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Herons, associated to the number of ten or fifteen pairs, construct their nests, each one in the top of a single tree; these are large, formed of coarse sticks, and merely lined with smaller twigs. The eggs, generally four, are somewhat larger than those of the Hen, of a light greenish blue, and destitute of spots. The young are seen abroad about the middle of May, and become extremely fat and full grown before they make any effective attempts to fly: They raise but a single brood; and when disturbed at their eyries, fly over the spot, sometimes honking almost like a goose, and at others uttering a loud, hollow, and guttural grunt.
Fish is the principal food of the Great Heron, and for this purpose like an experienced angler, he often waits for that condition of the tide, which best suits his experience and instinct. At such times, they are seen slowly saiking out from their inland breeding haunts, during the most silent and cool period of the summer's day, selecting usually, such shallow inlets as the ebbing tide leaves bare, or accessible to his watchful and patient mode of prowling; here, wading to the knees, he stands motionless amidst the timorous fry, till some victim coming within the compass of his wily range, is as instantly seized by the powerful bill of the Heron, as it it were the balanced poniard of the assassin, or the unerring pounce of the Osprey. If large, the fish is beaten to death, and commonly swallowed with the head descending as if to avoid any obstacle arising from the reversion of the fins or any hard external processes. On land, our Heron has also his fare, as he is no less a successful angler than a muuser, and renders an important service to the farmer, in the destruction he makes among most of the reptiles and meadow shrews. Grasshoppers, other large insects, and particularly Dragon-flies, he is very expert at striking, and occasionally feeds upon the seeds of the pond lilies, contiguous to his usual haunts. Our species, in all probability, as well as the European Heron, at times, also preys upon young birds, which may be accidentally straggling near their solitary retreats. The foreign kind has been known to swallow young snipes, and other birds, when they happen to come conveniently within his reach.
THE QUA. BIRD, OR AMERICAN NIGHT HERON.
The Great Night Heron of America, extends its migrations probably to the northern and eastern extremities of the United States, but is wholly unknown in the high boreal regions of the continent. In the winter it proceeds as far south as the tropics, having been seen in the marshes of Cayenne, and their breeding stations are known to extend from New Orleans to Massachusetts. I'hey arrive in Pennsyl. vania early in the month of April, and soon take possession of their ancient nurseries, which are usually, in the Middle and Southern States,) the most solitary and deeply shaded part of a cedar swamp, or some inundated and almost inaccesible grove of swamp oaks. In these places, or some contiguous part of the forest, near a pond or stream, the timorous and watchful flock pass away the day, until the
commencement of twilight, when the calls of hunger, and the coolness
of evening arouse the dosing throng into life and ac. tivity. At this time, high in the air, the parent birds
are seen sallying forth towards the neighboring marshes and strand of the sea, in quest of food, for them. selves and their young; as they thus proceed in a marshalled rank, at intervals they utter a sort of recognition call,
like the guttural sound of the syllable 'kwah, uttered in so hollow and sepulchral a tone, as almost to resemble the retchings of a vomiting person. These venerable eyries of the Kwah Birds, bave been occupied from the remotest period of time, by about eighty to a hundred pairs
. When their ancient trees were levelled by the axe, they have been known to remove merely to some other quarter of the same swamp, and it is only when they have been long teased and plundered that they are ever known to abandon their ancient stations. Their greatest natural enemy is the Crow, and according to the relation of Wilson, one of these heronries, near Thompson's Point, on the banks of the Delaware, was at length entirely abandoned, through the persecution of these sable enemies. Several breeding haunts of the Kwah Birds occur among the red cedar groves, on the sea beach of Cape May; in these places they also admit the association of the Little Egret, the Green Bittern, and the Blue Heron. In a very secluded and marshy island, in Fresh Pond, near Boston, there likewise exists one of these ancient heronries; and though the birds have been frequently robbed of their eggs, in great numbers, by mischievous boys, they still lay again immediately after, and usually succeed in raising a sufficient brood. The nests, always in trees, are composed of twigs, slightly interlaced, more shallow and slovenly than those of the Crow, and though often one, sometimes as many as two or three nests are built in the same tree. The eggs about four, are as large as those of the common hen, and of a pale greenish blue color. The marsh is usually whitened by the excrements of these birds; and the fragments of broken egg shells, old nests, and small fish, which they have dropped while feeding their young, give a characteristic picture of the slovenly, indolent, and voracious character of the occupants of these eyries.
The Green Bittern, known in many parts much better by a con. temptible and disgusting name, is the most common and familiar species of the genus in the United States. Early in April, or as soon as the marshes are so far thawed as to afford them the means of subsistence, they arrive in Penn sylva nia, and soon after are seen in New England, but are unknown in the remote and colder parts of Canada. Many winter in the swamps of the Southern States, though others retire in all probability to the warmer regions of the continent, as they are observed in that season in the large islands of II.yti and Jamaica.
In common with other species, whose habits are principally nocturnal the Green Bittern seeks out the gloomy retreat of the woody swamp, the undrainable bog, and the sedgy marsh. He is also a common hermit, on the inundated, dark willow and alder shaded banks of sluggish streams, and brushy ponds, where he not only often associates with the kindred Kwah Birds and Great Herons, but frequently with the more petulant herd of chattering Blackbirds. When surprised or alarmed, he rises in a hurried manner, uttering a hollow guttural scream, and a 'k'w, 'k'w, 'k'w, but does not fly far, being very sedentary and soon alighting on some stump or tree, looks round with an outstretched neck, and balancing himself for further retreat, frequently jets his tail. He sometimes flies high, with his neck reclining, and his legs extended, flapping his wings, and proceeding with considerable expedition. He is also the least shy, of all our species, as well as the most numerous and widely dispersed, being seen far inland, even on the banks of the Missouri, nearly to the river Platte, and frequently near all the maritime marshes, and near ponds, and streams in general. lle is also particularly attracted by artificial ponds for fish, not refrain.
ing even to visit gardens and domestic premises, which any pryspect of fare may offer. He is, at the same time, perhaps as much in quest of the natural enemy of the fish, the frog, as of the legitimate tenants of the pond. These bold and intrusive visits are commonly made early in the morning, or towards twilight, and he not unfrequently when pressed by hunger, or after ill success, turns out to hunt his fare by day, as well as dusk, and, at euch times, collects various larvæ, particularly those of the Dragon-fly, with Grasshoppers, and different kinds of insects. At other times he preys upon small fish, Crabs and Frogs, for which he often lies patiently in wait till they reappear from their hiding places in the water or mud, and on being transfixed and caught, which is effected with great dexterity, they are commonly beaten to death, if large, and afterwards swallowed at leisure.
This genus of the family Arclëilal (Ileron-like birds,) would approach
quite closely, as Cuvier observes, to the Ilerons, in regard to their bill and the kind of food which it indi. (ates, were it not for the extraordinary förin of that organ, which is nevertheless, when closely observel the bill of a Heron or
a Bittern, very much flattened out This bill is of an oval form, longer than the head, very much depressed, and not un. like the bowls of two spoons placed one upon another, with the rims in contact. The common Boat-bill is about the size of a domestic hen. In the male the forehead and upper parts of the neck and breast, are dirty white; the back and lower part of the
belly rusty-reddish; the bill is black, and the legs and feet are brown. From the head depends a long crest of black feathers, falling backwards. The female
THE GIGANTIC CRANE.
has the top of the head black, without the elongated crest; the back and the belly rusty-reddish; the wings grey; the forehead and rest of the plumage white; and the bill, legs, and feet brown.
THE GIGANTIC CRANE.
This is a large species, measuring from tip to tip of the wings nearly fifteen feet. The bill is of vast size, somewhat triangular, and sixteen inches round at the base. The head and neck are naked, except a few straggling curled hairs. The feathers of the back and wings are of a bluish ash-color, and very stout: those of the breast are long. The craw hangs down the fore part of the neck like a pouch. The belly is covered with a dirty-white down; and the upper part of the back and shoulders is surrounded with the same. The legs and half the thighs are naked; and the naked parts are nearly three feet in length.
The Gigantic Crane, sometimes called the A ljutit, is an inbibitint of Bengal and Calcutta, and is sometimes found on the coast of Guinea. It arrives in the interior parts of Bengal before the period of sains, and retires as soon as the dry season commences. Its aspect is filthy and disgusting; yet it is an extremely useful bird, in consequence of the 's na kes, noxious reptiles, and insects which it devours. It seems to finish the work that is begun by the jackal and vulture: these clear away the flesh of animals, and the Gigantic Cranes remove the bones by swallowing them entire. They sometimes feed on fish; and one of them will devour as much would serve four men to dinner. On opening the body of a Gigantic Crane, there were found in its craw a land tortoise, ten inches