« PreviousContinue »
harmony. They sometimes, according to Dampier, are found three hundred in a flock. When feeding they have a sentinel, who screams as the enemy approaches, when the whole army are in an instant on the wing, leaving the pursuer far behind.
GENUS PLATALIA.-The Spoon-bill. The shape of the bill of this bird gives it its appropriate name. This member is jet black, and light as whalebone; but the plumage is a pure white, and on the head is a crest of the same colour. The spoon-bill is of the crane family, and is known in Europe; also in America; but in the latter country it is of a beautiful rose colour.
GENUS ARDEA.-The Crane. The home of the crane is in the Arctic regions. Its plumage is ash coloured; and two large tufts of feathers terminate each wing: these used to be set in gold, and worn as a costly ornament. Cranes are gregarious; and they are represented as living together in all faithful attachment, affording a pattern to mankind, both of conjugal and filial love: indeed, many of the feathered race teach man important lessons.
The Stork is a bird of passage. This is especially noticed in the prophet Jeremiah, where the Lord is remonstrating with Israel, chap. viii. 7. The crane and stork are much alike; but their habits are dissimilar. The stork is larger than the crane; but its neck is shorter. The head, neck, breast, and belly, are all white; and the rump, with the exterior feathers of the back, dark. The stork is a silent bird: the crane has a loud piercing voice. The stork loves the
haunts of men: the crane flees from them. As the stork destroys a great number of noxious reptiles, it is considered a great friend to man; and from time immemorable has been venerated. In Holland, the stork is even protected by the laws, and builds its nest on the tops of houses, without molestation. There is also a black species of stork, the modern Ibis of Egypt; and another species in America.
The Heron. Often is this bird seen in this country sailing high in the air. He is a great robber of ponds; and pitches his tent always near ponds that are well stocked. One species of this family is called the night heron, from its flying in the night, and its hoarse voice.
The Bittern is of the heron family; and chiefly remarkable for its most dismal hollow note. It is not so large as the heron. Its plumage is a pale dull yellow, spotted and barred with black. This bird is not so voracious as the heron; its flesh is much esteemed; and though its voice is so inharmonious to man, naturalists have supposed it to be the language of affectionate intercourse.
GENUS SCOLOPAX.-The Woodcock. This is a bird of passage. In breeding time, it inhabits the Alps and the northern parts of Europe. It subsists on worms and insects. When the cold sets in very severe, they come southward, and visit our country till March, when they again migrate to the north. The beak of the woodcock is about three inches long, and is admirably adapted to penetrate into mud, where
it finds its appointed food. The plumage is varied-black, grey, and reddish brown.
The Snipe. This also is a bird of passage, though some remain with us, in the north of Scotland, and breed there. The bill of this bird is about two inches and a half in length, also adapted to procure its food. The back is covered with large plumage, variegated with black and reddish brown.
The Curlew. This bird visits our sea coast from winter to spring; but returns at the latter season to the mountains to breed. There is a variety of species of this family, but they all agree in general character. The bill of the curlew is longer than its head, and the feet are furnished with four toes.
GENUS CHARADRIUS.-The Lapwing, or Peewit, is a well-known bird in England; and is remarkable for attachment to its young, watching the nest with the most jealous fidelity. They are generally birds of passage; and as the cold increases, they meet together in consultation, and finally disappear towards the south.
The Golden Plover. This is a migratory bird. Its length is eleven inches; and the expansion of its wings from twenty to twenty four. The head, back, and circles of its wings are black, and beautifully spotted with yellowish green. The belly is white. It is very common in the Hebrides or Western Islands of Scotland.
The Lesser Plover. This little welcome stranger comes to us in April, and leaves us about the longest day, June 21. It is also
seen in September, on the Wiltshire downs, whence it migrates to places unknown. The migration of birds from us in autumn, is much greater than of the winter ones. The greater number leave our shores in September, October, and November.
These are the four first orders in Linnæus's arrangement of Birds. For the last orders we will take advantage of Dr. Latham's admirable enlargement. The latter arrangement will then be,
5. Gallina; 6. Struthiores; 7. Passeres; 8. Columbæ.
EIGHT GENERA.-MANY SPECIES.
Comprising principally, the Peacock, Turkey, Guinea-fowl, the Cock-of-the-wood, the Curassow, Pheasant, Black-cock, Ptarmigan, Partridge, and Quail.
GENUS PAVO.-The Peacock. Even in the time of Solomon, this beautiful bird was noticed. When it appears with its tail spread out, and the sun shines on it, no bird can equal it: but then its harsh and discordant voice, and its voracious habits, make it less a favourite than it would otherwise be. So it always is, that after a little acquaintance, it is the conduct of man that is looked to, and not so much his appearance. The peacock is a native of Asia; but since its importation to Europe, it has become quite naturalized, and is found in most of our parks and grounds. Its flesh was much esteemed by the ancients. The female bird has none of the beauty of the male, except its symmetry.
GENUS MELEAGRIS.-The Turkey. This bird is a native of the New World, as America used to be called. It was brought to this country in the time of Henry VIII. The turkey is found in great numbers in the wilds of America.
The Pheasant. The plumage of this bird is hardly surpassed by the Peacock, the colours are so delicately blended. There are a great many varieties of the Pheasant,-white, spotted, and crested, but all are beautiful.
The Barn-foul. The shape, size, and plumage of this most welcome of all the feathered tribes to man, is too well known to need any description. Persia is supposed to be the home of this valuable domestic bird: when it was imported into Britain is not known; but evidently before the Roman conquest, as it was forbidden by the Druids to our forefathers. In the cruel and barbarous customs of almost every country, because this animal is so courageous, it has been trained to single combat: but whether it be bull-fighting or cock-fighting, or any of these degrading sports, there is a day of reckoning -a day of account coming. A Christian cannot engage in these things, -a man forfeits all right to that most blessed name, that has delight in them. How sweet are those words of Cowper :
"I would not enter on my list of friends
(Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility,) the man
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm."