Page images
PDF
EPUB

their great divisions. First, those that feed on insects; as the Thrush, Blackbird, Fly-catcher, &c. Second, those that feed on grain and fruit; as the Lark, Finches, Bunting, Starling, &c. Third, those that take their prey flying; as the Swallow, Swift, GoatSucker, &c.

The Thrush. This most delightful songster of our groves is wellknown; and one never regrets seeing it, except when perched up in a large basket-cage, with its note dull compared to that sung in freedom. If birds can be so tamed as to PREFER CAPTIVITY, all is well; but then the cage door should be opened, to give a reality to the thought. Our own country affords several species of this family; the two principal are the Song Thrush and the Misseltoe-bird. The latter is by far the largest of the two; and has the inner feathers of its wings yellow. In France the thrush is a bird of passage. The food of this bird is principally insects and berries. It sings generally on the loftiest spray of some high tree.

The Blackbird. The plumage of the male bird is a jet black, and that of the female a dark russet. The note of the blackbird is the loudest of the wood; and in the distance is beautiful. In the Alps there is a species that from its colour should be called the White-bird, its plumage being purely white.

The Redwing. This is a species of Thrush; but the plumage under the wings is of an orange or dusky red. The red-wing, moreover, is migratory, and comes to us about Michaelmas, and leaves in March.

The Fieldfare. This bird is larger than the common thrush, and generally goes in flocks. The redwing and fieldfare migrate in company.

The Fly-catcher. This is a sportive little bird, about five inches long. The head is large, and spotted with black; wings and tail are dusky; the belly is white. It is a bird of passage, and comes to us in the Spring, and leaves in September. As its name implies, it feeds on flies; and this accounts for its migration.

The Lark. This bird belongs to the second division of our family; and

may hardly give place even to the nightingale for the melody of its song. How often have we watched it together, ascending higher and higher, until it was scarcely visible; and then marked its delight as it descended to its loved partner and offspring. How cruel the sport to invade such domestic happiness! I believe some parents are little aware how birds'-nesting, as it is called, hardens and debases the minds of their children. Cruelty to animals is almost invariably either the forerunner or companion of cruelty to man.

The Cardinal Grosbeak. This American bird is also called the “Red bird,” and the “ Virginian Nightingale.” With the most brilliant plumage, as its name implies, it unites the sweetest song, emulating, it is said, the nightingale. This bird frequents the cedar groves of Bermuda, and looks exceedingly rich, darting among the trees. It is many years since I heard their note, but I never thought it, however melodious, to reach the song of our native nightingale.

The Black Cap. The crown of the head of this little bird is quite black. This circumstance gave it its appropriate name. It is a bird of sweet song ; so much so, that in Norfolk they call it “the mock nightingale."

The Robin Red Breast. This little winter friend gives us song, when almost all the choir of the woods is silent; and though he is not protected, as the stork in Holland, by Act of Parliament; yet a sort of common law seems to pervade all ranks, so that it is high treason against the feelings of humanity to hurt him. I remember this even at school : if any boy hurt a red-breast, there was always a host to take poor

Robin's part. He comes to our windows, and never wants a friend to provide crumbs for him. The robin seems fond of the haunts of man; and he in return gives him his protection, without imprisonment.

The Golden-crested Wren. This is the smallest of our English birds, weighing not more than twenty-six grains. It has a scarlet mark on its head, surrounded by a yellow rim. It frequents our woods, and may be called, from its size and beauty, “ the English Humming Bird.”

The Wheat-ear is only a visitor to our shores, but it stays the early Spring, Summer, and part of Autumn. Its plumage is of a bluish grey, and the belly part a yellowish white, tinged with red; the legs, black. It abounds in Sussex.

The Sparrow. This little friendly bird gives the name to this

order :-“ Passeres, the Sparrows.” It has very little fear of man; and has neither song nor beauty of plumage, and yet its cheerful chirp on the spray is not without its charm; and though it is a robber of our gardens, yet it also takes away many of our enemies. Therefore, whilst we may not bestow the same regard on the sparrow as on the red-breast, yet we will not despise him, but give him a few crumbs, when he comes to our doors in the winter's morning. It is, my beloved children, such a joyful thing to love to give happiness, even to the least of the irrational creation; and never should God's children forget (and that you may be numbered among them) the double import of our Lord's words, “ Are not two sparrows sold for one farthing, and not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. But the

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Matt. x. 29–31.) Often, when looking on this cheerful little bird, does this most beautiful scripture come to my mind.

The Swallow. This is the third division of this order. Four species are natives of England; though all of them leave us in September and October. 1. The House Swallow; 2. the Martin; 3. the Sand Martin; 4. the Swift: to these may be added the Esculent Swallow; the nests of which bird are imported into China, to the number of four millions annually; the current price of which is the weight of the nest in silver.

The House Swallow. This species is distinguished by the extreme forkedness of its tail, and a reddish spot on its forehead. It builds its nest within the tops of chimneys, and sometimes breeds twice a year. The common swallow is the harbinger or forerunner of the whole family; arriving about twenty days before them.

The Martin. This bird is not so large as the swallow, and its tail is less forked. It builds under the eaves of houses, where the family dwell as in a fortress : a small aperture just admits the parent birds to feed their young, and when fledged, they supply them on the wing, until they can provide for themselves.

The Sand Martin. This species builds its nest, as its name implies, by the sides of banks, perforating the sand. It is the last of the swallow tribe that comes to us, always waiting until the season has fully set in.

The Swift. This beautiful bird derives its name from its velocity on the wing. The horse has been known once, for a few seconds, to go at the rate of a mile in a minute; but the swift travels more than four times this rate, reaching, with its swiftest wing, 250 miles an hour. This bird hardly ever rests, excepting during the night, and while on its nest. Directly the cold sets in, the swift migrates, even weeks before its companions.

The Esculent or Jara Swallow. This interesting little bird is principally known in the Indian Archipelago--that amazing cluster of islands on the Eastern shores of Asia; but it abounds in the island

« PreviousContinue »