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of Java; and from thence it takes its name. In shape it resembles our swallow, though less in size. Its plumage is a dark grey, with the belly white. It is very swift on the wing; but what gives it the greatest interest is the singular character of its nest. Sir George Staunton, in his voyage to China, where he was going as English ambassador, touched at Sumatra, and gives the following most interesting account of his visit: “In the Cass—a small island near Sumatra—we found the caverns running horizontally into the side of the rock. In these were a number of those birds' nests so much prized by the Chinese epicures. They seemed to be composed of fine filaments, connected together by a transparent viscous matter, not unlike what is left by the foam of the sea upon stones, alternately covered by the tide ; or those gelatinous animal substances found floating on every coast. The nests adhere to each other, and to the sides of the caverns, mostly in horizontal rows, without any break or interruption, and at different depths, from 50 to 500 feet.” Various are the opinions how these wonderful little architects carry on their work; but the most satisfactory is, that the bird first partakes of the sea scum above mentioned ; and from it, by a chemical process, which goes on in its inside, it produces a fine mucilage, which it can draw up at pleasure; and thus by a wonderful instinct it prepares its house from its own body, even as the spider does his beautiful web, and the silk-worm its costly covering; and should this little builder have his house in the interior of the
island, this presents no difficulty; for he flies with so swift a wing, that a short hour would take him from any part of Java to the sea side, when he might lay in a good store, and at his home prepare his strange material for building. It seems almost incredible, that some thousands of tons of shipping are employed to carry these nests to the Chinese markets, to the enormous annual value of 290,0001. The fine filaments which compose these nests, are something the consistency of isinglass; and the Chinese are passionately fond of them, and dissolve them in their soups, &c.
The Goat Sucker. This bird is of the Swallow family, though larger. It does not stay long in England, coming late and leaving early. The ancients had an idea that it sucked the goat, and thus gave it its ungainly name; but the accusation was quite unjust.
TWO GENERA.SEVERAL SPECIES.
This order is confined to the Dove and Pigeon; and comprises principally, the Stock Dove, the Pigeon, the Ring Dove, and the Turtle Dove.
The Stock Doce. From this source have sprung all the varieties of the pigeon, which are now so numerous. It builds either in the holes of rocks, or in the hollow of trees.
The Pigeon.* This family has branched ou into almost endless variety, the species of which are so well known as hardly to need description.
The domestic pigeon is wonderfully prolific, for though it lays only two eggs, yet it breeds every month; and so rapid is the growth of the young, that it is calculated in four years a single pair will produce upwards of one hundred thousand. It is not a very uncommon thing to see two families in the same nest; one just born, the other ready for flight.
The Ring Doce. A beautiful ring round the neck of this lovely bird gives it its name. It is the largest of this family known in our country. They generally fly in flocks, and subsist on berries. You sometimes see them in cages, but they look miserable.
The Turtle Dove. This bird is called the pattern of fidelity, love, and simplicity; and naturalists say, that its attachment to its mate is such, that if the hawk or kite seizes on one, the other pines away and dies. You remember how sweetly Cowper alludes to this in his stanzas on the dove. I quote a few verses of it:
“ When lightnings flash among the trees,
Or kites are hovering near;
And know no other fear.
• See Appendix.
“ "Tis then I feel myself a wife,
And press thy wedded side,
Death only shall divide.
“ But oh, if fickle and unchaste,
(Forgive a transient thought,) Thou couldst become unkind at last,
And scorn thy present lot;
“ No need of lightnings from on high,
Or kites with cruel beak,
This widowed heart would break.”
Yes, my beloved children, we may go daily to one part of creation or another, and get lessons of wisdom. Industry from the ant, (Prov. xxx. 25;) watchfulness of times from the stork, and crane, and swallow, (Jer. viii. 7;) and faithfulness from the dove, (Canticles ii. 12-14.)
And now I must conclude this long letter. We have seen the great sea, wherein are things innumerable. We have watched the birds of heaven, with their habitations, by the springs and fountains of waters, and their song among the branches, (Psalm civ. 17—25.) We have witnessed both elements—the air and the water-subservient to man; and surely the song of the child of God must be,
“Bless the Lord, O my soul : and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases: who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” (Psalm ciïi. 1–4.) That each of you, my beloved children, may be found, with Daniel, standing in your lot in the end of your days, is the sincere prayer of
Your ever affectionate Father.