown which characterizes our
well-known songster, and resembling it generally in appearance. It
differs, however, in having the bill shining black instead of horn
colour, the under parts white instead of grey, the legs brown instead of
slate colour, and the outer tail feathers margined with white instead of
being uniformly grey. In habits and mode of life it assimilates, as
might be expected, very much to the species with which we are so
familiar. Those who have seen the nest, state that it is large for the
size of the bird—a loose and open structure, rather shallow, and
generally placed in a low bush near the ground. Mr. Yarrell has given
very scanty information about this species, particularly as regards its
geographical distribution, from which it might be inferred that very
little is known of it. This, however, is not the case.

While the Blackcap migrates almost due north and south, the Orphean
Warbler migrates westwards and northwards from the east and southeast,
and _vice versâ_. In North-west India, particularly in the neighbourhood
of Umballah, it is tolerably common. The Rev. Canon Tristram found it
numerous in Palestine, and especially abundant under Mount Hermon.
Messrs. Elwes and Buckley include it in their list of the birds of
Turkey (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 19), and Lord Lilford has noted its occasional
occurrence in spring in the Ionian Isles. Rüppell includes it amongst
the birds of Arabia and Egypt,[15] but either it is not very common in
Egypt, or it has escaped the searching eyes of many English
ornithologists in that country. Mr. O. Salvin found it tolerably common
in the Eastern Atlas, and it has also been met with in Tripoli (_cf._
Chambers, “Ibis,” 1867, p. 104). As it is thus found in North Africa,
and, according to Professor Savi, is a summer visitant to Italy, one
would naturally expect to find it in Malta; but Mr. C. A. Wright, who
has paid great attention to Maltese ornithology for many years, states
that he has never met with it himself, and that only one instance of its
occurrence in Malta is known to him. In Spain it has been observed as a
summer visitant both by Lord Lilford and Mr. Howard Saunders. The
last-named naturalist says (“Ibis,” 1871, p. 212) that it nests there in
May, and refers to the frequent inequality in the size of eggs in the
same nest—a peculiarity which does not seem to have been previously
noticed. In Portugal it appears to be only an occasional summer
visitant, apparently not straying so far westward as a rule. I am not
aware that it has been found further to the south-west than Morocco. Mr.
Tyrwhitt Drake met with it in this country in 1867, but considered it

According to the observations of Von der Mühle, in his “Monograph of the
European _Sylviidæ_,” and of Captain Beavan on various birds in India
(“Ibis,” 1868, pp. 73, 74), there is good reason to believe that both
the Blackcap and the Orphean Warbler completely lose the black crown in
winter, and reassume it at the approach of the breeding season.

Criticizing these remarks, however, the late Mr. Blyth wrote:—

“Do the males of these birds lose the black cap in winter? Certainly not
the former—at least as observed in captivity—and therefore I cannot help
doubting exceedingly that they do so in the wild state. Upon a bad
Indian drawing of the Orphean Warbler, reproduced in the ‘Proceedings of
the Zoological Society’ for 1851 (p. 195, pl. 43), the supposed _Artamus
cucullatus_ was sought to be established. The habits of the Orphean
Warbler are thus described in Jerdon’s ‘Birds of India’—in which
country, by the way, it passes the winter, the males then retaining
their black cap:—‘It frequents groves, gardens, hedges, single trees,
and even low bushes on the plains; is very active and restless,
incessantly moving about from branch to branch, clinging to the twigs,
and feeding on various insects, grubs, and caterpillars, and also on
flower buds. It is sometimes seen alone, at other times two or three
together.’ Undoubtedly it must needs feed also on soft fruits. The hen
of this bird bears an exceedingly close resemblance to the Lesser
Whitethroat, except in size; while the cock bird further differs in
having the black cap _at all seasons_. There is likewise in India the
_Sylvia_, or _Curruca_, _affinis_, which resembles our Lesser
Whitethroat, excepting in being as large as our Common Whitethroat. The
latter bird has lately turned up in the north-west of India; and the
British Lesser Whitethroat is the only one of the group which extends
its range eastward to Lower Bengal, where it occurs, however, only above
the tideway of the rivers, upon the sandy soil in which the Baubul
(_Vachelia farnesiana_) grows plentifully. There I have observed our
familiar little friend in abundance during the winter months, but never
upon the alluvion or mud soil; and the same remark applies to _Hippolais
rama_. It has been suggested to me that there may be a race of
“Blackcap’ that visits Eastern Europe, the males of which have a
rufous-brown cap like the females. In our race of Blackcap the diversity
of the sexes is very noticeable, even in nestlings.”

Captain Beavan, in the article before referred to, says: “Specimens of
the Orphean Warbler, procured on the 22nd of October, had no trace
whatever of a black head, and were considered by Colonel Tytler to be
the young of the year; but in my opinion the state of the plumage was
not sufficiently juvenile; and I think that the old birds adopt a
different colouring according to the time of year, probably putting on
the black head as the breeding season approaches.” To this observation
the editor of the “Ibis” appended the following note: “That this view of
the case is correct there is probably little doubt (_cf._ Von der Mühle,
‘Monogr. Europ. Sylv.,’ p. 48).”

From these observations it was surmised that the same might be the case
with the Blackcap.

                     [Illustration: GARDEN WARBLER]

                          THE GARDEN WARBLER.
                         (_Sylvia hortensis._)

To those who are unacquainted with the bird, the Garden Warbler may be
best described as equal in size to the female Blackcap, resembling it in
colour without the chestnut crown, having the belly pure white instead
of greyish white, and the legs lighter in colour. It appears much later
than the Blackcap, seldom arriving before the end of April. Both sexes
are alike in outward appearance; but it has been ascertained, by careful
observers who have dissected the birds, that the males invariably arrive
in this country before the females. Pennant, Montagu, and other old
authors, called this bird the Greater Pettychaps, while they bestowed
the name of Lesser Pettychaps—presumably from its resemblance in
miniature—upon the Chiff-chaff.

Throughout England the Garden Warbler appears to be pretty generally
distributed. Mr. A. G. More, however, in his essay on the Distribution
of Birds in Great Britain during the nesting season (“Ibis,” 1865, p.
25), speaks of it as scarce in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire, and absent
from Wales. Mr. Rodd, on the other hand, characterizes the Garden
Warbler as a summer visitant to East Cornwall, and says it “breeds
annually in the woods at Trebartha, in North Hill, from whence specimens
of its nest and eggs have been received.”[16] He adds also that it has
once been met with near Penzance; and that in the autumn of 1849 several
specimens were obtained from Scilly. Dr. Bullmore, in his “Cornish
Fauna” (p. 17), confirms Mr. Rodd’s statement that it is a summer
visitant to East Cornwall.

It will be remarkable if this bird is not found to be common in some
parts of Wales, since it not only occurs in Ireland, but is not nearly
so scarce there as the observations of Mr. Thompson would lead us to
suppose. In his “Natural History of Ireland” (Birds, vol. i. p. 185),
this naturalist refers to the Garden Warbler as extremely rare in
Ireland, and notices its occurrence only in the counties of Cork and
Tipperary. If I mistake not, Mr. Blake-Knox has met with it in the
county of Dublin; I have myself observed it in Wicklow; and Sir Victor
Brooke has lately assured me that in the county of Fermanagh, about
Lough Erne, it is common in summer, and nests regularly in the
neighbourhood of Castle Caldwell, to the north-west of that county. In
the same neighbourhood, he added, the Blackcap is unknown. When we
remember the number of naturalists with whom Mr. Thompson was in
correspondence in all parts of Ireland, it is singular that so few of
them should have been able to report the presence of this bird in their
respective districts. I have already referred to the changes which have
taken place in the local distribution of many species of birds within
the last twenty or thirty years, and there is no reason for doubting
that the statements published by Mr. Thompson in 1849, and the
observations of naturalists of the present day, are both perfectly
correct, and that the Garden Warbler, like many other birds, is now
common in localities where formerly it was unknown. The number of
resident naturalists in Wales is very small as compared with England;
nevertheless, it is to be hoped that those who have the opportunity will
examine into the truth of the alleged absence from Wales of this bird,
and publish the result of their investigations.

The limit of the Garden Warbler’s range northwards in the British
Islands has not been satisfactorily ascertained. That it is found in
many parts of the south of Scotland we know from the observations of
Macgillivray and the late Sir William Jardine; but we have yet to learn
whether it penetrates to the Highlands or visits the Hebrides. According
to Selby, it is found throughout the greater part of Scotland; but Mr.
Robert Gray, in his recently published “Birds of the West of Scotland,”
is disposed to think that it is not commonly distributed. It is, as he
says, very difficult to judge of the comparative numbers of so shy a
bird, as it is even less frequently noticed, save by the patient
observer, than some other species of greater rarity. “In the sheltered
and wooded districts of the midland and southern counties,” he adds, “it
is one of the most attractive songsters, tuning its loud and gleeful
pipe on the top of some fruit tree an hour or two after daybreak, and
again about the dusk of the evening. These love notes, however, are not
of long continuance, for the bird becomes silent after the young are
hatched, unless a second brood is reared, when the same wild yet mellow
blackbird-like song is again for a short time heard. Mr. Sinclair has
observed the Garden Warbler at Inverkip in Renfrewshire, where the
richly-wooded preserves afford it a constant shelter during its summer
sojourn.” In Shetland, according to Dr. Saxby,[17] it is a rare autumn
visitor, usually occurring in September. By exercising great caution he
has sometimes approached within a few feet of the bird, and watched it
picking the green _aphides_ from the sycamore leaves. It does not appear
to have been observed in Orkney. Its range northwards in Europe,
according to Nilsson, extends to Sweden, where it is observed to be a
regular summer visitant, arriving in May and leaving in August. In all
the countries bordering the Mediterranean it appears to be well known.
Mr. Saunders informs me that it is common in Spain in spring and autumn;
and Mr. Wright, referring to its presence at the same seasons in Malta,
where it is known as the far-famed “beccafico” of the Italians, says
that as many as a hundred dozen are sometimes brought in at a time.[18]
Lord Lilford has once found this bird nesting in Epirus.[19] The late
Mr. C. J. Andersson met with it as far south as Damaraland, South-west
Africa. In habits the Garden Warbler closely resembles other members of
the genus. Shy and restless, it differs from the Blackcap in its
inferior powers of song, and from the Whitethroats in being less
garrulous. It is nevertheless a beautiful songster, and will sometimes
sit in the midst of a thick bush in the evening, like a Nightingale, and
maintain a continued warble for several minutes without a pause. Its
song is somewhat irregular, both in time and tune, but it is wonderfully
mellow for so small a bird. It sometimes commences its song like a
Blackbird, but always ends with its own. In some of its actions it
resembles the Willow Wren, for it seems constantly in motion, hopping
from bough to bough in search of insects, and singing at intervals. It
is very partial to fruit of all kinds, but at the same time destroys
vast numbers of caterpillars, spiders, and _aphides_. Much against my
inclination I have shot a few Garden Warblers in the spring soon after
their arrival, for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of their food,
and can therefore affirm, from personal inspection, that they destroy
quantities of insects which are destructive to foliage. Under the head
of Blackcap, I have referred to the nest of the Garden Warbler for the
purpose of comparison, and need only add here that it is generally well
concealed, and that, unless the owner is seen near the nest, it is
oftentimes not very easy to distinguish the eggs from those of its
congener, which have been already described.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                   [Illustration: COMMON WHITETHROAT]

                        THE COMMON WHITETHROAT.
                          (_Sylvia cinerea._)

Far from leading a retired life like the last-named bird, the
Whitethroat forces itself into notice by its noisy chattering and
repeated sallies into the air. We cannot walk along a country lane in
May without being reminded at every twenty yards of the presence of this
demonstrative little bird. With crest-feathers erect and half-extended
wings, it bustles in and out, gesticulating loudly, and seems to live in
a perpetual state of excitement.

The country lads call it the “Nettle Creeper,” from its frequenting
overgrown ditches and hedgebanks where the nettle is plentiful, amongst
the stems of which it builds its nest. It comes to us about the third
week in April, and remains until the end of August. It is very generally
distributed in the British Islands, and is as common in Ireland as it is
in England. In the north of Scotland it is said to be rare; but a
correspondent of Mr. More finds it breeding regularly in Mull and
Iona.[20] It visits Scandinavia in summer, and is found also at that
season in Russia and Siberia. It is one of the commonest birds in spring
and autumn in Malta, and is occasionally observed in Corfu in September
and October. In winter it is not uncommon in Asia Minor and North-east
Africa. Amongst the birds collected at Aboo, North-west India, by Dr.
King, in September, 1868, Mr. Hume found one which both he and M. Jules
Verreaux identified at once as _Sylvia cinerea_. Unlike the Garden
Warbler, the Whitethroat sings a good deal on the wing, sometimes
returning to the branch it has just left, after the manner of a Tree
Pipit, sometimes re-alighting elsewhere. The song, which is commenced on
arrival, generally ceases early in the month of July. Its habits, and as
Mr. Thompson says, the grotesquely earnest appearance which the erected
crest, feathers, and distended throat impart when singing, render this
bird one of the most interesting of our warblers. It seems to prefer the
tallest and thickest hedgerows, where there are plenty of brambles and
briars, and ditches which are choked with weeds and nettles. It does not
keep, however, to the fields and lanes, but visits our gardens and
orchards in company with its young to pilfer currants, raspberries, and
other fruit when ripe. The caterpillars to be found on the currant trees
are favourite morsels with this bird, and we should not forget that if
it takes a few currants it is also the means of saving a good many.

The nest of the Whitethroat is generally placed near the ground, amongst
nettles or other rank herbage, and is constructed of dry grass-stems and
horsehair. The eggs, usually five in number, are minutely speckled all
over with ash-brown or ash-green, and spotted at the larger end with
gray. I have watched an old Whitethroat bringing food to its young, and
have been surprised to see in how short a space of time it contrived to
find food and return to the nest. Sometimes it was impossible to see
even with a glass what this food was, but at other times I could plainly
discern a caterpillar wriggling between the mandibles.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                   [Illustration: LESSER WHITETHROAT]

                        THE LESSER WHITETHROAT.
                         (_Sylvia sylviella._)

This is not nearly so common a bird, nor so generally distributed in
Great Britain, as the last-named. It is confined more or less to the
midland and southern counties of England, is very rare in Scotland, and
unknown in Ireland. Mr. Rodd, in his “List of Birds” before quoted, says
the Lesser Whitethroat is only seen in Cornwall during the autumn
migration, and then only occasionally at Scilly. In Wales it appears to
be equally scarce (_cf._ More, “Ibis,” 1865, p. 25), but it is possible
that, from its general resemblance to the last-named bird, it may have
been often overlooked. The respective measurements of the two species
are as follows:—

                        Total       Wing.       Tarsus.

  Common Whitethroat    5·5 in.     2·9 in.     ·8 in.
  Lesser Whitethroat    5·2 ”       2·5 ”       ·7 ”

Independently, however, of its smaller size, the Lesser Whitethroat may
be distinguished by its black ear-coverts, and by the absence of the
pale rufous edgings to the secondaries, which are so conspicuous in the
larger species. The legs also are slate-coloured instead of

In haunts, habits, and mode of nesting the two species are very similar,
and what has been said of one will apply almost equally well to the
other. Both arrive also about the same time—namely, the third week in
April; and by the end of August, when the young are strong enough to
shift for themselves, they depart again southwards. Although the nests
of the two species are very similar, the eggs of the Lesser Whitethroat
have a much clearer ground-colour, and are never so profusely freckled
as those of its congener. On the contrary, the spots of ash-brown, or
ash-green, are almost always at the larger end, leaving the smaller end
of the egg almost spotless.

The range of the Lesser Whitethroat southward is probably more or less
identical with that of the Common Whitethroat. It is abundant in Spain
in winter and early spring, but does not remain to breed there. In
Malta, strange to say, it has only been recognised once; but in Egypt
and Nubia, especially from Dendera to the First Cataract, it is very
numerous in winter. Individuals of this species have been seen to alight
on vessels in the Mediterranean, even when upwards of sixty miles from
the nearest land, and thus its ability to migrate from Europe to Africa,
and back, is sufficiently established. Eastward it penetrates to Lower
Bengal, where, in the cold season, it is said to be not uncommon.

                        [Illustration: REDSTART]

                             THE REDSTART.
                        (_Ruticilla phœicura._)

Sprightly in its actions, and more vividly coloured than many of our
Summer Migrants, the Redstart cannot fail to attract attention in the
districts which it frequents during its sojourn with us. It would be
difficult, indeed, to find a more beautiful little bird than the male
Redstart in his nuptial plumage. The pale grey colour of the head and
back, relieved by a silvery white spot upon the forehead and a jet-black
throat, contrasts strongly with the bright chestnut of the breast, upper
tail coverts, and tail. From the bright colour of its tail, in fact, it
has derived the name Redstart, which is simply the Anglo-Saxon
equivalent for “Red-tail.” “Fire-tail,” “Brand-tail,” and “Quick-start,”
are other local names by which it is variously known. The last-named has
reference to the singularly characteristic movement of the tail, which
is rapidly flirted horizontally instead of vertically, as in the case of
most other birds.

Upon this point, however, there seems to be some difference of opinion.
Macgillivray, a high authority in such matters, observes, “As to the
motion of the tail in this bird, which has supplied some observers with
a subject of dispute, I am convinced that it is vertical—that is, up and
down, and not alternately to either side, although at each jerk the
feathers are a little spread out, as is the case with those of many
other birds of this order, as the Stonechat and Whinchat.” I feel sure,
notwithstanding this opinion, that I have frequently observed a
horizontal movement.

Its mode of progression on the ground has been compared by the same
observer to that of the Wheatear, “for it neither walks nor runs,” he
says, “but advances by leaps.” I cannot, however, completely endorse
this view, for I have frequently seen a Wheatear run, and at times very
rapidly. “Unless on a wall, or on bare ground, however, it seldom hops
much, for it procures its food chiefly by sallying after insects on the
wing, or by alighting on the ground to pick up those which it has
observed amongst the herbage, and on trees it flies from branch to

Although generally distributed in England and Scotland, the Redstart is
nowhere very common, being most plentiful, apparently, in the southern
counties of England, and becoming rarer as we proceed northward. In
Ireland it is scarcely known at all, and does not visit the Hebrides. On
the Continent, however, it has a tolerably wide range, extending from
Archangel throughout Scandinavia and the whole of Europe, except
Portugal, to the Mediterranean, which it crosses to visit North Africa,
Egypt, and Abyssinia for the winter season.

The haunts which it affects in this country are generally not far
removed from human habitation, and it is not unusual to find the nest,
containing five or six pale-blue eggs, upon a peach or plum-tree against
a wall; upon a cross-beam of a summer-house; or in a hole of a wall or
tree, as opportunity may serve. The eggs are very similar to those of
the Hedge Sparrow, but are invariably smaller and paler. It picks up
most of its food, such as small beetles, spiders, and worms, on the
ground; and its actions when thus engaged remind one more of the Robin
than of the Wheatear, as Macgillivray thought. At other times it will
sit upon an exposed branch, and dart forth into the air, like a
Flycatcher, to secure a passing insect. Its song, though sprightly, is
weak and seldom prolonged. It is generally poured forth from some bough
or other “coign of vantage,” but is occasionally uttered as the bird
hovers on the wing, or flies from spray to spray.

Although a very shy bird, the Redstart occasionally takes up its
quarters close to the house, and when once it has selected a site for
its nest and hatched its young, it manifests such attachment for them as
to allow a very near approach, and will even permit a visitor to stroke
it as it sits upon the nest.

The beauty of its plumage, its sprightly and at times incessant song,
and the good which it effects in ridding plants and fruit-trees of the
green _aphis_, commend it to the notice and protection of all owners of

The Common Redstart has scarcely quitted our shores in autumn before its
congener, the Black Redstart (_Ruticilla tithys_), arrives to pass the
winter here, and occasionally even to linger on until the more familiar
species returns again with the spring. But since it is properly regarded
as a winter visitant to this country, any lengthened description of the
species, and of its haunts and habits, would be out of place here. I
shall therefore merely observe that it may be distinguished from the
Common Redstart by the sooty-black colour of the breast and belly, which
parts in the other are orange-brown, and that it generally arrives about
the first week in November, and remains until the end of March or
beginning of April.

The origin of the specific name “_tithys_” seems to be somewhat
doubtful, although several ornithologists have attempted an explanation.
Hemprich and Ehrenberg (“Symbolæ Physicæ,” fol. bb), and Von Heuglin
(“Orn. Nord-Ost Afrika’s,” i. p. 334) have referred it to τίτης,
_ultor_, with which, however, in the opinion of Professor Newton (“Ann.
Mag. Nat. History,” Ser. 4, x. p. 227), it can have nothing to do.
Professor Newton himself, in the magazine just quoted, and in a footnote
to his edition of Yarrell’s “History of British Birds,” i. p. 333,
writes: “_Sylvia tithys_ (by mistake) Scopoli, Annus I.
Historico-naturalis, p. 157 (1769). This naturalist admittedly took his
specific name from Linnæus, who spelt the word ‘_titys_’ as did Gesner;
but the best classical authorities, Stephanus, Porson, and Passow,
consider ‘_titis_’ to be right. This originally meant a small chirping
bird, and is possibly cognate with the first syllable of our _tit_mouse
and _tit_lark.” After the opinion expressed by such authorities, it may
appear somewhat presumptuous on my part to offer a suggestion; but there
is yet another explanation, which has apparently been overlooked. Might
not the word “_tithys_” (more correctly “_tithus_”) be derived from the
Greek adjective τιθός, θή, θόν, which has the same signification as
τιθασός, that is, ‘reared up in the house, domesticated.’ Compare the
domestic hens of Dioscorides, τιθαὶ ὄρνιθες. The term “domesticated”
would be well applied to the Black Redstart, which is a very familiar
bird, frequently perching on house-tops and garden walls, and building
in holes and crannies in the neighbourhood of man’s dwelling.

                     [Illustration: SEDGE WARBLER]

                           THE SEDGE WARBLER.
                       (_Salicaria phragmitis._)

Leaving the woods, gardens, and plantations, and proceeding to the river
side, we meet with a very different class of birds—the river warblers.
This is a very numerous family, and were we about to treat of all the
known species, it might be advisable for simplicity’s sake to group them
into sub-families. As we are confining our attention, however, for the
present, to those species only which have been met with in the British
Islands, it will be less confusing if we dispense with this subdivision,
and notice them under the same generic name—_Salicaria_. The various
members of this genus may be distinguished by their short wings, rounded
tails, tarsus longer than the middle toe, large feet, long and curved
claws, and large hind toe with strong curved claw. They differ, too,
from other warblers in their habit of singing at night. There are eight
species which have all more or less a claim to be included in the
British list, although three only can be regarded as regular summer
migrants. These three are the Sedge Warbler (_S. phragmitis_), the Reed
Warbler (_S. strepera_), and the Grasshopper Warbler (_S. locustella_).
The others are Savi’s Warbler (_S. luscinoides_), the Aquatic Warbler
(_S. aquatica_), the Marsh Warbler (_S. palustris_), the Great Reed
Warbler (_S. arundinacea_), and the Rufous Warbler (_S. galactoides_).

The Sedge Warbler and the Reed Warbler generally arrive much about the
same time in April, but, from some unexplained cause, the latter is much
more restricted in its distribution than the former. The Sedge Warbler
is found throughout the British Islands, but the Reed Warbler is almost
unknown in Ireland, and its nest has only once been met with in
Scotland.[21] As a rule, it is seldom, if ever, to be seen further north
than Yorkshire and Lancashire, and does not breed either in Devon or
Cornwall. It may thus be said to be almost confined to the eastern,
midland, and south-eastern counties of England. Beyond the British
Islands, too, it is less erratic in its movements than its congeners.
The Sedge Warbler visits Scandinavia, Russia, and Siberia, and is found
throughout Europe in summer, and in North Africa and Asia Minor in
winter. The late Mr. Andersson sent specimens even from Damaraland, S.W.
Africa. The Reed Warbler does not migrate as far north as this; but Mr.
Gurney has received a specimen from Natal; and if we may rely on the
identification of specimens obtained by Mr. Hodgson, it ranges as far
eastward as Nepal.

I have sometimes heard persons express their inability to distinguish
these two species apart; but there ought to be no difficulty in the
matter. The Sedge Warbler has a variegated back, with a conspicuous
light streak over the eye; the Reed Warbler has a uniform pale-brown
back, and the superciliary streak very faint. The actions of the two
birds are not unlike, but their nesting habits are very different. _S.
phragmitis_ builds on the ground or very near it, making a nest of moss
and grass, lined with horsehair, and laying five or six eggs of a
yellowish-brown colour, with a few scattered spots or lines of a darker
colour at the larger end. _S. strepera_ suspends its nest between reed
stems or twigs, round which a great portion of the nest is woven, and
the entire structure is much larger, deeper, and more cup-shaped. The
materials are long grasses, flowering reed-heads, and wool, the lining
being composed of fine grass and hair. The eggs, five or six in number,
are greenish-white speckled with ash-green and pale-brown. The habit
which the Reed Warbler has of occasionally nesting at a distance from
water is now probably well known to ornithologists. It was noticed by
Mr. R. Mitford in the “Zoologist” for 1864 (p. 9109), and subsequently
by the writer, in “The Birds of Middlesex,” 1866 (p. 47), and by the
author of “The Birds of Berks and Bucks,” 1868 (p. 81). Mr. B. Hamilton
Booth, of Malton, Yorkshire, communicated the fact of his having
discovered a nest of the Reed Warbler in a yew tree, built so as to
include three or four twigs as if they were reeds, and placed at a
height of at least twelve or fourteen feet from the ground. He accounted
for the nest being built at such a height, and in a tree, on the
supposition that the first nest had been destroyed by the rats which
infest the place, and the birds had taken a precaution for future

                  [Illustration: GRASSHOPPER WARBLER]

                        THE GRASSHOPPER WARBLER.
                       (_Salicaria locustella._)

The third species of this genus which is a regular summer migrant to
this country is the Grasshopper Warbler, so called from its peculiar
sibilant note. In its general appearance it is most like the Sedge
Warbler, but is larger in every way, and has the upper part of the
plumage more variegated, no superciliary streak, and the throat minutely
spotted. This last feature, however, is peculiar to the male. In habits,
haunts, and in the character of its nest and eggs, the Grasshopper
Warbler differs entirely from the two species above mentioned. It
delights in a dense undergrowth or thick hedge-bottom, where it creeps
about more like a mouse than a bird, and is extremely difficult to catch
sight of, pausing at intervals to seize an insect or to give forth its
remarkable note. Its well-made and compact nest, so different from the
slovenly structure of the Sedge Warbler, is placed upon the ground, and
carefully concealed. The eggs, five or six in number, are amongst the
most beautiful of small birds’ eggs. When blown they are white, minutely
freckled over with brownish-red; but before the yolk has been expelled
they are suffused with a delicate rosy tint, which afterwards
unfortunately disappears. The Grasshopper Warbler is a regular summer
visitant to Ireland, and is also found in the south of Scotland. Its
retiring habits probably cause it to be overlooked, and were it not for
its loud note it would doubtless often escape notice altogether. It does
not appear to be anywhere a numerous species, and its geographical
distribution has not been yet clearly defined. It is observed in
Southern Europe at the periods of migration, and we may therefore
presume that it accompanies its congeners and other small summer
migrants to North Africa, Asia Minor, and Palestine.

                            SAVI’S WARBLER.
                       (_Salicaria luscinoides._)

Before the fens were drained, it is said that the rarer species, Savi’s
Warbler, was not uncommon in the eastern counties of England. The
fen-men used to distinguish it from the Grasshopper Warbler by its note,
calling the commoner species “the reeler,” the other “the night reeler,”
from the resemblance of its note to the whirr of the reel used by the
wool-spinners. In Norfolk, according to Mr. Stevenson, it appears to
have been known to the marsh-men as “the red craking reed-wren.” The
fens of Baitsbight, Burwell, and Whittlesea were formerly noted
localities for this species, then regarded as a regular summer migrant;
but extensive drainage and increased cultivation of waste land has
apparently destroyed the only breeding haunt which had any attraction
for it, and it can now be only considered a rare summer visitant. I have
once, and only once, seen this species alive in England. This was in a
large reed-bed close to the river, near Iken, in Suffolk, in the month
of September, 1874. The bird first attracted my attention by the very
rufous colour of the dorsal plumage, and as I succeeded in obtaining a
near view of it, I feel confident that I was not mistaken in the
species. The nest and eggs of this bird are reported to have been taken
in Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Essex, Kent, and once in
Devonshire.[22] In general appearance at a distance it is not unlike the
Reed Warbler, but on closer inspection will be found to have the upper
portions of the plumage and the tail more rufous, like the Nightingale;
hence the term _luscinoides_ which has been applied to it. The English
name is borrowed from its discoverer, Signor Savi, who found it in
Tuscany, and published an account of it in the “Nuovo Giornale di
Litteratura,” 1824, and in his “Ornithologia Toscana,” vol. i. p. 270.
The eggs are something like those of the Grasshopper Warbler, but larger
and darker; the nest is very different, being composed entirely of
sedge, so closely woven and interlaced as to remind one of the
mat-baskets which are used by fishmongers. Of the geographical
distribution of this bird we have yet a good deal to learn. It does not
appear to range very far northwards, but is observed annually in summer
in Southern Europe, passing by way of Sicily and the Maltese Islands to
Egypt. Mr. Salvin found it abundant in the Marsh of Zana, and Mr.
Tyrwhitt Drake met with it in Tangier and Eastern Morocco.

                          THE AQUATIC WARBLER.
                        (_Salicaria aquatica._)

On three occasions only has the Aquatic Warbler been recognised in
England. One taken at Hove, near Brighton, in October, 1853, is in the
collection of Mr. Borrer;[23] a second, in my possession, was killed
near Loughborough, in the summer of 1864;[24] and a third, believed to
have been obtained near Dover, is in the Dover Museum.[25] This bird
resembles the Sedge Warbler in size and general appearance, but, in
addition to the light stripe over each eye, it differs in having a light
stripe down the centre of the forehead; this, being very distinct,
furnishes a good means of identifying it readily. The species has been
figured by Dr. Bree in his “Birds of Europe,” to which work the reader
may be referred for further information and a more detailed description.
I may supplement his remarks, however, by saying that Lord Lilford found
it common in Corfu in May, and at Nice in August and September;[26] and
that Mr. T. Drake met with it in March in Tangier and Eastern
Morocco.[27] Now that its occasional presence in this country has been
detected, ornithologists should look out for it between April and
September, and scrutinize every Sedge-bird they see, on the chance of
meeting with the rarer species.

                           THE MARSH WARBLER.
                        (_Salicaria palustris._)

In appearance this bird resembles the common Reed Warbler, just as the
Aquatic Warbler resembles the Sedge-bird. It is one of the plain-backed
species, and similarity in appearance as well as in habits causes it
doubtless to be overlooked or mistaken for the commoner bird.

From its general resemblance to the Reed Warbler, _Salicaria
strepera_[28] (Vieillot), it has no doubt been overlooked; but when its
distinguishing characters have been duly noted it will in all
probability be found to be a regular summer migrant to this country. Dr.
Bree, when treating of this species in his “Birds of Europe,” says (vol.
ii. p. 74): “I think it very probable that this bird is an inhabitant of
Great Britain, though hitherto confounded with the Reed Warbler. I think
I have myself taken the nest; and Mr. Sweet’s bird, mentioned by Mr.
Yarrell, was probably this species.”

In the “Zoologist” for 1861, p. 7755, the occurrence of the Marsh
Warbler in Great Britain was recorded by Mr. Saville, who procured a
single specimen, subsequently identified by Mr. Gould, and saw others in
Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire. He says: “My attention was first attracted
to this species some time since, during a visit to our fens, by the
marked difference in the song of a bird somewhat similar in appearance
to the true _S. arundinacea_ (i. e., _strepera_); it was louder,
clearer, and sweeter-toned than that of the last-named. Its mode of
flight, too, was more undulated and quicker. It was more shy and timid,
continually retreating to the thickest covert. Never, so far as my
experience goes, does it emit notes similar to the syllables
‘chee-chee-chee’ so common to _S. arundinacea_.”

Another specimen of this bird was obtained in Cambridgeshire by the late
James Hamilton, jun., of Minard, during the summer of 1864, and was
exhibited at a meeting of the Natural History Society of Glasgow in
February, 1865, as recorded by Mr. E. R. Alston in the “Zoologist,”
1866, p. 496.

In the same year, Mr. Robert Mitford gave an account (“Zoologist,” 1864,
p. 9109) of a Reed Warbler which he found nesting in lilac trees in his
garden at Hampstead, and which at the time was thought to differ
specifically from _S. strepera_, and possibly to be _S. palustris_. In
the summer of 1863 Mr. Mitford had found four pairs of this bird
breeding in gardens under similar circumstances, and in July, 1865, he
shot two of the same birds, both males, and found, as he says, “two
nests similar in structure, and similarly situated to those of the
previous year in my garden, from both of which the young had evidently
flown only a few days previously. The birds were not in good order, but
just beginning their moult. I so arranged the matter that at the time I
shot these birds I received from Romney Marsh fresh-killed specimens of
the true Reed Warbler, shot in the reeds of the fen ditches; and in
comparing the two birds in the flesh together, I have little hesitation
in saying that the inland warbler is not our Reed Warbler. I will not
enter into the chief points of difference at present, as I hope next May
to get a specimen or two in finer plumage.” (“Zoologist,” 1865, p.

Mr. Mitford I believe has not altered the opinion which he originally
expressed; but, from a careful examination of the birds shot by him, I
am inclined to regard them all as _S. strepera_. This peculiarity in the
Reed Warbler of nesting at a distance from water has since been noticed
by naturalists in other parts of the country. In 1866 I referred to a
confirmation of the fact as communicated by a friend at Ealing,[29] and
Mr. A. C. Kennedy, in his “Birds of Berks and Bucks” (p. 81), has
alluded to the same habit from his own observation near Windsor. In all
probability the birds seen by Lord Clermont in lilac bushes at
Twickenham[30] were also Reed Warblers.

Mr. Frederick Bond some time since called my attention to the occurrence
of the rarer _S. palustris_ in Norfolk, and kindly lent me a series of
skins of both species procured in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Sussex.
Of these, two specimens of _S. palustris_ were killed at Whittlesford,
Cambridgeshire, many years ago, under the impression that they were _S.
strepera_; and three others near Norwich in June, 1869, under the like
misapprehension. They do not differ in any way from skins of _palustris_
from France and Germany, with which I have compared them.

The characters by which this species may be distinguished from _S.
strepera_ may be briefly stated as follows:—

Although the colour of the upper portion of the plumage in both is a
uniform olive-brown, _S. palustris_ is yellower. It is a somewhat longer
bird, with a shorter and broader bill; a buffy-white line, extending
from the base of the bill over the eye, is clearly defined. In
_strepera_ this line is so faint as to be scarcely discernible. Mr.
Yarrell, indeed, considered it to be absent in _strepera_; but, from
this circumstance, and from the fact of his describing the legs of this
species as pale-brown, it may be inferred that he had before him, and
figured, a young bird.

The first primary in the wing of both is very short, quite rudimentary,
in fact; while the third in each is the longest in the wing. In
_palustris_ the second primary is equal to the fourth; while in
_strepera_ the second is equal to the fifth. It is doubtful whether this
can be invariably relied upon, for the length of feathers, even in the
same species, will sometimes vary considerably, through age, moult, or

The readiest means of distinguishing the two birds at a glance will be
by the colour of the legs and toes. In living or freshly-killed
specimens it will be observed that the tarsi and feet of _strepera_ are
of a slaty-brown colour, while in _palustris_ the same parts are
flesh-colour. In dried skins, the former turns to hair-brown; the latter
to yellowish-brown. The tarsus of _palustris_, moreover, is rather
longer and stouter than that of its congener. From this it appears that
Mr. Gould in his “Birds of Great Britain” has figured _palustris_ for

Dr. Bree, in his “Birds of Europe,” has unfortunately figured
_palustris_ with slate-coloured legs and feet, which quite alters its
appearance, although he has been careful in the text to describe the
colour correctly.

The tail in _palustris_ is less rounded than in _strepera_; the outer
tail-feather in the former being not so short as in the latter.

The measurements of the two species, taken from skins, are as follows:—

                      Length.      Bill.        Wing from    Tarsus.

  _S. strepera_       5·3 in.      0·5½         2·7          0·8
  _S. palustris_      5·5 in.      0·5          2·5          0·9

The nests and eggs differ as much as do the birds themselves.

The nest of _palustris_ is much neater and more compact, and, as regards
depth, not more than half the size of that of _strepera_. The eggs of
both are subject to variation; but, as a rule, it may be said that in
those of _palustris_ the white ground colour has little if any of the
greenish or brownish tinge with which those of _strepera_ are invariably

I have seen two nests in the collection of Mr. Bond, one containing
three, and the other two eggs, taken at Whittlesford, which I have no
doubt belonged to _palustris_.

In Badeker’s work on the eggs of European birds, it is stated that the
Marsh Warbler “builds in bushes, in meadows, and on the banks of
ditches, rivers, ponds, and lakes. The nest is made of dry grass and
straws, with panicles, and interwoven with strips of inner bark and
horsehair outside. The rim is only very slightly drawn in. It has a
loose substructure, and is by this and its half globular form, suspended
on dry ground between the branches of the bushes or nettles, easily
distinguished from the strongly formed nest of _S. strepera_, which is
moreover built over water.[31] It lays five or six eggs the beginning of
June, which have a bluish-white ground, with pale-violet and clear brown
spots in the texture of the shell, and delicate dark brown spots on the
surface, mingled with which are a number of black dots. The ground
colour also in many fresh eggs is green, but clear, and very different
from the muddy tint of the egg of the Reed Warbler. The female sits
daily for some hours; but the male takes his turn. Incubation lasts
thirteen days.”

It would be extremely satisfactory to establish the fact of the regular
migration to this country in spring of the Marsh Warbler; and it is to
be hoped that ornithologists in all parts of the kingdom will not omit
to investigate the subject, and record their observations.

                        THE GREAT REED WARBLER.
                       (_Salicaria arundinacea._)

Not only has this fine species visited England on several occasions, but
in a few instances it has been found nesting here. It has, therefore, a
good claim to be introduced into the present sketch. Specimens of the
bird have been obtained, once in Northumberland, and three or four times
in Kent,[32] and the eggs have been taken in Hertfordshire and
Northamptonshire.[33] The reader has only to picture to himself a bird
like the Reed Wren, but twice its size, and he will have an idea of the
appearance of the Great Reed Warbler. Nor does the resemblance end here.
It makes a nest just like the Reed Wren, but much larger, and lays eggs
similarly coloured, but larger. It is a fine species, and its loud and
varied notes, when once heard, can never be forgotten. Those who have
had opportunities, such as I have enjoyed, on the opposite shores of
Holland, of listening to this bird will regret with me that its visits
to England are not more frequent. It is possible, as suggested by Mr.
Hancock in the earliest notice of its occurrence here,[34] that it may
be a regular summer visitant to our island; but its song is so loud and
so remarkable, that I cannot think it could escape the notice of any
naturalist. The species is tolerably well dispersed throughout Europe,
and according to Mr. Yarrell has been found as far eastward as Bengal,
Japan, and Borneo. The Eastern bird, however, would appear to be the
_Salicaria turdoides orientalis_ of the “Fauna Japonica,” and distinct
from the European species. See Captain Blakiston on the Ornithology of
Northern Japan, “Ibis,” 1862, p. 317; Mr. Swinhoe on Formosan
Ornithology, “Ibis,” 1863, p. 305; and the Rev. H. B. Tristram, “Ibis,”
1867, p. 78, on the Ornithology of Palestine, where both forms occur.

                          THE RUFOUS WARBLER.
                         (_Aedon galactodes._)

From its peculiar coloration this bird is not likely to be confounded
with any other species. Apart from the rufous tint of the upper portion
of the plumage which has suggested its English name, the tail is totally
unlike that of any of the river warblers; for, instead of being of a
uniform brown, it has a broad band of black across both webs of all the
feathers (except the two centre ones) towards their extremities, which
black band is terminated by white. This is very conspicuous as the bird
moves it up and down, and could not fail to attract the notice of anyone
who has paid attention to birds. It does not appear, however, that this
species has been identified in this country with certainty more than
twice, although it may possibly have occurred oftener. A specimen shot
at Plumpton Bosthill, near Brighton, in September, 1854, was recorded by
Mr. Borrer in the “Zoologist” for that year (p. 4511), and was figured
by Mr. Yarrell in the third edition of his “History of British Birds”
(i. p. 314). A second, obtained at Start Point, Devonshire, in
September, 1859, was noticed by Mr. Llewellyn in the “Annals and
Magazine of Nat. History,” 1859 (iv. p. 399), and in the “Ibis,” 1860
(p. 103). It is possible that this may be the Red-tailed Warbler
(_Sylvia erythaca_), six specimens of which are stated to have been
taken near Plymouth, and to have occurred there for the first time in
Britain.[35] From a want of acquaintance with its habits, this bird has
been erroneously called the Rufous _Sedge_ Warbler. It is never found in
the neighbourhood of sedge, but on the driest ground, amidst scrub and
thick underwood. In fact, as regards structure and habits, it differs in
so many respects from the river warblers that it has been generally
separated from them, and, except for convenience, ought not to be
included in the present sketch. Its real home seems to be North Africa
and Palestine; but it is not uncommon in some parts of Southern Europe,
and is found (accidentally only) as far north as the British Islands.

                      [Illustration: PIED WAGTAIL]

                           THE PIED WAGTAIL.
                        (_Motacilla Yarrelli._)

By many writers on ornithology, the Pied Wagtail has been regarded as a
resident species in Great Britain, since it is to be met with in some
parts of the country all the year round, but there can be no doubt that
large numbers migrate southward for the winter, and return to our shores
again in spring. On several occasions when crossing by steamer to the
opposite coasts of France and Belgium, I have seen Pied Wagtails passing
across and at times even alighting on board the vessel for a short rest.

On quitting the ship they would fly round and round for some seconds
with their peculiar undulatory flight, and finally make off for the land
in a straight line, often directly in the vessel’s course.

According to the observations of Mr. Knox, the Pied Wagtails which have
wintered abroad reach the coast of Sussex about the middle of March, and
on fine days may be seen approaching the shore, aided by a gentle breeze
from the south, their well-known call-note being distinctly audible from
the sea long before the birds come in sight.

The neighbouring fields, where but a short time previously not a bird of
the kind was to be seen, are soon tenanted by numbers, and for several
days they continue dropping on the beach in small parties. The old males
come first, while the females and males of the previous year do not
appear until some days later. After resting near the coast for a few
days the new comers proceed inland, and any good observer there
stationed may perceive how much the numbers of the species increase at
this season. About the middle of August there is a general return
movement towards the coast, and the Wagtails now first become
gregarious. At that time Mr. Knox has frequently observed them in the
interior of the county, where they remain but a few days, making way for
fresh detachments, which in their turn follow the same route to the sea.
At the end of the month, or early in September, they may be seen of a
morning, flying invariably from west to east, parallel to the shore, but
following each other in constant succession.

These flights continue from daybreak until about ten o’clock in the
forenoon, and so steadily do the birds pursue their course that even
when one or more of an advancing party have been shot, the remainder do
not fly in a different direction, but opening to right and left close
their ranks and continue their progress as before. During this transit
their proximity to the coast depends to some degree on the character of
the country lying between the South Downs and the sea; but as they
advance towards Brighton, the migrating bands, consisting chiefly of the
young of the year, accumulate in vast flocks, and thus they seek the
adjoining county of Kent, whence the voyage to the continent may be
performed with ease and security even by birds but a few months old, and
unequal to protracted flights.[36]

The habits of the Pied Wagtail are so generally known, that little need
be said here upon the subject. Its partiality for shallow water, where
it preys upon aquatic insects, and even small fish, such as minnows and
sticklebacks, has led to its being familiarly known as the Water
Wagtail, although it is not more aquatic in its habits than other
members of the genus, indeed, scarcely so much as one species, the Grey
Wagtail, whose haunts seem inseparable from the water-side.

                           THE WHITE WAGTAIL.
                          (_Motacilla alba._)

Closely resembling the last-named in form and general appearance, the
White Wagtail long escaped observation as an annual summer migrant to
this country. Its distinctive characters, however, are now almost
universally admitted, and ornithologists experience little difficulty in
recognizing the two species.

The particular respects in which the White Wagtail differs from its
congeners are noticeable chiefly in the summer, or breeding plumage,
when the former has a black cap clearly defined against a grey back,
while in the latter the black colour of the head merges in the black of
the dorsal plumage and no such cap is discernible. In summer both
species have the chin black, and in winter the same parts in both are
white. In the immature and winter dress it is not so easy to distinguish
them, and in form and structure at all ages and seasons no real
difference seems to exist. This has naturally raised some doubt in the
minds of many as to the validity of the so-called species, a doubt which
is strengthened by the circumstance that in regard to haunts and habits
the two may be said to be inseparable.

This much, however, seems to be certain, that whereas the Pied Wagtail
is generally distributed as a resident species, migrating southward at
the approach of winter, the White Wagtail spends only the summer months
in this country, and is then very local in its distribution.

Beyond the British Islands the White Wagtail has a much more extensive
range than its congeners, being found throughout the whole of Europe,
penetrating to the North Cape and even to Iceland, and travelling
southward beyond the Mediterranean into Africa, to within a few degrees
of the equator.

                      [Illustration: GREY WAGTAIL]

                           THE GREY WAGTAIL.
                        (_Motacilla sulphurea._)

Except for the purpose of a momentary comparison, it would be beyond the
scope of the present volume to notice the Grey Wagtail here, for this
bird does not come under the definition of a Summer Migrant.

It is rather a winter visitant, being most frequently observed in the
cold season, although many pairs remain in suitable localities
throughout the country to nest and rear their young. Upon this point
Professor Newton has remarked that “a line drawn across England from the
Start Point, slightly curving round the Derbyshire hills, and ending at
the mouth of the Tees, will, it is believed, mark off the habitual
breeding-range of this species in the United Kingdom; for southward and
eastward of such a line it never, or only occasionally breeds, while to
the westward and northward its nest may be looked for in any place
suited to its predilections, as above described, whether in this island
or in Ireland, where, according to Thompson, it is extensively, though
not universally distributed. In Scotland, says Macgillivray, it is rare
to the north of Inverness, but it is an occasional summer visitor to
Orkney, and in Shetland it occurs towards the end of summer, though it
is not known to have been met with in the Outer Hebrides. In the
south-west of England its numbers are in summer comparatively small, but
it breeds annually in Cornwall and on Dartmoor; and as we pass northward
its numbers increase, until in parts of Scotland, perhaps, they attain
their maximum. Nests have been reported from Dorset, Wilts, Hampshire,
Sussex, and even Kent; but in those counties they are confessedly
casual, and only in the case at Chenies, in Buckinghamshire, mentioned
by Mr. Gould (‘Contr. Orn.,’ 1849, p. 137), does the species seem to
have been more than an accidental settler.”

The Grey Wagtail may be at once distinguished by having the vent and
upper tail coverts of a sulphur-yellow, and by its great length of tail.
In summer it has a black patch upon the throat, of a triangular shape
when viewed in profile, and bordered with white, but in winter this
black patch disappears, and the throat is then of a pale

It has been stated by Temminck and other naturalists who have followed
him, that the black throat is the peculiar attribute of the male bird in
the summer or breeding plumage; but this is a mistake. Both sexes have a
black throat in the breeding season, as I know from having observed them
when paired, and from having examined numerous specimens of which the
sex had been carefully ascertained by dissection.

The haunts of the Grey Wagtail are somewhat different to those of its
congeners. It affects pools and streams, especially where there is a
good current, and may frequently be seen perched upon boulders and
mill-dams, where it feeds upon the freshwater limpets (_Ancylus
fluviatilis_), and other small mollusca which are found attached in such

The nest is generally placed not far from the water, in some inequality
of the bank, or crevice of an overhanging rock. Upon a rugged mountain
stream in Northumberland some years since, I daily observed a pair of
these birds, and derived much pleasure in watching their building
operations. It was some time before I could discover the nest, so
skilfully was it concealed, for the birds had selected a crevice in a
rock which was much overgrown with moss, and by constructing their nest
entirely of this moss, it would easily have escaped observation, had I
not patiently watched for the ingress and egress of the owners.

The geographical range of the Grey Wagtail beyond the British Islands
has not been satisfactorily determined, in consequence of the difficulty
of identifying the species amongst other allied forms which are to be
met with in the confines of Europe and Asia. It certainly does not go
far north in Europe, perhaps not beyond Northern Germany, but southward
it is met with in winter in most of the countries bordering the
Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Madeira, and the Azores.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                     [Illustration: YELLOW WAGTAIL]

                          THE YELLOW WAGTAIL.
                          (_Motacilla Rayi._)

By many authors the Yellow Wagtails have been separated from the Pied
Wagtails under the generic term _Budytes_, proposed by Cuvier, not only
in consequence of their very different colouration, but also on account
of their possessing a longer and more strongly-developed hind claw. The
numerous intermediate forms, however, which the researches of modern
naturalists have brought to light from various parts of the Old World,
have rendered this subdivision less necessary or desirable than it may
originally have appeared to be. In outward form, internal structure, and
habits, they are all Wagtails, and one generic term for the whole has,
at all events, the merit of simplicity.

The Yellow Wagtail, whose plumage in the breeding season equals in
brightness that of the Canary, is one of the most attractive of all our
summer migrants. When running over the pastures and fields of sprouting
wheat, the olive-green colour of the dorsal plumage renders it very
inconspicuous, but when perched upon some rail, or clod upon the bare
fallow, the bright yellow of the under-parts contrasts vividly with the
duller surroundings, and at once attracts the attention of the
passer-by. Its favourite haunts are the marshes and water-meadows where
cattle are pastured. Here it finds plenty of food amongst the insects
which are disturbed by the grazing kine, and the numerous small and
thin-shelled mollusca which abound in such situations.

When the nest has to be constructed—and it is always upon the
ground—more sheltered spots are selected, such as a tussock of rough
grass, or the foot of a bunch of tares or clover, and I have
occasionally discovered a nest under an overhanging clod upon a bare
fallow. Thus in regard to its mode of nesting it differs essentially
from the well-known Pied Wagtail. Its note, too, is very different, and
its flight much sharper, and with bolder curves. The eggs are quite
dissimilar, being so closely freckled over with yellowish-clay colour,
like those of the Grey Wagtail, as to appear at a little distance almost
uniformly so coloured; whereas the eggs of the Pied and White Wagtails
are white, freckled with ash-grey, chiefly at the larger end.

The Yellow Wagtail generally arrives in this country during the first
week of April (for many years I have noted the 5th of that month as the
average date for its appearance), and it departs during the first week
of September. For some time previous to its departure, the young and old
assemble in flocks, and it is not unusual to see several united family
parties in the meadows, numbering from a dozen to a score of

Although generally distributed during the summer months throughout the
greater part of England and Scotland, it is said to be somewhat rare in
Ireland, where its presence has been detected by comparatively few
observers. So much more attention, however, is paid to ornithology
now-a-days, that this species, like many others, may be reported to be
more common than formerly because more observed. In the central and
southern portions of Europe it is not uncommon, and crossing the
Mediterranean, as winter approaches, it passes down both the east and
west coasts of Africa as far as Natal on the one side and Angola on the
other. A considerable number, however, pass the winter in Africa, a good
many degrees further north.

                        THE GREY-HEADED WAGTAIL.
                          (_Motacilla flava._)

Similar in form and general colouration to the last-named, amongst the
flocks of Yellow Wagtails that visit us in the spring the grey-headed
species no doubt often escapes observation. But it is not on this
account to be considered rare. On the contrary, there is good reason to
believe that it is a regular migrant to this country, and this is not
surprising when we consider that it is the common Yellow Wagtail of
northern Europe, the true _Motacilla flava_ of Linnæus. It differs
chiefly from Ray’s Wagtail in having a well-defined cap of a grey colour
on the head, a white instead of a yellow streak over the eye, and a
white chin instead of a yellow one.[37] It frequents the same situations
as the last-named, and its habits are very similar.

The specimens which have been obtained and recorded as British, and
which amount to a considerable number, have been for the most part met
with on the coasts of the eastern, southern, and south-western counties
of England, and almost invariably in the spring of the year. There can
be no doubt that it breeds here; indeed, the fact of its having done so
in two or three instances has been already recorded. In the “Zoologist”
for 1870 (p. 2343), Mr. J. Watson of Gateshead, near Newcastle-on-Tyne,
writes:—“I have seen a good many notices in the ‘Zoologist’ of the
occurrence of the Grey-headed Wagtail: it may interest you to hear of
its breeding in this neighbourhood. Two nests were found by a friend of
mine last year on some swampy ground near here. This year on the 13th of
June I found another; and on the 8th of July my friend shot two young
birds beginning to assume their mature plumage: one of these birds is in
the possession of and was identified by Mr. John Hancock of Newcastle.”

But although the greater number of recorded British specimens have been
obtained in the South of England, a few have been noticed from time to
time in Scotland, and Dr. Saxby has on several occasions seen the
species even as far north as Shetland. Mr. Blake Knox thinks that it
occurs in Ireland, but that it is probably much overlooked, or perhaps
confounded with the last-mentioned species. As it is common in summer in
most of the countries of Western Europe, one would naturally expect to
meet with it more frequently at the same season in Great Britain; and
the increasing attention which is being paid to ornithology, and
especially to the birds of particular districts, will no doubt result in
the establishment of this species in the list of British birds as an
annual summer migrant.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                      [Illustration: MEADOW PIPIT]

                           THE MEADOW PIPIT.
                         (_Anthus pratensis._)

Premising that attention is not confined to species which are British,
it is generally admitted by ornithologists that the Pipits are a
difficult group to identify. They are subject to such variation in size
and colour that it has often happened that one and the same species has
been described four or five times as new, under as many new names.
Gradually, however, as the researches of naturalists become extended,
and the transport of specimens from various quarters of the globe is
facilitated, the difficulty wears off, and we are enabled to define with
sufficient accuracy the limits of each species and the variations of
plumage within those limits.

Were I to confine my remarks in the present instance to those Pipits
only which are regular summer migrants to this country, I should not
have to mention more than two species. It may be well, however, to take
a glance at all those which have a claim to be included in the British
list, distinguishing them under the heads of “Residents,” “Summer
Migrants,” and “Occasional Visitants.”

Two species only are resident with us throughout the year—the well-known
Meadow Pipit or Titlark (_Anthus pratensis_), and the larger Rock Pipit
(_Anthus obscurus_). Both these, however, are to a certain extent
migratory at the approach of winter, assembling in small flocks, and
moving from place to place in search of food. The Tree Pipit (_Anthus
arboreus_) visits us regularly in April, and remains in this country
until September; and there can be little doubt, from recent observations
of naturalists in different parts of the country, that the Water Pipit
(_Anthus spinoletta_, Linnæus, or _Anthus aquaticus_, Bechstein) is also
an annual summer migrant to our shores. At irregular intervals, and in
addition to these, we are occasionally visited by Richards’ Pipit, the
Tawny Pipit, the Red-throated Pipit, and the Pennsylvanian Pipit. Of the
two resident species, as well as the Tree Pipit, it can scarcely be
necessary to say much, for their appearance and habits, if not well
known to all, are described in almost every book on British birds. After
pointing out their distinguishing characters, therefore, my remarks will
refer chiefly to the geographical distribution of the species.

The Pipits hold an intermediate place between the Wagtails and Larks,
having the slender bill of the former, and, with one exception, the long
hind claw of the latter. Like these birds, they live almost entirely on
the ground, where they seek their food, build their nests, and rear
their young. Low-lying meadows and marshy places, the margin of tidal
harbours, and the seashore are the favourite haunts of the Pipits. In
such situations, except in very hard weather, they find abundance of
food, consisting chiefly of insect larvæ, small beetles, flies, seeds,
and minute univalve mollusca. I have almost invariably found, in
addition, that the stomachs contain little particles of grit or brick,
swallowed no doubt to assist in triturating the food.

The Meadow Pipit (_Anthus pratensis_) is the smallest as well as the
commonest species to be met with, and is generally dispersed throughout
the British Islands, including Orkney and Shetland. It is by no means
confined to the plains or open country, but is frequently to be met with
on mountain sides, sometimes at a considerable elevation. Tourists and
sportsmen must doubtless have remarked this when climbing the Scotch and
Irish mountains. The late Mr. Wheelwright, in Lapland, found it “very
high up on the fells;” Professor Salvadori remarked it on the Apennines;
and Messrs. Elwes and Buckley include it in their list of the birds of
Turkey as frequenting the mountains.

In summer it is common in Scandinavia, and Mr. Wheelwright found it
nesting in Lapland. It goes as far north as the Faroe Isles and
Iceland.[38] According to Professor Reinhardt,[39] Dr. Paulsen, in
Sleswick, received a single specimen from Greenland in 1845; but he adds
that he (Professor R.) never saw it there himself. The Meadow Pipit
appears to be generally distributed throughout Europe, and at the
approach of winter emigrates in a south-easterly direction by way of
Sicily and the Ionian Islands to Palestine. Lord Lilford states that it
is very common in Corfu and Epirus in winter.[40] Canon Tristram found
it in large flocks throughout the winter in North Africa, “apparently on
passage;” and in Southern Palestine and in the Plains of Sharon he
remarked that it was very abundant. According to Sir R. Schomburgk, it
occurs as far eastward as Siam; but Mr. Blyth considered the Siamese
_pratensis_ to be the Red-throated Pipit (_A. cervinus_) in winter
plumage. It is known to occur in India, however, as Mr. Hume has
procured this species near Ferozpore, North-west India; and Mr. Blyth
saw specimens from other parts of the North-west provinces. The range of
this bird southwards, that is through Africa, seems to be very limited.
According to Mr. Saunders, it is common in Spain in winter, but it is
not included in Mr. Tyrwhitt Drake’s list of the birds of Morocco; and
though Mr. Salvin shot a specimen at Kef Laks in the Eastern Atlas, it
appears to occur in North-west Africa exceptionally. The Pipit of the
Canaries, originally regarded as _A. pratensis_, has been described by
Dr. Bolle[41] as distinct, under the name of Berthelot’s Pipit (_Anthus
Berthelotii_). But Mr. Vernon Harcourt maintains—and so did the late Mr.
Yarrell—that Madeiran specimens can in no degree be distinguished from
specimens of _A. pratensis_ from other parts.

                       [Illustration: ROCK PIPIT]

                            THE ROCK PIPIT.
                          (_Anthus obscurus._)

This Pipit, as already observed, is to be found on most parts of our
coast throughout the year, except on that portion which extends from the
Thames to the Humber, where it is only observed in spring and autumn
during the period of migration. For although a resident species,
inasmuch as individuals may be found on some parts of the coast
throughout the year, it is also, to a certain extent, migratory,
receiving a considerable accession to its numbers in spring, and a
corresponding diminution in autumn. It may be distinguished from the
common Meadow Pipit by its larger size, longer bill, tarsus, and toes,
and by its having the upper portion of its plumage of a greener olive.
The legs are of a much darker brown, and I have remarked that in
freshly-killed specimens the soles of the feet are yellow, a
circumstance which appears to have been generally overlooked, but which
is worth noticing as an addition to its distinguishing characters. A
considerable difference also will be observed in the two outer tail
feathers on each side. In the Meadow Pipit the outermost tail feather is
for the greater part white, and the next has half the tip of the inner
web also white. In the Rock Pipit the same parts of these feathers are
not white, although conspicuously lighter than the remaining portion.

The Rock Pipit found in Scandinavia (_Anthus rupestris_ of Nilsson), is
considered by some to be distinct from the species which frequents our
own shores, but, as I think, on extremely slender grounds. The points of
difference have been thus stated: “They consist, so far as we can
ascertain, merely in the presence of a bright buff or pale cinnamon
tinge on the breast of the male in _A. rupestris_, and perhaps in that
form being of a slighter build than _A. obscurus_. In the female of the
so-called _A. rupestris_ the warm colour is much more faintly indicated;
in some specimens it is doubtful whether it exists at all. The outer
tail feathers, which in _A. spinoletta_ afford so sure a diagnosis, are
in _A. rupestris_ just as dingy as in _A. obscurus_.”

There can be no doubt that the chemical constituents of colour in the
plumage of birds are always more or less affected by climatic agency;
and, this being so, one can hardly be justified in founding a new
species on mere variation of colour, where there is at the same time no
modification of structure. There can be little doubt that the
Scandinavian Rock Pipit is identical with our own bird, the slight
differences observable being easily accounted for through climate and
the season of the year at which specimens are obtained.

The late Mr. Wheelwright makes no mention of this bird when treating of
the ornithology of Lapland. Messrs. Godman met with it on the seashore
at Bodö, Norway, “in tolerable abundance,” and Mr. Hewitson also saw it
in Norway. Although Temminck says that it goes as far north as
Greenland, this does not appear to be the case; for Professor Reinhardt,
who has paid especial attention to the ornithology of Greenland, states
that only two species of Pipit are to be met with there—namely, the
American _Anthus ludovicianus_, which breeds there, and _A. pratensis_,
of which, as above stated, a single specimen only is recorded to have
been obtained. It is rather remarkable that Professor Blasius has not
included the Rock Pipit in the avifauna of Heligoland, seeing that _A.
cervinus_, _A. ludovicianus_, and _A. Richardi_ are all stated to have
been taken on that island.[42]

Although found upon the shores of Holland, Belgium, and France, it
either goes no farther to the south-west, or else it has been
overlooked; for neither Mr. Howard Saunders, in his “List of the Birds
of Southern Spain,” nor the Rev. A. C. Smith, in his “Sketch of the
Birds of Portugal,” give it a place in the avifauna of those countries.
Mr. C. A. Wright states (“Ibis,” 1869, p. 246) that he has only obtained
a single specimen in Malta. Further eastward, namely, on the coasts of
Epirus and Corfu, Lord Lilford found it to be common, and on this
account it has been included by Messrs. Elwes and Buckley in their “List
of the Birds of Turkey.” I am not sure whether it has been met with in
Asia Minor, but probably it does not extend either eastward or southward
beyond the coast line of the Mediterranean. The observations of
naturalists certainly tend to prove that its proper habitat is Northern
Europe, and perhaps nowhere is it commoner than in the British Islands.

                       [Illustration: TREE PIPIT]

                            THE TREE PIPIT.
                          (_Anthus arboreus._)

Although a regular summer visitant to England, the Tree Pipit, like the
Nightingale, from some unexplained cause, is distributed over a very
limited area. It never reaches Ireland, and is considered rare in
Scotland, although the nest has been found as far north as Dumbarton,
Aberdeen, Banff, and East Inverness.[43] Even in Wales and Cornwall it
is a scarce bird, so that England may be said to be the western limit of
its geographical range. Mr. Wheelwright never met with it in Lapland,
but Messrs. Godman found it in June as far north as Bodö, in Norway, and
from this latitude southwards to the Mediterranean it seems to be well
known in summer. Mr. Howard Saunders says that it is generally
distributed in Spain from autumn to spring, and he suspects that some
remain to breed on the high plateaux. In Portugal, according to the Rev.
A. C. Smith, it is rare. Mr. Wright, of Malta, states that it is very
common in the island in spring and autumn, departing in May northwards,
and returning in September and October. He adds that a few remain the
winter. According to the observations of Lord Lilford, it is now and
then seen at Corfu in winter, throughout which season it is found in
small flocks, apparently on passage to North Africa. Mr. Layard does not
include it in his “Birds of South Africa,” but, according to Professor
Sundevall (“Svenska Foglarna,” p. 41), a specimen was killed by Wahlberg
on the Limpopo, in Kaffirland, between lat. 25 deg. and 26 deg. S. Canon
Tristram found it sparingly distributed in Palestine in winter, and in
spring in the Jordan valley. It is recognised by naturalists in
north-west India, and there can be little doubt that the Pipit which has
been described from that country, and from China and Japan, under the
name of _Anthus agilis_, Sykes, is only our old friend _A. arboreus_ in
a different plumage from that which it assumes here in summer. Herr von
Pelzeln says[44] that _agilis_ only differs from _arboreus_ in having a
stouter bill, and he does not think that it can be specifically
distinct, notwithstanding that Dr. Jerdon gives both species as
inhabitants of India. On this point Mr. Hume says (“Ibis,” 1870, p.
287): “I took nine specimens of _arboreus_ from England and France, and
compared them with our Indian birds. There was no single one of them to
which an exact duplicate could not be selected from amongst my Indian
series. That all our Indian Pipits known as _agilis_, _maculatus_, and
_arboreus_ ought to be united as one species under the latter, or
possibly some older, name, I can now scarcely doubt.”

                            THE WATER PIPIT.
                         (_Anthus spinoletta._)

In size this bird equals our well-known Rock Pipit, but may be
distinguished by the vinous colour of the throat and breast, by the
absence of spots or streaks upon the under parts, and by the outer tail
feathers, which are marked with white, as in _A. pratensis_. It was
named _spinoletta_ from the provincial name applied to the bird in
Italy, whence Linnæus described it.[45] Pallas, however, altered the
name to “_pispoletta_,” because Cetti affirmed that this was the correct
Florentine term, and not _spinoletta_. Linnæus’s name, nevertheless, on
the ground of priority, is entitled to precedence. The species was
identified with _aquaticus_ of Bechstein by Bonaparte.[46]

This bird seems to have been first made known to English naturalists by
Mr. Thomas Webster, of Manchester, who, in a communication to the
“Zoologist” (p. 1023), stated that he had seen three birds at Fleetwood
in October, 1843, which he had not the slightest hesitation in
identifying with a Pipit described by M. Deby as _Anthus aquaticus_,
Bechstein, and which to all appearance were totally distinct from the
common Rock Pipit of our coast. In January, 1860, the Rev. M. A. Mathew,
in a letter to Mr. Gould, called attention to the fact of his having
procured a Pipit at Torquay, which was subsequently identified
unhesitatingly with _A. aquaticus_ of Bechstein. Since that date, Mr.
Gatcombe, of Plymouth, has noticed several other specimens in
Devonshire, and a great many have been procured in Sussex, chiefly in
the neighbourhood of Brighton. Thus the claim of this bird to rank as a
British species has come to be pretty well established. M. Baily, in his
“Ornithologie de la Savoie,” says that the Water Pipit is common at all
seasons of the year both in Switzerland and Savoy. During winter it
frequents the wet meadows, marshes, and unfrozen springs in the valleys,
and about the end of March or beginning of April ascends the mountains,
and resorts to the most sterile plateaux, fields, heaths, and stony
places in the neighbourhood of water, where it nests on the ground under
stones, sometimes in clefts in the rock, but oftener in the grass
beneath the bilberry, whortleberry, or some creeping bush.

In the fall of the year it descends to the warmer valleys and frequents
the margins of the rivers, whence it has derived the name of Water
Pipit, making its way gradually southward as winter approaches. Mr.
Saunders has met with it at Malaga in winter; but apparently it is not
common in Spain, and, according to the Rev. A. C. Smith (“Sketch of the
Birds of Portugal”) still less so in Portugal. Mr. Wright has met with
it once in Malta, having shot a specimen there in November, 1860. It
crosses the Mediterranean to North Africa. Canon Tristram met with it in
Algeria, and Captain Shelley recognised it in Egypt. In the peninsula of
Sinai it was found by Mr. C. W. Wyatt, frequenting the sides of the
salt-ponds near Tor, and it is included in Mr. Strickland’s list of the
birds of Asia Minor (“P. Z. S.,” 1836, p. 97) as being found on the
coast in winter at Smyrna, whence it penetrates to Palestine (Tristram,
“Ibis,” 1866, p. 289). Messrs. Elwes and Buckley have enumerated this
amongst other species in their list of the birds of Turkey, and
Ménétries states (“Cat. Rais. Caucas.,” p. 39) that it is common on the
shores of the Caspian in April, May, and June. The range of this bird
eastward is at present hardly determined; partly, perhaps, because the
Pipits have been a good deal neglected for the sake of more attractive
species, and partly on account of the difficulty which travellers
usually experience in the identification of this difficult group of
birds. That the Water Pipit penetrates to north-west India is to be
inferred from the fact that Mr. Hume sent M. Jules Verreaux a specimen
for identification from the Punjab west of the Sutlej.

                    [Illustration: RICHARD’S PIPIT]

                            RICHARD’S PIPIT.
                          (_Anthus Richardi._)

Out of compliment to the zealous amateur who first made known an example
captured in autumn in Lorraine, the name of Richard’s Pipit has been
bestowed on this bird, which is becoming better known to ornithologists
in this country every year. Its superior size, stouter bill, greater
length of leg, and longer hind claw, at once serve to distinguish it
from the commoner species. As compared with the Rock Pipit, the largest
of those with which we are most familiar, its dimensions are as follows:

                         Bill.        Wing.       Tarsus.     Hind toe
                        Inches.      Inches.      Inches.    with claw.

  _A. obscurus_           ·5           3·2          0·9          0·8
  _A. Richardi_           ·6           3·6          1·2          1·2

Its occurrence in England has been noted, as might be expected, chiefly
on the east and south coasts, in every month between September and
April, both inclusive. At least fifty specimens have been seen or
procured, distributed as follows: Northumberland, 2; Norfolk, 5;
Shropshire, 1; Oxford, 1; Middlesex, 12; Kent, 3; Sussex, 5; Devonshire,
11; Cornwall and Scilly, 8. In the west of England, therefore, it would
appear to be very rare, and in Ireland it is unknown.

The most northern locality, I believe, whence this species has been
procured, is Heligoland, on which island, according to Professor
Blasius, it is said to have been obtained by Herr Gätke.[47]

When staying at Antwerp in May, 1870, I saw three or four specimens
which had been taken in that neighbourhood, but the owner of them
considered the bird a rarity there. Mr. Howard Saunders obtained a
couple near Malaga in the month of February, and learnt that in some
winters it is not uncommon in southern Spain (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 216).
Signor Bettoni, in his grand work on the birds which breed in Lombardy,
mentions Richard’s Pipit as one of the characteristic species of the
Lombard plains. “Nevertheless,” says Mr. Saunders (“Ibis,” 1869, p.
392), “he must not be understood to mean that it is in any way abundant,
or even constant in that province; for the Count Turati assured me that
it has never been discovered breeding there, and that, judging from the
number of specimens enumerated as obtained in England, it is more common
with us than with them. That its appearance is confined to the plains of
Lombardy is probably the author’s meaning.” In Malta it is only found
accidentally in spring and autumn, and Mr. Wright, who has paid so much
attention to the ornithology of that island, has only been able to
mention three examples as having come under his own notice.

It is rather singular that this bird should not cross the Mediterranean,
and be found with other European Pipits during the winter months in
North Africa. Nevertheless, I have not been able to find any mention of
it in any of the North African lists which I have consulted, neither is
it included in the late Mr. Strickland’s List of the Birds found in Asia
Minor in winter (“P. Z. S.,” 1836, p. 97).

It is much commoner, however, in Asia than in Europe. Mr. Hodgson found
it in Nepal,[48] and Mr. Hume says it breeds in Ladakh; Mr. Blyth has
recorded its occurrence in the neighbourhood of Calcutta, and Mr.
Blanford met with it in the Irawadi Valley. It is included by Sir R.
Schomburgk in his List of the Birds of Siam (“Ibis,” 1864, p. 249), and,
according to Mr. Swinhoe, is common in North China (Takoo and Peking) in
September, and in Amoy, Formosa, and Hainan in winter.

                            THE TAWNY PIPIT.
                         (_Anthus campestris._)

Easily mistaken for Richard’s Pipit, this bird is, however, of a more
sandy colour, and may be distinguished by its short hind claw. In
Richard’s Pipit, it will be remembered, the hind claw is very long. Its
real habitat may be said to be North Africa and Palestine. Canon
Tristram calls it the common Pipit of the Sahara, and Mr. O. Salvin
found it abundant on the plateau of Kef Laks and on the plains of
Djendeli, in the Eastern Atlas. In Upper Egypt and Sinai it is
occasionally plentiful, and is found all over the cultivated coast and
hill districts of Palestine, where it is a permanent resident.

“The soil of the Sahara,” says Mr. J. H. Gurney, jun. (“Ibis,” 1871, p.
85), “is in some places soft and sandy, in others hard and pebbly. The
Tawny Pipit affects the former, where there is little or no herbage. Its
flight is undulating, like that of the Wagtails; and, like the latter,
it twitters on the wing.” Canon Tristram, referring to the habits of
this species in Palestine, where he obtained several nests on the bare
hills, says (“Ibis,” 1866, p. 289), “It is one of the tamest of birds,
and particularly affects the mule paths, flitting along in front of the
traveller, and keeping unconcernedly a few yards ahead.” “The nest,”
says Mr. Salvin, “is composed of roots, with a lining of horsehair, and
is placed on the lee side of a bush. The eggs vary very much, some being
light-coloured, and almost like wagtails’, while others are much darker
and more profusely marked.”

Although, as above stated, North Africa and Palestine may be regarded as
its home, the Tawny Pipit ranges a long way to the north and south of
this tract, and is common in some parts of Southern Europe in summer. It
is found as far northward as Sweden—where, as Mr. Wheelwright has
remarked, it is confined to the sandy shores of the south—and
accidentally in England, where specimens have been several times
procured on the coasts of Sussex, and in Cornwall.[49]

Lord Lilford has observed that it is common in Spain in summer (“Ibis,”
1866, p. 178), an observation more recently confirmed by Mr. Howard
Saunders (“Ibis,” 1869, p. 392). In Portugal, according to the Rev. A.
C. Smith, it seems to be equally well known.

It is annually observed in Malta in spring and autumn, but never found
there during the winter months (Wright, “Ibis,” 1864, p. 61). Lieut.
Sperling, however, believes that it is not uncommon on the north coast
of the Mediterranean in winter. South of the habitat assigned to it,
this bird ranges through Abyssinia (whence I have seen a specimen in the
collection of African birds belonging to Mr. Sharpe) to Mozambique,
where, according to Lieut. Sperling, it is plentiful in winter; and Mr.
Layard has included it amongst the birds of South Africa, having
received specimens from Windvogelberg and the Knysna. It has a West
African representative in _Anthus Gouldii_ of Frazer (Hartlaub, “Orn.
West Afr.,” p. 73), which differs in its smaller size and darker colour,
and in having the head of a uniform dull brown, instead of being

                        THE PENNSYLVANIAN PIPIT.
                        (_Anthus ludovicianus._)

On the authority of several good naturalists this species is stated to
have occurred several times in the British Islands; but the general
description of the specimens referred to applies as a rule so well to
the _Anthus spinoletta_ above mentioned, that it is extremely difficult
to say to which of the two species they belonged. It is of course far
more probable that the visitors to our shores would be of European, not
American, extraction. At the same time they have been described as
according so well in every respect with the American _ludovicianus_,
that we must either admit that the latter bird occasionally visits this
country, or agree with Richardson and Swainson (“Faun. Bor. Americana,”
ii. p. 231) that it is indistinguishable from _aquaticus_ of Bechstein,
that is, _spinoletta_ of Linnæus.

Edwards was the first to notice this bird as a visitant to England,
giving a description and figure of a specimen obtained near London in
his “Gleanings” (vol. ii. p. 185, pl. 297). Montagu shortly afterwards
noticed two in his “Ornithological Dictionary,” one of which had been
taken in Middlesex, the other near Woolwich.

Macgillivray, in his “Manual of British Birds,” p. 169, minutely
describes two Pipits which were shot near Edinburgh in June, 1824, and
which he identifies clearly with the American species.

Mr. Turnbull, in his “Birds of East Lothian,” states (p. 40) that three
Pennsylvanian Pipits were shot at Dunbar in East Lothian by Mr. Robert
Gray, of Glasgow.

Mr. Bond has a Pipit, identified as belonging to this species, which was
obtained at Freshwater, in the Isle of Wight, in September, 1865; while
the most recent instance of the occurrence of this Pipit in England will
be found in the “Zoologist” for 1870. But anyone who reads the
correspondence relating to this instance (“Zool.” tom. cit. pp. 2021,
2067, and 2100) will see how difficult it is to identify a species when
the specimen is not in fully adult plumage.

When it is remembered that _Anthus ludovicianus_, as stated by Professor
Reinhardt (“Ibis,” 1861, p. 3), breeds in Greenland, and, according to
Professor Blasius, is found in Heligoland (“Naumannia,” 1858), it is
certainly not improbable that it should occasionally be found in the
British Islands. At the same time it is very desirable that some more
convincing evidence than that which already exists of its occurrence
here should be placed upon record.

                        THE RED-THROATED PIPIT.
                          (_Anthus cervinus._)

The present bird has, as yet, been scarcely admitted into the British
list. I have seen a specimen in the collection of Mr. Bond, which was
killed at Unst, Shetland, on the 4th May, 1854, and about the same year,
but in September, another in the same collection was shot at Freshwater
in the Isle of Wight.

In the adult plumage the species is easily recognized by the ruddy brown
colouring of the upper portions of the plumage, and by the rufous patch
upon the throat.

In size it is equal to the Meadow Pipit, and by some naturalists it has
been considered a permanent race or variety of that species; but the
observations of Prof. Newton on this point[50] certainly tend to show
that the species is a valid one. It was met with by him in June, 1855,
when in company with Messrs. Wolley and Simpson, in a restricted
locality in East Finmark, between Wadsö and Nyborg, and several
well-identified nests were procured. A specimen procured in Heligoland
is in Herr Gätke’s collection.

It is not uncommon as a winter visitant in Turkey, and Mr. Wright has
shot many specimens in Malta, where he says it arrives in small flocks
in spring and autumn. In Egypt and Nubia this bird quite takes the place
of _A. pratensis_, and is sometimes very common there. It probably
winters also in Palestine, although Canon Tristram, during his sojourn
there at that season, only met with a single specimen on the coast of
the plain of Sharon. It has been found in China, Japan, Formosa, and
Hainan, by Mr. Swinhoe, who suggests that this bird in its winter
plumage is the _Anthus japonicus_ of Temminck and Schlegel. Mr. Blyth
thinks that it should probably be erased from the Indian list, as the
ordinary Himalayan species, _A. rosaceus_ of Hodgson, has been
confounded with it. Upon this point, however, much difference of opinion
prevails. Dr. Jerdon, in his “Birds of India,” gives _rosaceus_ as a
synonym of _cervinus_, and Mr. Hume is puzzled to distinguish _rosaceus_
from _arboreus_. He says (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 288): “Typical examples of
both species seem unmistakably distinct, but intermediate forms of the
most puzzling character occur, of such a nature that it really seems to
me impossible to decide to which species they ought to be referred.”

Professor Newton considers that the Red-throated Pipit is as yet
scarcely entitled to a place in the list of British Birds; nevertheless
it is a bird, as he says, whose migratory habits and wide north-eastern
range make it very likely to occur in this country, and probably its
recognition as an occasional visitor to the British Islands is only a
matter of time and observation.

                   [Illustration: SPOTTED FLYCATCHER]

                        THE SPOTTED FLYCATCHER.
                         (_Muscicapa grisola._)

The family of Flycatchers is a very large one, having representatives in
all parts of the globe; but in the British Islands two species only can
with propriety be included in the list of annual summer migrants. It is
true that at least one other species has been met with in this country,
to which allusion will be made presently; but it cannot be regarded in
any other light than that of a rare and accidental visitant.

The Spotted Flycatcher (_Muscicapa grisola_), as remarked by the eminent
Irish naturalist, Thompson, is probably little known, except to the
observant ornithologist. Owing to the dulness of its plumage, its want
of song, and its weak call being seldom heard, it is certainly one of
the least obtrusive of our birds; the trees, too, having put forth their
“leafy honours” before the period of its arrival, further serve to
screen it from observation. It is one of the latest of our summer
migrants to arrive, seldom appearing before the second week in May, and
generally taking its departure during the first week of September. It is
found throughout the British Islands, but is much less common in
Scotland. It has, however, been found breeding as far north as
Sutherland and Caithness. The situation selected by this bird for its
abode during its stay with us is generally in the neighbourhood of
gardens and orchards, where it takes up its quarters on a wall or fruit
tree, and sallies forth into the air after passing insects. The name of
Spotted Flycatcher is more appropriately bestowed upon the bird in its
immature plumage, when each brown feather is tipped with a buff spot. As
it grows older, these spots gradually disappear. It is a wonderfully
silent bird, and even when the hen is sitting the male does not, like
the males of so many other species, pour forth a song to enliven her.
The nest is usually placed on a beam in a shed, in a hole in a wall, or
on the branch of a wall-fruit tree, partially supported by the wall; not
unfrequently it may be discovered in a summer-house. It is neatly
composed of moss and fine roots, and lined with grass, horsehair, and
feathers. The eggs, generally five in number, are bluish white, spotted,
chiefly at the large end, with reddish brown.

The late Mr. Wheelwright found the Spotted Flycatcher inhabiting Lapland
in summer, but observed that it was not nearly so common there at that
season as the Pied Flycatcher. In Central and Southern Europe it is a
summer resident, passing through Spain and Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and
the Ionian Islands twice a year—namely, in spring and autumn. Its course
in autumn appears to be south-east by south. Mr. Wright has noticed it
as very common in spring and autumn in Malta, arriving there somewhat
later than the Pied Flycatcher. It has been noticed by Mr. J. H. Gurney,
jun., as plentiful in Algeria in summer. Captain Shelley met with it
once at Alexandria in May, when it was probably migrating; and Rüppell
includes it without hesitation amongst the birds of North Africa.[51] In
the middle of October, Von Heuglin found that it was not rare near
Tadjura, and somewhat later in the year on the Somali coast. In
Palestine Canon Tristram found it breeding in all parts of the country,
its favourite nesting-places being in the branches of old gnarled trees
overhanging the paths (“Ibis,” 1867, p. 361). How far eastward it
extends I am not sure, as in China and Japan an allied species appears
to take its place. But south of the Mediterranean it penetrates to South
Africa. Mr. Layard says,[52] “the common European flycatcher has been
brought by Mr. Andersson from Damara Land in some abundance. And
Andersson himself states[53] that the bird is common in Damara and Great
Namaqua Land, and is found there throughout the year. Dr. Hartlaub cites
it on M. Verreaux’s authority as from the Cape, and Swainson also
alludes to it as from South Africa. Since the publication of the work
above quoted, Mr. Layard has been enabled to add that his son procured
this bird at Grootevadersbosch, near Swellendam. From Lapland, then, to
the Cape of Good Hope, and from Portugal to Palestine is a pretty
extensive range for so small and weak a bird as our Common Flycatcher. I
should not be surprised to hear that it is found even still further to
the eastward, for so many of our summer migratory birds spend their
winter in India and China, and after all the greater part of their
journey would be by overland route, which admits of their travelling by
stages, to rest and feed by the way.

                    [Illustration: PIED FLYCATCHER]

                          THE PIED FLYCATCHER.
                       (_Muscicapa atricapilla._)

From its conspicuous black and white plumage, the Pied Flycatcher is a
much more attractive species than the commoner bird. Strange to say,
although of similar habits, and living on similar food, it is by no
means so common as a species, nor so generally dispersed. Its presence
in Scotland is always looked upon as an uncommon occurrence, and in
Ireland, until recently, it was quite unknown.

During the month of April, 1875, Mr. Robert Warren, jun., of Moyview,
Ballina, co. Mayo, met with this bird for the first time in his
neighbourhood, and the following communication from him on the subject
was published in the natural history columns of “The Field,” on the 1st
of May, 1875:—“It may interest some of your ornithological readers to
learn that a Pied Flycatcher (_Muscicapa atricapilla_) visited this
extreme western locality on the 18th of April. My attention was first
attracted by seeing it catching insects in the true flycatcher style;
but, thinking it rather strange that our common Spotted Flycatcher
should appear a month or six weeks earlier than usual, I watched it
attentively for some time. It then struck me as having a smaller head
and closer plumage than the spotted one, and occasionally I thought I
observed some white marks on the wings; but, the evening light just
fading, I could not be quite certain of the white marks. Although
knowing it to be a flycatcher, I was not satisfied as to its identity,
so next morning I returned to that part of my lawn where I had seen it
the night before, and again saw it hard at work; but now having better
light, and the aid of a field glass, I was not long in making out quite
distinctly the white wing marks, which showed me that it was not the
common _Muscicapa grisola_. I took my gun and secured what I believe to
be the first specimen of _Muscicapa atricapilla_ ever shot in Ireland.
Neither Thompson in his ‘Birds of Ireland,’ nor Professor Newton in his
new edition of ‘Yarrell’s British Birds,’ mentions it as a visitor to
Ireland, or gives any record of its capture in this island; and Mr.
Harting, in his ‘Handbook of British Birds,’ p. 10, says it is unknown
in Ireland. The specimen, an adult female, is now in the collection of
the Royal Dublin Society.”

To this communication the editor appended the following note:—“Although
we always regret to hear of the wanton destruction of a rare bird, we
must admit that circumstances sometimes occur to justify an individual
capture, and we think the present instance is a case in point. By the
actual possession of the bird seen, Mr. Warren has been enabled to
establish beyond doubt the fact of the occurrence in Ireland of a
species previously unknown there, and has thus a complete answer to any
sceptic who might suggest that he may have been mistaken in his
identification of it.”

In England the Pied Flycatcher is a regular summer migrant, quite as
much as any other of the small birds already noticed. Mr. A. G. More, in
his “Notes on the Distribution of Birds in Great Britain during the
Nesting Season,” regards it as a very local species, and observes that
the nest has occasionally been found in North Devon, Somerset, Dorset,
Isle of Wight, Surrey, Oxford, Norfolk, Gloucester, Shropshire,
Leicester, and Derby. To these counties I may add Middlesex (for I have
known several instances of this bird nesting as near London as at
Hampstead, Highgate, and Harrow) and Essex, where the species has been
met with at Leytonstone. Yarrell adds Sussex, Suffolk, Yorkshire (where
I also have seen it), Worcester, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Cumberland,
Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Durham, and on the southern coast,
Hampshire. He makes no mention of its occurrence in Wales, neither does
Mr. A. G. More in his essay above mentioned. During the summer of 1871,
however, several letters appeared in the natural history columns of “The
Field,” communicating the fact of its nesting in Breconshire,
Denbighshire, and Merionethshire.[54] The sites selected for the nests
are usually holes in walls, ruins, and pollard trees, and the nest
itself is composed of roots, grass, strips of inside bark and horsehair.
The eggs, five or six in number, are of a very pale blue colour, much
paler, smaller, and rounder than those of the hedge sparrow. A
correspondent who has taken several nests of this bird states that he
never found one containing feathers; but I think I have seen one lined
with feathers which had been taken out of an old birch tree in Lapland
by the late Mr. H. Wheelwright. In this lamented naturalist’s
entertaining book, “A Spring and Summer in Lapland,” he states that,
although he never met with the Pied Flycatcher on the fells, it was to
be found as far north as the birch region extends, and he generally
found the nest in small dead birch stubbs by the riverside. Messrs.
Godman met with it some way up the mountains to the north of Bodö in
Norway, where the birch was also the favourite nesting tree. As it is
common in most parts of Central and Southern Europe, and is found as far
westward as Portugal, it is rather curious that Professor Savi should
have so long overlooked its occurrence in Tuscany. Dr. Giglioli noticed
it as abundant at Pisa in April, and, on recording it as new to the
Tuscan avifauna, he added (“Ibis,” 1865, p. 56): “When I showed the
numerous specimens I had procured to Professor Savi, he was much
surprised, and said that, during the forty years he had been studying
the ornis of this part of Italy, he had never come across the Pied
Flycatcher, which, however, abounds during the spring passage at Genoa,
and all along the Riviera.” It is a spring and autumn visitor in Malta;
but, though often seen in the valleys and by roadsides in the
neighbourhood of trees, it is not so numerous in the island as _M.
grisola_. Mr. O. Salvin found the Pied Flycatcher not uncommon about
Souk Harras in the Eastern Atlas, and Mr. Tyrrwhitt Drake saw it during
the spring migration in Tangier and Eastern Morocco. A specimen from the
River Gambia is in the collection of Mr. R. B. Sharpe. Mr. J. H. Gurney,
jun., during a recent tour in Algeria, encountered this amongst other
familiar birds. He says (“Ibis,” 1871, p. 76): “It was not until April
that I saw this species, after which it became common. In the dayats and
in the Gardaia, where they most abounded, the proportion of adult males
in full summer plumage to young birds and females was as one to five.
They looked exceedingly picturesque in the rich foliage of the oases,
clinging perhaps to a rough palm stem, though their more usual perch was
the upper bough of a bush, whence they would dart off after passing
flies.” To this I may add that the note frequently repeated is not
unlike that of the Redstart, although softer and more agreeable, and the
bird when uttering it often shuffles its wings after the manner of a
Hedge Sparrow. Canon Tristram found this bird to be a summer resident in
Palestine, and first noticed it in Galilee on April 23rd; but, though
remaining to breed, he considered it rather a scarce bird there.

An allied species, _Muscicapa albicollis_, is generally distributed over
the South of Europe, Palestine, and North Africa, which differs from the
Pied Flycatcher in having the nape of the neck white instead of black;
in other words, the white of the throat extends entirely round the neck.
It is found in Greece, Turkey, Tuscany, Spain, Portugal, and France,
less commonly in the north of France, and not in Belgium or Holland. It
is singular, considering that the two species occupy the same haunts
during a great portion of the year, that the White-necked Flycatcher
never accompanies its more sable congener to England; yet, so far as I
am aware, there is no instance of its occurrence here on record.

What is the cause which operates to restrain one species from migrating,
when a closely allied bird of similar habits is impelled to take a long
and perilous journey? Truly it is a curious question.

Before taking leave of our British flycatchers, it may be observed that
a third species, the Red-breasted Flycatcher (_Muscicapa parva_), a
native of South-eastern Europe and Western Asia, has been met with and
procured on three separate occasions in Cornwall. One was taken at
Constantine, near Falmouth, on Jan. 24, 1863.[55] A second was captured
at Scilly in October of the same year;[56] and a third was procured also
at Scilly on Nov. 5, 1865.[57] All the specimens procured were immature.
The adult bird has a breast like a robin, which renders it a
particularly attractive species. It is said to be not uncommon in the
Crimea and in Hungary, extending eastward to Western and North-western
India, where it is plentiful,[58] and is found accidentally in Italy,
Switzerland, and France. Mr. Howard Saunders has reason to believe that
it has been met with in Southern Spain in winter, but Col. Irby is
somewhat sceptical on the point.[59]

In Sir Oswald Mosely’s “Natural History of Tutbury” (p. 385), it is
reported that a pair of the North American Red-eyed Flycatcher
(_Muscicapa olivacea_) appeared at Chellaston, near Derby, in May, 1859,
and one of them was shot. If there was no mistake in the identification
of the species, one can only suppose that the birds must have been
brought over to this country in a cage, and contrived to effect their

                        [Illustration: SWALLOW]

                              THE SWALLOW.
                          (_Hirundo rustica._)

Few birds have attracted more attention in all countries and in all ages
than the Swallows; and the habits of those species which annually visit
the British Islands have been so thoroughly investigated and so
frequently described, that little originality can be claimed for the
remarks which I have now to offer.

There are two points, however, in the natural history of these birds
which do not appear to have received from their biographers so much
attention as they deserve, viz., the nature of their food, and their
geographical distribution. I have repeatedly been asked, “What do
Swallows feed upon?” and “Where do Swallows go in winter?” To these two
questions I will now endeavour to reply, believing that an exposition of
such facts as have been ascertained on these points will be more
acceptable to the reader than a repetition of what has been so
frequently published on the subject of habits, haunts, dates of arrival,
and other minor details.

First, then, as regards food. Dr. Jenner found that Swallows on their
arrival in this country, and for some time afterwards, feed principally
on gnats; but that their favourite food, as well as that of the Swift
and Martin, is a small beetle of the Scarabæus kind, which he found, on
dissection, in far greater abundance in their stomachs than any other
insect. A writer in the “Magazine of Natural History,”[60] Mr. Main,
states that they take two species of gnat, _Culex pipiens_ and _C.
bifurcatus_; and Sir Humphrey Davy saw a single Swallow capture four
Mayflies that were descending to the water, in less than a quarter of a
minute. Mr. Thompson says[61] that a correspondent of his, Mr. Poole,
has found the mouths of young birds filled with _Tipulæ_, and that Mr.
Sinclair, an accurate ornithologist, remarked a number of Swallows
flying for some time about two pollard willows, and on going to the
place ascertained that the object of pursuit was hive bees, which, being
especially abundant beneath the branches, he saw captured by the birds
as they flew within a few yards of his head. The assertion that Swallows
take honey bees was long ago made by Virgil, and, though not often
noticed by writers on British Birds, the fact has several times been
corroborated. A writer in the “Field Naturalist’s Magazine” for 1834 (p.
125), stated that, having observed some Swallows seize bees in passing
his hives, he shot them, and on opening them carefully, found that,
although they were literally crammed with drones, there was not a
vestige of a working bee. We learn from Wilson[62] that in the United
States bees constitute part of the ordinary food of the Purple Martin;
and the Sand Martin has been observed to prey upon the common wasp.
Gilbert White remarked that both Swifts and Swallows feed much on little
Coleoptera, as well as on gnats and flies, and that the latter birds
often settle on the ground for gravel to grind and digest their food. At
certain times in the summer he had observed that Swifts were hawking
very low for hours together over pools and streams, and, after some
trouble, he ascertained that they were taking _Phryganeæ_, _Ephemeræ_,
and _Libellulæ_ (Cadew-flies, May-flies, and Dragon-flies), that were
just emerged out of their aurelia state. The indigestible portions of
their food are rejected in the shape of small pellets, just as with the
birds of prey. _Apropos_ of these observations, Mr. J. H. Gurney, in
October, 1871, wrote me as follows:—“The perusal of your interesting
remarks relative to the food of the Chimney Swallow, and especially with
reference to its bee-eating propensities, induces me to send you a note
of an analogous habit of which I have heard, in one instance, in the
Common Swift. An intelligent shepherd in Norfolk, with whom I am
acquainted, and who keeps bees, states that a pair of Swifts which
nested in the roof of his cottage were so destructive to his bees, by
catching them on the wing when they happened to fly rather higher than
usual, that he at length destroyed the Swifts in order to free his bees
from their attacks. With reference to the food of the House Martin, I
may mention that some years since, as I was watching some of these birds
skimming over a roadside pond early in the month of May, one of them, as
it flew past me, dropped at my feet a water beetle of the genus
_Dytiscus_, nearly, if not quite, half an inch in length. Possibly it
had captured a prey too large to be conveniently swallowed.” All the
_Hirundinidæ_ drink upon the wing, and are perhaps the only birds that
do not alight for this purpose, unless perhaps the Terns and some of the
Gulls may be also exceptions to the general rule.

With regard to their winter quarters and geographical distribution, it
will be best to trace the movements of each species separately.

The Chimney Swallow (_Hirundo rustica_), whose early appearance in the
spring is only preceded by that of the Sand Martin, spends at least six
months of the year with us, and in some years more than seven months.
The period of its visit, however, may be said briefly to extend from
April to October. Between these two months the bird is found generally
distributed throughout Europe, going as far north as Iceland[63] and
Nova Zembla,[64] and penetrating even into Siberia and Amurland.[65]

The only Swallow hitherto observed in Greenland—and that only on two
occasions—is, according to Professor Reinhardt, the American Swallow,
_Hirundo rufa_ of Bonaparte. Now, Bonaparte identifies this (Geogr. and
Comp. List, p. 9) with _H. rufa_ of Gmelin, and Professor Baird
considers Gmelin’s bird to be the South American species, for which _H.
erythrogaster_ of Boddaert is the oldest name. If this identification be
correct, one would certainly expect the bird found in Greenland to be
the North American species, _H. rufa_ of Vieillot, not Bonaparte, now
generally better known by its older name, _H. horreorum_ of Barton. The
late Mr. Wheelwright observed the Common Swallow in Lapland, where he
saw it hawking about over the high fells at Quickjock, and he fancied it
was even commoner there than at Wermland, in Sweden, where it is also an
annual summer visitant.[66] Throughout Europe generally, as already
remarked, it is everywhere distributed in summer, and in the countries
bordering the Mediterranean it is especially abundant at the periods of
migration in spring and autumn. Mr. Wright has observed it arriving in
Malta in great numbers from the south early in March, and again, on its
return southwards in autumn, it is common over the island until October.
On the island of Filfla, a few miles south of Malta, the same observer
has noticed it in May. At Gibraltar and in Spain Mr. Howard Saunders has
detected it as early as February, making its way north; and, as an
instance of how these delicate birds at times get blown out of their
course by adverse winds, it may be remarked that Prince Charles
Bonaparte saw Swallows and Martins at sea 500 miles from Portugal and
400 miles off the coast of Africa. Sir William Jardine has recorded the
presence of the Swallow at Madeira, and Mr. Osbert Salvin, writing on
May 28 (“Ibis,” 1859, p. 334), says: “Some Swallows came on board when
we were 180 miles north-west of the Azores, so that it is probable that
the bird is found in these islands.”

On the Senegal River and at Sierra Leone it may be seen all the year
round, but is less numerous there from June to September.[67] On the
West Coast of Africa the Swallow appears to travel as far south as the
island of St. Thomas on the equator, where Mr. Yarrell states it has
been met with in January and February.

In Tangier and Eastern Morocco Mr. Tyrwhitt Drake says the Swallow is
found throughout the year, but the Martin and Sand Martin, he believes,
do not winter there. (“Ibis,” 1862, p. 425.)

The Swallow has been noticed as plentiful at Tripoli in the middle of
March (Chambers, “Ibis,” 1867, p. 99), and Mr. Osbert Salvin observed it
in Algeria, between Constantine and Batna, where he found several nests
among the rafters of an open shed. According to the Rev. Canon
Tristram—than whom there is no better authority on the subject of North
African and Palestine birds—a few pairs of Swallows remain all the
winter in each oasis in North Africa, wherever there is water or marsh;
but none of those which he observed were in mature plumage, and it is
therefore presumed that only the younger and weaker birds stay behind.
The Arabs informed him that for one Swallow they have in winter they
have twenty in summer, and that they usually retire about the end of
November, returning in February. In November, also, they have been
observed to be common at Alexandria and Cairo (E. C. Taylor, “Ibis,”
1859, p. 47); and on the 5th of November, when leaving Aden, Mr. Swinhoe
remarked that a few Swallows followed the ship, apparently bound for the
Indian coast. According to the observations of Mr. E. C. Taylor (“Ibis,”
1867, p. 57), this species reappears in Egypt about March 25, and is
common at Cairo and Damietta in April. Rüppell, in his “Systematische
Uebersicht der Vögel Nordost-Afrika’s,” includes the Swallow (p. 22) as
being found in Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia; and as regards the
last-named country, Mr. Blanford has remarked[68] that it is common
everywhere, and that he found it especially abundant on the shores of
Annesley Bay in June.

Continuing a search for this species southward along the East Coast of
Africa, it will be found that, according to the observations of Mr.
Ayres in Natal, the Swallow arrives in that colony in great numbers in
November, congregating and leaving again in March and April. Mr. Layard
found it to be an annual winter visitant to the Cape Colony, and on one
occasion when sailing from New Zealand to the Cape of Good Hope, on the
28th of November, he saw a Swallow and a Sand Martin fly about the ship
for some time. He was then in lat. 33° 20′, long. 31° 50′, and about 290
miles from the Cape. Several insects (_Libellula_, _Agrostis_, and
_Geometra_) were caught on deck, and we may presume, therefore, that the
birds found sufficient food to support them at that distance from land.

Passing eastward through Sinai and Palestine, where Canon Tristram has
observed the Swallow in December,[69] we learn from Mr. Blyth that it is
common in the north-west provinces of India during the winter months.
Capt. Beavan saw it at Darjeeling in 1862, and Maunbhoom in 1864-65,
where both old and young were very common in January and February,
hawking over rice-kates and near tanks. In Northern Japan it was
observed by Capt. Blakiston, and in North China by Mr. Swinhoe.
Referring to a species of Swallow which he observed in Formosa, Mr.
Swinhoe says (“Ibis,” 1863, p. 255): “In its habits, in nest and colour
of eggs, &c., this bird entirely agrees with the European _H. rustica_;
yet in size it is always smaller, and in minor personal features
different. It ranges in summer from Canton to Pekin, and Mr. Blyth
assures me that it is identical with specimens procured in winter in
Calcutta; hence I infer that the birds which visit China in spring, and
uniformly leave again in autumn, return to hybernate in the warm plains
of India.”

Mr. Blyth has remarked (“Ibis,” 1866, p. 336), “that the average of
adult Swallows from the Indian region and China are smaller than the
average of European examples, to the extent sometimes of an inch in
length of wing; but some Indian are undistinguishable from European

Dr. Jerdon, in his “Birds of India,” says: “On carefully comparing
specimens from England and Algiers in the museum at Calcutta with Indian
specimens from various parts of the country, I can detect no

In a notice of the birds of the Andaman Islands which appeared in the
“Ibis” some years since, Capt. Beavan remarked that the European Chimney
Swallow visits these islands at certain seasons, and is not at all

There is no evidence that it ever visits Australia; but Mr. Gould has
described a Swallow from Torres Straits under the name _Hirundo
fretensis_, which is certainly very like our well-known _H. rustica_,
and might be a young bird of that species in autumn plumage. It is
singular that no Swallows visit New Zealand. It cannot be that the
islands are too distant from Australia, where several species of Swallow
abound, because, as Mr. Layard has remarked, two, if not three, species
of Cuckoo (_Eudynamys taitensis_ and _Chrysococcyx lucidus_) perform the
journey in their annual migration twice a year.

The attachment of Swallows to the neighbourhood of water at
roosting-time—which formerly led to the supposition that they actually
retired under water for the winter—may be easily accounted for by the
circumstance that the willow branches not only afford them most
convenient perches, but enable the birds to crowd close together, and so
secure greater warmth to individuals than they could possibly enjoy if
each roosted upon a separate twig in trees or shrubs of different

                         [Illustration: MARTIN]

                              THE MARTIN.
                          (_Hirundo urbica._)

Although arriving in this country somewhat later than the Swallow, the
Martin may be said to have nearly the same geographical range. Mr.
Yarrell thought that the Swallow did not go so far north as the
Martin,[70] but both are found in summer in Iceland and the Faroe Isles.
Mr. Dann remarked that there was no want of food for them in Norway and
Lapland, as the morasses in the sheltered valleys swarm with insects.
During the season that it is absent from England it resides in North
Africa, Egypt, Nubia and Abyssinia, Palestine, Arabia, and North-west
India. Capt. Irby states (“Ibis,” 1861, p. 233) that it is common in the
cold season in Oudh, and Col. Tickell observed great numbers at
Moulmein; but they appeared from time to time, and not constantly, like
_H. rustica_.[71] With regard to Palestine, it seems probable that the
Martin spends the greater portion of the year there, for Canon Tristram
found it breeding in colonies on the sheltered faces of cliffs in the
valleys of Northern Galilee. Mr. Wright says (“Ibis,” 1864, p. 57) that
in Malta it is seen at the same seasons as the Swallow, but stays part
of the winter, when _H. rustica_ has departed. Dr. Giglioli observes
that it arrives at Pisa at the end of March, at which time it has also
been noticed at Gibraltar.

The movements of this bird and others of the genus have been concisely
illustrated by Mr. Forster in a communication to the Linnæan Society, in
the following table, giving the mean date of arrival:

                  Naples.   Rome.    Pisa.    Vienna.   Bruges.  London.

  Swallow         Feb. 27.  Mar. 3.  Mar. 5.  Mar. 25.  Ap. 5.   Ap. 15.
  Sand Martin     Ap. 3.    Ap. 5.   Ap. 8.   Ap. 12.   Ap. 25.  Ap. 25.
  House Martin    Ap. 10.   Ap. 15.  Ap. 16.  Ap. 20.   May 1.   May 1.
  Swift           Ap. 15.   Ap. 18.  Ap. 20.  Ap. 23.   Ap. 30.  May 3.

The spring tide of migration appears to set in along the entire
coast-line of the Mediterranean, and in a direction almost due north. I
do not remember to have seen any record of the occurrence of the Martin
on the west coast of Africa, although there seems to be no reason why it
should not accompany the Swallow there in winter.

Both species will rear two broods in a season; and this fact, doubtless,
will account for the prolonged stay in autumn of the later fledged
birds, which are not sufficiently strong on the wing to join the main
body of emigrants at the usual time of their departure.

                      [Illustration: SAND MARTIN]

                            THE SAND MARTIN.
                          (_Cotyle riparia._)

This little bird has a much more extensive range than either of the
foregoing species, being found in the New as well as in the Old World.
In British North America M. Bourgeau obtained both birds and eggs on the
Saskatchewan plains. Dr. Coues met with it in Arizona, and Professor
Baird has recorded it from California. He says: “It furnishes almost a
solitary instance amongst land birds of the same species inhabiting both
continents permanently, and not as an accidental or occasional visitor
in either.”[72] Mr. H. E. Dresser found it common in Southern Texas, and
Mr. O. Salvin obtained several specimens in Guatemala. It has even been
met with in the Bermudas, 600 miles from Cape Hatteras, the nearest
point of the North American coast.[73]

In Europe the Sand Martin generally makes its appearance in the spring
somewhat earlier than any of the other Swallows, and departs sooner.
From different stations on the Mediterranean large flocks have been
observed at the period of the vernal migration winging their way
northward, returning even in greater numbers in the autumn. Mr. O.
Salvin saw this species between Tunis and Kef during the third week in
March. Canon Tristram, who found it abundant in Palestine in the sandy
banks of the Jordan, has suggested that it is double-brooded, since he
found it nesting in Egypt in February. The same observer met with it in
November on its autumn migration through the Sahara. When passing down
the Red Sea, early in November, Mr. Swinhoe saw numerous Sand Martins,
which followed the ship for some days, and on arriving at his
destination found these birds very common about the marshes at Takoo and
before Tientsin in North China. Dr. Leith Adams says[74] that Sand
Martins build in numbers along the banks of the Indus, and that in
consequence in some places the banks are quite riddled with their holes.
Hence it will be seen that this delicate little bird enjoys a more
extensive range than any other species of the family.

Before leaving this country in autumn, they assemble in vast flocks, and
go through a variety of evolutions on the wing, as if practising for a
long flight, alighting from time to time upon the ground, or on willows
or reeds by the river-side, to rest. Swallows and Martins do the same,
but never congregate—so far as I have observed—in such large

The Purple Martin (_H. purpurea_) of America is recorded to have been
procured once at Kingstown near Dublin; and Yarrell included it in his
“History of British Birds,” relying on a statement that two specimens
had been shot at Kingsbury Reservoir, in Middlesex, in September, 1842.
It has since been ascertained, however, that he was misinformed on the
subject. A specimen of this bird, said to have been shot near
Macclesfield, was sold at Stevens’s, with other birds from the
Macclesfield Museum, on the 14th June, 1861, and realized twenty-eight
shillings. With these exceptions, so far as I am aware, no other
instance of its occurrence in Europe has been published.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                      [Illustration: COMMON SWIFT]

                           THE COMMON SWIFT.
                           (_Cypselus apus._)

To ordinary observers a Swift appears so much like a Swallow, that the
only difference discernible by them is a difference of colour. To the
inquiring naturalist, however, a much more important distinction
presents itself in the peculiar and remarkable anatomy of the former
bird. Not only has it a greater extent of wing, moved by larger and more
powerful muscles, but the structure of the foot is curiously adapted for
climbing within the narrow crevices which are usually selected as
nesting-places. In the Swallow and other _Hirundines_ the toes are long
and slender—three in front and one behind in the same plane, as is usual
with insessorial birds. In the Swift we find the toes short and stout,
and all four directed forwards; the least toe (which should be the hind
one) consisting of a single bone, and the other three of only two bones
apiece—a peculiar construction, but well adapted for the purposes for
which the feet are employed.

This singularity of structure has induced naturalists to consider the
Swifts (for there are several species) generically distinct from the
Swallows; and the former, therefore, are now placed by common consent in
the genus _Cypselus_, a name adopted from Aristotle, and suggested by
Illiger, as indicating the bird’s habit of hiding its nest in a hole.

The remarks which have been made upon food in the case of the Swallows,
apply equally in the case of the Swifts. The latter have so frequently
been observed in localities presenting very different species of
insects, and sweeping in the summer evenings through the midst of little
congregated parties of various kinds, that there is little doubt that
the nature of the food differs very considerably. In corroboration of
this it has been shown that anglers have repeatedly captured these birds
with artificial trout-flies of very different appearance.[76] Isaak
Walton informs us that Swifts were in his time taken in Italy with rod
and line; and, according to Washington Irving, one of the sports of the
Alhambra was angling for swallows from its lofty towers.[77] There are
several species of Swifts distributed throughout the world, but only two
visit the British Islands, and of these one is but a rare and accidental

The Common Swift is the last of the _Hirundines_ to arrive in this
country, and the first to leave it. Its habits are very different from
those of the Swallows. As a rule it makes no nest, but only lines a
hole, into which it creeps; it lays but two eggs (rarely three), instead
of five or six like the Swallows; it rears but one brood in the summer,
instead of two, or even three, as Swallows often do. The late Mr. J. D.
Salmon described[78] some nests of the Swift which he found at Stoke
Ferry, Norfolk, and which were composed of bits of straw and dry grass,
“closely interwoven and held firmly together by an adhesive substance
very much resembling glue, and so disposed round the inner edge of the
nest as to hold the straws in their places; the whole forming quite a
cup of an oval shape, of about four inches in length, not very deep.” I
have often observed the straw and dry grass, with the addition of
feathers, but never noticed the “adhesive substance.” Gilbert White
thought that the Swift paired on the wing. They may do so occasionally;
but, from what I have observed, I feel sure that they pair much oftener
in the hole which has been selected to nest in.

Although usually preferring lofty towers and church turrets, the Swift
frequently nests under eaves at a comparatively short distance from the
ground; and I have had excellent opportunities for some years past of
observing Swifts during the breeding season under the eaves of some old
cottages in Sussex and Middlesex. By means of a short ladder I have been
enabled to inspect many nests both before and after the young were
hatched; and, out of a score or more examined, seldom more than one
contained three eggs. Sometimes I observed that Sparrows were ejected
and their nests appropriated, amidst much remonstrance and screaming;
but, as a rule, I have found that Swifts, having once reared their young
safely in a new locality, will return to the same hole year after year.
Birds have been marked by having their claws cut, and, on being set at
liberty, were caught the following year in the holes from which they had
first been taken. Unlike most insectivorous birds, which bring but a
single insect (or at most two or three) to the nest at a time, the Swift
visits its young less frequently in the day, but brings a large store at
each visit. The mouth is often so crammed with small black flies, that
the bird presents the appearance of having a pouch under the chin, from
which it ejects the insects in a lump the size of a boy’s marble.

As a general rule, the Swift is not observed in this country before the
third week in May, and is seldom seen after the third week in August. It
is found throughout the mainland of the British Islands, and breeds also
in Mull and Iona, but not in Orkney or Shetland, nor in the Outer
Hebrides. It does not travel quite so far north as either the Chimney
Swallow or the Martin, but the late Mr. Wolley saw it on the Faroes,[79]
and Mr. Wheelwright frequently observed it hawking over the high fells
at Quickjock, Lapland, during the summer.[80]

If we look for the bird during the months that it is absent from Great
Britain, we find that it is very abundant at the Cape of Good Hope in
winter, arriving about September 5, and departing northwards in April.
It is seen in Natal more or less all the year round, but more
plentifully during the summer.[81] The climate of Lower Egypt is
apparently too cold for this species in winter, but at that season it is
resident and abundant in Upper Egypt.[82]

As winter disappears it gradually moves northward, and a month before it
arrives in England it is found in some numbers along the entire
coast-line of the Mediterranean. Mr. Osbert Salvin saw it at Tunis on
the 8th March, and subsequently numerous at Algiers. In the middle of
March, Mr. Chambers found it plentiful at Tripoli, and at the end of the
same month it was observed by Mr. Howard Saunders at Gibraltar. In the
middle of April, Lord Lilford remarked that it was common in the
neighbourhood of Madrid; about which time, according to Messrs. Elwes
and Buckley (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 200), it usually makes its appearance in
Turkey, arriving there doubtless from the Ionian Islands,[83] Egypt and
Palestine, where it is said to appear in the last week of March.[84]

From Spain, through France, to England is but a short journey for a bird
with powers of wing like the Swift; and hence one is not surprised to
see hawking over the South Downs in May the birds which but a week
previously were circling round the Moorish towers of Spain. Its return
southward in autumn is apparently by the same route as that chosen for
its northward journey in spring, and in this respect it differs in habit
from many other species.[85]

In India its place is to a certain extent taken by a non-migratory
species, _Cypselus affinis_, but it has nevertheless been met with in
that country. An Indian specimen was received from Dr. Jerdon,
presumably from the north-west.[86] It has also been forwarded from
Afghanistan,[87] and Dr. Stoliczka found it at Leh, in Western Thibet. I
am aware that some naturalists have expressed doubts as to the identity
of the Swift found at the Cape of Good Hope with _Cypselus apus_; but,
after an examination of several examples of the African bird, I have
been unable to discover that it differs in any material respect from our
well-known summer migrant.

                           THE ALPINE SWIFT.
                         (_Cypselus alpinus._)

So rare a visitant to this country is the Alpine Swift that not more
than a score of individuals have been met with since the first specimen
was captured in 1820. In that year a bird of this species was killed at
Kingsgate, in the Isle of Thanet, during the month of June, and since
that time the following examples are recorded to have been met with:—

One, Dover, Aug. 20, 1830; “Note-book of a Naturalist,” p. 226.

One, Buckenham, Norfolk, Oct. 13, 1831; Yarrell, “Hist. Brit. Birds,”
vol. ii. p. 266.

One, Rathfarnham, near Dublin, March, 1833; “Dublin Penny Journal,”
March, 1833. Yarrell, “Hist. Brit. Birds,” vol. ii. p. 266.

One, Saffron Walden, Essex, July, 1838; Macgillivray, “Hist. Brit.
Birds,” iii. p. 613.

One, Leicester, Sept. 23, 1839; Macgillivray, “Hist. Brit. Birds,” iii.
p. 613.

One, seen forty miles west of Land’s End, in June, 1842; Couch, “Cornish
Fauna,” p. 147.

One, Cambridge, May, 1844; E. B. Fitton, “Zoologist,” 1845, p. 1191.

One, near Doneraile, co. Cork, June, 1844; Thompson, “Nat. Hist.
Ireland” (Birds), vol. i. p. 418.

One, St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Oct., 1851; Ellman, “Zoologist,” 1852, p.

One, Mylor, Cornwall, 1859; Bullimore, “Cornish Fauna,” p. 24.

One, Hulme, near Manchester, Oct. 18, 1863; Carter, “Zoologist,” 1863,
p. 8846.

One seen at Kingsbury Reservoir, Aug., 1841, and one shot near Reading
the next day; Harting, “Birds of Middlesex,” p. 128.

One, near Lough Neagh, May, 1866; Howard Saunders, “Zoologist,” 1866, p.

One, near Weston-super-Mare; Cecil Smith, “Birds of Somersetshire,” p.

Several seen, Isle of Arran, July, 1866; H. Blake Knox, “Zoologist,”
1866, p. 456.

Several seen, Achill Island; H. Blake Knox, “Zoologist,” 1866, p. 523.

One, near the Lizard, Cornwall; Rodd, “List of the Birds of Cornwall,”
2nd ed. p. 23.

One, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, Sept. 8, 1870; Hele, “The Field,” Sept. 17,

One seen, Colchester, June 8, 1871; Dr. Bree, “The Field,” June 17,

One seen, South Point, Durham, July 24, 1871; G. E. Crawhall, “The
Field,” Aug. 5, 1871.

In all the above instances the birds were shot, except where stated to
have been seen only.

The term “Alpine Swift” is unfortunately a misnomer, since the bird is
in no way confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the Alps. The name
“White-bellied Swift” is not inappropriate, as indicating a peculiarity
which distinguishes it from the common species. It is a migratory bird,
like the last-named, and, like it, visits the Cape of Good Hope in
winter, and penetrates into North-west India.

It is a summer migrant in Palestine, where Canon Tristram observed it
nesting near Mar Saba, and in the tremendous ravine above the site of
Jericho. It arrives at Constantinople from its winter quarters towards
the end of April, and is common in Corfu from May to September, nesting
annually in the Citadel Rock (Lord Lilford, “Ibis,” 1860, p. 234). It
breeds in great numbers along the Etruscan coast, and is occasionally
seen at Pisa (Dr. Giglioli, “Ibis,” 1865, pp. 51-52). It has been
observed on passage in Tangier and Eastern Morocco, and Mr. O. Salvin
remarked that it was common about the plains of the Salt Lake district,
Eastern Atlas, and breeding in most of the rocks of that country
(“Ibis,” 1859, p. 302). Mr. Howard Saunders saw hundreds at Gibraltar
towards the end of March, and in June it was observed by Lord Lilford
amongst the peaks of the Sierra near San Ildefonso. To England, as we
have said, it rarely strays. In habits it is described, by those who
have had opportunities for observing it, as resembling very much the
Common Swift. Like this species, it nests in holes and crevices, and
lays two white eggs of a similar shape to those of its congener, but
much larger. Its cry is said to be very different. Its vastly superior
size and white belly serve at all times to distinguish it from the
smaller and more sable bird with which we are so familiar.

The Spine-tailed Swift (_Acanthylis caudacutus_), a bird which is found
in Siberia, Persia, India, China, and Australia, has in one single
instance been met with in the British Islands. A specimen was killed at
Great Horkesley, near Colchester, on July 8, 1846, as recorded in the
“Zoologist” for that year (p. 1492), and was fortunately examined in the
flesh by Messrs. Yarrell, Fisher, Hall, Doubleday, and Newman.

                        [Illustration: NIGHTJAR]

                             THE NIGHTJAR.
                       (_Caprimulgus europæus._)

In order of date, the Nightjar is one of the latest of the summer birds
to arrive, being seldom seen before the beginning of May, although, as
in the case of other species, one now and then hears of an exceptionally
early arrival. In 1872, for example, Mr. Gatcombe informed me that he
had seen a Nightjar in the neighbourhood of Plymouth on the 10th of
April, at least a month earlier than the usual time of its appearance.
By the end of September, or the first week in October, these birds have
returned to their winter quarters in North Africa. Colonel Irby, in his
recently-published volume on the “Ornithology of the Straits of
Gibraltar,” states, on the authority of M. Favier, that Nightjars cross
the Straits from Tangiers to Gibraltar in May and June, and return the
same way between September and November. They have been seen on the
passage. Dr. Drummond informed the late Mr. Thompson of Belfast,[88]
that when H.M.S. “San Juan,” of which he was surgeon, was anchored near
Gibraltar, in the spring of the year, a few Nightjars flew on board.
During the passage of H.M.S. “Beacon” from Malta to the Morea, in the
month of April, some of these birds appeared on the 27th, and alighted
on the rigging. The vessel was then about fifty miles from Zante (the
nearest land), and sixty west of the Morea.

They came singly, with one exception, when two appeared in company. A
couple of them were shot in the afternoon. A few others had been seen
about the vessel on the two or three days preceding. On the evening of
the 1st of June, two were killed and others seen in the once celebrated
but now barren and uninhabited island of Delos.

The Nightjar, although tolerably dispersed throughout North Africa
during certain months of the year, does not, apparently, travel so far
down the east or west coasts as many of our summer migrants do. In Egypt
and Nubia, according to Captain Shelley,[89] it is only met with as a
bird of passage, but how much further south it goes he does not say. Mr.
Blanford did not meet with it in Abyssinia, where its place seems to be
taken by two or three allied species.[90] The same remark applies as we
proceed eastward. In Syria and Palestine, Canon Tristram did not observe
the European Nightjar, but found a smaller and lighter-coloured species,
on which he has bestowed the name _Caprimulgus tamaricis_.[91]

Between the months of April and October, our Nightjar is generally
dispersed throughout the British Islands, even to the north of
Caithness, extending also to the inner group of islands, but not
reaching the Outer Hebrides. Mr. Robert Gray, of Glasgow, reports that
it is not uncommon in Islay, Iona and Mull, and also in Skye, in all of
which islands eggs have been found.

Stragglers have been observed in summer and autumn for several years in
Shetland. The late Dr. Saxby saw it at Balta Sound about the end of
July, skimming over the fields, and now and then alighting on the dykes,
but he regarded its appearance in Shetland as merely accidental.

In Ireland this bird is considered to be a regular summer visitant to
favourite localities in all quarters of the island, but of rare
occurrence elsewhere.[92]

In colour this bird resembles a large moth, being most beautifully and
delicately streaked and mottled with various shades of black, brown,
grey, and buff, but in appearance it is not unlike a hawk, having long
pointed wings more than seven inches in length, and a tail about five
inches long. The male differs from the female in having a large
heart-shaped spot upon the inner web of the first three quill feathers,
and broad white tips to the two outer tail feathers on each side.

The mottled brown appearance of the bird when reposing either on the
ground or on the limb of a large tree, is admirably adapted to screen it
from observation even within a few yards of the observer. It delights in
furzy commons, wild heathery tracts, and broken hilly ground covered
with ferns, particularly in the neighbourhood of woods and thickets, and
is especially partial to sandy soils. I have frequently seen this bird
upon the bare sand, either in a sandpit or under the lee of a
furze-bush, where it appeared to be basking in the sun, and from the
disturbed appearance of the soil in some places, I imagine that it dusts
itself as the Skylark does, to get rid of the small parasites with
which, like many other birds, it is infested. On the 16th of May this
year, at Uppark, Sussex, I found one asleep on the carriage drive within
twenty yards of the house. The gravel was quite warm, and the bird was
so loth to be disturbed that I almost succeeded in covering it with my
hat before it took wing. On another occasion in September, when
strolling along the beach near Selsea, I came suddenly upon a Nightjar
sitting below high-water mark on the warm shingle, where it appeared to
be thoroughly enjoying the afternoon sun. It dozes away the greater part
of the day, and if disturbed only flies a short distance before
re-alighting. Its loud and peculiar whirring note, reminding one of the
noise made by a knife-grinder’s wheel, is never heard until the evening,
when, in districts where the bird is common, it resounds far and near.

There is something occasionally quite ventriloquial in the sound, caused
by the bird turning its head from side to side, both up and down, and
scattering, as it were, the notes on every side.

It makes no nest, but scraping a hollow on the bare ground deposits two
ellipse-shaped eggs beautifully mottled with two shades of grey and
brown, and quite unlike those of any other British bird. The young are
hatched in about a fortnight or rather more, and until fully fledged
their appearance is singularly ugly. They are covered with a grey down,
and their enormous mouths and large prominent eyes give them an
expression which is almost repulsive. By pegging the young down with
long “jesses,” as one would a Hawk, I have secured them until fully
fledged, the old birds feeding them regularly; but on taking them home
and turning them into an aviary I could not succeed in keeping them long
alive, owing to the difficulty in procuring suitable food, and my
inability to give them constant attention.

During the month of September, when shooting amongst low underwood and
felled timber, I have not unfrequently disturbed a Nightjar, and on such
occasions, when flying away startled, its flight so much resembles that
of a Hawk that I have twice seen a keeper shoot one, exclaiming, “There
goes a Hawk!” I was not a little surprised one day at finding one of
these birds in the middle of a turnip-field. We had marked down some
birds at the far end, and the dogs were drawing cautiously on when one
of them flushed a Nightjar, which my friend immediately shot—in mistake,
as he afterwards said, for a Woodcock.

Notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary, the Nightjar,
Night-hawk, Fern Owl, or Goatsucker, as it is variously called in
different parts of the country, is one of the most inoffensive birds
imaginable. By farmers it is accused of robbing cows and goats of their
milk, and by keepers it is remorselessly shot as “vermin;” but by both
classes its character is much maligned. Its food is purely
insectivorous, and it is as incapable of sucking milk as it is of
carrying off and preying upon young game birds. The mistake in the
former case must have arisen in this way. The habits of the bird are
crepuscular. It is seldom seen in broad daylight unless disturbed, but
as soon as twilight supervenes and moths and dor-beetles begin to be
upon the wing, it comes forth from its noonday retreat and is
exceedingly busy and active in the pursuit of these and other insects.
Montagu says he has observed as many as eight or ten on the wing
together in the dusk of the evening, skimming over the surface of the
ground in all directions, like Swallows in pursuit of insects. Cattle,
as they graze in the evening, disturb numerous moths and flies, and the
Nightjar, unalarmed by the animals, to whose presence it becomes
accustomed, dashes boldly down to seize a moth which is hovering round
their feet, or a fly which has settled upon the udder. Being detected in
this act in the twilight by unobservant persons, the story has gone
forth that the Goatsucker steals the milk.

From the keepers point of view it is a Night-_hawk_ in the worst sense
of the word, a hawk that under cover of the night flits noiselessly but
rapidly by and carries off the unsuspecting chick. But here again the
observer has been misled by appearances, associating the pointed wings
and long tail with the idea of a hawk, entirely overlooking the small
slender claws and mandibles, which are quite unequal to the task of
holding and cutting up live and resisting feathered prey, and entirely
also overlooking the fact that at the time the Nightjar is abroad, the
young pheasants and partridges are safely brooded under their respective

Attentive observation of its habits, and examination of numerous
specimens after death, have revealed the real nature of its food, which
consists of moths, especially _Hepialus humuli_,[93] which from its
white colour is readily seen by the bird, fernchafers and dor-beetles.
Macgillivray says: “The substances which I have found in its stomach
were remains of coleopterous insects of many species, some of them very
large, as _Geotrupes stercorarius_, moths of great size also, and
occasionally larvæ. I have seen the inner surface slightly bristled with
the hairs of caterpillars, as in the Cuckoo.” He adds, “as no fragments
of the hard parts of these insects ever occur in the intestine, it
follows that the refuse is ejected by the mouth.” From its habit of
capturing dor-beetles, the bird in some parts of the country is known as
the Dor-hawk. Wordsworth has referred to it by this name in the lines—

  “The busy Dor-hawk chases the white moth
  With burring note.”

Elsewhere it is called the Eve-jar, and Churn-owl. The latter name is
bestowed by Gilbert White in his “Naturalist’s Summer Evening Walk”:—

  “While o’er the cliff the awaken’d Churn-owl hung,
  Through the still gloom protracts his chattering song.”

In his 37th Letter to Pennant, the same author refers to it as “the
_Caprimulgus_, or Fern-owl,” and gives an agreeable account of its
movements as observed by himself.

Amongst other things he says:—“But the circumstance that pleased me most
was, that I saw it distinctly more than once put out its short leg while
on the wing, and by a bend of the head deliver somewhat into its mouth.
If it takes any part of its prey with its foot, as I have now the
greatest reason to suppose, it does these chafers. I no longer wonder at
the use of its middle toe, which is curiously furnished with a serrated

Yarrell has figured the foot, in a vignette to his work on British
Birds, in order to show this peculiarity of structure, the use of which
has puzzled so many.

The correctness of the view expressed by Gilbert White and confirmed by
other authors,[94] has been disputed on the ground that many other
birds, as Herons, Gannets, and, I may add, Coursers, have a pectinated
claw upon the middle toe, and yet do not take insects upon the wing, or
even seize their prey with their feet.

It has been ingeniously suggested that perhaps the serrated claw may be
used for brushing away the broken wings and other fragments of
struggling insects which doubtless adhere occasionally to the
basirostral bristles with which the mouth of this bird is furnished.
This is very possible; at the same time it may be observed that Hawks,
Parrots, and other birds habitually cleanse the bill and sides of the
gape with their feet, and yet have no pectination of the middle claw.

A theory advanced by Mr. Sterland,[95] and endorsed by Mr. Robert
Gray,[96] is that since the Nightjar sits _lengthwise_ and not
_crosswise_ upon a bough, the serrated claw gives a secure foothold,
which in so unusual a position could not be obtained by grasping. But to
this theory the objection above made also applies, namely, that many
birds, such as Coursers and Thick-knees, have serrated middle claws and
yet are never seen to perch.

Some naturalists, and amongst others Bishop Stanley, have surmised that
by means of its peculiarly-formed toes, the Nightjar is enabled to carry
off its eggs, if disturbed, and place them in a securer spot, but should
any such necessity arise, one would think that its large and capacious
mouth, as in the case of the Cuckoo, would form the best and safest
means of conveyance.

In the young Nightjar at first the peculiarity in question is not
observable, and Macgillivray remarked that in a fully-fledged young bird
shot early in September, the middle claw had only half the number of
serrations which are usually discernible in the adult. He says:—“All
birds whose middle claw is serrated have that claw elongated, and
furnished with a very thin edge. It therefore appears that the serration
is produced by the splitting of the edge of the claw after the bird has
used it, but whether in consequence of pressure caused by standing or
grasping can only be conjectured.” I have detected some confirmation of
this in the case of the common Thick-knee, or Stone Curlew, _Œdicnemus
crepitans_, in some specimens of which I have remarked a very distinct
serration of the middle claw, in others only the barest indication of it
(the edge of the claw being very thin and elongated); in others again no
trace of it.

The objections, however, which have been taken to the suggested use of
the pectinated claw in the Nightjar, do not invalidate the statements
which have been made by Gilbert White and other observers of the bird’s
movements and habits, for the homologous structure which is found to
exist in certain species in no way related to each other, may well be
designed for very different functions.

I do not find in the works of either Macgillivray or Yarrell any mention
made of the peculiar viscous saliva which is secreted by this bird, and
which reminds one of what is observable in the case of the Wryneck and
the different species of Woodpecker. It no doubt answers the same
purpose, namely, to secure more easily the struggling insects upon which
its existence depends.

                         [Illustration: CUCKOO]

                              THE CUCKOO.
                          (_Cuculus canorus._)

From numerous observations made by competent naturalists in different
localities, it appears that the usual time of arrival of the Cuckoo in
this country is between the 20th and 27th of April, and the average date
of its appearance may be said to be the 23rd of that month, St. George’s
Day. In no instance, so far as I am aware, has the bird been heard or
seen before the 6th of April. On that date in 1872 it was observed at
Torquay, but this was considered by my informant an unusually early date
at which to meet with it.

Between April and the end of August, it may be found generally
distributed throughout the British Islands, even as far north as Orkney
and Shetland. It is also a well-known visitor to the Outer Hebrides. On
the European continent it occurs throughout Scandinavia and Russia, and
is found in all the countries southward to the Mediterranean, which it
crosses in the autumn for the purpose of wintering in North Africa.
Eastward it extends through Turkey, Asia Minor, and Persia, to India,
and according to Horsfield and Temminck, visits even Java and Japan.[97]

The Cuckoo does not pair, but is polygamous. It is not unusual, soon
after their arrival, to see a couple of male birds chasing a hen. The
first eggs are seldom laid before the middle of May, or not until the
birds have been here three weeks or a month. The egg, which is about
equal in size to that of the Skylark, is very small, considering the
bulk of the bird which lays it. It is white, closely freckled over with
grey, or sometimes reddish brown, and generally has a few darker specks
at the larger end. Instead of building a nest for itself, the Cuckoo
deposits its eggs singly, and at intervals of a few days, in the nests
of a variety of other birds, and leaves them to be hatched out, and the
young reared, by the foster parents.

The nests in which the Cuckoo’s eggs are most frequently deposited are
those of the Hedge Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, and Reed
Warbler, but according to Dr. Thienemann, a great authority on the
subject of European birds’ eggs, they have also been found in the nests
of the following very different species:—

  Garden Warbler.
  Lesser Whitethroat.
  Black Redstart.
  Reed Warbler.
  Sedge Warbler.
  Marsh Warbler.
  Grasshopper Warbler.
  Willow Wren.
  Hedge Sparrow.
  Common Wren.
  White Wagtail.
  Grey-headed Wagtail.
  Tawny Pipit.
  Meadow Pipit.

To this list Dr. Baldamus, from other sources, has added the

  Red-backed Shrike.
  Barred Warbler.
  Icterine Warbler.
  Great Reed Warbler.
  Sedge Warbler.
  Fire-crested Wren.
  Tree Pipit.
  Crested Lark.
  Wood Lark.
  Common Bunting.
  Black-headed Bunting.
  Russet Wheatear.

And lastly, in a foot-note to Mr. Dawson Rowley’s article on the
Cuckoo,[99] in which the above lists were quoted, Professor Newton has
pointed out the authority which exists for including the following, at
least occasionally, amongst the foster parents of the young Cuckoo:—

  House Sparrow.
  Blue-throated Warbler.
  Rock Pipit.
  Grasshopper Warbler.[100]
  Great Titmouse.
  Red-throated Pipit.
  Mealy Redpoll.
  Song Thrush.
  Turtle Dove.
  Wood Pigeon.

He confirms, moreover, Mr. Rowley’s remark that the Cuckoo’s egg is
occasionally found in the nest of the Brambling (_Fringilla

I have still to name four species which are not included in any of the
above lists, _viz._, the Spotted Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail, Grey
Wagtail, and Wheatear. They were noticed by me some years ago in the
first work I ever published.[101] In the case of the Wheatear, a nest of
that bird containing three eggs of the Wheatear and one of the Cuckoo
was placed under a clod, and in such a position as strongly to favour
the opinion of some naturalists that the Cuckoo first lays her eggs and
then deposits them with her bill in the nest.

Considering the amount of attention which has been bestowed upon the
Cuckoo by naturalists in every age down to the present, one would
suppose that every fact in connection with its life-history was now
pretty generally known. Such, however, is not the case. There are still
certain points which require investigation, and which, owing chiefly to
the vagrant habits of the bird, are not easily determined.

How can it be ascertained with certainty, for example, whether the same
hen Cuckoo always lays eggs of the same colour, or whether (admitting
this to be the case) she invariably lays in the nest of the same
species—that is, in the nest of that species whose eggs most nearly
approximate in colour to her own?

And yet we must be satisfied on these points if we are to accept the
ingenious theory of Dr. Baldamus. If we understand the learned German
rightly, he states that, with a view to insure the preservation of
species which would otherwise be exposed to danger, Nature has endowed
every hen Cuckoo with the faculty of laying eggs similar in colour to
those of the species in whose nest she lays, in order that they may be
less easily detected by the foster parents, and that she only makes use
of the nest of some other species (_i.e._ of one whose eggs do _not_
resemble her own) when, at the time she is ready to lay, a nest of the
former description is not at hand. This statement, which concludes a
long and interesting article on the subject in the German ornithological
journal “Naumannia,” for 1853, has deservedly attracted much attention.
English readers were presented with an epitome of this article by Mr.
Dawson Rowley in the “Ibis” for 1865, and the Rev. A. C. Smith, after
bringing it to the notice of the Wiltshire Archæological Society in the
same year, published a literal translation of it in the “Zoologist” for
1868. More recently, an article on the subject, by Professor Newton,
appeared in “Nature” and elicited various critical remarks from Mr. H.
E. Dresser, Mr. Layard, and other ornithologists which deserve

To enter fully upon the details of this interesting subject would
require more space than can here be accorded; one can only glance
therefore at the general opinions which have been expressed in
connection with it.

If the theory of Dr. Baldamus be correct, is it possible to give a
reasonable and satisfactory explanation of it? This question has been
answered by Professor Newton in the article to which we have just
referred. He says:—“Without attributing any wonderful sagacity to the
Cuckoo, it does seem likely that the bird which once successfully
deposited her eggs in a Reed Wren’s or a Titlark’s nest, should again
seek for another Reed Wren’s, or a Titlark’s nest (as the case may be)
when she had an egg to dispose of, and that she should continue her
practice from one season to another. We know that year after year the
same migratory bird will return to the same locality, and build its nest
in almost the same spot. Though the Cuckoo be somewhat of a vagrant,
there is no improbability of her being subject to thus much regularity
of habit, and indeed such has been asserted as an observed fact. If,
then, this be so, there is every probability of her offspring inheriting
the same habit, and the daughter of a Cuckoo which always placed her egg
in a Reed Wren’s or a Titlark’s nest doing the like.” In other words,
the habit of depositing an egg in the nest of a particular species of
bird is likely to become hereditary.

This would be an excellent argument in support of the theory, were it
not for one expression, upon which the whole value of the argument seems
to me to depend. What is meant by the expression “once successfully
deposited”? Does the Cuckoo ever revisit a nest in which she has placed
an egg, and satisfy herself that her offspring is hatched and cared for?
If not (and I believe such an event is not usual, if indeed it has ever
been known to occur), then nothing has been gained by the selection of a
Reed Wren’s or Titlark’s nest (as the case may be), and the Cuckoo can
have no reason for continuing the practice of using the same kind of
nest from one season to another.

While admitting therefore the tendency which certain habits have to
become hereditary in certain animals, I feel compelled to reject the
application of this principle in the case of the Cuckoo, on the ground
that it can only hold good where the habit results in an advantage to
the species, and in the present instance we have no proof either that
there is an advantage, or, if there is, that the Cuckoo is sensible of

Touching the question of similarity between eggs laid by the same bird,
Professor Newton says:—“I am in a position to maintain positively that
there is a family likeness between the eggs laid by the same bird” (not
a Cuckoo) “even at an interval of many years,” and he instances cases of
certain Golden Eagles which came under his own observation. But do we
not as frequently meet with instances in which eggs laid by the same
bird are totally different in appearance? Take the case of a bird which
lays four or five eggs in its own nest before it commences to sit upon
them—for example, the Sparrow-Hawk, Blackbird, Missel-Thrush, Carrion
Crow, Stone Curlew, or Black-headed Gull. Who has not found nests of any
or all of these in which one egg, and sometimes more, differed entirely
from the rest? And yet in each instance these were laid, as we may
presume, not only by the same hen, but by the same hen _under the same
conditions_, which can be seldom, if ever, the case with a Cuckoo.

Looking to the many instances in which eggs laid by the same bird, in
the same nest, and under the same circumstances, vary _inter se_, it is
not reasonable to suppose that eggs of the same Cuckoo deposited in
different nests, under different circumstances, and, presumably,
different conditions of the ovary, would resemble each other. On the
contrary, there is reason to expect they would be dissimilar. Further, I
can confirm the statement of Mr. Dawson Rowley, who says:[103] “I have
found two types of Cuckoo’s eggs, laid, as I am nearly sure, by the same

It is undeniable that strong impressions upon the sense of sight,
affecting the parent during conception or an early stage of pregnancy,
may and do influence the formation of the embryo, and it has
consequently been asserted that the sight of the eggs lying in the nest
has such an influence on the hen Cuckoo, that her egg, which is ready to
be laid, assumes the colour and markings of those before her. This is
not, however, supported by facts, for the egg of a Cuckoo is frequently
found with eggs which do not in the least resemble it (_e.g._ those of
the Hedge-Sparrow); or with eggs which, from the nature of the nest,
could not have been seen by the Cuckoo (as in the case of the Redstart,
Wren, or Willow Wren); or deposited in a nest before a single egg had
been laid therein by the rightful owner. Again, two Cuckoo’s eggs of a
different colour have been found in the same nest. If both were laid by
one bird, we have a proof that the same Cuckoo does not always lay eggs
of the same colour; if laid by different birds, then the Cuckoo is not
so impressionable as has been supposed.

What really takes place, I believe, is this:—The Cuckoo lays her egg
upon the ground; the colour of the egg is variable according to the
condition of the ovary, which depends upon the age of the bird, the
nature of its food, and state of health at the time of oviposition. With
her egg in her bill, the bird then seeks a nest wherein to place it. I
am not unwilling to accept the suggestion that, being cognizant of
colour, she prefers a nest which contains eggs similar to her own, in
order that the latter may be less easily discovered by the foster
parents. At the same time the egg in question is so frequently found
amongst others which differ totally from it in colour, that I cannot
think the Cuckoo is so particular in her choice as Dr. Baldamus would
have us believe.

The manner in which “the cuckowe’s bird useth the sparrow,” “oppressing
his nest,” living upon him, and finally turning him adrift, has
furnished a theme for poets and prose writers in all ages, and has
awakened in no small degree the speculative powers of naturalists.

The story is as old as the hills, and it would probably be difficult, if
not impossible, to trace it to its origin. It was known to the ancients
that the Cuckoo leaves its eggs to be hatched by other birds, but they
mingled fact with fable, believing, or at all events asserting, that the
young Cuckoo devoured not only its foster brothers and sisters, but
ultimately its foster parents. Hence the expression which Shakespeare
put into the mouth of the Earl of Worcester to the effect that the

  “Grew by our feeding to so great a bulk
  That even our love durst not come near his sight
  For fear of swallowing.”—_Henry IV._ act v. sc. 1.

But though so time-worn is the tale as to be very generally believed, it
is singular how few writers have attempted to show a foundation for it
from their own observations. So scattered, indeed, is the evidence on
the subject, that many naturalists of the present day still hesitate to
believe the story, pronouncing the alleged feat of strength on the part
of the young Cuckoo to be “a physical impossibility.”

Although my present purpose is to direct attention to the latest
observations upon this vexed question which have come to us with
authority, it will not be superfluous to glance very briefly at what had
already been advanced in support of the statement referred to.

Dr. Jenner says positively (“Phil. Trans.,” vol. lxxviii. p. 225):—“I
discovered the young Cuckoo, though so newly hatched, _in the act_ of
turning out the young Hedge-Sparrow. The little animal, with the
assistance of its rump and wings, contrived to get the bird upon its
back, and making a lodgement for its burden by elevating its elbows,
clambered backwards with it up the side of the nest till it reached the
top, where, resting for a moment, it threw off its load with a jerk, and
quite disengaged it from the nest. It remained in the situation for a
short time, feeling about with the extremities of its wings, as if to be
convinced whether the business was properly executed, and then dropped
into the nest again.”

Montagu, in the Introduction to his “Ornithological Dictionary,” states
that he took home a young Cuckoo five or six days old, when, to use his
own words: “I frequently saw it throw out a young Swallow (which was put
in for the purpose of experiment) for four or five days after. This
singular action was performed by insinuating itself under the Swallow,
and with its rump forcing it out of the nest with a sort of jerk.
Sometimes, indeed, it failed after much struggle, by reason of the
strength of the Swallow, which was nearly full feathered; but, after a
small respite from the seeming fatigue, it renewed its efforts, and
seemed continually restless till it succeeded.”

Mr. Blackwall, who published some observations on this point in the
fourth volume of the “Manchester Memoirs” (second series), says that a
nestling Cuckoo, while in his possession, turned both young birds and
eggs out of its nest, in which he had placed them for the purpose. He
further observed “that this bird, though so young, threw itself
backwards with considerable force when anything touched it
unexpectedly,” an observation subsequently confirmed by Mr. Durham Weir
in a letter to Macgillivray.[104]

Mr. Weir says a young Cuckoo was hatched with three young Titlarks on
the 6th June. “On the afternoon of the 10th two of the Titlarks were
found lying dead at the bottom of the ditch; the other one had
disappeared.” Subsequently this Cuckoo was removed, and placed in
another Titlark’s nest, nearer home, for more convenient observation. On
the following day Mr. Weir found it covered by the old Titlark “with
outstretched wings from a very heavy shower of rain * * * while her own
young ones had in the meantime been expelled by the Cuckoo, and were
lying lifeless within two inches of her nest.” Another instance is given
wherein two Cuckoos were hatched in a Titlark’s nest. “On the third or
fourth day after this the young Titlarks were found lying dead on the
ground, and the Cuckoos were in possession of the nest.” Ultimately one
of the latter, the weaker of the two, disappeared.

A German naturalist, Adolf Müller, of Gladenbach, writing in a German
periodical, “Der Zoologische Garten,” in October, 1868, has given a
curious account of the conduct of two young Cuckoos, which were hatched
in the nest of a Robin. A translation of this account was published in
“The Field” of Nov. 21, 1868, and it will be unnecessary therefore to
give more than the merest outline of the facts detailed in it.

Two young Cuckoos, five or six days old, were found in a Robin’s nest,
four Robin’s eggs lying on the heath before the nest. The two birds were
extremely restless, striving to push each other out of the nest, the
smaller one always the more active. Herr Müller placed the smaller on
the back of the larger one, which immediately began to heave it upwards,
and, thrusting its claws into the moss and texture of the nest, actually
succeeded in pushing it to the edge of the nest and about four inches
further amongst the heath stems. After every contest which was observed
both birds contrived to creep back again into the nest. Ultimately the
larger one was found lying dead outside the nest, while the Robin was
sitting on the smaller bird and the eggs, which had been replaced.

The latest contribution on the subject is that of Mr. Gould, who in his
splendid folio work on “The Birds of Great Britain,” expressed himself a
disbeliever in the popular story. He has since found reason to change
his opinion, for in his recently published octavo “Introduction” to that
work he says: “I now find that the opinion ventured in my account of
this species as to the impossibility of the young Cuckoo ejecting the
young of its foster parents at the early age of three or four days is
erroneous; for a lady of undoubted veracity and considerable ability as
an observer of nature, and as an artist, has actually seen the act
performed [he seems to overlook the circumstance that others had
previously seen it], and has illustrated her statement of the fact by a
sketch taken at the time, a tracing of which has been kindly sent to

This tracing he has reproduced as an engraving in the “Introduction”
referred to, and as he has been good enough to allow me the use of the
wood block to illustrate the present remarks, the reader may consider
himself in possession of a fac-simile sketch from nature.

The following is the account given by Mrs. Blackburn (the lady referred
to) of the circumstance as it came under her observation:[105]—

“The nest which we watched last June, after finding the Cuckoo’s egg in
it, was that of the Common Meadow Pipit (Titlark, or Moss-Cheeper), and
had two Pipit’s eggs, besides that of the Cuckoo.

“It was below a heather bush, on the declivity of a low abrupt bank, on
a Highland hill-side, in Moidart. At one visit the Pipits were found to
be hatched, but not the Cuckoo.

                     [Illustration: Cuckoo in nest]

“At the next visit, which was after an interval of forty-eight hours, we
found the young Cuckoo alone in the nest, and both the young Pipits
lying down the bank, about ten inches from the margin of the nest, but
quite lively after being warmed in the hand. They were replaced in the
nest beside the Cuckoo, which struggled about till it got its back under
one of them, when it climbed backwards directly up the open side of the
nest, and hitched the Pipit from its back on to the edge. It then stood
quite upright on its legs, which were straddled wide apart, with the
claws firmly fixed half-way down the inside of the nest among the
interlacing fibres of which the nest was woven; and, stretching its
wings apart and backwards, it elbowed the Pipit fairly over the margin
so far that its struggles took it down the bank instead of back into the

“After this the Cuckoo stood a minute or two, feeling back with its
wings, as if to make sure that the Pipit was fairly overboard, and then
subsided into the bottom of the nest.

“As it was getting late, and the Cuckoo did not immediately set to work
on the other nestling, I replaced the ejected one and went home. On
returning next day both nestlings were found dead and cold, out of the
nest. I replaced one of them, but the Cuckoo made no effort to get under
and eject it, but settled itself contentedly on the top of it. All this
I find accords accurately with Jenner’s description of what he saw. But
what struck me most was this: The Cuckoo was perfectly naked, without a
vestige of a feather, or even a hint of future feathers; its eyes were
not yet opened, and its neck seemed too weak to support the weight of
its head. The Pipits had well-developed quills on the wings and back,
and had bright eyes, partially open; yet they seemed quite helpless
under the manipulations of the Cuckoo, which looked a much less
developed creature. The Cuckoo’s legs, however, seemed very muscular;
and it appeared to feel about with its wings, which were absolutely
featherless, as with hands, the ‘spurious wing’ (unusually large in
proportion), looking like a spread-out thumb. The most singular thing of
all was the direct purpose with which the blind little monster made for
the open side of the nest, the only part where it could throw its
burthen down the bank.”

Notwithstanding the objections put forward by sceptics, it is
impossible, after reading the evidence of the above-named independent
observers, to doubt that the young Cuckoo is capable of doing all that
has been attributed to it in the way of ejectment. But it is still very
desirable that some competent anatomist should examine and report upon
the arrangement and development of the nerves and muscles, which must
differ very considerably from those which are to be found at the same
age in the young of other insessorial birds.

                        [Illustration: WRYNECK]

                              THE WRYNECK.
                          (_Jynx torquilla._)

Following closely in the wake of the Cuckoo, if not occasionally
preceding it, comes the Wryneck, or Cuckoo’s-mate, as it is popularly
called from the habit referred to. In some respects it is a very
remarkable bird, for not only is its appearance quite unlike that of any
other of our summer migrants, but its actions and habits are also
totally different. In size no larger than a Skylark, it at once attracts
attention by the beauty of its plumage which, although of sombre hue, is
prettily variegated with greys and browns of different shades, here and
there relieved with black. The under parts, of a soft grey inclining to
yellow, are transversely bound with delicate wavy lines. Although for
the purpose of comparison, this species may be likened in point of size
to the familiar Lark, its structure and habits fit it for a very
different mode of life. It is a scansorial or climbing bird, like the
Woodpeckers, with toes directed two in front and two behind; hence the
term yoke-footed, which has been applied to the particular group of
birds in which it is included. The genus to which this bird belongs has
generally been associated with the genus _Picus_, to which it
undoubtedly bears some affinity. The extensibility of the tongue is the
chief character which they have in common, but in the one the extremity
is barbed, in the other it is smooth. The fourth toe in the Woodpecker
is directed somewhat outwards and backwards, whereas in the Wryneck its
natural position is directly backwards, parallel to the first. The bill
of the latter more nearly resembles that of _Picus_ than that of
_Cuculus_, although it is not wedge-shaped at the point. On the other
hand the tail has no resemblance to that of the Woodpecker. The genus
_Jynx_, therefore, seems to stand between these two genera and to form
as it were their connecting link.

The colour of the plumage so closely assimilates to that of the bark and
boughs of trees, that it is often difficult to detect the bird when in
close proximity to such surroundings. But although the Wryneck may be
considered as strictly a woodland bird, adapted by its peculiar
structure to climbing the boles of trees and probing the interstices of
the bark for lurking insects, it nevertheless finds a considerable
portion of its food on the ground, and it especially affects the
neighbourhood of ant-hills, where it preys largely on those insects and
their larvæ. In this employment its remarkable tongue, like that of the
Woodpecker’s, is of great service. It is long and slender, with a horny
point, and is capable of being protruded for more than twice the length
of the head, in consequence of the extreme elongation of the two
branches of the flexible or hyoid bone, as it is termed, which supports
the tongue, curling round at the back of the head, dividing and passing
over each eye, at the forehead, where the branches reunite and extend to
the base of the upper mandible. Two long salivary glands, situated
beneath the tongue, open into the mouth by two ducts, and secrete a
viscid fluid which covers the tongue, and thus causes ants, larvæ, and
other small insects forming the food of this species to adhere to it.
Where the soil is loose the tongue is thrust into all the crevices to
rouse the ants, and for this purpose the horny extremity is very
serviceable as a guide to the tongue. The peculiar habit which the bird
has of twisting the neck with a slow undulatory movement, like that of a
snake, has obtained for it the name of Wryneck, not only in England but
throughout the continent, wherever the bird is known.

Although common in the southern and south-eastern counties of England,
the Wryneck is only partially distributed in the British Islands, and
the limit of its geographical area is almost coincident with that of the
Nightingale before noticed. In the western and northern counties of
England, as well as in Wales, it is comparatively a scarce bird; in
Scotland it is very rare, and in Ireland quite unknown. Its arrival in
April is speedily announced by its loud and oft-repeated cry, which has
been likened to the syllable—“dear, dear, dear, dear, dear,” and which
resembles, though less harsh, the cry of the Kestrel.

In its mode of nidification, the Wryneck resembles the Woodpeckers,
selecting a hole in a tree wherein to deposit its eggs, which are six or
seven in number, pure white, and laid with little or no attempt at a
nest upon chips of decayed wood at the bottom of the hole. In about
three weeks the young are hatched, and both parents take their turn at
feeding them, bringing ants and their eggs in mouthfuls, woodlice, small
spiders, and other insects. The ants, which are gathered up wholesale by
means of the long glutinous tongue, which the bird darts amongst them
with great rapidity, are stored up in the mouth until the return to the
nest, when they are ejected in ball-like masses into the open gapes of
the clamorous young. The latter quickly assume their feathers, and by
the month of August are ready to leave the country with their parents
_en route_ for Africa, Asia Minor, and India, where they pass the cold
months of the year. But according to the observations of Lindermayer,
Dr. Kruper, and others, many spend the winter in Greece amongst the
olive groves, and Lord Lilford has seen it in Epirus in March and
December (“Ibis,” 1860, p. 235).

In Tangiers, Tripoli, Algeria, Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, it is by no
means uncommon. It occurs also in Arabia, and according to Dr. Jerdon
(“Birds of India,” vol. i. p. 303) is found throughout India, except,
perhaps, on the Malabar Coast, where he never saw it, or heard of a
specimen being procured. He adds, “It is chiefly, perhaps, a
cold-weather visitant in the south of India; but it is found to remain
all the year further north.”

I have already touched upon the question whether any of our summer
migrants breed in their winter quarters, as well as in their summer
haunts (see p. 41), and it may be well to note here the above remark of
Dr. Jerdon, as well as the observation of Captain Loche, that the
Wryneck breeds in the forests of Algeria. It of course remains to be
shown whether the individuals which rear their young south of the
Mediterranean, ever migrate into Europe; for it is possible that Algeria
may be the northern-most limit in summer of those birds which have
passed the winter many degrees further south than have the migrants from

                         [Illustration: HOOPOE]

                              THE HOOPOE.
                            (_Upupa epops._)

Amongst the large number of migratory birds which resort to the British
Islands in spring for the purpose of nidification, are a few which come
to us accidentally, as it were, or as stragglers from the main body of
immigrants which, crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, becomes
dispersed over the greater part of Europe. The Hoopoe is one of these.
Not a summer elapses without the appearance, and, I regret to say, the
destruction, of several of these beautiful birds being chronicled in
some one or other of the many periodicals devoted to Natural History. If
the thoughtless persons, whose first impulse on seeing an uncommon bird,
is to procure a gun and shoot it, would only take as much pains to
afford it protection for a time, observe its habits, describe its mode
of nesting and manner of feeding its young, they would do a much greater
service to ornithology by recording the result of their observations,
than by publishing the details of a wanton destruction.

That the Hoopoe will breed in this country, if unmolested, is evidenced
by the recorded instances in which it has done so where sufficient
protection has been afforded it during the nesting season. Montagu
states, in his “Ornithological Dictionary,” that a pair of Hoopoes began
a nest in Hampshire, and Dr. Latham has described a young Hoopoe which
was brought to him in the month of June. A pair frequented Gilbert
White’s garden at Selborne; and another pair nested for several years in
the grounds of Pennsylvania Castle, Portland.[106] Mr. Jesse states[107]
that some years ago a pair of Hoopoes built their nest and hatched their
young in a tree close to the house at Park End, near Chichester; and
according to the observations of Mr. Turner, of Sherborne, Dorsetshire,
the nest has been taken, on three or four occasions, by the schoolboys
from pollard willows on the banks of the river Lenthay. The birds were
known to the boys as “Hoops.”

In the same county, on the authority of the Rev. O. P. Cambridge, a pair
of Hoopoes are reported to have bred at Warmwell. The Rev. A. C. Smith,
of Calne, Wilts, says that a nest, containing young birds, was taken
many years ago in his neighbourhood; and another nest, according to Mr.
A. E. Knox, was found at Southwick, near Shoreham. Canon Tristram states
that the Hoopoe has bred at least on one occasion, in Northamptonshire.

Mr. Howard Saunders informs me that many years ago a pair of Hoopoes
took possession of a hole in a yew tree in the shrubbery of a garden at
Leatherhead, and reared their young in safety. He afterwards saw both
old and young birds strutting about on the lawn. I have seldom met with
this bird in England, and then only on the coast in September, when the
beauty of its plumage had become faded, and the feathers ragged, and it
was about to emigrate southwards for the winter. But on the continent,
and more particularly in France, I have had many opportunities of
observing it, and noting its actions and habits. In its movements on the
ground it struck me as resembling the Rook more than any other bird I
could think of at the time; the same stately tread and gentle nodding of
the head, every now and then stopping to pick up something. It does not
carry the crest erect, but inclining backwards, and is less sprightly in
its movements generally than I had previously supposed. On the wing it
at first sight reminds one of a Jay, the principal colours being the
same, viz., black, white, and pale cinnamon brown; but the distribution
of colour is different, and the flight is not so rapid, and more
undulating. The wings are large for the size of the bird, and the
first-quill feather being much shorter than the second, the wing has a
rounded appearance which makes the flight seem heavier.

It is a shy bird, taking wing on the least alarm, except when surprised
by a hawk or other large bird, when, according to the observations of
the German naturalists, Naumann and Bechstein, it resorts to a very
singular expedient to protect itself. It squats upon the ground, spreads
out its tail and wings to their fullest extent, bringing the primaries
round so as almost to meet in front, and throws back its head and bill,
which it holds up perpendicularly.[108] So long as danger threatens, it
remains in this odd position, probably to deceive the enemy; for when
thus spread out, at a little distance it looks more like an old
parti-coloured rag than a living bird.

The Hoopoe lives a good deal on the ground where it finds its chief
food, which consists of beetles of various kinds, and their larvæ,
caterpillars, and ants. It is especially partial to dung-beetles, and
may often be seen in search of them upon the roads, where it is also
fond of dusting after the manner of a Skylark. But besides picking up a
great deal of food from the surface, it also probes beneath the soil
where the nature of the ground admits of this, and secures many a worm
and lurking grub by means of its long and slender pointed bill. It
swallows a beetle or other small morsel just as the Hornbills in the
Zoological Society’s Gardens swallow the grapes which are thrown to
them, that is to say, it seizes it first between the tips of the
mandibles, then throwing the head back suddenly, and opening the bill at
the same instant, the food is jerked into the gullet with great
precision, and disappears. When it seizes a worm, however, the process
is somewhat different. It bruises it by beating it against the ground,
pinches it all over between the mandibles, and finally swallows it
lengthwise with sundry jerks of the head.

In other respects, as well as in the mode of taking their food, the
Hoopoes resemble the Hornbills. They build in holes of trees as the
latter are known to do, and the hens sit upon the eggs without
interruption until they are hatched, the males, as in the case of the
Hornbills, bringing food and feeding them from the outside of the hole.
The eggs, which are generally five or six in number, are elongated,
nearly oval, and of a greenish grey colour. The young when first hatched
are naked, but soon get covered with small blue quills from which the
feathers sprout. They are unable to stand upright until nearly fledged,
but crouch forward and utter a hissing noise. Their crests are soon
developed, but their bills do not acquire their full length until the
following year.

Lord Lilford states that although the Hoopoe as a rule prefers a hole in
an old ash or willow tree for nesting in, he has seen a nest on the
ground under a large stone, others in holes on the sunny side of mud or
brick walls, one in a fissure of limestone rock, and another in a small

Dr. Carl Bolle has observed that in the Canaries, where trees are
scarce, the Hoopoe breeds in holes of the stone walls and clefts of the

During his residence in China, where this bird is common, Mr. Swinhoe
was surprised to find that it often breeds in the holes of exposed
Chinese coffins, whence the natives have a great aversion to them,
branding them as “Coffin-birds;” and the Russian naturalist Pallas once
found a nest of the Hoopoe, containing seven young ones nearly ready to
fly, in the decomposed abdominal cavity of a dead body!

The note of the Hoopoe is very remarkable, and not to be mistaken for
that of any other bird with which I am acquainted. It sounds like the
syllables “hoop-hoop,” “hoop-hoop,” frequently repeated, and in the
quality of its tone approximates to the call of the Cuckoo, but the
second note is a repetition of the first instead of being, as in the
case of the Cuckoo, a third below it. Old authors affirmed that this
peculiar sound was produced by the bird distending its cheeks with air,
and tapping its bill upon the ground, thereby causing the notes to
escape as it were spasmodically. This curious statement has received
some confirmation from the observations of Mr. Swinhoe.[109] He says:
“To produce these notes, the bird draws the air into its trachea, which
puffs out on either side of the neck, and the end of the bill is tapped
perpendicularly against a stone or the trunk of a tree, when the breath
being forced down the tubular bill produces the correct sound.” He adds,
however, that he has observed a Hoopoe perched upon a hanging rope, and
uttering its well-known cry without any tapping of the bill.

I cannot help thinking that a bird observed in the act of calling
_whilst picking up food_, as many species do, has given rise to the
notion that the sound is _produced_ by tapping, whereas in truth it
precedes and follows the movement. The only motion that I could ever
detect in a Hoopoe whilst calling was a nodding of the head, and a
depression of the crest-feathers.

From the accounts which have been handed down to us by old authors, and
the numerous specimens which may be seen preserved in old collections,
it would appear that the Hoopoe was formerly much more plentiful in
England than it is at the present day. The decrease in its numbers
probably arises from two causes, viz., the clearance of forest land,
entailing the destruction of many old trees which were once attractive
as nesting places,[110] and the increased use of fire-arms which
unfortunately results in the destruction of many of these beautiful
birds, at a time when they are just about to pair and commence

The period of its migration into Europe in the spring sets in early in
April. The late Commander Sperling, when stationed with his vessel in
the Mediterranean, frequently met with Hoopoes at sea during their
passage. In the English Channel on the 15th April, 1854, a Hoopoe after
flying two or three times round a steamer entered one of the windows of
the saloon and was taken, apparently exhausted with fatigue. Another, on
the 21st April, alighted on a mackerel-boat between the Eddystone
Lighthouse and Plymouth Breakwater, in an exhausted state, and allowed
itself to be taken.

The average date of arrival in England may be said to be the third week
in April, when the species is more frequently met with in the eastern
and south-eastern counties, although it wanders inland to a considerable
distance. It is regarded by Mr. R. Gray[111] as a straggler to Scotland;
and Mr. Thompson remarks[112] that in Ireland it has appeared
occasionally in all quarters of the island.

As autumn approaches, these birds, or such of them as have contrived to
escape destruction, begin to move southwards for the winter, and passing
gradually down to the Mediterranean, are observed for some days about
the groves and olive gardens near the sea before they finally cross
over. In this way they return to their winter haunts about the end of
August or beginning of September. Throughout Southern and South-eastern
Europe, as well as in Siberia and North-eastern Africa, the Hoopoe
breeds commonly; but in the northern and western parts of the last-named
continent it is chiefly a winter visitant. The Siberian birds, probably,
and not the European ones, migrate to India and China for the cold
season, and some remain to breed in both these countries. Those which
have passed the summer in Europe, as already shown, spend their winter
in Africa.

Occasionally a Hoopoe has been observed in winter in the British
Islands, but so rarely as to make the occurrence a matter of note. An
instance or two of this kind in Norfolk has been noticed by Hunt in his
“British Birds” (vol. ii. p. 147); and Mr. R. Gray, in his “Birds of the
West of Scotland,” p. 198, refers to two which were killed near Glasgow,
in different years, so late as the month of October.

The late Sir William Jardine informed me that two were shot in
Dumfriesshire in the winter of 1870-71.

The most perfect specimen of the Hoopoe I have ever seen is one in my
collection, which was shot at the Dell, a piece of water near Whetstone,
Middlesex, on the 25th April, 1852. It has no less than twenty-two crest
feathers the longest two inches in length, arranged in two parallel
rows, with the upper surfaces outwards, and of a pale cinnamon colour
broadly tipped with black. The other portions of the plumage are equally
perfect and bright in colour.

                     [Illustration: GOLDEN ORIOLE]

                           THE GOLDEN ORIOLE.
                          (_Oriolus galbula._)

Like the Hoopoe, the Golden Oriole makes its annual visit to the
European continent from the countries south of the Mediterranean, in the
month of April, and returns in September. In the interval it may be
found not uncommonly in the wooded parts of Central and Southern Europe;
but it is rare in the north, being seldom seen in Sweden, and unknown in

In England, where it may be regarded as an irregular summer migrant, it
unfortunately meets with little or no protection, for its bright colours
at once attract attention, and many get shot before they have been a
week on our shores. The male bird is bright yellow, with black wings and
a black and yellow tail. The female is dull green, with pitch-brown
wings, the upper tail coverts greenish yellow, and the under parts
greyish white, longitudinally streaked with brown on the shafts of the
feathers; the flanks yellow, and streaked in the same way.

My impressions on meeting with Golden Orioles for the first time in
France, now many years ago, will not be easily forgotten. I wanted to
see them alive, hear their notes, shoot two or three to examine them
closely, and ascertain the nature of their food; and accordingly I
accepted the invitation of a friend and took up my quarters at an old
country house, about halfway between Paris and Orleans. On looking over
my note-book for that particular year, I find the following entry,
relating to the Golden Oriole:—

“Long before six in the morning I was awakened by a perfect chorus of
birds—Blackcap, Nightingale, Thrush, Wood Pigeon, Chaffinch, Starling,
and Magpie were all recognized; but what pleased me above all, was a
beautiful mellow whistle, which I took to be that of the Golden Oriole,
and in less than an hour afterwards I found that I was right in my
surmise, for on walking through the woods which flank one side of the
house, I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time alive several of
these beautiful birds. They were very shy, and kept to the tops of the
oak trees; but by proceeding cautiously I managed to get near enough to
see and hear them well. Their note is really splendid, so mellow, loud,
and clear—something of the Blackbird’s tone about it, but yet very
different; while in their mode of flight and perching they remind one of
a Thrush. After a long search, I at length found a nest, placed at the
extremity of a thin bough, and at the top of an oak tree, about sixty
feet up. There were no branches for more than thirty feet, and it would
have been almost impossible to reach it without assistance. I therefore
marked the spot, and determined to get a long ladder a little later and
try and take it. The keeper informed me that it was early yet for
Orioles’ eggs, and so I left the nest for the last day of my stay here.
In the afternoon I went with the keeper to the Parc de Marolles. We
could hear the Orioles, or _Loriots_, as the French call them from their
notes, singing loudly in the recesses of the woods; but the foliage was
so thick, and they kept so much to the tops of the trees, that it was
almost impossible to catch sight of them. Their greenish-yellow
feathers, too, harmonized so well with the leaves, that it rendered them
still more difficult to see.

“Following the direction of the notes, I continued to make my way
through the underwood as noiselessly as possible, peering through the
branches, and striving in vain to catch sight of a bird. For a long time
the sound seemed to be as far away as ever, or, as I advanced it
receded. The sun was broiling hot, and the exertion of forcing my way
through the underwood, and straining my neck forward in my endeavours to
get a sight of the bird, put me in a profuse perspiration. The result of
about three hours’ work was, that I finally succeeded in getting three
shots at long intervals, and secured a pair of Orioles, a young male and
an old female. Subsequently, however, I got others. I found the stomachs
of these birds crammed with caterpillars of various species, and can
well understand the good they do in young plantations, by ridding the
trees of these pests.

“The colours of the soft parts in these birds, as noted by me at the
time, were as follows:—Iris, reddish hazel; bill, brownish flesh colour;
legs and toes, pale lead colour.

“On June 3rd, after breakfast, I went to the wood near the house to take
a Golden Oriole’s nest, and a difficult matter it was. The nest was
placed in a slender fork at the extremity of a thin bough of an oak
tree, and almost at the top.

“The oaks here are not, as in England, sturdy and short, with
wide-spreading heads, but tall and slender, running up for a great
height without any branches, and very tiring to climb. I was obliged to
saw off the branch before I could look into the nest, and after a great
deal of trouble, when I at length got it down safely, I found, to my
disappointment, that it contained three young birds instead of eggs.
Could I have ascertained this without cutting off the branch, I should
certainly have left them where they were; as it was, there was no help
for it but to take them. They were apparently about three days old, and
almost naked, the skin of an orange or yellowish flesh-colour very
sparsely flecked with yellow down. I fed them on maggots, and covered
them with cotton wool to keep them warm, and in this way I kept them
alive until I reached Paris, where they died, and were entrusted to a
skilful taxidermist for preservation.”

Although the discovery of a Golden Oriole’s nest in England is not
unprecedented, it is of sufficiently rare occurrence to attract the
attention of naturalists, more especially when the finder (as in the
case to which I am about to allude) has the humanity and good sense to
permit the young to be reared, instead of shooting the parent birds the
moment they are discovered, and thus effectually putting a stop to all
attempts at nidification.

It is a pleasure to be able to record the fact, that during the summer
of 1874, a pair of Golden Orioles took up their quarters in Dumpton
Park, Isle of Thanet, where—the proprietor, Mr. Bankes Tomlin, having
given strict injunctions that they should not be disturbed—they built a
nest, and successfully reared their young, ultimately leading them away
in safety.

They must have commenced building somewhat later than usual, for it was
not until the 6th of July that I first heard of the nest, and the young
were then just hatched. Mr. Bankes Tomlin having kindly invited me to
come and see it, I lost no time in availing myself of his invitation,
and a few days later, namely, on July 12th, I found myself at Dumpton
Park, standing under the very tree in which the nest was placed. The
reader may smile at the idea of journeying from London to Ramsgate
merely to look at a nest; but if he be an ornithologist, he will know
that Golden Orioles’ nests are not to be seen in this country every day,
and that when found they are worth “making a note of.” Often as I had
seen the bird and its nest on the Continent, it had never been my good
fortune until then to meet with it in England. Indeed, the instances in
which nests of the Oriole have been found here and recorded are so few
that they may be easily enumerated. According to the concise account
given by Professor Newton in his new edition of “Yarrell’s British
Birds,” one was discovered in June, 1836, in an ash plantation near Ord,
from which the young were taken; but, though every care was shown them,
they did not long survive their captivity. “Mr. J. B. Ellman says
(‘Zoologist,’ p. 2496) that at the end of May, 1849, a nest was, with
the owners, obtained near Elmstone. It was suspended from the extremity
of the top branch of an oak, was composed entirely of wool bound
together with dried grass, and contained three eggs. Mr. Hulke, in 1851,
also recorded (“Zoologist,’ p. 3034) a third, of which he was told that
it was found about ten years previously in Word Wood, near Sandwich, by
a countryman, who took the young, and gave them to his ferrets; and Mr.
More, on the authority of Mr. Charles Gordon, mentions one at Elmstead,
adding that the bird appeared again in the same locality in 1861. Mr.
Howard Saunders and Lord Lilford informed the editor that in the summer
of 1871 they each observed, in Surrey and Northamptonshire respectively,
a bird of this species, which probably had a nest. Messrs. Sheppard and
Whitear speak of a nest said to have been found in a garden near Ormsby,
in Norfolk; but the eggs formerly in Mr. Scales’s collection, which it
has been thought were taken in that county, were really brought from
Holland, and the editor is not aware of any collector who can boast the
possession of eggs of this species laid in Britain.”

The nest which I am now enabled to record was placed in a fork of a very
thin bough of an elm tree, at a considerable height from the ground, and
almost at the extremity of the branch, so that it was impossible to
reach it except by cutting off the branch near the trunk. Happily, in
this case there was no need to reach it, and the finder was enabled to
ascertain when the young were hatched by sending a man up the tree high
enough to look into the nest without disturbing it. A few days before
his first ascent there had been a strong wind blowing for some time, and
the slender branch was swayed to and fro to such an extent, that,
notwithstanding the depth of the saucer-like nest, one of the eggs was
jerked out upon the grass below and broken, though not irreparably so.
When I saw it, it was in two pieces, but unmistakably the egg of an
Oriole—in size equal to that of a Blackbird, but shining white, with
black or rather dark claret-coloured spots at the larger end. It has
been carefully preserved by Mr. Tomlin.

As long as his man remained in the tree the hen bird continued to fly
round, uttering at intervals a loud flute-like note, and occasionally
making a curious noise, such as a cat makes when angry.

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remark that, as regards situation,
form, and the materials of which it was composed, the nest did not
differ from those which one is accustomed to see on the Continent.
Invariably placed in, and suspended under, the fork of a horizontal
bough, the sides of the nest are firmly bound to each branch of the fork
with blades of dry grasses and fibrous roots. There is generally a good
deal of sheep’s wool in the nest itself, which, taken in connection with
its peculiar shape, gives it a very singular and unique appearance.

On the 12th of July, as we approached the nest in question, the hen bird
was sitting, but left as we advanced, and perched in a neighbouring elm,
whence at intervals she uttered the peculiar noise to which I have
referred. Not wishing to keep her too long from her young, we left the
spot in about ten minutes, after carefully inspecting the nest with a
binocular. Returning again in half-an-hour, and a third time two or
three hours later, we saw the hen on each occasion quit the nest and
take up her position, as before, at a little distance. Once only did I
catch a glimpse of her more brightly-coloured mate as he darted between
two trees. He was very shy, and silent too, being seldom heard, except
very early in the morning, or at twilight. This, however, is the case
with most song-birds after the young are hatched, for they are then so
busy providing food for the little mouths that they have scarcely time
to sit and sing. Mr. Tomlin, who had other and better opportunities for
observing him, gave me to understand that he was not in the fully adult
plumage,[113] so that it seems the males of this species breed before
they have assumed their beautiful black and yellow colours.

On the 22nd of July the man again ascended the tree and peeped into the
nest. The young had flown, but were subsequently discovered sitting
about in the park with the old birds. As soon as the nest was no longer
wanted, Mr. Tomlin had the branch which supported it cut off, and,
writing to me on the subject the following day, he observed, that “upon
examining the nest we found the corners tightly bound with long pieces
of matting. One would almost imagine that a basketmaker had been at

Both the old and young birds continued to haunt the park until the 1st
of August, after which date they were no longer seen. The young were,
however, well feathered by that time, and able to take care of
themselves. Let us hope that they contrived to escape the eyes of
prowling gunners beyond the park, and that they will return again in
succeeding years to gladden the eyes and ears of their kind protector.

It is much to be wished that other proprietors would follow the good
example thus set by Mr. Bankes Tomlin. Could they be induced to do so,
they would become acquainted with many beautiful birds which visit us
from the Continent every spring, and which would in most cases rear
their young here if allowed to remain unmolested. Apart from the
gratification to be derived from seeing these brightly-coloured birds
within view of the windows, and hearing their mellow flute-like notes,
they would be found to be most useful allies to the gardener in ridding
the trees of caterpillars, which they devour greedily, and keeping many
other noxious insects in check.

                   [Illustration: RED-BACKED SHRIKE]

                         THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE.
                          (_Lanius collurio._)

Quite unlike any other of our summer migrants in appearance, the
Red-backed Shrike, or Butcher-bird, as it is more frequently called,
differs from them all in habits, and from the majority in having no song
to recommend it to notice. It is a curious bird in its way, shy and
retired in its disposition, and prefers tall tangled hedgerows or the
thick foliage of the lower branches of the oak, where it can sit
unobservedly and dart out upon its unsuspecting prey. It is a very Hawk
by nature, capturing and killing mice, small birds, moths and beetles of
every size and description. These when caught are firmly impaled upon
the long and strong points of the whitethorn for future consumption, and
the odds and ends which may be found thus hung up, as it were, in the
Butcher-bird’s larder are worth notice. On one thorn, perchance, a Blue
Titmouse with its head off, on another a small meadow mouse (_Arvicola
agrestis_), or perhaps a harvest mouse (_Mus messorius_), on a third a
great dor-beetle or a cockchafer, not yet dead, but buzzing round and
round upon the sharp thorn, and trying in vain to effect its escape,
while above, below, and on all sides may be seen the wingless bodies of
large moths, the fluttering forms of dragon-flies, or the remains of

From this singular habit the bird has earned the name of Butcher-bird,
not only in England but in other countries. In France it is termed
_l’écorcheur_, the flayer; in Germany it is known as _der Würger_ (the
strangler, or garotter), and der _Fleischer_, or butcher, whence no
doubt is derived “Flusher,” the provincial name by which it is known in
some parts of England. The Linnæan name for the genus, _Lanius_, has the
same signification.

The Red-backed Shrike arrives here somewhat later than most of the
summer migrants, and is seldom observed before the first week in May. It
is generally found in pairs until after the young are hatched and ready
to fly, when the families keep together in little parties until the end
of August or beginning of September, when they leave the country.

The note of the Red-backed Shrike resembles the syllables “tst-tst,” or
“tsook-tsook,” loudly uttered, and reminds one a little of the notes of
the Whinchat and Stonechat. It has besides a harsh “kurr-r,” which it
utters when any one approaches the nest, and as it flits from branch to
branch, lowering the head, and slowly moving the tail up and down.

The male is decidedly a handsome bird. It has the head and neck grey,
with a broad black streak passing from the bill through the eye and ear
coverts, the back reddish chestnut, chin white, under parts pale salmon
colour, and the wings and tail black, the latter broadly marked with
white at the base.

The hen bird is much plainer in appearance, being of a dull and somewhat
mottled brown above, and buffy white beneath, with crescentic brown
markings on the breast and flanks.

The bill in both is short and thick, the upper mandible hooked at the
point and prominently notched or toothed, as in a hawk. The feet are
strong, with sharp and curved claws, and well adapted for seizing and
holding a struggling prey.

Both birds assist in the construction of the nest, which is a
substantial well-built structure of twigs, dry grass, and moss, lined
with fibrous roots and horsehair, and is usually placed at some height
from the ground in the middle of a whitethorn bush, or thick hedgerow.
The eggs, five and sometimes six in number, vary a good deal in colour,
being yellowish or greyish white with lilac or pale brown markings
disposed in a zone at the larger end, or pale salmon colour, with dull
red markings distributed in the same way.

The distribution of this bird in the British Islands is very partial,
for it is unknown in Ireland, of rare occurrence in Scotland, and in
England is found chiefly in the midland and southern counties. During
the summer months it is generally dispersed throughout Europe and the
temperate parts of Siberia, and as autumn approaches, it crosses the
Mediterranean into Africa, where it travels down the east coast through
Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, to Natal, and on the west coast has been
met with in Great Namaqua Land, Damara Land, and the Okavango region,
where, according to Andersson, it breeds.[114]

Breeding in its winter quarters? Well, that is the question. Can the
birds which Andersson found nesting in South-west Africa in our winter,
have been the same birds which reared a brood in Europe the previous
summer? He says it is migratory in Damara Land. Is the same species,
then, found on both sides of the equator, migrating north and south on
both sides of it, but never crossing it?

The late Mr. Blyth thought that, with one exception, our summer
migratory birds do not breed in their winter quarters, but from what has
been recorded of the Swallow, the Sandmartin, the Wryneck, the
Turtle-Dove and the present species, there seems room to doubt the
correctness of this view.

Another species of Shrike, the Woodchat (_Lanius rutilus_), has been met
with in this country during the summer months, and has been reported
even to have nested here. It is of extremely rare occurrence, however,
and cannot with propriety be included, at least for the present, amongst
our annual summer migrants.

                      [Illustration: TURTLE-DOVE]

                            THE TURTLE-DOVE.
                          (_Turtur auritus._)

Amidst the general harmony of the grove in spring, there are few
prettier sounds than the gentle cooing of the Turtle-Dove. Perched upon
a bough at no great height from the ground, it pours forth its soft
murmurings with a delightful _crescendo_ and _diminuendo_, while close
at hand, upon a mere frame-work of a nest, the mate sits brooding upon
her two milk-white eggs.

Arriving in this country towards the end of April or beginning of May,
the Turtle-Dove is seen only in pairs until the young are able to fly.
Young and old then unite in flocks, and ten or a dozen may often be
found together in the pea-fields and on the stubble, where they pick up
the fallen grain. They are very partial also to vetches, rape, and wild
mustard, and do some service to farmers by ridding the cultivated lands
of the seeds of numerous weeds, such as the Corn Spurrey (_Spergula
arvensis_), which is common in corn-fields, and the Silver-weed
(_Potentilla anserina_), which they find upon the fallows.

When Partridge shooting in September I have frequently found
Turtle-Doves feeding amongst the root crops as well as on the bare
stubble, but notwithstanding the cover afforded by the turnip-leaves I
have generally found them so exceedingly wary, that it required a good
deal of manœuvring before I could get a sufficient number to make a pie.
In point of flavour, and of course in size, they are not to be compared
with the Wood Pigeon, being rather dry and somewhat insipid. Their
flight is rapid, and when suddenly flushed they go off at such a pace,
that it requires a quick shot to bring one down.

When taken young they are readily tamed, and will even breed in
confinement, a thing that rarely happens in the case of the Wood Pigeon.
Mr. Stevenson has known two or three instances in which this species
when caged has crossed with the Collared Turtle-Dove (_Turtur risoria_)
and reared a brood, and others have been recorded. The young “presented
many characteristics of both parents.”[115]

Although commoner in the eastern and southeastern counties of England,
the Turtle-Dove is generally dispersed in summer throughout the British
Islands. In Ireland it is regarded as an annual visitant to the
cultivated districts, and it has been found in most of the counties of
Scotland, where Mr. Robert Gray, however, considers that it can only be
ranked as a straggler.[116] All the specimens which have come under his
own observation were obtained in spring or autumn. In the Hebrides
specimens have been shot in Islay and Skye, but in the outer islands
none have been seen. Dr. Saxby says that the Turtle-Dove, “although
formerly very scarce in Shetland, may now be seen every year in certain
of the gardens—that at Halligarth especially—between spring and autumn.
It has always occurred singly. With nearly all the habit was to wander
away during the day-time, returning at night to roost in one particular

It was first known to occur in Shetland in the autumn of 1856, when Mr.
Edmondston of Buness shot one at Balta Sound. “It was but little seen
from that time until about six years ago (1868), by which time the trees
had grown above the walls, offering a more suitable refuge for
stragglers of this description.” On two occasions the Turtle-Dove has
been found in Orkney.[118]

On the continent of Europe this bird seems to be confined chiefly to the
central and southern parts, and does not reach Scandinavia or Russia.
But in France, Spain, and the countries bordering the Mediterranean, it
is very common in summer. Its winter haunts are in North Africa; and in
Egypt and Nubia it is especially abundant. Capt. Shelley says that it
frequently breeds there.[119] In the neighbourhood of Tangier vast
flocks arrive from the interior in April and May to cross the Straits of
Gibraltar,[120] and on reaching Andalusia afford considerable diversion
to the Spanish sportsmen, who kill large numbers by lying in wait for

Mr. Thompson, when proceeding in H. M. S. “Beacon” from Malta to the
Morea in the month of April, saw this species on its spring migration.
One flew on board on the 24th of April, and another on the 25th; they
each rested for a short time on the rigging, and then pursued their
flight northwards. On the 26th four came from the south, two of them
singly, the others in company; one only alighted on the ship; it was
caught in the evening when asleep. Throughout the 27th many were
observed coming from the south, and generally singly, never more than
two together; very few alighted. On the 24th the vessel was at sunset
ninety miles east of Sicily, Syracuse being the nearest land; on the
27th, forty-five miles from Zante, and sixty west of the Morea. On the
29th of April one was seen near Navarino; and another on the 6th of May
in the island of Syra. At the end of the month numbers were observed
amongst the light foliage in the gardens of the old seraglio at

Colonel Irby informs me that when on his way from Southampton to
Gibraltar on the 9th October, he saw a Turtle-Dove on its southward
migration in the middle of the Bay of Biscay.

                 [Illustration: LANDRAIL OR CORNCRAKE]

                       THE LANDRAIL OR CORNCRAKE.
                          (_Crex pratensis._)

Sportsmen who during the early part of September follow their “birds”
into seed—clover, rape, or mustard—seldom fail in such places to pick up
a Landrail or two, and add in this way a pleasing variety to their bag.
The appearance of a Rail usually gives rise to some comment, and not
unfrequently to an expression of surprise that a bird of such skulking
habits and apparently of such weak flight should be able to leave the
country periodically, and return to it. That it does so, however, is
certain. It arrives here towards the end of April, and remains with us
till the end of September. During May and part of June its incessant
craking note is constantly reminding us of its presence; and if in July
and August its silence has caused us for a time to forget it, we renew
acquaintance once more in September, when in quest of nobler and more
important game. After that month we may look for it almost in vain, for,
although a Landrail now and then turns up during the winter months, its
appearance at such times is exceptional, the great majority of these
birds having left our shores before the first day of pheasant shooting
has come round. We can only account for the appearance of Landrails in
winter by supposing them to be individuals of a late brood, unprepared
to leave at the proper time, or wounded birds unable to take part in the
autumnal migration. In Ireland, however, their occurrence in winter and
early spring has been noticed so much more frequently than in England,
that a good naturalist there, Mr. Blake Knox, has suggested that the
bird hybernates. Writing in the “Zoologist” for 1867, at page 679 he
says: “I cannot divest myself of the belief that the Corncrake
hybernates, notwithstanding my having found it repeatedly dead in the
sea, both during autumn and spring, which many would say should prove
migration to the most sceptical. I do not for one moment doubt that it
leaves Ireland in numbers in the autumn, but where does it go? Does it
hybernate where it goes to? Is it to be met with anywhere in numbers,
flying or running, during our winter? Does it only crake in its spring
or summer haunts? In support of hybernation, we have the great amount of
fat, coming on in winter (Corncrakes often burst from fat when they fall
on being shot), which all hybernating animals attain; the number of
uninjured and healthy birds found in Ireland during winter, their
peculiar skulking habits at this season, the old hollow ditches they
frequent, their peculiar apathy and disinclination to fly, and their
early appearance without ‘craking’ (I have seen them in the middle of
March) along the sedges of rivers, which would be the first places they
would make for after their winter rest. I do not see why hybernation of
birds is so much scouted, for scores of animals and millions of insects
do so. Many fishes, too, become so torpid that you may fish for weeks
and not get one, yet some fine day dozens of the kind you look for will
reward your patience; still you have been told or read somewhere that
that species migrates from our shores in autumn “to seek more genial
skies,’ and that is why they are not caught in winter. The subject is
very far from being absurd, though many have considered it equally so
with ‘Corncrake turning to Water-rail.’ I knocked down a ditch bank some
years ago in January, and turned out three living Corncrakes, and ate
them too. In the year 1861, during November and December, I used
frequently to turn out of a particular hole one of these birds; I caught
it at last one night in the hole—or nest I might say, for it was thickly
bedded with leaves from a neighbouring dunghill, on which beech leaves
had been thrown; but I let it go after some time—in honesty, not through
kindness, but because I could not help it, for it could pass through any
hole, almost, as Paddy used to say, “as limber as a glove.’ I could also
state many instances of dogs chasing Corncrakes in winter to holes, and
in one case remember how nearly I was summoned for tearing down a man’s
ditch bank ‘in pursuit of rats,’ as he said, though he had two eyes and
saw the bird run from hole to hole. More learned men than he may have
often thought the same thing. Hybernating, in my view, would not mean a
dead, torpid state. I should consider it a sleepy, inactive state—a
lying-up in cold weather, and a temporary arousing during genial days;
and in this state I have met the Corncrake in winter.”

Before one can accept the hybernation theory, however, some stronger
evidence in its favour would be desirable—the discovery, for instance,
of a Landrail in a torpid state from which it might be observed to
recover. At present I do not remember to have heard of such an instance,
and, so far as one’s knowledge of the bird extends, it seems far more
probable that it seeks holes in banks and old walls merely for shelter
and warmth, in the neighbourhood of which it contrives to find
sufficient nourishment to keep it alive, until such time as the
increasing warmth of spring brings increase of insects and molluscous
food. An examination of the alimentary system of the Water-rail (_Rallus
aquaticus_) shows that this bird is no better fitted to withstand an
English winter than its cousin the Landrail, and yet it is frequently
found by sportsmen upon Snipe-ground at the height of the cold season.
Its good condition too at this time testifies to there being a
sufficient supply of food, which should be equally obtainable by the

The nature of this food is miscellaneous—slugs and snails of several
species, small freshwater mollusca, worms, leeches, beetles, the seeds
of various weeds, and tips of grass blades; in addition to which the
stomach is usually found to contain numerous small particles of gravel
or grit as aids to digestion.[121]

In its search for this kind of food, the Landrail must traverse daily an
immense tract of ground, for which, however, its strong muscular legs
and large feet are well adapted.

For six months at least in the year it appears to be very generally
distributed throughout the British Islands; and in Ireland, owing to the
more humid climate and the general prevalence of meadow land, it is
thought to be even commoner than in England. As regards Scotland, the
latest authority on the subject, Mr. Robert Gray, in his “Birds of the
West of Scotland,” says: “There is, perhaps, no Scottish bird more
generally distributed than the familiar Corncrake. It is found in every
district, cultivated and uncultivated, on the western mainland, from the
Mull of Galloway to Cape Wrath, and also over the whole extent of both
groups of islands, and all the rocky islets on the west coast, extending
to Haskeir Rocks, the Monach Islands, and St. Kilda. It will, in fact,
take up its abode and rear its young on such places as are almost
exclusively frequented by birds dependent on the sea for their daily
subsistence, all that can be looked upon as an attraction being but an
occasional patch of grass and a moist hollow, to remind it of the
distant meadow where, perchance, it had its haunts the previous summer.
I have observed it in the uninhabited islands of the Hebridean seas, and
have heard it near the summit of Ailsa Craig, rasping its eerie cry
after nightfall, as a rude lullaby to the Gulls hatching on the grassy
verge of a precipice.”

This is by no means the limit of its haunts northward and westward; for
besides being found in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and the Faroe Isles,
it actually visits Greenland, and on several occasions has been met with
on the eastern coast of the United States, whither it must have
travelled, doubtless, _viâ_ Greenland. A single instance is on record of
its having been shot in the Bermudas,[122] although this group of
islands is distant from Cape Hatteras—the nearest point of the North
American coast—about 600 miles. After this, English sportsmen need
scarcely be surprised at its ability to cross the Channel.

Before the end of September it has commenced to migrate southwards on
its way to its winter quarters in Algeria, Egypt, Asia Minor, and
Palestine. It is said to be rare in Portugal, and seen on passage only
in Spain, touching also at the Azores. It goes, however, much further
south, as will be seen presently. Signor Bettoni includes it amongst the
birds which breed regularly in Lombardy;[123] and Messrs. Elwes and
Buckley note it (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 333) as found in Epirus and
Constantinople. In Corfu it is met with sparingly in April and
September, on its spring and autumn migrations. A single instance is on
record of its having been shot in Oudh;[124] but Mr. Blyth informed me
that he knew of no other authority for it as an Indian bird, although he
had seen specimens from Afghanistan. South of the Equator the Landrail
penetrates to Natal (_cf._ Gurney, “Ibis,” 1863, p. 331), and, according
to Mr. Layard (“Birds of South Africa,” p. 338), a solitary specimen has
been procured in Cape Colony.

Mr. Ayres, who has shot it in Natal, writing of its habits (“Ibis,”
1863, p. 331), says: “Having been once flushed, it is a difficult matter
to put them up a second time out of the long grass; for, besides running
with great swiftness, they have a curious method of evading the dogs by
leaping with closed wings and compressed feathers over the long grass
some three or four yards, and then, running a short distance, they leap
again. The scent being thus broken, they generally evade the most
keen-scented dogs; and so quickly are these strange leaps made, that it
is only by mere chance that the birds are seen.” Many an English
sportsman can testify to their power of evading good dogs, although they
may not quite know how it is done. Nor is this the only way in which the
Landrail displays its cunning. If surprised suddenly and caught, it will
often feign death, and remain perfectly stiff and motionless for several
minutes, to all appearance dead, but in reality only waiting for an
opportunity to steal off unobserved. I have known two or three instances
in which this _ruse_ has been practised with success upon unsuspecting
naturalists. Those who intend, therefore, to investigate the subject of
hybernation should be on their guard against what at first sight might
strike them as an instance of torpidity.

                         GENERAL OBSERVATIONS.

In the year 1872, through the medium of the Natural History columns of
“The Field,” a series of observations were made by naturalists in
different parts of England on the subject of “Our Summer Migrants.” A
form of calendar was distributed and filled up by each according to his
opportunities. In this way, by the end of the year six hundred and
forty-five separate observations were placed on record, and it devolved
upon me to prepare a report from the statistics so furnished. As a good
deal of interesting information was thus brought to light, it occurs to
me that I may appropriately bring the present volume to a close by
extracting so much of the report as relates strictly to the subject
matter in hand, and I accordingly do so.

In the calendars returned, some thirty species of summer migratory birds
are mentioned with more or less frequency. The majority of the
observations upon them have reference, as might be supposed, to the
dates of their arrival and departure, or, more correctly speaking, to
the dates when they were first heard or seen and last observed. When
referring some time previously to the utilization of such observations,
it was remarked that upon various points some addition to our knowledge
was desirable. Amongst other interesting facts, for example, might be
ascertained the precise line of direction in which various species
migrate, the causes which necessitate a divergence from this line, the
relative proportions in which different species visit us, the causes
which influence the abundance or scarcity of a species in particular
localities, the result of too great a preponderance of one species over
another, whether beneficial or otherwise to man as a cultivator of the
soil, the simultaneity or otherwise of departure from this country in
autumn, the causes operating to retard such departure, and so forth. All
these are matters of interest, especially to those who reside in the
country, and have leisure to inquire into the subject. Let us see how
far the observations supplied furnish a reply to these inquiries.

Of the thirty species of migrants mentioned, the Swallow, as might be
supposed, has attracted the largest share of attention, and in regard to
the number of observations made upon it stands at the head of the list
with forty-three. The Cuckoo comes next with thirty-eight; the
Chiff-chaff and Swift follow with thirty and thirty respectively; and so
on through the list, as given below, to the Reed Warbler, upon which
bird, strange to say, no more than three observations were made.

The following list will give some idea of the amount of attention which
each bird received.

          Swallow                  43
          Cuckoo                   38
          Chiff-chaff              30
          Swift                    30
          Willow Wren              29
          Sandmartin               27
          Whitethroat              26
          Blackcap                 25
          Redstart                 25
          Flycatcher               24
          Landrail                 24
          Nightingale              23
          Martin                   23
          Tree Pipit               21
          Sedge Warbler            17
          Yellow Wagtail           16
          Wryneck                  16
          Nightjar                 16
          Wheatear                 15
          Whinchat                 15
          Lesser Whitethroat       14
          Grasshopper Warbler      12
          Turtle Dove              10
          Common Sandpiper         10
          Wood Wren                 9
          Pied Flycatcher           9
          Red-backed Shrike         9
          Garden Warbler            8
          Reed Warbler              3
          Various                  78

The first Swallow was seen, not as might be supposed in the south or
south-east of England, but four miles south of Glasgow, on the 2nd of
March, and Mr. Robert Gray states that this is the earliest record of
its arrival in Scotland. It is, indeed, an exceptionally early arrival,
for nearly a month expired before another was seen at Cromer, on the
31st of the same month, and six weeks elapsed between the first and
second appearance of the bird in Scotland. On the 1st April, with a S.E.
wind, this harbinger of spring arrived at Great Cotes, in Lincolnshire,
and on the 3rd of that month was noticed simultaneously at Nottingham
and Taunton. From the 6th of April the arrival of Swallows was pretty
general until the 13th, when they were first noticed in Ireland at
Ballina, co. Mayo, and on the following day at Glasnevin, Dublin, and at
Bray, in the county of Wicklow. The temperature then at Bray was 53°,
and the wind S.W. In these localities and dates there is nothing to
indicate anything like a precise line of immigration; on the contrary,
the birds first appeared where they were least expected. The prevalence
of gales, however, at that particular season doubtless operated to
retard their progress, and induced them to linger about sheltered
localities where food could be obtained. Mr. Wm. Jeffery, who is well
situated for observation on the Sussex coast, between the downs and the
sea, remarked that most of the spring migrants were several days later
than usual in their arrival, and the Swallow in particular not only came
later, but lingered longer than is its wont in his neighbourhood. A
single bird of this species was seen by him, flying round a steam
threshing-machine, on the 10th of December. “Whether it had been
disturbed,” he says, “from hybernation in the oatrick which was being
threshed, or only attracted by the warmth from the engine, I cannot say.
It flew very weakly, and was not long seen.”

On the 2nd of November, with the temperature at 45·5°, and the wind W.,
the species was still in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield, and on the
13th November, during cold weather, two were seen on the beach at
Exmouth. I may here remark that but little attention is paid to the time
of departure of a species compared to that which is given to the date of
its arrival.

The Martin was observed to come later and go earlier than the Swallow,
the earliest and latest dates being respectively April 10 at
Marlborough, and November 7 at Leiston, Suffolk. And in the case of this
bird the movement northwards might be traced by the dates, as Wiltshire,
April 10; Worcester, April 11; Yorkshire, April 11 and 13 (the weather
fine, with temperature 53°, and wind W.); Derbyshire, April 15. Further
to the westward, viz., at Llandderfel, in Merionethshire, its appearance
was not noticed until the 13th of May, when the temperature stood at
48°, and the wind N.W. Strange to say, it was not observed in 1872 by
any correspondent in Scotland and Ireland.

The Sandmartin is always amongst the first comers to arrive, and was
seen in three different counties during the last week of March, viz., in
Sussex, Wilts, and Worcester, the weather dull, with the wind blowing
from the westward. Its stay in this country is never so prolonged as
that of the Swallow, or even the Martin. Large flights are observed
preparing to migrate at the end of August and beginning of September,
and at the end of the latter month all have gone southward again for the
winter. In 1872, however, the species was seen exceptionally as late as
October 7.

The Swift is rarely seen before the first week of May or after the first
week of August, and of thirty independent observations upon this bird,
three only refer to its appearance during the last days of April,
four-and-twenty record its arrival between the 1st and 17th of May, and
three only relate to its disappearance—from Garvoch, Perthshire, on July
29, from Leicester on August 2, and from Exeter on August 12. It was
first seen upon the Devonshire coast at Plymouth and Torquay, and at the
former place was particularly numerous. It may be worth noting that a
male Swift shot at Cromer by Mr. J. H. Gurney, jun., on June 15, was
found to have the under parts denuded of feathers, which would indicate
that the males take their turn at incubation.

The Swallows and Swifts are thus brought together, out of the order of
the above list, to admit of a more easy comparison of the dates of
arrival and departure. We will now follow the order above indicated,
commenting only on such facts as appear noteworthy.

The thirty observations which relate to the Cuckoo tend to show that the
usual time of its arrival in this country is between the 20th and 27th
of April, and in no instance was it observed before the 6th of April (at
Torquay) which was considered an exceptionally early date to meet with
it. On the Lincolnshire shore it arrived with a southerly wind, in
Merionethshire with a west wind, and on the Irish coast with a
south-west wind, the weather warm and mild, the temperature 49° to

The most northerly point of observation was Dundee, where it was seen on
April 29, but it had been previously noticed at Garvoch, Perthshire, on
the 27th, and near Falkirk in Stirlingshire on the 25th of the same
month. In Fife, Forfar, and Tayside, Mr. P. Henderson, from personal
observation, has frequently found Cuckoos’ breasts bare of feathers, as
if from incubation, and has observed old birds feeding their own young—a
fact in the economy of this bird which has frequently been disputed.

As early as the 2nd of March the Chiff-chaff arrived at Torquay; and,
being seen at Chudleigh and Taunton on the 9th, at Northrepps, Norfolk,
on the 13th, Hovingham, near York, on the 14th, and Melbourne,
Derbyshire, on the 28th, it is easy to trace the gradual movement from
south to north of this restless but hardy little bird. A south or
south-west wind seems to be most favourable to its arrival, but in this
case, as in the case of other species, the data are not sufficient to
enable one to judge of this with certainty. It was last seen on Sept. 12
at Sparham in Norfolk.

The Willow Wren was noticed in the midland and northern counties long
before its arrival was recorded on the south coast. In Devonshire and
Sussex it was observed during the first week of April on various dates
from the 3rd to the 7th; in Surrey, Berks, Herts, Norfolk, Lincoln, and
Yorkshire somewhat later, that is to say, between the 7th and the 10th
of the month; and yet at Nottingham and Melbourne in Derbyshire it was
seen upon the exceptionally early date of March 29. In every case where
the wind was noted at the time, it was blowing from the W. or S.W.,
generally from the latter quarter.

Only one notice was supplied of its occurrence in Wales, namely, in the
parish of Llandderfel on April 28; but this date does not throw much
light upon the progress of the bird westward, for its arrival had
already been noted at Glasnevin, co. Dublin, on the 10th, and at
Ballina, co. Mayo, on the 13th of the same month. On the last-mentioned
date its appearance in Scotland was chronicled in the county of
Stirling, but no information was given during that year of its having
been observed further north.

In the case of the Common Whitethroat something like a line of migration
is indicated by the dates at which the bird was observed. Thus, arriving
on the Devonshire, Sussex, and Kentish shores on April 11, 13, and 14
respectively, it was in Berkshire, at East and West Woodhay, on the 15th
and 16th; in Leicestershire on the 18th, at Nottingham on the 21st, at
Great Cotes in Lincolnshire on the 22nd, at Hovingham, near York, on the
23rd, and by May 6 was as far north as Falkirk. The wind, in all cases
where it was noticed, was blowing from the west or south-west, the
temperature gradually rising from 48° to 62°.

Of the five-and-twenty observations made upon the Blackcap, the majority
relate to its appearance in the second week of April, and it would seem
that in the case of this species, the further north we go, the later the
date of its arrival. At Torquay it was observed on the 7th, Marlborough
on the 10th, East and West Woodhay, Berks, on the 15th, Barnsley on the
16th, Burton on the 23rd, and Melbourne, Derbyshire, on the 27th. No
record was furnished of its occurrence either in Scotland or in Ireland,
where it is at all times a rare bird. It was last seen at Nottingham on
Nov. 4. The Blackcap, however, does not invariably quit this country in
autumn; many instances of individuals having been seen here in
mid-winter have been reported by competent observers. It has
occasionally happened, however, that the Coal Titmouse (_Parus ater_),
which is a resident species, has been mistaken for this bird.

In the West of England, during the year referred to, the Redstart seems
to have made its appearance somewhat earlier than usual, having been
noted at Bishop’s Lydeard, near Taunton, on the 3rd of April. On the 6th
it was seen at Keswick, in Norfolk, and on the 8th and three following
days in four different localities in Yorkshire; the wind S.W., and the
temperature about 51°. After the middle of the month this bird became
more numerous, and was very generally observed. In Derbyshire, at
Melbourne, it was not seen until April 24, where it seems to have
arrived with a S.E. wind; and going still further north, we find it in
Stirlingshire and Sutherlandshire on the 27th and 28th. In Ireland it is
very rare, and no note was forwarded of its occurrence there in 1872.

The Spotted Flycatcher is always a late comer, seldom appearing before
the first or second week in May. Last year, however, it arrived somewhat
earlier than usual, and was noticed in Norfolk, at North Runcton, on
April 23, and at Barnsley on the 27th; the wind W., and the temperature
about 54° with a haze and light rain. Mr. A. D. Campbell states that
Flycatchers were unusually numerous at Garvoch, in Perthshire, about the
21st of May, and were first seen there on the 19th. By Aug. 27 they had
all disappeared. Only one note was received of its appearance in
Ireland—viz., on May 31, at Ballina, co. Mayo. Mr. Thomas Ruddy, of Palé
Gardens, Llandderfel, Merionethshire, referring to this species, says
that he saw the old birds in July catching bees, not only in the air,
but on the hive-board.

The Landrail, or Corncrake, as it is indifferently called,[125] arrived
pretty generally during the last week of April, and was noticed by a
great many observers on the 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th of that month. On
the last-mentioned date it was observed in the county of Dublin, and on
May 1st at Ballina, co. Mayo. Apparently it did not reach Scotland until
a week later, for the first record of its appearance there is on May 8,
at Fife. On May 14 and 15 its presence in Stirlingshire and
Sutherlandshire was attested by two good observers. The scarcity of this
bird in some seasons is a theme with which readers of “The Field” of
late years have become tolerably familiar; but no light is thrown upon
the subject, nor is any cause suggested by those from whom calendars
were received.

That far-famed songster, the Nightingale, whose notes are so eagerly
listened for in early spring, was not heard last year before April 9;
but, from causes already referred to, the first utterance of song does
not always indicate the earliest arrival, and it is probable that the
birds had already been some days in their favourite haunts before their
welcome notes betrayed them.

No more favourable locality for this species could be found, perhaps,
than that wherein they were soonest observed—namely, the neighbourhood
of Ratham, in Sussex. Situated on the flat country between the downs and
the sea, about three miles from the former and seven from the latter,
with an arm of harbour within two miles, it offers, with its attractions
of wood and water, a tempting resting-place to these small winged
invaders on their arrival, and furnishes, moreover, a fine post of
observation to the inquiring naturalist. Here, throughout April and May,
the woods of West Ashling and the copses around Kingley Vale resound
with the songs of various warblers, but especially of Nightingales,
which find in this safe retreat an immunity from traps which is not
everywhere accorded them. On April 10 their remarkable note was detected
at Reigate; on the 12th they were singing at East and West Woodhay, in
Berkshire; while from the last-named date until April 18 they were daily
noticed in various parts of Norfolk and Suffolk. From thence, through
Leicester, Derby, and Nottingham, we trace this bird to Yorkshire, where
on May 5 we find it at Barnsley, the temperature, according to that good
observer Mr. Lister, standing at 50°, and the wind W. Further north than
this in 1872 there were no tidings of it, although in former years I
have both seen and heard it in the woods by the waterside at Walton
Hall, near Wakefield, and have been informed of its occurrence five
miles to the northward of York.

I had proposed in these “General Observations” to confine attention
strictly to the facts disclosed by “The Field Calendar;” but the subject
of the distribution of the Nightingale in England is of such interest to
ornithologists, and even to those who, without professing to be
naturalists, take a pleasure in listening to the bird, and are not
unwilling to learn something about it, that I venture to give an extract
from another source which I feel assured will be considered most

Writing upon this subject in his new edition of Yarrell’s “British
Birds,” now in course of publication, Prof. Newton says (vol. i. p.
315): “In England the Nightingale’s western limit seems to be formed by
the valley of the Exe, though once, and once only, Montagu, on this
point an unerring witness, heard it singing on the 4th of May, 1806,
near Kingsbridge in South Devon, and it is said to have been heard at
Teignmouth, as well as in the north of the same county at Barnstaple.
But even in the east of Devon it is local and rare, as it also is in the
north of Somerset, though plentiful in other parts of the latter county.
Crossing the Bristol Channel, it is said to be not uncommon at times
near Cowbridge in Glamorganshire. Dr. Bree states (‘Zoologist,’ p. 1211)
that it is found plentifully on the banks of the Wye near Tintern; and
thence there is more or less good evidence of its occurrence in
Herefordshire, Salop, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and in Yorkshire to
about five miles north of its chief city, but, as Mr. T. Allis states,
not further. Along the line thus sketched out, and immediately to the
east and south of it, the appearance of the Nightingale, even if
regular, is in most cases rare, and the bird local; but further away
from the boundary it occurs yearly with great regularity in every
county, and in some places is very numerous. Mr. More states that it is
thought to have once bred in Sunderland, and it is said to have been
once heard in Westmoreland, and also, in the summer of 1808, near
Carlisle; but these assertions must be looked upon with great suspicion,
particularly the last, which rests on anonymous authority only. Still
more open to doubt are the statements of the Nightingales occurrence in
Scotland, such as Mr. Duncan’s (not on his own evidence, be it
remarked), published by Macgillivray (“British Birds,’ ii. p. 334),
respecting a pair believed to have visited Calder Wood in Mid Lothian in
1826; or Mr. Turnbull’s (‘Birds of East Lothian,’ p. 39) of its being
heard near Dalmeny Park in the same county in June, 1839. In Ireland
there is no trace of this species.”

It has long been well known that the male birds arrive in this country
many days before the females; but, of twenty-three observations made
upon the Nightingale, not one refers to or confirms this fact.

The Nightingale has been pictured by poets and naturalists in various
romantic situations, but perhaps never before in so unromantic a spot as
“under a bathing-machine”! Yet Mr. Monk states that on the 13th of
April, 1872, there were “Nightingales on the beach _under the
bathing-machines_ along the whole length of the shore at Brighton.” The
explanation which suggests itself is that the birds had just arrived,
and had sought the first shelter which offered—a woody shelter, it is
true, and a shady one, although of a very different kind to that which
the birds had been accustomed to.

The observations made upon the Tree Pipit, twenty-one in number, call
for no particular comment, save that the direction of the wind at
several dates of supposed arrival was from a S.W. or S.E. quarter,
corresponding with what has been observed of other migratory birds, and
tending to show that they prefer to travel with a side wind rather than
with a head wind or the reverse.

In the eastern counties, for example, it was observed that the Tree
Pipit arrived in Norfolk with a S.S.E. wind, the temperature being 52°;
in Lincolnshire with a wind veering from S. to S.E. and E., the weather
dry, cold, and cloudy; in Yorkshire with a S.W. wind, weather fine, and
temperature 47·5°. It was first observed at Bushey, in Hertfordshire, as
if arriving directly from the eastward, on the 8th of April; and was
last heard at Ratham, near the coast of Sussex, on Sept. 15. The
furthest point north at which it was noted was near Stirling on May 1.
In Ireland it is unknown.

In the case of the Sedge Warbler, we again remark observations on the
wind at the presumed dates of arrival in all respects confirmatory of
what has been already stated. Four good observers in the counties of
Norfolk, Lincoln, Derby, and York noted the direction of the wind when
first meeting with this bird as S.S.E., S.W., S.E., and S.S.W.,
respectively. No record of its occurrence in 1872 either in Scotland or
Ireland was received. The general period of its arrival in England seems
to be during the last fortnight of April.

About the same period arrives the Yellow Wagtail, or Ray’s Wagtail, as
it is called by many, respecting which bird sixteen observations were
received from different parts of the country. It does not appear to have
been met with further north than Wakefield, and no notice was taken of
it by correspondents in Scotland and Ireland.

The Wryneck, or Cuckoo’s-mate, long preceded the Cuckoo in the date of
its arrival, having been heard at Reigate as early as March 31, and at
Ratham, in Sussex, on April 2. On the 6th and 7th of the latter month it
was observed at several localities in Norfolk, and its appearance
generally throughout England in 1872 seems to have been noted during the
first fortnight of April. Mr. Lister states that, although found in the
neighbourhood of Barnsley in previous years, it was not observed there
in 1872.

The Nightjar seems to have been generally met with throughout the
country as far west as Llandderfel, in Merionethshire, and as far north
as Garvoch, in Perthshire. Mr. Gatcombe observed it in the neighbourhood
of Plymouth on April 10, but this must be regarded as an exceptionally
early date, for the majority of my correspondents did not meet with it
until quite the end of April and beginning of May. On the 15th of June
Mr. P. Henderson found two young Nightjars on Tents Muir, Fife, _amidst
a colony of terns_ (!), and kept them alive for some time on moths,
worms, and pieces of raw meat.

The Wheatear and Whinchat received an equal share of attention in the
fifteen observations upon each which were forwarded. The first-named
appeared at Plymouth as early as March 6, but the observer in this
instance, Mr. Gatcombe, states that he hardly ever knew it so early
before. It was observed, however, on the same day at Feltwell, Norfolk,
by Mr. Upcher; and Mr. Rope reports that in 1871 he saw it at Leiston,
in Suffolk, on March 2. In 1872 in the same neighbourhood it did not
arrive until March 18, and was much scarcer than in former years. The
calendars enable one to trace it that year as far north as Falkirk,
where it was seen on April 1; but this is by no means its northern
limit, as there is abundant evidence to show.

The Whinchat is not generally seen in this country until the last week
of April, and this is confirmed by the notes before me. Mr. J. J.
Briggs, however, met with it near Melbourne, in Derbyshire, on April 3;
but he appends the remark that he considers this an unusually early
date. Mr. J. A. Harvie Browne states that the Whinchat during mild
winters occasionally remains in Stirlingshire.

The Lesser Whitethroat was noticed almost exclusively in the midland
counties, the earliest date for its arrival being April 12, at Sparham,
Norfolk, and the most northerly locality Barnsley. It goes much further
north, however, than this, but is considered rare in Scotland, and is
unknown in Ireland.

The Grasshopper Warbler was met with throughout the month of April in
about a dozen different localities, and, like the last-named species,
chiefly in the midland counties. It goes at least as far north, however,
as Oban, in Argyleshire. To the westward, it was noted at Taunton in the
middle of May. It is a regular summer migrant to Ireland, although in
1872 it was not noticed there by any correspondent.

Like several of the preceding, the Turtle Dove is oftener observed in
the southern and midland counties of England, although stragglers are
occasionally met with as far north as Northumberland, and even in
Scotland. In the Hebrides specimens have been shot in Islay and Skye,
but not in the outer islands. Dr. Saxby has recorded several instances
of its occurrence in Shetland, and it has twice been procured in Orkney.
In Ireland it is regarded as an annual summer visitant to the cultivated

The Wood Wren was noticed nowhere earlier than the 23rd of April, on
which date it was heard by Mr. Inchbald at Hovingham, near York; and the
paucity of observations on this and the four following species show that
they must be very local in their distribution, or less frequently seen
than many of their more obtrusive congeners. The Wood Wren apparently
comes very much later than either the Chiffchaff or the Willow Wren.

Nine observations only on the Pied Flycatcher were forwarded. These,
however, contain one or two notes of interest. The bird has become much
commoner of late years, or more observed; and in 1872 it appears to have
been met with much further north than usual. A specimen was shot at N.
Berwick by Mr. W. Patterson, and exhibited at the Glasgow Natural
History Society on the 24th of September, 1872; and another was procured
at Biora, in Sutherland, on the 31st of May, by Mr. T. E. Buckley. In
Yorkshire it seems to have been very numerous, a score being heard at
once in one locality, near York, on the 29th of May. It was found
nesting in Norfolk, at Sparham, eggs being laid and the hen bird
sitting, on the 3rd of June. To the westward, it was noted at
Cirencester; and was found nesting, as in previous years, at
Llandderfel, in Merionethshire.

The Red-backed Shrike, or Butcher-bird, is almost confined to the
southern midland counties of England, and although stragglers have been
met with occasionally in Scotland, it is always regarded as a rare bird
there; and in Ireland it is quite unknown. Mr. Cordeaux states that he
has never observed it in Lincolnshire. It is always a late comer,
seldom, if ever, arriving before the first week in May; and the earliest
date recorded for its appearance in any of the calendars is May 2, on
which day it was seen at Ratham, near Chichester. Mr. Donald Mathews has
observed, in the neighbourhood of Redditch, that it commences
nidification immediately on its arrival. The custom which now prevails
of “plashing,” or laying the tall hedgerows in which the Butcher-bird
delights to dwell, has caused it in many localities to forsake haunts
where once it was quite numerous. This has been particularly remarked,
in Middlesex and the counties adjoining.

The observations upon the Garden Warbler, of which eight only are
furnished, do not call for any particular comment, save an expression of
surprise that a bird with so good a song should not have attracted more
attention. The 21st of April is the earliest date recorded for its
arrival, at Burton-on-Trent. One would certainly have expected also to
find more notice taken of the Reed Warbler, a noisy little bird, whose
incessant babbling by reedy ponds and at the riverside makes it almost
impossible to overlook it. Nevertheless, but three notes were forwarded
of its occurrence in 1872—two in Norfolk, at Lynn and Hempstead, and one
in Wilts, at Marlborough; at the last-named place on the 31st of May, at
least six weeks after its usual time for arriving. It is not easy to
account for its being so overlooked, for it cannot be regarded as by any
means a rare bird, although it may be a local one.

Colonel Irby, who has had opportunities of seeing many of our summer
migratory birds on passage, from two good posts of observation,
Gibraltar and Tangier, thus refers to the subject in his
recently-published volume on the “Ornithology of the Straits of

“Most of the land birds pass by day, usually crossing the Straits in the
morning. The waders are, as a rule, not seen on passage; so it may be
concluded they pass by night, although I have occasionally observed
Peewits, Golden Plover, Terns and Gulls, passing by day.

“The autumnal or return migration is less conspicuous than the vernal;
and whether the passage is performed by night, or whether the birds
return by some other route, or whether they pass straight on, not
lingering by the way as in spring, is an open question; but during the
autumn months passed by me at Gibraltar, I failed to notice the passage
as in spring, though more than once during the month of August, which I
spent at Gibraltar, myself and others distinctly heard Bee-eaters
passing south at night, and so conclude other birds, may do the same.

“The best site for watching the departure of the vernal migration is at
Tangier, where just outside the town the well-known plain called the
Marshan, a high piece of ground that in England would be called a
common, seems to be the starting-point of half the small birds that
visit Europe.

“Both the vernal and autumnal migrations are generally executed during
an easterly wind, or Levanter. At one time I thought that this was
essential to the passage; but it appears not to be the case, as whether
it be an east or west wind, if it be the time for migration, birds will
pass, though they linger longer on the African coast before starting if
the wind be westerly; and all the very large flights of _Raptores_
(Kites, Neophrons, Honey-Buzzards, &c.), which I have seen, passed with
a Levanter. After observing the passage for five springs, I am unable to
come to any decided opinion; the truth being, that as an east wind is
the prevalent one, the idea has been started that migration always takes
place during that wind. Nevertheless, it is an undoubted fact, that
during the autumnal or southern migration of the Quail in September,
they collect in vast numbers on the European side, if there be a west
wind, and seem not to be able to pass until it changes to the east; this
is so much the case that, if the wind keeps in that quarter during the
migration, none hardly are to be seen.

“On some occasions the passage of the larger birds of prey is a most
wonderful sight; but of all the remarkable flights of any single
species, that of the common Crane has been the most noteworthy that has
come under my own observation.

“On the Andalusian side the number of birds seen even by the ordinary
traveller appears strikingly large; this being, no doubt, in a great
measure caused by the quantity which are, for ten months, at least, out
of the year, more or less on migration; that is to say, with the
exception of June and July, there is no month in which the passage of
birds is not noticeable, June being the only one in which there may be
said to be absolutely no migration, as during the month of July Cuckoos
and some Bee-eaters return to the south.”


As the Swallows are amongst the first to arrive, so they are amongst the
last to depart. Long before chill winds and falling leaves have ushered
in the month of October, the Warblers, Pipits, and Flycatchers have left
the woods and fields, and hurried down to the coast on their southward
route. But the Swallows, loth to leave us, linger on far into the
autumn, and only bid us adieu when they miss the genial influence of the
sun’s rays, and can no longer find a sufficient supply of food. The
sportsman who crosses the country with dog and gun in October cannot
fail to remark the absence of the numerous small birds which were so
conspicuous throughout the summer. The Wheatear has deserted the rabbit
warren; the Stonechat and Whinchat have left the furzy common, to make
way for the Linnet and the Brambling. In the turnip fields, Thrushes and
Meadow Pipits have usurped the place of Whitethroats and Yellow
Wagtails; while in the thick hedgerows and coverts noisy Tits now occupy
the boughs which were so lately tenanted by the less attractive but more
tuneful Willow Wrens.

To the reflecting naturalist, this curious change of bird life furnishes
a subject for meditation in many a day’s walk, and is a source of much
pleasant occupation. Whether we study the birds themselves in their
proper haunts, ascertain the nature of their food and their consequent
value to man as a cultivator of the soil; or inquire into the cause of
their migration, and their distribution in other parts of the world, we
have at all times an interesting theme to dwell upon.

From a perusal of the foregoing chapters it will be seen that “our
summer migrants” may be classified into certain well-defined groups,
according to their structure and habits, and the haunts which they
frequent. Upon the wild open wastes and commons we find the Chats, to
which family belong the Whinchat, the Stonechat, and the well-known
Wheatear. In the hedgerows and copses are to be seen the three species
of Willow Warblers—the Wood Wren, Willow Wren, and Chiff-chaff. Wooded
gardens and fruit trees attract the Garden Warbler, Blackcap, and
Whitethroats; and the thick sedge and waving flags by the waterside
shelter the various species of River Warblers. In the open meadows and
moist places by the river bank of sea coast we need not search long to
find the Pipits and Wagtails; and while the Flycatchers perch familiarly
on our garden walls, or pick the aphis off the fruit trees, the Swallows
build under our very eaves, and claim our protection for their young.
High above all, the noisy Swift holds his rapid, wondrous flight,
wheeling and screaming to his heart’s content.

At all these birds we have now taken a peep. We have found them in their
proper haunts, examined their skill as architects, and their powers as
musicians. We have inquired into the nature of their food, the number
and colour of their eggs, and their mode of rearing their young; any
peculiar adaptation of structure to habits or curious mode of living has
been duly noted; and, not content with studying them at home, we have
followed these delicate visitors to foreign climes, and found them in
their winter quarters.

It is hoped that the reader ere he closes this volume will have gleaned
some little information that may be new to him concerning these most
interesting families of small birds, whose fairy forms in summer time
flit so continually before us, and whose presence or absence makes so
great a difference to the naturalist in his enjoyment of a country walk.


[1]“Nat. Hist. Ireland;” Birds, i. pp. 176, 177.

[2]“Hist. Brit. Birds,” ii. p. 292.

[3]As to other changes in the fauna and flora which have taken place
    since Gilbert White’s day in the district of which he wrote, the
    reader may be referred to the Preface to my edition of the “Natural
    History of Selborne” recently published.

[4]_Cf._ More, “Ibis,” 1865, p. 22.

[5]Yarrell, “Hist. Brit. Birds,” 4th ed. vol. i. pp. 427, 442.

[6]Mr. Blake-Knox subsequently corrected his statement, remarking that
    he had by mistake written _second_ instead of _third_ primary quill.
    The first primary is so rudimentary as almost to escape observation.

[7]Dr. Bree states that he has occasionally observed the Willow Wren
    taking currants from his trees.

[8]See Professor Newton’s edition of Yarrell’s “History of British
    Birds,” vol. i. p. 360.

[9]See Professor Newton’s edition of Yarrell’s “History of British
    Birds,” vol. i. p. 360.

[10]This specimen was recorded at the time by Dr. Carte in the “Journal
    of the Royal Dublin Society,” vol. i. p. 440.

[11]Note to his edition of White’s “Selborne,” 1836, p. 141.

[12]See Ellis’s “Specimens of the Early English Poets,” vol. ii. p. 356.

[13]Sir Thos. Browne’s Works, Wilkin’s ed. vol. ii. p. 537.

[14]_Cf._ “Handbook of British Birds,” p. 106.

[15]“Syst. Uebers. d. Vögel Nord-Ost Afrika’s,” p. 57.

[16]See “List of British Birds, as a Guide to the Ornithology of
    Cornwall,” 2nd edition, 1869, p. 15.

[17]“The Birds of Shetland,” p. 73.

[18]“Ibis,” 1864, p. 67.

[19]“Ibis,” 1860, p. 231.

[20]_Cf._ “Ibis,” 1865, p. 25.

[21]This was in Haddingtonshire, by Mr. Hepburn. See “Ibis,” 1865, p.

[22]“Ibis,” 1865, p. 23.

[23]_Cf._ Newton, P. Z. S., 1866, p. 210.

[24]“Ibis,” 1867, p. 468.

[25]_Cf._ J. H. Gurney, jun., “Zoologist,” 1871, p. 2521.

[26]“Ibis,” 1860, p. 232.

[27]“Ibis,” 1867, p. 426.

[28]The specific name _arundinacea_, which is commonly applied to this
    species, belongs properly to the Great Reed Warbler, the _Turdus
    arundinaceus_ of Linnæus.

[29]“The Birds of Middlesex,” p. 47.

[30]“Zoologist,” 1865, p. 9729.

[31]Not always, as shown above.

[32]_Cf._ Yarrell, “Hist. Brit. Birds,” vol. i. pp. 300, 301.

[33]_Cf._ “Ibis,” 1865, p. 24.

[34]“Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist.,” 1847, p. 135.

[35]_Cf._ Bellamy’s “Nat. Hist. South Devon,” p. 205.

[36]For this abstract of Mr. Knox’s observations, taken from his
    “Ornithological Rambles in Sussex,” I am indebted to Professor
    Newton, who has thus ably condensed them in his new edition of
    Yarrell’s “History of British Birds.”

[37]For some further points of distinction the reader may be referred to
    “The Birds of Middlesex,” pp. 64, 65.

[38]See Professor Newton’s remarks on “The Ornithology of Iceland,”
    appended to Baring Gould’s “Iceland; its Scenes and Sagas,” p. 409.

[39]“Ibis,” 1861, p. 6.

[40]“Ibis,” 1860, p. 229.

[41]“Ibis,” 1862, pp. 343, 348; and “Journ. f. Orn.,” 1862, pp. 357,

[42]_Cf._ “Naumannia,” 1858, p. 425, and “Ibis,” 1862, p. 71.

[43]_Cf._ A. G. More, in the “Ibis,” 1865, p. 123.

[44]_Cf._ “Journ. für Orn.,” 1868, pp. 21-37.

[45]“Syst. Nat.,” i. p. 288.

[46]“Consp. Av.,” i. p. 247.

[47]_Cf._ “Naumannia,” 1858, p. 425.

[48]Capt. Beavan recorded it from Simla (“Ibis,” 1868, p. 79), but Mr.
    Hume showed this to be an error, the species mistaken for it being
    _A. sordida_ (“Ibis,” 1869, p. 120).

[49]_Cf._ Dawson Rowley, “Ibis,” 1863, p. 37, and 1865, p. 113; Bond,
    “Zoologist,” 1870, pp. 1984 and 2383; and Rodd, “Zoologist,” 1868,
    p. 1458.

[50]See Bree’s “Birds of Europe,” vol. ii. p. 155.

[51]“Syst. Uebers. d. Vögel N.-O. Afrika’s,” p. 61.

[52]“Birds of South Africa,” p. 148.

[53]“Notes on the Birds of Damara Land,” by the late C. J. Andersson;
    arranged and edited by J. H. Gurney, 1872, p. 129.

[54]See “The Field” for May 27th, June 8th, and June 24th, 1871.

[55]“Zoologist,” 1863, p. 8444.

[56]“Zoologist,” 1863, p. 8841.

[57]Rodd, “List of the Birds of Cornwall,” 2nd ed. p. 11.

[58]_Cf._ Hume, “Journ. Asiatic Soc. Bengal,” 1870, p. 116, and
    Blanford, “Ibis,” 1870, p. 534.

[59]See his “Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar,” p. 224.

[60]“Mag. Nat. Hist.,” vol. iv. p. 413.

[61]“Nat. Hist. Ireland” (Birds), i. p. 377.

[62]“American Ornithology.”

[63]Professor Newton’s Appendix to Baring Gould’s “Iceland,” p. 408.

[64]Gillet, “Ibis,” 1870, p. 306.

[65]Von Schrenck, “Reise in Amurland.”

[66]“A Spring and Summer in Lapland,” p. 281.

[67]Tudbury, “Mag. Nat. Hist.,” vol. v. p. 449.

[68]“Geology and Zoology of Abyssinia,” p. 347.

[69]“The Land of Israel,” p. 105.

[70]“History of British Birds,” vol. ii. p. 251 (3rd ed.)

[71]Journ. As. Soc. Beng. xxiv. p. 277.

[72]“Birds of North America,” p. 313.

[73]Jones’s “Naturalist in Bermudas,” p. 34.

[74]“Wanderings of a Naturalist in India,” p. 49.

[75]See “The Birds of Middlesex,” p. 126.

[76]Thompson, “Nat. Hist. Ireland” (Birds), i. p. 377.

[77]Irving, “Tales of the Alhambra.”

[78]“Mag. Nat. Hist.,” 1834, vol. vii. p. 462.

[79]“Contributions to Ornithology,” 1850, p. 109. It is not included by
    Herr Müller in his “Bird Fauna of the Faroes.”

[80]“A Spring and Summer in Lapland,” p. 281.

[81]Ayres, “Ibis,” 1863, p. 321.

[82]E. C. Taylor, “Ibis,” 1867, p. 56.

[83]Lord Lilford, “Ibis,” 1860, p. 234.

[84]Tristram, “Ibis,” 1865, p. 77.

[85]In the Grey Phalarope we have a notable instance of a contrary
    habit. This bird passes through England on its way southward in
    autumn, but invariably selects some other route on its return
    northward in spring.

[86]Blyth, “Ibis,” 1866, p. 339.

[87]Blyth, “Ibis,” 1865, p. 45.

[88]See Thompson’s “Nat. Hist. Ireland” (Birds), vol. i. p. 423.

[89]“Birds of Egypt,” p. 174.

[90]“Observations on the Geology and Zoology of Abyssinia,” p. 336.

[91]“The Land of Israel,” p. 250.

[92]Thompson, _op. cit._

[93]Mr. Robert Gray of Glasgow has seen it in grass fields, cleverly
    picking ghost-moths (_Hepialus humuli_) off the stems, from the
    points of which these sluggish insects were temptingly hanging. But
    as a rule, he adds, the Nightjar captures its prey while in flight.

[94]See Atkinson’s “Compendium of Ornithology,” p. 108, and Stanley’s
    “Familiar History of Birds,” p. 260.

[95]“The Birds of Sherwood Forest,” p. 172.

[96]“The Birds of the West of Scotland,” p. 212.

[97]The late Mr. Blyth thought that the Cuckoo found in Java by Dr.
    Horsfield was not the Common Cuckoo of Europe, but an allied race
    (_C. canoroides_, Müller, _optatus_, Gould), whose range extends
    eastward at least to China, and southward to Australia. If so,
    doubtless the same remark applies to Japan. _Cf._ “The Ibis,” 1865,
    p. 31.

[98]“Naumannia,” 1853, p. 307.

[99]On certain facts in the economy of the Cuckoo, “Ibis,” 1865, pp.

[100]This species, however, is included in Dr. Thienemann’s list above

[101]“The Birds of Middlesex,” 1866, p. 120.

[102]_See_ “Nature,” 18th Nov. and 23rd Dec., 1869, 6th Jan., 7th July,
    and 18th Aug., 1870.

[103]“Ibis,” 1865, p. 183.

[104]“Hist. Brit. Birds,” vol. iii. p. 128.

[105]It would seem that this account was first published by Mrs.
    Blackburn, in what she terms “a little versified tale of mine,”
    entitled “The Pipits,” which appeared in Glasgow in 1872.

[106]_Cf._ Garland, “Naturalist,” 1852, p. 82.

[107]“Gleanings in Natural History.”

[108]For a notice of this singular habit I am indebted to my friend Mr.
    H. E. Dresser, who has translated Naumann’s observations on the
    subject in his beautiful work on the “Birds of Europe.”

[109]_Cf._ “Zoologist,” 1858, and “Proc. Zool. Soc.,” 1863, p. 264.

[110]Mr. Benzon of Copenhagen informed my friend Mr. Dresser that a
    short time ago the Hoopoe was by no means rare in Norway, but now
    that the forests have been cleared of all the old and hollow trees
    it has entirely vanished from the fauna of his district.

[111]“The Birds of the West of Scotland,” p. 198.

[112]“Nat. Hist. Ireland” (Birds), vol. i. p. 353.

[113]On this point the late Mr. Blyth, writing in the Natural History
    columns of “The Field,” 17th August, 1872, under the signature “Z.,”
    remarked that Orioles are amongst the few birds which breed before
    attaining the mature plumage, and the females acquire this later
    than the males, being always, however, of a greener shade. He had
    observed this in _O. melanocephalus_, _O. chinensis_, _O.
    tenuirostris_, and _O. acrorhynchus_, but thought that “the old
    females of _O. galbula_, and _O. kundoo_, less frequently attain the
    male colouring than those of the other species mentioned.”

[114]“The Birds of Damara Land,” p. 136.

[115]“The Birds of Norfolk,” vol. i. p. 360.

[116]“The Birds of the West of Scotland,” p. 223.

[117]“The Birds of Shetland,” p. 152.

[118]Baikie and Heddle, “Fauna Orcadensis,” p. 55, and Gray, _op. cit._
    p. 223.

[119]“Birds of Egypt,” p. 214. See _ante_, p. 281.

[120]Irby, “Ornithology of the Straits of Gibraltar,” p. 134.

[121]A Landrail caught on Canvey Island, at the mouth of the Thames,
    lived in confinement on corn and water for a week, when it made its

[122]Jones’s “Naturalist in the Bermudas,” p. 45.

[123]“Storia Naturale degli Uccelli che nidificano in Lombardia,” pt.
    xxxii. t. 91.

[124]“Bengal Sporting Magazine,” 1842, p. 870.

[125]Out of twenty-four correspondents, thirteen call this bird the
    Landrail and eleven the Corncrake, and this in various parts of the
    country, so that neither name can be regarded by any means as local.


  Blackcap, page 4, 10.
  Butcher-bird, 276, 325.

  Chiff-chaff, 28, 307.
      “ Yellow-billed, 29, 30.
  Corncrake, 288, 312.
  Cuckoo, 219, 306.
  Cuckoo’s-mate, 242, 320.

  Dove, Turtle, 282, 323.

  Flycatcher, Pied, 160, 323.
      “ Red-breasted, 168.
      “ Red-eyed, 169.
      “ Spotted, 155, 311.

  Goatsucker, 204, 320.
  Golden Oriole, 262.

  Hoopoe, 249.

  Landrail, 288, 312.

  Martin, House, 184, 304.
      “ Purple, 190.
      “ Sand, 41, 43, 187, 305.

  Nightingale, 32, 313-318.
  Nightjar, 204, 320.

  Oriole, Golden, 262.

  Pipit, Meadow, 124.
      “ Pennsylvanian, 149.
      “ Red-throated, page 152.
      “ Richard’s, 142.
      “ Rock, 130.
      “ Tawny, 146.
      “ Tree, 135, 318.
      “ Water, 138.

  Rail, Land, 288.
  Red-backed Shrike, 276.
  Redstart, Common, 74, 310.
      “ Black, 78.
  Reed Warbler, 101.

  Shrike, Red-backed, 276, 325.
  Stonechat, 13.
  Swallow, 42, 43, 170, 302.
  Swift, Alpine, 199.
      “ Common, 191, 305.
      “ Spine-tailed, 203.

  Turtle Dove, 282.

  Wagtail, Grey, 112.
      “ Grey-headed, 121.
      “ Pied, 106.
      “ Ray’s or Yellow, 117, 319.
      “ White, 110.
  Warbler, Aquatic, 91.
      “ Blackcap, 44.
      “  Garden, 59, 326.
      “  Grasshopper, 86, 322.
      “  Great Reed, 101.
      “  Icterine, 29, 30.
      “  Marsh, 92.
      “  Melodious, 29, 30.
      “  Orphean, 51.
      “  Reed, 82, 85, 101, 326.
      “  Rufous, 103.
      “  Savi’s, 88.
      “  Sedge, 81-85, 319.
      “  Willow, 24.
      “  Wood, 16, 323.
  Wheatear, 1, 321.
  Whinchat, 9, 321, 322.
  Whitethroat, Common, 67, 309.
      “  Lesser, 71, 322.
  Willow Wren, 24, 308.
  Woodchat, 281.
  Wood Wren, 16, 323.
  Wryneck, 242.

                    [Illustration: Decorative glyph]

                      TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.

         _Now ready; with Illustrations by_ Thos. Bewick. _Demy
                   8vo., cloth gilt, price 10s. 6d._

                          THE NATURAL HISTORY
                     IN THE COUNTY OF SOUTHAMPTON.

                    BY THE REV. GILBERT WHITE, M.A.

                      [Illustration: Gray Wagtail]


              _Thoroughly revised, with additional Notes_,

                BY JAMES EDMUND HARTING, F.L.S., F.Z.S.

                           SHAKESPEARE,” ETC.



                           [_Specimen Page._]

                        38    _NATURAL HISTORY_

in my outlet; but were frighted and persecuted by idle boys, who would
never let them be at rest.[126]

                      [Illustration: THE HOOPOE.]

Three gros-beaks (_Loxia coccothraustes_)[127] appeared some years ago
in my fields, in the winter; one of which I shot: since that, now and
then, one is occasionally seen in the same dead season.

[126]The hoopoe is an irregular spring and autumn visitant to this
    country. It has occasionally nested here, and would do so, no doubt,
    more frequently if unmolested. Colonel Montagu states, in his
    “Ornithological Dictionary,” that a pair of hoopoes began a nest in
    Hampshire, but being disturbed forsook it, and went elsewhere; and
    Dr. Latham, in the Supplement to his “General Synopsis,” has
    referred to a young Hoopoe in nestling plumage, which was shot in
    this country in May. A pair nested for several years in the grounds
    of Pennsylvania Castle, Portland (_cf._ Garland, “Naturalist,” 1852,
    p. 82), and according to Mr. Turner, of Sherborne, Dorsetshire, the
    nest has been taken on three or four occasions by the school-boys
    from pollard willows on the banks of the river at Lenthay. The birds
    were known to the boys as “hoops.” Mr. Jesse, in a note to this
    passage in his edition of the present work, states that a pair of
    hoopoes bred for many years in an old ash tree in the grounds of a
    lady in Sussex, near Chichester.—Ed.

[127]_Coccothraustes vulgaris_ of modern systematists.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

--In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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